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Nightmares

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Daisy Hardy woke up at the dead of night, alarmed by the sensation of losing her balance. Instinctively, she snapped her eyes open and only narrowly prevented falling from the edge of her bed by wildly flailing her arms and rolling herself onto the other side.

Ugh, not again, she thought and ran her hand tiredly through her entangled dark-blonde hair.

Daisy had always been a restless sleeper. Her parents had told her once that they were seriously concerned for her well-being because she regularly tumbled out of bed ever since she got her own room.

When she had been very little, she got to sleep between her parents some nights when she had fallen and thus been awoken from a bad dream or when she was afraid to go back to sleep again because of the monster s in her closet.

In retrospect, Daisy couldn’t help but notice that she had always cuddled up with her dad in such nights. She couldn’t really pinpoint why. He had just always been the one who noticed her first when she had snuck into her parents’ bedroom. He had been the one who made room for her and who always was the warmest.

Daisy had loved the feeling of being held by him so tight and securely. She knew her dad would never let her fall. He would keep her safe.

Daisy remembered that, while her father was holding her, her mother had usually always been at the edge of the bed herself. B ut b eing just a wee kid, Daisy had never questioned why.

When Daisy had gotten too big to sleep in her parents’ bed, her dad had built her a pillow wall every night and when that didn’t stop her fall, he had built her a cushion of all her stuffed animals on the floor beneath her bed, too.

Luckily, there had been only one instance whe n Daisy had fallen and landed so badly that she’d broken her arm. Her cry of pain had pierced through the silent night like lightning and only seconds later her mum stood in the doorway, eyes widened in shock and ready to fight off anything that dared to harm her daughter.

But her dad hadn’t been there. He had been working a case and hadn’t returned for the night yet.

They had forgotten to build a pillow wall.

Daisy had been i nconsolable. Clutching tightly to her mother, she’ d cried for her daddy. Her mum had tried her best to make her feel better, she really had , but all the way to the hospital Daisy only wailed for the warm, secure embrace of her father.

The fracture hadn’t been too bad, fortunately, and the doctors had quickly wrapped her arm up in a cast. They had been just about finished when her dad came sprinting down the hospital hallway.

Until this day, Daisy clearly remembered the terrible fear in her father’s dark-brown eyes. He had taken her in his arms. Tenderly, so he wouldn’t disturb her broken arm, but tightly, nonetheless. He had kissed her forehead and stroked his fingers through her hair and then he had apologized.

Back then, Daisy could barely understand what for. She had been so happy and relieved that her daddy was finally here that she’d gotten very sleepy in his arms.

All she heard was him saying: “I won’t let anything bad happen to you my Daisy-darling. I’ll always be there for you, I promise.”

And then Daisy had closed her eyes.


A teenage Daisy groggily sat up in bed. Once awoken from the shock of almost falling, it was very hard for her to fall back asleep again. She swung her feet to the ground and let her half-closed eyes lazily wander across her room. A full moon shone its pale light onto her cream-coloured carpet and it made everything much too bright for this early hour. Kind of beautiful, though, how the light bounced off her desk and her chair where her clothes hung over the back for school in the morning.

Getting a little more aware of herself, Daisy noticed how dry her throat was and she decided to get up and fetch a glass of water from the tap in the kitchen.

Yawning and rubbing her eyes, she carefully opened her door and crept out into the hallway. Her room was the last one in the back, so she had to pass her father’s room on her way to the kitchen. They had only recently moved in here together – a beautiful, bright house on top of a hill overlooking the small town of Broadchurch – and her father had insisted on occupying the slightly smaller middle room for himself.

To keep tabs on you.” he had said and Daisy had rolled her eyes. She knew that her father slept calmer knowing that an intruder would have to get passed him first before he could get to her.

Because she was aware of her dad’s typical light sleep, Daisy took extra care to tiptoe past his door as quietly as humanly possible. He just got a new case at work – something pretty big, but he hasn’t told her anything about it yet – and Daisy didn’t want to wake him. She knew how stressed he became when he was working on a case.

She’d almost made it to the safe half of the hallway when Daisy heard a small, strange noise coming from her dad’s room. Like a whimper or a gasp. Frowning, Daisy paused for a second and listened, but all seemed quiet once more. At least until she just wanted to get moving again and another clearly audible noise startled her. It sounded as if he was gasping for air. Normally, Daisy would’ve shrugged and kept going on, but the groan that followed next was accompanied by a pitiful wail.

Was her dad in pain? The gasping and the low whimpers didn’t let up; he really sounded like he was deeply in distress.

Daisy turned, took a small step towards his door, but then hesitated.

She wasn’t a kid anymore. The times of her getting away with sneaking into the master bedroom for cuddles were long since over. Plus, too much has happened since then. It wasn’t so long ago that she hadn’t even talked to her dad, thinking that he had betrayed their family. Eventually, she had found out the truth and promptly left her mother in fury, but their father-daughter-relationship still wasn’t the same as before. The tender, loving bond between them had been broken for quite some time and they were just learning to build it up again.

Daisy didn’t feel comfortable with intrud ing into her father’s private room.

Suddenly, there was another loud groan and a panicked voice whimpered, “No.”

The moment of hesitation was gone and only worry pounded ominously in her chest. “Dad?” Daisy called out to alarm him before she pressed down the door handle and stepped inside.

The moon was shining into his room, too, so Daisy could immediately see everything.

Her dad writhed in his bed, tossing and turning back and forth. His arms were flailing around as if he was fight ing off an invisible attacker. His head was thrown back, face pinched in pain and he was, again and again, gasping for air.

Daisy’s first thought was for his heart. Something must be wrong with it despite his pacemaker. “Dad!” she called out, rushing to his bedside without another moment of doubt. Her dad was whimpering again, whispering small calls of, “No, no, no.” between sharp, quick intakes of breath.

His eyes were closed, Daisy realized then. He must be dreaming. Utterly shocked, Daisy noticed the wet trails on his cheeks, glittering in the moonlight.

Alec Hardy, her dad, was crying.

Daisy had never seen him cry before. Sometimes, during the worst times of her parent s’ divorce and th at one horrible case back in Sandbrook, it had been obvious that he must have been crying, but he’d always hid it from her. In Daisy’s young mind that somehow had added up to the betrayal.

But now her heart broke for him.

Dad.” she whispered. To wake him she knew she had to be louder, but a lump in her throat prevented her from speaking up. She wanted to touch him, catch his arms and calm him down, just like he’d always done for her when she had had bad dreams as a kid. She wanted him to feel as safe and secure as he always made her feel, but the force of him throwing his body around forced her to shy back.

The lump in Daisy’s throat was rising and with it the tears in her eyes, but she didn’t let them fall. “Dad!” she yelled now, fiercely this time. She didn’t know what else to do. Sitting at the edge of his bed, she only knew that she needed to be close to him when he woke up.

He whimpered some more. She called for him, but that only seemed to ma k e him fight and cry harder. Daisy’s heart was beating fast and fearful. Her own breathing picked up as panic increased. “Dad!” she tried again.

There were a few more cries of “No!” and then, suddenly, her father shot straight up in bed, eyes opened wide, startling her back.

Daisy was sitting just an arms-length away from him, panting almost as hard as him, but at first he didn’t even realize that she was there. She saw his eyes in the wan light of the moon. So dark and so wide and so much terrible fear.

In her mind Daisy got catapulted back in time to that night she broke her arm when her father came running towards her through the hospital hallway with that same terrified look in his eyes.

“Dad?” Daisy’s voice didn’t dare to rise above a whisper.

His head whipped around and he found her. “Daisy.” Fear instantly seemed to melt from his shoulders upon her name and was replaced with relief. “You’re alright.”

Daisy frowned with worry. Why shouldn’t she be alright? “I’m okay, Dad.” she said in a quiet voice. “Are you alright?”

Only then her father suddenly realized his surroundings and the state he was in. Quickly straightening himself up and shuffling towards the other side of the bed, he turned his face away from her to hide his wet streaks. His voice was harder now, too. “What’re ya doing in here?”

Daisy swallowed, reminding herself that she shouldn’t take this rebuff personally. Her dad didn’t allow himself to show weakness, not with anyone. But Daisy was very much her father’s child so the thought of simply backing down didn’t even cross her mind. “I wanted to get some water, but... I heard you.” With his head still turned away, he secretly wiped some tears from his cheeks. “You sounded like you needed help. I was worried.” Daisy told him carefully.

I’m fine.” her father answered quickly, finally looking at her again. His eyes were still red-rimmed and he looked tired and haunted by the unpleasant images that must still circle his brain.

No, you’re not.” Daisy dared to argue quietly. She pushed herself a bit more upon his bed until she sat next to him against the headboard. He didn’t stop her. For a while they sat there in silence, staring into their laps. Daisy didn’t know what else to say. Her dad had never been a man of many words, but after the divorce it became even harder for her to read him.

S he was about to give up after all, when he suddenly lifted his arm around her shoulder and pulled her towards him. “Come ‘ere.” he said and she found herself nuzzled to his side. The grey shirt he w ore was warm and a little clammy but Daisy didn’t mind. Apparently, she wasn’t too old for cuddles after all.

She noticed that his body was still shaking a bit and that he pressed her close, obviously trying to calm himself down. “Dad, what’s wrong? What can I do?”

“It’s nothing, darling. Just a bad dream.”

Bad dream? Rather a nightmare, I’d say.” argued Daisy. She listened to her father’s breathing, steady and regular once more. He was staring straight ahead, a far-away look in his eyes. “Does this happen often?”

He took his time with an answer. “Sometimes. When I’m stressed.”

“Is it always the same dream?”

“Mostly.”

“What is it about?”

That was one question too many. Daisy noticed how her father shifted uncomfortably. Next he would try to distract her, change the topic and ask her to go back to sleep.

Daisy, it’s late. You’ve got school tomorrow.”

Just as she thought. But Daisy was having none of it. “Dad, I won’t leave until you tell me.”

“Is that so, yah?”

Yes. You scared me.” Daisy spoke up, sitting straighter. “I thought you were choking or something. You were struggling really hard.”

A pained expression flitted over her father’s face and he bowed his head down . “I’m sorry. You weren’t supposed to see that, Sweetheart.”

But I did and I’m glad that I did.” Daisy told him fiercely. “You would’ve hid this forever; that’s not good for you. You should talk about this.” Her lecturing tone caused a small smile to appear on his face. “I’m serious, Dad.” she huffed.

“I know.” he mumbled and fell silent again.

Daisy shifted a bit, shrugging his arm away to face him better. “So…? ” she asked and waited, knowing he would crack eventually.

He stared at his empty hands, clenching them as if he was holding on to the last fragments of his dream . Then he crossed his arms in front of his chest and leaned back against the headboard. Everything about his demeanour screamed vulnerability and it took Daisy a bit of self-discipline not to freak out about that. It was a whole new side to her dad that she didn’t know he had. To her, he was always the fearless protector. The one who kept her safe at night when she fell out of bed.

It’s that case I had. It won’t leave me alone. Even though it’s solved now.he finally gave his reluctant staccato answer.

Daisy had a notion which case he meant, but she needed to make sure so she asked. When he drew out a deep, strained sigh, Daisy knew she must be right . “Dad, I’m old enough to hear details . I can handle it.” she persuaded him softly.

H e held one hand to his forehead, massaging the bridge of his nose and then sifting his fingers through his disarrayed hair. One last nervous twitch of protest. “ The nightmares started on th e day I found one of the missing girls… the younger one. Do you remember that?”

O f course, Daisy remembered. It had been all over the news at the time; her dad didn’t even need to explain the case from the start.

I t had been the beginning of the end.

The fights she’ d overheard between her parents had gotten worse and worse. They thought she didn’t notice , but Daisy was a restless sleeper. Sometimes she fell and she heard them argue at night. She no longer told her parents when she rolled out of bed. They seemed to have enough problems of their own.

Then there was that day. The one calm day before the storm.

Her dad had come home, his clothes dripping wet and shivering from head to toe. His hair had been plastered to his face, his eyes sunken deep into their sockets. He’d looked tired and much older than usual. And nothing, nothing, could cheer him up. It had been the last day Daisy saw her mum and dad being affectionate towards each other. Her mum had hugged him, told him that it wasn’t his fault. That there was nothing he could’ve done.

Daisy didn’t understand back then. Only later it became clear.

Shortly after that her dad had gotten sick, but he’d been careless, working too hard and not listening to the doctors who told him to take it slow. Then something else happened… something bad. From what Daisy had gathered something got lost, which had led to particular fierce shouting in their house. Accusations were thrown around and then her dad had left. His sickness had gotten to his heart and it was so bad that it had become irreversible. But by that time Daisy had already stopped caring all that much. It was his own fault. He didn’t listen to the doctors. And he left.

“Daisy?”

She blinked, looking into h er father’s face. Her child like heart got broken, but she hadn’t known the whole story back then . She had fully forgiven him now. “Yes… I remember.” Daisy said quietly.

Well…her father continued sadly.It’s still all there… in my head.” His hand was shivering again as he pulled at a fistful of his hair. “When I close my eyes… I see that girl in the water. And I always think I can still safe her, but it’s always too late. I feel the weight of her body and the water in my clothes, pulling me down. Sometimes… when I dream… I don’t make it back to the land.”

His voice has gotten strained again and Daisy realized that he desperately tried to hold himself back from crying anew . Automatically, she reached for his hands, entangling them from his hair and instead holding them tightly in hers. She didn’t think that he intended to tell her all that, but once the gates were open there was no stopping the flood.

Sometimes… she’s calling out to me, begging to be rescued. Sometimes I drown before I even reach her. And sometimes…” He struggled to get his voice under control. His hands clasped hers so hard that it began to hurt her fingers. “Sometimes it’s you.”

Shocked, Daisy made an involuntary move to pull her hands back, but her dad refused to let go. “Me?”

He was looking at her then, eyes wet once more and his whole body shaking full of fear. He lifted one hand and cradled her cheek lovingly. “Y-You were the same age… the same age as Pippa back then. In my worst nightmares... it’s you in the water.”

And suddenly, it all made sense to Daisy.

The looks he gave her back then when she tried to cheer him up. The insistence on those long-lasting hugs. The terrible fear in his eyes when he woke up now . Fear of losing her .

“Was it me tonight?”

A tear escaped his eye and he squeezed her hand.

Oh, Dad…” Daisy whispered and they pulled each other into a tight hug. Now, finally, as she wasn’t able to look into his face anymore, she heard her dad sob, shoulders shaking violently in her arms. Only now, when he couldn’t see her anymore, Daisy let her own tears fall, too.

She held him close and for once her dad allowed her to be the protector. Because he finally couldn’t pretend much longer. Daisy got to be the strong one; even if it was only for a little while. She wouldn’t let him fall. She pressed a kiss to the side of his forehead and ran her fingers through his hair.

“I’m okay.” she whispered. “And I won’t let anything bad happen to you, Dad. I’ll always be there for you, I promise.”


Once more Daisy opened her eyes and sat up straight in bed slightly confused.

Wow, that was a long series of dreams… wait... am I even awake now?

While she was still wondering about that, Daisy suddenly became aware of what has woken her up this time: Urgent, loud knocking on her door and a voice calling out.

“Daisy? Daisy, wake up! It’s your dad, I think something’s wrong with his heart.”

It was Jenna Davison’s voice. Because her dad was weird with such things they haven’t really made their relationship official yet, but Jenna still spent the night from time to time.

Daisy was fairly sure what this trouble was all about, but she still hurried to pull her blanket back and jump out of bed to open the door. Jenna had been about to knock again. She stood there, barefoot, in one of her dad’s buttoned shirts and long pyjama bottoms. Jenna’s face was full of panic but also relief upon seeing her.

Oh, thank god.” she said and without wasting a single second, she marched back to the other bedroom while she explained. “He just suddenly started trashing around. I think he’s got trouble breathing. I didn’t know what to do. He has medication, right?

Daisy entered the familiar, but still not less scaring scene, recognizing the patterns of her dad’s inner horror and struggle. It was the same every time. She had consoled him often by now, but that didn’t mean she no longer worried about him.

“It’s a dream.” Daisy told Jenna.

That’s a dream?” she repeated incredulously.

“Yes. A reoccurring nightmare.” Daisy corrected herself, looking at Jenna from the side. She seemed horrified, but still more concerned than anything else. “Did Dad ever tell you about the case that broke his heart?”

The pause and the slight darkening of her face told Daisy that he obviously did tell Jenna. Before she could verbally confirm that, however, her dad suddenly gasped and whimpered in panic causing Jenna to take a quick step forward, a hand clamped startled over her mouth. “Can we do anything?” she asked. “I tried to wake him, but I couldn’t even hold him still.”

D aisy timidly shook her head. “He’s too far gone. He won’t wake up until it’s over.” Daisy saw the fear in Jenna’s face and involuntarily remembered the first night again, when she had found her dad like this. “Just... be close to him when he wakes up. It’ll be fine. It’s just a sign that he’s stressed over something.” Daisy explained softly, trying to sound confident.

Jenna nodded mechanically. She wanted to say something, but that was the moment her dad picked to suddenly rise up with a groan and a strangled cough. Jenna immediately hurried closer, kneeling upon the side of the bed and carefully reaching her hands out towards him.

“Alec, are you okay?”

Daisy saw how her father’s hand first felt for his chest, as if to check if his heart was still there, and then he squeezed Jenna’s hand, still breathing raggedly. “I’m fine. Just… just a dream.” he said.

Daisy stepped back into the shadow of the hallway. She didn’t want to intrude. Her dad would be fine now. He has found someone else who would protect and take care of him from now on . Daisy was glad that she’d still be able to check on him from time to time, but one day, it would most likely be Jenna , who could make her dad’s nightmares fade away completely.

And Daisy was relieved to know that. Yes… he was in very good hands.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

It took a while until Alec caught his breath. His heart was pumping wildly as always, but it no longer hurt as much as it once did.

“Alec, are you okay?”

Jenna’s hands were reaching for him and he took them, thankful, that she was there to ground him. Is this the first time she’s seeing me like this, he wondered. I’ll probably have some explaining to do. “I’m fine.” he said to her. “Just… just a dream.”

Quite a bad one, I’d say.” Affectionately, Jenna curled her fingers into his hair. “You scared me.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” he said, leaning his forehead against hers.

It’s okay. You don’t have to apologize for anything.” Jenna assured him softly. “Does this happen often?”

“Not as often as it used to.” Alec answered vaguely.

Do you want to tell me what the dream was about?”

Alec pulled back. L ook ing into Jenna’s worried eyes immediately reminded him of another time someone asked all these questions. “I will tell you .” he promised, “But first I need to check on Daisy.”

Oh, she was just here with me.” Jenna said. “Told me what to do. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake her, but I slightly panicked.” She watched him quickly scramble out of bed and must’ve recognized the return of fear in his eyes. “She’s fine, Alec.”

I need to make sure.” he mumbled and stepped out of the room.

H is daughter owned the slightly bigger room at the end of the hallway. He gladly sacrificed the few square metres in favour of having the middle room. “To keep tabs on you.” he had said to her and she’d rolled her eyes. But secretly, he just needed to know that he was able to stand in between her and any form of danger.

Slowly , Alec pushed down the door handle and poked his head into her room.

D aisy seemed to be fast asleep. How long did his nightmare last this time? How long before she returned to her bed after instructing Jenna?

Alec crept closer and regarded her lovingly. Daisy rested, like so often before as a small child, at the very edge of her bed. “What’re you doing, Sweetheart?” he whispered, smiling. “You’ll fall and break something.”

Carefully, he sat down next to her. Obviously, Daisy was aware of his presence on some level because she sighed and settled down a little further back. Alec found a pillow and put it in between her body and the edge of the bed. “Here. Hopefully that’ll stop you.” he mumbled.

For a while, Alec just sat there and watched his daughter breathe. W aiting for the peace to fill his troubled nerves. Daisy was here and she was absolutely fine.

He stroked some loose strands of hair behind her ear and tenderly kissed her head. “I love you my Daisy-darling.” he said and stood to let her sleep.

Alec closed the door behind him and Daisy smiled.