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Know that I would gladly be the Icarus to your certainty

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The second time M’Baku wakes up, it takes three nurses and two Dora Milaje to restrain him.

Any and all logical thought has been stripped from his mind. All he is truly conscious of is the excruciating pain in his side, and it shoots through him every time he thrashes against the hands that attempt to push him back against the operating table. The stench of blood is everywhere.

“Where is he?” he slurs, his tongue swollen and clumsy behind his teeth. “Where is T’Challa?”

“My lady, the sedatives!” one of the Dora Milaje calls to the young woman behind the massive screen next to the bed. If M’Baku had been in his right mind at all, he would’ve recognized her as the king’s sister.

The girl sprints over to the bedside and jabs a needle into M’Baku’s left arm. He barely registers the feeling, but he instantly falls back into the nurses’ arms. They lower him back into the table, and as the resolve to fight drains away, the last thing M’Baku sees is Shuri’s face, her eyes brimming with tears.

“It’s alright,” she whispers. “You saved him. He’s alright.”

~

When M’Baku wakes up again, the king is standing over him with a plate of food in his hands, looking as if he has not slept in decades.

Their eyes meet, and suddenly M’Baku remembers everything.

The aliens, their vulnerable pink bodies protected by claws and scorpion-like stingers— stingers impervious to vibranium.

The king, magnificent as he fought by M’Baku’s side, eventually succeeding in fatally wounding the Queen that controlled the entire hideous army.

The Queen, who was not as dead as previously thought.

M’Baku doesn’t not remember running to throw himself in front of the king. He does not remember pushing him out of the way. He only remembers the king’s face as the stinger pierced M’Baku’s stomach, the whites of his eyes, his mouth open in a silent scream-

M’Baku tries to lean forward and immediately regrets it. The pain is not even a quarter of what it was, but it still shoots through the right half of his body like lightning splitting a tree in two.

“Don’t,” the king says, reaching out as if to lay a hand on M’Baku’s shoulder, then withdrawing it at the last second. Instead, he presses a button on the side of the hospital bed that raises M’Baku to sitting position. “The serum Shuri gave you works wonders, but it will still be a day or two before we are ready to discharge you.”

He presses another button, and suddenly a metal tray pops out of the bed’s side and swings across M’Baku’s lap. T’Challa gently sets the food down in front of him. There is a large bowl of egusi soup at the center, with a small bowl of fresh fruit off to the side. Someone has laid a purple orchid across the top, but the growling in M’Baku’s stomach prevents him from thinking about it too much.

“Eat,” T’Challa says. “You will need your strength.”

Hungry as he is, cannot possibly eat without knowing the fate of the Jabari warriors that accompanied the king’s soldiers to the battle.

As if hearing his thoughts, T’Challa scrubs a hand across the lower half of his face and pulls up a chair next to the bed.

“Many injuries, some of them quite severe, but few deaths,” T’Challa says wearily. “The threat has been neutralized. We will have a funeral for the fallen soldiers within the next week or so.”

M’Baku nods, sadness and relief mingling in equal parts, and he tucks into his food.

He has eaten half the bowl before he notices the king is still staring at him. To M’Baku’s surprise, there is an almost angry furrow between his brows.

M’Baku sets his spoon down and folds his arms across his chest.

“Was there something else, Your Highness?” he says, not bothering to keep the edge out of his voice.

The king’s lips seam into a thin line, and a muscle feathers along the hinge of his jaw. He leans forward.

“Few deaths, M’Baku,” he says, his voice deathly quiet, “and you were almost one of them. Needlessly.”

“I saved your life,” M’Baku says with a defiant jut of his chin.

“The Herb would’ve protected me,” T’Challa counters, though M’Baku detects a hint of uncertainty wavering around the edges. “But you-“

“All the blessings from every god in the universe would not have saved you if that thing’s stinger had pierced your heart,” M’Baku says. “Tell me my king, do you scold your Dora Milaje for risking their lives every time they step in to assist you in the wake of battle? If your general had used her body as a shield instead of me-“

T’Challa abruptly stands up, his nostrils flaring.

“Okoye could disarm fifty men in the time it takes you to finish the meal in front of you,” T’Challa says. “If she took the Herb, she would make a better vessel of Bast than I could ever hope to be. But the reason she is my general is because, above all, she is wise. If Okoye had intervened, it would have been because she knew it was a battle she could win. Do not compare yourself to her, M’Baku. You embarked on a suicide mission, one that would’ve cost your people their leader.”

M’Baku considers this for a moment. He takes a grape from the bowl in front of him and pops in into his mouth, relishing the cold, sweet tang of it as he chews, swallows.

“There is an ancient custom amongst the Jabari,” M’Baku says finally. “I don’t expect you to know of it, of course; only a few of the elders and myself still practice it. You see, sometimes, when someone does a good deed for another— saving his life, for instance— the recipient says ‘thank you.’” M’Baku puts his fork down and smiles. “Perhaps you should try it.”

T’Challa raises his right hand to his face and pinches the bridge of his nose as if trying to stave off a headache. When he removes his hand, the king’s face is twisted with the same fury that M’Baku saw during their battle at the falls. M’Baku cannot help but swallow at the sight of it.

But then, as quickly as it appears, the fire in the king’s eyes extinguishes itself, and all M’Baku can see in the king’s eyes is defeat.

T’Challa nods, his face a mask of composure.

“Thank you, M’Baku,” he says quietly. “I did not mean to berate you. You are a great warrior, but you are also a treasured friend. It would have grieved me to lay you to rest before your time, and all of Wakanda would have mourned with me.”

“Friends,” M’Baku says before he can stop himself. “Is that what we are, my king?”

A sad little half-smile twists the corner of T’Challa’s mouth.

“I would like to think so, yes,” he says. “I don’t imagine you would risk your life for someone you hated.”

M’Baku swallows against the growing knot in his throat and shrugs.

“I suppose not,” he says.

With that, the king stands up and salutes him.

“I must go now, but do not hesitate to contact me, if you need anything.”

The king turns to leave, but before he can reach the door, he stops and turns around.

“Do you remember that day well?”

M’Baku snorts.

“Getting impaled by a stinger the size of your arm is hard to forget,” he says.

“No,” T’Challa says. “After the attack, while you were en route to the hospital, you appeared to drift in and out of consciousness. The sedatives and the anti-venom did not react harmoniously. Do you remember anything?”

M’Baku say nothing for a very long time, and for a split second, he contemplates telling the king everything.

In the end, he swallows the urge down with another bite of food.

“I can’t say that I do,” M’Baku says, meeting the king’s eyes. “Why? Did something happen that was worth remembering?”

The king’s eyes widen, and for one wild, impossible moment, M’Baku thinks he was right. That what he saw and felt in the helicarrier was not a dream, or a wild fantasy come to life.

But the king puts that damned mask back on, and he shakes his head.

“I thought as much,” M’Baku says softly. “I had strange dreams though.”

The king opens his mouth, but suddenly the doors slide open, and a tall, slender nurse steps through, her fingers dancing over her tablet. She pauses when she sees the king.

“Forgive me, Your Majesty,” she says with a quick salute. “I did not realize you were still speaking to Lord M’Baku. I can always come back-”

“That won’t be necessary, Ntozake,” T’Challa says quickly. “I was just leaving. Thank you for your service.” He turns to M’Baku, salutes him with a stiffness that is almost comical, and leaves.

M’Baku watches the king leave through the doors, and in the split second before they close behind him, T’Challa turns and locks eyes with M’Baku one last time. The look they share confirms what M’Baku has known all along, what they will never speak of as long as they live.

They are liars, both of them.

~

 

Here is what M’Baku remembers:

He is lying on his back in one of the king’s ships. At least, he believes he is. He cannot move anything beyond the very tips of his fingers, and try as he might, he can only open his eyes enough to see the plainest shadows against the stark white lights above him. He does not know what the nurses gave him, but he feels it warring against the stinger’s venom in his system, and he is not entirely confident it is winning. One second the pain is a tiny flame tucked deep inside his core, the next it is a forest fire. At its worst, he cries out, but all he can manage is a faint, unintelligible moan. The drugs toy with his consciousness, yanking it out of his reach like a child taunting a kitten with a peace of yarn.

He recognizes the king’s voice when he hears it. He would recognize it anywhere.

“How is he?” T’Challa says, his voice raw and thin.

“As stable as can be expected,” Shuri says. “We cannot remove the last of the barbs until we take him back to the hospital.”

M’Baku tries to form the king’s name, and the thin groan that escapes him is pitiful in his own hears.

“He is in pain,” the king says.

“We did the best we could,” Shuri says. “The anti-venom appears to be partially counteracting the sedatives, and vice versa. If we give him any more anti-venom, the stress from the pain could cause him to go into cardiac arrest. Any more anesthetic, and he may never wake up. We must operate as soon as possible.”

A moment of silence, and M’Baku realizes that the king and his sister are the only two in the cabin.

“If he dies,” the king says, “it will have been because of me.”

“Don’t say such things, brother,” Shuri says. “He is in good hands.”

The king takes a deep, shuddering breath.

“Of that, I have no doubt,” he says, “but if I had only ensured that the Queen was truly dead before I turned my back-”

“Oh, you must stop,” Shuri says. “You and i both know M’Baku is much too stubborn to die young. He will go when he decides to, and not a moment before. Besides, you know he only saved you because he knew that, if you died, I would be your likely successor.”

The king laughs a little then, just a dry huff of air.

“It isn’t your fault, brother,” Shuri says, much more quietly. “You must know this.”

To that, the king says nothing.

Finally, Shuri sighs.

“I am going to check on the rest of the injured before we depart,” she says. “Why don’t you visit with him?”

With that, princess’s footsteps fade through the hiss of the sliding doors, and M’Baku is alone in the room with his king.

The noise-cancelling technology of T’Challa’s suit silences the sound of his footsteps, but even so, M’Baku feels the king’s presence when he draws near to M’Baku’s side. He feels him in in the way he can smell a storm before it hits, a deep, sharp knowing that sings to his very blood.

“M’Baku,” the king says, “if you die today, I swear I will follow you to the Ancestral Plane and drag you back myself. Please do not make me embarrass myself in front of the ancestors. I have seen them too much already.”

M’Baku laughs inwardly, surprising himself.

But nothing could have prepared him for the moment when he feels T’Challa lay his hand on the left side of his face.

“Please stay,” T’Challa says, his voice choked with emotion. “Your people need you. I need you.”

And then M’Baku feels something warm and soft and heartbreakingly gentle on his forehead. The truth of it strikes him with a force that causes the pain in his side to reignite.

The king has just kissed him.

With a sudden, impossible burst of adrenaline, M’Baku forces his eyes open.

The king is standing over him, haloed by the silvery lights above him. His eyes are bright with unshed tears, and they widen in shock when M’Baku’s eyes meet his.

He is the most beautiful thing that M’Baku has ever seen.

“T’Challa,” he says, or perhaps he only imagines that he says it. His voice is so faint and strangled in his own ears that he might have only thought it.

Suddenly, the doors hiss open, and M’Baku hears the sounds of many feet clipping against the floor.

“My king,” an unfamiliar voice says. “We are ready to depart. You are need at the front of the ship.”

And then suddenly the king is gone, replaced by the faces and voices of the nurses. M’Baku feels a prickling in his limbs, and then the pain fades again, along with his vision.

As he slips under, he holds T’Challa’s kiss to the center of his heart, engraves the perfect shape of the king’s face on the back of his eyelids.

If he does leave this world today, M’Baku thinks, it is not such a bad memory to end with.

Chapter Text

M’Baku spends two more days in the hospital. The king does not return, and M’Baku does not know whether to be relieved or disappointed. On the morning he is to be discharged, M’Baku awakens to find a large, intricately-woven blanket draped over him, entirely concealing the crisp white hospital sheets beneath. M’Baku runs his fingers along the edges of it as Ntozake examines him for the last time. It’s beautiful, with all the colors of a mountain sunrise mottled together in a perfect harmony. The material is soft and light, but surprisingly warm. M’Baku wonders why Ntozake put it on him during the night, since he has not complained of being cold during his stay. Perhaps it was just a kindness.

After Ntozake gives him a clean bill of health, she shows him to the adjoining bathroom and hands him a washcloth, a towel, and a clean change of clothes.

“Be gentle with the scar tissue,” Ntozake says before she shuts the door.

The bandages have long been removed, but M’Baku has not been able to bring himself to look at the place where the Queen pierced him. The previous day, Ntozake had quietly mentioned that, while M’Baku had made a full recovery, the venom from the stinger ensured that their would always be a scar. While the healed wound no longer brings M’Baku pain, he has been hyperaware of it in the way he might be aware of a pebble in his boot.

He takes his hospital gown off, takes a deep breath, and finally turns to look at himself in the mirror.

His throat constricts at the sight of it. The scar is huge, roughly the size of his fist, and jagged. The skin has healed in bizarre, uneven skeins that resemble a flattened pile of thin, half-melted needles. It is a strange, silvery gray, the same shade as the Queen’s stinger. When M’Baku carefully prods it, he finds that, though the rest of him is warm, the scar is as cold as ice.

For a moment, M’Baku stares at it, transfixed.

For as long as he lives, he will always be reminded of how close he came to death.

When M’Baku returns to his quarters after his shower, he finds that Ntozake has laid his knobkerrie and his pack next to the folded blanket on the bed. Ntozake stands by the door, her hands folded behind her.

“Your regalia is in the pack,” Ntozake says. “The princess mended it for you.”

M’Baku pulls the tunic out and examines it. It is immaculate, without even the slightest sign of any tear. Grudgingly, he vows to thank her during the next council meeting.

“Thank you,” M’Bkaku says, slinging his pack over his shoulder, “for everything.”

“It was my pleasure,” Ntozake says. “Your men are in the courtyard, whenever you are ready,”

M’Baku picks up his knobkerrie and turns to leave, but Ntozake stops him before he can reach the door.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” she calls out.

When M’Baku turns around, Ntozake is standing before him with the folded blanket on her outstretched arms.

“It is kind of you to offer,” M’Baku says, “but I am sure your next patient will need it far more than I do.”

“It is not mine to give,” she says quietly. “Does the king’s gift displease you?”

The king.

“He was here?” M’Baku asks.

Ntozake nods.

“He came last night,” she says, “but you were already asleep.” She holds the blanket out to him again. “Please take it.”

M’Baku swallows roughly and accepts it. He tucks it into his bag, and when he looks back at Ntozake, she is smiling at him sadly.

“He has been worried about you, my lord,” she says.

M’Baku scoffs and hope it does not sound as disingenuous as it feels.

“I’m sure he is,” he says. “When I am gone there will be no one else to save his stupid ass.”

Ntozake sighs and looks at M’Baku in a way that rankles his spirit. It is the look of a mother frustrated with a child that refuses to see the true even when it is staring him straight in the face.

“He is waiting to see you off,” she says. “Perhaps you should speak to him.”

M’Baku averts his eyes and shrugs.

“Perhaps I will,” he says.

He leaves before he can embarrass himself even further.

~

The Jabari greet M’Baku warmly when he arrives in the courtyard, and he finds himself smiling for the first time in days. Seeing his warriors healed and whole eases the tension in his spirit somewhat, and he greets each one in turn.

“It is good to see you back on your feet, my lord,” says Chioke, one of M’Baku’s fiercest warriors. “As you can see, the young ones were inconsolable with worry.”

Chioke gestured to a gaggle of young soldiers in animated conversation with a few pretty Wakandan nurses. M’Baku laughs and claps Chioke on the back.

“Ah, well,” he says. “It takes more than a little sting to get rid of-“

“Lord M’Baku.”

M’Baku’s voice dies in his throat at the sound of his name spoken in that voice, rough as a cat’s tongue but soft as summer rain.

He turns and sees T’Challa standing before him, looking up at M’Baku with naked relief in his eyes.

Chioke shifts uncomfortably and mutters something about rounding everyone up for the journey home before excusing himself.

M’Baku barely notices.

For a moment, the two of them regard each other without speaking. The king appears worn, but better rested than he was a few days ago in M’Baku’s hospital room. The vibration teeth of his necklace gleam against the darkness of his robes, and his posture is tall and erect.

“How are you feeling?” the king asks finally.

“Eager to sleep in my own bed,” M’Baku says, somewhat awkward, “but give Ntozake my thanks. She was wonderful.”

“Of course,” T’Challa says.

Another moment of silence, stretches between them like brittle ice. To M’Baku’s surprise, it is the king who speaks first.

“I apologize for the way I acted the other night,” T’Challa says. “I shouldn’t have-“

“Don’t,” M’Baku says. “You were right. It was a rash decision. But we are both alive and well, so let us thank the gods and be done with it, yes?”

Slowly, T’Challa nods.

M’Baku extends his hand to T’Challa, anticipating a brotherly handshake like the one they exchanged before battle.

But T’Challa does not take M’Baku’s hand. Instead, he throws his arms around M’Baku’s shoulders and embraces him. For a moment, M’Baku is frozen in shock.

Then he curls his arms around T’Challa and closes his eyes.

The last time M’Baku held the king this close, he was carrying T’Challa’s broken body to the shamans. He remembers how the king’s head rested on his chest. Remembers how light he felt in his arms.

For one moment, the world is no more. There is only the two of them, and this unspoken thing that neither of them has the voice to speak into existence.

“You scared me, my friend,” T’Challa murmurs against his shoulder.

Begin them, someone clears their throat.

Dazedly, as if waking from a dream, M’Baku turns and sees Chioke standing at the front of the Jabari. Some of the warriors are looking at the two of them curiously. Others avert their eyes uncomfortably, and M’Baku’s face burns.

“We are ready to depart whenever you are, my lord,” Chioke says, his voice oddly formal.

M’Baku steps away from T’Challa and nods. He does not look back as approaches his people, his knobkerrie raised in his left hand.

“Glory to Hanuman!” he shouts.

“Glory to Hanuman!” the Jabari shout in return.

They sing hymns on the hike back, and M’Baku’s voice rings out louder than them all.

~

As he soaks in one of the local hot springs that night, M’Baku touches his scar, waiting for it to warm, waiting for its inhuman cold to fade, waiting for it to return to some semblance of normalcy.

But it never does

Chapter Text

“If we are all in agreement, and there are no further questions, I declare this meeting finished.” The king rises and salutes the council. “Thank you all. You are dismissed.”

M’Baku stands up and surreptitiously glances over at T’Challa. His back is turned to M’Baku, and he seems utterly absorbed in his conversation with the border tribe. During the course of the council meeting, M’Baku barely met the king’s eyes, speaking only to the elders around him and a fixed point over the king’s left shoulder. Mercifully, the king did not prod him any more than usual.

This is good, M’Baku tells himself, ignoring the disappointment pooling in his stomach.

He nods politely at some of the elders and makes his way to the throne room door, where General Okoye and the soldier they call Ayo stands guard. Just as he is about to pass the threshold, Okoye holds and arm out to halt him.

“The king wishes to speak to you,” she says quietly.

M’Baku snorts. “Does he now?”

Okoye nods, her expression neutral.

“Did he say why?”

Okoye shrugs. “I didn’t ask.”

M’Baku twists his knobkerrie between his hands and says nothing for a moment.

“Suppose I am tired,” M’Baku says. “Suppose I do not feel like speaking tonight. What then?”

The general fixes M’Baku with her falcon-like gaze.

“Then go,” she says. “He will not force you.”

M’Baku sucks his lips against his teeth, but he stays there next to the door, waiting as the council members wander out one by one. When the room is clear, T’Challa nods at the guards, and Okoye and Ayo leave the room, shutting the heavy doors behind them.

For the first time in over a week, M’Baku and T’Challa are alone.

Outside, it has begun to storm, and the sound of rain and distant thunder is the only sound in the room. Finally, T’Challa stands up from his throne and begins to slow walk towards M’Baku.

“When I was a boy,” the king says finally , “my father taught me that fear was a healthy thing, that it taught us humility, that it was only a detriment when it prevented us from doing the right thing. He believed that he who has no fear has no love, has no goodness or beauty in his life to lose.”

The king steps off the dais.

“Last year, I watched my father die in front of me,” the king says. His voice shakes, but he does not stop. “I lost Zuri. I lost my throne. I very nearly lost my own life. I saw N’Jadaka nearly murder my little sister. After that, I found that I was numb to fear. Oh, there were times I felt worried, or vaguely nervous, but real fear, the kind that turns your blood to ice and freezes you where you stand, became a distant memory. After all, every fear I had ever harbored came true, or nearly so, within the span of a couple of weeks. I thought I had nothing left to lose.”

T’Challa is only a meter or so away from M’Baku now, close enough that M’Baku could reach out and touch him. But M’Baku remains totally still. The blood roars in his ears, and his heart his a wild animal that pounds against the cage of his ribs.

“But then you almost died,” T’Challa says, and his voice cracks, and M’Baku’s knees nearly give out at the gleam of fresh tears in the king’s eyes. “And I remembered what it felt like to be truly afraid.”

“What are you saying, Your Majesty?” M’Baku asks, his voice barely above a whisper.

The king takes a deep, shuddering sigh.

“I am saying that I love you, M’Baku, Leader of the Jabari Tribe.”

The air leaves M’Baku then, along with every emotion he has buried inside his heart since the day he found T’Challa’s broken body in the river. He opens his mouth, but there are no words to describe the joy that he feels then, so he simply steps forward and kisses his king.

~

When they leave the throne room sometime later, disheveled and grinning, Ayo and Okoye are standing outside the doors, barely concealed smirks on their faces.

“Is everything is alright, my king?” Okoye says.

“Yes, General,” T’Challa says, “but please notify your guard that Lord M’Baku’s chambers will not need a post tonight. We are going to continue our discussion in my quarters.”

“Diplomatic matters,” M’Baku adds helpfully.

Ayo snorts.

“Of course, my king,” Okoye says, a twinkle in her eyes.

As they make their way down the hall, M’Baku hears the distinct sound of laughter behind them.

“About time,” Okoye says.

~

In the haven of the king’s bedroom, when their clothes lie scattered across the floor and the king’s fingers twist inside of M’Baku, M’Baku feels as if perhaps he really did die in battle and has reached paradise. T’Challa kisses the scar on M’Baku’s stomach, his eyes closing as his lips trace the jagged border, and he murmurs what sounds like a litany of praise against M’Baku’s skin.

“This Hanuman,” T’Challa says suddenly, “is he a good god?”

“What?” M’Baku raises his head, and immediately regrets it. The king looks transformed, his eyes blazing and his skin covered in a sheen of sweat. His muscles roll beneath the rich, silken brown of his skin, and it takes all of M’Baku’s willpower not to come right then and there.

“You heard me,” the king says. He plants tender kisses over the curve of M’Baku’s stomach, dipping his tongue into his navel and massaging the flesh with his free hand. M’Baku has always had a slight paunch, soft and slightly round where T’Challa is ridged and lean. He has never been bothered by it; in truth, he rarely thinks about it at all. The Jabari value size and strength above mere muscle definition. But he has never had a lover that touched it like this, that treated it as something beautiful and holy, and the way T’Challa caresses him makes his heart feel as if it is bursting.

“Yes,” M’Baku says, his back arching as T’Challa crooks his fingers again. “Yes, of course he is good.”

“I see,” T’Challa says. He kisses over M’Baku’s torso, along the black tattoos on his chest and the lightning-strike stretch marks that decorate the tops of his arms. “And is he wise?”

“T’Challa, if you do not get stop asking questions and get inside of-”

T’Challa adds a third finger just as he clamps his thumb and forefinger down on M’Baku’s left nipple. M’Baku throws his head back and cries out, his hands grasping blindly at T’Challa’s shoulders. T’Challa surges up and kisses M’Baku’s throat, rough and possessive.

“Is he brilliant?” T’Challa demands, his breath hot against the shell of M’Baku’s ear. “Is he courageous? Is he a lover of beautiful things?”

“Yes,” M’Baku chokes out, rocking feebly back against T’Challa’s merciless hand.

Suddenly T’Challa pauses, his hands and lips stilling for a moment. He gently turns M’Baku’s face towards his and kisses him, long and slow. When he breaks the kiss, he presses his forehead to M’Baku’s.

“Then Hanuman must truly be all of those things and more,” T’Challa says, “for he created you.”

M’Baku kisses T’Challa, drinking from him in long droughts.

“My love,” he says against the king’s lips, “I’m ready for you.

Without another word, T’Challa withdraws his fingers and pushes M’Baku’s knees up towards his chest. He pauses to kiss the insides of his thighs, kneading them as he admires their girth, the strength and power held within them.

“I was a fool,” T’Challa murmurs, “to have hidden this for so long. All the time I wasted. To think we could’ve-“

“Shall I play you the world’s smallest xalam?” M’Baku says before surging up to silence T’Challa with a kiss. “We were both fools. But here we are. We can make up for lost time.” He wraps his legs around T’Challa’s waist and draws him in. “Now fuck me, Your Majesty.”

T’Challa does not have to be told twice. He takes himself in hand, his prodigious girth even more pronounced against his slim fingers. He presses his forehead against M’Baku’s, lines himself up, and then-

M’Baku moans as T’Challa enters him, stretching him wide, and T’Challa presses kisses to M’Baku’s slack mouth as he bottoms out. T’Challa feels impossibly fat inside M’Baku, and M’Baku impulsively places a hand over his stomach, half-believing he will be able to feel the bulge of him there.

“I’ve had this dream before,” T’Challa says, kissing the exposed column of M’Baku’s throat. He stirs himself slightly, just enough to make M’Baku gasp. “Fuck, you feel so good.”

M’Baku grabs T’Challa’s buttocks, urging him forward.

“Like you mean it,” M’Baku says. “Leave nothing left.”

T’Challa pins M’Baku’s wrists above his head in an iron grip, pulls almost all the way out, and then snaps his hips forward. The sound M’Baku makes is not entirely human. T’Challa claims M’Baku’s mouth in a scorching kiss as he lays into him, the frame of T’Challa’s massive bed knocking against the wall with every thrust. It only takes a few strokes for him to hit home, and it feels like every nerve ending in M’Baku’s body has been set on fire.

“Fuck!” M’Baku screams, arching his back. “Right there!”

T’Challa’s arms lock around M’Baku’s waist in a viselike grip, supporting the arch as T’Challa fucks him. He strikes the perfect spot every time, and M’Baku feels his orgasm swelling inside of him, every muscle in his body pulling taut as an archer’s bow.

“T’Challa,” he breathes, “I’m-“

“Yes, that’s it,” T’Challa whispers, increasing the force of his thrusts and sinking his teeth into M’Baku’s earlobe. “Come for me, love.”

And then suddenly M’Baku is weightless, his vision whiting out as he spurts all over their bodies. T’Challa follows him a moment later, catching M’Baku’s lips in a wet, biting kiss before collapsing on M’Baku’s chest.

When M’Baku regains his sight, T’Challa is kissing him all over his face, murmuring in his ear.

“Mndani,” T’Challa whispers in between kisses. “My love, my love, my love.”

~

They make love three more times before they become to spent to do anything but lie tangled up in each other, mindlessly caressing each other’s bodies. Every word that was moaned, screamed, and sighed hangs heavy in the air, pressing around them on all sides. M’Baku has never been this exhausted, or this happy, in his entire life. He cannot stop touching T’Challa’s hands. They are surprisingly delicate-looking in comparison to the rest of him: slender and almost bony, with sharp, pointed knuckles. They are the hands of a much older man, and a reminder that, while T’Challa may be the avatar of a god, imbued with the strength and stamina that most men can only dream of, he is still human. The truth of it pricks at M’Baku’s heart, and he presses a kiss to the pad of each finger.

The storm that began in the throne room has long since passed, revealing a beautiful mosaic of stars, with a fat pearl of a moon in its center that shines through the large skylight in the middle of the ceiling. T’Challa stretches up a hand towards it.

“When I was boy,” he says, “I used to climb up on the roof every full moon. I thought I might be able to hear the ancestors speak. Thought that if I asked them a question under sky like this, they might answer.”

“And did they speak to you?”

T’Challa shakes his head and smiles, a little sadly.

“No,” he says, “but even if they had, I doubt it would’ve soothed my poor mother’s nerves.”

M’Baku chuckles and presses a kiss to the corner of T’Challa’s mouth.

“The view is even better in the mountains,” M’Baku says. “All the stars are closer.”

“Are they now?”

M’Baku nods.

“Our harvest festival is next week,” he says, suddenly shy. “If you wish to come, I can show you then.”

T’Challa climbs on top of M’Baku and kisses his forehead.

“I’d like that,” he says.

“Good,” M’Baku says, wrapping his arms around T’Challa and rolling them over. “Good.”

“I love you, M’Baku.”

“I love you, too.”

They drift off like that, entangled in each other’s arms, and M’Baku has one last coherent thought before sleep pulls him under.

He has never felt a joy like this.