It’s around eleven o’clock and Ted is busy scribbling on his drawing board when his phone rings. “Hello?”
“Ted!” Barney shouts into his ear, in roughly the same tone he uses when Ted hasn’t suited up. “You have to come get me.”
“Why?” he asks, steadying his ruler. “Are you in jail again?”
“No,” Barney stresses, “I’m at the doctor’s office.”
Ted blinks, and stops working. “What’s wrong with you?”
“I can’t get home by myself,” his friend explains, pointedly dragging it out.
“Why can’t you get home by yourself?”
“Because I’m blind.”
Ted sets his pencil down and sits up straighter. “You’re blind?”
“What do you mean, kind of?”
“Ted, there is clearly no time for explanations! Just come and get me and we can talk then.”
Shaking his head in disbelief, Ted scribbles down the address. He grabs his coat and heads downstairs to hail a cab, wondering what the hell Barney has done now.
As it turns out, Barney’s not really blind. He’s not even kind of blind.
“Dude,” Ted protests faintly, raising his arms in a standard “the hell?” gesture.
“Please,” Barney dismisses the slight. “This can be a very serious condition. You two should be nicer to me.”
Ted pinches the bridge of his nose. “So you have temporary double vision.”
“The medical term is ‘diplopia,’” Barney lectures, even though he probably learned the word not an hour ago. “Like I said, it can be quite impairing. What if I tripped down the stairs and broke my neck? Would you still be annoyed at me asking for your help?”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Ted argues. “In that scenario, I wouldn’t have been annoyed because you hadn’t asked for my help, which is why I wouldn’t have shown up, which is why you would have fallen in the first place.”
Barney squeezes his eyes shut and turns his head, making a show of waving in Ted away. “Damn it, Teds, when you all talk at once it gets very confusing! One at a time.”
“O-kay,” Ted sighs, “first things first, let’s go pick up your prescription. There’s a pharmacy downstairs.” He grabs Barney by the elbow and pulls him out of the chair.
On their way out of the waiting room, the receptionist seems relieved. “Aw, I’m glad your friend showed up.” She’s quite pretty, with sharp white spectacles and red ringlets that fall past her shoulders. “I thought I was going to have to leave early to take you home, after all.”
Ted and Barney laugh it off, but once they’re on their way down the stairs Ted shoots the blond a glare. “Did you hit on the receptionist?” He doesn’t know why he asks; he knows the answer.
Barney blinks at him, looking vaguely bemused. “I’m sorry, I’m distracted by the eight unhappy Mosbys staring at me.”
Ted shakes his arm. “You are not seeing eight of me, you dork; it’s called double vision.”
“It’s called diplopia.”
“It’s called ‘don’t make me throw you down the stairs.’ So if she had accepted to take you home before I got there, you would have told me to scram?”
“Give me a little credit.” Barney stumbles, and Ted has to steady him with both hands. “She thought I was cute. I don’t blame her; I’m cute when I’m helpless. I can work that pretty good.”
“You mean she started it?”
“Why, is that unbelievable?” Barney gives him a sidelong glance. “Look at me, Teds. I can barely get down the stairs by myself right now. You think I’m in any shape to hit on women before they’ve had a chance to drink?”
They reach the bottom of the stairwell without further incident, and then head into the pharmacy to get Barney’s medication.
“So what does the doctor think caused this?” Ted asks while they wait some more.
Barney shrugs, currently fascinated by his hands. “It’s temporary, so who even cares?”
“Yeah? Could it have had something to do with the hell you put yourself through whilst checking off items on a certain list? Or maybe taking something that may or may not have been aspirin?”
“I think it was dyeing my hair pink.” Barney nods with finality. “Yeah, pretty sure.”
The pharmacist calls his name then, and after collecting the medication they head back outside to hail another cab. It doesn’t take long for one to pull up, and Ted has to help maneuver Barney inside so he doesn’t hit his head.
“So you’re off work for a week or two, I gather?” he asks once they are settled and on their way to Barney’s apartment.
His friend nods, rifling through the plastic bag to look at the box of eye drops. He stares at the tiny print for a few long moments. Eventually Ted realizes that he isn’t actually reading anything, and reaches over to snatch the box away.
“Two drops every four or five hours,” he reads. “For a few days, then you should be good as new.” He hands the box back. “So, you’re seeing double constantly?”
“Not constantly,” Barney replies. “But often enough. I’m pretty much stranded. Can’t drive or do anything that requires concentration.”
Ted skims the list of do’s and don’ts included in the bag. “All the usual is here. Plenty of rest—”
“—No operating heavy machinery—”
“We’ll see about that, am I right? TMI high-five!”
Ted rolls his eyes. “Would you focus? Sorry!” he amends with a half-laugh. “Oh god, sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
Barney is sulking now, faced forward with his arms folded. “That was really nice, Ted, thanks. You know, my eyeballs could be dying. If my eyeballs die, how will I ever continue to appreciate the female form?”
“With your hands, like usual?” When Barney glares at him, Ted laughs and waves it off. “I’m kidding! Just trying to cheer you up, that’s all. Come on, your eyeballs are not dead; they’re just resting.”
“That’s what Mom said about my hamster Nibbles.”
Ted reaches out and shakes his shoulder. “Snap out of it. Whatever happened to just absorbing illness into awesome, huh?” He waits for Barney to nod. “You’re not going blind, and you’ll be fine in a few days. Use it as an excuse to relax. Have a bubble bath or something.” He ignores the look that gets him.
As it turns out, Barney can go approximately thirty-six hours without going stir-crazy. “Ted,” he pleads, “you have to come take me somewhere.”
Ted does sort of feel bad for him, but he’s only half a beer into his Friday night and Robin’s in the middle of a funny anecdote. “I would, buddy, but your place is, like, half-an-hour away.”
“Teeeeed,” his friend whines, “I’m so boooored.”
Lily quirks at eyebrow at him, almost as though she actually heard that. Ted gives the rest of the gang a sheepish smile. “You’re supposed to be resting,” he reminds Barney.
“I’m done resting! I’m bored now. I just wanna go outside for a little while. Please?”
“Don’t you have neighbors?” Ted teases, but he’s already sliding out of the booth.
“I don’t trust those bastards.”
“Guys,” Ted says to the others, “I’m gonna go get Barney.”
“Tell him he’s missing twins,” Robin advises. “That’s, like, eight boobs he could be staring at.”
He lifts a hand in farewell, then heads out to hail a cab.
“Are you sure you want to head all the way back to MacClaren’s?” Ted asks, holding his wayward friend by the sleeve. “It’s another half-hour away, never mind getting you home. You’re not supposed to be having these kinds of ordeals yet, you know.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Barney responds, sounding more confident than he looks. Ted can tell he’s seeing double right now, the way he stares blankly ahead, almost like he’s dizzy. “I had to get out of my apartment for a while, that’s all. I can’t even watch TV, or read the paper, or anything else. We don’t even have to go to MacClaren’s, we could go to a bar around here.”
“Oh, right.” Ted glances around, recalling the moving van incident. “Isn’t there one just a block or two down?”
“Yeah, one street down,” Barney confirms, and then starts heading up. Ted yanks him back and they start walking.
It’s no MacClaren’s, but Jimmy’s serves their purposes well enough. Ted and Barney score a small table and order two glasses of beer.
“Are you sure you should be drinking?” Ted wonders.
“Absolutely,” Barney assures him. “Actually, drinking is probably good for me. At least I’ll feel like I’m getting something out of this whole blindness thing.”
“You aren’t blind,” Ted reminds him, sipping his beer. The brew is pretty good, but it’s still no MacClaren’s. All the same, Ted would rather take Barney out close to home and get him back safe and sound rather than risk an incident on the way.
They sit and sip, shooting the breeze for a while. Barney has been under house arrest for over a day, and apparently can’t accept that absolutely nothing interesting has happened to the gang since then. Ted humors him with work anecdotes and whatever gossip he can scrounge up.
Finally, Barney says, “Think I can score a chick half-blind?”
Ted blinks. “Didn’t you already try that once?”
“More than once,” Barney clarifies. “But the thing is, this time I’m actually half-blind. It’s authentic. Come on, wingman me?”
Ted considers it. On one hand, Barney isn’t supposed to be doing anything strenuous. On the other hand, humoring him just once will probably be enough to carry him through the rest of this convalescence. “Okay, fine. But just one girl, got it? There won’t be any evil schemes tonight, all right?”
Barney raises his hands in surrender. “All right. Jeez, Ted, you can stop acting like my nanny anytime now.”
Ted points an accusing finger at him. “Hey, this is what you signed up for when you called me from the doctor’s office. Either take it, or get yourself home on your own.”
At first, Barney looks like he’s going to put up a fight, just for the sake of being difficult. In the end, he only makes a frustrated sound deep in his throat. “Ugh, fine. Okay, pick someone hot for me.”
Ted gives the bar a cursory glance. “Lots of nice-looking ladies here tonight. You have any preference?”
“I prefer all of them,” Barney says. “All two hundred of them.”
Ted rolls his eyes. “There aren’t that many — never mind. Okay, I’ll pick. Just follow my lead.”
Barney nods, and Ted pushes back his chair and stands up. He scans the bar once more, and his gaze settles on a redhead sitting by herself by the bar. He takes a deep breath, squares his shoulders, and gets to work.
“Hi, I’m sorry,” he leans on the counter next to her. “My friend over there, see him?” He gestures to Barney, who for his part is looking perfectly lost, staring into his beer.
The redhead gives Ted a half-smile. “He’s pretty cute. What about him?”
Ted cranks it up a notch. “He caught a glance at you on the way in, and hasn’t stopped talking about you since. He thinks you’re gorgeous and wants to say hello.”
She quirks an eyebrow, looking doubtful. “Then why hasn’t he?”
Ted sucks in a breath through his teeth. “See, that’s the thing. He won’t be able to make it over here without making an idiot of himself — or so he thinks. He’s almost blind.” At her aghast expression, Ted nods. “Yeah, it’s still very new and kind of raw for him. He’s sensitive about it, and doesn’t want to bump into anything on his way over here. You understand, right?”
“Oh, of course,” she coos, turning on her stool to get a better look at Barney. “The poor thing. It must have come as quite a shock.”
“Would you consider coming over to say hi?” Ted wonders. “It would make his night.”
“Sure, sure.” She gives him a full smile this time, showing two rows of pearl white teeth. “I’ll be over in just a second.”
Ted grins at her, then makes his way back to their table. “Okay, kiddo, here’s the skinny: hot redhead on her way, you have a game plan?” The girl’s already moving, so Ted catches Barney’s eye and initiates a telepathic conversation. You know what to do?
Barney blinks at him, then squints. You talked to her? What kind of reading did you get?
Ted raises his eyebrows, cocking his head a little. She seems really nice and open, if you ask me you could get a kiss inside five minutes.
Barney looks more confused then ever, but shrugs. Ted’s not sure what the problem is, and doesn’t even get to ask. Before Hot Redhead even reaches them, Barney’s grabbed Ted’s face and planted one right on him.
Ted’s too stunned to do anything, having frozen up the moment Barney’s lips touched his. Barney’s tongue sweeps across his closed mouth, probably out of habit, but Ted’s too surprised to react one way or another.
From behind him, “You know, I’m not sure I’m your friend’s type.” The redhead sounds amused. “I’m glad you two figured this out, though.”
At this Barney pulls away, mouth agape. “What?”
Ted twists around, tries to explain, “No, you don’t understand — I’m not sure why he—”
She waves a hand. “Forget it, forget it. I’m not sure what kind of game this was for you, but I’m happy to have played a part. I think.” She sounds like she isn’t sure if she’s supposed to be annoyed or not. “But now I’ve lost my seat at the bar,” she informs them, “so one of you owes me a drink.”
Barney just sits there, dumbfounded, so Ted hands her a ten. “I’m really sorry about this,” he tells her. “It’s really not what it looks like.”
“Trust me,” she chuckles, accepting the bill, “I have no idea what this looks like. Have a nice night, boys.”
Once she leaves, Ted rounds on Barney. “What was that?”
The blond tries to rub at his eyes, but Ted swats his hands away. “I don’t know!” Barney snaps, at a loss. “I just did what you told me to!”
“I didn’t tell you to kiss me,” Ted shoots back. “Why would I tell you to kiss me? What purpose would that possibly serve?”
“I was going to ask you,” Barney says. “I didn’t know how’d you figured she would be into two guys making out just by talking to her for two minutes, but what do I know? Maybe you have some kind of superpower I’m unaware of.”
“Or maybe you are telepathically deaf,” Ted suggests snidely. “That’s not what I said at all.”
Barney throws up his hands, nearly knocking his beer over in the process. “Well, Ted, maybe you and your twin there should have realized that if I am seeing double, maybe I can’t read your eyes properly, and so maybe I misheard the telepathy.”
“How do you mishear telepathy? It’s in your head.”
“You’re in your head,” Barney retorts, glaring down at the table. “This is so lame. I wasted my one hook-up on you.”
Ted sighs. “Well, maybe it’s a sign. You’re off your game tonight. At least you went out, right?”
“Came out, more like.” Barney echoes Ted’s sigh. “Maybe you’re right. Thanks, though. It was nice to actually leave my living room.”
Ted slides out of his chair and offers Barney a hand-up. “Come on. Let’s get you home.”
Ted gets Barney safely home, makes sure he takes the drops, and even hangs around until he washes up, just in case.
“Hey,” he pipes up, pouring his friend a glass of water, “why’d you use tongue?”
Barney gives him a weird look from his vantage point on the couch. “Why didn’t you use tongue? That kiss sucked.”
Ted rolls his eyes as he walks back to the couch, and hands Barney the glass. “I’m a better kisser than that. I was just surprised.”
The blond shrugs. “I’ll take your word for it.” He sips the water. “Thanks for everything, though.”
“Anytime,” Ted says, patting his knee. “Even the kiss. You know, if it was important.”
Barney snorts softly. “The kiss was a bonus. You should consider yourself lucky.”
Ted grins. “Sure.”