Title: Lonestar

Season: 2 (Takes place sometime between The One Where Joey Moves Out, and The One Where Eddie Moves In.)

Pairing: Joey & Chandler (non-slash)

Rating: PG-13

He fumbled with his keys, as he struggled to steady the grocery bags that were balanced in his arms.  Unable to see over the bags, he fingered each key slowly, trying to determine which key opened his apartment.

His apartment.  It was so strange, the idea that he was all alone now.

He wasn't totally alone.  He knew that Monica and Rachel were right across the hall, and that he essentially spent more time there than he did at his own place.

But it was different, being in the apartment, knowing that no one was going to be there to greet him; no one was going to be there to talk to him about his horrible day at work.

And it had been a horrible day.  While he often enjoyed the fact that he got paid to do so little, there were times when the monotony got to him; when he thought that he was going to go mad.

Today was one of those days.  On top of that, his boss had asked him to come in on Saturday, to help with some project.  Of course he'd told his boss that he would do it, because he was a total wuss.

And now, all he wanted to do, was hang out, drink beer, and play a little foosball.

But you can't play foosball alone.

He growled angrily, as his keys slipped out of his hand, and landed on the floor of the hallway with a crashing jingle.

"Shit," he muttered, and carefully set the bags down on the floor, before retrieving his keys, and unlocking the door.

~*~

He smiled, when he heard the door buzz, knowing that his dinner was finally here.

The Joey Special.  It was his favorite kind of pizza.

He opened the door anxiously, and tossed some money at the young kid that was handing him his two pies.

"Thanks man," Joey grinned, and shut to door before the delivery boy could reply.

"Yeah, baby," he smiled as he dropped the boxes onto his coffee table, and opened the lid.

The smell wafted through the apartment.  His apartment.  His new apartment.

He looked around at his new surroundings.  He was still unpacking, but he knew that once he finished buying stuff to fill it, that this was going to be the best apartment ever.

He smile faltered slightly.  Maybe it wouldn't be the best ever.  After all, Chandler wasn't here with him.

Things were still so strange between them.  They used to be able to talk about anything, but lately, Chandler seemed so closed off.  He never really spoke to Joey, unless Joey talked to him first.

And he seemed sad.  His jokes came off more bitter, more jaded.

Joey knew that he was to blame; and all he wanted was for Chandler to get over it.

Did he really think they'd live together forever?  Like Burt and Ernie?

Joey looked down at the slice of pizza that was hanging limp and neglected in his hand.  Shrugging, he took a bite from the end, and tried not to think about the fact that he was eating alone.

~*~

The door swung open, and Chandler grabbed his shopping bags, and stepped into the darkened apartment.  He flipped on the light, and walked fully into the apartment, before dropping the bags onto the kitchen counter carelessly.  He turned around, and closed the front door, then stared down at the foosball table for a moment.  He remembered how bitter he'd felt, when Joey had won the table the other day.  He hadn't meant to be so mean; after all, Joey had every right to move out whenever he wanted to.  But his feelings of self-pity had overwhelmed him, and he'd acted like a little kid, storming out the apartment to pout over his loss.

He grabbed one of the protruding handles, and spun it irritably.  He didn't even really want this stupid table.  What was the point?  He sucked at foosball.

He sighed, and walked around the table, his eyes scanning the empty apartment.

He hated this.

The phone rang, and he jumped slightly.  His stomach clenched, as he wondered if it was Joey, calling to say hi.  As much as his stubborn head tried to tell him not to be happy about the idea, his heart won out.  He really wanted to talk to Joey.  He picked up the phone hurriedly, and was unable to hide the anxiousness in his voice.

"Hello?  Oh, uh, no, Joey doesn't live here anymore," Chandler felt his heart drop, as the nervous-sounding woman on the other end of the phone began to chatter into his ear.

"Huh?  Yeah, I've got his new number here somewhere," Chandler flipped through the stack of envelopes that sat on top of his microwave; he knew that Joey had written his number on the back of one of them…

"Aha!  Okay, here it is.  Ready?  Okay, it's 555-8762.  Yeah.  Okay, bye."

Chandler hung up the phone, and sighed.  He stared at the envelope in his hand, his eyes scanning Joey's child-like script.

It would never be the same again.

He suddenly felt stifled, alone in the apartment.  He dropped the envelope, and grabbed his keys, deciding that he really needed to get out of the building.

He stormed out of the apartment, and headed toward the coffeehouse.

~*~

Joey stared at the empty pizza boxes in front of him, and patted his stomach proudly.  He was sufficiently full.

He still felt empty though.

He picked up the phone, and stared at the keypad for a moment, his eyes wandering over the seven numbers he needed to dial to talk to Chandler.

Why was this so hard?

Because, Joey thought bitterly, Chandler is making it hard.

In his heart, he knew that wasn't true.  Chandler was a great guy, and in truth, Joey had kind of blindsided him with the whole moving out thing.

But it was easier to be angry with Chandler; to blame him for all of this tension.

He sighed, and put down the phone, only to jump when it rang a second later.

Chandler.

Joey smiled broadly, and picked up the phone.

"Hello?  Oh, hi uh, Marie.  Huh?  Megan, yeah, I said Megan.  Marie is my, uh, sister.  You sound a lot like her…yeah.  Uh, I have to work tomorrow.  And the next day.  Yeah, that day too.  I'll, uh, I'll call ya, okay?  Okay, bye."

Joey sighed, and set the phone down gingerly.  How the hell had she gotten his new number?  Shaking his head, Joey picked up the remote, and flipped on the television.  Instantly, the images of Baywatch filled the screen.  Joey's smiled, and clapped giddily.  His smile faded, when he realized that he couldn't watch Baywatch alone.

It just wasn't the same.

He sighed, and flipped off the remote.

He needed to get out of this empty apartment.

He stood up slowly, and grabbed his keys off of the coffee table, before walking out of the apartment.

~*~

Chandler stirred his coffee absently, a small smile pursing his lips.  He couldn't help it; sitting here in the coffeehouse brought back so many memories. 

"How about Joey... Pepponi?"

"No, still too ethnic. My agent thinks I should have a name that's more neutral."

"Joey... Switzerland?"

"Plus, y'know, I think it should be Joe. Y'know, Joey makes me sound like I'm, I dunno, this big," Joey looked up at the waitress, as she put down their drinks, "Which I'm not."

"Joe...Joe...Joe...Stalin?" Chandler smiled knowingly.

"Stalin...Stalin...do I know that name? It sounds familiar," Chandler chuckled as Joey rubbed his temple trying to figure it out.

"Well, it does not ring a bell with me..." Chandler grinned as Joey started writing the name down.

"Joe Stalin. Y'know, that's pretty good."

"Might wanna try Joseph," What was he doing?  Joey was gonna kill him…if he ever figured it out.

"Joseph Stalin. I think you'd remember that!"

"Oh yes! Bye Bye Birdie, starring Joseph Stalin. Joseph Stalin is the Fiddler on the Roof."

Chandler laughed to himself, as he sat back on the sofa.

"What's so funny?"

Chandler started, and looked up to see Joey standing over him.

"Hey, Joe," Chandler smiled tightly, and looked back down at his coffee.

"Hey.  So, really, what are you laughing at?" Joey sat down on the sofa next to Chandler.

"I was…I was just thinking about that time we thought Joseph Stalin would be a good stage name for you," Chandler chuckled hesitantly.

"Oh, yeah," Joey nodded and laughed.

"So, uh, how's the new place?" Chandler asked after a long moment of silence.

"It's alright," Joey shrugged.

"Oh, c'mon, you know you love it," Chandler smiled.

"It is pretty cool," Joey laughed, then sobered quickly, "but it's not the same, ya know, watching Baywatch alone."

"Yeah," Chandler said absently.

Another long silence followed.  Chandler looked at Joey, and realized that if they were going to move past this, he would have to initiate the next step.

It was time to let go.

"So, you wanna go upstairs and play some foosball?"

Joey looked up, and saw that Chandler had a broad grin across his face.

"Yeah," Joey smiled, not allowing the lump in his throat to form.  He followed Chandler as he stood up, and started walking toward the front door.

He finally felt complete.

Lonestar where are you out tonight?

This feeling I'm trying to fight

It's dark and I think that I would

Give anything

For you to shine down on me

How far you are I just don't know

The distance I'm willing to go

I pick up a stone that I cast to the sky

Hoping for some kind of sign

(Lonestar, by Lee Alexander)

Flashback dialogue transcribed from the episode: The One With The Fake Monica.