Who: Rhodey & T'Challa What: Discussing the Wakandan initiative When: Mid February (well before the Senate hearing) Where: 30 Warren Warnings: None
Rhodey had been really pleased to get an invitation from T'Challa to discuss Wakandan outreach initiatives. He'd worked with the Wakandans in the prime universe during the long five years, but he hadn't had a chance to get to know T'Challa. Also there was another niggling little question Rhodey had about T'Challa that he was hoping the meeting would settle for him.
He went through security at the entrance to the building and was escorted up by one of the Dora Milaje. The Dora Milaje were all such amazing women; if he'd been in T'Challa's shoes, Rhodey knew he'd be very grateful for the opportunity to work with them. Rhodey had been, before, and he reckoned he would be again.
Rhodey's escort announced him at the King's suite and let him in once T'Challa was ready for him. Rhodey wasn't in uniform, because uniform complicated the etiquette, and neither of them needed that. So he waited with a smile for the King to greet him.
T’Challa’s penthouse was warm and welcoming - or at least, he aimed for it to be that way for guests, since it was his personal home but also a diplomatic sort of residence. The color scheme was mainly purple and black, various textures, soft velvets. There were glass curtain walls and barrel-vaulted ceilings; one of the most impressive features was the rooftop garden, where he grew all sorts of vegetables and herbs to use for cooking when he was in New York.
The Colonel was a special guest, since T’Challa wished to weave him into the tapestry of the Outreach centers, should Rhodey agree - it would be good to get another strongly influential (in good ways) person of color to help out and work with the youth of various cities. So when he arrived, the King came to greet him, dressed in his usual regal style. A tailored black Dashiki suit, made of cotton and embellished with hand-woven embroidery; it was bespoke, custom-made for him.
“Colonel, hello,” he smiled, extending a hand. “It is good to see you. Please, make yourself comfortable,” he nodded toward the living room. “Can I get you something to drink? I have wine from Wakanda here, as well as something that packs less of a punch if need be.”
"Sadly, I should stay away from anything that packs a serious punch." Rhodey took the place in, feeling very impressed, and, for all that he wasn't Wakandan, a little proud. He wasn't intimidated or overwhelmed by displays of extreme wealth, having been friends with Tony for many years, including though some rough periods when Tony had thrown money around like an idiot. But seeing that kind of wealth in this context, with a King of his own color, in New York City was a balm to something Rhodey hadn't entirely known was hurting. "But I look forward to trying it at some point."
There was no point in trying to even come close to the fashion auspices of a King so Rhodey hadn't bothered, figuring it was more important to be authentic to his admittedly preppy American roots, not to mention more comfortable. He was wearing a navy blazer and an oxford button-down with khaki trousers and loafers. The closest he'd come to styling was a brightly colored kente cloth pocket square. "It's a pleasure to be here. Before I arrived here, in this New York, I was fortunate enough to get to work with some of the Dora Milaje and other Wakandans. It's--" Rhodey nodded, his face tight with an emotion he didn't know how to define exactly "--good to have a chance to work together here."
T’Challa’s expression softened in understanding. He knew that working with the bare bones of a team left behind, after many were turned to dust, was a difficult endeavor - it had been difficult for Okoye as well, and Natasha (who had to try and keep things together as a leader, for the sake of what was left of her family). “Yes, it is,” he agreed. “I admit I much prefer the circumstances present here, the way things have played out.” Those who had passed on in the other universe were alive here - and perhaps he was biased, but he was certain he could handle anything thrown at him if it meant Natasha got a chance to live.
But alright, something that would not pack a punch. He decided to prepare a pot of tea - rooibos, to be specific, something earthy-sweet. “Well, while that is steeping, I wished to talk to you about the Wakandan outreach centers. You are familiar with the concept, yes? Sam does a lot of good work at the center in Oakland,” he noted, settling in one of the chairs in the living room.
Rhodey picked a chair next to T'Challa. "I've heard a little about it, yes. And I'd be interested in working with the centers myself. What sort of things do you have in mind that I'd be good for?" He glanced around the room and noted the Gordon Parks photography book he'd found for T'Challa in the Secret Santa exchange sitting on the coffee table with satisfaction. He'd put quite a bit of thought into finding something for the man who had everything and it looked like he'd found something T'Challa thought was worthwhile.
Indeed, the Gordon Parks book was one of T’Challa’s favorite things - he’d gone through it many times, always reverently flipping the pages, and thought it made for an excellent coffee table book. He had an inkling who his Secret Santa was - which was one of the reasons why he had reached out to Rhodey (aka, potential Secret Santa), and why he had a good feeling about it.
“Well, first off, I should gauge - how open are you to the idea of traveling?” he asked. “We have the first outreach center in Oakland, but there are others - in Brazil, Australia, and Sudan, specifically. I think it would be beneficial to have someone connected to the military, who is familiar with its lifestyle, assist the youth of those areas with their academics, and potentially their own military endeavors.”
"I'm open to it if I can fit it in within the restrictions of my duties to the Air Force. Australia ought to be an easy sell, but Brazil and Sudan might be more dicey with our current Secretary of State." Rhodey had to wince a little at the thought of suggesting outreach work in Sudan to Ross. "On the other hand, I'm sure we could find a convincing argument to present; with Ross it's usually about finding something that appeals to his concept of American interests." Which altogether too often was too close to Ross' own interests in Rhodey's opinion.
“Ah, yes. His American interests,” T’Challa had to fight the urge to roll his eyes at the mention of Ross. A thorn in all of their sides, surely - he knew the man wanted to lock Bucky in a cell for the rest of eternity, but that was something T’Challa simply wouldn’t allow. Nor would he allow the man to wield power in a way that suggested he was drunk with it, like he currently seemed to be doing. Or at least, he would do his best to help contain it.
The kettle whistled, and he got up to finish preparing their tea - though he could still see Rhodey, so he continued talking. “Well, we could certainly use the help in Australia. However, if you would like to come out to Oakland with me next time I visit, just to get a feel for the kind of work that is done, you are free to join me. In Australia, our outreach center is focused in a spot that is very rural, so quite different from a bustling city.”
"I'd enjoy that," Rhodey agreed. "Either Oakland or Australia. There's a lot of work that needs to be done with our youth and I'm ready to put my shoulder to the wheel. I'm glad to see Wakanda stepping up because as much as I love my country, it's clear to me we're not getting what needs to be done done." He gestured at the Gordon Parks book. "If you've read that you can see how recently things were really bad for Black people in America. It's not just that times were hard when Parks started his career; it's all the other things that made it harder."
T’Challa nodded gravely, pouring them both tea. “Yes, that book was quite an amazing read,” he said. “I may have disagreed with my cousin on his...rather confrontational methods - “ Which was putting it diplomatically; annihilating white people in a mass genocide wasn’t the answer either, “...but he was not incorrect about how wrong it was of Wakanda to isolate ourselves when our brothers and sisters around the world needed us. That is why I started the outreach centers. I want to do what my father did not.”
Which was use Wakanda’s vast resources to offer aid to those in need, and not hide behind the guise of an impoverished farming nation any longer. “But I would be delighted if you would join me in Oakland, Colonel,” he added, setting down those steaming cups of tea. On the tray he also had milk, honey, and sugar - through rooibos usually didn’t need any enhancements, but just in case.
“I plan to take a trip out there next week, if you have the time.”
"I should be able to work that in around Tony's hearing. He's getting called in front of one of the committees, I forget which one, about the e-Scape thing. He's got some plans, though: talk a bit about the kaiju while the cameras are on him, and see who on the committee or which of the underlings starts wiggling like a fish on the line." Rhodey cracked a grin as he picked up his cup of tea, trying it without anything because he was pretty sure T'Challa knew what he was doing. "Oh, this is fantastic, thanks." Rhodey could taste the nutty flavor, a little sweet even without honey or sugar, in the tea.
T’Challa recalled the eScape incident - it seemed like a blur, and very long ago, though in reality it had not been that long at all. It also felt like a drop in the bucket, compared to the monsters that were basically just tossed into areas where civilians were - they still didn’t have many answers about those, which was disturbing.
“No doubt at least one will crack,” he chuckled ruefully. “I have a feeling the introduction of those creatures is leading to bigger things, but that remains to be seen. We will deal with it as it comes,” he gently clinked his mug against Rhodey’s, pleased that he liked the rooibos. “Cheers, my friend.”
"Cheers," Rhodey agreed, smiling. "Success to our friends and confusion to our enemies." He drank the toast slowly enough to enjoy the flavor of the tea. "So let's talk about how we can make the lives of Black youth better. I know what it would have meant to me when I was young, just to know that Wakanda was out there, never mind to have Wakandans show up at my school or to go to a camp to meet them and learn from them. And I was a lucky kid: my family's pretty well off and I was in good schools. I can only imagine what it's like for kids who don't have the good fortune I had."
“Yes, the aim is to provide opportunities where they might not have existed before,” T’Challa said, crossing his legs in his chair, the mug of tea warm in between his hands. “My sister Shuri is head of the science and information exchange, and we do a lot of STEM fairs and demonstrations of technology, to get kids involved and showing off their own skills at building and creating.”
And other community events, organized by those who worked in social outreach - he would go into detail about those (the centers hosted a lot of after-school programs for youth who may need something to do during those hours - there were activities and tutoring, things like that). Overall, he was glad to have found a place for Rhodey to hop on board. He would be great at this, just like Sam was.