One For the Road

Chapter Eight: For Reasons Unknown

"She what?  Is she crazy?  Did she conveniently forget that that…bastard…is a murderer?"  Ross was fuming, as he stalked around his apartment, arms flailing maniacally.  Rachel stood in the center of the storm, and waited for Ross to stop ranting before she continued.

"Ross, she is going to be fine.  She needs this.  And she needs to do it alone."

"He'll only hurt her," Ross sighed.

"You don't know that," Rachel shook her head, her eyes filling with tears.

"I do.  I saw the look on his face when he shot that man in the head," Ross reasoned.

"And I saw the look on his face when we turned our backs on him.  He loves her."

"Yeah, right," Ross laughed.

"I read the letter, Ross.  I talked to Monica.  He loves her.  He loves her the way you love me.  The way I love you," Rachel whispered the last sentence, and closed the gap between her and Ross.

"No," Ross shook his head, refusing to let the truth be absorbed.

"Sweetie, let her do this.  She may find herself out there.  She may find what she needs.  Even if all she finds is closure, at least she gave him the benefit of the doubt."

Ross' shoulders dropped, and he closed his eyes.

"If he hurts her…"

"Then he'll have to face all of us," Rachel smiled.

~**~

The rocking motion of the small, dilapidated bus was slowly lulling its passengers to sleep, as it rumbled down the rocky dirt road.  Monica stared out at the Scottish countryside, her stomach in knots, and her head throbbing.  She was not prepared for all that she had to go through to get to this place.  Penelope had insisted that, as a precaution, Monica travel under a pseudonym, and avoid all major public places.  Monica was beginning to see how stressful the double-life could be, from sweating her way through customs, to constantly looking over her shoulder.  The bus pulled to an abrupt stop, yanking Monica from her reverie.  She quickly grabbed her bag, and made her way off of the bus.

The village was small, and charming.  Cobblestone roads and ancient stone buildings were framed by rolling green hills, and a deep, darkening blue-gray sky.  The picturesque scene was like a warm welcome from an old friend.  Monica made her way to a corner shop, where an elderly woman was arranging fruit.

"Excuse me," Monica said softly, and smiled as the woman turned.

"Well, hello sweetie.  What can I do for you now?" the woman's gray-green eyes danced with mirth as she spoke, with a lilting, sweet accent.

"I'm looking for someone…Nicholas Caulfield…do you know where I can find him?"

The woman's eyes flashed with recognition, and her smile broadened.

"So, you must be the one he lost, then," the woman nodded.

"I'm sorry?"

"Well, he doesn't talk much, that one, but he has a sadness about him.  We have all wondered what—or who—made him so sad.  You are a very beautiful girl, miss, and certainly capable of breaking the odd heart, I think," the woman chuckled, and grinned mischievously.

"I um—" Monica flushed, and fidgeted with her hands.

"Oh, 'tis alright dear.  He lives just down the road there, in the small gray and green cottage," the woman pointed a crooked finger northward, and Monica followed it with her eyes.

"Thank you," Monica smiled, and turned to leave.

"You tell him Mirium says hello," the woman nodded, and walked back into her shop.

Monica nodded, and turned toward the road.  She took a deep breath, and made her way toward Chandler's cottage.

She stood in front of the green wooden door for an unspecified amount of time, shifting her weight from foot to foot, trying to think of what she wanted to say to Chandler, and wondering what she wanted to hear.  Finally, she realized that she could not completely control the outcome of the conversation that would take place inside this cottage, any more than she could control the outcome.  Shaking her head, she knocked softly on the door.  When there was no answer, she knocked again, louder.  Again, there was no answer, so Monica peered around her, and when she saw that there was no one around, she tried the door.  To her surprise, it was unlocked, and she quickly slipped inside.  Closing the door behind her, she saw a small, cozy room, with a worn chair and a waning fire.  She wondered where Chandler could be…it seemed clear that he wasn't home, but that he had been not long ago.  She wondered if he'd seen her at the front door, and snuck away.  She quickly shrugged off the thought, and wandered into the area of the cabin that apparently passed for a kitchen: a rickety table, a rusted sink, and a hotplate that looked like it was rarely used.  She made a mental note to pay Mirium another visit soon.

The sound of the door creaking open broke her thoughts, and she swung around to see Chandler walking into the cabin, with an armload of firewood.  He kicked the door shut, and carried the wood toward the fireplace.  A slight movement in the kitchen caught his eye, and he looked up suddenly.

"M—Monica?" Chandler prayed he wasn't dreaming again.  Then he reminded himself that he didn't have pleasant dreams any more.

"Hello Chand—uh, Nicholas," Monica stuttered nervously, as she approached him.

"You can, um, you can call me Chandler, if you, uh, if you want to," Chandler said softly, as he placed the wood on the ground next to the fireplace, and dusted the dirt from his hands onto his pants. 

"Um, sit down, please," Chandler smiled tightly, and pulled a thin blanket from the only chair in the living room area.  Monica smiled and sat down slowly.  Chandler looked at her for a long minute, before suddenly turning and adding wood to the dying embers in his fireplace.

"How did you—I mean, why—" Chandler stumbled over his questions, as he poked at the fire, coaxing it back to life, with a stick.

"I got your letter, and I—I wanted to see you," Monica said softly, as she fingered the thin, holey blanket that was sat in her lap.

"You—you got it?  I thought maybe you just tossed it," Chandler laughed uncomfortably, and turned to look at Monica.  His eyes fell to the ground, and he sat down on the floor in front of her.

"I almost did—but—things have been…strange since we came back from London."

"What do you mean?" Chandler felt himself relax a little, as Monica sighed.

"We've all been…on edge.  And this past Thanksgiving, it all kind of came to a head.  We were all yelling at each other, and for no good reason, really.  Anyway, no one was talking to anybody, and then I got your letter.  And I—I don't know, I felt like we at least owed you an opportunity to explain.  And I—I wanted to know if what you said was true."

"About me falling in love with you?" Chandler asked softly.

Monica nodded silently, and looked down at Chandler.

Chandler was quiet for a moment, then sighed softly.  He stared sadly at the fire, and Monica watched as the orange-yellow flames danced in his deep blue eyes. He didn't look at her when he finally spoke.

"In the profession I was formerly in, falling in love was the single-worst thing you could do.  It made you vulnerable, and it put an innocent life at risk.  God, Monica I tried really hard not to fall for you.  But you are so damn love-able," Chandler chuckled, and looked up at Monica.  She saw the tears that lined his eyes, and she fought to urge to wrap her arms around him, and tell him she loved him.  Her hesitation disturbed her, but she knew that she couldn't fully trust him, or herself, until she knew the entire story.

"I knew the second that I fell for you I needed to get over it, or face the consequences.  And then…London happened.  And in that one moment, I knew that there was no choice anymore.  I wanted out of the Network, and I wanted to be normal…have a normal job…and a normal life…with you."

"But were you going to tell me?  I mean, if all that stuff hadn't happened in London, would you have hidden it from me?" Monica's voice was filled with tension and exhaustion.

"I'd love to be able to tell you that, without a doubt, I would have told you.  But the truth is, I don't know.  I'd do anything to hold onto you, even if that meant keeping all of this from you."

"But—"

"I know, Monica—I know that all healthy relationships are built on trust—I saw that episode of Oprah," Chandler laughed, "But I also knew how you would all react to this."

"You mean we'd react exactly like we did."

"Pretty much, yes."

"I—I want to trust you Chandler, but—what happened, exactly?  Why were you doing this?"

"Monica, I need you to understand something—what I'm about to tell you, could get me killed.  I want you to know—I need you to, but understand that I can't tell you absolutely everything, okay?  I trust you, and I love you, and I'll tell you what I can—but it's…complicated," Chandler sighed, and watched, as Monica nodded.  He took a deep breath, and looked back up at her. 

"My father worked for the government—it was a branch of the CIA that the public never knew about.  He and his colleagues were sent to various locales around the world, and 'took care' of things, in the name of justice and freedom.  He assassinated dictators, he helped stage coups, he organized riots and protests—all these things were supposedly in the best interest of the American People.

But he became disillusioned by all of it—he began seeing the politics that were bleeding into decisions that affected thousands of lives.  He and a few others began realizing that they were doing more harm than good, and that the administration at that time was corrupt.  These men left the agency, and created The Network.  I was five years old when it was created, and I was raised in and around it.  My mother worked for it as well.  There was no question that I would be part of a new generation that would help rid the world of the men whose goal in life was to destroy everything.

When I was fourteen, my mother was killed—a revenge killing, for something my father had done.  The assassins targeted me as well, but for reasons even I don't know, I survived.  My father, who could not take the guilt that consumed him following my mother's assassination, killed himself.  People within The Network, who thought that putting me into the Foster Care system would expose them—these are extremely paranoid people, took me in.  I was trained by them, and showed remarkable natural skill, which excited the Network, and scared me, a little.  As soon as I was old enough, I was put out on my first assignment—killing Chandler Bing.  I took on my new alias, and I settled into Chandler's life. Everything spiraled from there," Chandler sighed, and stared at the floor.

Monica slid down onto the floor, and took Chandler's hand in hers.

"Thank you," she whispered, "for sharing this with me.  It means a lot to me."

"You don't hate me?" Chandler whispered.

"No," Monica said, and gave his hand a squeeze, "but I think I need some time…you know, to digest all of this.  You are certainly not the man I fell in love with," Monica laughed, but stopped when Chandler gave her a pained look.

"Do you think—do you think you'll be able to love the man you know now?" he asked softly, his voice filled with trepidation and hope.

"I think—I think I need to get to know that man a little better first," Monica smiled, "But things look good so far."

~New York City~

"This was his last known address, before he moved to London," the tall man whispered, as his partner rifled through the drawers and cabinets of the apartment.

"I doubt we'll find much here," the other man sighed, and pulled open a desk drawer.  A small photo caught his eye, and he pulled it out, his eyes lighting up as he studied it.

"Well, perhaps this lovely creature can tell us something," the man smiled, his thumb running over the dark-haired woman that sat on Nicholas' lap in the photo.

"Someone's coming," the tall man said, and both men retreated into a vacant bedroom as the apartment door swung open.

~Scotland~

A thick, dark gray fog settled over the Scottish village, and enveloped the tiny cottage that sat on the village outskirts.  Inside, the cottage was filled with a warm, buttery glow, and two people sat in an old, overstuffed chair, wrapped in a thin blanket, talking into the night, learning more about each other, and dreaming of a future without assassins and danger…

TBC