Summary: Barney’s recovery between season 3 & 4 – How I met your mother.
Disclaimer: Don’t own the show.
It took him a whole day before he was equipped with a Blackberry and a laptop in his hospital bed. (The long wait was because of an incompetent former personal assistant.) He can’t do much with the computer, unless he’s got it on at tray on his chest, and someone opens Skype for him, but he manages to get them to hook him up with an ear plug to the Blackberry, so he can stay in touch with work. With the High Five-hand free, it just about works.
Granted, he has saved up a lot of sick days, by always being somehow available on holidays, even if just by phone, and rarely taking official vacations, but in his line of work, taking too many of them ensures that he’ll be unemployed before long. So, Barney whittles away on his telephone-to-do-list. He can’t do much, but he can definitely talk.
Talking helps pass the time. Still, it’s not long before he begs and pleads with every pretty nurse to get him out of the hellhole he’s in. He figures it’s expected of him, and also, it’s a nice enough way to break the tedium.
Lily and Marshall are pretty good at visiting. They’re content with letting him be quiet, and entertain him with their quirky wedded repartee; it feels like being on a tennis match, watching the ball go back and forth, and back and forth. He’s usually exhausted by the time they leave.
Ted also comes by. Barney is not sure whether it is guilt or friendship that has him doing it, but he’s enjoying the visits, so the reasons behind doesn’t really matter. Ted needs a bit more response than Lily and Marshall does, but a quick question or two about Stella can usually keep him blathering on about nothing important for an hour or so, without interruptions. Never mind what he says; it feels right just listening to him talk again.
Robin… comes by after her last news report of the day. He’s usually half asleep by then, exhausted by the day, and watching her in grainy quality on the minimalistic television set provided by the hospital. She doesn’t say much, and she doesn’t need to. It’s nice just having her sitting there by his bed.
The drugs stop being funny after the first days; there are only so many morphine-induced fantasies a man can have about the female Brazilian Beach Volleyball team. Correction: there is no limit to the number of dreams, but there is a limit to the number of fantasies that makes it worth it, as he’s waking up in a full body cast, without the Brazilian Beach Volleyball team in the bed. Impotence is not really one of Barney’s favourite feelings; it’s hard to feel awesome when he’s stuck in bed alone. He tries to contact an acquaintance in Brazil, to see if he can get the girls for him, but the battery on his Blackberry stops working mid-conversation. He hates it when that happens. When a nurse finally deigns to take the time to get it recharged for him, he’s moved on to bigger and better things.
By the time he’s been in the hospital for two weeks, he’s nearly crawling on the walls of boredom. The Blackberry and the visits will only take him so far, and he’s pretty sure he’s made every deal that he can with the Portuguese, the Italians, the Russians, the Chinese, the Cubans, the North-Koreans, the South-Koreans, the Japanese, the Egyptians… Well, he’s had to exhaust his expansive linguistic knowledge, and he’s still not feeling properly challenged. He’s wondering if it would be worth the time to learn Swahili.
He’s gradually healing, though, and little by little, the doctors has let him out of bed and into a wheelchair. It’s like a whole new world opens up. He finds a hospital best friend, Jackson, and they race in their wheelchairs along the hallways. Given that Jackson also has broken arms, the race doesn’t go very fast; but as Barney points out, in this case, unlike when you’re giving gifts, it’s the thought that counts. He wins five out of six races. It’s awesome.
It takes a while, but eventually the doctors remove most of his heavy casts with a nifty saw. Some of the less complicated fractures have healed, the internal injuries seem to be shaping up, and even the more complicated fractures are looking pretty darn awesome. They also give him the green light to go home, with the provision that he has someone there to look after him for the first week. Ted, Lily, Marshall and Robin are all there when the doctor tells him this. Barney opens his eyes, and tries look small and vulnerable. He can see Lily wavering, looking up at Marshall, and he thinks that he wouldn’t mind being mothered by her for a while. A little while, mind you.
However, when none of them speaks up, Barney rolls his eyes. “Don’t all rush to volunteer!” he mutters.
“Oh, alright,” Robin throws her arms up. “I’ll do it.”
“Robin,” Ted stretches his neck, the way he does before a fight. Barney so thinks Robin is totally going to kick Ted’s ass, if they do fight. “May I speak with you outside?”
“Sure.” They exit, and Lily and Marshall tiptoe over to the door. Barney, who is in bed, stretches his neck to try to catch what’s being said.
“What are you doing?” Ted. Barney recognizes the low irritated male voice.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Robin. Barney can imagine her crossing her arms and looking down her nose at Ted. In his mind she transform into a teacher. Strangely enough, or not so strange, given her starting point, she looks kind of hot like that.
“Someone has to take care of him, Ted.”
“Why does it have to be you?”
“Uhm… Because nobody else volunteered?”
There is a silence, which makes Lily and Marshall look at each other in that concerned couple-y way that usually gets on Barney’s nerves.
“Is this gonna be weird again?” Ted has reached the whine in his voice, and Barney takes it to mean that Robin has won the argument and will be taking care of him.
“It’s only going to be as weird as you make it,” Robin points out quite sensibly. “I’m not about to jump into bed with someone who broke nearly every bone in his body getting to you in *your* hospital bed, and isn’t fully recovered yet.”
“And even if I were,” Lily and Marshall turn around to look at Barney at Robin’s words. He can’t believe Lily’s giving him two thumbs up. How infantile is that? His hand is perfectly available for a high five. “You have Stella now, remember?”
“Besides,” Robin says as they’re getting closer to the door again, “I seem to recall you giving Barney permission to date me while you were going out with Victoria.”
Lily and Marshall scramble from their places, back to Barney’s bedside to look doting down at him. The noise they make prevents him from hearing Ted’s response. He’s pretty sure that there was no time-limit on Ted’s permission, but he refrained from bringing that one up when Ted got mad at him. Possibly because Ted had been dating Robin seriously only after the permission was given; possibly because it was an ambiguous permission, given under ambiguous circumstances. And also, because it might’ve enflamed Ted’s anger even more.
He’s expecting a call from the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Oslo for his efforts in awesome, any day now.
Ted and Robin come back in, and Ted mutters something about how Robin will take care of Barney.
He knows that the next minutes will be crucial, so he just nods meekly, and holds in whatever suggestive comment he has about sponge baths – all 37 of them – and nurse costumes – 123 at last comment… no, wait for it, 124. He wants to go home – and he doesn’t particularly want to hire a busty blonde East-German nurse called Helga to look after him. He’s been there, definitely done that, and have several very good personal home videos to remember the experience by. He doesn’t need any more. He wants Robin.
“You’re going to have to bring in something to sleep on, not to mention a pillow,” Lily mumbles to Robin. “And food.”
“Yeah,” Robin nods. “He’s going to have to stay in the hospital a couple of hours more, while I figure things out.”
“Hello? Still in the room. I’ve got healed broken bones, and some partially-healed internal damages, but my ears and mouth work fine.”
“No, you’re not,” Barney mutters, and drags out the Blackberry. Within a five-minute conversation, he’s arranged for a food delivery to his apartment, a bed to be delivered ASAP and someone to stop by the hospital to pick them up. “There, was that so difficult?”
Later that night he’s twisting and turning in his bed at home. He can’t find a comfortable position. But it is still so much better than the hospital, so he doesn’t call Robin in to complain. Instead he turns the television on, low, and starts watching the TiVo queue that has amassed during his stay in the hospital. He falls asleep somewhere around the 7th episode of the Daily Show.
When he wakes up, he can smell coffee. With some assistance from his crutches, he manages to hobble into the other room. Robin is sitting at the kitchen counter, sipping from a cup of something that smells suspiciously like coffee, and idly flipping through the newspaper. She looks up at him and smiles. “Good, you’re up.”
She nods. “Do you want some breakfast? Your people filled up the kitchen, so we have enough food to withstand a siege for the next year or so.”
“Coffee would be good.” He carefully places a chair just right at the counter and tries to get on. He fails. “I guess I’m just not that awesome these days,” he sighs.
Robin helps him to get comfortable, and pours him a cup of coffee. “I also have some painkillers, if you want… although you should probably have something to eat first.”
He notices that she doesn’t comment on his lack of awesome. He vows to stop feeling sorry for himself and go back to being awesome. He may need her help, but she’s not going to see him not being awesome much longer.
She makes him a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and even if he has better ideas for the honey than eating it on bread, he shuts up and eats. It never pays to antagonize your drug dealer; he discovered painfully at the hospital. Extremely true story.
They talk of insignificant things, and both of them seem to avoid discussing anything personal. This is not the way to awesomeness. He’s supposed to be suave – let’s not forget – in a suit. Not sitting in the kitchen, like a bumbling fool, talking about the weather.
The crux of the matter, though, ends up being that he knows the friendly relationship they shared is broken, but he doesn’t know how to put it together the way he wants it to be. If he’s being too introspective, he can also admit to himself that he’s not sure he knows how he wants it to be.
He enjoys being single.
He doesn’t need any complications.
Furthermore, Robin doesn’t seem to want any of those things either.
But, at the same time, he enjoys being with her, even when things are awkward and un-awesome. He’s pretty sure that that’s a sign that there is something there. What, he doesn’t know. And he’s not in any rush to find out what.