I. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The summer rain felt cold as it ran down the collar of Ross' shirt but he didn't care for he was in love. Rachel loves me. I love Rachel. He could almost sing out loud, wanting to share his happiness with every one. He reached out and grabbed a lamp post, swinging it around it like some imitation of the late Gene Kelly. As his feet hit the puddle below the post in a rising splash of gum wrappers and old cigarette butts something nagged at him. Hadn't he done this before? He dismissed the idea. He'd never been so happy.
He stuck his hands in his pockets and tried to whistle the tune to "Singing In the Rain", not caring that he failed miserably or that several passer-by's winced as if in pain. What did they know? He was the one in love, not them.
He spied a wet, dejected hot-dog vendor and decided to share his happiness. "One of your best, my good man!"
"Sure, pal." The man took in Ross' emotional state and grinned to himself. He lifted a compartment door and lifted a shriveled nearly white tube of meat out on the end of a long-handled fork in a cloud of steam.
Ross looked askance at the meal being offered him. "Uh, if this is your best I don't want to see your worst."
The vendor shrugged. "It's all I got. Take it or leave it, mac."
Ross turned away. "Suddenly I've lost my appetite."
"Just a sec. Maybe I have one that's a little better." Ross turned back as the man fished out a bright pink specimen with unshriveled skin."
He nodded. "That'll do just fine." He leaned over and confided to the man as he slapped the dog calously into the bun. "In the mood I'm in I don't care that its a concoction made from the ground organs of an animal that got most of its nutrition by rooting in the mud or that it contains an allowable number of mouse feces."
"Right, Mister Wizard. That'll be three bucks. Mustard and relish are two bits." The vendor took the proferred five and started to dig in his apron.
"Keep the change, my good fellow." Ross swung away down the street. He had to hurry. Chandler was supposed to meet him at the Central Perk and tell him what he'd found out about the diamond broach that Rachel had fallen in love with during her trip to Sachs with Monica but had been unable to buy. He intended to surprise her with it.
The vendor watched him go and shook his head. "Poor sap's got it real bad." He eyed the slowly emptying streets and decided to close down. He dumped the shriveled dog that Ross had passed up into the trash can before he folded up.
Ross was just turning the corner when someone who was hurrying around the turn from the other side collided with him. It felt like he'd run into a solid wall. He sat down hard in a puddle.
He looked up at the large man who glared down at him, swinging a violin case in a hand that could have been used to stop a linebacker or a run-away steer. "Alexi, moi tovaritz." He managed to gasp out between his attempts to get his wind back. He'd not seen the violinist since Christmas when he'd gone with him and Julie's other friends to Saint Patricks.
The expression on the big man's face got even harder. "You no tovaritz to me, Ross." He stepped wide around the seated man as if he wanted to avoid touching him.
"Wait, Alexi!" Ross scrambled to his feet, almost loosing his balance on the slick pavement. The big man did not even pause and he had to sprint to overtake him. "What's wrong, Alexi? I thought we were friends?" He shouted at the Russian's retreating back.
The violinist swung around in mid stride; his face was twisted into something ugly. "Alexi not friends with man without honor."
"What're you talking about? It's about Julie, isn't it? She and I made up. We're friends now. You know that. You were there."
Alexi lifted his fist and Ross flinched from the rage in the man's face. Alexi unclenched his hand as if it was an effort that cost him all the control that he had. "Friends? None of us have seen you since Christmas. You vanish like rat back in hole. What happened? Did she tell you what happen to her and you run like cowardly snake?"
Ross' zoology background was offended. "Snakes don't run, they undulate." He said without thinking.
Alexi's hand darted out in a blurr and Ross found himself snatched off his feet as effortlessly as if he had been a small child. "You make fun of Alexi?" The violin case tottered and fell over where he'd dropped it.
"No!!" Ross managed to get out around the choking grip around his neck. Over the big man's shoulder he saw a blurr of motion and someone slammed into the Russian's back. Chandler's head came into sight momentarily.
"Run, Ross, while I distract him!" Chandler twisted his arms around Alexi's neck and tightened his grip. The Russian swayed for a second, recovered his balance and reached around behind him with his left hand. He siezed Chandler's leg and tore him loose from his perch using Ross as a fulcrum point. He slammed Chandler into the wall and unceremoniously dropped Ross on top of him. He watched with folded arms as the two untangled themselves.
"Why didn't you run?" Chandler shoved Ross' foot out of his face.
"It's hard to run when your feet aren't touching anything." Ross glanced up and saw that Alexi had not moved. He extracted his limbs from Chandler's, got to his feet and helped his friend to his.
"Yeah. I see where that could make things a little difficult." Chandler eyed Alexi cautiously. "Whose your friend, a relative to Hulk Hogan?"
"Friend? I certainly hope so. Chandler, this is Alexi Smirnov, a friend of Julie. Alexi, this WWF reject is my friend, Chandler Bing."
Alexi said nothing, but he did nod slightly which Ross took as at least a hopeful sign that the volatile Russian might be willing to listen to reason. "Alexi," Ross said with a lot more calmness than he felt. "If you'd let me answer your original question I would've told you I haven't talked to Julie since the end of January. At that time I told her that Rachel and I had finally straightened things out and she wished me good luck. I've heard nothing from her since. In fact she left the department on a sabbatical without ever coming to see me. Is something wrong?"
The anger fled just as quickly as it had come. "Tovaritz Ross, I appologize to you and comrade Chandler. I thought that you knew and that was why we had not seen you lately." He sighed. "Forget I said anything. Go back to your woman whom I hear is like model from Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue." He bent down, picked up the violin case and turned to go.
"Just a second, Alexi. You can't just manhandle me and my friend and walk away without an explanation." Ross reached out a restraining hand.
Chandler grabbed Ross's arm as Alexi turned around with a frown. "Ross have you seen his muscles." He made exagerated motions with his eyebrows. "I think he can."
"Tovaritz Chandler, I appologize for any harm I may have done you. I lost my temper in my concern over my friend."
Chandler glanced at Ross. "You have a funny way of showing concern for him."
Alexi sighed. "Not Ross, but Julie was my concern. Things are not good for her and I could not tell Ross because I'd made a rash promise not to."
Ross stepped towards Alexi and laid a hand on his arm. "Alexi, Julie is my friend and always will be. If something has happened to her, of course I want to know about it. I ask this of you as one tovaritz to another."
Alexi frowned as he considered this. "You place me on dilema's horns, friend Ross. When does the promise to one tovaritz overcome the needs of another?" He took a deep breath. "She may hate me for this, but I thought she was wrong and her choice not to tell you will harm both of you. Come, my friend, I'll take you to see her."
"Can't you at least give me some idea what's wrong?" Ross asked.
"Do not ask that of me, tovaritz Ross. I did promise not to tell you. I did not promise not to take you to her. It is a fine distinction, but one that I must follow to preserve my own honor." He made a motion for Ross to follow him.
Ross started off but was halted by Chandler's hand on his arm. "Ross, do you think you'll be safe with gargantua?"
"Alexi isn't mad anymore, Chandler."
"Yeah but he could get that way. I'd better come with you."
"So you can become a tackle dummy again?""
"No, wrestling was never my thing. Just ask any of my dates. But I was pretty good in track. I'll run for help."
"Hey, what're friends for." The three sat off down the rain-soaked streets and to a meeting that was going to change their lives.
As the elevator rose up, counting its cadence of floors passed, Chandler turned to Ross. "Where're we going? To Alexi's place first?"
The elevator chimed once more and came to a stop. Alexi led the way out just as the doors opened. Ross looked reproachfully at Chandler. "If you hadn't been trying to humiliate yourself with that girl in the lobby, you'd know where we were going. Alexi told Julie he was coming up to see her and she buzzed us in."
Chandler shrugged. "How was I to know the young lady gave up sex for Lent?"
Alexi looked back quizically. "I thought Lent was over with."
Chandler tried to look cool. "I think our Lent is different from the Russian one."
Alexi chuckled. "Chandler you amuse me."
Ross growled. "Russian Lent?" Chandler found it expedient to look at the ugliest wall mural he'd ever seen. Ross sighed and hurried after Alexi.
He caught up with the Russian just as the big man rapped lightly on the apartment door. "Alexi, I know why you didn't tell Julie we were with you. If you had, she wouldn't've buzzed us past the main door. But I don't see how this is going to get her to talk to me."
"Yeah." Chandler chimed in. "All she has to do is be one of the three wise monkies." He mimed placing his hands over his lips.
Alexi frowned. "There are many ways to communicate, besides words, comrade Chandler."
The door was opened by a striking young woman. "I hope you can talk some sense into her, Alexi. I'm at my wit's end." She did not see Ross and Chandler behind him until it was too late. "Oh, shit!! Alexi, now you've gone and done it."
"Hello, Taneka." Ross looked around the empty living room. "Where's Julie?"
Taneka opened her mouth to yell but Alexi pulled her into a quick embrace, muffling her as effectively as if she'd been buried under a pile of linebackers. "Julie, come out. Your Russian bear has something to say to you." He called out to the back of the room. There was no reply. He sighed. "Come out, little one. I have information on tovaritz Ross you should hear." He ignored the fist that Taneka kept pummeling his chest with.
A door opened to a back bedroom and Julie stood there framed by the window behind her. For a moment Ross could only sense some sort of oddness to her and then when she stepped fully out into the room dressed in her bathrobe, he saw. His mouth fell open as the implications of what his eyes were telling him slammed into his brain and then set his knees to shaking. All he could say was. "Oh, my God." He staggered to a chair and sat down heavily.
Chandler was at a loss for words for all of three seconds and then recovered quickly. "Ross, do you realize what she is?"
Ross swallowed and said nothing. Chandler continued. "She's pregnant." As Julie stepped out into the light, he finished lamely. "Very, very pregnant."
II. When Worlds Collide
Ross and Chandler could only stare as Julie turned toward the Russian. "Alexi, you promised not to tell him."
Alexi sighed and released Taneka who raced across the room to put her arm protectively around her friend. "I'm sorry, little one. I did not tell him, I just brought him here. As to why? This has to be resolved for everyone's sake?"
"Taneka?" Julie enquired, seeking support.
The black woman shook her head. "Alexi's only doing what I told you you should be doing. I disagree with his approach, but you two do have to talk."
Julie buried her head in her friend's shoulder. "I wasn't ready."
"When would you've been ready, my friend? It seems that ready or not the time for some truth between you two has come." She gently stroked Julie's black hair.
"Ross?" Chandler stumbled over and sat down beside him. He could imagine what Ross was going through as he'd experienced the same feelings when he had first seen Janice. "It's yours isn't?" He whispered. The time was right. He could remember Ross bubbling all over his apartment the day after Julie had slept with him. Unless it was someone elses? He looked up towards the white-faced Julie. "His?" He pointed at Ross who could not look away from her protruding abdomen.
"It weren't that damn Russ's white-boy ass that did the deed, whitebread!" Taneka's scorn lashed the room. "There aint been anyone else for my Julie. Ever. Yes it's his."
Ross got shakily to his feet. "Julie, why didn't you tell me?"
She turned her tear-streaked face to him. "Were we ever going to have a life together Ross? Was there any point?"
"God damn it, Julie. I'm the father!" He shouted. A sense of wonder came across his face and he whispered softly. "I'm going to be a father again."
Chandler sighed. "First Ben and now this. Ross, you and rabbits seem to have a lot in common."
Ross gave Chandler a dark look and turned his full attention back on Julie. "Why didn't you tell me? You know how much I love children. I would want to be part of his," on seeing the look of the two women he ammended quickly "her life. It's a girl?" He managed to stammer out.
"Yes." Julie patted her stomach. "She will be born around the first of July, maybe even the Fourth. That would make her birth even more significant, at least it would be to me."
Chandler quipped. "Because she was a Fourth of July Girl, like Lil' Orphan Annie?" He could almost hear a little red-headed girl with her hair in curls singing a song called 'Tommorow'.
"No." Ross' eyes had a far-away look to them. It's because that was when we had our first date on the dunes in China and I almost blew us up with the fireworks."
For the first time a smile touched the corners of Julie's lips. "And I thought you'd forgotten."
"But why did you keep it a secret for so long? I missed so much of Ben's pregnancy and now I've missed most of hers." Tears filled his own eyes. "Why?"
Julie looked at the floor and said nothing. Alexi reached over and took Chandler's arm. "Come, tovaritz. This our cue to exit." Taneka looked at Julie as if to say 'I'll stay if you need me.'
Julie squeezed her hand. "Please," She said. "I'll be OK. Ross was never the problem." Reluctantly Taneka followed the other two out the door.
Ross reached out a hand but Julie turned away to stare out the window at the falling rain. Ross wondered why did the big events of his life always seem to happen in the rain? He stood there for a long moment respecting her silence and the struggle she was undergoing to compose herself. Finally, he said. "If I was never the problem, then why didn't you tell me, Julie?"
She turned and looked at him, fear and anger playing across her face. "Because I would've had to share our daughter with HER."
"Rachel? You're afraid of Rachel? That's impossible. She's the kindest, most wonderful person I've ever known. Why she's always spoken kindly of you."
"Ross, you're so damned blind it makes me sick. Rachel hates me. She never did a thing to hurt you while we were going together but she did everything she could to make me feel as welcome as a wolf in a flock of sheep. I found out from Phoebe one day by accident just what Rachel thought of me as a person." She clutched herself and shivered. "I never knew what it was to hate another woman until I met Rachel."
Ross looked at the floor. "I should've remembered how you feel about her but she's not that way. She'd welcome you as the mother of my daughter and she would love Alice as much as she loves Ben."
"Just like she welcomed me into your group of friends? No, Ross, I would always be the one who tried to steal her man from her. Rachel is who she is and nothing is going to change that. And what would Alice be to her? She'd be nothing more than the daughter of that hateful little bitch Julie who almost ruined her happiness and who has now found a new way to come between her and her true love. You say she loves Ben. Well she can love Ben because Ben's mother was never a threat to her."
"Alice? You're going to name her after my grandmother?"
"Alice-Suzan, actually." Julie looked at her hands, refusing to meet his eyes. "Named after grandmothers on both sides.
Ross had to rethink for a moment before he regrasped the thread of the conversation. "I can't believe that you think so badly of Rachel. She would never hurt anyone. Rachel is my lobster." At Julie's quizical look he hastened to explain. "Phoebe said it because we would act like two lobsters mating where they interlock their claws. It does sound pretty lame when put that way, doesn't it?"
"Ross, remember your biology. Lobsters have claws basically to kill other fish and crustaceans, including rival lobsters. It's not just to hold hands. Let me try to explain what I'm feeling. I don't mean Rachel would openly hate Alice or even deliberately hurt the child, but she's a very jealous person, as I've good reason to know. She would resent the time you spent with your daughter and her mother and that would show up in little things. Small remarks that children always seem to over hear. You can fool an adult many times, but you rarely fool a child more than once. Alice would eventually find out what Rachel thought of me and she would be caught in the storm surges of emotions between the two of us. Can you say she would not be hurt or warped by this? I've sworn that no one was ever going to hurt my little girl and that was why I was never going to tell you as long as Rachel had you in her claws."
Ross sighed. "Well, I know about Alice now and I want to be part of her life." He whirled around and began to pace up and down. "If the problem is how you percieve Rachel, then we have to change your perceptions of her."
"My perceptions are quite fine, thank you."
"Julie," I know you're concerned about Alice's welfare," He paused and said his coming daughter's name softly again and smiled. "I know that Rachel is nothing like you've described her as. But the only way I can make you see that is to have you talk with her. Since I'm going to marry Rachel some day, then she must be a part of this too. The three of us must get together and talk."
"Julie, you can't run and hide anymore. It's out in the open and Rachel has to know. Besides if you're shutting her out, then you're shutting me out of Alice's life and is that what you really want? Is it really me you hate for not loving you enough?"
Her answer was so low that he could barely hear it. "No." She gripped herself and shuddered. "In spite of everything, I do not hate you."
"Then couldn't you conceed that your anger towards Rachel may be coloring your opinion of her? Even just a little?"
"Maybe." She said with great reluctance. She turned around and stared at the falling rain. "And if that's true then I may be doing Alice more harm than good by avoiding this. Very well, Ross, you've made your point. Please make the arrangements."
"How about right now?"
She sighed. "Why not. I might lose my nerve otherwise. Let me go change." Julie stared at the bedroom door long after it closed. "I pray to God who has sustained me that you're right and I'm wrong. For if I'm right, Ross, there is one other that I love who may be badly hurt before all this is done." With great care she began to get dressed.
As Ross and Julie came out into the hall only Alexi and Taneka were still standing there. "Where's Chandler?" Ross asked.
"Your friend said he had to meet someone called Joey at five. So he left." Taneka shrugged.
"Oh shit." Ross said it like a prayer. "I hope he doesn't...." He shook his head. "Why am I worrying? Of course he will." He took Julie's arm. "Come on. We've got to get to see Rachel first."
III. The Day the Earth Stood Still
Monica looked up from her magazine as Chandler came bursting through the door. His face was flushed and he was highly excited. "Is Joey here? He wasn't at the apartment."
She nodded. "He's in the bathroom. Seems your toliet's stopped up."
"Not again, damn it!"
Phoebe yawned from the couch. "I wonder what you put down it this time?"
"Only the usual stuff."
"Last time it was a burnt ham."
"The trash can was full and besides the disposal doesn't like bones."
Phoebe arched her eyebrows. "And the toilet does?"
"It has a larger mouth. What's keeping Joey?"
There was a large sigh that seemed to echo out into the room and the sound of flushing followed by the gurgling of overflowing water and a loud. "Whoops."
"God damn it." Monica leaped to her feet and thrust herself by Joey as he reentered the room. "What did you do this time? Flush another bone?"
Joey called after her. "Is that what they're calling it now a days?" He turned back towards Chandler. "What's got you so worked up? It's our toliet, isn't it? Don't worry I'll pay for the repairs. As soon as I get a part."
"It's not the toliet." Chandler glanced around. "Is Rachel here?"
Phoebe shook her head. "She's working today. Here. Try some of Monica's saltwater taffy."
Chandler eyed the gooey candy and when Phoebe wouldn't remove the tray from his face, he took one so he could get on with his story. He unwrapped it as he continued. "Good, because I'm sure Ross wants to tell her himself but I can tell you guys if you promise not to tell her."
"Tell her about what?" Asked Joey, glancing over his shoulder in the direction of the bathroom from which a liberal outpouring of swear words was coming and every third or fourth word ended in his name.
Chandler grinned. "Julie's back."
"So?" Monica emerged from the bathroom with a plunger in her hand; her eyes were hard. She grabbed Joey by the ear. "You are cleaning up that mess in there right now."
"Ow!" Joey tried to twist out of Monica's grip unsuccessfully. He lost his ballance and sent the coffee table flying and the candy spinning across the rug.
"What're you, Joey, an accident waiting to happen? Look at the mess you made." Monica got down on her hands and knees followed by Phoebe and Joey to retrieve the candy. Frustrated that no one was listening to his big news Chandler popped the candy into his mouth and started chewing.
As they put the last of the candy back, minus four or five that Joey had hidden in his shirt, Monica looked up at Chandler. "What did you say about Julie?" She glared at Joey. "And don't think I've forgotten the mess you made in there. It's not going anywhere and neither are you."
Chandler opened his mouth and found to his horror that his teeth were stuck together. As the others stared at him he made exagerated faces and incoherent sounds around his clenched teeth.
"Come on. What's the big news about Julie?" Joey sat down on the couch next to Phoebe and as far from Monica as he could get.
Chandler became even more frustrated and began jumping up and down. The others stared at him in perplexity until Phoebe said. "He wants to play Charades. I just love charades."
Chandler now thoroughly frustrated with trying to get his teeth unstuck held up one finger. Phoebe shouted. "First word!" Chandler pointed at each girl in turn. "Women, girls." Suggested Phoebe.
Monica stared at him. "Us?" Chandler shook his head in negation.
"Well if it's about Julie, then he probably means 'she'." Joey chimed in. Chandler smiled and nodded up and down.
He took his hands and made a large circular motion near his stomach. Joey looked puzzled but Monica frowned. There was something familar about that.
Phoebe piped. "Oh this is so much fun. Is it as big as a breadbox?"
Chandler shook his head, thought a moment and then nodded. He took his hands and held them out in front of him and pantomined carrying a heavy load. Just then he felt his jaws coming unstuck. "She's ..." He managed to gasp.
Phoebe gave him a withering look. "You aren't playing by the rules. You can't tell us. We have to guess it. She's carrying something?"
She over-rode him. "No, don't tell me. Is it a puppy?"
"It and puppies have a lot in common." He said in exasperation as his teeth finally came free.
"Chandler, you mean she's pregnant?" Monica gasped out, coming to her feet.
He pointed his finger at her. "Bingo."
Phoebe clapped her hands. "Gee, you're good, Mon. Now it's your turn."
"Phoebe, shut up." Monica fixed Chandler with a look. "Whose is it?"
"Well, let's put it this way. You're an aunt again."
"Oh!" Monica sat down, hard.
Joey said. "I don't think I want to be around when Rachel finds out about Julie."
"What about Julie?" They all turned to stare at Rachel who'd come through come through the open door behind Chandler, holding her raincoat in her hand.
"Do I get to do the charades this time?" Inquired Phoebe.
Chandler gaped. "I thought you were at work."
Rachel threw the raincoat in the sink. "We had a power failure and I got sent home early. Now, what's this about Julie?" Her voice had a harder edge to it.
Monica crossed the room. "I think it would be better, Rach, if Ross was the one to tell you. Julie's back and there are some problems."
Rachel shook her head. "You're not telling me anything new. I didn't think that little bitch'd give up as easy as she did. I wouldn't've. Well if she thinks she can waltz back in to our lives and upset things, she's got another think coming. Ross and I are too close. There's nothing she can do to change that. She'd have to pull a pretty good trick to get herself even the tinniest little bit back into Ross' life."
In the door way Ross appeared. He did not see Rachel as he escorted Julie tenderly and gently into the room. "Are you sure you're all right? You looked pretty sick. You can rest for a little bit here while I go prepare Rachel for the news."
"Thanks, but I'm fine, Ross."
"Are you sure? I don't want anything to happen to you."
At the sound of her former rival's hated voice, Rachel spun around. Her rage building at what seemed to her stunning undeniable evidence of Ross' unbelievable infidelity. "Ross, what do you mean bringing that little...." Her hand flew to her mouth as Julie's condition registered.
Ross was too stunned to speak. He could only stare at his beloved. His one coherent thought was 'Of course. It's raining out.' Julie's hand closed even tighter around his arm.
Joey broke the silence. "If you ask me, that trick just might do it."
IV. The World Ends Not with a Bang But a Whimper
Rachel could only look from Ross to Julie and back again. She tried to speak but found herself unable to get out the words. Monica wanted to put her arm around her but when she saw Rachel's shoulders stiffen she decided that would not be a very good idea.
Julie's heart was beating like it would explode. She knew this had been a bad idea. She couldn't take this type of confrontation. Once again she was the outsider trying to force her way in where she was not wanted. She wanted to turn and run. A wave of disiness made her rock on her feet and if she hadn't been clutching Ross's arm she would've been hard put to stay up right.
Phoebe rushed over. "Oh, Julie, you shouldn't be standing there in your condition." She put her arm around the swaying woman. "Here you are like this and here we are acting so rude. Come and sit on the couch and tell us about the baby." As she helped her across the floor, she whispered. "You look so much prettier than the last time I saw you but I think being pregnant does that to a woman. It's the only time that being overweight makes us more beautiful. It's too bad that it's only temporary, but who would want to be pregnant all the time anyway. Ehheew." Ross and she together helped Julie across the floor to the couch where Monica had just finished hurriedly rearranging the pillows for her.
Phoebe gasped. "It kicked me." She had a look of wonder on her face. "The baby kicked me." Rachel clamped her mouth shut. Her mind was reeling.
Julie smiled tenatively. "Yes, she's been getting very rowdy in the last week."
Phoebe reached out a hand. "Can I?" Julie nodded and Phoebe laid a gentle hand on the swollen belly. Several seconds later she laughed. "You're right. I bet she'll be a soccer player when she grows up." She turned towards Monica. "Come here, Monica. Say hi to your new niece." Monica hesitated. "Come on. The baby won't bite. Hurry before it changes position."
Julie looked at Monica and smiled openly. The first time she'd met all of them she'd found that she had liked Monica the best. She'd been the only one who had truely welcomed her. She was glad Monica would be the baby's aunt. "Go ahead, Monica. I'm sure Alice-Suzan will be proud to meet you."
"You named her after grandmother Geller?" Monica reached out a hand to feel the quickening life inside Julie. She was going to be an aunt again. Deep in herself she felt a stirring which she could only identify as a longing. Someday she would stand in Julie's place and feel a new life that she'd created growing within her. Tears came to her eyes. "Oh, Julie." She breathed out as the baby's shoulder moved against her fingers.
"Ross." The one word was said low and hard with all the threat in the world. Rachel did not have to shout to get his attention. "What in Hell is going on here?"
"Uh, Rachel, I know this is something of a surprise. Believe me it's as much a surprise as it is to you." At her glare, he hastely ammended. "Well maybe not quite as much as to you." She beckoned with one finger. "I wanted to tell you first when I found out." She pointed angrily towards the bedroom. Ross swallowed. "Will you excuse us for a minute." As he turned to follow the stiff back of Rachel into the bedroom he stopped to glare at Chandler. "Thanks buddy."
Rachel turned and grabbed Ross by one of his ears which because of its size made such a very good handle. "Ow." He yelled as she dragged him across the rug and into her room, slamming the door behind them.
Phoebe looked up at Joey. "She's really kicking up a storm in there."
"Do you blame, Rachel?" He wondered if Julie would let him feel the baby but was afraid to ask. Wasn't it a girl thing?
Phoebe snorted. "I'm talking about Alice." She glanced towards the shut door and shuddered slightly. From the sounds of things Ross was catching it really bad.
Ross ducked a flung dish. "Rachel, please let me explain." He grabbed her arm to prevent her from hitting him with the music box he'd given her. "It's not what you think." She twisted away from him and smashed the box on the floor. He reached out a hand but she backed away from him, her sides heaving with anger.
"Oh, it isn't? Well, then tell me, Ross. What am I to think? You bring that, that woman in here and she's pregnant with your God-damned kid! What am I to think?" She turned her back on him. "I think I don't know you, Ross. I don't know you at all." Outside the window the rain continued to fall.
Ross swallowed. "I didn't know about this until today. She never told me. You know I wouldn't keep such a thing from you. Rachel, I love you." He put his hands out but when she didn't turn he dropped them forlornly by his sides. "I love you." He repeated.
She spun around and her eyes were colder than at anytime he could remember. She was in even worse a temper than the night with the list. He shivered as she ground out. "You have a funny way of showing it. How long were you sleeping with her after you supposedly broke up with her? Were you running to her arms all the time you were trying to convince me that you loved me?"
"Rachel," He reached out an arm for her but she slapped it away. "I haven't slept with Julie." He realized even as he said it that he should've put it better than that.
"So, it's not your baby?"
"Yes, it is. But, Rachel."
"Then the baby says you're lying about sleeping with her, Ross. Or do you think I'm stupid?"
"Rachel, you're the only one for me. I've never been unfaithful to you. I couldn't be. You're my lobster."
"And I thought you were mine. I guess I was wrong." She turned away from him again and this time there was finality in the gesture.
"Rachel, please. There's nothing between Julie and me."
"Get out, Ross." She said tiredly.
"Rachel." His face was filled with pain that was tearing him apart.
"Get out before I scream." The set of her shoulders said she would do just that.
He knew that when Rachel was like this she would no longer listen to reason. He backed out the door, feeling as if his whole world was coming to an end.
V. The War Between the Worlds
Julie watched Ross stagger away from the door and her heart went out to him. The others looked up in concern. "Ross?" Monica asked.
"She won't listen to me. She won't listen. I love her and she won't listen to me." He collapsed on the hassock and held his head in his hands.
Chandler came over. "I'm sorry, Ross."
"And that makes it all right? Why couldn't you just have kept your big mouth shut? Do you enjoy messing up my life? Are you some type of deamon in disquise? First its your God-damned computer and now this."
"Maybe it's deamon possession." Phoebe said. "Or maybe you were a changling that was swaped at birth." At the others' questioning looks, she finished up with. "Well, it's possible. It's like Rosemary's Baby."
"If I remember right, that was the Devil's son." Joey said. He glanced at Chandler. "Of course that might explain a lot of things."
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Chandler was starting to lose his cool.
Phoebe responded. "That might explain why you can't get along with women. We're sensitive to such things. You remember my spirit possession?"
Chandler ignored her and turned back to Ross. "Look, man. I'm really sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen." Ross didn't say anything. In desparation Chandler turned to Julie. "Can't you do something?"
Julie got to her feet. "I don't think there's anything I'd say that she'd want to listen to. I knew that this was a big mistake." She looked over at Ross who was holding his head in his hands. "I told him that but he wouldn't listen. For whatever it means right now. I'm sorry, Ross." She picked up her coat and headed for the door.
For once Chandler found himself moved to action. He had the feeling that if Julie walked away from this, then it might destroy his friend and the only one he'd ever be able to blame would be himself and his mouth. He hurried after her and caught up with her in the hallway.
"I thought you loved Ross." He charged. "How can you do this to him?"
"That was long ago, Chandler. He destroyed that love one rainy night in November."
"I don't think so. I saw that look that you gave him when we came into your place. I think you still love him in some way. And if you do, can you live with yourself if you do this to him? I don't think so."
"And even if that were true, what do you expect me to do?"
"Go back in there and tell Rachel the truth."
Tears filled her eyes. "You ask too much of me. You don't know what's gone on between the two of us."
"Julie, I'm asking you to do the right thing. The right thing for Ross, the right thing for yourself, and most of all the right thing for Alice. Alice needs her father and if you walk out and Ross knows you could've done something, this will poison everything for years. You might be thinking that this is the way you and Ross can get back together but it's just as likely to end up with him hating you and how will that help Alice?"
When she said nothing, he continued. "Julie, when I was ten my parents got divorced and couldn't agree on whom I'd stay with or visitation rights. All I wanted was for them to love me and stop fighting. But they wouldn't and to this day I feel anger towards them for what they did to me. Do you want to do that to your daughter when you could avoid it?"
"No." She said softly. "I don't. But God-damn it, Chandler, how can I face Rachel alone? It was going to be bad enough with Ross along to pave the way. How can I do it alone?"
"Because I think you have the courage to do it for the sake of your daughter as well as for Ross. You had the courage to come over here and face her. Ross will still be there and if it counts for anything, I'll be supporting you."
For a moment he thought she was going to turn away and run and then she sighed. "Chandler your friends called you a devil. They were wrong. You're more like a certain wizard that I saw in a movie once."
"I'll explain later. I have to do this now or not at all." She straightened herself up. "So, once more, dear friends, into the breach."
It sounded familiar to him. "Star Trek Six? The Klingon commander?"
"Yes, and he took it from the Bard of Avon. Let's do it before I lose my nerve."
They reentered the appartment. Monica and the others who were standing around Ross trying to comfort him were caught by surprise. Julie tossed her coat to Chandler and paused by Ross to lay a hand on his shoulder. "This is for you and for Alice, Ross." She kissed him on his bowed head.
Ross looked up incomprehendingly and then with both hope and fear as he watched Julie approach the closed door. She swallowed. What did some wise man once say. 'Our greatest bravery is when we face that which scares us the most.' Or something like that. She tried the door knob and found it unlocked. She stepped into the room and swung the door shut behind her. This was between the two of them, the way it should've been from the beginning. "Hello, Rachel." She said.
"What in the Hell do you want?" Rachel raised a tear-stained face from her pillow.
"To keep you from making the biggest mistake of both your lives." God I wish you were here, Ross, or you, Chandler. I don't think I can do this.
Rachel came out from behind the bed and her fingers were like claws. "Get out of here, you conniving little bitch."
At those words Julie's fear vanished to be replaced by rage. "And that's all I've been to you from the beginning isn't it? A conniving little bitch. Not a person, not a woman, but some deamon bent on stealing the love of your man. Well, woman, wake up and smell the coffee. The only bitch I see is a jealous one, and that's you."
Rachel drew back her hand. "You're the bitch. You're the one who kept after Ross even after you two broke up. Did you enjoy sleeping with him?"
Julie refused to flinch, but if Rachel hit her, she wasn't going to just stand there and take it meekly. "Rachel, the one whose acted like a bitch from the very beginning has been you. Who was it treated me like an ignorant coolie girl when I got off the plane? Who had Phoebe give me that awful hair cut? Who tried to talk Ross out of sleeping with me? Who was it forbade her friends to go anywhere with me or even be nice to me? Who was it that left a phone message for Ross that ended our relationship? I did nothing but try to be your friend and you did everything you could to make my life miserable."
Rachel stunned by this outpouring of anger managed to rally. "And you aren't manipulating? You snuck in out of nowhere and took Ross from me. You subverted and turned Monica from me so that she took your side and now you've managed to get Ross back. Besides the things I did were all accidents. I didn't plan any of them; they just happened, especially the phone message."
The two women stood there glaring at each other until Julie sighed. "We could go on like this all night and resolve nothing. Rachel, let's leave aside the question whether we're bitches or not and address the real problem."
"You're the only problem I see and I want you out of here."
"You aint going to get that. For once you're going to listen. Damn it, woman, I've never seen anyone as jealous and insecure as you. When we first met, you were so insecure that you wouldn't tell Ross how you felt and so jealous that you kept trying to hurt me for getting in your way. It would've saved us all a lot of grief if you'd just told him the truth from the beginning. Now your insecurity and jealously is threatening to destroy the love between you and Ross because of this." She touched her swollen abdomen.
"Yes, because of that." Rachel spat the words out. "He lied to me. He was still seeing you when he was supposedly with me."
"Did he? Rachel, there's nothing more that I would like than to have Ross back but it isn't going to happen. He doesn't love me the way that he loves you and that's what hurts. You don't know how it hurts. Now listen closely, for I intend to say this only once. Ross and I have not slept together since the night that we broke up."
"I wish I could believe you, but I don't."
"My doctor tells me that I'm eight months pregnant. You do the math and see what you come up with?"
Rachel blinked. "That's November. Well, you still could've slept with him after that." She finished, her voice trailing off.
"Rachel, this is Ross we're talking about here. Did he try to sleep with you before he broke up with me?" At the shake of Rachel's head she continued. "And he didn't do it with me after the breakup. Such behavior would not be Ross."
"Even if that's true, why didn't you tell him you were pregnant? If you'd told him that before he and I got together, you'd have had him back."
"For the same reason you wouldn't've. Think of it, Rachel. We're both the type of woman that Ross falls in love with. I didn't do it and you wouldn't for the very same reasons."
Rachel stared a long time at Julie. Finally she said softly. "I wouldn't've done it because I want to be loved for who I am and I want that love to be unconditional and last forever. I would not want love out of pity."
"I think we do understand each other now. If I'd gone to Ross and told him, I might've won a temporary victory but I would've lost everything in the end. You wouldn't do it and I didn't."
Rachel couldn't meet her eyes. Julie said softly. "Do you still think I'm a manipulating little bitch?"
"After that last performance. More than ever." A slight smile crossed Rachel's lips. "However, I'll admitt you may be my type of manipulating bitch." She sighed. "All right I believe you. But satisfy my curiosity. Just when do you think it happened?" She sat on the edge of the bed.
"Do you mind if I sit, too? This baby can be quite a strain on my back."
"I'm sorry." Rachel waved her to the other end of the bed and felt the springs flounce as Julie sat down.
"My best guess is that it happened the first night that Ross and I did it." She smiled remembering.
"And you did it at the apartment after we visited with you until after midnight and I kept you two up asking such dumb questions about your former life?"
"Yes. How did you know?"
"Because that night I was trying hard to keep Ross from doing it with you but when I saw how miserable my manipulations were making him I turned it around and turned him on to you." She sighed. "God, I was a manipulating bitch, wasn't I?"
Julie looked surprised. "You actually did that for Ross because you cared for him? Rachel, for the first time I believe that you do love him." She reached out her hand and squoze Rachel's. "I'm so very glad you were a manipulating bitch that night."
"Why? It got you pregnant."
"That night was one of the happiest moments of my life and it caused Alice to be created. I regret none of that." Julie paused. "It just struck me that this means that you had a part in bringing about Alice's creation. In a way it makes you one of her mothers. She's yours in some way as much as mine and if you accept that it'll make things easier for all of us, especially little Alice."
"It's a strange way to become a mother."
"It's a lot easier than what I'm going through." They both chuckled.
"What happens now?" Rachel looked frightened. "After what I did to Ross, will he be leaving with you?"
"Ross will never leave you. He's your lobster and you're his. I will always love him but I could never make him as happy as you can. But I have one favor to ask. I want you to really be Alice's mother and help me raise her to be a woman we can both be proud of. I want you to be part of her life."
"Oh, Julie." Rachel broke into tears and hugged her. "I'm so sorry for everything I did or said to you."
Julie hugged her back. "It's going to take time, but I think you and I'll become friends like we should've been from the first." She got to her feet. "A piece of advice, Rachel. Don't let Ross sleep alone tonight. He's been hurt enough."
"I'll think on it. And Julie?"
"Please come and see us tomorrow. We have a lot more to talk about and to plan for our baby. Why there's so much we have to buy." Rachel's eyes lit up.
Julie grinned. "I think someone is proposing a trip to Sachs." They both laughed.
As she stepped out into the living room. Ross looked up in trepidation and the others nervously. "Well?" Asked Chandler. "It's awfully quiet in there."
"I hope it's not the calm before the storm." Joey declared, receiving several angry looks in return.
Julie nodded to Ross. "I think if you ask politely, she won't throw you out this time."
"Julie, I..." He couldn't finish. He could only stare at her like he was really seeing her for the first time.
She patted his hand. "I know, Ross. Just be yourself. It's the reason we both love you so much."
He gave her a quick hug, swallowed and left to face Rachel.
"Rachel?" He said tenatively to the partly open door.
She opened the door and threw herself in his arms. They could all hear his backbone creak at the pressure she applied which was nothing to the pressure her lips were applying. For a moment she broke the clench, but only to draw him back into the room with her and close the door. "I love you so much, Ross." She said before she embraced him again.
"Look. They're lobsters again." Said Phoebe.
Monica hugged Julie. "Thank you." Joey shook a relieved Chandler's hand.
"Well," Julie said. "I think I've done enough damage for one day. I do have to get back home."
"Do you want a ride?" Chandler asked.
"If you think you can keep your devil under control."
"The Chandler deamon limo is at your service." He bowed and she took his arm.
Once outside they found the rain had ended and the setting sun was breaking through the clouds. He turned to her. "Hey, you were going to explain that remark you made earlier that I was a wizard. Was that because I was so magical with words back there?"
"No. Though you're a lot like a certain wizard in how you use them."
"Now you've lost me."
"You're just like Oz. However, you did for me what he did for the Cowardly Lion. You made me see that my true courage was always deep inside me. I'd just misplaced it for a while."
He grinned and both looked up towards the apartment window. For a second, they thought they could see a silhouette of two clenched lovers against the glass and then it was lost as the light of the sun struck it between the neighboring buildings. "I like happy endings." He said.
Julie smiled and patted her swollen abdomen where Alice was stirring once more. "Ending? It's just getting started."