• Published 10th Dec 2020
  • 3,707 Views, 368 Comments

No Longer Alone - NoLongerSober

Sass, science, and surviving shipping! Postage paid! The gruff captain put a certain pegasus professor to the test and learned that she just couldn’t quit. Now come the hard parts: an actual relationship and maybe a villain or two.

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Chapter 1 - Sass, Science, and Shipping!

Barrier’s frosty eyes lazily followed the movements of his two cadets as they darted about the training yard of Canterlot Castle. The captain had allowed this round to go on longer than usual, and it became more apparent with each passing moment that those under his tutelage carried completely different fighting styles.

Though he was a cadet in Barrier’s court, the earthy-toned unicorn known as Indar had already achieved the rank of corporal in the Royal Guard—and was likely due for a promotion to sergeant if the powers that be were being honest. Even against the fury of his opponent, the younger stallion seamlessly produced shields in step with thrusts and pivots in a manner that, on the whole, looked an awful lot like choreography.

Indeed, Indar practically danced atop the green blades of grass, and the way he leapt to dodge inbound strikes made the yard seem like a stage. The stone archways bordering the pitch became drawn curtains. The performance became theatre, and the spectacle drew a smile to Barrier’s muzzle.

Bonecrusher, on-the-other-hoof, was an entirely different character. The lime-colored earth pony was the embodiment of full-throttle. She pounded away at anything Indar put in her path, shouted to the skies with every punch, and was relentless in her pursuit. Every motion chewed up the field and spewed clumps of dirt through the gritty grind, but all of that physical energy came with a less-than-reliable mental attitude. A few weeks ago, Barrier had been on the cusp of kicking her out of his class—

“Fucking shit…” The captain’s jovial demeanor quickly faded when he spotted one of Crusher’s hind legs dangerously slide out of position. “Your footwork is getting sloppy, Bonecrusher! Power without control is piss!”

She snorted in response, braced her stance, and lunged at Indar’s shields with renewed vigor.

“At least she’s not giving me lip anymore—” The phrase sent a sudden jolt along Barrier’s spine, and he drew a deep breath before gulping heavily. For a few seconds, he stoically stood, unwilling to add any more commentary to whatever was swirling in his head. At least, that was the case until the sounds of crunching grass pulled his attention rearward.

“Yard’s closed while I’m using it,” the captain grumbled, not even bothering to turn around to see whoever had decided to invade his camp. The steps came to an abrupt halt, yet no retreat followed. “I said the yard’s closed. If you’ve got a problem with it, take it up with the princesses.”

“Permission to fall in line, Captain?”

Barrier’s ears perked, and his tail twitched to the mare’s voice. Instinctively, his head snapped to the side to confirm what he already knew. Decked out in her full armor kit, Tail stood a few meters behind his post. The pegasus greeted the stallion with a beaming smile—an infectious grin that tugged on the corners of his own lips. “We don’t start again for another week, Colonel. You don’t have a reason to be here just yet.”

Tail sheepishly scuffed her hoof on the ground, and her beaming grin gradually morphed into a grimace that projected the seeds of her poorly hidden disappointment.

“But…” Barrier glanced back at the ponies who were wearing themselves out. “You’re here when the yard is mine. And if you’re here, you’re working. Twenty-five warm-up laps, get to it.”

The captain’s order returned Tail’s smile to its proper strength and place. She popped an enthusiastic salute that made Barrier snort, and he swiftly tightened the muscles in his muzzle to reform and maintain a neutral expression through his own saluting gesture.

The pegasus simply giggled at the stern display before she hopped off into her run. Her melody teased the unicorn, coaxing him to keep his sights set on the mare whose lips he had kissed—

“Make that thirty!” Barrier suddenly wailed, stomping his hoof for emphasis. “My cadets came here to get trained, not to listen to some vacationing colonel’s serenade.”

A crack popped from the tip of Tail’s namesake as she flicked it in response. Her legs ramped to a rediscovered beat, one that she had missed during her time away, and she thundered about the track to a vigorous cadence that carried one driving message. Vacation was over.

The wind lightly tugged at dampened clumps of lavender fur, and similarly-drenched locks cascaded like swept ink over Tail’s neck and golden armor. Heated breaths slipped through the mare’s slackened muzzle as she ran about the curved portion of the track. Whispered numbers drifted upon those gasps, reminding the entranced pegasus exactly how many laps remained until her goal would be achieved.

“Ten. Ten. Ten.” The hushed, staccato refrain plucked Tail’s ears when she entered the straightaway. Her stride lengthened, and her wings fluffed as a playful, fiery spark danced along her chocolate-colored iris.

I want you to propel yourself at me at full speed. The memory of Barrier’s first assessment echoed in her mind. She could practically picture the stallion standing in the distance, demanding that she do better. After all, that was his way—her captain, her colleague, her colt—

“We’re going to have to work on your zoning out,” Barrier commented idly while he kept pace at Tail’s side.

A squeak bubbled from the mare’s throat, and she promptly jumped into the adjacent lane before her head swiveled to face the grinning captain. Shock had utterly usurped the burning gaze. Laughter greeted her returned senses, and she scrunched her muzzle at the spectacle of one thoroughly amused charcoal unicorn.

“I’ve been shadowing you for two laps, Colonel, and you didn’t even notice. The whispers were cute though. Admittedly, they’re nowhere near as cute as that squeak and the ruffled feathers, but a captain’s got to do what a captain’s got to do. Now’s not the time for cute. Now’s the time for lessons learned.”

Once again, Tail cracked her namesake and wiped the contorted expression from her face with an audible huff. “And what lesson might that be?” she asked after taking a few seconds to stabilize the rhythm of her gallop.

Mischief crept along the stallion’s snout, producing a smirk that Tail’s sidelong glance did not miss. “This one’s pretty simple, Professor,” he answered in an atypically chipper tone that made the mare’s coat rise in anticipation. “Running is hard when three ponies make an effort to get in your way.”

Not enough time had passed for Tail’s brain to process that information before a transparent umber plane careened into her side and pushed her from the trodden track onto the grassy, inner pitch. Her reflexes and instincts, however, had been honed thanks to Barrier’s course, and her wings swiftly propelled her over Indar’s magical construct and back onto the path.

Upon landing, Tail shot a piercing glare at the captain, whose smug, knowing demeanor screamed to the pegasus that she was in for a long day. Amidst that thought, the thundering clamor of stomping hooves dripped into Tail’s awareness. The heavy steps grew louder through the following seconds, and Bonecrusher’s accompanying battle cry yanked the scientist’s attention to the charging earth pony.

An amethyst scowl was firmly plastered upon the lime mare’s countenance as she pressed on towards Tail.

Months before, the pegasus would have buckled before the behemoth, snorting Bonecrusher and the boisterous rumble that clung to the powerful stride. Today though, the familiar sight pulled Tail’s lips into a lopsided smile. She rolled to the right with a sharp stroke of her wings, planted her hooves back into the ground, and bolted into her sprint.

The ragged scratches of hooves scraping dirt and gravel raked Tail’s ears. The sounds, along with the thomp that followed, came from where Tail had passed Bonecrusher’s position, and the lavender mare did not waste the energy to confirm what she knew to be true: the earth pony had not given up her pursuit.

Tail picked up the pace, hoping to gain some distance between herself and the persistent heavy-hitter, and she was succeeding until a yelp rapidly fled her lungs. Her namesake had been tugged, and her coat bristled to the presence of a warming magic that laced around her hind legs and stopped her right in her tracks.

“Not as easy to dodge casts when there are other factors in play, is it, Colonel?” Barrier added with a snicker that forced a huff through Tail’s muzzle. He began to spin the pegasus with his spell, aiming to pin her armor-covered trunk to the dirt.

To her credit, Tail didn’t fight the motion. She spread her wings, went with the flow, and greeted her captain’s cocky stare with a confident grin of her own. Static traced lines through her fur, and with a desperate flick of those feathery appendages, the mare guided enough electrical charge to disrupt Barrier’s grasp.

She slipped free and tumbled along the track before springing upright to resume her run. “Grabbing my thigh already, Barrier? That’s nowhere near second-date act—”

The flier was interrupted when Bonecrusher leapt between her withers and tackled her onto the grass. “Gotcha, Civvy!” she shouted with pride after jabbing her hoof against Tail’s armor. “And I don’t want to hear a word about your romantic crap. I’ve got enough of it at the Phoenix Fire to last a lifetime.”

Tail wriggled beneath the heavier Crusher and began to crawl towards sweet freedom when the cogs in her brain clicked. She thrust her forehooves into the grass and surprisingly pushed upward with enough strength to dislodge the earth pony from her perch. “You’ve heard?” Tail squeaked as a blush flooded her muzzle. Her sights darted from the shocked pouncer to the softly chuckling Indar—and finally to Barrier, whose gaze averted the probing stare.

“Cadets,” the captain’s response emerged in a raspy voice that barely exceeded the volume of a whisper, “now’s definitely not the time for that. There’s still work to be done and nine-and-a-half laps that need to be stopped. It’s not my fault Luna decided to, once again, be an insufferable brat.”

Tail gasped for air from her prone position upon the track. Her limbs ached. Her lungs yanked in breaths and ached, and her heart pounded with a ferocity that ached. In fact, everything ached, and yet, there could not be a more satisfied smirk etched onto her countenance.

Every scuff mark, dirt stain, and grassy smear that tarnished Tail’s kit and coat had been earned—as had her current position on the field. She had been challenged by Captain Barrier to finish thirty laps, and her right foreleg now stretched across that finish line.

Groaning, Tail turned to her left and eyed the collapsed Indar. The sandy-colored unicorn panted, and his horn glowed from the effects of magical overexertion. “Good show, Ms. Tail,” the stallion commented quietly after wearily brushing his sweat-drenched sunny mane. “It’s nice to have you with us again.”

A grunt burst from Bonecrusher’s throat that slowly dragged the attention of Indar and Tail to the seated mare. Her purplish irides glimmered while she looked upon the sprawled pegasus, and for a few seconds, the earth pony maintained a tentative silence.

From Tail’s perspective, Crusher appeared as a triumphant, towering mass of green that defied her body’s current logic. The contented grin that had controlled the colonel’s appearance yielded its ground to a sheepish smile. “Your stamina is really something. I’m not looking forward to picking myself up to go home. Everything hurts, but I guess that’s what I get for being gone a week, hm?”

Bonecrusher pursed her lips and aggressively swished her tail. Her sights never wavered from the flier’s frame, and she unloaded another short puff before replying, “Dumbass Civvy, I don’t give a shit about you being gone. It’s you coming back to the fight that bucking means something. I don’t care about you dragging your flank home either. I care about tomorrow being another interesting day.”

Deadpan demeanors swept over Tail, Indar, and the upright Barrier like an arctic breeze. They all blinked multiple times, and the pegasus threw in an additional ear flick for good measure.

The trio’s collective disbelief generated an awkward silence that lingered until the realization drew an atypical bout of laughter from the on-duty captain. “On that note, why don’t we call it a day? I’m pretty sure Tartarus just froze over, and I’d rather not be around for the thaw. Plus”—Barrier shifted his focus to Tail—“I have some personal business to attend to now that a certain scientist is in town.”

Bonecrusher recoiled, lifted one of her forelegs from the ground, and gagged. She craned her neck to boot and stuck out her tongue before leaping over Tail to hoist the exhausted Indar onto her back. “Let’s get out of here before they do something that gets us suckered into bar talk again.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Indar responded, lazily bobbing his hoof. “Hope to see you tomorrow, Colonel. As Bonecrusher less-than-subtly implied, today was quite interesting.”

“Dismissed, Cadets,” Barrier interjected with his frosty tone, prompting Bonecrusher to make a swift departure from the field with Indar still in tow. A firm stare followed the pair until they disappeared beneath the stone archways and into the castle.

Tail gingerly rolled over and glanced towards Barrier as he approached. The stern countenance that encapsulated his D.I. demeanor had faded. Instead, the shallow curvature of a tranquil smile took hold. It was one that Tail found infectious—one that spurred the muscles in her muzzle to overcome the pain. “Somepony looks happy…”

“I was thinking,” he replied as his horn illuminated, “that, with all the talk generated by a noisy princess and a bratty medic, it’d be nice to actually do something as opposed to just being the subject of all the conversation.”

A giggle bubbled from Tail’s lips, and she tenderly batted her hoof in his direction. “And what did you have in mind? Are we going for sweet reve—nge?” She squealed when the stallion’s magic enveloped her body and lifted her from the path, yet the only sound that emerged from the pegasus once Barrier carefully placed her upon his kit-clad barrel was a grateful sigh.

“Once upon a time, a sassy mare carted a passed-out captain across Canterlot because an equally bratty bartender decided to do that thing that he does. Frankly, I owe this sassy mare a lot of things, and while she’s been away, I’ve been thinking about what I could do. At first, I was going to probably embarrass myself trying to return that kiss she gave me at the end of our first date, but now, I had better start by offering her a ride home.”

“Such a charmer,” Tail answered through a chain of melodious laughter. She lifted her draping forelimbs and wrapped them around the unicorn’s neck. Her gleeful bursts subsided, and she naturally transitioned to a happy hum. “Though, if you’d like a mare’s intuition on the matter, you could always be bold and do both. This sassy pony might have missed you too, Barrier.”

Author's Note:

Here we go again! Because Tail still demanded that Sober + Wing write something. Sorry for the nearly four years of waiting, everyone. Plus side! 166,000 words and 47 chapters to be released on a weekly basis again. Also! We have new metrics from Fate, a.k.a. Neon. The NeonSquee and NeonDeath return, but now, we have the amazing Fate F-Yeah! Apparently, the long wait demanded many squees in the first chapter. Anyhoo, see you next week! Also, since I know someone will correct me, irides is a valid spelling.

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