The One With Farmyard Animals

A/N: It's funny – I was planning on using this beginning scene for the middle of a story I have in progress, but I kept going with it, and, well . . . it didn't seem to fit. So it became this, an entirely different story. In fact, when I started this one, I had no idea where it was going; the characters just sort of wrote themselves. It's a little bit fluffier than my others – just if you're wondering what that sugary aftertaste is.

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"I wonder if there's a name for this," Monica said thoughtfully, as she and Chandler sat cross-legged on the living room floor. It was two in the morning and though they had other plans in mind, the duck had been making such a fuss they were afraid it would startle Joey awake, which was no mean feat – but ever since they had been meeting in the wee hours of the morning, everything had been going so smoothly they were constantly on the lookout for anything that might go wrong. Chandler swore up and down he once saw Monica throw salt over her shoulder, and he himself had been wondering lately if a rabbit's foot really wasn't beneath his moral standards. They could use all the luck they could get.

"Chandler?"

"Yeah," he said, coming out of his stupor. The chick nibbled at his fingers.

"I asked if you thought there was a name for this," she repeated, scratching a mosquito bite on her neck. They had lain on the roof of the apartment the night before and it did not bode well for Monica, who evidently had irresistibly sweet blood.

"Well, if feeding the duck isn't good enough for you –" he started, tossing them a handful of dried corn. Monica watched this behavior with distaste, then seemed to shrug it off.

"No, no, not that, I mean us. Our thing. Do you think there's a name for it?"

"Oh, that. The other thing. I don't know. A sedentary elopement? Rendezvous fornication? The greatest love affair since Catherine and Heathcliff?"

"I thought you didn't know."

"I don't really. I just usually keep talking until someone shuts me up."

"Cute, Chandler."

Chandler grinned at her. "You know you like me. You know you think I'm endearing – in a pathetic, awkward kind of way."

Monica laughed and patted his cheek affectionately. "And I'll always be here to cover for your failure to converse normally with human beings."

Chandler situated himself more comfortably on the floor. "Without me you'd totally be too serious. I'm like the spirited, blundering toddler and you're like the mother who keeps me in line."

Monica raised her eyebrows in question. "And that doesn't creep you out just a little bit? Unless you're used to toddlers sleeping with their mothers, 'cause then that'd just be a major lifestyle choice."

"Oh, c'mon, haven't you ever heard of maternal instincts?"

"Have you forgotten who you're talking to?"

Chandler shrugged. "So do you preach all that 'stay in school, don't do drugs, drink your milk' crap, or are you one of those freelance mother types, who marry gay transvestites and write erotica they don't bother to hide from their unsuspecting children?"

"Well, I'm not your mother, if that's what you mean," Monica said, suddenly feeling cautious. She felt like she had trodden into unknown territory, that she and Chandler had crossed an invisible boundary of some sort. Chandler was no longer joking; he scowled as he fed the duck more dried corn.

"I don't remind you of your mother, do I?" Monica asked, dreading the answer.

Chandler shook his head. "No, no, that's not what I meant."

Monica scooted closer to provide comfort. "What did you mean?"

"Nothing."

"Chandler –" she insisted.

"I really don't think you'd want to know."

"If I didn't want to know, then why would I ask?"

Chandler relented. "I don't know. It's just – I realized – if I could have grown up with any other kind of mom, I think I'd want her to be like you. And I know it's really weird, and you probably don't want to hear about something that outrageously twisted –"

Smiling, she ran a finger along his hairline. "Chandler, honey, I think it's sweet."

"It's not like I think of you as my mother or anything, or that I think you're old, or nag all the time, or anything like that –"

"I know," she said.

"Really?" he asked, beginning to smile again.

"I think it's normal," she said. "If you did grow up with a mother like me, then, well – you might want to date a woman like your mom. But you didn't. And I'm really happy about that."

"Oh."

Monica nudged him playfully. "Why the long face, champ? I thought you were getting lucky tonight."

Chandler looked at her in confusion. "Who are you trying to do?"

"Well, you," she answered just as bemusedly.

"The impersonation, Mon," he answered.

"Oh!" She laughed. "My mistake! And I have no idea who I was doing."

Chandler shook his head and grinned as Monica fell forward and erupted into laughter. "Now I feel like the – mother."

"It couldn't have hurt to say father, Chandler."

"Yeah, but then where would all the humor go?"

"Bottled up inside where it belongs?" Monica suggested.

"Hey, humor separates us from the animals!" Chandler informed her. "Without it, we'd just be walking blobs of flesh."

Monica thought for a moment. "I thought the written word separates us from the animals."

"A lot of things separate us from the animals."

"Hmmm. Interesting."

After a moment, Chandler found Monica's hand and traced his thumb lightly over her fingers. "You're so amazing."

"Well, I mean, I sort of assumed that animals laughed, you know, like hyenas and chimps –"

He grinned.

"Oh," she said sheepishly. She leaned forward and kissed the side of his lips. "Why are you so sinfully delicious when you're surrounded by illegal poultry?"

"I think it's some sort of gift. You know, like God's way of apologizing for making me so, well, Chandler – my sexual magnetism is enhanced by the presence of farmyard animals."

"All farmyard animals?" Monica asked him, raising her eyebrow questioningly.

"Yeah, pretty much."

"So when you're in, say, Kentucky, you're practically a sex God."

"Hmmm," he said thoughtfully.

"You're cute, you know that?" she said laughingly. "I think I'll keep you."

"Despite everything wrong with me?" he asked, joking and unconvinced. "My ceaseless humor, my commitment phobia, my failure to understand anything with breasts, my uncanny ability to blurt out things that cause trouble for other people –"

"Control freak. Obsessed with cleanliness. Anxiety issues. Obliterated relationships," Monica listed off. She smiled at him. "And I can be a bitch sometimes. Chandler, I don't care that you're not perfect. I know I'm not. If everyone had the perfect relationship, it'd be boring, wouldn't it? The only thing people can do is work at it, and even then, it's probably the hardest thing they'll ever have to do."

"I guess," said Chandler. He thought for a moment. "Man, we must really be meant to be. With all our issues, I'm amazed we even made it this far. And a few months ago, if someone told me I had to work at a relationship and it'd be hard, I'd be out the door before they could say, 'second date'."

"Yeah," said Monica quietly, situating herself comfortably against his legs. Chandler smoothed down her hair absently. "Yeah."

They sat in silence, watching the chick and duck scramble around, pecking at the carpet for leftover food Joey undoubtedly had dropped. Monica leaned her head back so she was looking at Chandler upside down. "So . . . do you think there's a name for this?"

He smiled. "Well, whatever it is, I think it's good."