It feels so great to come here after such a long time! Hope everyone is doing well! I had given in this OS for the KaJen 400th AT Contest, and now that the thread's up and running, I just thought I'd share it with you guys too. It was originally a piece I had in mind as a part of a larger FF, but that never worked out, and I've tried as well as I could to make this work as an OS in itself. I've always wanted to see AR married, and well, take this as an outcome of just such a fantasy. I wanted it to be simple, and real, and well, Armaan and Riddhima in their very element. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
*A Perfect Match*
The stillness and peace of pre-dawn silence stirred with the muffled click of a lock giving way to its key. Armaan opened the door as quietly as he could, and stepped inside. He squinted around in the darkness, vaguely discerning the shapes and angles that together made up his house. Of course, what made his house a home lay peacefully sleeping in the bedroom. Snoring, perhaps. Riddhima never believed him when he told her, but it was a fact. Riddhima Gupta Mallik, his beautiful wife, was occasionally given to a kind of non-peaceful, and hence non-silent, form of slumber. He strained his ears, but there was not a sound to be heard. It's nearly morning. She's probably in deeeeeep sleep. His stomach growled ominously, begging culinary consolation, and he tip-toed into the kitchen. Edging towards the refrigerator and opening it a little carelessly, he scanned the shelves for that plate of pasta Riddhima had said she'd keep for him. Finding nothing of the sort, he heaved a disappointed and slightly annoyed sigh, turned around and let out a shriek. There she was, night-suit clad, brandishing a saucepan and shrieking with him. It took her a few moments to realise who he was.
Riddhima : "Armaan...!! What are you doing?!"
Armaan : (Hand on his heart.) "What am I doing? You're waving a saucepan in my face, and you're asking me what I'm doing? Seriously?"
Riddhima : (Lowering the saucepan and switching on the light.) "It's the middle of the night, and since you're so subtle about sneaking around in your own house, I woke up and thought you were a burglar! Jeez!"
Armaan : "Right. And very nice to see you too, after one long, tiring night in the ER. Charming."
Riddhima : "Arey...!!"
She looked at him more closely in the light, and softened. He looked spent, exhausted. And the expression on his face, disgruntled like a miffed little boy, made him look cuter than ever. She walked over to him, whispered a soft "sorry" into his ear and wrapped her arms around him.
Riddhima: (Softly.) "That bad, huh?"
Armaan : (Holding her close and tight, eyes closed.) "Worse. Don't even ask."
Riddhima: (Rubbing his back gently.) "Aww...it's okay! Rough days come and go, na?"
Armaan : "Oh, I don't think they're going anywhere just yet. (Moving back, looking at her.) Sanjeevani's new Supervisor's here, and he hates me."
Riddhima : "Oh, come on-"
Armaan : "No, he really does, Riddhima! And I've no idea why! That's why he's given me a double shift tomorrow. Oh no wait, it is tomorrow. (Grimacing) Double shift today, then."
Riddhima : "Maybe they're short of docs-"
Armaan : "Really? And you, Rahul, Muskaan, Anjie and Atul are part of the hospital decor?"
Riddhima : (With a laugh.) "Got a point there. (Squeezing his arms reassuringly.) Aaj sirf tum aur Atul the na, kal hum sab honge to shayad he'll lessen your load. Kya pata? I think you should use this time to get some sleep instead of cribbing abhi. Chalo..."
Armaan : "Arey, but I'm hungry pehle. Which reminds me, where's that plate of pasta bhai? There's nothing in the fridge..."
Riddhima : (Absently) "Oh yeah, I ate that. Woke up around midnight, famished for some unknown reason. But I-"
Armaan : "You ate it?! And left nothing for me? Aw, Riddhima...!! (Puppy-faced, grumbling) But I'm famished too! And you're my wife, you should've...Pati comes first, I thought you already knew that..."
Riddhima : (Smacking his arm) "Oye! Don't you give me that! At that point of time, I was just hungry. Five minutes later, I was very full. And through it all, I was Riddhima Gupta Mallik, deeply and hopelessly in love with Armaan Mallik, which is why I immediately cooked you another plateful. And since you think that the refrigerator is the only place for food, and haven't even checked the microwave to see what's in it, at this point of time, you're an idiot."
Armaan : (Processing) "Aaaah."
Riddhima : "Aaaah, indeed. (Retrieving the dish from the microwave.) Now eat."
Armaan : "I really do love you, you know. (Eating the first bite, closing his eyes in bliss.) And at this point of time, I'm floating on cloud nine."
Riddhima : "Right. So would you do me a favour and float all the way to the dining table? You're littering my kitchen here."
Armaan : (Immune to the insult, courtesy the pasta) "Absolutely."
He raised both his hands sideways, holding the plate in one, and mimed floating away, out of the kitchen, as Riddhima threw back her head and laughed heartily. You couldn't even be annoyed with him for too long. How could anyone possibly hate him?
* * *
Riddhima : "I hate him. I just...I hate him!"
Armaan : "I know the feeling."
They stepped into home together, and slumped down on the couch. Riddhima sat resting her head against Armaan's chest, as he folded his arms around her and sighed.
Armaan : "I know it's my turn today, but I honestly have no energy to cook right now..."
Riddhima : (Rubbing his chest softly with her hand) "It's okay...kal ka kuch bacha hua hoga. (Looking up at him.) You hungry?"
Armaan : "I don't think I have the energy to eat either, actually. I'm not feeling too great..."
Riddhima : (Sitting up) "Kya hua? Come here...(Touching his forehead) You're feverish! Okay, let's get you in bed. Chalo..."
Riddhima tucked him into bed gently, and switched off the light. Something had to be done, and soon.
* * *
Riddhima stepped in cautiously, and closed the door behind her as silently as she could. But when she turned around, she found Armaan wide awake, standing beside the couch, grinning.
Riddhima : "Arey! And I thought I'd try not to wake you!"
Armaan : "Trust me, you're level with me on the subtlety quotient. I heard you coming all the way from the bedroom."
Riddhima smiled wide, walked up to him, and hugged him tight. She gave him a playful peck on his ear, and gently made her way across his cheek until she finally captured his lips in a soft, passionate kiss.
Armaan : (Eyes still closed, tentatively.) "Oookaaayyy...(Opening his eyes) So...what's happened?"
Riddhima : (Arms around his neck, smiling contentedly.) "Nothing much. Just that that oaf's out of Sanjeevani."
Armaan : (Eyes widening.) "What? Are you serious?! But...kaise? How come??"
Riddhima : (Sitting down on the couch, slightly self-conscious) "Oh nothing. I had told dad what was going on, and he spoke to the admin to take a call. They took a decision, and well...yeah, he left. Big scene at the Nurses' Station. But never mind that..."
Armaan : (Noting the slight edge of defensiveness in the last sentence) "And you're sure that's all that happened? That big scene at the Nurses' Station, what was that about?"
Riddhima : "Oho...forget it. It's nothing. How're you feeling now?"
Armaan : "Absolutely spiffing. And I'm not letting you change the topic that quick. What're you not telling me, Riddhima? Chalo batao...kya hua tha?"
Riddhima : (Conceding, albeit unwillingly) "Well, he was...just before he left, he was at the Nurses' Station collecting his papers when I gave in your leave application...and he just...he took off, saying all sorts of crap about...about you, and I..."
At that precise moment, Armaan's cellphone rang out. He swore under his breath, but decided to answer the call when he saw Rahul's name flashing on the screen.
Armaan : (Motioning to Riddhima) "Just a sec...Hello? Haan Rahul, bol...yeah I know! In fact, Riddhima was just-"
He fell silent, listening very attentively, his expression unreadable. Riddhima looked up at him uneasily, and then looked at the ground. "Uh, haan. Yeah, sure then. Thanks man. Kal milte hain. Bye." He cut the call, looked at her, and burst out: "You punched him? Riddhima, are you out of your mind?!"
Riddhima : (Defiant) "He was talking bullsh*t! Saying things about you being an irresponsible doctor, and then he got personal and I...well, I couldn't take it."
Armaan : "So you punched him?!"
Riddhima : (Shrugging slightly, a little sheepish) "I think he even chipped a tooth."
She looked up to see Armaan staring at her, aghast, with his mouth hanging open. They looked at each other for a few seconds, and then burst out laughing. He bent down, encircled her waist with his arms and stood back up, lifting her off the couch as well as the ground in a tight embrace, still laughing heartily. Finally setting her down, he leaned back and lightly brushed aside a lock of hair caressing her face.
Armaan : (Soflty) "Your dad's right, I am bad influence on you..."
Riddhima : (Wrapping her arms securely around his waist) "That you are...(Chuckling softly) Honestly, someone would've hit him pretty soon anyway. Just that when he started off about you, I cracked. It really blew a fuse, the way he was..."
Armaan : (Grinning) "Thand, puttar, thand...(Chuckling, then mock-serious, sagely) No but seriously, Riddhima. Violence is not the answer to anything..."
Riddhima : (Whacking him) "Shut up...!! I just...I can't take anyone talking that way about you..."
Armaan : (Smiling) "I know. If I were you, I'd have cracked too. There's a reason we're married, you know."
Riddhima : "Mm-hmm. Two crazy people, crazily in love with each other's craziness. Now there's a perfect match if there ever was one."
Armaan : "Hear, hear!"
Once they were done happily feasting on his specially laid out dinner spread, she cleared up the kitchen as he gulped down some water after the meal.
Riddhima : "Um, Armaan...?"
Armaan : (Mouth full of water) "Mm?"
Riddhima : (Slowly, feigning perfect innocence.) "Once you're done drinking, are you up for some...dessert?"
Armaan : (Absently) Mm...(Suddenly getting it.) Mm?!"
Riddhima heard the change in tone, and chuckled mischievously. She pretended to busy herself with setting the dishes as he edged closer to her. Keeping aside the half drunk bottle of water, he slipped his arms slowly across hers, spun her around in one swift movement, and pulled her in. Blushing in spite of herself, she said very softly, "Paani to pee lo..." Armaan tightened his hold, held her closer, and whispered, "Tumhi ne to kaha, dessert..." She closed her eyes and smiled as he lifted her neatly off her feet, and carried her into the bedroom.
This was life. And tomorrow, was a new day.
There. Would love to know what you guys think!
Much love and cheers!