AN: This one is totally AU, though I am using a few little tidbits from the show. Most of it should be explained as the fic progresses…
The Trouble With Love
One: The Last Will and Testament of Charles Bing
The subway rumbled slowly through the underbelly of New York City, dim florescent bulbs flickering throughout the long steel compartments, the rhythmic rocking of the train lulling several passengers into a light sleep.
The train was packed, as it always was this time of day, and Chandler Tyler was leaning heavily against a cool steel wall, having recently given up his seat to a tiny, elderly Italian woman. His head lolled back slightly, as he struggled to catch up on some much-needed sleep. The train rolled to a stop and the doors opened with a whoosh. Chandler opened his eyes and looked around—one stop to go.
It was a long, arduous commute sometimes, but the job in Hoboken paid fairly well, and the hours were reasonable.
The train pulled into his station, and Chandler pushed his way off of the train and up toward the street. He pulled his jacket around him and secured his backpack onto his shoulder before heading toward his apartment, seven blocks away.
"Mom?" Chandler called, as he opened the door to the small apartment he shared with his mother, Nora.
"In here, sweetie," Nora called, and Chandler made his way into the tiny kitchen.
"Hey," Chandler smiled warmly, and kissed his mother on the cheek, as she continued to stir the soup that was bubbling ferociously on the stove.
"How was work?" Nora smiled wearily.
"The same," Chandler shrugged, and sank into a kitchen chair.
"Are you working at the bar tonight?"
"Yeah," Chandler sighed, as he flipped through the stack of mail that was piled on the kitchen table.
"Well the soup is ready, and I thought I'd make sandwiches too," Nora said, more to herself than to anyone.
"Yeah," Chandler said distantly, "I'm gonna eat in the living room if that's okay."
"Sure," Nora nodded, as Chandler stood and left the room.
He wandered into his small bedroom, and kicked off his shoes, before changing into his other work uniform—a black bar t-shirt and jeans—and heading into the living room.
Nora was setting up TV trays when Chandler walked back into the room. The television was on, and Entertainment Tonight was blaring. Nora disappeared into the kitchen, and reappeared moments later with two steaming bowls of soup. Chandler plopped onto the sofa, his head weary, and closed his eyes momentarily, as Nora left to bring the sandwiches into the living room.
Tonight on ET, more information on Ben and Jen's secret wedding plans, plus, the surprising death of TV and movie mogul Charles Bing!
A sudden crash in the kitchen; Chandler opened his eyes and stood up.
"Mom? You okay?" he walked into the kitchen to find his mother on her hands and knees, shakily gathering pieces of broken glass.
"Oh, yes, I'm fine…I'm just so…clumsy," Nora laughed uneasily; as Chandler crouched down to help his mother.
Nora looked up, and Chandler could see that she was pallid and shaky.
"N-nothing, the plate just slipped," Nora smiled and stood quickly, "Go eat your soup before it gets cold…I'll take care of it."
Chandler looked at his mother silently for a moment, concern lining his features. Nora chose to ignore her son's presence. After a long minute, Chandler sighed, and walked back into the living room.
Nora wiped a renegade tear from her eye, and continued cleaning up her mess.
One Week Later
Nora rushed down the street as fast as she could in her ten-dollar heels, and silently cursed the dense sheets of rain that was making the trek nearly impossible. She made her way to a towering building, slipping slightly as she walked through the heavy glass doors. She pulled her soaked hair from her eyes, and used the damp sleeve of her jacket to wipe the rain and mascara streaks from her face, as she rushed toward the tall brass elevator doors.
"Can I help you ma'am?"
Ma'am. When the hell had it gone from 'Miss' to 'Ma'am', anyway? She shook her head, and turned toward the security guard.
"M-my name is Nora Tyler…Bing, and I'm here to see Leonard Shay?"
"Fifteenth floor," the security guard replied, and Nora rushed off.
She found the suite, and walked through the heavy mahogany doors with as much confidence as she could muster. As soon as she walked into the room, she felt what must have been twenty sets of eyes on her. She scanned the room quickly, and shook her head. They had all shown up—she knew they'd all show up—bloodsuckers.
"Ah, Mrs. Bing, so happy you could join us," Leonard smirked, as he took a seat at his oversized desk.
Nora said nothing. She simply sat down as far away from the others as she could.
"Alright, I suppose we may as well get to it. I know you are all dying to know," Leonard sighed, "Charles Bing's last will and testament."
The people filling the office took a simultaneous breath, and Nora rolled her eyes.
"I, Charles Bing, being of sound mind," Leonard read, "leave the following to those I left behind. To my second wife and her children, I leave the penthouse in New York. To my houseboy Rafael, I leave six million dollars…"
Two Days Later
Chandler wiped a damp rag across the bar, then ran his right forearm across his sweat soaked brow. The bar was especially busy tonight, and Chandler was in no mood to deal with a crowd.
His mother had been acting very odd the past couple of days—she was moody and distant, and she had called in sick to work two days in a row. When he asked her what was wrong, she would blow him off, and tell him it was just a headache.
A fleeting thought that she was fatally ill whispered through his mind, but he quickly dismissed the notion.
Still…Nora was never sick…and she seemed to be hiding something.
He shook his head and turned back to his job, after determining that spending this much time thinking about his own mother was a little too Oedipal for his taste.
Chandler looked up, to see a stunning, dark haired woman sitting across the bar from him, a warm smile on her face.
"Can I help you?"
"Can I get a scotch on the rocks with a twist?"
"Sure," Chandler smiled, and moved to pour the drink.
"This is a great bar…I've never been here before."
"Yeah, it's not bad," Chandler grinned, as he finished the woman's drink. He set it in front of her, and she smiled coyly.
"I particularly like the service," the woman replied huskily, and Chandler felt his cheeks flush.
"Th-thanks," Chandler stammered, and took a small step back, "Um, that's $6.50."
The woman laid a twenty on the bar, followed by a small slip of paper.
"Keep the change," she cooed, before turning and disappearing into the crowd.
Chandler picked up the money and paper, and looked down at them. Shrugging, he shoved the paper into his pants pocket, and rung up the drink.
Two hours later, the bar began to thin out, and Chandler started to clean up the bar area, in hopes that he could slip out a little earlier than usual.
"Hey stranger," came a familiar voice from the end of the bar. Chandler looked up, and smiled brightly.
"Pheebs! Where've you been?" Chandler crossed the bar and moved to the other side to hug his longtime friend, "I've missed you."
"Me too," Phoebe giggled, "My new job has been crazy!" she added.
"Tell me about it," Chandler nodded toward the bar behind him.
Phoebe smiled, and watched as Chandler moved back behind the bar.
"So, are you going to Joey's play on Friday?" Phoebe asked.
"I hope so…what time is does it start?"
"Seven…I think. It should be absolutely ghastly. There's an exclamation point at the end of the title!"
"So it's…Freud!?" Chandler laughed.
"Oh…kill me now," Chandler shook his head.
"Anyway, he got us a bunch of tickets…so if you know anyone else that may want to go…"
"Well, this really hot girl just gave me her number…I was just going to scare her off with my own natural 'charm', but I guess I could just scare her off with Freud! instead."
"Yeah," Phoebe smiled half heartedly, "though if you really like this girl, maybe taking her to see Joey act is a bad idea."
"I don't even know her," Chandler shrugged, and fished the paper out his pocket, "she just gave me her number."
Phoebe snatched the paper from Chandler's hand, and studied it. "Her name is Medea?" Phoebe raised an eyebrow warily, "what the hell kind of name is Medea?"
"I dunno," Chandler shrugged nonchalantly, "she was hot."
Phoebe shook her head and handed the paper back to Chandler, before nodding toward the other end of the bar. "That guy wants a drink."
Chandler turned to look at the man, then shot Phoebe an apologetic glance, before walking toward the customer.
"Does she look sick?" Phoebe queried, as she watched Chandler lock the front doors of the bar an hour later.
"No…but she seems…preoccupied. I'm telling you, Pheebs, something is going on," Chandler shook his head, as he slipped his keys into his pants pocket.
"Weird. It's not like Nora to keep things from her favorite son," Phoebe grinned.
"Only son," Chandler smiled, as Phoebe slipped her arm around his. He looked at her, and sobered, "It is weird, for her not to tell me what's going on."
"I'm sure she'll tell you when she's ready, Chandler," Phoebe smiled supportively, and placed a short kiss on his cheek, "now walk me home, please."
"Yes, M'am," Chandler took Phoebe's hand in his, and led her down the darkened street.
They walked in silence for several blocks, both deep in thought. As they approached Phoebe's building, they slowed to a stop, and Phoebe turned to face Chandler.
"You gonna be okay?" she asked softly.
"Yeah," Chandler smiled bravely, and laid a kiss on Phoebe's cheek, "thanks Pheebs."
Phoebe smiled, turned, and shuffled up the steps of her building. Once safely inside, she turned to see Chandler, making his way down the block, toward his own building.
She laid her fingers over the spot on her cheek where Chandler had kissed her—her skin still tingling from his touch. She let out a heavy sigh, and made her way into the building, determined not to dwell on old feelings.
Chandler studied his feet, as he wandered the blocks toward home. His mind heavy with concern and exhaustion, he was blind to the world around him.
Apparently, so was she.
They slammed into each other, and both went careening toward the sidewalk with a thump.
"Oh! I'm sorry, I—" They began simultaneously, then both laughed.
"Are you okay?" Chandler asked, as he stood. He extended his hand toward her.
She looked up, and time…stopped.
Her beauty fragile, like a porcelain doll, mesmerized him, yet her eyes revealed a spirit that was anything but fragile.
She took his hand, and he felt his entire body react to her touch. She opened her mouth to speak, and he leaned toward her in anticipation.
"Ch-Chandler. Chandler Tyler," he stuttered.
"I'm Monica Geller. It's nice to meet you Chandler."
"I'm sorry about…I guess I wasn't paying attention."
"It's okay, neither was I. And I really should have been, at this time of night," Monica smiled.
"Yeah, you never know who you might run into," Chandler smiled. He felt a stream of nervous energy course through him, as she giggled, a light, lilting laugh that broadened his own smile.
"So Chandler, what are you doing out here at this time of night?"
He loved the way she said his name. "Um, I work at a bar not far from here…what about you?"
"I work at a restaurant," Monica smiled.
"Ah. So, listen, Monica…I know it's late, but…would you like to get a cup of coffee with me?"
Monica raised a wary eyebrow, but nodded slowly, "Sure…decaf, though, right?"
"Right," Chandler laughed, and extended his elbow toward her. She wrapped her arm around it slowly, and smiled up at him, as they made their way up the street.
AN: Okay, so here's the deal with this fic—it may seem only mildly AU right now, but as you read on, you'll find the characters doing and saying things you may believe to be completely out of character. I'm going to try to keep them as in-character as I can, but certain situations and lifestyles will call for them to do things that will be disagreeable to some of you. (As the fic goes on, this note will become less cryptic, I promise you.)
In the mean time, tell me what you think, and I'll try to get the next chapter up ASAP. I'm looking to keep this one about 4 or 5 chapters. Yeah, we'll see how that goes.