Underground fighter, Abhimanyu Birla is a man with it all; money, good looks and a championship belt around his waist, but in a chance encounter with a woman with the voice of an angel and the heart of a saint he's found something he desperately wants but really shouldn't have.
This story does not follow the current storyline and is made up by me, I do not own all characters in this story. Please be aware that this story will depict descriptions of a mature nature; gore, blood, sex, language etc.
THIS STORY WAS UPLOADED BEFORE BUT THE POST LOCKED ON THE FANFICTION BECAUSE OF LACK OF ACTIVITY
●One● It's Knife To Meet You
●Two● The Devil's Party
●Three● Dance With The Devil Tonight
●Four● I Climbed Mount Everest For You
●Five● Pain And Passion
●Six● Tarzan's Jane
●ONE● It's Knife To Meet You
Affliction had been a milestone life had set out, one Abhimanyu had continued to reach yet never surpass. Regardless of how much he tried, cried, bled and begged, agony polluted each and every blood vessel till the magnitude of pain became what his muscles were made of.
In order to exercise the torture, make it a strength and never a weakness, he had to submerge himself in darkness, isolate his soul from any emotion that made him feel good and break his own heart, that way no one could ever be a match for the singular thing that had made him and destroyed him all at once.
His Father had said it better than he ever could, "You've fought all your life, now step into that ring and transform the ache into someone else's pain, beat that burn into someone else's bones" and that was exactly what he did, it was what he had to do.
Fight someone else so he didn't fight himself.
"Birla" a voice growled out behind him, "It's time" Harshvardhan patted his back like one would whip their dying horse starved of food, love and a prize fit enough to make their owner grin.
"Sir' Abhimanyu turned, nodded his head in slight recognition and walked toward the arch, feet spread apart and his heels hitting the ground with a fervour a child would when they didn't get what they wanted.
Shrugging off his black hoodie, he eyed the crowd warily with each step he took towards the ring. Clenching the barbed wire with a wrapped hand, he tugged his body upwards and flung himself over, landing on his toes as he grinned menacingly at his opponent.
The lights dimmed, basking him in a spotlight he often wished he wasn't in, then the bell rung, once, twice, thrice and he once again embodied the abyss he'd grew up in.
"So wait," blonde brows furrowed, "You DON'T want to fall in love?"
"Nope" silky tresses of soil spilled over her shoulders as she shook her head.
"Why? I mean, I see you here everyday, reminding these children who thought they weren't worthy of love that they are, you possess so much love to the point of embodying it, why on earth would a woman like that not want to fall in love?"
Akshara smiled, pure and heartfelt as she squeezed her colleague's hand. "Because I don't want to wake up someday to find out that my love wasn't enough, kids are easy to love, the world is new to them and they're desperate to grow up and feel the love they read in books, but when they actually reach adulthood, everything is that much harder, sometimes the very things you fall for are the things you begin to despise, nothing is ever as clearcut, simple just doesn't exist, but Hailey, the warning is in the words".
"What do you mean?" She frowned.
"Whoever thought anything good could come from falling?" Pushing off the desk, she headed to the lightswitch only to turn her head over her shoulder. "When you grow up, the light goes off and the only thing to turn it on is love, I have love, with my brother, with you, with this job, I can't afford to pay the bill that comes with romantic love, in this day and age, who can?"
"And you don't think any of that sounds a bit, oh, I don't know, CYNICAL?"
Giggling, she placed her hands on her hips. "Perhaps, but it'll save me a whole lot of heartbreak, I want to be happy, Hails, I want to light up someone's life, not allow someone to darken mine".
"And what if you have no choice? Hmm? What happens if you just fall? The warning's in the words, right? No one ever chooses to fall, Akshara".
"Well, then, I-".
"Miss, Miss" a little voice cut her off, "Can you sing us to sleep again?"
Hailey patted her shoulder lovingly "Your fans await" traipsing away, she slipped through the doors to give them some privacy.
"What am I singing tonight?"
"The one from Tarzan, Miss, pleaseee".
Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, she leant forward. "Come stop your crying, it will be alright" holding out her hand, "Just take my hand, hold it tight, I will protect you from all around you, I will be here, don't you cry" lifting the girl into her arms, she snuggled her into her chest. "For one so small, you seem so strong, my arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm, this bond between us can't be broken, I will be here don't you cry".
Glancing up from the computer, Hailey smiled, "Abhi".
"From the fight" he slid an envelope gently toward her. "The Sinners won't be bothering you anymore" he vowed, tone deep as he nodded.
"You know you didn't need to come back for this, right?"
"Of course I did, this was my home, our home, without this Orphanage we would have been on the streets".
"I'm sure your Dad would've taken you in" she suggested, knowing as well as him that he would've rather saw his son rot.
"What and risk acting like an actual Father rather than running the Devils? I think not" he chuckled hoarsely.
"Well he brought up Neil, surely that counts for something?" Placing a hand over his, she blinked away tears at the bruises slowly appearing on his ripped skin.
"Hmm" looking around, he nodded. "I see you got rid of those horrible white walls".
"How did I know that would be the first thing you noticed?" She scoffed.
"I better be off" turning toward the door, he halted in his steps, spinning on his heel, "That singing" a slight tremble rung in his voice "Who is it?"
"Akshara Goenka, our newest volunteer".
"She didn't request a pay check?"
"Ah" his face turned void of emotion once again and just like that, he was gone.
"Akshuuu" a male voice groaned playfully through the phone, "How many times have I told you not to work this late".
"Bhaiyaaa" Akshara imitated, "The kids asked for one more song, what was I meant to do?"
"Hawww, you know I can't do that" she pouted, coffee coloured orbs widening in dismay.
"Well, at least allow me to drive you home" Kairav pled, there was nothing more he hated than his sister wandering through dark alleyways alone, especially in a city as bad as this one.
"I'll be fine and anyway, don't you have that fight to prep for? You know I'm the only one allowed to kick your ass" poking her tongue out playfully, she giggled.
"Ha ha" he spoke dryly. "I'm not going to lose, the Saints never do, the Devils haven't got anything on us" pausing thoughtfully, he hummed, "Although, I heard Birla was back".
"Abhimanyu Birla, he left to fight overseas, made a name for himself, now he's back to take over from his Father".
"Yeahhhh, I don't know who any of those people are" she shrugged.
"And that's a good thing, keep it that way" Kairav warned, "You don't need to know who they are, all you need to know is that they're dangerous".
"That why they're called the Devils?"
"So what about the Sinners?"
"Even worse, God, Akshu, we've been over this".
"I know, I know, but I can't find it within me to care enough to remember, whoops" glee filled her tone.
Ignoring her comment, he spoke again "Text me when you're home, I'll be at the gym, or you can meet me there?"
"What and watch sweaty men lift weights? No thank you".
"Women workout here too, you know".
"Again, sweaty people, not my thing, we've been over this".
A slow grin spread across his lips, "I know, I know, but I can't find it within me to care enough to remember, whoops" he mimicked.
Sliding her phone into her pocket, she shook her head at his antics, for a world class fighter, he really didn't act all rough and tough around her.
"Hey girl, where you going so late?"
Feeling her blood run cold, she scrunched her hand around the lapel of her coat and began to speed up her pace.
"Hey" the man placed his hand on her shoulder, pushing down till he heard a snap, "I'm talking to you" he grit out threateningly.
"I could ask you the same thing" she crossed her arms over her chest as she faced him. "It's so late and dark, go and get yourself home, place can be a bit dangerous at this time of night".
Turning his head to the side, he zoned in on her pink, plump lips. "You tryna be funny?"
"Trying, yes" turning her head, she spoke under her breath, "Clearly not succeeding".
"What was that?"
"Oh nothing, just talking to myself, I often find myself to be the best conversationalist" damn it, Akshara, stop talking! She wished upon everything she could that her brain would find a way to prevent her mouth from speaking everything that came to it.
Shoving her against the wall, he flicked open his knife and pressed it into her neck, "Got anything funny to say now?"
"Knife to meet you?" She let out, swallowing harshly at her own stupidity.
"Let her go" an ominous voice spoke into the darkness.
"Who's there?" The man turned his torso.
Akshara yelped as the man before her fell to the floor in a slump.
Eyeing the heap on the floor, Abhimanyu chuckled, "Are your jokes always that bad or is that only when you have a knife to your neck?"
"Excuse me? My jokes are hilarious".
"Right and I'm the Pope".
"You are?" Her jaw dropped.
"No, I" he licked his bottom lip, "It's called sarcasm" he swallowed back a laugh.
"Well, I'm highly offended that you'd pretend to be the Pope, I'll have you know I'm an incredibly religious Catholic" she spoke sternly.
"Oh, I didn't mean to upset you, I-".
"Gotcha" she laughed, punching his arm playfully.
Before he could respond, footsteps began to get closer, heavy on the tarmac as they turned a corner. Pushing her behind him, he watched the end of the road with an unblinking stare.
"Who is it?" She whispered into his ear causing a shiver to run down his spine.
"Run" he barked.
And so she did.
●Two● The Devil's Party
"So, are you going?"
"Home? No, not yet, I was thinking to set up a movie night for the kids first" frowning, she turned a little, "Why are you trying to get rid of me so quickly?"
Rolling her eyes back, Hailey clicked her tongue, "No, silly, are you going to the dance?"
"There's a dance?" Akshara's eyes popped open a little wider.
"Do you pay attention to ANYTHING that happens in this town?" Gaining a shrug in response, she shook her head in dismay. "The Devil's are having a welcome home party, I heard there will be a bit of matchmaking happening and a whole lot of dancing".
"Matchmaking? Isn't that a bit, oh, I don't know, weird?" It seemed all a bit too 1940's for her.
"Well, yes but Harshvardhan wants to find someone for his sons, maybe he'll be able to afford himself an alliance if the girl had Saint or Sinner blood" whistling lowly at her very lousy attempt to get the age old enmity to finally come to a halt, she blinked endearingly with an added pout for convincing.
"Pfft, me? Go to a party hosted by them? My Brother wouldn't even let me go to that side of town" holding her hand up, she span on her heel, "Wait a minute, are you trying to set me up?"
Noticing her very clear discontent, she narrowly avoided the question, "Just say you're staying at mine? Oh come on" Hailey nudged her, gaze imploring and a smile as slick as sin, "It'll be fun".
"The last time you said that, I ended up covered in custard and had to call my brother to pick us up from a party he had no idea I was going to" Akshara glared.
"That really was on you, I did say we'd get a taxi".
"We had no money, you decided to give it away to the busker who sang your favourite song" she huffed.
"Well we could have hitchhiked? And don't pretend like his voice wasn't as smooth as caramel" drifting off into a dreamy reimagination, she jumped when a stern voice shook her out of it.
"It was 3am and we were on an empty road, what were you hoping, that nice people drive around at that kind of time picking up strangers who convince their friends to go to weird parties that leave them looking like a dessert?"
"Urgh, fine" she threw her hands down, perhaps Akshara had a point. "Just come with me this once, you never know, you might enjoy yourself".
"Fine, but just this once and only because it's you".
And just like that, Hailey's grand matchmaking business had her first two clients; Akshara and Abhimanyu.
"I already told you" Abhimanyu seethed, "I am not marrying someone so you can prevent a war that you started, a treaty was in place" poking his Father's chest, he scowled, "It was YOU who broke the rules".
"Don't you understand? It's more than that!" Pinching the brim of his nose, Harshvardhan blew out his cheeks. "It's about lessening the bloodshed, it's about ensuring there's a plan for when I'm gone, IT'S ABOUT MAKING SURE I DON'T HAVE TO BURY MY SONS BEFORE THEY BURY ME".
"Don't" he warned, finger stiff in his face, "Don't you dare talk about our death like it would matter to you, the only thing you ever cared about was getting to the top" his voice cracked, "It didn't matter who's body you had to step on to get there".
Nostrils flaring and eyes as bloodshot as the blood that'd once covered his hands, he let out a growl. "You don't understand, you never have, no Father chooses to lose their son".
"No, but you chose to kill yours, there are many words to describe you" slinging his duffel over his shoulder, he held his stare, "Father is NOT one of them".
"ABHIMANYU" he roared, fists clenching as he watched his son storm out. Falling back into the shelf, he shoved his tongue into his cheek.
"Bro, Bro, wait" Neil gripped his shoulder, brown eyes soft and his smile even softer. "Please come tonight".
"I can't, Neil, I can't even bare to be around him".
"For me" he pled, "I promise I'll keep him busy, but don't let anyone think we're weaker because of our family issues, it's one night, please?"
Ruffling his hair, Abhimanyu nodded "You know I can't say no to you, but if he says anything then-".
"Then I'll help you leave from the back" he grinned mischievously.
Gripping the railing of the curved staircase, Abhimanyu shoved his hand with brute force through his messy waves. All the smiling faces, the fake jokes and pride in their eyes was nothing short of the biggest crime he'd ever witnessed, this wasn't grief, this wasn't how one mourned when they'd lost their own and this certainly wasn't how they should suffer for their sins. "It should have been me" he whispered into the air, hoping the wind would swallow it whole and grant him his wish by tipping him over the edge,"It wasn't your time, I should have died instead".
"You know," a gentle voice spoke from behind him, "We aren't born to die".
"Leave it" he warned, turning to walk past, he stopped, teetering on his heels at the cut on her throat that travelled down to her collar bone where sequins lined her breasts, tipping down into a long, cream coloured gown that hugged her hips. Swallowing harshly, he dragged his hand down his face.
Clearing her throat, she stepped forward. "I'm Akshara".
"Abhi" he turned back to look at the glittering crystals on the chandelier.
"People are always looking for some big purpose, like their life is only worth living if they fall in love, buy a house, get a dream job or have kids, but what if your purpose is smaller than that to you but bigger than that to someone else?" Joining him at the bannister, she sighed. "Maybe your purpose is just smiling at someone across the street, maybe it's making conversation with a bored stranger or..." she trailed off.
"Or saving her life".
Facing her, he hitched a brow "How'd you know?"
"I think I'd recognise that voice anywhere after last night" she laughed melodiously and as much as he hated to admit it, it was perhaps the nicest sound to ever bless his ears. "I had a candle in my room, large and tall, pink and white mixed together, I kept saying I'd save it for a special occasion but".
"But?" He spoke fast, almost as if he was on his knees begging to hear her say a few more words to drown out the voice yelling in his head.
"But I used it today, afterall, everything is temporary, Abhi" noticing how he clenched, she moved her hand closer to his; an inch away from holding it, an inch away from letting go. "If we keep waiting for something more special to come, we're telling ourselves that another day of us being alive isn't special enough, God forbid, what if that special day never comes? What if we never make it?"
"You're very wise for a girl that makes bad jokes" his brows wiggled.
"And you're awfully suicidal for a man that saved my life" she gazed at him pointedly.
"What are you even doing here? This is a Devil's party and you're certainly not a Devil".
"I'm not anything". Akshara pointed out into the crowd below, "I'm with Hailey, but I think she's too busy trying to get us free drinks from the bar, why are you here?"
"See that man over there, looks kind of like a sasta Sanjay Dutt? That's my fa-" he paused, correcting himself quickly, "Mentor".
Giggling into her hand, her eyes shone beneath the lights, a swirl of chocolate that only continued to captivate him in the essence that was Akshara Goenka. "Tum kya leke aaye the".
"Aur kya leke jaaoge" he completed, corner of his lips curling.
●Three● Dance With The Devil Tonight
Abhimanyu had seen beauty only once before; in his Mother's soft sandy brown eyes that shone with the purity of love she had for him, since then he hadn't seen anything like it, that was until the beam from the lights bounced into a reflection that set Akshara's eyes alight with a fire he'd happily burn in.
It wasn't that he was in love, no, never that, God, he couldn't even define that, not anymore atleast... but somehow, when she looked at him to see if he was laughing at yet another one of her corny jokes, peace filled him in a way that calmed his heartbeat to a rhythmic pitter patter and for a man who'd never known serenity before, he'd swear up and down that it had to be her.
In a world full of misery and pain, she came like an angel with halos in her eyes and a cure in her laugh and suddenly, the world wasn't so bad anymore.
Perhaps he'd just been alone for far too long, he'd made the mistake before of falling for the sweetness of sugar only to find out it was salt. A man in his position couldn't be too careful, afterall, if he fell, the Devils would too.
Pursing her lips, Akshara frowned at the sudden darkness on his face. "Hey, wanna hear a Christmas joke?" Clearing her throat, she pulled him down to sit on the floor, pushing her legs through the bars so her feet swung from the balcony. "If athletes get athlete’s foot, what do elves get?"
"I don't know, Akshara, what do elves get?" He rose a brow, a smirk lining his lips.
"Hehe, mistle-toes" slapping his arm, she bent forward in a fit of giggles, "You get it?"
Although not even slightly funny, a full fledge grin caused his mouth to curl upwards and his eyes to water. "I get it".
"So, for a Devil, you're not very" she shrugged, "Devilish, why is that?" Maybe she shouldn't have asked, but every story her Brother had ever told her painted the Devils like a group of people who lived only to harm, but this man didn't even seem like he fit, but then again, what did she know?
"We're not all bad due to the name-sake, you know" he gave her a pointed stare.
"I know that" she sighed wearily. "It's just, you hear things, bad things and from what I hear, you've been gone for a while, right? I never try to judge before getting to know someone for myself and from what I do know of you, well, let's just say the stories don't seem correct".
"Does it scare you that what you've heard could be right?" He knew his background, he knew what his family had done, Abhimanyu wouldn't blame her for running as soon as she knew who he was, but she hadn't, so that must've meant something. He needed it to mean something. For once he wanted someone to look deeper at him rather than walk away just because Devil blood ran rampant through his veins.
"No" looking straight ahead, she slid her body an inch closer to him. "If it was true, you wouldn't have saved my life, you also would've made me pay you back by now for risking your life for mine, also, I'm sure scary men who kill for fun don't stay away from everyone at their own welcome home party and laugh at strange jokes with an even stranger woman".
"You have that much trust in me already?" Without even meaning to, his eyes widened in shock and his jaw dropped a little.
"I think" Akshara looked him in the eye with a smile that made his chest hurt, "You deserve that at the very least".
Before he could respond, from the corner of his eye he caught the ever familiar view of golden heels making their way across the dance floor. Stiffening, he jumped to his feet, jaw clenching the second the scent of roses filled his nostrils. "He wouldn't" Abhimanyu shook his head, eyes ablaze with a darkness that hadn't saw an inch of light in a very, very long time.
"Abhi?" She looked up, pulling herself to her feet. "Far too old for this" she muttered under her breath before turning to him. "Are you okay?" Placing a hand on his shoulder, she scanned his face worriedly.
"Dance with me" He blurted out fast, more like an order and less like a request, his entire body shaking with wrath.
"What?" Her brows knitted together.
"Dance with me" his gaze softened, hand out for her to take. "Will you dance with the Devil tonight?"
Slowly placing her hand in his, she gasped as he tugged her into his body, one arm firm around her waist to keep her chest against his. "I, I don't really know how to dance" her cheeks heated in pink.
A sly smile drew itself over his lips "Is that nervousness I detect there, Akshu?" Twirling her out of his arms, he span her back in, dipping her into the bend of his left bicep.
Akshara's chest heaved with each breath. "That's new, you've never called me that before" she gazed up at him questioningly.
"Ah, way to avoid the question" his brows wiggled playfully.
"Absolutely not" she huffed, "Do I seem like someone who gets scared?"
"Well" Abhimanyu pulled her back up, cheek beside hers so his warm breath tickled her neck, "Then why are you shaking?"
"Maybe I'm just cold" she stuttered out stubbornly.
"Then allow me to warm you up". Lifting her, he dropped her down so her feet stood on his then ever so quickly released her so she fell back, grabbing her hips, he twisted her body then wrapped both arms around her waist and leant back so her back draped over his chest. "Warm enough now?" His voice was husky, vibrating down her spine as he swayed with her.
"Y-yes" she gulped, eyes closing as she settled more into his embrace.
"Ah, Abhi, how good to see you" a scratchy voice pierced their bubble causing them both to break away.
"Mujhe Abhi bolne ka haq sirf kuch logon ke paas hai" he warned, shoving Akshara behind him as he did.
"Oh, Birla, I see nothing has changed" she chuckled. Extending her hand, she moved her head to the side "Aarohi".
"Akshara" she went to shake her hand only to feel fingers tight around her wrist, looking up, she nodded at her former dance partner's warning head shake. Though she couldn't understand it, Akshara new a warning when she saw one and she certainly wasn't going to annoy her new friend, if she could even call him that.
"Oh, come now, won't you share your toys?"
"She. Is. Not. A. Toy" he spat. "Why are you even here?"
"Uncle invited me, don't act like I wouldn't come for your homecoming, I wouldn't miss it for the world".
Hailey nudged between them "While that's all lovely, Akshu, we have to go, your brother just text me" panting from her race up the stairs, she pulled her away from the duo. "Abhi, we'll catch up soon and Aarohi, I preferred it when you weren't here".
Aarohi's eyes narrowed "Feeling's mutual, Hailey" she spoke with venom.
"Let me drop you" he stepped forward, eyes full of earnest.
"You can't" Akshara placed a hand on his chest as if to calm him but quickly dropped it at the eyes that followed. "Uh, I mean, my brother doesn't like the Devils, it's best for us to catch a cab, but thank you" she smiled. "It was nice to meet you" she nodded at the opposing woman.
"Then let me call one for you?" He offered, "I won't see you both waiting in the cold".
"Oh, so you're a gentleman now" licking her bottom lip, she covered her mouth to hide her laugh. "I'll be with Uncle" touching his arm, she fluttered her lashes, "Find me when you're done".
"You okay?" Hailey slowed her pace so she could walk beside him.
"I will be".
"It'll be alright" she nudged his arm. "If you can survive the loss of Parth, you can survive her, you've done it once, you'll do it again".
"Thanks for the faith" he put a thumb up at her half-heartedly.
"You left because of her, don't let her be the reason you leave again".
Looking forward at Akshara sniffing the boquet in the hall, he smiled, "Actually, I think I've found a reason to stay"
A/N: Parth is Abhi and Neil's older brother in this and Aarohi is not related to Akshara or Kairav!
●Four● I Climbed Mount Everest For You
"Urgh" Hailey massaged her scalp, head in her hands and a bottle of aspirin by her elbow. "I have the hangover from hell!"
"That's what you get from drinking with the Devils" her friend rolled her lips to swallow her laugh.
"Well I'm sorry we can't all be kept busy by cohorting with Abhimanyu Birla, I saw you in his arms last night, something you wanna say, Akshu? Hm?"
Dropping the bottle from her hand, she screeched when it hit her toes. "You, you saw that?"
"Oh" she laughed, "Everyone did, honey, we all saw you dancing circles around him" sipping her water, she looked at her over the glass, "Literally".
Kneeling on the ground with the bottle in her lap, she slid onto her bottom and rested her back against the wall.
"Ah, a demonstration of last night's happenings, I assume his chest is comfier than the wall?" She spoke coyly.
"Shut it, you" Akshara warned. "All I know is we were talking, then he was mad, then we were dancing and then you came and so did uh, what's her name?"
"Aarohi? She's the daughter of a Sinner, they're hoping for an alliance, so if Abhi marries her then there'll be no more balcony dances at midnight, at least, not for you...unlessssss" she dropped her head to the side.
"Unless what, Hailey?" She crossed her arms in annoyance.
"Well, they could form an alliance with a Saint instead?"
"Are you trying to say what I think you're trying to say?"
"That depends on what you think I'm trying to say" she coughed.
"I'm not marrying him!"
"Okay, okay" Hailey held her hands up. "Clearly I rushed it" she whispered to herself.
"What was that?" Akshara eyed her, chin jutted forward.
"Oh nothing, I'm just saying, the spark is there, do you know how much trouble would stop if an alliance was formed? The Sinners would be wiped out and this town would be calmer under the control of the Devils and the Saints, there'd be something to appease everyone. Look, I'm of course not saying marry him right now, but you both clearly have something, what's the problem with seeing if the something there could be something more?"
"Other than the fact I don't want to marry anyone and the fact I don't believe in romantic love?"
"Yes, other than that?" She almost growled.
"My brother hates him".
"Oh yeah, I forgot that part" Hailey offered her an awkward smile.
Kairav paced back and forth across the living room, hands in fists by his side and his eyes almost manic.
"Bhaiya, talk to me at least?" Akshara took a seat on the couch, concern causing her fingers to grip her dress and pull at the thread holding it all together, which funnily enough seemed very symbolic of her life right now- slowly falling apart.
"Those Devils are nothing but evil, you hear me? It's in the name, Akshu, evil is right there". Kneeling before her, he cupped her face "I need you to be honest with me right now, okay?"
Nodding, she held his hands in her lap.
"Did you attend Abhimanyu's welcome home party the other night?"
Forcing himself up hurriedly, he smashed his hand into the wall. "Goddamnit, Akshu, do you know how bad that makes me look? I was told you were there, but I didn't believe it, I said my sister would never betray me like that, she'd never betray our bloodline, but then I saw a picture of you entering a cab from right outside and still I thought there had to be some mistake, for hours I've been waiting for you to tell me they're wrong, that the picture's false, Akshu even if I had seen it with my own eyes, I'd still believe whatever you said!"
Inwardly releasing a breath of relief at him only knowing that, she stood up to comfort him. "Bhaiya, I'm sorry". She hated to break his trust, especially when in a world like his, trusting the wrong person often got you killed, she never meant to hurt him by going there, all she really wanted was an end to the fued that reigned her entire life. "I just went with Hailey and-".
"And nothing!" He scowled. "I don't want you hanging with that girl anymore".
"You can't tell me who to befriend" she reached for his arm, trying to keep her tone calm. "Hailey is the only friend I have in this town, do you know how difficult it is to find someone with no gang affiliations? Near impossible but I found one person, she's also a colleague at a job I adore and she makes me laugh and if all of that wasn't enough, she sees me as Akshara, not just a" grimacing at the horrid taste now in her mouth, she spat the word out, "Saint".
"I'm sorry, you're right" he calmed a little. "I don't want to take away something that makes you happy" pinching the brim of his nose, Kairav huffed, "But no more attending anything Devil, is that understood?"
"I know I messed up and it'll never happen again, but at least hear me out?" She begged.
"Fine" he slunk into the chair, "Why did you go?"
"Just for a fun night out, Hailey is close with Abhi" her eyes widened, "Uh Abhimanyu" she hastily corrected. "But I found out when I got there that he was the man that saved my life, after we got off the phone I was almost attacked and he came and saved me".
"WHAT?" He jumped up. "Why didn't you tell me? God, Akshu, are we that far apart now that you hide this much from me? First that you nearly got hurt, then that you attended my enemy's party" Kairav shook his head, tears filling his eyes. Had he been so busy that he neglected the only person in this world he had left? Where had he gone wrong if she felt she couldn't come to him when she needed him?
"No, no" she wiped away a tear rolling down his cheek. "I just didn't want to worry you, that's all, I swear, you know I love you more than anyone".
"He saved your life, you say?"
"And he knows you're a Saint?"
Grimacing once again at the label, Akshara shook her head. If she had it her way, he'd never find out, she neither wanted to be a part of it, nor did she like that her Brother was.
"Well, proper etiquette is to deliver a gift but since you haven't told him, let's not make matters more complicated, bake him a cake or something, that way at least if it ever gets found out, something was given, it's not enough, nothing ever would be for what he has done" he cupped her cheek, "But it will do for now, unless of course you want to tell him who you are?"
"No!" She spoke far too fast, causing his eyes to widen. "No, no, let's not make things complicated, like, like you said" she smiled, grateful for the fact that her Brother had settled down and that Abhi would see her for who she really was rather than a woman tainted with Saint blood she didn't even want to pollute her bloodstream.
"You just remember" he hung by the doorway, "When we bleed, we bleed Saint blood, you'll be a Saint till you bleed dry".
Waiting for him to leave, she collapsed into a beanbag. "Can't I just get a blood transfusion?"
"Uh, hello" Akshara wiggled her fingers in a wave, "Is Abhi here?"
Harshvardhan's brows narrowed "And who are you?"
"Akshara" she smiled politely.
"No, who are-".
"No?" She interrupted, voice at far too high an octave. "What do you mean, no? Akshara IS my name".
Rolling his eyes, he continued "Who are you to him?"
"Oh uh, I'm his, well I don't actually know if I'm his anything, so maybe I'm nothing, to him that is, not like I'm nothing at all, you know" she blew her cheeks out, why did he have to ask something she was trying not to ask herself? "Actually, that's a very invasive question to ask" she paused to catch her breath.
"He's upstairs" he muttered, leaving the door ajar and wandering away with a shake of his head.
"Oh you're not gonna call him down or I don't know, DIRECT ME THE RIGHT WAY? No? No? Fine but if I get lost in this maze and die of hunger, IT'S ON YOU" she shouted aloud knowing he either didn't hear or did and didn't care enough to listen. "Right, upstairs, here we go, so many goddamn stairs in this place it's like climbing a mountain".
"Abhi? Abhi?" Poking her foot against a door, she bent her head around it, "No Abhi in here, next room". Reaching the end of the hallway, she jolted the door with her hip "Abhi, are you-" the sight before her caused her tongue to tie around the words she meant to say.
Pushing his torso into the ground, Abhimanyu lifted himself up slowly then continued the same pattern he'd been at for several hours now, finally flipping over to a standing position, he grabbed the towel on the hook and swiped at his chest. "Cat got your tongue?"
"Uh, no" she looked down. "Please, have some decency and put a shirt on" tapping her foot, she hummed quietly.
Sliding on a black vest, he reached forward to tip her chin up "Why are you here, Akshu?"
"I bought cupcakes" shoving the box into his chest, Akshara stepped back, "They have little Devils on them, with horns and everything".
"Yes, horns, w-why? Is that offensive?" Way to go, now she'd offended a guy she actually liked to hang with.
"No" he stepped closer, "It's just" watching her back away even more, he smirked, "Do you know what horns sound like?"
"N-no" she spluttered, jumping as her back hit the door.
Pinching her nose, he chuckled "Beep beep".
Swatting his hand away, she giggled "Stop it".
"Thank you" he gestured to the box, "Though I'm not sure what I did to deserve them" he pondered aloud.
"You saved my life and ensured I didn't fall over while we danced, if that doesn't deserve cupcakes then I don't know what does".
"So, you don't know what does then?" He prodded her with his elbow.
"Hey!" She flicked his cheek. "They've got vanilla icing on and are mini velvet cakes" quickly changing the subject, she patted her sides. "Anyway, I should be going".
"You should or you must?" He sat down, taking a bite out of a cake, nodding and humming at the taste, "They're great, you make them?"
"Uh huh, anyway I better" turning to open the door, she gasped at his hand beside her head holding the door shut.
"You're acting different".
Beads of sweat from his chest dripped onto her back, making her shudder as she turned to face him. Frowning at the sadness on his face, she looked away "Not different, just tired".
"Tired? From what?"
"I" she pouted, "I CLIMBED MOUNT EVEREST FOR YOU!"
"You, you did what?" Spluttering out a laugh, he grabbed her face, turning her to face him again.
"The, the stairs, it uh, there was a lot" she gulped uncomfortably. God, she hated how this man enforced eye contact like her Brother enforced rules, it knocked her off guard having to stare into eyes with far too much depth and a multitude of shades that merged together to make a pool she found herself drowning in wayyy too often.
"Hm" Abhimanyu stepped back, unsatisfied with her answer but aware he couldn't force her to stay. Deep down he knew this day would come, he'd just hoped it wouldn't be this soon.
Opening the door, Akshara took one step out before feeling her shoulders sag at having to leave him like this, she knew why she had to but that didn't mean he deserved it. Digging her nails into her palm to prevent herself from turning back, she quickly made her exit.
"I guess this is goodbye then?" He spoke, knowing she couldn't hear him to respond, yet somehow that made it a little better, no goodye from her meant the door was still open to them seeing eachother again; perhaps not by choice, but maybe by fate.
●Five● Passion And Pain
"Are you ever afraid?"
Neil looked up from his book, brows knitted in concern at the pain lingering in his Brother's words. Truth be told, he knew returning from one war to enter another would have an impact, he just didn't expect it to be so dire. Deep down he knew that it didn't matter where he lived if his mind was still imprisoned. Clearing his throat, he placed his book down "More than I'd like to admit, are you?"
Abhimanyu turned his head, the lump in his throat bobbing as he swallowed harshly. "Fear is just an emotion, I can't afford emotions at a time like this, a weakness like that will get me killed" yet somewhere along the way, death felt more like peace than living ever could.
"But you are scared?" He pushed.
"I can't afford to be" he looked away again, eyes zoning in on the rain smashing against the window.
"That doesn't mean you're not" he shrugged, "No one has control over how they feel". Eyeing him cautiously, he turned his head to the side; there was a darkness now, one that wasn't there before and it loomed over him like a shadow that would eventually catch up.
Eyes ablaze with fire, he rose to his feet, stalking toward the door like a predator in search of his prey. This felt all too familiar, like he was caught in a trap he, himself had walked straight into and it was suffocating, to say the least.
"Who is she, Bro?"
At Neil's words, he froze, ice captivating his spine so he could neither walk nor run away. "What do you mean?"
"The girl you danced with at the party, the girl who made you those cakes? Ever since then you've been more silent, more calculating, I've never seen a woman have this much of an impact on you since-".
"Don't" Abhimanyu roared, hand up to stop him from saying another word, "Don't say her name" he pled, voice cracking like he wanted to fall apart but wasn't quite there yet. The tension was biting, ripping him apart shred by shred. Pinching the brim of his nose, he exhaled; "Her name is Akshara".
Immediately understanding, he rose to place his hand on his older Brother's shoulder "And she scares you?"
"Terrifies me" he whispered, head thrown back and eyes blinking fast to hold back tears. "She made my heart beat again and when you're alive there's only one thing that comes after".
"Death" Neil muttered, grip stronger now to hold him up as the weight of his words came crashing down.
"Uh" Akshara slid closer to her best friend, bouncing anxiously on her heels. "Have, have you heard from Abhi?"
Hitching a brow, Hailey crossed her arms, "Why, missing him?"
"No!" Her cheeks turned a hot red. "I just haven't seen him around...was just...wondering" her lips pursed sidewards uncomfortably. It'd been over a week since she'd ran from his house and every possible encounter since had led to her ducking, crouching and shuffling away.
Sighing heavily, she turned on her heel "Listen, I love you, you know that but Abhi' her head shook, "Is important to me, he's family" her eyes became glossy as she sniffed. "I don't know what happened to make you run and hide everytime he comes around, but he doesn't deserve to be thrown aside like he's nothing, he's had that his whole life, do the decent thing and tell him outright why you don't want to be around him, that way at least his mind won't run rampant, no one is forcing you to be his friend, but don't act like he's the enemy".
"I-" nibbling on her lip, she clenched her fist, "I never wanted to hurt him".
"I know" Hailey smiled a watery grin in a weak effort to reassure her friend. "You see these kids abandoned every day, he's still that kid, just grown up, just because we're used to something, doesn't make it hurt less, if you were planning on dissappearing on him, you shouldn't have acted like you wouldn't, sometimes the best people with the best of intentions do the worst damage, you know why?"
"Why?" She gulped painfully.
"Because it's always the good ones who make you believe they'll be better, but they never are, then you're left wondering what makes you so bad that even a good person wouldn't stay, we expect pain from bad people, that lessens the blow, you're the unexpected and I don't mean that as a compliment".
As quick as she'd uttered the words that left far too much in the air, she was gone, leaving Akshara alone with regret eating away at her resolve.
"I'm sorry" she whispered into the silence, though she knew that wasn't enough. The truth was, she had no idea why she'd acted so shady, all she did know was that this man made her feel...things, things she didn't want or need to feel, things that would only serve to complicate an already difficult situation, but Hailey was right, there was no excuse for her behaviour, she'd acted like a child with no care for who she hurt. Something had to change, she had to be better because being worse wasn't an option.
Abhimanyu entwined the blade through his fingers, watching it dip an inch away from each knuckle as it wound through each digit. Someone wise once told him that only the sensation of pain would serve as a reminder he was alive and it was those words that swarmed through his brain as he considered slicing the knife against his wrist.
"Birla" a raspy voice cut through the air causing the sharpness of the silver to slice across the third finger on his left hand.
Looking up from the log his foot rested upon, he shoved his tongue into his cheek in anticipation.
"It's time" he clapped his Son's back, "The Saints are at their weakest point, if we hit now, it'll have a bigger impact".
"You know I didn't come back for that, I don't want any part in the bloodshed, I came to help a friend, not to be your weapon" he turned to leave.
"Then shall I send Neil in?"
Feeling his breath catch in his throat till he almost choked, he growled as he faced him again "You leave him out of this!"
"The Devil's have already contained the risk, Kairav has hardly any assets, hardly any weapons, but he has one weak spot, hit that then this is over".
Grimacing at the thought, Abhimanyu swallowed back the metallic taste now rimming his gums. "And if I say no? All he'll do is come back worse, build up an empire and break us down, then what? When you start a war, you set all of us up to die, this won't end until there is only one man left, what if that man isn't you?" Shoving him back, he almost flinched as his Father's back slammed into the tree.
"That man isn't meant to be me" he chuckled, "That man is YOU, YOU wipe them out, YOU make an alliance with the Sinners, YOU lead this town" each 'you' had led him closer till his face was right in front of his son's.
"I DON'T WANT THAT!" He yelled till his voice became hoarse. "I don't want blood on my hands that I can't wash off, no good man builds a kingdom on the bones of soldiers that didn't understand the war they were fighting in".
"It is better to be a bad man alive than a good man dead, this town wasn't meant to make a hero out of a human, this world is no fairytale, you think I got this high up by making easy decisions? I had to be this way so my blood would have a good life, that's the sacrifice I HAD to make" he spat, the venom in his words only burning the unshaky ground between them.
"NO! It was a decision you choose to make, there was no gun to your head when you threw me into an orphanage, there was no gun to your head when you slept with another woman in hopes of making an alliance that broke our family apart and there was certainly no gun to your head when you placed one against my Brother's".
Faltering back, Harshvardhan's face turned a dark red, eyes almost bulging from his skull as his glasses steamed up. "Your Mother was weak, she wasn't made for this life, she wanted a life of luxury but she didn't want what came with it, I gave her everything and more, one night away didn't break her heart, her hopes and dreams of love being enough did" snarling out the words, he shoved his hand into his hair, "And if Parth had listened and learned the way of this world rather than singing songs on the corners of the street then he would still be here, it was his selfishness that led to-".
"To what? To what, huh?" Abhimanyu interrupted, muscles clenched and jaw firm as he pushed him back once more, "To killing him in front of everyone?"
"I had to send a message, he disobeyed my orders by picking a microphone over a gun, he was warned, he was weak, nothing more than a stain on my shoe".
"Passion didn't need to turn into pain, he wanted a life away from this and he deserved it! My Brother was stronger than anyone I have ever met, he was willing to die for what he believed in rather than kill for it, he was exactly like-" an astounding smack stole away his words, his Father's hand burning a mark into his cheek while disdain fuelled his blood. Looking up with a hand over his face, Abhimanyu chuckled emotionlessly, tongue slipping out to catch the blood dripping from his lip as he smirked. "Exactly like Ma".
"Bhaiya, who's that?" Akshara leant in as she placed her bag on the floor, eyes tracing the picture that'd been bent far too many times.
"He's the reason why this whole war started" Kairav grimaced, "After him" he swallowed painfully, eyes teary, "After him nothing was the same".
Placing a hand over his, she leant her cheek against his shoulder "He was bad?"
"No, no, Parth was the best, he taught us all to dream bigger and be better, his dream just cost him too much".
Brows knitting, she frowned "What do you mean?"
"Sit down, Akshu" he nudged her into the chair. "This is one story I never told you, but the one you need to hear the most".
●Six● Tarzan's Jane
Kairav released a sigh, one that seemed to pollute the air around them with unease. Years back, this was never a story he thought he'd have to tell, wasn't even one he thought he'd have to live, but he had, survived it somehow to tell the tale so no one else would make the same mistake, yet as he glanced down at his younger sister, with eyes full of dreams and a voice as melodic as a hymn, he knew if he didn't set things straight, history would quickly repeat itself in the worst possible way.
"Parth was the oldest Birla brother, he was set to take up the Devil's throne when Harshvardhan stepped down".
"Parth?" Her brows furrowed. "I've never heard of him, did he leave town?"
"He wanted to, he hated it here, the war, the bloodshed, he wanted to end it" taking a seat beside his sister, he reached for her hand, as if holding it close to his could guard her from the words he'd next say. "Do you remember those classes you used to attend?"
"No" he shook his head, smile polite yet careful. "The ones I'd drop you at when you still could wrap your hand around my pinky" he wiggled it as he spoke, his chest tight as her fingers did the same as they used to, gripped onto it like her life depended on it---and it did, without him, she wouldn't survive.
"The singing lessons? Yes, with uh" Akshara smacked her thigh, eyes scrunched in an effort to recall, "Oh, I've got it, Tarzan! He was the one who taught me the song" her grin was gleeful, but she suspected it wouldn't stay that way for long.
"His name was actually Parth" he ruffled her hair, "You just told him he looked like Tarzan and it stuck, you always used to say that when you were older, you'd change your name to Jane and marry him" Kairav chuckled sadly, raising to his feet so he could look anywhere but at her as he continued the story. "Parth wanted to raise the children of the community differently, he had an idea that if all the kids could get along, then half the battle was already won, none of you would grow up to hate eachother because you'd already be the best of friends, I don't know" he shrugged, "Maybe it was stupid, but" his head shook, "It was enough for so many of us to put faith in, it was the only shot we had".
"I don't think it's stupid, Bhaiya" she so badly wanted to comfort him, hold his hand or hold him to her, but it was clear that now wasn't the time, this story, it'd been eating him up for years, he needed to release it, she needed to take the burden from him.
"Parth was set to take the reigns, but his ideals, his values, they were so different from his Father's, he wanted the war to end, he wanted a truce, he even set one up".
"He did? What happened to it?"
"Harshvardhan happened to it" he spat in distaste, even the name on his tongue felt like swallowing acid. "Parth, he was attached to you, always told me that you had the same kind of purity his Mother once did, you always saw the best in someone, when he was around you, he said it was easy to forget the war within" blowing his cheeks out, he turned, resting his hips against the wall with his arms across his chest as if to shield himself from her reaction. "You wanted to go to this school, a few towns away, a music school, wanted to become a singer, I was against it at first, but he convinced me to let you go, said I couldn't keep you here if here wasn't where you belonged".
"What happened to him, Bhaiya?" Though she didn't really want to know, she knew she had to, a man so kind, so willing to do good, at one time, he'd been her hero and the more she heard, it was easy to see why in some ways, he still was.
"It was the day before you were meant to leave, Parth was going to drop you, see if he could find a job near, maybe work on his career too, he wanted to own the stage one day, he thought he could get out and take you with, I didn't understand, I thought the war was over, but it was like he felt something brewing, something that told him he had to leave, that you had to leave too".
"We didn't get to, did we?" Akshara whispered, tears already filling her eyes at the realisation of what was next to come.
"His Father caught on, came in guns blazing and killed far too many innocent people, the families without gang affiliation and then, and then our parents, it all happened so quickly, they were gone before I could even reach them, Parth appeared, begged him to stop, said he'd do anything, so Harshvardhan asked him to prove his loyalty to the Devils, asked him to cut out your voice box, I tried so hard to get to you, but they were holding me back, he knew it would take away your dream, he knew it would take away Parth's, but he didn't care" swiping a tear from his cheek, he knelt before her, hands over hers as they shook in his hold. "Parth couldn't do it, said that the only thing left to heal this town was your voice, that if he took that, we'd never end this and he wanted to end this, even with his Father's gun to his head, he smiled, like he was okay if that was his fate, he held you to him, asked you to sing your song to him and not to stop for anything, even if you got scared, it was a message that resounded to us all, some things were worth dying for, but that it didn't have to be anymore".
"You mean" she swallowed harshly, shoving him away as she stood to get some air near the open window, her face flushed and her stomach churning, "You mean, the man I bumped into when I dropped off those cakes is the reason our parents are dead, the reason why the man I looked upto is dead, the reason why everyone is still in this place of war with absolutely no salvation?" Turning on her heel, her eyes glazed over, a fury catapulting from her irises, "And you never had the decency to tell me? To tell me that people are dead just so I can SING ANOTHER SONG?!"
"Akshu" he reached for her only to flinch as she shrugged him away. "What would telling you achieve? So I could fill your heart with the same hate that's in mine? You evened me out, reminded me of when things went too far, you were the good that wasn't in me anymore, you are humanity, Akshu, we don't have a lot of that around anymore" Kairav huffed, hands running down his face as if they could wipe away the many years of exhaustion. "You were never meant to be a part of this, so I never let you, you lived your life, was happy, innocent, I wish I could have kept you in that bubble, but I COULDN'T, you needed to know now, what we're dealing with, why I HAVE to finish this, but more than anything, why you need to remain good, why you have to be the change, it's too late for me, not you, you have to be what none of us ever could, only you can end this, I don't know how, all I know is that if Parth saw something in you, then he had to be right!"
"So, you just stormed out?" Hailey placed the cup in front of her best friend and took a seat opposite. "That's" she blew out air from her teeth, "A lot, Akshara, jheeze, so much for one person to carry on their shoulders, it's not fair to put all of that on you, what are you meant to do, sing sense into people? Surely he knows it doesn't work that way?"
Wrapping her hands around the cup, she lifted it to her lips. "Honestly, I don't even think he knows, I think he's just hoping I do" looking up at her friend, she grinned, "Thank you for letting me stay here tonight, I really couldn't be around my Brother and act like everything's normal when it's not, it never will be".
"I guess, just imagine the weight he's been carrying, keeping this to himself all these years, don't get me wrong" she threw her hands up in defence, "He was wrong for hiding it, wrong for expecting you to be Miss Fix It, but he did it all because he wanted you to have a sense of normalcy that he never had, he's been alone in his pain, he just wants a way out of this, one that doesn't end up in you or him being dead, is that so bad?"
"You know, I didn't come here for you to speak sense and make valid points, I came here for you to have my back even if I'm being silly" a small smile began to slide over her lips.
"That's what friends are for, babes" her smile dropped as soon as the words left her mouth.
"You okay?" Akshara squeezed her hand, an expression of concern now shading her face.
"When Abhi came back, you were singing to the kids, that song from Tarzan, he asked who was singing, he looked, shaken, terrified, I guess it makes sense now, but that means he was there, you know, when his Father killed his Brother".
Realisation drew out over her features then her eyes shut as if to hide from it, "God, throughout all of this, I forgot about him, to have to live in the same house as a murderer, and not just any murderer, the murderer who killed his own Brother then sent him to an orphanage, I can't even imagine how difficult that must be for him" Akshara's eyes shot open, "Hey, do you think if he knows I sung that song, that he knows who I am?"
"No, I think he just think it's a coincidence, but he IS looking for you" she sipped her hot chocolate, gazing over it to eye her carefully as she spoke the next words, "Well, looking for Tarazan's Jane, he has a tattoo of Jane on his upper left shoulder, had it for years, he never lost faith of his Brother's vision".
"You never lost faith either, did you? You've always known who I am, that's why you hired me, isn't it?"
"No, I hired you because you're funny and good with the kids, but yes, I've always known, my parents died in that war too you know, of course I was going to try and keep you on the right path, you are, afterall, our only shot, but becoming your friend had nothing to do with that, it's your light that brought me to you".
"Oh, God, Hailey, I'm sorry" she frowned, "I've been so caught up in me that I didn't even think of that".
"It's okay" she waved it off. "You didn't kill them, plus, I've had years to deal with this news, you've only just found out about the circumstances, but now you know, what are you going to do about it?"
"I" she sighed, "I have no idea".
"Well, first things first, are you going to tell him?"
"Let's put it this way, either you do, or someone else will, which one do you think will be most favourable?"
"Neither?" She squeaked.
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