Disclaimer All publicly recognizable characters, settings, plot, etc. are the property of the creators of the TV show How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). Any original characters, settings and plots are the property of devylish. devylish is in no way associated with the TV show HIMYM and no copyright infringement is intended. This work is an amateur fan effort and no profit is being made.
AN unbeta'd AN2 Can be read as a stand alone or as part five of my marshallsdeadverse. Other pieces in that verse include: Not Breathing, Barely Afloat, Breathing You, and Unspoken.
"Are you okay?" He stood a foot or two behind her, watching as she began making herself another rum and coke.
"I'm fine." Her voice was taut, firm. She was controlled and in charge of her emotions…. until he took another step in, pressing his chest against her back. Then her edges began to fray. "I'll… be okay." She stopped pouring the sweet, icy soda and lowered the bottle to the counter.
"We can go home." He took her free hand in his, warming the cool flesh.
Home. He didn't think of his apartment as home anymore…. When he thought of home, he thought of Lily's apartment. Lily and Marshall's apartment. The craftsman wood, the crown molding, the stained glass windows… so not his style. But they indicated home none the less. Why? Because Lily was there. "We don't have to stay. We can order in, that awesome Thai place on 3rd… I'll even watch that stupid Harold and Kumar flick with you."
She smiled despite herself and leaned further into his body. Per usual, he was tempting her; temptation was what he did best.… Well, okay, temptation was what he did second best. But he was damn good at it. Too good. She slowly stiffened and pulled herself out of his arms, taking her soda with her.
"That would be rude Barney. We're here with friends… having fun. Let's have fun." She smiled perkily, falsely, and headed into the living room.
They were all at Ted's, gathered for an evening of revelry and drunkenness. Drunkenness that was well underway for all; and revelry that was underway for Ted and Robin. But not for Lily and Barney.
Lily was in a dark mood tonight. She'd been in a dark mood for the last week. Quiet and withdrawn. And apparently, when Lily was dark… withdrawn – anti the revelry – Barney followed suit. But also like Lily, he had a façade, a mask that he wore for the benefit of others. For the benefit of those who wouldn't understand.
He sighed, straightened his tie, and then his cuffs, and pushed into the living room. "Who's in the mood for a little bit of magic?"
Eventually the two of them made it home; Ted and Robin none the wiser that Lily was faking her chipper smile and her lilting laugh. But, Barney thought as he loosened his tie as he closed the apartment door behind them, Robin and Ted were 'none the wiser' about a lot of things. They weren't aware, for instance, of just how much time Lily and he spent together. They didn't notice, or perhaps they didn't care, that when they called Lily's place, or stopped by her place, nine times out of ten, he was there.
Proof 1056 that people only see and hear what they want to see and hear. He bent over and took of his shoes, placing them next to the coat rack where Lily liked them; handy, but out of the way.
Kind of like him.
He was handy – he could hold her close, ease her pain, make her body and her mind forget -- but apparently, more importantly he was handy because he could be moved out of the way.
Like now. He sat on the arm of the couch and watched Lily move around the room, slipping off her shoes, wiggling her toes on the rug. Then picking up her shoes and moving toward the bedroom.
Within seconds she'd returned to the living room, wearing a pair of dancer's shorts and one of his shirts. She stopped, settled on the couch and unrolled the socks she carried in her hand. As he watched her curve her feet into the white socks, he realized all of her actions seemed 'normal'. She wasn't crying. She wasn't cursing under her breath. But still, something was wrong. Something that had been wrong for days now.
He didn't know what the 'something' was. But he felt it. He'd gone, somehow, from -- from whatever it was he'd come to mean to her -- to a version of Robin. A version of Ted. A friend. A close friend. But this new role was nothing like the intimacy, the familiarity, the belonging he'd felt with her, for her, during the past year.
He didn't know what had changed. He hadn't felt it coming. Hadn't seen or sensed his world changing. But it had.
Barney prided himself on his ability to read people. It allowed him to manipulate them that much easier. and until recently, he had been able to read Lily. Manipulate her…? No. But read her yes. Her ability to read him as well as he read her, made manipulation of her impossible…, but he could read her. They understood one another.
He watched her settle back on the couch, remote in hand. Maybe if he just watched her a little longer. Studied her like a book -- a mysterious book with ornate cover and frail wispy pages with the most unique writing on them -- maybe then he'd figure it out; he'd figure out what changed. And he'd figure out how to put things back. Back to the way they were. Limbo. Beautiful, delicious, oblivious, limbo.
She was hyper aware of him. Aware of where he was sitting. That his shoes were off and that his tie was loose and askew. She even knew that his eyes were on her; that he'd been studying her; studying her form, her frame, the way she moved. From anyone other than Barney, the subtle staring would be irritating. From him, it was soothing.
And that scared her.
Her secrets had grown exponentially in the last week. Grown in ways she'd never thought they would. And the fact that he, Barney, could read her so well frightened her. Frightened the hell out of her. She couldn't afford for him to figure out all of her. Couldn't afford to let him read her.
So she was working on building a new wall. Something that would keep him at bay. A new wall, to keep his eyes from seeing her. Keep his touch from waking her. Keep his voice from teasing and soothing her. If she could build this wall, strong enough, high enough, everything might be all right again.
She lifted her knees up to her chest as she sat on the couch, her head lying on her arms as they rested atop her legs. Who am I kidding? It will never be all right. It'll never be right again. This wasn't just some mistake she could paint over, or some whisper she could pretend she didn't hear. This… this was life altering. She turned her head to the side as it rested on her arms and she looked at Barney.
Their eyes met and dance; instinctively memorizing the features and beauty of the person before them.
And suddenly, she could feel the tears welling up inside of her. She didn't want to cry in front of him. Not again. He'd seen too much of her pain. Suffered through too much of it already. And to have him see her cry now, 'because' of him? Because of what they'd done? She could be cruel. Undeniably so. But she wouldn't be that cruel. Flashing a sad smile at him she lifted her head and stared at the television again. She blinked once, twice.
She won't let me in. Barney tightened his hands in to fists. Fists that clenched and unclenched, his manicured nails biting into flesh. Lifting one hand to his tie, he pushed it back into place. "So I have a date in about twenty minutes." He stood up, turning his back to her. "Cute blonde. Met her at the coffee shop, Becker St." He slid his feet back into his polished Armani loafers. "I-I'll see you round Aldrin."
And then he was gone. Out the door. Off to spend a night alone in his apartment. Leaving Lily alone.