Kissing a Fool

Six: A Face With a View

1996

It wasn't, so much an epiphany.

It was more of a realization, of sorts, a realization that hit him far too late.  But the reflection of past actions, and the admission that he had been a fool—none of these things would win Monica back.

But he wasn't a complete fool.  He knew enough to give her time and space—to let her curse his name and decide what she really wanted.

He knew what he wanted, but was too stupid to hold onto it when he'd had it.

So instead of chasing after her when she fled out of the apartment and down the street, he just…ran.  He had no destination, he had no real reason, but the exhilaration soothed him, gave him what he needed, and more importantly, kept him far from his vices: drugs, alcohol…

And Kathy.

She was, essentially, a vice to him—an addiction he could not control.  It wasn't that she was a bad person, and it wasn't that they'd had mind-blowing sex—no—it was simpler than that.

She was a security blanket he could not get rid of.

But he was no longer a child, and he needed no such device.

He needed Monica.

The wind whipped at his face, and blew through his hair carelessly, as he rounded the corner to the park.  He bolted through the intersection, and into the park, his breathing heavy and labored, his face streaked with tears. 

He had no one to blame but himself.

The thought incensed him, and he ran harder, and faster, until he just couldn't run anymore.  His leg caught onto a park bench, and he went careening toward the dirt trail.  He landed, spread eagle and face up, in the center of the trail, his chest heaving, and blood oozing from his elbows and right jaw.

"Are you okay?" a disembodied voice queried, as Chandler struggled to sit up.

"Y-yeah," he stuttered between heavy breaths.

"Y-you're bleeding," the woman pointed at Chandler's face.  He gingerly touched the face wound, then inspected his bloodied fingers.

"Yeah, I guess I am," Chandler laughed, the giggles eventually overwhelming him.  He fell back to the ground, and laughed heartily.

"Wow, are you some kind of masochistic freak or something?" the woman began to back away slowly.

"No, I—I was just thinking about m-my karma," Chandler sputtered between laughs.

The woman cocked her head to the side, and took a tentative step toward Chandler.

"What about it?" she asked curiously.

Chandler calmed down, and pulled himself onto the park bench.  The woman set down her guitar case and joined him, her eyes studying him the entire time.

"I…I hurt some people, in my life…and I think karma is coming back to bite me on the ass," Chandler continued, after a long, silent moment.

"I see.  Do you think you deserve to be hurting right now?"

"Absolutely."

"Then maybe it's more of a self-fulfilling prophecy," the woman stated plainly, and pulled her guitar case toward her.

"Maybe," Chandler muttered, and watched as the woman pulled an old, word acoustic guitar from her case.

"If I keep telling myself that I'll never be able to play this like Clapton, then I'll never play like Clapton.  So I tell myself that I am a great guitar player, and I always play well—or at least, I believe I do.  If you keep telling yourself that the only way you can help the people you've hurt is by hurting yourself, then you are setting yourself up to be hurt.  And if you keep hurting people so that they can't see how insecure you are, then you will never learn, will you?"

"You do realize that your guitar example made no sense, right?" Chandler arched his eyebrow, "And besides, you know nothing about me."

"Maybe I don't.  But your actions speak loudly.  And you expose yourself much more readily that you'd ever admit."

"I think I've learned the fine art of shielding my true self from the world," Chandler sighed, "After all, I used to be an actor."

"You're a little too good at it, and that's why you're so lonely.  And I know who you were," the woman replied.

Chandler laughed, and shook his head.  Off of the woman's look, he said, "No one has ever said that before—'I know who you were'."

"Well, are you that person anymore?"

"No," Chandler sighed distantly, "I'm certainly not that person anymore."

"Do you know who you are anymore?"

Chandler looked at the strange woman, and felt an odd chill run down his spine.

"No…I don't think I've ever really…known."

"You can't love anyone truly, until you learn to love yourself."

"You are like a walking fortune cookie, lady," Chandler laughed.

"My name's Phoebe," the woman smiled, "and you should heed the advice you find in your cookies."

"My last cookie told me I'd die alone," Chandler sighed.

"Then you will—unless you will it otherwise."

Three Months Earlier

"So the guy actually has the nerve to call my cheesecake mealy!  I mean, who does he think he is, anyway?"

Chandler smiled, as he watched Monica pace around her living room, her chef's uniform soiled and crooked, her hat thrown carelessly onto the coffee table.  Her hair was pulled back into a hasty bun, wisps of ebony standing out in several directions.  Her face was shining with a thin sheen of sweat, and her sapphire eyes were wildly ablaze.

He was certain she'd never looked so gorgeous.

There were moment's…moments like these, that Chandler felt the overwhelming, unfamiliar, complete contentment of a life finally going right.  The pure happiness he felt when he was around her was a light, and a warmth that he was completely unfamiliar with, and at times, it unsettled him.  He wasn't sure that he was worthy of ever being happy, after all that he had done.

Whenever his insecurities seemed to surface, Monica would always smile at him, and touch his cheek, or his arm, or hand…she would touch him tenderly, and he would feel his doubts melting away.

"Chandler, are you even listening to me?"

Chandler jerked to attention, and looked up at the disheveled chef guiltily.

"I-I was, um—" he stuttered.

"Ugh, it doesn't matter," Monica threw her arms into the air, and retreated to her bedroom to change.

Chandler stood, and followed her, his hands securely in his pockets.  He stopped in the open doorway, and leaned against the frame stiffly.

"Hey Mon," he said softly, while trying to gauge her mood, "I—I'll bet you make great cheesecake."

She turned around and looked up at him, tears lining her bright blue eyes.

"I really do," she whined, and pouted slightly.

"Awww," Chandler grinned, and walked fully into the room, before taking Monica in his arms, "Clearly this guy doesn't know the first thing about heavy, fattening dessert-products."

"Yeah," Monica cried, her voice muffled because her face was buried in Chandler's chest.

Chandler laughed, and pulled away from Monica, tipping her chin so that she was looking up at him.

"You know, I've been trying to tell you something ever since you came crashing in here tonight," he whispered huskily.

"Oh yeah?  What's that?" Monica smiled contently.

"I…I think…wait…I know, that I—I'm falling in love with you."

Monica's eyes widened, and she felt her breathing hitch.  Her smile broadened.

"I know that I'm falling in love with you, too," she whispered.

"Good," Chandler pulled Monica toward him, and hugged her fiercely, "'cause you're the best thing that's ever happened to me," he whispered, "I can't believe you're actually in my life."

Monica nodded, and closed her eyes, and Chandler began kissing her neck softly.

"Me too," she murmured, her chest tightening.

She had to tell him the truth.

She bit her lip, and considered telling him at that moment, but his hand moved up her shirt, and his lips found a particularly sensitive spot on her shoulder…

And she completely lost her train of thought.

1988

"Chandler! What do you have to say about the allegations that you murdered Sean Grant?"

"Is it true there were hookers in the room that night?"

"Are the rumors about the drugs true?

"Are you and Kathy Scott back together?"

Chandler hugged himself, and kept his eyes to the ground, as his lawyer, several police officers, and Kathy led him from the hospital entrance to a waiting vehicle.

The paparazzi had wasted no time securing nearly every exit from the hospital, and according to his lawyer, they were swarming his and Kathy's homes as well.

"Don't these people have anything better to write about," Chandler seethed, as he tumbled into the car behind his lawyer.

"Are you kidding?  Sex, drugs and murder?  You're the story of the year!" Don, Chandler's lawyer smiled sardonically.

Chandler groaned, and collapsed onto Kathy's lap, heaving a loud sigh as the car pulled from the hospital.

"Chandler, we need to talk about your defense," Don sobered, and pulled Chandler upright.

"I told you, I don't remember anything," Chandler whined.

"Well, you'd better start remembering, Chandler.  This is murder we're talking about here."

Chandler sighed, and looked out the window.  He was more than aware that Sean was dead, and that he may have had something to do with it.  And he knew that regaining his memories of that night might just be the only think that could save him.

Either that, or they could destroy him.

He looked over at Kathy, who was busy talking to Don, and smiled slightly.  In the end, she really was the only friend who came forward to help him.  It warmed his heart, knowing that he could count on her for anything, anytime.

She could save him.

Two Months Later

"Miss Reynolds, it's very important that you tell us all that you remember from that night," Todd Wolcott, the District Attorney boomed, then turned to the defense table smugly.

"I…I remember that Sean…he started yelling at Chandler…and Chandler yelled back.  A-and then they fought, and they—they both went through the glass door…and I tried to pull them back in—"

"And that's how you cut yourself?" Todd interrupted.

"Y-yes.  And the next thing I knew, Sean was…falling, and Chandler…he just…stood there."

"Thank you Miss Reynolds," Todd smiled, and turned to the judge, "No further questions, your honor."

"Mr. Stein, your witness," the judge mumbled.

Don stood, and straightened the papers on his desk with dramatic indifference, then turned and glanced at the press and other members of the galley, before turning to the witness that sat stiffly on the stand.

Marla Reynolds was a prostitute/struggling actress, but she was also the prosecution's star witness.  Her claims that she was drug and alcohol free that night, combined with a damning story and Chandler's inability to remember anything on his own, had made her a liability to the defense.

Don eyed the petite blonde warily, then folded his arms, before approaching the witness box, and leaning on it heavily.  He sighed dramatically, and looked up at Marla.

"Miss Reynolds, you're a prostitute, aren't you?"

"Objection!"

"I simply want to know why exactly Miss Reynolds was even in Sean Grant's home that night, your honor," Don smiled.

"I'll allow it," the judge sighed, and Todd collapsed into his seat.

"Miss Reynolds?"

"Y-yes, I am," Marla said softly.

"As a prostitute, have you ever had to lie to one of your clients?"

"I—I just tell them what they want to hear," Marla said quickly, and Todd winced slightly.

"I see," Don smiled, "do you make that a habit then—telling people what they want to hear?"

"I—"

"Let's get back to that later…Miss Reynolds, do you wear fake nails?"

"Y-yes," Marla said, confused.

"Were you wearing fake nails the night of the…accident?"

"Y-yes."

"You said in your testimony that you had tried to pull Chandler AND Sean from the terrace that night—tell me, Miss Reynolds, how many nails did you break in the process?"

"I—"

"Because according to this police report, two acrylic nails were found imbedded in the carpeting—across the room from the terrace.  No nails were found anywhere near the door."

"Um—"

"Miss Reynolds, how is it that you managed to cut yourself in the frenzy to save your clients, and yet broke no nails?"

"I don't know," Marla's bottom lip began trembling, and she looked at her lap.

"Miss Reynolds, why were you so keen to save these boys?  I mean, if they were only clients, why would you care what they did to themselves?"

"I don't—"

"Miss Reynolds, why don't you tell us what really happened that night?"

Marla giggled drunkenly, as Sean pulled the needle out of his arm, and smiled contently.

"I told you," she laughed, and stood up slowly.

She crossed the room, and sat down on Chandler's lap.

"Your turn, hot stuff," she whispered seductively, then kissed Chandler passionately.

He wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her toward him.  She pulled away, and smiled at him slyly.

"What can I do for you hot stuff?" she purred.

"Hey!" Sean pulled himself up, and stalked toward Marla and Chandler, "that one's mine!  Yours is over there!" Sean pointed at the unconscious brunette that was slumped in the corner of the room, and laughed.  He yanked Marla off of Chandler by her hair, causing her to scream.

"Dude, come on!" Chandler cried, and struggled to stand.  Sean pushed him back onto the sofa, and dragged Marla across the room.

"What the hell did you give me, bitch?" Sean screamed, and pushed Marla back onto the floor.

"Sean," Chandler stood up, and crossed the room, "c'mon, don't be a prick!"

"She drugged me!" Sean whined.

"Yeah, with DRUGS, dipshit!" Marla screeched, as she stood up, "I'm outta here," she announced, and turned to leave.

"Like hell," Sean yelled, and grabbed Marla's arm.  She yanked her arm away, as Chandler pulled Sean away.

"Let me go, shithead!" Sean roared, and swung at Chandler.

Chandler ducked, and the two wrestled clumsily toward the terrace doors.

"Stop it!" Marla screeched, and whacked Sean with her shoe.

Sean lost his balance, and careened through the glass, taking Chandler and Marla with him.  He quickly recovered, and pulled Marla up by her hair.

"You little whore," he seethed, and Marla struggled from his grasp.  She looked down at Chandler, who was starting to come to.

"Stop!" Marla screamed, and kneed Sean in the groin.

Sean gasped, and stumbled backwards, losing his footing as he tried to lunge for Marla.  He fell over the railing before Marla or Chandler could react.

Marla looked down at Chandler, who was staring up at her accusingly.

"What did you just do?" he whispered harshly, before losing consciousness again.

"You still don't remember any of it, even after she told the court the truth?" Kathy asked later that day, as Chandler's car sped from the courthouse.

"I don't remember any of it," Chandler said grimly, "I guess it was the head injury."

"Or maybe you just don't want to remember," Kathy said softly, and turned to look out the car window.

Chandler nodded slightly, and blinked back impending tears.

Marla had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, after the charges against Chandler were dropped.  After thanking Don profusely, Chandler and Kathy bolted from the courthouse, and were on their way to Palm Springs—where Chandler would check himself into a rehabilitation center.

As his car sped down the open road, Chandler sighed deeply, and wondered what he had done to deserve a second chance.

1996

"What are you doing here?"

"Mon—I—I just need to talk to you…please, for a minute?" Chandler pleaded, as he produced what he believed to be a damn good puppy-dog expression.

Monica rolled her eyes, and closed her door, unhooked the chain, and let Chandler into her apartment.

Against her better judgment.

Chandler walked in nervously, and turned to look at Monica as she closed the door.

"Y-you look beautiful," Chandler said timidly.

"What do you want," Monica demanded, folding her arms and keeping her distance from the man she was trying desperately to hate.

"I-I know I don't deserve a second chance, Mon, but—"Chandler turned away from Monica, and his eyes glazed over again, "I love you, and I know that you love me, and everything that we've done enough to hurt each other—we need each other, don't ya think?"

"I don't know," Monica shrugged, and sank into a kitchen chair.

"Mon," Chandler approached Monica hesitantly, and knelt in front of her, "I know that I hurt you, and I am so sorry—but I just can't see my life without you.  I love you more than I've ever loved anyone, and if I have to, I will spend the rest of my life proving that to you.  Please don't throw this away.  Please."

"After I…you didn't talk to me for over a month," Monica whispered, "why should I forgive you so quickly?"

Chandler swallowed, and looked down at his hands, "You're right," Chandler relented, "I-it was longer than a month—it was five weeks and three days," he looked up at a shocked Monica, and a tear slid down his cheek, "Yeah, I kept track too," he said softly, and stood up.

"If you need time, I'll give you time.  I'll do whatever I have to do," Chandler turned and walked to the front door.  He opened it, and looked back at Monica, who was looking up at him pleadingly.

"I'll be back in five weeks and two days," Chandler rasped, and walked out the apartment door.

Three days later

"God, Mon, there's another bouquet of flowers out here for you," Rachel said exasperatedly, as she walked into the apartment with the gigantic bouquet.

"These are even bigger than the other two!" Monica fought to contain her giddiness.

"You know, at this rate, we're going to be living in a forest by the end of the month," Rachel exclaimed, and looked at Monica pointedly.

"Yeah, I'm going," Monica smiled slyly, and slipped into her jacket, "I was going anyway," she added on her way out the door.

*

"Seriously, dude, this is like, stalker personality coming out," Joey shook his head, as Chandler sat down to order another bouquet of flowers for Monica.

"Well, you would know," Chandler smiled, and looked up at his longtime friend and roommate teasingly.

Joey and Chandler had met soon after Chandler's last stint in rehab.  They had been auditioning for the same part, and had clicked immediately.  They moved in together to save money, and although Joey was now wealthy enough to live on his own, and Chandler had gotten out of acting altogether, neither had the heart to separate.

"Yeah, that girl was a little creepy," Joey said distantly, then shuddered.

There was a soft knock on the door, and Chandler laughed, as he crossed the room to open it.

"Monica," he said breathlessly, his laughter melting away.

"Hi," she said flatly, "can I come in?"

"Y-yeah," Chandler stuttered, and shot Joey a look as he pulled open the door all the way.

"So, I'm gonna take off," Joey announced, and stole a wink at Chandler, before walking out the door.

Chandler turned to look at Monica, and smiled nervously.

"I just came to tell you to stop sending flowers," Monica said with little emotion in her tone, "Rachel's allergic."

Chandler's face fell, and he looked at his shoes, "Oh.  Uh, okay," he muttered.

"Okay," Monica echoed, and began walking toward the front door.  She stopped, and turned to look at Chandler, who had yet to look up, or even move from his spot.

"Chandler?" she called, and he looked up at her quickly.

She could see all of his pain, insecurity and disappointment in his eyes, even as he fought to hide his emotions behind a mask of neutrality.  He continued to look at her, waiting for her to speak, not trusting himself to respond.

"I also wanted to tell you," Monica smiled slightly, and walked toward Chandler slowly, "that I don't need a month to make my decision," she stopped in front of him and took his hand in hers.

"And I was kidding about the flowers," she smiled and winked.

Relief washed over Chandler's face, and he allowed a tentative smile.

"You—I mean we're okay?" he ventured quietly.

"Not yet," Monica grinned, and wrapped her arms around his neck, "but we will be."

Chandler grinned wildly, and leaned down to kiss Monica.  She melted into the kiss, and felt all of her concerns and reservations float away.  It was the first time they had kissed without all of their secrets and worries tying them down, and it was easily the best kiss Monica had ever experienced.  She pulled herself closer to Chandler, and ran her hand down his chest, stopping just over his heart.  Chandler pulled away, and placed his hand tenderly over hers.

"It belongs to you, now and forever," he whispered, and kissed her again.

And she knew, without a doubt, that this was everything she'd ever need.

AN: Wow, this is all kinds of crappy.  But on the upside, it's done!  Woot!  If ya read it, ya gotta review it…that's the rule.  J