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
I just realized that I put "fantasy" as one of the categories for this fic. I was hesitant to do that to begin with, since I knew it wasn't REALLY going to be fantasy, but that was the closest category I could find that applied to the AU aspect. I'm going to try and change that, as to not confuse anyone.
Also, I know that Phoebe and Joey have yet to make an appearance, but they will be doing so shortly. Hold your horses.
Lastly, my apologies for the chapters not being longer. I want to update at least every other day, but, unfortunately, it's "Hell Month" at UNC right now. In laymen's terms, this means I'm averaging out at about 5 hours of work every night. In order to update the chapters, I have to forfeit precious sleep. Maybe if I get a free night or two, you will be pleasantly surprised by "supersized" chapters :-)
"Dude, there's NOTHING on TV! Rainy Saturday afternoons suck," Chandler complained, as he sat on Ross' bed and flipped through the channels of the small television that sat on the desk opposite him. Ross was sitting on a stool in the corner, attempting to tune his guitar and not paying much attention to the television OR his friend.
"You want to go catch a movie?" Chandler asked, shutting off the TV all together and collapsing backwards onto Ross' bed. Ross was still not looking up from his guitar.
"I don't know, man," Ross answered reluctantly. "I'm going into the city with Rachel later tonight, and I've got stuff to do before then." Chandler rolled his eyes. It seemed like all his best friend had been doing for the past 6 months was hang out with Rachel. It wasn't that he didn't like Rachel. He knew what a wonderful person she was, and how happy she made Ross, but he couldn't help but harbor a little resentment for the girl who was slowly stealing away his best friend. Instead of voicing these things, however, Chandler just nodded and continued to stare up at the skylight. Ross noticed his friend's silence and put down his guitar.
"Hey, listen, I'm sorry. I know I've been spending a lot of time with Rachel lately. If you want, you can come with us!" Ross offered genuinely. Chandler seemed hesitant, though.
"Eh, I don't know. I don't really want to play third wheel."
"Oh, come on, you won't be a third wheel! If it makes you feel any better, I'll invite Monica and we can all go together!" Chandler rolled the possibility of this over in his mind.
"Where are you guys going, anyway?"
"Just to this new club. You have to be 21 to drink, but you only have to be 18 to get in. It's supposed to be pretty good." Ross got up from where he'd been residing on the stool in the corner and crossed the room to sit at the desk, facing Chandler. He sat down in it backwards, straddling it and leaning forwards against the backrest.
"The girls are only 17, though. How are they supposed to get in?" Ross smiled and shrugged.
"I may have asked someone to make a few calls and get some fake ID's made. That's just a possibility, though," Ross joked. "I can have one for Monica by the end of the night. Be here at 8 and we can all leave together." Chandler nodded in agreement. Going to the opening of a supposedly high-profile club did sound like a lot of fun, and he had to admit, he'd always had somewhat of a thing for Ross' little sister. Even when she was overweight, there was something about her open and supportive nature that drew him to her. Now that she was hot...well, that didn't hurt.
"Hey, I'm going to go pick some things up at the store for my parents and then come back here to get ready. I'll catch you later tonight, man." With that, Ross palmed the plush football that was resting on his desk and threw it at Chandler's chest before. He grabbed his keys off the nightstand and headed for the stairs leading down to the second floor.
"You can stay here for as long as you want," he offered, before disappearing from the landing. Chandler didn't comply, though. He followed Ross down the stairs, leaving the room alone.
"Shimmer brown or powder blue?" Rachel asked, holding up two different cases of eye shadow to her friend. Monica cogitated carefully about this before finally taking the brown from Rachel.
"Good, because I wanted to wear the blue. It matches my pants!" Rachel smiled and began applying just a thin layer of the make-up to her eyelids. Surprising, for being as into fashion as she was, she didn't like going overboard on make-up. She thought it made her look trashy.
"Ugh, Rachel, isn't this so exciting?! I've never been to a club before!" Rachel turned to look at her friendly doubtfully.
"What? Yes you have! We just went to one last week!"
"Ew, that doesn't count, it was on Staten Island! I'm surprised we didn't get STD's just breathing the AIR in that place!" Monica joked, applying the last touches of her eyeliner and throwing the pencil back into it's case.
"So, what do you think?" she asked, turning to Rachel and allowing her to get a full view. She always seemed to want to try just a little bit harder to look nice whenever she was with Rachel. It frustrated her that her friend seemingly never had to try at all- that just she woke up every morning looking miraculously stunning. When she walked down the street next to Rachel, she knew that guys stared. She wanted them to stare at her, too.
"Gorgeous!" Rachel earnestly replied, flashing a huge, genuine smile. The two girls did look stunning. Monica was wearing an Army green corduroy skirt and a tight, black, long-sleeved shirt. Her hair hung down loosely around her shoulders. It was a simple ensemble, but it fit her well. Rachel, on the other hand, was slightly more casual. She wore a pair of long, khaki Navy blue plants and a white tank top. Her hair, in it's usual style, was up in a messy bun. Monica couldn't help but note how short a time it had taken Rachel to get ready, but how naturally beautiful she still looked.
"Is Ross even home?" Rachel asked, glancing quickly at the clock above Monica's TV.
"Yeah, he's upstairs getting ready." As if on cue, the door to Monica's room suddenly opened and Ross walked in. Immediately, Rachel's eyes lit up. She almost instantly noted how cute and charming he looked. He was wearing dark jeans and a thin, light blue fitting T-shirt. His hair was gelled, and though Monica and Chandler often teased him about it, she had always thought that the looked suited him. What she noticed before all of these things, though, was the same engaging thing that she noticed almost every time she saw him. Around his right wrist, he was wearing 3 bracelets, all of which she'd either given to him or made for him. Two were similar to the necklaces she wore. They were made of red and white string and then black and white string. She'd made them knowing that those color combinations meant eternity and love, but she hadn't actually expected him to wear them, having thought that he would interpret them as being huge threats to his masculinity. He wore them, nonetheless. The third bracelet was made of black string, and it was strung with 6 silver beads that spelt out "Rachel". She smiled.
"Hey ladies. You're both looking lovely tonight." Ross took Rachel under his arm when she came over and leaned into his chest, patting his stomach playfully with her hand.
"Where's Chandler?" Monica asked, with a hint of nervousness on her voice. When she had found out about her older brother's friend coming, she had immediately panicked. Chandler was very confident and witty, which sometimes intimidated her. He was also noticeably attractive, though, and she got small butterflies in her stomach when she thought about spending most of the evening with him. She knew that Ross and Rachel would most likely detach themselves during the night- not consciously- and she would be left alone with Chandler.
"I think I just heard his car pull up, actually, so we should probably head downstairs."
Ross, Rachel and Monica were met on the front porch by Chandler. He had just gotten out of his car, and was preparing to knock before they exited the house. His eyes were drawn to Monica before anything else, and his first thought was of how he'd never noticed just how long her legs were. His second was of how short that skirt was.
"Oh, hey man. You ready?" Ross asked, not having noticed the jaw-drop that his friend had just made in regards to his little sister. He pushed past them and headed for the car with Rachel underneath his arm. The sun was already setting, and they needed to hurry if they were going to make the next fairy in time get to the club opening by 8 pm.
They all piled into Ross' car- Rachel in the passenger's seat and Chandler and Monica in the back- and pulled out of the driveway.
The music was earsplitting. After having waited in line for almost an hour and a half, all four were finally admitted into the club, and the first thing that met them was absolutely earsplitting music. It was a deluded combination of techno and rock, but there were no words and no one recognized the beat. The club was decorated with neon light, dark leather furniture and contemporary artwork painted on the walls. Even though it had only opened a matter of hours before, it already reeked of cigarette smoke. It was on two levels- the one you entered on and a raised, suspended platform that could be reached by a winding staircase located on either side of it. Everywhere, people were dancing and groping one another. Men stinking of cologne were whispering into the ears of women with impossibly huge breasts and right dresses. On the side, bartenders were juggling bottles and putting on shows involving setting the entire countertop on fire. The 4 teenagers felt like children in a candy store.
"This is awesome!" Ross yelled over the music. The other 3 nodded, still somewhat hypnotized by the overwhelming grandeur of the place. Conforming completely with Monica's earlier prediction, Ross took Rachel by the hand and led her away into the sea of gyrating strangers. Monica and Chandler were, as expected, left alone.
"So, uh, you want me to get you something to drink? According to my ID, I'm 22," Chandler offered, trying desperately to lighten the mood. Monica had never drank outside the comfort and security of her own home, but something about the softness in Chandler's voice and the familiarity in his eyes made her feel at ease. She smiled at him, sliding her hand into his.
"Yeah, sure okay."
After an hour or so of dancing, Ross and Rachel found themselves sitting alone in a large, circular booth near the back of the club. They were both warn out and sweaty from the stifling combination of their dancing and the humid air. Rachel scooted over beside Ross and relaxed into him as he rested his arm on the seat behind her head.
"Tired?" he asked, kissing her on the cheek. She nodded, closing her eyes for a moment. It was only a little after 11 pm, and the club was as full as ever, but both of them were beginning to be worn down by fatigue.
"I wonder what Monica and Chandler have been doing this whole time?" Ross wondered aloud. "We left them a while ago. I hope they're having fun." Knowing about the "secret" crush that her friend had on Chandler, Rachel assured Ross that they mostly likely were.
"She likes him, doesn't she?" he asked, having picked up on the connotations of Rachel's statement immediately.
"What makes you think that?" He shrugged.
"I don't know. She gets kind of nervous around him, the way I get around you." Rachel straightened herself from the leaning position she'd been in and turned in the seat to look at him.
"You mean 'the way you used to get around me'?" she asked. He smiled simply and shook his head, taking one of her hands in his.
"No." Before Rachel had time to lean in and kiss Ross for this particularly touching display of affection, they were interrupted by the abrupt presence of a rather burly man standing on the other side of their table.
"Can we help you?" Ross asked. The man was in his early 20's- probably a college student- and was rather attractive. He was quite obviously drunk, though, and was eyeing Rachel in a way that made her increasingly uncomfortable.
"This young lady right here can help me by agreeing to dance with me." He slurred his speech when he talked. Ross protectively and firmly wrapped his arm around Rachel's shoulder.
"Actually, she's with me, so I don't think so." This didn't discourage the man, though, who was now leaning rather aggressively against the table.
"Aw, come on, buddy! Lighten up!" With this, he leaned across the table and grabbed Rachel's wrist, causing her to gasp out in a moment of panic. He pulled on her arm rather forcefully, bringing her right out of the booth. Ross had been in a state of disbelief that this man would be so forward, but this action snapped him out of it. He quickly slid out of the booth.
"Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing? Let go of her!" The man probably outweighed Ross by at least 20 pounds, but that thought didn't even enter his mind. The only thought in his entire head was that he was going to make this man let go of Rachel or die trying. The man eyed Ross, smiling crookedly in a way that managed to contest his humanity. Finally, he dropped Rachel's wrist.
"Okay, no problem. You want me to let her go? I'll let her go." Ross could sense that this wasn't over, though. Then, just as he'd suspected, the man wound up his arm and forcefully smacked Rachel on her ass. Her eyes widened and tears began to well up. She was so enraged that someone would do something like that, that she couldn't even muster up the strength to do anything about it. She looked at Ross, but it was already over. Before she even had time to take notice, Ross had already punched the man square in the face and was now on top of him on the floor, punching him repeatedly.
"Ross, stop it! You're going to get us kicked out of here! Stop!" Deep down, she didn't want him to stop, though. Something about the way in which he uninhibitedly and instinctively rushed to her "rescue" thrilled her. Plus, that bastard deserved whatever he got.
"How does that feel, huh?! Touch her again! I dare you!" Ross screamed at the man whom had compromised the one thing that remained sacred to him. He knew he wasn't thinking clearly, and was fully aware of the mass of bystanders that had accumulated, but he didn't care. The punches had to be thrown.
Finally, after the man's face was a bloodied mess of bruises and cuts, Ross got up from the floor. He looked up and scanned the room. A crowd of at least 40 people had completely stopped whatever it was they'd been doing to watch the scene. He nodded to them, swallowing deeply and taking Rachel's hand. Carefully, he made his way through the crowd to the front of the cub.
"Come on," he said gingerly, "let's find Chandler and Monica and get the hell out of here." Rachel hadn't said anything through all of this. At the forefront of her mind at that moment was the need to get as far away from that club as possible- both because of the unconscious man on the floor and because she knew that if they didn't, Ross would most likely be arrested.
Suddenly, she was very cold. It wasn't a normal kind of cold, though, and it sent chills and goosebumps racing over her skin. She buried her head into Ross' chest and allowed him to rub her back for a few moments before he kissed her forehead and looked down into her eyes.
"I'm sorry. You know I couldn't just let him touch you like that, though, don't you?" Rachel forced a smile, nodding her understanding. He nodded back at her.
"Good. Now," he said, looking up and scanning the room with his eyes, "let's find those two and split."
End Chapter 2. Continued in Chapter 3.