I started writing this story before season 10, so it runs in place of anything that happened there. The title is from Matchbox 20's angst-filled, yet hopeful song, "If You're Gone."

Things begin with a Joey/Rachel relationship, but please bear with me, because that won't last long, and it is definitely Joey/Chandler.

So Joey did it. He risked it all to pursue a romantic relationship with Rachel, who had recently declared feelings for him. At first, Joey was hesitant, due to guilt about Ross, but then Joey remembered that Ross had given him permission to pursue Rachel before, when he first found out about Joey's crush on Rachel.

"If she is where you are, then my feelings about it shouldn't stand in the way." Ross was a great and understanding friend.

Also, Joey had recently seen Ross kissing that hot paleontologist Charlie, after she broke up with Joey. So Ross apparently was moving on from Rachel.

The rest of their friends, however, were shocked by this development, and they spoke with Joey out of concern.

Chandler protested, "So what if he gave you permission before? That doesn't make it right!"

Joey got defensive. "Hey, I thought you were my friends! Why aren't you supporting me?"

"Sweetie," Monica interrupted, trying to diffuse the situation. "He just wants to make sure you've thought this through. There's a reason why I tried to keep Rachel from telling you about her feelings. This is Ross and Rachel we're talking about. Lobsters, remember? I mean, obviously their relationship's been rocky, and they're not together right now, but chances are they will be again. We don't want you to be hurt in the process."

"I can take care of myself, and besides, it could work out with me and Rachel."

Phoebe jumped in. "Okay, well, what if it does work out? Then what? Are you still gonna be Uncle Joey to Emma, or a stepdad, or what?"

"I don't know. We'll figure something out when it comes to that. I promise that Ross will always be Emma's dad, no matter what. I respect that."

"It's wrong, it's wrong!" Chandler shouted, practically having a fit. "Don't do this, please!"

"No!" Joey refused. "You're one to talk about right and wrong, Chandler. You fooled around with my sister at my birthday party. You stole my girlfriend Kathy behind my back. Then you hooked up with Ross's sister in London, and both of you sneaked around for months, like you were ashamed."

Monica protested, "No, we--"

Joey pointed a finger at her, "Hey, back then, you didn't know that you were gonna end up in love and married and stuff. You took the risk anyway, and I helped you, even though I didn't like it. Now I'm taking a risk with Rachel, and all you guys should give us a chance. Maybe me and Rachel will be happy together."

Joey stormed out, and the friends shook their heads in frustration. They tried to have a discouraging talk with Rachel too, but she rebuffed their arguments, saying it was none of their business.

So the friends gave up and grudgingly accepted the relationship. Chandler remained upset, though, sneaking cigarettes at work and refusing to look at Joey and Rachel whenever they were together.

Ross kept dating his paleontologist girlfriend Charlie, and surprisingly, he wasn't bothered by Joey and Rachel's romance. However, he made a point to spend a lot of time with Emma, to make sure that she knew who her father was. Sharing Emma with Rachel and Joey was much like sharing Ben with Carol and Susan, and Ross was determined to stay in the lives of both his kids.

Charlie found the situation somewhat awkward. If Ross just had Ben, or just Emma, it would be one thing, but the fact that he had two kids with two ex-wives made her a little uncomfortable. She tried to rationalize to herself that his three divorces weren't that bad, and at least Ross didn't have a kid from Emily too.

Plus, Charlie had once been engaged to a guy who turned out to be gay, so she understood how Ross's divorce from Carol could shake his confidence with women and damage his relationships. She even understood when Ross confessed more about his history with Rachel, and mentioned his jealous insecurity about Mark. He insisted that he had learned his lesson and wouldn't behave that way with Charlie.

But eventually, there was a point where Charlie had enough. The more she learned about Ross and his close friends, the more she was put off. So Charlie sat Ross down and spoke gravely, "Um, I'm sorry, Ross. I don't think I can keep seeing you."

"What? Why? I told you, Rachel is all in the past."

"Except for the baby you have with her."

"Well, sure, but we're just parents now. It's no more than what I have with Carol."

"No, your history with Rachel is way more complicated than your history with Carol. And now Rachel's with Joey, who's my ex-boyfriend and your friend."

"Sure, but we can move past that."

"No, I don't think so. Look, I had a talk with Joey because I was feeling a little guilty for dating him, then you, so close together. Joey said it didn't matter, because the same thing happened to him and Chandler, with a girlfriend named Kathy. Then I went to ask Chandler if that situation had been awkward at all, and he mentioned how you've dated his ex-girlfriend Janice."

Ross shrugged. "Okay, so we occasionally date each other's exes."

"And sometimes you date each other! First it was you and Rachel, and now it's Joey and Rachel. Of course, your sister and Chandler got together, and when all your friends found out, they played some prank where Phoebe tried to seduce Chandler. Plus, Joey and Phoebe have flirted and kissed, and he dated her twin sister Ursula. I mean, I could go on and on with the inappropriate incidents, and I'm surprised that Joey and Chandler have only shared a kiss."

Ross got defensive. "Hey, first of all--wait, who told you all that?"

"Phoebe told me most of it. She didn't know when to stop with the anecdotes, I guess." Charlie shuddered and found it all too creepy. "I'm sorry, but the six of you sound much too close, and I'm afraid that one of these days you're all gonna fall on top of each other and have a giant orgy."

"Eww!" Ross made a face. "Like I would ever--And, and Monica's my sister! That's sick!"

Charlie got up to go. "I know, but with the way things are going with all six of you, it sounds like it could happen."


"Goodbye, Ross. I really hope you get yourself out of this group before things get any weirder." She turned and left.

Ross didn't stop her, too busy trying to get the disturbing images out of his head.

Charlie's comments about the gang being too close, and being on the verge of an orgy, is a dig at the Friends writers for going overboard with the contrived love triangles and love rectangles, especially in Barbados. All those couples breaking up and hooking up, with no consequences--when did this show become more about lovers than friends?