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Tongue-tied & White Lie Addicted

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And now I'm feeling like I've got a sickness
Tongue-tied and white lie addicted
I don't wanna stop for a minute
No I'm never gonna give you up

Heavy POWERS


 

By the time T’Challa and Nakia’s wedding rolled around, they’d been together for a little over four months.

 

Not much had changed; Bucky still spent most of his off days at home, tending to the goats and crops in his yard. Isinye was pregnant again, though he really had no idea how. As far as he was aware she hadn’t snuck out of her pen unless it was at night when he was asleep or otherwise occupied; the nearest male goat was an hour’s walk away and he couldn’t believe his mild mannered, sweet mama goat would walk that far just to get laid.

 

“I would,” Shuri had said, perched atop him with nothing on but one of his shirts, her hair down and around her shoulders, her eyes twinkling with mischief. “I would so walk an hour to get laid.”

 

“Good thing you’ve got a car, huh? Cause it’d take you a lot longer than a hour to walk from the palace.”

 

“Mmmm well. Maybe not from that far. My vibrator does me pretty good when you’re not around-”

 

“You’ve got a vibrator?” he asked, a little offended she hadn't told him. She shrugged, the neckline of his shirt falling from her shoulder, exposing more of her soft dark skin. He leaned up to nibble a little of it and smiled against her skin when she sighed.

 

He liked doing that, learning all the little ticks and touches that set her off. It was half the fun of making love to her. And she was so uninhibited around him. He was glad he lived in the country, away from nosy ears and prying eyes because she could moan and scream as loudly as she wanted. There was nothing like waking up with her warm body beside him, rolling over and kissing her awake, and taking her slowly and fully until she was chanting his name, or whatever sounded like it.

 

It was nearly as good as when she walked around the cabin in nothing but one of his shirts or a pair of her underwear.

 

“Yes, I have three . You don’t think I spent all that time before you not getting off, do you?” He shook his head and laughed, tickling her sides until she gasped for mercy, tears in her eyes.

 

“I’m just a little pissed you ain’t bring one with you. I wanna watch.”

 

Shuri raised her brow at that, the beginnings of a smirk creeping across her face. That only meant she had something she was concocting in that beautiful mind of hers, something devious and probably really delicious. He’d already told her he was down for a little pegging if she was, but so far she hadn’t taken him up on the offer.

 

She did ask about other things though. Asphyxiation, mostly. Spanking. Ties and rope and chains and handcuffs.

 

“You watch too much of that porn shit,” he’d grumble but she was serious, looking at him with dark, wanting eyes.

 

“I don’t watch the kind you’re thinking of,” she corrected, rolling her eyes and huffing on the cot. “I like my porn classy and sensual.” But she’d left it alone for a while; a part of him was relieved but the other part, the dark part of him, could almost imagine the kinds of things he could do to her. ( His metal hand around her throat just so, his other holding her down, his hips pushing him inside her hard and deep as he explicitly refuses her the permission to come…)

 

But she wasn’t ready for that. He wasn’t ready for that, not with her. No matter how much she trusted him (and she did, so much, much more than she had any right to) he couldn’t bring himself to hurt her in any way, even if she liked it. Instead, he kept his love making to mostly sweet and occasionally a little teasing, passionate, loving. Bucky knew it frustrated her that he wouldn’t let loose, but she had no idea what she was getting if he really did.

 

He did. He had done it before, at Hydra’s behest, when he’d needed to seduce instead of assassinate. He had a memory of red hair and pouty lips and bright eyes and he wondered if Nat still thought about that night now. He rarely did, but there were times it crossed his mind and the bruises and bite marks he’d left on her convinced him that doing that to Shuri would not be a good idea.

 

God, she’d look so damn good with his hickies all over her chest and thighs, though…

 

“Hey, you’re spacing out again,” Shuri said, patting his cheek gently. He blinked and sighed, offering her a half hearted smile. She stroked his jaw and looked at him curiously. “Are you okay?”

 

Bucky nodded. He was. He had a nasty habit of getting lost in his own head at times, even with the prettiest woman in the world on his lap. “I’m fine. I was just…”

 

“It’s alright,” she said, kissing him on the lips softly. “It wasn’t really anything important. I was just asking what you’d planned to wear to the wedding.”

 

Huh. He hadn’t thought about that. “I thought I couldn’t go to the wedding?”

 

“Well, no, not the ceremony,” she explained, probably for the fifth time. “That’s just for family and the council; it’s super formal, really traditional. You wouldn’t like it anyway.”

 

“So what am I coming to?”

 

“The dinner and the reception after,” she said with a smile. “The fun part. Well, some of the fun part. Celebrations last a whole week, you know. And you can come to all of that too, if you wanna stay in the city for a few days.” She waggles her brows and leans in close to him, lips to his ear. “Close to me. I’ll see if I can get you a room in the royal suite and…”

 

He laughed, wrapping her in his arms and peppering kisses along her neck. “Ain’t no way I’m doing anything with you in that palace besides holdin’ hands when I can get away with it.”

 

Shuri pouted, eyes narrowed in abject defiance. “Oh, bet?” She pushed him down into the cot and ground her hips against his already hard cock. “Tell me you can go a week without this with a straight face.”

 

That wasn’t fair and she knew it, because while he would swear out loud that he could, he knew he probably couldn’t. Not when she was so close, and he could touch her baring a little sneaking and some carefully timed bedtimes.

 

The idea of sneaking around the palace, slipping unseen into her bedroom at night and bringing her to ecstasy over and over while she had to remain quiet sent a thrill through him and he grinned. “Nah, sweet baby, I’m not gonna bet you that. But I’ll bet you can’t keep your mouth shut when I slip under those fancy sheets of yours.”

 

That had her mouth open and sheer amusement all over her pretty face and it was with the voracity of a starving man did Shuri attack him with kisses.

 


 

As it turned out, he would have to go a week or more without a taste of her. It wasn’t the hardest thing he’d ever done by a long shot, though it was, for the most part, difficult. His room was on the other end of the palace, so no sneaking out for late night liaisons, though he got a couple of kisses and nibbles in dark secluded corners.

 

And there was that time in her lab, after one of the celebrations hosted by Nakia’s home tribe, but that was a quickie and Bucky would have rather had her the way he always did-bare, slow, and thorough. It really only left him wanting, though he understood they had to be extra careful in the city proper.

 

Somehow, over the course of four months, Shuri had convinced her brother and mother she didn’t need the extra three Dora Milaje trailing her on any excursions outside the safety of the lab or the palace. All she needed was her personal detail, her brooding, dark, serious bodyguard. And after some consideration and a very, very, intense discussion between T’Challa, Ramonda, and Okoye, they’d relented. Bucky would be the sole guardian of her well being and protection except in cases of overseas trips and whenever Wakanda had foreign visitors, barring Steve or any of the Avengers.

 

Besides, the other Dora would be needed to protect the soon to be Queen Nakia. Shuri would be perfectly safe in her home country with Bucky at her side.

 

A little part of him, the insecure and unworthy and negative side of him that he hid from her thought that maybe she wouldn’t be so safe with him alone. He could destroy her if he wasn’t careful, and that was a thought he was cognizant of at all times.

 

And so, while they had more time to themselves in the lab than anywhere else, he didn’t risk doing anything that would seem untoward just in case anyone popped up unannounced. He kept his distance respectful though friendly, the way he would no matter who was watching. It was a deliberate attempt to prepare himself for the reception, where he’d only really catch glimpses of her across the large ballroom. They couldn’t afford to look like anything but what everyone thought they were; bodyguard and princess, friends.

 

Even if he wanted to slide his hands along her waist and kiss her senseless in public, to show everyone he was hers and hers alone, he couldn't. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to. The very thought of that sobered him whenever his passions ran high, when she stood across from him and explained how something worked, or when she enthusiastically displayed her vast intelligence.

 

That was a turn on in of itself.

 

He loved to hear her talk and watch her demo all her latest gadgets. He had a front row seat to the newest and latest improvements in Wakandan tech, got to see what she had planned for the Black Panther’s suit before even T’Challa, and marvelled at how simple she made engineering and biochemistry and physics sound. Her wit and charm was only rivalled by her sheer genius, and he counted himself lucky to even know her, much less get the chance to love her.

 

He loved her so much it was physically painful at times, but the pain was so worth it. If love was pain, he could suffer it for her. Only for her.

 

“So I was thinking,” she said, snapping him out of, yet again, another one of his reveries. “For the dinner and reception? What if I brought someone with me?”

 

He frowned. “What’dya mean?”

 

Shuri toyed with one of her sleeves and glanced away from him nervously. “You know. Like. A date?”

 

“A date?”

 

“Yeah. I mean...I always go to stuff like this alone. Which is...sort of what I had planned already, you know, but…” She shrugs. “People talk. Especially about me, cause I’m single.” She made quotation marks with her fingers, and offered him a little smile. “But this is my brother’s wedding and I’m kind of tired of the whispers about why I never bring anyone to anything.”

 

She pushed away from her computer and went to where he stood, mindful of the open space they’re in and how careful they must be. But it seemed she couldn’t help but to slide her hands under his shirt and he sucked in a slow, deep breath, closing his eyes for just a moment when she leaned up and kissed him under his chin.

 

“I wish I could take you,” she murmurs, sounding so damned sad about it that he wants to tell her that she can, fuck whoever says she can’t. But he can’t do that.

 

“I know, sugar,” he says in a low voice, enough so that only she can hear. “I wish you could, too.”

 

“So I was thinking maybe I could bring a friend of mine? Just a friend, that’s it. He’s not...you know, into me like that.”

 

Bucky raises a brow at that declaration, but lets her continue.

 

“He’d escort me to the reception ball, maybe dance around with me a little bit, that kind of thing. And he’d run off to his own machinations more than likely. And I’d still get to see you and even dance with you if you wanted.” She reached up and grasped some of his hair between her fingers. “You’ve been using the oil I left you, haven’t you?”

 

“Huh uh. Faithfully. We’re not talkin’ bout my hair, though.”

 

Shuri sighed and pulled away, though she let her hands trail along his chest and down to his own. He held them tight for a long second, feeling the loss of her fingertips acutely. “No, we’re not. Look, I’m only running the idea by you. D’wobe owes me a favor, and I thought...you know, it would keep the focus off us just in case-”

 

“In case I can’t keep my hands off ya?” he asked, trying to keep the conversation light. She snickered a little at that, but the smile didn’t quite reach her eyes and he frowned at the thought that he’s made her upset.

 

“Doll.”

 

“It’s fine. I can go alone.” She shrugged as if it was nothing, but he knew it weighed on her heavily. He couldn’t imagine the gossip that came with being royalty, especially concerning her love life.

 

“No. Look at me,” he implored her, and when she turned he kept his face open and his body language loose. “You can take your friend with you. I know you’re mine. You are mine, right?” She said nothing to that, only looked down at the floor, and he knew how worried she really is about what people would think. He’s been worried about the same too, about how her family would react.

 

Would T’Challa think Bucky had abused his kindness by creeping around with his baby sister?

 

He hates how it all comes down to that, how every little stolen kiss and secret sigh is because of what everyone else will think. He hates it.

 

Bucky tugged her to him and dared to wrap her tight in his arms, tilting her chin up so she has to look at him. “Look at me, sugar,” he said, in the softest voice he can manage. He didn’t want her thinking he was upset with her in anyway. “I don’t mind. If it means I get to see you at all that day, then so be it. It’s what we’ll do. Tell your friend you’ve got an American boyfriend you don’t want anyone knowin’ about just yet.” He gave her a crooked half grin and stroked her cheek. “I mean, you ain’t gotta tell him it’s me-”

 

She snorted, this one a little more genuine in humor, and he could feel the heaviness in his heart ease up just a little. “Fine. I’ll ask him. But nothing is going to happen, Buck.”

 

He nodded. “I know.”

 

“I’m yours.”

 

He traced her bottom lip with his thumb and she darts out her tongue to taste the salt on his fingertip. It took all his self control not to haul her up onto that computer desk and take her right there.

 

“I know.”

 


The next few days go by smoothly; there’s a party almost every night in celebration for the king’s nuptials. The closer he gets to the actual wedding and reception, the less he sees of Shuri.

 

But he’s got other stuff to look forward to. Steve comes in that night, before the reception, Sam in tow. It’s nice to see faces from back home and he greets the two men heartedly.

 

“You’re looking good, Buck,” Steve says with the most sincere of smiles on his face. Bucky laughs and hugs Steve tight.

 

“Eh, not too bad for an old man, yeah?”

 

“I mean, if you call being a centenarian old, yeah,” Sam threw in, but his laugh was warming and Bucky reached out to hug him as well. “You do look good, though man. What these Wakandans got you eating? Shit, skin is looking good too. It’s them good butters, ain’t it?”

 

He winks. “Butters and fresh food. No preservatives in nothing around here. You know, you really could stand to take a few years off yourself, Sam. Come stay out at the cabin with me a few weeks, tend to the goats.”

 

Sam’s laugh is raucous as they walk out the airport and toward the car. Shuri had allowed him to borrow hers to pick the two up, as T’Challa wouldn’t be available to greet their guests until much later in the evening. And they’d taken commercial air instead of a quinjet. Apparently, the one Steve usually used was being used by Nat for a mission.

 

“She sends her regards, Buck,” Steve said softly, so only he could hear. He knew Steve meant for it to be more than just a hello, and Bucky hadn’t known how to tell him he wasn’t interested. Whatever had passed between he and Natasha had dimmed out ages ago. He’d always have a soft spot for her and considered her one of his dearest friends now, but that was it.

 

His heart belonged to one woman and one alone, and she was currently doing last minute fittings for her reception dress. She had text him (on his new smart phone she insisted he got) and showed him a sneak peak, a close up of what looked like beading and champagne fabric. He couldn’t wait to see it, as it was all she’d talked about the day before. And he couldn’t wait for her to see his new suit, especially crafted for the wedding festivities by T’Challa’s own tailor.

 

Pressing the remote to the car, he heard Sam’s whistle in the background, and turned to find his friend eying the vehicle appreciatively. “My man...where did you get this? This one of those Wakanda specials?”

 

He laughed, but nodded, helping them load their luggage into the truck. “Yeah...probably won’t be selling these in the States anytime soon, but I’m sure if you ask, you may could snag one. You know Shuri likes you.”

 

Sam’s face lit up at the mention of the princess.

 

“Man, I love that kid. She’s something else. Can you imagine designing a whole super suit at 16? A car would be too much for me.”

 

Steve shrugged. “I don’t know, Sam, I think you could handle it. You’re definitely smart-”

 

“I never said I wasn’t,” Sam corrected, and Bucky snorted out a laugh. “I’m saying I’m not on baby girl’s level. She’s out of this world.” Steve just nods in agreement, amusement dancing all over his handsome features.

 

“But no, really. This is a nice car. Is it yours?” Bucky turned to glance at Sam in the back seat and shakes his head.

 

“Nah, I don’t own a car. It’s Shuri’s.”

 

Sam and Steve shared a look that made him a little nervous. “Uh, you mean she let you drive her personal vehicle?” Steve asked, raising a brow. And all Bucky can do is nod, because there’s no real reason he should feel so odd about admitting that. Friends let friends borrow each other’s cars, right?

 

“I mean, she’s busy. So she uh, she couldn’t come with. I mean, she usually drives-”

 

“She drives you around, dude?” Sam chuckled and shook his head. Wakanda International slowly starts to fade into the distance as Bucky smoothly gets onto the freeway.

 

“She likes to drive. I don’t...I mean, it’s her car. I don’t usually need to drive anywhere.” He snorted, trying to cover up the way his words jumble and tangle. “I live in a little cabin in the woods an hour walk away from anyone. I don’t need a car. I needed one today.” If he sounded a little defensive, he couldn’t help it. Thankfully, though, Sam backs off from his questioning and focuses on enjoying the scenery.

 

“I will never get over how beautiful it is here,” he said sincerely, and Steve and Bucky nod along with him.

 

“Everytime I stop by and visit, I have to walk around a little and get acquainted with the place again,” Steve said. “It’s like something out of a story book. I can see why you never come home to visit, Buck.”

 

“The scenery?” Sam scoffed at that. “Nah, methinks our boy has a nice lil’ side piece out there in those woods of his. How long you said it takes to walk to the village?”

 

Bucky rolled his eyes. “An hour, Sam. And no, no side piece, or...whatever.”

 

“Oooh so she’s a girlfriend proper, huh? Sis messed around and got her a White Wolf.”

 

The laugh that comes from Steve’s throat is restrained at best, but Bucky knows he’s dying to guffaw the way Sam is in the back seat. He shot them both a glare, but chuckled along to save face.

 

Truth was, he did have a girlfriend, though he couldn’t really say how proper it was. And there were occasions that Shuri did call him her White Wolf, but it was better he didn’t think about that when he was driving. Let the guys think he had some other woman; it would throw the scent off of what he actually had going on.

 

Bucky’s fingers tightened ever so slightly on the steering wheel but he exhaled slowly and focused on the road. The traffic was heavy, everyone from all parts of the country crowding Birnin Zana for the wedding. They passed stores and stretches of homes and apartments, wound around through the marketplace where he was given a private access road directly to the palace. He paused long enough to roll the darkened windows down and say hi to Adwolo, the security guard.

 

“Ingcuka Emhlophe”, the guard greeted him and nodded to Steve in the passenger side, Sam in the back. “Continue on ahead.” There was a bright, toothy smile and Bucky smiled back, wheeling the car into a sheltered, cool parking lot full of other cars similar and luxuriant. He continued up the ramp until he reached the sixth level, and slid the vehicle into the spot designated specifically for Shuri.

 

“There’s some rooms next to mine for you two, if you wanna go rest for a bit before everything gets started,” he said, adjusting the seat so that Shuri doesn’t complain about how far back it is. “I’ll be down at the market getting my suit and maybe later at the spa-”

 

“The...spa, Buck, what the hell?”

 

“Language, Rogers,” Sam quipped, his grin sly and amused. “Mans gotta look good for his girl. Wakandan women don’t like ashy men.”

 

“You’re not going to let this go are you?” Steve asked. Sam shook his head.

 

“Not until we get to meet her, I’m not.”

 

“How do you even-Buck, tell him you’re single.”

 

There was a split second where he panicked and nearly nodded, mostly out of habit and the desire to hide, hide, hide. But he remembered what he’d thought of earlier, and he shrugged instead. “I might be. Might not.”

 

“Owwww, I told you! Now all we gotta do is figure out who she is, maybe ask if she’s got some sisters or something…”

 

“You did not come to this wedding with me to pick up women, Sam.”

 

“I didn’t not come here to do that either. So it could go either way. Don’t act like you don’t want to scope out the offerings yourself.”

 

Steve groaned, shifted his bags in his arms and shook his head. “I’m not answering that. I’m not.” He glanced at Bucky, who had been focusing more on leading them through the wide, open arched corridors of the palace than listening to their conversation. And as soon Sam managed to close his mouth for longer than a second, he began to take in the architecture.

 

That was exactly what he’d hoped would happen. Bucky smiled to himself and enjoyed the relative quiet as Sam and Steve gaped over the beauty of the palace.

 

“Why don’t you live here, Buck?” Steve asked, tapping him on the shoulder. “It’d be easier to protect the princess wouldn’t it?”

 

“What’d you mean?” Sam pulled his eyes away from the ceilings long enough to catch the last half of the question. “Protecting the princess? I thought you were just kind of...on loan or something.”

 

Steve shook his head and grinned proudly. “Nope. Buck here is the personal body guard to the Princess Shuri. Appointed by the king himself and specifically requested by her mother.”

 

That was somewhat the truth; Shuri had pretty much crossed her arms and promised she’d run off without any protection if they didn’t ease up and narrow it down to just Bucky.

 

“So...you get to be head honcho over some the Dora Milaje?” Sam whistled. “Man. You’re moving on up in the world.”

 

Bucky made a face. “Don’t say anything like that ever again, man. Ever. I’m not head honcho over...nobody. Especially not the Dora.” He was aware of the awe that oozed from his voice when he said that, and Sam caught on to it, his smile growing wider by the second.

 

“Nah, it’s just me. The Dora have to see about the king and queen mother and, now, Nakia. So unless she's travelling somewhere, all you’ll see around her is me.  And honestly, I’m just Shuri’s escort. Driver sometimes. Occasional lid opener.” He laughed, rounding the corner of the long corridor to where his room was. “Little stuff like that. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a personal bodyguard or nothin’.”

 

“Uh...okay, that sounds like a bodyguard to me, but...I’ll let you cook, Kevin Costner.” Bucky didn’t recognize the reference at all and looked to Steve for clarification, but got nothing but a shrug. Sam opened his mouth to say something else, but all of a sudden it was if some sort of realization had popped into his head.

 

Oh. Oh no. What had he said?

 

“Rewind that last bit for me, Bucky. You said there’s no Doras on detail for the princess?”

 

He swallowed, face a little blanched, but nodded.

 

“She uh...she doesn’t really need ‘em unless we’re going overseas. Wakanda’s safe as hell, man. I’m just decoration.”

 

“Mmhm.”

 

“Serious.”

 

“Aight.”

 

“Sam, quit. If he says that’s all needed, then so be it.”

 

Sam rolled his eyes. “Whatever, dad. Just seems odd to me.” He narrowed his gaze at Bucky and tilted his head in thought. But before he could continue his line of thought, Bucky felt his phone vibrate and he pulled it from his jeans pocket, seeing Shuri’s name pop up on the caller ID. He couldn’t help the smile that stretched across his face, nor could he help how his voice softened when he answered.

 

“Hey...Shuri.” He narrowly avoided calling her sugar, the way he would were she calling him in private. There was absolutely no way he would have been able to get out that.

 

“Hey you. Just getting done with fittings. You get my pic?”

 

“I did. What’s the consensus? You going for the full fledged princess look or…?”

 

She laughed, the sound of it so rich and sweet that he couldn’t stop the smile that spread across his face. “You’ll have to wait and see. It’ll be ready come the reception. I’ll probably still be in ceremonial wear for dinner. You are coming, right?”

 

“Wouldn’t miss it. What’s the menu?”

 

“Not ox tails, I know that.”

 

“Damn. You know I love ox tail-”

 

“And grits with syrup, and baked yams and coconut rice.”

 

“Mmmhm.” And you, he wanted to say. And you most of all. But she picked up on his train of thought because she sighed softly into the phone and he could almost feel her gorgeous smile across the line.

 

“And me, huh.”

 

“Most definitely.” He tried so hard to reel his emotions in that no doubt showed all over his face. The side effects of falling in love with a princess was losing his poker face, apparently, because Steve and Sam were eyeing him hard.

 

“Look, I gotta run. The guys are here, and-”

 

“Oh shit. I didn’t think about that. Glad I didn’t say anything nasty, yeah?” She giggled and he just barely bit back a chuckle of his own.

 

“Exactly. See you in a few hours?”

 

“Six on the dot, love. Bye!”

 

The silence after she hung up was uncomfortable to say the least. Bucky cleared his throat and ignored the stares, urging them down the hall to their rooms. “Sam, you’re over here. Steve, across the hall. I’m a few doors down if you happen to need me for anything while I’m here, but I think Steve’s familiar enough with the place now.”

 

“Not nearly as familiar as you are, my man,” Sam said in a quiet voice. And for the first time, Steve didn’t come to his rescue. He had the same bare look on his face that Sam does, the one that’s silently judging him, and Bucky doesn’t even have to ask to know what it’s about.

 

It doesn’t mean he won’t at least try covering his tracks, though.

 

“Are you gonna stare me down like I have two heads or explain what the problem is?”

 

And no, he hadn’t meant for it to come out so...prickly. In fact, he’d been trying for something bordering on casual and a little joking but instead the irritation he feels about having to hide all of this from his two best friends, from everyone, is seeping through everything he says.

 

“Buck...be honest. What’s going on?”

 

He dropped his gaze from Steve’s concerned one, avoids looking at Sam, who too, he could tell, was a little worried. He wondered in that moment if he could trust them with this, even if was just a confession of deeper feelings than a bodyguard and his charge.

 

Oh, I’ve just been spending the last year in love with the princess of Wakanda, the last four months warming her bed and kissing her dizzy. No big deal. He almost laughed at the thought of their faces if he had said that. Bucky nodded his head toward his room and ushered them in, closing the door behind him, and sat on the lush bed he’d been sleeping in for the last week.

 

He let out a breath and measured his words wisely.

 

“I uh...it’s just...we’re pretty close.” He waited for a quip from Sam, but nothing came. Steve keeps silent as well. “You know, she was the first thing I saw when I woke up. She was the first person to speak to me after...I mean, it was like waking from a long nightmare and not knowing who you really are or where you belong. And she was there every step of the way.”

 

She was. She had been his guiding light and angel for the very groggy, dark days after he awoke from cryostasis. Though she’d fixed the programming placed in his brain by Hydra, there was still so much he had to work through and deal with, memories he’d long forgotten flooding back to him like a tide. And she had held his hand through it all.

 

“So yeah. We’re friends. Best friends, really. It’s why she asked for me personally. Wanted to give me some sort of purpose. And I had to make her a promise that I would treat her as an equal, not like somethin’ off limits, not like a child-”

 

“But she’s a princess, Buck,” Steve says carefully. “She’s on a different level than most. She is off limits. And she’s young-”

 

“Man, she’s a kid,” Sam interjected. “She’s...what, 18? 19?”

 

Bucky frowned. “20. She’ll be 21 in two months.” He scrubbed his face and scrambled for words. “I said we were friends, though so why does that even-”

 

“You said friends,” Sam continued, not unkindly, but there was a sternness there too that made his stomach drop. “But I ain’t believing that. You’re smitten for that girl. Head over heels, everybody can see it.”

 

“I mean, if I can see it, than anyone can,” Steve added, trying to lighten the mood of the room, but it was too late. Bucky’s mood had already soured.

 

“Look, I’m just saying it doesn’t matter how I feel. She’s safe with me.” Was she?  "She knows and her brother knows that they can trust me.” Could they?  “I’d never do anything to...you know what, just don’t worry about it, okay?”

 

“Bucky, c’mon man. We’re just looking out for you. You might not mean anything by it. It may just be a crush, but still-”

 

“It’s not a crush!” he yelled, eyes wide and face flushed and that was the moment he knew he’d given himself completely away. His hands clenched the sheets tightly and his pulse raced and oh, oh shit now they knew.

 

He swallowed heavily and put his head in his hands and started to laugh.

 

Fuck me,” he groaned, shaking his head. “I can’t even lie like I used to. I can’t…” He looked up to find Sam and Steve studying him with sympathetic faces. And he knew they cared; they were only looking out for him.

 

“You know that day you FaceTimed us and told us about the wedding and we asked how you were? I could tell.” Steve’s voice was soft and he reached out to squeeze his friend’s shoulder gently.

 

“Am I that far gone?”

 

Sam snorted. “You got it bad. You don’t call her Highness like you used to. Every time anyone mentions her name your whole face lights up.” He pressed his lips into a line and leaned forward to catch Bucky’s eye. “Look, we won’t say nothin’. We just gotta know...what’s going on with you two? Huh? We’re just looking out for you.”

 

Bucky warred with the need to shout aloud how he felt across the rooftops and keep it their own little secret. It was a beautiful place, the love affair he had with Shuri, that no one had touched or spoiled. No real world problems or outside strife. Just the two of them. He was so scared of letting that go.

 

But he had to say something to someone and if he couldn’t trust Steve and Sam, who else could he trust?

 

“I....I have never felt like this about anyone...I...it’s not just...she’s magnificent. Beautiful and kind. Brilliant. Have you ever just sat and listened to her talk?”

 

Sam nodded. “Yeah. Blew my damn mind, to be honest.”

 

“Imagine listening to her talk like that over and over until it gets into your system and down into your bones and you…it’s apart of me now. She’s the reason I even function now, she’s...she saved me. She cared enough about me first to...to...I…”

 

He growled in frustration of how difficult it is to convey how he feels about her to them, but Steve seems to understand, as does Sam.

 

“Hey, man it’s...look. It’s intense, I can tell. But you gotta be real with yourself; what kind of future could you have with her? Where would you fit in in her life? What happens if she finds someone she wants to spend her life with? Are you gonna stand by the wayside and get your heart stomped on because she chose them over you?”

 

“He’s right, buddy. Shuri may care an awful lot about you, I know she does. She’s got a good heart, but...can you really believe she’d reciprocate those feelings?”

 

He wanted to scream then, throw it in their faces that she had reciprocated, that she did love him, that she wanted him and not anything he’d been before but what he was now.

 

She calls me her love, he wanted to say. She braids my hair and reads to me and lets me tell her all my worries and all my fears. She tells me I’m a good person, that I’m hers, that I’m more than enough. She kisses me like I’m all she’ll ever want and when we make love, I can feel the whole of heaven in the room with us.

 

But instead, he straightens his face and shoulders and he nodded dutifully, pretending he’s considering their words wisely.

 

“Yeah. It’s something I’ve thought of, trust me. It’s just so hard-”

 

“It’ll fade, Buck,” Steve said with a gentle smile. “Over time. And look, when it does, you’ll still have that friendship and maybe sometime later you’ll find someone else who makes you feel the same way. Only this time it’ll be right.”

 

Right.

 

But who was to say what he had now wasn’t?

 

Everyone.

 

When his friends left to settle in their rooms and rest before dinner, he was left alone, his phone in his hand and his heart heavy.

 

Doll, you busy?

 

There was a little bit of a wait before he got a reply, but seeing it made him smile.

 

Nope, not really. Sort of just resting in Mama’s room. She’s got lunch for us ladies lol. Want me to bring you something?

 

No. i’m ok. Just wanted to say hi again is all

 

Lol aw. U miss me?

 

I miss u. So much sugar

 

<3 i miss u. See u tonight tho so no worries

 

Yeah

 

Something happen? You seem down

 

He debated on even explaining what had happened with Sam and Steve just then, afraid she’d be upset for exposing enough of himself to possibly get them in trouble. But he didn’t want to keep secrets from her.

 

I’ll tell u tonight. See you soon

Chapter Text

The hours passed quietly, though anxiously, for Bucky. The ceremony was a sacred, private occasion that would take about an hour, give or take a few minutes. Shuri had text him to let him know she’d be indisposed for the time being, but was excited to say that she’d  probably be able to change out of the ceremonial corset and skirt she had to wear, and yes, he’d get to see her brand new gown sooner than she’d thought.

 

Bucky didn’t know if he was excited to see how beautiful she’d be or nervous that he’d completely make a fool of himself. But it was almost time to greet the newlyweds in the dining room, a large U shaped table set for fifty close friends and family spread out amongst beautiful and rich decor. Most of the council had already cleared the ceremony and were filing into the dining room, where Bucky sat between Okoye and Steve.

 

“I was going to ask if you were anticipating dinner,” Okoye says, leaning close to him, “but I can hear your stomach protesting the wait.” Bucky snorts out a laugh and shakes his head, staring down at his still empty place setting and agreeing. He turned his head to get a good glimpse of his friend, his eyes taking in the sight of her appreciatively. She looked resplendent in yellow and orange, the colors offsetting her deep skin beautifully. There were times that Bucky caught himself staring at the General in absolute awe, she was so gorgeous. But she was also incredibly brilliant and one of his favorite people in Wakanda; she had been wary of him initially, something he would never blame her for, but had warmed to him when he had taken to training with the Doras, one armed and uncomplaining. His tenacity and perseverance had impressed her and his knowledge of combat had given them a lot to talk about.

 

Besides, she was witty as they come and an absolute pleasure to talk to. In a perfect world, Bucky thinks he would have fallen for her instead; even if his chances with Okoye were slim, he knew no one would really find any fault in his affections. Then again, in a perfect world, his perfect world, no one would give a damn that he loved Shuri, either, so perhaps fate moved the way it did for a reason.

 

“I’m starvin’, General,” he concurs. “Thought I’d have time to grab a bite while in the market but my spa appointment ran a little over.” She raised an elegant brow and appraised his appearance, smiling as she tugged on the sleeve of his brand new suit. It was all black with silver accents, cut to fit him perfectly, and made of the softest cashmere wool. Bucky had thought that something made of wool would itch, or even be hot in the warm fall weather, but instead he was perfectly comfortable and had spent a solid ten minutes just looking at himself in the mirror.

 

“You should wear these more often,” Okoye said with a little smirk. “And whoever did your facial deserves a tip of the highest amount. I hope you weren’t stingy, Barnes.”

 

“Course not. My mama taught me better’an that.” He grinned and made a show of flashing his cufflinks in the soft, golden light and she laughed.

 

“You showing off Buck?” Steve asked, leaning in on his other side and greeting Okoye with a warm smile.

 

“Oh, of course he is, Captain,” she said smoothly. “Preening like a spoiled cat. But can you blame him? He looks as fresh as new rain tonight. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was trying to impress someone.”

 

“You ain’t gotta talk about me like I’m not here, ‘Koye,” he said, trying to keep the humor going. But she wasn’t wrong; he’d picked out the suit with Shuri’s reaction in mind and had made sure to ask the esthetician about getting rid of a some of his dark spots and sunburn. And she’d given him a nice close shave, a change from the bushy beard he’d been sporting for the past couple of months. Hair deep conditioned and pulled up into a bun and vibranium arm polished to a shine, he had to admit that he looked pretty damn good.

 

“Oh but I do. It’s so much fun to watch you blush.” Okoye wrinkled her nose in glee and whispered loudly to Steve. “He gets so flustered whenever you compliment him.”

 

“Do not,” he protested weakly, but he couldn’t help but laugh along. “I’m not flustered at all. Am I Stevie? I’m not blushin’ or nothin’. Now this kid,” he said, grabbing Steve around the shoulders, “gets absolutely hot around the collar if you so much as compliment his hair.”

 

Steve shook his head as he chuckled but didn’t argue. “Look, I just don’t think it’s necessary to waste compliments on someone when they already know they look a ten-”

 

“Modest aren’t we?” Okoye quipped. “I see why you two are such good friends. You’re practically cut from the same bolt of cloth.”

 

“I think they’re twins separated at birth or something, actually," Sam added, as he took his seat next to Steve.

 

“Did you get lost, dude? Bathroom’s right around the corner and down the corridor?” Bucky pushed Sam’s arm playfully and laughed when he pursed his lips in annoyance.

 

“Down the corridor may as well have been down the damn street. You know how big this place is?”

 

“More than aware, Sam.”

 

“Yeah, so it’s dark down the hall and I can follow directions pretty well, but when you gotta go-”

 

“Mind went blank and you ended up outside, didn’t you Sam?” Steve tried his best not to laugh too hard but it was useless when Sam shot him a glare.

 

“No, no I have finesse, okay? I made it to the toilet. Barely. But I made it.” He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Best piss I ever took, I’ll tell you that.”

 

“Oh my god, Sam, stop,” Bucky said between chuckles, and Okoye leaned on him to laugh as well.

 

There was a thrumming of a drum just then and everyone straightened in their seats. The royal family were arriving for dinner and Bucky sucked in a breath in anticipation. There was a long moment of relative silence, bated breaths and curious eyes, and Bucky could see Okoye’s eyes trained toward the door with pride already on her face.

 

“You should see the Queen,” she whispered quickly, and he turned his head just a little to catch what she said. “She looks amazing. As beautiful as ever.”

 

And she wasn’t lying by any means. Nakia stunned in a glittering gown of cream and gold, the long sweeping train trailing her like something from a movie. And T’Challa looked liked every inch the king, proud and so in love that it radiated off him. Bucky’s caught his eye for a split second, and was gifted a slight nod, one that warmed him from the inside out. The herald called for everyone to stand and so they all pushed their chairs back as the couple moved into the dining room, smiles on their faces as they moved to take their seats.

 

The queen mother followed next. She looked a vision in green and white, her long white locks trailing down her back as a simple but beautiful diadem of emeralds and cowry shells meandered through her hair. M’Baku, as T’Challa’s blood brother, was given the privilege of being her escort, and he did his job with obvious pride, a charming grin spread across his handsome face. For a moment, Bucky thought the Jabari leader had looked his way, but realized he’d been eyeing Okoye beside him and he looked back quickly to shoot her a look.

 

She simply smiled coyly, but that was all he needed to know. So there was something going on between the two. He was going to have to tease her about that later.

 

It was when he turned back around did he finally see Shuri and the only word he could think was wow .

 

It was like watching the sun rise, like feeling the warmth of spring after the longest winter. His princess swept into the dining room to absolute stunned silence, draped in heavy champagne silk. The bodice was beaded intricately, the neckline coming to a deep plunge to her waist, though only a peekaboo bit of skin showed. An ornately jeweled and beaded collar held the dress up in a halter, extending outward to her shoulders like epaulets. She looked so regal with her hair piled on top her head, a halo of beads wrapped about the braids like a crown and a few dripping down near her temples to graze her collarbone.

 

But it was when she turned to take her seat at the dinner table did a hushed gasp filter across the room. The dress was completely backless, from the base of her neck down to the lower curve of her spine, leaving almost nothing to the imagination. Bucky’s mind went painfully blank, his jaw slack as she caught his eye and dared to wink. He barely noticed her escort, a handsome young man who had to be the friend she mentioned, or even the looks that Ramonda and T’Challa both had on their faces. The only thing he could focus on was her, and how beautiful she was, and how bad he ached to reach out and touch her. He would have forgotten to draw in a breath had Okoye not tugged at him to sit, after the herald had given the signal.

 

“I don’t have any clue how she got around her mother with that dress!” she whispered, taking her napkin out of it’s ring and placing it in her lap. “Did you see the queen mother’s face? Stunned! She had to have snuck that past us all some kind of way.”

 

“Oh I caught her brother’s face,” Sam said, amusement in his voice. “That’s the face of a man who is this close to grounding someone.”

 

“Eh, too late for all that now,” Okoye added, sighing. “And I suppose she is growing up...but still! Perhaps a bit of beading along the back would have worked?” She waved her hand about and shifted in her chair as the servers began to fill glasses with wine or water. “Children nowadays like to press buttons. I’d have gotten in so much trouble with my Baba if I’d tried something like that.”

 

“You look so proud though, General,” Steve said with a little grin and Okoye chuckled.

 

“Mmm, perhaps I am, a bit. That girl has always been a risk taker. And not all risks are bad. Besides, you see her date? He’s smitten already!”

 

Bucky had been silent and lost in his own mind during the back and forth, cognizant of the fact that people had begun to murmur and chat among themselves while the food was being brought out, but he hadn’t followed any of the conversation to this point. It wasn’t until someone mentioned Shuri’s so called date did his ears register the talk around him.

 

“Date?” Bucky asked, frowning a bit as he turned to look toward Shuri’s direction. She was laughing at something the boy was saying, leaning into him in an intimate way. His eyes swept the table and he noticed several members of the council whispering and glancing her way; whatever intention she’d had of stirring a bit of gossip had worked.

 

And maybe no one would think of looking at the two of them in any other way than a professional, friendly relationship.

 

He wasn’t sure why but the thought that he could possibly slip under the radar bothered him more than being exposed did. He took a swig of his water and tried to appear as nonchalant as possible.

 

“Oh, you didn’t think her escort was just for show, did you?” Okoye asked. There was something odd in the way she said it but Bucky couldn't really put his finger on it.  “Oh no, she’s been texting him all day. Smiling and giggling at the little things he say, you know how young people are. They’re absolutely adorable together, aren’t they?”

 

He said nothing, simply nodded tightly and diverted his gaze before he could catch her eye and do something stupid. He didn’t like the way the boy had his hand on Shuri’s bare arm, or how self assured and charming he was.

 

“He’s a handsome fella,” Steve added, his eyes more on Bucky than on the boy. “What’s his name, Okoye?”

 

“D’Wobe. One of M’Baku’s younger cousins. I think he’s known her Highness for a few years now; at least since T’Challa began reigning. I knew he was a friend, but I didn’t know it had gotten to the next step.”

 

“Girl’s gotta have her secrets,” Steve offers, smiling politely. He sits back, hand on Bucky’s shoulder casually but there’s so much in that gesture. Sam stares at him over Steve’s head, eyes watching for any little emotion that may give him away. It’s like being studied under a microscope and though he knows they mean well, have his best interest at heart, he doesn’t like the feeling. It’s invasive, unwarranted. If they knew the truth...

 

They think I’m brokenhearted, he thought to himself. It almost made him want to laugh, but that felt incredibly out of character, so instead he kept his composure and waited patiently for dinner to come.

 


 

 

He thinks, as he finishes his dessert, that if he has to hear D’Wobe laugh and watch him touch Shuri one more time he’s going to scream. He knows it’s all a ruse. She’d told him that there were no feelings on either side except friendship, but the acting is so convincing that it’s driving him insane. He wonders how rude it would be to excuse himself before the royal family and dip into the bathroom, maybe hide in his room the rest of the evening.

 

He looks back in Shuri’s direction and realizes he can’t do that, though. It’s the first time he’s seen her in almost two days and she looks so beautiful. He at least has to touch her once. She’d promised him a dance, if nothing else. He could live with that. And maybe, as the night wore on and the celebrations continued, he could sneak her away somewhere private, somewhere they could be alone.

 

“You’ve been awfully quiet, Barnes,” Okoye says as she nudges him. Her face is blank and her eyes dart between him and the princess. He blinks and gives her a quick smile.

 

“Just taking it all in, I guess.”

 

She studies him for a long moment, too long, enough that he wants to squirm in his seat, but he clenches his fist under the table and manages to keep his body as lax and casual as possible. It’s getting exceedingly difficult not to glare at D’Wobe’s direction until he stops laughing, stops talking, stops stealing bits of food from Shuri’s plate and leaning into her and making her smile. Shuri catches his eye long enough to give a glance that tells him to "cut it out" so he reigns it in, at least enough that her face softens and she graces him with a secret smile of her own. 

 

If he can make it another few hours, he’ll be fine, he knows but he’s not sure how he’s going to do that without his two friends hovering behind him and now Okoye looking at him like she knows something she shouldn’t.

 

There’s a bit of activity and flurry of servers who quickly clear the table, and T’Challa stands to make a toast to everyone who had come to dinner.

 

“Nakia and I want to thank you, so much, for celebrating this night with us. All of you are my closest family and friends, important members of my council, brothers in spirit and heart.” He looked to Steve and M’Baku and smiled, lifting his glass of wine. Everyone else followed suit, including Bucky though the motion was a little delayed from his distraction. “Wakanda Forever!” he cried, and the dinner guests cheered happily.

 

“Wakanda Forever!”

 

Dinner is over just like that and the diners file out of the dining room much the same way as they’d come in before; T’Challa and Nakia lead Ramonda and M’Baku while D’Wobe and Shuri follow. And then it’s only a matter of who wants to linger and who’s ready for the reception, where the drinks flow and music plays. He moves to join Steve and Sam on their way to the ballroom, but Okoye grasps his arm and motions for him to fall back.

 

“I need to talk to you a moment, if you don’t mind,” she says in his ear and he rubs his sweaty palm along the pants of his suit, a jolt of nervous energy thrumming through him. He wonders if he could maybe get away with lying to Okoye, the way he had with Steve but he knows she’s much more perceptive. Her posture is relaxed in a deliberate way and her face is disarmingly open and friendly, the face of someone in the midst of a little chat with a friend of hers.

 

But when the dining room is empty save the two of them and a few servers that clean, she turns to him with steel in her spine and the kind of severe look on her face that chills him to the bones.

 

Fuck.

 

“You are going to have to learn to hide your emotions better, James,” she says curtly, and he winces at the use of his first name. She had never called him by his first name, only his title or on rare occasions, Bucky. He wants to pretend he hasn’t any idea what she’s talking about but he knows she knows. And he knows she knows more than either of his friends do, too.

 

“You’re also going to put an end to this...this...whatever it is.”

 

“I uh...I think you’re getting the wrong impression-”

 

“I’m not getting the wrong anything!” she hissed, her hand clenching on the table. There’s a heartbeat that he’s sure she’s going to turn and pull a dagger on him, slice him from throat to belly, and he thinks that perhaps he deserves that.

 

“What game are you playing? I want the truth. No lies, no bullshit.” Okoye almost never cursed, so he knew this was not a subject to trifle with. Bucky swallowed, wishing he had more wine and a better story and curses himself for not playing it cool.

 

“No games,” he manages to croak out and he clears his throat. There’s a spark of anger in him for her assumptions, as if she thinks he’s trying to hurt or ruin Shuri when he’s not. “I’m not doing anything but-”

 

“Getting your fill of a curious young girl and then discarding her when you’re done? Is it the exoticism, then? Something much more different than what you're used to?”

 

Oh. That hurt more than it would coming from anyone else because he knew her anger was righteous and borne out of love and concern for Shuri. And he hated to think that he’d possibly squandered his friendship with the general, something he held dear and valued highly.

 

“What do you think I’m up to?” he asked, a tremble in his voice that he didn’t like. “What exactly do you think I’m doing? I want to know where your head is, if you’d be so kind, ‘cause I feel like we’re on a completely different page.”

 

She glances toward the door and the servers who have begun leaving the dining room and keeps her voice low and level.

 

“I saw her text messages,” she says and his heart drops. “'Sweet baby'? 'Doll'?” She scoffs. “You’re playing with her head, is what you’re doing. I know how she feels about you. Have since she was too young to do anything about it, when you were still oblivious and I’d hoped...I shouldn’t have put any faith in a man, much less a colonizer-”

 

“Did you see all of ‘em, Okoye?” he asks, his temper rising with her every word. “Did you see me tell her that I missed her today, that I loved her?”

 

Her eyes widen a little and she presses her lips together, blowing her breath out through her nose.

 

“I just wanna get this straight, since you think you have the whole story. I’m not using anybody, especially not Shuri.” He digs deep for courage to confess, and hopes to god that she believes him because save for dragging Shuri into this, he has no other way of getting it across that he’s sincere.

 

“I fought this...this feeling for a while. For months. Kept telling myself it wasn’t right and that I wasn’t worthy and that she deserved better.”

 

Okoye snorts. “May be the one thing you did do right,” she mutters but he ignores that and continues.

 

“You know she’s the one that came to me, right? She’s the one who told me she loved me first, that she wanted me. And I still fought it. I didn’t believe her because why would she? She’s got the whole world at the tips of her fingers, could be anything, have anyone and why would she want me? I’m a mess. You know that. She knows that. Everyone does. But she loves me anyway.”

 

“She is a child, Bucky! You should have kept fighting it, she's just a girl!” she exclaims, closing her eyes for a moment to steady herself. “She’s too young to know what real love is.” For a brief moment he wonders if she’s thinking of W’Kabi and how even the most assured of loves sometimes didn’t last. He knows that she’d been hurt over his treason, his shortsightedness and though she’d tried, his actions had driven them apart. It wasn’t really anything she’d flat out told him, but little things he’d picked up from their conversations.

 

“What she could have with someone like D’Wobe? That’s what she needs. Something fun and exciting. Someone without so much baggage. It may not last, but no one really gets hurt. If this doesn’t work, whatever you have, you’ll crush her heart.”

 

“You don’t think I know that? You don’t think she could crush mine just as easily?!”

 

She shakes her head, and her voice softens just a little. “I don’t mean to sound insensitive, Bucky, but you’re a grown man. You’ll survive. But Shuri is...she’s light, and good, and sweet. I don’t want her to grow cold and bitter. I don’t want to see her light snuffed out.”

 

Bucky dares to reach out and touch Okoye’s hand, his own shaking as emotions course through him. She doesn’t pull away, though he can feel just how tense her body is, can read it in the line of her shoulders.

 

“If you knew the power she has over me,” he says, keeping his face open and honest. “If you had any idea how much I really do love her, you wouldn’t worry that I’d hurt her.” Not on purpose, he thinks, not without hurting myself. But Okoye is right; he knows if he were the cause of any of her fire being snuffed out he wouldn’t be able to live with that.

 

“Do you truly love her?” the general asks, turning her hand over to hold his and for a second he thinks that maybe she’s understanding where he comes from. He gives her a tentative smile.

 

“I do. So much.”

 

But she swallows and withdraws her hand and he feels his chest tighten at her next words.

 

“Then end this now, before it’s too late. Set her free and let her find better. If you love her, you’ll do what’s right.”

 

She gets up from her chair, gathering her skirts in her hand and swoops past him toward the doors. It’s so quiet in the dining room that he can hear the music from the ballroom, even through the thick walls. And he hears the blood pounding in his pulse as he fights between what he wants and what he’s told he should do.

 

“I won’t say anything to T’Challa,” Okoye says softly. “I don’t think you mean any harm. You’ve never given me a reason to think you would. But please heed my words...or I won’t have a choice.”

 

He sits in the dining room for a long while after that, and thinks. 


 

Wine tastes like sawdust on his tongue and his laughs are hollow but he plays along. He makes his rounds with Sam and Steve, talking to several of the guests and giving his regards to the bride and groom. There’s a moment where T’Challa pulls back and watches him for a moment, and he wonders if Okoye had said something anyway, but when he finds her eyes across the ballroom she gives him a slight shake of the head.

 

Either he’s losing his mind or everyone knows something is off.

 

It hurts him to, but he avoids Shuri as long as he’s able. She seems to gravitate in his direction, trying to catch his attention and strike up a conversation but he finds ways out of and around it. He meets her date, decides he actually likes the boy, and slips away to where the punch bowl is, sipping on another drink as if it would soothe his nerves.

 

But nothing will, because he knows he’s being watched now. There’s two sets of eyes on him in one corner and another pair at the other end, simultaneously flirting with M’Baku and making sure he keeps his distance. It’s painful, in a very raw, very agonizing way because he should be happy and jovial like everyone else. But he’s not.

 

Instead he stews by himself for a while and watches Shuri attempt to ignore his rebuttals, her mood dampening every time he pushes her away. He feels like a coward for running; but he can’t do anything without fear of judgement so he sits in this purgatory between needing to at least talk to her and wanting to hide.

 

He was so tired of hiding, though.

 

A down tempo song begins to play and a hand taps his shoulder. “Could I have a dance, Seargeant Barnes?” Folami asks. He gives her the best smile he can, prepares to decline, but decides that maybe one dance wouldn’t hurt. Besides Okoye, Folami was the closest to him in the Dora and another person he considered a friend.

 

“You look you so somber for such a happy occasion,” she says, her eyes narrowing curiously. “Something on your mind?”

 

“Just been thinkin’ a lot. Nothing too important, really, I just..I’m missing someone. And I can’t be with her right now so…”

 

She makes an ‘o’ with her mouth and pats his arm in understanding. “Someone from back home?” He nods though there isn’t much truth to that and he says a silent prayer that Nat never finds out she'd used him as a cover.

 

“Yeah. Old friend. She works with Captain Rogers right now...she was supposed to come, but had a mission and so-”

 

“You haven’t seen her since you came here, then, have you?”

 

“Just once.” He thinks of how close Shuri had been during one of the faster dances, how he could have slid his fingers across her arm but had held back. She’d looked so disappointed.

 

“Then maybe you should ask to go back home? Just for a little while then.”

 

“If the king says it’s fine I may ask to do so.”

 

Her face broke into a soft smile and Bucky felt horrible about lying to her. There was something gentle and genuine about Folami that he’d liked since he met her. She swayed along with him and talked of her little brothers, of what she was getting her girlfriend for her birthday, about training the other day. It was a nice distraction, if only for five minutes, when Shuri politely interrupted.

 

“How’s my favorite Dora?”

 

Folami laughed, reached out to hug the princess, and then gave a little bow. “I’m great, actually. Was just enjoying the reception...ahhh, Nakia’s dress though!”

 

“Can you believe she wanted to go with something more subtle?” She scoffed and grinned, but there was an emptiness to it that made Bucky uncomfortable.

 

“If you’ll excuse me...Folami, thank you for the dance.”

 

“Oh! No problem at all, Barnes.”

 

“Princess,” he offered, moving to turn and head back to his shadows and sour punch. But her hand on his arm stopped him and he couldn’t help leaning into the touch. He felt starved for her, so much so that just that little contact set his nerves on edge.

 

“I haven’t gotten the dance you promised me,” she says, holding out her hands for him to take. And though he’d told himself he would restrain himself, keep out of her arms, he can’t deny her this. Besides, it’s only a dance.

 

The song shifts into something a little more robust, a slick rhythm that makes her smile. She pulls him back out onto the dance floor and spins around a bit, the silk of her skirts billowing around her like a cloud. She starts to wiggle her hips a little and tugs him toward her, giggling and imploring him to do the same.

 

“C’mon, Buck!” she yells over the beat, her fingers winding through is own. “Dance with me!”

 

In spite of everything, he laughs. “What do you think I’m doin’, sugar?” he asks, giving her a sly grin. “I’m dancin’.” She snorts at that and lets him pull her in, her arm around his neck for just a moment.

 

“That’s not dancing, that’s shuffling. You’ve been here too long not to have a little rhythm about you!” And then she spins again, looking so damned gorgeous and happy and he can’t stop himself from indulging her just a bit, moving along with her to the beat of the music.

 

But that uneasy feeling rests in the pit of his stomach once more and he glances around to look, to see if anyone is watching. No one is; M’Baku and Okoye are dancing together and laughing loudly, while Steve talks to T’Challa. Bucky isn’t sure where Sam is-probably somewhere trying his best to charm a few of Nakia’s cousins-but he isn’t paying them attention either. Really, it seems no one is, caught up in the dance and the celebration and the music.

 

And Shuri knows, too, because she stops her swaying and pulls him across the dance floor quickly, through the thick of the crowd as the lights lower and the beat thumps harder. He catches her hand in his and follows her out the ballroom, down the corridor and toward a long spiral staircase behind what he thought was a closet. It’s dark in there, but Shuri pulls out her phone to give them a little light.

 

“There’s a little room I know of,” she says, a bit breathless. “It looks out over the city from a great big window. More decoration than anything, now, but once upon a time it held a light that never went out.”

 

“What happened to the light,” he asks, climbing the stairs with her one by one. He watches the way her muscles flex in the bright blue LED glow of her cell.

 

“It’s in my lab now,” she says, turning back to smile at him. “It’s a giant rock made of pure vibranium that glows in the dark, so it’s dangerous to keep in the palace. I have it safely stored away.”

 

“In good hands, then,” he responds and she laughs beautifully, as they finally clear the top of the staircase. He pauses to catch his breath for a moment, but follows her into a dark open room, a expansive canted bay window encompassing three of the four sides. From here he can see everything; the markets, the apartments, and in the distance, Shuri’s lab. He walks over to the middle window and presses his palm against the large pane of glass, letting the calm and quiet of the space wash over him.

 

It’s so peaceful up here, made all the more sweet by two arms that hug his middle. She says nothing at all for a while, content to simply hold him and he soaks every second of it in, his fingers sliding across the glass when he thinks of how much he’d missed this.

 

“What’s got you so down, love?” she asks, her thumbs stroking his chest through his suit. He shakes his head, his heart too heavy to tell her everything because he doesn’t want to see her face fall. He doesn’t want to hurt her tonight.

 

Not yet. Not right now.

 

“You promised you’d tell me,” she says, when he’s silent. He stills, blowing out a soft breath and avoiding the matter at hand but he knows he can’t keep anything from her for too long, so he turns to her slowly, cups her face in his hands.

 

“Did I tell you how beautiful you are tonight, doll?” he asks, and she smiles, though she raises a brow at how much he’s tap dancing around her question.

 

“You didn’t. You haven’t really said much of anything to me tonight,” she says, a little bit of bitterness in her voice. He can’t lie, even the thought of her being remotely angry with him makes him feel terrible.

 

“Yeah...uh, about that…”

 

“Wait, hold on!” she says quickly, glancing towards the windows and rushing over to open one of them. She wrenches the large pane of glass open and pulls it in toward them, then sits on the sill and pats a spot beside her.

 

“Come. Sit. Tell me everything.”

 

He does.

 

He starts with his confession to Sam and Steve, detailing his thought process when confronted with the truth. “I told ‘em I was in love,” he says, trying to avoid her eye lest he gets nervous. “I didn’t say anything about you feeling the same. They’re convinced it’s just a crush, you know?”

 

“You should’ve told them,” she says haughtily. “You should have said that I loved you as much as you love me.” He can’t help but smile and he strokes her cheek, his heartstrings tugging hard when she leans into his hand. “And then see what happened then. Think they would have believed you?”

 

He snorts. “Nope. Not a chance, really. They don’t think I’m on your level.”

 

She glares at that and rolls her eyes, shifts along the sill a bit so she’s more comfortable. The air outside is still warm though a cool breeze stirs this far up, and lights twinkle and glow for as far as he can see.

 

“I suppose it’s useless for me to remind you how highly I think of you-”

 

“You let me kiss you,” he says with a grin. “Touch you. Love you. I figure you at least think a little somethin’ of me.”

 

“Uh huh. Enough to know that they’re wrong. You are so special, James Barnes. So very special.” Her smile is nothing but pure beauty and light and he’s suddenly reminded of his very tense conversation with Okoye.

 

“Not everyone thinks the way you do, sugar. They wouldn’t think I was special enough for you.”

 

“Then they’re wrong,” she says firmly, and then pauses, searching his face. “Who else said something, Buck? Tell me.”

 

Shuri leans forward and takes his hands into hers, lacing her fingers with his vibranium ones. He glances down at the touch, flexing the digits carefully so he doesn’t hurt her any. It’s wild to think that he could destroy her with this hand, with his other too if he wanted. But she makes him want to do nothing but nurture and protect.

 

If you love her, you’ll do the right thing…

 

“She knows,” he starts, quiet and hollow. “Okoye. She knows.”

 

“...everything?” The look on her face is one of absolute panic.

 

“Yeah," he says, and he begins from the beginning of dinner.

 


 

He’s never seen her so angry and it’s on the tip of his tongue to defend Okoye’s actions, but instead he shuts up and lets her rant and pace the room.

 

“She has no right...NO RIGHT!” she screeches, her little fists balled up so tight he’s sure she’s digging half moons into her palms. “I gave her my phone to look at a picture, not to snoop through my messages.”

 

“You didn’t delete ‘em?”

 

“Ugh, no! Why should I? My phone is mine. I literally invented the damned thing; why in the entire hell should I have to censor my conversations-”

 

“So the general of the guard doesn’t go snoopin’.” He shrugs. “Makes sense to me.”

 

“Why are you defending her?” There’s a fire in her eye that gives him pause but also stirs his blood and he stands from the sill over to where she’s glowering.

 

“Look, I’m not...I’m not sayin’ it was right she went through your shit-”

 

“You’re goddamn right it isn’t!”

 

His eyes widen at her language, but he doesn’t stop her from venting. “Yeah, I’m just sayin' that I get where she’s coming from, is all.”

 

Shuri stops still and shakes her head, looking at him in shock. “You actually agree with all of that nonsense?”

 

“I didn’t say that. I said-”

 

“You said you get where she’s coming from, that’s agreeing with her, that’s the same thing!”

 

Bucky growls and presses a finger to her lips to get her to stop her raving. “Woman, can you hush for one fuckin’ second?”

 

That shuts her up. He’s never talked to her like this, and he feels ashamed of how rude he’s being. But she doesn’t back away from him or withdraw from his grasp. She simply nods, and then listens.

 

“Okoye loves you something fierce. She’s known you since you were born, been there to watch you grow up. You’re the closest thing she has to a little sister, a daughter maybe. And she doesn’t see a strong willed woman with a mouth on her like I do.” Shuri smirks reluctantly, her temper subsiding. “So yeah, I see where she’s comin’ from. I mean, look at it from her angle. Big bad foreigner comes in and swoops up the princess she’s sworn to protect and could maybe possibly sorta hurt her-”

 

“You wouldn’t.”

 

He sighs, though he knows she’s right. “No...I wouldn’t, sugar. I’d hurt myself before I hurt you.”

 

Her smile is worth every bit of self doubt and panic and grief he’s cycled through in the last 12 hours.

 

“But she told me that she wouldn’t say a word. She only insisted I do the ‘right thing’”.

 

Shuri rolls her eyes again and moves out of his arms to stand by the window. She’s quiet for a bit, then turns to look at him. “Breaking my heart isn’t the right thing.”

 

“No.”

 

“Telling me you can’t love me anymore when I know you do isn’t, either.”

 

“I agree.”

 

“So what are you going to do, Bucky?” she asks, her face serious, her shoulders straight and regal. It’s a demand and he takes a moment to give this some real thought. Okoye may have thought breaking this off would be easier now, but they were both in too deep to turn back now. And she didn’t know about everything, how much he truly knew about Shuri, how many times they’d made love. She stood by the window with the stars in her hair and the universe at her shoulders, skin glowing and eyes bright and that was all he needed to make up his mind.

 

“I’m gonna love you, sweet baby,” he finally says, moving to her side and pulling her into his arms. He gets a handful of her soft, sweet skin and almost moans at how good she feels in his hands. He wants to wrap himself around her and mark as his, so she’ll never have reason to believe he’s anything but hers.

 

“I’m gonna love you no matter what.”

Chapter Text

She wanted to slow dance with him, the way she hadn’t gotten to down at the reception so he lets her. He isn’t familiar with the music playing, but it’s something sultry and easy to sway to, so he holds her close and nuzzles her neck as they rock to the soft beat. Neither of them really want to talk about anything right now. He’s perfectly happy just holding her like this, her mouth coming up every so often to nip at his bottom lip or sweep across his chin. And then as another slow, sexy song plays, she pulls his head down to kiss him.

 

When Shuri kisses him it always feels like he’s coming home. She tastes like the sweetest thing he could ever imagine, feels like heaven and happiness and hope. She likes to kiss him slowly, to drink him all in and breathe against his mouth and smile when he moans. There’s been days at the cabin when he’d spend hours just kissing her, wrapping her in his arms and exploring her body with his fingers. And as she stood on her tiptoes with him, high above the earth in the darkness of an old abandoned room, the soft autumn breeze cooling his heated skin, he realized that no matter how much he tried, he’d have never been able to turn and walk away from her.

 

Not now, not when she was literally a part of him. She was his breath, his heartbeat, the blood in his body. He would die for her and wither without her. And there was no way he was letting her go, not when she so desperately didn’t want him to.

 

If she said the word he would, just to make her happy, but if it caused her any pain, why would he tear their love apart? Okoye would have to understand, and in time, he hoped she would. He wasn’t sure about T’Challa or Ramonda-there was the very real possibility they’d shun him for ‘taking advantage’ of Shuri but she was worth the harsh looks and cold shoulders he knew was coming his way. And if it meant that he’d have to live the rest of his life as only her boyfriend and protector, then so be it. He didn’t need marriage to justify his love for her.

 

But marriage was such a sweet dream. He had been a romantic at heart all his life, even way back when, and he’d thought he’d lost that little part of himself in the 70 years of pain and blood that followed him. Shuri had reawakened it, and he dreamed of a life at her side, as her consort and servant, as whatever she needed him to be. The father of her children, her confidant and lover, anything.

 

Two small hands came up to wind in his hair, pulling at the tie that held his bun in place and she shook the strands loose, sighing softly as her fingers sunk into them. “I love your hair like this,” she murmured against his lips, eyes still closed and her chest heaving for lack of air. “Don’t ever cut it, sthandwa .” He chuckled and pulled her tighter into his embrace, until he could feel nothing but her heart thundering and her pulse jumping.

 

“If you don’t want me to, sugar, I won’t.”

 

“Good,” she says with a grin. “Because I’ve spent too much time getting it conditioned just right for you to go and hack it all off.” He laughs at that and kisses her forehead, his hands stroking the smooth skin of her back.

 

“We gotta talk about this dress.”

 

She snorts. “You sound like Mama,” she said, and she leaned back to look at his face. “What’s wrong with it?”

 

“Not a damned thing, actually. It’s beautiful.”

 

“Thank you. I designed it myself.” She pulled away so she could twirl for him, the long skirts sweeping the floor elegantly. “And if you’re going to ask how I got away with wearing this, I haven’t yet. I’m pretty sure I’m in trouble for that but what are they going to do about it right now?”

 

Bucky shook his head, amused at her tenacity. “Better to ask forgiveness than permission, huh?”

 

“Exactly. Besides,” she continues, catching his hand and pulling him close to the window, “you really can’t see much but my back and who gets excited over that?”

 

There’s a little bit of a challenge in her eye, as if she knows for a fact that he would, so he trails one finger, smooth and cool and metallic, up her spine and makes her shudder. “I can’t honestly say. Nothing special about all of that.”

 

“Oh? See, I agree. Nothing at all special about it.” But as she leans against the cool pane of glass, he can tell that her body is getting excited, just from his touch.

 

“Nope. Not this skin,” he says, leaning forward and pressing a warm kiss to her shoulder blade. “Not this flesh.” He opens his mouth and lets his tongue dart out, sucks some of the skin into his mouth and earns a stuttering gasp. “Not the bones either, or the muscles. None of that.” His hands spread out across the expanse of her back and he marvels at how he can span her waist with both hands easily, with room leftover. She draws in a deep breath and tilts her head back when he starts a trail of kisses from the small of her back to the base of her neck.

 

It’s only when he’s hampered by the ornately beaded collar does he huff in frustration. He wanted to suck hickies into her neck and make her knees weak.

 

“Baby girl, how do you take this damn thing off?” he asks, digging his fingers into her sides as his hands slip past the fabric covering her chest.

 

“If you take it off, the whole dress will fall,” she says as if it’s obvious. She shakes her head and pulls away, batting his hands back. “And I’m not taking my dress off. At least not in here.”

 

The look on his face makes her giggle, though he can only imagine what he looks like. A mixture of frustrated and a little annoyed mostly, but he just sighs and licks his lips, remembering how her skin tastes. “Fine. Keep it on-”

 

“Oh, I am. For right now.” She reaches down and hitches the skirt up just a bit and lifts one long leg toward him, nudging him with her bare toes. He playfully reaches down and grasps her foot so that she hops on one leg, laughing and giggling as his fingers tickle the sole.

 

“Bucky! Stop!” she squeals, tears in her eyes and he only relents when he thinks she’s had enough, sliding his hands up her ankles and to her calves, grasping behind her knee and pulling her body flush to him with her leg hitched around his hip. A sly smile crept across her face and he tilted his head curiously, wondering just what she was up to.

 

“You got somethin’ up your sleeve, doll?” he asks, but she says nothing, only leans into him and grips his hand, slides it further up her leg. He doesn’t mind just touching her if that’s what she wants. The skin of her legs is softer than the fuzz of a peach and the muscles there quiver when he makes his way up to her hip. It’s there, though, that he gets the answer to his question.

 

She’s not wearing a stitch of underwear.

 

When he realizes it, his jaw goes slack and then he chuckles, dark and deep because she’s playing a game with him and has been all night. She’s been bare under that gorgeous ass dress all night, in preparation for him later. All the blood in his body shoots down below and he growls, gripping her ass to push her even closer to him, leaning down to kiss her hard.

 

“See?” she says, when he pulls away breathless. “You don’t need to take my dress off to get what you want.”

 

“Mmmhm.” He didn’t think he’d manage to get the thing off without ripping it anyway, not at this rate.

 

“Now,” she continues, her voice dropping an octave, a very sharp edge of want to her words. “You are in service to the crown. And that means you are in service to me, doesn’t it.”

 

“It sure as hell does,” he nearly groans, his fingers slipping down her hip, seeking wet and warmth. She wiggles her hips to keep him from touching her, and slides a hand into his hair.

 

“Then serve your princess and get on your knees,” she says, eyes glowing in the darkened room, and she pushes him down until he has no choice but to kneel. But it doesn’t take much to get him on his knees. Within seconds he’s pushing the folds of fabric away from her legs and brushing his stubbled cheek across her skin.

 

“What do you need from me, your highness?” he breathes, the scent of her driving him wild, the warmth of her making him dizzy. He wanted nothing in the world else but to make her moan his name as he devoured her. Shuri grins, the hand in his hair scratching little patterns along his scalp.

 

“I need you to make me come,” she says matter of factly. “At least once. I may have a reward if you can manage twice.”

 

Oh, so she wanted to challenge him? He nearly laughed but kept it to a smirk. “Anything for my princess,” he purrs, and he leans in, lets his nose brush against the soft hair covering her mound. “Do you wanna ride my face, sweet baby?”

 

Shuri bites her lip, no doubt to keep from making too embarrassing a noise, but she nods and hooks one leg then the other over his shoulders, hovering on the heels of her feet until he grasps her hips and pulls her down, sitting her right on top of his mouth.

 

And then Bucky begins to eat.

 

When he ghosts his breath over her lips, when he just barely grazes the tip of his tongue between them, dips it inside her and exhales, she jerks likes she’s been shocked and nearly tips over.

 

Bast ...don’t let me fall, don’t let me...oh!”

 

He laughs, the warm air of his breath causing goosebumps to break out across her thighs. He grips them firmly and holds her tight. “I’m not gonna let you fall,” he promises. He suckles a little bit of her labia and then flattens his tongue and licks a long, hard stripe up the center of her cunt. She’s tangy and salty and sweet, and he’s hard just from the smell and taste of her, his mouth watering and his cock throbbing. “Hold on to me, sugar and let me make you feel good.”

 

Shuri grips his hair once more, this time like reins, and pants as he starts back up, long slow strokes at first, until she gets antsy and moves her hips harshly to urge him on.

 

“Come on, Bucky,” she whines. “I said twice...at least...fuck…”

 

He will never get over how hot it is to hear his sweet baby curse so. He makes it his goal to make her talk like that as much as he can, his tongue relentless and unforgiving in its onslaught. When her knees buckle, and she can’t stop her moans from spilling from her lips like a fountain, he slides his hands up and grips her hips, urges her to ride his mouth. For a while she’s content to do just that, little whimpers and mewls punctuating each push and pull.

 

“I can’t see your face like this,” she gasps, slowing her hips. “All this damned fabric, I can’t-” She growls, unwinds her legs from his shoulders and tugs the dress up higher but it’s no use. All she can see is constantly obscured by more silk and tulle from her underskirts. With swift fingers she reaches up and undoes the clasps holding the dress to her collar, unhooks the eye in the back and pulls the entire heavy thing over her head, leaving her completely bare save for the bright beaded jewelry gracing her neckline and hair.

 

It’s magnificent. She looks every inch of a goddess like this, naked and glorious and mind blowingly beautiful. “Oh look at you,” he whispers, like a soft prayer. Shuri remounts his shoulders, smiling proudly, and he keeps his eyes on hers when she drags his lips back to where she needs him.

 

Without another word he laps away at the sweetness between her thighs, eyes glued to her face, his vigorous tongue spurred on by every little reaction. She starts to ride him again, harder and faster until at last, her back arches and she gives a sharp little cry, the grip on his hair prickling and painful. But it’s so worth it, because even as she rides out her orgasm, he’s working to bring her to a second.

 

“Bucky,” she moans, over and over, until his name is a mindless, high pitched chant. “Buck, please!”

 

“Please what?” he asks, smacking his lips and pulling away. He thinks to slick his fingers with his mouth and slide them inside her, but she’s so wet he doesn’t need to. And, he thinks as he spreads her lips apart again, he doesn’t want to use his usual hand anyway. With a wicked grin, he pushes two of his metal fingers inside her, groaning in pleasure when her eyes cross.

 

“Ohhh yes, sweet baby. There you go, you’re so close ain’t you?” All she can do is nod, her head bowed low as he suckles her back into his mouth. His fingers curl and stroke in time with the rhythm of her hips as she rides him and he lets his teeth graze her clit just a little bit. Unintelligible babbles of what may be words but probably are mathematical equations stammer from her mouth until she tenses once more and comes so hard that her legs give way. There isn’t really a sound from her, just a harsh rasp of air and then, after, a choked sob. He licks her clean and catches her in his arms, pulling her down onto his chest as he lies back, and she shivers in his embrace for a long minute.

 

“You,” she breathes out, when her heart has slowed to something closer to normal, “are most definitely getting a reward later.” He chuckles and kisses her forehead sweetly, and tries to ignore his very real, very hard erection. But Shuri can feel him underneath her, and she leans up to peer at him, exasperated.

 

“Why didn’t you say something, you silly goat?”

 

Bucky rolls his eyes. “Because I wanted to get you off, doll. I did. Mission accomplished.” He did, in fact, want to get himself off too, but a few strokes would do him and he’d be fine he knew. He reached down to unzip his pants and pulls himself free, groaning at the relief of no longer being contained within.

 

“Just gimme a minute or two,” he says, stroking the hot skin of his cock slowly at first, a blush spreading across his throat as his hips tilted up to meet his hand. “Fuck...I ain’t gonna last, baby. I want this so bad-”

 

“Then why don’t you let me?” Shuri asks as she strokes her hands across his still clothed chest. “You could always just let me...hmm.” She slides down his body before he gets the chance to protest and takes his cock into her own hand, following the motions he’d taught her weeks before. “Remember when you showed me this, Buck?” she asks, a grin on her face when he responded with a breathy laugh.

 

“You did so good, baby,” he says, spurring her on. “So good. My baby is so smart and...mmmhm, just-”

 

He nearly sees stars when he feels something hot and warm around the head, something he knows isn’t her sweet pussy. There’s a little bit of teeth there, mostly tongue, and he thinks to stop her but she shakes her head. He hadn’t expected her to do this to him; it wasn’t so much that he didn’t want to as he didn’t want her thinking that was required. He loved eating her out, and that had been enough for him. But apparently, Shuri had been curious.

 

“I’ve wanted to do that since the moment I realized I wanted to fuck you,” she tells him. “You’re not gonna tell me I can’t at least get you off once like this, are you?”

 

He shakes his head and lays back, losing every protest when she sucks him in as far as she can.

 

She’s not a professional by any means, and she’s a little tentative with her tongue but she feels so good and she looks amazing with his cock in her mouth so he doesn’t give a damn. And he’s already so worked up that if she’d only just been content to use her hand, he would have come anyway. But he can’t stand the thought that she’s down there pleasuring him when he can’t pleasure her at the same time. It’s what he loves about being inside her so much, the give and take of each other’s bodies, the drive to bring her to orgasm pushing to give her more and more and more.

 

So he stops her, reaching down to cup her face gently. “Baby, stop...just...hold on a-” He cuts off with a muffled grunt, but pulls away before she can do much else. She pouts, her brows knitting together in confusion.

 

“It wasn’t good?”

 

“Oh fuck. No, no, baby it’s...fuck. No it’s perfect I just...I wanna taste you too. Again. Please?”

 

She raises a brow and considers this, her hand still stroking him slowly. And then she understands exactly what he’s trying to get across. “You mean like, at the same time?”

 

“Uh huh. If you wanna.”

 

“I want to.”

 

He urges her to come sit on his face again,this time backwards, and he shrugs out of his jacket and unbuttons the now hot, stuffy dress shirt. She helps him tug his pants down past his knees; he spreads them to give her a little room and when she leans over, she glances behind her and shoots him a look made of molten gold.

 

“You’re gonna kill me before you start,” he says with a laugh, but it slips into a moan when she drags her tongue down the side of his shaft. “Shit…”

 

“Are you going to reciprocate, or no?”

 

He presses his lips into a line, smacks one ass cheek for good measure, and buries his face into her cunt.

 

For Bucky it’s literally a race to see if he can make her come once more before she makes him, though the way things are going, she’s going to win. He grips her waist for lack of anything to hang onto and tries desperately not to thrust up into her mouth. The last thing he wants is to gag or choke her.

 

At least not tonight. Maybe one day, when she’s had more practice and he's not scared of hurting her.

 

Shuri slides her mouth off with a plop and lets out the most indecent sound, her hips rocking against his tongue for the third time that night. “I can’t focus when you’re doing that,” she moans, sounding like she’s on the precipice of another orgasm. Her breaths come out in harsh pants and she grabs his thighs with sharp nails, her back arching a little as she starts to come.

 

So maybe he had won this round after all, and he spreads her lips wider, licks harder until she’s shuddering and crying out a top him. She leans forward and huffs out a breath, lifting her bottom to get him to stop.

 

“Bast, Bucky, give me a second!”

 

“Aw come on, I wanna make you come again.” He did. Again and again and over and over. But before he could elaborate she’d taken him back in hand and wrapped her lips around him and started all over. He lay back and closes his eyes, the pleasure building with every little twist of her hand or swipe of her tongue. “Baby,” he rasps, trying to reach down to pull her away before he made a mess in her mouth, but she smacked his hand away and sucked him further into her mouth, harder, and something caught and coiled, as heat shot through every inch of him, his orgasm hitting him like a train. His whole body shook and he groaned her name, pushing his hips up a few times until she’d milked all she could of him.

 

When she pulled away, turned around and grin, he pulled her to his body and kissed her soundly, a little bit of his own salty seed on her lips.

 

“You swallowed all that, sweet baby?”

 

She nodded, and he nearly grew hard again. “Mmm. At least I tried to.” There was a bit still on her chin and some had gotten on his abdomen but that for the most part they’d avoided a mess. But that would have to wait till later. He didn’t have the energy to do much of anything at the moment but lay back with her naked body draped over his, her head on his chest, and her fingers sliding through his hair.



 

By the time that Shuri gets up, the fireworks have begun. The wedding walk from the palace down through the city is about to start and the both of them will be expected to be there. He can’t risk someone wondering where the two of them are and then finding them like this. They dress as quickly as they can and sneak out the door leading to the spiral staircase to dart down the hall and into the bathroom to clean up a bit. It’s not nearly enough, but it’s enough so that no one really can tell unless they look close enough.

 

The drumming has already started and the crowd is chanting and singing when they finally make it into the line. Bucky and Shuri weave through throngs of people and try to catch up to where most of the family and honored guests are. She leads the way, her finger hooked around his to keep him close, one hand holding her skirts as she slips through the people waiting to start the journey. In the distance, he catches sight of D’Wobe the same time she does, and she speeds up a bit in his direction.

 

“D!” she calls, waving her hand. He turns toward the direction of the sound and flashes a brilliant grin when he catches sight of Shuri. He pulls her into a hug and nods to Bucky.

 

“My gal! Where you been, umhlobo wam?

 

“Uh-”

 

“Let me guess; a little too much liquor and you had to make a run for the toilet.”

 

Shuri snorts. “You wish! I could drink you under the table if I wanted.” Bucky doesn’t think he’s sure of that but he won’t tell her any different.

 

“So where were you? That’s the story I came up with when your mother asked me.”

 

Shuri’s face goes blank. “Mama...oh shit, how long have we been gone?”

 

D’Wobe grimaces a bit. “Over an hour, and you know how long that is when you’re you.”

 

She groans, looks to the sky, and then back to Bucky. “I’m so toast. I need a cover, I need-”

 

“Look, the story D’Wobe came up with sounds pretty good to me, so...maybe go with that? You know, I think you could get away with getting drunk over-”

 

“Line’s starting, gal. And if I’m going to cover for you any, I need to know two things.” Shuri sighs but nods.

 

“What is it?”

 

D’Wobe smiles charmingly, a bit of mischief in his eyes. He looks so Jabari, it’s almost criminal, and though they don’t favor much, Bucky can pick up the slight familial similarities in D’Wobe and M’Baku.

 

“First of all: what were you actually doing? If you don’t tell me, I’ll get White Wolf to.” Bucky raises a brow at that and D’Wobe laughs. “Or not. He’s a loyal one, Shuri. I bet he keeps all your secrets.”

 

She glances at him and nearly smiles. Keeping secrets was an understatement.

 

“Fine. I’ll...I’ll tell you. But no blabbing, no snitching. You know what I said.”

 

“Deal. And the second? I wanna know who the American boyfriend is.”

 

Her eyes widen, and the people ahead of them start down the road, dancing as they begin to move. She pulls him from behind her and she and D’Wobe slides into the dance easily and effortlessly. Bucky tries getting away with just walking, but she nudges him and he settles for a slight shuffle. That’ll have to do until he gets the hang of the footwork.

 

“If I tell you,” she says over the music, but just loud enough for the three of them to hear, “will you promise you won’t say a word? Like, not one word. Nothing.”

 

D’Wobe makes a face, tilts his head, and dips down low to the beat without thinking. “Shuri...what’s going on?” He looks to Bucky for some sort of clarification but Bucky can only shrug. If she’s going to spill the beans, he’ll let her decide how she’s going to word it.

 

“D...promise me.” She’s deathly serious about this, her face giving him no room for argument.

 

“Fine. I promise. Not a word out of this mouth.” He’s serious too, Bucky knows, and he’s sure that D’Wobe won’t actually say a word. He’s nothing if not loyal.

 

“Alright. Well.” Shuri turns to Bucky and then looks back at her friend, pulls Bucky’s hand to D’Wobe’s and pushes them together. “There. Meet my American boyfriend. His name is James.”

 

For a very long moment, D’Wobe doesn’t do anything. He stops in the middle of the line and nearly bumps into the people behind them, but they move around him and nod their respects to Shuri, keeping pace and rhythm with no issue. And then he laughs, great big rolling laughter that lights up his face and shakes his whole frame.

 

“Shuri! Seriously now, gal, tell me! A good one though, that is. And you, covering for her like the good friend you are.”

 

Bucky offers him a slight smile, but says nothing. And the longer that Shuri is silent the wider D’Wobe’s eyes grow as his laughter tapers off.

 

“You’ve got to be kidd-you’re actually...Bast, Shuri! No wonder you-”

 

D’Wobe blinks, throws his hands in the air and looks between the two of them, panic on his face. “Do you know what this means?!” he yells, and Shuri tugs his arms down, tries to shush him.

 

“D, look at me, I know it’s not what you’d thought, I know it may be a little unexpected-”

 

“That...that’s a little bit of an understatement don’t you think? I can’t believe...you’re dating the White Wolf?!”

 

“Shhhh, for Bast’s sake, do you want everyone else to know too?”

 

D’Wobe shakes his head and leans in closer to Shuri, his eyes darting up to Bucky nervously. “Sorry, sorry. I just...I’ve been flirting with you all night and your boyfriend was glaring at me all night and I thought it was just, well you know, overprotective bodyguard vibes.”

 

He backs up and straightens, raises both brows. “You’re not going to beat me up or anything are you, man?”

 

Bucky snorts, starts to laugh and slaps D’Wobe on the back. “Uh, no. We’re good. I knew all about the date thing anyway, so…”

 

The younger man blows out a breath and glances around him. “Good. Cause I could probably take you, if I tried, but I’m definitely more a lover than a fighter.” Shuri’s eyes roll so hard, he thinks she may get them stuck.


They continue down the line, Shuri picking the dance back up again, and dragging both D’Wobe and Bucky into it with her. It takes him a little while, but he manages to get the steps enough that he can meander along with the rest of them. For a while he forgets about any worries he’s had, any of the stress from the last few days. The air is cool and the night is beautiful, as guests celebrate in the streets and wave from the apartments and buildings they pass. Everyone around them is happy and smiling and laughing and the joy rubs off on him until he feels his heart overflow, his face lighting with happiness.


He slides Shuri’s fingers through his own in the crowd, and she looks up at him, the most beautiful thing in the word. He wants to kiss her here, in the middle of all these people but he settles for her hand in his, intimate and innocent and pure. He wants this moment to last for eternity, just like this, where nothing matters but love and and the promise of tomorrow.

 

“Hey!” he hears, as the fireworks pop above them and the singing grows louder and faster. D’Wobe dances a bit a head of them now, and he turns, a sly expression on his face.

 

“You never did tell me where you were for an hour.”

 


 

“Do you really think he fell for that?” Bucky asks her later, when the walk is done and the after parties have started. D’Wobe had planned to run ahead and go with other friends of his, and he let them go, her with a kiss to her cheek and Bucky with a hand shake. He told her he would cover just in case anyone wondered where she’d wandered off to, giving the excuse that she’d gotten ill and wanted to rest.


“Nope,” she says with a grin. “And he’s not going to let up until I fess up. But I’m not telling him tonight.”

 

The palace is mostly empty, everyone out in the streets of Birnin Zana, in homes and clubs, at parties and little soirees. There’s a few servants about, but most pay them no mind as Shuri leads him down the corridor into the royal wing and toward her bedroom. It was his first time actually going inside, as she usually either met him in the hallways or at a neutral point in the palace.

 

“I need a bath,” she groans as she opens the door, and taps in a code to lock it. “I’m pretty sure I’ve sweat through the silk in this dress so it’s probably ruined.”

 

“You can’t clean it?” Bucky takes in the expansive bedroom, colors and textures everywhere. It’s a beautiful, cozy set of rooms; a small sitting room close to the door, followed by the bedroom proper. And next to it, a large walk in closet full of clothes and shoes and books. A short foyer leads to her bath, a large pool tub in the middle and a waterfall shower in the corner. Cosmetics litter the countertops, towels fluffier than anything he’s ever felt are folded haphazardly in the small linen closet. He picks up a bottle of what he assumes is perfumes and breathes it in. It smells like her, floral and spice and delicious.

 

“My braid oil,” she explains, taking the bottle from him and pouring a little of the fragrant oils out, rubbing it between her fingers. “Want me to put a bit on your scalp with it later?”

 

Bucky shakes his head. “I’ll look like a greased weasel if you put that on me,” he says, and she giggles. “Nah, that butter you got me works well enough.” He tugs a few strands forward and slides his fingers through the still soft hair.

 

“Besides, I got it done this afternoon, so I’m set.” He thinks for a moment, and then gets an idea. “But if you want me to do yours tomorrow…”

 

Her smile is so pretty he can’t help but kiss her right then. “I do. Thank you, love.”

 

Shuri runs a bath and scatters flower petals into the water, pours a combination of soap and oils into the warm water. Bucky watches her unwind her hair, wincing a bit as she tugs large hair pins out the pile of braids on top her head, and slip them into a little jewelry box on the sink. The braids fall free and she shakes them out, groaning as the weight on her neck and scalp eases.

 

“Help me get out of this dress, Buck,” she implores him and he obeys, once again unhooking the back, but this time also reaching up to help her unclasp the collar. The heavy beading slips forward when that’s done and she pulls it from her neck, dropping the dress with it and slinging that over her vanity chair. And once again she’s naked, this time completely so, and she stretches as she walks slowly toward the near full tub.

 

“Are you gonna join me?

 

“Do you really want me in a bathtub with you naked right now?”

 

Shuri laughs, leans back against the tub, sighing blissfully at the warmth of the water. “I would say no because I have a feeling we won’t get out unscathed-”

 

He can’t help the laugh that bubbles in his throat at that. She’s not even close to being wrong because he’s already thinking of ways he can make her come undone in that bathtub.

 

“But I’m going to say yes based on the off chance that you can wait until we’ve at least gotten to my bed. Can you do that?” She bats her eyes and swishes her legs about in the tub and he watches her face for a moment, the way she taunts and teases, her coy, sly little grin. And he decides he’ll play her little game. He can be good, if he really wants to. Besides, she’s got a big plush bed he can use for as long as she lets him.

 

Stripping out of his suit, Bucky slides down into the warm water and settles opposite Shuri in the tub. He’s content to let the jets massage his muscles and wash away all the sweat and grime he’d accumulated out of all day. He closes his eyes and lets out a soft sigh of contentment, soaking in the comfortable silence. But Shuri wants to play.

 

A set of small toes start sliding up his ankle, stopping every few inches to gauge his reaction. He keeps his eyes shut and his face neutral for as long as he possibly can, ignoring how his body reacts just to having her pretty little feet on his bare skin. He can tell she’s grinning, that she’s working to draw some sort of reaction from him, but he keeps it cool.

 

At least until her feet make it up to his thighs and that’s when he shudders, the sensation tickling and arousing him. He grabs her foot and cracks his eyes open slowly, his gaze a little bit dangerous. “If you keep that up, you’re not going to get clean.”

 

She smirks, the face of someone who knows exactly what buttons to push to get what she wants from him. “Oh, I’m aware.” She spreads her legs under the water, leans back a little on her hands and starts the other foot on his other leg. He watches her with his breath caught in his chest and lets her get as far his knee this go round before his hand shoots out to catch her ankle, pull her clear across the tub and into his lap.

 

She shrieks, then laughs, as he hauls her up and plops her down on top of him, gasping a bit when she wiggles her bottom and feels how hard he his.

 

“Someone’s got a foot fetish,” she whispers, leaning in to nip his bottom lip and he smacks her ass, grins against her mouth.

 

“I got a Shuri fetish, actually,” he responds. “And you’re poking a sleeping bear.”

 

She snorts. “That bear wasn’t asleep a few hours ago,” she says, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and rocking a little on top of his hardness. He sucks in air to keep from pushing up, sliding inside of her right now. He was going to get a bath and get her clean and out this tub before he got that far.

 

“You sure about that?”

 

“Mmhm. I’ve got beard burn on my thighs, thank you.” Bucky slips his hands under the water and strokes the skin there, then leans in and kisses her neck.

 

“I’m sorry, sugar. Want me to make it better?”

 

When she nods he reaches behind him and grabs one of the soft washcloths, loads it with plenty of good smelling soap, and starts to wash her skin. She moves back when he slides the bar across her chest, down her breasts and to her belly, before dipping down and gently washing her core.

 

“It’d be nice if you moved that towel out the way,” she purrs, lifting her hips to give him better access. He makes sure she’s good and clean before washing her thighs, and motions for her to turn around so he can get her back.

 

“It would, wouldn’t it, princess?”

 

“But you’re not going to let me get my way, are you?”

 

“Nope. I spoil you enough.”

 

She chuckles and moves her half wet braids out the way, giving him full access to her shoulders and he takes his time with the soap this time, letting the bar drop so he can massage the muscles there and along her spine. He can’t resist pressing his lips to the soft little hairs that line the nape of her neck, breathing in her fresh, sweet scent. She shivers under his touch and tilts her head back to meet his mouth, kissing him slow and lazy.

 

She’s gotten more than good at kissing him. She loves it when he slides his tongue into her mouth, when he gasps for air as he drinks love from her mouth and grips the back of her neck to hold her steady. She likes the tickle of his beard so he rubs it against her cheek and makes her giggle, noses her neck and licks a stripe from the hollow of her throat to her chin.

 

“Bucky,” she murmurs, when he pulls away from kissing her long enough to breathe. “Get me out of this tub. Now.”

 

He grins and wraps his arms about her, swooping her up easily, reminding of another day months before when he’d hauled her from a cool pond and taken her back to his little cabin and made love to her for the first time. That had been sweet and slow, beautiful, awe inspiring.

 

But right now, he wants to do something a little...dirty.

 

Bucky carries Shuri one armed over his shoulder as she giggles out to her bedroom, plopping her down on the bed unceremoniously. “Someone’s in a hurry, aren’t they?” she asks, laying back a bit and swinging her thighs open and closed. She looks like an entire meal and he’s so fucking hungry.

 

“Not a hurry, sugar,” he assures her. “Just a little fed up.”

 

“Oh? With what?”

 

“Your teasin’.” She shakes her head mirthfully and lays back across the bed, stretching her arms out above her head. Bucky squints, thinking that this might just be the perfect position, but decides maybe he’ll save it for later tonight. He’s got something else in mind.

 

“You got any scarves or rope or somethin’?”

 

The look on Shuri’s face is enough to make him laugh. She stares at him blankly for a second, until she comes to a realization of what he’s asking. Then her whole face lights up and she smiles deviously. “Please tell me those are for me,” she nearly moans and he shoots her a grin, winks.

 

“Might be. Where are they?”

 

“Top drawer in the closet of the second armoire.”

 

He digs around in the drawer and pulls out two long silk scarves, one purple, the other black. And as he begins to shut the drawer, he finds something else-a little blue pill looking thing that vibrates when he presses the silver button on the side. Oh...so that’s what that was. His plans for the night get even better, and he takes that as well, closing the closet door behind him.

 

Shuri has the lights off dimmed when he gets back, her body curled around a pillow as she scrolls through her phone. He thinks to slide into bed beside her and take the phone, ask to turn the lights back on, start slow and sweet and work his way up to the rougher stuff...but something inside him is itching to show her that he’s not just at her beck and call.

 

Besides, she’d practically been begging him to give her a taste of dominate Bucky. And tonight, she was going to get it.

 

“Who told you to turn the lights off?” he asks, voice low and dangerous. It makes her pause enough to look from the screen, raise a brow and set the phone on the night stand.

 

“Nobody. I didn’t think I had to ask permission to adjust the lighting in my own room.” She has the nerve to roll her eyes, sparking a fire in his belly as she rolls over and gives him the most exasperated look. “Did you ever find thos-”


“Did I ask you to speak?”


Shuri blinks, jerks her head back. “Excuse me?"

 

Bucky narrows his eyes, wraps the silk scarves around his fists and kneels on the bed. “I don’t think I stuttered, princess,” he says, looking down at her with hungry eyes. “I asked you if you were given permission to speak.”

 

Shuri opens her mouth to say something else, but closes it, catching on to what he was doing. And then her eyes dilate, her throat bobbing as she swallowed. He could see the goosebumps on her skin, could count her pulse as it thumped against her skin. He smiled.

 

“Good girl. You’re catchin’ on quick. Gimme your hands.”

 

She reaches out and lets him take her wrists, gasping a bit when he tugs them down to her ankles. He ties one ankle to one wrist, keeping the slack loose enough so that if she needs to she can break free, but tight enough that she won’t be able to slip out of the ties too easily.

 

“Give me a safe word.”

 

Shuri ignores him, grunting a bit when he positions her body before him, legs wide open and her hands out of the way. “It’s a good thing I’m flexible, bec-OW!” He smacks her ass, hard, enough that he’s sure he’ll leave some sort of print and for just a moment he feels horrible, thinking he’d slapped a little too hard.

 

But then she pants and moans, shifting about on the sheets and staring up at him in shock and awe. “Bucky, please ...do that again.”

 

“If you give me time, I will,” he grumbles, sliding his hands along her thighs down to her hips. “I need a safe word, though, sugar. Just in case it’s too much.” She nods, and thinks for a second.

 

“White Wolf.”

 

“White Wolf? You sure about that one?”

 

“Is...that not going to work?” Bucky blows out a breath, thinks for a moment.

 

“To be perfectly honest, no. Do you know what happens when you call me that?” She does her best attempt at a shrug.

 

“No idea...it’s something naughty, isn’t it?” He laughs, leans down to kiss her sweetly.

 

“Mmm, maybe. Let me just say it sets me off. In the best way. But only cause you call me that when you’re moanin’ real high and I got you in that sweet spot…”

 

“Alright, alright,” she concedes, giving the word more thought. “How about...sunshine?”

 

“That works. Holler it if you need me to stop or slow it down. Don’t matter when, as soon as I hear it I’ll stop, okay?”

 

She nods, and brushes her lips against his cheek. “Okay.”

 

“Good. Now here’s the deal. You do what I say, when I say. You’re not going to make a noise unless I say you can. You aren’t going to move unless I give you the green light. And when I say don’t cum, I mean it. Don’t fuckin’ cum.” He watches as she takes in his commands, and can see just how excited it’s making her. “Is that clear?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Yes, Sergeant.”

 

The look on her face is absolutely astounded, and he’s almost certain she’s wet already without much effort. He can smell it on her.

 

“Yes...Sergeant,” she repeats, and then she lies back and await his first order.

 

For a moment, Bucky isn’t sure if he wants to go ahead with this. He’s scared he’ll hurt her or overwhelm her so that she wouldn’t want to try anything more adventurous later. But he pushes that aside and decides to start with something easy for her to handle. He reaches behind him and grabs the little blue bullet vibe, slips and hand between her thighs and spreads her open.

 

He can tell she wants to comment on the vibrator, but she remembers her orders and keeps mum, though her eyes watch him eagerly. “Don’t move, sugar,” he warns her. He slowly presses the vibe onto her clit and turns it on, his blood rushing down to his cock when she squeals and jerks off the bed.

 

Bast , Bucky, that’s the highest level!”

 

He looks down at the little vibe and finds he’s accidently turned it on to ten and not one like he’d thought. “Oops.” He lets her break in the rules go, simply because that was his fault, and starts over. “You get a pass on that one,” he tells her, applying the vibe again. This time she keeps her composure a bit better, though he can hear her whimper.

 

He keeps the vibe on her clit, sliding it up and down and in little circles as her fingers flex and wiggle beside her ankles. He’s fine just watching her slowly come to pieces like this, and every so often he turns up the vibrations, until he’s to six and her body is shaking under his hand. She wants to speak so badly it’s eating her up inside, but he admires how well she’s handled the command to keep quiet unless spoken to. He decides to give her a little reward.

 

“Tell your Bucky how good it feels, baby,” he tells her, his voice deceptively sweet. “Let me know if it feels good.”

 

“It feels so good,” she pants, trying to keep her hips on the mattress instead of pushing it toward the vibe like she wants. “So so so good, please I-”

 

“You want more than this?”

 

She nods. “Yes, please!”

 

“Hmmm. Have you been good enough for more?”

 

“Yes, Bucky I-”

 

“Nah. You don’t know who you’re talkin’ to. So this’ll have to do for a while.” He turns the vibe down back to about three, leans in, and starts a trail of open mouth kisses down her neck and chest. She almost cries in frustration. He continues on this way for long minutes, stopping every so often to see if she can remember what he’d told her to do. Eventually, near tears and aching to be fucked, she gasps out “yes, Sergeant!” and something inside him snaps.

 

He tosses the vibe off to the side, lines himself up to her soaking wetness and slides inside her with a hard groan.

 

Maybe being in control is going to be a little harder than he’d anticipated.

 

He starts out slow but deep and deliberate, pushing her against the pillows and sheets and watching her face for any signs of pain or discomfort. But she’s eating every bit of this up, her back arching as she desperately tries to get him to move faster. He refuses.

 

“I ain’t ready to go any faster,” he tells her, smacking her ass hard like he had before. The way she moans is so pretty he forgives her for doing it without permission. “When I’m ready, you’ll know.”

 

He takes his time with his thrusts, stroking her skin and biting her flesh as he does, pressing his mouth to hers to kiss her deep and she lets out a little hiss when he bites down on her neck. That’s going to leave a mark later, he knows, and he grins at the thought.

 

“You’re mine,” he whispers across her skin. “All mine. And I make sure I mark what’s mine. Tell me you’re mine, doll.” She gives a shaky little cry and whimpers out a ‘yes’.

 

“I’m yours”, she moans. “All yours.”

 

“Good girl,” he coos, and then he grabs the back of her neck and makes her stare him deep in his eyes. “Look at me. When I say you can move, you can. Not a second before, you hear?”

 

She nods once. “Yes...yes Sergeant .”

 

He speeds up his thrusts and watches her expressions, cataloguing every single twitch and shudder and flutter of her eyelashes. One hand slides around her back and pushes her ass up to change the angle and she almost screams, biting it back before she’s punished anymore. He grins and angles his hips so that he can grind on her clit as much as he can without using his hands. “Go ahead and sing for me, Shuri,” he grunts, feeling something like pleasure wrap around him and she closes her eyes, mouth open in a high, sharp cry.

 

Fuck , that sounds so good,” he moans, his arms wrapping around her body and he moves faster and harder until the sounds out her mouth jumple and tangle into something indecipherable. It’s all he can do to hold back long enough to make her come, and he gives her the permission to move then. She pushes her hips up as much as she can with the ties still on her ankles and wrists and buries her face in his shoulder, chanting his name over and over.

 

“Please,” she begs him, tears in the corners of her pretty eyes. “Please, let me come, please, I need to-”

 

“Please what, baby? Tell me.”

 

“Please Sergeant, let me come, please, I’ve been so good I wanna-”


He slips his shaking hand down between their bodies and strokes her clit roughly and fast. “Do it. Come for me, sugar. Come for me hard.”

 

She does, harder than he’d ever made her come before and she literally screams, a semblance of his name torn from her throat. He tugs her hands free of the ties and she wraps her arms about his shoulders, holding on to him as she rides out her orgasm, and the feeling of her around him, kissing him and breathing him in and begging for more drags him down to his own.

 

He thinks he loses sight for a second when the pleasure hits him.

 

It takes him a while to catch his breath. Bucky rolls over to keep from crushing her and pulls her tight against him, waiting until she’s come down before he asks if she wants more.

 

“You okay, sweet baby?”

 

“Mmmm. Fuck .”

 

“I’m taking that as a yes, then.”

 

She gives what could pass for a laugh and flops over to look at him. “Why in the world haven’t you done that before? Bast.”

 

He feels a bit sheepish. He hadn’t thought much of the little roleplay, only that it was just the tip of the iceberg of what he eventually wanted to do. That wasn’t even that involved, really.

 

“Because I didn’t think you were ready.” Because he wasn’t ready. But he could be, with a little time, a little bit of preparation.

 

“Oh...well...good. That was...hm.” She closes her eyes, a glimmer of a smile on her lips. She’s stretches out on the bed and threads her fingers through his hair and for a while, they simply enjoy the feel of each other’s bodies and the taste of their kisses.

 

Off and on through the night they make love and fuck and touch over and over. She lets him take her in whichever way he wants; on her back, on top of him, her hands behind her and tied tight. When he takes her from behind, the dom persona drops and he can’t stop the filthy, desperate words that pour from his mouth.

 

God you feel so good, sweet baby. I love being inside you, so fuckin’ good and tight for me. Fuck you’re gonna make me cum, sugar, just move with me, fuck…

 

And when he flips her back over and she bites down on his chest, breaking the skin, her nails pinioned in his back, he comes so hard he blacks out for a second, scaring both him and her.

 

They laugh about it, later, when she’s spent and he’s worn out and it’s quiet and still in the room. He knows he needs to leave soon before the sun rises so he won’t be caught, but she’s so warm around him and she begs him to stay. “Just for a while longer, love,” she says softly, her eyes drooping with sleep. “Just stay with me a bit.” She turns and snuggles into him, right under his chin the way he likes her. And within moments, she’s fallen asleep. He turns down the lights and covers them with the sweat soaked sheets, closes his eyes.

 

Just for a moment, he thinks as he drifts off. He’ll stay for just a moment. He falls into a sleep deeper and more peaceful than any he’s had in a long, long while.

 


He knows he’s in trouble the second he wakes. He’s still in her bed, naked and wrapped around her and the sheets, his body warm and comfortable against hers.

 

There’s pounding at the door, someone calling Shuri’s name. She jolts awake, flying into a sitting position and glancing toward the door with groggy, sleepy eyes.

 

“Bast! Who is it?” she asks, jumping from bed and rummaging through drawers for something to cover with. “Stay in bed,” she whispers, eyes wide. “I’ll try to run whoever it is off.”

 

Shuri throws on a long silk robe and ties it tight around her, braids coming around to cover her neck. There’s a long moment where he’s not sure what he should do; whether he should hide underneath her bed or in her large closet, and he decides instead to wrap one of the towels on the floor around him, at the very least. It could just be one of the servants coming to fetch her to see T’Challa and Nakia off for the honeymoon. Maybe there won’t be any problems.

 

But he’d never had much luck, at least not when it really counted because he heard the deep voice of T’Challa speaking and his heart stopped. He kept silent as the grave, listening to the voices grow louder until footsteps start toward him and he jumped from between the mussed sheets. If he could only get to the closet, maybe the bathroom...

 

“Brother, stop!” Shuri cries, tugging at T’Challa’s sleeve fruitlessly. “Why can’t you just leave it-“

 

“Shuri, you will unhand me right now , and you will stand to the side.” She sucks in a deep breath and looks like she wants to protest but she hears the authority in his voice as much as he does. And then the king turns his head and finds him standing beside the bed, nearly naked and trying desperately to not run.

 

It’s so quiet, if only for a moment. The Dora catch up to the king and Okoye comes to stand beside T’Challa, her face stony and impassive even though her eyes are a literal tumult.

 

I warned you, they say. I told you to stop!

 

Yeah, she’d told him. But he couldn’t listen to his head over his heart last night. God, they’d been so careless, so stupid…if he’d have left when he said he would-

 

“I wanted to see my little sister before I left for my honeymoon,” he says, the level of it rising with every word. “What I didn’t want to see was…this!” He looks straight through Bucky, searing his very core, and Bucky has to close his eyes for a second so he doesn’t throw up.

 

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck -

 

“When Shuri came to me and begged me to allow you as her personal bodyguard, I did it out of respect for you.” Bucky can’t say anything, can’t defend himself, can’t even keep his hands from trembling. “I had my misgivings then, but I brushed them aside because I trusted you. Thought highly of you. You were her friend and mine and I thought-“

 

He shakes his head and gives a dry, humorless laugh. “To think, it was all a ploy to get access to her, to have your way with her. Are you proud of yourself, Barnes? For despoiling a girl who has done nothing but be kind to you?!”

 

When Bucky doesn’t answer, T’Challa slams his hand against the foot of the bed, the loud smacking of palm to wood making him jump. He lets out a shaking breath and glances up, blinking back tears.

 

“Answer me, dammit!”

 

“No,” he manages to get out, because truly, he isn’t proud of himself. And maybe Okoye was right, maybe he should have fought this longer until Shuri got tired and gave up. But he knows he would have never had those four months of absolute happiness with her and he doesn’t regret that one bit. No, he thinks, he never could no matter what happens now. He’d go to hell for loving her and wouldn’t regret a single kiss or touch.

 

“For Bast’s sake, T’Challa, stop!” Shuri hisses, moving away from the wall and moving between her brother and Bucky. “He didn’t do anything wrong. Nothing. None of this is what you think it is!”

 

“Then what is it?” T’Challa asks, leaning down to glare at his sister. Shuri gives back as good as she takes and bows up to him, her arms tight across her chest.

 

“Love,” she says. Her voice wavers at first, but the more she talks the stronger it gets. “He loves me. And I love him and there isn’t anything wrong with that. How could there be?”

 

“He isn’t worth-“

 

“You don’t get to tell me what he’s worth to me!” She shakes her head, her braids falling behind her shoulders and Bucky watches Okoye’s face when she sees the hickies. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so dire. “You don’t get to decide what anyone means to me or who has my heart. I’m not a child, dammit! Stop treating me like some breakable, precious doll that can’t be touched!”

 

“You are a PRINCESS!” T’Challa bellows, but Shuri doesn’t shrink back. Instead, she pushes him forward with her small hands, until he has no choice but to back up.

 

“I am whatever the fuck I want to be,” she growls. “I am a woman. I am a woman in love with that man.” She points to Bucky, her eyes finding his and he can’t stop the smile that crosses his face. “And he loves me. He didn’t seduce me or…or, hurt me. I’m not ruined, T’Challa, do I look ruined?”

 

T’Challa reaches out and swipes his thumb across the hickey on her neck, eyes narrowing. “I would say you are,” he says cruelly.

 

Shuri snorts derisively and bats his hand away. “All that because of a love bite? You must be daft. That isn’t all I have from him,” she taunts. “There’s more, if you’d like to see-“

 

“Sugar, stop,” Bucky says, low and warning because as of right now she’s only making it worse. She turns to him and searches his face and he shakes his head slightly until she backs down. Shuri breathes in deep and calms herself and she goes to him, stands directly in front of him and stares her brother down.

 

“Don’t you dare try and tell me that this is wrong, because it isn’t. I love him. I love him so much and…” She trails off and grasps his hand behind her, bringing it around to hold her. “And he loves me.”

 

She covers him like a lioness, no, a panther, his shield against any harm the may be done. It doesn’t matter that she’s shorter and smaller, that he peaks over her head and his big hands wrap about her tiny waist. It doesn’t matter that she’s younger, that she’s never killed anyone, that her slate is as clean as new snow.  All that matters is that she stands between them and him, and in that moment she is his protector.

 

But even he knows that he can’t hide behind her forever. The silence in the room is so tense, it threatens to choke him and he sucks in as much air as he can, though it feels like his chest is tightening and his heart is going to burst. There is a fire behind the king’s eyes that makes every nerve in his body scream in panic. This isn’t going to end well, it can’t.

 

It’s too late to go back, though so he holds his ground and keeps his gaze cool and focused, or at least he imagines.

 

“I had hoped my suspicions were wrong,” T’challa finally says, his voice deathly calm but exhausted. Bucky swallows and clenches his fists, wills himself not to start rambling off excuses. What could he say? There wasn’t any way out of this. “I don’t know if I’m disappointed that they aren’t wrong, or angry that they are valid.” He pauses and glances between his sister and Bucky, the weight of his stare heavy and hard. But Shuri doesn't even buckle, not even a little. She stands tall and straight as if she has every right to be here like this, half naked with her lover behind her. 

 

It’s not until the king nods to the Dora behind him does she start to maybe falter. “Leave us alone.” He turns to Okoye, who refuses to meet either of their eyes, and she moves forward to grab Shuri.

 

“What are you-no! What are you doing?” She fights against the hand around her arm, but it’s no use. Okoye is stronger by a long shot, and though her grip is firm, it’s gentle, almost remorseful. Bucky finds the whole thing oddly ironic, and when he meets her eyes, for just a second, he sees a war between her duty and her heart. He knows she’d always choose duty; he’d never begrudge her that.

 

T’Challa says nothing, only moves out the way so the general can drag his sister from her bedroom. “Brother I swear, please! Don’t do anything, don’t-“

 

“We will talk later, Shuri,” he says softly, and Bucky can see the glimmer of tears in her eyes, the worry and panic on her face. “I simply want to speak to Sergeant Barnes. Alone.” He waves them away and Shuri gives him one last desperate glance over her shoulder before the door closes.

 

I love you, her eyes say. No matter what happens, I love you.

 

It’s what keeps his knees from collapsing when the door shuts behind T’Challa and he’s left alone with him. He’s faced down all kinds of enemies-alien and human and Nazi and everything in between. He’s crawled out of the deepest, darkest depths of his own mind and somehow came out alive, even if he’s a little worse for wear because of it. But he’s never been so afraid like he is now, because he knows he could lose the most important thing in his life, the center of his world. He could lose Shuri and that would kill him faster than any torture ever could.

 

He knows, objectively, that T’Challa has every right to be angry with him. It’s an insult, an affront to his generosity and friendship to have been caught like this. He’d overstepped his boundaries by a long shot in the king’s eyes and for that Bucky is prepared to be punished. It still doesn’t stop him from violently flinching when the punch comes, though. He wasn’t quite as prepared for that as he had hoped he’d be.

 

He’d also forgotten just how hard T’Challa could hit, too. That was going to bruise badly, super soldier serum or no.

 

“You have five minutes,” he says, his breath rushing out in a furious rush. “Five minutes to explain to me why I shouldn’t have killed you years ago.”

 

Bucky opens his mouth, but can’t figure how he’s going to explain anything at all when he’s naked and terrified. It doesn’t seem like he has much of a choice. T’Challa is rubbing his bruised knuckles, looking all the world like he’s itching for a valid reason to drive vibranium claws through Bucky’s chest and let him bleed out all over Shuri’s floor.

 

“Can I put something on?” he dares to asks, his voice small and tired, and when T’Challa nods he walks to the bathroom and snatches up the black wool pants still draped over the chaise, tugs them on quickly and goes back to the bedroom. T’Challa paces about the room like coiled fury, the embodiment of his name. The Black Panther indeed…and Bucky feels very much like an antelope caught in his grasp.

 

“Talk.”

 

One word but it’s all the command he needs so he searches his brain for the right words to say. Honesty is the only thing that will save him, he knows, so he keeps his face open and clears his throat. He keeps his body still but non threatening, steadies his breath, and meets the king’s eyes.

 

And then, Bucky begins to talk.