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"I didn't find anything that would hurt Monica in the living room or the kitchen," Joey told Chandler as he entered the family room. "Whoa, dude, what're you doing?"
Joey stepped further into the room when he saw empty bookshelves, and Chandler sitting on the sofa sorting through numerous novels.
"Stephanie's parents want these books? They can have them. I may give them a lot more of her things, too."
"Like what?" Joey asked, propping himself on the arm of the sofa.
"Like every last thing in this house," Chandler said, tossing a stack of books into a box.
"I know you're upset about your visit with them, but you gotta think about Adrianna. She's going to need some of these things. You know she's not gonna remember much about her mother as she gets older."
Chandler sighed. "I know, but I look around this house, and it's as if I have been leading a totally different life. None of this makes sense. It was hard enough to be here when I thought Stephanie died in a tragic, pointless accident that wasn't her fault, but now, I don't know if I should even continue to live here. I want to pack up everything and give it all to Stephanie's parents or some charity. I don't want to look at these items anymore."
"You need to think about your daughter," Joey cautioned. "She's not gonna understand. You can't freak her out."
"I know. You're right. I hate this."
"She's with Nancy. Let's take a break. I think the house is fine for Monica."
"I think so, too. I locked up baby aspirin and regular aspirin, just in case."
"I'll move my things out of the guest room."
"You don't have to," Chandler said as they walked into the kitchen. "I'm giving Monica my room. I already moved her things in there. The sofa in the family room pulls out into a bed. I'll sleep there."
"Let me," Joey countered.
"Don't worry about it. I'm not sleeping much these days anyway."
"All the more reason you should be in a real bed."
"It's fine. I want you and Monica to have the bedrooms."
"What time do you have to pick her up?"
"Dr. Hall's going to call me."
"I think the house is ready."
"Yeah, it is. Thanks for your help. I want to finish packing those books. I'm keeping a few for Adrianna. The rest I want out of here. I might do some rearranging in the entryway, too. I'll decide about the other stuff later."
"You're really thinking of packing up everything?"
"Well, not everything. But a lot of it, yeah, I am. I realized, for whatever reason, Stephanie wanted our house to resemble her parents' place. A lot. I don't want that. I guess this is another step in the moving on and getting over it process."
"You gotta do it slowly or you have to make sure your daughter understands what you're doing."
"That's why, for now, I'm getting rid of only the books. I know she needs more time."
Three hours later, Monica, armed with everything she would need to continue her recovery, entered Chandler's house and was greeted with a warm hug by Joey.
"Is this weird or what?" she asked, realizing she was a bit overwhelmed at being in Chandler's house with Joey.
She knew he had visited, but she'd never thought much about him being there and, now, the two of them were together.
"Kinda, I guess," Joey said. "I'm just happy to see you out of the hospital."
"Why don't you two go into the living room or the kitchen," Chandler said. "Monica, I'm going to put your things in my room."
"Your room? Why? Are we shar…"
"Oh, no. No," he said and Joey chuckled knowingly.
He stopped and looked away when Chandler gave him a warning look.
"Joey's in the guest room. I want you to stay in my room. I'm going to sleep in the family room."
"I offered to give up the room," Joey said before Monica could respond to the new sleeping arrangements, "but Chandler said no."
"Everything is fine," Chandler said. "I'll be right back."
Joey walked with Monica into the kitchen.
"You want anything?"
Joey handed Monica a bottle of water and put two more on the table.
"Is Chandler okay?" she asked.
"Yeah. Or at least I think he will be. If you go into the family room, don't be surprised to see a bunch of taped up boxes and empty bookshelves."
"He decided to give most of the books to Stephanie's parents."
"They wanted her books?"
"To donate, apparently. Also, don't be surprised if you see him packing up other stuff, too. I'm not sure what he's doing with that box and those paintings in the living room."
"Why?" Monica asked, her confusion mounting. "Is he moving?"
"No, but he's not happy with the house. Or what the house reminds him of, I guess."
"And what would that be?"
"Stephanie," he said and gave a sad nod.
"Is this because I found those pills and Adrianna reacted badly?"
"Kinda," Joey admitted. "But it's more than that. I'll let him tell you when he's ready."
"Okay," Chandler said, entering the kitchen and sitting between them. "What are we talking about? How great Monica looks?"
"Yeah," Joey said. "She sure does."
Monica lowered her eyes as she felt her cheeks grow warm. "You guys."
"What?" Chandler asked. "We can't be happy that you're looking healthy and are out of the hospital?"
She looked at both men. "I am happy about that," she admitted. "And that I can walk with relative ease. My back finally feels so much better."
"If only you'd had the procedure in New York," Joey said, shaking his head.
"Let's not talk about that," Monica said, not wanting to be reminded that maybe some, if not all of what she had been dealing with, might have been avoided had she made a different decision.
"Sorry," Joey said.
"You're doing what you need to do," Chandler said. "That's the main thing, right?"
"Did you want to call Ross?"
She was ready to ask about Adrianna when she heard the front door open.
"Daddy? Uncle Joey?"
"In the kitchen."
The trio heard the voices and then the stomping of feet as Adrianna raced to where the adults were.
"Is Monica here?" she asked, not bothering to notice who was sitting at the table.
Chandler smiled. "She's sitting right there."
"Oh," she said and giggled. "I shouda looked."
"That's all right. Monica is with us again."
"Are you okay?" the young girl asked as she made her way to stand in front of Monica.
"I'm feeling much better."
"Yay," Adrianna said and smiled at her.
"Monica," Chandler said, "I'd like to introduce you to Nancy Wilcox. She's been so great with Adrianna. Nancy, this is a good friend of mine and Joey's from New York, Monica Geller."
They exchanged pleasantries, and then Nancy said she had to leave.
"I'll walk with you," Chandler said.
"You want something to drink?" Joey asked Adrianna.
"I gotta wash my hands," she said and ran to the bathroom the same way she had run into the kitchen.
"She knows only one speed," Joey said and laughed.
"I love that she knew she had to wash her hands," Monica said.
"Somehow, I knew that would make you happy," Joey said.
Monica shook her head. "Am I really that transparent?"
"Only to those who've known you as long as we have," he assured her, patting her hand while she smirked.
"Thanks for taking such good care of Adrianna," Chandler said to Nancy as they reached the front door. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"You know I love watching her," Nancy said. "She's a great kid."
"Thanks. I'm glad she behaves for you. I hope you'll continue to be available to watch her. I might need to call you on short notice."
"That's fine. Are you going back to work next week?"
"I am, and I don't know how much I want to rely on Diane. Not that she's not great because she is, but I would rather call you if that's okay."
"It's fine. I'll be available. Call anytime."
"Thanks, Nancy. I'm relieved."
"Looks like you got a lot going on. Are you redecorating?"
Nancy had noticed the box and then the bare walls and table in the entryway. Chandler had removed two paintings, which now leaned against one wall, and two vases which sat heavily wrapped inside a box in the living room.
"Just thinking about making a few changes," he said.
"Oh. I'm so used to seeing them when I come here. It feels different. But good for you."
"Thanks. I think it's something I need to do."
"Okay. I really have to go, but let me know when you need me."
"I will. Thanks again."
A few minutes later, Adrianna saw her father in the living room and entered.
"You changed things," she said.
"I did move a few things."
"Your grandparents would like to have your mother's books. I kept some for you that I thought you might like to have. The rest I'm giving to them."
"Is it okay if I do that?"
She shrugged. "I guess."
"I might be making more changes. Maybe put some things away and move other items around. Would that bother you?"
"Is this 'cause of Mommy? Are you mad at her?"
Chandler perched on the arm of the sofa and motioned for his daughter to come to him. He reached down and held her small hands in his much larger ones. She waited expectantly for him to speak.
"No, I'm not mad at her. I'm thinking your mommy needed help like Monica does. I wasn't able to be there for your mom, but I want to help Monica. I don't want to make the same mistakes."
"I wanna help."
"I know. And you have. A lot."
"I'm happy Monica's here," she offered.
Chandler smiled. "Me, too."
"You can move things," Adrianna said.
"Are you sure?"
"You won't be upset?"
She shook her head.
"Can I get a hug?" he asked.
She nodded and then laughed when her father scooped her up in his arms and embraced her.
"I love you so much," he told her as she clung to him.
"I know," she said, with all the wisdom of a four-year-old. "I love you, too."
"I'm going to be sleeping in the family room."
He decided to tell her so she wouldn't wonder where he was in case she needed him during the night.
"I gave Monica my room."
"Then I won't run in and scare her," she said and giggled.
"I'm sure Monica would appreciate that," he said, looking at her. "While we're on the subject, I would appreciate it if you didn't do that to me."
"You like it," she said and laughed.
"Is that what you think?" he said, his blue eyes twinkling.
"Well, you couldn't be more wrong," he teased.
"You like it," she said and laughed again.
As he listened to the melodious sound, he realized sometimes he still couldn't believe she was his daughter; and other times, he couldn't remember what his life had been like before she had been born.
"Are you okay?" she asked, when he continued to look at her.
"Yes," he assured her. "I'm fine. We should go back into the kitchen. Joey and Monica will think we're hiding from them, and they'll start frantically looking for us."
"Can I call Emma?" she asked, after Chandler had set her down.
"Monica's going to call Ross. Maybe you can talk to Emma."
"Oh, boy," Adrianna said.
And before Chandler could say anything else, his daughter was off and running to the kitchen to ask Monica if she could talk to Emma. He stood there, shaking his head and laughing to himself.
"Want to tell me what this is about?" Monica asked Chandler when she saw him heading towards her in the family room after leaving Adrianna, who was sleeping peacefully in her room.
Joey had called a lady he'd met, Christy Tyson, during one of his earlier visits, and she had invited him to her place.
"You don't want to hear about this," he said.
"Then why did I ask?" Monica said, unwilling to let the conversation slide.
"It's your first day out of the hospital. I don't want to drag you into this."
"What if I want to be dragged?" she countered.
"It's complicated, Mon. I really don't want to…"
"What in our lives these past few weeks hasn't been complicated? C'mon, Chandler. Talk to me. Please."
He sighed but decided to sit down on the sofa and motioned for Monica to do the same.
"Is this okay for your back?"
"It's fine. I'll put this throw pillow behind me. I'm good."
"Okay. Here goes. I found out that Stephanie was responsible for the crash that took her life. She was driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. She caused the accident, not the other driver, as I had been led to believe and in my, I guess you would call grief-stricken state, I never bothered to investigate any further. That is, until you found those bottles."
"Chandler, I'm so sorry. I can't imagine what you must be going through. Again. Does Adrianna know?"
"Yes. I didn't want her to find out, but she overheard Joey and me talking. She knows, but I'm not sure how much she really understands. And to be honest, I'm fine if she doesn't understand. But her grandparents? That's a totally different story."
Chandler nodded. "From the beginning. They did nothing to help their daughter, tried to blame me when I confronted them with what I knew, and then basically told me it was none of my business because they had 'taken care of everything.' Can you believe that?"
"That's horrible. Adrianna doesn't know about that, does she?"
"No, and I told them I wasn't sure I wanted Adrianna to be around them. I honestly don't know what to do."
"That's why you've been packing up things."
"I guess. I'm angry, but I have no outlet for it. I thought if I took action, you know? Did something. Moved things around. But I know that isn't the answer. Packing and moving things are not going to erase the images I have in my head and the anger I feel. I just can't believe how stupid and out of touch I've been. How could I not have known my wife was taking drugs in my own home?"
"Based on my own experience, and I can't believe I just said that, we can be very sneaky and creative. I'm not sure you should blame yourself, Chandler."
"You're being too kind, Mon. My daughter saw her mother popping pills. How could I not have known something was going on?"
He stood from the couch and faced the empty shelves.
"This room was not safe for my daughter, and I had no idea. How is that even possible?"
Monica heard the frustration and sadness or maybe regret in his voice and rose to stand behind him. She rubbed the palm of her hands along his upper arms. He turned to look at her and allowed himself a small smile when he realized she was trying to cheer him up.
"What?" he finally asked.
She shrugged but continued to smile. "I was just thinking."
"Well, if you're serious about packing up or making changes, I can definitely help. I can get you organized. All I need is a label maker, a notebook, and a pen. I can make lists and inventory what's going into the boxes, and then label whatever you want. It would give me something to do. Something to focus on."
"Mon," Chandler said, "I'm not moving."
And then it was as if the proverbial light bulb went off in his head.
Monica saw that he was considering something and asked him about it.
"Maybe that's what I need to do."
"What?" she asked.
"Move. Find another place to live that doesn't come with all the bad memories and the baggage. I can find a place closer to work. Maybe an apartment. Adrianna and I don't need all this space."
"But this is her home," Monica said. "Won't that be too drastic a change for her? And maybe you, too, Chandler, even if you don't think so."
"I won't do it right away," he said. "But I'll put the idea out there. See how Adrianna feels about it. She said she was fine with me changing things around. Maybe it won't be so hard for her."
"I think you're talking about two entirely different things," Monica cautioned.
"I know. I have to be careful, but I really think I need to do this. This house is never going to be the same for me, and it's never going to be what I envisioned for my family when we bought it. I know I have to think about my daughter, but if I am going to make a change, I think this is the time to do it before she gets more settled. She hasn't started school yet, so we can decide where we truly want to live and what will make us happy. I kinda like the idea that maybe we can start over in a new place and that we can decide where we want to live. Adrianna can help me determine her future. I think she'd like that. "
"Well, as long as you're giving this some serious thought, can I throw out a crazy idea?"
"Chandler, why don't you and Adrianna move to New York?"
He laughed and then he realized Monica was serious.
"Of course, because that's not a drastic change."
"Okay, maybe it is," she acknowledged, "but at least Adrianna has been there. Look how excited she was to talk to Emma and how much fun they had on the phone. They could become best friends. You know how much she adores Joey. He would be there whenever she wanted to see him. You don't think she would love that idea?"
"You make some excellent points."
He reached for her hands and held them in his.
"There's another reason to give this some serious consideration," he said and grinned, beginning to warm up to the idea.
"What's that?" she asked, gazing into his electric blue eyes.
"You would be there."
"Yes," Monica said and smiled. "I would definitely be there."
"And if I were there, I could keep an eye on you."
"You know how much I need that," she said, enjoying the playfulness and flirtatious direction their conversation was taking.
"I do," he said, sliding inches closer to her. "You, Monica Elizabeth Geller, need to be watched at all times. By someone like me."
"I most certainly do," she agreed, leaning in closer to him and tilting her head, so ready to feel his lips on hers.
"And," he said, his heartbeat accelerating as he slanted his mouth towards her lips that were now slightly parted, "we could do lots more of this."
Without another word, his lips captured her soft, pliant ones in a sizzling kiss that made them both realize how hard it would be to live 3,000 miles apart. She definitely wanted more of this, and if the reaction she experienced from Chandler was any indication, she knew he felt the exact same way. She knew there was no way she could leave him in a month, and yet, she also knew they weren't the only people involved. But how great would it be if he and his daughter came home? That's how she thought of it, she realized, as he continued to pleasure her mouth and her tongue in ways she had forgotten existed. For her, he would be coming home, and this would be something she could very much look forward to.
"Oh, yeah," Monica said, a bit breathless when their lips finally parted, "that's definitely a great reason for you to move to Manhattan."
Chandler agreed. "Manhattan," he said, when he was able to focus and speak again, "has just shot to the top of the list for places to live."