"Bro Code Alert! Bro Code Alert! Bro Code Alert!"
It's the middle of a business meeting when Barney's phone goes off. Luckily, he's set his phone to visual mode, so no one hears the piercing shriek that accompanies that specific ping, but Barney does jump visibly when the visual ring scrolls across his monitor shades.
"Everything all right, Stinson?" asks his boss.
He weighs the advantages and disadvantages of telling his boss he has to take this call:
|Leave Boring Meeting||Miss important work information|
|Answer the call of the Bro Code…||…from a twelve year-old|
|Look important enough to not care about missing meeting||Possibly get saddled with actual work, since not present to defend himself|
|Get fresh coffee||None|
|Play with phone||None|
"I've got to find out," he says, and walks into the hallway. The conference room has a glass wall to the hallway, so he doesn't walk too far away. It's important to look like you don't want to leave the meeting, but he invokes the totally awesome ambient cancel mode, to foil eavesdroppers.
"Junior, what's up?" he clicks into movie mode, and it's both of Ted's children; the Kid is hanging over her brother's shoulder and they both look sort of…desperate.
"Dad is—," starts Junior.
The Kid interrupts. "He's telling us how he walked uphill both ways in the snow to find Mom. We're dying; you have to come get us."
Barney sighs. He wants to help them out, he really does. Ted's meandering, aimless rambles on how he wooed and married his one true love are a torture that should be reserved for his greatest enemies, not for his loved ones. (No one has figured out how to tell Ted this; not Barney, Marshall [the other best friend], Lily the wise, or Robin the blunt; not even the storied Mrs. Mosby.) But the meeting he's in is actually kind of important. "You guys know how to get to my office, right?"
Junior makes an 'I'm disappointed in you' face that looks just like his dad's. It's freaky, and Barney has to look away for a second. Kid just sighs. "What are we, new?"
"Come down here, and we'll figure something out." He cuts them off before their eyes can start to roll. "Do not even start; my office is awesome."
He goes back to his office to get some decent coffee and ping the front desk that he's expecting two tiny visitors. Then he textmessages Ted that his offspring are delinquents who are planning a string of bodega robberies on the Upper West Side and makes an afternoon reservation for The Ultimate LaZeR Coliseum. If the children want to call him during the work day, they have to pay the consequences in indentured funitude.
The meeting breaks up about thirty-five minutes after he gets back to it. All major decisions have been farmed out to subcommittees, ad hoc committees, or executive vice presidents, and the one agenda item he didn't manage to push off his plate is the sort of thing that can be handled through the judicious application of alcohol and a three-star meal.
The children have not arrived when he returns to his office, so he gets started doing some actual work, which means returning phone calls and canceling appointments his autosecretary has penciled in for him. The children crash in and run up to hug him, but he pulls back and punches them both on their shoulders in welcome. (Junior, he's turning into his wingman. The Kid got a crush on him when she was twelve that means a punch to the upper arm is just about the only physical contact he can give her without feeling like scum.) "Sucks that your dad is such a dork, huh?" he offers as a sort of conversation starter.
Both children sigh and make faces to express the unspeakable tragedy that is their lives. She throws herself on the leather couch in the corner with a sigh cribbed directly from Lily's playbook. He sinks slowly into the guest chair, bent head and bowed back a cinematic portrait of defeat.
Barney laughs at them, because they are hilarious. "You guys inherited your dorkiness fair and square!" They turn matching miniature glares on him, and he laughs even more. "Seriously, you guys, the tragedy," he throws his arms wide and flails like Ted, "of your lives is totally in your heads. And, also, your most awesome uncle is totally going to rescue you from it. But first," he holds up a finger, then points it at Junior, "you suit up." He points his other hand at the couch. "And you, Kid, we're gonna sweep by Aunt Robin's to get you something appropriate."
The children look at each other, then look at him. "Appropriate for what?" asks the Kid.
"You always make us play lasertag when we come see you. I'm dressed just fine for lasertag," adds Junior.
"Yeah, if you want to be ordinary, run of the mill chumps." He snorts derisiviely. "If you want to be my wingmen—wingpeople, it's time you started looking the part."
The Kid smiles at him, the smirky, dismissive smile she's adopted ever since Robin gave her The Boy Talk. (He doesn't know exactly what The Boy Talk involved, but it was clearly different from The Sex Talk, which coincided with the most uncomfortable phase of her crush.) Junior hunches his shoulders and says, "We're not allowed to be wingmen. On pain of death. Or dismemberment. Or banishment."
Barney rolls his eyes. "Your mom was just saying that. She didn't really mean it. Our deal is that she can have your dad as long as she provides me with a replacement wingman, and you are coming along nicely." He flicks a glance over at the Kid. "You, I'm afraid, were corrupted young by your aunts. I don't know if I can fix you."
The children do their synchronized eyeroll thing, but Junior gets his emergency Junior suit out of the coat closet and quickchanges in the bathroom, and then Barney sweeps them out of the building, past the receptionist who gives him a dirty look he chooses not to interpret, and into his carshare.
They only take fifteen minutes at Robin's, since Robin is at work and the guy she absolutely refuses to marry works from the apartment she insists that he rent. (As long as he has his own apartment, technically, they're not living together. Nobody has yet told Robin that the second 'apartment' is really a nice officesuite in a highrise.) The Kid emerges wearing a pink belted thing that hovers right on the border between a dress and a tunic, along with fawn brown leggings and copper ballet flats. He nods his approval of this mix of the pretty and the practical, and she smiles at him, then mutters, "Still not a wingperson."
They get to the arena, and the battle. Is. Awesome! Junior and the Kid are on fire tonight, and their three man—three person team, blows the competition away. There's a twenty minute window when he thinks they may take the arena's team high score, but their next battle is against a team almost as awesome as they are. Junior is out in the first five minutes of the match. The Kid lasts a lot longer; she incorporates stillness in her lasertag skills, something she picked up hunting with Robin.
Eventually, though, the match is down to four, him and the Kid, and the last two members of their opponents' teams. He gives the Kid the nod, and she sacrifices herself to take out the short one, who is guarding an alcove where the Victoria's Deadly Secret teamleader is hiding. He waits as long as he can, but the arena countdown clock is booming, and he wants to take the children to a dinner for Awesome Winners, not a pity party.
He rushes the alcove, and he and the leader go down in a blaze of glorious crossfire. He got his shot off before she got hers though, and that gives him the winning point! He doesn't care that he's hit with the fifteen-second gamesuit "death" freeze, he is the Champion!
He can hear the Kid approaching, and he's expecting a hand up for her Uncle Barney, but the little creep steps over him and helps the enemy. He's just about to declare that she's banished to the Loser's Corner at their victory dinner when he hears her ask, "So, Victoria, have you met my Uncle Barney? He's just crazy about lasertag."
He sits up, and Victoria's pulled off her mask: she's gorgeous.
The Kid raises an eyebrow at him, and he gives her the nod. Some time, probably not today, certainly not tonight, he's going to pull out the pin and give it to her. Despite the best efforts of Ted, Robin, and everybody else, he's replaced his wingman.