T'Challa frowns at the man in front of him via a hologram. Tony Stark looks incredibly tired. His skin is a sort of pale gray with purple eye bags sticking out like a sore thumb. His hair looks as though he ran his fingers through it a dozen times in frustration or stress or both and, by only seeing half the man's body, T'Challa can see that the shirt Tony is wearing is well-worn, almost raggy.
"Mr. Stark," T'Challa beings, "when was the last time you slept?"
"I don't remember," Tony answers nonchalantly. "Two days ago? Three days ago? I don't sleep much these days. Too much to worry about. You should know, being a King and all."
T'Challa doesn't reply at first. This man before him, a man he's studied in and out of school, is brilliant. But the wariness it there, ghosting his features in a sort of haunted look. It's not something he likes. A brilliant man such as Stark, Tony Stark, shouldn't look so tired and unsure.
"I do not allow my duties as King to overrun my personal health. I cannot run a kingdom when I neglect my own health."
He, quite clearly, hears a snort come from the hologram.
"Unfortunately, not everyone is like that."
T'Challa sees him move around through the hologram; picking up pieces of scrap here and there. Mumbling here and there about tech and whatnot. He sees Tony move some papers and small boxes out of the way on his desk and pauses when a small flip-phone comes into view.
He barely hears it, but T'Challa can sense the bitterness: "Fuckin', Rogers."
Tony roughly opens a compartment and thrusts the phone inside and slams it close with more than necessary force.
"How is Rogers, by the way? And Barnes? And the rest of Rogers motley crew?"
"Captain Rogers is adapting as well as he can given the circumstances. Sargeant Barnes volunteered to go back into the cryo chamber." He makes no comment on the quick flash of surprise on Tony's face. "Mr. Barton and Mr. Lang fair off well now that I've provided them communication to their fam - "
Tony snorts. "Barton's wife and children deserve better. So does Lang's daughter. Choosing Cap over their own families."
T'Challa remains silent.
"She...remains mostly by herself. Either in her room or the library."
"I believe she will be."
"What about Wilson?"
"I was under the impression you'd rather not discuss them?"
"Yeah, well, call it curiosity. Wilson was the only one to ask about Rhodey. In my book, that places him higher than Cap and the others."
"I'm a shit conversationist. Let's just talk about why you even called me in the first place."
T'Challa sees Tony move out of the way for a moment and then returns, only this time, the hologram shows a close up on his face and he's holding a mug of coffee? tea? or whatever in his hands.
"Regardless of your feelings towards Captain Rogers, you still provide the necessary coverage for him. Be it money to pay for damages or signatures to contracts to keep him, as well as others, safe. So this, Mr. Stark, is simple. I called to offer my assistance. Money or influence or what you need."
He sees the unreadable expression on Tony's face.
"Why do you want to help?" There's a silent "me" attached to the question.
"Please don't forget, Mr. Stark. I, too, signed the Accords. I believe in much, if not all, of what you fight for. While your methods are deemed 'out of place,' I understand your willingness to serve and protect. It's admirable from my standpoint."
During his say, he looked away. But once he's finished, his eyes return to the hologram. Tony is pinching the bridge of his nose, eyes shut tightly.
"I don't regret it, you know? I don't regret signing the Accords. They are necessary. God, Steve was so selfish. So fucking selfish!"
He disappears from the hologram and T'Challa can hear things being mand-handled around and then there's a crash. Alarmed, T'Challa moves closer to the hologram.
"Mr. Stark? Are you well?"
"Mr. Stark, please respond."
"Fuck, don't call me 'Mr. Stark.' I'm not my dad!"
T'Challa relaxes when he sees Tony's face again despite his eyes appearing somewhat unfocused.
"My apologies. What do you wish to be called?"
He hears a snort.
"Tony is fine. Doctor Stark is fine. I have, like, three Doctorates. Just, God, please, don't call me 'Mr. Stark.' I hate that so damn much."
T'Challa can feel his mouth twitch just a little. "You are aware, Tony, that most people wouldn't speak to me the way you are."
And just like that, Tony's grinning all teeth and brighter eyes. "I'm Tony fucking Stark. I do what I want."
Shaking his head, T'Challa allows a small grin to grace his face.
"I am aware of this," and then he's back to business. "I want to offer my assistance, Tony."
"If you can send a couple of those super badass lady guards of yours, then I'd appreciate it." It comes as a joke but, for a split second, T'Challa can see the nervousness in Tony's eyes and then it hits him.
Tony Stark is the only Avenger left that the American government can get too. He's the only one that General Ross can get too. Tony Stark was not only facing the troubles of the UN, but also his own government officials. And he's nervous. Scared, even. He's going to be the one who has to answer to everything. Alone.
"Are you safe where you are?" T'Challa can feel his hands twitch slightly.
"...Yes," but the hesitation is clear. "I think. Ross wasn't too happy that Cap and Barnes weren't brought in. He's probably more upset that I put him on hold when Steve broke in to save the kids. He thinks I had something to do with that."
T'Challa merely raises an eyebrow.
"I only sort of helped. I'm not fucking heartless, you know? I didn't want them to end up on the fucking Raft. God!"
"I don't see you as a heartless man, Tony Stark."
"Yeah? Well, you're one of the very few that do. My reputation proceeds me, you know?"
"Are you safe where you are?" T'Challa repeats his previous question.
"I...honestly don't know? Yes? Maybe? Ross barely lets me out of his sight unless I'm in my home. FRIDAY keeps him from bugging my house. Whatever. Anyways, I gotta go. Thanks for the chat, handsome. Talk to you again when I can. Bye!"
The last thing T'Challa sees before the hologram disappears is Tony Stark blowing him a kiss.
The next time T'Challa and Tony speak, it's two months later and Tony literally looks dead on his feet. His hair is longer, unkempt, and he lost a concerning amount of weight.
He greets T'Challa with a flirtatious wave of fingers and a "Hey, sugar~"
"Please tell me you are on a regular diet? That you eat three meals a day?" is the only reply he offers to the seemly sick man before him.
"Aww, concerned for me - "
"Yes," T'Challa snaps. "I am very concerned, Tony."
The shocked look on Tony's face is immediately replaced with a scowl.
"I don't need you, or anyone else, to be concerned for me. I'm doing just fine on my own."
"Are you?" T'Challa snaps once again.
Tony Stark, he is learning real quick, is a very stubborn man who lacks a great deal of interest in his own health.
"Look, I didn't call you back so you can bitch at me, okay? I called to warn you."
T'Challa immediately straighten up in his seat.
"Warn me about what?"
"Ross knows you have Cap and Barnes and the others. I don't know how he fucking did it, but he knows. He knows! I haven't said a damn thing to him in nearly two weeks and then I get a call that he wants me to infiltrate Wakanda to apprehend everyone you're harboring."
T'Challa moves to say something, but Tony rambles on.
"God, he can't take the others. Fuck, he'll put them somewhere worse than the Raft. He'll fucking torture them if he didn't before. I thought I was being careful, but maybe he was able to bug my office of the Avengers Facility or my home. Fuck. I swear I didn't tell him. I didn't tell Rhodey or Pepper. I don't want them involved with Ross anymore. I think - I think I might be sick, too, I mean."
With a deep breath, Tony whispers, "I think someone is poisoning me. I haven't drunk any besides water and coffee in three months, but I've blacked out more than once in and out of my home. In front of Ross. FRIDAY did a scan and there's something," he gulps, "wrong with me. And I feel sick all the damn time."
At this point, T'Challa is out of his seat.
"Are you safe where you are?"
"Yes? No? Maybe? God, I don't know. I'm just trying to not freak out right now, you know? I haven't had something like this happen to me in years."
"You need to get somewhere safe, Tony. Somewhere away from your government."
"I can't do that," Tony laughs. It's bitter and a little sad. "They're watching from every nook and cranny. I'm sure my house it bugged. I'm sure my office is bugged. I'm sure that, no matter where I go, they'll be listening."
"Is it safe for you to call me?"
"I'm in the middle of nowhere right now. Unless they've managed to bug the inside of my car, then I think I'll be okay."
Tony opens his mouth to speak once again, but a violent cough cuts himself and he's left whizzing and clutching his forehead. T'Challa can barely make out his face from the angle the hologram is at.
"You're sick. You need medical help."
"D-don't know who to trust these days. There's not much I can do. 'Sides, I got Rhodey and Vision looking over me. And - fuck!"
T'Challa can feel the prickle of anxiety rush over him.
"Shit. Nothing! Nothing is fucking wrong!"
The next two minutes both men, on opposite sides of the world, sit in silence. One breathing heavily and the other counting numbers to ease his anxiety.
"I don't know what to do anymore. I don't know what more of I can give them."
"You've done enough. You've done too much. It's time for someone else to step in."
That gets him a lifeless chuckle.
"I've spent all my life being the fighter. It's time for me to be the punching bag."
"You've been the punching bag for several years, Tony. Even before you were held in captivity in Afganistan. You deserve a break."
"I can't leave," Tony whispers. "I just can't up and walk away. I may not be the CEO of Stark Industries anymore, but I'm still needed to make the final decisions and this other company I run, the clean energy, I need to watch over that. It's going to help a lot of people around the world. And Pepper and Rhodey, God, I just can't abandon them like that. It's not right. I need to...I need to keep them safe."
"You are doing everything in your power to keep them safe, but you can't forget yourself."
"I need to go," but T'Challa can tell it's a lie.
"When should I expect your next call?"
"I...honestly don't know."
And he hangs up.
The calls after that remain short, but T'Challa looks forward to them.
They usually begin with how Tony is doing and move from there.
And it goes on for about three months.
"How are you today, Tony?"
"The duties of a King never rest."
That earns him a snort.
"Have you ate anything today?"
"I had some toast a little bit ago."
"I hope it had butter on it."
That earns him a small smile.
"When's the last time you slept?"
"I don't remember."
"Ease my heart and sleep soon."
That earns him a little laugh.
T'Challa is sitting in his office, going through papers regarding a neighboring country and trade, when Tony's private line pops up in front of him in the form of a hologram. He answers it while reading through a report with his usual, "How are you?" and when he doesn't get a reply he looks up.
He sits up straighter in alarm.
The man before him appears to have just...given up on everything. His face, once healed from his fight between Rogers and Barnes, is bruised. He has a busted lip, several small bruises and cuts littering the right side of his face, and a large bruise on the left side of his face from either being punched or backhanded.
"Who did this?" T'Challa demands.
"It doesn't matter," Tony answers. "What matter is - "
T'Challa cuts him. "Of course, it matters. Who did this? Why did they do it?"
He is taken back by Tony's angry face.
"It doesn't fucking matter! What matters is that Ross knows you have Cap and the motley crew, but he isn't doing anything. Ross just doesn't sit around and do nothing. He's planning something. Something big. And I...I am can't, I can't protect anyone."
T'Challa recognizes the signs of a panic attack immediately.
"Are you by yourself?"
"Yes, yes. Shit."
"Okay, now listen to me and don't interrupt."
Tony just nods, but his eyes are frantic.
"It's not your job to protect anyone and - stop - it's not your job to make up to people who get hurt. Don't interrupt me. People will get hurt regardless of what you do. It's something we, as humans, go through every day of our lives. You cannot possibly think that it's your duty to save everyone. You are one man, Tony Stark, albeit an incredibly gifted and successful man, but one man. This burden you and the world place on you isn't fair. You done so much to make up for your mistakes that it's time someone else steps in."
"That's just shifting blame," Tony mumbles.
"No, it's realizing and understanding that you are allowed to step down. It's knowing that you can stand there and say 'no' when you need too. It's understanding that you can ask for help when you need it."
And, just like that, Tony cracks.
"I don't have anyone to back me up anymore! My best friend is away to get the proper help he needs. Help I can't give him right now. Those helper legs work, but it's not enough. My other best friend and I haven't talked since we broke up. The man I thought I could trust, who preached about not keeping secrets from teammates, fucking blind-sided me with the biggest secret regarding my parents. My so-called 'science buddy' is nowhere to be found. The Spider is off trying to find herself and The Arrow is a jackass. Vision can't handle human emotions. Who the fuck else am I suppose to turn too?"
Tony stops and then lets out a bitter little laugh.
"We barely know each other. You live thousands of miles away."
"I told you," T'Challa stops to collect his thoughts, "months ago that I'm ready to assist in any way you need. This includes getting you away from harms way."
"Why do you even care?"
T'Challa feels his shoulder sag, just a little.
"Because when I look at you...I don't see Tony Stark, Merchant of Death. I see Tony Stark, the genius engineer, a man who will stop at nothing to right his wrongs, a man who wants to save the world even at the cost of his own life. When I look at you, Tony Stark, I see hope. Determination."
Tony stares for a while, small tears running down his face.
"He had them interrogate me. Ross, I mean. I put him on hold when Cap broke out the kids. He thinks I had a hand in it since I built the damn Raft and that it should be impossible that Cap was able to break into a high maximum security prison. He's right, of course, but I wouldn't tell him. No matter how much Cap has hurt me, I won't let him or anyone be put there again. That place it hell. I designed it to be hell."
"General Ross interrogated a civilian?" T'Challa demanded in a question.
"General Ross interrogated Iron Man."
"Were you in the suit?"
"Does it matter? The suit and I are one."
"If you are wearing civilian clothing, then you are a civilian. Tony Stark, a civilian. Did he have a warrant?"
"No, he didn't."
"Then what gives him the right to interrogate you?"
By now, Tony seems to have got his breathing under control.
"It's not like I can take on a truckload of guys without the Iron Man armor."
"Are you back home?"
T'Challa feels his heart thump loudly. If Tony were in the same room as him, he'd hear it.
"I'm actually on my way to Italy. Venice, to be exact. I'm inside my jet. Last minute decision."
"I just need a mini vacation, you know? A small break away from my responsibilities."
"This 'small break' better be more than a week."
But T'Challa can see the weariness in them. The pain.
"I'll be fine. I'll...be fine."
T'Challa doesn't know if Tony is trying to reassure himself or him.
"Gotta' go, honey. Talk to you later."
"You will call?"
Just before Tony hangs up, he blows a kiss at T'Challa.
T'Challa waits exactly three days before ordering one of his assistants to prepare his private jet for a round-about trip to Italy. When confronted by his sister, he merely smiles at her and tells her he's going to meet a friend.
She just gives him a pretty little smile and states the she understands.
The flight to Italy is pleasant and rather fast.
Tony said he'd be staying in Venice.
A wealthy guy like Tony probably owns some property in Italy.
It takes T'Challa all of 45 minutes to track Tony down at a small restaurant drinking coffee and reading from a tablet. The bruises have already begun healing nicely. His hair was still relatively long, but in the sun, he glowed more in that moment than T'Challa had seen during all of their more pleasant conversations.
"May I join you?" he asks as he comes to stand next to the table.
Tony looks at him over his sunglasses and nods towards the seat across from him.
"It took you long enough, buttercup. I was starting to think you'd stand me up. That's not good for my ego, you know?"
But he's grinning. A pure grin.
And T'Challa likes it.
And he likes how it makes his heart speed up.
"Vorresti un po' di caffè?" a young woman asks as she appears next to the table.
As Tony opens his mouth to translate, T'Challa cuts him off with a "Dolce caffè. La ringrazio," followed by a smile directed towards Tony.
"I didn't know you could speak Italian," Tony says after the woman walks away. "Kind of hot."
Leaning forward, T'Challa inspects him from head to toe.
Tony is wearing a maroon blazer over a black shirt with some design on it. There's a watch, one his recognizes for stunning Barnes, way back when, on his right wrist. Other than the black slacks, he looked comfortable. The stress lines along his face have eased up in such a short amount of time.
"You look good," T'Challa begins. "More relaxed."
He holds in a pleased sound when a pretty blush coats Tony's cheeks.
"Well, I haven't been doing much - "
Tony raises an eyebrow. "Good?"
"The purpose of a vacation is to relax and not do work, Tony."
"Why do you have to say my name like that?"
T'Challa leans back, a small smile gracing his face.
"Don't play dumb. You know what I mean."
"You do - " Tony tilts his head towards him, eyes squinting just a little over his sunglasses before his head tilts back and he laughs.
And just like that, all the tension drains from Tony's body.
"Where are you staying?"
Tony leans forward, T'Challa just making out his eyes through the sunglasses.
T'Challa leans forward as well, smile still in place.
"Then who am I to deny a King?"
They spend the next three days traveling to various places in Venice.
The first day together, they visit Doge's Palace and Museum.
They listen as a caretaker talks about the palace's rich history and gives them a tour around the rooms they are allowed in.
Tony seems fascinated by the paintings on the wall in the main bedroom and the nice view while on the second floor.
"I want to live in a castle one day," Tony whispers off-handedly. "Or just have a bedroom like this.
"Perhaps, it will happen one day."
He appreciates the sparkle in Tony's eyes.
The second day, Tony follows T'Challa's lead.
The Santa Maria Formosa is T'Challa's pick.
Both he and Tony are wearing semi-formal clothing among the other tourists.
Tony is, once again, wearing his sunglasses.
T'Challa watches as Tony sits down in the back and bows hit head for several minutes.
When he raises his head and looks at him, T'Challa sees the glint of tears.
He places a hand on Tony's shoulder reassuringly and says nothing when Tony places his own hand on top and squeezes as he tries to hold back a sob.
On the third day together, Tony picks another museum.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco is filled with a variety of paintings and sculptures.
They opt-out for a guide and walk among the various works of art.
Every now and then, they'd brush shoulders or hands.
Tony would turn away from the contact, but that only caused T'Challa to walk closer.
The Circumcision of Jesus, from the Tintoretto cycle, stands out to Tony.
"Which piece of art do you like the most?" Tony asks, eyes still on the painting.
"I'm already graced with the loveliest piece of art next to me. He puts everything else to shame."
Tony looks to his left, up at T'Challa with an unreadable expression.
"You're too kind to me," Tony mumbles.
The evening of the third day is spent having a lovely dinner at the Alle Testiere, Castello.
It is followed by a walk around downtown.
Everything Tony shows even a remote interest in, T'Challa buys.
He carries three bags of gifts for Tony despite the other man's protest.
One bag has two overly expensive watches, one bag has four pairs of name brand sunglasses, and the final bag carries a silver necklace with no ornament.
When Tony stops at a vendor selling ice cream and moves to pull out his wallet, T'Challa steps in and shakes his head.
"Whatever you want, I will get you."
"You're spoiling me," Tony states with narrowed eyes. "Why?"
"You've spoiled those around you for the longest time. I merely wish to return the favor."
"And if I want the large sundae?"
"Then you will get it."
"And if I want a new car?"
"And if I want a castle?"
"Then you can move in with me."
Tony jerks back a little and looks up at T'Challa, eyes wide and unbelieving. The lights from the street lamps cast an orange glow over the both of them. There aren't many people out and about, surprisingly.
"A-are you flirting with me?"
Tony narrows his eyes and huffs before looking back at the vendor, an older man, and places his older for the largest sundae available and moves to let T'Challa place his own order for something much more simple.
They sit on a bench with their ice cream on a high top over-looking the rest of Venice. The moon stands out far over the city and the stars twinkle every now and then as planes or other aircraft fly over the city.
"This is amazing," Tony moans.
T'Challa stops eating his own treat, a plain vanilla cone, to stare at Tony's lips which are practically making love to the spoon in his hand.
" - bite?"
Blinking, T'Challa pulls away (not knowing he was leaning in) and stares at Tony.
"I'm sorry. What did you say?"
T'Challa finds that it's quickly making its way to the top of his favorite things list.
"I know, I know. I'm super handsome and all, but you should just take a picture or look me up onlin - wait, what are you doing?"
While Tony was speaking, T'Challa fished his cellphone from his pocket and pulls up the camera app.
"I believe I'm about to take your picture, Tony."
He smirks when Tony's cheeks take on a pretty blush (and smiles when Tony stuffs another bite into his mouth) and holds up his camera.
"Smile," he says and snaps the picture.
"Show me, show me!" Tony demands as he slides right up against T'Challa and glances down at the phone.
T'Challa pulls up the picture and they both sit there gazing at it. Tony has his spoon hanging from his mouth, eyes gazing up at T'Challa with a playful look.
"Huh," Tony leans away and takes another bite.
"It's just...I look younger."
"You seem more relaxed and healthy."
"No work, no Ross, no nothing related to stress. It's good for me."
"Wanna go do something else?" Tony asks after a moment of silence.
"What do you have in mind?"
They both stand up and walk over to a trash can where Tony throws away the sundae cup and spoon.
"I don't know...it's kind of late."
"Do you wish to retire?"
"No, not really."
"Let's take a walk then?"
"Whatever his Highness wants," Tony replies in a joking manner.
"Well, then." T'Challa offers his arm to Tony with a smile. "Whatever his Highness wants, correct?"
"I literally turn into a blushing teenager around you, you know?" Tony asks as he takes the offered arm and they begin walking towards the canal.
The next day, they don't leave Tony's cottage. Inside, they opt-in for laying around the living room or sitting outside gazing over the pond in the back of the house, most of their conversation about their visits or something science-related. T'Challa finds out that Tony can cook and they enjoy pancakes made from scratch for breakfast and lasagne for lunch. He then takes control of the kitchen to create their meal for dinner, cotoletta with potatoes and a side of onions and carrots.
During which, Tony offers his help to cut up the vegetables.
They make small talk throughout the preparation.
Talk consisting of "What do you do as King, exactly?" and "How do you manage to repair your damaged armor?"
Once done, T'Challa places everything out nicely and pulls out the chair for Tony to sit in. Tony rolls his eyes but doesn't complain. With dinner, they pop open a fine bottle of wine for the cellar.
"This is...one of the best things I've ever eaten."
"It pleases me to hear that."
"Who did you learn from?"
"My fath - " T'Challa pauses, eyes closing briefly before continuing. "My father taught me. I don't do it very often."
"I feel honored." Tony takes a sip of his wine. "I mean, I haven't had anyone cook for me in years and it's nice. I'm special."
"You are," T'Challa replies.
They eat in silence for the majority of dinner when, for the first time since T'Challa has been with him, Tony's cellphones rings from the living.
They both freeze.
"Who knows you're here?" T'Challa asks quietly as he watches Tony stand to go retrieve his phone.
"Just Rhodey, Pep, and Vision. And none of them would call unless it was an emergency. I'll be back."
T'Challa remains seated, but can clearly here the one-sided conversation.
"Hello, Pep? What's up?"
"No, no. I'm fine."
"No, I'm just eating dinner with-with a friend."
"Okay, what is it?"
"I am calm."
"Pep, you're making me nervous."
"Wait, wait, wait! What? When did - "
"Jesus Christ. Okay, okay. I'll handle it."
"I'll do it as soon as I'm done eating. Okay. I'll message you. Alright. I will. Good-bye, Pep."
T'Challa can hear the quiet, "Fuck."
Tony walks back into the kitchen, face pinched in annoyance. He takes a seat and reaches for his glass of wine.
"My company's main frame has been messed with and FRIDAY was offline for two minutes. Someone was looking for something. I think I know who and what."
"How do you expect to fix it?" T'Challa asks nonchalantly while cutting another piece of food to eat.
"I can talk to FRIDAY and walk her through it. I can do it, but it's time consuming."
T'Challa sighs. "It was General Ross?"
"Of course. Who else would it be? I mean, I'm sure people wanna' hack my systems, but Ross has a clear-cut reason to do so. He's looking - "
" - for the other Avengers. They will not come to harm. If General Ross moves to try and gain access to Wakanda's borders, then it will be seen as a declaration of war. We may be small in numbers, but my warriors are highly trained. And very much capable."
Tony smiles. "I'd pay good money to see Ross get his ass handed to him."
The rest of dinner, they make small talk. Once finished, and waved off by T'Challa, Tony goes to his room to deal with the issue Pepper called him about.
It's late into the evening when Tony finally comes downstairs. T'Challa has since cleaned up the kitchen, washed the dishes, clean up the living room, and placed two clean wine glasses and a bottle of wine of the coffee table in front of the couch.
"Ooh, I could use a drink."
T'Challa pops open the new bottle and pours both of them a hefty amount.
"You were able to fix the problem?"
"Yup. I was right. Or, you. Whatever. Either way, it was Ross. He was looking to see if I wired Cap and the other money. He was also looking to see if I contacted them. I also had FRIDAY activate protocal 104. It basically means that if something like this were to happen again, all information would be relocated to a different server and the current one would become obsolette."
T'Challa hums in reply. Tony sits down next to him and accepts the glass given to him. He takes sip and sighs in content.
"This is one of my favorites. How did you know?"
"Luck is on my side, it seems."
"Do you - "
"Have you - "
They both laugh.
"You first," Tony insists.
"Have you been on the canal? I wanted to go yesterday, but was unsure if you were willing."
"We could have went boating if you wanted too. I was following you."
T'Challa smiles. "Do you want to sail on the canal?"
"It's nearing midnight, you know?"
"When has that ever stopped you before, Tony?" It comes out as a purr.
T'Challa can feel Tony shiver.
"You say my name like that like..." Tony trails off shaking his head.
"It's hard to explain...just, no one has said it like that in a long time."
"Maybe it's time someone starts to do it again?"
Tony snorts. "Your jokes are funny."
Placing his wine glass on the coffee table, T'Challa turns to fully look at Tony.
"And if I say it's not a joke, Tony."
Gulping down the rest of his wine in one go, Tony turns to T'Challa and - God, they're too close to each other.
"I'd say you're lying."
T'Challa raises a hand to cup Tony's chin gently, thumb stroking online his goatee.
"I do not lie," T'Challa whispers. "Can I kiss you?"
"Do you normally kiss someone without going on a date first?"
"We've been on three dates so far."
"Oh, okay. So, yes. You can kiss me."
Simultaneously, they both lean in and when their lips connect, Tony sags against T'Challa. One of his hands grips the bottom of T'Challa's shirt as he tilts his head for a better angle. T'Challa shifts back and pulls Tony along with him until Tony is laying half on top of him. He has one hand weaved through Tony's hair.
When they finally broke apart, Tony is gazing down at T'Challa with a little smile.
"That," he licks his lips, "was amazing."
He leans back down, hesitating just slightly to see if T'Challa would pull back, and kisses him again. This time, it's a lot more rough. T'Challa licks along Tony's upper lip and dives in when given the opportunity. Tony is overwhelmed by the sensations. He moans. T'Challa swallows it. His free hand slides underneath the back of Tony's shirt and rubs his lower back.
He feels Tony sigh contently against his lips.
"Magical hands," Tony mumbles.
"What do you want me to do, Tony?"
"Just-just touch me. God, just touch me."
The hand in Tony's hair tighten and he yanks it back. Pulling his lips away from Tony's, T'Challa goes for his neck immediately. He bites at it, sucks just above his collarbone, and runs his lips soothingly over the little purple bruises the stay. A low moan escapes Tony's mouth. Moving his free hand down, T'Challa slips it under Tony's pants and boxers moving down until he cups Tony's ass and squeezes.
"Oh shit," Tony jerks.
T'Challa can feel how hard Tony is. He's in the same boat.
"Perhaps, we should take this to a bedroom?"
Tony huffs a laugh. "Feeling romantic?"
T'Challa pulls back and strokes his fingers over Tony's cheek.
"Why do you look at me like that?" Tony asks quietly.
"How do I look at you?"
"Like...your feelings go beyond surface level. Like you might be a little, you know," Tony trails off, his eyes closing as he pushes against the fingers.
"I don't know if it's love," he hears the hitch in Tony's breath, "but my feelings go beyond that of friendship."
"You won't be safe if you want something more than this," Tony whispers.
"I can protect myself, Tony. I am a warrior."
"I'm bad at relationships. I work too much. I have a shit sleep schedule. I terrible at eating right."
"I hope I can persuade you to do better."
"Hmm, you can try."
"And," T'Challa pauses to lick his lips, "I will protect you."