It was Monday, and even though they had a literature test, Marinette was still extremely happy. Alya had convinced Nino that the two of them, Marinette, and Adrien… oh, sweet, wonderful Adrien… should go to lunch together today. Talk about the best friend ever! Of course, she was also beyond nervous about it, but for the time being she was able to put off the anxiety and bask in the soft warm sunrays of a future Adrien-filled lunchtime…
"Miss Dupain-Cheng?" Miss Bustier—her homeroom teacher—said, startling Marinette out of her daydreams.
"Yes! Ah, I mean, present." Marinette said, a little too quickly. She glanced down at Adrien, who luckily didn't seem to have noticed. That would have been embarassing.
"Woah there, girl—don't go flouncing off to dreamland just yet!" Alya whispered, grinning at her from her customary seat.
"What? I wasn't flouncing!" Marinette protested, also whispering.
"What would you call it then? Drifting, floating, swooning—" Alya continued.
"Silence, please." Miss Bustier said, looking pointedly in their general direction. Marinette winced, quieting down and noticing that Miss Bustier had actually just finished roll call. Unusually, she hadn't begun to hand out their chemistry tests.
"Now that I have everyone's attention, I have a special announcement to make." Miss Bustier said, gesturing to the door. To everyone's surprise, a boy with finely combed black hair, alert green eyes and a small scowl strode through the door and turned to face them.
"Everyone, I would like you to meet Damian Wayne, a recent transfer student from America. He'll be joining our class for the rest of the year." Miss Bustier announced. Marinette couldn't believe what she was hearing—another student, in the middle of the semester? There was no way he'd be a able to catch up, especially if he was an American and had to deal with the language barrier. That, and she was already getting the vibe off of him that he was…unhappy.
"Whaaat?" Quite possibly the worst person Marinette had ever met exclaimed. "The Damian Wayne? Son of billionaire Bruce Wayne?"
"Yes, Chloe." Miss Bustier said, exasperation evident to everyone but the most oblivious. Which was to say, Chloe.
"Oh! Why didn't my father tell me about this?" Marinette's rival demanded.
"It was, ah, very last-minute." Miss Bustier replied.
"Well, then—" Chloe turned to Sabrina, her best—and only—friend, "you, go and sit up there now." She pointed to the back row where Ivan and Nicholas sat. "Damian can have your spot."
"B-but, Chloe—" Sabrina protested.
"What did I just say! Get out of here!" Chloe said, shooing a stricken Sabrina away from her spot. Turning to Damian, she patted the newly vacated spot and smiled what was probably supposed to be an inviting smile.
"You—can—sit—here—now—Damian." She said, very slowly, as if talking to a child. The Damian in question looked her over, frowned, and said something in English to Miss Bustier.
"Ah… it seems that Damian would like to take the back spot next to Nathaniel." Miss Bustier said.
"What—no! Tell him I told him he could sit next to me!" Chloe spluttered.
"I'm afraid, Miss Bourgeois, that he said quite clearly that he was refusing your offer. Apparently, he prefers the back." Miss Bustier replied. Chloe looked dumbstruck, then began to glare, and Marinette could barely resist the urge to laugh.
Sabrina slunk her way back into her spot as the foreign boy began to climb the stairs. Marinette watched as his eyes flitted over everything and everyone, as if taking in the entire room, before landing on her own. They narrowed, and she quickly looked back down at her desk, alarmed by the intensity in his stare.
"In any case, I will now hand out the tests. Remember, try to save a half hour for the essay questions!" Miss Bustier said, picking up a pile of papers. She walked up, passing them along, until everyone had one. Well, almost everyone.
Damian spoke up again, again in English. Miss Bustier looked surprised, and asked something back. Damian smirked and said something back. Miss Bustier shrugged, walked back down to her desk, picked up the sample copy of the test and brought it up to Damian.
"Is he… is he gonna take the test?" Alya whispered.
"Wha—I don't know! I guess." Marinette replied. "Let's just concentrate on the test for now, alright?"
The test went surprisingly well, considering Marinette's studying had been interrupted by an Akumatized man who loved taxidermy, maybe the most disturbing opponent Ladybug and Chat Noir had faced so far. Marinette was distracted, however, when the new boy strode down barely half an hour in, placed a completed test on the desk, and sauntered out into the hall. She'd tried not to be distracted but the strange *tt* sound he made on the way out irritated her. It was as if he was dismissing the whole class for being slower than him.
Marinette handed in her test, preparing to walk out—when Miss Bustier pulled her aside.
"Ah, Marinette—I'm sorry I couldn't inform you of this earlier, but arrangements really have been, well, sudden. This is apparently Damian's first time in Paris, and he doesn't know the school. Principal Damocles decided that it would be for the best if you, as class deputy, gave Damian a tour of the grounds over lunch and generally help him settle in." Miss Bustier said.
"Wah—lunch, today? B-but…" Marinette began to protest.
"You will be able to earn back extra credit for your absences by doing this. The school needs your help here." Miss Bustier said. Marinette sighed, dreams of a lovely lunch with Adrien withering away… but duty called. Now that she thought about it, it must be a bit scary to be in a new country, surrounded by unfamiliar people, in a place you didn't know… she'd do her best to help.
"You can count on me, Miss Bustier." She said, with limited enthusiasm. Miss Bustier nodded.
"Thank you, Marinette." Her teacher patted her on the shoulder, then went back to her desk, and Marinette turned to leave.
Marinette found her charge waiting just outside the doors, leaning back on a nearby set of lockers. On further inspection, he was dressed a bit more formally than she was used to seeing at school, with a blue tie and a black dress-shirt under a light grey suit. It was well-made, plain but clearly some designer brand—probably ludicrously expensive, given that she could barely even perceive the threads, even with her trained eye, so the thread count must have been higher than anything normally on the market. She'd have asked about it, professional interest in design and all—it really did look nice—but the scowl on his face didn't encourage conversation.
"Hi!" She tried, smiling at him. His expression didn't waver. He said something to her in English that she didn't understand.
"I, uh, don't speak English, heh… sorry." She said, scratching her head. She reached out with her hand. "I'm Marinette! Marinette Dupain-Cheng. It's, ah, nice to meet you."
Damian looked at the hand, then looked back up at her. She began to feel extremely aware of the fact that she was holding her hand out into space, waiting for a handshake that might not ever come, and felt her anxiety spark even more. What was with this guy? Luckily, after a moment, he extended his hand and shook hers, firmly. He pointed to himself with his other hand.
"Damian. Wayne." He said. Staring intently—almost glaring—at her. She resisted the urge to frown. He gestured towards the hallway. Marinette blinked for a moment, then remembered what she was there to do.
"Oh! Yeah, the tour. Right. Well, I guess we'd better start, huh?" She asked. Damian cocked his head and said something in English that she, again, didn't understand.
"Oh. Right. Uh, follow me!" She said, beginning to walk down the hall and gesturing for him to follow. After a moment, to her relief, he did. If only telling Adrien how she felt was that easy… it was so hard to even talk to the guy! It was so hard to explain to anyone just how big her crush on Adrian was, even Alya! They all gossiped in the same circles, after all, and it was just too embarrassing to tell anyone. It was really a tough situation.
Well, wait a second… there was someone she could tell.
Adrien was surprised at how well that test had gone, considering the complete lack of sleep his taxidermy-nightmare-filled dreams had caused. Akumatized or no, that guy had been a bit creepy. Regardless, he was looking forward to eating lunch with his best friend, his best friend's girlfriend, and Marinette, who was… a good friend? He hoped that they were friends. She seemed to have trouble talking to him whenever she was talking to Adrien… maybe that first day really had put her off. She'd been so different when he talked with her as Chat Noir. That, and the fact that her designs were so cool—she'd designed the cover of Jagged's album! How amazing was that?—really made him want to get to know her a little better, outside of the mask. Today was going to be a great chance for that.
"Hey, Alya!" He said, walking up to the journalist-in-training outside of class. Nino had already met up with her, and had been chatting with Alya before Adrien had showed up. "Where's Marinette?"
"I'm not sure—she's probably just gotten sidetracked." Alya said, smiling. Then, her phone buzzed.
"Ah, hey, a text—" Alya stared at her phone. "What? No… oh, come on, girl…"
"What? What is it?" Adrien asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Apparently principal Damocles ordered her to go show around that new guy—the American kid—over lunch break! I can't believe this." Alya said, groaning.
"Oh." Adrien said, feeling a bit more disappointed than he'd have expected. He really had been looking forward to seeing her at lunch. "Well, maybe tomorrow then…"
"Wait wait wait—hold up. Doesn't this guy need to eat, too? We could all go to lunch!" Nino said, grinning. "Oh hey, look—there they are!" Adrien's friend said, pointing. Adrien followed his finger, looking across the courtyard to see the familiar blue-black ponytailed Marinette walking along th balcony in front of the figure that was unmistakably the new guy. Not just walking, he realized—she was talking to him, too. Really enthusiastically, by the look of things.
"Oh, that's perfect! Great idea, Nino!" Alya exclaimed, embracing her boyfriend. Adrien smiled. If he could get Marinette talking like that, maybe it'd be fun to have the exchange student along.
"Here, I'll text her right now!" Alya said, typing into her phone.
"Thanks again for listening to me! I mean, I know you don't understand what I'm saying, but it's just nice to get it out. I've told Alya some of the embarrassing things, but I never told her about the time I tried to stea—uh, borrow Adrien's sweater because it, um, smelled nice, but my plan didn't work and I ended up with Chloe's gum stuck in my hair… here's the gym, by the way. You know, gym?" She mimed jogging and lifting weights, only to be met with the continuous inscrutable stare of her charge.
"Yeah, I bet you've got it. Well on to—oh hey, Alya just texted me! It's probably about lunch, oh geez…" Marinette scanned the text. "Huh, she's wondering if you want to come to lunch with us. Oh—omigosh, that'd be perfect!" She looked back up to the black-haired boy, who'd raised an eyebrow. "Would you please, please come? I've been wanting to sit across from Adrien all day—who am I kidding, my whole life, his eyes are so dreamy—and this lunch could actually give me a real reason to have a conversation with him! I've always wanted to know what his favorite color was, and what he does for fun, and if he's single, and if not if it's an open relationship, and what kind of clothes he likes most so I can make them for him—" She reined in her breathing, calming herself down. The boy just stood there, silently watching, eyebrow still raised.
"Wow, Marinette. Wow. Okay. Anyways, would you like to go get some lunch with my friends and I?" Marinette asked. The foreign boy continued to stare. It was unnerving how little he blinked. Marinette resisted the urge to sigh, and tried again—this time with exaggerated gestures.
"Would you," she pointed to Damian, who looked down at her pointed finger and then back up at her, "like to go eat lunch," she mimed eating a hamburger, not really sure what else Americans ate, "with me," she pointed at herself, "and my friends." She pointed to the other group. The boy didn't respond, just staring.
"I guess that's a yes." Marinette said, shrugging. She gestured for him to follow her down the stairs.
They'd made it halfway to her friends when they were intercepted by a pair of completely unwelcome faces.
"Hahaha! Oh, look—it's miss goody-two-shoes doing tour guide service! Wow, if this is what you get for being student rep, you can keep the job!" Chloe said, cackling.
"Y-yeah, it's so sad, Chloe!" Sabrina echoed.
"Go away, Chloe." Marinette said, trying to brush past the blonde girl and her minion—but they blocked her path.
"Oh, you aren't getting off that easy, See, I heard about your little lunch with Adrien…" Chloe said, smiling cruelly, "I hope you realize he'd never even look twice at you. You're as common, boring, and poor as they come." She said. The words rang in Marinette's ears. C-common? Boring? She… she'd never seen herself as that interesting… in fact, she was clumsy, and forgetful, and broke promises…
Chloe was a terrible, horrible person, but what if she was right? Adrien was so amazing, and kind, and popular, and rich—and she definitely wasn't. She'd never thought that could be a problem before, but what if it was? Would sweet, humble Adrien really care about that? But… there were rich, funny, popular girls out there… what if she really wasn't the right one for…
"Chloe, stop it…" she said, desperately trying to shake the thoughts out of her head.
"Oooh, the truth hurts, doesn't it? Anyways, as I was saying, this little lunch thing isn't happening. You're going to stay here, or I'll tell Miss Bustier that you took your stupid little foreign mute here out on the town instead of babysitting him at the school like you were supposed to. In the mean time, I'm going to go take Adrien to lunch." Chloe finished with a self-satisfied smile.
"D-don't talk about Damian like that. It's not his fault he can't understand." Marinette said, standing her ground. She'd deal with all the baggage later, even if the tears threatening to spill over her eyelids weren't going away anytime soon.
"Aww, already found a replacement for your little crush, have you? You're pretty easy, Marinette. I wonder what Adrien will think of that." Chloe said, and the tears began to spill over now—why was she being so horrible? The wretched girl leaned into Damian's face as Marinette's fists clenched, smiling wide.
"Who's a good little foreign idiot, now? You seem stupid enough to be Marinette's boyfriend. You can't even speak a proper language, just that english drivel." Chloe asked, smiling like she was giving him a compliment. Damian stared back at her, and then smiled. Marinette felt horrible.
"Chloe, stop!" Marinette shouted, anger finally rising above her other emotions. It wasn't easy to bring it out in her, but this was way too far. She wouldn't stand by and see someone teased like this.
"What, can't you see he likes it? I've got a great idea—let's call you filthy migrant boy from now on!" Chloe said to Damian, still smiling. It hurt Marinette to see the boy still smiling back. She didn't know what to do. How had everything become so horrible?
"Well, filthy migrant boy, what do you think about that?" Chloe asked, laughing.
"I think that you're a waste of space that should've been disposed of long ago." Damian replied in flawless Parisian French, still smiling. "Also, you should probably check that someone doesn't speak the language before you decide to insult them to their face, you despicable, insipid wench."
"Y-y-y-y-ou…" Marinette stuttered, mouth dropping open in horror as she stared at the black-haired boy's face. Chloe looked like she'd been shot. "Y-yo-y-ou-you sp-p-eak—"
"French?" The boy asked, face returning to its bemused frown. "*tt*. Of course I do. Who would come to study in France if they didn't speak the language?"
"B-b-buh…" Marinette managed, the implications of him understanding what she could say—or more accurately, what she had said—sinking in. "Y-ou… you didn't say anything…"
"There was nothing I wanted to say. I decided acting ignorant would be a better way of learning about this place than asking questions. It's an easy way of figuring out who people really are. Naturally, I was completely right. I've learned much." His eyes turned from Marinette, who was struggling to breath, back to Chloe.
"Hey guys—is everything alright?" Ayla said, coming up behind them with Nino and… oh no, Adrien…
"Yeah, we heard shouting." Nino said.
"Marinette, are you okay?" Adrien asked, looking at her, and she felt horror and fear and inadequacy pressing up against the inside of her lungs as she desperately looked back and forth between Damian and the dumbfounded nightmare that was Chloe Bourgeois. Damian continued to glare, and Chloe continued to stare back at him like a deer in the headlights of some highly-specialized bat-shaped vehicle.
"It is entirely possible that you are one of the worst human beings I have ever met. Bear in mind, I have met assassins, some of them as they tried to murder me in my sleep." He turned away from the dumbfounded blonde and looked at the others.
"Greetings. I am Damian Wayne, son of Bruce Wayne and heir to Wayne Enterprises. Now, where exactly were you planning on having this lunch?"