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The Rebellion of Adrien Agreste

Chapter Text

“No,” Adrien growled. “Absolutely not!”

Lila made a show of crying, not that anyone in the room believed her tears were real.

Gabriel frowned at him from his desk. “This will be good for the brand—”

Fuck the brand!”

“Adrien! This is unbecoming. You will be seen to be dating Ms. Rossi. That is final.”

Adrien’s fists were so tight he was sure he had crescents eating into his palms. “Like hell it is! I will not date that—” he gestured at Lila “—lying cow. Not after how she’s hurt my friends.”

Said girl gasped, outraged, and Adrien was glad to see she actually looked truly upset.

His father stood, but kept his voice emotionless, calm, self-assured that he would capitulate. “Cease this ridiculous teenage rebellion.”

He saw red, but oddly it calmed him. “Father, you have not seen teenage rebellion,” he said, his voice almost terrifyingly calm. “But I would be happy to teach you what it looks like if you try to force me to do this.”

Gabriel’s eyes narrowed behind his glasses. Adrien could see him considering that, but then discarding it. “It will be in the papers tomorrow. If you misbehave, you’ll no longer be permitted to go to school.”

Adrien snorted. He knew more ways to escape this house than his father could possibly anticipate—some he’d made himself, even. “Good luck, Gabe. You’re going to need it.”

He spun on his heel before his father could respond and slammed the door behind him. With the enhanced strength he had as the Black Cat Miraculous chosen, the wood cracked audibly.

As he made his way back to his room, he realized the opportunity his father had just placed in his lap. As the face of the brand, Adrien had more power than Gabriel seemed to realize. It was time to stretch those muscles.

He had planning to do.

Chapter Text

His father had spectacularly good timing for pulling this kind of stunt—for Adrien, anyway. He’d heard from a couple of friends of his that a certain rock star was in town. And if anyone was up for promoting teenage rebellion, Adrien had no doubt it would be Jagged Stone.

It was child’s play to sneak out of the house. He didn’t even have to transform to do it. From there it was just making his way to the Grand Paris Hotel. The staff assumed he was there to see Chloé, so getting in was no problem. Jagged Stone always rented the same suite, so that wasn’t an issue, either.

The hard part, he knew, would come after he knocked on the door.

Jagged opened the door, and then peered at him suspiciously.

“Um, M. Stone, I don’t know if you remember me but—”

The rock star suddenly broke into a wide grin. “Oh, you’re Marinette’s model friend, right?”

Adrien blinked. Maybe this wouldn’t be so hard. His rock idol knew him?

Sadly, he had no time to fanboy.

“Yes, Adrien. I was wondering if I could trouble you for some help?”

And so that was how Adrien Agreste wound up sitting in Jagged Stone’s suite, petting Fang, and telling him about the woe that was the obsession his father had with Lila Rossi, Liar Extraordinaire.

“She said I had a what?”

“A kitten. And she got Marinette expelled and is just being really awful to her.”

Jagged opened a cell phone. “Penny, I need you. Yes, I know I sent you for macrons, but this is really important. Bring my niece with.”

When he was finished, he turned to Adrien again. “We’ll get that taken care of.”

“That’s not all, M. Stone.”

He pressed forward, telling his idol of the relationship he was being forced into and his promise to show Gabriel Agreste just what he could do if he really rebelled.

When he was done, Jagged’s face was gleeful in an almost terrifying way.

“Oh, please tell me I get to help with this?” At Adrien’s nod the man whooped in excitement. “Brilliant. Once my niece gets here, we’ll plan properly. She’s a planner, that one. Smart as a whip.”

Adrien blinked. “Your niece?”

“Marinette, of course! Honorary niece.”

His jaw dropped. Marinette had always had the upper hand on Lila, could call in Jagged at any moment to destroy her, and had held back. He never should’ve stopped her.

“My father can’t know she helped. He’s got so much power in the fashion industry, and I don’t want to hurt her career.”

Jagged waved away his concerns. “Mate, listen. From what I understand you’re the face of that company. You have the power, not him. Get you in some Marinette originals, and he can’t undo the fame that’ll bring her.”

Adrien hadn’t considered that. “I just don’t want her hurt.”

He heard the door open, and then a soft, “Adrien?”

It meant he had to explain the situation all over again, letting Jagged Stone assure her that he was going to pop the liar’s kitten whopper as soon as possible.

“I can stop by your school with Fang, yeah? They can’t keep me from saying hi to my favorite niece.”

Marinette bit her lip. “That would be helpful, but for Adrien…”

Adrien smiled. “I want you to design me a new look. Something we can do here and now—maybe with the discrete help of some of the hotel staff, since they have that nice spa and such. Hair dye, new clothes. Maybe some fake piercings. Oooh, a fake tattoo?”

Jagged glanced at Penny, who looked uncertain about this. “Don’t be a party pooper, Penny.”

“His father might sue you,” she pointed out.

“Like I care. I have money.” He grinned. “And for what? Giving his kid a makeover?”

“French law—”

“Nope, don’t care. It’s happening. Get his sizes and go to my favorite stores. Adrien, what color scheme?”

Adrien blinked. He hadn’t thought that far. He glanced at Marinette. “Um, do you think Chat Noir would mind if I used his colors? I think of him when I think teenage rebellion.”

That was more because being Chat Noir had up to this point been his way of rebelling, but she didn’t need to know that.

To his surprise, Marinette grinned, the smile wide enough to match Jagged’s. “Oh, I like that idea. Chains and spikes? Fake lip ring and septum?”

“Absolutely!”

Jagged made a shooing motion at Penny, who rolled her eyes and headed toward the door, before joining in. “Now how about this idea: black and neon green hair, done to look like a skunk’s stripes!”

Adrien was surprised to find himself laughing honestly at the idea. He’d been so angry less than an hour ago, but this was truly fun. “This makes me think of those J-Rock bands, how they used to dress up.”

Jagged’s phone let out a guitar riff and he glanced at it. “Oh, right. Penny needs your measurements. Shoe size, too. Definitely some stomping boots, I think.”

He handed over his unlocked phone for Adrien to text.

“I’ll call the salon, yeah?”

Adrien nodded, texting the information, then froze. “Wait, Chloé might tell my father.”

That got a laugh. “Nah. They’re discrete. They bring everything up here for me—I won’t be around people if I’m getting my hair dyed.”

While Jagged made the call, Adrien finished the text. When he looked up, Marinette was watching him. She turned pink when she realized he’d caught her.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” she asked after a moment.

He sighed, slumping back on the sofa and resting his hand on Fang’s head again. “No, but I don’t have any better ones. That stupid news claiming I’m with Lila’s going to hit tomorrow. And I’m so done with this, with him treating me like I’m property.”

Marinette looked worried, and he tried to muster up a smile. From her expression, he didn’t manage it.

“Maybe…” she started, then trailed off.

“Maybe?”

She didn’t look at him. “Maybe you should look into laws involving child labor and parental responsibility. You… you might be able to get emancipated.”

That startled him—something he hadn’t even thought of before. He hadn’t even been aware it was an option.

When Marinette did look at him, her eyes were stormy. “He’s so… cruel to you. Maybe there’s legal recourse.”

“I’ll think about it,” he murmured. That seemed like such a drastic measure. “I don’t know if I want to go that far.”

She nodded, and he excused himself to go to the bathroom.

Plagg shot out of his pocket the moment the door was closed. “I’m so proud of you kid. This is gonna be great!”

“Thanks, Plagg.”

The kwami grabbed the proffered wedge of camembert.

“And think about what Pigtails said. Your dad’s a real piece of work, and you deserve better.”

 “I will.”

Adrien could feel the idea turning over in his mind, as though gathering strength. When he left the bathroom, Jagged met him excitedly.

“I have just the idea! A temporary face tattoo!”

Chapter Text

In comparison to Jagged, who was coming up with more and more ridiculous ideas—getting a pet crocodile, for instance, which made it seem he wanted Adrien to be a mini-him—Marinette was positively sedate when Adrien came back into the lounge. She was seated primly with a notebook she’d found somewhere.

She looked up at him, quirking a smile. “We need to be serious about this if we’re going to win.”

Jagged let out an exaggerated sigh. “Ugh, being serious is so not rock n’ roll.”

Adrien blinked. “Win?”

“Beat your dad at his own game. Manipulating public perception.” Marinette gestured to the notebook, which had a list. “We have fifteen hours before the announcement hits the news, about, if it’s meant to be released at nine tomorrow morning. That gives us some time. Not much, but some.”

He sat down, browsing the list.

  • Non-Lila fake relationship (call Nadja Chamack)
  • Not skunk hair – black w/ green tips?
  • Expose Lila – make her inconvenient (no more photoshoots)

Jagged read out loud over his shoulder, adding commentary like, “Wait, you know Nadja Chamack, too?” and “Yeah, I guess that’d look better” and “I’m in!” The last one regarding Lila.

“I texted Penny to come back so we can make the plans more cohesive before moving to clothes,” Marinette said as he handed back the notebook.

“Should I tell the hotel to hold off on the hair, too?” Jagged asked. At Marinette’s nod, he moved across the room to the phone.

Adrien was stunned that she had, in the course of one conversation he’d had in the bathroom with Plagg, come up with something that would look less haphazard.

“But who would I have a fake relationship with?”

The idea made him uneasy. It felt a lot like what his dad was doing.”

She bit her lip. “Um, not me. But someone who knows Lila is toxic and is willing to help us. The only reason for it is to make it look like your dad is trying to break you and this person up, or is embarrassed or something.”

Adrien winced. “I mean, I don’t want to use someone like that. It’d be easiest to choose a guy, since Father wouldn’t dare upset the LGBTQ+ community with him being in the fashion industry, but it’d be a little disrespectful to the community, wouldn’t it?”

Marinette was quiet for a bit. “I… I don’t know. I’m, um… I identify as bi, but… Maybe if you basically said it was a relationship to explore your sexuality? Like with someone who’s also a friend?”

“But… I don’t think I know anyone who’d be willing to do that.

Realistically, everyone in their class was under Lila’s thumb. Another celebrity would make it weird. Other models might be concerned about a future modeling for Gabriel.

Jagged butted in. “Weren’t you jamming with Anarka’s boy that one time?”

Adrien blinked. “Luka?”

“He might be willing to help—and you could promote Kitty Section, too. Make that part of your outfit.” For some reason, Marinette’s cheeks had turned pink. “Um, is it okay if I text him and get him to come?”

Honestly, Adrien had been a bit jealous of Luka when he’d wielded the Snake so well after Adrien’s failure—but Plagg had pointed out that it just meant he was a better Black Cat. And he was fond of the older boy, who had welcomed him into the band even though his father wouldn’t let him play often.

“I think… yeah. Let’s talk to him. Hopefully he’s not fooled by Lila’s act.”

“He’s not,” Marinette said darkly. “I, uh, told him after she got me expelled and almost Akumatized.”

“No!” Jagged jumped up. “I can’t believe she hurt you so bad! Oh, she’s got to go down!”

Penny just so happened to walk in at that moment. “Who?”

“That Lila girl almost got our talented, wonderful Marinette Akumatized, Penny! We can’t have that.” Jagged sprawled against his part of the circular sofa dramatically. “She’s, like, my muse!”

Marinette turned beet red. “I-I’ll just text Luka and ask him to come here.”

She pulled her phone way closer to her face than was necessary. Adrien thought it was cute that she got flustered whenever someone reminded her of her accomplishments—she was so modest, unlike Lila.

Penny, for her part, rolled her eyes at the dramatics, but smiled. “Adrien, can you run through a list of her lies? I might be able to get more people on board, since she seems to like to steal fame.”

Adrien nodded, listing staying with Prince Ali of Achu, being best friends with Ladybug, Jagged Stone’s kitten and song for her, and knowing Steven Besielberg and other Hollywood directors.

“She even told our friend Nino she would introduce him to Steven Besielberg, and he wants to be a filmmaker,” he finished. “And those are just the ones I’ve heard—she probably has more.”

Jagged broke in. “I wrote one for Ladybug after she saved me, and Mariette inspired a song, but I’d never write her a song, even as a take-down. She doesn’t deserve it.”

Penny was writing on her pad. “I can get in touch with Steven Besielberg, at least. That should be interesting.”

“Luka’s on his way,” Marinette broke in. “And, uh, I just realized my idea for your hair would match his… So maybe that was a sign?”

Adrien smiled. “At least that I should also spend time playing with Kitty Section again.”

Penny cleared her throat. “Adrien, do you have control of your official social media?”

He rubbed the back of his head. “Kind of? My father has the password for both my email and my social media accounts.”

She nodded, and gestured to a laptop on a nearby desk. “Change them while we wait for M. Couffaine. I’ll help you make sure he can’t regain control.”

By the time they finished, Luka had arrived. Adrien and Marinette worked to explain the situation to him; the blond could tell by the look on his face, as though he’d just smelled something nasty, that Luka knew of and wasn’t fond of Lila.

He hadn’t even gotten to asking him, when the older boy abruptly nodded. “A fake relationship. Something your father can’t protest without looking bad. I’ll do it, so long as we take down Lila, too.”

Adrien grinned. “Already in the works.”

Marinette, though, looked worried. “Has she done something?”

Luka scowled. “She’s been trying to make things weird between Juleka and Rose lately. It’s bad enough she hurt Marinette, but she’s not hurting my sister.”

Adrien traded serious glances with Marinette. This was bigger, more important, than just avoiding a fake relationship with Lila now. If the liar had proved anything with her plot to get Marinette expelled, it was that she didn’t care who she hurt, what relationships she destroyed.

It was time to take her down.

Chapter Text

An hour later, Marinette made a trip home for her design sketchbook and supplies, and returned also with a box of pastries and a leftover black Kitty Section shirt with the blue Luka design in Adrien’s size.

“I figured this could be the basis of your outfit,” she said. “After all, you’re dating him.”

Adrien liked the idea, and Luka smiled as he held the shirt up against his chest to demonstrate the look.

“I never did get to make a design for you, Adrien. But maybe that and an outfit for the next concert if you’re able to play,” she continued. “Oh, and I was thinking—we need to call Kagami.”

“Kagami?”

Marinette nodded. “She got Akumatized when Lila sent that photo of her kissing you and implying you were dating. It’s best if we let her know. She’s your friend, and she’s trustworthy.”

He nodded. “Uh, I don’t know how closely my father monitors my phone, though…”

Luka silently unlocked his phone and handed it to him.

“I’ll text her to let her know to expect a call from an unknown number,” Marinette volunteered, pulling out her own phone. “And see if she wants to come over here. She might have more ideas.”

Pretty quickly, they had another person on board and actively planning with them. Kagami seemed to understand the gravity of the situation immediately.

“That girl is bad news,” she said when she arrived. “Your father’s actions make little sense.”

Marinette snorted at that. “They never have. I like his designing, but he’s basically awful otherwise.”

Adrien didn’t bother defending him. Really, it’d been bad for a while except for the bright spot of being allowed to go to school. Everything else had been difficult.

Kagami actually quirked a smile. “With the exception of his day wear, certainly.”

Marinette goggled, then started giggling helplessly. It didn’t take long for the rest of them to follow.

“Oh, man, Kagami. You’re right; he dresses terribly,” Marinette gasped when she could breathe again.

“So since I’m disobeying, maybe I can tell him that?” Adrien wondered. “I mean, I already called him ‘Gabe’…”

The others stared at him, and he shifted uncomfortably.

“Really?” Kagami asked softly. “For you to be that upset, you clearly feel safer angering him than being in a fake relationship with that girl.”

Adrien hadn’t thought of it in exactly those terms, but she was right.

“Her heart song is… disturbing,” Luka commented. “I’ve heard ones like it, but it’s rare.”

“What does it sound like?” Marinette asked, glancing up from her sketching.

Luka was silent for a moment, as though searching for the words to express it. “Empty. It’s like there’s an echo, and it sounds ominous. I’d compare it to foreboding music from a TV show or film, all off-beat, the kind of music that raises goosebumps in the bad way.”

“Like Jaws?” Adrien asked.

“Worse,” Luka murmured, shaking his head. “I’d offer to play it, but I’d rather not foist it on anyone else.”

They were quiet, taking that in for a minute, until Marinette cleared her throat.

“Okay, so we’re doing this. Adrien, change into the shirt so I can see what it looks like and plan accessories for Penny to get. I’m thinking torn black jeans, for starters, but I need to conceptualize.”

He grabbed the shirt to change in the bathroom; when he got back, he wasn’t expecting what she said next.

“And if you’ve been getting closer to Luka and decided to go out recently, you guys need to seem comfortable with each other.” Her cheeks were flushed. “Um. So. You need to get used to cuddling.”

Adrien blinked, glancing at Luka, who seemed to take this in stride, lifting one arm welcomingly. He moved closer, startled regardless when Luka’s arm dropped on his shoulders. The blond didn’t often have contact like this except with maybe Nino. And Ladybug, but he couldn’t admit that to anyone. And when it was people he was close to, he liked contact like this; but it was weird when it was… fake. He and Luka were friends, but they’d never…

“Is this okay?” Luka asked. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

“I, um… I’m not… used to this, I guess. Like, my dad never hugs me or anything. I get hugs from friends, and…” He shrugged slightly.

No one spoke for a minute, and he internally panicked. He wasn’t supposed to speak up and be needy. When he spoke again it was soft. “I wish I got them more.”

He completely missed the way the others exchanged a glance, trying to avoid their glances.

The next thing he knew, he was halfway in Luka’s lap, his head in Marinette’s, Kagami close to her side, all of them in contact with him. It was wonderful—after the initial shock wore off, anyway—their affection and the physical warmth was just absolutely what he wanted. There were hands in his hair, Luka’s arm across his waist.

Luka was smiling. “I kind of like snuggling, anyway. Though you might have to compete with my guitar.”

Marinette was blushing a bit. “There’s nothing wrong with platonic affection, Adrien.”

“Although it is not the norm in Japanese culture, living in France has accustomed me to it,” Kagami added. “Although often between genders it is assumed to be less than platonic.”

“So probably it should mostly be you and Luka in public, unless you want to come out as bi and so not into Lila at all,” Marinette chirped.

“Careful,” Adrien joked. “I might get too used to this.”

“You’ll have to, if we’re going to pull this off convincingly,” Luka told him with a laugh.

Marinette, sadly, remembered she had a job she was doing and sighed, grabbing her sketchbook and removing her hands from his hair.

“Okay, so clothing-wise, I was thinking black jeans, maybe skinny jeans, and a leather bomber jacket. And, um, for more of a punk look, they have these awesome men’s combat boots with buckles that go like halfway up the calf. Then a few bracelets, like what Luka has. But black and green?”

“I think the green in his hair should match his eyes,” Luka commented. “Neon would seem off. So probably the same with the bracelets. They have really nice green beaded ones that would do the trick.”

Adrien glanced at Luka’s face and hair. “Like how yours is kind of similar to your eyes?”

That earned a soft look from the guitarist. “Yeah, exactly like that.”

Kagami coughed delicately. “And that is how you should look at each other.”

He knew from the way his face heated that his blush mirrored Luka’s.

Marinette snorted. “Come on, Kagami. Let’s get Penny and go shopping, and leave these two to figure out their cuddling.”

She twisted out from under Adrien, letting him fall back on the couch awkwardly, his legs flailing a bit as he tried to find balance.

“Hey,” Luka protested in faux outrage, “no manhandling my boyfriend.”

“My hero.”

Marinette and Kagami laughed all the way out of the room.

Chapter Text

Luka and Adrien’s eyes met after the girls left, and they couldn’t keep from giggling themselves stupid for a bit.

“Thanks for doing this, Luka,” Adrien said when he eventually caught his breath again. “I mean, I know it puts you out a bit.”

That received a shrug. “I really don’t mind. The liar has to be stopped, and if it keeps her from hurting you more, all the better.” He sighed softly. “I wish I’d been able to protect Marinette from her.”

Adrien nodded. “I didn’t expect Lila to get her expelled.”

“She threatened Marinette, as well, don’t forget.”

“What?” His voice sounded hollow to his own ears, and he propped himself up on his elbows. “She what?”

Luka’s eyes widened a bit. “Marinette didn’t tell you?”

“No.”

Adrien thought back on Marinette’s behavior, how she’d started to shrink into herself since Lila had returned to class. She always seemed on edge, jumpy anymore—even before the near-expulsion. If she’d been threatened, no wonder…

“When?” he asked after a moment, letting his head fall back on the sofa cushion.

“She said something about a blinding napkin? I didn’t really understand the context, but…”

He winced. So it had been before he’d given her his stupid advice. He was such an idiot.

“I told her Lila wasn’t hurting anyone.”

Luka gently pushed Adrien’s legs off his lap, then pulled him into a sitting position against his side. “Hey,” he murmured. “You didn’t know. She didn’t tell you. You gave her the best advice you could with the information you had.”

“I still should have… done something. Marinette deserves that much.”

“She isn’t one to demand that sort of thing.” Luka patted his shoulder. “Especially since Lila makes you uncomfortable, and she’s not blind to that.”

Adrien grimaced. “She keeps… touching me. Like she owns me. It’s creepy and invasive and I don’t like it.”

The hand moved away from him then back, like Luka wasn’t sure if this qualified.

“Not you, or Mari, or Kagami. I’m even okay with Chloé. But not her,” he clarified, leaning his head against Luka’s shoulder.

Luka’s hand settled back on Adrien’s shoulder. “Good. The goal is to make you comfortable, not make it worse.”

This was of course the moment Jagged Stone chose to walk back in. “Aw, aren’t you two cute? Time to call the salon, then, get done before the girls get back, yeah? You have a date with dye!”

Luka and Adrien met each other’s gaze and started giggling again.

--

Kagami watched Marinette fidget, a habit she knew from prior interactions was an indication of the girl’s nerves. She often couldn’t help but be impressed by her friend, and this was no different. Clearly Marinette had taken charge to come up with a plan to help Adrien—and had not taken advantage of the situation to become his fake girlfriend.

Which, actually, if Kagami considered, made sense—she would not wish to do that, either. It would be more painful than anything. Marinette had approached the situation wisely.

She was further surprised that they had decided upon Luka as the faux boyfriend, as he seemed to be courting Marinette.

But she had put Adrien above herself, as a true friend would. Truly, Kagami had learned much from her about friendship in their short acquaintance, and she was certain she’d learn more as time went on.

The limo pulled up outside a store that had outfits that looked far more intense than Kagami usually considered viable for her clothing, but in the case of Adrien’s rebellion would likely serve perfectly. She slid out and offered Marinette a hand getting out.

“You’re very kind to help Adrien through this situation,” she noted, hoping to put her at ease. “And I thank you for thinking to include me. I haven’t ever had fun like this.”

The smile she received was almost blinding, and Marinette’s nervousness seemed to dissipate. “I’m glad you’re here, Kagami. It’s always more fun to do a makeover with friends.”

Penny entered the store ahead of them, and Kagami followed with Marinette in tow.

“To be honest, I am not good with choosing clothing,” Kagami admitted. “As a result I often simply wear my school uniform.”

That earned another brilliant smile. “I’d be happy to go shopping with you sometime. Or, I make a lot of my own clothing, and it’d be fun to design something for you.”

Kagami offered a smile in return. “I would be honored to model your designs, Marinette. In the meantime, I look forward to learning as you pick out Adrien’s new look.”

Marinette flitted around the store, choosing several pairs of black jeans, some pre-worn with holes, others with strategic rips or even chains. As the shirt was already taken care of, she looked at different jacket options, eventually choosing one which zipped at a slight diagonal and had a larger silver zipper and fittings. She also selected a black zip-up hoodie with green trim, similar to Luka’s.

Eventually, she made her way to the footwear, seeming torn between a couple of options. Marinette turned to her, holding up two styles. Both were black leather boots that would reach about halfway up Adrien’s calf; the first laced and also had five rather large buckles, and the second not only laced and had three buckles, but were further accented by chains above and below the buckles held in place by fixtures shaped like silver-colored brass knuckles.

“Which do you think, Kagami?”

She was glad Marinette was including her in the process. “Aesthetically, they both seem to have the desired rebellious tone. However, the ones with chains seem a bit impractical, and perhaps too much.”

Marinette nodded, setting aside the pair Kagami had rejected—her opinion, as inexpert as it was, had been valued.

They ended the trip near the jewelry, looking at the various options. A jade-green beaded bracelet caught Kagami’s eye, and when she pointed it out to Marinette it was added to the pile. Marinette found a leather bracelet with a Jagged Stone logo which was also added to the pile.

At the earrings, Marinette paused.

“I know he has pierced ears, since he modeled some of my earrings, but he doesn’t normally wear any…”

Kagami nodded. “Is that not reason for him to do so now?”

“Good point!” Marinette graced her with another smile. “I’m so glad you came with.”

They worked together, and Marinette laughed, her voice ringing out like bells, when she found a pair of black studs with a neon green Chat Noir paw on them. Kagami didn’t quite understand the joke.

“He originally was going to choose Chat Noir’s colors,” she explained. “I guess Chat represents rebellion to him.”

“Ah, so then these are perfect—they allow him to stick with his initial idea a bit.”

Penny was waiting for them, chatting with the clerk, and pulled out Jagged Stone’s credit card without even looking at the price.

“Didn’t take you two long,” she commented as their items were being packaged. “I doubt they’ve finished the dye job yet.”

“Marinette had a vision,” Kagami responded. “She is quite efficient.”

She blushed at the compliment and grabbed two of the bags. Kagami grabbed the third, and they left the store, ready to return to the hotel for the rest of the plan.

Chapter Text

Adrien was waiting for the dye to set when the girls returned, his hair securely under a shower cap. Apparently the stylist had decided to start by dying his entire head green, and the black would be applied to his roots afterward, with the logic of start with the light color, then apply the dark.

He’d never had his hair dyed, so he had just nodded. Luka hadn’t known if that was typical—apparently his normal hair color was black, and he just bleached and dyed the tips. It was amazing how much he was learning about his friends in just one evening.

The girls were carrying three large parcels, which they unpacked for them to take a look at. Several different styles of jeans—“We can return anything that doesn’t work,” Marinette said—a studded leather jacket, a hoodie that he just loved, and some jewelry.

“Chat Noir studs?” he asked incredulously. “They had those?”

Marinette nodded. “Kagami found them, and you mentioned Chat colors. We kind of changed that a little, but it seemed in keeping.”

Adrien grinned. “Thanks, girls. I really appreciate it.”

Kagami pulled out a large box. “There are also these boots. Marinette asked for my input on the choice, so I hope you find them to your liking.”

He stared after opening it, amazed to find what were basically stomping boots with huge buckles, reaching probably mid-calf.

“My father is going to have a heart attack,” he said after a moment, sounding not at all bothered by this. It was, after all, the point to freak the elder Agreste out. “You really went all-out! How much do I owe Jagged, Penny?”

Jagged was the one who responded. “Just some pics, I think. Hanging out like we’re jamming, yeah?”

That brought a bigger grin to Adrien’s face. If he had pictures, dressed in some of this and with his hair completely dyed, with Jagged Stone, it would be even more amazing. Not only for the sake of having those pictures, but for the reaction.

Luka brought it a bit further. “What about a video of the three of us jamming? Released to social media?”

Jagged and Penny exchanged a look, and she sighed. “Should I get a videographer?”

Marinette shook her head, a grin playing at her lips. “I think phones—we don’t want it to look set up. Just random. But we will need a keyboard for Adrien, and a guitar for Luka. And I know the perfect person to send it to first.”

All eyes turned to her.

“I babysit Nadja Chamack’s daughter, so I have her cell phone number.” Marinette’s voice was filled with glee.

Jagged grinned. “Bring out the big guns on this one.”

Penny nodded. “She may not be able to interview you without parental permission, but the video and news could make the rounds.”

“We’ll ruin my father’s announcement,” Adrien said with a laugh. “Serves him right.”

Kagami glanced at her phone. “We do not have a significant amount of time. Perhaps posting teasers on social media would be an apt way to start?”

“His hair isn’t finished yet,” Luka responded. “That will take perhaps another hour or so…”

Marinette nodded. “We can do other things. Adrien, you need to pick out a pair of jeans, and get dressed. We can get a shot of you and Luka cuddling, but without your heads in the shot. Start with a teaser to rile up social media.”

“We will want to drape the sofa with a sheet in order to hide the location. These sofas have a… distinctive color,” Penny added. “I have no doubt M. Agreste would recognize them, and then we would have difficulty.”

They got to work. Adrien chose a pair of the jeans that had silver decorative zippers randomly placed on the legs, moving to the bathroom to change out of his normal jeans.

As he did, something occurred to him. “Uh, Plagg?”

His kwami was nibbling on a bit of Camembert that had been in his jeans pocket. “Hm?”

“The hair… It’s not going to reveal my identity, right?”

Plagg laughed. “No way. I can change that without breaking a sweat. It’s worth it to see your dad’s face.”

Adrien relaxed—he’d been afraid he’d really screwed up. That was the last thing he wanted; Ladybug would kill him if he revealed his identity so stupidly.

“Anyway, I wouldn’t let you do anything that exposed your identity. But you’ll have to take off the studs before transforming—not sure if I could do much with those.”

When he left the bathroom, one section of the sofa was covered. Marinette eyed him critically before she nodded, muttering about fitting.

“You might need help with these boots,” Luka commented, holding one up.

“Definitely welcome. Do those lace, too?”

Kagami answered. “Yes. The buckles appear to be primarily decorative. Marinette was torn between these and a pair with three buckles and chains above and below. However, that seemed unnecessarily complicated.”

Adrien blanched at the idea. “Yeah, definitely.”

Luka helped him get the boots on, while Marinette snapped a leather bracelet on his right wrist. Kagami slid the green beaded one after that. Once the boots were securely buckled, he started to grab the box with the studs before realizing they wouldn’t show in the picture and could get ruined with the dye.

“Do you want to wear the leather jacket, or the hoodie?” Marinette asked.

While the leather jacket was tempting, Adrien didn’t think it was right for this. “I think the hoodie is more casual, and it’ll look better.”

“I agree,” Kagami said. “It will match with Luka, and add the appearance of being a couple further through the parallel dress.”

Marinette handed it to him, and then she and Luka fiddled with the sleeves so his bracelets would show.

Finally, they were ready, and Adrien and Luka sat on the couch. Not that Adrien knew what to do beyond that.

At Marinette’s urging, they slid closer together. After a few minutes of rearranging, Luka’s leg wound up bent behind Adrien, with him snuggled against the older boy’s opposite shoulder—he was careful that the shower cap didn’t slide up and cover them both with dye. Kagami rearranged one of his legs to be a shadow of Luka’s. It was a bit of an intimate position, but not too much; just enough to imply.

Then they played with arm positions, trying several options before deciding on one of Luka’s arms around him, and the other propped on Adrien’s bent knee.

“Adrien, lace your fingers with Luka’s hand, the one at your waist,” Penny interjected.

Adrien followed her instructions, hoping this looked natural. He was used to modeling, but had never done a shoot like this before—and Luka wasn’t a model, so hopefully it wasn’t making him uncomfortable.

Finally Marinette nodded and smiled. “Now just relax your muscles. Enjoy cuddling with your boyfriend. Both of you.”

“I feel like a mannequin,” Luka muttered, and Adrien couldn’t stop himself from laughing, easing against him helplessly. Luka’s fingers squeezed his slightly before easing, and the older boy pulled him a bit closer.

He barely registered the flashes from the girls’ cell phone cameras as they moved to different angles, catching multiple possibilities, even standing on different parts of the couch or the table.

A knock on the door interrupted them, and they hurried to hide in the kitchenette area. It was the hairdresser and some hotel staff carrying a specialty sink for washing the dye out, the time already come. He took off the hoodie so it wouldn’t stain.

While the stylist washed the dye out and applied the black, the others crowded around the two cell phones to decide the best picture, murmuring amongst themselves. Eventually they had a photo cropped and filtered.

When they showed it to Adrien, he was amazed they were able to get it to look so good with just a quick set-up. It showed his smile and Luka’s, but nothing above that, and the position looked natural. They looked happy, close. Just like it was a candid shot. He loved the way Luka’s painted nails offset his unpainted ones, their rings resting together in their interlaced hands. He wanted to get his nails done, too. Why not go all the way?

Marinette was born to do fashion, clearly, if she could put together a shoot like this in minutes.

One the stylist finished, Adrien used the computer to upload it to Instagram. It took a while to consider what message to include with it, but he settled on, “Someone very special in my life. Been keeping it quiet, but decided to go public finally. ♥”

He quickly shared it to all his official social media.

“Anyone want to bet on how long it takes my father to call?” he joked.

As it turned out, it took barely ten minutes, and Adrien’s phone was blowing up with social media notifications within the first minute. He rejected the call, and all the subsequent ones, and ignored the text messages. Especially the ones from Lila.

“You may want to turn off your phone so he is unable to track you,” Kagami commented.

The cacophony stopped once he followed her advice.

Luka smiled when his own phone pinged. “Juleka figured it out. She wants to know how long we’ve been dating.”

Marinette laughed, pulling out her sketchbook again. “Okay, on to the next phase. Details. How long, how many dates—and probably when you were supposed to be doing other stuff, Adrien, but Kagami and I can cover some of that. Maybe we can say we knew and helped you two spend time together?”

Then she got a wicked grin. “And you need to figure out pet names for each other, maybe?”

Adrien and Luka exchanged a look.

“I’m guessing Magic Fingers is inappropriate?” Luka drawled.

It took a while for them to stop laughing.

Chapter Text

The pet names discussion had wound up getting extremely silly. They’d all gone back to relaxing together and kind of cuddling on the big sofa. At first the only one Adrien could come up with was “Blue,” to which Luka had responded, “If you call me Blue, I’m calling you Green.” The girls had vetoed both.

Adrien had joked about Maestro, which Marinette had argued was almost as bad as Magic Fingers.

Interestingly, it was Marinette who had, with the help of her phone, come up with the winning one.

“You know, the name Luka means ‘light.’ Any ideas based on that?”

After some discussion, Adrien had come up with the poetic idea of “Firefly,” like Luka was his light in the dark. Kagami had deemed that adorable, and Luka had turned red.

Luka’s suggestions for Adrien’s nickname largely had to do with music, and while Adrien had been fond of Allegro for a cheerful beat, both girls disagreed, saying they were too niche.

“Alya’s nickname for him is Sunshine,” Marinette finally commented.

Luka smiled. “My Star, then?”

Kagami and Marinette exchanged a look as Adrien’s face heated, then said together, “Perfect.”

“I think we can still do the blue and green joke sometimes,” Adrien murmured, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment.

“Can I call you MF as a joke?” Luka asked.

Adrien grinned. “Only if I can call you Maestro.”

Marinette groaned. “This is going to be ridiculous.”

“It’ll upset my father,” Adrien pointed out. “Which is the point.”

“Honestly, if they have more than one nickname for each other, it lends credence to the idea that they’ve been secretly dating for a bit. We should specify how long it’s been, of course,” Kagami added.

“I mentioned to Mari that I don’t want to eventually say it was fake, if that’s okay. If anything, we weren’t sure and decided to try dating.” He glanced at Luka.

“I can understand that. I identify as pansexual, though I rarely discuss it,” Luka said with a nod. “So I wouldn’t mind being thought to have been in a relationship with you. We can say we met when we did, on the boat, and you joined Kitty Section. And maybe we decided to go for it a couple weeks ago?”

“I have enabled the two of you to be together after fencing practice several times, then,” Kagami offered. “You have gone for juice?”

“You’ve gotten soul mate ice cream from André!” Marinette crowed. “We can make up a flavor combination.”

Luka grinned. “Green and blue, obviously.”

“Perhaps instead we should go find André once the dye is done,” Kagami commented. “It wouldn’t do to make up a fake flavor combination when we could find out for sure.”

“And you can eat it in the limo, so you’re not out in public too long,” Penny interjected. While Jagged had retired to the other room for a nap with Fang, she’d stayed with them to, as she had put it, ‘chaperone.’ “We’d rather not garner too much attention from M. Agreste this soon.”

“It’ll be another picture for social media.” Adrien hoped Luka wouldn’t get the kind of negative reaction from fans that Marinette had when fans had assumed she was his girlfriend. “I should probably check the comments on those, actually…”

“Not using your phone,” Kagami reminded him.

Marinette pulled out hers, and they all scooted closer to look.

 

alya.ladyblogger: @adrienagrestebrand wtf when did this happen, Sunshine? #NinoNeedsAnInstagram

alya.ladyblogger: @adrienagrestebrand why is your phone off omgggg

theofficialchloebourgeois: Adrikins, your social media has obv been hacked.

alya.ladyblogger: @theofficialchloebourgeois why do you think it’s been hacked? That’s Sunshine’s smile, for sure.

theofficialchloebourgeois: because there’s no way! He’d tell me!

 

Aside from those, there were fan reactions ranging from excited congratulations to rather ugly homophobic remarks that made him feel a bit ill to look at—especially now that he knew Mari was bi and Luka was pan.

The official Gabriel Instagram account hadn’t addressed it at all, so Adrien assumed his father was still having a temper tantrum.

A knock on the door sent them scrambling to the kitchenette, but it was the spa staff ready to rinse the dye.

When he was getting his hair blow-dried, Marinette handed him her phone again so he could see what she’d just replied.

 

marinettedesigned: You look so happy with him! I’m glad you two decided to go public!

 

He glanced at her with a frown. “Are you sure you want to imply you knew?”

“Yeah. Kagami’s going to, and I’m going to, too.” Then she got a wicked grin. “It’ll drive Lila batty.”

“Honestly, I don’t see her being able to hold back, regardless. But that will certainly make her angrier. I just hope it doesn’t make her go after you more than she has.” Adrien looked at her reproachfully. “I wish you’d told me she’d threatened you, Mari. I never would’ve given you that awful advice.”

Marinette turned red, and Kagami scowled.

“This girl threatened Marinette?” When both Adrien and Luka nodded, the girl clenched her fists. “That is unacceptable.”

“I’m okay,” Marinette whispered.

Luka settled a hand on her shoulder. “She’s hurt you, made you more anxious. I can’t help you, since I don’t go to school with you. But Adrien can.”

“Perhaps during the hour and a half that our schools allow for lunch, Luka and I can join you and Adrien,” Kagami added, placing her hand on Marinette’s other shoulder. “We can present a united front.”

“Usually I’m expected home for lunch, but as I’m engaging in teenager rebellion, staying at school to eat lunch with my boyfriend is a nice way to do that.”

“Then it’s settled,” Kagami said decisively. “We shall eat lunch together either at Collège Françoise Dupont or at a café or restaurant in the surrounding area from now on.”

The relieved smile that graced Marinette’s face was almost heartbreaking, and Adrien realized exactly how much stress she’d been under, how much he’d failed her. He took her hand, squeezing it lightly in apology.

The stylist finished with his hair a few minutes later, and after they spent a few minutes admiring the results, Marinette pulled his hood up so they could all sneak down to the limo. They found André Glacier’s location via social media, and Penny had the driver take them as close as possible.

There wasn’t a line, so they rushed out of the limo and hurried to the cart. Luka and Adrien approached first.

André greeted them like old friends. “Ah, a lovely pair the two of you make. Blueberry for the gentle heart’s tranquility, a soothing sweetness. And, ah, for you… You’ve come into your own, young man! Passion fruit for the one shining bright as the sun!”

“Would you get some with me as well, Marinette?” Kagami asked. “I would not be able to finish an entire one on my own.”

André smiled at them. “I’ve just the treat for you. Orange for the fire that burns in her heart, blackberry for her night-dark hair. A dual sweetness, with a twist, for the two of you.”

They hurried back to the waiting limo, managing to escape notice—fortunately it was an odd hour. Once inside, they took advantage of the photo opportunity with Adrien and Luka, then passed around the treats, all four of them sharing in the flavors.

“I’m glad I got passion fruit,” Adrien commented. “It’s my favorite. And all the others go so well with it!”

Kagami’s phone buzzed. “Regrettably, I am expected to return home, or I would enjoy continuing to help.”

“We’ll drop you off before we return to the hotel,” Penny told her. “It’s always nice meeting Marinette’s friends, and I’m sure Jagged will be disappointed he didn’t get to say goodbye.”

They had dropped Kagami off and just returned to the hotel when Marinette’s phone went off.

But this time it was an Akuma alert.

Chapter Text

Adrien had felt a bit guilty when he took advantage of the rush to return to the suite to disappear to transform—he knew they’d worry, since the Akuma was likely going to look for him, but he had to help Ladybug defeat it.

The Akuma sucked the color and joy out of whatever it touched, the power turning into clothing and accessories that resembled Luka’s. It made an odd amount of sense, if the Akuma was a fan upset by Adrien’s fake relationship. So far it had leather pants, ornate boots, a leather jacket, kohl around its eyes, black fingernails, and hair that was black with… rainbow tips?

As Chat Noir got closer, he realized he recognized the person under all that.

“Wayhem?”

The Akuma turned toward him, face contorted in a sneer. “That’s Fade-Out to you! No one else can be happy until I am! Give me your Miraculous!”

He’d figured it was a fan, but had never imagined Wayhem would be the one, that he’d harbored feelings like that for Adrien. He’d been completely blind to it. What else had he been blind to?

Chat barely dodged when Fade-Out tried to grab him, then was pulled out of danger by Ladybug’s yoyo.

“I think the Akuma is in his glove,” she said as Fade-Out tried to find a way up to them.

When Chat peered, he could see on his right hand was a black fingerless motorcycle glove; embossed on the back was Adrien’s face. It was probably the face from his life-size cardboard cut-out he’d signed for Wayhem after he’d acted as Adrien’s body-double when Gorilla was Akumatized.

“So I need to let him get close enough to touch me, make sure I hit the glove.”

Ladybug frowned. “It’s too risky. Let’s see what we get with Lucky Charm!”

A red-and-black postless pillory fell into her arms, and she grimaced at it.

“I guess we need to immobilize him?” Chat asked.

Ladybug sighed. “You know my Lucky Charms aren’t that simple, chaton.”

She glanced around, seemingly looking for an answer, then pointed at a road sign, the one to rue du Chat-qui-Pêche, the smallest street in Paris—or, rather, the narrowest.

“The pillory will just barely fit in there, and with the drainpipes…”

Chat grinned. “Shall we pillory an Akuma, m’Lady?”

It took less than a minute of cat puns to get Fade-Out chasing him, and the moment the Akuma was in the alley, Ladybug snapped the pillory around his neck. His forward motion was halted so abruptly when it caught on a drainpipe that he lost his feet and wound up with his hands splayed on the pavement. Chat was able to Cataclysm the glove quickly and with no danger.

Then it was just a matter of Ladybug purifying the Akuma, unlatching the pillory, and tossing it in the air to release the Miraculous Cure, and Wayhem was on his hands and knees in the tiny street.

Once they’d fist-bumped, Chat turned her way. “I’ll handle the young man—I’ve more time before I detransform.”

Ladybug smiled and nodded, then yoyoed away.

Wayhem was staring up at him in dawning horror. “Oh, no. I was Akumatized?”

Chat offered him a hand. “Yeah. You okay?”

Once on his feet, Wayhem leaned against the wall with a sigh. “It’s so dumb. I was just a little jealous. I didn’t— Well, there’s this guy who’s a model, Adrien Agreste?”

He nodded, figuring he was expected to.

“Well, I was a ridiculous fanboy for a while, and kinda obsessive, and then he asked for my help when he was targeted by an Akuma. We became friends. And he… well, he just announced he has a boyfriend.”

Wayhem winced, rubbing his neck, his expression embarrassed.

“I didn’t even know… that was an option.”

Chat patted his shoulder; he felt badly that Wayhem had gotten caught up in this, but it was over and done with—and Adrien wouldn’t go back and fake-date Lila even knowing this.

“Honestly, maybe it wasn’t, though. You don’t know how he met his boyfriend or the circumstances,” he finally offered.

“I know.” Wayhem sighed. “It was just a moment of disappointment, you know?”

“And Hawkass took advantage.” Chat offered him a smile. “Just try to be happy for your friend, then. There’s someone out there for you.”

That got a little smile, just as the Miraculous beeped at him.

“That’s my cue to skiddoo!”

He gave the boy a little salute and was gratified when he got the same back, then he vaulted away, back toward the hotel.

Once he found a place to detransform and give Plagg some cheese, he snuck in and back to the suite, only to find Luka in the midst of pacing, Marinette and Penny looking concerned, and Jagged looking a bit irate.

When Luka saw him, he immediately stopped, and something in the older boy’s body language eased. It struck Adrien suddenly that Luka had been worried, something he hadn’t figured would happen.

“Sorry, wound up getting stuck downstairs. Figured I’d stay put until the Ladyblog put out the all clear.”

“Same thing happened to me,” Marinette offered.

Luka dragged his fingers through his hair. “It’s fine. These things happen.”

Jagged snorted. “You’re not fine, kid. You’re a bloody mess. Practically chewed all the polish off his nails. It was like when Penny misplaces me, only worse.”

“I don’t misplace you,” she muttered. “You wander off and terrorize people with Fang.”

A glance at Luka’s nails confirmed Jagged’s words, though. Most of his black nailpolish was gone.

“Oh. Well, we can get the spa folks up again. I kind of want mine done, too,” Adrien commented.

Luka frowned, then nodded. “Sorry… I just… I’m responsible for Juleka, and you both went missing, and the Akuma attack, and…”

Marinette stood, putting a hand on his arm. “Hey. You’re not responsible for me, or for Adrien.”

“But I’m his boyfriend now.”

Adrien blinked. “Is that how it works?”

Maybe it was—sometimes in movies and TV shows that was how it worked.

No.” Penny’s voice was almost deadly. “That’s not how it works. You’re not his caregiver.”

Luka looked uncertain, like he was ready to argue.

Jagged scowled at him. “Nope, kid. I know Anarka’s a free spirit, but you’re not responsible for the world.”

Marinette offered Luka a hesitant smile. “You’ve got an independent boyfriend, Luka.”

The smile Luka attempted back looked very feeble.

“I’m sorry I worried you, Luka,” Adrien said, scratching the back of his head anxiously. “Most of the time my father keeps me shut in my room and forgets about me. So I didn’t think to let you guys know… but I didn’t have my phone on me, either. Whoops.”

Jagged turned the scowl on Adrien. “Okay, that’s gotta be addressed, too. So not okay. Social media blitz.”

Penny gestured to the computer. “You have a picture to post, anyway. Might as well fire some shots while you’re at it.”

Marinette and Luka exchanged a dark look, and then Luka drew himself up. “Okay. Your dad’s an asshole. Let’s air some dirty laundry?”

Adrien grinned. “I thought you’d never ask.”

Chapter Text

Huddled around the computer, the three of them considered what to post alongside the pictures, ‘chaperoned’ once again by Penny. Jagged had wandered off, muttering to himself about stupid parents.

They eventually decided on posting a lovely cropped image of Adrien and Luka feeding each other bites of ice cream with the caption “Wish I’d been allowed to do this before. I’m not permitted to go out with friends much. :( But I can’t think of anyone else I’d want to share soulmate ice cream with.”

“You should send a link to that to Nadja Chamack, to get her on it if she isn’t already,” Penny noted.

Adrien took a moment to google his name and laughed. “Yeah, not all that necessary, though she could ‘leak’ some of the other images?”

Marinette’s fingers flew over her screen, and when she finished she immediately got a responding text.

“She wants to know what made you go public.”

Luka got an evil grin. “His father wanted to force him to date his teenage muse.”

Marinette glanced at Adrien, who considered for a moment before nodding. “Definitely. Said it would be ‘good for the brand.’ Put that in quotation marks.”

There was no immediate after the text was sent, so they went back to focusing on social media.

 

adrienagrestebrand: tbh I wish I wasn’t forced to model so much. I’d like to play with Kitty Section more. I’m the keyboardist but I don’t get to play much.

adrienagrestebrand: Also I hate missing school for photo shoots, and I wish I could hang out with my friends more.

 

Then Adrien got the idea to remotely check his text messages. The ones from his father were demands he return control of the social media accounts and return home. The last one had come around the time they’d gotten ice cream.

Meanwhile, Lila’s texts were very interesting, about half an hour apart.

 

Lila: How dare you call me a lying cow!

Lila: You can stop pretending you have a choice, Adrien.

Lila: If you come back now, I’ll try to remember you’re my ‘friend.’

Lila: You ditched me for some wharf-rat boy?!

Lila: Also those clothes are hideous.

Lila: I won’t honor our agreement.

Lila: wtf did you do to your hair! I won’t be seen with you!

Lila: Marinette is fair game. It won’t just be expulsion this time.

Lila: I warned you.

 

Both Luka and Adrien turned to Marinette, whose fists were clenched on her knees. Her face was pale, and she was shaking slightly. Wordlessly, the two of them pulled her close, until she was snuggled between them, her face flushed.

“What was she talking about, agreement?” Marinette finally asked.

Adrien launched into the story, how he had confronted her at the photo shoot and implied he’d make being a model difficult if she didn’t fix it.

Marinette’s eyes were wide and surprised when he finished. “I… I didn’t realize you were behind that.”

“I had to do something. It just wasn’t enough.” Adrien took her phone from where it sat on the desk, and snapped a picture of the texts from Lila. “Text it to Nadja.”

“And to Kagami,” Luka added.

Marinette did, clarifying in the text to Nadja Chamack that it was Lila Rossi, the Italian ambassador’s daughter and Gabriel Agreste’s new muse, then bit her lip. “Should I send it to Alya, too?”

The two boys nodded in unison. “And Nino,” Adrien added. “Maybe the entire class, even. Can you email it to M. Damocles and Mme. Bustier, too? Maybe Mme. Mendeleiev, too?”

They watched as Marinette’s fingers flew, texting the pic with the claim Adrien sent it to her, then accessing the school website and emailing the two teachers and the principal.

Penny got their attention, leaning around them to screencap the text messages. “I’m going to send this to Jagged’s legal counsel, too. Especially if she’s threatening Marinette… she’s his preferred designer, and thus a freelance employee. We’re obligated to protect her legally, and we intend to go after her for the claim about the kitten and song, anyway…”

Marinette stared, open-mouthed, at that, then her face turned bright red and she launched herself into Penny’s arms. The sound of Marinette’s phone alerting to text messages faded into the background as they focused on her.

Penny, for her part, looked frozen as Marinette almost sobbed against her, and Jagged happened to come in at the same time.

He rushed over, going to one knee beside her. “Hey, hey now. Marinette, are you okay? What’s wrong?”

Penny gestured to the computer. “I explained we’re providing legal protection based on Lila Rossi’s threats against her. She was… overwhelmed, I guess?”

Luka shook his head. “No… I think she’s been more stressed about Lila than she’s been showing. I… I tend to do the same thing. She’s been putting on a front of being okay, but she hasn’t been.”

Adrien stood, pulling Luka with him as he went to Marinette. “Mari, I’m so sorry. I should’ve been better. I should’ve noticed.”

After a few seconds, she pulled away from Penny with a soft apology, her face red, her cheeks wet. “No. I was hiding it. You wouldn’t have known. Don’t blame yourself.”

Luka put a hand on her shoulder. “Marinette… I do the same thing, and I know I need to work on that.” He grimaced a bit at the admission. “But… your feelings matter. You don’t have to hide them, not from us, and not from anyone.”

Jagged’s face had turned stonier than Adrien had ever seen. “Tell the lawyers to draw up a restraining order. For me, and also for Marinette. We’ll see what the school decides to do—but Marinette doesn’t have to change classes. Tell the lawyer that’s the stand.”

Penny slid into the seat vacated by Adrien and got to work.

Jagged’s expression softened as he turned back to the three of them. “Let’s order some dinner and those manicures, eh? Marinette, call your parents and let them know you’re staying for dinner with me, at least.”

“And maybe… tell them about the text message?” Adrien said. “So they know. And tell them what Jagged’s doing. They’re so amazing; I know they’ll support you.”

Marinette frowned. “I just… don’t want them to worry.”

“I think they’ve probably been worried since you were expelled the once,” Luka pointed out.

That got a sigh. “Yeah, I guess.” She grabbed her phone and moved toward the kitchenette.

Jagged pointed out the menu to them. “Have Marinette let Penny know what she wants. Penny knows my usual.”

While they were looking over the menu, Luka’s phone rang. “Juleka’s calling…”

He answered, and his face went blank as he listened.

“I understand. My guitar’s there—didn’t bring it with, unfortunately. Take it to school tomorrow for Adrien to grab?” He was quiet for a moment longer. “I’ll find a place to spend the night. It’ll be fine. Thanks, Jules.”

Luka let out a tired sigh when he hung up the phone.

“You can’t go home?” Adrien asked, concerned. He suddenly realized he was in a similar position—how could he go home and get back out for school. “I guess I can’t tonight either, actually.”

“The news is staking out the boat. Guess they figured out who I am, too.” Luka shrugged. “It was bound to happen—we just need to get our stories straight before we meet the press.”

Jagged broke in. “Oi, you’re staying here. The suite has an extra room. Big bed. You can share. Your pops will have a meltdown, but that’s half the point.”

Adrien stayed out late regularly as Chat Noir, but his father barely paid attention to him usually. Right now, with a very loud and obvious rebellion, he was probably giving a lot of attention to the empty mansion.

“Serves him right,” Adrien muttered.

Marinette made her way back over. “I’ll have to find a way to sneak home. Maman said Nadja is staked out outside the bakery, waiting for me to come home. She thinks I have a scoop, since I texted her. And I guess I do, but not one I’m sharing yet.”

Jagged let out an explosive sigh. “Ugh, the paparazzi doing its thing, I guess. Penny and I’ll take you home after we eat. Say you’ve been helping me plan my next album.”

“But when we release the video you’re making, they’ll know I know more.”

“Eh, but then you’ll have your stories straight. It won’t happen for a couple hours yet, probably after you leave. Pick something to eat and call the other girl, network and plan. You lot are good at it. After dinner we’ll all get manicures and I’ll get you home.”

It sounded strangely reasonable for Jagged, but Marinette seemed to take it in stride, like she was used to his changing moods. After some conversation, they decided on a variety of items from the menu to share. Once Penny had called in the dinner order, they sent a video chat request to Kagami.

She answered promptly, smiling when she saw them. “I have been monitoring your Instagram and the news being released. You’re still at the hotel?”

Adrien nodded. “The press has Luka’s place covered, so he’s staying here, and I am too for obvious reasons. Since Marinette texted Nadja Chamack, the bakery is also being staked out. Jagged’s going to escort her home after we eat and get our nails done.”

“It’s too bad you had to go home,” Marinette broke in. “It’d be fun to have our nails done together.”

“I would very much like to do that in the future,” Kagami responded. “And I will impress upon my mother your situation with that Lila girl and her threats, so that I may have some free time to ensure you are properly protected.”

Marinette flushed. “I appreciate that. From the texts I’ve gotten since sending it to my classmates, most of them believe me now. We also sent that image to two of my teachers and the principal.”

Jagged broke in here. “And I’ve got my lawyers drawing up a restraining order, so the legal end is covered.”

Kagami nodded. “Very efficient. This girl, however, may decide to do worse, perhaps going after Marinette physically. I absolutely intend to defend you, as I hope Adrien will in my absence—though it will be difficult for him to do so if you use the school bathroom.”

“Good point,” Adrien said. “I’ll use Marinette’s phone to arrange a girl squad to escort her if that’s needed. Last time Lila got her alone, she claimed Marinette pushed her down the stairs.”

Anger passed over Kagami’s face. “Marinette is to be protected, at all times. We need to decide who will escort her to and from school, as well. Perhaps someone not bombarded by the media.”

 “Yeah, so not me, or Adrien,” Luka said with a sigh. “Sorry, Marinette.”

“I guess I need to go harass the school anyway. Ugh, haven’t gotten up at an ungodly hour like that in ages, though,” Jagged groused. “But if Adrien’s going tomorrow, I guess it’ll be easy enough. Uncle Jagged can make some sacrifices.”

“We also need to plan for a united front to the media,” Luka said. “We can chat through dinner, and plan at least for tomorrow.”

“Acceptable. My mother has already retired as well, so I will not be interrupted.”

They settled in to plot.

Chapter Text

Gabriel Agreste was displeased.

Honestly, that was an understatement.

Gabriel Agreste was infuriated.

He had allowed Adrien his little temper tantrum, the slamming of the door and stomping to his bedroom, expecting to let the boy stew for a bit until he had calmed enough to be reasonable. In the meantime, he had assured Mlle. Rossi things would progress as planned.

That had been a miscalculation. Adrien’s behavior had only escalated, as he somehow managed to escape the mansion—something Gabriel had only discovered later, when Nathalie had brought the tablet to him, with that picture on the Instagram social media account that was meant largely for Adrien to promote the brand. He had been permitted to use it for additional reasons, but clearly that had been a mistake.

Gabriel had been struck by the smile on Adrien’s face, though, carefree and happy… and alongside that of a boy he’d never seen as they cuddled in an intimate way that was wholly inappropriate for the brand. He never would have allowed such a picture with Mlle. Rossi.

But his hands were also tied by Adrien’s move—if he were seen to disapprove, many of his employees would be livid, not to mention critics. The LGBTQ+ community was well represented in the fashion industry. At this point, Gabriel would be seen as homophobic.

Furthermore, a third party had taken those pictures, meaning Adrien had found allies.

Nathalie had attempted to regain control of the account, to no avail. Hopefully the furor would die down quickly; Gabriel had the Gorilla out searching for his wayward son so they could nip this in the bud. But he’d come up empty thus far.

Mlle. Rossi had called, raging, and had required a lecture about tone and entitlement. She had been seething by the time he hung up on her, but Gabriel didn’t particularly care. She was outliving her use with her childish assumption he’d give in to her demands.

He had used the roiling emotions of a jealous fan to create an Akuma, but it had been defeated far too quickly for his liking,

Nathalie had returned with the tablet shortly thereafter, with a new photo and that hair. His hair had been pristine, never adulterated with anything so aggressive as dye. And now—! He matched his ‘boyfriend’—Gabriel was certain this was a fake relationship, but if he said such a thing publicly it would receive backlash—and they were feeding each other ice cream and laughing. Another picture taken by a third party.

Gabriel hadn’t even noticed the caption, or the following post essentially accusing the company of forcing him to work, until Nathalie pointed them out. Worse, there were comments from fans angry that Adrien was not permitted to play with that ridiculous band.

 

theofficialchloebourgeois: I didn’t know it was that bad, Adrikins. I’ll talk to Daddy.

alya.ladyblogger: @theofficialchloebourgeois Pretty sure this violates child labor laws, too. #LetAdrienGoToSchool

theofficialchloebourgeois: @alya.ladyblogger Will bring that up.

 

 The Instagram tag the Ladyblogger had created had started going viral, even spreading to Twitter.

The TVi news was even using it. Curious, Gabriel clicked on the article they’d linked to.

 

Model Adrien Agreste Comes Out, Alleges Being Forced to Date New Gabriel Muse, Lila Rossi

Leaked Rossi text messages include threats

 

When he saw the image of the text messages, he hurled the tablet against the wall.

Nathalie gave him a reproachful look and he glowered at her. “You were due for an upgrade anyway,” he hissed, still trying to contain his rage.

Clearly Mlle. Rossi had become more than an inconvenience.

“Inform Mlle. Rossi that her association with Gabriel has ended, as she has provided an unsavory image for the brand. Announce that on the official social media. Make sure the announcement planned for tomorrow is stopped.”

A stress headache, perhaps even a migraine, was coming on.

--

Marinette returned home with freshly painted pink fingernails, and Jagged loudly praising her nonexistent design ideas.

“Marinette Dupain-Chang, would you care to comment on your relationship with former Gabriel model Lila Rossi?”

Oh, that had been tempting. ‘Former’? They hadn’t seen that bit of information before she’d left—she’d have to text that to Kagami and Luka, who would share it with Adrien. They’d agreed that he’d need to keep his cell phone off to avoid the GPS locater, until they’d gotten enough done.

Jagged posed for the camera, hugging her one-armed. “That horrid girl has been bullying my niece here. Kept her too afraid to say anything. But Uncle Jagged’s here to take care of his Marinette.”

Then he pushed past Nadja Chamack to enter the bakery—let in by her parents despite it being after hours. They presented him with a large box of macrons to thank him, and asked if he would be free to join the family for dinner the next night—specifying that ‘the team’ was welcome, too.

Adrien, Luka, and Kagami had been insistent that she should bring them in on the plan, that they have some adults they could lean on aside from Jagged, whose stay in Paris would only be so long.

Marinette hadn’t been certain about letting them in on the fake relationship details, but they had been appropriately horrified at Adrien’s treatment and had immediately been on board. Everything had fallen into place, and maman had insisted after tomorrow she would take her break from the bakery to coincide with Marinette’s walk to school, so she could escort her for her protection.

They had a plan, a script, for Luka and Adrien’s relationship. She just had to be ready early tomorrow to be escorted to school, and be ready for any media attention.

And they had decided that Luka should be seen with Adrien, saying goodbye before the school day with appropriate closeness. They hadn’t specified what it should be, but that part could be ad-libbed. Regardless, the media would eat it up.

She updated her parents over dessert fruit tarts, then pleaded exhaustion and headed up to her room to get ready for bed. On her way up, she texted Luka and Kagami the news about Lila.

Tikki looked a bit exasperated when she was finally able to leave Marinette’s purse, and for a moment she was worried the kwami disagreed with what they were doing, that she’d be disappointed.

“I didn’t realize Adrien had it so bad,” Tikki said instead. “That poor boy. I’m glad you came to his side; I know it might be hard to watch him in a pretend relationship with Luka.”

Marinette relaxed. Tikki was on her side.

“I knew his father was awful, but I didn’t know it was this bad, either. If we do this right, M. Agreste will be under enough scrutiny to give Adrien some freedom.”

“He deserves better,” the kwami commented, taking the cookie Marinette offered her.

Marinette nodded. “Do you think I’m doing enough?”

“You’re doing everything you can.” Tikki set down the cookie and put one tiny hand on Marinette’s. “And… I think Luka was right. You expect too much of yourself. I know you’re Ladybug, but you’re also Marinette. You don’t need to bottle things up. You don’t need to be perfect.”

Marinette was silent for a bit, thinking about that. She’d always tried to stay strong on her own—even during the worst of Chloé’s bullying, she hadn’t reached out. Part of it was learning that Chloé could get away with a lot because of her status; teachers were rarely willing to punish the daughter of the mayor, so instead Marinette had been told she was being too sensitive, or that she needed to be the bigger person and be an example. All she’d wound up being is an example of a doormat.

In the past year, she’d learned that what her teachers had done was considered gaslighting. She’d managed to let them convince her that her feelings weren’t important. Marinette had been afraid to tell her parents everything, because if they told her the same thing…

Ever since Alya had come, she’d been able to start growing out of that—all it had taken was someone standing up for her.

“Thanks, Tikki.”

The kwami sighed. “Honestly, I should have helped you take care of this Lila situation earlier. It’s gone on too long. I let you flounder, even after you were almost Akumatized. I didn’t even think about how this was effecting you. I’m sorry, Marinette.”

Marinette brought Tikki up to her face and kissed her cheek. “I was doing what Luka said—putting on a front. I need to trust you and my parents and my friends more.”

“We’ll learn together,” Tikki told her with a smile. “I’m so proud of you, Marinette!”

They snuggled cheek to cheek for a moment, and then Marinette went to the bathroom to prepare for bed, leaving Tikki to her cookie.

Chapter Text

Adrien woke to find that he’d moved close enough to Luka in the night that they were snuggling, one of Luka’s arms over his chest, and Adrien’s head tucked against his chest. Their legs were tangled together. He’d never experienced this sort of thing before.

And it was wonderful.

Luka was warm and soft, and while Adrien was worried he’d be offended or embarrassed, he wasn’t inclined to move.

He was halfway back asleep when Luka’s phone alarm went off, and the other boy stirred.

Adrien felt him grope for the phone and the alarm silenced… but Luka didn’t move further, just settled back with a soft sigh.

Adrien figured it was only a matter of time before Luka woke further and pushed him away. He felt selfish as he stayed still and tried to enjoy the closeness.

Nino had once called him “touch-starved,” referring to how he liked being close to people, and he wasn’t wrong; having been starved of people and with an unaffectionate father did that, apparently. He craved it. An arm around the shoulder, hugs… anything, really. This, though, was a special sort of torture—accidental instead of on purpose, the sensation without the meaning. 

“Why so tense?”

Luka’s voice was so unexpected Adrien couldn’t stop himself from jerking back, gasping.

“Shit.” Luka propped himself up on one elbow. “Didn’t mean to startle you. You okay?”

Adrien nodded. “Y-yeah. Sorry. I guess I snuggle in my sleep.”

That got a soft chuckle. “You aren’t the only one. Don’t worry about it.”

“I know, but…” he sighed. “I don’t want to cross your boundaries.”

“Hey, I like cuddling. It doesn’t have to mean anything sexual unless the participants want it to.” Luka smiled. “And anyway, it’ll give everyone the idea we want them to have.”

Adrien nodded. “Yeah. I just hope I’m not inconveniencing you. I mean… I know you’re interested in Mari, and if you’re fake-dating me, you can’t real-date her.”

Luka sighed softly. “Marinette’s heart is elsewhere, Adrien. And she may never see me the way I see her. And, anyway, I want to help you.”

“I know… but last night you said Mari does what you do—hides her feelings,” Adrien bit his lip. “I just… let me know if anything bothers you. Your feelings matter, too.”

The soft look Luka gave him made his heart flutter a bit.

“Thanks, mon étoile,” Luka murmured, pulling him into a warm hug. “It’s… not easy, but I’ll work on letting you know.”

This snuggling was real, and Adrien let himself relax, snaking one arm around Luka. He was drifting off again when Luka’s phone alarm went off again.

“Secondary alarm,” Luka told him. “We’ll have to get up if Jagged’s going to have time to do your kohl.”

Adrien grumbled, but grudgingly extracted his limbs from Luka’s. “Do you think it’s okay to wear the jeans I wore yesterday for photos?”

“Probably not. Wear one of the distressed pairs—it’ll piss your dad off more, you wearing clothes with holes in them.”

That got a giggle from the blond. “‘We are not paupers, Adrien. You will dress appropriately,’” he mocked, using an approximation of Gabriel’s voice. “That’ll be perfect for the media frenzy.”

After they’d gotten video of the three of them jamming and posted it to social media, Jagged had sent hotel staff to get pajamas for the two of them. Fortunately Chloé hadn’t started pounding on the door until after those were delivered, so they had all ignored her. Adrien hasn’t been ready to face her, or to put Luka through that. She could see him in the morning like the rest of Paris. 

It didn’t take either of them long to dress, and then an espresso-chugging Jagged demonstrated on himself how to apply kohl before doing it for Adrien.

“Decided less is more for you,” the rocker said. “Just enough to make your eyes pop. Makes you look like… I dunno. Otherworldly or whatever.”

In the mirror, Adrien could see what he meant. The kohl lining his eyes contrasted the green in a way that made them almost gem-like, giving him a fey appearance.

“I like it,” he said. “Should I wear the leather today, or the hoodie?”

“We want to sneak you into school, so the hoodie might be better,” Luka said. “So we don’t get intercepted.”

Jagged grinned. “You’ll both be in the limo and we’ll pull right up to the school. The leather gives a bigger statement.”

Adrien pulled on the leather.

“And we’re picking up Marinette, as well,” Penny added. “I’ve called her, and asked her if she’ll dress up for effect.”

“Are you sure?” Adrien asked. “Father might go after her.”

“He does, he has me to contend with,” Jagged muttered. “And anyway, we gotta get you in some of her designs. Even if your bullshit underage contract—which I bet wouldn’t hold up in court given the fact that it was forced on you by your shithead dad—says you can’t model for anyone else, Instagram isn’t a modeling gig.”

Luka patted his shoulder. “And she wants to, anyway. You know how stubborn Marinette can be.”

Adrien smiled, thinking about that. “She really is. It’s endearing.”

“Sometimes. Other times you just want to help her, but she won’t let you.”

He felt his smile fade, reminded of what Lila had done, how Marinette had shouldered it all herself.

“Yeah,” he said finally. “Definitely. She does do that.”

Luka offered a wry smile. “We’ll help her. And we know Jagged and Penny will to.”

“Damn straight,” Jagged said. “And we best get going.”

Adrien blinked. “Um… Shouldn’t M. Dupain and Mme. Cheng also be part of this?”

“Penny called them earlier, while you two were still cuddling, and they are. They got part-timers who’ll cover while they go to the collége with us. Lawyer’s at the bakery already. Tom and Sabine have breakfast waiting for us, even.”

Jagged chuckled. “Oh, and I’ll send you lot the picture I took later. Cute as hell, you two are. Might be good for Instagram, eh?”

Adrien felt his cheeks heat, and Luka had a blush that he was sure matched his own.

“Anyway, Penny’s waiting in the limo with Fang. Got André to clear the route through the hotel to the limo, so we’re good.”

He handed each of them a pair of sunglasses—replicas of the ones Marinette made for him. “Ready to do this in style?”

They made it to the bakery without issue, and were joined by Marinette, Tom, Sabine, and a stern-looking woman in a skirt suit.

Marinette was wearing ripped fuchsia leggings and a pair of black high-waisted shorts with two rows of silver buttons. Her top was a crop-top, a long-sleeve black fishnet over a pink sleeveless shell that matched the leggings. All were obviously her own design.

She blushed when she saw Adrien and Luka staring. “Um, I designed this but hadn’t had a reason to wear it yet. Though I put the rips in the leggings last night before bed. Figured it was more rock ‘n roll, and I can make another pair later.”

“Definitely,” Jagged told her.

Tom handed out pastries from a large box while Marinette passed around coffee. Jagged showed Sabine how to pet Fang—who was pleased with the attention.

“Kagami’s meeting us in front of the college, too,” Marinette told them. “We’ll be able to greet her and then she’ll confirm our story to the press.”

Jagged turned to Luka. “After your public goodbye to your boyfriend, the limo’ll take you home. Anarka knows what’s going on, too. Been harassing the paparazzi—she’s good at that. Bet she’s run some of ’em off.”

Luka nodded, then pulled Adrien and Marinette in for a hug. “We can do this.”

A flash surprised them, and Sabine lowered her phone. “You do. And we have your backs, kids.”

Adrien took a bite of his pain au chocolat, glad Marinette had thought to bring his favorite breakfast. He was ready for this—as ready as he could be.

It was time to meet the press.

Chapter Text

The lawyer explained in the limo that orders of protection, under French law, were limited to domestic violence between partners, and though workplace bullying was considered “moral harassment” with criminal consequences, there were no such laws in place regarding school bullying.

“That is so not rock ‘n roll,” Jagged muttered, scowling. “French law is not cool.”

“However, French defamation law is strongly in our favor here, and you have can file a criminal complaint on your own behalf due to her defamation effecting your honor. Mlle. Dupain-Cheng’s parents—whom I am assuming you are including in your representation, M. Stone?—may file on her behalf given the impact of Mlle. Rossi’s defamation on her reputation.”

“Definitely including,” he said, nodding and glancing at Tom and Sabine. “Assuming you’re alright with that?”

Marinette’s parents nodded. They both seemed eager to have this taken care of.

“I’ve been concerned about Marinette for a while,” Sabine murmured, taking her daughter’s hand. “She’s seemed so… down, so distressed. I want this handled, and we’re happy you discovered this and are taking action, M. Stone.”

“I found out from Adrien, really. He came looking for help with his pops, and it all came out.”

Tom offered Adrien another pain au chocolat, smiling at him. “You’re always welcome at the bakery, son. Even if it’s just to hide from your father for a few hours.”

Adrien blushed at the attention, then was distracted when they pulled up in front of Collège Françoise Dupont.

The route from the limo to the collége was lined with reporters. Most students seemed to have all retreated into the school to avoid them. They could see Juleka peering out a window in one door, and Chloé stationed at the other.

Except for Lila, who was trying to talk to a reporter, who was clearly disinterested. When the limo driver opened the door for them, her voice lilted over the murmur, “and he used me and then dumped me!”

Marinette was getting out of the limo when they heard that, and she started to lose her balance. No one was in a position to help her.

Kagami hurried forward, managing to stay dignified as she drew Marinette into a hug that served to balance her.

“Good morning, Marinette. I love your outfit! Are you still willing to design one for me?”

Marinette flushed crimson, managing a wobbly grin as she straightened in Kagami’s embrace. “Of course, Kagami!”

They moved out of the way as Tom and Sabine exited the limo, receiving only confused murmurs from the crowd of journalists and paparazzi. They were joined by the lawyer, then Jagged and Penny, to excitement.

Lila’s eyes went wide at Jagged’s appearance, and he mugged for the cameras, tilting his Eiffel Tower sunglasses with one hand.

“This here’s my niece and favorite designer, Marinette. She designed these sunglasses, and of course my last album cover. She’s going to help me with the concept for my next album, too.”

That announcement led to shouted questions, both to Jagged and to Marinette, who stared at the journalist with wide eyes and tried (and failed) not to stutter.

It was easier after Kagami hooked their arms together and whispered. “Deep breaths. Slow exhales. You can take your time.”

Fortunately, she only had to answer one question before Adrien and Luka left the limo. After that, all attention was on them.

They were holding hands, as planned, shoulders together as though they were leaning on each other. Luka looked a little frazzled at the attention they were getting, but Adrien leaned close and murmured something Marinette couldn’t hear, and that eased the tension in his shoulders and led to the soft look that made the boyfriend claim seem believable. Flashes blinded them as journalists caught that moment on camera.

Lila chose that moment to stalk forward, pulling her hand back as though to slap… Luka? Before she could, Kagami grabbed her wrist.

“Are you attempting to assault Adrien’s boyfriend?” she demanded loudly, clearly playing for the cameras.

“That boyfriend is a pervert! A pederast!” Lila shrieked.

Luka blinked. “I’m not an adult. We’re both teenagers.”

“You’re no teenager. You’re a predator!”

Marinette stepped forward, about to lose her temper, her own hand itching to greet Lila’s face.

A slam sounded and Juleka pushed past Marinette and Kagami, her fist cocked. It hit Lila directly in the nose, sending blood droplets against the pavement, and Lila flying back against a paparazzi.

“How dare you talk about my brother that way! You’re not worthy of the bottom of his shoes!”

Juleka started to advance on the liar, who was wide-eyed and silent, sprawled on the ground.

Penny pulled the raging teen back, and Rose joined her, holding her around the waist and looking horrified.

“And that, folks, is Luka Couffaine’s little sister, Juleka,” Jagged announced. “Little spitfire, she is, just like her mum. You may recognize Couffaine, as in Anarka, my former guitarist and their lovely mother. You don’t cross a Couffaine.”

Lila tried to get herself together. “Luka was trying to court Marinette first!”

Marinette took a deep breath, taking comfort in Kagami’s hand on her back. “He needed a cover to be able to go out with Adrien. Kagami and I stepped up. That’s all.”

“There was reason to keep it secret,” Kagami said, taking over the story they’d decided on. “The moment Adrien’s father learned of it, he tried to make Adrien break up with Luka and date Lila. She is furious because her plan to entrap him did not work.”

That news was greeted by another murmur from the crowd, this one louder. Marinette could see the Gorilla on the outskirts, towering over the rest. Adrien waved at him, and the man cocked the first smile she’d ever seen from him, and then walked away.

Marinette remembered it was her turn to speak. “And, really, Lila’s been grabbing on him and verging on sexual assault for weeks. Wouldn’t take no for an answer. If anyone’s a predator, it’s her.”

Lila let out a growl and threw herself toward Marinette. Kagami pulled her out of the way and left her foot out to send the girl sprawling.

“Perhaps this is a good time for me to step in,” the lawyer said smoothly, stepping between them and Lila. “You have been lying about my client and his employee. You claimed you were injured on behalf of my client while saving a nonexistent kitten, and that he then wrote a song for you in gratitude, spreading this rumor around your college, and reaching beyond via a blog interview. You have engaged in a defamation and insult campaign against his employee, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng, and even attempted to have her expelled based on lies. You have, in fact, threatened to do worse, which I’m guessing is what the attempted assault just now was. M. Stone does not tolerate defamation against himself or his staff, and M. Dupain and Mme. Cheng do not tolerate defamation against their daughter.”

She pulled out several papers, holding them out to Lila as she picked herself off the ground.

“The offense against M. Stone is public, as it appeared on a public and widely-read blog. The offenses against Mlle. Dupain-Cheng are considered non-public. But we have filed criminal defamation charges against you, Mlle. Rossi. These are copies of the filings. Copies are also being delivered to your mother at her workplace.”

Lila snatched the papers and crumpled them, her jaw tight with rage, blood still dripping from her nose. “M. Agreste made me! He said to deal with Marinette, that she was a bad influence!”

Marinette gasped, feeling Kagami stiffen beside her. Adrien was staring in open-mouthed horror. Luka looked angry, and Jagged looked livid. Tom and Sabine were exchanging worried looks. The reporters were murmuring again. All of this was, of course, being aired and reported on.

“Interesting public allegations.” The lawyer smiled. “Obviously, you will receive more official documents on the charges by the court.”

“Just what is going on here?”

Principal Damocles was standing inside the door of the school.

“This is a place of education, not a media circus!”

Lila seized an opportunity. “Juleka punched me, M. Damocles! I think she broke my nose!”

“Juleka—”

“Actually,” the lawyer interrupted smoothly, “given that this took place on the sidewalk rather than within the school, M. Damocles has no jurisdiction. Mlle. Rossi is of course able to file assault charges; however, given that Mlle. Couffaine is the daughter of a former employee of M. Stone, and Mlle. Rossi had just engaged in very public defamation against her brother on camera in front of journalists, it is likely M. Stone will ask I amend the filing to include M. Couffaine as a victim.”

“Yep!” Jagged popped the ‘p.’

Lila went pale, her fists shaking.

“And we have further business with M. Damocles. Given the ‘media circus,’ and attempted assault by Mlle. Rossi, M. Couffaine will be escorted home by M. Stone’s limo driver.”

Marinette turned to Adrien and Luka, who were still holding hands and looking a bit frozen. Adrien recognized that it was their cue first, turning to Luka and looking a bit shy.

“Will I see you for lunch?”

Luka smiled, reaching up with his free hand to brush a lock of hair from Adrien’s face. “Of course, mon étoile. I look forward to it.”

The blush on Adrien’s face looked real as Luka brought up his hand to kiss it, then embraced him.

The cameras ate it up, just as they had expected. Luka managed to look longing as he let go of Adrien and stepped back into the limo, his part of the morning done.

Kagami squeezed Marinette’s shoulder, leaning close. “I must leave if I am to arrive to school on time. You will prevail. And if you need protection, I believe Mlle. Juleka is a wonderful candidate for the job.”

Marinette turned to give Kagami a hug. Adrien did as well, and together they watched for a moment as she weaved her way through the paparazzi before they turned back to the task at hand.

Phase Two: the school.