Everything is spinning, faster and faster out of control.

He can’t remember the last time he was in control.

He can’t breathe, can’t seem to get any air into his lungs.

When he sees Robin crying, though she tries her best to hide it, it is a stab straight through his heart. He put those tears there. He never meant to hurt her, never meant to make her cry, but he did anyway because he’s a cold, heartless bastard. They went separate ways and he just returned to living his life the only way he knows how – and he hurt her, hurt her enough to make her cry.

Lily’s voice rings in his ears about all the things he hasn’t seen in the last months. Robin alone, Robin crying, Robin crushed, and every time, Barney has rubbed it in her face. Told her about conquest after conquest – he doesn’t even know why it’s been so important to tell them, to tell her, everything. He doesn’t know why it’s been important to get every girl he’s seen into bed. Did he really think that it would help?

When Anita leans over and whispers her “final offer” in his ear, he feels bile rising in his throat.

Is this what he is now? A whore, sold to the best offer? Is he a slave to his own image, so much so that there is no person left in him to make an active decision?

The night air is cool around him. It’s spring but not yet warm, winter lingering.

Below him the Hudson River flows black and glittering. Inviting, he thinks suddenly, and he’s not as frightened by the thought as he should be.

After all, if there’s no person left in him to make an active decision, then there’s probably no one left to think at all.

He looks at the sky, wondering if Robin is enjoying her date.

There is no jealousy and he’s almost a little surprised by that, because Robin was such a big part of everything for so long that it seems almost odd now, to not be jealous.

But he hasn’t felt anything in months.

It’s like he’s turning into stone. Every day, he grows a little colder, a little harder, a little more disconnected. Every day, he feels a little less.

He stood here once before, not long ago, just staring out across the river. He remembers the fear he felt then, the fear that he didn’t dare mention to his friends, because the less they know, the better. He can make jokes to them about his job, but he’ll never tell them what it is he does.

And they don’t need to know that his fear wasn’t just about getting fired, but about ending up a faceless body in the river, found weeks later, body swollen beyond recognition and picked apart by birds and fish.

Now he wonders if it would be such a bad thing. To become no one, to lose himself. To disappear off the face of the earth.

To feel freedom again, unbound by life.

He is slowly killing himself, he already knows that. Girls, Redbull, alcohol, girls, work, girls. The world spins so fast and it’s all he can do to try to keep up. To try not to fall off, to try to be the man they all think he is.

The river flows at a steady pace beyond him. He longs for the freedom of the water – the freedom to go wherever it wants, to roar and trickle, to be gentle and deadly all at once. It beckons at him, pulls at him.

He’s only barely aware of climbing over the fence.

He stands, his hands wrapped around the railing and his feet almost slipping off the pavement.

His heart doesn’t race with fear of what he’s doing.

He wonders if he’ll sink, or if he’ll be pulled along for miles. He wonders how cold the water will be, wonders how long it will take before it steals all the air away from him. He wonders if he’ll try automatically to swim, or if he’ll sink as stone, willing himself to go under.

He thinks of Robin. He looks at the sky, at the bright stars overhead. Is she having a good time? Has he finally done something right?

He hopes so.

And he lets go.

new scene

Hours later, he’s wrapped up in blankets and sitting on the couch in Lily and Marshall’s apartment. He’s still shivering, but he barely feels the cold. He’s still not there.

Lily sits on the other couch, legs drawn up and her face drawn with lines that make her look much older than she is. Guilt churns in Barney’s stomach, because he’s the one who put those lines there.

There’s the burning question between them – why? – which she hasn’t yet verbalized and he won’t ever have any idea of how to answer.

Because it seemed like a good idea at the time?

Because the water smelled like freedom?

Because he wants to die?

He doesn’t know. He’s not sure he wants to die. He just doesn’t want to live.

They sit in silence. Barney doesn’t know if she’s waiting for him to start, or if she’s trying to organize her own thoughts to some sort of coherence, or if it’s something else entirely.

He’s not sure why he gave the police and the ambulance people Lily’s number instead of any of the others’, but he did. Marshall was there with her when she came to pick him up, looking stricken and pale, but he’s disappeared now. Now it’s just them, Barney and Lily, and the silence stretching out.

They wanted to take him to the hospital but he refused. Fed the police some lie about what had happened and why he’d jumped into the river and he’s so good at lying that they bought all of it.

Lily isn’t buying it.

“I’m getting you an appointment with a psychologist.”

She breaks the silence, her words quiet.

He looks at her, thinks about protesting. He’s been to shrinks before – if they’re female, he usually ends up in them before the first appointment is over – but not since him and Robin.


She’s probably in bed with Don by now, his hands all over her, all over the body that was Barney’s for months.

He wants to feel jealous, but he feels nothing.

He wants to feel something.


He’s not sure that talking to a psychologist will get him anywhere, but when he looks at Lily, all tired and in pain, he wants to try. He wants to do something right, wants to not hurt them.

When he closes his eyes, he sees Robin crying again. He sees her trying to hide them from him, sees her try to pretend that she’s fine.

Barney feels the couch dip and then warm arms wrap themselves around him. Lily holds him close. He sits stiffly at first, a stone statue that can’t bend to anyone’s warmth, but when she rubs circles on his back and strokes his hair, he can’t help but slowly start to unravel. He relaxes a fraction against her and more minutes pass and her motions are like soft summer breezes, gently tugging him along.

She whispers things in his ear, things he can hear but doesn’t process because his world consists of her touch. He wonders if this is what a mother’s touch feels like, if this is the way children should be comforted when they’re sad. He doesn’t know. He’s never known.

Meaningless sex, handshakes with important people, manly bro-hugs that last no more than three seconds.

Never does anyone touch him just for his sake.

Well, Robin did, for a little while, before angry sex and make-up sex took over and everything was hard and cold again.

Lily’s hand is small and warm, her arms thin but strong. When she touches him, he feels safe.


And suddenly, pain rushes through him, making him feel like his heart is breaking over and over into a thousand tiny pieces. He feels wetness that he only later realizes is because he’s crying, tears staining Lily’s shirt, and there is mewling and sobbing and sounds that he can’t believe he’s making, but it has to be him because it doesn’t sound at all like Lily.

Her arms don’t leave him, her hands never stop. He curls into a ball, tight, tighter, trying to keep things inside but it doesn’t work. Things spin so fast, dragging him along, pulling him in every direction at once. He is in pieces and the shards are flying like sharp glass. He wraps his arms around his knees, hands balling into fists and nails digging into palms.

Waves of pain keep crashing over him. It feels like being in the water again, dragged under by currents he didn’t know existed. There is no air, no sky, no moon, just darkness. He doesn’t know up from down, doesn’t know life from death.

He gasps for air.

“Look at me.”

She’s probably been trying to talk to him for a while but only now does he hear her. Her voice demands him to listen.

He sees her eyes wide with fear.

“I need you to breathe.”

Barney stares at her and he realizes he’s been hyperventilating. He still is, air coming in at short bursts.

She breathes with him, calmly, deliberately.

He gulps down air and as his breathing slows, he unconsciously uncurls, no longer needing to hold on so tightly. His palms hurt and he realizes that he’s dug his nails in so hard he’s broken the skin. It throbs dully. Barney revels in the ache.

Lily still runs her fingers through his hair, breathing with him. He leans into the touch. He feels like a child; a safe and loved child.

And the world slows down. 

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