Sunday, 19 November 2017

Chapter 30 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF

The next few days upto the match were very exciting. As usual, when Armaan and Riddhima were face to face, the whole hospital vibrated with excitement. There was a huge betting pool on the winner and everyone and their brother was a part of it. A lot of money was riding on Riddhima, who everyone was almost sure would win.

Armaan and Riddhima would make sure to glare at each other every time they saw each other in the hallway or the lift or the caf or any damn where in the hospital. It was highly amusing because when it was just the two of them, the glares transformed into intense and passionate gazes, looking into each others eyes, professing their love for each other without actually saying the words.
"Yeh stupid bet zaruri hai kya?" Armaan asked, his voice muffled against Riddhima's neck. They were spending sometime together, alone, which was really rare due to their hectic schedules. On top of that, there was so much murmur and excitement for the match that even when they weren't working, they were surrounded. Alone time was something they really, really appreciated now. In the past couple months, they had gotten used to spending so much time together that they might have been taking it for granted.
Every little moment was just so much... so much more now.
Riddhima laughed and tugged at his hair. "Kyu darr gaye kya?"
Armaan scoffed, pulling back from her. "Puh - lease! Armaan Mallik kisise nahi darrta! Main toh bas aise hi keh raha tha, taaki tumhe mera kaam na karna pade."
"Well, agar mujhe karna pada, toh woh meri problem hai, tumhaari nahi."
Armaan pouted at that. Riddhima shook her head at his childishness and then leaned in to kiss him because that pout was just begging to be kissed.
Armaan smiled against her lips - mission accomplished, he thought - kissing her back. God, how he loved her lips. He could kiss them forever.
"I love you," he whispered when they broke apart.
"I love you, too," she replied.
They sat just like that, intwined with each other, talking about random stuff for a while, before Riddhima broached the subject.
"Muskaan aur Rahul ne dinner ke baad ek baar bhi ek doosre se baat nahi ki," she said.
Armaan hummed in agreement, nuzzling her neck.
"Humein kuch karna chahiye na?" she asked. He hummed again.
"Muskaan se baat karke dekhein?" She was met with a grunt sort of sound.
"Armaan!" she yelled, exasperated.
He didn't react, not even listening to what she was saying as he placed kisses along her neck.
"Armaan," her voice was a breathy moan now. He smirked at the tone of her voice before getting back to his ministrations. He loved making her feel this way.
"Armaan, hum baat kar rahe the na?" She asked.
"Armaan, Rahul aur Muskaan," she said, trying to keep a clear head which was a little too difficult with his lips attached to her neck. Any other day, she would have given in and just felt, but they needed to talk about a plan of action regarding Rahul and Muskaan.
"Armaan!" she said, tugging hard on his hair.
"Ow!" Armaan pulled back, complaining as he rubbed the back of his head.
"Tum do minute meri baat sunn sakte ho, please?"
He sighed before nodding.
"Rahul aur Muskaan," she sighed.
"I think humein ek baar Muskaan se baat karni chahiye, nahi? I mean usne Rahul ke koi bhi e-mails, calls ya messages ka jawab nahi diya. Usse mili bhi nahi," Armaan rambled.
Riddhima nodded her agreement before realizing something. "Tumhe kaise pata ki Rahul Muskaan se milne gaya tha?" She asked him.
"Main aur Rahul baat karte hai, Riddhima. Just because hum dono aajkal utne close nahi hai jitney tum ho, iska yeh matlab nahi ki mujhe nahi pata ki uski life mein kya ho raha hai," he replied.
"Hmmm," Riddhima ackonowledged.
"Theek hai. Toh hum usse match ke baad baat karenge, okay?" Armaan asked.
Riddhima nodded her consent.
"Toh Rahul aur Muskaan ki problem ka temporary solution mil gaya. Aur kuch bhi baat karni hai?" Armaan asked.
Riddhima put a finger on her chin and pretended to think. Teasing Armaan was so much fun.
Ever the impatient Armaan started rubbing his two day old stubble on her shoulder, making her squirm. "Armaan, stop!" She said, trying to hold his head and giggling.
Her doing that only made him rub harder, which made her laugh harder. "Okay! Okay! Koi aur baat nahi karni," she said.
Armaan looked up in triumph and wasted no time in kissing her. However, just as his lips had touched hers, the beeping of the pager broke them apart.
Riddhima laughed and Armaan cursed as both of them checked their devices.
"Duty," they chorused, looking at each other. Armaan literally pouted at that and Riddhima laughed, shaking her head. With a gentle a kiss and a whispered I love you', she was off.
Armaan stayed behind as he watched her leave, thinking just how much in love with her he was. He didn't think he would ever be able to explain it to anyone.
The day of the match dawned bright and early. Everyone was extremely excited. The court was jam packed with hospital employees and their families. Almost the entire hospital had turned up to see the epic showdown that was most likely to go down between Armaan & Riddhima.
When the teams arrived, the crowd cheered loudly. There was a lot of taunting and teasing as people picked sides and crowed for their favourite players.
Dr. Keerti was the referee for the match and Rahul was the commentator. He couldn't not be involved. So, when Dr. Keerti had said, in no uncertain terms that he wasn't allowed to play just yet, he had all but begged her to let him commentate.
"So, haarne ke liye tayaar hona," Riddhima asked Armaan arrogantly.
"Kaun haarega aur kaun jeetega yeh toh waqt hi batayega, sweetheart. Itna over confident hone ki zarurat nahi hai," Armaan replied.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Mallik, but isse over confidence, nahi, confidence kehte hai. Main samajh sakti hu ki aapko samajh ne mein thodi mushkil hogi."
"Bohot smart samajhti ho apne aapko?" He questioned.
"Samajhti nahi, sweetheart, hu," she replied smugly. Armaan couldn't help but grin when she said that. And dammit, that wasn't right. Inspite of how much he loved her, she was still his competitor today. And you never, smile at your competition, ever, unless it's like a smug grin. Definitely not the I - love - you - more - than - anything' grin, even if it was true.
"So, Ridz, aaj jitney ke liye tayyar?" Atul asked, coming up behind her and disrupting their conversation.
Riddhima nodded enthusiastically. Atul turned to Armaan and wished him Good Luck' in a tone that was far too smug and arrogant for Armaan's liking, but he took it anyway, dishing out his own snarky comments.
It was good to know that they could be arrogant and snarky and smug without offending each other, having intact egos and not a scratch on their friendship.
The rest of Riddhima's team made their way to her and they started joking about how Armaan was fighting a losing battle and Armaan stood their and laughed at their friends' silliness.
But, as he watched his Basket laugh and joke and say she was going to win this thing at any cost, he wondered, if he was deliberately going to lose a match for the first time in his life, without giving it his all, just to see his girl smile the way she was smiling right then.
And he didn't even have to think about it. Because, he knew, if push came to shove, there was nothing he wouldn't do make her smile, even if it meant sacrificing his pride.
It was different when it was just them and he lost. He had done it on purpose at times but Riddhima could definitely hold her own in a court and it wasn't often that he did that. But this, this was different. It wasn't just the two of them enjoying the game that brought them together. It was his team as well. But he didn't care about them a tenth of what he cared about her and if his team had to lose so she could be happy then his team would lose.
"Hey guys! Yeh hain aapke favourite Dr. Rahul Grewal, jo aaj aapko iss match ki har choti se choti detail ke baare mein batayenge. So, are you guys excited?" He asked rhetorically. He was met with a deafening applause.
"Aapko kya lagta hai? Aaj kaun jeetega, Armaan ya Riddhima?" Again, there was a roar through the crowd as they chanted Armaan or Riddhima.
"So, match ki shuruwat ho chuki, ball Armaan ke pass. Aur yeh woh dribble karte hue gaye aur unhone pass diya Naina ko. Naina aage badhti hui aur yeh basket - hote, hote reh gaya because of Riddhima. You go, Riddhu! I'm sure tu hi jeetegi," Rahul shouted.
Dr. Keerti glared at him, but he just continued, oblivious.
"Aur yeh ball Riddhima ke paas, dribble karte hue leke gayi aur... Armaan ne ball cheen li. Not bad, Armaan. Not bad at all... Aur ab ball Armaan ke paas aur yeh - Basket! Well, well, kisne socha tha ki iss match mein pehla basket Armaan ka hoga?"
Armaan and his team cheered wildly. He turned to Riddhima and stuck his tongue out. She made a face at him.
"Ball ab Riddhima ke paas aur usne Su dodge kiya, saamne se Sid aa raha hai aur woh ball cheen sakta hai, lekin phir dodge aur yeh - Basket! Congratulations, Riddhu!" Rahul shouted. Dr. Keerti gave in and shook her head at his enthusiasm.
The game went on for a while like that. Su and Sid were surprisingly good players and they evened out JP's stupidity. Naina was average - ish. But, Riddhima and Anjali and Atul and Muskaan were far better. Apart from being good players, they had a sort of connection on the field, being great friends and having played together several times before. Armaan, however, was struggling. Though his players were good, they didn't have the level of understanding that Riddhima and their friends shared.
It was difficult, but somehow, Armaan managed to pull through. After the game was done, the teams were tied.
"Ab tie ka kya kare?" Atul wondered.
"10 minutes, extra time," Dr. Keerti called out.
The teams played for 10 minutes more. But both Armaan and Riddhima were adamant to win this and they gave it their best, which resulted in both teams scoring no baskets at all.
Everyone was really confused as to how to deduce the results of the match now.
"I think hume tie declare kar dena chahiye," Dr. Keerti suggested.
Both teams immediately vetoed the idea. They all stood thinking about what to do, when Rahul came up with a perfect plan.
"One - on - one," he said.
Everyone looked at him in surprise and murmured in agreement.
"Okay, then. Armaan v/s Riddhima. Hamesha ki tarah," Atul announced, smiling ruefully.
Armaan looked at Riddhima and smirked.
She, however, looked at Atul and asked, "Humein yeh discuss karna chahiye, Atul. Tum aise kaise decide kar sakte ho?"
"Kyu, darr gayi kya?" Armaan taunted.
"Riddhima Gupta kisise nahi darrti. Ab tum dekho, you're so dead, Mallik."
He smirked at her.
"Okay, then. One - on - one," Dr. Keerti announced.
The teams moved to the opposite ends of the court to discuss their game plan.
"All the best, Armaan. I know ki aap jeetoge," Naina wished him. Armaan looked at her and nodded thankfully.
"Yes, Dr. Armaan. Naina bilkul theek keh rahi hai. Aap hi yeh match jeetenge. Hume aap par poora bharosa hai," Su added.
Armaan's team cheered him on with many more motivational comments. He smiled at them gratefully and thanked them for believing in him.
Meanwhile, in Riddhima's camp, everyone was congratulating her for a job well done.
"Ridz! Ekdum sahi tha. One on one! Ab toh Armaan jeet hi nahi paayega," Atul said happily.
"Haan, Ridzy! Atul ekdum sahi keh raha hai. Ab toh hamaari jeet pakki! Pehli baar us kaankhajure ne kuch sahi kaam kiya hai apni life mein," Muskaan added.
"Muski! Tu hamesha Rahul ko kaankhajura kyu bulati hai? Itna achcha naam ahi uska, Rahul. Us hi se bula na," Riddhima complained.
"Mera mooh, meri marzi. Mujhe jo bulaana hai main bulau. Aur waise bhi, woh kamina kab mujhe Muskaan bulaata hai? Hamesha chudail, daayan aise sab naamo se hi bulata hai na," Muskaan replied.
"Guys! Muskaan Rahul ko kya kehke bulaati hai, woh important nahi hai. Abhi important yeh hai ki hume yeh match jeetna hai, okay, Ridzy?" Anjali butted in, stopping what was the beginning of an argument between the two girls.
Everybody looked at Anjali and nodded their heads. Winning was what was important right now. "Okay, Ridzy! You can do it. Aur agar tujhe thodi cheating karni pade toh kar lena, theek hai?" Anjali asked her.
Ridhima looked unsure but nodded anyway. The tone of Anjali's voice was clear enough for everyone to interpret what kind of cheating she was talking about.
"Hey, Riddhu! All the best," Rahul said, appearing by her side all of a sudden.
"Hey! Thanks, Rahul!" She replied as he pulled her into a hug.
"Okay, guys! Ready?" Rahul asked breaking the hug.
Everybody nodded and Riddhima stepped onto the court to see Armaan approaching as well.
They both looked at each other fiercely. Riddhima pulled her hair out of her hairband which she had used on Armaan's insistence and mussed with her hair.
Armaan sighed. This was not looking good for him. Whenever they played, Armaan would get lost in those silky tresses of her hair as they washed over him, distracting the hell out of him. It was the reason why he had asked Riddhima to wear a hair band, and she knew the exact reason why.
Looks like she was going to play it dirty. Armaan sighed and shook his head. He had a few tricks up his sleeve as well. He got rid of his tee shirt immediately, exposing his chiseled chest to te world. He was a little uncomfortable about flaunting his body in front of all these people, mainly because he knew Riddhima hated it when other girls drooled at his physique, but this was war and he loved her and as they say, everything was fair in love and war.
Riddhima glared at him as he did that but didn't say anything. She should kind of have expected some sort of retaliation when she got rid of her hair band even after Armaan had explicitly asked her not to. It was a dirty tactic and she knew that but she was deperate to win. As Armaan stood before her, she couldn't help but admire his body. He really was well toned and those abs were really distracting her.
She looked at him just in time to see him smirk in satisfaction at the obvious reaction she had had on seeing his body. He knew that she loved his abs and he couldn't have had a better way to distract her.
They were doing nothing that was against the rules but they had started cheating even before the game began and they were smirking at each other and speaking a language that no one but them understood as the onlookers stood confused, but it was just fine.
Basketball had always been their' thing and this court had been their sanctuary. It was while playing this game at this place that they had first met and had grown closer over the months before falling for each other.
Now, playing with each other, against each other, whatever, was the way it had always been and they were glad to get rid of everyone else.
Rahul blew his whistle and the game began.
"And, the moment we've all been waiting for. The one - on - one between Armaan and Riddhima. Dono Sanjeevani ke best basketball players jo hamesha se hi iss court par ek doosre ke against khelte aaye hai. Pichle kayi matches mein Dr. Armaan ko Dr. Riddhima se haar mili hai. Dekhte hai ki aaj ke match ka result kya hoga!" Rahul announced.
Armaan and Riddhima both gave it their best. They pulled out their best moves and their best plays. Howver, hard as they tried, they were two people who were incredibly in love with each other and they couldn't ignore that feeling, that zing that passed through their bodies when they touched each other. This resulted in a lot of failed attempts at a basket and easily taking the ball from the other.
As they were playing, the ball was with Riddhima and she was dribbling it around to stop Armaan from snatching it from her. Her hair flew in all sorts of directions, directly into Armaan's face and he was mesmerised. Huh, there was no way around it.
Rahul looked at this and smirked. "Ball Riddhima ke paas aur lagta hai ki Armaan ball se zyada Riddhima pe concentrate kar raha hai. Yeh hamaare Sanjeevani ke full - time Romeo, ladies and gentlemen," he commented, making everyone laugh.
Armaan was still in a sort of daze.
"Seriously, dude! Apni sapno ki duniya se bahar nikaliye! Dr. Armaan!" Rahul shouted, causing Armaan to jerk and look around, trying to figure out what was happening.
He looked at Rahul confused. Rahul laughed before answering, "Apna dhyaan, Basket pe nahi, basket pe rakho! Samjhe?" Rahul asked, pointing at Riddhima who had successfully scored a basket when Armaan was ditracted, resulting in the first basket of the game.
"Oh, shit!" Armaan muttered. He really needed to focus on the basket. Not Basket. Dude, Basket ko baad mein ghoor lena. Abhi match jeetna important hai, he thought to himself.
The match began again with Armaan focusing, or trying to focus, on the game. As Riddhima tried to take possession of the ball from Armaan, she winked at him, surprising him and expertly taking control of the ball.
"Aur yeh, hamesha ki tarah Armaan aur Riddhima ka romance shuru. Guys! Kamse kam game ke waqt toh yeh sab mat karo. Koi bhi chance nahi chodte dono ke dono," Atul muttered as Anjali and Muskaan murmured in agreement.
Yuvi looked surprised.
"AJ? Yeh tu kya keh raha hai?" He asked.
Atul looked at Yuvi, surprised.
"Tujhe nahi pata?"
"Kya?"
"Armaan aur Ridz ke baare mein?"
"Woh dono bohot achche dost hai, right?" Yuvi asked, perplexed.
The three seniors laughed in surprise.
"Nahi! Hero aur Ridzy ek doosre se pyaar karte hai," Muskaan told Yuvi.
"Seriously?" Yuvi asked.
"Seriously. Aur woh dono almost 3 saal se saath hai. Unki love story shuru toh internship ke kuch dino baad hi ho gayi thi, lekin kuch drama aur complications ki wajah se, unhe itna time laga saath aane," Anjali explained.
Yuvi was stunned. He didn't know how to react.
"Unhone tumhe nahi bataya?" Atul asked Yuvi.
Yuvi shook his head negatively. "Oh! Shayad unhe laga hoga ki tuhe pehle se pata hai. Armaan aur Riddhima ke baare mein toh saara Sanjeevani jaanta hai," he replied.
Yuvi nodded his head and got back to the game. Apparently, during their discussion, Armaan had managed to score, but Riddhima was still in the lead.
"Go Ridz!" Atul cheered.
The match went on for sometime and then, as predicted, Riddhima emerged victorious.
"YES!" Atul and Muskaan shouted and started an impromptu rendition of Woh sikander he doston... kehlata hai!'
Riddhima's team ran to the court and there was a massive hug fest.
"Mujhe pata tha, tu hi jeetegi, Ridz!" Atul said.
"Thanks, Atul!" Riddhima replied, hugging him. She hugged Anjali and Muskaan next and then moved to hug Yuvi. He hugged her back, still a little confused.
Rahul was next and he lifted Riddhima in a giant bear hug, congratulating her. Riddhima smiled.
Dr. Keerti, too, congratulated her.
Then, Riddhima turned to Armaan.
"As usual, main phir jeet gayi," she declared, smiking.
Armaan shook his head and smiled at her. He may not have played his best game towards the end. But, it was so worth it.
"So, as decided, agle haft eke liye, tum mere Ghulam ho," she said.
The interns looked shocked.
"Excuse me! Yeh kab decide hua?" Su asked, flabbergasted. She didn't like the idea of Dr. Armaan serving someone as a slave for a week.
"Its okay, Dr. Suvarna. Rules hai yeh," Armaan replied.
"I'm sorry, sir, but yeh kaise rules hai? Aap kyu Dr. Riddhima ke Ghulam banenge ek din ke liye bhi?" She asked, a little disgusted.
"I'm sorry ki aapko yeh achcha nahi lag raha hai, Dr. Suvarna, lekin yeh rules yahaan bohot pehle se chale aa rahe hai. Aapne Sanjeevani join kiya, usse bhi pehle se. Toh agar aapko koi problem hai, toh hum kuch nahi kar sakte. Aur waise bhi, baat sirf Armaan aur Riddhima ke beech ki hai. Kisi aur ko kisika bhi Ghulam banne ki zarurat nahi hai. So, it's really none of your business," Anjali replied, coming to the defence of her little sister.
Armaan smiled and moved to Riddhima's side as the others talked.
"So, agle haft eke liye, main aapka naukar hu, Mrs. Mallik," he whispered close to her, punning on his surname with the word Maalik.
Riddhima gasped in surprise and turned to look at him. He just smiled and turned, walking away.
Confused, Riddhima turned to Rahul, who was standing beside her. Maybe he had heard what Armaan said. He could tell her if what she heard was right. Because, surely he didn't call her Mrs. Mallik.
"Did he just..." she trailed of looking at Rahul who was just as surprised.
"Call you Mrs. Mallik? Yeah."
Angered, she turned. He was still walking out of the court, and she knew, she just knew, without even looking at him that he was sporting a giant ass smirk on his face.
"Armaan Mallik!" She called out, causing him to turn. And she was right. The boy was smirking widely. How dare he?
"Did you just propose to me?" She asked, elated that he may have and angry that he asked like that.

xxx
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