"We have bigger things to worry about," he said, turning to face her at long last. He didn't look angry; what he looked was worried, and for Liam, that was not a good thing. "I interrupted something that perhaps I shouldn't have," he told her, remembering themselves when they'd been teenagers - shy, awkward, and terrified of each other.
Angry, she could deal with; worried was not something Shaye was accustomed to seeing from her husband. She twisted to face him, her own expression creased with concern. "What happened?" she asked him with worry of her own. "Who did you interrupt?" She didn't think it had been Conall and Liayna - if nothing else, she knew he'd be laughing if it had been them.
"Ariana and Rory," he replied. "I was not thinking, Shaye. I was only thinking of her safety - of their safety. We were lucky tonight. We cannot afford to make such mistakes again." But that didn't explain what exactly he had interrupted or tell her anything of the conversation that had followed. "Were we ever that young?"
"Well, that depends what you interrupted," she drawled, her lips curving in a faint smile. She was fond of their young queen, though closer to the consort who seemed so very nervous of doing anything wrong. With a sigh, Shaye dropped back onto the bed, pale hair a flaxen tumble falling free from the leather thong that was not up to the task of holding it in place. "We were lucky. By all accounts, if she hadn't woken, he would not have been able to save her. Keeping a clan close by seems the best idea."
"Thank the Goddess neither of them was hurt," he murmured, looking over at her with that worried frown still on his face, but not joining her just yet. "Hungry? I could order some breakfast before we sleep," he suggested, though his eyes already felt like they were full of sand.
"I think I would rather sleep and then eat," she admitted. "We can't afford to sleep overmuch this morning, but we can have a couple of hours." Her hand brushed his back as she met his gaze. "Tell me what's worrying you. It can't just be the attack, or you would still be skulking around giving out orders."
"I feel like I could sleep for a year," he grumbled, his expression softening when he felt her hand on his back. Maybe she wasn't as angry as he thought she was, or maybe she'd just thought it not important enough to stay angry about, all things considered. "It's Ariana and Rory," he admitted, though he thought he'd made that clear enough already. "Do you remember when we were that young?" he asked, wondering if she'd finally get his drift.
She frowned thoughtfully, wondering what he meant. Their shared childhood had been strictly regimented, filled with duties and training that they had shared, though nothing so heavy as the burden that had fallen on their young queen. But then, they had also been in love, and stolen moments were a warm memory she smiled at. In that context, it didn't take much to guess what Liam had walked in on. "They still haven't managed to work out what goes where?"
"Perhaps they will now that I, uh ... spoke with Ariana." He had to smile a little at the memory of their talk. "She wondered if men are like dogs." He couldn't help but chuckle at that. "Would you like it if I were like a dog?" he teased. Dropping onto his back and turning to face her, he traced the line of her neck with a finger.
"Rua, I love you dearly, but if you ever develop a dog's habits, I will have to have you castrated," his lovely wife informed with with the familiar cheeky twinkle in her dark eyes that had always been there, right from the day they had met. Her own hand rose, stroking affectionately against his cheek as she smiled at him. "Does she really not know what happens between a man and a woman in love?" she asked, amazed. "Even as a boy, she was a man in many eyes. Didn't anyone take Adare to a brothel?"
Despite everything, he couldn't help but chuckle at her threat. "I'll try to remember not to mark you as my territory," he teased back, glad she wasn't so angry with him anymore. More often than not, their arguments were heated and passionate but short-lived, like storm clouds quickly passing overhead. "I don't think so. She didn't seem to know much of anything. I've no idea how much the boy knows. He fled the tent when I interrupted."
Shaye groaned, rolling her eyes. "That explains how I saw Liayna following him through the camp, then," she mused, sighing softly. "If they don't work it out, they'll never secure the line. I don't think our new queen is the sort to love one and have children by another."
"Oh, I think they'll work it out. It's only a matter of time. I suggested she speak with the crone. If anyone can help, it is her. Ariana is worried about becoming pregnant. She said a child is the only thing that would stop her from marching on Loscar. I do not think she will have to worry about that much longer." Not because the Queen might get pregnant, but because even if she did, it was likely she wouldn't know until the war was over.
"Kari," Shaye corrected him with a low laugh. Though the Doma of Clan Tarven was easily the ugliest old woman she had ever seen, there was a great deal of power in her hands. Shaye was wary of causing offense to a woman whose power had kept their queen safe all these years. Rolling to face Liam, she smiled, tweaking his beard affectionately. "That should help her, hopefully. But now ... we need to talk about the way we speak to each other in front of others again, rua."
"Kari," he echoed, only one of a few who he allowed to correct him. He scowled at her when she tugged at his beard, followed by an all-too familiar roll of eyes as she brought up an all-too familiar subject that he was dreading discussing. "Yes, yes ... I know. I should not scold you in front of the others as it undermines your authority and makes me appear overbearing," he said, as if he was remembering a previous lecture by rote.
She eyed him, daring him to continue in that vein. "And?" she asked, wanting more than a remembered scolding repeated verbatim back at her. "Liam, you have to remember that I am not just your wife. My duty is the defense of the holder of Arlan's Sword - I can't prevent myself from that, even if I wanted to. I heard her voice, and I had to answer, regardless of the danger to myself. That is what it is to be bound to Arlan's Sword."
He might be stubborn, but he wasn't stupid, and he knew she was right, but he could not help himself. "I know all that, Shaye, but First Blade or not, you are still my wife. You are my heart and my soul, and I cannot help but worry for you, especially when you go storming out of the tent naked in the middle of winter to catch your death of cold." He sighed, laying back against the pillows, knowing there was no good solution to this problem. She was who she was, and there was no denying it. "You sacrificed yourself for me once, and I do not plan on losing you again."
"I have no intention of being lost," she promised him, her hand resting over his heart. "But until Ariana is secure on her throne, I will be her First Blade. I will be in the forefront of the fighting. You wouldn't expect anything less of me, would you?"
"I would prefer you did not let half the army see what is for my eyes alone," he replied, hinting at a little jealousy, but then, he was a man. He turned to face her, lifting her hand from his chest to brush a kiss against her palm. "I knew who you were when I married you. I know you are the First Blade first and my wife second, but it is not always easy knowing the danger."