Ch 2. Return of the Jacket
Marshall and Lily exchanged looks as Ted strolled into the pub and ambled over to the group. The three settled at their usual booth as Barney continued to seethe and grumble while staring out the window. Ted shot an odd look at Barney before regarding Marshall and Lily.
“What’s with him?”
“He’s moaning over a jacket.”
Marshall, who had drifted into thought, scratched his head before he widened his eyes in recognition. Ted glanced at Lily with great curiosity.
“A jacket?” Ted asked.
Marshall shook his head as he glanced at Ted.
“No, not A jacket, THEE jacket,” he clarified.
Ted blinked with recognition before shining his shock.
“Seriously? Jacket is in town?”
Marshall nodded. “And apparently he struck as fast as lightning as soon as he got here.”
Ted shook his head in wonder.
“How does he always know where Barney is?”
Lily blew out a breath in exasperation as the guys tuned her out.
“WHO IS JACKET?!”
Barney slowly wandered over to the table and sat down next to Ted. He muttered very softly under his breath as he closed his eyes for a long minute. He heaved several deep breaths before he opened his eyes. He shifted into his calm, cool manner as the three looked at him. Lily frowned deeply.
“Somebody better tell me who Jacket is before I bust someone’s head open!” she growled.
Barney flashed back into his disgruntled frown.
“Jacket,” he grunted.
Lily flared with fury as she yanked Barney by his tie and held a steak knife to it.
“Fess up now or the tie gets it! WHO – IS – JACKET?!”
Barney looked off as his mind flourished in a mess of memories. He frowned deeply as his eye ticked.
“The bane of my existence,” he groaned.
Lily released her grip on Barney as his eye ticked rapidly. He settled back in his seat as his face tightened with hatred.
“The Vader to my Obi-Wan,” he added.
Lily crinkled her brows.
“Oh, so he’s an old friend of yours that turned…..bad?”
Barney scoffed deeply as he smoothed out the wrinkles in his tie.
“Hardly,” he protested. “Jacket is no friend of mine, he’s not even human in those deplorable fuh- fuh- fuh…..fuh-lannnn-nnn-llllll….”
Barney shuddered for a long minute as he displayed a queasy look. Lily flushed out an exasperated sigh. Marshall waved a hand and glanced at Lily.
“Jacket is who Barney would describe as…legen….”
He glanced at Ted who hitched his index finger up.
“Wait for it…….” Ted sang.
Marshall and Ted looked up at the ceiling for a minute as Barney gasped in disgust.
“Dary!” Ted and Marshall said in unison.
“Traitors,” Barney barked.
Barney shifted in his seat before he stumbled out of the booth. He adjusted his tie, scoffed before pivoting and storming out of the pub. Marshall and Ted eyed him before chuckling.
“Okay, still in the head busting mode,” Lily warned.
“Jacket is one of Barney’s biggest rivals,” Marshall explained.
“Actually, he is THEE biggest rival of Barney’s in all things related to bedding an assortment of random hotties,” Ted pointed.
Lily blinked with disgust before she rolled her eyes.
“So Barney’s moaning and groaning over some guy in a jacket who’s going to narrow his chances of grossly sleeping with a bevy of dumb bar girls?”
“There’s a deeper history between Barney and Jacket,” Ted noted. “A couple years ago, Barney was in Chicago for some business conference, stops into this bar one night and it’s ladies aplenty, so being Barney he’s dishing out the suit magnetism, has this girl in his sights, makes his way over, about to move in when....”
Marshall whistled and made a crashing motion with his hand.
“Jacket comes strutting into the bar and snags the girl right from under him,” Marshall added.
“In under a minute,” Ted replied. “To this day Barney swears the girl was a non-casualty claiming she had some weird tick and there were plenty of other ladies around so it didn’t bother him, but you could tell it did.”
Marshall flashed a knowing look and scoffed, “Yeah, it so did.”
Ted nodded in acknowledgment as he continued.
“So a little while later, he sets his sights on another girl, is about to move in when...”
Marshall made the crashing motion again with his hand, “Jacket strikes again and WHOOSH!”
“So the whole night, it was like a bait and switch....”
“More like bait and steal,” Marshall pointed.
Ted chomped on his fry and flashed an amused grin.
“Right, anyway, every time Barney tried to make the play, Jacket kept stealing the base.”
Lily rolled her eyes. “So he had a bad night, I still don’t get why he was stewing in his suit.”
Marshall and Ted exchanged amused looks.
“Well, it wasn’t just one bad night,” Ted imparted. “About a year later, Barney was at another business conference in Michigan, stops into another bar where it happened to be ladies night, so the guy to girl ratio was in his favor, so off he goes into the playground picking out whomever his heart desired, when....”
“Jacket showed up,” Lily assessed.
“BIG TIME,” Marshall said.
“So the same thing went on, Barney would set his eyes on a girl and Jacket would make the play.”
Ted shook his head.
“Then, last year, at another conference in Miami, Barney hit the bar scene thinking, there is no way Jacket would show up when....”
Lily made a crashing motion with her hand. “Like lightning.”
Marshall and Ted nodded.
“And the same thing went on there too,” Ted remarked. “Which still begs the question, how does he always know where Barney is?”
All three looked off, thinking for a minute.
“Well, maybe he won’t be town in long,” Lily replied.
“A part of me hopes he won’t and another part of me hopes he will because to tell you the truth, I’d like to meet the notorious jacket in person,” Ted remarked. “I mean, just for sake of knowing what his name is. That big mystery would be resolved after all these years.”
Lily blinked in surprise. “You mean you don’t even know WHO he is?”
“No, Barney just calls him the Jacket,” Marshall answered.
“Or the Heathen of Fashion,” Ted added.
“Hmm, I’m kind of curious now,” Lily admitted. “No offense to Barney but, you can’t call someone just Jacket and expect people to not be. I mean, sounds like a man of mystery to me.”
The next evening, Barney heaved a breath as he strolled into the pub in his black Dolce and Gabbana suit with an insanely gorgeous tie and matching shirt. He looked around at the thick crowds of people and let out a sigh of relief when he didn’t see Jacket lurking in the dark corners, also known as - his home.
Barney drew a smug smile as he drifted into the pub and started scoping out his potential bedmates for the evening. There was a wickedly gorgeous brunette in a tight green knit sweater that she filled out three fold, a dirty blonde in a black dress with a ‘come hither’ look permanently knitted on her golden tanned face and a luscious auburn haired girl in a snug pair of jeans flaunting her nice little booty as she leaned against the bar.
“Hmm, what do I feel like tonight?”
Barney shifted his eyes over the three girls until he honed in on the dirty blonde. She took notice and smiled. Barney flashed a satisfied smile as he sauntered through a crowd and headed toward her, drumming up an opening line. When he spilled out of the crowd, his eyes widened with dread when Jacket smirked at him before slipping up beside the dirty blonde and viciously making his play. Barney gasped as the dirty blonde lit up with excitement and intense interest.
“No, not the bait and steal.....not again.”
When Jacket met his eyes, Barney cleared his throat and straightened his tie. He pooled his confidence back in and settled his sights on Miss Green Sweater. After a minute, her eyes shifted to meet his and she beamed a shy smile. Barney pivoted toward her, weaving through a crowd. When he emerged from the crowd, he gasped out loud. There was Jacket, seated across from Miss Green Sweater, that smarmy smile on his face, reeking of that Salvation Army musk.
Barney shuddered deeply as Jacket met his eyes and chuckled. Barney cleared his throat again as he struggled to maintain his confidence.
Dean stared at him for a long minute before Barney shifted his eyes away. Dean followed Stencil’s line of sights and chuckled low under his breath.
Barney noticed snug jeans at the bar and felt something unsettling in his stomach. When he glanced at Jacket sitting with Miss Green Sweater, he gulped.
Dean slipped away from Miss Green Sweater and ambled up to bar, settling right next to Snug Jeans.
Barney flared fury through his nostrils as he clenched his jaw.
“Jacket,” he grunted. “I hate the jacket.”
Barney watched in resentment as Jacket flirted shamelessly with Snug Jeans right in front of his face.
A minute later, Dean sauntered through a crowd and walked over to Barney.
Barney glared at Jacket who acknowledged a few girls tossing flirtatious smiles at him as they walked by.
“What’s the matter Stencil, that stuffy suit of yours got your tongue?” Dean asked with a smug smile.
Barney felt his throat tightening with animosity as a pair of brunettes threw suggestive smiles at Jacket, completely oblivious to the expensive, charming suit in the bar. Barney sunk with disappointment as he felt his confidence wavering.
“Hhh-how do you always know where I am?” he asked shakily.
Dean took a long sip of his beer as more ladies caught his eye. He fished through a pocket inside his jacket and flashed a photograph.
Barney blinked when he saw himself at the ball park flaunting a sign with his phone number.
“You want to hide from me Stencil, don’t go on national friggin’ television,” Dean remarked, widening his smug smile. “And definitely don’t put your damn address on the door stall of the staff ladies room in every strip club this side of the coast.”
Dean shook his head in wide amusement.
“Because you never know if those suits of yours could go MISSING.”
Barney inhaled a deep gasp as his eyes widened.
“What did you do?”
Dean widened his smug smile even more as he simply sipped his beer.
“What did you do? Why would you hurt such defenseless, gorgeous beauties? Why?”
Barney sniffed as Dean shrugged.
Barney balked loudly.
“How could you?”
“You want to play twenty questions or do you want to save those stupid suits of yours from the fun little bonfire on the roof?”
Barney widened his eyes in horror. “You didn’t.”
“Maybe, maybe not.”
Barney stared at the ruthless, musky Jacket and gasped.
“Better hurry Stencil, it’s pretty windy outside, could kick the flames up higher, ya know?”
Barney blinked with disbelief as his heart throbbed with pain. He bolted through the crowd and darted out of the pub, barreling into Marshall, Lily and Ted on the way.
“Hey Bar...” Marshall said.
Barney gripped Marshall by the shoulders in a panic.
“NO TIME! Call the police!”
“What? Why? What happened?” Lily asked.
“Jacket,” Barney grunted.
Marshall, Lily and Ted watched Barney as he frantically ran down the street.
“Hold on my beauties! I’m on my way! Hold on!” Barney sniffed.
Back in the pub, Dean caught a glance of Stencil as he ran passed the window in a panic. He folded over and roared with laughter.
“Life is just not as much fun without Stencil,” he said.
Dean paused in his amusement as Snug Jeans and Green Sweater lingered by the bar.
“I love New York,” he cheered softly before heading back to the bar.