Barney and Robin step out into the morning sunshine, laughing.

"She bought it," Robin says triumphantly.

"Hook, line, and sinker. We are good," Barney announces, and the two high five.

"Oh, totally," Robin agrees. They slap five a second time underhand, for good measure. "So, you wanna get some breakfast?"

Barney thinks about it, and even though he now knows full well it breaks the 'girlfriend rule', there isn't anything in the world he'd rather do right now then go to brunch with Robin.

"You know, brunch actually does sound kinda good."

"Hmm. Well, lead the way, sweetie pie," she tells him.

He makes a face at her. "Whoa! Flugelhorn."

"Yeah, that felt wrong," she admits and he chuckles.

Then Barney and Robin set off down the street together, laughing and talking as they go until Barney interrupts their chit-chat to playfully request, "Gimmie that hand." He reaches down for her hand and intertwines their fingers. She smiles over at him and they turn the corner, laughing and holding hands.

Later they're sitting together at brunch, surrounded by dozens of sappy couples, and it's just the sort of setting that would have previously made Barney bolt in disgust. Scratch that, he never in a million years would have even made it to the restaurant because he would have climbed out the window to freedom the night before. But with Robin sitting across from him, fresh-faced and smiling as she happily sips her orange juice, Barney can't imagine what he ever found so wrong about such a moment.

The waitress arrives then, bringing a jug of warm maple syrup for the table, and Robin's eyes light up. She immediately grabs the jug and begins drizzling a ridiculously abundant portion atop her stack of pancakes, making Barney laugh.

"You Canadians," he says, shaking his head fondly.

Robin ignores the affectionate little jib, instead handing him the pepper shaker she knows he's about to request for his eggs. He takes it from her, smiling at the routine they've established.

"You know what my favorite part of this morning was?" she asks him.

"I can tell you mine," he says suggestively, before biting into a strip of bacon. "Lily should lock us in the bedroom more often. I like the way you pass the time."

"That's not what I meant….although it was pretty good," she admits, and the two share a heated glance across the table. "No," she says, breaking the eye contact before they end up going at in the women's bathroom the way they did the last time they went to brunch together, "I meant the name you came up with for us, Barnman and Robin. I like it."

"So do I." He thinks on it a moment. "It can be our thing now. There could even be costumes involved." His eyes darken imagining it. "I see you in a black bra and black lace panties, with fishnets and a matching garter belt I'll remove with my teeth…..Oh!" he exclaims as sudden inspiration strikes and his face lights up with excitement. "That's what we should do for Halloween!"

"Ugh, please," Robin scoffs. "We've been over this every year. I don't do Halloween, and I especially don't do matching outfits. I won't make a fool of myself that way for anyone. You know how I feel about dressing up in costumes," she says, rolling her eyes in disgust.

Barney's brow crinkles and he protests, "You dressed up for me just last week." He stops, his lips stretching into a wide grin. "God, you were such a slutty nurse. It was literally ever fantasy I ever had of you after the bus accident."

Robin smiles. "Yeah, that was fun. But the only place for costumes is in the bedroom."

"We weren't always in the bedroom," he points out. "We started out on the couch. Then we did the whole sex swing rehabilitation thing – which was way better than actual rehab. Then you 'helped' me shower…." His expression turns lustful, his eyes glazing over at the memory. "….and when you couldn't find a sponge you used your mouth instead cause you said your tongue can – "

"You know what I mean," she blushes. He's the only man who's ever made her blush.

It's not often that he sees it, but he loves her shy little smile and he matches it with a shameless one of his own. "It can, by the way. Mm, I love your tongue."

Their waitress was just walking up to their table at that moment, but hearing his comment she thinks better of it and turns on her heel, walking hurriedly away. "Barney," Robin admonishes him.

"So what? Let her hear." Barney doesn't care if the entire restaurant hears. He's far too happy to notice, but he thinks Robin's cute when she's embarrassed so he can't resist teasing her a little further. "Besides, you love my tongue too. It's a mutual admiration."

Robin laughs, shaking her head at how incorrigible he is – and how much she absolutely adores it.

She takes a bite of her pancakes and the flavors melt on her tongue he's just confessed to loving so much. It's easily the best maple syrup she's tasted this side of the U.S. border. "Ohh, this is amazing," she moans, and it reminds him enough of last night to make him forget food entirely. "Here," she says, looking up at him. "You have to try this."

She stabs some to give him a bite, bringing it across the table to him. It's only as his lips are closing over the fork tines that Robin realizes not only is she sharing her food, she's actually feeding him. Just a few months ago the sight of anyone doing this would have made her wretch. She absolutely swore this would never be her…..but it isn't so bad. It wasn't even a thought really, just a reflex. With Barney it's not awkward or forced at all. It just feels natural, comfortable, like maybe she could get used to living this way. Maybe she could actually like it…..a lot.

Barney lets out a little sound of pleasure as he chews, snapping her out of her fog. "That is good."

"See, I told you," Robin says proudly. "Canada isn't all bad. Some great things came out of Canada."

Barney smiles. "At least one amazing thing did," he tells her softly, and they both know he doesn't mean the syrup.

By the time Barney and Robin are finished with brunch it's the early afternoon already and they're sure the others have gone downstairs to MacLaren's, so they decide to go join them.

As they walk back, Barney's hand naturally finds Robin's again. His thumb runs softly over the side of her hand, rubbing lazy patterns into her skin, and everything just clicks into place for her. Something about all that's happened in the past twenty-four hours – Barney crashing the hockey game to stop her from kissing Brad; the night they spent together afterwards; being locked in the bedroom together the next morning, and all the lovely things they said to each other as a result – somehow gives Robin a rare moment of emotional courage, making her finally speak up and reach for something more.

"Barney," she says, stopping suddenly on the sidewalk, and he pauses too, turning to her curiously. "I know we're really good at lying. I know we fooled them all, but…" She tries to gauge his reaction but she's coming up blank. "….but – and I'm not saying I want this," she adds to give herself an out afterwards should he be horrified or, worse yet, laugh in her face, "it's just….would it be so bad for real? I - I mean, would it – "

"I wasn't lying," he jumps in.

"What?" she asks, her mind reeling. She had been so focused on what she was saying, so nervous for his reaction, that she hadn't anticipated an interruption. But something in his voice makes her heart pick up, because this is the soft, sweet, real Barney voice, the one he uses when what he's telling her is deeply, profoundly true; the one he uses when it really means something to him.

"The truth is, I wasn't lying, Robin." And his expression matches his voice, gentle and open and sincere – and even a little afraid, just like she is. "All the things I said about you, and the two of us being together…." He stops himself. There's so much he'd like to say, but he doesn't dare, so he leaves it at, "I wasn't lying."

Robin absorbs that, her eyes soft and shining. "Neither was I."

The corners of his mouth turn upward. "Then….I guess it's real. Isn't it?"

"Yeah," she nods, smiling. "Yeah, it is."

Barney reaches out then and pulls her into his arms. "So….I'm your boyfriend," he says.

He's grinning almost goofily but she doesn't mind because she's pretty sure her smile matches his perfectly. "And I'm your girlfriend." His blue eyes sparkle at the confirmation she's just given him, and the loving look is enough for her to get lost in forever.

Barney leans down and kisses her sweetly, once, twice, then again. It's on the fourth kiss that things start to really get serious and he has to force himself to break apart from her; they haven't yet stooped to sex in an alleyway – at least not in broad daylight.

Robin links her arm through his and they start walking again as calm as can be, as if they didn't just have the romantic breakthrough of a lifetime only eight feet back on the sidewalk.

They walk on a little ways in comfortable silence, but this time Barney is the one who abruptly stops. He turns to her, a look of mischief in his eyes, and asks, "Do you know what a girlfriend does?"

Robin crosses her arms over her chest and waits for some depraved sexual act, although she really can't think of anything they don't already do.

"Walks around naked," Barney finally answers. "In the shower, out of the shower, while we make dinner, while we eat dinner – Ooh! Maybe we could eat it off each other," he exclaims, excited at the possibilities.

Robin laughs. "So your place tonight then?"

Barney grins. "Yeah. Tell Ted you're staying at your boyfriend's place."

AN: So that concludes the journey to Barney and Robin becoming a (all too brief) couple by the start of Season 5.

I also threw in a little nod this chapter to further foreshadow (along with 1.06) the importance of Season 7's "The Slutty Pumpkin" returns and just how monumental it was that Robin not only dressed up for Halloween but she planned for the two of them to actually wear matching costumes.

So this story is done now but I still have a few more episodes to go yet on "Catching The Clock", which I'll likely continue next season because I've had so much fun doing an episode by episode breakdown (I especially like to add in little scenes in between). I'll also be doing a happy Barney/Robin multi-chapter story during the summer to tide me over while I wait for Season 8, so please keep your fingers crossed for a 7.24 B/R reunion because that would be extremely convenient – not to mention long overdue!