"You son of a bitch!" Ted leaned in and hissed in Barney's ear.

"Whuuut?"

"You're wearing Marshall's cologne aren't you?"

Barney's response was a tiny, self-satisfied shrug and a shit-eating grin and made Ted fume.

Trouble was, there was little you could do but fume and Ted found himself forced to stand there in silent anger, mentally cataloguing Barney's faults and fighting the impulse just to lean in and bury his nose in Barney's hair. Trouble was, he smelled really, really good.

Barney Stinson had a kind of "anything you can do, I can do better" philosophy. Whenever any of them did anything cool, or had anything dramatic happen to them, you could tell he was listening only so he could steal whatever it was and turn it into a pickup line. And of course, whatever it was, Barney would always somehow make it better.

The son of a bitch.

If there was a sad story, he'd add a stoic tear. If it was a joke, his entire face would light up and he'd add a rough-but-urbane chuckle. And, in the case of Marshall's gorgeous cologne, if Barney wanted to smell good, he'd end up exuding enough pheromones to bring down a small elephant.

Case in point…

Ted wavered, slowly inching closer to Barney, who had his back towards him. He kept telling himself, just one tiny half-step, while flaring his nostrils wide to pick up every molecule of that delicious scent. He kept telling himself that he wasn't in the zone, that delicate line of personal space that the code said that Bros should keep between them at any point in time. And Ted kept telling himself that right up until the point that Barney turned around and Ted had gotten so close that they actually bumped into each other, shoulder to shoulder.

"Okay, you. Outside. Now!" Barney said with a growl, thumbing in the direction of the back door of MacLaren's. Ted didn't want to follow him, but was blushing a furious scarlet and figured that his embarrassment would be slightly less noticeable in the dark. God, he could just see Barney using this as a pickup line.

Barney grabbed his arm and practically dragged him outside. "Okay," Barney said, when they were standing in the alley. "Okay. So… It's time we had the talk."

Ted was nonplussed.

"Really?" Barney said, after staring at Ted expectantly for a few moments. "Really? You're going to do this?"

"Do what?"

Clucking his tongue Barney sighed a long-suffering sigh and then gave Ted a hard stare. "Ted Mosby," he said, calmly and clearly. "You just have got to stop crushing on me."

If Ted was angry at Barney before, it was nothing on how he felt after Barney's little speech in the alley.

He sagged down into the booth and knocked back a double scotch in one go, causing Lily to give him a reproachful look. "Ted Mosby!" She said, disapprovingly. "You drink too much. What's up?"

Ted sighed and turned the empty tumbler around in his hand. "Barney. He just yelled at me and he's being completely ridiculous."

"Aw, did you two have a lover's tiff?" Robin said, settling down into the seat next to him.

"Oh shut up," Ted snapped, then shrugged apologetically. "I'm sorry. It's just… We were in the bar having a quiet drink, then he pulls me outside and tells me that I've got a crush on him!"

Lily laughed. "Oh, he gave you the Stop-crushing-on-me speech?"

Robin nodded. "Yeah, that's all?"

Ted looked from one woman to the other. "What?"

"You've never had that speech before?" Lily asked, as Marshall joined them with a round of drinks.

"Hell, I've had that speech!" Marshall grinned. "Twice! We've all had it."

"Seriously?" Ted asked.

Robin nodded. "At least five times. Three of which led to sex."

Lily laughed. "Have you really not had it before Ted? Well, I must say I'm surprised!"

Ted took Robin's glass of wine and downed most of it in one go. He wanted to sink through the floor at the thought of Barney...

"Hey!" Robin complained, punching him lightly in the arm. "Get your own."

"You shouldn't take it so seriously, man," Marshall tried to reassure him. "It's just one of Barney's things."

Lily and Marshall shared a glance. "He just thinks everyone wants to have sex with him. You know that. Especially if they clearly don't want to have sex with him. It's just bravado."

"Don't you think it's a little… invasive?" Ted asked nervously.

"Invasive?" Marshall asked, clearly confused.

"You know, with the kissing?" Ted said, wiping his lips. They still tingled from Barney's stubble.

There was a moments silence followed by the three of them shouting "Kissing?" simultaneously.

"Yeah, you know," Ted said, falteringly. "After the speech. Well, during the speech. The thing about kissing. And… the making out?"

"Ted, what on earth are you talking about?" Robin demanded, her nostrils flaring.

Ted mumbled something.

"What?"

"I said forget it."

The three of them just stared at him until he got to his feet. "I gotta do something," he said, pointing at the door. "See you later, guys."

And he ran for it.

"Wow, weird," Lily said, when he'd gone.

Robin and Marshall nodded.

"Do you really think Barney kissed Ted?" Robin asked them.

"Took him long enough," Lily replied.

All three nodded sagely.

"Still, Barney's a great kisser," Robin sighed. "Credit where credit's due."

"Sure is," Lily said with a smirk.

"Word," agreed Marshall.