• 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 19 - A Cadance of Sincerity

“Buck!” Tail shouted as she hastily yanked her forehoof away from the sparking input prongs of the resonance circuit. The sleeve on her limb was dusted with soot as bands of lightning flooded the gaps between the shell cylinder and the coil — along with the windings of the coil itself.

Meanwhile, Barrier’s gaze narrowed. A vibrant, bright-blue wave spiraled along his already illuminated horn, and the protective spherical shield he had placed around the main body of Tail’s setup radiated with renewed vigor. His decision turned out to be the correct one, for the shell responded to the mare’s prodding by exploding in catastrophic fashion.

The casing and stainless-steel wrapping vanished in a ball of purplish light. The augurite coil snapped after producing a menacing whine, and chunks thudded against the stallion’s spell before they rattled against the bottom of the container like the thrown toys of rambunctious foals. Smoke clouded the domain, hiding the frayed ends of the wiring from the observers’ varied views.

Barrier bit down on his tongue and grimaced while he peered at the surface of his magical craft. Tail, on-the-other-hoof, silently cast her own charm through an inquisitive expression that drove her to reach for a quill.

“Well shit,” she added with an extra harrumph for good measure. “I really am going to have to make a new batch of resistors and capacitors for this.” She jotted down a few notes on a pad of paper and glanced towards Barrier.

A bead of sweat rolled over his furrowed brow before he released an exasperated sigh. “That one packed quite the kick, Blanket. I know I shouldn’t expect surprises from you anymore, but you really made me work that time.”

Slouching, Tail sheepishly brushed the burnt metal debris from her coat as her namesake gently swayed. “Yeah,” she admitted in an apologetic tone, “if it weren’t for you, I’d probably have to endure another lecture about safety from Amora. Then again”—the mare’s posture straightened, and the timbre of her voice abruptly shifted towards that of a chipper songbird—“having you here kind of fulfills all of those safety considerations. And thanks to you, I know what my next step needs to be.”

She leaned towards Barrier and pecked the side of his muzzle. “But I’m sorry you had to work so hard. I’m fine with calling it a day here. Could get some food, relax, or perhaps you could tell me more about these fancy duels of yours.”

The unicorn snorted in response to the sultry murmur that punctuated Tail’s list. “Keep that up and I might just start thinking there’s a kinky mare under all that science.”

“Sweety, you should know that pegasi are very possessive of their perches. I may be a nerdy physicist, but those displays of dominance are still laced into my genetic code.” She paused, taking the reprieve to very visibly ogle the contours of his body. “And, if I’m being openly honest, you’re one fine perch.”

Barrier lifted his left forehoof and rubbed the back of his neck. His eyes wandered, drifting from his spell to the corner of the table, over Tail, and finally to the floor. With a small pop, he teleported the confined smoke from the premises and placed the coil fragments on the tabletop before cancelling the field. “Heh, down girl. You’re not the only pony with a history of strong displays. Though, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. I’d like to swing by Cady’s place to have a chat with her about just how I’m supposed to surprise you with a plan when you know it’s coming. After that, I could head to you and enact my equally stealthy scheme to win the medic over?”

“That works for me,” Tail snickered while she played with a lock of her mane. “I wouldn’t want to intrude on such a sensitive mission when it is clearly a personal assignment that involves royalty.”

Barrier paced around the sitting room of the Cadenza Estate as he waited for Cady to arrive. The room was outlandishly pink, with every wall prominently featuring the principal color of the princess’s coat in large rectangles bordered by gold filigree. In his own time, this would have likely been considered the most coltish paint job on the property—a fact that still made him double-take whenever his glances settled on one of the many heart-themed sofas.

Twilight hues poured through panes that stretched from the floor to the ceiling between cream-colored wooden beams. The light toyed with the golden accents that decorated the ceiling, creating a shimmering fire pit of imagined embers that added to the chamber’s vibrancy.

The stallion chuckled as he made another round past the largest sofa, and after a few more steps, a contented hum seeped from his muzzle.

“You know you can sit on them…” Cady commented after she entered through a smaller doorway that faced the interior depths of the manor. “You don’t have to wait for me to get here to do so.”

Barrier patted one of the cerise cushions and shook his head. “Daring to sit before the Princess of Love chooses her seat? Did you mistake me for Blueblood?”

Cady halted her trot and scrunched her muzzle. “Please don’t insult my intelligence, Sir Barrier,” she answered through hushed laughter. “It would be impossible for me to mistake the aura of your love, the love of family, for somepony who only expresses genuine love for his reflection.”

“A thousand apologies, Your Highness,” the unicorn replied, taking a deep, theatrical bow after a teasing smile graced his countenance. “I would never dream of such a thing, for you married into my house. Now, you are family, and—”

“Your honor is my honor,” Cadance tittered. She resumed her trot and plopped onto the nearest seat with a soft thump. “This is exactly the kind of stuff that makes the grandpa nickname stick. Though, I’ll give Tail total props for her contribution to the cute nickname collection. Good energy in that one.”

Barrier nodded and moved to take a seat at Cadance’s side. “And she’s the reason I’m here. You married a nerd. I’m dating a nerd, and after a few dates, I’ve realized something very important.”

“Oh?” the alicorn asked, her pitch riding the rising tide of curiosity. She twiddled her hooves and turned her head to address her relative with a greater degree of intimacy. “And what might that be?”

Holding his stoic captain’s demeanor, Barrier took a deep breath. “No point in beating around the bush about it. I don’t know how to formalize a relationship in this era. Traditions have changed, so I need to know how to properly move things forward without fumbling it all.”

Even though Cadance held her silence for several seconds, the Princess of Love hardly remained still. Her twiddling stopped—only to be replaced by a strengthening vibration that got the mare bouncing atop her sofa. The oscillation continued to increase the brewing tension until she finally squealed with delight, “You’re going to ask her to be your marefriend?”

“Don’t have to mince words. That’s the idea, yeah.” Barrier leaned away from the high-pitched soundbox and countered the exuberant alicorn with a raised brow.

“Don’t stop there!” Cady’s wings flared in anticipation, and she promptly closed the distance between herself and Barrier by scooting sideways over the plush cushion. “Tell me what you want to do. No elaborate plan or scheme. Nothing over the top. What would Magic Barrier do?”

“I’d grab my sport jacket and take her to Pop’s,” came the answer with little delay. “We’d have a nice dinner, and I’d tell her that I enjoy our time together. Maybe I’d give her a batch of her favorite flowers, and then I’d say that becoming her coltfriend would be worth all the teasing and knowledge dumps she has to offer.”

Thoughtful nods consumed Cady’s motions. “Okay, okay,” she mused. “Just so we’re clear. If there were an elaborate scheme, I’d expect you to ask her to be your marefriend while dressed up as a teddy bear so you could be her super sweet Magic Bear. But”—she tackled him into a hug—“your plan sounds perfect to me. Just do that.”

Freed from the confines of her laboratory and all its associated safety apparel, Tail trotted towards home. Hints of a nighttime chill began to emerge as the capital city sat drenched in twilight hues, but neither the fiery tones nor the whipping breeze could distract the mare’s mind from the time she had spent with Barrier.

He’s really something, she pondered, mentally recapping the unicorn’s exploits. Easily manipulating augurite, saving me from an eternity’s worth of additional shield fabrication… She bit her lip and purred. ...introducing me to the concept of that duel.

The curiosity surrounding Barrier’s not-so-secret meeting with Princess Cadance brought a blush to her muzzle. Rather pointlessly, the physicist tried to decrypt the details and wondered what sort of event Barrier would construct with such an experienced guide. Of course, those explorations were short-circuited every half block or so—when Tail’s brain returned to the root notion that Barrier actually wanted to take that next step.

Her forehead buckled under the weight of a sudden scowl. An instant comparison had been made that tossed her focus to the years gone by. Tail’s last serious relationship hadn’t exactly been a good one. She was young, naïve, and more passive at the time. That stallion really wasn’t a good fit for her, and her friends and family knew it. She’d been told time and time again that something was off, but a younger Tail didn’t heed the warnings. That shadow made her laugh. That shadow made her think he cared.

“Hey! I think he went this way!” A trove of young mares skittered down the lane, rushing off in a pastel scramble that registered only as a quiet murmur and a blur to the pondering physicist.

In the end, the shadow hadn’t cared much at all. In his eyes, her projects amounted to nothing more than backburners—things she had to quit if the void needed to nurse on more of her attention. Tail’s blood simmered over the heat of that bullet point. She detested quitting. She detested bailing on things that mattered to her. The darkness had repeatedly demanded it, but Barrier challenged her to break it.

Barrier had broken her scowl too. A single sentence drifted about her thoughts and slapped a smile on her face. “There’s something special about seeing me do my thing, huh?” she giggled, emerging from her deep dive as she set a forehoof on the step to her home.

The world was suddenly present again, greeting Tail with a peculiarly crowded street that had flocks of fillies dashing around for no discernible reason. The spectacle drew another round of laughter from the perplexed Tail, who simply shook her head in bemusement while she reached for the door latch. “I think I’ll leave this one to Ams.”

Whatever was going on in the road was the least of her concerns. There was a more pressing matter to attend to, and it evoked a lesson imparted long ago by the wisest scientist in her early life. Deeds, not words. “You can plan all you want, Magic Bear, but I’m not going to sit on my haunches,” she whispered with an intense enthusiasm as she pushed her way through the doorway. “I’m going to surprise you too.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Amsy!” a silky masculine voice tumbled down the stairwell. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Tail stopped on the landing and peered up the carpeted stairs. Her ears flicked upright as the timbre of the voice made her wings flutter, and she promptly pushed the door shut without giving the action any degree of consideration.

“I’m serious, my guy,” Amora answered the visitor. “She’s gained a lot of skills that would probably blow your musical mind, and that doesn’t even cover the biggest surprise of all. Now, if you were anypony else, I’d gossip about it for days, but B.F.F. rules strictly prohibit information sharing with little brothers.”

Tail’s feathers whipped downward, propelling the pegasus to the top of the staircase in a single bound. She landed on the soft carpet with a thump as the generated gust still swirled around the confined space, and her sights immediately homed in on the stallion sitting on the couch. “Sincy,” she uttered in a hushed breath while her brain churned to process just how the unicorn had shown up in her home.

A frost-blue foreleg brushed aside a renegade clump of dirty-blond mane. The stallion swept the gently curving lock back again before his brown eyes met Tail’s gawking stare—and then proceeded to meander over the flier’s bulked-up muscles. “Shit, Sis, you look great! What in Tartarus have you been doing here?”

Tail tilted her head as she watched her comfortably reclining brother. “What in Tartarus have I been doing?” she regurgitated while dramatically waving her foreleg. “Sincerity Syncopated Chain, what in Tartarus are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be on tour with Barley?”

Both Amora and Sincy snorted, but it was Tail’s sibling who spoke up first. “Canterlot tour dates, Tail. Barley’s probably fumbling around our hotel room right now. He usually freaks out the day before shows, but we’ve got a meeting with the princesses tomorrow about potentially doing a Gala set, and the poor guy has lost his freakin’ mind. Your whole sabbatical thinger probably skewed your date matrix, or whatever science name you give it, but here I am, trying to visit my sis.”

He paused as a chocolatey glow twirled around his horn, and soon after, a rolled-up newspaper appeared from the gap between the couch and the ottoman. It unrolled to reveal the boldface headline, Tower 41, and the picture of the full squad gathered on the ramparts. “There’s also this whole thing where I learn my little professor is also an ass-kicking colonel, which is worrying her mother sick, by the way. Is this that news Amsy was talking about?”

The younger brother had all the dramatic gestures to match Tail. He repeatedly prodded the newspaper as an inquisitive, quirky glare manipulated his countenance, and the inclusion of a stressed hum made it clear to the pegasus that her pop-star brother was not inclined to retreat.

“Sincy, you knew about my officer commission. Mom also knew about my officer commission. It was the whole reason for my sabbatical in the first place, so I don’t know what the big deal—”

“You’ve become a fucking badass and didn’t tell me!” the stallion interrupted, shaking the Canterlot Chronicle with his magic. “Now I have to see all these moves. Maybe there’s something I can work into a show or some out-of-this-world inspiration right at my hooftips.”

Tail slammed her hoof to her forehead and groaned. Her eyes tightly shut, and she vigorously flicked her namesake. “Celestia, help me, you are incredible. You’re seriously coming at me with that as the basis of concern? You want moves.”

“He’s always wanted moves, Honey,” Amora quipped from her sideline seat on the couch. She batted her eyelashes as both members of the brother-sister pair shot the medic glances. “You two are definitely cut from the same cloth. Just a matter of stitch.”

Sincerity Chain dropped the newspaper on top of the ottoman and rolled onto his hooves. He stretched, cracking his neck in the process, and successfully recaptured Tail’s focus with a satisfied moan. “It’s not just about the potential moves,” he admitted before adopting a far more sheepish tone. “SincyStar needs another servicing, and I’m not about to trust my precious to anyone else.”

Tail crept forward until the distance between the two had evaporated. She pressed herself into his lemon-scented coat and wrapped her forelegs around his body. “You’re such a dork,” she commented quietly as he embraced her with an equally squeezy hug. “You just leave SincyStar to me, and I’ll get him right as rain. As for my, uh, big news, I started dating a guy, and I think he’s amazing.”

Author's Note:

What is this!? A Tuesday post? Well, with my physics result last week hitting the front page of the NYT, things have gotten quite busy. It will be rather difficult for me to get around to posting on the 15th this week, and Sober and I have held Tuesday as the alternate option for quite some time, so here we are! Surprise!

Also... FINALLY get to introduce Sincy. I have been waiting for such a long time! Hope you enjoy the read, and thank you for your continued readership as always. See you next week!

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