And so began Ted and Tracy spending every weekend together. Sometimes he flew to New York; sometimes she flew to Chicago. But from Ted's first weekend visit to New York, not one weekend went by that they were not together.

After five of these weekends, Ted set his mind to coming up with the biggest and best way to declare his love to Tracy for the first time. (Old habits die hard.)

(And okay, the old Ted hadn't completely gone away either; his first thought of the biggest and best way to declare his love to Tracy for the first time came after their second weekend together, but he talked himself out of doing it immediately. He managed to wait another three weeks.)

While Ted was packing Thursday night for his trip to New York to see Tracy the next night, he remembered Robin's locket, which he hadn't returned to her when she married Barney because he'd been too busy trying to convince her to run off to Chicago and marry him instead.

He was completely in love with Tracy now. He had no doubts at all that she was the woman he was meant to be with for the rest of his life. And the intervening months had shown him that all of his friends were right: his love for Robin was not the kind of love that would last. He had been so convinced he would never get over her (he could hear Robin and Barney both mocking him in his head: "What are you, a 13-year-old girl, Ted?"), and now he was in love with a smart, feisty, funny, amazing, sweet, wonderful, beautiful woman who loved him back. At least, he was pretty sure she loved him back. They hadn't actually said it to each other yet, but Ted was almost one hundred percent sure that Tracy loved him, and he was one hundred percent sure that he loved her.

Ted was now embarrassed by his behavior on Barney and Robin's wedding day. It was the desperate act of a desperate man who thought his one best chance at love and commitment was about to walk down the aisle with another man. If he'd known that he would meet Tracy mere hours after alienating Robin and Barney, and making the biggest ass that he had ever made of himself over Robin in all the years he'd known her, he never would have proposed to Robin on bended knee right before her wedding to Barney.

He didn't even know if Robin and Barney would ever forgive him or be his friends again. He hadn't spoken to them since that fateful night in Farhampton at the church.

But he did know one thing: he didn't need Robin's locket anymore. He never should have kept it in the first place.

It was time to give this back to Robin.

Okay, send it back to Robin, since he probably still wasn't welcome at her and Barney's apartment.

Ted briefly agonized over whether or not to include a note with the locket. Ultimately he decided against it, because he couldn't think of any way to be brief in what he needed to say to them, so he just put the locket in a box, wrapped it, addressed it, and overnighted it to Barney and Robin's apartment in New York.

Then he turned his full attention to his own impending trip to New York to see Tracy.

Saturday night, Tracy's band was playing at a pub in the Village, and Ted eagerly went along to see The Superfreakonomics in person.

Ted knew he was biased, being in love with the bass player, but he thought Tracy's band was the best live band he'd ever heard that wasn't famous.

He enjoyed the show, a mix of covers of songs from the '80s and '90s and early '00s with a few original compositions of the band thrown in, but he was completely blown away by what happened near the end of the set.

Tracy stepped up to the lead microphone after the latest round of applause petered out, met Ted's smiling gaze, and spoke directly into the microphone. "We've never been the kind of band to tell stories or do dedications before playing a song, but there's a first time for everything, and tonight is it. Ted, this is for you."

The band did a quick four-count before launching into a ballad with a distinctive bassline. Tracy, her heart in her eyes, set the beat with her bass and sang lead, the keyboard, electric guitar, and drums backing her up perfectly.

"Whenever I'm alone with you

You make me feel like I am home again

Whenever I'm alone with you

You make me feel like I am whole again"

The crowd surged to their feet in front of the small stage where The Superfreakonomics played, and several of them began swaying back and forth to the song. Ted remained seated in his chair front row center, looking up at Tracy with mingled surprise and adoration. She was serenading him. Him!

Never before had a woman made such a grand gesture for Ted in the name of love. (He didn't count Victoria leaving Klaus at the altar, because he had always felt he had basically talked her into it; in hindsight, Ted felt that Victoria didn't really want to marry Klaus, Ted gave her the perfect out, and she took it.)

Not that Ted needed grand gestures from Tracy. After all, he hadn't committed any for her, and she didn't seem to want or expect them. But for once, it felt really good to be on the receiving end of a grand gesture for love.

"Whenever I'm alone with you

You make me feel like I am young again

Whenever I'm alone with you

You make me feel like I am fun again"

Having lost all contact with Barney and Robin, and with Marshall and Lily in Italy and himself in Chicago most of the week, Ted hadn't felt like a very fun guy (not that he ever really had been the fun guy; that was Barney) for a very long time. But whenever he was with Tracy, she made him feel like fun again. She made him feel young, and alive, and like the luckiest guy on the face of the planet.

Ted felt tears come to his eyes, ignoring the inner Barney and Robin who were mocking him for crying like a little girl, as Tracy continued singing to him from the stage of the bar.

"However far away

I will always love you

However long I stay

I will always love you

Whatever words I say

I will always love you

I will always love you"

Music had always been a balm to Tracy's soul. No matter what she was feeling at any moment, happy, sad, angry, confused, worried, heartbroken or romantic, Tracy could always find at least one song to fit her mood, whatever that mood might be. She used to sing for Max all the time, but in all the time they were together, she had never sung him a song that felt this intensely personal. Robert Smith's lyrics said everything that Ted made her feel, and she knew that she was head over heels in love with him, in a way that she had never loved even Max, and that she wanted to let him know that. And she didn't want to tell him she loved him over the phone or on Skype; they had to be together in person, looking into each other's eyes. Tracy was almost completely certain that Ted loved her too, even though he hadn't said it yet. This didn't feel like forcing the issue, though. It just felt right. She wanted to tell Ted she loved him, and this was how she chose to declare her love to him for the first time. Besides being a balm to her soul, music was one of Tracy's comfort zones. She was never braver, happier, or more alive than when she was singing...except when she was with Ted. Telling him she loved him for the first time with a serenade, right now, tonight, was the most right thing Tracy had done in a very long time.

She beamed at Ted as she went into the last verse and final chorus, and he was looking back at her with moist eyes and a mile-wide smile.

"Whenever I'm alone with you

You make me feel like I am free again

Whenever I'm alone with you

You make me feel like I am clean again

"However far away

I will always love you

However long I stay

I will always love you

Whatever words I say

I will always love you

I will always love you"

The bar exploded in applause and cheers as The Superfreakonomics played the final crashing chord, people jumping up and down, whistling, cheering and hooting, but Tracy only had eyes for Ted. Ted got to his feet and took the stage, grabbing Tracy's hand and pulling her off to the side in an attempt at privacy.

They just stood there looking at each other for a long moment, feeling like the only two people in the world (and in that bar), Tracy still holding her bass, Ted still holding her hand, the noises of the crowded bar around them completely muted to their ears.

Then Ted touched Tracy's hair with the hand that wasn't holding hers and said, "I love you too. And I always will."

Tracy smiled a smile that Ted had never seen on her or anyone else before, and, shoving her bass to one side, she stepped into Ted and met him in a long, slow, sweet kiss.

And that was the night that Ted Mosby knew he would someday marry Tracy McConnell, and the night that Tracy McConnell knew she would someday marry Ted Mosby.

It was also the night that Robin got her locket back from Ted via FedEx, and she got an even greater gift that night than that old locket. Actually, she got an even greater gift that night because of that old locket.


Thanks for sticking with me through a longer-than-intended hiatus from this story. I know exactly where everything is going and exactly where everybody is going to end up. I didn't originally think this chapter was going to be almost all Tracy and Ted, but my main rule of writing is to follow the muse wherever it leads, and this is where it led. We will return to Barney and Robin in the next chapter. I'm not sure exactly how many more chapters remain before this story is finished, but I had the whole thing planned out before I posted one word here, and in my head, and this story, everyone in our band of friends ends up exactly where they're meant to be. Thanks for reading, and I hope you keep liking what I come up with for Barney and Robin, Marshall and Lily, and Tracy and Ted.

Oh, and the song Tracy serenades Ted with in this chapter is "Lovesong" by The Cure. (I grew up in the '80s and I'm proud of it! Adele remade it a few years ago, but I prefer The Cure's version, which lead singer Robert Smith really did write for his wife, and which I chose partly because if you listen to the album version by The Cure, you can distinctly hear the bass in it, and I wanted a song with a distinctive bass part for Tracy to play, so this one fit the bill.)