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

When she meets Ted he’s wearing a suit. A sharp black number with a red tie. She’s sitting at the end of this bar called McLaren's waiting for a friend and suddenly there’s a warm hand on her shoulder and a light friendly voice from another man in another suit saying, “Hey, have you met Ted?”

She likes Ted. Ted seems like a good person. The kind of guy every girl should want to settle down with but there’s something under it all, something sadder. Still, at the end of the night when she’s buzzed on scotch, she leans over and kisses him getting excited at the prospect of a good hookup.

But Ted pulled away before hand, squeezed his eyes shut and said, “Look, Robin. I like you. A lot. But I got left at the alter about a month ago and I really don’t think I’m ready.” He laughs. “I mean I only just shaved my break-up beard.”

“You used to have a beard?” Robin echoes, completely missing the point. “Hot.”

Ted laughs. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“So this is really not happening? I mean you suited up and everything.”

His face goes weirdly blank at that, the underlying sadness making its way to his eyes. “I had a really good time tonight,” he says. “I’m not ready for a relationship right now but you should come out with us sometime. You can always use some new friends.”

She’s not quite sure what possesses her to say yes.


Later that same night after Ted and his friend had left, a soft voice whispers into her ear, “A hundred bucks says when you turn around I say wow.”

She turns around.

No one is there.


She goes back to the bar three days later and it’s absolute madness because it’s a Tuesday night and no one goes to a bar on Tuesday nights. In fact, Robin’s typical Tuesday consist of a night on her couch with her dogs and a glass of scotch. She likes those nights. She needs those nights after a life full of relationships gone bad and jobs gone worse. But here she is looking at the slim pickings of McLaren’s until her eyes catch sight of a vaguely familiar mess of dark hair.

Ted Mosby. Just-got-dumped-at-the-alter Ted Mosby who turned her invitation down last night only to counter with another offer of his own. She smiles to herself, takes her drink and slides into the booth across from him. “What’s shaking Ted?”

Ted lights up. “Robin! I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. I’m sorry about the other night.”

She waves a hand. “Totally forgotten. I just got work and well, I figured, like you said, I could use some friends.”

“Well I’m glad you came,” Ted says. He looks different tonight. He’s wearing a green patterned overshirt with a black t-shirt underneath. The difference this outfit and last Saturday’s is absurd. Most guys she knows only come to a bar in a suit right after work, but Ted and his friend, they donned the suits on Saturday.

The man on her left coughs into his hands and Robin turns to look at him. She has a vague sort of memory of a voice drawling, Haaaaave you met Ted? but she doesn’t have a name to place with it.

“Oh my God,” Ted says. “I’m so sorry. That was really rude. Robin,” He gestures to the man next to her. “This is my best friend, Marshall Eriksen.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Marshall says, waggling an eyebrow as he reaches over to take her hand.

She giggles despite herself because the act is so over the top cheesy it’s enduring and she likes these two already. It’s been too long since she had people she could just hang out with. “Good to meet you too, Marshall Eriksen.”

“So,” Marshall says, “Ted tells me you’re a news anchor. Exciting stuff. Anywhere I might have heard of.”

Robin hates this question and she answers, cringing. “Metro News One and you might want to hold back on calling it exciting. I’m not even sure you can really call it news.”

Marshall shakes his head. “The whole place went downhill after Sandy Rivers stopped reading us the morning paper.”

She feels a blush creep up her face because she knows all too well the allure of Sandy Rivers. The mix of fascination and repulsion. The camping trip had been quite an... experience.

“Please tell me you aren’t Sandy Rivers fanboys because I can leave right now.”

“Guy was a douche,” Ted says.

“Total douche,” Marshall confirms. “Sounds like we got a step up in anchors though. Me and Ted should never have stopped watching.”

“No,” Robin concedes. “You made the right decision. My job’s a joke and I really, really don’t want to talk about work right now,” Robin says. “How about you guys? What’s with the street clothes. With the suits last time, I thought you two were some of those high class businessmen gracing us commoners with their awesome presence.”

There’s a long silence and Robin knows she’s said something wrong but scrolling back through her words she can’t find it, doesn’t even know if she wants to find it. “No businessmen here,” Ted says finally. “I’m an architect, Marshall’s an environmental lawyer.” He blinks twice. “Saturday was--an anniversary of sorts. Don’t worry about it.”

“Today’s definitely a sweats day,” Marshall says.

“Yeah”, Ted says. “You’re lucky this guy’s even wearing pants.”

“What happened?”

“My ex just moved back to New York,” Marshall replies after a pause. “She called Ted earlier tonight looking to test the waters. I’ve only seen her once since she broke our engagement.”

“I told her she could just leave him alone,” Ted says peevishly.

“Wow.” Robin takes a deep breath and then a sip of scotch. “Did I run across the lonely hearts club or what? Left at the alter? Broken engagement? What are the odds?”

For a second she thinks she’s blown it, thinks she’s gotten too personal too fast but a second later the weird quiet is gone and Marshall’s grinning over at her. “So you’re telling me you don’t have some sort of romantic tragedy? I’m not sure we can be friends with you.”

Which is how after three more drinks and two more hours, she finds herself telling them the story of her break up with Simon ten years ago and then, the same exact break up just last month. Ted makes the appropriate sympathetic noises and Marshall nods at all the right places but she keeps thinking she hears someone trying to stifle laughter.

At the end of the night Marshall claps a large hand on her shoulder and says, “Thanks for hanging with us tonight. Our group’s been feeling a little small lately.”

“Plus actually hanging out with a girl gives us some street cred,” Ted adds.

Robin raises an eyebrow.

Ted laughs. “Well not street cred exactly, more like, can actually talk to a woman without sounding like an ass cred. Which is just as valuable if not more so.”

“Yeah, Scherbatsky,” Marshall says. “Anytime you’re up to hang come find us. We’re here pretty much every night. And if we’re not well, we live upstairs.”

“Don’t be a stranger,” Ted says.


It starts to be a habit. It’s been a while since Robin has had good friends and Marshall and Ted turn out to be just what she needs. The three of them are a good team, if slightly broken. She likes to think they’ll fix each other in the end.

She heads to the bar early one Friday, intent on getting a buzz on and maybe a girl to introduce to Marshall. She finds something completely different.

He’s leaning against the wall near the end of the bar just watching the scene with only a vague interest. Robin doesn’t know why he stands out from the rest of them. Something about the attitude or maybe the suit or even the slight smirk playing on his lips. He meets her eyes and everything changes.

Then someone bumps into her from behind and she turns around to find a tiny brown haired lady stammering out an apology and by the time she turned back around the guy was completely gone. She turns back to the girl. “Hey this is going to sound crazy but there was this guy at the end of the bar. Blonde hair, blue eyes?”

She goes quiet for a minute and then asks, “Was he wearing a suit?”

“Yeah?” Robin says. “Yeah, how did you know?”

Her new friend’s head snaps around, searching every direction in excitement that seems slightly tinged with panic but she finds nothing and her face settles into a frown. “Sorry, it’s just that sounds like someone I used to know.”

“Used to know?” Robin echoes.

She pulls her purse up on her shoulder, and says, “Yeah. I just moved back into the city. This place used to kind of be my haunt back in the day.” She laughs again but sounds brittle, like glass shattering in the distance. “I forgot how much I missed it.”

They end up talking for the next hour or so, using girl’s night as an excuse while they both casually fend of the bar’s usual players. When she finally catches sight of Ted and Marshall she waves them over. “You’ve got to meet my friend, Marshall. He’s one of the sweetest guys I know, you’re going to love—“

Then she stops talking because she can see the sudden tension in Marshall’s face, sees the widening of Ted’s eyes and glances back to the girl she’s been chatting with for the last hour to find a pale face and a mouth gaping wide open and Robin realizes she’d never gotten a name.

“Lily,” Marshall says.

Oh, Robin thinks as her stomach twists in on itself.


(more soonish if all goes according to plan. Which it will because I have a Ph. D in HORRIBLENESS)
| 2 |

(no subject)

24/4/09 00:49 (UTC)
gladdecease: (this is awesome squared!)
Posted by [personal profile] gladdecease
...I think I love this fic.; what I gather of the AU from this chapter sounds fantastic, and your prose is kind of gorgeous, and I really really want to read more.

/scary fangirl

(no subject)

25/4/09 01:03 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
You know what, I'm all right with the scary fangirl part. This story's been banging around in my head for weeks. I've got plans...

(no subject)

24/4/09 00:53 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oooooooh. This is a really cool start to the story. I kind of like how everything is different, yet still a little bit the same. And I'm really intrigued by what could have happened to Barney!

(See icon.)

(no subject)

25/4/09 01:06 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Yep, these are the kind of AUs I like playing with the most. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying this.
(deleted comment)

(no subject)

25/4/09 01:07 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]

Thanks so much for the kind words.

(no subject)

24/4/09 01:14 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
It's AU and I am SO EXCITED. Barney is just an mysterious as ever, and I'm loving this story already! :)
I hope you continue.

(no subject)

25/4/09 01:30 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh, I'll continue. THANKS FOR READING

(no subject)

24/4/09 04:27 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Spooky! Barney is still just as awesome as ever!

I love how you acknowledge all the things that are different without him; it's subtle, but I love subtle.

(no subject)

25/4/09 01:08 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Yes! I pulled off subtle.

=) Thanks for the kind words.

Totally freaked out

24/4/09 07:01 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm reading this with a kind of weird horror and forboding.

You've got me so entirely captivated that this may be a candidate for my hall of fame of the best HIMYM fic ever. I'm entirely seriously.

Are you going to post more soon? Because you've got me all riled up here.

Re: Totally freaked out

25/4/09 01:12 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Wow, I'm seriously blushing here. Thank you for the high praise. I've got the next chapter coming along nicely I hope it stays up to your standards. =)

(no subject)

24/4/09 07:40 (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Origin of Love)
Posted by [identity profile]
I would love to see where this goes. My breath caught a little at the mention of Barney and Marshall wearing suits as an anniversary...mostly because I think a posthumous Barney ghost would squeal to know they suited up in honor of him.

The little flashes of sad! So sad. And thus, how can it be ever happy, if he's dead? Maybe you'll say it was all a nightmare in the end! Or Robin could find a magic wishing well and wish Barney back into existence! Yes, it can happen!

(no subject)

25/4/09 01:13 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm really glad you're liking this. You will most definitely be seeing where this goes. I've got Plans.

And as for everything else. No comment. No comment. No comment.

(no subject)

24/4/09 12:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
wow...that's a cool place to AU from...can't wait to see how it goes differently with no Robin and no Barney? or has she just not met him yet - or is he gone from the group for some reason?

and can't wait to see what you do with Marshall and Lily (before you put them back's Marshall and Lily)

(no subject)

25/4/09 01:14 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Glad you like the AU. It's going to be quite fun to play with. I can't comment on anything else....

(no subject)

24/4/09 16:35 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Love it!!! So does Cobie...

(no subject)

24/4/09 21:42 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This is so very well written--your narrative has a good flow, a good mix of Robin with this slightly more sullen world they're living in--and I cannot wait to see when this goes and what you do with it. There aren't enough AUs in this verse, I tell you, I'm very excited at reading yours.

(no subject)

25/4/09 01:18 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thank you so much. I love playing in AUs and this one just won't leave me alone. There should be more soon.

(no subject)

25/4/09 05:26 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This is so great, I'm really digging it so far.
It's all so ...mysterious and I like.
More soon?

(no subject)

26/4/09 16:56 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
More's up now. =) I'm glad you like it.

(no subject)

26/4/09 07:02 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This is a pretty great story!

(no subject)

26/4/09 16:53 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This is fascinating! And - aw - Ted's underlying sadness, the anniversary suits on Saturday... Breaks my heart! So adorable!

(no subject)

26/4/09 16:58 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thank you so much. I've have fun playing with this mystery so far. =)

(no subject)

7/5/09 02:46 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]

(no subject)

3/6/09 22:13 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Hi there! Just thought I'd let you know that this story has picked up quite a few nominations over at [ profile] himym_awards's summer Legendary Awards. And they're very well-deserved! ^_^


(no subject)

4/6/09 15:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Oh, wow, that´s just buckets and buckets and buckets of awesome. Totally made my day which is a really hard thing to do considering I´ve been having a pretty awesome day anyway. THANKS!
Posted by [identity profile]
This message is to inform you that you have been nominated at [ profile] himym_awards.

All nominations MUST be accepted. You can do so by replying to this comment. You only need accept your nomination once, in the event that your story is up for multiple categories. You have until July 3rd to accept your nomination.

As we have a maximum of two categories a story can compete under, your story may not end up competing under every category it has been nominated for. You will be notified of the mods’ final decision once nominations have been finalized.

This story has been nominated in the following categories:
- Best AU
- Best Angst
- Best Long/Multichapter


And if you want to say thanks, why not spread the love and nominate (””) someone else? :)
Posted by [identity profile]
Of course, I accept! Thank you so much!

(no subject)

10/2/11 22:56 (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
So, I'll admit, I wasn't too sure about this, because I'm not really into ghost stories. However, this is the freakin' bomb. I hope that you could continue it?

(no subject)

25/8/13 17:33 (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
This got to be one of the best Himym Fics ever!!! Really, really, a great piece of work!!!

(no subject)

27/8/13 00:02 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thanks so much!


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