This was a response to Improv # 1 ("Norah Jones song titles") on my list, friendsimprov, and is a revised edition of my fanfic. It is slash with just kissing; lines from the show are in italics.

The Nearness of You

She gets tons of catalogs and umm, she'll fold down the pages of the things she thinks that I'd like. When I take a shower, she leaves me little notes on the mirror. When I fall asleep on the couch after reading, she covers me over with a blanket.

Rachel's quietly boxing up her posessions as Monica looks on silently. It's all going away, the thousands of boots that Rachel generously lets her borrow, countless catalogs, sweaters that still have the tags.

"It's the beginning of a new life, with Chandler," she says aloud to the nearly empty room. Rachel looks up startled from her packing.

"Yeah, Mon?" she asks. Monica shifts uncomfortably, and grabs the nearest piece of clothing. She fold in it thirds. Straight and perfect. She has to keep up old Monica. Neat and orderly Monica, a Monica who no one would expect was in love in her best friend.

But she is. She's in love with Rachel.

"I was just wondering where your skirt that goes with this is, but oh, I found it!" Monica quickly replies. She tosses the shirt she's been folded into a pile with the others, taking care to smooth out each wrinkle. Rachel is perfection. Rachel's clothes are never wrinkled, not if Monica has anything to do with it. No roommate of hers will have unsightly outfits. Especially not Rachel.

Monica occasionally irons for Rachel. Takes the garment from the laundry basket, lays it carefully on the board and starts the iron. She looks for minuscule creases, fading, anything that would take a person's eye off the beauty that is her friend. Rachel Green.

She's rehearsed this so many times in her head. Over and over, always promising herself 'this would be the day' and that they'd certainly share this secret before Chandler moves in.

For once Monica's planning is flawed. Rachel's leaving. Chandler's coming and Monica doesn't know where to begin. She stammers a little, which is odd to her, as she's never done it before. But, she reasons, she's never told her friend she loves her before either.

Two loves can leave you tiresome and unfilled. Monica loves Chandler, she does. But Rachel is different, she's familiar and Monica craves routine, familiarity. Without it, her world is chaos. And Rachel is all these things, comfortable and recognizable and warmth. She's so gentle in her ways, so fierce. Yet she seems greatly unprotected.

Monica's exhausted. "Rachel," she begins. Rachel looks up at Monica quizzically. For a second Monica considers commenting on where they should hang this poster in Rachel's new home, but she stops. "Rachel. This is so silly and we'll probably laugh it off, but do you remember the kiss?"

She sees Rachel's eyes twinkle as she laughs. "Oh, yeah. When we tried to win back the apartment. Something that simple for an apartment," Rachel sighs, remembering the good times. She comes up and sits next to Monica on the bed, taking her friend's hand in her lap. "We had some good times, didn't we?"

Monica doesn't say anything, but nods in reply. She twirls with Rachel's hair. How often has she done this, or Rachel done it for her? Both comforting each other after a boyfriend left, or something just as traumatic happened.

She's always there for Rachel, and Rachel is always there for her. But Monica feels that's her responsibility: to be the mother of the group.

"Yes," she finally says, faking a laugh. "So you remember that kiss and you and I.." Monica trails off, hoping Rachel will jump to the conclusion. Monica might be obsessed with order, but matters of the heart are different. That's Rachel's territory. It's always Rachel who knows how to give that sly-come-hither stare, that flip of the hair, that caress of the skin.

Rachel's obviously missing Monica already, as she leans into Monica's shoulder, as she's done time after time bemoaning everything from Ross, lack of credit cards to more troubles with Ross. Monica gasps quickly then lets Rachel settle into her. "That list of things. The reason I'm a good roommate, Monica. Oh, that was sweet," Rachel's voices cracks at the end of the sentence.

"I know!" Monica sniffs giving up any hope at maintaining a calm demeanor. She inhales deeply, noticing the lingering of Rachel's favorite Chanel scent that is still present in the room.

That day Rachel ran into Central Perk, bedraggled and wet, resonates in Monica's mind. She immediately wanted to take her in. Rachel was pitiful with her ragged breaths and drenched dress.

Monica dries her eyes carefully. "No, but Rachel, listen. I don't know how to say this..but I'm in love with you." Rachel pull herself away from Monica.

"Oh, I love you too, Mon! You're my best friend!" she chirps, reaching for a jacket that lays dejected on the floor. Monica is frustrated. Maybe she should forget this all and just find contentment with Chandler. She loves him, as well, right?

Monica breathes heavily. "No, I love you, Rachel. I love Chandler but now that you're leaving, and I just..I don't want you to go. I thought this would pass," she rambles on, but is silenced by Rachel kissing her softly on the cheeks.

She is surprised, and sits stoically. "Honey, I love you too, but think of Chandler," Rachel offers.

Monica does so. She doesn't want to hurt him. Chandler who tells her jokes, who makes little attempts to clean up the messes he's left. Chandler who's Mr. Big.

Now Monica's crying. Sobbing uncontrollably as her friend pats her hair, like she always does, and caresses her cheek with the touch Monica has come to crave. Rachel's kissing her lightly on the cheek and Monica feels her chest contract with each infinite breath. "I have to be with Chandler, don't I?" she asks. Rachel doesn't say anything but looks at her pointedly.

Monica knows Rachel well enough to discern what she means from looks alone. Rachel is saying yes, Rachel wants her to be with Chandler. Monica knows Rachel is not pushing her away, but Chandler is there for Monica. They can have a happy life.

She's looking distraught as Phoebe ushers herself in the room with a grand flourish. "Oh," she gasps. "Was it the rollerblades?"

And all Monica can do to keep from falling apart is nod.