Jagged Stone could admit that sometimes, he was a little bit oblivious to how other people were feeling. He was a little too boisterous, too distractible, too caught up in his own thoughts and ideas and plans. It caused problems, sometimes- Jagged had butted heads with more record managers than he cared to think about because his artistic vision differed from theirs, and sometimes he didn't come off particularly well in interviews because he was too busy thinking about other things to notice an interviewer trying to ask a different question- but he was working on it, and if he was oblivious to something, well, he did have Penny to clue him in.
Still, Jagged Stone had been trying to improve. Penny had been pretty stressed out on several occasions recently, and he had wanted to ease some of her load by being at least a little more observant. He had thought that he was doing really well.
Considering that he had apparently missed his niece's upset mood during his last visit to commission a stage outfit from her, he apparently wasn't doing as well as he wanted to.
"What do you mean, she was off?" Jagged Stone implored Penny again. "Penny, if I'm going to learn..."
"She was hiding it pretty well, to be fair," Penny assured him. "Especially when you were looking. But when your back was turned, she looked kind of stressed."
Jagged Stone frowned. That wasn't a good thing! Maybe he could help, though. "Do you know what she was upset about?"
"Do I- no, Jagged, I cannot figure out what people are upset about by looking at their body language!" Penny exclaimed, clearly exasperated. "And I didn't want to pry, not when she was trying to be professional with coming up with ideas for your commission."
Jagged Stone considered that. Then he perked up. "Do you think that you, just maybe, could sneakily bring it up with Marinette when you go over with my measurements tomorrow? If I can help my niece with anything, I want to!"
"Yes, yes, I can try," Penny promised, and then she sighed, rolling her eyes. "And we've talked about this, Jagged Stone. Marinette is not your niece."
"Who says that she isn't?" Jagged Stone demanded, planting his fists on his hips. "My niece in rock-n-roll! Her CD cover and glasses and the songs they inspired put me back at the top of the charts. I am an artist, she's an artist- family in actually kickass artistry!"
He didn't understand why Penny was rolling her eyes. Really.
Penny returned the next day with several design sketches and barely hidden anger bubbling away under her professional demeanor. Jagged Stone picked up on it right away, ushering Penny into their room at the Grand Paris and getting her settled with a platter of her favorite chocolates.
He was rather proud of himself for that, really. He was learning! He hadn't missed Penny's stress!
"I found out what happened," Penny told him, inhaling a chocolate in one bite. She chewed angrily, then swallowed. "A week before we went over for brainstorming, Marinette got expelled from her school after getting framed for cheating, thief, and hurting another student. The other student walked back on her claims the next day," Penny added hastily before Jagged Stone could grab his guitar and storm over to Dupont to bash their blundering principal over the head. He hadn't been impressed by the man the one time- or was it two times, he really couldn't remember- that they had met, and clearly there was a reason for that. "And her expulsion was retracted. But she's still facing some skepticism from her teachers and classmates over the whole thing."
"Who would want to frame Marinette?" Jagged Stone demanded, thoroughly baffled. "Marinette is fantastic! They'd have to be a cruel, heartless soul to do such a thing."
"Yeah, well, that's kind of what this girl sounds like, honestly." Penny took another angry bite. "Marinette was telling me all about her. It's the daughter of a diplomat- or that's what she claims, at least- who keeps making up all of these stories about things she's done and people she's met. Marinette is one of the only people who doesn't believe a word she says, and the only one willing to call Lila out."
Jagged Stone nodded in approval. "Calling out bullies and liars is very rock and roll!"
"Less so when it gets her framed and expelled, but yes." Penny flopped back in her chair, then perked back up. "Something Marinette said- well, it sounded almost as though the liar girl was claiming connections to you. She stopped herself before I could get much more out of her, though."
He nearly exploded with indignation at that. "The liar girl is trying to use me to boost her status? How dare she! And going after my niece while she does-"
Penny sighed in exasperation. "No matter how often you say it, Marinette isn't actually your niece-"
"I'm going to put a stop to this nonsense," Jagged Stone announced, surging to his feet as a surge of energy hit him. Maybe he wasn't going to be in Paris for the next couple of weeks because he was on tour, but, well, that just gave him time to plan. "No liar will use my name to hurt Marinette! Now, if I can grab my computer-"
"We're meant to be heading to the train station to go to London in twenty minutes," Penny reminded him. "For a meeting in London with the new record company you were considering switching to."
"Of course! Penny, I would be lost without you." Jagged beamed at her, then dashed across the room. "I can bring my computer on the train! Plenty of time to think there, no problem. We have a private compartment, so I won't even be interrupted!"
Behind him, Penny could only sigh.
It wasn't hard to find more information on the liar in Marinette's class. All it had taken was going to Marinette's social media, going to her Ladyblogger friend's page, and from there finding Alya's personal blog.
He felt a bit strange flipping through a teen girl's personal blog and it certainly wasn't something he would ever do normally, but Jagged Stone was on a mission and Alya's blog was a veritable treasure mine. Not even three minutes after he first found the blog, Jagged Stone had learned who the liar girl in question was and had found several of the claims that she had made, all so absolutely outrageous that Jagged Stone had to wonder how anyone believed them in the first place.
But outrageous or not, they had also given him an idea.
Lila had claimed that she had saved his cat, and that he had written a song for her in thanks. Now, he definitely wasn't going to be thanking her for anything, but he could certainly write a song about her.
It wasn't going to be flattering, and it wasn't going to call Lila out by name- Penny had helpfully informed him that doing so would probably land him in legal trouble, even before he had been able to voice the idea (which was super rock-n-roll, actually, that they were so much on the same wavelength!)- but the details that he was going to refer to, courtesy of the blog, would mean that anyone familiar with Lila would know exactly who he was referring to.
Jagged Stone already had some lyrics scribbled out on a sheet of paper and a couple bars of music to go with it, and it was going to be a banging song. Like, top-of-the-charts, definitely-on-the-radio, impossible-to-miss banging.
"The main problem I'm foreseeing here is that it takes time to release a song," Penny reminded Jagged as she bundled him and Fang into a town car and then got in herself. "You need at least seven songs usually in an album, and then there's the studio time, you know that, and-"
"So it'll get released as a single for now," Jagged Stone told her, because obviously he wasn't going to leave Marinette hanging for longer than he had to. What kind of uncle would he be if he did that? "Singles take less time! I can probably have a demo by the end of the week, and then if we can get a recording studio in any of the cities that we actually spend some time in, then I can get the tracks recorded and all ready for mixing and- oh!" Jagged froze, struck by the most perfect idea. "If we can get Marinette to do the cover art for the single, that would be perfect! Then she gets her bully taken down and some money besides- yes, I'll tell her about it right away and work around her schedule, Penny, I already know that- and I get some more awesome art!"
Penny rubbed her forehead, right between her eyebrows, but didn't protest further. "All right. But you know that if you want a cover that'll go along with the single, Marinette needs some direction. I just don't know how you'll keep it all a surprise."
"She can get the background demo tracks and a prompt list of words," Jagged Stone told her at once, because he had already considered that. He had been working on getting better at not leaving all of the thinking and planning up to Penny, too, even if she hadn't quite gotten used to that yet. "That will help her come up with a cover. And look, I've already started!"
By the time they had boarded the train and were halfway to London, Jagged had gotten the main part of the song written down. The lyrics just needed tweaking, the drums could probably be shaken up, and he wanted to add a few more backing tracks and play with some effects, but he had been inspired and it showed.
"I'll check it against your other songs after the meeting and make sure that you're not accidentally borrowing from an old song," Penny told him as he enthusiastically tapped his pen against the seat of his chair, trying out different drum beats with the tune. "And then I suppose we can start work on demo tracks, if you're so determined to get this out fast."
Jagged Stone grinned. "That sounds perfect."
In what was surely Jagged Stone's fastest turnaround time ever, he was ready. The song was written, the demo tracks had been polished up into the final tracks and had been professionally recorded and mixed, Marinette had gotten the single's art done (and it was amazing, of course, somehow absolutely perfectly fitting the song even though Marinette hadn't heard the lyrics yet), and everything was ready, all within a month's time.
(His new record company was none too thrilled that he hadn't given them time to promote it, but, well, he was big enough to drop a new single out of nowhere and have it succeed, so did it really matter?)
And then it dropped Monday morning. By mid-morning Paris time, it had exploded all over the radio and thousands of people had bought it already. His new record label was applauding it as a huge success, all of their complaints about the lack of promotion forgotten, critics were already praising both the song and the cover art-
-and Jagged Stone didn't care. He was more focused on if the song had done its work and had gotten rid of Marinette's liar problem.
"You are not allowed to call her up and beg to know what's going on," Penny instructed him sternly. "Marinette is in class right now, and you know that she'll reach out and keep you updated when she can. Now either sit down and stop pacing, or go give Fang a bath. Heaven knows that that will keep you busy."
"Oh, I suppose." Fang deserved a bath after putting up with their most recent bout of traveling, after all. Travel grime was ugh, even on a crocodile. "But let me know as soon as Marinette texts! I won't be able to check my phone, since my hands will be all wet, but I wanna know!"
"I promise. Now go, shoo- you're distracting me!"
Marinette had been a bit distracted all morning, and for once, it wasn't because of Adrien or her Guardian duties.
Ever since Jagged Stone had told her that he was going to be dropping a new single soon and asked her to do the art, Marinette had been looking forward to the song coming out. She didn't know what the song was about, exactly- Jagged Stone was being strangely cagey about getting any more specific about the lyrics- but he had sent along a basic demo track along with a few prompt words for her illustration and it sounded amazing. She could only imagine how awesome the final version- properly mixed, with all of the instruments ironed out and vocals and everything- would sound.
(And now it had some pretty awesome art to go along with it, if Marinette said so herself- dark, seething greens in the background stood in stark contrast to the trails of shimmery gold dust in the forefront. It was more abstract than some of her other covers, but Jagged Stone had proclaimed it the coolest thing ever and tossed her a bonus on top of the already-generous commission price, which was amazing.)
And then, right before lunch, Nino gave a shout of surprise.
"Jagged Stone just dropped a single!" Nino announced, waving his phone at everyone. "I didn't even know that he was thinking about releasing anything! Lila, did he tell you?"
"Well, yes, but he asked that I keep it secret," Lila said at once, pressing a hand to her chest. It was a common look on her, faux-humble in a sickly sweet way that made Marinette want to gag. "I even got to listen to it before it got released, and it's fantastic."
"This art is sick!" Nino exclaimed. Marinette peered over his shoulder, and- yup, Nino was already in the process of buying it. "'Not All That Glitters is Gold- man, I gotta get a poster of this art, I bet that the non-digital version actually does glitter!"
Marinette hid her smile. It did, actually.
"Yes, they're a fantastic artist, aren't they?" Lila bragged. "They're a very private person, but I introduced them to Jagged Stone- I thought that he might want a professional artist for this song."
All eyes shot to Marinette, waiting with bated breath to see her reaction. After a second, Lila gasped dramatically, hands flying to her mouth. "Oh! Not- not that there was anything wrong with the album cover you did, Marinette, just that-"
"It's funny that you say all of that," Marinette said, her voice icy-cold. "Because I did the cover art for Jagged's new song, and I have the art- with all of the layers, in case you want to claim that I just downloaded it- plus the in-progress demos that I sent to Jagged Stone, plus the invoice for that commission to prove it."
The class went silent.
"And you didn't introduce me to Jagged Stone, he reached out to me," Marinette added on. "And I have the emails for that, too. So you can cut it out with the lies now."
"Oh, silly me, I must have gotten the single mixed up with Jagged's next full album," Lila tittered hastily. "The professional that I recommended to him must be doing the full album, and I just misunderstood."
Marinette was pleased to see that this time, not everyone looked entirely convinced.
"Ms. Bustier, can we please listen to Jagged Stone's new song?" Nino asked as their teacher entered the classroom, shoving his hair up into the air. "Please? Marinette did the art, and Lila's already heard it because she's friends with Jagged!"
"Well, I suppose you can put it on while I get the lesson set up and collect the homework," Ms. Bustier said with a laugh. "That's so exciting, you two! Nino, you know how to connect to the room's speakers so that we can all hear it? At a reasonable volume," she added hastily as Nino got up. "If we get any more noise complaints, then we won't be allowed to have any music on for events for the rest of the school year."
"Got it, Ms. Bustier!"
"I can't believe that you got to do another cover for Jagged Stone!" Alya said excitedly as Nino hooked up his phone. "And you didn't say anything!"
"Of course not. Some of my commissions are secret-"
Marinette was cut off by the oh-so-familiar opening chords of Jagged's newest song, and she trailed off. The accompanying horns were new, and definitely attention-catching and fantastic. Marinette's breath caught in her throat, already blown away.
And then the lyrics started.
At first, Marinette didn't really hear anything out of place. Then she caught a mention of kittens on a runway and sat up straight. All around her, murmurs gave away that other people had heard the same thing and everybody sat up and listened as the song swung around into the chorus.
'Not all that glitters is gold! Hiding behind lies that were told
A dollar-store gem trying to pass herself off as a diamond!
Claims of connections abound, but none of her stories are sound
A liar, through and through!
Adrien spun around in his seat to look back at Marinette, just as Marinette realized what Jagged Stone had done and clapped her hands over her mouth in silent glee. He quirked an eyebrow at her, mouthing a silent did you ask him to do this? and Marinette shook her head.
No, she hadn't asked. She had mentioned Lila to Penny, though, after Penny had asked about why Marinette had been so down. Her parents had probably said more, if she was really being honest, and Penny had no doubt told Jagged Stone, who then came to the very logical and oh-so-Jagged conclusion that the best way to deal with the problem was by writing a call-out song. A call-out song that, by the sounds of it, included references to more than a few of Lila's lies, not just her ones concerning Jagged Stone, so there was no way to mistake who the song was referring to.
She definitely hadn't mentioned all of those to Penny.
In the back, Lila had gone white. More than a few classmates had turned around, sending her disgusted looks. Alya had frozen in her seat before whipping around, murder in her gaze. Even Ms. Bustier was looking incredibly suspicious as she made the connection between the lyrics and all of the stories that Lila had told over the months.
Lila's reign of lies had come to a very abrupt end, heralded by the sound of horns.
"You didn't even know that he was going to do that, did you?" Adrien asked her as soon as the song came to an end. "You looked so surprised!"
"He didn't let me hear the lyrics at all!" Marinette exclaimed, and wow, now she knew why. She was honestly starting to feel teary, because Jagged Stone had written this song for her, because she had been upset after Lila's expulsion attempt, and she knew just how much work went into making a song, and it- this was incredible. "Or really anything beyond vague prompt words. I knew that he knew about Lila, because Penny asked why I was feeling down and I told her, but this..."
Marinette would have assumed that just bursting into class would be more Jagged's style, over-the-top and impulsive and immediate, but maybe he had just been too inspired by the topic and the idea of a song to think of that. And whether or not that was the intention, the song was so catchy, so bound to be popular, there was no way that Lila would be able to escape it. She would be hearing it on the car radio, playing in the train station and on the bus and in the mall. If Lila was on her own, she could leave, or turn it off. But if she was with classmates, or her mom- assuming that her mom didn't actually know what Lila had been up to all this time- then Lila would have to sit and stew.
...maaaybe that wasn't a great thing if she was going to be staying in Paris, but with any luck, it would drive Lila so mad that she would leave.
"That's one heck of a call-out by Jagged!" Kim cackled loudly, breaking through the muted muttering. "Wow, how ticked off did you have to make him for him to go out of his way to write and produce a song calling you out?"
"No, it's not what it looks like- I swear, he's just, uh..." Lila was floundering. There really was no easy way to get out of this, but clearly she was going to try anyway. "You know not all song lyrics are literal! I did save his cat, and he did write a song for me, it's just that-"
"What's the name of the so-called song Jagged Stone wrote for you called, then?" Nino asked sarcastically. "'Clinging to the coattails of fame without any dignity'?"
Marinette choked on a laugh before hastily trying to hide it. Across the aisle, Chloe was far less subtle as she cackled in delight, clearly thrilled by Lila's messy downfall.
Marinette wasn't surprised. Chloe was far less impressed by connections and tall tales than a lot of their peers, but she was absolutely the sort of person to be bitter about how much attention Lila had been getting. It meant less attention on Chloe, and that just couldn't stand.
"Okay, class, please settle down!" Ms. Bustier implored. She was glancing around the classroom, clearly trying to figure out a path forward. "Ah, Lila, let's step out to talk to the principal and call your mom."
"No, but a song from a rock star is hardly considered any sort of reliable source, surely!" Lila cried, still not willing to give up and come quietly. "He's met thousands of people, why would everybody assume that he's talking about a real person? That he's talking about me?"
Finally looking properly wilted, Lila gathered up all of her things in a rush, stuffing them roughly in her bag before heading out the door in front of Ms. Bustier. All around Marinette, whispers started up, some people comparing notes on stories Lila had told and finally (FINALLY) looking them up, others looking up the lyrics to the song. Marinette ignored them all, fumbling for her phone and pulling up Jagged Stone's contact number.
Seriously, how was she supposed to thank him? He had gone to so much work, gone so far out of his way, just for her. Because it was for her, Marinette knew that. Jagged Stone had plenty of over-eager fans that sometimes went overboard with things, and of course there were tabloids that loved to make up stories about him. Jagged Stone ignored all of them the best he could- well, until they got too intrusive, at least, like that one photographer- instead of slapping back. There was no reason for him to go out of his way just for Lila, when she looked at it that way. Lila and her lies wouldn't even appear on Jagged Stone's radar, if it weren't for Marinette. But that hadn't made a difference to Jagged.
Seriously. Best. Uncle. Ever.
(Well. Best not-technically-an-uncle ever. After all, Penny always insisted that Jagged Stone couldn't just adopt Marinette as his niece, no matter how much he wanted to.)
With shaky fingers and happy tears blurring her vision, Marinette texted a quick thank-you to Jagged, hoping that he could feel all of her gratitude through the few simple words that she managed to pull together. Without the constant threats from Lila hanging over her head- either because Lila would be gone or because she would be so thoroughly discredited by everyone that she would be powerless- and without having to constantly be at odds with most of her friends about Lila and her lies, Marinette's days at school would be much more enjoyable and relaxed.
Penny glanced at Jagged Stone's phone for the fifty-seventh time in an hour and a half. His phone kept lighting up with all sorts of messages- from his new producers, from celebrity and non-celebrity friends alike, from his family members- and she had kept checking it, noting messages that needed to be responded to as she did.
It was exhausting, especially since Penny had her own correspondence to attend to- questions about integrating the new song into set lists, requests for interviews about the new song, and an ongoing back-and-forth with Jagged Stone's lawyer to make sure that he wasn't going to get in legal trouble for the song (since no names were mentioned, he was in the clear as long as he didn't call out Lila during any interviews, but she just wanted to be prepared). Frankly, Penny was tempted to put Jagged's phone on mute and just ignore it for a bit before checking to see if Marinette had reached out. After all, she would be in school right now, so the likelihood of Marinette and her classmates being able to listen to the song before lunch was, well, rather low-
Message from: Marinette Dupain-Cheng
-but Penny supposed that it wasn't entirely impossible.
"Message from Marinette!" Penny called out, and there was a yelp and a clatter as Jagged Stone dropped the broom he was using to scrub Fang to dash out to the main room and snatch up his phone. He grinned at the message, whooping in triumph.
"They listened to it in class and all of her classmates figured it out right away!" Jagged announced. "And the liar girl got carted off to the principal's office and her mother is being called, so she's dealt with. Score!"
"Yes, good job," Penny told him, resigned to hearing about it for the next month, at least. Jagged Stone was going to be too caught up in the euphoria of his success to be much use, so she would have to deal with all of the setting up appointments. "Your idea worked, Marinette's bully has been dealt with. Can you relax now?"
Jagged didn't seem to hear her. "You know what, I'm going to call up room service and we can all have a feast to celebrate! And- oh, I should text Marinette back, 'cause I wanna get any more updates! I just want to make sure that the little eel doesn't manage to slither out of punishment again. I doubt even she can get out of it now, but I gotta follow through!"
Penny could only sigh as Jagged Stone bounced away across the room. As he went, Penny could hear him singing under his breath.
Tea with a prince, talking about charity
She's too kind, too good to be
Working to save the world, she always tries
Except everything she says are self-serving lies!
Not all that glitters is gold! Hiding behind lies that were told
A dollar-store gem trying to pass herself off as a diamond-!
A/N: This is the first of three oneshots (or at least that's the number I'm planning on at the moment) of Lila takedowns featuring one Jagged Stone! All of them are standalone stories, of course (aka not in the same timeline/universe), so this particular one is complete.
As always, comments make my day!