Shhh! No more HBP spoilers in reviews, please! (And don't read the reviews if you haven't read the book!)
Anyway. It's my last chapter. :cries: I just want to say thanks for all of the reviews and support for this story; you're all my heroes for making me update and continue to write. This has been one of my favorite stories to write and develop, and all because of you. If no one reviewed, I wouldn't have continued. But you guys did review, and I guess I'm just trying to say thanks a billion. :cries some more: Love you all! All readers get some bent staples! And some pudding skin singles! I'm going to miss writing this, as depressing as it is, and I'm going to miss you all. You're the best readers ever… you're polite, funny, enthusiastic, and helpful. Again- LOVE YOU:hugs:
Special love goes to the reviewers who've been there since the beginning (or at least early in the story). You guys made my month… months… whatever… when did I start this:rhetorical: Anyway… Oh, and thank you rachelgreengeller (omg I love your name!) for your compliment in the last review. I personally think I suck at R/R, so your review meant a lot. And thank you Lauren (greenish orange) for the uber-long review, it made me happy because I'm a huge fan of your fics.
Oh. Chapter 3, when Rach says she "moves out". I cut this out, but you see: Mon and Richard lived together (since they got married), and Rach lived with Ross for a month. So… yeah. Sorry for any confusion, but I just caught that.
This chapter is, well… happier. I mean, it's still sad… but definitely happier. Oh, how I love clichés. And I know how I said it would be shorter… but it's not! It's longer!
Monica held on to Chandler tightly, her eyes shut, though tears managed to force their way out. His arms had formed a protective shield around her, making her feel, for the first time in years, that no harm could come to her. One of his arms was wrapped securely around her lower back, and his right hand was gently stroking her hair, and he was murmuring something inaudible, but still indescribably comforting.
"Chandler…" she drifted off softly, and clung tighter to his shirt.
"Yes?" he said, just as quietly.
"Do you think… maybe we can…"
Chandler waited a moment before prompting her quietly, "Can…?"
Monica pulled a little bit closer to his chest and opened her eyes against his shirt, "Maybe… someday… it'll all be better. Do you think… do you think we can… we can fix it? Do you ever think…" she paused and took a deep breath, "that maybe one day we'll all be back to together? Ross and Rachel… their P-Phoebe… Joey… and you and me."
"Mon…" Chandler found that his voice was choked back from emotion, from the possibility that one day he would be reunited with the people his heart ached for.
"Mon, I think about that… I think it about it every single day I'm alive."
Stifled sobs came from Monica. Chandler held her even closer, and swayed back and forth on the balls of his feet, trying not to cry. It took all he had not to fall apart, but he knew he had to stand strong- both for her, and for himself.
Regret was filling every pore of his body, overwhelming him, making it ever harder not to break down. He should have known, years ago, that there was nowhere else he was supposed to be than here, in this little New York apartment. Every instinct that had told him to turn around when he'd driven up here after the phone call was now gone, replaced by a deep sense of nostalgia.
And as he held the woman he'd left without a goodbye nine years ago to his chest, knew there was no place else he'd rather be.
Sometimes, things just go right in life.
After years upon years of living hell, after failed relationships and deaths of loved ones, and after waking up numerous mornings to the feeling he should just be dead, Ross Geller finally felt that something had gone right.
And it wasn't just anything that had gone right; it was something better than he could have ever imagined; something so wonderful it took his breath away and made him feel like he'd never die, simply because he was so elated that he must already be in heaven.
It was that kiss.
It took a while for Ross and Rachel to finally break apart, and, when they finally did, she embraced him for the third time that day, tears of joy leaking out of her eyes. Her arms were now wrapped around his neck, and she was looking over his shoulder, directly at Joey, smiling almost nervously.
He flashed her a grin, and she closed her eyes, allowing herself to melt into Ross.
It wasn't a disgusted or angry voice, but a quiet, questioning one. Slowly, Rachel parted herself from Ross, and both turned to face the nine-year-old standing next to Joey, looking dumbfounded at her mother's behavior. Rachel nearly laughed at the situation, thinking of how odd this must seem to her little girl, Phoebe: her usually composed and sophisticated mother, kissing a random man, who also claimed to be the girl's father.
Rachel walked to the confused girl and smiled, "This is Ross."
"Oh… how come you kissed him?"
"We were in love a long time ago, and now…" she wiped away another tear, and Ross came forward and put an arm around her shoulder as she continued, "Now… we're in love again."
Phoebe looked between Ross and Rachel uncertainly, as though she weren't sure she should trust this new man who claimed to her father. Then, after a moment of silence, she said a little nervously, "So… you were on a break from being in love?"
Rachel began to bawl again at this statement, and pulled her daughter into a hug, "That's- that's exactly what happened…"
Phoebe, perplexed by her mother's emotional behavior, hugged her back. Ross found himself drawn into the group embrace, and held both of them close, realizing that, for the first time, he was holding his family.
Joey stood at the side of the trio, a tear leaking out of his right eye, his arms crossed. He was fighting the insane urge to grin, to laugh, to dance. This was the way his Phoebe had wanted things- Ross and Rachel, happy together, having finally realized that there could be no one else for them.
Then, he felt a hand tug on his arm; Ross was looking at him, misty-eyed, all enmity between the two forgotten. He pulled Joey close and whispered hoarsely into his ear, "Thanks, man. You kept her happy… that was more than I could do."
And Joey no longer fought his urge; he grinned at Ross and was pulled into the hug, knowing that there was only one thing left to do.
"We've got to go," he said suddenly, his voice rather muffled seeing as he was being squashed by three other people.
"Go where?" Phoebe asked curiously, looking up at Joey. She was the only one not crying, and he couldn't blame her; she really had no idea the enormity of what had just happened. He suddenly felt an upsurge of affection for the young girl he had treated as his own daughter for nine years; reaching out and touching one of the braids she had so proudly displayed only hours ago, he replied, "Go to New York."
Rachel looked up at him with a very small frown and wiped her nose on her sleeve, "W-why?"
Ross held her even closer as Joey answered quietly, "I want to visit the grave."
Chandler wasn't quite sure what to say. That he loved her? That he had always loved her? That he should have never left? It all seemed so ridiculous, so cliché; man falls in love with woman, doesn't see her for many years, and then confesses his undying love for her. Well, his story fit the formula alright- it was just a matter of the ending.
In fairy tales, everything turned out okay. The hero came back, bloody from some battle, and swept the fair maiden off her feet. Proposals of marriage were the most used 'happily ever after' endings; passionate kisses were usually part of the deal, too.
But Chandler Bing didn't live in a fairy tale land.
He lived in a very real world, one where people were torn away from him by death and trauma. One where he was most certainly not a brave knight in a shining armor and one where the fair maiden was not looking up him with eyes burning love and passion, but one where that fair maiden was holding him tightly, her head buried into his shirt. She wasn't crying anymore, but somehow, the air seemed sadder and more poignant than before.
And then, it seemed quite clear to him how the ending would go.
He would be himself. He'd hold back, just as he held back the day they came back from London when Monica had shot him the question: "Do you see anyone else who would make me just as happy as Richard?" When he should have answered with a kiss, should have told her he would do anything for her, if only she would ask, if only she would give some indication that she needed him, even if she wouldn't admit it.
But he hadn't kissed her, hadn't said all those things he should have.
Looking back, he realized all he had were 'should-haves', 'could-have-beens', and 'what-ifs'. Regrets up into the thousands, dozens of suicidal thoughts…
That was when he decided it was going to change.
He wasn't just going to drive home, back to that depressing apartment in Philadelphia and pretend like he was living a life he wanted to live. He was going to do the thing he'd wanted to do for ten long years, just as much for himself as for his daughter, Emily; she deserved a real family, not the broken pieces of one she had right now. She deserved more than a distracted father and a partying mother; she deserved a family that included a dark-haired mother, just like one she had drawn.
"Monica, I have to talk to you about something."
The words were out of his mouth before he knew it.
"What's that?" she said quietly.
He took a deep breath and separated himself from Monica. He looked into her eyes, the eyes he knew from so long ago. "Come back with me."
Confusion was written on her face as she frowned up at him, "What?"
"There has to be a reason you called me. Me, of all people! There's got to be a reason I felt I had to be here today! After- after London, when you told me you were marrying Richard? I thought I lost you forever, but now… look, the relationships that we thought would last until we died are over! They're over, leaving us free to look back at the past, to fix the mistakes! So… so come to Philadelphia with me, Monica! I… I think I need you. I think I've always needed you… I just never realized it until now. "
His right hand immediately darted out and grabbed the counter for support as he finished his passionate speech, watching Monica for any signs of rejection. Her head was turned away and her hand was massaging her forehead. Finally, she looked up at him once again, tears shining in her eyes, "I can't, Chandler. I just… can't."
His stomach turned over and did a series of flip-flops. This was not how this was supposed to go…
"Why not?" he croaked, his own eyes tearing up.
"Because… I have a son. Daniel. I can't leave him… even for… for… but if you could come to New York…"
Chandler understood immediately; of course she couldn't just leave her son. "I can't. I've got Emily."
"Okay then. I guess… that's it," she said quietly, trying to sound business-like, but her voice cracked as a tear fell down her cheek.
"That's it," he repeated, wiping his eyes on the back of his sleeve. Something had told him this would work, that she was the one- but now, it was all wrong. She was supposed to come, or he was supposed to stay; they were supposed to be together, he knew it, somewhere in his heart. But his heart must have been wrong, because now things were even more messed up than before. With a brave, deep breath, he said, "I'm… I'm going to go find a hotel… and drive back to Philadelphia tomorrow… so I guess this is… this is goodbye."
She nodded but didn't say anything; she was looking away from him, into the room that had once been Rachel's. He walked towards the door, not allowing himself to break down just yet. And he opened the door, turning back to Monica one last time. "Monica?"
"I… I love you."
And before he could hear her response, he was gone.
Monica sunk to the floor, letting her sobs run free.
Joey was amazed they had managed to get seats on a plane to New York on Thanksgiving Day at the last minute. Of course, the fact that he was a celebrity might have helped; but he still considered it a miracle.
It was like it was all falling into place.
Ross and Rachel sat a few rows ahead, talking quietly, privately. He knew they weren't talking dirty or romantic- he knew of the many times Rachel had dreamed to simply tell Ross all about their daughter, Phoebe. Her goals, her accomplishments, her utter longing to work in fashion like her mother.
The nine-year-old sat next to Joey, calmly listening to a CD player. He was stunned that she didn't seem more frightened that her mother had suddenly dragged her onto a plane to New York to see the tombstone of a person ten years dead.
She noticed him looking at her and stopped her CD player, "What?"
"Nothing," he replied.
"It's just… you don't seem scared."
"Why should I be scared?"
Joey shrugged, "I don't know. Some random guy comes to say he's your father, then he kisses your mother, and you're going on a plane to the other side of the country in one day. I'd be freaked out. I am a little freaked out."
Phoebe looked into his eyes and smiled, "I trust Mom, and I trust you. I know everything will be fine… and I'm a little freaked out too."
Joey nodded as she turned her CD player back on. He closed his eyes, and couldn't help but think that maybe she was right.
Maybe everything would be fine.
Chandler crawled out of bed. Who the hell was calling his hotel room at two in the morning?
"Hegro?" he mumbled as he picked up the receiver.
A hushed voice came from the other end.
"I'm… I'm going to come… I'm going to Philadelphia… with you…"
Sounds of crying came from the other end, along with the croaky voice; two people were crying. One he recognized and one that sounded more like a child's sobs.
His heart jumped a few beats, "What happened?"
"He's gone… he's gone… Richard's gone… Heart attack…"
Chandler's mind froze and went numb. Two seconds later, it was up and running again, comprehending only one thing:
She wanted to come.
Part of him was crying out in jubilation; he was going to be with the woman he was meant to be with. She would live with him, she would be the mother Emily had dreamed of, and he would be the stepfather of Monica's son, Daniel.
They could be a family.
But the other part of him was not celebrating. Another life lost. An important one, too; it was the man she had believed to be her soul mate; how did he know she wasn't just taking his offer to move to Philadelphia with him because she was confused, lost?
But weren't they all confused?
Weren't they all lost?
And what was he supposed to say to this new?
"I'm sorry, Mon," he whispered. "I'll be right there."
He knocked three times, and the door opened quickly.
She was a mess. Her raven hair fell into her face but she swept it out of her face with a quick motion. Her cheeks were tear-stained and her eyes bloodshot, her lips pulled down. She saw him in the doorway, looking worried, and almost smiled; her eyes sparked as she pulled him into a kiss. It wasn't a romantic or sexy kiss; it seemed to be one that comforted her and made his heart stop for a full minute. She ended it and he wrapped his arms around her once again.
"Are you okay?" he murmured against her head of hair.
"No…" she sobbed, and then took a deep breath and stepped back from Chandler. "So… I can still come to Philadelphia with you?"
He nodded, "Is your son okay with that?"
She sighed, "He hates this city, and now he hates it even more… he's in my room, sleeping… I told him to get some rest… I said that would help with the pain."
Chandler nodded, his heart singing a song of joy and love. She was coming…
"Monica, I'm so-"
He was interrupted as someone knocked on the door. Both glanced at each other, wondering the same thing: Who the hell knocks on doors at two-thirty in the morning?
Chandler shrugged and turned around, opening the door.
"Oh. My. God."
Five people said this simultaneously, each looking utterly astonished to see whoever was in the opposite side of the doorway.
"Chandler?" Rachel asked, her eyes wide and tearful as she recognized him. "Oh my god, you got a mustache-thingie…"
Chandler fought back a grin, remembering Monica's mournful news, but he couldn't hold back a laugh. In front of him was Joey, smiling only the way a Tribbiani could; Ross, whose eyes were brighter than a full moon and who was holding hands with a Rachel who looked like she couldn't have asked for more than to be reunited with the two people standing in front of her. Chandler was speechless as she let go of Ross and walked forward, embracing Chandler like a long-lost brother.
Chandler looked over her shoulder and saw the fourth member of the group, "Is that...?"
"Yeah," Ross said croakily. "This is my daughter, Phoebe."
Phoebe looked up at Joey, confused, "And who are these people?"
Joey smiled, his own eyes welling up, "These people are… they're… they're family."
Rachel would have smiled if she had not been walking to the grave of her late friend. She was holding hands with Ross, the man she had yearned to be with for nine years. A strange feeling overwhelmed her, and she realized this was what is must feel like to be happy. To her right walked Monica and Chandler, silent, but also holding hands. What had happened between them, she wasn't quite sure; they hadn't explained the night before, when everyone else had told their stories. Behind her was Joey, who stood in between Phoebe and Daniel, who were surprisingly behaved.
Finally, the part she was dreading came; they reached the large gravestone marked 'Phoebe Buffay'. There were a few other markings on the stone, including her date of birth and death, but Rachel and the others paid the stone no attention now. They created a circle around the grave, looking down solemnly. The two children understood that something was happening and stayed quiet, watching the adults.
Finally, Joey spoke in a hushed voice, "We miss you, Pheebs. We always have… it just… it just took a while for us to realize it. And we'll always miss you. And whenever I see a cat, I make friends with it just in case, y'know… it's really you in there…"
A tear trickled down his face and onto his neck; he knelt down and placed the bouquet of flowers he had brought at the base of the stone. After a moment, he stood back up and rejoined the circle.
Then, in one motion, all but Rachel and Joey knelt down at the gravestone, placing their own flowers down. They stood up and looked down at the grave, feeling that there was nothing else to be said. Joey had said everything that was in their hearts.
"Can I… be alone?" Rachel asked quietly, and the other four nodded, and, after exchanging a quick glance, began to slowly walk to the other side of the cemetery.
Rachel knelt beside the headstone, not crying. She'd grieved enough, and tears didn't express her pain anymore. Solemnly, she placed her bouquet of sunflowers in front of the stone. Quietly, she stared at Phoebe's name, and smiled sadly as she stroked the side of the stone, pretending she was stroking her deceased friend's hair. Then, she stood and fixed her shirt. Glancing at the small crowd on the other side of the cemetery who were waiting for her, she turned to the grave once more.
"And that, my friend… is what they call closure," she whispered, and turned around, walking towards Monica, Chandler, Ross, Joey, and her own Phoebe, ready to continue the life that should have been.
I hit a wall after the first Ross, Rach, and Joey part. Honestly, it took me several days to come up with the next Mondler part, but I did it… woo-hoo!
So, my beloved readers, fans, and skeptics: that's the end. Finale. No more. Zip, zero, zilch. And that just makes me damn sad. I know that sounds conceited, that not that many people care that this particular story is over- but I do, and I'm gonna miss you all, and I'm gonna miss this tale. I mean, I'm somewhat glad it's over, because I've promised myself to finish a lot of my stories before summer is over… a billion and one things to do… and the SG-1 fans are murdering me in my sleep, too, but if you look in my profile, I put a bunch of stories 'on hold', so leave me alone:isn't talking to anyone in particular:
Please tell me you all remember where the closure line is from… that Rachel moment shouldn't be forgotten… I think that was the true beginning of R/R, in my opinion.
Love always my dearest readers and "colleagues",
D.F. (Not my actual name, btw… I'm a girl, if you haven't figured that out yet)