a/n: This is another "how Miraculous Ladybug would go if the adults were competent" fic, this time ft. the Chat Blanc episode. LET MARINETTE'S PARENTS BE PROTECTIVE OF HER INSTEAD OF PASSIVE, DARN IT.

Mr. Dupain was steaming as Nathalie and her tablet- with Mr. Agreste still on-screen- sauntered out of the bakery, as cool and unaffected as when they had entered, despite the crying girl they had left in their wake.

How dare they tell Marinette that she and Adrien had to break up. How dare Mr. Agreste say that she was negatively impacting his company image. And how dare he threaten Marinette and say that he would pull Adrien out of school and away from his friends- and his girlfriend if Marinette didn't end her relationship with Adrien. That was- that was just cruel.

What, was Adrien not allowed to have a happy relationship just because Mr. Agreste couldn't, because his wife was missing? That was dumb.

Tom would show him a negative effect on company image.

"I- I guess I have to do that, then," Marinette sniffed, wiping her eyes, and Tom pulled himself out of his plans for a street fight, maybe, or going to Madam Chamack and having her run a story on Mr. Agreste's interference, and looked to her daughter. Despite the shock, she was clearly trying to pull herself together. "A-Adrien loves school, and it's not- we weren't dating that long. M-maybe we can try again l-later, if Mr. Agreste changes his mind-"

"We are not bowing to Mr. Agreste's delusional demands," Tom told her, his eyes catching on the camera that was installed in the corner of the bakery and his anger abruptly receding as a plan hit him. The camera was a newer addition, one that Sabine had insisted on after several attacks had taken them out of the bakery, leaving it unstaffed. They hadn't had any problems with thievery, but they didn't want to take that chance. He caught Marinette's shoulder, turning her towards the camera and pointing. "You know, I was a little unconvinced when your mom insisted on getting a camera with audio recording as well because it was far more expensive and I didn't see the use, but I'm glad she did now. We've got evidence of Mr. Agreste's threats."

Marinette sniffed again. "I- what?"

"We won't let this stand, Marinette," Tom told her. "That threat of his, of pulling Adrien out of school if you don't break up with him- that is so out of line. It isn't tolerable, and could very well be an indication of more issues at home."

"I'm sure of it," Sabine finally chimed in. "There's been so many things that Adrien has told us about his home life that- well, some of it just doesn't sit right with me. And this- this is just the cherry on top."

Marinette nodded, jerky and tearful.

Tom patted her shoulder, steering her towards the back. "Why don't you go upstairs and text Adrien about what's going on. Don't break up with him, okay, sweetie? I'll get everything sorted out."

"But- but what if Nathalie is going straight to the school to pull Adrien out?" Marinette asked, clearly anxious. She was picking at her fingernails, a clear indication of how nervous she was. "And Mr. Agreste is just at home waiting to see if I break up with Adrien fast enough? I- Adrien worked so hard to get into school, and his father keeps threatening to take it away."

...so this was a reoccurring threat, then. Mr. Dupain was even less impressed.

"He can't possibly expect you to immediately turn around and break up immediately," Tom said instead. "That's unreasonable. You would need some time to get over the shock. So I think we have a little wriggle room."

"Since when has Mr. Agreste been reasonable?" Marinette asked, which- well, was a very valid point. She clung to his arm. "M-maybe we should break up, and then try again later- we can still be friends, Mr. Agreste didn't ban that."

"If this doesn't work, I would say stage a breakup and then date in secret," Tom told Marinette. "Keep Adrien in the loop, that's most important. Don't break up out of the blue without an explanation, that will just crush him. But I'm confident that I can get something worked out. Mr. Agreste can't be unreasonable and push you kids around like this without consequences, and it's about time he learned that."

Marinette considered that, then nodded and darted inside the bakery. Tom had a quick, hushed conversation with Sabine, and then retreated into a back room to make a call.

If Mr. Agreste thought that having Marinette and Adrien dating was somehow negatively impacting his company's image, then it was time to see how the company's precious image looked after Mr. Agreste got a visit from child protective services.

The agent that Tom reached was very interested in what he had to say about Mr. Agreste. Apparently several of their agents had wondered what Adrien's home life was like after his mom's disappearance after seeing Mr. Agreste just straight-up vanish from public life, with his few public appearances making them no less concerned. Mr. Agreste was apparently not exactly giving off the image of a stable, reasonable parent, even to the largely uninvested bystander.

"We'll be over for a visit to see your footage," the agent told him. "And to talk to your daughter, as well, to hear what she knows. Threatening a healthy teenaged relationship like that, just to try to control Adrien...well, something tells me that that's just the tip of the iceberg."

"Yes, I thought the same," Tom agreed. "And Marinette said that Mr. Agreste has threatened to pull Adrien out of school for other minor perceived offenses before, and I've certainly heard plenty about the times that Adrien has suddenly not been allowed to go on outings with his friends, even if he had been told that he could go out before."

There was tapping at the other end of the line- the agent entering what Tom had just said in her computer, perhaps, or making note of more questions to ask. "All right. Do you think your daughter would be willing to answer some questions today? I know she must have just had quite a shock what with Mr. Agreste barging in and threatening her, but I'd like to move this case along as quickly as possible, before Mr. Agreste catches wind of what's going on and can start putting pressure on anyone to change their story."

Tom nodded, then remembered that there was no way for the agent to see that. "Of course. I think Marinette can talk today- she's a strong girl. She'll want to help Adrien right away."

"All right. We'll be there in a few minutes."

Tom thanked her and hung up.

"Any news?"

"They're coming right away," Tom told Sabine, following her back into the bakery front. "Threats to isolate kids like Mr. Agreste is doing are taken very seriously. And in Paris right now, they want to make sure that people aren't being abused, because of the threat of akumas."

Sabine let out a breath. "That makes sense. I'm glad they can work fast. Adrien and Marinette have been so happy together, so forcing them to break up, even for a little while..."

Tom nodded, quickly washing his hands before doing the rounds of the shop, rearranging things and making sure that there was enough stock in front. A couple of things needed to be refilled- a quick run to the back took care of those problems easily enough- and by the time everything was just how he wanted it, a pair of child protection agents had arrived.

"Tom Dupain?" the first one asked, sticking out a hand for him to shake. "I'm Sylvia Faye. We just talked on the phone?"

"Hi," Tom said at once. "Yes, I'm Tom, and this is my wife, Sabine. Marinette is upstairs- oh, I probably should have given her a heads-up," he added, wincing. Whoops. He had been so nervous about the agents coming that...well, warning Marinette had kind of slipped his mind. "I'll show you guys up, then give her a minute's warning once we're there."

"Fantastic." Sylvia and her coworker followed him at once, into the back and up the stairs. "Now, we'll be asking Marinette and Adrien as well, but can you think of anyone else who could truthfully vouch for what Adrien's home life is like? We're going to end up having to interview everyone in the household, of course, but we don't want to give Mr. Agreste too much of a heads-up and allow him time to rehearse excuses for everything by approaching someone loyal to him right away."

Tom thought about it. "Well, there would be the teachers at school- they would be able to provide a, ah, less biased view of Adrien and Marinette's relationship than Sabine and I might..."

Sylvia's lips twitched towards a smile. "You mean they wouldn't accidentally refer to Adrien as your future son-in-law."

"...yes." He wasn't good at being put on the spot, that was Tom's only defense. Also, he had once said something similar to Adrien, and it had since become a bit of an inside joke. "And Adrien's other friends- Nino Laffe and Alya C├ęsaire, and then, ah, his friend from fencing- Kagami Tsurugi? I think her mom is friends of a sort with Gabriel, so Kagami has seen Mr. Agreste more often than some of Adrien's other friends. Adrien has private tutors for all sorts of things- piano, Chinese, probably some other stuff that I've forgotten- but I don't know how likely they would be to side with him over Mr. Agreste. And- oh! Adrien's bodyguard. Mr. Agreste's secretary has always felt somewhat off to me, but his bodyguard clearly cares for Adrien."

Sylvia jotted that down. "Fantastic."

"I don't know if he can speak, though," Tom added, remembering all of the times when he had seen Gerald- also known as the Gorilla, which (oddly enough) he didn't seem to mind. "I've never heard him talk. Adrien might be able to tell you more, though."

"Ah, that sounds like a good lead." Sylvia smiled as they reached the landing, and Tom pushed open the door to lead the two of them into their living room. "I take it we should wait here?"

"If you would." Tom gestured to the sofa, then headed up the stairs to Marinette's room. He tapped on the trapdoor, then stuck his head in. "Marinette? I called some people about Mr. Agreste's threats, and they'd like to talk to-" He cut off abruptly as his eyes cleared the floor and spotted Marinette on her chaise lounger, curled up with...Adrien.

Huh. How had Adrien gotten in? Tom had been downstairs in front of the door and in the hallway ever since Mr. Agreste's appearance, with the exception of only a very few short minutes. For Adrien to have somehow managed to slip in during that time...

"Chat Noir saw me trying to slip out and brought me over," Adrien volunteered at once. He cringed. "I- I wasn't planning on making a habit of this, sir, I swear."

Aha. That made sense. "I'll have to thank him the next time I see him, then." Tom climbed fully into the room, crossing over to the two teens and pulling up a chair. "Adrien, after the scene with your father earlier- Marinette has told you about it, right?"

Adrien nodded, exchanging a glance with Marinette. Their fingers were wound together tightly, curled up as though they didn't want to part. "Yeah. That's why I was trying to come over. I- I don't know what's gotten into him! He liked Marinette! She won his design contest, and was great about switching out the feather on the hat so that I wouldn't sneeze on the runway, and has come home with me for lunch before and it was all fine then. And it's not like anything should have changed since she was last over at my house! He's not talked to me about us at all." Adrien snorted, but it sounded sad. "Or at all, really. As usual."

Marinette wriggled closer to him, her legs pressed against his and practically in his lap, and the two of them exchanged a look.

"Yes, well... what he's trying to do- the way that he's trying to manipulate you and Marinette- that's not normal in any way, shape, or form, and it's not okay. I called child protection services."

Adrien's eyes widened. "Oh."

"And they're here right now. They wanted to speak to Marinette, but since you're here as well..." Tom studied Adrien, trying to gauge his response. Considering Adrien's acting training- something that he had told the Dupain-Chengs about over dinner one night- it was hard to tell exactly what the boy was feeling, but he didn't seem nearly as torn about that as Tom might have expected.

Maybe it was because their family had fully embraced him, accepting him as family, too, and so losing his father- well, he wouldn't be losing everything.

"I can do that," Adrien agreed. He paused. "So, ah, one at a time, I'm assuming? Or...?"

Tom glanced towards the open trapdoor. "Well, there are two of them so, ah..."

"May we come up?" Sylvia called. "I heard that Adrien is here?"

Both teens nodded, so Tom called back an affirmation. Moments later, Sylvia and her companion- oh, Tom should have asked for her name, where had his manners gone?- came into the room.

"Hi, Adrien and Marinette," Sylvia said at once, heading over to where Adrien and Marinette were curled up. Tom could see her professional gaze taking in the way they were curled up together and he winced, hoping that she wouldn't decide that Mr. Agreste's sudden, random decision to end his son's relationship might have some merit to it after all because of them getting too serious too fast. "I'm Sylvia Faye, and this is my colleague Alice Durand. We're both agents at France's child protection agency, and we'd like to be able to talk to both of you about your home life, Adrien."

"Together, or..?" Adrien asked, exchanging a look with Marinette.

"Separately, if we could. We don't want one person's answers influencing the other person." She glanced back at Tom. "And we'd like to be able to talk to you and your wife after this, Mr. Dupain. I know you have a business to run, but..."

"This is far more important," Tom assured her at once. "Everything else can wait."

Sylvia and Alice talked to Adrien and Marinette for quite a while. Alice finished talking to Marinette first, and then came down to talk to Tom. He left the back bakery in the very capable hands of his staff, then sat down in the break room to tell her everything. Every interaction he had had with Mr. Agreste and his staff, what he had heard from Adrien and Marinette, all about Adrien and Marinette's friendship and relationship.

Tom made sure to wrack his memory for everything he had ever heard. Right before they wrapped up, he remembered the story of Marinette's gift to Adrien on his birthday, only a little over a month after meeting him.

"She made this scarf- hours and hours of work, with very fine yarn- for a kid her age, it was expensive, too," Tom told Alice. "And she brought it over to Adrien's house to deliver it. Her name was on the package at one point-" the fact that there may have been some breaking and entering to get Marinette's name on was irrelevant, really- "but Adrien showed up at school with the scarf the next day, under the impression that it was his father who had given the gift to him. Marinette didn't tell him that it was her, because he was so happy about it- apparently Mr. Agreste had just given Adrien a pen for his birthday for several years running prior to that, so a scarf was a huge deal. I still don't think she's told him."

Alice had frozen. "He stole a gift from- good lord." She was shaking her head. "The emotional manipulation that we're seeing here..."

She didn't continue. Tom suspected that she probably wasn't allowed to say much more. Anything that Adrien and Marinette told her was in confidence.

"We're going to talk to a few more people today," Alice told him. "Sylvia is still talking to Adrien, so I'll talk to your wife and then go get one of our other agents to help me do other interviews. If Mr. Agreste or his assistant come by again, let us know right away."

"Of course."

"And if you think of anything more to tell us- well, Sylvia will leave her contact info," Alice told him. "Just shoot us a message."

Tom nodded again, then ducked out to go up front and take over for Sabine so that she could talk to Sylvia. Marinette was up front as well, decorating petits fours for an order they had. She looked a lot better, steadier than she was before but still quiet.

"Do you think that they'll do anything about Mr. Agreste?" Marinette asked Tom after a few minutes, after the few people in the bakery had been served and had left. She had put her piping bag down, and he could see her hands shaking. "I mean, he gives Adrien food, and quality tutors, and a roof over his head, and he hasn't- well, as far as I know, he hasn't hit him."

"Hitting isn't the only form of abuse, sweetheart," Tom told her. "Emotional manipulation, at the level that Mr. Agreste does- well, even if Adrien doesn't get removed from his father's care, they're going to keep a close eye on the situation and check in regularly. That by itself might be enough to keep Mr. Agreste in line."

Marinette nodded, but her brow furrowed. "And- and if it doesn't? If he has connections- he's rich, he's friends with the Bourgeois family, who knows who else he knows-"

"And we have connections, too. I'd like to see how that-" Tom hastily reconsidered his word choice, no matter how angry he was he did still have to control himself in front of his daughter- "arrogant man would react if that footage got 'leaked' to Madam Chamack. He might be famous and connected, but public opinion can ruin those people."

Marinette's eyes flashed to him. "You- you'd do that, Papa?"

"Of course." He hoped that it wouldn't come to that, of course, but he had stood by and trusted that the authorities would do the right thing one too many times when it came to bullies at Marinette's school. "We want to keep you and Adrien safe, no matter what it takes. Maybe going on the news would be a little underhanded, but if it's necessary..."

The smile on Marinette's face was more than welcome as Tom watched her turn back to her petit fours, noticeably steadier. He turned his attention back to the store as a new rush of people came in, focusing on them and doing his best to not seem off at all. He didn't run the front of the store as often as Sabine did, but he could still manage well enough. Marinette finished up with the order of petits fours, boxing them up neatly and putting them to the side before cleaning up, clearly trying to focus on that instead of worrying about what was going on upstairs.

Tom was worried. Even more so after Alice finished up talking to Sabine and headed out to go collect another agent and do more interviews, but there had been no signs of Sylvia or Adrien yet.

Maybe it was just- well, Adrien had been in that household for years before they knew him. There were probably more things that he had experienced but never told them. Of course he was going to have more to tell the agent than they did. It was unfortunate that he had to talk about all of his awful experiences all at once, one after the other, without so much as a break, but hopefully it would all end with Adrien being removed from a toxic situation.

They could only hope.

They got the news before the sun set and Mr. Agreste came looking for his son: Adrien was, at least temporarily, being removed from his father's household.

"We don't like to have kids stay in their homes when there's an ongoing investigation," Sylvia told Tom when she called with the update. "It can result in the parents lashing out at their kids, and that can turn really ugly, particularly since we have Hawkmoth looming over everyone's heads. Ah, about housing for tonight..."

"We do have a guest room," Tom told her. "Which, son-in-law jokes aside, we will insist that Adrien stay there instead of in Marinette's room. They're far too young for that."

"Ah. Fantastic." Sylvia sounded relieved. "Adrien indicated that he would prefer to stay with you guys for the time being. We'll probably look into a different placement long-term once the investigation has wrapped up- from what we've heard and seen today, I'm confident that we will end up charging Gabriel Agreste with emotional abuse and manipulation- but that has nothing to do with your household, I assure you. It's just that we prefer not to place kids with the families of the person they're dating. It can get messy if anything goes wrong."

Tom could understand that. "Right, right, of course."

"After today's interviews, we're looking at Adrien's current bodyguard as a more permanent placement, but again, things can change."

He knew that the man seemed trustworthy. And it was nice that Adrien would be able to stay in Paris and with someone he knew. If Adrien was taken away from his controlling, manipulative father, only to be sent away from Paris and Marinette and all of his other friends, he would be crushed.

"We'll keep you updated," Sylvia promised. "And someone might drop by tomorrow to check up on Adrien's sleeping situation. It's not that we don't trust you, it's just..."

"You have to make sure that kids aren't going from one bad situation into another," Tom finished. "Or staying in a household that's not equipped to handle them, I understand. It's no problem. Ah, will Adrien have a chance to get back to his house to grab his clothes and school things soon? We're willing to buy supplies for him, of course, but I'm sure he'd like some of his own things."

"We can arrange that," Sylvia promised. "Now, ah, we're going to be calling Mr. Agreste and letting him know soon. I would suggest, just based on what we've seen from him, that you lock down your house and business so that he doesn't try to barge in."

Ah, that was a good point. It wouldn't stop any akumas if Mr. Agreste flew into a rage and caught Hawkmoth's attention, probably, but it should deter Mr. Agreste if he decided to storm over. "Will do."

"And again, thank you for calling us," Sylvia finished. "We can only do our work when people act as our eyes and ears for the children of Paris. Have a good evening, Mr. Dupain."

"And to you as well."

Tom flashed a thumbs-up at Sabine as he hung up the phone, and she perked up. "Good news?"

"He's not going home tonight. I get the impression that they're pretty confident that Mr. Agreste will end up losing custody, but of course they're not going to call that for a bit." Tom was feeling quite triumphant as he headed to the front door, double- and triple-checking that it was locked. Then he triggered the security system, locking down their shutters over the windows and the door. Just in case. "They said to make sure that we're locked down, so that Mr. Agreste can't retaliate. So I'm going to do that before I help you clean up if that's all right?"

Sabine nodded, clearly anxious. "Of course. They're calling him soon, then?"

"Right after they called us." Tom ducked into the back hallway, making sure that that door was locked, too, before heading into the bakery. The delivery door had to be checked, as did the emergency exit, and the few windows, just in case.

Maybe he was just being paranoid, but... well, Mr. Agreste didn't seem like the most stable of people, and it was better to be safe than sorry.

By the time the last lock had been checked and double-checked, Sabine had finished up the cleaning and had headed upstairs. Tom set up the alarm system- he would have to put several notes in their room and on the stairs so that they wouldn't be alarmed by it tomorrow morning- and headed upstairs, where Adrien was actually smiling as he helped Marinette get dinner ready, circling around her like she was his sun and he was her earth like he always did.

Honestly, Tom, had been worried that Adrien would be taking this whole investigation harder than he was. Maybe having Marinette there and the support of their entire family was a bigger help than he had anticipated.

No matter the reason, Tom wasn't about to complain.

It didn't take long for Gabriel Agreste to get declared unfit for parenting. He flew into a rage about it, of course, but the child protection services weren't about to budge.

Perhaps he hadn't abused Adrien physically, but the emotional manipulation and neglect were enough to throw up all of the red flags in the agents' minds. And as if that weren't enough, apparently Gerald had brought up some other concerns he had had about Mr. Agreste's behavior following the disappearance of his wife, suspicious activity that he had never really told anyone about before.

Apparently Gabriel Agreste had never really been investigated for his wife's disappearance, or at least the investigation that he had undergone was short and very much inadequate. Someone at the police station had been paid off, they suspected, and so no attention had been paid to if his story made sense, if it had been verified, if- well, anything, really.

So Mr. Agreste had been called into the police station along with Nathalie- apparently he had had to be told that so, he could not just call in via his tablet or get interviewed in his office at home, and that suggestion had been received none too kindly by the police officers who had been re-assigned the case. While he was out of the house, Adrien and Marinette were going over to get more of Adrien's clothes. Gerald had been able to smuggle a small bag of Adrien's things out earlier, but Adrien had more things that he wanted to pick up, too, and he wanted to have more changes of clothing.

Tom had offered to come along to help, but the two of them had insisted that they would be fine, and anyway the Gorilla was going to be there to pick up the suitcases and bring them over to his house afterwards, since Adrien was staying there now. So Tom let them be and went about his day, throwing himself into the bakery work and making sure that everything was running smoothly. He made sure to ensure that his bakers knew how to run everything without him, because if he got called away again to support Adrien throughout any other legal stuff that needed to be done, it would be better if the bakery could still stay open.

His staff, of course, were well-trained and experienced, knowing exactly where all of the books were kept with the lists of what needed to be made when. Tom beamed in pride, plenty proud of how well they had learned.

They were like a second family, really. Most of the bakers were people he had taken in as interns as the bakery grew, and he had brought them from floundering culinary school graduates to confident bakers and patisserie-makers.

Tom was bringing empty bread baskets back to the back kitchens to clean them out when the side doors banged open, and Adrien and Marinette came flying in. Adrien looked far closer to tears than he ever had before, barely holding himself together. Marinette was pale, practically green, as she clung to Adrien.

What had happened?

"We- we found some stuff," Marinette managed when Tom rushed over, leaving the baskets on the hallway floor. She pressed a fist to her lips, clearly trying to pull herself together. "Since Mr.- Mr. Agreste was out, and Nathalie, too, we explored a little bit, and we found- we found-"

"Mom," Adrien choked out. "I don't know what- what's wrong with her, b-b-but..."

...okay, they needed the police. Right now.

"We'll find out," Tom promised. He placed a gentle hand on each of their shoulders, guiding them upstairs. Some settling tea and a few cozy blankets was definitely in order. They didn't know when Hawkmoth could strike, so it was important to help as quickly as possible.

...but seriously, the police hadn't looked hard enough to find anything suspicious after Mrs. Agreste's disappearance, but Adrien and Marinette were able to find Mrs. Agreste while just exploring? That was- that really painted a really terrible picture of the police, honestly.

(Was Tom surprised? No, not really- disappointed, definitely, but not at all surprised.)

Adrien was shaking as he headed up the stairs, hard enough that he nearly stumbled several times. Marinette was steadier, clearly having had a huge shock as well but seeing Adrien so shaken was helping pull her back from the same sort of breakdown that Adrien seemed to be having.

If they had actually found Mrs. Agreste- well, heaven knew what kind of state she was in. If she had been dead this whole time, there was very little that would have kept her actually looking intact. If she was- what? Sick? In a coma?- then why hadn't Mr. Agreste gone to hospital experts to help?

This whole thing- it was weird.

"Should I text Gerald and ask him if Adrien can stay the night?" Tom asked, aiming the question largely at Marinette. She seemed the most likely to be able to respond, after all. "I know you're not left alone all the time like you were before, Adrien, but if being with Marinette would help..."

Adrien nodded, a jerky little move of his head. Tom mentally patted himself on the back. That was a victory, no matter how small.

"I'm going to put some water on for tea," he told them as they straggled up the last few stairs and headed for the living room door. He paused to head over to the linen closet and pull out a big, fuzzy blanket. "And then you two can snuggle up on the couch while I call the police."

Adrien nodded again, but he didn't look entirely focused. Marinette hugged him tighter, pressing her face into his neck briefly before moving back slightly.

Tom hustled them in, wrapping them up before putting the kettle on and rustling through their packets of tea to find the kind he was thinking of. It was good for helping with shock, and they had stocked up on it after the first akuma attack- after all, while they might have turned almost into background noise at this point, there were some particularly nasty ones that were especially nightmare-inducing, and it was best to be prepared. He had just found the box he was looking for when the sound of feet pattering quickly across the floor and the bathroom door slamming shut caught Tom's attention. He spun around, spotting Marinette sitting alone on the couch, looking startled. Seconds later, the sounds of retching from the bathroom told Tom exactly why Adrien had made such a hasty exit.

"Marinette, what happened?" Tom asked quietly, stepping towards his daughter. Her eyes had been trained on the bathroom door, but snapped to him quickly enough. "I need to know so that I can call the police. What did you find?"

Marinette worried her lip for a second before saying anything. "We- we were just exploring-" Her words trailed off, and she have herself a good shake. "Adrien had asked the Gorilla about what suspicious activity he saw, just out of curiosity. I don't think he told him everything, probably, but he had told Adrien about what he thought was maybe a hidden elevator in Mr. Agreste's office. So we went looking, and the buttons- they were hidden in this painting of his mom. And we experimented a bit, because you could kind of see the spots that had been pressed a lot, and it worked, and brought us to this underground chamber."

...Tom had so many questions. Why they couldn't just wait for the police to investigate definitely topped the list.

"There were buttons that we didn't push, though," Marinette continued with a frown. "Like they were part of a different combination, one that would make the elevator go somewhere else. And the tunnel that we went down- there was a split in it, a track that led up instead of down. He's got to be hiding something else."

Tom blinked, a little taken aback by both the hyper-focused look on Marinette's face and the fact that apparently, despite the (definitely traumatic) experience that she had just gone through with finding Adrien's mom in whatever condition she was in, Marinette had managed to notice, remember, and think about what the worn buttons and the extra tunnel might mean. If he had been in that position- well, Tom was pretty sure that he would have been all but useless to the police because of the shock, especially when he was Marinette's age.

"In the chamber- it had a metal walkway, and water running underneath, and the walls were rock. It was huge, like a church." Marinette's eyes went distant, and Tom wondered if he should maybe be taking notes so that he would know everything to be able to report it. "And there was this little garden at the end, and a- it looked like a glass coffin sort of thing, and there were machines tucked under it- they were beeping, so I think she's still alive, maybe, but if she's been down there over a year..."

Tom cringed. That was...not promising. Not at all- unless.

Unless there was magic involved. And the only way that there might be magic involved was-

Tom pushed the thought away. He wasn't going to think it, not now. They already had enough things to be concerned about, and if magic was involved...well, the police would come to the same conclusion soon enough, and then it would be Ladybug and Chat Noir's concern. Marinette and Adrien didn't need to get even more tangled up in this.

"There were butterfly cocoons, too," Marinette said quietly, and Tom startled. How had she noticed that when there was the practically-dead body (he was assuming, but based on what he had heard it was probably accurate) of her boyfriend's mom in front of her? "Little white cocoons all over the plants. We didn't look closer, because Adrien was about to be sick, but..." She trailed off as Adrien exited the bathroom, looking even more shaky than before. Tom was up at once, half-carrying Adrien back over to the couch and wrapping him up in the blanket with Marinette.

Shock was a hell of a problem to have to deal with. And if Adrien had been even half as observant as Marinette had and come to the same conclusion that Tom had...well, it was a miracle that he had managed to make it back to the bakery at all.

The teapot whistling was a welcome interruption.

Tom watched them out of the corner of his eye as he quickly prepared two cups of tea. Adrien was practically curled up in Marinette's lap, his head tucked under her chin as she ran her fingers through his hair. She was whispering to him, dipping her head down to press a kiss to Adrien's hair. He could make out the occasional word from where he stood, kinda-sorta-definitely eavesdropping.

Kitty seemed to come up pretty often, oddly enough. Maybe it was a pet name- Adrien and Marinette seemed to like using those fairly often. It was a little odd for a pet name, admittedly, but it might be an inside joke or something.

"Tea for you two- careful, it's hot," Tom told them after a couple minutes of steeping. He carried the two cups over, pulling their coffee table closer to Adrien and Marinette so that they could easily reach the cups. "And I'm going to step out and call the police. If you need anything...well, I'm not going far."

Marinette nodded, glancing down at Adrien in her lap. Tom waited for a moment to see if they needed anything, then headed out, pulling his phone out of his pocket as he did. It took a moment for him to pull up the non-emergency number- after all, nothing was on fire- and dial. Someone picked up right away.

"Hello, may I speak to a sergeant?" Tom asked, doing his best not to rush his words. "This is Tom Dupain, and I have some information regarding Emilie Agreste's disappearance...and possibly also Hawkmoth's identity."

With Mr. Agreste already at the police station, it was easy enough for them to come up with an excuse to separate him and his Miraculous, and Nathalie from the Peacock Miraculous as well. Apparently they told each of them individually that they needed to go to a back room, and would need to remove any jewelry to go through the metal detector. They had both been irritated by the whole thing, Tom had been told- apparently Mr. Agreste had been deeply offended that anyone would even consider that he might do something to his wife- but had been acting outwardly cooperative, which meant that all jewelry came off and into the storage bins. Even the Miraculous.

Somehow Ladybug had heard about the discovery and showed up long enough to reclaim the Miraculous and thank the police for their clever work in getting the Miraculous off without a fight. She had also heard about the discovery of Mrs. Agreste and her condition, and promised to send an expert to the hospital where she had been transferred as soon as possible to see if there was anything that could be done.

Tom was of the opinion that Ladybug was actually superhuman. Like, not just a human with a Miraculous, like Gabriel Agreste had been, but a superhuman with a Miraculous on top. How else had she managed to hear about everything so fast, before things had even gone public? It was incredible.

And of course, with the evidence piling up against him, there was no way that Mr. Agreste was ever going to get custody of Adrien again. Not, of course, that he would be able to, not when he was going to end up behind bars for quite a while.

Whether or not Mrs. Agreste would wake up- and if she would pass the inspection that the child protection agents would no doubt level at her- still remained to be seen. Tom was hoping that she would wake up, for Adrien's sake, and that she was a better parent than his father. Gerald was a good guardian, from what they could see, but of course it would be even better if Adrien had a loving parent, one who would actually treat him right.

Adrien was clearly still reeling, but he seemed to be coming back slowly. Marinette was with him, of course, and Sabine had turned over the counter to Tom for the rest of the afternoon so she could go up and stay with the two of them. Gerald was going to be coming as soon as he had gotten Mrs. Agreste settled and her paperwork at the hospital completed, and then Adrien would have one more person who cared about him to help get him through his shock.

Tom couldn't help but smile, a hint of triumph dancing along the edges of his lips. He hadn't known, of course, that he would be setting in motion a chain of events that would end up taking down Hawkmoth and Mayura when he called the child protection agents- it was a very unexpected outcome- but he couldn't deny that he was maybe just a bit proud of that.

Soon enough, the news would be breaking to the rest of the city, and everyone in Paris would know who Hawkmoth and Mayura had been. The impact on the Gabriel brand would leave the employees reeling, probably- the one thing that Tom felt bad about, but it wasn't his fault, but Mr. Agreste's. If he hadn't turned to supervillainry...

Tom could understand wanting to do anything for his wife, because the thought of losing Sabine- well, it wasn't a thought that he wanted to entertain. But there were boundaries that had to be respected. Grief wasn't a fun thing to go through, but it was healthy to be able to remember those that had been lost but move on anyway, instead of becoming shut off from the world and manipulating others.

No matter what happened, though, with Mrs. Agreste and the fallout from Hawkmoth's reveal, at least Adrien and Marinette would be safe. There would be no threats from parents, no attempts at emotional manipulation, no unstable supervillains trying to target them. They could be happy together, just like any other teenagers. If any other threats came along...well, Tom would do his best to help get them through it.

After all, they had been through quite enough already.

a/n: ...alas, the adults in ML-verse are only allowed to be supervillains or be largely useless (or be largely useless/incompetent supervillains #Hawkmothisn'tverygoodathisjob), so we got Chat Blanc instead of Mr. Agreste thrown in jail and Adrien living with adults who actually care for him.

(also, yes, in this story, Adrien 'fessed up to being Chat Noir and knowing who Ladybug was right after he came over following Marinette's call and before child protective services came over. Marinette wasn't thrilled about him having not told her before, but there were also more important things to worry about

As with most of my stories, this is a one-shot and is therefore complete! And as always, comments make my day! :)