NOTE: To any "new" readers who like to read the "last" chapter first. FYI…There are lots of spoilers in here, so don't read this author's note first, please!
For everyone else…
This story was always going to end at the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is, IMO, one of the most powerful memorials in my nation's capital and if you ever have an opportunity to visit it, don't let it pass you by.
What I didn't know for a long time was whether or not Jay was going to find his father's name or Joey's name on the Wall. I didn't decide until that moment where Phoebe mentioned to Chandler that she saw Joey at the subway station before he left for basic training. I decided then and I can't tell you exactly why, but I'm glad that is the direction I went. I can't get through the old Mondler fic "Butterfly Kisses" without bawling my eyes out, so I don't really know how I thought I could write a Chandler death scene! Acknowledging Joey's death was hard enough, and the Wall scene…let's just say it got to me.
I want to thank you for going on this roller coaster ride with me. In my mind it was a huge risk to post this fic in the first place. It was a war fic - and a lot of us had just finished a fantastic, epic one in "You" - so I thought there may be some "war story fatigue." (In that vein, I have to give credit to Megan for her initial encouragement to post this fic - thank you.) The American Vietnam era is one that a lot of loyal readers probably never even learned about in history class at school, so knew little about. It began with our favorite couple linked to other lovers, there was a lot of pain and hurt inflicted on both by both, and every other "Friend" had a key role as well.
I remember writing the first chapter (well, Chapter 2 in the order) and thinking "what the hell am I doing?" In that chapter alone I had 8 characters with different back stories to get through and I thought I'd lost my mind. That was way back in November 2014 (according to my "time stamp"), even before I finished posting "Breathing Room." I took a FWIW break around Christmas to write "All Is Bright" because I had to get all the Mondler angst away from my mind for a while and inject some happy! Even for me, the angst lover, it was getting a little overwhelming.
"Act I" was almost all posted when I realized how crazy-long this was going to be and I had several moments when I wondered if I could do it, strictly from a time/life standpoint. My only goal when I started writing this story was to make it interesting and sustain the emotion throughout in a realistic way. I think - hope, pray - I accomplished that.
I also wanted each of our "Friends" - Chandler, Monica, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe and Joey - to be heroes and to be flawed at various times in the story. Because to me that's what made what could have just been a "funny sitcom" extra special and so enduring. We've related to them so much because they were all "heroes" and they were all "flawed" - well, hell, aren't we all?
Now, some of the rest of this is really personal, so please don't read it if I've bored you to tears already…
First, the music. It will come as no shock to several of you that music has played a large part in my stories. It plays a large role in my life. And I love it all - rock, country, pop, alternative, jazz, blues, standards, old, new - you name it, I've listened to it. It became a kind of obsession to find an appropriate-era song to reflect each chapter. Some of them were easy and some not so much, but the biggest irony for me is that none of the chapter titles were the catalyst for this fic.
It all started sometime last fall when I had my headphones in doing the dishes and alt-J's "Left Hand Free" popped up on my iTunes radio. I thought it had that kind of golden, gritty, 1960s vibe to it and all of a sudden these images of Vietnam-era Mondler started flashing in my mind, and of course wouldn't go away. The lyrics of "Ghosts That We Knew" - yep, Mumford & Sons - helped the story take its shape and was the working title of this for a long time. I finally settled on "For What It's Worth" for two reasons. One, it came to be the iconic song of that era and I thought it would set the mood well. Two, and this is rather pathetic, but every time I posted and wondered - especially in the beginning - if anyone was interested I'd say to myself "well, here's another chapter, for what it's worth." Yes, really - LOL! Of course it eventually became the chapter title in the chapter where Joey died, and I thought that was apropos.
Second, dear Chrisi once mentioned she thought I wrote some of my life experiences into my stories, almost like parts of a diary. It has never happened more than in this story, I can tell you that! There are, literally, dozens of instances, big and small, where my history intersected in this story. I'll name just a few (see, I told you to jump off if I was boring you - it's getting worse! ;)).
Both my Dad and Father-In-Law served during Vietnam. Both came home, thankfully, or I wouldn't be around and neither would my husband. :) My Father-In-Law was drafted in the Army and sent to basic training in Georgia. My Dad enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed at Travis AFB in California for 4 years. My Grandma's name was Jerri (well, not really, but that's what she went by) and my Grandpa's name was Howard. Jeremiah Howard Bing is based off my Grandpa. He was a very kind man and he always, always had a "pocket full of sunshine," butterscotch candies were always available to anyone from him.
Monica's profession was mine for years - in newspapers, not TV, but in newsrooms. I was in a newsroom on 9-11 and my soon-to-be husband was in one, too. Not in NYC, but that day it didn't matter. I do know what it is like to be in that environment when the biggest news in the world is happening all around you. Also, like Monica, I've had two high risk pregnancies that ended with two beautiful, healthy babies and two C-sections. It was nothing as dire as what I put Monica through, but I do know first-hand that you'll do anything you think you have to do to have a healthy baby, no matter what it costs you.
I chose the name Hope for their daughter because every good war story should end with some "hope," right? :) It is a nod to "You", but Hope is also the name of my "second" daughter, my daughter's BFF since she was 1-year-old and I wanted her name in here (another diary entry, I suppose). There's more, but I'll stop boring you now.
In the end I have to admit that writing and posting this story has been like giving birth to my third child! Lord knows it took that long!
I felt like, the last 10 chapters especially, I was writing against the clock with my hair on fire. I hate to write and post an AU the way I did the last chapters of this one. I really tried hard to not let this story suffer, and I hope it didn't, especially since this is more than likely my grand hurrah. I've learned to never say never, but I do believe, like Gloria, that God "puts you where you need to be until your job is done." And when I re-read Joey's one quote "well, I've put in my time," it really hit me. That's probably too dramatic for fanfiction, but that's the way I feel ATM. I feel like my job here is done.
I know we are all busy people, but it's been a busy summer in the busiest year of my life. The history book I've co-authored is being released at the end of the month. There are launch parties and book signings to attend, which is all very surreal to me but exciting. I wish it was for something like "For What It's Worth," but maybe someday it will be. For now I'm just excited that this will be the first Mondler story my husband will read, now that it's complete.
I've been blessed beyond measure in my life and for the last 10 years have worked from home as an independent contractor while I raised my kids. I've done a bit of everything, including writing. Not enough writing, though, which led me here 18 months ago to write "TOW The Blue Shirt."
Now that's changing, too. I'm going back to work full-time very soon and that changes everything in my little family dynamic. But the absolute best part is I will, once again, be writing for a living and I can't tell you how happy I am. I'll be telling people's stories. That's all I've ever wanted to do, and in a very large part I have all of you to thank for that.
Every review, every word of encouragement from each of you has been a blessing and I mean that sincerely. Some of you I've gotten to know very well and that has been a blessing, too. For this story I have to specifically mention Mondler2014. Thank you for your notes of encouragement down the stretch. You knew exactly what to say without me even knowing what I needed to hear, and I thank you from the depths of my heart - for your words and your friendship.
Thank you, all of you, every single reader of this story for being a part of "For What It's Worth."
Being a part of this fandom has meant more to me than you know. It's a very special place to be.
Now, it seems to me that we've had a bit of a renaissance of good Mondler/Friends fanfic writers emerge in the last few months. Beth, specifically, comes to mind but there are others. That is great, so great. This couple and this show remain inspiring and, when I can, I will certainly be here to enjoy more great Monica and Chandler adventures. They are, after all, the best ones! ;)
I'm going to miss 1968 Monica and Chandler, but someday I'll go back and read FWIW again. I really hope you will, too. :)
God Bless All of You,
Kel (aka OldMonderLover)