Disclaimer: Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther, all characters, places, and related terms belong to Sony Pictures, Marvel Comics, Marvel Studios, and Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures.
For Diplomacy's Sake
Surrounded on all sides by excited classmates, Betty had command of the laptop. With a few quick clicks she made the video fill the entire screen, making it easier for everyone to see.
There was the Wakandan entourage being welcomed at the airport… Peter Parker in a suit and tie clutching a bouquet of flowers… Him gaping when face to face with Princess Shuri… Mr. Stark's third nudge bringing him back to the present, then all but hurling the flowers at the princess… She struggling not to laugh while the Peter bowed repeatedly… The two shaking hands…
"Her hair is amazing."
"They are precious!"
"Parker's got a crush!"
The incredulous question brought the group's attention to Peter standing in front of them.
"I have a crush?" he spluttered.
Several girls giggled loudly. Betty grinned like the Cheshire cat. "Obviously. You were practically swooning! And giving the princess flowers…"
"Oh that!" Peter's embarrassment changed to relief. "Mr. Stark insisted I be part of the welcoming committee. My duty was to present the princess with the flowers – where they came from, I have no idea! None of it was my idea. Honestly, I doubt I'll ever see her again."
A huge chorus of disappointed sighs met this pronouncement.
"So that's what never seeing the princess again looks like," was the first thing Michelle said when she answered the video call. Pointedly she lifted one brow.
Peter groaned loudly and scrubbed his hand over his face. "How did you know— Never mind. It's not what you think," he said, nervously running his fingers through his hair.
"Yes, it is! Yes, it is!" Ned exclaimed, nearly knocking Peter completely out of the frame when he came into view, practically bursting with excitement.
"You totally missed it, Michelle! They acted like they'd known each other forever, caught up in their own little world. Both of them full of joy and light. Oh! You should have seen him when he was initially paired with the princess. Never have I seen him so bashful. It was endearing!" the other boy gushed with a sunny smile.
Outwardly Michelle's mouth barely twitched. Inwardly she felt herself melt a little bit. "Darn! I wish I wasn't out sick and missed seeing the smart, dorky babies in person!" she complained.
"GUYS!" Peter shouted desperately. "You're totally misinterpreting the situation!"
"It didn't feel like rainbows and Care Bears were raining down whenever you looked at her?" Ned asked, suddenly looking like someone had taken away his puppy.
"No!" the brown-haired boy protested. "I just did as I was instructed."
(There wasn't much conviction behind the words in Michelle's opinion. And Peter's face turning bright red wasn't helping his case either.)
Michelle carefully mulled over each potential ship name only to discard them all. None captured the essence of…them.
Pretending to text on her phone, the teenager watched from the corner of her eye Peter and the princess talking animatedly a few feet away in the hallway. The boy had yet to stop ginning, leaning towards the girl, hanging on to her every word.
Gah! Ned had been right! It was like eternal sunshine and happiness when watching the two of them. Too adorable for words. Michelle sighed deeply.
First name terms. That had Michelle lifting up her head and looking directly at them.
"Would you do me the honor of going with me to the Autumn Dance on Saturday?" Peter said, sounding both shy and hopeful, struggling to hold the princess's gaze.
The girl's eyes widened in surprise and then softened. "Yes, Peter."
It took all of Michelle's willpower not to fist pump and yell "YESSSSS!" at the top of her voice in celebration. She settled on a satisfied beam.
"Diplomacy purposes…Mr. Stark's idea," Peter muttered as he passed his friend after saying bye to Shuri.
Michelle's smile didn't budge an inch. "Must have taken a lot of convincing on his part."
Ned had hated school dances for as long as he could remember, with a burning passion. But he wouldn't miss this one for the world. The past hour he'd been stationed by the refreshment table with Michelle, people watching. Well, more like Peter-and-Shuri watching to be honest.
The couple were hard to miss. The princess wore a white dress, braids piled on her head in a fancy 'do, her dark skin glowing. Peter had also cleaned up nice, wearing dark slacks and a blue dress shirt with his hair combed back.
"They look like something out of a fairy story," Michelle whispered, eyes fastened on the teenagers on the dance floor.
"He looks at her as though she's hung the moon and the stars," Ned waxed poetically. "And he's the sun of her universe."
"When did you turn into such a sap?" she demanded, sparing him a quick glance.
"I blame them. So many warm and fuzzy feelings…," he answered, raising his cup of punch to his mouth.
That was the unanticipated moment Peter brought Shuri to a stop in the middle of the dance, then leaned in and brushed his mouth against hers in a soft kiss.
Simultaneously Ned choked on his drink and almost had a heart attack. Michelle grabbed his arm to stay upright, gasping loudly in shock. Had that really happened…?
The gym erupted with clapping, cheers, and whistling, along with a few cries of "Finally!"
Yep. That was real.
"Please tell me that wasn't due to diplomacy!" he begged.
Peter and Shuri exchanged sheepish smiles and hugged, causing a renewed outburst of cheers.
"Diplomacy, my foot!" Michelle exclaimed.