a/n: This story has canon divergence (mostly because some stuff happened in S3 episodes after I started writing the story that then made it non-canon #whoops), so if anything DOESN'T fit with canon, that's why. I've been playing with this idea for FOREVER, so I really, really hope that I did it justice!
Nathalie had not planned on becoming a supervillain at any point in her life.
It wasn't in her twelve-point life plan, nor on her bulletpoint list of things she wanted to do before she died. She didn't have I want to be a supervillain written down as something she wanted to do in any of the daily planner-style journals that she had kept, starting as a child and continuing on through her teenage years, or on any of the career-planning sheets that she had filled out over the years. It wasn't even included in a footnote.
No, becoming a supervillain was a complete deviation from the plan, one that could land her in serious trouble and completely derail her life plans if she were ever caught. But Gabriel Agreste seemed sure that they wouldn't get caught, and it wasn't as though she was ever actually venturing out into the open to fight. Instead, on the rare occasions that she donned the Peacock Miraculous and joined Gabriel, they were up in the lair, hidden from the rest of the world and protected by the best home defense system that money could buy.
If she actually had to venture out and face the superheroes head-on, Nathalie didn't think she could do it. It wasn't so much the fighting that bothered her- she did have a purple belt in karate, after all, even if she hadn't actually practiced it at all for a couple years- but rather the possibility of being overpowered and losing her Miraculous, which would then lead to jail time at the very least. That was what would frighten her.
It wasn't as though being a supervillain came without consequences already, even without her getting caught. It took away time from her workday, of course, which meant that she wasn't quite as on top of things as normal, and then there were the effects of the curse on the Peacock Miraculous: the illness, the sickness, the weakness, whatever you wanted to call it.
The awful, awful weakness. It forced Nathalie to take several hours off to recover each time she used the cursed Miraculous. The curse also meant that she couldn't use it more than once a week at the very most. Nathalie hated both the feeling of weakness and the restrictions that the curse imposed on her, but it was the price that she had to pay for helping Gabriel.
And, more importantly, for helping Emilie. Emilie, who had been dropped into a magical coma while using the same miraculous that Nathalie was using now. It was a dire warning for what might happen if Nathalie over-used the Miraculous in an attempt to help sway the outcome of an akuma attack before she was ready to transform again. She had seen Emilie's bouts of weakness after transforming, and how they had gotten gradually worse over time. Emilie had been at least a little tired all the time near the end, even if she had managed to hide most of it from Adrien and Gabriel.
Nathalie didn't want to end up like that, applying makeup constantly to cover up pale cheeks and dark shadows under her eyes. So she was picky about which akumas she decided to help with, waiting until it was obvious that an akuma would actually be a difficult opponent for Ladybug and Chat Noir before she transformed and sent in another helper.
Over the course of the past month and a half of helping Gabriel, Nathalie had come to the realization that he did not make a lot of good akumas. Most of them were dispatched by the superheroes easily enough, some even under the span of ten minutes. Most had fairly pointless superpowers, ones that didn't even deter Ladybug and Chat Noir. Some had been repeated so many times with no changes that everyone in Paris knew how things were going to play out. It made the job of choosing which akuma villains to accompany much easier, but really. It was not impressive.
Sometimes Nathalie wondered if Gabriel was even trying. Surely he would have discovered something different to try by now, some improvement that would get him consistently better akumas. Nathalie was pretty sure that if she were in Gabriel's shoes, she would have already tried a variety of different techniques and found some way of improving the process. Still, it wasn't her place to say that.
So she continued her job as normal, waiting patiently for an opportunity to help as Mayura, the city's newest permanent supervillain. It was for the greater good, she told herself. All Gabriel wanted was his wife back, and getting that wouldn't hurt anyone. All it would be was a little alteration to the timeline, a tiny nudge that would make all the difference for the family.
Nathalie hoped that one day, that excuse would actually ring entirely true to her, too.
The sound of the front door opening and the unmistakable pattern of Adrien's footsteps entering the atrium startled Nathalie out of her stupor as she stared blankly at the pile of contracts that she was meant to be reading through. She frowned in confusion- wasn't Adrien meant to still be at school?- before checking the clock and startling when she saw what it said.
Aha. Apparently she had just really lost track of time, which was generally unusual but in this case it was understandable, really. There had been a strong akuma earlier that afternoon, and she had ended up getting involved. It was so hard to figure how much time had passed when she was transformed and involved in a battle- there were more important things to pay attention to, after all- and once it was over, she was too utterly drained to pay attention to what time it was.
Or ever to pay attention to the contracts that she normally breezed through with ease.
The footsteps reminded her that here had been something that Nathalie had been meant to do when Adrien got home, and for a second she wracked her brain, trying to remember what it was. After far too long- her mind wasn't meant to work this slowly, it felt rather like trying to think after pulling an all-nighter and then staying up for the entire day- she remembered and got up as quickly as she could, reaching for her tablet across the desk and nearly losing her balance in the process.
Ah, yes, that was right. Adrien had had a makeup photoshoot scheduled after it turned out that a number of pictures from a previous shoot had turned out unusable- not his fault so much as his fans', since several of them had evidently felt the need to crowd in enough that the photographer hadn't been able to avoid them. She needed to let him know right away, because he would have to have a light snack and get started on his homework before the shoot.
"Adrien!" Nathalie called as she stepped into the atrium, her voice (and legs) a little less steady than normal, and she frowned to herself and cleared her throat before trying again. "Adrien! One moment, please. There's been a change to your schedule!"
She could see Adrien's shoulders slump as he came to a stop at the top of the stairs and turned back to face her. When he did, though, he frowned. "Nathalie? Are you feeling all right?"
"I didn't get quite enough sleep last night, that's all," Nathalie said dismissively, waving the hand not holding the tablet. Adrien's frown deepened at that, and Nathalie tried not to wince at the terrible, terrible excuse she had come up with. People didn't usually stumble over their own feet and look like they were on the verge of falling over just because they hadn't slept as well as usual the previous night. She needed to work on her excuses, especially as she would probably have to be using them on a frequent basis. Perhaps she would have to think up an illness to blame for her occasional weaknesses. That would be something to research once she got a little more caught up on her work, which… well, it wasn't happening today. "And I'm perhaps a little peckish. But I'll be fine, I'll just have to have a small snack. But that's not what I wanted to let you know- you have an emergency photoshoot this evening, so the chef has prepared a snack for you in the dining room and then you'll need to get started on your homework. They've estimated the shoot will take between two and two and a half hours."
The drop in Adrien's expression at the news was almost entirely hidden, but he nodded anyway. "Okay. Thank you, Nathalie."
"I'll come fetch you when it's time," Nathalie promised, hoping that she would have improved by then. If she stumbled in front of Adrien again or showed any sign of having trouble with the stairs, he would be popping into the office unexpectedly all the time to check in on her. Any other time it would be sweet, but Nathalie knew that if Adrien found out about his father's supervillain activities, he would be heartbroken. She couldn't let that happen. "You have two hours before departure."
"Thank you, Nathalie."
Nathalie nodded and headed back into the office as steadily as she could, wobbling dangerously as soon as she was out of Adrien's sight. Gabriel was by her side in a second, steadying her and closing the door behind her.
"You shouldn't have come out today," he told her with a frown as he walked her back to her desk. "It was too soon after last time, I can tell. You needed a week and a half's recovery at the very least, if you're going to insist on transforming."
"It was too good of an akuma to pass up on." Nathalie welcomed the relief of settling back into her chair. It was easier to focus on keeping up appearances when she wasn't busy focusing all of her energy into trying not to fall over. "Emilie never was this ill at the start, I thought."
"The threat she faced came less often. She had plenty of time to recover between transformations." Gabriel made sure that she was settled before withdrawing to a respectable distance. "At least until the effects started building up too much. But that was after years of use."
Nathalie nodded, trying to keep her eyes from drifting closed as she sat back. She only vaguely remembered the threat that Emilie had rallied against, something about a tear between dimensions that had to be fought back. It was a hazy memory- or a hazy set of memories, really, blurred by the set of the Peacock's powers that Emilie had used to keep Paris from being consumed by paranoia. She suspected that she only remembered anything at all because she was close to the family and- if her memory served her correctly- she had been the one to accept the feather during each of Emilie's fights, giving shape to the Peacock's Protector so it could fight evil.
How ironic that now, she and Gabriel were being the bad guys. At least, they were the bad guys in the eyes of Paris.
"And I think she had found some way to lessen the effects from the transformation, but she never told me what it was," Gabriel continued with a frown. "That was- that was why she pushed too far. She thought that she had found a solution to the problem, and she was overconfident and used too much power to force a final solution to the fight."
Nathalie hadn't known that. She had just thought that Emilie had recognized her gradual deterioration and had decided that she needed to end the threat for good before she couldn't continue at all. And she had managed that, at least, but the cost had been so high.
Adrien hadn't even known for the first couple days. Gabriel had kept himself shut up in the office as he tried to find any sort of immediate solution, and Nathalie had kept running Adrien's lessons as usual, shuffling the tutors in and out on schedule. It was only once Gabriel had determined that there would be no immediate solution and Adrien was asking too many questions about where his parents were that he had been told.
"Take two weeks minimum before transforming again," Gabriel ordered. "You need to recover fully so that the effects don't start adding up more than usual."
"Of course, sir."
"And I'll fetch Adrien when it's time for his photoshoot. You stay here and rest."
Nathalie smiled. That was a relief. She would recover a large bit of her energy in the time between now and when Adrien needed to be called down, but right now she was pretty sure that she wouldn't be able to hide how shaky she was on the stairs. "Thank you."
They went back to work, Nathalie sipping at the hot tea that the chef had brought up for her. Her focus wasn't entirely there, she could tell, so she focused on the easier paperwork that she could do in her sleep.
If she made a huge mistake on some important paperwork and cost the company a lot of money because she was feeling the effects of becoming a supervillain, Nathalie would never be able to live with herself.
A light ding from her tablet pulled her out of her work a while later, and Nathalie glanced over at it. A small alert had popped up. "It's time for Adrien to go."
Gabriel sighed and got up. "Yes, of course. I'll go alert him."
Nathalie flashed him a grateful smile as she went back to work. Two minutes later, she was interrupted again by a quietly seething Gabriel.
"He was wasting time on the Ladyblog," Gabriel practically snarled as he shut the door again and stalked back to his desk. "Staring all gooey-eyed at some picture of Ladybug."
Nathalie only winced. She had known about Adrien's hero crush on Ladybug before and hadn't mentioned it to Gabriel because she knew that he would react badly. In her opinion, though, Gabriel was overreacting just a bit. It really should have been expected that Adrien might look up to the superheroes, as most of the city did. He had no idea that the superheroes were keeping him from getting his mom back. It was all harmless.
Besides, if nothing else, knowing that there was no way that Adrien's adoration of Ladybug would actually get anywhere should take the sting out of the discovery that Adrien liked his father's arch-enemy.
"I should block it," Gabriel muttered, still scowling. "Then he wouldn't waste his time staring at pictures of Ladybug."
"That might appear a bit suspicious, sir," Nathalie reminded him. "Besides, you use the Ladyblog, too, and Adrien could always access the site on his phone."
Gabriel's scowl grew deeper and he muttered something under his breath before getting back to work.
Nathalie tried not to sigh as she went back to work, she really did. Gabriel might have always said that his wife was dramatic, but honestly?
He was just as bad.
Adrien had caught on to her exhaustion. Nathalie had to be more careful, or else he might get curious about her mysterious illness and end up finding out more than he was meant to.
The day after Adrien had seen her at her weakest, she found a box of tea that promised to help with sleep sitting on her desk. Three days after, she found a large bag of peppermints tucked in her bag. Adrien was giving her nervous glances whenever she wasn't completely on top of things like normal, and it was unnerving.
Nathalie was glad that Gabriel had put a ban on transforming for two weeks. With the chance to recover fully- well, to recover as much as she could with her connection to the Peacock still under a curse- she shouldn't be as affected by her next transformation. And if she let Gabriel deal with any interactions with Adrien right after her future transformations so that she could hide the weakness, like Emilie had, then Adrien would hopefully forget that he had seen anything odd.
Still, it was infuriating to be sidelined after they had seemed to be making some decent progress. If she had been able to use the Miraculous properly- if the curse had dissipated after Emilie fell into a coma, or if she weren't so freaking affected by the curse, more so that Emilie had been after any individual transformation - then they could have used the extra powers in every fight, pushing hard and taking advantage of the surprise that the extra player caused before Ladybug and Chat Noir figured out how to quickly and effectively dispose of or work around the extra threat.
If they could have gotten one of the other Miraculous- the turtle, fox, or bee- during the fight on Heroes Day (or, admittedly, during any other fight), then she could have used that and the Peacock would be held back as backup, an unpleasant surprise for the superheroes some day. Of course, that would have required that Nathalie get her hands dirty and actually go out to join the fight herself- which was less than ideal- but feeling ill to the point of collapse was even less ideal, so she would have dealt with the danger that came with going outside.
Nathalie felt better every day of her transformation ban, and she was surprised to realize just how bad the Miraculous had been making her feel. Still, she knew that she would have to use it again, if she wanted to end this fight as soon as she could.
She would just have to be pickier about which battles she helped with going forward.
"I wish we had gotten farther with decoding the book and the scrolls," Gabriel commented one afternoon as he set aside his work to look at the Miraculous book. "If there had been anything in there about breaking curses, or at the very least getting around them…"
"Would Emilie have had notes anywhere about what she had done?" Nathalie asked. "Or if you saw anything…"
"I always assumed that she had figured out some spell that was wearing down the curse," Gabriel admitted. "And then I looked through the notes of hers that I could find after- well, you know- and there was nothing about that." He scowled. "I know that she was meant to keep her superhero life as secret as possible, but still. Having notes somewhere would have been useful. She knew that things were going downhill, even if she wasn't letting on to anyone else."
Nathalie could only nod, her last hope for alleviating the symptoms from using the Peacock fading. If it had been a spell, there was no hope that they would stumble on the answer just by chance.
And Emilie had been using and studying the Peacock for years. They didn't have that time.
"I'll keep looking, though," Gabriel promised. "Though I can't let myself fall behind on Fashion Week. Can you add a- hmm. Maybe an hour of research time each day to my schedule for this week, then dropping down to half an hour for the remaining weeks running up to the runway?"
Nathalie snagged a pencil and paper and wrote that down on her to-do list. "Right away, sir."
It was interesting how little Nathalie joining Gabriel as a supervillain changed their day-to-day dynamic. Perhaps it was because she had known about him being Hawkmoth and had helped him keep that secret from Adrien and the rest of the household staff from the start. She had been a supervillain's assistant before, but now she was just a supervillain's assistant who had superpowers (occasionally) herself. But even though she was helping on more equal footing- even though she had actually saved Gabriel from losing his Miraculous on Heroes Day- they had continued on the same way. He never asked for her advice on how they could mix things up and trip up the superheroes.
Nathalie was starting to consider writing up a twelve-point plan in PowerPoint format to present to Gabriel, just to get the conversation started. Of course, he would need to share more information about the Miraculous with her- Nathalie knew that there was a lot that he was keeping to himself, things that could be utilized in their plan if she just knew about it- before she could make an effective plan.
Mid-afternoon, Gabriel got up without a word and headed up to the lair to transform. Nathalie flipped on the intercom that she had just installed up there- she had spent an entire afternoon trying to figure out how to get that set up and ensure that none of the other intercom systems in the house would accidentally pick up any communications from what she had (privately) dubbed the 'Supervillain Intercom'- and pulled up several tabs to track the akuma attack.
All out of habit, of course. She wasn't ready to transform again, not yet.
Seven minutes later, Nathalie's feeds lit up with news of a dish-flinging akuma on the opposite side of Paris. Judging by the craters that it was making in the buildings, streets, and the unfortunate cars that the dishes hit, they carried a lot more force than anyone would initially think. People fled, most of them making it on time.
Some didn't. Nathalie cringed away, trying not to look too closely at the images on-screen.
If Gabriel lost, Ladybug would fix it. If Gabriel won, the change to the timeline would completely erase the need for any Hawkmoth or akumas, so they would be just fine.
That didn't mean that she wanted to see it. Maybe that made her soft and not fit for supervillainry, but that was why she liked the Miraculous that Gabriel had. They were long distance and didn't force her to get her hands dirty during the attacks.
She went back to work, occasionally glancing up at the feeds. All of the reporters had retreated to a safe distance, so there wasn't super close coverage of the fight. There were occasional flashes of home video, taken by people inside of their homes.
The akuma was getting closer to Adrien's school.
Nathalie reached over to her new intercom and pressed the button "Sir, the akuma is getting close to the school."
"It won't go inside," Hawkmoth replied almost immediately. "And the students will retreat into the hallways if the classrooms are too dangerous."
Nathalie scowled. Still. It wasn't safe.
After several minutes of being gone, Ladybug and Chat Noir plunged back into the fray, recharged and ready to fight. Five minutes later, the akuma was defeated. Nathalie sighed in relief- a very large chunk of school building had crumbled in the fight- and went back to work.
It had been a good, strong akuma, but it should have taken the fight elsewhere. If they had gotten onto one of the bridges over the Seine, perhaps the fight would have gone better. There would be nowhere for Ladybug and Chat Noir to hide there, and fewer things that Ladybug could use to swing around. If parts of the bridge got destroyed and the superheroes were thrown into the Seine, so be it. They always seemed to be a little disoriented after a dunking, and a decent akuma could take advantage of that.
Maybe….maybe she could start writing up notes like that. That way, if Gabriel ever had the chance to reakumatize those people, he could maybe have a better outcome to the fight. There would be an analysis on what could be done better, tweaks to the design that Gabriel could attempt to put in, maybe some examples of what strengths the akuma had that hadn't been fully exploited.
It was an idea. Something she could do without even transforming, while she was waiting to recover enough to be able to transform again. Maybe it would help them form a plan of attack for the future, if they could ever manipulate the situation so that Gabriel would be able to pick and choose who to akumatize or if someone ever became available again by chance. They could build upon their earlier work, ironing out the wrinkles in the fights and eliminating the slip-ups and flaws that had been the akuma's downfall the first time around. Nathalie already had some ideas, some weaknesses that the superheroes had that could be exploited and strategies that Gabriel had yet to try.
No, being a supervillain hadn't ever been part of Nathalie's plan, and yet here she was. And now that she had started, Nathalie was committed to doing the best job she could. She would be the most efficient supervillain that she could be, and hopefully soon enough the Agreste family would be back together.
Nathalie could only cross her fingers that things would go the way she hoped.
a/n: Chapter 1 of 26 finished! At the moment, I have 24 chapters done (and through ch. 10 edited) so as long as I have internet access, I should be able to update regularly (I aim for posting every 6 days, posting subject to amount of time I have and exhaustion from trying to bargain with wild woodpeckers all way #wildlifework).
As always, reviews make my day! :)