Dancing Cheek to Cheek, Part 1. Outlander

smashing-teacups:

Rating: T
Canon-compliant. Missing scene.
Also on AO3: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17741855/chapters/41858816

Boston
December 1948

My body sensed that the baby was stirring several minutes before I heard her. I swam up from the depths of sleep in ebbing waves, dragging heavy limbs across the bedsheets in a stretch. I blinked one eye open, listening. The house was silent for a moment, but then I heard it: the whimpering grunts of a rooting child, not yet crying, but hungry.

I was out of bed and moving toward that Siren’s call before the rest of me was fully awake. My breasts were aching, a bit of milk already beginning to stain my nightgown.

“I know, Bree. I hear you. I’m coming. Here I come.” I was already slipping my left breast free of the white satin as I stepped through the nursery door. A slant of bright moonlight glowed through the window, illuminating the wriggling form of my newborn daughter. At the sound of my voice, she turned her head instinctively toward me. She had a tiny balled fist in her mouth – a poor substitute for the nourishment she sought. She flailed it unhappily away as I lifted her from the crib, her face crumpling with a series of hitching cries.

“Ohh, shh, baby, it’s all right. Shh, shh. No, you’re all right. Mummy’s here, love.” I eased down into the rocking chair and had her latched in the same movement. I was getting better at this; practice really did make perfect. “There we go, shh. It’s all right now.”

Bree settled without any further ado to the serious business of eating. The flood of oxytocin hit my bloodstream in the same moment as the near-ecstatic release of the aching engorgement of milk, and I let my head fall back against the chair with a sigh of relief. I lay that way for a long while, eyes closed, listening to the sounds of her grunts and suckles and little hiccuping gasps for breath. As the warm milk hit her belly, she gradually grew gentler, easing into a more steady rhythm. Her little piglet eating noises were punctuated more and more frequently by soft hums of contentment that made my heart clench with unspeakable love.

Jamie, my traitor’s heart called for him, eyes turning up to the moon. Jamie, do you see her?

She was so like him. I couldn’t even begin to count the ways. Currently, she was doing a very good impression of his habit of eating voraciously and then dropping off to sleep like a stone. As her suckles became more lethargic, I preemptively switched her over to the right breast before she could drift off on me. Thankfully, the stimulation of being moved was enough to rouse her back to her task, at least for a little while. I rubbed a thumb back and forth over the downy peach fuzz of her hair, encouraging her to keep going long enough that I wouldn’t wake up bursting in an hour. She did her due diligence, my sweet girl, before her mouth finally fell open in a milky cupid’s-bow “o.” Her little body arched once, drawing in a deep breath and releasing it in a shuddering, happy sigh, before she went slack and boneless against me.

I studied her still, perfect face in the moonlight, finding Jamie in every feature – the slanted eyes, the curve of her mouth, the pink-tipped faun ears. I’d promised that I would stop this… stop seeking him, stop clinging desperately to his memory. I knew I should have put her down in her crib and gone back to bed with Frank. But my fingers were as traitorous as my heart, and they whispered over the back of her head again, tickling the downy wisps of hair, moving in slow circles down toward the base of her neck, until…

There.

Her tiny lips twitched, then split in a gummy grin.

My breath caught in a throat burning with grief. I shifted the baby up to my left shoulder then, needing to hold her to my heart. Closing my eyes on tears, I stood with her and began to pace the small room, bouncing and making shushing noises that were entirely for my own comfort. Before I could second-guess the instinct, a tuneless hum began to vibrate in my chest. The moment I realized what I was doing, I froze in the middle of the room, going quite pale.

I didn’t remember much about my own mother, but I remembered that she used to sing to me.

It occurred to me, quite suddenly, that I had never sung to Brianna.

There was a reason for that. A good one. There were some memories I’d been careful to leave behind me; nerves so raw they would ignite if touched. The thought of singing conjured images of another redheaded baby, and a cold little grave in Paris, and a hauntingly cheerful tune about the seaside.

I looked down at Brianna’s sleeping face, blinking back tears. I was her mother, too. Here was my living, breathing child – the only one I would ever have. No matter how much it pained me, I couldn’t deny the deep, primal compulsion to sing to her.

For me, if anything. For me, more than for her.

I’m not sure where the song came from, to be honest. It was from a film, I knew that much… one I’d seen a long time ago, with Uncle Lamb, in some musty cinema with a projector that skipped. I distinctly recalled the elegant figure of Fred Astaire popping and sputtering in black and white, and being irritated that such a fine musical number should be ruined by incompetent technology.

As I clutched Brianna’s downy head to mine, the lyrics to that piece were somehow the first on my lips. Swallowing down the terror and the heartache that had lodged themselves in the back of my throat, I began to rasp out the old familiar tune, swaying my baby across the moonlit nursery.

Heaven, I’m in Heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we’re out together dancing, cheek to cheek…

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