Disclaimer: Friends does not belong to me….I do own The Voice though. Sort of.
AN: This first scene takes place pretty much right where the last scene of chapter 6 left off. Maybe a time lapse of about an hour- nothing major. I'd like to make clear that I didn't really hate the last chapter: it was just my least favorite and I thought it should be much better after such a long gap of updating. I tend to be melodramatic :- ). And thanks for all the positive feedback! You guys rock!
And in case anyone was wondering about Chandler's gift for Joey, Patrick Ewing is a center for the New York Knicks. I chose him only because of that and because he was also playing for them in 1999, when this story was set. I know pretty much nothing about basketball.
Pray for everyone affected by Hurricane Katrina.
And I did have fun at camp (thanks to everyone who wished me good luck, etc.)
DanielFactoid: Er…wow! (Of course I read the whole review! Now I get your messed-up cd player!) I'm sorry about the parental block-y thing- I removed the f-word in case anyone else was having similar troubles. Although, I never would have guessed that you were 13! People are always surprised that I'm 16 by my writing, and from your writing I would have guessed you were at least my age, if not older. The Voice only had like 3 lines in chapter 6, but I love it to death anyway, and I'm glad you like it, too. The sugar plum reference…I don't know exactly what they are, but it's from a poem, Twas the Night before Christmas: "The children were nestled all snug in their bed, While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads," so that's why it was "visions of Richard… dancing in his head like sugarplums" . …yeah, just so you know it wasn't completely random. I love writing Joey and Phoebe- they're the best friendship couple (I only say that because I can't write Monica/Chandler friendship-just romance). I didn't even realize there was no Rachel in this chapter until I'd finished it! There was going to be a Rachel/Chandler friendship scene, but it got moved to the next chapter (I was having a lot of trouble with it). My new computer rocks, thanks for asking! Once my old one dies completely, you can have it (it's sort-of an office supply) if you leave more reviews like that! And I only know about Langford because I saw he was sometimes credited as Matthew L. Perry and I wanted to know what the L stood for. I obsess over little things often. I love that it's an unusual name, like Chandler. And the Foo Fighters rock! Well, I don't like all of their songs, but you've got to listen to Everlong, which reminds me of them a little bit. It was also played at the end of their wedding episode (you can barely recognize it, though, without the lyrics and played by a string quartet) so I thought it was appropriate. I chose the band because I like them, Courteney Cox Arquette loves them, and they were around in 1999, when this fic was set. Oh, and as you'll see in this chapter, it is Ross' wrapping paper. It does sound like it's probably Joey's, but I needed it to be Ross' for the plot. We can say he got it to wrap Ben's present or something. Now, did you manage to read all of this?
Wendelin the Weird: Well, I can't tell you if you're right or not about Monica's feelings, but I did promise a healthy amount of Mondler in this chapter, which is what you're going to get. So you'll just have to see. They've talked about past lives before on the show, and I wanted Phoebe and Joey to attempt to play matchmaker, so that's how that scene was born. And about Chandler's second half of the present, again, you'll just have to see.
Dawn1: I can't take credit for the "expired stuff" idea. That was in the show- season 5. I just wanted a reason to get Chandler over to Monica's and threw that in.
Lupinsmoon12391: Yeah, you're right. I reread it and found that I couldn't really change anything extensively. So…yeah. Thanks for reviewing. :- )
Shanima: I am a Rachel/Chandler fan, although I love Mondler more, but that chapter wasn't a hint for future Rachel/Chandler romance in this fic :shudders:. It was just a small shout-out. Besides, all of the Rachel/Chandler things that Phoebe said (in their current lives) are true and taken from the show. The kiss at the college party was in TOW The Stripper Cries, and Chandler hit on Rachel in TOW The Flashback.
Chan4Mon4EVA4EVA: Thanks! The past lives thing was fun to write. And I'm glad you love Foo Fighters too, although I wouldn't have really cared if you hated them. It wasn't really a big thing; I just chose that band because they were around in the 90s and I know a lot of their songs.
LucyGoose: Aww, thanks! The haiku thing will be mentioned again in this chapter, except in a very different way.
Bowels: I know Chandler working is insane, but Chandler not working like on the show is unrealistic, and obstacles are always fun, so I killed two birds with one stone and had Doug make Chandler work overtime.
Also thanks to mondlerlove, LilMondlerLuver, Jayne Leigh, fashion hottie, writergal90, ElSupremo, and everyone who reviewed chapter 5.
The important thing to remember when talking to voices (or, as the case may be, a Voice) in your head is to never get carried away, and start to think of said Voice as an actual person. Chandler had already begun to think of The Voice as a short, slightly sadistic-looking man with weird eyebrows. To tell the truth, it looked a hell of a lot like Jack Black.
And now that the connection was made, any and all words uttered by The Voice sounded like Jack Black. It was disconcerting, to say the least.
So now Chandler was laying upside-down on the sofa in the living room, legs draped over the back and concentrating on trying to change The Voice's imagery and sound to that of Julie Andrews' performance in Mary Poppins (it was harder, and more entertaining, than it sounded). The mental image of Jack Black had just flickered to Julie Andrews' head on Black's miniaturized body (bobble-head like) when Ross wandered in, looking distracted.
"Hey, Chandler, have you seen my dinosaur wrapping paper?" he asked, glancing around as if it would appear out of thin air in a puff of smoke to the theme of 'I Dream of Jeannie.'
'Ha! Told ya it was Ross' wall paper!' The Voice snicker-snacked (sometimes you have to use vocabulary from a poem titled 'Jabberwocky' when describing The Voice. It's just one of those things.), immediately reverting back to Jack Black. Chandler hauled himself carefully into a sitting position.
"Yeah, it's in my room…on the floor, by the garbage can." He added the last part tentatively, unsure if Ross had any designated wrapping paper holding place, and if he would throw a fit just like he did when Chandler treated some other paper type thing with "flippancy and frivolity". Okay, so maybe he'd tried to make a paper mache oven mitt and accidentally used Ross' paper on 'Theory on Dinosaur Aerobics' (or something to that effect) in the paper mache. And so Ross' computer was being updated or repaired at some shop at that time, and Ross hadn't had time to wait for it to get back and print out another copy before it was due in.
…it was nothing to make a big fuss over.
"Chandler!" Ross roared (there was no other word for it; roared) from the bedroom a few seconds later. "Chandler! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?"
Chandler half sat up as Ross stormed back over to the couch, unsure of whether or not he should make a sarcastic comment or not. It was Ross' nature to overreact to things, so him yelling wasn't exactly a new development. But him using even the mildest curse was pretty odd, and The Voice (still Jack Black, if anyone was keeping score) was warning him not to make jokes.
"What the hell is what?" he settled on, but even as the words left his mouth, a sinking feeling told him he already knew. That and a bit of crumpled paper Ross was clutching so hard his knuckles were white.
"THIS!" Ross screeched, waving the paper in front of Chandler's face. "Let's read it shall we? Maybe it'll refresh your memory," he added in a tone of strained calm.
Ross straightened out the paper with a tight tug that nearly tore it in two in the process, and read the haiku in a voice riddled with scorn.
"Mon, you're lovely
I love how high-pitched you get
when I sneak a taste."
It could not possibly get any worse. Not only was that one of the haikus that he'd written after starting a contest with himself (who could write the worst haiku ever), but the last line seemed full of double- meanings that he hadn't even noticed while writing. At the time, he'd just been unable to fit 'sneak a taste of your delicious cupcake batter' or something similar into 5 syllables.
Looking at Ross' bright red face, Chandler really wished he hadn't bothered to follow the classical format of the haiku. Or better yet, listen to Monica and take out the trash more often.
"No-now, Ross," he found himself stuttering, "You're jumping to conclusions, 'cause it's just a little jokey haiku, and I just wrote because there was a contest for worst haikus, like a haiku version of the Bulwer-Lytton worst sentence contest. Remember we went to the website the other day?"
'No, that was Joey,' The Voice (Still Jack Black) reminded him cheerfully.
"Chandler, I don't know what you're trying to do," Ross said in a voice shaking with rage, "But this is my sister you're writing sick poetry about, and you can not write stuff about my sister."
"It's not sick!" Chandler exclaimed, then remembered the misconception over the last line and decided to change tack. "And who says it's about your sister? I said 'Mon', not 'Mon-ica'. It could be short for-for Mon…aba."
"Monaba?" Ross repeated doubtfully.
"It's African," Chandler said stiffly, hoping vaguely that Ross wouldn't do something like go to or something.
"This haiku was addressed to Monaba," Ross clarified, voice dripping with sarcasm.
"I didn't say that." Maybe there was a way he could pull through this. "First of all, it wasn't addressed to anyone, just about someone named Mon. Second of all, it wasn't necessarily someone named Monaba, just that it's a possibility and you shouldn't just assume Mon is short for Monica. It could have been something completely different!" Although Chandler had started his speech calmly enough, by the end he was borderline hysterical. He could tell by the determined glower on Ross' face that he wasn't buying it.
"Really. Like what?"
"Like what? Like…like I could be doing a Jamaican thing: 'How's it going, mon,'" Chandler demonstrated in his best Jamaican accent.
"You know what?" Ross said in disgust, "You could at least own up to it, instead of denying it badly. It's bad enough that you actually like my sister…."
It was around then that Chandler gave up on convincing Ross that it wasn't Monica that the haiku was about. It wasn't a conscious decision; it was just automatically made when he lost his temper.
"It's bad enough that I like your sister?" he repeated incredulously. "What d'you mean, it's 'bad enough?'"
"You shouldn't like her!" Ross yelled back. "You're not supposed to like her, and other than Joey, you're the last person I'd ever want her with!"
"And why is that, Ross?" Chandler asked quietly. This whole argument was so stupid; so childish; it was like a regression to being a freshman at NYU.
"You know your track record with women," Ross scoffed, not clueing in to the fact that Chandler was no longer angry or defensive. "Even if you found some way to get her to go out with you, you'd back out of being in a real relationship, and never call her because of your commitment issues."
"Of course I wouldn't call her," Chandler replied, unable to resist the opening Ross had provided. "She lives right across the hall."
Ross didn't seem to have heard him. "I'm not going to let you hurt her, just because you haven't had sex since Kathy!"
"I have so had sex since Kathy!" Chandler exclaimed.
'Okay, so not the right thing to focus on, here,' The Voice reminded him. (sounding like that girl from Clueless, strangely enough) 'And do you really want Ross to ask for details?'
"I'm not going to let you use my sister, Chandler!" Ross screeched.
Chandler, despite everything, couldn't help but roll his eyes. Ross had overreacted so much to a simple haiku that, if a stranger had overheard the conversation, he would have compared Chandler to Joey at his worst.
"I mean, how could you do this to me?" Ross continued to rant. "We're supposed to be best friends- you two are supposed to best friends- and you betray both of us by lusting after her!"
"I am not lusting after her!" Chandler hissed lowly. They were, after all, in an apartment building, and Monica was right across the hall.
"Is this some sort of practical joke, then? Haha, Ross lost his job and is homeless, lets see if we can make his life worse!"
"You didn't lose your job; you're on sabbatical," Chandler reminded his friend gently, anger and sympathy fighting for dominance in his voice.
Ross stared at him for a long moment, then shook his head. Seconds later, the door slammed behind him.
"You should have said Mona, or Monique, or Monita," Phoebe said, taking a careful sip of her hot coffee.
"Gee, thanks, Pheebs. That really helps me now," Chandler responded bitterly, resting his elbows on his knees and burying his face in his hands.
"Oh, come on. It could have been worse," Rachel consoled him. "I mean, he could have…killed you, or told Mon."
Chandler sat up so fast that both Rachel and Joey started backwards, Rachel accidentally sloshing burning coffee over his hand.
"Oh my God, he's going to tell Monica!"
"He might not," Joey muttered, looking worried. Chandler was already in full panic-mode.
"Wh-where is Monica right now? Is she upstairs? Because Ross could be over there, in her apartment, right now telling her! Did she have work today? Because if she did, and if she is at work, then th-there's a phone there. At work. In her kitchen. Ross is probably calling her up right-"
"Chandler, calm down!" Phoebe said impatiently, reaching around Rachel to swat him lightly on the forehead with her cinnamon stick. "It'll be okay, Ross will not tell Monica because-ooh! Monifa!"
Chandler stared at her. "What?"
"Monifa! It's my friend's name. You know," she added off Chandler's disbelieving looks, "the one with no hair?"
"I thought that was Bonnie," Rachel murmured, unable to hide the bitterness in her voice. Phoebe shook her head, either not catching or ignoring Rachel's tone.
"No, Bonnie shaves her head. Monifa doesn't believe in having hair anywhere on your body."
"So she, like, shaves her eyebrows?" Joey asked. His confused expression prompted Rachel to snort into her coffee.
"Among other places," Phoebe murmured. Chandler and Joey exchanged grimaces.
Chandler tensed, poised uncertainly between apartments 19 and 20. He felt like a refugee; what if Ross was in his apartment? Or worse, in Mon's apartment, telling her that her friend "lusted after her"? And then Monica would storm out of her apartment, not quite believing Ross, to confront Chandler….
A combination of that mental image and Phoebe's impatient clearing of throat behind him finally prompted Chandler to propel himself forward towards his apartment, lingering in the doorway until Phoebe poked him in the small of the back. The living room, thankfully, was completely devoid of life, if you didn't count the bread growing mold in the breadbox.
"So, where do you think he is?" Phoebe asked in a near-whisper. Apparently, Chandler's paranoia was contagious. Chandler shrugged in an attempt to loosen the taunt muscles in his neck as much as a response to Phoebe's question.
"I don't know. But he came back here since I went down to the coffeehouse- his coat's gone, and he didn't grab it when he stormed out."
"I'm impressed. You know, we should fight crime together! There's a lot of robberies around the holidays!"
"Um…thanks- that's a real compliment coming from you, 99."
Phoebe giggled. "Okay. So should we search the apartment?"
"Well, Chandler, I don't know," Phoebe intoned sarcastically, before turning businesslike. "Ross might have booby trapped your room, for one thing. Use your head!"
"Booby-trap my room? God, Pheebs, Ross isn't in the military."
"You don't need chemical weapons to make a booby-trap. Haven't you ever seen Home Alone?"
"Well, Ross isn't seven, either," Chandler snapped, sinking down onto a stool and resting his forehead on the table.
"Oh, come on! Kevin McCallister was at least nine!"
"He was not!"
Yes, he was! And- this conversation has taken an interesting turn."
Phoebe rolled her eyes dramatically. "Fine, but if you walk into your room and a bucket of ice water upends over your head, don't come crying to me!"
"Duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh-duh-nuh-duh-nuh-duh-nuh-duh-nuuuuuh, duh-nuh-duh-nuh, nuh,"she began to hum tunelessly after a couple minutes' of tense silence. Chandler, nerves already frayed, glowered at her.
"Why are you humming?"
"It's the Pink Panther theme!" she said defensively. "And I thought it went with the apprehensive mood, where Ross might come in any second. You know, Ross is the detective, and you're- or we're- the panther. Or is it the other way 'round? You know, I ever actually saw the movie, but from the merchandise I gathered-"
"Pheebs, maybe the Pink Panther theme does fit the mood, but you were humming The Odd Couple."
The door banged open, and Chandler jumped up, taking refuge behind Phoebe as the image of Ross rushing wielding a crowbar flashed through his mind.
"There is nothing to eat over at Mon's!" Joey complained loudly, hopping on top of the counter (barely avoiding stepping on Chandler's hand) and poking through the kitchen cabinets. "She says she's saving most of the food to make Christmas dishes, and that it's my own fault for missing dinner! I was at an audition! And then you guys were in the coffeehouse, and… you were sitting by this really hot girl! What I want to know now is, whatever happened to all of the fun holiday stuff we used to do on Christmas Eve?"
"You mean watching Ugly Naked Guy decorate his tree?" Phoebe asked doubtfully.
"While drinking eggnog!" Joey added furiously, jumping off the counter. "Am I the only one who misses that? How come Monica doesn't make eggnog anymore?"
"Because everybody but you hates it," Chandler responded bluntly. "And anyway, she's already got a lot going on. She's making Christmas dinner for everybody, and her job's really demanding."
"Yeah, yeah, we get whose side you're on," Joey interrupted, removing the carrot sticks from the refrigerator with a grimace. "Are carrots supposed to be green?"
"Just move it to the 'expired' shelf- the garbage is full," Chandler suggested, tossing his friend a candy cane that one of his colleagues had been giving out at work.
"Chandler Bing," Chandler said distractedly into his work phone, concentration mainly on the columns of numbers on the screen in front of him.
"What the hell are you doing?" Joey's voice blared, causing Chandler to almost drop the phone in surprise. "Why are you answering your work phone?"
"Because my secretary didn't come in today," Chandler stalled, flipping through the hard copy of his summation of the W.E.N.U.S.
"Well, maybe you should follow her good example! In case you haven't noticed, today's Christmas!" Joey spoke in a slow, slightly patronizing tone that, Chandler reflected ironically, he was usually on the receiving end of.
"Yeah, I know. I also told you Doug's making me work overtime."
"I- you said- I thought you meant yesterday! Today's not yesterday, Chandler, today's today."
Chandler raised his eyebrows in amusement. "Okay, calm down, Aristotle. It's not like I want to be here."
Joey wouldn't be calmed. "You could have at least told us," he reproached Chandler sulkily. "Monica's made us wait to eat breakfast until we found out where you were!"
"Really?" Chandler asked with a futile attempt to keep the hopefulness out of his voice.
'Oh, get a grip. She'd do that if any one of her friends were missing on Christmas day,' The Voice growled.
"Yeah. You and Ross," Joey said, confirming The Voice's suspicions.
"Really? Ross isn't there?"
"Nope. Pheebs thought he might have killed you in your sleep and dumped you in the Thames."
"…the Thames is in England, Joe," Chandler muttered, deciding not to comment on the rest of the sentence.
"Right. Phoebe said that's why he wasn't back by breakfast. Because if it was the Hudson, he could just-"
"Yeah, I get it," Chandler interrupted quickly, before the unpleasant imagery Joey was putting in his head made it explode.
"So can you come home? I really want to eat!"
Chandler sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Sorry, man, I probably won't be out of here until after six. So that's another…geez, ten hours. Go and tell Monica I'm at work, and to start the festivities without me. Um…I guess you should probably wait for Ross to get beck, but that's your call."
After another three minutes of consoling Joey and persuading him to at least try and get Monica to commence with the gift exchanging instead of waiting until after he got off from work, and two more of side-stepping Joey's questions about what Chandler had gotten him, Chandler was finally able to hang up the phone.
So he had conveniently "forgotten" to tell everybody that he had to go to work on Christmas Day, but it wasn't like it was even a big deal.
'Right,' The Voice drawled sarcastically. 'Because it's not like you went to any trouble to take a shower the night before so you didn't have to go risk waking up either one with the squeaky water pipes and go to bed at ten o' clock so you would be sure to wake up before your alarms and avoid Joey and Ross in the morning.'
'Hey!' Chandler defended himself. 'I went to bed early to avoid "The Wrath of Ross." It wasn't just so I could get up early.'
'Ooh, great defense.'
It wasn't like any good could have come from telling his friends earlier. He would simply be bombarded with anything from pleas to blackmails in an attempt to try and get him to stay. And he couldn't lose his job; not now, at any rate, with Ross also home all day, and generally everything messed-up in his life. He couldn't afford unemployment, on top of anything else.
'Yeah,' The Voice conceded. 'Those lines are insane, and the people there are real assholes.'
Chandler had been unsure what to expect when he got home from work. Angry glowers from Ross and Joey were a certainty in his mind (for opposite reasons of course; Ross would probably be upset he'd come back at all), and although he couldn't quite predict others' reactions, he certainly wasn't expecting this.
"This" was a gigantic party held within the regions of his and Joey's apartment. It was barely recognizable as his apartment, in fact; gaudy Christmas decorations were everywhere, although many hung raggedly and one wild game of Horse was in the process of demolishing a colorful garland strung over Chandler's doorway. Christmas music was blaring from Joey's old boom box, to which he had hooked up huge speakers that Chandler recognized vaguely from Phoebe's apartment.
As if summoned by his thought of her, Phoebe herself appeared seemingly out of nowhere, a plastic cup of an indefinable liquid clutched in her grasp. "Hey, Chandler!" she screeched above a new-age version of 'Rocking Around the Christmas Tree'. "Oh, Monica's gonna be so upset she didn't get to see your 'reaction' to "her party". It was all Joey's idea of course; if she planned this it's be Coaster City, but she's the one who made it into a surprise for you, and because of that she thinks she's responsible for the whole party!"
"Geez, how'd you do this?" Chandler marveled, gazing around at the dancing throng that seeped into every corner of the apartment and trying to ignore the warm feeling that spread through his chest at the thought that at least part of this was Monica's idea. "It's Christmas; don't these people have lives?"
Phoebe giggled, shaking her head. "No! That's the best part! We called up everybody we knew that didn't have a family! I'm pretty sure we single-handedly wiped out all the bars! Also, we ordered a lot of pizza and Chinese food (a surprising amount of take-out places are open on Christmas) and just invited the delivery boys to join us. I was asking lonely-looking people on the streets if they wanted to come up, and they kept thinking I was a prostitute!" Phoebe burst into laughter, gripping Chandler's shoulder for support. "Man, I am so drunk!"
"Pheebs?" Chandler asked her, slightly worried. "Where are people we know?"
Phoebe glanced around. "Um…we invited everybody from Central Perk (and sure enough, Chandler could see Gunther bouncing around in the middle of the dance floor, being cheered on by several Mexicans Chandler was sure worked at the restaurant on the other block) "and the rest I don't know where the heck they are! Um…Joey went to a pick up a couple cases of beer, but he couldn't find anything open in a 5-block radius. He said he'd drive to Jersey if he had to. I think Monica and Rachel are over there." Phoebe pointed in the general direction of Joey's room. "I tried to send Ross over with them a couple minutes ago, but I don't think he made it. Just as well- the plan is completely useless with Monica there."
"Plan?" Chandler repeated faintly.
"Yeah. To get Ross and Rachel back together. Rachel's obviously still in love with him, and Ross is as jealous as a smurf."
"You didn't know that Rachel's still in love with Ross? God, where have you been? Oh, that's right, moping over Monica!"
"No, I meant the smurf…. never mind."
"And they obviously can't get it together themselves! But I'm beginning to wonder- do I have to do everything? I mean, I like to think of myself as the puppet master of the group, but come on, people, the puppet master gets tired!" Phoebe made an exaggeratedly exhausted face and held her hands out in front of her, moving them vaguely up and down.
"What are you, a spastic Frankenstein?" Chandler asked, beginning to feel irritated. Ross could be in this apartment right now, telling Monica- showing her the poem.
"No! I'm handling puppets! Because I'm a puppet master?" She looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to "get it."
Chandler shook his head and shoved his way to Joey's room, closely followed by Phoebe.
After struggling manfully through the crowd, emerged (somehow with his limbs still intact) to come face-to-face with Ross. Well, really, face-to-back. Just as he'd escaped from the "dance floor", he'd tripped over the edge of the rug and accidentally rammed into someone who turned out to be Ross. Yay.
Ross turned to glare at him, and Chandler recognized dimly that Monica and Rachel were standing behind him, peering over Ross' shoulder concernedly. Chandler also recognized that Ross looked a great deal more angry than he should be.
'Yes. Of course he shouldn't look this mad. You only slammed into someone who, as well as being a well-known over reactor, was already mad at you for falling in love with and writing arguably dirty poems for his little sister.'
The Voice's rant was put to an end by Ross, seemingly unable to contain himself any longer, bellowing "You kissed Rachel?"
"No!" Chandler shouted, before realizing that his answer wasn't quite true. "Well, yes, but it was ages ago, and-"
Ross' fist swung towards Chandler's face, and he instinctively dove to the left, slamming his elbow against the wall in the process. Ross' pained screech as his fist hit the side table caused all the on-lookers (yes, apparently they had gathered on-lookers!) to flinch in sympathy and the TV remote laying on the table to crash to the ground and split cleanly in half. This time it was Joey's anguished scream that split the air in two. Someone turned off the music.
"Ross, you're going to pay for that!" Joey snarled, stepping over Chandler to point furiously at the broken remote.
"Joey, those cost like four bucks," Chandler muttered, getting to his feet and rubbing his elbow. The thing about Ross was, no matter what his current relationship with Rachel could be classified as (boyfriend/girlfriend, "just friends", or one-is-not-so-secretly-in-love-with-the-other,-who-up-until-recently-used-to-be-married), Rachel was always a sore spot; always someone he wanted to remain single. In fact, if Chandler wanted to get Ross the perfect Christmas present, he would have Rachel committed to a nunnery.
"Did you really kiss Rachel?" Monica said faintly.
"When did we ever kiss?" Rachel asked, genuinely confused.
"Er…at the college party," Chandler mumbled, with the sinking feeling that he was over his head overwhelming him. He glanced around for help, but everyone's attention seemed to be focused on Joey and Ross- that is, except for Rachel and Monica. They were still staring at Chandler. Lucky him. "Back in college- when I was in college," Chandler continued reluctantly. "I didn't think you remembered- you were pretty drunk."
"You drugged my-I mean, Rachel?" Ross shrieked incredulously, overhearing only the last part of Chandler's explanation.
"What were you about to call Rachel? Your what?" Phoebe asked sweetly. She caught Chandler's eye and made the "puppets on a string" hand motions again.
"I didn't drug anyone!" Chandler shouted back, ignoring Phoebe.
"How am I gonna watch TV?" Joey yelled, still lamenting over the broken remote. Someone turned the music back on, and the crowd dissipated.
"I think I remember that," Rachel said thoughtfully. "Monica was at the party too."
Monica shot Chandler a sharp look that he was too stressed to try to interpret.
"I didn't really mean anything," he sad for the benefit of…anyone in earshot, really. "I just kissed her to get back at Ross for breaking our pact…" he trailed off. There was no reason to remind anyone what nerds they had been in college. "Sorry," he added to Rachel.
"You saw that?" Ross shrieked.
"That's all right," Rachel responded easily. I only kissed you because you were in college and in a band."
"Hey!" Joey exclaimed. "You can turn on the tv by pressing one of the buttons on it!" (He had gone over to the set to grieve)
"But I was in college and in a band!" Ross belted out suddenly.
"What are you saying, Ross?" Rachel asked quietly. "Are you saying that you wanted me to kiss you?"
"NO! I'M SAYING YOU DID KISS ME THAT NIGHT! Or I kissed you- whatever! You kissed me later that night and you can't kiss two guys in one night- you just can't!"
"Ross," Rachel said quietly. "I didn't kiss you that night. By now, I remember everything that happened pretty clearly, and I definitely didn't kiss you."
"Yes, you did," Ross said in a quieter voice than before (people had started to gather around again), but with just as much force. "I came into the dorm room, and you were asleep on my bed, and-"
"Actually," Chandler interrupted warily, not wanting to provoke another fit of anger, "She was asleep on my bed."
"Why was she asleep on your bed?" Ross asked furiously.
"Because it was Chandler she was just making out with," Phoebe said with her usual bluntness. A vein in Ross' forehead started to throb (another thing he and Monica had in common).
"Bu-but," he spluttered. "I kissed her. She was on my bead and I went to kiss her forehead, but it was really dark and I kissed her on the lips instead-"
"Oh, God!" Monica said suddenly. Chandler whipped around to look at her, but she was staring at her drink with a strange, nauseated expression on her face. Had she had too much alcohol? Chandler gently took the plastic cup out of her hands.
"What's wrong?" Phoebe asked.
"Um, I wasn't feeling too good that night," Monica said carefully. "I'd had a little too much to drink. So I went to lay down on Ross' bed…."
"No, you didn't," Ross said, just as carefully. "Because Rachel was laying on my bed."
"Are you sure it was Rachel?" Monica snapped.
"Rachel was laying on my bed," Chandler reminded them.
"Oh my God!" Phoebe shrieked and started laughing, unable to hold it in any longer.
Chandler glanced over at Rachel in an attempt to reassure himself that there was at least one sane person at this party, but she was glaring furiously at Ross.
"Ross, what the hell is wrong with you?" she asked him furiously. "You just got divorced, we haven't been together for over a year, and now you think you have a right to attack someone who kissed me once over ten years ago? Someone that's supposed to be your best friend?"
"Okay, just because I've known Chandler for longer does not mean he's my best friend."
Chandler raised his eyebrows and contemplated slipping back into the safe anonymity of the crowd. He was mercilessly saved from having to intervene somehow by Joey excitedly tugging his arm and pulling him away from the group.
"Dude," he hissed excitedly. "You so owe me for this one!"
"The party? You mean you didn't use my credit card to pay for the food this time?" Chandler asked hopefully.
Joey waved that small detail off impatiently. "Yeah, I did- that's not what I meant. Dude, I told Monica…" he paused for effect until Chandler poked him hard in the ribs: "OW! I told her that you were dating this really hot model."
Chandler stood frozen until a random party-goer crashed into him, sending him crashing sideways into the couch, and successfully knocking the wind out of him. Once he got his breath back, he counted silently to ten in his head and asked Joey calmly,
"Please tell me that dating is your new slang for cousin or acquaintance."
Joey beamed, apparently not catching on to the fact that Chandler could cheerfully kill him right at this moment. "Nope- I said you were dating this hot model named Chelsea Hoffman. Doesn't Chelsea Bing sound great? And then I thought, why would Chandler be dating a model if I wasn't, so I'm dating her twin, Charlotte."
"Charlotte," Chandler repeated faintly, gripping Monica's cup (he was still holding it) so hard that it caved inwards and scotch spilled all over his shirtsleeve.
"Yeah. And good news, man- Monica seemed really angry when I told her!"
"How is that good?" Chandler asked him, a little louder than was necessary ('Little Drummer Boy' was currently playing, although all the dancers seemed to be ignoring the mood of the song and continued to jump around wildly). Joey impatiently shushed him.
"Hey, calm down. I mean angry, like jealous. And she tried to cover for it, saying that she was just upset that you never told her you had a serious girlfriend (I told her you'd been going out for a month) but Joey can always tell." Joey smirked, tapping his temple with his left index finger. Chandler gaped at him, mouth partly open.
"But-you-you can't," he gasped, searching his mind for words that wouldn't possibly scar Joey for life. None came to mind.
A harassed-looking Rachel shoving impatiently past them snapped him out of his lower state of simmering anger, and he was able to dart after Rachel without screaming obscenities at Joey or simply sinking to the ground in despair.
Chandler finally caught up with her in the hallway, tugging on her arm to stop her from disappearing into her apartment. She whirled angrily around to face him, and Chandler was shocked to see that tears lined her eyes.
"Rach, what's wrong?" he asked, letting go of her arm to pat her shoulder awkwardly.
"Nothing, I'm fine," she said, the break in her voice betraying her words. "It's just…Ross is such an idiot."
"Yeah, I know," Chandler said soothingly, with the feeling that he was just making things worse. Rachel sniffed and leaned against the wall. Chandler decided this wasn't the best time to point out that she wasn't rearing waterproof mascara. "What happened?" he added finally, when she showed no signs of wanting to volunteer information.
She sniffed, wiping her eyes and grimacing when her fingers came away smeared with charcoal. "I know that he's mad at you," she started, and Chandler could already tell she was never going to get around to actually answering his question, "and I can even understand why, to some extent, but why does he have to act this way? Like he owns me, or-or like…like he still loves me."
"It's okay," Chandler muttered lamely, and hugged her tentatively. He'd never been very good at comforting, or even being around crying women.
"I'm such a loser!" she said to his chest, voice slightly muffled. He began to rub her back, because it was what people tended to do in the chick flicks he was usually roped into seeing (how Joey and Ross managed to get out of going to, time after time, he'd never understand).
"Oh, you are not."
"Well, if you insist, then we can be losers together." Chandler felt her smile, than frown, into his shirt.
"What did you do to deserve that label?"
"Get a girlfriend, apparently," Chandler said bitterly. Rachel pulled back to stare at him, and Chandler was relieved to see that, not only had she stopped crying, but she didn't seem about to start up again.
"Joey made one up for me to make Mon jealous. He said it worked, but I just think she's upset that I didn't tell her. Which really isn't fair of her, because it's not like she told me about Richard's proposal. Not when she told anyone else, at least. So it-"
Chandler's rant was cut short by the door opening and a handful of people spilling out, most of them leering at Rachel and Chandler, who realized that it looked as though they'd been doing more than just hugging. Once the group stumbled down the stairs, Rachel pulled away from him completely, yawning unconvincingly.
"I think I'll just go to bed."
"You sure you'll be all right?" Chandler asked, not particularly looking forward to returning to the party. She smiled faintly at him, reaching up to ruffle his hair fondly in the way he'd always hated.
"Awww, you're sweet. I wish all guys were like you."
Despite himself, Chandler smirked. "No you don't. Because then Ross wouldn't be Ross."
"Like that would be a bad thing," Rachel responded, but with no real malice. Chandler watched her disappear into her apartment before turning back to his own. As B-grade gangster movie as it sounded, he had a score to settle with Joey Tribbiani.
AN: Okay, here it is, finally! Next chapter: more Mondler (duh!), Chandler and Ross have a conversation where Ross is not screaming and physical violence is exempt. I'm at 9l reviews now, so the 100th reviewer gets imaginary confetti. Whoot! How's that for an offer you can't refuse? Oh, and please read my drabbles :flutters eyelashes: There's one for Mondler fans (which everyone here is) and one for Randler (that's Rachel/Chandler) and one that's just focused on Chandler.