Here's my first Friends fic, a plot bunny that hopped in and went out of control. Indulge me, please?

Set in season seven, after the proposal, after "TOW they all turn thirty," but before Chandler and Monica's wedding.

I don't own Friends, or any of its characters.


Chapter One

"The Great Transformation"

Chandler strolled casually through the door into apartment 19, the notion of knocking never even entering his mind. If he'd bothered to stop and think, he'd have discovered that he couldn't even remember the last time he'd actually taken time and knocked before entering this apartment. To walk across the hall from apartment 20 to enter 19 was as natural to him as it was for the sun to rise in the east.

One look inside told him Joey was not yet up. There were no sounds from the bathroom, and the man had yet to wander across the hall for breakfast. It wasn't exactly surprising that Joey hadn't awoken; he had a tendency to sleep straight till noon if no one disturbed him.

Chandler walked into his friend's bedroom, not bothering to knock there either. It would certainly not be the first time he walked in on Joey sleeping. "Hey Joe, get up or we're going to celebrate your birthday without you," he drawled wryly, shoving the door open with an echoing bang!

There was no response – no grunt of annoyance, not muffled "go 'way", not even a pillow thrown in his direction. For the first time, Chandler noticed that something was missing from the room.

Namely, the very person he was looking for.

Joey had definitely gotten into bed the night before, because the covers were in disarray, crumpled and half on the floor. But he didn't need to check to confirm that Joey wasn't under those covers – an empty bed is an empty bed.He frowned in confusion, surprised by his miscalculation. If Joey wasn't here, then where –

The covers rustled, and he jumped back in shock, his hand automatically shooting out to snatch the nearest thing to protect himself – in this case, a big foam finger from some long-forgotten hockey game. He paused, half crouched in defensive mode, straining to hear over his own labored breathing.

The covers rustled again.

He tensed. Then slowly, as though approaching a wild alien that might jump out and suffocate him with its tentacles, Chandler inched forward, holding the foam finger like a sword. He craned his neck, trying to determine what exactly was moving. Unless…dear god, unless it was the covers themselves that were alive –!

There was a sudden burst of activity on the bed, and Chandler dove to the floor with a rather girlish "Gyaa!" shielding himself with the foam finger he still held, clutched in his fist so hard that his knuckles turned white. He fought the urge to bolt from the room like the hounds of hell were on his heels. The covers-monster was coming after him, he was sure of it. It would reach out with those fluffy, cotton tendrils, and trap him like a ten-foot boa would trap a mouse, then proceed to squeeze the life out of him before digesting him slowly.

"Hello?"

Someone was speaking, he realized as the sounded somehow penetrated his panic-fogged brain. He blinked. Funny, he didn't think that monsters could talk. Or that they would have such high voices and sound like a teletubbie on helium.

"Hello?"

And there was the voice again. Maybe he should answer. He certainly didn't want to upset it. That would be a Very Bad Thing. "Hello?" he ventured back timidly, peeping up over his foam finger.

"Hello," the voice sounded again. It didn't sound any more hostile than a hummingbird. "Where are you?"

"If I tell you, will you promise not to eat me?" Chandler shot back, miffed that he'd been all worked up over a monster that didn't eat people and sounded like it was a three-year-old child.

Oh wait a minute…there was a chance that it could be an actual human child…

He stood up. There, sitting in the middle of the bed, dwarfed up the full-size mattress and a t-shirt several dozen sizes too big and peering up at him curiously, was a little boy.

He was ridiculously cute, with wide brown eyes, set in a round, cherubic face, partially hidden by dark bangs that flopped over his forehead. His messy dark locks hung down in the back, curling up to the nape of his neck. His entire body was hidden by the t-shirt that looked like a circus tent on him, he was so tiny. Sleeve-covered arms clutched tightly at Joey's stuffed penguin, making for a comical sight as Hugsy was nearly as big as him. A picture of a little puppy in a basket suddenly flashed through Chandler's overloaded mind.

"Hello," the child piped up, for the fourth time. "Who are you?"

"C-ch-cha-Chandler. Chandler, my name, it's, it's Chandler. Who are you?" the man stuttered in the way only Chandler can.

The boy giggled, crawling out on top of the sheets spread around him, still holding Hugsy by the wing. It was easy to see how Chandler had missed him at first; he was so small he barely made a bump bigger than a pillow. "I'm Joey!" the child announced, like it was the most important thing anyone could have ever wanted to know. "I'm three!" Three cubby little fingers were held up to emphasize his point.

Chandler was left gaping like a fist out of water. "J-Joey? No no no, you can't, you can't be Joey, I mean, you're, you're thirty years too young! I – I – look, kid, your last name, what is it? What's your last name?"

"Twibbiani," the boy answered promptly. It unexpectedly struck Chandler that he had the cutest lisp. But that, of course, was not what he should be focusing on!

"Chandwer?" little Joey piped, after a few moments of silence which Chandler had spent staring in shock at the little imp on the bed. "Chandwer, I hafta go."

"Go where?" the man asked blankly.

"I hafta go!" the child repeated urgently, his voice shooting up an octave.

"Go – oh!" Chandler jumped up, realizing what the boy meant. "Well, why didn't you say so? Come on, come on!"

xxx

"Okay. Okay. Okay, Joey?" Chandler knelt down on the floor to look the boy square in the eyes. "You're gonna stay here for a moment by yourself, alright? Now you just sit down here on this chair, and you don't move until I come back, got that? I'll be back real soon, just don't touch anything. Understand?"

"O-kay, Chandwer," the child chirped agreeably, climbing onto the barcalounger and curling up, before flashing him such a bright smile that he could practically feel his heart melting.

"Okay, good boy. Now just stay there." Chandler ruffled the child's hair, before dashing for the door and barreling across the hall.

"Monica!" he hollered, slamming the door behind him. "Monica!"

"Oh for – Chandler, what's the matter with you!" Phoebe yelled from where she had just spilled coffee all down her front. "This was a new shirt!"

"What, what? What's wrong? What spilled?" Monica yelped, appearing from her bedroom. Clearly she had been dressing; she had on a blouse over a pair of plaid pajama bottoms.

"There's been a slight – problem. There's been a problem, Monica!" Chandler said in a strained, cracking voice, gesticulating wildly at the front door. "Problem, problem! I can't handle problems, I'm Chandler!"

"What's the problem, Chandler Bing? It had better be good, for you to scare me like that!" his fiancé shot back angrily, planting her hands on her hips.

"It is good, it's beyond good! The problem, I mean, not the situation. But – oh, Monica! Problem!" Chandler wailed again.

"Listen, Bing, if you don't tell me what's going on right now-!"

"It's Joey. It's Joey, Joey – mmph!" he began gesturing wildly again, breaking off for lack of words suitable to describe his current predicament.

"What? What's wrong with Joey?" Phoebe snapped impatiently.

"He's – oh, he's turned back into a kid!"

Monica's eyebrows shot up half an inch. "Ex-cuse me?" she asked incredulously, glaring at Chandler with disbelieving eyes. "Is this some kind of joke? Because if it is, it's certainly not funny, and you will so pay for that in bed tonight –"

"It's not a joke!" Chandler protested. "Look, you can go across the hall and see for yourself. I'm telling you, he's turned back into a three-year-old kid! Why in hell would I lie about something so ridiculous? There are better, less impossible stories to make up!"

"Ooo, oh yea! Then Ross owes me ten dollars!"

Two pairs of eyes turned towards where Phoebe sitting, trying to wipe her shirt clean of coffee stains, and grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire cat.

"Uh, what?" Monica inquired, holding up her hands. "Phoebe, what are you talking about?"

"What, don't you remember?" Seeing that her two friends were truly clueless, she let out a long-suffering sigh, and explained. "When Rachel turned thirty, don't you remember Joey saying that he'd made another deal with God, after his first deal fell through? He wanted to never grow old, remember? C'mon, remember? And then I made a bet with Ross, because he overheard me telling Joey it'd work the second time around because he was proving his faith by giving it a second go, and Ross just about jumped on me and started ranting about how turning back time was, y'know, scientifically impossible. Well, guess we showed him!" She gave a fist pump, and went back to her coffee. "Oh, I love being right!" If she noticed that her friends were staring at her mutedly like she'd grown an extra head, she certain didn't show it.

"And you think that's what's this is about? Joey's deal?"

"Well, it makes sense," Phoebe shrugged. "It's his thirty-first birthday, and he shrinks. What're the odds?" She cocked an eyebrow at them. "Hey, by the way, where is Joey anyway?"

"I left him across the hall," Chandler muttered breathlessly. "I was this close to totally freaking out," he held his thumb and forefinger several millimeters apart to demonstrate, "and I didn't want him to be here to see it."

"You left a three-year-old alone in an unlocked apartment? What the hell's wrong with you?" Phoebe gasped indignantly. "Is that what you're going to do with your child? You – " she stopped talking abruptly when she noticed Monica, who was standing behind Chandler, frantically signaling her to be quiet.

"M-my child? MY child? Wait, what makes you think I'm gonna have a child. I'm not – oh my god, Monica, don't tell me you're pregnant? You're pregnant – oh dear Lord, you're pregnant!" Chandler choked, staring back and forth from Phoebe to his fiancé. "How did this – how'd this happen? This wasn't – "

"Chandler, Chandler, sweetie, calm down! I'm not pregnant, I'm not! Phoebe was just using an example," Monica soothed, trying to pacify the man, who looked as though he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. "I'm not pregnant, okay? If I was, you'd be the first one I tell. Alright?"

"Okay. Okay. Okay, I'm fine. Just don't scare me like that!" Chandler moaned, burying his head in his palms.

"Hey, I hate to interrupt this sweet little moment, but there's still a child left unattended across the hall," Phoebe pointed out. "And Chandler's the only one he knows. Want to bring him over here before something bad happens?"

Monica nodded. "She's right, honey, go get him, and we'll feed him before figuring out what to do with him. Go." She shoved him out the door.

When he was gone, Phoebe set her mug down and leaned back on her chair to study Monica carefully. At length, she said, "Y'know, you might want to wait till your fiancé passes that emotional stage of puberty before going for any kids of your own. At this rate, he'll break before you hit one month."

Monica only smiled weakly. She knew very well Chandler's immense paranoia of responsibilities and commitment, and she'd long since convinced herself that when the time came, he'd be grown-up enough to move beyond. But there were times – times like these – that she really, really wondered if their relationship would ever be able to move past a certain point.

A moment later, the knob turned and Chandler came in, leading child-Joey by the hand. The boy still wore the too-big t-shirt that dragged on the ground behind him, picking up dust, and he still held Hugsy rather clumsily with one arm. His wide brown eyes swept around the apartment in unabashed fascination as he clung tightly to Chandler's fingers.

"Oh my GOD!" Phoebe shrieked, causing everyone to jump as she knocked over a chair in her haste to stand. "He's so CUTE!"

xxx

"Right. Now, I asked Ross to bring over some of Ben's old clothes. I haven't told him exactly what for yet, but he'll find out soon enough anyway. Everyone's accounted for, fed, and cleaned. So far so good. Am I missing anything?" Monica rubbed her palms together, looking at her boyfriend expectantly.

"No, general, only your gun and uniform," Chandler deadpanned, causing Monica to roll her eyes.

"Oh, I just cannot get over how cute you are!" Phoebe grinned delightedly, bouncing little Joey on her lap, causing the child to giggle. Monica had brushed his sleep-tousled hair, and found a rubber band to tie up the tail end of his t-shirt. Hugsy was still held securely in his lap – it seemed he was every bit as attached to the toy as the adult-Joey had been.

"I know! It sounds so traitorous, but I think he's even cuter than Ben was at this age!" Monica cooed, scooping the child up into her arms. "Just look at you! You're just the cuwtest widdle thing I've ever seen, yes you are!"

"Hey! You're an aunt; you got to play with Ben all the time! It's MY turn!" Phoebe snapped, snatching Joey back, making the boy to laugh some more as he sailed through the air.

"Okay, he's not a football…" Chandler began. "Just remember that before you go in for an interception."

Monica had barely opened her mouth for a sharp comeback before she was cut off by the front door opening and Ross came in, an overflowing duffle bag in hand. "Well I brought the clothes you asked for," he groaned, dropping the bag with a dull thud! "So now will you tell me why I had to haul this thing across the street and all the way here?"

"Oh, don't tell me you're tired!" Monica lilted teasingly. "Come on, big guy! You couldn't have walked more than a hundred steps!"

"Yes, even I could have done that," Chandler interjected, "and there's no worse insult, I assure you."

"Hey, it's farther than it looks, alright?" Ross snarled, almost growling in his throat. "And that bag is REALLY heavy! Ben has two mothers, how much clothes do you think he has?"

"Okay, Ross? You better calm down, because if you scare Joey any more, I'm going to have to hurt you," Phoebe stated with an icy calm, patting the abovementioned child comfortingly on the back. The boy had curled up against her the moment voices had started to rise, and was staring over her shoulder with wide, watery eyes.

"Joey? Where – hey, who's this widdle cutie?"

"How it is that people think me as gay but not you, I'll never know," Chandler grumbled, throwing up his hands in defeat.


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