AN: A short one-off, for a contest at the FB. Dedicated to the Merge! kids. I love ya lots!

Paris Lights

I'm not entirely sure what did it; which event or statement made us decide that we needed to leave New York, and move to a foreign country, away from our friends, our family, and our life.

I think it was the idea of Paris. The whimsical notion of walks along the Seine, eating croissants in sidewalk cafes, and shopping to my heart's content. Paris is, after all, the most romantic city in the world, so why wouldn't I want to spend a year there, with the man I love?

We'd talked about moving to Paris several times, though neither of us actually believed we would do it. We had so much tying us down in New York, so many obligations. How could we just up and leave everything behind?

The subject came up again when Chandler had inadvertently gotten himself transferred to Tulsa. But once again, reality set in—we were trying to get pregnant, and now Chandler was traveling extensively, making that one task even more of a challenge. I think that, deep down, I resented him for being away so much. And I was beginning to feel that our chance to have a baby was dwindling each time he headed for Tulsa.

It doesn't make sense, I know, but I spent so many nights alone in our bed, I was truly beginning to feel the weight of hopelessness in my heart.

When Erica decided against choosing us that day at the agency, my heart broke completely. We had come so close to having everything we'd ever wanted, and because of a stupid lie (or two), we'd let it all slip through our fingers.

I fell into a depression like no other. I know Chandler was upset too, but he worked like hell to make sure that I was okay. He tried everything he could to pull me out of my fog, and when nothing else worked, he bought us plane tickets.

MCMCMC

Those first few days in Paris were like a dream; we did everything you are supposed to do here, and a few things you probably aren't (I'm fairly certain that Chandler was the only person who thought his spitting off of the Eiffel Tower was funny).

We walked, we talked, we ate, we made love, and we shopped. We found ourselves again, because we had left all of our troubles far, far away.

It's been five months now. In those five months, we have once again settled into a routine. Chandler, so intent on finishing the novel he'd started years ago, will disappear for hours, his mind deep into his work. Most of the time he works from a café not far from our garret, but at times he will wander farther away—perhaps to do research, perhaps to find his inspiration. I don't know. He doesn't talk much anymore.

The cooking school I enrolled in is fantastic, but I am beginning to feel overwhelmed. My French is horrible, and our newest teacher refuses to use English. I've always considered myself to be a talented chef, but the reaction I get here is underwhelming, to say the least. Chandler says that it's just the way people are here, but I don't really think he understands.

So I'm sitting here alone again, re-reading a letter from Rachel, and for the first time since we arrived in Paris, I find myself counting down the days until we return to New York. I don't know if I should feel guilty, or sad, or happy about this. I don't know if I should tell Chandler that I am beginning to hate this place, and that I don't want to be here 7 more months. I don't think he'll understand. I think he'll insist that we go home, and I think he will resent me for making him leave this place so soon.

I hear a faint popping sound, and I walk toward the window. In the distance, I see fireworks, most likely around the Tower. I wonder briefly what the celebration is for—and then realize that I don't truly care.

I turn from the window when I hear the door to the garret open. Chandler walks in, a stack of papers tucked under his arm, his computer bag slung over his shoulder. He looks exhausted, I realize, and slightly aggravated. The fireworks must have ruined his concentration.

"Hey," I say quietly, and move to cross the room. Chandler is dumping his work onto a chair in the corner of the room, and shrugging out of his jacket.

"Hey, sweetheart," he replies softly, the exhaustion evident in his voice. He turns and greets me with a chaste kiss, before moving toward the window.

"Fireworks," he mutters, "I wonder what it's for?"

"No idea," I reply, with a bit more bitterness than I had intended. I look down when Chandler turns to me, his eyebrows arched in confusion.

I'm frozen in place as he studies me for a moment, his lips in a tight line of concentration, his brow furrowed deeply.

I want to scream. I want to pound my fists into his chest, and tell him that I am just as miserable here, as I was in New York, but for entirely different reasons. I want to tell him that I miss our friends, and I even miss my parents, and I want to tell him that I miss him, too.

But I don't. I stand in the middle of the room, and let him study me; let his mind come to its own conclusions. I don't know why, but I feel as though I need to test him—to see what he will do or say next.

"You're miserable," he states suddenly, and I look up at him, wide-eyed, "You want to leave, don't you?"

I can't speak for a moment. I open my mouth, but the words are stuck in my throat. Everything I have wanted to say, for weeks, are just sitting there, choking me.

"Monica?" he says softly, and crosses the room. His footsteps echo on the wooden floor, sounding ominous and final.

"Mon? Talk to me, sweetheart," he says sadly, but all I can do is collapse into his arms and sob.

MCMCMCMC

I am still trembling, but the sobs have stopped wracking my body. At some point, Chandler pulled me toward the sofa, and onto his lap. We're just sitting now, my face buried deep into his chest, his arms wrapped around me tightly, his chin resting on my head. He rubs my arms affectionately, but I still can't work up the courage to pull away, and look him in the eye. I don't know why. It's not like I've never cried in front of him before. But I don't think it's ever been this overwhelming, this all-consuming. I wonder if I freaked him out, just a little.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asks, his voice quiet and husky. I still can't find the words, so I shake my head into his chest, and sniffle loudly. I'm starting to feel like a three year old.

"I'm sorry, Mon, I know I've been…. I guess I got into a groove with the novel, and I was so intent on seeing it through. I know I've been away a lot these past few weeks."

I finally pull away from him, and he looks down at me sadly. I don't want him to feel guilty for this—this was part of the reason we came here, after all. Chandler had been sitting on that novel for years, and I was the one who insisted that he bring it with him when we moved.

"It isn't your fault, honey," I say, my voice hoarse from crying. He runs his hands through my hair, and it's all I can do to keep from crying again.

"I think I'm just…homesick," I say feebly, knowing that there is more to it than that, but not sure I want to explain.

"We can leave," Chandler whispers, and I feel dread rise up in my chest, "we can go anytime you want, just say the word."

I knew this would happen. I knew that he would do this, for me. I suddenly feel overwhelmingly sad.

"But you don't want to leave," I argue, "do you?"

He hesitates, and he looks away for a moment.

"I do and I don't. I miss our friends, and I miss New York, but…"

"You're getting a lot done here," I finish.

He flushes, and looks down, and I feel guilt well up inside of me.

"But we can go anytime," he says quickly.

I sigh, and look away. I don't really know what to say—part of me wants to make Chandler leave, but part of me feels like we should stick out this year. Either way, one of us will have to sacrifice something.

"I should…I should tell you something," Chandler says, and I look back toward him, "It was going to be a surprise, but…"

"What is it?" I say, perhaps too eagerly. Chandler chuckles, and I smile slightly.

"Um, the gang is flying in next week."

"The gang?" I repeat stupidly.

"Yeah, you know, Ross, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe," Chandler smiles, "I guess your parents are going to keep Emma."

I feel a bit of weight lift from my chest. I smile, a genuine smile this time, and I can see Chandler's eyes light up in response.

"Oh, Chandler that's so great! I should probably start cleaning—this place is a disaster!" I jump off of Chandler's lap, and cross the room, intent on pulling the broom out of the closet. I pull it out, and turn to sweep, but start when I nearly run into Chandler, who has moved behind me. He grabs my wrist and pulls me toward him.

"We can arrange to go back to New York when they do, if you want," he says, and I can see that there is no resentment in his cerulean eyes.

"We'll see how it goes," I smile, suddenly very excited to show our friends all that we have discovered here in Paris.

Chandler pulls the broom from my hands, and lets it drop to the floor with a clank. He pulls me fully into his arms, and kisses me passionately. I feel a fire ignite in me that I haven't felt in a long time, and it's then that I realize that it truly was my husband's absence that I missed, above all.

"You have a week to clean, Mon," he whispers seductively, "leave it until morning."

Suddenly, Paris doesn't seem all that bad.