A/N: There's a bit of coarse language in this one, sorry if that offends. As always, suggestions/comments/criticism very welcome. :)

"Don't forget to bring ale! And plenty of it! We'll need something to celebrate the new chieftain."

A sharp pain in his hand made Tiernan glance down, dully realizing it was his own fingernails biting into the skin of his palm. He unclenched his fists, mouth twisting in displeasure as they shook violently with anger. He shifted in his place in the shadows, eyes once again finding the sorry excuse for a man who might soon be his chieftain.

He wasn't so sure he could handle that, having to obey unquestioningly, to be deferent to him. Watching him marry Grania, thinking of the child growing inside her, knowing he could have her any moment he desired was already tearing him apart. Having to listen, to obey...

How could he possibly stay on through that? Sail under the command of a man he despised, for whom he harbored no respect? He had promised, sworn in his heart that he wouldn't leave her, that he would fight through all of his own inner turmoil because although it felt like a betrayal, he knew she was just as unhappy as he was. Being forced to marry against her will, spread her legs for a man she possessed no attraction for were things Tiernan could barely imagine...

You don't know that's how it is, a voice in his head reminded him. For all you know, she could be the one pushing him down and -

Tiernan forced all such thoughts from his mind as decisively as he could manage. Nothing good would come of that train of thought, he was certain. Moving from his place in the shadows, he stalked toward the O'Flaherty heir, glad to feel the surge of purpose in his deliberate steps.

He didn't let himself hesitate as he approached, allowing himself no moment of doubt to second guess his decision. He knew it was nearly suicide for a common sailor to question a chieftain, albeit a soon-to-be one, but he couldn't just stand by and watch as Donal carelessly threw around his words in a manner that served no purpose except to offend and injure others.

Donal looked up when he was within a few steps, considering him with condescension clear in his gaze. He seemed to take in Tiernan's defiant posture and hostile gaze, and these only seemed to make his smirk grow. "And who are you?" Donal asked, eyes deliberate studying Tiernan from head to toe.

"Tiernan of Clan O'Malley," Tiernan answered gruffly. "I -"

"Oh, yes," Donal sneered, cutting him off. "I remember. You're that...boy Grania has wrapped around her finger." He chuckled, looking Tiernan up and down again. "Or should I say her cunt?"

Shaking with rage, Tiernan tried desperately to rein his emotions back in, to refuse to succumb to his taunts. He did not want to imagine the consequences of attacking a soon-to-be chieftain, how difficult this bastard could make his life...

"Not that it's a particularly good cunt, though," Donal continued. "But I prefer mine to be -"

Tiernan slammed him back against the nearest wall, wrenching a surprised gasp from the other man.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Donal demanded, struggling against Tiernan's arm. "I am your chieftain!"

"Not yet, you aren't," Tiernan hissed, shoving him back into the wall. "Now you listen here. You will keep your mouth shut about Grania, and especially about her father. If I ever hear such disrespect and filth out of your mouth again, if you ever cause her pain, I will kill you."

Tiernan let Donal push him back after a few seconds, watching, cool and detached as Donal pulled himself up and rearranged his clothes. He could feel the buzz of adrenaline slowly leaving his veins, and the satisfied warmth in his core after his actions, however ill advised they may have been.

Donal stepped up to him, eyes fixed firmly on Tiernan's. Tiernan stood as still as possible, trying to keep his posture defiant and strong.

After a few long, tense moments, Donal grinned, just a little. "Looks like you've got some balls on you after all," he said with a laugh, stepping away from Tiernan, who knew he must look bewildered at the sudden change in tone.

"You've got guts, I like that," Donal added. "Maybe, under different circumstances, I would've liked you." Still chuckling under his breath, he turned and walked away.

Tiernan really wished the world would make sense, at least once in awhile.