The first time is a surprise, but Tony understands. Of course, he understands.
Friday alerts him since, well, the billionaire told the A.I to always alert him if something was wrong no matter what, so he is told this while he is already awake tinkering away at something minor in his room. He immediately slides out of bed, careful not to disturb Pepper, and rushes over to Shuri’s room in a flash.
Tony knocks on the door promptly. “Shuri? Honey?” He asks, wincing when he hears the crying. The billionaire opens up the door and the teen is sobbing in a curled up ball on her bed. Shuri is terrifying out of her mind. The images were so vivid…
Tony is fast to get to her. “Hey! Shuri, honey,” He takes her hand and gently squeezes, the other stabling her body. “Nothing happened. It’s okay. You’re okay, honey, you’re okay,” He reassures. “Breathe for me…”
Slowly, but surely, the Wakandan teenager is calming, but also seems to have a mixture of annoyance and anger. She yanks away and curls up into the covers. “Go away!”
Tony is perplexed, looking like a kicked puppy. “Shuri?”
“ Please! ” Comes a muffled yell from under the covers.
He is, indeed, a kicked puppy as he leaves, still worried and does not sleep that night.
Tony hasn’t known Shuri for a very long time, but he thought he knew her well enough to reassure her that the nightmare was not real. Now? Big no-no.
Through the next week, he never asks what it was, nor did he know in the first place. Was it when T’Challa was killed and revived? Is it that her dad is gone? Or was it just a fake scenario? Tony didn’t know, and he is sure he won’t know. However, he may be incredibly good at being right about everything, but sometimes there’s a flop.
Seven days later at two A.M, he’s down the hall with a UGG robe over his vibranium-silk blend pajamas on the hunt for chocolate when his eyes grow in concern, seeing the door open to Shuri’s bedroom and hearing T’Challa speak in soft Xhosan. Being the nosy ass Tony is, he can’t but help to look to the king through the door just to receive a nod plus a mouthing of, “She’s alright, Stark.”
Tony and Shuri have worked more and more and, dare say, bonded, throughout the coming weeks. Neither of them would ever say that or even think it, but it was occurring. T’Challa noticed, Ramonda could see it, Okoye took note. They were definitely more than just some work buddies. They had become legitimate buddies.
“Boss? Shuri has elevated heart rates. She appears to be having-”
Friday can’t even finish before he’s out of the door.
Tony doesn’t knock this time because he needs to soothe the mortified screams that Shuri is spawning in her sleep. He is at her bedside as fast as he can be. “Shuri! Hey! Shuri, honey-”
The Wakandan princess finally wakes up crying and hot, the duvet suddenly too hot for her. She huddles herself as Tony attempts soothing her. Initially, Shuri stays facing the other way, prompting Tony. “...Can you tell me what that was about? Maybe that’ll help?”
Shuri isn’t replying. There’s only sniffles and rocking her body back and forth in a ball.
God, this was killing Tony. He didn’t want to see her like this-Shuri didn’t deserve this. This girl didn’t deserve pain. She’s done nothing to need any. “Shuri? Honey?”
“It’s just my dad,” Shuri pushes out.
Of course. “Oh,” Is all the man can say. Tony couldn’t help himself on the daddy issues, so he couldn’t really do anything for Shuri and her dead one. “It’s gonna be okay.”
Shuri sniffles, clueless as to what to say (even for the smartest person in the world). “Thanks. I just need to work on a device to help with it.”
“Would you want me to help with it?”
“...Yeah. That’d be great. Thank you, Mr. Stark.”
“Kiddo, for the last time, you can call me Tony.”
Shuri swallows. “Thanks, Tony.”
Regrettably enough, they forget about working on it in favor of other projects. They dive deep into intellectual curiosity, chatter, laughter, their relationship has grown. They’re close. The two won’t address it, though.
It’s been four months and they take a publicity trip to Stuttgart, Germany. It goes quite well, at first, a lot of fans, a lot of smiling a lot of laughter, but nothing good lasts forever.
It was how her father died: a bombing. A radical of sorts had bombed the event venue where the two of them were at. Sadly enough, Germany was, indeed, a terrorist hotspot, but they still didn’t have any anticipation for it.
Tony’s first reaction is extreme panic. Where is Shuri? Oh, God, Shuri could be dead. “SHURI!” He shouts as loud as he can from the ground. He stumbles to his feet as he activates his suit. “Frida-Fri? Where is she?” Tony pants. “Oh, God-” His voice is literally cracking.
Friday shows him a scan outline of her body feet away.
“SHURI!” He yells, trying to ignore the ringing in his ears.
Her body gets up shakily. “Tony?!” She calls.
Tony immediately checks her body for injuries with his helmet off, he needed to see her without the mask. “Are you hurt? Cuts? Bruises? Broken bones, honey?”
“I-I’m fine! I think…” She sounds tired and dazed. Her eyes slowly move around to see the room, but her consciousness is fading fast. “I...tell ‘challa...mama,” She breathes out with any strength left. “Love…” The princess taps his hand with the remaining function in her finger. “Lo…”
“Hey? Shuri? Shuri, nononono,” Tony murmurs. He’s drowning in mortification because he’s sure there’s an injury he doesn’t see.
“Boss, she has a gash on her left arm, a critical wound on her left leg, and a more minor scrape on her hairline. Otherwise, she is in shock,” Friday reports.
Tony fumbles in Shuri’s things to find a kimoyo bead. When he does find it, he presses it inside her wound. “It’s gonna be okay, it’s gonna be okay, it’s gotta be okay,” He repeats over and over. Anxiety is rising up that he so desperately wants to repress. What if there’s something he isn’t seeing? What if she doesn’t make it whatifshedoesn’tmakeit? What if…
He sits in silence wearing a fresh pair of black sweatpants and sweatshirt, eyes staring into the holographic heart monitor with no end.
“You saved her life, Tony,” T’Challa states bluntly, yet lowly. “There is no money, no words, nothing I can ever do to repay you.”
Tony scoffs. “I didn’t save her life. If I had saved her life-if I had saved anyone’s life, I would’ve already known that someone was going to bomb the fucking museum,” His voice is practically a darkly low and furious growl.
T’Challa deeply breathes out, still looking forwards at Shuri while standing beside the man showing such depressed emotions. “You couldn’t have known and you didn’t know.”
“I was supposed to know,” His head slowly shakes, the speed of a turtle walking. Tony’s voice goes up a notch with a crackiness rarely observed by others. “I was supposed to know for her-to protect her!” He enunciates clearly, emphasis on the ‘ct’.
“But you didn’t-”
“And that’s what gives me the anxiety, T’Challa,” Tony finally gets the guts to look at him, his dark eyes glassy and the expression on his face shows how torn apart he is. His voice is now a whisper with the weight of the world in its volume. “You always wonder where the anxiety comes from...My attacks, my panic, my fear ...I don’t ever know enough to protect the people I love. So remember that the next time someone comes to kill you. To kill your sister.”
“I see how you care for her,” T’Challa admits. “You care for her like she’s your daughter.”
“No I don’t,” Tony contradicts on the fly. Yes, he’s slightly started to notice it, but it wasn’t anything. Shuri was just a kid, an amazing kid with a brilliance beyond compare, but she was not his daughter in the slightest.
“Yes you do, Tony, don’t deny it...She needs you. Granted, Shuri will not admit that, but she needs close relationships like that. There’s her mother, me, and you. Growing up, it was hard for her to make friends here in Wakanda, as odd as it is. Her father is dead...She needs people around her.”
Tony turns his head back to look at Shuri lying asleep. Her heart still beats, thank God. If she had died...Again, his eyes were still glassy to the maximum. “Never think for a second I don’t know that.”
Within the day, Shuri is back on her feet, trying to act like nothing ever happened, but Tony could see over the false materialized facade. He could always see her on the verge of nearly cracking and she would just walk away. That didn’t happen, though, at three a.m. five days after.
“Shuri is crying, Boss. It appears to be a nightmare-induced anxiety attack.”
It takes no time for Tony to have opened the girl’s bedroom door and for him to sit on the bed next to her, her body curled up in the mattress's center and she falls into him. At first, he’s surprised, because that has definitely never happened before, nor has she even hugged him, so he blinks and just soothes her the best he can. One good hand rubs her back and a voice whispers that she’s okay over and over. It’s the best he can do. The guilt inside him says that he could do better, though, and it is seen in his eyes.
“My mom was dead,” Is what eventually comes out of Shuri’s mouth.
“She’s not dead, honey, Ramonda isn’t dead. She isn’t dead, honey…” Tony attempts to calm her. Apparently, it worked, because before he realizes it, she’s asleep against him and he has no idea what to do. He can’t wake her…
Tony bites his lip, feeling her pulse against his own body. There’s something unfamiliar, yet familiar about this, but when he does realize what’s up, Tony just rapidly blinks: he was Shuri, once, and he is now his mom. Sometimes, after nightmares, she would hold him and he’d fall asleep in his arms. Shuri, however, was a teenager, and he was just the closest thing she had to a dad-wait, since when was he thinking that? He’s not her dad. Period.
Tony figures out how to quietly lie down without disturbing her, awkwardly resting his head against the pillow and oddly enough, Shuri is still asleep and it looks like she isn’t gonna wake up anytime soon.
Two weeks later consisting of events including more science work, pranks, memes, and Shuri accidentally calling Tony ‘dad’, the Wakandan princess can’t sleep, but Tony is pretty sure he figured out a way to help.
“Whale noises?” Shuri squints her eyes in her baggy Ravenclaw sweatshirt and cat graphic pajama pants.
“They’re pretty relaxing to me,” Tony shrugs. “Besides, whales are really cool.”
“You’re right. They are, indeed, wonderful creatures.” Shuri flops back into the plushness of her bed. “Play it?”
“Fri?” Tony asks. He’s sitting down at the edge of her bed when the long Spotify playlist starts. The sounds of whales calling in the midst of the ocean were beautiful and were calming for the soul.
Shuri’s heartbeat is slowing as her intent is to the music. “...This works well…” She murmurs.
Tony smiles. “I’m glad. It helps me when I can’t sleep which is, well, a lot.” He doesn’t even mention that he’s had sleepless nights worrying about her, hoping that she wasn’t crying herself to sleep just to awake from seeing a loved one dead in her mind. He stands up just to be stopped.
“Wait?” Shuri blurts.
“What is it? The lavender spray on your pillow too strong-I told you that it may have been a little too much for you-”
“No…” Shuri bites her lip. “Could you...No, nevermind.”
“No, ask me.”
“It is a frivolous thing to ask, go to sleep,” Shuri waves him off with her hand, even as she lies on her side facing her left. The fluffy duvet is up to her shoulders, as well as the violet chunky knit blanket on top.
“Shuri, honey, just ask me,” Tony attempts to draw it out of her.
The Wakandan teen sighs. “It’s childish.”
“Would you sleep in my bed?”
Tony was not negatively phased at all. “Yeah, of course.” He goes to slide in. “I mean, like, your bed is comfortable, so.”
Shuri’s voice is meek, which is a general rarity. She yanks her duvet over her in defense. “You have comforting snuggles.”
Tony laughs, thinking of movie nights where they sit together with weighted blankets and watch tv “Okay, then. That’s a new one.”
Shuri rolls up against him. “This helps,” She murmurs. Her body is cozy and her mind is being soothed. “Thanks, Tony,” Her voice is a whisper under the duvet.
The billionaire pats her head. “Your welcome, honey, your welcome.” There was nothing he wouldn’t do to make her feel better, don’t test him on it.
Time passes quickly to the peaceful rhythm of whales with the soothing scent of lavender pillow spray. Shuri must be just barely awake because her body is relaxed and relieved of tension that is usually there. “‘Love you..”
Tony just barely hears it because he, too, is almost asleep. His brain comprehends it, though, guessing she either thinks of him like that, or she’s semi-dreaming of her father and of memories with him. Either way, his sleepy brain brings, “I love you, too,” to his mouth as the whales sing their ethereal melody before they drift to sleep