Love Was Too PlebeianFandom: How I Met Your Mother/PsychRating:
Mostly gen, with Barney Stinson/Shawn Spencer undertones, because WHAT UP!
Also spoilers for HIMYM series 3 (including emotional/relationship revelations contained therein.) Title from "Cry Me a River" by Ella Fitzgerald. Summary: Barney and Zane walked through the door; a vision in Armani. Grey suits, green ties, synchronised grins and finger guns at nearby girls.
Kids, during my life in New York I've met a lot of strange and brilliant people. Some are crazy. Some wish they were crazy. Others defy simple two-syllable description. The guy I want to talk to you about today was all three.
It was Spring 2005 and it had been uncommonly hot and humid. Most people were walking around in short shorts, loose shirts, and sandals, talking about how, if it was hot then, it was sure to get even hotter over the Summer. Your Uncle Barney, on the other hand, persisted in wearing designer suits, and as per usual, no amount of logical reasoning would convince him otherwise. In order to alleviate what must have been sweltering agony, Barney carried around three battery powered fans, five ice packs secured in strategic locations about his body, and one copy of Bombproof Your Horse
--- I'm still not entirely sure what that last one was for, exactly, although I do know it scored Barney at least two dates.
Deciding he'd had enough of the heat, Barney went for an 'international business meeting' in Seattle for a week and came back with a new friend. This was totally normal for Barney; he once came back from a weekend away in Rhode Island with triplets. The only difference was, this new friend was another guy.
You have to understand --- the only guy friends Barney had at that time were me, Marshall, and his brother James, and even then, we were considered his 'projects'. Barney making friends with anyone; anyone he didn't want to sleep with, was so unheard of, not one of us managed to close our mouths for at least five, maybe nine seconds.
There we were, sitting at MacLarens together --- we may or may not have been playing an extended version of Quote-o-poly (first one to stall on a movie or lyric quote reusing the last word from the previous quote buys a round) --- and in walked Barney with the person I would later come to know as Zane E. Spentagon.
Barney and Zane walked through the door; a vision in Armani. Grey suits, green ties, synchronised grins and finger guns at nearby girls. Zane was shorter, stockier than Barney, brown-haired where Barney was blond, but mannerisms-wise, they could have been twins. It was like watching some weird performance art, or like Barney had a mirror attached to his side, or like Barney was really Multiple Man.
Barney went to the bar, his doppelganger sat down at our table and I don't think a word was said until this guy leaned forward, shook Lily's hand and said, "Hi, I'm Zane E. Spentagon, and you must be Lily, Marshall, and Ted. Barney's told me all about you."
It was a bit of an anticlimax. I had been expecting him to use one of Barney's classic lines like, 'I don't have a library card, but do you mind if I check you out?' Or to start speaking in another language, explaining he was the Barney from Puerto Rico in fractured English, that, in fact, there was a Barney in every major continent of the world. Or to jump up onto the table and start lap dancing.
"He hasn't told us anything about you," Marshall replied, shaking Zane's hand with obvious trepidation.
It was my turn to shake Zane's hand. "Really," I confirmed.
"Man, we've been blog-buddies for a month and a half now. I thought he would have at least said something.
It didn't even have to be a big thing, just, 'hey, that Zane, wow he's a crazy kid with peachy keen opportunities. That boy'll go far.' Or maybe, 'so Zane just saved the world again today, I know, right? Awesome!' But nothing, seriously?"
Lily sounded unimpressed. "A month and a half? Is that all?"
"What do you mean, 'is that all'? On the internet that's like fifteen years worth of hardcore friendship. Whole epic sagas have been formed and waged and won within a week on the internet."
I looked at Zane, trying to view him objectively, but I was too freaked out by the fact he had a pouty frown on his face that was the very picture of Barney after he'd been denied a little wingman action.
I tried to change the subject, because I had been party to a long 'someone said something wrong on the internet' conversation with Barney once and didn't really want a sequel. "So, Zane, what do you do?"
"I'm a model."
Marshall raised an eyebrow. "No offence, bro, but you don't exactly look like a model."
Zane threw his leg up onto the table, pulled up his pants leg and pointed. "A foot and ankle model for Apollo Agency. I'm an honourary ambassador for the year of the foot. I've been called Godlike for my elegant bone structure and flawless skin."
I didn't believe him, but I knew I had to play along. "That's awesome."
"I know. But I'm thinking of leaving. I miss Gus. I miss being able to skateboard without worrying I'm jeopardising my career."
At that point, Barney came back with a pitcher of beer and a manic grin. "You've all met Zane, yeah? Awesome, right?"
Zane nodded along. "You know it. I've won awards for my awesomitude."
They gave little fist bumps. It was kind of sickening.
"So Lily, tell me about how you and Marshall met. Was it love at first sight?"
We spent the first hour of the night talking. Zane told us all about his previous job working as a taste-tester for Ben & Jerry's --- "My suggestion? Patchouli. You wait. It'll be a thing," --- and then Barney convinced me to go to a club with them as Marshall and Lily went home. Looking back on it, I'm not sure how.
It was Barney's favourite club. I wasn't so fond. Zane seemed to like it, his eyes roaming over every small detail. We made our way towards the bar, me feeling like the extra tangy filling between two smoothly suited up halves of a cookie. There were women all around; some of them hot, some of them not, others who were clearly taken.
"Do you really need me here?" I asked, because by that stage I was already feeling out of my depth. "You already have a wingman."
"Ted, I have two wings
. Of course I need you."
Zane started speaking. "Oh, oh, five o'clock, three young chickitas --- one whom I'm guessing is a massage therapist by the chunkiness of her knuckles and use of posture, another who is obviously undergoing some kind of personal crisis - that new haircut is classic appearance rebound, and the last who's shy and retiring on the outside, a wildcat on the inside. I'm having cardio-vascular palpitations the likes of which I haven't experienced since I discovered Jon Cryer finally had a lead role in a successful show. I call dibs on the wildcat."
"I want the massage therapist!"
"I guess that leaves me with rebound girl. Why do I always get rebound girl?"
"You're nice," Barney said. "Nice guys always do well with rebounds. They give them the attention they crave but remain suitably non-threatening."
Zane was already walking towards the three women, but halfway there he seemed to go into a fit. His arms and legs shook, he began making weird robotic-like sounds, everyone around looked on in horror and there were shouts of people asking someone to call an ambulance.
"Malfunction, malfunction," Zane said in a monotone, "does not compute. Danger, Will Robinson. There must be a logical paradox at work."
I stared on, mesmerised, along with everyone else.
"There are three good-looking single females and not one person has bought them a drink. This is a contradiction of immense proportions. Self destruction is imminent."
"No, no! I can't allow that to happen," Barney cried, flinging himself forward. "Ladies, what are you having? I'll buy you anything."
The girl that Zane said he was interested in started giggling. Through her giggles she asked for a champagne. And the night was away.
Rebound girl was actually called Sarah and she was great. She worked as a secretary for Harrison and Ford, an up-and-coming law firm, and I told her a little about Marshall. Meanwhile, I overheard Barney telling his date, Sylvia, that 83% of all successful marriages began with the couple meeting in a club. Zane was on the dancefloor, tangoing, and seemed to be having an excellent time.
That night, Barney left with Sylvia, and I got Sarah's phone number. Zane, on the other hand, had a few quiet words with his chosen date and waved goodbye with a sweetly soft smile. I admired his commitment to the performance. He carried it on right up until we got outside my apartment building.
"Where are you staying, Zane?"
"Didn't Barney ask you? He said it would be okay if I crashed on your couch. If it's not okay, then it's perfectly fine, I'll go and find a hostel to stay in, or, I'm pretty sure I saw a refrigerator box in one of the alleys we passed, hopefully it won't be occupied, I'll just---"
I cut in. "It's okay, you can stay with us."
The next few days were a little bizarre. I almost felt like I was in a comedy of errors where the two protagonists were trying to seduce one another by seducing everyone around them. It wasn't one-upmanship so much as joyous exhibition. Barney would regale us with stories of his conquests, and Zane would listen, enraptured. Zane would perform some ridiculous stunt, and Barney would watch, thrilled. The rest of us were just spectators in their show.
Five nights later we were out on the town again. I hate to admit it, but Zane was a much better wingman than I could ever be. He always seemed to be able to size up the best targets. He slid down the bar, gestured towards Barney and said, "have you met Barnabus Stinson the second? This guy is amazing. A child prodigy who learned to become a surgeon at sixteen; saving lives, rescuing kittens. Like Doogie Howser, only nine times cooler, because he can speak Portuguese."
I watched in awe. After that, he found me a skydiving instructor called Jennifer and I didn't pay him much attention. Barney left with his newly found date, but Zane left with me.
"I'm almost getting disappointed in you," Barney said the next day. "You don't seal the deal, what up?"
"I'm only gonna be here another couple of days," Zane returned, taking a sip of beer. I thought at the time that he looked awkward.
"Once a girl goes Spentagon, she never lasts long. I do things with my tongue that would make Gene Simmons blush, if you know what I mean. I make the girls I'm with shout it out loud, give them sweet pain, make them remember every aspect of tomorrow and tonight, to the point where they think heaven's on fire. It'd be cruel to subject one girl to that much awesome only to rip it away again."
"I do that all the time."
"Yeah, but Barney, that's because you're legen-waitforitbecausei'maboutosaylondon-D
ARY. I'm just one guy trying to make his own luck in the world."
"You, Sir, are a God amongst men. True fact."
Zane's cellphone rang and he signed apologetically that he had to go. He got into a long and involved conversation that didn't look like it was going very well.
Shortly after that, he announced that he'd had fun in New York, but that his services were needed back in Seattle.
He left with hugs, a few tears, and a framed copy of Bombproof Your Horse
. Later, Barney told me that after that one magical week, Zane disappeared off the face of the internet, and seemingly the earth. Barney was heartbroken in a way that I don't think anyone wanted to analyse and I wondered just how far his narcissism went.
The thing is, I had spent so much time concentrating on Barney and Zane's similarities, I hadn't noticed all the ways in which they were different. For example, unlike Barney, Zane actually seemed to believe in love. His mission in life wasn't to sleep with as many women as he could, but to have a great time and seriously awesome hair. He wanted people to like him in the long run, not just for one day. I know this statement sounds like me being unfair, but you have to remember the context; a time before Barney knew any women who weren't your Aunt Lily whom he respected and liked for their own personality --- Zane was Barney with a soul.
This revelation brings me to three years later; Winter 2008. I didn't know it at the time, but Barney was harbouring a deep and unyielding affection for Robin. He'd begun to question his origins and actions, seriously thinking about why he acted the way he did and whether or not he was as awesome as he'd always claimed. And whilst he hadn't entirely stopped being the Barney we all knew and loved, he had --- well, I guess you could say he'd mellowed out. He was more like the Uncle Barney you know and love.
There'd been a murder that was linked with another one all the way in Santa Barbara in a nearby apartment building. Back out on the streets but now dealing with real news, Robin was reporting on the horrific crime and in the background of the shot, I saw Zane, hands on his forehead, concentrating. At least, I thought it was Zane. He wasn't wearing a suit and he had the early growth of a beard, but he had the same angular features, too-large nose, light eyes. However, Robin introduced him as Shawn and said he was a psychic detective with the SBPD. She said it full of scepticism but he responded seriously.
"That's right, Miss Scherbatsky. I'm here to solve these murders. I'm not a hero, but I do what I can when I can."
I was more than a little curious, so I ran down to the building to catch up with Robin and ask her about this guy, but before I could go up the steps, I was pulled into an alley. I was going to yell, but I came to realise it was Zane. Or Shawn. Or whoever he was.
"Zane! Or Shawn! Or whoever you are!"
"It's Shawn. Zane E. Spentagon was just my online handle."
"What happened to you, man? You came and then you just vanished. Barney's been googling you for years."
Shawn frowned at me. "I already told you."
"What? No you didn't. I'd remember. You left and then we never saw you again."
And then Shawn proceeded to tell me about a night I've already described to you, commonly referred to as The Pineapple Incident. When I told you that story, I told it to you as I've grown accustomed to telling it in the presence of Uncle Barney, but the truth is, I did learn how I got that pineapple. And it went a little something like this:
In between going back to the bar for the second time and meeting Trudy, I had run into Shawn. I'd asked him about why he'd left so suddenly and he told me about how spending time with Barney had revealed to him all of the ways in which he was failing at what he wanted to be. In order to beg for my silence, he'd given me the delicious pineapple that would perplex and haunt me for years.
"See, I liked
Barney," Shawn said, rubbing the back of his neck and leaning against the wall of the alley. "But he uses people, you know? And I was starting to realise I was the same way. It took a while, but I came to figure out that I didn't want that anymore. I didn't want to hop from city to city, never really trying, only working to please myself. There's only so much hedonism you can take before you have to step back and do the noble self-sacrifice thing."
"So you became a psychic detective. Of course."
"Well, first I had some different jobs that helped other people. Teacher, volunteer co-ordinator. Things that weren't so Shawncentric. But, yeah, I mean, you have a skill, you have to use it."
"If you're so psychic, tell me something about me. Something you shouldn't know."
Shawn lay his hands on my shoulders and then went into spasms, his eyelids flickering up and down rapidly. He stopped after about two minutes.
"You're gonna get married soon. It's been your life's only real ambition for the past five years and you're finally planning it with another person. And I... I don't know why the spirit world is insisting I say this, but you had a pogo accident when you were seven that landed you in hospital and meant you had to get a metal rod inserted into your jaw."
I gaped at him, not knowing what to say. He was right, in every particular.
"I was thinking about visiting MacLarens," Shawn said, staring intently.
"I think Barney would like that," I replied.
And he did. You must have seen one of those old movies where the two lovers reunite and run towards each other in slow motion, arms outstretched? This was exactly like that. Except, instead of tangling into each other's arms, they bounced chests and made low, guttural manly noises, before high-fiving and giggling like schoolgirls.
Shawn never did tell Barney his real name. And he never told Barney why he cut contact. But they had another evening of being each other's wingmen and I think that was the closure they both needed.
"Have you met Barney? Mild-mannered by day, evil genius by night, he will stop your heart with his freeze-ray and then melt you right down for a soft, sensual loving you'll never forget."
Part of me wished that Shawn would stay and remain as a good influence on Barney, but that was because I didn't yet know what was in store. Shawn explained that he had a life in Santa Barbara, a partner he had to return to, and that was enough of an excuse. Before he left, he gave Barney a mix CD. I don't think anyone really understood why it contained songs like "Jessie's Girl", "What'd I Say" or "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me", but Barney seemed to appreciate it all the same.