AN: Well, as much as I wanted to have this story be only 20 chapters or so, I'm afraid it just isn't going to happen.
More than likely this will end up as long or even longer as Hope, considering everything I have planned to make this story good.
I'm sorry if you guys don't like that.
If you do, then awesome.
I promised this story will outshine Hope, and I intend to deliver.
Also, guys, I'd love it if more of you reviewed, even if it's to tell me I suck. I love your feedback more than anything else.
Every last person held a story; they, too, had scars that they wore and baggage that they carried, day after day.
What made him so special?
That, was what scared Ross the most. He couldn't imagine a different set of difficulties in his life, let alone live them. Why did it have to be such a painful thought, wondering what others had to go through in order to be happy? Did they not aspire the same way he did? Did they not try their hardest when the world turned bleak before them?
But he, too, strove to be happy.
Perhaps, there wasn't enough happiness to go around.
Compared to the rest of the world, his problems were horribly insignificant. Ross had more than most could ever dream of; a home, a well-paying job, and most of all, wonderful friends and family, whom he could turn to when the light turned away.
Yet, here he was, drowning in his own pool of own sorrow; sorrow that sprung from a tug-of-war that joyfully ripped the seams of his heart, salting the wounds that had been so freshly scabbed over. The hardest part, though, was not knowing what he truly wanted. There was nothing left for Ross to build on, and, even if there were, he'd have to start from scratch.
He just didn't have the willpower to do that, anymore.
Every man, woman, and child that walked the streets of New York that morning had dreams; goals that they had to fulfill in order to be happy. How did they manage to stay strong? What were they doing that he wasn't? Ross imagined an easier way to cope with all of this; it had to be easier than simply moping around, hoping his feelings would be as black-and-white as they never were. Nothing was clear when it came to the affairs of the heart, especially when it came to something so delicate as this.
Silently, Ross weighed his situation; the closer and closer he got to the airport, and the subsequent escape from his downtrodden life, the easier it became.
Emily was gone, now; that was obvious. Their marriage had crumbled like sand in his fist, running through his fingers and blowing away with the wind. It was one less thing to worry about, from an objective standpoint; while Ross still wasn't completely over her, he knew that sulking over Emily was totally counterproductive, and a waste of time and energy. She wasn't coming back; he knew this. And yet, there was still a piece of him that clung to her, much in the same way it clung to Rachel.
Like many break-ups, the hope of getting back together with either of them faded with time.
Still, Ross could admit that he loved Emily. He even went so far as to firmly believe that if he hadn't messed it up, their relationship would still be going strong. Of course, getting married as fast as they did was a kiss of death, but with Emily, Ross was happy. He finally had everything he could want, when he was with her; he had the tools necessary to get over Rachel, and get on with his life.
Now, all of that was gone, and Ross was right back to square one; this time, with even less than he started with.
Life just wasn't fair.
However, it was, once again, up to Ross to take action. He had to fix all of this, and he had to do it alone. His friends could only do so much for him, and they'd done more than enough already. The way his heart wretched and sank every hour from unraveling passion told him everything he needed to know.
Thinking about Rachel was not a curse, regardless of how much Ross wanted it to be. Instead, it was a sign; a sign on the fork of the road that led him down two different paths of his own heart. In one hand, he could pursue a relationship with her, again. Relive the love that he could call true, as straight as Cupid's arrow, but also freshen the old wounds that still stung to this very day, under the cold light of the New York winter. Was that really what he wanted? Granted, their relationship was strong, like a bull; it only ended once the horns had been cut off in several swift cuts, unlike the slow and painful dulling that happened with most couples.
But, was it the smart choice?
Ross had the answer in the palm of his hand, but did not want to see it for himself.
The healthiest thing he could possibly do was forget about Emily and Rachel, and find someone else. They were the past; he had to look toward the future. However, whether or not his future contained either of them (mainly Rachel) was still unclear. It would be so easy to just fall back into that safety net, where Ross was sure to be happy again.
However, the aberrations of days gone by would still haunt him at night, where'd he writhe even in the arms of his beloved.
The only question was, was it worth it? Was it worth it to go back to Rachel, and mend the cracks that eroded into the concrete dam of their relationship, risking his sanity to be with a woman who may or may not have forgiven him?
Before he could go further, the cab screeched to a halt. Ross came back to reality, and, seeing the driver's eyes in the rearview mirror and the amount he had to pay for his fare, reached into his pocket and pulled out a fistful of dollars. Distracted, he clumsily handed the bundle of ones to the man.
Exiting the cab, Ross exhaled heavily, running his fingers through his wavy black hair. He was convinced that he had finally gone crazy. This had to have been the most unusual thing, thinking about Rachel while just getting divorced and evicted. It didn't make any sense. Emily should have been the one dominating his thoughts, if at all. Not Rachel. Why did this have to ravage him so much? It was total anguish to remember so many things at once, in such a depraved state. Why couldn't he just forget all of it, like his computer, and his common sense, told him to?
Ross shook his head, conceding that he was getting nowhere. He humbly took his briefcase from his seat, and retrieved his suitcase from the trunk of the taxi, before making his way through the gate and onto the tarmac, where his boss, Donald, waited along with what appeared to be two other scientists. They stood in front large business jet, with the words Dassault Aviation plastered on the tail. Ross couldn't believe how big it was, and yet it seemed to only carry a few passengers. More than likely, it was to hold more fuel for the trip.
His approach was greeted by Dr. Ledbetter, who waved him over.
"Dr. Ledbetter!" Ross sat his luggage upright, and reached his hand out to shake his boss's hand. He glanced at the other scientists, although he tried to keep his attention away, mainly because one of them happened to be absolutely beautiful, and he couldn't afford to be captivated.
"Dr. Geller." Donald smiled, his gruff voice simultaneously introducing him to the two other figures in the group.
"I'd like you to meet Dr. Michelle Rios."
"Hello." The young asian woman standing next to Donald reached her dainty hand out to Ross, which he anxiously shook, almost crushing it.. Her voice was the sweetest candy, and her eyes- they reminded Ross of newborn puppies. She couldn't have been over 5'3", and her dark skin accentuated the glow that was given off by her cat-like hazel eyes. Even though she was practically buried under her black wool sweater, Ross could tell she was also not lacking in the chest department, either; something he shamefully regretted noticing.
"And this, is Dr. Kenneth Gagnon." Ross managed to pull his attention away from the goddess in front of him, and turned to face the man next to her. He was a near opposite of his partner, towering over Ross, and his alabaster skin was a stark contrast to her's. His bronzed hair was spiked up, only adding to this notion. He wore a white collared shirt beneath a yellow fleece sweater, with black slacks; if the hair was different, Ross could swear he was looking at Albert Einstein, based on how this man was dressed. They silently but firmly shook hands, proving that they were as weak as each other.
"They're fellow paleontologists. They'll be accompanying us to Russia."
Ross nodded, and shared looks with his associates. He meekly smiled at Michelle, again noticing how stunning she looked. Her skirt, which went down to her mid-calf, hugged her legs, and Ross could swear he could feel his blood flowing. She was quite the bombshell.
However, it wasn't so much lust, as it was pure awe of her beauty.
It reminded him of Rachel, the first time he laid eyes on her.
"Well, shall we?" Donald gestured toward the airplane, which now had runway stairs leading into the inside of the plane.
The four of them made their way up the stairs and into the brightly-lit cabin. As he ducked his head inside, Ross was completely astonished at the luxury of this flying palace. There was what appeared to be a living room situated at the front of the plane; two sofas faced each other over a glass coffee table, with a television mounted between the two doors to the cockpit. Each seat was more or less a cubicle; there was a desk, complete with drawers and stationery for every need. A fold-out bed was hidden in the fuselage, with the sheets already laid out. There was even a cute little chair to sit in, and a curtain for privacy.
Much better than the business-class trip to China, by far.
Ross's luggage was taken by a burly man in a uniform resembling that of a bellhop, although he'd never seen such a thing at an airport, of all places. Nervously, he followed the others' leads and sat on one of the milky-white couches, next to none other than Michelle, but he did his best to ignore her. It was so comfortable; it reminded him of the barcaloungers in the apartment. A comely stewardess arrived and offered to take their orders lunch for when they were in the air, in her thick yet attractive Russian accent. While the other three ordered something rather expensive and delectable, Ross refused eating any meal on the plane; the last thing on his mind was eating, especially after the rather disturbing revelations he had during breakfast with Joey and Chandler earlier that morning. Whatever high-class dining they served would certainly make him sick, and he didn't want the cooks to hate him.
However, he could go for a drink or two.
Anything to help him forget.
Contrary to what was previously believed, they didn't discuss the trip, or anything paleontology-related for that matter; instead, the four of them talked about themselves. Where they went to school, their latest research, etc. Ross had figured that Donald had already explained everything to him in-depth at the museum; the part he was needed for was pretty minimal, in that all he really needed to do was match current fossil data to several bones they'd found outside Moscow and determine what species - if any - that the fossils belonged to. However, Donald had promised a supervising spot on a dig that they would be co-funding in the near future, so Ross had something to be excited about, at least.
While the others chatted, though, Ross blurred in and out of his own world, able to keep the illusion that he was still there. He couldn't hear much other than the voice in his head telling him what to do, or what to feel; even worse, not even that voice knew what to do. It, too, was astray in the flames of chaos. Why, did it have to be so hard to be happy? Why did life have to throw a hook at every corner, and leave decent people on the ground, bleeding? Every bruise was a memory, and Ross didn't deserve to be covered in them. Or, maybe, he did, but still, it was punishment enough to just kill his heart and rip it out of him. Now, he had lost his home? It wasn't right. No one deserved to be pushed to the brink in such a way. He was dangling off of a metaphorical cliff, and watched as all but one of his fingers reluctantly let go; the only link of the chain of his spirit that still held on, keeping him from plummeting to the jagged rocks below.
That link, was Rachel.
As he began to deny this, Ross could barely hear the announcement to strap-in for takeoff, let alone follow it; thankfully, the flight service was kind enough to guide him to his seat in the back. Buckling in, he braced the armrests as though his life depended on it, alluding to the cliff. The earthquake that rattled his mind rumbled through his entire body, as the jet sped off the runway.
As the plane tilted upwards toward the vast cloud-coated sky, Ross felt his heart sink in his chest.
What did he want?
Rachel? Emily? The sexy paleontologist in the seat in front of him? No one, at all?
To be spared of the suffering that came with the break-up of a relationship, was to be spared of the history that could be written along the way. Ross agreed that it was better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. However, as with everything, there was a limit; exceed, and the suffering will intensify. The circle of life dictated over and over again that such a pain was a part of life, but all Ross could do was wonder:
Everything that Ross had contemplated up until now was totally wiped away. Such a broad and expansive question held a universe behind it, brimming with emotion and tales of the unknown, of which no one should be allowed to see. The solutions to every trouble that saturated life hid behind a simple padlock, yet no key would ever be found for a thousand lifetimes, if even then. It was a mystery not meant to be solved.
So, as the walls came down, a clean slate of rusted iron was all that remained, as Ross took a journey away from the life that had failed him.
Perhaps, five thousand miles away from the heart-clenching memories that plagued his weary soul, he would find peace.
"Would you like a hot towel, sir?"
Slowly drawn out of his chimera, Ross's eyes shot up toward the ceiling of the aircraft, but were stopped along the way by a stewardess' eager gaze. How long had he been out of touch? Seconds? Minutes? He couldn't feel the gravity shift anymore. They had to be airborne.
"Sir?" Compared to her colleague's, this woman's accent was American. Her voice was also very tender, again, reminding him of Rachel. Ross couldn't even trust his own ears anymore, the way they twisted and betrayed him like this. Still, they did enough to keep him from going mad, so he had to be thankful for that.
"N-No. Thank you." Ross stuttered, losing an internal battle.
"Just ring if you need anything, sir." With a smile, the woman pointed above him, to the panel of buttons that controlled things like light and air conditioning. One that read 'Call attendant' stood boldly out to the side, obviously placed for ease-of-access. Ross nodded at the woman, and watched her as she returned to the back of the plane. He could swear that her nametag read 'Rachel', even though he knew better.
Is this what insanity felt like?
Ross curiously pressed the button, and, soon enough, the woman appeared again, smiling again. He glanced at her nametag, which read 'Miranda', and knew that he hadn't lost it, yet.
"Yeah, um, how long is the flight?" Ross knew that it was going to be long, and considering how fast these planes usually went, it could take an excess of sixteen hours. He was glad he took a couple of sedatives with him; not only to sleep well, but to also avoid any intrusive thoughts that would wade their way inside him. He couldn't think about Rachel if he was knocked out, could he?
"It's a ten hour flight, with a thirty-minute refueling in Copenhagen." She did what seemed to a combination of a bow and a curtsy, as if she was apologizing for something. Of course, being new to the position, there was a certain shield that had be broken before turning into one of those flight attendants that slept with the pilots.
"Okay. Thanks." As Miranda turned away, Ross made one last request. "Can um- can I have some water?"
She briskly walked back into the kitchen, and returned with water in a crystal-patterned glass. Ross still couldn't believe how fancy all of this was. Even better, soon he'd be able to sleep stretched out under warm sheets, flying at six-hundred miles per hour, without a single thought of Rachel entering his mind. It was strange, how the thought of her made him feel so good and so terrible at the same time. She always made him feel like that, and yet, this was the first time he chose to run.
The truth was, Ross was scared. In the back of his mind, the answers he was seeking for stood tall, and deliberately crept forward, waiting for him to accept the truth. What laid behind the closed doors of Ross's heart was what he had feared all along; all he could do was either face it, or run.
Without further ado, Ross dug into his briefcase and took out a small bottle of Melatonin. He quickly popped two white tablets into his hand, along with six more inside the cap, coming to a grand total of forty milligrams; the bottle didn't tell him exactly how much to take, but as Ross figured, the more the better. After all, he was desperate to relieve himself of this agonizing mental torture.
As he swallowed the tasteless pills, pair by pair, Ross's eyes glazed over the bottle last time, landing on the small barrier of vertical text that sat on the end of the label. Squinting, he could only make out the last sentence, but when he did, he nearly had a heart attack.
May cause vivid dreams.
And in those dreams, contained just what he was trying to run from; Rachel.
His love, for Rachel.
Shutting his eyes, Ross made one last ditch effort to deny his feelings. Fate, however, had other plans. Instead, he saw her face beneath his eyelids; the face that he had kissed a million times, where each peck and smooch felt like the first. He also saw her heart; the heart, that he at one time could cradle in his hands and call his. Her sky-blue eyes, that sparkled in the sun, had never been clearer than at that moment, where his affection radiated from the darkest depths of his shattered soul. The burning pages of his life were put out by her smooth, gentle fingers, and soon, he took her hand, and stood upon the edge once more.
That, was when Ross faced himself.
He had not accepted his feelings, yet. They had taken quite a toll on his sanity, pushing and pulling the way it did, toward what was allegedly torment disguised as bliss. It toyed with Ross, just as it did with Rachel. She could not find him through the sea of doubt until the purity of her mind matched the purity of her soul; and it was her, and her alone, that could achieve such a feat, built on the inspiration of the man she loved. Through all of it, they had learned one crucial lesson.
They could not live the lives they wanted, without each other.
It really was a circle, and for the first time in so long, the spiraling had stopped. Ross knew what had to do; he had to talk to Rachel. He had to admit to her, and himself, that he had never stopped loving her much in the same way she had never stopped loving him.
However, there were so many things to sort out, first. Ross needed to recover from the grief that Emily had caused him, before he could ever think of reviving the past with Rachel; that much was for certain. It could take weeks; months, even. But Ross was willing to do it to be happy. Nothing mattered more to him than making sure that he would not hurt Rachel again, and he could not do that while a divorce decree remained blank. It would long path to walk, but Ross would do it.
Part of him wished that he'd learned from Rachel, and said the right name at his wedding. But, in his heart, Ross knew now that he wouldn't be happy even if he did say the right name. He knew from experience that conflicting thoughts had the potential to ruin a relationship in the blink of an eye.
Rachel was the one; no one else. Not Emily, not Michelle, not Miranda, no one. She was the only woman he needed.
As he realized all of this, Ross became a little surprised that he had come to a conclusion so fast; he had expected to take the entire two weeks to think it over, but apparently, Ross had channeled his anger and despair into something more powerful than he had ever imagined. At this rate, his mind would be cleansed of all the negativity and he could finally focus on work, the one thing that hadn't been wantonly taken from him.
For once, the skies were blue. The grass was green. The petals on the roses of their hearts bloomed like never before, ushering in a new era; an era of hope, that would spring eternal in the face of adversity. Ross had always wondered what it would be like to live a harder life, but, with Rachel, and all his friends at his side, anything was possible.
Before he drifted off into crazy-nightmare land, Ross laughed to himself, as he remembered the day before. Waking up to his computer; the word 'forget' blazing itself on the screen, flashing before the typing indicator.
Forget, Ross did; however, one part of him could never be forgotten, and her name was Rachel.
So, finally accepting his feelings, Ross entered slumber, Rachel's face being the last thing he saw.