She Never Once Says

Summary: He loved her, maybe still does, but like old Doritos, this thing between them is growing stale. Tag to Something Old. Ted centric, a little one sided Ted/Robin, but still very much Barney/Robin over all.

A/N: Probably AU by next episode, but I had to write it for my own peace of mind.

Maybe he's being a narcissist, but sometimes he thinks of himself as the group's center. Because he's known them all first, he's been there the longest for each of them in turn. He knows when Barney needs someone to laugh with him, knows when Marshall could use a pat on the shoulder, knows when Lily needs her space, and knows when Robin says no, it's stupid, she means it's really not.

So he meets her at the park and helps her dig, like he would do for any of his friends. And when the locket's gone, all her doubts come pouring down with the rain, and he's there to listen, like he would, for any of his friends.

She says a lot of things about having doubts about marrying Barney, because he can be immature, and maybe she's not ready either. She has doubts about herself, that she can be a wife to someone, as open-hearted as a person should be. She has doubts that Barney won't feel tied down and trapped someday down the line.

And she reminds him that she didn't have to tell him something was important for him to know that it was, and the comparison is there.

It's gasoline to the spark in his heart, and it's old feelings he shouldn't be allowed to feel when she's engaged to one of his best friends. Flames growing, spiraling, the door he thought he'd shut for good being burnt down and -

And then he remembers. He loved her, maybe still does, but like old Doritos, this thing between them is growing stale.

Because for all her doubts about whether or not her and Barney are ready for this now, she never once says it. She never once says she doesn't love Barney, never once says she isn't madly in love with him, like she has been for years. For the longest time, their chemistry was something Ted couldn't understand, but he never really tried. Never wanted to see how well they fit together when she couldn't fit with him.

I think you know how you feel about me now, and I don't think time's going to change that. Just tell me. Do you love me?

No, she says.

Well, time's gone by and he's been proven right. She loves Barney, is in love with him. She's just scared now, once again looking for a way not to be happy, afraid that love and chemistry and timing won't be enough. She's the skeptic, but it's still raining.

But he knows how wrong the universe can be, and like he would for any of his friends, he knows he has to be here with her to ride out the storm as much as it may hurt him.

And she is grateful to him, but that's all she's ever been. He's always been her stepping stone to something else, to someone else, to the type of true love he's been desperate to create.

After the park, in the cab they share together, hands now noticeably apart, he thinks over how things end and how God should be opening a window for him, right about now. "Maybe I'll travel after the wedding," he tells her quietly. "Take a nice vacation. I've always wanted to see New Zealand, and it's time for something new, right?"

"New is always better," she tells him, and her smile seems to warm just at the mere thought of Barney. "And you should. I bet it'd be fun."

Her smile tells him that she knows how hard this is for him, that she's sorry, and that she too thinks that distance might be one of the few things that can help.

And she never once says that he has any other reason to stay.