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When Prince T’Challa is born an Omega, the tribes of the planes of Wakanda celebrate for a week. The Jabari send a gift for the Golden Tribe’s heir, the first in two hundred years, because the young prince is the first blessed of Bast born to the royal line in all that time. He likes his rattle of sacred wood, and his toy shield, and the blanket made of the softest fleece.

T’Challa grows up happy, protected and bright, like an Omega should. He also takes up his warrior training in earnest, far beyond what a King needs to know for self-defense.

When T’Chaka lays down the mantle of the Black Panther, he sternly forbids his twenty-year-old son from competing in the ritual tournament. Only Princess Shuri, five years old and more stubborn than alphas twice her age, cheers when he takes off his mask in front of the entire country, victorious.

His hand is sought after, but he never takes up a serious courtship despite his parent’s gentle hints, and his sister’s continued teasing.

His father’s hopes were on W’Kabi, T’Challa’s best friend, a beta and heir of the Border Tribe, and he would have considered it, were the growing love between W'Kabi and Okoye not plain for all to see. His mother had placed her bets on Nakia, the Omega daughter of the River Tribe chief who trained with the Dora Milaje, and T’Challa did nurse a crush on her for a while, but it was entirely unreciprocated.

In his heart, he is certain that he will know his mate when he sees them.

Foreigners don’t respect Omegas, not really, despite what the westerners all like to claim. For his father’s and Okoye’s peace of mind, T’Challa goes on blockers for the conference. It’s an intramuscular depot shot that will hide his status for a month, because there are diplomatic visits planned for after the conference. His status is a secret kept by an entire nation, and no matter how the foreign reporters hassle their staff, they never get an answer.

Zemo happens. He holds his father dead in his arms, and feels a rage unlike any he has ever known. The Avengers happen, too. T’Challa finds back to his own heart before he becomes like the man that he hates. He brings his father home, comforts his mother and holds his little sister at the funeral. He haggles and outright pleads with Okoye, and bribes Shuri with a promise of two new satellites when he is King, and helps Steve Rogers out of a tight spot. They put the broken white boy on ice and Shuri cracks her knuckles.

He does not need long to convince Okoye to bring Nakia home. His General is an Alpha, and as calm and controlled as she might be, she cannot completely suppress the protective streak. Wakandans guard their Omegas jealously, not that anyone ever managed to hold Nakia back. When he sees Nakia, he hugs her immediately, then uses his suit to shelter her from the last soldier’s bullets before Okoye does the rest.

Nakia holds his hand in comfort on the airship, and they catch up. Mateship is not even something she has seriously considered yet, and she deals with her short, unmated heats through suppressants. T’Challa will have to take the matter more seriously once he is king. Starting tomorrow.

A part of T’Challa desperately yearns for the true mateship that his parents had. It’s common in Wakanda to find one’s true mate, or mates. Theirs is a relatively small country, blessed by Bast and the ancestors. It is one of the priest’s most sacred duties to help every Wakandan find their matches. Shuri and Ayo have a bet running on when his mother will trap him into afternoon tea with Zuri.

T’Challa meets his mate on the day of his coronation. That is the good news. The bad news is threefold. First, his mate is M’Baku, chief of the Jabari, who openly declares his disdain for T’Challa, his little sister, their ways, and everything they stand for. T’Challa freezes entirely when he sees him, before he manages to accept the challenge. Second, the blockers are still very much in his system, so his mate absolutely does not recognize him. Which leads to third, his mate tries to kill him at their first meeting. He stabs T’Challa in the chest. It really happens. Maybe this is his punishment for not protecting his father better.

He puts his Alpha into a chokehold over the edge of Warrior Falls and all but begs him to yield. M’Baku does, and leaves, and T’Challa becomes king, and everyone is too busy celebrating to notice that their King is lost in thought.

Klaue appears, T’Challa makes W’Kabi a promise, and Shuri asks if he is alright.

He almost kills Klaue. Everett Ross is a very rare, reasonable American. His Omega status is the only reason Okoye does not impale him on that desk over there. The wall explodes, and Ross takes a bullet for Nakia, and T’Challa runs outside. He freezes.

It can’t be.

His mate is back in Wakanda, safe. But something about the stranger’s eyes behind the mask hits him straight in the chest. And then there is the ring.

Again, the bad news come threefold. First, his mate tries to shoot him upon their first meeting, and he works for Klaue. Second, T’Challa’s promise to W’Kabi is broken, as well as Zuri’s silence. And finally, third, his mate has every reason to hate T’Challa and his family. And he does.

T’Challa holds Zuri dead in his arms, and is grateful for the blockers in his system. At least N’Jadaka really does not know what he does, at least M’Baku will not know what he lost. Shuri screams, his mother screams, and his Alpha throws him over the edge of Warrior Falls.

“You were wrong. All of you were wrong!” The tears that run down his face don’t feel like a dream. “I cannot stay here. I have to go back.”

His family is around him as he jerks back into life, and he loses himself in their embrace for a long moment. Then his eyes are drawn up, and his heart skips a beat.

You saved me.

He could reveal the truth to M’Baku now. It would secure the Jabari’s support, it would obligate M’Baku to help him. Somewhere in Birnin Zana, N’Jadaka is burning with enough hatred to set a whole world on fire, and it’s T’Challa’s duty to prevent it at all costs. But the idea to force M’Baku to fight for him, to force his Alphas to fight each other, sickens him to the core. He cannot do it. It has to be M’Baku’s choice.

M’Baku grants his mother asylum and then narrows his eyes at him.

“Why do you look at me like that?”

T’Challa gives him a faint smile and withholds an answer.

The battle of mount Bashenga is brutal. They win, with costs. T’Challa stabs his Alpha in the chest, and brings him up from the mines as the sun sets.

“Death is better than bondage,” N’Jadaka says and reaches for the blade in his chest.

T’Challa prevents him with a growl.

“You will not die today.”

His mate looks at T’Challa, confused, questioning. T’Challa carries him to the nearest talon airship and brings him to Birnin Zana, and with all authority that he has, orders the healers to do everything. Then he goes to Shuri.

“No.”

“Sister, please. He is our cousin. We cannot fail him again.”

“He threw you-” she chokes and grabs his hand, tight. “He killed you. I watched him kill you. You cannot ask me to do this.”

T’Challa sinks to his knees before her. “Please.” He collects his voice, and says it.

“He is my mate.”

Shuri is quiet for a long moment, then she tugs on his hand.

“Come on.”

N’Jadaka lives. The hospital is filled over capacity, something that has never happened in Wakanda before. T’Challa makes notes and amends to contingency plans, because this cannot happen again. No one but Zuri was killed, though. It turns out that Wakandans will fight, but are hesitant to kill their own.

There are only four Jabari warriors in serious need of treatment, and T’Challa visits each of them personally. It’s how he finds M’Baku, unimpressed by the holograms as he listens to the physician’s explanations about his people’s health. T’Challa keeps in the background until they are done.

“The people of Wakanda owe the Jabari a great debt.”

M’Baku grunts, and then freezes, turns a corner and walks rapidly. T’Challa is startled, until he realizes that he knows whose room is at the end of this hallway.

“Let him through,” He says to the Dora Milaje that guard the door with crossed spears, and hopes his voice sounds somehow normal.

N’Jadaka breathes heavily, sitting up in his bed, clutching his wound, as he stares at the door. M’Baku is at his side in an instant, foreheads pressed together, as they embrace each other.

One, one long look, forever imprinted into his mind, is all that T’Challa permits himself, before he turns and leaves.