Disclaimer: I do not own How I Met Your Mother, and I am not making money off of this.

He couldn't breathe. For the life of him he couldn't get a single ounce of air into his lungs. With some effort he lifted his head from… well he wasn't sure what it was on. Not the floor surely he wouldn't be on the floor. Oh maybe the bright red smudge on his tux had something to do with the breathing thing. That would make sense. He couldn't hold his head anymore it was so heavy. So it fell back, if it hit something he didn't notice but he was sure it did…

"Barn-" Someone was talking. They were so quiet. So hard to hear. His vision slid out of focus before coming back, someone was in it now though. Lily? Barney opened his mouth, but what came out of it wasn't words.

"Why, why did you…?" Lily was talking, fading off, soft warm hands touching his face. She was so warm, hadn't her hands been cold not that long ago? Yes, she was holding her champagne and needed to get to her purse, asked him to hold it. He had touched her fingers in passing, her hands had been cold. But now, for some reason, they were warm. Maybe he was just cold? That didn't seem right. How did he lose body heat in such a warm room?

Her hand moved from his face, to his chest. He felt it there, it hurt. He winced, struggling for a gasp of air once more. She shushed him, pressing harder on his chest, making it harder to attempt a breath.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I have to stop the bleeding. Oh god, Barney, why?"

Why? Why what? Why did he block them? They were his friends, he had to. He wanted too. He closed his eyes, trying so hard to ignore the fear in her eyes. The care that was there. Why would they care about him? He was just Barney…

The party had been a nice one. It had been a little slow, but it was nice. Robin wasn't there, she was at work, so it was boring. But Marshal and Ted were keeping it interesting enough by commenting on his suit. Okay, so a tuxedo was a bit much to this "party" at the office. But he had to dress nice, not casual. So it was a tux or bust. When the radical came in, shouting about the end of capitalism, waving a gun around and firing at the ceiling, everyone got on the ground. Ted had been freaking out, he hated guns and was shouting at Marshal that this was exactly what he was talking about. He was the only one besides the gunman that was talking. The dude noticed.

The gun was aimed at Ted, Barney knew it wouldn't end good. He launched himself from the floor, hands out, grabbing for the weapon. He didn't hear the report. He didn't feel the drop of lead. He just knew that he was fighting with the guy as people screamed, as his legs went numb, as he stopped being able to breathe. Marshal had grabbed the guy from behind and hit him over the head, Ted had caught Barney under the arms and lowered him to the ground.

Lily was trying to stop the flow of blood with anything she could find now. Parts of people's clothing, tablecloths, anything that she could find. Marshal was keeping the man on the ground until the police got there, he was putting up quite a fight. Ted was on his phone, trying to get help. It seemed like forever ago that this had started. And Lily was asking why. Why?

He couldn't let his friends get hurt. They had their lives to live. They mattered to people. Ted had a new wife (Barney had married them like he had married Marshal and Lily). Robin had her new news channel, Lily and Marshal were a no-brainer. Who needed him? If anyone was going to be expendable, it would be the joker, the butt of the group, the brainless idiot.

They had made it clear that that's what he was. They didn't care about him when Ted was mad at him. They didn't need him. He was the fifth wheel, the one in the bastard-chair. Barney gave a small smile to Lily as she begged him to hold on. No, they didn't need him.

Ted opened the door to Barney's apartment. They weren't sure what to do with it now; Barney had owned it rather than rented it. The idea of just selling something that had meant so much to their friend just didn't seem right. The group of four filed through the door, into the world only one of them had ever seen. Lily hung back a moment, knowing what was going to happen. Once in, though, she closed the thick wood behind her. Ted couldn't move. He stood, gazing around at how empty and cold and bleak this place was. This was a home? No, it couldn't have been. It was grey, the AC was blasting to the point that he was almost shivering, and so empty.

There was a fake plant like one you'd find in a hotel room in the corner, mint-condition couch and chair and table, a spotless kitchen that looked like it's never seen more than a drop of booze in its life. The only bits that looked remotely like it had life to it were the wall-size television that Lily had told them about, and the clone trooper. Through the apartment they moved, noting the lack of pictures, the missing trinkets, the wall of porn. Lily pushed another button and the lights behind it turned off, the shelf spun on an axis, and revealed his library of real books. Each had been read many times over and lovingly alphabetized.

The suit room, too, was oddly blank. Just suits, on padded hangers. The bedroom was the saddest bit, however. In the closet were the sex toys, where the group knew they'd be. The large bed had the tiny blanket. Ted touched it, finding it thin, course, old. An army blanket. James was called at a later time, he didn't know of the blanket. It held no meaning to them from their past. There was nothing in the side-drawers; no condoms, no lube, no bible (Robin had expected a hotel bible, and was disappointed that there wasn't one at the same time she was glad), no phone or charger. The night stand, the drawers, the shelves inside… empty.

The four sat in the living room half an hour later, a box on the table of Barney's personal things sans the suits, trooper, and sex toys. His phone, his blanket, a decanter of scotch, and his television remote. It looked like a calculator. A box, one tiny little box. That was the life of their friend. Ted pulled out a jar from his pocket.

Barney had his funeral just the way he wanted. There was a bar off to the side… everyone only drank a sip, as a toast. He had been naked, with an open casket. At his mother's request, he had been cremated soon after. She wanted him back home. Ted thought Barney would like to be in his apartment one last time. She granted him that.

Setting the blue jar beside the box, everyone sat in silence. What was there to be said? They all had their memories, their regrets. But they had all expected that he'd be there to make it up to one day.

He always cared about them; bringing Lily back, holding Marshal away from girls while trying to get him off the mopes. Teaching Ted all about life until he was ready, introducing him to the girl he'd been keeping hidden from him until just the right moment. Landing Robin her job that was making her the number one reason people turned on the news every day. He had changed their lives, married them to the girls and guys of their dreams. Giving them the chance of a lifetime.

But him? What had they done for him? At the moment, they couldn't think of anything. They teased him, abused him, left him in his moment of need…

And he had died for them.

Ted picked up the jar, fingers tracing the patterns of blue that reminded all of them of Barney's eyes. It was time to get Barney to his mother's. They had let him down so many times in the past, it was time they did what he needed. After everything he had done, they were going to pay back his kindness.