Marinette hummed as she worked on the hem of her latest creation. It had been a busy day, complete with an afternoon shoot held in one of the Le Grand Paris' ballrooms. Because Camile was running it, she'd specifically requested Marinette's attendance and scheduled it for after school. She and Aimee had started calling her Lucky Charm after the third shoot. Eventually they'd abbreviated the nickname to LC, which most people mistook for Elsie. It had quickly become how she was known to Adrien's coworkers. Today's shoot had gone fantastically, even wrapping up early. She'd come home inspired to work on her own designs.
She knotted off her thread and crawled back to get a better look at the dress. It was nearly complete, and she could already see how it was fulfilling her vision. She was startled to hear Adrien's obvious tread on the steps. It was late, a time he would usually come over as Chat, not Adrien. His father was also home this week, and that combined with the time couldn't possibly be a good thing.
She looked up as he topped her stairs, his unbuttoned coat and loose scarf flapping behind him. He had a newspaper rolled up in one hand, and a scowl on his face.
"What's the matter?" she asked, wondering if she should leap forward to hug him, or let him come to her.
He tossed her the newspaper, then threw his coat over one of her chairs before flopping onto the floor beside her. "You should look at it. It concerns you." His voice was low, and he wouldn't meet her eyes.
She unrolled the paper, pushing it flat. "Golden Boy Adrien Agreste, Off the Market!" the bold headline screamed. Underneath was a very large photo of the two of them holding hands and looking at each other with the dumb grins of the besotted.
She sighed. "It really was only a matter of time, Kitty. I knew that."
"Yeah, well, apparently my father has someone in marketing who spends all day monitoring social media and the news for any hint of the Gabriel corporation or the Agreste name." He gestured to the tabloid. "Father summoned me for a meeting this evening. I was stupidly hopeful that he was pleased about today's shoot, but it was actually to discuss that."
She knew he hadn't told his father that he was seeing someone. Given what Gabriel shared about his personal life, and his clear disinterest in Adrien's life, it didn't seem relevant, and he didn't want his father involved. "I'm so sorry." She pushed aside the paper and patted her thigh. "How bad was it."
Adrien heaved himself the last few inches to rest his head on her leg, one arm going around her waist and the other around the leg itself. "He'd talked to Camile first, confirming that you were the person she's been asking him to hire. You knew she was doing that, right?"
Marinette shook her head, surprised. Honestly, she was happy to do anything that gave her more time with Adrien.
He snorted. "She wants Elsie as a permanent fixture at my shoots. She's not normally superstitious, but… I'll be honest, things don't go nearly as wrong when you're there. I'm not sure if it's your positive attitude or if it's a Ladybug thing, but we are definitely luckier with you there, and she's got facts and statistics to back up her request." He let out a small sigh, relaxing as she moved one hand into his hair.
"It's a Ladybug thing," Marinette said. "Actually, a Ladybug and Chat Noir thing. We tend to balance each other out when we're together, making things go really smoothly."
"Of course he was furious to find that I'd discovered girls without notifying him," Adrien continued. "I didn't realize I was supposed to print up announcements or something."
Marinette grinned. "We could do that, if you want."
He smiled up at her. "I'd love to spite him that way, but this gets uglier."
"Oh." That was unfortunate. She didn't care what Gabriel Agreste thought of her. He'd lost his position as one of her heroes months back.
"He doesn't actually care that we're dating." She felt the hard swallow against her leg. "He doesn't think we're going to last anyway, so it's not his concern." He huffed. "But he wants it kept out of public sight, because I'm more appealing as a model if I'm single."
Marinette bent to kiss his forehead, her fingers continuing their path on his scalp. "Your father is like a loaf of bread made with expired yeast and extra leaveners that was left in the oven too long," she informed him. "He's failed to reach his potential greatness, and he's got an extra thick, unpalatable crust."
Adrien giggled, turning his face into her leg. "I love it when you call him names."
"He's an idiot, too," she scoffed. "We all know Chris Hemsworth is married, and it doesn't negatively impact his appeal. At all."
"He's too old for you," Adrien grumbled, fake pouting. They'd had this conversation before.
She patted his cheek before returning to his hair. "He's easy on the eyes, but I love you. You're way more graceful, and you have prettier eyes." She kissed his nose. "Is there something we need to do about this?" she asked.
He shook his head. "He'd like me to formally deny dating you, or for us to stage a breakup. He thinks it's a good test of your loyalty to me, to see if you'd be willing to put up with this kind of shit from him."
Marinette rolled her eyes. "Honestly, given his hyper-controlling tendencies, it sounds like he's trying to make you choose between him and me."
Adrien nodded. "That'd be stupid of him. I'm yours, there's no choice to be made." He rubbed at his face. "I don't want to do any of those things, not just because it's a pathetic attempt to control both of us, but also because I'm not going to change the way I treat you. I mean, no one we know would buy it anyway. Everyone thought we were dating before we actually were." His cheeks went rosy. "Your parents thought we were having sex, and we weren't doing anything other than mutually pine for each other."
She winked at him. "To be fair, we were sleeping together, and they caught us."
He pushed himself up. "Operative word, sleeping , completely free of any innuendo, Princess." He leaned in to lightly brush his face against her cheek. "And now that I get to call myself your boyfriend, seriously, that's my all time favorite title, I'm not going back."
"So you're going to defy him?" she asked. "How will that go over?" She was genuinely curious, trying to be careful to help him think this through without making the decision for him.
He let out a heavy sigh. "I'm expecting a bigger fight than the one we had tonight. I'm probably going to resort to threats, and I will fully go through with those if necessary."
A battle of wills with his father was probably long overdue, but she couldn't help but worry. "What are your threats? I should probably know."
"I'll stop modeling for him if he doesn't let go of this. I've been cooperative for years, and I'm good enough at it that I don't need him or a contract with Gabriel. I've been getting contacted by other lines and agencies for years." He let out a shaky breath. "I've done some research, and… I could move out. Declare myself independent. I could model on my own to pay for an apartment and stuff."
"And you're ready to do that if you need to?" Given how things had been going at the Agreste house, she figured the odds were pretty even that Adrien was going to need to make good on his threat.
He nodded. "I might need a place to stay while I find an apartment." He shrugged. "I could stay at a hotel..."
Marinette stopped his babbling with one finger over his lips. "Get comfortable. I think this might be a good time for you to talk to Papa."
Fortunately, her father was still awake, though he was in bed when she knocked on her parents' door. He was true to his promise, and willingly got up to help Adrien with a problem that she'd left vague. While he headed up to her room, she made some hot cocoa. She took her time, giving her father a chance to do what he did so well. Last spring Adrien spent a weekend shadowing her father as research for a report on role models. Something happened during that time that made it clear that Adrien was welcome back, with or without Marinette. She sometimes woke up to find him working with her father, learning about bread or cakes, or she came home from a fabric run to find him enjoying tea and cookies with her mother, practicing their Mandarin.
She walked slowly up the steps, careful not to slosh her mugs too much. It wasn't a huge surprise to see her father hugging her boyfriend, but it quickly became clear this wasn't a quick bit of affection. "It's okay, son," Papa said, his hand resting on the back of Adrien's head. "I know this is all very upsetting, and it's a raw deal that you don't deserve. But you're loved, okay? You know that, right?"
She watched Adrien nod his head against her father's shoulder.
"And you are always welcome here. You're family, you and that sassy cat of yours."
Adrien let out a muffled chuckle, stepping back. "Thanks."
"Oops!" Marinette threw her arms around him from behind. "Sneak attack hug."
"You guys have your cocoa and try to get some sleep," her father said. "I recommend extensive cuddling, sweetie," he told her.
"Glad to," she promised. "Do you want your cocoa, too?" She gestured to the three mugs.
Papa shook his head. "Tikki can have mine. I know cookies are her mainstay, but cocoa goes down a treat now and then, too."
"Thanks Papa," she said, beaming at him. "Goodnight."
She let go of Adrien so she could hand him his drink. It was his favorite, a Ladybug mug that her mom had bought just for him. "Here. Have some of this, then you can change. I hope you were planning on staying over."
He snorted, sitting on the chaise. "I have no interest in going back there tonight." He took a long sip of his cocoa. "Dad thinks I need to get away from my father's control and negativity as soon as I can, even if this fight blows over... He's got good arguments that I can't refute."
She smiled and settled beside him, slipping her arm around his waist. "Papa's pretty logical, and I completely agree. I want you to be as happy as you can be, and that's not happening for you there."
He nodded. "I...I'm not sure how you feel about this, and you can totally veto it if you want, but he invited me to move in with you guys. He said I could have the spare room, or share with you if that's what we preferred." His focus flitted around the room, like he was afraid of what he'd see if he looked at her.
"Would you be comfortable here?" she asked.
"Yeah." His expression turned shy. "It feels like home."
"It is," she agreed. "And it can be yours, too." She leaned against him. "Just like me."
Cradling his mug in both hands, he looked at her. "You're what?"
"Yours." She kissed the end of his nose. "Forever."