A/N: The order has been fixed now. Chapter 8 (More than Anything) is the newest chapter. Cheers.
Just stay calm.
It was honestly the only thing that Tiernan could really think about as the ship neared to shore. His heart was in his throat the entire ride to land, making it nearly impossible to row across the water with the others.
Having to tell her this...it was not how he wanted to see her again. He promised to be there fore her, and he would, but that did not make it any easier to do.
It was almost as if he was in a trance as he walked into her home.
"Tiernan!" The smile on her face caused his heart to sink, knowing that he would be the one to replace it with sadness.
"Grania," he greeted, unable to pull up a smile, even for her.
"I didn't expect you back so soon!" she exclaimed, putting down what she was doing. "How was the sea? Did you enjoy yourself?" At his silence, she furrowed her brow in confusion. "What's wrong? What's happened?"
He took a deep breath, trying to get up his courage to tell her, but she pressed on ahead.
"Did...did you sleep with someone?" She paused. (Tiernan reflected absently that the accusation stung even though there was no truth behind it. Perhaps especially because there was no truth behind it.) "Is Majella alright? The Queen...is she...is she gone?"
"Your father is very sick," he finally stated flatly.
She paused in all movement, just staring at him, mouth open to throw out another guess. "How...how sick?"
"He sent me to take you to him. It would be best if we made all possible haste."
And then she was stumbling, and he was catching her, and cursing himself for not asking her to sit down, and finally he was sitting her down in a chair. "My father is dying," she murmured softly.
He tensed at her words, but nodded his agreement. "Do you...want to be alone?"
Shaking her head slowly, she looked up at him with sad eyes. "Find my husband. We must make preparations immediately."
Regretful to leave her in such a state, yet obligated to obey her as his chieftain's daughter, he nodded, walking to the door.
"Tiernan," she whispered.
"I...I should have told Donal first, but I haven't...I'm pregnant."
It was his turn to freeze. "Congratulations," he managed to get out. He paused in the doorway. "Tell your husband. He has a right to know."
Somehow this was another betrayal, another rip of his already fragile heart. He'd known it would happen, known it was the goal, and yet it still hurt to discover it was now reality.
She should be carrying his baby, not the get of her slimy, womanizer of a husband. Did Grania realize he spent his nights whoring and drinking?
Grania's not stupid, he told himself. She must know. But if I was in her place, would I want to see? Could I protect myself, pretend things were otherwise?
The answer was obvious. Yes. Much easier to do than accept that the father of her child was a drunken sex addict.
Tiernan would have made such a better father than him, and it drove him almost to the point of madness that the undeserving wretch was getting that right which should have been his own.
But who will actually be the father? Another voice inside him asked. The one who gave him life, or the one who cherishes and teaches him, comforts and praises him?
And if Grania was as intelligent as he thought, she would shield him from his biological father and push him to his de facto one.
Ready or not, he supposed he was about to become a father after all.