It was 3 AM in Joey's apartment, and the baby chick wouldn't go back to sleep, again. It chirped incessantly, waking up the baby duck too, and together, the tiny birds made quite a ruckus for their size.

"Shh, shh! Mama's here." Joey was exhausted; he'd lost count of all the nights that he'd lost sleep to these two demanding babies. The Days of Our Lives makeup artists were finding it hard to hide the bags under his eyes.

Joey sighed and tiredly attempted to comfort the birds with their toys, and even a miniature version of Hugsy. Joey had forgotten how much work it was to take care of baby birds. It had been seven years, after all, since the original chick was a baby, and three years since he had birds of any age living in his apartment.

(The original chick and duck had fallen seriously ill after eating Rachel's face cream, and after a visit to the vet, Chandler had told Joey that it was safer for the birds to go and live on a special farm away from the city, where they could run around outside and play with other birds and be happy. Joey had of course wanted to visit this special farm, but Chandler told him that this was against the rules.)

When Rachel and Emma had lived here with Joey, there had been lots of crying and screaming from that infant, too, but at least it wasn't all the time, and Emma often stayed the night with Ross, or her grandparents, instead.

With Chick Jr. and Duck Jr., Joey was reliving in vivid detail all the sleepless nights he had gone through with his previous pets. Only one thing was missing now--Chandler. Chandler had been here the last time, but now Joey was a single bird parent.

Remembering something that Chandler used to do, Joey began to sing to the birds "Old Macdonald Had a Farm" and the birds finally settled down. After they fell asleep, Joey laid them back on the straw nest he'd made for them, and he covered them with a blanket.

Then Joey sat back and watched them sleeping. How cute they looked, when they were peaceful and quiet. Joey wished that Chandler was here to see them. If only Chandler was still across the hall, and Joey could just go over there and wake him up. But Chandler wasn't living there anymore. He, Monica, and their adopted twins had moved to that house in Westchester. That stupid house in the stupid suburbs. He still hated it, even though he told them that he would be supportive of their decision. He didn't like his new neighbors, and he didn't like living here, all alone. The apartment felt so empty now.

Joey missed Chandler a lot, and he hated being so far away from his best friend. Sure, Rachel and Ross were living across the street with Emma now, and Phoebe and Mike were still in the city, even if it was several blocks away, but it wasn't the same anymore. Things were changing too much, and too fast, as if the universe had arbitrarily decided to bombard them with major life changes all at once. Phoebe had got married, Monica and Chandler had adopted babies and moved, Estelle died, and Ross and Rachel were back together. They were all leaving Joey behind, and nobody had time to just hang out in the coffeehouse anymore.

With Monica and Chandler living miles away now, it felt like they had left the group entirely. They hardly ever called or visited lately because they were so busy with the twins. Joey certainly knew how demanding babies could be, but he'd always hoped that Monica and Chandler would live nearby in that case. That way, Joey could still see them or even help babysit the twins for them. He didn't understand their reasoning that "growing up" required that they move away and drift apart from their close friends.

Feeling rather gloomy and desolate, Joey finally got up and returned to his bedroom. After Monica's demolition, he had saved many parts of the broken foosball table, and from the rubble he picked up two of the foosball players, one yellow and one black. Joey remembered the names that they had given to these players, and he smiled sadly while thinking of all the games he and Chandler had played with them.

Still staring at the foosball players, Joey got into bed and lay down, just holding onto the foosball players for comfort until he finally drifted off to sleep.

That weekend, a very disheveled Chandler answered the doorbell at his house and was startled to see Joey standing there on his front step.

"Hey!" Joey grinned and immediately pulled him into a big bear hug. He missed Chandler so much, and it had been far too long since their last hug.

"J-Joe!" Chandler laughed breathlessly and then staggered back out of Joey's arms. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to visit you guys," Joey explained and gestured to the suitcases he had packed for the weekend. "Come on, isn't that what the Joey room is for?"

"Oh, sure. It's just, if you'd given us some warning--"

"Well, I tried calling, but nobody answered, so I decided to surprise you guys. Look, I brought some presents for the twins."

"Oh, thanks!" But then Chandler looked concerned. "It's not the chick and duck, is it? 'Cause I don't think we can handle any more babies just now."

"I know," Joey nodded. "I left Chick Jr. and Duck Jr. with Phoebe and Mike for the weekend. They're talking so much about having a big family, you know, that I thought I'd give them a chance to practice taking care of babies together."

"That's a good idea." Chandler sighed and really wished that someone had given him and Monica a chance to practice with twins before they were born. Sure, Chandler loved little Erica and Jack, and he was trying so hard to be a good dad, but surely the adoption agency or the doctors should have informed them about the twins as soon as sonograms were available. Chandler wished that he had been able to take a thorough parenting class to prepare himself better. Due to the last minute surprise, Chandler was now relying mostly on his scattered experiences with babysitting Ben, Emma, and the triplets that belonged to Frank and Alice.

Chandler started to let Joey inside the house, when Monica came into the living room from the den, looking quite harassed and disheveled too.

"Chandler, no! I told you, no company while the house is a mess!"

"Monica, it's just Joey."

"Oh," Monica hadn't recognized Joey at first glance, being so distracted and upset about the state of the house. "Well, fine, you can come in, Joey. But you have to swear that you'll never ever tell anybody how messy this place is. Especially not my mother!" She really couldn't take her mother's scathing criticisms just now.

"I promise," Joey said and came over to give her a hug, before glancing around the house. "It doesn't look so bad to me."

Monica rolled her eyes and scoffed. "You'd say that. Your apartment's so gross, it should be condemned."

Joey grinned and even seemed a little proud of that fact. He liked being a slob, and it was one of the best things about being a bachelor. "Well, who cares?" he told Monica. "It's just a stupid house in the stupid suburbs, anyway!"

"Joey!" Chandler scolded him.

Joey shrugged. "I told you, it comes and it goes."

Monica sighed and remained frustrated with the house. "It looks so awful! I haven't even finished decorating it." Monica had planned to paint the walls, and buy a lot of furnishings, art, curtains, flowers, and more, but she hadn't been able to do so, because the twins had been born early, before they had a chance to move into the house and decorate it. Even with housewarming presents from their friends and family, many rooms of the house were still quite bare.

Joey offered, "Hey, if you want, I'll make you guys some furniture! I'll build you some real nice bookshelves, and an entertainment center--"

Chandler shook his head and interrupted, remembering the oversized entertainment center that Joey had built years ago. "No, no, no! That's okay, Joe. That's all right. We're fine with what we've got now." He added to his wife, "It's really not that bad, Mon."

"It's horrible!" she insisted. "I can't stand to live like this!"

The house was so untidy and dirty because it was a losing battle to keep up with the housework while trying to take care of two newborn babies. The perfectionist in Monica considered it a terrible disgrace to let the house get this bad, and she constantly berated herself for it, even though Chandler kept telling her that there were more important things in life.

To change the subject, Joey said, "Come on, show me where the babies are!" So they all went into the den, with Joey bringing along his bag of baby presents.

Joey was excited to see the twins, and he remarked on how much they'd grown in the past month. "Look, they have your eyes, Chandler," Joey said as he picked them up.

Chandler smiled and didn't bother to correct Joey, that they were Erica's features, or those of the biological father. "Hey guys, do you remember your uncle Joey? Huh?"

Joey made cooing noises to the babies and then asked if anybody had a camera to take pictures. "I'm gonna give them their presents now."

"Okay." Chandler searched through the clutter for a camera, while Monica just slumped back into a rocking chair and felt incredibly worn out. She wished she could take a nap right now, but it was hard for her to relax when the house was such a mess.

Chandler found a camera and took pictures while Joey played with the babies and showed them their new toys. After having some fun for a while, they had to put the babies down for a nap, so the adults headed to the living room and took a baby monitor with them.

They sat down on the couch, and Monica resumed grumbling about the messy house.

Ever hopeful, Joey suggested that Monica and Chandler move back to the city, where they'd only have an apartment to keep clean, instead of this huge house. Plus, they'd be closer to friends and relatives who could babysit and make things easier on them. "You guys could even move in with me!"

Chandler was tempted by this offer, thinking that it would help Monica to stop stressing out so much, but she refused to move. Sure, things weren't working out the way that she'd planned and hoped, but Monica could not "fail" at being a homemaker, even if this was only a temporary arrangement, while she was on maternity leave from the restaurant. To her, leaving Westchester would be to admit defeat.

Joey was disappointed, and with a pout, he went to take his luggage upstairs. Chandler accompanied him to the "Joey room" of the house and showed him that they were now keeping the white dog statue in that room.

"Cool! Hey, what happened to him?" Joey asked, looking at the dog more closely.

Chandler explained, "Oh, the movers dropped him on the way over here, and they left a big crack in him. I had to patch him up a little." He frowned and remembered with annoyance that Monica had suggested after the accident that they throw the statue away. Chandler knew that she hated it and that the dog was tacky, but it was a gift from Joey, and after losing the foosball table not so long ago, he really didn't want to part with the statue too. Besides, it made Joey's room look less bare.

Joey said, "Thanks for fixing him, Chandler. It kinda makes it feel like home." Then he unpacked his suitcases and took out some other mementos from home, like Hugsy and some baby pictures of Chick Jr. and Duck Jr.

"Aw, they're so cute!" Chandler chuckled at the pictures, which brought back many happy memories of the good old days. "Duck Jr. is already swimming in the bathtub, I see."

"Yeah, and look what I brought you." He handed Chandler a couple of foosball players.

"Oh, cool! Jordan and Joel!" Chandler was glad to see that Joey had saved something from the wreckage.

"You should keep them here," Joey said, "and don't lose them or anything. They should always be together, you know." Even though we can't be.

Chandler nodded and understood his point. "Thanks, Joe." He hugged him again. "We'll keep them in this room, so that the babies don't accidently chew on them or anything."

"Yeah."

The rest of the weekend, Joey helped them out a lot by watching after the babies and allowing Monica to have more time for cleaning up the house. Chandler alternated between helping Monica with chores and hanging out with Joey.

Joey actually knew quite a lot about babies, since his seven sisters all had kids and he sometimes babysat for them. Joey gave Chandler lots of practical advice on how to keep the babies happy, the kind of advice that came from experience rather than books. Chandler was glad to have reassurance that he was doing just fine for a first time father, and that he wasn't making too many mistakes.

When Joey read bedtime stories to the twins, Chandler found it quite touching, and even got a little teary-eyed. Joey smiled and teased him about it, but not too harshly. He had missed Chandler so much lately, and he wanted to keep their jokes mild and friendly.

Finally having the house somewhat under control, Monica was able to relax at last and feel better. But she started to get jealous about how much Joey was bonding with the babies. She didn't want the twins to love their uncle Joey more than their own mother, so she would sometimes interrupt his babysitting and take the babies back.

Joey and Chandler shrugged it off and took the opportunity to spend time with each other. Joey wished that they had a foosball table, or other games here.

"Maybe we'll get some guy stuff later, Joe, when we can afford it." Almost all their money was being spent on the babies lately. "How about we watch some Die Hard or Weekend at Bernie's?"

"Okay."

Meanwhile, Monica became more and more insecure about the twins, and she felt that they weren't becoming properly attached to her, because she couldn't breastfeed them. Both before and after the adoption, Monica had tried various methods to induce lactation and stimulate her nipples, but she had lost patience and given up because she didn't seem to be producing much milk.

Monica complained miserably, "I'm missing out on all the natural, maternal bonding stuff that's supposed to happen. Anybody can bottle-feed a baby, even you guys!"

Chandler protested, "You're their mother, Monica! They know that, and they love you. You wash them, diaper them, dress them, feed them, cuddle them, and do everything that they need. You're always there for them, and that's what matters. I mean, I sometimes feel like the babies don't really know who I am yet, because I'm still commuting to Manhattan for work, and I only get to spend nights and weekends with them."

Monica remained anxious, though. "But when I go back to work after maternity leave ends, and I have to put the babies in day care, then I won't see them as much anymore. The twins will start to like the day care nannies more than me, and I bet they'll call them mommy too."

Joey shook his head. "Of course they won't!"

Monica pouted. "You wanna know what Emma's first word was, after 'gleba'? It was 'mama' to the nanny."

The guys were shocked by this, and hoped that it was only a child's confusion of the names Molly and Mommy.

Chandler insisted, "So what? You are a way better mother than Rachel is, Mon. You're loving and devoted, and you don't constantly hand off the kids to babysitters and grandparents, either. The kids are very attached to you already, and they won't forget you just because some other woman starts bottle feeding and taking care of them. You'll see."

Monica sighed and tried to believe that, but she still felt depressed. "I just wish I could know what it's like, you know? Really connecting with the babies like that. It's one of the things that I was looking forward to all these years, after I saw Carol breastfeeding." Monica got very emotional. "It was so hard not being able to experience the pregnancy myself, and to not experience this either--it, it feels like I'm not their real mother."

She started crying, and Chandler hugged her close, trying to reassure her.

Seeing how much this breastfeeding thing meant to Monica, Joey said, "Well, um, maybe you could ask Carol for help, or somebody. Or, oh!" He got an idea. "What did Frank and Alice do when they brought home all the triplets, huh? I think I remember Phoebe telling me that Alice wanted to breastfeed too, so she bought this crazy gadget from the baby store. You're supposed to wear it around your neck, and it has this, like, pouch to hold the milk, and it drips down these tubes to both the nipples, so she could feed two of the babies at the same time. Frank wanted to help out, so he got a doohickey too and fed the other triplet at the same time."

Monica became excited by this idea. "Oh my God, of course! Thank you!" She got up and dried her tears in a hurry. "I-I should go to the baby store and get one of those! And then I should get Frank and Alice to show me how to use it!" She found her car keys and immediately dashed out the door, wanting to get to the store before it closed.

Joey and Chandler shrugged and assumed that they were supposed to watch the twins until she got back. Chandler patted Joey's shoulder and thanked him for the suggestion.

Joey replied, "No problem. Actually, I thought it was pretty bizarre for Frank to want to wear that thing. But he's always been kind of strange, I guess."

"Yeah." Chandler hoped that none of the triplets had become sexually confused by being "breastfed" by Frank Jr. Still, all of the triplets had seemed rather normal and healthy the last time that they visited.

When Monica got back from the store later, she had one of those artificial nursing gadgets and immediately wanted to try it out. (She had called Alice on her cell phone to ask advice on what she should buy. Alice said that she was too busy with the triplets right now to show Monica how to use it, but she offered to come over some other time if Monica had trouble with the device.) Monica felt gung-ho enough to try out the gadget by herself, so she filled up the pouch with formula, then tried to breastfeed each of the twins. It took some practice to get the hang of it, but it finally worked and made her feel a lot better. She decided to regularly feed the babies this way, so they could bond in this uniquely maternal way.

Joey and Chandler were happy for her, but couldn't help being rather embarrassed about seeing Monica nurse. She fed the babies with her breasts exposed, in order to encourage the babies to try sucking on her nipples. This was recommended for maternal bonding and to stimulate lactation. Chandler of course shooed Joey out of the room, so that he wouldn't stare at Monica's breasts, but he found himself ogling his wife too, and had to leave.

[Note: It is actually possible to breastfeed an adopted baby, even if the adoptive mother has never been pregnant or given birth before. The mother does need to work at it, though, and have enough guidance from a lactation consultant or member of the La Leche League. Searching on the internet, I've even found breastfeeding devices that help supplement the milk supply when the mother isn't producing enough milk for her baby.]