The Break Up Service
1 of Ten
Word Count: 4,642
Fandom: How I Met Your Mother
Warnings: AU, not everyone's cup of tea. Oh, and un-beta'd.
Pairing(s): BROtp (Barney x Robin), Marshall x Lily, and various unimportant pairings
Summary: In which Barney Stinson runs a 'No Sad, Big Smile' Break Up Service and loses hope for love forever. Then, he meets a bartender—Robin.
A/n: Well, HIMYM fandom has been awesome so far—numerous well-written stories, interesting theories and speculations, good dose of BROtp :P—but do you know what this fandom is lacking? AU fics. There are many characters in the show with distinct personalities that it holds so much potential for AU stories!
Thus, to kick-start the fandom, I present to you, a creatively titled series of HIMYM fic: Ten. (I know. Uncreative title is uncreative.) It's a series consisting of 10 HIMYM AU fics in the form of two- or three-shots. This story is the first of the series. More about it in my profile :)
This story is inspired by and loosely based off an Adidas commercial.
This fic is better seen in 3/4 view.
The Break-Up Service
JEN SLOANE to TED MOSBY
GENERAL REASON: "I don't think we are suited for each other. We should probably call it a day and wait until we meet 'the one'."
PACKAGE: The Quickie
Barney Stinson likes things grand and big, those that can fit under the definition of the word he embodies: awesome. But grand and big things attract a lot of attention, and his line of work where attention from strangers is a given, big, grand things are the last things he needs.
Of course, this doesn't mean that the scooter he's been using for the past six years is not awesome either. Sure, it's not large or grandiose in any way. Sure, the slogan that is supposed to say 'No Sad, Big Smile Break-Up Service' has lost a couple of letters and thus made little sense for the past few months. Sure, some idiot has once drawn some abstract drawings with the skill of a five-year-old beside said slogan. But these are all beside the point!
The point being, he owns it. And ownership by a Stinson guarantees a certain degree of awesomeness. True story.
So today, there he is—being his awesome self, riding his awesome bike on the outskirts of New York, a dark blue sky lit with bright stars above his head. He squints through his goggles to see the street name—he can't afford knocking on the wrong door, certainly—and he stops right in front of a bar, the word "MacLaren's" in bright green lights is above the entrance. According to the application, Ted Mosby lives above this bar. He jogs up the stairs as he makes a mental note to visit the bar later.
As he walks down the hallway, he tries to remember the facts about the couple (or the ex-couple, he silently reminds himself). Ted Mosby is an architect with his own firm while Jen Sloane is in between jobs. They met through a blind date and they have dated for a couple of weeks before she decided it wasn't worth it, and that's when Barney comes into the picture. She ordered a 'Quickie' Package, which only consists of him breaking the news and walking away immediately. Evidently it hasn't been a good relationship.
Barney though, for once, can't really predict Ted's reaction. A couple of weeks of dating—five weeks, to be precise—is the hardest to predict; it's certainly long enough to cause some heart breaks from at least one side, but not long enough to expect a violent reaction. Maybe. Different people have different reactions, and Barney's right shoulder still hurts whenever he remembers SETH GILL to BRITTANY REID.
The man who answers the door wears a (presumably) cheap green shirt and seems to have not been sleeping for the last 48 hours.
"Ted Mosby?" He inquires, just to be sure. The man nods.
"That's me. I'm sorry, but do I know you—" his eyes immediately light up in realization when he sees Barney's name tag, "oh god. Oh god. Please don't tell me—"
"Ted Mosby," Barney says, ignoring Ted's reaction completely. "Jen Sloane would like to express her wish to end your relationship."
Ted opens his mouth, but Barney picked up a small note card from his pocket and now reads from it, "Here's her reasons: it's been great to know and be with you. You are a great guy, Ted, and the past few weeks spent with you—blah blah, yadda yadda, you know this kind of stuffs already… oh, here it is! I don't think we are suited for each other. We should probably call it a day and wait until we meet 'the one'," then he adds as if it is an afterthought, "oh, and you don't like cats."
When he finishes, there is a tense silence. Barney cautiously looks up from his card, his left leg takes half a step backwards (not because I'm scared or anything, but just in case, he would later explain), but Ted's expression is surprisingly devoid of emotions.
"Uh, Ted?" He speaks up after another minute goes by, "you okay there buddy?"
Ted seems startled by his voice, as if he's forgotten that Barney has been standing there for the last ten minutes. Ted then, surprisingly—and creepily, in Barney's opinion—smiles.
"I guess this is how it's supposed to end, right?"
Barney raises his eyebrow. This guy is 'acceptance'? He thinks dubiously, but shrugs, "That's life."
But Ted isn't finished. "Well, the relationship wasn't going anywhere, so I kind of have known this would happen sooner or later; though admittedly, didn't really expect… this, what? Break-Up Service?" Barney is ready to launch on the memorized line about the greatness that is his break up service, but Ted continues, "she's a good person, you know. Certainly was a good girlfriend. And quite good looking, I'd like to add."
Barney manages to stop himself from asking, boobs?
However, he fails to stop himself from saying, "aww, that's sweet… Ted Mosby you are being dumped!"
He only realizes his fault when Ted's eyes widen in surprise. Uh-oh, he thinks, and before he can do anything, Ted walks up to him, hugs him and starts crying.
'Depression', he thinks to himself as he awkwardly pats the other man, should have known when I read his hobby.
Barney Stinson believes in a lot of things.
He believes in God, for once. He has no particular religion, but he figures it doesn't hurt to admit the existence of Whoever Up There, in case the whole apocalypse thing truly happens. He believes in fashion, too, the fact that fifteen-thousand-dollar suits really worth every dollar spent on it, and women definitely don't dig men in sweater pants.
Barney also believes in the five stages of grief. You know, the whole concept that grief can actually be identified in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The thing is, he has been working in this unique line of work so much, he has seen countless people experiencing grief in different forms, and so far, all those forms can be qualified under the five stages.
He even makes a game out of it, actually. He would read the application form down to the unnecessary little details, and he would try to guess what stage his client would be in. A three-week relationship usually alternates between denial and depression; a five-year engagement guarantees anger. Bargaining usually only occurs to those with a one-week fling, and acceptance...
…acceptance is definitely a rare one. It's a wild card, a gem, and it's the one that usually manages to make Barney feel like something inside of him dies a little bit. And that is saying something, considering he doesn't have much heart or soul left inside of him to die in the first place, all thanks to years of experience in the Service, and the day-to-day exposure to breakups that comes with it.
Barney Stinson believes in a lot of things, but even he has exceptions.
Barney Stinson does not believe in love.
As soon as Barney and Ted step through the door, they are greeted by a surprisingly feminine voice that asks, "welcome. Any drinks?"
Barney turns to see the owner of the voice: a woman, tall and radiating in confidence. She wears a fitting black dress and Barney can't help to take a double—or maybe triple—look at her body.
"You're the bartender?" He asks, "I don't see a lot of female bartenders lately, though this is definitely a good change."
She smiles. "Just start working for Carl a few weeks ago, actually," she points at a large guy behind her whom Barney assumes is Carl, "so, any orders?"
"Two, please, one beer and," he says, and he turns his attention back to Ted. The other man still seems to devoid of any will to live, and Barney quickly adds, "a strong one for him."
She laughs at his reaction, and Barney finds her laugh oddly soothing. She goes to make their order, and in a moment, she's back with two glasses of drinks. Barney hands Ted his, forcing him to drink, then takes a sip on his.
"So, what's the occasion?" She asks after a while.
Barney only has one rule: never talk about your job with others, especially strangers. Break-Up Service is not a common job that everyone will quickly accept. Not to mention some of them might be his clients in the past—he can't remember all of them.
But the hot bartender is an exception; she leans on the counter and looks up at him, wide-eyed, as if she is genuinely interested in his story, and before he knows it, he tells her everything. She nods along, fills up Ted's empty glass, and nods again, giving the occasional "uh-huh" and "yeah".
"So," she says when he finishes talking and Ted is slumped on the table after god knows how many glasses of drinks, "you usually cheer your 'clients' up after the whole thing like this?"
Barney shrugs. "Depending on the package ordered by the other party, actually," he explains. "The 'End of the Chapter' Package includes a clean-up service that involves removing all the belongings of the other party for later reclamation at the office and giving a list of clubs for the client to visit after the break up," he smirks, "book clubs for the females and strip clubs for the males, what up?"
He raises his hand for a high five. She chuckles and returns the high five.
"Anyways," he continues, "not everyone orders that package, though; not all break-ups are good-natured. So for the short and sweet one, like this buddy over here, we offer 'the Quickie'."
"What's 'the Quickie'? Sounds dirty," she sniggers.
"Sadly, it's not as awesome as it sounds. The Quickie is just… quick. I'm supposed to read from a few lines from a card and walk away."
"Wow… that's… harsh." She grimaces. But then her eyes lit up in realization and she gestures to the seemingly lifeless body of Ted, "So… why are you still here with him, then?"
Well, good question.
Actually, Barney has been asking the same question to himself. He usually never encounters any problem leaving crying strangers away; so why is he still here, buying Ted drinks on a random bar?
"Well… I have decided," he eventually says and puts his hand around Ted's shoulder, "this guy over here, Ted Mosby," he grins convincingly, "Ted, I'm going to teach you how to live!"
Ted only groans.
LILY ALDRIN to MARSHALL ERIKSEN
GENERAL REASON: "pursuing life-long dream to San Fransisco in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
PACKAGE: End of the Chapter
Not all breakups are like JEN SLOANE to TED MOSBY. Most of them are; some hearts broken, some tears spilled, some are 'anger' and some are 'depression'. Most of them don't even make Barney bat an eyelash anymore.
But some of them, on the other hand, are like LILY ALDRIN to MARSHALL ERIKSEN.
They were college sweethearts. Nine years dating before a long overdue engagement, and marriage was just around the corner—until, of course, the bride called it off. They shared an apartment for four years, woke up beside one another every morning and bought each other's toothbrushes and—Barney still doesn't know how to make of all this.
So instead he focuses on the address of Marshall Eriksen, and finds himself standing in front of the bar he's now quite used to frequent. He double-checks the address. Nope, didn't get it wrong. He walks through the familiar hallway and stops in front of the equally familiar door. It's Ted's.
It has been at least three months since the JEN SLOANE to TED MOSBY job, and since that day Barney has kept to his words about teaching Ted how to live. He has now wingman-ed him for a couple of times, most of them in McLaren's. In between the awesome nights and wild sex, Ted may have mentioned about the boring fact that he has an engaged roommate… Barney can't really remember. He doesn't have time to remember lame things.
Could this Eriksen be…?
"Oh, hello," the man who opens the door a few seconds later greets him, "come on in."
Barney raises his eyebrow, but walks in silently. The man fits the description of Marshall Eriksen—tall, short hair, neat—but after seeing the photo in the application, the man can barely pass as Eriksen's second cousin. The Eriksen in the photo looks fresh and smiles as if he'd just heard the best news in the world; this Eriksen, on the other hand…
Barney is tense as he follows Eriksen to the couch. He considers complimenting Eriksen's outfit, but there's nothing to compliment about baggy pants and white overalls so he shuts up instead.
"These are clothes," he says, gesturing to a couple trash bags slumped by a shelf full of law books. "Um, and there's some boxes in the bedroom, if you have room."
"Uh, in case you don't know, I'm actually using a scooter now, so," he scoops all the trash bags into his arms, "how about I'll bring these first and come back tomorrow with a van?"
"Good," Eriksen says absent-mindedly. "Okay, good. I mean, sure."
"Okay." Barney smiles at him, but his chest feels funny and his cheeks hurt, so he might end up grimacing instead. He feels tense around this Eriksen. "I'll just bring this down and—hey, buddy, a little help here?" He gestures to one trash bag left on the floor.
"Oh. Sure," he says, picking the trash bag, stepping around the corner and nudging a few boxes out into the hallway with his foot. " This one is just, you know. Odds and ends. I probably wouldn't mind if they got dropped onto the freeway by accident." He chokes out a laugh, rubs his forehead to hide his eyes, but when he looks up again his gaze is clear, with no trace of tears.
Barney may be void of emotion by now, but he still has some tact leftover. He starts working in silence and it only takes him a few minutes to pile everything on the small scooter. Eriksen stands and watches him from the doorstep all the time.
"All set?" he asks when he ties the knot that secures the bags.
"Yeah, that's all of it."
From the middle of the living room until the doorstep of the apartment, Barney has noticed some discoloration on the walls from picture frames and whatever else they had hanging up, and the lack of certain important house appliances that might have been hers, like a coffee maker. (Everyone needs a coffee maker. But he digresses.)
Barney digs out a business card and hands it to him. "Hey, do you know that we also offer wingman services? 100% success rate in getting you laid. 83 single guys have benefitted from this service."
Eriksen takes the card and smiles, "Thanks."
There is an awkward pause as Eriksen plays with the card, looking at its back, and front, and back again.
"She seems like an asshole," Barney offers.
Eriksen just quirks his mouth at him, a thanks for trying, but it doesn't really help kind of expression that Barney has seen a million times by now.
"She was worth it," he says after a while.
Barney jumps on his scooter and quickly starts the engine, and as he drives off to the headquarters, the sky dark without any stars and one of his front lights busted a few days ago, he stares into the darkness with only one word in his mind: acceptance.
"Strong one, please," he orders. Robin—the bartender whose name he found out on his third visit to MacLaren's—looks at him with a concerned look that flips his stomach upside down, and hands her a bottle of scotch.
"A hard day tonight, eh?"
He wants to reply to that. He wants to reply anything she says, to be honest, just to keep her talking to him and and looking at him and hearing her beautiful voice coming out of her luscious lips—
That sounds… cheesy. Oh god. He doesn't even want to sleep with her. He doesn't even like her that much! That train of thoughts sounds too much to love for he's liking, and Barney Stinson—
"Don't believe in love," he mumbles.
"I don't believe in love," he repeats. Why is he saying this out loud? Barney Stinson only has one rule: never say that you don't believe in love to a chick. You will lose all the chances to sleep with her for the rest of your life. Barney just broke his own rule, though the scotch might have had something to do with it…
"Love sucks, okay?" he says, "Love hurts people, and love makes everything unfair and I just hate love. There will never come a time when I can believe in love. Love is fake and—" but he trails off.
She isn't looking directly at him, he realizes, but to an imaginary point on his shoulder instead. Her expression is unreadable, but her eyes seem… sad? But why?
Well, whatever the reason is, this has to stop! He doesn't drive all the way back from the headquarter to McLaren's again just to see her sad. He drives all the way back because he wants to see her. Period.
Not that this means love. Love sucks. She doesn't.
"To bimbos!" He raises his glass for a toast with no one in particular, and she merely shrugs.
VICTORIA WILLIAMS to TED MOSBY
GENERAL REASON: "He's a lying bastard who cheated on me, what more do you need?"
PACKAGE: the Quickie
For the next couple of months, everything goes quite smoothly.
As usual, a few months after Valentine's Day, Barney's business reaps fortune from the breakup of 1) the couples who got together only for the sake of not spending the Valentine's Day alone, 2) the couples who weren't ready yet but got together because it seemed right to confess on Valentine's Day, and 3) the combination of both.
Along this time of the year, too, Barney always starts branching out. Four years ago he managed to open a branch in LA, and now the list is long: three in New York not including the main headquarter where his office is, two in LA, and that's still not counting the ones in San Fransisco, Austin, and Georgia. This year, without fail, Barney branches out again—he always has a vision for the future—and not only he opens one in Utah, he now allows requests from other countries as well, though limited only to the US citizens. For now.
He still shakes his head when he files his first overseas client from Germany and writes, VICTORIA WILLIAMS to TED MOSBY.
"Ted, Ted, Ted. Ted, look at me, Ted. Really, Ted? Really? I know that a guy, provided that he isn't gay and has a working reproductive system, sooner or later will not be able to live with only one vagina. But cheating, Ted? Really? Look, I have to tell you, bros are supposed to be above cheating—"
"Shut up," Ted interrupts, and gulps another drink, "just. Shut up."
Barney shuts up.
As expected, Barney finds Ted in the McLaren's, fully anticipating the breakup. If by 'fully anticipating', of course, he means 'drinking unhealthy amount of alcohol that may require Barney to bring him to the nearest hospital soon.'
"Dude…" For once, Barney doesn't have anything to say, and sits beside him.
"The drinks are on the house," Robin pipes in, "if that helps," she grimaces at Ted, "I hope it does."
Barney smiles at her. When Barney claims 'everything goes smoothly', Robin has been in the equation. Robin turns out to be a more awesome chick that he's expected: she does shooting, she drinks scotch on a regular basis, and she's super hot and knows it. She's also a Canadian, but meh, nobody is perfect.
"This is why, Scherbatsky," he straightens himself and points at the pile of mess that is Ted Mosby, "this is why I don't dig 'love'. Love is like," his eyes wander to a plate of chicken wings, "chicken wings. It's everywhere and everyone wants it, but it's not healthy for you. That's why a lot of people don't like eating the chicken wings—they just like to lick them, taste them."
"But you're still above cheating?" She comments, flipping her long, smooth hair that glistens under the dim light of the bar.
"What? Of course I'm above cheating!" He retorts indignantly, "I may 'lick a lot of chicken wings', if you know what I mean, but once I'm hooked with a brand I will be… uh… it's not a good analogy. Anyways, in short, I don't do cheating when I'm in a relationship!"
She seems to think about it for a while. "And how many have you been in?"
"One," he quickly says, and turns away in embarrassment, "shut up."
Robin just smiles at him, a somewhat sad smile, and really, she looks pretty.
MARSHALL ERIKSEN to CHLOE BACCARIN
GENERAL REASON: "She's crazy—no, scratch that, she's insane. Just… please do something! Just say anything. Calm her down. Walk her. Anything. Whoever you are, I owe you man."
PACKAGE: Out of the Picture
Not many people order 'Out of the Picture' Package. It includes cutting of all ties, changing phone numbers and emails, and making fake addresses. Usually, most of the orders come from a jerk or someone who dates a psycho, so the list isn't long. Not all of them are justified, either—okay, maybe Karina from STEPHEN FRAY to KARINA MILES chased him around with a knife, but really? Her boobs were big! Wouldn't he want a relapse some time later? Some people just made stupid choices.
But MARSHALL ERIKSEN to CHLOE BACCARIN?
The crazy eyes totally justify it.
He never knew he could run this fast.
Barney Stinson knows how to run, it's easy! Step one, start running. There is no step two. See, easy.
But now, Barney is running like he has never run before—he sprints across the hallway and jumps down the stairs as he (manly) flails his hands and (again, in a completely manly way) screams his lungs out.
Above him, Chloe Baccarin, a.k.a the Girl With the Crazy Eyes, picks up a plastic chair—a freaking chair, goddamnit!—and throws it at him. He ducks and sees the chair hit the floor and shatter into pieces in front of his eyes. He jumps back to evade the pieces, and hears the girl's crazy laugh.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," she says, actually sounding apologetic, dear lord, "that just slipped from my hand. Did you get hurt?"
He looks up and gulps when he sees her smiling. He tries, "Uh, no?"
She still smiles, but then she picks up a complete tea set made of glasses that would certainly hurt if they hit him, and he scrambles to the front door, runs outside of the apartment and to the safety of his scooter.
Okay, it's official, he only has one rule: never take a girl with the crazy eyes as a client.
"Well, isn't this my favorite customer—Barney, are you okay?"
Barney feels his stomach do a double flip at Robin's concerned face, but he tries to ignore it. "My latest client was a girl with crazy eyes."
"The eyes—they were crazy. It's a well-documented condition of the pupils. It's the indicator of a future mental instability," he explains, ignoring her confused look, "by the way, where's Ted?"
Robin points at a booth. Ted is sitting down, holding onto a glass of beer, and there is a large guy sitting opposite of him. Barney has never seen the guy before.
He approaches them and sits beside Ted as he says, "well, well, who is this, Ted?"
"Barney!" Ted scoots to his left, giving Barney more space to sit, "didn't expect you to come so early. This is my roommate I've talked about last time, Marshall. Marshall, this is Barney…"
"Eriksen. Marshall Eriksen," Marshall offers his hand to shake Barney's, but his eyes widen in realization. At first, Barney is confused by Marshall's reaction, but he then realizes that not only the name 'Marshall Eriksen' is the same as the name of Crazy Eyes' ex boyfriend, he looks exactly like in his photo.
"Marshall… Eriksen…" he growls, and Marshall pulls his hand back.
"Oh my god. You're Barney?"
"Marshall Eriksen!" Barney snaps, "I know you! You've successfully made me get thrown by a tissue box, a cosmetic set, a plastic chair and a seemingly expensive English tea set!"
Marshall looks apologetic. "Er… Chloe did it, didn't she?"
"She has the crazy eyes, Eriksen. The crazy eyes."
Marshall opens his mouth, but before he can say anything, Barney realizes another thing. "You. You were my client also last time. Lily Aldrin to Marshall Eriksen. It was you."
Marshall flinches, as if he's been physically hurt by Barney's words. But Barney isn't finished. "I'm disappointed in you, you know?" he says, pointing exaggeratedly at Marshall, "I'm really disappointed in you. Maybe you find it weird that a stranger like me would be disappointed with you, but you know what, I am!"
"Two things," Barney continues, "one, you were—you seemed to have been, at least—perfect for Lily Aldrin. You spent years with her and suddenly, what, you guys broke up? Do you know that you two literally made me lose hope in love?"
Marshall opens his mouth again, but Barney rants on, "But at least I still have faith in human kindness. I had, to be precise. You made me lose faith in human's kindness, too. I thought you—you, out of all people—should have known what it feels like to be dumped through the Break Up Service. But apparently you're still using the service! Even though—even though you know what it feels for her!"
Barney pants. He's out of breath from his rant, so he settles with glaring at Marshall instead.
Marshall sighs. "The only defense I have for number two is that, well, she's kind of crazy," he starts saying, slowly, "but Barney…"
As if on cue, a girl approaches their booth and sits beside Marshall. Not just any girl; she's a girl Barney recognizes from one of the thousands of photos sent to his Service, and Barney tries to put a name on the face and comes up with—
"Lily Aldrin?" Barney squeaks.
The girl looks surprised by the fact that Barney knows her name, but Marshall just looks at him steadily, sincerely.
"Barney, I'm… I'm going back with Lily."
Barney goes silent.
Then, for a lack of better words, responds: "oh."
"Yeah, in fact… in fact we're going to have a wedding soon and, well… I guess, you can't deny true love, right?"
Barney is still gaping at them. "Oh," he can only manage to say.
"And, well, thanks a lot for… for trying to cheer me up that day. And for helping me end everything with Chloe. You're right, I really owe you for that."
Barney eloquently replies with: "Oh."
Marshall smiles and Lily smiles and everyone smiles and Barney's brain stops working. So they get back together? So they love each other after all? So true love triumphs, in the end?
So… love may be something real?
And while Barney is still (inwardly) gaping, Robin comes to their booth with a plate of chicken wings. Marshall cheers and Lily's smile becomes wider as she looks at her fiancée's childish happiness, and love is so obvious in the space between them, and—
"You want some chicken wings?" Robin grabs one and holds it in front of Barney.
So… love may be something real?
"Maybe I do," he says and finally turns the ends of his lips upwards, though he is not sure if he's still talking about chicken wings, "maybe I do want it."
Robin grins wider, the sparkles in her eyes seem to light up the room's dim environment and her grin sends a funny shiver down his spines. He remembers how those eyes always look at him as if he is the most important person in the world, how those hands always reach out to show her support, how her laugh never fails to make his day.
So, I can believe in love?
A/n: first part done! In case you don't know, all the girls are really the ones from the show, and their last names are from their actresses'. In case you forgot who is who (slight spoiler):
[-] Jen Sloane— Double Date, S5x2. The girl who went for a blind date twice with Ted, likes to talk about cats.
[-] Victoria Williams— Drumroll, Please – Nothing Good Happens After 2 a.m, S1x13 - S1x18. THE Victoria. My favorite amongst Ted's girlfriend, should've been the mom :(
[-] Chloe Baccarin— Swarley, S2x7. The girl from the coffee shop with the crazy eyes who liked Marshall.
So, how was it? Sorry for the weird pacing of the story, but really, how was it? Interesting? Good choice of role? Weird choice of role? Does this compel you to write AU stories? (I hope so)
Tell me about it!
Also, if you have suggestions for a HIMYM AU but lazy to write it, please do tell me! I may include the idea for my series, since I only have at most 7 rough ideas for it XD
Reviews, suggestions and alerts are very, very appreciated. :)