last01standing: ([BtVS] Hush)
[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
CHAPTER 3


She avoids MacLaren's for precisely thirteen days. She goes to a different bar with some friends from work, downs shots and rides the mechanical bull. She wakes up the next morning with a horrible hangover to find a of an old Robin Sparkles video playing on her television. She frowns at it but leaves it on as she moves into her kitchen and pours herself a bowl of cereal. She has four missed calls on her phone. Two are from Ted. One is Marshall. One is a number she doesn’t recognize. Only one of them had left a message.

Robin, it’s Ted. I haven’t talked to you in like two weeks. Wanted to see what was up.

Onscreen Robin Sparkles leans back in the sand and sings about the greatest week and a half of her life.

Look I get that you’re busy but things aren’t the same without you. If you feel like a night out, you know where to find us.

She closes her eyes and promises herself that when she opens them, everything will be different.

***


She doesn’t call Ted back. She goes to work and says booger rather than burger during a live broadcast but it doesn’t matter because no one notices. For the thousandth time she contemplates quitting right there on the spot but knows she’s under qualified for anything job. She’s a joke but at least she’s employed.

Outside the station, she’s met with a slightly wild-eyed Lily Aldrin.

“Hello?” she says.

“Hi, Robin,” Lily says. “Look. I know you probably don’t think I deserve the time of day but I really need to talk to you.”

Robin looks around. She’s expecting to find Ted or Marshall or the well dressed blonde watching but they’re alone in the sea of anonymous faces. “Fine,” Robin says curtly. “I’ll hear you out.”

***


“Breaking up with Marshall was the biggest mistake I ever made.” Lily says. Her fingers are shaking over the coffee cup. Robin wishes she would have suggested something with alcohol instead of caffeine. “But by the time I realized it, I was too far gone to come back. I never meant to hurt him.”

“Well,” Robin says. “You really did. I only met Marshall two months ago and even I could see it.”

“I know,” Lily says. Her eyes are red and if she starts crying, Robin is out of there. She can barely handle her own emotions without adding someone else’s to the mix.

“I’m sorry, but why are you talking to me about this? You don’t know me at all.”

Lily cups both hands around her coffee cup and takes a long sip. “I didn’t know how hard it was going to be coming back. I really made a mess of things when I called off this wedding. It’s like we got a divorce and Marshall won all the friends.”

“Won all the friends?” Robin repeats. “You do realize you practically dumped him on the alter, right? Who did you think people would side with?”

Lily sniffs but the tears don’t come. Robin finds herself pressing back into the booth, trying to distance herself. “It’s just,” Lily hiccups. “I miss him you know. And I miss Ted and I miss Barney and I miss how it all used to be.”

“Please don’t cry,” Robin pleads. “Please don’t. If there’s snot I’m going to leave.”

“Do you think there’s any chance he’ll even talk to me again? Not get back together. Just you know talk?”

Robin thinks of Lily here in front of her and a quietly drunk Marshall saying, I still love her. I don’t think I know how to stop. She sighs. “Yeah,” she says. “Yeah, you might have an outside chance at it.” She takes a sip of her drink and adds, “Go through Ted.”

“Ted? Ted hates me right now.”

Robin shrugs. “I didn’t say it would be easy.”

***


They wind up in walking toward a shoes store a few blocks down. Lily keeps saying something about sale but Robin’s eyes are fixated on the place across the street. “I had no idea laser tag still existed.” The sun is dipping under the skyscrapers and the shoe place will be closed within minutes of their entrance. “Forget shoes,” she says. “How about we go play a round.”

Lily looks at her strangely and finds an excuse to leave two minutes later.

Robin plays a game of laser tag and heads to MacLaren’s.

***


Marshall hugs her when she walks into the bar. Ted kisses her on the cheek and it’s weird because she’s never had this sort of thing before. Never been part of a group who would miss her when she was gone. It fills her with a rush of warmth and she hates herself for waiting so long to come back.

“What happened to you?” Marshall says. “Ted was starting to think you didn’t like us anymore.”

She smirks. “Ted thought that, huh?

“Yeah,” Marshall says. “I thought it might have been that Ted smelled funny but...”

Robin laughs, looks pointedly at Ted and slides into the booth next to Marshall. Ted clutches at his hear. “Oh, that hurts Scherbatsky. That hurts.”

“Got to man up, Theodore,” Robin replies, signaling Wendy the waitress for a beer. “So let’s hear it, Marshall. How was the date with the redhead? Catch me up.”

“Katy’s great,” Marshall says. “I mean she’s funny and smart and great and—”

“Marshall went on one date with her,” Ted cuts in. “He had a great time but he never called her again.”

“You can’t rush these things,” Marshall says defensively.

“It’s a three day thing, dude,” Ted says. “Not a three week thing.”

“Coward,” someone adds through a cough.

Robin looks away from Marshall to find the blond sitting across from her, just right of Ted. He’s impeccably dressed as always, today wearing a gray suit and a gray tie. He looks like he belongs here. Looks like he’s always been here. “What?” he says off Robin’s look. “Lily’s back in town and while he says he’s air quote ‘over her’ I give them three weeks before he’s back on top of her if you get what I’m saying.”

He raises his hand, looking for a high five and Robin just stares at him because acknowledging him was one thing but giving a high five to a—she refused to even think the word—that was crazy. He looks ever so slightly crestfallen but winks and says, “We’ll high five later.”

“I’m going to call her,” Marshall protests from her side. “You just can’t rush into things like this.”

“I’m telling you, man,” Ted takes a sip of his drink. “She’s going to think you don’t like her. She’ll be going out with someone else by the time you get off your ass and call her.”

“I’m going to call her,” Marshall repeats.

“You should have nailed her while you had the chance,” the blonde says from Ted’s side. “A few more weeks and you’re back to monogamy with little to know chance of getting anything exotic.”

Robin chokes on her drink and stifles her laughter and Ted segways into a long convoluted story about his architecture firm and Robin’s only half listening until the blonde across from her smirks and says, “Raising, those pillars. Moseby, what up?”

Robin grins because it’s completely ridiculous but it was said with such enthusiasm it’s impossible not to acknowledge it.

Then she realizes something has gone wrong.

Ted and Marshall have stopped talking, staring at her with open mouths. Robin slowly looks up to find her own hand suspended in the air, waiting expectantly for something and oh, oh shit. She’d said that. She’d said that. She looks away from Ted, seeking the sight of her phantom presence but even he has abandoned her. She pulls her hand down deliberately, feeling suddenly skittish. She can’t be here right now. Regardless of how much she likes being here, she needs to get away rightthehellnow. “I’m sorry,” she sputters. “But I have to go. I have a uh, a meeting. That’s right a meeting.”

“It’s one in the morning,” Ted croaks finally. “It’s nothing, Robin it’s fine.” He raises his hand and gives her the high five but it’s not fine. It’s all skewed.

“I need to go,” Robin says, groping blindly for her purse. “I need.” She scrambles out of the booth and makes a beeline for the bathroom because she’s ten seconds away from tears and she knows this is one place they won’t follow.

“Shit,” she hisses to the bathroom mirror. Her eyes are red but she shouldn’t be crying. She has nothing to be upset about. She has friends for the first time in years. Her job’s still a shit hole but it’s been a shit hole since she started. Nothing’s changed. She goes into one of the stalls, sits and grabs some toilet paper from the roll to blow her nose.

“What’s wrong?” a voice says.

A pair of black dress shoes appears under the stall door. She knows who it is and she wishes it were anybody else. “Go away,” she hisses at the shoes. “You’re not supposed to be here!”

“Are you crying?” he asks.

“This is the lady’s room,” Robin calls back. “And you’re dead!”

“Dead?” he repeats sounding a little surprised. “You think I’m dead?”

“The disappearing thing kind of makes dead seem likely.”

“So you’re crying in a locked bathroom stall because you think I’m dead. Awesome.”

“In what world is this awesome?”

“Because I’ve totally still got it. Necrophilia five.”

Robin wipes her tears away and high fives her side of the bathroom stall. She takes a few deep breaths and then pushes the door back open. The bathroom is empty. Of course the bathroom is empty.

She ducks her head, clutches her purse and makes her way to the door.

Ted and Marshall are talking quietly at the bar and she catches just the barest snatch of their conversation. “That’s weird right?” Ted hisses.

“I’d almost say Barney’s perfect woman. Either that or long lost sibling. I mean---”

She doesn’t hang around to hear the rest of it. Doesn’t need to. Doesn’t want to.

Outside, it’s colder than she remembered. The kind of cold she remembers back in Canada in midwinter but it was almost spring now. This afternoon the temperatures had climbed into the seventies. It is T-shirt weather but she feels like she’d stepped out into six feet of snow.

Her phone chirps at her. It’s Ted, texting to see if she’s all right. She feels the tears pricking at her eyes but she tells him that she’s fine. Tells she ate something weird before she came out tonight and needs to get to sleep.

The lies don’t bother her at all.


***


I was totally going to sit on this chapter for a few more days but I'm still kind of jazzed by last episode's awesomeness and figured we could all use some more HIMYM. Probably won't be quite so fast next time...

4 | 

(no subject)

28/4/09 05:18 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] thewordwizard23.livejournal.com
I love this story! I can't wait for more!

(no subject)

29/4/09 04:52 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Glad to hear it!

(no subject)

28/4/09 05:45 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] mo-anam.livejournal.com
What I love about this story is that there are so many places you can go with it. It's great how you've created such a different vibe with the group, because of course they wouldn't be the same, and yet she's still Robin, still Barney's perfect woman, even in this bizarro-land.

(no subject)

29/4/09 04:53 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thanks. It's been fun to play with the different vibe.

(and there really are a lot of places I can go but there's definitely one place I'm going. I have a plan.)

(no subject)

28/4/09 05:47 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] solojones.livejournal.com
You know, I personally am the kind of person who does best trying to write close to canon. I have never been good at writing AU, but I really love it and this is really cool. I just love how well you've twisted everything around. And I'm dying (no pun intended :p) for Robin to find out who Barney is, for us to find out what happened... and mostly just to see where the hell you're gonna go with this.

(no subject)

29/4/09 04:57 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
I've always been one for AUs myself, but never the massive AUs (and no, I don't consider this a massive AU, really I only tweaked one or two things.) It's more fun for me to wonder, well what if this one big thing changed, how would thing go differently? And really that's all most fanfic is, imposing a hypothetical on a previously existing universe. It's like taking the real world and saying, well what if everyone could teleport? It's not going to change the people but it sure as hell will change the dynamic. And it's fun. (and you should TOTALLY give an AU a shot if you have the chance)

I'm glad you're enjoying it.




(no subject)

29/4/09 05:05 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] solojones.livejournal.com
You know, in all my screenwriting classes we always say that the best thing to keep pasted above your computer to refer to when writing is simply the phrase "what if?" You're right, this is really all fics are- playing around with little changes here and there, little possibilities. It's crazy to see the drastic effect this can sometimes have. Props to you for seeing these changes through in an awesome way.

(no subject)

29/4/09 05:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
(It's totally the chem major training. If you do one freaking thing wrong you have to be able to trace back to it and know how you could fix it to actually get your product. And then you have to know what's going to happen if you use a different reagent and before you know it you've found out that Chemistry is basically one big writing class.

I'm not even joking a little.)

(no subject)

29/4/09 05:17 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] solojones.livejournal.com
No, I believe you. There's a reason I decided to go to a liberal arts school before film school. I'm all for the integration of disciplines. Personally, I have a fairly scientific mind myself so I can see where you're coming from.

(no subject)

28/4/09 06:04 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] idioticonion.livejournal.com
Hehe. Did the threats last time work? They totally worked! Does that mean I now have to threaten you with disembowlment in order to get part 4 out of ya?

What's better than disembowlment?

Decapitation!!!!

Part 4 in two days or it's decapitation for you!!!

Mwhahahahaha!

(p-tothe-s this is in my 5 best himym stories of all time already...)

(no subject)

29/4/09 05:00 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
... but how will I write through decapitation? There is a flaw in your logic. =)

Seriously, this story has a massive hold on me right now, I'm writing in snatches whenever I can but I wrote three essays tonight for spanish and will be doing a formal lab report tomorrow so it might be a little longer a wait. What I have now is super disjointed.

(And I'm seriously blushing here. Thank you for all the kind words)

(no subject)

28/4/09 06:42 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ellerigbee.livejournal.com
Oh sweet baby Jesus, this is intense. And I'm eatting up every single word!

This:Lily sniffs but the tears don’t come. Robin finds herself pressing back into the booth, trying to distance herself. “It’s just,” Lily hiccups. “I miss him you know. And I miss Ted and I miss Barney and I miss how it all used to be.”, just made me so sad for everyone involved. I can't wait to see what's coming up next.

(no subject)

29/4/09 05:00 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
=)

Glad to have you along for the ride.

(no subject)

28/4/09 07:30 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] tigersroar.livejournal.com
It's still made of awesome, just so you know.

I love that everything's so wrong but so...right, ya know?

...And Barney and Robin...just...*flails* they're so good together and the interaction's so normal and just good.

I'll be waiting intently for your next update!

(no subject)

29/4/09 05:01 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Good to hear it!

I'm really happy the dynamic came off right. I was worried about that.

(no subject)

28/4/09 18:30 (UTC)
gladdecease: (eyes up here)
Posted by [personal profile] gladdecease
Heee, a new chapter so fast? You, my good madam, are fantastic.

I love all the changed relationships, the subtle differences in the characters. Lily seems a bit like a wreck, and though Marshall and Ted look normal enough, they have their trigger words (Barney phrases, really) that set them off. How much of an affect Barney's death had on the group is dependent on how long he was friends with Ted, Marshall, and Lily (which I don't think was too long), but it seems to me that the repercussions of him not being around had a greater affect than his absence in itself. Though, intentionally or not, they do leave an open seat at their booth for him.

It's hard to tell where the fic is going--will getting Lily and Marshall back together allow Barney to 'rest', as it were? Is Robin going to accidentally out her Barney-ish tendencies as being able to see his ghost? Hm.

(no subject)

29/4/09 05:08 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you!

There are reasons for everything you've mentioned that are not quite what you think. And I want to say more but I really really can't.

You know I always though Barney was around for a while preseries because like three episodes in he's calling Ted his best friend. I'd give him two years preseries and coupled with the three or so post series. I'd actually guestimate it at 5 years before the 'accident' in this fic. Which, not so sort.

Believe it or not, there is a definite direction and a definite plot and a definite ending in mind. I wouldn't have started posting without it. =)

(no subject)

29/4/09 14:28 (UTC)
gladdecease: (good part's coming; wait for it)
Posted by [personal profile] gladdecease
Oh, I trust that you know where you're going with this; it's just not very clear to me as a reader. Which is good, interesting. Doesn't happen to me as much as I'd like.

Barney has always seemed really needy in the way of 'best friend'-ness. Though you can argue that he has known Ted long enough to make the title appropriate, you can also argue that he hasn't.

Thanks for the approximate timeline, and for not giving away any more than that!

(no subject)

29/4/09 19:48 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
I agree with you on Barney. Now that you mention it, I can really see him going up to Ted three days after he met him and being all, 'Ted, as your best friends...'

But I still like to think of him as having been around longer because, well, the group just seems a lot more fun with Barney.

(no subject)

28/4/09 19:12 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] spirillen.livejournal.com
I just love this fic!

(no subject)

28/4/09 19:34 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] leonhart-17.livejournal.com
aww I hope Barney's right about Marshall and Lily only being broken up for 3 more weeks - Another great chapter! I can't wait to see where the rest goes!

(no subject)

29/4/09 05:09 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
It kind of tilts everything off with Marshall and LIly not together, huh? It kind of hurts to even write it.

I'm glad to have you reading!
Posted by [identity profile] roland44.livejournal.com
She goes to work and says booger rather than burger during a live broadcast but it doesn’t matter because no one notices.
Reading that is so painful, I feel like I've been gutted with a humongous butcher knife. *see icon*

Never been part of a group who would miss her when she was gone
Awww Robin!!! :)

He looks like he belongs here. Looks like he’s always been here.
And this is where I start tearing up, fo' realz. :'(

She’d said that.
Holy crap, you're a genius!! Robin is like a MEDIUM for Barney's spirit to talk to the guys!! Dude! That should be totally ridiculous to me, but you make it believable! I love it.

“Because I’ve totally still got it. Necrophilia five.”
KILL me now ;)

“I’d almost say Barney’s perfect woman."
OK, now you've REALLY killed me. STOP KILLING ME! I just want for him to be alive and them to be together and *GUH*
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
You know you quoted back pretty much all the lines I was proud of in this chapter. Yay!

I really like using something that was hilarious on the show and twisting it to make it painful! It's so very much fun. Also, I'm a bit sadistic. =)

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