A/N: Hello, beautifuls! Once again I am shamed for how long this has taken. What can I say, life likes to keep you busy. Hope you enjoy. :)
"Come on, Tiernan, stop looking like the English have just taken over," Niall says as he passes him aboard the ship. "Those bastards will never get Clan O'Malley to bow before their bloody throne."
Tiernan scowls as he ties off another rope. "We just lost a chieftain. Where's your respect?"
The other sailor shrugs before turning his gaze to the other side of the ship. "He was a good man, but he was old, weak. It was time. It's the way of the sea, you know that as well as I." He pauses to spit over the rail. "And we're going to need all the strength we can get."
Tiernan tears his eyes of Grania's form, calling out commands from the prow. "You think the O'Flagherty's will pose a threat?"
Niall shakes his head, a scornful grin playing at his lips. "Ah, those cowards? Nah, we can handle them alright. But a storm is brewing from the English."
"What do you two think you're doing, standing around gossiping like two old crones?" Grania yells, glaring at them with her hands on her hips. In that moment she is the embodiment of Ireland and the sea, her red hair, curled by the salty air flying haphazardly around her as she stands defiantly above them. "Make yourself useful, or you'll be swabbing the deck until your knees bleed!"
"Aye, captain!" they respond in unison, both jumping a little to prove they're acquiescing.
"No time to mourn when a war's on its way," Niall mutters before striding away.
Tiernan doesn't go to see her, and she doesn't come to see him. He decides that's all the better. He wouldn't know what to say, or do, even; she's still married, after all, and what in God's name do you say to your captain, chieftain, and exlover?
He's going to be the expert on screwed up relationships by the time all this is over.
She hides her pregnancy well. He only ever sees her morning sickness once, and wonders if she controls that, like all other things, with her ironclad will power. It's not until Majella comes onboard (Grania crushes all opposition with a few choice threats and fiery glares) that Tiernan starts to notice her slower movements, her private grimaces when she turns away from the men.
He knows better than to try and help; she'll view any acts of kindness on his part as an insult and become only more determined to resist her body's needs, not to mention the rebuke he'd receive for even slightly implying any sort of weakness on her part.
Still, he has to bite his tongue hard when he sees her turn away and grip the rail, expression hard and distant. Once, when Grania bent over double, face contorting in pain, Majella had to elbow him roughly in the ribs to prevent him from rushing to her side.
Sometimes he wonders whether Grania brought Majella onboard for herself, or for him.
"Are you the baby's father?" she asks one night, when Tiernan has night watch.
"No," he replies, a little taken aback by the sudden blunt question. "No chance at all."
"Too bad," is her only answer before she strides away.
Majella proves to be a welcome change from the rowdy cohort of men he's so used to sailing with. She's not afraid to pull her weight, when need be (admittedly she does weigh considerably less than most of the other sailors), and relays information to Tiernan like a gossiping old hag.
It's getting close to the baby's birth (Grania's taken to wearing the most ill-fitting clothes she owns, though Tiernan's certain the crew has caught on by now) when he and Majella sit on deck on a frigid night. She's wrapped in a thick woolen shawl that rubs against the fabric of his tunic when she turns to look at him.
She's talking quietly about something, but he's distracted from her words by the moonlight passing over her features as it sneaks in and out of the clouds. She's pretty, he reflects, in an Irish way, with strength in her jaw and life already etched in her forehead.
He's never felt quite so...celibate before.
When she catches him staring, she holds his gaze until he looks away, apology ready on his lips, but a bemused smile is already on hers. "You'd stay true no matter what, wouldn't you?" she asks, though it doesn't sound very much like a question. "Even though she's in another man's bed?"
He can't find the words to explain why her words are true, why there is this garish double standard in their relationship, but Majella just smiles a little more with a small shake of her head. "If they're not calling you Saint Tiernan before all is done, it'll be cardinal sin."
She's quiet for a long time before she turns to him again. "This might be a stupid question, but how far are you willing to go to protect her?"
"As far as it takes," he answers immediately.
He almost second guesses his answer when a conspiratorial grin lights up her face. "I thought you might say that," she says.
He wonders briefly how women always seem to get him into these messes.