Been running from these feelings for so long
Telling my heart I didn't need you
Pretending I was better off alone
But I know that it's just a lie
So afraid to take a chance again

So afraid of what I feel inside…

Ten months later – Logan International Airport, Boston:

             "You okay, baby?" Monica asked with concern as they stopped off the plane and walked up the ramp toward the terminal.  "You look a little pale."

  "Fine," Chandler assured her, smiling distantly.  "I guess I'm still a little wary of airplanes."

"Do you need – "

Monica's question was left unfinished when they stepped into the airport and came face to face with an overly enthusiastic Nora and Mark.  Chandler reached for Monica's hand and flashed her a sideways smile while Nora gushed over her son's new haircut and Monica's appearance, and Mark interrogated them about their flight.  Finally, at Mark's prompting, the small group finally began to move toward baggage claim.  As Nora and Monica walked ahead of them, chatting about the food for the wedding reception, Mark took the opportunity to turn an appraising eye on Chandler.

"Chandler, as long as I've known you, I don't think I've ever seen you look so happy."

Chandler gave Mark a wry grin.  "Don't start with me, man.  You're grinning like the Cheshire Cat yourself."

"Hey, I'm getting married in three days.  I have a reason to be happy."

"Yeah, well…so do I," Chandler responded more seriously, his eyes on the back of Monica's head.   Mark's gaze followed his, and he smiled to himself. 

"You know, I hate to say I told you so…but I did."

Chandler snorted a laugh and glanced over at Mark.  "Okay, so I owe you a thank you.  You brought me to my senses more than once."

"Is that all I get?  A lousy "thank you"?  Twice, twice, I convinced you to go to New York, and then I tried to convince you to stay there once you got there, but you were just determined to make yourself miserable.  And now that you have everything you ever wanted, all I get is thanks?"

"What do you want me to say?" Chandler asked him with a mischievous smile.  "Daddy knows best?"

Mark froze, looking at Chandler with an expression of horror.  "I can't believe you just called me that."

Chandler laughed and held up in his hands in a gesture of apology.  "Sorry, sorry.  But I've been planning that one since you called me your stepson."

"Your mother warned me about your misguided sense of humor," Mark commented, rolling his eyes.  "I thought she was exaggerating, since you never joked at all until Monica showed up again."

"Yeah, well…she brings out the best in me."

Mark glanced over at his friend and smiled.  "I don't think anybody will argue with that."

But I need to be next to you.
(Oh I, Oh I) I need to share every breath with you.
(Oh I, Oh I) I need to know I can see you smile each morning
Look into your eyes each night
For the rest of my life
Here with you, near with you
Oh, I, I need to be next to you

Need to be - next to you

A hard jab in his ribs woke Chandler suddenly from a deep sleep.  He stared into the darkness of the unfamiliar bedroom for a moment trying to orient himself, until a moan from the other side of the bed made everything clear. 

Rolling onto his side, he looked worriedly into Monica's face as he tried to gently shake her awake.  Her restless movements continued, and Chandler was able to make out the fact that she was moaning his name.  He shook her again, this time harder.

"Wake up, Monica," he demanded calmly.  "Mon, wake up."

Her eyes popped open and she looked up at him in undisguised fear for a split second before throwing her arms around him.  She sobbed quietly into his chest as he held her close, whispering that it was okay, just a nightmare. 

Monica's sobs slowly quieted, though she still trembled in his arms.  When her grip on him relaxed, Chandler slid down into the bed so that they were face to face, his arms still wrapped securely around her.

 "Was it…?"  Chandler asked without asking, not really needing an answer.

Monica nodded slightly.  "Yeah," she confirmed, though she hated to admit it.  As expected, a vague expression of hurt clouded his eyes.  That was the worst part of her nightmares: seeing how they affected him. 

Chandler sighed and pulled her closer to him, gently placing a kiss on her forehead. 

"I thought they'd stopped," he commented softly as he studied her face, reaching up to brush a strand of hair away. 

"I thought they had too," Monica replied wryly, still sniffling a little.  When the dreams started – shortly after her rain-soaked reconciliation with Chandler at the airfield – she thought they were a delayed reaction to the traumatic roller coaster their relationship had endured.  But they continued for months, and affected Chandler as much as they did Monica.  He felt responsible, guilty because the nightmares were about him.  Sometimes he died, sometimes he left again, sometimes he was just drifting away with an outstretched hand that Monica was unable to reach.   But always, every time, she was left alone.  Without him. 

How could he not feel guilty?  It didn't take some doctor to tell him that the reason she was having the dreams was because of him, because of what he had put her through.  And every time he had to shake her awake, his heart sank a little bit more.   It just wasn't fair that she was still dealing with his mistakes.

After Chandler moved in with her, they had gradually stopped coming.  Whether it was the added security of falling asleep in his arms every night or the feeling that their relationship was moving forward they didn't know, but they had both hoped the dreams were gone completely.  Until now.

"I'm sorry," Chandler whispered to her now, and his mournful tone broke her heart a little.  She hated that he felt responsible, and for his sake even more than hers, she wished the dreams would go away.

"Maybe it's the trip," she suggested, reaching out and grabbing on to the explanation with both hands – anything that made sense and would take the defeated look off his face.  "Maybe it's coming back to Boston, Chandler.  Maybe that's why."

"Maybe," Chandler agreed softly, dropping a line of kisses down her cheekbone.  "That makes sense, I guess.  My mother getting married again is probably giving lots of people nightmares."

Monica smiled gratefully at his attempt at humor, and nestled herself deeper into his arms, taking his lead to change the subject. 

"I think it's sweet," she murmured, closing her eyes.  "They're such an unlikely couple, but they're so happy together."

 "Some people might say you and I are an unlikely couple," Chandler ventured thoughtfully, carefully pulling the covers around her when Monica appeared to be headed back to dreamland.

"Maybe so," Monica responded, her voice slurred with sleep.  "But we're happy together too."

Chandler smiled but remained silent, letting her drift off to sleep without having to process a response from him.  When her soft breaths assured him that she was no longer conscious, he kissed the top of her head and gently entwined his fingers with hers. 

"Sweet dreams, sweetheart," he whispered against her hair as he cuddled up to her side, protectively draping an arm around her body as he prepared to go back to sleep.

He hoped there would be no more nightmares.

"Kiss for your thoughts," Chandler offered quietly as they sat on the swing in Mark's backyard the next morning, looking up at the clouds in a peaceful silence.

Monica glanced at him and smiled, moving a little closer to him so that her shoulder touched his.

"I was thinking about you," she told him, reaching for his hand.  "About us."

"Good thoughts?" Chandler asked, lifting her hand so he could kiss her fingers. 

"Mostly," Monica said with a slight smile.  She leaned her head back and directed her gaze back to the heavens.  "I was just thinking about the last time I was sitting in this spot, wondering if I was really going to have to leave for New York without you."

"Do you ever wish you had?" Chandler asked her, leaning over to kiss her shoulder. 

"Never," Monica assured him with a loving smile.  "I wouldn't trade what we have now for anything.  Besides, I know from experience that my life without you is pretty depressing."

"Mon," Chandler said, reaching over to tilt her head up.  "You know that you'll never have to live without me, don't you?  I'll never make that mistake again.  I promise."

"I know," Monica whispered, moving her head to kiss the palm of the hand that rested on her cheek.  She looked up at him, concerned by the turn their conversation was taking.  "It's all in the past, sweetie.  We agreed we would leave it there."

Chandler hesitated, not sure if he should risk breaking their peaceful mood with the question he wanted to ask.  With a deep sigh, he reached over to wrap his arms around her, burying his face in her neck.

"I'm not trying to pick a fight, Mon.  I'm really not.  But…you're still having the nightmares."

Monica sighed too, but didn't shrug away from his arms like he expected her to.

"It was just last night, Chandler.  I swear, I haven't had them in months.  Besides, it's not like I can just flip a switch and turn them off.  I can't control it."

"I know that.  And that's what bothers me.  I'm afraid that maybe…maybe you still don't trust me.  Not that I would blame you," he continued hurriedly, grimacing when he realized he had unwittingly implied that she was somehow at fault.  "God knows I've given you enough reasons to – "

"Chandler," Monica interrupted, placing a finger on his lips as she turned in his arms to face him.  He looked back at her, his expression revealing his vulnerability and making him look like a scared child.  Monica shook her head, a gentle smile lighting up her features.

"Don't you ever get tired of punishing yourself?"

Chandler squinted his eyes questioningly.  "I don't – "

"Chandler Bing," Monica interrupted again, looking straight into his eyes.  "I love you.  Trust me, baby, there's nothing in the world that could change that.  Especially not some stupid nightmare.  And I told you, it was probably just coming back here.  Being in Boston reminds me of how close I came to losing you.  And yeah, that scares me, but it scares me because I love you.  Not because I'm afraid that we're destined to relive our past."

Chandler pursed his lips, staring into her eyes.  "Are you sure?" he asked softly.  "You don't have any doubts about us?"

"None," Monica answered without hesitation.  "Not one."

Chandler cupped her face in his hand, his shy smile slowly evaporating into the tender, serious expression he reserved for their most emotional moments. 

"I love you," he informed her softly.  "You know that, don't you?"

"I know," Monica responded with a slight nod, her own expression becoming more sober.  "And that's why I'm sure."

"You are so amazing," Chandler murmured as he rested his forehead against hers. 

"I know that, too," Monica replied, her face breaking into a smile as she tilted her head to kiss him.  Chandler laughed and pulled her closer, wondering for the hundredth time what he had done to deserve a second chance with this woman. 

Whatever it was, he promised himself that she was never going to regret giving it to him.

Right here with you is right where I belong
I'll lose my mind if I can't see you
Without you there is nothing in this life
That would make life worth living for
I can't bear the thought of you not there
I can't fight what I feel anymore
 

Chandler waved as his mother and Mark drove away in the limo, officially man and wife.  He smiled to himself, hoping that this time, his mother would find real happiness.  He had a feeling she would. 

He felt a hand slide into his, and he turned from the rapidly departing limousine to smile down at Monica.

"Hey," he said, wrapping his arms around her waist. 

"Hey," she responded with a smile, leaning up to kiss him lightly on the lips.  "Wasn't that a beautiful wedding?"

"It was nice," Chandler admitted.  "But the most beautiful thing about it was the maid of honor."

Monica rolled her eyes, but Chandler noticed that her cheeks flushed slightly.  He leaned over to kiss her cheek.

 "Come on," he said, taking her hand.  "I want to show you something."

Monica raised her eyebrows, but resisted the tug on her hand.  "We should stay and help clean up, Chandler.  We can't just leave."

"Honey, I know a mess like this is even better than the real party for you, but we're paying people to clean up after us."

"But we need to wrap up the cake and make sure the presents – "

"Phoebe's taking care of the cake, and Ross promised to make sure the gifts get back to Mom and Mark's.  Rachel and Joey are taking down the decorations we'll want to keep, and the cleaning crew will get the rest."

Monica tilted her head, looking up at him suspiciously.  "It sounds like you've planned this all out."

"I did," Chandler informed her proudly, pulling on her hand again.  "So you don't have any excuses.  Come on."

This time, Monica didn't resist.  Chandler led her out of the reception hall, calling goodbye to their friends, who had already been briefed.  He caught a wink from Joey as they headed out the door, and hoped that Monica wouldn't notice that Rachel was wiping tears from the corner of her eye. 

"Where are you taking me?" Monica asked when she saw Chandler's car parked out front.  Chandler felt butterflies of anticipation start to swirl in his stomach, and he was sure his giddiness would reveal itself in his voice.

"It's a surprise," he answered, opening the door for her and waiting for her to slide inside before he ran around to the driver's side. 

"A good surprise?" Monica asked, teasing, as he jumped behind the wheel.

"I hope so," Chandler responded, glancing over at her with a smile.  "Now, no more questions.  You'll see when we get there."

Monica sighed impatiently but settled into her seat, looking out the window for clues as to their destination.  It wasn't until she actually saw the planes that she realized where he was taking her.  It was the little airport where she and Pete had stopped on their way to Pittsburgh.

"Chandler?  What are we doing here?" 

Chandler stepped out of the car and came around to open her door, holding out his hand to help her out of the car.  He swallowed, his eyes hopeful and anxious.

"We're going flying," he told her, nodding toward the planes parked around them.

"Chandler," Monica began, already shaking her head.  "Are you sure that's a good idea?  You still get nervous when we fly – "

"I'm sure," Chandler interrupted, smiling broadly.  "I've never been more sure of anything."

The response, and his adamance, puzzled her, but Monica allowed him to lead her over to a blue and white Cessna that was parked near the end of the runway.

"Climb in," he prompted her, holding her hand as he helped her inside.  When she was seated, he stepped away from the plane.  "I'll be right back.  Just gonna go tell Charlie we're about to take off."

Monica watched him run toward the building, still completely bewildered.  In a couple of minutes, Chandler was climbing into the pilot's seat and adjusting his headset, preparing for takeoff.  Monica clutched the sides of her seat, not sure how comfortable she was with Chandler as her pilot, though she would never admit it to him. 

The takeoff was flawless, much smoother than any she had experienced on a commercial flight.  Monica watched Chandler carefully, noting how effortlessly he adjusted controls, and the confidence in his voice as he talked to Charlie over the headset.  There was no sign of the nervousness she had seen on their recent flight to Boston, and certainly not of the panic he'd had on that first flight back to New York.  He loved this, she realized, and suddenly felt touched that he was sharing it with her.

When they reached their cruising altitude, Chandler removed his headset and turned to Monica. 

"Isn't it beautiful up here?" he asked her, hoping that she would love it as much as he did.

"Yeah, it is," Monica agreed, glancing quickly out the windows before turning her attention back to him.  "You love it, don't you?"

"Yeah," Chandler admitted.  "From the very first time, it was like…I could get away from everything up here."  He paused turned his head to the front of the plane, gazing out across the miles.   "Up here in the air…it was where I thought about you."

"Really?"

"Yeah," Chandler confirmed with a short laugh.  "And believe me, I spent as much time in a plane as the FAA would allow me to."

Monica smiled, turning her gaze to the landscape below them.  The sun was beginning to set in the distance, but she swallowed away her concerns about flying in the dark.  Chandler knew what he was doing, and she had complete confidence in him.

"Look over there," Chandler instructed her, as he turned the plane so that they were facing the view he had just indicated head on.  The city lay before them, beginning to light up as dusk fell.  And beyond it lay the waters of the Boston Harbor, sparkling gold in the sunlight that remained. 

"Chandler, it's beautiful," Monica breathed, staring intently at the scene in front of her. 

"I know.  The very first time I saw it like this at sunset, I decided that if I ever had the chance, I'd bring you up here and show you."

"Oh, sweetie…thank you.  This was a fantastic surprise."

"That's not the surprise," Chandler told her softly, his voice husky.  He reached for her hand and raised it to his lips, before placing something in her palm and closing her fingers around it.  "This is."  

Monica's eyes were glued to his face, wondering if he had just put what she thought he had just put in her hand.  Slowly, she uncurled her fingers, then dragged her eyes away from his to look down at her hand.

It was what she thought it was.  A beautiful diamond and sapphire ring.

"Oh my god…" she breathed, lifting her other hand to cover her mouth.  "Chandler…"

            "Monica," Chandler whispered, leaning toward her after checking to make sure they were still a safe distance from the city.  "I made the biggest mistake of my life when I thought I could live it without you.  But the only thing that matters now is how much I love you.  You…you make me happier than I ever thought I could be.  And if you'll let me, I'll spend the rest of my life trying to make you feel the same way."

            "Chandler…"

            "Hold on a minute," Chandler interrupted with an embarrassed smile, upset with himself for not timing this better.  "I have to turn us around before we start crashing into skyscrapers."

            Monica laughed, releasing the tension in the cockpit, and reached up to wipe tears out of her eyes as Chandler quickly got them headed in the other direction.  When he was satisfied that they were back on a safe course, he turned back to Monica, taking both of her hands in his.  She looked back at him with her heart in her eyes, not believing this was really happening.

            "As I was saying," he continued solemnly, looking deeply into her eyes.  "Monica Geller, will you marry me?"

Monica smiled, looking into the face of the man she loved.  "Yes," she answered with a little sob, her smile widening as Chandler's eyes lit up.  After gazing at her for a second to make sure he had heard correctly, Chandler let go of her right hand and carefully slid the ring onto her left, then leaned forward to kiss her. 

"I love you," he whispered against her hair as they embraced. 

"I love you too," Monica whispered back, kissing him again. 

"Damn it," Chandler said, groaning quietly. 

"What?" Monica asked, surprised by the sudden change in his demeanor.

"I knew I shouldn't have tried to fly a plane and propose at the same time.  Hold on a second, okay?"

Monica laughed and sat back up in her seat, turning her attention to the ring that now graced her left hand.  "Take your time, sweetie.  I don't want us to end up one of those tragic love legends, getting engaged only to die in a fiery crash a few minutes later."

"Thank you for that inspiring imagery on our engagement night, Mon.  Is that really what you want to think about right now?"
            "No…" Monica answered, reaching over to run her hand through his hair.  "How long until we're on the ground?"

"A few minutes," Chandler said, looking over at her with a seductive grin.  "Why?  What do you have in mind?"

Monica shifted in her seat, excitedly pulling one leg up underneath her as she counted off on her fingers.  "Well, first I've got to go get Rachel and Phoebe, then we need to talk about dresses, and flowers, and where we'll have the wedding, when we'll have the wedding, the band and the food and – "

"Monica," Chandler interrupted, looking a little green.  "You've got to be kidding.  We've been engaged for five minutes."

"I am kidding," Monica admitted with a triumphant smile.  "But you should see your face right now!"

"You're going to drive me crazy from now until the wedding, aren't you?"

"Probably," Monica assured him, not appearing to be the least bit worried about that.

"Well, as long as we're clear," Chandler said, rolling his eyes as they began their descent.

"Hey," Monica said quietly as they taxied down the runway a moment later, reaching over to put her hand on Chandler's arm.  He glanced at her, his heart thumping as he took in her slightly awed expression.  "We're getting married."
            "Yeah," he said, a little in awe himself.  "We are."

"I love you…so much."

Chandler smiled as he released his seatbelt, then leaned over to free Monica from hers.  In one quick motion, he opened the door to the cockpit and jumped to the ground, then held out his arms to Monica.  She fell into them, laughing as Chandler twirled her around and around.  Too dizzy to remain on his feet, he finally fell to the ground, taking Monica with him. 

"I love you, too," he murmured, stroking her cheek with one finger.  "For the rest of our lives."

"The rest of our lives," Monica agreed, pulling him toward her for another kiss.   After a moment, Chandler reluctantly pulled away and stood up, holding out a hand to pull Monica to her feet.

"We should probably go.  The others told me I had to bring you straight back so they could congratulate us."

"They knew?" Monica questioned, her eyes wide.  "I can't believe Rachel didn't warn me!"

"I wanted it to be a surprise," Chandler defended.  "Besides, I had to tell them so they wouldn't whine about having to clean up and guilt you into staying."

"Honey," Monica began, reaching up to play with Chandler's tie.  "This was a wonderful surprise and I love it – all of it.  But did you happen to think about the fact that you were leaving Joey in a reception hall with the leftover wedding cake?"

"Oh, no," Chandler groaned, reaching into his pocket for the keys to his car.  "Let's go.  Maybe we can get there before he tries to eat the plastic bride and groom."

'Cause I need to be next to you 
Oh, I, Oh, I, I need to share every breath with you 
Oh, I, Oh, I, I need to know I can see you smile each morning
Look into your eyes each night
For the rest of my life
Here with you, near with you
Oh I, I need to be next to you
I need to have your heart next to mine
For all time
Hold you for all my life
I need to be next to you…
 
~Need To Be Next To You (Diane Warren)
 
THE END!!  Yay!!!  You don't know how relieved I am to have this one finished.  
It still didn't end up like I wanted…but this will have to do.  ;) 
Please review and let me know what you thought!