AN: This is set sometime after the first season of Miraculous Ladybug, and about a year after the events of Avengers. It does not, however, take into account any developments in the MCU canon after the Avengers movie.
Also, while technically various characters are transitioning between French and English depending on the audience, I'm writing this with the assumption that all the characters in question are fluent enough to transition easily between the two languages. Therefore – and because, I confess, I have only the most basic grasp of French, certainly not enough to feel confident in using it in a fic – everything here is written in English, although French slips in occasionally for the sake of flavor (or when required for punning!).
Additionally: I will be in Japan throughout the month of August (plus change on either side). As a result, updates are likely to be sporadic. However, this story is complete, bar final editing passes.
What the Cat Dragged In
"Mister Stark! It is a joy and an honor to have you here with us for this year's most exciting Expo!"
Yeah, I'll just bet, Tony thought dryly, pulling his lips back from his teeth in the hopes that it would pass for a smile, while he mentally counted down the seconds until he could probably retrieve his hand from the warm, jolly double-fisted handshake that had taken it hostage without bringing the Wrath of Pepper and a lecture about making nice for the sake of the company down on his head.
Just a second before Tony was ready to pull out, however, Mayor Bourgeois let go, still beaming magnificently. Well, probably not a surprise. Anyone who managed to pull off landslide elections to Mayor of Paris four times in a row pretty much had to be a master of playing to the cameras. Including knowing how to dodge other people making him look bad.
"Allow me to introduce my daughter," Bourgeois said, turning with an expansive sweep of his arm that somehow led to his other arm resting companionably – but not too companionably, of course – across Tony's shoulders. "Chloé, my jewel…"
The teenage girl standing impatiently behind them barely looked up from her nails before she sniffed audibly, perfectly primped nose going up in pure disdain.
The alarms going off in Tony's head at the word daughter faded back to Defcon Three. Daddy's pampered little pet, he concluded, making the usual noises – yes, yes, pleased to attend, of course he had the highest expectations for one of France's largest multi-national, multi-industry exhibition events – and quickly making his escape through the hotel doors as the mayor turned his attention to the next high-profile victim – er, guest – to appear. Thank God. Even if Daddy was looking for a money-match, there's no way she'd be caught dead around a scruffy, forty-year-old upstart who works with his hands. One tantrum, and he'd fold like wet paper.
Too bad there wasn't anything to save him from the snickering that had ghosted through the door on his heels.
"Someone just dodged a Jericho," Clint said, the taunting smirk audible in his voice. "Question is, who."
Tony snorted, stepping to the side so that they wouldn't be blocking the doors for whoever else walked through. "Some bodyguards you two make."
Clint crossed his arms over his chest, still smirking. "Wasn't aware you needed bodyguarding from pretty girls."
"Girl? That was a shark, Hawkeye." Tony shuddered. "Heaven help the world when she gets to the wedding dress age." With a wave of his hand, he dismissed the conversation. "So what the heck did the two of you do to get stuck on Stark-sitting duty, anyway? Fury in a bad mood or something?"
Natasha rolled her eyes slightly, resting a hand on her suited hip. Unlike Clint, who looked about as comfortable as a hawk wearing a canary costume, Natasha carried off her feminine version of a black formal business suit with style. "Believe it or not, the world does not revolve around you, Stark," she said dryly. "We're here on separate business."
Tony mock-reeled, hands over his chest as though he'd been struck. He'd gone the casual rich route, nice pants and a sexy black silk shirt; after all, he had a reputation to uphold. Or maybe live down to. "I'm wounded. Really. You'd think Fury didn't trust me or something." As he started to stroll down the lobby of the convention building, he glanced at them curiously. "Separate business?"
He more than half-expected them to shut the query down, but Clint simply shrugged. "SHIELD's commissioned something from one of the presenters," he explained. "The first prototypes are scheduled to be displayed today."
"And Fury sent you two to look at it?" he asked skeptically.
Natasha smiled slightly, the sort of smile that said I have a secret. "We're the experts at assessing the particular requirements in this case," she said.
"And I'm pretty sure Fury sees the Stark-sitting as a bonus," Clint added, sly mischief glinting in his eyes.
Tony ignored the jibe. "Wait, the prototype's on display?" he asked. "Not super-secret hush-hush? Have you checked to see if Fury's been replaced by pod people?"
You're not nearly as funny as you think you are, said Natasha's moment of deadpan silence before she answered. "It's a simple design that may be useful for some of SHIELD's minor field agents. There's nothing inherently military about it."
Huh. That could explain why Tony hadn't heard anything about this little commission, at least. And it didn't actually tell him anything.
Making up his mind, he turned around. "Okay, then. Lead the way."
The two SHIELD agents blinked at him. " 'Okay'?" Clint echoed, eyebrow going up.
"You guys actually have something interesting to see, other than a dozen variations on ideas I had and gave up as boring when I was ten." Which wasn't entirely fair; sometimes, the guys at places like this could come up with something genuinely interesting… but if they did, they sure as hell wouldn't be putting it on public display. He'd mostly agreed to come along as a way of getting the Stark Industries corporate board off Pepper's back a bit; nothing like an appearance of the madman behind the Ironman for a little publicity.
Point was: boring. At least peering in on SHIELD's latest project probably would be interesting.
Plus the mild fact that they were definitely taunting him by being cagey about it.
Natasha and Clint glanced at each other for a minute, before both shook their heads. But they obligingly turned, heading for the elevators.
Tony had to blink when the elevator rose past the first five floors. He'd only briefly glanced over the expo's layout guide – after a while, see one expo, you'd seen a thousand, you didn't need a map to know where things would be – but he knew that the technology toys were concentrated on the lower levels, to help facilitate moving heavy prototypes in and out. But the elevator kept going up, until…
"Wait. The tenth floor?" he asked in disbelief, finally seeing the number on the elevator display as the car slowed smoothly. "But that's…"
Sure enough – the elevator dinged, and the doors slid open to reveal a ballroom, the movable walls pushed aside to show…
Clothes. Lots, and lots, of clothes.
"The fashion floor?" he squawked. Yes, squawked. He was man enough to admit it.
Clint's lips were twitching, and even Natasha seemed amused. "Technically, there are six fashion floors," the archer pointed out wickedly.
Which, fair enough. Fashion and Paris, kind of like really expensive peanut butter and jelly.
"That still doesn't explain why the two of you are here to look at… what? Prototype black tie?" Tony insisted as he glanced around, noting that, indeed, most of the displays on this floor were higher-end fashion, running the line from swanky evening dress to power suits. "What, is Fury trying to put together a James Bond fashion line or something?"
He could feel Clint winding up for another zinger, but Natasha let out a faintly put-upon sigh, one that communicated clearly that she'd had enough foolishness for one hour.
"It's not uncommon for SHIELD agents to need to operate at high society levels," she said. "As bodyguards, as investigators, in any number of different roles. Unfortunately, most of the clothing that blends into that strata tends to be very restrictive; not the sort of thing you want to deal with if you have to respond to an unexpected threat."
Or an expected one, for that matter. Tony should know. "So…?"
"A few months ago, Fury was able to commission Gabriel Agreste to design a line of high-end clothing designed to allow complete freedom of movement."
Tony's eyebrows rose involuntarily. "Agreste, huh?"
Clint blinked. "You know him?"
"Of course not," Tony huffed. "Know of him, sure." You didn't move in the multi-millionaire circuits without knowing the really high-end names, the stuff people pulled out to prove that they had both money and taste. Tony owned a few specialty Gabriel items himself.
Which still begged the question. "And Fury sent you two to check out the James Bond suits?" he asked, pointedly.
Natasha shrugged, her attention on navigating through the crowds, which were an interesting mix of designers and fashion critics, interspersed with mannequins and live models displaying the clothes. "We are experts when it comes to freedom of movement," she pointed out.
True enough; Black Widow and Hawkeye weren't weaklings by any measure, but they usually played at the level of Ironman and Captain America and the like by being fast, flexible, and really hard to hit.
And scary. Especially Natasha.
It was also the biggest pile of nonsense Tony had heard since a classmate had tried to scientifically prove the existence of Santa Claus in third grade. SHIELD had plenty of highly-qualified staff who knew the physical demands of field agents. Black Widow and Hawkeye were top-level operatives. They didn't run errands – unless the errand was something on the level of "fetch the Hulk."
There was no way in hell that they were here just for some nice suits.
Although that was apparently part of why they were here, because Natasha was making a beeline for the large, open booth sporting the simple sans serif G in a circle that was the Gabriel trademark.
A young woman in her early twenties was already there, wearing a fine white gown that glimmered subtly with every movement – embroidery, Tony realized after a moment, the exact same shade as the gown. She was talking to a long-faced woman in a business suit… no. To the tablet the woman was holding, which showed the stern, expressionless face of none other than the great Gabriel Agreste himself.
"…exquisite stitchwork, Miss Bissette," the man was saying. His expression and tone never shifted, even as his head tilted the slightest hair of a degree to the side and his eyes moved slightly – likely scanning the woman's image on his own screen. "Your choice of different tones of white rather than pure white-work is a daring move. The embroidery was done by hand?"
"Yes, Mister Agreste," the woman said – a little breathlessly, like she was fighting to keep herself from squeaking and present a professional air.
Amused, Tony drifted back a bit as Natasha paused politely to wait for the conversation to end.
Clint sidled a little closer. "Don't look now, but Her Majesty the shark is circling again," the archer murmured, grinning slightly. "Nine o'clock."
Quirking an eyebrow slightly, Tony shifted just enough to glance that way without being too obvious about what he was doing, and immediately bit back a smirk. Yep, there was her ladyship the Princess Bourgeois, strutting her way through the room as though she owned every inch of it. She'd even found a bit of arm-candy to go with her other accessories – although the arm she'd captured to hang off of wasn't attached to the jock-type Tony had half-expected. The kid had more of a boy-next-door look… if by "next door" you meant "the latest Hollywood Prince Charming," all tousled golden hair and sunny, toothpaste-commercial smile, even if the eyes weren't the requisite sickening sky-blue. He was even wearing a suit, the sort of plain and dark suit that probably cost more than a three-month salary for the average CEO. And from the way Chloé was smirking at everyone they passed as she pulled the boy along in her wake, she knew exactly the sort of romance-novel picture they made.
Tony snorted and turned his attention back to the conversation in front of him. Better you than me, kid.
Miss Bissette was just thanking Agreste and stepping back, a star-struck look on her face that Tony vaguely remembered seeing on various up-and-coming engineer kids when he'd talked to them.
Whatever makes her happy, I guess.
As the younger woman stepped back, Natasha stepped forward, clearing her throat slightly. "Mister Agreste," she said, as the assistant turned to direct the face of the tablet towards them.
The image of Gabriel Agreste didn't even blink. "Ms. Romanov, I assume," he said neutrally, switching smoothly to English. "Mister Barton." Now his eyebrow rose just slightly. "And Mister Stark as well? This is an unexpected pleasure. Your latest designs for holographic technology have proven a boon for my own design work." Agreste tilted his head slightly, the nod of a professional to a professional, before turning his attention back to Natasha as though it had never strayed in the first place. "Ms. Romanov, I assume you are here to see the articles that Mister Fury commissioned?"
Natasha nodded. "We are," she said. "I was given to understand they would be on display here today?"
Agreste nodded. "Nathalie."
The assistant holding the tablet jumped slightly, her vaguely distracted gaze snapping into focus. "Ah, sir?"
There was just the faintest, ghostly hint of something that might have been amusement in Agreste's voice. "Please extract Adrien from Miss Bourgeois's clutches."
The assistant blinked, winced slightly, and looked past Tony to Chloé and her captive.
Who apparently had either overheard that, or had noticed their attention shift to him, because he did something, and then he was free of the octopus-grip, smiling apologetically at the pouting girl even as he quickly stepped out of recapture range and walked toward them.
And he didn't even trigger a screaming tantrum in the process of escaping. Now it was Tony's turn to blink, reluctantly impressed. I need to learn that trick.
"This is my son, Adrien Agreste," Gabriel said, his tone never shifting from neutral as the boy approached. "He is modeling one of the preliminary designs for the Bouclier line today."
Natasha didn't so much as bat an eyelash, but Tony had to fight down the sudden urge to cackle. Seriously? Agreste had named the SHIELD-commissioned clothing line shield in French? Someone must have been feeling snarky that day.
Adrien smiled at them as he offered his hand to Natasha, a warm, infectious sort of expression that didn't look feigned at all, surprisingly. "Hello," he said – in remarkably good English, if slightly awkward, accented in a way that suggested he'd never spent much time in an English-speaking country. "My apologies, I was… briefly detained." Just a flicker of rueful amusement crept into his tone. He nodded politely to Clint, shifted his gaze to Tony-
And paused, bright peridot-green eyes widening in surprise and recognition.
Tony smirked to himself. What'll it be this time, he wondered, "Ohmygod, it's Ironman," or "ohmygod, it's Tony Stark?" Probably the first, he's young and rich. Techie toys from Dad are part of the background, superheroes are cool…
Adrien blinked once, slowly – and then shifted, turning a suddenly piercing gaze on the two SHIELD agents.
The professional, magazine-cover smile unexpectedly morphed into a grin, amusement dancing into the kid's eyes. "Ah. That explains the name of the clothing line," he commented. "I wondered."
Politely releasing the handclasp, Natasha arched her eyebrow up just a hair. "Oh?" she asked, her tone as calm and neutral as Gabriel Agreste at his best.
Adrien clasped his hands behind his back, even as his voice dropped slightly to a tone that, while still normal conversational volume, probably wouldn't carry behind the little circle they'd unconsciously formed at the Gabriel booth. "If I'm not mistaken… all three of you were involved in the battle in New York last year."
Natasha, of course, kept a calm, neutral face without reacting at all. Clint, however, visibly stiffened in surprise.
Tony didn't blame him. Sure, the Avengers had caught a remarkable amount of press after that – which Tony personally thought said something about the self-preservation instincts, or lack there-of, in reporters, considering they'd been fighting an alien invasion and anyone with half an ounce of sense would have been making for safety rather than grabbing cameras. But SHIELD had been very quick to snap down on any detailed information about the Avengers' identities. Ironman was a known figure, of course – but Black Widow and Hawkeye were SHIELD agents who worked out of the public eye whenever possible.
Hell, SHIELD stayed out of public eye, too. And yet the kid's comment just now made it very clear that he not only knew their faces, he even knew the name of the organization.
Fury's going to be having kittens over this one. Heck, if Tony weren't concerned with Natasha and Clint's cover – which their lives depended on, sometimes – he'd probably be calling for popcorn and a video recording of the man's reaction.
"So how'd you hear about that?" he asked casually, strolling in a little closer to close up the circle. He didn't want to loom at the kid – but this definitely needed follow-up.
Adrien's eyes flicked to the side, back towards the sulking girl who was stomping away towards the refreshments table. "Mayor Bourgeois was in office then, so he got a few more details than most people," he explained, and smiled at Natasha. "Chloé was… a very devoted fan of yours for a while, ma'am."
Natasha blinked. Actually blinked, looking completely taken aback for just a moment, while Clint covered his mouth with his hand in an unconvincing attempt to hide a surprised grin.
The boy's smile turned rueful. "She's not as obsessed as she used to be, so she might not recognize you, but… you might want to avoid letting her know you're here. She will make you take selfies with her, if she does." He rolled his eyes slightly, looking oddly amused. "I happen to know for a fact that Chloé with a selfie camera is a match for the most reluctant superhero."
"I dunno," Clint said, crossing his arms over his chest as he raised his eyebrows. "You got away from her easily enough just now."
Adrien stepped back and dropped into a deep bow. "The benefit of years of special training," he announced grandly, before straightening with a playful grin. "Otherwise known as knowing Chloé since we were six."
The sound of a throat pointedly clearing brought their attention back to Nathalie, and the tablet she was holding.
"Fascinating as this is," Gabriel said pointedly, his voice desert-dry, "we do have business to conduct."
Tony found himself fighting back the urge to frown when Adrien flushed slightly, quickly straightening into a posture that was too perfectly straight to be anything other than carefully trained and practiced. "Sorry, Father," he said politely, and stepped back slightly, spreading his arms out to either side to display the suit he was wearing.
"As you can see," Gabriel continued, his attention back on Natasha, "based on Mister Fury's requirements, I judged that a simple, basic business suit style would best suit as a basis for the design. It is, perhaps, not cutting edge…"
"But it's a classic design that will suit the widest range of settings," Natasha said, smoothly matching the change of tone with a businesslike nod.
"Precisely. Should you find the special modifications acceptable, Mister Fury may, of course, negotiate for more specialized clothing as well. Now. The basic challenge, as described to me, was a suit that would appear appropriately formal, while still allowing for strenuous athletic activity at a moment's notice. In particular, this required flexibility, to prevent binding motion, while also allowing for an absolute minimum of rucking or bunching even in extreme poses. Adrien."
Obligingly, the kid rotated his arms – forward, back, up, down, showing off the extent of movement the suit in a way that had Tony's shoulders screaming in unwanted sympathy. Damn teenage flexibility. Although the really impressive part was when the kid just froze, going completely motionless as Gabriel Agreste calmly talked Natasha through the special features of the suit, like the neat little underarm panels of stretchy fabric that let the kid swing his arms like a lumberjack and still look dapper and tidy as soon as they were by his sides again. Teenage boys didn't usually do still.
Huh. Model training? Come to think of it, Tony thought he remembered seeing the kid on the cover of a couple magazines. Which… would explain a lot. Tony had dated enough professional models to have an intimate awareness of just how much physical work it took to assume a specific pose and then simply hold it for who knew how long, without cramping or falling over. More than a few of them could rival Natasha when it came to fine muscle control.
Not to mention emoting at the click of a camera. Which sort of matched how the kid's animated, open expression had just settled into a calm, distant blankness that probably owed more than a bit to his father's default emotionlessness.
"You've done good work," Natasha said neutrally, after the kid had demonstrated that he could actually reach down, flatten his palms on the floor by his feet and bend his elbows, all without the suit tearing itself to pieces or even riding up, which Tony was pretty sure involved the breaking or at least bending of several laws of physics and probably one or two of karmic justice. "This appears to meet our basic mobility requirements admirably, Monsieur Agreste," she continued as the kid straightened himself back up. "However, given that actual active motion often involves additional demands… Have you field-tested this at all?"
Gabriel's eyes flicked to the side, somewhere off-screen, and the barest hint of a frown crossed his face. "I have," he said, cool grey eyes refocusing on Natasha's face as though the moment had never happened. "However, I must cut this short, as I have a prior engagement. Adrien will give you the details."
The tablet went black, and the assistant calmly turned it around to face her as she swiped the program away and walked back to the desk at the back of the booth.
Clint blinked. "Well, that was… abrupt," he said.
Adrien sighed slightly, shaking his shoulders out a bit – the minute the screen had turned off, he'd relaxed from that ridiculous stillness a bit. "Sorry about that," he said. "He's… really busy. I was a little surprised he made time for this at all."
There was something fundamentally wrong about that – but Natasha simply nodded, transitioning her attention back to the kid as though he hadn't just been playing human mannequin. "Is the suit comfortable to move in?" she asked.
Adrien nodded. "I wore it for fencing one day, actually," he said. "Father wanted to make certain it wouldn't snag or catch…"
Slender arms locked around the kid's neck in an octopus-grip of doom. "Adri-chéri, why didn't you tell me?" Chloé pouted, blinking up at the boy coquettishly as he jumped slightly. "I would have come to watch you, of course. I'd never miss one of your tournaments."
One of Adrien's eyebrows flicked upwards ever so slightly in a perfect expression of amused skepticism. "It was just a regular lesson, Chloé," the boy said, leaning just a bit farther away from her than simple balance would require. "It wasn't even at the school; Master d'Argencourt came over to the house, since father wanted to test an unpublished design." He looked at Natasha again. "Nathalie has the video recording on her tablet, if you'd like to go over-"
Chloé huffed loudly, clearly displeased at being ousted from the center of attention. "Oh, him," she said contemptuously, actually letting go of Adrien's neck so that she could make a dismissive gesture. "Well, that explains why I didn't hear anything. I'm amazed that sorry excuse for a rusty old relic has the nerve to even show his face in public at all, after what happened with the elections."
"Chloé!" Adrien said sharply, snapping a stern look at the girl. "That's enough."
The blonde sniffed – but, oddly, didn't quite meet Adrien's eyes, and instead stuck her nose in the air and turned away slightly, as though suddenly absolutely fascinated by her nails. "Well, at least he's a better fencer than he is a politician," she said, as though making a grand allowance with the statement. "Not that he ever had a chance, running against my father."
Tony blinked. That was… odd. Like she'd been about to say something else, but had reconsidered at the last moment-
And Natasha and Clint were both listening. With the carefully nonchalant intensity of cats who'd just heard the pitter-patter of little feet at the mousehole.
Tony narrowed his eyes, suddenly suspicious all over again.
What are you two up to?
"Um… Adrien Agreste? I don't know if you remember me…"
The kid blinked, turning away from Chloé to look past Tony's shoulder. Immediately, the set look of his face softened into a welcoming smile that magazines probably paid to feature on their covers. "Miss Blanche Bissette, correct?" he replied. "You won the dress competition for the winter show last year, with the Snow Queen theme…"
Tony took advantage of the distraction to sidle away from the kids and closer to Clint and Natasha, who'd covered those momentary expressions of interest with calm patience, in Natasha's case, and general bemusement on Clint's – probably from the idea that people could put so much interest into clothes.
Which, yeah, Tony could sympathize with – but he'd been at enough parties to know how to fake fashion chatter. Or at least not completely humiliate himself.
"So. Anybody else find it a little creepy that Agreste has his kid modeling a fighting suit?" he asked casually.
"It's hardly a fighting suit," Natasha pointed out dryly. "I wouldn't take it over my normal uniform, given the choice."
For which the Y-chromosome-bearing portion of the population either curses you, thanks you, or both, Tony thought in amusement, but kept the words behind his teeth. He did have some vestigial sense of self-preservation, after all.
"It's just a business suit that allows more freedom of movement than most," Natasha concluded. "Assuming the line goes into production, he's far more likely to find customers among athletes than he is secret agents."
"Athletes and kids," Clint added, with a crooked smile. "Face it, if you really want to field-test an outfit for its ability to hold up in any and all situations, you could probably do worse than an active fifteen-year-old."
Tony had intended to respond, maybe guide the conversation in the direction of so why are you two really here – but apparently Miss Bissette had more social graces than Princess Bourgeois, because she looked up from her conversation with Adrien and flushed suddenly in embarrassment.
"I'm so sorry," she stammered, clearly a little flustered. "I didn't mean to interrupt, it's just…"
Natasha smiled. "That's all right," she said smoothly, offering her hand as she stepped forward. "And let me compliment the embroidery on your dress. Did you do it yourself?"
Tony almost smacked himself in the face. Or laughed. Because of course Natasha would know just the right things to say in order to blend in here. She was a spy. She was a professional at this.
Tony? He'd spent his career making a name for himself by deliberately blowing niceties like social graces off. Sure, he'd learned to fake it, but this sort of thing? Not really his strength.
That said… well, when he glanced over the dress with an eye trained by too many dinner parties to count, he had to grant the point. Bissette herself was fairly unremarkable – a nice but not striking face, just a little rounder about the edges than the normal hire-a-personal-trainer-with-ridiculous-numbers-of-zeroes-on-their-paycheck types. She made it work, though; the dress had clearly been modified to flatter her fuller figure, and the design on it was honestly stunning, even in Tony's admittedly jaded experience. Closer, what had looked like white fabric turned out to be a very, very subtle pale cream. And the embroidery itself wasn't pure white either. Instead, it was a complicated pattern of many colors, all of them just as subtle and pale as the cream, so that unless you looked closely, the eye got confused and translated the whole thing into a kind of faint iridescent shimmer on white.
Tony blinked. Come to think of it… no wonder Natasha had taken note. Adapt that trick with dark colors, or more neutral tones, and you had the makings of a very effective hide-in-plain-sight sort of camouflage, without being obvious about it. Which… huh. Translate that to alloys, see if there was a way to get in the visual texturing without messing up streamlining… he had been thinking of trying to put together a stealthier version of the suit…
Politely – and prudently – stepping out of the way of a passing waiter balancing a full tray of glasses, Bissette beamed at Natasha, the expression lighting up her whole face. "Yes! I mean… yes, I always do original designs by hand. I learned from my grandmother. I even inherited her sewing kit." Reaching into her purse, she pulled out a small bag, the patterns on the cloth faded and a little threadbare, obviously lovingly kept for many years.
With a loud snort, Chloé shouldered in, latching onto Adrien's arm again. "Oh, come on, Adrien," she huffed, "stop wasting our time, I want to see the new Chloé sunglasses."
"You mean the ones on top of your head?" Tony thought he heard the kid mutter under his breath as Chloé used her grip on his arm to drag him out of the group-
And promptly crashed headlong into the waiter.
Tony was all too familiar with the train wreck effect – the horrible moment of knowing a disaster was about to happen, knowing nothing he could do would stop it, but at the same time unable to look away. The waiter had half-turned in an attempt to get out of Chloé's way – but the only thing that accomplished was to put him off-balance as the girl slammed into him. His free hand flailed in a useless attempt to regain his balance as he staggered – then his polished shoe slipped on the smooth ballroom floor, one foot tangled with the other, and the poor man toppled like a tree, straight into Bissette.
The shattering of glass from the dropped wineglasses broke the moment.
"Ow!" Chloé screeched, recoiling as though she wanted to hug herself from the horror of actually touching one of the plebian masses. "Watch where you're going, you oaf!"
Adrien ignored her, taking advantage of her slackened grip to duck free. He quickly hurried over to the stunned pair. "Are you alright?" he asked, offering a hand to help the waiter roll to the side and off of Bissette. "Be careful, there's a lot of broken glass…"
With a slight groan, Bissette pushed herself up from the floor – and then froze.
For a second, Tony thought the flying shards of stemware had managed to cut something important – but, no. No, the red came from the wine in the glasses, which had splashed all over her. To say nothing of the puddle she and the waiter were lying in.
A puddle rapidly soaking into that white-on-white-on-white gown, as Bissette stared in stunned horror at the ruins of what had to represent weeks, if not months, of careful, painstaking work.
Chloé burst out laughing.
"Oh, that's beautiful!" she said, a broad grin spreading across her face as she leaned close – although not so close that the spreading puddle of wine could get anywhere near her shoes, of course. "All that white was just horrible, anyway, this color suits you much better!"
"Chloé!" Adrien snapped, eyes flashing angrily – but before he could say anything more, Bissette suddenly burst into tears. Scrambling up from the floor without any regard for the stray shards of broken glass, she grabbed her bag and bolted through the crowd of gathered onlookers.
"Blanche-!" Adrien started, then looked down at the still-dazed waiter and winced. "Would someone go after her, please?" he said, before crouching down again to rest a hand on the man's shoulder.
Chloé stomped her foot. "Why are you wasting your time…"
"You're a real piece of work sometimes, Chloé," Adrien said curtly, not even looking at her this time. To the waiter, he repeated, "Are you all right? That looked like a bad fall…"
That seemed to break the guy's paralysis. "I-I'm so sorry, I…"
"This wasn't your fault," Adrien told him firmly, tugging slightly until the man – who looked like he was probably a university student, no wonder he looked like the world had just collapsed around him – managed to climb back up to his feet. "It was just an accident."
"Go talk to the staff, ask them to send someone to clean up the glass. And ask them to take some bottles of sparkling water to the women's restroom," Adrien added firmly. "And a container of salt, if they can get their hands on one quickly."
Good try, kid, but you know that's not likely to work, Tony thought with a wince, waiting well back from the drama with Natasha and Clint. He'd had enough drinks thrown in his face to know that there was a very narrow window for actually getting stains out of white fabric. And given how the whole art of that dress had been based around the play of very subtle colors… Ouch. Poor girl.
Having chivvied the server off, Adrien glanced around at the quickly dispersing crowd. He frowned slightly, and glanced over at their little group.
"Please tell me someone really did go after Blanche?" he said quietly.
"Not that I saw," Clint admitted.
To Tony's surprise, Adrien winced. "That's… not good," he said slowly.
"Take it from me, she's probably better off if we leave her alone for a bit," Tony suggested.
Adrien shook his head, and then looked up to scan the crowd again, more intently this time. "Normally I'd agree," he said, his tone distracted, "but things have been a little too quiet for comfort the past few days. I'm worried that…"
Someone screamed, shrill and piercing.
Adrien winced. "Oh, no," he breathed, as mad laughter filled the room. "Called it…"
What the Cat Dragged In
AN: I confess, I was cackling up my sleeve for large parts of this. Mostly because Fashion is Serious Business. Which it is, both in France in general and particularly in Miraculous Ladybug – but it's not a normal Avengers topic! Poor Tony.
Adrien speaking English – although it's never mentioned in the series itself, Adrien's status as a high-profile model and his apparently demanding education suggest that he probably would have learned English as a matter of course, as it's fairly important in the business world. Especially once one takes into account the fact that he's passably fluent in Chinese, which probably would have been lower-priority to Gabriel.
And given that he's a model, and canonically does outdoor photo shoots on a semi-regular basis, yes, Adrien probably knows all the tricks for getting stains out of expensive clothes. Although I should add that I have no personal experience with the club soda-plus-salt-to-absorb trick.
Regarding age: we're not given an explicit age for Adrien or Marinette (the producer likes to say, "They're teenagers, that's the important part!"), but we know that Alix, who is in their class, turned fifteen during the Timebreaker episode. Given this, Adrien is probably turning fifteen in the Bubbler episode, and Marinette is either fourteen or fifteen.
Given Chloé's complete idolization of Ladybug? Heck yes she would have been a Black Widow fangirl, even without the added "oh, you saved me!" impetus. Wouldn't have made her any less of a complete brat, but it does say something about her taste in role models and ideals. (Honestly, I give her points for focusing on I want to be like her rather than OMG he's so hawt in her fangirling. It adds some depth to her character!)
That said. For the Avengers fans… I only wish I were making Chloé sound worse than she is. But I'm really not. Context: out of twenty-six akuma-possessions shown in Miraculous Ladybug at the time of writing this, Chloé is more or less directly responsible for nine of them. More than a third. And those are only the ones we see in the episodes. Given the way that girl scatters casual malice about like popcorn…
…and I kid you not. Chloé is the name of a ridiculously expensive brand of sunglasses. Knowing that, how could I not toss in a little shout-out?