Maybe Barrier and I will both be up and gone before Ams gets up? Tail was attempting to distract herself from the burning muscles in her legs and back with various thoughts, to little avail. Every chain led to the inevitable teasing from her roommate and the potentially massive fallout from sharing a roof with her commanding officer.
Bucking Trigger. Tail swallowed the knot forming in her throat as she reached for the latch of her far-more-familiar, and less shocking home. This whole situation is totally bucked… Tail eased the door open as quietly as she could, not eager at the prospect of waking her roommate for the second time that night—or was it morning now?
“I’ll kill you,” Barrier mumbled weakly from the mare’s back, drawing her wide-eyed, undirected gaze. “Griffin piece of shit… Killed ‘em… Revenge…” Barrier relapsed into his silent slumber after his hooves slightly flexed.
A sigh of two reliefs dribbled from Tail after she climbed the steps from the tile landing. “At least you weren’t talking about me, and thank Luna she’s asleep.” The pegasus praised the powers that delivered her an empty living room. She crept towards the couch and was more than ready to deposit the lump of a stallion presently using her for a bed.
“Asleep, huh?” a voice quipped from the entrance to the hallway.
Tail’s head jerked to the side, and her expression immediately fell.
“You wanted me to miss out on this, Hun? I’m hurt. I wouldn’t want to miss this one for the world.” A grin began to work its way onto her muzzle. “Honestly, I can’t turn my back on you for two seconds, can I? I do, and you end up with your commanding officer riding yours all the way home.”
“It wasn’t my fault!” Tail quickly argued. “He’s got magical enchantments all over his house! I couldn’t take him to the castle. Buck knows how that would have gone down.”
Amora just chuckled. “I always knew you were into unicorns, but dragging in a passed out, drunk C.O.? You are a bold little filly, aren’t you?”
“Sh-shut up!” Tail could feel the heat rushing to her face as she continued to try and justify herself. “Trigger made us do the C.O. Special thing, and he passed out.”
Amora’s grin faded somewhat. “You met Trigger? As in Colonel Trigger—the Colonel Trigger?”
“Wait... He’s a colonel?” Tail briefly pondered the point and carefully rolled the stallion onto the couch. “I guess that makes sense, and yes, I did. Barrier introduced me, so I guess that means some good things do come from bolting out of the apartment after having weird dreams.”
“So…” Amora’s smirk returned in full force. “You had weird dreams—dreams that clearly involved your captain—then left in the middle of the night to meet up with said commanding officer? And then, after deciding to go to Trigger’s bar with him, you thought it was a good idea to bring him home despite his intoxicated state?”
Tail’s ears flattened to the back of her skull. “Well, when you say it like that.”
“Oh, the nurses are gonna love this!”
The pegasus squeaked and threw her foreleg in Amora’s direction. “No! No! You can’t. Seriously, threatening me with tattling twice in a night? That’s not creative at all. C’mon Ams, we have standards—”
Tail squeaked again as Barrier’s forelegs wrapped around her barrel. He lifted her with ease and yanked the mare onto the couch with a bearhug that nearly drove the wind from her lungs. “Less noise, quiet pillows,” the captain grumbled before nestling into Tail’s mane.
“Help me,” Tail blurted while Amora’s laughter filled the room.
“I stand corrected. The nurses are going to love this, and there is no way I’m helping you out of it. It’s beyond priceless. Just think of the stories you can tell your future foals.”
“Amora!” the mare pleaded after Barrier’s teeth grazed her ear and drove a fresh heat to her muzzle. “He’s nibbling me.”
“I can see that, and I’m eating up every second of it. Get it? Eating—because he’s nibbling you.” Amora giggled and gave a goodnight wave to her squirming roommate. “Sleep well, you two. Don’t forget to use protection.”
Tail shivered at the thought and twitched when Barrier lightly tugged on her ear once more.
“Mmmf,” he groaned. “Hush, Ember, safe now.”
Barrier’s eyes fluttered open for a moment. He gave up. It was far too early, he felt like crap, and the pillow he was snuggling was absurdly comfortable. “Pillow’s warm,” he hummed softly to himself, until it dawned on him that he didn’t sleep with a pillow and hadn’t done so for nearly ten years. Pillows also didn’t make it a habit to hug back or nuzzle into his neck.
The stallion summoned every ounce of willpower to shove all of the brewing panic and desire to shout into a single, deep breath. The unicorn dimly lit the tip of his horn, squinted at the sleeping Tail, and whispered harshly, “Trigger, you son of a Faust-accursed bitch.” He tried to pull away but found the back of the couch to be as much of a foe as Tail’s grip. “I’m going to break one of his beloved bottles and stab him to death.”
He winced as Tail stirred, and after a moment, he made another attempt to pull away. Tail tracked his movements and continued to hold him close as if he were some kind of giant grey teddy bear. “Least your strength imp—” His breath hitched, and his eyes finally battled the early morning by spreading wide. It wasn’t that it hurt, at least not physically, but the realization that this was the first embrace he had shared with anypony since his banishment struck hard.
“Ember,” he exhaled, still gazing upon Tail’s figure. “She’s not—” With a burst of magic, Barrier vanished in a silent pop and reappeared on all fours at the foot of the couch. He glanced at the sleeping pegasus as she blindly fumbled about for her missing stuffed pony—a.k.a. him. Eventually, her futile groping came to an end and she fell still once more.
Barrier stepped away from the pegasus and took in his surroundings. The faint blue glow of his horn swept the room, and as he absorbed the portraits of other ponies and the titles of scattered books, he quietly attempted to retrace the most likely events of the night he could never remember.
“Trigger gave me the special. Not how it’s supposed to go. So what did you do?” Suddenly, he swung around and carefully examined Tail’s forelegs. Black streaks marred her fur, prompting a grumble from the captain. “You carried me home. Zacherle, that must have sucked.”
He popped his neck before shooting the sleeping mare a sheepish smile. “Just what were you thinking?”
A slurp from the next room made Barrier stiff. His coat stood on end as the presence of another prodded his intuition. “She thought the castle was a bad idea and decided that bringing you home was the best option,” Amora chimed from the kitchen before the sound of another sip trickled into the living room.
The stallion gulped and made his way towards his other host. Amora sat at a small table that had been tucked away in an alcove, and the grin that sat upon her muzzle radiated a mischievous danger similar to that of the princesses themselves. “Hello…”
“Hello, Captain Barrier,” the mare replied, saluting her guest while her blue eyes crafted a crisp stare. “Amora, Major, Medical.” The brief statement scrambled the officer into a salute of his own, and it was only after she received it that Amora lowered her leg. “Good boy. Now tell me, what are your intentions with my favorite patient, Captain?” She snickered and gradually leaned over the table while the unicorn batted the floor in thought. “I mean… I have to ask with the way you pulled her onto our couch and nibbled her ear last night.”
Barrier groaned as Amora’s addition threw any witty retort he had out the window. “Please tell me I didn’t,” he grunted, deadpanning when the medic shook her head.
“She even pleaded for me to help her, but honestly, I figured you’d like a begging mare in your hooves.” Amora giggled quietly at the sudden vulnerabilities that appeared upon the stallion. His hindquarters sank to the floor, and Amora embraced the scenery until her laughter naturally faded. Stillness filled the yielded space, and the mischievous luminance in her eyes dissipated. “I know you don’t have to be told that rumors spread, Captain. That filly has placed a lot of stock in you. While I doubt anything Trigger has a hoof in will lead to trouble, I want to make it clear that Tail has given you her trust and respect.”
“And that is apparent,” Barrier answered flatly. He pushed his plot off the floor and took a step towards the major. “She puts a lot of faith in me, but I don’t know why. I doubt she would have carried me here if she had known everything about my past. That said, I’m grateful to see that my trust in her wasn’t misplaced.”
The alabaster unicorn snorted and looked towards the ceiling. “Geeze, you are such a naïve stallion, but those are what-ifs that aren’t mine to answer. I just want to see my best friend succeed. You can take the rest of it up with her when she wakes up.”
Barrier gazed around the kitchen once Amora’s voice trailed off. “I appreciate your candor, Major. Though, I believe I will need some more time before I tackle those questions. For now—” A faint smile managed to settle on his muzzle when he spotted a skillet by the oven. Bags of flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar lined the backstop, and the compiling list of ingredients made the stallion chuckle. “It’s been a while since I’ve cooked, but if you have some milk, eggs, and butter, I wouldn’t mind making some pancakes for breakfast. It’s the least I can do to thank you for the night—and to thank her.”
The first part of Tail to wake up was her nose. Prodded by the scent of caramelized apples and cinnamon wafting in from the kitchen, it twitched in disbelief and spurred a muzzle to open. “Nngh,” she moaned, wincing from the light of the rising sun that filtered through the living room windows. “What… bright? Oh shit.”
Tail hissed and bolted upright at the prospect of having overslept. “I’m going to be late! Captain is going to kill me!” She spilled from the couch and hit the floor before her brain finally registered her location. “M’on the floor,” she mumbled from her prone position. The events of the night came rushing back to her, accompanied by an intense blush. Had everything been a dream? Did she just crash out when she got home? Her armor was off though, but perhaps Amora had helped remove it. Amora! That had to explain the completely unfamiliar breakfast scent coming from the kitchen, right?
“No. Bullshit! I’ve had apples and I’ve had pancakes and they’ve never tasted like that, even together.”
Am’s voice tugged at Tail’s ears, but who was she talking to? The mare’s face flushed fully as the tingle of a sore ear crept into her awareness. “Oh, Celestia, that wasn’t a dream.”
“Trade secret.” While the intonation was appreciably softer than Tail was accustomed to hearing, the voice definitely belonged to Magic Barrier. The pegasus swallowed nervously and rose. Maybe she could just grab her armor and sneak off to the training yard. She didn’t want to have to explain it, not first thing in the morning, and certainly not with both of them in the kitchen together.
“Tail!” Amora called teasingly. “Come in here, Hun. Your captain made us breakfast and it is mindbuckingly amazing. He’s a keeper!” A squeak popped from Tail’s muzzle, drawing a giggle from Amora and a snort from Barrier. “Told you she was up,” Amora continued through an errant wave of a fork before she set back to destroying her plate of immaculate fluffy goodness.
The lavender pegasus shuffled her way into the kitchen. A shy smile played with her countenance, and a foreleg wandered to corral her unruly bedmane. “Good morning Amora, Captain.”
“Mfffnnn Ail,” Amora replied before swallowing her latest bite. “So glad to see you’re up. Barrier was remembering how sassy you were with him at the bar last night, and hearing about that without being able to absorb all that you’re doing with this—” She outlined her view of Tail with her fork. “Mm. Yeah, it just wouldn’t be the same.”
“As I was saying,” the stallion promptly jumped into the game, “I tried to warn her about Trigger’s dumbassery. She wouldn’t have anything of it. In front of the entire bar, she blurts that my rank doesn’t matter and downs the shot.”
Tail squirmed when Amora gasped, pressed a piece of pancake into her muzzle, and held her hoof there. “Mmm, so good. But my goodness! I thought I raised my little pegasus to be a better cadet than that. That sounds like a few hundred laps to me.”
Barrier drifted towards the range and plopped a fresh stack onto a plate. “A few hundred? Your D.I. must have been a pushover. I think a thousand fits the bill for a smartass mare that told her commander to shut up and drink with her. Something was slipped in my glass, and the other guards won’t let me live it down for years to come. I need to escape my fate somehow. Making an example sounds like the best possible option.”
The squirms became shudders that drove wings to splay. “You’ve got to be bucking kidding me,” Tail sighed. She ignored the second gasp from Amora and stared directly at Barrier instead. “I carted you all over Canterlot, got shocked by your stupid house, and ended up bearhugged on the damn sofa!”
Barrier snapped to the rowdy pegasus. His swift movement and scowl silenced the flustered Tail, who peered into his scornful demeanor with trembling chocolate-colored eyes. The second the mare began to quiver, Barrier smiled and retreated. “You have no laps to run today. As much as I want to bash Trigger’s muzzle in for making me the target of the C.O. Special, his idiocy highlighted the tremendous efforts you went through to keep me safe.
“You also stayed late to work on your aileron roll, so as far as I’m concerned, you clocked in the hours. I put an exemption into Princess Luna’s office. The day is yours to spend. I expect you bright and early tomorrow with that sass long gone.” He grinned and floated the plate of pancakes towards Tail. “But this is the thanks for sharing it—and your trust—last night.”
She shook out her wings and attempted to brush the red from her muzzle. The attempt was absolutely for naught. Torrents of possible answers swirled about in her mind for a few seconds, but nothing stood out as the obvious thing to say. “Dear Luna, what do I tell him?” she blurted aloud, jerking the instant she realized she said what she had meant to think.
The stallion grunted, smirked, and magicked a forkful of pancake into the mare’s mouth. “ ‘You’re welcome’ works, Cadet.”
From the table, Amora watched the scene play out while she started sipping yet another cup of tea. Her muscles crafted quite the beaming smile to the sight of her utterly confused roommate. “Mmm,” she purred sweetly, “I ship it.”