By KarmaHope
Inspired by an AU by Asian-simba


"Mari, you have far too many clothes."

Marinette Dupain-Cheng looked up from her sketchbook at the sound of the familiar exasperated voice. Alya Césaire, her best friend since école élémentaire and her current roommate, stood in front of Marinette's open closet, staring at the – admittedly, overfilled – racks. Marinette simply sighed as she went back to penciling in the details of her latest design.

"That's not exactly a fair thing to say to a fashion design student, you know."

"I mean, how many of these do you actually wear?" Alya continued as if she hadn't heard Marinette, pulling out a screen-printed crop top. "I only ever see you in the same jeans and jacket you've been wearing since lycée."

"I wear a few of them!" Marinette squawked indignantly, looking up again. "I get dressed up when we go out!"

"Yeah, and how often do we go out?" Alya asked, raising an eyebrow at her. Marinette didn't have a good answer for her, and so she fell silent. "That's what I thought."

Marinette shrugged as she sketched the hemline of a skirt. "I guess my passion just lies in designing the clothes, not necessarily wearing them, you know?" She didn't need to look up to know that Alya rolled her eyes at her.

"These are all gorgeous, Mari. It's practically an insult that you don't wear any of them."

Taking a deep breath, Marinette put her pencil down on the bed beside her and turned her full attention to Alya, who was now holding up one of the dresses she had made back in lycée. It was secretly her favorite, blue and flouncy, but she'd never quite had the guts to wear it to school. Maybe … maybe Alya was right. Maybe it was time to change that.

"I guess we are in université," she mumbled quietly.

"And you're actually a fashion design student," Alya said, twirling with the dress. "You're almost expected to dress a little out-of-the-box from time to time."

Marinette glanced down at her sketchbook and snapped it closed. "Says the photography-slash-journalism student," she said as she pushed herself off the bed and crossed the room to stand next to her friend. "I think the same is expected of you."

"Yeah, but I'm already cute and trendy."

Together, they surveyed Marinette's closet, which was filled to the brim with cloth. It was an eyesore, honestly, given the fact that it hadn't yet been organized into something reasonable. When they had moved into the apartment, Marinette had simply stuffed as many of her clothes into the closet as possible so that she would have space to arrange the furniture in her room.

She sighed. "How about this: if you help me get my closet sorted, I promise I'll start wearing these more."

Alya grinned. "Deal."

Well, there was no time like the present. Together, they attacked the closet with gusto, and only minutes later Marinette's floor was lost beneath heaps of fabric. The two girls barely had enough room to move, and even then they had to take extra care not to step on any of the clothes.

"I think," Alya said, "that we should take this out into the living room."

They painstakingly separated the clothes by type – shirts, skirts, dresses, etc – and color. The process took hours; it certainly didn't help that Alya frequently thrust a couple items of clothing at Marinette and told her to try them on together. Sometimes the combination worked, but other times it simply left the both of them breathless with laughter.

Alya's camera found its way out onto the coffee table, and so the sound of the shutter clicking wasn't uncommon. Marinette was used to her friend's habit of documenting everything, and so she only protested a little in the beginning. Even that was more of a formality than anything, at this point.

By the time all the clothes made it back into the closet, Marinette was left wearing the flouncy blue dress and a pair of strappy orange sandals that she hadn't bothered to change out of. As she stared out the large window in the living room down at the street below, coffee mug in hand, she didn't even look up at the sound of Alya's shutter going off.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Alya asked.

Marinette shrugged, then laughed a little. "I had forgotten about most of those clothes," she said truthfully. "Gosh, I made some them back in what, collége?"

"Yeah, something like that," Alya said, fiddling with her camera. "I think I remember you stressing out over that bowler hat."

Marinette giggled. "I can't believe I thought feathers were a good idea." She took a deep breath and continued, "I think you were right, Alya. As we were going through all those, I kept thinking about what matched with what. I've never actually done that before since I made everything at different times. I was always moving onto the next project immediately. So, I think you might have been onto something."

"Aren't you glad you've kept me around for all these years?"

"What kind of question is that? You know I am."

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That night, Alya sat in the dark of her own bedroom, uploading the photos she had taken that day to her computer. Once they had all uploaded, she began to click through them, as she always did. She was always searching for her best photos, which she put in a separate folder to save for her eventual portfolio. There were a couple that stood out, but when she reached the ones of Marinette standing by the window, she paused.

Her friend was stunning, and she had no idea. The way the lighting interacted with the colors of her dress and sandals made for excellent photography as well. Alya had taken multiple photos, some of Marinette as she was, but then something had inspired her to cover Marinette's face with her finger before taking the next photo.

There was something about those photos, the anonymity adding a certain je ne sais quoi. Adjusting her glasses on her face, Alya opened the best of the photos in her editing software.

It didn't need much, she thought. She carefully increased the color intensity and deepened some of the shadows, and then, on a whim, edited the color of Marinette's white coffee mug to an orange that complemented her shoes.

Alya debated editing out the ladybug spots painted on her fingernail in polish, but after a couple minutes, decided to leave them in. They didn't clash too badly with Marinette's outfit, and it actually looked kind of cool. After a couple other minor tweaks, Alya had a final product that left even her stunned.

And she realized – keeping this photo to herself wouldn't be doing anyone any favors. Putting it online wouldn't hurt anything, would it? Marinette's face wasn't even visible in the photo, and people deserved to see her work. Marinette deserved to have people see her work.

That was how Alya came to the decision to open Instagram and make a new account. It would be entirely anonymous, she decided as she entered one of her several emails. Instead of putting Marinette's name in the box, she put simply, 'Ladybug.' She brainstormed usernames for several minutes before entering la_mode_coccinelle. It wasn't grammatically correct, but then again, it was just a username.

She left the bio blank for the time being, but immediately uploaded the image she had just taken. She carefully chose a filter and dimmed it down to fifty percent, not wanting its effects to be overpowering. Debuting her first design, the fashionable Ladybug, she captioned the photo, complete with the ladybug emoji. She then translated it into English as best she could and added all the applicable hashtags.

She searched a couple of the hashtags and found some other fashion bloggers. She liked and followed several of them, knowing that some would follow back. Her friends didn't call her the queen of social media for nothing.

It was a flawless plan. Marinette didn't need to know about it – at least not yet. After all, it was unlikely that the account would get many followers. If Alya told Marinette about it now, the other girl would lose the comfortable ease she had in front of Alya's camera, and that wouldn't do anyone any good, either.

This was benefitting Marinette, Alya told herself. If nothing else, it would be an online profile for the both of them when they started seriously looking for employment.

"Oh!" Alya gasped a moment later. The photo had already gotten a like, and Ladybug had already gotten herself a follower.

Satisfied with herself, Alya turned off her computer and went to bed.

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Marinette started getting up earlier than she used to, determined to stick to her resolution of wearing the clothes that had long sat neglected in her closet. If she was going to do this, she was going to do it right.

That day, she wore a black off-the-shoulder long sleeved crop top, which was far more daring than she'd ever had the guts to be before. She'd paired it with an olive green maxi skirt, gold gladiator sandals, and gold bangles, and she liked the fierce sort of confidence the style gave her.

After the first week or so, Marinette had started spending more time on her makeup as well, although she wasn't nearly as good at makeup as she was at clothing. Still, a nude lip color and an understated smoky eye completed the ensemble.

Alya wolf-whistled at her as she entered the apartment after coming back from class that afternoon.

"Damn, girl! You look so good," she said. "If I hadn't known you forever, I'd say I didn't know you had it in you!"

Marinette smiled bashfully. "Thanks, Alya. I really like this one, I think. I got a lot of compliments from my classmates today."

"What did I tell you? It's practically expected of you!"

"Yeah, well, I'm about to find out what my parents think. I'm headed over to the bakery – do you want me to bring anything home with me?"

Alya rolled her eyes. "Well, duh. Bring back a couple of those cheese buns your papa makes. Those things are to die for."

Marinette laughed as she walked toward her bedroom to drop her bag. "Will do," she called back over her shoulder.

She paused in her bedroom for a moment. On her bed sat the wide-brimmed hat she had decided against that morning, thinking it would be either too much or it would get in the way while she attended class. Now that she was just making the short walk to her parents' bakery, she picked it up and put it on, checking her reflection in the full-length mirror in her room.

It looked a little odd, but it was a sort of good odd, if that made sense. Shrugging it off, Marinette grabbed her gold clutch purse and made to leave. Alya, however, stopped her in her tracks.

"Do you mind if I walk with you for a little bit?" her friend asked, her camera in hand. "I have nothing better to do."

Marinette grinned. "You just want to get another photo of me," she accused. She hadn't been entirely unaware of the fact Alya made it a point to get a shot of her in every new outfit she wore.

"You know me too well," Alya said, returning the grin. "Come on, you'll thank me later when you're trying to break into the industry."

She had a point. If Marinette could start building a portfolio now, it would surely help her further on down the road.

"Yeah, alright," she said. "That's a good idea, actually. But let's go. I know I work for my parents, but I don't want to be late."

And so, the two friends set off for the Dupain-Cheng bakery towards the center of Paris. As they passed by the Eiffel tower, Alya stopped.

"Come on, this is perfect!" she exclaimed. "Simple, elegant, so Parisian. Your skirt matches the grass, and I can get the Tower in the background!"

Marinette let out an exaggerated sigh as she complied with her friend's wishes. "Alright," she said. "How do you want me?"

"All day and all night, baby," Alya grinned, and Marinette rolled her eyes. "But for now, just to the left a little bit. Hold the clutch down in front of you, and … oh! Pull the brim of your hat down over your eyes, all mysterious-like." She demonstrated, and Marinette copied her. Marinette even plastered what she thought was a 'mysterious-like' smile on her face.

It was fun, playing model for her best friend.

She heard the shudder of the camera click a few times, and then Alya was telling her that she could let go of the brim of her hat. As soon as she did, however, there was one more click, and Alya was right up in her face like some paparazzo. She laughed.

"Come on," she said. "Walk the rest of the way with me. If I'm late, you can explain to my parents why."

"That's not a problem," Alya said as she turned her camera off. "Your parents love me just as much as they love you."

"You're right," Marinette agreed. "They'd probably adopt you if they could."

Work in the bakery went about the same as it usually did. It wasn't hard work – to her, it was practically second nature after all the years she'd spent helping her parents out while she lived under their roof. Alya stuck around for a while, but had begged off after an hour or so, citing schoolwork she had to finish. Marinette hadn't had the time to do much more than smile and wave her off in between customers.

The Dupain-Cheng Patisserie was the most popular bakery in the heart of Paris, and so there wasn't much downtime. This problem had only been exacerbated in the last couple weeks since Marinette had started to make an effort to dress nicer. It seemed that everyone in Paris wanted to stop to talk to her, to compliment her, or to get her number – which she refused to give out.

And, as always, she helped her parents close up and prepare for the next day.

"Ma Cherie," her mother said as soon as they had a moment, "this is a new look for you!"

Marinette blushed and looked down, letting her loose hair fall to hide her face. She might have been dressing well in the last couple weeks, but she hadn't yet worn anything as daring as she was today.

"Yeah," she said, scuffing her toes. "Alya and I were talking about it, about the fact that I've designed and made so many clothes, but never really wear any of them. So, I decided to change that."

"You look absolutely stunning," Sabine assured her. "My little baby is all grown up."

Marinette laughed as she allowed her mother to pull her into a hug. It had been a couple years now since she had outgrown the older woman – even in her flat gladiator sandals, she stood over her by a couple inches. Her mother often joked that she got her height from her father.

"Alya's been taking photos," Marinette added as an afterthought as she pulled away. "The idea is to make a sort of portfolio for when I start looking for internships."

"That's an excellent idea, ma petite chou," Tom said, having overheard as he walked into the back room to grab a cloth to wipe down the counters with. "It's never too early to start thinking ahead."

Marinette grinned. "Thanks, papa."

"You run along now," her father said. "Your maman and I can take it from here."

"Okay!" She pressed a quick kiss to each of her parents' cheeks and grabbed her clutch. "I'll see you both tomorrow!"

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Author's Note:

This fic is based off a beautiful AU post by asian-simba on tumblr, and I'm extremely grateful for the fact she gave me permission to write it.

This was meant to be a participant in the Miraculous Big Bang, but unfortunately this last semester was hell. It feels really good to finally be writing and posting again! It's been a while since I wrote anything for Miraculous Ladybug.

Reviews are always appreciated :)