(Bravely stands up in front of Mondler fans and sneers) haHA! That's right, I did it again, I defy you with my Randler! No amount of torture could stop me! haHA! Okay, with that out of the way, let's continue on, shall we? So, this is my new fic, and it's different to anything I've ever written before, so please be kind, but please, tell me what you think, cause I'm a bit wary! Believe it or not, this was inspired by a slash 'Whose Line Is It Anyway' fanfic (thankyou to that author!) and I've been working on this steadily for the past two weeks, grr, arg! But it's done now, and I'm not sure how I feel about it...and I'm rambling again. But seriously, it may not make 100 sense, and it might be almost frustrating, but...yeah, please read and review! (Defiantly deflects tomatoes off chest, thrown by Mondler lovers)Oh, and the title is taken from a song by Josh Groban (oh, that voice...), but it took me up until today to name, because I had no idea what to call it! And the song that features in this is a song that the Backstreet Boys sang once (unreleased) really pretty! But once more, rambling, so enjoy!
I do not own friends/actors/characters/BSB/Josh Groban, but I do own the freedom to write Smoke and Mirrors, now that I've got this out of the way! Go forth!
Monica smiles lazily up at me, and I think I might love her, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about Rachel.
I frown, and Monica notices, but she doesn't say anything, instead pulling my head down to rest on her naked chest, her lips on my brow.
"I love you," she says finally, like always, and like always, I don't answer, and she accepts it, because I think she might know.
That seems odd, because it isn't in Monica's nature to know something and not bring it up, but then, when was the last time that something was as wrong as this?
Maybe she does know, and she's too far gone to care?
Maybe she does know, and she doesn't care because she's not far enough gone?
Or maybe she does know, and she loves me so much that she has just accepted it.
I think that might be it, and it kills me inside, yet I do nothing to stop it.
She loves me, and I think I might love her too, but I just don't know, and it's complicated.
"I love you," she says again, and once more doesn't expect me to echo it.
"Go to sleep," I say instead, soothingly, lovingly, but I don't know. She glances at me and I smile, almost a frown and she nods. I watch her close her eyes, then slip away, picking my pants up off of the ground.
"Where are you going?" she asks listlessly, her eyes barely opening. She looks at me and I know then that she knows where I'm going. There's hurt in her eyes, but also acceptance and pure love and I feel my heart shattering. I'm an asshole, I'm scum, and I can't seem to stop myself.
"Go to sleep," I say again. She stares for a long while, then nods and closes her eyes. I slip on my shirt and head out the door.
"I love you, Chandler," her soft voice says as I step through the threshold.
I close the top half of the door, then the bottom half, and wonder what kind of person I am to leave a beautiful woman in my own bed while I go off into the night for a tryst that is so wrong that it's right.
"Do you ever wonder?"
"Do you ever wonder?" Rachel repeats herself and I smile.
"I heard you, I was just wondering what you were wondering what I was wondering about."
There is a short silence.
"Have you been drinking?" she asks seriously and I laugh.
"Only in the sight of you, Mon Cherie."
"Oh, God, Chandler, that is so cheesy."
"I know, but it works, doesn't it?" I say in a quiet voice. Rachel smiles a secret smile and says nothing, letting her fingers walk down my bare chest. "Wonder about what?"
"I don't know. Every thing. Nothing. Us."
"Yeah," she says, almost shyly, and I know she is nervous of my answer. I rub my forehead, then turn to face her properly.
"Rach, you said it yourself, this is just a casual thing."
"Because of Ross."
"And now Monica."
"I know, I know…I can't believe you got with Monica," she almost accuses and I smile tightly.
"I don't think anyone can."
"Yeah…" There is a long silence as she begins to walk her fingers down my chest again.
"I wouldn't have done it, if..."
"If you hadn't been with Ross," I say quietly. "I wouldn't have gotten with Monica if you weren't with Ross."
"Oh," she says simply, and there is another long silence. "You were jealous?"
"No! No…well, perhaps, but…I know he's no competition for the manly stud that I am," Rachel giggles, shaking her head and I continue, "but, what I mean is that, if you weren't with somebody, anybody…if you were totally available-"
"We could have a proper relationship."
"Why don't we?" she asks after a moment and I don't answer.
I step inside Apartment 20, knowing I should be in bed with Monica, but with bedding Rachel on my mind instead. I know why Rachel and I didn't have a proper relationship, and I think of that as I stop, glancing out the window at the looming clouds.
Relationships are supposed to have stability and for some unknown reason, Rachel and I couldn't sustain that, whether it be because no one knew, or because of the strain, or because our relationship was based purely on passion. I told myself it was all of those things, when I knew it couldn't have been the last one, because there was a lot more than passion involved. Unlike Monica, I don't have to think. When it comes to Rachel, I know, and that scares me.
When it all comes down to it, Rachel and I aren't good together, but I'm not sure if anyone on the planet could pinpoint why. We just knew, and I think of that as I walk towards her bedroom, knowing that I shouldn't be there; remembering that we weren't together anymore, sure that this wasn't right, but I ignore all that, and push open the door.
She's sleeping, angelic, a small smile on her face, and God is that girl beautiful when she smiles. I watch her and know that had been a hell of a lot more than passion involved in our relationship.
Knowing I cannot wake her, and knowing that means I love her, I close the door and head towards the balcony, craving something that I crave almost as much as Rachel.
The pack of cigarettes are hidden well, and I take one out, studying the dark sky.
It's going to rain, and I hate and love the rain, because it means so much to me. A walk in the park, and so much more.
I look up at the sky, frowning as Rachel strolls next to me, quiet yet wonderful. "I think it's going to ra-" The skies open, interrupting me and Rachel smiles, laughing silently. "Whoa! Rach, we should get inside!" I exclaim, knowing that by the time we get to any sort of shelter, we will be soaked, but it's still worth a try. Rachel shakes her head, her smile growing wider.
"Can't we stay out here for a while?"
"We'll get sick!"
"So? It'll be worth it!"
I can't help but smile at the enthusiasm in her voice, something that has been missing for so long. She steps forward, holding a hand out to feel the rain, and glances happily at me. I shiver as water drips down my back, cold and unnerving.
"Rach, we should get inside," I insist once more, squinting through the water in my eyes. Rachel smiles again, shaking her head, the rain soaking her beautiful locks, and I know she won't go. Suddenly, I'm not sure if I want to go, either, but I still continue to fight, pathetically.
"How long has it been since you just stood in the rain?" she asks.
"Let's see, I don't remember because for the next week after that, I was delirious from the pneumonia I contracted…while standing in the rain!"
Rachel laughs at this, throwing her head back and closing her eyes. She grins up at the sky, arms stretched out as far as they go, and she begins to spin. I have to smile, and then laugh, and then join her. It's so childlike and silly, but something I have longed to feel for a while now. Something to escape me from the heaviness that is life.
I feel light and happy, spinning like a child, clothes wetter than they have ever been, feet slipping in the ever growing mud, but I am happy. And so is Rachel.
She's happier and prettier than I've ever seen her, and I can't remember the last time she was happy; it makes her glow. Life with Ross seems to have aged her, made her almost lifeless, and I stop.
She must sense it, because she stops too, her eyes opening and looking at me. "What's wrong?"
"You look beautiful," I say without thinking, and wonder why I said that. She's my best friend's girlfriend, not mine, and it isn't right. "I…I mean-"
"…y-yes?" I say uncertainly, not sure if that's the answer she wants. Rachel glances down, the happiness seeping away slightly, and I'm desperate to make it return. "Yes." It's the answer she obviously wants, and the answer I want too, just to see her smile again. She does smile, glancing up at me through long lashes, and I wonder if she's flirting with me. But that's not right. She's with Ross, not me.
"You think I'm beautiful?"
"I think you're gorgeous." I don't think again; just let my lips run away from me. Rachel blushes, although I can barely see it through the rain.
"Ross doesn't…" she shakes her head suddenly, and I look at her in surprise.
"Yes, he does, of course he does, Rach!"
"It wouldn't hurt for him to say it once in a while, or tell me how happy he is with me, or-"
"He tells us everyday, Rachel, goes on and on about how much he loves you and-"
"But he doesn't tell me," Rachel insists and I see her point, although I can still almost hear the love in her voice, but it's overtaken by scorn. I nod, stepping closer, wiping the water from my eyes. It's blurry again seconds later. "Why doesn't he tell me?"
"I-I don't know," is all I can say, and Rachel nods, glancing down at her feet. She nods once more, then looks up at me, a small smile gracing her beautiful face and I find myself smiling back.
"Spin with me again?" she asks, and I glance around the almost empty area. Not completely empty, because even the rain cannot keep tourists away from Central Park.
"We really should get out of the rain, Rachel," I argue, but my heart isn't really in it. To hell with my health.
"So what if we get sick? The damage is already done, and at least we would have had fun," she says and I catch the muttered, "for once". I nod, agree and smile. "That's more like it."
She begins to spin, then stops before I can start and stares at me. "I was about to do it," I say pathetically, and she laughs.
"I wasn't gonna say anything about that, I just thought…" I watch as she takes my frozen hands in her own, and she rubs them gently, trying to warm us both up. I smile, but before I can say anything, she begins to move and we spin together in a lazy circle, picking up the pace as the rain does the same. I can barely see her, but I know she is smiling, and I can hear her laugh over top of the pouring rain, and I realise I'm laughing as well.
Rachel cries out before I can tell her once more how beautiful she is, not knowing exactly why I'm going to, and I feel her falling away from me. I hold on tight, desperately trying to hold her up, and fall with her and on her, the wind whooshing from both our lungs.
There is a pause, then Rachel begins to laugh again, lying in a puddle of muddy water, her face buried in my chest and I shake my head in amusement.
"You know, you really are clumsy," I tease and she laughs harder until she is almost wheezing. I realise then that I am still lying on top of her and go to roll off, but she stops me and lifts her head.
"You weigh a tonne," she whispers, and I roll my eyes.
"That's why I was going to get off of you."
"There's no rush." Her voice is low, almost seductive and I swallow the sudden lump in my throat. She smiles, even though water is constantly dripping from my hair onto her face, and her designer clothes are caked with mud, and I realise that she is happier lying here in the miserable weather with me, then she is anywhere else.
I close my eyes briefly, processing that thought, then open them again when a hand brushes back my hair gently. Rachel is still smiling, but there is something else in her eyes that darken them, and I wonder if the same look is in mine. If she can't see it, then she can probably feel it pressing against her thigh. I let my eyes linger on her lips, and she watches me watch her, then shifts her thigh suggestively. That movement is all it takes for me to wake up, to remember Ross. I'm on my feet moments later, turning away and shaking my head in disgust. What was I thinking? How could I even think about Rachel like that, when Ross-
"We should head back," I mutter, barely audible over the now pounding rain, but I know she hears me. Her hand touches my arm, gently yet insistently, and I briefly wonder when she had stood up.
"It's okay," she says softly, and I turn to look at her. She smiles encouragingly, moving her hand down my arm to hold my hand. I stare down at the entwined fingers, noticing how small her hand looks in mine.
"Ross is my friend and…this is…let's go back." I reluctantly pull my hand away, and turn, knowing it's the right thing to do, but hating having to do it. But, God, it's beautiful when that girl smiles, and I want to make her smile again, instead of the hurt look that I just know is covering her face. I stand strong, barely, and start to walk away, but her hand stops me again.
"Chandler, wai-" and suddenly I'm kissing her, hard and desperate, our soaking bodies pressing together as the rain pounds down on top of us. She moans in my mouth, grinding our hips together, and I don't object. I just keep kissing her, right there in the rain, and think to myself just how romantic a kiss in the rain really is; especially a forbidden kiss…
I take a drag, hands shaking, and she appears behind me like something out of a dream, perhaps even a nightmare, depending on whose viewpoint you look upon. All I know is that I cannot wake, and I'm not sure if I would even want to, least I be given the chance. The desperate kiss in the rain will not leave my mind, and I smile scornfully, drowning in cynicism.
A hand reaches out and takes the cigarette from my slightly parted lips, and I laugh hollowly as Rachel takes a drag, hating and loving that I woke her.
"Those are bad for you, you know," I mutter. She doesn't answer for the longest time, and I briefly consider going back inside.
"Name one thing that's good for me," she whispers finally, and I retaliate, knowing what she wants to hear from me, even though we both know it's a lie.
"Ross is," I answer instead, and it's her turn to laugh hollowly.
"Ross," she says, almost derisively, although I can hear the almost love and almost guilt in her voice. She takes another drag, and I watch the smoke billow from her parted lips.
"Don't you love him?" I ask quietly. She considers this for a long time, and this time, I don't think of going back inside.
"I almost think I do, at times," she whispers and I nod. We're alike in so many ways, and that's only one of the reasons why I'm not good for her and she's no good for me.
"Is he good for you?"
"Possibly, but since when have I needed what was good for me," she says painfully and it's all I can do not to reach over and take her in my arms and kiss her. "You're no good for me."
I nod again. We both know that. "But?"
"But, you know…"
"Damnit, Chandler, of course you do! Why else would we both be here, when we could be in the arms of two people that love us, two people we should love back, but instead we are here and they are there, and like always we are waiting for the other to break so that we can feel alive again." She takes a deep breath, shaking her head in what could almost be disgust. I nod, I agree, I kiss her finally, and everything is alright with the world, if only for a moment.
"Tonight I saw a glimpse of your smile within my own reflection," Rachel smiles into the mirror at me, and I tighten my grip around her waist as I continue to sing, softly into her ear from behind, "Oh, you look so beautiful."
"Chandler," she whispers, and not for the first time I notice the tears in her eyes and the sadness in her expression, reflected by the mirror we are both staring into. I shake my head and bury my face into her neck, knowing why she was so sad. We had been here before, neither of us wanting to admit it, neither of us wanting to hear the words. Every time she went to speak, I would silence her gently, and every time I went to speak, her body would press against mine, her lips following suite and conversation would become meaningless. Here she is, trying to speak again, I realise sadly.
"Shh," I breathe, and she complies, if only for a second.
"I can't…Chandler, we have t-"
"Let me finish the verse," I almost beg, glancing up and into her reflected eyes. She bites her lip, nods and presses back against my body.
I smile a watery smile, then falter as I realise what the next words are, but still, I sing them, "A tear ran down my face and all my memories erase. Oh, why'd you have to leave my side?"
I shake my head again, buried once more into Rachel's neck, inhaling her perfume, and then dare to look up. She's smiling into the mirror at me, and I know what's coming and I almost hate her for being the strong one, for being able to do this, but I know I cannot hate her. The light reflects off the mirror and I wonder briefly if Rachel is only able to do this because she isn't looking directly at me. It is easier to break a reflection than a solid person. I consider turning her around, turning her to face me, but I don't, knowing that if I did, there would be a lot more sad eyes and tears, and we would both continue attempting to speak. It has to stop, and damnit, she is right, but I still almost hate her for being strong.
"Can I talk know?" she asks gently, and I shake my head.
"I can talk?"
"Yes," I say again after a brief hesitation, and she nods, and I feel her neck move against my chin as she swallows harshly.
"We have to stop this," she whispers and it's my turn to swallow harshly. Damnit, she still is right, but it hurts more out loud then it does in my subconsciousness.
"Remember that day in the rain?" I ask softly, and she stiffens.
"Chandler, listen to me, we can't keep-"
"Do you remember it?"
"Of course I do, how could I forget?" she murmurs after a long pause. I nod, pressing my lips against her neck and she trembles. I tighten my grip around her waist again and rub my stubbled cheek against her smooth one.
"That day," I say, pausing to kiss her temple, "was the happiest day of my life." And suddenly I'm untangled from her and stepping back, turning and heading towards the door.
"Chandler, wait." I stop, turn and Rachel's looking at me desperately; looking at me, not at the mirror and I see her falter and I know, I'm the strong one now. And I feel it too; know that I have to do what Rachel almost did, while she had the mirror to strengthen her. I smile gently at her, take her hands and bring them up to my lips.
"We'll be okay," I whisper, and she shakes her head, tears spilling over. I smile again, nod, and release her hands.
"It won't be, I need you," she nearly begs and I wonder what happened to the strong woman I had been talking to only moments before. I'm not meant to make her cry; she's meant to smile when she is with me. But I stay strong.
"You don't need me; we're not good for each other."
"Why?" she asks, and I hesitate, realising I don't know why. But I know it's true, and she knows it's true, too.
"We'll be okay," I promise, "and hey, we'll always have Paris."
"We never went to Paris," she manages, almost smiling.
"Okay, we'll always have Central Park, then," I decide and she finally smiles through her tears and God, is that girl beautiful when she smiles. I go to tell her that, like always, but stop, knowing it won't help matters. Instead, I smile back, wink then turn and leave the room, not letting her see the tears that fall once the door is closed. I've never been strong in my life, why did I have to choose that moment to start? If I hadn't opened my mouth, Rachel would have taken back her words, and everything would have been alright with the world, if only for a while. But I shake my head, and continue on, knowing that we do have to be strong.
I glance at Rachel, who is almost asleep next to me, hand wrapped possessively around my stomach, content smile on her face, and I remember how hard it was to be strong.
We had been, for at least two weeks, until the next time it had rained, and like a beacon leading us, we had found ourselves in each other's arms again.
Every time it rained, every time I smelt that distinctive smell, or heard the patter of water against the window, I remembered; it was hard to forget, and I couldn't help it. I couldn't help it because Rachel was like a drug, and I needed my hit, no matter the price.
Running my fingers gently across Rachel's smooth cheek, I smile as she makes murmurs happily, and I know she is finally asleep. I know I should be asleep too, not here, in Monica's arms, but as usual, it's almost impossible to leave.
Somehow I manage to, and after dressing, I lean over and kiss Rachel's relaxed lips. "I love you," I whisper, something I only whisper when I know she cannot hear me, because if she did, it would become too hard. She smiles in her sleep, and rolls over slightly.
"Love you," she says and I freeze for a moment, biting my lip, fighting the urge to wake her and make love to her again, then I turn and leave the room silently, to head back to where I'm supposed to be.
Monica is right for me, I know that, and I think I could love her. Monica should be my life, but instead of focussing on what is and what could be, I find my mind lingering on what once was, and in a different vein altogether, what is and what could be.
The blood that courses through that vein is all Rachel, and it trails heatedly to my heart where, while not good for me, it pulsates its own steady beat and finds the place it truly belongs.
I step outside of Apartment 20, and close the door gently, glancing up at my own door, knowing what lies beyond there, and not knowing if I can do it.
I'm torn between two doors and I know that it shouldn't be this hard, but as I glance from door to door, I wonder if Monica would hate me if I didn't join her, and if Rachel would say those words while she was awake, and if I could say those words when she could hear me. I wonder what life would be like with Rachel, and with Monica, and I wonder who I would truly be happy with, as I stand in the empty hallway, listening to the rain outside.