Felix had had his story all ready when he stepped in the house. He had been taken off guard by the news, of course, and had run on impulse. Ever since the first akuma had showed up all he had heard was about how much of a villain Hawkmoth was, so of course his first reaction wasn't to be all-in. But he had had time to sit alone and think about it, and- well, he wanted his mom back, of course, just like his father did. And magic could do that, so- well, he wanted to know more, and to see his mom, if possible. After all, it had been ages, and he missed her.
And Adrien's father and Nathalie ate it up. There was no suspicion at all.
Seriously, how were these people supervillains? Sure, Felix was confident in his acting abilities- that was why he had agreed to this whole thing in the first place, because he was positive that he would be able to weasel his way through the situation- but he had figured that there would be more persuasion involved, them drilling him to make sure that he wasn't about to run off again and immediately report them to someone once he knew more. There had been some questions, sure- they had wanted to know if he had told anyone, to which they got a very quick "no!"- but nothing like what he had expected. Apparently the desire to see his mom again made "Adrien" turning to the dark side completely believable.
And then his mom and Adrien- or, sorry, "Felix"- arrived, and they had to interact normally, but as each other.
(At least Adrien had thought to have them practice that part in Marinette's room after they switched clothes. If they hadn't...well, Felix had far less confidence in Adrien's acting abilities, even if Adrien was the one between the two of them to do voice acting and shoot commercials.)
"This is nice and all, but Adrien and I were in the middle of something before you arrived," Mr. Agreste said after a few minutes of- well, admittedly awkward conversation. Felix's mom had apparently decided to continue on with the main reason for their visit- getting back the rings- and that was making Mr. Agreste less than thrilled. It probably was keeping him from getting suspicious, though, considering that Amèlie could have a one-track mind when she wanted to and her not bringing the topic up would be strange. It was a trait that ran in the family, really, so Felix refused to consider it a bad thing. "If you could, ah, wait-"
"They could hang out in my room!" Felix blurted, mimicking what he could remember of his cousin's eagerness as best he could. He gestured widely up the stairs. "There's a foosball table, and, uh..." He wracked his brain. What else had Adrien told him was in his room? Hopefully things hadn't changed too much since his last visit. "A climbing wall, and- well, you'll see."
"Thank you, Adrien!" Amèlie told Felix, beaming. She placed a hand on Adrien's shoulder, clearly ready to guide him up to the room, and then cast a disparaging look at Mr. Agreste. "Hopefully we'll get to hang out with you soon enough. Don't keep my nephew from me for too long, Gabriel."
Mr. Agreste only gave a short jerk of his head that might be interpreted as a nod, landing a heavy hand on Felix's shoulder and steering him forcefully towards what- if Felix was remembering correctly- was his office. Nathalie shut the door behind them, flipping the lock.
For the first time, Felix was nervous. This wasn't going to end in, like, human sacrifice or something, was it? It was all fine before, when they were around other people, but now Felix was on his own. If something went sideways...
No. His uncle wouldn't hurt the boy who he believed was his own son, right? Right-
-no. In a flash, Felix remembered what Adrien had said that had gotten his mom so enraged. Adrien had been attacked by akumas before- targeted by akumas, even, and Mr. Agreste had akumatized himself and attacked Adrien. Maybe it was just because stuff would likely be put back at the end of the attacks and so a little danger was considered acceptable, but that didn't exactly make Felix any less nervous.
"Your mother is down below the house," Mr. Agreste told Felix, guiding him to a specific section of floor in front of a painting of his aunt. It was weird. "We'll have to take the elevator. It's really only designed for one person, but we can make it work for two."
"An elevator? Where?" Felix asked at once, glancing around. He wasn't seeing any doors around in the too-open, too-clinical room. "In here?"
"In the floor, obviously." Mr. Agreste leaned forward, pressing several spots on the painting- buttons! Before Felix had a chance to memorize the pattern, they were going down, down, down. They passed another track that headed to the side and then- if Felix's eyes weren't deceiving him in the dark- upwards, and just kept going down.
Felix had decided: he Did Not Like This.
"It was quite difficult to get all of this installed without anyone noticing," Mr. Agreste commented idly as the elevator went down. "I had to call in a foreign company, make some payments to keep them quiet- not that they ever saw your mother or her condition. I had to keep her in one of the back rooms for a bit- it was quite dicey, making sure that neither you nor the household staff went back there. But the cavern already existed, and some of the scaffolding, so it wasn't quite as expensive as I had worried."
Felix had to struggle not to comment at that. How much of the money he had spent had actually belonged to Mr. Agreste, and how much had come from the Graham de Vanily family fortune? Surely he wasn't making that much money off of the fashion business, considering that everything Gabriel sold was either regular clothes with a brand stamped on them and sold at a huge markup, or absolutely hideous "fashion" that Mr. Agreste dreamed up, at least as far as Felix knew. The quality of the designs had definitely taken a turn for the worse after his aunt vanished, which suggested that either she had been doing a fair bit of designing herself or had simply been in charge of the editing.
"It was quite hard to keep you from noticing, of course, but I had hoped to pull off this whole thing without you knowing at all." Mr. Agreste paused as the elevator slowed and they descended into a huge cavern. Felix was not particularly comfortable knowing that this existed under his cousin's family's mansion- like, who had decided to build a house over this? It should have just been a park, and that way when the ground inevitably decided to collapse, there at least wouldn't be a building over it. "But it has dragged on for long enough now that I- well, Nathalie, at least- thought it might be a good idea to let you in on the secret, and you can be our eyes and ears on the outside."
"What do you mean, Father?" Felix asked, cringing on the inside. Having to call someone else- and someone as awful as Gabriel Agreste- father, so soon after his own dad had died...well, he would rather pass. But if he wanted to act convincing, he needed to address Mr. Agreste just like Adrien would. At least Adrien normally called Mr. Agreste father instead of dad, because Felix really wouldn't have been able to stomach that. Perhaps the two words were technically very similar, but it was just different. "How could I possibly be any more helpful than any news coverage? The Ladyblog has quite a bit of content."
"It has dropped in both quality and quantity recently. Both because your friend Alya has decided to trust Ms. Rossi and her stories, and because she's become so distracted by that DJ boyfriend of hers that she's not following the attacks as often." Mr. Agreste sniffed, leading the way off of the elevator even before it fully came to a stop "Typical teenaged romance single-mindedness. Foolish, and something that they will no doubt regret later on. They have become blind to everything except for each other."
Felix glanced away as though he was uncomfortable with how his- well, Adrien's- friends were being discussed, but inside he was trying not to roll his eyes. Adrien's friends were obsessed with each other? That was rich coming from the guy who had turned into a supervillain in an attempt to save his wife and had rather deliberately put his son in danger multiple times for the same reason.
(Also, this cavern was insane. There were rusting metal walkways over moving water below, and an opening somewhere up above that was shining light down at the cluster of plants at the far end, and- well, it was weird.)
"But you, Nathalie, and I can discuss specifics later," Mr. Agreste told him. "I know Nathalie had some ideas. It will require working in tandem with Ms. Rossi- she's one of my allies, though I don't know how much she suspects."
Felix blinked. "How- how much she suspects? What have you told her?"
"Very little. She is acting on my requests as Mr. Agreste- requests to deliberately get people upset enough to akumatize. Oh, don't look like that, you know that it causes no lasting harm," Mr. Agreste snapped when surprise and disgust slipped onto Felix's face. "And she is slippery enough to smooth things over again afterwards. But she's also been very cooperative with Hawkmoth, agreeing to become akumatized even without emotions clouding her judgment." He sent Felix a considering look. "You could do the same, actually. I'm sure it's something that Nathalie has thought of. With cooperative akumas, I can plan a design and powers in advance, instead of having to come up with them on the fly."
...Felix did not like this Ms. Rossi character already. He also wasn't sure who she was- she wasn't one of the people that Adrien had mentioned- and he didn't want to say anything that would give that away.
"But enough about that. You wanted to see your mother." Mr. Agreste headed up the walkway, shoes clicking with every step. "This way, stop dithering about. We don't have any time to waste- your aunt will start nosing around if we take too long, no doubt, and I shudder to think of what her reaction might be if she gets wind of this." Even from behind, his scowl was evident. "She's too nosy for her own good. The sooner she and your cousin leave, the better."
Felix had to force back the absolute rage at that. How dare his uncle call his mom nosy. Granted, maybe she sometimes was- he got irritated with her prying at times, he was a teenager and wanted his secrets, darn it- but for Mr. Agreste to say that, as though what he was doing wasn't a hundred times worse?
It was absolutely hypocritical.
"And here we are," Mr. Agreste announced, stopping in front of a tube... thing. He pressed a button, and the sides retracted to leave a glass case, with Emilie Agreste laying inside on a padded surface, deathly still.
It brought back memories in a rush, memories that Felix would have rather stayed deep inside. Memories of his father laying in a coffin- narrower than this one, to be sure, and wood instead of metal and glass- but with that same cream-colored silk padding and arranged in that same position, down to the flower bouquet held in his hands. Those waxy, too-pale cheeks, everything a little too neat and perfectly done up to truly look alive.
He wanted to be sick. Why couldn't Mr. Agreste have his wife on a bed, or at least in something far less coffin-like?
"She is alive," Mr. Agreste was saying, stepping closer to the foot of the- he was going to call it a chamber, Felix decided- and resting a hand there. "And the machines- they're to keep her stable. She was using the Peacock Miraculous even though it was broken. She was trying to be helpful, and this is where she ended up." He gazed up at his wife, clear longing on his face before he shook it off, his expression shuttering as he turned back to Felix. "Once I get the Ladybug and Chat Noir Miraculous- well, I want to use the ultimate power to change history, so that she wouldn't end up here."
"Won't there be a price, though?" Felix asked. He and Adrien had talked about it while they were swapping outfits and hairstyles and buffing out the few differences in their facial features with makeup, and Adrien had assumed that any wish made with the two main Miraculous had to result in kickback somewhere. Frankly, Felix had to agree with his cousin's assumption. That made a lot of sense. "A consequence for changing things?"
Mr. Agreste shrugged. "Perhaps. But I'm not going to concern myself about that right now. My kwami, Nooroo, had been most unhelpful about giving me information about that!" His voice rose with every word and Felix cringed back automatically.
He wasn't ever going to be jealous of his cousin ever again. Maybe they had both lost a parent- and maybe there was a possibility that Adrien's mom wasn't completely lost- but at least Felix's remaining parent cared about him. She wouldn't raise her voice, and she wouldn't look at him like Mr. Agreste had looked at "Adrien", all closed off and uncaring.
If Felix hadn't already felt bad for his initial plan to screw up his cousin's reputation as payback for Adrien not coming to Felix's father's funeral before, he definitely would now. It couldn't have been more obvious that his cousin already had enough to deal with.
"Master, I'm not allowed to say more!" a high-pitched voice protested, and Felix startled as a small purple creature appeared over Mr. Agreste's shoulder. "And it's unpredictable, and-"
"That's enough." Mr. Agreste swatted away the small fairy, focusing back on Felix. "I will interrogate Ladybug and Chat Noir's kwamis once I get my hands on them, and I will find out the best way to go forward. You don't need to worry about that."
Felix would beg to disagree, but he thought that it was probably not the best time to knock heads with Mr. Agreste. So he decided to turn to a different topic.
"What was Mom trying to do with the Peacock?" Felix asked, glancing back up at his aunt. "Who was she trying to help?"
Mr. Agreste frowned deeply, letting out a loud sigh. "She was trying to come up with a magic solution to cure your uncle's illness, to help him and possibly you and your cousin as well." He glanced up at Emilie again. "She fell into a coma before the test results came back telling us that neither of the two of you had inherited the genes for his disease."
Felix blinked. He knew that he had gotten tested to see if he had the genetic disposition to get the same illness that had killed his dad, but why- why would Adrien? They were related on his mom's side, not his dad's. "Inherited his disease? How- how would h- I inherit Uncle's..."
Mr. Agreste spared him a short look. "There were fertility issues, I thought we told you this before, Adrien. I mean, perhaps we didn't mention that your uncle helped out, but I thought that would be obvious enough."
Wait. He and Adrien were genetically brothers?
Well, that would explain how they looked similar enough to pass for each other with a clothes change, a hairstyle switch, and a little bit of hasty contouring with some makeup to cover up the few differences. Felix had known that technically, if one just considered genetics, that the two of them would be half-brothers since their moms were identical twins, but this...
Well. Felix had wondered how he and Adrien had ended up looking so alike when their fathers looked absolutely nothing like each other.
"Ah," Felix managed instead, deciding not to make any comments about how really, it was probably for the better that Mr. Agreste hadn't been able to have kids. Unlike Felix's own father, Mr. Agreste was- well. Not exactly model material, to say the least. "That- yes, okay."
He would have to ask Adrien how much he knew about the whole fertility issues thing, because he had never been told. That- that seemed like the kind of thing that would be really important to mention, like, years ago.
Also, did Mr. Agreste ever share information with his son in a way that didn't involve dumping it in one abrupt, overwhelming go? That seemed like it might be somewhat damaging.
"I'll admit, we should have done an exam for potential health problems first and made sure that everything came back healthy, but your aunt and uncle offered and Emilie seemed quite fond of the idea, so we were a bit lax on our screening." Mr. Agreste's face pinched, clearly irritated. "Not that it would have been easily available at the time, anyway. Add in the fact that we were rather fond of the idea of knowing the donor, instead of having it be some faceless, homely nobody who might have a dozen kids already across the country, and- well, never mind that. Your screening came back clear, after all, and with Ladybug and Chat Noir's Miraculous, we will fix the damage from the broken Peacock and get your mother back."
"But I think that's enough information for now. We don't want your aunt to come snooping because we're taking too long." With another press of a button, metal shutters closed over the glass chamber and Gabriel Agreste turned, leading the way back up the walkway. Felix glanced back once before hurrying after him, trying his best not to fall behind. "With your help, now, we'll be able to get the Miraculous in no time and have your mom back with us. Like I said, it will very likely involve you working with Ms. Rossi, and I expect you to be on your best behavior with her. If we can get Ms. Dupain-Cheng akumatized...she has avoided my butterflies on more than one occasion now. I suspect that she would make quite the powerful akuma. Her creativity could make her more than a match for Ladybug."
Felix only just hid his disgust at that, instead turning a distressed look on Mr. Agreste. "But- but Marinette is my friend!"
"Akumatization causes no long-term harm, Adrien, we have already been over this. And I thought it would be obvious enough already considering how many times some of your other friends have been akumatized. It's not as though her akumatization would be any different." Mr. Agreste sent him an exasperated look. "If it would distress you that much to upset Ms. Dupain-Cheng, then Ms. Rossi can take care of that bit. You would just need to stay out of the way and not rush after her to try to offer comfort."
Felix knew full well that Adrien would never agree to that, not after Marinette had pulled him in and offered comfort during his breakdown. Still, he had to agree- or at least pretend to. "I- I'll try."
Mr. Agreste's lips flattened. "No, Adrien, you will. There is no try. I am not asking for an impossibility here."
Felix swallowed a sigh. He wasn't surprised, really. "Yes... father."
"Good. And I plan to change the timeline, to keep your mother from ever falling into a coma in the first place, so Ms. Dupain-Cheng won't even remember her akumatization." They stepped onto the platform, and Mr. Agreste tapped the button that would take them back up. Felix tried his best not to scowl as they ascended into the dark tunnel again, trapped with no space to step back and away from the madman that was his uncle. "So you see, I am not the villain after all. Paris will not remember this, if all goes to plan, and we will have your mom again."
For a moment, Felix was almost tempted to forget the whole stop Hawkmoth thing. If Mr. Agreste changed the timeline- would he change it so that the Peacock wouldn't be broken, and Mrs. Agreste might actually be able to find a cure before his dad died? After all, it sounded like she had been trying to find a cure for all of them, not just in case Adrien had the same condition. But...
Well, all signs pointed to it not being a particularly good idea for him to trust Mr. Agreste's stories. He was clearly a madman, and it was incredibly likely that there would be consequences for such serious magical tampering. Maybe their immediate family wouldn't see those impacts- or maybe they would, and Felix would lose his mom instead- but either way, Felix knew deep inside that his dad wouldn't approve.
They went up and up, and Felix turned his attention to his secondary plan- stealing the Miraculous. Adrien had guessed that it was hidden under that hideous ascot- not that he had actually seen the pin, he was just assuming based on where he had seen Hawkmoth wear his Miraculous- and getting it unnoticed would be difficult unless he could figure out a plan. Maybe he could pretend to lose his balance and fall against Mr. Agreste, but how to make that look realistic...
Despite his earlier show of confidence, stealing the Miraculous was always going to be a long shot. Rings were easy, and bracelets. But pins, and particularly hidden ones?
Felix shifted, shuffling his feet as though uncomfortable- and that wasn't hard to act at all- and was about to 'trip' over his own feet when the elevator gave a sudden jolt. Felix's carefully-planned 'fall' turned into a real one, right against Mr. Agreste's chest.
And as luck had it, right against the bottom edge of Mr. Agreste's ascot. As the elevator gave another jolt- good god, please don't let it actually break now- Felix let his hand slide under the ascot (a clip-on, how utterly tasteless and embarrassing for a fashion designer) and felt the bottom of a pin at once- hopefully the Miraculous, and not just a normal pin. As Mr. Agreste's attention was on cursing out the elevator system and trying to keep them upright and not getting their clothes caught in the few bits of exposed machinery, the pin practically shifted itself into his hand and Felix unpinned the Miraculous, letting it slip out of his hand and up his sleeve, trying not to flinch as the pin suddenly changed shape.
Somehow, miraculously, it was mission complete. And his uncle seemed none the wiser.
With one more jolt, the elevator started moving normally again, just as though the near-breakdown hadn't happened. Felix frowned against the darkness, then narrowed his eyes when he caught a glimpse of something small and dark up above, something that vanished into the shadows before he had a chance to get a better look. There was another flicker of movement on the other side of the tunnel, but it too vanished before Felix could figure out what it was.
"Do- do we have rats?" Felix asked, still frowning into the darkness as they continued upwards. "I thought I just saw something."
"Perhaps. The cavern is not exactly completely insulated from the world, so while I shudder to consider it, it's not impossible. Did you see something?"
Felix shrugged, taking a step back- well, as much of a step as he could, without risking stepping too far back and into the walls they were moving past- and letting his hands fall by his sides again. The Miraculous slid back down his sleeve and into his hand, and Felix pocketed it at once. "I thought I saw something small moving along the side of the tunnel, but it's too dark to see."
Mr. Agreste just let out a noncommittal hmm.
After another few seconds, the floor above split and they ascended into the office. Nathalie glanced up as the elevator platform clicked into place on the floor, giving them a brief smile and nod before returning to her work. Felix stepped away from Mr. Agreste at once, giving himself a bit of breathing room.
"I don't think that I have to remind you not to tell anyone," Mr. Agreste instructed him sternly. "Don't make me regret trusting you. I know that you want your mother back as badly as I do, and this is what we need to do. The opinions of the city do not matter."
"Of course, Father," Felix lied at once, very aware of the weight of the Butterfly Miraculous against his leg. "Should I go check on Felix and Aunt Amèlie now?"
Mr. Agreste nodded, leading the way over to the door and unlocking it. "That would probably be for the best. If my memory serves me correctly, your cousin has rather sticky fingers. You wouldn't want too many things to go missing."
Felix very nearly felt offended, but then promptly remembered that his original plan for their visit to the Agrestes had included snitching his cousin's phone and just now, he had stolen his uncle's magic jewelry and was planning on trying to steal his ring for his mom if possible.
Maybe he did have somewhat sticky fingers, but only when he had a goal. It wasn't as though he was a common pickpocket.
"Of course, Father," Felix said again, stepping out of the room. "Will we see you at dinner?"
"No, I've wasted quite enough of the day already, so I'll be taking my meals in the office as usual," Mr. Agreste told him. He scowled. "No matter what opinions your aunt has on the matter."
Felix tried not to smirk. His mom would absolutely be vocal about that, and it would be hilarious to see the face-off. Mr. Agreste well deserved her ire, after all. "Right. I'll see you later, then."
He didn't get a response, and he hadn't expected one. After lingering another half-second, Felix trotted up to Adrien's room, hoping that his memory would serve him right and his cousin hadn't changed rooms or anything since he had last visited. Thankfully, the door handle he remembered gave, and Felix stepped into the room that he remembered, excessive even by rich people standards. His mom and Adrien were there, hovering anxiously by the door. They both let out a sigh of relief when they saw Felix, letting him into the room at once and locking the door behind him.
"How did it go?" Amèlie wanted to know at once, ushering him further into the room and handing over a makeup wipe and a comb so that Felix could start putting his appearance back to right. "Did you see Emilie? Did your uncle suspect anything?"
"Well as it could have, I suppose." Felix shrugged. He hadn't been ill despite the- well, despite the reminders of death and coffins that he really hadn't needed- and Mr. Agreste hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary. "I saw Aunt Emilie, yes, and I don't think he suspected anything, and, well..." Felix let a small smile slide onto his face, reaching into his pocket and pulling his hand back out, opening it where both his mom and Adrien could see. "I managed to grab this when the elevator malfunctioned on the way back up."
The twin gasps this time made Felix grin. Amèlie reached out as though to take it, then drew her hand back. "That- you're sure that's the Miraculous?"
"It sprouted wings after I grabbed it, so I assume so, yes." It had been so hard not to react when he felt the brush of wings sprouting out of the Miraculous, but Felix had managed it. He tapped it, a little curious, but- no. He couldn't want it. He wasn't going to be like his uncle. Felix refused. Besides, the Butterfly itself really couldn't do much beyond make tacky villains in an attempt to take Ladybug and Chat Noir's Miraculous, and considering that his uncle had been trying and failing to do that for ages, the likelihood of Felix actually succeeding in a much shorter timeframe- after all, a non-zero number of people knew about his plan to get the Miraculous- was pretty much nil. "And, well. I managed to get this set up before coming into the house, and it's a good thing, too."
Felix pulled his phone out of his pocket, finally hitting the end button. The screen blinked up at him, announcing that he had been recording for just over forty minutes and his phone's storage was nearly full. It had been a last-minute idea, really, but he was glad that he had thought of it now. His uncle had said quite a few interesting things, and it would be important evidence soon enough.
Adrien grinned as soon as he recognized what Felix was holding. "That's great! More proof for Ladybug and Chat Noir."
"I'll make some copies of the file this evening," Felix told them. He turned his attention to Adrien. "Do you know of a Lila Rossi? Apparently she was freely working with Hawkmoth."
Adrien's jaw dropped, and then a slow grin spread onto his face. "No way! That's great- I mean, it's- well, she's a terrible person," he hastened to explain. "She likes lying to get her way, and it's frustrating to listen to, but if we fight her, then she might get akumatized and cause a lot of problems. I know Marinette has been butting heads with her a lot, and Ladybug loathes Lila, so for Lila to be ousted as willingly working with Hawkmoth..."
Felix smiled at that. "Yes, I gathered that she might not be the kindest character. Mr. Agreste was talking about having her deliberately upset people to get them akumatized, and apparently your friend Marinette was next on his hit list."
"He- what? No, he had better stay away from her, how dare they go after Marinette-"
"Oh, is she your girlfriend?" Amèlie asked in delight. "I did wonder, since you two seemed quite close, but I didn't want to pry, it didn't seem the time."
Adrien promptly turned pink, which seemed like a pretty clear answer to Felix, but he was also shaking his head. "No, I- we're friends! And she does so much for all of us, to help everyone out and keep people happy so that people don't get akumatized, and so for them to target her..."
...yeah, Felix's cousin was pretty obviously sweet on this girl. Before Felix could call Adrien out on that, though, there was a knock on the window and Ladybug waved at them from the other side. Felix stepped that way, ready to hand over the Butterfly Miraculous at once, but Adrien stepped in front of him.
"I want to make sure that it's actually Ladybug," Adrien murmured, just loud enough for Felix and his mom to hear but not Ladybug, who was still standing outside of the window. "The Peacock is still out, and we've seen some odd sentimonsters recently. You put yourself in danger to get this, and I don't want to lose the Miraculous right back to Nathalie again."
Felix nodded, letting Adrien take the lead. He wasn't sure how Adrien was planning on ensuring that this Ladybug was the real one, because Felix was pretty sure that his cousin wouldn't know anything more about Ladybug than any other person in Paris did. He could admit, though, that the timing seemed pretty strange, since how would Ladybug know to come now?
"Hi, Ladybug," Adrien said, pushing open the window and stepping aside to let Ladybug in before Mr. Agreste or Nathalie could spot her on the security cameras. "Um, how are you?"
"I'm- well, I've had an interesting day," Ladybug said, rubbing the back of her head. "Marinette waved me down when I was out for a run- I had heard horns and yelling, so I thought that there was maybe an akuma out and so I was searching- and told me about your father and that, well..."
Adrien nodded. "That he's Hawkmoth."
"And that you were maybe going to try to get the Miraculous, if possible." Ladybug glanced between them. "So I was mostly curious about what more you had learned, and if you maybe...?"
Adrien nodded, then paused. "Ah, one quick question, just to be safe- when Jackady was attacking the house, what did I do when I got to my room?"
Ladybug blinked, clearly puzzled by the question, but only for a moment before her expression cleared in understanding and her cheeks turned pink. "You, uh, went to go take a shower."
"And what did we talk about after I came out?" Adrien asked, just as pink as Ladybug was. She smiled at him, bright and happy.
"I saw the picture of your mom on your computer screens...and I said that you had your mom's smile."
"Okay," Adrien said, nodding and flashing her a wide grin. "Thanks, I just- I just had to make sure."
Ladybug nodded, smiling back. "That's fine. I understand wanting to be careful, and I appreciate that. It's really smart."
There was a pause.
"I got the Miraculous," Felix announced when it seemed as though neither Ladybug nor his cousin were about to speak. He produced it from his pocket. "I understand the Peacock is still at large, but I didn't want to push my luck with trying to find it."
"It's not worth it, not when we know who has it," Ladybug agreed. She took the Butterfly Miraculous, popping open her yo-yo as she did. After another good look at the pin, she tucked it into the yo-yo and snapped it shut. "That's incredible that you were able to get it. I would have thought that Mr. Agreste would have been too protective of the Miraculous to let anyone get close to his neck."
"I got a lucky opening and I have practice swiping things unnoticed," Felix told her, ignoring the fact that anyone would be able to figure out that there wouldn't be many positive applications of that particular skill. That was entirely beside the point. "I also got an audio recording of my entire experience with Mr. Agreste and our visit downstairs. I'll be making a copy of it tonight- mom, what hotel are we staying in?"
His mom frowned, thinking. "I don't recall- it's not the Grand Paris, I know that much, because the last time we visited and stayed there, it was a bit too expensive even for my tastes and I wasn't particularly impressed by the place. It reads as more of a bragging rights project than an actual high-end hotel, so I decided to go elsewhere." She frowned in thought for a moment more and then smoothed out her expression automatically- after all, she couldn't get frown lines, that wouldn't be nice- before digging out her phone and navigating to her email, showing Ladybug the confirmation email before tucking the phone back in her pocket.
"Here, I can give you a USB drive now," Ladybug said, popping one out of her yo-yo. Felix tried not to stare, because seriously, how many functions did that thing have? But maybe he shouldn't be surprised, because it was magic, of course it could do whatever Ladybug wanted. "And then I can pop by later?"
"Well after dinner," Amèlie told her. "We're staying here for our evening meal, and then leaving an hour or two later, as though we were taking the last train of the evening out of the city."
Ladybug nodded in understanding. "Okay, I think I know when that is. I'll give you some time to get settled in before I stop by. And I thank you for turning the Miraculous over. I know not everyone would. The idea of powers like that- well, it's too much for some people to resist."
...well, okay, now he was going to feel guilty if he didn't say anything. Also, everything that he had heard before about the Miraculous and the wish that the Ladybug and Black Cat Miraculous granted was just guess and conjecture, and he- he wanted to know. Surely as the holder of one of those Miraculous, Ladybug would know more.
"I..." Felix trailed off, glancing to the side. "I will admit, I considered it for maybe a couple minutes. The opportunity to have my father back...and with the price, well, what if we traded my dad for Adrien's father? It's not like having the world be down one supervillain would have been awful, especially because my dad was actually nice. He cared about others, not just himself, and he wouldn't have even considered doing what Mr. Agreste did." He glanced back at Ladybug. "But that's not how the wish would work, would it? That seems too neat and tidy, to be able to pick and choose the person to trade."
"It's definitely more unpredictable," Ladybug agreed. "Even Chat Noir and I's mentor- he's been studying the Miraculous for years, and he made a really dumb mistake that caused a lot of destruction. You would think that he would use the Cure and fix that, but even he doesn't want to mess around with the Wish. There's just no way to control what the price would be."
Felix nodded. "Okay. Thank you." There had been no opportunities missed, after all. That would keep him from staying awake at night, wondering and wishing and cursing himself for not at least trying.
With one last bright smile, Ladybug thanked them again and took off out the window, vanishing quickly. They all watched her go before falling into a somewhat uneasy silence as Adrien and Felix finished swapping back their appearances. Once they were finished, Felix's mom spoke up again.
"We'll have to be careful going forward," she told them. "Adrien, your father is bound to notice that his Miraculous is missing at some point today. I doubt that he would try to make a fuss with Felix and I here, but once we leave- well, I don't think that you should stay here tonight."
"I can lock my door and sneak out," Adrien offered. "I've done it before, and even if Nathalie and Father have the key to the door, I know how to block the doors so that they can't be opened. And, uh." He ducked his head, a small smile on his lips. "Marinette just texted me and said that I can stay over at her house, since they have a guest room."
"Oh, good. Perfect." Amèlie beamed at them. "So I think that unpleasant business has been as sorted out as much as possible, then, and we can move on to more pleasant topics and actually enjoy the rest of our visit here. So. Uh. Ideas?"
"Uh, maybe just one," Felix starting, figuring that- well, he was curious, and this was probably as good of a time for it as any. After all, the visit was already a bit awkward with his uncle's impending arrest for domestic terrorism via magic supervillains, so surely it couldn't get much worse. "Earlier, in the cellar, Uncle said something about him and Aunt Emilie having fertility problems and Dad helping out. Uh, can I just ask- what?"
Gabriel Agreste let out a long breath once the Graham de Vanilys had finally, finally left, barely sparing Adrien a glance before heading back into his office and calling up a generous glass of scotch to sooth his nerves. His in-laws were as absolutely infuriating and interfering as he had remembered, barely deterred by the loss of Amèlie's husband, it seemed. Add in the fact that Amèlie still couldn't get her thick head around the concept that, family heirlooms or no, the twin rings belonged to him now, and the fact that Adrien's dash after learning about Gabriel's secret identity had caused no small amount of stress, and the fact that Amèlie hadn't accepted no for an answer and had forced Gabriel out of his office for dinner, just to make her stop pestering him and shut up- well, it really was no wonder that Gabriel had been nursing a small but persistent headache for most of the day.
But now they were gone- at least for now, he didn't doubt that they would be back in another couple of months to pester him some more, that family was nothing if not annoyingly persistent- and he could take some Advil with his scotch before settling in to plan out how he and Adrien could work together to take down the superheroes. With any luck, they could steal another Miraculous from one of the lesser, temporary superheroes and Adrien could use that to tip the scales. Gabriel wouldn't allow it for many battles- Adrien would only go out if conditions were solidly in their favor, because if he got his identity exposed that would be a disaster- but it could be the extra thing they needed, a strong akuma plus a sentimonster plus him and Mayura and Adrien.
"I could design the perfect akuma to make Ladybug and Chat Noir pull out one of the temporary heroes," Gabriel mused to himself once his drink was gone and his headache had receded, already rising to head for his elevator. He could plot better up in his lair, and he would also be ready if any negative emotions showed up in the city. There had been a surprising lack of them so far today, and he didn't understand why. "Which could very well mean re-akumatizing one of the people who got that reaction again. That could be difficult, unless I can direct Lila, perhaps." That wouldn't be hard, he was sure, considering that the girl seemed to jump on every opportunity to attack Ladybug. "But I might need to plan this one out some more. Nooroo, remind me what akumas brought out the B-team."
There was silence. Gabriel frowned, his fingers mid-reach towards the elevator buttons that would whisk him up to his lair. "Nooroo?"
Nothing. Dread started to pool in Gabriel's gut, and he scrambled to pull off his ascot, tossing it to the side to get a clear view of his neck.
His neck, which was- for the first time since he had put the brooch on- bare.
"No, no no no!" Gabriel snarled, sure that there had been a mistake. He dropped to his knees, snatching up his ascot and rifling through it in case the brooch had simply gotten snarled in the knot of fabric. His search yielded nothing. "Come on, come on, I couldn't have lost it!" The only new person who knew about him being Hawkmoth- who would have any idea about the hidden brooch- was Adrien, but he wouldn't dare steal his father's Miraculous. He wasn't anywhere near slick enough, after all- it was Felix that was the silver-tongued thief- and besides, he had clearly been very interested in his mother's return.
So where had it gone?
"Okay, breathe," Gabriel muttered to himself, determined not to let himself panic, even as he undid the pin-on ascot so that he could flatten it out. Panic led to dumb decisions, which could mean an end for him. "Adrien couldn't have taken it without tipping me off, he has no control over his emotions. He would have been nervous, and I would have been put on high alert. Maybe I just didn't fasten it right this morning and then it got knocked off."
Yes, that had to be it. Gabriel remembered that he had had to scold Nooroo in front of Adrien when they were in the underground cavern, so he had had the Miraculous then, at least. Which meant that it might have gotten knocked off down there. Where the walkway was not solid and there was rushing water down below.
That would not be good. Visions of the Miraculous getting whisked away by the rushing water danced through his head, and Gabriel's blood pressure spiked again before he remembered that Nathalie still had the Peacock Miraculous. They had to be careful with their usage of it, sure, but surely they could manage a transformation and a sentimonster that could sniff out the Butterfly Miraculous and return it. They might have to wait a week to make sure that Nathalie had fully recovered from her last transformation- or maybe it would be smarter for him to use the Peacock. The thought made Gabriel clench his hands, because the mere idea of subjecting himself to the peacock's weakness was-
Something was wrong. It hadn't been immediately obvious, but when he clenched his fists….
Gabriel's gut twisted as he looked down and then once again, he froze. This time, it had nothing to do with his missing Miraculous. Instead, Gabriel was staring at his bare hand. Specifically, his bare ring finger.
His ring. It was gone. Gone. Just like his Miraculous, vanished into thin air.
No!It-it couldn't be! He had been so careful to not let it out of his sight, and he certainly had never taken it off for more than a minute at a time to clean it. It wasn't as though he would take it off for any other reason- the smooth surface of the ring was hardly going to snag on any fabric, and he was hardly going to deign to do any sort of baking- which meant that it had been removed. Somehow. Without him noticing.
Two incredibly important pieces of jewelry gone without a trace in the span of a day. Gabriel scrambled for his phone, suddenly paranoid that maybe the Peacock had vanished from Nathalie's possession, too. If it had- well, then all was lost, wasn't it?
No. No, it had to be a coincidence. There hadn't been a single opportunity for Adrien to steal his Miraculous, but there certainly had been an opportunity for Felix to palm the ring when they shook hands. He should have been on the lookout for that, should have been on high alert the entire time that his sister-in-law and nephew were within his sight, should have put the ring in a safe until they were gone.
And by now, they were on a train back to London. Gabriel couldn't go after them, and even if he could, Amèlie wouldn't admit to her son taking the ring. They would hide it and play dumb and never let him see that they had it. No, it was well and truly lost to him now, and maddeningly so.
But that didn't mean that the Butterfly was. If he summoned Nathalie back to the house at once- she would be annoyed, certainly, since she had only just left, but as soon as she found out what was going on she would understand the urgency- then they could start the work of figuring out where the Butterfly had gone.
He wasn't going to let Emilie down.
a/n: If ML is going to make Adrien and Felix inexplicably identical, I'm going to give them a completely bonkers justification for it. In this case, the chances of them looking so similar are a LOT higher if they share a father on top of having identical mothers.
This was meant to be the second and final part of the story, and it very well might be- I do like my open endings, after all- but it is possible that I might return to this story at some point and write a part 3 that ties up a few of the lose ends. It depends entirely on my inspiration and amount of other projects I have on the go.
As always, comments make my day! :)