Marinette hummed to herself as she stirred the pot below her. Adrien had been on a bit of a please-everyone bender as of late and she wanted to make sure that her kitty knew he deserved someone to look out for him too. As such, she had turned to her parents. Though the conversation meant she had to endure their many teasing remarks and wiggled eyebrows, Marinette managed to get away with her mother’s bao recipe.
It was Adrien’s favorite. He constantly compared other buns to her mothers, often remarking that nothing could ever measure up.
“You can just taste the love,” he’d sigh around a large bite.
She certainly hoped he could in this batch. Often she felt as if the love in her other actions couldn’t permeate the grey clouds that tended to cling to him in weeks such as these. No matter how many times she fixed his hair in the mornings, or let him fall asleep against her while watching netflix, nothing seemed to return the light to her sunshine boy. Bao might just do the trick, though.
She continued singing as she carefully pinched and folded the dough around the filling. It was a song from her childhood, and despite the somber lyrics she could feel the ease of nostalgia work the knots that had been gathering in her shoulders. She made a small pirouette as she placed the lid on the bamboo steamer, catching a glance of blonde as she made the turn.
“Don’t stop on my account,” he said with a small grin.
Despite the upturn to his lips, Adrien looked as if the air in his lungs was lead. His shoulders drooped, his hair was tousled in a decidedly not windswept look, and there was no shine to his emerald gaze. Marinette took all this in, not noticing the way his eyes trailed on the hem of the oversized shirt she wore.
Adrien nodded, and she smiled.
“Go change, you can help with dishes while they cook,” she said, shooing him towards his room.
Turning back to the stove she picked up the song, picking up the bowls and knives that needed to be cleaned. Adrien returned in sweatpants and a hoodie, lightly bumping Marinette as he passed.
“You said I could help, go sit!”
Marinette hauled herself onto the counter next to the sink, keeping her eyes on his.
“I can dry from here. Do you wanna listen to music, or do you wanna talk?”
“What were you singing when I came in?” he asked in lieu of answering. He didn’t look at her as they worked through the dishes, eyes trained on the soapy water.
“Oh I should probably check on the bao,” Marinette said eventually, glancing at the timer she had set.
“My mom’s recipe,” she said, grinning as she peeked inside the steamer, “hopefully they’ll be similar to when she makes them, but…” Marinette trailed off as she felt Adrien wrap his arms around her, hugging her from behind.
“Thank you,” he whispered, the words muffled by her hair.
Tears immediately sprang to the corners of Marinette’s eyes. Adrien’s voice was thick, and she could feel his shaky breaths as they ghosted down her neck. How could it have gotten this bad? Being roommates meat it was easier took look out for each other, but here he was, her kitty, her partner and best friend, crying over a small meal made with him in mind. Marinette rushed to pull the steamer off the burner before twisting in his hold, pulling him closer to her.
“Adrien, talk to me,” she pleaded quietly.
“I’m so tired of never being good enough for him,” he choked out, “I’ve- he’s been to every shoot and meeting this week, tearing into everything I say or do- e-even Nathalie asked, do you realize how bad it has to be for her to ask? S-she asked if it was necessary to k-keep treating me like… like that.”
Marinette rubbed circles into his back as he took a deep gasping breath. Not for the first time she wished she could take Adrien away from this life. Somewhere where he could be what he wanted, where he could even figure out what that might be, somewhere away from the looming building just a few streets away.
“I just… I just want to stop caring about his approval,” he said with a sniff. “I care like I’m still fourteen and it’s so dumb- I’m twenty three and I’m crying because Father isn’t proud of me? I’m so...”
“Don’t you finish that sentence,” Marinette whispered harshly. She tightened her grip on him, burying her face in his chest. “You’re not being childish Adrien. These things aren’t trivial, and you deserve better than being treated like they are.”
She pulled away from him enough to look up at his face, reaching up to wipe a few tears that lingered on his cheeks. Any other day the gesture might have made her blush, but the fierce love that poured through her overwhelmed every other feeling.
“Adrien, you deserve to be treated with kindness. You are a wonderful human being. You are a diligent worker, the best friend someone could have, and smart to boot. You make people laugh, you help as a first reaction, and most of all, you treat everyone you’ve ever encountered with the utmost compassion and respect,” Marinette said, holding his gaze.
They stared at each other for a moment before Adrien cracked a watery smile.
“You always know what to say,” he murmured resting his cheek on the top of her head, “thank you, my lady.”
“Of course, minou.”
If anyone had looked in to their small apartment, they would have had a hard time telling where one person ended and the other began. They stayed curled around one another until their dinner got cold and then some, soaking in the quiet peace of the other’s company. Eventually they broke apart, Adrien allowing himself to be sat on the couch with their favorite blanket while Marinette plated the bao.
In the flickering light of their T.V Marinette glanced over to Adrien. He ate slowly and passively, attention fixed on the movie before them. Once he finished, he leaned against her, and from the new angle Marinette swore she could see the faintest glimmer return to his eyes.