~~~~When They All Found Out~~~~

A series of fics by Mizzy (castle_ebgb@yahoo.co.uk), all on the "What if…" premise of:
"What if they all found out about Monica and Chandler in a different way to the series?" All of the fics are stand-alone, unrelated to each other.

Friends does not belong to me, it belongs to Bright-Kauffman-Crane productions and WB. I'm just playing in the sandpit of "Friends", and I will return everything - including buckets, spades and starfish - when I'm done.

Dedicated to fellow C/M addict, AnHonestMoose ()

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(i) The One With All The Smiling

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(Assuming "The One With All The Kips" occurred, and Joey knows, but no one else does. Takes place at end of season 6.)

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Joey stared at Chandler, making the worst for once of his Italian-American features. It was one of the few facial expressions that Joey could pull that was an instant turn-off to most women. Some women would have been attracted to Joey just for the fact that he was a "Days of our Lives" regular, but Joey had stopped believing those types of women were actually real a long time ago.

The stare was one of those disbelieving stares that made Joey's eyes bulge a little, his eyebrows lift up involuntarily and his mouth hang open.

"You're going to ask her tonight?"

Chandler did that embarrassed "I'm-a-goof" smile, a small, quirky smile that was one of his cuter expressions. "A-huh. Here's the ring to prove I'm no joker."

Joey didn't get the Rocky Horror quote, but looked impressed none-the-less. "Huh. You not being a joker." He took the small box that Chandler was holding reverently, and opened it. Joey edged a look around. Gunther was giving them a bug-eyed look from over the counter, and Joey flung the ring back at Chandler with speed that would have done Mighty Mouse proud.

"Not even in an alternate universe, Jo-meister." Chandler scrunched up his nose, and Joey felt a little more relieved that Chandler was acting more in character and doing an uglier expression. "But here's where I need your help."

"I'm all ears. Apart from the other parts of me, like my nose, my eyes, my arms, my legs, my-"

"-Right, Joey." Chandler looked a little chagrined, and Joey smiled sheepishly. "Uh, I need you to take Phoebe, Rachel and Ross to the cinema. I've already told Mon that I'm going to arrange this, so she's going to say she doesn't want to go."

Joey looked unconvinced. "What do you want me to take them to see?"

Chandler pressed a $20 and a $10 bill into Joey's hands. "You figure it out. Say you got a cash bonus."

Joey nodded. "Okay." He pocketed the money, planning to make the others pay their own way.

"Thanks, man." Chandler squeezed Joey's shoulder in thanks, and caught a weird glance from Gunther. Shrugging it off, Chandler watched as Joey crammed the last of his muffin into his cheeks and skipped away with a quick, mumbled excuse punctuated with cake crumbs. He wiped the remains off his face, and the world went black. Hands were clamped over his eyes, and Chandler managed to assuage the rush of fear that automatically churned in his gut when that happened.

"Guess who," a soft female voice said.

A distinctive smell of rosewater and vanilla wafted from his captor, and Chandler allowed himself a small smile. "Phoebe?"

An annoyed cluck was followed by an irritated: "No."

"Rachel?"

"No."

"Ah, well then. Sherlock Homes said something about if all the possible events are discounted, then the impossible - however improbable - must be true. But you sure don't sound like Aretha Franklin…"

This earned Chandler a playful smack from Monica as she released him, mock-glared at him and cautiously sat down next to him.

"I saw Joey leave. Is he-"

"Yeah. I gave him $30, but knowing him he'll spend it all on popcorn before the movie starts." Chandler made as if to put his arm around her shoulders, but suddenly remembered where they were, and tried to casually put it beside him. Monica looked a little regretful that he couldn't put his arm around her shoulders.

"Do you ever-"

"-regret not being able to tell the world?" Chandler gave a small shrug. "It's been going well up until now."

"Two years and you say well?" Monica teased, pushing her lengthening hair behind her shoulders. "It's just-" She floundered for a second. "It's just - being public-" Monica gestured with her hands for a second. "What's the worst that could happen?"

"Your brother could run me down with a mattock and kill me, kill me dead," Chandler affirmed. Monica rolled her eyes and refrained from commenting. Chandler seemed to be far away for a second, then he shifted on the sofa, looking at her with an almost whimsical expression. He reached down and took her hands lightly in his own, as if she'd break if he held on too tightly. "Or the whole world could not know forever how in love with you I am."

That was obviously not what Monica was expecting, and her mouth dropped open. She didn't manage to make the expression look quite as gormless as Joey did. "That might be pretty bad," Monica commented, trying to keep her voice light, her cheeks flushed.

Chandler smiled his crinkly smile, the one Monica had never known in the beginning how much she would love seeing, and now made standing a little more difficult. "Earth-shakingly bad."

"Hey, guys."

The voice was light, high, ditzy… Chandler didn't even need to turn his head to see it was Phoebe that had just come into the café. He did though, and tried to smile casually at the dotty blonde. Phoebe was looking at them as if she'd swallowed a sock.

"Uh, what's with the hand-holding?"

Monica stared in horror at Chandler, and they let go quickly. Chandler squinted, coming up with a story. "I was- showing her the words and actions of 'row, row, row your boat'," he lied.

Phoebe's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Hmm." Then her eyes lit up. "Hey, can you teach me them too?" She dropped herself haphazardly between Monica and Chandler, holding out her hands to him.

"Uh, I've got to go," Monica said quickly, hiding a giggle behind her hand and picking her handbag up off the floor.

Chandler pulled his 'thanks a whole lot' face at Monica's back, and turned back with a hesitant smile to Phoebe, thinking detachedly that it was the first smile he'd faked all day. "So, row, row, row your boat."

"A-huh," Phoebe said with a maniacal grin, gripping his hands with hers.

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"So how many times did you end up singing it?"

Chandler frowned, twisting the edges of his bread roll between his fingers and frowning at the memory. "Must have been about seventeen times until Gunther came over. He offered us free coffee."

"Really?" Monica looked impressed. Chandler was having a hard time noticing, as she was wearing that little red Spanish number she'd bought a few months ago to cheer him up. The funny thing was, it worked every time. "He liked your singing that much?"

"Not really. He gave us the coffee to stop us singing and walloping into the sofa." Chandler took a nervous sip of his tap water. "I guess he didn't want to throw his most regular customers out."

"So, what film did Joey take the others to see?"

"Land Before Time IX. He got Ross there 'cause it was dinosaurs, Phoebe there 'cause they were environmentally-friendly herbivore cute dinosaurs, and Rachel there 'cause she fancies the clerk at the popcorn desk."

"Ah." Monica looked amused.

"What's the grinning about?"

"They're going to have to sit through a Land Before Time movie with Ross," Monica explained. "I sat through one with him, and I tell you - never again. He sits there going - oh my god, the Acepholasaurus didn't have a tail bone! What were they thinking! - or the Pterosaur and Muttaburrasaurus weren't even in the same time period!."

"Are they real dinosaurs?"

"Haven't got a clue."

Chandler snorted, moving aside to let the waiter put down their starters, and looking at his hands thoughtfully for a second. "Uh- Monica."

Monica pulled her hand back from reaching for her fork. "Yes?"

Chandler leaned over the corner of the table, and let his hands rest gently on top of hers. "There was another reason I wanted to come here tonight-"

"Oh my god!"

Chandler frowned. "Well, yes, but-"

"No, no, it's Richard!"

"Huh?"

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"So you spent the entire night with Richard and his date?" Joey looked on the verge of sympathy.

Chandler nodded dully. "Although it was more like Richard's date and I watched Monica and Richard on a date from the sidelines."

"You didn't get to ask her?"

"Nope." Chandler sunk his hands into his pockets. "Did you have a nice time at the movies?"

"Did I ever!" Joey was smirking.

Chandler's mouth dropped open this time. "You got off with someone in the cinema?"

"On the back seats," Joey said flippantly. "This chick was so hot. Her kids wanted to see the movie, so we let them stay with Uncle Ross and Aunty Rachel and sneaked into the back of a porno film. Let me tell you, there was more action going on in the seats than on the screen."

"I'll bet," Chandler said. There wasn't really all that much you could say to that, after all.

"You're still going to ask her, though?"

Chandler's eyebrows knotted together. "Why wouldn't I?"

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"I've had the weirdest day." Monica slumped into her chair, not even bothering to take her jacket off as she kicked off her high heels and - after a second - bent down and stored them neatly under the side table. Ross was over by the counter, making a phone call, and Joey, Rachel, and Phoebe were on the sofa, eating pizza right out of the boxes. She leaned over and took a slice, waving it around as she spoke to punctuate her words. "Richard came into my restaurant today."

Instantly, all the attention was on her except for Ross in the background who continued talking into the phone. Monica was too absorbed in her weird day to even notice it was her phone and Ross was probably increasing her phone bill again.

"He did?" Rachel was instantly on the edge of her seat, looking concerned. "What did he want, honey?"

Monica settled further back into the chair, still waving the pizza around distractedly. "He said he still loved me, and wanted to have children with me. He still wants to marry me."

"But he can't!" Joey exclaimed before he could catch what he was saying. Monica looked at him hurriedly, her expression still soft and confused.

"Why not, Joey?" Phoebe wrinkled her nose. "If he's offering her everything now…"

"But I wanted it then, not now…" Monica said softly. She made to wave the slice of pizza away, but Joey yanked it out of her hand.

"Didn't your mom ever tell you not to play with your food?" He chided.

Monica pulled a face at Joey.

"If he really loved you he would have wanted it then," Joey mumbled, looking at the pizza slice sadly.

"Oh, come on, it's not like you have all that many other options," Phoebe said dismissively. "Someone who takes six months to get over… Mon, that's longer than any of the relationships you've ever had."

"Not true," Monica murmured, biting on her lower lip.

"So you gonna say no?" Rachel folded her hands in her lap. "But-"

"But nothing. If he thinks he can swarm back into my life like this, drop a bombshell that big, and expect me to give up everything for him, then he's-"

"Deluded but still very hopeful there's a chance even though he's a big, big idiot?"

Monica stared at Richard, then stared accusingly at a smirking Phoebe and Rachel. She turned to Rachel, her eyes narrowing. "You hid him in my room?"

"He is still here." Richard stepped forwards in front of the television set. Ross finished his phone call to stare bemusedly at the scene. Monica flushed, embarrassed. "And he's hoping you didn't mean all that," he said gently, stepping over, bringing Monica to her feet by holding onto her elbow.

"Bu-" Flustered, Monica glanced around at the faces staring at her. Joey looked shocked and disgusted, Ross was trying to look menacing and protective of Monica, while Rachel and Phoebe were smirking over their pizzas. "Richard, I can't."

"That's what I said!" Joey said with an affirming grunt. "See, I'm not always dumb."

"Shut up!" Rachel hissed. "He's proposing!"

Monica barely registered the words as Richard dropped to the floor in front of her, holding one of her hands in his own as he looked up at her pleadingly. "Monica, just hear me out. I know I messed up. I had my chance, and I let it slip by. But I'm not about to make the same mistake twice. I love you. I want you to have my children. Marry me."

"I-" Monica managed, before a familiar intake of breath caught her attention, and she glanced up to see Chandler in the doorway, looking pale and defeated, holding onto the door handle for support. He looked at her for a long second, then smiled almost regretfully, and Monica knew what that last smile was all about. He was giving her the choice, loving her enough to let her move on if that's what would make her happy, while still desperately hoping she wouldn't.

With that silent support, knowing Chandler was still poised to flee, Monica turned back to Richard confidently. "I can't. I'm sorry, Richard, but you're too late. You let me go, and I took that freedom. I fell in love again, Richard, nearly two years ago now."

"I don't understand." Richard shook his head, his hands wavering as if he didn't know what to do with them. Monica heard the door click shut and stopped the beam threatening to cross her face. "Your friends said you were single, it-"

Monica shook her head. "I'm sorry, Richard." She leaned up, kissed him on the cheek, kissed him goodbye, and Richard felt it. He inwardly crumpled while remaining outwardly strong.

"I hope he's worth it. I hope he makes you happy. And if he ever hurts you," Richard inclined his head slowly, sadly, "you know where I am."

"I know." Monica reached up, gave him a simple hug, and fell away. He stared for a long moment, turned and walked away out of the apartment, out of her life, out of their lives.

"Mon, that was an awful thing to do!"

"Excuse me?" Monica put her hands on her hips, and looked at Rachel. The elfin brunette was looking at Monica as if she were mad for letting Richard go and saying no to his proposal. "Telling the truth is an awful thing to do?"

"You still lied to him," Phoebe said quietly, her pretty eyes narrowed.

"No, I-"

"She didn't lie." Monica looked up at Chandler gratefully, her eyes moist with desperation, and she nodded slowly, encouraging him. All eyes moved to Chandler, and the brunet wrung his hands slowly, then lifted his chin, suddenly determined. His mouth twisted, a wry smile that Monica knew so well, and she tensed, knowing what decision he had come to, what decision he'd had to come to. He stepped forwards softly but hesitantly, and moved behind Monica, simply laying his hands on her shoulders. "I-" The normally verbose comedian slid his eyes shut and felt Monica take his hand gently. A soft audible gasp from someone else could be heard, and he opened his eyes. "We've been… a we… for some time now."

"You and Monica?" Rachel's eyes were on stalks, and she clutched the edge of a cushion desperately. "Since when?"

"Since London, baby!" Joey said through his cereal. Ross, Rachel and Phoebe glanced at him, and he flushed. He held up his hands. "Hey, don't look at me like that, man! I'm not the one wanting to propose to your sister!"

Ross and Monica managed just about the same fish-expression at just about the same time. Monica turned in Chandler's grasp to look at him incredulously, whereas Chandler just glared at Joey accusingly for a long minute before turning to the woman looking up at him with soft doe-eyes.

"I was going to ask you last night," Chandler murmured, wishing he could stare at his feet, unable as he was to look away from Monica.

"But I spent the whole night reminiscing with Richard instead." Monica sounded annoyed with herself.

Chandler shrugged. "I guess I thought maybe- maybe if- if he was willing to give you everything, and you'd be happy with him in a way you couldn't be happy with me- then I'd have to let you go." His hands on her upper arms tightened. "And I'm gladder than you'll ever know that I don't have to. I love you."

Monica brought up one of her own hands, trailed it down his face gently as if memorising his features beneath her fingertips. "I love you too." There was some sort of cooing sound from the background which they both ignored. "I think I can know a little of how glad you are."

"Marry me?"

Once upon a time, Chandler had thought those two words would be the hardest words to say, along with "I love you" and "I was wrong, but let's try again." The last of those Monica had helped him say, "I love you" had been hard to say at first until he knew he believed them, but "marry me" - right then, right at that time - was somehow easier to say then "of course I'll accept free Rangers tickets for tonight if there are no strings attached."

The one word answer to that question was one Monica had always known she would be able to say. She'd envisaged the various ways in which it may be asked, and knew her answer would be a dazzling 'yes!'

"Yes," Monica said, but it wasn't as easy as she thought it would be. There was a lump in her throat, her eyes suddenly seemed too wet and her heart thudded painfully against her ribs, but 'yes' was managed, and 'yes' was the only answer she could ever imagine giving him.

Chandler was fumbling now in one of his pockets, and he reached his hand eventually out to slide on a ring, and Monica didn't even look. She flung her arms tighter around his neck and he kissed her, slowly, softly and demandingly, almost as if he was showing the world that she was his. She could almost imagine the heat being a tangible brand for everyone to see. Pulling away, she could still feel his breath, hot on her skin, and she knew she was blushing.

Monica didn't quite know what was supposed to be said next in a proposal so publicly done. "I hope Ross doesn't have a mattock," weren't the words that had been in her fantasy, but as her fantasy had pretty much dissolved straight from 'yes' to 'I do', she wasn't all that bothered.

Chandler was looking worried now as Ross moved towards them, and he involuntarily stumbled backwards. Monica moved with him, keeping her hand in his.

"Since London, huh?" Ross glared at Monica, his arms folded menacingly over his chest. His black suit and yellow tie were skewed, and he looked more threatening when he was really mad than when he was just pretending.

"Yes," Monica said, tipping her chin up and feeling almost defiant.

"Since London, huh?" Ross repeated, glaring now at Chandler.

Chandler stared back coolly. "No." Both Ross and Monica, had they known it, were wearing the same befuddled expression. Chandler winced a little. "Maybe it was a bit-" He gestured with his free hand. "Before that?"

Ross was foaming at the mouth, but by the way Phoebe and Rachel were whacking him with a kitchen roll Chandler knew that he'd come around eventually. Monica was looking at him a little differently, with a small hovering secret smile, that told Chandler all he needed to know, that this was how it was supposed to be.

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