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Not All Masks Are for Superheroes

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Juleka Couffaine was an expert wearer of masks of indifference. If a random passerby were to look into her eyes for a split-second, all they would see is a glaze of utter neutrality. Some might call it her resting bitch face; others would say that’s just her face, no matter what emotion she was making an effort to portray. Juleka, on the other hand, proudly called it her resting indifferent face after Rose coined the term for her.

In Juleka’s opinion, Rose Lavillant wore no mask; her face was an endless pool of happiness, sunshine, and sickeningly-sweet fluff. (Juleka didn’t actually think that Rose’s face was sickening; in fact, she thought it was beautiful. She only continued using this phrase for the singular fact that it never failed to make Rose laugh.)

Juleka looked over at her closest friend, smiling at the way Rose’s face was lit up. From their vantage point at the back of the classroom, the small girl was excitedly adding to her list of nicknames for their classmates, based on their appearances throughout the lecture.

“Hey Jules,” Rose whispered, “Do you think Marinette could pass as a sort of a ‘hopelessly in love face’?”

“Try ‘eternal pining face’,” Juleka responded with a smirk.

“That’s perfect!” Rose giggled loudly. Mlle. Faix shot a reprimanding glare their way. Rose sheepishly sank lower into her seat, whispering out of the corner of her mouth with an embarrassed smile and an over exaggerated wink, “You’re a genius Juleka.”

Juleka felt her cheeks warm and her heart stutter at the simple action, turning her face to her desk to hide her blush. Rose had always been able to turn her world upside down with just a few choice words, and this was no exception. Sweet, beautiful, kind, positive Rose, with her bright smiles and warm laughter. The same Rose who had slowly stolen her heart throughout their collége years and continued to do so in their seconde year of lyceé. The smaller girl had always been by her side as an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on, and Juleka knew for a fact that she would stay with her, as a friend or maybe more, until Rose inevitably left her for someone better.

Juleka shook her head suddenly, waving off the unwanted thought. She didn’t know if it was possible to be re-akumatized, but if it was, she didn’t want it to happen to her for something as silly as a little self-doubt. She loved Rose, and without a doubt, Rose loved her too, though maybe not quite in the same way that Juleka did.

She sneaked a glance at Rose’s face, seeing a look of pure concentration as a pen scratched out notes to match Mlle. Faix’s drone. Juleka never understood why Rose tried so hard; she was already so smart, and Juleka knew that she didn’t even want to study any specifics in the scientifique stream, meaning that these mathematics notes were most likely going to be completely useless to her in the future. The dark haired girl chuckled, marveling over Rose’s determination and giving away another piece of her heart in the process.

Rose looked up with a confused expression. “What’s so funny?” she questioned, wrinkling her nose.

Juleka almost screamed. Rose was adorable. Rose was absolutely perfect. Her heart was about to burst and it was all Rose’s fault.

“Oh, nothing,” she said, gritting her teeth and forcing her mouth into a smile. It probably looked a lot more like a grimace, but what was a girl to do when she couldn’t stop thinking about her best friend in a definitely not-best friend sort of way?

Rose squinted at her for a second but was inevitably drawn back into the lecture like a moth to a flame, leaving Juleka to run her hands through her hair and let out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. Too preoccupied to even think about tuning in to the lesson, she resigned herself to staring at the desk in front of her until the bell rang.

Looking over at Rose, Juleka was met with a small frown that immediately turned into a radiant smile when the pair locked eyes. She had probably just imagined it. Rose would tell her if something was wrong, wouldn’t she?

Juleka provided her with a more subdued smile in return. “Ready for physics?” she asked, already knowing the answer she would receive.

Rose groaned and slammed her palm onto her forehead as they stood and proceeded to exit the classroom. “Never. There will absolutely never be a day when I am ready to face the horrors of mandatory science class,” she lamented, turning her hand around on her forehead in mock dramatization.

“But you’ll still try your hardest, won’t you,” Juleka quipped, more of a statement than a question.

Rose looked down uncomfortably, a look of determination flooding her eyes for a split-second. “Yeah, I guess I will,” she responded.

In an effort to clear the air, the taller girl laughed and bumped the shorter’s shoulder, causing a infectious giggle to fill the air. By the time the two of them were even halfway down the hallway they had been reduced to tears, not really sure what was so funny anymore. When Juleka regained her composure and looked across the hall, though, her laughter was halted immediately. It was a few seconds before Rose realized that the noise from Juleka’s laughter had ceased, causing the blonde to look confusedly up at her. Juleka’s gaze was fixated on the end of the hallway, a look of barely contained anger sweeping across her normally indifferent face. Rose’s line of vision was soon turned in the same direction and she gasped as her eyes met Juleka’s target.

A woman with long, dark hair armed with only a small broom and dustpan was cornered next to a supply closet, a look of stony disapproval and unexpressed rage enveloping her face. The one doing the cornering, however, was no surprise to Juleka; there, Chloe Bourgeouis stood, hands on her hips and sneer at full force.

“What is this?” the yellow-clad girl demanded, reaching for the woman’s bracelet. The older woman immediately pulled her hand back out of Chloe’s reach, shooting bullets at the bratty teenager with her eyes.

“This,” she responded in an even, if not harsh, voice, “Is none of your business.” She ducked to make her way out of her cornered position, but by then it was too late. As the woman tried to make her escape, Chloe latched onto the bracelet and pulled, sending beads rolling in every direction and causing her classmate, Max, to trip as he tried to skirt around the scene. The broom and its matching dustpan clattered to the floor as the woman stood, slack-jawed at the sight. Chloe stood triumphantly in the middle of it all, her trademark sneer still in place as she turned and marched down the hall in the opposite direction, Sabrina trailing after her like a lost puppy. Two hands reached down to receive the broom and dustpan, their owner letting out a shaky breath.

Startled by the noise, Juleka was shaken out of her stupor and forced to make eye contact with the woman.

“Maman,” she whispered, looking back down at the last remnants of her mother’s bracelet. She saw her mother wipe a stray tear from her cheek as Juleka walked over. She’d never known why the bracelet was so important, but judging from her mother’s reaction and the fact that it was never removed from her wrist prior to this, she knew better than to think it was just some trinket. When she started to move, the gathered crowd slowly started to disperse, Max standing up and heading toward the physics room and Rose trailing after the younger of the dark haired females.

“Maman,” she said, stronger this time, “Are you alright?”

Her mother looked at her with blazing eyes and a tense demeanor. “Get to class Juleka,” she said, gritting her teeth.

“But Maman - “

“I said, get to class. We’ll talk about this later,” Juleka’s mother added, her glare burning into her daughter’s worried gaze. Juleka winced and turned away, motioning for Rose to follow her.

Once they were out of earshot of her mom, Rose whispered to Juleka. “Are you okay
Jules? What happened back there wasn’t your fault, you know, your maman is just angry, I’m sure she didn’t mean to be so harsh with you - “ Juleka cut her off with a start, trying her best to shuffle her features back into their oh-so familiar mask of indifference.

“I’m fine, Rose. I’m fine.”