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A Study in Belonging

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“I have to go,” T’Challa says one morning, two weeks into this new, beautiful, fragile thing that Toni’s tentatively dubbing a relationship. “I have neglected my people and my duty for too long.”

Toni freezes, her mug of coffee halfway to her mouth. T’Challa’s voice is even, his eyes firmly fixed on the pancakes he’s making, and she feels her stomach drop somewhere to the vicinity of her ankles. She’d known this was coming, really, but somewhere between marathoning Star Trek and a ridiculous amount of cuddling, she’d forgotten to brace herself for it.

Everyone leaves.

“Oh,” she says, calm, calm, carefully controlled. “Yeah, of course. I get it.” Toni sets her mug down on the counter, can’t resist the urge to fiddle with the handle. “Duty first and all that jazz.”

T’Challa has turned to look at her, a slight frown marring his gorgeous features. “Yes,” he says slowly.

“I guess I’ll see you around then, huh?” She smiles, cute and sparkling like she does for the press. “You can drop by next time you’re in New York. Or not, I mean, I don’t want to make it awkward.” Fuck, listen to her, so clingy.T’Challa just stares, and Toni mentally berates herself. She already blew it with the best man to ever enter her life and now here she is, making it awkward between them and fuck this is probably why he’s leaving, she’s desperate and pathetic on top of alcoholic and chronically incapable of not acting like a complete asshole-

“I do not think you do understand, katana,” and Toni can’t contain her flinch at the endearment because how dare he, how dare he fling that nickname at her, how dare she still feel hurt at it.

When she opens her eyes again, T’Challa is standing in front of her, each of her hands clasped between hers and his eyes wide in what looks like alarm. “I am not leaving you,” he says, rushed and frantic like he never is, and Toni frowns.

“You literally just said that you are,” she says flatly.

T’Challa shakes his head. “No, katana, I meant- I have to return to Wakanda. And I would like you to come with me.”

Toni blinks, blinks again, looks down at her hands, small and pale in his, looks up at him. “So… you’re not breaking up with me?”

“No! No, of course not!” T’Challa looks horrified at the very idea, and that calms Toni more than anything else. Her heart stops throwing itself against her rib cage and she takes a deep breath, calms the terrified creature inside of her.

“Oh. Okay.” She mentally rewinds their conversation with this new, shocking, information in mind. “Wait, you want me to come to Wakanda? The country that is infamous for valuing their privacy so much that they rarely, if ever, allow foreigners in?”

“Yes.”

Toni meets T’Challa’s steady gaze and slowly smiles. “Yeah, alright then.” T’Challa beams back, obviously delighted. “I’ll come to Wakanda with you.”