A.N. - I started writing this a long while back and finally finished it! I always wondered what could have happened if Ross had given up in the beginning and never given Rachel the stupid pin! I digress...well, please enjoy and don't forget to review! Love it, hate it, don't care, just tell me what you think!
A Little Re-Write
Chandler sat on the arm of the couch, watching as Ross showed everybody pictures of Ben.
He watched as Rachel leaned across Ross and was slightly sickened as Ross was practically drooling over her, but she didn't even notice.
He silently berated himself.
'Oh yeah? Is it any better than what you're doing?'
Yes...that was his secret. The one thing that he could never confess to his friend for risk of being severely injured. He was absolutely, head over heels in love with Rachel Green. He watched as she continued to make sweet sounds about the baby pictures, and then he got fed up with the way Ross was acting, though silently wishing he could trade places.
"Pfft." Rachel looked up at the sound.
Chandler inwardly bit his lip. "Nothing. Just a little extra air in my mouth." He made a couple more of the same noises, and then made his way over to Joey.
That had been close...too close. He had to watch himself more closely. There was no way that he was going to let anyone find out about his true feelings towards her. 'I mean, c'mon,' he thought to himself. 'Me and Rachel? It's even more far-fetched than the idea of Ross and Rachel. I'd never have a chance...unless...'
He stopped by the store, taking back the stupid travel Scrabble set that he'd gotten for her. With the money from his return, plus the rest of his most recent paycheck, he headed towards the antique store.
As he walked in, the lady at the front walked towards him. "May I help you, sir?"
This was his chance. "Yes, actually. I'm looking for a ring set...it's a small set, two rings in a size six, it has, uh..." Chandler racked his brain, trying to remember the name of the gems. Rachel had cast longing glances at it the entire time that they'd been in the store that one time, though she'd never gone over to it. He knew she wanted it, and he was just able to afford it.
Dammit! What were the name of those gems? He ran through their conversation in the store, trying to remember. What was it, what was it...
"Uh, uh...green ametrine and, and, and...black tourmaline!"
He was thrilled with the fact that he was able to remember it, he practically shouted at the saleswoman, and he immediately shrank back a few inches.
A small smile appeared on her face and she just nodded, and then motioned for him to follow him.
Within a few moments he was back up at the front, also buying a matching necklace that came with the set for seventy-five percent off. The necklace would be her Christmas present. The older woman gave him a sly look as he slid the two packages into the bag.
"She must be some special young lady."
Chandler grinned, unable to stop some of his giddiness from showing through.
"You have no idea."
With that, he left, heading back to the apartment, not able to wait.
As he stood out on the balcony with Joey, beer in hand, he wondered, briefly, if he should have given her the Scrabble set. Nah, it would have been stupid. Like when he gave her wiper blades for Christmas.
At that point, Ross came out and joined them, placing a package in Joey's hand.
"Hey, can you give this to Rachel? It's her birthday present."
Chandler couldn't resist.
"Really? I thought it was just a nicely wrapped box that matched Joey's outfit."
At that comment, both Joey and Ross gave him a mock glare and they all knew that none of them meant it. Chandler motioned towards the present, slightly curious.
"So, Ross...what'd you get her?"
Ross just sort of shook his head, not really wanting to say anything about it, but both Chandler and Joey persisted until he caved.
"Well, it...it's just, you know...a little thing."
Chandler looked at him expectantly, but he said nothing more. "Are you kidding me? Just say it!"
"Well, I originally was thinking about this pin in one the shop windows that she really wanted, but I honestly don't want to starve for the next two months, so I just got her a gift card to her favorite restaurant. And if she doesn't like it, she can always cash it in; I made sure that they allow that. I mean, you know Rachel."
At this, Chandler's heart lifted. Oh thank god, Ross was keeping it simple. That would mean that she'd really like his present. He turned to Joey, wondering what he got her. Before he could even ask, Joey lifted up a hand and gave him a look.
"Don't even ask, man. I'm still just remembering that the party was for Rachel's birthday."
At that, Chandler grinned, and fairly quickly Joey grinned back, making it obvious that he was just messing with him.
Ross gave him a look, and he half-heartedly returned it. Ross was leaving for China, and it seemed that he was trying to do it without having any emotional baggage behind him. Chandler was silently proud of his best friend, but at the same time slightly nauseous at what he was trying to do behind his friend's back.
"See ya, Ross."
With a half-hearted wave, Ross slid back through the window and left the apartment.
Joey gave him a slightly sympathetic look as he left, while Chandler continued to feel crappy about his predicament.
Chandler watched as Rachel opened her presents, starting with Joey's date's gift basket. She then moved onto Monica's, which was a nice pale green blouse, which Chandler had the sneaking suspicion that she would exchange as soon as possible.
She received Ross's gift card, and then got a "dream" pillow from Phoebe that she'd apparently made that was supposed to give her good dreams. Joey had given her a Dr. Seuss book, and now she reached for the last present on the table, which was obviously his.
Suddenly, Monica spoke up.
"Hey, Chandler, I just realized that all of my decent cutting knives are in the dishwasher. Could you run over to your place and grab one of yours for me? And make sure it's sharp!"
Slightly annoyed that she'd picked the worst moment ever to ask him, but at the same time slightly relieved as he was unsure how Rachel was going to react to his present, he left the room fairly quickly, trying to sort out his conflicting emotions on the way over.
Rachel gave everyone a quick glance as she opened Chandler's present up…and then she froze as she saw what lay inside.
She reverently pulled one of the rings from the ring box and carefully slid it onto her right ring finger, shocked at what she was seeing.
"Oh. My. God," she repeated once more, staring at the green and black gems on her finger. "How did he know? How on earth did he know?"
Monica shared a quick glance with both Joey and Phoebe, trying to understand what was going on. This was something that was most certainly not expected. Why on earth had Chandler given Rachel such an obviously expensive present? It made no logical sense.
"Uhm, Rachel. What do you mean by "how did he know"?"
Monica was the one to ask the question, and from her perch on the arm of Rachel's chair, she also had the best view of the ring.
Rachel quickly answered.
"One day we went for lunch together and then stopped by this antique store near his office and I saw this set there. I mean, I never went over to it or even said a single word about it, but…somehow he knew he that I wanted it. Oh my god…"
Her voice trailed off, and then the slamming of their apartment door broke everyone from their reverie.
"Found your Freddy Krueger cake knife, Monica. Hope you don't plan on serving us up as a meal…"
Chandler's witty retort faded as he saw everyone staring at him where he stood in the front of the apartment.
"What? I mean, I know it wasn't the best joke in the world, but it wasn't that bad, was it?"
Rachel slowly stood and walked over to where Chandler was standing and suddenly enveloped him in huge hug. Chandler froze, unsure of how to react to such an extreme display of affection from a woman that he believed himself to be somewhat in love with.
He gently maneuvered the two of them so that he was able to put the knife in his hand down on the counter without cutting her and then gave everyone a very confused look over Rachel's shoulder, where she clung to him.
He slowly pulled her off of him and looked his friend in the eye, trying to find out what she meant by her reaction.
"Rach? Are you okay?"
She gave him a slightly watery smile and let him lead her to a chair at the kitchen table.
"Yeah," she replied as she sat down at the table and he knelt in front of her. "Yeah…I'm just fine."
He gave her a highly skeptical look, his eyebrow arching. "Oh, sure, you're just fine. That sudden display of physical affection and waterworks is just something that you normally do with all of your friends on a regular basis."
The sarcasm in his voice was fairly obvious, and a weak grin escaped her. Finally, she found the words that she needed.
"I, uhm…I just wanted to thank you, Chandler. I mean…how did you know? I never said a word about this ring set!"
At her comment, he figured out she was talking about the ring. A typical Chandler grin spread across his lips and everyone in the room waited for one of his typical acerbic and witty comments, and even though neither Joey nor Phoebe knew what acerbic meant, they were still both positive that it would be, nonetheless.
"Well, I saw you eyeing it from across the store. Well…you were either eyeing the ring set or the moth-eaten, orange-purple, fake oriental carpet. I admit it, I took a big chance. I mean, who wouldn't want a knock-off Persian rug at retail price?"
She let out a small laugh and Chandler joined her, as well as everyone else.
As everyone joined in, he silently thanked the gods above that he had the gift to dissipate tension as easily as a hot knife had the gift to slide through butter.
Everyone began to move toward the cake, and he took the moment to steal a glance at Rachel. Even with her mascara running, she was still breathtaking.
He watched with some amusement as Monica carefully cut the cake in practically perfectly sized slivers. He waited until everyone else had been served a slice before grabbing one and going outside to sit alone on the small sofa on the patio slash fire escape route. However, he wasn't alone for very long, as only moments after he had sat down, Rachel came to join him.
"Hey, you," she said after she had sat down, nudging his shoulder with her own, causing a lopsided smile to cross his lips.
He nudged her back. "Hey, you."
They sat in companionable silence for a while, listening to the sounds of the crazy and hectic city around them, and Chandler found himself wishing every moment with her could be exactly like it was at that particular moment.
Rachel shifted slightly and moved so that her head was leaning against his shoulder, and Chandler quickly amended his idea. No, like this particular moment.
He wondered, briefly, if Ross would hate him for what he was doing…but then realized that Ross had had his chance, and now it was time for someone else to try.
He kept his voice low as he began to speak, and silently prayed that she wouldn't turn him away. He finally had his chance, and he really didn't want to blow it. She was a gorgeous and stunning woman, and she was everything that he could ever hope for.
"Rachel…I'm really glad you liked your present. I…well, I hoped that you would like it."
She smiled and rubbed her cheek against his shoulder reassuringly.
"Yeah. I really did."
He held in the words that he really wanted to say, and instead just enjoyed her company for a bit longer.
He would have to go slow with her. They had known each other for a long time, and to change her perspective on their friendship it would take a lot more than just a pretty ring and witty comment. She was something that he did not want to mess up.
They sat there in silence for a long time, unaware of the fact that Joey had noticed them and a small grin had crossed his lips.
Finally…it took him long enough to make a move.