Not a Love Story

Pairing/Characters: Luke Mosby, with mentions of Leia Mosby, Ted, the Mother, Marshall, Lily, Barney, Robin, Ranjit, Stella and Wendy—though possibly not the ones you know and love…
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3,518
Warning(s):Alternate interpretation of the series. Massive angst. Implications of divorce.
Luke Mosby knows everyone in Dad's stories, but not the way his Dad knows them.

A/n: I chose the name of Ted's son to be Luke since it's been mentioned a few times that Ted, being a Star Wars geek, wanted to name his children Luke and Leia.

not a love story.

For those who have heard the story, mind you, without any background knowledge whatsoever—they may have concluded that it is actually a short story, the one that starts when the yellow umbrella comes into the picture.

They are wrong.

Luke meets Ranjit the Driver every day. Ranjit has been working for the family as long as Luke can remember; Luke has a vague recollection of Ranjit being there when he started learning ABCs. It came as no surprise when his sister told him that Ranjit has been there before Luke was even born—Ranjit is a very faithful man, even when his pay dropped to less than half the usual amount, even when Luke's family condition is now like this.

Luke likes Ranjit. Ranjit never whines and never complains, always a good listener when nobody bothers to listen. Luke finds him very kind and understanding, and he's the one Luke actually comes to when his day turns ugly. And Ranjit—the ever so hardworking Ranjit—is the one accompanying him everywhere now: every morning to his school, every weekend to his grandparents' house, and every night to Dad's hospital room.

Now that he thinks of it, Ranjit actually does a better job as a father than Dad can ever be, but Luke isn't complaining.

It isn't like he ever knew what it's like to have a father anyways.

Most people have been more romantic. They think the story starts in the living room, when he and his sister sat down and Dad started saying, kids, I'm going to tell you the story of how I met your mother.

They couldn't be more wrong.

Luke meets Wendy the Waitress every day, too, except that she is not Wendy the Waitress; instead, she is Wendy the Nanny, though no one ever calls her that way either.

Wendy is essentially a good person, but she is now too reserved to Luke's liking. She only appears right before he and his sister go to school, and go home just right after they come home from the hospital, leaving them with clean, butempty, house. She does seem to care for their family a lot, though, and Luke is at least grateful for that.

She has not always been like this, of course. His sister often says that once upon a time, before Luke was born, when they were still a happy family, Wendy was a part of that family. But then everything happened and maybe, Luke thinks, it is why Wendy became so distant—because every time she looks at them, she remembers one happy family they once were, one they will never be anymore.

Wendy changed; but then again, everyone does.

Truth be told, Luke doesn't really know when the actual story starts. The story is like a book with its pages not in order, and he has to look for the first page in between the discombobulated words and jumbled phrases.

Maybe this is when the story starts:

It was the day when the therapy session started, the first of many to come. Luke and his sister entered the room, and they saw the artificial living room that in reality was one of the hospital wards. They entered the room right after Dad called out for them and asked them to sit there, as if Dad really believed that it was their living room and they were sitting in their couch. The doctors had said that this was to be expected—Dad's sickness was called severe delusion for a reason—and that they must go with it, to just fake it and agree with whatever Dad was going to say. He had nodded in agreement.

Despite all these, he could still his voice quiver as he forced out, "will this take a while?"

Dad didn't seem to realize.

(What hurt the most, though, was the fact that Dad looked and sounded calmer and happier than he'd ever been, that Dad actually preferred his reality—his imagination—than the actual reality where Luke lived in; that Dad didn't—and still doesn't—want to face reality, not even for Luke, not even for himself.)

But this isn't when the story starts.

Luke meets Dr. Stella twice a week. She is charming and beautiful, but he still doesn't get why Dad chose her to be the ex-girlfriend who left him in the altar in his imagination.

This Dr. Stella—the real Dr. Stella, Luke always stresses—has a degree in psychology; Luke is fairly certain that she doesn't know how to erase tattoos, though she does know a thing or two about erased memories—for example, how and why some memories in human mind can be erased and changed so significantly.

Unlike other people who like to cast pitying glances to him, Dr. Stella always sees him as an adult, and sometimes he hates her because she is so realistic and honest, because she always tells what's true and the truth hurts.

On other times, he loves her like a mother he never has.

Maybe this is when the story starts:

Luke squinted suspiciously at the bronze plate on the brown mahogany door, his mind going through the letters over and over again. It read: Dr. Stella Zinman, psychiatrist;and the only thing that stopped him from saying anything was the fact that his sister's trembling hand was now squeezing his right hand, seeking support and solace.

He squeezed back and gave her a reassuring smile before he opened the door.

That didn't stop him from thinking, though, and a few lines through the conversation, finally he couldn't help asking, "doctor, I don't understand why my father is referred to a psychiatrist instead of… um… an internist? A hepatologist, maybe?"

Dr. Zinman—Dr. Stella, she had asked them to call her—seemed to be at a loss of words. She sighed, and there was silence before she answered, "I'm sorry to say, but it's been identified that your father is suffering from severe delusional disorder."

His sister quickly looked up, her eyes, wet from tears, widened in horror. "You mean…?"

Luke had to look away. After that, Dr. Stella's words seemed like murmur to him—things about Dad may be living in a different world, having made-up memories… he preferred to leave all those technicalities, the pills Dad was supposed to take, things like that, to his sister. It could only mean one thing anyways: He may've lost Dad to some obscure mental sickness, forever.

Not that he had ever had him fully, either. Maybe that day he had lost Dad already, and the diagnosis was merely a confirmation.

This is not when the story starts, then.

Luke meets Aunt Lily twice a week, during the weekends, and he's quite sure she is the person Dad talks about even though the Lily Luke meets is Ms. Aldrin, the street painter who works at the street three blocks from their apartment.

There are only three things that Luke knows about Ms. Aldrin: she is beautiful, she likes children, and she's a good painter. The first fact is self-explanatory and obvious, and Luke knows the second because the children in their neighborhood like to play around her and listen to her stories as she paints. One time, Luke was walking home when he saw a group of children listening intently to her story, eyes sparkling in interest.

Luke knows the third one because they actually own one of Ms. Aldrin's masterpieces: in fact, according to his sister, the painting was made and bought the day of the wedding. After the ceremony, Dad was so happy that when their wedding car was stuck in the traffic jam blocks away from the then-new house, he asked Ranjit to drop them off right away. He then lifted Mom from the pavement and carried her; Mom repeatedly protested that it was embarrassing, but her laughter and smile contradicted her retorts. They eventually ran past the painter.

Luke could almost see Dad's goofy grin and Ms. Aldrin's soothing smile when he asked her, could you paint us now, with our wedding dress?

The painting was done in an hour and it was hung on the wall in the dining room, complementing the dark brown wall with its bright colors. In fact, the painting always reminds Luke what likes about Ms. Aldrin: like her paintings, she's always bright, the person with the ever-present glowing smile in his gloomy life.

Every time he looks at the painting, Luke always comes to the same conclusion: everyone needs a Ms. Aldrin in their life.

Maybe this is when the story starts:

Luke yawned and rubbed his eyes, his head still felt a little dizzy. He couldn't really remember what'd happened, and—

Everything came rushing back to him. The night before—Dad, the bottles of alcohol—he quickly sat straight, his eyes searched for his sister in panic.

As if on cue, said sister entered his room with a glass of water.

"Luke, you're awake—"

"Dad? Where's Dad? What happened?"

His sister only stared at him blankly; her face was void of expression, and without a word, she placed her glass on a small corner table. She pinched the bridge of her nose in obvious exhaustion.

"Yesterday… you fainted. Apparently your body has violent reactions towards alcohol, even just the smell of it… allergy, I think," she sighed, "ambulance came. Dad was brought to the hospital and Wendy followed him, and I'm here, making sure you're not having any violent reactions towards the alcohol."

He grimaced. Allergy? No wonder he always felt sick every time he was near Dad's empty beer bottles… "So, what are we supposed to do now?"

His sister produced a post-it from her pocket and handed it to him. On it was name, address and room number with his sister's handwriting. "This morning the hospital called. His condition has been stabilized and we're supposed to visit this person," she pointed at the name on the post-it, "Dr. Stella Zinman. She's the one in charge of taking care of Dad, and she's come up with a diagnosis."

That afternoon, Luke and his sister visited the doctor and found out about Dad's condition.

But this isn't any different from knowing the diagnosis, is there? Hearing the diagnosis, knowing that Dad was admitted to the hospital… They are all the same things—events that happened because of a reason, events that confirmed the fact Luke has been really scared to admit: that he may have never had a father. Not now, not ever.

This isn't when the story starts, either.

Luke meets Uncle Marshall twice a month, but he will never, ever consider that person an uncle in his lifetime. Luke believes the only reason Mr. Eriksen appears in Dad's re-imagined life is that Dad is frightened of him.

The more Luke thinks about it, the more the theory makes sense. "Uncle Marshall" is an idealist with innocent streak because Dad wants him to be. Dad wants Mr. Eriksen to be understanding and so kind he can't even kill a mosquito without cringing; that's why "Uncle Marshall" is like that. However, "Uncle Marshall" can sometimes be intimidating because, in reality, he really is. Of course he is—Mr. Eriksen is paid to be intimidating; that's what debt collectors are for, right?

Mr. Eriksen always comes on the fifteenth and the last day of every month, demanding Dad to pay the seemingly endless list of debts. He is never seen with his black briefcase that is filled with papers, and he seems to only have one set of expression: the 'I don't give a shit' face.

Dad is not the strongest person Luke knows, but he looks exceptionally vulnerable every time Mr. Eriksen is around. Luke feels a pang in his heart every time he sees Mr. Eriksen shouts in Dad's cringing face.

Years of seeing this, it's not Luke's fault for wanting to punch him on the face.

The first time Dad mentioned Mr. Eriksen as his best friend, Luke wanted to stand up and walk away. That very sentence confirmed that this person—whoever he was—was not Dad; Dad would never say such a thing, and though this person looked and sounded like Dad, he wasn't.

But something rooted him on that artificial couch at that time, and still does until today; Pity, he's reasoned to his sister—towards this man who looks identical to Dad, towards his sister who somehow believes that this kind of therapy works somehow. But his sister disagrees—it's hope, Luke, she's said, and though he's scoffed at his sister, something at the back of his mind agrees with her. Hope.

On Mr. Eriksen's first visit after Dad's admitted to the hospital, the man decided to ignore Luke's old man's condition and proceeded to scream at Luke instead.

Luke punched his "Uncle Marshall" on the face.

Maybe this is when the story starts:

Luke's head was dizzy from the alcohol smell, and he couldn't help coughing loudly as he entered the house. He walked past the empty beer bottles that had been in the alleyway for a few days now, and he couldn't help cringing at the sight. Wendy had been sick for the last two weeks, and the empty beer bottles he refused to touch had now scattered all over the place.

Usually, Luke would just lock himself in his room, turning up the volume of his iPod so loud he couldn't hear Dad's loud drunken comments at the television. However, that day, he somehow found himself walking to the source of the alcohol smell.

He almost screamed.

Dad was lying on the floor, unconscious and obviously intoxicated, his right hand was holding onto an empty bottle of cheap beer. There was white powder all over the floor, and Luke didn't want to think what it could be. In fact, Lukecouldn't think of anything; his brain shut down the moment he saw Dad's closed eyes, his chest barely made a movement he could identify as breathing.

There was a moment of silence—of shock—before Luke scrambled for his handphone.

He felt his throat dry and his stomach flipped upside down as he punched his sister's number on the phone, and he felt his head became more and more dizzy as he listened intently to the dialing tune, the ground seemed to swallow him before he could hear his sister's voice—

Well, this isn't when the story starts, then.

Luke met Aunt Robin once.

To be precise, Luke saw Aunt Robin—or as he knows her, Ms. Scherbatsky—quite a few times in the form of a photograph, but he only met her once. She was standing across the street when Dad and Luke approached her, and the adults exchanged some formalities, some "how are you"s and some "it's been so long"s. Luke had never seen her since.

And speaking of photograph, there's only one photograph of Ms. Scherbatksy that Luke knows of: a photograph of a teenage Robin, cringing to the camera in a bad picture inside Dad's graduation book.

She was Dad's high school crush, Dad told him in a passing long time ago, as if it had never really mattered to him, as if their relationship was never anything special—and maybe it really was nothing special; just another part of one's awkward teenage life. They dated for a month and broke up six weeks before graduation.

This is why it came as a surprise when Dad started to mention Ms. Scherbatsky as "Aunt Robin", described their romantic relationship of two years, how their relationship seemed so perfect, how he thought she was the one. Dad describes Robin Scherbatsky as if he knows her inside out, from background information like her parents and career to trivial, personal details such as her favorite movies and her coffee preferences. Luke scoffs and thinks Robin sounds like Dad's imaginary girlfriend.

His sister says she sounds like Mother.

Maybe this is when the story starts:

Dad started drinking.

And by drinking, it doesn't mean 'taking a few sips of alcohol every two days'; it means 'drinking three bottles every night without fail.'

That was around the time Luke started not to care. After all, what was the point of caring about one's life if the owner himself didn't even care? Dad started coming home later and later, and then not at all for a few days. Luke also noticed that the number of bottles he brought home increased slowly but consistently. Dad used to make a point to not bring any at home—he would just come home smelling of alcohol, but there would be no bottle in sight.

One morning, months after that, Luke almost tripped on a package filled with a dozen of beer bottles on the hallway.

Maybe this is when the story starts, because Dad's drinking problem is what led them to where they are now. But now that he thinks of it, maybe the drinking problem is a cause of something else, something more significant than just alcohol, something more abstract, more psychological.

So, this isn't when the story starts.

Luke met Uncle Barney once.

And if Luke had been tortured for a week and was threatened with a gun on his head he may have called Mr. Eriksen "uncle"; but not even then he would have entertained the idea of calling the bastard Stinson "Uncle Barney." Never.

He already feels like killing something, and he is only thinking about the bastard's name.

Stinson, quite possibly, is the person he hates the most in this life—for being deceptively charming, for being there that night, for existingin the first place—

And most of all, for being there for Mother when Dad couldn't.

Their family wasn't the most perfect family, but they were supposed to be happy; in fact, they were, until Dad stopped working in his architect firm and sent the family spiraling into debt. According to his sister, the arguments became more and more often since the day Dad stopped working in the firm.

And then, Luke was born, and all hell broke loose.

Maybe the idea of supporting two children instead of one scared his parents, Luke rationalizes years later. Luke was born when they were debt-stricken, so it was only natural for them to think that Luke was a financial burden.

When Luke was ten, he was walking with his sister to Dad's hospital when a dashing man in a suit walked past them. The man was only familiar to him at best, and he was confused why he stopped walking and turned to see the man for the second time.

He was staring wide-eyed at him when his sister suddenly choked out, "it's him."

It was just two words, really. His sister didn't even say what 'him' was referring to, which of the numerous people in the streets she was looking at, but Luke knew. Luke knew that 'him' meant Barney Stinson, the man who had taken Mom away from their family, the man who had taken advantage of her vulnerable condition, the man who had taken everything away from Luke.

Luke always fantasized the day he'd meet Barney Stinson. He only heard about him from his sister's story, but he'd always wanted to do something every time his sister finished her story, eyes wet with tears. He had devised at least thirty different possible ways to kill him with a pencil alone, another twenty with an eraser, and fifty different curses to use at him in seven different languages, two he didn't even know how to speak in. In short, he hated him.

And it was hatred was what rooted him to his place that day, and Barney disappeared into the corner of the street before he could even take a single step.

Irony at its finest.

Maybe the reason Luke doesn't know exactly when the story starts is because it starts a long time ago, when Luke was just born, before he understood much about life—but he could imagine it vividly as she recounted his sister's story over and over again:

That day, Dad was under immense pressure, with Mr. Eriksen threatening to take their house if they didn't pay the bills. Mom was very angry, and she started accusing Dad of ridiculous things—stealing, drug-dealing, even cheating with Dad's high school girl friend Robin—and then Dad was so angry he turned the dining table upside down, dumping food all over the place, sauce permanently smeared the smiling faces of Mom and Dad in the painting Ms. Aldrin made them.

After that Dad screamed and Mom cried and Dad screamed even more; she then called someone, and not long, the door burst open and that bastard Stinson entered. Ignoring Dad's shouts, Mom ran into his hands, and they walked out of the house and slammed the door close. Dad cried, his tears was of anger and sadness and betrayal, and she repeated Mom's name over and over again like a silent mantra.

She never returned.

Luke never met his mother.







A/n:First time writing angst, people, so sorry if this is so much fail. Thank you for reading anyways! :D

And btw, for those of you who are confused, this is how it goes:

Ted and the mother married - Lily drew the painting - Ranjit and Wendy started working for the family - Leia was born - They fell into debt - Marshall the debt collector started coming regularly, Mother started seeing Barney behind Ted's back - Luke was born - the BIG FIGHT, Mother left - Ted started drinking and doing drugs - fell sick - delusion - "kids, I'm going to tell you how you met your mother," kids gasped.

So, that's all, everyone! Hope you had a great time.

Reviews, favorites and criticisms are much appreciated :).