The content of this story belongs strictly to the author, -Archi-. Any unwarranted use/copy of it is not encouraged and is strictly prohibited.
We're on Thread 2!
A big thank you for all of the love and support - you guys (literally) make writing so much fun
Hope you'll enjoy the rest of this journey just as much!
Table of Contents
~ Thread 1 ~
Chapter 1 - Chaos
Chapter 2 - Deserted
Chapter 3 - Alien
Chapter 4 - Hide-and-Seek
Chapter 5 - Unsurprised
Chapter 6 - Denial
Chapter 7 - Anger
Chapter 8 - Invitation
Chapter 9 - Cursed
Chapter 10 - Value
Chapter 11 - Exposed
Chapter 12 - Accident
Chapter 13 - Reason
Chapter 14 - Conditions
Chapter 15 - Destiny
Chapter 16 - Blue-Blooded
Chapter 17 - Intern
Chapter 18 - Paranoia
Chapter 19 - Walk
Chapter 20 - Bond
Chapter 21 - Expert
Chapter 22 - Appearances
Chapter 23 - Choice
Chapter 24 - Bed
Chapter 25 - Victim
Chapter 26 - Low-key
Chapter 27 - Bargaining
Chapter 28 - Depression
Chapter 29 - Price
Chapter 30 - Faith
Chapter 31 - Time
Chapter 32 - Pawn
Chapter 33 - Apology
Chapter 34 - Omelette
Chapter 35 - Lost
Chapter 36 - A-Okay
Chapter 37 - Lion
Chapter 38 - Allowed
Chapter 39 - Riant
Chapter 40 - Known
Chapter 41 - Influenza
Chapter 42 - Holi
~ Thread 2 ~
Chapter 43: First
Chapter 44: Accident
Chapter 45 and onwards will be posted in the new FF section. Kindly follow the link below:
PMs/ Update Schedule
Unfortunately, I will not be sending out PMs anymore
(the new IF website is just very time-consuming).
I usually update 1-2 times a weekEdited by -Archi- - 2 months ago
The content of this story belongs strictly to the author, -Archi-. Any unwarranted use/copy of it is not encouraged and is strictly prohibited.
For as long as he could remember, Arnav had loved Holi.
He used to drive his mother up the wall during his childhood, many of his pranks costing her furious complaints and not to mention new furniture. His partner in crime, of course, was Lavanya, who had been clever enough to be his accomplice rather than his victim. The two of them alone would take on their entire family, playing pranks right from the onset of the festival at midnight up to sometimes a whole week after. By the time Arnav was a teenager, people either avoided him as though their life depended on it or simply surrendered to him in defeat.
Those were the good days. The days when life was simple; days when winning a prank against Dev brought him laughs just at the mere thought; days when even his father would share a joke or two.
It went without saying that things had changed dramatically when he started dating Myra. Their first Holi had been epic by his standards, an elaborate plan that was perfectly executed. She didn’t anticipate, not even in the slightest, the bucket of red color he threw on her amidst their college Holi party. She had been furious for days (and also quite red for the pigment had refused to wash off). Of course, he had apologized a million times with a million different gestures, but she only relented when he had promised that he would never play Holi with her again.
That was the end of Holi as he loved it. In the years that followed, although his family celebrated in their usual rowdy ways, he didn’t have the heart to. Myra often stayed home during the festival –claiming she was allergic to the colors, though, he had a distinct feeling that she found the celebrations beneath her stature– and he had grown used to giving her company. Back then it didn’t feel like he was missing much, for a day with Myra without her busy schedule was nothing less than a miracle, but this year, Arnav understood just how much he missed it.
The festival of colors was an absolute joy to experience. Everyone, even the wisest and sternest, abandon their cages and run wild and free. There were no rules, no expectations, no divides. Just happiness.
And that’s what Arnav felt when he entered Shantivaan that morning. Khushi had snuck out to the hospital at the crack of dawn, knowing quite well that he wouldn’t have let her go if he was awake. She had just recovered from her influenza infection; he didn’t understand why she insisted on jumping back into work.
One of these days, he was going to get to the bottom of it. Her obsession with her profession was getting quite worrisome.
To Arnav’s bewilderment, however, every single person of his family straight-up refused to play Holi with him. Even Lavanya, who usually had a prank or two up her sleeve, wished him very formally before running off to join a war against Dev and the rest of the boys. And whoever he asked about this strange behavior, they simply brushed him off.
Annoyed and also quite bored, Arnav retired to the kitchen. Cooking had always been his solace and it was yet to let him down. All sense of time and worry left him as he immersed himself with instructing the cooks, many of who were utterly clueless on the importance of food presentation, when–
“Why are you standing here? Go inside na!”
Arnav looked up at the unexpected interruption to find none other than Khushi standing at the kitchen entrance. Except, she was nothing like Khushi. Her waist length raven black hair –usually tied away in a ponytail or messily in a bun– was left open in natural waves. Her kohl lined eyes, usually so warm in understanding were glistening with innocence and were her cheeks always such a nice shade of pink?
As he continued to stare at her spellbound, surprised and inexplicably delighted, he felt her grow more and more restless, her hands fiddling with themselves, her feet shifting their weight… Arnav couldn’t help but smile, overcome with the thought that he was making her so nervous. He had always known that she was a woman –strong, independent and maybe even rebellious– but it was watching her beautiful face in that instant, that he really registered it.
The bustling kitchen around him eventually fell away, and the only thing that mattered to him was her gaze. He didn’t know how long they stood, staring at each other, only that it wasn’t nearly enough. Much too soon, Khushi blinked and turned away.
That’s when he finally noticed the smirking Mitali and Samriddhi standing behind her. Had they always been there?
“Khushi!” he called, when he realized that she was leaving.
Informing his cooks that he will be back in five minutes, he ran to her side just outside the kitchen.
“When did you come?” he asked, wondering if the excitement he felt was audible in his voice.
Khushi shyly eyed his shirt before saying, “Just now.”
Sam pointedly cleared her throat and held out a plate filled with pink colored pigment.
Arnav couldn’t help but roll his eyes. All morning they had avoided putting colors on him and now they were giving him a tray full of it?
“Oh, so am I allowed to play Holi now?” he asked scathingly.
Khushi looked pointedly at the girls in response. “So they were acting weird with you too?”
Arnav was quiet, contemplating what crazy ideas his cousins had thought of in his absence.
“Okay stop whining,” Mitali said. “It’s your first Holi.”
He didn’t follow. “How is this my–”
“It’s your first Holi after marriage,” Sam cut-in impatiently. “And we thought it’s only fair if Bhabhi puts color on you first and vice versa.”
Oh. So that was what the fuss was all about.
Arnav wearily watched Khushi from the corner of his eyes, fearing her reaction. She may be used to pretending in front of his family, but he didn’t believe, even for a second, that she was actually enjoying it. As he waited for her decision, he couldn’t help but wonder whether like Myra, she too detested Holi.
“So, go on,” Mitali said eventually, pushing the tray of color towards them.
Arnav sighed, deciding to step in. Khushi’s silence told him everything he needed to know. “Mitu seriously, this is childish.”
“Of course not,” Mitali replied narrowing her eyes. “The first Holi is always special!”
Khushi crossed her arms. “Forget it na Mitu… Arnav wouldn’t dare to put color on me.”
Arnav stared open-mouthed at Khushi. Did he mishear or did she really say he didn’t have the courage to put color on her?
Sam –insultingly– laughed. “Oh, now I get it!”
So she was serious. Khushi actually thought he wouldn’t be able to or he didn’t want to douse her in colors. Arnav took a deep breath, trying to calm the adrenaline starting to rush through him at the thought of chasing her through the house, eager to prove her wrong. He was getting ahead of himself.
“You really don’t want to do this Khushi,” he said seriously.
Khushi smirked. “See?” she told the girls. “He’s scared already.”
Arnav had it. He didn’t care if she was teasing him to keep up the pretense of their relationship, because what mattered now was only her unblemished face waiting to be marked by him. In a flash, his hands closed around the pink pigment the girls were holding and without another thought, he threw it on her.
To his amazement, Khushi ducked just in time. Flashing him an impish smile, she said, “It won’t be that easy Mr. Chef!”
And she was off, running at full speed, probably back to the living room to take cover.
An admiring smile spread across Arnav’s lips as he watched her flee, her ivory skirt swaying perfectly around her hips. Had she always looked so lovely? Or was it the occasion of Holi?
“Bhai!” Sam called from what felt like a mile away.
He blinked, focusing on his cousin. “Huh?”
“Bhabhi is running,” she said, her voice urgent. “Go after her!”
He chuckled. “Where will she go?” he asked rhetorically before returning to the kitchen.
The two girls followed him inside, ready to bombard him with questions.
“Seriously Bhai!” Sam whined. “She challenged you – why aren’t you going after her?!”
Mitali joined. “Exactly! You can’t seriously think of letting her go? What happened to your legendary pranks?!”
“Relax,” Arnav said calmly. “I know what I’m doing.”
They weren’t convinced. “What’s your plan exactly?” Sam asked.
He threw her a doubtful look. “So that you can run off and tell Khushi about it? No freaking way.”
She bit her lip but didn’t deny it.
“Why don’t you try bhang?” Mitali suggested with a wink.
“She doesn’t drink,” Arnav replied –almost– instantly.
He frowned. “That’s cheating Mitu… aren’t you guys on Khushi’s side?”
Mitali shrugged. “She won’t mind, it’s practically harmless… besides it’s Holi.”
“No,” Arnav said firmly. “Khushi can drink if she wants to, but I’m not going to meddle with it. Besides what’s the point of winning against a drunk person?”
Sam grinned. “And that’s why you are my favorite Bhai.”
He took a bow. “Thank you, always a pleasure to be your favorite. Now if I have your permission, may I get back to work?”
“Okay okay,” Sam said with a sigh. “We’re leaving.”
Wishing him luck, they left the kitchen, probably announcing Khushi’s challenge on the ever-green, ever-curious Raizada broadcast.
It didn’t take Arnav long to figure out his plan. Khushi was a novice, it would be easy –maybe too easy– to fool her. A timely text, a hidden bucket and perhaps a few choosy dialogues... she wouldn’t even know what had hit her.
Wrapping up his work in the kitchen, Arnav quickly began to lay out his plan. Dev, who was seething that the girls one-upped him by letting Khushi douse him in red, volunteered to do the needful. If Arnav wasn’t amidst a battle himself, he would have definitely applauded the girls for this– Dev looked nothing less than an angry red bull.
Once everything was set in place, Arnav crept through the Raizada Mansion, a full loaded pichkari in hand, looking for his target. He found her talking with Anjali, not far from the poolside, her back facing him. Grinning, he tip-toed closer to her, weaving through pillars to stay out of his sister’s sight.
“Happy Holi to you too Di,” Khushi was saying.
“How are you feeling now? Chote said you were sick last week?” Anjali asked.
“All fine Di... Arnav fussed for no reason. He forgets I’m a doctor.”
Anjali smiled. “Chote is like that... he’ll never let down the people he cares for.”
Arnav wished he could see Khushi’s face, for she shuffled her feet in answer and mumbled something he couldn’t hear.
Anjali cupped her face affectionately. “I told you you’re special for Chote... now will you believe me?”
Arnav frowned. Did Khushi not realize how much he valued her? Did she take nothing away from all those late-night dinners and deep conversations?
“Forget it Di,” Khushi said, tactfully changing the conversation. “Tell me, am I allowed to put color on you or are you going to insist that me and Arnav have to do honors first?”
Anjali laughed. “Unfortunately, I will have to insist… but rumor has it that you challenged Chote?”
Khushi giggled. “The rumors are true. Why should I make it so easy for him?”
“You shouldn’t,” Anjali said with a grin. “But you should know that Chote is kind of an expert when it comes to Holi, so be careful.”
“You have no idea,” she replied with a sigh. “Just be very cautious of any text, phone call or gift you get it… and trust no one.”
Arnav gritted his teeth. He needed to seriously have a word with his family about keeping his secrets.
Being only a few feet away from them now, he peeked sideways from the pillar he was hiding behind, aiming the pichkarisquarely at Khushi’s back. The movement, however, caught Anjali’s attention and she glanced in his way, confused. Before he could signal her to be silent, however, Khushi looked over her shoulder, her eyes widening in shock.
There was no option left anymore. Pressing down on the piston, Arnav ran out from his hiding spot, his aim loud and clear. Khushi –cleverly– stepped out the way and stooped behind Anjali, who, unfortunately, was left to face the full brunt of the pichkari.
“Chote!” she cried, looking down at her white anarkali suit, now splattered with big green stains.
“Bura na mano Holi hai Di,” he said with a wink. “Besides, this is for being on team Khushi.”
Anjali hit her forehead in exasperation. “Arre, I’m on both of–”
He didn’t listen to the rest, for Khushi –taking advantage of his momentary distraction– began sprinting, heading for the backdoor, which led out into the yard where it would be easy to blend in with rest of the guests.
Wrong way, he thought, going after her in full speed.
“Khushi wait!” he called.
Of course, she paid him no heed and kept moving, causing him to chuckle and run even faster. He had almost caught up her when out of nowhere, his father appeared. Arnav slowed down instinctively, but Khushi’s feet skidded across the marble floors and she went, unceremoniously, crashing into Shankar.
“Careful,” Shankar admonished, holding her shoulders just in time and preventing both of them from falling down.
Khushi collected herself. “Sorry,” she muttered. “But it’s not my fault Papa – Arnav is trying to throw water on me!”
Arnav clasped his arms behind his back, hiding the pichkari from view. “Papa, do I look like someone who would do that?”
Khushi was outraged. “Liar! Papa, this is the third time–”
“The first two don’t count okay, there weren’t rea–”
“Of course they count!”
“Wait,” Shankar said, holding up his hand. Turning to Khushi, he asked bemused, “Are you telling me Chote failed to put color on you three times already?!”
Arnav sighed, and crossed his arms, wondering what was taking Dev so long. He needed to get Khushi away from here, before any more family members made an appearance and posed a distraction.
Khushi –very oblivious to his plan– was smug. “Yes Papa.”
Shankar was impressed. “Well look that,” he told his son. “You finally found your match Chote.”
Arnav rolled his eyes, and refrained from answering, letting Khushi completely believe that she was winning this tug of war. As if on the cue, her phone –finally!– went off.
“Oh shoot,” Khushi said, reading the message. “Maa wants something... I’ll be right back.”
And with a swoosh of her skirt she was off, hurrying off to retrieve a jewelry box Dev, disguised as Satya, asked her to get from the poolside.
Unlike Khushi, Shankar, however, wasn’t fooled. Eying Arnav shrewdly, he asked, “Was that really Satya’s message?”
He smirked in response.
Shankar chuckled. “Go easy on her Chote... after all it’s her first Holi.”
“Don’t worry Papa,” Arnav replied cheekily. “She will remember it for years to come.”
Excusing himself, he then sped off to the poolside, where sure enough, Khushi was deep in search for a jewelry box.
“Looking for something?” he asked, keeping his tone casual.
Khushi’s head jerked up, much like a deer caught in headlights, high on alert. She cautiously took a few steps back, glancing at his empty hands for some kind of color.
“Not here do anything Khushi,” he told her, holding up his hands for a better inspection. “Relax.”
“How did you know I was here?” she asked.
“You said it remember? You said you were going to the poolside to get something for Maa.”
“I did?” she replied blankly.
Arnav nodded, confident. “I figured you could use some help… The sooner we find it, the sooner we can get back to our little game of tag.”
She bit her lip, not really buying his excuse. Her eyes darted to the closest door, no doubt debating on running away again. But for how long? Eventually, she would have no choice but to come right back to him.
“This doesn’t count, okay?” Khushi said finally, making up her mind to stay. “Maa wants something, so time out.”
“Sure,” Arnav lied convincingly. “Where should I look?”
She shook her head. “No, that’s okay, I will find it…. You just stay there, where I can see you.”
Arnav smiled and nodded his head, letting her continue her search around the pool. She glanced at him occasionally, taking everyone’s warnings seriously and double checking that he was indeed staying put. It was all pointless, of course.
When five minutes had elapsed, and Khushi was still clueless about the box –for it was hidden from plain sight just like he had planned– Arnav cleared his throat.
“Is that it?” he asked, pointing to a barely visible red jewelry box on a corner table, standing not far from a set of doors that led to the second-floor bedrooms.
Khushi followed his hand, heaving a sigh of relief upon spotting the box. She briskly walked to the table, and was just about to pick up the box, when she froze, and turned to look at him with suspicion.
“What?” he said, feigning innocence.
She straightened up, stubbornly crossing her arms. “You get it.”
“You found it, right?” she said, looking at him sharply. “So you get it.”
“No,” he replied pointedly, playing along. “You got the message, so you pick it up.”
“Aha!” she exclaimed, triumphant. “I knew it! You did something, didn’t you?”
“What would I do? You told me to stand here and I am.”
“No, no... you definitely did something. I’m not an idiot, okay?”
“Khushi, this is childish– what can I possibly do with a box that small?”
“I don’t know, you tell me! Is there a color bomb in here? Because how did you know the box was here?”
“Because I’m not blind. It was right there, not my fault you don’t have 20-20 vision.”
“I do have 20-20 vision!”
“Then you’re due for checkup Dr. Gupta. Now can you please take the damn thing so that we can get back to chasing each other?”
“Hell no. I’m not touching that box!”
Arnav donned an expression of mock hurt. “You have such little faith in me?”
“I have been warned thoroughly, so no, I have no faith in you.”
“All baseless accusations! If you don’t believe me, you can open the box and see for yourself.”
She snorted. “Nice try.”
“I’m serious Khushi, how can I put something in there when I spent all morning chasing you?”
She narrowed her eyes in thought, no doubt seeing logic in what he spoke.
“And if my plan was to hack my mother’s phone,” Arnav continued cleverly. “And plant a box here for you to find, then why did I waste time with that pichkari? By the way, Di is very angry that I got her instead of you.”
Khushi was torn. “Okay, I don’t know why you did all that, but I’m not picking up this box. Period.”
Arnav sighed. “Fine, if you don’t trust me, I will open it and then you can see for yourself how wrong you are. Do I have permission to move now?”
She curtly nodded her head, staying put beside the table. Good.
Arnav took his time to walk around the pool, enjoying the doubt creeping through her at his every step. He could tell she was confused, unsure of what to believe.
“Okay ready?” Arnav asked, picking up the jewelry box and deliberately holding it away from himself, so that it was literally in front of her face.
Khushi instructively leaned away. “Keep that far from me!”
“Why,” he asked in the most innocent voice he could muster without laughing for such was the fright on her face. “It’s just a box.”
“Arnav,” she warned.
“Khushi,” he answered cheekily.
“Stay away from me,” she repeated, taking a step back as an added precaution.
He stepped forward. “You are freaking out for no reason–”
“Stop it,” she said, walking backwards now, her eyes fixed on the box.
Arnav matched his steps with hers, advancing like a tiger cornering his prey. “You can see for yourself–”
Her feet unseeingly stepped on an almost invisible steel wire, stretched a few centimeters above the ground, and without even a little bit of warning, a bucket of green colored water –balanced delicately atop the doors leading to the bedrooms– tipped, drenching her completely.
Khushi stood frozen in shock, her eyes wide in disbelief.
Arnav watched her amused, a grin wide and unabashed stamped on his face. Opening the jewelry box, in which lay a pair of diamond earrings –an heirloom of his grandmother’s that his mother had indeed given him to be gifted to his wife– he said cheekily:
“See, I told you there was nothing in here.”
She gulped some air, her beautiful features contorting into rage. “You promised–”
He didn’t let her finish. “You said time out until you found the box,” he reminded haughtily. “We found the box.”
Khushi opened her mouth to retort, but closed it immediately, having nothing to say in her defense. She did that a few minutes, reminding him hilariously of animated characters he used to love as a kid.
Taking her speechlessness as victory, Arnav dipped his hands into his back pockets, drawing out the same rose-colored pigment Sam and Mitali had brought to them earlier.
Leaning forward, he generously applied the color on both of her soft cheeks, murmuring huskily in her ear: “Bura na mano, Holi hai.”
Then laughing to himself, he just began to walk away, when he felt a pair of hands push him from behind. Not having anticipated it, Arnav lost his balance and went plummeting straight into the pool.
Ice cold water filled his ears and nose as he gasped for air. Pushing himself to the shallow end, he made sure he could stand upright in the pool before shoving back his dripping wet hair and opening his eyes. Khushi was crouching down at the ledge, a broad smile plastered on her face.
“Bura na mano, Holi hai,” she repeated smugly.
Arnav knew he should be angry, or at the very least annoyed, but to his surprise, he was neither. If anything, he was impressed with her quick wit. Perhaps his father was right, maybe she really was his match.
Not breaking eye contact, Arnav slowly made his way towards her.
“Holi is the festival of colors,” he murmured when he was close enough. The water only came up to his midriff, leaving the whole of his upper body exposed to the cool breeze billowing through.
Khushi looked around the poolside, perhaps hoping to find a tray of color lying around. Only there was none. “One sec,” she muttered, standing up.
Arnav was too quick for her. Slipping his slender fingers firmly around her wrists, he held her in place. “Not so fast.”
She glared at him. “Don’t you dare pull me into the water.”
Such a tempting thought, but he didn’t see the point of it. She was soaking wet as is.
“Accept it,” he said instead with a lopsided smile. “I did dare to put color on you, and you didn’t. I won fair and square.”
She looked down at his hands wrapped unyielding around hers. He knew she was thinking fast, trying to find an escape. Too bad there wasn’t one.
Khushi’s hazel eyes suddenly locked onto his, a hint of victory and pride evident in them. He stared, mesmerized, as she leaned forward, slowly brushing her rose colored cheek against his.
Arnav felt blood rush to his ears as his heartbeat quickened, probably loud enough for her to hear. But Khushi seemed to notice nothing, as she gently slid her other cheek against his, before leaning back triumphantly, completely oblivious to his state.
“We are even Mr. Chef,” she announced. “Happy Holi.”
And untangling her hands from his –when had his grip loosened?!– she stood up and walked away, leaving Arnav to rack his brains about what just happened.
Firstly, THANK YOU for all the lovely comments to the last chapter - sorry I didn't reply to them, my AD continues to bustle in full speed
A big, warm welcome to all new readers
Many of you were upset with Khushi accepting Ved's gift in the last chapter... I just want to say that the problem isn't completely from Khushi's side. She has made it explicitly clear to Ved that she has no interest in him (eg. telling him he was obsessive when messaging her, hesitating to accept his gift, etc.)... her pretending to be unmarried doesn't equate to her leading him on. Even if Arnav wasn't in the picture, Khushi's response to Ved would have been the same. So really, if Ved's heart does indeed break in the future, it will partly be his fault too. He is royally ignoring all the signs that Khushi has friend-zoned him. Anyway, we can discuss this in great length in the coming chapters
What did you think of this chapter? Please like & comment!
ArchiEdited by -Archi- - 2 months ago
aaaah it was lovely!!!! loved to see Arnav enjoying Holi again, and the fact that he was cooking ad all. Totally warms my heart!
The exchange between the two was great! after so many deep conversations this was definitely uplifting :)
Really hope the situation with your AD gets better
take care <3
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