Reclaiming Their Future
So despite all the things I should be working on this idea decided it needed to take precedence. As of right now there are no plans to continue it. (Yeah I know, wishful thinking) The idea for this was a spin off of Persuasion by Jane Austen. In this AU there are no Miraculous. Given that I don’t want to spoil anything, I’ll leave it at that for now.
TW - Mention of attempted suicide.
Chloe was just leaning on the railing, staring into the Seine. Her face was wet but she wasn’t sure how much was tears and how much was spray from the rushing water. She was fairly certain she’d stopped crying an hour or more ago. At this point she wasn’t certain how she had tears left at all.
It was closing in on full dark on her twenty seventh birthday and no one had even acknowledged it. That in itself wasn’t unusual, or enough to cause her current mood. No, today was the tenth anniversary of the best day of her life and a reminder of all the pain she’d caused and felt since.
“If you’re thinking of jumping, I wouldn’t recommend it. The height isn’t enough to kill you and the water’s bound to be freezing.” Chloe groaned. This was just what she needed, some comedian laughing at her and all the mistakes in her life.
“I’m not in the mood for your nonsense so I suggest you-” She cut off abruptly as she turned and caught sight of the person who’d spoken to her. Her chest tightened and black spots tried to cloud her vision but she pushed them down. She had to be hallucinating. Spending the entire day dwelling on the past, specifically the person standing in front of her, could explain that. Right?
“Happy Birthday Chloe.” Marinette spoke softly and had a gentle expression on her face causing every nerve in Chloe’s body to go haywire. This couldn’t be happening. Not today of all days. Her mind was screaming at her to say something, anything, but her mouth wouldn’t move. So she did the only thing that she could. She ran.
By the time she stopped she was only a couple blocks from the hotel. It took her a moment to realize she was crouched in an alley desperately trying to get her breath back. What was wrong with her? It was the first time she’d seen Mari in over nine years and that’s how she reacted? She’d already caused her enough pain, why did she have to add to it now? She was such an idiot.
As she became more aware of her surroundings she cursed at herself under her breath. Of all the places, why here? She glared at the nightclub across the street as noise and smells spilled out. It used to be one of her favorite places to unwind and it felt like it was calling her, taunting her. It was her birthday, didn’t she deserve a break? She stalked away at the thought, walking briskly back to the hotel. Those thoughts were dangerous and she’d been fighting them all day.
She nodded to the various employees as she made her way to the elevator, grateful that none of them seemed to have problems that needed her attention. She waited until the doors closed to sag against the back wall. She could feel tears stinging her eyes again and felt an urge to just scream out her frustrations. But that would be juvenile and prove everyone right. She was a mature adult. She didn’t need to throw a tantrum. She didn’t need alcohol or downers to cope with her shitstorm of a life. She just really wanted them.
When the elevator stopped she had her key card in hand and once the door was open she practically ran across the room to get to the balcony. She couldn’t breathe and didn’t know why. As soon as she took a deep breath she collapsed into one of the chairs and flung an arm over her eyes with a sincere wish that she could fall asleep so this shit day could just be done already. Then her phone rang with a very distinctive song and she seriously considered jumping off the balcony.
She took a few steadying breaths before answering with it on speaker. It’s not like anyone would hear it and she was honestly worried she’d end up throwing the phone if it was in her hands. Her mother’s voice came over the line before she even had a chance to say hello.
“I’m coming to Paris on Wednesday and staying for a week so you need to get my rooms prepared.” Because that was just what she needed. “I have a full schedule so if you or your father need to speak with me you’ll have to set up an appointment with my assistant.”
“I’m surprised they aren’t the one calling me about this.” She winced once she realized she’d muttered that out loud. This day was never going to end was it?
“I’m giving you the professional courtesy of calling you as the manager of the hotel. Obviously you’re still too much of an irresponsible child to understand that. I’m amazed you haven’t run that place into the ground yet.” Chloe grit her teeth and told herself not to engage. There was no way for this to end well for her but ending the day being yelled at by her harpy of a mother was still avoidable.
“Of course. I apologize for the comment. I was simply surprised you had the time to handle something so insignificant yourself.” She heard the woman huff but she didn’t comment and Chloe felt some of her tension ease.
“Yes well, that’s not the only reason I’m calling.” Chloe felt a moment of hope and cursed herself for it. There was no way the woman remembered her birthday. No way this was going to be anything but another problem. “I’ve been told that Mlle Dupain-Cheng is visiting Paris. You need to stay away from her.” Of course that’s what it was. God forbid she taint the amazing Marinette. As much as she wanted to explode and vent her frustrations at the woman it would be worse than useless. She really needed a drink.
“I wouldn’t dream of sullying the golden child with my presence.” She did try to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She failed miserably but given the day she’d had she didn’t think anyone with reason would blame her for it.
“Don’t take that tone with me. She’d done exceedingly well without you dragging her down all these years which proves we were right to separate the pair of you. The fact that you’ve done absolutely nothing in the time since simply proves you were never good enough for her in the first place.” Chloe had to bite her cheek in order to not say something to make this worse, or possibly just scream out her frustrations. “I don’t have time for your sulking right now, just have my rooms ready.”
When the woman hung up she had to do some breathing exercises to calm herself down. It didn’t help much but it did allow her to text her father and all the staff that needed to be notified of her mother’s impending arrival. If she was lucky she’d be able to avoid the woman entirely on this trip. It was honestly tempting to check herself back in rehab just in case but, whether her mother admitted it or not, she was needed here. Her phone rang again and this time she did groan out loud when she saw the number. Could this day get any worse?
“This is Chloe Bourgeois, how can I help you?” There was a noticeable pause at her cold yet professional tone. The woman was probably debating if Chloe had lost their number.
“It’s Sabine dear. If you have a moment I need to speak with you.” Even though this conversation was sure to be better than the one with her mother, she still didn’t want to deal with it. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option. If she blew Sabine off she would call Audrey and all hell would break loose.
“Of course Mme. Cheng. What can I do for you?” Same tone. Apparently that was the wrong move.
“There’s no need for the attitude Chloe. I’m just trying to help you.” Chloe rolled her eyes but didn’t comment. She knew she wasn’t the one any of them were worried for. Marinette was the one they all cared about. What pissed her off was the fact they’d used her feelings for Mari to guilt her into doing what they wanted. “Marinette decided to visit and I just wanted to warn you so you don’t come here and bump into her.”
“Mme. Cheng, I haven’t been to your establishment in at least four years so there’s no reason to think I would suddenly show up. What do you really want to say to me?” She was just done with this day. Done with everyone who only thought of her as a problem.
“You and Mari have always done better apart. I’m just asking you to remember that.” Chloe tried to hold it in but after everything else that happened she just exploded.
“Given that I was so depressed I overdosed on alcohol and sleeping pills then spent six months in rehab I’m curious how much worse you imagine things would have been if we’d stayed together.” Nothing. Not that she expected an answer. Considering the effort her parents had gone to to keep it quiet, this was probably the first Sabine had heard of it. “I’m well aware all of you think I will be the ruin of Mari’s career should our paths ever cross. You can stop pretending to be concerned about me. I will take what you said under advisement. Have a nice night Mme. Cheng.” She hung up before the woman got her bearings back, hoping she wouldn’t call back. Or worse, call her mother. When she looked at the time on her phone she let out another groan. There were still two hours left in this incredibly shitty day.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Chloe let out a yelp as she spun around to find Marinette in her room. What the hell?”
“How did you even get in here?” She winced at her own tone. She must be stressed if she was reverting to her adolescent attitude.
“I was worried when you ran and followed, then your door wasn’t closed all the way. I’m sorry, I should have knocked.” Great. She’d managed to make Mari feel guilty in under a minute.
“It’s fine. I just… How much did you hear?” Mari was fidgeting and wouldn’t look her in the eye. So all of it then, wonderful. “Look, they were just concerned about you and everyone agreed I’d be detrimental to your future. I was trying to do the right thing for once instead of being selfish.” It sounded so stupid now but when they’d all sat her down and explained exactly why Marinette was too good for her, it made sense. Given the way things had turned out it was obvious that Mari didn’t need her anyway.
“Define everyone.” Mari’s tone was flat. That couldn’t be a good sign. She deserved an answer though. Chloe had to hug herself tightly so she wouldn’t break down just thinking about that week. God, she wanted so badly to drink and forget about everything.
“Your parents, my mother, your friends… hell they even got notes from your teachers saying that your grades began slipping once we started dating. I was hurting you.” The way she’d broken up with Mari was absolute shit and she deserved to be hated for that if nothing else. At the time it seemed like the only way to nudge her towards all the opportunities she hadn't been focusing on. At least that’s what she’d told herself.
“They ambushed you.” The fury behind those words caused Chloe to start babbling about them just being worried until Mari grabbed both sides of her head and forced eye contact. When had she gotten so close? “Don’t defend them. They all got together and decided what our future should look like without once asking us what we wanted. They went after you because they knew they could guilt you into doing what they wanted. Nevermind how much pain it would cause both of us.. They weren’t trying to keep you from hurting me. They just wanted me to conform to their view of how I should live my life.”
Chloe wanted to argue. Surely everyone at least had Mari’s best interest at heart. No one really cared about Chloe’s future, but that was completely normal. As ambivalent as they were about her future Mari’s parents wouldn’t have been so sure, so insistent, if it wasn’t in her best interest. They wouldn’t have made her hurt Mari for no reason. Right?
“They were right though; you’re better off without me.” The words were barely audible but given their position Mari had to have heard her. Mari’s career had taken off when she was in her second year of university. Even then, she’d managed to handle school and launching her own line with no drop in her grades. Chloe’s mother had made sure to tell her all about it, in detail. That was the night she’d accidentally almost killed herself.
“That is the dumbest thing you’ve ever said to me.” Chloe opened her mouth to respond but froze as Mari pulled her into a kiss. Her brain just stopped. Her body reacted on instinct and by the time thought returned her arms were wrapped around Mari and the kiss had deepened. What the hell was going on? Before she could figure out what to do Mari pulled back until their foreheads were touching. “Just because I’ve been successful without you doesn’t mean I’m better off. Us being together wouldn’t have destroyed my talent or ambition. And the next time I see my parents I’m going to ask them how they could have had so little faith in me. They had no right to treat either of us like that.”
“You were talking about turning down so many opportunities just to stay near me… I was distracting you.” Mari’s expression tightened.
“Is that what they told you? Chloe, there were a lot of reasons I wanted to stay in Paris. You were certainly one of them but I also wanted to stay near my parents. I wanted to spend time learning from fashion houses here before I went abroad. My parents were fine with that before we started dating.”
“My mother must have gotten to them. You know how badly she wanted you in New York.” She really was an idiot to not have seen it at the time. Chloe had never expected her mother to approve of their relationship, but to have Mari’s parents side with her had completely destroyed her confidence. “I’m so sorry, I should have seen it. Should have realized my mother was behind everything. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“The right thing would have been talking to me.” Mari’s voice didn’t have any anger in it but Chloe still flinched. She’d screwed up the best thing in her life because she hadn’t thought. It never occurred to her to wonder why everyone was suddenly telling her she was bad for Mari. After all they were just confirming the things she worried about constantly.
“You deserve so much better than me. You always have.” Mari’s expression softened and the hands still on Chloe’s neck started moving in soothing patterns.
“I’ve spent years trying to stay mad at you. Years forcing myself not to contact you because I didn’t want to be the one to come crawling back. I concentrated on my career because that’s all I had. In the beginning I thought being successful would show you how wrong you were to break up with me. It obviously backfired tremendously. In all that time, I was never happy. I deserve to be happy, and so do you. Forget everything else. Our parents, our careers… none of it matters. I was happy when we were together, and I think you were too.”
Chloe’s immediate reaction was to deny it. She had spent so long with everyone telling her that she shouldn’t be in Mari’s life she felt compelled to lie just to keep her away. But she couldn’t. Mari had always known when she was lying, even when they were kids. She’d only managed to break up with her without her radar going up because she’d stuck to generalities. She also didn’t want to. She honestly wasn’t certain she’d survive sending her away again.
“It’s the only time I can ever remember being happy.” That wasn’t what she meant to say but once it came out she realized it was true. When she was younger she’d thought she was happy, at least with just her father, but once she and Mari had actually started to get along her perspective shifted. It was like everything she’d felt before was muffled somehow. It was fine when she didn’t realize it, but once the comparison was there it was like night and day.
“Then let's go.” Judging by the way Mari was looking at her expectantly she was supposed to respond.
“Let’s go. Just pack a bag and go wherever we want.” Chloe was certain those words were supposed to make sense but she could only stare blankly at Mari. “You never wanted this life Chloe. I remember you talking about studying history and traveling so you could see the cultures and get the stories from the source. So pick a place.”
“What about your work? What about the hotel? We can’t just-”
“Yes, we can. I can work from anywhere and your father can take over the hotel again, at least until he hires some people. Because despite what your mother thinks, it will take more than one person to do your job.” There was a bit of a growl in her tone that Chloe couldn’t help but smile at. She’d always been extremely over protective. But could they really do this? Could she let Mari give up her life like that?
“Mari I… what if this doesn’t work? We spent most of our childhood at odds with each other and only a few months getting to really know one another. What happens if I turn back into a bitch? You’ll have pissed off everyone close to you for nothing.” She couldn’t come between Marinette and her family. She’d screwed her own life up enough, she wasn’t about to do that to someone else. Marinette actually rolled her eyes.
“The fact that you’re so worried about it tells me it won’t happen. Not to mention that if my parents, or anyone else, suddenly decides to hate me because of who I want to spend my life with I don’t need them in my life anyway.” Chloe sucked in a sharp breath, trying to figure out if she was hallucinating. There was no way Mari said what she thought. She’d been fighting the urge to drown herself in alcohol all day, maybe she’d actually broken down and this was just some drunken fantasy. It seemed like the most reasonable explanation.
“Spend your life with?” She hadn’t meant the words to come out at all and if Mari weren’t still so close it would have been too soft for her to hear. Chloe saw her expression soften and felt her breath hitch in her throat. God, she’d dreamed about having that look directed at her again but she’d never believed it would happen.
“Chloe, I’ve spent nine years failing to get over you. Now that I know you were coerced into breaking up with me in the first place… this feels right doesn’t it?” Between the words, the pleading in Mari’s tone, and the hands still running through the hair at her nape, the last of Chloe’s resolve just shattered. Denying herself was easy enough but she couldn’t say no to Marinette. She’d only managed to break up with her because she truly believed it was best for Mari. With her here, having all the information, and still not walking away there was only one option.
“More than right, it feels like home.” It wasn’t a concept she was very familiar with but it was the only thing that seemed to encompass the way being with Mari felt. The bright smile she got for her words relaxed her in a way she hadn’t felt in years. “Do you really just want to take off like that though? Of the two of us, you’re the one who has something to lose.”
“I wasn’t kidding when I said I can work from anywhere. Worst case scenario your mother comes after me and I lose one of my brands. Given that it’s the one I enjoy the least it’s really not a big deal.” Her eyes were filled with amusement and Chloe could only blink at her for a moment.
“You have more than one brand? And couldn’t she go after all of them?” That was exactly the type of thing she’d do. Threatening her livelihood if she dated Chloe seemed like the perfect revenge on both of them.
“She can’t go after something she doesn’t know exists. You know I’ve never liked Audrey and you’re the one who taught me to be paranoid about what I told her. Literally no one knows about my other brands except my clients and they’ve all signed non-disclosure agreements. She can’t hurt me I promise.” The certainty in her tone was enough to convince Chloe. Marinette had always been clever and careful. She was glad she’d instilled a cautiousness when it came to her mother. The woman was a vindictive bitch so the less information she had the better.
“That’s a relief. You know she’s not going to take it well or just let it go. She’ll get my father involved too which means I won’t be able to work in this industry ever again. It wouldn’t do to have us both be unemployable.” Mari giggled and Chloe felt herself smile. She couldn’t remember the last time that had happened.
“Your lessons in politics stuck. I know better than to leave myself vulnerable to untrustworthy people. Are you okay with being blacklisted by your parents?” She sounded worried but Chloe just rolled her eyes.
“It’s not like my relationship with my mother could get any worse. As for Daddy… if he’s willing to completely write me off on her say so, we don’t have much of a relationship do we?” She couldn’t remember the last time she’d have a discussion with the man about anything other than work. The thought of losing contact didn’t hurt nearly as much as it should have. “I’ve spent my life trying to be what they want me to be and all it did was cost me the one thing that mattered. I’m not making that mistake again.” Mari’s smile was near blinding, especially this close.
“I’ll help you pack anything you want to take. You tell me where you want to go and I’ll have a private jet fueled and ready. We can wait until my parents are sure to be asleep and I’ll grab my bag from the house. We’ll be on our way to anywhere else before morning.” It sounded so simple, so easy. It sounded perfect. She leaned in to kiss her, putting as much emotion as she could into it since she couldn’t find the words. When she pulled back she glanced at the clock on the wall and saw it was five minutes to midnight.
“Best birthday ever.”
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Belatedly (very belatedly!) realising that having been weirdly brought up to believe that performing artists all have big egos and are horrible to each other* is one of the main reasons why I am just constantly moved and delighted and strengthened by real-life examples of actors/musicians/dancers/comedians/tv presenters/etc. (especially but not only famous ones!) who adore each other and are lovely to each other.
(More on this, it’s a little long so there’s a cut.)
Also: having been brought up to believe that all celebrities are intrinsically terrible people *and* reading newspapers in the 1990s where that was being constantly pushed by the media (even as they profited from said celebrities and often harassed them to a drastically harmful extent) as well... yeah. This is all why, suspicious as I am of the more extreme aspects of stan/parasocial culture (and I really really am), I’m even more suspicious of kneejerk celebrities-are-terrible-people-and-never-really-like-each-other-it’s-all-just-PR culture. I’ve seen it before, it’s old news, and it’s a *very* bad (and really not particularly progressive) take.
And when people swing wildly between the two? Eurrrrrrrgh, frankly.
All of which is to say:
when Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie love on each other (and/or on Chris Evans!)
when the cast of Shadow and Bone just squee about each other All The Time
when Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair are still such close friends decades after Cruel Intentions and these days sometimes Sarah is Selma’s carer as well
when Michael Sheen and David Tennant :D
when my favourite Royal Ballet stars will not stop talking about how amazing various other Royal Ballet stars all are and encourage and support each other as choreographers as well as as dancers
when Joyce diDonato runs opera singing masterclasses and is in obvious affectionate awe of her students and encourages them so much and manages to make even her criticisms really encouraging and positive
when I have attended basically any folk club in England
It heals something in my soul.
And obviously sometimes people don’t get on or fall out, which is fair! And also some performing artists really are genuinely egocentric arseholes, and worse! And also of course the grimmer side of all this is when celebrities you thought were decent defend the indefensible because their friend was the perpetrator (although in this, I note, they differ from non-celebrities in Literally Zero Ways, it’s just happening in a much more public sphere...).
Also, of course, except in the folk clubs example above, I don’t actually know any of the people concerned! And it’s always important to remember that. :-)
But the point is that just knowing that there are some genuine and lovely and healthy friendships between famous performing artists makes the difference for me. It’s lovely. As a 40-something, heavily disabled folk singer who still hopes to actually build a damn music career if my health ever lets up for a frickin’ minute: it’s also of extremely big practical value to me because I’m not nearly so afraid as I was of potential future collaborations. Which is kind of a big deal.
And now if you excuse me I’m going to watch more videos of Anthony Mackie being a total sweetie at the MTV awards. :-) :-)
*Yeah my parents were all simultaneously raising us to be classical musicians *and* to not trust any other musicians/be wary of enjoying performing solos or “showing off” in case we became Like Those performers was fucking weird. My parents were always so much more comfortable with us playing in orchestras or singing in choirs etc. than being soloists. It’s frankly amazing that my siblings and I are as well-adjusted as we are...
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