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Fanfic: Catching the Clock, 9.08, Part Four

Downstairs, Barney knows just where to look for his mom.  As he knew he would, he finds her in the bar nursing a white wine with a second full glass already waiting beside it.  He’s aware she feels guilty.  She hadn’t meant to be that cruel and he knows that, but this still has to end.  She has to accept Robin once and for all, accept that Robin is and will be the most important thing in his life and therefore she has to love and care for her too – or at the very least treat her well.

“Hey, Mom,” he soberly greets, sliding onto the empty bar stool next to hers.  “We need to talk about this.”

“I swear if I had known, I never would have said anything.”

“I know.  And that’s my fault.”

“So….Robin can’t have kids.”

Barney closes his eyes, acknowledging that with a tilt of his head.  It’s the ‘can’t’ part that bothers him.  Because if he had his way there isn’t a thing Robin wouldn’t be able to do.  The whole world would be open to her to do whatever she pleased.  She never wanted kids, and that most likely would never have changed throughout the course of their marriage anyway, but he still hates that the choice was taken away, leaving her feeling powerless and less than whole.

Loretta recognizes that this next part is going to sound harsh but she has to say it for the sake of her son.  “But you always wanted children.”

Here he’s quick to set his mom straight.  This is the same sort of ill-thinking Robin once had and he’s not quite sure where it’s all coming from.  Sure, he’s great with kids and he loves his nephew and niece and godson, but there’s a difference between liking something and wanting it for yourself.  Most of all, he wants to be certain that his mom knows Robin’s not holding him back from any dreams.  That’s not what’s happening at all.  Being with her isn’t costing him anything.  It’s giving him everything.

But she asks how long he’s known about this:  meaning, did he go into his marriage proposal knowing full well of Robin’s infertility, or is it something she sprang on him afterwards?  In other words, might it have changed his mind if he knew before he asked?  Barney’s easily able to read between the lines of what his mother is getting at, and he assures her he’s known for month’s now – well before he proposed.  Not that it would have made a difference anyhow.

He still remembers quite clearly the night she told him.  It was at a time when he and Robin were walking that awkward line between friends and something more.  They both were in love with each other but neither one knew how the other felt.  And there was the pesky matter that she was still technically dating another man…. 

It’s only been a few days since Robin went with Barney to give back Brover and she still sees visions of how distraught he was taking that call, how he tried to hurl himself over her balcony.  She’s 99% sure he was bluffing, but on the off chance that there was even the tiniest part of him that was serious she’s been keeping a close eye on him in the time since.  You know, for his protection and wellbeing….and nothing else more complicated than that. 

Under that same spirit of friendship, she’d decided that morning that she’s hanging out with Barney tonight, no matter what.  She has it planned perfectly.  Ted has basketball practice, she knows, so that leaves just her and Barney to meet up with Marshall and Lily at their apartment after work for a beer. 

Once they’re all there, Robin wastes no time orchestrating the whole thing.  She nonchalantly announces she’s bored and suggests they do something different tonight, go out somewhere fun and new.  She already knows Marshall and Lily will beg off; they just got back to the apartment to relieve her dad and will have to look after Marvin all night.  And with Ted otherwise occupied and Nick busy at work for the night, it’ll be just her and Barney alone. 

She misses hanging out with him.  That’s the simple truth of it.  Plus the whole misunderstanding with Brover’s owner has got her thinking.  Barney acted strangely too about being mistaken for a couple.  It wasn’t just her who got a little jumpy, and…..sometimes she wonders.  Since he broke up with Quinn, sometimes she wonders if he could ever still want her and feel that way about her again. 

Not that it matters, she quickly silences that line of thought.  Because she totally has a boyfriend and she’s only thinking of tonight as a bro’s night anyway, she reminds herself.

As soon as Robin mentions wanting to go out for the night, Barney’s excitement spikes.  While it’s something of a bummer to know that an era is quickly coming to an end with Marshall and Lily too busy being parents to come out and have fun, it still feels like Christmas has come early because it means he’ll have Robin all to himself for the night. 

From the moment she walked into the apartment, he noticed her skin-tight black jeans and matching black wedge boots that make her legs appear to go on for miles.  With her looking that casually sexy he knows exactly where they’re going.  Tonight’s all about showing her a good time – a far better time than Nick, who can barely form three-syllable words, could ever show her that’s for sure.

So Barney takes Robin downtown to this all-night, secret, underground bar.  She’s known him for so many years that she barely blinks an eye at entering through what appears from the surface to be an average sewer grate.  This is just part of the craziness of hanging out with Barney.  It’s crazy but more than anything it’s so much fun

She’s always enjoyed spending time with him just the two of them, but they haven’t been on a night out like this for so long that she’s almost forgotten just exactly how much wonderful, dizzy, exhilarating fun it is being alone with him.  They drink, they dance – at a discreet enough distance – they eat the freshest sushi either one of them has ever had.  He even talks her into riding the mechanical bull.

The whole night feels like old times, only better and deeper because they’ve grown and bonded and been through so much together over the intervening years.  And Barney loves every second of it.  He’s not manic and out-of-control when he’s with her.  He still feels the need to keep up the facade for appearance’s sake, but he’s more grounded and stable and happy spending time alone with Robin again.

When they eventually leave the bar – because it’s after two a.m. and they both know that’s the danger zone – Barney just has to let out an evil little laugh when Robin mentions the mechanical bull. 

He couldn’t resist; he’d flirted her up there.  She was sitting at the bar with him leaning at her side when the DJ drew the crowd’s attention to the antics of the obviously drunk and scantily clad blonde bimbo who was just losing her balance and being thrown from the mechanical bull at that very moment.  “Come on, Robin.  Get up there,” he’d coaxed her.  “We both know you can stay on ‘the bull’ all night and ride it much better than her – or any of these women in here.”  She’d given him a look that he felt all the way down his spine and predictably couldn’t resist his challenge.  Their eyes met across the club as she mounted the mechanical bull, and watching her up there riding it was hotter than most porn he’s seen.

But now Robin ignores his little laugh, tries to ignore what it does to her.  They haven’t had a night like this with just the two of them since before he was engaged, before she was with Nick, before they slept together again, before she thought she was pregnant, before she was with Kevin and he was with Nora, all the way back to the summer of 2011 – back when the spark of being alone together and a night of unknown possibility was full of excitement and anticipation.  Unlike now, when they both sense that it’s a slippery slope they have to carefully keep from falling down because that’s water long under the bridge and they’re each sure the other’s moved on.

So as he walks her home, Barney turns the subject to something safer:  Marshall and Lily’s lameness.  “Promise me if you ever have kids you’ll sometimes get a babysitter and come have an epic night.”  He doesn’t even mean it in the sense of actually imagining Robin as a mother someday.  It was only intended as a mocking indictment of their two friends’ lifeless surrender to awesomeness since they became parents. 

But Robin hasn’t heard much past ‘if you ever have kids’.  It’s funny he should mention that when she was just thinking about back when they believed she was pregnant, which is of course when she found out she’s unable to have kids.  Barney still doesn’t know.  It’s not exactly something you discuss in front of a group….though all her other friends do already know.  Still, if she ever did tell him she wanted to do so alone, and they weren’t alone much since the pregnancy scare.  She was with Kevin, and then he had Quinn, and eventually Nick came along and she didn’t ever really have the opportunity for the subject to come up. 

But if she’s honest with herself, that’s all just an excuse.  There were plenty of times she could have told him if she’d really wanted to.  The day Lily and Marshall became parents; many afternoons and evenings of playing with Marvin; signing the papers to legally become Marvin’s godparents together – any of those times would have been a great opening.  But when she’d told him about their baby that never was, Barney had been so excited to be a father.  Just because he later realized he didn’t want her to be pregnant right then doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t want that later in life, when he’s ready.  Just look at her; she danced and celebrated too but openly wept at finding out she could never have kids – and she hadn’t even wanted them to begin with.  Not really…..It’s complicated.  And she’s seen him with Marvin, and with Eli and Sadie.  Barney’s like magic with kids.  For all she knows he might want a couple himself someday.

The truth is she didn’t tell him because she simply didn’t want to chance seeing pity and disappointment on his face, seeing confirmation in his eyes that she’ll never be able to give him what he wants, that she can’t ever be enough for him.

But that was almost a year ago now and she’s grown a slightly thicker skin about it all.  This is how it is.  She is how she is, and any man who’s going to be with her has to be able to accept that about her.  A life with her is never going to include children.  And maybe she’s a little drunk.  Maybe the buzz of one too many scotches has caused her guard to fall a little.  But Barney’s single now….and she’s grown weary of Nick.  The bare reality is she’s still drawn to Barney and a treacherous part of her that refuses to be silenced thinks that maybe this isn’t the end of their story.  Maybe someday the two of them might eventually find their way back together.  She feels that zip of possibility again, like in the summer before last…..

However, it’s a silly ‘maybe’ if in addition to all the other obstacles between them her inability to bear children is an impassible roadblock at the outset.  But subconsciously she realizes that if she tells him now, just blurts it out, it could be a way of testing the waters.  If Barney is horrified, then that gives her the answer.  But if he’s not, then that ‘maybe’ is still out there for them.

Meanwhile, Barney is oblivious to Robin’s internal debate.  He simply makes jokes about her hypothetical babysitter because he’s Barney Stinson, womanizer extraordinaire, who is always awesome instead and not at all bummed because his friends have outgrown the lifestyle he’s stuck in, doomed to.  And he’s certainly not pining after his best friend, the love of his life who can never be his.

After Barney’s babysitter quip, Robin just comes out with it before she loses the nerve.  “Actually, I – ah – I can’t have kids.  So that’s not an issue.”  She says it nonchalantly, matter-of-factly, like it’s no big deal; she says it that way on purpose to cover up what a very big deal it actually is.  After that, she just tries to keep walking, tries to play it off while at the same time bracing herself to see that pity in his eyes, that look of damaged goods he’s no longer interested in.

Barney can hardly believe what he’s hearing.  Robin just told him she can’t have kids like you might tell a person the bodega is out of milk, like it’s just an everyday thing.  But if it’s true he knows it’s far from everyday, not even for her.  She isn’t forthcoming with anything more, so he puts out his arm and stops her.  “Really?”  She might be a little bit drunk.  Maybe he didn’t hear her properly.  Maybe she’s joking.  It could just be a misunderstanding.

When Barney stops her and questions her pointblank, Robin feels her heart going a mile a minute but she hides it, endeavoring to act like it doesn’t matter at all; it’s hardly even worth discussing.  But at the same time she can’t quite meet his eyes as she confirms the truth of it.  She finds it difficult to even hold his gaze at all in the seconds while she’s waiting for his response, holding her breath and preparing to see the door between them slamming shut and locking forever.  Her body language says it all:  awkward and exposed yet putting up that wall of self-protection, keeping up that front of being tough as nails and untouchable.

Once Robin says it is indeed true – she isn’t kidding; she really is unable to have children – Barney’s eyebrow slowly goes up and his expression melts into pure pain at her pain.  In that moment his heart aches for the scarred, vulnerable woman who already feels like she’s not good enough, who already has more than her share of identity issues because of the father who forcibly raised her as a boy, who surely must feel like this is just one more part of her that’s broken, whether she ever wanted to have kids or not.  There is always at least a part of you that wants to keep possibilities open.  Even the ones you once convinced yourself you’d never want, the ones you think you can never have.  Like her.

Robin sees the emotion playing across Barney’s face and she blinks rapidly, knowing what he’s thinking.  She can’t blame him.  Like she once told Ted, what man would want her this way?  Flawed, incomplete, not quite able to give him the whole package.  But suddenly she feels herself being pulled into a fierce hug, enveloped in his embrace for the first time in a very long time.

Barney holds her tight, wishing he could take this away from her.  He would do anything to change this for her but all he can do is hold her warm and safe, let her know it’s okay.  It doesn’t matter.  It changes nothing about her.  She’s still an amazing woman.  She’s still flawless.  She’s still absolutely loved.  There isn’t a thing about her that’s broken.

It takes Robin a half-second to even process what is happening.  She was braced for the worst of what might be coming next, but this is not rejection.  Neither is it an over-the-top attempt to make her laugh just to cut the tension, like she imagined when she first found out.  This isn’t at all the reaction she expected from him.  Maybe a pratfall, a crass joke, but not this.  This is comfort.  This is empathy.  This is understanding.

She’s still trying to wrap her mind around it, but god it feels good coming from him of all people.  She brings her arms up to his shoulders, hugging him back, just so delighted at this turn of events, at being in his arms once again.  He’s heard her darkest secret and he didn’t go running in horror.  Instead he’s still here, hugging her tenderly.

It occurs to Barney as he’s leaning into her with his neck cuddled against hers and her hair splayed over his cheek while he breathes in its achingly familiar scent – holding her so snuggly that she almost loses her footing and stumbles backwards – that he may be coming on a little too strong.  She has a boyfriend and he’s mindful of the fact that they cheated together once and it left her devastated.  He hates that he even has to ask this, but he doesn’t want to frighten her away or make her feel uncomfortable.  “Is it weird that I’m hugging you like this?” he asks, but won’t move an inch to actually let her go until she says the word.

For Robin, even his question of it being weird is sweet because it’s a reminder that even though he’s been engaged and she still has a boyfriend, even though time has passed and so many things have happened, they will never be only ‘just friends’.  There will always be something more there.  It goes unspoken but they both know it.  This is the closest he’s come to openly acknowledging that and, smiling happily, Robin assures him that it’s not weird at all.  That’s the closest she can come for now to openly acknowledging it.  And yet the feeling of his chin gently tucked over her shoulder is so incredible, so right – like coming home – that she strokes her right hand over his back, her left hand holding him so tightly to her that her fingernails are turning white.

Once she says it’s not weird, even rubbing his back softly, that’s all the more permission Barney needs to keep holding her close in his arms this way just as long as she’ll let him.  And that same traitorous part of Robin’s heart wishes they could stay this way forever….

But then it starts to rain.

His hand is at her waist, the other cupping the back of her neck, and her arms are still around him too, her fingers clutching his suit at his back and chest while the rain pours down, soaking their clothes.  Their mouths are so close; it wouldn’t take but a few inches to bring them together.  It’s almost exactly like that day out in the rain, out in a hurricane, when he comforted her then and it led to another near kiss.  It led to the two of them eventually going to bed together….the very last evening they were out alone together.

So, yes, they both agree that the rain makes it weird.  Yet neither one of them does a thing to move apart.  They just stand there, his hand at the nap of her neck, her face so near to his that her nose keeps brushing his jaw line.

Barney wants to be kissing her so badly.  He wishes he still could now the way he did back then.  But he can’t risk overstepping the boundaries again and pushing her away.

Robin just convinces herself she’s being silly.  If he wanted to kiss her, he would.  And, besides, there will be no kissing.  She has a boyfriend and just….no.  There can’t be any kissing between her and Barney.  “We should probably go.”

“Yeah….” he nods.  “Come on.”  They start running for cover, and he takes her hand – which is totally not weird because he’s just trying to keep a bro from slipping and falling on the wet pavement in her heels.  And if her hand fits perfectly into his, well, that can’t be helped…..

They had a sobering, grounding moment directly afterwards when they arrived in the lobby of her apartment building, laughing at the sight they made dripping wet, still holding hands when Nick walked in just off of work and ready to see his girlfriend.

Even so, Barney knows it’s a night neither one of them will forget.

When he heard about Robin’s inability to have a child the only thing he felt was sadness for what she had gone through.  It didn’t, not even for a millisecond, change the way he felt about her or his fervent desire – more than anything in this world – to be with her for the rest of his life.

“Mom, I’m not marrying some future possibility of starting a family.  I’m marrying a girl….who means more to me than kids.  Or my career.”  Or anything.  Including the Lamborcuzzi – and he has always wanted that, much more than kids.  “So, please….”  Barney waits until his mother looks up at him so she can see how much he means this.  “….be nice to her.”

“Okay,” Loretta agrees simply.

It almost seems a little too easy.  He wants to make sure there’s no more tricks up anyone’s sleeve.  “For real this time?”

“Yes, for real.  Barney, it’s obvious how much you love her.  Anyone can see that….”  She looks away in embarrassment as she admits the truth.  “I suppose that’s why I got so upset in the first place.  I know I can’t compete with a love like that.”

“No one wants you to compete, Mom.  Robin certainly doesn’t.  I can love you both.”  His smile turns cocky as he impertinently adds, “There’s enough Barney to go around.”

“Alright,” she smiles at her ever mischievous son.  “I need to find my future daughter-in-law and apologize.”

He stands up, offering his mom his arm.  “Robin’s in our room.”

“Well, let’s go talk to her then.”

Barney and Loretta walk toward the elevator and just narrowly miss Robin and Lily coming down the stairs.

Robin was in too much of a hurry to get down to the bar to bother with the elevator.  Because while Lily was using their restroom and Barney was down talking to his mother, Robin finally got a hold of hers.  She almost wishes she hadn’t.  At least then she could go on pretending for a few hours more that her mom’s flight is just late rather than facing the fact that her mother was simply too scared to get on the plane.

“You know how it is, Robin,” her mother had said.  “I don’t like to fly.  You’ve always known that.  You really should have considered it when you planned a wedding all the way in New York.  But that’s all right; I’ll just stay here.  I’m more comfortable at home than in hotels anyway, and I’ve never even heard of this Farhampton.  Who knows what their accommodations would be like?  Just send me pictures.  It will practically be the same as if I’m there.”

Now, ten minutes later down in the bar, all Robin wants to do is nurse a strong scotch – even if it isn’t yet eleven in the morning.  It doesn’t matter that it’s too early for scotch.  She’s feeling bitter and hurt, so hurt, as she has to tell Lily that her mom isn’t coming; she has no plans at all to make it to her daughter’s wedding.

She feels tears in the back of her throat again as Lily rubs her leg in comfort, trying to cheer her up by focusing on the positives, like what would ordinarily be the very fun idea of jointly convincing Barney that her mom is super fat and keep him comically worried for the rest of the weekend.

Loretta walks into the bar in the next moment and Robin gets ready for a further onslaught, though it’s the last thing she needs right now.  Lily apparently agrees since she jumps in first to tell Loretta to lay off for a while, as Robin’s just found out her mom isn’t coming to the wedding.

Robin tried to stop Lily from saying it out loud, but it’s too late.  Now all she can do is roll her eyes at the reaction that information surely will get.  She would have preferred Loretta not knowing at all, in whatever way that might have been possible – even one of Barney’s crazy Wedding at Bernie’s schemes.  But it’s out there now:  her mom doesn’t even care enough about her to show up.  It’s more fuel for Loretta’s fire.  One more thing that’s wrong with her.  One more way she’s messed up.

However, the older woman merely hugs her.  It must be a Stinson thing.

Robin is just as shocked as when Barney did the same thing when he first found out about her infertility.  Only Barney’s hug was motivated by love.  She doesn’t know what to make of this and she stands there motionless and unresponsive, not quite trusting it, not ready to be hurt to the core for the third time in one day.  “Oh….um, okay, Loretta.”

“My name’s Mom,” Loretta insists.  “Don’t you ever call me anything else.  I’m Mom.”

Loretta keeps right on hugging her tightly and just like with Barney back in the fall, Robin needs this hug desperately too.  “Okay….Mom,” she tries out the word, tries out the title on a woman who is actually here, wanting to be a part of her world.  She blinks as she says it, tears pooling in her eyes again.  Even though it isn’t her birth mother – even if that relationship can never be fully repaired – it’s still so tremendously nice to have a motherly influence hugging her this way, caring for her this way, just to have a woman in her life to call Mom.

Loretta pulls back and starts to apologize.  Sometimes she just gets carried away loving and protecting her children.  But she doesn’t even make it through the sentence because Robin is grabbing her, pulling her back in for more of that nurturing hug.  For more of the feeling of a mother who wants to love and protect you.  It’s enough to start Robin crying again.  “Your eggs are great, by the way.”

“Yes, they are,” Loretta acknowledges, still rocking her in a gentle hug, knowing better than to let go this time.  “But, dear, eggs aren’t everything.  Barney loves you for a million reasons more.  He couldn’t care less if you can make an egg.”

“That’s true,” Barney says, coming into the room and over to her side.  When Robin hears his voice she pulls back from Loretta and turns to him instead.  “Hey, it’s all squared away now, right?” he asks gently when he sees the fresh tears she’s been crying.  “Did you get a chance to call your mom again?”

“She’s not coming,” Robin manages before she breaks down completely.

He takes her into his arms again, into his loving embrace, and the others step away to give them a bit of privacy as he softly whispers soothing words to her.  “It’s okay, Robin.  I promise it’s going to be okay.”

Though she’s devastated about her mom – no words can fix that – Robin does know absolutely that her inability to ‘make eggs’ really couldn’t matter less to Barney.  That alone can’t remove the pain of being abandoned by her mother yet again, but it does make her feel wholly and unconditionally loved by him, which in the end is all she needs.  And so she holds him tighter, burying her face in his neck.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 13th, 2013 10:23 am (UTC)
wow, great job manda600, i was looking forward to reading this chapter from you and you didn't disappoint. too bad you're not a writer on himym they could certainly learn a thing or two from you :)

Edited at 2013-12-13 10:24 am (UTC)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )



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