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[ the get out of jail free card ]
Robin, when she reads the newspaper, has a little conversation with herself. The headline reads Stiller’s Waters Run Deep and she says “oh, really, is that the best you can do, this is like the tenth time someone’s used that headline about Ben Stiller.” The headline reads Iraqi Head Seeks Arms and she says “do they not proofread, come on, that’s ridiculous.” The headline reads Panda Mating Fails, Veterinarian Takes Over and she says “okay, that’s actually funny. I would definitely watch that video on youtube.”
It’s part of the morning ritual by now-- and no, Barney can’t believe they have a ‘morning ritual’ either-- Robin reading front page politics, Barney reading the trades. AKA, Robin having a one-sided argument with the paper, and Barney staring at Robin with a stupid, asinine, goofy ass grin on his face and sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
This morning-- their six-week-aversary he calls it in his head because please, like he’s going to say that out loud (he held his tongue in check for their fourth and fifth week-aversaries, he can do it this time too)-- Robin is talking herself through an article about schools and the pros and cons of whether or not expelling students will curtail the smoking habits of teens.
She says: “Bunch of idiots, like they won’t just go home and smoke even more and their parents probably won’t even know they got suspended in the first place because they’re too busy with their heads up their own asses, God, idiots.”
Barney says: “You scare the shit out of me.”
She blinks, like somehow she thought the newspaper had said that to her, and then looks up at Barney. “What?”
“You,” he says, willing himself to laugh it off, play it off (why yes Robin, that was me pretending to be the newspaper, you crazy-lady-that-talks-to-inanimate-objects person, you) like it’s nothing, ha ha, just a joke. “Scare me.”
She blushes slightly and tucks her hair behind her ear. He fights off a hysterical giggle. “Okay, so, maybe it’s a little… I mean, I know sometimes I talk to my morning paper, but ya know, if they weren’t stupid idiots I wouldn’t have to snark back at their black and white quotes, so.”
“No,” he says, swallowing thickly. The Lily in his head – she’s been living there since he’d lost his mind and actually told her he was in love with Robin before he’d even really admitted it to himself – tells him it’s okay, just tell her, and if you’re a good boy I’ll make you cookies! (he really needs to deal with his mother issues). “I mean… you make me crazy. I… I don’t know what to do with you. To you. With myself. Oh, God, I need more coffee.”
He can feel her eyes on him as he busies himself making another cup of coffee, which should have consisted of lifting up the pot and pouring another cup but somehow, when he does it now, it takes about five minutes and involves sticking his pinky in scalding hot coffee to see if the consistency is right, as if he doesn’t know by now just looking at it.
“Okay,” she says slowly, all don’t-spook-the-bear, and watches him sit back down across from her and do everything but look back at her. “I scare the shit out of you?”
“Yes,” he says, squeezing his eyes shut and flattening his hands against the table. “You scare me, but not you so much as me, the way I feel about you, scares me, it terrifies me, it makes my clinically insane, I should be taking fucking Paxil.”
“You know, there’s been a lot of bad press about Paxil--”
“Robin.” He opens his eyes and looks at her. “I’m actually being serious.”
She sets her newspaper down and looks at him like what she really wants to be doing right now is bolting out the door, and this is exactly why he hates, hates, loathes Lily Aldrin and Marshall Erikson for making love look so god damned easy and like something he maybe actually kind of wants now.
“I’m not sure what you want me to say. I’m sorry?”
He lets out the breath he’s been holding. “I. Look. Here’s the thing. What I mean is… I don’t.” He mentally berates himself: Barney Stinson, this is decidedly not the most awesome you’ve ever been. Get it together.. “You’re the most amazing, beautiful, awesome, bro-tastic woman on the face of this Earth and you make me want things I swore I’d never want again and it makes me do stupid things like sing in the shower and buy you an engagement ring that I know I can never give you because if I do you’ll leave me, and it’s not fair, and I hate it.”
Her eyes are as wide as saucers. Smooth, Stinson.
“So what I’m saying, Robin, what I’m trying to say is…” He fights down the bile rising in his throat, choking him, and tries to locate the balls he’s sure he had when he woke up this morning. “Is that it’s not my fault that you made me fall in love with you, so when, and I mean when not if, I do and say these stupid things you make me feel and think, you have to give me a pass because it’s all you, Scherbatsky. You did this to me.”
She blinks at him. “A pass.”
“Yes,” he says, nodding fervently. “Like if I ever truly lose my mind and propose to you in the middle of a MASH marathon, you have to ignore me.”
Her fingers tighten around her coffee cup. “That’s the second time you’ve mentioned marriage, Barney.”
“Yes,” he yells (screeches more like), “did you not hear the part where I said I actually literally bought you an engagement ring? It cost $3,000 and I bought it on my lunch break Tuesday because I saw a bird and Marshall said it was a robin, and I’m fucking crazy, are you not listening to me?”
She swallows and now it’s her that looks like she’s about to puke. “Barney. You can’t propose to me.”
“I don’t want to,” he says, and in his head he hears Lily saying lies!!! and he tells her to shut the hell up. “I don’t want to get married and have babies and move to frikkin’ Alberta, except when I’m around you. Or… when I’m thinking about you. Or when someone says your name.” He pauses. “Or, apparently, when I see a bird.”
Her mouth quirks on a half of a smile. “I make you want to move to Canada?”
“God no,” he says, snorting and waving a hand. “Except, do you want to? Because I will. I was looking online and there are some cabins in-- NO!”
She closes her eyes and sets down her coffee cup. “Listen.”
He steals himself for the inevitable break up, and gives himself a Misery High-Five for calling this one correct. Stupid Lily and Marshall. Oh, just tell her. Be honest. Honesty’s the best policy. He’ll kill them when he’s able to breathe again, after Robin rips his heart out and stomps on it.
“Barney? Did you hear me?”
He blinks. “What? No. I was busy planning my own eulogy. It’s gonna be awesome.”
She laughs. “I said I love you.”
He freezes. This is some sort of joke. This must be that let them down easy tactic he’s heard so much about. I love you but you disgust me. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m super busy right now, love ya, kisses.
“… not ready to get married right now, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be, and I’m sorry if that hurts you.”
“It’s not that… no,” he says, shaking his head. “No, see, I’m not… I just, I have urges. To, ya know, be Ted-like, and profess my love, and get down on one knee, but actual marriage? No. No thank you.”
She frowns. “I’m confused again.”
He groans. “It’s like this,” he says, leaning forward. “It’s like you’re this drug, okay? Herobin… No! Extascherbatsky. Okay? And I’m addicted. I can’t stop. I tried. For a year. I can’t shake it. And when you look at me, or kiss me, or just… exist anywhere in the same fifty mile radius of me, I get all high and stupid and crazy and want to, I don’t know, do some Broadway Showtune in Times Square, and believe me, I’m just as horrified by it as you are.”
She nods. “Extascherbatsky. That’s my name and ecstasy right?”
She looks down at the table and taps her fingers in a slow rhythm. “So you’re saying, you want to be able to do or say these things without the repercussions, by utilizing a free pass.” She looks up and him and tilts her head. “Sort of like a get out of jail free card.”
He nods excitedly. “Exactly!”
“So like, if I was to do something extra super duper sexy like sneeze five times in a row, and you proposed, I would, instead of answering, ask you if you want to utilize one of your free passes.”
“Yes,” he says, pointing a finger. “But, I have unlimited passes.”
“Okay,” she says, nodding slowly. “But I have a counter offer.”
“Anything,” he says, and the Lily in his head says I told you so and he means to smack her but instead he gives her a big fat wet kiss right on the mouth.
“I get a free pass on freaking out,” she says, pointing at him. “Because I can’t guarantee that if you propose to me, I won’t run screaming.”
He nods. “Of course. Because it’s crazy.”
“So I get to freak out and come back like nothing happened,” she says, raising her eyebrows at him. “No questions asked, no deep conversations and I’m sorry’s and promises that I can’t keep about how I won’t do it again?”
He wants to lay his head down on the table and have a quiet little cry about how perfect this woman is for him, but instead he just grins at her. “Absolutely no deep conversations or I’m sorry’s.”
She grins, this bright, beautiful smile that makes his heart sing and soar and do other stupid Ted things that Barney doesn’t do (does not do, do you understand me?). “You’ve got a deal, Stinson,” she says, sticking out her hand.
He shakes it firmly and grins back at her. “Thank God.”
They kiss and make love (have sex, do it, bang, shag, fuck, get their swerve thing on, not make love, not not not not) on the floor of the kitchen because when Robin kisses him Barney stops thinking and stops caring about getting his suit dirty and wrinkled and doesn’t care about bruises on his knees or mashed cereal crumbs in his hair.
Later that day he goes over to Lily’s and thanks her with a kiss on the cheek, and she really does bake him cookies.
Because Lily is awesome, in his head and in real life.