Disclaimer: I don't own the characters from FRIENDS in this story. They belong to the creators of FRIENDS.

Ten Years Down the Road

Rachel walked off of the airplane and into the terminal of the airport, holding the hands of two eager children. She would have normally been excited to be back home, but she wasn't this time. She had been visiting her mother in California with the children when she got the call that sent her right back to New York.

Ross was waiting for Rachel and the children with twenty-year-old Ben and twelve-year-old Emma. Rachel let go of the children as soon as they made their way over to Ross. Rachel hugged her husband tight and then hugged Ben and Emma. She looked up into Ross' bloodshot eyes.

"How is she?"

"Chandler says she's hanging on," Ross said. "The doctor says it could be any time now. Thank God you made it."

"How are Jack and Erica?"

"They're so confused. They're with my mom and dad at the hospital."

"Let's go," Rachel replied quietly.

"Daddy, is Aunt Monica dying?" five-year-old Megan asked as she took his hand.

"Mommy said she's real sick," came the voice of Matthew, Megan's twin brother.

"Let's just go to the hospital."

"I don't want her to die," Matthew said quietly.

"Shh," Emma said to her brother and sister. "Don't upset mom and dad." Ross, Rachel, and the kids all piled into the van outside and Ross sped off for the hospital. Rachel hated the fact that she had been gone for a week. That was a week she could have spent with Monica. She only hoped they got to the hospital before it was too late.

Monica had been drifting in and out of consciousness for the last three days. She was awake at the moment and Chandler was sitting at her side. Monica was only forty-five years old, but she looked so much older. The cancer had made her wither away to nothing but flesh and bone. Her hair was falling out from the chemotherapy. She had poor circulation and large bruises all over her body.

Chandler hated to see his wife like that. She had been sick for the better part of nine years. Just after they adopted Jack and Erica, she began to get weak. She wasn't the same Monica anymore. She had given up on trying to be strong over the past six months. She couldn't fight it anymore, no matter how hard she tried. She was dying and she knew it. This was the one thing she couldn't control or fix.

"Chandler?" Monica asked weakly, her eyes blinking tiredly, tears building up in the corners. Chandler took Monica's hand in his.

"What is it, honey?" he asked.

"I want to see the children," she whispered.

"I'll go get them," he replied. Monica smiled weakly at him. He had really grown up since the children were born. When she had started to lose her strength, he quickly learned how to take care of the house, her, and the children all at the same time. He had been working from home for the past nine years.

"Wait," Monica replied quietly. She squeezed his hand as hard as she could, but her strength was almost useless. Chandler swallowed hard, a lump forming in his throat. It happened every time he talked to Monica. He hated seeing her the way she was. "I need to tell you something before I die . . ."

"Don't talk like that. You're going to be fine. You're going to live to be an old lady and . . ."

"Chandler, I am old. I feel old," Monica replied. "Don't try to make me feel better because I've accepted the fact that I'm going to die. I just want you to listen to me. Listen good." Chandler smiled at Monica's words. She was still trying to be the boss.

"Alright," he said, sitting back down beside her bed.

"I haven't regretted one moment of our life together. I have loved every moment of being with you. I am so glad that we were thrown together. You were my friend and now you're my husband. I thank God for everything that we've gotten over the past fifteen years. I love you, Chandler. I love you."

"I love you too, Monica . . ." Chandler whispered.

"Bring the children in," she replied quietly, not wanting to see Chandler cried. She knew that she wouldn't be able to hold it in if he cried. She needed to distract him.

"Alright," he choked out with a nod. He left and a minute later, two blonde-haired children walked into the room. Erica was tall and looked exactly like her birth-mother. Jack looked a little like Chandler, even though it wasn't possible. They had never lied to the children before. They had been honest with them about the adoption from the beginning.

"Mom?" Jack asked. She could see how scared they looked to be standing in front of her while she was hooked up to machines on either side of her.

"Yeah, sweetie," Monica replied.

"Mom, you're going to be okay," Erica said quickly.

"I don't want you guys to kid yourselves. I'm not going to live, okay? I've accepted that. I don't want you guys to . . . to cry, okay? I want you to be strong because your dad is really going to need you."

"You can't die, mom!" Jack exclaimed.

"We need you!" Erica replied.

"We'll be together again someday, right? That's what you've been taught . . . and I'm always going to be in your hearts."

"I love you mom," Erica whispered.

"I love you mom," Jack said as well.

"I love you guys too," Monica whispered. "I've not regretted a single moment of bringing you into my life. You've both been amazing . . ." She held her arms out weakly. "Come give me a hug." The kids looked a little afraid. "It's okay. You won't hurt me." The children came over and Monica smiled as they both hugged her and kissed her cheek. "Thank you so much. That meant so much to me."

"Will we ever see you before you die?" Jack asked.

"I don't know, baby. I don't know. But let's say goodbye now so that . . . it'll be easier later." The children began to cry.

"Please don't cry. Don't cry. I'll be with you forever in your hearts."

"Goodbye mom," the children whispered.

"Bye babies," Monica replied gently. The children turned and left the room. Monica was nearly positive that was the last time she'd ever get to see them.

Rachel and Ross had dropped the kids off at Ben's apartment. When they arrived at the hospital, Phoebe was standing there with Mike holding one of her hands. With her other hand, Phoebe was holding the hand of a small girl with bright blonde hair. Alicia Hannigan was just like her mother in every single way. Phoebe knew her daughter was going to be a spitting image of her.

"Are we too late?" Ross asked as they rushed over to Phoebe and Mike.

"She's still here," Phoebe replied. "Chandler's in there with her right now."

"Have you already talked with her?" Rachel asked.

"I went in after she talked to Jack and Erica," Phoebe replied. "Joey . . . Joey just talked with her and he went down the hall. He's really shaken up . . ."

"I talked with her this morning," Ross replied. "She's holding on for you." Rachel swallowed hard and she bit her bottom lip nervously. She walked in the door of Monica's room. Chandler looked up with tears streaming down his face. Monica had gone back to sleep. He wasn't sure if she was going to wake up again or not."

"Chandler," Rachel whispered. Chandler walked over to her.

"You don't have to say anything," he sobbed. "Thank you for getting here . . ." Rachel hugged her friend and Chandler walked out into the hall. Rachel sat down next to Monica's bed. She brushed the hair out of Monica's face.

"How are you . . . how are you supposed to say goodbye to your best friend?" Rachel began. Tears already formed in her eyes and one of them slid down her cheek, stinging her face. Monica's eyes opened slowly at the sound of her best friend's voice.

"Rach," she whispered with a smile on her face. Rachel closed her eyes for a moment. It was hard to look at Monica in the shape she was in. She finally faced her fears and opened her eyes.

"Yeah. It's me," she answered.

"I'm glad you made it. I'm so glad you're here. I don't think I could have done this without you."

"Gotten sick?" Rachel asked.

"No. I mean . . . I don't think I could have gotten through today without having the hope that you'd make it on time. Rachel, there are so many things I want to say to you," Monica sobbed. "You have been there for me since high school. You're the first person I came to when I lost my virginity. You're the person I came to for help in losing weight. You were there for my first co-ed birthday party when I had to kiss Richie Michaels in Spin-the-Bottle. God, we've been through so much together."

"We have," Rachel choked out. "I can't imagine life without you. You're such a wonderful person, Monica."

"I'm not afraid to die, Rachel. I've accepted the fact that this is going to happen. I know my time has almost come. That's why I called for you. I needed you here. I couldn't leave without saying goodbye."

"Thank you for being my friend, Monica. It was an honor to be your friend."

"It was an honor for me too," Monica replied. Rachel bent down and kissed Monica's forehead.

"Do you want me to get Chandler?"

"Yeah," Monica whispered. Rachel started to get up and Monica reached for her.

"Wait," she started.

"What is it?"

"Make sure Jack and Erica take care of Chandler," she whispered. "He's going to need them more than ever."

"I'll make sure."

"Watch over them, will you?"

"I will," Rachel swore. "I love you Monica."

"I love you too."

"Goodbye sweetie," Rachel cried. She turned and left to find Chandler, tears streaming down her cheeks. She ran into Joey as she walked toward the chapel in the church. Joey was standing at the window of the small chapel. "Hey Joe." Joey turned to face Rachel.

"Rach," he whispered. Rachel walked over to him and they hugged.

"I'm so glad you're here," Rachel whispered. "I can't believe it's been six years. I can't believe we haven't seen you in six years."

"I'm sorry I've been away," Joey replied. "I'm so sorry I wasn't here. God, I hate that I wasn't here."

"It's okay," Rachel replied. "You were busy with your wife and baby."

"It's not right," Joey replied. "I needed to be here for Chandler. He was my best friend. I wasn't here for him while his wife was sick."

"Monica doesn't hold it against you, does she?" Rachel asked.

"No," Joey replied.

"Then you shouldn't either," Rachel replied. She patted Joey's back and he walked away. She stepped into the church. She saw Chandler kneeling at the altar.

"God, I know that I'm not a praying person. But my wife's life is on the line, and she . . . she says she's going to die. You can't take her from me. She's my life. I need her. If she dies, my life is going to fall apart. My children will see that I'm a horrible father. The only reason they think I'm a good father is because Monica has always told them that I am. I can't convince them, I know I can't. You can't take her from me. Please don't take her from me." Chandler broke down into uncontrollable sobs. Rachel walked over and kneeled down beside him. She put her arms around him and he cried on her shoulder.

"It's alright," she whispered.

"I can't do this . . ."

"Monica needs you now," Rachel whispered. "You're a great father, Chandler. You're going to be fine."

"I'm not going to be fine. I need her! She can't leave me!"

"Chandler, you need to go to her. You need to be with her," Rachel whispered. "Go on." Chandler stood slowly and Rachel helped him out the door. They walked slowly down the hall. Chandler felt like he was walking a gauntlet as all eyes were on him. They weren't angry eyes though. Everybody looked at him with sympathy and sadness in their eyes. He hated that people felt sorry for him. He wasn't the one who was dying.

Chandler walked into Monica's room and he could see that her breathing was becoming shorter. He saw her chest move in quick, short movements. She was dying. She heard Chandler's footsteps and opened her eyes. Her vision was blurred and she was getting cold. Everything sounded like it was echoing.

"Don't leave me," Chandler whispered as he sat down.

"I have to go," Monica whispered. "I have to say goodbye."

"Not yet. You can hold on. You're stronger than this!" Chandler exclaimed.

"Chandler, I gave up being strong a long time ago. I used to pride myself on being the best at everything. But I'm done trying to prove myself. It's my time to go, honey, and I have to go. I can't live anymore. You've got to be strong for our children. Never let them . . . never let them hurt each other. Never let them get hurt. Make sure they're in bed by nine every night and . . . make sure they pull their weight around the house with the chores." Chandler began to sob again. How could her dying words be orders for him in taking care of the children?

"I know what to do," Chandler whispered.

"I know you do," Monica replied. "I have faith in you. We'll be together again someday. I love you so much." Monica's eyes fluttered shut and a moment later, her breathing stopped and her heart monitor flat-lined. She was gone.

Chandler rested his head on her belly and he sobbed with grief. She was gone and she wasn't coming back. Monica had let go and she was someplace else now.

"Goodbye Monica," he whispered, knowing that's all he had left to say. "Goodbye." He felt Monica's hand go weak and he knew he would never feel her warm touch to his face or her soft lips to his again. He knew she'd never yell at him for being stupid or ask him to help her clean up. His Monica was gone. His life, his lover, his wife . . . she was gone. She wasn't coming back.

A nurse walked in to unhook Monica's machines. Chandler wanted to yell at her to wake up. He wanted to tell her they were going to put her in a cold freezer before the funeral. He knew how Monica hated to be cold. He wanted to tell her that she had to get up and yell at him for letting the nurse unhook the machines. But he couldn't. He watched as a doctor walked in and exchanged words with the nurse. The doctor turned to him and said something that Chandler couldn't hear. All he could hear were Monica's last words ringing in his head.

He watched them take her body away with a sheet covering her up. Chandler followed them out of the room and saw Joey, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, and Mike clinging to one another. He realized now that this was what he needed from now on. He needed their support more than ever now. He saw Rachel open her arms and pull him into their hug. Everybody was so reassuring. Why didn't he feel assured? He felt that life was over now. He didn't feel like he had anything to live for. But when he saw Jack and Erica come running up to him, he realized that he had to be strong for him. Monica told him to. He had to obey.

He kneeled down and pulled the crying children into his arms.

"She's gone?" Erica asked.

"She's gone," Chandler whispered.

"She's never coming back," Jack pointed out. Chandler looked at his son and swallowed hard.

"No son . . . she's not," he replied. He took his children's hands and led them down the hall with his friends behind them. This was his family. He had to keep it together for Monica.