Caution: Extreme "cutsieness" ahead. This chapter is my gift to you because 1) I felt like starting this story off with something light, fluffy and fun and 2) because I'm not sure where it's going yet :-) Enjoy for now, though.
She awoke to the smell of fresh Cuban coffee beans.
Rolling over with a start, she brushed the hair from her eyes and glanced at the clock-radio on the bedside end table.
Relieved and lackadaisical, she let her head fall back into the cushion of the feather pillow beneath her, a smile on her face and silently thanking God for Saturdays. She hadn't quite yet slipped back into the cloudy lull of sleep when she felt him stir beside her.
His scent was the next thing to register with her after the motion he inspired. He smelled like strategically-faint cologne, sex and bed sheets. His smell was the same as it had always been, only somehow more mature and more stable. You could smell the difference between a two-bedroom apartment shared with a girlfriend and a three-bedroom penthouse shared with a fiancee on his skin and it made her smile.
She rolled over to face him, draping an arm and leg across his firm body and settling her head into the niche between his shoulder and neck, never even opening her eyes to acknowledge either of their consciousnesses. She didn't want to be disturbed by any responsibility or certainty-not even the certainty of the new day. Not yet. For now, she just wanted to lie in bed with him, talking and cuddling and touching.
She felt his hand move from the mattress to her back, stroking warmth into her skin. She felt his other arm reach down, pulling up the mass of sheets and down comforter they'd kicked off during the night and laying it over them. She felt him pull her steadily and more securely on top of him, settling both hands on her back and waist and intertwining their legs together. She looked up, resting her chin on his chest so she could see him, but her hair fell across her face and into her eyes. He chuckled aloud. She loved the sound of his laugh, especially first thing in the morning.
"We are going to have to do something about those bangs of yours," he whispered, his voice a bit crackly and muffled.
"I thought you liked them."
"I do, but I like your face more, and they're blocking it," he joked, reaching up and brushing them from her eyes for her. She brought her hands up to rest them flat on his chest beneath her chin, raising her head level with his and smiling widely at him.
"Morning," she whispered, because it was never too late for a 'good morning'.
"Morning." He leaned forward a bit and kissed her nose and then her lips, letting his head fall lazily back onto the pillow and closing his eyes in a mock sleep.
"Hey, come back here," she whined playfully, tapping his shoulder a bit. "I want to talk." He opened one eye, looking up at her and grinning mischievously.
"That's not what you want from me, woman," he kidded, earning him a more firm slap on the shoulder this time. In retaliation, he whirled them over quickly, so that she was now laying beneath him and he was supporting himself above her on his elbows. They said nothing, just glared into each other's eyes, smiling lovingly and gratefully. He bent down and kissed her passionately, with the kind of kiss that would normally precede sex, but that was unlikely this morning. After a solid few moments, she placed her hands on his chest and pushed him away a bit.
"Nuh uh, mister. Emma's going to be awake soon," she warned, grinning at the endearment of his obvious disappointment. Frustrated, he collapsed on top of her, letting his weight fall down from his elbows and into her body. She giggled-a real, girlie, Rachel giggle.
"You're toying with me, Rachel Karen Green," he mumbled into her shoulder, punctuating the statement by kissing her there. She smoothed her hands over his back and closed her eyes again, getting lost in the moment. She knew they had to get up and start the day. Emma would be up soon and would undoubtedly have one million and one ideas of how to spend that particular Saturday and she and Ross both had work to catch up on, on top of that. She never wanted to move, though, and probably wouldn't have if she hadn't heard the soft knock on the bedroom door.
"I knew she wouldn't last until 10," Rachel mumbled to Ross, pushing him up but to no avail. "Ross, get up," she lamented, insisting that he move so she could greet their daughter. He was in a playful mood this morning, though, and was not having it. Finally, she called out to Emma, anyway.
"Come in, sweety." On cue, the recently 3-year-old came padding into the room clad in pink footy pajamas and wiping the sleep from her eyes.
"Hi, Mommy," she whispered, her voice soft and smooth and everything you'd expect from an adorable little girl her age. Rachel smiled broadly and patted the mattress next to where she and Ross were laying. Emma looked hesitant and a bit confused, though.
"What's wrong with Daddy?" she asked, obviously referring to the way he was laying apparently lifeless atop Rachel. Upon hearing this, he turned his head towards his daughter and smiled, still refusing to move, however.
"Nothing's wrong, honey. I'm just giving Mommy a big hug," he tried to explain in terms he thought she would understand. Emma seemed to accept this explanation, smiling and running to the bed, crawling up to her parents and sitting beside them.
"Do I get a hug, too?" she asked, her voice small and hopeful. This broke his heart and made it swell, all at once. He sat up a bit.
"Well, of COURSE you do. Just let me make sure Mommy's been hugged sufficiently, first." With that, he wrapped both arms back around Rachel, practically smothering her to himself and pushing her down into the mattress from where she had been propped up. He buried his head in her neck, biting and kissing her there, causing Rachel to giggle and squirm beneath him. Emma watched her parents in amazement, beaming proudly.
"Daddy, you're silly!" she exclaimed, laughing and clapping her hands together a bit from all the excitement.
"Am I?" he asked, picking his daughter up in one sweeping motion and landing her on his lap. She laughed boldly, wiggling as he tickled her. Finally, he stopped and wrapped both arms around her tightly, making a sound effect as if he were using all his strength. "There. Good enough hug for you?" She nodded in approval and climbed off his lap and back onto the bed.
"Come on, let's have breakfast!" she proposed, almost demanding it. Both Ross and Rachel couldn't help but grin at their daughter's take-charge attitude and persistence. She could conquest any room she was in, if not by command then by seducing everyone with her gorgeous, adorable looks. Suddenly becoming very aware of the fact that they were both naked beneath the sheets, though, they almost simultaneously fastened the white comforter to them more securely.
"Hmm, I'll tell you what," Rachel proposed. "Why don't you go out and turn on the cartoons and Daddy and I will there in a few minutes, okay?"
"Will Daddy make pancakes?" she asked, still deciding if she was going to be content with this suggestion.
"Daddy will make pancakes," she affirmed, not even checking with Ross but knowing intuitively it would be okay. Emma nodded and smiled with approval, climbing off the bed and fleeing from the room. Rachel waited until she heard the whistling and clamoring of cartoons coming from the living room before she got up to close the door.
"Yowza!" Ross exclaimed, watching her saunter away from the bed. Rachel turned around, rolling eyes and shaking her head.
"Yeah," he agreed, crawling from the bed and walking slowly towards where she was at the door of their bedroom. "'Hopelessly devoted to yoouuuu'" he sang, Greece style, placing his hands on her waist and leaning in to kiss her neck. Rachel wrapped her arms around his back in return but still shook her head.
"It barely worked for John Travolta, Ross. It's not working for you." He pulled back and threw her a pretend hurt look, grasping his chest as if he'd just taken a bullet.
"That one cut deep."
"I'm sorry," she apologized, batting her eyelashes seductively and squeezing him more tightly. "What could I ever do to make it up to you?" He pondered this for a hot second before submitting his answer.
"Hit the showers, Green."
After a joint shower (to save water, of course), Ross and Rachel joined their daughter in the living room. She was sitting in her latest favorite toy-a brown cardboard box. They'd moved into the new apartment on Madison Avenue almost a month previously, but Emma still insisted on dragging that box around with her everywhere, sitting in it and playing it in at all opportunity. Ross frequently joked about how he wished he had known how easy she was to please before they'd spent hundreds of dollars on all those new, expensive toys sitting in her room that she practically trampled on her way to "her box".
Moving. That had been the first and most recent commission in their new life together. Immediately after Monica and Chandler moved out of the city, Ross and Rachel began apartment hunting for something larger, a bit nicer and more convenient in terms of transportation for their jobs. They knew they didn't want to leave the city just yet. They both worked intensely in Manhattan and didn't want to have to worry about the commute to and from the suburbs. They'd found this 3-bedroom penthouse on Madison Avenue almost immediately, and since the landlord was the brother of one of Ross' close colleagues, they got a fairly reasonable deal on it.
Rachel had insisted on Ross letting her, Monica and Phoebe decorate it themselves, and since he couldn't possibly be more disinterested in that sort of thing, he complied willingly. The only conflict in terms of furnishings had come when Ross insisted that he be able to keep most of his artifacts, fossils and, as Rachel called it, "other dinosaur crap". The compromise came with the agreement to turn the third bedroom off the living room into an office where they could both do their at-home work, and also where Ross could display as much of his "collectables" as he'd like.
In the end, the apartment had turned out quite elegantly. As expected, the entire home looked like it had been picked room-by-room from a Pottery Barn catalogue, but it was up to date and rather stylish. The living room, where they were standing, was very open with a raised ceiling and lots of light and plants. The entire exterior wall that lined the back of the room was one big window, looking out over the city. The walls were covered in white paneling and the floors in hardwood, giving off a very sophisticated but comfortable look. The furnishings included a large, Navy blue sectional couch with white end tables on either side, a bright red accent chair, white wooden shelves lining one entire wall that was filled with books and black and white picture frames, a glass coffee table in front of the couch, and a big black floor lamps. Ross' favorite piece, however, was the silver 36' Sony plasma flat-screened TV that was mounted on the wall over the fire place's mantel. Chandler and Monica (mostly Chandler) had given it to them (mostly Ross) as a house-warming present. Complimenting Ross' favorite item, though, was Rachel's: the vases filled with yellow and white lilies that could be found on the coffee table and end tables. She also liked the afghan thrown over the chair and the contemporary paintings on the walls-anything that made the home seem more personal.
The kitchen was located directly off the living room to the back left. It was also open and airy with no door separating it from the rest of the house. To compensate for the white wooden walls of the living room, it was painted a dark, "ox blood" red. Ross called it a "manly" kitchen because of all the stainless steel appliances, the matching hardwood floors from the living room, the huge black and white Picasso cubism painting "Guernica" on the wall, the long black 8-seater table with matching black chairs, the Gothic black chandelier and the matching black candleholders. Rachel's favorite aspect of the kitchen, however, was that the balcony was right off it so they could eat with the doors open on a nice night.
The master bedroom where they'd just come from was similar in style to the living room and could be found off the left side of it when you entered the home, down a small secluded hallway to allot extra privacy. The walls were the same white paneling but the furniture, instead of white, was stained mahogany. They slept in a queen-sized sleigh bed, while matching end tables, a dresser, an armour, and shelves filled the room as well. A small white chair sat in the corner to match the sheer white curtains, the white sheets and the white down comforter. The only accent color in the room was an elegant dark green, which trimmed the pillows on the bed, the throw pillows on the chair and the sheets.
Attached to the bedroom was the master bath, which Rachel had let Ross and Chandler toy with during the designing stages. Obviously, it turned out with less imagination than the rest of the house but had a surprisingly elegant, relaxing and gentle quality about it. It had the same red walls as the kitchen, which Rachel had not been crazy about at first, but the plethora of scented candles, black marble countertops and especially the black framed pictures of Emma he had placed about personally as a surprise to her made up for that. It was also equipped with a Jacuzzi and an extra large shower, something Rachel had deemed unnecessarily pricey at first, but had enjoyed thoroughly since they'd moved in.
Emma's bedroom was Rachel's favorite feature of the house, because it was unique, in a way, to the design of the apartment. The people who had owned the space before them had an addition put onto the apartment, making it different than any other in the building. A small loft above the living room had been added on, which had served the last tenants as a music studio, but now was used for Emma. The stairs to the space were open and wound up spirally around what looked like a fire pole in the back, right-hand corner of the living room. There was no door at the top, so it lead directly into her room. This was convenient for Ross and Rachel to keep an eye on her because there was no wall obstructing the room from view while downstairs, only a safety railing. That way, they could still watch her even if she was playing upstairs. The walls up there were painted a light yellow and the theme of the room was ducks, as they were printed on her sheets, blankets and curtains. A miniature white wooden bed and matching white miniature furniture took up the area, as well as shelves and shelves full of toy and books.
The study was the last room of the apartment, which was also the only room found to the right of the living room, opposite the hallway to Ross and Rachel's bedroom. It had been the one that caused the most tension and arguments during production, as it was the one that they both had equal say in. After weeks of debating, dozens of "vetoes" and even a few yelling matches, they'd been able to come to an agreement. The room would have white walls with thick, vertical dark gray stripes, black desks and book shelves, a black leather couch and a few tropical plants. They'd discovered Rachel's taste to be "too flashy" and Ross' to be "too generic", so they'd decided to go with the minimal but almost the most fashionable.
All in all, their house was a perfect reflection of themselves. It was open and inviting but also personal and homey, with various knick-knacks from their old lives and from their new one. Books lines the shelves they they'd read in high school and a few coffee cups resided in the cabinets that Gunther had let them buy from Central Perk when they moved away from the Village. The home was everything they wanted and even when they projected into their future to years from now, they couldn't see ever leaving it.
"Can you make Mickey Mouse?" Emma asked, not even tearing her eyes from the television to look over her shoulder at her father, who was puttering around in the kitchen in search of the skillet.
"I sure can, sweety," he called back, his voice muffled because his head was inside one of the bottom cabinets in the island in the middle of the kitchen. "Where is that damn thing?" he muttered to himself.
"Mickey Mouse?" Rachel asked from the other side of the island, toweling her damp hair off.
"Yeah, it's not hard, you just put the batter in- ah, DAMMIT!" He cut himself off when a big pot shifted and landed on his hand.
"Daddy said dammit!" Emma shouted from the kitchen to Rachel. She always reported when Ross cursed to Rachel because something inside her was amused by it. Rachel stifled a snicker, looking down at the floor to hide the smile creeping across her face.
"Tattle tail!" Ross called to his daughter.
"I wonder what the weather's going to be like today. Maybe we could go to the park or shopping or something," Rachel mused.
"Why don't you go turn the Weather Channel on in the study. They should be reporting it right about now. Emma, do you want chocolate chip eyes and a mouth or no?" Ross was becoming increasingly good at multi-tasking. After three years of having to split his attention between two girls, usually equally and usually at the same time, he'd become pretty good at it.
"Chocolate chips!" Emma answered. Ross rolled his eyes.
"Of course. Stupid question."
A few minutes later, Rachel strolled back across the living room and into the kitchen from the study. Ross was cooking up a stack of pancakes at least a foot high. She watched him work for a moment, admiring the concentration he allotted to even such a medial task. He'd slung a rag over his shoulder, rolled up the sleeves of the white dress shirt he'd put on after the shower and was flipping the pancakes on the spatula with one hand, his gaze fixed steadfastly on the job at hand. She smiled and walked up behind him, wrapping her arms around his middle and patting his stomach lightly.
"It's going to be a nice day. You want to take Emma outside somewhere?" she purred.
"That'd be nice," he consented, nodding in agreement. "Where do you want to go? The park? The zoo?" Before she could answer, the telephone rang. Rachel picked up the cordless sitting beside her on the counter.
"Hello? Oh, hey Joey!" she exclaimed, a huge smile spreading across her face. Ross glanced over at her upon hearing his friend's name, sending Rachel an intrigued, excited look. "Oh, we're just up and making pancakes. What are you doing? Isn't it only like 7 there?" After a brief pause, Rachel nearly jumped up and down with enthusiasm. "Oh, honey, that's great! I can't believe you didn't tell us sooner! Don't you tell me you called Monica and Chandler before us. I was your old roommate. I deserve to know first!"
"What is it?" Ross whispered, especially curious now. Rachel put her hand over the receiver.
"Joey's starting his first day of shooting on a movie today!"
"Oh, really? Wow! Ask him who else is in it." Rachel nodded and went back to the conversation.
"Who else is going to be in it, Joe?" She waited for a moment, listening intently. "Oh, God, wow! That's incredible. Ross, he says Ray Liotta and Liv Tyler! Isn't that incredible?"
"Yeah! Hey, give me the phone for a second." Ross held out his free hand while Rachel handed him the phone. He propped it between his head and shoulder. "Hey, man! Some news, huh? Tell me, though, is Liv Tyler even hotter in real life?" Before Joey had time to answer, Rachel punched him in the arm, causing him to let out a shout. "Yeah, she punched me," Ross noted. "It's okay, you can just tell me later." He smiled at Rachel, who rolled her eyes but also cracked a small laugh.
"Okay, well if you've got to be getting back to work, call us soon and tell us how it's going. Alright, man. Take it easy. Bye." Ross handed the phone back to Rachel, who placed it back on the charger.
"I'm so happy for him," Rachel stated sincerely, shaking her head and looking pensive. "He deserved a big break."
"You know, I really think this could be it for him. I can see it being even better than Days Of Our Lives, you know? Like, this could be what REALLY gets him into show business."
"Oh, Ross, could you imagine if he won like an Academy Award? He could thank us at the ceremony! This is all so exciting!" she insisted, tugging on his shirt sleeve and jumping up and down like a little girl. Ross laughed out loud at her girlishness and nodded his head in agreement.
"Yeah, yeah it is. We've got to get going if we're going to do anything today, though, so go get Emma and we'll eat breakfast really fast."
"I think there's a garage somewhere down that street," Rachel offered, pointing to a narrow side alley off of W. 57th. Ross pulled the silver Audi TT Roadster quattro they'd purchased a few months prior to the move around the bend, onto the side street and into the parking garage. Once he, Rachel and Emma were all out of the vehicle, he tipped the man and they began walking towards the park.
"Jesus, I've lived here all my life and I still can't believe how expensive this city is," he commented, mostly in reference to the high cost of parking. "You have to tip everyone for everything."
"At least we don't have to worry about gas as much, because we're only ever driving 10 blocks or so." Rachel paused after her comment and laughed a bit, shaking her head. "Will you listen to us? We're so..."
"Grown up?" he asked, finishing her sentence for her. She nodded, pointing at sleeping Emma in Ross' arms.
"I mean, we HAVE one of those. We made her. How incredible and hard to believe is that?" She looked down at the ground as they walked, obviously lost in thought. Ross reached over with the hand he wasn't using to hold their daughter and grabbed his fiance by the wrist.
"Not so hard to believe."
The air in the park somehow seemed less dense than the air everywhere else in Manhattan that day. Birds were actually chirping and roosting in the tree branches that hung above their heads. Ross couldn't remember the last bird (besides a pigeon) he'd seen. Children were laughing and playing and flying kites, young lovers were walking hand-in-hand, old couples were sitting beside one another on benches, college students were reading and studying quietly in the shade and food venders were wheeling their carts around the outskirts of the grassy field.
Ross and Rachel were lying down underneath the shade of a tree, propped up on their sides and watching Emma play by herself in the sand several feet away. They were enthralled and completely in love with her-this whole person they'd created together-and sat in simple silence for long stretches of time just watching her live and breath in all her glory.
"She's really gorgeous, isn't she?" Ross asked, his voice just barely above a whisper. His eyes were narrowed and his gaze intense, all of his concentration focus onto that tiny little person before him. Rachel loved how fascinated and in love with their daughter Ross was. She could see it in the way he looked and interacted with her. Once, when she'd visited him at NYU a few weeks ago, she's inadvertently encountered one of the University Deans who was above Ross. They'd only been talking for a few seconds when the man had brought up Emma and Ross' fascination with her.
"He's so proud of her, he can't stand it," the man had told Rachel, smiling fondly as he recalled the three or four framed picture Ross had on his desk of their daughter and her together. "He's so in love with the both of you," he'd added afterwards. "You're all he ever talks about."
For some reason, that had moved Rachel to tears. She'd gone to the bathroom and cried for several minutes before entering Ross' classroom that day. The knowledge that this man-so intelligent and sexy and ambitious-was more dedicated to her and their baby than anything else in his life astounded her daily. What was more, he'd loved her long before she'd reciprocated the sentiment. He'd love her before she'd even known about it. What had made him stick with her for so long? What had he seen in her that made him never give up, never move on and fight for her until the end?
And now, here they were-one, big happy family, and all because he'd seen it in them from the beginning.
She reached over and put her hand in his, causing him to tear his eyes from Emma and place them on her. He saw the tears beginning to form in her eyes, but they were canceled out by the ever-present smile on her face and glimmer in her eyes.
"Thank you," she whispered, her voice so small he'd scarcely heard her and the words had seemed more mouthed than said.
"For what?" he asked, genuinely confused by her sudden serious demeanor.
"For giving me all of this. For seeing it before I ever could. For still seeing it after I refused to. For not giving up when everyone else did. Just...thank you."
Ross was a bit perturbed by her sudden seriousness, but he simply smiled and grabbed her hand, bringing it to his lips and kissing the soft skin there. Meanwhile, Emma was picking dandelions from a giant patch underneath another nearby tree. Her increasingly thick, blonde hair was being whisked in the wind as she twirled around in circles, causing her pink jumper dress to sway. She was so independent. She could play by herself for hours, picking flowers and twirling, and she'd never even notice the absence of her parents.
"Hey, what do you say we go shopping?" Ross suggested.
"Do we have time? Don't you have papers to grade?"
"They can wait," he stated matter-of-factly, tucking an errant strand of her hair behind her ear. "I want to spend the rest of the afternoon with my two favorite girls."
After a few more minutes spent kissing and giggling underneath the shade of their tree, the two collected up their baby girl and headed back to the car. Emma was already asleep over Ross' shoulder by the time they made it to the end of the block. As they rounded the corner to the parking garage, a beautiful woman walked by. Ross looked down at Rachel and cocked an eyebrow in jest, which only earned him a hard swat on his back. He chuckled at the way he could always get a rise out of her and quickly wrapped his free arm protectively and lovingly around her waist, planting a kiss on the top of her head.
"You're prettier than her, anyway," he whispered as she put her arm around him.
"Damn right," she joked. "That's always the right answer and don't you forget it."
They could both really get used to this whole domesticity thing.
End Chapter 1. Continued In Chapter 2.