- October 31st, 2011
I haven't uploaded anything on LJ before so I hope this works ok.
Last time they were playing relationship chicken. It was scary and sudden and weird and desperate and hurt far too much when they both lost. But it was fast, obvious, resolved before it got too far and, let’s face it, relationship gut or not, the ‘we’re engaged’ sex was awesome.
This game is far more dangerous. It’s subtle and slow and planned and painful and only gets stronger as time goes on. It’s what they do best and neither wants to lose. Neither are ones to give up or back down, they are going to fight, at whatever cost, until they win.
Relationship chicken broke them up. Denial chicken could destroy them.
It starts off innocently enough. She sets him up on a date. It isn’t so bad, he does like Nora – she’s at least a nine – and he has been thinking lately, he wants to change. It’s just it isn’t Nora he want to change for. Despite all that went wrong in their relationship he was the happiest with Robin and in those weak moments, when he pictures actually being monogamous and settling down, it’s always, always, with her.
What he doesn’t know is why she’s doing it. She’s trying to push him away, because she knows last time was a mistake, but somehow she’s not so sure it is anymore. He doesn’t know how much she wants him when he tells her she was super hot in the summer dress or how tempted she is to just say yes when he offers her a backslide or how much genuine, scary, affection she feels towards him when he says she’s the most amazing, strong, independent woman he’s ever banged. It terrifies her, so she pushes him away, sets him up with another woman. It will be better for both of them. But it isn’t and this is only the beginning.
He tries to stop. At the beginning. He sabotages his date with Nora and thinks no more of it. It’s not what he wants, he doesn’t know what he does want, but it isn’t this. It should have been the end of it, maybe it would have been, had Nora not come, so unexpectedly, into his life again.
She’ll look back at this moment one day and wonder if maybe, just maybe, if Nora hadn’t turned up it would have gone differently. They are there, together, stalking Ted, having fun and suddenly she realises that his maturity and readiness for a relationship does not seem as brittle as it once had been. They talk and he grins and suddenly all the reasons she loved him come flooding back to her and she knows she should say something, anything, and it’s scary but it feels right and she turns towards him and… she sees Nora. And suddenly everything that she’s just opened up slams shut and she’s left shocked and cold. She pushes him towards Nora and watches from a distance as they make up. It will never be the same again.
The practice rounds are over, the game has begun.
He wonders, sometimes, whether this is the right thing to do. It feels an awful lot like stringing Nora along when what they’ll have is something neither of them will really want. But Robin is telling him it’s a good idea and, no matter what Ted says about her commitment issues, she’s always known more about relationships than he has. Anyway, he’s never been one to care that much about what is right when it comes to a woman’s feelings. So he calls Nora. Like five times. Because he’ll show Robin that he can be a perfect boyfriend when he wants to be.
She doesn’t know how much she was hoping he’d reject Nora until he didn’t. She knows she shouldn’t be regretting her set up working but she does and it hurts. It hurts even more to see him trying so hard to win Nora when he once tried so hard to win her. She tries, once, several times, to break them up but always stops herself before her plans go into action. Partially because she knows breaking them up like this is playing dirty, but mostly because she loathes showing weakness when he doesn’t. When such methods and their prevention cumulate in assault she pulls away, terrified, resorting to tactics she knows better, jealousy. She hooks up with the first man who finds her attractive. Sure dating your therapist could be seen as unhealthy, but she’s sure it’s healthier than the mess she’s in at the moment. The next time she’s at the bar she tells them she’s dating Kevin. Under the general disgust of her friends she eyes Barney, your move.
He doesn’t care about the dating her therapist part. It’s not that creepy. He had a woman sleep with him because they thought he was her long lost brother, now that was creepy. What bothers him about Kevin is that anyone dating Robin makes him want to start smashing TVs in the alley again. And he shouldn’t, not now, he’s dating and he’s been faithful to Nora and… the way that Robin is staring him down now is really, really hot and he’s fighting every urge in his body to just grab her and take her right there on the table. Every competitive instinct flies into action. Well if she wants to play like that, he’ll play like that. The next time they’re all together he describes his date with Nora in Ted-like detail. She returns it the following week, describing Kevin and her superdate almost viciously, complete with the bangidy bang song at the end. He grins and makes the expected lewd comment and resolves to nail Nora as soon as possible.
He describes the sex in graphic detail a few nights after the date. Lily’s already left the table in disgust and for the sake of her foetus and Ted and Marshall are talking loudly in an attempt to ignore him, but she’s still listening raptly, with some voyeuristic desire to know what he and Nora are doing. He speaks fluidly and elegantly, as if seducing her – pulling her into his descriptions – making her remember when it was them… He finishes with, “So Nora’s amazing. I realised how lucky I got when I got lucky. What up!” she hi-fives him, but it’s a dare if ever there was one. The next day she comes in wearing a sundress even though it’s nearly November.
He can’t keep his eyes off her and he knows that was her intention. His girlfriend is sitting across from him but Robin’s sitting next to him using her boyfriend, sitting on her other side, as an excuse to push herself right up next to him. She reaches across the table and gives him a good view of her dress’ low cut but he doesn’t give her a glance, instead striking up a conversation with Nora, trying to find anything they have in common while subtly placing a hand on the bare skin of Robin’s thigh. She squirms but shows no reaction above the table, turning and talking determinedly to Kevin. He moves his hand further up and she stiffens a little but recovers moments later and soon her hand is on his crotch. Oh it is so on. He gives Nora a strained grin and says, “My mom always cooks the best thanksgiving dinners, she’d be delighted if you joined us.” When Nora replies positively Robin turns again to Kevin, “We must go to Canada sometime, my mother would love to meet you. It’s so nice to have a boyfriend who appreciates my country.”
Christmas comes and the stakes are dreadfully high. She asks Barney to go Christmas shopping with her knowing he won’t back down. She wears her highest heels and the most provocative outfit the weather will allow and struts around making him look at all the pink couplely items she tells him she’s thinking of buying for Kevin. He buys Nora a $10,000 necklace. Furious she storms back to her apartment. The next day she announces loudly at the bar that she and Kevin are moving in together.
Valentine’s Day comes around and Robin’s describing romantic dinners and outings and dates that he knows she’d laugh herself silly at if she wasn’t just doing this to spite him. In the end buying Nora lorries full of roses and trips to Paris just aren’t enough to make him feel like he’s winning. So he buys her a ring and makes sure to propose when he knows Robin’s looking.
She hadn’t realised just how deep they both are, how impossible it is for them to climb out now, until this moment. It’s no longer a game. He’s gambling everything he has and still she refuses to let him back down. Instead she congratulates them loudly and offers straight away to help plan their wedding. Such a good bro as him should have an awesome wedding she announces, her hands on the zipper of his pants under the table. He smiles at her in a way that, had she not known better, she would have been sure was genuine and informs her that he wants it as romantic as possible now he’s found his one true love and has been inspired to be a better man.
He doesn’t know how everyone else hasn’t seen through it. Sure, they act the same around each other but surely the tension, that is now so great, between them is showing on the outside at least a little? They tease him of course, the man who vowed never to marry proposing on Valentine’s Day, and Ted’s been sulking that his future wife is still clearly doing everything she can to prolong her inevitable fate, but no one notices the strained smiles, how much it hurts to know that Nora, and the life he’s leading himself down, is not what he wants at all. But he’s always been good at lying and now that he needs someone to see through him and pull him to his senses they’ve been taken in just like those girls he used to seduce what seems like a lifetime ago.
He knocks on her door the night before the wedding, Kevin is out of town and she’s sure he knows it. One look at him and she knows what he wants. She knows it’s what she wants too. They don’t make it to the bed, they don’t even make it out of the front hall. He just fucks her against the wall, finally giving into those unseen touches in the bar which have been going on for months. It’s fast and dirty and perfect. They don’t kiss, they don’t even look at each other, but afterwards they hold each other, unwilling to leave. Because, no matter how hard they played, somehow they have still lost. They know that, come the morning, he’ll commit himself to another woman and live the life in the suburbs that he never wanted and she’ll smile and congratulate him and they’ll never talk of it again. But right now they are here, and it is happening, and they don’t want to let go just yet. Finally he untangles himself from her, dresses himself and turns to leave. She wants to shout at him as he opens the door, wants to run into his arms and tell him that she loves him, that she’s always loved him, and she’s so sorry and beg him not to leave her. But she doesn’t and he leaves.
He’s looking at himself in the mirror, at what he’s become, at what its cost him. He questions himself once again, why is he doing this? Is it really worth it? How has it gone so far? But Ted’s said he’s chosen the right tie, and maybe he is right. He might still see Robin’s face when he imagines his married life but he can’t back down. Not even now. He has to win. He won’t admit anything if she won’t. So he forces his mouth into a smile and goes out to meet his future bride.
She sits there, in the audience, her journalist’s smile plastered on her face. She hears the vicar read the words but most of them soar right over her, only certain ones sticking in her head husband, wife, love, cherish, until death do us part. She wants to scream, to cry, to object, to tell him he’s an idiot for going through with this, to tell him she’s an idiot for letting him, that she knows they could have a future and make it work this time. But she has to win. She will not be the first to confess. She stays silent.
He says “I do.”