a/n: Aaaand Part 8 of the Finish the Alphabet Challenge! This one gave me some trouble, because- well, it's a lot more emotions-heavy than a lot of the stuff I write.

This is it for the Alphabet Challenge! Unless I overlooked something, V was the last letter left that I was missing.

Adrien was starting to get frustrated with his parents. A lot frustrated.

It was one thing for his mom to go to bed early without telling him good-night, because sometimes she got weak and tired and of course the smart thing to do was to go straight to bed to get some rest, just like the doctors had ordered. It made sense for her to not go out of her way to track down wherever in the house Adrien was - or out of the house, sometimes that happened, too- before going to bed. He would get to see her later, after her nap, or the next day when she woke up.

But it was happening more and more often, and no one would tell Adrien why. He was left in the dark, to worry and wonder and pace on his own.

It sucked. But Adrien was a little anxious about complaining, because his father had told him off before about being selfish and demanding extra attention when his mom wasn't feeling well, and he didn't want to be selfish. His parents had enough to keep track of and worry about without him bothering them about things that were none of his business.

(Adrien had trouble with that last bit, honestly- how was his mom's apparent decline in health not any of his business? If she got really ill, that would affect him, right? Sure, maybe he wouldn't be the one in a hospital bed, but- but-

But that still counted as affecting his life, right? Right?)

His mom always thanked him when he didn't ask questions, praising him for not being difficult or making problems. He was the best child she could have asked for, the most well-behaved, and she was so lucky.

But she never answered his unasked questions, or the questions that he asked when he slipped up and forgot not to pry. He was being kept in the dark, and it took practically everything in him not to show how frustrated he was getting.

Don't worry them. Be a good son, don't pry. Worrying will make Mom worse, just- just wait until you're old enough for them to be willing to share-

It was just taking so long. And now, his mom had been sent off to a spa to rest up and recover- whatever that meant, for all he knew she was getting treatment at a hospital and his parents just didn't want him to worry or didn't want to deal with the questions that a hospital visit would no doubt spur- for a week, with absolutely no warning whatsoever. And this was after several days of him not seeing her at all because she wasn't feeling well and had to rest all day.

Surely he was entitled to being able to do some worrying.

But his mom was meant to return tonight, and then he would get to see her again. If Adrien was right about the "spa" actually being a visit to the hospital, then she might even be feeling better again after getting some decent treatment and they could hang out again, just like they used to do all the time before the weak spells ate up all of the time that she had outside of her daily work.

Adrien was looking forward to seeing her again. Still, worry sat heavy in his gut. Something about this- about his mom leaving for the spa without waking him up to say good-bye, about the unexplained illnesses, about not even seeing her at meals on the days when she had been in the house- wasn't sitting right with him.

Maybe it was just worry about her illness, whatever she had. Maybe it was unfounded anxiety, spurred on by the lack of information. Maybe he was just as anxiety-ridden and high-maintenance as his father grumbled sometimes, and it was nothing at all.

Adrien played with his dinner, anticipation at his mom's impending return and worry that he couldn't quite put his finger on making it impossible for him to eat more than a few bites. He watched the clock anxiously, counting down the minutes until the time when Nathalie said that his mom would be back.

Or, rather, when she might be back. Promising exact timelines wasn't smart, Nathalie had told him more than once. Life got in the way, and adults that had said that they would be there at a certain time couldn't always make it. There might be traffic, or something else they had to attend to.

(Oddly enough, that logic didn't apply to Adrien and his photoshoots. He was expected to always be there on time, preferably early, even if he really wanted to stay at fencing or basketball for a couple extra minutes and actually have a conversation with some of the other kids. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to make a habit of being late to things, but surely it wouldn't be a big deal to allow for a little more wriggle room in his schedule?)

The clock ticked closer and closer. The staff finally took Adrien's now-cold food away and he moved into the atrium to read a book- well, to pretend to read a book, at least- and wait.

Closer. Closer. The clock chimed the time, and still no cars pulled through the gates.

….maybe there was traffic?

The clock ticked on. The worried knot in Adrien's gut grew tighter, but he didn't dare disturb his father and Nathalie, still working in the office and no doubt oblivious to the time. An hour passed, and finally Nathalie came out to tell Adrien to go to bed.

"But Mom isn't back yet!" Adrien protested, glancing out the window again, hoping that any moment now, he would see the headlights of whatever car was bringing her back turning into the drive. "Can't I stay up, just this once?"

Nathalie's lips flattened, and Adrien knew the answer before she even said anything. "It is bedtime, Adrien."

Adrien went.

There was no way that Adrien was going to fall asleep. Not when his mom was supposed to be home and wasn't. No number of "you'll see her in the morning, now go to bed"s from Nathalie could make him actually believe that enough to lay down and go to sleep.

(He had pretended to try, at least, when she came in to check on him. But as soon as the door shut behind her, Adrien had sat right back up, waiting, listening, only growing more anxious as time passed.

And then, at long last, there were voices. But they weren't the right voices.

Adrien hopped out of bed and rushed to his door, cracking it open just enough to peer out. As soon as he did, his heart dropped into his stomach.

There were police officers filling the atrium, concern written across their faces. Nathalie was waving them into his father's office, and Adrien could see his father greeting them just inside. And he- he was actively frowning. Which was weird, because normally Gabriel Agreste just looked haughty and detached. For him to be upset...

That meant that something was really, really wrong. Adrien's gut twisted and he considered going downstairs to try to eavesdrop, but the Gorilla was still out there and Adrien would get in trouble if he wasn't in bed like he was supposed to be.

But how could he go to bed if his world was falling apart? Because that was what was happening- that was what had to be happening. His mom had gone away and hadn't come back, and they hadn't been able to get in contact with her because something had gone terribly wrong.

What if she had been badly ill and everyone just thought that she was tired? What if that illness had gotten worse and she- and she had died?

Surely they would have been told already if anything like that had happened at the resort that she had gone to. There had to be people all over the place who would have noticed if anything was wrong.

But then- what?

Adrien ducked back into his room, only now noticing the blue and red lights reflecting off of the windows of the nearby buildings. He couldn't see the cars from his room- his windows looked out in the opposite direction, after all, not down at the courtyard- but he didn't need to. He had seen the uniforms, he had already seen the police officers there.

Why hadn't his father said anything to him? Surely- surely Adrien deserved to know right away what was going on? Was she missing? Had there been a car accident? A fire? People being held hostage at the resort?

Adrien paced, then sat down on his couch when he got too tired to keep walking and had stumbled several times. He just had to stay sitting up so that he would stay awake so that once his father came in- because surely he would come in right away?- he would tell Adrien what was going on.

The night kept on. Cars passed on the street. There was a small commotion as a group of young adults staggered past, down the street. The flashing lights decreased in number, then vanished completely as the last of the police officers drove off. The moon traced a track across the sky, and still no one came.

A tear traced its way across Adrien's face, and then another. Why wasn't anyone coming to tell him what was going on? He was trying to keep himself from imagining the worst, but it-

-it was hard.

A pink line of light finally appeared across the sky as the sun started to rise again, and still no one had come to tell him what was going on. Adrien rubbed his eyes, swollen and red from both exhaustion and tears, and tried to stay awake just a little bit longer. It was too early for him to go search out his father- he would be furious about being woken up early, after all, and he would probably yell instead of telling Adrien anything- so he just had to stay up a little bit longer. Just a little bit.

Gerald Brion knew that his employers, like many rich and famous people, were a bit on the eccentric side. They had secrets that they didn't want getting out, ones that even their loyal staff weren't allowed to know. Exhaustion and arguments were kept under wraps, wrinkles smoothed away, early greying covered up with dye jobs. It came with the territory, since the gossip magazines were rarely kind to any sort of aging or flaws that they saw.

Most of the Agreste family's secrets- well, of the ones Gerald knew about, none were particularly scandalous. Sure, there was a bit of an age gap between Mr. Agreste and his wife that they minimized with dye jobs and skin therapy, but- well, it wasn't a huge deal, hardly the scandalous gap that some celebrities had, just something that some people would raise a judging eyebrow at. There were the in-laws in London that Gabriel Agreste would clearly rather forget about, even if his wife loved her twin sister, but quarrels with and disagreements about in-laws were hardly something that was uncommon among married people.

And then there was whatever illness that Mrs. Agreste must have, one that made her exhausted and weak to the point of passing out on a regular basis.

Gerald frowned as he thought about Mrs. Agreste. He assumed, of course, that she had seen doctors about it- but he hadn't taken her in to see doctors any more often than normal for regular check-ups, and there hadn't been any house calls that he knew about, unless they came while he was driving Adrien around to various locations for his activities. And she had been getting weaker lately, canceling her appointments and outings more and more frequently..

According to Adrien, his parents had said that she had headed to a resort to recover earlier in the week. Which was odd, because- well, normally Gerald would have been the one to drive her anywhere that she wanted to go. It wasn't unheard of for Nathalie or Mr. Agreste to take the car on occasion, but normally they at least mentioned that they were doing that and where they were going.

And they hadn't mentioned when she would need to be picked up.

Gerald frowned deeper, considering that. It was possible, of course, that this resort provided pick-up and drop-off. It was possible that Nathalie or Mr. Agreste was going to pick Mrs. Agreste off. It was perhaps possible- though certainly not probable- that he was meant to pick Mrs. Agreste up, but Nathalie just hadn't told him yet, distracted by- Gerald assumed, at least, because that was what was reasonable- setting up the doctor's appointments that Mrs. Agreste so sorely needed.

And then they reached the day when Mrs. Agreste was meant to be returning, and still nothing was said. No requests for pick-ups, no letting him know when to expect another vehicle arriving at the mansion.

No Mrs. Agreste, either.

At just past eleven-thirty that evening, the police were called, and by eleven forty-five, several had arrived to speak to the family- or rather, to Mr. Agreste and Nathalie, who had been the ones last in contact with Mrs. Agreste. Adrien had been bundled off to bed well before the call with the assurance that they were sure that she was running a little late but it was past his bedtime and there was no sense in waiting up. Maybe there had been traffic.

Gerald had checked his road conditions app at that. There wasn't any unusually heavy traffic anywhere nearby.

(Adrien hadn't been particularly convinced, either, but he had gone to his room anyway. Not to bed, though- Gerald could see him staring at the police through a crack in his door.)

(He wasn't about to go up the stairs and correct that behavior, though. In all honesty, Gerald couldn't blame Adrien for being concerned. He was concerned, and he had seen a lot in his years as a bodyguard.)

The next morning, Gerald found Adrien on the couch in his room, small and exhausted and still asleep. Adrien had probably only just drifted off, if his guess was right, too exhausted to keep staying up like he had clearly been trying to do.

He sighed. The poor kid. Gerald hadn't stayed for the entirety of the police investigation- it had gone late and Mr. Agreste had excused him so that at least one member of the household could get some sleep- but he very much doubted that anything had turned up. Even if something had, the chances of Mr. Agreste or Nathalie actually coming in to tell Adrien anything were pretty slim. They would assume that Adrien had gone straight to bed and to sleep like an obedient machine instead of staying up in anxious wait, and then finally get around to telling him that his mom was officially listed as missing sometime later in the day.

Or maybe that was all bitter conjecture, heavily influenced by the fact that Adrien had clearly been left up waiting by himself. There were still traces of tear tracks running down his face.

Gerald sighed, considering Adrien for a moment before deciding against trying to move him to the bed. He probably wasn't very deeply asleep, and even if the rest that he would get on the couch wasn't going to be the best, it was better than nothing at all.

So he simply checked the settings on the windows to make sure that Adrien had remembered to shade them to keep the sun out the night before, then headed out of the room to see what he could learn. With any luck, the police had at least gotten some sort of lead.

He could only hope that Mrs. Agreste would be found safe and sound soon. If she wasn't….well, her absence was possibly the only thing holding the Agreste family together.

Without her there, they would shatter.

By noon, news of Mrs. Agreste's disappearance had hit the public, and TV channels picked the news up as an interest piece. The existence of a twin sister complicated things, as did the fact that Emilie Agreste had told her family that she would be going to one place, hadn't ever arrived, texted as though she were there for the entire week, then fell off of the grid when she was meant to be going home.

There were a lot of people concerned. Was it a kidnapper? That could be dangerous for all of them! But maybe the kidnapper wouldn't be interested in normal people at all. After all, Emilie Agreste was famous, from a rich family, and she had several credits to her name- modeling, acting, voice acting, and her own jewelry line, to name a few- that might make her more of a target for someone who wanted money. It wasn't something for the average person to worry too much about.

(Some worried anyways. After all, the Agreste family had drivers and bodyguards and fancy security systems, didn't they? They should be some of the safest people in the city. And yet…)

In London, Amelie Graham de Vanily awoke to a less-than-pleasant visit from a police officer who wanted to know when she had last been in contact with her sister and if anything had seemed off. As it turned out, her brother-in-law hadn't called her up to let her know that her sister was missing, and so the police hadn't known to be more careful with bringing up the news.

(Gabriel Agreste was called one hour and thirty-seven minutes later to get the loudest and most extensive chewing-out that he had ever had- or, well, he would have, except he had set the phone down and ignored the increasingly high-pitched screeching while he went back to work on his designs and only picked the phone back up once Amelie wound down.)

She hadn't noticed anything off, but she also hadn't texted her sister at all for over a week. That wasn't unusual- after all, they were in different countries and had their own lives, and they were busy- but now Amelie was wishing that she had reached out more, or visited more often, or convinced Emilie that Gabriel was no good and she and Adrien should move to London…

(The police noted in-laws do not like Gabriel Agreste but didn't really mark that as potentially important information. After all, despite his prominence as a fashion designer, a number of people found Gabriel Agreste a pain in the rear to deal with, caustic and rude when he felt like his time would be better spent elsewhere. That his in-laws weren't particularly fond of him honestly came as very little surprise to anyone.)

The news ran several times a day at first, asking people to be on the alert for anyone looking like Emilie Agreste (unless they were in London) and providing a hotline to call. There was a reward for information, and a website that people could go to if they would prefer to submit any leads or other information that way.

And gradually, it dropped off. No leads had been found, the hotline remained silent, and the only submission to the website ended up being from before Mrs. Agreste had gone missing at all. People found other things to talk about, and those gradually took over the news cycle instead. Reminders dropped down to once a day, then once every few days, and then only when there was a slow news day and news anchors needed to fill up the time.

Paris had moved on.

Adrien couldn't remember a time when he had ever been so strung out and exhausted as he had been after his mom vanished. He couldn't sleep well at night, and his eyes felt sandy and heavy even when he hadn't been crying. He spent all of his time anxiously waiting for some news, any news, but if anything had been turned up, no one had told him.

He was being left in the dark. As usual.

He didn't want to do any of his usual activities- Adrien just didn't have the energy- but his father insisted. So Adrien was driven to basketball, to fencing, to lessons, and he had to put on a strong face and pretend that he wasn't falling to pieces on the inside because something had happened to his mom and he just didn't know what. People tended to avoid him even so, clearly feeling awkward and unsure of what to say to him when they really hadn't known him that well in the first place.

Maybe if he had been allowed to stay after and chat with other kids on a regular basis they would have been more comfortable around him. As it was, they weren't close enough to him to really talk about what he was going through.

Adrien's only actual friend was Chloe, and she would rather talk about herself than listen to him try to discuss his feelings at all. He had even had the Gorilla remove her from the mansion once because he just couldn't spare the energy to listen to herself complain about the hotel staff and guests anymore, not when her issues were trivial to start with and seemed outright unimportant and petty compared to his missing mom.

Maybe Chloe didn't have her mom- maybe Mrs. Bourgeois was a terrible person and had run off and left her husband and daughter in the lurch because they weren't glam enough for her- but at least she knew where her mom was. They saw each other sometimes, even if Audrey Bourgeois was always unpleasant when she visited. It wasn't the same.

(Maybe- maybe Chloe thought that it was somehow and that was why she was brushing it off like it was nothing. Maybe she thought that she was providing a distraction and that was what he wanted. Maybe she didn't know how to act, either, and so had doubled down on her usual behavior to try to pretend that everything was normal, just for a while.

Whatever it was- well, it wasn't helpful.)

So Adrien tried to make sense of everything himself, doing his best to heal with (almost) no one to talk to and trying not to drive himself crazy with looking over his last texts with his mom, unable to help wondering if there was something he missed. His father didn't believe in therapists, nor did he seem particularly interested in holding any sort of conversation with Adrien himself about how he was feeling.

Which- well, Adrien could understand that! He knows that this whole thing had to be incredibly stressful for his father, because the police kept coming over and talking to him like he was a suspect somehow or like he might magically come up with a new bit of information and there was all of the media attention and whatnot to deal with, so he couldn't be expected to deal with Adrien, too. It was just too much to have on one person's plate.

(Actually, that was a lie. Adrien couldn't understand it, no matter how logically he tried to lay it out for himself in his own mind. His father was the only immediate family he has left, shouldn't they be leaning on each other for support? Maybe his dad had to deal with more, because of all of the legal stuff, but that didn't mean that he couldn't at least listen to Adrien, right?)

He was alone, struggling to keep his head up. And then…

Well, his father and Nathalie weren't the only adults around who were close enough to Adrien for him to trust them. As it turned out, the Gorilla was more than willing to listen to Adrien spilling his guts. Maybe he couldn't really give a lot of feedback other than nods or grunts, but even being able to talk at someone (someone, not just one of his stuffed animals) had helped Adrien feel a little bit better. His bodyguard's reactions meant that his feelings were validated, at least a little bit.

And Adrien needed that.

Two books on dealing with grief and uncertainty had appeared on Adrien's bed the day after their first conversation, tucked under the covers so that no one else would notice them. Several printed-off sheets of paper were tucked between the pages with little highlighted sections and scribbled notes, an additional personal touch that neither Nathalie nor his father would have thought of. Another page held instructions for how to get past the internet monitoring systems that Mr. Agreste had, and a handwritten link to a website where he could chat with a therapist online if he needed to.

For the first time in weeks, the tears that slid down Adrien's cheeks weren't sad ones.

Maybe he didn't have all the support that a normal kid in his situation would have, but at least he wasn't alone. He did have someone who was willing to listen and sympathize with him, and while maybe that wouldn't bring him answers about what happened to his mom sooner… well, it helped. A lot.

And now- well, maybe now Adrien could start to heal.

a/n: While the Alphabet Challenge might be over, I do have a sibling story to this one in the works! Originally Vanished was going to hop around POVs a lot more. My first draft ended up being REALLY Gabriel-heavy, though, and didn't give Adrien enough attention, so I split it into a separate story. It'll be called Feathers Fall, Wings Rise.

On the topic of other stories- it's wildlife season again, which means that I don't know what my updating schedule might look like for the next couple of months. The place that I'll be staying for a large chunk of the next two months probably doesn't have internet (I don't know that for sure, of course, but given the location/situation I would be VERY surprised if it does), which means I'll probably have to go into town and to the library most of the time if I want to post anything. Our work schedule is really variable, too (and very weather-dependent), so...uh, story postings might get even more sporadic than they have been. I want to at least try for once a week, but...we'll see.

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