And Baby Makes Four

By Converted to HTML by guineapig

And Baby Makes Four
Two's Company - Three's a Party

"Are they still in there?" Joey gestured towards Rachel's closed bedroom door.

Chandler nodded, his mouth stuffed with some of Monica's latest brownies.

"How long have those two been at it this time? Two, three hours?"

Chandler swallowed and got out. "They were at it when I came in."

"God, they're insatiable." Joey grinned as the sound of giggling reached them from behind the closed door.

"I met you don't even know what that word means."

"I do so. It means - means not satiable."

"And what does satiable mean?"

"The opposite of insatiable."

Chandler rolled his eyes. "Let me guess. You had a brain transplant from Phoebe."

Rachel opened the door and stuck her head out. "Will you guys keep it down. We can't concentrate in here." She shut the door.

"Animals." Chandler said. Joey grinned. The giggling sounds got louder.

The apartment door swung open and Ross entered. "Hi, guys. What's up?"

Joey and Chandler stared at him. On seeing their expressions, he looked down at himself. "Is something wrong? Did I forget something?"

Rachel opened the door. "Oh there you are, sweetheart. You were late so the girls and I started without you."

"I'll be there in a second, honey." Ross placed his coat on the chair while Joey and Chandler exchanged looks.

"Uh, Ross, other girls?" Chandler asked.

"Sure. Rachel and I couldn't get it done alone so they're helping out."

Joey and Chandler exchanged looks before Joey said. "What're friends for."

Chandler sighed. "I wish I had friends like that."

Rachel opened the door again. "Are you coming, Ross? We can't finish without you."

"I'm coming." He shrugged. "Why they need me, is beyond me. They never like the variations I choose."

"I've had that problem a lot." Chandler turned to Joey. "Haven't you? Joey smiled. "Nope."

Ross dropped his coat on the chair. "Well, then if you're such a big expert maybe you should join us." He didn't even see they're shocked looks.

"Join you?" Joey finally managed to get out. Chandler's eyes were bulging.

"Sure, I'm just no good at deciding on color combinations for the baby's room and clothing. So Phoebe and Julie's friend Judy came over to help out."

"Baby?" They both chorused.

"Sure. They're all in there trying to decide on that right now." He looked in askance at them. "What did you think we were talking about?"

Chandler back peddled fast. "Why the baby of course. Just like you."

Joey chimed in. "Sure."

"Hey, I meant it when I said you could help. I could use a little support in there."

"Sorry, man, I've got something to do." Chandler said.

"Oh? Like what?"

He glanced quickly at his watch. "Where has the time gone? Sorry, Ross. I'm late." He dived out the door.

Joey backed out after him. "I'm with him." He shut the door, leaving Ross to face an evening of color coordinates and paint samples alone.

"That was close." Chandler said as they walked down the hall.

"Too close. How about a game of fooseball?"

"You're on."

You Breathe for Me and I'll Breathe for me

"I don't know why we have to do this." Ross complained as he looked around the Lamaze room. It looked like most of the other men agreed with him. Each one was paired off with a pregnant woman and looking like he wished he was somewhere else.

"Now you know we agreed to do this together Ross." Rachel replied as she looked around the room for the instructor.

"But it's Julie who's having the baby. You're not even pregnant."

"You know Julie's doctor told her to stay home and rest these last weeks because her mother'd had those miscarriages. Come on. It'll be so wonderful. It'll be good practice for when we have our first child." She gave him a kiss on the cheek and led him over to where a red-haired older woman was pontificating in front of a group of class members.

As Rachel talked to the instructor one of the men asked him. "First kid?"

"Second." Ross eyed the instructor in askance. She looked too much like a drill sergeant for his tastes.

"My first. Didn't take the course the first time, huh?"

"No. My wife's lesbian lover didn't want me to."

The man's eye brows went up and he looked Rachel over. "What a waste. I guess your wife over there had a change of heart."

"Rachel? She's not my wife, she's my girl friend."

"Got a new one, eh?" He gave Ross a dig with his elbow before inquiring. "How long until the baby's due?"

"Sometime next month." Ross' mind kept wandering. After an afternoon of discussing baby toys and furniture, his brain felt like Jello.

The man looked quickly again at Rachel and frowned. "She looks in really good shape. How does she do it? Aerobics? Special exercises?"

Ross shrugged. "Rachel always looks that way. She doesn't even jog."

"You're lucky, buddy. Mine swelled up as big as a hog and ten times as cranky when she reached her seventh month. Most broads don't look half as good as she does even when they're not expecting."

Ross started. He had a feeling he'd missed half the conversation. "Oh, Rachel's not pregnant. Julie is."

The man was looking thoroughly confused. "And Julie is your former wife?"

"No. She's my former girl friend. However, she couldn't come so Rachel came in her place."

"Buddy, you don't need Lamaze. You need therapy." The man sidled away from him and began talking with great animation to his wife who in turn stared at Ross as if she couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"I knew this was a mistake." Ross muttered.

Picasso She's Not

Over at Julie's apartment Monica had just finished applying the last touches of paint to the wall of the baby's room. She stepped back. "There. That's perfect."

Taneka leaned tiredly against the doorframe. "It should be. You've been repainting the same corner for the last half hour."

"You've got to get it perfect."

"It's a baby not a housing inspector." grumbled Taneka to herself. As Monica carried off her painting equipment, she wondered how Ross' sister could possibly paint a room without getting one speck of paint on herself? She wasn't going to ask. She'd already had a lecture on dipping a brush in paint and applying it evenly without spattering and on the just-so arrangement of each container, brush, and applicator. A compulsive neatness freak was what that girl was.

"We're all done." Monica announced to Julie who was just coming out of the bathroom.

"So soon?" Julie smiled on seeing Taneka's grimace. She allowed them to assist her down the hall so that she could see the room. "It's beautiful. You two did a wonderful job."

Monica beamed her thanks and turned around to pick up her coat. "I just wish there was more that I could do." She didn't see the face that Taneka made.

"It's amazing to me that you have so much free time to do this." Julie remarked. "I'd think that with being a full-time cook, you'd be very busy."

Monica made an embarassed gesture. "I'm not employed as a cook. I work at a terrible singing cafe as a waitress and that's only part time. I keep trying to get a restaurant job but something always seems to go wrong."

Julie got her purse out and dug out a card. "I know someone in the restaurant business and he's always looking for good cooks. You go to this address and tell George that I sent you." She scribbled something on the card and handed it to Monica.

Monica looked at the card. "Pierre's? That's one of the busiest French restraunts down town. They refused to even look at my resumes when I applied there earlier this year."

"They will this time. George knows that I'll give'em what for if he doesn't."

Monica smiled. "Thanks. I'll give it a try."

After she'd left, Taneka drawled. "Who're you trying to punish the most? Him or her?"

"Look at it this way. If she survives and he hires her, then you can get a rest."

"Thank God." Taneka slumped in a chair and pantomined total exhaustion.

Julie laughed.

Getting to Know You

Ross watched the head Lamaze instructor dividing the pupils up into teams. He saw that most of the teachers that stepped forward to take each assigned team were quite pretty. "This might not be too bad." He remarked to Rachel.

"Shhhh, Ross. They just called my name."

Ross stepped forward with her. He saw the man he'd been talking to earlier grimace as his name was called too. "I see we're together." He told him. The man's wife pulled him away before he could reply.

"D-team, your instructor will be Jackie." Ross looked up and saw a black-haired woman who looked to be in her late fourties or early fifties. She was nearly as tall as Rachel and had a very determined, no nonsense look to her.

"Don't worry, people." She said. "I haven't lost an expectant mother yet. A few fathers but no mothers."

Ross nudged Rachel. "At least she has a sense of humor."

Rachel gave him a look that said very plainly 'shut up.' while the instructor frowned as she glanced in his direction.

She ended her spiel with. "Now is there anyone who has special problems or needs before we begin?"

The man whom Ross had talked to earlier remarked from behind Ross. "Better believe it, sister."

The instructor glared at Ross. "Did you say something, sir?"

"Me? No."

The woman shrugged and went on with her introduction. She finished up with "Has anyone here had a baby before?"

Rachel raised her hand. "We have. I mean Ross here has." Ross looked at her in horror. This was carrying enthusiasm too far.

"Actually, I was referring to the expectant mothers but it's always good to hear some experience from the other side. After all you couldn't get the way you are without them." Some of the women giggled and a couple of the men grinned. She looked directly at Ross. "Could we, sir?"

"No, Sir, I mean mam." He blurted out. He hated pressure. He could never handle it.

"What can you tell us about having a baby?"

Ross began to talk and all his biology training came to the fore. By the time he was deeply into his subject about how the baby is born all covered with a green sheet of mucous and with its head deformed by passing through the pelvic opening several of the fathers looked like they were going to be ill. One woman said. "I don't think I want one now."

He trailed off, realizing that he should've been talking about Ben's birth and how wonderful it'd been. Damn his nerves. He'd screwed up again.

"Are you sure you're in the right class?" The instructor asked with a touch of irritation. "They teach biology over at Capitol."

"We're in the right class." Rachel hurried to placate her. "Ross is just a little nervous." The look she gave him did not alleviate that nervousness in any way.

"All right, I'll let it pass this time. Let's adjourn to room 255. It's where we'll be meeting from now on." As they filed by her she leaned over and whispered to Ross. "I've got my eye on you, boy. I don't like wise guys and you'd better behave yourself or I'll kick both of you out of here. I work all day for a law firm and one of my jobs is putting smart mouths behind bars."

As he followed her he thought. 'This is going to be so wonderful.' French Class

Monica gripped her resume folder tightly in her left hand as she gathered her courage to cross the street and enter the restaurant. Pierre's was housed in a very fashionable part of Fifth Avenue, surrounded by fancy stores and other restaurants. Monica knew that ten years ago Pierre's had replaced a fading series of lunch counters and beaneries. She'd been in it one time after the renovation and had been impressed that by combining the different rooms the owners had restored what had to have been an elegant restaurant from the 1890's. Pierre's was one of New York's biggest success stories. Did she have the guts to go in there and ask for a job? Well, she wouldn't find out by standing here.

The Maitre d' looked up from his small podium as she entered through the ornate brass-lined doors. "Can I help you, madam?"

She was glad she'd dressed in her best outfit. Memories of that cold day last winter when she'd ended up on her butt in the street while trying to get past a formidable guardian of the gate like this one made her hesitate. "I'm. I'm here to apply for a job."

"Oh? And at what position?" He tapped the menus he'd been marking on his podium.

"In the kitchen. I'm a cook." She was glad she'd not said chef. That was a term only reserved for those considered to be the best. It was a title that was earned and never bestowed.

"If you'll kindly leave your resume' with me, I'll see that it gets the proper consideration." He held out his limpid hand.

That was what the last twenty or so restaurants had told her. It was the equivalent of 'don't call us, we'll call you.' She gripped her resume' even tighter. "I was told to give it to George."

"Oh?" His hand was still stuck out. "And who told you this?"

"Julie." Damn. Where had she put that card? There it was. In the corner of the folder. "She said to give you this card and George would take care of me." She held it out to him in place of her resume'.

He took the card and glanced at it, did a double take, and looked at it much closer. His face flowed from its glacial smoothness to something remotely resembling a smile. "But of course. Why did you not say so earlier." He handed the card back to her. "If you'll follow me, please."

He led her through the elegant dining room with its sparkling glass chandeliers and past walls hung with what appeared to be copies of middle-age tapestries. He did not take her to the offices in the back like she was expecting but instead conducted her through the double doors into the sanctum of sanctums, the kitchen itself.

They were both almost knocked off their feet as a tall, imposing man, wearing a white chef's hat shoved rudely by them. He turned to call over his shoulder. "You will rue the day that you insulted me, Monsieure. I am a professional. I do not prepare party favors for children and I do not waste my talents on the unenlightened."

"Go and be damned then." Came the answering shout. "At Pierre's we do it only one way and that's the right way." The chef stormed through the dining room and out of sight.

"That? That was Francois?" Monica pointed after the departing back of the irritated chef. The man had an international reputation for his cuisine but was just as well known for his temper. If the restaurant employed people like him, then her chances of being hired were slender to nonexistent.

"Unfortunately, yes." The Maitre d' replied. "Third time this month he's done this to us. Won't be the last either." He opened the door and ushered her in. "Boss, Julie's sent us another one."

Monica couldn't see anyone that he could be talking to but an out-pouring of swear words directed her attention to a series of large frying vats. The man who was working under them finished his string of expletives with. "That's all that I need right now, another dewy-eyed cooking school graduate who thinks they have what it takes to satisfy the demanding palates of our customers. God-damned temperature control." This was followed by a series of hammerings and more curses. "There." The man heaved himself up from under the vats.

He turned out to be nearly as tall as Monica, fairly well-built and handsome in a rugged way with black hair and very pronounced Asian features. "Well, let's see what my fool of a sister has tried to unload on me this time."

"You're Julie's brother?" Monica managed to get out.

"Not the best sobriquet to be known by, but yes I am and you're?" He wiped his hands on an oily rag.

"Monica, Monica Geller." She managed to remember to hand him the resume'. She was going to kill Julie when she saw her for not telling her.

He glanced at it. "Good school and I see you worked at Max's." He leafed through the papers and then paused. "I see you had a problem at Max's." His eyebrows went up. "A big problem."

Monica swallowed. Here it came. "I made a mistake. It was my first job and I didn't know what the rules were. I foolishly accepted a very small kick-back which I was told was a gift. When I found out that it was against the restaurant rules I offered to make full restitution, but the owner refused and fired me."

He frowned. "I don't know..." He paused as he came across the card from Julie that she'd left accidently in the folder. He looked at it closely before he asked. "Do you know what Julie wrote on here?"

"No. I don't read chinese."

"Actually it's not. Just because a person is Asian does not automatically mean they're Chinese." Monica cringed inwardly, realizing she'd really stepped in it. Her chances of getting hired were getting less and less by the minute.

"Julie says she's calling in a lifetime favor that I owe her and that I have to give you a chance." He considered this for a moment before he asked. "Are you worthy of such trust?"

Monica hoped she was but out loud she said. "Try me and we'll both find out."

The Maitre d' chuckled. "This one's got some spirit to her, boss."

George didn't even look up. "Don't you have the lunch menus to finish, Frank?"

"Sure, boss, but before you decide to let her go, just remember Francois walked out again, we have the Preston party this afternoon and since you're attending the Shultz barmitzvah you can't be in two places at once." He left humming to himself.

"I hate it when he's right. Come here." George led the way over to a table where the preparations for a dinner had been underway. Three sub-cooks who'd been standing around with concerned looks on their faces as they stared from each other back to the table scuttled out of his way. He pointed at the dishes and the partly filled pans and pots which had not been moved to the stoves yet.

"Do you recognize what Francois was preparing here?"

Monica studied the fixings and tenatively tasted the sauce in one of the dishes in which the vegetables were floating. This was very familiar. She'd never prepared this particular dinner but she'd seen one like it one time during her cooking classes and when Ross had given her that fancy French cookbook for Christmas she'd driven nearly all her friends crazy with all the different dishes she'd prepared and a couple had been just like this. "Yes. I think I do."

His eyebrows lifted at this. "If I told you to prepare twice the number of dishes you see here by two this afternoon, what would you say?" His black eyes regarded her carefully, awaiting her response.

She swallowed. "If that's why Francois left, I'd have to agree with him."

"That's not why he left. Why won't or can't you do it?" His fingers drummed on the table top, indicating his irritation with her vagueness.

Monica took a deep breath. Here was where she lost her chance if he was unreasonable. "Because you'd be asking the impossible. The vegetables and the beef have to be marinated separately in specially prepared sauces for twenty-four hours before you can cook them. If you didn't," She made a face to indicate what the meal would taste like.

For the first time a slight smile crossed his lips. "You're right and you pass. Very well, Ms. Geller, I'll give you a chance. Please supervise the preparations of dinner for forty. You'll find the makings for the other twenty specials in the walk-in cooler next to the Hobarth mixers. Put on the required garments and get to it." He turned on his heel and left.

"Don't just stand there with your mouth open, honey." A rolly-polly Asian girl who'd been observing the whole procedings with increasing amusement tossed a white apron to Monica. "If George says hop, you hop."

Monica put on the apron. "Now where were we in the preparations and did Francois give you any instructions?" Fortunately she carried a hair net in her purse and she knew she was going to have to wash thoroughly before she touched any of the food but she might as well as get the others started.

"Francois hadn't had time to do so before he and the boss blew up." One of the assistants told her.

Monica frowned. She needed to know temperatures and cooking times. "Which one of you is the apprentice cook?" In fact why hadn't he or she just stepped in? That person should know almost as much as Francois. When they gave her a blank look she suddenly realized why he'd been so anxious to have her start. "You don't have one?"

"She got a job at the Clarendon and left yesterday, Miss." One of the other kitchen workers volunteered. "There isn't anybody here who knows what to do." The others nodded.

"Oh shit." Monica thought. She was going to have to wing it and Ross had a better chance of finding a live dinosaur at the museum than she did of getting this exactly right. There went her big chance.

Every Five Year Can Do It. Why Can't I?

"All right, tovaritz Chandler, I have placed parts a1 through bb10 in the order called for, but I still don't see how this assembles." Alexi looked in disgust at the complex array of pieces laid out before him on the dresser in the baby's room in Julie's appartment.

"The instructions say it can be assembled by a five-year old." Chandler frowned as he turned the instructions from side to side trying to make sense out of them. "Do you want me to see if I can find one?"

"If this is what they're teaching children today, I despair for the United States."

Joey wandered into the room with a sandwich in his hand. "How's it going?"

"What does it look like, buddy?" Chandler continued to turn the paper over in his hands and stare at it in perplexity.

Joey looked over Alexi's shoulder. "Hey that looks like fun. Mind if I try?"

Alexi waved him forward. "Be my guest." He turned around and joined Chandler in staring at the paper. "What language is that written in?"

Chandler frowned. "What language isn't it? I can recognise English and Spanish. Is that Russian?"

"Do not be insulting. That is German and this is obviously Japanese."

"What is obvious is that whoever wrote this wasn't conversant in any of these languages. Maybe they were martians."

"I like you, Chandler. You make me laugh." Alexi dead panned.

"I take it you saw the movie Gung Ho, too?"

"Ron Howard would've made good Russian film maker." Alexi rubbed his forehead. "I have a headache and I need a drink."

Chandler brightened. "I think I saw some beer in the fridge."

"I said I needed a drink - not malt-flavored water. But for the moment it'll have to do. Someday, I must take you to the Russian Tea Room where I took Ross." Alexi led the way to the kitchen.

When they returned a few minutes later with fresh brews in their hands, they were met by an excited Joey. "Hey, look at this!" They watched in amazement as he pushed a completed baby carriage towards them. "I did it."

Chandler grinned at Alexi. "I think we just found our five-year old."

Time to Pay the Piper

Monica found herself holding her breath as the bus boys wheeled the big warming carts up to the doors into the banquet hall. On the other side was the Preston party and their reaction to her attempt to finish Francois' creation would make or break her.

George stuck his head between the doors. "Are we ready?" At her nod, he came all the way through and clapped his hands. "Then let's begin. It's show time, people." He almost disappeared in the great clouds of steam released from the carts as the bus boys pulled the tops off and handed out the dinners, each protected in its own plastic compartment. The waiters shucked the cases off as they filled their trays with six to ten plates apiece and then headed for the hall. As the doors swung open and closed, an appreciative murmur could be heard from the waiting diners. Dinner had begun on time.

Once more lateness was not a problem at Pierre's.

As the waiters came filing back in with their empty trays, Monica felt her apprehension growing. It was too early to ask how the diners were reacting, but she wanted to so badly that it hurt.

"So you're the one who thinks she can replace me?" The angry voice from behind her demanded. She turned and saw Francois glowering down at her. "How many years did you study in Paris, girl? How many did you spend with any of the great masters of Europe?"

Before she could reply, the Asian girl who'd befriended her rounded on him. "At least she didn't walk off in a tiff and leave us holding the bag. Now get out of the way of people who're working for a living." He was forced to step aside as carts loaded with hot coffee and tea went through the space he'd been standing in.

He turned back to Monica. "How much did you meddle with my recipe'? Did you know how long the meat and vegetables must be cooked and at what temperatures so as to bring out the correct flavors?"

"I had to guess." She admitted.

"Disaster." He moaned. "It'll be a disaster." He turned away from her and leaned against the wall, but well out of the way this time of the waiters and bus boys. He looked more sad than mad.

"It'll be all right, honey." Her new friend said. Monica didn't think so. The dinner was sure to be what the chef claimed it would be, a disaster. "It's too bad that Francois' wife had to tell him this morning that she was leaving him for another man but he still shouldn't've walked out on us." Monica looked at the chef again. He hadn't heard them as his attention was fixed on the doors through which the last of the waiters had entered the hall. Suddenly a lot of things made sense to her.

Time passed and the waiters started to bring back the plates and pile them in the dish carts for their trip to the washer. Monica was encouraged to see that several plates were completely empty. Others weren't and those worried her. They apparently worried Francois too because he grimaced. "This is the worst day of my life. What else can possibly go wrong?" He looked over at her. "Miss Geller, is it?" At her nod he continued. "I appologise for what I said earlier. Tab was quite correct to berate me for my unprofessional behavior."

"I'm sorry about what happened between you and your wife, Francois." She wondered why she said it even as the words left her mouth. He'd probably rip a strip off her.

He looked at her as if seeing her for the first time and a slight smile crossed his lips. "Do not worry about it. She has done this before. She'll be back after she tires of him. My real sadness is that my mistress had just left me - so for a while I will be alone." He shrugged. "C'est la vie."

The door opened and George stood there. "So you came back?" He said to the chef. He did not seem surprised.

"Only to see what disaster was created."

"Well, Mrs. Preston is asking for the creator of this meal. What shall I tell her?"

Monica swallowed. She'd seen similar things before. Now was the time that blame would be laid and it always ended up at the feet of the junior staff member and you didn't get much more junior than her at this moment. She started to step forward. She might as well get this over with and pick up her things.

The chef reached out a hand and stopped her. "Non. It's not your place to appologise. It's mine." He made a slight bow to George. "It has been a pleasure working for you, my friend."

Monica was moved by his act. "George, it's not all Francois' fault. It's partly mine." Damn why was she saying this? She needed the job and now she was throwing it away. Ross would get a good chuckle when she told him.

George threw back his head and laughed. "So you both want to take the blame? Well, then, you can both take the credit." He came forward and seized their hands. " Mrs Preston loved it. Everyone did. Now both of you get out there and take your bows."

Not believing what was happening Monica took the hand that Francois offered her and allowed herself to be led forward and into the light where the diners stood and applauded. A success. She felt like her heart was going to burst and she never even heard the words as Francois introduced her as his assistant and they bowed to the assembled diners. Finally, a success.

As they came back into the serving hallway, Francois bent down to her. "You must remember exactly what you did in preparation and write down all the times and temperatures. Then you and I will discuss it later." He patted her hand before he headed back to the kitchen.

Tab chuckled. "Francois is such a pussy cat when his jets are cooled."

"Ms. Geller?" She turned to see George standing behind her. Her friend dissapeared with the rest of the staff, heading for their next assignments. "I would like to see you in my office." He turned and led the way down a side hall.

He opened a glass door and ushered her in to an emaculate office. Every book and piece of paper had its place. There was not a speck of dust to be seen. He seated himself in a leather chair. "We at Pierre's appreciate what you've done for us today."

"But," She said. At his raised eye brows she replied. "There's always a but, isn't there?"

"Yes. There is." He clasped his hands in front of himself on the desk. "The but is that I can't afford to pay you what you were really worth to me today. You saved us from an unmitigated disaster. I want you to come to work for us and I will see to it that Francois tutors you in what we need."

"I hope you can convince the owner to take your advice." She'd seen too many opportunities fall apart to allow her hopes to rise too high.

"He already has. You're looking at him."

"You? You're the owner?"

"The only one." He shook his head. "I thought that I might finally get out from under the obligation that Julie put on me several years ago but she's done it to me again. She sent me somebody whom I need very badly. Now, I owe her another favor." He pulled a small red book out of the desk drawer and made a mark in it.

Monica slumped back in relief and her chair rolled on the slick floor. Before she could stop herself the back of it knocked a stack of books down on the bookcase behind her. He got to his feet as she scrambled to collect the fallen books. "Be careful, my books must be in an exact order."

"Mine too. Everything must be alphabetical by title and/or author."

"These are too but they're also sorted by both subject and printing date." They finished rearranging the books and he returned behind his desk.

"Now what happens?" She asked.

"That all depends on you. Pay attention to Francois, he can teach you more than you could dream. He's even a better cook than my grandfather who did study in Paris by the way after immigrating there from French Indochina." He stood. "And if you're smart, you'll get down to the kitchen. There's work to be done here at Pierre's." He stood watching the door after she'd left. This one was going to be a lot of trouble but she might prove to be interesting. At least she understood the value of order.

The Whiz Kid

Joey put aside his screw driver. "That's the last one. They were all so easy." He picked up his beer can, took a swig, frowned as he realised it was empty and headed for the frig to get another.

Taneka was seated at the kitchen table writing in what looked like a notebook when he came into the room. "Whatcha, doing? Writing a book?" He asked as he opened the door to the refrigerator and rummaged around inside.

She looked up in surprise. "No, I'm working on a cost-saving plan for my company. I work for Marsh & Marsh and we help companies plan how to be more efficient. What do you do for a living?"

"Me?" He popped the top of the can and took a swig. "I'm an actor, an unemployed one at the moment. I've had a couple of good parts and even appeared on a soap as a regular for a month, I just haven't found anything that's really me." He looked at her closely. She was quite beautiful. Time to turn on the charm. "How'd you like to take in the sights some night. I think I know where I can get some tickets to a broadway show."

She sighed and closed her book. "I'm sorry but the answer is no. I'm just not dating right now."

"Work keeping you that busy or is it something else?"

"Let's get this out of the way right now. I don't care what your skin color is. That's not a factor for me. The man I want to go out with has to be sensitive, courageous, and willing to put out hard for a good cause. I just don't think you fit that description."

"Ouch! I'm going down in flames. The Red Baroness got me." He made motions with his hands and body like he was a doomed aircraft.

"See what I mean? You can't even be serious for a minute. You're just an actor."

Joey came back to his feet and picked up his beer. "Yeah, I'm just an actor but at least I don't make snap judgements about people based on their stereotypes." He headed for the living room, leaving her staring after him.

Back in the baby's room Alexi and Chandler could only stare at the completed baby crib, carriage, rocker, mobile and other miscellaneous appliances. "Are you sure he is not rocket scientist?" Alexi asked finally.

"Joey? He can't even tie his own shoes without help on most days."

Chandler shook his head in disbelief. "Well, at least we're done. They all look great."

"I have only one question, tovaritz Chandler. Why are there so many parts left over?"

Chandler had a horrible feeling that he didn't want to know. "They're probably extras. Manufacturers in this country do it so you won't bother them when you run out due to poor packing."

"Oh. How clever of you Americans." Alexi gave the carriage a gentle shove. It rolled across the floor, shedding parts and to their horror everything that it touched began falling apart. Wheels and sprockets rolled everywhere.

In unison, they both yelled. "Joey!"

Taneka poked her head in the door and watched the three of them yelling at each other. She withdrew, shaking her head. She knew she should've called in Walter - as a computer programmer he ought to be used to obscure and confusing languages. She went to place a phone call.

--------------------------------- "There!" Walter surveyed the room. This time the baby's things were assembled correctly. "We got it right this time."

Chandler and Joey could only look back blankly in exhaustion. It was nearly midnight and they'd been at this all day. Alexi patted Chandler on the back. "See. I told you it would take a rocket scientist."

"I'm a systems analyst or computer programmer if you insist on being vulgar." Walter grinned back at Alexi.

Alexi heaved himself to his feet. "Come. This calls for a celebration."

"What did you have in mind?" Chandler inquired.

Walter's grin got even larger. "When my Russian friend wants to celebrate, if you have to ask then you can't handle it."

"Oh, is that so?" Joey took Alexi's proferred hand and allowed himself to be lifted to his feet. "I'm an actor. I can handle anything anyone throws at me."

"A bold boast. Come, we shall see what you're made of." Alexi headed for the door with the others in his wake.

Chandler wasn't sure this was such a bright idea. He remembered Ross' declaration that the one drink he'd had at the Russian Tea Room had been strong enough to clean furnace pipes. "I don't think so, this time. You guys go ahead and enjoy yourselves. I'll just finish cleaning up here."

"Aw, come one. It'll be fun." Joey pleaded.

"I've had enough fun for one day, thanks."

Alexi shrugged. "It is wise man who knows his limitations."

Taneka sat up in her chair as they entered the living room. "Did I hear someone mention a party?"

"Alexi's introducing Joey to the Russian Tea Room." Walter grimaced. "I'm going along to pick up the pieces afterwards. Since Chandler's staying to clean up, I guess I'm the DD."

"The what?" Asked Joey.

"You really haven't done this have you? DD means designated driver. I'll be the only one sober. At least someone'll be able to tell your next of kin what really happened."

"Chandler, Judy hasn't shown up yet to stay with Julie and I'd really like to take a break. Do you mind waiting for her so I could go too?" Taneka tried to put on her most beseeching little girl face. "Please."

"I guess. Just so she's not too late."

"She's just closing her shop. She should be here in half an hour."

"I guess it'll be okay." After all what could go wrong in half an hour? Pardon Me. My Foot Is In My Mouth

Chandler closed the door to the baby's room and headed quietly down the hall to the living room with his beer in his hand. He flopped down in a big chair, almost wide enough for two people to sit in comfortably and stretched out. His eyes wandered around the room, taking it in for the first time. This was only his second time at Julie's and he hadn't remembered all the detail that now greeted him. Instead of an exotic setting he found that everything was very conventional. Well, there was one oddity. He got to his feet to look closer at a statue sitting on a shelf.

The statue was carved out of a green stone and depicted a long, sinuous dragon who was coiled about a pillar. The dragon had one arm extended and the other pointed back at himself. It seemed to be making a point to a group of men, three or four seemed to be listening intently and one was raising his hand as if he objected. Behind them two scribes were jotting down what was being said. So finely had the artist carved the features that every detail was minutely revealed even down to the small markings on the dragon's scales.

"Now why is a dragon doing that?" He asked himself.

"Because the dragon is a symbol of wisdom and knowledge as well as being an elemental force."

He turned to see Julie standing in the doorway. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

"You didn't." She came the rest of the way into the room. "You're being blinded by European thinking. In your mythology, the dragon is a fire-breathing monster that devours maidens and destroys knights. In ours it can be a great force for goodness as well as one of destruction. That's one reason dragons are so much a part of our celebrations."

"It's a beautiful piece. Do you know where I could get one like it?"

"You couldn't afford it. My grandfather brought that with him when he immigrated to Paris. It's solid jade and as far as I know it's never been duplicated. I've tried to do it justice in some of my paintings but I'm not very good at it."

"You paint?"

"Poorly. Would you care to see some?" At his nod she led the way back to a small room that had been the appartment's third bedroom at one time.

Chandler was impressed. There were ten paintings hanging on the walls and another stack leaning near a closet door. The subjects varied and though he could see that none of them would hang on a museum's walls, they were better than anything he could ever attempt. His comments made her smile. "You're just saying that to be polite."

"No, I mean it. I couldn't even come close to what you've done here.

How do you keep your people from looking like stick figures?"

"Well, some are still poor. Like in that fishing scene over there.

Now in this one with the old woman and the baby they're better. I guess some subjects inspire me more than others."

"Well, I'm no art critic. God, I even flunked finger painting along with sandbox in kindergarten. But I like these."

She smiled again. "That's nice of you to say. You'll have to excuse me for a minute. Alice seems to be sitting directly on my bladder and when twenty three pounds of weight are pressing down it means you've got to go."

"Alice weighs twenty three pounds?"

"No, dummy. That's how much weight I've gained since I became pregnant.

The doctor thinks she'll be about seven pounds. God, I hope she takes most of the extra with her when she goes." She left him admiring the paintings.

Chandler got bored with looking at the ones on the wall and began to thumb through the stack leaning by the door. They were like the others except for one. He pulled it out. This one was so well done that it seemed to leap out at him. It was a portrait and he knew the subject. By God she even had the unruely hair and that little innocent boy expression down perfectly. "Son of a gun. Well, hello, Ross."

He heard her coming back in and fumbled the painting trying to put it back in the stack. It fell to the floor where it lay between them. Julie's smile vanished as if it had been wiped away with an eraser. "I'm sorry." He stuttered. "I didn't mean to pry." He looked down at the painting. "But you have to admitt that it's damn good." God, but that sounded lame.

She turned away. "Please, put it away, Chandler, I'm going to lay down until Judy comes." The room seemed cold and empty after she left.

Monica's hands were cold after stacking and rearranging all the food preparations in the storage lockers for tommorow. The rest of her work day had not been as glamerous as the first part. After spending an hour with Francois trying to remember and duplicate exactly what she'd done and not succeeding as well as she would've like to, she'd spent the rest of it working as his assistant and that was just what it had been - work and lots of it. Her fingers were stiff and one ached where a vegetable peeler had nearly taken off the tip.

She'd sliced and diced until she couldn't see straight.

She stuffed her work garmets in the big laundry basket in the changing room and picked her purse and other belongings out of the wall locker assigned to her. Her new friend, Tabitha, everyone just called her Tab, was pulling her shoes on. "So, you were saying that you know Julie, Mone."

"Only over the last few months. I'm sure you've known her longer." She opened the door as Tab got up to follow her out.

"Not really. She's pretty private and George doesn't talk much about her or the rest of his family."

"What does he talk about?"

"Cooking. Is there anything else for him?"

Monica nodded. She could understand that.

"So how's Julie doing? She still working at the museum?"

"No. She took a leave until after she has the baby." Monica paused to insert her time card in the clock. She had to give George credit for being efficient. She'd only started work that afternoon and he'd had her time card to her by six. When she turned around Tab was staring at her.

"Julie's pregnant? When did she get married?"

"She didn't." God, Tab didn't know and Monica didn't want to get into a discussion of the RRJ triangle.

"So whose the father?" Tab grabbed Monica's arm when she didn't answer right away. "Come on. You can't tease me like this. I want to know who got Julie pregnant."

"Yes, Ms. Geller, go ahead. We all want to know." George was standing in the doorway, his arms were crossed and his eyes were alight with anger. "I haven't seen Julie since Christmas and I'm sure that not even our parents know that she's pregnant. Now, tell me. Who did it to my little sister?"

"Oh, shit." Somehow it seemed to be the only appropriate thing to say under the circumstances.

What Heroes Are Made Of

"This is some of the best stuff I've ever drank." Joey emptied the glass and held it out to Alexi. "Give me another hit of that."

"Better go easy on that stuff, actor man." Taneka sipped at her drink.

"That's vodka you're downing like there's no tommorow."

Walter picked up the bottle and peered at it. "Well, I think you two are about even so far, Alexi."

Alexi slapped Joey on the back. "At last. Someone I can drink with."

Joey grinned back at him. "No problem. It's the darn trips to the can that bother me."

Alexi tossed down another drink. "True. The time lost could be better spent drinking."

Joey lifted his glass to Alexi. Now why did there seem to be a waver to the air? Was he looking through the glass? He gulped down the drink and indicated he needed another fill up.

Walter shook his head. "I'm going to call this match a draw. If you two idiots want to drink yourselves unconscious you can do it when you won't be puking all over my car. After all this isn't Friday night, so you don't have the weekend to sleep this off."

"Tovaritz Walter, you insult all good Russians. We do not drink until we pass out. We drink until we're happy."

"And when does that happen?" Taneka put down her glass and flagged down one of the waiters to get the check.

"I don't know. I never got happy." Alexi looked sadly at the empty bottle.

As they walked out the front door Joey could feel a great warmth spreading through him. It seemed to originate deep in his chest and spread from there into his arms and legs. He twitched his fingers, even they felt hot.

"How many fingers am I holding up, Joey?"

He squinted at Walter's hand, wishing it would hold still. "Two."

He chirruped happily.

"Well, he's still with us. Come on, the car is only another two blocks."

Joey felt like he could fly the entire two blocks if Taneka would just hold his hand but she was as unapproachable as the moon even if she was walking close enough to touch.

"Now aint this cute." Six large shapes loomed out of the night. A heavy-set man with chains crossing a leather jacket which had no sleeves stood at the front. He was bald and hadn't shaved in several days. From his body odor he hadn't taken a bath for an even longer time.

"What's cute?" Joey wished that all twelve would stop dancing around so that he could get a focus on them.

"Here we be just out looking for a nigger to beat arounds and we finds her." He reached out a hairy arm for Taneka who scuttled back behind Joey.

"Keep your hands to yourself, bastard." She snarled. Her hand went into her purse and closed around something.

"You've made a mistake, friend." Walter said. There was a heavy growl from Alexi's direction.

"Yeah." Echoed Joey. He tried to throw a reassuring glance at Taneka and saw that she was really scared. "It'll be all right." He whispered. She did not look convinced. He turned back to face the thugs as their leader pontificated in response to Walter.

"Aint your friend and I aint made no mistake. We're the Brothers for Aryan Supremacy and its our sworn duty to clear the street of trash such as her."

"She isn't trash." Joey felt Taneka's hand on his back. This gave him courage even through his alcohol-inspired haze. "She's our friend." Damn. He wished the world would stop wavering.

"Well, nigger lover, you cans just get killed right along with her if youse likes. Or youse can tucks your drunken tail and run. What'll it be?"

The leader smacked a lead pipe into the palm of his hand. "We Aryans just don't cares."

Alexi wobbled forward and the leader frowned as he realized how big the Russian was. "Did you say Aryan?"

"Sure. Youse heard of us?"

"Yes - from the Great Patriotic War. I missed my chance there by being born too late."

"Chance for what?"

"To break Nazi skulls." Alexi began to roll up his sleves with all the care that the truely inibriated give to any task of importance. Joey looked again at the Aryans and saw Alexi was right. They were now wearing World War II German uniforms and the leader had a full head of black hair and a short mustache.

"Youse aint breaking no skulls tonight. There's six of us and Zig here is at least your size. Let's have the bitch and none of the rest of youse will gets hurt."

Joey stepped up beside Alexi. "He won't be alone." Ordinarily he'd have been shaking but right now he was too mad. No two-bit Nazis were going to roister a lady while heroes still roamed the world. He hefted his weapon.

Yeah the M60 was fully loaded and ready to rock and roll.

"Who the hell youse thinks youse are?"

"Me? I'm Rambo. Don't you see my muscles and my machine gun?"

"You're shit is what youse are."

Suddenly he was Edward G Robinson. "No. You're shit, see, and the sooner we flush trash like you down the sewers the better off we're all going to be, see." Is that really me saying this? Hell, yeah. It sounds right. Even if it's like out of an old B movie. "Are you with us, Cato?" He asked Walter who at that moment looked to him like the Green Hornet's ever faithful side kick or maybe he should've said Tonto as he was the Lone Ranger or was it the Duke? "I wish I was on the other side of the moon." Walter grabbed Taneka's arm. "You run back to the Tea Room and get help." She resisted until he snatched the tube out of her hand that she'd taken out of her purse. "I'll make better use of this Mace to cover you, then you will if you stay and fight. Use some sense and run."

"Bring the cavalry, little lady and we'll hold these varmits until help arrives." Joey hiccuped and turned back to the six men. "Now, Pilgrim, seeing as how you're new to these parts I'll cut you some slack if you want to pull up your tent stakes." He wondered if Ward Bond or Andy Devine would lead the charge over the hill and which one'd sound the bugle.

The would be Nazis watched Taneka go with worry suddenly springing up on their faces. "This aint working out right." One mumbled. "They're supposed to be scared and leave her for us."

"We'll gets her some other day. We haves some nigger lovers to trash."

The leader did not look as confident as he sounded.

Joey took what seemed to him to be a kung-fu stance. "Not if Batman and I have anything to say about it, Two Face."

"I'll take great pleasure in ripping your balls off, youse little ....."

The leader lunged and never got to finish as Joey kicked him where it would hurt the most. Joey might be drunk but when one grows up with as many as-sorted siblings as he had, one learns to fight to just survive. The others stared as their honcho went to his knees. puking his guts out.

"Come on, who else wants some? I'm the Mask and I want to party." Joey did a pirrouete and straightened the yellow hat on his head.

"Oh brother." Moaned Walter as the other five, carrying tire irons and broken bottles started forward. However they paused just before they reached the three men.

Taneka must've encountered help much sooner than expected. There were shouts in Russian coming up the street. Alexi grinned. "More patriots."

He got tired of trying to keep his sleeves rolled up and flexed his muscles.

His shirt split in about six places and fell around his waist. "That's better."

He stepped forward, reaching for one of the Supremists with an arm like a small tree trunk.

"Shit! It's fucking Schwartzenegger! I don't want a piece of that."

There was a general stampede and the Aryans showed their true colors as they left their fallen leader and ran, pursued by Alexi, Joey the Incredible Hulk and about ten very angry Russians.

Taneka watched them go and a small smile crossed her lips. "Well, I'll be damned."

Is That Opportunity Knocking or My Knees?

Back at the apartment later that night Rachel was sitting on the bed acting huffy. "I'm sorry, honey." Ross told her for the tenth time. "I just couldn't help what happened at the Lamaze class. That woman frightened me."

"She didn't like you very much either. Why did you have to go into such graphic detail when she asked you to describe having a baby?"

"It just slipped out. After all I'm a scientist. I'm sorry, Rach."

She allowed him to put his arms around her and leaned back against him.

"I know, honey, but when I'm pregnant, promise me you won't do that at our Lamaze classes."

He nuzzled her neck. "You know we could get some practice on that. He ran his arms down her sides and she gasped. "Besides those Lamaze exercises were getting me, you know." He wriggled his eyebrows. She turned around and hugged him.

Somebody pounded on the appartment door. "Ignore them. Maybe they'll go away." He ran his lips over her neck.

"Is there somebody at the door?"

"Ignore them." He kissed lower.

"Ross, I...I... Oh, God Damn it! Come here!" Eventually the pounding faded away, lost in the pounding of two hearts joined as one.

Joey stared in befuddlement at the door. Why was he pounding on Monica's door? His was just down the hall. He put out his arm. "Just a little delay, my queen. I seem to be a little confused." He led the royal personage over to the correct door. On the sixth try, the key finally worked.

Over at Julie's place the pounding just wouldn't go away. Chandler got to his feet. Maybe it was Judy finally. He opened the door and stared into the angry black eyes of the man on the door sill. "Are you Ross?" The man demanded.

"Who wants to know?" Chandler wasn't in the best mood at the moment.

"Julie's brother, you bastard." The man took a swing at Chandler which he just managed to block with his forearm.

"Hey, are you crazy?" Chandler backed away quickly. That really stung.

"Ross, I'm going to beat you within an inch of your life for what you did to my sister." The man came aggressively after him with both fists raised. "God-damned round eyes seem to think you can do anything to our women and get away with it." He sent a left whistling by Chandler's ear.

"I'm not Ross." Chandler kicked the hassock out of the way and assumed the stance that he'd once learned years ago at the Y. The man didn't listen; he came forward swinging a looping right which Chandler automatically blocked and then a left got through cutting his cheek. Reflex took over. Chandler counter punched down the man's alley of vunerability to the open chin.

There was a solid whack and the man slumped to his knees and his hands barely broke his fall the rest of the way to the floor. He knelt there, groggily shaking his head back and forth. Chandler rubbed his sore fist and thought to himself. 'Son of a bitch. Maybe I should've listened to Jack at the Y and gone on for that bantam-weight title instead of going to college.' "George!"

Chandler looked up to see Julie standing in the door to the hallway with with her hand to her mouth. "You know this guy?"

"He's my brother. What's he doing here?"

"I'd say taking the long count." At her look of incomprehension he added. "He thought I was Ross and took a swing at me."

Julie came forward but Chandler stopped her. "He's all right but the moment he may not even recognise who's touching him." He looked down at the groggy man. "Do you understand me, George?" When George nodded he reached down with his hand. "I'm going to help you up but if you take another swing at me, I'll deck you. Besides I'm not Ross. My name is Chandler."

George took the proferred hand and allowed Chandler to help him to his feet. "Not Ross?"

"Not Ross. Chandler. Chandler Bing."

George shook his head in an effort to clear it. "Bing like the cheeries?"

"If I had a buck for every variation I've heard on that, I'd be rich."

George reached out a hand. "I appologise for hitting you, Mister Bing.

I thought you were that SOB who got Julie pregnant."

Chandler wearily accepted the proferred hand. "You ought to know that I'm a friend of that SOB."

George looked up in surprise at him and then turned to Julie. "What in the hell has been happening the last few months?"

Chandler sidled away while brother and sister got down to it. He just wanted to make one phone call. He had a feeling he knew where Ross was. He was where you'd expect to find him every night for the last six months. With Rachel.

Ross came half awake. "Is that the phone I hear?"

Rachel put her arms around him. "Ignore it, honey."

"It might be important."

"If you don't get back down here, you're going to miss something even more important." He got. As he nestled down in her arms he wondered whether it was raining outside. He seemed to hear thunder off in the distance.

Have You Ever Had Dejavu?

"Ross!!" The bedroom door slammed open and Monica stood framed in the light.

Ross looked up in confusion from the bed and Rachel sat up quickly, pulling the sheet around her shoulders. "Oh, hi, Monica."

"Damn it, Ross. Get out of that bed. You've got problems."

"Problems?" He yawned, wishing she'd go away.

"Yes, problems. Julie's brother's looking for you and I don't think he wants to shake your hand over what happened between you and her."

He was immediately wide awake. "Julie has a brother?"

"Yes, a very irritated one but that's not the only thing that's wrong."

He looked at her with his confused, puppy-dog look. "George called Julie's folks. Turns out that she never bothered to tell them she was pregnant."

Rachel whistled. "That must've been quite a shock to them."

"Shock isn't the word. From what I overheard her mother's really mad.

She happens to have an apartment here in the city when she's working and she's on her way over to Julie's right now." Ross scrambled out of bed, revealing that he'd been sleeping in boxer shorts embrodiered with little hearts. "Cute ensemble, brother."

"Where's my pants?" He began tearing the bed covers apart.

"Maybe if you'd kept them on earlier, this wouldn't be happening."

"Monica, that's not helping." Rachel retorted as she pulled on her shirt.

"Sorry." She wiped her hand across her brow. "It's been a rough day for me. I got the job at Pierre's and I'm probably going to lose it over this."

"Huh? What're you talking about?" Rachel pulled her shoes on.

"Her brother George owns Pierre's." Monica explained. "Needless to say he wasn't too please to find out that Ross and I were related. I probably won't have a job by this time tomorrow."

The phone rang and Ross scooped it up with one hand as he tucked his shirt in with the other. "Hello?" What if it were Julie's mom? He wasn't sure how he'd react to that.

"Ross. This is Chandler. You'd better get over here. There's somebody here claiming to be Julie's brother and he's raising a real stink."

"How's Julie taking it?"

"She's doing all right. Right now she's putting a cold compress on his head." He cocked a fist and grinned. "I still got it. Two fists of iron."


"I cold cocked him with my right. One punch."

"We'll be right there." Ross dropped the phone back in its craddle. "I don't believe this. Chandler just knocked out Julie's brother."

"What?" Both women chorused.

About half an hour later over at Julie's place things had just become even more complicated as Julie's mother stormed through the door. "What happened to you? She snapped at George as she put her briefcase down on the end table.

"I took a punch at the wrong man." He readjusted the ice pack. "I thought he was Ross." He gestured at Chandler.

"I keep telling you to watch your temper, son." She turned to Chandler.

"Do you feel like pressing charges or filing a claim against him?"

"Uh, no."

"Good." She reached into her briefcase and pulled out a sheet of paper.

"Here. Sign this."

"What's this?"

"A quit claim." She turned to George while Chandler stared at the sheet of paper. "Where's Julie?"

"Lying down. She said all this excitement was making her sick."

Julie's mother went and opened the bedroom door. After satisfying herself that her daughter was all right she returned to the living room. "Let me see if I got this right. This guy Ross got her pregnant but abandoned her before he knew she was with child?"

"I think so." George replied.

"I'm going to just love hitting him with a paternity suit." She rubbed her hands together. "I'll take him for every cent of support money I can."

"No, mom." Julie stood in the doorway leaning on her friend Judy who'd arrived just after George. "Ross has acknowledged Alice as his. He's going to help me support her and his fiance Rachel is going to help me raise her."

"Very noble of them." Her mother retorted. "I want it in writing and I also want to know how in the hell you could've been so stupid."

The door bell chimed. "Yes?" Julie was grateful for the interruption.

"Julie, it's Ross. Can I come up?"

"Yes. I want to warn you that both my mother and brother are here."

"Rachel and Monica are with me. We'll be right up."

George took off the ice pack. "So I finally get to meet the magnificent Ross."

"You're no more anxious than I am, son." His mother's fingers gripped her briefcase like she was choking a chicken. She continued to do this the whole time that they waited.

There was a knock and Chandler opened the door. He backed away as the others came through it. "Ross, Rachel and Monica this is Julie's mom and her brother."

Ross stopped as if he'd run into a wall. "You." Both he and her mother exclaimed simultaneously. It was Jackie, the instructor from the Lamaze class.

It's Show Time

"I should've known it'd be someone like you!" Julie's mother slammed the briefcase down on the table between her and Ross.

Ross sat there staring morosely at the teakwood surface. The last half hour had been almost more than he could handle. His stress factor had definitely been exceeded today. If it hadn't been for Rachel he didn't know how he would've stood up to it.

"I don't understand." Rachel looked up from rubbing Ross' shoulders.

"You're Julie's mom, but you don't look anything like her."

Jackie's eyes tightened. "And you don't look like a waitress either. You look like a bimbo."

George snorted. "If all the cafes had waitresses who looked like her, I'd be out of business." Rachel's eyes went hard and in about two more seconds it was all going to hit the fan.

"Will you two retract your claws." Julie glared at them until they subsided. "Rachel, I appologise for the lack of manners of my family." She gave them another glare. "Now listen closely, mom. I've no intention of taking Ross to the cleaners as you put it. He's promised to take care of Alice and that's good enough for me." She turned to Rachel. "To answer your original question, Rachel, if you know anything about the French you'll know that they are the least prejudiced nation on earth. Mom can rightfully claim both France and Asia in her ancestry. But ultimately she thinks of herself only as French."

"Right now I wish we'd never immigrated here. This country is insane."


"All right. All right." She turned her attention on Ross. "What provisions have you made for taking care of Alice?"

"I promised I'd do everything I could to take care of her. I'll keep that promise."

"That's not good enough."

Rachel bristled. "Are you saying that Ross is lying?"

"No." Jackie opened her briefcase and began spreading papers out in front of them. "What I'm talking about is a legal committment which requires so many payments of so much a year for her care and establishment of a trust fund which she'll receive to go to college if she so chooses. I'm talking about a net that'll catch her if Ross gets AIDs or some venereal disease and dies."

"Mother." Julie snapped just a second before Rachel exploded.

Her mother gave her a glare and continued. "Quite simply put Mister Geller I'm talking about legal responsibility that'll extend beyond the grave. You can make all the promises you want but if you change your mind or die then my grand daughter ends up with nothing."

Ross looked at all the paperwork she'd spread out in front of him. He was getting a headache. "That makes sense, I think. How much are we talking about?"

She dug out a tiny computer. "At least fourteen grand a year for child support and a trust fund based on a stock account. She did some calculations.

It should only end up costing you about five hundred thousand dollars over twenty years." Ross' jaw almost hit the table while Rachel gasped.

Chandler who'd overheard this looked at Monica. "That's the best reason I've heard yet for birth control and safe sex."

She nodded. She was wondering if Ben's mother got wind of this how much she might decide she'd want from Ross? Her brother could end up strapped for life.

"I can't afford to pay this much." Ross declared.

"You should've thought of that before you got her pregnant."

"Mother." Julie came to her feet. "I'll not sit here and listen to you bully my friends."

"Sit down, Julie."

"No, I won't. Ross, Rachel and I'll work it out together and if we need legal protection for Alice I'm all for it but I won't use it to get a petty revenge." Both Ross and Rachel looked releaved.

"Julie, you're a fool. But what should I expect from someone dumb enough not to be on the pill? "Mother, I..." Julie swayed and clutched her abdomen. "Oh shit. Not now."

Chandler who was closest caught her before she collapsed as the rest sprang to their feet. "Are you all right?"

"No. It's started. My water just broke."

Rachel hurried over to her. "Ross, call 911 and tell them we need an ambulance." Judy and Monica all joined her as they tried to make Julie comfortable. Her mother knealt by her and took her hand. George stood by Ross as if his presence could make the call go through faster.

Ross looked up from the phone. "They say it'll be an hour or more.

There's been a big smash-up on the Express and most of the emergency crews are busy. They don't consider a pregnant woman a high priority. They say call a cab."

"In New York? I could walk to the hospital and back in that time."

Chandler picked Julie up. "Come on, we'll get there quicker in my car."

A Joy to Behold

Ross kept his eyes glued on Chandler's car in front of him. He'd wanted to be up there with her but with Julie's mother and Rachel in the back seat with Julie and George up front with Chandler he'd been forced to drive with Judy.

Monica had stayed to call the doctor and notify the hospital and then she was going to get Phoebe and Joey and follow them.

"Come on. Come on." He pounded on the horn as a taxi cut him off. The driver gave him the finger and shouted remarks on his genology. His passenger, a saintly looking elderly lady, also gave him the bird. "The same to you." He slammed his foot on the accelerator to catch up with Chandler. The car tipped onto two wheels as it went around the corner.

"Ross." Judy cried beside him. She pointed at the rear view mirror.

"We've got company."

Muliticolored lights flashed in the rear window and off the sides of the car. "No. No. Not now. There's never a cop around when you're being mugged.

Why do they always show up when you don't need them?"

He pulled over and a big heavy-set cop with a full beer belly got out of the squad car. "Where's the fire, Mac?"

"I'm sorry, officer. I'm having a baby."

The cop peered in the door at Judy and took in her condition. "Right, and I'm President Clinton."

"No. She's up in the car ahead of us."

"Bud, the only car ahead of you is that taxi you almost ran over and it had a grandmother in it. License."

Ross handed it over to him. Anything to get this over with. The cop went back to the car to call it in while Ross fumed. It seemed to take forever and when the cop got back he opened the door. "This is not your lucky day, Mr.

Geller. It seems you owe on ten back traffic tickets."

Ross blanched. One was his but where'd the others come from? Then he remembered that he'd loaned the car to Joey and Phoebe a while back and even to Monica. He had a horrible feeling where the tickets had come from. "I'll be glad to stop and pay the fines later."

"Sorry." Said the cop. "You aren't driving anywhere. The rest of the bad news is that your license has expired and as of now your car is impounded."

Almost forty minutes after Ross' unhappy encounter with the law, Monica and Phoebe hurried into the waiting room. "Has she had the baby yet?" Monica asked George who was sitting beside his mother.

"No. But it'll be very soon. They may even have to do a C-section."

He looked away from her to the door that separated him from his sister. His mother was pacing up and down like a caged animal.

Chandler dropped the magazine he'd been holding back on the rack.

"Hospitals and bus stations have one thing in common. Lousy out of date magazines. How many five-year old issues of Time can you take at once?"

"How's Ross holding up?" Monica asked him.

"He never made it. Rachel's with her."

Rachel held Julie's hand in hers. "Just push when they tell you, Julie.

It'll be over with soon."

"Uhh. Where's Ross? Uh. Uh." She tried to draw a breath.

"I don't know but I'm here." She squose Julie's hand even harder.

Where was Ross? "Your dilation's just about perfect and I see the head now." The doctor manipulated the baby's crown just below the sheet." We're not going to need the OR after all. Just a couple more pushes. Everything looks fine."

Just then Ross burst through the door, frantically pulling on a surgical gown as he came. "I had to run fifteen blocks and over the top of one mugger to get here." He took Julie's other hand. "Are you all right?"

"Now I am." She grunted and her face contorted.

"Here she comes." The doctor took the baby while the nurse tied off the cord and cut it. A minute or two later he laid the cleaned up baby girl in Julie's arms. "Congratulations. You have a healthy daughter."

"Thank god. Something went right." Ross told her.

"She's beautiful." Rachel said as she touched the soft, damp hair on the head of the baby. At that moment she had never felt closer to anyone in her life than she felt to Ross, Julie and the small baby waving its little fists in the air and blinking in the light of the delivery room.

"What's the date?" Julie asked.

"July third." Rachel told her.

"Darn. The doctor was right. Missed it by a day." Rachel looked puzzled while Ross blushed. "It would've been the anniversary of our first date." Julie told her.

"Oh." She leaned forward and kissed Julie on the forehead. "This is one that all three of us will have reason to celebrate more than anyone else." She slipped her arm around Ross as they wheeled Julie away. Life was good and was going to be good to all four of them. She just knew it.

Later as George stood before the display window watching the baby sleeping Monica approached him. "She's beautiful."

He nodded. After a moment he shook himself. "Well, tommorow's going to be a very busy day and even though I've had no sleep I still have meals to prepare. I'll see you there in an hour." He turned and walked away leaving Monica to slowly realize that she still had a job.

Later that day as a weary Chandler returned home all he wanted to do was sleep. He unlocked the apartment door, grinning when he saw the clothing piled on the living room floor. Joey must be home. He grinned even wider when he saw the bra hanging on the arm of the chair. It was good that things were getting back to normal.

The bathroom door opened and Taneka came out wearing only a towel. "Good morning, Chandler." She said softly as she headed back to Joey's room. Her eyes had the same look to them that Rachel's had when she was thinking of Ross.

Chandler stared after her. Maybe things never would be normal again.