A/N: I really wanted to do this. After Demons, I couldn't help feeling Daya should have something similar too. So... here it is. It's great if you like it, it's okay if you don't. But this is just really special to me. It's kind of a companion piece to Demons, but can be read on its own.
Stretching himself, wincing slightly as his tired muscles protested, Daya pulled his gun from the waistband of his jeans and removed the bullets. This was a fairly recent practice- two years previously, he would just put the gun in the drawer of his bedside table, bullets and all. But then, now he had-
A soft voice emerged from the doorway, and Daya's face automatically broke into a smile. Here it was, the reason he had to empty his gun every time he came home... so the little girl bouncing towards him in her pale blue flowered nightdress wouldn't blow herself up accidentally.
Beaming, she hugged him around the knees, which was as high as she could reach. Daya knelt down and caught her up in his arms, her small form almost completely hidden by his vastness. "Hey, you." He inhaled the mild fragrance emanating from her silky hair and smiled. "Someone smells like strawberries! Has Manisha auntie been putting her favourite shampoo on Saara madam again?"
Saara giggled, the sound echoing around the room. "Yeah." The next second, her cherubic face contorted in an expression of distaste. "Papa, you smell like sand. And sweat."
"Sorry," laughed Daya as he got to his feet. "I had to go into a forest today."
The reaction was immediate. Saara's mouth fell open and her eyes widened to nearly twice their normal size. "A forest? Were there tigers? Did you hear the lions? Did you see any wild animals?" she asked eagerly. Daya chuckled as he lifted Saara into her chair at the dining table. "No beta, but there were some bad people. We caught them and put them in jail."
"Like always!" Saara said happily, clapping her hands as she bounced up and down in her chair excitedly, and Daya ruffled his daughter's hair affectionately. "Yeah. Now you be a good girl and sit here quietly while I get dinner ready."
"I wanna help!" protested Saara, jumping down from the chair at once and running towards the kitchen. Daya sighed and followed at a more leisurely pace. "Don't touch anything until I get there!" he called, and Saara pouted up at him as he entered the kitchen. "I wasn't gonna break anything, Papa," she proclaimed huffily, and Daya grinned. "I'm sure you weren't, Saaru-bear. But there are some dangerous things in here, you could hurt yourself."
"But I'm not a bear, Papa!" Saara piped up, her voice audible even above the clang of pots and pans. "I'm a lion." She drew herself up to her full height of three feet two inches in an adorable attempt to look imposing, and Daya gave her an exaggeratedly impressed nod. "Of course you are. You're brave like a lion..." he bent down and tickled her under the chin. "But also cute like a bear."
Saara smiled mischievously. "Then you're a bear too!" she declared triumphantly, pointing at him. "And a lion!"
"Thank you, ma'am," Daya laughed. "Now pass me the salt, please?"
"Here!" Saara held up the container, and Daya took it from her. "You know, Papa, Adi was being really dumb today." She pushed her long straight hair out of her face, a frown twisting her delicate features. "Just 'cause he's two years older than me, he thinks he knows everything!"
Daya raised his eyebrows. This was something he didn't hear every day- his daughter and his nephew were best friends and virtually inseparable just like their fathers. "What did he say?"
"He said he knows what Abhijeet uncle and Tarika auntie do when they think no one's looking!" Saara's tone of voice clearly indicated that this idea was, in her opinion, simply ludicrous. "Can you believe it? He said he had roof, too!"
"Roof?" Daya blinked in confusion for a minute before it hit him. "You mean proof?" he asked, dreading the answer. "That's the one," Saara said, nodding emphatically so that she resembled a bobble-head doll. Leaning closer to her father, she dropped her voice to a dramatic whisper. "He says Abhijeet uncle likes to eat Tarika auntie's face."
Unfortunately, Daya had chosen that precise moment to take a mouthful of water. Hearing what Saara said, he sprayed the entire amount all over the countertop, eliciting a cry of disgust from the child. "Eeeeuuuuwwww!" Saara exclaimed, hopping up and down. "Really, Papa!"
"Really, Saara!" Daya sputtered as he wiped his mouth, as well as the water on the countertop. "Adi honestly said that?"
"Yes, Papa," Saara said patiently. "He told me he saw it, too. With his own eyes." She made a face. "And he says it was yuck."
Looking at her, Daya couldn't help grinning. "Well, you and Adi don't have to worry about that for a long time, Saaru-bear," he said, tweaking her nose. "Go sit at the table, dinner's almost ready. Go on," he said, giving her a gentle push in the direction of the doorway. Saara skipped out of the kitchen, humming as she went.
An hour later, Daya set Saara down on her bed and turned on her butterfly-shaped nightlight. "Sounds like you had a long day, young lady," he commented, smiling slightly as he handed her the teddy bear she usually slept with.
Saara's face as she looked up at him, however, was strangely serious. "Papa?"
She bit her lip nervously and her brow furrowed. A mental conflict was evident in her face. A minute later, though, she spoke up, her voice slightly strained. "You know how Vivek uncle and Tasha auntie have mothers?"
This was unexpected, even more so than the rather unnecessary information about Abhijeet and Tarika's hobbies. "Yes."
"And how Adi has a mother?" After a pause, she added the said mother's name, as though unsure whether or not Daya would get it. "Tarika auntie?"
"Yes," Daya said cautiously, not really sure where she was going with this. Saara lowered her eyes to her teddy bear, her grip tightening on it momentarily before she suddenly looked back up at her father. "Papa, why don't I have a mother?"
The question threw Daya off balance, but at the back of his mind he knew it wasn't really surprising. ACP Pradyuman, Abhijeet and Tarika had all warned him that this was bound to happen sooner or later, that as Saara grew her questions would also grow. He felt a great rush of respect for Tarika, who'd had to deal with several similar questions from Adi before the child finally met Abhijeet. But how did one explain to a five-year-old girl about murder and being orphaned and adoption?
It would have been easier, he reflected ruefully, if he'd known his own mother. But he, like Saara, had been orphaned at a very young age, too young to even remember his parents' faces. He doubted if she did, either.
Watching the little girl, he knew, as he had always known, that having her in his life was worth every bit of the tremendous row that had taken place between him and DCP Shamsher over the question of her adoption. Of course Abhijeet had taken Daya's side, and it made Daya smile to remember how little Adi, who had then been the same age as Saara was now, had fiercely stood up to the DCP, much to the old man's shock. In the end, all Shamsher had been able to say was, "Teach your son some manners, Abhijeet!" before turning tail and fleeing the CID bureau. That scene, Freddy declared later, would be one of the most classic comedies in the history of the CID.
Daya jerked out of his reminiscence as Saara tugged on his shirt sleeve. "Tell me, Papa," she said, a pleading note bordering on desperation entering her voice. "Why don't I have a mother?" Her eyes were wide and searching as they looked up at him.
If Saara was going to grow up to be anything like her aunts and uncles, Daya knew he was going to face much more difficult questions in the future. Heaven help him, however, if she was going to be like her grandfather ACP Pradyuman, as Adi was already well on the way to becoming. Sighing, he tried to think of an answer to her question as she scrutinised his face, obviously in an attempt to read his expression.
Finally, Daya took a deep breath and took Saara's hand. It was so small compared to his that he could have held it with just two fingers, but he never did- she always seemed to get a feeling of security when her hand was properly held. "It's because Papa loves you so much that you won't feel the need for a mother."
That was apparently not the kind of answer Saara had been expecting. Her little face fell and her lip trembled. "But why don't I have a mother?" she demanded in a tiny voice that cracked as she finished the question. The crack was enough to break Daya's heart, and he shut his eyes and fought to compose himself before looking at Saara and holding his arms out to her. "Beta, come here."
Saara at once crawled into her father's lap and began to cry as he hugged her, his mighty arms restraining their strength just enough to provide her with the comfort she needed without suffocating or hurting her. Her quiet sobs echoed, again and again, in his head, and it was all he could do to not start crying himself.
Several minutes later, when Saara quietened down, Daya pulled out his handkerchief and wiped her face. "Saaru-bear, listen to me."
She raised her eyes, and Daya pushed her hair out of her face. "Not everyone has a mother, you know. In fact, Vivek, Tasha and Adi are the only ones in the CID who have mothers. In fact I never even knew my mother, and Abhijeet uncle doesn't remember his. Sometimes, you know, when you have no one else..." he shook his head. "All you need is an angel."
"Angel?" Saara repeated, tilting her head as she looked questioningly at him.
"Angel," Daya nodded. "Someone who'll show up at exactly the right time and make all your troubles go away, just like that." He snapped his fingers, and Saara looked hopeful. "So it's OK that I don't have a mother, if I have an angel?"
"Well," Daya replied, choosing his words carefully, "mothers are special. But people like you and me... who don't have them... well, at the very least we need angels."
Saara seemed to have a sudden bout of inspiration. "Angels make our problems go away, right?"
Her small face split into a beaming smile. "Then I have one!" she said triumphantly, bouncing up and down. Daya gave her a confused look. "You have one what?"
She rolled her eyes as she tossed her hair impatiently over shoulder. "Angel, of course! I have one!"
"Here!" Saara launched herself at Daya and hugged him. A smile broke out on Daya's face of its own accord, and he hugged Saara, patting her head before setting her back down on the bed. "So did you get your answer?"
"Yeah," Saara said happily, and Daya tweaked her nose. "Good girl. Now lie down. Tomorrow's Freddy uncle and Manisha auntie's anniversary, remember? Saara madam needs her beauty sleep. Though you'll be the prettiest girl there anyway," he added, laughing, and Saara rolled her eyes before suddenly giggling. "At least tomorrow Manisha auntie won't make Freddy uncle wash the dishes, right, Papa?"
"Let's hope for the best," Daya agreed, grinning. "Here's your teddy." He handed it to her, and she beamed as she snuggled against it, her eyes shut contentedly. The next minute, though, her eyes flew open. "Papa!"
"Have you ever met an angel?"
Daya smiled. "Oh, yes. I've met one. In fact I see her every day." Saara frowned in confusion, and Daya continued, his smile growing. "In fact, I'm looking at her right now."
True to his words, a happy glow shone in Saara's face, making her look every bit the angel she was to Daya.
A/N: Like I said, it's great if you like it, it's okay if you don't, but review please! :)