A/N: This was written for timepetalsprompts over at tumblr. It in a way continues the other adventures of a younger Alec Hardy and wee Daisy... it's fluffy and soppy (be warned). Cheers to lunaseemoony and ktrosesworld who succeeded in their plan to lure me in... this is for you ladies!
Sir Alec and the Seagulls
Alec Hardy curled his naked toes into the wet sand. The receding surf of a wave licked around his ankles, dragging the ground up pebbles back to the ocean with it and leaving him with that odd sensation of losing ground underneath.
He loathed the beach.
And yet, he wouldn't want to be anywhere else at this very moment. The sun was high in the lapis blue sky and the rays of light glittered on the calm ocean's surface. The hazy line of the horizon seemed endlessly far away, stretching even farther when he squinted through the brightness of the perfect summer day.
A seagull's longing caw cut through the soothing sound of the sea rolling onto the shore.
Hardy prodded a shell with his toes and reluctantly acknowledged to himself that maybe he didn't hate it as much as he had told Tess he would. New memories of a happy five-year-old Daisy's valiant attempts at burying him in the sand layered over old memories of a young boy hiding on the beach from his parents' arguing.
He shook himself free from the reverie and embarked on completing the task he'd come for. Princess Daisy had sent her knight Sir Alec on a quest to retrieve water for the moat of her castle. A pink plastic bucket had been handed to him with the stern instructions not to dilly dally (she'd recently learned the word from a book and didn't skip one opportunity to make good use of it). The royal knight better not let the princess wait who didn't fancy to lunch by herself. He'd left Daisy by herself on her towel, but not after he'd laid out the spread of delicious treats they'd gathered from the farmer's market before coming to the beach.
Tess wasn't going to join them until the next day. The case she was testifying in had gotten held up in court. Begrudgingly, he'd gone ahead and taken Daisy on their holiday without her mother. The thought of facing the ocean by himself had left him uneasy, but the prospect of exclusive father-daughter time had won. He hadn't regretted it.
He stooped down and with one swift scoop filled the bucket. When he turned to walk back, a seagull blocked his way. It stood there, doing nothing but cocking its head and blinking its beady eyes at Hardy. They stared at each other, motionless. Hardy sucked in the salty air through his nose and unfroze. He moved to his left to pass by. Another seagull occupied the very space he'd planned on using as an escape route. Its red eyes were fixed on him.
He stepped to the other side, away from the pair of birds, only to encounter a third one, patrolling the flank with clumsy hops and cawing quietly. Peering through his slitted eyelids, Hardy told himself that there was nothing eerie about them closing in on him. Unconsciously he retreated into the water.
Then he heard the wail. His head snapped up, losing sight of his opponents. They'd been the diversion. The real attack had aimed at a different victim.
"Daaaad!" Daisy screamed at the top of her shrill voice.
Hardy charged forward, heedless of the birds, waves and sand. Scanning the beach, his skilled senses took in the crime scene quickly. The grey-white perpetrator was fleeing with its bounty - a tasty ham and cheese sandwich - clasped tightly in its beak. It hobbled over the sand at an impossibly fast speed, flapping its wings and preparing to take off. The stolen treat weighed the seagull down and before it could get up into the air, the three other birds that had been stalking Hardy descended upon it. A vicious fight broke out. The shrieking caws were backed up with hacking and ruffling of feathers. Sand dusted up around them, obscuring the battle.
When he finally reached Daisy, he was panting. She was kneeling on the blanket, clutching the wax paper her sandwich had been wrapped with to her chest. Sobs shuddered through her slim figure. Hardy lowered his lanky body next to her and engulfed her in a tight hug. Stroking her hair and muttering soothing words into her ear, he rocked her back and forth until the crying slowed down.
"What happened, darlin'?" he asked eventually, pushing her gently away so he could look at her tear streaked face.
He had arrived at his own conclusions, but he wanted to give her the opportunity to get it off her chest.
"He stole my sandwich!" she exclaimed with more indignation than Hardy would have expected from his scared little girl. "He hopped closer and closer and I was talking to it and then he just snatched it away from me."
Her speech was speeding up. She straightened to her full height and her eyebrows puckered when she shared the most upsetting part. "Right out of my mouth! I was biting into it and the mean birdie took it."
Her face was priceless, stuck somewhere between horror, utter annoyance, but also a trace of admiration for the boldness of her attacker. She moved closer and lowered her voice as if she was sharing a secret.
"I looked in his eyes, Dad. It was right here…" - she pointed at the bridge of her nose - "… and I said 'shoo'," she recounted fiercely, her eyes burning with the thrill of the adventure. Then her face drooped. Disappointedly, she continued, "But he didn't listen."
She crossed her arms, mouth pulled to a pout. Hardy bit his lip in an attempt to hide the smile that was creeping up. Just when he reached out to brush her wind-swept hair out of her face, she shrieked and lunged herself against him. Her head squashed his lower lip against his teeth, sending a wave of sharp pain through him. The metal taste of blood tickled his tongue. He wasn't prepared for the impact and fell over, dragging her down into the sand with him.
Her voice rang in his ears and her finger darted out over his head, pointing at something he couldn't see. Cranking his neck, he rolled onto his stomach. Daisy slid off him, but immediately tried to frantically climb back.
Indeed she was right. The devilish seagull had returned. And with it its cronies. The gang leaped lopsidedly closer and closer to their picnic blanket, cawing excitedly and eyeing their potential feast.
Hardy scrambled to his feet which wasn't an easy task. A hysterical Daisy was clawing at his naked back, screaming to not leave her alone with the birds. He swooped her up and balanced her on his hip, while he frantically waved at the seagulls.
"Shoo!" he called out.
They were unimpressed.
"Ach, Da-ad! I told you they don't listen to that," Princess Daisy commented on her knight's poor efforts in defending their lunch spread.
Hardy shot his daughter a glare while she was clinging onto him for dear life. When had she turned into a little smart arse? Bloody child.
One of the birds took off with a scone.
"Dad! He took another one. I wanted that," Princess Daisy whined. She poked him in the side. "Do something!" she ordered.
"Thought that was my scone," Hardy muttered to himself and lowered Daisy to the ground despite her wild protests.
He leaped at the three remaining birds, flailing his arms madly and growling at the thieves. Their retreat was a lazy one. They were in no haste and clearly not fazed by the knight's threats. Each had boldly snatched up another bite for the way.
Hardy's gaze wandered over the remaining food. They had left them with the scrapes. Sighing, he gathered it all up and put it back into the picnic basket.
Sand was scratching over his skin in all the places one didn't want to have sand in. He ruffled his hair and what seemed half the beach dusted out of his bangs. His eyes searched for Daisy.
She'd wandered off to the water. Instant panic rose inside Hardy. His heart thudding erratically up his throat, he sprinted after her.
"Daisy! You can't do that!" he shouted at her, as soon as he laid his shaking hands on her. "Don't run away like tha-"
"This is for you, Sir Alec," she interrupted him with a gorgeous smile, oblivious to the fear in her father's voice. Her hand held out a large shell. "My heart - for saving my life from the monsters of the sea!"
Hardy blinked at his reward. It was a beautiful scallop shell, polished from the endless back and forth of the ocean into what almost resembled a heart shape. The red tint of the pointy end blurred into a cream color where the shell fanned out to form the round halves of a heart. Hardy swallowed. Forgotten was the urge to scold her for running away. He carefully took the token of her appreciation and closed his fingers around it. Then he swooped up his only child and cradled her against his body.
"I will always save you," he murmured into her hair.
Their bright matching eyes met.
"I love you, Dad, always."
"I love you too, Darlin'. Always!"
A/N: More adventures of Sir Alec can be found in "Sir Alec" and "A Unicorn In the Snow" - have fun reading!