It was almost midnight. Robin hailed a cab and told the driver Barney's address. She dug her phone from her purse and quickly typed a text to Barney, "Hey! Still up? Just left the bar. On my way there."
A couple minutes later, her phone buzzed. "Barely. Long day at work. Will be here tho."
"Good. Be there in 20."
Exactly 22 minutes later, Robin was walking into Barney's apartment building. When she lifted her hand to knock on the door, Barney opened it, surprising Robin.
"Hey, Scherbatsky!" Barney greeted, smiling.
Robin smiled back. "Hey." Robin walked over to the couch, two glasses of scotch already prepared.
This time, she was determined to get to the bottom of things. If she didn't want to lose her best friend, she needed him to talk about it–about everything. Or, in the very least, she needed to know what was going on with him.
Barney followed Robin to his couch. She grabbed on of the glasses of scotch and took a sip.
"Ah, that's nice."
Barney smiled and took a sip of his own.
Robin made herself comfortable with her scotch and her silent company. She was going through a list of questions that she wanted to ask Barney in her head, but made sure to wait until they were properly worded.
And she waited until the third scotch.
Robin turned her head to face Barney. Her eyes must have showed the many questions hiding in her head, she thought, because Barney was looking into them searchingly.
Barney gazed back to the coffee table, where his glass was.
"That was my third, huh? Time to talk about things I don't really want to talk about?"
Robin didn't respond, but she eyed him carefully. She could see him thinking; maybe debating exactly how much he would tell her tonight.
After watching Robin leave – to Barney's apartment, he was sure – Ted realized that this is the latest the rest of them had hung out at the bar in quite some time. He also realized that he had no intention of leaving any time soon. And it looked like the happy couple didn't, either.
For a few minutes they all just sat there, quietly, sipping their beer.
"I'll try again, tomorrow," Ted finally said, waking the others up from their daydreams. "I'm gonna go around the office and find out what happened to Barney."
Marshall nodded and Lily smiled. "You're a good friend, Ted."
"I don't know about that. I'm just trying not to be a dick."
Ted looked around the bar. Everything looked the same. There were quite a few people there. But somehow it seemed so quiet – so lifeless.
"Man, I really miss Barney."
Marshall and Lily smiled at him sadly. "I do too, Ted. We all do," Lily said, while Marshall nodded along.
After a long moment of silence, Robin decided that she should start this conversation. "Barney, what's going on with you?"
"It's not about me." Barney answered quickly, but in a very low voice that Robin could barely hear him.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know."
Robin felt that she should have been unsatisfied with that answer, but Barney's voice sounded so sincere. "Who is this about, then? Ted?"
"No." Pause. "Not exactly." Another pause. "Well I guess it is kind of about me."
"What is it?"
Barney looked into Robin's eyes and it broke her heart a little because she saw that those blue eyes, which used to be so bright and lively but now seemed dim, were trying to pour everything out from his heart. All the things that he seemed to be reluctant telling her.
"Barney, talk to me. Please," Robin pleaded. She could see that he was still debating if he should actually tell her.
Barney sighed loudly before finally answering, "as I said, I don't really know. I just felt like I'm not good enough. Or I should try harder. But it's just not worth the try. I'm tired of trying because I don't know where the finish line is. Maybe I've crossed the finish line but no one told me and I've ran too far that I've missed everything. So, what's the point?"
Robin took a few seconds to process the information that she had just acquired, but couldn't seem to wrap her scotch-induced brain around it. "Uh– what?" She remembered him asking the same question during one of their nights.
Barney ignored her, and continued on. "The four of you make a good group. A great one, in fact. Plus, the booth was actually meant for four people."
Robin's eyes widened. She was terrified to find out if Barney was actually talking about what she thought he was talking about. "Barney, what are you–"
Barney pressed on. "Maybe some of us are just not cut for all these. We're just meant to be...different than the rest. Be alone."
Robin started to panic. "No, Barney! What are you talking about?"
"I mean, relationships never worked. I know I tried it only twice but both times ended terribly. And even friendships–" Barney looked up to the ceiling, unconsciously. He was deeply absorbed in his own monologue, forgetting that Robin was there, listening.
"I don't know. I don't think it's worth all the effort."
"Barney!" Robin shouted to get his attention back towards her. It worked and his eyes snapped onto hers. And she immediately softened. "Barney, I really need you to know that we're your friends no matter what. I'm sorry if we made you feel that you need to make all this effort just to be our friend, but you don't." Robin took Barney's hand. "Please don't cut us off. Ever." Her voice started to shake.
Barney looked down to Robin's hands that were holding his, and squeezed them gently. Then he directed his gaze back to her eyes and nodded, faintly. His heart was breaking over the tremble in her voice and the tears behind her eyes.
Robin was tired and the heavy air around them wasn't helping. But she knew that she would hate herself if she didn't try her all to keep Barney there. So she pressed on. "What's going on with your job?" Robin asked, after taking a deep breath.
Barney dropped his head back onto the couch and sighed. "Nothing. I'm not fired. I still work for Altrucell."
"But Arthur got your office!"
"I said Altrucell, not GNB."
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing. It's nothing."
"Barney..." She could see that his armor was building back up. The effectiveness of the scotch was wearing down and she was sure that he wouldn't voluntarily drink more just to spill more to her. And she was too tired and too incompetent in these situations to think of another way. She could see him slipping away, right before her eyes.
The next day, Ted got home from work feeling dejected. Yet another day at the office filled with the higher-ups berating him. This time because he was asking around about what happened to Barney. Still no clues whatsoever though. Once in his apartment, Ted dropped his suitcase, went to the bathroom to splash some water on his face, and walked right out to MacLaren's. He didn't even care how his hair looked. Alcohol was badly needed at that very moment.
It wasn't until he was about to open the door to the bar that it occurred to him that he didn't even see if Robin was at the apartment and invite her down. But that thought was squashed when he was inside, noticing that Robin was already at their booth, a scotch in her hands, deep in thought.
Ted walked to the bar, got himself a beer, then sat down opposite of Robin. No words were exchanged, he just nodded to her and she responded the same way. Neither seemed to be willing to talk, even though they were both sure that the same reason – the same person – is filling the other's thoughts.
Carl and Wendy must have looked in their direction at least twenty times, because of how strange the sight was: two people, friends for years, at a bar with drinks, sitting in complete silence for the longest time. None of them said a single word, until Lily showed up all cheerful like she usually would.
"Hey guys!" Big smile on her face when she sat next to Robin.
"Hey." Both her friends replied at the same time. Lily could see that they were forcing those smiles to greet her.
"What happened?" Lily frowned.
"What? Nothing." Ted answered, then looked at Robin, "unless something's going on with you?"
Robin shook her head.
"Well both Carl and Wendy are looking in our direction with quite the interest, so something must be going on!"
Ted and Robin looked at each other, but neither answered.
"It's Barney isn't it?" Sadness crept onto Lily's features. Again, neither of her friends answered.
After a pause, Ted finally said, "well I still can't figure out what's up with his job. So I have no idea how to get it back for him."
"I don't think that's necessary." Robin responded. "I don't think he cares about that."
Ted was too scared to ask but looked at Robin questioningly.
"Did you talk to him again, Robin? What did he say? Is he okay? How is he?" Lily was getting anxious about the whole Barney situation.
"He didn't say much." Robin couldn't decide if that was a lie or the truth. "But I think we broke him."
"What do you mean?" Ted asked in a small voice. Guilt is obvious in his eyes.
"I don't know. I think– I think he gave up."
"On us." Robin couldn't look at either of her friends so she eyed the door.
Ted could feel his heart beating faster. "Did he say anything about his job?"
"Well," Robin paused. "He just said that he wasn't fired, and that he's still working for Altrucell but not GNB. So I'm guessing they're transferring him or something? I don't really know..."
"Oh." That was all Lily could say.
"Wait." Ted slouched down. "Transferring out of New York?"
Lily's eyes widened in terror. "No! Barney Stinson leaving New York City?"
Robin didn't think of that before. Could it be true? "I– I actually don't know. He didn't say anything." She told herself not to cry. She had been crying a lot lately. Over one guy. And she needed to stop.
"It can't be. Barney can't just leave. He won't. Right?"
The question was left hanging and once again, the group of friends submerged themselves in total silence.
Robin couldn't remember how or when they decided to hop on a taxi going towards Barney's apartment, but there they were. She wasn't really registering what was happening around her; her mind was filled with her own monologue. Why didn't you think about him possibly moving away? That was Ted's first question, you should have thought it! Idiot.
Lily called Marshall, telling him to go straight to Barney's apartment and meet them there. Marshall went without asking any questions, hearing the urgency in his wife's voice.
The ride seemed a lot longer than it actually was. Marshall was standing in front of the entrance when they finally arrived.
"What's going on?" Marshall half-shouted once the cab door was opened.
They all hurried out of the cab after paying and went into the building. Lily didn't answer Marshall's question but she grabbed his arm, urging him to just move along.
"We think Barney's moving away." Lily finally said once they were in the elevator.
Ted and Robin were staring at the number display, waiting for Barney's floor to show.
"What? Moving away, where?"
"We don't know, but he's getting transferred from GNB and we're just assuming that he's moving away." Lily bit her lip.
Marshall had millions of questions in his head but he realized that none of his friends present at the moment could answer them. They probably had the same questions themselves.
All four practically ran out of the elevator when it reached Barney's floor and immediately knocked on the door when they reached it.
"Geez!" They heard a voice from inside. They realized that all four of them were knocking on the door, and they immediately stopped. Then they heard footsteps approaching the door. Then the door opened and Ted and Lily burst into the room.
"Hey, buddy!" Marshall greeted nervously. He was hanging back at the door, urging Robin to go in before him.
Robin saw that Barney was quite upset about them barging in on him. She eyed him cautiously.
Ted, after being quiet for so long, just couldn't keep it in any longer. "Are you moving away, Barney? Why didn't you say anything? Why didn't you tell any of us anything?" He realized he sounded angrier than he intended and backed down a little bit.
Barney turned towards Ted but didn't say anything. Ted took another step back when he saw Barney's angry glare.
"You're really leaving New York?" Robin asked in a soft voice.
They took Barney's silence as confirmation.
"Where are you going?" Lily asked, the desperation was clear in her voice.
"You were just gonna up and leave, without telling any of us?" Ted asked nervously, still haunted by what he saw in Barney's eyes.
"Barney–" Robin plead, reaching a hand out to touch Barney's arm. "Can you just talk to us? Please?"
"You're not gonna tell us where you're going? You're just gonna leave us, leave your life, and go build a new one somewhere?" It was Marshall this time.
Barney wasn't making eye contact with any of them.
"Barney, you can't do this." But even Ted knew it was hopeless. Barney had made up his mind and nothing they could say would change it.
"So we're like, what, Shannon 2.0 to you?" Robin noticed that her voice was shaking. Again.
"Please don't do this. You can't just leave us! We're your friends. We– we care about you." Ted was grasping on straws. "We love you."
"We do!" Lily piped in. "The bar has been so... lifeless without you and I really don't want to imagine what our lives would be like without you in it." The others nodded, though Barney probably didn't see it because he was still staring at the wall, avoiding their gazes.
Robin was the first one to understand. The only one. He was avoiding them because he was building a new shield. One that wouldn't let them anywhere near him. He already started building towards his new life.
"This is really it?" Robin stepped closer to Barney, and he finally looked up at her. "You're leaving?" And she wrapped her arms around his neck. "You should have told me. You promised you'd tell me if something's going on!" She pulled him in tighter.
Barney returned the hug, buried his face in her hair, and whispered, "sorry."
Ted, Robin, Marshall, and Lily walked into MacLaren's, all feeling down and useless. They dawdled towards their regular booth, but Carl stopped them.
"Hey, Ted, hold on a sec!"
Ted stopped at the bar while his three friends continued on, giving a nod of acknowledgement to Carl. The bartender went and picked up a tray. He set down a pitcher of beer, a bottle of scotch and four empty glasses, then went towards the cash register. He extracted a small, expensive-looking wooden box from behind it and placed it on top of the tray. He then handed the tray to Ted.
"What is this?"
"Drinks," Carl answered. "And a box of very overpriced cigars."
Ted looked at him questioningly.
"They're for you guys. And I'm only as sure as you are as to who this is from. Just got the box of cigar with a note attached to it and some cash for the drinks. No names, though." He paused for a moment, before adding, "oh, and a $100 tip. It actually says on the note that the $100 is for tips. But even then there's more than enough cash for the drinks so if you need refills or anything else–"
Ted looked down at the tray and picked it up. He couldn't quite figure out what he could say, so just nodded at Carl before taking the tray to the booth, from where his friends were watching him.
"Barney?" Robin asked casually when Ted reached the booth.
Ted nodded. "I think so. Carl just got a note with no name on it." Ted put the tray on the table and took the seat next to Robin. He stared at the drinks but he couldn't touch any of it. He was debating himself on which one is more rude, to actually take the drink that Barney bought them or to just leave it there untouched.
"Well he's quick, that's for sure." Robin reached out and grabbed the scotch and took a sip, to Ted's surprise. "Barney bought us drinks. Would be a shame to let them go to waste!" she said, off-handedly, to the stares of her friends.
Marshall agreed so he poured beer to the three glasses, giving each to Lily and Ted before taking a gulp from the last glass. Lily followed suit.
Robin grabbed the cigar box and opened it, smiling. Only the best from Barney Stinson, she thought to herself. She handed Ted, Marshall, and Lily one each and put one in her mouth without lighting it.
Lily started crying. Marshall was doing his best to stop the tears from rolling down and swung an arm around Lily to hold her close and comfort her. Ted had his head in his hands, muttering "no. This can't be it" over and over again.
Robin lifted her tumbler of scotch as if making a toast, and whispered, "to Barney Stinson!" She had a small smile on her face, but tears were visibly building in her eyes. "Idiot," she said, looking down, and one teardrop finally rolled down her face. Just one last time, she thought, one last cry for Barney Stinson.
Yes, it's finally over! :') Sorry for the extra long wait, life got in the way of writing this (graduated college, moving to my own apartment, starting my first job, etc.)
But here it is! Hope it doesn't disappoint. But if it does, drop a few words in the review/comment section ;) It's been a fun ride. I really appreciate all the reviews and comments.
If it seemed rushed in the middle, maybe it did because I felt like I was dragging it on (not wanting to let go) and it was getting really long.
Again, I apologize for the delay. Hope some of you guys are still around to read this. And if you are, thank you a whole bunch!