She's halfway through her third scotch when Barney slides into McLaren's -- literally -- and makes a straight line for where she's sitting in their regular booth. He's out of breath and dusted with snow as he all but collides with the edge of the table, and he grabs her drink out of her hand and downs it in one gulp before managing, "thank... here... Lusty... Santa!"
She gives him her best whatthehell look. "Barney?"
"Santa!" he repeats, taking her arm and tugging. "Robin, c'mon!"
She pulls her arm free, wincing as he almost tumbles back into the -- thankfully empty -- table behind him. "Barney! What the hell, man?" Leaning past him, she looks to catch Wendy's attention so she can signal for another drink only to realise the waitress is busy clearing tables across the room. She turns back to him and frowns. "Are you... wait, have you been crying?"
He shakes his head, grabbing for her arm again. "Frostbite," he says briefly, "it's five below out." Her arm is moves up and down in his grip, and while she can't be bothered checking to see if his feet are literally leaving the ground, there's definitely some bouncing action happening. "But forget about that, Robin -- Santa!"
"What does that even mean?"
"Mean? Mean? It's Christmas, Robin. The time for red-suited miracles!"
The key word in that is probably suit, knowing him, but -- "miracles?"
"Three-for-one lap-dances at the Lusty Leopard!" He yanks on her arm again, this time managing to slide her half out of the booth. She yelps and scrambles to her feet before she can fall. "In Santa-styled red-and-white fur all-but-see-through bikinis."
She rolls her eyes, unimpressed. (Just because she's not like Marshall and Lily and Ted with their 'family is so important at this time of year and it's not really Christmas unless you're surrounded by five generations of traditional crap' shtick, that doesn't mean she's at the complete opposite end of the Christmas spectrum, dwelling with Barney in his world of sleazy and commercialised fake-sex shows.) "Really."
Her lack of enthusiasm must have dropped low enough to finally register. Stilling, he adjusts his hold on her arm into something more gentle and leans in, all close and intense, his coat smelling of snow and wind and his voice in her ear turning quiet and serious like he's about to share a secret of absolutely epic proportions with her. "Hooker!Lily's going to do a floor show at midnight as Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer with Pete the bouncer as Kris-can-you-see-my-pringle-Kringle."
She freezes. "Canadian Pete?" she asks. "With the bruises?"
Barney nods, his mouth brushing the curve of her ear. "Two black eyes, this year."
She grabs her purse and coat, changing their positions so that she's the one dragging on his arm. "Let's go."
He really should have opened with Lily and Pete first.
Rolling back his shoulders, he adjusts his aim. "A hundred?"
Looking up, she takes in his stance, his already raised Wii-controller, his expression, and shakes her head. "Oh, no. No way, Barney."
"C'mon, you're just being overly cautious with the whole 'completely vaporise the evil Santa horde' plan when all we really need to do is destroy the magic mug of toxic eggnog." He grins, pretend-flicking off a safety. "You know I can totally hit that."
"And god knows what else." Turning, she holds out her hand. "Give me your gun."
He scoffs. "Yeah, that's not gonna happen."
"Barney..." Changing tactics, she steps into his space and rests her hand on his chest, fingers spreading over the bright red and gold of his tie. She smiles up at him. "Stinson..."
"No way." He flashes her a bright, bright grin. "I'm gonna save the world this Christmas, Scherbatsky, and it's gonna be legen -- wait for it -- dary. Legendary!"
As he pulls the trigger, her hand flexes on his chest, and she glances over her shoulder to watch. On his wall screen, the virtual mug shatters.
Barney grins, fist-pumping. "Yes!"
Then the explosion starts, sparks and flames shooting across the wall, a rapidly expanding fireball moving to encompass their life-size avatars. Their Christmas-miracles-and-wishes life bars begin to drain.
With her own controller, Robin hits pause and looks at him.
Shrugging, Barney looks back. "Double or nothing?"
That she still has a copy of certain footage from Barney's home sex-security system -- installed, or so he claims, because, it'll be a crime not to record what's only legal in three States and two European countries the day I succeed in picking up a lesbian -- is probably not the worst thing she could ever admit to.
That she still, on occasion, watches it, however --
He'd been sweet this evening. Almost -- well, okay, he'd still been Barney, had still run through an unending gamut of bad holiday season-themed dirty jokes, accepted an unoffered challenge to pick up while wearing pointy-and-bell-toed elf shoes (on his hands) and speaking in Dr Seuss rhyme, and set off a fireball magic trick that almost incinerated Lily's mistletoe halo -- but apart from all that? Sweet. For him. And enough so that when she'd come back upstairs, her first thought had been to remember -- other things.
Slipping the disc into the DVD player, she settles back on the couch with a glass of wine, and hits skip until she can watch a black-and-white-Barney kiss a black-and-white-Robin against his kitchen bench. Watch his hand cup the back of her head, and his other stroke down her side, around her hip, and settle in the small of her back. Watch TV-Barney pull her closer.
Her hands are on his shoulders, fingers slowly curling into the fabric of his suit. She can't see her own face, not clearly, but she can remember --
The kissing gets hotter, messier. There's this moment where it looks like he's going to spin them around and lift her up onto the bench but a frame later they're sinking to the tiles behind the bench, their bodies out of shot. The lack of audio disappoints her; she remembers laughter.
For several minutes there's not a lot to see. Clothes fall back into frame piecemeal -- his tie, her shirt, his jacket, her underwear -- but their bodies stay mostly hidden until the end, until her arm emerges past the end of the bench, his following until he's holding her hand, their fingers tangling together and holding on tight.
Twenty-two minutes, according to the timestamps. Not their longest, nor their shortest, though probably one of their most memorable. Definitely the only one she's ever been able to look back on after their break-up with more than just her own memory.
When it's over, when they've finished talking or catching their breath or whatever it was they'd done after that awesomely failed attempt at cooking dinner in his place (she can never remember that aftermath very clearly; just the happy-satisfied feeling she'd had), she watches him fumble through their clothes. Hers he tosses out of sight back to her, his he just collects in his arms before heading out of the room. He's fantastically unashamed about his nudity in that moment, and she has to fight the urge to hit pause and simply stare.
Her cell phone rings, Barney's name flashing up on the caller ID, and she answers it with a smile. "Hey."
She grins and takes another sip of her wine. "You're supposed to wait until Christmas morning to open your presents, jackass," she says, but there's no real admonishment in her tone.
"Space-Teens Christmas Special, Robin," he breathes out. "I don't --" His voice actually chokes up and her grin gets even wider. Sure she'd known that giving him the only copy still in existence of the Riding Santa's Sleigh episode would make him happy, but to hear it? To know that he probably hadn't even had time to get home yet (they'd only left McLaren's half an hour ago), let alone watch it?
"You're welcome," she says. She almost adds, and thanks, you know, for not abandoning me downstairs for that bimbo of the eve you picked up when the others started drifting off for their big Christmas plans (Marshall and Lily home to play Santa for Baby #1, despite the fact that the kid was still two months away from arriving, and Ted to spend the night with his True Love #26's family), but that'd be kinda lame and, well, lame, and she's being very careful about not being lame with Barney these days. "Merry Christmas, Stinson."
"Merry Christmas, Scherbatsky," he says, and while his voice is not quite as broken anymore, it's still definitely kinda awestruck.
She feels that happy-satisfied feeling start to spread through her again; a little different from what she remembers before, maybe -- a little more intense? less confusing? -- but still just as good. She opens her mouth to say goodbye and goodnight, and says instead, "wanna come over and watch it together?"
He makes a muffled sound, almost like a cough, that sounds surprisingly echoey. "Wait for it --" he says.
When he knocks on her door, she laughs.