The Itch You Just Can't Scratch

"Hey…", a soft voice whispers in her ear, "that's a nice skirt. Can I talk you out of it?"

Lily swivels around on her stool and rolls her eyes with a grin. "Barney!" He's standing too close, right in her personal space, and he's tracing a finger down her spine before he realises who she is. It's too invasive, too tactile. It reminds of how long it's been since anyone's touched her like that. She supposes she should be dating by now but she doesn't want another man. She wants Marshall. And now here's Barney with his sleazy come-ons and his come-to-bed eyes and it both irritates and amuses her.

He beats his fist on the bar with a "Damn!" and mutters under his breath: "Busted again."

"Seriously? Does that line ever work?"

He scowls, that adorable scowl - she'd put money on the fact that he practices that in the mirror - and cocks his head with a shrug. "Sure." He laughs. "For any single woman who's left alone at a bar this late in the evening, pretty much anything works…" He gives her a pointed look and she sighs.

"Let me buy you a drink," she suggests. She still feels a little guilty about the whole stealing-his-new-bed-linen incident. Although, boy, it's the best thing she's felt against her skin in months.

He sits down eagerly beside her and winces slightly.

"How's the hip?" She asks, raising an eyebrow. He's never going to live that cougar-thing down, possibly not for years. He growls at her and she gets a kick out of riling him.

"What, no witty come-back?" She asks and he opens his mouth but she quickly places a finger over his lips. Lily doesn't know if it's the three Cosmos she's had or the way her back still tingles where he touched her but suddenly the fact that she's touching him seems weird and inappropriate. She pulls back her hand, unable to mask the confusion she feels.

Like a wolf, he senses her weakness and reaches out, capturing her wrist in his hand. "Why Lily Aldrin… Would you look at you, showing such friendly concern…" But his eyes say something different and his lips say something different as he runs his tongue over them and god, it's been so long.

She shakes herself. It's Barney.

But look at him!

She remembers what it felt to be held by him, to rest her cheek against his flesh and breathe in his scent, his male-ness, and flirting can't hurt, right?

But it's Barney. If they hooked up, theoretically, he wouldn't even say anything. It would be a one-night thing and they'd never talk about it again.

All this goes through her mind in the instant between him doing that tongue thing and her pulling back her hand. He keeps hold of it, his thumb lightly brushing over her wrist. It tingles. It makes her tingle all over. It makes her throb. Damn, he's good.

He's had plenty of practice, after all.

But he's Barney!

(He's not Marshall…)

Lily opens her mouth, making a decision. "You know…" She says, smiling, her other hand covering the back of his. "I think I might have left a couple of things at your place… Could I come round… sometime…?" She laughs. "If I didn't outstay my welcome?"

His eyes flash and he shows his teeth. Wolf, she thinks.

"There's still the twelve-hour visa…?"

The question hangs in the air between them.


He's rougher than Marshall. He feels different to Marshall, in the most fundamental and exotic way. It's all about shape and muscle and size and… yeah… he feeds off her mouth, his tongue battling hers and cajoling her and there's a frenzy about it.

They somehow make it from the couch to the bed and she's lost her skirt in one fluid motion. There's no endearing clumsiness like she's used to, not giggles, not sweetness, just need. She falls on to the bed on her stomach, breathless, and he flips her on to her back. The dim light casts a shadow all around him and he looks golden and demonic at the same time, like a fallen angel. There's no more humour in him, no smiles or smirks or grins. This is business to him and Lily can see he takes it very seriously by the expertise he shows in unbuttoning her blouse and cupping her breast and the way he breathes on to her, warming her skin. Barney's mouth moves over her body, nibbling, leaving a hot, wet trail over her belly until his tongue extends, darting between her legs with no warning at all and he shocks her (Marshall never shocked her) and it's too sudden, too soon and it almost hurts.

Then he chuckles. She can feel a pulse, beating like a snare drum, her clit is swollen and raw and, yeah, it's painful that he's pulled away. He's being evil; she knows that he's playing with her. She grabs his hair, short, blonde tufts twisting beneath her fingers and she snarls, pushing him down. He doesn't resist (of course) because that's just what he wanted - her desperation, her naked desire and he teases her, licking her gently, thrumming his tongue against her until she's writhing and moaning wordlessly and the world goes kind-of liquid.

After she comes, her jaw aches. She hadn't realised that she'd clenched her teeth. Oh sure, Marshall has made her come that hard (her heart breaks a little as she thinks this) and what if he never takes her back? Suddenly there are tears in her eyes and she wishes, wishes, wishes with all her heart that she could take back the last three months and be with him again.

Barney's hovering over her and frowns. There are no words. He knows what she's thinking - of course he does, he knows what this is between them, he knows what he's giving her - and he kisses the corner of her eye at the crease. She can smell herself on him and when he kisses her, softly, just the once, she can taste herself too.

He nuzzles her cheek, his nose brushing her jaw-line before he pulls back, slipping on a condom. He doesn't ask her permission, doesn't question her, and somehow Lily's grateful for his confidence. Because if he asked her if she was sure she wanted to do this, her brain and her heart would get in the way and, boy, right now she just wants to be fucked really hard. She wants to feel something, anything, to relieve the desperation she's felt every single second since Marshall uttered the words "Lily, you were right…"

Lily feel's Barney's hands (his clever, conjurer's hands) grab her ass and pull her towards him. She squirms and he pins her down, his weight pressing her into the bedding as he enters her, all firm and smooth and… urgh!... her brain refuses to work from that moment on.

Everything's physical, immediate, pulsing, almost angry. She kind-of fights him, scowling a little, wanting him deeper, faster, harder and that's exactly what he gives her. And she enjoys it because he's not Marshall and everything is wrong and different and terrible and beautiful and it's nothing but sex, sex, pleasure and mounting, devastating ecstasy.

When she comes, there's no emotional connection between them. She feels him hold back, skilfully (he's the master at this) and as the spasms wrack her body she wonders what he's waiting for. But when she turns to putty in the afterglow he begins again, thrusting so suddenly, so brutally, that her third orgasm surprises her as much as the look of child-like joy that she sees in him in the brief instant before her eyelids flutter closed.

She's also surprised that he holds her, for long minutes afterwards. And even after he's shifted over, even after she's heard the snap of the condom being removed, even after she hears the rush of water from the shower, Lily doesn't feel like moving.

She feels sated…. At peace.

She knows the bad feelings are out there, at the edges of her consciousness, but she doesn't care. For that one moment, she doesn't care.

And for that one, brief moment, she loves Barney for giving her that.


The next day, Lily feels a little fragile, a little brittle. She goes over to Robin's, to invite her over to the apartment. She invents some spurious reason (wine tasting/catch-the-rat party) so that she doesn't have to be alone. Robin and Ted tell her that Marshall's going on a date.

Her world shifts again and all thoughts of Barney are forgotten. The peace that she found the previous night is swept away in that one, cruel moment of realisation that Marshall might be with someone Marshall might have a future with someone else.

But weeks later, when she's lying in Marshall's arms, and months later, when she's finally stopped worrying that it's all going to fall apart again, Lily allows herself a secret smile that she got to experience sex outside of her and Marshall. Sex, not making love. She'd only ever made love with Marshall.

And when Barney marries her and Marshall a few months later, then love is the only thing that's important in the whole wide world.