AN: Here I am, back with another story.
I came up with this idea about a year ago; I felt like I needed my writing to develop a bit before I pulled it out of the vault. Even though I'm longing to write a high school/college Ross and Rachel story, I really want to do this one first.
This story will take place in TOW the Tiny T-shirt. Then, similar to some of my previous stories, I'll put my own twist on it and continue from there.
Please enjoy and review.
Disclaimer: The characters from Friends and the lines from the show do not belong to me.
Patiently she awaited his arrival. She had agreed to have dinner with him. She waited for him to meet her at her apartment.
I've kind of had this ah, this crush on you. But since you were with Ross, I-I didn't do anything about it. But, now that you're not, I'd really like to ask you out sometime. So-so that's-that's what I'm doing, now.
Mark's words surged through her memory as she spent her final minutes of alone time getting ready.
She recalled talking to Phoebe after Mark revealed his feelings. Rachel had set her heart on telling him she couldn't go out with him; it was too soon to be seeing other people. She knew she wasn't ready to move on from Ross, not with their relationship fresh in her mind.
Giving him back the belongings he had left in her apartment was supposed to be symbolic, even refreshing. Having no reminders of their relationship around her was supposed to symbolize her willingness to move on; it was meant to be a motivational way to help her forget.
However, another quarrel arose between the couple, ending with Ross taking his "Frankie Says Relax" t-shirt out of spite. He claimed he was only helping Rachel move on, in fact, he claimed he himself had moved on.
This bold statement gave Rachel an idea, a way to get Ross back for his wrong doings. If he claimed to have moved on, surely he wouldn't mind if she accepted the date with Mark after all. It may have been a very juvenile way to handle the situation, but what harm could be done by teasing Ross for a bit?
Rachel began to pace across the kitchen floor, the heels of her shoes clicking in time with the passing seconds.
Mark saw this as a first date, the beginning of something more. It would devastate him if he knew the reason Rachel had agreed to dinner.
His knock on the door sent her heart pounding, creeping into her throat with nervousness.
"I'm coming," Rachel called, taking a deep breath as she approached the door. She tried to think of this as a regular date. She could kill two birds with one stone: make Ross jealous and, at the same time, attempt to leave their relationship in the past.
She gripped the doorknob, letting the tension flow from her hot palms. She twisted it, having gathered her courage.
"Hi… You look lovely tonight," Mark commented, calmly standing in the doorway. His gaze travelled to look her over for an instant.
The compliment left a bitter-sweet taste in Rachel's mouth - it felt strange to hear those words from Mark, nevertheless, his genuine compliment was thoughtful.
"Thank you," Rachel responded softly. "Why don't you come in a moment? I just have to grab a jacket."
"Sure," Mark replied, taking off his overcoat as he hurried across the threshold. Rachel closed the door behind him.
They paused in the hallway between apartment 19 and 20, chatting about Chandler's hair problems after a workout. When the familiar creak of the door echoed through the cavernous hall, Ross couldn't help but glance in its direction. The men fell silent.
Ross' breath caught in his throat when he saw Rachel exit her apartment. A split second later, he wasn't able to breathe; not when he saw who closely followed her.
Nothing could have prepared him to see Mark.
Tension filled the air as Mark closed the door behind the pair. Rachel nervously passed Ross and Chandler, Mark wasn't far behind. Ross' disappointed stare met her eyes for a second, until he could only watch Mark in shock.
The more he wanted to tear his eyes away, the more his eyes disobeyed him. He wanted to scream or cry out in frustration.
Rachel was going on a date with Mark? Of all the men she could have chosen to go out with, she had chosen Mark. He swore taking a knife to the heart would have hurt less.
Rachel had accomplished her plan; her plan to cause Ross pain.
Victory did not taste as sweet as she'd hoped; not with the look on Ross' face engraved in her mind.
She observed him from across the table. He bobbed his head as he spoke with enthusiasm. The shifting strands of his hair gleaming in the dim light. His soft eyes were comforting, as was his company. They had mostly been making conversation about fashion. Rachel enjoyed talking to someone who had similar interests as her.
Presently, Rachel stared at the tabletop in front of her. She wasn't truly seeing it; it was just something to rest her eyes on as she lost herself in a sea of thoughts. Mark continued to talk, although, his voice became only a mumble by the time it reached Rachel's ears.
He was a great friend. He got her a job; ultimately, he helped her get on the career track she wanted. He was charming, good looking, smart, and yet she couldn't see him as anything more than a friend.
Suddenly, Mark's voice faded away and she could feel him staring at her intently.
"I'm sorry, I, uh, must have zoned out. What did you say?" Rachel asked, cringing slightly in sorrow.
"I asked if you were okay," Mark repeated, noticing Rachel's sudden quietness.
"Yes, I'm fine. Sorry, I was just… thinking," Rachel answered, swiftly snapping out of her thoughts to focus on her date. Her mind spun at an overwhelming rate, a rate that made her temples throb in protest.
"How's your dinner?" Mark asked, initiating their small talk once more.
"It's, um, wonderful. Thank you," Rachel responded, reinforcing her answer by taking a bite of her dinner. A blushing smile crossed her face when Mark began to look at her oddly.
"Can I ask you something?" Mark questioned, out of the blue.
"Of course, go ahead," Rachel answered, very curious to hear his next words. She took the opportunity to take a sip of her drink.
"If you don't mind me asking: what happened between you and, um, Ross?" Mark questioned nervously. He was genuinely interested to hear her response.
Rachel was taken aback, so much so that she nearly inhaled her white wine; she hadn't expected that to be his question. As she placed the glass on the table she sensed Mark's curious gaze burrowing into her.
"It's difficult to explain. One minute everything was incredible… then my job got in the way and things just fell apart," Rachel described, she stared past Mark as she softly spoke. It was the first time she'd ever explained it to someone outside her group of friends, and it hurt. It hurt to think back to when she was happy with Ross.
"Things must have ended badly if that's the tension you feel when you're near him," Mark commented, he recalled watching the couple interact earlier that evening.
"Ross slept with someone else," Rachel whispered, tears quickly pooling in her eyes, filling her vision. She didn't know why she was compelled to reveal this fact; it just flowed from her like blood from a wound.
"I'm sorry to hear-," Mark began to apologise, but Rachel interjected.
"It really hurt, to know he was with someone else. He apologised, but I couldn't forgive him. I still can't forgive him," Rachel admitted, entranced in a serious whisper.
She couldn't understand Ross' thought process. He was in love with her, why would he choose sleeping with someone else over fighting for their relationship? He was upset that she was with Mark at the very moment he phoned, but that couldn't be used as an excuse to sleep with Chloe.
She carefully hid her anger from Mark as she thought of Ross; the anger that drove her to stay out with him this evening.
On a break or not on a break, sleeping with her was not the right choice for Ross to have made.
If they were on a break, he obviously chose sleeping with Chloe over fixing their relationship. If they weren't on a break, he cheated.
It was a confusing time for the both of them. Rachel's job became an obstacle between them while Ross' jealousy over Mark weighed on both their shoulders.
It led them to make impulsive decisions, decisions they would grow to regret.
"I'm sorry to bring it up," Mark apologised, placing his hand over Rachel's on the table.
"Well, enough about me, what happened to your girlfriend?" Rachel lightheartedly questioned, feeling the need to change the subject.
"The truth is that, I broke up with my girlfriend so I could have a chance to be with you," Mark confessed, his intense gaze falling on Rachel.
Rachel didn't know what to say, she didn't know how to react. Should she take it as a compliment, that he wanted to be with her enough to end his other relationship? Or should it make her feel guilty?
"That's very… kind," Rachel chose to answer, protecting his feelings, playing along.
It was pure luck that the waiter stopped by their table at that very moment, disrupting what would have become an awkward silence.
"Can I bring you the bill?" He asked, as he cleared the couple's empty plates.
"Yes, please," Mark answered, turning his vision off of Rachel to the waiter. The gentleman took the dishes back to the kitchen, leaving the two in each other's company once more.
"Would you like to come back to my place for tea or coffee?" Rachel asked, remembering Monica would still be out.
"That sounds great," Mark answered, flashing a bright smile. Rachel couldn't help but smile in return.
Rachel handed Mark a pair if mugs, causing him to notice the numbers on the bottom of each. Rachel attempted to explain Monica's need to be organized, prompting laughter from them both.
Rachel walked past Mark to take a seat at the kitchen table, she smiled up at him.
Out of nowhere, Mark leaned down towards her. He hesitated slightly but soon pressed his lips against Rachel's, leaving her stunned. She didn't have much time to stop him, and, feeling vulnerable, she didn't make an effort to stop him.
His mouth felt strange against hers, even if the kiss didn't last very long. She didn't kiss him back; she was frozen in place. It didn't feel right having him kiss her without knowing the truth behind this date. It didn't feel right knowing how Ross would feel.
An image of Ross crossed her mind, a recollection from when they passed him in the hall.
He had worn an expression that reminded her of when they broke up. The light had vanished from his eyes, only to leave darkness in its wake. Heartache glistened in his longing gaze.
Mark pulled away from her, briefly. When he attempted to kiss her again, it snapped her out of her numb state. Flinching away from his kiss, Rachel stood from her chair.
Mark looked at her strangely, believing he had crossed a line she wasn't ready to cross. Had he read her body language wrong? Did she not want to kiss him?
"You know what?" Rachel uttered hurriedly.
"No. And I don't think I want to," Mark stated, he straightened up, remaining the chair's distance from Rachel.
"I can't do this," Rachel cringed.
"Yep. Yep, that's what I didn't want to know," Mark affirmed, nodding.
"Well, oh, Mark, I'm doing this for the wrong reasons, y'know? I'm just doing it to get back at Ross. I'm sorry, it's not very fair to you," Rachel explained, her voice as gentle as she could manage with the emotion that caught up to her.
"That's okay. I'm here for you if you want to get back at him," Mark answered. Rachel was about to laugh, thinking he was joking, but he was serious.
"What?" Rachel asked. She furrowed her eyebrows, crossing her arms.
"I'm just thinking it could be a win-win situation. You would get to make Ross jealous, get him back, and I would get to date you," Mark stated, positively. Mark didn't want to let Rachel go, he knew she was meant to be with him, not Ross. He figured if he could get her to go out with him for a while longer he could win her over.
"I don't know," Rachel answered. She thought about his suggestion for a moment. What he suggested was so wrong, yet she was fascinated. She could get Ross back and, in the meantime, give a kind man like Mark a chance. Suddenly the urge to get back at Ross overcame the guilt she felt. She was back in her state of anger.
Mark made her think: maybe there were other men out there for her. Sure this wasn't the ideal beginning to a relationship; be that as it may, Mark liked her. It was shocking that he was okay with this, that he would go along with her plan.
Could this be taken as a sign to move on from Ross?
Exhausted from his evening with Chandler, Ross immediately planned on going to bed.
He had obsessed over trying to keep tabs on Mark and Rachel's date; he had used most of his energy to attempt to stop whatever was happening between them afterwards, that is, if anything did happen.
It was an impulse and an abundant amount of energy that came from deep within his core. He didn't like Mark; he had an ominous feeling that he wasn't as noble as he came off. Whether or not Ross was dating Rachel he wanted to protect her from this man.
Chandler had been able to talk sense into his friend. He had convinced Ross that Rachel had moved on, their relationship was over. It was time for him to move on too.
It stung to hear those words. Ross missed Rachel; he couldn't accept that it was truly over between them. He couldn't accept that she had moved on so quickly. It all happened so fast.
But, no matter how terrible Rachel had made him feel earlier, he couldn't stay angry with her.
He wanted to be angry; angry that she did have feelings for Mark while they were dating - why else would she go out with him immediately after they broke up? Angry that all they could do was bicker; that they couldn't work this out.
He wished he could turn back time, change the way he had acted, fix the problems that were present. No matter how mad he seemed on the outside, on the inside he still loved her with all his heart.
The box called to him from his bedroom; the box that seemed to contain his relationship with Rachel, the box that he didn't want to unpack. Having those items returned to him, having them back in his apartment, only reminded him that his relationship with Rachel was over.
Ross drifted closer to it. The box was on his bed, where he had set it down. Peering over the cardboard side his attention was immediately captured by the white fabric of the "Frankie Says Relax" t-shirt.
The minute he lifted it from the box, holding it in his hands, it pulled at his heartstrings.
Sadness washed over him. He couldn't help but be reminded of Rachel or how broken-hearted he was.
There was only one thing he could do; something to help him move on as well. If it had worked for Rachel, it might work for him. He tossed the t-shirt onto his bed and went into his closet, finding a box of his own.
Patrolling around his apartment, he gathered things that belonged to Rachel. A bottle of shampoo, a few CDs, movies, books, anything that she'd left behind. When he returned to his bedroom he went through his drawers, easily filling the box.
He paused when he spotted the t-shirt once more, laying across his comforter. He picked it up once again, running his hand across the soft fabric. He let out a depressed sigh, making the decision to place it in the box along with Rachel's possessions.
He wanted her to have the t-shirt; it was a peace offering, at the very least. It was a token to show that he still cared about her feelings. He hoped it would show how sorry he was.