Chapter 2: Ground Rules

It was stupendous. It was unbelievable.

Yet it was reality.

Holy cheesecakes, Gabriel Agreste was flipping Hawkmoth!

Gabriel Agreste.

Gabriel. Freaking. Agreste.

When Plagg's mind was able to register who Hawkmoth really was, he had to physically restrain himself from unleashing a Cataclysm that would destroy the man, his entire lair… and probably half of Paris as well. Still, the destructive kwami felt himself wanting to resist against the bonds which bound him to the Miraculous, almost letting his anger control his actions until common sense forced Plagg to calm down.

No… the kid needs a father, Plagg had to tell himself, forcing himself to halt before his primal instincts got the better of him and he did something that he would regret. Adrien will hate you forever if you Cataclysm his father. And if he does, who's gonna give you Camembert?

That said, the very idea that the man controlling every facet of Adrien's life was the same one who sent out akumas on a daily basis, unintentional and irrevocably straining their relationship further as the man ignored his son by day, and indirectly injured him by night—

Okay, now this train of thought seriously had to stop before he unconsciously used Cataclysm and utterly destroyed the entirety of Agreste Mansion. There would be no explaining his way out of that to Adrien.

"Sup, Adrien! See, I know this looks bad, but I totally wrecked your house with Cataclysm because I just discovered that your father is secretly Hawkmoth in his spare time! What a coincidence, eh?"

…yeah, that wouldn't work. Throwing in a "can I have some Camembert?" at the end wouldn't even be able to lighten the mood.

Still, Plagg decided that Gabriel Agreste was a total prick who deserved to rot in the fires of melted processed cheese hell. He made that opinion blatantly known by narrowing his eyelids into silts, staring Gabriel Agreste straight in the face. The awkward silence that had descended upon the room was eventually broken by neither him nor Hawkmoth.

"Pl-Plagg? Is that r-really… you?"

Upon hearing that meek voice, Plagg softened his gaze and broke eye contact with Gabriel, the cat dipping his head ever so slightly. "Nooroo…" he murmured, acknowledging the other kwami who had poked his head out from behind Gabriel's shoulder.

"So, your name is Plagg? Quite an interesting moniker…"

Gabriel's condescending voice cut in like sweet nectar… if said nectar attracted wasps, that is. Pollen would've had a field day with this.

Plagg huffed and looked away in a haughty manner. He hadn't realized that Nooroo had given away his name until it was too late. But what triggered Plagg was that Gabriel had dared to use his name so… casually.

"I suppose that Plagg is a name for me," he replied, icy green eyes flickering towards the confident man. "Being referred to as the god of destruction doesn't really suit my style. Way too formal," he yawned, covering his mouth with a paw.

Gabriel chortled, fiddling with the ring on his right hand. Rather ironically, Plagg noted that he also had a separate band on his left hand — that was his wedding ring. "Honestly, does it really matter? Just like my little Nooroo—" the purple kwami in question shuddered upon hearing the term of affection, "—you're simply a means to an end. I'm only keeping you around until I get the Ladybug Miraculous. And then, the ultimate power to grant any wish will be mine!"

"You're a despicable piece of shit, Mr. Agreste," Plagg spat with as much vitriol and hatred that he could muster in one singular breath — his opinion curt, impetuous, and to the point. There was no misunderstanding the viciousness in his spiteful voice.

Gabriel raised an inquisitive brow, an amused smile tugging on his lips as Nooroo fearfully stared on, watching the rising tension from the sidelines. "Oh?" Gabriel asked, locking eyes with the floating cat as he asked Plagg a question, "You know about me, perchance?" If he happened to be shaken by the fact that the kwami knew his full name, outwardly he appeared quite unperturbed by it.

"I know you more than you can possibly begin to imagine, you filthy human furball…" Plagg hissed under his breath, his words almost inaudible.

Gabriel smirked, taking the kwami's nondescript words as an insult, unaware that they were actually, quite ironically, the truth. But really, how was the bastard to know that the reason Plagg knew him was because he bore witness to the man standing his own son up multiple times in the past?

And because Gabriel didn't know, he didn't get the joke. "I'm honored. Already talking back to me with that fire in your eyes…" he noted, pushing his black-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose. "…I can see that you're a feisty one."

Plagg folded his arms, his defiance and refusal to defer to his new master now becoming ubiquitous. "No thanks for the compliment," he hissed.

The corners of Gabriel's lips tugged upwards. "Let's see how long that attitude of yours lasts before it fizzles out. Try as you might, but opting to be stubborn around me will not work. Just like with my little Nooroo, I have complete and absolute power over you…"

Gabriel's words had no effect on Plagg. In fact, they only served as a challenge to the cat, who was already deviously plotting on how to prove Gabriel wrong.

But once Gabriel realized that Plagg was not taking his threat seriously, he decided to make good on his words and show the stubborn feline who was boss.

"I order you not to leave my sight."

Gabriel smirked as the kwami scowled. "What'cha do that for!?" Plagg shrilled, practically shouting in his face. He clenched his paws while staring Gabriel dead in the eye.

"It's simply a precautionary measure," Gabriel calmly remarked, his subdued tone in sharp contrast to Plagg's. "I won't have a kwami blowing my cover… least of all Chat Noir's kwami."

Plagg seethed inwardly, his face turning sullen. Although it wasn't common, some of his previous holders had made the choice to restrict his movement and freedom, just like what Gabriel was doing to him now by issuing him a direct order. The obstinate Plagg had always rebelled if they did so, but this was the first time he actively wanted the spell taken off of him. "You're truly reprehensible, you know that?" Plagg remarked in a low tone. "Did you make Nooroo do the same thing?"

"Quite an astute observation, I must say." Though Gabriel was seemingly praising him, Plagg knew the man well enough to hear the sarcasm hidden within. In other words, the answer was a no-brainer… he had indeed tormented Nooroo with the same rule.

Carefree, outgoing Nooroo… it must have hurt him so much to be placed under such staunch rules and restrictions.

But what hurt Plagg more was the fact that Nooroo had been right under his nose this entire time. Heck, they'd both been living under the same roof all along. In fact, Plagg suspected that the only reason he'd completely missed Nooroo was because Gabriel actively abused his powers to keep Nooroo by his sides at all times.

Great kwamis above, given that Gabriel's orders meant that Nooroo had to be hiding within Gabriel's ivory white jacket at all times in a manner quite similar to how Plagg made Adrien's pocket his go-to hiding zone… it ironically meant that the two kwamis had to be less than six feet apart at times!

Geez! So close, and yet so far…

Plagg laid down in mid-air, leaning his head to the side and lazily slouching towards Gabriel. "Yeah, yeah, big deal," he tried to say in an impassive a manner as possible. "Monologue all you want, because Ladybug will save the day once more. Status quo is god, blah blah blah."

He then promptly curled in on himself, making sure to keep his body language closely guarded as he wasn't going to become an open book in front of Hawkmoth. Plagg certainly didn't want Gabriel to know just how unsettled he was feeling about the villain's secret identity.

However, Plagg's brief flash of unease did not go unnoticed by Gabriel. As he already had Nooroo in tow, Gabriel was confident that he would soon be able to break Chat Noir's kwami and completely bend the destructive cat to his will.

"Though Paris is under the impression that Chat Noir is nothing more than Ladybug's plucky comic relief, I alone know otherwise." Gabriel smirked at Plagg, fastening his necktie around his collar, making sure to hide the Butterfly Miraculous snugly within. "They are like yin and yang — two halves of a whole," he remarked, ironing out the creases in his red and white necktie with his hands. As long as you're in my hands, Ladybug will not be at her full potential, and then she and her Miraculous will soon fall prey to my akumas!"

Plagg frowned, letting out an exhausted sigh as he listened to Gabriel. Things were so much better when he had the impression that Adrien's father was just a stubborn reclusive mule.

With a snort, Gabriel gestured for Plagg to follow him as he began to walk to the middle of the observatory, his white shoes clacking against the floor as he strolled in a slow yet deliberate manner.

Being a cat, Plagg found himself intrigued as to why Gabriel was beginning to pace about, but he quickly got his answer when the man snapped his fingers and the portion of the floor that he was standing on gave way beneath him, revealing that he'd positioned himself atop a secret platform-like contraption.

Plagg instinctively darted after Gabriel — whether it was because of Gabriel's explicit orders that the kwami was not to be out of his sight, or it was because Plagg himself refused to let Gabriel out of his sight, he didn't know.

All he knew is that Hawkmoth had a secret entrance to his lair hidden beneath the floor. How very cliché. Top class. Plagg almost wanted to toast to it, but alas, he did not have Brie or Camembert with him at the moment.

He had to phase through the floor around where the secret tunnel was located in order to catch up with Gabriel due to the fact that gears in the mechanism operating the circular hatch had forced the entrance closed the instant the platform descended with Gabriel. With a frenzied dive, Plagg flew into Gabriel's shoulder, accidentally slamming directly into Nooroo with his head. Shooting Nooroo an apologetic grin, the cat then used his enhanced vision to work out where he currently was.

The entrance/exit tunnel to Hawkmoth's lair was like no device that Plagg had ever seen before. It went down, then sideways, then back up again. Seriously, what sort of elevator outside of spy novels and children's books—he didn't read boring literature, but Tikki loved to read and tended to update him on their infrequent rendezvous together—went sideways? He actually found himself impressed by whoever engineered the convoluted thing and miraculously managed to find some way to make it actually work.

The lighting in the tunnel shaft sucked, though. It was completely dim, and Plagg only realized why that was bad when he was forced to squint as a harsh light hit his eyes, unable to re-adjust from near blackness to a well-lit area when the circular elevator reached its destination.

When Plagg finally managed to blink the blurry tears out of his eyes, he was greeted by a familiar sight. "Welcome to my humble alcove," Gabriel grinned, extending a hand out to show off the area. Nooroo followed his master's lead, silently fluttering to the center of the room to cheerfully introduce Plagg to their surroundings.

A room with a checkerboard-tiled floor, a glass staircase that led to a large monitor screen, an outskirt decorated by porcelain mannequins dressed in multiple Gabriel Agreste original clothes, and multiple photo frames mounted on the walls.

Plagg gagged, shaking his head in disbelief.

The entrance to Hawkmoth's lair was in Mr. Agreste's personal studio room. Because of course it was. Because irony was playing intergalactic dodgeball hard here today.

"This place sucks, Mr. Agreste. Nothing here is edible," Plagg said bluntly, the cat continuing to call Gabriel by his last name. Calling him by his first name just felt wrong, he refused to defer to him by referring to him as 'master', and more than once he had to catch himself before the words 'your father' left his mouth. Now that would be a fatal mistake.

Gabriel raised an eyebrow. "You're a spoiled kitty, aren't you? Well, too bad. I don't care how Chat Noir treats you. So long as you're in my household, you will follow my rules."

"I'm not your kid. I don't have to follow nothing." Not to mention that I help your actual son defy your rules, Plagg added in his mind. And that I technically lived in your household with Adrien before this.

Gabriel raised two fingers in response. "Thanks for the reminder. It almost slipped my mind that there are people in this household who do not know the truth—" Plagg abruptly guffawed at that statement for some reason which escaped both Gabriel and Nooroo, "—so, rule number two," he barreled on, "You are not to reveal yourself to my son or anyone else who is not cleared by me."

He almost pouted this time. This would actually be a difficult one to work around. "What… again? Another dumb rule to follow? Really?" he whined.

Before Gabriel could elaborate, a rapping noise could be heard from the door.

Gabriel narrowed his eyes when he recognized it as a knock. "Nooroo, and… uh, Pl-agg, was it?" he rolled the kwami's name around his tongue before sticking to a pronunciation that worked. "Come to me," he instructed, tugging on his collar lapel and directing them to his inner breast pocket.

While Nooroo obliged his master's orders without question, Plagg folded his arms, a smug smile on his face.

Good things come to those who wait. And quite frankly, Plagg had waited long enough. This was the perfect opportunity to mess with his new master.

It was high time to knock Gabriel Agreste off of his high horse. Hawkmoth had the impression that he was the one in control for far too long, and now he was going to learn just how incorrect that pre-emptive presumption was.

Plagg zoomed in front of Gabriel's face, leaning forward. "Say, Mr. Agreste, riddle me this. How much wood can a woodpecker peck if a woodpecker would peck wood?" he asked in a cryptic manner, baring small fangs as he twirled his left bouncy antenna around using his paw.

"I don't care," Gabriel snapped. "In, now," he demanded.

Plagg shrugged. "Your loss," he said as he followed Nooroo, disappearing into Gabriel's pocket.

There was the sound of a door swinging open. However, the next thing Plagg heard was a familiar voice.

"Father!"

Oh, good golly. It was Adrien. Plagg almost wanted to phase out of his hiding spot and unveil Gabriel as Hawkmoth, but he was stopped both by the spell that binded him to Gabriel's rules and the fact that he really didn't want to traumatize Adrien. The boy was fragile enough as it was.

"Ah, Adrien." Plagg had to clench his jaw shut when he heard Gabriel reverting back to that oh-so-annoying indifferent tone which he always used to speak with Adrien. "How is everything today?"

"Not good, Father." Even from his hiding spot, Plagg could hear the dejectedness in Adrien's voice. No doubt it was because he lost his Miraculous. "I had a bad day. I just came to ask if maybe I can take a day or two off to recuperate—"

"Out of the question, Adrien! You will not break schedule!"

Plagg snarled when he heard Gabriel sharply interject Adrien before he could even finish his suggestion. Goddamned bastard.

"B-But…" His former chosen's voice sounded twice as glum now. "I'm really not feeling too good…"

Plagg could hear Gabriel sharply inhaling. "A model must not let extenuating circumstances affect them. If you choose to not follow your schedule just because of a bad day, then it's negative reinforcement and you'll find yourself making more excuses to deviate in future! I disallow it!"

"Plagg? Plagg!?" he heard Nooroo whisper, "Are you alright?"

He let out a breath he hadn't even known he was holding. Turning towards Nooroo, he gave a reply. "I'm fine… I'm fine…" Plagg muttered weakly, though his performance wasn't fooling the other kwami.

This was it. He'd heard enough. He was getting physically sick listening to this man speak with the knowledge that he was Hawkmoth.

Showdown time.

"I order you not to leave my sight."

That was what Gabriel had said to him earlier.

Poor choice of words. A very poor choice of words.

Gabriel was going to learn the hard way that unlike Tikki or Wayzz, he wasn't a stickler for the rules, especially when it came to the stupid and nonsensical ones.

He was a cat, after all. Cats dabbled in mischief and mayhem, and Plagg was no exception.

How much wood can a woodpecker peck if a woodpecker would peck wood?

He had known that Gabriel would not know what he was driving at with the tongue twister. The question was a rhetorical one — asking how much wood a hardworking woodpecker, an avian species whom Tikki had designed to bore holes in trees, would peck if given the chance to peck a tree trunk.

Well, replace the woodpecker with himself, wood with Gabriel Agreste, and the stage was set. And yes, he was definitely going to peck a lot of holes in the bark of his little trunk.

"Gahhh!"

Still hidden within Gabriel's suit, Plagg sunk his fangs into the man's skin unabatedly, relishing the winces and howls of pain coming from Gabriel as he bit into him — the sound feeling like music to his ears.

Sweet, sweet cathartic revenge. He deserved every last bit of it, too.

"Father!"

Adrien's panicked yelp caused Plagg to accidentally dislodge from the puncture wound. Heck, Gabriel must look like a total wreck. Plagg had felt pressure on the outside of the jacket, so Gabriel must have been clutching his chest area near where he was biting in a bid to pry him off.

Geez, it must have looked like he was suffering a heart attack.

Plagg scampered down Gabriel's attire and began biting near his torso for his second attack, the cat rewarded with yet another shrill cry from the man.

"Yaarrggghhh!"

"Father!" Adrien's voice was now filled with concern and worry. "Are you okay?"

"Ad-Adrien," Gabriel managed to splutter, his voice raspy. "Leave the room… now!"

Though he couldn't see Adrien under Gabriel's suit, Plagg could almost visualize the bewilderment that must be going through his mind at that unusual request. Unless they were delirious, most people in such a state would request for assistance, not chase their help away.

"Are you sure—" Adrien started, only to flinch back when his father stomped his foot on the ground.

"Now!" Gabriel roared.

Plagg could discern the pitter-patter of flurried footsteps, the sound of a door slamming, and the click of a lock. Knowing that the jig was up, he let go of Gabriel and phased out of the man's suit and out into the studio.

Now coming face-to-face with Gabriel Agreste, Plagg had to physically hold his mouth shut to avoid bursting into laughter.

Gabriel had torn off his jacket the instant that Plagg unlatched himself and flung it onto the floor. A dizzy Nooroo stumbled out of the strewn suit, but Gabriel paid his kwami no heed. He tentatively used two fingers to palpate the area where Plagg had wounded him, before gently lifting his shirt and seeing the wounds for his own two eyes.

"You… you little…" Gabriel took in a deep breath, his eyes seeing red as he saw the little fang marks on his chest and torso, the puncture wound so deep that it actually drew pinpricks of blood where Plagg had bit him, "…s-scamp!" he finally managed to spit out.

Hearing the insult, Plagg simply laughed harder at Gabriel, grabbing hold of his belly and cackling like an unrestrained maniac while he rolled about in midair. "What?" he blurted out, indignant. "I did exactly as you asked me to — stay close to you."

His lips curled into a malicious smile when he saw the dawning comprehension on Gabriel's face. Plagg thus took the opportunity to dismissively perform an aerial somersault mid-air, the flourish akin to that of a magician who'd enraptured his audience. "It's just a shame that I am a needy cat who vies for attention…" he exclaimed, dramatically raising a paw up to the ceiling. "Those fang marks are just my way of marking my territory. But hey, at least I didn't bring out the claws this time."

Plagg actually had significant trouble maintaining a straight face throughout his speech. By the final statement, he didn't even try. "See… I care for you, master!" The term of endearment was laced with so much sarcasm that even the normally stoic Nooroo had to stifle a giggle.

Gabriel shot daggers at the unabashed Plagg. The cat simply looked him dead in the eye and stared back, winking cheekily at his new master.

This game of wits between them wasn't over. In fact, it was only just beginning.

There would be more to come.

Much, much more.


Author's Note:

I received a comment on AO3 by Book_Squirrel who said that Plagg vs. Gabriel is the showdown that we deserve but will likely never properly see. And after writing this chapter, I'm inclined to agree…

In case you can't tell by now, I love penning down characters who are whimsical and sarcastic like Plagg — Deadpan Snarkers are my forte in fics.

'Sandboy' reveals that the Miraculous holders have significant sway over their kwami, so despite what one might think, Plagg actually has to put in some work in order to successfully exploit, troll, and possibly usurp his new master. But honestly, is Plagg going to let that hinder him from messing with Gabriel? Ha… no.