Sipping from his beer bottle, Ted musingly asked, "Does anybody else feel like tonight we walked into a real-life bar story? And one that wasn't even all that good?" After those questions, when he looked around their table in the bar, Ted found that nobody there was paying the slightest bit of attention to him.

To his right, Robin was drinking from her own bottle as she smirked at everyone else there. Across the table, Marshall was glowering at his wife seated next to him, as Lily continued giggling into her hands covering her mouth, as she'd done for the last few minutes. And Barney…. Well, Barney had been remarkably quiet for him during the past half-hour. With good reason.

Undeterred, Ted started to express what was really bothering him. "Look, whatever happened, it just doesn't seem like it turned out the way it should have. I mean, if I was hearing this story from someone else, it would be kind of disappointing. Not all that funny, and with a really weak ending."

Amazed stares were now sent to Ted from all the rest of the people there at the table, their attention finally caught. Robin was the first to speak, indignantly saying, "Oh, come on! There's no way anybody couldn't find this funny!" Marshall and Lily nodded firmly in agreement, as the redheaded woman let her hands drop to her lap.

Barney refrained from any comment.

Ted shrugged, and admitted, "I have to say, the start of the story was traditional. We came in here tonight, like we usually do; Barney hit on the first single woman he saw, like he always does; he got shot down--"

"Ahem," Marshall loudly cleared his throat, and he sent a disgruntled expression Ted's way. "I think you should add in the story that the woman Barney tried out his usual line of 'Hey, let's see if it's really true that redheads are hot' was an EXACT DOUBLE OF MY WIFE! Which didn't exactly show off any concern or regard for anyone else's feelings--"

A disbelieving expression on her face, Lily turned to incredulously ask her husband, "That's what's been bugging you so much? That Barney made a move on somebody who looked just like me, and not the fact that somehow I have an identical twin?"

Nodding seriously, Marshall informed his wife, "This is important, Lily." Looking again at Ted and missing how Lily's eyes narrowed in an evil stare at her oblivious husband, Marshall declaimed, "Ted, it needs to be said in the story that Barney is an absolute jerk--"

Robin dryly interjected, "Barney manages to convey that pretty well himself, anyway. As demonstrated by his pushiness, when he still tried asking out that lady despite her definite rejection in that she really wasn't interested, plus she was a lesbian here with her partner."

Lily's eyebrows rose, as she pointed out, "Well, that's in the top three excuses usually said by Barney's targets to make him go away."

Marshall sardonically said, "It wasn't an excuse this time, when her partner then showed up, and that pair didn't exactly care for Barney's proposal that they prove their relationship by Frenching each other in front of everyone in the bar."

"I think the older one was wearing some kind of contacts and they must have acted funny in the bar lights," theorized Ted. "Surely her eyes didn't really turn black then?"

"Beats me, Ted," shrugged Robin. "I didn't notice, 'cause it was more fun watching how the butch one grabbed Barney by his throat and lifted him off the floor with just one hand, yelling she was gonna drop-kick his ass all the way to the East River."

Looking quizzically at Ted, Lily asked him, "You, um, know Barney better than anybody else. Was he being brave, stupid, having a death wish, or just playing to the crowd when he shouted at us to take a photo of the woman holding him up after she did that, and then performed the Brandy Chastain move of dropping to her knees and ripping off her shirt in victory?"

Ted actually considered this for a few moments, before lifting his shoulders in resignation and bemusedly answering, "All of that, I guess, considering it was an ultimate Barney moment in pushing the other one over the edge."

"Which leads us back to our original question," commented Marshall. He determinedly continued, "How can you say it isn't a funny story, especially when it includes the other redhead actually being a real witch and casting spells to make the entire bar ignore what happened next, for us to forget it all too when the hour's up, and changing Barney during that time into the most disgusting creature she could think of before she and her partner left here?"

Everyone at the table glanced at each other then, and as one, they all leaned over and craned their necks to look over the table edge at Barney's seat. There, a very expensive and empty man's suit rested, the discarded clothes crumpled in a pile, and on top of this was perched a small, grayish, dark-blotched frog looking back at them with damp, protuberant eyes.

"Ribbit," sadly croaked Barney Stinson.

Right after that, Ted indignantly pointed his finger at the small amphibian, which earlier had been a man known for being a supreme smart-ass until tonight his conceited machismo had caused a truly ticked-off Willow Rosenberg to turn him into a California tree frog, scientific name Pseudacris cadaverina.

"See? See? Okay, that might have been a little funny, but no real classic bar story would have left things hanging like that! Where's the joke? Most of all, how come there's no final punch line?"

Smugly confident that he'd made his point, Ted leaned back into his seat, and crossed his arms over his chest, looking around to confirm that his companions had respectfully listened to his opinion.

Again, nobody was paying any attention.

Robin was busy tipping over her pretzel bowl onto the table, until she'd emptied that round container and bringing it upright again, she poured most of the contents of her beer bottle into this. Shoving the filled bowl toward Barney's seat, the woman remarked, "Hey, Barn, you gotta look on the positive side of things. Like now, compared to your size, this bowl has to be the size of a bathtub filled with beer. Drink up, dude!"

"Ribbit!" enthusiastically came from the frog in his newly-rough voice, as the small animal made a flying leap from his seat that had to come from sheer instinct, hopping right onto the table to land next to the beer-filled bowl, that Barney promptly plunged his head into, quickly producing noisy sucking sounds as the liquid level rapidly dropped.

At the other side of the table, Marshall and Lily ignored all this, since they were preoccupied with their own married-couple quarrel. A distinct edge in her voice, the woman sweetly asked, "Are you saying that I'm incapable of protecting myself from a guy's come-ons? Well, let me tell you--"

Now showing a serious pout, with his lower lip sticking out in a way that Lily ordinarily found absolutely cute, Marshall looked down and muttered, "Lils, I've known even bigger jerks than Barney, with all their lines, and I hated how girls kept falling for them. And none of those girls even looked at me, when I tried being honest with them. You were the first to pay attention to me when I told you how I really felt about you, and I'm still kind of scared someone else's empty words then might have worked instead on you."

Lily promptly melted, her irritation instantly disappearing at the big doofus next to her, who was nobody's but HERS, as she reached out to tenderly rub his arm, and she cooed into Marshall's now-hopeful face that had turned to glance at her, "Look, pookie, I'm going to show you that you don't have to worry about that ever again. Listen, in bed tonight, I'll be the timid first-year college student uncertain about her sexuality, and you can be the campus stud triumphantly bringing me over to the side of the straights."

Her husband's face brightened suddenly, and encouraged, he asked, "Can I wear the football uniform?"

"Not with the shoulder pads, dear. You know how those stretch the sheets."

Across the table, listening to this, Ted and Robin glanced at each other, and both rolled their eyes. Then, Ted looked back at the table, where a small frog that had lifted its head from the now-empty bowl was intently watching him in the seriously unfocused way that frogs can handily deliver, even if they hadn't just consumed the equivalent of an entire keg of beer. Ted stared at the amphibian as it began swelling up as it took in a deep breath, only to abruptly expel this in a loud, one-word froggy croak:


For a few moments, all the others at the table were absolutely frozen, until they finally reacted.

Marshall and Lily fell into each others' arms, screaming with laughter.

Robin sprayed out the last of her beer, where she'd been finishing off her bottle, in an earnest spit-take, to then slam the bottle on the table and then wrap her arms around her stomach while lifting her face to the ceiling and howling upwards in absolute mirth.

Ted slowly fell forward to drop the front of his upper body onto the top of the table, and as he pounded his fist against that surface in total delight, the man turned his head to look at where the small creature was crouching against the bowl, and staring his friend in the face, Ted managed to gasp, "Barney, that has to be the best variation of the 'twelve-inch pianist' that I've ever heard in my life! Man, you have created the most classic bar-story punch line ever!"

A frog's face is always in a smile, yet at this moment, the expression on the amphibian's features also had on it sheer smugness, as Barney Stinson once again basked in glory.

*Legen-- CROAK --dary!*