Author's Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author's Home Page: CosmicUniverse.net
Fandom: How I met your mother
Word count: 22 700
Chapters: 8 + epilogue
Genre: Family, friendship, angst
Characters: Barney, cast
Pairings: None (previous Barney/OFC, Barney/Robin)
Spoilers: Up to 5x17 "Of course"
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations from the TV-series "How I met your mother", created and owned by Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: “Apparently,” Barney said, stopping because his voice squeaked. He cleared his throat. “Apparently, I’m gonna be a dad.”
Chapter one | Chapter two
B E C O M I N G
Lily got the text from Ted about Barney at ten in the morning. A little surprised, she read that Ted had driven to Atlantic City in the middle of the night to pick Barney up from a police station.
She’d already figured that Barney wasn’t handling the whole dad-to-be issue well. She hadn’t expected him to; in Barney’s mind, there probably weren’t many things that were ranked higher on the Do Not Want list than a child.
She’d always figured that she and Marshall would be the first ones to have children of the five of them. After all, they were the ones who’d been going steady for fourteen years. They were married, happy and they were getting a grip on their own economy. If anyone was going to have kids, it was them.
But fate obviously wanted otherwise.
She went straight from work to Barney’s apartment and after knocking without getting an answer, she let herself in.
The apartment was clean and quiet. She took off her shoes and crossed the living room to Barney’s bedroom.
Barney was asleep beneath a heap of blankets, blond head barely visible. She could hear his soft breaths. She smiled. He looked so young and innocent in sleep.
She caught sight of the colorful bruise on his cheek. Ted had mentioned a fight in their text conversation, but he hadn’t said anything about the injuries.
He startled awake suddenly, as though sensing her presence.
“Lily?” he mumbled, sitting up, looking disoriented and still very tired.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” she said. “I just thought I’d see how you were doing.”
Wrapped in blankets with a bruise on his face and dark circles beneath his eyes, she didn’t really need him to tell her how he was doing. It was clear as day.
“’m awesome,” Barney said.
Lily gave him a look.
Barney curled in beneath the blankets again, laying his head down on his pillow once more.
“I just need to get some sleep,” he muttered.
“In a place that isn’t jail.” Lily sat down on the side of the bed.
Barney glared at her, though it wasn’t very effective from beneath blankets and bruises.
“I wasn’t really in jail,” he said. “It was at a police station, in their holding cell for people who are too awesome to be out on their own.”
“Also known as the drunken cell, where people go to sleep it off when they’ve been drinking too much,” Lily said with a pointed look.
“Semantics,” Barney said. “I think my description was better. And if the stupid ass at the casino hadn’t tried to beat me up, then I’d still be playing. You know I made like twenty-five thousand dollars in three days?”
“Twenty-five thousand dollars? That’s—” She stopped herself. “Not the point.” Even though it could pay off a whole chunk of her debt. That wasn’t why she was here. “Why did you go to Atlantic City, Barney?”
“It was either that or Vegas, but in Vegas there’s always the risk of waking up hitched if you drink way too much one night,” Barney said, almost his old self. “I figure a kid on the way is enough, don’t need the marriage too. And we both know that’s not a risk in Atlantic City, unless you’re drunk for three consecutive days. Which admittedly—”
Lily rolled her eyes. “Barney. Come on. Be serious.”
“Gee, why does everyone want me to talk feelings all of a sudden?” he asked, making a face and then another when he realized that the first one had hurt.
“We just want to make sure that you’re all right.”
“I’m awesomely fantastically perfectly all right,” Barney said. “Anything else?”
It was like pulling teeth.
“You know,” Barney said, sitting up again. “Everyone’s acting like I should just be cool and roll with the whole baby thing.”
“We’re not saying you should just be cool with it,” Lily said. “You’re in a bad position and we get why you’re not jumping with joy. We’re just worried about you and we’re not sure that gambling in Atlantic City for half a week is the way to solve anything.”
“It’s not like there’s any problem needing to be solved. She’s having the kid, I’m the kid’s father, ta-daa. Done.”
“No, not done! It’s a kid we’re talking about here.”
Barney was getting angry, but she was annoyed enough that she didn’t care. He was acting like a child.
“We’re not you and Marshall,” Barney snapped. “There isn’t even a we. There was a we for one night and one night only and since then there’s been a me, and a me and Laura, and me and Jennifer, and me and Susan. But no we, not even a repeat of a me and Marie. And even though there’s gonna be a kid, there isn’t gonna be a we, ever. There isn’t even going to be a me in the equation, because no one wants me to be there!”
He was shouting by the end of it, chest heaving beneath his pajama suit. She wondered absentmindedly when he’d gotten rid of the night shirt he’d loaned from Marshall; she knew he’d been more comfortable in that.
The silence felt heavy between them.
“Barney—did she say she doesn’t want you around?” Her voice was soft.
“Of course she doesn’t want me around,” Barney snapped. “Who would?”
“Oh, honey,” Lily said and reached for him, heart aching suddenly.
He pulled away. “Don’t.”
He climbed off the bed and strode past her, to the kitchen. She trailed after him and found him pouring a glass of whiskey. She was about to comment on it when he gave her a look, daring her to say anything. She pursed her lips and stayed quiet.
He gulped the alcohol down in one go, shuddering as it burned its way down.
Lily sighed. “I’m sorry. I just worry about you.”
Barney’s shoulders sagged a little.
“I don’t think it should be a you and Marie, certainly not after what she did with not telling you about this,” Lily said. “And I also don’t think you should try to be me and Marshall. It’s not you. I just think—I don’t think you should just wave her goodbye and never see the kid. It’s still your child.”
Barney was quiet for several long moments. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse. “She doesn’t want me around.”
She gave him a sympathetic smile. “It’s not really up to her. It’s up to you.”
Barney looked at her, naked pain in his eyes. “But I don’t know if I want to. I don’t know how to be a dad. And I don’t know how to love anyone, either. I’ll probably just screw the kid up so badly it’ll hate me anyway.”
She reached across the counter and placed her hand atop his and this time, he didn’t pull back. She squeezed his hand gently.
“Of course you know how to love,” she said softly. “Don’t you love me and Marshall, and Robin and Ted?”
Barney stayed silent.
“Look,” Lily said, “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I’m not even telling you that you really should be a dad to the child. I’m just saying that you should think about it. And if you decide that you want to be there for the baby, then that’s great, and there are lawyers you can hire to make sure that you get to have the child too if Marie refuses. And if you decide that you don’t want to be involved, then that’s okay too. Just make sure it’s your decision and not Marie’s.”
Barney looked at her and she could see the insecurity in his eyes. “But I don’t know how to decide.”
She smiled slightly. “You can always ask Ted to help you make a pros and cons list. Or have Marshall whip up one of his charts.” She patted his hand. “Most of all, I think you need to just think about it. And then decide what your feelings are telling you.”
“Pfft,” Barney said, a little distantly. “The Barnacle doesn’t have feelings.”
She chuckled. “Of course you don’t. Now come on, let’s watch some TV on your mega-screen before I have to go home.”
She dragged him to the couch and with little rearranging, she managed to steer him pretty much to her lap. He didn’t say anything. She got one of his blankets to cover the both of them.
The TV-screen still hurt her eyes but it was worth it to have Barney relax into sleep in her arms.
It looked like the other four had already been at MacLaren’s for a while when Barney got there on Friday evening. He’d spent the whole day at the office, catching up on all the things he hadn’t done earlier in the week because he’d been wasted in Atlantic City. He’d probably have to work through the weekend to get ahead again.
“Yo man,” Marshall said, wide smile in greeting. “Welcome back!”
Barney didn’t doubt for a second that Marshall knew what he’d been up to in the last week – it had proved nigh on impossible for Lily to keep secrets from her husband, after all – but somehow, Marshall played it cool and managed to make it sound like Barney had just taken some vacation time for no real reason.
Certainly not a freaking-out-over-soon-being-a-father reason.
He pushed the thought away. He’d kept himself busy throughout the day and had been able to keep himself from thinking about—things. He could continue with the avoidance thing for a while longer.
He grinned at Marshall and bumped fists with him in greeting. “Good to see you, bro.”
He glanced at Lily, feeling a bit embarrassed by the previous afternoon’s discussion and subsequent falling asleep in her arms. She just gave him a smile, though, and didn’t say anything.
“So, what did I miss?” he asked.
“Only Robin’s description of the most awesome date ever with Don,” Marshall said dreamily.
Robin rolled her eyes. “I swear to God, you’ve got a bigger crush on my boyfriend than I do.”
“He’s hot, he’s nice and he brings you flowers,” Marshall said.
Ted chuckled. “Lily, it sounds like you’ve got competition.”
Lily smiled and shook her head fondly. “Don’t I know it.”
A waitress arrived with their order of food and Barney ordered a hamburger for himself, realizing that he hadn’t eaten since the half bagel he’d had for breakfast.
He listened as the others talked and let his gaze sweep across the other guests. He noted the beautiful women – there were always beautiful women at MacLaren’s – and he remembered the night when he’d met Marie.
She’d been with her girlfriends and he’d seen them try their best to cheer her up. He’d watched, like a predator studies prey, as she downed Martini after Martini and as the hour became later, her friends started to drop off, one by one. He’d moved in sometime after midnight, charm turned up and a seductive smile on his lips.
She’d been easy prey. A few comforting words, reassuring her that no, that failed exam wasn’t the end of her life, and then she’d been kissing him like there was no tomorrow. He’d gotten them a cab and they’d gone to his place, barely making it to the bedroom.
She was gone by the time morning rolled around and he hadn’t given her a second thought.
Until Saturday, that was.
Since then, she’d barely left his thoughts. And it wasn’t in a good way.
The others laughed loudly and Barney did too, pretending to have any idea of what they were talking about. His hamburger came and he ate mechanically.
He could try all he wanted to drown himself in work and alcohol, but the thoughts wouldn’t leave him alone.
A little version of him. A thing that needed – well, Barney wasn’t sure. The only kid he’d ever been around for any longer period of time was his nephew and whenever Sam had started fussing, Barney always handed him off to his fathers. Other than that, he’d bedded the occasional MILF but it wasn’t like he took the time to ask about the names of the MILF’s kids, so that didn’t count.
He wished desperately that he could go back to Saturday, five minutes before he got the call. Just to be that free and blissfully ignorant.
Lily had told him that it was up to him to decide how he wanted to handle the whole thing. He knew she was right, but that really didn’t help. Really, it had been much easier when he’d taken Marie’s word as law. It had taken the choice – and responsibility – out of his hands.
But it was his choice and responsibility.
He sighed and wished for alcohol. He knew it was a bad idea, though – and sooner or later, he’d have to handle things sober.
“Wanna talk about it?” Ted asked, looking at him with that look of concern that Barney was quickly starting to hate.
He knew they meant well, but he’d filled his quota for the month, if not year, for talking.
Robin either didn’t notice how little he’d talked or she was ignoring it. Given her history, he figured the latter was very likely.
“That chick over there is totally checking you out,” she said, nodding towards a brunette with long legs and a short skirt.
Barney figured that having sex would be as good a way as any to not think about baby-related issues.
He smirked at Robin. “Want to be my wing-woman, old times style?”
She smiled. “Even though I’m in a committed relationship?”
She hadn’t been his wing-woman since they’d broken up, for obvious reasons. He realized with a start that if she was entertaining the idea now, then her relationship with Don must be pretty serious. The realization didn’t hurt as much as he’d expected.
“I’m choosing to overlook that lapse of judgment for now,” Barney said.
“Well then,” she said. “For old time’s sakes.”
She inclined her glass at him, downed the content, and went over to the table where the brunette was sitting.
“Barney, don’t you think—” Barney glared at Lily before she had time to finish her sentence. “Never mind.”
“Good girl,” Barney said.
A few minutes later, Robin returned. “She’s all yours.”
It took ten minutes for Barney to get the brunette out of MacLaren’s and into a cab.