The Game Changer

Summary: Barney never thought he'd need to know anything more than how to fake it. Barney character study, references to Tick, Tick, Tick and Barney/Robin.

Back when he was younger, he knew how to be romantic. He knew how to sweep Shannon off her feet. He wrote her songs and poetry, made her jewelry of yarn and shiny beads, gave her flowers for no reason and would have followed her to the ends of the earth...

The break-up changed him more than he knew was possible.

Those old sentiments and gestures fell quickly into disuse, replaced with conning and scamming and suiting up. True romance required a desire to care about the other person's happiness, and how could he do that again?

It was easier to care about himself.

But it was not as easy to get laid as a self-proclaimed selfish bastard as one might have thought, and so he started playing a new game, a game he quickly became an expert at.

He learned how to say anything and everything to get a woman into bed. Most would hop in with a simple, "You're beautiful, babe."

Some, however, required a little more finesse. A flower from the pocket of his suit. A shoulder to cry on. A lie, a thousand lies.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

I've never felt this way about anyone before.

He could write a love note, if he wanted. A decent proposal, even. Make no mistake, he could be the best, sweetest, most caring man in the world, right up until morning came and he snuck out while his latest conquest was in the shower.

It seemed to be the best life he could hope for without giving up too much of himself.

It's that awsful, terrible, wonderful Canadian beauty that changes everything.

From the first time they sleep together, and maybe even before, Robin confuses him and turns his world upside down and he's not sure who he's supposed to be anymore. He's spent so many hours and days and years convincing himself that he likes his life and the man he is. He likes bedding bimboes and playing the game, and he's good at faking the romance when it's absolutely necessary to get the job done.

He became an expert at faking because he never thought he'd need to know anything more than that.

That's probably, Barney thinks as he enters her room, why things with Robin fell apart in the first place. He'd become too used to making big crazy gestures and saying all the right things that meant nothing, and he was completely thrown off when it started to mean something.

Suddenly all those gestures came with feelings of love and putting Robin's happiness before his own and wanting to be the very best man he could be. It was too confusing and scary and it hurt, made him vulnerable like he hadn't been in years.

He was out of his element with the realness of it, floundering in waters too deep for him to swim. And she didn't know how much it really meant to him. How could she know when she'd seen him with too many other women and saw him hide under suits of armor and false words?

How could she know that she was the only one to make him want more from life?

Back then, he didn't know how to tell her, she didn't know how to see it, and they collapsed in on themselves.

Not this time, Barney thinks as he's spreading rose petals on her bed and lighting candles and hoping it will make her smile and make her feel as amazing as she truly is. He wants her to know that this is real, and that this thing they have together has meant more to him than anything he's ever done. This time, he's going to find a way to make them work.

He can be boyfriend material. Hell, maybe he can even be husband material, if she ever decides she'd like to go that route...

This time, he thinks as he looks over the romantic scene he's created in her room, will be perfect.