AN: It's done!  It's finished!  I finally finished this damn thing!!  Ugh.

Can I retire now? lol.

.

The Age of Aquarius

Chapter Thirty: The Last Song

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it's all right

.

Hovering in the blissful state between wake and dreams, Chandler could feel the warm caress of early morning sun lining his exposed cheek.  Groaning slightly, he turned his head, only to be met with an onslaught of the sun's intense rays. 

He squinted, and rubbed his weary eyes with the heels of his hands, as he was reluctantly pulled into consciousness.

It was then that he became acutely aware of his surroundings: he was on a couch.  He was on Her couch, in Her apartment, wrapped in Her blanket, which happened to hold Her unmistakable, unique scent.

He'd recognize that smell anywhere.

He inhaled deeply, and smiled contently, as he allowed himself a moment to recall the previous night:

Her voice, carried by the winter winds, sending him into a state of near-shock; her silent invitation, at the very moment that he felt anger and jealously slide through him, when he still believed that she had moved on; his relief upon hearing that she was in fact, not married; his shock at the sight of her son, a tiny replica of her, with dark hair and intense azure eyes; and his absolute bliss when her lips finally met his.

They kissed, and talked, but mostly, they held each other, both still unsure that what they were experiencing was real.  He explored her face with his hands, and his eyes, while she traced the various scars that covered his face, hands and arms.  Both longed for more, but knew that they would have to wait a bit longer—there was still too much that had been left unsaid.  Eventually, the sun began it's ascent, and she reluctantly admitted that she needed to get at least a few hours of sleep, or Jake would driver her mad in the morning.  She offered her couch, when it became evident that the snowstorm had become an unwieldy blizzard.  He'd agreed, more out of a need to keep her near to him, than out of concern surrounding the storm's hazards.

.

Chandler sighed, and sat up slowly, and noted that he was alone in the room.  The apartment was so quiet, in fact, that he started when the bathroom door opened, and Monica emerged, her hair wrapped in a deep red towel, her body wrapped in a blue cotton robe.

"You're awake," she smiled brightly, her eyes glistening.

"Just barely," he smiled in return, "been up long?"

"Long enough to know that you mumble incoherently in your sleep," Monica grinned wryly, "I don't remember you doing that before."

Chandler's smile faded, and his eyes suddenly became distant.

"Yeah," he mumbled absently, as he looked down at the blanket that still half-covered his legs.

Monica's brow furrowed, and she hesitantly took a step toward him.

"Are you okay?  Did I say something wrong?" she asked, concern lining her voice.

Chandler looked up suddenly; the murkiness that had once lined his eyes nearly vanished.

"No, no—I was just…thinking, I guess."

"About?" Monica circled the couch, and plopped down next to him.

"Us.  I mean…I want this…I want you…but—it's not like it was…before."

Monica smiled, and Chandler felt a wave of relief sweep over him.

"Of course it's not.  I know that.  We've both…changed.  But I still love you," she whispered the final sentence reverently, and her eyes welled up with tears.

"I love you too," Chandler smiled softly, and kissed Monica tenderly on the lips.

"We have a lot to talk about," Monica swallowed hard, knowing that her revelations could change everything.

Before she had a chance to speak, the door opened, and Rachel walked in, humming softly to herself.

"Oh, hey you two," Rachel smiled wryly, and Monica's cheeks flushed.

"Rach, um, Jonathan's still sleeping…"

"That's fine, I just came to grab some food," Rachel said quickly, "but I can go out—"

"Don't be silly," Monica sighed, but as she stood up she shot Chandler an apologetic glance, "I'll pull something together.  Jake will be up soon anyway." Monica walked toward the kitchen, and after a moment of tense indecision, Chandler stood and followed her.  He nodded a silent greeting to Rachel, and plopped down into one of the pale wooden chairs at the table.

"Um, Chandler, I told Joey you were here last night," Rachel said, her mouth turned down slightly, "I thought he'd be happy, but—"

"He wasn't," Chandler nodded and studied the table.  Monica turned to look at him, but when he wouldn't look at her, she turned to Rachel.

"Why wouldn't he be happy?"

"He wouldn't say," Rachel shrugged, then looked back at Chandler, "maybe you should talk to him?"

Chandler nodded, but kept his eyes on the table in front of him.

"Chandler, what's going on?" Monica asked, as she sat down on a chair next to him.

He looked up finally, his face a blank slate.

"I don't know."

Monica bit her lip and looked up at Rachel, both of them wondering what could have possibly happened to tear the friends apart.  Monica looked back at Chandler, and placed a supportive hand on his forearm.

"Honey, maybe you should talk to him.  Find out what's going on?"

"He's awake, and right across the hall.  The door's open," Rachel added.

Chandler nodded, and sighed deeply, before standing and making his way toward the door.  He stole one last look at Monica, before disappearing into the hallway.  Monica shivered, the look of hopelessness that Chandler carried startling her.

She was suddenly beginning to realize the gravity of Chandler's words.  He had changed.  They'd all changed.  And if time and distance could tear apart a friendship, did they really stand a chance?

"Mon?  You okay?" Rachel's voice cut through her reverie.

"Hmm?  Yeah, I was just…thinking." A moment of silence followed, broken only when Monica spoke again.

"Rach, do you think you would have married Ross…if he hadn't gone to war?"

Rachel looked up at Monica, and bit her lip as she pondered her reply.

"Probably…I mean, most likely, yes.  I never stopped loving Ross.  I still love him—I mean, a part of me still loves him.  But when I thought he was…while he was gone, I…I guess I changed.  I began to see things in a different light.  I know that Ross would do anything to make me happy, but I also know that now, after all that's happened, no one but Joey could give me what I need."

Monica nodded, and studied her hands, as she fumbled with a dishrag nervously.

"Chandler…is different.  He's…sadder, and…more subdued, I guess.  But I look at him, and I feel…whole.  I feel like I've been drifting, and now…now I've been found.  It's like we hardly know each other, yet…I can't imagine not being with him.  Is that crazy?" Monica looked up at Rachel, a river of tears running down her flushed cheeks.

"No, honey, it's not crazy.  I saw the way he looked at you, and I know that he feels the same—it'll take time—but you will find each other again."

Monica nodded.

"I haven't told him about Jake yet.  He may not want me—us when he finds out."

"Perhaps.  But Monica, we've done okay, on our own, for so long.  You'll be okay.  No matter what happens, everything will be okay."

Monica sighed, and stood up, busying herself with breakfast preparations.  Rachel stood, and pulled her into a deep hug.

"We'll get through this, Mon."

Monica closed her eyes, and let herself believe that to be true.

~**~

Chandler stood in the darkened hallway, his eyes focused on the brass numbers that were nailed to the door in front of him.

He felt his insides roll with anticipation—memories of his last encounter with Joey floating uneasily through his head.

Taking a deep, shaky breath, Chandler knocked on the door.

"It's open," came a muffled reply.

Chandler turned the knob and pushed the door open, before slowly walking into the apartment.

Joey looked up as the door opened, his expression darkening slightly as Chandler entered.

"Hey, Joe," Chandler smiled uneasily, "can we, uh…can we talk?"

"I guess," Joey shrugged noncommittally, and wheeled toward the kitchen.

Chandler walked fully into the apartment, and closed the door softly behind him.  He hesitated slightly before turning back to Joey, his mind trying desperately to reach for some way to break the ice.

When he finally turned to face Joey, he found his (former?) friend staring at him darkly, his arms folded tightly across his chest.

"So…you and Rachel, huh?" Chandler smiled slightly.

"Yeah," Joey nodded, and for a moment, Chandler caught a glimpse of the happiness that Joey was fighting hard to conceal.  Silence filled the room again, and Chandler cleared his throat and stared at his shoes, his hands now shoved firmly in his pockets.

"Did you come over to ask me about Rachel?" Joey asked slowly.

"N-no…I…Joey, I just…I don't know what happened, to make you hate me so much, and I know that after I was found, I couldn't recall a lot of my time over there, so I thought maybe something happened, and maybe I'm still missing some memories—" Realizing suddenly that he was rambling, Chandler paused and looked down at Joey pleadingly.

Joey sighed heavily and shook his head.

"I don't hate you, Chandler.  Not really.  Not anymore," Joey replied softly, his voice filled with exhaustion.

"But you did…what did I do?" Chandler approached Joey's chair, before falling to his knees next to him, "you're my best friend, man.  You have to tell me what I can do to fix this."

"I hated you for saving me," Joey blurted, then fell silent, as his cheeks flushed slightly.

"What?" Chandler's brow furrowed.

"You…pulled me out of that…place, and then I had to sit in some disease-infested hospital for weeks, before being shipped back here, to spend the rest of my life in this damn thing," Joey hit his chair angrily.

"All I wanted was to die.  At least then I'd be some kind of hero, instead of a freak who fought in this war everyone detests now.  I hate the way people look at me now, and I hate living like this…and I guess I thought that if you'd just…fucking left me there…I would've been better off, ya know?"

Chandler nodded silently, his head bowed and his hands sitting lifelessly in his lap.

"But then…I dunno, things got better.  Rachel—" Joey smiled slightly, as he spoke of his girlfriend, "Rachel came into my life, and…things started looking up.  And I guess some of that anger went away.  But then I saw you, and you looked at me that way everyone does, and I just—"

"I'm sorry for that Joe—and I'm sorry that you lost your leg," Chandler looked up at Joey, his eyes fierce, "but I'm not going to apologize for saving your life.  Maybe it was selfish of me, but I wasn't about to let you rot in that…prison," Chandler pulled himself up, and walked across the room, his hands running through his hair.  "If you're gonna hate me for that, there's nothing I can do.  I just—I can't say that I'm sorry for pulling you out of there.  I won't."

Joey wheeled toward Chandler, an indecipherable look on his face.

"I don't want you to," Joey smiled, and extended his hand, "if it weren't for you, I woulda never met Rachel."

Chandler smiled, and took Joey's hand.  Joey pulled Chandler toward him, and they hugged tightly.

"You hungry?  Monica's cooking," Chandler smiled.

"Hell yeah," Joey grinned, "So you two are back together, huh?"

Chandler's smile faded slightly, and he nervously rubbed the back of his neck.

"I'm, uh, not sure yet.  I mean, we still have a lot to work out—"

"Whatever man," Joey shook his head as the two men headed toward the door; "You were ridiculously hung up on her in Vietnam.  And I've heard her talking about you, too.  You'll be fine."

"I hope so," Chandler muttered, as he and Joey crossed the hall and entered Monica's apartment.

Monica, Rachel, Jonathan and Jake were seated around the table, and all four looked up as Chandler and Joey entered.

"Hey, you guy worked everything out?" Monica grinned, and stood to kiss Chandler briefly.

"Yeah," both men acknowledged, as Chandler sat down, and Joey wheeled up to the table.

"So now that everything is okay, maybe we can all hang out together." Rachel smiled.

Joey nodded, and Monica and Chandler exchanged a short look, before nodding slightly.

Rachel noted the hesitation, and shook her head slightly, before standing and pulling Jonathan out of his highchair.

"I'm gonna take Jonathan back over to Ross'," Rachel announced and looked over at Monica pointedly, "I'll be out all day."

Monica smiled at Rachel, and mouthed a silent 'thank you' as Rachel began gathering Jonathan's bags.

"Joey, why don't you come with me," Rachel added.

"But I'm hungry, babe!" Joey whined.

"We'll stop by the deli on the way to Ross'," Rachel replied sternly, "Let's go."

"Fine," Joey grumbled, and followed Rachel and Jonathan out of the apartment, "See you guys," he said, as he closed the door softly behind him.

"Alone at last," Monica smiled nervously, then looked at Jake, "Honey, why don't you go wash your hands," she instructed softly.

Jake tore his eyes away from Chandler, and looked up at his mother, "Kay," he grumbled, and scrambled into the bathroom.

Chandler watched the child run off, a small smile on his face.

"He looks just like you, Mon."

Monica said nothing; she kept her eyes on the table, her hands wringing nervously in front of her.

"Mon?" Chandler turned to her, "what's wrong?"

Monica looked up, and took a deep breath.

"He's yours."

He stared at her, for an immeasurable amount of time, his jaw loose and his eyes wide.  Had he heard her right?  Jake was his son?  His mind was reeling.  Of course, the timing was right—and Monica had made it clear that she still loved him…that she hadn't really moved on.  Jake came traipsing out of the bathroom, and Chandler turned to look at him.

And it was as though he was looking at Jake for the first time.

The child looked up at Chandler, and in that instant, he knew…and he realized that somewhere, deep down, he'd known the moment he'd seen him.

While it was true that Jake bore an unmistakable resemblance to his mother, there was no doubt that this child was his—it wasn't Monica's eyes he found himself looking into—it was his own.

"Are you…okay?" Monica asked softly.  Chandler turned to look at her, and for the first time since their reunion, she saw him—his eyes were filled with emotion—with shock and…elation?  Tears lined his eyes, and tumbled out onto his cheek as he nodded vehemently.

She watched, as he turned to look at Jake again.  He stood up, and approached the four-year old cautiously, before crouching down in front of him.

"Hey Jake…H-how are you?"

"Fine…are you my mom's friend?"

"Yes, I am…is that okay?"

Jake shrugged.

"Do you like baseball?"

Jake shrugged again.

"Maybe you and I can…go to a game sometime?" Chandler smiled.

Jake smiled brightly and nodded, then dashed to his bedroom.  Chandler stood slowly, and turned to Monica.

"I hope that's okay," Chandler said softly, "me hanging out with him."

Monica grinned widely, stood up and approached Chandler, before wrapping her arms securely around his neck, "Of course it's okay.  He's your son too."

Chandler's smile faded, and he pulled away from Monica, sending a wave of panic through her.

"About that Mon…I want to be here for Jake…and for you…but—"

"But?" Monica felt her heart stop, and she stood, rooted to her spot, her hands clenched tightly.

"Before you let me…there are some things about me you should know."

"Okay," Monica relaxed slightly, but stayed frozen to her spot.

"When I was…over there…some things happened to me.  It's a long story, but I ended up lost, and injured, and…I was ready to die, ya know?  Then these people found me…and they helped me, and they let me stay with them, as long as I protected them from the Viet Cong.

"One day, this little boy walked into the village—he was not much older than Jake…" Chandler paused, and looked toward Jake's room, his eyes dark and heavy.  He started slightly, and looked back down at his hands.

"There was a bomb strapped to his torso…he was instructed to destroy the village.  I tried to get the bomb off of him…but there wasn't time…there wasn't any time…"

Monica walked toward Chandler, and took his hands in hers.  He looked up at her, and sighed deeply.

"I shot him.  I killed him.  He was so small…"

"Chandler—"

"It haunts me, ya know?  And I wanted you to know, because I wanted you to understand—and if you don't want me around Jake, I understand that."

"Sweetie, what you did, you had to do—I understand that.  If you want to be Jake's father, I want you to be his father too."

"I do," Chandler smiled, and kissed Monica passionately, just as Jake emerged from his room.

"Chandler, I made this for you!" Jake ran toward Chandler, as he crouched to greet the child.  Jake handed him a piece of white paper, and smiled proudly.

On the paper, was an indecipherable drawing made of crayon—an orange circular object, next to a smaller, blue object.

"It's me and you," Jake said, pointed to each object.

Chandler nodded, then pulled Jake into a hug.

"I love it."

~***~

"So, what do you think?"

"It's huge!" Phoebe said excitedly, "And look at the view!  This place is amazing, Mike, you should definitely take it," Phoebe wandered around the living room of the bare apartment, her eyes scanning the large picture windows and ornate crown molding, her heels clomping loudly on the hardwood floor.

"I'll take it…if you agree to move in with me," Mike smiled, and shoved his hands into his pockets nervously.

Phoebe spun around to face Mike, her eyes wide.

"Wh-what?"

"I want you to live here…with me."

Phoebe felt her heart race, and she nearly smiled…but her instincts kicked in, and her expression hardened.

"I don't need charity, Mike, I'm doing okay on my own."

Mike shook his head, and approached Phoebe, before taking her hands in his.

"Phoebe, it's not a hand out.  I just want to spend every minute of every day with you—that's not charity, that's pure selfishness, baby."

Phoebe's eyes softened, and she let out a short laugh.

"Ah, see, gotcha laughing," Mike pulled Phoebe into a hug.

"Okay fine, I'll move in," Phoebe's voice was muffled in Mike's shoulder, "but I'm only doing this for you."

"Great," Mike pulled away, and smiled at Phoebe, "I'm gonna go talk to the manager, if you wanna wander around our apartment a little more."

"Okay," Phoebe giggled, and watched Mike run out of the room.  She sighed and shook her head, a wide grin plastered on her face.  She wandered back to one of the windows, and leaned against the frame heavily.

The window offered a spectacular view of Central Park, and the city that sprawled behind it.  It was hard to believe that she used to live down there, in a hovel of misery, wondering if she'd ever be as happy and carefree has she had been before the war.

Her mind wandered to Joey, and to Rachel and Monica. She wondered what they were doing now—were they still living in the Village?  She fought the urge to wander down to the Park to find out.  She thought about Chris, and all she had seen in San Francisco.  She'd felt something die in her the day Chris was killed, and she had been certain she would never recover from that.

She hadn't been looking for Mike, or even for happiness.  But Mike had given her back her hope, and for that, she would always love him.  It had taken time, but she slowly overcame her fear of losing him, her fear of losing everything again, because he told her that he was sure that they were meant to be together, and she'd believed it. 

She still believed it.

"You wanna go get some coffee or something?" Mike's voice broke through her reverie, and she turned to face him slowly.

"Sure," she smiled.

"I know this great little place by the Park…"

~**~

"Okay, I know you two are happy to be back together, but you aren't sixteen anymore!" Rachel sighed.

"Yeah, seriously, you two; get a room!" Ross added with disdain.

Monica and Chandler pulled apart, and glared at their friends mockingly, before settling into the large orange sofa together.

"This place is groovy," Joey said, in an attempt to change the subject, "I never noticed it before."

"Yeah, it was a Beat bar, I don't know why they changed it," Rachel sighed.

"I'm kind of glad they did, there was nowhere to sit before they remodeled," Monica replied.

"Oh my God.  Monica…isn't that Phoebe?"

Monica turned, just as Phoebe noticed the group.

"Phoebe?" Monica stood, and approached her old friend warily.

"Monica, hey," Phoebe smiled uncomfortably.

"I can't believe it's you!" Monica pulled Phoebe into a hug, "Do you have any idea how worried we've been?"

Phoebe relaxed slightly, and retuned Monica's hug.

"You were?"

"Of course we were, silly!" Rachel added, as she approached, "Come sit with us, and introduce us to this handsome guy here!"

Phoebe smiled at Mike, and he nodded, and followed the women to their seats in the corner of the small shop.

"This is Mike Hannigan.  Mike, this is Monica, and Joey and Rachel and…Chandler!  Chandler, you're okay!" Phoebe jumped around the sofa and pulled Chandler into a hug.

"Hey, Pheebs," he said softly.

"Anyway, I'm Ross," Ross laughed, "Monica's brother.  And this is my girlfriend Becca."

"Becca!  Oh my God!  It's like a reunion!" Phoebe jumped from Chandler to Becca, and pulled her into a fierce hug.

"Who would have thought, after all this time, we'd end up here?" Monica shook her head, and looked up at Chandler lovingly.  Chandler scanned the excited group of people, his eyes falling on his son, who was busy trying to persuade Jonathan into playing with him on the rug.  He smiled, and looked back at Monica.

"At least we ended up somewhere," he sighed.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it's all right

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting

Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it's all right

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

It's all right, it's all right

("Here Come The Sun", by George Harrison)

AN: Okay, the ending was ridiculously cheesy, but I was determined to make it all happy and crap.  There were one or two issues that I didn't directly resolve here—namely Chandler and his father and Monica and her parents.  If there is demand, and if I am so inspired, I may do one-pieces to deal with both.  I just can't write this thing anymore, oye.  That's it, I'm done!!!  Pleeeeease review!