AN: mel--i always enjoy reviewers who sing...esp the song you sang...grrr....LOL.


~Across The Universe~

*Chapter Ten*
"If You're Gone"

I take a seat near the back of the room, my heart pounding furiously. I am still unsure about my decision to do this, and it takes every ounce of humility I have to keep me in my seat. I can feel sweat forming on my brow, and I wonder what is going to happen, what he will say, and what his reaction will be.

We haven't talked for years. It's been mostly my decision not to see him, more out of stubborness than anything else. But the past few months have put my life into perspective, and I have begun to realize that my childhood was terrific, compared to what I have managed to do to my adulthood over the past few years.

The lights go down, the curtain rises, and Helena Handbasket takes the stage. And the doubts come flooding back.


***~***

I think I am in shock. I am just...absolutely numb. I can't believe Chandler left me. What an asshole. I should have seen this coming, but I was just too stubborn. I truly believed that my love for him was strong enough.

I was a fool.

Joey just walked in...and he looks...like he's going to throw up on me. He tosses a videotape in my direction, and sinks into the sofa.

"What is this?"

"Chandler's dying. That's why he left."

"What?" My heart is pounding a million miles a minute.

"He left, because he didn't want us to...see him...I guess."

"Joey, what's on the tape?" My hands are shaking, and I feel like I'm going to throw up too.

"It's the missing tape. The one with the plastic case..." Suddenly it dawned on me. Everything Joey was saying.

"He's not coming back," It finally sunk in. From the moment Chandler told me he was leaving again, I filled myself with the blind faith that he would change his mind, and come home. But if he knows he's going to die...where would he go? My brain was spinning, and my heart was filling with grief.

I give in to the grief, but in my mind I reminded myself that the man I knew died four years ago.

***~***

He/she was making his/her way backstage, when I finally got up the nerve to approach him/her.

"Dad."

He/she whipped around suddenly, and, upon seeing me for the first time, the person that was my father shone through the layers of make up and sequins. I saw concern and confusion cross his face, and I was suddenly very conscious of the severity of my current condition.

"Chandler?"

"Hi," Run, Chandler, run...this is a horrible idea.

"My God, son...what happened to you?"

"I, uh...I need to talk to you."

***~***

To be perfectly honest, I didn't even recognize him at first. But when I finally did, my heart broke. He was rail thin, and his face was a ghastly white. It was a warm Las Vegas day, and yet he was wearing a sweater. I wanted to grab him and shake him, and ask him what the hell he had done to himself. But his eyes...his eyes were so bleak. They no longer held the passion, the spirit of the boy I'd known. He was a shell of a man, battered and broken, and looking ten years older than his actual age. What was he, thirty? And his hair was thin and greying. What had happened to my son?

We sat down at a small bar in the far corner of the casino where I worked. He told me everything. He told me about the day he left his girlfriend, the years he spent lost, and on drugs, and his slow, painful recovery. He told me about his kidneys, and the transplant. And he told me that he was dying, that the kidney his friend had given him was failing.

I sat, for a long time, absorbing all he had told me. I asked him why he was here, and he told me that he needed to reconcile his feelings for me before he died. I couldn't believe he was just going to give up. This was not the Chandler I knew. Sighing heavily, I took my son's hand, and looked into his eyes.

"Chandler, never give up hope. Even when it seems like you have nothing left...there's always hope."

He nodded, and let go of my hand, before breaking down.

***~***

I wanted to believe him. More than anything. But I just couldn't. I was so....tired. And there didn't seem to be any point. It was hopeless, and I knew it. I'd thrown my life away, I'd sold my soul, and now I'd pay the ultimate price.
Hope...was a word I no longer recognized.

***~***

The call came early on a Sunday morning. Chandler had been gone for two months. To say that the following call took me by surprise would be the world's biggest understatement.

"Hello?"

"Hi, um, I'm looking for Monica Geller?"

"This is Monica."

"Monica, this is...this is Charles Bing...Chandler's father."

I was silent. Stunned and silent. Charles must have sensed my shock, because he continued talking.

"Chandler came here, a couple of months ago. The kidney your friend had given him was failing."

"I know." I managed to whisper, our assumptions that he was, in fact dying now confirmed.

"Can you come to Las Vegas?" That question threw me. But when I realized that Charles was probably taking care of the funeral arrangements, I agreed, without even asking him why we were coming out.

"We'll be on the next flight."

**

We arrived in Las Vegas the next morning. All of us, even Ross, who had turned into a raging loon after Chandler's last departure, put up no fight. When we'd finally explained to Ross why Chandler had left, it seemed to calm him a bit. But deep down, I was afraid Ross would never forgive Chandler, dead or alive.

We took a taxi to a large house on the outskirts of the city. It sat on a sprawling peice of land, far from other homes in the area. The stucco walls and spanish tiled roof fit the desert surroundings perfectly. I wasn't even inside, and yet I felt at home.

Chandler's father opened the door, and ushered us into the house, offering us lemonade, and insisting that we stay with him. I was amazed at how feminine he really did look. While he was not dressed in full drag, he was wearing make up and a very nice wig. I also noted that he seemed to be having some trouble walking, which accounted for the fact that he was not wearing heels. But the only thing that really struck me as odd was that he seemed...happy. He was not acting like someone who had just lost his only son.

It was then that Charles led us to the back of the house, and out to a small sunroom that overlooked the sprawling desert. I stood in the doorway, stunned, as my eyes fell onto the last person I had expected to see.

Chandler was laying in a large chair, his eyes closed peacefully, his breathing steady. He was still thin, but he had a bit more colour. Several soft rays of sunlight illuminated his face, making him appear almost...angelic. He would laugh at that notion. There were audible gasps from the others, causing Chandler to stir. He opened his eyes, and looked up at what was quite obviously, as much of a surprise to him as it was to us.

***~***

When I opened my eyes, I was sure I was dreaming. My friends...all of them, were standing over me, gaping at me like I was on display. I sat up slowly, and watched as my father ushered my friends into the room, and sat them down. He then silently left, sliding the door closed on his way out. I shot him a grateful glance. Many a night I had talked to him about the life I'd left behind. While my father's kidney may have only added a year or two onto my life, I often wondered if leaving the people I loved, when I truly needed them was a wise decision, and I spent much time debating about spending those few prcious years with my extended family. While I wanted to call them, I knew that this time, I may have gone too far, and that they most likely hated my guts.

So, I was more than shocked to see that they had come to see me.

***

We talked. For hours we talked. Tears and laughter filled the room, as the sun melted into the horizon, and the desert sky lit up with millions of stars...a sky that no one in New York City could have even imagined to be real. If Joey's kidney had made me see that my friends were uncommonly loyal, their arrival in the wake of my new lease on life made me see that there was only one place I belonged, in sickness and in health, for the rest of my life--however long that was.

It was time for me to go home.

As the night wore on, my jet-lagged 'family' began to trickle off to bed, with the promise of a better day in the immediate future. Rachel was first, followed closely by Ross, who insisted on hugging me so hard, I thought he was trying to break me in half. Joey and Phoebe soon called it a night, but Monica stayed. I was happy she did, because I wasn't quite ready to say good night.

When Monica and I first started going out, many years ago, we had The Night. You know The Night. You stay up all night, and talk about everything from the economy to the latest neighborhood gossip. For me and Monica, that night happened about three weeks after we returned from London. It wasn't planned (they rarely are), it just sort of...happened. It was one of the best nights of my life. It was then that I knew, that Monica was The One.

On this night, thousands of miles from the place where we first gave each other our hearts, we stared out into the desert, now seemingly empty in the black of night, and said nothing. It was a silent vow, and a solemn promise that we would always be there for each other, no matter what. After several silent minutes, Monica looked at me, her eyes calm, and her voice steady.

"When you left, you said that it was because you couldn't give me what I wanted most."

"I know, and I'm sorry. But it is true, Monica. You can't have children with me, and you won't be able to adopt if you stay with me."

"I talked to Rachel about it, after you left. She says that there is another option. She is willing to help us out, Chandler, and so is Phoebe. But that's not the point. The point is, children or no, I want you in my life. I need you in my life. But if you walk away again..."

"I won't walk away."

"If you do...I will not follow."

"I know. All I can tell you, Mon, is that I'm not scared anymore. I mean, I am, a little scared, about moving back to New York, the place where everything changed. But if I only have a few months left...I want them to be with you."

Monica smiled, and took my hand. She gave it a reassuring squeeze, and looked back out over the desert sky.

I followed her gaze, and finally found the one thing I'd been seeking all along.

Inner peace.


***~***

The kidney took. And Chandler was able to live a long, and relatively productive life. With our friend's help, we were able to raise two children, a boy and a girl, together (Chandler was right, the drugs had made him sterile) . We never officially married. But in our hearts, we were always bound to each other. Our children, Sam and Juliana, are now nearly adults, and they were two of the calmest teenagers I'd ever met. Chandler sat them both down, at a relatively young age, and told them His Story. Neither child has been tempted to touch so much as a drink, even now.

Chandler was only 54 when he died. By normal standards, that is young, but for a person that has been through what he has, that is a miracle. I felt blessed for every moment I had with him. He was, for all intents and purposes, my soulmate.

Today is the anniversary of the day that Chandler came home for good. For us, it was like an anniversary, so I stand over his grave now, my soul content in the knowledge that I will see him again, and that he is now home.

And I know that he is smiling.



if you're gone
(matchbox twenty)

I think I've already lost you
I think you're already gone.
I think I'm finally scared now
You think I'm weak - But I think you're wrong
I think you're already leaving
Feels like your hand is on the door
I thought this place was an empire
But now I'm relaxed - I can't be sure

I think you're so mean - I think we should try
I think I could need - this in my life
I think I'm just scared - I think too much
I know this is wrong it's a problem I'm dealing

If you're gone - maybe it's time to go home
There's an awful lot of breathing room
But I can hardly move
If you're gone - baby you need to come home
Cuz there's a little bit of something me
In everything in you

I bet you're hard to get over
I bet the room just won't shine
I bet my hands I can stay here
I bet you need - more than you mind

I think you're so mean - I think we should try
I think I could need - this in my life
I think I'm just scared - that I know too much
I can't relate and that's a problem
I'm feeling

If you're gone - maybe it's time to go home
There's an awful lot of breathing room
But I can hardly move
If you're gone - baby you need to come home
cuz there's a little bit of something me
In everything in you

I think you're so mean - I think we should try
I think I could need - this in my life
I think I'm just scared - do I talk too much
I know it's wrong it's a problem I'm dealing



AN: dedicated to S.