Characters belong to Craig Thomas and Carter Bays. Not me. Story line is my own.

Barney always wore protection. He was smart, he knew better. Condoms, cups, sunglasses. He wasn't totally an idiot. That's just a mask. He knew better. But, there was that one time he forgot to be careful. Just, just one time. And it made needing any other protection null and void. Seriously, the fight for Ted's best-friendship was a stupid fight, he knew that, Marshall knew that, Ted knew that. It was something fun, it was something they did to keep the time going, a running joke. But when it turned from a joke to a real fight, he couldn't help but feel just a bit stupid. Well, kind of. At first he didn't even notice, but hindsight is 20/20. Always 20/20.

Ted was an architect. What a stupid job, what a stupid job. No, not really, it was respectable, it was actually interesting, it was what kept him and the rest of the world in an office. But did it have to be so boring?! Did he have to say that it was boring out loud?!

"Ted, come ON! No one cares about the grain of wood and the cuts to make it stronger. You're the only one interested in that stuff." Barney sipped at his scotch, arm flung over the back of the booth, so very very close to Robin.

"Marshall, you like this stuff, don't you?" Ted was trying to get one of them on his side at least. Marshall was too much of a goodie-goodie. He couldn't say yes without pulling a face of pain. The responding face from Ted was priceless.

"Alright, fine! Twist my arm Ted. Your best friend will go with you to work tomorrow to see what all the fuss is about." Barney smirked at Marshall's face when the blond stated this.

"But, but, I'm Ted's best friend!"

"Okay, okay, hold up. How about you both just come with me tomorrow?" And that was all it took to change the topic. And to change their lives.

Barney and Marshall showed up roughly at the same time, one in a suit (guess who) and the other in painting clothes. Jeans, t-shirt, Barney couldn't help but think that might have been a good idea. But once they were inside, and the jacket was off, and they got around to actually having a bit of fun at Ted's job, the slight hesitation Barney had was gone. He had to admit, they were really having a lot of fun. Ted had shown them how to work the saw. True, he was just supposed to be supervising, just supposed to be making sure the workers measured twice and cut once, make sure that things went where they were supposed to. But his friends were there, they had taken the day off to see him and what he did, they were there to have some fun. What could be the harm?

Until Barney decided to show off. Wasn't that how it always worked? He always had to show that he was a man, that he was great at what he did, that he was awesome in everything. So when he wanted to cut a wood plank by himself, who was Ted to say no? Barney thought he had done a great job, that he had cut it straight and on the mark. He pulled the board away, sliding the safety goggles to his forehead and grinning like an idiot. He could hear the saw going on behind him, Marshall not about to be out-done by the blond. Barney turned, mouth open to comment on his friend. The saw kicked, the wood hit the blade. Ted turned at the howl of pain from a very distinct voice. Off to the hospital for Barney, again.

Everyone came after work. Ted didn't want to rush them. Last time there had been an emergency at the hospital and every was called during work, they rushed over and one of them got hit by a bus. True, the one that had done so was the reason they were going to the ER in the first place, but Ted had this image of someone taking Barney's place, like Lily, getting hit by a bus. Yeah, no. He wasn't going to let that happen. But he did call them, did have them come, did hold them outside Barney's room waiting for everyone before he explained and let them in. true, it was only waiting for the girls, but it was something. Marshall wasn't going to be there. He was in the bathroom every few minutes, every time he thought back to the image of Barney on the ground… by now he was dry-heaving, he could have done that in the trash can. But he was going to be polite as always and use the restroom.

Robin was there first, followed closely by Lily. True, Robin didn't have work at this moment in time, she could have been called earlier. But he wanted everyone there, so he waited for Lily to get out first. Robin, being Robin, wanted in immediately. Ted just shook his head. He had planted a chair right next to the door, so he could stop her if she tried to pass him. He was in a new shirt… a scrub the hospital had lent him. It was a nice scrub shirt, blue with a little white trim. The nurses were all wearing them. Stupid thing to concentrate on, but it was that or join Marshall in the stall tossing lunch.

Because the images of Barney on the saw-dust strewn floor, hands on his face… Ted had whipped off his shirt after unplugging the saw, pulling Barney's hands away, Marshall losing it right then and there…

"Ted? What's wrong? What happened?" Lily always wanted to know everything.

"We, um. Barney and Marshall… um." His mouth was filled with cotton, what was wrong with him?!

"It's my fault." Everyone looked up as Marshall joined them, looking as white as the trim on Ted's shirt. "The wood jumped, my wood jumped. I hadn't seen him there."

"Not your fault, he wasn't wearing the goggles."

"But I could have kept it from jumping."

"No, don't you remember what I told you both-"

"STOP IT!" Robin had had enough. She wanted the whole story. And she told them so.

"We were cutting wood." Marshall's voice was so soft as he sat next to Ted. "Barney, he took off his goggles and turned around. The wood, I don't know, it kicked or something. And it, it splintered everywhere. I got some in my hands, they took care of that already, see?" He held up the bandaged fingers. Lily took them in her warm hands and kissed them, hugging her man tightly. Ted knew he couldn't go on, so he finished the tale.

"Barney took a face-full of the stuff. He was bleeding really bad. I put my shirt on it, tried to keep the pressure. We called the ambulance, brought him here. He's been in his room for an hour now, he should be awake any time. The uh, the surgeon came out a while ago. We can go in and see him anytime. But, um. There are going to be some – changes – to our little group."

"Huh?" Robin didn't want to understand. She did, she got it, the puzzle wasn't that hard. She just didn't want to know. She didn't want it to be true. But it was, painfully, but it was. "Please, Ted, spell it out. Just, just say it."

"Mr. Mosby?" The group's heads shot up at the nurse that exited Barney's room. "Mr. Stinson is awake now. He requested you." There was no denying him. So in they went, Lily grabbing Marshall when she saw the gauze-wrapped upper face of their friend. Barney grinned as he heard the door open. Or, kind of. It was small, and rather un-easy.

"Hey guys, how do I look?" From his hairline to his nose was covered in white cloth. They had no idea, nor did they want to have an idea, of what it looked like underneath.

"Not bad." At least Robin was tactful.

"Well that's good. Won't be too awesome if I didn't look good anymore."


"Yeah, don't Lily. I know what's going to happen. Can you guys do me a favor?"

"Sure buddy, anything." Suck up Marshall, suck up.

"Can you find the most awesome looking sunglasses for me? Please, no flowers or anything. Just because I can't see them doesn't mean I want to look like an idiot."