Abhi studies the two goons in front of him. They seem to be in their twenties and inexperience clearly visible in them. "Get back," snarls the boy with the knife. With one deft movement, Abhi kicks his hand. The boy was unprepared for it. He staggers sideways and hits the wall, the knife falls from his hand. Abhi then throws a couple of blows on to the other goon till he too slumps against the wall.
Not giving them a chance to recover from his blows, Abhi holds them by their throats and questions them fiercely.
"Who are you ? What do you guys want ?"
Still disoriented, the hoodlums struggle to get away from Abhi's grip, but he proved too strong for the two of them put together.
Nikki and Muskaan notice someone coming up behind Abhi. It was too dark for them to see clearly. However, they noticed he had something like a bat in his hand.
"Abhi, watch out!" Nikki yells. But it was too late. Abhi is hit on the head. He felt as if the whole world was spinning wildly. He staggers back , his grip on the goons loosens. Taking advantage, the boys throw a few hard punches on his face. Nikki's heart begins to sink. She can hear Muskaan calling for for help, but her own voice betrays her.
Fearing they'll be caught, the goons throw the bag on Abhi's face and dash off. Groaning with pain he clutches his head and falls forward. Steeling himself, he struggles to stay on his feet. Putting pressure at the hit on his head, he turns, supporting his back with the wall. Through cloudy eyes he watches the hoodlums escaping.
Damn, he could do nothing about it. But wait! there were three of them! He remembered the blow came from behind. Where did the third one come from?" he wonders. His head was hurting, his whole face felt sore and bloody. He was finding it difficult to keep his eyes open.
Nikki and Muskaan have now reached him.
"Abhi.......Abhi.......are you okay," a frightened Nikki asks him "Oh My God!" she begins to panic seeing blood all over his face.
"I am fine," he tells her, grimacing with pain. "Is Premchand around? Call him, lets go home."
"Whaaat?? But, Abhi you are bleeding," Nikki was appalled at his words. "We are at the hospital, lets get you treated."
"I am fine Nikki," Abhi assures her, though his face continues to contort with pain. But, he was able to see much clearer now. Even though, his head was hurting, he knew it wasn't very serious. "Just lets get out from here."
"Dr. Modi, Nikki is right. You should get treated'.."
"Dr. Muskaan, for god's sake, you both do as I say," Abhi growls impatiently. "Don't forget we have patients coming and leaving. I don't want any kind of panic or scene in the hospital right now. Believe me, I am fine. Lets just go home."
On their way out, Abhi stops and tells the security to be on alert. He asks them to check the area around the basketball if they find anything.
Sitting in the rear seat of the car next to Abhi, Nikki was feeling nauseated seeing the blood on Abhi's face and the graze on his knuckle. The blood was thickening at the corner of his forehead. Her heart begins to ache. Gently, she wipes the trickle of blood at the end of his mouth with her finger.
Abhi was touched by her gesture. "Does your head hurt?" she asks him
"yeah a bit," he tells her his hand touching the back of his head. "I think I'll need a pain killer later."
"You don't think it's a concussion? "
"No," he confirms.
"Did you recognize those guys?" asks Muskaan, who was sitting in the front seat next to the driver.
"No, I think they were thieves," Abhi replies. He was upset they had escaped. It was stressing him that such elements could enter the hospital premises. He knew it couldn't be helped if they entered as patients, but they definitely need to look into the matter seriously. Perhaps step up the security.
"I think I should drop you home and go back and talk to the security," he voiced his intention. "We definitely need to do something about it."
"Whaat?" the two girls were taken aback by his words.
"Abhi have you gone mad?" Nikki puffs angrily at him. "You are hurt and you want to go back in this condition?
"I am fine Nikki," he tells her. "just a few bruises"
"A few bruises! Isn't that enough? or are you unhappy your bones are not broken?" Nikki was livid.
"Nikki calm down! I was only thinking........."
"Don't tell me anything," she snaps "Do what you want! In any case you'll never do anything I say!" She turns her face towards the window trying to hide the tears threatening to fall from her eys.
"Few Bruises!" her heart echoes his words. Those few bruises were killing her here and he is so casual about it!
"Nikki?" Abhi calls out nervously, knowing she is upset and not sure how to handle it. Gently he puts his hand over hers. An upset Nikki pulls her hand away in annoyance. Dejected, at her rejection, Abhi turns his face towards the other side and looks out of the window. There was an awkward silence in the car.
Reaching home, he excuses himself and heading straight for his room, he goes into the bathroom. Few minutes later, when he comes out of the bathroom, wearing a black sleeveless vest over slacks, he finds Nikki waiting for him with the medicine box in hand. She notices his face was now clean and his injuries much clearer now. A grazed skin above his temple and at the side of his cheekbone, a tiny cut on his lower lip, spoke of his tryst with the hoodlums.
"I am fine." He tells her nonchantly "I've cleaned the wound"
"I can see it, but, the one on your cheekbone is still bleeding. Also, you'll need an antibiotic ointment.
"I'll do it later," he tells her casually strolling towards the bed and bending to pick up his phone lying on it.
When he straightens up, he finds Nikki's eyes glowering at him.
Putting her hand on on his chest, she pushes him on to the bed.
"Just sit quietly," she tells him sternly. Abhi is speechless, his eyes are transfixed on her. "Shift in!" she orders him. Mechanically, he lifts his legs onto the bed and moves in, his eyes not leaving her, as she sits beside him.
Taking a gauge she applies pressure over the scrape on his cheekbone. Abhi grimaces. There is a momentary softening of her expression but then when he looks at her, her expression changes to anger again.
He knew she was upset with his suggestion of going back to Sanjeevani. "Good God! Going back to Sanjeevani? No Way! Looking at her face flushed with anger and the tautness in her body displaying an invisible placard reading 'Don't Mess with me', he has erased the thought completely from his memory. He'd rather be chained to the bed for life!"
When she was satisfied the cut had stopped bleeding completely, she gently dabs an ointment over it. Inspite of the gentleness, his wound had the pleasure of receiving, Abhi knew she had no gentle thoughts for him right now.
Confronted with ten goons, he would fearlessly take them on, but this small package of a gorgeous woman in front of him, mouth clamped tightly, face beautifully glowing with the anger stemming from within, was making a jelly out of his nerves.
He wonders if he should say something and break this uncomfortable silence. Sensibility says "Shut up Abhimanyu!" he tells himself. She may just get on top of him and beat the hell out of him. He had the pleasure of experiencing that once before. With bated breath, he continues to stare at her, waiting for her to explode. "Will she? will she not?" the mantra kept playing in his mind. "Come on Nikki, Out with it! Spare me this torture!"
Nikki was uncomfortable with his eyes poring all over her face.
"You always do what pleases you!" she finally explodes, unable to handle his scorching gaze.
"Ah! Atlast! Here it comes!" Abhi heaves a sigh of relief.
"What do you think of yourself? A Superman? Who asked you to run after them, like that? You should have let them be. But no, you have to prove yourself a Hero!" she scoffs at him with the raise of both hands
Now this is something he was definitely not expecting at all! Completely shaken by her accusation, he gapes disbelievingly at her.
"Hello!" he bellows "those guys attacked you and snatched your bag! What did you want me to do? Say "Bye, Bye, See ya, Do return the bag tomorrow, if it pleases you guys and yes, if possible do inform us about your next visit. We'll be duly honoured!"
Nikki was even more infuriated with his taunting.
"Its only a bag Abhi. They were thieves. We can always put a police complaint."
"Its not only about the bag Nikki, its about these hoodlums entering our hospital premises," he retorts angrily. He was already annoyed that the goons had got away. "If I had caught them it would be easier for the police and us to know who the culprits are."
"What if they had attacked you with that knife?" a tiny shiver goes through her whole body at the thought. "You keep telling me to take care of myself yet when it comes to yourself, you don't realize the danger you get into."
"Dammit Nikki why don't you understand?" Abhi grunts in frustration. "You think I enjoy getting hurt? I have a responsibility to my patients and staff!"
"And what about your responsibility to me and our baby?" she snaps back at him "If anything happened to you ? and Mama? Thank god she is in Pune for the weekend. What if she had to see you like this ?"
"but what Abhi?" She flares at him. "do you know what I go through when I see you in danger ?
"Wow! Now you realize it! " Abhi sneers. " I keep going through it all the time when you stupidly put yourself in danger. Even today, I told you to wait for me in your cabin. But no! you had to do the opposite of what I say and then you turn around and accuse me of doing what I like. Do you realize you would have been injured today?
"So go ahead punish me for it!" she challenges him tilting her face upwards. "If you've not had your fill of punishing me, go ahead and dish out some more," there were angry tears in her eyes. Abhi begins to soften at her words.
"Nikki that's not true," his voice carried the softness he was feeling. "I can never think of punishing you. He reaches for her shoulders but Nikki pushes his hands away and continues to dress the wound on his forehead.
"Nikki, look calm down!" Abhi pleads, but she ignores him and slaps the plaster tape forcefully on his forehead.
"Oww!" Abhi winces. Regretting her act, her hand instinctively goes to the spot. A smile erupts on Abhi's face at her spontaneous tenderness, inspite of her anger.
"Dr. Nikita, Do you treat all your patients like this?
"Only the most insufferable, pig-headed ones! And you know what? In my whole career, I have had the misfortune of meeting only one. Do you want to know who?" her eyes were blazing.
"I know, I know. Yours truly!" Shaking his head and with a charming smile, Abhi raises his palm in acceptance.
Caught in his irresistible smile, Nikki finds herself melting. She darts a scowl him.
"Dying to scratch my face?" he teases
"Yes," she confirms, with a sardonic twisting of her face.
"Well go ahead and do it. You'll feel better," he tells her understandingly.
Nikki remains mum. "Come on, go ahead and do it," he goads. "You've always been spunky. What's stopping you now?'
Pointing to her heart, she chokingly says, "This is what is stopping me. This hurts me when you hurt, but you won't understand that!" she sneers.
Shutting his eyes, Abhi hangs his head down in defeat. His face, his head, everything felt sore and he had no inclination to carry on with this argument anymore, neither, did he want her to get more upset, especially in this condition.
"Okay, look, I am sorry. I didn't mean to upset you," sheepishly he tells her the truth. "I don't want you to be hurt!"
"yeah that is why you keep troubling me so much !" Nikki counters back at him. "Always getting angry on me, hurting me or upsetting me."
Tears begin to trickle down her cheeks. She angrily brushes them away with the back of her palm. There is a heavy tug in Abhi's heart. He puts his fingers under her chin and lifts it up. Annoyed, Nikki slaps his hand away.
"Just leave me alone! Don't touch me!" she tells him agitatedly.
"Nikki'..." he calls out lovingly. She hated it when he called her like that. There was so much love and concern in his voice, yet inspite of it, he manages to hurt her all the time.
Abruptly she stands up, her heart was heavy, her eyes teary. With one knee bent over the bed, she looms over him and holds his head on either side. Then pulling it gently forward, she proceeds to check the wound at the back of his head.
Abhi smiles. He was enjoying the warmth she was exuding as she encircled him.
"Thank God, its not a bad one!" she mutters, but, Abhi is not listening.
He holds her around her waist and places soft kisses on her stomach. Through the fabric of her kurti, Nikki can feel the heat of his kisses. She shuts her eyes bracing herself. How does she fight him when he keeps capturing all her senses all the time! Without actually intending to, her hands automatically looped around his neck.
Encouraged by her response, Abhi looks up at her and gently pulls her down, till she sits facing him. Leaning closer to her, he looks searchingly into her face. Nikki eyes him with suspicion. The tears shone like bulbs in her eyes, making them sparkle.
"Your eyes look even more beautiful," he whispers "with those big tears in them."
"Oh yeah! That is why you make me cry all the time?" she sniffs.
Abhi chuckles at her stubborn attempt to cling on to the last tiny bit of receding anger.
A lone teardrop then leaves her left eye. Abhi bends forward and catches it on her cheek, with his lips. He traces its path back, upwards, ending it with a kiss on her eye.
Nikki's heart soars with happiness. She opens her eyes and finds him staring at her. Her cheeks flushes with colour. They were so close, she could feel the warmth of his breath on her face. His index finger moves lazily, up and down her face in a slow caress. This time Nikki does not protest.
"I hurt you?" he asks, in a soft whisper, his finger tormentingly playing all over her face making her heart throb violently.
She nods her head in the affirmative, agonizingly moving her face towards his touch.
"Hmmm.........so I hurt you? " Abhi drawls once again, his eyes were now gleaming with mischief.
"You do!" she tells him vehemently. "You should be sorry for it."
" I did say sorry!" Abhi reminds her
"Sorry!" she mouths mockingly.
"Hmmm.........Doesn't work?" Abhi raises an eyebrow. Sulkily, Nikki shakes her head in the negative.
"No mercy?" He asks again, making a puppy face.
It took all she possessed for Nikki to stop herself from laughing. She screws up her nose in reply to him.
"Even if I show you how sorry I am?"
"Really? And how?" curiosity makes her eyes narrow together.
With a seductive smile, Abhi pulls her closer and putting his lips on hers mumbles, "Like This!"
Nikki punches him on the chest. "Its not fair!" her protest was just a feeble token.
"Whats not fair?" he asks feigning innocence. "This?" he moves his lips to edge of her mouth. Nikki parts her lips in anticipation of another kiss. "Or this?" He lifts his lips, deliberately, not giving into her desire and kisses the other end of her mouth. "Or this ?" he kisses her lower lip. Nikki is unable to bear his torture anymore. "I hate you Abhi!" she moans, her hands moving behind his neck and pulling him closer to her. Abhi chortles at her impatience and aggression. He then firmly clamps his mouth over hers. A delighted Nikki begins to wallow in the luxury of his kisses.
"So Sorry dinner plans got ruined," Abhi whispers sometime in between their kissing , "and I've never been a dessert person, but, this is the only dessert I can even die for!" There is a naughty gleam in his eyes.
"Shut up, Will you?" Nikki playfully punches him on the chest.
"As you say!" he grins pulling her once again into his arms and raining kisses all over her face and neck.
"Ooops sorry, I promise I didn't see much." Startled by Muskaan's voice, they pull apart. They were so caught up with each other that they forgot Muskaan was waiting outside for them. Seeing her back towards them and her hand covering her face in embarrassment, Abhi and Nikki smile knowingly at each other.
"Yes Dr. Muskaan?" Abhi asks wryly. "What can we do for you?"
Muskaan turns towards them. "Oye, you two, I am so hungry and bored out there and you two are romancing here. First you fight as if you will kill each other and then you....... you........." she flusters "KISS," it was a tiny squeak that came out "Kiss as if there is no tomorrow." Abhi and Nikki are highly amused. Their faces filled with mirth, they look at each other. "And even if you want to, can't you shut the door and romance?" Muskaan continues with her ranting.
"Sorry Muskaanji," Abhi's voice had sarcasm in it. "Next time, I want to kiss my wife, in my own house, in my own room, I'll surely remember to take permission from you. Anything else Jee" he mocks meekness blinking his eyes.
Stiffling her giggle, Nikki makes eyes at him.
"I've come to tell you Pushpa has served dinner," Muskaan tells him hotly, annoyed with his teasing her "Also you forgot? We still have to discuss Mr. Khanna's case."
"Bhai!" Sid bursts into the room.
"Aah! See your prayers are heard," Abhi tells Muskaan "Someone has come to give you company."
Sid goes over to the bed.
"Bhai what happened? Pushpa said you were injured." There was genuine concern all over his face.
"I am fine Sid. Just had a scrap with a couple of thieves"
"Tell me Bhai, did you see their faces. How dare they do this to you? I'll straighten them up. How can anyone lay a finger on my brother and get away with it! How I wish I was there!" The other three smile watching his innocent ranting displaying his concern and reverence for his brother.
Abhi was deeply touched by his concern.
"Relax Sid! I am fine," he assures him.
"Yeah and enough of injuries for the day," Nikki stands up darting a peevish glance at Abhi, who returns a sheepish smile , as he steps out of the bed.
"Lets have dinner, I am starving" she tells them.
"Yeah okay," Abhi looks guiltily at her. He didn't realise how hungry she must be. "Muskaan we will discuss your case after dinner."
When they were walking out of the room, Abhi slowly entwines his fingers into hers and holds her back.
"Should we try dinner tomorrow or stick to dessert?" he asks her, his eyes dancing with mischief
"Na Na," Nikki shakes her head in the negative. "No dinner tomorrow"
"Okay Dessert? I knew it!" he exclaims excitedly, bending forward in an attempt to steal a kiss.
"Na Na.......no dessert either!" Nikki teases placing a finger on his lips, thwarting his attempt.
"Because we have to go to Rohit's place. Remember they are leaving on Sunday for their honeymoon and have invited us for dinner tomorrow."
"Oh No!" Abhi rolls his eyes in exasperation.
"Oh Yes!" impishily, Nikki's eyebrows take turn in dancing. "Now lets have today's dinner today itself.
"You already had too much for the day! You didn't even deserve it!" she tells him, her eyes scanning his injuries.
"Where the hell are you guys stuck now?" Hearing Muskaan's bellowing Nikki smiles and pushes Abhi ahead, as she follows him out of the room
Just as they sat down for dinner, Riddhima, Armaan, Anjali and Atul enter, letting them know, as soon as Muskaan informed them Abhi was injured, they were so worried, they had to come and see him. Abhi was overwhelmed with their concern.
During dinner, Armaan rags Abhi about his injuries.
"Tomorrow wear a shirt that matches with your medals," he teases. Everyone burst out laughing. Sid who was sitting next to Armaan raises his hand and they exchange a High Five.
"Yeah, Yeah," Abhi grins. "I would only be too happy to give some medals to you." Mockingly, he waves a fist at Armaan. Everyone laugh. "Or wait, I have a better idea! Why don't I just mummify you!" he tells him tongue in cheek. "Just imagine how good you'll look! From Armaan the Dude you'll be Armaan the Mummy!" Everyone roar into uncontrollable laughter.
Abhi had plans to spend some sweet moments with his wife tonight, but he never expected to be down with a few bruises instead. Things never necessarily go as per plans and then, not all failed plans, turn out to be disasters.
Today, the failed plan and bruised face made him realise he has so many lovely and caring people around him now. As he watches the happy faces laughing, teasing, and exchanging jokes, his heart begins to weigh heavily. He had never ever imagined they would care so much for him. A lump begins to form in his throat.
Noticing Abhi having suddenly gone quiet and lost in thoughts, Nikki begins to feel concerned. Gently she places her hand on his thigh bringing him out of his musings. Looking at her raised eyebrow, he blinks his eyes indicating he was fine. Nikki smiles and pulls away her hand. Abhi stops her hand midway and pulls it back on his thigh. He needed the comfort she was providing. Gently he caresses her hand and smiles at her.
After dinner the group get into serious discussion about the complications of Mr. Khanna's peptic ulcer. In midst of the discussion, Nikki was finding it difficult to keep awake. Her eyes were drooping. Noticing her brave attempts to stay awake, Abhi tells her to go to her room and sleep. Nikki was reluctant to go. She continues to sit with them, but, inspite of all her attempts, she curled up on the sofa and fell off to sleep bringing a smile on everyone's face. After they arrive at a decision, the group leave telling Abhi to be careful.
Looking at Nikki's sleeping form, Abhi smiles. How angelic she looked in her sleep when just a couple of hours ago, she was this blazing volcano.
Gently he lifts her up and carries her to their room, grimacing as his head twitches in pain, with the sudden increase in weight. He remembers how Nikki lovingly popped a pain relieving pill in his mouth the moment they were done with dinner and smiles.
He lays her gently on the bed and pulls the comforter over her. A deep tenderness fills his heart as he watches her draw her knees up till her abdomen, settling herself into a comfortable position as she slept.
If there was even an iota of doubt if she cared for him, it was completely wiped out with her angry and caring outpourings this evening. Unable to stop himself, he tenderly runs a finger on her face. "You make me whole Sweetheart !" his heart whispers as he watches her. "I love you from the bottom of my heart. I don't care a damn about the past anymore. Nothing matters to me. Only you and our baby," His hand moves down to her swollen abdomen. Looking at her face again, he smiles fondly, "You are my whole world."
He wished he could wake her up and tell it to her there and then. But, he knew she was physically and mentally exhausted by the incident in the evening. He himself was feeling very tired and sleepy.
An idea dawns on him. He'll give her a surprise. Tomorrow night after the dinner, he'll book themselves in a hotel room. No, he decides against it with the shake of his head. Its best not risking it by taking her out, especially after tonight.
Instead he'll get their room decorated while they are at Rohit's place. Its time to give her that something special he secretly got made for her. But, he'll need someone to do it for him and keep it a secret from Nikki and everyone. Who? He ponders. After narrowing down the options in his mind, he decides on Armaan and Riddhima. They can co-ordinate with Pushpa and set it up from him.
He looks back at Nikki.
"I love you!" he whispers.
"I love you too!" pat came her response.
Abhi is rooted to the spot.
"Nikki?" he gets no answer
"Abhi, please let me sleep," she mumbles grudgingly indicating she was fast asleep.
Abhi shakes his head in relief and smiles
PRECAP TO PART 33
But now was not the right time, he'll do it when he surprises her tonight. Now he'll tease her a little.
"Abhi?" she whispers, nudging him out of his reverie.
"Without a punishment? Do you think its fair?" he asks her pretending hurt. "I want my pound of flesh!"
"You know Abhi this is the first time I, willingly, want to put myself through punishment. Do you know why?"
Abhi shrugs trying to figure out the answer.
"Because sometime or the other, we all want to atone for our mistakes?"
"No!" Nikki shakes her head. "because YOU paid heavily for my mistake!'
Abhi feels his heart ripping apart as he looks at the stark honesty in her eyes.
"So tell me Abhi what is your pound of flesh?"
Smiling wryly, Abhi turns to the mirror and brushes his hair. "Let it go Nikki, You won't be able to do it!'
Nikki comes up behind him and puts her arms around him placing her hands on his chest.
"Try me Abhi!" she prods.
"Sure?" he questions with the raise of his eyebrow.
"Yeah," Nikki nods, resting her chin on his shoulder.