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]

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8


Faces Through the Veil of Smoke
CHAPTER 7



For the next week, Ted is always watching. Robin can feel it from the moment she steps into the bar to the moment she leaves. Barney is there. Barney is always there. Barney is cracking jokes and laughing and talking to her just like he’s part of the group. Just like everyone else can see him too. And she never realized just how much she reacts to him until Ted started watching. The smile leaves her face when she meets Ted’s eyes and she feels impossibly guilty even though she shouldn’t.

Ted her if something’s wrong at least once a day. And after a while she caves in and starts talking to him. She tells him about how much she hates her job and her epic failures in terms of dating, she even broaches her father issues for the first time in almost ten years. (“Father issues,” Barney acknowledges. “Hot.”). She tells him more than she’s ever told another living person. But she doesn’t tell him about the ghost. (“Our little secret,” Barney says with a wink. “Ted’s just not awesome enough for this club”)

She’s starting to talk like Barney, things like legendary and awesome littering her conversations like a minefield. Part of it’s conscious: a burning desire for Ted to make the conclusions on his own. Because if Ted figures it out without her telling him, that means this isn’t crazy.

Ghosts aren’t real.

That is something they both believe but circumstances seem to dictate otherwise.

Things are changing. Robin can feel it in her bones. Barney talks her into applying for four other jobs. Lily shows up at MacLaren’s three out of four nights that week and even though they’re not together, it’s the most Robin has seen Marshall smile since she met him.

She drags Ted and Victoria to laser tag one night. Barney helps her spring traps on the unsuspecting couple while Ted shrieks like a little girl and Victoria laughs and laughs and laughs.

She slips into the sixth spot on the all time high scorer’s list and her name breaks a pattern. One Scherbatsky in the midst of ninety-nine Stinsons. “It’s all right,” Barney says as they buy celebratory soft pretzels. “We’re a team.”

“That,” Robin tells Ted later, “was legendary.”

“Right on!” Barney says, beaming from beside her.

“Robin,” Ted asks. “Is there something wrong?”

“No,” Robin says and it’s the truth this time. She can scarcely remember the last time she was this happy. “No, nothing at all.”

***


On the day everything changes, it’s drizzling--the slow, steady, miserable rain that makes her was to curl up on her bed and just sleep. But she has plans for the night. It’s Saturday which means MacLaren’s and then possibly karaoke at a club a few streets over. When she walks into the bar she finds herself automatically scanning the sea of vaguely familiar faces for Marshall or Ted or Barney but none of them are here.

She does a double take and spots Victoria sitting in their usual booth waving for her to come over. “Hey,” she says. “Did I miss a memo about a girls night?”

“Going to start like that at least,” Victoria confirms. “Marshall and Ted are going to be late,” She smiles mischievously. “Marshall’s in an as of yet undisclosed location.”

“Oh,” Robin perks up at that. “I’m liking the sound of this.” She settles into the booth and sets her purse on the table. “We’re assuming he’s banging Lily, right?”

Victoria’s mouth drops open. Barney would be so proud of her. “Yes,” Victoria sputters, trying to hide her laughter. “Yes, we’re assuming he’s banging Lily. Ted is not aware of theory this as of now.”

“Good for them,” Robin says, smiling. “What’s Ted up to? Massive architecture snore?”

“No,” Victoria says, shifting in her seat. “He’s actually at the hospital.”

“Oh my God, is he all right?”

“He’s fine. He’s just visiting someone,” Victoria says and then does a double take. “Oh! You haven’t heard this yet. I guess that must have been before you met the guys. It happened when I was in Germany. See, Ted and Marshall had this friend, Barney. He was kind of a--” She hesitated. “Kind of a character. From what I hear it happened the same day Ted was in that car accident. Apparently Barney made a trip cross town to see him and wham. Hit by a bus. Can you believe that? Anyway it really made Ted stop and think. And—”

The sound cuts out. Robin is intensely aware of her own heartbeat throbbing in his chest and for a moment she can hear the echo of Barney’s voice saying, Dead? You think I’m dead?

“Robin?” Victoria says, but her voice is faded, static. “Robin, is there something wrong?”

“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” Robin says.

“Maybe it’s because there’s really clearly something wrong.” Victoria’s voice is gentle like she thinks Robin might break.

But Robin isn’t going to break. Not after all this.

“I need to go.”

***


Robin hates hospitals. They remind her somehow of malls. It’s something in the crowds that pack the waiting room and the overpriced coffee and the constant sense that everybody is looking for something. The receptionist is a pretty, dark skinned lady with a brittle, bone tired demeanor. “Hello,” Robin says, setting her purse on the desk. “I’m here to visit Barney Stinson.”

Every sound is magnified. Someone is crying in the lobby. There is a squeaking wheelchair moving through the hall. The clack-clack of the receptionist’s fingers on the keyboard sounds like a drumbeat.

“Room 414,” she says finally. “Follow the signs.”

Robin moves toward the elevator and presses the call button. The elevator that finally comes down isn’t empty. Barney Stinson is inside looking uncharacteristically solemn. Robin hesitates for the barest fraction of a second before stepping inside and hitting the button for the floor.

“You don’t want to do this,” Barney says.

“Like hell I don’t,” Robin says. “All this time, I thought you were dead.”

“I might as well be,” he says miserably.

“But you’re not,” Robin protests. “You’re not and that’s a good thing.”

“Let me break it down for you,” Barney says. He jabs his finger almost angrily at the elevator doors. “The person who you’re going to find out there, that’s not me. That person is suffering from a complete lack of all things awesome. He has hospital suited up. He spends all day in bed. Exhibit B.” He gestures to himself. The tailored suit, the sharp features. “Come on, it’s not even a contest.”

“You’re the same person,” Robin says. She watches the screen flash floor two, floor three. She doesn’t like elevators. They remind her of coffins. “Why are we even having this conversation?”

The elevator dings and the doors yawn open. It is the ward for long-term care and it is a good deal less busy than the rest of the hospital. This is the space of the dying. The coma patients. Those with terminal caner. There are bright white lights everywhere. The doctors are wearing white. The nurses, an array of colorful scrubs. The splashes of color look wrong in a place like this. The light seems fake. Underneath the crisp smell of antiseptic, Robin can smell the cloying sickness hanging in the air.

“Maybe we’re having this conversation because I don’t want things to change,” Barney says. His voices is like broken glass and she finds herself freezing so she doesn’t get cut. “You haven’t seen that me. Not the one in there. But Ted, Marshall, Lily, all of them have and that’s all they see. But you, you can actually see me and I can’t help thinking that if you go in there maybe you won’t anymore.”

She turns to look at him. His hair is mussed, his tip his loosed, flailing limply against his chest. The top button of his shirt is undone. He looks human. He looks tired.

But he looks alive and alive is better than dead. Alive is better than ghost.

“Please, Robin,” he says. “Just turn around. You don’t need to see this.”

It would be so easy to listen to him. So easy to head back to MacLaren’s to drink with Victoria and pretend she had no idea Ted had visited the hospital. She could keep deflecting Ted’s probing questions about what was wrong with her.

Then she thinks about her job at Metro News One. How every day is torture but she’d stayed for years. She thinks of Ted moving on after Stella. She thinks of Marshall letting go of his anger and how much more he smiles now that he’s talking to Lily again. It’s a risk but...

“Change isn’t always a bad thing, Barney,” she mumbles.

“Eighty-three percent of the people in my position never wake up,” Barney says. “And the ones who do have more problems than I want to count. What did you think is going to happen?”

Robin squeezes her eyes shut and thinks about miracles.

“I’m sorry, miss?” There’s suddenly a hand on her shoulder and solid real physical contact freaks her out so badly, she nearly knocks the perpetrator over.

It takes a second before her heartbeat returns to normal. Before she stammers out an apology and her cheeks turn red.

“It was my fault,” the nurse says. “You looked a little lost.”

“I’m looking for Barney Stinson’s room,” she says, the words thick on her tongue.

“Mr. Stinson, huh?” the nurse says. “You’re not one of his regulars.”

“No, I’m not. I’m an old friend. I only just heard about the accident.”

“A shame that one is.” She sounds like she’s moving on autopilot, like she’s heard a thousand tragedies and will hear a thousand more. “He had a lot of friends.” She pats Robin gently on the arm. “Room 414, Miss. It’s down the hall on the right.”

His name is on the door. Barney Stinson. Room 414. She looks over her shoulder, half expecting to see the ghost behind her but she’s alone except for the nurse moving between patient rooms and a doctor in a swirling white lab coat making notes on a chart.

Robin tells herself she’s being stupid and pushes the door open.

The room isn’t much. It’s small and gray with a tangle of medical instruments all linked to a frail looking figure in bed. At his side is Ted Mosby, face buried in his hand.

The door behind her swings shut and the sound startles Ted into awareness. He looks at her with only the vaguest expression of surprise.

“Robin,” Ted says. His eyes are tinged red. “Hey. I didn’t expect to see you here.”

Robin doesn’t say anything. She just stares at the hospital bed. Listens to the slow rhythm of the heart monitor.

Ted stands up, brushing at the corners of his eyes with the sleeve of his oversized shirt. He forces a laugh but it comes out distorted through tears. “Have you met Barney?”

***

One more to go. I'm thinking Friday or Saturday.

8 |

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:37 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Glad you liked it!

(no subject)

7/5/09 01:22 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] girlthethird.livejournal.com
“Eighty-three percent of the people in my position never wake up,” Barney says. HA! Even incorporal!Barney always uses the same statistic. Nice continuity!

I am loving this story so much. SO MUCH.

(no subject)

7/5/09 02:48 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ladysarahii.livejournal.com
Haha, I noticed that, too. I was like, "That seems awfully high... ohhh, Barney."

Anyway, nice work! I love this story so much, and I like he's not really dead. Like maybe there's hope?

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:40 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Not so awfully high (from wiki): after 4 months of coma caused by brain damage, the chance of partial recovery is less than 15%, and the chance of full recovery is very low.

(Yeah, that's right, I did me some research for this.)

I'm glad you liked it!

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:37 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
I was so close to putting the actual statistic in there instead but then I backed off and figured this was better. =)

Happy to hear you're enjoying it!

(no subject)

7/5/09 02:00 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] magpieinthesky.livejournal.com
EEE!!! Finally, my suspicions confirmed! Now all we need is a miracle :D I can't wait for Friday (or Saturday)!!

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:41 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
It's looking more and more like Friday. I actually just wrote the closing scene. There are a few more transitionary parts but we're getting there. =)

(Thanks for reading!)

(no subject)

7/5/09 02:03 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] donteatacowman.livejournal.com
Excellent. I think I'm seeing why you only have 8 installments planned for this. Great job as always. ^^ Thank you so much for writing!

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:42 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
The problem with this story was the base of the conflict came from no one telling Robin what was going on. And really there's only so long that can go on without it getting ridiculous. It's a slightly flawed plot. =/

Thanks for reading!

(no subject)

7/5/09 02:05 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] crazygorgeous13.livejournal.com
This is an awesome story! Part of me doesn't want to read the next part coz that'll mean it's over... On the other hand, we (and by we i mean all of us who read your fic) could just band together and coerce you to write more awesomeness!

I'm getting of topic. What I meant to say was that it's awesome and I can't wait for the final part!

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:43 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you so much!

(no subject)

7/5/09 02:30 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] girl-wonder.livejournal.com
ACK! I read all of this in one gulp and I LOVE IT. MORE.

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:44 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
=D

More soon. Promise.

(no subject)

7/5/09 03:18 (UTC)
ext_47: a wolf looking at reflection in a lake (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] silverblade219.livejournal.com
...my finals start on friday, and instead I'm reading this even though I am so behind. This is awesome. I love how them meeting Robin later has changed so much (the rest of the changes I'm not sure what exactly you did, as I haven't watch the show in awhile.)

(goes back to studying for the philosophy final)

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:44 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Dude I'm taking a final today and am I studying? Nope. I'm writing (school fail).

(no subject)

7/5/09 04:30 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ellerigbee.livejournal.com
“Maybe we’re having this conversation because I don’t want things to change,” Barney says. His voices is like broken glass and she finds herself freezing so she doesn’t get cut. “You haven’t seen that me. Not the one in there. But Ted, Marshall, Lily, all of them have and that’s all they see. But you, you can actually see me and I can’t help thinking that if you go in there maybe you won’t anymore.”

*weeps forever*

Oh Barney. I don't even know what to say, its like, you know whats coming but your hearts is still in your throat the entire time. I love that Robin looks at this whole experience as people moving forward and Barney's looked at it as people going back to the way they used to be...I am just loving this so hard. I must now work double time on this damn paper so I can enjoy the last chapter guilt free.

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:46 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
That part was definitely my favorite passage too. =)

I'm so glad you're still enjoying this!

(no subject)

7/5/09 05:34 (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Origin of Love)
Posted by [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
*flail!* I love the elevator conversation. Spirit!Barney is so pitch-perfect!

I wonder about the aftermath of this. Robin's been so influenced by Barney--if he wakes up, will she have to confront the fact that she's lost some of her identity to his influence? How would they react in the real world? If he *does* remember, will he still want to see her when he wakes up, or will it be awkward and weird and remind him only of the accident? If he doesn't remember her, then I can't imagine him treating her well or respecting her much more than any other woman he doesn't know.

This begs for sequeldom. Lay the foundation now! Let it pull at your brain for even MORE months!

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:48 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
The elevator conversation was so much fun to write.

No sequeldom for this story I'm afraid. I wrote the last scene just this morning and I'm quite happy with it. I don't have a plot to sustain a sequel.

(no subject)

7/5/09 05:50 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] kathiejmie.livejournal.com
oh THANK GOD, Barney is not dead!!!!!

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:48 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
(You know I'm a little miffed at myself for having him not be dead. When I started plotting this I really wanted him to be dead but I couldn't figure out what the conclusion would be)

(no subject)

7/5/09 16:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] kathiejmie.livejournal.com
I am glad he's not dead because the stories I enjoy the most are very angsty at first but with a happy ending eventually :))) And now that it's clear Barney's alive, the happy end is possible, yay! )))))

(no subject)

7/5/09 07:28 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] elven-sg1.livejournal.com
Wheee! I love this soo much, I don't want it to end but I really want Barney to wake up. >.

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:49 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading!

(no subject)

7/5/09 07:30 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] deuxcoeurs.livejournal.com
The moment I saw you updated, I had this huge grin on my face! This definitely didn't disappoint. I have an unnatural love for Ted (and Victoria, for that matter) in this one, auuughhh Theodore :( I can't wait for miracles in the next one! Awww, "Have you met Barney?" ♥

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
I love Ted too. And I love Victoria. Ted and Victoria just sort of wins. (It occurs to me belatedly that Ted/Victoria should be in the summary along with Lily/Marshall)

Thanks for reading!

(no subject)

7/5/09 08:35 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] solojones.livejournal.com
TOTALLY agree with the awwws on "Have you met Barney?" Seriously, seriously heart-in-throat amazingness. Damn, this story does just keep getting better. It really *is* begging for a sequel, I feel like... we'll see... ? ;)

And this

>But you, you can actually see me and I can’t help thinking that if you go in there maybe you won’t anymore.”

Just about made me cry. I don't know why, it's just sad in a different way than most BRoTP fics can be sad.

I love how you've created this great relationship between them with literally no physicality. It's so interesting and compelling. It kind of makes it like some kind of old-fashioned love story, you know? In a weird way.. I cannot wait for the last chapter but I know I'm not gonna want to read it at the same time. They'll still be so many unanswered possibilities!

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:54 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
=) The 'Have you met Barney?' stuff is fun for all the symmetry. It's something I adore about HIMYM and I really want that to be how Ted gets introduced to the mother in the end.

(I've kind of whacked a sitcom with the angst stick, huh? Whoops....)

I hope the last chapter doesn't disappoint..

Damn, this story does just keep getting better. It really *is* begging for a sequel, I feel like... we'll see... ? ;)
...I'm going to go with a pretty definite NO in that department. Sorry.

(no subject)

7/5/09 10:42 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] idioticonion.livejournal.com
I knew it I knew it I knew it.

Because I am totally awesome!

And you still have to write that one where everyone ELSE is dead! Crackfic!!! HEHE!

I think I love your story so much I'm afraid of getting your story pregnant.

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:56 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Heh. I think a lot of people guessed this one before hand. Stupid Barney had to go and blatantly forshadow it...

And you still have to write that one where everyone ELSE is dead! Crackfic!!! HEHE!

I can actually see this one in my head. It's where Barney is totally the kid from the Sixth Sense except WAY MORE AWESOME.

(no subject)

7/5/09 16:15 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] roland44.livejournal.com
DO IT!!!!

(no subject)

7/5/09 14:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] leonhart-17.livejournal.com
awww BARNEY! I hope he wakes up but I'm going to trust your judgment for what would be best for the story! I can't wait to read the last part!

You've done an amazing job building this story and I can't wait to see how it ends!

(no subject)

7/5/09 15:57 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
I hope the last part doesn't disappoint.

(no subject)

7/5/09 16:12 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] roland44.livejournal.com
OMG dammit that KILLED ME.

*floats away all ghosty-like*

Have you met Barney? says crying Ted.

*weeps buckets*

Your description of the hospital was superb - the heightened sounds and Barney pleading with her to not change anything in case he loses everything (nicely mirrors Robarn in cannon and how neither of them will admit their feelings for fear of losing the friendship) Gosh you are totally awesome, srsly.

(no subject)

7/5/09 19:36 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
er... *tries frantically to hide the body* =)

Thank you so much. This was a fun chapter to write.

(no subject)

7/5/09 17:10 (UTC)
gladdecease: (WHAT.  WHAT WAS THAT.)
Posted by [personal profile] gladdecease
*kind of freaks out*

But that. It makes so much sense. Oh, I am struck over the head with my surprise and why-didn't-I-figure-this-out-sooner.

I'm really excited to see how this ends.

(no subject)

7/5/09 19:37 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
And I'm really happy there was at least one person that this was a surprise for! Yay!
(deleted comment)
(deleted comment)

(no subject)

8/5/09 00:54 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Hey, I'm not going to complain with a reaction like that. =)

(no subject)

7/5/09 19:49 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] because-i-hope.livejournal.com
I love how fast you update!

Well that was a very exciting chapter. I'm sad this story is ending because it's so unique from everyone else's.

(no subject)

8/5/09 00:54 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
I'm still a little surprised at how fast this thing has gone. It's more or less written itself. I hope the last chapter lives up to expectations.

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