Barney looks up from his desk to see two cops standing in the doorway of his office. He's a little surprised to see that particular flavour of law enforcement officer at GNB. The FBI, yes. The CIA twice. Even the ATF on one memorable occasion. But two regular flat-foots?
Then he realises.
"You need to come with us, sir. I'm afraid that you are under arrest…"
He swallows hard. The twin scratches on his cheek condemn him. His bruises. The bite mark.
"…rape of Robin Scherbatsky…"
"No-" He protests. It wasn't like that.
"You've got to talk about it honey," Lily says, biting her bottom lip.
Robin is crying. Hard nosed, hard-drinking, Robin is crying. Not sobbing, but the tears are creeping down her face, over the livid bruise that's already purpling her cheek. "Who did this, baby?" Lily continues. "You've got to tell someone! Who-"
"Barney." Robin blurts the word, making Lily jump. After all, her best friend just sat in silence for the last half hour, not responding, not explaining, just looking…
So not Robin.
"Barney?" Lily almost says, but Robin's covering her face with her hands. "Oh god…"
Each circle of metal snaps around his wrists. The cop cuffs him and leads him quickly through the maze of offices, past the 20th floor conference room and over to the elevator.
This is not the first time something like this has happened. The other workers barely pay him any attention. Bilson frowns at him as if to say - "Unless you get twenty years, buddy, you're not worth my time."
Barney doesn't look at anybody.
He keeps his eyes fixed firmly on the floor and the metal feels so cold and heavy around his wrists that it burns him.
Marshall gets the phone call he never thought he'd get.
"I'm- I'm-" Barney's voice seems very small and very far away. Small and pathetic.
"Barney, man…" Marshall massages his temples. He's not unsympathetic. He's not a cruel man. But- "Barney, I've seen you do some terrible things. But this... This, dude…" He shakes his head. "I can't help you. I'm sorry, but I can't!"
He replaces the phone gently in the receiver.
He saw Robin. He sat with Robin while she talked to the police. He heard her stuttered, garbled words, heard her painful silences.
How could he help Barney?
Robin lies in bed in their bedroom and Lily curls up on the couch, her arms crossed over her chest.
She can't leave Robin alone.
No one has explained to Robin that Barney's been arrested. As far as they can tell, Robin's in the middle of a pretty major breakdown right now.
Lily salutes, tears in her eyes. "Major Breakdown," she mutters.
She's afraid for her friend.
She's seen the bruises, the scars, the way Robin flinches when anyone touches her. Since the police, Robin's not said a word to anyone.
Jesus, how long has this been going on?
They charge Barney on a Monday. He tells himself that he's not looking for them - his friends. He tells himself he doesn't notice that none of them turn up. He doesn't listen to the judge. Doesn't hear the words they say. Doesn't hear the accusations.
He can't get everything straight in his mind right now; can't process. They put him in a cell on his own.
On the way out of court he swears he sees Ted. Just for a second, catches his eye.
But he can't read his friend's expression - condemnation or pity, he just can't tell.
Robin comes at him, her fingers curled into claws, her face split until an ugly sneer. Barney defends himself, his elbow hitting her face as her nails score his cheek.
"You bastard!" She yells at him, sobbing, panting, tears in her eyes. Her hands are balled into fists. She's a mess; he thought he was making this better but it's worse. He grabs Robin, throws her onto the bed, one hand snaking under her shirt and grabbing a handful to rip it off.
"NO!" She screams in his ear, then she sobs.
And for once, for fucking once, he stops.
They put Barney in a cell with a weasel-y little dude. He's pretty sure he'll be gutted and fucked within the week unless he lets someone make him his bitch.
So he plays another card.
Barney's a gambler, it's in his heart, it's in his blood. He walks in line in the cafeteria, scopes out the biggest, hardest motherfucker in the joint and goes crazy-eyes on him. Throws a tray of boiling oil at the dude and looks him right in the eye while doing it.
Barney's gonna be here for months. No one will touch him now.
When Robin comes home, Ted doesn't treat her carefully. He takes her to the bar, he buys her tacos and they sit and watch Predator together.
Robin doesn't talk much but that's not new. It sort-a feels like things are back to normal.
Until Robin takes a shower.
Ted swallows when he sees the mottled colour decorating the skin of her back and shoulders. Thing is, he's seen the bruises before.
Thing is, he tried to pretend that he didn't know what was going on.
Thing is, he could have stopped it all.
Just what kind of friend is he?
Robin's leg brushes his. Barney doesn't look as she gets up to go to the restroom. She stops half way to talk to a friend and he ducks out of the booth, circles around and waits just inside the door.
When she opens it, he grabs her and drags her into a stall. He's not gentle when he rips off her panties. When he fucks her, one hand over her mouth, she tries to bite his fingers. It's so real and raw, he comes like a freight train.
After, they go sit down and carry on as if nothing's happened.
Lily watches as Barney hits on the fifth girl that night. Robin's scowling the entire time, her nose wrinkled, her eyes flashing.
When Barney gets to first base with the girl, Robin gets to her feet. Lily watches intently as the woman smirks, her eyes following Barney as he heads to the bar.
Robin snarls and darts over to Barney's conquest.
Lily never discovers what Robin whispers in that poor girl's ear but she looks like she's about to throw up and she darts out the door quicker than a ferret up a fire escape.
Robin sneers in vicious triumph.