Sunday, 12 August 2018

Chapter 72 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF

After eating, Billy and Ananya left the kids to their own devices, bidding everyone a good night.

Neha watched, burning with jealousy, as both of them hugged Riddhima tightly. She did not like it at all. But, the encounter with Armaan still fresh in her mind, she kept quiet. However, Sonia seemed to have other ideas.

"So, Riddhima," Sonia began, once Billy & Ananya had gone to their room.

"Haan?" Riddhima asked.

"Tumhe pata hai? Armaan used to date Nisha. And me," she said, smirking evilly, causing everyone sitting in the room to gasp.

Riddhima shook her head at the blatant attempt to cause issues between her and Armaan. This Sonia chick really didn't like her, huh? But, what she didn't realize what that Riddhima knew everything about Armaan. Which meant that she also knew about his past girlfriends. All of them. Armaan had told her about all his prior relationships, holding nothing back.

He'd told her about how he'd dated multiple women at the same time, about he wasn't serious about any of them, that it was just something he did to pass time in college because he knew that girls were attracted to his good looks and charming personality. It didn't help that he was a sportstar and one of the top students in school, on top of being filthy rich. So, yes, girls swooned over him. And, he took full advantage of the fact. It wasn't something he was proud of now that he looked back, especially because there were a few girls who seemed to genuinely like him, but he hadn't liked them back and he still pursued a relationship with them, no matter how short. But, most of the girls he'd dated knew of his reputation and were okay with it, because they wanted the fame that came with being seen on Armaan Mallik's arm. They'd used him as much as he'd used them.

Armaan had been really ashamed to admit all of this to Riddhima, but he didn't want to hide anything from her and his past was a part of him. No matter how much he loathed his past self, he couldn't change anything that had happened. But, he could promise Riddhima that what had happened in the past was the past and that he wasn't the same person anymore. And that he loved her and he would always love her. So, he had.

Riddhima had been deeply touched by his honesty and assured him that it didn't bother her, because it didn't. She knew that Armaan hadn't even remotely liked those girls, let alone love. But, he loved her and she knew that. She knew Armaan wasn't the same boy he'd been in college and that he'd matured over the years and she was proud of him for admitting his mistakes. So, she'd told him so, right after she told him she loved him too and that it didn't matter to her that she wasn't the first woman in his life as long as he could promise she'd be the last.

He'd kissed her hard for saying that, leaving both of them completely breathless.

Thinking about that night, Riddhima smiled before answering Neha's question. "Yes, I knew," she announced.

"I know about all of Armaan's girlfriends," she told everyone, but especially Neha, who was absolutely shocked that Armaan had told her. "The 30 of them before me," she laughed, remembering that time on their first date when Armaan had told her about his ex girlfriends and how she'd gotten so mad at him.

The room gasped on hearing the high number and everyone turned to look at Armaan with wide eyes, who looked at Riddhima and complained in a whiny tone.

"Basket!! Really? Do we have to do this?" he whined.

"Yes. Of course, we do, Dr. Armaan! Kaun idiot apni girlfriend se first date pe yeh sab kehta hai?" Riddhima asked.

"Oh, hello! Need I remind you ki yeh past girlfriends ki baat tumne start ki thi! Main saamne se kood nahi raha tha batane ke liye!" Armaan defended himself.

"Tune Riddhima ko yeh first date pe bataya?" Nikki and Muskaan asked, shocked, while at the same time Atul and Anjali asked, "30 girlfriends? Really?"

Armaan and Riddhima looked at their friends and started laughing loudly.

"Okay, but was it a good date?" Abhi asked. "That's important."

Riddhima looked at Armaan, smiled and then turned to Abhi and said, "Well, we got arrested that night. So, what do you think?"

"WHAT?!" Everyone shouted.

"I mean, arrest hone se pehle... It was... I mean, it was good, right?" Armaan asked Riddhima. Riddhima just looked at him disbelievingly.

"You were late, those stupid guys hit on me, we found out that all our friends were at the same restaurant so we had to cut the date short and then all of us, I mean, all of us, even Dr. Keerti & Dr. Shubhankar got arrested. Does that sound like a good date?" She asked him.

Armaan opened his mouth to say something, shook his head and then ended up saying, "I'm sorry."

"It's okay!" Riddhima chirped and hugged him sideways, trying to make him feel better.

"Ek minute... Uss din, jab hum sab arrest hue the, tum dono date pe the?" Muskaan asked.

Armaan and Riddhima nodded sheepishly.

"Lekin... Lekin uss din... Mujhe yaad hai. Hum sabne dinner pe jaane ka plan banaya tha, lekin phir Armaan ne kaha ki woh apne school friend se milne jaa raha hai, jo bohot time baad Mumbai aaya aur... Aur Ridz toh bimaar thi. Right?" Atul asked.

Armaan and Riddhima shook their heads in unison.

"Uh... Sorry, Champ. Lekin hum dono ne jhooth bola tha. Kyuki maiune already Riddhima ko date pe jaane ke liye pooch liya tha," Armaan explained.

"Tum... Tum logon ne hum sabse jhooth bola?" Atul asked, feeling betrayed.

"Champ, un logon ne sabse almost 6 mahine tak yeh baat chupaayi ki woh saath mein hai. Obviously unhone ek baar nahi bohot baar jhooth bola hoga," Rahul answered exasperatedly.

"6 mahine!" Anjali shouted. "So long?"

"Ummm... If we're getting technical, it was actually more than a year, but yes, 6 months works fine," Armaan replied sheepishly.

"WHAT?!?!" The gang shrieked in unison. "Itne time tak? Kaise yaar?"

Armaan turned to Rahul. "Kyu be, kamine? Tujhe toh sab starting se pata hai? Kyu aag laga raha hai?" He asked.

"Rahul ko pata tha? Matlab, tumne Rahul ko bataya aur humein nahi?" Anjali asked, feeling betrayed.

"Um, maine Rahul ko nahi bataya," Armaan answered.

"Ridzy?" Anjali asked her. "Tu... You're my sister. Choti behen hai meri. Lekin tune bhi mujhe batane se pehle Rahul ko bataya?"

"Di, maine Rahul ko nahi bataya," Riddhima answered.

The gang turned to Armaan again. "Saale, kamine! Jhooth kyu bol raha hai?" Muskaan asked. "Tune bataya toh bataya! Theek hai. Ab jhooth toh mat bol."

Armaan slapped his forehead. "Yaar, maine nahi bataya. Seriously. I swear!"

"Toh fir... Toh fir Rahul ko sapna aaya kya ki tera aur Ridz ka scene hai?" Atul asked.

The gang started arguing with Armaan and he just turned to Rahul for help, thinking why he ever brought it up in the first place.

"Shut up, guys!" Rahul screeched, bringing them to a halt. "Armaan ya Riddhima ne mujhe nahi bataya."

"Toh... Toh tujhe pata kaise chala?" Nikki asked.

"Kyuki meri aankhen haina. Aur main unka use karta hu. Isliye," Rahul answered. "I mean, it was the most obvious thing ki un dono ke beech mein kuch chal raha tha. I still can't believe ki tum logon ko itne time tak samajh nahi aaya. Aur end mein bhi, indirectly toh in dono ne hi tumhe bataya nahi toh shayad tum logon ko kabhi pata hi nahi chalta."

"Tune humein stupid bola?" Muskaan asked, enraged.

"Maine kab bola? Ab tujhe aisa laga, toh isme bhi meri fault hai kya?" Rahul questioned.

"Teri toh main..." Muskaan shouted, angry and started hitting him, causing the others to laugh.

"Besharmo hasso mat! Help karo!" Rahul pleaded, but no one was interested in doing that.

Finally, a few minutes later, Armaan took pity on him and pulled Muskaan away.

When that was done, Nikki announced, "I know humein kya karna chahiye ab."

"Kya?" Chorussed across the room.

Nikki smirked. This was perfect. It would put the message across, especially to Neha and it would be an entertaining talk.

"Armaan aur Riddhima ko apni love story batani chahiye," she declared.

This was met with a loud approval from everyone in the room, except Armaan and Riddhima.

"NOOO!" The two of them cried together.

"Come on, guys! Don't be such spoilt sports," Anjali said. "Kisiko bhi tum dono ki love story ke baare mein kuch nahi pata, except that you're together. Hum logon ko bhi curiosity hoti hai, jaanne ki."

"Itni curiosity hai toh Rahul aur Muskaan se poocho na," Armaan cribbed.

"Usme kya poochna hai, yaar," Atul answered. "In dono ka Patiala se hi chal raha tha. Pehle ladte the, phir jab woh jhooth mooth ki shaadi ka drama kiya toh sachchi mein pyaar ho gaya. Aur kya?"

Everyone looked at Atul like he'd grown a second head.

"Aise kyu dekh rahe ho? Itna bhi idiot nahi hu main. Thoda toh samajh aata hi hai," Atul whined.

"Bas, toh fir. Done. Aaj Armaan aur Riddhima apni kahani sunaayenge," Abhi asserted, winking at his wife. He very well understood what she was trying to do. Neha had been making googly eyes at Armaan all night long and she didn't seem to understand that Armaan wasn't interested. Maybe knowing their journey would help.

Riddhima wanted to say something, but Nikki, who was sitting beside her, whispered about her plan to get rid of Neha in her ear and Riddhima nodded frantically.

"Okay, fine. Done! Uh, how about you people ask questions? Aur hum jawaab denge," Riddhima proposed.

The room cheered.

"First question mera!" Rakesh, who'd been sitting quietly announced. "Tum log mile kahaan?"

"Rakesh!" Nikki moaned. "Hum sab ek saath kaam karte hain. Isn't it obvious ki woh log hospital mein mile honge?"

"Hospital mein nahi mile the," Armaan and Riddhima replied in unison, making everyone look at them in surprise.

"Really?" The gang chorussed.

"Really," they confirmed.

"Toh mile kahaan?" Muskaan asked.

Armaan and Riddhima looked at each other and shared a smile, a wave of nostalgia hitting them.

"Basketball court," they murmured, still looking at each other.

"Ooohhh," the gang teased.

"You know, it makes sense. Of course. It's Armaan and Riddhima. Obviously woh log basketball court pe mile honge," Anjali said.

"Right," Nikki agreed.

"Phir? Phir kya hua?" Atul asked.

"Phir?" Riddhima asked, resting her head on Armaan's shoulder. "Phir maine Armaan ko bohot easily ek match mein hara diya."

"Whaaattt?!?!" Armaan's college friends shouted, disbelieving. Someone defeated Armaan in basketball? It was unfathomable.

They all looked at Armaan for confirmation and he nodded.

"Aaahhh. Ek woh din tha. 20 August, 2007. Kabhi nahi bhoolunga. Pehli baar kisine mujhe basketball mein haraya tha," Armaan reminisced. He narrated the entire incident to them and Riddhima smiled, snuggling closer to him.

"Matlab tumhaari ladaayi Sanjeevani join karne se pehle hi start ho gayi thi," Atul concluded.

Armaan and Riddhima nodded.

"Phir?" Agastya asked. "Phir kya hua?"

"Phir, hum Sanjeevani mein mile aur basketball ki rivalry aur aage badh gayi. Har cheez mein competition. Intern Of The Month kaun banega? Patient ka better diagnosis kisne kiya? Zyada smart kaun hai? Har cheez ke liye hum ladte the," Armaan explained.

"Toh pyaar kaise hua?" Agastya asked.

"Kaise?" Armaan laughed and then recalled the incident.

"Pehli baar, Basket ke liye kuch feel kiya tha jab hum dono ne jungle mein raat guzaari thi," He remembered.


"Yes, jungle. Remember? Medical camp? Truth and Dare? Maine Basket ko dare diya tha ki woh akeli jungle mein 10 minute tak rahe. Lekin woh gum gayi toh phir Anjali, the concerned elder sister, usne mujhe Basket ko dhoondne bheja. Lekin hum wahaan bhi ladne lage aur wahaan kho gaye. Bohot andhera tha toh humne raat wahi bitaayi. Kisi toote phoote cottage mein," Armaan told them.

"Seriously? Since then?" Anjali asked, absolutely flabbergasted.

"Since then," Armaan confirmed.

"You do realize that the camp happened only a few days after we'd started Sanjeevani, right? I think, 2 hafte hi hue the bas," she told him.

"Jaanta hu," Armaan smiled back.

"Wow," Anjali whispered, disbelieving. "Phir woh bet?" She asked.

Armaan shrugged. "Just a way to get close to Riddhima."

"What bet?" Nikki and Muskaan chorussed.

"Sabar karo. Abhi hum wahaan pohonche nahi hai," Armaan replied.

"Par ek raat mein aisa kya hua?" Nisha asked, curious.

"Kya hua?" Armaan snorted. "Sab kuch badal gaya. Uss raat, pata nahi kyu, aisa laga jaise main Riddhima se kuch bhi share kar sakta hu aur mera koi secret woh kabhi kisi ko nahi bataayegi. Maine usse aisi cheezein bataayi jo usne aaj tak kisi ko nahi kahi hai," Armaan replied.

Turning to Riddhima, he added, "Thank you, sweetheart."

Riddhima smiled at him and kissed his shoulder, burrowing closer.

The tenderness of the moment was not lost on anyone. They all looked at Armaan and Riddhima and smiled. For the first time, Neha felt a little guilty about trying to drive a wedge between them. Armaan clearly loved this girl a lot. And he was so happy. As a friend, shouldn't she be happy for him?

"Awww," Anjali, Muskaan and Nikki cooed.

"You guys are so cute!" Muskaan exclaimed.

Riddhima blushed and hid her face in Armaan's shoulder. He chuckled and kissed the top of her head.

"Ridzy, tujhe kab Armaan achcha lagne laga?" Anjali asked.

"Mujhe?" Riddhima asked. "Minnie ke aane ke baad, she said. "Armaan aur Minnie ke dekhke, mujhe pehli baar realize hua, ki Armaan actually kitna achcha hai. Ki pranks aur mazaak ke alawa bhi usse kuch aata hai."

"I miss her," Armaan complained. "Kitne din ho gaye usse baat hi nahi hui."

"Tu abhi bhi Minnie se touch mein hai?" Atul asked, surprised.

"Of course, Champ," Armaan replied. "Girlfriend hai meri, yaar. Yaad hai, hospital mein jab usse ek din nahi milne jaata tha toh kitna hungama karti thi?"

Atul laughed. "Jo bhi ho, thi badi cute."

"Cutest," Riddhima countered.

"Lekin Minnie ke aane ke baad hua kya, yeh toh batao," Abhi cribbed.

"Right," Armaan answered. "Us waqt, main aur Riddhima kaafi close aa gaye the. Jab Minnie ki health bohot zyada bigad gayi thi, mujhe toh kuch samajh hi nahi aa raha tha, us waqt, har kadam pe Riddhima ne mera saath diya, mujhe sambhaala."

"Awww," the girls chorussed again.

"Uske baad Armaan ne mujhe date ke liye poocha toh main bhi manaa nahi kar paayi," Riddhima said.

"Tum log kahaan gaye the?" Atul asked, overexcited.

"Basketball court," Armaan & Riddhima laughed.

"Seriously? Basketball court? Koi aur jagah nahi mili?" Nikki whined.

"It was a good date," Riddhima answered. "Also, the only date where we weren't arrested."

Armaan guffawed at that. "Isliye bolta tha. Yeh saara date ka chakkar chodo. Humaare liye fire escape hi best hai. Aur wahaan se canteen mein Laxman Bhaiya ki coffee."

Riddhima laughed.

"Yeh sab chodo. Date ke baad kya hua?" Muskaan asked.

"Sapna ki garba party," Riddhima replied.

"Ahhh. The dark days," Armaan said complacently.

"Kyu? Kya hua tha?" Nikki asked, curiously.

"Uske liye thoda flashback mein jaana padega," Armaan answered. "Well, I was in love with Riddhima. Toh, like any normal guy, maine usse love letter likha aur uske locker mein daal diya. But it was anonymous. Jab Riddhima ko letter mila, toh yeh saare cartoon wahin the. Aur isne un sabko dikha diya. Baat baat mein sab itna badh gaya ki end mein mujhe kehna pada ki maine letter as a prank Riddhima ko diya tha. Lekin, Anjy ko believe nahi hua, toh usse yakeen dilaane ke liye, maine usse bet lagayi ki main Riddhima ko pataa sakta hu. Aur jab usse mujhse pyaar ho jaayega toh main break up kar dunga."

"WHAT?!" Everyone in the room shouted.

"Armaan tu paagal hai? Thoda sa bhi dimaag hai ya nahi tere paas? Idiot kahin ka? Kuch bhi karne se pehle thoda sa bhi sochta hai?" Nikki fired questions at him angrily.

"Nikki! Relax," Riddhima intervened, hugging her. "Sab past hai. It's okay. Kuch nahi hua. Tu stress mat le."

After a few minutes, Nikki calmed down and Abhi sent Riddhima grateful smile.

"Toh, Sapna ki garba party pe kya hua?" Muskaan asked.

"Mujhe bet ke baare mein sab pata chal gaya. Mera aur Armaan ka bohot bada jhagda hua aur maine usse bohot sunaaya," Riddhima answered.

"Riddhima se maafi maangne ke liye bohot papad bele maine. In fact, poori raat, baarish mein, uske ghar ke bahaar khada raha. Lekin kuch nahi hua. Yeh maani hi nahi," Armaan whined.

"Aur phir, Armaan ka accident number one," Riddhima said.

"Ahhh, yes. Aur meri bechaari baby. Poori tarah toot gayi uss accident mein," Armaan mourned.

"Woh sab chod. Riddhima maani kaise?" Nisha asked, exasperatedly.

"Oh, yes. Karwachauth," Armaan replied simply.

"What?" Everyone asked, confused.

"Uss time ke aas paas hi karwachauth tha. Aur main, paagal deewana aashiq. Toh maine Riddhima ke liye vrat rakha," Armaan answered.

"WHAT?!?!" Everyone shouted.

"Riddhima, is this true?" Agastya asked, unable to comprehend the fact that Armaan would go hungry for a girl.

"Yes," Riddhima answered. "In fact, Armaan ab bhi rakhta hai."

"Awww. Really?" Nikki cooed.

Armaan nodded bashfully.

"Seriously, you guys. Cutest couple ever," Nikki announced after that.

"Toh bas, Ridz pat gayi?" Atul asked.

"Abhi kahaan?" Armaan lamented. "Kuch time tak sab theek tha. Lekin humaari phir ladaayi ho gayi. In fact, kuch zyada hi badi ladai. Riddhima toh uske baad mujhse baat bhi nahi karna chahti thi. Baat toh kya, shakal bhi nahi dekhna chaahti thi meri. And then, enter Rahul and Muskaan."

Rahul grinned smugly at that, but Armaan just made a face at him. "Shut up," Armaan commanded.

"Maine kuch bola bhi nahi," Rahul replied, smirking.

"Raoool. Tu kya bol raha hai yeh mujhe bhi pata hai aur tujhe bhi, so just, shut up," Armaan said.

"Fine," Rahul answered. "Nahi bolta kuch."

"Thank you," Armaan replied.

"Uske baad kya hua?" Muskaan asked impatiently.

"Bohot drama hua, bohot ladaayi hui. Lekin. Finally, finally, finally Rahul aur Muskaan ke aane ke almost ek mahine baad, Riddhima ne keh diya. She told me that she loved me. And, we started dating officially," Armaan declared.

"Awww. Yay!" Everyone cheered.

"Lekin, tum logon ne itne time tak sab chupaya? Almost a year?" Anjali asked. "Aur phir, beech mein itna sab hua. Armaan, tu Ridz ko chodke kaise jaa sakta tha?" She asked, referring to the time he'd quit Sanjeevani and gone god knows where. And Riddhima had then brought him back.

"Arre, aisa kuch nahi haina. Phir kuch dino baad humaara break up ho gaya tha," Armaan answered.

"What?!?! Kyu?" Rung around the room.

"Tum dono ko nahi lagta ki yeh story kuch zyada hi filmy aur overdramatic hai?" Abhi asked.

"Completely," Riddhima agreed.

"Break up kyu hua tha, yeh batao na!" Atul asked.

"Um..." Armaan and Riddhima looked at each other, not knowing what to say.

"Hero, Ridzy," Muskaan started, her voice sombre, taking everyone by surprise. "Sach sach batana. Tum dono meri wajah se alag hue the na?" She asked.

Muskaan had connected the dots in her mind. If Armaan and Riddhima had started dating sometime after she and Rahul joined Sanjeevani, they were dating when Armaan had gone to meet her family, pretending to be her boyfriend.

"No!" Riddhima refused vehemently at the same time that Armaan said, "Yes! Absolutely."

"What?" They both looked at each other, confused.

"What?!?!" The rest of the people in the room asked.

"Ek minute. Tumne mujhe Muskaan ki wajah se nahi choda?" Armaan asked, confused.

"Nahi, Armaan!" Riddhima replied, exasperatedly.

"Toh kyu?" Armaan questioned.

"Ek minute. Itne time tak tumhe lagta tha ki maine tumse Muskaan ki wajah se break up kiya?" She asked him. Armaan nodded.

"Nahi, idiot! Maine isliye kiya kyuki tumne mujhe jhooth bola. Itni badi baat tumne mujhe nahi batayi," Riddhima answered.

"Maine batayi thi," Armaan whined.

"Achcha? Kab?" Riddhima questioned.

"Yaad hai, jaane se pehle maine kaha tha ki mere dost ko meri help ki zaroorat hai?" Armaan asked her.

"Armaan! That's not telling. Tumne mujhe kuch nahi bataya tha," Riddhima insisted.

"Yaar, woh sab iss Atul ki fault hai!" Armaan whined, pointing at Atul.

"Meri?" Atul asked, surprised. "Meri kaise hai?"

"Isne hi mujhe kaha tha ki kuch mat bol. Woh faltu mein overreact karegi. Aur... Aur Dr. Shubhankar ne bhi yahi kaha tha. Toh maine tumhe nahi bataya," Armaan answered.

"Wow! This is... Wow!" Riddhima looked at him, astonished.

"Hua kya? Koi batayega?" Abhi asked impatiently.

"Tum logon ko toh pata hai, mere mummy papa kaise hai," Muskaan started. "Woh dono meri shadi karana chaahte the. Lekin mujhe nahi karni thi. Isliye toh main Patiala se Mumbai aa gayi thi. Lekin woh log phir bhi mein peeche pade the. Toh maine keh diya ke mera boyfriend hai. Jab mummy ne mujhse ladke ka naam poocha, tab Armaan wahin paas se guzar raha tha aur maine usse dekha, toh maine bol diya ke mere boyfriend ka naam Armaan hai. Sab theek chal raha tha, lekin phir woh log Sapna ki shadi par aaye aur wahaan Armaan se takra gaye. Armaan ko toh pata nahi tha ki woh mere parents hai aur isliye usne apna naam bata diya. Toh mere parents ko laga ki Armaan hi mera boyfriend. Shadi ke baad, unhone Patiala mein sabko bata diya aur mujhe emotionally blackmail kiya ki main apne boyfriend ko leke ghar aa jaau sabse milaane. Aur Armaan ne, as a friend, meri help karne ke liye haan keh diya. Lekin, maine usse vaada liya ki woh kisiko nahi bataayega ki woh meri help kar raha hai."

"What?!?!" Everyone shouted dumbly. (Seriously, yaar. Yeh log har cheez mein itna shock ho rahe hain aur ab mujhe har thode time mein everyone shouted what' likhne mein pak raha hai.)

"Haan," Armaan continued. "Aur kyuki maine Muskaan ko promise kiya tha, toh maine Riddhima ko bhi kuch nahi bataya. Bas yeh kaha ki ek friend ki help karne jaa raha hu."

"Lekin, ek party mein, maine Riddhu ko galti se sab kuch bata diya. Actually, bohot andhera tha aur mujhe laga ki main Muskaan se baat kar raha hu," Rahul added. "Meri badi behen Patiala mein hi rehti hai, toh unhe Muskaan ke boyfriend ke baare mein pata chal gaya jab Armaan aur Muskaan wahaan gaye."

"Jab mujhe sab pata chala, toh mujhe bohot gussa aaya. Aur main sochne lagi ki main Armaan pe trust kaise karu? Iss baat pe humaara bohot bada jhagda hua and then we broke up," Riddhima announced.

"Tum dono ka break up hua isliye tum Sanjeevani chodke Kasauli chale gaye the na, Armaan?" Anjali asked gently. She'd known that Armaan loved her sister, but today, finally listening to their story, she came to understand just how much he loved her. And she was so happy that her little sister had such an amazing man as her life partner.

"Haan," Armaan answered. "Itna sab ho gaya, I was absolutely heartbroken. Riddhima toh mujhe mauka hi nahi dena chaahti thi. Mujhse sehen hi nahi ho raha tha, toh main chala gaya."

"Lekin main nahi chaahti thi ki meri wajah se Armaan ka nuksaan ho. Maine hi usse break up kiya tha, lekin pyaar toh karti thi na, isliye usse lene waapas chali gayi, Riddhima explained. "Waapas aane ke baad bhi, Armaan hamesha khoya hua rehta tha, isliye sabke saath milke usse khush karne ka plan banaya. Bi ki bhi help li thi," Riddhima laughed.

"Oh, yes. Kaise bhool sakta hu woh?" Armaan asked rhetorically. "Tumne aur Bi ne milke mujhe bohot pareshaan kiya tha."

"Sorry," Riddhima promptly replied, not sounding sorry in the least.

"Phir?" Nikki asked.

"Phir kya? Hum waapas ladne lage. Bohot jhagde kiye. Ek doosre ko prank kiya. Phir dosti ho gayi," Armaan replied. "Aur phir pyaar."

"Awww," the girls chorussed.

"Bataya kyu nahi?" Atul asked.

"Seriously? Bataya kyu nahi?" Armaan asked, exasperated.

"Kya?" Atul questioned.

"Kitni koshish ki tum logon ko batane ki. Lekin tumne kabhi sunaa hi nahi. Phir maine socha ki sabse pehle Dr. Shashank ko batana chahiye. Ab, Dr. Shashank mujhe kitna pasand karte the, yeh toh sabko pata hai. Bohot papad bele, yaar, unhe patane ke liye. Lekin kuch hua hi nahi! Phir... Phir woh date. Riddhima mujhse gussa thi kyuki hospital mein itna kaam tha, aur main Dr. Shashank ko impress karne ke chakkar mein extra duties le raha tha. Toh humein saath mein time hi nahi mil raha tha. Toh main usse date pe leke gaya. Lekin hum phir arrest ho gaye," Armaan replied.

"Aur sabko pata chal gaya," Riddhima concluded. "Aage kya hua yeh toh sab jaante hain."

"Ummm... Hum nahi jaante," Rakesh piped in. "Bohot interesting story hai. Please batao aage kya hua."

"Haan, yaar. Please! Mujhe sab jaanna hai!" Agastya seconded, joined by Nisha.

"Okay, okay. Relax. Itna sab bata diya hai, toh aage bhi bata dete hai," Armaan replied.

"Okay. So, Papa ko manane ke liye Armaan ne bohot mehnat ki. Humaare ghar ke bahar tent lagaya, bhook hadtal ki, mere liye gundo se lada. Sabne Papa ko bohot manaya, bohot request ki aur finally Papa maan gaye," Riddhima told them.

"Yay!" Rakesh, Agastya and Nisha cheered.

"And then Happily Ever After?" Nisha asked.

"Abhi kahaan?" Riddhima lamented.

"Papa maan gaye. Uske baad Mom aur Dad Mumbai aaye, shadi ki baat karne. Humaara roka bhi ho gaya. Main aur Armaan... Hum dono bohot khush the. Lekin phir... Phir ek cheez ko leke humaari bohot badi ladaayi ho gayi. Maine bina wajah overreact kar diya aur Armaan ko bohot sunaa diya. Matlab, kuch zyada hi sunaa diya. Uss baat se woh bohot hurt hua aur phir woh achche se gaadi nahi chala raha tha toh uska accident ho gaya. Uss accident mein uski last 2 saal ki memory chali gayi," Riddhima told them.

"WHAT?" Armaan's college friends shouted. "SERIOUSLY?"

Armaan nodded.

"Armaan toh sab bhool gaya. Aur, uski mental condition achchi nahi thi, isliye Papa ne humein suggest kiya ki Armaan ko hum yeh sab nahi batayenge kyuki itna bada jhatka uski mental health ke liye achcha nahi hoga. Toh humne usse sach chupaya. Usse yeh sochne diya ki 2009 ke badle 2007 hai. Lekin itni badi baat kab tak chupaate? Usse sab pata chal gaya. Aur, woh maanne ke liye tayyaar hi nahi tha ki hum dono ek saath the, ki woh ek ladki ke liye itna serious tha. Iski wajah se hum dono bohot tension chal rahi thi. Lekin fir, Armaan ko dheere dheere ehsaas hua ki woh mujhse pyaar karne laga hai. Aur usne mujhe propose kiya aur maine haan keh diya. Official engagement ki date bhi fix ho gayi," Riddhima told them.

"Wow! That's awesome. Yeh toh achchi baat hai," Rakesh celebrated.

Riddhima shook her head, tears pooling in her eyes. "Na... Nahi. Achchi nahi hai," she said, her voice breaking.

"Hey!" Armaan gathered her in his arms. "Shhh. It's okay. It's okay, baby. Everything is okay. Pehle jo hua woh ho gaya. Ab hum saath hain. Bas. It's okay, he comforted her. "Shhh. Main tumhe chodke waapas kabhi nahi jaunga, I promise. Shh."

The gang all had tears in their eyes too. The horrific incident was fresh in all their minds and none of them would ever be able to move on from it. Not as long as they lived.

"Kya... Kya hua tha?" Agastya asked quietly. He didn't miss the tears in their eyes. All 8 of them were crying.

"Uss din... Uss din Armaan aur Riddhima ki engagement hone waali thi," Muskaan began.

"Hum... Hum sab kitne khush the. Remember?" Nikki asked, garnering nods from everyone in the gang.

"Armaan... Armaan Ridz se milna chaahta tha. Isliye usne Ridz ko hospital bulaya," Atul continued. All the while, Armaan and Riddhima stayed perfectly quiet, holding onto each other for dear life.

"Aur phir... Phir woh log aa gaye," Anjali said. "Kisi minister ki beti hospital mein admitted thi. Uska bachcha abort karne usse wahaan laaye the. Aur 2 logon ne usse kidnap kar liya."

"Actually... Actually unme se ek us ladki ka husband tha. Doosra uss ladke ka best friend. Woh ek hotel manager tha, isliye woh minister usse pasand nahi karta tha. Toh un dono ne bhaag kar shaadi kar li. Aur minister zabardasti us ladki ka abortion kara raha tha, toh woh dono usse bachaane aaye the. Lekin, uss minister ne apni power ka use karke har jagah khabar faila di ki woh dono ladke terrorists hain aur unhone uski beti ko kidnap kiya hai. Situation bohot kharab ho gayi thi aur un teeno ke saath saath Armaan, Riddhima aur bohot saare patients bhi ward mein fas gaye the kyuki minister ne police aur SWAT commandos bulwa liye the. Armaan ne negotiate karke sab sahi karne ki koshish ki aur jab woh sab bahar aaye, toh sab gadbad ho gayi. Minister ne commandos ko shoot karne ke order de diya. Un teeno ko goli lagi aur ek Armaan ko bhi... Armaan... Usse bhi lag jaati... Lekin... Lekin..." Rahul tried to finish what he'd started, but was unable to as he began sobbing.

"Lekin... Riddhima beech mein aa gayi," Abhi continued, as he held Nikki close, comforting her. "Riddhima ke spine pe goli lagi. Uska balance toota aur seedhe Armaan pe giri. Armaan sambhaal nahi paaya, aur woh dono neeche gir gaye. Tab, wahaan paas mein padi ek glass table se Armaan ka sar takraya aur poori table toot gayi. Bohot saara glass Armaan ke sar mein attak gaya," he said, in a monotone, trying to detach himself from the narrative as tears kept falling from his eyes.

"Uske baad?" Agastya croaked. "Tum theek ho na?" He asked Armaan & Riddhima, who nodded.

"Sab hone ke baad, doctors ko laga ki Riddhima ab saari zindagi paralysed rahegi. Humein yeh pata chalne ke 1-2 din baad, Armaan Sanjeevani se chala gaya. Dr. Shashank ne yeh kaha ki woh ek paralysed ladki ke saath apni saari life nahi rehna chaahta tha aur isliye usne Sanjeevani chod diya," Nikki continued.

"Aur... Aur hum sabne maan liya. Sabne," Muskaan sobbed. "I'm... I'm sorry, Armaan! Humne tere baare mein itna galat socha. I'm really sorry!"

Armaan smiled at her through his tears and leaned forward to kiss her head, not letting his grip around Riddhima loosen.

"Muski! It's okay. Ab tu mujhe sorry bolegi?" Armaan asked.

"Sirf usse nahi. Hum sabko tujhe sorry bolna chahiye," Atul answered.

"Tum sab paagal ho. Kisiko kuch kehne ki zaroorat nahi hai. Main kisise gussa nahi hu. In fact, agar tum mein se kisi ne ab sorry bolne ki koshish ki toh main usse gussa ho jaunga," Armaan declared.

Everyone in the room laughed on hearing that.

"Uske baad kya hua?" Rakesh asked, a few minutes later.

"Riddhu ke treatment ke liye main usse apne saath London le gaya. Meri mom wahaan pe orthopaedic surgeon hai. Kuch 8 mahino mein Riddhu theek ho gayi. Aur waapas Mumbai aa gayi. Jab woh yahaan aayi, toh usse pata chala ki Armaan se sabse jhooth bola tha. Woh isliye nahi gaya tha kyuki Riddhima ke paralyse hone ke chances the. Woh isliye gaya tha, kyuki uski injuries fatal thi aur Dr. Shashank ko lagta tha ki uska nervous system break down ho jaayega aur woh apni mental stability khokar, chote bachche ki tarah bann jaayega. Woh Riddhima ko aisa life partner nahi dena chaahta tha, isliye chala gaya," Rahul narrated.

"Jab mujhe pata chala, toh main turant usse dhoondne nikli, Atul ke saath. Woh mila bhi, lekin usne mujhe jaane keh diya. Kaha ki hum kabhi saath nahi reh sakte. Meri tabiyat bhi kuch theek nahi thi, toh Atul mujhe waapas Mumbai le aaya," Riddhima continued.

"Riddhima ke aane ke baad, jab mujhe pata chala ki woh mujhse ab bhi pyaar karti hai, mera intezaar kar rahi hai, mera hausla badh gaya. Itne mahino se kisi treatment ka koi asar nahi ho raha tha, lekin uss din ke baad, sab kuch badal gaya. Aur, maine waapas pehle jaisa hone mein apni poori jaan daal di. 3 mahine baad, jab main theek ho gaya, toh main waapas Mumbai aaya. Aur Riddhima tab tak mera intezaar kar rahi thi. Aur aaj, ab sab theek hai. Hum saath hai aur bohot khush hai," Armaan finished, pulling Riddhima closer and kissing her head.

"I love you," he murmured softly in her ear.

"I love you, too," she replied, just as softly and kissed his cheek.

By now, everyone in the room was crying. Even Sonia and Neha. Armaan and Riddhima had been through so much and they were still together. They'd literally fought the world to stay together. So much love, such devotion. And, Neha was trying to break them up. She felt absolutely wretched now.

"I'm... I'm sorry!" She wailed. "I am so sorry, Riddhima. I... I can't believe it. You've been through so much together aur main... I just... I wanted to break you two up for arm candy. I just... I feel so f**king bad. I'm such an asshole! Sorry. Please, forgive me!"

Riddhima looked at her, still completely wrapped up in Armaan's arms and gave her a small smile. "It's okay."

"Thank you!"

"Wow," Rakesh commented. "I just... Tumhaari story kitni inspiring hai. Itna sab hone ke baad bhi tum saath ho. Aur khush ho. You're very lucky to have found each other."

"I know," Armaan and Riddhima said at the same time. They looked at each other and laughed.

"Seriously, guys. Rakesh is right. Mujhe ab bhi samajh hi nahi aa raha ki main kya bolu. I'm just really happy ki tum saath ho," Agastya said.

"Thank you!" Armaan and Riddhima chorussed, causing everyone to laugh.

"Yeh toh samajh aa hi gaya hai ki iss idiot Armaan ko sirf Riddhima hi handle kar sakti hai. So, all the best, Riddhima," Nisha joked.

Riddhima laughed, while Armaan made a face. "Thank you, Nisha," Riddhima replied.

"Lekin tum dono seriously chupe rustam ho. Internship ke almost starting se tumhaara scene chal raha tha aur humein 1.5 years baad sab pata chala. Wow, you guys," Anjali commented.

"Ab mujhe samajh aa raha hai. Tu starting se Anjali ko saali kyu kehta tha," Atul said.

The gang laughed. "Seriously, Champ. Tune kabhi socha nahi kya? Ki main Anjy ko saali kyu kehta tha?"

Atul shrugged.

"Jo bhi ho, guys. Ab sab theek hai and that's important," Abhi said.

"Right," everyone chorussed.

Soon, they moved on to different topics, laughing and joking around.

Armaan smiled at the scene in front of him - Rahul and Muskaan, whispering while leaning into each other, Nikki and Nisha talking as Abhi listened with a fond smile, Atul regaling some tale to Rakesh and Sonia and Anjali chatting with Agastya and Neha - and pulled Riddhima into him, happier than ever.


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