Felix Graham de Vanily was more than a little apprehensive about returning to Paris for his mom's summer movie shoot, and for good reason.
The last time that he was in the city, he had caused no small amount of chaos. He had threatened his relationship with Adrien over a (in retrospect) petty, poorly-considered attempt at revenge- how badly their friendship had been damaged really remained to be seen- and gotten off on the wrong foot with all of Adrien's friends, which could make finding people to hang out with more than a little difficult. During that same revenge attempt, he had truly behaved poorly towards one of the city's superheroes, and he would have to try to apologize for it if he could get close to the superheroes again without endangering his life. On top of that, he had palmed his uncle's ring, which- well, was it really stealing when Mr. Agreste had gotten them through less-than-honest means in the first place?- with the full expectation that it would be at least a year before he and his mom returned to Paris, so his uncle might have simmered down by then.
It hadn't been anywhere near a full year yet. His uncle would no doubt still be furious about the retrieval of the ring, and so Felix had to be very careful with it.
Right now, that meant wearing the ring on a strong chain around his neck, hidden under his shirt. If he was going to be spending more than the odd minute here or there in the Agreste mansion, he and his mom might end up looking into getting a safe box for them to lock the ring up in, so that his uncle wouldn't steal it back.
"Don't let on that you're nervous," his mom coached as their train pulled into the Paris stop. "Be confident, don't react to questions about the rings. With a little luck, perhaps your uncle will assume that he misplaced it. Emilie always said that he would mess with his ring when he was designing and she was worried that he'd end up taking it off and misplacing it for good. He's already called me once demanding the ring back and I told him that we didn't have it and maybe he had just lost it."
Which meant that Felix could just act bored about the accusation instead of being surprised. That was useful information.
"I also got us an apartment that's a bit further outside of the city center," his mom continued after a moment. "Both to stay out of the way of the majority of the akuma attacks, and to give us some space from your uncle. We're near a subway line, though, so it'll be easy enough to go and visit."
Felix nodded. His mom had already mentioned that, and he knew that there was a third reason, too: apartments of a decent size close to the city center were expensive. Their family might be wealthy, but (largely due to his father's influence, Felix suspected) they still had never be people to throw money around without due consideration first. "But Uncle Gabriel won't bother to come out and bug us?"
"Of course not. When was the last time that he left that house of his? And if he does- well, I have no problems with kicking up a legal stink. Gabriel would do well to remember that the only reason he has connections to the Mayor's family is because of Emilie and I, so he has no advantage there." Amelie sniffed. "Not that he'll bother to remember that. If anyone asks him, I'm sure he would say that he worked himself up from nothing and made all of his connections himself with his superior bargaining skills."
"Ah, yes, the scowling and yelling and refusing to meet in person is very persuasive, I had forgotten."
Amelie laughed. "Yes, exactly. Emilie was the one who handled more of the PR and meetings with investors, really. If Gabriel had been trying to do it himself, he would have failed miserably." She shrugged, turning back to him with a large smile. "Don't let your uncle ruin your summer, Felix. He roars and rages a lot, but he's always been all bark and no bite."
Felix nodded, taking a steadying breath as the train came to a complete stop and they got up, reaching for their bags. "Right. Of course."
Somehow, he got the impression that that would be easier said than done.
Really, it- it wasn't as terrible as Felix had thought. The summer had started out slowly- he had seen Adrien at dinner shortly after arriving in Paris, and then Felix had spent a week and a half entertaining himself while his mom started filming on the movie and his cousin finished up his school year.
It wasn't bad, really. He found a small bookstore that was cool and quiet, and he settled down there in a corner to read. It was nice and it was peaceful.
Alas, it was not to last. His mom expected that he would go hang out with Adrien, and so... Felix did. The first three times that he went over, the two of them simply hung out in Adrien's room for part of the day and played some of the video games that Adrien had around. His cousin seemed on high alert at first- Felix certainly noticed fewer things lying around his room, and there were several things with locks on them that hadn't had locks before- but willing enough to try again. By day three, their conversations were far more relaxed, and Adrien spent nearly an hour telling Felix about all of his friends. He wasn't bragging about having them, Felix could tell, but was just genuinely happy to have them and wanted to share that with him.
...unfortunately, Felix knew that it was more likely than not that a large number of Adrien's friends would not be very thrilled to meet him. He had not made a particularly good first impression, to say the least, and they- unlike Adrien- had not had any other interactions with him to go by. Felix didn't resent them for their judgement of him (after all, he rather deserved it, he could admit that much) but it would make meeting them a bit awkward, particularly if Adrien hadn't had a chance to mention how things were going now first.
Or if Felix hadn't done anything obvious to make amends for his earlier behavior. Thankfully, an opportunity to both put off the inevitable meeting and to make things up to Adrien properly practically fell in his lap after Nathalie scheduled a photoshoot right when Adrien was hoping to get together with his friends.
Or, rather, when Adrien had put a meet-up with his friends on his schedule and Nathalie deleted it last-minute to replace it with yet another photoshoot, because apparently she didn't know the meaning of fun. Or being nice, or kindness, or not being a terrible human being, really.
"Are- are you sure that you want to model, Felix? It's not exactly the most fun thing in the world."
Felix nodded resolutely, glancing towards his cousin's door and hoping that no one was eavesdropping on their conversation. "You want to be with your friends, and I would like to make a good impression this time around before meeting them anyway. It's no big deal. I can sit and make clothes look good for an hour or two."
At last, Adrien nodded in agreement. "I- okay, if you're sure. I'll text you the time and location, so you have it, and-"
"Won't your bodyguard be expecting to drive you there?"
Adrien paused. "...oh. Oh, yeah."
Felix tried not to sigh. Oh, yes was right. Clearly logistics weren't his cousin's strongest point.
"Well, I can ask him to bring me there early, so that I can have some time to relax in the park!" Adrien said after a moment's thought. "And then we can meet and swap outfits there- or I'll bring an extra, actually, it'll be less hassle. It'll be harder for me to get to Marinette's place from there, but I'll manage it. There's a bus line nearby that'll get me close enough."
"Your father actually lets you out enough for you to know how to take the bus?" Felix inquired, unable to help feeling a little incredulous. His cousin hadn't been allowed to walk to his collège, which was only a few mere blocks away, so he had assumed that his uncle had required use of the chauffeured car for all of his other travel. "Count me impressed."
A quick grin flashed across Adrien's face. "He doesn't let me out, exactly. I tend to sneak out. And then, of course, I need to know how to get where I'm going fast, or else I'll get picked up by the Gorilla right away before I have a proper chance of escape."
...that was just sad.
"Anyway, I should probably coach you if we're actually going to do this. You know, give you some pointers and all. Uh." Adrien twisted his ring around, glancing up at the ceiling as though that was going to help him any. "Um."
Felix rolled his eyes. "I hardly think that I'll need extensive coaching to be able to sit in front of a camera and pose."
"Will I need to know several dozen poses to do in rapid-fire succession? I've heard that some models do that."
Adrien sighed. "No, Simon prefers to take more organic shots. I've been learning the fast poses on my own, in case I ever get a photographer who needs that or if I end up branching out and start modeling for catalogues instead of just ads, but Father prefers Simon's artistic vision. So he'll tell you what he wants in general, then give tweaks. Like, there's some moving my head around, maybe, but..." He trailed off, shrugging.
Well. If Felix actually needed any advice to pass off as Adrien during the photoshoot, he was pretty certain that he would be more or less out of luck. With advice like that, it would be a wonder if he wasn't left completely unprepared when he arrived.
"I've not had, like, professional training as a model or anything," Adrien added after a moment. "It's all been informal, which is maybe a bit unusual considering what father's like the rest of the time, but maybe it's good for publicity somehow or something." He shrugged, looking remarkably unbothered by the prospect of his father basing his decision on how to treat Adrien during photoshoots on what would sell best. "So just listen to Simon and don't forget to look towards the camera unless he tells you otherwise, and don't be too stiff but don't slouch, either, and-"
Felix tried not to sigh.
"If- if Lila's there, just- ugh. Just don't agree to anything she says, and- well, she still tries to lie to me all the time, even though I know better than to trust anything she says. She loves manipulating people, so..."
Adrien's comment about his sometimes-coworker- probably the most intriguing and useful part of his "advice" for the photoshoot once he actually managed to think of something to say- ran through Felix's head as he arrived at the site for the photoshoot, a lovely little park in a less busy part of the city. This Lila character sounded like trouble, and he wasn't much interested in trouble. Or in being manipulated, for that matter.
How very fortunate, then, that Felix had more than a little experience with manipulation. He would be able to spot any attempts coming from a mile away. From what Felix could gather, this Lila person was a sloppy manipulator at best, relying on flashy stories and crocodile tears to keep her influence. They were things that would perhaps work in the short term but would wear off and become ineffective in the long run, particularly once people started picking up on inconsistencies. Eventually, things would backfire on her, and then she would be left alone and hated.
Felix preferred more subtle manipulation, and (unless he was not thinking clearly) only when a situation warranted it. A little nudge here and there to increase the odds of things going his way was rather different than Lila's graceless shoves to make everything go her way, to get the kind of popularity that Lila clearly wanted. His technique was sustainable- after all, infrequent manipulations were less likely to be picked up on- while hers was not.
His cousin hadn't really said much about Lila other than to mention that she might be there and to not fall for her lies, but Felix already disliked her.
"Felix! You got here all right, good!"
Felix pushed away his thoughts and smiled as Adrien ran up. He had a bag slung over his shoulder, presumably with an identical outfit to the one that he was wearing. "Yes, I've had sufficient down time to figure out the system. It wasn't hard to puzzle out."
"Oh, great." Adrien glanced around, clearly making sure that he wasn't being followed, and then passed his bag off to Felix after pulling a smaller bag out from inside of it. "I have an identical outfit in here. Are you good, or...?"
"I'll be fine," Felix assured him. "Go on, go hang out with your friends." He paused and considered Adrien. "Ah, are you going to wear a disguise or something? You know, in case anyone takes pictures of you and posts them?"
Adrien nodded, pulling- surprise, surprise- a baseball hat and a large pair of sunglasses out of his bag. "Yeah, this will work fine! There's plenty of guys in France with blond hair, so as long as my hair isn't visible and they can't see all of my face..."
Felix hoped, for Adrien's sake, that that actually somehow worked and he didn't run into any of his more fanatical fans. Maybe the most basic of disguises would work against most of the population, but there were a few weirdos who probably prided themselves on being able to identify his cousin with the smallest of clues.
"Anyway, hopefully it'll work," Adrien finished after a moment's pause. He glanced back at Felix. "Are you sure you're good?"
Adrien went. Felix watched him for a minute, then made a beeline for the public restrooms building that he had seen earlier. He hated the idea of changing in it, truth be told, but he hardly had a choice.
...well, maybe he could have coordinated outfits with Adrien yesterday and only had to fiddle with his hairstyle at the park instead, but hindsight was 20/20.
Despite Felix's worries, the bathrooms weren't bad at all. He changed quickly and did a fast brushing of his hair into Adrien's hairstyle- it was a little difficult to account for the difference in their hair length in a few places, but he managed it well enough- before leaving the restroom and tracking down the plaza where the photoshoot would be taking place. It was a fairly basic set-up, honestly- a small trailer with the outfits to be worn in it, an equally small tent for changing, a couple chairs for touch-ups to makeup and hair with a screen nearby to block the wind. A few things for lighting and the photography equipment were scattered around, but otherwise it was incredibly minimal.
He had to wonder what normal shoots- ones that weren't solely for the boss's son- looked like. Surely not everything that Gabriel did was so low-budget.
"Ah, Adrien, you're on time- early, even!" A man with a camera hanging around his neck- Simon, Felix assumed- appeared behind him, clapping him on the shoulder and making Felix startle. He chuckled. "That's a nice change from the past couple shoots, hmm?"
Felix only nodded, not sure what to say. In all honesty, he hadn't been expecting the photoshoot's staff to be talking to him much, other than to issue directions for the shoot itself. If he had known that they were likely to be chatty, he would have asked Adrien more questions.
Thankfully, Simon seemed willing enough to move on, immediately turning to the job at hand. The first outfit that "Adrien" was supposed to wear was already in the tent, so if he could just go ahead and change so that they could get started...
Felix was more than willing to comply. The sooner they started, then maybe the sooner they would finish. And while Felix didn't exactly have anything else that he wanted to do- hanging out at his cousin's house while Adrien wasn't there didn't sound like fun, nor was he particularly interested in crashing Adrien's friends' get-together- it was hot outside and changing into a dozen different outfits in quick succession and getting poked and prodded at wasn't Felix's idea of a good time.
Three outfits in, and Felix noticed a girl lingering around the edges of the photoshoot area. She wasn't getting shooed off by security, which meant that it was incredibly likely that she was meant to be there. And sure enough, a minute later, the girl headed into the second half of the changing tent.
That must be the Lila that Adrien had warned him about. Felix had rather hoped that he would get lucky and not have to deal with the liar, but apparently luck wasn't on his side today.
Or was it? Felix gave that a minute's thought. He had been a bit bored thus far, and doing a bit of manipulative sparring might be just the thing to spice up his afternoon. Little Miss Terror wouldn't be expecting it- after all, Felix didn't doubt that Adrien's approach to Lila was rather on the tepid side- and it might be amusing to throw her off her game. Going too far might alert her to the fact that he wasn't actually Adrien, though, and she might tattle, so that added another level of complexity, another thing to think about.
He was so busy trying to figure out how strong he would want to come off that he completely missed Lila snaking up behind him until thin arms slid around him in an entirely unexpected (and unwelcome) hug.
"Adrien! I'm so happy that we get to work together again!" Lila cooed, leaning forward to try to press a kiss to Felix's cheek. She missed when he dodged, just enough to get out of her path but not so far that it would look obvious. Lila pouted, but didn't make more of a fuss. "Aren't you?"
"Mmhmm," Felix murmured noncommittally, disengaging himself from Lila's groping hold smoothly to step away and move into the next pose that Simon had wanted. Lila was forced to back off for the remainder of Felix's solo shots, and then he could escape into the tent to change while she did a few solo shots of her own.
And then came the duo shots, aka the absolute longest forty-five minutes of Felix's life.
(Well. Okay, maybe there had been some other instances when time had stretched out far longer, but as far as normal everyday situations went- well, then this ranked waaay up there.)
Things had gone smoothly when Felix was on his own. Despite never having done photoshoots before- or at least clothing photoshoots, he had posed for a few family portraits over the year- he had gotten the hang of it right away. He followed Simon's instructions with little need for further correction, and the photographer had been beaming.
With Lila added to the mix, though? All of that was completely shot. She was completely unprofessional, and quite handsy to boot. Felix managed to get away from her hands most of the time, dodging where he could and stepping smoothly away to make it look natural, but it was absolutely aggravating.
Thankfully, he got a bit of a reprieve when he loudly complained that she had wrinkled the sleeve of the light coat that he was modeling with her vice grip on his arm and she got scolded.
Unfortunately, that reprieve only lasted for five minutes before she was right back at it. She didn't hold on nearly as tight as before when he had longer sleeves on, sure, but other than that there was no real change. If anything, she was brushing her hands over his shoulders and arms more often than before.
Needless to say, by the time the last picture of the last set of clothes had been snapped, Felix was more than eager to be done, change back to his- well, Adrien's- normal clothes, and be rid of the Italian pest for good.
But Lila clearly had other ideas.
"Oh, I think we could pose for a few more minutes, don't you, Adrien?" Lila purred, fluttering her eyelashes at him. Felix could see where her fake eyelashes were starting to come detached. Clearly she had no idea how to apply them correctly, considering that they had been crooked to start with. "Maybe some, ah, closer poses? Oh! I know! Summer romance always sells, right?"
Felix raised an unimpressed eyebrow. Slick, she was not. Her attempts at manipulation couldn't be any more heavy-handed. Or more distasteful. "I'll pass on that, thanks."
Lila's pout grew. "You don't want to? I think it would be fun! I thought that we were friends." The last word was bitten out with a bit of an edge to it, an unspoken threat. Felix had no idea what it was meant to be.
Forget his cousin coaching him about modeling, clearly Felix had needed more insider info on how to interact with Adrien's friends and classmates.
"It is far too hot outside to be close to anyone," Felix countered tartly, refusing to let himself pause in the conversation. "We have a number of photos already. I see no need to risk heat stroke for more. Additionally, this is a clothes company, not a manufacturer of cheap romance novels, and there was nothing about summer romance in the shoot briefings."
Lila's eyes narrowed. Felix refused to back down.
"Adrien is right," Simon said, glancing over his notes. "And if the shoot goes much longer, we'll go into overtime, and Mr. Agreste hates that. It costs the company money, you know. So we're done for the day. Thank you for your work."
Felix murmured a quick thank-you in return. Lila looked as though she had maybe swallowed a lemon. Before she could recover and come up with a new ploy, Felix turned and strode off to the changing tent to switch back into Adrien's normal outfit as fast as he could.
He made sure to keep a suspicious eye out for any unusual ripples in the fabric of the tent. Felix didn't trust Lila to not try to sneak a peek of him changing. She seemed to have a complete lack of respect for normal boundaries and more than a slight fixation on him (or, rather, his cousin), so Felix wouldn't put it past her to try to look or even snap a picture.
A picture would probably be the more appealing option to Lila, if he was reading her right. Properly hidden so that no one else would discover that she had it, it would make valuable blackmail to get Adrien to play along with her little games.
One final change later, Felix exited the tent to see Lila talking with Nathalie. From the look of it, she had been the one to approach Nathalie rather than the other way around- after all, Nathalie had been standing in the same spot for most of the shoot- and she seemed to be trying to persuade Nathalie of something. And- odder yet- Nathalie actually seemed to be listening.
Felix frowned at that. Nathalie actually listening to someone who wasn't her boss? That was unusual, not to mention incredibly suspicious- and so was the entire inclusion of Lila in the Gabriel photoshoots, honestly. Why would Nathalie- and by natural extension, Mr. Agreste- want to bother working with someone like Lila? She was hardly a talented model. Even though she had had more experience with photoshoots than Felix had, and it was Felix's first time modeling to boot, she had needed more direction (and redirection) than he had. She rarely did exactly as the photographer asked, particularly with several shots alongside "Adrien". She preferred making her poses more flirty and having her hands on "Adrien" whenever she could, even arguing with the photographer about the poses he wanted. Lila was hardly any great beauty, either, and her atrocious hairstyle wasn't doing her any favors. And she was hardly rich or famous to start with, despite what she reportedly liked claiming.
Surely Mr. Agreste and Nathalie wouldn't fall for her lies. Maybe they weren't the sharpest tools in the shed, but they had enough experience to navigate what his father had always referred to as shark-infested waters of the business world. They should be able to pick up on the lies and manipulation without a problem.
...so why was she here? What was Mr. Agreste getting out of their arrangement? Besides higher bills from photoshoot staff because of Lila holding things up, of course.
Felix didn't like this. Not at all.
Nathalie finally nodded, making a note on her tablet, and then she and Lila parted ways. Felix glanced away at once- he didn't want to appear to be inviting her over, after all, he had already had more than enough of her for the day- but he could see her making a beeline for him regardless. Felix deliberately stepped away, headed for Adrien's bodyguard. He would very much prefer to go back to the house now, but Lila was faster.
Faster, and had very sharp nails.
"Surely you weren't about to run off without saying good-bye?" Lila crooned, her voice so sickly sweet that it nearly made Felix gag. "How rude."
"If you put holes in this shirt with your nails, my father will hear about it," Felix warned her instead of replying with a cutting comment about how hypocritical it was of her to call anyone rude. Lila only scoffed and tightened her hold, ignoring his words just as he had ignored hers.
"I feel like you're forgetting about our arrangement, Adrien." Lila's voice had dropped to a hiss. "Or do you want everyone to turn on Marinette, hmm? Think about it."
She didn't give him a chance to respond before giving his arm another painful squeeze and flouncing away, trailing her fingers across his chest as she went. It was probably just as well that she left, really, because Felix really wasn't sure what to say about that.
What kind of arrangement his cousin had with that wretched girl, Felix didn't know, but he didn't doubt that it was neither a good one nor a smart one. Considering that it apparently involved threats against one of Adrien's friends- the friend Adrien had gushed about the most over the past couple of days, coincidentally- there really was no way that it could be a good arrangement.
He brought it up with his mom that night, bringing up the fact that Adrien had thought to warn him about Lila and her lies, but he hadn't mentioned the harassment- the sexual harassment, really, considering the fact that Lila had tried to kiss him and rub her hands all over his chest- that was clearly normal for her interactions with him. That seemed like a rather important thing to mention, and the fact that he hadn't...
"Adrien's probably been raised not to raise a fuss," his mom said once she was done ranting and raving about shameless harlots and the adults who enabled them. "Or- you mentioned some sort of deal. Adrien might have decided the best way to protect his other friend was by just tolerating this monster, because no one's taught him better."
Felix blinked. He had heard his mom criticize her sister before, but not since her disappearance. It was a bit strange to hear, honestly, no matter how the indirect the criticism was, but he wasn't going to point it out.
"Emilie wouldn't want someone harassing Adrien," Amelie said after a minute of angry muttering under her breath. "I'm sure she would have taught him about exceptions to the whole politeness rule after he started attending school and running into less savory people. And she would want me to step in now." Her fingers started tapping against the table, an angry staccato as she thought. After a couple minutes, she spun to face Felix with an eager clap of her hands.
Felix, who was more than used to this sort of behavior by now and who had resumed eating his dinner while she thought, merely raised an eyebrow and set his fork back down on his plate neatly.
"You said that Adrien has regular photoshoots with this girl, correct?" Amelie asked eagerly. Felix nodded at once, raising an eyebrow at how hopeful his mom sounded.
"Yeah. And he mentioned that the start of his summers always has a higher concentration of photoshoots, to make up for not having them during exams and studying. That's why I offered to go for him today, because he's been kept so busy that he's not been able to see his friends. And because he had scheduled something with his friends, and then Nathalie just knocked it off of his schedule to put the photoshoot there instead and that didn't seem fair."
Amelie muttered something uncomplimentary about that, too, then her determined expression returned. "Well, that works in our favor. Tell Adrien that you'll do his next photoshoot, too- if you're willing to, of course," she added hastily. "And then I want you to tell this girl no. Tell her to back off. Enforce your boundaries- which I know you're good at doing."
Felix hesitated. He could see where his mom was going with her plan and why it would make more sense for him to be the one to confront Lila instead of Adrien, but- well, another Lila-filled photoshoot really wasn't that appealing.
But it sounded like he wouldn't have to deal with Lila's nonsense this time and could cut it off like he normally would, abrupt and sharp. He could see her downfall in person, see her expression go from overconfident to uncertain to crushed.
Maybe it was a bit petty and vindictive of him, but... well, Felix was a bit petty and vindictive, so what.
So he nodded. "I can do that."
Amelie lit up, clearly excited. "If I'm reading this girl right from what you've said, your no will mean next to nothing to her and she'll persist. To press charges and win, we'll probably need audio- and I can set you up with something that can hide under your clothes without showing."
Felix couldn't help the grin that flashed across his face. "Very nice."
"If my schedule allows, I'll be there too," his mom added. "As close by as I can be, so I can step in as needed. If Nathalie thinks that she'll be telling Adrien- you- to simply endure the harassment, she has another think coming."
"I like that," Felix said at once. "I mean, I don't like the idea of having to tolerate any more of Lila's company, but I can do it."
"Fantastic." Amelie leaned forward, her eyes narrowed in concentration. "Now, as for the rest of the plan..."
Convincing Adrien to let Felix take over for his next photoshoot was easier said than done, particularly after Felix told him about the brief face-off that he and Lila had had after the photoshoot. Adrien wanted to step in and work to smooth things over before Lila could lash out at Marinette in retribution, but Felix pointed out that Lila wouldn't be able to lash out at Marinette if Felix carried out the photoshoot like his mom wanted him to. She would be completely and thoroughly discredited, and if she turned into an akuma for it- well, so what? Better her than Marinette, surely, or Adrien.
Adrien hadn't considered that, obviously. After another moment's consideration, and the reassurance that it was Amelie's plan and not Felix's, he had given in and sent a screenshot of his photoshoot schedule to Felix so that he could show his mom and they could plan. Thankfully the next photoshoot wasn't too far out, so Adrien might not have to deal with keeping Lila happy in the meantime so that she wouldn't try to smear Marinette's reputation.
(Apparently Marinette was the only one of Adrien's friends who had been told about Felix's stepping in for a photoshoot thus far, and the only one told about Felix's plan to knock Lila back. He hadn't seen her again in person, but from what Adrien told him, Marinette had already forgiven Felix for the fiasco he had caused during his previous time in Paris.)
(Marinette was also the person that Adrien was going to be spending his time with while Felix was doing the photoshoot. Apparently most of his other friends were going to be busy, but Marinette wasn't, and she had been plenty happy to spend some time with Adrien.
Adrien had been pleasantly surprised by that, since he had been sure that she would be busy, too, but Felix hadn't been. After all, Marinette was in love with Adrien, wasn't she? Of course she would make time to spend with Adrien, that shouldn't have been a surprise.
Or had she not confessed to Adrien again in the months since Felix was last in Paris? He would have thought that she would have.)
"Remember to turn the recorder on," Amelie reminded him as they pulled up near the school, where Adrien was finishing up with a fencing lesson. He and Adrien were hoping to make the swap earlier than they had the previous time, since the photoshoot was pretty much right after Adrien's fencing lesson got out and it would be hard for them to swap without risking someone noticing. "And be very clear vocally about your objections, so that the recorder will pick them all up."
"Will we be able to use the recordings, do you think?" Felix asked, a thought occurring to him last-minute. "Or is it against the law here? I think it's fine back at home, but…"
"I'll deal with it if there's any legal issues," Amelie assured him. "I have connections, and I'm not afraid to use them."
That didn't quite answer Felix's question, but he supposed that it was as good of an answer as any. With one last check to make sure that he looked like Adrien and had everything he needed, Felix hopped out of the car and slipped into the school, making his way to the locker rooms. The fencers were finishing up their last matches, so it was easy enough for Felix to head to the bathrooms and text Adrien to make sure that he would know to come into the bathrooms, too. They wouldn't see each other face-to-face before the photoshoot- after all, Adrien's teammates might question how he had somehow doubled himself if they ran into the two of them in the bathroom- but it would make the trade much easier.
It wasn't long at all before Felix heard someone else enter the bathroom. He straightened in his stall, listening closely and keeping an eye on his phone. That could be Adrien, but it could just as easily be one of his teammates.
Luck was on his side. His phone buzzed, and a message lit up the screen.
Adrien: In the bathroom. Left my fencing bag on the chair near the door- you can take it so that the Gorilla doesn't wonder where I left it.
Felix nodded and shot back a quick message.
Right. See you later.
After another pause, Felix stepped out of his stall, heading for the sinks and washing his hands before claiming the fencing bag that was sitting on the somewhat out-of-place chair near the door. One glance- or rather, one whiff- inside assured him that it was Adrien's bag, and so Felix slung it over his shoulder before heading out into the locker rooms. A few good-byes to Adrien's teammates later and Felix was in Adrien's car, being whisked efficiently away by his bodyguard to the photoshoot.
Trade-off: smooth as butter.
Now that he had been to a photoshoot once, there was far less hesitation in Felix's step as he headed into the small tent to change, then out to hair and make-up for a touch-up. He had to wonder why Mr. Agreste would schedule a photoshoot for right after fencing in the first place as the stylists teased his hair to perfection. Surely the real Adrien's hair would be sweaty and messy after fencing and it would have made more sense for him to have some time for a shower first?
Maybe this was a one-off thing, just happening because they were trying to catch up on photoshoots after exams and they also had to work around Lila's schedule. If she even had one, that was. Something made Felix guess that Lila simply spent a lot of time holed up in her room, scheming and plotting. Maybe she pretended that she had a packed schedule in front of her friends, but in reality...
Well, one had to be really uninteresting to go to the same amount of effort that Lila was to get attention, and that generally suggested a lack of real activities to do.
Just like the previous time, the photoshoot started with individual shots. Felix went through the motions, posing and adjusting his expression as requested. It all went very smoothly...
...and then Lila showed up.
While Lila did her first individual shoot and Felix changed into his next outfit, he pulled the recorder that his mom had given him out. It was small and discreet, easy enough to hide until his shirt or in a pocket without creating any lumps. He got it set up to start recording, then headed outside, resigned to at least a few minutes of dealing with Lila and her grabby hands.
And as expected, Lila started clinging to him the second that Felix got back outside.
"Positions, please!" Simon called. "I want you back to back, but not quite touching, just next to each other-"
"Don't you think that we should be closer, though?" Lila asked immediately, wrapping her hands around Felix's bicep. "We could play a couple!"
"Not for these outfits," Simon told her. "Backs to each other, please-"
"Oh, but I think-"
"I think my sleeve is getting wrinkled," Felix commented, trying to step away from Lila. "And if you don't let go, you're going to bruise my arm."
Lila scowled and finally released him. Felix readjusted his shirt- there were no wrinkles, of course, the lovely light fabric that the shirt was made out of wasn't the type to get creased up by a minute's clinging- and then slid easily into position.
"Good, Adrien, perfect!" Simon called. "Lila- no, not like that, I want your arms crossed- if you stand like that, it looks like you're trying to cop a feel, and no one wants that."
...Felix wasn't even surprised.
The next few shots went the same way. Lila was clingy, but not as incredibly forward as she had been at the end of the previous shoot. Maybe getting her off required several reprimands and comments about how she was messing up his outfit, but she did get off. Eventually.
And then they changed outfits again, and Simon consulted his shot sheet. His eyebrows raised, and then he glanced between Felix and Lila. "The top suggested theme for these outfits is, ah, summer romance."
Felix blinked. That... was not what he was expecting. It sounded like something that Lila would have suggested, not something that Adrien's stick-in-the-mud father or his secretary would come up with.
And then it hit him like a brick. He would bet anything that this was what Lila had been talking to Nathalie about at the previous photoshoot. She had been the one pushing and pushing for a 'Summer Romance" theme for an excuse to get close to him in the previous shoot, and now she had gotten it.
"Oh, that's lovely, isn't it, Adrien?" Lila trilled. She attached herself to his arm, plastering herself against his side. "There's so much to work with there! Hugs, kisses- we'll be so cute together!"
"I'm not comfortable with that," Felix said at once, looking to Simon. "You said that was a suggested theme. Would it be possible to go with another theme?"
Simon nodded, referencing his sheet. "Yes, of course. One of the other suggestions was-"
"Oh, I think we should at least try it!" Lila insisted. Her grip got tighter, and her nails dug in. "Here, let's just start now and not overthink it!"
With that, she bounced up on her toes and tried to press a kiss to Felix's cheek, aiming for close to his mouth. Felix leaned back as fast as he could, dodging her completely in one quick movement.
Maybe he had complained about taking gymnastics as a child, but sometimes it really did come in handy. Perhaps he should consider picking it back up again.
"I'm not comfortable with that," Felix told her clearly, ignoring Lila's scowl and the way her nails dug in even deeper. "And since I said no, we're not doing it."
"Well, I want to!" Lila insisted. "Come on, Adrien! We're friends, aren't we?"
There was that edge again. This time, Felix knew what it meant: by the time the photoshoot ended, she was probably going to start her attacks on Marinette's character. It was an attempt to bring Adrien back under her control.
Too bad she was dealing with Felix, not Adrien.
"That doesn't mean that I'm comfortable doing romantic shots," Felix said firmly. "Particularly if you're going to try to spring unwanted kisses on me. Now kindly let go of my arm. Your nails are digging in."
A scowl flashed across Lila's face before she pasted on her happy face again. "How can you know that you aren't comfortable with it until you've tried it? At least a few shots-"
"Remove your fingers from my arm or I will remove them for you."
Lila's grip only got tighter. "Stop complaining, I'm hardly-"
Felix didn't let her finish. Before she could break any more skin, he grabbed two of her fingers and bent them back sharply. They gave with a (satisfying, Felix had to admit) crack, and Lila snatched her hands back with a cry.
"I told you to let go," Felix told her tartly, stepping away and rolling up his shirt sleeve to reveal the dents and cuts from Lila's nails. "Simon, would you mind snapping a picture of this? I have a photo from when she did this during the last photoshoot, but this is far worse."
Simon nodded at once, getting in close and snapping photos from all angles. Across the way, Nathalie finally noticed the commotion and hustled over, glancing between Felix and the sobbing Lila.
For once, Felix was willing to bet that the tears weren't fake.
"He broke my fingers!" Lila sobbed, clutching her hand close to her chest. "Adrien, I can't believe that you would be so mean-"
"Nathalie, I think you should look at this," Simon told Nathalie, pulling her over next to Felix. "Adrien has commented numerous times during photoshoots that Lila is holding on to his arm too hard. He asked her to let go several times in a row before he pulled her off, and- well, I can't blame him, she's drawn blood."
Nathalie's lips pressed together in a thin line as she inspected the injury, and then she pulled out her phone. "I'm going to call Lila's mom, and then I'll call Mr. Agreste. I think it's safe to say that Lila will be fired. This is unacceptable."
Felix could barely hide his smile.
Twelve minutes later, Mrs. Rossi rushed into the park, her wide eyes locking onto the still-sobbing Lila almost immediately. She rushed to her daughter's side at once, kneeling down beside her.
"Mio caro, what happened?" Mrs. Rossi asked, reaching for her daughter. "Ms. Sancoeur said that you got your fingers broken!"
"What happened is that Lila learned the consequences of sexual harassment," Felix cut in coolly before Lila could speak up, and Mrs. Rossi's head swung to the side, her eyes wide. "Some of the consequences, at least. I will be pressing charges, and she'll be lucky if I'm the only one."
"Se- sexual harassment?" Mrs. Rossi exclaimed, glancing between him and Lila. "Surely that's an exaggeration, Nathalie, how on earth would Lila do anything that could be considered sexual harassment to her boyfriend during a photoshoot? Surely this was just an overreaction to a lover's spat-"
"I was not aware that your daughter was dating anyone, least of all me," Felix told her, since- well, it was true. After all, Adrien wouldn't touch someone like Lila with a ten-foot pole. "Frankly, considering how often Lila lies, I'm surprised that you believed her at all. No one wants to be dating a liar, particularly a social-climbing liar with no respect for personal space."
Mrs. Rossi reeled back. "A- a liar? No, Lila's a sweet girl!"
"They're just trying to frame me, Mommy!" Lila sniffled, and Felix rolled his eyes. Of course she would pull out the mummy card now. "Adrien just a-attacked me out of nowhere, we were just modeling-"
Felix snorted. He had abandoned his Adrien act for good now, and from the looks he was getting from Nathalie, she had caught on to the switch. He held up his injured arm, deciding to ignore Lila completely. She clearly wasn't going to admit that she was in the wrong, so entertaining her at all was a lost cause. "A 'sweet girl', hmm? She's given both me and my cousin bruises from clinging so hard, and now she's broken my skin. And she's been threatening to destroy the reputation of one of my cousin's classmates, all because she's a petty brat who hasn't been properly contained."
Mrs. Rossi shook her head, her eyes wide as she took in the injuries. "No, that doesn't sound like her at all! Why- why would she want to destroy anyone's reputation, that makes no sense!"
"Because I haven't-"
"Because Marinette called her out on her lies," Felix told Mrs. Rossi tartly, raising his voice over Lila's whine. "The lies about knowing all sorts of famous people personally, because she 'saved their cat' or was personally helping them with songwriting or was running a million charities, or the lies about going on a- what was it, a three-month trip out of Paris during the school year, when she was actually here the entire time?"
Mrs. Rossi slumped on the ground. "No, no, I can't- I can't believe this-"
Lila shuffled closer to her mom, still clutching her hand to her chest as she made another effort to squirm out of the situation. "They're lying, mama, don't listen to them-"
"Well, you had better start believing it!" Amelie snapped, appearing out of the nearby trees and striding up to the group. She waved her phone. "I have pictures of your little hussy of a daughter trying to force a kiss on my son, and we have evidence of her refusing to let go of my son's arm. You should be ashamed, really! I don't know how I would be able to show my face in public if my son acted the same way that your daughter has! Lying and manipulation and sexual harassment and threats for months and months and months on end, and what have you done to stop it? Nothing, by the sounds of it!"
"I didn't know-" Mrs. Rossi started, but Amelie cut her off with a scoff.
"You didn't know? Oh, excuse me for not being very impressed there. I've been busy as anything quite often with my projects and modeling and films and charity and events, but you had better bet that I made the time to check in with Felix's teachers! If I didn't have the time to go in before or after school, I emailed them. I made sure that I met his friends. I knew the instant that he started acting out, and I could talk to him about it. Have you done any of that?"
"And this whole business with Lila being 'out of the country' for months! How did you miss that she wasn't going to school?" Amelie demanded.
Mrs. Rossi flinched. "I- she said that the school was closed because of akuma attacks-"
"For three months? That's not even a good lie! Do you live under a rock? Sometimes the akuma attacks drag on for a bit, but it's just hours, not- not even days! All you would need to do to disprove her ridiculous lies would be to turn on a TV! Or do a Google search, that only takes seconds!"
"I-" Mrs. Rossi swallowed hard, and her voice got quiet, nearly inaudible. "I was busy at a new job, and I- I thought that I could trust her."
"In any case, Lila is fired as a Gabriel model, and we will be plenty transparent with the media as to why should they ask," Nathalie told Mrs. Rossi, consulting her tablet. "Adrien has confirmed that he's been grabbed at just like Felix, and that is unacceptable. Mr. Agreste expects that his son be able to work without being sexually harassed by other models."
Mrs. Rossi only nodded, all of the fight drained out of her. Lila whipped her head back and forth between her mom and the rest of the group, panic starting to spread across her features.
"Mama, you don't believe them, do you-"
"Quiet, Lila," Mrs. Rossi snapped. "I've heard enough. I've seen the evidence. I know that you're lying now."
Lila's face screwed up, and then she suddenly lunged to her feet, right at Felix. "How dare you! I had everything going my way, and you've screwed it up! When- when I get akumatized, you'll regret this, Adrien!"
Felix stepped neatly out of the way, extending one foot just enough to send Lila sprawling back to the ground with a wail of pain but not enough that it would be obvious that it was completely on purpose. "Boo-hoo, cry me a river. Also still not Adrien. Try his stunt double instead."
Lila only sobbed on the ground, clutching at her fingers. Her mom hauled her up, looking completely ashamed as she hustled her daughter away.
"Well, I think that's the end of this photoshoot," Nathalie said as soon as the duo was out of sight. She sighed, massaging her forehead in clear exasperation. "Felix, can I ask that next time, Adrien actually shows up like he's supposed to?"
Felix raised an eyebrow at her. "Why? It's not like anyone will be able to tell the difference."
"Gabriel would be most unhappy-"
"Gabriel is unhappy about most things most of the time, so I don't see how it makes any difference," Amelie told her tartly. She looped her arm through Felix's. "Now, if you'll excuse us, I think that Felix and I have a lawsuit to go file. Good-bye."
As it turned out, Gabriel didn't even have to tell the press why its newest model had been abruptly dropped. An Adrien fan had been hidden nearby and watching the shoot, and had taken video of the entire Lila downfall. It had been uploaded at once, and spread across the internet by other fans.
Fortunately, it meant that- at least in Paris- no one would ever believe Lila Rossi again. The outrage over everything that she had done- and especially the attempt at a forced kiss and the clinging to Felix hard enough to break his skin- was enough that Felix was pretty sure that no one would even try to be her friend out of pity. There was no way that any of Adrien's classmates would miss the news, either, which was really what they were most interested in.
Unfortunately, Adrien's fans were over the moon at the idea of an Adrien stunt double, because it meant that there were two of them.
...and unfortunately for some particularly avid and over-eager fans, Amelie Graham de Vanily was none too thrilled about her son and her nephew getting chased around Paris and was still riding high on the success of her lawsuit against Lila. One dinner with the Bourgeois family later and it was officially against the law in Paris to chase after teen celebrities and to form what amounted to search mobs, and there was going to be further investigation and adjustment as needed to prevent other future harassment. Also- and on a completely unrelated topic- Audrey Bourgeois would be in charge of the wardrobe department on the next Graham Films production.
And as for Felix... well, all of a sudden, Adrien's friends all became a lot more receptive to the idea of inviting him to their get-togethers. Some were still a little wary of him, but that didn't bother Felix at all. After all, Felix was used to people regarding him with some trepidation at home, and he was hardly going to make himself comfortable by acting all warm and cuddly. But several of Adrien's friends were fine with that, or perhaps they just were accepting because they knew that it would make Adrien happy.
Felix didn't suppose that it really mattered either way. He wasn't trying to form lifelong friendships in Paris, just trying to enjoy his summer as well as he could. And with Lila firmly out of the picture- she had been shipped back to Italy to attend boarding school, mostly to keep her away from akumas- and with outwardly friendly company...
Well, the summer was looking bright.
a/n: ...I just noticed that Lila tends to get hurt in a large number of my Lila Downfall stories. Oh well.
Hopefully my schedule will even out again soon and I'll be able to return to my regular posting either new stories or The Sub every week! The past couple of weeks have been crazy and I've not had either weekends or evenings fully off, but we've almost finished up the work that was making us go overtime all of the time (and making us get up early on more days than normal too...as much as I love the work, there are times when I wonder if the project knows the meaning of "time off" or "relaxation").
As with most of my stories, this is a one-shot and is therefore complete! And as always, comments make my day! :)