TOW the Painted Heart
A light-hearted alternative way for everyone to find out about Monica and Chandler's secret relationship. I've probably screwed with the timeline slightly but it's set in season 5 when only Joey knows and Ross isn't living with the boys.
"He's alive!" Joey joked loudly, a little too loudly, as a hung-over Chandler emerged from his bedroom.
Chandler wearily collapsed on a kitchen stool clutching his head. It hurt.
"Do you want some pain killers?" Joey asked as he placed a glass of water in front of his suffering roommate.
"No," he didn't risk shaking his head, "uh, Monica left some on my nightstand." He just prayed they would kick in soon.
"Oh, she came and checked on you this morning," he informed him, "said she'd cook you breakfast when your stomach's up to it."
Despite how he was feeling Chandler couldn't help but smile; she was amazing. Easily the world's best secret girlfriend ever.
"So," Joey asked excited, "did you have a good night with the wizard?"
Gandalf had come to town determined to help cheer Ross up after his disastrous marriage to Emily and all that had happened afterwards. Joey had declined as he already had a date, so it had been just the 3 college friends.
"I think so," Chandler sighed. "The fact I made it home, to my own bed, still fully clothed," his hand gestured to yesterday's attire which he was still wearing, "I'm quite impressed. Although I do have this stamp on my hand for the jungle club…and I have no idea where that is."
"Huh," Joey inspected the said red stamp. It was slightly smeared but it definitely said jungle club, "I didn't even know we had one of those in New York. So do you remember anything?"
"I remember lots of alcohol," he winced, "way too much alcohol." He tried to grasp some more fragments of memory. "At one point we were doing tequila shots with a group of die-hard bikers."
"Cool!" Joey nodded in approval.
"Oh and I remember seeing some chickens."
"Yeah, but they weren't as cute as our chicken," he met Joey's raised eyebrow. "Yasmine might be listening," he reasoned to which Joey rolled his eyes.
"Well you got in at 4am."
"Uh huh, you were singing the graduation march."
"Really?" Chandler frowned. "God, I hope I didn't enroll in some college course."
"If you did you were mighty happy about it," Joey laughed, recalling, "you waltzed in singing, told me life was good, Monica was 'a keeper' and then you did this weird little twirl thing and collapsed on your bed."
"Oh," he pondered this information, "sorry for waking you."
"Not a problem man," Joey smiled, heading towards his barcalounger. As he passed his friend he patted him on the shoulder.
"Owwww," Chandler pulled back in pain glaring at Joey, "you got a knife in your hand?"
"Noo," confused, Joey opened his palm as proof, staring at Chandler's shoulder, "what's going on?"
Fearfully, Chandler unbuttoned yesterday's shirt, shrugging it off but keeping on the short-sleeved tee that he was wearing underneath. Peeking out below the sleeve was some surgical tape.
"What did I do?" Chandler asked worriedly, pulling the rest of the sleeve up to relieve a medium-sized gauze pad stuck to his shoulder. Luckily there were no signs of blood.
"Could be stitches," Joey commented, "it looks professionally done. Do you remember going to a hospital?"
"You can remember chickens but not injuring yourself or going to hospital?" Joey shook his head; Chandler was a rubbish drunk. "Well, take it off," he gestured, "let's have a look!"
"No," he didn't want to remove it. What if it was stiches under there? He was feeling a little nauseas still and worried that the sight of a raw wound could push him over the edge.
"Want me to do it?"
Chandler considered his friend and then his arm.
"Okay," he reluctantly sighed, holding out his arm and closing his eyes.
He bit his lip as Joey expertly and quickly ripped the tape off. Silence.
"Um...dude!" Joey was laughing.
Confused he opened his eyes and looked at his arm. Oh dear Lord no.
"I got a tattoo?" he asked horrified as he pulled his arm closer, twisting it to get a better look.
"Not just any tattoo," Joey laughed gesturing to the ink, "she's gonna kill you."
Chandler nodded, dumbly staring at the brightly colored design. Why couldn't he at least got a manly tattoo? Like a tiger or skull or something but oh no, not him. He'd gone for the classic cheesy bright red heart on the upper arm. It was so clichéd. And to make it worse the light yellow banner that cut through the heart didn't even just say 'Monica'. Nope, he'd gone the extra-doofus mile and had 'Monica Bing.'
"Oh no no no," he muttered still staring at it horror.
"Maybe it's a fake," Joey reassured licking his finger and starting to rub.
"Ow!" Chandler pulled away.
"Not a fake," Joey concluded, "is this your way of proposing to her?"
"What?" Chandler asked worriedly. "No! We've been dating like 4 months, why would I propose?"
"Dude, you've been dating her for years."
Chandler scowled at him.
"What do I do Joe?" he asked finally, glancing down again at the tattoo.
"Well my sister got a tattoo once and dad went nuts and made her get it removed. She said it hurt like hell though. They use these lasers to burn it off and the smell-"
"Ahh!" Chandler silenced him. He was too delicate to be thinking of the smell of burning flesh. Hell, he was too delicate normally to ever be thinking about that.
"Sorry," Joey shrugged, "I just can't believe you did this."
"I bet enrolling on some college course doesn't sound so bad now, huh?"
Chandler scowled at him again.
The apartment door suddenly swung open and Chandler quickly lowered his sleeve, grateful at least that it covered it.
"Hey, you're awake," Monica smiled.
"Yep," he croaked wearily as she came over to him.
"You stink," she commented playfully offering him just a kiss on the cheek.
"I, uh, only just fell out of bed," he apologized, "thanks for the pills and note."
"You're welcome," she grinned, "so, did you have fun last night? Any wild stories…what?" she asked as he froze and Joey started laughing, "Guys?"
"I'll leave you and your future husband to talk," Joey smirked, unfazed by Chandler's death-glare as he left the apartment.
"What's going on?" she asked perching on the neighboring stool. "Chandler?" she asked, reaching out to stroke a knee. She was starting to worry at how guilty he looked. What could he have done?
"Don't hate me," he pleaded, worrying her further. "I was very drunk." With that he lifted his sleeve to reveal the offending item.
Monica blinked in surprised and then started laughing. He wasn't prepared for that reaction, "I-"
"Oh my god," she laughed cutting him off, "I thought you were gonna confess to something terrible." She leaned closer inspecting the tattoo, her fingers lightly tracing over it. "I can't believe you got my name tattooed on you."
Chandler resisted pointing out it wasn't her name…not yet. Maybe one day, years to come but not at the moment, definitely not at the moment.
"Don't worry, Joey knows someone that does laser removal and-"
"You're gonna to erase me?"
She sounded pissed.
"Um…what?" he questioned confused.
"You can't just remove me like that!" she protested. "I like my name being on you…it's kinda sexy."
"Really?" he smiled suddenly feeling much better about the whole tattoo situation, "you like it?"
"Uh huh," she smiled shyly, "well, the design wouldn't have been my first choice but I think it's an incredibly sweet gesture. I mean it shows that even when you're out hammered with your college buddies you were still thinking of me," she smiled and pressed a peck of a kiss to his lips, running a hand through his hair.
He was glad she didn't hate him and amazed that she actually thought it was sweet. He almost didn't want to ask the obvious questions but knew he couldn't avoid it, "but what about the actual name and the fact that this is meant to be a secret?"
"Well," she said thoughtfully, her hand moving to stroke his un-inked arm. "I like that it says Monica Bing," she admitted carefully. "Don't worry I know it's far too soon for us to even consider marriage," she laughed at his relieved look, "but it's nice to know that somewhere, no matter how deeply buried, your subconscious thinks that one day, way in the future, that it could happen. That's just wow."
He was so relieved, he pulled her into a light embrace, wishing he had showered and was feeling more human, so he could show her just how perfect she was, "you're amazing," he murmured.
"And as for keeping it a secret?" she continued. "You managed to keep your nubbin secret from them all."
"That's true," he mused.
"And if the others do find out," she shrugged, "it's been 4 months. We have to tell them at some point."
He nodded, just looking at her. "I love you," he smiled.
Her beaming smile was his reward. "I love you too sweetie," she promised, caressing his cheek, "but you really need a shower, oh and Ross is coming over in a bit to talk about last night. He might remember something to shed some light on this," she gestured to his arm.
"Oh god, do you think he was there? That he knows about us?"
"I doubt it," she shook her head, "he sounded ok on the phone. Besides, Ross hates tattoos. He wouldn't have played any part in this." She stood up dropping a last kiss onto his cheek. "Anyhow, you go shower, oh and wrap something around that arm to keep it dry…just in case."
"Yes ma'am," he grinned hauling his ass off the stool. He'd been right at 4am…life was good and Monica was definitely a keeper.
A freshly showered Chandler sat in the girls' apartment eating a hearty breakfast…despite the fact it was almost 3pm. Monica sat next to him, shooting him secret smiles while the rest of the gang, minus her brother were on the couch.
"Hi," Ross muttered as he walked in, looking a little worse for wear.
"Hey," they all greeted as he slumped into a seat next to Chandler.
"Dude, what happened last night?" Ross asked forlornly.
The fact that he hadn't mentioned Chandler and Monica or the tattoo hopefully he meant he either hadn't been there or didn't remember. Chandler shared a relieved look with Monica; another close call.
"I don't know," Chandler admitted, being somewhat still careful incase anything he said prompted Ross' memory. "I remember bikers and chickens?"
Sensing the upcoming conversation could be a source of potential gossip and drunken/embarrassing stories, Joey, Rachel and Phoebe came and joined them in the kitchen area.
"Chickens?" Phoebe asked intrigued.
"Apparently," he shrugged back, wincing slightly as his sleeve rubbed against his sensitive arm.
"I don't remember any chickens," Ross muttered confused. "I remember dancing with a plastic tiger at some club. Oh, and I found a train ticket in my pocket to Philadelphia."
"Huh." Chandler thankfully had no memory of that.
"Do, uh, do you remember going to a wedding?" Ross asked nervously, looking at Chandler.
Chandler froze, not daring to look at Monica, "Um no," he finally croaked out. Technically there hadn't been any wedding, he hoped. He'd just got drunk and overexcited by his relationship with Monica.
"Well, I'm pretty sure we went to one," Ross confessed, "….and I was the best man!"
"Really? God you love weddings don't you?" Rachel asked amused, ignoring his glare. "So whose wedding did you go to?"
"I've got no idea," Ross mumbled as Phoebe started to hum the wedding march.
"Oh, that's the wedding march?" Chandler asked confused, sharing a look with Joey. Joey tried not to laugh realizing that a drunken Chandler had got his 'marches' mixed up.
"Even I know the difference between the wedding and graduation march," Joey exclaimed, confusing his friends with the seemingly non-sequential statement.
"Uh that's great Joey," Monica said turning back to Ross, "so what makes you think you were best man at a wedding? You don't still have the rings do you?"
"No," Ross looked embarrassed, avoiding eye contact, "I wish it was as simple as that."
"Ross?" Monica pressed her brother.
"Ross, come on," Rachel persisted annoyed, "just tell us."
"Ok," he swallowed, "I….I got a tattoo!"
Everyone gasped as he roughly pulled up his sleeve to reveal the simple words in bold black print, "Best Man."
"Oh god," Monica whispered, only quiet enough for Chandler to hear.
"At least you didn't get a tramp stamp," Phoebe tried to cheer him up.
"Ross you hate tattoos!" Rachel admonished staring fascinated.
"I know," he whined, "I-" he paused realizing Joey was laughing, "is my misery amusing to you?"
"No," he was gasping for breath, "I just can't believe you both got tattoos! You're such dorks."
He failed to notice Chandler's and Monica's death glares as everyone turned to Chandler. Just great.
"You got a tattoo?"
"I…" he glanced worriedly at Monica. They hadn't actually discussed what they'd do in this situation. They weren't meant to be in this situation. Damn Joey.
"Is it wedding related?" Ross asked quickly. "Were you a best man too?"
"Let us see," Phoebe requested eagerly, "ohh were you the maid of honor?"
He glared at her unimpressed, although it didn't faze her.
"Um…" he started to panic, his eyes widening in fear. He couldn't believe this was actually happening.
"Ok, look," Monica intervened, placing a calming hand on his arm. "Before Chandler shows you his tattoo we have to tell you all something," she glared pointedly at Joey who looked sheepish. "Me and Chandler," she took a deep breath and looked at him, drawing strength from the affection she saw in his eyes, "we're dating."
His hand captured hers and held on tightly as the others all digested the news.
"What?" Ross of course was first, "dating dating?" He was too hung over for this.
"Yeah," Monica smiled with mixed feelings. She wished they hadn't been forced to show their hand, but at the same time it was nice to think that after this conversation all the hiding and secrets would be over. It was as scary as it was liberating.
"You and Chandler?" Rachel asked, "Since when?"
"We got together in London," Chandler answered, waiting for the fallout.
"London?" Ross complained, "You got together at my wedding?"
"In fairness to them it was the night before," Joey pointed out, suddenly drawing all the attention to him.
"You knew Joseph Tribbiani?" Phoebe accused. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I wasn't allowed," he shrugged.
"You told Joey?" Rachel asked, turning back to the couple.
"No," Monica sighed, "we didn't tell him…he worked it out and we asked him to keep it secret for a while!"
"A while?" Rachel challenged. "London was months ago."
"4 months," Monica admitted, gripping Chandler's hand tighter. "We're sorry we didn't tell you, it's just we wanted to deal with our changing relationship without everyone knowing."
"And it's taken you 4 months?" Phoebe asked.
"No, well it's gonna sound silly but we were scared to jinx it. We're both so happy and it's actually going really well for us. You all know how much we usually suck at relationships. It surprised us and…" she trailed off unsure of what else to say.
"Well, I think its great news," Joey smiled, trying desperately to make amends. "You're so great together."
"We think so," Chandler grinned turning to look at her.
"Well, congratulations, I guess," Rachel half-smiled, "this is big news though. I think it's gonna take us a while to get used to it but I'm happy for you guys."
"Me too," Phoebe nodded. "I knew something was going on as both of you have been giving off some very happy vibes lately."
Four pairs of eyes turned to Ross, waiting for his verdict.
"If you're happy," Ross finally shrugged, "then I guess I am too. My best friend and my sister…I'll need to think about it more when my head hurts less."
"Thanks man," Chandler acknowledged, very glad that Ross was too hung over to make a scene.
"So…" Phoebe said, "enough talk. Let's see this tattoo of yours."
Oh crap…he'd thankfully forgotten about that.
He shared a look with Monica and she shrugged. With a grimace, he let go of her hand and pulled up his sleeve and waited for the inevitable reactions.
"Awww, that's so sweet," Phoebe acclaimed.
"I know," Rachel laughed just as shocked. "I can't believe you love her so much that you got her name tattooed on you and with your surname too. That's just so un-Chandler like."
Chandler frowned trying to decide if he should be happy or insulted by their reactions. He didn't have long to decide as Ross straightened up.
"Huh," Ross mused. "I guess that explains my tattoo. You must told me last night about the two of you and I was so happy I agreed to be your best man." God, how drunk had they been?
"What?!" Joey asked suddenly annoyed. "He's gonna be your best man? I've been keeping your relationship secret and you pick Ross?"
Chandler closed his eyes, how did he get into these situations? It was like Ross' wedding all over again.
"I…we…we aren't even getting married," Chandler pointed out, noticing Monica's pointed look, "…yet," he amended quickly.
"But you've already picked Ross," Joey accused pointing to Ross' tattoo.
"I-" he didn't what to say. He hadn't been in a fit state last night to pick anything.
"I'm sure Chandler would like both of you to be his best men when the day comes," Monica assured offering Chandler a wink.
"Thank you," he murmured, leaning forwards for a brief kiss. Their first witnessed by the group.
"Do I need to get a tattoo?" Joey asked, well-used to seeing them kiss. "I don't think a tattoo would suit me but I don't wanna be left out."
"Not unless you want to Joe," Chandler assured, still smiling at Monica. They'd kissed, in front of the entire gang and the world hadn't ended. He leaned over and did it again, just to be sure.
"I can't believe 4 out of the 6 of us have tattoos," Phoebe mused.
"You don't have a tattoo," Rachel protested, remembering their tattoo disaster. "You have a blue dot."
Rachel just shook her head as a silence settled over the group. Each lost in their own thoughts, contemplating the afternoon revelations.
"Monica Bing," Phoebe suddenly spoke startling them. "Monica Geller-Bing. Monica Bing-Geller. Monica Geller. You know what Monica, I think you should keep your last name….what?" she asked confused as the rest of the gang shook their heads and got up heading into the living-room area. "What?" she repeated.
"Please don't keep your name," Chandler whispered into Monica's ear as they walked, his arm over her shoulders, "I think even the most talented tattoo artist would struggle to change 'Bing' to 'Geller'."
She smiled at him as they settled in the big armchair, tangling limbs to get comfortable. Her arms slid around him and she hugged him happily, resting her head against his chest. She listened to his steady heartbeat and relished that she could hold him like this without any questioning looks. She snuggled even deeper as she felt him drop a kiss into her hair.
Around her their friends started a new buzz of a conversation about what she wasn't sure; probably about them and their relationship. She didn't care though; she'd deal with the questions later. Much later. Right now she was content to just sit here like this, cuddled up to him whilst being surrounded by her friends.
She couldn't help but smile. She knew marriage was a long way off, especially as she knew his tendency to fear commitment but knowing that right there, under his sleeve was proof that one day he wanted her to be his wife sent a warm fuzzy feeling over her.
One day she was going to be Monica Bing.
A/N – I hope you enjoyed this piece of silliness. I originally wanted to call it 'Screwed and Tattooed' but didn't want to give away too much. Let me know what you thought :o)