Summary: Marshall is dead. How does Lily survive without him? Does she even really want to? Marshall is dead and Barney is the only one who sees, truly sees, how devastated Lily is by his loss. And Barney does all that he can think of to try and help Lily learn to function again Notes: I've spent the last three years working on this Marshallsdeadverse I've previously posted all of the chapters of this verse as separate installments here on FF net. I'm now posting them as a multi chapter fic. Please note that all entries in this verse are pretty dark and angsty. Welcome to the Marshallsdeadverse. Disclaimer on profile.

It had been six months and she was doing all the things that people did again. Waking up. Bathing. Combing her hair. Eating – although not enough. Working – she was painting again, although now, all of the colors were muted; blackened and greyed. She was even watching TV although she didn't focus on anything.

The one thing she still wasn't doing, the thing that was most obviously separating her from the land of the living, was sleeping. The first few weeks after his death, she'd slept almost endlessly. Curving her form into a ball on her side of the bed, her head buried in his pillow, trying desperately to breathe in his scent instead of air.

But that was just during the first few weeks. Since then, she'd only slept in fits and bouts. Her eyes finally drifting shut when they could no longer be forced to stay open. Noon might find her sprawled out on the couch dead to the world. But the sleep she gathered round her head was brief and shallow. Only enough to keep her body functioning. Only enough to make it possible for her to bathe, comb her hair, paint, and sit in front of the television.

Next to Marshall, sleep was what Lily missed most.

But if she couldn't have Marshall, how could she have the soothing, deadening, limbo of sleep?

Most people thought she was doing better. That she was functioning, both in mind and in body, at almost full capacity. They saw her here and there, and they thought she was present. That she was living in the here and now.

Ted thought that. Ted with his empty 'I'm so sorries' and his stupid 'I loved him toos'. He thought she was living and breathing again. Stupid Ted.

And Robin. Robin was... Robin. When she allowed herself to think about Lily, she imagined that Lily was healing; breathing air versus the constant grey. Robin was a good friend when she wasn't wrapped up in her flights of fancy of becoming the next Katie Couric, or better yet, the next Barbara Walters; when she wasn't planning to take her life to Australia, or to India and start her career over. Yes, she was a good friend when she was petting Lily with a hesitant hand. A hand afraid of becoming contaminated by emotions.

Most people thought Lily was doing better. That she was functioning, both in mind and in body at almost full capacity. They saw her here and there, and they thought she was present. That she was living in the here and now.

The only one who seemed to know, who actually seemed to understand that she was mostly dead, was Barney.

Barney Stinson.

Playboy. Womanizer. Narcissist. Barney Stinson.

Only, he wasn't a narcissist. Not at heart. The ego and the hyper self-esteem? Facades. Thick facades, but facades none-the-less.

She'd always known he was deeper, more open, more caring than he let on. She'd always known it. But she'd seen it in action more often than most. There was the time, when she and Marshall had broken up, and she was across the world (or so it had seemed) trying to forage and forget... Who had come to get her? None other than Barney.

Then, shortly after that, she'd moved in with Barney and become his 'anti-wingwoman'. Those weeks with him had been clarifying; crystallizing her opinion of the man. Of the heart of the man.

And then, of course, there was now.

Now when she was broken and cold; nearly dead and barely moving, now, she realized that once again, Stinson was more than he let on. He saw that she was bleeding and broken. He saw that she was cold and blue. And he became a lifeline. A lifeline to a world she wasn't positive she wanted to live in anymore. A lifeline that wouldn't let go of her, even though her lifeless fingers had all but let go of it. Barney gave her a bit of air. He was a craggy suture. He was a… companion.

Barney came to see her every other night; after work. He came bearing food. Italian. Chinese. Thai. Indian…. The best burger ever…. And he made her eat. At times resorting to feeding her himself – if her day had been particularly bad – if she was particularly listless.

Barney also came bearing news of the world. His world. "So I picked up this red head last night Lil. Boobs out to HERE! And… surprise, surprise, the carpet MATCHED the curtains. Although, sadly, the boobs were plastic. Oh well, can't win them all, all of the time."

She didn't particularly care about what flavor, or what dish Barney had bedded the night before. But she appreciated his being there. And his reminding her of that there was a world out there, still circulating and moving and pumping. She also appreciated his stillness. After the stories of his conquests, Barney would become silent. He would open his arms to her from his spot on the couch, or on her bed. And he would hold her. Hold her, unmoving, while the TV flickered. Hold her, as he stroked her hair, while her tears soaked his silk/linen/cotton shirts. Hold her in the silence.

Barney came to see her every other night; after work. He came bearing food. He came bearing air and salve. He came even when she yelled at him to 'get out! Get out and NEVER come back.' He came even when she told him to 'leave me the hell alone, Stinson. I don't need your help anymore. I don't WANT your help!' He came even after she told him, achingly, longingly that 'I want to die. I want to die, it hurts so much.'

But Barney Stinson, beneath the facade, had a heart. A heart that saw her, and understood.

And so, he continued to come. He continued to breathe for her. He continued to heal the ever open wound.

And he told his stories, and he stroked her hair, and he watched the black and white flickering screen, and he listened to the heavy laden silence.