The One With Unrequited Love
-She couldn't remember when the feelings first began, she could only remember when the realization first hit her, even though at the time, it was hazy and sketchy. It was almost sweet, in a sad sort of way. He had it for her bad. She'd never seen him so captivated. The book he'd spent days locating and a fortune purchasing just confirmed it. Chandler was in love with his roommate's girlfriend.
That was the moment Monica's view of him changed. Always friends, she was there for him while he lamented over his predicament, and while the full understanding of what her heart was trying to tell her was muddled, she was, at the very least, aware of how much she hurt for him. Life certainly wasn't fair, when it came to love; she'd had her share of anguish with it, that was for sure.
She was feeling like shit, but somehow, even though he wasn't sick with the latest strain of the common cold, he looked worse. Opening the door after the timid knock, revealed a depressed looking Chandler, pillow in hand, blanket wrapped around his shoulder… the absolute depiction of misery.
"Can I sleep on your couch?"
Instantly feeling a twinge of pain for him, she nodded abstractedly, her congested head reminding her within seconds of the stupidity of the movement. Ignoring that, she pushed her door shut as he stepped inside, then leaned into him as they both headed for the couch.
"Just let me get these snot rags cleaned up," she offered, parting from him and moving up ahead. "Last thing you need, is to catch this."
"If I was going to, I would have already," he returned with a shrug. "And… snot rags?" he questioned her with a slight lilt of humor. "What, did Kleenex go and change their name? Cause, I think they could've done better."
Masking his unwanted emotions was something he excelled at, but Monica recognized it easily for what it was. Only smirking in direct response, she hurriedly cleaned up the space around the couch and coffee table, then gestured for him to take a seat, joining him almost as he did.
"Wanna talk about it?" she asked, knowing he did, but that she would have to drag it out of him. It was a dance that had become like a habit. When he shrugged, and looked down at his lap, Monica fought to hide a smile. Needling him gently, she ventured, "Sick of being so close to the parade route?"
With Joey, it was like a parade route. A revolving door of women, all one-night stands… though with Kathy, it seemed different. Maybe that was part of the problem. If Joey had discarded her like all the others, Chandler would then be free to ask her out. Since Joey didn't seem to be in any hurry to cut her loose, surprisingly, it meant she was forbidden fruit to Chandler.
"It's not the parade route itself," he answered, almost mumbling, "It's who's on parade."
Nodding her understanding, she suggested, "Maybe you should just, talk to Joey. Unless you're planning to live on my couch now," she added, hoping to pull a smile from him.
"I could pay rent," he offered, and though it sounded a little like he was going for a joke, she couldn't be certain, mostly because of the serious expression he continued to wear. "What's the going rate for riding the sofa now-a-days?"
Definitely a joke, but, a weak one, and she sighed in response. "You can stay here as long as you want, no charge," she told him, "But, c'mon, let's be realistic here! You have an apartment! And you should be able to sleep in it! If you tell him how you're feeling-"
"I can't!" he shot back, interrupting her. "I will seem like the biggest ass on the planet!"
"You won't," she insisted. "You can't help who you fall in love with-"
"In love?" he questioned, sounding just short of paranoid. "Who said I was in love?"
"Oh, come on," she half scoffed, "It's so obvious!"
Sighing, calming himself, then tipping sideways to lie down, he muttered, "To everyone but Joey," as he curled up into the fetal position.
She could hear it in his voice. What he didn't say was every bit as loud and clear as what he did. "You think Kathy knows?"
Nodding, he mumbled into the pillow he had just then buried his face into, "And I think she might feel the same way. But I don't think she's any more ok with hurting Joey than I am. Which just makes her all the greater, damnit!"
The twinge of jealousy was unexpected, and definitely unwanted. There was a moment where she tried to push the feeling aside, but she was unsuccessful. Instead, her mouth opened and the hand-tipping question popped out without her actual consent. "What's so great about her, anyway?" If he heard the underlying hurt in her tone, he didn't let on.
"Oh, just, everything," he answered, as if it was the only clear one to be given. "Besides being insanely hot," he elaborated, "She's funny, and smart, and loves Ernie Kovacs…"
"That equals love," she grumbled sarcastically, but quickly checked herself when he removed the pillow and looked over at her. Playing it off as if she meant it as a joke, she smirked, then shrugged, then offered sincerely, "There are a lot of women out there that fit that bill, Chandler."
"Maybe," he sighed, "But they're not feet away, in the room next to mine, moaning my roommates name in the throes of passion."
"Exactly!" she exclaimed. "You need to find someone who's not in the next room, moaning another man's name!"
The sound was worse than a thousand knives stabbing him, and the memory of it made him shudder visibly. Not just pain assaulted him, but guilt and shame as well. There was no way he could admit it to Monica, but, truth be told, he had actually become aroused, listening to his roommate and the woman of his dreams through the thin wall that separated their rooms. It was unintentional, but the physical reaction was unmistakable, and led him to conjure up images of a very impure nature.
Despicable as it was, he had been seconds away from reaching down to relieve the ache, her heavily embedded in his thoughts, when Kathy had called out Joey's name. It was like the equivalent of cold water being thrown at him, sobering him quickly, creating the need to flee his apartment and his almost-actions as fast as possible. He didn't even question where he'd go, he just stepped across the hall instinctively.
"Easier said than done, Mon," he replied, slightly irritated. "Everyone, at some time or another, has been in the room next to mine, moaning Joey's name!"
"Everyone?" she asked, suppressing a smirk. "You outing Joey now?"
"Everyone with breasts and a snatch then," he corrected shortly. "Better?" he asked rhetorically, arching an eyebrow when she laughed. "That's funny why?"
"Snatch," she repeated, answering him, her barely visible grin continuing as she shook her head lightly and pushed up to standing. "I think I'll make some tea. Want some?" she asked, shuffling on towards the kitchen before he even responded. He would say yes, for no other reason than because she offered. She knew him so well.
"Sure," he sighed, then, dropping his blanket on his vacated seat before moving to join her, asked, "Am I just the most pathetic person you know?"
"No," she answered at once. "And you're not pathetic," she assured him, then offered supportively, "Unrequited love just… sucks."
Nodding, leaning against the counter at the sink, he asked, "Ever happen to you?"
"I think it's pretty much happened to everyone, at some point, hasn't it?" She tossed him a reassuring smile, then leaned into and past him, to fill the kettle at the sink. The close proximity to him caused a reaction within her she was unprepared for. Her heart fluttered, and her stance turned awkward because of it. Of course he noticed. Her life, and these new feelings, weren't embarrassing enough.
"You ok?" he asked, showing genuine concern. "You're all… shaky."
"It's this stupid cold," she answered dismissively. "And Phoebe actually wants it back!" she added, trying for humor as a distraction. "She can have it," she muttered additionally, then slammed off the water and moved with the kettle towards the stove, needing space between them.
"It's not like she gave it to you on purpose," he mentioned, weakly defending their friend, confused by her sudden frustration.
Catching the meaning in his tone, she insisted, "I'm not angry, I'm just miserable."
"You and me, both," he said, sounding discouraged, stepping over to wrap her in a hug. "Different reasons why," he added, almost trailing off, then, pulling her into his arms, muttered, "At least rest and fluids will solve your problem."
"Yeah," she returned, as if in agreement. He had no idea, where her thoughts were. There was no way she could tell him, either. Rejection was a guarantee. She was simply a friend, and he was in love with someone else.
-The next two weeks did nothing in the way of improving things. Time didn't stop the feelings, as much as she tried to force it, and distance wasn't possible. He was around more than ever, spilling his woes, completely clueless to the ache she felt. Sometimes, when he looked at her just so, with those amazing blue eyes she had never truly noticed until recently, she wondered if he somehow knew. Had somehow caught on. A part of her wished he had, but then mortification would choke her, adrenalin would attack her, and she knew it was better that he hadn't.
This man was her friend. Telling him would only cause awkwardness, and quite possibly a rift between them that might not ever be repaired. It was too risky. The potential results were unthinkable. Thinking about it at all was dangerous.
Truth be told, not that she would ever admit it to another living soul, she had taken to fantasizing about him. At first, she forced those thoughts away, feeling a sense of shame for daydreams she viewed as inappropriate, but, the more the images entered her mind, the less she fought them. She had grown fond of the detailed scenes that played out behind closed eyelids, the long time absence of a boyfriend creating the need to self-satisfy. Then the fantasies expanded, becoming much more than just scenes of an intimate nature, conjured up when trying to release sexual tension. She imagined them in a relationship. Happily dating, going out to dinner, movies, plays. They would settle into each other's arms on a Saturday, watching TV and chatting about everything from important matters to the absurd, laughing at the latter and at inside jokes only the two of them would ever understand.
That was the dream, only now, it was like a nightmare, simply because it was unobtainable. Not only was he madly in love with another woman, but he saw her as nothing more than a friend. A special friend, maybe, but still just a friend. It would have to be enough.
The front door opening startled her, the previous thoughts dropping so abruptly it almost caused her a moment of confusion.
"Hey, Mon," Chandler muttered, dragging his body as if half lifeless towards her couch.
Concerned, she abandoned all chore-like activities and moved swiftly to join him. "You look… bad," she informed him, settling on the adjective hesitantly. Taking a seat beside him cautiously, she then asked, "What happened?"
"I kissed Kathy," he admitted, then buried his face in his hands, missing her gasp of shock as he added, "And Joey knows. And hates me."
"God," Monica whispered, her brain grasping to find the right words to say. Finally, for lack of better, she suggested, "Walk me through it. When did this happen? Who initiated it?"
"Last night," he answered, but then sighed heavily as he dropped his hands to his lap before adding, "I don't even know what happened! She was cutting my hair, her hands all up in it… God, she was just so close, ya'know? She said she had to leave, and she did, but, then she came back, cause she forgot her purse, and, I don't know… we just, threw ourselves at each other!"
Jealousy raged, but outwardly, she showed only support. "Ok, well, what's done is done, right? Let's talk damage control. What did Joey say when you told him?"
"He said I crossed the line," he answered, his tone, if possible, showing more pain than previously. "He said I was so far past it, it was like a dot in the distance."
"I'm sure he doesn't hate you," she offered, drawing up what she hoped was the right conclusion. "He's hurt more than angry," she added, "I'd bet money on it."
"I didn't mean to hurt him," he lamented, only daring to glance in her direction, shame over his actions preventing him from looking at her straight on. "I just, wasn't thinking," he added, and she nodded as she settled up against his side.
"I know," she sighed. "People make mistakes. Joey makes tons of them, when it comes to this stuff. He's going to forgive you, ok? He just… needs time."
Groaning, he shared, "I just want to go back in time. Go back and… Ugh! Just, stop myself from doing this totally! Stupid! Thing!" As he said the final three words, he slammed his hand against his forehead with each.
Monica grabbed him at the wrist, stopping the assault on himself, muttering a somewhat inaudible "Quit that," before asking carefully, "So, the situation with Joey aside… how-? Um… how was it? I mean, did you get this crush out of your system, or, did it make the feelings… stronger?" Dreading the answer, she held her breath while she awaited it.
"I'm in love with her, Mon." It came out in an almost whimper, and then he leaned in, to rest his forehead against her shoulder. When he exhaled shakily, her heart lost its rhythm.
How much hurt could a soul endure and remain whole? An unanswerable question, really, though she was about to test the theory. If they couldn't be together, then she wanted at least one of them to be happy. He had a shot at it, more so than she did. Encouraging him into the arms of another woman would be one of the hardest things she had ever had to do.
"Then, you should pursue it," she whispered, forcing her voice to sound stable and sure.
"How can I?" he asked, pulling away and staring intensely back at her, almost begging her to offer up a solution. "Joey will hate me," he added, silently asking with his expression for her to contradict what he had just said.
"He's not going to hate you," she assured him. "He loves you too much to hate you." When Chandler groaned and dropped his face back into his hands, Monica instinctively, almost motherly, slipped her hand up to caress his hair. "I didn't say that to guilt you," she insisted. "I said it prove a point."
"Point being that I suck?" he asked, his words muffled by his palms.
"Point being," she answered, "That he will love you always, cause he's your friend! He's gonna want you to be happy! And, if Kathy makes you happy…" She choked on the last word, but cleared her throat to cover it, then she pulled her hand away from him, whispering in conclusion, "Talk to Joey first, in a day or two, after he cools down, and then, you should… talk to Kathy."
There wasn't a part of that sentence that wasn't a struggle to say. While she couldn't imagine Joey hating Chandler, she honestly didn't know what his feeling were on the matter. And then, to tell the man she was essentially falling in love with, to go be with another woman… She felt like she was in hell.
"You actually think there's a chance that all this could end happily?" he asked, hopefully, his hands falling from his face; she knew what he wanted her to say, and she offered it up to him, simply because he did.
"Yeah," she whispered, cracking a strained smile back at him when a slight one twitched at the corners of his mouth. Then he pulled her into a hug, obviously grateful for the optimistic viewpoint, and she fought to keep an emotional distance as she felt his hands come to rest on the small of her back.
"Thank you," he whispered back, his breath warm against her. All she could do in response, was nod.
It was a lose/lose situation for her. If it all went according to his wishes, Chandler would be happy with Kathy, and Monica would be outside of where she wanted to be, watching the couple dote affection on each other whenever around her. If it all went to hell, Chandler and Joey's friendship would have a rift in it, Kathy would be out of the picture, and Chandler would be miserable because of both.
Unrequited love didn't just suck. It was devastating.
To be continued
Ok… I'm back! Did you miss me?
Yeah, sorry about that… had a personal crisis I was busy dealing with, and didn't do much more than curl up in the fetal position on my couch and cry.
A very special thanks to my friends Kristy and Oliver, for seeing me through it! Luv you guys! (huggles)
To give credit where credit is due… Thanks to Oliver for your feedback, support, and ever-diligent nitpicking over my grammatical incorrectness (smirk), and to Kristy, for offering up this concept, helping me hone it, and for your constant assistance with writing it! I would be less of a writer, if it wasn't for you guys! I mean that sincerely.
This fic will not be 'epic'. Sorry. Most likely, five chapters, about the length of this first one, with an epilogue chapter as a sixth (chapter). I just, need to get some stuff out of my head, I guess.
Just an FYI here, but, my webpage is still active, and has lots of great stories on there by myself, Venused, and Exintaris, some of which cannot be found anywhere else! If interested, click on my name… when on my profile page, click on the homepage link. It's self explanatory from there.
If you're reading this story on my personal webpage, ignore all that (smirk).
K, guys… it's been a rough few weeks for me… could'ja maybe review and lift my spirits a little? Pretty please? I would be grateful.
Thanks, and MTLBYAKY