Summary: Burning lungs, dirty dancing, nightswimming and second chances...Loud music, tainted smoke, fiery kisses and racing hearts. Everyone remembers what it was like to be 18. Established R/R and eventual C/M
In case it's not clear from the summary, this story is slightly AU. It takes place during Rachel and Monica's junior year in high school and Ross and Chandler's senior year. Phoebe and Joey also go to school with them, but they serve more of a supporting position. For the sake of all of our imaginations, let's just pretend that Monica's already dropped all that weight and Rachel's nose is no longer the size of Connecticut :-)
"Ugh, Monica, turn this crap off! It's terrible!" Rachel made a face indicative of disgust, getting up from her position on the plush carpet and crossing Monica's room to eject the CD.
"Hey, cut it out! I liked that song!" Ignoring her friend's protest, Rachel reached for the black CD case and scanned it for a disc that was more amicable to dancing. After she found one, she turned up the volume and began dancing around Monica's room. Monica rolled her eyes.
"You're crazy," she insisted, rolling over on her stomach on the bed and reaching for the remote. Rachel refused to be called crazy, though, bobbing over to her friend and taking her by the hands, forcing her to stand up and dance with her. Monica resisted, playfully swatting her friend with a pillow. After a few more moments, Rachel turned the CD player off completely and joined her friend on the bed.
"So, do you think my parents suspect yet that you're just coming over here to have sex with Ross after I'm asleep?" Monica teased, smiling widely. Rachel rolled her eyes, but was obviously a little offended.
"Shut up, you know that's not how it is. I was friends with you before I even met Ross." Monica nodded.
"I know, I know. I was just messing with you." Rachel had been dating her brother for almost 6 months, now. At first, it had made Monica somewhat uncomfortable. The idea of her brother and her best friend making out in the room next to hers was more than she was able to stomach, but she got accustomed to it after a while. Besides, she knew how happy they made each other.
They girls were having one of their patented "girls night". They got into their pajamas around 7 o'clock and then watched movies, listened to music and snuck some of Jack and Judy's alcohol until they fell asleep. However, truth be told, Monica did usually pass out first. Rachel had found herself in Ross' room on several occasion when this had happened in the past. She wasn't sure if Monica had ever found out, but she didn't think she'd really mind, anyway.
Monica pulled a bottle of Vodka out from under her pillow that the girls had been slowly nursing throughout the night. She took a small swallow of it and twisted her face as it slid down her throat, burning her stomach. She handed it to Rachel, who did the same.
"How have your parents never figured out that we steal their liquor, Mon?"
"Oh, I just fill the bottle back up with a little water before they wake up in the morning. They've never said anything." Rachel nodded, taking another sip. The girls sat in silence for a few moments, watching some infomercial that was flashing images of a ridiculously priced, hand-held vacuum cleaner across the screen.
"Okay, so I've got to ask," Monica finally blurted out. Rachel smiled, having known that this was coming at SOME point during the night.
"Have you and Ross...you know...yet?" Rachel shook her head.
"Really?!" Monica squealed in disbelief. Rachel nodded again, confirming her previous answer. "How? I mean, you guys are alone together A LOT. Don't think I don't know that you go over there sometimes after I fall asleep." Uh oh, Rachel though. So she DID know. Monica was smiling, though, indicating that she really didn't mind.
"I don't know," Rachel began, "I mean, it's not like we don't do...other stuff. We've come close a few times."
"Well, then why haven't you?" Monica was gripping her pillow tightly to her chest, surprised at how eager she was to hear about her own BROTHER'S sexual activities. Usually, that would have disgusted her. Something about the fact that it was Ross and Rachel intrigued her, though.
"I guess it's my fault. I mean, I'm just not ready. I'm sure that if I told him I was, he'd have no problem with it."
"I think that's probably the understatement of the century," Monica joked. Rachel smiled.
"Yeah. I know he does...He's an 18-year-old guy, of COURSE he does!"
"Do you love him?" Rachel didn't even have to think about her answer. It was instinctive. It spilt from her lips more naturally than even she had expected.
"Well, are you guys IN love?"
"Yes, more so than I ever could have imagined."
"So what makes you think you aren't ready?" Rachel shrugged, getting up from the bed and crossing the room to look at herself in the mirror. She was wearing short black Sophie shorts and a long-sleeved royal blue t-shirt that said "New York University Fencing Club" on it. She'd gotten it at the thrift store several years ago. Her strawberry blonde hair was pulled up into a messy bun that managed to look strategically placed, even in all of it's haste. Monica watched her friend look at herself in the mirror, unable to help but envy her slightly. She had always though of Rachel as being the most beautiful girl she'd ever met, and sometimes secretly wished that she could be her...even if it was just for a day. She shook the feeling quickly, though, and smiled at her goofy friend as she watched Rachel reach for a Cat In The Hat hat that Ross had won for Monica last year at the State Fair.
"I don't know. Maybe I am ready," she mused, removing the hat from her head and turning around to face her friend. "I'm sure it would be great...I mean, he's WONDERFUL at all the other stuff..." Monica put up her hand.
"Woah, he's still my brother." Rachel nodded, sitting down in a swivel chair and resting her feet up on Monica's desk.
"I don't know what the hold-up is. I'm sure it'll happen eventually. It only makes sense for Ross to be my first. At this point, I can't even imagine myself with anyone else." Monica nodded. She couldn't imagine Rachel with anyone but her brother, either.
"Just promise me you'll tell me everything about it." Rachel stopped her swiveling.
"Really? Everything?" Monica smiled.
"I'll try to forget that he's my brother for that one conversation."
"Speaking of your stupid brother, where is he tonight?"
"He went to some concert at NYU with Chandler. He actually told me to tell you that he'd be back around 2 am, in case you wanted to 'come say hi'." Monica emphasized the last portion, making the connotations of Ross' words quite clear. Rachel couldn't help but giggle and become giddy with the prospect of seeing Ross so soon. She saw him every day, but she got butterflies in her stomach every time. Monica saw this and made note if it.
"You really do love my dumbass brother, don't you?" Rachel smiled, bringing her right hand up to her neck and nervously fingering the thick hemp necklace there that Ross had bought for her impulsively on their first date to the mall. There were several other necklaces there, mostly thin multicolored ones that she'd braided from string and that had since become tainted with swimming pool bleach and limp from the waters of multiple showers, but Ross' hemp one always stood out.
"You don't mind if I...'go say hi', do you?" Rachel asked shyly. Monica threw the lime green pillow she'd been holding at her love-struck friend, readjusting herself on the bed.
"No, loser, of course I don't mind. Just be careful not to wake me up with all of your moaning and crap." Monica teased, unable to let her friend off so easily without throwing in a last-ditch quip. "It's only midnight, though. I'm kind of tired so I'm going to go to sleep. Tell Ross I said I hope he and Chandler had fun at their concert." Monica switched off the light beside her bed and turned over underneath the covers to face the window. Rachel made her way to the floor beside her friend's bed in the dark. She decided to get a few hours of sleep before seeing Ross.
"Pst, Rach!" Rachel raised her head slowly from the floor, opening her eyes to complete darkness.
"Rachel...you awake?" She propped herself up on both elbows, looking over at the door and waiting for her eyes to adjust. She glanced up at the clock. 2:17 am. When she looked back at the door, she could faintly make out Ross' silhouette. The door was cracked open and he was whispering to her from the other side.
"Yeah, I'm up," she groggily managed. Careful not to wake Monica, she got up from the floor and joined him on the other side of the door. It was dark in the hallway, too, but the light from the bathroom at the end of it provided at least some luminance.
"Hi," she whispered, smiling up at him. He was wearing dark jeans and a white t-shirt that clung tightly to his body. It had apparently been raining outside, since the shirt was almost entirely transparent and his shaggy brown hair was damp. He jerked his head, shaking some of the excess water off. She smoothed her hands over his chest and then wrapped them around his waist, feeling the muscles of his pecs and back beneath her hands.
"Hi," he replied, wrapping her in his arms and bending down to place a kiss on her forehead.
"Weren't you wearing a jacket?" she asked, realizing now exactly how cold he must have been.
"No, I'll be okay. Come on, let's go to my room."
He took her hand and led her to the end of the hallway. They went through the last door on the left, ascending a staircase that stopped at the top of Ross' attic room. It was a slightly unfinished room, but it was enormous. The walls were still made of unpainted wood, but they sloped down on two sides and were dressed with one inset window on each and a huge skylight over his bed. Posters of "Depeche Mode", "Def Leopard" and "The Rolling Stones" lined the walls and dirty clothes and books littered the floors. Besides his queen-sized, oak-framed bed, the only other pieces of furniture in the gigantic room was a desk, two end-tables on either side of the bed, a book shelf and a dresser. For how gigantic the room was, it seemed sparsely furnished. An electric guitar sat on a stand in the corner, along with an amp and some sort of electrical music mixing machine that Ross had never quite been able to explain properly to her. All in all, it was a typical teenage boy's room.
With his hand still clasped tightly around her wrist, Ross led her over to his bed. No lights were on in the room, and the beginning of what looked like a severe thunderstorm was pounding effervescently against the skylight above them. The moon was huge and brilliant, casting at least some light into the attic. The navy sheets and comforter on his bed were soft but messy, and he apologized weakly as they sat down. She smiled, shaking her head as she leaned into a kiss that they'd both been yearning and anticipating since their eyes had adjusted in the dark that night. He turned, letting one of his hands rest heavily on her thigh and the other explore her back.
"So, did you and Monica have fun tonight?" he whispered, having broken the kiss and was now rubbing circles with both of his thumbs on the inside of her wrists.
"Yeah, but you know, we always have a lot of fun. We just talked and stuff...and drank," Ross smiled. He knew that his sister and his girlfriend had a lot of fun together, and it made him happy to hear. Rachel had always been best friends with Monica, even when she had been overweight and lonely. That was what Ross had noticed first about her- her since of compassion and total disregard to what anyone else thought of her. She was her own person, and she would do anything for anyone she cared about. Her heart was bigger than anyone else's he'd ever encountered.
"Did you and Chandler have fun at your concert?" He nodded, kind of scanning the room with his eyes.
"Yeah, it was fun. It was a local band, but I got a signed poster. I need to find somewhere to put it, though. I wish you could have been there," she giggled softly, running a hand over his back and kissing his shoulder.
"You didn't hook up with any hot college chicks, did you?" Rachel teased, leaning her head against Ross' shoulder.
"Well, you know," he complied, taking both of her hands in his and stroking her arm, "this one girl was kind of all over me. I almost did it, but I didn't think my girlfriend would've liked that very much." Rachel raised her head and looked him in the eyes, a glimpse of something genuinely concerned flashing over her face. Ross smiled.
"Relax, sweety, I was just kidding." He wrapped his arm around her, pulling her tightly into his side as the rain picked up over their heads. "Besides, even if I wanted to, I don't think I could find a girl I was more attracted to than you." This threw Rachel for a loop. She obviously knew that Ross was attracted to her, but he had never verbally voiced it outside of an intimate moment of passion, and even then it's simplicity and endearing quality had been blurred by needy words like "hot" and "fuck". Something about the way he said "girl" and "attracted" made him seem so vulnerable and boyish, and she loved it.
"Really?" she asked hopefully. He laughed briefly and sweetly at the fact that she had never truly known that before, when he had known it since the first time he'd seen her.
"I can't believe you don't know that, baby. Rachel...Rach...I could never, in a thousand years on this Earth, find another single person who I could love and want as much as you. Never." Oddly enough, the very first thing that she noticed about his profession was his use of the word "baby". It still amazed her how that didn't bother her. When other boys had used that name with her in the past, it had seemed demeaning and unnatural. Something about the way he said it fit, though.
"Hey Ross..."she began, somewhat apprehensively, "does it ever...frustrate you that we haven't had sex yet?" Ross was visibly surprised by this question. He turned to look at her, furrowing his brow slightly.
"What- uh, what do you mean?" Then, before she could answer, he continued. "Rachel, where would you get that idea? You don't think- I mean, I've never been too pushy about it, have I? If I have, listen, I didn't mean to. It's just that sometimes I see you and, you know, I get kind of caught up in the moment, but if you want me to-" Rachel placed a finger of his mouth, silencing him.
"Shhh, sweety, it's okay. That's not why I asked. You've never pressured me into doing anything that I didn't absolutely want to do. I just asked because Monica asked me tonight if we ever had, and I told her 'no', but then we talked about it and I realized I didn't really know if I had a reason not to anymore. Plus, you're 18 and you're a guy and we've been dating for like half a year and I just thought that meant that maybe you were expecting something, and I didn't want to let you down." Rachel was now nervously playing with her hair, obviously having made herself uncomfortable and now feeling embarrassed. Ross just sat there shocked with his mouth slightly agape. He couldn't believe his ears.
"Rachel, I want you to listen really carefully to me, okay? I want you to hear everything I'm about to say, because I don't want there to ever be any question about this again. I don't expect anything from you. Every day, I wake up and the very first thing I think about is how incredibly, insanely, impossibly lucky I am that you would ever want to share yourself with me. Anything you offer to me, I'll gladly take it. No matter how small or large it is, I will always be happy with it, just because it's part of you. I don't care how old I am, or how many other people are doing it, or how long we've been dating. If you want to wait until you're married...then I'll just hope to God that I'm the man you decide to meet at the end of the aisle." Rachel couldn't believe she had found a guy who was so understanding. Finally, after years of believing that a sentimental, sensitive, caring guy was an oxymoron, Rachel had finally found one who could seemingly read her mind and tell her exactly whatever it was that she needed to hear.
"Thank you, Ross," she whispered simply, burying her head in his chest and wrapping her arms around him. He kissed her forehead and rubbed her shoulders gently.
"No problem, babe. You just tell me whenever you're ready, and I'll be here waiting...at least trying to be patient." She smiled into his chest, leaning into him and forcing his body down onto the mattress.
Before she could rest her head completely on his chest, he reached down and lifted his shirt up and over his head in one swift motion. Rachel watched in an almost hypnotic state as the defined muscles of his stomach contracted with his motions. He swung the shirt across the room before unzipping his fly, wadding up his rain-dampened jeans and doing the same with them. He laid his head back down on the pillow with a "thump", sliding one arm around her and bringing the thick pile of sheets and comforters up around their bodies. They laid there like that for a while, staring up at the gleaming moon and dancing raindrops through the skylight. They didn't worry about anyone finding them there. They knew that Ross' parents would be up and out of the house running weekends errands by 7:00 the next morning, and Monica would know better than to come searching for her friend. They had done this several times before- falling asleep in each other's arms. It really was quite amazing that they'd never made it into anything more. They both knew what this was about, though. It wasn't about sex, or passion, or desire. It was about need. It was about the need of being with one in the absence of all the complexities that wear them out and weigh them down during the day. It was about appreciating one another, and knowing that they would never find anything like this again.
End of Chapter 1. Continued in Chapter 2.