The One With The Renaissance Faire

Original story by: Jana~

Rewrite by: Jana~

And: Exintaris

Chapter One

XXX

--"Guess what, guys!" Joey exclaimed as he bounded into Chandler and Monica's apartment, not waiting for their responses before continuing, "I got you all tickets for my new play!"

"Oh yeah?" Phoebe asked excitedly, giving Joey her full attention, "What's the play?"

"Macbeth!" Joey announced, his smile growing in response to Phoebe's obvious and genuine interest.

"Wow! Shakespeare?" Ross asked, sounding a cross between surprised and impressed, "That's great!"

"At the Renaissance Faire," Joey added, almost interrupting him.

Ross blinked in shock, silent for a moment, before asking, simply, "What?"

"It's a short version of it," Joey explained, oblivious to Ross' confusion, "They have little plays all over the Faire!"

"So, you got us tickets for – ?" Chandler asked, his sentence trailing off; he was fairly certain he knew the answer, but with Joey, one could never be sure.

"The faire!" Joey replied, nodding, eager to share not only his play, but the entire faire experience with his friends. "It'll be great! You'll love it!"

"Oh, it will be great!" Phoebe exclaimed, clearly much more excited than the others. "I loved that era! That was one of my best past lives!"

XXX

--Approaching the gate was like entering a whole new world. Or, better put, an old one. Patrons and participants alike donned attire reminiscent of earlier centuries, the men in everything from Scottish kilts to simple leggings and tunics, the women mostly wearing variations of layered, long flowing skirts, with blouse-like shirts and bodices that showed off far too much cleavage.

A wandering minstrel group was assembled nearby, entertaining those waiting for the official opening of the faire, singing songs that seemed more about getting drunk on ale and mead than anything else.

The sudden cannon blast, from an unseen cannon that was presumably just inside the gates and therefore out of sight, announced the start of the day; everyone startled, though many followed the loud noise with whoops and hollers of excitement and shouts of 'huzzah'.

Everyone was far too happy, in Rachel's opinion.

"I can't believe we're doing this," Rachel complained as they entered the faire, her to go cup of coffee from Central Perk not quite enough to make her happy about being there. "It's so dirty here."

"Yeah, dirty dirt," Chandler quipped, deadpan, "Imagine that."

"Guys, c'mon! We can do this," Phoebe insisted, almost scoldingly. "We'd go to this if it was at some fancy theatre!"

They all reluctantly agreed, grumbling various comments in unenthused tones, which clearly indicated just how much they were dreading the day ahead of them.

"Guys!" Joey called out from a slight distance, approaching fast and in full costume, "You made it!"

Struggling to suppress a laugh, Chandler teased, as he pointed at Joey's kilt, "Nice dress, man!"

"Dude, it's not a dress!" Joey corrected defensively, "It's a kilt! It's a manly Scottish kilt!"

Suddenly, without preface or warning, Phoebe reached under his kilt and cupped him.

Startled by not only the abruptness, but the action itself, Joey instinctively jumped back. "Whoa! Phoebe!! What the hell?"

Phoebe smiled wickedly. "Just wanted to see if it's true what Scots don't wear beneath their kilt."

"Well?" Monica asked, to which Phoebe just nodded and giggled.

Slowly, a quirky lopsided grin appeared on Joey's face, before he too nodded, in appreciation. "Yeah, baby!"

"Joey!" Ross snipped, clearly appalled, "You're going 'commando'?"

"What?" Joey asked, his tone defensive once again, "I'm a professional! They didn't have Fruit Of The Looms back during the Renaissance, so I don't wear them while I'm in character!"

"So, you've been in character for this role since I've known you?" Chandler quipped, his slight smirk dropping when Joey semi-glared over at him.

"Look," Ross announced, attempting to change the subject, "Let's get past Joey's state of undress, shall we? Where do we go from here, Joe?"

Joey snapped his fingers, suddenly remembering, "Oh! I got something for you guys! Come on!"

Leading them down the makeshift road a ways, which was lined with tents and small buildings that varied from fully functional to facades, Joey marched with purpose up to a little tent, then waved them all inside as he entered first. "This is Natalie," he told them, sidling up to the woman he obviously knew quite well by the way he put his arm around her. "Natalie, these are the friends I was telling you about!"

While they all cordially shook hands, Joey continued, "She's gonna set you up with costumes!"

Their return responses were far from approving, dampening Joey's mood slightly.

"What?" he asked with a somewhat sad, disappointed scowl, "It's fun!"

"Ok, sure," Monica soothed, placating him, "But do we have to wear costumes?" she asked.

"You don't have to," he answered with a dramatic pout, "But it's fun."

"I gotta say," Chandler retorted sarcastically, "Not my definition of fun!"

"C'mon, you guys!" Joey whined childishly, "Everybody does it! The whole place looks like a town from back then!"

"Well, I'm in!" Phoebe said easily, bringing the smile back to Joey's face. If it made him happy, what was the harm? Besides, it might actually be fun.

When Rachel agreed, the rest eventually caved.

XXX

--They each emerged from the changing tent at virtually the same time, all in very individualized costumes. They stood in silence as they glanced around at one another, it finally being broken when Monica's eyes landed on Chandler.

"Awww," Monica cooed playfully, "Look how cute you are!" Her following affection, in the form of a gentle hug, did little to cheer him.

"Yeah, cute," he muttered. "I look like the joker on a deck of cards!"

And in fact, he did. Half green, half deep purple, the top was almost like a dress, falling to mid thigh in jagged ends over a pair of bright green leggings, with a hat that had little bells at the ends of several points. It brought to mind the ridiculousness of the elf costume Joey wore, the Christmas he had the job as Santa's helper.

"Not joker," Phoebe corrected self-assuredly, "Jester."

"Whatever," he grumbled back.

"So, what are you, Pheebs?" Rachel asked with interest. She was obviously a bit more at ease with the new situation than she had been previously.

She was in head to toe magenta, though there were some warm browns thrown in as well, to break up the extreme of it. The low-cut, off-the-shoulder blouse had long wispy sleeves, which matched one of two skirts worn. The second skirt was cinched up in several places, so as to show off the one beneath it, and they all met together under a tightly bound corset. A sheer headscarf and thin rope belt with tiny bells and coins attached, that made a jingling sound when she moved, rounded off the ensemble.

"A gypsy!" she exclaimed happily, catching a glimpse of Natalie, the costumer, nodding in confirmation. "Although that's not what I was in that life. But still – neat, huh?"

Everyone nodded, humoring her for the most part.

"I think I'm supposed to be like royalty or something," Rachel said proudly, holding her deep green dress, lavishly covered with gold embroidery, out from her body in display. She almost looked as if she was set to curtsey. There was a matching headdress-style hat, but she opted out of wearing it.

"I think I'm supposed to be a wench," Monica added, with no attempt at enthusiasm. The coarse fabric of the dull brown skirt and bodice seemed far from noble, the long sleeved shirt, which showed far more cleavage than she was comfortable with, indicative of peasants. The hood she wore, which looked a lot like a hair net, was apparently called a snood.

Then they all turned to Ross, who looked like a reject from the Pirates of The Caribbean ride at Disneyland.

"Yes, yes," he said dully, "I'm a pirate." When they all started laughing, he huffed dramatically, then added, "But I refuse to wear the eye patch!" which just made everyone laugh harder. Scowling at them, he tapped the dagger in his belt, as if giving them a warning to stop, but they ignored him.

"Hey! You guys look great!" Joey exclaimed as he entered the tent. "Isn't this fun?"

Except for Phoebe and Rachel, the responses were not enthusiastic.

Anxious to move things along, Chandler asked, "So, what happens now?"

"Well," Joey answered with a hint of pride, "We get to hang at the faire till I'm up!"

"And, when are you up?" Monica asked warily, though Joey didn't detect the displeasure in her tone.

"I have performances at one and four," he answered. "The rest of the time, we can just hang out!"

"Like this?!" Ross asked as he gestured to his costume, clearly unhappy with the prospect of being seen in public for too long in his current attire.

Oblivious to most things, Ross' mood included, Joey answered excitedly, "Yeah!"

After a moment's pause, Ross sighed in resignation, then asked, "Is there beer here?"

A slightly confused scowl accompanied Joey's nod.

"Ok, then," Ross agreed.

XXX

--The juggler was actually quite impressive, but nature's call could be avoided no longer.

Discreetly, Rachel leaned in towards Joey, asking in a whisper, "Where are the bathrooms?"

His attention still on the juggler, he answered distractedly, "They're over by the ale booth. Those blue building thingies? Porta-potties."

"By the ale booth ... how appropriate," Chandler commented, having overheard them despite their quiet voices.

"Joey," Rachel groaned in complaint, "Those aren't bathrooms. Those are disgusting!"

Just as the juggler tipped his hat, set to move on, an obviously drunk man approached them. "Who is the owner of this fine wench?" he asked, slurring his words.

They all looked at each other for a moment, then at him with questioning expressions, before Chandler asked with a tone that mirrored his confused scowl, "What?"

"This fine wench!" the man nearly shouted, pointing at Monica, "Who owns her?"

Chandler looked to Monica briefly, then back to the man. "I guess that would be me."

Immediately in response, Monica smacked his arm lightly. "What?" she asked, her voice shrill. "You own me?"

Taken aback, Chandler could only stammer, no word coming out sounding anything like English.

"I will pay you twenty-five pounds for this fine fiery wench!" the man announced, virtually ignoring Monica's indignation.

"I'm not property, you freak!" Monica snapped, and the man finally saw her outrage through his inebriation.

"Hey, lady, chill, ok?" the man barked back defensively. "I'm just getting into character! They used to do that back in the renaissance! Get it? This is the renaissance faire?!"

"Avast, ye dog!" Ross shouted suddenly, making them all jump. "Do you take my sister for a whore?"

Startled into a more submissive stance, the man stammered simply, "H-huh?"

"This wench," Ross roared, advancing, "Is no drab, for sale to any man who makes an offer!" Fingering his dagger hilt, he added, "Just let me get these darned peace-strings undone, and I'll show you twenty-five pounds!"

Looking quite unnerved, the man blurted out, "Hey, hey! Take it easy, ok? I was just having some fun!" As he turned and staggered away hastily, he could be heard muttering, "Geez! Some guys… spoiling all the fun…"

There was a contemplative pause, before Phoebe exclaimed in praise, "Wow, Ross! That was awesome!"

Grinning, Chandler added, "For someone who didn't want to be a pirate, you sure slipped into character easily enough."

The adrenalin rush of the moment easing, Ross grinned back. "I decided to give him a taste of Red Ross. Besides," he added, "He was spouting complete bullshit, anyway."

"What do you mean?" Chandler asked, his confused scowl returning.

"Men didn't buy and sell women like that during the Renaissance," Ross explained authoritatively. "Though why this is called a Renaissance Faire, I just don't know," he added. "The clothes we've been given are far from historically accurate--"

"Never mind that," Monica interrupted impatiently, then asked, "You mean, women weren't property then?"

"No. Not really," Ross replied. "I mean, sure, a lot of men treated women like they were, when arranging marriages and such. For instance," he added, in the scholarly voice he adapted when teaching, "Dad would have decided who you were to marry, and Mom probably would have had a say, but you wouldn't have, unless he was feeling especially kind."

Stunned, Monica muttered softly, "I couldn't do that."

"Do what?" Rachel asked.

"Be treated like I was property!" she shot back, her frustration showing itself. "I just couldn't do it!"

"Well, when you don't have a choice…" Phoebe commented casually.

Trying to discern what the problem was, Chandler asked, "What are you getting so worked up about?"

"Nothing," Monica answered, shrugging, "It's just… it's degrading! I mean, it must have been degrading," she corrected herself anxiously. "To have no say… being handed over to someone who might mistreat you! To be in a loveless marriage…" She trailed off, sighing as the thought of it stewed inside her head.

"Well, sure, that time sucked in comparison to now, what with no TV and all," Joey interjected, typically missing the entire point.

"I'm sure a lot of the men were nice to the women they married like that," Rachel soothed, trying to ease her friend's distress. "They would get to choose the women they wanted to marry, wouldn't they?"

"But that's not the point!" Monica snapped. "There was still no choice for the women! She didn't get to say: 'No! I don't love you! Don't touch me!', ya'know?"

Chandler wrapped his arm around her and kissed her temple. "Mon, sweetie, relax, ok? Things were just different back then."

Seeing the expressions on her friends' faces brought to attention just how irrational she sounded. "Sorry, it's just … you know how most people have some thing, that's like a nightmare or whatever? And just the thought of that weirds you out?"

When they all eventually nodded, hesitantly, she continued.

"Ok, well, that's my thing. Being like a sex slave or something."

When Joey smiled in response to her last sentence, Monica scolded, "That's not a good thing!"

"It is if she's willing!" he countered.

"That's not being a sex slave!" Rachel corrected him sternly. "That's playing sex slave!"

"Can we move past this now?" Ross asked, annoyed by the direction the conversation was going in, then suggested, "Let's go get one of those great big turkey legs or something."

Never one to pass up an invitation to eat, Joey snapped his fingers in eager approval, then announced with growing excitement, "Yeah! Those are great! And right next door they have these little renaissance-style beef pies! Very authentic. Oh! And they have snowcones too!"

"Just like the knights used to enjoy before they went out to slay the dragon!" Chandler quipped, falling in line with the others as Joey led the way to the food court.

XXX

The food court consisted of several booths, all selling various wares, the employees in charge of each, dressed in full garb, singing the short menus alternatively with the others. There was a wandering vendor nearby, selling large dill pickles from a barrel, who offered bawdy but vague jokes about the phallic shape of them, whenever small children were not close enough to hear.

Monica and Phoebe both settled on the cream of broccoli soup in a bread bowl, and while Phoebe seemed to like it, Monica, being a chef, felt the recipe could do with a little improvement.

Ross and Rachel both chose the large turkey leg, Ross because they never had turkey except for at Thanksgiving, and therefore considered it a treat, Rachel because it seemed the least fattening of all the choices.

Joey talked Chandler into trying the beef pie, which was very tasty, but a bit on the small side, and not entirely filling. Chandler had made fun of Joey at first, when he ordered three of them, now he wished he'd ordered at least two.

What with his stomach growling, even Monica's soup was looking appealing, though he wasn't brave enough to actually try it. Deciding that there was no way soggy broccoli swimming around in some kind of cream was going to be anything but gross, he opted on ordering himself a second helping of beef pie instead.

"Hey, Mon?" he said as he leaned in towards her, "I'm gonna go get another one of those pies."

"Don't order me around!" Monica snapped at him. "I'm not your slave! Get it yourself!"

Shocked by her outburst, he stared back at her for a moment, then told her cautiously, "I wasn't ordering you. I said I was going to go get it."

"No you didn't," she argued, certain she was right. "You told me to go get it!"

"Um, Mon?" Phoebe chimed in, speaking in Chandler's defense, "No, he didn't. He said he was going to."

Realizing that the people at a nearby table were glancing over in curiosity, Chandler inched closer to Monica, draped his arm around her, and spoke much softer than before, hoping to encourage her to as well. "Honey, you just misheard me, is all."

Unwilling to be calmed, she shot back, "Don't patronize me!"

"I'm not patronizing you," he insisted with a heavy sigh, then offered astutely, "You're just… you're all caught up on what that guy said, and you're taking it out on me!"

A moment of clarity found her, causing her to shrink back from her combative stance. "I'm sorry," she apologized sheepishly. "You're right. It's just… it's a sore spot with me, ok?"

Nodding in acceptance, he asked, "How come I never knew that about you?"

"I don't know," she said with a shrug. "Maybe cause I never expected you to want to buy or sell me?" she added defensively.

"I would never want to sell you," he insisted, nuzzling against her neck. "I might wanna buy you," he joked, "If I had the opportunity."

His affection settling her slightly, she asked, "And, what would you do with me once you… purchased me?"

"I would lavish love and attention on you," he answered at once, reassuringly.

"Yeah, you say that," she teased, "But, if you were really in that time period, and you could do anything with your newly-purchased wench…" She dropped the sentence there, looking at him for a reaction.

"No no!" Ross interrupted, sounding irritated. "Weren't you listening? That guy was way off! I'm telling you, they just didn't buy and sell women like that in those days!"

"I don't think that's true," Phoebe said doubtfully, directing the comment at Ross. "I mean, I have this memory of being sold to this nobleman – he had the ugliest teeth, and he was just horrible in bed!"

Ross looked about ready to explode for a moment, but then after taking a couple of deep breaths, he seemed to calm down. "Ok, look," he said quietly, "I'm not gonna say it never happened. I think there were slaves in the eastern bits, that were conquered by the Turks, so it might've happened there, but not in civilized Christian countries! At around that time, I think, they started bringing in slaves from Africa, but they absolutely would not buy and sell their fellow countrywomen!"

On a roll, he all but ignored his friends' exasperated sighs as he continued, "People believe a lot of crap about slavery. They always focus on women for sale… kind of porny, really… but there were just as many male slaves in the ancient world! Probably more…"

"Ok, Ross, we get it," Rachel interrupted sharply. "We don't need a history lesson."

Ross stopped, looking chagrined.

"But, Ross, women back then weren't exactly free," Phoebe countered, her tone serious. "I mean, they were expected to obey their husbands and all that."

Raising an eyebrow at Phoebe's uncharacteristically shrewd observation, Ross replied, "Well, yeah, true, and when they married, their husbands got their property… in a Christian society, at least. But they still had rights, which slaves didn't. And I'm sure wives often got quite a lot of say in how things were run." He grinned at Monica, adding, "You can bet, if Mom had been around back then, she would've been running things just like she does now."

But Monica did not smile back. She was looking troubled again.

Sensing this, attempting to ease her misplaced concerns and worries, Chandler offered in a quiet voice, "I wouldn't abuse you, if that's what you were asking."

"It's true," Phoebe added cheerfully, then shared, with a confidence that indicated she truly believed what she was saying, "In his past life, he was just as sweet as he is now!"

Standing from the table, she patted Chandler on the head, collected her trash, then walked off in search of a receptacle.

XXX

--It was hard to watch, but even harder to look away from. Like a car accident on the freeway you can't help but stare at as you pass by at a crawl. Whoever thought it was a good idea, or even feasible, to condense Shakespeare in this manner, needed to be shackled and flogged.

"And I thought 'Freud!' was bad," Rachel whispered to Ross, who nodded in return.

"Don't worry," he whispered back, "It's almost over."

"How can you tell?" she asked.

Scoffing, he asked, "You never read this play in high school?"

"I was supposed to," she answered, adding without remorse, "But Monica did the report for me."

With a subtle groan of disapproval, he told her in a slightly condescending tone, "How you ever graduated high school is beyond me," which gained him a hissing 'shh' sound from the people sitting behind them.

They fell silent, sharing sighs and smirks of relief with the others when the play finally ended five minutes later. It was only a few minutes after that, after the audience of about twenty dispersed, that Joey came out from behind the makeshift stage, approaching with an excited stride to his step.

"Ok, guys, be honest," Joey asked of them as he neared, his face scrunched into an eager-to-know expression, "What did you think of the play?"

The group hemmed and hawed, glancing around at one another, trying to think of a tactful way to answer his question.

"Well, I liked it!" Rachel spoke up, deciding to avoid the truth.

"It was good," Chandler said firmly, "But I think you threw in too many 'th's."

"That's the way they talked back then!" Joey insisted. "They put a 'th' on the end of everything!"

Conceding his point, more for the sake of peace than because he believed what Joey had said, Chandler exclaimed, "Well, then, you did great!"

"Really great!" Monica mirrored supportively, then added with a touch of apprehension, "But, you sounded kinda, well, muffled."

"Oh," Joey explained easily, with a little wave of dismissal, "That was cause of the marbles."

"Marbles?" Ross asked, confused.

"What marbles?" Phoebe added, equally perplexed.

"I put three marbles in my mouth," Joey answered, "Cause it helps me to talk like they did back then!"

It was as if the words didn't make sense. They all just stared back at him in disbelief for several moments, until the worry lines creased his brow.

Deciding it might be better not to point out the obvious, that putting marbles in one's mouth would be more of a hindrance than a help, they all plastered smiles on their faces and offered such comments as, "Oh, I get it!" and, "That's a great idea, Joe!"

Cheered by their forced enthusiasm, though he was unaware it was so, Joey nodded emphatically, then exclaimed, "I know! And now I can put 'Shakespearean actor' on my résumé!"

XXX

--Chandler nodded right off to sleep, but Monica had some trouble. Her mind was still on what had happened at the faire. She didn't know why it bothered her so much, but the idea of being treated like property, to be used and abused… it just grated on her. If she believed in such things as Phoebe did, she might've thought she had been as good as sold to some horrible man in a past life.

After a lot of tossing and turning, she finally dozed off.

XXX

Jack and Judy Geller sounded upset to their daughter Monica. She couldn't really hear what was being said, but she could tell by their tone of voice. She knew they wouldn't want to involve her in the situation, whatever the situation was, so she tried to ignore them as she cooked. When their voices went quiet, they appeared a few minutes later.

"Daughter, I must speak with thee," Jack said softly.

Monica turned and gave him her full attention. "Aye, father?"

"We have great trouble, and only thou canst provide our salvation."

"Only me?" Monica was quite taken aback.

"Aye." Her father sighed. "My dear, my debt to Sir Charles Bing has grown, while our resources have shrunk. He is very pressing for payment, yet I can pay but little now. However, we have spoken, and he is willing to forego the whole debt – on one condition." He paused, swallowed, and looked at his wife helplessly.

Judith Geller sighed and nodded. "Thou knowest, Monica, dost thou not, that we wish a good marriage for thee? Here, beyond our expectation, is a fair chance of one."

"He wants me in exchange for the debt?" Monica cried. "But, but ... he is OLD, and, and" – she frowned as she tried to remember what she had heard of Sir Charles Bing, their rich new neighbour – "does he not have a wife still, even if she will not live with him?"

"Nay, nay, he does not want thee for his wife," said her father. "He wants thee for his son Chandler, who is but a year or two older than thee."

"But, but ... I have not even met the gentleman," Monica stammered.

Her father sighed and wiped a hand over his brow distractedly, while her mother made an impatient gesture.

"True," her father said. "When Sir Charles invited all the neighbourhood, soon after he bought Oldcastle Manor, we had so little money that we could not have made a proper show, and I made an excuse. But we heard good report of Chandler from the Greens."

"Aye," said her mother. "Thy friend Rachel said he was a fine young man."

Her father nodded. "She called him handsome, even." He sighed again. "Monica ... this is our only way. Sir Charles has insisted: the money, or thee for his son." He looked at her helplessly. "'Tis a fair offer, fairer than I deserve, methinks."

"Dost thou wish to see us turned out into the street, to go to our relatives for charity or beg our bread?" said her mother in a sharper tone. "Here is a great match, just such a one as I would have wanted for thee. Sir Charles Bing is a very rich man, and he has only the one son. In time, thou wilt be mistress of a great estate. What woman could hope for more?" She looked at Monica closely and sighed. "Are all these notions about love befuddling thy brain? Daughter, hear me. There can be love in marriage, even if it is not there at the beginning." She exchanged a look of affection with her husband. "Do but set thyself to please thy man, and he will love thee."

"Aye," said her father, with an air of hearty teasing that seemed false, "cook him one of thy beefsteak pies, and he will love thee for that alone."

As Monica still kept silent, her expression withdrawn, her mother made a sharp tutting noise. "All these years we have fed and dressed and sheltered thee, and thy father has indulged thee beyond what many fathers will do for their daughters. Some of the money he owes, he has spent on thee. Wilt thou show no gratitude, but throw this back in our faces?"

She was beginning to rant, and Monica knew she must stop it. None of them could withstand her mother's rants. Besides, there was some justice in what her mother said, and despite her rants Monica loved her, and her father too. There was only one thing to do.

"I will do it," she said in a low voice, striving to hold back her tears as she saw her hopes of a love match fade into a totally unattainable, fantastic dream.

Her mother rushed forward and threw arms around her, to hug her heartily. "There's my good girl!" she cried exultantly. "We shall have such a wedding for thee, shall we not, Jack? If the debt is cancelled, we shall have good credit again."

"Aye," said Jack Geller rather heavily, "we shall have credit."

XXX

"Monica, Rachel is here," called her mother up the stairs, at the same time as running feet on the stairs announced Rachel's swift approach. Panting and laughing, she burst into Monica's bedroom.

"Is it true?" she cried, running to hug her friend. "Thou art betrothed to the man we none of us could interest? How, how was this great victory won? What secret arts didst thou practise?"

Monica could not help but smile at Rachel's artless enthusiasm. "No arts," she said, as she moved her away to look seriously into her eyes, "and we are not yet betrothed in due form, but it will happen. My father and Sir Charles Bing have come to an agreement. How dost thou know of this?"

"Thy mother told mine, and she told me," Rachel said, "and I told my sisters." From her satisfied expression it was clear that she had relished doing this. "Amy would not believe it, for, centring her eyes always upon herself, she has not perceived how slim and beautiful thou hast become." She looked at Monica affectionately. "Was it thy charms that won him?"

"He is not won," said Monica sharply. "This match is none of my doing. I have not even met with him."

"Thou dost not want the match?" said Rachel, picking up on her tone.

Monica shook her head.

"Why, why?" Rachel cried in patent amazement.

Monica cocked her head. "Say thy father and his had made such an agreement: wouldst thou have been content?"

"Aye," Rachel cried at once. "'Tis a fine man. We spoke, as I told thee, that time Sir Charles kept open house, and we all went, but thy father would not."

"Truly, I had forgot," said Monica, nodding.

"I too, that thou knowest nothing of him," said Rachel. "Well, I can tell thee somewhat."

"So, what manner of man is he?" Monica asked, feeling natural curiosity, for this was the man she would marry.

Rachel frowned in thought. "He was ... courteous," she said slowly. "A true gentleman, his manners as good as if he was from the court in truth. No sweating squire, for ever talking of his horses and hawks and hounds, nor no braggardly coxcomb either, hinting at his deep drinking and midnight revels. But now I bethink me, he said not much."

"Aye, because thou didst never slacken in thy speech, I'll wager," said Monica teasingly. Having Rachel visit her was always good for her spirits.

Rachel giggled and nodded, unabashed.

"So, did he not admire thee?" Monica pursued.

"Aye, that he did," said Rachel proudly. "I could see it in his eyes: he had a greater liking to me than to Amy or Jill, the peevish brat, or any other maiden there. I will tell truth: I tried all I knew to engage his interest, and I believe his father would have smiled on it, but – " She shrugged. "Mine own father has spoken slightingly of the Bing family, saying that none knows aught to tell of Sir Charles's father, and mayhap he would frown on an alliance and think my dowry would be better bestowed elsewhere." She chuckled. "Truly, the Bings have no need of more money! But, Monica, think what will be ready to thy hand when thou dost marry Chandler! For Sir Charles may be purse-proud, but he is open-handed."

"I care not," said Monica sadly. "Rachel, in good sooth I am not eager for this match. But I must do it, for Sir Charles will accept me for his son's wife, in exchange for all that my father owes him."

Rachel nodded, looking serious. Then she became thoughtful. "It is strange indeed that he should want thee, when his son has no knowledge of thee." She pondered, then clapped her hands together in excitement. "I have it! Chandler has seen thee from afar and conceived a violent affection for thee!"

Monica could not help smiling a little at her friend's notion, but shook her head at her. "'Tis too romantic," she said. "Such things may happen in the plays of Master Shakespeare, but not in real life."

Rachel pouted. "Well, whatever lies behind it, this will be a far better match for thee than thy father could have found, I'll wager. A well-mannered handsome man, not much older than thyself, and like to be rich – why, Monica, how canst thou not wish for such a match?"

After a pause, Monica said in a stifled voice, "I do not love him."

Rachel tutted. "Tchah! Love! What is it, after all? We all speak of wanting it, and when we see some fine figure of a man we may conceive that we feel something, but it may all be fancy. But ... when man and woman are together ..." She paused, then looked Monica in the eyes. "I tell thee, if I had a fine man like Chandler Bing to dandle me on his knee and call me his sweeting, I should not find it hard to love him." She narrowed her eyes at Monica. "Thou knowest naught of these things, dost thou, lass? But I tell thee true, a man's arm around thy waist, and his lips to thy hand, thy wrist, thy neck, thy cheek, and most of all thy lips ... what that can make one feel will serve as love, for me."

Monica looked at her suspiciously. "And how dost thou know this, Rachel? Thou hast not been so rash as to ... dally with some servant of thy father's, some groom or stableboy?" Her voice was hesitant, for it was a shocking accusation, but she knew that Rachel was bolder than the average run of young women of good birth, and also that she was eager to learn the mysteries of love.

Rachel did not take offence, but shook her head, her eyes glinting with amusement. "I have dallied in truth, but not with one of those, nay. Rememberest thou, Sir Charles had music played? There was a young man there with an Italian name, who played the lute – not surpassing well, but he had looks to make up for it, warm brown eyes and smooth black hair." She giggled happily. "It was his eyes that won me. So, we contrived a little meeting, though we could not stay long." She giggled again. "But I learned enough of him to know, he had good skill in what he was at, that lutenist."

Monica could not help laughing, though she was also scandalised, but she had long ago learned that Rachel would not readily accept any criticism of her behaviour.

"So, Monica, much pleasure can be had with a young man of near thine age, if he has some affection to thee," Rachel continued, "and I tell thee in good sooth, thy charms are enough to inspire hot lust in any man. But such a man as Chandler will surely act towards thee with courtesy always; thou needst fear no violence."

"All that may be, yet 'tis a proverb oft-repeated, there is more to marriage than four bare legs in a bed," Monica observed drily.

"Why, so there is," said Rachel, "but, Monica, consider. Thou knowest, if we women are ever to cut a figure in the world, we must marry. Who would wish to be for ever at her mother's beck and call, declining to be an old maid, little more than a servant?"

Monica could not deny the truth of her friend's words. "If I knew something of him, of mine own knowledge, I would not fret so much, mayhap," she said. "But consider another old saw, that handsome is as handsome does. He may be fair outside, but who knows what lies within? Even a courteous manner can be assumed."

"'Tis true enough," said Rachel, though she sounded unconvinced. "But I have heard naught to his discredit, except" – she looked thoughtful – "'tis possible, he may be something of an heartbreaker. I heard that at one time he followed a London woman, one Janice Litman, but did break the connection because he liked not her ways, and again that he was passing fond of a wench named Katharine Brewster, but that too came to naught, and he was at fault there, belike."

Monica could not resist grabbing her friend's shoulders and giving her a little shake, grinning at her. "How is it that thou hast always some gossip at thy fingertips, that is readily to the purpose? So, by what thou sayest, he has some liking to women, at least."

"Indeed," said Rachel. "He is no cold fish, I'll wager. I told thee, he looked on me warmly and seemed to take pleasure in my company. But, but ..." – she paused a moment in thought – "'twas as if he was searching for something, and could not find it in me."

"Well," said Monica, feeling slightly heartened. "I will meet him at the betrothal. Then I can try him out myself."

XXX

Monica could not help feeling a certain excitement as she and her parents approached the mansion that in her childhood had been that of the Oldcastle family, but was now owned by Sir Charles Bing, though he kept its name. She would see it in its new glory, the worn and scarred panelling and faded and tattered hangings now all replaced, so Rachel had told her. More, she would see her husband-to-be. After her talk with Rachel, she had begun to feel that perhaps being given in marriage to Chandler Bing need not be such a terrible fate, and had willingly allowed her mother to trick her out in what finery they possessed with some feeling of anticipation.

They were met at the door by a stately steward, who took them through the now somewhat diminished hall to a separate withdrawing room, lined with fine oak panelling, where the centrepiece was a large table in the latest and most ornate style. On it stood a service of silver vessels, bottles of foreign wine, plates laden with tasty dishes, cakes and sweetmeats, enough to marvel at, while all around the walls stood well-carved chairs in the wainscoted style. There was no one else in the room. While her father and mother exchanged comments, at once admiring and jealous, on the table display, Monica wandered around the room, looking more closely at the chairs and the carved ornament on the panelling. Thus, she was near the door and well placed to hear Sir Charles's voice, raised in wrath.

"I have given thee time enough, sirrah!" he was saying, almost shouting. "Thou wouldst not have Janice, for a saucy hoyden – well! Thou hadst a good liking to Katharine, but some cause of offence arose – well! Thou couldst not feel enough for that flighty Rachel Green – aye, we were best out of that, mayhap. Fair though she be, methinks she has a wandering eye. But now it comes to it: this one thou shalt marry, and by doing so repay all that I have bestowed on thee, and all the pains that I have taken to have thee trained up to be as good as any man that walketh in the Queen's court. I shall not live for ever, and I want assurance ere I die that the wealth I toiled so hard to win, and my father before me, shall go to an heir of my body!"

"And if I will not?" Monica heard a much quieter but also angered voice say.

"Then I shall turn thee out to make thine own way in the world, with but a bare sufficiency to keep thee from starving," snapped Sir Charles. "And mayhap I shall consider whether we have some poor but more deserving kinsman to be mine heir. And all shall marvel at thee for a fool, who crossed his father in this matter. For by all accounts the maid is most fair and ripe for marriage, well skilled in all the arts of the household, cookery above all, and as meekly disposed as maids are like to be in these days. What more wouldst thou?"

"Sir Charles, have patience, I pray you," came a third voice, that she thought might be their parson, Master Hawes, and then another joined in and she could hear no more, but she realised that the voices were drawing nearer and moved away from the door, flushing with mortification. So Chandler Bing had no wish to marry her, or anyone else, but was being forced into it by his father with the threat of disinheritance. This did not offer much of a prospect for a good marriage.

It was evident that her parents had heard some of Sir Charles's rant. Her mother moved to her side, her expression unusually sympathetic, and pressed her hand.

"Do but have patience, daughter," she murmured. "More men are brought to wed by their parents' urging than their own will, yet find themselves well contented when the thing is done, and why should not Master Bing be likewise? He can find no fault in thee ..." She paused, and for a moment Monica could swear she heard her grind her teeth. "Sir Charles has it right," her mother resumed. "I have chidden thee oft enough, but I know in mine heart, thou wilt prove an excellent wife."

"Oh mother!" Monica cried, overcome for a moment by this evidence of her mother's underlying love for her. She threw her arms round her and hugged her fiercely.

"Nay, fear not, Mistress Monica," came the voice of Master Hawes, in a soothing tone. "'Tis natural for young birds to fear leaving the nest, but it is their destiny to fly forth."

He had clearly mistaken the meaning of what he saw, and thought that Monica had a reluctance to leave her parents. Well, so she did, but not for the reason Master Hawes imagined, fear of leaving her home. Rather, she shrank from marriage to a man that did not want to marry.

But she turned to face them with as composed an expression as she could manage. Sir Charles was still red in the face with anger, while his son, who was indeed handsome, was pale. With them were Master Hawes and a soberly dressed man who she guessed must be some kind of lawyer. Chandler Bing seemed to give a start when he saw her, and his expression changed for a moment, before he put on a smooth expression. She could swear that the expression she had caught on his face was dismay.

"See, son, what a fine maid is this," said Sir Charles in a much quieter voice, smiling as he looked Monica over. "By my troth, you are most welcome to this house, Master Geller and Mistress Geller, and most of all Mistress Monica." He nudged his son. "Give them a courtly welcome, son."

Chandler Bing seemed almost to grimace, before bidding them welcome in the most flowery terms. Her father used much plainer language to thank him for his welcome and Sir Charles for the invitation, while her mother and she curtseyed.

"Now, son," said Sir Charles in hearty tones, as a group of serving men entered, led by the steward, "why dost thou not see to it that Mistress Monica is served good refreshment, and draw aside with her, that you may learn a little of each other, while Master Geller and I do read over the terms of this betrothal contract that my attorney Master Biggs has drawn up for us."

Monica allowed herself to be ceremoniously served a few dainties on a plate and a goblet of wine, and withdrew to the other end of the room from the group around Sir Charles. In a minute Chandler Bing followed. His face was grave, but he tried to smile at her. She did not smile back.

"You may find this hard to credit, Mistress Monica, but I know a little of you," he said, "from your friend Mistress Rachel Green."

"That I can well believe, sir," she said drily. "For since Rachel began to talk she has seldom paused, except to sleep."

He gave a little crack of laughter, but she kept her face stern. That was being too friendly, she decided. She was resolved to show this man who did not want her the politeness that he was due, and after they married her obedience, but nothing more.

He seemed a little disconcerted by her severe demeanour. "Is there aught I can tell you of myself, perchance?" he said, stammering a little.

"We shall have a lifetime to learn about each other at leisure, sir," she said coolly.

He ran a hand through his hair as if distracted. "Mistress Monica, this was no plan of mine – " he said in a lower voice.

"I know that full well, sir," she replied, still in as cool and even a voice as she could manage.

Before he could make a further attempt to converse, they were called to the table, to hear the terms of the betrothal contract read over by Biggs the attorney. She noted that her father was not expected to provide a dowry, but that it was agreed that her family would provide what they could by way of a bride's trousseau. She knew that her mother had bed linen and other household stuff tucked away in a drawer somewhere. Almost before she knew it, she was being asked for her consent, and after a moment's pause she gave it in a low firm voice. Then Chandler was asked, and the pause seemed longer, but he too consented firmly enough. Then a small box was handed to him by the steward, who had stayed when the other servants withdrew, and he opened it to take out a ring. Advancing towards Monica, he held it out.

"I give thee this ring in earnest of my settled intent to marry thee and prove a good and faithful husband," he said, his voice shaking a little.

"And I accept it, and promise to be a dutiful and obedient wife," she replied gravely, and let him put the ring on her finger.

Master Hawes clapped his hands together in an expression of pleasure. Sir Charles beamed and drew Monica to him to kiss her on the cheek, with words of welcome to his family. Her parents hugged her, her mother shedding a few tears, then turned to Chandler and embraced him formally too. Finally she and Chandler embraced, but formally again; he seemed almost scared to hold her too close, and his kiss to her cheek was barely more than a touch.

And then the thing was done: she and Chandler were now bound together in the eyes of God and man, and, as shortly became clear, would marry the Sunday after next. Sir Charles and her mother at once began discussing arrangements vigorously, and she listened, feeling in a daze. This was her wedding they were discussing, but it did not feel like it. Glancing aside at Chandler, she saw that his expression was bewildered, almost hurt, and for a moment her heart softened. But when he felt her gaze, turned, and produced a tentative smile, she simply inclined her head, keeping her face grave as before and turning away quickly.

The days that followed were full of preparations, during which her mother was for ever going up to the mansion, or sending a messenger, to discuss details with Sir Charles. She herself was not required to do anything except allow herself to be used like a dressmaker's model. Her mother did not seem to notice any lack of enthusiasm on her part, but sometimes she caught her father looking at her with a worried expression. Rachel as maid of honour was in and out of the house, as excited as her mother, and she also did not give the appearance of noticing that there was anything wrong. But as the day drew near Monica noticed that Rachel was beginning to look at her suspiciously, and finally, one afternoon when they were in Monica's bedroom, Rachel spoke.

"Art thou still so uneager for the match, now that thou hast met Chandler?" she asked.

Faced with it so bluntly, Monica found it hard to reply at first, and finally she blurted out, "He does not want me."

Rachel looked shocked. "How canst thou know that?"

Monica first told what she had overheard.

"But, thou goose," Rachel said, sounding relieved, "that says only that he had no wish to wed at all, not that he would not wed thee."

"When he first saw me, methought he liked me not," Monica said. "He gave a start, and seemed dismayed."

"Pshaw!" Rachel snorted in disbelief. "I will not believe it. Did you two not speak together, at the betrothal? Was he not courteous?"

Monica sighed. "Aye, that he was, I cannot deny it. He would smile at me then, and later. But all this may be feigned, especially by one trained in courtly ways."

Rachel shook her head at her. "This is some freak that thou hast taken into thy head," she said severely. "Thou canst not be so sure that thou hast truly read his mind." She took Monica's hand, squeezed it, and said in a softer voice, "How could any man disdain thee? Nay, Monica, be ruled by me: forget this, this fantasy, and trust in thyself. Do but show him kindness, and I'll wager he will be happy to return it tenfold. Hast thou not seen this with thy father? Men are mostly simple creatures, and can readily be brought to thy will by a proper show of affection."

Monica had indeed often seen her mother get her father to do what she wanted, and she had got round him herself, by timely attention and displays of affection and respect. She nodded and told Rachel that she would surely take what she had said to heart, although in her heart she felt that it went against the grain to think of behaving in such a way with Chandler Bing. Rachel did not look fully convinced, but said no more.

XXX

Monica's wedding was splendid enough to meet all the wishes of her mother and of Rachel too. The church was decked out with flowers and greenery, and all the major participants were splendidly dressed, including Rachel, who had somehow made herself appear indispensable both to the Gellers and Sir Charles Bing and had acquired a very fine gown, worn with a new necklace and earrings given to her by her doting father. Her overwhelming enthusiasm for every part of the ceremony and the feast afterwards were such as to draw most people's attention away from Monica's own quietness. But Monica was aware that not only Chandler but her mother glanced at her from time to time with an expression of unease. Sir Charles, however, showed no uneasiness at all, but commended Monica for her maidenly modesty in a speech so rambling that her attention drifted, and was only brought back to the present when she heard loud gasps and exclamations. Plainly he had said something important.

"It is my hope," he was saying, "that in this way my son will learn what is needful in the management of an estate, so that when in time he doth inherit from me, he will be able to play his part among you as a gentleman ought. And it will be good for the young folk, will it not, to have only their own company, away from their elders' eyes, however loving?"

The way he spoke this last comment made his meaning abundantly clear, and there was a rumble of laughter from the men and a titter from many of the women.

"What luck for you!" Rachel whispered. She turned, to see her regarding her seriously. "Alack, I cannot expect so much when I come to marry."

Monica had grasped the essence of what was going on. Sir Charles had evidently settled an estate on Chandler. But where was this estate, she wondered, and berated herself for not paying closer attention.

"I missed the name," she hissed back. "Where is this estate?"

Rachel looked rather unhappy. "Up in Hertfordshire, near to some town called Rickmansworth, many miles from here. I fear we shall not see much of each other."

Monica felt such a sudden pang of grief that tears started to her eyes. She had been counting on Rachel's companionship and advice in the difficult days to come, when she must train herself to be a wife.

Rachel felt for her hands and gripped them. "Be brave, my Monica," she said in a low voice. "I know, thou art braver far than I. And 'twill not be for ever," her face brightened, "for surely Chandler will bring thee south at times of festival, when families meet together. No doubt Sir Charles will want accounts of his stewardship of this estate, too. He seems a man to keep all that is his under his eye, and although this estate be given to Chandler, Sir Charles will consider it his concern still."

Monica nodded, unable to speak for fear she would truly burst into tears. What Rachel said was true enough, but it would be months before there might be occasion for such a meeting. In addition to starting a new life as a married woman, she was going to leave behind everything that was familiar. To give herself heart, she seized her goblet and drank half of what was in it. Lowering the goblet, she saw Rachel smiling at her.

"A little wine will do no harm," she said in a knowing way. "'Twill help to give thee warmth, until Chandler can come to thee, and then shalt thou have warmth a more natural way." She winked.

Monica could not help it; the blood drained from her face at the very thought of lying with Chandler. Rachel noticed, and shook her head at her.

"Never fear, lass," she said. "He will treat thee gently, I am sure of it. See how little he drinks." She giggled. "I'll wager he is as nervous as thou art."

Indeed, Chandler did look ill at ease, seldom glancing Monica's way. Obscurely heartened by this, Monica set herself to try to enjoy the remainder of the feast and hide her deep misgivings from Rachel, her parents and her brother, who had come all the way from Cambridge with his wife Carol to be at the wedding.

When, finally, she was seen to what was to be the bridal chamber that night by her mother, Rachel and a crowd of neighbours' wives and daughters, she realised that she had drunk a little too deeply, for her head was swimming, and she collapsed on the bed with a sigh of relief. Exclaiming in affectionate reproof, her mother organised her disrobing and dressing in a nightgown, with her hair let down. When Monica was sitting up in the bed, her upper body leaned against the headpiece, her mother looked her over and nodded with satisfaction.

"If the sight of thee do not kindle his proper affection, he is no natural man," she said. "Well, daughter, I will see thee tomorrow, no doubt, before thou departest for Hertfordshire."

She hugged and kissed her, followed by Rachel and others, and then they left, but only as far as the doorway, where they stood talking, of matters such as marriage beds and first nights, to judge from their laughter, until a noise of cheering announced that the groom was being brought to them. To Monica's intense relief, once Chandler had entered the room the door was shut behind him and the whole party disappeared, with further laughter and broad joking. She had heard of some weddings where the unfortunate couple were serenaded with bawdy rhymes by the younger guests as a supposed encouragement.

Looking at him, Monica could well believe that Chandler was nervous. He seemed pale and was clearly sweating, for he wiped his forehead. Suddenly he began to speak, hurriedly and in a low voice.

"Mistress Monica – my lady," he began, "I must tell thee something. My father, for all his outward show, doth much mistrust me in this marriage, and he has required therefore" – he swallowed, and began to stammer – "that we do show him t-tokens that, that the deed is done, on the morrow."

Monica sat up straight in astonished anger. Bad enough that she should have to give her virginity to a man she did not love, but this! Chandler held out his hands in a placating gesture.

"I know, this cannot but seem in the highest degree distasteful to thee," he said, "but I have a plan."

She held in the furious words she was about to utter. "Tell me of this plan, sir."

"We must make the sheets seem well-used," he said, "and, and if we place a little blood ... where it might fall ..." Seeming to become more and more nervous, he stopped and stared at her beseechingly.

Here was a strange turn, she thought, but it gave more evidence that he did not want her. She found that, although relieved, she could not help also feeling rather disappointed, with her mother's words in mind. Did he really find her so unappealing?

He was looking at her anxiously. She nodded her head slowly. "A good plan," she said. "Do you know aught of how a bed should look, when a man and woman have been in it?"

He flushed. "Aye, somewhat," he said in a low voice.

"Then let us do that," she said, but before she could even get out of the bed she was overtaken by a jaw-cracking yawn.

He seemed to relax, even grinning a little. "Thou art tired," he said, "and shouldst sleep now. Indeed, it were best we did this after we have slept. But we must be up early, to get it done."

"I am used to waking early," she said, "and so, good night, sir."

"Good night, Mistress Monica," he said, smiling at her. She came very close to smiling back.

To be continued

Author's note:

I wrote this story originally back in 2002, and while I always liked the concept, because of my writing abilities at the time it was quite subpar. It was severely lacking in description and 'scenery', and then I attempted to use 'old English'… (sigh) That did not work out. As Exintaris told me: "Your reversal of sentences sounds like the Star Wars character, Yoda."

LOL!

Anyway… that wasn't his only problem with the story. Apparently, it was also grossly inaccurate, historically speaking. He was so passionate about this that I pulled the story (from my personal webpage – it was never on the fanfiction site), which prompted further conversations, all leading to the idea of rewriting it. We hammered out an alternative plot, and have worked closely together on all areas of the story, to bring you all a fic that will, hopefully, be far more enjoyable to read than the original.

And Exintaris wants to emphasise that he has had a blast working on it. (Direct quote from him.)

You'll probably notice the differences in style, since Exintaris and I have vastly different ones, and the differences in the spelling of certain words (British/American). We discussed 'harmonizing' the text, but ultimately decided that we should leave each other's writing styles and spelling alone, with minimal exceptions. Personally, I think the contrasts work well for this fic, as we jump from modern day America to an older century England in dream. I think our differences in style and country of origin enhance the end product. Hopefully, you'll agree.

This fic will be in two chapters, so only one more after this one, but I also wrote a sequel/extension, back in 2002 (which I also pulled, since it too was subpar and full of historical inaccuracies), that Exintaris and I will be working on together to fix as well. But, with life happening and other commitments, this might take a few months to get to.

I also wanted to make a quick mention… I have added videos to my personal webpage. Due to copyright infringement issues, YouTube has pulled or muted over thirty of my videos, so in answer to this problem, I have found a 'storage site' I can upload the videos to, then link to them directly. So, that is what I have done. Videos include 'Friends' seasons tributes to Mondler, Mondler music video tributes, Matthew Perry early sitcom appearances, 'Studio 60'/Matt Albie tributes, me and my daughter singing karaoke, family videos, and much much more! There is also a video under the family videos heading, that shows what renaissance faires are like, if you're interested, or have no clue what that 'scene' is all about.

If you're reading this on the fanfiction site, click on my name, and when viewing my profile, click on my homepage link. It's self explanatory from there. If you're reading this on my personal webpage, ignore all that. (smile)

As always, please review! And MTLBYAKY