Today he wears Armani: Fatto A Mano Su Misura, cashmere with the blue-dyed silk lining; a handmade shirt and sapphire cufflinks. The watch is Seiko, a present from a client, the shoes are KG. His aftershave is pungent, made from Madagascan pepper, bergamot, Virginia cedar and bourbon vanilla. This is a meeting which reeks of money. No man present would choose an identical combination of fabric, silhouette and detail. He feels at home here.
Bilson wears the pinstripe double-breasted Paul Smith, he notices with a supercilious smirk. As if anyone will take him seriously.
Barney sits back and lets everyone else talk. He chooses his time, picks his spot, like a tiger waiting in the long grass, perfectly camouflaged and waiting to strike. Inside him, there's the first stirrings of something, a distant fluttering like soft, angel wings and he knows… He knows that tonight might just be the night. If not tonight, then soon.
The moment approaches and he looks down at his papers, feigning disinterest. This is the most important part, the part that 83% of people get wrong. He waits for the opportune moment.
Then he rises.
Barney Stinson begins to speak.
After all, it's what they pay him for.
Once, many years ago, James caught him killing a bird. It was just a pigeon and a wounded one at that. The mangy thing had fluttered its way on to the railing and landed on the rickety stairwell outside their apartment.
The bird had rings around his neck and Barney found himself wondering if they were guide-marks. He'd throttled the life out of the thing before James could drag it out of his tiny, clutching hands.
"Barney! Ew! It's got fleas! Mom says…"
Barney turned tail and ran, ducking through the door and away from the balcony. He smiled, feeling a weird sort of excitement that made him want to run around the living room in front of the TV till he threw up.
He wondered if he could catch a rat or something…
Bilson hands him a Robaina Clásico and he cuts it with a bullet punch. They light up, drawing the smoke gently into their lungs. "How much?" Bilson asks him.
The numbers slide across the front of his cortex, nestled right behind his eyes, twisting together with balletic simplicity and he smiles, eyes un-focusing as he begins to speak.
"Fifteen percent in year one, rising to sixteen in the second and third year. Overheads are well above thirty, if you take into account the subsidiary they spent a lot of time not mentioning. That's a real-term loss of at least six, even taking into account the merger, or four if we wanted to strip-mine."
When people ask Barney what he does, he always gives them the same response. He doubts anyone would understand. He thinks even Bilson probably doesn't understand.
"Okay…" the other man drawls. He doesn't ask Barney how he does such complex calculations in his head. He stopped asking a long time ago.
"It's not worth it," Barney explains, for the benefit of the hard-of-thinking.
Bilson nods and takes a sip of scotch, coughing a little on his cigar.
Barney rolls his eyes.
"Barney?" The girl yells from the bedroom. She has long, curly blonde hair which tumbles over her shoulders and across her pert and perfect breasts. She's smaller than he'd like but he hasn't got the luxury of time to be picky.
In the kitchen, he pulls a knife from the drawer. Not a large one, nothing too flashy, but it's sharp, the light from the halogen spot-lamps reflecting on the razor-like blade. He smiles, flipping it in the air and catching it by the handle.
The camera's on the kitchen worktop, battery charged. It's been playing up a little lately and… The thought slips out of his head as the girl calls out again.
"Hey, your sheets are all plastic. You into that kinky stuff?"
He grins and hefts the camera, sliding the knife into his back pocket. Kinky?
He ends up considering a Cannon DSLR because he can't bring himself to buy another Nikkon. But who the hell is he fooling? He rings his guy in Japan and gets the new D3x shipped over by courier. He spends a day experimenting with it, taking it into the office and getting some good shots on the roof, the last distance shots he'll ever take with it. He always does this with a new camera. He has a scrapbook of roof-shots.
Once back in his office, he rings the IS department and gets one of the techie geeks, Nathan, to come up.
"Oh wow!" Nathan says, on seeing the camera. He wants to get his sweaty digits on it, Barney can tell. He loves being the guy who has what other guys want.
Barney laughs, offering over the camera. He makes sure there's a good set of prints covering it before he takes it back, using a silk-shot handkerchief to pick it up.
"Awesome," Nathan says.
This one has black, straight hair and olive skin. Her nipples are mocha and budding as he leaves her lying on his bed, legs spread wide and gasping. He feels the itch beneath his skin, pulling it too tight. Those angel wings are beating loudly against his ears now and it feels like there's a white hot light inside him, bursting to get out.
God, he's so hard. He's come twice and he's still so hard.
The flash is bright, too harsh on his retinas and the camera whines hard as it recharges. He likes the whine. It drowns out her protests.
He takes another picture, one handed, as the other snakes around her neck, jerking upwards under her jaw and squeezing until she's wriggling like a maggot on a hook. He doesn't let go, even though his bicep stand out from the effort.
When she's still he drops the camera, fingering the skin of his own arm, tracing the swell of the aching muscle wonderingly.
He sips a Girvan 1965, slowly, letting the amber liquid coat his mouth just enough to feel the first burn before swallowing. He leans back against the leather seat, letting his leg bump against Robin's. He feels drained and sated and happy but he needs the buzz that only good scotch can give him. Good scotch and her.
She laughs easily, her hair brushing his shoulder and receding like an ocean wave.
He's wearing the Dolce & Gabbana black pinstripe, mulberry shirt and tie and black lace-up Prada shoes. The jacket is off, hung over the back of Ted's chair at the end of the table. He takes another tiny sip of the scotch. There's no pressure to rush this.
Ted says something lame and Robin laughs again, her eyes dancing. He feels it jab him a little and jealousy is not something he's entirely comfortable with so he winks at a red-head at the bar and nods his head. She smiles and blushes.
He loosens his tie and Robin touches his arm.
"That, Scherbatsky, is why we never let Ted out on his own any more," He says and Marshall laughs, giving him a high-five.
The girl at the bar gives him the flirty eyes and Barney pulls his grin up a notch. He could take her home, should take her home. Or go to her place?
But Robin's hand hasn't moved from his arm and the fact that she has no idea what she's doing to him turns him on.
Because there's only the faintest whisper of angel wings in his head, the merest fluttering of feathers, the red-head can wait.
He turns his upper body towards Robin.
Tonight, he's all hers.