They danced through the night. At about 4am Monica was tired and wanted to sleep. Chandler watched her as she drifted off. He felt all glowy for a couple of minutes, but then the panic started to set in.
He didn't know what started it but once it came he couldn't stop it. And he definitely couldn't sleep.
He got up to get a glass of water.
He got as far as the couch and jumped.
"What the hell...Joey?"
Joey was at the fridge helping himself to pizza.
"Chandler I'm sorry - I know you guys probably wanted to be alone - what with the proposal and all - but this pizza is so good. I couldn't resist. It was calling me 'Joey, Joey, come and eat me - I taste good'. So obviously I had to do what it said."
"Is your fridge OK now Joey?" Chandler asked.
"Oh yeah - working like a dream."
"So why the hell can't you keep your own pizza in your own apartment? Or, hey, I've got an idea - you can keep extra pizza on your boat."
"Hey. Yeah. I hadn't thoughta that. Thanks Chandler. You're a pal."
Joey sat down at the kitchen table. Chandler stared at him for a second and then shook his head. "All right Joe. You can go back to your place now."
"No I don't wanna. I can't sleep. And it looks like neither can you. I would have thought you and Monica would be all snuggled up by now."
Chandler pulled up a seat and joined Joey at the table. "Yeah. Me too. You know Joe. I'm beginning to think maybe this wasn't such a good idea."
"Already? You only just asked her to marry you!"
"Yeah I know but..." Chandler rubbed his eyes. Maybe if he concentrated on something else he could put off thinking whatever the hell it was he was thinking, "So you can't sleep Joey. Why can't you sleep. You worried or something?"
"Yeah I'm worried. I just bought a boat Can't pay for, I'm working on a TV show called Mac and Cheese - which, frankly, Iím beginning to think is not exactly the best show in the world - and my best friend in all the world is getting married."
"Joe - the last bit is a good thing."
"Yeah sure," Joey said, shovelling more pizza into his mouth.
"Listen , maybe we should go and find an all-night coffee place or something. Talk somewhere where we won't disturb Monica. She's not all that heavy a sleeper, " Chandler was still wearing his clothes from the night before. Joey was wearing his captain's uniform. "And you might want to wear something a little less Village People to go out in Joe."
They eventually found a place. It was no Central Perk, but at that time of the morning most of the places were filled with pimps, drug dealers and prostitutes. This place was almost empty, apart from the couple in the corner. It was too dark to tell if they were a man and a woman, two women or two men. Chandler didn't peer to closely to find out.
"Joey, what is this all about? You seemed happy for me last night. I'm marrying Monica - why are you so upset all of a sudden?"
"I'm not upset," Joey started, "yeah all right maybe a little. OK, I'm upset. You satisfied, you finally got it outta me."
"I love Monica. I'm going to spend the rest of my life with the woman I love. She is my...oh my god, I'm marrying Monica. What am I thinking?" Chandler started to hyperventilate.
"You all right? Chandler, Chandler," Joey got up and rushed to Chandler's side of the booth, "Calm down buddy. Don't be scared." Joey clasped Chandler in a big hug until he stopped shaking, "That's right pal, deep breaths, everything's going to be all right."
Chandler rested in Joey's arms, sobbing quietly.
"I'm sorry Joe. I think I might have made a big mistake. I love Monica - I love her so much. But, oh god, I don't think I'm in love with her. Shit - I'm starting to sound like my dad."
Chandler pulled away from Joey's arms.
"Joe. I think I may have made the biggest mistake of my entire life. And if I back out it's going to kill Monica."
"If you go ahead with it will you be happy?"
"You sound like you want me to back out."
"Maybe I do."
"But Joey - you're my best friend. Why? Why would you not be happy for me when I've found the perfect woman, the best mom in the whole world?"
"You just said 'the best mom in the whole world'"
"No I didn't - why would I say such a thing?"
"You tell me Chandler."
"But it's you who doesn't want to marry Monica," Chandler said.
"I never wanted to marry Monica."
"My point exactly," /ohmygod/ Chandler thought. It was true. Monica was the mother he'd always dreamed of having when he was a child. A mom who'd pick up his stuff, and tell him off when he was bad and make sure he was eating right. A mom who didn't leave him with a nanny for 23 hours out of 24. And he didn't want to let Monica down the way his dad had let his mom down. He suddenly realized there was no way he could do this to Monica.
"Joey. I'm going to level with you. I don't think I can marry Monica."
"I know it - you love me don't you?"
"What?" Chandler was shocked.
"Phoebe was right. She told me this was going to happen. I told her she was wrong - but I knew it!"
"Phoebe said I love YOU?" Phoebe. He was going to kill her when he next saw her.
"She said it was only a matter of time, and Monica knew it too, she just won't admit it to herself," Joey was grinning triumphantly.
"Joey - why are you smiling? You think this is a good thing that I love you. Not that I do love you of course. That would be ridiculous."
"Yep - Pheebs said you'd say that too."
"Phoebe knows everything doesn't she?" She was so dead.
"She said you'll probably go through with marrying Monica but it'll be a huge disaster and you'll end up with me eventually."
"Why would she say that... ah wait, I see what you're doing - you're trying to freak me out so I'll go back and forget I ever had any doubts!"
"Well no. I'm not that clever. Besides...I don't want you to go back to Monica. I already said I love you."
"No you didn't - now you're trying to catch me out. You said Phoebe said I loved you - you never said you love me."
"Well now I am. I love you Chandler. I always have and I always will. I only realized it lately - but it's true."
Chandler was sitting rigidly at this. He didn't know what to say. He'd asked Monica to marry him and now the whole world had gone mad. Eventually he recovered enough to speak. It was strangulated but just about recognisable as words.
"But Joe - you like girls."
"No not really. Sure they're great, soft and they smell good and they always respond well to the Joey Tribbiani style. But I've been branching out lately. You never noticed cause you were too busy with Monica."
"You've been branching out. What does that...I don't even know what that means."
"Well you remember in Vegas I got so worked up about my hand twin?"
"Yeah sure. You're nuts, what can I say."
"Well Chandler - not even I am stupid enough to think there's any money in having a hand twin. I was just trying to find a way to pick-up the guy, discreetly."
"You call that discreet Joe - you chased him half way around Vegas - you wouldn't leave the poor guy alone!"
"Hey, I was new at it. You've got to let me make a few mistakes.And that identical twin guy. You remember..."
"He looked nothing like you Joey."
"No see that's my point. I really liked him - and I thought it was because he looked like me. But really it was because I wanted him. Phoebe explained it to me. But it was too late. He's gone to Germany to star in porn."
Chandler stared at his friend dumbfounded. This was unbelievable. Joey, his best friend in the world was gay. It couldn't be. Joey the babe-magnet was trying to pick up strange men in the most desperate ways. The poor guy must be going through hell.
"And, wait a minute - let me get this straight..." Chandler paused, possibly not the best choice of words in the circumstances, "Phoebe knows about this. Phoebe has actually been encouraging you?"This was the same Phoebe who'd gone along to help pick Monica's engagement ring. It didn't add up somewhere.
"Phoebe likes to keep secrets. She's very good at it. She's known about this for months."
"Sure she has. And she's been trying to see how you'd react. She has this theory about you."
"Theory? Phoebe has a theory?" He didn't want to know. This was all too bizarre now.
"Sure. And you know that lobster thing. She says you and me are each otherís lobsters. Monica's lobster is still out there - but you're not it."
"Ah - what does Phoebe know anyway?" Chandler got up and rushed out of the cafe. Joey didn't follow. Best give him time to cool off.
Chandler didn't appear the next day. Or the day after that. Monica was frantic. So was Joey - but he didn't want to show it.
"Where could he be? I've driven him away!" Monica yelled as she paced the apartment.
"Where does he usually go when he's upset?" Joey was getting a headache.
"You told him didn't you?" Phoebe whispered. Joey looked at her mournfully.
"I called his mother - she hasn't seen him. And I've called all the hospitals," Monica sobbed.
"Have you tried his father?" Phoebe asked.
"No. Why would I do that? Chandler hasn't spoken to his dad in years. When we were in Vegas I wanted him to introduce me to him - but he wouldn't go visit even then."
"Yeah but I think his dad might know something. Just a hunch," Phoebe said.
"Phoebe - do you know something?" Monica asked.
"I know lots of things. Oh, you mean about Chandler. Well I could go on all week about my Chandler theories - but you don't want to hear them right now."
"Phoebe - Chandler is NOT gay. Stop saying it."
"Yeah whatever." Phoebe said.
It took weeks to track down Chandler's father. His troupe was on tour - they'd been travelling the country for two months and were actually in New York for an extended run.
The theatre was off-off-off-off Broadway. If it were any further off it would be in Kansas.
The show was tacky, but well thought-out.
And Chandler's father wasn't exactly what they were expecting.
Chandler had painted a picture of a drunken, boy-chasing, draggy, middle-aged queen.
In reality he was more like Chandler than Chandler.
Monica introduced everyone, "Mr Bing. We're here because Chandler has gone missing. We thought you might know where he's gone."
'Mr Bing' sighed. "I'm afraid I haven't seen Chandler for a while. He didn't react well when his mother and I split up. I'm really sorry young lady, he isn't here."
Monica nodded, "Yeah, I'm sorry. If he does contact you can you tell him Mon was looking for him. Tell him I stopped by with Joey and Phoebe."
"Joey?" Mr Bing said in spite of himself.
"Yeah. This is Joey - you have seen Chandler haven't you? What did he say," Monica looked up at Chandler's father, demanding an answer.
"Monica. I'm sure you're a lovely girl. But Chandler realizes he's made a mistake. Just let him be."
"Why did you say 'Joey' like that?"
Joey didn't say anything. He knew Chandler was there. He didn't know how and he didn't know why. While Monica was trying to get an answer from Chandler's father he sneaked out of the room and towards the stage. On his way there he bumped into some very attractive, very tall women, they giggled deeply and Joey smiled.
"How you doing?" he said. He suddenly paused. Oh. My God. "Chandler? What the hell you doing dressed like that?"
"Joey? What the hell are you doing here? I'm trying to make a fresh start." Chandler blinked. His false eyelashes brushed his cheek.
"This is a fresh start - you're a drag queen? What were you thinking?"
"Ok so I went a bit far. I was just trying to find myself. Like father like son eh?"
"Chandler have you gone mad? I mean not that you don't look very attractive. In fact, my god, you're beautiful, but don't you think this is a little extreme? You are not your father. You don't have to be like your father. Loving me does not mean you have to perform in some terrible revue. No offense ladies," Joey nodded at some of the other 'showgirls'.
"I NEVER said I love you."
"Then what the hell is this about? You cracked up and decided to join the circus? Why?"
"Maybe this is me. Maybe I like doing this. Maybe I do love you. But that doesn't mean I have to be with you. Maybe I just need to be punished for a while!"
"Maybe you've gone mad! Come 'ere!" Joey grabbed Chandler and forced him into one of their frequent hugs. He buried his head in the feathers of Chandler's costume. Then he looked up and into Chandler's heavily made up eyes. "I missed you man - don't do this to me again." Joey kissed Chandler. The lipstick was thick but it tasted of strawberries.
Monica and Phoebe came round the corner. Monica gasped, "Um Joey - you know these are not real girls don't you?" She said.
Joey looked up. Monica noticed the face of the person he was kissing. It didn't register at first, but then, "Oh my god. Chandler?"
"Chandler!" Phoebe said.
"Yes it's Chandler. Yes I'm kissing Joey. I'm sorry Mon. I didn't mean it to happen like this. I think perhaps I've gone mad. But I don't care. But you can keep that beautiful ring. It's what I would have liked to have worn if I ever got married."
"Oh my god. Chandler. Are you mental?" Monica stormed off. Phoebe followed.
"Mon. Wait. He's not your lobster. You know it. I'm sorry I didn't say anything sooner. Monica, don't cry. You'll find the right person. They may be closer than you think!" Phoebe hugged Monica as she sobbed. Poor Mon. Never mind - Phoebe would make it better. But not yet. It was too soon.
Back on the stage the showgirls had started cheering for Chandler and Joey.
Chandler's dad tried to herd them away to let his son get a bit of privacy. Didn't want this turning into a live sex show. But if they stayed much longer...
Afterwards the two men lay on the empty stage, exhausted and slightly splintered.
"That was incredible Chandler, but can you do me a favour?"
"No make-up next time - and definitely no feathers - I'm a bit ticklish."
"Yeah I noticed, " Chandler grinned, tickling him some more.
Joey smiled and let him get on with it. One thing about Chandler - he was full of surprises. And he looked wonderful tonight. Even with mascara all down his face.