Title: feet touch the ground
Spoilers: through 3x17 - "The Goat"
Word Count: 3,518
Summary: Robin deals with the events of "The Goat," in true Scherbatsky style.
Author's Note: Finals started today. I've got a zillion essays to write and like a hundred and fifty years of Western history to learn by Friday. So naturally, I spend my free-ish afternoon writing fic. But after last night's episode, by God, I think it was necessary.
She doesn't talk about it again until a few days afterward. She and Lily are alone in the apartment, having breakfast, and Lily's chattering about some kid doing something adorable and kidlike in her kindergarten class, and Robin's doing the whole nod-and-'hmm!' thing while she eats her eggs and all of a sudden, out of nowhere—
"It was good."
Lily beams. "Aw, thanks, Robin!"
"No, no, not breakfast," Robin says, and then realizes that possibly that's not the best thing to say. "Not that that's not awesome too. That … is also excellent. But sex with Barney is what I meant. Because you asked, and it's rude not to answer somebody when they ask you something. I mean, it was kind of a rude question to begin with, but what's a rude question or two between friends, right? Right? Right. So, yeah. It was good. It was great. It was good. So, now you know, and we don't have to bring it up ever again."
Lily just stares at her for like a solid eight seconds, which makes Robin suspect she somehow wound up doing this wrong. Although maybe hoping for a casual 'huh' and then an abrupt change of subject was a little optimistic. Damn it, Lily.
"I asked you that like two days ago," Lily finally says.
"Yeah, I know!" Robin agrees quickly. "See, I'd forgotten that you'd even asked it until just now. Because it wasn't a big deal, at all. But then you said that – that thing, and it made me remember."
"What about Timmy's watercolor giraffe reminded you of sex with Barney?" Lily demands, nose wrinkled in confusion. After a second, her eyes widen. "Was there a giraffe?"
"I'm just sayin'. A giraffe wouldn't surprise me. If anyone could get a giraffe somehow, it'd be Barney. Have you seen his TV?"
Robin takes a sip of her coffee, wishing it were something a little more – how do you say? – alcoholic. "Anyway, can we just not talk about it anymore?"
"You're the one who brought it up," Lily points out.
"Yeah, but just to clear the air. So you wouldn't just be wondering about it." At least she doesn't sound as desperate as she feels. "Now we can just pretend it never happened."
"Well, sure," Lily agrees easily. "I know how embarrassed you must be. I mean, it's Barney."
"Yeah," Robin agrees. "It's Barney."
"It's not your fault," Lily adds, reaching over to pat her hand. "If I got dumped by my Canadian jackass boyfriend and got caught by Barney mid-sorrow-drowning, I'd probably have my guard down too."
There's a flicker of something inconveniently like guilt. "Actually—"
"—that's totally what happened," Robin finishes, recovering. "I just can't believe I fell for it."
The thing is that it's Barney. He's not going to care if she fudges the details a little bit, because it was sex, and if there's one thing that doesn't actually matter to Barney, it's sex. It was weak, and stupid. Looking back now, it's even easy to remember it like this. Maybe it hadn't been some kind of accidental magnetic pull, the way their knees and shoulders inched steadily towards brushing; maybe the glances he kept sneaking at her were strictly of the 'I'm gonna score tonight' variety.
And sure, okay, she kissed him first, but even that can be chalked up to Barney's seduction expertise. It'd be naïve to think that he can't trick a girl into coming onto him.
When he pulled away, it was just for a few seconds, and it's not like he did all that well at resisting. So it's basically like that part didn't even count.
Deep, deep down there's a part of her that feels like shit. Fortunately, she just so happens to excel at keeping things buried.
Lily? Not so good with the keeping things buried.
"Ya know," she says thoughtfully the next day, "I never really thought about it, but you two could work, in a weird way."
"What?" Robin asks, and hates that the word comes out sounding panicked. She's not panicking over Barney. "Where the hell did you come up with that?"
"You're both rockin' the independent lifestyle. You're both allergic to commitment. And that one time you guys went out to play lasertag together, you both kept talking about how awesome it was for like a week afterwards."
"That was like two years ago." She shouldn't feel as defensive as she does.
"Still," Lily argues. Her face brightens in a big, teasing smile, and she coos, "Ooh, maybe it's meant to be! Maybe he's your soulmate!"
"Lily, knock it off, okay?" It comes out a lot more viciously than she'd meant it to.
"I was just kidding," Lily replies, looking a little shaken. "I'm pretty sure Barney's his own soulmate. And really, who'd want to get in the middle of that action?"
The best thing about Barney, she's thought more than once, is that with him, she gets to be Robin without ever having to feel guilty about it. There isn't the pressure to share dessert, or pretend to maybe-just-maybe want kids someday. She'll always love Ted, but sometimes she can't help looking back and remembering the part of her that was so tired when they were together.
Barney's got her figured out - which should be scary, and sort of is, but it's nice, too. The first time he caught her sneaking a cigarette, he was so entertained by it that she's fallen into the habit of smoking when it's just the two of them: the pack of Marlboros she's got hidden in the bottom of her purse always reminds her of standing outside MacLaren's late at night, cigarette poised between her fingers and Barney's face illuminated by the streetlights as he smiles at her. For her birthday, he renewed her subscription to Guns & Ammo.
She remembers how good it felt to cry on his shoulder, the steady graze of his fingers against her skin. In a way, that touch seems so much more real now than kissing him, or the stuff that followed kissing him. It had just felt easy, and safe, and simple.
There's something between them that never quite gets said, or paid attention to. It's not like they're soulmates – she balks at the notion, and she's sure he would, too; true to form. But they get each other. She likes that, even when she pretends not to.
Maybe she needs it a little bit, too. But she is not going there.
She knows what Ted thinks. She gets that part of the reason he and Barney broke up ("broke up – get it?" Barney had quipped, in a so-so attempt to prove he wasn't destroyed as a human being) is because Ted figures Barney decided to make her just another notch on his bedpost. She'll explain it to him soon; she'll set the record straight. It's just that that means telling Ted that sleeping with Barney was something resembling an actual conscious decision on her part. She knows that Ted's a great guy, and that he'll care about her no matter what, but even after things are all over for them, she doesn't want to show him just what a perfect match she is for Barney Stinson.
Still. She'll tell him.
In the meantime, Lily's been adamant that the three of them split their time equally between Barney and Ted. She's with Ted on the fact that what Barney did was wrong, but Lily does seem a little more aware of the it-takes-two-to-do-the-bromance-destroying-tango nature of things.
"He has actual emotions underneath all the suits," Lily declares. "And we don't want him to do another one of those weepy apology song videos. That would be bad."
"Man, you don't think he'd get dreads again, do you?" Marshall asks, sounding morbidly fascinated by the notion.
"No," Lily says quickly. "No way. Not even for Ted."
Still, they all have to sit in silence and consider the prospect for a little bit. It's about here that Robin realizes just how bad stuff's gotten.
On the first night they're all supposed to hang out at the bar sans Ted, Robin gets there late on purpose. It turns out not to matter. Barney's sitting there by himself, drink in hand, gazing intently down at the tabletop. The place is crawling with girls – from what Robin can gather, it seems like the youngest has just turned twenty-one and is now celebrating by getting drunk off her ass – and he's not even trying.
For a second, she just wants to turn around and go back home. It would be easy; he hasn't seen her. But at the same time, he just looks so pathetic, and allowing the fact that they slept together to destroy their friendship would in turn be acknowledging that it actually happened. And they've already established that it so, so did not happen.
She takes a deep breath, then saunters over and sits down across from him. "Looks like it's just you and me, Stinson."
"Looks like," he answers in monotone.
"So, need a little wingman action?" she asks, forcing enthusiasm into her voice. "I can bust out the old I'm-going-home-with-him move. These little hussies will be climbing all over you in five minutes."
"Nah," Barney replies tonelessly. "They'll be totally wasted in twenty minutes. A half hour tops. I'll just use the 'I bet you a hundred dollars when you turn around…' pickup line. That ought to do the trick."
God, she hates this. "Barney—"
"Marshall and Lily are still coming, right?" he interrupts.
"I just got off the phone with Lily," Robin answers after a moment's pause. She feels hurt, and really wishes she didn't. "They're running a little late, but yeah, they'll be here."
"Good," Barney says shortly.
"So, wait 'til the girls get good and drunk and then reel 'em in," Robin says, trying to sound peppy. "Good plan. Practical. So until then, I guess it's just …us." Crap. "How was work?"
"Okay," he drones.
"Boy, was my day crazy!" she continues desperately. "You know that part in Anchorman when Christina Applegate sabotages the teleprompter? I can now report from experience that it's—"
"We screwed up, Robin." He finally looks up at her.
Looking at him, she knows she should just agree. It's the truth, after all. He's clearly miserable, and this whole mess is half her fault, anyway. She should just own up to it. But agreeing means addressing the fact that it happened, and God, she can't do that. They would be facing an eternity of weird if she did that. And so instead: "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, for the love of –" He lets out a strangled sort of yell, the kind that precedes the hysteria that usually comes when they don't show the proper respect for The Platinum Rule or The Chain (Circle? Chain? Can even he keep all this stuff straight?) of Screaming. She should get out of here. She should get out of here while she still can. "We had sex! You and I had sex! There was sex – awesome, hot, sexy sex! – and you and I had it!"
He then proceeds to explain, in great detail, exactly which of Robin's body parts had done what with exactly which of his, his voice getting steadily louder and his gestures steadily more frenzied with every word. By the time he finally shuts up, the whole bar is staring at them. Robin thinks she may actually experience death by blushing.
"That must have been somebody else," she chokes out, and hurries out of the booth.
"SEX!" he shouts after her.
"Omigod, Karen, you should totally have sex with the crazy sex guy! That would be soooo hilarious!" one of the Young Drunk Skanks squeals. Robin makes sure to step on her foot as she passes.
She goes home and pours herself a big glass of wine and turns on the TV. There's nothing good on, so she winds up stopping on a Sex and the City episode and then just leaving it on mute. God, she hates these stupid bitches. What do they really know about sex and the city? Here's what happens with sex: sooner or later, it's going to be with one of your best friends, and it's going to feel right but be wrong, and then everything in the whole world is going to come crashing down because of it.
She's not really sure where the 'city' part fits in, and finally reaches the bitter decision that this so wouldn't have happened in some podunk town in Wyoming.
And so she sits on the couch and drinks her wine and wonders what exactly Sarah Jessica Parker's stylist was smoking, and can't help recalling in the corner of her mind what it had been like to sit here with Barney. She remembers the click of the tape as it came to the end, the beelike hum of the VCR; she remembers turning and looking at Barney – Barney, who had his elbows balanced awkwardly on his knees and was staring at the empty screen like it held the answers to all life's mysteries.
"You're a good friend, Barney." A stupid thing to say, maybe, but at the moment it had seemed so important.
"Yeah," he agreed – a lame answer, the kind of answer you only gave when you were nervous.
She nudged her shoulder against his, gently. "Why aren't you looking at me?"
"I'm looking at you," he told the TV screen.
"No you're not," she replied, laughing a little. "Barney—"
He turned. "I'm looking at—"
And then she kissed him, and it felt like making sense. Like something that fit.
Just when they'd reached the point where pulling away was no longer an option, he pulled away. "Robin. We're kissing."
"Yeah," she agreed – dizzy, breathing heavy, really uncertain of just about everything that wasn't the fact that there needed to be more kissing. Much more kissing. "So?"
"Just an observation," he sort of croaked, and then talking got really unimportant.
The sex was good. The sex was incredible. If she had had that sex with any guy who wasn't Barney Stinson, the next morning she'd have probably told him about her love for sharing dessert and saying 'we' instead of 'I' and picking out baby names just to keep him around. If commitment meant having sex like that for the rest of her life, then sign her up. And now the inconveniently incredible sex is the reason that her four best friends can't even sit at the same table anymore, and like it or not, a big part of it is her fault.
She thinks of Barney, Tedless and miserable, sitting alone at the bar. Barney, who had seemed totally comfortable hanging out in her bedroom the morning after; who would've stayed, she thinks, if she hadn't told him to go.
She goes over to his apartment early the next morning, before she's awake enough to talk herself out of it.
"I'm sorry," she says as soon as he opens the door.
He gives her a weird look, but shows her in anyway.
"There's a girl in my shower," he reports as she steps inside. "If she comes out and finds you here, she's gonna be pissed."
For a second, they just look at each other. Then Robin plops down onto the sofa. He smirks, pleased.
"Now, what was that you were saying?" he asks, settling down onto the arm of the sofa.
She takes a deep breath. "I'm sorry."
"Come again?" He frowns.
"What was that?" He cups a hand around his ear. "I just can't—"
"Do you really have to be an asshole about this?" she snaps.
"Nah," he answers with a grin. "It just cracks me up to hear you apologize."
"I can apologize when I've done something wrong, Barney," she informs him, irritated. "I'm not that coldhearted—"
"Sore-y!" He shakes his head, delighted. "God, you Canadians."
"Right." She sinks deeper into the couch. "Of course."
It's quiet for a long time. She can hear Barney's skank-of-the-day singing in the shower.
"I forgive you," Barney says then.
She looks back at him, surprised.
"I get why you told Ted," he continues. "It sucks that you told Ted, but I get why you did it. And I get why he thought—"
"Okay," Robin cuts in. She's not sure she can stand actually hearing Barney point out that, as far as Ted knows, he'd set out to make her another conquest. "I'm glad. Thank you."
They sink into another silence, this one just long enough to confirm that shower girl definitely can't carry a tune to save her life.
"I didn't go home with you to get laid," Barney finally says. "The only action I was expecting to get out of that night was of the Robin-Sparkles-dance-moves-on-your-TV-screen variety."
"I know," Robin hurries to assure him.
"The sex part just happened."
She bites her lip. "Yeah."
"Which was weird," he continues, frowning thoughtfully. "It never just happens. I can't remember the last time I had sex without intending to do it beforehand."
"Madeleine Albright?" Robin suggests.
"You'd like to think that, wouldn't you?" He wriggles his eyebrows; she rolls her eyes. "But whatever," he adds casually. "It was nothing."
"It wasn't nothing," she says without thinking.
The way he looks at her trips her up for a second.
"I mean, I'm not saying it's going to happen again," she adds, remembering how to talk. "Or that we're – I'm just saying that I was sad, and I needed a friend. And it meant a lot that you were there for me."
"We're bros," he answers – kindly, though, with those traces of sweet Barney that nobody gets to see that often. "It's what bros do."
The fact that he's being like this is relaxing. It's enough to make her slyly raise an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Except the sex," he amends. "That's usually ho territory. Maybe we're something else altogether, Scherbatsky. Maybe we're bro-hos."
"Bro-hos," Robin says decisively.
Barney nods, satisfied. "Definitely."
"Not that there's going to be any more hoing," Robin makes sure to add. "So really, bros should do it."
"Right," Barney agrees without missing a beat. At this, she feels a flash of something, but he starts talking again, and it's a good enough distraction. "I guess I've got an open position for a new bro, anyway."
"Whatever," Barney scowls. "If Ted wants to turn his back on living la vida awesome¸ then that's his decision. In fact, I feel sorry for the poor bastard. His life is gonna be pretty bleak sans Barnacle."
"I'm sure he's bummed about it," she says after a moment. She reaches over to touch his arm. "You were his best friend."
Barney's whole face lights up. She's pretty sure the words 'best friend' shouldn't have this effect on anybody over the age of eight.
Fortunately, the girl in the shower chooses to come out at this precise moment, whining about being towelless. When she sees Robin, she starts screaming, and then, prompted by a wink from Barney, Robin starts screaming back. While the girl's scrambling to Barney's bedroom to get her clothes, Robin shouts the first verse and half of the chorus of Sandcastles in the Sand at Barney, figuring it's got the whole I'm-in-love-with-a-jerk thing down pretty good.
"You are a fool!" the girl screeches at Robin as she storms out of the bedroom, struggling to make her halter top actually cover the necessary parts of her body. (She's not doing so well.) "Get out while you still can! Your boyfriend's a gigantic skeezeball!"
"Husband!" Robin shouts back. "And, um, look who's talking, tramp."
The girl lets out one last infuriated scream and then bounds out of the apartment. Robin slams the door after her.
"Scherbatsky!" Barney says adoringly.
They grin at each other, and for a split-second, she really, really wants to be kissing him.
She mumbles an excuse and takes off instead. That way lies badness. She tells herself this again and again on the way downstairs and out of the apartment building, turning it into a kind of (lyrically unimpressive) song. Badness, badness, badness. Badness, badness, badness. To fall for Barney would be madness.
By the time she gets home, she's got a chorus and two verses, and she's changed 'fall for' to 'sleep with'. Same amount of syllables, way less scary implications.
At this rate, there'll be a Robin Sparkles sophomore album by next month.
While she's got the thought in mind, she goes over to her TV and takes the tape out of the VCR. For a second, she just stays there, feeling suddenly aimless with the tape in her hand. Then she reaches for the case and puts it back inside; there's purpose in her steps as she strides toward her bedroom. She shoves it into the back of her closet, leaving it there to be forgotten.