On Christmas Eve they sat around drinking beer while playing drinking games. Beer pong had gone by mostly without incident, but drinking to an episode of The Office proved harder than they thought.
“I forget when we're supposed to drink,” Lily said, staring at the TV screen without blinking.
“Whenever someone says 'That's what she said',” Barney said. “I already told you. How hard is that for you people to remember?”
“Well, Marshall kept adding all those rules,” Ted pointed out. “We're supposed to drink three times any time alcohol is mentioned or whenever Pam looks at Jim or whenever Dwight mentions beets.”
“I can't keep track,” Robin said. She adjusted the red coaster so that it was placed in the middle of the table. Little wet circles were all over the brown table where they'd missed the coaster.
Marshall got up to turn off the television and they sat there for a moment in silence. They were at that stage of drunkenness where everything is fuzzy around the edges, but the world hasn't started to tilt on its axis quite yet.
“What a year,” Ted announced, picking up his beer and taking a large swig. “Robin went to Japan, Lily and Marshall got their own place, and I almost got married. And Barney? You stayed exactly the same. Congratulations on that.”
Barney smiled and lifted his own bottle, but Robin could tell Barney wasn't telling the entire truth. There was something there, the way his head tilted to the side, that indicated to Robin that something had changed in his life. But she didn't know what it was.
“You know what I want?” Barney said. Suddenly his face looked normal, mischievious. “Robin to do her accent.”
“I'm not going to do my accent,” Robin responded.
The others started in on their own version of a Canadian accent. Marshall and Ted weren't very good at it, but Lily managed a reasonable “aboot”, much to Robin's amusement.
“I learned that Canadians are afraid of the dark,” Marshall said.
“We're not afraid of the dark. Watch.” Robin got up. It took her a moment, because she was a bit unsturdy on her feet. The alcohol was getting to her brain now. She went over to the light switch and turned it to off. She heard three screams from somewhere in the room.
When she turned the switch back on, Lily and Marshall were holding each other tight, Barney was moaning, and Ted was gripping the side of the table, knuckles white.
“I think Americans are afraid of the dark.”
Barney laughed. “Well played, Scherbatsky. O Canada, indeed.” He raised his bottle in a toast again and Robin returned it with a big grin.
“I remember something else that happened this year,” Barney added after a pause. “We dated commando style. And Robin actually took him up on his offer.”
“Hey, when did this become Make Fun Of The Canadian night?” Robin moaned.
“When is it not Make Fun Of The Canadian night?” Marshall returned.
“Ha ha, very funny.” But Robin took it in stride. “If I recall correctly, Barney spent half the night locked out of his apartment totally in the nude because it only works on two out of three women.”
“Yeah it does,” Lily said drunkenly. “And we're proud to be part of those two.”
“You just like sex,” Barney pointed out.
“Yeah, you're one to talk.”
“You don't count because you'll only put out if it's Marshall stripping down.”
“See? It's no longer Make Fun Of The Canadian night,” Robin slurred.
“Sure it is, we just moved on temporarily.”
She giggled, and caught Barney's expression again out of the corner of her eye. What was it with him, anyway? He was looking at her with his head tilted to the side, warmth in those blue eyes of his. She'd never seen it before. It was as if he was hanging on to every word she said. Even when Ted tried to change the subject, she caught Barney glimpsing at her out of the corner of his eye. It made her nervous.
Eventually, Lily and Marshall bowed out. “It's time to see if the taxi we called has parked yet,” Marshall said, stretching.
“Yeah, it is,” Lily responded.
“Actually not a euphemism.”
“Oh.” She sounded disappointed. Her cheeks were flushed and Marshall had to hold her arm steady as she stood. “Is it Christmas Eve sex time yet?”
“Yeah, we'd best be going,” Marshall said, dragging her out of the apartment.
“Is that a euphemism?”
“Wow,” Ted said when the door closed behind him.
“Alcohol makes her horny, you know that,” Robin responded.
“Being alive makes her horny,” Barney said, stretching. “I'd actually best be going, too.”
Robin felt a strange feeling in her stomach. Was it disappointment? No. Why would she feel disappointed that Barney was leaving? He'd teased her all night, made lude comments as they watched The Office, and drank all the beer left in Ted's apartment. “Did you call a taxi?”
“Not yet. It's the Upper West Side. I'm going to stand outside and wave my arms and one will come along.”
“Walk you out?”
She realized, as she grabbed her coat, that Ted was staring at her curiously. But she didn't care. It was obviously the alcohol talking at this point. They waited for the elevator to come up to their floor in silence. When it dinged, she even followed him in.
It was silent for a moment, until Barney said, “Why are you following me out, Scherbatsky?”
“We're bro's. Also, it's Christmas. Bro's at Christmas.”
“You are drunk, Scherbatsky.” He laughed a little bit, stared at the floor, and stepped out of the elevator. Barney grabbed her elbow to steady her as she stumbled out, too.
Snow was falling gently outside. Robin shoved her hands in her pockets and bounced a little bit on her feet, trying to stay warm. A few minutes later, a taxi driver pulled up to the side of the road and waved at them frantically. He opened the door and came up to stand on the curb with them.
“Ranjit, hey!” Barney said. “They've got you working on Christmas Eve?”
“Yeah, but I do not mind. If I get to keep picking up pretty girls like Robin.”
Robin laughed a little, conscientious that she was blushing. She was relieved that it was so dark outside.
“Do you two need a ride?”
“He does,” Robin said, putting her hand on Barney's back. He felt warm.
“Well, come on then. My taxi is heated just for you.”
Barney slid in, gave a slight wave to Robin, and she watched the taxi until it turned the corner.
“Hey, Ranjit?” Barney asked, leaning forward in his seat. “Do you think 16 no's could ever turn into a yes?”
“Did that pretty girl say no to you?”
“How did you know?”
“I notice everything, young man.”
“Well? What do you think?”
“You know my wife?”
“I see her picture every time I hop into the cab.”
“I got 17 no's. It only took one yes.”
THE FIRST PICTURE ROBIN EVER KEPT
The first picture Robin ever kept was taken on New Year's Eve, 2008. They were determined to get that picture the moment the clock struck twelve. Whenever she looked at the picture, she remembered the laughing, the talking, and Lily trying very hard to keep the camera straight. It was still a little bit lop-sided and part of Ted's face hadn't made it into the frame. Everyone but Barney was looking straight ahead.
He was looking at the Robin in the picture.