It started with every student’s dream, a school trip with their friends. No parents, no lectures, just small assignments, and fun itineraries. How did this come about? Three words: Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Despite a fall out with many of her classmates, they were all in agreement that she was a great class president.
As her friends started to separate themselves she threw herself into her projects. As lonely as it was, she did some of her best work. At 15 years old she was already making designs worn by stars like Jagged Stone, Clara Nightengale, and the slowly rising Kitty Section. However, it was her writing and artwork that got the class a spot on a Wayne Enterprises cruise ship. The prompt was simple enough, “How does your class engage with each other and the community to improve everyone’s quality of life? What are some of the major outcomes?” Really the prompt was meant for those who would soon be graduating their school institutions given how complex some of these service projects have been in past contests. Nevertheless, Marinette saw this as an opportunity to reconnect with her peers as well as take a break from being Ladybug.
Hawkmoth sent out attack after attack, the next more brutal and time-consuming than the last. Even with the help of the other Miraculous holders, the attacks were exhausting for everyone involved. All of a sudden, there was an eery air of peace that engulfed the entirety of Paris. The Akuma attacks stopped after having day after day of attacks. It was a week into this uncomfortable calm atmosphere, but Marinette decided she needed this. Her friends, if they even consider her a friend anymore, needed this.
She wrote page after page about the variety of events, projects, and activities she and her classmates have done. She wrote about the calming techniques they’ve implemented into the school’s curricular and how it’s not only reduced the number of Akumas originating from her school but has also brought grades up and lowered students' overall stress. She wrote about Damocles being Dark Owl and helping locally with smaller issues so that the fire and police departments could stay focused on bigger things like crimes or a large fire. She wrote about Rose and Juleka working with small children learn how to play and make music with guest appearances from Kitty Section. She wrote about Kim and Ondine teaching kids how to swim and exercise in their spare time at the local pool. She wrote about Adrien convincing his father to allow a small percentage of the profits from one of his photoshoots to be donated to a local homeless shelter. She even wrote about Alya and Lila’s volunteer work at a local daycare taking care of small children. As much as Marinette hated to admit, Lila did well with children.
Tikki was the one to snap Marinette out of her high after realizing she had written a little over thirty pages. Tikki shook her head, “I know you want to win this, but you have to take a break. You’ve been writing for so long, you didn’t even eat dinner tonight!”
“Yes Tikki, but I have to make sure this is perfect! They’ve all done so much since Hawkmoth showed up and they deserve to be recognized for it.”
Tikki sighed, she flew closer to her holder and rubbed one of her temples gently. “I know this year has been hard-”
“I already said it’s not about that.” Tikki raised her brow, challenging Marinette’s statement and Marinette frowned. “Okay, maybe a bit of it is but come on! Not only does this give them some recognition, but me winning this could be just what I need to-”
“To win them over?”
Marinette shook her head, “No. To win them back.” Tikki truly sympathized with Marinette. Lila has only made life more difficult school wise, while not outright bullying Marinette she has broken down a lot of Marinette’s support system. Now her holder sits alone. The few who do still associate with her are either busy or not in her class. Even Adrien, who promised they’d be in this thing together, remained ignorant of Marinette’s issues. Marinette drew a shaky breath before continuing, “I just… I want them to remember I always got their backs. I don’t know what Lila’s been saying to them, but this will prove I’m still me. Their friend.” She rubbed her dry eyes, tired of looking at the document in front of her and minimized it only to reveal a picture of her old friend group as her background. She bit her lip, “It has to, Tikki.”
A few sleepless nights later she hit send, ultimately letting fate decide what would happen next. With a little luck, they got the results a few weeks later and the class was in shock over what their class president did. They were allowed to go on a cruise ship, free of charge, as a thank you for all the work they’ve done in Paris. The cruise would also be hosting some important key speakers and the children would have access to any of the other conferences already booked on the ship as long as they were respectful. It would tour the European coastline and dock in different countries for the students to explore and shop. They had free reign over their schedules for the most part, but the thing that really excited the class was Bruce Wayne and his family would be making an appearance to personally congratulate the class on their service.
Marinette suddenly found herself completely surrounded by her classmates. Statements of gratitude and excitement were thrown at her wholeheartedly, she could’ve cried over how much she missed the feeling of being needed and loved. She got that as Ladybug, but she needed it as Marinette. At this moment, she was happy, something she hasn’t felt in a long time. However, one voice broke through the cheers and Marinette could feel her heart drop.
“Oh, I can’t wait to see the Waynes again! My mother and I met them on a trip when I was younger and I got to meet Bruce’s sons.” The class energy seemed to die down immediately and Marinette missed the warmth she felt for those few moments. The class started to ask questions and Lila became the center of attention as they quickly returned to her side. Marinette was again left alone.
“Hey Marinette,” she snapped out of her thoughts only to find Adrien at her side. He sighed and gave her an apologetic look, “I know we haven’t talked in a while but I want to thank you for the trip.” Months earlier Marinette could’ve died happy at getting Adrien’s attention, but after being alone for so long she had time to reflect and move past the starstruck girl she once was. “I’m sorry Lila took this from you.”
Marinette only sighed and shrugged, “I should’ve expected this by now.”
“Doesn’t mean she’s not wrong.”
“So does that mean you’ll finally talk and out her for her lies?” He looked conflicted and she didn’t have to wait for an answer, instead choosing to shake her head and turn away from the entire scene. “Thanks anyway. I’ll see you on the boat, Adrien.” She texted a few other people about the news. Her parents were proud of their little girl. Luka was excited for her to get a break from her routine, messaging back words of encouragement and praise. Kagami simply just texted back, “I already knew you’d win Mari. Still, congratulations on your victory.”
Marinette should’ve been flying on cloud nine, instead she felt hallow and apprehensive. She left for the bathroom and, after making sure no one else was around, opened her purse to talk to Tikki. “I’ll take to Fu about allowing Luka and Kagami to keep their miraculous in case anything happens. I’ll also see if I can take the horse miraculous in case I need to get back to Paris for an emergency.”
“Sounds like a good plan, Marinette. But remember that this is also a break from being Ladybug so after talking with Fu I expect you to be in full-on vacation mode. I will not allow one of my Ladybugs to be burnt out so young!”
Marinette chuckled, “Okay, deal. Now, it’s time to pack!”