• Published 10th Dec 2020
  • 3,820 Views, 372 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 2 - The Insufferables

Barrier climbed the stairs that led from the landing to Tail and Amora’s living room. The former rested comfortably on the stallion’s back as she quietly hummed a melody that occasionally made the unicorn’s charcoal-colored ear swivel. The carpeted steps joined in as well, adding their own rhythm to the score with light crunches that accompanied the motions of Barrier’s hooves.

Aside from the impact of their presence, the flat was still. Only the light of the setting sun drifting through the windowpanes illuminated the space, and Tail released a relieved sigh at the find. “If Amora were here for this, she would probably have a field day.”

The captain chuckled his agreement as he rounded the corner at the top of the stairwell. “Yeah, she’d—” He immediately froze, prompting the lavender pegasus to curiously lift her head at the abrupt silence.

There, sitting on the couch, basking in the twilight, was Amora. Like a foal set to receive Hearth’s Warming gifts, the white, brown-maned unicorn beamed with an exuberance that quickly drew a vibrant redness to Tail’s muzzle.

“That is not creepy at all, Amora,” Tail commented before she twitched one of her flushed ears, “and aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

The mare’s joyful expression shifted as the sly contours of mischief crafted a half-lidded gaze. “Well, I was,” Amora replied while absentmindedly rolling her hoof. “Then a friend popped into my office and said that she saw something interesting happen at the training grounds today. Upon inquiring, I was told to go home right away. She was kind enough to relieve me of my rounds for the evening. Friends in high places, right?”

Barrier let out a rumbling growl. “Luna…”

Amora snapped her foreleg towards the captain. “Quick on the draw, as always. It’s no wonder why Tail fell for you.” She giggled as her words stoked Tail’s blush. “And, in this case, it seems she took quite the literal interpretation.”

“I’m going to have some words with that alicorn about privacy,” Barrier grumbled. He shot Amora an icy scowl. “After I smother you with damn pancakes…”

A sparkle flashed across Amora’s cobalt eyes, and she popped off the couch and onto her hooves before either Barrier or Tail could blink. She bowed dramatically and gestured around the space. “For your delicious sorcery, I will gladly go for a walk.” The medic snickered as she trotted by the couple, and she took a few seconds to lightly brush her roommate’s mane. “Try not to leave a mess. Biology is my thing, after all.”

“Ams!” Tail squealed, swinging her head around to toss a disapproving glare at the chipper unicorn.

“I’m kidding. I’m kidding.” She retreated a few paces after Barrier set his scrutinous sights on the mare as well. “But you two are cute in that weird, awkward pair kind of way that just works. I can’t help but ship it. Though, as a respectable roomie and lifelong best friend, I’m torn…”

Tail’s curiosity was coaxed out by the natural trailing in Amora’s volume. Her brow lifted, sculpting a quizzical arch, and the corner of her lip briefly tugged at the beginnings of a professorial grin.

On-the-other-hoof, Barrier confronted the developing exchange with dry skepticism. His officer persona had taken hold with its flat, stonewall facade.

“I mean,” the medic continued with a drawl, “I expect Captain Barrier to be the perfect gentlecolt—especially given all of this going on right here—but I can’t help but wonder if I should advise you to leave a sock on the door. And that just opens up the possibility of me dropping the knowledge that Tail really likes silk.”

“Out!” the pegasus squeaked again. Her feathers fanned this time, and she began to lift herself from her perch upon Barrier until her muscles opted to tell her otherwise. She huffed to the aches—and to the antics of her roommate—before mumbling something about sixth date information.

Amora chortled victoriously as she scampered towards the door. She glanced over her shoulder upon reaching the landing to find the watchful eye of Magic Barrier trained on her figure. “Making sure I leave? Clever colt, but just so you know, I won’t be gone long.” With that, the brunette flipped her mane and departed for the streets of Canterlot.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” the stallion added moments after the door was closed, “but I do not envy your living situation.”

The straight delivery brought a playful smirk to Tail’s face, and she swished her namesake as various counterpoints swirled in her thoughts. After a few seconds, she curled her lower lip into her mouth and lightly bit down once she settled on her answer. “Well, Captain, if you’re aiming for a change of scenery, then I might just take that as an invitation to come to your place.”

Barrier jolted, causing the pegasus to briefly bounce atop the unicorn, and his pupils dilated instantly. “Mistakes were made! Your place is just fine. Mine”—he paused and released a sigh—“is in need of a lot of cleaning.”

“Could also use a door that didn’t shock the stars out of anypony that tried to touch it.”

The captain’s ears briefly dropped as another sigh emerged. “Why do I get the feeling that’s a thing that I’m never going to live down?”

“Mm, probably because you never will. Though, carrying me home definitely makes up for it.” She lazily waved her foreleg. “Now, if you’ll please sally forth, my noble steed. I’d like to actually get out of Sally. Feel free to take your load off too, Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Spiky.”

Barrier nodded and ventured deeper into the abode. He carried Tail to her room and nosed open the entrance to reveal the endless sea of papers, books, and more papers—and, oh yeah, the bed. “There are even more this time!” he exclaimed at the towering stacks. “How’s that even possible?”

A soft, embarrassed whine seeped from the mare when Barrier crossed the threshold. “Well, most of my week in Las Pegasus was spent arguing with the Board about my continued sabbatical. The whole princess thing helps, but there are still politics to be navigated. In this case, I got dumped with the task of writing the retakes for the written qualification exams.”

Both ponies shuddered after glancing at the piles again, but the discomfort was short-lived. Barrier swept her up in his magic and gently moved the pegasus to her bed. “Well then, you should probably get to work. I know it’s not much of a second date, but I can always make dinner—”

Tail abruptly straightened her posture. Her wings flared behind her, and she shot Barrier a wide-eyed stare. “No! No, I should be the one making dinner. You’ve been training all day—”

Barrier lightly booped Tail’s muzzle with his metal-covered hoof, causing the mare to perk her ears and scrunch her snout in that adorable way that made the captain grin. “I know your armor polishing habits,” he added before moving to lift the helmet from her head. “You’re going to need all the time you can get. Just leave dinner to me. Besides, I owe Amora pancakes anyway.”

“Mhmm,” Tail hummed as the stallion guided the headgear over her unruly, cascading mane and onto her mattress. Her lip curled, fashioning a mischievous expression that halted Barrier the instant he caught sight of it. She could see the subtle quivering of his pupils—a sign that his mind was at work—but she didn’t give him the time to respond.

Her hooves pressed against the dark metal of his archaic helm, and she lifted the heavy piece before setting it beside her own. She eyed the equipment while her namesake fell over the edge of the bed. “I’ll just have to polish your armor too,” she continued, tilting her head back towards the stallion. “I know telling you to take it off isn’t much of a second-date activity either, but—”

Warmth flooded Tail’s muzzle. Marked with a bright flush, it drowned her senses and perceptions. Her bedroom faded into something more akin to a white fuzz, and for several seconds, she might as well have been floating atop a cloud. His lips found hers, and she could make out the delicate tingle produced as his forehoof trailed along an edge of her wing.

Is this what a fairy tale is like? Her heart thumped. Some mix of elation and bliss coursed through her body with each beat, and she drew a methodically slow breath when she felt his ever-so-small retreat. “Mm, Sweety,” she purred, “I don’t think you lost a step in a thousand years.”

“You told me to be bold.” A spark flashed along the rim of his blue iris, and he leaned forward to tap the tip of his muzzle against the mare. “Besides, it was my turn to thank you for everything, Ms. Tail. I wouldn’t be representing my house well if I let you do all the honors.”

As laughter poured from Tail’s freshly kissed muzzle, Barrier neatly removed his armor kit in a flurry of magical activity that placed the bits in a sorted pile by the bed. “Leave dinner to me. I’ll leave the polishing and test making to you.” The stallion snickered and pivoted towards the door—though Barrier held his cocky gaze on the mare.

The pegasus suddenly stiffened the instant Barrier’s blue tail dragged along the underside of her muzzle. Again, her heart pounded with a heavy beat, for the maneuver silenced the mare’s laughter at the behest of cherished memories.

“I’ll be ready in thirty minutes,” he spoke in a calm, quiet voice. “I would say be ready in fifteen, but I know that’d just make for a shoddy job. My armor can be really picky.”

Barrier eyed his work and released a contented hum at the delightful assortment placed on the counter. He had sculpted flour, salt, sugar, milk, egg, and cinnamon into the delicious decadence that was expected of him. However, it was finding the cherries and the rice cooker that sent things right over the edge of the known frontier.

Atop a trio of plates, cherry-filled, puffy pancake pastries awaited Tail and him—as well as The Pancake Witch Medic whenever she opted to return from her walk. “If they taste as good as they look,” he commented idly as his tail flicked, “I’ll call tonight a success.”

“Barrier…” Tail’s voice crept from the hallway in a muffled tone. A steady rhythm of heavy clanks filled the air, and the noise drew closer and closer to the kitchen. “Barrier…” she droned again before poking her head around the corner and into the stallion’s line of sight.

His polished helmet sat awkwardly atop her crown. Only one of her ears appeared to comfortably fit through its designated slot in the metal, and the mare’s mane flowed from beneath the lopsided gear. “Your armor’s really heavy,” she remarked, taking another clang-accompanied step before lifting her foreleg to show off one of his loosely fitting gauntlets.

Barrier’s pupils dilated. His stare danced along the glimmering gunmetal edges, and the rapid shifts—along with the sudden slack in his jaw—drew a string of giggles from Tail. “Hot,” he added reflexively—before reflexively gasping as though he wished to suck the word back down into his lungs.

A brief silence followed in which Tail’s ear quivered in search of any sound. The joyful smile etched upon her countenance by the unfettered laughter morphed into a cheeky smirk while her eyes basked in the glow of memory. “Hm, I do recall you accusing me of being the one with the roleplay fetish, and yet, you’re the one who finds the reversal hot. Maybe I ought to have you try on my lab coat.”

The unicorn scrunched his muzzle as he rubbed the back of his head with a wandering hoof. “Maybe I could do that after we eat?” Barrier offered through a sheepish grimace. “Provided, of course, that Amora isn’t back by then. I can live with some things, but I’m not sure either of us would survive her reaction.”

The tension in Barrier’s face subsided the instant an amused snort grazed his senses. Warmth and playfulness radiated from the mare, and the infectious demeanor further coaxed the captain from the confines of his more reserved mood. His horn sparked, and two of the plates hovered in the officer’s magical aura. “You have returned from your quest with a relic, valiant knight. Would you care to join me for a feast?”

Across Canterlot, Luna sat upon her throne and awaited the business of her night court. The stern-looking alicorn typically handled affairs after sundown on her own, but tonight, Celestia remained at her side.

The guards that were normally stationed by the Doric columns that lined the marble-floored chamber had been dismissed, and an unsettling quiet loomed that made even Princess Celestia shuffle upon her elegant violet seat. “Sister, are you certain that now is the time?”

The Princess of the Night did not waver. Her composure did not drift from the flat, emotionless facade that faced the otherwise empty room. “Yes,” she spoke with a tone drenched in simmering anger, “there is a price to be paid for abusing one’s station.”

“Indeed there is,” Celestia calmly answered before raising her voice to a rarely used Traditional volume. “Send them in!”

A loud, reverberating clunk preceded the opening of the magnificent purple doors at the front of the hall. A light-blue earth pony entered first. Thin-framed spectacles sat atop the stallion’s muzzle, and his grey mane had been combed until a single, slick contour ran from his forehead all the way to the back of his neck.

“Hello, Your Highnesses,” he said as tranquility fashioned a lighthearted smile upon his countenance. His brown eyes held the distant forms of the sisters as best they could at that age, but despite the difficulty, the sparkles that popped along the old-timer’s irides were the telltale signs that the royal excitement did not fade with time.

The purple unicorn who followed his elder, however, did not seem nearly as thrilled. Proud Valiance scoffed during his approach. His golden sights sat beneath a scowl that cut into his visage with a mental blade meant solely for Princess Luna. The irritation spread to the captain’s tail, for pronounced thrashes of the jet-black appendage spontaneously sliced through the air.

“Gracious Waters,” Celestia addressed the Equestrian Army general. Her maternal softness shined as brightly as her heavenly body, and the timbre immediately encouraged the earth pony to stand a little taller. “It’s great to see you. Thank you for coming on such short notice.”

“Proud.” Luna’s interjection carried an icy bite that commandeered the attention of the two stallions and her sister. “We are not going to delay this discussion any longer. We want to know why you thought it was appropriate to exclude my sister and me from a meeting in which you deliberated the discharge of Colonel Tail. And We want to know now.”

Author's Note:

Wow everyone. I'm floored by the response NLA Chapter 1 received. Sober, and a few others know this, but I stressed a lot about how the sequel would be taken. NLD blew away my expectations four years ago, and the launch last week did it again. Astoundingly, there were more reads on NLD on December 11, 2020 than on any other day in its existence. It's really nice to see some old faces still around, and I hope you're ready for the grind. 2 down, 45 to go.

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