• 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 46 - Love’s Will

The blinding ray produced by the BT-shell bore into the Crystal Heart and threw Sombra’s back to the ground. His splayed body lingered as a darkened silhouette in the white domain that burst from the sacred artifact, and the vibrant beams swept over the landscape while a deafening drone accompanied the incomprehensible energy that drenched the tundra.

A compression wave radially expanded through the earth in a low-frequency tremor that rode the shot’s aftermath. The gaps between the scattered pockets of natural flora flourished as an ocean of forget-me-nots flooded the terrain. Glistening blue barriers protected every sprouted plant, and a serene warmth dispelled the chilly wind to a degree that outperformed even Philomena’s fire.

In the wake of the reflections, the Equestrian defenders emerged as sparkling, semi-translucent crystal versions of themselves. Trigger’s Sheriff Star state had finally burned out, and his massive dreamshell cast dissolved in the sprawling aurora that painted the dome of the sky in the streaming colors of the rainbow.

Those that had answered the call all gawked. Though, each of them gawked at something different. Back to appearing in his normal form, Trigger set his amber gaze upon Wing and smirked at his lifelong friend.

The pegasus in question quivered. He pressed a forehoof to his muzzle, tapped it a few times as if he were gauging whether or not he was in a dream, and blurted, “Ten thousand. They hit ten thousand…”

Nearby, Indar rapidly spun around. The fiery-maned unicorn looked considerate when it came to his hoof placement, for he deftly avoided stepping atop any of the new life while he observed the drastic transformations to the landscape.

At some point during Tail and Barrier’s flight, Bonecrusher had migrated closer to her unusually energetic squadmate. Her stern focus settled completely on the glimmering hoof she had driven into Sombra’s skull, and the faint curve of a smile gently tugged at the corners of her lips.

Meanwhile, Amora and Shining homed their sights in on Tail and Barrier. The airborne couple had picked up a phoenix escort as they made their way towards the motionless king, and when they finally touched down, the two staring unicorns, along with the Princess of Love, gradually drifted towards Ground Zero.

Still heavily breathing from the battle, Tail gulped as she observed a new enigma that lurked within the flowery domain. Flashes of ruby and emerald lightning snapped around the prone Sombra. The darkness had faded from the dormant unicorn, and the hellish wounds that had cracked his head and cursed his chest had evaporated from his body. The brightly shimmering Crystal Heart, freed from its subjugation, slowly spun in the air as it hovered half a meter above the mass of purple and blue blossoms. “What in Tartarus is that?” Tail whispered once she shifted her attention to the root of her current confusion.

A shadowy apparition floated above the gemstone, and the stationary specter seemed to mirror Sombra in size, positioning, and shape. Like a scene out of a fairy tale, the umbral void, radiating heart, and fallen mage joined with the altered terrain to craft an illustration that made Tail shudder.

Had she just killed the stallion? Was the haunting shade the mark of his calamity, or was it the first burden of war that she would have to endure? Those thoughts hadn’t even crept into her mind when she grasped Barrier and no one else, but the notion of an alternate interpretation began to seep in from the darker fringes of her imagination. She had viewed the field of flowers as an ultimate sign of her love towards her captain, but what if—

The pegasus sharply inhaled when Barrier’s muzzle brushed against hers. His iron-clad foreleg draped over her barrel, and he pulled her closer to kiss the damp fur beneath her eyes.

“It’s over, Tail,” the glittering Princess Cadance quietly answered once she finished her trot. The alicorn sat by Barrier’s opposite side, and her long horn immediately took on a raspberry hue before a stream of magical energy poured into the glowing Crystal Heart. For several seconds, the vibrant red spell mixed with the dense, dazzling white aura until a string of powder-blue sparkles danced from facet to facet. Steadily, the overwhelming brilliance decayed, and the electrical arcs vanished, leaving behind a clear gemstone and a gradually dissipating umbral remnant. “And now, you’re free.”

As Shining Armor claimed a seat by Cady, Amora shuffled up to Tail’s free flank. A subdued giggle gave away the medic’s location, but she still managed to coax a surprised squeak out of the physicist when she planted a smooch on the mare’s cheek. “See? I can do it too. I can also take care of something that you both need right this instant.”

Tail and Barrier blinked in unison after Amora walked in front of them.

The alabaster unicorn tossed her forelegs around the armored ponies, and she promptly nestled her head in between their marred and matted faces. Her medical magic swept over their figures, and the timbre of her voice transitioned from the realm of friendly teasing to that of a parent looking after an ill child. “You’re both jacked up on adrenaline. Your highs are going to crash, so I had best take care of those injuries now.”

Tail lifted her revolver-laden limb and awkwardly hugged her roommate. The aches and stings that afflicted her head and trunk felt more pronounced than they had during the thick of the fight, and if there was one rule that she had truly learned from her time with Amora, it was do not fuck with the medic. “No complaints from me, Ams.”

Doubling down on the hug, Barrier embraced the cherry-loving unicorn as well before he allowed his eyelids to fall. “Probably a wise idea, Major. I’m definitely out of steam, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Trigger and Shining are feeling the same.”

The Captain of the Royal Guard grunted. “I think I’m more stunned than anything else. I haven’t seen anything like that in all my days—” Shining’s coat suddenly bristled. Tiny black crystals sprouted along his horn, and he gasped when the fading umbral apparition abruptly regained its full, rich, midnight complexion.

“Crystal slaves!” the entity shrieked, wrapping its whimsical coils around the Crystal Heart. The thief began to bolt for the purified Empire City, but it stopped in its tracks when an emerald ring snagged its trailing end.

Captain Sombra had woken up and rolled onto his stomach. Grimacing, the grey unicorn peered at his shadowy counterpart through a single green eye, and he desperately reached out towards the garish creature with an outstretched appendage. “I will not allow you to get away from me again, Fiend! In the name of The Crowns and the Empire, I will stop— Aghk!” He winced as a loud spark popped on his forehead.

The spell holding the umbrum in place cracked, and the crimson-eyed ghoul slithered away towards the distant spire at an incredibly quick pace.

Tail’s jaw dropped. Both she and Barrier started to break away from Amora’s grip, and Sombra had begun trying to push himself off the ground when Wing rushed to his side.

The runes of Aurora’s Eye still rotated around the stallion’s field of vision, and Wing swiftly shot halting glances at his fellow defenders. “Captain Sombra, while you might consider yourself so inclined, this is no longer your operation to fight. As for everyone else, that shade’s power doesn’t come close to the danger we just faced. With the curse removed, the situation has changed”—he turned to face his creature of reverie—“as has the nature of the problem. Trigs, would you send up an orange flare northward for me? Tea needs to get the message A.S.A.P. This new puzzle is one destined to be unraveled by the magic of friendship.”

Standing at the divide between her living room and the kitchen, Amora levitated a pancake-loaded plate near her muzzle. She directed a floating fork through the fluffy, cherry-filled breakfast food. However, her focus remained affixed to her couch, its current occupant, and the lavender flier who was clearly gearing up to join said occupant.

Peeking around the corner at the end of the hallway, Tail set her mischievous chocolatey sights on the reclining Barrier. She fashioned an impish grin before tossing a sidelong glance that barely managed to sneak under the longer locks of her growing mane. When Amora simply replied to the expression with a silent shrug, the physicist interpreted it as a commitment to neutrality.

Tail crept over the beige carpet and approached the end of the faux-leather furniture. She jumped over the leg rest, unfurled her wings, and parachuted atop the dozing Barrier. The poor stallion had not even managed to finish a groggy hum before the conniving mare deposited a trail of kisses along his muzzle and neck. “Oh, Barrier,” she purred, victoriously swishing her namesake.

“Mm, done with your shower, Blanket?” the captain mumbled. He stirred beneath the pouncing pegasus, and he shivered when Tail placed one of her wingtips against the shield of his cutie mark. Raising one of his eyelids, Barrier shifted his muzzle around the unkempt strands of Tail’s black mane and peered in Amora’s direction. “I thought you were going to stop me from dozing off. Now I find you’ve facilitated a penetration of my defenses?”

Smirking, Amora swallowed her latest bite and moved the fork from her mouth. “Hunny, please, if I were facilitating penetration, then I would have left the room first. You also missed the look she gave me, and if you were in my position, you would have immediately known that I was dealing with a Tail on a mission. Not to be trifled with.”

A mild blush warmed Tail’s cheeks, and she carefully pushed her chest off of Barrier’s barrel. The scientist drew a breath and fluffed her plumage after she pitched her muzzle upward to dramatically gaze upon a barren spot on the wall beside a windowpane. “Even the mightiest mages know to not keep a pegasus from its perch, especially so when this one is mine.”

“Mmm,” Amora continued once she successfully shoved another scooping of the buttered stack down her throat, “I was also busy eating these, and launching a counter-incursion while holding such a valuable asset doesn’t strike me as a tactically sound decision. I guess I could have offered to share, but you did make them as a gift, and I know you’re planning to go to the diner anyway.”

The melodic doorbell chime interrupted Amora’s habitual utensil twirling, and the three ponies shared curious glimpses with one another until a frantic, childish thudding of knocks confirmed that someone had actually arrived at their doorstep.

Setting her dish on the kitchen table, the medic moved towards the window that overlooked the street. She craned her neck and moved her head around in an attempt to spot who else would be making a mid-morning visit to her abode. Her ears twitched to the sounds of muffled voices, and Tail watched on as her B.F.F.’s body language changed.

At the start of the brief journey, Amora’s tail rapidly flicked, and the muscles around her face strained to scrunch her muzzle and furrow her brow. Her ears had perked to the tones of the outside world, and suddenly, the unicorn’s entire body jolted upright and shed the hints of her annoyance. She sprinted out of the kitchen, dashed through the living room, and had made progress down the stairs by the time the bell rang again.

With her roommate suddenly out of sight, Tail stretched her wing and snuck in another affectionate squeeze to Barrier’s firm flank. She quietly snickered at the soft grunt he surrendered in response, and following a tranquil, “I love you,” she leaned down for another heartfelt kiss.

Once Barrier’s forelegs wrapped around her trunk, Tail blissfully melted. Quiet giggles bubbled out of the perky pegasus, and one of her hooves drew little shapes on Barrier’s chest. The rumbling commotion down on the landing might as well have been a continent away, and Tail’s ears barely swayed to the growing bustle.

At least, that remained the case until Sincy’s flamboyant wail bombarded the apartment. “Tail!” he shouted through wandering pitches that easily drew the attention of Tail and Barrier towards the top of the staircase. The blond-maned unicorn sprang into view like he had leapt onto a stage, and his brown eyes passionately sparkled the second he absorbed everything his sister and her coltfriend could offer. “You cut your hair.”

“Did I forget about another touring round in Canterlot?” Tail quietly questioned in the wake of Sincy’s concluding whisper. Her eyes shifted, and soft notes slipped from her mouth as she counted days in her mind and aligned them to dates. “No, I don’t think I did. Sincy, Sweety, uhh, what are you doing here?”

“We were invited!” he jovially answered while flailing a foreleg. “We each got letters from Princess Celestia asking us to come immediately for a certain medal ceremony that’s tomorrow. You should have seen Barley’s face”—a wound scroll, ensnared by the colt’s brown aura, appeared at his side—“when this showed up in our hotel room. So proud!”

Tail cautiously raised and folded one of her forelegs. She angled her nose towards the corner of the ottoman, and her inquisitive stare drilled into her brother’s enthusiastic countenance. “We—eeeeeeeee!”

A white pegasus climbed to the top of the steps, and she banished the need for Tail to ask the question. The older mare gazed upon the lounging ponies with glistening hazel eyes that matched Sincerity’s intensity. “Well, there’s a precious memory that I wasn’t sure I’d see. Striving, Sweety, get up here quick. We get to meet him after all, and she’s even perching.”

“Oh?” a stallion’s call responded to the dulcet beckoning. “We can continue this upstairs, Amora. Can’t miss out on the opportunity to be a dad.”

Tail blinked when another frost-blue unicorn poked his head around the wall that divided the living room from the stairwell. Touched by a bit of grey, his spiky black mane brushed against the wavy golden-brown strands of his wife’s cascading hair, and a very familiar grin stretched across his muzzle.

“Mom, Dad, hello,” the scientist awkwardly spoke from atop her cozy pedestal.

“Yeah, that brings me back,” Tail’s father teased while he gave her mom a gentle, knowing nudge. “Are you going to introduce us to your coltfriend, Dear, or should we just loiter by the door until Amora pushes us in?”

With her cheeks reddening even more, Tail ruffled her feathers and carefully slid off Barrier so he could sit up on the couch. Of course, the guard stood, undoubtedly the product of years of military service, and the act prompted Tail to follow suit. “Barrier, this is my mom, Breezy Wish, and my dad, Dr. Striving Path—”

“Dr. P!” Amora gleefully interjected from her hiding spot somewhere along the flight.

In the midst of the unexpected first meeting, Tail’s heart raced. She nervously flicked her namesake, shook her head with a snort, and slowly inhaled before proceeding. “Mom, Dad, this is Captain Magic Barrier, and yes, he is obviously the coltfriend that I told you about.”

“And still an adonis,” Sincy happily added. He beamed and waved at Barrier while Tail observed the exchange. While definitely weird, something about her brother’s antics made the physicist’s anxious twitching come to an end.

Barrier responded with a curt wave of his own. “Ma’am, sir, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you both,” he calmly addressed the pair, and he stealthily draped a foreleg over Tail’s withers.

“So precious,” Breezy squeaked. She shuffled across the living room and reached over the ottoman to wrap both Barrier and Tail in a motherly hug. “I’m so happy you found each other, and I’m so happy that you’re both safe. I know we’re dropping in on you, but I really wanted to see my girl before settling into the hotel for the afternoon. Plus, your father wants to go sightseeing, and we both know that will eat up the rest of the day.”

Slightly taller than her mother, Tail returned Breezy’s hug and gently brushed against the elder mare’s crest with her chin. “Mm, it’s good to see you too, Mom. You’re not dropping in on much, honestly. We were about to go on a lunch date, and I was, well, perching.”

Giggling, Breezy cooed in delight after Barrier reciprocated her spontaneous embrace as well. “I could tell, Sweety, and you were really showing your pegasus pride. I don’t want to interfere with your plans too much, but if you’d indulge me with another piece of feathery lore, I would like to take your coltfriend on a friendship walk. Just one block! It’ll give you some time to catch up with Dad, too.”

“A friendship walk?” Barrier asked, carefully setting his hoof back on the carpet between the pieces of furniture. “And you can call me Barrier, Mrs. Wish.”

The hazel-eyed mare kept laughing as she scooted back. She unfurled her span, corralled the captain, and started to shepherd him towards the exit. “It’s when a mama pegasus evaluates new suitors set to come into her nest.” Breezy glanced over her shoulder and shot a mischievous smirk at Barrier that got the captain moving instantly.

“You cannot be serious,” Tail blurted after planting the tip of her wing against her forehead. “If Sincy is calling him an adonis, I hardly think another round of crazy is necessary.”

Barrier just chortled. “It’s fine, Blanket. Seems like it’s taken on another name these days, but since your mother explained it, I can say that I’m hardly surprised. A block isn’t an obstacle. Catch up with your dad and Sincy. Your mom is safe with me.”

Listening to her mother tell Barrier that he could call her Breezy, Tail pursed her lips. She lifted her primary feathers to watch as the pair disappeared down the steps, and she sighed at her father once the fwooshing noises of the opening and closing door reached her ears.

Striving Path rolled his shoulders and trotted to Tail. It didn’t take long for the unicorn to take his turn throwing his limbs around his daughter’s withers, and he released a long, loving sigh that flooded Tail’s senses with paternal joy. “I’m so proud of you, my sweet girl. From making trinkets in my toolshed to saving an empire. And I have my second daughter here too. I want to hear everything, or, at least, everything you can tell me before I convince Breezy to let us unpack. There is a lot to see in Canterlot after all.”

Barrier chuckled after Tail loosed another groan. “I’ve already told you, a dozen times now, you have nothing to apologize for, Blanket. Your mom is adorable, and you’ve already had to go through some initiation from my surrogate mother in Cady. Don’t worry about it. The walk around the block went well, and I clearly emitted good vibes.”

“Is a dozen times truly enough?” Tail pondered aloud as the pair approached the entrance to Pop’s Place. “I know you went through it okay. I’m just surprised she felt the need to do something like that. With my dad, it was easy. He really only wanted to know one thing, and the second I told him that I was in love with you, he switched gears from whatever parental-unit mode they were in and started rambling about research.”

The sleigh bell strap boisterously jangled once Barrier’s magic grasped the forest-green door of their favorite restaurant. He opened it, exposing both Tail and himself to the onslaught of scents and chatter that diffused from the heavenly confines. “To be fair, I think your mom only wanted to know one thing as well. Compared to the consortium of insufferable brats, Breezy Wish made for delightful company. I can see where you get it from, along with that impish grin.”

For a few seconds, Tail closed her eyes and basked in the waves of culinary wonder that bombarded her senses. The sizzle of the lively griddle grazed her ears, and the aromas of caramelized onions, grilled cheese, and fried potatoes flooded her nose. “Mm, I love this place,” she mumbled in a provoked purr that dribbled from her throat.

“Hard not to,” Barrier commented, stealing a kiss from Tail as she trotted past.

The pegasus pranced when she looked to the left. The restaurant was more crowded than they were used to seeing during their late-night outings, but the second booth presented its unoccupied benches to Tail. “To be honest, I probably picked up a lot of habits and quirks from my parents,” she added before skipping to her usual seat.

“No complaints from me,” the stallion replied. He sat next to Tail after holding the door open for a pink unicorn who came up behind them. Getting situated, he gently nosed the pretty physicist and smiled as he leaned against her frame. “Your quirks are a part of what makes you special, so I’ll always thank your family for that. And even though we might have been delayed, we’re here now.”

“Oh, thank the princesses!” Trot shouted after he walked out from the rear kitchen to the front of the house. The burly dusty-cream earth pony hunkered down near the griddle by throwing his chest upon the countertop directly across the aisle from Tail and Barrier’s bench. “Candy and I were starting to get worried about you two, but things must be fine if The Destroyer is sporting a spunky new manecut. Plus, you’re both making use of the same chair, which bodes well for our favorite ship.”

Lurching forward, Tail greeted the emerald-eyed owner with a beaming grin. “Sorry we haven’t been around much, Trot. I got the Feather Flu, and the recovery time was pretty nasty. The dreams were pretty trippy too.”

“You don’t say?” the bearded cook countered, scratching the scruff under his chin while he narrowed his gaze. “Not leaving anything big out of that explanation, Ms. Tail? The newspapers have looked pretty interesting for the past couple of weeks. Would be a real shame if I couldn’t give some proper heroes their just thanks. Though, I guess I could start by shutting up and taking your orders.”

Tail batted her forehoof while a wave of redness swept across her countenance. Her wings pomfed against Barrier’s side along with the back of the booth when her mind recalled glimpses of the front pages. Thankfully, the Armistice drew most of the attention, but— “No, no! No thanks are necessary, Trot. I’ve got everything I need right here. Though, if I could order a Western with super-crispy hash browns, that would be great.”

An unusually sly smile spread across Barrier’s face. The unicorn stretched and sighed before he looked towards the master chef. “I think I’ll go back to my roots, Trot. Can’t let the original go untasted for too long. Godfather for me, please.”

“Coming right up!” Trot proclaimed, putting some added pep in his step as he pushed off the counter and turned to the griddle.

With the orders in, Barrier swiveled his head and gently tapped his nose against the tip of Tail’s muzzle. He carefully moved his foreleg around Tail’s unbridled wing, and he set his fetlock over hers. “Mm, funny how you should mention that you have everything you need. I didn’t use the exact same words to convey that to your mom, but they were pretty similar.”

“You’re going to make me swoon, Magic Bear, and we haven’t even gotten our meals yet.” Tail wiggled in the wake of the boop, and she huffed to the renewed wave of heat that gripped her cheeks. A short pause followed her subdued retort, but a cognitive jolt swiftly spurred the mare’s ever-lurking scrutiny. “Speaking of swooning, you must have used some type of sorcery on my mom. I can’t imagine what you told her since I don’t think I have ever, in my entire life, watched her get Sincy and Dad moving first. There had to have been some top-notch vibes from my special somepony.”

“Well, we did agree to no more secrets,” the colt spoke again after retreating an inch, “so it’s only fair to let you know.”

The scientist silently observed Barrier as his horn sprang to life. At the behest of the handsome blue aura that illuminated the spire, the captain’s tattered, battle-worn flask appeared on the grey tabletop.

Barrier’s eyes gravitated towards the metal container. He took a deep breath and released it slowly before he tilted his head and reaffixed his gaze to the pegasus. “There is no one on this planet who I trust more than you, Tail. There’s no one who I want by my side more than you, either. We’ve seen a lot, and we’ve been through a lot. And while a higher power showed us both a point in time further down the road, I still want to take the time to actually walk down that road with you.”

Tail held her breath as she listened to Barrier. Her wings stiffened again, and her clinging blush spread like wildfire to her ears. Her heart fervently pounded with such a vigorous intensity that she became certain that she was hearing a click added to the track of her existence. Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! In the limit of asymptotic freedom!

Barrier pushed the flask along the table until it came to rest beside Tail. “When I told your mom I didn’t have a ring yet, she asked me what I planned to do. I answered the only way I could to justify sharing a life with you, Blanket. I just can’t quit. So, while I’m forgoing some of the usual ceremony”—tightening his hold on his marefriend’s hoof, Barrier gulped—“Tail, marry me?”

To Be Continued?

‘Wing, Sweety, no! You’re not cliffhangering these fine readers like this after they’ve waited over four years to get to this moment. I’m pulling rank! Consider the wedding invitations sent! I’ll see you all next week for NLA Chapter 47.’

Author's Note:

That last chapter was a long one, wasn't it? The entire battle arc was planned to the minute to make sure the threads converged. I acted out scenes in my living room, read the dialogue aloud, and made my neighbors think I had gone insane by wailing Sombra's lines. I think it was worth it.

And on that note, folks, we've reached the end. Much like NLD Chapter 29, this was where I intended to hang it up and close it out, but the mare's voice in my head was just too strong.

That's the story I'm sticking to, even if it's kind of a lie. Next week's chapter was always intended, and frankly, 46's cliffhanger just wasn't quite up to my level of asshole sendoff. So.... next week, we get to do it all again, and on my birthday too!

As always, thank you for your time and readership. I hope to see you all for the final chapter, NLA #47 - Day 610, No Longer Alone.

P.S. Yes, I do believe the cliffhanger at the end of 47 is even worse than cutting to black on a marriage proposal.

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