A/N: Based somewhere around the Episode with Arnav’s parents’ Barsi. Set in the future.
She woke up, her throat parched. Coughing a little she sat up slowly, not wanting to wake him up. Why did he have to keep the water on his side? And then he said she woke up him up while drinking water. Go figure. Khushi turned slowly to the other side. She was determined to not wake him up this time. She leaned over him, making sure her hair didn’t touch his face. It was an awkward position and she was trying to steady herself when she felt his rumbling laughter beneath her.
“Khushi, tum uth ke paani le sakti ho.”
She recoiled and sat beside him, her mouth open. She had been so quiet, how in the world had he woken up?
“Aap humein ek baat bataaiye. Aap raat ko sote hai ki nahi? Main paani lene uthti hoon, toh aap uth jaate ho. Main iss taraf mudti hoon tab bhi aap uth jaate ho. Aur phir aap humein kehte hai, ki aapko meri hul-chul se neend nahi aati?!”
Arnav stifled his laughter at his wife’s flushed face. “Dekho, Khushi-”
“Nahi! Agar aapne mujhe phir kabhi kaha na, ki aapko mere hilne se neend nahi aayi, toh aap dekhlena. Main aapse koi baat nahi karungi.”
“Khushi meri baat toh suno!”
“You didn’t wake me up…I wasn’t sleeping.”
Khushi looked at him, embarrassed. How did he manage to shut her up like that?
He looked at her, as she tried to think of a comeback, and smiled. He was grateful for her presence in his life. She made things better.
Khushi frowned as she couldn’t come up with a comeback. Instead, she lied down beside him, waiting for him to do what he always did. He smiled at the expectant look on her face and brought her closer to himself. It was always like that. She’d lie beside him and he’d pull her closer. Everyday.
“Waise aap jaag kyun rahe the?”
Arnav tensed. He didn’t want to worry her; she always worried too much about him. And you love that, don’t you? He sighed. Yes he did. He’d always taken care of everyone. And it felt good to have someone care for him, he wouldn’t deny that. But she was waiting for his answer.
“Bas aise hi…neend nahi aa rahi thi.”
Khushi furrowed her eyebrows together. She hated it when he did this. Tried to distance his pain from her, tried to hide it. Didn’t he know, she’d love him regardless?
Arnav waited for her accusation. It irked him that he couldn’t lie to her like he did to others. She always managed to read too much into him. Sure enough, she asked him.
“Aap humse jhooth bol rahe hain?”
He looked at her and sighed. He’d known it was pointless to hide.
“Woh, kal barsi…”
Khushi hugged him tighter, offering her support. All these years, and it still pained him. She supposed it’d never get better, though. Losing your parents was not something you ever got used to.
He buried his face into her neck, drawing comfort. He didn’t know what he’d do without her, she always managed to kiss away his pain. He closed his eyes as she placed a soft kiss in his neck and soon the rhythmic movements of her hands in his hair, lulled him into sleep.
“Yeh phool lekar aap uss tasvir pe chadhaa dijiye.”
Arnav nodded curtly as the pundit finished each ritual one by one. It was sheer torture sitting in front of the flames; he could swear he saw his parents in them. He put the flower on the picture, not letting his gaze linger for a moment more, lest he should tear up. He forced himself to listen to the pundit.
Khushi looked at her husband sitting beside her. The muscle in his jaw was pulsing and his hands were balled into fists in his lap. It pained her to see him like that. She scooted closer to him, their knees brushing with each other.
He didn’t look at her. If he did, he’d come undone. His eyes flicked to her in surprise when he felt her hands trying to pry his fist apart. He sat there looking at her determined face as she pried each one of his fingers loose and then slipped her hand into his and gave it a squeeze. He looked ahead, not wanting to disturb the puja.
Khushi turned her attention back to the puja. She smiled to herself when she felt him squeeze her hand back.
An hour later, the puja was done and the punditji had gone. Arnav picked up the photo of his parents to keep it back. Just as he was about to climb upstairs she stopped him.
He looked at her quizzically. She came closer and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you.”
He smiled for the first time that day and for the millionth time thanked Him for bringing her in his life. He was about to say it back when Naani called. “Khushi bitiya?! Zaraa ek minute yahaan aaiye.”
“Abhi aayi naaniji!”
She blinked at him in reassurance and rushed to the kitchen, as he made his way upstairs. She made the pain disappear. She was truly his safe haven. And he didn’t know who he would be, without her.