Who: T’Challa and Kate Bishop Where: Wakanda When: During Kwanza What: Tour of the palace at Birnin Zana Rating/Warnings: Low/None Status: Complete
Birnin Zana, the Golden City, was home to one of the most important places in Wakanda - the Citadel, which was the royal palace and where, of course, the royal family laid their heads down at night. It was quite the sight, a massive technological fortress that was heavily guarded by the Dora Milaje. The throne room was where tribal council meetings were held, adorned in iconic gold pillars and tapestries (to match the whole Golden City theme), but it was not a focus for T’Challa today.
“I thought perhaps we could dine in my private quarters?” he suggested to his guest - he had shown Kate the palace - the royal throne room and the Hall of Kings with the bronzed panther statues guarding the burial chambers of past Wakandan kings, fire vessels, a wall of masks; he’d also taken her to see Shuri’s lab with its clean, white spaces and all around the markets below. But he’d also promised something of a Kwanzaa meal - the Karamu was the final feast of the holiday, and he would likely have to make many appearances amongst the various tribes (even the Jabari, who lived in the mountains and shunned the use of vibranium - but they were all on somewhat good terms these days).
However, he wanted to enjoy at least one meal in relative peace. Stop and smell the roses (he’d shown off the gardens as well - they were always lovely). “If that is alright, of course,” he added, hands clasped behind his back, footsteps echoing on the tiled floor.
To say that Kate Bishop was in over her head was probably the understatement of the century. Under her leather jacket she was wearing a purple t-shirt that said, “I don’t wear bows, I shoot them,” and jeans with artistic tears at the knees and pockets. And T’Challa took her to a palace, and didn’t warn her that she was going to be radically underdressed? Maybe it was all his fault, then. Whatever the case may be, Kate felt like she really couldn’t touch anything for fear of making it dirty--so she spent ninety percent of the tour with her hands in her pockets. --It was beautiful, though. She thought that there were probably few places on Earth that looked more like heaven than the Citadel in Birnin Zana.
The lab, though, was different. Kate actually felt like she could breathe and laugh without getting in trouble. And Kate took to Shuri like peas in a pod. Shuri seemed glad to show Kate around, and they both poked fun at T’Challa a little. Good-natured stuff. Hey, it was mostly Shuri, anyway. Then Kate and T’Challa were headed back down the hall in… some direction. Kate couldn’t tell which, she’d been turned around so many times. She gave him a grin. “That sounds amazing. I’m starving.”
Kate needn’t worry - Shuri thought she was charming and so did T’Challa. Also, she looked just fine - there were no horrified gasps from Shuri regarding her brother’s friend’s (friend? Whatever) attire, unlike her usual reaction when it came to judging the clothing choices of her kin. Actually, Shuri rather liked Kate’s shirt and made that known.
Either way, she was fitting in rather well. “Then I will be sure to feed you,” T’Challa quipped, showing the way to his private quarters - it was essentially the King’s apartment within the palace, everything tastefully done within. There were hanging lights, sconces, bookcase lamps, and a whole range of unique artifacts and antiques - symbolic patterned shapes, clay and sand and stone. T’Challa was an educated man, he loved learning - especially about unique worldwide philosophies - and his private space reflected that. “Please, have a seat,” he encouraged, motioning to the dining table - he even pulled a chair out for Kate, very gentlemanly-like. “Are there any foods you don’t like? I must warn you, the cuisine is much different than pizza,” and now he was teasing a little too.
When he said private quarters Kate assumed he meant, like, a bedroom. Or something. But when they arrived and it was one of the biggest apartments she’d ever seen, she was lucky she didn’t trip over her jaw on the floor. (By now she shouldn’t be surprised. This whole place was absolutely amazing… and he was a King for heaven’s sake. Of course he’d have an amazing apartment.) Kate took possibly a little longer than was absolutely necessary to follow him through the place toward the dining table, as though it wasn’t cluttered, she had so many things to look at. It felt as if she was getting to know him better just by walking through his space.
Kate slipped into the chair, letting him push it in for her. Very lady-like? Anyway, she gave him a smirk at the question. “Well, generally speaking, I don't like food that stares back at me.” There had been a few fishes in the day that had creeped her out. “Other than that? I’m up for anything.”
“I think I am on the right track, then,” T’Challa nodded - nothing about the meal he had in mind would stare back at them, so that was a positive. He swiped his fingers over the kimoyo beads at his wrist, having a brief conversation with the holographic image that popped up, and then a few seconds later there was a knock at the door. “There we go - be right back.”
He returned with a tray filled with covered silver platters - when he pulled them off, the aromas were quite fantastic, if he did say so himself. Jerk chicken, cornbread, jollof (a rice dish popular here and in other African countries), sweet potato pie. There was also a specialty of Wakanda, the Border lamb - it was cooked in home kitchens and on street grills, coated with a flavorful, nutty spice rub.
Then he uncorked the bottle of wine, also made here in Wakanda. “Sweet potato pie is always necessary during Kwanzaa, so I made sure to have it,” he said. “Please, enjoy. This is all alright?”
That brought a bright grin and blush to Kate's cheeks. "Definitely on the right track." She wondered for a moment how many ladies he brought back to his private quarters, and then nearly laughed at the thought. It wasn't like this was a date. They were simply hanging out together. Friends did that sort of thing all the time, right? Right? She'd invited him over for pizza and movies, and he was basically doing the same thing. Just a little slice of culture.
She tugged out her phone to quickly check for any urgent messages (there were none) then switch it to silent while he was collecting the tray from the door. She slipped it into her pocket when he returned, distracted by the smells. When he set them around the table, Kate's mouth actually started to water.
"It looks... smells... amazing." She beamed over at him. "We just... serve ourselves?" She was itching to dig into that rice dish. And the Jerk chicken, and the... well, all of it. But she had to save room for the pie, too. That would be hard.
There were plates and silverware (and napkins too - they’d need those, because some of this fine cuisine was a bit messy), and T’Challa nodded encouragingly. “Please, yes - just take what you wish,” he insisted, starting off by using the serving spoon to fill his own plate. He was hungry as well, and fully planned to indulge in a good Kwanzaa meal that tended to happen this time of year.
“And whatever is left over, you can take back with you if you’d like.” It was a short trip through the magical gateway, so nothing would spoil - how convenient, no? “I aim to please. And I know cooking actual meals can be the last thing on people’s minds when there is so much going on.”
When T’Challa dug in, Kate followed suit. She dished scoops of the food onto her plate. Kate wasn’t the type of girl who would shy away from a meal, even if she was trying to impress a date. --Not that this was a date. But even if it was, that wouldn’t change the way that Kate ate. The food reminded her of Thanksgiving in the quantity, and the dessert, and the idea that it was good friends and family coming together for a big meal to celebrate the season… but it was also very different. Good. Good different.
“Hey, I’d love to fill up a couple of doggie bags,” she said, giving him a grin as she tucked in to the food. It was absolutely delicious. “Mmm… Not that I did a whole lot of cooking to begin with,” she confessed. “What about you? Do you like to cook?”
“Actually, yes, I do,” T’Challa grinned, scooping some rice onto his plate. He loved carbohydrates - and jollof was such a popular dish, here in Wakanda and other neighboring African countries. It helped that he burned a lot of calories whenever he wore the Panther suit, and always needed to replenish. “I don’t get to do it very often because the palace has its own cooking staff - “ Not to mention he always had eight-hundred other things to do as King, a diplomat, and a builder of bridges, so that what he personally enjoyed tended to fall by the wayside more often than not. “But I do find it to be a relaxing activity.”
He probably needed to dedicate more time to doing things he did enjoy - it just seemed like there never was enough time in the day for all of that anyway. “What else do you find relaxing? When you are not super-heroing?”
Was that a word? Well. It was now.
“That’s cool.” The idea that the King of Wakanda had something that he enjoyed--something that relaxed him after a stressful day--was good. Kate wondered what else he did in his spare time. --or if he even had spare time at all. Kings had a lot of duties, so she imagined that he was frequently busy. Kate was glad he had time to have dinner with her tonight, even. “I mean, sometimes having a cooking staff is great, right? When you’re really tired or busy, having someone to make a home-cooked meal sounds really great.”
It was definitely a word. Kate liked the word--she might have even used it before. “You know I love movies,” she said after a moment’s thought. “Archery is really calming? Does that count?” She grinned softly. “I like fencing, too. Actually, all of the things that make me better at superhero-ing make me happy, too.”
Ah, yes, the love for the cinema - that was also something Kate and Shuri had in common, though Shuri’s favorite movie was still Back to the Future. It had been her and T’Chaka’s favorite, something shared between father and daughter - they both adored the ‘old-timey’ tech shown in the year 2015 especially. It made for a good laugh, anyway.
“If that makes you happy, that is what’s important,” he said, sipping on his wine. “We all need those things. And it is important we keep striving to be better superheroes. That perhaps sounded a little too kingly,” T’Challa winced jokingly. “I apologize. Tell me something about you that no one else knows - we can go with that.”
Instead of his philosophical ramblings.
Well, that was because Shuri was a woman of good taste. At least, that’s how Kate would respond if she found out what Shuri’s favorite movie was. Kate didn’t really have a favorite movie that she recalled, anyway. She liked being scared, though… horror movies were super fun.
Kate grinned brightly. “Yes, it sounded very kingly. Not in a bad way, though. I mean, you were agreeing with me. Ooh,” her eyes lit up. “Does that make me queenly? Or princessly? Actually I’ll settle for like, Duchess-ly. Or Marchioness-ly.” She lifted her wine glass for a sip, then considered his question carefully. What was something that no one else knew? Something that she wouldn’t mind telling him?
“Okay, well.. There’s this one time I was in a fencing tournament. I had my lunch in a lunchbox, but it was sitting out in the sun, right? And there was this girl competing with this other school in the tournament. We were encouraged to all have lunch together, so we were sitting around talking, and I… well, I noticed that the expiration date on my chocolate milk had passed. So I decided not to drink it. ….then the girl lamented that she didn’t have anything to drink, so…”
T’Challa had to take a moment because he was expecting something deep and perhaps a little twisted. Something to reveal the darker inner facets of one’s heart and soul. Or some hidden fact or interest that should never see the light of day. But expired chocolate milk was so wholesome and sweet and out of nowhere - he just started laughing. Not unkindly, just in a pleasantly surprised sort of way.
“Please never change,” he requested, still chuckling as he set down his wine glass - because if he sipped and laughed, he’d end up choking and that would be no fun at all. “For that, I think I will cut you an extra large slice of sweet potato pie.” The whole pie. All of it. Kate was deserving.
Choking on red wine was a bad idea. Sometimes there was spray, and it was such a nice tablecloth. Kate grinned brightly and blushed deeply at his laughter. Hey, she’d made him laugh, right? That was a good thing. She reached over and gave him a playful, gentle swat on his shoulder. “You asked!” Though, she wasn’t mad at all. Perhaps a little embarrassed. “But hey, if that’s all it takes to get extra sweet potato pie?” She’d bend over backward for extra sweet potato pie. “You’re an easy mark.”
With that, Kate lifted the wine glass to sip from it. “You should have seen it, though. She threw up chocolate milk all over the competition stage. It was priceless.”
“Alright, perhaps that is a little diabolical,” T’Challa allowed, reaching for the pie cutter to make good on his word. Although, honestly, consuming dairy before a fencing competition seemed like a bad idea - no wonder the poor girl had thrown up all over the place. Water could probably have been a better choice, but alas. You live and you learn. “You have your mischievous moments, I see.”
He cut them both slices, but Kate’s he definitely made a little bit bigger - it was delicious, a silky smooth filling with brown sugar and that buttery crust. It was the perfect time of year to indulge a little, to be grateful for what you had and to celebrate good food and positive influences in your life - being grateful and uniting and helping others, that was what Kwanzaa was all about anyway.
“I am glad you came to visit me here,” he added, and in the spirit of the holiday he’d share how truly grateful he was. “Thank you.”
Kate went with water. It was definitely the smarter choice. She leaned her elbow on the table, cupping her chin in her hand as she watched him cutting the pie. “I do. I hope you don’t mind a little mischief.” Truthfully, she liked a prank herself… but she hadn’t had much opportunity lately. She’d have to start brainstorming ways she could bring more laughter in. There were people around who needed something like that, weren’t there?
The blush came back in full force. Kate felt silly, but there was no helping it. “I’m glad, too.” She lifted her fork to enjoy some delicious pie. “Thank you for inviting me.” It’d been an eye-opening experience, and she’d enjoyed herself very much.