Marinette was worried about the new school year. Last year had ended ...poorly, to say the least. Lila had tried to make good on her threat, but hadn’t succeeded completely. So while her friends were distant now, they were still her friends.
That said, they hadn’t spoken in a while. After another heated disagreement , Alya and Marinette had agreed to spend some time apart. Take some time to cool off, and hopefully have the other see sense.
It wasn’t like the whole Lila situation was all bad. She and Adrien were much closer, and she was actually friends with him, rather than so obsessed. Being the only two who knew Lila was lying forced them to stay together, for the sake of their sanity. Adrien had tried to talk to Alya and Nino, but they hadn’t listened, telling him that he'd “been spending too much time with Marinette”. Hearing about that had certainly hurt, but at least he’d tried.
He stuck with her, as he said he would. A few weeks after her return, Lila had tried to make some snide comments about Marinette, Adrien had shut that down immediately. Doing so prompted some of her classmates to spend some time with her, and they’d had a fun day. Despite Adrien’s interference, Lila had still cornered Marinette often to insult her when no one else could hear, and while the comments stung, Chloe had made her used to this sort of verbal abuse.
Still, Marinette missed Alya. Knowing her and the rest of her old classmates like she did, she knew they would see the truth eventually. They were good people and knew her well. Given all the time they’d been apart, they probably missed her. It would be good to see them all again. Due to this, Marinette was determined to be (cautiously) optimistic about the new school year. This was a mistake.
Marinette lasted one week in her old school when she came back after the summer. One week before she transferred schools.
Marinette had only just arrived in Ms. Bustier’s class and sat down next to Adrien when Lila walked in. This prompted the classroom to break into excited babble as everyone (with the exception of Adrien and Marinette) greeted her. Not one to break tradition, Lila immediately claimed that she was responsible for keeping the class together.
Marinette scoffed internally. Françoise Dupont kept most people in the same class. While some switches weren’t uncommon, in all likelihood you would stay with the same group for years. This was common knowledge, but her friends ate it up, showering Lila in praise and thanks.
Marinette was surprised that Lila didn’t speak to her at all on Monday. So when Lila approached her just before lunch she wasn’t entirely surprised.
“Marinette, I was surprised to see you back at school. I honestly thought you’d get the message - you’re not wanted here.”
“Back off Lila, I’m not scared of you. Your little threat in the bathroom never came true, and do you know why? Because my friends won’t abandon me for some girl with fancy stories!” Marinette wouldn’t get shaken up by this liar this time! She knew her friends had her back.
“Oh that’s so cute, you think they care about you. I know what I’m doing, but you’re smart, so I’ll give you a final chance to join me, otherwise your ‘friends’ will regret ever even seeing you.”
“I’ll only ever ‘join you’ when you stop lying, Lila.”
Lila smirked, “Have it your way then. Ciao, Marinette!”
Ugh, that brat. She really got on Marinette’s nerves. At least now she knew that Lila’s threat was nonsense. Marinette’s friends wouldn’t abandon her, she was a good friend.
Lila was gone for the rest of the day.
Lila is absent Wednesday too. People start to worry about her, considering all her ‘disabilities’ and such. Marinette and Adrien appreciate the break, and without Lie-la hovering around 24/7, Marinette gets to spend time with Alya. Turns out they both missed each other, and though Alya is still sort of distant, it’s nice to be back together again.
Marinette is late for her first class, and with Adrien being gone all day for a photoshoot, obtaining notes will be a bit harder. Rushing into class, she doesn’t notice the glares directed at her, how Alya is seething in her seat, or that Lila has returned. Then, after class before she can leave, Alya corners her.
“Marinette! What is wrong with you?” Alya is furious and Marinette is confused. Just yesterday, they’d been planning times to hang out after school and now this? The whole class was around, they stared, some glared. Everyone seemed to understand except for Marinette. Had she done something wrong? Was there a misunderstanding? If she could just get a chance to sort this out…
“A-Alya, I-” She’s stammering. She can feel they eyes of the rest of everyone else on her, hard and judging.
Nino speaks up, “We knew you were jealous of Lila, but attacking her? Seriously uncool dude.”
“I-” Attacking her? What? Then, for the first time that day, Marinette spotted her. Lila, still in her seat by the chair, with Rose and Juleka comforting her, was covered in scratches and bruises. They all thought she’d done that to Lila?
“Save it Marinette! She told us everything. How you threatened her in the bathroom on her first day back last year, how you threatened her again on Tuesday. She didn’t even feel safe coming back to school because you’ve been bullying her all summer! Looking at her now, I can certainly see why!” Alya was not about to let this go.
Marinette was too stressed to properly process that whole chunk of information, but she’d gotten one part she could disprove. Maybe that would be enough to make it all fall apart?
“B-bullying? I-I didn’t even s-s-see her all su-” That was as far as she got before Alya cuts her off again.
“Don’t play dumb, she showed us the messages. I can’t believe I ever called someone so cruel my best friend.”
Once again, Marinette has no idea what she’s talking about. She glances back at Lila, wondering how she pulled this off. The girl in question visibly winces under her stare, prompting Rose, Rose, to glare at Marinette. They all were. They hated her. Somewhere, somehow, she’d messed up, and now, she’d lost them all. She was having trouble breathing. She had to get out, but as she moves to the door, Alya grabs her wrist.
“Oh no you don’t. You do not get to just run away . After all you’ve done?”
“Like, seriously dude? Teaming up with Adrien’s dad to spend more time with him? You know my bro barely gets enough freedom as it is.”
Marinette is stuck there, held in place by Alya’s hand on her wrist, stuck halfway between her desk at the back and the classroom door in the front. More voices are joining in. She doesn’t hear all of it, but she definitely hears enough. It’s everyone now, not just Alya and Nino.
“Can’t believe you would do that….”
“How hard is it to be a good person?...”
“I’m disgusted that I ever considered you a friend….”
“Bullying? I knew you were crazy, but that was too far. ...”
“Why are we even surprised? We know how obsessive she got over Adrien...”
“Why was she our class president again? Even Chloe would have been better…”
More and more, the comments never stopped. She couldn’t breathe properly, she couldn’t see straight. She might have been crying but she wasn’t sure. All she could do was stand there and take it as they yelled at her, too many of them echoing some of her own doubts about herself. How long would this go on? How long had it already gone on? She was both grateful Adrien wasn’t here, and wishing for him desperately.
The door to the classroom slammed open. Someone new was talking. A distraction. While everyone was looking at the newcomer, Marinette took her opportunity. Twisting her wrist, hard, she freed herself from Alya’s grip, and spun around. She tripped, landing on that same wrist, but losing no momentum, falling down the stairs until she arrived at the bottom. Picking herself up, she rushed out of there and ended up in the bathroom. The newcomer followed.
She was hiding in a stall when she heard them come in. Both of them. There were two sets of footsteps.
“Dupain-Cheng? I know you’re in here.”
Chloe? Now? Nononononononono. Marinette couldn’t deal with her right now. Weren’t ladybugs supposed to be lucky? A barely audible choked sob echoed in the bathroom. Marinette didn’t know what to do.
The footsteps approached her stall, and pushed it open gently. She hadn’t even locked it, what a moron.
“Marinette?” Sabrina now. “You need to calm down…” she trailed off, but even in the midst of this, Marinette knew what she meant. She was at risk of being akumatized. Paris was doomed if she was under Hawkmoth’s control. She didn’t want that, but she wasn’t able to focus on anything to keep herself from feeling negative emotions. What was she supposed to do? If she couldn’t stop herself from being akumatized, Hawkmoth would win. Chat Noir could get badly hurt, and might even blame himself, her parents would be disappointed, Fu would be disappointed, Tikki would be disappointed. Everyone would be disappointed. She was a disappointment. Lila was right, she couldn’t even be a proper friend, how was she supposed to be a proper hero? All because she couldn’t defend herself from some liar, everything would go wrong. Everything had already gone wrong. This was all her fault.
Her mind was buzzing, repeating everything over and over, this was all her fault. Her breathing got worse, her vision blurred as more tears came to her eyes. Chloe moved forward.
“It’s alright Sabrina, I can handle this. You go back to class.” Sabrina hesitated at Chloe’s order, but nodded and left the room. Chloe turned to Marinette, she spoke, but Marinette couldn’t make out the words. Everything was muffled, and a sort of numbing sense of ‘it can’t get worse than this’ spread over her.
The rest of the day from there is a blur.
An arm around her shoulder, leading her out of the bathroom, out of the school, onto the street, and into the bakery. A muffled, short conversation. A different arm, leading her upstairs into her house.
Being led to the counter, where something cold was put on her wrist. Comments were mumbled at her. Blood was wiped off her knees, and a scratch on her face was tended to. There was little else that could be done, something was wrapped around her wrist and she was led to her room.
A high-pitched voice prompted her to change into pj’s and some part of her that could still consider wants told her to sit outside. She stayed there for hours, until she felt herself start to droop with exhaustion, and was ushered to bed.
Adrien hated all-day photoshoots for many reasons, but high on that list was missing things. Though, at least with it being only the first week of school, he couldn’t miss much.
At least, that’s what he had thought that morning. Now, having finally gotten back to his house that night, he checked his phone and saw a lot of messages. Several from Nino, a few from Alya, a couple from Lila, one from Sabrina, and many from Chloe, but none from Marinette. None of the messages said exactly what had happened, but he got the idea. Something had happened, and nothing good. The texts from Nino, Alya, and Lila, were supportive and comforting for some reason, and the texts from Chloe were angry. Sabrina was just telling him Chloe wanted him to talk to her immediately on Friday.
Reading through the messages from Chloe, all he got was that something had happened to Marinette, and she had gone home early. Yesterday things had been going so well. Adrien was worried, what had happened? Maybe she had just gotten sick?
Adrien couldn’t go out tonight to check on her, no matter how much he wanted to, but Chat Noir could.
As he made his way over rooftops to check on his best friend he tried to convince himself that he was overreacting, Marinette was fine, just a little sick. He smiled when he spotted her sitting out on her balcony, she was just-
From a considerable distance, sure, she was fine, but any closer and she was not okay. Her right wrist was in a brace, and there were large bandages on both her knees. Large bruises spotted her arms and legs, and a small cut on her cheek outlined the nearby bruise on her face.
The closer he got the worse she looked, but the worst part were her eyes. Her eyes, which were typically big, and bright, were dull and unfocused. She stared out at nothing and didn’t react at all when he landed in front of her. His usually fashionable classmate was wearing mis-matched pajamas, and her hair had devolved into messy and loose pigtails. There was an untouched plate of food on her table with a glass of water to match it.
“...Marinette?” No response. She didn’t even blink. What had happened at school today?
He stood for a few moments, unsure of what to do. Part of him wanted to keep watch for akumas, but another part reasoned that if Marinette was to be akumatized, it would have been earlier. Not ...now, while she was so concerningly numb. Another part wanted answers, to rush to his classmates’ house and interrogate them. Yet another just wanted to watch Marinette, silently keeping his princess company, maybe that would prompt her to speak.
The latter was the option he ended up going with. Leaning against the side of her balcony, he watched her, while occasionally glancing around for akumas, or even Ladybug. He noticed when, after some time of them sitting in silence, her eyelids started to flutter, her breathing slowed, her already limp body drooped further. Of course. She’d had a long day, she was tired. It was probably impressive she was even still awake.
He stood, and approached her slowly. Mumbling nothing in particular to her about how she needed to rest, he gingerly scooped her up, careful of her injuries, and slipped into her room. Placing her carefully in her bed, he slipped out and went back to his own house.
He didn’t sleep well.
Marinette wakes up on Friday feeling off, it took a moment for everything that happened yesterday to catch up with her. Not long after that, the feelings came rushing back in too, feeling like a punch to the gut. Tears came to her eyes, and she gasped quietly. Tikki floated up to her face.
“Marinette? How are you feeling?”
How was she feeling? Bad, definitely. Scared? She wasn’t in any danger, but some part of her refused to drop her guard. Upset, hurt, sad… she was feeling a lot. Yesterday had been… what had she done wrong? Her friends had just abandoned her- no, it was worse, they believed she had been capable of hurting Lila, bullying and attacking her. Hadn’t they called her their ‘everyday Ladybug’? Did they think Ladybug was horrible too? If they thought both sides of her were horrible, did that make her twice as bad? Did-
“Marinette! Hey, it’s okay. Can you focus on me?” Tikki was in front of her face, patient and calm, even amidst her clear worry.
“I-I f-f-feel-” Those two stuttering words were as far as she got before she shook her head and put her hands over her face. Tikki sits with her, comforting her holder the best she could.
When Marinette went downstairs, her parents told her not to worry about going to school, they pulled her out the day before. They were worried and curious about exactly what happened, but didn’t press her for details, which was good because Marinette wasn’t exactly sure what the details are. They said that they’d start the search for a new school later that day or the next, and that later they’d take her to a doctor, but for now she could rest. They gave her a new phone, her old one needed to be replaced anyways.
She went back to her room, shoving her old phone in the back of an empty drawer. Tikki suggested cleaning, and Marinette nodded, putting her hair in a messy bun, and changing into more comfortable clothes that make her feel …safer, somehow. She missed Tikki’s sad smile at her choice.
Wrapping herself in a blue blanket, she went to work clearing her desk, the walls, bulletin boards, everything. Photos, mostly, but also little trinkets, mementos from years of friendship. She worked in silence mostly, smiling softly at Tikki as thanks for the Kwami’s assistance.
After a few hours, there is a soft knock at her trapdoor and Adrien poked his head in.
“Hey Marinette, how are you feeling?” He entered her room completely, giving her space, which is good, because that one part of her was still on guard, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“I… don’t know” She still hadn’t figured that out, but he seemed to understand. He looked at her bruised body and sprained wrist in concern.
“Mari… I get if you don’t want to talk about it, but what happened yesterday? Everyone at school seems to think I’m a victim, and Chloe says she only heard yelling before she intervened.” he paused, gesturing at her, “What happened? What led to this? ”
Marinette was quiet, then, “I tripped.”
He gave her a look, then sighed, “You can’t expect me to believe that.”
“I did.” It was true. No one had hurt her, she had tripped down the steps, not because anyone pushed her, but because she’d spun too fast. It was her own fault. Her own stupid fault.
He was silent for a moment, then, “Chloe says she thinks Alya tripped you. Or pushed you.”
“No! No, Alya wouldn’t do something like that! We’re- She- I-” Marinette’s reaction was immediate, but she slowed, stumbling over her words as she realized she didn’t know what to say in Alya’s defense. “She- she’s a good person. She w-wouldn’t do that. She wouldn’t.”
Adrien looked doubtful, but left it alone. They talked for awhile longer then his phone beeped, he glanced at it and sighed.
“I’m sorry, Mari. I wish I could stay longer, but Father… “ He trailed off, but Marinette understood, he had to go.
The two said their goodbyes, and Marinette looked back at the pile of memories. She didn’t feel up to sorting through it then. Grabbing a trash bag, she stuffed everything in there, putting the now half-full bag inside of the case she used to keep the presents for Adrien in. She had gotten rid of most of them when she gotten less ... obsessed with him.
The rest of her day was fairly uneventful, the doctor’s visit went well, as did the search for potential new schools. She had to wear make-up to patrol, in order to cover up the bruise on her cheek, but that was fine. Chat Noir noticed she seemed off, but all she said was that she was transferring schools.
She missed his concerned look as she swung home. She had schools to research.