Title: "Your Devils and Your Deeds"
Rating: Hard R (Language, sexual content)
Summary: A view of the finale that Ted Mosby didn't see and couldn't see, no matter how much the writing was on the wall. Spanning decades and continents, their story was never perfect and they were never perfect, but they were always right.
Author's Note: This came out of me way faster than I expected (and the quality may reflect that). But I was way more gutted by last night's finale than I anticipated, especially after having more or less given up on the show this year. This fic is sort of my way to deal, I guess. I know most fans want light-hearted erasure right now, but the way I need to handle closure is making sense of the finale as it stood. It won't be an easy task and it may not work for everyone, since I'm going to try to keep it as canon as possible (except for the absurd notion that Ted and Robin actually get back together) So, my big point is that this particular story might be a bit more complicated than some of you may want right now (and I totally understand that!) and it definitely won't always paint Barney or Robin in the best, happiest light. However, I believe in them and I believe their fate deserved more than the writers gave them. This is my take on getting them their winding and flawed but ultimately happy ending.
Author's Note 2: There may be continuity issues with the finale because I don't want to rewatch. Just an FYI.
You're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter
and so sweet...
Upper East Side, New York City, New York, 2030
It was improbable that the restaurant still existed, let alone that the decor hadn't changed. After the breathless drive into the city, Ted Mosby parked the family car in an absurdly expensive lot and found himself at the French restaurant once again, marveling at its structure and vaguely trying to believe that its ongoing business signaled some kind of sign. He believed in those once; it shouldn't be too hard to believe again. Staring around at the yellowed walls (or maybe more golden saffron), Ted just...remembered. He remembered Robin, sitting across from him, laughing at his jokes. His stupid, ill-timed jokes about penises that he only made because the gorgeous woman in front of him made him so nervous. It seemed ridiculous now. She had been barely an adult, only 23 years old. How could he have been so terrified, so shaken to his core by such an incomplete creature?
He blinked twice. That was hardly a romantic thought. And he was here to rekindle or return or something. Either way, it was very romantic. Penny told him so.
She's a child, a young girl, who lost her mother only six years ago, Ted. You know she's been grasping at straws ever since. She so wants you to be happy.
He tried to ignore the voice in his head. But it went on. It told him that life didn't move in circles, that life never moved in circles. It was linear or fragmented, but it always moved forward no matter how much you tried to force your blueprints on it. You cannot build a circle. You should know better than anyone that a perfect circle doesn't even exist in nature, Mr. Architect. The voice was soft, laughing, teasing. It sounded like her.
It always sounded like her.
Clenching his jaw, Ted moved towards the maitre d' in a steely daze. He was here for a reason. He was here for a reason. Words flowed out of him and the conversation seemed pleasant. He was too old to steal anymore, he had to go about this the legitimate way. The right way.
By exploiting your wife's death in a sob story? Gee, thanks, Mosby.
"Shut up." He harshly muttered under his breath and Harold (the maitre d', apparently) quickly raised his eyebrow. Ted plastered on a tight grin and apologized for his verbal tic. Money exchanged hands and his sweaty palms gripped the smooth circle (circles, circles) of the instrument. It looked faded to him, but it was probably his imagination. Or maybe his eyesight really was going, like Luke always joked.
Ted took a taxi only a few blocks away. He wondered if Robin knew she lived so close to the restaurant, their restaurant. He wondered if she ever ate there or walked passed it with a longing smile or sigh. He wondered what her life was like. Was she happy? He hadn't seen her since the funeral. He hadn't been sure if she would come. They barely spoke. She had been in the corner throughout most of the wake, her eyes pained and her elbows far too thin. It was almost like she couldn't approach him or didn't want to or didn't know how to. And Ted wasn't sure what he would have done if she had given him anything other than a cursory weak hug. Tracy had loved her, in her own way. But it wasn't the same as how Tracy felt for Lily (who had been inconsolable) or even Barney (who had been unusually lost in thought). Tracy was Ellie's godmother and Lily's true best friend. Robin had never stepped up, not the way she was supposed to. And for that, Ted had been angry. For a really, really long time.
But yet here he was, standing at her doorstep. Buzzing her door, waiting on the stoop, hoping against hope that the woman of his dreams (yes, she was) would still want him. Just like before, just like always. There was no rain this time, but there may as well have been. And the constant gnawing at his stomach, the guilt he felt that he lived and Tracy didn't, reached a fever pitch.
Until he saw her. And her smile.
This time, he went to her. Rushing as fast as he could up the stairs, he waited outside her door which eagerly swung open.
"Ted Mosby!" Her face was flushed and wild, laughing. She pushed a dalmatian back so he couldn't make a great escape. "I can't believe it!"
"Hi Robin." He smiled sheepishly, slipping into her large apartment much to the chagrin of her (quite literal) pack of dogs.
"Hi." She repeated, cocking her head. "How are you?"
"Good, and you?"
"Fine." She sent her dogs to the other room with a pat on each of their bellies. "How are the kids?"
"Oh, you know. Too tall, too smart, too old." He laughed, rocking back and forth on his feet.
"I'll bet. I can't believe I haven't seen them in such a long time." She brushed her (newly?) black hair behind her ears and grinned maybe a little too brightly. "I just can't believe you're here! It's been too long."
"It has." Ted nodded in eager agreement. Robin smiled again and they both laughed a little, not quite sure what to say. She opened her mouth a little like she had something on her mind, but shook her head, seeming to think better of it. Instead, she turned to face her old friend head on with a quiet snort, awkwardly crossing her arms over her chest. Ted cleared his throat and looked around at her sparsely decorated apartment, not quite remembering what he was doing there. But the cold metal in his hand unexpectedly sparked and he jolted back.
"Uh, um. Right. Here." He thrust the blue French horn at her, his arm heavy and leaden. "This is, uh, for you."
"Is it-?" Robin delicately ran her manicured finger on the mouthpiece and Ted nodded.
"The one and only." He swallowed hard, as the incessant gnawing came back. "The restaurant is still open, isn't that crazy?"
"And they haven't updated their decor in 25 years? That's some serious commitment to tackiness." She laughed, half-heartedly. Robin was gently touching it, but she wasn't grasping it. Ted wanted to shout at her to just take it, that his arm was hurting, that he looked stupid.
"And smurf penises." He chuckled instead. Robin offered a wane smile and was silent for a moment.
"Ted..." She trailed off before looking down at the floor, biting her lip in an uncharacteristically girlish manner. Ted briefly touched her arm and tilted his head, encouraging her to speak.
"You didn't have to do this." She finally said.
"What do you mean?" Ted asked, genuinely confused by her melancholic tone.
"I just..." Her voice was quiet. "I feel like I'm the one who should have come with a peace offering. I'm the one who fucked up, Ted. Not you."
"Peace offering?" He wasn't really sure what that meant. This wasn't a peace offering. It was his heart.
"Well, isn't that what this is?" Her eyes were still so big and beautiful. "We haven't spoken in almost four years and I know...I know how hard those years must have been for you and the kids. And I wasn't there. I should have been, I know, but..."
"Robin, this isn't a peace offering." Ted's eyebrows furrowed and his heart rate increased. How could she not see this for what it was? It was a gesture. This object, this one singular object represented their relationship. Their love. Their lost years.
"But then-" And her eyes got even bigger with realization. "Oh. Oh. ...Oh, Ted."
Oh, Ted. Those were two words in a very specific tone of voice that he knew well.
I would always say them quite differently than her.
This time, the voice was explicitly Tracy and his blood vessels froze for the briefest of seconds. But it didn't matter anymore.
Tracy was dead. Robin was very much alive.
Robin's hand was clutched against her heart and she started pacing, muttering expletives under her breath. She stopped and turned on a dime, placing her fingers against her temple under her terrible hair cut. Ted blinked back that thought harshly. He was here to declare his love or something, not criticize her. Her hand moved to cover her mouth and she closed her eyes, breathing heavily.
"Ted, this is probably why we should talk...more." She finally said, her voice airless and child-like. "Things have been happening...happened."
"Of course things have happened." He rushed to her and tried to hold her arms, but she swiftly pulled them away. "Robin, we're not the same people, but we've always had this connection. You can't deny that."
"And I don't." Robin spat out rawly, her voice scratchy and tears forming in her eyes. "I don't deny that, Ted. You are the best friend I've ever had and I'm so sorry I threw that away. And I'm so, so sorry about Tracy."
"This isn't about Tracy, Robin. Or the past." He tried to coo, ignoring the desperation rising in his throat. She couldn't be turning him down. Not again. Not like this. Not after all this time when they were both alone and both lost in a world that didn't include the other. "This is about you and me."
"Ted." Tears now actually flowed down her face and she shook her head. "Ted, it was never about you and me. Not really. It was about you and Tracy, and it was about-"
"Tracy's dead." Ted said aloud, his face as stony and cold as his voice. "Tracy. Is. Dead. How can it all be about Tracy and me when she's gone? Her children barely knew her, Robin. Her own children didn't get to really see how wonderful and kind and loving and goofy and so damn smart she was and now all I have left are tainted memories of hospitals and sympathy baskets and shards of my feelings for you, so would you please just do me a favor and take the fucking horn?"
Robin froze and slowly nodded, mechanically taking the blue french horn from him and sitting on the couch. She opened her mouth a few times and closed it tightly, trying to speak.
"You and me, we're right." Ted said slowly, gravelly. "I know it and you know it. We're both alone and all we have is each other."
"Ted, you're not alone." Robin looked up at him, mystified. "You have your children. Aren't they the loves of your life?"
"Of course they are, but not in the-" He sat down next to her, making sure his thigh didn't touch hers. He couldn't risk contact. "But I miss companionship. I miss real romantic love. Don't you?"
Robin's eyebrows came together and she bit the inside of her mouth. And Ted realized.
"Oh, god." He leaned back. "You're not alone."
She nodded meekly, touching the keys and running her palms across the wide circle of the instrument; their instrument.
"Is it serious?" Ted asked, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"It's...complicated. But yes, I think so." Robin finally spoke. "He and I...we're...it's a long story."
"Does he live here? With you and all these dogs?" Ted snorted out bitterly. "Is he about to come through the bedroom door to laugh at me?"
"No. He doesn't live here." Robin pursed her lips. "Ted, I feel like I need to tell you this now, since you came here...for me, so when I tell you this, I need for you not to freak out, okay?"
"Freak out?" Ted's heart rate rose at just the suggestion. "Why would I freak out?"
"We weren't planning on telling anyone. Not for a long time. Maybe not even...ever." Robin clasped her hands and sat up straight. "These years have been hell and misery in so many ways, but I think I'm finally coming out the other side knowing who I am and what I want. I'll never be a pole-vaulter, but it feels like my life has taken me so many amazing routes, but there was always one port that I filtered home to or maybe that even followed me where I went. Does that make sense?"
"Not really." Ted's eyes were closed. "But I'm bracing myself."
Robin sucked a tight breath in through her teeth and stared straight ahead before saying the words Ted wouldn't have guessed if you'd held a gun to his head (and in some ways, he wished you had):
"Ted, the guy...it's Barney. It's always been Barney."
Circus music danced in Ted's head and he was suddenly very, very hot.
Thrusting himself up, he pushed the couch out of his way, startling Robin and making her dogs bark in tune to the loud music that just wouldn't stop ringing in his ears and his brain and his hot, hot stomach that was gnawing, screaming, clenching. Tracy is dead. Tracy was dead. Dead. Gone. Deceased. Never to return. Dead. The love of your life is dead, Teddy Bear. And yet Robin and Barney were the ones still haunting him. Like evil spectres ripping out his insides, they were still there, they still danced on his wife's grave and his shattered hopes.
Grabbing one of Robin's dining room chairs, Ted slammed it starkly in front of her and leveled an intense gaze at her before slowly sitting down, face to face with Barney's ex-wife.
"Well?!" He asked, his eyes bulging out of their sockets. Robin was shaking and her eyes were welling up again. Good. She should cry. She deserves to feel his wrath, his pain, his agony. Because fuck them.
"Well, what?" Robin wobbled out, her irises tinted with genuine fear.
"You said it's a long story." Ted leaned back and crossed his arms. "I just told my kids a very, very long story and that's how I ended up here. So maybe it's my turn."
"What?" Robin ran her hands through her truly awful, hideous hair.
He gave her a joyless smile. "I said, maybe it's my turn. So, go ahead, Robin. Tell me a fucking story."
And then without warning, Robin jumped to her feet and thrashed her arms wildly into the air, making even the intensely focused Ted jump.
"You know what, Ted?" She spat out, her eyes narrowing in ratio to his bulging eyes. "I invited you into my home because I thought we were finally going to make amends. I thought that your wife's death and your growing kids and all the changes we've seen and experienced as we get older and older made you miss me as a friend or, god forbid, as an actual person that you cared about. But instead, you're pulling this same crap and you know what? I don't owe you shit. I don't deserve this. Get out."
Robin was now standing in her foyer with the door swung wide open, her eyes red and hot and her hands shaking violently. Her dogs growled and barked in the background, and Ted felt vaguely unaware of reality.
Ted, the voice said, Ted, she's right. She's right. You know she's right.
"Robin." His face drained color and he slumped over in the chair, holding his head between his legs.
"Get out." Robin repeated, her voice not wavering.
"Robin." He pleaded, looking up at her, tears running down his face. She paused and clutched the doorknob, her jaw clenching. "Robin, I'm sorry. I'm just...I'm sorry."
Why are you really here, Ted? Tell her why you're really here.
"I just..." He whispered as sobs began to wrack his body. Robin quietly closed the door, but didn't move. "I just miss her so much and I don't know how...I don't know how I'm here and she's not. I've been puzzling it through in my brain and through my past and through my and-and-and our stories, but none of it makes sense. I don't know how to make this fate or destiny or anything other than shitty. And I just...I don't know what to do, Robin."
Through his blurred vision, he saw her form sit back down on the couch and lean over to gently touch his shoulder, maybe a bit hesitantly.
"I love her, Robin. And she's gone." He bit his fist and crumpled into himself, barely registering Robin's gentle hand moving in waves across his back. "I'm sorry. I never should have placed this on you. I don't care about you and Barney getting back together or whatever, I really don't. It's your business and we barely know each other anymore and this...wasn't fair. I just...I just want to be whole again."
Robin sat back for a few moments while Ted composed himself. Sitting up and wiping snot off his chapped lips, he tried to meet her gaze but she was lost in thought. He scratched the back of his neck and cleared his throat, standing.
"I think I'm just gonna...go. You can keep the blue french horn. You deserve it." He chuckled humorlessly. "At least this story makes the one where I told you I loved you on our first date look slightly less psychotic."
"Istanbul." Robin suddenly blurted out just as Ted was grabbing the doorknob. He turned back in confusion and she was staring right at him.
"Istanbul?" Ted repeated.
"That's where the story begins. Istanbul, in late 2016."
Ted stared at her silently for a moment and Robin sighed in frustration.
"Look, do you want to hear the story or not? It's a limited time offer."
Wordlessly, Ted moved across her living room and sat in the chair, nodding curtly. Robin nodded curtly in return, and she cleared her throat.
"Right. Okay. So. As I was saying: Istanbul, late 2016. I was on assignment, covering a factory explosion. I had never been to Turkey before, so I was pretty excited, especially since I was still fairly fresh off, you know, the divorce. Barney and I had parted ways relatively amicably, but we hadn't talked in months - not since the last time we all got together. In fact, we had pretty much an unspoken agreement to keep our lives, well, pretty unspoken. And it was fine. Life pulled us naturally in different directions and I don't think we really missed each other very much that first year. I even met a guy in New York that I was casually seeing; another foreign correspondent and we were actually co-leads on the story. It seemed like I was finally settled in where I was supposed to be in life, pretty permanently maybe."
She chuckled, "But boy, was I wrong."
To be continued...