Fandom: How I Met Your Mother
Word Count: 3266
Summary: Barney and Robin accidentally destroy New York. Ted is Unhappy with them.
Notes: Written for stellar_dust for apocalyptothon.
"I'm not saying 'orgasm' on air."
"Come on, Scherbatsky. That's tame. Remember that time you –"
Robin fixes Barney with a glare; he has the decency to look contrite, even if he does it badly. "I remember, thanks. But this is different. News anchors do not say 'orgasm.'"
He tilts his head.
"On air," she clarifies.
"A hundred bucks."
"Fine. A hundred bucks, and I buy you beer for a month. Final offer."
"Sorry, no deal."
"Fine." He's sulking, now, and Robin almost wants to give in. Almost. She buys him a drink, instead. "Two hundred, and I'll stop using you to help me pick up girls. For, like, a week."
"Still no. Besides, that's kind of fun."
"What about when I told those girls you –"
"Fine." Barney's leaning forward in anticipation, and she rolls her eyes. "I'll do it. But the next round's on you."
"Deal. This is going to be legendary."
Unfortunately, he's right.
She gets a couple of letters, afterwards. Some complaining, a few trying their luck. (Barney's got that same look in his eye when she meets him at MacLaren's, grinning as he slides onto the stool next to her, and she orders a scotch.) Her station manager passes them on without comment; apparently he didn't see the section, or he doesn't care.
"Scherbatsky, that was –"
"Pfft." He waves her away. "Legendary? It was pretty good. We're not at legendary status yet."
He slips the yet in there casually, like it's already a done deal or he's hoping she won't notice. She finishes her drink. "Barney, I'm not pulling any more stupid pranks."
"Of course not." He actually sounds sincere, and Robin turns to look at him. "We're going to be pulling more stupid pranks."
"Oh, come on. Admit it, you missed this. Besides, it'll be fun."
"You know what else is fun? Not pulling stupid, juvenile pranks."
"Yeah, if you're Ted."
She tries not to smile at that; he orders her another drink.
"Come on. We'll pull a couple of pranks. What could it possibly hurt?"
Later, she'll think of that, and she'll have an answer. Now, she only shrugs. "All right, fine. I'm in."
Barney grins. "This is going to be –"
"So, Butterfield's office is right across from mine –"
"Wait." Marshall pauses mid-conversation with Ted, and looks across the table at Barney. "Butterfield? Weren't you pulling pranks on him, like, a year ago?"
Barney scoffs. "A year? It's been way longer than a year. This, my friend, is an epic battle. One that has raged since the dawn of time, and shall only end with the destruction of the city itself."
Lily, Ted, and Robin turn to look at him, and he shrugs.
"Or, you know, if he gives in first. Anyway, like I was saying. His office is across from mine, so we've got a pretty good view into his office. Unfortunately, that means he's also got a pretty good view into mine. Now, last time I –"
Marshall clears his throat.
"Right, we, made the mistake of carrying out our pranks in my office. This time, we should confine ourselves to a secure, private area. I'm thinking Ted's apartment."
"Couldn't you just close your blinds?" Robin asks. Barney fixes her with a stare.
"Not the point, Scherbatsky."
It kind of is the point, she thinks; but Ted's looking a little worried, and she's not entirely sure she wants to know what it is Barney does at work. "Right. Ted's place it is."
"Ted." Barney shifts his gaze, and Robin smiles. Maybe this will be fun, after all. "Focus. Do you want Butterfield to win this one? Is that what you want? Because if you compromise this mission, that's what's going to happen."
"I don't even know who Butterfield is."
"Exactly. Look, you've got nothing to worry about, I promise. You'll barely even notice we're there."
"Barney –" But Barney's affixing him with a Look, and Ted sighs. "I'm going to regret this, aren't I?"
"You know, this reminds me of when my kindergarten class does finger painting."
"It reminds me of the holocaust."
"It reminds me," Ted says, and Robin looks up at the edge in his voice, "why I should never lend Barney my apartment."
"Come on, guys. Is it really that bad?" Barney glances at Robin for confirmation, and she raises her eyebrows; it really is. Papers are strewn across the floor, and Marshall gingerly picks his way across, fixing the upended coffee table.
"It looks like you guys are planning World War Three," he says, and Lily laughs.
"It looks like World War Three has already been and gone. What did you guys do?"
"Do?" Barney asks. "We haven't done anything, yet. This is still in the planning stages."
"All of this, and you haven't even started?"
"All great operations take time to plan," he informs her solemnly. Lily still looks sceptical, and Robin can't blame her. "Hey, when we're done, this is going to be –"
"Legendary, we know," Ted interrupts. "In the meantime, where am I supposed to sit? Where am I supposed to sleep?"
"You haven't even been in the bedroom yet," Barney points out.
Ted looks at him.
"Okay, you have a point. Don't go in the bedroom. Listen, we'll straighten all this out, okay? When we're finished."
"Which will be?"
"Ted." Barney's standing, now, and he slings an arm across Ted's shoulders. "You've got to learn not to sweat the small stuff. Focus on –"
Robin holds the piece of paper aloft, triumphant, as Barney comes over. He leans down to read it over her shoulder, his breath tickling her neck, and she hands it over.
"I knew I had this somewhere. Good work, Scherbatsky."
"What is it?" Ted asks; Barney clutches the paper tightly to his chest.
"Top secret," he says. "For my eyes only."
"You let Robin see it."
"Yeah, well, Robin's … Robin. Besides, she's with me. You, on the other hand, have done nothing to help this mission."
"I lent you my apartment."
But Barney's already tucked the paper away, and Robin looks back down at the documents she was searching. There are a lot of things mixed up in the notes on the floor - some Robin's pretty sure she wasn't supposed to see, and some she wishes she hadn't - but Barney seems convinced that they hold the key to their success. Besides, she's starting to really hate Butterfield.
"You ready for this?" he asks, his voice low beside her ear, and she nods.
She's ready for anything.
She is not, as it turns out, ready for anything.
"It's all off, right?"
Barney looks her over, and steps forward. "Hold on. You've just got a little something …"
Robin can't help tensing as he brushes something off her waist; after a minute, his hand dips lower, lingering on the back of her jeans, and she sighs.
"I think you got it all, Barney."
He grins, and runs his hand back and forth a couple of times for good measure. "Just being thorough, Scherbatsky. You can never be too sure with this stuff."
She grimaces as she pulls back, running a hand through her hair. "What the hell is this stuff, anyway?"
Barney raises an eyebrow, and she tenses again. "You don't want to know."
That much, she believes.
"Well, I'm going home to take a shower." At Barney's look, she rolls her eyes. "Alone."
"Your loss. Meet me outside Ted's tomorrow morning?"
He steps forward again, so close her eyes begin to unfocus. "Revenge."
It's a bad idea. She knows it's a bad idea.
But that bad idea sounds really, really good right now.
"You're on. Butterfield is going down."
"So if we go through this entrance here, we'll come out –"
Movement in the corner of her eye catches Robin's attention, and she looks up from Barney to see Ted approaching the table. Barney follows her gaze, grabbing his notes quickly from the table and shoving them onto the seat beside him.
"Hey, guys." Ted sits down as Robin slides over to make room, and looks from her to Barney. "What's up?"
"Up? Nothing's up. Why would you say something's up?"
Robin kicks Barney sharply under the table, ignoring his yelp as she smiles at Ted. "What Barney means is, hi, Ted. We were just talking about the girl in the green sweater over there. What do you think? I say she's cute, but Barney likes the blonde at the bar."
"Uh huh." Ted looks over slowly, then back at Barney. "You were talking about women."
Barney looks at Robin insistently, and Ted narrows his eyes. She really wishes he'd stop being so obvious.
"Yeah," she says, trying for reassuring, but it comes out a little forced. She giggles, and immediately snaps her mouth shut. "Of course."
"You need stacks of paper to do that?"
That damn giggle again. Barney's looking nervous, shifting in his seat, and Robin wants to reach out and hit him.
"Barney just brought some work home with him, that's all. Duh."
Ted looks at her.
"What else would we be talking about?"
"Oh, I don't know," Ted says slowly; he turns back to Barney, and Robin takes the opportunity to wave at him, trying to get him to hand over the notes. "Maybe those pranks you guys were pulling? You know, the ones you said you'd stop because they're stupid and dangerous?"
Told you so, Barney mouths at Robin. Before she can warn him, Ted darts out of his seat, leaps forward to grab the notes while Barney's distracted.
Told you so, she wants to mouth back.
"Technically," Barney says; he leans forward, tries to snatch the paper out of Ted's hands, and leans back again as Ted pivots out of reach, "I never actually said I'd quit."
"You said, 'Ted, it'll never happen again.'"
"After I win," Barney says. He reaches for the notes once Ted puts them down, but the damage has been done. "Why does nobody get that?"
"Trust me, Barney. There isn't going to be a winner in this." Ted scans the papers quickly as Robin bites her lip; when he's done, he shoots reproachful looks at Barney and Robin in turn. "And I'm pretty sure most of what you've got planned is actually illegal. You can't just ... you know what? Never mind. I'm getting out of here before you drag me into it."
"Only most of it?" Barney wonders aloud, as Ted stands to leave. Robin looks accusingly at her empty glass. "Now, where were we?"
"I was wondering how I let you talk me into this," Robin says, but it's half-hearted at best. She can't stop now, any more than Barney can.
"It's because I'm awesome," Barney says, and he slides over the top sheet of paper. "Now, here's your script for the news."
"And finally on Metro News One, citizens have been taking to the streets in panic as essential utilities began shutting down all over New York City. Reports of power outages were widespread, with telephone lines jammed as people desperately tried to reach emergency services, which, unfortunately for some, were overtaxed and unavailable. Riots are expected to follow soon, with unnamed sources claiming that the reason behind the recent failures could not be determined. Routine technical maintenance, or the end of days approaching? Find out more in our late news, on Metro News One."
"Scherbatsky," Barney says later. "That was legendary."
She's not so sure.
"Guys, did you hear the apocalypse is coming?"
Robin looks up at that, trying to keep a straight face. Barney does better, staring straight at Marshall.
"The apocalypse? Really?"
"Oh, yeah. One guy I know said the phone lines are all jammed, and he knows a girl who knows another girl who said her power was out all night. And her friend's cousin said that when she went to the police station – get this - there was nobody there."
Barney shoots her a warning look, but Robin can't help it. "Marshall –"
"Barney," she says evenly. "Marshall, those reports are all fake. Barney made them up for me to report on Metro News One."
She's surprised when Marshall doesn't seem fazed at all, just fixes her with a look she's tempted to call patronising. "Robin, I think I know my apocalypses. Besides, these are totally impeccable sources."
"Your friend's friend's friend's friend's cousin?"
"I'm telling you, Robin. The end of days is approaching."
She glares across the table at Barney. This is all sounding way too familiar.
If you asked Robin what she was most surprised about in the next few days, she'd tell you this: she never knew so many people watched Metro News One.
They're at MacLaren's when Robin tells Barney it's over. He sits beside her in the booth, his best plaintive stare in place, but she doesn't blink. Eventually, he gives up.
"Fine. But you'll be sorry when I take Butterfield down, and you're not there to see it."
"I'll live," she tells him, and finishes her drink. "Anyway, aren't you supposed to be at work right now?"
He shrugs, and rests an arm along the back of the seat. "They can handle it without me. After all, what's the worst that could happen?"
"In the business world, Altrucel reports that a highly anticipated deal with a major Chinese conglomerate fell through earlier this week. Economists are still speculating on the effect this may have on the market, with representatives from the company declining to comment. They did say, however, that sales of tennis balls are still on the rise."
"I don't know what's wrong with it. I think it's the electricity, it's been going on and off all day."
"Don't worry about it, Lily," Robin says. Reluctantly, Lily puts down the remote. "I'm sure it's nothing, really."
Marshall looks sceptical, but before he's halfway through explaining how New York is about to be destroyed, Barney bursts through the door.
"I got him," he says to no-one in particular, but he's looking at Robin. "Butterfield. I finally got him. You should have been there to see the look on his face. It was –"
The lights go out just as he's moving towards her; when they come back on, he's a foot away, and she jumps back instinctively.
"What the hell was that?"
"It's been happening all day," Robin says, and she doesn't have to look at Marshall to picture the satisfied look on his face. "Apparently, it's been happening all over town."
"I told you something bad was coming," Marshall says, but Robin barely hears him; she's looking at Barney speculatively.
"Barney, what exactly is it that Butterfield did?"
He shrugs, like she's missing the more important point. "I don't know. Something about electricity and phone lines. Don't you –"
But she's not listening to him any more, and when she looks at Ted, the disapproval is written clearly across his face.
She's starting to get a very bad feeling about this.
After the third news outlet picks up the story, Robin is forced to admit that it isn't going anywhere. They aren't just parroting back her coverage, either; now, there's a real story, power outages and dead phone lines across the city. No riots, yet, but maybe it's just a matter of time.
The station manager approaches her as she's getting out of makeup; congratulations for a job well done, he says - Metro News One was the first to get the story, it might be the scoop of the year - and he needs a favour. Their market analyst called in sick (there's a lot of that going around; Marshall's already putting together a post-apocalyptic survival guide), and he needs her to cover the segment.
The name of the company sticks in her throat, and she thinks she's never needed a drink as badly as she does right now.
"Market analysts are predicting a massive crash following this week's dip in the stock exchange. Several experts have pointed to Altrucel as a major factor, with several recent multinational deals -"
Robin can see Barney gesturing towards the bar out of the corner of her eye, and she finishes her drink. A moment later, the television falls silent, and Lily leans forward, pats her hand reassuringly.
"I wish they wouldn't keep playing it," she says, and Lily nods. "This is a nightmare."
"Actually," Marshall says, his eyes lighting up as he leans forward, "this does remind me of a dream I had once. Only, in my dream Lily was a mermaid, and Barney had four arms, but other than that -"
Lily's looking at him in the way Robin just knows they're having a silent conversation, and he picks up his glass, pouting a little.
"I was just saying. It's kind of freaky, is all."
"You can't really blame them," Ted says. "I mean, it's one of the last broadcasts they have. Before ... you know."
She wants to hate him for the note of chiding in his voice, but it's a lost cause; she blames herself, too. She raises the empty glass to her lips.
"Okay, this is ridiculous." Barney's arm is draped over the chair behind her, and she'd think he really was as nonchalant as his tone implied if he didn't keep stroking his thumb up and down her shoulder in a way that's oddly soothing. "You guys, this is not the end of the world."
Four pairs of eyes stare back at him, and he shrugs.
"Okay, it may be the end of the world. But if it is, there's nothing we can do about it. Now, do you really want to spend what could be your last days sitting around moping, or do you want to do something awesome?"
But Robin's had enough of awesome. She doesn't bother to look behind her as she leaves.
"You sure got out of there fast."
She's not really surprised that Barney followed her. He shuts the door behind him, and she leans, exhausted, against the back of the couch.
"Come on, Scherbatsky. Suit up! So we destroyed the whole city. So what? We're young. We're both incredibly good-looking. We're still alive. For now. You know what this situation needs?"
She shouldn't play along, she knows, but she rolls her eyes and asks, anyway. "What do we need, Barney?"
"End of the world sex."
"You can't be serious."
"I am deadly serious. I am apocalyptically serious. Think about it. It's the end of the world. Don't you want to go out with a bang?"
That, she thinks, is probably the worst double entendre she's ever heard. It's also a very bad idea.
It isn't, by a long shot, the worst idea she's heard in the past few weeks.
Her bra is unhooked before they get to the bedroom.
The evacuation of New York goes more smoothly than she expected, and in the end, there were very few riots.
Barney insists on watching (from a safe distance, he assures them). Robin has to admit, it is a sight to see.
"Barney -" Ted tries again, but Barney silences him with a look, holds out a hand.
"Ted," he says, like this is no more dangerous than trying out a new club on Saturday night. "Trust me. This is going to be legen - wait for it -"