“So, what you’re saying is, you need a bodyguard who won't stand out,” Gabriel Agreste steeples his fingers, and looks up at his son, who stands before the desk.
“Yes, Père,” Adrien’s voice is firm. “I know having a bodyguard is one of your conditions for going to university. But I’ll never fit in with the Gorilla glaring at everyone over by shoulder.”
“Very well,” Gabriel says, tapping at his keyboard. “I’ll start the search.”
Adrien conceals a smirk as he leaves the office. He knows it’ll be impossible to find someone that will fit in. He’s seen plenty of bodyguards over the years, and no one will be able to pass as a first year student.
Exactly two weeks later, just before his induction day, Adrien is proven wrong.
“This is Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” Gabriel introduces them in his office. “She’s your new bodyguard.”
There’s a glimmer in Gabriel’s eye. Adrien resists the urge to splutter and tries his best to mask the utter disbelief that is no doubt showing on his face.
For a start, she’s small. Way smaller than him, the top of her head level with his Adam’s apple. Her dark, midnight hair is tied up in a short, no-nonsense ponytail. Her eyes are blue, the impossible blue of an Artic sea, and they’re just as cold as she appraises him. She seems to think less of him than he does of her. Adrien can almost see ‘helpless pretty-boy’ tattooed across her head. Her face is bare from make-up, but she’s definitely pretty.
There’s a logo on her long-sleeved grey sweater, just on the right side of the chest. The Han characters are difficult, but Adrien can just pick out the words ‘school’ and ‘military’. Black combats and boots finish the outfit, and he doesn’t think he’s seen someone dressed so unfeminine before. For some reason, the thought sparks all the way down to his toes.
“Pleased to meet you, Madame Dupain-Cheng,” Adrien says in French, not wanting to assume she can speak Chinese just because she looks Asian (he’s made that mistake before). He sticks out his hand, and she shakes it firmly, and he’s certain there will be bruising tomorrow. Her voice isn’t as butch as he expects.
“Likewise, Monsieur Agreste. Just for the record, it’s Mademoiselle.”
“M-my mistake,” he stutters. There’s a sharp bite to her tone, polite but with a hostile lilt.
Gabriel nods. “As I explained to your superior, this role will require you to blend in as a first year student.”
“Understood, sir,” the young woman salutes. “I will be here on Monday morning to accompany Mons. Agreste to university.”
“Isn’t this perfect, Adrien?” Gabriel smiles. “Mademoiselle Dupain-Cheng has just returned from Beijing, so she’ll also be able to help you with your studies.”
“Great,” Adrien says weakly. This was not what he had in mind, at all.
Marinette rocks up in a monster truck the next morning. It seems she’s taken his request not to arrive in a limo seriously: the Bulletproof Jeep Grand Cherokee is the furthest thing from it. The SUV is silver and huge and he’s impressed Marinette can even touch the floor. He dithers, unsure where to sit, but the young woman has already exited the car and swings around to his side effortlessly, opening the back door before bundling him in, her hand bracing above his head so that he won’t whack it against the doorframe. Adrien clutches his leather satchel in his lap in a state of shock that this tiny female has just manhandled him with total ease.
“Seatbelt,” his bodyguard bristles at him, and he jumps to attention.
“Morning,” he says brightly, trying to hide how rattled he is, but Marinette simply sighs and hits the gas.
They have a private parking space, of course, and it isn’t until they are walking on campus that Adrien finally registers her attire. It is drastically different from yesterday: skinny black jeans, a white blouse under a navy blazer and ankle boots. He can even spot a touch of eyeliner and lipgloss. She doesn’t look a day over eighteen.
“So um, do you know where we’re going?” Adrien asks, pulling out the map, which he received in his welcome pack. “I came here for a tour a few months back but they all start to blur into one, you know?”
“I scouted the area yesterday,” Marinette tells him curtly. “Your induction exercise will take place in the Butterfly Building, room 101. It will take us approximately six minutes and 45 seconds to reach it on foot.”
“I see,” Adrien said, hastily folding away his map. “Well, it’s great to know I won’t be spending time lost like most first years.”
The Université Paris Diderot is located on the bank of the Seine, and is comprised of many off-white buildings, with gardens in the middle, and long silver benches and pieces of modern art. Marinette skilfully cut her way through the throngs of students, never leaving Adrien’s side. To anyone else, they may have appeared to be a couple.
“Yo!” a sudden male voice came from behind them, and Adrien had half-turned around to address it, when his bodyguard was suddenly in front of him. Despite her size, she seemed to fill the space, and was grasping the wrist of the tall male who had been about to tap Adrien’s shoulder.
“Hey!” the guy protested. He wore glasses and a checked-shirt, and Adrien didn’t recognise him. The young man tried to shake Marinette off, but she was like a pit-bull with firm jaws around her prey. “I just wanted to say hi to Adrien!”
“Do you know him?” Marinette’s voice was like jagged glass.
“Everyone knows him!” the bespectacled youth protested. “He’s a famous model!”
“That doesn’t mean you can touch him,” Marinette gritted out, and when the boy brought up his other hand to grapple, she effortlessly tossed him over her shoulder.
It happened so fast Adrien almost missed it. One moment, he had opened his mouth to ask the guy to chill, and the next, checked-shirt was on the ground, groaning.
Marinette leaned over him, hands on her hips. “Next time, no touching.”
“Um, sorry?” Adrien offered, as his bodyguard began to lead him away.
“Leave him, we’re going to be late,” she said, propelling them forward, one hand on his lower back.
They reached the Butterfly Building one minute before 10am. It was a typical lecture room, and students were clustered around the benches, socialising.
Adrien was surprised when his bodyguard hung back. “You choose where you want to sit,” she told him. “I’ll follow.”
He shot her a graceful smile, and moved down the aisle, finally deciding to sit next to a boy his own age, who had bright red headphones slung around his neck. Adrien took the plunge, introducing himself, and the boy, Nino, grinned and fell into easy conversation with him.
He was aware of Marinette slipping in behind him, and striking up conversation with a girl to her left.
For most of the day, it was easy to forget she was even there. They filled out forms, took part in ice-breaking exercises, and selected classes. Adrien was studying fashion and languages, specifically Mandarin. Marinette was studying the same, unsurprisingly. When it came to lunch, Nino suggested they check out the gardens, and his bodyguard suddenly appeared at his side.
“Um, why don’t you join us, Marinette and…?”
“Alya,” supplied the other girl, grinning. “Sure, let’s go. I could murder a coffee right now. Far too much info for one morning, right girl?”
Marinette murmured in agreement, and Adrien wondered at her sudden change of personality. Was she putting on an act, to fit in? He supposed she couldn’t really chuck around her classmates and remain conspicuous for long.
“Today was great!” Adrien was buzzing as they walked back to the car. “It was so nice being able to talk to people my own age, like normal!”
Marinette had returned to bodyguard mode and once again helped him into the car; at least this time he was prepared.
“Did you have fun, Marinette?” he asked.
“With all due respect, Mons. Agreste, it’s not my job to have fun,” she said, reversing out the space with one hand on the wheel.
“Please, call me Adrien,” he asked again. “It’s kinda strange if you call me that when we’re both supposed to be students.”
“I’m not allowed to call you by your first name, Monsieur Agreste.”
“What do I call you?”
“You can call me anything you like, sir.”
Adrien felt a smirk creep across his face. “Really? Like Mari? Princess? Bug? I like that one. How about buginette? You know, since you’re really small.”
Her knuckles whiten as she grips the wheel and he crows, sensing a win.