So the gang of friends slowly adjusted to their new relationships, and they were glad to have everything out in the open. They periodically called Carol and Susan again to ask for gay/lesbian advice, such as how to handle obnoxious bosses like Doug, and sometimes Carol and Susan came over just to visit. Ross and Phoebe also started to see Ben together, hoping to keep him from getting jealous of the new baby.
For practice, Phoebe also tried to babysit the triplets more for Frank and Alice; she no longer felt heartbroken and envious about giving up those babies, though she still wanted to be their cool Aunt Phoebe.
Breaking the news to the Gellers was harder, of course. At Thanksgiving dinner, Ross and Phoebe announced that they were having a baby together. Jack was excited by the idea of a new grandchild, but Judy felt concerned that Ross was having another baby out of wedlock. "Why can't you get married this time?"
Ross and Rachel looked at each other guiltily, because they hadn't told their parents about their marriage in Vegas, let alone the fact that their divorce wouldn't be final for some months.
Phoebe rescued them with, "Oh, because technically I'm still married."
"What!" Judy looked scandalized, and Jack asked, "Ross, did you know that you're dating a married woman?"
Phoebe explained, "Oh, don't worry! See, I got married in Vegas years ago, but I thought that Vegas marriages only count in Vegas. So, um, I'll have to get a divorce I guess."
Ross nodded and said, "Yeah, we'll probably have my lawyer Russell handle it."
Judy ventured hopefully, "But then you'll get married after that?"
Ross shook his head. "No, we just started dating, Mom! Besides, we did move in together for the baby, and I think that's plenty for now."
"But you should get engaged at least!"
Ross sighed, and Phoebe said, "No, we don't want to rush things. He went too fast with Emily, and remember how that turned out? Besides, I'd have to plan a wedding, and I don't want to stand at the altar in a wedding dress from a store called 'It's Not Too Late'!"
Judy had to admit that a maternity wedding gown would look unseemly. Jack asked when they would have a sonogram, so Ross told him the date of their appointment.
Phoebe added that she thought she was having a girl. "Unless my pregnancy is throwing off my psychic abilities."
Judy grumbled now about Phoebe's weirdness, and Ross defended her, saying that she was "Wonderful and smart, and she got me to stop being so nuts and pathetic."
Phoebe held her own nicely, too. "Look, this is why you didn't even get invited to the baby shower. So if you wanna get invited to this hypothetical wedding or anything else, then you gotta get on my good side, lady!"
Monica and Rachel smiled at Phoebe's toughness, but they looked at each other tensely, imagining how Judy would react to their own relationship. Rachel also thought that her father Dr. Green would be equally stern and disapproving. So they held hands under the table and decided to wait until at least Christmas to make their announcement. They also needed some pep talks from Carol and Susan.
Giving up against Phoebe, Judy turned to Monica and asked whether anything was new with her. Was she even dating lately? (Monica had not even told her parents that she dated Chandler, whom they seemed to hate.)
Monica gulped and wasn't sure what to say. Lie and say that she was alone? Or that she was dating some man?
Phoebe broke in, saying, "And another thing--where do you get off criticizing Monica all the time? Always getting on her about her boyfriends or her career. All of us friends have had problems, yet you act like she's somehow to blame for the bad luck in her life."
Rachel and Monica smiled at her gratefully.
Ross joined in, "Yeah, you shouldn't treat Monica like she's second best."
"Second best?" Jack asked. "But we love our little Harmonica."
"Then you should show it," Phoebe said. "You really don't notice how Judy treats Monica worse than Ross?"
"Well, y-yes, but Judy's own mother was like that, and Monica already went to therapy with Dr. Weinberg when she was younger. Aren't things better now?"
Monica sighed. "Well, sometimes Mom will admit that she's wrong, but then she'll keep going at me again, you know? Like in London, when Mom kept saying that I was probably never going to get married. That hurt."
"Oh." Jack frowned and turned to his wife. "Judy, I think you better apologize."
"But Jack, she's almost 30 now, and nowhere near getting married."
"Judy! She'll get married when she's ready and finds the right guy. A lot of the women these days wait to get married. Why, Rachel here hasn't gotten married."
Rachel blushed and exchanged a look with Ross again.
Judy said, "Well, at least she came close with that Barry Farber."
"But I left him at the altar," Rachel pointed out, "because I didn't love him. I just felt pressured into it because of what my parents and my sorority friends expected of me. Now will you please stop nagging Monica and pressuring her? Let her be happy."
Jack nodded and repeated, "Judy, you should apologize."
She sighed and frowned, "I'm--I'm sorry, Monica. I shouldn't have said those things in London, especialy in front of those snobby Walthams."
"I'm sorry too," Jack said, taking her hand. "I didn't realize that you were upset."
"It's okay, Dad." Monica smiled. She had real hopes now that she and Rachel could come out to them soon. Now they only had to worry about mean old Dr. Green.
Joey and Chandler spent Thanksgiving at home with the birds (and because of that, they had grilled cheese sandwiches and Funyuns instead of any kind of poultry). The guys didn't feel ready to tell their own parents, either. Joey briefly considered telling his sisters, but some of them still didn't like Chandler after the incident with Mary Angela.
"But it's been three years. They're still mad?"
"Hey, I'm still mad!" Joey said. "You didn't just kiss her, Chandler. You fooled around with her, and couldn't remember her name, and you lied to me. Then you kissed Mary Therese too, and caused that whole scene at the house!"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Joe." Chandler kissed him and hugged him. "Will you forgive me, please?"
"What will you do for me?" Joey grinned wickedly and had Chandler make it up to him for the rest of the night. They even broke Chandler's record of seven times in one night, and fortunately, they had the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend to recover from it.
At work, Chandler had already stopped wearing his wedding ring and told everyone in his office that they were backing off because they had rushed into marriage too soon.
Carla in Human Resources said that they could continue to be "domestic partners" for health insurance purposes. "I mean, you're still living together, right, and you're not breaking up?"
"No, we're still together. Just--just taking it slow."
"Okay. Well, it will be a good idea to keep these benefits just in case of an emergency."
That was good advice, because Joey had trouble getting any acting work. He didn't want Chandler to just be his sugar daddy, so he even got a job waiting tables at Central Perk. Joey did okay as a waiter, but some of the female customers were hot and flirted with him. He almost responded with a "How you doin'?" a couple of times, but bit his lip. He fought the temptation because of Chandler.
"I-I got a boyfriend," he said, generally shocking the women, and sometimes he added, "Uh, why don't you try Gunther instead? He's single, and I think he's straight."
Gunther enjoyed all this attention, which helped cheer him up about Rachel going lesbian. He gave up hoping that she would come visit her former cat, and he started dating.
Then at Christmas time, as the guys discussed their families, Joey found out that Chandler hadn't spoken to his dad in years. "What? Really?"
"Yeah, um, I was really mad at him about the divorce, and sleeping with the houseboy, and everything."
"But you still talk to your mom."
"But it was more than that, Joey. Um, in college, I-I kissed this guy in a bar in Atlantic City. I guess I was trying to distance myself away from being gay like him."
"Oh. Well, things are different now, and we're together." Joey encouraged him to at least call his dad and start talking again.
So Chandler looked up his dad's number in Vegas and called. He spoke nervously, "Hey, um, it's me, Dad."
"Chandler? It's been a long time."
"Yeah, I know, and I'm sorry. Listen, I-I was just in Vegas a few months ago, and I feel bad now for not trying to visit you or anything."
His dad answered, "You did? Well, um, it's good to hear from you, even belatedly. I've missed you, Chandler. Uh, I'm really sorry about the divorce too, and all that stuff when you were a kid. Did you read any of the letters that I sent you?"
"No, not really. I guess I should have just talked to you and worked stuff out, but it was hard, and that's how I am with Mom, too. Avoiding stuff."
"I know. So, um, what where you doing in Vegas? Just a vacation?"
"Sort of. I was visiting my--my friend Joey." He hesitated, but truthfully, Joey was only his friend at that time. "You see, Joey's my roommate, and he's an actor, and he had a movie that was filming out in Vegas."
"Oh, really? I wish I'd known."
"Well, the movie ran out of money, so he got stuck working at Caesar's palace."
They chatted some more, and then Chandler's dad asked hesitantly whether it would be all right for him to come visit Chandler in New York.
"Yeah, um, okay."
Joey smiled and rubbed Chandler's back, pleased that they were finally making up. Maybe there was hope that the Tribbianis and the Bings could be one big family someday.
Yeah, that's where I'm gonna leave it before it gets any longer. Thanks to Steve Doe for helping me finish this story. The reason I didn't have them come out at Thanksgiving is that the baby shower itself took place in mid-November, so everyone's only been seeing each other a couple of weeks by then.
Monica said to her mom, "You promised Dr. Weinberg you'd never use that phrase!" (pulling a Monica) when she catered for Judy in episode 403.