~Past Perfect, Chapter Six~
"The One With The Chick & The Duck"

(Where we left off)

"Please tell me you're kidding," Chandler looked like he was going to pass out.

"Uh, I just turned around and she was gone! She's quick, you know, for a girl and all..." Joey managed to stutter.

But Chandler was in no mood to hear excuses. He rolled his eyes as Joey continued rambling, oblivious to the fact that his other friends were eyeing him nervously. They all figured that this was Chandler's big opportunity, his chance to get Joey to forgive him for the Kathy situation. But Chandler didn't seem all that interested in conversing with Joey, or anyone at the moment. He quickly gathered Lucy's things, and gathered Lucy from Joey.

"You okay, Luc?" Chandler asked softly.

Lucy nodded enthusiastically, and the others breathed another sigh of relief. The relief was short lived, however, when Chandler headed for the front door in silence, only to turn around in the doorway.

"Say goodbye, honey," Chandler said to his daughter.

"Gooooodbye!" Lucy giggled, as Chandler turned and walked wordlessly out the door.

***

Chandler was fuming, but had the sense to leave the apartment before he lost his temper completely. While he knew that he had every right to be angry at his friends for being so irresponsible, he was still harbouring a lot of guilt over what he'd done to Joey. And while the two weren't directly related, Chandler had enough sense to see that what had happened tonight was an accident, whereas what he had done was by choice.

Still...how could they lose his daughter?

More than anything, the event had scared him, and he needed time and distance to get over that. He held Lucy tightly in his arms, until they reached his apartment. Once inside, Chandler let Lucy down, and sunk down into the sofa. He sat stoically for several minutes. He was so deep in thought, it took him a few seconds to realize that Lucy was shaking his arm.

"Daddy, whathz wong?"

"Huh? What is it sweetheart?"

"Whath wong? Why aw you cwying?"

Chandler looked at Lucy quizzically, then realized that he had tears falling down his face. He quickly wiped them away, feeling slightly embarassed by his unusual display of emotion.

"Nothing's wrong, honey, Daddy's just tired. And he is a little scared about what happened today, too."

"What happened today?"

"Honey, when Aunt Monica is watching you, she has to know where you are all the time, just like Daddy. It was scary when nobody could find you today."

"Oh," Lucy seemed to be pondering Chandler's statement, but not for long. Suddenly, she perked up, and jumped onto Chandler's lap excitedly.

"Daddy, can we go to Uncow Joey's again? I wike him."

"Uh, yeah, sure honey." Chandler was taken aback. Was Joey spending a lot of time with Lucy? He pondered this, as Lucy began telling him all about her fun-filled day at Aunt Monica's.

*****

Joey paced nervously, as he waited for Chandler and Lucy to arrive. He'd recieved the call from Chandler earlier in the day, asking if he was free for a visit. It was difficult for Joey to gauge Chandler's mood over the phone. While he didn't seem overly upset, he didn't seem very friendly either. Joey had been on edge for the majority of the morning, and had consequently lost his appetite. He apartment door opened, and Joey nearly jumped out of his skin.

"Joey, are you okay?" Monica walked in, carrying a plate of food.

"Huh? Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," Joey said, unconvincingly.

"You didn't come over for breakfast...we got worried."

"Yeah, I, uh, I'm not hungry."

Monica's brow furrowed, and she immediately crossed the room, and placed her hand on Joey's forehead. He pulled away, and sat down in his chair.

"I'm okay, I'm just nervous. Chandler and Lucy are coming over."

"Oh. What did he say? Is he mad?" No one had seen or heard from Chandler for two days. They were all beginning to wonder if they'd ever see him and Lucy again.

"I couldn't tell. He was pretty calm. He just asked if I had some free time today."

"Oh," Monica's shoulders dropped, deflated. She wondered why Chandler hadn't bothered to call anyone else.

There was a sharp knock on the door, and both Monica and Joey jumped. Joey stood up and walked toward the door. He took a deep breath, and swung it open. Chandler stood on the other side, with a smiling Lucy in his arms.

"Uncow Joey!!"

"Uh, hey, Lucy, how are ya?"

"Goood."

"H-Hey Chandler."

"Hey."

"Come on in," Joey stepped back, and let Chandler and Joey enter.

"Monica," Chandler said, obviously surprised by her presence.

"Hi, Chandler...Hey Lucy!"

"Hi Aunt Monica!"

Chandler put Lucy down, and she immediately headed for Chandler's old bedroom. Chandler watched, and then looked up at Joey, confused.

"Uh, she, uh...she likes the chick and the duck."

"The chick and the...are they still alive?"

"Yeah," Joey laughed nervously.

Chandler cocked his head to one side, then followed Lucy into the bedroom. Joey and Monica followed closely behind.
They watched Lucy quietly for a minute, as she chased the nervous birds around the room. Chandler bit his lip, and silently urged the others to walk back into the living room.

"I, uh, I'm glad Luc is distracted for a minute, because I wanted to talk to both of you...well, all of you, but I can find the others later," Chandler perched himself up onto a barstool, and looked over at Joey and Monica.

"I'm not mad at you guys, really I'm not. I guess...I guess the whole thing just, um, freaked me out, and, to be honest, I didn't want to do, or say something that would make you mad at me again...I know that things are still...you know--"

"Wait," Joey interrupted, "You thought I'd be mad at *you*?"

"Well, I thought you were still mad at me, and..."

"Chandler, the two things aren't even related to each other."

"Yes, yes they are. They both involve our friendship, Joey, and they-they both have to do with trust...being able to trust each other, being able to trust the people you love. Your friends. Your family. I have to work to earn your trust back, I know that, and I--I just didn't want you to think that I'd lost any trust in you...I--I didn't know how to explain it. I still don't, I guess," Chandler laughed nervously.

"I think you did a pretty good job," Monica smiled.

"Okay, look, Chandler. Losing your daughter, even for the like, 20 minutes, is about a million times worse than you kissing someone I knew I didn't have much of a future with. You are right--trust needs to be earned--but," Joey approached Chandler, and grinned, "I'm sick of being angry. And--" Joey looked back at Monica, then leaned over toward Chandler and whispered, "Ross is too damned annoying to be my best friend."

Chandler laughed audibly, and pulled Joey into a manly hug. The two friends pulled away when they heard Monica sniffling.

"That was so sweet," she cried, as Chandler and Joey laughed.


***~***

"Okay Luc, blow out the candles!"

Lucy took a deep breath, and blew as hard as she could, nearly knocking herself out in the process. But she was able to extinguish all four candles successfully, making her squeal with delight.

"Can I open pwesents now, Daddy?"

"Presents? What presents?"

"Those pwesents!" Lucy pointed dramatically toward the living room, where a ridiculous number of gifts covered Monica's coffee table.

"Those? Well, those are my presents!"

"Nuh-uh!"

"Nuh-huh!"

"Okay, you two. I'm gonna cut the cake, if you all want to go into the living room to--well, you know," Monica glared at Chandler knowingly.

"Alright, alright," Chandler smiled, and led Lucy to the living room.

*

Lucy tore into the box excitedly, and squealed happily as she produced two stuffed animals--toy replica's of Joey's chick and duck. "Thank you Uncow Joey!!"

"Anytime, sweetheart," Joey grinned, as Chandler leaned in and whispered, "Thank you for getting the fake kind."

"No problem," Joey laughed, hugging his friend tightly.

~*~