Music floated out through the door of the guest room. It wasn’t just any music – it wasn’t the stupid, barely-there melodies that could usually be heard throughout the apartment as background noise to avoid any and all uncomfortable silences between Barney and his conquests, nor was it rock or pop or even opera, which Barney apparently listened to at irregular intervals.

No, this was the notes of a skilled violinist gently filling the space of the apartment. Lily, who wasn’t much for classical music but could still appreciate the art of it, walked over quietly to the door. There was no background music and she realized that the music wasn’t from a CD – it was someone playing live.

Considering how Barney never ever ever had people over, it wasn’t too hard to figure out who was playing.

She opened the door as quietly as she could, peeking inside. Barney was standing at the window so she mostly just saw his back, but she could also see the violin, and the bow in his hand, gracefully moving back and forth to create music. Barney seemed lost in another world; he didn’t show any hint that he’d heard her come home or enter the room. Instead, he moved into a faster section of the piece, fingers moving rapidly over the violin.

He was so beautiful, she reflected. Really, he was the most beautiful man she ever saw – and that was even though she loved Marshall with all her heart. It was just troublesome to remember every time he opened his mouth. Now, silent in concentration as he played, dressed in a dark suit, he looked every bit the part of a professional violinist.

Barney continued playing, the sense of the music changing enough for Lily to suspect that it was a different piece all together.

Then he suddenly stopped, abruptly, and turned.

“Lily.” His brow was pulled together into a frown. She had no idea how he’d suddenly noticed her, because she hadn’t done anything. Perhaps he’d simply come out of his trance and become aware of the world again.

“You’re—” she started, “That was amazing.”

“Yeah.” He stared at her. “What are you doing here?”

She frowned back at him, surprised. Normally, Barney would take any chance to hear about how awesome he was, but not about this? Not about something that was actually truly awesome?

“I got home and you didn’t answer when I called,” Lily said. “I heard you play, so I came in here.”

He looked even more annoyed. “Ever heard of knocking?”

“I didn’t want to disturb you,” Lily said. “I just— it was so beautiful, I just wanted to listen. Where did you learn to play like that?”

“Not important.”

He looked almost ashamed and that was mind-boggling to Lily. How could he boast about his conquests every day and tell a lie to every girl he saw, but when it came to a true skill of his own, Barney was ashamed?

He looked fidgety, keeping his arms folded tight just so that he wouldn’t move around. He still held the violin. There was a hint of red on his cheeks and though he tried to, he couldn’t stare at Lily for very long; he kept averting his gaze to the floor or the window.

She walked up to him and placed a hand on his arm. “Playing the violin as good as you do isn’t anything to be ashamed of.”

“I’m not ashamed,” Barney said tightly. “It’s just—private.”

She smiled. The motherly feeling that she often had when she was near him and he was in this kind of mood swept over her and she had to force down the urge to stand on her toes and kiss his forehead. He was being stupid, but it obviously wasn’t going to help to point that out.

“I think that was awesome,” she said instead. “Pretty much legendary. I’m sure the other would think the same.”

“They’re not gonna find out.” Of course, with Lily being the absolute worst at keeping secrets ever, that wasn’t so likely, but she resolved to try her best. She looked at him and he knew what she was thinking; he sighed. “I’m never gonna play for them. Ever. Don’t try to make me.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” she said, although she probably would. Dream of it, that was. She might even dream that they’d all be in a concert hall and in a single spotlight, Barney would stand with his violin. He’d get standing ovations, too.

He put the violin away, fingers sliding across the perfectly smooth wood almost reverently. Then the box shut and as it did, Barney’s usual mask slid into place. He turned, a bright smile on his lips. It was almost painful to watch.

“So, where are we going tonight?”

He walked out of the room, the violin left behind but hardly forgotten. Lily sighed to herself and wondered what it would take to bring Barney out from beyond his protective wall for any longer period of time. The violinist. The man she sometimes saw, when he thought no one was looking – the man with the longing in his eyes and the desperate need to be loved. She wondered who that man was – and she wondered if even Barney knew.

She closed the door behind her as she left, feeling like she was closing the door on the real Barney.

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