The One Where Rachel Imagines

As Rachel scribbled a note to her boss down on an old piece of paper, she stood up, threw the paper down on the desk, and left her office. She was leaving early, for it was her daughter Emma's second birthday party and she needed to prepare for the big night. Ross had promised that he would be leaving the University earlier than usual to help her out back at their appartment, putting up decorations and getting everything organized. The others had said they would be coming down later after they'd all finished work.

As she strode down the deserted corridor, Rachel thought about how so much had changed since she and Ross had got back together. They were so much like a family now, adding Emma to the picture. But they weren't exactly like a family, Rachel thought to herself, feeling slightly anxious as she left the building.

Biting her lip, Rachel wondered if Ross was ever going to propose to her. She had always thought that he was a huge fan of marriage and weddings (she smirked) but this time he hadn't been too fond of the subject. Rachel had discussed it with him so many times, and he had merely just shrugged his shoulders. So when were they really going to tie the knot?

Rachel loved Ross. She could never love anyone else. But after everything that happened in Vegas1 would Ross ever want to marry her again?

- 2006 -

"Mommy?"

Rachel glanced at her daughter Emma, and smiled. Over the past few months, Emma had really grown up. "Yes, sweetie?" She replied, lowering the glass of wine she had been holding in her left hand.

"When are all the guests going to arrive at my party?" Emma said, speaking with a slight lisp; she hadn't quite grasped the concept of talking yet.

"Well, your friends will be arriving pretty soon," Rachel said, "But I think the family's going to be arriving first, and also the neighbours, Fred and Dawn. Remember Fred and Dawn, honey?"

Emma nodded and beamed at her, showing off her sparkling white teeth. "Yeah, I do. Okay, I'm gonna go look out the window 'n see if I can see any of 'em coming!" She squealed eagerly and, without further ado, ran over to the couch, jumped up onto it and looked out of the window.

Chuckling, Rachel raised her glass and took another sip of wine, just before the doorbell rang. As she hurried down the hall to get it, Ross emerged from the bathroom and followed her. "That'll be Fred and Dawn," He said, grinning.

Sure enough, Rachel opened the front door to find none other than Fred and Dawn standing there. "Hey Ross, Rachel!" Fred said, grinning sheepishly at them, "Uh, we brought Emma a present," He said lowly, passing the wrapped gift to Rachel.

"Thanks so much for coming you guys, I'm sure Emma will love her present," Rachel said, smiling widely at them.

"Four years old ... It seems only yesterday that you guys had moved in here when she was only a baby!" Dawn said, smiling warmly back at them.

Ross laughed, "Well, I guess she has grown."

"And what about you guys?" Fred said, his beady eyes resting on them, "How are you doing?"

"Well, we've had some ups and downs, but we're great," Ross said, and at this he took Rachel's arm in his and smiled down at her.

"Yeah, we're fine," Rachel said, laughing.

She suddenly noticed that Fred had been eyeing her hand for a few moments, and there was a pause, inwhich Rachel's hand whipped out of sight behind her back. "Um, Is there something wrong?" She asked, feeling uneasy.

"Well ..." Fred glanced uncertainly at Dawn, and then back at Ross and Rachel, "It's just - you guys have been together for so long now, and well - you're not even married!"

There was a billowing silence.

"Oh," Rachel said shortly.

"Uh, right ..." Ross said lowly, before grunting and heading back into the lounge.

- 2004 -

Rachel was immidiately snapped out of her reverie when she suddenly collided with an old shopping trolley, and fell to the ground. Feeling somewhat lousy and picking herself up, she brushed herself off before heading off to the appartment.

When Rachel finally arrived, Ross and Monica were already there seeing to the decorations. "Oh, hey honey," Ross said happily, giving her a quick hug and kissing her lightly, "How was work today?"

"Well ..." Rachel didn't really want to tell Ross about what had been going through her head that day, so she kept her mouth shut. "It was okay, I guess," She blurted out hastily, "So, where's Emma?" She added eagerly.

"She's just down for a nap," Ross said, indicating the crib in the corner of the room, "We've almost finished with the decorations. Hey Mon, wanna help me decorate the cake?"

At this, Monica immidiately sprang out of her reverie (she had been sitting staring into space, whilst fiddling around with the last of the decorations) and stared transfixed at Ross, "What! Decorate it? I thought I was gonna make it?"

"Umm," Ross coughed and looked slightly uncomfortable, "I - Rachel and I thought we'd make the cake ourselves, you know."

Monica looked furious. "Well, all right! Fine! I - I don't really - care, all that much, anyway ..." She said, her voice trailing off feebly. There was an awkward silence for a few seconds, before she sighed, and carried on fixing the decorations. "Sure I'll help you decorate the cake. Just give me a minute, okay?"

Ross blinked at her. "Uh, right ..." He said lowly. Then, he glanced pleadingly at Rachel, who fought back the urge to laugh, before walking past her into the kitchen.

Rachel wheeled around to face Monica. "So, did you talk to the others? When are they coming? Will they get out of work quick enough?" She blurted out quickly.

Monica looked alarmed. "It's okay, Rach! Joey said he'll be back in time ..." She squinted at Rachel for a moment and then said, "Well, If he doesn't show up in time, there's always Chandler. He said he'd be back straight after he finishes work."

"Oh, well thats good," Rachel said and, breathing a sigh of relief, she smiled at Monica and then followed Ross into the kitchen. "Wow, Ross, the cake looks great ... It's also great that we decided that we would make it together," She said, bustling into the room behind him.

When Ross raised an eyebrow at her, she scowled. "Well, that you decided to make it and I decided to buy the ingredients."

Ross smiled at her. "Isn't this great, though? I mean, It seems only yesterday that we were planning Emma's first birthday party ..." He said, his voice trailing off as he gazed into space, a loving look in his eyes.

Rachel smiled back at him, taking his hand, "Yeah, it really is," She said.

The two of them embraced for a moment, before getting back to decorating the cake. About an hour later Chandler showed up along with Joey, who looked slightly 'under the weather' "A girl beat him up when he started asking her some personal questions," Chandler had explained to them all. Then came Phoebe, her guitar in her right hand, inwhich everyone cringed at. Soon, the party was well underway.

"So, what about the first time Emma started to talk, Rach?" Monica was saying later on whilst the six friends were discussing how much Emma had grown in the past year.

Rachel smiled warmly at Emma, who was sitting in her crib, staring up wide-eyed at them all. "Well, It was a little while before Emma's first birthday, you know, when we were all convinced that we would win the lottery2?" She paused to laugh along with the others and then went on, "Yeah, so anyway, she said something ... I can't really remember ... oh yeah! Gleeba3!"

Ross beamed. "Yeah, our little scientist4" He said happily, putting an arm around Rachel, who rolled her eyes at the others, who grinned back.

Phoebe sighed, "Yeah ... It's really great ..." She said, "So, can I play for you guys and Emma now?" She said suddenly in a whiney voice.

"No, Pheebs! Come on, I'm sure you guys can think of other great times in Emma's life which have meant something to us all?" Rachel said, frowning. Phoebe said nothing, but flopped back in her seat and groaned.

"Well, we didn't talk about when she was born," Ross said, glancing at Rachel, "Remember everything you went through, Rach?"

"Uggh, don't remind me," Rachel said, chuckling and squeezing his hand, "I never want to go through any of that again!"

The others laughed with her on this, but Ross' expression was suddenly stoney, and he stiffened. "What? Don't you ever think about the future?" He said with no emotion, staring at her in a way which made her very uncomfortable.

There was an awkward silence, broken by Joey, who suddenly blurted out, "Well uh - so what about Rach havin' the baby? There was like - blood and stuff, and ..." He stopped talking immidiately upon seeing the looks on the others' faces.

"Well, I think Emma's been blessed, having great parents like you guys," Chandler cut in, grinning broadly at Ross and Rachel, who beamed at him.

"Yeah, I guess she is," Phoebe said dreamily, leaning forwards, "Though I am still mad at you guys about the guitar thing, okay?"

Rachel sighed, and glanced lovingly at Emma, who had just nodded off to sleep, "You know what? I think we've been blessed, having a daughter like her." She said, suddenly feeling tearful. She turned to Ross for comfort, who kissed her forehead and gave her a quick hug.

"Uh, well if she's like ..." Joey screwed up his eyes for a moment, "- Two, whose gonna blow out the candles?"

Everyone turned to Rachel, and smiled expectantly at her. "Yeah, okay ..." She said, and with that, she got up and walked over to the cake that had been placed on the apothocary table. When everyone had turned their full attention to her, she took a deep breath, and blew out both candles.

As she did so, Rachel thought over what Ross had said before. Did she ever think about the future? The answer there was yes, she did. All the time, infact. Maybe Ross wanted the same things as her, and maybe now it was time to act. After all, Monica had proposed to Chandler5, even though it hadn't quite worked out and Chandler had ended up proposing ... but still, Rachel knew what she had to do, and she would do it. It was her job to make this next step.

1 Ep. 5,23 - Whilst drunk in Vegas, Ross and Rachel went and got married at the chapel, ironically at the exact same time that Monica and Chandler had decided that they would get married.

2 Ep. 9,18 - The gang had been convinced that they would win the lottery, which of course they didn't.

3 Ep. 9,18 - Emma said her first word 'Gleeba' over the phone when the gang had been sorting out their lottery tickets.

4 Ep. 9,18 - Ross and Rachel had looked up 'Gleeba' and found out that it had a scientific meaning. So Ross had announced that was 'gonna become a scientist!'.

5 Ep. 6,23 - Monica had tried to propose to Chandler but had found that it was too emotional, so Chandler had done it.