last01standing: (Default)
[personal profile] last01standing
Title: Faces Through the Veil of Smoke
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: This is by no means mine. 

Summary: It’s a ghost story. Except for all the ways it’s not.
Author's note: Very, very AU. But you can still expect spoilers through Shelter Island. [Barney/Robin, Marshall/Lily]

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Faces Through the Veil of Smoke

There is history here. Pain and betrayal. All the reasons Robin doesn’t do commitment and all the reasons she secretly wants to. Ted is hovering just behind Marshall glaring daggers into Lily’s forehead and Robin thinks she should move, should align herself with her friends.

But she sees the pain etched raw on Lily’s faces as well, the two of them mirroring one another. They’re perfect for each other. The thought tears across her mind with surprising clarity and she knows no two people could rip each other to shreds like that if they weren’t made for each other. For a second this picture flashes across her mind of the five of them sitting at a booth in MacLaren’s laughing and the picture is so real, so utterly tangible that it takes her a minute to backtrack and think, five of us? Five of us?

“How have you been?” Lily asks.

There’s a tentative tinge of hope in her face, in her eyes and Robin has to look away because it hurts to watch, hurts to hear. She watches Ted instead, glaring at Lily, his eyes alight with anger. She understands anger. The look on Marshall’s face is harder to define. He still hasn’t said a word. Hasn’t so much as moved.

“So,” Lily stammers, “I’m uh, back in town. For good. I just—I mean, I wanted to you know, clear the air because it’s New York now and not San Francisco.”

“It’s a big city,” Ted snaps. “You know, a few million people. There’s no reason you’re going to have to see each other.”

“Yeah,” Lily says, face falling. “No, right, I just—“ She gestured vaguely to the door. “You know I should go. I have places. People.” She offered the shyest smile Robin has ever seen. “Good to see you again, Marshall.”

Marshall moves his mouth but doesn’t say a word and Lily gathers her things and leaves with slumped shoulders.

“Wow,” Robin says as the door closes behind her. “Marshall, I’m so sorry, I had no idea.”

“Beer,” Marshall says.

“If I had known, Marshall, I never would have—”

“Beer!” Marshall repeats, louder.

Ted snaps out of his daze, steering Marshall into their usual booth as he signals for Wendy with one hand. “Hey, can we get a round?”


Three hours later, Marshall is as drunk as Robin has ever seen him--which is impressive considering just how much alcohol it takes to get Marshall drunk. No matter how much he might protest and say he is the runt of the litter, Marshall is a big dude and even pushed over the edge he isn't half as far gone as Ted at his worst. Drunk Marshall is just sort of sad.

“Can you believe her?” Ted says, taking a drink. “Coming in here after all this time. Messing with you after she’d already crushed you. What a bitch.”

“Yeah, I know, right?” Marshall echoes, slamming a hand down on the table. “Total bitch.”

Robin shifts in her seat. She hasn’t heard this story. Not all of it. All she knows are bits and pieces and when she thinks of the nervous girl with the sweet smile who’d chatted with her for an hour about kindergartners and painting, she can’t imagine someone who’d leave her fiancé two months before a wedding after a relationship that had lasted a decade.

But she wasn’t there so she doesn’t say anything. She just watches the two of them tear the girl to shreds.

Later as she and Ted collaborate to haul Marshall up to the apartment and into bed. “You don’t think the two of you were being a little harsh on her?” Robin says. “I mean if they went out for ten years, she can’t be a complete monster.”

“She was my friend too,” Ted says. “And she left me to pick up the pieces. It nearly killed him. The only thing that got him going was anger so I fed it.” His eyes are dark. “There’s no way I’m losing him again.”


Ted has to work late the next night so Robin winds up sitting across from Marshall staring at her hands. “I was pretty messed up last night,” he tells her. “I’m sorry if it was weird for you.”

“You were going through a hard time,” Robin says. “I can’t imagine how it must feel.”

“I still love her,” Marshall says quietly. “I don’t think I know how to stop.”

“Oh,” Robin says. She doesn’t know that feeling. Doesn’t know if she wants it if this is the cost. She hesitates. “You’re not going to try to get back together with her, are you?”

“No,” Marshall says. “But it’s awkward because the last time we saw each other we kind of, had a relapse.”

Robin squeezes her eyes shut. “So you banged her?”

She enjoys watching Marshall sputter like this. It’s been a talent of hers for a long time. Cutting through bullshit, saying the things that make men blush. She smirks and takes a quiet victory sip of her scotch.

“It was right after The Accident,” Marshall says.

She has heard of The Accident, the life changing car accident that changed Ted’s life but they didn’t like to talk about the details. She almost asks right there. Asks what happened, how long Ted was laid up, but Marshall looks so miserable she can’t do anything but grab him by his shoulders and haul him to his feet. “That’s it, we need to find you a girl.”

“I don’t want a girl,” Marshall whines.

“Well too bad,” Robin says pulling him to his feet and shoving him toward a group of girls congregated at the bar. “Hey,” she calls, steering him into the masses. “Have you met Marshall?”


She’s watches Marshall work from a distance. He goes for the red head in the end and Robin’s a little surprised because after Lily she had pegged the brunette as more his type.

She’s so caught up in Marshall’s production that she doesn’t notice the man sliding into the booth across from her until he coughs and makes his presence known. She nearly knocks her drink over when she looks up because it’s the guy. The one she’s been seeing out of the corner of her eyes since a voice that hadn’t quite sounded like Marshall drawled Haaaave you met Ted?

Over at the bar, Marshall has his hand on the small of the red head’s back. Robin smiles and looks back down to her scotch. When she raises her eyes, she expects the well dressed blonde to be gone because that was his MO wasn’t it? He gave her looks that sent chills down her back and then he disappeared.

This time he isn’t gone.

“Lily’s a good person,” he says, adjusting his tie. “She’s a good person who made a mistake.”

At the bar, Marshall’s made his move past the blue line headed for center ice. The girl is leaning into the kiss. Robin looks away but not to the man in front of her. Making eye contact would be an acknowledgement, a surrender of some sort. She should not have a guilty conscious and said guilty conscious should not be wearing a suit. There’s a tall brunette at the end of the bar who keeps glancing in her direction and Robin’s thinking maybe she should be friendly and introduce herself.

“I know you can see me,” the man across from her says.

Robin looks up sharply. She notices three things immediately. The first is the smirk playing at the edges of his lips. The second is the eyes—clear and intense and so utterly mesmerizing that she is incapable of looking away. The third and by far the most distressing is that she appears to be the only person in the bar who actually does see him.

“I know you can see me and this whole stranger through a crowded room thing we’ve been doing is totally, totally lame.”

“And here I was thinking you were a romantic.” She replies before she can stop herself.

That’s all it takes. She’s broken her rule, recognized the presence of this thing and a sneaking suspicion crawling up her spine to tell her she’s stuck with it.

“Please,” he says, raising a hand as if to brush away her point, “the things I’ve down to women would shock and appall you.”

“Don’t sound quite so proud of yourself, stud,” Robin retorts, disguising her words with a sip of her drink.

“My complete and utter awesomeness is not the point of this conversation,” he says, sitting up a little straighter in his seat. His suit is black. His tie is black. His skin is pale. “The point is my best friend doesn’t hear a word I say and you—some random newscaster from Canada—appear to have tuned into my frequency.”


“I know, right? All the New Yorkers in this bar and I end up with the Canadian. It’s not even a real country.”

Robin feels like she should be offended, but she isn’t, she’s snickering into her drink and it’s the lightest she’s felt in ages, like the all encompassing weight of her failing job and her failing love life has dissipated for just a moment.

“What’s so funny?” Marshall asks, sliding into the booth and when she looks up, it’s her friend where the man had been just seconds before.

Robin doesn’t bother looking for him. She knows she won’t find him again. Not tonight at least. “Nothing,” she says, “It’s nothing. What happened with the redhead?”

“Oh, she’s great. Really, really great. She’s a nurse. I got her number. We’re going out for coffee tomorrow.” He quiets. “Thanks for tonight, Robin. I really needed this.”

Robin raises her drink. “That’s what I’m here for, bro.”

And she pretends everything is normal even though it’s not.


More as soon as school allows it.

3 | 

(no subject)

26/4/09 16:31 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I ache.

I ache AGAIN.

This is such god damn unadulterated genius that if you don't post the next part soon I may have to hurt you.

In a good way.


(no subject)

27/4/09 23:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]

(Please don't hurt me. There will be more soon. Promise. The next chapter's almost done.)

(no subject)

26/4/09 17:06 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Wow! This is awesome. It's amazing to see the difference Robyn's absence from the guys lives - and Barney's death - has made in the way things have turned out for them. I can't wait til the next chapter!

(no subject)

27/4/09 23:53 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This is my favorite kind of AU to play with because it lets all the people still be the same person. They're not suddenly pirates or unicorns or anything crazy, they've just taken things a bit differently.

I'm glad you're enjoying it.

Now I really want to write a unicorn AU. Damnit

(no subject)

26/4/09 17:35 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh Barney, how I love thee and thy simplicity.
Seriously, great job staying in character!

(no subject)

27/4/09 23:55 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thanks. Glad to hear I was IC. I'm always a little apprehensive entering a new fandom.
(deleted comment)

(no subject)

27/4/09 23:56 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Glad you're enjoying it. I love messing with these guys.

(no subject)

26/4/09 20:09 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Wahhh! So sad! I can understand Ted's reasoning but he was being a bitch himself...but Lily's my favorite character so I might be biased...but anyways...great chapter! This is really creative and I can't wait to see where you go with it...

(no subject)

27/4/09 23:57 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh, Ted's a totaly bitch. It's one of the reason he's fun to write. =)

Thanks for reading!

(no subject)

26/4/09 21:55 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh Barney! Even Death cannot stop your awesomeness!

I absolutely love this AU, and I can't wait for more.

(no subject)

28/4/09 00:06 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm glad to hear it.

(no subject)

26/4/09 22:11 (UTC)
gladdecease: (WHAT.  WHAT WAS THAT.)
Posted by [personal profile] gladdecease

Ooh, the confrontation. (I love the difference in Marshall's recovery, and Ted's latent anger) Ooh, the redhead. (because of course Robin wouldn't know about Lily's original hair color, that's really something) Oh, the Accident. (...the second accident, perhaps?)

I think I might be seeing how this is going. Maybe. I'll need to read more to get a proper grasp on it.


(no subject)

28/4/09 00:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh, you're getting warm there. =) Can't say much more than that.

(no subject)

27/4/09 03:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Wow, this is getting more and more interesting! Please post again soon!

(no subject)

28/4/09 00:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Planning on it. =)

(no subject)

27/4/09 04:42 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
The Accident (god, capital letters of foreboding fill me with dread. It's gonna be sad isn't it? Oh everybody!)

Ted's anger, while justified, still rankles me, I'm glad possibily-a-ghost!Barney is at least there to defend her, even if its only through Robin.

Seriously cannot wait for more, this is fantastic!

(no subject)

28/4/09 00:12 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I love Ted but man, can the dude hold a grudge.

There should be more soon.

(no subject)

27/4/09 06:57 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
More, more, more, more!

If I were capable of words in the face of your awesome fic, I would, but all I can say is that it's just great. So great.

(no subject)

28/4/09 00:13 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thank you so much. I'm really happy you're liking it.

(no subject)

27/4/09 18:04 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Interesting! I look forward to the rest of this.

(no subject)

28/4/09 00:13 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Glad to have you along for the ride. =)

(no subject)

29/4/09 14:35 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
no two people could rip each other to shreds like that if they weren’t made for each other.

Dude, you're breaking my heart in so many intangible ways with this story. I'm in love with this universe. I love how she knows Barney without ever having known him, that she laughs at his dig at her being Canadian *sigh*

(no subject)

29/4/09 19:45 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
It's definitely been fun to play with thusfar. I'm glad you're enjoying it as well.

(no subject)

8/5/09 02:45 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
It's steaksauce!

And the Canadian jokes *hugs*


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