ArHi OS: Middle Ground

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A/N: Based on the precap of Episode 98, aired 14/10/11. The one where Khushi’s father is hospitalized and she hugs Arnav spontaneously! 🙂

Middle Ground

He entered the hospital, hoping to find someone who could assist him. He needed to know where she was. He cursed himself for not listening to Jayprakash sooner. Had he known, he’d have been here much earlier. He walked ahead, trying to locate a doctor or atleast someone from her family.

He saw her, then. She was running towards him and for a while there, he thought he was hallucinating. His thoughts were put to rest when he felt her crash into his arms, taking him in a rib-crashing hug while crying like there was no tomorrow. Arnav stood there, too shocked to respond. Where had this come from? Just hours ago he left her by the road with some money, something he regretted now, and now she was hugging him of all people? His mind catapulted to the worst possible conclusion. That her father had passed away. Because only that could make Khushi Kumari Gupta so heartbroken. He’d seen her cry, but never like this. The sheer anguish that filled her voice was scaring him quickly.

Khushi sobbed ceaselessly for the longest time. Seeing her father on the ventilator with a voice that could barely speak had paralyzed her with fear. She was too scared to make sense of anything at the moment. She wasn’t going to figure out what she was doing in the laad governor’s arms or why she had run to him when, just hours ago he had left her on the road.

Arnav felt her fingers clutching his shirt desperately, her body shaking with each sob that cut through her. He decided not to figure this out right now. Nothing he did made sense when he was around her, anyway. So he wrapped his arms around her trying to still her, calm her down into saying something but that stage seemed far away because the moment he hugged her back a few more sobs racked through her body.

Warmth seeped into her body, bringing with it, awareness. The violent sobbing was over now, the tears streamed quietly down her face as she hiccupped, trying to draw in deep breaths, but failing. She didn’t want to pull away, not just yet. He’d hugged her back and for that, she was grateful. It was what she had needed and for once, he’d done it, sans any biting remarks. She pulled away slowly, wiping her tears with the back of her hand.

Arnav saw her wiping her tears and heaved a sigh of relief now that the crying was over. There was a huge wet spot on his shirt, from all that crying and he saw she was looking at it, apologetically.

“Dekhiye, woh hum-”

“It’s okay. Tumhe paani chahiye?”

Khushi blinked at him, shocked, but decided not to ruin the moment. She nodded. He walked towards her father’s room, the water cooler was right beside it.

“Ji, woh kya hum paani uss taraf waale cooler se le sakte hai? Amma, buaji aur Jiji abhi abhi soye hai, hum unhe uthana nahi chahte. Aur haan, Naaniji aur Anjali ji abhi kuch der pehle hi yahaan se nikle hai, unhe please dhanyavaad kehdijiyega. Unhone humari bahot madad ki hai.”

Arnav nodded, surprised. Just moments ago she was crying in his arms and now she was worrying about everyone else?

They walked towards the cooler in silence. Khushi stole glances at him when he wasn’t looking. She liked him when he was being nice. He wasn’t so much the raakshas then.

“Tum kyun nahi so rahi ho?”

She looked at him, debating whether to take a chance and tell him. She decided to tell him. What difference did it make? It’s not like he was going to tell someone.

“Woh hum, dar gaye the.”

Arnav looked at her, as she looked down, her fingers playing with her dupatta. He nodded in acknowledgement.

They reached the cooler and he brought her a glass of water. She sat down on the steps leading to the basement, leaning her back on the wall and closed her eyes as she drank water.

Arnav stood there for a moment but then sat opposite her. He wondered what he was doing, but then gave it up, what was the point? He saw her hold the glass of water with both her hands and drink it slowly. Glad that the color was back in her face, he asked the question that had been on the tip of his tongue ever since he saw her crying.

“Khushi, tum theek ho?”

“Hum theek hai.”

He wanted to ask about her dad, but didn’t know how to broach the subject. Khushi saw him struggling with it and answered. “Babuji ab khatre se bahar hai.”

They sat in peaceful silence, lost in their own thoughts.

She broke the silence with her question that was half to him and half to herself. “Babuji theek ho jaayenge na?”

Arnav looked at her, but he couldn’t be sure she was asking him.

“Woh theek ho jaayenge. Iss hospital ke doctors bahot ache hai.”

She nodded noncommittally. “Agar woh theek nahi hue toh hum jee nahi paayenge. Hum ek baar humare amma-babuji ko kho chuke hai, agar phirse-”

“Khushi, woh theek ho jayenge.” He spoke firmly, she had to understand him. This subdued avatar of the otherwise annoying Khushi Kumari Gupta was scaring him. He remembered her acting like a drunkard, only to cheer up her sister. He remembered her playing with kids. He remembered her doing all that drama just so he would stay back. He had never seen her like this. She looked so…vulnerable was the word. He understood what she was saying though. Losing your parents once scarred you enough, but losing them a second time? That would shatter you.

Khushi looked at him, lost in his thoughts. She closed her eyes, glad that he was here. She was exhausted. Ever since she’d come, she had been pacifying Buaji, her mother and her sister. She’d been the strong one. And somewhere between all of that, she had managed to bottle up her fear. She knew that tomorrow they’d probably be back to arguing, but for now, he was here.

Arnav looked at her and to his surprise she was sleeping. He sat there, not moving, thinking about all that had happened. Amidst his thoughts, he felt a rush of pride with a hint of envy for her. After he’d known that she had, like him, lost her parents at a young age, he had begun to feel that they had this tiny thing in common and somewhere deep down, where neither of them would ever admit it, they were going through the same thing. Arnav smiled faintly. He was so wrong. Who was he kidding, she wasn’t like him. He was mostly insensitive, ruthless and there was so much pent up emotion in him that he had never been able to voice. And she was the polar opposite. She wore her heart on her sleeve. She was able to cry and then forget about it the next morning.

He stole a glance at her. She was still sleeping, her tear tracks shining under the light, but her face was peaceful. He envied her for being able to do that. For being able to let it all out. He had always prided himself on being strong, on being in control no matter what. But when you came down to it, he supposed she was the stronger one. It took courage, courage he didn’t have, to be able to spill your guts like that, without thinking what they might think of you, or whether they thought you were weak. He wished he could do that. Just then his phone rang, it was Di.

He looked at the time. He’d been there for four hours, no wonder Di was worried. Where had the time gone? “Haan Di, main aata hoon. Aap so jaiye, I’ll be there.”

He got up and was about to wake her up, when she opened her eyes drowsily. Getting up, she fixed her dupatta and looked at him. “Aap ja rahe ho?”

“Haan woh Di ka phone aaya tha.”

She nodded. He looked at her, he could still see she was afraid. “Tumhare babuji theek ho jayenge.”

“Aap ko kaise pata?”

“Woh tumhari Devi Maiyya hai na.”

Shock filled Khushi’s features. “Aap kabse Devi Maiyya mein vishwas karne lage?!”

He smiled a half-smile. “Main vishwas nahi karta. Par tum toh karti ho na. Bharosa rakho unpe.”

He almost laughed at the way her mouth hung open. He couldn’t believe he’d said it either.

“Thank You.” She said, smiling at him.

“Don’t mention it.”

He was about to leave when her mother came there. “Khushi? Beta tum yahaan kya kar rahi ho?”

“Woh amma, Arnav ji aaye the…” she turned towards him, but he was facing the other side, talking on the phone.

“Sab theek toh hai na?”

“Haan amma. Woh toh bas babuji ke baare mein poochhne aaye the.”

“Theek hai. Khushi humein tumhare unki bahot chinta ho rahi hai. Agar unhe kuch ho gaya toh?”

“Babuji theek ho jayenge. Vaise bhi, kisi ne humse kaha tha ki agar hum Devi Maiyya mein vishwas karte hai, toh unpe bharosa bhi rakhna chahiye.” She gave him a lingering glance, still somewhat surprised about the turn of events.

Arnav kept his phone in the pocket, smiling at what she’d said. He looked back and she was walking with her mother. Glad that things were back to normal, he exited the hospital.

Khushi sat there, beside her father, holding his hand. She knew that neither one of them would mention this night, but she couldn’t deny it. Things had changed between them.

–ooOoo–

I’m coming apart, I’m coming to you;

This game has pushed us so far, will you pull me through?

Maybe tonight…Maybe tonight…Maybe tonight we’ll find a place,

Between you and me.

– Maybe Tonight: William Tell

 

–ooOoo–

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