Something’s wrong. T’Challa has been distracted all evening, spacing out, and losing the thread of conversation several times, his gaze moving restlessly, almost nervously around the restaurant. Tony’s worried, but he’s trying his best to smile through it, to act as if everything’s okay, because a scene is the last thing they need right now.
Speculation as to the true nature of their relationship is nothing new, but the rumours have intensified ever since the other week, since Tony’s mistake. He’d been on cloud nine after their anniversary date, and just a little tipsy, drifting closer and closer to T’Challa as they walked, shoulders bumping, and fingers brushing every now and again. In a moment of reckless giddiness, Tony’d curled his hand around T’Challa’s, just for a moment, and squeezed softly when T’Challa had glanced down at him, sharing a fond smile with his boyfriend of almost three years.
But that brief moment had been more than enough for the paparazzo following them without their notice, and a picture of Tony beaming up at T’Challa with adoringly crinkled eyes was plastered over the front page of every gossip rag the very next morning. At least he’d already let go of T’Challa’s hand; that would’ve been a lot harder to explain.
“Tony,” T’Challa says, snapping Tony out of his thoughts, carefully measured in that way Tony knows means things are about to turn serious. “There is something important I wish to discuss with you.”
Tony swallows hard, nods, and tries—and fails, damn it, he can hear the uncertainty in his voice—to sound confident when he says, “Sure. What’s up?”
T’Challa licks his lips, fidgeting with his napkin. “I—” he starts, then cuts himself off, and clears his throat. He gestures between himself and Tony as he continues. “I cannot do this anymore. The way we have been doing it. This is not right. It was never right.”
He’s tearing up, Tony realises to his absolute mortification, quickly scrubbing a hand over his damp eyes in an attempt to hide just how much this hurts, even though he’d suspected it was coming, sooner or later. “I understand,” he says, because deep down he does. The hiding, the sneaking around, the lying; he’s never enjoyed any of it, either, only putting up with it for T’Challa’s sake, for the sake of their relationship. But, apparently, that hadn’t been enough, which shouldn’t really surprise Tony; it’s the story of his life. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I tried, I really did.”
“I know you did.” T’Challa reaches out, and takes Tony’s hand, pulling it closer to himself across the table.
Which—okay. Isn’t what Tony had expected, not in public like this. And especially not immediately after getting dumped. After a moment of confusion, he manages to stutter, “Wha—what are you doing?”
T’Challa kisses Tony’s knuckles, smiling lips lingering. “What? Did you want to wait? I think we have waited long enough, do you not?”
Tony blinks, speechless, then shakes his head. “Nope, you’ve lost me. This is, hands down, the weirdest way someone’s ever broken up with me.”
T’Challa frowns at that, his fingers tightening around Tony’s. “You wish to end our relationship?”
“What? No!” Tony exclaims, maybe a little louder than intended, going by the glares the other patrons are shooting him. “You are breaking up with me.” He pauses. “Aren’t you?”
“Of course not,” T’Challa is quick to reassure, pressing another kiss to the back of Tony’s hand. “I believe there has been a misunderstanding.”
Tony chuckles weakly, dizzy with relief. “Yeah, tell me about it. Shit. You wanna start again, maybe?”
“What I meant,” T’Challa says, foot nudging against Tony’s under the table, “was that I am tired of hiding us. Of hiding you. I would very much like to tell people, our friends, our families. Well,” he snorts, very inelegantly and unkingly, “your family. There is no hiding anything from Shuri. She is a menace.”
“Your sister is amazingly terrifying,” Tony agrees, laughing as he leans forward in his seat. “And yes,” he adds, the words murmured against T’Challa’s lips. “Yes to all of that.”
“Ndiyakuthanda,” T’Challa whispers, and Tony hums, and says, “Love you, too.”