Title: Tidying Up
A/N: The end of 'In the End' – which wasn't supposed to be a multi-fic but as I was unable to indicate so on FF... anyways, I'm sorry to sort of tie this into cannon but yeah... I think it's a good way to tie the fic up. =) First real complete series! Woo!
Beta: MS-manuscript – who was even available to do it live! ... okay no, that's not... NO ONE TURN THAT DIRTY! I meant real-time feedback... *facepalm* stupid kink-meme... not that I'm reading it... *cough*
MS is a good beta. And helped significantly in some formating difficulties with regards to spacing.


Barney stared down, onto his plate.

"And I swear, there were like 20 dogs who suddenly started barking!" Don said, erupting into giggles with Robin who shook her head, restricting hers as best as she could.

"No, there were literally 30 at least, and a dozen cats!" She raised her voice, eyes wide, ready to be challenged on this.

Barney took in a deep breath, stuffing back the frown he had grow weary of hidden and managing instead a small and easy smile, while Ted argued with the number of animals that could fit in a RV.

He could easily fit his behaviour into that of their pleasant audience instead of a bitter competitor. He couldn't make a scene now, not now. He, however, couldn't help but congratulate himself at pushing the pair together, when he observed Robin's animated joy.

He kept on eating, looking up occasionally, making sure no one had noticed and nodding and laughing at all the right cues.

When the food was gone and everyone left the table, Don offered to help clear the table. A smile grew on Robin's lips and Barney could feel the cursed sensation growing.

It was only more evidence to it.

Barney's eyes immediately turned downward, hoping he'd be able to find stability on the floor.

It was for the best.

He fought back the nausea and put it in place with the numbness of it all.

He looked up, and Robin turned to grin to him, raising her eyebrows as if to show off her prize. He gave her a happy look, nodding in agreement and appraisal.

He'd never say a word and as long as he kept it inside, as long as he kept on smiling, kept on with the jokes, kept up with it all... eventually the feeling would dissipate.

"Don, please," Barney said standing up as Don picked up a plate, Lily standing across from him with two in her hands. "I'll clean the table, you sit."

"But-"

He scoffed, "you're a guest dude, sit, relax and stop trying to show off," he said patting Don's back. Don, though put back slightly by the soft slap, smiled gratefully, and went to sit next to Robin. Barney wouldn't let himself turn around 'til after a few minutes, unwilling to see what Robin would think.

Lily made a remark on how nice and courteous he was being; he nodded and shrugged modestly, unable to hide a wince when she turned back to the table.

He could hear them laughing, Ted and Marshall playing along gleefully, casually, perfectly willing and insistent.

"I got it," he said taking a plate from Lily's hands when he saw that she too couldn't help but try to listen in to Don's story.

"You sure?"

"Yeah," he gave her a quick nod. She smiled gratefully and joined the rest of the gang as Barney accumulated all the plates, silverware and half filled glasses. He found reason to do the dishes as mumbled pieces of dialogue reached past the kitchen door. He found ways to preoccupy his mind elsewhere.

Paperwork for meetings he decided to put off tonight... among other ideas...

He scrapped the remains of broccoli into the trash can as his thoughts wandered to more adventures areas. To another time and another place.

He couldn't help but imagine an average afternoon, one which would be average, could be average. Coming up the stairs and opening the door to Robin on the couch, calmly reading a magazine, smiling up to see his face. There was just something about it.

It wasn't that he still loved her. It wasn't.

She'd ask him how his day was while he collapsed on the couch cushion next to her, and he'd probably shrug the question away – 'cause nothing important really happened, not 'til now anyways.

He was too awesome to be held down like that. Heck, who's to say that he actually did love her? They dated but it... It wasn't like they really...

She'd probably talk about something at work for a bit and he'd just watch because she always lights up when something good happens at work. She'd probably get a better job... maybe even one in New York...

He's Barney – he's too damn awesome for that stuff. Why would he? No need for it.

He gulped, something bubbling up from the depths of his chest, something he pushed back down.

But maybe... Maybe.. maybe if he just tried a little harder. He knew that he was the one who held back.

Robin was right, he never gave her a super date. After going on and on for a year about those damn – those damn feelings! He got the girl. And what did he do? Nothing.

He hid it all away, pushing it all back. Just like before – except that he got to sleep with her, which was awesome but...

He'd probably make some silly joke about Canada and she'd get mad. But he'd give her a look – he's been practicing – just to let her know it was a joke and she'd frown suspiciously.... he smiled... and then he'd grin and tell her...

He had just finished creating piles of soapy dishes when he heard footsteps approaching him. He spun around, "Robin, hey!"

"Hi," she grinned back curiously; she frowned, "you okay?"

"Hmm?"

"Are you done with the dishes?"

"Uh... almost there."

"Oh, well, me and Don are heading out, so uh..." She hunched her shoulders, her grin tightening as she waited for his reaction.

His was to slowly fade his smile away, dodging her eye for a moment as his grabbed onto the counter top. Her grin tightened, finally hiding itself away as he dried his hands with nearby cloth. "I'll see you later Barney."

"Robin, wait..." He could see she was tired and that she just wanted to go... They hadn't spend much time together.

"Yes?"

He wanted to tell her. He did. But it would mess everything up. And he knew it. And he didn't want to. And he couldn't... he couldn't steal a blue violin or make it rain, he couldn't fly across the country and declare his love for her and he couldn't have a super date with her... It's not that he didn't want to. It's not that he didn't have the means or the opportunities for it.

He just couldn't. He didn't have it in him. He wasn't brave like that, he wasn't strong like that, he wasn't good like that, at that.

"Have a safe trip," he pushed a grin up and watched as she replied and left.

He was just weak in the knees.