Chapter 1: Two Things
There are two things of which Gabriel Agreste is absolutely certain. The first is that there is no such thing as a soulmate. Everything he knows about both science and magic claims it impossible. There is no historical basis for the soulmate legend. Love isn’t a destiny or a force: it’s a choice. You meet someone, and you fall for them either immediately or over time, but you and they will never be perfect. You simply get as far as possible and then work to fill in the gaps.
The second thing is that, despite all of these facts, his son somehow, infuriatingly, has a soulmate anyway.
It starts when Adrien is a child, when his eyes first begin to turn from blue to green—or at least, his right eye does, matching his mother’s vibrant emerald. But his left stays blue, even increasing in hue to match the sparkling ocean, nothing like Gabriel’s own steel blue irises. Emelie has questions. Gabriel has no answers.
There are days when Adrien’s skin becomes covered in swirling ink patterns even though they could both swear that there weren’t any markers near him. He sometimes cries out at phantom pains, cuts and bruises appearing when there is no impact to cause them. None of this makes sense, and Gabriel and his wife grow increasingly confused and worried, until one day they walk in on little eight-year-old Adrien singing lullabies to himself… in Mandarin.
Like any concerned parent, they begin to research what is wrong with their son. Emelie is the one who finds out about magic and the power of the Miraculous, which is fascinating but doesn’t explain a damn thing about Adrien’s condition. Even magic cannot explain what is happening to him.
When Emelie slips into her coma, Gabriel realizes that he has to make a decision. With all of the resources it will take for both of them, he cannot focus on saving his wife while also finding out more about his son.
It’s a simple decision, albeit hardly an easy one. He knows that he is unlikely to find anything else for Adrien, and he knows that whatever is happening isn’t hurting him by more than a few bumps and bruises. On the other hand, the boy needs his mother. He casts aside his research into soulmates and instead begins to focus on bringing back his wife.
He spends a year preparing, learning all he can about the Miraculous, before he unleashes the Akuma. When it fails, he’s so destroyed that he almost doesn’t notice what happens next—almost.
Adrien comes back from his first day of school with two green eyes.
Gabriel is flabbergasted. According to both science and magic, this is completely impossible; there is no way his eye color would simply… switch like that. Trauma could make the color change but never to the exact shade, and he realizes: he must have met her. Or him. His soulmate.
Gabriel now has two tasks, equally important. One: defeat Ladybug and Chat Noir and revive his wife. And two: find Adrien’s soulmate and ensure that they are adequate. He combines the two by sending out a disproportionate number of Akuma towards Adrien’s class, testing them—their courage, their will, their strength, their wits. Only one of Adrien’s classmates is Asian, the tall boy that Gabriel believes may be Vietnamese, and Gabriel prays that it is not him. The Vietnamese boy seems kind but is also definitely an idiot.
Then comes the hat contest, and Gabriel comes face-to-face with a girl in Adrien’s class who he has never seen before, and he realizes two things:
One: the girl has Adrien’s missing left eye. In both sockets.
Two: while his son’s skin hasn’t lit up with mysterious markings in years, he’s spent enough time looking at photos of that monogrammed M that the signature on her hat is very, very familiar.
Chapter 2: Mandarin
When he and Emelie discovered Adrien’s Mandarin lullabies were from his soulmate connection, they insisted on enrolling him in Mandarin classes. If his soulmate was Chinese, they were going to make damn sure he could communicate with them in their mother tongue.
Gabriel isn't sure whether to feel angry or embarrassed when he discovers that the Dupain-Cheng girl doesn’t speak Mandarin at all. He doubts his assessment, briefly—could he have been wrong? Could he have misread the signs?
Impossible. Everything else is too perfect. It has to be her.
Her talent at designing is evident; she won the hat contest easily, and on her own merits, while simultaneously standing up to Bourgeois (which is excellent: Gabriel is full aware that Adrien is what some would describe as "a pushover," and the fact that his soulmate is willing to stand up for herself—and, by extension, him—is an incredible relief). However, he knows little else about her. For some reason, she's never been present at any of his Akuma attacks, so he hasn't gotten the opportunity to watch her. She's an enigma.
When he Akumatizes Adrien's fencing instructor—an arrogant ass, no wonder he failed to win the mayorship—it doesn't take him long to realize that he's accidentally trapped Adrien's class inside City Hall, and the girl with them. He's delighted to realize that she's there: this is his first opportunity to actually get a good look at her. And she doesn't disappoint. The girl is a firecracker, quickly rallying her class and getting them all to safety. She's clever, responsible, calm under fire, and appears to be completely without fear; Gabriel finds he more than approves, and honestly catches himself considering her a worthy heir. It's no surprise when Adrien comes home that day and mentions that she won the class president election.
But she doesn't speak Mandarin.
It's driving him insane. Worse than consistently losing to two children who barely know how to use their powers; worse than being so powerless to save his wife. She has to be the one, he needs her to be the one, she's too perfect for Adrien to be anything else, but the one thing that led him to discover his son's nature is simply not lining up.
He decides he needs to find out for himself, and two days later he enters the Dupain-Cheng Boulangerie & Patisserie in the mid-morning, while both children are in school.
"Good morning!" says the small asian woman behind the counter. "Welcome to Dupain-Cheng!"
Gabriel can see the woman's resemblance to his son's soulmate, so clearly, she's family. "Hello," he says. "Are you the mother of Marinette Dupain-Cheng?"
She looks at him suspiciously. "Is she in some sort of trouble?" He can feel her emotions through the Butterfly brooch, and he realizes that she knows who he is; a wave of protectiveness flows out from her, and he has no doubt that this woman could flatten him if he were to threaten her daughter, Miraculous or no.
Gabriel frowns. "No, nothing like that," he says. "Actually, I was hoping for her help with something."
Cheng raises an eyebrow and smiles, her suspicion replaced by pride. "What can we do for you, Monsieur Agreste?"
Her emotions are strong, reminding Gabriel why he hasn't gone out much since he started wearing the brooch full-time; it's all he can do to avoid being washed away. "Well," he says, trying not to cough from the pressure her pride is putting on his lungs, "my son has been taking Mandarin lessons for some time now, and I thought it might help him to start spending time with someone who speaks it more... fluently." He tilts his head, his expression impassive. "I thought you might have taught Marinette?"
Cheng leans onto the counter and frowns. "Unfortunately, no," she says. Her disappointment feels disproportionate—surely she can't have wanted to help him that much. "She and I mostly speak Yueh around the house, so she never learned Mandarin very well." She shrugs. "She can sing a few lullabies, but that's about it."
Gabriel's heart smacks against his ribs, almost as if to inform him that hey, something important was just said! but it's not like he didn't notice it himself. Even Nooroo gasps a little from the pocket of his blazer, and Gabriel thinks, Exellent. "Hmm..." he says. "Perhaps she would be interested in a tutor?"
Cheng narrows her eyes, confused, and then suddenly a wave of mischievous understanding flows outward from her. "Monsieur Agreste," she says, "are you trying to set up your son with my daughter?"
Gabriel is so surprised at the accuracy of her accusation, and the suddenness of it, that he can't do anything but blink.
She grins, and he can feel the gears turning in her mind. No wonder her daughter is so clever, if this is where she came from. "My brother is coming in from China next weekend," Cheng says, "and I'm won't have the day free. If I tell him to pretend he doesn't speak French, she'll think she needs a translator."
Gabriel is too swept up in her enthusiasm that he finds himself unable to object. "Won't she try to speak to him in... whatever that other language you mentioned was?"
Cheng's smile goes crooked, rogueish. "She's fourteen, and she hasn't been to China since she was a baby," she says. "If I don't tell her he speaks Yueh, she'll assume he doesn't."
Gabriel swallows. This has gotten very much out of hand.
"You know, she's rather infatuated with your boy," Cheng says. "I take it he feels the same way?"
More excellent news. Gabriel is ashamed that he has to respond with a shake of his head. "Not yet," he says, "but if I know him at all, he will soon." He doesn't mention the things he knows; he doesn't mention soulmates. Better to let these things happen naturally than have her assume that he's crazy. He holds up his phone, looking through Adrien's shoot schedule. "Next weekend, you said?"
"I'll have my assistant clear his schedule ahead of time," he says. He looks back up, meets her eyes. Feels a little bit of his old self come back, the him from before Emelie's illness, and for the first time in over a year he decides to make a joke in the presence of another human being.
"I look forward to doing business with you," he says with a smile.
Her smile in response, and his connection to Nooroo, let him know that she knows exactly what he meant.
Chapter 3: Oblivious
There’s no escaping it: Gabriel has somehow managed to raise an idiot.
The plan, such as it is, goes off without a hitch. Gabriel gains a new respect for Mlle. Césaire, who seems to have latched onto the same idea that he and Madame Cheng had—she contacted his son without any prodding. Offhandedly, Gabriel wonders if he can surreptitiously donate to her blog; on the other hand, her cleverness and evident tenacity do not bode well for his specific secret. He’ll have to think of a way to discredit her in advance, just in case. A journalism-themed Akuma, perhaps.
According to the bodyguard that his son had charmingly nicknamed “The Gorilla,” Marinette is completely unable to maintain her composure around Adrien. She’s a blushing, stuttering mess, completely unlike the bravery she showed during the Darkblade attack. Gabriel decides to check her emotions, and is shocked as the force of them almost bowls him over; he had suspected she had feelings for his son, certainly, but the intensity of them is stunning. She’s utterly infatuated, and since Adrien is spending the day with her, there’s no way he can fail to notice.
When Mlle. Bourgeois ruins Chef Cheng’s soup, Gabriel is, for the first time, reluctant to step in. It’s a prime opportunity—Cheng’s emotions are running hot and high, repressed anger at injustice that’s so good he can almost taste it—but he doesn’t want to ruin Adrien’s date. He deliberates in his lair, then, with a sigh, sends out a butterfly.
When Kung Food arrives, Adrien and Mlle. Dupain-Cheng both disappear. Gabriel smiles at that—they must’ve gone somewhere safe, hidden somewhere, together. And if he knows anything about teenagers, if you put two of them of compatible orientations in a tiny space for long enough, something is bound to happen. Especially in stressful situations. Especially especially when one party is as blissfully, achingly devoted to the other as Marinette is to his son. The two of them, locked in a closet together for an hour or two, their hearts pounding while they hide from the Akuma? Mission accomplished. Hell, he almost doesn’t mind when he loses this time.
“I understand you spent today with a classmate,” Gabriel says when Adrien returns home.
”I—yeah,” his son replies. “Uh, there was an opening in my schedule and she needed a translator? Is—is that okay?”
“I will always approve of a chance to practice your Mandarin,” Gabriel says. “I do wish to enquire as to your relationship with this girl, however.”
”Oh, Marinette?” Adrien says. “She’s just a friend.”
Gabriel freezes. He—what?
Okay, denying the relationship was certainly one of several expected outcomes. Adrien doesn’t lie, much, but on this one thing Gabriel almost expects him to. But... Adrien isn’t lying.
When Adrien speaks about her, there’s no rush of embarrassment or glee the way there would be if he’d just spent the last hour “making out” with the girl in a closet. There’s no infatuation, he doesn’t even seem to be aware of his attraction to her, he honestly believes she’s simply a very good friend. WHAT ON EARTH DOES THIS BOY THINK FRIENDSHIP LOOKS LIKE?
”Just a friend?“ Gabriel prods. “Are you certain?” He raises an eyebrow. “She certainly seemed to be interested in more than that.” Take the hint.
“Oh, no,” Adrien laughs nervously, waving off his Gabriel's question. “That’s just how Marinette is. I think she’s a little intimidated by your reputation, actually.”
It’s everything Gabriel can do to keep his jaw from separating entirely from his face and dropping to the floor. Help me Emelie, he thinks. Did we really raise him this oblivious?
”I... saw the hotel was attacked,” Gabriel said, at a loss for where to go from here. “On the news. Are you... all right?”
Adrien smiles. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine!” he says, and a burst of sunlight-happiness emanates from him. “Ladybug was there to take care of everything.”
And there it is, the emotion that Gabriel had been expecting earlier—the devotion, the infatuation, the absolute giddiness. Gabriel can’t help but gasp... His son is in love with Ladybug.
“That’s... very nice,” Gabriel says, waving Adrien off. “Dinner will be at 7.” He wanders back towards his office, stunned.
Adrien somehow managed to spend an entire day with his soulmate and not only not fall for her, but not even realize she had done so for him. And it’s evident that this is clearly the fault of Ladybug. The meddling do-gooder has somehow managed to capture his son’s heart when it so obviously belongs to another...
For the sake of his son, Gabriel decides—and for the sake of his future daughter-in-law—Ladybug has to die.