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Challenge Accepted

From his place near the jukebox where some random woman is attempting to chat him up, Barney’s gaze follows Robin’s progress up to the bar. 

Much as he’s wanted an opening from her – figuratively and literally, what up! – the 20, as he’s called her in his mind since he first laid eyes on her, has been surrounded all night by a gaggle of females.  And he knows from past experience that the group approach is rarely successful.  Either you get shot down by one of her girlfriends or one of them wants you instead and the whole thing turns awkward. 

Consequently, he’s spent the last hour and fifteen minutes biding his time, waiting for the opportunity to talk to her away from the others, and now that the chance has presented itself he nearly sprints across the room – in the most suave and totally not eager way possible, of course.

Barney sidles up beside her at the bar just in time to hear her request to Carl – “Dirty martini” – and he smiles inwardly at the stroke of luck as it gives him the chance to use Approach #3.  “Interesting order,” he slickly remarks.

Robin turns to find Hottie in the Suit now beside her and she doesn’t even attempt to hide her amused smile.  “Why?” she shots back, genuinely curious as to where he’s going with this.  “There are about fifteen women in the bar drinking this very same thing right now.”

Already Barney knows from her response that he was correct earlier about her sharpness and brains and he attempts to modify his usual line accordingly.  “Yes, but you drinking it is interesting to me….An order says a lot about the person.”

“Does it?” she asks.

And there’s that knowing amusement again, keeping him on his toes.

“Without question,” he replies, still attempting to stick to his usual game, if slightly refined.  “Take a person who orders scotch, like myself for instance.  Scotch is urbane, sophisticated, and smooth – with a great body for your tongue,” he adds with a smirk.

It’s a cheesy line but she can’t help smiling at it despite herself.  With him it’s all in the charm of the delivery.  He’s every bit as much fun as she suspected he’d be from her observations.  But she’s not prepared to let him know that just yet so she answers with a noncommittal, “Is that right?” 

“It’s accurate 83% of the time,” he states confidently as if it’s a well-known scientific fact.  “Or 100% of the time in my case.  Now you ordering a dirty martini, that implies – ”

“Oh I know what you’d say it implies,” she interrupts with a laugh.

That throws Barney off.  She didn’t even let him finish his line – and she’s laughing.  A woman’s laughter is usually a good thing but his ‘drink that you ordered’ pickup line isn’t supposed to be funny.  It’s supposed to be sexy.  But it’s clearly not working on this girl.  “How do you know what I’d say?” he tests her.

“Because I know guys like you.  I know you.  I know precisely how you work.  Why do you think I came over here?  I was waiting for you to come hit on me.  And just as I thought,” she grins boldly, “it took exactly ten seconds.”

Barney narrows his eyes at her.  This girl is different.  Not only is she keeping up with him – which never happens – she’s actually forcing him to keep up with her.  And she’s not afraid to cut him down to size.  She’s a challenge, that’s for sure.  A rare intellectual challenge.  And he loves a challenge.  But it’s clear that no play, modified or otherwise, is going to work on her.  With this woman he needs to be straightforward, just himself with nothing else put on.  It’s a rarity, a slightly intimidating but tremendously exciting one. 

“I apologize; the redhead over there got in my way or I would have been here sooner,” he quips, though entirely honestly in this case.  “But now your wait is over; I’m here, and I have hit on you.  Although you didn’t fall for my dirty martini line,” he points out since her response makes little sense if she wanted to be hit on by him.

“That’s because I’m not drunk,” she retorts.  And there’s that amused little smile again that makes him want to kiss her desperately.  “And I actually have a higher IQ than bra size so I doubt I’d fall for your lines anyway.”

Talk of her bra size naturally causes his eyes to drift there and the already nearly overpowering urge to kiss her rises tenfold.  That’s it; he has to be with this woman.  He has to experience her at least once.  With that in mind, he again answers honestly.  “Your IQ is impressive, but so is what’s beneath that bra….I could take both out to play tonight.  That’s what I’ve been waiting for.  What about you?” 

“What about me?”

“You said you were waiting for me to come to you just like I was waiting to get you alone.”

She did admit that, didn’t she?  But it was for the fun of it, not because she has any intention of actually sleeping with him.  “My coworker just went through a breakup and I’ve been sitting here all night hearing about how Chad did her wrong.”  Robin shrugs.  “I got bored.  My mind wandered.”

“And it wandered straight to me,” Barney smoothly fills in.

“Not for the reasons you think,” Robin grins.  “I watched you all night,” she reveals.  “I saw the way you operate.  And I’ve gotta say, it’s entertaining.  So….I was curious to experience it for myself.  But there’s no way I’m gonna volunteer to join your three ring circus.  And even if I was that naïve – and, let’s face it, that stupid – I’m not looking for a relationship or any kind of love connection.”

He respects the way she gets straight down to business so he will too.  “Well then, I’ll keep it simple on all accounts:  no relationship, no three ring circus, and definitely no love.”  He leans in closer, setting his elbow alongside hers against the bar.  “Why don’t you just come home with me tonight?” he proposes.  “I’ll even drop my normal ‘sex three times before going out to dinner’ rule for you.  We can stop somewhere and get a bite to eat first before I make you forget your own name.”

She shouldn’t want him as much as she does, but the reality is she’d like nothing more than to play with him tonight, rolling around in his sheets that smell as good as he does.  But wanting doesn’t mean doing, not tonight anyway and not with him.  “You are intriguing,” Robin allows with a soft smile that has him leaning even closer.  “But I’m not having a one night stand with you.”

“Friends with benefits?” Barney tries.

Robin laughs.  “We’d have to be friends first.”

He considers that for half a second.  “Alright,” he decides.  “Challenge accepted.  So how about I let you in on the play?”

She gives him a cautiously curious look, the smile still dancing on her lips.  “What does that mean?”

“Let’s be friends then.  You find my ‘three ring circus’, as you put it, so entertaining.  Well, I’ll let you behind the curtain, show you all my tricks, all the inner workings.  You can be in on the game.  You’re impressed with my work, I can tell.  And I respect that.”  He tilts his head in deference, straightening his tie.  “I could always use another bro.  It’ll actually be quite interesting to have a wingwoman for my broings on about town.  What do you say?”

Now it’s Robin’s turn to consider.  She ought to throw her drink in his face.  At the very least she should walk away, walk out of the bar and never set eyes on him again…..But he is intriguing….Her job’s a bore, her social life is nonexistent, she barely even speaks to her family and hardly knows anyone in the city yet.  Meeting this cocky, eccentric, and charming mystery man in the suit is the most interesting and exciting thing to happen to her in longer than she cares to admit. 

And it’s still not like she’s going to sleep with him.  But he seems like a fun person to be around.  Broing about town, is that what he called it?  That sort of exhilaration and fun is just what she needs in her life.  Patrice wasn’t wrong; she does need to get out more often.  As serious as she is about her career, work can’t be everything. 

She sets her martini on the bar, extending her hand to him.  “Robin Scherbatsky.”

“Barney Stinson,” he smiles, taking her hand in his and holding it longer than necessary for a simple introduction before finally letting it go.

Robin wishes she could say she felt nothing when he touched her but that would be the biggest lie she’s ever told.  She’s not going to sleep with him though.  She’s not.  She just needs sex badly.  That’s the only reason she’s picturing dragging him into the women’s room right now.  But she’s cool and collected through years’ worth of practice and doesn’t let any of that inner yearning show.  “So that is your real name,” she says in cheeky reply.

“I decided to use it tonight,” he grins, continually impressed by her quickness.  “What about you?”

“I always use my real name.”  Then she realizes that’s not entirely true.  “Well…except for the once.  But that’s a long story.” 
Barney can smell weakness and titillation a mile away and instantly pounces on that slipped bit of information.  “I like long stories, especially sexy ones that involve hot aliases.” 

“Then this one will disappoint you,” she smiles.  There is nothing sexy about her squeaky clean years living under her teen alias.

“Try me.”

“Uh-uh.”  Robin shakes her head, quietly adding, “I never tell that story to anyone.”  She picks up her drink again, taking another sip of the martini.

Barney could keep on after her but there’s something about the way she avoids eye contact, something in her entire body language of vulnerability surrounding the subject that lets him know this story – whatever it may be – really does make her uncomfortable.  And though he barely knows her, already something tells him that’s the last thing he’d ever want to do.  “Okay,” he backs off.  “We all have our skeletons in the closet.  I’ll let you keep yours,” he gently tells her.

She appreciates the way he respects her wishes, not prying any further where she’s made clear she doesn’t want anyone going.  But when she looks up to meet his gaze again it’s the hint of empathy and understanding she sees in his eyes that truly surprises her.  This man is fun, and charming, and unique, and incredibly hot in his tailored suit.  All of that is plain to see.  But this one caring look from him revealed there’s more going on beneath the surface.  A lot more.  And she’d like to find out what.

“What skeletons do you have, Barney Stinson?” she asks softly, and despite herself a tone of blatant flirtation slips into her voice.  She finds herself leaning just a little closer and she knows lust very well may be written all over her face.  Because she’d also like to experience the more obvious attributes hidden beneath that expensive suit.  She’s not going to let herself, but she can’t help wanting it.

Barney watches the way Robin leans just a little more into him and knows he was also right earlier about the little twinkle in her:  she wants sex just as much as he does; she likes it wild and kinky the same way he prefers it; and now he can tell that she even wants it with him

The two of them could have so much fun together it’s insane.  He knows he’s going to have to work for it though.  But for the first time in a very long time he actually doesn’t mind.  With her, he has a feeling the getting there is going to be as enjoyable, if not more so, than the actual sex with his usual conquests.  And with her, when he finally does get her into bed it’s going to be off the charts explosive.

“Let’s get out of here,” he says, setting down his scotch and nodding towards the door.

Robin’s lips form that amused smile again.  “I told you, I’m not going to sleep with you.”

“Not yet, anyway,” Barney maintains mischievously.  “But relax; I’m just working on the ‘friends’ part of ‘friends with benefits’.  I’ve watched you all night too, and not only were you bored to tears with that laugh fest you’ve been trapped in but you were also starving.  And the party girls over there were only having drinks all night, nothing to eat.”

“We came straight from work.  I haven’t had dinner yet,” Robin admits.  She’d been wishing for a plate of appetizers for the past hour.  Her stomach had growled a time or two back at the booth, but she hadn’t even realized just exactly how hungry she is until he just mentioned it now.  How can he read her that well, she wonders, a bit unnerved. 

“Perfect.  I’ll fix that.”  A thought occurs to him and he grins devilishly.  “Oh ho-ho!  I know just the place.  But it’s in Brooklyn,” he warns, unsure if she’ll agree to go with him that far.

“I live in Brooklyn.”

Awesome.  Cause I know you’ll appreciate this…..”

As Robin grabs her purse off the bar, heading with Barney out the door, she doesn’t have any doubt at all that he’s right.  The trouble is she already appreciates him way too much for her own good.

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Previous Chapters
Playing with Fire


24 Hours Earlier


“Robin, are you still here?  It’s after eight.”

Robin looks up from the desk/makeup table of her tiny little walk-in-closet-sized dressing room at Metro News 1 to see Patrice’s concerned face staring back at her.  “I’m just finishing up on a new story,” she says, her fingers typing furiously to get that last line down before she forgets it.

Patrice’s expression brightens.  “A new story for tomorrow?” 

Patrice’s misplaced hopefulness effectively deflates Robin’s own tenuous enthusiasm and, sighing, she glances back up.  “No.  Tomorrow I’m still covering the pet fashion show in the park,” she acknowledges drearily.  “This was something of my own I was hoping to pitch.”  Who is she kidding, though?  No one here is ever going to take her seriously.  It’s a waste of time trying.  “Never mind.  It’s stupid.  You’re right; I should just go home.”

“I’m sure your story’s good, Robin,” Patrice puts in brightly.  “They’ll want you to deliver it on the air if you only let them see it.”

At least Patrice takes her seriously, Robin thinks to herself.  But Patrice is only a production assistant – as well as her self-appointed position as Robin’s part time personal assistant – so fat lot of good it does her professionally speaking.  “Thanks, Patrice, but we both know this is a dead end job.  All I get are little fluff pieces, and we have all of two viewers to watch them.”

“Three,” Patrice corrects encouragingly.  “I always watch.” 

“Metro News 1 thanks you for your support,” Robin smiles wryly.  The truth is they need every viewer they can get since most people have never even heard of the station.  She herself hadn’t before she got hired.   

Robin took the job at Metro News 1 right after she moved to New York.  It was the first and only thing she could get in a competitive city but it’s turned out to be a far cry from what she dreamed of back at home in Canada. 

Her very first day on the job she met Patrice, and the two women couldn’t be further opposites.  Patrice is optimistic, openly warm, effortlessly congenial, and easily opens up about every little thought, feeling, and emotion.  Patrice wears her heart on her sleeve for the whole world to see, whereas Robin keeps hers locked away buried deep inside where no one can touch it so that no one else can ever break it again. 

One would never guess the two of them could get on at all, but Patrice was instantly taken with Robin, first and foremost because she’s a genuinely nice person and gets on with everyone.  But Robin quickly became her special case.  The way Patrice sees it, Robin is a strong, competent, intelligent, professional woman worthy of admiration, but there’s also something of need and vulnerability in her that was instantly apparent to Patrice.  Robin’s walls were and still are up – that’s plain in the way she acts – but they’re up for her own protection.  Everything about who Robin is, particularly as she’s gotten to know her more, makes Patrice want to help her. 

Robin for her part found all the attention and adoration overbearing at first, but a couple weeks into knowing each other Patrice met someone who is now her serious boyfriend and he takes some of that constant focus off of her.  With that balance in place, Robin finds it’s actually kind of nice having Patrice around as a friend.  A work friend anyway.  They don’t see each other much outside of the studio.  She doesn’t see anyone much outside of the studio.

“But let’s face it,” Robin rationalizes.  “This story is never going to see the light of day.”

“Probably not,” Patrice levels with her, sadly.  “But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t deserving.”

As she walks past her to grab her laptop case, Robin pats Patrice’s shoulder once in the same way she pets her Dalmatian.  It’s the closest to open affection she ever shows; anything else makes her uncomfortable.  “I’m heading home now, so you don’t have to worry.”

Patrice shakes her head.  “I’m still gonna worry.  Heading to work and heading back home is all you ever do.  There’s got to be something more to life than that.  We need to find you a boyfriend.”

Robin gives her a disappointed look, groaning audibly.  “You too?  I mean I know you’re all about true love and destiny, but you’ve also been paving a career in a male dominated industry the same as I have.  I thought there’d be something of a feminist in you.”

“Being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t believe in love and marriage,” Patrice points out.

And, okay, Robin has to give it to her; she does have a point.  “I never said I didn’t believe in it.  Just that I personally don’t need a man to function in life.  I hear enough of that point of view from movies, TV shows, and my own mother,” Robin adds defensively.  “I don’t want to hear it from you too.”

“Of course you don’t need a man, Robin,” Patrice laughs gently.  “I just want you to have what Joe and I have.  I think you want that kind of happiness too, even if you won’t admit it to yourself.  It can get awfully lonely when you’re single.  Having someone to be with, finding that kind of love, you don’t absolutely have to have it to function, but it enhances your life.  It’s just like your dogs; you don’t need them but it’s nice to have them around.  Boyfriends are the same way.”

“Maybe for some people.  Maybe even for me someday,” Robin allows.  “But I’m not ready for that right now.  I’ll just stick to my dogs, thanks.”

“At least come out with the girls then.  Have a little bit more of a social life.  Cindy and Chad just broke up so we’re all taking her out tomorrow night to this bar she likes, MacLaren’s.  You should come with us, Robin…..Maybe you’ll even meet someone.”

“Ugh, what did I literally just say, Patrice?”

“I know.  But I haven’t seen you with a guy since you moved to New York two months ago.  In that time your dogs can’t be providing all the companionship a man can.” 

Robin thinks about that for a moment and Patrice is unfortunately right.  She has been going through something of a dry spell, and there are just certain things that even the love of the sweetest puppy – or the nightly attention of even the most high-powered vibrator – can’t quite satisfy.  “It has been a while….and there are some things I miss,” Robin admits.

“Like what?”

“Patrice,” Robin smiles waywardly.  “They’d make you blush.”

“I have a boyfriend,” Patrice reminds her.  “Maybe one of the things you miss is something I did last night.”

“Touché.  Alright….”  Robin’s smile turns decadent as she imagines the things she misses most about having a male bed companion.  “One of the things I miss is running my fingers over a man’s chest and abs – especially when he’s built enough that there’s something to run my hands over.  But my favorite thing, what I miss most of all – well, besides the main thing, his thing,” she smirks, “is that muscle ridge that forms a V just above the hips pointing right down to his good bits.  I can’t get enough of that…..Or of being taken hard and fast and just – ” She stops herself, realizing she’s clutching her laptop case to her chest.

“Robin, you really need to come out with us tomorrow,” Patrice deadpans.

“Okay, fine.  Yes.  I need to get laid.  So alright, I’ll come out to this bar – MacLaren’s, is it? – tomorrow night.  But I’m not becoming BFFs with the rest of the female staff.  And I’m not falling madly in love either,” she rolls her eyes.  “The only thing I’m falling into is some hot guy’s bed.”




Present


If Robin had any idea how wrong she’d been about tonight she would have went home after work like every other night, sex starved or not. 

Because she’s been nothing but miserable.  What’s worse, Patrice came down with the flu this morning and didn’t even come to the bar herself, despite insisting she be there.  At least with Patrice as a mediator it would have kept her more involved in the conversation with her coworkers.  Robin’s made an honest effort on her own, but sometimes friendships with women – especially flighty, girly-girl women like these ones – can be trying.  And she can’t even be on the prowl like she’d hoped when she has to stay here with the group in some kind of anti-male, girl power comradery, drying Cindy’s tears with all the others.  She’s firmly planted herself in their large corner booth like she knows she’s expected to do, but her thoughts and focus have drifted as the night wears on.

The first place they drifted to – and where they’ve been ever since – is on the hot blond up at the bar in the killer suit she saw eyeing her earlier.  She can’t say how long he’s been here or when he first came in because when she herself arrived she was too preoccupied with all the expected but loathed fanfare.  Although they see each other on a daily basis, every time the women of the station meet again they greet one another as if it’s been ten years.  There are hugs, cheek kisses, squeals, simpering little salutations and over-the-top reception all around.  And in her case it comes along with excited requests for an explanation as to how she came to be out with them tonight when she usually avoids it like the plague. 

By the time the women’s attention was off of Robin enough for her eyes to wander without being caught Blondie was by himself up at the bar.  His dark-haired friend who she scarcely got a look at since all her focus was on his magnetic blue eyes was nowhere to be found and the suited hottie was instead entertaining himself with the farer sex, talking to what would be the first of many women she’d witness him hit on and vice versa. 

It’s been fascinating to watch the smoothness with which he operates.  She’d say the women never stand a chance but it really doesn’t look like they want one. 

Oddly enough, however, for all the numbers she’s watched this Barney collect – or so he claimed his name to be in one of the come-ons she’d overheard – he’s never actually left with any of the women, and more than a time or two she’s caught his eyes back over on her.

….She almost wonders if he’s waiting for her, waiting for a chance to take her home since she hasn’t left the booth all night and men like him always wait until they’ve got you separated from the pack before they pounce.

The thought isn’t unpleasant to her.  Not at all.  She came here looking for a one night stand and when she scanned the bar he was easily the one she wanted to go home with.  The only one. 

She hasn’t had sex in too long.  Far too long.  Robin misses sex.  She misses everything about it.  She’s in the market for something casual and fun, and she has no doubt Hot Guy in the Suit could satisfy her requirements and then some. 

But she doesn’t want to be a part of anyone’s revolving door of bed partners, no matter how hot he is.  Maybe that’s hypocritical since she herself wants a one night stand – or possibly a laidback, ongoing sexual affair if the guy was right.  That appears to be exactly what Blondie’s after too, and what’s good for the goose is good for the gander; that’s always been her rule.  Yet even on the prowl for a one night stand she still doesn’t want to be just another number to a guy. 

And with a guy like this he probably can’t even remember what number she’d be.

Still, she’s been here for over an hour, the night has been insanely dull….and she finds she can’t resist tempting it just a little, playing with fire knowing she absolutely won’t get burned because this game will never go any further than the barstool.

Standing up, Robin heads across the room – alone for the first time all night – to order herself a drink, waiting to see if he takes the bait.

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A week and a half later, after a hectic Monday, Robin beats Barney home.  Walking straight through the empty apartment she makes a beeline for their bedroom and her stash at the bottom of her nightstand.  With her coveted box and lighter in hand, she opens the French doors and heads out onto the balcony to smoke a much-needed cigarette. 

She’s always been a stress smoker and after today it’s no wonder she’s hurrying to light up.  She hasn’t had a work day this bad since the days of Becky and Come On, Get Up New York!.  After this she’s desperately looking forward to another nine days of vacation come this weekend. 

It was somewhat bold to expect more time off after having recently taken two weeks off for her wedding, but she’s a rising star at the network and thus has some clout now.  And the reasoning behind her time request – this weekend she and her husband will be returning to her hometown to celebrate their heritage on Canada Day, and then the following week is the Fourth of July when she wants to celebrate her American citizenship too – aren’t exactly easy to turn down and still come off looking PC, so the network easily granted her request.  But she has to get through four more work days to make it there – and right now curving her lips around this little nicotine-filled champion is helping. 

She hates herself for it though.  It’s been seven months since she smoked and every time she swears it’s going to be her last one.

But anxiety, tension, and stress have been her triggers since the first cigarette she ever had at age eighteen.  Thankfully, she’s never become a chain smoker and can always walk away cold turkey with just a cigarette here and there when the pressure gets to be too much.  Other than the one week period surrounding when Don first started at Come On, Get Up New York! and refused to wear pants, the closest she came to actually having a true smoking habit was back when she was dating Ted. 

Barney knew all about her smoking because back in early 2006 he caught her at the bottom of the steps of MacLaren’s smoking a cigarette huddled in the corner where she hoped none of the gang could see her from the street above.  But he kept her secret, and during her eventual relationship with Ted sharing a smoke with Barney out in the back alley behind MacLaren’s became a regular thing.  While they smoked sometimes they just enjoyed a companionable silence, but just as often she’d unburden herself to him about the stressor causing her to smoke.  That first time he caught her it was stress from her dead-end position at Metro News 1.  Later on when it became their regular thing it was almost always the stress of dating Ted. 

There were just so many ways that the two of them were different, so many things about herself that he didn’t approve of and to spare herself his judgment and lectures she had to keep hidden from him.  She was hiding just how extreme her love for firearms was – he didn’t know about all the many guns she had hidden around her apartment or about her subscription to the gun enthusiast’s magazine; he didn’t know the truth about Robin Sparkles, though when she gave him a fake explanation he wasted no time blabbing it to all the others; he didn’t know about her dysfunctional background; he was clueless about her smoking, something she knew she could never share with him; he was critical about the number of sex partners she had so she had to fudge those numbers too.  And sometimes the sheer Ted of him could get to be too much for her, with his architecture talk and dad jokes and ‘Crossword Day’.  There were times when her nerves were already wearing so thin that she’d just want to smack him when he pronounced renaissance that way – and then aggressively tried to get her to go to the renaissance fair with him.  In short, suppressing her true nature in order to be Ted’s girlfriend at times just got so exhausting.  And so she’d complain to Barney while they de-stressed together, smoking cigarettes in the alley outside the bar after everyone else had left.

Thankfully for them both, she and Ted each now have the person they’re meant to be with and there’s no more pretending or suppressing required.  Unfortunately for her however, she’s still working in a high stress environment what with her wayward co-anchor and all. 

It’s always the co-anchors; they’re the scourge of her existence.  WWN was a huge step up, but far be it for her to ever have a completely professional work environment.

While Robin keeps smoking and ruing her day, Barney lets himself into their apartment, home now from work himself.  All of the lights are off, which isn’t that big of a deal since it’s only half past six and the first day of summer was just last week, meaning there’s plenty of daylight to illuminate the rooms.  What’s odd about is it the absence of any TV or music, just utter silence.  Everything is quiet.  Too quiet.  It’s the kind of heavy quiet when something’s wrong. 

“Robin, are you here?”  She should be.  This morning she told him she was coming straight home, and when they talked on the phone at lunch they were making plans to have a quiet night and just order dinner in.

Legendary comes out to greet him but there’s still no sign of his wife until Robin’s distant answer comes that she’s in the bedroom.  Barney walks in there too and finds her out on the balcony, cigarette in hand.  “Whoa.  You must be upset if you’re smoking,” he says as he crosses the room to join her outside.  “I haven’t seen you with a cigarette since back during “The Robin” when I wouldn’t sleep with you.”

Robin tilts her head in acknowledgment.  That was indeed the cause of her smoking relapse eight months ago – but that was a whole different kind of stress and frustration.  “I had a bad day at work,” she tells him, turning back toward the railing to blow smoke over the side.

“What happened?” Barney asks, coming up behind her and putting his arms around her waist.

She leans back against him in the comfort of his embrace, sighing heavily enough that he can feel it against his chest.  “Sandy Rivers happened.  You once called yourself the Player King.  Well, he’s the Sexual Harassment King of New York City,” she sarcastically informs him.

Barney frowns.  “He didn’t hit on you, did he?”

“No.  He knows better than that,” she puts his mind at ease.  “Sandy gave up on trying to sleep with me a while ago.  Plus he knows now that I’m married and actually in love with my spouse.  But there’s a reason he didn’t get invited to our wedding; he’ll try to sleep with anything that’s breathing – willing or not – and then force the story on everyone.  He’s a completely unprofessional, all-around mess.”

Barney places a kiss to her temple, gathering her even closer to him.  “What did he do this time?” 

Robin takes another long draw from her cigarette before launching into the tale that gets her riled all over again just repeating it.  “We were doing a story on a cock ring,” she begins wearily.

“Uh-oh.”

“Yep.  It’s exactly what you’re thinking,” she replies, knowing Barney’s sharp mind has already jumped to the correct conclusion.  “But this was on live TV, and it was a serious thing.  The cockfighting ring they’d busted was tied to a major drug cartel.  It was an important story.  But of course Sandy hadn’t done any of his background research, and as you can imagine he did not talk about that kind of cock ring.  He talked about the time one got stuck on his cock.  In graphic detail.  Trying to shut him up and explain to him how he’d gotten it wrong – all while live on the air – was one of the most embarrassing moments of my career.  And now the network is facing an FCC fine.” 

Barney has to admit the whole thing is kind of funny.  One day he can even picture them watching the footage together and laughing over poor Robin’s stunned and embarrassed reaction.  But much like when she fell into horse manure all those years ago, he knows his wife well enough to know that now is too soon for her to see the humor in it.  So he shelves laughing over it together for another day and instead rubs his hand softly over her hip in commiseration.  “How hasn’t he gotten fired by now?” 

Robin shakes her head, releasing another trail of smoke into the air.  “I don’t know.  No one does.  People are taking bets on it down at the station….I think maybe he has something on someone.  It’s the only explanation that makes any sense.”

“Even if he does, that’s only going to last him so long.  You keep hanging in there, baby.  Don’t get discouraged now,” he gently reassures her.  “You’ve come so far and your name is on the rise.  You’ve already overshadowed him.  It’s only a matter of time before you eclipse him completely and then you’ll never have to deal with that idiot again.”

Barney’s encouragement has already boosted Robin’s spirits from what they were.  When she first got here the number one instinct coursing through her was to shoot something.  That wasn’t an option so her secondary instinct was to go for a cigarette, and she’s still on edge enough not to be finished with it yet. 

“But in the meantime I’m smoking again,” she says in frustration, taking another draw.  “And I honestly did want to quit.  You should too,” she tells him in all serious.  “I know I used to laugh it off and be the first to say I didn’t want anyone telling me how to live my life, but we’re getting older now….”  She snuggles back into him, setting her hand over his on her waist.  “And we have a lot to live for.”

“Well if you’re really serious about quitting I can get you off of cigarettes in no time,” Barney boldly claims.

“Oh really?” she questions, a hint of amusement plain in her voice for the theory she senses is coming next.  “And how is that?  You know smoking’s been my stress relief for years, since before I met you.”

“Exactly.  Before you met me.  Now that you’ve got me you have no need for cigarettes.”  He outstretches his hands, clearing his throat theatrically.  “I offer myself as stress relief.”

Robin smiles at that.  “Talking to you has helped a lot,” she acknowledges.  “But unfortunately I’m still smoking,” she regretfully points out, holding up the cigarette in her fingers.

“That’s because while talking with you is great, in this case you need something stronger than talking alone.  Lucky for you, you’re married to a sexpert – and sex is the greatest stress relief of them all.”

“Is that so?” she grins. 

“It’s basic science that sex is good for you.”

“You sound like a horny seventeen year-old,” she laughs.

“Mock if you will,” he playfully replies, “but any doctor will confirm it.  Sex is the ultimate cure-all.  Oxytocin more than quadruples during sex, creating a natural pain reliever to fix anything from a migraine to a sore back.  And sex fights cancer in men.  Men who ejaculate twenty-one times a month – that’s not even once a day – have a 33% less chance of developing prostate cancer.”

“With sex less than once a day?” Robin marvels mischievously.  “Well then you never have to worry about that.”

“Thanks to the way you and I go at it, no I won’t,” Barney smirks suggestively.  “But sex has its benefits for women too.  A woman’s estrogen levels double during sex.  It’ll make your hair shiny and your skin softer.  And more importantly to your problem at the moment, sex releases endorphins that naturally decrease stress and stimulate a state of euphoria.  True story.”

“Alright.  You’ve persuaded me,” Robin replies, turning her head on his shoulder so her lips are near his.  “Let me try.”  She presses her mouth to his and already he expertly starts out the kiss with just the right amount of pressure and intensity, not coming on too strong but enough to make her want more.  To that end, she turns in his arms so she’s facing him, and Barney gradually increases the passion of their kissing – including that swirling thing with his tongue that always does it for her – until her fingers are up in his hair and they’re both breathing heavily. 

Slowly drawing back, she shakily confirms, “You’re right.  You are way better than a cigarette.”  She drops hers onto the balcony, stomping it out with the toe of her heeled sandal and kicking it over the side to flutter unneeded down to the ground below.  Then her mouth is back on his for several more long moments, her hand fisted in his tie.

Breaking away, Robin gives him a breathless, seductive smile.  “Come de-stress me some more….” she whispers, taking Barney’s hand and leading him back into their bedroom. 

From that night on, she always comes to him whenever she’s feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and after an hour in bed with him – or in the shower, or on the couch, or in one of their offices, or just against the wall – she’s left feeling boneless and sated and by the time they talk it all out afterwards she doesn’t have a care in the world.

And this time it really was Robin’s last cigarette ever.
 
****

The next four weeks go by quickly.  There’s the trip back to Robin’s hometown so she can get Barney in touch with his Canadian roots.  Then they hurry back home to celebrate the Fourth of July in New York City.  A couple weeks later the GNB raid finally goes down, and just four days after that it’s Robin’s 33rd birthday. 

Robin never treated birthdays as a big deal.  Unlike Lily, as an adult Robin never thought a fuss should be made over her.  Perhaps a simple gathering of friends, a cupcake with a single candle at MacLaren’s, just something low-key.  As a rule, Barney doesn’t disagree.  He doesn’t make a huge spectacle out of his birthdays either.  Outwardly he calls it ‘one more year of being awesome’ but it’s actually one year closer to crow’s feet – and that’s nothing to celebrate. 

But it’s different with Robin.  She didn’t just outgrow the need to be fussed over on her birthday.  Robin never got to experience that in the first place.  When she was very young she got to have some traditional birthday parties, most of which she was too young to even remember, but she did tell him about one particular birthday that stood out for her when she turned eight years old and her mother bought her a princess dress.  It had pink ruffles and frills and lace, and she heard her parents having a huge fight about it the night before her birthday.  As an adult she still marvels over how her mom managed it but somehow she got her way and the next day at the party Robin got to wear her little pink gown.  The dress even had a tiny silver tiara for her hair.  And for the first and only time in her life she actually felt like a princess.  But after the divorce her mother wasn’t around to fight for her and Robin rarely even got a party anymore.  Birthdays meant a handshake, a sip of scotch, being thrown out of a helicopter and tossed into the Canadian wilderness to ‘learn how to be a man’. 

It hurts Barney to think about what she’s been through.  Robin deserves more than a few lovely single digit birthdays, and so on this first birthday of their married life Barney wants to make a fuss over her and show her how special she is to him.  He has a whole surprise agenda for today, starting with breakfast in bed.  He and Legendary got up early and tip-toed their way out of the room to go get things ready for her.  Right now the maple syrup is already heated and the pancakes are just seconds away from being done.

Back in their bedroom, Robin slowly begins to stir awake.  Rolling over unto her side, she reaches her arm across to sling over her husband but only touches empty air.  Opening her eyes she, indeed, finds his side of the bed empty.  One quick look tells her the bathroom door is open and unoccupied.  She’s just wondering where he’s gone off to when the bedroom door comes slowly sliding open.  But, again, her eyes meet empty air and she knows that can only mean one thing:  Legendary is the one returning, not Barney.

Yawning, Robin stretches and sits up just as the little dog is jumping onto the bed.  Now that the bedroom door is wide open she can hear sounds coming from the kitchen – clattering of mugs, something being set down on the counter – and she figures Barney got up ahead of her to have coffee waiting. 

“Is Barney out there making coffee?” she asks Legendary, reaching out to pet him.  He just gives her a lazy puppy grin, snuggling into her lap for some loving.

Robin sits back against the pillows, continuing to stroke Legendary’s head and back as the memories of last night coming flooding through her mind.  It had been one for the record books.  They’d used the sex lounge and all of its amenities.  Two months in, it’s finally stopped frightening the daylights out of Legendary when they activate it.  Now they just give him a signal, he hops onto his bed and barely bats an eye when their bed goes into the wall to be replaced with another floor panel and their assortment of special chairs, contraptions, and toys.  It was somewhere around two a.m. when, both exhausted and thoroughly satisfied, they put things back as they were, threw on some pajamas, and climbed into bed for the night.

She giggles softly to herself just thinking about it.  Their friends still have no idea they converted Barney’s former ill-conceived Ho Be Gone system into their own private playground.  No doubt they’d consider them depraved if they knew the truth.  Not that she’s ashamed in the least of their healthy sexual appetite for each other, but it is rather hot having this dirty little secret that only the two of them know about. 

Still petting their little puppy, Robin looks contentedly around the room as the early morning sunshine comes streaming in through the balcony doors.  Like a magnetic draw, her eyes settle as they always do on the pictures from their wedding. 

Their formal wedding prints arrived while they were in Canada.  It was a pleasant surprise to find them waiting there when they got back and they straightaway set out to tweaking the apartment to make room for them.  Here in the bedroom on the corner of the desk they put the picture of their very first kiss as husband and wife.  Out in the living room on the wall by the closet replacing the drawing of a woman with a snake is a picture of the two of them with Barney dipping her down into the kiss while her fingers are buried up in his hair.  On the living room entertainment center they have a smaller picture of the two of them walking back up the aisle hand-in-hand, and a picture of their first dance in all its glittered spectacle.  On the other wall by the door where the close-up print of a woman’s rear end and legs once used to be now hangs a picture of the moment forever frozen in time when she first got up to the altar and she and Barney are lovingly gazing at each other so giddy with the biggest, goofiest grins on their faces.

Robin loves all of their wedding pictures but her very favorite is the one also in their bedroom sitting on the shelving unit against the far wall.  It was taken at the very second Sam pronounced them husband and wife.  It’s her favorite because the way they’re looking at each other – laughing and excited and so overjoyed – is just priceless.  In all of the pictures and the video it’s impossible not to see how ecstatic and delighted they are to be getting married and how very much they love each other.

She still remembers their wedding day vividly.  And what she remembers isn’t those fifteen minutes of panic.  That’s all a blur.  Particularly those last eight minutes with Ted and then running away from the church seem like an out of body experience.  But she recalls every second of the ceremony.  Not just what was said but how it felt.  Throughout the ceremony, their vows to each other, and the exchanging of their wedding ring, she was so overwhelmingly happy and could literally feel how much Barney loves her.  She’ll never forget it as long as she lives.

That picture of their very first instant of married life, that’s the one she’s going to send to Jessica in her Christmas card this year.  That lone picture says it all.  Looking at it now, Robin has no doubt that 2013 has already been the best year of her life by far.

“Legendary!  You’re not supposed to be in here,” Barney’s voice gently scolds the dog.  But it’s said in a tone of such naked affection that Legendary just looks happily over at him, knowing he’s not in trouble as he slides out of Robin’s lap and over to the edge of the bed to greet him.  “We’re supposed to be letting your mom sleep in on her birthday.”

“I was already awake,” Robin assures him with a smile.  “He didn’t ruin anything.”  She finally takes her eyes off their little guy to look up at her husband and an immediate “Ohh” spills from her lips.  “You made me breakfast?”

He just shrugs and grins.  “It’s your birthday.  You deserve to be pampered.”

“Aww, Barney.”

He sets the tray down on the edge of the bed by her feet and right away Legendary starts sniffing at it.  “Ah-ah.  Your food’s waiting out in your dish,” Barney tells him.  That’s something Legendary immediately understands and instantly jumps down to go eat his own breakfast.

Now alone, Barney eases down on the bed to sit beside her, careful not to disturb the tray as he does, and Robin reaches for his left hand, pulling it into her lap and absently playing with his ring.  He rubs a hand over her thigh through the bed covers, watching the reflective look on her face.  “What are you thinking about?” he asks softly.

In the past, this would be where she’d evasively say ‘It’s stupid’ and avoid his gaze, but he’s told her that nothing she thinks or says could ever be stupid to him and she knows she has this safe space to always tell him everything no matter how silly it might seem.  So she looks up, meeting his eyes as she replies, “I was just remembering where I was on my last birthday….How drastically better things are now, how much happier I am.  Last year at this time, things were pretty bleak.” 

Barney nods at that.  It’s a sentiment he can certainly relate to.  But he senses she has more to say so he stays quiet and lets her finish.

“Last year on my birthday I thought the two of us were done forever, that you were going to marry Quinn and I’d be stuck with a lifetime of settling for nothing but great sex with a guy like Nick who I couldn’t even talk to.”

“Okay,” Barney says, making a face.  “I love that you want to share things with me, and I feel the same way about last year too.  But can we not talk about all the ‘great sex’,” he puts it in air quotes, “you had with Nick?” 

Robin grins impishly, running her fingers over his.  “Why can’t we talk about it?  If you let me finish you would have heard me say that as great as the sex was with Nick it’s even better with you.  Way better.  And with you, I have amazing sex and so much more.  I have this.  I have our whole life together.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything, Barney.  Not anything.”

He softly squeezes her hand.  “I’m glad to hear it.  Cause I’m not going anywhere.  And I’d never let you trade me anyway,” he adds smartly.  At that moment Legendary comes strolling back into the room, evidently having wolfed down his breakfast in only a few minutes.  When Barney sees him, he adds their little guy into the mix too.  “And I sure as hell wouldn’t have you trade your dog again for anything.”  Now that he has one of his own he can even more fully appreciate how cruel it was for Ted to suggest she give up her five dogs all those years ago.

“No, I’d never trade you,” Robin smiles.  “Either one of you.  It’s like you said on our wedding night; you’re stuck with me now.”

Barney shakes his head.  “Not stuck.  Lucky to have you.  Although you will be getting stuck later tonight,” he devilishly adjoins with a wink and a tongue click.  Robin laughs at that, and even after all these years of knowing her Robin’s laughter is still the best music to his ears.  “I have a whole day planned for you,” he tells her eagerly.  “Dinner reservations after work, several undisclosed stops after that.  It all begins with breakfast in bed but I’ve got a host of birthday surprises in store.  You ready?”

Robin reaches for him and kisses him soundly.  “Now I am.”



Five Months Later


It’s a Friday evening after work, five days before Christmas, and Barney’s just heading out of the elevator and down the hall to their apartment.  Robin had the entire day off work and tonight they have plans to do up the place in complete yuletide cheer. 

He unlocks and opens the door, shutting it behind him as he sets his keys on the banister, and when he looks up he finds Robin standing on the other side, decorating their tree. 

She bites her lip, knowing she’s been caught.  “I’m sorry.  I couldn’t wait.  I got started early…..Just a little bit.” 

She already has last year’s decorations – the clear, lighted garland and flameless candles – up around the entertainment center, and the red tree skirt is in place too.  Barney can only laugh and shake his head.  “Eager little minx.  Not even waiting for your husband,” he teases.  “I could have taken my time at work instead of hurrying home.” 

“I put the lights up on the tree, but I saved the ties and ornaments until you got home,” she offers sheepishly.  “Besides, I’m always worth hurrying home to.”

“Yes, you are,” he smiles.

“I couldn’t help myself,” she explains.  “There’s something about the smell of fresh pine….It got me all excited to make it look like Christmas in here.” 

He can believe that.  Robin always had a tree in her apartment, and in the four Christmases she lived as Ted’s roommate there was always a tree there too, even after Lily moved out and took her winter wonderland with her.  While he enjoys the holiday too Barney was never much for decorating his own apartment, until last year.  As part of the “The Robin” he’d wanted to show her how traditional and domesticated he could be underneath at all, and once she said ‘yes’ to his proposal it actually became real.  The two of them shared a glorious Christmastime together full of laughter, love, and kisses – and outright sex – beneath the mistletoe. 

They’d inadvertently started something of a tradition that was so much fun they both want to carry it on.  They’ve agreed to get a real tree each year and decorate it in the same way as that first year together:  with red and green lights, and solid red and green ties in lieu of garland.  They both like that clean, simplistic look and don’t want much else cluttering it up.  Besides the ties – such a uniquely Barney touch, which is why Robin loves it – they have just the two ornaments to hang:  one they bought last year to celebrate their engagement and first Christmas together, and one they bought this year to celebrate one year of being back together and their first Christmas as a married couple.  It had room for a little picture inside so they cut out a mini version of one of their wedding photos to fit into the tiny ornament frame.

Truth be known, it warms Barney’s heart to see Robin this excited to decorate for Christmas all because their last one together was so spectacular.  He’s already made her a Halloween convert too. 

Really, that transformation began two years before with Robin coming up with coordinating costumes for their shared Canadian heritage and then the two of them spending the Halloween party together talking and laughing and having a blast.  Last Halloween they couldn’t exactly coordinate their costumes considering the circumstances of her having Nick around and all, but they did still spent most of the party together in much the same way as they had the year prior. 

This past Halloween they continued their tradition of dressing up – something Robin now loves to do when it’s with him – with their Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein outfits and makeup to play on their recent wedding.  There’s now a picture of the two of them in costume up on the entertainment center alongside their wedding photo.  Marshall and Lily were even there to witness it.  They flew back to New York for a week to visit, and because of her hectic schedule the only time they could wrangle was the last week in October.  Though Lily had really wanted to spend Christmas at home with the gang, it turned out to be a good thing as it was the latest she was allowed to fly anyway.  And that meant they all got to share Halloween together instead.  All seven of them had a big party out at Ted’s house where Marvin went trick-or-treating with Legendary.

It’s all because of Robin that Barney’s once lonely and empty life is now filled with happy memories like that one – and the one they’re making right now.  He is so glad that she’s a guaranteed, permanent part of his life now, that they have this life together and get to share everything with each other.  It makes the things he used to hate so much easier to deal with and the things he already enjoyed, like Christmas and Halloween, a million times better experiencing them with her.

Barney hasn’t said anything for a few moments.  He’s just staring at her with this funny look on his face so Robin asks, amused, “What?”

His expression softens even further into a warm and tender smile.  “I just really love you.”

She grins at that.  “Good, cause I really love you too.” 

Barney walks around the banister, shrugging out of his overcoat, and Robin admires the handsome figure he cuts in his latest suit, Ogden.  “You’re looking particularly attractive today,” she flirtatiously compliments him.  “And you’re home early, an extra bonus.”

He straightens his tie smugly in that classic Barney photo pose.  “Well that’s what comes from being the boss.”

She hums soft and low.  “Yes….You’re completely in charge now.  You tell everyone what to do and when to do it at your whim.  That is so hot, Barney.” 

He smirks in silent reply.  She’s always had a thing for corporate power and authority going back as far as the days of Ted’s failed start-up, Mosbius Designs.  He used to have quite the time playing to it the first time they were together, and now that he’s the actual CEO – and was responsible for the undercover FBI sting – it’s like catnip for Robin.  There’s hardly been a time in his five months on the new job that she’s come to visit him at work and it didn’t end up with the two of them having sex in his office.

“You know what that does to me….” she reminds him, as if he needed the reminder.  “But how do you feel having all that influence and power?  And popularity too.  Everyone says you’re the best thing to happen to the company.  It’s all over social media and the trade magazines.”

“Please,” Barney scoffs.  “That’s nothing.  I’m married to Robin Sparkles.  Not to mention one of World Wide News’ most loved reporters.  I’ll gladly reap the benefits your power fetish – and at GNB and in the business world I am a very powerful man,” he owns it, letting a bit of slick seduction slip into his tone for her benefit.  “But when we were out to dinner last night, which one of us got recognized, twice?”

Robin grins, pleased at that, and it makes Barney smile.  His wife has always been one to crave and enjoy that kind of fame and he’s glad it’s finally coming to her.

“Although,” he adds with playful if perhaps partially genuine resentment, “I thought that guy was out of line when he asked you to sign his bare chest.  I mean I was right there.”

“Aww,” she laughs, rubbing his shoulder.  “But you’re the only one I see – even when I’m signing other men’s bodies.”

Barney hooks his arms around her waist, drawing her body against his.  “Oh so you’re gonna make a habit of it, hmm?”

“You never know,” she shrugs mischievously.  “Ratings keep getting higher.”

He gives her a cheeky grin and his hands slide down to her hips.  “Well come in the bedroom with me.  There’s a permanent marker on the desk and I’ve got a certain part of my body I’d love to have you sign.”

Rather than rolling eyes or laughter, like he’d expected, her eyes light up with anticipation.  “Can I sign it?” she enthusiastically requests.  “I can picture it now:   ‘Robin’s property’.”

He grins, his eyes crinkling up at the corners as he nods boastfully.  “Luckily I’ve got plenty of room for all those letters to fit.”

Now Robin does laugh, and pulls him into a kiss too.  Shivering with excitement in his arms, she grabs his hand eagerly.  “Let’s do it!”

“Whoa,” he stops her as she tugs on his arm.  “I was kidding.  You’re not seriously thinking about writing all over Lil’ Barney, are you?”

“Why not?  It’d be insanely sexy to see my name written there.  Instant lady boner….No one else is gonna see it but me,” she entices.  “We don’t have to use permanent mark....And I’m sure we can think of a way to rub it off afterwards,” she seductively tempts.

This time it’s Barney’s eyes that light up as he reaches down and grabs her hand in his.  “Let’s go….”

Robin giggles, hurrying with him down the hall.  “And then we decorate the tree!  But Legendary’s been in the water already so you’ll have to refill.”

Barney grimaces.  Having a real tree can be challenging but it’s become their tradition now and he can tell Robin loves decorating it and doing up their apartment in grand style for Christmas.  Maybe because it’s a cold weather holiday?  Whatever the reason, every year he’s going to give it to her no matter what it takes.

“I know,” she commiserates.  “It’s a lot of work.  But I got us spiked eggnog and a Christmas themed – ”

“Snack?” he interrupts.  “Tell me it’s a gingerbread house that I can cut a hole in the floor of.”

She shoots him a sexy little look.  “You could consider it a snack.  It all depends on what you’re looking to eat….” she tells him suggestively.  “It’s a Christmas themed nightie for after all the decorating.  In case you’re feeling ‘festive’ a second time tonight.”

He stops just inside their bedroom, pinning her with a look.  “Oh, Robin.  How many years have you known me?”

“You’re right,” she nods, deadpan.  “Barney Stinson is always feeling ‘festive’.”

“Can you blame him when he’s married to Robin Scherbatsky?  I can promise you, your husband is going to be feeling intensely ‘festive’ a second and a third time before the night is over – and maybe some more times besides if I don’t tucker you out first.”

She reaches for him, running her hands over his chest.  “I’m feeling pretty ‘festive’ right now….Let’s get to marking my territory,” she murmurs, already unfastening his belt and going for his zipper next.

“Merry Christmas to me,” he growls.

“Ooh!  Speaking of, can we decorate him too?  Instead of a star maybe put a little hat on top?  A top hat!”

She’s got his pants completely undone now and Barney eagerly rushes to keep up, grabbing the bottom of her shirt and pulling it over her head.  “How about we put Lil’ Robin on top?”

“That can be arranged…..” Robin whispers appreciatively.  “Off the bed, Legendary,” she instructs their puppy as she goes to the desk to grab a marker.  Holding her husband’s gaze in a heated look of pure sex, she announces, “It’s human playtime.”

Legendary knows what that means.  To avoid the noise, rocking bed, and flying clothes that are soon to come, with a wagging tails he ambles down the hallway to wait it out in the living room, content to enjoy another drink from the new tree that’s sprouted up in the corner.


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AN:  This got so much longer than I originally anticipated!  I’m not sure if that will keep being the case with the other chapters; it’s really anyone’s guess.  I have specific things I want to cover in each year (scenes and dialogue and so forth) and it’s just a matter of where the stories go from there.  Sometimes there ends up being more there than I imagined and sometimes less, so we’ll see. 

To be refreshed on additional happenings of 2013:  Barney and Robin’s honeymoon was featured in the chapter for 9.16; Robin and Barney’s trip to Canada can be found in my oneshot “Canada Day”, though keep in mind I wrote it back in 2012 before the events of 9.12 and Barney’s Canada appreciation so there’s a bit more Canada mockery in that one than perhaps Barney would be doing anymore (though I can’t see him giving it up entirely if just for the fun of teasing her!); the details of the GNB bust are in 9.15’s chapter; and Barney and Robin’s half anniversary in November of 2013 can be found in the chapter for 9.07. 

Also, someone asked in a review which chapter featured the brief flashback to Robin and Barney going to her aunt’s farm to give up her dogs. That was in the chapter for 8.05. (And while I don’t usually respond directly to reviews, mostly because sometimes I get behind, I just want to thank all of you who’ve taken the time to write a review.  I read and appreciate all of them.  Your responses truly do mean a lot to me, and I thank you all for your kind words.)

The next chapter is all about 2014!  But I’ll be updating “A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings” first so there will be a bit of a break in between.

Tags:


Previous Chapters

AN:  This is my no means an uninterrupted and steady account of everything that happens to them between 2013 and 2030.  Instead it will be little vignettes meant to be glimpses into those years, like opening up a time portal and saying “Okay, yeah, that’s what Barney and Robin are doing at that specific point in time”.  But it will hopefully give a larger idea of what their marriage and future together is like.

However, if you are looking for angst then you might as well read no further.  While there will be a couple chapter years that deal with things of a more serious nature, this is unabashedly a happy ending.  Barney and Robin are by no means perfect and will surely have little spats like Marshall and Lily or like any normal and real couple do, but this story is going to focus on the happy and positive moments because those are the things that really matter in life and those are the things that you remember as the years go by.

I myself will never understand the fascination with watching characters suffer for the sake of it and then calling that “realistic”.   Contrary to what Carter Bays said, I don’t believe you have to have lived some real life to “appreciate the beauty” of that kind of suffering.  I think it may be just the opposite.  Those who are mature and who have lived and have suffered in their real life mostly have no desire to relive that in a fictional world.  In other words, it is my firm belief that real life is hard enough so fictional stories for our enjoyment and pleasure should always have happy endings.  And, indeed, HIMYM in true canon from 1.01– 9.22 has always been a positive tale leading up to a happy ending for ALL of its characters, so I feel like the happy ending I’m writing here is very in keeping with that same tone, spirit, and message.
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2013 (The First Seven Married Months)

On June 10th Barney and Robin arrive back in New York City after two glorious weeks spent in Belize.  Ranjit meets them at the airport with a giant “Hello!” followed by hugs and he drives them back home, helping them upstairs with their luggage before heading out to let the newlyweds settle in alone.

The main idea was to shower after their long flight, maybe do a little unpacking before heading out for some dinner and then stopping by the breeder’s place to pick up Legendary and bring him home once and for all.  But when they step back inside their apartment the plans to shower and unpack get put on hold in lieu of admiring the new changes.  While they were on honeymoon Barney had one of his “guys” bring in all the stuff they bought and get it setup throughout the apartment, making the various rooms ‘puppy ready’ for them when they returned.  On top of that, while they’re checking out the new little additions here and there throughout the living room Barney discovers a DVD disc waiting for them on the kitchen bar.  It turns out it’s their wedding and reception footage, all finished and edited, that came in from the videographer last week.  Lily used her key to leave it as a welcome home present for them alongside their now updated Barney & Robin:  Lovers Forever and Ever and Ever, A Love Story scrapbook. 

Curiosity gets the better of them and they end up putting the disc into the Blu-ray player to relive their wedding from the observer’s point of view.  Watching how very noticeably happy and in love they were on their wedding day – and both know they always will be – soon leads to them fooling around….and they never do unpack.  But they eventually make it into the shower – together – and then manage to change and get ready to head out for dinner. 

Standing in the living room once more, Robin looks at her husband, freshly suited up and smelling amazing as he always does but particularly so when he’s straight from the shower, and she just has to laugh at his still-braided blond hair.  She’s seen him like this for two days now but she still can’t get used to it.  Reaching up, she lightly sets her hand to the back of his head overtop the braids.  “I want to get that hair back to normal.  You have to hurry up and make good on your bet so I can run my fingers through it again.”

“I wore it home this way,” Barney maintains.  “That was technically all the bet entailed.”

“Yes, but Lily and Marshall have got to see it and they’re both busy till tomorrow.”

Barney frowns as he slowly realizes, “And we won’t see Ted until Friday….” 

It’s still a little hard to believe that Ted won’t be moving to Chicago after all.  They received a surprise text from him a few days into the honeymoon and it was so shocking they had to take a five minute break from doing their honeymoon – which mostly meant doing each other – to get Ted on the phone and verify that it was actually true.  And indeed it was.  The move to Chicago had fallen through after the company Ted had been hired to work for folded and went under just like that.  It turned out they’d been in financial trouble for a long time but were keeping it from the public and their own employees in the hopes that they could turn it around.  The CEO and the board of directors had an emergency meeting the night of the wedding and decided to just liquidate the company, which meant the end of Ted’s move.

Ted told them he knew it had to be something serious when he received a call at 1 a.m. – midnight Chicago time – while taking the train back into the city.  But he insisted things had turned out for the best because he’d met some amazing woman at the station while waiting for the train.  The two of them are apparently an item now.

Barney and Robin are all set to hear the full story come Friday night when they’re meeting Ted and his new girlfriend for drinks at MacLaren’s.  Barney is over the moon at the news and Robin, for her part, couldn’t be happier.  Barney can keep his bro now, everyone gets to have what they want, and she doesn’t have to feel the least bit to blame for the group splitting up.

“Don’t worry,” Robin tells him, bringing her other hand up to his neck as she presses her lips to his.  “I’ll let you off the hook with Ted.  I want Normal Barney back before then.  Vacation Barney has got to go.  We’ll just show Ted the pictures.  But Marshall and Lily have to see it in person.  You can consider it our going away present to them.”

After that they head out to dinner which they both rush through in their excitement to get to the breeder’s.  There everything goes as planned and although it’s been nearly four weeks since they’ve seen him the little puppy somehow seems to recognize them.  Robin puts his first collar on him with his name, Legendary Stinson, engraved into the silver tag and then she attaches his first leash so they can take him out into the waiting cab and the beginning of their new life as a family.

Barney and Robin sit closely together in the back of the cab as always and in the close proximity their legs press together, forming a bridge for the little dog to keep walking across, back and forth from one lap to the other while he makes himself reacquainted with his new parents.  He loves them both.  Even so soon, the immediate bond is apparent.  Robin has all the experience with dogs and already Legendary responds to her as the one in charge here but with a gentle, loving authority that makes him adore her.  And Barney is just too much fun for an animal not to love.  Already he’s fallen into the role of the indulgent parent who will let Legendary get away with murder, which naturally the little puppy is taken with.  Robin just silently smiles to herself, wondering how long that will last once Barney’s first pair of shoes is chewed up.

“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” she asks in amusement as she watches their new puppy lick Barney’s chin. 

“Absolutely.  I loved having Brover, and Legendary is even more awesome.”  Barney smiles over into his wife’s eyes.  “And he’s ours, which automatically makes him a cut above the rest.”

Once they make it back to the apartment they give Legendary a chance to slowly adjust to his new home, exploring and taking it all in.  It’s no surprise the puppy loves his posh surroundings and all the fancy new things they have for him.  Any time Barney’s involved in the buying it’s going to be top of the line and Legendary’s belongings are no exception.  From his water and food dishes to his toys and luxurious, spacious bed in the corner of their bedroom that’s really more a miniature chaise lounge than what most people would picture of a ‘dog bed’, everything is state of the art. 

But, of course, like many young puppies Legendary doesn’t want to stay in his bed the first night.  He’d rather climb up onto the big bed to be with his mom and dad.  Each and every time he does one of the two of them pick him up and bring him back over to his bed, but a second later he’s right back up with them.  They’re not even sure how he manages it since he’s so little and their bed’s somewhat tall.  But where there’s a will there’s a way and he keeps climbing back up until finally they give up, give in, and let him stay. 

But as far as Barney is concerned Legendary’s presence won’t slow down his amorous intentions one bit.  They’ve been making out for the past ten minutes now.  He’s got Robin undeniably in the mood and they’re taking this the rest of the way home if he has anything to say about it.  He just scoots the puppy down to the foot of the bed and goes back to kissing his wife.  “It’s a big bed.  We can work around him,” he murmurs against her lips.

Seconds later he’s peeling off her t-shirt and tossing it behind his shoulder.  It lands over Legendary’s head – a fact they’re too into each other to notice were it not for the slight jingle of his shaking collar while the puppy tries to free himself. 

They both look down to the foot of the bed at the poor fella’s predicament.  “Aww,” Robin commiserates. 

Barney rolls off of Robin and sits up to help him.  “Hey, that’s the dangers of the bedroom, little guy,” he informs Legendary, petting behind his ear once he frees him.  “You’ll understand one day.  I’ll wingman you out and get you laid for the first time.  Then you’ll know what it’s all about and you won’t blame me.”

Robin shoots him a playful frown as he settles back down against her.  “Is that what you call our first married night back home?  Getting you laid?”

He bends down, nuzzling his nose against hers as his hands find her bare skin beneath the sheets.  “I call it making love to my incredibly hot wife with sex that I know will be so phenomenal I don’t want either one of us to miss out.”

“Hmm, I’ll allow it – though it sounds suspiciously like pandering.”

“And do you mind?” he asks knowingly.

“Not at all,” she admits cheekily.  “I like to be indulged.  And I want the same thing as you do.”

She pulls him down to her and a minute into making out again they finish undressing each other.  Barney’s pajama bottoms get lost somewhere inside the covers, but Robin’s panties narrowly miss getting stuck on Legendary’s tail. 

One thing leads to a passionate other and things progress quickly from there.  Robin has her legs wrapped around Barney’s waist and their lovemaking is just starting to get athletic when they hear a little whimper from Legendary.

Robin pulls her mouth from Barney’s.  “Did you hear him?

“Yeah,” Barney replies, preoccupied by being inside her.  “Yeah, he applauds our skills,” he says offhandedly, setting his lips to her neck.

Still looking down at Legendary, she nudges Barney’s shoulders to get his full attention.  “No, you don’t get it.  Dogs can be very territorial and protective.  He might not understand.  He might think you’re attacking me and either be scared to death or do something to try and protect me.”

Oh.  Okay.”  Barney hadn’t thought of it that way but he doesn’t want to traumatize the little puppy – or get a chunk right out of his bum.  “Do we need to stop?” he asks reluctantly.

Robin bites her lip, weighing it out.  She doesn’t want to frighten the dog, which she thinks is far more likely in Legendary’s case then provoking an incident, but she’s enjoying herself too much and doesn’t want to stop either.  She glances down the length of the bed to Legendary’s furry little head and then back up at Barney who’s still paused in his motions.  He’s gazing down at her so handsome and earnest and, though she knows it’s the last thing he wants, completely willing to stop without a word of protest if she says she thinks they should.  Leaning up, she kisses him hard.  “No.  There’s no way we’re stopping.  I’ll just get on top.”

“Then he’ll think you’re attacking me,” Barney protests, not wanting Robin to get bitten either.

Robin laughs at that.  “You’re bigger than I am.  He won’t think I’m attacking you.  And this way he’ll be able to clearly see us both and recognize that we’re enjoying it.  Then he’ll learn and understand that it’s normal; it’s just the two of us playing together.”

“Good,” Barney manages as he changes up their positions.  “He needs to understand that even more than he needs to learn my suits are off limits.  Cause as our dog he’s gonna witness an awful lot of us having sex.”

“Damn straight,” Robin agrees and they high five.  Sitting up against his thighs, she looks down at him, running her hands over his chest.  No matter how many times she’s seen his naked body – and she just saw it near constantly on their two week honeymoon – it never, ever loses its appeal.  “Now where were we?” she whispers, leaning down over him to bring her mouth back to his.

After that there’s a lot of laughing and touching and kissing, and it’s clear to Legendary that Robin and Barney are simply having fun with each other so he isn’t afraid anymore.  But the shaking of the bed and all the rolling around his new parents are doing soon becomes wearisome.  Seeking out some peace and quiet, he finally voluntarily breaks in his new bed.  And by the time Barney and Robin are finished the little puppy realizes it’s not so bad in the $1,200 dog bed after all. 

He spends the entire night there and a ritual is set.  From then on Legendary shares the big bed with his parents until they start to get frisky.  Then he retires to his own swanky doggy chaise lounge across the room where he beds down for the remainder of the night.


****

The next day Robin has to go back to work, but Barney still has some time off and he stays home with Legendary.  It’s fortunate for him anyhow since his hair is still in Vacation Barney mode, a look that would be endlessly ridiculed at GNB – though he’s actually at the point of not even much minding his hair like this anymore.  In fact, in their two weeks away he’s grown quite accustomed to all of island living, particularly the wearing little to no clothes part to the point that it’s hard getting used to covering all up again.  Even now he has on a light grey summer suit with no tie and his shirt copiously unbuttoned.

Later that evening, he’s all set to meet back up with Robin at MacLaren’s so the two of them can have one last drink with Lily and Marshall before they head off to Italy.  But Robin is late and Marshall is still upstairs with Marvin waiting for Mickey to come watch him, so for now it’s just Barney and Lily. 

He starts filling her in on how amazing Belize was, but unfortunately for him Lily hasn’t forgotten his comment back in Farhampton and Barney soon finds himself sprawled out on the barroom floor with an aching groin – and not in the good way.  Marshall shows up seconds later to appreciate both Barney’s pain and his hilarious hairdo. 

By the time Barney is recovered and back on his feet, preparing to make a clever comeback, he gets a call from Robin.  “Hey, babe,” he answers the phone still a little out of breath.  “You’re running late.  You said 5:30 and it’s already ten to six.”

“Barney, something awful happened,” Robin tells him with panic in her voice.  “I stopped home to check on Legendary before going to MacLaren’s and the apartment above ours had caught on fire.  It spread down to our floor.  Legendary and I both made it out okay but I think our apartment is a total loss.”

“Oh my god.  Stay there; I’m coming right away!”

It’s an agonizing twenty-three minute ride for Barney but when he arrives at their building he doesn’t discern any damage from the outside, nor does he see any fire trucks.  But he figures maybe the engines are around back, and they do live on a high floor.  It’s possible he just can’t see the damage from down on the ground.  By the time he gets into the lobby however – with residents coming and going calmly, no trace of firemen to be found, and their usual doorman at his post not reporting anything out of the ordinary – it’s clear to Barney that something else is going on here.

When he gets up to their floor he finds Robin in her bathrobe standing outside their apartment door.  “Well obviously there was no fire.”

“No,” Robin admits, “but don’t be mad at me.  I had to make good on a promise.”  Barney gives her a confused look, not mad, simply perplexed, so she explains.  “I promised you at our rehearsal dinner that I’d get you back.  I had to come through on that.  And I didn’t vow to always be honest with you.  But right now I will.  From now on, no more lies – not from either one of us and not even for surprises.  We can still surprise each other, just without the lies.  Because, Barney Stinson, from this day forward I am always going to be honest with you, cause I love you.”

Barney wraps his arms around her waist, shaking his head.  “You are a little sociopath, just like me.”

“We’re perfectly suited then,” Robin laughs, drawing him into a kiss.

“Well you certainly got me back,” he tells her once they break apart.  “You scared the living daylights out of me.  I had no idea.”

“Oh, this wasn’t getting you back.  The whole fire thing was just the misdirection to get you here.”

“Huh?” Barney asks, again befuddled.

“If this was all there is that would just be mean,” she frowns.  “No.  You gave me an amazing surprise, the rehearsal dinner of my dreams.  So I’m giving you a surprise from your dreams.”

“Mmm,” he hums, playing with the neckline of her robe.  “I like the sound of that.  Although, frankly, I’m not sure there’s anything left from my dreams that we haven’t already done.”

“Oh there is.  But the surprise isn’t sex.  The surprise is what I’ve got on under this robe…..And all of this,” Robin reveals, opening the door to their apartment and watching, thrilled, as he first glimpses it.

She’s organized a Space Teens reunion for him, complete with Alan Thicke and Jessica Glitter – and Robin Sparkles too, of course.  While her husband steps inside, taking it all in, she hurries to lose the robe and don the wig.  They’ve all got their original costumes and as many set pieces as she could wrangle on such short notice.  She has their entire living room transformed into the Space Teens set.  Even the robot and beaver puppets are here.  She’d planned it all out on the second day of their honeymoon after twenty-four hours of nearly constant sex led Barney to fall asleep out on their bungalow’s back porch.  His little nap was all the opportunity she needed to make the necessary calls without him having any idea. 

In the here and now Barney turns from viewing the room’s transformation to look at his wife and sees that Robin is fully decked out now too in her character’s Space Teens outfit.  She’s got the blonde wig on complete with the big blue bow, blue leggings with the white flouncy skirt overtop and black studded belt, four inch heels on her feet, and the skintight stripped shirt that shows off even the slightest jiggle of her breasts when she moves – and Barney’s eyes are always glued to even the tiniest Robin jiggle.

Robin instructs him to sit down on the couch, which is now facing the window where most of the set is in place, and she, Jessica, and Alan act out a scene from an original script to Barney’s utter delight.  Then she and Jessica give another full performance of “The Beaver Song” – filthy lyrics and all – promising to “lick it side-by-side” because “it will taste so good”.

Afterwards they all stick around and chat for a bit.  Alan was there at their wedding but although Robin had invited her Jessica had missed it.  Their little reunion back in 2010 hasn’t changed much.  They still only communicate through Christmas cards, now with an added ‘Happy Birthday’ text.  Nevertheless, Jessica had once been a big part of her life and despite what happened since then Robin wanted to extend an invitation to her wedding. 

Jessica really did want to be there too.  She was planning to come but she’d just given birth to her second child four days before the wedding and therefore couldn’t attend.  But  she expresses a desire to see some pictures of what she missed, claiming, “I knew from that one night at the Hoser Hut that you two were crazy about each other.”

While they don’t yet have the professional wedding pictures back they offer to show her the video that just arrived, but Jessica has to get back to her son and Alan is in the early stages of planning a reality show and has to head out too, and Barney and Robin soon find themselves alone with Legendary in their Space Teens transformed living room.

Smiling, Barney turns to look at her, still blown away by what she’s pulled off for him.  “We could keep the stripper pole, you know.”

“It’s not a stripper pole,” Robin defends.  “It’s a transportation device from one floor of the spaceship to the next to provide the most proficient and – Fine,” she concedes, “it kinda looks like a stripper pole.” 

“See,” he crows.  “And we could keep it.  Have nightly performances.”

“You wish.”

“Yep.  I do,” he admits, nodding.

“Well it’s not staying, just like we weren’t doing “Weekend at Barney’s” for our wedding.  But….as long as it’s up right now, maybe later tonight I could use it just this once while you watch,” she tantalizingly offers.

“Man, did I marry the right woman,” Barney proclaims.

“Yeah ya did.  Now tell me what happened at the bar,” Robin asks, sitting down on the couch.  “Did they both see your hair?”

“Yes,” he replies, sitting down beside her. 

“And they both loved it?”

“They both pointed and laughed if that’s what you mean – and pulled out their cameras to take a picture.  But I don’t care.  I make even this look good.”

“It doesn’t look terrible,” she allows.  “But I prefer you the way I married you.  And now that Marshall and Lily have seen it, the hair can go,” she happily announces.

“The mockery over my hair wasn’t even the worst of it.  Wait till I tell you what else happened…..”

Over the next few minutes Barney winds up lying across the couch with his head in Robin’s lap while she works on unbraiding his hair and he tells her what happened at the bar.  “….and in the middle of my story about Belize, Lily suddenly just brutally knees me in the groin.”

“And you did nothing to provoke it?  I find that hard to believe.  Turn you head,” she instructs, getting to work on the last side.  As she weaves her fingers through his hair Robin can’t help but think he’s something of a sight at the moment – his head still one quarter braided with the other three quarters of hair kinked out oddly, and his skin is so tanned at the moment.  She wonders if she’s as tanned as he is.  Probably, since they were both nearly or entirely naked so much of the time, but sometimes it’s hard to be a proper judge of your own skin.  That is, after all, how her tanning addiction started years ago. 

“I may have done something indirectly,” Barney confesses, enjoying the feel of her fingers moving against his scalp as she frees his hair.  “Back during our wedding weekend Lily asked me if her outfit made her look fat and I said maybe a little around the hips.”

Barney.”

“Hey, I was just being honest.  I didn’t think I said anything wrong.  Why ask a question like that if you don’t want a real answer?  And that was before I knew she was pregnant.”

With the last of his braids undone now, she instructs him to get up and she does the same, running her fingers all throughout his hair to work out the tangles.  It’s not exactly normal after being tied up for so long but a shampooing and blow-dry will fix that.  “So why did she wait until now to get payback?”

“She said it was because of the wedding and she was waiting to deal with my comment until after I got back from the honeymoon.”

“That makes sense, I guess,” Robin nods.  “Aldrin justice.”

“Don’t I get any sympathy?” Barney pouts.  “She kneed me so hard in the crotch I fell down on the floor and everything.”

“Do you want me to massage it for you?” she offers.

Yes.  Definitely.”

Robin smiles, kissing him deeply as she reaches down to unfasten his belt.  “Is Lil’ Barney still in working order?” she asks, and as her fingers unzip his pants she quickly gets her answer.  “Yes, yes he is….”  Barney just nods, smiling in enjoyment as she presses her lips to his neck.  “Not that I should be surprised.  You once called Space Teens ‘a big ol bowl of pornflakes’.  If anything would heal you, our little performance should have definitely done the trick.”

“It wasn’t the performance.  It’s all you, right now.”  She gives him a doubtful look.  “….And okay, a little bit the performance too, but mostly you right now.”

Robin laughs, tilting her head toward the old prop set on the other side of the room.  “Wanna do it on the control panel?”

Barney smiles devilishly down at her.  “You gonna pull on my joystick?” he invites, referencing the infamous Space Teens episode they all watched together.

She slides her hand into his pants, doing just that.  “There you go.”

“Oh yeah.  We’re gonna do it on the control panel.”  He kisses her passionately, running his hands over her body as he leads her across the room, never breaking the kiss.

“We’ll have to hurry,” she says against his lips.  “Lily and Marshall are leaving tomorrow and this really is our sendoff to them.  They’re meeting us here in an hour.”

“I can do an hour…..”  He moves his hand down to cup her butt, pressing her against him, while his other hand slides up into her hair.  It’s only then that she realizes she still has the Robin Sparkles wig on.  She reaches up to remove it but he stops her.  “Leave it on.  Leave the entire costume on.  Just take off the leggings.”  Then his mouth is on her neck, sucking at her skin.

She sighs softly at what he’s doing but has to point out, “You do realize I was only sixteen when I made this show?  Wanting me to keep the costume on is kind of pervy don’t you think?”

“It’s not like I want some random sixteen year old,” he reasons.  “But my wife was hot back then and I still lust after her now.”  Barney grins as the lyric occurs to him and he sings it to her.  “You’re my favorite beaver.”

She giggles softly.  “You know it.  The best one you’ve ever had.”

“Absolutely,” he agrees, kissing her again.

“Then come on,” Robin encourages, hoisting herself up on the control panel and pulling him to her by his hips.  “Let’s work out that mathematical problem of how much wood my hungry beaver can devour in half an hour.”

Barney laughs lustfully as he reaches for her, thoroughly loving her surprise.

And it is, indeed, the last of their big surprise capers.  They still surprise one another with nice, sweet little things for the fun of it, because they love each, and they even still have huge surprises from time to time on par with Barney’s bro mitzvah and Robin’s rehearsal dinner.  But no more of their surprises require or ever use any lies.  From that night on they simply satisfy their craving for crafty plays and schemes through occasional public roleplaying where they pretend to be strangers who pick each other up.  And Night Falcon and Fire Eagle remain with them for years to come.


****

Marshall and Lily leave for Italy the next day with Ted driving them to the airport.  Since Barney and Robin both have to work that morning they don’t get to come so each already said their goodbyes the night before. 

Neither one of them has yet to even see Ted since the wedding.  Monday their flight didn’t arrive until late afternoon and then they were just settling back in and didn’t see any of their friends.  The only place they wanted to go was out to a quick dinner, to pick up Legendary, and back home.  Then for the next three nights Ted’s busy with plans with his mysterious new girlfriend – dinner reservations and theater tickets and an art gala.  But on Friday he had nothing particular planned so they all agreed to MacLaren’s at eight where Robin and Barney will finally get the chance to meet this woman of Ted’s.

Barney and Robin walk into the bar with their arms around each other’s waist and from his place in their booth Ted can immediately tell how island rested and happy they both are.  “Hey guys,” he greets, standing up to hug them.  “You both look tanned.”

“We were outside pretty much the entire time,” Robin informs him.

As they arrange themselves in the booth, Barney and Robin with their backs to the bar and Ted on the other side facing the door still waiting for his date to arrive, he asks them, “How was Belize?”  They both make an unintelligible sound of pure enjoyment.  “That good, huh?” Ted smiles.

“We swam in the ocean, did some cave tubing and scuba diving.  The beaches were gorgeous,” Robin enthuses.  “The weather was perfect.  The food was phenomenal.”

Barney can’t take it anymore and interrupts his wife’s chaste list, bursting to tell his exciting news.  “And Robin showed me how to have sex on a windsurfing board!”

“Ahh,” Ted nods.  “That sounds more like it.  So that’s how Belize really was, like, 95% of the time, right?”

Barney grins lasciviously.  Robin looks over at him and mirrors the same smile, not even trying to deny it anymore.  “Yes, it was,” she freely owns it.  “Our honeymoon was 99% sex.  Amazing sex.”

“Depraved, island sex,” Barney puts in with a leer for his new wife.  Robin leers right back and the two high five.  It’s either that or start making out – and they only just got here.  “That’s the way it should be.  If your honeymoon isn’t 99% sex you’re doing something wrong.”

“But enough about all the amazing sex we’re having; that’s a given,” she shrugs.  “What about you and this new girlfriend of two weeks that you’re so mad about?  We tried to pump Lily and Marshall for information but they said you swore them to secrecy.  You wanted to be the one to reveal her.  So…?” she asks Ted, excited for him and excited to hear more about this new woman in their lives.  “Tell us all about this wonderful girl.”

“Yeah, when I first heard your move was off I was happy,” Barney reveals, “ but I thought you might be bummed…..I know you wanted a fresh start, and you said it would be a great opportunity for you.”

“It was.  But so is Tracy.  I know it’s still early but I think that she’s my fresh start.  She’s something I don’t ever want to miss out on.”

It’s evident by the way he says it that he’s absolutely smitten with this girl – and not even in a Ted way this time.  In a real way.  “I’m happy for you, Ted,” Robin tells him sincerely.

“Mm-hmm, me too,” Barney seconds.  “So Tracy is her name?  And what is it about this Tracy that makes her so special and perfect for you?”  He gives Ted a knowing look.  “Great set of cans, right?” he says, gesturing it out on his own chest.  Robin smiles, rolling her eyes and shaking head at such a typically Barney statement.  “No, seriously,” he laughs.  “Give us the heads-up before we meet her.”

“Well, she’s charming and funny…..and she just gets me,” Ted muses.  “We have the exact same sense of humor.  She’s quirky and sweet and friendly – and yes, Barney, she has a fantastic figure.  We’ve been practically inseparable since our first date three days after your wedding.”

“I noticed.  It took us all week to make it onto your schedule,” Barney ribs.  “So when is this magical woman going to get here?”

“Speak of her and she shall appear,” Ted replies, already sliding out of the booth because he just spotted her walking into the bar.  After quickly kissing her hello, he turns back to them.  “Barney, Robin, I’d like you to meet Tracy McConnell.”

“Oh my god,” Barney cries, turning to Robin.  “It’s the same girl.”  Robin nods, equally surprised.  “Ted,” he exclaims, “this is the same girl, the bass player I tried to set you up with at our wedding.”

“I know,” Ted laughs.  He and Tracy are both laughing.  “I made Lily and Marshall promise not to say anything.”

“I told you she was perfect for you!” Barney gloats as Ted and Tracy sit down in the booth.  “But you didn’t want to meet her.”

“She was beautiful,” Ted remembers, glancing over at Tracy.  “I was instantly attracted.  I wanted to talk to her, but it seemed pointless when I was leaving in a matter of hours.” 

“It was all a remarkable stroke of fate,” Tracy puts in.

“I think the Universe really was giving us a sign this time,” Ted tells them.

“I think so,” Tracy agrees.  “I’d been in this relationship for a while because it was safe and convenient and I’d only just ended it,” she explains.  “Just the night before your wedding I’d decided I needed to find someone I could actually fall in love with.  And then I met Ted.”

“Everything just fell into place without us even trying,” Ted concurs. 

Tracy nods to her boyfriend.  “We’ve worked it out since then and realized so many pieces of the puzzle had to come together just to get us in the same place at the same time.”  She turns back to Robin and Barney.  “Your other band fell through and then Ted ran into my old roommate on the subway, otherwise I wouldn’t have even been playing at your wedding.”

“And Tracy had to stay to finish out the reception.  We would have never met if it wasn’t for the rain making my train late so she ended up waiting for the same one.” 

“And then there was our yellow umbrella……” Tracy smiles.

Yes.  You’ll never believe this,” Ted keenly tells Barney and Robin.  “I saw her again at the station and I recognized she was the same girl, the bass player from your wedding.”

“It helped that I had my case with me,” Tracy teases him.

“Doesn’t matter.  I would have recognized your face anyway,” he smiles to her before turning his attention back to Robin and Barney.  “But I still wouldn’t have talked to her for all those same reasons.  What’s the point in even trying to make a connection when I was leaving?  And then I saw her yellow umbrella.  I’ve never been able to locate another one exactly like the one I found in that club on Saint Patrick’s Day.  I used to love that umbrella.  It was too weird of a coincidence.  I had to go over and find out if it was the same one.”

“So he accused me of stealing his umbrella.”

“I did not!” Ted defends and Tracy laughs.

“And then I recognized him as that funny professor who was in the wrong class back when I was taking Econ 305.”

“….We talked the whole time on the platform under our umbrella.”

And the whole time on the train.  I liked him right away,” Tracy reveals to Barney and Robin.  “But he was very upfront that he was leaving in the morning, and it was a shame too because it seemed like there could really be something between us.  Then he got the call that his firm had gone under, and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been so happy to hear someone just lost their job.”

“I was never so happy to lose a job.  It felt like it honestly was fate this time,” Ted expresses.  “I wasn’t forcing it in any way.”

“So on our first date when I saw my ex, got spooked, and thought it was too soon for me to be dating, I tried to end things and –

“Oh no,” Robin groans, disheartened.

“What’d you do, Ted?  Barney asks with equal disdain. 

“Nothing,” Ted replies, slightly offended.  “I did nothing.”

“He didn’t,” Tracy verifies, amused.  “His biggest mistake was trying to take me to a Scottish/Mexican fusion restaurant.” 

“A what?” Barney asks, disgusted.

“But he didn’t do anything to try to pressure me to stay.  He actually started to leave.”

“Because I knew if it was meant to be,” Ted asserts, “then I wouldn’t have to force it at all, and – ”

“And he didn’t, because I called him back,” Tracy interjects, and already Barney and Robin notice they’re finishing each other’s sentences.

“She called me back and she kissed me,” Ted grins.

You kissed me too,” Tracy bouncily insists.

“It was a mutual kissing,” Ted agrees and they grin at each other, then back to their newlywed friends.  “And get this, she has a calligraphy set – and a coin collection, and driving gloves.”

“I frequent renaissance fairs too.  No one ever wants to come with me; I don’t know why,” Tracy ponders.  “But this year we’re going together.  I finally have a renaissance fair buddy!”

Barney and Robin exchange a look at the way she pronounces it just like Ted, and he guesses what they’re thinking. 

“I didn’t teach her that either.”  He turns to Tracy explaining, “They always tease me about the way I say ‘renaissance’.”

“Why would you have to teach me?” Tracy marvels.  “That’s the proper pronunciation.”

“Wow,” Robin observes.  “You guys are perfect for each other.”

“And we met thanks to you,” Ted says.  “….Which is fitting because you did promise me all those years ago that you’d help me find her.”

“Yes, I did,” Robin smiles.

“What about you two?” Tracy asks her and Barney.  “How was your honeymoon?”

“Mm, incredible,” Robin sighs, looking to her husband.

“Amazing,” Barney echoes.  The look stretches out between them and they slowly lean closer together.  Robin is the first to move the rest of the way in and start kissing him, and in the very next second they’re enthusiastically making out in the booth at MacLaren’s.

Okay,” Tracy says, mildly startled.  “I guess so….I feel like we shouldn’t be watching this,” she says to Ted.

“Oh you’ll have to get used to them.  They’re like this all the time.  You should have been around a few years back.  We’d have to all but turn the hose on them.”

Robin pauses in their kissing, muttering against Barney’s mouth, “We can hear you, you know.”

Barney kisses her once more.  “Turn the hose on us all you like.  It still won’t stop R-Train and B-Nasty from gettin’ busy.”  However, he does ease a respectable space apart, although he keeps his arm around her and his opposite hand on her thigh as he tells Tracy, “And we do owe it in part to you.  After Robin and I dated the first time I never stopped loving her.  By some miracle we were able to stay best friends, and over the next three years there were some near misses.  I wanted to be with her more than anything but after everything that had happened I was gun-shy and….”  He hesitates for only a second before just admitting it now; there’s no reason not to.  “I was afraid, afraid to put myself out there only to get hurt again.”  Though the others can’t see it, underneath the table Robin reaches for Barney’s hand on her thigh, entwining their fingers.  “You gave me the perspective and courage I needed to really pursue Robin and just lay it all out on the line this time.  I don’t know if I would have gotten there on my own, and it may have been too late when I did.” 

“Yes, and your advice to me helped too,” Robin thanks her.  “I’d always been terrified of marriage and I was freaking out until I ran into you and you told me to just calm down and breathe and then think it through.”

“Well I just wish I could have said something more,” Tracy responds.  “But I didn’t know you then.  I mean I still don’t really know you now – not yet.  I hope to….”

“Me too,” Robin assures her with a kind smile.  And she genuinely means it.  Tracy seems like a cool person, and it might be nice to have another true female friend, especially with Lily gone for a year. 

“If I’d seen then what I’ve seen now,” Tracy continues, “just watching the two of you together for three seconds I would have been able to instantly see you’re crazy in love.”

“We really are,” Robin agrees, glancing over to her husband, and Barney leans in to kiss her again.

Both couples stick around for a couple hours after that, talking and drinking and getting to know each other.  But by the time it gets to be just after eleven Barney announces they have to get back home. 

“We have a new puppy waiting for us,” Robin offers by way of explanation to Tracy.

“Yeah,” Barney nods.  “And we don’t like to leave Legendary alone for too long….” 

Ted gives him a look that clearly communicates he doesn’t believe them. 

“Okay, fine,” Barney admits with a grin.  “We’re actually heading back home for some legendary ‘alone time’.”

“Translated to:  you guys are gonna be rounding third base in the cab?” Ted guesses. 

Barney gives him his on the nose gesture.  “Legendary!” he smirks.


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Fanfic: Catching the Clock, Author's Note


Author’s Note on the Future Set Chapters

Since 9.23/9.24 diverged so far from the rest of the show I felt it was necessary before posting the future set chapters to make clear where that AU atrocity differs from canon elements and what will therefore show up in my story (and what won’t) so that people aren’t confused or wonder why they’re seeing certain elements included but not others.  I was going to make this an author’s note on the first future chapter but there was so much wrong with 9.23/9.24 to touch upon that it grew too long.

I’ve already stated that canon ends in 9.22 but, just to clarify, what that means is that I do not accept ANY part of that last episode as canon other than the first 6 ½ minutes, literally stopping at the 6 minute and 30 second mark (for those of you, like me, who had the misfortune of actually watching it uncut, that means ending right after Ted and Barney are icing their hands).  I accept the scenes of the reception, and the gang saying goodbye on the hotel porch, and the Robin Sparkles scene that got cut, because all of that does follow canon and clearly was shot and written at a different time (you know, not nearly a decade ago!) which is why it has a completely different feel and tone than the rest of that mess.  But everything after that goes awry in some way or another and won’t show up in my story as it does not match the rest of HIMYM’s canon.

So once again:  anything else from that episode I do not in any way, shape, or form recognize, acknowledge, or accept – including the entirety of the future the AU 2006 script presents.  No part of that trash will appear in this story.  The only things that will show up in my future set chapters are things that have been touched upon in a prior episode in the true canon range of 1.01- 9.22 (or 9.23 at the 6:30 mark).  Most notably, for this story that means:

Ted and the Mother meet in a slightly different fashion because even that they got wrong.  The yellow umbrella was supposed to be the main reason the two of them met.  That’s why the yellow umbrella is the ‘how Dad and Mom met’ story that the kids already knew, because that was the short version and all the rest is just the particulars on the long journey of how Ted became who he needed to be (which of course included the more elaborate details, like how the mother got hired to play in Barney and Robin’s wedding band in the first place).  Ted was supposed to talk to the Mother, or she was supposed to go talk to him, because of the yellow umbrella (and 3.01 strongly implied it would blow away too but I’m willing to give on that).  It was not supposed to be just some lame afterthought, throwaway one-liner mentioned simply to get it out of the way once they were already talking.  I’m sure all the people who believed in the yellow umbrella mythology so much that they got it tattooed on their bodies really appreciated them totally disregarding that part of canon.  (Like so much else in that horrendous script, obviously the reason it was disregarded as the key element of their meeting is because the yellow umbrella didn’t come into the story until 3.01 and the 9.23/9.24 script was written back in the Season1/Season 2 era before that even happened).  Also, the idea that after one conversation Ted would impulsively cancel his entire move to Chicago just like something he’d do back in 1.01 does not fit with what we just saw in canon in 9.21 where we were shown that Ted has finally learned his lesson that he cannot force fate when on his first date with the Mother he actually walked away rather than beg her to stay because he knew that if it was meant to be it would happen on its own without his help.  Therefore, this story doesn’t acknowledge the way their meeting went down in the AU finale.  Granted this is a Barney/Robin story so it won’t directly feature any of those scenes, but that part will be alluded to in the first future chapter.

Additionally, in my story Ted and the Mother get married in August 2014 (because the lighthouse proposal scene would have actually occurred in May 2014) since they were clearly already married in the “Trilogy Time” flash forward set in late spring/summer 2015, as well as shown to be married in several other flash forwards (including as recently as the flash forward in 9.15) set before when the AU finale had them finally getting married in 2020 (one of hundreds of reasons why that finale made no sense and blatantly disregarded all the episodes before it).  Not to mention that canon Ted, who has been dying to get married for a decade now, would never wait that long for no reason whatsoever and would have proposed long before two years – and certainly would have proposed the very moment she got pregnant.  That lackadaisical I-don’t-care-about-marriage attitude of AU Ted showed that he suffered from Out of Character disease like the rest of them, just not as severe an outbreak as Barney and Robin’s characters were impaired with.

Now in dealing with the Mother, since I don’t recognize any of that non-canon mess I seriously contemplated keeping her with the name I’d given her on my own.  In fact I had it that way in all of my drafts.  However in the end I felt there was a compelling argument for the name Tracy already having been established in the real canon of the show back in 1.09 judging by the kids’ reactions to the stripper having that same name.  So ultimately I let the name Tracy stand but only because of that Season 1 episode, not because of anything in 9.23/9.24. 

Furthermore, because some non-disclosed illness of hers was touched upon in canon in 9.19 (even though certainly that was only gross foreshadowing of their 2006 script to come) I have accepted her illness as canon.  But she will survive, which actually makes for a moving “true to life story” much more so than the ridiculousness they presented.  Because in real life people are diagnosed with serious illnesses all the time and they are able to beat them and come out strong and healthy and go on to lead full, rich, happy lives (my own family experienced just such a thing over this past year.)  It is short-sighted, juvenile, and lazy writing to with no depth or explanation at all leave the suggestion that any nondescript illness must automatically lead to character death and in an extremely quick, pain-free, and oh-so-beautiful-in-the-hospital-bed (in the one picture we were shown) way.  And it is even more lazy, juvenile, and downright disturbing to suggest that the death of a young mother would have virtually no effect on her children who were old enough to know and understand at the time of her death yet seem entirely flippant and disrespectful of her memory (and this is coming from someone who lost a parent at a young age and was utterly disgusted by the way those children were portrayed) but then again part of that is because at the beginning of the series the Mother was not supposed to be dead.  So to make a long rant short:  the Mother’s name is Tracy, she will get sick, but she will pull through.

Also, this story does not acknowledge any parts of the bleak future they painted for Lily.  Her desire and struggle to carve out a career in the art world was her character’s only series-long storyline.  From the end of Season 1 and going off to attend art school in San Francisco, to her attempts to sell her paintings, and finally to making a successful career for herself as an art consultant which figured so heavily into the plot of Season 8 and 9, that was the one thing she strived for.  Yet they wiped all that away from her with no explanation at all (again, because Lily had none of that in Season 1 when the script was written) and left her with nothing to do but shuck out babies and look after her husband’s career like some 1950s housewife, because all of that was Marshall’s dream.  It was offensively misogynistic (the entire 2006 script was tremendously, revoltingly misogynistic in their treatment of all of the female characters, leaving the message that all women should be 1950s housewives or end up divorced, and that it’s a woman’s main and only job to produce children for a man – because after all a kid is the only thing that can ever make a man transformed and fulfilled– and then she can die because her work is done).  Therefore in this story Lily is still a successful art consultant in New York (once she gets back from Italy) and this story does not recognize any third child.  The AU finale barely recognized it anyway.  It was never even given a gender or a name, never shown, and seemed to exist for no other reason than to keep Lily barefoot and pregnant and stuck at home.  Lily only wanted two children and she should have control and say over her own body, just like she shouldn’t have to give up her dream of the career she wanted and worked hard for.  In this story she gets to have her dream and her say just as much as Marshall does.  That’s the way it always was in their real relationship and marriage in the canon world of 1.01 – 9.22.

And finally, in regards to Robin’s career path, I do not for one second believe that Season 9 Robin would have ever traveled in the way they presented it in the AU finale.  Even with Barney by her side she wouldn’t have wanted a nomadic lifestyle like that.  Robin likes some stability and she’s too into her group of friends and that sense of family and belonging she derives from them to just continually take to the open road and never see them for years on end.  Look how upset she was in 6.09 at the thought of losing Lily’s constant friendship, or in 7.14 when Lily and Marshall moved to the suburbs (just a 46 minute ride away), or how in 9.13 she was rooting for Marshall to take the judgeship just so that Lily wouldn’t leave for a year because she’d miss her too much.  Plus Robin constantly traveling and never seeing the group simply doesn’t fit with what we already know of the canon future and the gang’s closeness to one another and each other’s families in that canon future.  Nor does it fit with them always being together for American Thanksgiving and Robots vs. Wrestlers.  Robin searched for that sense of belonging her entire life.  That’s why she bonded with the gang so quickly and so well in the beginning.  She would never just throw that away. 

Moreover, a desire to travel to all these foreign countries hasn’t even been a part of her character since Season 2, and whenever living abroad has been very rarely brought up since then it’s always been a negative for her.  We saw in Season 4 how she did not want to move away to Japan, and when she forced herself to do so anyway she was absolutely miserable and came back home shortly thereafter.  A desire for world travel (or any travel) is never mentioned again.  Even more tellingly, we see her in Season 5 and in Season 7 turn down career/travel opportunities (to Chicago and to France) in favor of pursuing her love life at home in New York (making Robin’s actions in the AU finale all the more absurd).  The most we ever see her travel again since her disastrous attempt to live abroad in Season 4 is to Russia for exactly one week. 

And that, I believe, is the sort of lifestyle that would suit Robin:  traveling abroad for pleasure with Barney like normal couples do on vacations, and then traveling a bit for work when called upon – but for small periods of time and only a few times a year (see my flash forward in 9.15 for my take on Robin’s opinion of that, which was written before that AU finale even aired so that lets you know my strong thoughts on that aspect of it). 

Also a network broadcaster is the more prestigious journalistic position.  Why would she want to move down on the career hierarchy?  And I don’t believe the type of nomadic lifestyle and lower status position of a field foreign correspondent would fit with Robin’s desire for fame as seen frequently throughout the show (1.05, 5.13, 7.21, and 8.02 are examples just off the top of my head).  How many international foreign correspondents are actually famous in the United States who Americans know, watch, and would recognize?  Yet Robin is shown to greatly love doing her daily broadcast at WWN, love seeing herself nightly on TV, and love that recognition she gets because of it.  She’s never going to get that as the one-minute foreign correspondent who the regular (and therefore known and recognized) broadcasters occasionally cut to, nor was she ever shown to want that kind of a job past Season 2.  The only things we hear from Robin on her career over and over again are that she wants to do “serious news” and “be taken seriously” as well as the fact that she likes to be recognized.  All of those things are certainly accomplished by being a regular daily broadcaster on a prominent network in the U.S., not by being a foreign correspondent.

I fully believe that if they did constantly travel all over the world, as is portrayed in the AU finale, Robin and Barney would still stay together regardless (no way they’re going to spend eight heart-wrenching years working their way together just to call it a day with no effort at all, no attempt to work out the problem – whatever the problem was supposed to have been – just a high five and see ya never!).  However, I don’t think that would have been an issue to begin with because I don’t believe that 2013 Robin would have even wanted that nomadic lifestyle for herself or for Barney.  The AU finale got it wrong in every possible way, so that kind of relentless travel and lengthy residing abroad will not show up in my future chapters because I don’t feel like it is in keeping with the rest of the story and where Robin’s character was at by Season 9. 

Frankly, I’m not quite sure why so many people seem to accept that part of it as canon when in fact the only place we see that show up is within the AU finale itself.  Nothing else suggested that Robin would be constantly traveling the world.  Even back in Season 2 only a handful of countries are named and she’s already been to most of them (and I know they say she “lives in” these other countries at the end of Season 2, but they already hit upon several of them and their definition of “living in” was for just a couple of weeks.  In fact, Russia was literally one week of living there.  All of that is really no different than an extended vacation, which I therefore count).  The few countries that are left and the whole idea itself of Robin “seeing the world” could happen very easily through years’ worth of occasional travel for both work and leisure like plenty of everyday people accomplish who still have a regular permanent residency in one place.  For example, if Robin goes on perhaps two work trips plus one personal vacation a year then she’s seeing three countries a year right there (meaning she’ll visit/live in as many as 50 countries by 2030, which certainly qualifies as traveling the world) while still maintaining a regular lifestyle in NYC.  That is how I see Robin’s and Barney’s future in a completely canon world.

Now on to Barney and Robin's future....

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MacLaren’s

“What do you mean you’re not coming?” Barney cries in outrage into his cell phone as he rides in the back of a cab on the way to MacLaren’s.  “Of course you’re coming.  And you’re suiting up!”

“Barney,” Ted petulantly protests as he picks at his fried potatoes at the diner down the street from the apartment where he sought refuge after Marshall wanted him to clear out for the night.  “Did you not hear me?  Marshall is getting engaged tonight.  That’s game changing.”

Why?” Barney questions in exasperation.  “Marshall and Lily have been attached at the hip for the past nine years.  Why should this change anything?”

“Because it’s marriage, Barney.  Even you have to admit that’s a big deal.”

“It’s a big mistake,” he corrects, “but go on.”

“Like I said….it’s a wakeup call.  They’re going to get engaged tonight and before you know it their wedding will be here.  Where is this going to leave me?  Sharing an apartment with a married couple?” Ted speculates.  “Being the pathetic, eternally single and depressed live-in nanny when their first kid arrives?  This whole thing has made me re-examine my own life.  I’ve got to get it together.  I’ve got to stop fooling around with you and find myself a wife too.”  

“Seriously, Ted?  You think you can just order up a wife the way you order a burger?  Even I know it doesn’t work like that,” Barney says, throwing Ted’s words back at him.

“Well it will for me,” Ted proclaims, refusing to accept anything else.  “It will because I want it to.  I’m using the Think System.”

“Okay, Professor Hill.”

“Hey, being a professor would be awesome.”

“No, it wouldn’t; that’s lame,” Barney dismisses.  “And you are aware the Think System was a load of crap, right?  He just made it up so he could swindle the town and screw the librarian.  Mad props to that last part, but the system didn’t actually work.  And besides, if you’re gonna use tricks and schemes to get a woman into bed you’ve gotta make them up yourself, or at least give credit where credit’s due.  That’s just etiquette – nay, bretiquette.  It’s basic Bro Code.  But no worries.  I’ve brought my travel size copy of the Playbook for you tonight,” he assures him, patting his breast pocket.  “Phone five!....You didn’t do it, did you, Ted?  I can tell when you don’t do it.”

From there it spirals into more and more of Ted’s whining about how he needs to get married and find “the One”.  Barney tunes most of it out, hearing nothing but a low garbled droning, until Ted says, “Marshall’s planning out the rest of his life, and what am I doing?  Hanging out with Barney Stinson – the biggest, shallowest womanizer in the city – all in the hopes of picking up a bunch of nameless women at best and getting drinks thrown in my face at worst.  I’m not going, Barney.”

Barney can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt to hear his self-proclaimed best friend talk about him that way, but then again Ted doesn’t know the truth about his past the way that James does.  None of them do – not Marshall, Lily or Ted – just like none of them know what he really does for a living.  Still, you’d think after all these years Ted would be able to recognize at the very least that he isn’t “the shallowest guy in the city” and that he does in fact care deeply about his friends and shows them great loyalty.  But Barney brushes those hurt feelings away into that same dark corner where he locks up all of his unspoken pain and he chooses to be awesome instead.  It’s just what he does.  “Yes, you are coming to the bar, Ted…..Alright, I can give on the suiting up part.  But it’s gonna be your loss.  You’ll have to take a 5 instead of 6.”

“No,” Ted laughs in an annoying I’m-humoring-you-because-I’m-above-it-all tone.  “I’m done ‘taking’ women – and while we’re at it I’m done labeling them as numbers.  I’m going to find a wife and get married; it’s happening.  Like, now.  I’m serious about this, Barney.  I can’t be rating my future wife on a hotness scale, and I can’t be out trolling bars with you anymore.”

“You act like hanging out with me is the worst thing, like you’re doing me some kind of favor, but you love it and we both know it.  Marshall getting engaged doesn’t magically change that no matter what you want to think now.”  When Barney’s spot-on assessment is still met with silence, he lays out some more brutal honesty.  “Tell me this:  what else are you doing tonight, Ted?  Hanging out at an all-night diner till 2 a.m.?”

“Okay fine.  I’ll come to MacLaren’s.  I’ve got to meet my wife somewhere.”

Barney chooses to ignore Ted’s continued harping on the wife thing and merely focuses on the first part.  “Sweet.  I’ll be there in ten.”  Anyway, he can change Ted’s mind once he gets him in the bar within range of all those tasty cutlets.


****

A half an hour later, Barney’s standing at the bar scanning the room, scotch in hand, next to Ted who is sipping his beer morosely in between complaining. 

“I’m never going to find her.”

Barney rolls his eyes.  “You just started looking twenty minutes ago.  And in that time you’ve talked to all of one woman – who happened to be Carl’s girlfriend.”  Sadly, he’d been very wrong about being able to shake Ted out of this whole marriage business as soon as he got him to the bar.  The past twenty minutes have, however, taught him what a whining bummer his friend can be. 

“But that lone woman should have been the One,” Ted laments.  “All it takes is just one.  And that’s how I want it to be.  I don’t want an endless cycle of pointless dating to search her out.  I just want to find her – right now.  It should be fate and kismet and all that stuff you see in a movie.”

Barney rolls his eyes again, sighing deeply.  Ted has been playing this same pity party/tears and violins routine since he got here.  Hoping to snap him out of it, he’d promised to be Ted’s dedicated wingman tonight, his sole focus devoted exclusively to getting Ted a woman before he so much as set his eyes on anyone for himself.  Either Ted goes home with someone first or they both strike out.  Unfortunately it’s becoming pretty clear that means they’re both going home alone, and Barney takes a slug of his scotch to mourn all the sex he won’t be having tonight.

Ted earlier criticized that no good ever comes from hanging out with him, and the self-loathing part of Barney that’s disgusted by his own behavior – that part James was talking about earlier – in his rare, dark moments is secretly inclined to agree.  But another part of Barney – the bitterest, most self-aware part – wonders if the same critique might be applied to Ted.  Sometimes the two of them have great fun together, because after all nothing is truly legendary unless your friends are there to see it and experience it with you.  But other times – like now – Ted can have this condescending way of treating him like he’s the scum of the earth despite the fact that he too often engages in the very same behavior and enjoys it.  That’s the whole reason they became friends in the first place shortly after Barney took the job at GNB.  By then James was fully out and while that meant they could rock a bar or a club from both ways and totally clean house sometimes Barney still had that yearning to ‘troll for women’, as Ted put it, with someone who could high five over an amazing rack and actually appreciate it.  It’s the same reason James sometimes goes to gay bars with his other friends who can similarly get excited for how well hung the guy in the corner appears to be.  But after losing Dwayne, Barney no longer had any such person to fill that role in his life – and then he met Ted at the urinal and it all fell into place. 

The trouble is Ted has developed that tendency to look down on him.  Barney knows he doesn’t really mean the little insults he makes, and he knows the whole looking down on him thing derives from Ted resenting the parts of Barney that he too possess but wishes weren’t there so he could just happily settle into a life mirroring Marshall’s.  Barney knows all this, but it doesn’t mean those insults still can’t sting. 

And especially now that Ted’s gotten on this marriage kick he seems to blame his entire state of being single on him, as if it’s somehow his fault that Ted would rather casually bang chicks than settle down with just one.  Ted finds too many faults in women anyway.  The kind of perfect wife he’d be looking for doesn’t even exist.  And if she did, she’d bore the hell of most men – she’s certainly bore the hell out of Barney.

“Maybe Marshall was right to find someone straightaway in college,” Ted ponders. 

“Ted, will you just give it a rest.  The world isn’t going to implode and you’re not going to die alone just because Marshall is getting engaged tonight and you’re still single.  Now look over by the far wall,” Barney instructs, drawing Ted’s attention to the front corner of the bar beyond their usual booth and just to the right of the door to the kitchen.  “There’s a Lebanese chick over there.  I’ll let you have her,” he entices.  “What do I always say about Lebanese chicks?” 

“You’re always saying something about one group of women or the other.  You have way too many rules.  I’m not even sure you keep them all straight.”

“Fine.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.”  Barney pulls his travel size manual out of his coat pocket.  “I’ll take you deep into The Playbook.  I doubt you’re ready for it, but these advanced plays when performed correctly get results 83% of the time – and then ‘results’ again a second and maybe even a third time before you’ve climbed out her window.”  He mulls it over, flipping through the book.  “How about “The Two Can Play At That Game”?”

Ted ignores him in favor of continuing with his Marshall-fueled, soul-mate-lacking rant.  “I finally know what I want.  Everything’s fallen into place, but it’s like ‘Here I am, ready to get married’.”  He stretches his hands out to the bar desperately.  “Now where is – ”  Before he can finish that sentence his phone rings in his pocket.  Knowing it can’t be Barney, Ted figures it must be a serious call, perhaps even work, and he rushes to answer right away.  “Ted speaking.”

“Hey, Ted.  It’s Marshall.  Don’t freak out, but I’m calling from the emergency room.”

What?” Ted asks, doing exactly that.  He slides the phone away from his mouth, telling Barney, “Marshall’s calling from emergency.”

“What happened?” Barney wants to know, concerned for their friend.

“I don’t know.” 

“Well ask him,” Barney says at the same time that Ted says, “We need to head over there.”

“Oh, okay, yeah.  I’ll ask him first,” Ted resolves. 

“Put him on speaker,” Barney instructs.  Once Ted does, Barney asks into the phone, “Marshall, what happened?  Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.  It’s not me; it’s Lily.  She’s gonna be alright but we had a little accident.” 

What Barney can grasp from Marshall’s overly-detailed story – along with frequent interruptions from Ted – is that Lily had a bad day at work.  Some kid touched her butt during finger-painting hour and ruined her favorite skirt as well as put a serious damper on art time, Lily’s favorite portion of the day, so she was already in a frazzled mood by the time she got to the apartment.  She’d started to cook them some gourmet frou-frou dinner, and to get her back into a fully positive and happy mood again Marshall thought he’d ease her nerves with a little pre-celebration champagne.  But, as usual, the guy was afraid to open it.  They’d started bickering about that and Marshall didn’t want to propose in the middle of a fight or when she was annoyed with him, so he decided to just man up and open the bottle himself like she wanted.  But apparently he was correct about his incompetence because in the process he hit Lily with the champagne cork directly in the eye, thus their trip to the emergency room.

“Now she’s got a scratched cornea and they’re making her wear an eye patch,” Marshall informs them.  “Needless to say, the proposal is off for now, so don’t mention it to Lily.  I want it to be perfect for her, which means it’ll just have to wait till some other time.  I want to marry Lily more than anything but I guess there’s no real hurry.  We’ve already been together for almost a decade.  What’s a little while longer before we get engaged?”

After assuring Ted there’s no point in him coming down to the ER since as soon as the doctor’s finished patching Lily up – an unintentional pun that makes both Barney and Marshall crack up – they’ll be heading back home themselves, they end the call.

“Huh, what d’ya know?” Barney chuckles to himself.  “Maybe Marshall will hit her in the kneecap next time he tries to open a bottle and then we can get her a peg leg too!”  He looks to Ted who’s staring off into space, failing to appreciate his joke.  “I know, I know,” Barney sighs.  “Where is your wife?”

No,” Ted answers slowly.  “I was thinking just the opposite:  I’ve been panicking over nothing.  Marshall’s right; there’s no hurry…..And you know something?  Hearing that Marshal isn’t getting engaged tonight or maybe even at all in the upcoming weeks, I’m actually relieved that things can stay the same and I don’t have to rush.”

“And do you suppose that means you weren’t really ready to settle down yet in the first place?” Barney points out.

“You’re probably right.  Why should I rush things?  What’s that you always say about getting married?”

“‘Never get married until you’re at least thirty’, and I stand by that.”

“That means I’ve still got almost a solid year before I even need to start worrying about finding the One,” Ted reasons.

“YES!” Barney cheers.  “So let’s get you laid.”  He takes a moment to scope out the bar for any new talent that came in while they were busy on the phone or in the few minutes before that when he was drying Ted’s tears.  While his eyes sweep right, Ted’s go left, and in seconds Ted is elbowing him.

“Whoa, Barney.  See that girl over there.”

Barney directs his attention over to where Ted is staring, and after just one look at her Barney feels everything settle down low and warm in his groin.  This mysterious brunette in the green turtleneck is easily the hottest woman he’s ever laid eyes on.  The lack of skin on display only makes him want to peel away that shirt privately.  Already he’s imagined having her in at least ten different positions.  And more than just physical beauty, she has a sharpness in her expression that tells him this woman isn’t the typical attractive dullard he usually beds.  No, this girl’s got brains too.  Even better, he can recognize the little twinkle in her eyes as she notices them noticing her that tells him she’s a wildcat in the sack who wants her sex just as wild and kinky as he prefers his.  “Oh yeah,” Barney sighs, almost a groan.  “You just know she likes it dirty.” 

She must have just gotten here while they were on the phone or he would have noticed her the second she walked in.  But now Ted’s seen her first and that means by all Bro Code laws he has implied first dibs should he choose to exercise them.  And what idiot wouldn’t?  “So go say hi,” Barney encourages, because at least someone should get to experience being with her.  “She is hot,” he reiterates as he takes yet another look.

But none of the salience is there for Ted anymore.  Despite seeing her across the room, he’s no longer obsessed with fate and the idea of a meet cute from an old movie because the need to keep up and find a woman as quickly as possible so he too can get married like Marshall doesn’t exist anymore.  And with that objective removed, Barney’s right; what he needs is to get laid.  It’s been a month and a half and ol’ Mosby needs some.  But this girl, beautiful as she is, appears to be a little too much for what he’s after tonight.  He’d like to cut to the chase and just get to it.  That means he needs a far easier target. 

“Nah, she looks busy,” Ted decides.  “She’s with a group of women – which is always a challenge – and, even worse, one of them is crying in the corner.  I don’t want to get in the middle of that.  Not when there are other hot girls in the bar.”

“God bless you, Ted.  You’ve been reading my blog!” Barney enthuses.  “It looks like I’ve taught you a thing or three over the years after all.”

“That’s not from you, Barney.  That’s just Guy 101….Oh hey, what about her?” he points out a different woman sitting at the other side of the bar who’s already giving them the eye.  “You’ve got to admit she’s a 10.”

Barney gives this new blonde a onceover.  “Meh, she’s a 7 at most.  But that makes her perfect for you.”  And before Ted can say anything further and Ted-out about the situation, Barney is already playing his favorite game, tapping the blonde on her shoulder and arranging an introduction.  “Excuse me, haaave you met Ted?”

Now that his mind is no longer preoccupied with what plans Marshall’s making, Ted makes quick work of it.  Barney stands back and watches proudly as, within ten minutes, Ted takes off with the 7 to a second location. 

All alone and having now fulfilled his wingman duties, Barney focuses on finding himself a little fun for the night.  And he immediately turns his sights back to the girl Ted wouldn’t say hi to.  Ted’s loss is his good fortune because the dibs are all his now.  Ted couldn’t handle that anyway.  This woman isn’t just a mere 10.  She’s something like a 20.  Far too much for Ted.

A 20.  Even he’s never been with a 20…..But he has a feeling he’s about to scale that mountain.


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AN:  Some of you may be wondering when we’ll hear from Robin but I wanted to establish Barney and his world in the story first since it’s there that the very important difference occurs setting them all off on different paths than what we see in the “Pilot”.  Next chapter will give us Robin’s (slightly altered) backstory and from then on we’ll start seeing her side of things too. 

Also, the very perceptive may have noticed I made Ted slightly older here.  I’m fiddling with all of their ages a bit because I didn’t really want to start this thing back in 2005 or have it span 8 years, so they’re all going to be aged slightly differently.  In this AU, Robin, Lily, Marshall, and Ted will all start out the same age, 29, and Barney is 32.

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“Never forget that on any day you can step out the front door and your whole life can change forever.  You see, the Universe has a plan and that plan is always in motion.  A butterfly flaps its wings and it starts to rain.  It’s a scary thought, but it’s also kind of wonderful. All these little parts of the machine constantly working....”



Partners

Barney stands near the window of his corporate office looking out at the early September leafs just beginning to change.  He’s always loved autumn in New York and relishes the fact that his job has kept him here in his home town to experience it one more time.  Though tragically it means the end of sundress season, the first signs of fall feel like a cool refreshing respite after the long hot summer.  Moreover, the new season brings with it three new months of wide-open promise.  And as his motto goes – well, one of his mottos – new is always better.

In that vein, he’s taking Ted out tonight to get him laid.  Dude hasn’t had what he defines as a girlfriend in months.  Despite living as the third wheel in Marshall and Lily’s world of coupledom that doesn’t usually bother Ted as long as he’s getting a semi-regular flow of women in and out of his bed.  Because while his best friend subscribes to “true love” in a way that makes Barney both scoff and shudder, Ted’s no more ready to settle down than he is.  Problem is, Ted’s been going through a dry spell as of late and it’s started to make him moody.  But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still got plenty of wild oats to sow – and lucky for Ted he has the Barnacle to help him find a new and willing field tonight.

“Hey, Stinson,” he hears his partners voice behind him and it draws Barney’s attention back into the here and now.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the office, the two of them actually work for the FBI as undercover agents specializing in corporate corruption and espionage cases.  They’ve been assigned at GNB for the past eight years, a long time by any count, but this is a huge international case:  insider trading, fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, racketeering, extortion, obstruction of justice, and financial ties with several shady organizations including some suspected terrorist groups.  The corruption even goes as high as a handful of congressmen who have a direct ear to the Whitehouse yet are in cahoots with GNB’s dirty dealings.  Something as big as this requires a lengthy investigation with men deep undercover to gain the trust of the organization, and Barney has done just that, working his way up in in the corrupted division of the company as far as one can go.  The senior managers in question don’t suspect him in the slightest.  He’s fully infiltrated their group and become the smooth talking, hard playing, suited up businessman just like the rest of them.  But the big boss back at the FBI is getting impatient and there’s no way Barney is going to call this investigation without seeing Greg behind bars.  He has a personal stake in this case; it’s what started his career in the first place and made him who he is today.

“James,” Barney greets him expectantly.  While he was keeping the executives busy in conference, James was up in Greg’s office looking for the latest piece of evidence to be appropriated – secretly, of course – into his FBI file.  Their meeting finished five minutes ago at which time Barney sent James a coded warning text.  He had no doubt James would get out of there without being caught.  The only question is if he got what they were after. 

“Did you get the – ”  Barney cuts himself short when his secretary walks in with a stack of new paperwork.  “You can just put it on the desk, Dolores,” he instructs her and turns his attention back to James but slightly alters his word choice.  “Did you get that file you needed?” he asks meaningfully.

“I did.”  Barney does a mental fist pump, but then James qualifies it with, “But it wasn’t exactly what I expected.”

Barney frowns.  “Oh?”

“Yeah…..After all that work, I think I’m actually looking for a different month’s figures for – ” Dolores clears the doorway, shutting it behind her as it seems the two men are talking important business, and James immediately cuts to the chase.  “We were wrong about the Wharmpess deal.  It’s clean.”

“Dammit.”

“I know,” James commiserates.  “It’s disappointing.”

“We need to go back to investigating the execs that were in charge of the Altrucell merger.  Take a third and four look.  I’m telling you, that’s where the body’s buried.”

“I think you’re right,” James agrees.  “But this means we’ll have to confer with Arthur and Blauman tomorrow at headquarters.  Let them know he’s barking up the wrong tree.”

Barney sighs.  Arthur was sure the Wharmpess file would be the money shot.  Barney never believed it personally; the man’s just getting desperate and grasping at straws to finish up this investigation in the next few months.  “That’s not going to be a fun meeting, is it?”

“No, it is not,” James deadpans.  “….Especially after the way I left things with Blauman.”

Barney grins.  “You mean the way you gave him a free sample of the ol’ Gibbs lovin at last month’s corporate retreat?”
“It wasn’t just a sample, my friend.  It was an entire buffet.”

“And yet you told him you weren’t interested in any further shared feasts.  Smart move.”  Barney lifts his hand for a high five that James reluctantly gives.

“It wasn’t altogether like that.  Blauman’s a nice guy, but I’m not sure it’s a good idea to get involved with someone you work with.”

“Hey, you don’t have to justify it to me, bro.  You got yours, now – NEXT!” Barney calls.  “And you know we can keep em lined up.  You take all the guys, I take all the girls.  It’s a win-win situation.”

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,” James cautiously begins.  “You know how I haven’t been out there with you in a few weeks.”

“I know.  It’s been Ted and I alone, and sometimes we could use that third heat.  But I figured you were just laying low after the Blauman incident.”

“No.  It’s more than that.”  James holds Barney’s eye as he reveals the next part, already knowing his partner isn’t going to like it.  “I met someone.  Tom.  He’s – well, he’s just….I think he’s everything I’ve been looking for.  This could really be something, man, and I’d like to have you on board.”

Barney groans in disgust.  “James, not you too.  I’ve already got Marshall to contend with and his balls rolling around in Lily’s purse.  Now I’m gonna lose another bro to ‘love’?” he utters the word with disdain, putting it in air quotes.  “And it’ll only be a few years before Ted starts getting antsy too.  What is it with all of you willingly putting a noose around your necks?”

“Come on, Barney,” James says gently, getting real with him.  “You know when you say stuff like that I know that you’re lying.  You forget we went to college together.  I knew you before you were this,” James reminds him, running a hand over Barney’s immaculately suited up frame.  “I know all about Shannon.  I mean that’s why we’re here, isn’t it?”

“Ahp, ahp, ahp,” Barney stops him.  “You know we don’t say that name,” he tells him uncomfortably.  “…..It reminds me of a time I’m not proud of.”  Barney looks down, rearranging a Sharper Image toy on his desk that was fine the way it was.  “It’s embarrassing.  And you know I don’t do embarrassed.  I get awesome instead.”

“You are awesome, Barney.  But you were awesome before.  Just in a different way.  That’s why we were friends before we were partners.  And you don’t have to be embarrassed with me.  You were the first one I came out to.  You helped me through that and I helped you when Shannon stomped on your heart like the little bitch I always knew she was,” James grins in solidarity.  “One’s no different than the other.”

“I guess,” Barney shrugs, but he’s smiling again too.  “Why don’t you come out with us tonight?  Marshall and Lily are having some big romantic dinner, the anniversary of the first time they brushed hands or something nauseating like that.  It’s just gonna be me and Ted at the bar….unless you wanna bring that third heat?”

James laughs.  “Did you hear nothing I just said?  I’m in a relationship now.  I’ll still help get you all the tail you want – not that you need my help – but I’m off the market.  I’m a one man guy.”

“Already?  After just a few weeks?”

“It’s been a month, and I didn’t say we were getting married or anything, but if you want to see where something goes you’ve gotta keep it in your pants – or, you know, only take it out for the person you’re with,” James clarifies.

“Ech, monogyny,” Barney spits.

“Says the guy who lived that way – monogamously celibate, I might add – for his first twenty-three years.  But that wasn’t natural for you?”

“And what did it get me?” Barney questions, uncharacteristically brooding because James has hit one too many direct targets for comfort.   

James clamps a hand on his shoulder, knowing it’s time to ease back.  “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.”

And just like that Barney flips the awesome switch.  “Yeah, well, you let me know how that works out with this Tom guy.”

James just shakes his head affably.  “You just wait, Stinson.  One day it’s gonna happen to you.  You’re going to meet a woman who absolutely grabs you by the short and curlies, and I’m gonna sit back and laugh while you write sonnets for her like a lovesick little school boy.”

“Pfftt,” Barney chokes out a laugh.  “You been drinking on the job again, Gibbs?  Tonight Ted and I are going out to score some action and there’ll be grabbing alright, but no sonnets.  Just a good boning and then out by morning.”

James only grins, knowing better but leaving it alone.  “Better make it a great boning.  Cause we’re going to get reamed by Arthur tomorrow,” he says as he heads out of his office.

Barney grimaces, but puts it out of his mind as he gathers his things to head out for the night.  A quick stop for a takeout meatball sub for dinner, then home to grab his pocket-sized Playbook, and then on to MacLaren’s where he and Ted and going to have one legendary night.

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AN:  For those readers who are familiar with my other stories, this one is going to be different in length and somewhat in format as well.  This is meant to be a more serialized story with the plot occurring in small chunks much like with a TV program’s weekly episodes.  That will mean shorter, snappier, more action/dialogue driven chapters (and hopefully lead to somewhat frequent updates because this is going to be a long story).

I’ll have another chapter coming later this week, but after that will be a short break as I’m taking turns updating stories between this one and “Catching the Clock”.

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Fanfic: A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings


Introduction

Just a little background on what this story will be so everyone knows what they’re getting going in:  This is a takeoff on the themes of fate and destiny that are so wrapped up in the concept of HIMYM (and just to state this upfront, as is the case with all my HIMYM writing I do not recognize that AU finale episode and only accept the show from 1.01–9.22).  In particular it espouses to the butterfly effect represented best in the Season 4 episode “Right Place Right Time” and the idea that a small change at a specific point in time can result in a rippling effect that alters the course of things down the line.  For example, in “Right Place Right Time” Future Ted talks about how if Robin hadn’t gotten food poisoning and if he hadn’t stopped to look at the magazine of Barney’s 200th and so forth then he wouldn’t have ended up on that particular corner at just the right time to be stopped by the light and run into Stella, thus getting him the position at Columbia.  But my fic also adheres to the idea that certain things have a higher fate too, meaning in this example that if Ted is absolutely meant to be a professor at Columbia then it will happen someway, somehow, even if he hadn’t met Stella at that corner.  Even if it happens in a completely different way, if something is absolutely meant to be then it will eventually come to be no matter what course you take to get there.

What all of that philosophical groundwork means for this particular story is that it’s an alternate universe to what you see in HIMYM, starting out on an alternate path right at the “Pilot” because of one small difference that changes everything.  We’ll see it spiral from there and see other small changes occur too that start their own rippling effects, and in the process examine what things will turn out differently and what will ultimately still happen.  That means this alternate universe will loosely follow several of the same events of the original series (the parts that are absolutely fated to be) BUT because they’ve all taken off on this alternate path those various events will happen in different, out-of-order, and sometimes twisted ways – some of them sooner, some of them later, some of them not at all, but all of it altered and changed and new things added in by the butterfly effect.  Meaning the things that show up in my story from the show are the things I believe were unconditionally predestined to happen to the characters no matter what alternate path and changes occurred.

Also so there’s no confusion, nearly everything you know about the background of the main characters remains largely the same except for the following two differences:  (1) Barney’s job, although there is certainly a connection to the reveal in 9.15; and (2) James is not Barney’s biological brother but instead his partner at work.  I made this change because I wanted Barney to have a friend and sounding board who isn’t a part of the main gang and who can therefore give him unbiased and impartial advice solely looking out for Barney’s best interest.  That’s something that was incredibly lacking in HIMYM and I think would have been extremely helpful to Barney’s development.  Yes, in canon James sort of filled that purpose at times but I wanted him to be there with Barney on a regular basis in a way that never really happened when they were biological brothers but will happen when they are partners assigned together every day (and, yes, Robin will have someone similar too).

One final thing so there’s no disappointment; this is a long-play story so you will not see Barney and Robin get together right away.  It’s all heading there and it’s certainly a Barney/Robin love story fic, but you won’t see them dating in chapter two or anything like that.  You’re going to need to be patient and let it build just like it did on the show.

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I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more


Barney had walked into the tent just as Robin was turning and closing her eyes, clutching her locket in her hand along with her heels.  He didn’t say anything at first, didn’t interrupt her.  He just stood there watching her take deep breaths, trying to calm herself and clearly crying. 

He could see Robin was panicking; he knows that’s why she left.  Nevertheless, he waited for her to open her eyes on her own, and now that she has he has no intention of pushing and prodding.  Robin’s always needed to come to these emotional things in her own time.  She’ll share when she feels comfortable to share, and it’s his job to make her feel that way. 

“Hey.  I’ve been looking for you.  You okay?” he asks.  There’s nervousness in his tone because right now he’s a little afraid of what she might share, but he remains upbeat and supportive.

Robin realizes this is the moment of truth.  If she wants to take an out, now would be the time to admit she has not been okay, confess the issues she’s been having, and tell him she doesn’t think she can go through with marrying him.  Barney’s right here in front of her.  If she’s going to actually call off their wedding now is the moment to say so. 

But she doesn’t need that option anymore.  She’d already reached her decision to go through with the wedding, and simply seeing Barney again now feels so right her heart knows indisputably that by his side, marrying him, is exactly the place she’s meant to be despite the fears she’s had.

Her only thought now is to lie and cover up her actions so he won’t even have to know what she’d been considering, and she does so as quickly as possible, swiftly changing the subject afterwards to ask him what he’s holding.  When he answers “my vows”, Robin blinks again as she’s hit with a wave of shame looking down at the large stack of papers in his hand.  Here she’s been panicking, literally out of her mind wondering if she can go through with the wedding, and Barney’s been pouring over his vows to hers. 

“I – I know it’s bad luck to see the bride right before the ceremony,” Barney starts out, holding up his hand to let her know right away that he’s not being careless about doing their wedding right.  He understands the breach in etiquette he’s making but it’s absolutely necessary because he has to tell her the important conclusion he’s come to.

When Barney says he’s realized something, Robin’s eyes widen and she looks up to him in alarm, suddenly wondering if he’s having jitters and a ‘serious crisis’ of his own.  But she waits him out, listening breathlessly to what he has to say.

“Marshall and Lily have broken most of their wedding vows, but they’re still the best couple I know.  I think their biggest problem was that Marshall didn’t tell Lily the truth.  So….”  He looks down to the huge booklet of vows he’s been holding and unceremoniously discards them, throwing them down onto the stage beside them.  Never taking his eyes off Robin from that point on, Barney slowly approaches her.  “I’ve decided to make only one vow to you, because it’s the only one that really counts.  Robin Scherbatsky…” he begins, and she looks at him, open and vulnerable, unsure of what he’s going to vow but ready to hang on to his words and his promise like a lifeline.  “.…From this day forward, I am always going to be honest with you.”

A little sigh of relief escapes Robin.  That’s just exactly the declaration she needed to hear right now.  She presses her lips together, feeling the sting at the bridge of her nose that speaks of oncoming tears.  But she can’t help it, she’s so moved.  Barney has gone from:  ‘I lie; that’s what I do and you know that’ back when she discovered he still had a copy of The Playbook, to:  ‘I’m going to lie, but only in the interest of a great surprise for you’ at their rehearsal dinner, and now all the way to:  ‘I’m always going to be honest with you’.  It’s tremendous progress, and the very thing she needed to cling to.

“Cause I love you,” Barney finishes. 

Her trembling lips form a smile and Robin blinks back the tears that are now flooding her eyes.  She needed to know he’s committed to that honesty on a core level, needed to know that underneath all the chemistry and attraction and the fun and the love their marriage will also have a steady foundation of stability and reliability.

Barney isn’t perfect but he has tried and changed and evolved so much for her, and the man he is now isn’t something to be afraid of at all.  This isn’t a guy who’s going to put her second.  This is a man who will be there for her and always do right by her.  And he isn’t clueless about this either.  He does understand the importance of honesty, and he values it right along with her.

But his “I love you” may be the thing she needed to hear from him most of all, just that simple reaffirmation of his love after all the doubting she’s fallen into in the past few minutes.  She needed to know and hear it from him one more time that he loves her above all else.  That’s the reason his only vow can be truly, wholeheartedly believed.  Because love and honesty go hand-in-hand.  It’s easy for someone to say they’ll always be honest, but she can believe him and know that it’s true, know that he means it, because of his declaration of love.

Robin finally appreciates in that moment that even though Barney may seem like a bad risk, because he loves her so very much she knows he actually isn’t a risk at all.  Marriage in general may be a risk, but Barney isn’t.  He’ll be there for her and treat her right – and she’ll be there for him too – because if you’re loving with everything you’ve got then all the rest will fall into place.  You will be honest, you will be there for each other, because of that deep love you share.

And they already have that in spades.

A long time ago, not too long after she first met the gang, she had a boyfriend-of-the-week who dumped her because she couldn’t be his Gretel, because she wouldn’t share herself or be stupid and silly and crazy in love with him.  Mike told her she was too in love with being on her own.  She liked doing her own crosswords, and sleeping in her own bed, and she’d never speak of ‘us’ or ‘we’, only ever saw herself as an ‘I’.  But with Barney, from very early on, it’s been the exact opposite.  And here’s the miraculous part:  it’s been that way without even trying.  It all just came naturally with him.  With Barney they now do the crosswords together as a team – and she actually wants to share things with him, herself most of all.  Forget ‘we’ or ‘us’; she now thinks and speaks of Barney as her soul mate.  She knows that he is, as surely as she knows she’ll take her next breath.  That’s what Barney once said, that they couldn’t stop loving each other any more than they could stop breathing.  And that is loving with everything they’ve got.  They already found that with each other and now that they have this vow of honesty, that’s everything they’ll ever need.

Barney softly returns Robin’s smile.  “I’ll see you up there,” he tells her, turning to leave.  He doesn’t try to beg or force her back to the church the way he knows someone like Ted would do.  He simply knows now that he’s said all that needs to be said and he has enough faith in Robin and in their love for each other that the vow he just made will be enough for her, that she’ll be okay now and meet him up at the altar because she loves him just as much as he loves her. 

Mention of ‘up there’ has Robin’s nerves momentarily pinging through her again.  She nods because she has ever intention to go back and marry him, but she sighs because it’s still a little scary nonetheless.

And then Barney suddenly remembers the important point that nearly slipped his mind, that last bit of air that needs to be cleared before they can get married.  Looking her straight in the eye and holding her gaze steadily, he tells her the absolute truth now, uncomfortable as it is.  “Ted got that locket for you.”  Barney’s lips quirk to the side, not liking this truth, wishing it were different, but this is the truth and it needs to be told.  “He’s the one you should thank.”  He nods glumly, disappointed and regretful that it wasn’t in fact him.

Robin just stares at Barney for a second, too astonished to react.  He vowed honesty from this moment forward and that alone was enough, but now he’s actually going back and clearing up the lie he previously told.  Knowing that brings her to the point of utter and absolute clarity.

Thinking back on their history just a few moments ago made her realize that Barney has already proven to be husband material, and now with him coming clean about the locket when she didn’t expect it – when he didn’t even have to do it – that’s the icing on the cake that solidifies it all.  Barney is unquestionably the right guy, the one who will be there and come through for her all of the time and in every way she needs.  He was never trying to run some scheme on her like she questioned before. 

And in that moment – hearing Barney tell that absolute truth, coming to that point of utter clarity – Robin deeply feels just how grossly wrong she’d been back at the church.

She’d been a panicked fool, saying those contemptible, unfounded, and unreasonable things.  She was unacceptably unfair to him, not giving him enough credit or having half the faith in him that he deserved.  Not only does she love him but he is the kind of guy she should be marrying, and she’s absolutely making the right choice to marry him.

The thing about Barney is when you take into account his entire past he is scary – as a concept.  But the past, neither one of theirs, should come into it at all because that was then and this is now.

Here and now, she finally only sees the man and not the concept.  And what she sees and knows and recognizes and appreciates are all the things he’s done for her, the gentle tenderness in the many ways he’s loved her.  And she does feel safe with him, trusting her heart to him – more safe and more content and more at home than she’s ever felt.

Barney turns and starts to head out of the tent and Robin immediately goes after him, ready and willing to follow him anywhere.  “Barney, wait.”  She runs to him, throwing her arms around him and kissing him soundly.

Cupping the back of his head with one hand, Robin moves her free arm around his back to pull him even closer to her.  When Barney brings both his hands up to her waist to cradle her against him she instinctively deepens the kiss, shifting her arm down to wrap around his shoulders, wanting more. 

Barney gently breaks their kiss a moment later to smile down at her and Robin looks up into his eyes, tearfully whispering, “I love you too.”  Barney’s smile widens at that and he kisses her tenderly one more time before gathering her to him and drawing her into a warm, full, lingering hug. 

His only thought is to comfort and soothe her.  He understands her fears and he just wants to make it all better for her.  As he holds her lovingly, he knows that she’s been scared – and that’s okay.  He’s been scared too.  This is a big deal, forever.  But they can be nervous together, going into this hand-in-hand, knowing that the things that scare you are always the most worthwhile.

Robin just clings to him with her check pressed against his.  She’s been through such anguish fearing that she couldn’t marry him, fearing that it wouldn’t last.  But now she’s finally at peace again knowing she was wrong, knowing that she does get to keep him.  She never has to lose this.  It’s like those firsts few minutes up on the rooftop after they got engaged, just basking in the peace of knowing they get to always have each other from now on and nothing can ever take that away.

It’s been a tough half an hour and a crazy eight minutes, but now she can rest easy.  Now she simply lets it wash over her, this feeling of rightness and of deep and utter love, knowing this is exactly where she belongs – where she’s belonged all of her life.

Her mother’s words float through her mind:  You’re filled with this mortal dread, but if you find someone you feel safe with it’s like flying.  Robin understands what she meant now.  She meant that marriage is scary but it’s the best kind of scary because, like flying, even though the very act means taking a risk you have to take risks to get the most exhilarating rewards.

And held fast, gently rocked in Barney’s arms it doesn’t feel like a risk at all.

She doesn’t know what she was thinking back at the church.  Obviously she wasn’t thinking straight at all.  She was so caught up in the idea of who was more safe and dependable, but ‘safe and dependable’ is the description of a truck not a person.  In her fear she was single-mindedly consumed with avoiding the sort of husband her dad was so that her marriage will have the opposite result.  She kept thinking it would be safer if Barney was more conventional and had less in common with her dad.  But now that she’s gotten it together again, it’s unmistakably clear that Barney already is all of the conventional things that count.  He’s monogamous, loving, supportive, concerned about her feelings over his own, and now 100% honest. 

Why couldn’t she recognize any of that before?  She was blinded by panic, but that alone isn’t an excuse.  The panic had to start somewhere.  Robin thinks the problem is that sometimes she was still seeing Barney as he was before and letting that frighten her.  But he isn’t the same person he was when they first met, or even the same person he was back when they first dated four years ago.  He’s the same in all the best ways, the ways that make him uniquely him and why she fell in love with him, but he’s changed in all the other ways that matter.  And so has she. 

There’s this quirky 90s romantic comedy that Ted and Lily love and as a result the rest of the group has been forced to endure a time or two on movie night.  She and Barney hate the film and find it incredibly cheesy.  Yet there’s one quote in the movie that’s always stuck out for her because it appeals to that closeted romantic fourteen year old still secretly locked inside condemning everything her adult self lived by, with building up walls and running from feelings and always needing to be in control of her emotions.  The line says, Unless it’s mad, passionate, extraordinary love it’s a waste of your time.  There are too many mediocre things in life.  Love shouldn’t be one of them.  And it turns out that was the answer to her head versus heart debate all along. 

Barney still isn’t perfect; he never will be.  But perfect would be boring.  Perfect never set her heart aflutter.  Only he ever has.  And perfect wouldn’t understand or appreciate her.  Perfect would want to change her, because she’s far from perfect herself and never will be.

She doesn’t want or need perfect.  She just needed to know one final, definitive time that it’s okay to trust her heart to Barney.  She doesn’t need a locket from him.  Barney came through for her simply by showing up just now, and that’s way better than a silly locket buried by a girl who was on the right track but didn’t even yet understand real love.

What Barney’s shown her just now is that he gets it.  He recognizes the importance of complete honesty between them and he just proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’ll make good on it.  It’s not just lip service.  He truly believes it and means it and wants them to live that way.  And he respects her enough to admit it when he didn’t quite live up to that ideal. 

And the thing is, she hasn’t lived up to that ideal either.  She lied to him about why she’s out here.  She didn’t tell him the truth about the locket and what that symbolized for her.  She even downplayed and lied about how important it was that he come to the park.  Barney told her the truth and he deserves to hear it too.  But she didn’t offer him honesty.  When she was having all those concerns and fears she should have called for him.  She should have talked to him about it.  But she just bolted from the church instead.  She chickened out and fell back on her first instinct of running away from her fears, running scared whenever anything becomes complicated or uncertain.

She’s always had a tendency to settle for the path of least resistance and take the easy way – like on the night before she moved to New York; like she did time and again with Metro News 1; like she tried to do with the lotto girl job and later picking the coin flip bimbo position over WWN; like the way she stayed with Kevin; like how after that breakup she almost contemplated trying with Ted simply because she’d given up; even like the way she nearly didn’t go up to the roof when she thought Barney was going to propose to Patrice, just like she didn’t say anything when he actually proposed to Quinn.

Why does she keep doing this?  Running from anything difficult and just giving up on what she wants rather than taking a chance at it and risking she might fail and get hurt?

And why did she even allow all of this with Barney to become complicated and uncertain in her mind when now it all seems so obvious and straightforward and easy?  She got so crazy over the Central Park incident, and the whole idea of Barney finding her locket, and then freaked out over him lying about.  She let what should have been relatively small things tie her up in knots and cause her to this time literally run away.  On the surface it makes it seem like she’s some kind of diva who expects to be worshiped by Barney, but that isn’t what she wants at all.

As he continues to hold her tenderly, the real underlying reason she got this way hits her like a ton of bricks and she knows instantly that it’s true.  The issue, the fear with Barney has always been that she loves him so intensely, just so much, that sometimes she can’t believe he could actually love her that much back, that she could continue to be his number one priority and focus.  Yeah, she’s got a slammin’ hot body, but on the inside she’s long been such a mess that sometimes it’s still so hard for her to believe that a guy like Barney with awesomeness at his core, who could literally have anyone – and practically has – could continue to feel such love and devotion to her of all people.  It seemed too good to be true, too good to count on and expect it to last.  So with Barney’s every tiny slipup and failure to meet perfection she went right back to questioning the security of their relationship and wondering ‘Is this the proof that it’s all going to fall apart?’ and ‘Is this the evidence that he isn’t going to be there for me or love me enough?’.

But that’s not a failing in him.  Barney’s done nothing wrong.  This is her own issue – and insecurity in herself is the basis of it.  That’s no shortcoming of his; it’s a shortcoming of hers.  Robin can now admit to herself that this is a crippling habit she’s had her entire life, and it’s one that she has to break if she’s ever going to let herself be permanently happy.

She has to fight for the things that matter and believe that she is worthy of them.  She has to be brave and trust her heart and go after the things she really wants, the things that are right for her, no matter what anyone else says.  She’s got to take those leaps even though they might not always be the simplest thing, even when it might mean taking a risk – and, yes, even if it doesn’t make perfect logical sense.

She once said she’d need to Ted to get her down the aisle when she started freaking out, but Ted has proven pretty useless in all this.  Finding the courage to break this cycle, it has to come from herself not from anyone else.

And with just fourteen minutes left before their wedding is set to begin, Robin’s determined to let go of her insecurities and fears once and for all, to open up to Barney completely about everything, and give him that same total honesty he’s just given her.  It’s going to start right now, right this moment, by telling him the whole truth about the last eight minutes.  And if he’s not too angry with her after hearing all that, it’s going to culminate in going back and becoming his wife – because that’s the only thing in this world that could ever make her truly, deeply happy.

“Barney….”  Robin gently draws back from their hug to look into his eyes.  “You just told me the absolute truth, even knowing it was something I might not want to hear, and I have to be honest with you too.”  She takes a deep breath, forging ahead with the difficult truth despite being unsure of just how he will react.  “I didn’t actually have to tell the band anything.  I’m out here because I got scared, and I freaked out and…..I kind of tried to run away for a few minutes there.....”

“I know,” Barney says simply, giving her a soft smile.  “Why do you think I came out here looking for you?  I did have a realization about Marshall and Lily, and about our vows, and that honesty is the only thing that matters.  But I was going upstairs to tell you all that – and the truth about the locket – when I saw you running across the church lawn.  I knew right away what happened.”

Robin wraps her mind around that, how even knowing she was potentially pulling a runaway bride Barney still didn’t get upset with her.  He just calmly asked her if she was okay, and then he gave her every reassurance she needed without even knowing that’s what she needed.

And that is why they’re soul mates.

But she still has to tell him the rest of the truth – the worst part of it.  “But there’s more,” she says regretfully, pulling back completely from his embrace now; she feels a bit like she doesn’t deserve it.  Averting her eyes from his, she confesses, “I came out here after I momentarily suggested that…..that Ted and I should run away together to Chicago,” she mumbles shamefully, getting it all out in hurry.

While Barney is surprised at that, he doesn’t find her confession upsetting because he understands it for what it was:  a last-ditch, desperate attempt to avoid facing her fear.  He used to do the same thing when he was a teenager and it was time for his driver’s ed classes.  He sincerely did want to learn how to drive, but he was so terrified of getting behind the wheel that he’d always take off to help out his Nana, using that as his go-to excuse to keep from facing that fear.

Robin reaches for his hand imploringly.  “I didn’t really mean it, Barney.  Honestly, I didn’t.  I was just – ”

“I know you didn’t mean it,” he tells her with a smile in his voice.

“You – you do?” she asks, both hopeful and taken aback at his reaction.

“If you wanted to be with Ted you could have, many times over,” Barney explains calmly.  “But you didn’t want to be with him.  You don’t want to be with him.  Anyone can see that.  I’m sure Ted did too.  That’s why he told you ‘no’, isn’t it?”

Robin closes her eyes remorsefully and silently nods.  He can see she’s inwardly beating herself up for the way she’s acted and he squeezes her hand gently in support.  “Robin, if you were really trying to run away you wouldn’t have come to our reception,” he points out.  “I know you weren’t actually trying to back out of the wedding.  You were just afraid.  This was just a ‘Robin goes crazy’ moment all over again – and we’re all entitled to go a little crazy right before we’re getting married.”

“It only got so far out of control because I knew you lied about my locket,” she promises.  “I was upset that you’d lie to me that way and – ”

“I didn’t want to,” Barney interrupts, because she has to at least know that part.  “It was against my better judgment and I started to protest but Ted told me I had to do it.  He said you were nervous and that you needed the locket to come from me.  But you’re right,” he freely grants, contrite now himself.  “That’s still no excuse.  It doesn’t matter what the circumstance is, I can’t ever lie to you that way if I want you to trust me and believe in me and feel secure in our relationship.  Everything that’s happened with Marshall and Lily showed me that.  That’s how I knew I made a big mistake listening to Ted.  What you really needed from me was honesty – complete and total honesty – not lying about your locket.”

Robin sighs heavily, hating that she’s made him feel like he has to prove himself.  She can see that he didn’t even want to lie to her.  He’s the most blameless one in this whole situation and yet somehow it’s come off like she’s the put-upon party and that simply isn’t right.  She has to dismiss him of that notion immediately.  “It’s not that I don’t trust you, Barney.  I know you don’t always lie to me.  I just – I got scared.  On some level as we got closer to the wedding….I guess I was still waiting to find the catch in it.  I think it’s because I love you so much.  I know that sounds crazy, but sometimes I don’t know what to do with all that love.  Sometimes I panic; I get afraid that the rug will be swept out from underneath me and this will all go away…..Sometimes I’m scared I love you so much that you couldn’t possibly love me that much too.”

Her voice was so quiet and heartbreakingly vulnerable during the last part of her confession that Barney wraps his arms around her again and draws her back into his embrace.  “Well that’s just silly.  You are the single most amazing woman on the face of this planet.  I couldn’t possibly not love you that much.”

She smiles tremulously, touched by his words.  “You’re not mad?  You forgive me?”

“Robin, it’s no different than your mom on the airplane.  She got so freaked out she tried to open the door at 30,000 feet and had to be hogtied for everyone’s protection.  But she made it here,” he reminds her.  “And do you care right now that yesterday she ran away from the airport and almost didn’t come?”

“No,” Robin shakes her head.

“No you don’t,” Barney echoes.  “Because none of that matters.  It only matters that she got here.  She came because she wanted to be with you above all else.  As terrified as she was and as crazy as that fear temporarily made her, she wanted to be with you even more.  That’s all I see here, Robin.  You could be on your way back to Manhattan right now, but instead you came to our reception tent.  Because as terrified as you were, you wanted us to be married even more.  Sometimes it’s not about conquering the fear.  It’s about doing it anyway because you want it that much.”  He rubs her arm reassuringly, flashing a hint of one of his patented mischievous smiles.  “Besides, you’re not the only one who gets scared.  I tried to climb out the window earlier.”

“You did?” she asks, amused.

“Yep.”

“So did I.”  She laughs self-deprecatingly.  “I was a mess, Barney.  It wasn’t just the locket.  That was plenty crazy enough, but my mind kept racing from one irrational thing to the next…..My mom said some stuff earlier that made me think you might be too much like my dad.  The thought had already occurred to me once before on that day when you guys were playing laser tag together, and so hearing it from her too was alarming.”

Barney’s face pulls a mystified expression.  “Me, like your dad?  Huh.  I don’t see it…..I guess he wears suits a lot, but not all the time, and lately he’s been known to wear the occasional Hawaiian shirt – which is something I wouldn’t be caught dead in.”  He thinks about it a second and acknowledges, “We are both competitive, and we both like cigars and scotch.  But those are all qualities I share with you.

“I know, I know.  I know it’s irrational.  There was some other stuff too, like apparently my dad used to run plays – or at least a play – and he has a gay black brother and was once engaged to a stripper, but none of that – ”

“Hold on,” Barney stops her in astonishment.  “Your dad ran a play?”

“It would seem so,” she confirms, discomfited.  “The way my mom tells it I think it was “The Royal Archduke of Grand Fenwick”, or some derivative thereof.”

“What do you know?” Barney muses.  “And I thought that was an original.  But to tell you the truth, Robin, running a play to get a girl to sleep with you isn’t all that unique.  Most guys have done at some point in their lives.  They just don’t call it that, or name the technique and write down the steps, but it’s running a play all the same.  And women do it too.  I’ve seen you run plays – and not just on me.”

“I know,” Robin admits laughingly.  “I do.  I realize now how insane I was being.  Those were all just surface things, coincidences that don’t amount to anything.  It’s just, you know how commitment and weddings have always had a tendency to freak us both out.  And this is our wedding; this is us doing it.  So I was already in this weird, spooked state of mind.”

“I can understand that, believe me.”  Barney eases her back a little from him so he can get a better look at her face but he still keeps his hands at her waist, his thumb running over her ribcage in a tender caress through the soft gauze of her wedding dress.  “But you do know that I only bonded with your dad because that’s what you wanted, right?  I mean if it was up to me I wouldn’t be hanging out with your dad socially that’s for sure – dude’s infuriating.  I just thought it would make you happy.  I know you’ve forgiven him and you want him in your life so I’ve tried for your sake.  And I guess the guy’s not all bad anymore.  But there’s not a moment that goes by when I’m with him that I don’t remember what he did to you.  I hope you don’t think I’m anything like him in that regard.  I haven’t always been the most open about my feelings – hell, there was a time I wouldn’t admit them at all.  But I think I’ve changed and I’m doing better with that.”

“You are.  I know you are,” she agrees.  “You do tell me what you’re feeling, you share things with me.  You just came to me about all that stuff with your mom and your dad.  And I appreciate that, Barney.  That’s how I want us to be.....I think I’m the one who still needs work,” she admits self-critically.

“Maybe we’re both still a work in progress around the edges,” Barney concedes.  “But we can work on it together.  And you know there’s nothing you can’t tell me, no matter what, don’t you?  Robin, you could have told me about the fears you were having and we could have talked them through together, just like we did with my panic attacks after we first got engaged.  From now on that’s what we definitely should do.  And not just you, me too.  I should have told you all about the locket and where I got it.  I should have been honest with you from the start.  The truth is I was a bit humiliated by it, and a part of me didn’t want you to know where it really came from.  But I don’t ever want you to feel like I’m emotionally unavailable like your father.  So in case you’ve ever had any doubts:  I love you, Robin, and I am proud of you.  I’m proud of everything you do.  I’ve never been more proud in my life than I am to be marrying you.”

It moves Robin to tears hearing Barney say the words her father never would, and again it makes her feel awful for even momentarily putting him in the same class as her dad.  Barney tells her he loves her at least once every day.  And forget “The Robin” or their rehearsal dinner, he does sweet loving things for her on a private, intimate scale all the time – and that’s far more meaningful to her than the big, public grand gestures no matter what convention might say.  “Barney, you’re not emotionally unavailable.  This is my fault.  It was my issue.  I put too much stock in that locket.  I was already nervous and having jitters about our wedding – about getting married, period.  I thought if I could just find my locket that would be a sign that you and I were meant to get married and that everything would be perfect in our marriage and we’d never break up the way my parents did.  But then I couldn’t find the locket and that freaked me out…..And I suppose I also set it as some sort of test in my mind.  I was looking for a sign from the Universe and when I called you that day and you didn’t come, I called Ted as a backup and he came, and then he found my locket, and that’s the only reason I even fleetingly said that about running away with him.  Because he was the one who came through for me – and what that might mean really freaked me out.”

Barney feels a slight sting at that, already angry with himself for not being there for her that day.  Robin sees the flicker of it pass across his face and she moves her hands up to his arms, intently imparting, “But that was my fault for giving it importance it didn’t have.  None of that matters, and I never should have set up one day in the park as any kind of test or Universe sign to begin with.  I was scared, and that tends to make me not think very clearly.  It’s the only excuse I can offer, though it doesn’t make it right….But I’ve always been scared when it comes to you because I’ve always been scared to follow my heart, and you’re the one who owns it – the only one who’s ever owned it.”

He smiles down at her, pulling her back in closer.  “Robin Scherbatsky was looking for a sign from the Universe?  You were freaked out, weren’t you?” he teases.

Yes,” she owns up with an embarrassed half-smile of her own.  “I know it was stupid….”

“No,” Barney corrects her adamantly.  “It wasn’t stupid.  A bit unorthodox and out of character,” he drolly amends, “but not stupid.  Nothing you ever feel, Robin, is stupid.  Maybe sometimes, like in this instance, it’s incorrect.  But not stupid.”

“I feel stupid for making such a fuss about a piece of jewelry.”

“But that’s clearly not all it was to you.  If I’d known what it truly meant, I would have moved heaven and earth to be that sign for you.  Robin, I wish I could have been the one who found you your locket,” he admits.  “I always want to come through for you.  I did set some guys on it, but it came up empty-handed.  They told me that after almost twenty years it was impossible.  But I shouldn’t have given up.  I should have kept trying.  I’m disappointed in myself.  When I came to the park later that afternoon and saw how upset you were I – ”

“Wait.”  Robin’s heart speeds up at that last part he just said.  “You came to the park?”

“Yes,” Barney finally admits.  “As soon as I was done with your dad.  But when I got there Ted was already there and I was too ashamed to let you know I was there too.  Because that should have been me there with you holding your hand, if I’d only come sooner.  I should have come sooner,” he bitterly criticizes himself.

“Barney, no.”  She’s had it all wrong.  Here she’s been wondering what it meant that he didn’t come to her – and even then it was such a small, isolated, one-time thing – when all this time he’s been berating himself for coming but not quickly enough.  “It doesn’t matter that Ted got there first.  He’d only been there for ten, fifteen minutes at the most.  All that matters is that you came,” she discloses, her voice breaking because this latest revelation has removed every last concern she’s ever had.

“Of course I came.  There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you.”  And because it’s indelibly stamped on his heart he tells her, “I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything or anyone, and I’d do anything I can to make you happy.”  He has no idea that’s exactly what he said in truth serum mode to Ted that Robin never got to hear.

“I’ll do anything I can to make you happy too,” Robin vows.  “I know it may not seem like it right now, but I really will.”

“You already do.”

She cups his face in her hands, kissing him gently.  “I love you, Barney.  I’m sorry I had doubts, but I’ve always, always loved you.  That’s one thing I’ve never doubted.”

Barney brings her lips back to his a second time, savoring it a second before easing back to say, “So….there’s a minister waiting for us.  And, Robin Scherbatsky, I cannot wait to make you my wife.”

“You won’t be able to call me Scherbatsky for long,” she grins, letting him go to put her shoes back on.  He bends to help her and once they’ve got her securely back in her silver heels and Barney’s up on his feet again too, Robin grabs his hand.  “Let’s hurry.  I can’t wait to make you my husband either.”

When they reach the entrance to the tent they quickly discover that it’s now raining harder so they dash across the street with their arms around one another’s waists, each helping to hold up her skirt.  They opt to run inside the church through the parking lot to avoid seeing their guests and, once inside, for a moment they just stand there in the deserted back entryway, breathless and laughing.

She reaches up to pat at her up-do, but without a mirror handy it isn’t much use.  “My hair is slipping out, I’m rained on, and I’ve been crying.  Some bride I’ll make.  I need to fix up before the ceremony,” she observes, but even as she’s saying it she notices him standing back to admire her.

“You look beautiful, Robin.”  He can’t even describe how incredible and amazing and mindboggling and just everything all rolled into one it is to be in the church, just minutes away from marrying her.  It is quite literally everything he dreamed of but for years didn’t dare imagine he could ever have.  “God, I can’t believe I’m this lucky.”

She shakes her head.  “I can’t believe I am.”

Something so deep and rich and full of love passes between them.  It can’t begin to be put into words, so they just smile.

Robin eyes twinkle up at him and she tells him playfully, “Being married to you, it’s gonna be legen….wait for it – ”

Barney puts a finger to hers lips, stopping her.  “Remember?  We’ve done enough waiting.”

“Yes we have,” she smiles.  “We don’t have to wait for it anymore.”

He nods in the direction of the chapel, a light of mischief in his eyes.  “So get in there and marry me.  I dare you.”

She looks lovingly back at him, now with a light of mischief in her eyes that perfectly matches his.  “Challenge accepted.”

Even though they’re breaking all wedding etiquette, he can’t resist and reaches out and draws her to him again, kissing her soft and warm and, like them, just right.

When they pull away, Robin’s finger are fisted in his lapels and her voice is low and sensuous as she reminds him, “That’s what we did four days ago.”

“What?” he murmurs, dazed, his mind and body distracted by that kiss.

“‘Challenge accepted’.  That’s what we did four days ago.”

Oh,” Barney remembers.  His nose crinkles up as he nods and smirks at her.  “Yeah we did.”

“I won,” Robin answers, bringing his mouth back to hers.

“As I recall, repeatedly,” he whispers, kissing her a third time until the heat and the fire and the chemistry start to boil over and his hands slip down around her waist, pulling her against him.

It’s then that Ted walks out from around the corner.  Neither one of them have even the slightest clue that he’d seen them back at the tent, having gone after Robin himself.  They were both too wrapped up in each other to notice the rest of the world.

“Alright guys, keep it together,” Ted says pleasantly.  “I’m sure there’s a bathroom stall with your names on it, but that’s not for at least another hour.”

Robin and Barney break apart at the interruption but the only place they look is into each other’s eyes.  After sharing one more smile that’s just for them, Barney slowly lets his arms fall from around her, turning to his bro without missing a beat.  “A bathroom stall?  Please, Ted.  What do you take us for?  Our marriage will be consummated in the janitor’s closet.  I already scoped it out when we booked the place.  It’s got just the right atmosphere of class mixed with dirty,” he jokes, leering at his soon-to-be wife.  “Plus it has a wide, smooth door – and a pleasant tinge of lemon in the air.”

Ted just shakes his head.  With them, he’s not sure if Barney’s kidding or not.  “Come on, let’s get you two married.”


****

After Ted takes Barney with him back toward the chapel where their guests have already been seated, Robin heads up to her room for some final touchups.  She has seven minutes to fix herself back up, six when you consider that she needs to be downstairs and ready to walk in by 5:59.

It’s four minutes to when Robin looks in the mirror and smiles at her reflection, approving of what she sees – and without even a trace of all the nervousness and anxiety of earlier.  There’s nothing but happiness now.

She glances down at the dressing table and her old locket lying there on top and ponders if she wants to even wear it anymore or just stick to the earring and necklace set she has on.  She hadn’t thought of or remembered her teenage locket for the longest time and had instead especially purchased the set she’s wearing from an antique jewelry store so they could qualify as her “something old”.  And now that she’s come to her senses, she realizes how silly it was putting so much stock in this old beat-up locket that doesn’t even match her dress.

Still, the locket was important in her family history and it was passed down to her, which is something she’d like to honor.  And there’s the matter of the promise she made to herself at fourteen.

Taking off the necklace she’s wearing, Robin thinks back on that day almost twenty years ago, and maybe she has finally shaken off the deep-seated insecurities she’s long been shackled with because she’s rather proud of herself and the woman she is today.  She did move here, just like she said she would, and she’s achieved every last part of that dream of hers.  She lives in New York City now.  She’s a semi-famous, up-and-coming WWN reporter, and she has her distinguished fiancé waiting downstairs to marry her.  All of that is what makes this locket a meaningful “something old” even though she doesn’t need it as a sign anymore.

……But come to think of it, all she’d originally wanted or asked for was to find her locket.  That was the sign that she’s meant to marry Barney.  She never specified who or where it had to come from.  She was hoping to find it herself still buried in the ground.  It never had to come from Barney to be her sign.  It only needed to be found.  And it has been…..Which means she got the sign she’d asked for after all, the sign from the Universe that their marriage is blessed from on high and they’ll be together forever and always.

There used to be a time when she didn’t believe in miracles, but she has hers now.  She and Barney have their against-all-odds, miraculous happy ending – and that’s made her a believer.

Robin blinks away tears of happiness just as a knock sounds on her door.  “Come in,” she calls, reaching back and attempting to fasten her locket around her neck.

“Robin,” she hears her father’s voice sound behind her with something close to admiration in his tone, and she looks up into the mirror to see him staring back at her.  “Here, let me help you with that,” he says, crossing to her and taking over the task.  “Is this your grandmother’s locket?”

“Yeah,” she nods.

“I was wrong back then.  If I could have seen you now, I would have known it.  You make a lovely bride.”

“Thanks, dad,” she smiles.

‘Glad’ isn’t a strong enough word for it, but she is glad and then some that they’re working on patching up their father-daughter relationship.  After all, no matter what the past has been he will always be her father, and he’s the one who primarily raised her.

But she’s realized now that Barney’s love and adoration and devotion are all that she’s needed.  So if she and her dad never get to the place that Barney and his dad have reached, if she never hears ‘Robin, I love you and I’m proud of you’ from her father’s mouth, she’ll still be okay.  Because Barney is the one who made her whole and unbroken and he’s all she’ll ever need.

“Are you ready?” her dad asks.

Robin nods.  “I am.”  And she feels it with every fiber of her being.

“Then let’s go give you away to that blond fiancé of yours.”

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For the past three minutes Barney has wandered through the church working on his vows, but he still hasn’t been able to piece together anything that feels right.  Finally he decides to go into the chapel itself, and when he does he comes upon a sight he wasn’t expecting:  Marshall and Lily standing at the altar where he and Robin will soon be standing, restating updated vows to each other.  These vows aren’t profound and lyrical this time – quite the opposite – but they are real and true and meaningful just the same.

And that’s when Barney realizes that although Lily and Marshall broke nearly every one of their vows it’s not because they’re a bad couple, or because that level of devotion is simply unattainable.  The reason they broke them is because vows don’t need to be – perhaps outright shouldn’t be – beautiful and poetic when life itself isn’t always beautiful and poetic.  Life is messy and complicated at times, and love can be too.  That’s what makes wedding vows actually rather impractical because a marriage is a living, breathing thing.  Any kind of promises or vows in that marriage will need to be ever adjustable just like the people who make them.

In fact, Marshall and Lily are proof that wedding vows aren’t even necessary at all.  They broke almost all of theirs and yet their marriage is still solid and strong and they remain the most picture-perfect and functional couple he’s ever known. 

Barney watches them kiss at the conclusion of their new and improved vows and he can see that despite the huge fight they just had they’re still so obviously in love.  Their marriage is the best example he’s ever borne witness to.

……And come to think of it, they only had that huge fight because Marshall wasn’t honest with Lily…..And the other huge fight they had in their marriage, when he and Robin were afraid they’d gotten a divorce, that too was because Lily hadn’t been honest with Marshall about her credit card debt and shopping addiction. 

The epiphany hits Barney all at once:  honesty.  Pretty vows are lovely, and it’s wonderful if you can keep them all.  And, yes, there are other important things that go without saying – things like communication, and loving each other, thoughtfulness and caring, and so forth – but when it comes down to it honesty is the vital component to having a successful marriage.

It’s what he and Robin need too.  That is what he has to vow to her.  All the rest of those lyrical, Lionel Richie style vows are just surface things and often not very true to life.  What a marriage really amounts to is living together and loving each other, making a life together on a day-to-day basis.  And in that there’s only one vow that matters:  always be honest with each other.

Love and honesty are the only things necessary to have a lasting marriage.  The first time around they had love, but they still had a long way to go on the honesty front.  They weren’t honest and open with each other about their feelings, or about their wants and needs, and that ultimately led to their relationship falling apart.  To prevent that from happening this time around, to guarantee their marriage grows and thrives, they have the deep and abiding love; all they have to do now is be honest with each other at all times. 

They’re already most of the way there.  But honesty 99% of the time won’t do.  That’s what happened with Marshall and Lily, and that 1% of dishonesty led to the biggest crisis of their marriage.  That’s why the only thing he needs to vow to Robin is honesty 100% of the time, without fail and with no exceptions.

Unfortunately while he’s just realized that, only minutes ago he’d also just lied to Robin about her locket. 

He has to go and find her and tell her the realization he’s had – and he has to tell her the truth about her locket. 

He could wait and tell her all this during the ceremony the way you’re supposed to.  He does want to do this wedding stuff right, after all, and no one says their vows beforehand. But he feels genuinely bad about lying to her.  He never wanted to in the first place and now that he’s realized the utmost importance of honesty at all time, that honesty itself is the one and only vow needed in a marriage, he can’t let theirs start out having just told her a lie.  He needs to clear this up with her and fix this, let her know that any kind of lying or dishonesty or even evasions of the truth that all stops now.

While Lily and Marshall are still kissing, Barney silently walks out of the chapel, a man with a purpose.  He’s heading towards the staircase when he happens to look out the window and sees Robin bolting across the lawn back towards the Farhampton Inn.

He instantly pieces it together.  She’s running scared like he almost had. 

Barney immediately adjusts course to go after her.  He’s not going to pressure her.  He’s just going to make this one vow to her now, and after that the choice has to be hers.

But he believes in their love enough that he knows she’ll come to her senses just like he had.


****

In her dash across the church’s lawn, Robin knew she could have hopped into someone’s car.  She even saw Ranjitt.  She could have easily climbed into the limo and asked him to take her away.  But she ran across the street to the hotel instead, thinking to go up to their room or perhaps just out to the beach, subconsciously knowing full well that those are both places she’ll be found fairly quickly, whereas having Ranjitt take her back to the city would have ended this wedding here and now. 

But she didn’t escape, because she doesn’t actually want to run away.  She isn’t sure what she should do.  She just needs to try and think for a minute.

When Robin sees their reception tent it just feels right.  She’s drawn in and her feet automatically take her there.  Pausing just inside the tent to take her shoes off, she gathers her skirt up higher since she’s been tripping over it, and she’s so preoccupied looking back through the window to make sure Ted isn’t coming after her that she runs directly into a woman, knocking them both to the ground.

Robin apologizes to the poor woman and helps her up, making sure she’s okay.  The woman responds in kind, asking Robin if she’s okay too, which Robin assures her she is.  But then the woman asks her if she’s sure, being as how sprinting from a church in a wedding dress doesn’t seem very okay.

Now is another chance for Robin to run away and keep on running.  Lie and say she’s fine, or not say anything at all, just take off.  But she stays anyway, knowing that every second that passes increases the odds of Ted finding her.  She stays and she confides her intimate and private innermost feelings to a perfect stranger – something extremely unlike her to ever do. 

Um, to be honest I’m – I’m wondering if this whole getting married thing is something I can go through with.”  She only phrases it as ‘wondering’, not that she’s sure or that she’s already decided it’s a mistake and she wants out.  But even then, just admitting that much out loud a second time has Robin beginning to hyperventilate again. 
Because the truth is she doesn’t want to call it off.  She couldn’t possibly want anything less.  She’s simply still looking for someone – anyone, even this perfect stranger – to talk her out of being a runaway bride and get her to a place of reassurance where she’s calm and it makes sense to be marrying Barney.  She just desperately wants someone to straighten her out and give her convincing peace of mind so she can go back and marry Barney like she wants to do. 

But when the stranger only replies “Oh” and “Wow”, Robin feels her heart sink in disappointment.  “That’s it?” she asks disbelievingly.  No, that can’t be it!  She needs more than that.  “…..Aren’t you supposed to talk me out of it?”  Please, talk me out of it.  “Tell me it’s just cold feet?  I’m – I’m being crazy?” she nods, adding another silent plea to this woman to offer her some help here.

However the stranger’s lone response is to point out, “I don’t really know you.”

Robin blinks.  Of course that’s true.  They don’t even know each other at all so how can this woman possibly give her sound marital advice?  How could she expect that or even ask that of her?  It just shows how crazy she is being to suggest it. 

But she really does need someone’s help right now, someone’s guidance – or even someone to tell her straight-out what to do. 

Her whole life she’s been torn between what she wants and what she should do.  For the past sixteen years, what she should do has won out over what she wants, again and again.  She finally broke that cycle for good and did just the opposite – definitively choosing heart over head and love over reason – by taking a chance with Barney and telling him ‘yes’ back in December.  And her life has been amazing since making that choice.  But in the back of her mind a part of her has been living in fear of the consequences of that risk of following her heart ever since.

“Here’s all I’ll say,” the stranger offers.   “When I’m overwhelmed, I force myself to do one simple thing before I make a decision.”  The woman moves closer, placing both hands on her shoulders, and Robin awaits for some big wisdom of life to be handed down.  “Close my eyes and take three deep breaths.”

Once again Robin’s rocked with disappointment.  Only this time it’s mixed with a heavy dose of cynicism that, not surprisingly, she gets no benefit of deep meaningful life wisdom, not for her life.  She just gets a lot of useless hogwash like ‘take three deep breaths’.

“Sometimes even three deep breathes can change everything,” the stranger avows.

That seems silly to Robin, stupid, but this nice woman appears to genuinely believe it.  And what does she have to lose at this point?  So with a slight smile of thanks she turns away to give this whole breathing thing a shot.

The stranger told her to take three clarifying breaths before making her final decision and Robin takes that seriously, putting on the frame of mind to try to stop being so overwhelmed and just really think back on the whole of her relationship with Barney, what she knows about him, and herself, and the two of them together.  Closing her eyes, she exhales the longest, heaviest sigh of her life and starts to take her first calming breath with the idea to pull from their past – all of their moments, their entire history together – to find that thing to cling to she’s been searching for.

And now that she’s made the conscious effort to quiet her raging fear and pull herself from this panic attack for even just a few seconds her heart screams out, telling her that Barney may have fallen short today but he has done lovely things for her.  Robin’s mind latches on to that fact, drawing from it as she thinks back.

Years ago, Barney volunteered to go with her to give her dogs away; Barney, not Ted – and Ted was her boyfriend at the time, as well as the very reason she had to give away her dogs in the first place.  Yet Barney was the one who wanted to be there to support her.  Barney was the one to dry the tears that embarrassed her when she said goodbye.  Barney was there with no obligation to be and no ulterior motive.  He was just there for her, because she needed someone.

When she came back from Argentina, Barney was the only one who recognized that she wasn’t being her true self and tried to break her out of it.  The same thing goes for her funk after Don dumped her.  Both times he was the one there for her, helping return her to her senses and who she truly is inside.

Back when the gang was first discovering her Robin Sparkles history when Ted guessed she’d been married instead and she revealed to him in confidence that it was “true”, Ted went and immediately told everyone else, heedless of her feelings, while Barney was the one promising not to show the others the rest of her video he’d unearthed because he cared for her feelings and wanted to protect her dignity.


Barney was the one, the only one, she’d let herself fall apart to after Simon dumped her that second time.  Barney held her, made her laugh, complimented her, did and said all the right things with a sweetness and gentleness the others would have never guessed he even possessed.  And all of that sensitivity and warm compassion was just for her, just to comfort her and make her feel better, with no thought of getting anything in return.  He was certainly there for her that night.  She was able to fully rely on him for comfort and support.  She’d never felt so safe in her life as she did that night crying on his shoulder at MacLaren’s.

In fact the “Sandcastles” incident was such a prominent moment for them it caused her to invite him back to her place because she was so touched at how immensely he’d been there for her – and that led her to finally give in to their attraction and sleep with him that night.  It was such a special moment for the both of them and their relationship to come that’s why she chose that song to walk down the aisle to. 

She wonders now how in her earlier rant about the most loving things Barney’s ever done for her she hadn’t considered that moment – and so many other moments like it that are an integral part of their history. 

Like the moments that would come in the days to follow their first time sleeping together when Barney took all the blame, never once telling the others that she had kissed him, just letting them think she’d been seduced by the big bad wolf if that’s what it took to protect the privacy of a moment that should have been only between them.  He even got ousted from the group and temporarily lost Ted’s friendship because of it.

And Barney was there for her too a few months later, convincing her to try for the network job she wanted because she was anything but a joke, believing in her when she’d already given up on herself – which is par for the course as he’s the only one who has always believed in and supported her career.

He worked tirelessly – staying up all night to finish her video resume on his own when she’d lost hope and quit – to secure her the job at Come On, Get Up New York!.  It’s because of Barney and his care and support and endless belief in her that she’s even able to be in this country right now.  He was definitely there for her.  He went above and beyond for her.

Barney bent over backwards trying to learn to be a good boyfriend to her at a time when he was still too emotionally damaged for that to even be entirely possible, but he was willing to do whatever it takes to make her happy.

He brought her back from Canada when she was in the midst of a drunken identity crisis and even got beat up but good defending her and deriding all others in that coffee shop for not seeing how awesome she is.  And all of that was completely spontaneous.  It wasn’t a matter of ‘ask and he’ll be there’ like Ted that day in the park.  She didn’t even have to ask Barney.  He saw she was upset and he just jumped in to make it better for her.  And he later went on to give her the Super Date for that very same reason.  No one has ever done for her the kind of thoughtful and meaningful things that Barney has, things that aren’t just superfluous and for show but actually carry profound value and significance and feeling.

She’s already recalled it once but it bears repeating how when she’d given up and thought herself worthless and unlovable in the face of Don unceremoniously dumping her following her heartbreaking split from Barney, while the others ignored her breakdown Barney was there to challenge her and get her back up on her feet in the way that he knew would unfailingly work to bring back her spunk, her determination, and her confidence in herself.

And Barney got her the win when she needed it most during their Subway Wars.  Ted, who she gave so much acclaim to earlier, wasn’t even willing to let her win.  Barney had to physically tackle his best bro to the street in order to be there for her and give her what she needed.  But he did it, without question and without any notion of taking credit or even of her ever knowing that he’d done it – he still won’t own up to it to this day, still wanting her to feel like she got the win on her own merits, still thinking of her first and being there for her above all else.

When Ted made her doubt everything about herself and preyed on all those insecurities her father and then society created about never being good enough and always being inherently wrong, Barney stepped in to tell her she’s amazing and strong and independent, and that all the things that Ted and the others derided are the very things he loves about her.

Barney was responsible for reuniting her with Jessica.  He used his contacts to hunt Jessica down, disguising it under the guise of trying to buy Glitter’s costume – and she should have known right then since Barney was only ever interested in direct Robin Sparkles props and would have been after her Space Teens costume if he was really after souvenirs.  Then he allowed Marshall and Lily to take credit for the reunion, because the only thing that mattered to Barney was knowing she needed to exorcise those demons to move on and wanting to fulfill that need for her in any way he could.

When she felt bad because even in a hurricane her dad couldn’t be bothered to be concerned about her, Barney told her he was an idiot because a single day without talking to her rendered the entire day no good.  He made her feel that at least to one man she mattered oh so much.

Barney was totally, one hundred percent there for her when he thought she was pregnant with their child.  Rather than running out the door like he’d always done before, he was nothing but supportive of her every step of the way, wanting to go to the doctor with her and even being there to support her in the actual examine room.

When she was feeling bad because she thought he “erased” her so as not to upset Quinn, Barney put his pride aside and showed her his secret collection of them, no matter how it might embarrass him, because he wanted her to know that he did love her and she meant more to him than anything.

Barney was constantly there by her side giving her the encouragement and support to dump Nick when the others were just going to sit by and let her continue in a relationship with a man she couldn’t even bear to talk.  He even rushed into Splitsville offering to do the hard part for her if she felt she couldn’t do it herself.

All throughout “The Robin” that she’d earlier dismissed as built on lies, what Barney actually proved was how well he knows her, better than anyone else.  And not just her habits and quirks.  He knows her heart.  He knew what she wanted, but he also knew she would be too afraid to ever reach for it if he didn’t carefully orchestrate a situation to make her see how much she was risking and just exactly what she was throwing away by being too afraid to face and own what was in her heart.

And once they were back together, he showed what a great partner he’ll be in the way he did everything humanly possible to win her father’s approval.  Not because they’re alike but because that’s what she wanted.  And eventually when her father simply wouldn’t budge, he stood up to the man – something it took her thirty-two years to find the courage to do – telling him how wonderful his daughter is, what an idiot he’s been, and making him go back and apologize to her and at least try to treat her properly from now on.  That right there shows that Barney is nothing like her dad.  Her father never lets emotions rule and guide him, while almost everything Barney does is motivated by emotion and feeling.

Barney beat up Alan Thicke when he thought the man might have taken advantage of her.

He blew up the last remaining copy of The Playbook, even though she wasn’t going to make him do it, just because he knew she was uncomfortable about it.  For him that meant it had to go, and he was determined to show her that part of his life is over and she is his only priority now.

He was ready and willing to sell his beloved apartment simply because he thought it would make her happy.

He told her right out that because of her he doesn’t have to wait for it anymore.  He needs nothing more in his life now because he has her to make him believe in love.

And Barney was so supportive and so intensely there for her, standing behind her one thousand percent, renouncing his entire family in her favor and telling them they’re dead to him because she is everything and will always come first to the point that they might as well not even exist for him such is her superiority and precedence in his life.

When Reverend Lowell was criticizing them and their story, Barney was the first to stand up in their defense because he loves everything about her and their journey to each other.

Barney encouraged her when she feared they might be too much the lone wolves, reassuring her that there is no problem they can’t solve as long as they do so together.  Again, she didn’t have to ask him.  He just naturally did it for her, jumping in whenever she had a need.

Ted was right before;  Barney has been there for her much more than Ted ever has.  Barney’s lied to her, yes, and lying about the locket was bad.  But Ted admitted he told him to do it.  It’s like with Stinson’s Hangover Fixer Elixir; Barney “lied out of love.”  And, regardless, all the lies in the world don’t negate the fact that Barney has come through for her plenty of times in plenty of amazing ways.  He has gone big for her, maybe not to the grand scale of flying all over the country but in ways that were just as necessary and important to her at the time.  And all of that means way more than just a silly locket whose only importance lies in what she’s given it, not the universe.

Now that she’s slowed down and gotten a hold of herself long enough to see things more clearly, Robin instantly recognizes that all of the things she said about Barney before weren’t in any way true.  She’d been irrational and her criticisms had been unwarranted.

He may have lied in “The Robin” but it was absolutely necessary.  She knows herself and because of that she knows how necessary Barney’s extreme actions were.  Anything less wouldn’t have gotten through to her.

And he lied to create their brilliant and amazingly awesome rehearsal dinner, but it was all done simply to surprise her.  How can she hold that against him?  She did the same thing for the very same reason at his bro mitzvah.  She lied right to his face over something big and did it with meaning and feeling.  That’s the very same thing she just condemned him for with the locket.

She justified her lie because she did it for the greater good, for this surprise that she knew he’d love.  She understood why she was doing it and therefore didn’t see it as something wrong.  But that’s hypocritical.  It can’t be right for her but wrong for him.  Granted, pathological lying was in Barney’s past personality, but she can’t forever put his past on him in the here and now.

So Ted got her locket by desperate means?  Why does that mean she owes him anything?….And maybe that’s just it.  Maybe it wasn’t so selfless after all.  Based on what Ted said to her early this morning, maybe in those moments when he was “going big” to look for her locket all he was secretly doing was hoping it might change her mind.

And even if not, so what?

She knows Barney would fly all over the country for her too to get her what she needed if he only knew what it had really stood for to her.  She knows he would have.  She doesn’t doubt that at all.  And besides, she shouldn’t even be setting up ‘tests’ for him in her mind and judging him based on if he comes through.

Furthermore, what he did with both “The Robin” and their rehearsal dinner, that wasn’t “not real” and it wasn’t all built on lies and b.s.  It was a stunning and beautiful demonstration of his love and appreciation for her.

Barney is always doing that for her, accepting her and loving her and appreciating her in a way that none of the rest of the gang has, none of her family has – no one has ever done.  No one has ever loved her the way that Barney loves her.  So what is she afraid of?  Why be afraid to trust her heart and her future to a man like that?  There isn’t anyone else in this world who would do right by her the way that Barney does, over and over again selflessly putting her needs and feelings first.  So on one day he didn’t come to the park – after she told him not to.  What does that even amount to?  Just once Barney didn’t come when she called.  Just once in an entire eight year relationship with him, in the huge list of ways he has been there for her like no one else ever did or will.

So he lied to her about the locket?  That’s not good, but she understands why he did it.  Ted told him to do it.  He only wanted to calm her.  He was only doing what he thought was right by her, what he thought was a good thing.  He just wanted to make her happy.  That’s the theme repeated again and again in all of these things that she’s remembered.


As she takes her second deep breath, Robin outwardly nods to herself at the inward realization she’s made, at the ton of amazing and loving things Barney has done for her.  Any of the tiny handful of allegedly “questionable” things are inconsequential in the grand scheme of their lives. 

She’s blown this whole thing way out of proportion.  She knows Barney, and she has been happy with him.  It has been real.  The time since they got engaged has been the best five months of her life.

And all of her mom’s supposed red flags that had her so spooked earlier they actually helped lead to her current panic attack, Robin can see now that they were all blown out of proportion too. 

Barney was engaged to a stripper?  Well, she was briefly engaged to her therapist, despite not being in love with him – and she was only seeing a therapist because she was legally mandated to go after being arrested because of her out-of-control feelings for Barney.  And she ended up cheating on said therapist with Barney, so she’s not exactly one to talk. 

Barney used to run plays to get into women’s pants?  True, but that’s all a thing of the past.  “The Robin” was the last play he’ll ever run, and he destroyed The Playbook not once but twice for her. 

He’s always taking his mother’s side?  Maybe at first, but once he realized how much it bothered her and how insensitive that was that’s why he stopped and told them all in no uncertain terms that his loyalty lies firmly with her. 

He never checks before making plans?  They both have been guilty of that – but not on purpose, just as an instinct after so many years spent independently.  And they’ve since both agreed not to be those lone wolves anymore – and to prove as much they implemented a fantastically awesome No Questions Asked plan together.  They’re amazing at working together.  Their laser tag championships stand as ample evidence to that fact.  They’ve always made a great team – as bros, as partners, as lovers, at making fun of Ted, at everything. 

They had a huge fight right before their rehearsal dinner?  Well that doesn’t even count since the fight was staged and Barney knew that would be her reaction.  It was all in the interest of her unforgettable surprise. 

For nearly the first ten years she didn’t know what he did for a living?  Yes, but that was literally a state secret, and he kept it from her just to protect her. 

He’s slept with a bunch of women?  That one’s true, but he’s done with that now; he even thinks one night stands are disgusting.  And she hasn’t exactly been a saint herself.  Her list is far longer than most women’s.  The only important thing is that she knows above all no matter how many women Barney has bedded she was always more than just another number to him.  And she loves the fact that even after all those women she was still so singular to him, the only one he ever madly loved and couldn’t forget. 

Forget the red flags.  There are no red flags.  Her mother’s cautions about her dad that Robin feared might apply to Barney too, they all amount to less than nothing. 

So even though she has no idea that her fiancé has in fact now walked into the reception tent, still, by the time Robin opens her eyes she’s already decided to go back and marry Barney.

It’s scary, yes.  But screw the odds.  The odds don’t know her, and they don’t know Barney.  The odds would have had them never even falling in love to begin with.  But even before they were officially together, and after, and since they’ve been engaged, and in all the years in between, there have been thousands of ways he’s made her feel so special and so loved, thousands of ways he’s let her know that she is the only thing in the world that truly matters to him.  She doesn’t need him to find some silly locket to show her that.

Of course Barney has been and will be there for her.

And as Robin takes her third breath, she turns……and sees that Barney is standing with her in the tent – already there for her – the answer she needed all along. 

Taken aback, she blinks just to make sure he’s real.  “Barney?” 


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