Chasing Cars

Chandler stopped keeping track of the time a little over an hour ago. It did not seem to be worth it anymore. Time might as well have stopped all together, or ran backwards for all he knew. It didn't matter. As far as he was concerned, this must be hell. Rachel had been talking, almost non-stop; peppering Ross' girlfriend Julie with questions about her life for hours. Chandler feels numb from boredom and exhaustion. It takes all of his concentration just to keep his eyes open as he holds onto one of Ross's couch cushions in his arms. Using the pressure from hugging it to keep him from falling asleep. He is so tired that he can barely hear the words coming out of Rachel's mouth. He looks across the room, dragging his sleepy eyes towards his friends. Joey, sitting on the floor, eyes staring blankly ahead at nothing, as if he were hypnotized. Monica was already fast asleep, with her legs draped across the arm of the chair. All three of them were wiped out. The adrenaline rush they had felt from seeing Joey's porno was long gone. Now, all they could do was wait for Rachel to stop talking and for this night to be over.

"Now, what exactly is in a cobb salad?"

Rachel's latest question snaps Chandler out of his stupor. He springs up from the couch and sleepily announces, "I'm going home." Joey, as if he was simply waiting for that signal, begins to stir and raises himself off of the floor as he shambles across the room. Chandler, close behind him, almost reaches the door to Ross' apartment but stops, turns around and looks for Monica, who is still asleep on the chair. He walks back to the living room and leans over to gently shake her awake. "C'mon. We're going home."

Monica's eyes open like slits. She can barely get out a groggy, "m'kay" as she reaches for Chandler to help her up from the chair. Leaning against him as they stagger out of the apartment and into the hallway. She holds onto his waist and places her hand against his back as he puts his arm around her shoulders to support her weight. Monica, feeling as if she will fall over, embraces him tightly and rests her head on his chest.

"That Julie's a talker, huh?" Joey offers up as they make their way to the elevator at the end of the hallway. They hear Ross say something, but all three of them are too tired to acknowledge him and keep moving until they enter the elevator and the door closes behind them.

Once they reach the street, Monica, now with both arms around Chandler's waist, shivers a bit from the cold night air. He removes his cardigan and wraps it around her shoulders, guiding her arms through the sleeves. "Cab?" is all he can manage to mumble out as he looks up towards Joey. Joey nods and steps into the gutter to flag one down.

As a cab pulls up to the curb, Joey looks around towards the entrance of Ross' building. "Oh man! Where's Rachel?"

"She must be coming. I guess we can wait." Chandler moves back from the cab and slumps up against a bollard on the sidewalk with Monica still wrapped up in his arms.

Monica groans with weak frustration. Her eyelids barely able to open, looking more like half-moons, leans heavily into him. "I want to go home. I need my bed." She then turns her face sleepily back into his chest and closes her eyes.

"Look, why don't you two take this cab and when Rachel gets down here, me and her will get the next one." Joey opens the back door to the waiting taxi and guides Chandler and Monica towards it. "You should get her to bed." Chandler nodded as the two of them climb in and huddle together in the back seat.

Monica, her eyes already closed again as she nuzzles into Chandler's chest, rubs her hand across his soft, white cotton T-shirt. Joey gives the cab driver their address, taps his hand on the roof of the car three times and turns around to walk back into the lobby of the building, hoping to find Rachel and get home himself.

During the brief ride Chandler rubs his eyes hard, trying to wake himself up. He looks down at Monica who was still resting on his chest. He reaches down and wraps his arms around her, attempting to support her head. Trying to keep her from jerking back-and-forth due to the sudden movements of the car as it darts along the busy Manhattan streets.

The cab pulls up to their building on Bedford Street with a sudden stop, bringing both of out of their slumberous haze. Chandler pays the fare with a wad of cash from his pocket and focuses his attention back on Monica. He helps her out of the car and leads them across the sidewalk until they enter the lobby of their apartment building.

Once inside, Monica opens her eyes and looks up at the stairs they need to climb in order to reach their shared floor. She sees the task as daunting but necessary if they are to make it into their respective apartments and ultimately, into their own beds. "I can't do these stairs now. Maybe we can just rest here for a few minutes." She looks up at Chandler, hoping he agrees to a reprieve.

Chandler looks up at the stairs, "But, I want my bed."

Monica takes another look and reaches her arms around his neck, interlocking her fingers. "How about a lift?"

"Are you asking me to carry you?" Chandler's shoulders slump from exhaustion. "You have got to be kidding me."

"Please? I'm so tired and I'm a tiny little woman. You wouldn't even know you were carrying me." She leans on him again, her eyes already closing.

Chandler protests weakly, "Mon, I'm so tired."

Monica begins to speak in a sing-song voice, "I'll cook you anything you want for dinner tomorrow. Even mac and cheese."

Chandler lets out a tired, annoyed sigh and then slumps back in defeat. "Okay, I'll do it. But I want it from a box. No fancy stuff. No three different kinds of cheese. I want my cheese to come in powder form from a white envelope."

Monica, looks up at him with disgust, sticks her tongue out and blows a raspberry, but eventually relents with surprisingly very little protest. She tightens her grip around his neck and starts to let her body go limp. Chandler hooks one arm under her legs and places the other on her back to support her weight as he lifts her up and begins the climb the stairs to their floor. Monica nuzzles her head into his neck and drifts back to sleep.

Chandler is stronger than he usually projects outwardly, and under normal circumstances, carrying Monica wouldn't tax him physically. Tonight though, he is exhausted, and climbing up the stairs while holding her in his arms feels like an impossible task. His muscles begin to feel the strain almost immediately and he has to take small breaks, leaning against the wall, every time he reaches one of the landings. The promise of his bed, waiting for him, is the only thing that keeps him moving.

Mercifully, he finally reaches their floor and steps over to Monica's door. He nudges her with his shoulder to wake her up. "Okay. We're here. Goodnight." He looks down at Monica who is sound asleep and sighs. He strains a bit and works a few fingers into the pocket of her pants, finally hooking one on her key ring. He pulls them out and struggles to slip the key into her door, but finally manages to unlock it.

Chandler moans, realizing he is going to have to carry Monica a little bit longer before he can go to bed. He enters the apartment, walks across the kitchen and living room, until he finally makes it into her bedroom. He gingerly lays her down on the bed and she kicks off her shoes, curling up into a ball and mumbles something that sounds like "good night."

Chandler sits down to catch his breath at the foot of her bed. "Okay. I just need a minute." Without warning, he immediately collapses backwards, and ends up lying across the length of her bed as he passes out with his feet still on the floor.

A few hours pass and Chandler's eyes open slightly as he tries to shift himself into a more comfortable position. Not realizing where he is at first, he starts to panic until he finally recognizes his surroundings and figures that he must have fallen asleep in Monica's room on her bed the moment they got home. He turns his head and looks over, seeing that she is fast asleep. He notices that she is now under the covers and looks to have changed her clothes at some point since she seems to be wearing her pajamas.

He moves his head side-to-side and realizes that he now has a blanket draped over him. His shoes are off and when he looks around the room, he finds them neatly lined up on the floor next to Monica's. Chandler quickly works out that she must have woken up for a few minutes, cleaned up, changed, and covered him up before she went back to sleep. He mumbles out a sleepy, "still getting my mac n cheese". For a brief moment he thinks about getting up from his position by her feet and making his way into his own bed, but still too tired to move, he simply closes his eyes and falls back into an inviting deep slumber.