[This story takes place the day after Ross, Chandler, and Monica celebrated Ross's birthday by going to the Hootie and the Blowfish concert. At this time Ross is still dating Julie, who is away in New Mexico, and Chandler has already slept with Jade.

Thanks for the inspiration, Livvey, because this story came to me pretty quickly.]



In Central Perk, the six friends were arguing about money once again.

Chandler said to Phoebe, Joey, and Rachel, "I don't know what to say. I'm sorry that we make more money than you. But we're not gonna feel guilty about it. We work really hard for it."

"And we don't work hard?" Joey asked.

Chandler said, "I'm just saying that sometimes we like to do stuff that costs a little more."

"And you feel like we hold you back," Joey filled in for him.


Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey all gasped and looked deeply offended, so Chandler quickly changed his answer to "No."

The bickering became loud now, but Monica had to shush them all because she was still on the phone to the restaurant where she worked.

"Wait, I don't understand. Those steaks were just a gift from the meat vendor. That was not a kick back! I'll just replace them and we can forget the whole thing. What corporate policy? No. Yeah. All right." She hung up despondently. "I just got fired."

"Oh!" Everyone finally dropped their petty dispute, and they all went over to hug and comfort Monica. Friendship really was more important than money.

The waitress came back with Monica's bill. "That'll be $4.12."

Joey offered, "Let me get that." But he whispered to Chandler, "You got five bucks?"

Chandler nodded and paid the bill for him for Monica.

After that stunning bad news, everyone went upstairs to Monica and Rachel's apartment. Monica realized that she would have to start looking for another job, so they all worked on her resume and discussed how to explain to interviewers why she got fired, but put a more positive spin on it. They also stayed in for dinner, since two-thirds of the group needed to save money now.

Then Joey and Chandler went home to their apartment and got some beers out of the fridge.

Joey said, "Hey, Chandler. Look, I'm sorry about us fighting and everything."

"I'm sorry too, Joe." They hugged each other for a moment, then went into the living room to sit down on the couch.

"So you think Monica's gonna be all right?"

"Yeah. She'll probably get a new job soon, and she can always do some catering thing. Hey, maybe that Stevie Fisher guy who introduced us to Hootie and the Blowfish might let Monica cater some party for the band. Wouldn't that be cool?"

Joey shrugged and pouted a little.

"Come on," Chandler said, "maybe the rest of us can get invited too, then you guys can all meet the band too."

"Nah, you already ruined it by going to that concert and party without us. We don't want your charity."

Chandler couldn't understand his attitude. "I don't get you, Joey. We're just trying to be nice to you guys, and you throw it in our faces. Besides, you never mind me paying for your rent and your food and your beer."

Joey got mad. "Chandler, that's different! I can't help it if I don't get enough acting jobs to pay for all that stuff. But I work as hard as I can, and I even take all those dumb jobs at the mall or at that fertility study just so I can get a little cash. And what did I do with that money, huh? I paid you back like I said I would!"

"I'm sorry." Chandler realized that he had hit a sore point.

Joey slumped back on the couch and pouted. "I mean, what do you want me to do, huh? Go back to my dad and work in the family pipe-fitting business?"

"No, no! Of course not!" He put down his beer and hugged Joey again. "I'm sorry. I don't want you to give up your dream, Joe. I'm sorry. I'm an idiot."

Joey hugged him back and apologized too. "It's okay. I know I owe you a lot of money, Chandler, and you're always taking care of me. That's nice of you. But I kinda get sick of it sometimes, and when the gang keeps going out to all these expensive places, it just reminds me of how I can't afford all this stuff. Phoebe and Rachel can't take it on their budgets, either."

"Okay, I guess I understand. So what do you want us to do, Joe? If buying you guys tickets to the concert was the wrong thing, then what's the right thing?"

Joey shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe not go to fancy restaurants so many times. If we have to celebrate something, can't we just stay in and order some pizzas or something? Or maybe have a barbecue, like at Rachel's birthday party. And we could do more stuff that doesn't cost anything, like going to the park or maybe Rachel's sister's cabin. I mean, I know you guys want to do pricey stuff sometimes, but if some of us can't afford it, can we discuss it and suggest something cheaper instead? Is that okay?"

Chandler nodded. "Sure. That sounds okay, Joe. Besides, that fancy dinner we all had the other night wasn't so great. I don't like snooty waiters who sneeze into my food. We can talk to all the gang about it tomorrow."

"Great." Joey hugged him close again and kissed his cheek affectionately.

Chandler laughed and pulled away. "You've had one too many beers, I think."

Joey chuckled and hit his shoulder playfully. "Come on, I'm Italian. You don't kiss friends?"

"Not male friends."

"I don't see what the big deal is. It's not like I kissed you on the lips, like I did at the New Year's."

Chandler blushed at that memory and scooted away on the couch. "I was totally not expecting that."

"Me neither. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking, and you were all jumping up and down and saying 'Somebody kiss me!' so I did it to shut you up."

Chandler coughed. "Yeah, you sure did."

Joey considered teasing Chandler further, but then the oven timer dinged, and they automatically cried, "*Baywatch*!" Joey turned on the TV, and they settled back for another enjoyable night.

"Ooh," Chandler said. "Here's something great that doesn't cost anything. Run, Yasmine, Run!"

Joey laughed and drank his beer.


The next day, the whole gang settled their dispute about money, and Carol and Susan dropped off Ben for the weekend.

"By the way, happy late birthday, Ross." Carol hugged him and handed him a gift.

"Wow, thanks," Ross smiled and opened the box.

"It's from both of us," Carol said, squeezing Susan's hand.

"Oh it is?" Ross pulled out a mug that read "Number One Dad" and had a photo of Ross holding Ben on the other side. "Oh, it's great! Thank you." He kissed both their cheeks, and found to his surprise that he was beginning to like Susan, and the old animosity was at last receding. Maybe that was because he was so happy with Julie now.

Later that day, because Ross had an allergic reaction to kiwi, Monica had to take him to the hospital. Joey said that he and Chandler would take care of Ben for the afternoon. Chandler wasn't so enthusiastic about being volunteered for this task, but Joey convinced him that it would be fun. Plus, they could take Ben around town and pick up hot chicks.

So they packed up Ben and lots of baby stuff, then went out walking on the streets. "It's gonna be worth it," Joey told Chandler. "It's a known fact that women love babies, all right? Women love guys who love babies. It's that whole sensitive thing."

Unfortunately, when they showed off Ben to a red-haired woman, she assumed that Joey and Chandler were a gay couple with an adopted child.

Chandler quickly protested and told her the truth, but after that encounter, he remained annoyed. "That's a good plan, Joe. Next time we wanna pick up women, we should just go to the park and make out!"

But on their way home, they met some hot women on the bus and tried to pick them up, but they accidentally left Ben behind on the bus. After much chasing, panicking, and confusion, the guys finally tracked down Ben through the Transit Authority and went to retrieve him.

"Hi. We're the guys who called about the baby. We left the baby on the bus. Is he here? Is he here?"

The man at the desk said, "He's here."

Chandler and Joey hugged each other in relief.

"I'm assuming one of you is the father."

Both Chandler and Joey accidentally claimed to be the father at the same time.

The man looked at them with confusion, and perhaps suspicion that these guys weren't who they said they were.

Chandler remembered the redhead's mistake earlier and said, "Actually, uh, we're both the father." He put his arm around Joey's shoulder to suggest that they were a gay couple.

Luckily, Joey caught on to what Chandler was doing, and he leaned closer to Chandler, touching his hand and rubbing their heads together.

The man believed them and soon pointed them to the room where they could go pick up Ben. Unfortunately, Joey and Chandler weren't the only ones to leave a baby behind that day, because there were two cribs, and two babies.

Joey and Chandler didn't know which one was Ben, and they couldn't remember what clothes Ben was wearing, ducks or clowns. They decided to flip a coin for it, but this led them to an argument.

"What kind of scary-ass clowns came to your birthday party?" Chandler said in disbelief.

Just then, the man from the front desk came into the room, wondering what was taking them so long to get their baby. "Is something wrong?"

Chandler jumped in panic and wasn't sure what to do. Joey impulsively pulled him close and kissed him on the lips, as if to reinforce the idea that they were gay.

Chandler was stunned and speechless.

Joey said to the man, "Uh, sorry. We were just... so relieved to get our baby back, you know?"

"Okay. Well, can you please hurry and get your baby now? I'm almost on my break and you guys have to fill out some paperwork before I can sign the baby over to you."

Now Joey wasn't sure what to do, as they still didn't know which baby was Ben, and he couldn't remember now how the coin toss had gone.

Chandler thought of something, though. "Oh, yeah, but we were wondering where the carseat is. Ben was still strapped into his carseat when we left him behind on the bus."

"Oh, that," The man said. "The white plastic one with the handle, that fits onto a stroller?"

Joey nodded, recognizing that description.

"Um, let's see." The man came over to the right-hand crib and pointed beside it on the floor. "Yeah, we put it over here, when we put him in the crib."

"Oh, thank you!" Joey and Chandler were quite happy now and fairly certain that Ben was in that right-hand crib, so they took him out of it and put strapped him into the carseat, which they then placed into the baby stroller that they had brought with them.

Then they went with the man back to the desk to fill out the paperwork. They went home at last and kept an eye on Ben the whole way back to Monica's apartment. There was an anxious moment, though, because Ben didn't immediately cry when Monica held him. Had they been wrong after all in their assumption that Ben was in the right-hand crib? Maybe more than one baby had a white plastic carseat?

But then Ben started to cry, and all was well. Ross took hold of Ben, then noticed something stamped on his diaper. "How come it says Property of Human Services on his butt?"

Uh-oh. Chandler stammered nervously, "You--you are gonna love this."

Ross handed Ben back to Monica and came at them threateningly.

Chandler grabbed the kiwi lime pie and held it up. "Stay back. I've got kiwi. Run, Joey, run!"

Joey ran back to their apartment and was grateful that Chandler had sacrificed himself for Joey's sake.