Summary: Why Barney jumped into the Hudson River, and what happened thereafter.
Written for: A fanfic100 challenge #52 Water, and bananacosmic who wrote the darker, better version.
Word Count: 1,568
Fandom/Pairing: HIMYM: Barney/Robin, Barney/Ted.
Spoilers: 5.17 Of Course.
Barney made two mistakes when he somersaulted into the
Okay, so the thing was that Barney didn't trust himself, not at all. Every time he'd ever even attempted to exercise any self control in the past, even for Robin's sake, he'd melted quicker than butter on a hot knife. It wasn't exactly pathetic (he'd always stress that his prowess with women was one of his most awesome traits) but it was something that made him feel uncomfortable, for reasons that he didn't understand.
He wanted to resist Anita, for Robin's sake.
Oh, he knew what the others would think. They saw what they wanted to see - their friend, an amiable clown, the go-to guy for a pep talk and a joke. A guy who drifted through life without anything touching him.
The truth, the cruel irony was that Barney felt everything, and too deeply. He felt so raw, all the time; so on edge. He tried to drown those feelings in booze and women, and lately it had gotten worse that ever until he was trying to over-compensate in every facet of his life. Until he'd almost been fired.
Ted had once said that Barney's whole life was a cry for help. Trouble is, Barney always felt that he was alone, like he was stuck down at the bottom of a deep well, and even if he did cry out, no one would hear him. When he'd broken up with Robin, it had shocked him how upset and confused he'd been and how disgusted he was that he couldn't control that reaction.
There weren't enough televisions in the world to give him back that control. Smashing a million wouldn't help.
And so, it was vital to do this one thing. It was important be strong just one time, for her. For Robin's sake, he could say no to Anita, he was sure. He could say no, right up until she whispered the depraved and unspeakable delights, pouring them into his ear.
He had to physically get away from Anita, marching swiftly and determinedly in the opposite direction from his apartment. He needed space and fresh air, needed to work his legs and his lungs and just about any damn body part that would take his mind off his groin and the seductive words that had curled and settled like a venomous snake around his lizard brain.
He had to be strong, for Robin.
There was this sudden flash, something Lily said to him a few days before. "Why don't you just go take a cold shower or-" ...something. The words "cold shower" got stuck and lodged in his memory and kept repeating on him over and over like a stuttering rap song.
"Why don't you just go take a cold shower?"
He quickened his pace when he saw the lights ahead, reflected on inky black water and without even thinking twice, he took the steps down to the edge of the river, squared his shoulders, took a run up and launched himself right into the drink.
He'd just never taken account of the weight of his sodden suit and temperature of the water.
The cops wouldn't let Barney go until somebody came by to pick him up. He'd tried to explain that no, he wasn't drunk and no, he wasn't trying to kill himself. They gave him a look that made him feel like an idiot.
He knew exactly how it sounded. He'd been in the goddamn water! He knew exactly how stupid and dangerous and imbecilic it was. They didn't have to keep telling him!
It was harder when Ted got there because Ted slipped quickly into full-on Dad-mode, sucking the air in between his teeth and shaking his head sadly. "Is this some kind of stunt?" Ted asked him, expecting a punch line. "Are you trying out some new play? The I've just fallen in the water? Because I gotta tell you, pal, that's pret-ty lame."
Barney just shook his head and sighed. How could he unravel the real story for his best friend, in a way that would sound even the faintest bit sane? How could he convey the weird confluence of emotion that had caused him to launch himself fearlessly into the black water?
And how could he explain the gut-wrenching, clawing panic that gripped him as his suit turned against him, becoming so much ballast, and his muscles cramped in the cold, and he sucked in a mouth full of brackish, icy water that reduced his lungs to aching, deathly sponge?
They say that your life flashes before you when you die, but it doesn't. All Barney saw was darkness. That metaphorical well he'd been stuck down in all these years had become real. And it was terrifying.
The cop dropped them back at Ted's place, even though Barney objected because he really didn't want to go back there. What if Robin and Don turned up and saw him? How lame would it be, having given away the Super Date to Robin, if they found him broken and frozen and shivering, dressed in Ted's sweatpants and sipping fitfully at a hot cup of cocoa? Just way, way lame.
Ted scolded him, then apologized, then scolded him some more. Ted clucked around him like a mother hen, dried his hair for him with a towel that smelled like Robin, then balled Barney out for being an idiot. It was all Barney could do to sit and take it. For a man who was a consummate professional with words, who used and bent language to his own ends on a daily basis, Barney suddenly found himself mute and dumb. He couldn't justify the leap into the water, just as they'd never been able to justify the jump they'd all taken almost a year before, from the roof of Ted's apartment over to his neighbour's. Sometimes you did things that weren't logical. Sometimes you were just caught up on a runaway train and you ended up in the wreckage. Or as a mirculous survivor, sitting beside the mangled track wrapped in a blanket and drinking hot cocoa.
Barney pulled the blanket tight around his shoulders and shivered. Ted stat down next to him, threw an arm around Barney's shoulder and patted his thigh.
Barney stiffened, frowning, because, you know, weird. Ted laughed and patted his thigh again, saying "Dude, if you get hypothermia and die, I'm not gonna be held responsible. Besides, I'm pretty sure that Bros don't let Bros freeze to death?" Then Ted just yanked him towards his chest and held him until Barney's hands turned from blue to pink, his cheeks flushed, and he felt something approaching human.
"Are you still in love with her?" Ted asked him, after a while.
"Who?" Barney asked, befuddled and confused.
"Robin, you idiot!"
Barney's mouth formed an "O" of comprehension and he stopped himself from blurting out an obvious joke. Then he thought about it. "No," he said carefully, a little defensively.
"Then why did you throw yourself in the
Barney shrugged, but in doing so he felt like a petulant teenager. "Because I wanted to do one thing right." He replied, truthfully.
"What, kill yourself?" Ted pushed him away and held him at arm's length, searching his expression.
"No. No!" Barney insisted. "Anita was all over my junk, and I'd promised Robin that I wasn't gonna go there."
Ted blinked. "So you jumped in the river?"
Barney gave him a weak smile. "It wasn't a perfect plan…"
An entire war of emotion took place across Ted's features. There was a good, strong offensive of anger, followed by a return volley of disapproval, countered by a skirmish of sadness. "It was stupid, irresponsible and could have gotten you killed if that guy walking his dog hadn't seen you and if those cops hadn't been nearby."
"I know," Barney said irritably. Deprived of the warmth of Ted's body, his teeth began to chatter again.
Ted let out a long-suffering sigh and pulled him in for a hug again. "You know I hate you a little bit right now," he said.
"What?" Barney replied, his stomach sinking.
"Do you care about any of us at all? Do you care about leaving us behind? Don't you think we'd…"
Barney couldn't see his face, but he could hear the emotion catch up with Ted; hear it in the break in Ted's voice.
"I'm sorry," Barney said contritely.
"Dude, don't be sorry," Ted admonished him. "Don't be sorry. Just don't do anything crazy like that, not ever again. Okay?"
Barney nodded, burying his face in the blanket.
"Okay, buddy?" Ted persisted.
"Okay," Barney mumbled, which seemed to satisfy Ted.
"You can have my bed," Ted offered. "I'll take the couch." But when Barney stayed silent, Ted laughed. "Jesus, you are such a closet cuddler," Ted said with a pained laugh. "We can stay here if you wanna?"
Barney smiled into the blanket as Ted held him a little more tightly. After a while Barney asked, "Hey, Ted? You got any scotch?"
"You're an idiot," Ted replied, with an easy, teasing chuckle.
Barney knew enough about his friend to know that, for the time being at least, he was forgiven. "Love you too, man," he said, and eventually they both fell asleep in front of the TV.
Robin never came home that night.