AN: This story was practically screaming at me to name the chapters, so I did just that.
Please, please, leave reviews. I really appreciate it.
That's who that looked like.
Time to die, Jay.
Like a woodpecker, Phoebe stabbed her fork into the scrambled egg, disturbing the silence at the table. The clanking of the tines against the ceramic made the most outlandish sound; like nails on a chalkboard. Her expression of false fury got a smile out of Monica, who mindlessly twirled her food around her plate. After realizing that she was only slowly breaking Monica's silverware and fine china, she shot her an 'I'm sorry' smile, before resuming to eat.
The tense calm that followed made Phoebe want to plunge the fork into herself.
Even though she had cooked meals for everybody during the week, Monica never ate any herself.
Initially, things between Monica and Chandler were weird; they would not so much look at each other, let alone speak. The day she was released, her doctor had signed her up to see a psychiatrist, since no one could get any answers as to why she'd hurt herself like that, despite the rest of the group having a pretty solid idea.
She refused to talk to anyone, about anything.
Whenever someone would come over, be it Joey, or Phoebe, or even her parents (as Rachel already lived there), she would cook a glorious meal and shroud the room with music and television, a plastic smile on her face. Monica went to great lengths to appease her friends, just so they wouldn't ask what was wrong.
When they did, she'd simply nod and tell them she was fine.
It would always be a lie.
And when the three of them rallied to confront her, she said that she didn't have anything in particular to do that day, and yet she was nowhere to be found. An elaborate plan to escape was made in less than five minutes, and Monica pulled it off without a hitch. When she said she'd be in the apartment all day, she was actually at her parent's house, living it up Long Island-style, where her parents were much more gullible than her friends.
All of this to avoid them.
She had it rough.
But Chandler, poor Chandler, had it much, much rougher. He wouldn't even come out of his room. When anyone tried to cheer him up, he'd turn them away with secrecy; even Joey. Things between them were awkward, to say the least. Phoebe had coerced Monica to try and talk to him the other day, but that proved futile; seconds after they started walking back, Phoebe could swear that she heard crying.
It was so stupid. Why couldn't they work this out? Ross and Rachel did, why couldn't they?
The questions ran through her mind as she subconsciously poked the slice of ham on the side of her plate, before setting down her fork and looking at Monica. Still, she played with her food; even though she had cooked a full platter for herself, it would not be dented one bit. Usually, Phoebe saved her meals for Joey; that way, they wouldn't go to waste. But as she looked at her friend, Phoebe couldn't help but wonder what went through her disillusioned mind.
Maybe, it was time to find out.
"So, your first session's tonight, huh?" She needed to ease into the hole, but she didn't realize until later how dirty that sounded. Regardless, it was true. Their was nothing to be gained from brute force; this was proven time and time again by the dozens of attempts by the group to steal Monica's vacuum. She literally kicked all of their asses.
But this time, Monica just nodded, her face brittle as she bit off a piece of sausage.
"Okay," Phoebe placed her hands on the table, like she just had an epiphany. "Just remember, he - wait, is it a he or a she?" It was better to gain an understanding of the little things; they were what counted most, especially in a volatile situation like this.
"She." Monica rebuttled, her voice deadpan.
"Yeah, okay. Just tell the truth, alright? You can't tell her anything she hasn't heard before." Phoebe never had much experience with therapy, but it was better not to hold anything back. These people were paid to help her; and paid even more to solve her problems completely. As much as she hated corporate drones, this was for the best.
"I know." Her voice became even softer.
And yet another silent breakfast followed. It was shame, really, that Monica couldn't tell her best friends what she was thinking. No matter how much of a toll it took on her, it would have to wait. There were so many things running through her head, that she began to become paranoid.
So, Phoebe devised a plan; one that would help everybody.
Somehow, somehow, they would have to get Monica and Chandler paired up - by chance or by will; hopefully it wouldn't come down to them forcing it upon each other. The fact remained, however, that they were in love, and, theoretically, there was nothing stopping them but their own fears.
So, she finished her meal, and set her plate in the sink, listlessly washing it, as her mind formulated ways to bring the two of them together.
Meanwhile, Joey was busy wrapping a blanket around his fallen friend. His body looked so frail; so broken, much like Ross's was after the accident. The difference was that Chandler was without the love that Rachel had given Ross; he didn't have anybody who could give him that.
Not yet, anyway.
"Hey, buddy. You awake?" He tucked in the dark orange quilt under Chandler, who's face was buried into the old pillow. Joey sat on the edge of the bed, his hand on his best friend's arm, watching for any signs of life. Thankfully, he heard a hushed mumbling, and he sighed with relief.
"Just, uh, makin' sure you're not cold." He patted Chandler mildly on the arm, having a feeling that if he did it any harder, he would break him. It was almost scary, seeing Chandler like this. He was always the joker, the optimist, the guy who could turn any awkward situation into a laugh-fest. But, all he did was mumble even louder, with hopes to be heard.
Joey nodded, and quietly left the room, but not before taking one last, pitiful look at Chandler.
The green door to apartment 19 swung open, and Phoebe stood up to hug Joey. They held each other tightly, seeking comfort in this whirlwind of doubt. For so long it seemed like nothing would ever go back to normal. It wasn't until after they saw Ross struggling to walk, did they finally see it.
They had to work for it.
And now, that was exactly what was going to happen.
When they pulled away from each other, it was decided that it would be best to get out of the apartment, for two purposes: To successfully create a cunning scheme in which to bring Chandler and Monica together, and to leave the two of them alone, so that maybe, maybe, they would find comfort in each other so much that a strategy was not needed.
They separately waved goodbye to Monica, hoping that her and Chandler would think that someone else was with the other, so that they might go over since their would be someone else to relieve the strain; this would be untrue. They would be alone together, and whatever happens, happens.
They said they would go to the coffeehouse. That was only partly true; it was only stop numero uno on their journey.
The both of them knew it was impossible to bring the lovesick duo together alone. They needed help. They needed guidance. So, as they sipped their coffee in questionable peace, several names popped into their head, but none were more clear than two.
Ross and Rachel.
Who better to help bring two people together than the fabled Lobsters?
"Ross and Rachel!" Both of them shot out in unison.
Hurriedly, they finished their coffee, and Joey ordered a scone to-go. They rushed out of Central Perk, almost blowing the doors off of their hinges. Piling into Phoebe's cab, the two were already creating the plan, which would undoubtedly create the greatest flux of love in the universe.
Even though Rachel forbid it, Monica insisted that she clean her room while she was away, on the fact that a 'clean home' is a 'happy home'. In light of this, however, Rachel's room was the dirtiest in the apartment (according to Monica's standards) and cleaning helped take her mind off of things, like the man across the hall who breathed her name into his pillow. But what really made her angry was that she needed to see a therapist. There was nothing wrong with her, and she would tell her friends why she almost killed herself - in time. That was all that she needed. Time. But no, they had to get right into the action, not even giving a second look to what she wanted.
However, it was about time she got used to that. Monica hasn't gotten what she wanted her entire life; her parents definitely made sure of that.
And every time she even thought about how good Ross and Rachel looked together, it made her want to puke. They were so happy it was disgusting. Also, he cheated on her, and yet, she still wanted to be with him. None of it made any sense.
Love is a cruel mistress.
Trying to forget the pain, she mindlessly dug through a stack of old photo albums, but stopped as her eye caught several yellow papers sticking out under the cover of an album titled 'Ross'.
Slipping it from its confines, the loosely-sketched drawing almost amazed her. Who drew this? Ross? Rachel? Phoebe? Monica didn't know anyone who could draw lines, let alone this good. Even if it was not the best she had seen, the shading and detail were magnificent, and whatever symbolism she could take from it was hypnotizing. Tracing her finger along the lines of the glorious wings that sprouted from the back of the man in the picture, Monica wondered what this meant, and why Rachel would have something like it.
Her mind wandered, and she flipped the page over to see if there was something on the back, but sadly, there wasn't. As she placed the paper under the first on top, something else caught her attention. It was a couple, Ross and Rachel, Monica assumed, staring at her. Their eyes were so grotesque, but so beautiful at the same time. Their long eyelashes seemed to move under the soft lamplight, and their smiles nearly oozed love.
Monica gently folded the pictures and kept them for later; for what, she did not know.
As she finished tidying up, setting fresh golden sheets on Rachel's bed, Monica quickly adjusted the picture frame of the oil painting over her bed so that it was perfectly straight. The final touch was fresh potpourri on her dresser, which would be a welcome surprise from when she came back from Ross's (if she ever did).
Her cleaning finally done, Monica laid down on the couch, hoping to have a catnap before therapy tonight.
Little did she know, the object of her desires stood in the doorway, his eyes darkened and sagging like a mourner's robe. Faintly, as not to disturb her, Chandler slowly tiptoed around the couch, and sat in the chair next to it, his body weak from days of sleeping. As he clasped his hands together, he looked at Monica's sleeping figure.
She was so beautiful.
No matter how much she looked like Ross, in her own way, she was an angel. Her raven hair sat neatly against the cushion, shining like glass. the way the corners of her lips tugged upwards to form a cute smile drove him mad. At times, he pictured himself with her; walking on the beach, talking on the balcony, or leaving out fake meat to trick Joey.
It felt right.
But he could never obtain that, not when he caused her so much pain.
A dream, that held so many promises. And, in a dream, any promise will be upheld until the end of time. But it was here, in reality, where everything was broken, and nothing was forever. Looking into her closed eyes, Chandler saw her, battered and bruised, wishing he could take her suffering away.
He could. The only thing that stopped him was himself.
The tires screeched, as Phoebe drove like a maniac, swerving through traffic and multiple parking lots. She had managed to avoid the police, thanks to her 'foresight', but angry drivers were another matter. Thankfully, they weren't armed with bricks like they were in the driver instructional video she had to watch a million times. As they pulled in front of the doors to Northern Westchester Hospital, they noticed a police car parked directly ahead of them, where Phoebe touched the brake for the first time since they left.
It was a folly, however, as no officers were inside.
So, they stepped out, and made a beeline for Ross's room.
Much like when the psychic told them that Monica had woken up, the elevator seemed to take forever, which only served to anger the two. Their salvation of the group was so close, but so far. Joey closed his eyes, hoping that when he opened them, the doors would be asunder. They were, thankfully. .
As they stepped out of the elevator, as fast as the wind rushed to them, two police officers disappeared into the one right next to them. Although this baffled them a bit, it did nothing more. Perhaps it was better that way, as when they reached Ross's room, the scene shocked them.
Ross sat on the couch, staring at the wall. His blank expression told them both that his emotions were locked in a battle royale. His mouth lay open, his jaw almost hitting the floor. Rachel had her arms wrapped in a death grip around him, as if her life and the lives of her friends depended on it.
Slowly, Joey and Phoebe stepped in, but it seemed that Ross and Rachel didn't even notice, let alone care.
"Ross?" Phoebe said, deliberately taking small steps over to him, tilting her body to get a better look. But there was nothing. Ross didn't move. His eyes didn't even look away from the lemon-lime colored wall in front of him. Rachel, however, took her arms off of him, and solemnly faced her friends.
"What happened?" Joey asked, to himself mostly. But since he was looking at Rachel, she tried to come up with a suitable answer. Needing more time, she left her beloved in awe and took the duo aside, trying to breathe, as it became apparent that she was holding back tears.
"That, uh, guy, who, um, shot Ross?" She struggled to speak, her chest heaving to and fro. They had all but forgotten about Ross's mugger, but all of a sudden he was pushed back into their lives like an old flame, except worse. They were so close to letting it all go, but fate would not let them.
"Wha - Yeah? What happened?" Phoebe asked, a look of confusion plastered on her face. She stepped forward to console Rachel, who seemed to be shaking in her boots, ready to fall to the ground. Joey crossed his arms, surprised to hear about this; he too had nearly forgotten about it.
"He... killed himself."
Like a cardinal to heaven above, she dropped to her knees.