A/N: First of all, I would like to thank Lainel and Bingsrule for their reviews. I really appreciate it :) Now, here's the second chapter. But you'll have to be familiar with the events of "TOW the birth" (season 1) to fully understand this.
Disclaimer: Yup, I still own nothing - not the characters, not the lines from the show.
Forever and a Day
"Chandler, Chandler, wake up," he heard a woman's strained whisper in his ear. 'Sounds like Monica' he thought idly, his eyes still tightly shut owing to his tiredness.
He wondered why he was so tired. Maybe because of all the alcohol. And the physical activity. Even in his sleep, a goofy grin spread across his face at that.
Wait, what? Physical activity?
His eyes shot open and he sat bolt upright in his bed. Sure enough, it was Monica who was sitting beside him, clutching the sheets to her chest.
One look at her face, he knew what had happened. "Oh, God," he murmured, shaking his head. This is not good, this is so not good.
He worked his hand discreetly under the sheets to check whether he was wearing underwear. Nothing. "Oh, God!" This time, it came out a little louder.
His temples suddenly throbbed like a hundred tiny men were striking his head with hundred tiny hammers. He clutched his head in his hands, backtracking through his foggy memory of the night before. When the throbbing intensified after a few seconds of thinking, he gave up.
He looked at her again, and he knew she was just as shaken as he was, if not more. She kept looking down, but he could see the tears welling up in her eyes.
"How?" he managed to whisper finally, hoping she'd be able to give some sort of explanation.
She shook her head as she lowered her head further, tears now freely flowing down her cheeks. "Guess we got drunk and it got out of hand," she murmured back, her voice hitching at three different places.
Monica. He had slept with Monica. Of all the people he could have gotten drunk and ruined his friendship with, why her?
He sighed in exasperation, running his fingers through his hair, feeling his own eyes mist with tears.
Your blue eyes are all I'd want for my baby. Her voice, soft but sure, flitted through his memory. He grasped at it tightly for the warmth that it provided at this disastrous moment, and with the hope that it held the clue to what had happened the previous night.
A second later, it all rushed to him. Ben, the hospital, depressed Monica, him trying to comfort her...
When we're 40, if neither one of us are married, what do you say you and I get together and have one?
"Ben." He turned to her slowly, the color draining from his cheeks. "We came home from the hospital."
"Okay, I am gonna stay here with Carol and Ben tonight." Ross smiled at his friends, still on an euphoric high from becoming a father. "Susan says she doesn't mind."
"Yeah, you know what, we could all stay here for some more time before we go home. Spend some time with little Benny, y'know? What do you guys say?" Joey asked the other four excitedly, making them wonder what was up with his sudden enthusiasm for babies. He hadn't told anyone about his experience with Lydia, at least not in detail.
"Dude, you're creeping me out," Chandler nodded at him, raising his eyebrows to emphasize his point.
"C'mon, it'd be fun!" Joey nodded back, looking even more excited. Chandler took an involuntary step back.
"Yeah, I guess I could stay here for a while." Rachel nodded distractedly, checking out the neonatal specialist who was coming out of the NICU. Nice. There were a million other fishes in the sea - Dr. Franzblau was just not worth it.
"And I could spread some happiness, y'know, sing a few songs for the babies." Phoebe jumped up and down enthusiastically.
And make them deaf on their very first day on earth. Chandler thought better of saying it out loud.
Joey patted her on the back encouragingly when she added, "I've been receiving a lot of requests!"
People had actually been requesting her to stop, but oh well.
"Sorry, I am gonna have to take off, though," Chandler shrugged apologetically. "I have an early day at the office tomorrow." He hadn't been kidding when he'd told that to Monica. "Anyway, congratulations, man!" He hugged Ross briefly, patting his shoulder.
Who would have thought that Ross Geller with the really bad afro would be the first one to become a parent in their group? Granted, the afro was long gone by now, but he still wore too much of that gel.
He pulled back, smirking, shaking his head when Ross raised an eyebrow at him. "I'll see you guys tomorrow then," he smiled at the five and turned to leave, but stopped when he heard Monica call out for him.
"I'll come with you," she told him when he turned around, surprising everyone.
They'd all assumed that Monica would be staying at the hospital to spend more time with her nephew.
Now that Chandler thought about it, she was the one whom he'd have assumed would become a parent first. After all, she was the most maternal - no, she was the most parental out of the six.
He knew she'd been a little emotional the whole day, but now, as he looked at her carefully, he could see an unmistakable sadness in her eyes.
The others did, too.
"Mon, is something wrong?" Ross asked his sister, concerned.
"No, no. Just feeling a little tired." She smiled as she hugged him. "Congratulations, Ross. I am really happy for you." She kissed him lightly on the cheek and drew back from his embrace to look at the other three. "Goodnight, guys."
"Goodnight," they chorused, waving as she walked past them all swiftly.
Chandler followed her out the hospital, trying to keep up with her pace. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down, Mon!"
She stopped abruptly and turned around, waiting for him to join her. "Sorry," she murmured as he caught up with her.
"Is everything all right?" he asked her, touching her arm lightly as they began walking again.
"Yeah. It's just…" she trailed off, but shook her head a moment later, "it's nothing. Do you want to take a cab?" she asked him, looking away.
"It's five blocks, Mon," he frowned. "Let's walk."
Being quiet was something that they both were not used to, especially when they were together, but he didn't press further. He knew she'd tell him sooner or later what was bothering her. They walked towards their building, slowly, without uttering another word.
"Wow, so this is what they call 'comfortable silence', huh?" he joked, hoping to break the rather uncomfortable silence as they climbed up the stairs.
"I'm sorry, Chandler," she shook her head. "I'm not feeling very... y'know?" she sighed, looking at him.
He didn't know. That was the problem to begin with, but he still nodded back understandingly.
She reached for the doorknob on the door to her apartment just as he took her hand in his. "Come to my place, Mon. It's just eight and I've got a bottle of wine. You know, we could get drunk together." He smiled at her.
She looked at him, contemplating his proposal. Something told her that he'd try to cheer her up. But she wanted to be left alone. Just for the night. She opened her mouth to say so. "Chandler, I really don't feel like-"
He cut her off, halfway. "Please?" He tugged her hand lightly.
As she looked back at him, she knew she could never deny him anything just as long as he looked at her like that - his eyes wide and pleading, his features creased into an expression of sincerity and hope. No, she could never deny him anything.
Damn his pretty face.
"Okay," she agreed halfheartedly, allowing him to pull her into his apartment. He closed the door behind her as she sat on Joey's Barcalounger.
"I'll be back in a second, just need to change out of these," he motioned to his clothes before he headed into his bedroom. He came back a few minutes later, wearing a pair of boxers and a blue T-shirt that she knew he'd had since college.
He poured two glasses of wine and handed her one. He sat on his chair, keeping the bottle between them. They drank the wine in silence until he accidentally rattled the empty bottle on the floor.
He looked at her again as she slowly sipped at her wine, her face pale, her expression somber. Sadness from Monica always affected him in ways he could never explain. Sure, he'd feel bad if any of his other four friends were distressed, too, but Monica's had a more profound effect on him. He wondered why. Probably because she'd seldom expose her feelings outwardly, especially sadness.
"Mon, look at me," he ordered her, his voice soft.
She stared at the blank TV screen for a couple of seconds before she turned her head to look at him inquiringly.
"What's wrong?" he asked for the second time. He thought she'd deny him, saying that nothing was wrong, but she surprised him.
"How come I never get what I want?" she asked him back, just as softly.
So this was about her not having a baby. After all, that was the one thing that she had always wanted.
He was never comfortable around crying women. Although she wasn't crying at that moment, he could see tears beginning to form at the corners of her eyes. He didn't want to prod her further, but there was no way he could leave her sad and depressed.
"What is it that you want?" he asked her gently, knowing fully well what her answer would be. They were within touching distance. He reached out a hand and stroked her hair.
"A baby, just a baby," she murmured, leaning into his touch, discreetly wiping away the tears.
"I know you do, but Monica, you're just twenty six! I really don't think you need to worry about not having a baby now. I'll tell you what, you'll have the perfect husband and a perfect baby before you know it," he smiled at her, hoping that he'd succeeded in cheering her up, at least a little. She nodded, smiling a little, not looking convinced. "Okay, you know what, I am going to go out on a limb here and say, my offer still stands," he added, bringing the controversial subject to the forefront.
She looked at him sharply. Of all the things that he could have said, that was not the best choice. That offer was what had actually brought her to this condition in the first place.
He retracted his hand and backed off visibly, his eyes revealing hurt. "What?" he asked her defensively, his insecurities flaring up. Was she implying that he was not good enough for her?
"So you still think that I won't be married when I am forty?" Her tone erased any levity that had been there when she'd asked him the same question at the hospital. She looked at him evenly.
His eyes narrowed, and he looked back at her, his gaze unwavering, which was a pretty impressive feat, considering the amount of alcohol that they'd both consumed.
They knew they were really drunk, and they knew any words that might come out of their mouths now would never be uttered if they were sober.
But that was the good thing about being drunk. It lowered your inhibitions, making it easier to express your feelings, especially when you're hurt.
"Why can't you see the point, Mon? Why do you read between the lines? All I said was I could have a baby with you! And all you heard was the word forty. Get your priorities straight, Monica," he hissed and got off the chair hotly, but stood still for a second to focus his uncoordinated eyes, and then went to the fridge to get some water.
For the first time in all the years that they'd known each other, he doubted whether their friendship was really as strong as they thought it was. He didn't want to hurt her, nor did he want to be hurt by her. It'd shocked him even the first time when he'd realized that she hadn't even given a second thought to the rest of his statement.
He looked at her from the fridge. She hadn't turned back to look at him. She just sat there, facing the TV, not showing even the slightest movement. He realized with an uneasy feeling that she was still hurting and his words had just added to it.
He wanted to reach out for her, but his limbs were reluctant to move from the spot. He should have left her alone when she'd said so.
"But I don't want to wait till I am forty, Chandler," he heard her say after a few seconds, her voice barely loud enough for him to hear. "Don't you think it's unfair that I have to wait for fourteen more years for something that I've wanted all through my life?"
He heard the tears before he saw them. He placed the water on the counter and moved towards her chair, kneeling down in front of her, his hands on either side of the chair. He raised a hand and wiped away her tears with his thumb. "Mon, please don't cry," he pleaded, cursing himself for ruining both their evenings.
"Until you said it, I didn't even consider it a possibility. Me being childless till I am forty, I mean," she told him, her voice quiet, wiping away her tears hastily.
She'd never been comfortable with people seeing her cry. Crying indicated a weakness in character, and she'd never reveal such a weakness to anyone, least of all, her friends. 'Crying' wouldn't fit the description of the 'strong' Monica that they all knew.
"Oh, God, I don't know what's the matter with me today. It's too soon for me to be PMSing," she sniffed, and then giggled when she saw the look on Chandler's face on hearing 'PMS'. Her face suddenly took on a serious expression. "Chandler, I am sorry if I've hurt you. What you offered me, it was the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me," she smiled softly. "I just failed to see it because I was too busy being a jerk." Fresh tears sprung to her eyes and she wiped them off again. "Oh, God…" she smiled at him, taking a deep breath.
"Yeah, I'm sorry for being a jerk, too." He took both her hands in his and held them in a gentle grip. "You have no reason to doubt your future, you know? You're amazing, smart, beautiful. I mean, who wouldn't want you?" He took her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles. "Just wait and see, before you know it, I'll be dancing at your wedding. Although I have to warn you - people, for some unfathomable reason, run for their lives when I dance," he told her with a serious face.
"So we're okay?" he asked her gently, smiling back.
She nodded, smiling. "Yeah, we're okay."
They sat still for a few seconds, until she withdrew her hands from his and lifted them to play with his shirt collar, their eyes still locked.
Something about the moment unnerved him. Trying to ignore it, he rose from his knees. He placed a soft kiss on her forehead, his torso half bent as her hands were still lightly gripping his collar.
She looked up at him like she just realized something. She whispered a moment later. "You know, on second thought, your blue eyes are all I'd want for my baby."
He kissed her the next instant. He felt his heart squeeze itself and then slowly release the pressure when he realized she was kissing him back. Their arms winding around each other, she rose from the Barcalounger, her long fingers tangling in his hair.
A small lucid part in the corner of the brain told him to stop before this went any further. But he brushed it aside.
How could he stop when this felt so right?
She pulled him closer and parted her lips. As he met her tongue, tasting the wine on her lips, he realized that lowered inhibitions meant so much more than just 'easier expression of feelings'.
Her warm fingers began to glid along his torso as she dragged his shirt up, and he didn't realize much else for the rest of the night.
A/N: Okay, I figured I'll continue the "present" part in the next chapter, since adding that, too, would only result in a chapter that would be too long for my taste :)