Author’s notes: This is Barney/OFC, but it really isn’t the point of the fic. It’s very Barney-centric with strong friendships with the other four. Takes place in a late season five where Robin is with Don. Written in just over a week, because this practically wrote itself. Enjoy!

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Chapter one

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Barney shut his phone. No one had really been listening to what he’d been saying – they were discussing the merits of latest James Bond movies, though Ted had no idea how they’d gotten to that particular topic – and they didn’t stop to ask what the phone call had been about.

Only a little later, when they’d moved onto Robin’s latest date – Ted was fairly certain Marshall’s crush on Don was just as big as Robin’s was – did Ted notice. Barney hadn’t said a word in ten minutes, which was the equivalent of four eternities in Barney-land.

“What’s up, dude?” Ted asked, a little quieter, cocking his head to the side.

Marshall was listening to Robin ramble on about Don and Lily was watching them with fond smiles.

“Uh,” said Barney, unusually ineloquent. “Do you remember a girl named Marie?”

“One of your conquests?” Ted asked. “I didn’t think you remembered all your conquests, so how would I know?”

Barney studied his glass, swirling the alcohol around. “Yeah.”

Ted reached out and placed a hand on Barney’s arm. “Dude. You're pale as a sheet. What’s going on?”

“Apparently,” Barney said, stopping because his voice squeaked. He cleared his throat. “Apparently, I’m gonna be a dad.”

Ted’s eyebrows rose. “Again?”

Barney glared at him.

“What?” Ted said. “The last time, you invented Not A Father’s Day. Are you sure that this isn’t just another false alarm?”

Barney returned his gaze to his glass. “Doubt it. I hooked up with her six months ago.”

Ted’s mouth fell open.

Barney glanced at him and snorted. “Yeah. She sent me a picture and everything.” He waved his phone around. “Don’t think that stomach’s a false alarm. And besides, I told you. The Barnacle’s little swimmers – they don’t do things by half.”

“Guys,” Lily said and Ted noticed suddenly that the other three around the table had fallen silent. “Barney – are you—are you talking about what it sounds like you’re talking about?”

Ted couldn’t get over what Barney had just told him. Barney. A father. And pretty soon too.


A dad.

Ted had never, ever, ever pictured Barney as a dad. Not even with the whole Not A Father’s Day debacle, because he’d known that somehow, Barney was going to get out of it. It was just Barney.

But maybe not this time?

“Maybe the kid isn’t yours,” Ted said and he wasn’t sure if he was interrupting anyone else, because he couldn’t really hear them.

Barney shrugged.

Somehow, it seemed that Barney too had realized that he’d gotten out of dicey situations enough times already and that this one was going to stick.

“What are you going to do?” asked Robin.

Barney looked at her. Ted couldn’t describe the look on his face; he’d never seen such a look in Barney’s eyes before. It looked like pure panic.

Barney downed the content of his glass in one large gulp and then grabbed Ted’s beer. Thirty seconds later, Ted’s glass was also empty. Barney waved for Wendy to come over.

“Give me alcohol,” he said.

“You’ll have to be a little more specifi—”

“Just alcohol!” Barney snapped, interrupting her.

She frowned at him and muttered something under her breath, but left.

Barney stared longingly at his empty glass. “Tonight, she can poison Barney Stinson all she wants.”

“Oh, Barney, come on,” Lily said, “It’s not that bad.”

Ted was pretty sure that that wasn’t the right thing to say. He could only imagine that in Barney’s world, getting a girl pregnant was, in fact, the very worst thing that could ever happen in the entire universe. It came long before, say, cancer or another world war.

Wendy returned with a bottle of vodka. It wasn’t particularly good vodka, but that clearly wasn’t something Barney could be bothered with tonight anyway. Without thanks, he grabbed the bottle and drank straight from it until his face was so scrunched up it looked like he was going to cry.

Ted stood up. “Maybe we shouldn’t be doing this here.”

“I think this place is fine,” Barney said. “It has alcohol and everything.”

Ted gave him a look. “Yeah, but if you continue like that, you’ll end up with alcohol poisoning.”

He grabbed Barney by the arm and hauled him up. Barney kept a secure hold on the bottle of vodka and then started for the door, looking slightly unsteady already.

Ted looked at the others. “I’m taking him upstairs. I’ll—I don’t know. Something.”

“Don’t you want us to—” Lily started.

“I don’t think he needs people in happy couple-dom right now,” Ted said. He looked at Robin. “You might want to sleep over at Don’s tonight.”

Robin took a breath as to protest and Ted bolted with a quick ‘bye!’ before she could get the first syllable out.

Somehow, he felt he needed to be the one looking after Barney tonight. Lily and Marshall, married and no doubt with kids on a fairly near horizon, would only try to convince him that a child was a beautiful gift, or something like that. While that was true, Ted knew it wasn’t something Barney needed to hear, at least not tonight. Tomorrow, maybe, but not tonight.

And Robin – well, she was Barney’s ex-girlfriend and she was in a happy relationship with Don and she’d never been any good at all with feelings. She might be able to understand why Barney didn’t want to have kids, but…

Ted’s reasoning wasn’t all that sound, he realized, but pushed that thought out of his mind. He’d already managed to ditch them.

Barney had made it outside and was walking down the street instead of up to the apartment. He was taking swigs of vodka every few steps and his gait was more unsteady now than it had been just minutes ago in MacLaren’s.

“Barney!” Ted said, hurrying after him.

“Ted.” Barney turned around and gazed, slightly unfocused, at him. “Ted, my best friend.”

“Well, Marshall is—” Ted stopped at Barney’s look. “Not important.”

“Damn straight,” Barney said. “Not important. ‘m important. Mighty important. So important, I knock girls up in a single try. Yeah, that’s me, Barney the One Hit Wonder.”

He giggled. Ted heard pain in the laughter.

“C’mon. Let’s get you upstairs.” Ted grabbed Barney’s arm again, this time steering him towards the stairs. When Barney tried to guzzle more vodka, Ted took the bottle from him.

“Teeed!” Barney whined.

“You’ll get it back when we get upstairs,” Ted promised as they started up the stairs. “I just don’t want to drive you to the hospital to get your stomach pumped, okay?”

Barney frowned at him. “I hate stomachs.”

“I’m sure you do.”

“Things grow in stomachs,” Barney continued. “Things that shouldn’t. Like little versions of me! Little versions of me should not be growing in stomachs.”

“It might be a girl,” Ted said. “That wouldn’t be a mini-you.”

Barney glared darkly at him, through the haze of alcohol. “Not helping.”

“Sorry.” They were silent until they reached the hallway. “What did Marie say when she called, anyway?”

Barney stole the bottle of vodka from Ted and took a drink before Ted could stop him. Then he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and gave Ted back the bottle, looking a little guilty.

“Don’t remember the exact words,” he muttered. “But it was something along the lines of, ‘hi, remember me, yeah, we hooked up like six months ago and I just thought I’d tell you that you’re gonna be a daddy in three months.’ Stupid. Stupid Marie. Stupid, stupid, stupid Barney.”

“Can’t argue with you there,” Ted said.

He unlocked the door and they were greeted with the dark apartment. Barney wandered over to the couch and was slouched on it before Ted had time to turn the lights on.

“Do you want anything?” Ted asked.

“D’you have a time machine?”

“Fresh out.” Ted sat down next to Barney on the couch and gave him the bottle. It was like giving, well, a bottle, to a two-year-old. Barney snatched it out of Ted’s hand and drank from it greedily. Again, his face scrunched up.

“What am I gonna do, Ted?” he asked, winy and pitiful.

Ted watched him. It was Barney’s own fault that he was in this situation – to be honest, he’d had it coming for years – but there was still a part of Ted that found it hard to not feel bad for the guy. Barney was always so much larger than life and this was just… ordinary.

He had to be serious when he answered. “You’re going to take your responsibility with the child.”

Barney’s eyes were blue and big. “I don’t know how to be a dad.”

“Then you’ll have to learn.”

Barney leaned back and closed his eyes. His suit had gotten rumpled at some point and there seemed to be no energy left in his body. Considering the abundance of energy Barney normally exuded, this version felt very wrong.

“I think I’m gonna drink ‘til I pass out,” Barney said, the slur to his voice a good indication that he was already on his way to his goal.

Ted was about to say no, but decided against it. Barney deserved one night of drinking until he forgot everything. Tomorrow, he’d feel like crap ten times over and then he’d have the day, and the rest of his life, to figure all the other things out.

Ted didn’t envy him.

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Barney hadn’t suffered a hangover this bad since he was twenty-three. That had been after Shannon, the first time James ever took him out drinking. Barney had been completely unable to handle alcohol for obvious reasons – seeing how he’d never drank anything except water, milk and the occasional soda before – and he’d ended up puking in his brother’s shower until the wee hours of the morning.

The thought of his brother made him think of his nephew and that in turn dragged Barney’s thoughts straight back to Marie and the picture she’d sent over of her in maternity pants with a bulging belly.

It was enough to make him hurl again.

A baby.

A little kid.

What the hell was he supposed to do with a kid?

To be perfectly honest, he liked kids. Especially the little ones. They were easy to understand – they ate and pooped, slept and had that cute toothless grin that made all grownups smile.

But one of his own?

His father had never been around. And it wasn’t Bob Barker either, even though that had been a nice flight of fantasy when he was little. No, it had just been him, James and their mother. Guys had come and gone but no one had stayed longer than a few weeks.

He had no idea what a father was. What did a dad do?

He wished Marshall and Lily had a kid – then he’d at least have a role model. He had no doubt that Marshall would be a great dad. They did everything great, those two, and they made it look so easy.

Maybe he should ask them for help.

His stomach was still churning, but he stood up gingerly anyway. He could smell coffee wafting in and he figured he’d be able to get a little bit down. Maybe with a cracker or two. He brushed his teeth before leaving the bathroom, avoiding all the while looking at his own reflection. He didn’t want to see himself in one of Ted’s old t-shirts with his hair on end and eyes bloodshot. This was a low moment.

When he stumbled into the kitchen, Ted was already there, moving about at too fast a pace for Barney’s bleary brain to keep up. Things were too bright and too loud.

“Morning, sunshine,” Ted said, way too happy in the face of Barney’s misery.

“Shut up,” he muttered.

Ted smiled slightly and handed Barney a cup of coffee. When Barney looked at him, he saw teasing but also gentle understanding in Ted’s eyes.

He managed to get to the table in the living room without spilling coffee all over the place.

“So, are things better today?” Ted asked, joining him with a plate of toast.

“If by better you mean that it’s hell and that the kid’s probably grown a little more since last night, then yeah, things are fantastic,” Barney muttered. Then he wished he hadn’t talked so much because his head pounded.

Ted took a bite of toast. “You should get a paternity test when the kid’s born.”

Barney looked up, a little too fast because it made his head feel like there were little monkeys with drums playing inside his skill.

“Say what?”

“A paternity test,” Ted said. “You know, so that you’re really the dad and not some other moron.”

“I’m not a moron,” Barney said.

“You knocked up a girl during a one-night-stand.”

Barney had to concede that he had a point, no matter how much Barney didn’t like it.

He wanted to think that a paternity test was going to do all the difference in the world. That it was going to come back negative, tell him that nah, it wasn’t him, it was Moron Number Two who was the father instead.

But somehow even the sunny, positive side of him didn’t think so. Just like he’d hadn’t reacted this badly the last time – or either of the two times before that – because he had known, like a gut feeling that it wasn’t going to be anything, he knew that this time, it was going to be something.

It was going to be a kid and it was going to be his kid.

He set the coffee cup down abruptly. Too abruptly; the hot liquid spilled over the edge of the cup and scalded his hand.

“Stupid coffee,” he muttered, wiping his hand with a napkin Ted offered.

Ted regarded him. “Are you going to see her?”

“Well, gee, Ted, I don’t know. Might be a good idea, since you think I should be a dad to the kid. Might have to see her every now and again.” He wished immediately he hadn’t snapped. Nausea rose in his throat and he ran to the bathroom, only barely making it to the toilet in time.

When he came back to reality – one that didn’t consist of just trying to turn your insides out – Ted was next to him, sitting leaned against the tub.

“You’re handling this really well,” Ted said.

Barney managed a bleary glare at him.

“If you want us to hate her, we will.” Ted looked suddenly sincere and kind, the teasing gone. “You’re both at fault for making the baby, but her not telling you until now—that’s low. Really low.”

Barney wanted to shrug but suspected that if he did, he’d throw up again. “I’ll get back to you on that.”

Ted handed him a glass of water, which Barney took gratefully. After rinsing and spitting, Barney leaned back against the tile of the bathtub next to Ted. It felt cool and nice against his back.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said, eyes closed. “I mean, my own father—and it’s not like there were any other good role models. What the hell am I supposed to do with a kid?”

He heard Ted’s smile even though his world was blissfully dark. “Teach him or her to be awesome, of course. I’m thinking that’s gonna take a while, even if the kid’s yours, so there’s a few years gone by to start with. And then when you’re done with that, and your kid is a little awesome mini-you, well… by then, you’re gonna be so into it that you won’t have to think about it anymore.”

Barney wasn’t sure that any of what Ted had just said really made sense, but somehow it did anyway. And even more oddly, it calmed him. The panicked white noise that had filled his head ever since Marie told him the news dimmed a little.

He felt Ted’s arm around his shoulders, grounding him amidst all the awfulness.

“You’ll be fine, Barney,” Ted said.

Barney gave a small huff. “The Barnacle isn’t fine. He’s awesome.”

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