A/N: It's great that so many of you liked the climax! Thanks a lot for the reviews! :D
Just want to clear some doubts:
1) Survi did NOT raise Pari to hate Abhijeet. She fell into bad company as she grew, and when she found out about her mom's past she took it in a totally negative way. And Survi's death was natural (illness), it had nothing to do with Abhijeet. Besides, Pari didn't actually participate in the kidnapping- she was involved in many of Vicky's other criminal activities and only came there because she wanted to meet Adi and give him her (twisted) version of the story.
2) Binny was NOT, in any way, involved in the kidnapping. She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a matter of fact, she found out about the kids being kidnapped and actually came there to find out what happened to them, but due to an unfortunate lack of mental prowess (read: she's kind of dim), she ended up getting all lost and confused when Adi created the blackout.
3) I never said that everyone's dearest Abhijeet was in any way responsible for anybody's death. If you read again, you'll see clearly that it was VICKY who thinks that. Vicky, who was very close to his sister, never got over the fact that she died to save Abhijeet, who was supposed to be their enemy. Plus, it was HIS bullet she died by. How would anyone feel if they ended up accidentally killing their own sibling?
On this note, I'd just like to say that whoever Anon is, they're my most valuable reviewer (though I love you all of course :D), cause it's always Anon who points out every possible doubt that the readers could have so I can clear them in the next chapter. Thanks! ^_^
I hope I've covered everything, so as promised, here's the actual explanation!
"I feel like a primary school kid going to meet the principal," Adi remarked apprehensively as he and Kenny ran up the front steps and stood before the door of Freddy and Manisha's house.
"Well, I feel like an office employee meeting the whole board of directors all at once," Kenny retorted, and reached out to ring the bell. Within a minute, the door opened, and Adi let out a low whistle. "Daya uncle!" he called, standing on tiptoe and craning his neck to make himself heard. "Where'd you find this knockout? And where's Saara?"
"Shut up," Saara said, though she was grinning. She looked entirely different from the tomboy Saara the boys were so used to- she was wearing an orange and pink salwar kameez with her long hair flowing loose. "Get in quick, we've been waiting almost twenty minutes for you guys."
The boys followed her into the hall, where the entire family was gathered. Jeanie, wearing a pink dress and perched on the arm of Manisha's chair, gave Kenny a radiant smile, which he shyly returned as he sat down next to his mother, who raised her eyebrows interestedly as she witnessed this exchange. "Something I should know about?" she whispered to Kenny, who blushed a deep scarlet and averted his eyes. "Nothing, Mom!"
"Niyati aunty," Adi called from where he was sitting on the floor at Tarika's feet. "I'll tell you the whole story later!"
Kenny widened his eyes in horror at his best friend, who smiled innocently back at him. "Traitor," Kenny muttered, and Saara, who was sitting at Daya's feet, winked at Adi.
"Kids," Freddy said, waving his hands for attention. "I think we'd all first like to know the whole story of what happened over the past two days."
Adi, Saara, Kenny and Jeanie all exchanged grimaces, and Saara shrugged as she looked at Adi. "You're the boss. You start."
Adi, a long-suffering look crossing his face, started. "My name," he said in a theatrical voice, "is Aditya, and I am the only son of ACP Abhijeet, formerly Senior Inspector, and Dr Tarika, who was and is the only lady awesome enough to match his awesomeness-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Vivek held up his hands. "We need the story in fast-forward, please, Adi, else we'll be sitting here all day listening to seventeen years' worth of events!"
"I'll do it," Kenny cut in patiently, rolling his eyes. "Well, it all started two days ago, when Saara called Adi and me and told us she had something really important to discuss." Before anyone could ask, he quickly elaborated. "See, we were trying to catch these drug dea- holy crap!" he exclaimed, his eyes widening in shock as he smacked himself on the head. "We missed them!"
"Oh my-" Saara gasped, but before she could say anything, Daya put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry, kids, we got them. That's why we weren't home when you all left."
"Thank God," Adi heaved a sigh of relief. "Go on, Kenny."
"Yeah, so we went to catch them. But even before we reached the beach, we were suddenly surrounded by these rowdy types-"
"And our Suckerpunch here broke the nose of the one who tried to catch her," Adi interjected, grinning broadly, and Saara inclined her head modestly as Vivek and Tasha applauded and Daya beamed proudly.
"But then they stuck tranquillizers in us, and the next thing we knew we were waking up in a cold, dark place that looked like one of the dungeons in Harry Potter. And it was there that we met Jeanie." Kenny gestured to her with the air of a show host announcing the star act, and she waved awkwardly around at everyone with a bemused smile. "They'd brought her in just a few hours before us."
"But how did they get you?" Freddy asked Jeanie, and she quickly recounted her kidnapping. "Then when I got up, these three were there." She indicated Adi, Saara and Kenny, and Saara took up the narrative. "After that all of us started trying to think of ways to get out of there. But then, two of those goons came and stood outside the door. They wouldn't tell us anything except that 'the boss'"- she made quote marks in the air "-would answer all our questions."
"Needless to say, that got Adi's famous ACP temper flaring up at once," Kenny piped up, smirking. "He was yelling swear words at the door for a solid five minutes before we could get him to calm down."
"What!" Adi sputtered above his mother's scandalised gasp. "Aditya!" Tarika exclaimed, staring incredulously down at her son. "I thought I raised you better than that! You were swearing for five minutes in front of two girls? Especially after you'd only just met one of them?"
"Mooooooommmmmmm!" Adi whined as Tasha, Manisha, Saara and Jeanie burst into a fit of giggling and Kenny flashed him one of his most endearingly innocent smiles.
"All right, that's enough!" Abhijeet's voice rang out authoritatively, and everyone quietened down at once. "Down, Tarika," he said in a patronising tone as though addressing a pet dog, and Tarika made a face at him. Adi snickered and continued the story, raising his voice for attention. "When we were finally taken to meet their so-called boss, he started insulting all of you, and Kenny practically had to hold Jeanie back to stop her from attacking that guy-"
"That's a total exaggeration, Adi!" Jeanie protested loudly as Kenny blushed again under Niyati's smugly questioning smirk. "Mom, he's just being dramatic," he said firmly, and threw a cushion at Adi. "Get to the good part already!"
"Yeah, so then suddenly this other guy comes barrelling in, screaming about how the CID's coming, and the next thing we knew they were rushing us out of there. But then Saara convinced them to let us go to the room they locked us in, to get her bag. There we left-"
"Your 'A' pendant, Saara's ring and Kenny's Delhi Daredevils jersey," Abhijeet finished, and Adi nodded. "Bingo. They took us to that old house you all came to and locked us in a room on the- I think it was the third floor. We were all trying to think of how to get out-"
"-when Kenny overheard those kidnappers talking," Saara said darkly. "They were planning to kill us and deliver our corpses to the CID bureau. In fact, if we hadn't escaped, you'd all be looking at our dead-"
"Enough!" Daya cut her off, his voice agitated. He caught Saara's hand and touched her face, looking at her as though trying to make sure she was really there. Tarika let out a small whimper and hugged Adi tightly, just as across the room Niyati did the same to Kenny. Manisha had tears in her eyes as she held Jeanie's head securely against her shoulder.
"But how did you get out?" Tasha's voice came out in a hoarse whisper.
The four teens all took turns describing their escape in epic proportions. When they reached the part about the Slidewash, Tarika and Niyati spent nearly ten minutes interrogating Kenny eagerly about how he had made it, with Jeanie occasionally pitching in with her own questions.
"Mom, Niyati aunty, Jeanie," Adi said patiently. "I'm sure Kenny will tell you the complete step-by-step process later. Can we please get back to the story before Dad's hair turns completely white?" Predictably, that earned him a smack on the shoulder from Abhijeet, but was successful in getting the forensic doctors to leave Kenny alone. Shooting his best friend a grateful look, Kenny continued. "We were just about to get out of there, when all of a sudden this fellow in a trench coat appears and points a gun at us."
"Vicky?" asked Daya, and Kenny nodded. "That's the one. And Adi was like, since you're gonna kill us anyway you might as well give us some answers. And he said he'd kidnapped us to get revenge on the CID because his sister..." he broke off, glancing hesitantly over at Adi, whose expression was suddenly of the 'kill-me-now' variety.
"What?" Tasha looked from Kenny to Adi. "His sister what?"
"Oh, God," Adi mumbled. "Mom," he said aloud, raising his head to meet Tarika's questioning gaze. "I think you and me should step out for a while."
"What? Why?" Abhijeet demanded at once, and Saara and Jeanie exchanged winces as Kenny looked more and more uncomfortable by the minute. Niyati gave him a curious look, and he shook his head and buried his face in his hands. "Saara, you tell them!"
"What the- why me?" sputtered Saara indignantly, turning red as Daya raised his eyebrows down at her. "It's just as embarrassing for me as it is for-"
"What's embarrassing?" Freddy shouted exasperatedly, throwing looks of utter confusion at all the children in turn. "Would somebody just tell us already?"
"!" Saara babbled in one breath, and her face turned so red that she mildly resembled a strawberry in a salwar kameez.
Abhijeet blinked at his niece, looking thoroughly lost. "OK, Saara, the only thing I heard in that was my name. Could you please repeat yourself, a little slower this time?" Saara let out a wail and looked helplessly over at Adi, who groaned and raked a hand through his hair. "It's OK, Suckerpunch, just spit it out! Let's get it over with!"
Saara, Kenny and Jeanie took turns telling everyone what they had heard from Vicky, Pari and Binny, and Abhijeet, his face even redder than any of the kids', stared at the floor as though he wanted nothing more than for it to open up and swallow him whole. Beside him, Tarika merely sat with her chin on her hand, looking at him with an unreadable expression. Adi was hugging his knees to his chest, his face determinedly hidden in them.
When that part of the story was finally over, Daya was the first one to make a brave attempt to continue the conversation. "Well, like I always said, Abhijeet was too popular for his own good. Still is, actually- no offense, Tarika," he added hastily, and Tarika sighed heavily and shook her head with a wry smile. "My husband, the chick-magnet. And by the looks of it, this one's going to be even worse," she remarked, ruffling Adi's hair. "He'll have all the girls eating out of his hand by the time he's out of college."
"Tell me about it," muttered Saara, rolling her eyes, and raised her voice. "Back on topic, please!"
"Finally," Adi snorted, lifting his head and shifting back into a normal sitting position. "Well, Vicky was about to shoot Saara, so I shot the light and the whole room went dark. I yelled at these guys to get going, but then we heard Jeanie screaming, so Kenny told Saara and me to go ahead and he went off to get Jeanie."
"Vicky dragged me into the nearest unlocked room he could find," Jeanie put in, brushing a lock of hair out of her face, "and would most certainly have killed me if Kenny hadn't thrown something at his head and knocked him unconscious in the nick of time."
"My torch," Kenny supplied, grinning. "But before he fainted Vicky fired his gun. Luckily the bullet didn't hit me full-on." He lifted the left sleeve of his T-shirt to show a bandage on his arm, where the bullet had grazed it. "But then it went and hit a bottle of kerosene, which naturally caught fire."
"As soon as he saw it, Kenny climbed onto the window-sill and made me climb on his back," Jeanie said, and all the adults in the room raised their eyebrows at Kenny, who gave them all a long-suffering look. "Let her finish, please?"
"Yeah, yeah, let me finish," Jeanie agreed, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "Well, once I climbed on his back, he made a swan-dive from the window."
The effect was immediate.
"WHAT?" Manisha, Tarika and Tasha bellowed.
"Kaushik!" Niyati yelled.
"Relax!" Kenny held up his hands defensively. "We had a perfectly safe landing! Hey, Saara," he called across the room. "Do you have your Leapleash?"
"Yup." Saara briefly rummaged in her sling bag before unearthing what appeared to be a very bulky mobile phone charger, except that it had neither a plug nor a wire but a kind of clip. She clicked a switch which was above the clip, and pulled at the base of the device. As she did so, a black cord emerged from the device, connected to another clip at the end Saara was holding.
"This," she said in an explanatory tone, "is the Leapleash. One of Kenny's most useful inventions. It uses roughly the same principle as bungee cords, except it can't reach the ground from more than four floors up. You clip the box to a window, or any fixed object made of metal, like a tap-"
"Why a metal object?" Tasha interrupted curiously.
"Because the clip is fitted with a powerful magnet on the inside," explained Kenny. "Once that was done, I just clipped the other end to my belt and bombs away." He made a swooshing gesture through the air with his hand, and Jeanie grinned. "I was so shocked, I actually forgot to scream when we jumped! Then of course I realised we were on a cord, so screaming would have been pointless anyway."
Everyone laughed, and Vivek raised his hand. "Excuse me, Professor Kenny?"
"Yes, Vivek uncle," Kenny said seriously.
"I assume those animal holograms were your work as well?"
A mischievous smile suddenly lit up Kenny's dark face, mirrored in Adi's and Saara's faces. Saara reached into her bag as the boys reached into their jeans pockets, and the three of them pulled out what looked like pocket calculators. As the team watched, Kenny entered a number into his calculator, and held it aloft.
The next second, the silver lion burst out of the calculator's display. Freddy and Manisha simultaneously let out gasps of wonderment, and Tarika and Niyati's mouths fell open. Vivek, meanwhile, was watching the lion's mane rippling with a thoroughly awestruck look on his face. "Kenny, those are very, very advanced graphics-"
His next words died in his throat as the silver panther leaped gracefully out of Adi's calculator to join the lion, followed by the silver bear from Saara's. As he looked at the bear, Daya seemed to suddenly understand something, and he turned an astonished gaze upon his daughter, who smiled back at him and nodded. "Yup."
"Oh, you." Daya hugged her, his eyes glistening unnaturally, and Saara giggled. "Papa, please, don't go all emo on me!"
"Did we miss something?" Freddy asked in confusion, and Daya rolled his eyes. "Freddy," he said patiently to the older man. "What do I call Saara when I feel particularly affectionate?"
Freddy blinked. "Saaru-bear... oh!" he exclaimed, beaming as it finally dawned on him. "So that's why her hologram is a bear! Because it reminds her of you!"
"Ten points to Freddy uncle," Saara laughed as she and her friends applauded. It was then Abhijeet's turn to look confused. "But why is Adi's-"
"Everyone," Adi said to the room at large, looking as though he was trying not to smile. "Look at my hologram, and look at Dad, then back again. Please repeat this exercise until you understand why my hologram is a panther."
Obligingly, everyone's gazes shifted to the silver panther, which was prowling sleekly around Adi with a dignified, albeit rather tense-looking air. Predictably, Tarika was the first one to understand, and her face split into a wide grin. "Adi, beta, that is simply brilliant."
Abhijeet caught on as soon as she said that, and his eyes widened. "Adi, seriously?"
"Come on, Dad." Adi was openly smiling now. "You really think it'd be anyone else?"
"Ah, come here, squirt." Abhijeet leaned over Tarika to give Adi a tight hug, and Niyati looked from the lion to Kenny, who shrugged nonchalantly and smiled up at her. "It was the only animal that came to mind when I thought about you."
That earned him a hug as well, and Tasha, grinning, clapped her hands for attention. "OK, OK, that's enough hugging for now, guys!"
"Great, cause I'm hungry!" Saara declared, to much general amusement.
"You two," Adi said, throwing his arms quickly around Kenny's and Saara's shoulders and steering them away from where Abhijeet and Daya were discussing the case as Vivek entered the details into the computer. "I have to tell you something which is not for my dad's ears. Or any of the adults', for that matter."
"What?" Saara asked, dropping her voice, and Adi grinned. "I got information on a massive theft being planned at-"
"Adi," Kenny interrupted in a shocked whisper. "You know Abhijeet uncle and Daya uncle told us not to-"
"We're not going to go and stop them, yaar," Adi cut him off impatiently. "But we will make sure the team does." He smirked. "Of course, I mean the official team. Because unfortunately, the CID Team Z, namely us, is temporarily put on hold until, like Dad said, we enter the training academy."
Kenny turned so fast that he almost strangled himself with Adi's arm, and quickly ducked under it to hurry over to Jeanie, who was entering the bureau. She was wearing a pale yellow top and a multicoloured skirt, a sling bag hanging from one shoulder. "I'm going home today," she told them breathlessly as she came over. "Just wanted to say bye."
"Keep in touch, all right?" Adi said, grinning at her, and Saara beamed as she gave Jeanie a quick hug. "You heard the boss. And steer clear of empty libraries."
"I will," Jeanie laughed, and Adi looked significantly at Saara. She caught on right away, and peered across the bureau. "Hey, Adi, I think Papa's calling us!" Before anyone could react, she and Adi had disappeared, leaving Kenny and Jeanie alone. Kenny looked awkwardly at the floor, fighting to keep himself from blushing. Unnoticed by him, Jeanie was in a similar situation, though in her case the blush was much more obvious thanks to her traitorous fair complexion.
"Um..." Kenny finally stammered, raising his head to meet her eyes. "You're going, then?"
"Kenny," Jeanie said patiently, smiling, "I still live in the same city, you know. It's not like I'm moving to Nigeria or something."
"Still..." Kenny reached into his jeans pocket and pulled something out. "Here. I've got something for you." He picked up her hand and slipped the object into it. "For you to remember me by."
Jeanie looked down at the thing in her hand, and a lump rose in her throat.
It was a pocket calculator.
"Press 1-4-3," Kenny instructed, and Jeanie did so, her fingers trembling slightly. As soon as she had entered the code, something silver and glowing erupted from the display, and when the hologram landed smoothly in front of her, Jeanie saw that it was a large wolf, with a thick line of fur above its eyes just like Kenny's unibrow. Of their own accord, tears filled her eyes. "Fitting," she heard herself whisper.
"What?" Kenny asked tentatively.
"The wolf." Jeanie blinked back her tears and looked at him. "It represents wisdom. Fitting," she repeated, smiling, and Kenny grinned shyly. "I wasn't trying to show anything like that, but if you say so..."
She cut him off by catching his hand gently with her free one. "Thank you," she murmured. "It's the best gift ever."
"I'm glad you like it," Kenny whispered back, and Jeanie's eyes shone as she beamed at him. "I'll see you later." She let go of his hand and hurried towards the door, giving him a final smile before streaking off down the corridor and out of sight.
As soon as she was gone, Kenny looked down at his hand. There was a folded-up paper in it. Opening it, he saw Jeanie's name written on it in neat cursive script, followed by a phone number and email address. Under this was a smiley. Kenny was still gazing at the paper when he heard Adi's voice beside him. "Well?"
Kenny lifted his eyes to look around at his best friends, who were both grinning expectantly at him. "Guys," he said, his tone and eyes filled with wonderment. "I'm in love."
Across the room, Abhijeet and Daya exchanged knowing smirks.
A/N: Well. Finally. That's that. Please, please, PLEASE, review with your opinions, whatever they may be. If anyone still has doubts, I will answer them in a review, so don't worry about that. Hope you liked it! :)
Just so you know:
I got my idea for the holograms from the Patronuses in Harry Potter. If you've read the books, you'll know what I mean, but I'll explain anyway- a Patronus is something created as a symbol of hope and happiness, to defeat the power of despair and hopelessness. It's the projection of someone's soul, and takes the form of whatever they think of as a guardian. That's why Adi, Saara and Kenny's holograms are animals that represent their parents.
When Kenny gave Jeanie a hologram representing himself, he was indirectly trying to say that he'll protect her and give her hope and happiness. Plus, the code he set for her hologram is 1-4-3... and we all know what that means. ;)
And before I forget... sorry if anyone's disappointed by Tarika's reaction to 'The Tale of Abhijeet's Three Experiences'. But you know, in this story they've been married eighteen years, so I figured she'd be pretty used to this kind of stuff by now, and just laugh it off. :D