AN: I know what you're thinking: Oh my goodness, she actually wrote something again? Well, this has been in progress for a long while, but it was harder to write than I thought it would be. This was originally intended to be a stand-alone, but it turned out so dang long that I had to split it up. But, I still wanted to post it all at once, because it would make absolutely no sense unless you could read the whole thing at once.
This is not an entirely original idea, but I really don't know where I got it from…some old tv show or something. It's also based on personal experience a bit, since something similar happened to me when I received a letter I wrote in high school that my old English teacher mailed to us when we graduated from college. So, bear with me.
Okay, what you need to know: Everything is the same as the show, except Ross, Rachel, and Monica knew Chandler when they were little. That's rather…crucial…to the plot. In 2001, M&C have just gotten married and Rachel is a few months pregnant with Emma.
One last thing: The characters aren't mine! Here we go… (That was a long Author's Note, huh?)
Ten-year-old Monica Geller frowned as she stared down at the blank piece of notebook paper in front of her. Why did Rachel have to think of such a stupid game? she wondered crossly, conveniently forgetting that she had originally thought her best friend's proposal was brilliant. As soon as Rachel pitched the idea of writing letters to their future selves, Monica had grabbed on with both hands, her romantic nature making her eyes go dreamy as she considered hiding a letter away that wouldn't be read again for twenty years.
Plus, Rachel had been convincing. So convincing, in fact, that she had even persuaded Ross and Chandler to join in on the project. Monica was sure it was the idea of burying the letters and digging them up decades later - rather than the letters themselves - that interested Ross, but he had still agreed to do it. As for Chandler…he had denounced the game as silly at first but eventually relented when Ross did – probably assuming that since he'd have to wait on Ross to finish either way, he might as well participate and escape the wrath Rachel Green would have for him if he refused her.
But now that the others were all intent on the task, Monica found that she had no idea what to write. Rachel's letter would be easy enough – Rachel already had her future planned out. She knew exactly which neighborhood she wanted to live in, what kind of car would be in the garage, which designer label would be on her wedding gown, and where she and her future husband (a doctor of course) would vacation each spring. Monica could probably write Rachel's letter as easily as Rachel herself could.
But she wasn't sure what to put in her own. When she dreamed about her future, it took all sorts of shapes, different every time. There was only one constant in those dreams…one thing she wanted. And she wasn't sure she dared to put that on paper.
Keeping her head bowed, Monica carefully raised her eyes and stole a glance at the others. Rachel was studying her paper, her gaudy pink pen resting against her lips as she scrutinized what she had just written. Chandler was grinning to himself as he wrote, pausing every few seconds to smile at whatever he had placed on the page. Ross, the golden child, was bent almost double over his pad of paper and was writing furiously…poster boy for "the perfect student" club.
Monica panicked when she saw Ross reach for the envelope lying next to him and begin to precisely fold his paper into thirds. She didn't need to look to know that Rachel and Chandler were finishing theirs up as well. Sensing that she was out of time, Monica looked back down at her paper, staring at the only words she had written. Even those were Rachel's and not her own - it was how Rachel had advised all of them to begin their letters.
When I grow up, I want...
In a surge of courage brought on by the realization that Chandler had finished and was walking toward her, Monica hastily scribbled her dream onto the paper, then immediately folded the brief "letter" before she could regret it. A moment later, the paper was sealed in the envelope addressed to "Monica E. Geller, Age 30", and half an hour later, Ross was jabbering annoyingly about how much fun it would be to dig up the "relics from our childhoods".
Two weeks later, the letters were all but forgotten.
August, 2001 (20 Years Later)…
Monica groaned as the shrill ringing of the alarm clock pulled her from a deep sleep, then sighed thankfully when the irritating sound stopped abruptly a moment later. Almost immediately, a familiar arm draped itself over her, and she felt Chandler press a kiss against the back of her head.
"Morning, babe," her husband of almost three months whispered in the rough, sexy morning voice that made her stomach twist into knots like she was still a teenager. She shivered involuntarily, not from cold but from the tingling sensation that rushed over her body at the sound of his voice.
"Cold?" Chandler mumbled in response to her trembling, as he pulled the covers up a little higher and tightened his arm around her. He moved even closer, his nearness warming her heart even more than her body, and sighed contentedly as he rested his head against the curve of her neck. "There…better?"
"Mmmhmm," Monica sighed, turning over so she was facing him. His eyes were already closed again, but the hint of a smile flitted across his face when she reached up to run her fingers through his wayward, sleep-ruffled hair. She let her hand rest at the nape of his neck, smiling at the peaceful look on his face. She had been waking up next to him for years now, but on mornings like this she still had to swallow the lump that came to her throat.
After giving him a brief kiss on the lips, she started to lift herself reluctantly from the bed. Instinctively, Chandler's arm snaked out and grabbed her, pulling her back down beside him.
"Stay here," he murmured sleepily. "Just for a minute."
"We have to get up," Monica protested without conviction, even as she snuggled back up to the warmth of his body. "I promised Mom and Dad we'd be there by 10."
"Tell me again why I have to go with you?" Chandler asked, opening one eye and squinting at her.
Monica smiled and kissed his nose. "Because you married me. You're one of the Gellers now; there's no escaping it."
Chandler rolled his eyes, clearly not pleased with the explanation. "I thought when I married you, you were becoming a Bing, not the other way around."
"Fine," Monica replied, undeterred. "Then you're going because you love me."
"I knew there had to be a good reason," Chandler muttered. "Okay…But if your father starts in on our sex life again, you'll have to catch a ride home with Ross."
"Fair enough," Monica agreed with a smile. "Now get up. We're going to be late."
"Nobody's going to care if we're a few minutes late," Chandler told her, pulling her closer to him and planting a gentle kiss on her lips.
"Easy for you to say," Monica groaned, rolling her eyes. "My parents adore you, so they wouldn't dare say anything to you about the fact that we were late. But my mother will be making snide comments to me all day." Monica gave him one more quick kiss before trying to disentangle herself from his arms. "And I don't think you'll like my mood tonight if I spend the whole day listening to her little comments about the five minutes they had to wait on us."
"Fine," Chandler relented, letting her go, though he
was silently gloating over her admission that Jack and Judy loved
him. "So why are we going to Long
"We're helping them move Mom's precious rose bushes to the side of the house before the pool people dig up the backyard."
"Pool people?" Chandler asked from the bed, clearly confused. "What are you talking about?"
"They're putting in a pool," Monica said as she pulled on her robe. "I told you that."
"Why?" Chandler asked, perplexed. "They're old. What do they need a pool for?"
"Don't ask Dad," Monica warned him. "You'll get an answer you don't want to hear, trust me. But supposedly, it's for Ben and their "future grandchildren"."
"Crap," Chandler said, getting out of the bed. "So the subject of the day will be grandchildren, huh? That means I will be hearing about sex and all the things I should try to get you pregnant. And I'm sorry, but hearing that kind of stuff from your father is just creepy."
Monica paused in their doorway and turned back to him. "Don't worry, honey. Rachel's coming too and with both Ross and Rachel there, all of their time will be taken with fussing over the baby that's already on the way. They probably won't even notice we're there."
Chandler heard the resignation in her voice, and walked over to wrap his arms around her. "Hey," he whispered, kissing the side of her neck. "It'll be our turn soon enough. I promise."
"It's not that," Monica sighed, shaking her head. "It's just… I don't know. It's seems like no matter what I do, Ross always manages to go one better. We get married and everything is wonderful, but suddenly he's having a baby and that means the world just has to stop turning. No one even bothers to notice that I'm happier than I've ever been in my life, because they're all too busy fussing over the mother- and father-to-be."
"I'm sorry," Chandler murmured as he held her more tightly, his heart hurting for her, even as it soared with the knowledge that he was the reason she was happy. "If you want me to, I'll take off my clothes and run around the backyard naked," he offered, hoping to elicit a smile. "That'll take attention off Ross."
Monica laughed, leaning her head gratefully against his shoulder. "What good would that do me, except to prove once and for all that I married an idiot?"
Chandler shrugged and kissed her temple, pleased that her melancholy had slipped away as quickly as it had come. "Well, it would probably give your mom and Rachel a little thrill."
"Better keep your clothes on, Bing. At least until we're alone," Monica advised, raising her eyebrows suggestively.
"We're alone now," Chandler reminded her with a little grin, tilting his head to kiss her as his arms pulled her tightly against his body.
"Hmm…" Monica murmured as she wrapped her arms around her neck, meeting his lips willingly. "Well, my parents probably won't care if we're just a little bit late…"
"Hi!" Monica called as she leaped from the Porsche, suddenly anxious to see her parents after spending the entire trip grumbling about the prospect. "Sorry we're late!"
"Not sorry we're late," Chandler contradicted under his breath as he came around the side of the car and took her hand, flashing her a sideways grin. Monica flushed slightly and squeezed his hand in response, before releasing it so they could each greet her parents with the usual hugs and kisses. Judy didn't look as peeved as Monica had predicted, but Chandler decided he would gladly endure his mother-in-law's evil looks all day long if it meant a morning like he had just shared with Monica.
We're newlyweds, for cryin' out loud, he defended himself silently, his eyes fastened on his wife's glowing cheeks and sparkling eyes. Wordlessly, he slipped up behind her and grabbed her hands, letting their arms hang together by her side as he entwined his fingers with hers.
"Traffic was horrible," Chandler offered in excuse, not daring to look at Monica in case the truth showed on their faces. He hoped Ross and Rachel would have the good sense not to remind everyone that they had left from an apartment right across the street from the Bings and still made it in time. "I hope we didn't hold you up."
"No, of course not," Judy assured him, smiling at her son-in-law with a look of complete affection rarely bestowed on her daughter. "How are you, Chandler?" she continued, reaching over to pat his arm. "Monica hasn't made you regret marrying her, has she?"
Chandler felt Monica's body stiffen against him, and he swallowed the joking comment that had been on the tip of his tongue.
"I've never been happier in my life," he told Judy instead, echoing Monica's early morning sentiment. He kissed the top of Monica's head for emphasis. "Your daughter is absolutely amazing."
Monica gave him a slight smile as she turned her head just enough to meet his eyes, her gratefulness evident. Judy sighed as she observed the tender moment, her mother's heart warming at the love evident on their faces.
"Yeah," Judy agreed softly, reaching over to tuck a strand of Monica's hair behind one ear as Monica turned to face her. "She is pretty amazing."
Monica's mouth dropped open and she stared as her mother walked away. Chandler grinned and kissed her cheek, happy for his wife and this minor triumph.
"See?" he whispered into her ear. "Even your mother has to admit that you're pretty special."
Monica pulled away and turned accusing eyes on her husband. "Oh come on," she scoffed. "She only likes me because you do."
Taken aback by this turn in the conversation, Chandler opened his mouth to respond, then changed his mind and gave her a little grin.
"Yeah, you're probably right. They do adore me," Chandler gloated as he took her hands and pulled her towards him. "And of course your mother doesn't think you're amazing because you're beautiful and kind and smart and loving and wonderful and every other good adjective in the world. I'm sure the only reason she said you were amazing was because I said it first and she felt obliged to agree."
Despite a valiant effort, Monica was unable to stop a smile from crossing her face as she rolled her eyes.
"Okay, maybe she likes me a little bit..." she conceded reluctantly.
"But only a little," Chandler reminded her sarcastically, rolling his eyes back at her good-naturedly. "Now come on. If we want to remain in your mother's good graces, we'd probably better start digging."
Monica glanced distractedly toward a cluster of rose bushes, then immediately snapped to attention when her eyes fell on her brother, who – under the supervision of Rachel, of all people – was triumphantly placing the first bush onto the wheelbarrow.
"Grab your shovel, Bing," Monica commanded, impatiently rolling up her sleeves. "Ross is already one ahead, and we've got to catch up."
Chandler smiled as he watched his wife jog across the yard, focused on nothing but her need to "win" the event of the day. Shaking his head, Chandler reached for the shovel leaning against the side of the house, then started across the yard after her.
In another life, Chandler Bing would have never dreamed of spending a Saturday digging up roses in his mother-in-law's backyard. But in this life…he would do anything she asked of him. Anything at all.
"Last one," Chandler groaned as he fought away his exhaustion, took a deep breath, and plunged his shovel into the ground in front of the final remaining rosebush. "Your parents are at least going to take us out to dinner after we finish all this manual labor, aren't they?" he asked Monica, glancing her way and smiling at how cute she looked with a dirt-streaked nose and forehead.
"You really want to go out to dinner in those dirty, sweaty clothes you have on?" Monica asked, wrinkling her nose as she appraised her husband's condition.
Chandler narrowed his eyes playfully, but after a glance down at himself, he didn't argue. "Fine," he said, grunting as he swung the shovel again. Whatever response he had to her comment died when the shovel hit something hard and stopped short, jarring Chandler and almost making him lose his balance with the suddenness of it.
"What the…" Chandler muttered, standing up straight to survey the area. "I think there's something buried here."
"It's probably a rock," Monica said dismissively, picking up her own shovel to prod the small hole Chandler had started. When her first thrust met with a sharp metallic "ping", Monica withdrew her shovel and stared down into the hole. "Or not."
"What do you think it is?" Chandler asked quietly, staring into the hole with just a bit of fear.
"I don't know," Monica replied impatiently, glancing up at him. "But here's an idea. Why don't we dig it up and see?"
Chandler grimaced and leaned backwards slightly, as if he wanted to get as far away as possible without actually taking a step backwards. "Maybe we should let Ross do it. He likes to dig creepy things up."
"Don't be such a baby," Monica admonished her husband, getting down onto her hands and knees to inspect the area. "Hand me that trowel over there."
"Mon," Chandler warned her as he retrieved the trowel and obediently handed it over. "Do you really think this is a good idea? That could be an old – "
"Oh my gosh!" Monica exclaimed, throwing aside her tool and reaching into the hole to grab and pull on whatever she had discovered. "It's our letters!"
"Our what?" Chandler questioned dryly, knowing he was going to be highly unimpressed with their find if it was really just a bunch of letters.
"Our – umph!" Monica exhaled as the object popped free of its packed dirt surroundings and sent her sprawling on the ground. "Our letters!" she repeated as she sat up and grabbed for the blue canister that she had just removed. "Don't you remember, Chandler? We buried them and said we would open them in twenty years."
"Oh…yeah," Chandler answered. He still wasn't completely sure he knew what she was talking about, but her words had triggered a vague memory. Still, finding a bunch of old letters written by pre-adolescents wasn't nearly as cool as finding, say…Kryptonite.
"Come on," Monica urged as she struggled to her feet. "We've got to show Ross and Rachel."
Chandler was sure they would be about as impressed as he was, but he just shrugged and followed Monica to the house, not about to refuse the opportunity for a short rest.
Rachel had spent the afternoon on the porch, having discovered that one pro for pregnancy was that no one objected when she said she probably shouldn't be doing yardwork in the hot sun, and left Ross to work with Jack. After being driven away from the last rosebush by Monica (who was keeping count and knew that the last one would be the "tiebreaker"), Ross had joined Rachel on the porch and interrupted her afternoon of peaceful solitude with his stream of solicitous questions and offers of help. Both were relieved to see Monica headed toward them with a less-enthusiastic Chandler in tow.
"Look what we found!" Monica announced gleefully, holding up the canister so they could see it. "It's our letters."
"What letters?" Rachel asked, scrunching up her nose in distaste. "And what are you doing with that dirty thing?"
"The letters we wrote and buried in the yard so we could dig them up twenty years later and see if our lives had turned out anything like we thought they would," Ross answered her in an excited rush, his eyes wide with awe as he grabbed for the canister. "I can't believe we forgot about these!"
"I know!" Monica shouted, pulling the container
closer to her body so that Ross couldn't take it. "Isn't this exciting?"
Chandler and Rachel exchanged a look, both feeling a measure of pity for the siblings. "You married one of them," Rachel reminded Chandler under her breath, making sure Ross and Monica couldn't hear her.
Chandler smirked. "So did you," he shot back at her, ignoring the glare Rachel rewarded him with. "And I think – I think – you're having his baby." Rachel grimaced and Chandler smiled sweetly as Monica glanced suspiciously in their direction. When his wife's eyes lingered on him rather than immediately going back to the object in front of her, Chandler decided he had better start being attentive to her little project before she got upset with his lack of enthusiasm.
"So what are we waiting for?" Chandler asked, the
pitch of his voice rising in false eagerness.
"Let's read the letters."
"Okay!" Monica agreed loudly, beginning to pry the rusted lid off the can. "Ross, hand me that screwdriver over there."
"Wait," Ross cautioned, staring at the sacred object in Monica's arms. "Has it been twenty years?"
"Oh, who cares?" Rachel asked, rising to her feet as her curiosity got the best of her. "Just open the damn thing!"
"Here, honey," Chandler said, offering Monica the screwdriver. "Try that spot there. It doesn't look too rusty."
"Let's see, I was about to start the 7th Grade that summer – I remember because we got to do rock collections that year and I found that big silver-looking one when we dug the hole – so I would have been almost twelve…" Ross stared up at the sky, counting off on his fingers as he made each point. "And I'll be thirty-two in December, so –" Ross stopped mid-sentence and glanced over at the others, who were in the final stages of removing the lid. "That means this year would be twenty years. Huh," he concluded. "That's ironic."
"There!" Monica tossed the lid aside when it was completely free, then reached into the canister and pulled out the packet of envelopes, wrapped in plastic.
"Ooh, that one's mine!" Rachel exclaimed, forgetting that she was supposed to be coolly indifferent to the find. "I can't wait to see what I wrote."
"Me too," Monica agreed, pulling her own envelope from the package. "I can't remember at all."
"We should read them out loud," Chandler suggested as he took his own and handed Ross the final envelope. "Who wants to go first?"
"I will!" Ross volunteered eagerly, and tore into his envelope without waiting for a reply. "Okay, here we go. When I grow up…"