Chapter 3: The conclusion

AN: sorry about the delay. Life caught up to me, and then passed me and I had to catch up. lol. So, I made a mistake in the last chapter. I thought the whole Joey and Rachel switching books was later on in the series, so in the story it should already of happened, but lets just forget about that, kay? Thanx.

Monica took one last look in her mirror before stepping out her door. She knew the guys were already there waiting for her and Rachel to be ready to go to the restaurant. Ross and Phoebe were going to meet them there. She opened her door and smiled at Chandler, who was sprawled out on the couch beside Joey, watching television. Chandler returned her smile and motioned for her to come sit beside him. They both knew it would be a while before Rachel was ready to go. Monica sat down beside her boyfriend and snuggled in close when he reached his arm around her. She rested her head against his shoulder for a few moments before lifting it up and speaking. "This is nice."

Chandler smiled over at her. "What?"

She shrugged. "Just…this. Being able to do this now. No hiding."

Chandler felt his heart warm at her words and he found himself nodding. "It is nice." He gently pulled her closer and leaned over to kiss her. After a few seconds Joey cleared his throat.

"I still really don't want to see that."

Chandler laughed as he pulled away, keeping Monica close. "Sorry Joe. I wish I could promise it won't happen again, but…you know."

Joey rolled his eyes as he glanced over at the happy couple. He was glad everything was out in the open now and he was no longer on the hook for keeping it a secret. He really was happy for his friends, but he hated keeping secrets. However, one glance at his best friend who had one arm around his girlfriend and the other gently playing with her fingers and Joey knew it was worth all the months of secret keeping. He was sure it wouldn't have worked as well if everyone had known about them from the beginning. Ross would have gone insane, and the girls would have been too hypercritical. It was better this way. Joey turned his attention back to the television, before glancing at his watch, noticing the time. "Rach, we gotta go!" He called out.

"In a minute!" Joey winced at her tone. Getting Rachel anywhere on time was a lot of work.

Rachel sighed as she turned her attention back onto the careful application of her mascara after Joey had interrupted her concentration. She was almost ready to go, but had to make sure she looked good. There may be cute men at the restaurant tonight, and she was damned she wasn't going to make a good impression. Her roommate had been in a relationship for eight months, which meant she was eight months behind. She leaned back from the mirror, making sure all was good before grabbing her purse and heading for the door. She opened her door to find Monica, Chandler and Joey on the couch, Monica leaning close to Chandler, his arm around her. Rachel felt a small wave of jealousy shoot through her. Her roommate looked so happy and it had been so long since Rachel had felt like that. She was happy for her best friend, but the shook of the fact that Monica was in a relationship made Rachel realize she wasn't even close to having a relationship. Rachel barely paused before marching right past the couch to the door.

"Guys, would you hurry up. Turn off the TV. We're going to be late." Rachel smiled to herself at her words as she grabbed her jacket off the hook behind the door.

"Oh, yeah, it's really our fault that we're going to be late." Rachel heard Chandler mutter good-naturedly.

Rachel spun around, just having finished donning her jacket and waved her arms out, motioning to herself. "Hey, I'm ready to go."

Chandler made a face. "Hey, if you're sure that you really want to go out looking like that."

Rachel was taken aback. "What do you mean?"

Chandler shrugged, acting nonchalant. "Nothing really, just that those shoes so do not go with that jacket."

Rachel paused and looked down at her shoes, and then her jacket. "Oh, I gotta go change them." She whipped off her jacket and went to speed back into her room when Monica caught her arm on the way by.

Monica was laughing. "Rach, don't worry. He's joking. He has no idea what he's talking about."

Chandler scoffed at her.

Monica rolled her eyes. "What? You think I don't have a point?"

"So what if you have a point? It wasn't very nice to say out loud."

Monica released Rachel's arm. "Put your jacket back on, Rach."

"Yeah, Rach, look who's not ready to go now." Chandler said.

Rachel glared at him as she picked her jacket up off the floor, not wanting to admit that she had been tricked. She watched out of the corner of her eye as Chandler easily wrapped Monica's jacket around her shoulders. Rachel was surprised for a moment. Obviously he had done this before. She was surprised a few more times on the way to the restaurant as she observed Chandler opening the car door, holding the restaurant door and pulling out Monica's chair. Everything seemed so second nature to them. Rachel wondered how no one had noticed this for so long.

Ross smiled at Phoebe and absently nodded along to whatever it was she was saying. His mind was elsewhere. He still couldn't believe that his sister was dating his best friend. And for so long without him knowing! He glanced at his watch, smiling to himself as he realized why they were late. He turned his attention back to Phoebe just in time to see her nod her head up at something behind him. Ross turned halfway around in his seat to see the late foursome enter the restaurant. His eyes cautiously trailed his sister as she navigated the path between the other tables, the other three behind her. She looked happy, he determined. He shook his head slightly as he realized she had looked happy for some time now, but he hadn't noticed. He gently chastised himself for not having noticed earlier. If he really thought about it they were a good fit.

Monica had reached the table and took a seat beside her brother, Chandler sitting beside her after helping her push in her chair. Ross offered a quiet greeting, and Chandler offered a gentle smile, as if he wasn't quite comfortable around his friend. Ross forced himself to return his friend's smile, adding a friendly nod and playfully nudged his sister. "What took ya so long?"

Monica rolled her eyes as she retaliated with a somewhat stronger nudge. "What do you think?" Ross laughed and shook his head in mock-disapproval at Rachel, who was denying any involvement in their untimely arrival. He laughed, happy to have a night out with his friends. As the evening went on he found himself becoming more and more comfortable with the couple beside him. At first he found himself surprised every time Chandler or Monica leaned into the other or gently grabbed the other's hand, but one look at either's face and he realized how happy they were. About halfway through dinner he realized there was a very good chance Chandler could become his brother in law one day. He was momentarily taken aback by the thought, but was surprised to find himself smiling.

Phoebe sighed happily as she glanced around at the five most important people in her world. She smiled at the happy couple sitting across from her. She had noticed a difference in both Chandler and Monica over the last few months, but hadn't put two and two together. She now realized why they had seemed so happy and content lately. She felt truly happy for them. She tilted her head slightly, reading their auras, which showed her just how happy they were together. She remained quiet as she shifted her attention one by one to her other friends. Ross was handling the situation well considering. He seemed to be accepting the new situation well, and seemed even happy about it. Joey looked practically ecstatic, and relieved. Phoebe smiled as she realized just how hard it would have been on him to keep that kind of a secret for so long. She knew from experience that Joey wasn't one to keep anything in. She shifted attention to Rachel, who seemed happy for her friend, with just a touch of sadness. Phoebe nodded to herself knowingly. She knew exactly what Rachel was feeling, that little voice that said 'look how happy my friend is, why don't I have that?' Phoebe sighed, knowing everything would work out for her one day, and she smiled as she turned her attention back to Rachel and shook her head. She knew who Rachel belonged with and knew that one day Rachel would end up with one of her best friends, she just hadn't realized it yet.

Chandler smiled at the story Joey was telling, fighting the urge to comment on a particular comment Joey made, but found his attention elsewhere at the sudden sensation of a small hand resting on his leg. He glanced over at Monica and smiled. He was glad the earlier tension had disappeared. He knew his friends were surprised about his relationship with Monica, but he hoped they would be able to be happy for them. He felt a sudden wave of happiness at the thought of never having to hide from anyone again. He took a breath and glanced over at the amazing woman beside him. He felt a rush of love well up within him at the realization that this was it for him. She was it for him. He never wanted to be with anyone else ever again. His future suddenly seemed clear for the first time in his life. It would take time for him to gain the rest of the confidence he needed, but he knew she would be right there beside him the whole time, encouraging him. She never ceased to amaze him.

Monica smiled as she felt Chandler gently take and squeeze her hand. She had been afraid earlier that day when she realized where Chandler was going. At first she hadn't wanted to tell everyone yet. She had imagined the two of them is a safety bubble that would burst if everyone else knew. But here they were, everyone knew and Chandler was still right there beside her, smiling and holding her hand. She wondered how she had never noticed how amazing he was before. All those years of looking for the perfect guy and he was right there the whole time. Life was good.

Dinner was over and everyone was stuffed. The waiter dropped the check off at the table. Suddenly six pairs of eyes rested on the same spot on the table, all waiting for someone else to grab the check. There was silence for a few moments before Joey lightly cleared his throat and gently pushed the bill away from him and towards Rachel and Phoebe who were sitting beside him.

"What do you think you're doing, Tribbiani?" Phoebe demanded.

Joey looked a little nervous. "Well, you girls are paying right?"

"Why would you think that?" Rachel asked.

Joey hesitated. "Because you lost?" He ventured, flinching with expectation.

"We didn't lose!" Monica yelled, causing Chandler to drop her hand and discreetly distance himself from his girlfriend.

"Ah, yes you did," Ross said.

"I don't think so," Phoebe said.

Ross nodded. "Monica got the question wrong, meaning you girls lost, meaning we get a free dinner."

"You're on think ice, Gellar," Rachel said.

"He does have a point," Chandler spoke up, motioning for Joey to back him up.

Joey nodded his agreement. "Yeah."

Monica turned an incredulous look toward her boyfriend. "We did not lose."

Chandler hesitated for a moment. "Yes you did, you got the question wrong."

"That's not fair."

Chandler shrugged. "They were your rules."

"Yeah, but…" She trailed off, unable to think of anything to say.

Chandler smiled sweetly. "But nothing. You lost. We won."

"But the question wasn't fair. I didn't even think that I was an option."

Chandler shrugged. "Not my problem."

Monica glared at him. "I will not accept losing like that. So, you know what that means…Rematch!" The other five at their table groaned in protest.

Rachel cleared her throat. "You know, I think the guys are right." She reached for the check.

Phoebe nodded. "You're right. We did lose fair and square. We'll pay."

"No…" Monica tried, but the girls were already dividing up the bill. They would rather pay than have to play the game again, especially since they knew Monica would be even more neurotic this time about practicing. She sighed and pulled her checkbook out, shooting a mock-glare at Chandler. He rolled his eyes and carefully reclaimed her hand with his.

Chandler knew he wasn't going to hear the end of this for a while, but he was okay with that. There was still lots he didn't know about Monica, but he was confident that over time he would know everything about her that there was to know. He sighed happily and felt Monica gently squeeze his hand, letting him know she wasn't really mad at him.

Monica huffed and pretended to sulk, but wasn't really that upset. If she thought about it, she realized that it boded well for her that she had gotten the question wrong. In a way she had won because Chandler loved her best. The thought made her heart jump a little and she finally relented and smiled. As long as she had him, she had won.

AN: So that's it. I don't really like this chapter, it seems really awkward to me. I may re-write it in the future, but this was the best I could get for now. Thanks for reading.