Gabriel Agreste found his wife's unconscious body on the floor of his office on Tuesday at half-past seven in the evening. She was barely breathing, and one glance around her person gave away the fact that she had used the Peacock again, despite her promise that her previous time was going to be the last, really.
Gabriel exchanged a worried look with Nathalie and hastily bundled his wife into a wheelchair and into the locked-down, secret bedroom in the back of the house without anyone noticing. He removed the broken Miraculous from her once she was moved to the bed, carting it back to the office- perhaps a bit of distance would help speed along her recovery- while Nathalie got Emilie hooked up to the medical machines they had managed to procure after previous collapses. They would monitor Emilie's condition until she had woken up again, and then still while she recovered, just to be safe.
"Sir, I've set up the oxygen mask as well," Nathalie told him when he returned, the Miraculous locked away in the safe until he could think of a better place to hide it, one where Emilie wouldn't find it and use it again. She looked worried. "Emilie seems to be in a deeper sleep than she's ever been before, so I thought it would be better to be safe than sorry. Are you sure that you don't want to call for an ambulance?"
"I'm positive," Mr. Agreste said tersely, because really, what could a hospital do besides pry a lot? Emilie's condition was caused by magic, and unless the staff had a magic expert on staff that they didn't tell the general public about- which Gabriel severely doubted- they wouldn't be able to do much anything besides sit back and wait. "We have top-of-the-line medical equipment here, and it's set up to tell me when anything changes. And you know that Emilie wouldn't be happy about people prying into what's causing her weakness. Even if she's done nothing wrong- well, some people have opinions about magic."
Nathalie pursed her lips, but nodded anyway. "As you wish, sir."
The evening passed, and Gabriel waved off Adrien's inquiries about where his mom was by telling him that she was tired and had gone to bed early. Adrien seemed disappointed but accepted that- after all, it wasn't the first time that it had happened- and Gabriel checked in on Emilie before going to bed.
She hadn't stirred.
Gabriel frowned deeper- Emilie really hadn't been careful enough with the Peacock, that much was obvious- before locking up the bedroom for the night so that no nosy house staff would look in.
This had happened before, of course, but it always put him on edge when it did.
And then the next morning dawned, and Emilie's vital signs had slipped firmly into coma territory.
"Sir, I think we should really call the hospital-" Nathalie started, but Gabriel silenced her with a single hand.
"Look into what medical equipment is required for dealing with a coma. We will ride it out ourselves. She will need nutrients, of course, in place of food, and fluids. I expect to have a full report on my desk by this evening of what we'll need and what's been ordered."
"Of course, sir."
"And as for me, I think I'll try to track down that man who sold Emilie the Peacock," Gabriel decided, scowling at the thought. They hadn't been interested in buying the man's other wares when they had met up with him- or at least they hadn't yet been willing to pay more than half a million euros for what honestly sounded like a fantasy story. Now- well, they had more experience with the one Miraculous that they had bought, and they were willing to shell out for the Miraculous that wasn't broken.
Sure, Emilie would have to acquaint herself with a different power set , but she couldn't continue with the Peacock. Saving her brother-in-law just wasn't worth her getting progressively weaker like this. Maybe she would even make a breakthrough with a different Miraculous and different powers at her fingertips.
By midday, Adrien had to be shooed off with more excuses about his mother resting. A call to his Mandarin tutor ensured that he would be busy for several hours of the afternoon, and then Gabriel continued his search for the Chinese man who had sold Emilie the Peacock. He had some information to go off of- there had been a shop, and they had just shown their interest in more powerful wares- but he still had to remember the shop name and find it online- if it was even listed online, that was.
"You could always call up tour guide companies in the area and see if you could pay one to go to the shop and get the phone number for it," Nathalie suggested as the evening drew to a close and Gabriel had made no progress. "It would be easier, and I'd bet that it wouldn't require a large fee, as long as you pick a company that's located in the area to start with."
Gabriel hummed in thought. "That's a good idea. Outsource the work. I'll do that over dinner- inform Adrien that his mother and I won't be joining him. And since Emilie doesn't look like she'll be up and ready to go out again for a couple days, please come up with a cover story for why she won't be around so he doesn't keep asking."
"Of course, sir."
"How goes the search for equipment needed for a coma?"
"It's been ordered and express-shipped, sir. We should be receiving several large boxes tomorrow morning. I'll arrive early to ensure that I'm here to receive it before any of the other staff can get a look at it."
Gabriel nodded. That was good. Speed was essential if they wanted Emilie to recover faster. They would give her the best care- without taking her to a hospital and dealing with nosy nurses and inquisitive doctors- to get her out of her latest slump, and then they would (hopefully) get another Miraculous so that she wouldn't keep driving herself into the ground.
He should have reached out to buy the other Miraculous sooner, he really should have. Now, there was no guarantee at all that the man would still have it.
They could only hope.
It had been five more days, and Emilie still hadn't woken up. Her coma seemed stable enough for now, but she wasn't waking up.
What was the use in Gabriel having tracked down the shop and spent nearly two million to get the second Miraculous and all of the other Miraculous-related things the man had- the book, some scrolls, a couple half-burned paintings- if Emilie didn't wake up?
They couldn't keep on making excuses for why she wasn't around, either. They could only keep Adrien's curiosity at bay for so long, and Nathalie responding to his texts to Emilie only satisfied him so much. He was looking forward to her return from the relaxing retreat that they had told him she had gone to, and had Emilie actually been coming back from any sort of retreat- well, she would have gone to see her son first thing. For her not to would be weird.
"We're going to have to claim that she's vanished," Nathalie said grimly as she and Gabriel sat locked in the office, going over their options and all of the research that Nathalie had done about comas. "There's no other option, Gabriel, not unless you want to go to a hospital. And I know you said that there were maybe things in the book you ordered that would help her, and that would be hard to do in a hospital without people noticing."
Gabriel sighed, massaging his temples. He hadn't wanted to do this. There would be too much scrutiny of their family, both the police and the press trying to pick out any secrets that the Agreste family was trying to hide. But they had made all of their Miraculous-related orders from a secret account that shouldn't be traceable for this exact reason, and Nathalie always took care to wipe and replace any camera footage or computer trails of events that might be- well, suspicious. As long as they were careful, they should be able to pull off a disappearance without looking too suspicious. It would be hard to explain Emilie's reappearance once she woke up, but- well, they would cross that bridge when they came to it.
After all, at this point, it was only a matter of time before someone outside of the family noticed Emilie's absence and then their not reporting it first would look more suspicious.
"Tonight, we have to move Emilie downstairs, to her inspiration garden," Gabriel decided. "It'll take a lot of trips, to get her down and then move all of the equipment and a bed. Then tomorrow evening, we'll report her missing. Once the investigation's passed, we should probably improve the set-up there." He let out a long sigh. "I am so glad that we have that now. If we didn't…"
He trailed off. Nathalie nodded.
"For now, all we can do is make sure that there's nothing suspicious out. Even in the safes- you know that the police will want to see them. And bills, accounts that we're signed into online- all of it has to be cleared, and thoroughly." Gabriel glanced around at his office, trying to remember all of the places that Emilie stashed her journals and notebooks. Everything would have to be hidden today, because come tomorrow evening, or maybe the morning of the next day- well, the mansion would no doubt be swarmed with police looking for clues about Emilie Agreste's disappearance.
And Gabriel wasn't going to let them find anything.
At eleven thirty-three, a phone call was made from the Agreste Mansion to the Paris police department reporting a missing person. Twelve minutes and forty-three second later, the first patrol car pulled through the gates of the mansion and two officers and a detective hopped out. Nathalie met them at the gate, ushering them into the house and to the office to meet with Mr. Agreste.
There was no going back now.
Gabriel Agreste let out a long sigh as he settled into his chair. It had been a long day, right on the heels of an equally long week. Emilie hadn't improved at all in the week since the police visited, and- well, Gabriel really couldn't count himself at all surprised, though of course he was disappointed. Dealing with police coming in and out and checking footage for discrepancies and clues had been exhausting, particularly since they had had to keep the police away from both Adrien and his bodyguard to ensure that their stories wouldn't clash with the one that Gabriel and Nathalie had given the police.
Luckily, the police weren't terribly inclined to interrogate a mute man and a twelve-year-old when Gabriel and Nathalie were being so terribly cooperative.
Well. Outwardly cooperative, at least. They hadn't falsified anything more than they strictly had to- the more components there were, the harder it would be to keep their story straight and the easier it would be to overlook any details that could throw their entire story under doubt and closer inspection. As it was, making sure that they kept to the same details and didn't add anything for the entire week- an entire week full of police visits, some surprise and others not- had been hard enough.
And then they had had to deal with Adrien on top of all of that. He had been inconsolable, constantly dogging at Gabriel and Nathalie's footsteps in search of any answers at all. Gabriel had finally snapped at him- after all, how was he supposed to get any work done if Adrien insisted on following him around every moment of the day?- and he had finally stopped, but Gabriel didn't doubt that he would require some attention again at some point. After all, he had always taken after Emilie and her tendency to be overly emotional about things.
He could only hope that the next week would be better. The police had exhausted their investigation of their house- they had been very through about that- and all of the possible questions that they could possible think of. He could return to his work- he had fallen behind with all of the fuss of getting Emilie settled and the investigation and Adrien demanding attention- and at least get somewhat back on track until something more could be done. If he didn't, he might very well have to deal with investors backing out over worries about him not being able to keep up the quality of the company.
Now that Emilie was stable, Gabriel couldn't help but feel a bit of annoyance with her at all of the fuss and scrutiny that they had gone through- and would no doubt continue to go through- because she couldn't be careful enough with the Peacock. She would have to be the one to deal with the fallout from her return and figure out the logistics there, because he had already spent too much time dealing with her mistake already.
Of course, for her to deal with things, she had to actually wake up. Gabriel couldn't deny that he was worried about that not happening, though, and his worry far outweighed his annoyance.
He loved Emilie, enough to tolerate her annoying family and her equally annoying insistence on actually inviting them around and helping them out when they got themselves into trouble. Now she had made herself seriously ill with her attempts to help, and he-
-he could very well be facing a future without her.
Huffing out an angry sigh, Gabriel shook the thought off and turned back to his work. He had no time for negative thinking- and blowing things out of proportion was Emilie's thing, not his- and it wouldn't do anyone any good. It would only distract him from his job. With another shake, he pulled up a few sketches and started working. After a few hours had passed- thankfully without interruptions from Adrien wanting to know if anything new had come up- Gabriel was starting to feel good about his progress. He had picked up his projects just where he had left off, with almost no pauses or other confusion about where he had intended for things to go.
And then Nathalie came in, carrying a box under her arm.
"It's the shipment from China, sir," she told him, stepping up next to his desk. "Where do you want it?"
Gabriel resisted the urge to growl and snap to just put it somewhere safe for now, couldn't she see that he was busy? It wouldn't be smart to alienate his only support so soon, not when he didn't know how long it would be before Emilie woke up. So he set his pen down and considered the box Nathalie was holding.
It wasn't what he was expecting. For some reason, he had been imagining a battered box, something that he might find forgotten in the back of a shipping truck, with a lot of stickers all over. This, though, looked completely normal, like it had come from one of Gabriel's own stores.
"I'll look at it later," he decided after a moment. After all, he had gotten the second Miraculous for Emilie to use, and clearly she wasn't going to be using anything when she was in a coma. But there was more that the second Miraculous in the package, and- well, Emilie was injured by Miraculous means, it wasn't far-fetched to think that maybe there was something in the package that might help her. "Tuck it under my desk for now. And keep an eye on the security cameras for the rest of the day, I don't want to risk having someone come in unexpectedly."
"Wouldn't it make more sense to put it down in the garden, then?" Nathalie inquired. "Emilie's garden, I mean."
Gabriel considered that. "Perhaps. As long as I can have enough light to read down there- I'll be working until dark, probably. Or at least until I get to a stopping point."
Nathalie nodded, her face completely impassive. "Of course, sir."
Gabriel turned back to his work as she headed off. He lasted for another hour, wrapping up the things he had been working on so that he wouldn't lose his spot before heading down to Emilie's underground garden. A quick check of the monitoring panel told him that there had been no change in Emilie's condition, so Gabriel turned his attention to the box. Nathalie had set up a table and a lamp so that he wouldn't have to kneel on the ground to open the box- that was much appreciated- and both a scissors and a knife to open the package. In a few deft swipes, the tape had been slit and Gabriel opened the box.
It was packed. There were scrolls and a book and a smaller box, one that was more battered and covered in tape. That presumably contained the non-broken Miraculous, and he would save that for later. Right now…
Gabriel reached into the box and grabbed the folded note on top. It was a receipt and a packing list, with a small scribbled handwritten note on the bottom. It looked like it had been run through a translator at some point, honestly- the grammar was a little stilted and there were some odd word choices- but he scanned it anyway.
And when he did, his heart froze.
Apparently the seller had gotten the Miraculous things from the family of a man who had died young and unexpectedly. He hadn't known until more recently that the man had apparently been using the Peacock, and an autopsy after the death hadn't turned up anything. He had just fallen into a coma one day… and never woke up.
That sounded far too familiar for Gabriel's taste. Suddenly, his blown-out-of-proportion worst-case scenario was all too possible.
Newly reenergized, Gabriel turned to the rest of the box. Surely something in it would offer something to help. The man who died probably didn't have the medical technology that he had for Emilie, and hadn't been able to be helped in time. The equipment would buy him some time to read through everything-
He opened the topmost scroll and promptly swore, his temper spiking as he looked at the unfamiliar characters. He couldn't read that, and it was like no alphabet that he had seen before. That suggested that it was in some sort of code.
Gabriel was a fashion designer, not a code-breaker! He didn't have time-
He stopped himself halfway through that thought. This was Emilie's life in danger. He could make the time. It would be easy enough to hire another couple of designers and one more administrative staff person to pick up the bulk of his workload so that outsiders wouldn't notice any difference. He wasn't going to step back from designing entirely- that just wasn't happening- but he could clear on a solid chunk of his day to work on deciphering the code.
Gabriel let out another huff at the thought of the lost time before continuing to pull scrolls out. They were all in that same code, with only the occasional picture, and he set them aside for the time being in favor of pulling out the book.
It was in code, too. Really, he shouldn't have expected anything different.
At least there were pictures.
Gabriel flipped through the book, scanning over pictures of superheroes and trying to eke out any information he could from them. A flash of purple flipped by, and Gabriel quickly flipped back to see a page with the Butterfly Miraculous, the one that he had ordered. He couldn't read anything, but he could get the gist of the powers from the pictures. And frankly, those powers- well, they were incredibly similar to the Peacock's, from what Gabriel could tell. They might have been more useful for Emilie's goal, really.
But that didn't help him.
Gabriel bookmarked the page and continued on. Close to the end, he spotted another drawing. A much more interesting one.
It looked like- like two Miraculous, combined. And on the opposite page, a man that had power. Serious powers.
There was no way to confirm it, of course. Gabriel couldn't read the text that went along with the picture. But it looked like if he got those two Miraculous in the picture, it would allow him to weld strong enough magic to wake Emilie up and remove her from danger. The only problem, of course, was how to get his hands on those two Miraculous. The old shopkeeper that he had gotten the box of Miraculous things from didn't have any more. Gabriel would have to hunt them down, and he didn't have the slightest idea of where to start. The easiest way would be to lure them out somehow.
Almost automatically, Gabriel's eyes slid to the side, to the battered box that housed the non-broken Miraculous, and the start of a plan started to fall into place, puzzle pieces slowly coming together to create a bigger picture.
He had to be safe about it, no matter how much he wanted Emilie up and out of danger right away. Rushing into using magical powers was how Emilie got sick, after all, and if he got ill… well, it wasn't worth thinking about. He was smarter than that.
One way or another, Gabriel was going to get Emilie back. Of that, he was certain.
a/n: This is the sibling story to Vanished. It was originally all one story, but ended up being too Gabriel-heavy and I ended up putting this in its own story so that Vanished could focus more on Adrien.
As with most of my stories, this is a one-shot and therefore complete. And as always, comments make my day! :)