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[ The Breakup ]
When Robin and Barney break up, it’s a completely different story. No upcoming nuptials to keep them mum, no need to keep up a façade of happiness, no continuing to hold hands or sitting on the same side of the booth. In fact, Robin doesn’t even see Barney for three full weeks after they brake up. Nor does she see Marshall all that much. She sees Lily and Ted, but even with Lily it is stilted and uncomfortable and painful, and later, once he actually gets it, Ted’s even worse to be around.
“I’m sorry, Robin,” Lily says when Robin breaks down and cries. “Of course we’re still friends, I love you, you know that. I just… he’s so heartbroken.”
“Well so am I,” Robin says, wiping at her tears and feeling humiliated. She’d meant to ask in a sly, subtle way, not let loose a torrential downpour of patheticness.
Lily wrinkles her nose at her. “Really?”
Robin crosses her arms over her chest. “Yes, Lily, I still care about him ya know.”
“Yeah,” Lily says, hugging Robin to her side. “But it’s not the same for him as it is for you. He loves you Robin. Not as a friend, not as a person, but as someone that he actually opened himself up enough to love in a settle-down-and-maybe-marry-one-day way.”
“You know, that’s not my fault,” Robin says, wiping at her eyes again. “I didn’t force him to. I didn’t do anything to make him--”
“No, but you said yes when he asked you out, and you knew he was in love with you,” Lily says, frowning when Robin jerks away. “I’m sorry, but it’s true. I told you then. If you didn’t mean it you should have said no.”
“Well how did I know? I like being with him, Lily. It was fun and easy. I thought maybe I could feel that way back. And now everyone hates me.”
“We don’t hate you,” Lily says, averting her eyes.
“Maybe you don’t, but Marshall does, and Barney does.”
Lily reaches over and strokes her hair. “I know you didn’t mean to hurt him. But you did. And Marshall’s angry about it for now, but he’ll get over it.”
Robin looks at her balefully. “You’re angry too. Don’t try to deny it.”
“I am,” Lily says, shrugging. “But I know you didn’t mean to hurt him, so it’s easier for me to forgive you.”
Lily is the first to find out. It’s 1 o’clock in the morning and she’s just starting to drift off to sleep when her phone beeps that there’s a text message.
It reads: Game over. Robin 2, Men 0.
She types: What?
Two minutes later: She’s gone. She left. We’re done. How many ways do I need to say it?
She sits there stunned, staring at her phone. Marshall rolls over next to her and grumbles something about beeping being disallowed in the bedroom but she ignores him.
“Robin broke up with Barney,” she says, handing him the phone.
“Shit,” Marshall says, sitting up and now fully awake, and rather than texting Barney back he dials it. “Hey, buddy.”
His voice is tiny over the phone, not Barney’s usual bluster, and just a little bit muffled. She’s pretty sure he’s been crying if he’s not crying still but she’ll never tell and neither will Marshall. “… had a good run, Barney, but it’s not working out,” is all she catches.
Marshall closes his eyes. “I’m sorry, buddy.”
“Maybe she just freaked,” Lily says hurriedly, yanking the phone from Marshall. “Maybe she just needs a day to cool off and think about things--”
“Lil, stop,” Barney says, and normally Lily wouldn’t have listened but his tone actually accomplishes what he’s asking for because she’s never heard him like this before. “It’s not the first argument we’ve had like this.”
“Listen,” Marshall says, taking the phone back. Lily grumbles and Marshall rolls his eyes at her but obligingly hits the speakerphone button. “Robin is a notoriously bad breaker-upper. She’s the worst, according to Ted. Maybe she didn’t mean--”
“Marshall, Jesus, shake the sleep outta your ears and hear what I’m saying. We’re done. End. Finito. Over.”
Marshall looks at Lily and frowns. “I’m coming over,” he says, handing the phone to Lily. “You want me to grab Ted or you just wanna get drunk outta your mind?”
“Don’t,” Barney says, sounding utterly and completely defeated, and that’s when Lily starts to cry. “Don’t bother, go to sleep, Marshall. I’m just gonna… I don’t know. Stare at my ceiling.”
“Yeah,” Marshall says, pulling on his pants and leaning over to kiss Lily goodnight. “I’ll be there in twenty.”
“I just… I felt suffocated.”
Ted leans back on the couch and looks at her. “You’ve really gotta work on that, Robin.”
Robin sighs, draining half of her beer in one long swig. “If you’re pissed at me too I might as well just go lock myself in my room.”
“I’m not mad at you, Robin,” Ted says, smiling softly at her. “I’m just saying if you keep going through life shutting out every guy that loves you, you’re going to wind up alone. And you keep saying that’s fine, but I think you’re full of shit.”
She plays with the label on her bottle. “Do you think…” She purses her mouth together, breathing out through her nose. “I mean, will we ever be able to hang out again?”
“You can hang out now,” Ted says, leaning forward. “With me and Lily and Marshall at the bar. Barney’s not going to be there, he’s… stopped coming.”
Robin feels her eyes fill up with tears again. “Oh great, so I’ve ruined MacLaren’s for him too now.”
Ted shrugs. “Let him lick his wounds for a while, before you know it he’ll be right back to his disgusting, womanizing, gross old self.”
“Marshall hates me,” Robin says, and it hurts worse than she thought it would. She expected maybe a little anger on behalf of his friend, but not hatred. Not from Marshall.
“He doesn’t hate you,” Ted says, putting his hand on her knee. “He’s pissed. He’s the only one Barney’s letting around him these days, he’s seeing first hand what this did to him.”
Robin glares at him. “You mean, what I did to him.”
Ted looks apologetic and he doesn’t have to say it for her to know that yes, that’s exactly what he meant.
“Conference call.” Barney doesn’t budge so Marshall walks further into his office. “Barney. Conference call.”
Barney finally snaps out of his far off gaze and looks at him. “Huh?”
Marshall sighs. “Roof. Beer. Pigeons. Now.”
Barney shakes his head, turning back to stare at his computer. “Not right now. Later.”
Marshall unplugs his computer. “Yes, now. I will forcibly drag you if you have to.”
When they get up to the roof there are now two chairs and a small plug-in refrigerator, the longest orange extension chord in the world running down the stairwell to plug into the nearest outlet. Barney’s mouth twitches and it’s the closest he’s come to smiling in four days. “Nice. Refrigerated.”
Marshall hands him an ice cold beer and opens one for himself, settling down into the Yankee’s fold out chair and spreading his legs. “I figured this called for longevity and comfort.”
Barney sits down next to him and kind of collapses in on himself and it breaks Marshall’s heart all over again. He takes a sip and doesn’t even comment on the fact that domestic sucks and why didn’t Marshall at least spring for the imported stuff?
“Hey, did you get that video I sent you with the golden retriever and--”
“I think it’s time for you to talk,” Marshall says, not looking at Barney, instead looking out at the skyline. He knows that if he wants Barney to talk, he’s going to have to not look at him at all. “I’ve done the lets get you drunk thing, I’ve done the let’s toilet paper the laser-tag building again thing, I’ve even done the lets throw beer bottles off the top of the apartment building thing.”
Barney’s half smile appears again. “And the let’s pee on the Metro News One building thing.”
“So I think it’s time to talk about it,” Marshall concludes, making shapes out of the clouds in front of him. If he concentrates hard enough he can see a rabbit in the one on the left.
“Let’s not,” Barney says, kicking his feet out to rest on the ledge. “Let’s just do the sit here quietly and enjoy our beer thing.”
“Listen,” Marshall says, and he faces Barney then because avoidance isn’t working so direct is all he has left. “When Lily left me--”
“Not the same thing.”
“But it hurt the same,” Marshall says, waiting for Barney to look at him. “That’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life, it was nine years Barney. I was with her nine years and we were going to get married and she left me.”
“She came back,” Barney says, looking away again.
“That’s not my point,” Marshall says, reaching out and putting his hand on Barney’s arm. He knows what little comfort that is, but it’s all he’s got. “My point is that you were there for me, and I wanna be there for you. So I think you should talk about it.”
“I was there for you,” Barney says derisively, looking at Marshall with a withering look. “I made fun of you, I kicked you while you were down, I left the room when you cried, and I--”
“Got her to come back,” Marshall says, shaking his head. “Barney, if you hadn’t flown down there and told her to come back, God only knows where we’d be now.”
“Right,” Barney says, nodding tersely. “Excellent. Tell you what, Marshall. Go fly to San Francisco and bring Robin back to me, could you do that?” He laughs, a harsh, bitter sound that sounds like nails on a chalkboard to Marshall. “Robin’s not coming back. Robin hasn’t even had the decency to fucking go anywhere.”
Marshall lets his hand fall from Barney’s arm, feeling hopeless and totally lost. “I don’t know how else to help you, Barney. I just… I think you should talk about it.”
“Talking,” Barney says, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. “God, Marshall, you’re such a girl, you and Ted both. Talking does no good. Talking doesn’t make it better, it doesn’t get her back, it doesn’t make me fall out of love with her. What am I supposed to talk about? How she found a way to break through all the steel, Superman-proof walls I’d built around my heart and strip it away piece by piece until all it knew how to do anymore was love her, and then stomp on it? Because that’s about the gist of it, Marshall, that’s about where I’m at.”
Marshall sank lower into his chair. “I’m sorry, man.”
“No. Talking doesn’t help,” Barney says, and Marshall pretends not to notice as Barney wipes angrily at the corner of his eye. “Talking is for other people. I just need to pick myself up, dust myself off, find some busty blonde to fuck, and move on.”
Marshall looks at him for a good long while and then turns to look back at the skyline. “And me? What should I do?”
“You,” Barney asks, reaching in the cooler and pulling out two new beers, handing one to him. “Just… be there.”
Marshall takes the beer and nods. “I can do that.”
“Oh,” Ted says when Robin lets herself in. Lily is at the other end of the couch and Marshall is between them and both Ted and Lily look supremely uncomfortable and fidgety. “Thought you had work.”
“Don’t feel good,” she says, letting her purse fall to the floor as she looks at the side of Marshall’s face. “Took a personal day.”
“We’re watching football,” Lily says, gesturing towards the tv. “We have… wings!”
Robin smiles at Lily’s nervous attempt to smooth things over. “That’s okay, I’ll just go to bed.”
“No,” Marshall says, standing. “This is stupid.” He faces her. “Look. I don’t hate you, okay? I’m just… at this point it feels like a betrayal to Barney to be friends with you.” He shrugs. “I’m sorry, that’s just how it is right now.”
Robin blinks tears back, which she’s been doing more and more lately. “I’m sorry,” she says, stepping towards him.
Marshall meets her eyes and nods. “It’s not me you owe the apology to.” He raises his hand as she starts to speak. “I’m just gonna go. You live here, it’s ridiculous for you to feel uncomfortable in your own apartment.”
“Please don’t go,” Robin says, reaching out to grab Marshall’s arm as he starts past her. “I don’t know how to fix this. I want to fix this. I miss you. I miss all of you.” She holds her breath for a moment and controls her voice. “I miss Barney.”
Marshall covers her hand with his and offers a weak version of his normal smile. “It’ll work out, Robin. Just give it time.”
She sits dejectedly between Ted and Lily after Marshall leaves, sighing and kicking off her shoes. “I’m Yoko,” she says as the tears spill over.
Lily and Ted each take one of her hands and they watch the Patriots soundly kick the Bears’ ass for the next three hours. Robin wonders silently how much money Barney just made.
Lily comes over by herself at the end of the first week with beer and pizza. She sits on Barney’s couch and watches him stare at the tv, jaw twitching every few moments. “So you’re pissed at me.”
He looks at her, confusion on his face. “Why would I be pissed at you?”
She gives him a look. “I don’t know, you tell me.”
He rolls his eyes. “Please, I’m not pissed that you still hang out with Robin, Lily. I could give a shit.”
She scoots closer and puts her hand on his leg. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
He sighs, looking down at her hand on his thigh. “I’m not mad, Lil. Really.”
“Yeah, you are,” she says, and it’s not a question, it’s a statement, so he looks at her. “I’m the one that encouraged you to try. I’m the one that told you to go for it. Open yourself up. I thought… I thought she felt the same way. I thought I was giving you good advice.”
He reaches down and takes her hand in his but looks away. “I’m really not mad at you. The thing is… I felt the way I felt regardless of whether or not I wanted to. In fact, I’m glad it happened.”
She bites her lip, looking at him. “You are?”
He smiles and shrugs. “Yeah. I mean… now I know, right?”
Unlike Marshall, unlike Ted, she doesn’t ignore it when a tear falls out of his eye and rolls down his cheek. She leans up and kisses it away, because unlike with Marshall and Ted Barney makes no attempt to wipe it away. She snuggles up next to him and wraps her arms around him.
It’s not until that moment that she truly understands how bad it is for him, because the thing is… he lets her.
Robin finds herself hanging out more with her other friends, because there aren’t any looks of pity or blame, no awkward silences, no mini-heart attacks that she’s going to walk into a room she’s not supposed to five minutes too soon and see Barney or Marshall. And it hurts like hell to feel like that when she’s just going home after a long day being something less than she thought she’d be at this age, so she starts hanging out with the old crew, the ones she’s pretty much completely lost contact with.
Cynthia is, surprisingly (sarcasm is Robin’s special friend these days), post-break up yet again and Robin wants to yell at her and say all the things she’d always avoided saying.
So she does. “You know, you’re the one who fucks it up.”
Cynthia’s hair is red now instead of blonde and it makes her look even bitchier than she usually does when she’s not getting laid. “Excuse me?”
“Why do you have to always make it into a big huge deal? Why can’t you just let it be? You always try to insinuate yourself into every aspect of their life, want to know every little detail about every little thing, tell them you love them way too soon, like, as soon as they wake up in the morning and they still have morning breath and sometimes people just need to breathe, Cynthia, sometimes people just need to have their own fucking life.”
Cynthia looks like she’s about to throw the drink in Robin’s face but then she frowns and sinks back in her chair. “But I didn’t do that with this one. What are you talking about?”
“And you’re always getting pissed off when they speak to anyone you don’t approve of because you think he’s going to cheat on you, and yeah, maybe he was flirting but maybe he just flirts, okay? Sometimes people flirt and don’t even know they’re flirting, sometimes they just do it! And do you know what all that does? Make them want to cheat on you!”
Cynthia smirks. “So Barney cheated on you and broke up with you, that’s why you called me to hang out. Got it. He was a sleaze anyway. The blonde one right? He was gross.”
Robin’s mouth shuts, teeth hitting sharply. “You know what,” she says, looking away. “You don’t know him, you don’t get to say that.”
Cynthia rolled her eyes. “I don’t need to know him, I can just look at him.”
“Barney’s a really great guy, and yeah, it might take a while to see that but he is, and no, he didn’t cheat on me, and I didn’t cheat on him.” Her fingernails dig into her skin so she wraps her hands around the scotch and hates that this drink will always remind her of Barney even though she’d been drinking it before she’d ever met him. “We broke up because--”
“He’s a sleaze?”
Robin glares at her. “Cynthia? Shut up.”
Cynthia slides closer and puts her hand on Robin’s and it makes Robin want to throw up. She still doesn’t understand how she was ever friends with this idiot. “So he broke your heart. I’ve been there, girl, trust me. You’ll get over him.”
“For your information, he was completely in love with me,” Robin says, and curses herself for the lump that forms in her throat. “I’m the idiot that couldn’t handle it and bolted.”
Cynthia smiles in that way that tells Robin she thinks the story is still backwards but she’ll let Robin off the hook for the sake of her ego. “Okay.”
“I broke up with him,” Robin insists, and she doesn’t even know why it’s important Cynthia gets this, except she feels some weird sort of need to make Cynthia understand that she’s not the wronged party here, Barney is. “He made me feel like I was the best thing that ever happened to him and it was too much pressure, because a person that feels like that about you? You’re supposed to feel like that about them. And I didn’t.”
Cynthia nods. “He was just a Mr. Right Now. I understand.”
“No,” Robin says, covering her face and scrubbing at it. “No he wasn’t. I wanted to. I tried to. There’s… there’s something wrong with me and I just can’t let myself feel like that. Not even when I want to.”
When she opens her eyes she can see Lily looking at her from across the bar in the booth that she used to share with them with an apologetic look in her eyes and she wants so badly for it to be Lily she’s talking to but she can’t.
Barney needs his friends more than she does right now, and it hurts, but she deserves that right now and she knows it.
“Ah yes,” Barney says, grinning widely at the bevy of beautiful college girls with perky breasts and fruity drinks. “This is more like it.”
“At what age exactly does this get pathetic,” Ted asks, clapping a hand on Barney’s shoulder. “We’re more than ten years older than them, Barney.”
Marshall makes a knock-it-off face at Ted and steers Barney towards the bar, ordering three draft beers and turning around to survey the crowd. “Three o’clock. She’s pretending to be happy to be here but you can tell from the way her eyes dart around she’s insecure.”
Barney smirks respectfully at Marshall. “Nice observation skills, Marshall.”
“How about barely-legal-brunette over there,” Ted says, gesturing with his beer to the clearly tipsy girl swaying to the jukebox. “Knockout.”
“No,” Barney says, barely even looking at her. “No brunettes.”
“Why,” Ted starts but Marshall’s look stops the word in his throat. “Right. Blondes.”
“And redheads,” Barney says, grinning at the ringlet haired redhead across the room from them with that predatory way of his.
As Barney heads over to her Ted leans into Marshall’s space. “Why the sudden pickiness about hair color? He’s never even cared if they had hair.”
Marshall rolls his eyes. “He just got dumped by a brunette, Ted. You think he wants to be reminded of that?”
Ted frowns. “It’s been a week, he’s probably had five blondes by now, he should be past the hair color thing.”
Marshall frowns at him.
“You really don’t get it do you,” Marshall asks, turning to face him. “You’re still thinking of the old Barney, the one that moved past things in seconds. He’s not that guy anymore.”
Ted frowns but laughs. “Come on. Really? They didn’t even date that long.”
“It’s been a week, and this is the first time he’s even attempted to hook up,” Marshall says, raising his eyebrows. “That sound like the Barney you’re thinking about?”
Ted looks over to where Barney’s flirting and laughing and leaning against the table. “No. But he seems the same. He’s smiling.”
“Yeah,” Marshall says, rolling his eyes. “He’s smiling but look at him. Really look at him, Ted.”
Ted does and that’s when he notices that there are bags under Barney’s eyes, and they’re red-rimmed. He’s fidgeting like he’s wired on coffee, and he keeps fucking with his tie. He’s looking into the redhead’s eyes and not staring at her chest, and every now and then there’s a moment when he’s not speaking and he looks so heart-broken that Ted feels the air thicken with it.
“Oh,” Ted says, looking back at Marshall. “She actually broke him.”
“This is why me being friends with her feels like a betrayal, Ted. You know I hate hurting her feelings, I wasn’t just doing it to do it.”
When Barney comes back over Ted puts an arm around him and smiles at him. “Hey, you know what? I love you, man.”
Barney laughs and his eyes flick to Marshall’s. “What the hell’s up with that?”
Marshall shrugs. “You know Ted. Always been a little bit of a two-beer queer.”
Barney laughs and grins at Ted. “Love you too. Now get off me, I’ve got women to bed.”
Ted lets his arm fall and turns around, tapping on the shoulder of the nearest bottle-blonde he sees. “Hi,” he says, waving at her. “Haaave you met Barney? He does magic tricks.”
Robin picks up Ted’s cell phone when Barney calls on the tenth day. “Hey,” she says, glaring at Ted as he tries to swipe the phone from her. “It’s… it’s me.”
“I’m aware,” Barney says, tonelessly. “I called Ted’s cell on purpose, ya know.”
“Hey, come on, Barney,” Robin says, sitting down and wiping the hair out of her face. “I’ve called you. I’ve left a ton of messages.”
“And you’d think the fact that I returned exactly none of them would give you a hint.”
Robin bites her lip and ignores the way Ted is looking at her. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just… I thought it was better this way. It wasn’t fair to you, Barney. But I do love you.”
“Great, awesome, because hearing it the first time wasn’t enough, thanks for clearing that one up, Scherbatsky,” he says, and then there’s silence and it takes Robin a full minute to realize he’s hung up on her.
Ted takes the phone from her and looks at her for a moment. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
She glares at him. “Don’t tell me what to do, Ted.”
He raises his hands. “Hey, if you think forcing the issue was the best way to handle it, awesome. How’d that work out for you, by the way? Oh, that’s right, he hung up on you.”
“You know, Ted,” she says, standing up and angrily grabbing her purse on her way towards the door. “Sometimes you’re a real dick.”
Ted’s mouth goes tight. “Back atcha,” he says, and she feels it like a slap, even though she knew it was coming.
“And they all hate me, because I hurt their friend. And that’s fine, it is, but it’s like they forgot I was their friend too.”
Carl hands her another shot of Red Dragon and leans his elbows on the bar. “Do you know how long they’ve been coming in here?”
Robin shakes her head and downs the shot.
“Nine years,” Carl says, and he takes the shot glass and replaces it with a snifter of Johnny Walker Blue, neat. “They’ve sat in that booth, the four of them, for nine years, and girls have come on gone for Ted and even more have come and gone for Barney, and friends have come and gone, but those four have remained.”
Robin lets out a huff of air and lowers her eyes. “I’m being ousted.”
Carl leans closer. “No friend has lasted four years, Robin,” he says, smiling and putting his hand on hers. “This group doesn’t understand how to not be loyal. They get something they like and they hold on to it. This bar, that booth, the four of them, nine years.” He shrugs. “They’re pissed at you, but you’re not out. Trust me. I serve them their alcohol, I’ve carried Ted home, I’ve wiped up Barney’s puke, I’ve listened to Marshall cry over Lily, I’ve seen all of Lily’s art. No one knows them better.”
Robin smiles at him. “Carl. I kind of love you, you know?”
He laughs and starts wiping up the bar. “Barney will work through it, and Ted will stop being a little bitch, and Marshall’s too much of a softy to hold a grudge so I give him about two more days.”
“He is,” Robin hisses, leaning in closer. “You’ve noticed it, he’s being such a little bitch!”
“Ted didn’t realize that Barney actually loved you,” Carl says. “He’s kind of oblivious. Until a few days ago, which is I think when he started being a dick.”
She wrinkles her nose at him. “Carl, I think you’re psychic. It’s kind of freaky.”
“Finish that and go home,” he says, grinning at her. “It’s two o’clock and I have to lock up. Get some sleep, it’ll look better in the morning.”
She leans over the bar and gives him a kiss on the cheek. “Thanks, Carl.”
He winks at her. “No problem. It’s my job.”
Barney calls Ted and then puts him on hold and when he comes back Marshall is on threeway. “Okay, fellas. You ready?”
Ted laughs. “Ready for what?”
“Ready for what,” Marshall says with a laugh.
“Both of you are gonna suit up. And why? Because I have something planned tonight that is going to… Blow. Your. Minds.”
Ted laughs again, walking into his room and wondering if his suit is clean or not. These days, he doesn’t say no when Barney tells him to suit up. “Are we talking formal suit up, or casual suit up?
“We’re talking… are you ready for it? Are you? Because you have to be ready for it, and you might want to be sitting down for this.”
“Come on, Barney, enough teasing, out with it,” Marshall says, and the lack of sleep for the past week and a half are clearly getting to him because he actually sounds annoyed.
“Okay. Okay… are you sitting down because I am about to blow your--”
Ted and Marshall both yell at him: “Barney!”
“Strip poker with… wait for it.”
Marshall groans. “Barney.”
“Playboy bunnies. What up!”
Ted’s eyes widen. “Barney?”
“I… I love you.”
Barney laughs, an actual laugh, an Old Barney laugh full of mirth and just the slightest bit of condescension. “Yeah you do.”
“I can’t do that,” Marshall says, sighing. “Man, you suck.”
Barney lets out a snort. “Please, Marshall, of course you can.”
“Lily will kill me,” Marshall hisses. “I can’t!”
Barney snorts again. “Put her on the phone.”
“Marshall, put Lily on the phone right now,” Barney says, and there’s just the slightest tinge of desperation in his voice that makes Ted mentally send messages to Marshall that they have to do this.
“Why am I on the phone,” Lily asks, confused and giggling. “Marshall handed me the phone with the guiltiest expression he’s ever had.”
“Lily. Marshall is coming out with us tonight.”
Barney lets out a triumphant ha. “Yes!”
Ted clears his throat. “Barney, tell her the whole thing.”
Barney sighs. “Fine, Marshall will tell you anyway because the two of you can’t keep a fucking secret to save your life.”
Lily laughs. “I’ve kept secrets, Barney. Remember that time you told me about the thing with the thing in Bangkok when you--”
Ted raises his eyebrows. “Bangkok?”
Lily giggles. “I’ve never told that secret.”
Barney sighs. “Fine. Strip poker with Playboy Bunnies.”
Lily is silent for a moment and Ted finds himself crossing his fingers. “Okay, Barney. He can go.”
Marshall’s loud “really?!” on the other end makes both Ted and Barney laugh.
“Yes, really,” Lily says, sounding reluctant but not actually pissed. “But only because I love you, Barney. You understand me? The second you’re feeling better there’s no more taking my Marshall out every night and showing him naked boobs, okay?”
Barney laughs. “That you know about.”
Lily’s voice takes on that Second Grade Teacher Tone. “Barney.”
“Okay, okay, put Marshall back on,” he says, honest to God giggling.
Marshall comes back on the phone sounding stunned and like he’s trying to hide his excitement and failing at it miserably. “How the hell did you do that?”
“Because I’m awesome, Marshall Erikson.”
Ted grins. “You really are.”
“Tonight is going to be legen… wait for it, and I hope you’re ready for some silicone filled awesomeness tonight because you two losers so owe me for this… DARY!”
When they hang up Ted gets a text message from Marshall that says first legendary we’ve heard in two weeks… I’m afraid to hope.
Ted grins and types back not there yet, but close… and tonight? SO WORTHY OF A LEGENDARY!.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Robin, I’m sure,” Lily says, leaning back on the couch and propping her feet up on the coffee table. “It was his idea.”
Robin sits on the couch next to Lily, fidgeting with the label on her beer. “It’s just… I get it, ya know? Why he’s been avoiding me. I hurt his friend.”
“And I keep telling you, you’re his friend too,” Lily says, reaching over and taking the beer bottle out of Robin’s hands, tearing the label fully off before handing it back to Robin. “Now chill out and relax. It’s been too long since all of us were together.”
Robin doesn’t say that not really all of them are together, because she’ll take what she can get.
“So then she says, hey Ted… have you ever seen this tattoo? And then she shows me the tattoo on her ass and it’s actually a bunny! Can you believe that? A bunny! A playboy bunny with a bunny tattooed on her ass!”
Marshall rolls his eyes and takes the beer out of Ted’s hands, handing one to Lily. “Yes, Ted, I can believe it. And do you know why? Because I was there.”
Ted frowns, that petulant frown of his that always, always makes Robin feel all warm and fuzzy with affection for him. “You’re no fun. I don’t have anyone else I can talk to about this.”
“You’ve told me the story four times,” Lily says.
Robin raises a hand. “Ten.”
Marshall gives them both a look. “Please, I have you all beat. No less than thirty times, he’s told it to me. And I was there.”
“Okay. Game time,” Lily says, changing the subject when she sees Ted open his mouth to tell it again. “Marshall, quick.”
Marshall opens the box with a flourish. “Trivial Pursuit,” he says, grinning as he lays the board down. “The best thing Canada ever produced.”
Then, looking up at Robin, he grins. “Well. The second best thing Canada ever produced.”
Robin feels like she just might cry so she busies herself with fighting with Ted over who gets the orange pie. “Ha,” Ted says when she loses the coin toss. “In your face, Scherbatsky.”
Robin sticks her tongue out at him and grabs the green pie. “Jerk.”
Ted looks at her, glowering in the most fake way possible. “Canadian.”
Robin grins. “Thank you.”
Ted flails that it wasn’t a compliment and Marshall just catches her eye and laughs.
It’s a good night.
Lily practically catapults herself into Barney’s arms when he shows up at MacLaren’s that Tuesday night. He laughs and hugs her back. “Settle, Aldrin, there’s enough of me to spread around, no need to mark your territory.”
Marshall grins at him and slaps his shoulder. Ted smacks the seat next to him and bumps his fist with Barney when he sits down next to him.
“Since you came back to us,” Wendy says as she carries a trey full of mugs of beer, “this round is on the house.”
“Nice,” Barney says, grinning at her and taking the beer. “Do I get any other form of special treatment for having come back?” He winks, looking her up and down.
She laughs and turns around, leaving.
“Worth a shot.”
“No, Barney,” Ted says, in lecture mode but not really having his heart in it. “No ruining the bar again.”
Barney looks around and Lily leans forward, lowering her voice. “She’s not here.”
Barney waves a hand. “What? Who. I don’t care. Whose not here? I don’t care.”
Marshall’s grin widens. “Smooth. I buy it.”
Barney frowns at him. “I came back, alright? You can’t expect my A Game yet.”
Lily grins, grabbing his hand. “I’m so glad you’re back. It’s just not the same without you here to make me feel sick to my stomach with whatever sleazy pick up line you’re using on whatever random girl you’re using it on.”
“I believe tonight I’m going with a classic,” Barney says, scoping out the place, and this time he’s actually scoping it out. “With her,” he says, pointing at a curly haired blonde in the tightest miniskirt that’s ever been made.
“Nice skirt. It’ll look great on the floor of my bedroom,” Marshall says.
“Ooh,” Lily says, bouncing. “Was that an earthquake or did you just rock my world?”
Ted holds up a finger. “I know I don’t have a chance, but I just wanted to hear an angel talk.”
Barney laughs. “Pathetic, all of you.”
Lily frowns. “Are your legs tired, because you've been running through my mind all day long.”
Marshall laughs. “Nice one, baby. Classic.” He thinks. “I hope you know CPR, because you take my breath away.”
Ted grins. “Are you a parking ticket?”
Lily looks at him. “What?”
Ted’s grin widens. “Because you’ve got fine written all over you.”
Barney points at Lily. “Wrong.” He points at Marshall. “Wrong, but I’ll keep it in mind.” He points at Ted. “Horrible. Never. No.”
Ted frowns. “but.”
“Nooo,” Barney says, reaching over and grabbing a pretzel. “I’m going for classy.”
Lily smirks. “So? What is it?”
Barney grins. “I wish you were DSL so I could get high-speed access.”
Lily groans, Marshall laughs, and Ted looks at him. “Never gonna work.”
Barney shrugs. “She’ll look all horrified and I’ll make puppy-dog eyes and say that you bet me to say that because I just got out of a relationship and I’m kind of pathetic and don’t know how to talk to girls. She’ll feel sorry for me that I have such awful friends and let me buy her a drink, and then I’ll rock her world. It’s win-win.”
“Ten bucks says she slaps you,” Lily says.
“Fifteen on throwing her drink in your face.”
Ted pulls out his wallet. “Twenty on throwing her drink in your face, and slapping you.”
Lily wins, and then twenty minutes later Marshall does. Ted loses on the grounds that the slap and the throwing of the drink were too far apart to count as the same thing.
When Robin gets in from work that Friday Barney is sitting on the couch. She freezes. “Sorry. I’ll… I’ll just go to bed.”
“Ted isn’t here,” Barney says, looking at her. He looks good, she thinks.
“Oh,” she says, still standing like an idiot with the door open and her purse in her hand. “Oh… kay.”
“Listen,” he says, standing. “I was in love and I gave it a shot. You weren’t. It’s not your fault.”
She puts her purse down. “It’s not that I don’t love you--”
“Please don’t give me the love you as a friend but not more speech, I’m really not in the mood to hear that,” he says, holding up a hand and walking towards her. “Look, I’m just here to say… it didn’t work out. It’s… well, it’s not okay, but it’s how it is. So stop hiding out in the apartment and come down to MacLaren’s with us.”
She bites her lip. “I wasn’t hiding out. I was… I was giving you space.”
“Well stop,” Barney says, spreading out his hands. “It makes everyone feel shitty and I’m done with it. If you and Ted can do it, you and I can do it.”
A ghost of a smile crosses her face. “You’re sure?”
Barney looks at her and he smiles, and it hurts but it feels so good because she’d been starting to think he’d never smile at her again. “Yeah. Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I’m gonna change,” she says, pointing at her room. “But… I’ll come down.”
“Great,” he says, already heading for the door. “Because I’ve decided to try the your body is a wonderland and I wanna be Alice line tonight, and you should totally be in on the betting.”
“Really,” she asks, just as he’s about to exit. He stops and looks at her. “Alice? You really think calling yourself a girl is gonna help you score?”
He frowns. “I wanna bag you like some groceries?”
She shakes her head. “Do you have any raisins? No? How about a date?”
He frowns at her. “I expected better, Scherbatsky. That’s corny.”
She shrugs. “It’s charming. She’ll think you’re cute.”
“I like the concept, but it’s not quite…” He thinks, sticking his hands in his pocket. “Are you lost? Because heaven's a long way from here.”
“Ding, ding,” Robin says, finally grinning at him. “I think we have a winner.”
“Awesome,” he says.
“I’m just gonna…” she points to her bedroom and starts to head there.
She stops. “Yeah?”
He looks away. “I missed you.”
“Me too,” she says.
“So,” he says, clearing his throat and bouncing on his heels. “I’ll see you down there,” he asks, pointing behind him.
“Yeah,” she says, walking backwards. “Be right there.”
Barney grins at her and there’s still a sadness in his eyes that doesn’t match the smile, but he’s trying and she can too, even if it means helping him come up with lame pick-up lines to use on the girls he’s using to get over her.
She feels like it’s kind of the least she can do.