Unless otherwise stated, all of these will be unbeta'd.
Natalie did not drink. Ever. It wasn't that she didn't enjoy it, per se, but she'd found that she had to be completely in control of her faculties at all times these days. Working under one Gabriel Agreste demanded it. Oh, she'd been tempted – so many times, but especially when she'd figured out his identity.
She wasn't sure, and she certainly had no concrete proof, but the things Mr. Agreste said before he disappeared into his work place that he kept even the existence of secret from everyone (except her, but that had been a bit of an accident too) were just a little too coincidental. He just seemed a little too maniacally excited, and whenever he did, that's when the Akuma appeared. After the third time he'd let something slip, she'd more or less accepted it as a fact and decided that she'd do her best to keep an eye out for evidence.
There wasn't any. Not yet, in any case. Mr. Agreste was far too meticulous for that. But one day he'd slip up, she was sure. Until then...
"Natalie, I wish to speak to Adrien." Well, speak of the devil. She put a hand up to the ear piece and clicked the talk button.
"Acknowledged, sir," she said crisply before making a sharp turn and walking up the stairs.
Until she had the evidence she needed to go to the police (or, if she were lucky, Ladybug and Chat Noir), she could only do her job the best she could.
That little boy needed it – deserved it. Well, he really deserved better, but that wasn't something Natalie could really give him.
She walked to his room and knocked on the door. "Adrien?" she said.
No one answered her.
She frowned. She'd seen him go in there earlier and had a sensor on his door to alert her if he left. She checked. No, it hadn't gone off. Perhaps he was asleep? Or in the shower? But why would he be showering at this time of day? Yes, he must have nodded off.
Just to make sure, she knocked a little louder. "Adrien."
Still nothing. Sighing, she turned the knob and peeked inside. The bathroom door was open. She could tell from here, even if she couldn't see into it from this angle. Good. He should be dressed then and she should be able to wake him...except he wasn't on the bed that she could see.
She was about to step in and go check the couch when something black streaked through the window and landed in the center of the room. She heard a soft beeping and then, watched with a sort of horror-filled awe as Chat Noir stood, and the black melted away to leave behind...
"Adrien," she whispered as her eyes went wide. She suddenly felt sick and had to put a hand over her mouth for fear of saying anything else.
"Cheese... Cheese..." a strange voice she'd never heard before said.
Adrien chuckled, talking to something (or someone?!) in his hands. "I'll get you some asap."
Natalie backed away and pressed her back into the wall by the door, still covering her mouth. Adrien was Chat Noir?! Adrien was a super hero? And not just any super hero, but a loud, brash, obvious super hero, which kind of went against the calm facade he put on. But then, Natalie had always known it was just that; a facade. She just hadn't realized that the forward Chat Noir lay underneath.
Her breath caught in her throat as the thought she'd desperately tried to avoid pushed itself to the forefront of her mind. Gabriel Agreste was Hawkmoth. Adrien Agreste was Chat Noir. Father fighting son in some sort of supernatural battle for wishes and magic and none of this should exist!
Oh, she was so not paid enough to deal with all of this.
She wasn't sure it was possible to get paid enough to deal with all of this.
The light in the hallway changed and she glanced over just in time to see a head of blond hair. It was just enough time to compose herself while she tried to work through what she really should do about all of this.
"Adrien, there you are," she said in what she hoped was as calm and steady a voice as she normally delivered.
He froze and snapped his gaze over to her. "Oh, uh, Natalie. Hi."
How had he kept up his double life with acting like that? She'd have thought he was better than that...but then, no one had figured it out so far. What did that say about the general population of Paris? Or the world? She thought longingly of the ibuprofen in her personal office. This was going to end in pain for more than one person in more than one way.
"Your father wants to see you," she said, fighting to keep her deadpan expression. Then she turned and began to walk away again, trying to ignore how she felt like leading a lamb to slaughter. "Follow me."
The teenager sighed. "Yes, ma'am." And the facade was back.
Why did those two, dejected words just seem to drive a spike through her heart?
"Do you know why he wants to talk to me?"
Natalie wracked her brain for something that would put him at ease. Did Gabriel suspect? Oh, she hoped not. She really hoped not. Well, if he did, she'd just have to do something about it.
She almost paused at that thought. Almost. Thankfully she had years of experience under her belt and was able to keep walking at a steady pace while she thought.
Was she going to encourage – enable even – Adrien's rather dangerous super heroing? She'd seen what happened to Ladybug and Chat Noir, and she wasn't the only one who thought they tended to get into situations that were a tad too dangerous. As a responsible adult, could she even consider letting him continue?
But then, what would the alternative be? Tell Gabriel? She shook her head solidly. Out of the question. The last thing she was going to do would be to turn over one of the super heroes Hawkmoth was so desperate to find right over to him. She could not, in good conscience, do that to Adrien...or Chat Noir.
So that brought up another question, should she tell Adrien about Gabriel? She frowned at that thought. No, she had no proof. That was why she hadn't gone to the police to begin with. And, super hero or not, would Adrien believe his own father was the super villain terrorizing Paris? She glanced over her shoulder at him, noting his worried expression.
No, he wouldn't. And she wouldn't blame him. Especially after the fiasco that had been 'The Collector'. But he'd said something about doing what he had to to keep his secret. At the time, she'd assumed it was the secret behind his inspiration and success... although that had ended up being the biggest clue that allowed her to figure it all out.
"Natalie?" Adrien asked, concerned. She almost wanted to shake her head at his big heart. He really did deserve more than this.
She had to backtrack their conversation before she could respond. "He didn't tell me, but I would guess it most likely has to do with your photo shoot tomorrow."
"Oh," he said, relaxing a bit. She mentally patted herself on the back.
Now she needed to figure out one more thing: would she let Adrien know she knew about his Super Hero activities? She had no doubt it would help him if he knew she had his back. But then she'd either have to stop him or she'd have to explain why she'd had a sudden change of heart and suddenly had no problem looking the other way (because, even if he was a super hero, he was still her charge, and he'd expect her to get on his case) and...she really couldn't.
She didn't think the phrase 'caught between a rock and a hard place' ever applied so well.
They got to Mr. Agreste's office and she had to take a deep breath. She had to be strong now more than ever, for Adrien's sake. For Paris' sake.
"Your son, sir," she announced as she opened the doors and stepped aside to let Adrien in.
"Father?" he asked slowly, "did you need something?"
Gabriel raised an eyebrow. "I can't just ask you in to talk?"
Natalie frowned. That wasn't like her employer. Judging by how flat-footed Adrien looked, he thought so as well. She also noted the spark of hope she saw there and if she was right and something was off... she mentally cursed her employer to the deepest pit of despair that existed.
"Oh, well you're usually so busy... and..." the teenager said uncertainly. Natalie tried to picture Chat Noir doing the same thing and just couldn't. She wanted to shake her head. This could not be healthy. For any of them.
"Of course I'm busy," the older Agreste agreed. "But I also know we've...had our differences in the past and I was hoping we could begin to...work through some of them."
There was still something off here. Unfortunately, unlike Adrien, Gabriel was a class A actor. He looked equally parts worried and nervous and yet his confident (arrogant) self. She couldn't get an accurate read on him, for once.
The yonger Agreste would have to work on his acting skills if he really wanted to keep going like this. Maybe she should sign him up for a class? She'd have to find a reason that convinced both Adrien and Gabriel though.
Adrien blinked and then smiled as he sat down.
"I don't have too long, but I decided a break would be a good time to talk to you. So what have you been doing all day?"
Natalie's breath caught in her throat. He did suspect. Hadn't there just been an akuma attack? And she hadn't been able to find Mr. Agreste, as usual. She hadn't even bothered to check on Adrien. She wanted to slap herself. No wonder the teen had been able to get away with this Chat Noir business. And no wonder he was so desperate for even a little recognition from his father.
And she'd have to examine the implications of what that meant about her later as well. She couldn't afford to right now.
"Well, I went to school," Adrien started, a little nervously. She was definitely going to have to get this kid into an acting class of some kind. "We're dissecting frogs next week, you know."
Natalie almost agreed with Gabriel's twist of disgust, but Adrien seemed happy enough about it.
"I must say I still do not understand why you insist on attending public school," Gabriel said with a frown.
For the first time, Natalie saw Chat Noir in Adrien. The way he snapped on the defensive and seemed to kind of bunch up and make himself look a little bigger...just like a cat. She quietly sucked in a breath and glanced at Gabriel. Judging from the smirk in his smile he caught it too.
"I've told you before, I like school, Father."
Gabriel studied his son for a moment, then sighed. "Yes, I know. That isn't why I brought you here today. I did not mean it like that."
Adrien deflated just a little, but still looked on edge and defensive.
"How about after school?" the older Agreste asked. Natalie was pretty sure Adrien didn't catch the almost hungry look in the back of his eye because he was too busy paling and probably wondering if his secret had been found out.
It would be if he kept acting like that!
Natalie was torn between grabbing him and making a run for the door and smacking the kid up the side of his head and telling him to stop and think. Ugh! 14-year-olds!
Briefly she wondered if Ladybug was just as young and then wondered who the heck would give super powers to teenagers?! If she ever found out, they'd find out just how nasty Natalie could be. Hawkmoth would probably want to take notes at that point.
"Well, I came home and...did homework." He delivered that decently.
At this point, though, he'd have to have a reason as to why he was so nervous. Natalie had an idea and hoped he'd forgive her some day.
"Is that why I heard your video games going?" Natalie asked stoically.
Adrien and Gabriel both turned their attention to her. Good. "When I was going to get you, I heard a conversation from one of your games. I know you turned it off when I came close."
Part of Adrien looked like he wanted to deny it, but the kid was smart enough not to protest in any case. He must have recognized that this gave him a fairly valid excuse from being Chat Noir. Natalie always knew the kid had a head on his shoulders.
Gabriel frowned. "Adrien, is this true? Were you playing games instead of doing your homework?"
Adrien shot her an angry glare before he turned back to his father, hanging his head. "Yes, father."
The older man shook his head. "I'm disappointed in you, Adrien. You say you want to go to public school for your education and then you slack off. Public school is not an excuse to neglect your studies."
"Yes, sir," Adrien muttered, sounding so dejected that Natalie couldn't help but try and think of a way around this development. It was, after all, her fault.
"Just how much homework did you have?" she asked, looking down at her ipad. "I know we discussed taking breaks a while ago."
Adrien glanced at her suspiciously, the puzzled expression assessing her far more than she was used to. That was probably a Chat Noir thing too.
"Yes," Adrien finally said, "I didn't have much left, so I took a small break."
"I'm sure you can verify that with the work you've done?" Gabriel asked, sounding almost as suspicious as Adrien looked. Like father like son...in more ways than one apparently.
"Yes, if you could verify with the work you've done today, I will apologize for jumping to the conclusion that you were merely slacking off." Natalie said. "After all, even your father takes breaks, Adrien, or you wouldn't be here."
She'd pay for that one later, she knew. Gabriel wasn't too happy with her interference. She steeled herself for apologizing when he confronted her.
"Indeed," Gabriel said, practically through gritted teeth. Then he seemed to compose himself. "Well, that was quite the chat, but seeing as this was only a break, I must be getting back to work now."
Adrien slumped a little in his chair and Natalie narrowed her eyes ever so slightly.
"I expect to see your homework later. For now, Natalie, go and make sure he was indeed doing his homework. I will check to see you got top marks for today's assignment as well." No one missed the threat in that one. If Adrien didn't perform, there would be consequences, most likely him having to leave school again.
With that, he left, slumping out of the office like the world rested on his shoulders.
"Natalie, one moment."
She didn't flinch. She had far too much control to do that in front of him.
"Of course, sir."
Adrien seemed torn, but let the door close behind him with one last glance. Once they were alone, Gabriel stood with his back to her, looking out the window.
"Adrien does not need to be coddled. He will never become the person he needs to be if he is."
'The person he needs to be', she thought. 'Who needs him to become something? You?'
"I apologize for jumping to conclusions earlier. When I heard him playing that game, I assumed he'd finished his work. I'd forgotten about the conversation we had about 'breaks' as it was merely in passing."
Mr. Agreste looked over his shoulder, eyes narrowed.
"That isn't like you."
"I haven't been feeling well," she admitted. It wasn't a lie. Not really.
He 'hmmed' and turned back to face the window.
"Did Adrien leave his room at all today?"
Her breath caught in her throat for the barest second, but she stood straight and checked her ipad. It was mostly for show, but if he wanted a confirmation, she had the information right there.
"Hmm. I believe Adrien might be sneaking out somehow. Climbing down out of his window, perhaps. Set up some cameras that will catch him if he does."
Natalie clenched her jaw, but when she spoke, it had the same chill it always did. At least she hoped it did. "You want me to place cameras inside his room?"
Gabrile stiffened ever so slightly. "No. My son deserves his privacy."
She wanted to roll her eyes. If that were true, then why was he setting up cameras to begin with?
"So you don't want said cameras to see into his room."
He shook his head. "No."
She bowed. "Very well, sir. I will see to it myself." With that she turned around and had a hand on the doorknob when he spoke one final time.
"Have the feed sent directly to my computer." Her hand clenched the doorknob so tightly her knuckles went white. That was just as much for her as it was for Gabriel himself. She'd lost some of his confidence. Well, she could live with that.
"As you wish," she said with a nod and left. She began looking up systems that would meet Mr. Agreste's specifications. Then she decided she would have to learn how to hack and create an unnoticeable loop for the feed, because she would not let Adrien get caught.
As of right now, though, she had to go and 'check on his homework', which he was hopefully starting on right now. Or, if he was good enough, he would have finished enough in school today that he would have something to present to her.
First thing was first, though, because screw it. She needed a drink.