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He was handsome; Claire had to give him that. Though he was a bit older than she would have ever preferred in a partner, there was something about Dougal that drew her to him. Perhaps it was his general charisma. Perhaps it was the fact that he was older. He was seasoned, experienced. What Frank had in a mental education, Dougal had in a physical one. He was a war chieftain, she learned. Something of a general or captain in modern terms. Then again, Jamie, who was a bit too young for her in her mind, possibly had more 'education' than Dougal in terms of physical trials. She was surprised the boy was not mentally damaged from the abuse he had endured at the hands of Jack Randall. She had, after all, seen boys and men go through less during the war and end up in much worse of an emotional state. Perhaps even young men in this time were simply harder than those in her world, able to withstand more horrors. Perhaps Jamie alone was stronger.

The first time Claire felt something along the lines of benevolent feelings toward Dougal, he had been fabulously drunk, and she had been on her way to the castle exit to flee her imprisonment, to return to the stones. Return to Frank. Looking back, she should have known better, that parties were liable to end with many drunken Scots, and many drunken Scots were unpredictable, particularly toward a lone suspicious Sassenach. Dougal had likely saved her from what could have easily escalated into rape by those men. What Dougal did afterwards, however, surprised Claire so jarringly that her mind flew in every direction while wondering what was happening. The way he had been eyeing her, that look he held in his glazed eyes should have been her signal, but she expected a man of his station – and one who had just saved her from wanton drunkards – to have a bit more class. Dougal had kissed her, fiercely, as if he had been longing to do so for some time. His tongue had somehow made its way into her mouth, and had tasted as if it had been marinated in whiskey for days. Perhaps it had. Distracted by the oral invasion, she was too slow to stop his hand from reaching up into her skirts as far as possible before the many layers prevented contact. She struggled, but only out of propriety. As Dougal backed away from her, she wondered why she wished his strength had overpowered hers, if just for a little longer. The look he gave her after she swatted him away was one of hurt. Hurt! Claire couldn't tell if he was ashamed of his actions or insulted by hers. Perhaps he felt both. Again her mind was exploding with insecurities and confusion, and she wanted nothing more than to flee. Not just back to the stones, but away from the situation that confused her beyond explanation. She realized that her escape was threatened by Dougal, though drunk and perhaps unable to grasp the scene before him. He had eyed her bundle with suspicion long enough for her to worry he figured her out. The chair in the hallway thankfully walloped the back of his head hard enough for him to lose consciousness.

She didn't want to be raped. Of course not. But perhaps just… held, coerced…. Something deep and dark inside of her craved that kind of play. Frank and her, once in a while, had enacted such games. She 'struggled' and he 'conquered', but it was all in intimate fun. Frank would have never continued should she tell him to stop, nor would he have ever harmed her. Frank was also never drunk enough to be beside himself with base desires as Dougal had just been.

Deep down, she wasn't surprised that her escape plan had failed. Claire was stuck, now, stuck with these Scots. She understood their reasoning for not letting her go, but understanding didn't mean she was content about her situation. Occasionally she would catch an eyeful of Dougal's stare. His eyes seemed to penetrate her in ways they ought not to, as if he were mentally undressing her and not stopping at imaginary nakedness. She could often feel his gaze searing into her like coals. He never bothered hiding his interest, never turned away when she confronted his stare.

In sharp contrast, the looks Jamie always gave her were puppy-eyed. Soft, hopeful, respectful and kind. The boy was definitely raised to respect women in ways that Dougal was not. Or, Claire wondered, Dougal was too old and tired to care about niceties any longer, and simply grabbed what he wanted, whether it a bit of bread on the banquet table or a lass's rear-end. The fact that Jamie respected her was the main reason she agreed to marry him.

Claire admitted to herself that she had missed sex. It hadn't been all that long since she was last intimate with Frank, but she understood her own body. One month, one week, one hour could go by before she felt amorous again. She had suppressed much of her desire when separated from Frank during the war, taking matters into her own hands a few times. She was, after all, at that age when a woman began to desire sex more frequently. Thankfully, Jamie was not yet passed that age when a young man was most sexually active as well (though it seemed, at least in Dougal's case, desire never truly faded for these men). In the end, what was obligation became enjoyable, even fun. Though inexperienced and overly eager at times, Jamie was a good lover. The fact that he boasted a rather sizable cock (although at times too sizable) certainly helped her to reach climax rather easily. She was also happy to learn that Jamie enjoyed what she dubbed 'playing'. Nips and light smacks, tugs and bracing of hands. Nothing rough, not often, anyway, but she wondered what time would bring to Jamie's desires. He was so young, after all, and until recently a fairly naïve virgin.

While the contented Jamie slept on their wedding night, sometime between midnight and dawn, Claire had gone downstairs to retrieve something to drink and perhaps a few nibbles of food. She was thankful for the dead quiet of the meal hall which meant all the men were asleep elsewhere. Smiling to herself rather sleepily, she didn't see Dougal in the doorway until he entered the room.

~ ~ ~

Dougal had just returned from Fort William, from informing Jack Randall about Claire's new status as the wife of a laird's nephew. He hadn't gone alone for safety reasons, though he wished he had. The entire journey there and back was spent listening to still-half-drunken nonsense, and all Dougal wanted to do was mourn over Claire in peace. He wanted to drink himself stupid and perhaps even cry or punch something without the prying eyes of others upon him, but all he allowed himself was more whiskey. He had sobered up before the journey to the fort, but immediately turned to the drink after the deed was done.

On the journey back to the small town, Dougal had wondered what he would say to the woman. He preferred not to have to speak to Claire, at least not that night. He thought it best to give the news to the couple in the morning once he had calmed down, once he no longer felt the intense desire to punch his own nephew for no good reason whatsoever.

Upon arrival, Dougal immediately headed for the meal hall in search of more whiskey. Sobriety was not something he cared to experience for the moment. He opened the door only slightly and saw someone inside, walking about lazily, searching for something. He recognized Claire a moment later.

He had been watching her from the shadows, from behind the partially opened door. Most of the candles had been doused, but the moonlight that bled through the windows illuminated her skin in such a way that made her glow like a specter. Her dark curls occasionally caught the same light, creating tiny flashes of silver to complete the illusion. As far as Dougal was concerned, Claire was not a spy, but rather some unearthly goddess or forest creature sent to madden men by her beauty, to punish louts like him for the sins of their past. Then again, sin was debatable, as far as Dougal was concerned. He couldn't help but retain a healthy respect for the old ways, and the old gods, and he knew the tricks the Old Ones sometimes liked to play. He knew it was not the Devil that sent Claire, but rather the Lord of the Forest most likely, and despite what priests said Dougal believed that the two were not the same. Forest creatures were known for luring men into the dark, and Claire had definitely bewitched him. Ironic, he thought, given the meaning of her name. She was a walking contradiction.

The silver moon. That's what Claire was, at least on the surface. When he saw her in that wedding dress, embroidered feathers falling down the skirt as if she were an earth-bound angel, he felt for her in ways that he never knew he was capable. He could have taken her right then and there on the grass and not been a bit sorry about it, his nephew be damned. And there, in the meal hall, alone wearing nothing but Jamie's plaid and those curls, Claire's beauty struck him yet again.

He cursed fate and God and all the Old Ones. He should have turned away, should have gone to bed, but something compelled him to enter the hall, to tell her what he had just done. What he had just done for her. He was only slightly drunk at that moment, just enough to act on instinct instead of in his best interests. And there he was, unexpectedly face to face with the silver goddess-witch. His planned lines sped out of him on their own accord.

She was grateful, of course. Her smile was genuine. As Claire spoke, Dougal studied the curve of her rounded cheeks, the shape of her chin and jawline, the pale skin that outlined her lips. He felt the same pull as he had upon seeing her in the hallway of the castle the night he had kissed her.

His mental filter drowned in alcohol, he lauded her beauty or some such graces before thinking first. He registered none of what he said, instead savoring the sight of Claire and remembering only the tired, confused look in her pale eyes. Close now, he could smell the sex on her, more enticing than any perfume. He ached to touch her, and whiskey courage brought his hand to her chin. He brushed the pad of his thumb across her plump lower lip, remembering clearly, despite his state at the time, what it had been like to kiss her. He began to ache for her again, and barely had enough wits about him to stop himself from throwing her across a dining table.

Claire retained that horrible, confused and frightened look in her silver-blue eyes, and an invisible fist slammed into Dougal's stomach before reaching into his chest and tearing away his heart.

"I'm Jamie's wife," she declared, annunciating every syllable clearly enough for him to understand, even in his stupor.

~ ~ ~

Claire was with him, hands and mouth upon his cock as the water from the gentle cascade splashed onto her back. She hummed in pleasure as she "polished his dirk", letting her tongue swirl about to the more sensitive bits. His fingers were entangled in her wet, dark hair, holding her to him, not letting her back away.

At least, that was what Dougal was imagining as his own hand solved a very big problem he had been grappling with for far too long. He had claimed a need to bathe before leaving the company of the other lads and finding the secluded pool. He didn't care if the men thought him gone too long. He wanted to savor the fantasy as it played out in his mind.

Claire on her knees. Claire on her hands and knees. Claire on her back. Claire on top of him. When release finally arrived, he couldn't help but call out her name. He hoped that the rushing water drowned out the sound, and that none of his companions witnessed his fall.

~ ~ ~

Claire dug her fingers into her thick curls and growled in frustration. She was stressed. Stressed for herself, stressed for Dougal, and stressed for Jamie's impending death, something Dougal claimed was inevitable. He was imprisoned, enduring God-knows-what under the hand of Black Jack Randall. Dougal had refused to help her free Jamie, claiming it would be suicide, and no one else willing and able was around to ask.

She began to drink herself into oblivion. The wine was stashed in the cave with the rest of the bounty, and she helped herself to the endless supply of Rhenish. Dougal kept speaking about one thing or another, but Claire registered none of it. All she wanted to do was forget.

She had been so close to returning to her home, to her husband Frank, and yet she threw it all away to stay in the past with her second – or was it first? – husband, who was now condemned to hang. The wine helped her to forge it all, her decisions and the consequences they brought. In that moment, she didn't want to be able to think.

At some point between a third and seventh glass of the stuff, Claire realized Dougal's right hand had found her left, and had been holding it for an uncertain length of time. In reflex, she squeezed his large fingers, holding on to warm flesh which helped to ground her. Without the feeling of another person by her side, she feared she might float away.

By the eleventh glass, she stopped caring that her mind was, indeed, floating. A silly smile crossed her face without prompting from her own emotions. She knew she was smiling, but she didn't know why. A hand helped brace her head which had been dipping to the left or right as gravity decided. Calloused fingers brushed against her cheek and tucked unruly curls behind her ear. By instinct or by some other base emotion, Claire grasped the rough hand with hers, removed it from her face, and kissed its palm. More roughness. Her tactile sense was enhanced by the wine, perhaps from the lowered inhibitions of a drowned mind, and she felt every stark ridge of flesh that brushed against her silken skin.

"Mo solas na gealaich," Dougal breathed as he stared at her pale complexion. Though sober, his mind still let loose his true feelings for Claire. She was as intoxicating as whiskey.

"Hmm?" she sounded through her sleepy smile before again kissing the hand she held.

Dougal knew that every bit of what he was thinking was wrong. Claire was very, very drunk. He was a recent widower, and she was only a widow-to-be. He shouldn't. They shouldn't. In the end, though, those rosy lips, pressed to the pulse of his wrist, won over any sense of loyalty and decorum. The ache within him grew again, and the woman would not stop touching her lips to his flesh. He had to have her, right then and there. There was no alternative.

Dougal leaned forward and kissed her lips. He grasped the back of her neck, disenabling her from pulling away, but she never attempted to. Desperation and drunkenness allowed her to fall into his arms. He hoisted her up, light as a dove as she was, and walked her over to the furs he had sprawled out on the cave floor.

Claire was aware that someone was touching her, undoing her bodice laces, kissing the tops of her breasts. She could smell that the man was not Jamie, nor Frank, and that the man was rather large and imposing. At one point she felt cold, and knew she had been undressed. The warm body above her ran two hands over her entire body, which in a minor way kept her from getting too chilled. Soon rough lips found her breasts, trading kisses and other pleasures between them both. A large hand found its way between her thighs and expertly went to work, caressing her in all the right ways.

The figure was on top of her then, spreading her legs apart with warm thighs. Cloth tickled her skin, and she caught a glimpse of plaid.

"My moonlight," a gravelly, husky voice crooned into her ear as its owner entered her.

Claire wrapped her legs and arms around the warm body, welcoming its heat and caresses. The man's mouth kissed the side of her neck between Gaelic mumblings. Claire was too far gone to say anything worth-while, and simply let herself enjoy, and be enjoyed. The man moved slowly, not at all forcibly, and was audibly enjoying every moment of their coupling.

Dougal loved the smell of her hair. Earthy and floral, like the forest creature she was. Touching her, finally, feeling the length of her soft body, was all that he had hoped it would be. It had not been long since he had felt the embrace of a woman, but no woman equaled Claire. It was not that she was a healer, nor a Sassenach, nor anything else of that nature. What singled her out was the air about her, the scent and curl of her hair, her kindness, her readiness when it came to healing wounded soldiers. Of all the women Dougal had known, of all that he had even met, there was something altogether exotic and precious about Claire, and he didn't care what that exactly was. He just accepted it as fact.

Dougal wanted to draw out their coupling for as long as he could, but he feared the woman would realize what she was doing and fight her way out from underneath him. This threat in mind, he finished what he had started.

Breathless and sweating, the couple lay together on the furs in a tangled mess. Claire had wrapped an arm around Dougal's back; not at all the reaction he had expected from a previously wholly unwilling companion. He knew most of her actions were brought on by the wine, but he didn't care. At the end of it all, they fell asleep together, not caring about what confusion the morning might bring. For Dougal, however, he knew that this was the first and last time he would have her. There was nothing he could do to keep her away from young Jamie, no matter if trying to rescue him meant her death.