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Tony didn’t hate himself. He was actually quite fond of his body, enjoyed how being small made him the perfect size to cuddle up with someone and be completely surrounded, liked his naturally soft wavy hair that was perfect for someone to play with, and even how big his eyes were, even if they made him look a bit like a lost kitten. Tony had never hated himself, even when he presented as an omega instead of an alpha like his father wanted, even when he father started trying to “retrain” him to become an alpha using mentally and physically damaging means. Tony never hated himself.

Until his father announced his plan.

To Howard, it was a win-win. Tony would be married off to a rich family – royalty – and he would have the opportunity to steal the vibranium. The end game for Howard was the vibranium and when the royal family discovered the missing metal they would most likely blame Tony and kill him, which would solve Howard’s problem of his disgraceful son.

Arranged marriages weren’t uncommon, especially for omegas, who were most often used as a means for the family to move up in the world. Tony found the practice demeaning but anytime he mentioned it people would shrug it off, saying he was just mad because as an omega male he was valued even less. It was much easier to find a family willing to marry with a female omega since they had an easier time growing children. But that wasn’t it. Tony thought people should be allowed to marry for love – and often times that was the case if you weren’t an omega or wealthy alpha.

Arriving in Wakanda felt to Tony like arriving at his grave. He would have gone with funeral for the imagery but Howard was never going to pay for his funeral and he was pretty sure that people executed didn’t get funerals no matter what country it happened in. His mother might have come to fetch his body and give him a burial but Tony doubted that Howard would allow that.

When they stepped off the plane, Tony couldn’t help but pause to take in the beauty. The sun was throwing back the morning mist and if he had to pick a place to die, Tony was glad it would be here. Wakanda was gorgeous.

“Stop dawdling,” hissed Howard, yanking Tony forward by his arm, hard enough to bruise under the suit jacket that was stiff and itchy. “They’re waiting on you.”

Sure enough, there was the king, queen, prince, and princess of Wakanda standing a little further on with their guard a respectful distance away. Tony blushed when he realized they had all seen him staring around like a simple child. The king was taking in the scene with cautious eyes, noticing the harsh grip that Howard had on his offspring. He could feel the Dora Milaje tense behind them but made a subtle hand gesture so they would not interfere. It was not safe yet.

“Good morning, King T’Chaka,” said Howard, bowing formally, yanking on his son’s arm to force him to do the same. “Thank you for agreeing to meet. This is my Omega child, Anthony.”

Tony studied the ground, missing the brief look King T’Chaka and Prince T’Challa shared.

“All of the arrangements have been made,” said King T’Chaka, stepping forward, not missing the slight flinch from the young omega, nor the scent of distress flowing off the boy, though it was covered by Howard’s overpowering confidence. “You will be given a tour of your accommodations and Zuri will share with you our history. Young Anthony will go with Prince T’Challa so that they may get to know each other before the ceremony. The customary time for this is one month. Anthony will be staying here in Wakanda for that time while you, Mr. Stark, I understand will be taking leave in Italy with your wife?”

“Yes, yes, Maria sends her regrets but couldn’t make it,” said Howard smoothly, ignoring his son’s panicked glance when he realized he would be left alone in a foreign country for an entire month before the marriage ceremony and subsequent stealing of the vibranium. That was an entire month more of just waiting in fear to be caught and killed. “If it is alright with you, I would like to head back to her now. I cannot bare to be separated from her for long, you see.”

“As you wish,” said King T’Chaka. It was actually a huge slight by Mr. Stark to deny a tour and history lesson from the royal family but King T’Chaka couldn’t say that he felt slighted at the moment. He wanted the barbaric alpha out of his country as quickly as possible. “You may say your farewells with your son and depart.”

“Be good, Anthony,” said Howard before he bowed again to the royal family and walked back to his plane, not even glancing at the 17 year old son he was leaving behind. Howard had plans to finalize for the vibranium, he didn’t have time to make a show of affection he didn’t feel for a son he didn’t care for.

Tony stood in front of the royal family, facing them alone, for several minutes while they all waited for Howard’s plane to take off. The young man shifted uneasily in his hot suit. He hated wearing suits. Most omega had sensitive skin and favored soft cloths and fabrics. Howard hadn’t even left his bag – he hadn’t stayed long enough for Tony’s things to be unloaded from the plane. It wasn’t a huge issue, Tony had only been allowed to pack suits and other clothes that Howard deemed worthy, but it also meant that Tony was stuck in the same suit for an entire month. He didn’t even have any money to purchase new clothes. Howard didn’t allow omegas money.

“Anthony, it is good to meet you,” said T’Challa as the plane finaly took off. “I am Prince T’Challa, though I would prefer if you called me T’Challa.”

“I’m Tony,” said Tony, forcing his eyes up from the ground like Howard had taught him, looking at the royal family and hoping they didn’t see the utter terror in his eyes. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Will you allow me to show you around?” asked T’Challa.

Tony nodded, though he could have sworn that T’Challa actually sounded like he would have also taken no as an answer, as though Tony actually got a say in what was going on in his life. Tony shrugged to himself and followed his future husband off the platform and into the palace.

“What do you enjoy doing, Tony?” asked T’Challa when they were away from his family. The prince longed to reach out and hold the young omega’s hand to comfort him but judging from Tony’s reactions around Howard Stark, T’Challa doubted such a move would be wise. It was a shame, really, because Wakanda viewed all omegas, especially the males, as the most valuable members of society, something to be treasured and cared for, not hurt and abused.

“I like to read,” said Tony, itching subtly at his wrist where it was irritated by the constricting material of his suit.

“Would you like to change?” offered T’Challa, noticing the movement and realizing how uncomfortable those clothes must be for the omega. “I can take you to your room where you may change into something more comfortable before we continue. I’m sorry I didn’t suggest that right away.”

“No, it’s okay, I um, I don’t think that Howard – I mean, my father – left my things, so I don’t have anything to change into,” stuttered Tony. “But, um, thank you.”

T’Challa clenched his fist in anger at Howard Stark. Forcing Tony to wear clothes that were irritating his sensitive skin was an offense that most would never dream of in Wakanda. Then abandoning his child in a strange land with nothing to his name was even worse.

“You may wear something from my own for now,” said T’Challa, nodding to a house keeper. “Later, after you have had some time to adjust, we will get you some clothes of your own.”

“Oh, that’s okay, I don’t have any money or anything.”

Tony was fairly certain you couldn’t die of embarrassment but he was giving it his best shot.

“You are my guest and my betrothed,” said T’Challa calmly. “While you are with us, you shall have nothing to be concerned over. This includes clothing and other such basic needs. It is my duty and my honor to be able to show you how, as your future husband and future alpha, I can provide for you.”

Tony wanted to protest further, but they had reached the rooms that had been assigned to the omega. The doors opened to reveal a breathtaking view of the rainforest. One glass door lead to a balcony that was partially covered by tree branches. The room itself was a mixture of modern and traditional styles, the bed round and close to the ground, almost like a nest, piled with soft blankets and pillows that Tony was itching to lose himself in. The floor was bare but had hand woven rugs artfully strewn about. There was a sitting area near the windows and a bathroom off to the side.

“Amazing,” breathed Tony.

T’Challa openly preened at how happy the room made the omega. It wasn’t even the best room in the palace – those were the royal suites – but T’Challa had picked this one for Tony because of the view, and the fact that it was just down the hall from one he would be staying in while Tony got comfortable.

“Yes, it is,” agreed T’Challa, taking the loose, flowing, colorful garment from the maid who had followed them into the room. It was designed to reach T’Challa’s mid thighs and worn with pants but Tony was much smaller than the prince and T’Challa feared that any pants they had readily available would fall off the omega. The shirt would work for now and the maid would spread the word about the omega’s plight, so no one would comment on the clothes. “Here, I fear this will be much too large on you but it is the best I can offer you at the moment. I will have your suit sent to our seamstresses so they can make clothes that fit you. Unless you would prefer to shop for everything yourself?”

“Please don’t make me go shopping,” begged Tony before he realized how demanding he sounded. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean – I’ll do whatever – “

“Be at ease,” said T’Challa calmly. “You do not need to go shopping. I will leave you to change. I shall be just outside when you are ready.”

“Um, do you think, I mean, maybe I could just take a nap before we continue?” asked Tony softly, his brown eyes fixed on T’Challa’s neck, which was as far as he could force himself to look. “It’s just, it was a really long journey and I didn’t get to sleep on the flight, so I’m rather tired but I don’t want to miss anything.”

“Of course,” said T’Challa, setting the garment on the bed and stepping back. “I shall leave you to your rest. My friend Okoye will be right outside if you need anything. She will make sure you are not disturbed.”

When the door was shut, T’Challa turned to Okoye with a frown.

“Be gentle with him,” ordered the prince. “He has been abused.”

Okoye nodded and took her post outside the door. Usually she would protest, insisting on being with one of the royal family, but she recognized that this was where she was best serving the royal family. She was also having a difficult time understanding why anyone would abuse an omega, and a sweet omega at that.

When he found his father, T’Challa wasted no time explaining his suspicions.

“I agree with you, my son,” said King T’Chaka. “I know you are not fond of the idea of an arranged marriage but now that we know for sure how this omega is being treated we must keep him here. We cannot allow Mr. Stark to abuse him any further.”

“Yes father.”

“I am releasing you of your current duties as prince for the time being so you may dedicate your time and resources into helping your betrothed. Care for him. See if you can find out why his father was so insistent on this marriage yet did not bother to stay for the meeting period.”

“Yes father.”

“And T’Challa?” said the king, waiting until his son was looking at him fully before continuing. “He is your future mate. If I hear that you are not treating him like the treasure he is, I will not hesitate to have you punished for your crimes.”

“Yes father.”

 

Tony slept better than he had in years in just two hours. He had changed into the shirt T’Challa had offered him first. It was incredibly soft and smelled comfortingly like the prince. T’Challa had been nothing but kind and respectful since Tony had arrived. Tony liked him. He wanted T’Challa to like him too, but he had to tell the prince about his father’s plan first. Even if it meant death, Tony couldn’t let his father get away from it.

“Um, Miss Okoye?” said Tony, opening the door after he had woken up and freshened up. “I need to speak with Prince T’Challa. Do you know where he is?”

“I will take you to him,” said Okoye.

“No need, Okoye,” said T’Challa, walking down the hall. “Tony, would you like to speak in the garden or somewhere else?”

“Um, maybe somewhere inside? And private?”

T’Challa nodded and gestured for Tony to follow him. They made their way to the lounge quarters of the palace. Tony was surprised by the area. At home with Howard, the sitting room was full of overly elegant chairs and rough, old, expensive carpet. It was beautiful but not particularly comfortable, especially for an omega who liked to cuddle things that were soft.

This room was similar in elegance but comfort was a different matter. There was a light blue couch with a bright red blanket and several fluffy pillows. Tony immediately sat down and the first real smile since he found out he was about to be married to his death broke out. He pulled the blanket around his shoulders, pulled his feet up to slip under the silky material, and cuddled one of the pillows close.

T’Challa chuckled fondly at the younger man’s antics. Finally, Tony was acting like a typical omega, happy and surrounded by comforts. T’Challa sat down on the other end of the couch.

“What did you wish to speak about?” asked T’Challa.

“I like you,” said Tony after a fortifying breath. “You seem like a good alpha and a good prince. I hate that this is going to ruin everything but, you need to know. This marriage is a sham.”

“An arranged marriage is not –“

“No, that’s not the part that is a sham. Howard only pushed for this because he wants to steal vibranium. That’s why he dropped me off and then left. He wanted to see how to get into the country and then he left so he could finalize his plans. He’s going to steal it during the wedding. He’s hoping that after, when you all find out what happened, you’ll kill me. He thinks it’s a win-win, he gets vibranium and no longer has to deal with me.”

T’Challa wasn’t sure how to respond to the admission.

“I’m really sorry,” said Tony, curling more around the pillow. “Can you – can you just let me keep the shirt when you put me in jail? It’s the most comfortable thing I’ve had to wear in years.”

“I’m not going to have you put in jail,” said T’Challa quickly. “I am going to have my father join us and I would like you to tell him everything you know about this plan.”

“Then what?”

“Then we shall have to see about stopping it.”

“What’s going to happen to me?” asked Tony quietly.

T’Challa could not resist any longer; he reached over and gathered the distressed omega in a hug. Tony stiffened, unsure of how to respond, but then melted into the hold, burrowing as close to T’Challa as he could.

“I will not let anything bad happen to you, Tony,” said T’Challa. “Did you want to go along with Howard’s plan?”

“No! No! I don’t want to be a thief. I don’t want to die. I just, I just want to be happy and loved.”

“Sh, that’s what I thought. You are okay, you did the right thing, telling me. My father will be here shortly and together we shall figure out how to handle this. But I promise that I will not allow any harm come to you.”

T’Chaka arrived a few minutes later and Tony again explained Howard’s plans, adding in all the details he could recall. T’Challa kept his arm around Tony’s shoulders, comforting the young omega. When Tony was finished, T’Chaka wasted no time in assuring his guest that he would be safe and not required to return to his father.

“T’Challa, I must speak with the tribe leaders about this turn of events,” said T’Chaka. “Tony, please excuse me. Understand that until we have everything sorted, either T’Challa or one of the Dora Milje will have to be with you. This is for your protection, in case your father gets wind that we already know of his plans.”

“Thank you, Your Highness,” said Tony, twisting the blanket in his hands, unable to quite meet T’Chaka’s eyes.

“Son, please inform Tony of our culture,” said T’Chaka before leaving the room.

 

The end of the month saw Tony and T’Challa were sitting on the balcony, admiring the rainforest. Tony had settled into the palace quite a bit, coming out of his shell and relaxing. Tony liked spending time with the prince. When he walked around, even on his own, he was treated with respect and care. Quite frankly, Tony felt like he was being spoiled rotten.

T’Challa had been explaining to Tony how Wakanda worked and it’s views in general on omegas. Tony had been wary of the tales that omegas were viewed as precious treasures to be cared for and adored but thus far he had experienced nothing to the contrary. That’s not to say he got his way on everything but he did get an opinion, which was a vast improvement over what his life had been.

“Your father will be arriving soon,” commented T’Challa.

“I know,” sighed Tony, looking up at the sky.

“Do you want to greet him?”

“Can’t we just say it’s some Wakandan rule that Howard can’t see me until the ceremony?” asked Tony. “I know that makes me a coward, but this month has been the best month I’ve had in a really long time and I don’t want Howard to ruin that for me.”

“I’ll see what father can do,” said T’Challa with a fond smile.

Honestly, he loved every opportunity he had to spoil Tony. The omega was bright, intelligent, and funny. Tony could keep up with his sister and T’Challa could see that, given time, he would surpass Shuri in creations. Tony loved coffee and cuddling. Everything about Wakanda was new and interesting to him. He loved to watch movies and cuddle anything nearby (and sometimes T’Challa when the alpha was lucky and Tony feeling bold). And though Tony was getting better at asking for things, he still wasn’t comfortable enough to do so all the time, so T’Challa used it as an excuse to give Tony his way.

In time, T’Challa felt like he could fall in love with his betrothed and he was certain that Tony could fall in love with him. They just needed to get through the fake wedding ceremony and arrest Tony’s father first.

Chapter Text

Arresting Howard Stark had been easy. Tony had told them everything he could about the plan – which wasn’t a lot – and also everything he predicted Howard would do – which was considerably more. Tony knew his father, the man had a flare for the dramatics (see selling off his son for materials), and he was just arrogant enough to think he can get away with it. Armed with that knowledge, they warned everyone who needed to know and let Howard cross the border with the vibranium before springing their trap and arresting the man.

All of this went down just after the wedding ceremony and before the general reception. T’Challa opted to stay with Tony during the process, the two of them tucked away in a nook in the library. To Howard, it would appear that they had disappeared to consummate their marriage, giving him enough time and distraction to slip away and make off with the stolen goods. Wakanda was not in the practice of forcing arranged marriage participants to have sex just to make the marriage ‘real’ and the marriage wasn’t quite legal anyway – T’Challa had signed the document with his non-dominant hand – which would get them out of it if they wanted.

“He’s going to be so mad,” whispered Tony, pacing the small area in an attempt to escape the impending panic attack. “He’s going to kill me.”

“I will not allow anything to happen to you,” said T’Challa as calmly as he could. He was also nervous about the arrest – more so that his people would be harmed in the process than anything else – but he knew he had to hide that from Tony because it would only make everything worse for the omega. “Will you sit with me while we wait? It may help.”

Tony hesitated. In the last month he had spent nearly every waking moment with the alpha and had come to enjoy him. T’Challa was intelligent, witty, and kind. He had been nothing but patient with Tony and Tony responded to that like a flower to the sun. Beyond all that, however, he was still working against years of abuse from his alpha father, so thought T’Challa had done nothing to deserve his mistrust, Tony still hesitated.

Ultimately, it was the fact that the prince asked Tony to sit with him instead of ordered that made the omega take a seat on the small, two-seater armchair, next to the prince. T’Challa grinned and wrapped one arm around Tony’s shoulders. Stiffening for a moment, Tony blinking up at T’Challa before all but metling against him. By the time King T’Chaka came for them several hours later, Tony had wormed his way onto T’Challa’s lap and fallen asleep.

“I see you have things under control here,” said T’Chaka, smiling fondly at his son.

“Yes,” agreed T’Challa smugly, head resting on top of the messy brown hair of his younger lapful. It felt wonderful to be able to comfort Tony like this – like any omega should expect and seek out – though he knew they had a ways to go before it became a regular occurrence.

“You like him, don’t you?” said T’Chaka.

“Yes.”

“That is good. Now, I am loath to wake him but we must speak about his father sooner rather than later. Some, um, complications have arisen.”

T’Challa saw the way his fathers eyes darkened at that statement. Gently, so as to not scare the flighty omega, T’Challa whispered to him to wake him up.

“What?” yawned Tony, snuggling further into T’Challa’s chest, unwilling to fully resign to being awake. “Sleeping.”

“I know, and I am sorry,” chuckled T’Challa softly. “But you must wake up, at least for a time. My father is here and wishes to speak with you.”

That woke Tony instantly. The younger man slid off of T’Challa’s lap but remained in the soft place next to the prince, still curled under his arm. Tony was embarrassed to be caught sleeping but too nervous to completely relinquish all of the comfort T’Challa provided.

“We have arrested Howard,” stated T’Chaka, hoping that fact would put the omega at ease. “However, we have the problem of a trial and your freedom to sort out now.”

“Okay,” said Tony, his voice barely more than a whisper.

“The trial should be straight forward and we will sentence Howard to five years imprisonment for his crime of stealing from Wakanda. He will be kept during those five years at a facility in a different country, not here. That leads us to the matter of your freedom. Should anything go wrong with the trial or should Stark find a way to get out of it, he can still have your removed from our care and there is little I could do about it as you are technically underage. Even so, when Stark’s time is up he will most likely decided to bring you home with him. He will try to charge us with kidnapping. I doubt anything would stick but it would bring Wakanda to the public eye and I am hoping to avoid that.”

“The marriage has to be legal,” sighed Tony, catching on to the most practical solution. “If the marriage is legal, no matter how this goes down with Howard, he can’t touch me.”

“It would be easiest for all involved if that were true,” said T’Chaka with a nod. “However, I do not want to force this on you. If you wish to return home to your mother and country, I will not stop you. I like you, my son clearly likes you, and I think you would do well here, but it is your choice.”

Tony thought for a few minutes. Honestly, the choice wasn’t difficult, and that was probably what scared him the most. It should be hard, he should ask for time to deliberate, he should really think about it.

“I want to stay here,” said Tony finally, shrinking into himself a little.

T’Challa responded by pulling him closer into a hug.

“You know that I will not think poorly of you if you wish to return to your homeland,” said T’Challa softly. “And we can still speak if you return. I do not want you to feel trapped here.”

“Do you want me here?” asked Tony, looking up at T’Challa. He looked genuinely curious, as though T’Challa’s honest opinion weighed in on the matter, which the prince felt positive about. After all, if any sort of relationship was going to grow between them, there had to be trust and a desire to know what the other wanted.

“Yes, I do,” answered T’Challa. He felt that a lot weighed on this moment and that Tony justly wanted to know what he thought. “I think I can make you very happy. I would be a good husband and alpha to you. I think you could be very happy here, and I think that – given time – you could even grow to love me. Already I know that I would miss you very much if you left, but I want your happiness, so if leaving if what your heart desires, then I would do that.”

“But if I stayed?” pressed Tony.

“We would complete the ceremony and continue getting to know each other.”\

“And you would let me continue using the library?”

T’Challa’s eyes widened when he realized that Tony thought his freedom would be stripped from him if he was to marry. Tony believed that what liberties he had gained in the last month would all disappear once T’Challa was his husband.

“Tony, I will not stop you from learning and doing the things you enjoy,” said T’Challa earnestly. “Unless it is negatively impacting your health, you are free to stay in the library as much as you desire.”

“Okay then,” said Tony with a small but firm nod. “Let’s get married for real.”

King T’Chaka smiled at the pair. The two may not know it yet but the king could see how deeply they were already growing to care for the other. Tony still had a long way to go before he trusted any alpha completely and T’Challa had much to learn about the omega that his father was sure would be a handful when he relaxed, but the king was confident they would be just fine.