At Monica's apartment, Ross came back from the balcony and said, "It looks like Treeger was right. He scared away most of the paparazzi, for now."
On the couch, Monica asked sadly, "So they really got away? While Chandler was wearing some fake beard?"
"I guess so. Treeger hasn't seen them since then."
Rachel said irritably, "Oh forget about them! Let's just pack your bags and get out of here while we can."
"Yeah, you can stay with us, and I'll call my divorce lawyer."
Monica couldn't bear to think about the divorce. "I can't--I can't believe this. Chandler's really left me. He just abandoned me and our baby. Oh God, what am I gonna tell Mom and Dad?"
Ross gently offered, "We don't have to tell them yet, Monica. We'll just say that you're hiding out from the scandal right now. Then we'll figure out how to break the truth to them later."
"Yeah, and it's not like they can blame you." By "they" Rachel meant Judy more than Jack. "Joey and Chandler have been lying to you--to all of us--for a long time."
Ross nodded and said, "That's what pisses me off so much! How could Chandler marry you and pretend that he loved you all this time? If he was just in denial, in the closet all this time, that would be one thing. Then I wouldn't blame him anymore than I blamed Carol. But he knew he was gay, and he deliberately did this to you." Some friend Chandler turned out to be.
"And don't forget Joey! They must have been having an affair since L.A. That's why he moved back here, I bet!" Rachel still could not quite believe that Joey would behave this way, when he'd certainly seemed straight before.
Ross shook his head angrily, and went into the bedroom to pack Monica's things. Rachel called Phoebe at work to let her know that they were leaving.
Meanwhile, Joey turned off Carl's TV and tried to nap on the couch. But he kept thinking about Chandler instead. Joey realized that he had been inappropriate with Chandler long before the gay rumors started, so he could not blame them for his behavior.
That night at the hotel, Joey had kept embracing and trying to comfort him, even when Chandler wanted to leave, rather than discuss his secret love. Joey felt so upset and worried for him, that he just couldn't let Chandler go. Also, Chandler confessed that he had wanted to kiss Joey when they shared the bed in Monica's guest room, but Joey shared the bed with him again anyway.
In fact, the next morning, Joey pretended to still be asleep and let Chandler kiss him lightly. It seemed like an innocent enough gesture to give to his heartbroken friend before he left L.A. But none of it was really innocent, was it? Joey crossed the line with Chandler way too many times.
Then when Joey kept calling to help him quit smoking, he never told Chandler to stop saying "I love you" to him. Joey should have protested that it made him uncomfortable, but he felt too guilty because it reminded him of his many prank phone calls years ago.
He would call Chandler every Wednesday at his office, then say in a disguised voice, "I love you, Mr. Bing." No longer funny now, the memory became tinged with a painful irony, and it made Joey want to hug Chandler close again.
That was why he really moved back to New York. Joey had told himself that he wanted to help Chandler's marriage, but it was really more of a need to see Chandler in person and to make sure that he was truly all right. Besides, as the others had pointed out, Joey had not talked to anyone else or done anything effective about the marriage for weeks since he moved back. At the very least, he should have tried to talk to Phoebe, since they always used to meet once a month to discuss the gang. She seemed likely to have an objective opinion and would not have been shocked about Chandler's secret.
Clearly, Chandler's dad was right. Joey's motives and actions had been questionable for quite sometime, and Mr. Bing didn't even know the half of it. Joey wondered what Chandler would feel if he knew the truth about those prank phone calls.
After packing, Ross, Rachel, and Monica left the apartment and headed across the street. As they got Monica settled into the guest room, Ross remembered that Emma was in daycare.
"I better go pick her up before the paparazzi come back, and it gets impossible for me to get back in."
"Oh, okay. Well maybe you can drop by Phoebe's massage place too, and pick her up. She said she was going to try to get off work this afternoon and come over."
"All right. Monica, I'll borrow your Porsche." He grabbed his keys and took the baby seat to strap into the back of the car.
However, Ross arrived at the parking garage too late. He called Monica and told her that the car was gone. "So unless somebody stole it..."
"Joey and Chandler took it when they snuck out?"
Rachel was pissed. "They're taking your car to Vegas? The nerve of those bastards!"
"I hope they get caught," Ross said. It was a long drive to Vegas after all. "I guess I'll take the bus to pick up Emma."
He also called Phoebe to tell her about his change of plans. "I can't believe they took the Porsche!"
Phoebe said. "Well, they had to sneak away from the paparazzi fast, so they wouldn't get recognized. But I don't think they'd drive all the way to Vegas. They're in a hurry, and Joey's always falling asleep on road trips. Maybe they're just going to the airport, and Joey will bring the car back soon."
"He better! But what if he's going with Chandler to Vegas? Maybe they're going to hide out from the reporters and leave us stuck with this mess."
"Oh, I don't think so. I think it's just temporary, and Chandler wouldn't really leave his baby like that. I'm sure he just snapped, and he'll come to his senses soon. Besides, from what Rachel said, Chandler hadn't eaten anything for a while and he was pretty drunk."
Ross wasn't willing to give Chandler the benefit of the doubt yet. "Yeah, well he wasn't drunk when he married Monica, or got her pregnant! And apparently he and Joey have been having an affair since L.A."
"No, no!" Phoebe disagreed. "They couldn't have done that right under our noses. Joey would feel too guilty, and I'd notice that."
"No really. I mean, I noticed all along that Chandler was gay. You'd have to be blind not to see that, and when he's around Joey--whoa!"
Ross said, "We always joked about that, but I never took it seriously."
"Yes you did."
"Yeah, remember when Joey first disappeared, and Chandler started smoking again, and hired a detective and started sleeping in the guest room? You and Monica got really worried about that."
Ross frowned and sighed. "Yeah, but--but we thought it was something new. That he had just now realized how he felt. Something like that. Maybe we could have handled it, if that was the truth. But then Chandler started acting normal again and he quit smoking for a while. So we thought everything was all right, you know?"
"It was all right because he'd found Joey, obviously. Joey promised to call him too, so he felt better after L.A. But boy, he was just ecstatic when Joey moved back home!"
"Phoebe, if you really saw this, then why didn't you say anything to Monica or us? Why didn't you stop them from cheating?"
"Because they weren't cheating!" she insisted. "Well, maybe it was emotional cheating, but Joey wasn't reciprocating as much as Chandler was. He was mostly just worried about Monica and the baby. I mean, he even asked Monica the other day whether she loved Chandler! So I think that Joey did really want to help their marriage, but he didn't know what to do and it got out of control."
Ross doubted it, and he repeated, "You should have said something, if you knew what was happening."
"I've said stuff plenty of times! You guys just don't pay attention. Anyway, I'll talk to you guys later. You gotta pick up Emma, and I gotta get off work."
"Oh. Hey, maybe I could pick you guys up in my cab?"
"Uh, no thanks, Pheebs." Not only was Phoebe a bad driver, but her late grandmother's taxicab had no seat belts. "Why don't you just go meet the girls at the apartment? I'll be there soon."
That evening, Joey went to wake up Chandler for the road trip. He knocked and stood in the doorway.
Somewhat hungover, Chandler didn't know where he was at first, so Joey reminded him that they were at Carl's place.
"Oh. Right." Chandler sighed and sat up slowly. He realized that he must really be sober now, since Joey wasn't kissing him anymore.
Joey said awkwardly, "Uh, you better use the bathroom before we leave for New Jersey." He pointed out the door.
"Okay." Chandler went inside to pee, and wash up. He didn't want to borrow Carl's toothbrush, so he rinsed out with the mouthwash instead.
Joey started to make the bed, hoping that Carl wouldn't mind that Chandler had slept in his room. "Oh wait." He went to get the fake beard from the living room. "Hey, Chandler, put this on. I don't want us to get recognized."
"All right." Chandler opened the door and took the disguise.
Joey started to leave for the kitchen, to pack some snacks and drinks, but Chandler called out to him. "Uh, Joe?" The beard had lost its stickiness and would not stay on. "It won't stick anymore."
"Really? Are you doing it right?" Joey came into the the bathroom to help him put it on.
"What? There are special instructions?"
"Hold still." He turned Chandler away from the mirror and started patting the beard onto his face. But he looked into Chandler's eyes and caught his breath, realizing how close they were standing.
Chandler felt the tension as well, and for a moment wondered whether he was dreaming again.
Joey caressed his skin lingeringly, until he finally leaned in and kissed his lips.
Stunned, Chandler could not believe it was real. Then he thought that Joey was giving him the one last kiss that he asked for, so he closed his eyes and savored it.
Afterward, Chandler started to softly say thank you, but Joey suddenly cut him off with another, hotter kiss.
Chandler blinked in confusion and caught his breath. "What--what are you doing?"
"I-I don't know. I just..." Joey hungrily backed him against the door this time. His hands cupped Chandler's face, and the beard fell away completely, but neither of them cared.
With a moan, Chandler kissed him back and hoped that the third time was the charm. He clung to Joey and whispered, "Tell me, tell me this isn't a mistake, Joe. Not again."
Joey met his eyes, but felt lost. "I-I don't know what this means. I've never been... gay before." He still couldn't think of himself that way, and yet he couldn't help kissing Chandler either. It felt so good.
"But it's not just the gossip?" Chandler begged.
Joey shook his head and admitted, "No, uh... no, it's not that. I mean, I kept touching you back in L.A., before all this. And I told you that I was gonna stay there, but I moved back anyway, 'cause I had to see you."
"Yeah. It must be you, Chandler. Or, uh, me. Both of us, I guess."
Chandler smiled and liked the sound of "us."
Joey continued, "I'm sorry for what I said before. I shouldn't have hurt you and jerked you around. It's just, this scares me, Chandler. You're my best friend, and I thought I was straight."
Chandler searched his face for sincerity. "I-I was scared too, Joe, when I first had feelings for you. 'Cause I didn't want to be gay like my dad, and I always, like, denied it whenever I got drunk and kissed guys in college... And you know I freaked out when people at work thought I was gay."
Joey nodded and took his hand. "So you forgive me?"
"Yeah." Chandler squeezed his hand and kissed him happily. "I love you."
Joey hesitated. "I-I don't know yet." He did love Chandler deeply as a friend, but this part was new.
"It's okay. You don't have to say it back." Chandler put his arms around Joey. "Just tell me that you want me, Joe. You really want me."
Joey nodded and kissed him reassuringly. "I want you."
Chandler returned the kiss with pleasure. They made out passionately and pressed against the door again. Joey accidentally pushed him against the knob, but Chandler only laughed goodnaturedly.
"Come here." He drew Joey back into the bedroom and sat them on the bed, where they resumed kissing with a sigh. Chandler wanted to touch Joey too, running fingers through his hair and pulling at his clothes. Joey moaned and explored Chandler tentatively, until Chandler started to lay them down on the bed.
This was too bold for Joey, who pulled away and nervously said, "Wait, uh... I don't think Carl would like it if we had sex on his bed."
Chandler grinned and started to get up. "Then let's go to your apartment."
"Uh..." Joey blushed. "We won't be able to sneak in. And what about your dad? We were gonna meet him in Atlantic City."
"Oh, right." Chandler had forgotten. He said with a smile, "Then maybe we should call him and tell him the good news."
Joey said, "Yeah, but I think we should still go see him, 'cause you still need his help. Like maybe he knows a good divorce lawyer, and can give you advice about the baby." He looked at Chandler seriously, "You're not really gonna leave your baby, are you?"
Chandler frowned. Now that he was sober, he did regret his hasty words. "I-I was just so sick of Monica's lies, and I wanted to get out of there!" He sighed and shook his head. "But it's too late to fix it now."
"No it's not, Chandler. You gotta try to work something out."
"How? I can't go back there, and she's probably already calling up Richard to come over."
"She doesn't love Richard anymore."
Chandler scoffed at that idea, and he rationalized to himself, "Maybe my kid would be better off without me anyway. I'd screw him or her up just like my parents screwed me up."
"No, no, it doesn't have to be that way, Chandler. Ben turned out okay, right? Your kid's not even gonna be born for three more months, so you got time to get through the worst part of the divorce. Maybe we can make up with Monica somehow."
Chandler didn't think so. "But there would still be this whole scandal, you know." He remembered his parents' ugly, drawn out divorce. "We'd just make it worse with a custody dispute. Better to give her a quick divorce and go. You know, like what you said about getting phased out of the gang. A clean break will hurt less."
"No, Chandler! This is your kid. You can't just phase yourself out of his life. Your kid's gonna need you. Monica too."
Chandler said, "Monica doesn't need anything but her damned baby book! Besides, she's got Ross and the whole gang, if she just doesn't trust Richard yet."
Joey got upset by his stubbornness. "Chandler! Come on, this is why I said it was a mistake before. 'Cause I can't take you leaving your family for me. Not after Rach--"
Chandler scowled at her name and stood up, feeling ready to storm out. "So what, you changed your mind again, Joe? You don't want to be with me? You risked her family with Ross, but if it's me, I'm not worth it?"
"No, Chandler! I want you, but I don't want you to wreck your family. I'm not worth that."
Chandler came back to the bed and said softly, "You are."
Joey was touched, but he shook his head. "No, family's more important. That's why I wanted Ross to stick around with Emma. He belongs in her life and Ben's. I mean, I know that there's no use in trying to save your marriage anymore, Chandler. I get that now, but don't throw away your family too. You'll regret it for the rest of your life. I mean, you weren't happy all those years that you weren't talking to your dad, right?"
Chandler said, "Yeah, I should have made up with him before. But listen, maybe someday I'll get to talk to my kid too, and I can make him understand and hopefully forgive me. But even if that doesn't happen, I just want to be with you, Joey." He touched Joey's arm and leaned on his shoulder. "Please. We could be happy, just the two of us."
Joey said with difficulty, "You--you shouldn't pin all your hopes on me, Chandler. I-I told you that I don't know what I feel, what this means, with us. I've never been gay before, and I don't know if I can really do it." Already he found the prospect of sex scary. "I mean, maybe I'm still on the rebound or something. Maybe you and me wouldn't last longer than any of my straight relationships."
Chandler looked wounded. "But can't you try, Joey? Just try, at least? I mean, even if we don't last forever, if we only have a couple of months... that would be more than I ever thought we'd have. I thought you were straight too, Joey. I'll understand if you change your mind later, but why can't we have right now?"
Joey turned to Chandler with relief and hugged him close. Chandler had taken the pressure off him, and Joey kissed him gratefully. "I'll try, for you."
Chandler started to kiss him back, but Joey interrupted.
"Will you try something for me?"
Chandler was surprised and confused. "Yeah. What?"
"Will you try to hang onto your baby?"
"Please, Chandler. It's your kid, and he needs you. Monica too. I know you don't believe me, but you gotta try at least. Just try for me."
Chandler realized now the parallel in their bargain, which was a smart move on Joey's part. So with a sigh, Chandler gave in. "Okay. I-I can try I guess."
Joey nodded. "Yeah. It's not too late. You still got time before the baby's born. We should call your dad for help too."
"All right." Chandler still thought the effort was useless, but he did look forward to telling his father the good news.
Unfortunately, when they told him over speakerphone, Charles Bing was more skeptical of the news. "What? Are you sure, Joey? You're not just leading him on again?"
Chandler interrupted, "No, Dad, we're really together now. He was just scared about the gay stuff."
Joey added, "Yeah, and I was worried about his kid. But now he's gonna try to make up with Monica, and be there for the baby. Do you know a good divorce lawyer?"
Charles said, "Well, I can see if my old lawyer is still practicing. Some of my friends have had more recent divorces too."
Charles still didn't trust Joey's change of heart. "But I really want to make sure that you're sincere about this, Joey. You've kissed him before, and I don't want you to toy with his feelings. I mean, just think about how Rachel broke your heart--"
Chandler muttered, "Bitch."
Joey answered, "No, I know. I don't want to hurt him either. We talked about whether I'm on the rebound, but I do want to be with him. I want to try for Chandler."
Charles Bing wondered whether Joey was unconsciously trying to just make Chandler happy, or if he was doing this to just to convince Chandler to fight for his custody rights. He could not tell over the phone, and he wanted to observe them in person.
"Well, are you still coming to Atlantic City? I still want to see Chandler and talk about the divorce. Maybe he can learn from all my mistakes. I'd like to see you too, if you want any advice on the scandal, even if it's twenty-five years old..."
"Uh, yeah. I'd like some help too." Joey worried that it would be weird to talk to Chandler's dad about sex, but maybe Charles would refer him to another gay friend instead.
"Good. So I'll see you both soon."
"Bye, Dad." So they cleaned up Carl's apartment and packed food for the road trip.
Charles hung up with a sigh. He hoped that Joey was sincere, or else he would have to take Chandler away to Vegas for his own good, to get over Joey.