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Magical Girl in Gotham

Chapter Text

Marinette let out a frustrated sigh as she looked at the map on her phone. She was lost, separated from her class in Gotham of all places. Sure, Paris isn't exactly a safe haven, with akuma becoming more dangerous and aggressive this past year, but Hawkmoth was nothing like Gotham's villains. These people didn't hold back.

If push came to shove, she could probably take them on. Most of them didn't have powers, anyway. Even so, she couldn't help but feel nervous. She clutched her bag tightly, eyeing dark alleyways where she could take cover and transform to make her trip back to the hotel quicker.

She ducked into an alleyway, opening her bag to let Tikki out. „Tikki, it should be safe.“

Just as she said that, a voice, speaking in english, piped up from behind her: „It's not safe to be wondering around alone at this hour. Especially for someone like you.“

Marinette's heart dropped as she quickly turned around, tightly clutching her bag. She gave masked stranger a horrified look, before doing a double take and relaxing.

The young man in front of her was dressed in red, yellow and green costume. His black cape fell to his ankles, and he took off his hood to reveal face donning a domino mask and a friendly smile.

„Oh! You're one of Gotham's heroes, right? You scared me,“ Marinette said.

„Sorry, miss. Didn't mean to frighten you. Robin, at your service,“ the young hero bowed, making her giggle.

„Nice to meet you, Robin. I'm Marinette.“

„Judging by your accent, you're not from here?“

„No. I'm from Paris. I'm on a school trip here, but I got distracted and separated from my classmates. I'm trying to find way back to the hotel,“ she explained. Robin furrowed his brows.

„I see. Your teacher should've done a headcount. Gotham can be very dangerous. How about I escort you to your hotel? Where are you staying?“ Robin offered, giving her a charming smile.

„We're at the Hotel Bella Donna.“

„That's not far from here,“ the hero said, then extended his hand to Marinette. „Shall we?“

Marinette took his hand, and yelped in surprise when Robin pulled her close. „Hold on tight. You're not afraid of heights, right?“

„No, not at all. I'm used to heroes carrying me around,“ Marinette said and wrapped her arms securely around him. He lifted his brow.

„Oh? I didn't know Paris had super heroes.“

Not giving her time to respond, Robin shot his grappling hook at the nearby Gargoyle. Marinette gave a small scream in surprise, letting Robin swing her through the streets. It was so different from Paris. Buildings here are huge. She couldn't wait to try her own hand at it.

It didn't take long for the two to land in front of the Hotel. Robin gently set Marinette on the ground. „There we go. Hope you liked the ride, Marinette,“ Robin smiled, reluctantly letting go of the short french girl.

„I loved it! Thank you very much, Robin.“

„Then, I shall take my leave,“ he said with another bow.

„Stay safe, alright? You said it yourself, Gotham is dangerous...“

Robin looked at her, slightly surprised. His mouth spread into a wide grin.

„You really are sweet. Good night.“

And with that, he was off. Marinette watched as he disappeared from her sight, before going back into the hotel. She was surprised to see the class still gathered in the lobby. Were they worried about her?

„Marinette! Where were you?“ Mme. Bustier hurried over, fussing worriedly. „Did anything happen? Are you hurt?“

„No, I'm fine Mme. Bustier. I'm sorry for worrying you, I didn't mean to get separated,“ Marinette explained. Mme. Bustier let out a sigh of relief.

„As long as you're fine. It's late, you should hurry to your room,“ teacher gestured, before leaving. Rose hurried over, skittering anxiously.

„Marinette! We were so worried!“ she cried, hurling herself onto Marinette and making her stagger. Despite her size, Rose was surprisingly strong, and even though she watched her carry Chloe on her shoulder when their teacher turned into Zombizou, Marinette was still surprised.

„Yeah, where did you run off to?“ Alya joined. Now, that was a shock. Alya and Marinette had drifted away through years, thanks to Lila's manipulation, so she didn't expect her to be worried at all.

„Gotham is dangerous,“ Lila piped in, her voice in mock concern. „I get that you'd like to have some attention, but you could've gotten yourself killed.“

Ah. There it is.

The moment Lila spoke those words, Alya blew up in fury.

„Seriously, Marinette? You really ran off just for attention? What is wrong with you?“

Marinette gave her exasperated sigh. Even with no expectations, this girl still manages to disappoint her. She was too tired to handle Alya's temper.

„I'm fine. I'm back. I'm safe. Sorry for worrying you. Goodnight,“ she steeled herself and spoke shortly. She patted Rose's hand to signal for the girl to let her go, and left for her room, only to bump into Adrien.

„Everything okay, Princess? I thought I'd have to transform and get you back,“ he whispered.

„Not here!“ Marinette warned him. He nodded and followed her into the elevator. „Seriously, Adrien, I thought by now you'd learn your lesson. Your secret identity is important. You can't just say stuff like that in public.“

„Sorry, Princess. I was just worried,“ he gave her apologetic smile.

She didn't mean to find out. She really didn't. He trip and fell onto her balcony and ran out of time, detransforming right in front of her before she could even react. He was panicked, practically begging to keep it a secret, which, of course, she did. She knew better than anyone the importance of secret identities. Maybe even better than him. If magic of the miraculous wasn't muddling everyone's perception, she would've figured it out long time ago. He constantly let things slip, and he became even more careless around her.

„How did you get back anyway?“ he asked, breaking her line of thought.

„One of local heroes helped me,“ Marinette explained. „Again, Adrien, you must be careful. You're here on a trip, and nobody should know Chat Noir is here. No transforming unless absolutely neccessary, okay?“

„You almost sound like my lady,“ Adrien teased.

„Well, someone has to keep you in check when she's not around,“ Marinette rolled her eyes.

„She could do it herself, if you gave me her number.“

„Again. No. That number is for ememrgencies only. I'm not going to ruin the trust she has in me,“ Marinette quickly deflected. The elevator stopped, making Marinette nealy sigh in relief as she walked out. „Good night, Adrien.“

„Sweet dreams, Princess.“

Marinette entered her room and locked the door, then threw herself onto her bed in frustration.

Three years have passed since Hawkmoth first appeared. And with every day, the fight was only getting harder. And her supposed partner was just getting more and more irresponsible. He'd show up late for the fights, sometimes not even showing up at all. The number of people she could trust to wield a miraculous and help her out was growing ever so smaller. There were Viperion and Ryuuko, who lately became near full-time superheroes, after it became clear she couldn't count on Chat Noir anymore. Not to mention, Chat Noir became even worse in his pursuit of Ladybug, his tantrums becoming even worse. And after Marinette accidentally discovered his identity, he'd come to her after each rejection to whine about it, be it as Chat Noir, or as Adrien.

Needless to say, any attraction she had towards Adrien had completely dried up. She still tried to see the best in him, to give him a chance, but with every tantrum, every Lila situation where he refused to take her side, even though he had promised they were in that together, every no-show, her hope for him slowly dwindled.

The posters and pictures in her room were removed. The embarrasing schedule was replaced with possible clues as to who Hawkmoth is. In which she had almost no help.

Marinette grabbed her phone, opening the LadyBugOut app. No new alerts. No new akuma spottings. It's peaceful in Paris for now.

The app was created a year ago, for two reasons. Firstly, Alya's Ladyblog had become increasingly unrealiable, and while she still wanted her old friend to chase her dreams, despite the fallout, she couldn't possibly continue endorsing it. Secondly, and more importantly, it was one of her ways to track down Hawkmoth.

After she set aside her crush, and her social life getting decimated two years ago, Marinette started focusing on tracking Hawkmoth down. Unfortunately, Parisian police wasn't just incredibly incompetent, they were corrupt. It took her a while to realize that she was in it on her own, but she had no skillset to do investigative work. She wouldn't even know where to start. However, if the police wouldn't help, maybe the citizens will? Ladybug was popular, after all.

She had to call in many favors to get the blog running. Max was most helpful in this endeavor, helping her code the app and realize her ideas. There were several sections of the blog, themed after the animals representing the miraculous.
Clicking on the ladybug icon led to videos of Ladybug, where she adressed certain issues or just updated people in general. With that, she could stop any unsavory rumor before it went out of control.

The fox head icon led to videos with instructions on self-defense and how to keep safe and avoid akuma. For this, she had asked Kagami's help. Usually, Kagami took the role of Ryuuko, but in this instance, Ladybug would give her the fox miraculous. Kitsune appeared maybe three times in public, as Kagami was much more compatible with Longg. In fact, they were a perfect match. However, self-defense videos with Kitsune were most useful, especially when showing how to defend oneself against multiple attackers.

By clicking the icon of the turtle, people would be led to articles about calming techniques and instructions on relaxing their emotions, in hopes to ward off any possible akuma, inspirational quotes, as well as food and drink recipies. It wasn't as succesfull as Marinette had hoped would be, but many people expressed their thanks for that particular icon.

The bee icon was dedicated to the community. Forum posts for just about anything related to the Parisian heroes and villains.

Icon of the cat was the akuma alert. Ladybug had previously established Akuma Shelters, where people could hide during the akuma attack, as well as Akuma Alarm that would sound whenever akuma was spotted. The alert on the app was directly connected to the alarm, so if there was a sighting of an akuma, Marinette could act quickly.

The peacock icon served as reassurance for the citizens. She knew this one put her at risk, but she wanted the Parisian citizens to feel safe. It was a map of Paris, and whenever Marinette transformed, she would turn on the tracker so people could see where Ladybug was, and hopefully avoid the conflict against the akuma. Chat Noir had argued against the tracker, but Marinette had seen several people get caught up in the crossfire and killed after running into the fight. The Miraculous Cure always brought them back, but Marinette didn't want anyone to go something so horrifying. Besides, what if her Cure fails? What then? She'd rather put herself at risk than see any more people die.

Finally, the butterfly icon, and to her, most important one. After she had realized that the corrupted butterflies could be captured on camera, she knew she had to put this on the app. Whenever someone spotted akuma, they would snap a picture of it and upload it with the adress. Official reasoning was so that Ladybug could swoop in and purify it before anyone is turned. In reality, it was so she could narrow down her search. If she could find the source these akumas come from, she could find Hawkmoth. Even if he changes locations, he has to keep his butterflies somewhere. Unlike her, he cannot create them out of thin air, and even if he had multiple lairs, this could still help her narrow down her search.

This was how Marinette supposedly had Ladybug on speed dial. Her excuse was that Ladybug came to her with an idea to create and manage the app. She knew it was going to be a lot of work on her shoulders, again, coupled with comissions she does for Clara, Jagged, Kitty Section and others, her schoolwork, patrols, Guardian training, helping out at the bakery, and the investigation, but at least the death of her social life gave her some extra time. The app had caused further rift in her friendship with Alya. It saddened Marinette, but she couldn't trust her not to post more misleading information, courtesy of Lila.

Yet, even with all that, she was still too far from discovering Hawkmoth's real identity. She had couple of suspicions, of course, but no actual proof. Despite Chat Noir's (Adrien's) protests, one of her suspects was Gabriel Agreste, which also made her slightly suspicious of Chat Noir. She hoped that she was wrong.

This is why she was in Gotham, continent away from her home. She wasn't originally planning to go to the school trip, despite helping organize it. But she was also no closer to discovering the identity of Hawkmoth, or his location. She was exhausting everything she could.

It was Master Fu who suggested she should go.

„You cannot do everything on your own, Marinette. You need help. And Gotham can provide that for you,“ he said during one of the lessons.

„What do you mean?“

„Gotham is home of Batman. The world's greatest detective. He could help you with this.“

„But I can't leave Paris!“ Marinette fretted. „I am the only one who can purify the akuma and undo the damage!“

„It will be fine,“ he said. „I will give you the Horse Miraculous. Once there's an alert, you can use it to teleport to Paris and back. Viperion and Ryuuko can handle them until you arrive. I'd send Chat Noir, but if your suspicions about the Agreste family are correct...“

„You don't think he'd betray us, right?“ Marinette asked, her voice weak.

„I hope not. I hope I didn't make that mistake again. But even if you're wrong, I don't think we can count on him. Especially with how he has been acting recently. No, only you can do this.“

„Marinette,“ Tikki pulled her out of her thoughts. „Are you alright?“

„I'm fine, Tikki,“ Marinette sighed.

„You seem exhausted,“ Kaalki said. „You should get some rest. I'll keep an eye on the phone, and we can start looking for Batman tomorrow.“

„No,“ Marinette sighed. „It's best I try to find him now. I don't want to waste time. Tikki, spots on!“

Bright pink light flashed in the room. Transformed and ready, Ladybug jumped out of the window, hooking her yoyo onto the gargoyle of opposite building and swung out, propelling herself in the air. When she was high enough, she unfurled her transluscent wings and flew through the night sky of Gotham.

True to form for a magical girl, she wore a pretty, seemingly impractical dress of bright red color with black spots. The upper part was styled as qipao, while the lower opened in four parts, much like ladybug's protective shell over the wings, revealing black petticoat. She wore red opera gloves, also spotted, with black fingers, red spotted knee high boots, and thigh highs. Her hair, usually in pigtails, was now gathered into a bun, with red ribbon standing up like antennae. The area around her eyes was colored red. She wore no mask, but magic of miraculous was what protected her identity.

Still, it would do her no good if she was spotted in Gotham. She flew high enough, knowing nobody would see her, but low enough to have good view of the city and it's details. Despite it's reputation, Gotham was indeed beautiful.

Originally, she thought her costume was ridicilous. How was she supposed to fight enemies in a petticoat? However, the petticoat proved to be useful in many situations. First, she never actually got stuck, much to her surprise, and it seemed to tighten when she needed to be stealthy. Plus, when she twirled, her skirt seemed to have a mind of it's own and deflected attacks of her enemies. Even bullets couldn't hurt her, though she preferred to dodge those when she could.

She flew throughout Gotham for hours, trying to find any acitivity, but it seemed as if tonight, everyone stayed at home. Upon seeing the first sunrays dawn upon horizon, she sighed and hurried back into her hotel room before anyone could see her. Disappointed and exhausted, she laid down on her bed, for a quick nap.

* * *

„So, you want to share with us why you're so late?“ Dick asked as Robin finally arrived to the Batcave.

„Helped out a tourist. Nothing major,“ Damian replied as he started taking off his mask, hoping Dick wouldn't catch on how flustered he was.

She looked lost and terrified when he first spotted her. She was cute and pretty, like a little angel, and he knew she would be a target for less than decent folk if he left her alone. It only made sense to get her to safety.

„Oh? And it had nothing to do with the fact said tourist is cute?“ Dick teased with a smile, causing Damian to scoff.

„Shut up, Dick,“ the teenager said, trying to walk past him.

„You're really not going to admit she charmed you? Especially after she told you to stay safe?“ Dick didn't falter under his brother's furious glare. „Even though you told her she was sweet. Oh, how heartless.“

Damian's left eyelid twitched in annoyance at his eldest brothers' dramatics. He thought he was alone, but apparently, Nightwing had followed him and witnessed their entire interaction.

„Ugh, enough! Yeah, she's cute, so?“ he blew up.

„She's part of that french class, right? The one touring the Wayne Industries tomorrow?“ Dick threw a bait.

„What are you getting at?“

„Nothing. Just thought you might want to meet her again.“

„Whatever,“ Damian rolled his eyes and walked away to change. However, Dick clearly caught the small smirk that wouldn't leave his face.

Chapter Text

„Marinette! Wake up! You're running late!“ Tikki nudged her Chosen. Marinette immediatelly sprung out from the bed.

„Not again!“ she shrieked, nearly falling over herself as she hurried to get ready.

„I told you, you should've slept instead! Is she always like this?“ Kaalki turned to Tikki. Red Kwami giggled in response.

„She is. Even before Hawkmoth, she had trouble sleeping, but lately, with nightmares...“ Tikki explained, then gave Marinette a worried look.

„Oh. I see,“ Kaalki nodded in understanding.

Marinette had gotten ready in record time. In five minutes, she brushed her teeth, combed her hair, tying them into pigtails, dressed in light blue dress with grey tights, put a jacket on, then ushered the two Kwamis into her bag. She ran downstairs, only to see the lobby empty. Same with the parking lot. She was left behind. Again. She couldn't help but sigh.

„Marinette...“ the ladybug Kwami whispered.

„No, it's fine. I'll catch up to them,“ Marinette reassured her.

„Unlikely. How about I help you instead? With luck, you'll get there before them,“ Kaalki offered. Marinette mused for a while, then nodded. Quickly finding an empty alleyway, she let Kaalki out. The two studied the map of Gotham for a while, deciding on the best spot for her to teleport to. After finding a suitable destination, Kaalki opened the portal, and Marinette stepped through, then walked to the main road. She saw the bus parked in front of the Wayne building, but there were no classmates in sight, so she hurried over, hoping to catch them.

* * *

The whole morning, Damian had a smirk upon his face. He really looked forward to seeing her again. Marinette...

She really did look like an angel. Short, adorable, sweet, with the loveliest soft voice he had heard in a while, and a cute french accent. Usually, he found going to Wayne Industries to be a drag, but today, he had something to look forward to.

„What's with the Demon Spawn?“ one of his brothers, Jason asked as he walked into the dining room, twirling the white streak in his black hair. „Why are you smiling? Who's going to die tonight?“

„Fuck off, Todd,“ Damian rolled his eyes.

„He met a girl,“ Dick said with a knowing smile.

„Really? There is someone in this world that Demon could like? I find that unlikely,“ Tim lifted his brows, then took a sip of coffee.

„I swear to god,“ Damian cursed under his breath, exasperated.

„Poor girl. What did she do to deserve such tragedy?“ Jason placed a hand over his heart, goofing around. „Well, best prepare to kidnap her. No way are you getting a date with your social skills.“

„I've already done a background check. Her class will be touring at my work today. I'll make sure to put a good word in for you, Damian. So no kidnapping possible future girlfriends,“ Dick leaned over with a grin, only for Damian to push him away.

„You've seen her? What is she like?“ Jason asked with growing interest.

„She's way out of Damian's league,“ Dick snorted.

„Barbs is gonna have a field day with this,“ Jason laughed as he reached for his phone and started typing.

With a groan, Damian left the table, leaving the breakfast untouched. He's pretty sure he charmed her as Robin, so why couldn't he as Damian? No way is he allowing Dick to mess with the little angel.

He left home separately from Dick, unwilling to listen to his dribble. Once he arrived, he waited in the entrance area, until finally spotting the class, reckognizing some of the faces from the pictures in her files.

Yes, he'd also done a background check. No, he didn't see anything wrong with it.

However, he didn't spot her among the students, and it didn't seem as if her classmates even noticed she was missing. The class was led away, but Damian remained, worried. They lost her yesterday, and they forgot about her today? In Gotham, one of the most dangerous cities on the continent? Are these people insane?

Worried that something might've happened, he hurried outside. As he opened the door, he heard a panicked: „Merde, merde, merde!“ before a small blur collided with his chest, nearly pushing him down. Whoever bumped into him fell to the ground. Annoyed, he turned his glare to the offender: „What the he-“, only to stop dead in his tracks.

Kneeling on the concrete floor, it was her. His cute little angel.

„Oh, mon Dieu! Je suis désolé! I'm sorry!“ the girl sputtered, scrambling to get herself up. Damian smiled and grabbed her by the elbow, hepling to pull her upright.

„It's alright. Are you okay, miss? You didn't get hurt?“

„No, no, I'm fine! I'm so sorry for bumping into you! My class left me behind and I need to catch up to them and I wasn't looking where I was going and I rushed and I really didn't mean to bump into you!“ Marinette spoke rapid-fire, completely flustered and embarrased.

„Don't worry about it. You're with the french class, right? How about I help you catch up to them?“ he asked, finding her antics adorable.

„Oh? Oh! Thank you so much! You're very kind!“ Marinette said, surprised to have ran into a helpful soul.

„What's your name, miss?“ Damian asked as he escorted her inside.

„I'm Marinette. Marinette Dupain-Cheng.“

„Nice to meet you, Marinette. My name is Damian.“

She took a moment to look at him. Boy, was he handsome. Short, spiky black hair, pretty green eyes, and a gentle, friendly smile... Granted, she had to crook her neck to look up to him. She barely reached his collarbone. She looked away, slightly flustered. Calm yourself, Marinette, it's not as if you've never seen a handsome boy before, she mentally reprimanded herself, tapping her cheeks, unaware that Damian kept staring at her with a loving smile.

There was something familiar about him, but she couldn't quite place what.

„You mentioned your class left you behind?“

„Yeah, I have a hard time waking up, and since there's uneven number of students, I'm alone in my room. If it hadn't been for Tikki, I'd still be asleep, probably,“ Marinette hurriedly explained, still flustered. As soon as she realized what she had said, she wanted to slap herself. The small kick from her purse also didn't help small panic that was rising.

„Tikki? Is she one of your classmates?“

„Um, no, she isn't. She's an older friend of mine, from France. She knows I can be a klutz, so she called me to check if I was getting ready,“ Marinette quickly came up with an excuse, silently praising herself. She didn't exactly lie...

„She sounds like a good friend. Cherish friendships like that, they are hard to come by,“ the teen said with a soft, albeit sad smile.

„You sound like you don't have close friends,“ Marinette noted.

„It's alright. I have a close family. It's all that matters,“ he tried to dodge the subject.

„I can be your friend, if you want,“ the pigtailed girl offered, giving him most radiant smile he had ever seen. He felt his face being graced by a blush, and did his heart just skip a beat? Just like last night, she completely caught him off-guard.

„You're like a little angel. Thank you. I'd like to be friends with you,“ he said, watching her blush as he complimented her.

His attention was taken from her, as he heard his phone ring with a message. He pulled it out. It was from Dick.

* * *

Usually, Dick wouldn't be the one leading the tour through the building. However, he really wanted to help Damian out with his little girlfriend. And properly see her in person. And maybe embarrass Damian a little. That boy was too serious for his own good.

However, as the class arrived, he couldn't spot her. Out of fifteen students, only fourteen were present. He turned to the teacher of the class.

„Hello. You're Ms. Bustier, I presume?“ Dick asked.

„I am. I am the teacher of this class.“

„Nice to meet you. I'm Dick Grayson, and I'll be your guide. But before we continue, you seem to be missing a student? I only see fourteen of them, but the files said there would be fifteen.“

As soon as he said that, the teacher's face went completely pale. Dick furrowed his brows at the reaction. Did she actually forget about one of her own students? In Gotham, of all places? She should've done a headcount! While Bustier was fussing through the students, Dick sent a message to Damian. As the teacher finished headcount, she turned to Dick.

„We're missing Marinette. She must be at the hotel,“ she said.

„Again? Seriously, is she so starved for attention?“ one of the students, a black girl with glasses and dyed red tips rolled her eyes.

„I'm here, actually. Thanks for worrying,“ voice came from the back of the crowd, bitterness laced through it. Dick looked up, and saw the biracial girl standing next to Damian. A smile cracked his lips.

„Damian, you seem to have found our lost student. Now that we're all here, let's start the tour.“

* * *

Damian kept next to Marinette during the whole tour, pointing out interesting details that Dick neglected to mention. He didn't want to leave her alone with the class, not after he had heard the outburst of the black girl with the glasses. Really? His angel starving for attention? Laughable. He felt anger tighten his chest, and had to remind himself that killing civilians is out of the question. Besides, even if she was starving for it, she deserves all the attention she could get. He'd happily give it to her.

Marinette had pulled out her sketchbook, noting down whatever seemed to interest her, drawing possible references for her desings. He knew she was an aspiring fashion designer. He read it in her files. Still, he couldn't help but ask: „Angel, what are you drawing?“

„Oh! Um, possible ideas for designing. I'd like to go into fashion once I grow up,“ she said with a sweet smile. „I already design all of my clothes, so I have some experience.“

„Really? Are you wearing your designs right now?“ he inquired, taking a moment to check her out. The clothes she was wearing were simple, but he could tell they were well made.

„Yup! Look, there's a little secret with the dress,“ she said and then twirled around. As she did, hidden white flowers appeared at the lower part of the skirt, making her look like she was walking through field of flowers.

„Impressive,“ Damian said honestly. „With that skill, I'm sure you'll be a known name in no time, angel.“

„You're just saying that,“ Marinette covered her face, making him chuckle. She really did get embarrassed easily.

As the tour had come to an end, the class was escorted to the cafeteria to grab something to eat. Damian still didn't bother leaving, and seeing how Marinette had no one to sit with, he was more than happy to keep her company. That is, until a blonde haired boy walked up to them.

He had already noticed the blonde glaring at him the whole time he was there. Someone with a crush, maybe? How didn't he notice she was gone, then? Some affection.

„Mari, where have you been? Why weren't you with the class?“ he spoke in french, getting in between Damian and his angel, causing the dark haired teen to scowl.

It was good thing Damian was fluent in many languages, one of them being french. Or maybe, it wasn't, because as conversation unravelled, he wanted to strangle the guy.

„I overslept. Though it seems to me like nobody really noticed I was missing,“ Marinette gave Adrien a challenging look. Her voice was cold, making the blonde nearly whince.

„What are you talking about? Mari, you're my best friend! I care about you!“

„Do you? Do you really, Adrien?“ Marinette asked, feeling both angry and exhausted. „Because it really doesn't feel like it. You only ever seek me out when you need something from me, just like everyone else.“

„Is this about Lila? I told you, it's fine as long as you and I know. You know I got your back, just like you got mine,“ he reassured her, putting his hand on Marinette's shoulder. For some reason, Damian wanted to cut it off.

„No, you really don't,“ Marinette countered tiredly, pushing his hand away. „You left me all by myself to sit at the back of the class the moment Lila demanded your presence. Every time Lila threatened me, you ignored me. Whenever we came into conflict, you took her side. You don't have my back, Adrien. You never did.“

„How could you say that? Marinette, you need to wake up and realize that you, being alone is all your fault. If you'd just gone along with Lila, none of this would have happened. Everyone would still be your friend. Her lies don't hurt anyone,“ Adrien argued. Now, Marinette was really furious.

„Are you serious? I went against her because she kept faking disabilities to use everyone! Because she keeps manipulating people and hurting them! Mylene broke up with Ivan because of her! Do you know how heartbroken he was because of that? And you're telling me she's not hurting anyone? How blind are you?“

„If you just gave her a chance, she'd turn for the better! Seriously, Mari, what's gotten into you? Do you really think that by getting separated, you'll make everyone feel bad about you? That in such a way, you'll get everyone back?“

Marinette gaped at Adrien in shock. Did he seriously just accuse her of running away from everyone for attention? She didn't know what to say for a while, then felt bubble of hysteric laughter escape her lips.

„I see you're going to take her side again. There's nothing else for us to talk about. Leave me alone,“ she tried to turn around, but Adrien grabbed her.

„Come on, you know Lila could get akumatized! Stop being so selfish.“

„It's always all about Lila. What about me, Adrien? I nearly got akumatized six times because of her. Do I not matter? What am I saying, of course I don't.“

„Of course you do, Mari...“

„No. I don't. You've shown me time and again that I don't. You can talk about how much you care all you like, but you need to prove it with your actions to make it true. And you haven't. You know why? Because you're a coward. You don't stand up for people you supposedly care about, you don't lift your finger to protect them, and all you ever do is take. I'm done, Adrien,“ she stood strong, her blue eyes glaring into the greens of the blonde. Her rage her bubbled out, and she couldn't stop herself from telling him what she truly thought. Not anymore. The hurt was clear in his eyes, as was in hers, but he ignored it.

„You've changed. You're not the Marinette I used to know. You used to be our everyday Ladybug. Now, you're just selfish. You're nothing like my lady.“

„Jesus Christ, Adrien, how many times do I have to tell you...“

„You don't have to tell me anything anymore. You stew in whatever bitterness there is. Once you've calmed down, we can talk,“ he cut her off, and with one last glance at her, he turned away and left.

Marinette's hands started shaking, as she sat down on the chair and leaned on the table. She clasped her hands tightly together, leaning her head against her wrists, trying to shake off the tears that threatened to spill.

Unknown to them, Dick and Damian had watched whole exchange. Dick nodded towards Marinette, before leaving towards the class. As if Damian needed that reminder.

Damian was beyond furious. He really wanted to lunge onto the little bastard, but managed to restrain himself. Instead, he walked over to the angel, her shoulders trembling from powerful sobs she was desperately trying to hold down, and gently touched her back.

„Angel, how about we grab lunch elswhere?“ he spoke, rubbing her back to give her some comfort. She looked up, her face stained with tears, her eyes red. She sniffled a little and took a deep breath, trying to compose herself before nodding.

„I think that would be a good idea,“ she said, wiping her tears and trying to force a smile. He took her hand and helped her stand up, whisking her away from her classmates.

Dick watched the hero save the beauty with a smile. However, he wondered if Damian could be succesfull in cheering the girl up. He wasn't exactly the best when it came to comfort. He pulled out his phone. He might just need some help...

Chapter Text

By the time the pair arrived to the restaurant, Marinette seemed to have calmed down. She was still downcast, but she was no longer crying. However, Damian didn't want to see a frown on such a lovely face. 

 „Do you want to talk about it, angel?“ he asked gingerly. „I speak french, so I could understand your argument, but I think you should still talk about it.“

 "You did? Well, that's embarrasing,“ Marinette gave a weak laugh. „I really didn't expect it from him. Of all people... He was my best friend. He always confided in me, and I always helped him in any way I could.“

 „Sounds pretty one-sided to me,“ Damian commented.

 „It's not easy on him. He has a lot on his plate. He's a model for his dad, he's fencing, he's one of the top students and he's learning languages and plays piano. He was just trying to help. I shouldn't have been so mean to him.“

 Damian frowned. As if Marinette didn't have a lot on her plate. He's checked her files. She's a class representative, she also has good grades, she trains gymnastics and takes self-defense classes, she's a designer already being comissioned by big names, she speaks three languages, and is running that weird Ladybug app. She's got as many responsibilities as the blondie, if not more, and doesn't have a rich father to spoil her.

 Maybe, soon, a rich boyfriend could spoil... No, snap out of it, Damian. Get your mind out of the gutter.

 Of course, he can't say he knows that.

 „You weren't mean at all. You were honest. In my opinion, you should've been meaner. From your conversation, I could tell he's not much of a friend. You deserve better, angel,“ he leaned over the table and gently took her hand. Her eyes darted towards his, and he gave her a comforting smile.

 „I'm just so tired. From everything. I always have to set an example, be a better person. I always have to be there when someone needs me. But everyone just keeps assuming the worst about me, no matter what I do. It's pointless,“ she gave exhausted sigh.

 „If they can't appreciatte you, just cut them off. You don't need people like that in your life,“ Damian consolled her best he could. She sighed again and nodded.

They fell into an awkward silence as they waited for their meal to arrive. She seemed closed off, and Damian was unsure how to reach her again. He didn't want her to feel awkward, but he also had no idea what to do.

He was starting to fumble with his phone, weighing his options. Should he text Dick and ask for advice? If he does, his brother will never let him live this down. But he really wanted Marinette to feel comfortable.

 Just as he was about to bite the bullet, a resounding: „Dami!“ rang through the restaurant. Oh. Oh no. Anything but that.

 He and Marinette looked up, only to see three women enter a restaurant. One was a redhaired woman in her early thirties, being pushed in a wheelchair by an short-haired, strict looking asian woman in mid-twenties. Next to them, the owner of the voice, was a gorgeous blonde woman, around the same age as the asian, happily waving at them. „Mind if we join you?“

 Damian covered his face. Oh god, this is going to be a disaster. Marinette gave him a confused look. „Someone you know?“

„Yeah. Marinette, these are Barbara, Cassandra and Stephanie,“ he nodded, bracing himself for humiliation that will follow.

„Oh my god, you're so cute!“ Stephanie said as she happily shook Marinette's hand. „Tell me, is he holding you hostage? We'll save you from his clutches.“

„Stephanie...“ he groaned.

„Oh, no,“ Marinette giggled. „He helped me out, actually. But thank you.“

„I didn't believe when Dick told us you were on a date with a cute girl,“ Barbara teased. „He's right. She's way out of your league.“

Marinette felt herself blush. Was this a date?

„Well, if you understand that, why did you have to crash it?“ Damian growled, not bothering to deny Barbara's words.

„Curiosity,“ Cassandra said shortly, though there was amusement in her usually cold eyes. Stephanie immediatelly took a seat next to Marinette and took her attention.

„So, Mari – can I call you Mari?“ she asked, but didn't bother getting confirmation, „You're from Paris, right? What brings you to this shithole? How did you meet Dami?“

„I'm on a school trip,“ she said softly. „We, uh, we had a tour at the Wayne Industries. I was running late and kind of bumped into him and he helped me reunite with my class, so...“

„He didn't bully you, did he? Damian can be rude sometimes, but he means well,“ Barbara chimed in.

„No, not at all. He's been nothing but kind to me.“

„Dami? Kind? Pffft, no way. Must be some shapeshifter,“ Stephanie laughed. „Anyway, how old are you? Do you have any hobbies?“

„Steph, please...“ Damian begged out of frustration as his sister barraged Marinette with questions.

„Shush, Dami, I'm trying to meet your girlfriend,“ Stephanie raised her hand, causing another groan from Damian, and even deeper shade of red on Marinette's cheeks.

„Calm down, Steph, you'll scare her away,“ Barbara smiled. „Sorry about her, sweetheart. She's just excited. Damian never talks to girls.“

„It's okay,“ Marinette laughed through her embarrasment. „To answer your questions, I'm fifteen, almost sixteen, and I mainly design.“

„Design, huh? Fashion, I assume?“ Barbara asked, and Marinette nodded in response. „I don't suppose your last name is Dupain-Cheng?“

„It is. How did you know?“ Marinette asked in astonishment.

„Well, I'm friends with Jagged Stone. He constantly talks about you. You're his favourite designer. He even demanded to introduce you to me several times,“ the redhead explained.

„Uncle Jagged does?“ Marinette squeaked in embarrasment.

„Nice,“ Cassandra piped in.

„Oh, you're already famous! Dami, you gotta step up, someone's gonna swoop in and steal her from you,“ Stephanie bumped the teen, winking at him.

„She even designs for Clara Nightingale. Remember that dress at the gala last year? Marinette made it for her,“ Barbara turned to Stephanie.

„What?! No way! Clara is my favourite singer! And you design for her?“ Stephanie got excited, almost jumping out of her chair. At this point, Marinette was so red, she looked like she was going to explode from embarrasment any minute now.

„Guys, please stop harrassing her,“ Damian begged. Unfortunately, his begging fell onto deaf ears. Stephanie and Barbara continued to bombard Marinette with questions, getting all the possible info they could, revealing what they all already knew from her files. Even Cassandra, who was usually quiet, joined in occasionally.

Somehow, the topic came to Marinette's self defense classes. This is where Cassandra took a lead.

„Here's a good tip for you. When a guy grabs your wrist, like this,“ Cassandra took Marinette's hand, making her grab her wrist and started to demonstrate. „Twist your hand like this, against his thumb, then push the hand away. At the same time, kick him in the balls. You're tiny, so most opponents will be stronger than you. There's no shame in fighting dirty.“

„Cass, she won't be getting into any fights in Paris,“ Damian groaned for who knows what time. Marinette had to stop herself from snorting. She gets into fights all the time in Paris.

„It can always happen. Best to know how to defend yourself,“ Cass countered.

„Thank you, Cassandra. I'll remember that.“

„Good. Now here's another tip...“

 No matter how frustrated Damian was, he couldn't help but notice that Marinette had finally relaxed, and even laughed through the conversations. The rowdy table finally finished their lunch, and the girls slowly bid their goodbyes to Marinette. They arrived like a hurricane, and left almost as fast, with Barbara paying the entire meal. Stephanie even pulled Marinette into a hug as she was leaving.

„Come visit us at home when you have a chance,“ Barbara said. „I can help you look through that app, maybe tweak it a bit.“

„And I can give you better demonstrations,“ Cassandra offered.

Finally, they left. Damian had a headache.

„I'm really sorry about them,“ he sighed.

„No need to apologize. They were very fun to talk to. Are they your aunts?“

„More like sisters. We're not exactly related, but they're as close as family can be. I have a lot of siblings like that, actually.“

„Really?“

„Yeah. I have three older adopted brothers. You already met Dick. Stephanie is also adopted. Barbara is pretty much an honorary family member. As for Cassandra, Barbara pretty much adopted her years ago, so she's part of the family as well. There's also Alfred, who works at our home, but he's like a grandfather to us,“ Damian explained. Despite his earlier behaviour, Marinette could see the fondness in his eyes as he spoke about them.

„It sounds like you really love them.“

„I do. I'd do anything for them, even if they can be a pain sometimes. What about you, angel? Do you have any siblings?“

„No. I'm an only child. It's just my mama, papa and me in Paris, in the bakery. I have a large family from my mother's side in Shenghai. We don't visit each other often, but when we do, it's always fun. I also have grandparents. My grandmother is a biker, and she's very adventurous. She's travelled half a world by now. My grandpa isn't too happy about it. He is grumpy, but he can be soft on occasion,“ Marinette said with a smile. „We should get back tomy class. I don't want more accusations of seeking attention.“

Damian hummed. „Do you have any other plans for today? There's a place I'd like to show you that I'm sure you'll like.“

* * *

 As he watched Marinette reunite with her class and leave the Industries, Dick took up his phone and dialed Barbara's number. „So? How did it go?“

„Oh my god, Dick, she's adorable! How did Dami manage to snatch her?“ he heard Stephanie yell from the other side.

„Steph, pipe down,“ Barbara said. „It went well. The girl is really sweet. I can see why he likes her. She gets flustered really easily, so that was fun.“

„Looks like you managed to cheer her up. She was crying when Damian took her away,“ Dick said.

„Yeah, she seemed upset when we first arrived. Don't worry, we fixed that for him. She'll definitely agree on a date now,“ Barbara confirmed.

„Oh, he asked her for a date?“

„We didn't hear it, but he'd be a fool not to,“ the redhead smiled with mischief. „Let's try not to crash that one too.“

Chapter Text

„You seem to be in a good mood,“ Tikki said knowlingly as she watched Marinette get ready for her... Date? Outing? Hanging out with a friend? Marinette nodded.

„I'm excited to see him,“ she confessed. „Is... is that okay?“

„Of course, Marinette! You deserve to have a bit of good time. When was the last time you went out with your friends?“ Tikki nuzzled agains Marinette's cheek.

„Well, this one seems to want to be more than just friends,“ Kaalki winked knowingly, making Marinette blush. „I do hate to be a spoilsport, but don't forget why we're here.“

„I know. Once I'm done with this, I'll be heading out,“ Marinette agreed. Her phone vibrated as she recieved a message. Her face bloomed with a smile as she looked who it is. It was from Damian. He was waiting for her.

Damian watched as Marinette hopped down the lobby of the hotel. She was dressed in waist high, baby pink skirt, loose black shirt, black tights, with a jacket on, her hair tied into a side braid, with just a little bit of makeup to draw attention to those big, blue eyes. She looked absolutely adorable.

„Hello, angel. Ready to go?“ he asked with a smile, offering her his hand.

„Yes. Where are you taking me?“ she nodded, looping her arm around his.

„It's a surprise,“ Damian winked. He knew just the place.

The drive to thei destination wasn't long. They've arrived to the Wayne Tower, the tallest building in Gotham. The Tower was still open to visitors, though the roof was firmly locked.

„Shoot. Looks like we're late,“ Marinette drooped her shoulders.

„No problem,“ he winked, the pulled the lockpicks out of his pocket. As he started to fiddle with the lock, Marinette started fussing.

„Damian! What are you doing? Are you crazy? We'll get caught!“ she whispered, trying to stop him.

„Don't worry, angel. It will be fine,“ he said, effortlessly unlocking the roof and opening the door. „After you.“

„Damian, if we get caught...“

„Nothing's going to happen. Trust me,“ he said in a firm tone, trying to reassure her. Her eyes darted left and right, before she finally sighed and gave in.

„I hope you're right,“ she murmured and walked in. He closed the door behind them, and led her up the stairs. As she finally climbed up, she stopped dead in her tracks, stunned. A small „Whoah,“ escaped her lips.

At the top of the roof, stood a single, lone gargoyle, surrounded by colorful, beautiful flowers. But what added to the scene was the gorgeous skyline of Gotham, littered with light. As Damian predicted, Marinette immediatelly pulled out her sketchbook and started drawing. He couldn't help but smile.

„How do you like it?“ Damian asked, walking over to her.

„Huh? Oh, it's gorgeous! It's as beautiful as view back home!“ she replied, giving him most brightest of smiles. He flet a small twinge in his heart. He liked it when she smiled like that, open, honest and unrestrained. In that moment, he felt like he would do anything, just to protect it.

Damian watched as Marinette drew concepts into her sketchbook. The fact that she was trembling didn't escape him.

„Angel, are you cold?“

„A little,“ she gave him an apologetic smile.

That was a lie. She was very cold. Side effects of having been Ladybug for such a long time. Winter nearly made her want to hibernate, and even if it was a little bit cold out, she would be shivering. It didn't help that Gotham had usually cold climate. Marinette didn't expect that. It was still summer, so she didn't think she'd have to get a jacket. In addition to the fact they were really high up, and wind was blowing right into them... She wasn't faring well.

„Here,“ Damian took off his jacket and handed it to her.

„You'll freeze!“ she tried to refuse, but Damian just shrugged.

„Don't worry about me, angel. I'll be fine,“ he shook his head, then moved around her to help her put the jacket on. She bundled herself into the jacket few numbers too big, but it didn't provide much warmth. Still, Damian liked how she looked, wearing his clothes.

 Out. Of. The. Gutter. He hissed at himself.

„How come you know how to pick locks?“ Marinette suddenly asked, closing her sketchbook.

„I used to be a real troublemaker when I was younger,“ he replied. Mostly honestly. He had caused a lot of trouble, but not the innocent kind.

„Nothing serious, I hope?“ she eyed him suspiciously.

„Of course not,“ he lied. „Just a little bit of mischief. My father shaped me up afterwards. Now I am a good, law-abiding citizen.“

„Oh, really? Because we did just break on to the roof,“ Marinette countered.

„Well, sometimes you have to live a life on the edge,“ he joked. He noticed she was still shivering, so he took the liberty to pull her closer, giving her a chance to evade him. She didn't, happily accepting his warm embrace instead as she huddled into his arms.

Damn. She really was cute.

Marinette closed her eyes and hummed. She only just met him, but somehow, she felt completely safe. Even with his previous admission of mischief.

The pair stayed like that for a while. Only for the moment to be ruined when Damian noticed a familiar shadow lurking in the dark.

God. Damn. It.

„Young love, how sweet,“ the deep voice reached them. Marinette yelped and jumped, turning around so fast she nearly fell. Luckily, Damian was still holding her, and helped steady her. Damian barely stopped himself from cursing when he saw Batman walk out of the shadow, holding back an amused grin. „Still. Breaking and entering is illegal, even if it is in the name of the romance.“

„Damian! You said we weren't going to get caught!“ Marinette panicked.

„It's okay, angel. I'll handle this,“ Damian whispered and squeezed her shoulder, trying to soothe her.

„Now, Damian, I was also young once. It's understandable if you want to impress girls, so I'll let you two off the hook. But next time, take your date to a proper place,“ the Batman said with a smile.

„Yes, sir,“ Marinette nodded fervently.

„Move along, now. It's getting late. Gotham can be dangerous this time of night,“ Batman ushered, before turning away and disappearing into the shadows. Nervous, Marinette pretty much dragged Damian out, who was still annoyed at his father for interfering. If he loses a chance because of this...

Marinette waited as Damian locked the roof, then gently grabbed him by his arm. „Is it really going to be okay?“

„Don't worry, angel. Batman only goes after criminals. There's no way he'd harm someone as cute as you,“ he soothed her smoothly, watching as her cheeks blossomes pink.

„He's right, it's getting late. I should go back,“ she said anxiously. Damian's heart sank. Did he just blow it? „Will... Will I see you tomorrow?“

And like that, his heart soared right back up again, his lips forming a wide smile. „Of course. Want me to crash your tour again?“

She hummed and nodded in approvement. With that, they left back for the hotel.

As soon as she reached her room, Marinette looked out to see Damian's car leave. She locked the door and waited for a while for the city to fall asleep. „Alright. Let's hope we have better luck tonight. Tikki, spots on!“

* * *

„So, how was your date?“ Dick asked with amused smile.

„Could've gone better if Father could resist the urge to scare my date. Otherwise, it was fine,“ Damian growled, making Dick laugh.

„He says you broke onto the roof. Of course he was going to check it out. Especially since his son is in question.“

„Wait, am I hearing this right? A girl went on a date with Demon Spawn? Willingly?“ Jason leaned in from the corridor. „She's got some guts.“

Damian resisted the urge to throw something at Jason.

„I'm going to get ready for a patrol,“ he sighed, trying to ignore the brothers.

„It's still early. You just want to check in on your girlfriend,“ Tim teased, then took cover as remote flew his way.

„Girlfriend? The one you called angel?“ Bruce walked in, giving his son a smug smile.

„Angel? You really calling her angel? Dami, that's so adorable,“ Stephanie laughed as she joined the family in teasing the youngest member.

„Hey, Steph, you met this girl in person, right? What's she like?“ Jason turned to her.

„Oh, she's real sweet. Really, almost gave me a toothache. Can't believe Dami managed to snag her. Must've used some kind of intimidation tactic. Or blackmail,“ she laughed.

With a groan, Damian decided to abandon the group, but was stopped by Tim.

„Hey, are you serious about her? If so, we need to make sure she can be trusted,“ he reminded, causing the lighthearted atmosphere to dim slightly.

„Just what are you implying, Tim?“

„I don't know. She might just be playing you for your fortune.“

„She doesn't know I'm a Wayne. Believe it or not, she genuinely likes my company. Now, if you'll excuse me...“ exasperated Damian left the room filled with cackling idiots, only to run into Cassandra in the hallway. She raised her brow, then gave him a small smile.

„Go get her, tiger.“

Damian shall groan forevermore.

* * *

He was paired with Nightwing on tonight's patrol. Red Robin and Red hood paired up together, going their own route, Batgirl and Black Bat were on the other side of the city, Batman patrolling alone, while the Oracle and Alfred talked to them through comms. Robin's and Nightwing's route was pretty quiet, though Reds did run into couple of thugs.

Seeing they were close to the hotel, Robin swung off course, hoping to check on Marinette, leaving cackling Nightwing behind. He saw the light coming out of her window. Was she still awake? This late? As he got closer, he saw that the window was open. Wasn't she cold? Why would she leave her window open?

He swung to the hotel to check, only to find the room empty. And the door locked. Wave of panic suddenly hit him. This was the top floor. How could she have gone anywhere? „She's not here.“

 „Who isn't?“ Red Hood asked.

 „Marinette! Her light is on, her window open, and the door is locked, but she's not here!“

 „Calm down, Robin,“ Oracle spoke into his earpiece. „I'm checking the surveillance.“

 „We need to find her! If one of the villains got their hands on her...“

 „We'll find her,“ Black Bat assured him. „Panic won't help. Focus.“

Black Bat's cold words helped him calm down, but only a little. He hurried out of her room, his stomack churning from worry. He shouldn't have gone out with her. Someone must've seen them, and now they're holding her for ransom. Shit! Shit!

In his earpiece, he heard a yell, then Batgirl's cursing: „Fuck! It's Scarecrow! We need backup!“

The panic came back in full force.

Chapter Text

Black Bat was thoroughly annoyed. First, Damian's new girlfriend goes missing, and now, Scarecrow got the drop on them. She wheezed as she tried to shake off nightmarish visions in front of her eyes, her body too weak to pick herself up from the ground.

„Shit! Black Bat, stay with me!“ Batgirl yelled as she kneeled next to her, trying not to breathe the gas Scarecrow had unleashed onto them. She wasn't hit as hard as Black Bat, but she could feel her muscles lose strength. She could hear the bastard laugh.

„Tell me, what is your greatest fear, Batgirl?“ he asked ominously, slowly stepping towards the heroines.

Fuck. Fuck! She tried to pick herself up, only to weakly fall back to her knees again.

„You fall so easily. Can you truly call yourself a hero?“ he mocked.

Something small and red flew over Batgirl's head, hitting Scarecrow right in his face. He groaned in anger, and tried to pick himself up, only for the strange weapon to launch again, wrap itself around him, lift him up and hit his head against the cieling, knocking him out. As soon as he had stopped moving, he was quickly dropped to the ground.

„You fall so easily,“ came a sweet voice behind them. „Can you truly call yourself a villain?“

„Damn, that's a good one,“ Batgirl laughed. She turned around, only to see a petite, darkhaired girl dressed in elaborate red dress with black spots walk towards them, playing with a yoyo. Batgirl could tell that the girl couldn't have been older than Damian, yet at the same time, she seemed ancient, ageless. Despite her not wearing a mask, she couldn't commit her face to memory. She had a foreign accent, but for some reason, she couldn't place it, even though it seemed so familiar.

„Are you okay?“ the girl asked, helping Batgirl stand up. The moment the girl touched her, all the effects of the drug were gone, her mind completely clear.

„I'm good. Check on Black Bat,“ Batgirl gestured towards her partner. The spotted girl turned her attention to whincing Black Bat, pulling her up. Batgirl saw strange light shining softly out of her palms as she touched her partner, and Black Bat let out a sigh of relief as the newcomer steadied her. The air around the girl seemed to clear up, the toxin unable to reach her. Some kind of metahuman?

Black Bat gave the girl in red a once over. „You returning from some sort of party?“

„Sort of,“ the girl giggled. As soon as she did, several people crashed in. Red Hood and Red Robin, weapons at the ready, Nightwing practically dragging Robin with him, and finally, Batman, ready for battle.

„Where is he? Where's Scarecrow?“ Red Hood roared.

„Over there,“ Batgirl gestured to the unconscious villain. „Lolita here knocked him out so fast, he didn't even see it coming.“

„Good job. Especially in that dress,“ Red Robin nodded.

„Thanks,“ she gave them a bright smile. „You're the Bat Family? Right? I was looking for you.“

„We don't have time for this. Marinette is missing, who knows where she-“ Robin started, still grappled in his panic.

„I know where she is,“ the girl in red spoke. „Don't worry, she's fine. She's actually helping me track you down.“

Robin gave her a furious glare, then walked right over. He moved to grab her by the collar, but the girl in red easily evaded him, catching his arm and flipping him over. However, instead of slamming him onto the ground, she caught him gently, setting him down without injuring him. It caused Red Hood to snicker, and amused glances from the rest of the family. Robin was twice her size, yet this girl took him down with ease.

„I am not your enemy. I just need you to hear me out, okay? I promise, Marinette is safe.“

„Alright. We'll bite. Who are you and what do you want from us?“ Batman asked, crossing his arms.

„My name is Ladybug. I'm a hero of Paris,“ she started, only for Red Hood to snort.

„You, a hero? Come on, Princess, you don't expect us to believe that?“ he interrupted.

„I've never heard of heroes in Paris,“ Red Robin added, eyeing her suspiciously. His words came as a surprise to Ladybug, but she quickly regained her bearings.

„Perhaps you haven't been paying attention. For the last three years, Paris has been terrorized by a villain called Hawkmoth. I, along with some others, have been fighting against him. I've tried to track him down, but it's been... Difficult. I don't want people of my city to suffer any longer. He needs to be stopped,“ she explained, her tone firm and grave.

„You're pretty capable, from what I've seen. Why would you need our help?“ Batgirl asked, ignoring the snort coming from Red Hood.

„Detective work isn't exactly my forte,“ Ladybug admitted. „The Parisian police force is both incompetent and uncooperative. I suspect whoever Hawkmoth is, he has enough power to sway them to look the other way. I thought I managed to track him down, but after my initial breakthrough, there's been nothing else. I really don't know what else to do.“

„We would know if there's a terrorist in Paris. At the very least, there would be some damage, but Paris has always been fine. How can we be sure we can trust you?“ Batman asked, eyeing her with suspicion. Ladybug opened her mouth to reply, but she was cut off by a screeching sound coming from her yoyo. She panicked and quickly opened it up, the covering spreading like wings of a ladybug.

„Bon sang!“ Ladybug cursed. „De toutes les fois, pour que akuma attaque maintenant...“

The group all raised their brows at her alarm. She gave them an apologetic look. „I'm sorry. There is an emergency back home. I need to deal with it. Find Marinette tomorrow night in her hotel room, she will explain everything.“

„Wait!“ Robin yelled, trying to grab at her petticoat, but it seemed as if the skirt had a mind of it's own and evaded his grasp. Ladybug ran out of the building. The group followed after her, only to be blinded by a flashing light. When they looked again, she was gone.

„Uh... What the hell just happened?“ Red Hood asked, utterly confused.

„Oracle, did you catch any of that?“ Batman spoke into his earpiece.

„Have been on it the moment she introduced herself,“ Oracle said, her fingers typing wildly. „There is indeed a Parisian superhero named Ladybug, but... All this stuff I'm reading can't be real.“

„What do you mean?“

„Evil magical butterflies turning people into superpowered villains? Random monsters appearing out of nowhere? A girl in the weird dress fighting with a yoyo undoing all the damage that has been done? It's too surreal,“ Oracle gave a rundown. „All I'm getting is some blog called the LadyBlog, and the LadyBugOut app... Marinette's app.“

„Master Bruce, I believe we should follow that girl's advice and ask Marinette about it tomorrow,“ Alfred joined in, for the first time the entire night. „She will most likely have the answers.“

„Can we really trust her that Marinette is okay?“ Red Robin asked. „I know she saved our girls, but we don't know her. For all we know, she might be working with someone to lure us into a trap.“

„Can't hurt to check,“ Batman said. „I'll take Scarecrow to Arkham. Oracle, contact the Justice League. Alfred, look more into this Ladybug girl. Rest of you, return to your patrols.“

„Got it!“

„What about Marinette? She's still missing!“ Robin protested.

„Spots said your girlfriend is fine,“ Red Hood tried to appease him.

„And we're just going to trust her?“

„To be fair, she did save mine and Black Bat's ass. And she easily could've kicked yours, but she didn't,“ Batgirl pointed out. „I think we can trust her.“

„Fine. But I'll be checking on Marinette after this is done,“ Robin growled.

* * *

„Miraculous Ladybug!“ Ladybug yelled as she threw her Lucky Charm into the air, clearing all the damage that has been done. Paris had once again turned to normal. She sighed. Good chunk of Paris had already been destroyed by the time she arrived. Ryuuko and Viperion did best they could to hold it back until Ladybug arrived.

„Thanks for helping out, Ryuuko, Viperion,“ she turned to the two heroes.

„Anytime, Ladybug,“ Viperion, dressed in his teal spandex, said softly. „Have you found people you're looking for?“

„Yes, but I had to leave before properly explaining everything. I sent them to Marinette, so it should be fine,“ Ladybug said with a smile.

„Maybe you should give Mari-hime a miraculous? You rely on her a lot already. I'm sure she'd make incredible hero,“ Ryuuko suggested, sheathing back her sword and patting her red samurai styled armor.

„Maybe I will,“ Ladybug smiled. Bidding her fellow heroes goodbye, she found a safe place to detransform, and handed Kaalki lettuce to recharge. „I'm so sorry, Kaalki. I wish I didn't have to exhaust you so much.“

„It's fine, Marinette,“ Kaalki said as she munched on the green. „This is neccessary. Besides, we can't have anyone finding out about you.“

„At least you managed to meet the Gotham heroes! I'm sure they're going to help you with this!“ Tikki encouraged.

„Yeah. I just hope there isn't another akuma attack tomorrow.“

* * *

„I'm sorry, Bruce. Other than what I've sent you, I can't seem to find any more information,“ Superman sighed. Of all the things he had to look into, this definitely had to be the most bizarre one.

Evil butterflies turning people into magic villains. Devastating terrorist attacks that get fixed in matter of seconds. Strange superheroes with strange powers. And it has been happening for three years, with none of them realizing anything.

„Keep looking, Clark. There must be more information,“ Batman insisted.

„More information on what?“ the two superheroes were interrupted as a tall amazon walked in.

„Something wierd is going on in Paris,“ Superman told Wonder Woman, going on to explain the situation. As he was finishing the report, Wonder Woman's brows furrowed.

„There has been an active Ladybug in Paris for last three years? And we didn't know about it?“ she seemed horrified.

„You seem to know something about this, Diana,“ Batman pointed out.

„Indeed. For a Ladybug to be active, it must mean there is a great threat. Power of Creation is always used sparingly.“

„What are you talking about? Are you saying all this nonsense is real?“ Batman demanded.

„It is no nonsense, my friend. Long ago, my mother was a wielder of Miraculous of Creation, one in long line of Ladybugs.“

„Miraculous? Creation? Ladybugs? What's going on?“ Superman couldn't help but be confused.

„Tell me, Bruce, how did this information come to you?“ Wonder Woman disregarded Superman's questions.

„We met a girl last night, claiming to be a superhero from Paris named Ladybug. She said she needed our help,“ Batman explained shortly. Wonder Woman smiled.

„It is a great honor for Ladybug herself to seek your guidance.“

„Are you saying we should trust her?“

„Absolutely. Wielders of the Miraculous of Creation have always been a force of good. Whoever the new Ladybug is, she could be a powerful ally.“

„I don't know, Diana. Something about this doesn't feel right. How come we don't have any information about this? Especially since Paris has been under attack for three years, and we hadn't noticed a thing.“

„That is not unusual. You are dealing with matters of magic. I do not know how the information never got to us, but I suspect it has something to do with the evil force she is fighting.“

„Yeah, about that,“ Superman chimed in. „There was only little information I could find, but apparently, there is someone calling himself Hawkmoth. He has power to turn people into villains, apparently by using their negative emotions. There is another one, Mayura, who has ability to create monsters out of emotions.“

„Butterfly and Peacock,“ Wonder Woman nodded. „Looks like the Miraculous have fallen into the wrong hands. It would make sense to send Ladybug to retrieve them.“

„If she's as powerful as you say, why would she need our help?“ Batman asked, frustrated at the vague responses he was getting.

„Perhaps she is young? Inexperienced? But that does not make her any less worthy. Follow the advice I had given you earlier, Bruce. Join her crusade.“

„If you think that's going to be fine, then I'll trust you, Diana. Clark, what about the other girl, Marinette?“

„I found everything you did. She does seem to be involved with Ladybug. She is credited as creator of LadyBugOut, but other than that, everything else seems normal. Maybe she's like Alfred or Oracle?“ Superman offered, while Batman grumbled in response.

„Do send my regards to Ladybug once you meet her again. I would love to meet my mother's successor,“ Wonder Woman said, giving the grumpy bat a smile before he signed off.

* * *

Robin was in a hurry to finish his patrol, his heart still beating wildly from worry for Marinette. As soon as Nightwing gave him the green light, he went full speed ahead to the hotel his angel was staying at.

He couldn't help but worry. Marinette was small and fragile. Just what had she gotten herself into?

As he swung by, he saw that the light was still on, and the window was still open. Damn it, was she still gone? However, as he approached, he could see her walking in her room, just having finished changing into her pyjamas at that moment. Robin sighed in relief. She's fine. She's safe. He landed by the window. She turned around and jumped in fright. „Robin! Don't scare me like that!“

„I could say the same,“ he wanted to be angry, but somehow, couldn't wipe the smile off his lips. „I had noticed you were gone. I must admit, you had me worried there for a bit.“

„O-oh? Sorry. I didn't expect anyone to know I was missing,“ she said, nervously touching her earring.

„We met someone today. A hero calling herself Ladybug. She said you were helping her track us down,“ he inquired. He knew they had an agreement to meet with Marinette tomorrow, but he had to know.

„Y-yeah. I was. She told me she had met you, but she had an emergency before she could explain herself, so she asked me to fill in the details instead.“

„You seem to be close.“

„N-not at all! I just help her around when she needs it. She's got a lot to worry about, so I'm glad to help her out when I can,“ she quickly dismissed him.

„She shouldn't be relying on you. Gotham is nothing like Paris. It's too dangerous here. She could've gotten you killed,“ he was seething. Was this girl just going to allow everyone to walk over her? To disregard her safety? Did she have no sense of self-preservation?

„There really isn't anyone else. I'm sorry that I worried you, Robin. I really am. But Ladybug made sure I was safe the entire time. She – she wouldn't put me in danger,“ Marinette's voice cracked. She hated lying, and she wasn't good at it, and hated even more that she had to do it.

Robin sighed, walking over and pulling her into a hug. Marinette was confused, but she didn't reject him. There was something familiar with the safety she felt in his embrace...

„As long as you're alright, angel,“ he murmured.

Ah. Of course. Damian. Marinette couldn't help but sigh. These boys really should be more careful with their identities.

Chapter Text

Marinette groaned as her morning alarm started screeching. Like last night, she had only slept for a few hours. Sleepy and groggy, she turned the alarm off, then slowly crawled out of bed. At least she didn't sleep through her alarm this time.

She got ready sluggishly, and was just going to leave her room as is, but then remembered Damian was going to join today. Looking into the mirror, she was very pale, with dark circles forming around her eyes, so she grabbed a concealer and tried to make herself look like less of a corpse. She liked makeup, and loved elaborate makeup, but today, she just didn't have the energy for it.

By the time she got to the lobby, her class was already leaving. In took everything from Marinette not to groan. They were about to leave her behind. Again.

„Angel, you're here,“ Damian called, approaching her with a smile. The moment she saw him, her mood instantly brightened.

„Hi, Damian,“ she walked over, and snuggled up to him without thinking. They've already shared a few hugs, this much shouldn't be a problem, right? In response, Damian's arms automatically wrapped themselves around her.

„You look tired. Did you get any sleep last night?“

„I'm fine. I just had a long night,“ Marinette replied, fighting off a yawn. „I should go. Wouldn't want to miss a bus this time.“

„How about I take you where you need to go instead? I came here with a ride.“

Marinette paused and thought about it. If she goes to the bus, she'll be sitting alone anyway. Besides, she really liked Damian's company, plus, it seems like the class won't notice if she goes missing again. She nodded.

„Sure, why not? We're going to tour Wayne Tower today.“

„Didn't you already see it yesterday, angel?“ Damian gave her a smug smirk, making her giggle.

„To see it properly this time. And legally,“ she replied, bumping shoulders against him. Exiting the lobby, she saw the bus leave, and followed Damian to his car. Marinette didn't know much about cars, but this one looked luxurious.

The two rejoined the class at the Tower, with no one noticing that Marinette might've gone missing again. As they followed the tour, Damian kept holding onto Marinette's hand, whispering details about the tower that weren't mention, just like yesterday, or just joking around. As the tour finished, Marinette noticed they didn't take them to the roof.

„See? Aren't you glad I took you to that date last night? You would've missed a nice view,“ Damian joked as they walked towards the park, where it was decided the group would take a break.

„And I wouldn't have met Batman,“ Marinette added cheekily.

„Speaking of... Does Paris have any superheroes?“ Damian couldn't help but ask. What happened yesterday still weighed heavily on his mind. Marinette's brows furrowed. Why is he asking now?

„Yeah, we do. You don't know about them?“

„Well, I was checking out your app, but I couldn't make sense of it,“ he said. „There hasn't been anything on the news, at least.“

„Oh,“ Marinette said dryly. That's another pin. „We do. The first ones that appeared were Ladybug and Chat Noir. After that, there was Rena Rouge, Carapace and Queen Bee, but they're retired now. There were a few one-time heroes, like Pegasus and King Monkey. Chat Noir has been appearing less and less, but there are Ryuuko and Viperion who have almost become permanent heroes. It's mostly just Ladybug, though.“

Damian frowned. What the hell is going on in Paris? However, before he could ask, a familiar blonde had walked up to them. Noticing the Agreste kid, Damian immediatelly stepped forward, as if to shield Marinette from him.

„You? What are you doing here?“ Adrien immediatelly got into Damian's face.

„I'm keeping Marinette company. Like a friend would do,“ Damian growled, throwing a passive-aggressive jab.

„She already has friends. She doesn't need you.“

„Could've fooled me, with how you constantly keep leaving her behind. Especially with how you treated her yesterday. Friends don't do that.“

„Can you believe this guy, Mari?“ Adrien decided to ignore him, and turned to Marinette. „Come on, you should get back to class, where you belong.“

„No, thanks. I like Damian's company, Adrien. More than the company of the class, where I supposedly belong,“ Marinette glared at him, thoroughly tired of his behaviour.

„Are you still mad about yesterday? Come on, Mari, you can't continue being so bitter,“ he accused with earnest expression on his face. Damian really wanted to punch him now.

„I'm not bitter, Adrien. Just disappointed.“

„Why? Mari, you've known me for years. You know-“

„Hey, Mari!“ Alix yelled from her table where she sat with Max and Kim. „Max needs something about the app! Can you come over?“

„We'll talk later,“ Marinette sighed in relief, thankful for the first time that someone wanted to use her. Without giving Adrien a glance, she turned away, and hurried over. Damian, however, took a second to scowl at Adrien before following after her.

„What did you need?“ Marinette asked as she arrived at the table, leaning over to Max.

„Nothing. You just looked like you needed a save,“ Max shrugged. Oh. They were actually helping her. Butterflies filled Marinette's stomack, and she couldn't help but smile.

„Thank you.“

Anxiety she had felt around them for a long while suddenly melted away, and she sat down at their table, with Damian taking a seat next to her.

„You gonna introduce us to your boyfriend?“ Kim asked with a teasing smile. Blush exploded on Marinette's face, making Alix laugh.

„H-he's not my boyfriend,“ Marinette murmured.

„Weren't you with us yesterday?“ Max pointed out. „If I remember correctly, you were at the back, with Marinette. Today as well, you were holding hands.“

The blush deepened.

„Totally not a boyfriend. They're just really good friends,“ Alix teased, making a callback to all the times Adrien behaved similarly around Marinette but denied any romantic involvement. The three laughed, making Marinette whince.

„This is Damian,“ she said quickly. „I met him yesterday, when I was trying to catch you in the Wayne Industries.“ Well, she met him before that, but nobody really had to know that. Especially Damian.

„Nice to meet you,“ Damian greeted them in perfect french. „And you are...?“

He knew, of course. But there was no need to let Marinette know he had made a background check on her.

„I'm Alix. The big dumb one is Kim,“ the short pink haired girl pointed at her friend.

„Hey!“ Kim protested.

„And this is Max,“ she ignored him and pointed towards the boy sitting next to Marinette, who was currently fumbling around on his laptop. Max gave a short glance to Damian, raised his brow, then at Marinette. A small grin escaped his lips.

„Looks like Mari has a type,“ he teased, though the implication flew right over their heads.

„You plan on taking Marinette on a date any time soon?“ Kim continued. „Let me tell you, Marinette is real creative type, so take her to places that might inspire her. Like a good view or something.“

„Already did. Yesterday, in fact,“ Damian replied with a smug grin.

„Damian!“

„Huh. Who would've thought, Mari actually got a date without an elaborate plan that got a baby akumatized,“ Alix laughed. Marinette slammed her head against the bench to hide her embarrasment. She then immediatelly straightened up.

„Okay, to be fair, all those plans were Alya's!“ Marinette defended herself. „Seriously, can we not talk about that? I'm over it.“

„Lila, are you going to tell me where you were last night?“ Speak of the devil... „You just left on your mystery date and came back late. I need to know the details!“

Lila's high pitched chuckle reached them as well. „Okay, okay, I did promise I would tell you. You know how I have on again, off again thing with son of the founder of the Wayne Enterprises?“

Damian was scandalized. Before stalki... making a background check on Marinette, he had never even seen this girl. Nobody in his family has. What was this trollop going on about? He quickly glanced at Marinette, catching as she rolled her eyes. Alix and Kim just shrugged. Max looked towards Lila, then at Damian, and started shaking as he tried to hold back his laughter.

So, not only was this Lila person lying about him, Max also seemed to know his identity. Thankfully, at least Marinette didn't catch on yet. He was going to tell her eventually, but he enjoyed being just Damian around her.

„My Damiboo found out that I was staying in Gotham and begged me to see him, so we arranged a date. He picked me up from the lobby. He really is such a gentleman,“ Lila bragged as she flipped her hair. The group at her table was eating it up.

Max couldn't help himself as he saw pure fury on Damian's face, and started cackling.

„What?“ Alix asked, confused at Max' behaviour.

„Oh, nothing. I just wonder if it was really Lila who went on a date with Damiboo yesterday,“ he snorted, then gave another look to Damian, who in turn, gave a warning glare to the short boy. Max was too amused to be intimidated, though.

Alix caught on the implication, rewinded their whole dialogue, and started laughing as well. Marinette's brows furrowed, before a lightbulb went off and she turned to Damian.

„Wait... You're...“

„Uh... Surprise?“ Damian said awkwardly.

„What? I don't get it,“ Kim was the only one who still hasn't caught on, making Alix and Max laugh even harder.

„What's so funny?“ a tall, strong looking teen joined at their table.

„Lila's date,“ Alix snorted.

„Come on, you don't actually believe that?“ Ivan said with frustration. „I thought you guys knew she's a liar.“

„No, not that,“ Alix continued to cackle. „Marinette, want to introduce your new boyfriend to Ivan?“

Marinette looked at Damian with raised brows, and he could only respond with apologetic shrug. She sighed and patted his arm, silently forgiving him for a lie by omission, letting him finally relax.

„He's not my boyfriend,“ Marinette clarified.

„Yet,“ Damian added, giving her a teasing look.

„Ivan, this is Damian. Damian Wayne,“ she continued, trying her best and failing not to blush at Damian's declaration.

„Wait, Marinette, but you went on a date yesterday with...“ Kim started, finally catching on. Ivan opened his mouth in surprise. Whole table, with exception of thoroughly embarrassed Marinette, and cool and collected Damian who never laughed, erupted.

„Oh, this is good. This is too good,“ Kim was hitting the table histerically at this point.

„To be fair, we should've seen it coming,“ Max managed to recollect himself, taking his glassess off to wipe away the tears that gathered from laughing so hard.

„I always thought you believed her,“ Marinette confessed, surprised at the reactions of this table.

„We did, initially,“ Alix nodded. „But some things weren't adding up.“

„I knew from the napkin incident,“ Max said. „For one, paper napkin can't possibly gouge out an eye. Secondly, I wear glasses. It was ridicilous.“

„Yeah, I'm ashamed to admit that I fell for it,“ Alix shrugged. „But I figured it out eventually. I mean, Marinette has as many famous people on her speed dial as Lila, but she never brags about it.“

„I just know a few...“ Marinette defended shyly.

„Well, I knew before any of you. So, ha!“ Kim peacocked.

„You would've kept lapping it up if I didn't point out inconsistencies, Kim,“ Max rolled his eyes. Ivan became strangely quiet, something Marinette has noticed while the three were arguing.

„Ivan? Are you okay?“ Marinette leaned over, taking his hand.

„Yeah, I'm fine. I just wish Mylene didn't...“ he sighed. „I guess I owe you an apology, Marinette. I didn't believe you either. Not until Lila ruined us.“

„It's okay,“ Marinette was quick to forgive. „Lila can be very persuasive. I'm sure Mylene will eventually see through her as well.“

Ivan sent a longing gaze to Lila's table, watching as his ex-girlfriend listened to Lila's recount of the „date“ with enthusasm. He sighed.

„I doubt that. Still, thank you. Even when I wasn't the best, you were there for me,“ Ivan gave her a weak smile.

„You're still not over it, are you?“ Alix said bluntly, but there was concern in her eyes.

„It's only been a month since she broke up with him,“ Marinette reminded. „He needs to process it.“

„Looks like that Lila girl really did a number on your class,“ Damian pointed out.

„Yeah. Originally, it was just Chloe that was being a brat, but Lila is the one who completely ruined the class,“ Alix huffed. „Marinette knew from the start, when Lila lied about Ladybug being her best friend, but we didn't believe her.“

„Why?“ Damian furrowed his brows.

„I dunno. Ladybug is friendly. She knows everyone in Paris by name. She comforts us after she frees us from Hawkmoth's control. Why wouldn't she be close with a civilian?“ Alix defended.

„That's what a hero is supposed to. But one thing they will never do is make friends with civilians. It puts them at risk,“ Damian pointed out. „Imagine if Batman was best friends with one of you, and you told that to everyone. Every villain in Gotham would try to harm you, so they could get at Batman.“

Everyone at the table froze for a moment, realizing what Damian had just said.

„I really did try to warn you,“ Marinette said weakly. „I'm sorry I wasn't more convincing.“

„Holy shit,“ Kim suddenly had an epiphany. „That's why you're so hush hush about your relationship with Ladybug. That's why you didn't want to show any proof when you told us that Lila lied about her. You're Ladybug's best friend!“

Marinette was stunned. How did he come to that conclusion?

„Makes sense. Ladybug gave you her number in case any of our class got akumatized. She came to you when she needed to make the LadyBugOut app. You even helped set up a few interviews for Alya with her. Weird how we never made that connection before,“ Max mused, while Marinette prayed for the ground to swallow her hole. Damian gave her a concerned look. If all of that is true, and all evidence suggested that it was, then Marinette was at a huge risk.

Alix excitedly leaned towards Marinette: „So, how did you...“

„I'm sorry,“ Marinette interrupted. „It's not something I can talk about. Besides, we are not that close. She only asks me to help her out on an occasion, it's nothing like being best friends.“

„Sure, Queen of Humble,“ Alix snorted. „Keep your secrets.“ 

„That I will,“ Marinette laughed.

As the break came to an end, and the class resumed their tour, Damian took Marinette to the side. „I'm sorry. For not telling you who I am. I just didn't want... Well, I just wanted you to think of me as normal, I guess. As just Damian.“

„It's fine, I understand. Really,“ Marinette smiled. „I get that you can be under a lot of pressure. I want you to know that my opinion on you hasn't changed. You're still just Damian to me. We're still friends.“

Her acceptance nearly made him melt. Had Marinette not be called by her teacher for a roll call, probably the first one she did since they arrived to Gotham, he would've kissed her then and there.

* * *

„Getting ready for a date, Damian?“ Dick teased as he saw Damian nearly completely geared up as Robin.

„It's not a date. You forgot we're all meeting Marinette tonight so she can explain everything,“ Damian grumbled, rolling his eyes.

„Yeah, but you're the one who'll be picking her up,“ Tim pointed out, reaching to get his own costume.

„Oh, I can't wait to meet Mari again! Do you think she'll like me as a Batgirl?“ Stephanie skipped into the Batcave, not bothering to hide her excitement.

„Oi, you trying to steal Demon Spawn's girlfriend?“ Jason laughed, following after her.

„Of course not, she's way too young. I don't want to end up in jail,“ Stephanie rolled her eyes. „I just want to embarrass Dami.“

„You people will ruin this for me,“ Damian whined.

Chapter Text

As Robin swung to the hotel, he saw that the window of Marinette's room was open. Again. And the light was still on. Again. He felt his stomack tighten. Landing next to the window, however, he saw her sitting on the sofa, bundled up and asleep. She was probably expecting them. He sighed in relief.

He knocked on the window, waking her up with a startle.

„Robin?“ she asked groggily. He couldn't help but marvel at how cute she was when she looked sleepy.

„That's me,“ he smiled. „Your ride for tonight.“

„Oh. Right. Ladybug business...“

„Indeed. Lock the room and turn off the lights. I'll be taking you somewhere safe to talk,“ he instructed. Marinette nodded, complying. She made way to Robin in darkness, but tripped over her luggage and fell right into his arms.

„S-sorry,“ she whinced in embarrasment.

„No worries, little lady. Hold on tight,“ he winked, then pulled her out through the window, swinging through the streets. She didn't scream this time, focusing again on the view of Gotham. The city might be corrupt, but she could never get tired of it's beauty.

After a while, they had finally landed at the bat signal, where the rest of the family awaited.

„You're Marinette? You're so small!“ Red Hood perked up.

„Don't get distracted. We have a lot to talk about,“ Red Robin reminded him, making the hero with the helmet pipe down.

„Yes, Ladybug said you needed an explanation,“ Marinette nodded, letting go of Robin. „I'm sorry she couldn't come. I'll try to explain everything the best I can.“

„Start from the beginning,“ Batman said. Marinette took a moment to collect herself, taking in a deep breath.

„Okay. It all started three years ago. A villain calling himself Hawkmoth started terrorizing Paris. First time he appeared, he turned one of my friends, Ivan, into a giant stone monster.“

„Any idea as to how?“

„Hawkmoth uses negative emotions to turn people into powered supervillains. He corrupts the butterflies, that he calls akuma, and sends them to posses someone who is dealing with something negative, like heartbreak, anger, sadness... Any negative emotion, really. Nearly half of Paris has been akumatized at this point. And not just once, he can reakumatize people as many times as he wants, even give them different powers from their first akumatization,“ Marinette began.

„That's when Ladybug comes in, I assume?“ Nightwing prompted.

„That's right. When Ivan was turned into Stoneheart, Paris got their heroes, Ladybug and Chat Noir. Chat Noir has power to destroy anything he touches, while Ladybug can cast Lucky Charm, which gives her a way to defeat the akuma. Ladybug is also the only one who can purify the akuma and completely fix the damage that was done.“

„What do you mean, fix the damage?“ Red Hood couldn't help but ask.

„It's called Miraculous Cure. During the fights, there is always damage to the properties. Eiffel Tower was destroyed several times. Whole Paris was flooded once. With Miraculous Cure, she can reverse all of that, as if it has never happened. It's the same for injuries, and even deaths.“

„That would explain why we never noticed anything,“ Red Robin commented.

„That, and probably Mayor of Paris. I think he doesn't want tourists to be put off by all the chaos going on. He might've been trying to stop the news from spreading,“ Marinette mused.

„It's not just Hawkmoth though, is it? I've looked into the situation, and there was talk of another villain,“ Batman continued.

„Yes. Her name is Mayura. She's similar to Hawkmoth, as she also uses people's emotions, but instead of turning them into villains, she uses their emotions to create powerful monsters.“

„And this Ladybug deals with it alone?“ Batgirl chimed in.

„Not at first. Chat Noir was pretty active in the beginning, and they had help from Rena Rouge, Carapace and Queen Bee. Lately, though, Chat Noir has been absent, and the other three were retired. At the moment, Ryuuko and Viperion are helping Ladybug the most. There were also other heroes, but it was just a one time appereance.“

„Do you know what Hawkmoth wants?“ Batman asked again, getting back to the point.

„He wants the Miraculous,“ Marinette explained. „Miraculous are jewelry that give our superheroes their powers. Ladybug represents Luck and Creation, while Black Cat represents Destruction. With those two combined, Hawkmoth can warp the reality to grant himself a wish, but we don't know what that wish is.“

„What about the villains? What is the source of their powers?“

„Also Miraculous. Hawkmoth has the Butterfly, while Mayura has the Peacock,“ Marinette said, confirming what Wonder Woman had said before.

„We've done some research. We found videos of some of the battles. Your Ladybug seems to handle herself pretty well. Why would she need our help?“ Robin furrowed his brows.

„She doesn't want this to go on for any longer. She's having trouble locating Hawkmoth, or even discovering his identity. She tried to get the police's involvment, but they haven't been of much use. Someone has been interfering with the investigation, and she thinks that Parisian police force might be corrupt,“ Marinette answered, locking eyes with Batman. „She has several suspects, but no actual leads. That's why she asked me to help her find you. If she could get assistance from the worlds' greatest detective, maybe she can finally retrieve the Miraculous and bring Hawkmoth to justice.“

Marinette took a step closer to Batman, pleading urgently.

„Please. You have to help her. Nobody realizes just how much damage Hawkmoth causes. People don't remember that they've actually died during an akuma attack, because Ladybug always brings them back. But there have been so many deaths already. What if Miraculous Cure stops working? What if she fails? You must understand, if Hawkmoth wins... Who knows what he'll wish for?“

Entire family stood quietly. They began to realize Marinette's implication. The whole time they were ignorant of the situation in Paris, and for three years, the world was under such immense threat. Ladybug wasn't just protecting Paris. She was protecting everyone, and even she might not have realized it.

„This is huge,“ Batgirl suddenly said. „We might be looking at another world-ending event here, and we didn't even know it.“

„I agree,“ Batman nodded. „What I want to know is, Marinette... What's the part you're not telling us?“

„Wh-what? I told you everything,“ Marinette got flustered.

„Not everything. Ladybug dragged you, a teenage civilian, into this whole mess. Why?“

Batman's question caught her off-guard. For a while, she didn't know how to go about this. If she lied, she knew Batman could see right through her. But she couldn't tell them the truth. That would compromize everything. She took a deep breath to stop herself from shaking.

„I... I know who she is. Outside of the costume,“ Marinette finally said. „But I can't tell you who she is. You have to understand, her identity must remain a secret at all cost. If Hawkmoth manages to catch even a whiff of who she might be, it could all be over. She's the only one who can reverse all the damage that has been caused. If it's just Chat Noir who has been compromised, that can be dealt with, but she can never lose her Miraculous.“

„What about you, then?“ Robin was concerned. „What if you get turned into an akuma? Wouldn't Hawkmoth learn of Ladybug's identity?“

„That is yet to happen. I have been targeted by his akuma several times, but I've never turned. I always managed to calm down before he could get a hold of me,“ Marinette explained.

„But that might not last forever,“ Batman pointed out. And as much as Marinette hated to admit, he was right. „Do you know the identities of other heroes?“

„I do,“ Marinette nodded. „But I'd much rather keep it a secret. I hope you understand.“

„What about the villains, then? You mentioned Ladybug might have some leads. Did she share her findings with you?“

„She did. The one she's most suspicious of is Gabriel Agreste, but there are others. She believes that Mayor of Paris and the police chief might be in cahoots with him, seeing how they haven't exactly been helpful.“

„Why Gabriel Agreste?“ Batgirl asked. „Isn't he just a designer?“

„Years ago, I came across a book that belonged to him, about the Miraculous and their powers. His son had stolen it from him, then another classmate snatched it away and I found it thrown in the trash. I didn't make the connection at first, plus, Mr. Agreste got akumatized over the whole ordeal, and it shouldn't be possible for Hawkmoth to akumatize himself, but then Hero's Day happened and as we thought about it... He is reclusive, has enough connections and money to bribe the police force, and has been long time friend of the Mayor. He also has a reason to want the miraculous. His wife died, and he might be wanting to bring her back. Which I know doesn't sound so bad, but Miraculous are all about balance. Any wish, no matter how good the intentions, could have devastating effects. Besides, he had already hurt so many people. He needs to be brought to justice. And...“ she stopped herself.

„And?“ Batman raised his brows at her hesitation. She sighed.

„I know I said I'd rather keep the identities of the heroes a secret but... This is something that makes me and Ladybug most suspicious of Gabriel Agreste. I already told you that Chat Noir has stopped appearing for battles. His excuse is that he's just protecting the miraculous in case Ladybug loses hers, but there are other possibilities. We originally thought it was because Ladybug kept turning down his affections, but then I found out his civilian identity.“

„Go on. You can trust us,“ Robin soothed, gently rubbing Marinette's back. She gave him a weak smile, letting him comfort her.

„Chat Noir is Adrien Agreste. One of my classmates, and Gabriel's son. We think that the real reason why he hasn't been showing up for battles is to undermine Ladybug. That he might've turned on her.“

„That... doesn't bode well,“ Red Robin said as he clenched his fists.

„I hope I'm wrong about it. I hope that he's just throwing tantrums,“ Marinette said weakly, trying to fight tears in her eyes.

„I wouldn't count on it,“ Batman said coldly. „If Agreste is Hawkmoth, then your classmate has most likely turned against Ladybug.“

„Looks like a case closed to me,“ Red Hood shrugged. „Why come to us then?“

„Because Ladybug had kind of broke into their house to try and find the Miraculous. She couldn't find them. Granted, he might have a hidden safe somewhere, or even a secret lair, which is what we're trying to find, but... Well, we can't. We tried to narrow down locations to search with the LadyBugOut app, but so far, there has been nothing. That's why we need your help. Ladybug is not exactly a detective, and I for sure am not one. You might be able to figure out things that might've flew past our heads.“

„What about the other two? Ryuuko and Viperion? If Chat Noir has turned against you, couldn't they as well?“ Black Bat finally asked.

„No, they can be trusted. They're temporary heroes as well. Ladybug hands them the Miraculous in case of emergency, then takes it back. They don't keep it, unlike Chat Noir.“

„So, the Ladybug is the one who chooses the heroes?“ Batman asked.

„For the most part. She and Adrien were Chosen by the Guardian, who protects the Miraculous, but she chooses other heroes herself,“ Marinette confirmed. „And before you ask, I can't tell you who the Guardian is. If Ladybug's identity must remain a secret, it is even more important for his to remain as well.“

„We understand,“ Batman nodded. „Other than you and the Guardian, is there anyone else who knows Ladybug's identity?“

„No. It's just the two of us,“ Marinette shook her head.

„You've done well, Marinette. That's a lot of responsibility to take on your shoulders,“ Batman couldn't help but praise.

„Someone has to do it,“ Marinette said with a shy smile.

„We can't leave Gotham unprotected, though. Some of us have to stay behind,“ Nightwing pointed out, making Marinette pale.

„Some of us can still go. We can't just leave them on their own. You heard what Marinette has said. The world could be in danger!“ Robin countered.

„You're right. But I will be going to Paris. This is a threat that must be dealt with, and urgently. We'll fly there by the end of the week,“ Batman said. „I'll need two more to come with me.“

„I'll go,“ Robin said almost immediatelly, making everyone snort.

„Of course you will,“ Batman said with a fond smile.

„I'll go too. You'll need my skills for this, Batman,“ Oracle said over the comm. „Alfred can do well without me.“

„I wanna go too!“ Batgirl piped up. „I always wanted to see Paris!“

„Looks like a plan,“ Batman nodded, then was surprised when Marinette suddenly hugged him.

„Thank you! Thank you so much!“

He awkwardly patted Marinette's back. Unlike with Robin, however, nobody dared to snort.

„Oh, another thing!“ she remembered, quickly letting Batman go. „Can you keep all this a secret? Nobody can know that Ladybug was here, and nobody can know that you've met with me.“

„Naturally,“ Batman nodded. They weren't about to put a civilian in danger.

* * *

It's been a long time since Marinette had felt hope. As Robin swung her to her hotel room, she couldn't help but smile. This was happening. She was finally one step closer to defeating Hawkmoth.

„There we go,“ Robin placed Marinette down onto the floor.

„Thank you, Robin. For everything,“ she smiled, giving him an emotional hug. He helped out during her first night in Gotham. He kept her company when her class was ignoring her. He took her out on a date. He helped her reconnect with her classmates. And now, he helped her convince the rest of the family to join her fight against Hawkmoth. Even if he didn't have to.

There was a lot that she owed him.

God, he really wanted to kiss her right now.

They heard a clanking noise from the outside. Marinette got startled, and quickly pushed Robin into the closet. Confused, Robin didn't understand what was she on about. He could easily protect her, but seeing the panic in her eyes, he decided to go along.

As soon as she closed the closet, she took out her sketchbook and pretended to be busy.

„Princess? Are you still awake?“ she heard a hushed call from the window, and had to stop herself from groaning in frustration. She looked up, and there Chat Noir was, inviting himself in.

„Chat! What are you doing here?“ Marinette whispered. In the closet, Robin was seething. What the hell was that damn traitor doing, bothering his angel?

„I needed to talk to you, but you weren't opening the door.“

„So you decided to abuse your Miraculous and break in through the window? What if someone had seen you?“

„Claws out,“ Chat Noir said, undoing the transformation. Had Marinette not revealed his identity previously, the Gotham heroes would certainly had learned about it now.

„Couldn't you have waited for tomorrow? Seriously, Adrien, you need to take that ring more seriously,“ Marinette kept going with her lecture.

„Listen to what she's saying, kid, if you're not going to listen to me,“ another voice came, making Damian frown. When did another person come in? „Happen to have any cheese, sugar? I'm starving.“

Sugar? Robin will be breaking necks.

„You're always starving, Plagg,“ Marinette laughed. „It's in the mini fridge. Help yourself out.“

„Aaahh, sweet Camembert!“

Marinette giggled at the antics of the small god of Destruction, before turning her attention back to Adrien. „What do you want?“

„It's about that Damian guy. I don't think you should be hanging out with him,“ he said with concern.

Yup. Damian will be breaking some necks.

„Why? Adrien, Damian is a good person. He's already helped me out so much,“ Marinette countered.

„What if he's just using you? For all we know, he could be dangerous. Just forget about him, Mari. You have me, don't you?“

Marinette was stunned. Just... What the hell? What is he going on about?

„You haven't been my friend for a long time, Adrien,“ Marinette glared. „I know why you're here. You're afraid that I might badmouth you to Ladybug, is that it?“

„N-no, I... I mean...“

„It is!“ she said with realization. „You really think I'd do something like that! And you call yourself my friend?“

„He's taking you away from me, Mari,“ Adrien countered. Again, she was baffled.

„I don't belong to you! Seriously, what are you even going on about?“

„I...“

„It's the cat side effects. He's getting territorial,“ Plagg explained as he chewed the cheese.

„Plagg, shut up,“ Adrien hissed.

„He's as obsessed with you as he is with the Ladybug, though not romantically. Who told you to be such a good friend to him?“ the black Kwami teased. „It's not just you. Remember Nino's producer friend and how Adrien was antsy around him? Same thing.“

„The one you wanted to threaten?“ Marinette raised her brow.

„I was just worried about Nino!“ Adrien defended.

„Are the side effects really that strong?“ Marinette asked, doubt written all over her face. „I know Ladybug gets really cold, and that people innately feel safe around her, but it's not really that strong.“

„Probably because Ladybug is more in tune with her Kwami than kid here,“ Plagg pointed, earning another hiss from Adrien.

„Adrien, you need to learn how to control it,“ Marinette sighed. „I'm fine with you ruining all my yarns...“

„Sorry.“

„But you can't go on a tantrum just because I made a new friend. Damian is a good person. You, of all people, should know that I'm a good judge of character.“

„Like you thought I was a bad guy when I tried to take the gum off your seat?“ Adrien asked with a smile.

„You were smearing it all over! That's not how you take a gum off, of course I misunderstood!“ Marinette huffed.

„Yeah, yeah, got it,“ the blonde laughed. „Look, Marinette, I'm sorry that we've been fighting. You're my best friend, and I care about you. I just don't want to see you fighting with Lila. She's my friend too, and I'm sure you'd like her as well, if you gave her a chance.“

„I'm not fighting with Lila. In fact, I've never fought with her. All I did was try to expose her,“ Marinette felt a headache coming.

„She can turn for the better. If you could only see the good in her...“

„Do we really have to talk about her?“ Marinette stopped him. „I had a long day. I'd like to get some sleep.“

„Okay,“ Adrien sighed, defeated. „Just... Be careful around that Damian guy. He's dangerous. He could hurt you.“

Again, Robin, hearing the conversation, was fuming. He would never hurt his angel. Unlike cat boy here.

„Is it your cat instincts telling you that?“ Marinette joked.

„You could say that,“ Adrien nodded, happy to see she wasn't angry at him anymore. He walked over to Marinette and hugged her, placing a kiss on her cheek. Which Robin saw through the crack in the closet. Oh no, he didn't.

„Good night, Princess,“ the blonde said, smiling gently.

„Good night,“ she nodded. „Take the door instead of the window, you cat burglar.“

„Got it,“ Adrien cackled, as Marinette unlocked the door for him and let him out, then locked the door again. She sighed as she leaned against it. „You can come out now.“

Robin walked out of the closet, trying to school his expression.

„He knows that you know his secret? And he knows you're close to Ladybug? Marinette, if he has turned on Ladybug, that can be extremely dangerous,“ Robin reminded her.

„I know. That's why I pushed you into the closet. But I don't think he'll hurt me,“ Marinette said with another sigh.

„Who was that other person? Plagg?“

„That's his Kwami of Destruction. He's the one who gives him his powers,“ Marinette revealed. „Miraculous give heroes access to the Kwami, who are the source of the power. Plagg's is the ring, and he takes the form of a Black Cat.“

„I suppose Ladybug has one as well, then?“

„Yes. Tikki, Kwami of Creation,“ she responded automatically. However, when she saw him furrow his brows, she realized what she had just said.

Oh, crap.

She could see his gears turning, afraid she might've exposed herself. However, she told him about Tikki when he was Damian. He wouldn't ask, she hoped.

„What are Kwamis? Some sort of gods?“

„Kind of,“ Marinette was glad at the change of subject. „Kwamis are manifestation of abstract ideas. Destruction and Creation are just the two such concepts. Each time a new idea is concieved, a Kwami is born, but not all of them have a Miraculous.“

„You know a lot about all of this,“ Robin pointed out, drawing out a nervous laugh from Marinette.

„What can I say. I have Ladybug on speed dial and Chat Noir visits me every other night. You tend to pick up a few things eventually,“ she tried to explain away.

„Honestly, I am even more confused right now. How can Plagg just go along with Chat Noir if he has turned on Ladybug? And the other Kwamis? Are they evil as well?“

„No, Kwamis have always been a force of good, even with the concepts they represent. But they can be abused. Miraculous can pretty much enslave them, and they can't go against the whims of their wielders. That's why the Miraculous cannot fall into the wrong hands.“

„But wouldn't Plagg know if Chat Noir has switched sides? He seemed to be on friendly terms with you. Couldn't he warn you?“

„He could. It is possible that Chat Noir renounces Plagg when he needs to speak to Hawkmoth. In fact, he already told Ladybug that it's exactly what Adrien does whenever he tries to reprimand him, but he hasn't yet figured out that he can just order him around. Plagg is keeping an eye on Adrien, but so far, he hasn't come up with anything.“

„So it is possible for Kwami to turn against their wielders?“

„Not directly. He can't defy Adrien's orders, but he can go against him in subtle ways. He also can't reveal his identity to anyone or the identities of other wielders, even through hints. Magic of the Miraculous stops him from doing so.“

„Yeah, but he can fumble and reveal himself pretty well,“ Plagg's voice reached them, nearly freaking Marinette out. She fell over herself, and would nearly have hit the corner of the bed had Robin not been quick and caught her.

Quite honestly, he too had been shaken.

„Plagg! What are you doing here?!“ Marinette.

„Relax, I knew the guy was here from the beginning,“ the Kwami said, then flew over to Robin. The hero couldn't hide the utterly baffled expression as a cat-like, black fairy creature barely the size of his palm flew right to his face. „Are you Batman? You don't look like much to me.“

„No, that's Robin. One of Batman's partners,“ Marinette explained. „Does Adrien know you're gone?“

„Nope, he's asleep. I wouldn't have come otherwise. So, if traffic light is here, I'm guessing everything worked out?“ Plagg flew away from Damian and landed on Marinette's hand. „And Ladybug...?“

„I didn't rat her out, don't worry,“ Marinette smiled. „I'm a klutz, but I can keep a secret.“

„Better than my wielder, anyway. So, lover boy, you plan to stay here all night? Cause sugar here already has a date with someone tomorrow,“ Plagg cackled, which was echoed by the cackling of his family in the comms, catching Robin off-guard.

„Plagg!“

„Ah, such conflict! Stuck between two handsome boys! You really are popular, sugar.“

„Plagg, I will rescind your cheese privileges.“

„No! Not my cheese privileges!“ Plagg dramatized. Marinette laughed at Kwami's antics, while Robin just looked on at the bizarre scene in front of him. Eventually, Marinette turned to Robin. She knew Plagg didn't come for idle chit-chat.

„I don't mean to sound like I'm chasing you away, but you should probably go back to your boss. It's getting late,“ she nudged gently.

„My boss? You mean Batman?“

„Isn't he your leader?“

„Yes. But he's actually my father,“ Robin revealed, ignoring Red Robin's cursing in the comms. Ladybug trusted Marinette with her identity, and while he wasn't yet ready to reveal his, he knew he would have to eventually, if he was serious about her. He could trust her with this information.

Marinette paled as he said that.

„Then... The others are...“

„My family,“ he confirmed.

„But... Shouldn't you keep that a secret? What if one of you fell under a mind control? Wouldn't that put you at risk?“

„Then it makes all the more sense if everyone knows. That way, we can warn the others and defend ourselves. It's not the same as your akuma situation,“ Robin pointed out.

„Still, is it alright for you to tell me this? I just met you, you shouldn't be trusting me so easily,“ she fussed. Seriously, why aren't the superheroes around her more careful?

„Yeah! Listen to her, Robin!“ Red Robin yelled at the comms.

„Because I know trustworthy. The situation with the Ladybug proves that,“ Robin smiled. Marinette bit her lip and nodded in response, but didn't argue anymore.

„Then... tell good night to the rest of them for me.“

„Of course,“ he said with a smile. 

„I want to adopt her,“ Oracle sighed.

* * *

After Robin had left, Marinette had closed the window and sat down to process the information Robin had just given her. His entire family... The Waynes were heroes of Gotham. Then that meant Bruce Wayne was Batman.

Batman caught her breaking into the Wayne Tower. Damian's dad caught her breaking into his Tower. Mon Dieu...

While she was freaking out, Tikki and Kaalki flew out of her purse. Tikki had flew over to Plagg to hug him, then turned stern: „Plagg! You know it's risky to come here!“

„Relax, Sugar Cube. I just wanted to meet the lover boy.“

„Stop it!“

„What?“ Plagg laughed. „He was hiding in your closet, bug. Like some sort of secret love affair! You know I couldn't resist.“

„Is that the only reason you came here? Because if so, you're putting Marinette under a huge risk,“ Kaalki cautioned.

„Alright, alright, I was curious, but that's not why I'm here. I needed to warn your bug, Sugar Cube.“

„About what?“

„The obsession I talked about earlier,“ Plagg began. „It's not entirely side-effects. Cats do get attached and protective, but not like this. This is twisted.“

„What do you mean, Plagg?“ Tikki was alarmed.

„There is something wrong with this place. This city. Something dark and twisted is brewing here, and it might be latching onto Adrien. It's like what I felt back in his home, but much, much stronger, and it's amplifying his protectiveness into obsession.“

„How come I'm not affected, then?“ Marinette asked. „I still have my side-effects, but they're the same as they were before.“

„Because you're much more in tune with Tikki than Adrien is with me. You are her perfect match, while Adrien isn't. Besides, you're much stronger than he is, mentally I mean. Whatever darkness is latching onto him can't affect you.“

„There was a story about Gotham being under a curse,“ Marinette tapped her chin with her finger. „You think it might have something to do with that?“

„I don't know. Curse or not, I don't like it,“ Plagg scowled. „Be careful, bug. I'm trying to guide Adrien, but he doesn't listen to me anymore. You might not be safe around him.“

Chapter Text

Damian smiled to himself. He had another date tonight with Marinette. He made sure to warn the others to leave them alone this time. No older sisters randomly showing up at lunch, no Batman scaring them at night, no Ladybug to force the poor girl to run around the city and locate the heroes. Just the two of them.

He walked towards the car with which he'd pick Marinette up from the hotel, when out of nowhere, he sensed something. A disturbance... He quickly pulled the hidden throwing knife from his jacket, throwing it towards whatever was coming at him. There was a loud crash, and a familiar black haired, blue eyed boy was laying at his feet.

„Are you insane! You almost hit me!“ the boy, around his age, yelled as he pulled himself up.

„Like that could've hurt you, Jon,“ Damian scowled, walking towards the tree his blade was stuck in. „What are you doing here?“

„I came to hang out,“ he said with that annoying bright smile of his.

„I'm busy. Go bother someone else.“

„What could you possibly be busy with? All you have is your patrols and school, which still hasn't started.“

„He's going on a date,“ Dick's voice reached them. He leaned on the doorway with a smile on his face.

„A date? That's impossible. No one is insane enough to want to hang out with him,“ Jon scoffed.

„And yet, here you are,“ Damian rolled his eyes.

„Wait, are you for real? He's really going on a date? With who?“ Jon got excited.

„A cute Parisian girl, here on a school trip. Look, here's a picture,“ Dick pulled out his phone.

„Dick, god damn it, don't you dare-“

„No way!“ Jon, of course, was faster, and already appeared next to Dick, holding the phone and looking at Marinette's picture. „She's so cute! No way is she Damian's girlfriend. Come on, did you blackmail her? Threaten her? What did you do?“

„I'm leaving. Jon, if you show up, I will find that damn Kryptonite knuckle and beat you to death with it,“ Damian gave a warning, before entering his car and flooring it to the street. Jon exchanged looks with Dick.

„Yeah, I'm gonna go meet Damian's girlfriend,“ Jon said, running after the car, leaving laughing Dick behind.

* * *

„You look cute,“ Alix said as she bumped into Marinette in the lobby. „Going on a date with Damiboo?“

The girls laughed, though Marinette, ever so easily flustered, blushed.

„Yeah. He's going to pick me up soon. And please don't call him Damiboo,“ Marinette nodded.

„Why not? It's hilarious. I kinda can't wait for Lila to find out,“ the pink haired girl grinned. „But, knowing you, you'll never going to brag about it.“

„There's nothing to brag about,“ Marinette handwaved her.

„Of course there is. He's hot, he's rich, and he's wrapped around your little finger. Don't think I didn't notice how he crashed today's tour as well. Adrien was pretty pissed about that though. Think he might be coming around?“

„I doubt it. And even if he is, I don't like him like that anymore. Haven't for a long time.“

„Well, good that you finally got over it. You were so obsessed with him, it was hilarious to watch.“

„Don't remind me, please,“ Marinette covered her face in embarrasment, making Alix laugh.

„There's your Damiboo. Have fun, Mari,“ Alix nudged her, nodding her head towards the entrance. The pink haired girl watched as her class rep all but started glowing as she spotted the boy, and ran towards him. The guy spread his arms and caught her into his embrace.

It's been a long time since she saw Marinette happy like that. Alix was glad to see the girl smile so brightly again. She deserved the world.

* * *

Adrien just got off the elevator, only to see Marinette walk away with that guy from yesterday again. Holding hands, and smiling like he had never seen her smile. Damn it, what did I tell her last night?

He hurried over, determined to stop them, to pry Marinette away from him if needed. From the moment he saw him, he didn't like him. There was something dangerous about him. Something dark. He didn't like him hanging around Marinette.

Just as he hurried his steps, he bumped right into Alix, who all but pushed him back. „Where are you going, blondie?“ she asked, placing her skinny hands on her hips.

„Out of my way, Alix,“ he had to hold himself back from growling at her. She was his classmate. She was good. No need to fight her.

„Not until you tell me where you're going,“ Alix stood her ground.

„I need to talk to Marinette.“

„So, you want to crash her date? You had your chance, blondie. She's found someone else.“

„That guy is dangerous. She can't be with him.“

„So he's not a friendly sunshine boy like you. So what? Marinette likes him. He likes her. Stop being jealous and let the girl have some fun.“

Adrien's eyes narrowed dangerously. Alix felt a pang of fear in her heart. She had never seen Adrien show such an expression. But when did she ever back down from anyone?

„Dude, I'm serious. Leave Marinette alone. You already have Lila and Chloe hanging off of you. You don't need Marinette in your harem too.“

„It's not like that, Alix,“ Adrien was growing more and more annoyed.

„It absolutely is. Maybe you hated it when they got all over you at first, but you like the attention now. And you certainly like Marinette's attention. Don't bother denying it, I'm not stupid,“ Alix called him out, her tone venomous. „Marinette doesn't need someone who'll just play around with her. So stop trying to get between her and her date.“

With that, Alix left him, walking past with a huff. By the time she had finished, the pair was gone. Now thoroughly angry, Adrien walked out of the hotel to find an alley where he could transform.

„What was that about?“ Nathaniel stopped the pink haired girl, pointing towards the door that Adrien stormed through.

„Oh, he's just getting jealous. Now that Marinette has found herself a boyfriend, he's suddenly all worried about her. My ass. He just wants her to fangirl over him like she used to,“ Alix rolled her eyes.

„Boyfriend? Is it that guy who keeps crashing our tours?“ Nathaniel lifted his brows.

„Yup. The very same,“ Alix confirmed. There was a glint in her eyes, and her mouth spread into a mischievous smile. „You wanna know something else?“

„What?“

„Promise you'll shut your mouth about this and won't spread it.“

„Can't. You know I share everything with Marc,“ Nathaniel shrugged apologetically, though it didn't seem like he was really sorry.

„Okay, Marc can know. But nobody else, got it?“

„Got it.“

„The guy she's dating is Damian Wayne,“ Alix whispered. Nathaniel's jaw dropped.

„No way. You're lying.“

„Do I look like sausage tails to you?“

For a good long moment, Nathaniel just stared at Alix in astonishment. Then, a small giggle escaped his lips. „Oh, Marc is gonna love this.“

* * *

Despite Damian's nervousness, the date was going pretty well. He couldn't help being on edge. He was waiting for the moment when Jon would jump out and ruin it. However, Marinette eventually managed to get him to relax. For some reason, she just her mere presence could keep him calm. She truly was his angel.

He looked at her fondly as her eyes twinkled with delight, watching the colorful fish in the aquarium, her attention split between the beauty in front of her and her sketchbook, filled with possible ideas. He really needed to thank Kim for his advice.

„Are you having fun, angel?“ he asked, edging closer and placing his arm around her.

„I am. This is so beautiful. We have aquariums in Paris, but they're not as creative as this,“ Marinette smiled, leaning into his touch.

He couldn't stop looking at her. She was enchanting, her big, bluebell eyes making him drown with affection. He slowly started leaning in, hoping to finally capture those small lips of hers.

Of course, Jon chose just that moment to ruin everything.

„Hey! Damian! Long time no see!“ he yelled from across the aquarium, walking towards the couple with raised, waving hand. Marinette got startled, slightly jumping and turning around, while Damian covered his face in exasperation.

„God damn it, Jon,“ he whispered, collected himself, and tried to control the murderous glare he was sending the boy.

„I really couldn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes,“ Jon continued being rowdy. „Hello, little lady. You must be Damian's date.“

„U-um, yes? Hi, I'm Marinette,“ she said shyly, offering him a handshake. Jon took her hand and leaned down to kiss it.

„Nice to meet you, Marinette. I'm Jon, Damian's best friend.“

„He isn't. He's lying. Don't trust him,“ Damian growled. „What are you doing? I thought I made it clear that I don't want to see you today.“

„Awh, don't be shy, Damian! It's not like you could hide her forever. I would've met her eventually,“ Jon winked.

„Walk away, Jon,“ the green eyed boy was frustrated. Seriously, Gotham is a big city, why can't he have a moment alone with his angel?

„Sure, sure, I'll leave you to it. It was nice meeting you, Marinette,“ he said, then checked Marinette out, really making her feel uncomfortable. The big, friendly grin suddenly turned into a frown. „Damian, I need to talk to you for a second.“

„Just leave already.“

„It's important,“ Jon stared him down, right into his eyes. Damian sighed.

„I'm sorry, angel. Can you stay here? This will just take a moment,“ he gave her an apologetic look.

„It's alright. Take your time,“ she nodded in understanding. The two teens stepped away, though still kept Marinette in sight.

„You call her angel? Damn, you got it hard,“ Jon snickered.

„Shut up. What's so important?“

„Right. I X-Rayed her,“ Jon said bluntly.

„What?! Why did you X-Ray her?“ Damian was ready to split Jon's head open.

„Because I do that with everyone. Is she a vigilante? Her body has taken a lot of damage. In fact, she shouldn't be able to walk.“

„What do you mean, she shouldn't be able to walk?“ Damian's heart dropped.

„I'm not as good at this as my dad, but I can tell you she has recovered from over thirty bone fractures, some twenty bone breaks, and at least two full limb regrowths. Her ribcage was shattered, and her spine broken on several places, several times. And that's not even coming close to organ ruptures, broken muscles, and full on organ regrowths. I couldn't detect any metahuman or alien DNA, though. She's completely human. Quite frankly, I'm surprised she's even alive.“

Damian's heart started to beat wildly as Jon recounted what he had seen.

„With Miraculous Cure, Ladybug can reverse any damage done to the city, as if it has never happened. It's same for injuries, and even deaths.“

Marinette's words from last night kept ringing in his ears, repeating over and over.

Without a word, he turned around, and walked towards Marinette.

„Hey, Damian, where are you going?“ Jon yelled after him, only to be ignored.

Marinette turned to him, giving him a small smile. „Have you finished talking?“ she asked in that sweet, gentle voice of hers. Damian shuddered and pulled her into a tight hug.

„Damian?“ she asked, confused at the sudden burst of affection.

Just how much did she suffer in those three years? How many times did she get hurt? How many times did she get killed? All the while helping Ladybug with her investigation, keeping powerful secrets that, from what he could tell, not even her own parents knew about, and being isolated from everyone around her.

Just how much did his angel suffer?

„Are you okay, Damian? Did something happen?“ Marinette asked worriedly, patting his back.

„No. Everything's alright, angel,“ he said with a smile.

He was wrong when he thought she was fragile. Despite all the hardship, she still worried for others more than she worried for herself. No, she was the strongest person he had ever known.

Chapter Text

Chat Noir frowned as he watched a familiar pair walk down the street. The dark haired boy had his arm locked around his Princess, smiling, while she giddily talked through her bell-like giggles about some old story from her childhood.

She shouldn't be with him. She doesn't belong to him.

An intrusive thought rang through his mind. Dark and seductive. He had heard them before, but never this loud. Never this clear.

Damian leaned down to Marinette's ear. Too close. She laughed at whatever he had whispered, with that beautiful, bright smile of his.

That smile doesn't belong to him.

That's right. When they had just met, she would grace everyone with such a smile. Then, when Lila came, that brightness was only reserved for him.

As it should be.

Yes. As it should be.

He will steal her away.

Away from him.

 He digged his claws into the edge of the roof, biting his lip in frustration. He knew Marinette told him Damian wasn't dangerous. But she didn't have a miraculous. She didn't have his insitnct for danger.

He cannot beat me. I have power of destruction in my hands.

It will be easy to just swoop in and take her. Save her from danger. Save his Princess.

Not letting the two out of sight, he crawled around the rooftop, ready to pounce down. Ready to get Marinette out of trouble. Ready to...

„What are you lurking around for, cat boy?“ a voice interrupted him, snapping him out of his daze. He stood up quickly and turned around, spotting a boy almost as tall as Ivan, with black, curly hair and smiling blue eyes.

„None of your business,“ he hissed at the unwanted company.

„I think it is my business. See, you were looking at my bro like you were going to kill him. And bros don't let bros get killed on dates with cute girlfriends,“ the boy said with a smile.

„Walk away, brat,“ Chat Noir warned. „Before I decide to hurt you.“

„Oh?“ the boy smiled, giving him a challenging look. „Sure, go right ahead. I'll give you a free shot.“

Annoyed at the provocation, Chat Noir unhooked his claws and lunged at the opponent.

At the enemy.

And watched in horror as his claws shattered the moment he tried to sink them into the boy. Claws with which he could cut through steel. His oponent's smile deepened, turning into ridicule. Then, without a word, as fast as lightning, the tall teen punch Chat Noir in the face, slamming him into the roof.

Chat Noir could see all the stars in front of his eyes. He groaned, trying to pick himself up.

„You're still up? Looks like you can take a beating,“ his opponent laughed.

„Cataclysm!“ Chat Noir roared, then attacked, trying to grab onto the boy, but he evaded him with ease, laughing at his failed attempts.

„Come on, kitty, I'm sure you have more fight in you than that,“ the boy taunted. Chat Noir swiped at him again, only for the bastard to jump above him. High. His Cataclysm touched the signal tower instead, crumbling it to dust.

Jon frowned. Holy shit. This leather clad asshole could've killed him.

„And here I thought you only wanted to scratch me,“ he said, his voice grim. „I'll beat the shit out of you.“

Without another word, Chat Noir jumped into the alleyway, letting himself detransform, then duck out of the way. As he was hurrying to the main street, he almost bumped into the guy from the roof. How the hell did he get here so fast?

„Huh. That's wierd. Hey, buddy, did you see a wierdo dressed in a cat costume running around here?“ Jon asked.

„No. Sorry,“ Adrien shrugged.

„Damn. Thanks, anyway. Be careful on your way home,“ the bastard patted him on his shoulder, as if they were friends.

„Sure. I will.“

Jon gave him a nod, before turning away, and hurrying after the couple. „Heeey! Damian! What a coincidence!“

This confirmed what Adrien has been feeling. Damian is dangerous. His friends are dangerous. He must protect Marinette.

I must take her.

„Kid. What the hell are you doing?“ Plagg's whisper reached him.

„I was just trying to protect Marinette, Plagg. You also agreed that this guy she's seeing is dangerous,“ Adrien defended.

„No. I said he wasn't simple as he looked. Big difference,“ Plagg hissed. „You're acting weird. If you don't stop it, you're going to hurt Marinette. Your good friend? Remember?“

„I won't hurt her.“

She's mine.

* * *

Damian groaned as Jon ran up to them. Crashing his date for the second time today. He was really going to kill him.

„Jon, for the love of god, what is it now?“

„Shush, you. I want to get to know your girlfriend better,“ Jon bumped him.

„There is a time and place for that. Stop bothering us,“ Damian waved his hand, trying to dismiss him, only to be completely ignored.

„So, Marinette! Is Damian your first boyfriend?“ Jon asked with a friendly smile, prying her away from Damian and placing his arm on her shoulders. She looked uncomfortable under his touch, but he wasn't about to let her slip away.

„Um...“

„Hands off,“ Damian warned, giving him a deadly glare. Jon laughed awkwardly, and loosened his hold over Marinette. She took the chance to step away, but didn't escape, though Damian did pull her into his arms protectively. Jon fought the urge to laugh at his childhood friend.

„But seriously though. Any boyfriends before Damian?“

„No. Damian would be the first,“ she said as she blushed. Checking her heart rate, he could tell she was being honest.

„Then adoring fans, maybe? Surely, a cute girl like yourself has at least one,“ he winked, and she laughed awkwardly.

„No, no. I mean, there was before, but it was just a crush. They're happily dating other people now,“ she shrugged.

„Jon, you're making her uncomfortable. Get lost,“ Damian growled.

„Okay, okay, calm down, lovebird. I won't be bothering you anymore, I swear,“ Jon snickered and walked away, pulling out his cellphone.

„I'm sorry about Jon, angel. He doesn't know what boundaries mean,“ Damian sighed.

„It's alright. I can tell he meant no harm. He seems to really like you, though.“

„Yeah, I could live without him liking me,“ he whined, making Marinette giggle.

„That's not true. He might tease you, but you're relaxed around him. You trust him,“ Marinette pointed out. Something warm flashed across his eyes.

„Yeah. With my life,“ he murmured. „He's like a brother to me. Don't tell him that, though. He'll start crying and I will never hear the end of it.“

„I promise,“ she nodded quickly in amusement.

The phone in his pocket buzzed, so he quickly pulled it out to check who the hell was bothering him. Again. He probably should just turn the damn thing off.

But when he saw the message, he was glad he didn't.

Super Idiot: There was a guy following you, dressed like a black cat. Can turn anything he touches into dust. Seemed to be eyeing your girlfriend. Be careful.

Fuck.

Bro <3: Got it.

„Everything alright, Damian?“ Marinette asked, noticing how his brow furrowed.

„Yeah, yeah, everything is fine. It's getting late, I should get you back to the hotel.“

They spent the ride back in silence. No matter how hard he tried, Damian couldn't fight off the anxiety he felt. He knew if that bastard was following them, he'll come back to bother Marinette again. He didn't care what his family would say, he planned to camp at her window tonight and keep her safe.

He walked her to the entrance of the hotel, holding onto her, afraid she would slip from his fingers just like that.

„Thank you, Damian,“ she turned to him. „I had a wonderful time tonight.“

„Wouldn't have it any other way,“ he smiled.

Without warning, Marinette stood on her fingertips, leaning close, placing a gentle, feather-like kiss on the corner of his lips.

„Good night,“ she said, blushing, then quickly went into the hotel. Damian stood there, stunned, watching as she disappeared from his view. His hand reached for the place where she had kissed him. He realized he must've looked like an idiot, so he quickly regained his bearings and walked away. No matter how hard he tried to fight it, a small smile remained firmly planted on his face.

„Good night,“ he whispered.

* * *

„So, we're going camping?“ Jon asked as he caught Robin, already in his suit.

„There is no we, Jon,“ Damian glared.

„Dude. I know you're a super assassin and whatever, but you don't stand a chance against this guy. I punched him in the face, and the guy was still awake. He can fucking turn shit into dust by touching it. You need backup,“ the blue eyed boy argued.

„No, you're the one who doesn't know who he's dealing with,“ Damian replied, donning his Robin mask. „The guy has the power of incarnation of pure Destruction. That's a capital D, by the way. He's not just some cat.“

„Jesus,“ Jon said breathlessly. „What the hell is your girlfriend involved with?“

„Parisian superheroes.“

„Paris has superheroes?“

„Yeah. Now hurry up. I'm not going to wait for you.“

„Whooo! Just like the old times!“ Jon yelled, disappearing from his sight, then returning in his Superboy costume in a matter of seconds. „By the way, I totally heard what you said to Marinette, and I did not cry.“

„Doubtful.“

* * *

There was a knock on Marinette's door. Looking up from the vest she was embroidering, she put the project down and opened the door, surprised to see Alix, Max, Kim, Nathaniel and Ivan in the hallway, armed with snacks and pastries. „You free, Mari? Did you boyfriend finally let you go?“

„Uh..." 

„We came to hang out,“ Kim explained. „And gossip.“

Alix groaned.

„Mainly gossip,“ Nathaniel winked. „Even if Alix pretends that she's above that. Plus, Marc wants all the details of your date with... How did Lila call him? Damiboo?“

The group snickered. With a happy smile, Marinette opened the door, and let the group in. Alix immediatelly sad cross-legged on the table, next to the vest, Kim threw himself on the bed, with Max sitting at the edge. Nathaniel took the sofa by the window, and Ivan found a spot on the floor, the group of classmates making a close circle. The mountain of snacks was immediatelly handed out. Marinette returned to her seat at the table and resumed her work. Max finished setting up the Skype call, and Marc's face greeted them on the screen.

„Hi, guys!“ Marc waved. „Man, it feels like we haven't seen each other in ages!“

„It's been only four days. Just three more, and we'll be back,“ Nathaniel said with a loving smile.

„I know, but I miss you guys. Especially you, Nathaniel.“

„Ugh. Lovebirds,“ Alix rolled her eyes.

„Stop it, Alix. Let them flirt,“ Marinette giggled.

„You people and your love lives. I'll never understand.“

„And yet, Lordess of Aces, you're hanging out with two gay couples, a chick currently snagging a rich heir, and...“ Marc started, then remembered Ivan was in the room. „Sorry, Ivan.“

„It's fine,“ Ivan shrugged. „I'll get over it.“

„You working on a new project?“ Alix asked, pointing at the cloth, trying to change the subject.

„Yeah. I'm making a vest for Damian,“ she said shyly.

„Aaaaaaaw,“ the group cooed, which, unknowingly to them, was echoed outside.

„It's – it's just very cold in Gotham, okay? I don't want him to catch a cold,“ she tried to explain, prompting laughter from the group.

„You're the only one who can get cold in this hot weather,“ Kim joked. „Since we're on the topic, how was your date?“

„It was great,“ she replied.

„Just great?“ Ivan lifted his brows.

„Details, Marinette. These snacks weren't cheap,“ Nathaniel pointed to the bag of chips.

„Okay, okay! He first took me to aquarium...“

* * *

„Holy hell,“ Superboy whispered. „Is everyone in your girlfriends class part of some gang? Why does the jock still have a leg? Why is the girl with pink hair still alive? She was clearly decapitated! In fact, everyone should be dead!“

„There's a lot going on in Paris. That aside, what are they talking about?“ Robin narrowed his eyes, watching a lively discussion take place in Marinette's room. Superboy gave him a pointed look.

„Are you telling me that you didn't bug her room the first chance you got?“

„Of course not! I value her privacy,“ the red clad hero huffed.

„Yeah. That's why you did extensive background check on her, and are currently spying on her instead of patrolling with me,“ Nightwing chimed in.

„We are making sure that the blonde bastard doesn't bother her!“ he defended.

„Suuuuure,“ Batgirl, Nightwing, Oracle and Red Hood said at the same time.

„Whatever. Superboy, what are they talking about?" 

„She's telling them about your date,“ Superboy said with amusement. „They're calling you Damiboo.“

Robin groaned.

„The jock is asking about the size of your junk,“ Superboy laughed. Robin didn't want to believe him, but he saw Marinette act scandilized, while Max smacked Kim across his thigh. „Your girlfriend is defending your honor. She does not know the size of your junk.“

„Superboy!“

„What? It'll happen eventually.“

* * *

„That's it? He didn't kiss you?“ Nathaniel asked. „Even though the guy is practically glued to your hip. I wouldn't be surprised if he was at the window right now.“

They couldn't hear the cackling from the roof across the street.

„So what if he didn't kiss me?“ Marinette huffed.

„You only have three days left, though. If he doesn't shape up, you'll be leaving Gotham kissless,“ Ivan teased.

„Wh-gh-how could you possibly know that?“ Marinette sputtered.

„Oh, come on. We all remember your crush on Adrien. You could barely talk to the guy. There's no way you'll be kissing Damiboo,“ Kim laughed, making her sputter again.

„That's not true! Besides, I already kissed him. On the cheek...“ Marinette started strongly, but then her voice fell into a whisper.

„Mari, you're hopeless,“ Alix laughed.

„I don't want to hear that from you,“ Marinette huffed in mock anger.

„I got kissed plenty! During Zombizou, at least,“ Alix leaned back. „Never want another pair of lips on me again. Yuck.“

„Think we need to run interference? Maybe encourage the guy?“ Ivan asked in a surprisingly serious tone. „He seems to make Marinette happy. And after all you've done for us... I kinda want to help you out too.“

„Oh, Ivan,“ Marinette could feel her heart melt.

„Then we gotta make a plan! Go get Alya!“

„Alix!“

„I'm joking, Marinette.“

* * *

„What are you laughing about now?“ Robin growled.

„You still haven't kissed her?“ Superboy cackled. „Oh, Damiboo, let me tell you about the birds and the bees...“

„I swear to god, I am getting those knuckles, Superboy.“

„Whatever, Damiboo. Why don't you...“ he stopped, narrowing his eyes. „The cat.“

„I see him,“ Robin nodded, looking at the familiar bastard climbing down the roof of the hotel.

* * *

It's been a while since Marinette had loughed so much. Sure, her classmates teased her to moon and back, but it was fun. They haven't been hanging out like this for a long time.

As the group continued to talk, Marinette's eyes fell to the window, only to see Chat Noir leaning in. She froze, staring at him, and in that moment, a hand reached out to him and pried him away out of sight. She ran to the window.

„Marinette?“ Max asked in confusion, watching as Marinette hurriedly opened the window and leaned over it, looking for something.

„Marinette, what's going on?“ Nathaniel walked over.

„Nothing,“ Marinette said with furrowed brows. „I thought I saw something. Must've been my imagination.“

* * *

„It's not nice to sneak up to girls this late at night,“ Superboy chided, holding Chat Noir by the wrists, ignoring any struggle the cat put up.

„This is none of your business!“ he hissed. „She's my friend! Back off!“

„You don't act like a friend. More like a jealous ex. Now, Robin here really wants to cut you to pieces,“ Superboy smiled, pointing at the pissed off superhero standing behind him. „And I'm the only one who can stop him from doing it. So, let me give you a piece of advice. You leave that girl alone. Or I'll punch you so hard, you'll land on the moon. Don't think I can't do it, kitty.“

„Or you could just let me handle him. I can think of a dozen ways to skin a cat.“

„See? He's not a very friendly guy. Or forgiving, unlike me,“ Superboy continued with a smile, then dropped him. „Now, get lost.“

Chapter Text

Marinette couldn't relax, nervously fumbling around with the vest she was making, not paying attention to the conversation of her classmates. Her mind kept drifting towards the window, towards Chat Noir. Towards Adrien.

Just what did he get himself into? She warned him, multiple times in fact, that he shouldn't mess around and carelessly transform. What if he was in danger? What if he got hurt? What if...

There was knock on the door, and Marinette practically flew from her seat. When she saw Nino at the front, her anxiety threatened to spill out.

„Dudette, is Adrien here? I haven't seen him since a few hours ago, and he's not in our room,“ Nino asked, looking just as worried as she was.

Oh, no. He wasn't back. He was in danger. Oh no oh no ohnoohnooh

„I'm here, I'm here!“ they heard him call from the hallway, looking slightly winded, but otherwise okay. Nino and Marinette both let out a sigh of relief.

„Dude, you had me worried. I was almost ready to call the police,“ Nino walked over, bumping Adrien on the shoulder.

„Sorry. I got a little distracted and forgot about the time. Won't happen again,“ Adrien gave a smile.

„You said that yesterday, and disappeared for hours. Look, I already have grays because of you,“ Nino took off his hat, lowering his head and showing his nearly shaven head.

„Can you give us a minute?“ Marinette interjected. „I need to talk to him.“

„Sure, go ahead dudette. Don't keep him too long,“ Nino nodded, leaving the room. Marinette furiously grabbed Adrien's wrist and dragged him towards the staircase. After making sure no one was watching them, she turned, completely enraged, towards Adrien.

„What. The Hell. Were. You. Doing?“ she spoke slowly. „How many times have I told you not to act like that? I saw you at the window. I saw somebody drag you away. Did you get hurt? Are you okay?“

„Calm down, Princess. I'm fine. Nothing happened,“ Adrien grabbed her shoulders, trying to appease her.

„Don't tell me to calm down!“ she whisper yelled. „Do you have any idea how worried I was? You could've gotten hurt! Or worse, killed! How can you be so reckless?“

„It was just a misunderstanding, Mari,“ the blonde tried to defend himself. „I just wanted to check on you.“

„You could've knocked on the door! As Adrien! We're classmates, nobody would've questioned it!“

„I know. I get it. Please calm down.“

As if she could.

„What happened back there? Who dragged you away?“

„One of the local heroes, I think. It was just a misunderstanding, Princess. Nothing happened, I promise.“

Marinette sighed, leaning against the wall. She covered her face and started trembling. He really gave her a fright.

„Mari?“

„I had no idea what to do,“ she whispered. „I saw you get dragged away but I couldn't call Ladybug because everyone was there and I thought someone horrible might've gotten you.“

„Princess...“ Adrien said weakly, moving closer to pull her into a hug, but she pushed him away.

„No. I am furious with you. I have warned you time and again, not to act so recklessly, but you never listen! How many times do I have to watch you die before you finally come to your senses?“

„Watch me die...?“

Marinette covered her mouth. He shouldn't know about this. She shouldn't have told him. This was one of the secrets she kept as the Ladybug.

„Marinette, what do you mean by watching me die?“

„You wouldn't remember,“ Marinette shook her head. „Miraculous Cure takes care of it. You think you lost consciousness, but you actually die.“

„It's true, kid,“ Plagg confirmed. „You got yourself killed more times than I could count. You're lucky that Magical Cure can fix everything. And it's not just you, kid. Bunch of people die in akuma attacks.“

„No...“

„It's true,“ Marinette nodded. „I've seen it happen a lot. Hawkmoth doesn't just manipulate people's emotions and damage property. Anyone who gets caught in the crossfire...“

„Did that ever happen to you?“

„No, I don't think so,“ she shook her head. Unless Viperion hid something from her. „Adrien, promise me you won't transform again while we're in Gotham. If you need anything from me, just call me or knock on my door. Please. If something happened to you, I... I don't know what I'd do.“

„Okay, Princess. I promise.“

She broke down crying. Adrien reached over, hoping to comfort her somehow, but pulled back when he heard Alix' voice: „Marinette? Are you there?“

Plagg zapped right back into Adrien's pocket.

„Yes, I'm here,“ Marinette quickly wiped her tears, trying to compose herself, but she couldn't hide the redness of her eyes. Something Alix noticed, and sent a glare towards Adrien.

„Did you make her cry?“

„No, no, he didn't,“ Marinette quickly stood in his defence. „I was just worried and freaked out a little bit.“

„You sure?“ Alix gave her a suspicious look.

„Yeah, I'm sure,“ she nodded. „Adrien, you should go back to your room. Nino was worried about you. You shouldn't keep him waiting.“

„Okay,“ he said weakly, watching as Alix pulled Marinette away, giving him a stinky eye.

He took a moment to stare at his hands. Hawkmoth... He was killing people? He never realized. He never knew.

* * *

„You sure you don't want Alix to stay? You look pretty shaken,“ Ivan asked as the group had gathered their things, preparing to leave.

„I'm sure. I'll be fine, I promise,“ she gave him a weak smile.

„Okay. Text if you need anything,“ the tall boy offered, still concerned.

„I will. Thank you, Ivan.“

„Have a good night, Marinette,“ Kim gave her a quick hug, then soon, everyone had left.

Marinette changed into her pyjamas, then turned off the lights and went to bed, but no matter how much she tossed and turn, she couldn't fall asleep. She took her phone, staring at it for a while, before finally deciding to send a text.

Angel: Are you awake?

She didn't expect to recieve a message almost instantly.

Dami: I am. What's wrong, angel? Can't sleep?

Angel: Yeah

Dami: Can I call you?

Angel: Go ahead.

* * *

Superboy knew he shouldn't listen in on his friends' conversation with his girlfriend. But he couldn't resist it. It's Robin they're talking about! All that guy is interested are weapons and gadgets. He doesn't date.

He held back a guffaw as Robin waited for Marinette to pick up, and talked to her in a sickly sweet voice Superboy had only heard when he talked to her.

He heard the interaction Marinette had with that guy, Adrien. He knew she cried. He even filled Robin in on it, who got pretty antsy. He never saw Robin act that way before. This Marinette girl had him wrapped around her little finger.

So, he listened in, even though he knew he shouldn't have. She didn't tell him what happened, not really. Yet, Superboy saw another shocking development – Robin trying to comfort someone.

The same Robin that Red Hood calls Demon Spawn, and rightfully so. Same Robin he had watched years ago kill criminals without batting an eye.

Thus, Superboy came to only conclusion possible. Girlfriends are magical.

He floated by Robin for an hour, before his bro finally got off the phone from his girlfriend. „You wanna tell me what that was about?“

„Like you didn't hear entire conversation.“

„No, I mean the death part. What's going on? What did your girlfriend get herself into? Why does she have so many injuries? Why is everyone in her class still breathing with their injuries?“

„It's a very long story.“

Chapter Text

Ladybug watched as her shimmering, glowing Cure once again fixed the damage of Paris. Next to her, Ryuuko was doubled over, breathing heavily, while Viperion just collapsed on the floor. This akuma was a tough one, and they had very nearly lost. Ladybug was as exhausted as her fellow heroes.

„Ladybug, please don't scare me like that again,“ Viperion said weakly as he managed to catch his breath and sit up straight.

„Sorry, Viperion,“ she smiled apologetically, then offered her hand to help him stand up. „But everything turned out alright in the end, didn't it?“

„I guess so,“ he laughed.

„Do you know when the help is coming?“ Ryuuko asked, finally able to catch her breath.

„By the end of the week. They need to prepare a few things before they arrive.“

„Good. As much as I like throwing hurricanes around, I want this to be over,“ the dragon themed heroine said. Their Miraculouses started beeping, putting them on alert.

„See you around guys!“ Ladybug waved, flying away and disappearing in Parisian skyline. Viperion and Ryuuko remained on the roof, allowing their transformations to fall, revealing the wielders underneath. Kagami sat down next to Luka, letting one of her legs hang down from the roof.

„Are you alright? You seem pretty shaken,“ she asked, taking his hand in hers.

„I'll be fine, my hurricane,“ Luka tried to force an awkward smile. „She died twice in this battle. I'm just... processing.“

„She actually died?“ Kagami whipped, her eyes filled with fury. „This has only happened once before.“

„Yeah. I'm afraid it's just going to get worse,“ Luka sighed, pulling his girlfriend into a hug.

* * *

By the time Marinette had teleported to her hotel room, it was already dawn in Gotham. Exhausted, she collapsed onto the bed. This was already a fifth night she spent without getting any proper sleep, and it she nearly paid for it during the last fight. She groaned. Maybe she should just tell Mme. Bustier she wasn't feeling well, and stay in the hotel to catch up on sleep.

Then again, they were going to see the Gotham Museum, most notably the section about the villains. And Damian was going to crash the tour again.

On the roof, Batgirl yawned as she sleepily watched the daylight hit. She stood up and stretched, speaking into the comm: „Alright, I'm coming back.“

„Is Marinette okay?“ Damian was the first to respond.

„Calm down, Dami. There were no catboys lurking around and she's been in her room the whole night. All is clear,“ she reported the situation.

After little spat he and Jon had with Chat Noir last night, the family had decided to keep watch over Marinette. Not just because Damian was hopelessly crushing on her, but also because she was important source of information. An important piece of the puzzle, a witness, and someone who could help them bring Hawkmoth down.

Naturally, Robin was more than happy to keep watch, but the rest of the family decided he was taking his crush a bit too far. He visited her constantly, in and out of the suit. A standard patrol should clear his head.

Nightwing had a headache when he saw Robin brutally beating couple of thugs to blow off some steam. The guys would live, but only after a long hospital stay.

Batgirl was nice enough to let the girl have some privacy, unlike certain someone, and instead camped on the roof of the hotel itself, rather than the building next to it to stare through her window. Otherwise, she would've known that Marinette had been gone the entire night.

Marinette didn't realize what a close call she had.

With another yawn, Batgirl shot out her grappling hook and swung away, throwing one last look at Marinette's window as she was leaving.

Not long after, Marinette was woken up by knocking on the door. „Dupain-Cheng! Get the hell up already!“ Chloe called from the other side. Marinette groaned, looked at the time, and freaked out. Kaalki rolled her eyes, while Tikki couldn't help but smile.

„I'm coming, I'm coming!“ she yelled as she moved through the room like a hurricane, bumping into every corner of every piece of furniture in the process.

Chloe leaned closer to the door with a baffled expression, listening to the noise that sounded almost like a battle was going on inside. Few minutes later, Marinette had opened the door, dressed up, but still in a bit of a mess, her pigtails mismatched and her jacket hanging off of the shoulder. She locked the door as she pulled the jacket back on, fumbling around with her purse. As she looked up and saw who was the one knocking, she froze.

„Chloe?“

„What?“

„Why are you at my door?“

„Don't flatter yourself. I'm only here because Mme. Bustier sent me. You look horrible, by the way,“ Chloe scoffed, offended at the thought of the slightest possibility that she could have anything approaching care for this disaster of a classmate.

„Thanks?“

„Get a move on already, Dupain-Cheng! Just because you like to sitch the class doesn't mean I have to,“ the blonde ordered, turning around on her heel and walking away like she was on a catwalk. If there is anything positive to say about Chloe, her unwavering confidence should probably be mentioned.

Sabrina waited for Chloe by the end of the hallway, letting the blonde pull her along, leaving confused Marinette behind. The pigtailed girl shrugged, before hurrying along. Who cares about Chloe? Damian will be joining them at the museum today.

The class had already gathered in the lobby by the time Marinette had finally arrived. She ignored Lila's snickering and got on the bus, closing her eyes to rest for a bit. She felt someone poke her shoulder, and barely cracked open her eyes to see Rose sitting next to her. „Are you okay, Marinette? You look a bit... pale.“

„I'm fine, Rose. I just didn't get enough sleep. Thank you for asking,“ Marinette smiled.

„Does that happen often?“ Juleka leaned over from the front seat. „You should go check with the doctor. Or I could give you my pills, if you want.“

„I don't think that's safe,“ Rose pouted.

„You have trouble sleeping, Juleka?“ Marinette asked, surprised to learn of this. They've shared a class for a while, and she's close friends with her brother, but she never knew Juleka was using sleeping pills.

„Yeah. Ever since I first became Reflekta,“ the goth nodded.

„Oh. I'm sorry, I never knew...“

„Because I never told you. I have my medication, so it's fine. What about you, though?“

„I have some nightmares, but it's not that bad, really,“ Marinette dismissed. Her problem with sleep came from her responsibilities, at least that's what she thought. She always had a lot to do.

„You do get caught up in a lot of akuma attacks,“ Rose pointed out.

„So does Alya, though.“

„Yeah, but she runs into those on purpose,“ Juleka argued.

„Maybe you should try and talk to a therapist? I got one ever since I've turned into Princess Fragrance, and she's really been very helpful. I can give you her number,“ the girl in pastels offered, as sweet as ever.

„That's... That's very kind of you, Rose,“ Marinette choked up.

She, better than anyone, knew just how much damage Hawkmoth caused with each attack. The deaths, the injuries... She understood how much toll he took out of the citizens of Paris. She knew people suffered in various ways. She kept track of all the statistics about mental health, especially on the days when being Ladybug was too much of a burden and she wanted to quit, to keep herself motivated, to continue to protect people around her.

But numbers were one thing. Hearing it like this, seeing it personally... The flame of determination reignited in Marinette, and she clenched her fists. She must stop Hawkmoth, put an end to his reign of terror, once and for all.

„I'm sorry you guys have to go through this. I'm sorry this is taking so long,“ she whispered.

„Hey, what are you apologizing for?“ Rose reached out, stroking Marinette's head. „Ladybug will take care of it. She's always been protecting us, and she won't stop now. You'll see. I have a feeling everything will turn out alright.“

„You're the best, Rose,“ Marinette said, pulling her sweet classmate into a hug, making the short haired blonde giggle.

„Let's talk about something else. Is that boy going to be showing up again?“ Rose leaned back.

„You mean Damian?“

„So he does have a name,“ Juleka said with a smile. „If he is, you might want to fix your pigtails.“

Marinette reached for her hair, finally realizing she had tied them unevenly. Her mouth slightly opened in surprise, making the two girls giggle.

„Let us help you out!“ Rose said in excitement. Juleka started looking through her purse and pulled out a hair comb. The blonde in pastels positioned Marinette towards the window, undid her hair and started combing through it. „How about some braids? To change it up a bit. You'd look cute with braids!“

„You can trust her. Rose always helps me do my hair. At least when Luka is not around,“ Juleka pointed out.

„Sure, go ahead.“

Three girls continued to talk as Rose braided Marinette's hair. It's been a while since she last went to cut it, so her hair was reaching middle of her back. Rose braided a lovely rose pattern at the back of her head, finishing it off with twin braids, tied with the ribbons Marinette always wore.

After she finished doing her hair, Rose handed Marinette off to Juleka, who leaned over the seat to put some makeup on Marinette. The three laughed as Juleka clumsily tried to hold herself still, but still managed to draw perfectly sharp wings on Marinette's eyes. Marinette loved makeup, both natural and elaborate, but Juleka had a lot more skill with it.

Ivan had soon joined the group, followed by Alix, Kim and Max. The four kept teasing Marinette about her date, so Juleka took out her brush and started smothering them with blush in retaliation, causing laughter and ruckus.

Lila had noticed the commotion at the back of the bus as she told the story of another supposed date with Damiboo. She didn't like that Rose and Juleka left in the middle of her story to go hang out with Marinette. Sure, Alya and Mylene were still listening intently, Nino and Adrien were on the seat next to them, both leaning in on the conversation. Chloe just kept scowling at Lila the entire time, but there was nothing that the Mayor's daugher could possibly do about her. She had made sure of it. Her little nerdy friend, Sabrina, was lapping up everything Lila said though, even if she followed Chloe's lead.

It was when she noticed Nathaniel was looking at the back of the bus with a smile, instead of paying attention to her, that she finally had enough.

She was the queen of this class. Not Marinette. They were her followers. There is no way she could allow Marinette to have them again.

Lila stopped in the middle of the story and turned around, hiding the furious glint in her eyes. „Marinette? Are you getting ready to see that weird guy again?“

The laughter from the back stopped, everyone turned around. Marinette leaned over, locking eyes with Lila. „What weird guy?“

„The one that has been following you around these past few days. I'm just worried, you know? I know he's handsome, but he looks very suspicious to me. Besides, there's no need to put yourself in danger just to make your real crush jealous,“ Lila said, throwing an exaggarated look towards Adrien.

Nathaniel covered his mouth with resounding slap, while the group behind exchanged looks. Rose gave Marinette a worried glance.

„I think she might be right...“

„What about you, Lila?“ Marinette countered, holding back a snicker. „Don't you sneak out late at night to meet someone as well?“

„That's hardly the same,“ Lila defended, happy that Marinette took the bait. „My Damiboo is son of the founder of Wayne Enterprises. I'm more than safe with him around.“

Of course, that was a lie. She had never seen Damian Wayne. She doesn't even know how he looks like. Somehow, he always managed to avoid having his pictures taken. She didn't really think when she first told the story, but she knew to make it believable. She'd leave the hotel, only telling Alya she was going on a date. Thankfully, there was a cafe near the hotel where she would spend the time. Even if it was for the name of making her story believable, she didn't feel safe wondering aound alone at night in Gotham. She might loathe Ladybug, but she had to admit she was much more reliable than any hero in America.

She expected Marinette to give yet another defeated sigh and be scolded by the rest of the classmates. She didn't expect the back of the bus to explode in roaring laughter. Rose was thoroughly confused, while Juleka's brows were furrowed, as if she was trying to understand the joke. Next to them, Nathaniel snickered as he hurriedly typed something on his phone, probably talking to his boyfriend Marc, and Adrien just sighed in frustration.

Lila was baffled. What was going on? Well, if lies fail, tears are good to fall back on. She turned on the waterworks, making them roll like second nature.

„Why are they so mean? I was just worried something would happen...“

„What's so funny?“ Alya glared back. „Lila is just worried about Marinette. Why are you making fun of her?“

„Not everyone is as stupid as you, Cesaire,“ Chloe smirked, giving the crying Lila a challenging look. „Looks like people are catching onto you, Lie-la.“

„Oh, bite it, Chloe. Keep your jealousy to yourself,“ Alya hissed, determined to protect her friend.

„Whatever,“ Chloe shrugged, her smile still smug.

„I don't get it. What's so funny?“ Juleka asked, giving up on trying to figure out what was going on. Amused, Ivan leaned over and whispered something to her. Her eyes shot wide open and she looked at him, dumbfounded, but he quickly placed a finger on his lips.

Juleka looked back towards Lila, rolling her eyes, then back to Rose with concern. „Rose, it's okay. Marinette can take care of herself.“

„It's not nice to laugh at Lila like that,“ Rose pointed out.

„We're not laughing at her,“ Ivan acted quickly. „It's just that Damiboo nickname is very funny to us.“

„Yeah, we're sorry,“ Alix joined in, though she didn't really mean it. She was still snickering.

Marinette had stopped laughing long ago. Rose was really going to be hurt once she finds out. She and Juleka exchanged a worried glance.

* * *

Lila was in the bathroom, fixing her makeup from her previous acting episode, when Marinette walked in. The Italian frowned when she saw her in the mirror, but quickly fixed her expression. Not minding her, Marinette walked towards the sink, and started washing her hands.

„You said it yourself, couple of days ago,“ Marinette suddenly said. „Gotham is dangerous. You shouldn't be sneaking out alone just to keep up a lie.“

„Why would I lie about that? You're just jealous, Marinette,“ Lila smirked.

„We both know it's a lie, Lila. You've never been able to fool me, and you won't start now,“ Marinette said in grave tone. „Ladybug isn't here to fix whatever mess you throw yourself into. If you think going to that cafe at night is safe just because it's close, you're wrong. There was a mugging street over just last night that Batgirl stopped. The victim that was mugged got stabbed. You'd know, if you'd bother to check the news.“

„Did you follow me?“ Lila dropped the act, her gaze turning venomous.

„No. I just checked the map,“ Marinette denied as she finished washing her hands. „I like you as much as you like me, which is to say, not at all. But I still don't want to see you get hurt. Stop putting your life at risk for something stupid.“

„Don't play a saint with me, Marinette,“ the Italian said with a sickly sweet voice. „I have the class wrapped around my finger. Whatever I say, goes. You just want to be center of attention again.“

„Are you sure about that?“ the shorter girl asked with brows raised. She didn't leave time for Lila to respond, instead wiping her hands and leaving the restroom. However, she didn't miss the venomous glare Lila sent her way.

Marinette sighed. Looks like she'll have to keep an eye on her.

* * *

„Damian!“ Marinette called as she spotted the tall, handsome boy leaning against the wall next to the entrance of the museum. He looked up, his mouth widening into a smile when he spotted her. He spread his arms, catching her in his embrace.

„You look lovely today, angel.“

„My classmates insisted on dolling me up,“ Marinette laughed, then offered him a bag she was carrying. „Here. I made this for you.“

„For me?“ he raised his brows. He took the bag, pulling out a black vest. The collar, end of the sleeves and hems of the vest were embroidered with simple, but graceful red patterns. He did see her knitting something a few nights ago, but he didn't realize it was for him.

„I didn't have your exact measurements, so I tried making it by the eye. Gotham is pretty cold, and I don't want you to get sick,“ she explained hurriedly.

„I love it, angel,“ he smiled. Though he didn't wear it, the vest already made him feel strangely warm. Unable to hold back, he leaned down and pressed a kiss on her temple.

„Aaaaaawwwh,“ they heard loud cooing, coming from the direction of her classmates. Marinette's face turned as red as tomato. Looks like he's not the only one suffering ridicule for his affections.

Chapter Text

At this point, Damian has pretty much become part of the class. He had stuck next to Marinette since the second day. Initially, everyone just ignored him, but now, her classmates kept talking to him as if he was a new transfer student.

„How old are you?“

„Turned seventeen couple of months ago.“

„You're same year as us, then?“

„Yeah, third year. Next month, at least.“

„Have you always lived in Gotham?“

„No. I moved here when I was ten.“

„Which school do you go to?“

„Gotham Academy.“

„Isn't that school for rich kids?“

„My father is considerably rich.“

Alix cackled at that one.

„Do you have any hobbies? Do you play any instruments? Your french is pretty good. Do you speak any other languages?“

And so on it went. Quite honestly, it was exhausting, but Marinette seemed really happy with the attention the class was giving him. He began to realize that, despite everything, these people still meant a lot to her.

The questions stopped when they finally began their tour of the museum. Like all the times before, Marinette kept busy with her sketchbook, while Damian filled her in on interesting details about the history of the city.

Not everyone welcomed his company, though. Lila was seething, as she no longer had everyone's attention. Alya kept giving him suspicious glances. Adrien was as hostile as ever, but at least he was no longer trying to pull Marinette away from him.

The tour moved onto the next section of the museum, one everyone was looking forward to. Heroes and villains of Gotham.

In the display cases were recreations of various costumes throughout the years, as well as accomplishments his family had achieved. He glanced at Marinette, wondering if she'd be impressed, only to see a scowl on her face.

„What's wrong, angel?“

„Just... I don't even know where to begin,“ Marinette huffed. „Is this an accurate recreation of the costumes?“

„Pretty much, yes,“ Robin nodded.

„They're horrible! How could Batman move his neck in that mask? Why is first Robin's costume in such bright colors? Oh, I don't even want to talk about this one.“

„Well, Ladybug fights in a petticoat. And Queen Bee did have those thin ten inch high heels,“ Max defended.

„Excuse you! I looked amazing in those!“ Chloe piped up. Damian would have gasped had he not have control over himself, but Marinette could see the shock in his eyes.

„Shouldn't you keep that a secret?“ Damian asked, unable to help himself.

„She outed herself as Queen Bee to entire Paris almost immediatelly when she got the Miraculous,“ Marinette explained, giggling.

„Still, my point stands. Other than capes, these costumes are at least functional,“ Max continued.

„Ridicilous! Utterly ridicilous! Ladybug is magical! She deflected your robot's rockets with her petticoat! These losers only have stupid gadgets!“ Chloe adamantly continued to defend her fave.

„She deflects projectiles with her petticoat?“ Damian couldn't believe what he was hearing.

„Yeah. It's so cool,“ Juleka nodded.

„She jumps up and twirls around and just hits them off course! It's very pretty,“ Rose explained.

„Pretty is an understatement!“ Chloe huffed. „These losers have nothing on my Ladybug.“

„Don't call them losers, Chloe. They've saved the world several times over. And they work so hard to keep Gotham safe. Not just from dangerous and insane villains, but from small criminals as well,“ Marinette stepped up. Hearing her defend his family made Damian's heart melt a little.

„So does Ladybug! I've seen her take out bunch of common thugs! Burglars, thieves, murderers...“

„How can you see anything from that hotel? Your room is pretty high up,“ Kim joined in, honestly curious.

„With my binoculars of co – I mean, that's not the point! The point is, Ladybug is the best superhero in the world, and anyone who argues will have trouble with my Daddy!“ Chloe flipped her hair, then placed the hand on her hip, giving the entire class a challenging look.

„But it is taking her long to take Hawkmoth down,“ Lila decided to throw her two cents in. „Gotham's heroes never take that long to catch their criminals.“

„First, someone who willingly gets akumatized and makes job harder on Ladybug has no right to talk,“ Chloe turned her fury on the Italian. „Second, Gotham's villains break out of jail constantly, while Ladybug makes sure our criminals face justice.“

„H-how could you say that?“ Lila turned waterworks on again. „I'm a victim just as much as everyone else.“

„Chloe! Stop bullying Lila!“ Alya was ready to throw herself at the blonde, who was giving the young reporter a challenging smirk.

Marinette sighed and closed her sketchbook, immediatelly running between the two.

„Okay, I think that's enough. Alya, please control your temper, we're in a museum. We're guests here, and we don't want to get kicked out,“ Marinette tried to pacify her ex-friend before the girl turned violent. „I get that you're trying to defend your friend, but there's no need to fight. And Chloe.“

Marinette turned around, giving the blonde a stern look.

„We all know you're Ladybug's number one fan, but you're taking things too far. Lila is right. It's taking Ladybug a long time to take Hawkmoth down, but that doesn't mean she's not any less heroic.“

„You actually agree with that liar, Dupain-Cheng?“ Chloe sputtered.

„Not completely. Yes, our heroes have been fighting Hawkmoth for a long time, but Gotham has a full team working on the clock. Just because you like someone, Chloe, doesn't mean they're exempt from criticism. Don't put others down in order to lift someone else up. It doesn't work that way,“ Marinette explained.

Damian watched with marvel as Marinette managed to calm the hostile situation down with ease. He knew from the previous conversations that Marinette hadn't liked either girl. But she was still able to set her dislike of them aside and keep the peace. She was a natural leader.

He could see how she was being chosen as a class representative three years in the row.

From across the room, he could see Adrien look at Marinette with a fond smile. A smile he didn't like.

Adrien worried, from the moment Chloe spoke, that the situation might escalate. He was pretty much prepared for the class to be kicked out. But then, Marinette stepped out and calmed the situation down. Like in the old times, a string that binded the class together. Their everyday Ladybug.

In the end, Chloe huffed at Marinette. „Whatever. But even you can't deny that these costumes are atrocious. At least our heroes have style.“

„Well, they are from Paris. The capital of fashion,“ Marinette chuckled.

As the group finally finished the section with superheroes, and moved towards the villains, Mme. Bustier walked up to Marinette. „Good work there, Marinette. You really made me proud.“

„Thank you, Mme. Bustier,“ Marinette smiled shyly.

„Any time. Now, go on ahead. We need your commentary on the villains' costumes as well,“ the teacher winked.

Seeing the displays, Marinette was even more horrified, and the class happily joined in on making fun of the villain's fashion sense.

„It's not like our villains are any better, though. Bubbler, anyone?“ Alya teased, bumping shoulders with her boyfriend.

„Please don't remind me. I looked like a sentient popsicle,“ Nino groaned and covered his face.

„I for one, looked great in all my akumatizations!“ Chloe spoke again.

„You just inverted colours from Ladybug and Queen Bee. That's hardly original,“ Alix pointed out, then smiled mischievously. „Kind of like the hat contest.“

Chloe shot her a furious glare: „Shut it, shortie.“

„Did I strike a nerve?“

„Alix, please stop trying to rile Chloe up,“ Marinette sighed.

„Hey, she walked right into that one,“ Alix laughed. Chloe was ready to argue, but after Marinette shot her a warning look, she just grumbled and piped down.

Finally, they arrived to the wax statue of the Joker, one of the most infamous and dangerous of Gotham's villains. Marinette was unnerved with how lifelike it was, especially with the mad, cheshire smile. Maybe wax statues weren't the best idea.

As he looked at the statue, Adrien's brows furrowed. A he could feel a knot tie in his guts. Though it was just a statue, it still gave him feeling of danger. In fact, he has been feeling uncomfortable ever since they walked into this section.

He also didn't like how close Marinette was standing to it. Ever since their argument two nights ago, he avoided talking to her. He still wasn't done processing what she had said, but he couldn't shake off the alertness he was feeling. He started walking up to her to get her away, when the statue suddenly moved.

The Joker pulled out a gun, and pointed it straight at the girl with braids standing in front of him. „Hello, kids,“ he greeted. „Want to have some fun?“

Chapter Text

First one to react was Marinette. Instead of freezing up, she launched herself straight at Joker, tackling him down from his stand. Chloe was second one to react, by letting out a scream.

Statues all around them suddenly came to life, as the visitors started scrambling towards the exit. Marinette punched the Joker in the face and kicked his gun away from him. Damian, fighting the near-heart attack Marinette had just given him, reached towards her and pulled her away from the madman.

Few managed to escape before the henchmen, masked as statues, started shooting at the cieling, closing in on those that remained.

„Stop screaming!“ one of the henchmen roared, grabbing Rose and pointing a gun at her.

Marinette pushed Damian away, towards the door. „Go!“

„What?“

„I know who you are! Go!“

Damian didn't have the time to let that sink in, nor bother with the urge to stay. Marinette ran across the room, causing a ruckus and letting herself get caught, giving him a chance to slip away.

As he got the people to safety, he did a quick headcount. There were several of the classmates missing, trapped inside with that maniac, Alix, Ivan, Rose, Lila, Chloe, Max, Adrien and Marinette. Marinette, his angel, was in the clutches of Joker, sacrificing her safety so he could get away.

She knew who he was. His secret identity. And she trusted him to save her.

He felt panic strike, like never before. Marinette was just a civilian, and she tackled that maniac. Joker will hurt her. He'll hurt her!

But Adrien wasn't. He had power of pure destruction.

Damian disappeared from the crowd, finding a hidden spot and pulling out his phone to contact his family, while hoping that the damned brat cared for his angel enough to keep her safe.

„We got the alert, Batman is on his way,“ Oracle answered the moment he pressed call. „You got out safe? What are the details?“

„It's the Joker,“ Damian trembled. „He's got Marinette, along with seven others inside villain section of the Gotham Museum.“

„Impossible. He should be in Arkham!“ Tim piped up.

„We should've been alerted,“ Batman said with urgency. „Tell Damian not to do anything stupid.“

„Damian-“ Oracle started.

„I heard him! Just get over here and bring my suit!“

„Right here, bro,“ Jon appeared in front of him, clad in his Superboy outfit, and threw the Robin costume at him. Had Damian not been too busy changing, he would've kissed his childhood friend.

* * *

Adrien took the chance to escape the moment Damian pulled Marinette away from Joker. He split from the crowd running for the exit, and hid in the bathroom.

„Plagg! Claws-“

„Kid! Listen to me!“ Plagg interrupted him.

„There's no time! Marinette is in danger!“ Adrien argued.

„There's no Ladybug here! If your Princess dies, there's no coming back from that, so listen to me!“ Plagg hissed back. „You need to be smart about this, kid. Joker isn't simple. Anything can set him off.“

For a moment, Adrien paused. Plagg was right. In this situation, he couldn't come in guns blazing. He needed a plan. He needed to think like Ladybug.

Looking up, he noticed a vent just above his stall, the gears starting to turn in his head.

„Alright. I have a plan. Plagg, claws out!“

* * *

„That was a nice stunt you pulled, girlie,“ Joker growled through his smile, grabbing Marinette's jaw to force her to look at him.

Seven of them were surrounded by his armed henchmen, masked as villains. At least, she hoped those were just masks. If Joker had gotten Riddler, Two-Face, Bane, Penguin and Mr. Freeze to cooperate with him... Then this was going to be difficult.

„You cost me a very, very, very good hostage,“ he giggled. „So, you're going to fill in for him.“

She shuddered. She needed to think of a plan, get the rest of them out.

„You make any sudden moves... Well. I'm sure you know what happens,“ Joker continued, as one of the masked villains pointed a gun at Lila's head. „Well, girlie?“

„U-understood,“ she nodded, already making a plan. With a laugh, Joker pushed her into the circle, where Ivan caught her. She scooted over next to Max.

Adrien managed to get out, and she knew, despite their previous fights, he wouldn't let his classmates be in danger. There was also Damian, who by now should've alerted Batman. And she had Kaalki.

All she needed was a distraction. To keep the guns away from her classmates.

Max was holding onto her, trembling as he watched the guns pointed at them. Marinette waited for a moment, as the henchmen started exchanging words, not really paying attention to bunch of scared teenagers, confirming that they weren't the villains they had dressed as. She carefully took out the glasses, wrapping her hand around Max's. He shot her a look, then saw the familiar Miraculous she was handing him. She nodded carefully at him, and he nodded back.

One of the henchmen leaned against the wall, looking annoyed. Suddenly, a black claw broke out of the wall, dragging him inside. All of the villains turned and immediatelly went to shoot. Marinette jumped up, kicking one of them in the back of the knee, while Max hurriedly put the glasses on.

„Kill them!“ Joker shouted, grabbing Marinette's braids just as Max shouted. The light of the transformation blinded him, and he automatically recoiled back, dragging Marinette with him.

The henchmen opened fire on the students, but by the time light dimmed, everyone was gone, wall behind them filled with bullet holes.

„Damn it, girl, what did you do?“ Joker roared, slapping Marinette across the face, making her wince.

Silver staff shot out of the hole in the wall, propelling Bane and sending him flying onto the Riddler. Chat Noir vaulted out of the wall, his claws sinking into the back of of Mr. Freeze, grabbing at his gun and crushing it.

With a growl, Joker pulled out his gun, about to point it at Marinette, but she quickly grabbed his arm and slammed him onto the ground. The remaining henchman, Penguin, started shooting at Chat Noir, but the bullets ricoched off his suit.

Marinette tried to wrestle the gun out of Joker's hand, noticing that Bane and Riddler had gotten up, Bane hurrying over to fight her partner, while Riddler ran to her. She punched Joker again, then rolled away just as Riddler swung at her, avoiding the hit.

„Get her!“ Joker ordered and shot at her while she hid behind one of the displays. Just as Riddler ran after her, the door was kicked open, and he was suddenly picked up and thrown across the room.

In front of her, and all around the room, walls started to crumble, with several men in clown masks jumping out and shooting wildly.

„Marinette!“ Chat Noir roared. Superboy sped towards her to grab her, watching as Joker, who had taken a chance in ensuing chaos to walk up to her, pointed his gun and pulled the trigger.

The light suddenly shone behind her, and she was pulled back before Superboy could reach her. She was gone... As was the bullet.

* * *

„Marinette! Oh my god, Marinette!“ Pegase cried as he watched Marinette press the top of her shoulder, trying to stop the bleeding.

„I'm fine. It... it just grazed me,“ she said, trying to calm him down, though she was still shaking.

They in the alleway, few streets away from the museum. She was kneeling on the ground, leaning against the wall while Pegase crouched next to her.

„I'm so sorry! I should've hurried! I should've gotten to you sooner!“

„The others? Are the others okay?“

„They are. I managed to get them out before the bullets hit us.“

„Did anyone see you?“

„No, at least I don't think so. I teleported them across the street and ran before they could see me,“ Pegase shook his head. His time ran out, and he transformed back. Shakily, he gave the glasses back to Marinette.

„You did a great job, Max. Ladybug would've been proud of you.“

„But you got hurt... You shouldn't have given glasses to me.“

„I was the centre of the attention. If I had transformed, they would've shot at us. Besides, you're the one who used the Horse Miraculous before. You knew best how it worked.“

„How come you have it? I've... There hasn't been a new hero in Paris,“ Max asked.

„When Ladybug found out we were going to Gotham, she gave me the Horse Miraculous in case something like this happened. I wasn't supposed to give it to someone else, but I had no choice,“ Marinette made an excuse, managing to pull herself up. She looked at the wound at the top of her shoulder and hissed. Max' eyes widened when he saw the injury. She turned back to him, noticing he couldn't stop staring.

„Max, look at me. You did a great job. If you didn't pull me out in that moment, I would've been dead. You saved my life.“

It took a while before Max finally managed to calm down. He pulled out a pack of tissues and pressed it against her wound, helping her walk back to the hotel.

Red Hood was first one who spotted them. „Robin, she's safe,“ he spoke into the comm, before hurrying over. „Are you alright, little lady?“

„Bullet grazed me, but I should be okay,“ Marinette said. Red Hood stepped closer, inspecting the wound, then sighed in relief, motioning for the medics to come over.

„How did you get out?“

„I don't know. Some kind of portal opened, and I was pulled out. It was miraculous,“ Marinette said, hoping Red Hood would catch the hint. She needed the family to trust her. She was going to explain everything, but couldn't have others learning what happened. It was bad enough that Max knew she held a Horse Miraculous.

She watched with concern as the Bat Family, together with the cops, dove inside. The medics apprached her and took her to the ambulance car, taking a look at her wound.

„You're very lucky, miss,“ the medic said. „This will only require some stitching, and you'll be as good as new.“

She nodded silently, her eyes still glued towards the entrance of the museum, watching as masked men were dragged out. Some walking in cuffs, some unconscious, but all of them beaten to a pulp. Joker was among the unconscious ones, but even though he wasn't awake, he still had that unnerving, cheshire grin. The Bat Family soon walked out, alongside with... Was that Jon? Without the mask? Seriously, why aren't these boys more careful with their identities?

She was glad to see Robin was fine, but alarmed when there was no sign of Adrien.

Just as she started to worry, she heard him call: „Marinette!“ and saw him running towards her. He didn't look injured. Relief washed over her, and she finally relaxed. He nearly pulled her into a hug, but was stopped by one of the personnel. „Careful. She's hurt.“

Adrien paled at the news, then spotted her wounded shoulder. „Oh my God,“ he whispered.

„I'll be okay, Adrien,“ she said with a smile. „Thank you.“

He clenched his fists in frustration, then sat down beside her and took her hand in his, squeezing it. „You're okay... I thought... I thought you got killed.“

„Yeah, it was a close call. But when hasn't it been with me,“ she joked, hoping to lighten the mood, only for Adrien's face to turn even more grim.

„I'm sorry, Marinette. I should've...“

„Adrien,“ she interrupted him, giving him a warning look. „There was nothing you could do.“

He hesitated for a moment, but then nodded.

The Bat Family dispersed, while the police men started taking people aside and take their statements. Marinette listened in to the stories her classmates told, confirming they didn't know it was Pegase that had saved them, and acted just as confused as they did. As she had finished giving her statement, a familiar pair of hands wrapped around her.

„Angel, are you alright?“ he asked as he carefully hugged her, his voice trembling.

„I'll live,“ Marinette nodded.

„We need to talk. I need you to explain what happened. And...“ he trailed off, still anxious.

„Yeah, I understand.“

Chapter Text

With an excuse that he was taking Marinette to a hospital, Damian whisked her away from the class. During the car ride to his manor, she kept fidgeting around with the strap holding her arm.

„I'm sorry, Damian,“ she whispered. „I... I didn't mean to find out.“

„We would've told you eventually, so it's alright,“ Damian smiled, reaching over to take her hand. „Besides, even if you didn't figure it out now, you would've figured it out once we got to Paris. We fixed an exchange student program and I am going to be part of your class.“

„Really?“ Marinette's head shot towards him.

„It was supposed to be a surprise, so don't tell anyone, okay?“ Damian smiled.

He was glad to see her calm down, though he knew she was still racked with guilt. There was no need to be. Sure, he got scolded intensely when he revealed that the Gotham heroes were all part of a family, but it wasn't as if they hadn't planned for the eventual reveal. After all, his father did plan to recruit her after Hawkmoth has been dealt with.

Marinette leaned back into her seat. She didn't feel like she deserved this trust he had given her. She knew his identity, but she was still withholding her own. She wanted to tell him. She wanted to trust him like he trusted her... But she couldn't, and through no fault of his own.

It wasn't fair.

„You really scared me back there, Marinette,“ Damian suddenly spoke. „When you lunged at Joker, you almost gave me a heart attack. And then you put yourself in danger...“

„I needed you to be out. Chat Noir has never dealt with Joker before, but you have. I knew you would've gotten me out, safe and sound,“ Marinette countered.

„But I didn't. I failed to protect you,“ Damian clenched his jaw.

„It's not like I never got hurt before, Damian. Don't be so hard on yourself. It was a messy situation none of us expected,“ Marinette pointed out. Damian squeezed her hand in response.

„How are you able to stay so calm?“

„Happens when you know secrets that you shouldn't and have to avoid mind control,“ Marinette chirped. 

„We will get to the bottom of this, angel,“ Damian said with determination. „I promise.“

As soon as Damian pulled up to the car, Stephanie was already out the door, running towards them. Marinette, however, was too busy gaping at the Wayne manor to pay her any mind.

„Are you two okay? I heard that you got hurt, Mari. Is it serious?“ Stephanie grabbed onto Marinette, though she was careful not to hurt her.

„I'm fine, Stephanie,“ Marinette was flustered. „Just a little bit shaken.“

„Let's go inside. Alfred has prepared some tea and painkillers.“

Walking to the door, Marinette saw a familiar figure holding it open. Dick gave her a welcoming smile. „It's nice to see you again, Marinette. Though I wish it was under different circumstances.“

„Hello, Mr. Grayson,“ she said shyly.

„Just Dick,“ he laughed and cleared the way for her to enter. „Everyone is dying to meet you. Officially, at least.“

Marinette let out a little whine, making Dick laugh.

„Hey, don't worry, you were going to find out eventually,“ he pat her on the head, comforting her like an older sibling would. An older, well-mannered gentleman stepped to the front.

„Hello, Miss Marinette. My name is Alfred Pennyworth. I am the butler of the family. Would you allow me to take your jacket?“ he said with a slight bow.

„Oh. Oh, thank you. And just call me Marinette,“ she nodded, letting Alfred approach and help her take the jacket off. 

„As you wish, Marinette. Come. Everyone is waiting for you in the living room.“

Marinette stiffened, looking as if she was going to recieve a death sentence. Damian hugged her gently, trying to soothe her, while Stephanie and Dick laughed.

When they arrived to the living room, first one to greet her was Jon. „Marinette! You're alright! Oh, man, I was so freaked out.“

„Careful, Jon. She's hurt,“ Damian growled, making Jon step back. The blue eyed boy looked at Marinette, guilt and worry painted over his face.

„Jon, it's okay. You helped cause the distraction I needed. You helped me get out of there in one piece.“

„But I almost let you get... Wait. How do you know I was there?“ Jon started, then backed up.

„You weren't wearing a mask. Anyone could reckognize you,“ Marinette pointed out, as if it was obvious.

„Uh, no? Usually nobody reckognizes me,“ Jon argued, making Tim snort.

„Told you, you should be wearing a mask. Only your father can pull off that act with glasses,“ Tim said.

„No, it's just you people who are stupidly smart and figure it out at a glance!“ Jon defended, crossing his arms.

„In his defence, it did take me a while to figure out who he is,“ Jason piped up.

„See! He represents the majority! You guys are an outlier!“ Jon nodded fervently, pointing at utterly offended Jason.

„Hey! What are you implying?“ Jason croaked, getting ready for a fight.

„Nothing, nothing. You're very smart and I meant nothing by that,“ Jon quickly clarified, while backing up to hide behind Damian, making his friend roll his eyes. As if Jason could do anything to Jon.

„So, are any of you planning to introduce yourselves to Marinette, or are we just going to mess around?“ Barbara suddenly voiced, raising her brows.

„Oh, right,“ Jason scratched his head, then offered a hand to Marinette. „Hi, Marinette. I'm Jason Todd.“

„I'm Tim Drake. It's good to finally meet you,“ Tim said after Jason and Marinette finished shaking hands. Bruce Wayne suddenly cleared his throat, walking up to the injured girl.

„It's good to meet you, officially. I am Bruce Wayne. I believe you already know everyone else,“ Bruce shook Marinette's hand.

„It's nice to meet everyone,“ Marinette nodded.

„Take a seat. I have a few questions to ask you, if you don't mind,“ Bruce offered, pointing to the seat.

First he asked her to retell the events that took place in the museum. Marinette went into detail, not hiding anything and speaking as truthfully as she could, explaining how her classmates got out unscathed, and the light that shone and pulled her out at the last second.

„A Horse Miraculous?“ Bruce furrowed his brows.

„Yes. It's one of the Miraculous of the Zodiac. Ladybug gave it to me before we went to Gotham, in case something bad happened, and so I could help her track you down, but I couldn't have used it myself. So, I gave it to Max. He had used the Horse Miraculous before, as a hero called Pegase, and he knew what to do,“ Marinette explained. She opened her purse, pulling the glasses out, and with them Kaalki flew to meet everyone.

Everyone watched in shock as a horse-fairy-like creature floated in front of them, before landing on Marinette's head.

„Hello. I am Kaalki, Kwami of Distance, one of the Twelve Zodiac Miraculous,“ Kaalki introduced herself.

„What! What is this? Why can't I see you with my X-Ray?“ Jon suddenly yelled.

„It's magic. Kwami are not supposed to be detected,“ Kaalki explained.

„So, you're actually a hero yourself?“ Stephanie asked with a smile.

„No, I'm not. I am wielding the Miraculous temporarily, and once I return to Paris, I'll be returning it to Ladybug. She entrusted me with Kaalki only for this mission,“ Marinette explained away.

„Quite frankly, nobody was supposed to know, but that clown ruined everything,“ Kaalki complained. „We won't make it in the world of secret agents it seems, Marinette.“

„Why return the Miraculous, though? Couldn't Ladybug use your help?“ Barbara pointed out.

„You haven't been paying attention. Marinette knows absolutely everything, and there are akuma that can control minds just like Hawkmoth. Under no circumstance can Marinette be compromised, and if she's fighting, she's at great risk,“ Kaalki immediatelly answered, saving Marinette from trying to explain again.

„Makes sense,“ Bruce nodded. „Who knows that you wield the Horse Miraculous?“

„Ladybug, the Guardian, Max and everyone in this room.“

„Which is eleven people more than it should've been,“ Kaalki pointed out.

„Can that classmate of yours be trusted?“ Dick asked, sitting down.

„He can,“ Damian confirmed in her stead. „He figured out that I was a Wayne, but kept quiet about it. He won't tell anyone what really happened.“

„Chat Noir might figure out it was Pegase, but he doesn't know it's Max. I'll just tell him I called Ladybug and she sent Pegase to save us,“ Marinette added.

„Good. Looks like you got that covered,“ Bruce nodded in approvement. „There is something else I want to know. Damian said you know his secret identity.“

„I do,“ Marinette nodded, nervously grabbing the hem of her skirt. „I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...“

„It's alright, Marinette,“ Bruce said with a gentle smile. „Though, if you know about him, then you know about the rest of us as well. Is that correct?“

„It is.“

„Can you tell me how did you figue it out?“ Bruce continued. Marinette took a deep sigh.

„I thought Damian was similar to Robin when we first met. His size was about the same, and their voices were similar. He confirmed it when he called me an angel when he was dressed as Robin. Only Damian calls me angel,“ Marinette explained, her mouth spreading into a small, shy smile as she finished the last sentence.

„And then he outed all of us when he said we were a family,“ Tim rolled his eyes.

„Yeah, he did,“ the braided girl nodded.

„If you can tell who Damian is, can you tell the rest of us?“ Dick asked with curiosity.

Marinette took a moment to look at everyone in the room, trying to place costumes and masks and approximate their sizes and body types.

„Well, if I guessed correctly... You're Nightwing,“ Marinette stated, pointing at Dick, who nodded in confirmation. „Stephanie is Batgirl. Cassandra is Black Bat. Jason should be Red Hood, and Tim is probably Red Robin. And Mr. Wayne is Batman. I'm not sure about Barbara, though.“

For a while, everyone sat in stunned silence. Barbara was the first one to speak.

„I'm Oracle. We haven't met, because I don't go on patrols, as you can clearly see,“ she gestured at her wheelchair. „I go through security and send information instead.“

„You're Oracle? The greatest hacker in the world?“ Marinette couldn't help but be impressed. Barbara gave her a brilliant smile.

„Can we just adopt her already?“ Stephanie said, earning glances from everyone in the room. „What? Everyone's thinking it.“

„You keep impressing me, Marinette,“ Bruce ignored Stephanie's outburst. „You have makings of an incredible detective. With some training, you'll achieve great things.“

Marinette's face exploded in a blush. Did she just get praise from Batman himself? She was not quite sure how to process it.

* * *

Barbara had dragged Marinette off to her computers, to take the look at the LadyBugOut app as she had promised a few days ago, much to Damian's annoyance. Of course, he still stuck next to her, unwilling to let her out of his sight. Naturally, Jon wasn't going to leave them alone either, so he and Damian constantly bickered.

„That Max kid really did a good job with it. But there can still be improvements,“ Barbara said as she typed on the computer.

„He really is great with it. He even made a little robot with emotions,“ Marinette couldn't stop herself from praising.

„The one that got akumatized? That's impressive. Your class seems to be made of people with great potential,“ she commented, as she edited the code.

„It is. They just have to grow into it.“

„Are you alright, Marinette?“ Barbara suddenly asked, turning to look at the small girl next to her. „You seem to be doing fine, but I think you're holding back.“

„No, I'm okay.“

„You had an altercation with Joker. He almost killed you. I know you're not okay.“

„I was scared, but... I had no time to think about that,“ Marinette shook her head. „It's precisely because it was Joker that I couldn't panic.“

„Hawkmoth really did a number on you, didn't he?“ Barbara said with understanding, reaching over to touch Marinette's hand. „I understand you always have to keep you emotions in check. One little slip up and Hawkmoth might gain control over you. It's a lot of pressure. But Hawkmoth is not here, Marinette. You don't have to bottle it up. I, of all people, know exactly how terrifying that maniac is.“

Marinette's brows furrowed as she looked at Barbara.

„Did he...“

„I was the original Batgirl, you know,“ Barbara smiled bitterly. „When I retired, Joker managed to find me. He... It was a horrifying night.“

Barbara closed her eyes and took a deep sigh. Marinette scurried over, holding her hands.

„Barbara. You don't have to relive it again. I understand,“ the girl nodded in earnest.

„You're wrong, Marinette. To overcome our traumas, we need to talk about them. We need to process them so we could heal and move on. Even if it means reliving the nightmare. It's something we must face,“ Barbara disagreed, giving Marinette a smile.

„It's not something that should be forced though. You should talk about it when you're ready. And you're not. You don't have to force yourself for my sake, Barbara,“ Marinette said earnestly, gripping onto the redhead's hands. Barbara parted her lips in surprise, then spread them into a smile, reaching to stroke Marinette's head.

„I can see why Damian calls you an angel, sweetheart,“ Barbara smiled. „I just want you to know that you can trust us. We'll protect you. You're safe with us.“

Barbara could see the tears well up in Marinette's eyes as she nodded fervently, choking back the sob that threatened to escape.

Poor girl. She really must've been through a lot.

„Maybe... Maybe I could talk to Ladybug. She has Miraculous Cure. I don't know how long it has been since your injury, but maybe she could find a way to heal you,“ Marinette suddenly said, surprising Barbara again.

„Oh, sweetheart...“

* * *

„Sorry guys. Dad called me. He said mom is angry that I left without saying anything, so I'm grounded,“ Jon said as he laughed awkwardly.

„That's what you get for crushing my dates,“ Damian scoffed.

„Is that a challenge? Because you know I can just fly over to Paris and crash your dates there,“ Jon winked, making Damian scowl.

„I'm getting those damned knuckles,“ Damian murmured, angrily crossing his arms.

„Yeah, yeah, go get them, bro. I'll see you around, guys!“ Jon yelled to the Wayne family.

„Bye, Jon! Say hi to your mom for me!“ Stephanie yelled, while other joined in saying their goodbyes.

„It was great meeting you, Jon,“ Marinette smiled. „I'm glad Damian has you as his friend.“

„Aw, thanks, Marinette. At least someone appreciates the sacrifice I make,“ Jon sniffled.

„Just leave already!“

„Okay, okay, bye! Oh, yeah, Marinette?“ Jon turned to leave, but stopped when he remembered something.

„Yes, Jon?“

„Tell Ladybug that Wonder Woman sends her regards.“

„Wonder Woman? She knows about Ladybug?“ Marinette got excited.

„Yeah. Her mother used to be a Ladybug a long time ago,“ he revealed.

„What? Really? Which one?“

„Hyppolita!“ Jon smiled.

Marinette's jaw dropped.

„You... She... Hyppolita is Wonder Woman's mother? Wonder Woman's mom used to be a Ladybug? Then that means...“ Marinette gaped.

„Yeah! She and Wonder Woman are basically sisters! She looks forward to meeting the current Ladybug one day,“ the blue eyed boy said excitedly.

Marinette couldn't quite understand that logic, but she was glad to hear one of the heroes from Justice League wanted to meet her personally. It was a great honor.

„Okay. I'll be sure to tell her,“ Marinette nodded.

* * *

„Could I offer you some tea, Marinette?“ Alfred asked, already placing hot tea in front of her. Alfred remained to entertain her while the rest of the family split to do their errands, though Damian promised he would be back soon to escort her to the hotel.

„Thank you, Alfred,“ Marinette accepted, while Alfred sat down in front of her.

„You've achieved quite a lot these years. It must've been hard on you, especially if you're working alone,“ the butler spoke softly.

„It's fine. I wasn't completely alone. I've had help.“

Alfred paused for a moment, as if debating wether he should continue the conversation or not. After a while, he finally spoke.

„Years ago, I used to be in the army. I have seen my share of horrors back in the day, but just like you, I never allowed myself to break. As I rose through the ranks, I was getting more and more important missions, and eventually got a partner. Her name was Duusu.“

Marinette's head shot up.

„We were very close, and we worked together like a charm. A Lucky Charm, one might say,“ he winked, making Marinette giggle. „Unfortunately, I lost her. A mission had gone south. I had not seen her since, and now I have learned she's being used by a villain. I... worry. Had I been more careful, perhaps your job would have been easier. I was much older when I recieved my Miraculous, and it was not as powerful as Creation. But I want you to know that I understand your struggle. I understand what you are going through.“

„You... You know I'm...“ Marinette paled.

„I do. Do not worry, I have not told anyone,“ Alfred nodded. „But if you wanted to tell them, you could.“

„I want to trust them. And I want to tell them,“ Marinette sighed. „But I can't take that risk. Not until we defeat Hawkmoth and Mayura.“

„Understandable. Know that you are in capable hands. It was wise to seek the help of Master Bruce,“ Alfred said with a smile. „I will keep your secret safe. And once you defeat the villains in Paris, so will the rest of the family.“

Marinette stood up, moving over to hug Alfred. He froze for a moment, then with a gentle, grandfatherly smile, patted her on the back.

„Thank you, Alfred.“

„You're welcome, Marinette.“

Marinette opened her bag, letting Tikki and Kaalki out.

„Who would've thought? We actually get to meet one of Duusu's birds!“ Kaalki said with an excitement.

„It's so wonderful to meet you, Alfred,“ Tikki flew over, sweet as ever.

Chapter Text

Adrien had waited in the lobby of the hotel for hours, before Marinette finally walked in. The moment he spotted her, he stopped pacing, and ran over to her. „Marinette! You're back!“

„Adrien?“ she was surprised to see him. „Were you waiting for me?“

„I was worried,“ Adrien nodded. „I... I almost messed up.“

„Let's go to my room, okay?“ Marinette gestured, stopping him before he could make another slip.

When they finally got to her room, Adrien helped Marinette sit down, before he started to pace again.

„What happened inside? How did you get out?“

„I called Ladybug during the commotion, and she sent Pegase to help us out,“ Marinette said, sticking to the plan. He nodded in understanding, and she held back a sigh of relief. Good. He believed her. „What about you? Did you get hurt?“

„No. You know I'm magic, Princess. Bullets can't hurt me,“ Adrien smiled.

„You missed a lot of excitement, sugar. All the heroes of Gotham swooped in and beat the guys to a bloody pulp,“ Plagg flew out of Adrien's pocket, happy to report. „Kid here really did a number on the Joker. That guy in blue held the clown, while Robin and kid took turns punching him.“

„Adrien!“ Marinette gasped in horror.

„He almost killed you, Marinette!“ Adrien argued.

„I know, but you can't lose control like that. You're a hero, not a vigilante,“ she squinted her eyes. „You don't punish people, and you don't take revenge. You bring them to justice.“

„I know! I know...“ Adrien sighed, then sat down, placing his head in his shaking hands. „I just... I thought you were dead. I thought I had gotten you killed. And Ladybug wasn't there to bring you back. I... I lost it.“

„Adrien...“

„I can't lose you, Marinette. You mean so much to me. If... If you had died... I don't know if I'd be able to handle it. You're my best friend,“ he continued tearfully, still shaking. Marinette stood up and walked over, clumsily pulling him into a hug. He immediatelly wrapped his arms around her.

„I'm not going anywhere, Adrien. I'm Marinette! I'll always be there for you,“ she promised.

They stayed like that for a while, two friends seeking comfort in silence. After a while, they were interrupted by a knock on the door. Adrien let go of Marinette, wiping his tears away while she went to check who it was.

Opening the door, she was surprised to see Alya in front, surrounded by the entire class.

„Hey, Mari,“ she said awkwardly. „We... we came to check on you.“

„And we brought snacks!“ Kim waved the bag he was holding.

„Let's see if we can find enough room for all of you,“ Marinette said with a smile, opening the door widely, letting everyone inside.

The room was soon filled with laughter, as everyone retold the events of the day. Lila, of course, took the credit for saving everyone, saying she was the one who called Ladybug, and other than exchanging a knowing glance with Max, Marinette didn't react. This lie went in her favor, actually.

It was the first time in years since Alya had stepped away from Lila, and actually talked with Marinette. Of course, it was to yell at her.

„What were you thinking, jumping on Joker like that? You could've gotten killed! You're almost as insane as he is!“

„Says the girl who keeps running right into the middle of akuma fights all the time,“ Alix called her out.

„I am a reporter, and it's my job to do so!“

„Please. You're in high school. You don't have a job,“ Chloe rolled her eyes.

All throughout the night, the class of Mme. Bustier continued to hang out in Marinette's room, sharing stories and gossip, with no conflict in sight. Just like the old times.

On the roof of the building across the street, Robin watched with a smile as his angel was surrounded by people she cared about.

* * *

The class had arrived to the airport, standing in line to check their bags and show their tickets. Their trip to Gotham was eventful, to say the least, and they couldn't wait to finally return home, where terrorist attacks and assaults were quickly thwarted, and Ladybug fixed all the damage that could be done.

Marinette stood at the back of the line, with Damian carrying her luggage. The class kept throwing them glances, giggling and whispering among themselves. Damian was proudly wearing the vest that Marinette had gifted him before. She was happy to see she got his measurements right, and it fit him perfectly.

„This is where I have to leave you, Damian. You should give me back my luggage,“ she pointed to the exit.

„You sure you can carry it, angel? You're hurt,“ he furrowed his brows.

„Dami, I'll be fine. I tackled Joker. I'm not fragile,“ she reminded him.

„Yeah, and I really wish you never, ever do that again,“ he shuddered, still holding onto her luggage.

„Dami, you know you can't follow me all the way to the airplane,“ Marinette sighed.

„How do you know? I'm a Wayne. My father owns this airport. I can go wherever I want,“ he whispered mischievously.

„That would be horrible abuse of your wealth and power. Now, give me the luggage.“

He grumbled and complained, but eventually complied, and handed her the luggage back.

„I... I have to go,“ Marinette pointed towards the class. „Don't want to get left behind again.“

„Yeah. See you in Paris,“ he whispered with a smile, making her giggle.

He gently grabbed her by the bicep, and pulled her close, staring into her eyes. He slowly started to lean towards her, giving her a chance to evade him, but she didn't. Instead, she rose up, standing on the tip of her toes, meeting him half way.

He pressed his lips against hers, placing one hand on the back of her head, while holding her waist with the other. She put her luggage down and wrapped her healthy arm around his neck.

She tasted as sweet as he had imagined, of macarons and chocolate, the scent of bakery that always surrounded her seeped into his nostrils, making him drown.

He was gentle and awkward, as if he was nervous, but his lips were soft and warm, his touch gentle, and his strong arms made her feel so safe.

They ignored the loud cheering of her classmates as they kissed. Not a goodybe, as it usually is with kisses on the airport. But a see you later.

 

To be continued...

 

Bonus:

In the certain headquartes of a certain group of heroes located in Jump City...

„Guys! Guys! Guys!“ Jon roared, making nearly all of the Teen Titans jump in surprise.

„What's wrong? Is there an attack? Where's the emergency?“ Raven immediatelly summoned her power over darkness, ready for a fight.

„No, there's no attack, but there is an emergency!“ Jon shook his head. „Damian has a girlfriend!“

„You seriously came here to waste our time with gossip?“ Raven lifted her brow.

„Wait, wait, wait, Damian has a girlfriend? No way, Jon. You must've hallucinated,“ Beast Boy scoffed.

„No, I'm serious! Look, I even got a picture...“

„That cutie? No way is she dating him willingly. He must've bribed her. Or threatened her. Or blackmailed her,“ Cyborg handwaved it away. 

„It might be true, though. I mean, Raven liked him enough to flirt with him,“ Starfire leaned over to look at the picture of Marinette. „Oh, she's adorable!“

„And it was a mistake. If that girl knows what's good for her, she'll run for the hills,“ Raven dismissed her.

„Her name is Marinette, and she's from Paris,“ Jon said proudly. „If I'm correct, she should be flying back home now.“

„See? She ran for the hills. Good on her,“ Raven smiled smugly. 

„Oh, but he's also flying for Paris. He got an exchange student program and his dad managed to fix him a spot in her class,“ Jon continued the gossip.

All the jaws present hit the floor.

„Holy shit, he's got it bad,“ Cyborg giggled.

„Poor girl...“ Starfire sighed.

„Oh, man, how freaked out do you think she'll be?“ Beast Boy laughed.

„I shall send her my prayers...“ Raven muttered.

He knew not why, but Damian had an urge to groan.