Spoilers: through 3x18 - "Rebound Bro"
Word Count: 2,173
Summary: Post-"Rebound Bro." Barney and Robin patch things up.
Author's Note: Ahhh, the product of my first day of pointless summer vacationing! This wound up a lot longer and sappier than I meant for it to be. Yaaaay?
Robin hadn’t meant to stay out any later than necessary tonight. As she’d left the house, cursing under her breath and imagining really big pianos being dropped on Barney, she’d devised a plan. It went a little something like this – go; unenthusiastically play along with whatever insane thing Barney wanted her to do for exactly thirty minutes; leave.
Not so much.
Even after Randy stops bleeding all over everything long enough to take off with a girl, Robin can’t quite bring herself to leave: first because Barney comes over to her, all triumphant and smiling, and it’s one of those moments where she can’t help but really like him; and then because he gets all choked up over Ted. After she’s successfully talked him down from his Ted woe for the second time, she feels guilty about the idea of just leaving him there. So she stays.
Secretly, she’s a little glad. Life is weird without Barney in it.
They sit and talk for about an hour, catching up on stuff like work and Marshall and Lily and how depressingly impossible it is to find a quality bro in this day and age.
“You let me down, by the way,” Barney adds, tilting his drink accusingly in her direction.
She feels a tiny, unwanted flash of guilt, and quashes it by retorting, “I’m here now, aren’t I?”
“Fair point,” Barney acknowledges, and clinks his glass with hers. By now, all traces of being pissed off about having to change back out of her pajamas and come all the way back to the bar at midnight have pretty much disappeared.
"There wasn't a sex tape," he adds.
"I figured," she replies, and does a pretty good job at hiding her relief.
"Really?" The corners of his mouth twist up, equal parts smirk and smile; it's that look he gets when he's on the way to figuring her out, and enjoying the journey way too much. "Then why'd you come?"
She finishes off her drink and starts on the story of Stu the Teleprompter Guy getting accidentally stoned on cough syrup. Barney listens attentively, but there's still that spark of interest in his eye.
It’s all great until they finally decide to call it quits for the night. As Barney’s getting up, he asks, like it’s the most casual thing in the world, “You wanna come back to my place?”
It’s like getting stabbed in the heart with the reminder that he’s a big, skeezy jackass. “Barney, I am not sleeping with you again.”
“I meant you could crash there so you don’t have to go back to Brooklyn,” Barney replies, rolling his eyes. Despite herself, she blushes a little. He leers at her, but in a way that’s playful and harmless and Barney. “Scherbatsky, come on. Been there, done that. How long have you known me?”
She scowls, but takes him up on it anyway.
She’s heard a lot about La Casa de Stinson from Lily, but the descriptions haven’t quite done it justice. It is sort of sparse and soulless and horrifying, like Lily said – the kind of place that seems like an actual human being with moral integrity and feelings has never set foot in it.
It’s also weirdly awesome.
“I know, right?” Barney grins, pleased at her approval. “I sensed that you would appreciate it. Your sense of awesome is finely honed. Lily just bought throw pillows.”
Robin feigns a horrified gasp. “That bitch.”
Barney shakes his head mournfully. “Don’t I know it. So,” he adds, pointing, “bedroom’s that way.”
“Barney! We are not sleeping together!”
“For all that stuff about Ted and Male Gail being sensitive, they must have sucked at chivalry,” Barney replies witheringly. “You take the bed. I’ll take the couch.”
Her heart does something weird and fluttery. “Barney, you don’t have to—”
“Okay,” he interrupts easily, shrugging and turning in the direction of the bedroom. “’Night.”
She catches his arm, dragging him backward. “Actually, you do have to. That was just being polite. That bed is mine.”
After she’s washed up and changed into one of his t-shirts (which feels suspiciously coupley, but it doesn’t matter because she’s not thinking about it, no sir), she comes out to say goodnight. Barney’s reclining on the couch, squinting at the ungodly light of the television.
“You know, this’ll probably cause permanent eye damage somewhere along the line,” Robin reflects, cringing a little as she faces the TV head on. He’s watching some infomercial involving a lot of people grinning and gasping in awe at a really shiny salad strainer. It is genuinely enthralling.
“Yeah,” Barney answers, unconcerned. “It’s worth it.”
There’s not really an argument there. This TV is freaking amazing. “Oh, so worth it.”
He moves his feet, shifting into a sitting position, and she takes the vacant space on the end of the couch.
“Thanks for letting me stay,” she says, kicking his foot lightly.
“No problem,” he answers, looking away from the TV to give her a slight smile. “You may have let me down when I thought it counted, but tonight proved that deep down you’re a bro, through and through.”
“Cool.” They settle into comfortable silence. She snuggles a little deeper into the couch, and in the process her shoulder winds up against his. There’s no explosion of a billion tiny fireworks, no jolt of memory that sends her shooting backward, and she likes that. Sure, one time not too long ago they were all naked and entangled, but she’s still Robin and he’s still Barney and they’re still them.
Almost without meaning to, she says, “I’ve missed you, Barney.”
“You too.” He doesn’t look over at her.
She doesn’t want to open the whole big broke-up can of worms again, but she can’t help saying it. “I hate that things are like this now.”
“You seem to be the only one,” he replies, the last word strangling itself. His voice is choked and high as he adds, pointing at the TV, “Oh, look. This salad strainer doubles as a helmet. Gotta get me one of those.”
“Please,” Robin snorts, tossing a glare at the television. “Marshall and Lily and I figured that out like forever ago. And Barney—”
“Marshall and Lily,” Barney repeats, and doesn’t say anything else.
The silence is horrible. Even more so because Salad Strainer/Helmet Salesman Guy’s voice is seriously annoying.
“They do miss you,” Robin finally says, knocking her shoulder gently against his.
“Yeah.” She tries to tell herself his eyes are just watery because of the TV screen.
“And besides, they’re sort of Ted’s,” she adds rationally, and hates saying it. “They’ve known him longer. I guess it’s only fair that they take his side in this thing. But I’m—” She stops herself just before ‘yours’ slips out of her mouth. “—I’m okay with being Team Barney on this one.”
He’s quiet for a long time. When he does finally look over at her, he’s got a grateful smile on his face. “Spoken like a true bro.”
“You know it,” she replies, smiling back. After a moment, she muses, “Do bros hug?”
“Nope,” Barney answers crisply. “Bros operate on a strict high-five, fist-bump policy. Except when enacting Bro Code Article Fifty-Six.” Off her puzzled look, he adds, “I’ll loan you my copy sometime.”
She laughs a little, and wraps her arms around him. At first he just stays all stiff, and for a few seconds she suspects he’s going to push her off and demand a fist bump instead. Instead, his arms come down to loop around her. His hands are steady and warm against the small of her back. She closes her eyes for just a minute.
“Robin,” he murmurs into her hair, “you just broke the Bro Code.”
“Well, then, I guess we’re in that boat together,” she answers, pulling away so she can look at him.
It startles her. His face is open, and sort of sad. He looks young, she realizes.
“You’re a really good friend,” he says plainly.
She doesn’t know what to say back. She gets him, in a way she’s not sure everyone else does. It’s no secret that there’s more to Barney than being an obnoxious womanizer – they wouldn’t put up with him otherwise – but at the same time, she doesn’t know if Marshall and Lily and Ted really get it. Being alone is scary, and it’s hard, but it’s solid. Opening your heart is worse, because what it means is changing, and sacrificing, and for what? Odds are, you’re just going to get your heart broken anyway.
And that’s what this is, really. Ted was the most important person in Barney’s life, and now he’s watching infomercials and hanging out with morons like Randy to hide from the fact that his heart’s broken.
There’s a stupid lump in her throat all of a sudden, and she doesn’t quite know what she’s doing when she reaches out and presses her palm against his face. For a split-second, he looks at her in surprise, but then there’s no pulling back, no ‘what the hell, Robin?’ Instead, he leans into her touch, with something a lot like weakness, or desperation. God, she gets that. She gets that need to touch someone, to be touched, to crumble when somebody else is watching. Burying it can get so hard.
She trails her thumb down the line of his jaw – a place that she’s kissed, but that doesn’t seem as important as this. His head turns, slightly; the corner of his mouth begins to brush her palm.
Warning bells. Lots and lots of warning bells, which are thankfully just loud enough to cancel out the friggin’ choir of ‘Do this, this is good, this feels so gooooood, remember how good this feels?’ voices.
“We’re not having sex again,” she announces, shooting away from him. All of a sudden she can hear the TV again; she’s not sure how she managed to drown it out in the first place.
“I didn’t say we were,” he replies, frowning at her.
“That felt sexy,” she accuses, scrambling off of the couch.
“Don’t blame me, Random Face Caresser,” Barney shoots back. “That was all you.”
“That was platonic!”
“Then why did it feel sexy?” he demands defiantly.
“That was your fault,” she insists, glaring at him. “You gave me sex eyes.”
He scoffs. “I did not give you sex eyes! Those are just my eyes.”
“Those were sex eyes,” she repeats sternly.
“Newsflash, Robin: I have a lot of sex,” he says, all scathingly matter-of-fact. “It wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world if my normal eyes turned into sex eyes permanently.”
“I’m going to bed,” she declares. Her heart is racing really inconveniently. “Alone!”
“Face Caresser!” he calls after her as she storms down the hall.
“Sex Eyes!” she shouts back.
There’s about ten seconds of really tense silence. Then—
“So, you wanna go grab coffee in the morning?”
She bites back a laugh. “Yeah, okay.”
True to Lily’s word, Barney’s bed has one blanket and one pillow. Robin’s torn between finding this sad and ingenious. She can still hear the TV blaring in the living room as she sinks into bed and pulls the blanket up to her chin. The pillowcase is cool against her cheek. She’s probably the first woman who’s ever gotten to reap the benefits of either.
This is where Barney sleeps, she thinks, like it’s something that matters.
The thought freaks her out, for no logical reason. She switches instead to contemplating just how much action this bed must have seen. It’s disturbing in a welcome way.
The next morning, after a pretty epic battle over the one towel (Robin emerges victorious, and Barney salves his wounds by pointing out that it’s not a big deal because he’s already rubbed all over her body anyway), they set off to get coffee. The doorman kind of gawks at them. Robin guesses he’s not used to seeing Barney actually leave with the same woman he arrived with. (Or any woman at all.) When they get to Starbucks she buys, figuring Barney’s green tea can be written off as rent.
“Tell you what,” she says, sitting across from him at a table, “I’m going to talk to Marshall and Lily today, and we’ll figure out a time for the four of us to hang out.”
“I guess,” Barney replies, devil-may-care attitude firmly in place. “If I can fit it into my schedule. I’ve got a lot going on, breaking in my awesome new bro. Something tells me that Randy has the makings of a sex god.”
“You do realize I’m not buying this, right?” Robin arches an eyebrow.
“Uh, nice try, Scherbatsky,” Barney responds, holding up his tea. “I watched you pay for it.”
She rolls her eyes.
“Hanging out with Marshall and Lily would be cool,” he adds casually, then tries to shift her attention by ogling a pair of giggling blondes walking into the coffeeshop.