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
CHAPTER 4


She goes back to MacLaren’s the next night because she’s Robin Scherbatsky. She doesn’t let things like massive mental breakdowns stop her from doing what she wants to do. Ted and Marshall both leap up to greet her and the look of relief in their eyes tells her they hadn’t expected to see her again.

“Hey, Robin,” Ted says, “I’m really, really sorry about last night. We didn’t mean to make things uncomfortable.”

“See,” Marshall says. “We had this friend who was always saying stuff like that. Everything always high five, what up, legen—wait for it---”

“Dary,” Ted finishes, laughing fondly. “Legendary. And then there were all the times he was on us to suit up!”

“And play laser tag!”

“Or have you met Ted?

“Or hit a strip club.”

“And you haven’t heard the liberty bell story. Oh, that one really was legendary.”

It goes on like this for more than an hour. Ted and Marshall laughing and reminiscing while Robin listens and smiles. She thinks she catches sight of the blonde watching them from the bar with a far off look in his eyes. Barney Stinson? she wants to ask him. Are you Barney Stinson? She doesn’t know if putting a name to him makes things better or worse.

Finally Ted and Marshall lapse into silence. Ted stares at his beer. Marshall has a distant smile on his face. Robin clears her throat. “What happened to him?”

Ted picks at the edge of his beer’s label. “He was hit by a bus.”

Just like that the conversation’s over.

***


Marshall’s ex lives in Robin’s building.

She finds this out by accident as she heads out the door and toward her nearest caffeine fix. It just sort of happens and happens and happens until it’s a habit. Just like hiding her laughter as the man in the suit (Barney Stinson) cracks a joke that only she can hear or begs her for a high five.

She’s secretly started to enjoy these little encounters.

And she feels really, really guilty for allowing herself to get to that place but it’s not like she was looking to befriend the woman who dumped one of her best friends two months before their wedding day. She’s definitely not going to be calling up Stella for a lunch date.

This is different.

Except for all the ways it’s exactly the same.

***


Later it’s just her and Ted and she has this weird flashback to the night she met him, to the kissing him and laughing with him. She wonders if things would be different if they were different. Wonders if they would have kept kissing, kept going until the story ended with Mr. and Mrs. Ted Mosby, a white picket fence and 2.5 kids. She thinks about it for a moment but then dismisses it because she likes what she has now. There’s no need to change it.

She suggests he hook up with the unibrowed girl at the end of the bar. Ted suggests a broad broken nosed brunette without realizing that the broken nose made him exactly Robin’s type. Neither of them act on the suggestions and Robin imagines what the rest of them must think. Maybe that she and Ted are a couple. That would explain the lack of the normal parade of men coming to hit on her.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” she blurts.

“No,” Ted answers, frowning. “Why? Do you?”

“No!” Robin says. She sounds defensive. “It’s ridiculous. I mean when you’re dead you’re dead.”

“If you’re looking for ghost stories, ask Marshall.” Ted runs a hand through his hair. He looks tired. There are dark circles around his eyes. His hair is missing his normal product, hanging limply against his forehead. He has been on edge lately. His firm is making staff cuts and he’s on the bubble.

“Marshall, huh?”

“Yeah,” Ted laughs dryly. “Don’t even get him started on Nessy. Why are you interested?”

“I’m working on a story,” Robin lies easily. “They want me looking into a haunted bar.”

“Wow,” Ted says. “I honestly can’t think of a worse person for that story.”

“I think I’m going to take that as a compliment,” Robin says.

She blinks and the scene shifts slightly and suddenly the blonde, wearing yet another well tailored suit---Barney Stinson—is sitting next to her, one hand thrown casually over the back of the booth, his left hand dangling just inches above her shoulder. This close, she should be able to feel the warmth of his arm, of his breath on her neck.

Instead she just feels cold. “You would disrespect undead Americans, Scherbatsky,” he says. “Where is your sense of patriotism?”

“I’m from Canada,” Robin hisses.

“Yeah,” Ted drawls. “I know. What’s you’re point?”

“My point?” Robin sputters. She can feel the blonde’s eyes on her, can imagine the upward turn of his lips, the amusement twinkling in the eyes. She doesn’t look at him. “My point is that we Canadians are logical, reasoning people who don’t need reason to be scared of the dark.”

“So you’re saying you’re scared of the dark?” Ted extrapolates. He’s playing with his empty beer bottle, smirking.

“No one likes the dark!”

Beside her, Barney Stinson is laughing, laughing so hard that it should be echoing across the bar but the sound dies the instant it reaches her ears.

***


The next day, Marshall corners her on the street and says, “You’re doing a story about ghosts and you told Ted before me? Robin, how could you?”

“Sorry?”

He steers her into the bar, sits her down and says seriously, “I saw a ghost, once.”

She finds herself scanning the bar, looking for the now familiar face. “Really?” she asks, sounding not nearly as skeptical as she should. According to Ted, Marshall is an expert on UFOs, vampires, gremlins and teleportation.

“Really?” Robin asks. “Was it someone you knew?” Was it Barney Stinson?

“No,” Marshall says. “It was back with I was a kid in Minnesota. I only saw her a few times but sometimes when I was looking at our house at night, I’d see this really old women sitting next to the window. But when I went inside, there was no one there.”

“She never—” Robin hesitated. “She never talked to you did she?”

“Scared the bejeezes out of me a few times, but no, never said a word.”

“Hypothetically, do ghost usually do the creepy shadow thing or do they, you know, come out in daylight and strike up a conversation.”

Marshall frowns. “What kind of ghosts have you been dealing with?”

“Not me personally,” Robin says, backpedaling. “One of the people I interviewed. For the story.”

Before Marshall can press, Ted’s there, pale-faced and wide eyed. “Guys,” he says. “I have news.” He sits down heavily next to Robin. “Victoria’s back in town.”

***


“She’s Ted’s what if girl,” Marshall tells her later. “They tried this whole long distance thing for about a month but you know how that ends up.”

“Crash and burn?”

“More like fizzled and died.”

***


“Oh, God,” Barney moans. “Brunch. He’s going to start going to brunch again. May the world have mercy on all who seek to escape the terrible sight of Ted in coupledom.”

***


“I already know,” Lily says, practically dancing as she pays for her coffee. “Who do you think accidentally bumped into her on the street and planted the idea in her head? Me that’s who!”

***


Ted spends about three hours telling Robin and Marshall how he and Victoria met. A wedding, a perfect night. A drum roll but no finale. The mad rush to find her again. The slow build of a relationship. Cupcakes and awesome air kicks.

“I was there,” Barney tells her, leaning conspiratorially across. “And trust me, it was even lamer than it sounded.”

Robin smiles, imagining the frustration Barney must have felt sandwiched between Marshall and Lily and Ted and Victoria. Ted mistakes it as the nostalgic grin appropriate for the end of a fairy tale. “I know right?” he says. “It was so romantic.”

She’s always known Ted was at least twenty percent girl. She mentally bumps her estimate up to thirty. Beside her, Marshall is smiling fondly. She doesn’t think Marshall as big a romantic as Ted. He’s just been too long without a serious girlfriend. Barney’s still got one week left before he was wrong about Lily and the three-week hook up.

Ted fidgets in his seat. “How’s my hair?”

“Ted, the hair’s fine,” Robin says. Thirty-five percent girl. “Doesn’t look at all like you spend an hour working on it.

“You could probably asphyxiate a small child with all that product,” Barney adds. “My God, have you no penis?”

***


Her first assessment of Victoria is somewhat colored by circumstance. Well really, no, that’s her second opinion. Her first impression is pretty, big smile, cute shoes. Victoria gives Marshall a hug and Ted kisses her on the cheek and Robin feels out of place. Feels like this is something she missed, a glimpse back to the time where both her friends were happy.

When she wasn’t here.

But Victoria smiles at her and holds out a hand and she thinks the maybe she can get used to this. And she keeps thinking that until right up Victoria sits down and that second impression hits her hard.

Because Victoria sits down in the seat right next to Ted.

Because Victoria sits down in Barney’s seat.

Because Victoria sits down and Barney’s just gone.

She feels her breath catch in her throat. Black spots flash across her vision. Victoria is saying something about Germany and her super important dessert scholarship but Robin can’t focus.

For a time it had seemed that all of the wrongness that filled her life had sunk to the bottom, settling so completely that it seemed there was nothing but clear water. But Victoria is an irritant, an agitation, stirring the muddy water until it is almost impossible to see.

She fights the urge to run, to get as far from this place as possible, to quit her job and move to Argentina to...

She stays.

She stays and watches and hopes for the familiar flash of blond hair that never comes back.

***


The next morning over coffee with Lily she takes a deep breath, closes her eyes and says, “A few months ago, I started seeing this ghost.”


***


I'm planning more this weekend.
5 |
(deleted comment)

(no subject)

1/5/09 02:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] roland44.livejournal.com
Totally agree! It just keeps getting better and better!

(no subject)

1/5/09 19:59 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Oh! Thank you so much. I hope the rest of it lives up to it.

(no subject)

1/5/09 01:30 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ladysarahii.livejournal.com
I just wanted to let you know I am hooked and added this story to mems and was so pleased to see when I woke up from my nap that you'd updated. I love how Barney keeps giving Robin flashes of how her life would have been if Barney had still been alive, and it's the storyline of HIMYM.

I can't wait to read more!

(no subject)

1/5/09 20:01 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Well, I'm glad to have you along for the ride. =)

(no subject)

1/5/09 02:10 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] roland44.livejournal.com
Oh this is so very brilliant. I'm glad you're planning more this weekend because I absolutely and totally am looking forward to Lily's reaction. I love your writing style and the way you build things up! Barney disappearing unexpectedly like that was a really nice touch. There's something so perfect about this story, I can't really put it into words.

(no subject)

1/5/09 20:02 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you. I'm so glad you're enjoying it.

(no subject)

1/5/09 03:06 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] magpieinthesky.livejournal.com
Bah!!! OMG I cannot wait to read more. You have got me completely hooked, and I am so excited to see what comes next.

(no subject)

1/5/09 20:02 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Glad to hear it!

(no subject)

1/5/09 03:16 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] encore828.livejournal.com
So, I'm new to the Barney/Robin fandom, and therefore am new to BrOTP fic, but I've gotta say, out of the 6 that I've read, this is most definitely the finest. So great.

...does that stroke your ego enough to urge you to update?

(no subject)

1/5/09 20:04 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Aw thanks!

It doesn't stroke my ego so much as make me realize you really haven't read things like Metal Hearts yet. This may be a small fandom, but the fic on the whole is just fantastic

(no subject)

1/5/09 06:09 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] idioticonion.livejournal.com
Possibly the best possible way to wake up in the morning. I am in LOVE with this story.

And I didn't even need to decaptitate you after all. :)

MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(no subject)

1/5/09 20:04 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
More soon. I promise. I fear for my life.

=)

(no subject)

1/5/09 06:50 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ellerigbee.livejournal.com
Oh my God, this is just...I'm torn between intense sadness and actual fear (THANKS MARSHALL! I'm totally sleeping with the lights on tonight!). Okay, now, I'm just leaning towards sadness.

I'm so completely in love with what you've done with your source material, every twist and turn you've made in canon is exciting and I can't wait to see how it all play outs.

Beside her, Barney Stinson is laughing, laughing so hard that it should be echoing across the bar but the sound dies the instant it reaches her ears. was my favorite line (though Lily's one liner about bumping into Victoria is close second). I know Robin thinks this is a ghost story, but the summary is leading to believe otherwise...it almost feels like I'm trying to play Clue...

(no subject)

1/5/09 20:09 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
I'm glad this is working out logically for you. I'm always worried stories like this won't still feel like the show. Thanks for reading!

(no subject)

1/5/09 12:24 (UTC)
gladdecease: (this is awesome squared!)
Posted by [personal profile] gladdecease
Oh. Okay, first off, Victoria! I wish she'd come back in-canon, now that her two-years-in-Germany is up. Having not dating Robin for a year, it's possible that Victoria was Ted's last serious girlfriend before Stella. Which makes me wonder how Ted managed to end it, given how difficult he found it in-canon.

Second off, sitting in Barney's seat! Oh man, I just kind of knew that would do something. I wonder what it does long term...and how the characters will react to Robin's story.

I like that Lily's slowly becoming more like her old self. Messing with Ted's romantic life, and generally being happier. Having Robin as a friend is probably helping with that.

I can hardly wait for more~

(no subject)

2/5/09 02:09 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Victoria was by far my favorite of Ted's girlfriends. I have been harboring the secret desire that she is in fact the mother. (well, her or the slutty pumpkin) You're very much on the money with what you said about Ted and Victoria and Stella re this story.

I'm happy to hear you're still enjoying this!


(no subject)

1/5/09 12:57 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] tigersroar.livejournal.com
ZOMG it keeps getting better and better!!!

Firstly, yay Victoria! - Ted's best girlfriend in my opinion. I wanna know what happens SO badly! What happens? No, don't tell me. Gah!

I think my heart crumbled a little with Robin's when Victoria sat down in Barney's seat and then he was gone ...I do not know why that part affected me so much, I put it down to brilliant writing... And you added Lily's manipulativeness. You win =)

I'm so captivated by this fic. *Waits by computer and refreshes every 10 seconds*

(no subject)

2/5/09 02:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Well don't do that! I'm writing this rather fast but not that fast.

I'm glad you like it! Thanks so much for reading!

(no subject)

1/5/09 19:03 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] leonhart-17.livejournal.com
wow...I'm glad that Robin is still talking to Lily and not letting Ted's bitchiness keep her from knowing how awesome Lily really is...

I'm also glad she's going to tell Lily about seeing Barney - but it breaks my heart to see the group without Barney...

This really is one of the best fics I've ever read and I can't wait to read more!

(no subject)

2/5/09 02:12 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
I'm happy to hear it. Thanks for reading!

(no subject)

1/5/09 19:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] solojones.livejournal.com
Well, pretty much what the others have said. Such a creative and well-done story. The tension that's created with Barney saying these things and Robin not being able to speak back is great. And I love how Barney isn't trying to do anything big, he just... wants to hang out with his friends. And it's making me so sad that he can't, that they can't see him.

So if Barney was killed by the bus, does that mean there was some other reason Ted had de-broed him? Or what?

Someone else said this already, but this is also my fav line:
Beside her, Barney Stinson is laughing, laughing so hard that it should be echoing across the bar but the sound dies the instant it reaches her ears.

It was both spooky and sad. This story is haunting in several ways.

(no subject)

2/5/09 02:14 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
The dynamic of Barney talking with only robin to hear is one of my favorite things to play with in this verse. And Barney, Barney just breaks my heart because all he really wants are friends.

Thanks for reading!

(no subject)

2/5/09 02:58 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] solojones.livejournal.com
I know, I think that's the really heartbreaking part. We know in life he's already desperate for friends. They're kind of all he has. So the fact that he would spend his afterlife just hanging around still craving friendship is even better.

(no subject)

1/5/09 21:12 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] because-i-hope.livejournal.com
OMG I am so intrigued! Things are really starting to fall together, and yet there's so much I have no clue about! LOVE IT!

(no subject)

2/5/09 00:20 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] hermione-solo.livejournal.com
...Wow...I mean realy wow this is so beautiful and hounting and lovely with the sad broken charicters and just- Gah! This is fantastic! I have a feeling I know where it's going though as of chapter three Ted didn't realy say that Barney was killed by the bus, I'm thinking somthing along the lines of Just Like Heaven? But wait don't tell me I don't want to know! It's so pritty I can't wait for the next update!

(no subject)

2/5/09 02:15 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
I have no idea what Just Like Heaven is so I can neither confirm nor deny that statement. Not that I would have even if I had known. =)

Glad to have you reading!

(no subject)

2/5/09 07:44 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] chocochip-pie.livejournal.com
I feel really lame for not having anything better than "This is so freaking awesome!", but it's all I've got after studying for finals.

(no subject)

2/5/09 20:54 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Oh, I've got to study for finals too...

meh I've got five whole days. =)

Thanks for reading!

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