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Making the Difference

Chapter Text

Shuri looked into the eyes of the black panther above the doors to the throne room. This was not how she had wanted things to be. She'd agonized over it, prayed to Bast to know what the right thing to do was, but she knew. She knew. So here she was, waiting her turn to see if the doors would open for her. If Bast agreed that what she said needed to be heard by the King.

Taking a deep breath, she extended her hands. The doors opened smoothly, revealing the room and the throne at the back, where her brother was sitting.

His surprise was obvious, and she had expected it. They were close enough that any issues she had should have been possible to bring before him in person, instead of addressing them publicly. This, however, was not something that could be done in person. Should Bast agree with her, it would have consequences for the entire country of Wakanda.

"Speak your name and your issue," T'Challa spoke the ritual words, masking his curiosity well.

Another deep breath, and Shuri was looking up at him, and at the black panther statue behind him. "I am Princess Shuri of Wakanda. And I posit that the King is temporarily unfit due to personal trauma."

The room was so silent one could have heard a panther walk. She knew it was a serious accusation. Should Bast decide against her, she would be arrested for treason and either be put through a potentially lethal trial or banished. After considering it for a long time, she had decided she would take it. If the way things were, if the way her brother had gone about things was the right way, she wasn't sure she could still agree and retain her respect for him.

All eyes were on the statue behind the throne. Something like this, their goddess would decide.

Vibranium eyes glowed silver, standing out clearly from the black around them.

The room descended into chaos.

XXX

T'Challa paced through his rooms, mind running. Why had Shuri done what she did? Why had Bast agreed with her?

After promising that she would be there to talk to him soon, she had requested that he allow the Dora Milaje to escort him back to his rooms, where it was implied that he would stay until she arrived.

Tempting though it was to leave, to argue against it, it had been beyond clear. Bast had agreed. It was what stayed his hand, what had him waiting for his sister so he could ask why she would think him impaired. He had been before, but surely he had proven that it had been only temporary?

It seemed like it had been hours before Shuri finally arrived, but most likely not more than one hour had passed. She appeared composed, serious, but he could still see the affection in her eyes.

"Shuri, why...?" He couldn't articulate it further, unsure as to how he could finish that sentence to encompass everything.

"Because your judgment has been severely impaired ever since..." She swallowed. As composed as she was, he knew her tells. "Since father died. Had it merely been about you, about us, even, I would have let it go, merely advised you to see a therapist. But this is about the well-being of our country as well, perhaps even more than that. And that, I cannot allow."

"I will allow that I wasn't thinking clearly in the beginning, but in the end - "

She cut him off. "In the end, you compounded on those mistakes by offering sanctuary to Sergeant Barnes and, by extension, Rogers and the rest of his... friends."

Frowning, he considered her statement. "That... was not a mistake, though. I owed Sergeant Barnes a debt, for trying to kill him when he was innocent of the murder of our father. You must realize I had to make amends... Father would have wanted me to make amends. He would have been ashamed of my actions."

Shuri remained quiet, clearly considering her next statement. T'Challa remained carefully still as a shiver went up his back. He knew his sister, and she was at her most dangerous when she went still and considering.

"You owed him amends, I can agree on that. The way you went about it..."

"I tried to kill an innocent man, Shuri."

"No, you didn't. You tried to kill a man who was innocent of the murder of our father. That is not the same thing."

"Shuri..." She didn't understand. Before he could explain, however, she spoke up again.

"The world does not revolve around you, brother." Her voice was not cold, but it was more than obvious she was not impressed with him.

Years of training kept him from straightening up in offense. The only tell he had left was the narrowing of his eyes, and he had no doubt she caught it. "I never assumed it was," he replied sharply.

"And yet, you act like it." She did not wait for his response, no doubt knowing it would not be much more than a variation of 'how?'. "Father's death is not the only one that matters. Hundreds of fathers have lost their lives to the hands of Sergeant Barnes. You deny each of their family members even a fraction of the justice you sought out eagerly for the death of our own father by sheltering him here."

"You cannot be blaming him for what he did as the Winter Soldier." Barnes had not even been in control of his own mind, let alone his actions.

Rather than the dawning understanding he'd half expected, Shuri huffed. "Do not delude yourself. The only reason Barnes did not kill our father was the fact that Zemo did not know where to find him. He proved clearly that he could control Barnes if he wished to, and he could have just as easily ordered him to actually place the bomb. Did it lessen your grief any, hearing Romanoff tell you he was most likely not in control of his own mind? Did it change the fact that our father was still dead? Did it reduce your urge to go after him for our father's murder?"

"And as we have already established, I was wrong to go after him like that."

"I'm not talking about your actions. I'm talking about your feelings." That silenced him. "Every one of the people out there, you are denying them justice for what has been done. You were strong enough to go after it yourself, wrong though it was. Those people out there? They can't. They have the justice system, which is how these things should be dealt with. But you are now using your strength to keep Barnes out of that system."

"It's not the Winter Soldier they should go after for justice." He may not have realized it at that time, but with the benefit of hindsight and a clearer mind, he knew it wasn't Barnes' fault.

"Then you should have let the justice system decide that. They aren't unfair. They will take into account his circumstances."

"He deserves peace, Shuri. He's been a prisoner of war for years, forced to do horrible things he had no control over, and when he finally escaped, someone framed him for a crime and he was hunted by half the world, myself included. I owe him that peace."

"You are not listening." It was as close to a snarl as she'd likely allow herself to get. "Let me make several things very clear to you, brother. First, yes, you did wrong by Sergeant Barnes. I'll not deny that. But what you owed him wasn't hiding him away from the entire world, back to sleep. Realistically, what you owed him was good lawyers to plead his case. What you owed him was research into a treatment that would remove the triggers from his mind. If you wanted to go relatively extreme, you could have even sent him along some of the Dora Milaje, to protect him from the world and to protect the world from him. That is what you owed him.

"He has no peace as he is. Safety, yes, but not peace. His situation in this world has only become more precarious, and you're doing nothing to change that at the moment.

"Second, that was not the Winter Soldier. Not Bucharest, not later on at the airport in Leipzig either. That was Barnes, either consciously making the decision not to turn himself in for due process or unable to make proper decisions due to trauma, which he needed help for, not to be hidden away.

"Third, if you want to talk about owing, what is it you owe to the people in Bucharest? What is it you owe to the families of the two fathers whose deaths you were directly involved with when you tried to chase someone down for the death of your own? What is it you owe to the families of the three other people whose deaths you were involved with? To everyone who got hurt?

"Fourth, what is it you owe to Colonel Rhodes, who got injured as a consequence of trying to take in the criminals you are now hiding away? What is it you owe to Tony Stark, who you left in Siberia, injured and alone?

"Fifth, and finally, what is it you owe to your country? The country you are now a King of, the people you are now responsible for? You would have us go to war, risk the lives of your people, to shelter a group of criminals."

It felt as though the ground was slipping away from underneath him. He grasped desperately for an argument, anything so the situation would start making sense again. He had been trying to do the right thing. "They were trying to defend an innocent man, Shuri." It did not even come close to being enough to negate all of it, and from her unimpressed look, his sister agreed.

"Let us ignore the absolutely ridiculous way they went about that, causing damages, hurting and killing people to... what, prove one man's innocence? Keep him from being arrested? Let us ignore that. His innocence with regards to the bombing had not been proven at that time, so unless they were also withholding evidence regarding his innocence, the only proof they had was the word of a mentally unstable murderer. Not to mention that, again, the world does not start and end with the bombing of the UN, despite how it might feel for us. The Winter Soldier committed over two dozen confirmed assassinations, not to mention the amount of unconfirmed ones that he is suspected of."

"But he was not in control of his own mind then!"

"And any court would recognize that!" she argued back instantly. "That does not change the fact that the murders were committed, and that it were his hands that carried them out. Not for the victims and, if he is the kind of man I think he is underneath it all, not for him either."

T'Challa swallowed. The rest of it would require some long thought and reviewing, overwhelmed as he was by her vehement arguments. But he could not deny that she was right that knowing he had likely been brainwashed had not taken away his pain at the death of his father. Denying others that same pain would be unfair, as much as he wanted to keep arguing.

More than anything, he needed to consider if she was right, or if her arguments were merely put together in a way that made it difficult to argue directly. He could not forget that, as much as he thought he was in the right, Bast had agreed with Shuri.

"What will you do now?" He tried to sound composed, but he knew she'd probably be able to tell how lost he felt.

"Now, I will make things right. The so-called 'rogue Avengers' will be sent back, to be put in a prison legitimately. I will also wake up Sergeant Barnes to inform him of what will happen, after which he will also be sent away. Do not worry," she said, upon seeing his face, "I do not do this lightly. After some discussion, both a legal team and psychological help has been found for him, and I have selected a small contingent of Dora Milaje that will be joining him for the safety of all involved. I will not have your honor tainted by this."

Then why did it feel like it had been? "And the others?"

"We have no obligation towards the others. I have assured that their imprisonment this time would be legal, not into Ross' neatly-hidden facility, and that is where my duties end."

"I have heard of Miss Maximoff's state in the RAFT..."

"She will still wear a power-suppression collar. Some discussion between myself and Dr. Stark has ensured that we now have a version that will not leave her unable to feel her powers, which will hopefully keep her from trying to harm herself as she did before. The rest is up to her."

After assuring him she had been in touch with the owners of the technology used by the rogue Avengers, and that she would return their properties as due, she left him with one final statement. "I will not have the rest of the world have the impression that we only believe crimes matter when they are committed against people who have influence, or against the relations of those. I will not have Wakanda give the impression that any crimes committed by people who have influence, or those who are connected to them, should not have any consequences. If you will not stand up for those victims you did not know personally, if Rogers will not, then I will."

Had he really messed this up so badly?