The next day things were pretty much calm between Abhi and Nikki. They were polite and courteous with each other, talking only when the need arose.
It was only at the basketball court, once amongst the gang, they let their guard down.
The two captains Abhi and Armaan were choosing their teams while Riddhima decided to give Nikki company and watch the game.
Rohit, Sonam, Simran were on Abhi's side while Atul, Anjali, Muskaan were in Armaan's team. Sid was left alone and wanted to be on Simran's side but Abhi would not hear of it.
" Aaja, aaja," Armaan tells him. In any case we are going to be the winners.
The players begin to walk towards the centre court, while the two captains were still at the stands with their wives.
"Remember Guys this is a friendly match, Please don't fight with each other" Nikki implores, darting a glance from her friend to her husband.
"Yes" Riddhima pleads with them. "You both are married now and one is also having a baby," she smiles at Nikki who smiles back at her. Nikki then looks up at Abhi and finds him smiling tenderly at her.
"So remember, you are no more single. You have some special people in your lives to take care of, so don't get into your stupid fights!"
"Yes M'aam !" they bow their heads meekly. "We'll do our best." Grinning, they wink at each other and turn towards the court.
"Abhi your watch!" Nikki stops him Realising he still wore his watch, he removes it and hands it over to Nikki, smiling a thanks.
"Enjoy your game," she whispers to him. There was fondness in their eyes as they keep staring at each other.
"Are you coming?" Armaan calls out to Abhi. He blinks at Nikki and then walks towards the others.
No matter how hard they tried, the two arch rivals couldn't stop bickering and yelling at each other during the game. Nikki and Riddhima were laughing heartily as they watched the game which they felt looked more like a comedy.
Armaan had a tough time on his hands with two smitten lover boys in his team. Atul kept tailing Anjali when he should have been attacking or defending the opponents and Sid, inspite of being a good basket ball player, would freeze still, everytime Simran was around him.
During the break, the players returned to the stands and flopped down around Nikki and Riddhima.
Her eyes lovingly fixed on Abhi, who was sitting on the next stand below her, Nikki could see beads of sweat glistening on his face and shoulders. If there wasn't this emotional distance and tension between them, Nikki knew she would have gladly wiped away the sweat from his face with her hand. Her fingers were itching to do so even now. Dejectedly, she pulls out a hand towel from the kit bag and hands it over to him. He looks at her in surprise. Taking the towel, he thanks her with a smile.
"Hey you two aashiq's ! Instead of playing basket ball you guys seem to be playing Barbie dolls." Armaan tells Atul and Sid. Everyone guffaw at his words. He was sitting on the stand below Riddhima who was tenderly wiping the sweat from his face.
Hey Armaan,don't say that, I scored a basket," Atul tells him.
"Really champ! When?" Armaan asks.
"If my Anjali scored it is same as I have scored."
There was even more loud laughter.
The game resumed and by the end of the stipulated time, the scores were equal at 20 each. They were given an extra five minutes.
Few seconds left for the game to end, Sid was nearing his team's hoop when Simran asks him to throw the ball to her. Forgetting she was an opponent, a smitten Sid throws the ball. She then throws it to Abhi who takes it to his team's basket hoop and scores the winning basket.
"You nut!" an annoyed Armaan, bellows at Sid.
Everyone were in splits when they reached the stands. After few minutes of teasing and laughing, Rohit, Sonam and Simran take their leave.
While the group were chatting, Armaan was unable to contain his irritation at Sid for making them lose the game.
"I tell you its was a big mistake to take this majnu in the team," he blurts out, angrily at Sid.
"Hey Armaan, it's a game yaar, just chill," Abhi tells him, patting his back. To his surprise Armaan shrugs off Abhi's hand.
"Oh you will say that! After all because of your brother you won," he tells him agitatedly " Actually, I think you deliberately saw to it he was in our team so that he could help you win."
"Hang On!" an annoyed Abhi tells him "Did I ask you to take him?"
"Armaan relax!" Riddhima pulls at his arm.
Abhi please!" Nikki pleads with him.
"No Riddhima he never knows how to play fair." He glares angrily at Abhi.
"Really ? You are a sore loser Armaan! Just admit it!" Abhi tells him, his voice rising in agitation.
Nikki tries to pull his arm, but he doesn't pay heed to her.
Everyone gather around them
"Hey guys, don't fight yaar, we've all had so much fun after such a long time." Atul tells them
"Haan yaar" Muskaan quips in.
"No champ its never fun when he is around," Armaan tells him
"Armaan!" Riddhima and Nikki plead with him.
"Well lets have fun your way Armaan!" Abhi tells him calmly . "Its been long since we had a boxing match. Tonight will be fun when I box the hell out of you once again!"
"Abhi!" Nikki tugs at his arm pleadingly.
With his hand he motions her to stop. He then moves closer to Armaan and extends his hand, looking challengingly into his eyes. Armaan calmly shakes hands with him. Heads held high, sly smiles on their faces, they pore daringly at each other, while everyone around them are stunned into silence.
They then firmly pull back their hands.
"I'll be back," Abhi tells Nikki "I'm going to change," He picks up his kitbag and walks towards Sanjeevani.
Armaan says the same to Riddhima and goes towards the washroom at the corner of the basket ball court, adjacent to the hospital building.
The others were still in a state of shock at the sudden turn of events.
"What was all this?" a despondent Nikki asks Riddhima.
"I don't know, why do these two always have to fight!" Riddhima tells her. "No matter how much we make them understand, their egos will always get the better of them."
"Do we really matter to them?" Nikki asks crossly.
"Guys we cannot let this match happen. Both will be hurt badly," Atul tells them
Nikki and Riddhima look anxiously at each other. Their hearts begin to sink. Both the men, mean a lot to them and either of them getting injured is just unthinkable.
"We can't let this boxing match happen," Nikki echoes Atul, her face filled with worry.
"Yeah, things are different now, we are all friends." Riddhima agrees with her. "We've got to do something to stop it!"
The six people sit down on the stands and start discussing how to stop the two guys from boxing each other. Through the corner of her eye, Nikki notices Armaan's disappearing back as he quickly runs behind the building. She knew there was a mini mart there. Confusion on her face, she looks at Riddhima who was busy with the group.
"Why did Armaan run stealthily there and then, why was he avoiding the group?"
She stands up and tugs at Riddhima's arm. "Riddhima, come with me, Excuse us Guys," she tells them and drags a confused Riddhima towards the washroom.
"Shhhhh," Nikki puts her finger on her lips. "Kuch toh gadbad hai!"
They go near the mini mart and quietly peep inside, from the rear window. They were stunned to see Abhi and Armaan, now changed into fresh set of clothes, laughing heartedly. They were facing the other side, backs leaning against the counter, elbows on it and drinks in hand.
"Did you see the look on their faces? " Armaan laughs "It was as if they saw a ghost" Abhi who was taking a swig from his energy drink, almost chokes on it as he bursts into a laugh.
"Yeah they didn't know what hit them!" he replies
"They must be now making plans to patch us up together."
"Well, they always expect us to fight, so we just gave them what they expected"
Riddhima and Nikki look astounded at each other. Their eyes begin to narrow in annoyance
"Well, I didn't expect you khadoos to go ahead with my plan.
"Otherwise, I wouldn't have. But today I thought I'll make an exception. As my wife says, a little amount of jest is fine. Even if in jest, atleast they'll get some satisfaction, knowing they were right about us." Abhi winks at Armaan.
The girls eyes narrow darker and darker on every of their word.
"I always knew you are a real kamina," Armaan tells him with a grin.
"Lets say, you are the best," Abhi winks " in bringing out, that side of me."
Guffawing, they clink their bottles with each other and take a swig from it.
An infuriated Riddhima was about to storm inside when Nikki stops her and quickly pulls her away, till they reach a safe distance.
"Why did you pull me away Nikki? Look how mean these two are! They've got the whole gang fretting with worry and here they stand laughing at our expense
"I know Riddhima," Nikki tells her calmly "Even I feel like bashing them up. But then, when we confront them, what will happen ? They'll just apologise."
Riddhima looks perplexed at her.
Nikki continues, "these two need to be put through the same worry we all have gone through and I have a great idea for that," she smiles impishly
"Wow Nikki, I am surprised at you!" Riddhima looks at her friend in admiration. "Looks like marriage and the baby has mellowed you."
Well, if my husband is learning a few things from me, I can also learn some from him. Who else is, better than my husband, in making others regret their mistake. Now its payback time!" She winks. Both girls burst into giggles
Few minutes later Abhi gets a call from Sid.
"Bhai, where are you? There is a big problem."
"Nikki bhabhi and and�"
"What happened to Nikki?" Abhi asks worriedly.
"Come to the basketball court quickly and see for yourself�." Sid disconnects.
Panic stricken, Abhi and Armaan run towards the court stands. The fear on their faces showed how worried they were. Reaching the stands, they are shocked to see Riddhima and Nikki yelling and looking daggers at each other.
"I am telling you Riddhima, its all Armaan's fault. He started picking on Abhi." One hand on her hip and finger of the other hand pointing at Riddhima, Nikki was glaring at her.
"Really?" With both hands on her hips, Riddhima was making faces at Nikki. "it is all because of your husband that my poor Armaan lost and that is why he got upset"
The respective husbands call out to them in astonishment.
"Nikki what's all this ?" Abhi asks her, searching her face in bafflement.
"Riddhima why are you guys fighting?" Armaan asks his wife.
"Look at her Abhi, what does she think of herself? She is trying to convince me that you are at fault, when I know you are not."
"Armaan, she is your friend na, see how she has turned tables, now that , the Boss of Sanjeevani is her husband," Riddhima mocks at Nikki.
"Riddhima, Nikki," Armaan and Abhi call out to them, desperation was in their voices.
"God what is happening?" Anjali sounded upset. "First Armaan and Abhimanyu fought, now their wives are fighting."
"Haan yaar, what's gone wrong with you all? We are all friends. Oye Chill Yaar!" Muskaan tells them.
"No, Armaan owes Abhi an apology for saying all those bad things to him." Nikki was defiant.
"Apology my foot!" Riddhima stomps her feet "your husband should be apologizing instead."
"Riddhima, I warn you!" Nikki goes closer to her and pointing a finger into her face. "Don't you dare say anything against Abhi or else��?
"Or else what ? haan tell me what ?" Riddhima challenges her, pushing her finger away.
Abhi, Armaan and the whole gang stand in stupefaction, watching the two best friends lashing out at each other.
Somehow, Abhi was the first to snap out.
"Oh please stop fighting you two!" He thunders, putting his arms around his wife from behind and stopping her from advancing any further towards Riddhima.
"Yeah, there is no reason for you guys to fight. You are best of friends." Armaan tells them, holding his wife from behind.
"But how can I tolerate anyone saying anything to you, even if it is my best friend saying it?" Riddhima tells him, anger on her face.
"Same here, I am not going to listen to any nonsense of hers against you," an equally livid Nikki tells Abhi
Armaan and Abhimanyu, try butting in between but are no match for the volley of accusations being flung from one woman to the other.
"If Abhimanyu is your enemy then his wife cannot be my friend," Riddhima firmly tells Armaan
"Yes Abhi, if Armaan is your enemy then I cannot be friends with his wife."
"But we are not enemies! We were only joking!" Armaan and Abhi blurt out in frustration.
"Really Abhi?" surprise on her face, Nikki looks at him. He nods at her, his arms still tenderly around her.
"You guys were joking?" Riddhima, too, showed surprise as she looks up at Armaan. "Yes Basket." He tells her sheepishly.
"But now whats the point?" Nikki says sadly "Because of your joke, Riddhima and I, have said such hurtful things to each other, we won't be able to forget. We've lost our friendship." Her face was weepy.
"Yeah its because of you two, I lost my best friend today," Riddhima sulks at Armaan.
"Hey, Nikki, Basket, don't do this!" Armaan pleads with them. "We never expected it would go this way!"
"Come on girls you are best of friends," Abhi's voice was equally imploring. "Go on, hug and make up." He tells Nikki.
"Why ? What do you guys care?" Nikki pouts.
"Look we are sorry," they tell them defeatedly. Sadness and guilt written on their face
Nikki and Riddhima look at each other and try their best to hide their smile.
"Abhi, are you feeling sad about this?" Nikki asks him softly, lifting her hand and tenderly placing it on his cheek.
"Armaan, is it making you feel bad?" Riddhima asks him.
Abhi and Armaan sadly nod their heads.
"If you break your friendship because of us, we won't be able to forgive ourselves." Armaan tells them, his voice filled with regret.
"Yeah, he is right!" Abhi confirms
Riddhima and Nikki were unable to keep up the pretence any more. They burst into giggles. Their husbands look dumbfounded from one to the other.
"What do you guys think? You can fool us and get away with it?" Riddhima asks them, her face filled with mirth.
"If you guys are Tigers don't forget we are your tigresses," an equally amused Nikki tells them haughtily.
Abhi and Armaan are thunderstruck into silence.
"Riddhima, Nikki this was all a joke?" Atul asks them.
"Di, you both scared us!" Anjali tells, putting her hand to her chest in relief.
"Haan!" Nikki tells them as she looks up at her husband's face.
"We realized these two were playing a prank on us, so we decided to give them a taste of their own medicine."
Speechless, Armaan and Abhi release their wives from their hold and slump down on the stand, beside their feet. Elbows on their knees they place their face between their palms.
"Hope you both now realize how hassled everyone were, when you guys pretended to fight." Riddhima tells them.
"Yes M'aam!" they answer meekly, nodding their heads up and down.
"Next time, before you guys come up with something like this, remember you will have your wives to deal with. So don't ever take pangas with us!" Riddhima tells them winking at a grinning Nikki.
"Yes M'aam," once again they nod their heads up and down.
"And for all the trouble you guys put us through, you will now treat us !" Nikki tells them, her eyes gleaming mischievously.
"Yes M'aam" they agree, with another nod of their heads up and down again.
"What do you guys want to eat?" Atul asks them.
"Lets start with PANI PURI!" they reply gleefully
"Oh No!" Abhi groans. "Riddhima you too?" he looks up questioningly at her.
"I always loved paanipuri" she replies smacking her lips.
"Oh No!" Abhi and Armaan groan, tilting sideways, they bang their heads against each other.
"Oh Yes!" reply their wives in their sweetest tone as they fondly ruffle their husband's hair.
Much against their will, the two men were thoroughly punished, being dragged from one place to another to fulfill their wives wishes.
Inspite of all the fun and frolic around, Riddhima couldn't help notice there was some sort of restrain between Abhi and Nikki. She was surprised by it as she could see that they loved each other deeply. Also, they were going to have a baby soon. She wonderered, what possibly could be the reason for the much in love couple to keep a little distant from each other. She must find out the reason.
Sheer exhaustion made Nikki pass off in the car even before they reached home. She was carried by warm, tender arms and tucked into bed.
PRECAP TO PART 29
Abhi can sense the fear, the uneasiness and agitation in her.
"Can you hold me?
"Do you want me to hold you?"
They blurt out together bringing an embarrassed smile on their faces
Looking at his outstretched and inviting arm, Nikki leans closer and lays her head on his upper arm. Bringing his other arm around he clasps her protectively and tightly, soothingly caressesing her arm. Happy and secure. Nikki closes her eyes and falls back to sleep.