Twilight Sparkle couldn’t remember a time when getting to sleep had been so difficult. The bunk was uncomfortable, and a constant low hum reverberating from the steel bulkheads annoyed her.
The pony hated every minute she had to spend in the belly of this wallowing metallic beast. She was beginning to think that whoever had designed the ship might have actually been a sadist. However, traveling aboard the uncomfortable, cramped, noisy vessel was an unfortunate necessity for Twilight and the forces she commanded. Even the most powerful of magic couldn’t have brought the Royal Equestrian Army across the seas to Zebrica.
A sudden thunder of artillery startled Twilight and she rolled off her bunk, landing with a thump on the floor. It was several tense moments before she realized the thunderous din wasn’t accompanied by the sounds of tearing metal and screaming wounded. The shells were outgoing, not incoming—the bone-shaking roar was simply the sound of the main guns firing.
The disheveled unicorn stood up. At least she was alone in her berth; nopony had been there to witness the Field Marshal tumble to the deck like a newborn foal. The pounding of the ship’s big guns continued.
With a slight mental effort, Twilight produced a soft glow from her horn and lit the interior of the small compartment. The space was rather dreary, with grey-painted walls and a confusion of pipes and wiring decorating the ceiling. A metal locker at the end of her bunk contained personal belongings and a door led to a small washroom.
Twilight glanced at the tangle of sheets that had been dragged to the floor during her surprised plunge off the bunk. A quick spell got them dusted off and stretched back over the mattress.
“That looks better,” the unicorn said to herself. Twilight was almost shocked that she was able to hear her own voice. She looked up, realizing that the sound of the guns had ceased, gone as if it had never been. The gunners had completed their ear-shattering work, and only a faint ringing in her ears assured the mare that the salvo had even happened.
The pony glanced in the mirror, making sure she looked presentable before cranking open the heavy metal hatch that sealed her compartment. Just down the passageway was the temporary command center the Equestrian Army had set up aboard the ship. It was not an ideal workspace, but all that was available until the ship reached Zebrica.
The room was cluttered with ponies. Most were soldiers, but there were a few civilian advisors. All were hard at work. The room looked marginally more appealing than Twilight’s quarters, if only because all the maps and documents lining the walls covered some of the uninspiring grey paint.
“Good morning Field Marshal Sparkle,” said one of the communications ponies.
“Hello Private Signal. Is it morning already?” Twilight asked. Maybe she’d been able to sleep a little after all.
The young soldier nodded. “Yes ma’am. The navy needed daylight to launch a bombardment of the dragon-occupied fortress.”
“Why wasn’t I informed when the attack would begin?” Twilight demanded.
“It was a navy operation, ma’am. I didn’t think it was important,” said the comms pony.
“Important? They’re supporting our operations, aren’t they?” Twilight said.
“Uh, yes ma’am,” said Signal, nodding vigorously. “I’ll do better next time.”
“Get me a situation report on that gunfire,” Twilight told him. He hurried away.
A unicorn stallion named Fancypants wandered over to where Twilight stood. Even in the midst of a war, the civilian consultant cut a dapper figure, wearing a waistcoat accessorized with a monocle and pocket watch. His blue mane and white pelt were both spotless despite the less-than-stellar wash facilities aboard the ship. It was not necessary for him to look so striking, but Twilight didn’t mind.
“Rough night?” asked Fancypants.
“How could you tell?” asked Twilight.
The stallion’s nearly eternal smile didn’t waver. He simply shrugged. “Everypony had a rough night. War disrupts many things.”
“It’s true,” said Twilight, nodding. She gave him a smile in return.
“Can I get you anything?” asked Fancypants. “Breakfast, perhaps?”
“Oh, no thank you,” answered the mare. She lowered her voice. “Between you and me, these sailors don’t know anything about decent food.”
Fancypants laughed politely. “Coffee, then?”
“That sounds good.” Seeing Fancypants start to step away, Twilight said, “I’ll get it myself. You’re a diplomat, not an errand runner.”
“Well, if you’re sure.” He smiled again.
Twilight said goodbye to him and stepped out of the command center, heading for the ship’s mess. Getting a cup of coffee and adding enough sugar to make Pinkie Pie cringe, she levitated the hot drink over to a table. There was not a separate mess for the army, only a partition. Twilight sat alone for a moment, thinking.
The Zebrican War was the acid test for the newly-created United Lands. Several nations, Equestria among them, had combined their forces in order to drive the dragons from their encroachment on zebra territory. Needing a leader she had direct access to, Princess Celestia had commissioned Twilight as a Field Marshal in the Equestrian Army.
While Twilight may have had leadership and organizational skills, there was no way she could run the army all by herself. That was where the team of advisors like Fancypants came in.
Twilight found her thoughts drifting to the pony himself. He was by far the most handsome government employee she had ever met. The two of them had talked at length a few times, and she’d found him to be quite intelligent and pleasant to speak to.
“Ma’am?” said Signal, snapping Twilight out of her contemplation.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I have the strike report here, ma’am,” the soldier reported. He laid it on the table. Twilight dismissed him and began reading.
The surprise attack had been a complete success. With the fortification out of the way, the amphibious landings could begin. Twilight finished her coffee and got up. She wanted to get started as quickly as possible.
Back in the command center, Twilight encountered General Sunny, who would be overseeing the assault. Despite his name, the General’s attitude was not very pleasant and Twilight suspected that if she didn’t outrank him he would be even more unlikable.
“Ma’am, we’re getting ready to go,” said Sunny. “Resistance is expected to be light, but this is still going to be bucking difficult. We don’t have all the equipment we need, and there are a lot of troops to land.”
“It’s regrettable, but we planned for this,” Twilight told him. “I have confidence in your ability to overcome, General.”
During the conversation, Fancypants had approached. He stood listening while the general reviewed the battle plan one last time with Twilight. Sunny shot the diplomat an annoyed look. “Something we can help you with?”
“I’d just like to speak with Field Marshal Sparkle when she gets a moment.” Fancypants smiled.
Sunny turned to Twilight. “If all goes well, we should have a forward operating base established ashore in a few hours.”
Twilight nodded. “I trust you to take care of it.”
The general strode away to oversee the landing operation. Twilight turned to the other stallion. Whether Fancypants had intended to or not, his appearance had probably gotten Sunny to cut the conversation short. For that, Twilight was grateful. “What would you like to talk about?” she asked.
“It’s actually about getting the base set up,” Fancypants answered. “I hope everything is going according to plan.”
Twilight nodded, trying to keep her eyes from lingering on the handsome stallion for too long. “If everything works out, you and the rest of the diplomacy team will be landing tomorrow after the army has secured the area.”
Fancypants nodded and smiled. “Thank you, Field Marshal. I’ll leave you alone now.”
“You can stay in the command center if you want,” Twilight told him. “Mostly it’ll be just waiting and watching while the landing force takes care of things.”
The stallion shrugged. “If you’re quite sure.”
True to Twilight’s word, very little direct involvement from her was required. The ponies working in the control center gave off a nervous energy that could practically be felt in the air, but all of them worked hard at their given tasks. It was the first time United Lands forces had attempted to retake dragon-held territory, and suspense hung heavy as the landing unfolded.
Twilight did her best to stay cool. Fancypants maintained his position beside her, his face the very definition of calm composure. Taking inspiration from him, she did her best to look confident.
It seemed like a very long wait. Status reports were received infrequently, not fast enough for Twilight’s liking. It was not until Private Signal brought her one final message that she relaxed.
“Ma’am, I have a communication from General Sunny,” said Signal. “He says, ‘Naval bombardment effective at suppressing enemy activity in the area. Landing easier than expected. Beachhead secure. Mission accomplished.’.”
A cheer went up from the ponies in the command center. Twilight restrained herself from join them, but felt an involuntary smile creep onto her face.
“Congratulations on the first allied victory of the war,” said Fancypants, giving her his trademark smile.
“I’ve still got a lot to take care of,” said Twilight. As if to remind her of one specific thing she needed to do, her stomach growled.
Fancypants cocked an ear at the noise. “Other than for coffee, have you been to the mess all day?”
“I guess not,” Twilight admitted. “Would you care to accompany me?”
“I most certainly would,” he replied.
The two of them went down the passageway together. Twilight glanced at Fancypants, remembering when they’d first met, back before the whole crazy war had started. He’d complimented her dress at a garden party in Canterlot. It was more than a simple remark, though. His word had carried so much weight, that mares all over the city were soon wearing the style. Twilight had been surprised and flattered. She thought of him as a genuinely decent stallion.
In the mess, Fancypants gestured for Twilight to have a seat. “What can I get for you?”
“Something edible,” replied Twilight.
He smiled. “I’ll see what sort of deal I can work out with the cooks.”
Twilight found a table, and a few minutes later Fancypants came over with two trays. The food looked better than expected. Twilight doubted it was because Fancypants was serving it to her, but that certainly helped.
“Thank you,” said Twilight.
Fancypants nodded, pausing to take a sip of his beverage. “It was no trouble. Once we leave the ship tomorrow, will I see you again?” He looked away from Twilight, instead concentrating on his food. It gave the mare time to think about her reply.
“I don’t think we’ll be too far apart,” said Twilight. She hesitated before asking, “Do you enjoy working with me that much?”
“I like you,” he responded, glancing at her. It wasn’t a direct answer to her question, and Twilight sensed that it wasn’t supposed to be.
“I like you, too,” she responded. Fancypants looked up, holding her gaze for a moment. Both glanced around furtively, but nopony else was within earshot.
“So how has your day been?” asked Fancypants. Twilight knew that he had been there most of the time, but decided it was nice to talk about it. Since she’d become a field marshal, there had been very few ponies around with whom she could converse casually.
“Running an army is just a little stressful,” said Twilight. It was a weak joke, but Fancypants laughed.
“Do tell,” he said. “How do you relax?”
“It’s nice just being with somepony who is outside the regulations and doesn’t have to call me ‘ma’am’ all the time,” Twilight said.
“Surely it can’t be that simple?” asked Fancypants. The corners of his mouth had been turned up slightly during the whole conversation, but now he broke into a real smile.
“Well, I have a few other ways to handle stress,” said Twilight. She paused for a moment, knowing what she said next might change the conversation completely. “Would you like to know more?”
Fancypants considered that for a moment and smiled. “It sounds intriguing.”
Twilight’s heart rate picked up. She’d never propositioned a stallion before. Fancypants seemed to know exactly what her intentions were. He had had opportunities to shift the conversation to something else, but he hadn’t. Did he want this as much as she did? More? She hoped she wasn’t overanalyzing.
“Do you mind coming to my quarters?” she asked, nearly breathless.
“I’d be delighted.” Fancypants met her gaze, enthusiasm obvious on his face.
The two of them finished the rest their meal quickly. After returning the trays, they walked back down the passageway. Private Signal intercepted Twilight near the command center. “Ma’am, the ship will be holding live-fire gunnery drills shortly.”
“Thank you for telling me,” said Twilight. “Mr. Fancypants and I will be having a meeting now. Please don’t disturb us.”
“Yes ma’am.” With a polite nod, Signal walked away. Twilight cranked open the hatch to her compartment and invited Fancypants inside.
The weighty metal hatch shut with a clang and Twilight secured it. She turned and sat down softly on her bed. The sheets were still tucked in neatly. Fancypants sat down beside her.
“So what are these other methods of relaxing you mentioned?” the stallion asked.
“It might be better if I show you, rather than tell,” said Twilight. She shifted her position slightly to brush against him.
Fancypants leaned closer. He hadn’t shown any reluctance to Twilight’s advances so far, and now quietly bypassed his last chance to divert the situation. Their faces were very close now, their eyes locked together. Twilight got the feeling she would remember this moment for a very long time.
Their lips met gently. The mare decided that she rather liked the touch, and pressed a little harder. She angled her head, her horn brushing lightly against his.
Fancypants traced his hooves across Twilight’s shoulders and down her back. She responded in kind and helped him with the buttons on his jacket as their movements began to pick up pace. She assured herself that they would not be overheard behind the heavy metal bulkheads of the berth. It was clear to her how far they both wanted to take this.
Fancypants, a true gentlecolt, made sure to give at least as well as he received. Twilight may have been relatively inexperienced, but she made up for it with enthusiasm. The two of them carried on, building towards something incredible.
Twilight gasped in pleasure as artillery cannons began firing in the background. All the tension in her body suddenly released. She sighed contentedly as Fancypants helped her lie back on the bed. After a few moments, Twilight said, “I feel relaxed now.”
He smiled and adjusted his monocle. “My pleasure.”
“You didn’t take that out?” Twilight asked, indicating the eyepiece.
“All the better to examine your methods, my dear,” he replied with a smile. Fancypants began making himself presentable. There was no need to give anypony a clue as to what had transpired.
“It’s a good thing you’re a civilian,” murmured Twilight. “This would be a serious charge of fraternization otherwise. As it is, it’s just frowned upon.”
“Don’t think about that,” he told her. “You’re supposed to be relaxed.”
Twilight smiled, somewhat sadly. “Still, I don’t know how soon we can do this again. Somepony might get suspicious.”
Fancypants nodded. “I believe that’s for the best, unfortunately. I’m quite interested in meeting again someday.”
Twilight sat up from the bed, the sheets now rumpled. She pulled him in for one last kiss. They held it for a few seconds.
“Thanks,” she whispered as their lips parted.
Fancypants gave her one last smile before opening the door. He stepped out and closed it behind him, standing in the passageway for a moment to collect himself.
His job description certainly did not include instructions to bed Twilight Sparkle. Still, if that’s what it took to keep her from cracking under the stress of leadership, he couldn’t say no. Perhaps it was even his duty. Fancypants had never been happier to serve his country. It was his… pleasure. The stallion straightened his tie and walked away, smiling to himself.
This is my first attempt at shipping.
I must thank Fernin for putting up with the editing duties of this stupid sexy story.
Pardon me, I have to go write something manly to make up for it.
If you'd like to read a story with more battleship and less battleshipping, try the original Battleships are Magic