Spoilers: Set sometime post-season three, with references to oblique hints from 3x01
Word Count: 1,618
Summary: In the wake of Ted meeting The Mother, Barney prepares to lose his wingman to the evils of monogamy once and for all. Robin gets to console him.
Author's Note: You know, I'm kind of surprised it took me this long to get around to trying my hand at writing these two! It was quite fun. And also gave me an excuse to listen to Let's Go To The Mall about ten times on repeat, which -- bonus. Although, come to think of it, does one really need an excuse to listen to Let's Go To The Mall ten times on repeat?
Yeah, I didn't think so.
Ted's going umbrella shopping in the morning.
"Bright and early, guys," he tells Barney and Robin, by way of apology, as he slides out of the booth. "I'm gonna find another umbrella, I'm gonna take it to her tomorrow, and then I'm going to forget this stupid mess ever happened."
Robin tells him good luck, Barney gives him crap for taking off at the truly pathetic hour of almost-but-not-quite-ten-thirty (who does he think he is? Marshall and/or Lily?), and then it's just the two of them left. They're sitting on the same side, Barney's arm slung casually across the back of the booth and light-but-there against her shoulders. She has to turn her head all the way to the right to talk to him, and besides, he's too close up, anyway.
"This is weird," she announces, nudging him. "You move."
He doesn't seem to hear her, though: he's watching Ted limp out of the bar.
"Okay then," Robin mutters, and settles back against his arm.
Ten seconds of silence pass before he lets out a heavy sigh. "Another one down, Scherbatsky."
"Little does our buddy Ted know," Barney intones, gazing wistfully into the distance, "but what he thinks is a routine guilt-absolving umbrella shopping trip is in reality the beginning of his descent into everlasting monogamy."
"Ted hates Umbrella Girl," Robin points out, frowning.
"Yes, yes he does." Dramatic pause. "For now."
"For always," Robin corrects.
"Ohhh, Robin." Barney shakes his head woefully. She feels a little like she's suddenly trapped in a soap opera. "Robin, Robin, Robin. That I could be so blind."
"Ted's never even shown the slightest bit of interest in Umbrella Girl," she points out, a little irritated.
"I know," Barney chokes. "God, the irony."
"What irony?" Robin demands impatiently. "Barney, I really don't think he's into her."
"Of course you don't," Barney retorts. "Neither does Ted. Neither does Marshall, or Lily. Neither does anyone."
"Except you," Robin checks, just to be sure.
"Except me," Barney confirms. He takes a jerky, angst-ridden swig of his drink. "Because I'm the only one with a knack for this sort of thing. A sixth sense, if you will."
"For picking out Ted's future wives," Robin says blankly.
"For picking out sparks to which everyone else is completely blind," he explains impatiently. "How else would I have known about Kate and Sayid from Lost, hmm? Answer me that."
Robin frowns. "Kate's never been with Sayid."
"Season five, my friend," Barney returns smoothly, pointing a jaunty finger at her. "And you heard it here first."
He then sinks promptly back into desolation.
"I always knew this day would come," he mutters. "He said he just watched Bridezilla to mock it, but I knew. He'd always do this – weird sighing thing when they talked about floral arrangements. I tried to tell myself it was just conveniently timed indigestion, but the truth was always there. Lurking."
"Ted's going to marry Umbrella Girl," Robin says, more in an attempt to wrap her mind around the idea than anything. They've been apart for a long time, her and Ted – long enough that all the feelings have moved to PleasantMemoryville. It's not like she's going to harbor any irrational bitterness toward the future Mrs. Mosby. But seriously: Umbrella Girl?
At least she's handling it better than Barney. "Here comes the umbrella-toting bride, baby."
They sink into a melancholy silence – and just keep sinking, and sinking, and sinking. It's very probably the saddest way to spend your Friday night ever; she's sort of hesitant to even take a sip of her drink, because it suddenly feels less like having a good time with friends and more like drowning her sorrows. Sorrows that aren't even hers.
Damn it, Barney.
She looks over to find him staring at her with rare earnestness. "Don't ever get married on me, okay?"
Her heart does a weird floppy thing. She hasn't felt this genuinely sympathetic toward him since the Papa-Bob-Barker adventure. "I'm not planning on it."
"Good," he says, and pats her on the shoulder. She reaches up to give his hand a quick squeeze.
"You know what?" he continues pensively. "We need our own country. King and queen of Bromania."
"Bromania," Robin says with an approving nod. "I like it."
"National sport? Lasertag."
There's a moment of silent and intense contemplation.
"Bromania," Barney grandly announces then, "is a land so awesome that boasts not one, but two national sports."
"And I," Robin finishes, "can kick your ass at both of them."
Barney scoffs. "In your dreams."
"Oh, you wanna go?" she demands, elbowing him. "Lasertag. Battleship. Right now. Except this time, you keep your pants on. Whaddya say?" She tries to usher him out of the booth, but he doesn't budge. He just turns his head slowly to look at her.
"Or," she adds, "you could stare at me all night. That's good, too."
"You're an exceptional lady, Robin Scherbatsky." He's suspiciously misty-eyed.
"Thanks, Barney," she says, somewhere in between touched and freaked the hell out.
"And one day, someone is going to realize it," he continues bitterly. "And you'll be swept off your feet by his exotic good looks and gay-ass accent."
"God," she groans, "are you ever going to leave me alone about Gael?"
"Never," he replies swiftly, and then sinks right back down into sorrow.
"Hey," she says gently, nudging him, "I was with Ted, and that doesn't mean there's a ring on this finger." She wraggles her hand in his face as evidence.
Barney snorts. "That's supposed to reassure me? That's like saying, 'Look at me, I'm not an alcoholic even after trying seven buck champagne from off the shelf at Wal-Mart!'"
She frowns. "There's no way they sell champagne at Wal-Mart."
"Not the point," he snaps. "My best friend is leaving me for a chick with a yellow umbrella. Forgive me if my metaphor skills aren't up to par."
"Sorry." She bites her lip. "And Barney, seriously. I don't think marriage is in the cards for me."
"Yeah, yeah," he replies despondently. "That's what they all say."
"Please," she scoffs. "Ted probably had his dream wedding planned by age five."
He manages something that's sort of like an appreciative snort, but then totally passes up on further prime Ted-mocking opportunities. Instead, he just . . . sits there. Even his glance down Wendy the Waitress's top is depressingly halfhearted.
Clearly, something has to be done.
She's not sure, however, why the hell that 'something' decides to come out as this.
"Come on, Barney," she warbles awkwardly, and immediately draws the attention of the people the next booth over. ". . . Come on, Robin . . . let's go – to Bromania, you won't be . . . sobbin'."
Barney stares at her.
"Bromanian national anthem," she adds by way of explanation, then tries an encouraging smile.
For a second, she thinks things must be even worse than she'd anticipated: no smile; the word 'awesome' doesn't make an appearance; he doesn't even make fun of her for drudging up her Canadian pop star past. Being one on one with Sad Barney is making her oddly desperate. She's struck by the fleeting, horrible impulse to offer him a lapdance, if that'll make him feel better.
But then, thankfully, the corner of his mouth twitches in the start of a smile. "Put on your leather skank boots—"
"Hey!" She kicks him under the table.
He continues happily on, undaunted. "—and your really awesome suit—"
Relief rushes through her. Unfortunately, it doesn't help her ability to make up lyrics on the spot. "In Bromania . . . having-commitment-free-sex-and-kicking-ass-at-lasertag-and-Battleship . . . is what it's all about—"
"That's my girl," he declares with a grin. Predictably, the hand goes up. "Hilarious Canadian pronunciation high five. Right here!"
She rolls her eyes, but returns the five. He's emotionally vulnerable, she figures; it's the kind of circumstance where you've got to do some high-five-integrity self-sacrificing.
"Let's Go To Bromania," Barney reflects, with his usual zest. "I love it."
"How many times did you listen to that?" she asks curiously. "The non-Bromania version, I mean."
He doesn't bat a lash. "Nine hundred."
This should probably be creepy, and she's sure that some other time, the notion of Barney hunched over his laptop watching teenage-Robin over and over for hours will get her good and skeeved out.
For the moment, though, it's weirdly welcome news.
"Fair enough," she replies, and shrugs.
"You know," he says, "once we're king and queen of Bromania, we're gonna have to get it on."
She quirks an eyebrow. "Oh really."
"No question," Barney says matter-of-factly. 'We'll be the leaders of a land renowned for its bountiful production of really great sex. It'd be hypocritical of us not to brocreate (what up?)"
"Okay," Robin says.
His mouth drops open in pleased surprise. "Really?"
"Sure," Robin replies. "If we ever become the monarchs of a nonexistent nation dedicated to the pursuit of free love, then yes, Barney. I'll have sex with you."
He pumps his fist. "Nice." After a moment's consideration, he adds, "I'm holding you to that, by the way."
She nods. "I kinda figured."
For a few seconds, they just smile at each other – reflecting, Robin guesses, on their great hypothetical future as partners in sex and Bromanian rule.
"Hey," Barney says then, prodding her eagerly in the shoulder. "Let's bust out Let's Go To Bromania again, and this time, I'll do a drumbeat on the table."
She grins. "You're on."
He beams back at her, and begins to drum his fingertips against the tabletop.