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]

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Faces Through the Veil of Smoke

“Girlfriend?” Lily repeats. “Your girlfriend, Robin?”

Robin turns to stare at Marshall. Her face is only inches away from him. It’s too close. Too warm. Too everything. She raises and eyebrow and what ensues is their first ever telepathic conversation. Marshall, what the hell are you doing?

Winning the breakup, Marshall replies. I’m winning the breakup.

Yeah, but couldn’t you do that without me?

“So,” Lily says, “how long has this been going on?”

Please, Robin, Marshall pleads.

Robin sighs to herself swallows and says. “Gee, it’s weird to finally hear aloud. It’s been almost a week but it’s been coming for a lot longer than that.”

Across the table Ted is staring slack-jawed at them and Robin hopes he gets it together but at the same time she hopes Lily sees him first.

The table is too crowded with six people. Bennett and Lily both have to pull in chairs. Even that doesn’t help. She can tell people keep bumping knees under the table. “Robin’s a reporter for Metro News One. Isn’t that such and interesting job. She’s been working on a story about haunted bars. When’s that going to air, Robin?”

“The ghost story,” she asks, momentarily taken aback. She can’t see Barney anywhere. “They scrapped that one.”

“It’s all right,” Lily says. “Maybe that could make room for some stories on famous hoaxes like the Loch Ness Monster.”

“Nessy is not a hoax!”

“Metro News One, Robin?” Bennett cuts in, covering his date’s hand with his own. “That’s one of the cable networks, right?”

“Damn straight it is,” Marshall says, running a hand through her hair. “Robin’s pretty much a celebrity.”

“Marshall,” Robin says tightly. “Stop. Metro News One averages something like two viewers a night. There are more respected news shows on porn channels.”

“Oh, she’s just being modest,” Marshall says. “But that’s my Robin for you.” He makes a move like he’s about give her a peck on the cheek but it happens at the same time Robin is turning to talk to him and their signals get crossed and all of a sudden, their lips are pressed together.

It lingers a little longer than it should and it’s awkward and messed up and wrong but Robin can’t help but enjoy it just a little bit. It’s the kind of casual kiss between couples who have been together for years rather than the desperate passion of a one-night stands.

“So,” Ted says slowly. “Victoria, you remember that story you were telling me about Germany, right? How about you tell that story. Right now?”

“Right!” Victoria says. “Well the thing you never expect about the culinary institute is just how picky they can be about their—”

Robin has heard this story before. It’s sweet and funny and oddly compelling for being primarily about baking. It should be enough to distract Lily from the fake couple that was Robin and Marshall, but it’s not. Lily’s gaze hasn’t moved once since they sat down and she’s not sure how much more of this she can take before she cracks. So she leans over, cups her hand to Marshall’s ear and says, “If you don’t make an excuse to leave right now. I will pull my gun out of my purse and shoot you.”

Marshall smirks. “We have to go.”


Up in Marshall and Ted’s apartment, something clicks.

“Oh God, they think we came up here to have sex don’t they.”

Marshall smiles. “Yep.”

Robin slaps him hard across the cheek.


“You!” Lily squeals at her the next morning. “You and Marshall! You—how could you?”

“How could I what?” Robin asks.

“Date him! How could you date him and why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’ve been broken up for years,” Robin says, keeping her voice low and comforting. “You can’t expect Marshall to have just been waiting that whole time. I’m sure he’s seen other people.”

“But did they have to be you?” Lily shouts. “I mean you’re gorgeous and successful and exotically Canadian!”

They’re in the lobby of their building and they’re causing a scene. Robin’s next-door neighbor is collecting yesterday’s mail and today’s paper and trying not to openly stare.

“What about you?” Robin retorts. “Flaunting tiny little Bennett around the bar.”

“Bennett’s just a friend,” Lily says, waving a hand. “He’s a substitute teacher at my school. I asked him to help me out for the night and because he’s such a sweetheart he said yes.”

“He was cute,” Robin says. “Maybe you should—”

“He’s gay,” Lily says miserably. “Tell Marshall and I might have to kill you.”



“Coffee?” Robin offers. “My treat.”



She doesn’t quit her job that day but she’s getting closer by the minute. After the broadcast, she finds that Marshall’s waiting outside her office, bouncing nervously on his toes. He’s wearing dress slacks and a nice button down shirt and Robin guesses he came over straight from work.

“Marshall, hey,” she greets, unable to keep all the bitterness from her voice. “You know you made things really awkward for me last night. Lily lives in my building and I’d really rather not have a neighbor that wants to kill me.”

“That’s actually why I came here tonight.” He takes a deep breath. “Robin, I’m sorry. I never should have sprung something like that on you. It was inconsiderate and petty.”

“Damn right it was,” Robin says. “But I get where you were coming from. Next time just give me a heads up first, all right, buddy.” She turns away, planning to head back to her apartment to wash Metro News One off of her before she hits the bar.

“Let me make it up to you,” Marshall says.

Robin freezes, turns back around.

“Dinner,” Marshall says. “Just the two of us. I’m buying.”

“Marshall Eriksen,” Robin says slowly. “That sounded an awful lot like you just asked me out.”

“So what if it did,” Marshall takes a step toward her. “Look Robin, you’re one of my best friend and everyone knows that’s the best kind of person to go out with. Plus with Victoria and Ted and Lily moving on, I figure its time for me to move on too. And I like you Robin. So, go to dinner with me.”

In another world, this is the ideal situation. If she was looking to settle down, Robin likes to think it would be with someone like Marshall. Someone who is sweet and funny and loyal to a fault. She could see this story more clearly then she could see Mr. and Mrs. Ted Mosby.

But not this way.

This isn’t their story. It never has been.

“I can’t Marshall,” she says. “I really want to but I can’t. You might think you’re being big and romantic but you’re just worried because your best friend’s got a serious girlfriend and your ex is moving on and I’m the only one left.”

“Oh God, Robin. I’m sorry,” he sweeps a big hand over her shoulder and there’s nothing sexual about it and they’re just two friends hugging on a crowded street corner. “I didn’t mean for it to sound like that. It’s just, it’s been a hard couple years. I mean there was me and Lily and then Barney and then Ted and Stella and well, Robin you’re about the only good thing that’s happened to this group in the past few years.”

Robin presses her eyes shut and thinks of Ted and Victoria, thinks of Barney in his suit smirking and laughing and thinks of Lily from that morning, panicked in the coffee shop. She thinks of how nice it would be to end up with a good guy, a sweet guy after the parade of jackasses she’d courted since she moved from Canada. The right guy.

Only he isn’t the right guy. Not for her.

She stands on her tiptoes, kisses his cheek and whispers, “Lily’s date was a gay substitute teacher from her school.”

Marshall leans away from her a smile crossing his features. “Excuse me, Robin,” he says. “I have to go.”


She’s the first one to MacLaren’s that night but that’s all right because Barney’s there, grinning as she comes in and sits across from him in their usual booth. “Well played last night, Scherbatsky,” he says. “You appear to have the makings of a criminal mastermind. I love it.”

“Thank you,” Robin says, raising her glass as if in toast. “Thank you very much.”

“We totally need to celebrate,” Barney says, positively bouncing in his seat. “This is the eve of the epic long awaited Lily and Marshall reunion. We should go play laser tag or maybe hit the cigar bar or.” He goes weirdly quiet and stares at his hands. “Or maybe you can just stay here and drink and I’ll watch.”

He looks completely and utterly miserable for the first time since she’s known him and it breaks a little part of her. She wonders how long it’s been since the accident. If he’d felt the life smashed out of his body. If he remembers how much it hurt. “No,” she says firmly. “No, I think we’re going to hit laser tag. I’ve got a secret weapon now.”

“Yes, Scherbatsky!” Barney says, pumping his fist in the year. “The two of us together and those pimply faced little monsters won’t stand a chance. The world will crumble beneath the awesome of the Scherbatsky-Stinson team!”

Robin grabs her purse, thankful she’d only had on drink so far tonight and starts making her way towards the door when she notices that Ted’s been sitting at the end of the bar. “Mosby!” she crows. “This is a night of celebration! We’re going to play laser tag.”

Barney’s bouncing next to her shoulder and she can feel his excitement just as much as she can feel her own. Ted is looking at her with at same calculating stare he gets when he’s tied up in some architectural design project. She feels the excitement slowly leeching out of her body. “Robin,” Ted says seriously. “Who were you talking to?”

Robin looks back to the booth, trying not to let her eyes snag on Barney along the way. She’s been getting careless, but it’s hard to keep on edge when Barney Stinson’s presence has become so utterly normal. “No one,” she lies.

“I didn’t notice it before because, well, you’ve been like this since I met you. I mean you have these weird zone outs and you talk to yourself when you think no one’s around but then Victoria pointed it out to me and I started watching myself.”

Something in Robin’s stomach clenches. That’s it, she thinks, that’s everything it’s over. It’s over. She doesn’t look at Barney but she can feel him tensing up too. This thing they’ve shared, it’s going to end soon.

“Robin,” Ted says seriously. “Is there something wrong? I’m sorry if I didn’t see it before but we’re friends. If there’s something wrong, you can tell me. I can help.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Robin whispers.

“I’m not going to let this go,” Ted says.


More soon.

7 |

(no subject)

4/5/09 21:35 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]

what? what?! you can't leave it like that dang it! you can't!

(no subject)

5/5/09 04:03 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
And here I thought I was being nice. The original cliffhanger on this chapter was so much worse. =)

(no subject)

4/5/09 21:36 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Eek!! Ted, don't ruin it!

Also, I'm soooooo happy for Marshall and Lily to figure it out. ABOUT TIME. :D

(no subject)

5/5/09 04:05 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh, you know Lily and Marshall can't stay apart too long in any universe.

Glad you liked it!

(no subject)

4/5/09 21:50 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]

Dammit Ted, don't mess this up!

*makes grabby hands at fic*

(no subject)

5/5/09 04:08 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
So much anger toward Ted. He's only advancing the plot!

They'll be more soon. Don't worry.

(also, I kind of adore your icon)

(no subject)

4/5/09 21:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
yay for starting to get Lily and Marshall back together! This chapter was awesome! I loved the conversation between Barney and Robin and I can't wait to see what Robin tells Ted!

Can't wait to see what happens in the last 2 parts!

*uses happy icon*

(no subject)

5/5/09 04:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I couldn't let M/L stay apart too long.

(Your happy icon cracks me up.)

(no subject)

5/5/09 13:37 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
i love my happy icon! it's my favorite!

(no subject)

4/5/09 22:22 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Brilliant. Of course. But also.... there's only two more parts and this story just gets better and better. Eep. And stuff.

And Marshall and Lily for the win!

(no subject)

5/5/09 04:13 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Eep, huh? When I'm writing having an end point is absolutely the most important thing for me and everything's reaching a nice crescendo now. Two more chapters is just about right. =)

Glad you're still enjoying it!

(no subject)

4/5/09 22:45 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]

You are EVIL!

*crazed laughter from the kind of insanity only induced by a cliffhanger like this one*





(no subject)

5/5/09 04:16 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm really kind of stunned everyone thinks this is a bad cliffhanger because the one I'd originally had was about twenty times worse. Oh well, there's always next chapter. =)

Update on the next one might be slightly less insanely superfast then the rest of them have been if only because I'm about to hit finals. Er.. Sorry.

(no subject)

5/5/09 01:43 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]

Yay, Marshall and Lily are going to get back together (that opening scene in the bar was so seriously awkward, I felt terrible for everyone involved).

Sad Not-Ghost!Barney, my heart just continues to break with every passing chapter but the plot continues to thicken and I should be writing this damn term paper but all I want to do is read more of this fic...

(no subject)

5/5/09 04:20 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
That was actually the last scene I wrote of the chapter precisely because it was so damn awkward. I think it turned out all right though. It needed to happen.

I totally feel your pain. I have finals starting Friday, papers due Thursday and I just keep on writing. =)

(no subject)

5/5/09 02:27 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Another fantastic part that leaves me twiddling my thumbs in anticipation.

Resolutions are a-coming! I can feel it (and I saw that there are only two parts left...)!

I'm just glad Marshall and Lily are back together. A little part of me was a little dead with the knowledge that they were still apart.

...Now it's Barney and Robin's turn. Right?

PS The fic that you recced (Metal Heart) was AMAZING and I am beyond thankful that you sent me heading that way. So, muchas gracias!

(no subject)

5/5/09 04:24 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Yeah, that two parts left thing kind of gives it away. Darn.

I'm glad you're still reading. =)

(I know, Metal Heart is really something special. I've read it like three times already. I posted my top ten HIMYM fics over here if you were interested in more reading. LIke I said before, this is really a remarkably talented fandom.)

(no subject)

5/5/09 06:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm kind of sad that Robin doesn't even give Marshall a chance - they would be super-cute on a date!!! :P

Hehe Ted so caught her at it!

More more more!

(no subject)

6/5/09 00:36 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I kind of wanted to see it too. The Marshall/Robin part of this cropped up very unexpectedly but I rather enjoyed the dynamic.

(More soon. Promise. At very least before the end of the week.)

(no subject)

5/5/09 09:54 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
AHHCK! I totally was expecting to scroll down and there be more after that, but no. And now, to have to wait... stupid school. Oh well, it'll be worth it. Although it is gonna suck having this end in just two more chapters when I'm so enthralled right now...

So happy for LAME to be getting back together finally! That just has to happen.

I felt crushed when Barney was realizing he can't really play laser tag (blast you, not having corporeal form) :( But Robin's playing along anyway? This is so sad and confusing and gaaah! Need more.

(no subject)

6/5/09 00:39 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I know. For some reason I always seem to be smack in the middle of WIPS when I hit finals. It KILLS ME.

I don't have enough plot left for more than two. But the two should be legend---wait for it---

(oops totally still writing.)

(no subject)

5/5/09 12:43 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Joining everyone here: EEEP! I've been following this story since the beginning but never got around to comment, so here goes. This is such a brilliant idea for a fic, I love how even when Barney's dead (so much woe to that, by the way) he and Robin are still very much compatible. I can't wait for the next part, I actually love it that Ted's been paying attention and is now confronting Robin. Yay for Lily and Marshall finally getting back together!

(no subject)

6/5/09 00:45 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Well, I'm glad to have you reading. =)

I'm glad you like the idea. I kind of feel like I'm just imposing my other fandoms (most of which are paranormal based) onto this one but I'm happy to hear the vibe doesn't displace the HIMYM stuff too much.

Ted knows more then we think. I feel that this has always been true (plus he has a crazy good memory if he's narrorating the entire series as a 20 year retrospective.)

(no subject)

5/5/09 15:44 (UTC)
gladdecease: (huh; what happened last night)
Posted by [personal profile] gladdecease
Ooh, I love what you did with the Lily-Marshall-Robin bit here. How Robin actually considers it, and you realize that if he wasn't taken, he'd be such a perfect sweetheart of a boyfriend, but in the end she does the right thing for them. It feels very close to what canon!Barney does, and I like that.

Now, what's Ted going to have to say about all of this?

(no subject)

6/5/09 00:47 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
The Robin/Marshall bit was just about the only thing in this story that jumped out at me unplotted but I kind of loved playing with it. Glad you liked it too!

(no subject)

5/5/09 19:38 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh Ted! Okay, shipping Robin with ghost!Barney is really catching up to me. I loved how they made plans. :D

(no subject)

6/5/09 00:49 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
They wouldn't be Barney and Robin if they didn't go broing out. =)

(no subject)

6/5/09 00:34 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh no! Ted know something's up!

(no subject)

6/5/09 00:49 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Why does everyone keep assuming this is a bad thing?

(er, it totally might be a bad thing but still with the assumptions!)


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