• Published 10th Dec 2020
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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 16 - I’m So, So Bad!

The Phoenix Fire was as boisterous as ever. Guards laughed their heads off as pints flowed down their gullets. A cacophony of drumming filled the air as spurred ponies drove their hooves against the solid wood tables. All was normal aside from the bar, which had had all but five of its stools removed for the occasion. Trigger had reserved the center-stage spots earlier in the day, and now that the night had come, they were being occupied by the only ponies he saw fit to fill them.

Indar and Bonecrusher held the third and fourth positions, respectively. The honor of the middle chair went to the colt poised to make his officer-school debut, which was another custom that Trigger had made sure to enforce the second the quintet strolled through his door. Crusher took the spot to his right, where she found herself nestled between her squadmate and the honorable benefactor for the evening—the Princess of the Night.

“Alright,” Trigger spoke up, standing in front of Indar, “normally Barry would be the one paying the tab tonight, but since this is Mes Étoiles’s shitshow, she has agreed to pick up the bill. The bigger shitshow just might be how ya wake up tomorrow, Indar, but since you’re destined to be our newest officer candidate, you get the first call. What will ya be drinking?”

The sandy unicorn remained quiet for several seconds as he maintained eye contact with the enthused bartender. “Emerald Crown,” he answered in a stoic tone, his stare unwavering even as Bonecrusher offered a retch of protest.

Trigger tipped his Coltston and turned around to face the towering shelves of liquor. He spotted the bottle he was looking for, and in the blink of an eye, the bottle appeared in his grasp. “An absinthe,” he explained, gesturing to the rose-tinted glass. True to its name, the cap carried a metallic emerald sheen. “At least our boy is cultured.”

Barrier chuckled at the remark and watched as Trigger placed stemmed glassware in front of each of them. He moved down the line, pouring an ounce of the drink into each glass, and gave Tail and Bonecrusher scolding looks when they reached for their beverages prematurely.

“Fuck me, no wonder why ya made that noise,” Trigger groaned. “If ya drink it neat, it’s a burning mess, and there are far better drinks for that. Put your damn hooves down, fillies!” He promptly made another pass, setting a perforated spoon across the rim of each cup. Small cubes of sugar followed, finding their places in the cradles. The tender’s magic sprung to life, ensnaring cups of iced water in his aura, and for the next several minutes, the stallion took great care methodically placing drops over each cube until the sugar made its way into the absinthe below.

“Still keeping up with the practice, we see,” Luna chimed in a chipper tone before a beaming smile took root. “Even my sister might be impressed with that execution, and we both know how she can be with her traditional food and beverages—and desserts.”

“Is that why she was so keen on getting some of Barrier’s pancakes?” Tail asked with a giggle. She waved her hoof towards her glass and glanced at Trigger for some sign of approval that she finally had permission to drink it. However, when the creature of reverie nodded in Indar’s direction, she thumped her foreleg against the countertop.

“Tia is a wild child in many areas,” Luna answered, the seeds of laughter bubbling up around the fringes of her words. “But I’m afraid that cuisine is not one of them. She had her likes a millennium ago, and they have only deepened their hoofholds in the time since.”

“Eh,” Barrier grunted, “she probably just got used to my cooking when we were on the field together. Still, I wouldn’t advise coming between Celestia and her layered cakes unless you’re in the mood for a swift trip to the ground.” The captain slid his sights over to Indar. “And are you going to get to drinking that so we can partake? The night’s young but I’m not.”

That remark drew a nudge from Tail, who prodded the stallion’s side with the tip of a forehoof. “Sweety, please, you drilled the crap out of us for two months. Nopony should believe that, and I definitely don’t.”

For his part, Indar let out a low murmur. He was still gazing at the rows of liquor bottles in front of him. Though, he finally lit his horn and grasped the glass with a spell. “Apologies, Captain,” he said, pivoting his head towards Barrier as a toothy grin emerged, “I was merely taking in the company of my squad.”

“We could fuckin’ drink to that,” Bonecrusher grumbled, “if somepony would actually get to drinking.”

Indar levitated the glass towards his muzzle, hesitating only once the rim of the chalice reached his lips. “I could also be cruel and mutter something about your exuberant opinions. In fact, I think I have a few things to say. On our first day, I did have my reservations. Captain Barrier is a renowned officer, but my company offered mixed results, to say the least.

“Crusher, we’ve been around each other for a long time, and if I’m being honest, until recently, it felt like you had a chip on your shoulder that you just couldn’t remove. Tail, you were just a stranger. It was as if the whole affair followed a crazy script. Yet, here we are, and I’d like to think that we’re all the better for it.” With that, the earth-toned unicorn tipped some of the absinthe into his muzzle and unleashed a savoring purr.

“Smooth words from the upstanding candidate. The fates could have written a different path for this band. We knew risks lingered in the variety of personalities—from tranquil stalwart to brash hothead—but indeed, here we are in joyous celebration,” Princess Luna added before taking a sip of her own beverage. “We also think this is not too bad.”

A soft snicker dribbled from Tail’s tongue after she tried her own drink. “I’m not sure, Bonecrusher, but I think Princess Luna just implied that we are volatile.”

“Imply?” Luna retorted with a huff of feigned irritation. “The Princess of the Night need not imply. We can declare the truth when it is plain to us. The two of you are most certainly volatile.”

Crusher grunted. The mare was having none of Luna’s shenanigans as she lifted the base of the absinthe glass well above her muzzle and downed the refreshment without delay. “Yeah, yeah, I’m a real asshole. I almost got kicked out. Civvy almost got kicked out. Trigger can get this shit glass out of here and pull out the cinnamon whisky because that’s what we’re having next.”

Barrier silently stared. Bonecrusher silently stared. Indar had returned to another glass of absinthe, and Luna giddily clapped her hooves. The Phoenix Fire patrons were riled, filling the bar with boisterous cheers as a madly blushing Tail accompanied Trigger to push an upright piano out from the back.

The mare swayed atop her hind legs as she trotted, and bubbly giggles burst from her muzzle as her balance lagged about a half-second behind her wobbly strut. After a dozen more strides, with the piano settled into performance position in the center of the establishment, Tail hurled herself atop the wood and fashioned a mischievous, half-lidded glance that she casually tossed in Barrier’s general direction.

The pegasus lifted her foreleg and twirled a lock of her mane around the fluffy appendage before batting her eyelashes. She bit her bottom lip while taking in the image of a rather confused-looking Barrier. Confused, or maybe he just really likes the view… “Sweety, both Shining and Cadance wanted to hear me sing. Seems like you’re the one here for my debut.”

She didn’t wait for a response before whirling from her perch. To every eye in the place, it appeared as though the inebriated physicist was on the way to a clumsy meeting with the floor. All the guests of honor shuffled atop their stools, but it ended up being Trigger’s magic that caught the diving Tail.

The bartender promptly plopped her atop a bench he had placed in front of the keys. “The Phoenix Fire will not be held liable for injuries, Flicker—especially not ones caused by a patron jumping off my piano.”

Tail hummed as she lifted her head to meet Trigger’s paternal scowl. Her hooves struck a few of the notes, causing the crowd to settle down in anticipation of the entertainment. “Mm, thanks for the idea,” she mumbled while continuing to scour around for the chord she wanted.

A few misstrikes followed. There was a bogus B-major with an accidentally diminished third, and Tail’s gritting teeth would hold it against her for a minute or two. The D-major came out okay—at least if she counted hitting the C along with it as acceptable. I did no such thing. Eventually, however, Tail claimed victory. Her ears perked the instant her brain recognized that she had successfully, albeit timidly, played an E♭-maj7.

She struck it again. Louder this time, the act verified that the mare had scoped out the correct key. Tail’s namesake gently swept over the floor. She closed her eyes, blocking out everything she could, and inhaled. “Last dance… last chance for love…”

In an instant, a pin drop would have been heard amongst the audience. The guards refused to make a sound as Tail’s melodic voice permeated the room, and a few mouths hung open in the wake of the first several chords.

“Yes, it’s my last chance, for romance tonight… Oh, I need you, by me, beside me, to guide me. To hold me. To scold me”—Tail paused, opened her eyes, and turned her head to ensure that Barrier soaked every sultry beat that emerged—“‘cause when I’m bad, I’m so, so bad…”

She waggled her browline and giggled as a reddish hue began to shine through Barrier’s charcoal coat. The maneuver got a rise out of those in the building. Their silence swiftly ended, and in the echoes of their mounting hollers, Tail pumped up the volume and ramped up the beat. The timeless lyrics of Lady Summer and Humble Heights flew from her muzzle in an upbeat timbre that got several of the knowledgeable patrons singing along.

Tail turned back to the piano and marched through the chord progression with vibrant slaps on the keys. Elevating the pegasus, the music sent her mind soaring along with her wailed notes. She completely missed when the singing Princess Luna climbed on top of the instrument, and she didn’t sense when Indar slid onto the bench until his fur pressed against hers—and when he gingerly struck a few keys to join in on the performance.

Her sights snapped between the sandy unicorn and the boisterous princess. “What are you two—” The question didn’t escape in time. Barrier’s foreleg wrapped around her barrel, and in an instant, she had been plucked from her perch and hoisted up onto her hind legs.

“They’re taking over for you,” the captain quietly spoke into Tail’s ear as he kept her propped up with his reared posture. “Might be a little dated, but if you really wanted to dance, all you had to do was ask.”

The mare’s wings flicked as Tail’s body sought balance in the unfamiliar posture. A dopey grin spread across her countenance in the wake of a downright adolescent chuckle. “Well, I’m not much of a dancer, but I’m all for elaborate singing schemes if it gets me held like this. And, Sweety, it’s my sworn duty to introduce you to disco.”

Barrier shivered after Tail suddenly pressed a foreleg against one of his haunches. “Something tells me the dancing side of this disco will be a far cry from what I’m accustomed to.”

Tail relished the moment—or merely waited for the details to drift through her mind. Regardless of how much the booze was in play, she would save that analysis for later. Right now, she had a stud in her grasp, and his little vibrations betrayed any hope of concealing exactly how he felt about her touch. “Damn right it is, Magic Bear.”

With the next heavy downbeat, Tail was off to the races. She ignored the wail that exited Barrier’s mouth as she twirled him around. Her wings shot out in various directions to compensate for her legs’ compromised ability to keep her upright, and she swayed her hips to the rhythm. She separated from that warm coat of his and dropped onto all fours before her namesake slapped against his thigh just as Luna sang the so bad lyrics.

Barrier followed her lead in planting all four of his hooves on the floor. For several measures, he silently watched the rocking pegasus, who was snapping her limbs in frantic, vigorous thrusts that looked like the epitome of spontaneity.

They’re pretty good, Tail remarked to herself in regards to Indar’s piano skills and Luna’s booming voice. That spontaneous spirit had indeed taken her body by storm. She shut her eyelids and flipped both her mane and namesake to the music. Her hips continued to bounce and sway as opposing legs kick-stepped with the melody, and every now and then, she felt the heat of Barrier’s magical caress.

Tail reclaimed her vision to the sight of Magic Barrier’s paced advance. She beamed, noting how his strut mimicked the way she imagined her own moves. He strode up to her side and created a tidal wave of giddy chills that raced across Tail’s skin the instant he draped a foreleg over her withers.

“Let me take the lead for a while, Blanket,” he whispered into her ear as the tug of his hoof guided Tail into a semicircle that avoided one of the dining tables.

“Um… okay…” The mare had melted. A dreamy timbre saturated those two simple utterances. Its seed had been planted the second she had started singing the song, but its essence had been set free by the romantic glow of Barrier’s touch. Tail’s sights lazily wandered as the stallion carefully threaded her figure past chair after chair.

Occasionally, their legs would collide, sending Tail into a brief stumble that Barrier swiftly corrected. He carefully pulled her, corralled her, or spun her through every obstacle, and none of those events seemed to pierce the physicist’s bubbly veil until she realized just how far they had travelled.

When Barrier had plucked her off the piano bench, she had been standing in the middle of the floor—right beside their friends. However, after glancing up at the ceiling, Tail discovered that she and Barrier had made the voyage to one of the bar’s dimly lit corners. Muzzle slightly agape, the physicist succumbed to a realization that peeked over her emotional horizon. “I’m really drunk, aren’t I?” she admitted as her hind leg heedlessly bumped against her sturdy partner.

“Extremely,” Barrier chuckled, “but, knowing your tolerance, I’m hardly surprised. You don’t have to worry about it tonight. I got to you before you punted some of our colleagues.”

A torch in the dark, the statement yanked at the portion of Tail’s brain that had been lulled by the train of libations. Blushing, she faced the biggest shit-eating grin she had ever seen Barrier fashion. Liquid smugness could have manifested from a theoretical ether in the field of that toothy, handsomely suave visage.

“We’re never letting you drink again!” Bonecrusher shouted, easily conquering the Phoenix Fire’s raucous antics with her taunt.

Tail squeaked in response as the burning heat in her cheeks seemed to radiate to the very tips of her snout and ears. “I, uh, didn’t want to make a mess of things.” The scientist sheepishly munched on her own cheek while the attentive stare eroded at the behest of a softer, far more bashful demeanor.

“I may be a bit behind with the times, but I am pretty sure defending a lady’s honor still qualifies as excellent third-date material. You haven’t caused any trouble, and you won’t while under my watch. Besides, if you had actually caused trouble, Trigger would have kicked our asses out of here already.”

Tail’s tipsy smile returned. She interrupted his explanation with a boop to his snoot before she draped her muzzle over his shoulder. “Your first narrative was way better, Sweety. You should stick with that one. It’s that kind of affection that will make me live up to my pet name.”

Author's Note:

Mmm, well here's a Phoenix Fire chapter that has quite a different vibe from the first go back in the NLD days. How far they've all come! Happy Thursday everyone. Hope you're having a nice week. Mine, as always, has been crazy, but here's to another round.

This one won't come as a surprise, but Tail jams in my brainspace to Last Dance -- written by Paul Jabara and famously performed by Donna Summer. In the RP land upon which the NL stories were based, Tail and Barrier danced their first dance to it, so it only seemed fitting that they actually do it in the story proper.

If you feel like wandering into the realm of disco: Last Dance was played on repeat while writing this chapter. ;)

I can feel Tail swishing in my mind already. 'Ohhhh Barrier.'

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