• Published 10th Dec 2020
  • 3,880 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 5 - A Catty Pegasus

A refreshing rush of air combed through Tail’s coat after the behemoth doors had opened to reveal the physicist’s new lab. Behind the mare, the dark tugs of the dampened, candlelit corridor wrapped about her swishing namesake, but Tail’s gaze defiantly wandered from the ancient realm to home in on her future.

The white ambient light of the interior space practically bled across the threshold, and its warmth slowly pulled the pegasus forward with a beckoning call that only she could hear. This range looked nothing like the facility Luna had assembled in Las Pegasus. A dozen workbenches bathed in an ethereal glow that put the finest Canterlot stores to shame, but that wasn’t even the best part.

Six of the workbenches had already been outfitted with the waveguides she would need to seamlessly continue her research—well, almost anyway. They were noticeably smaller than the unit she had used to create the 20-mm containment vessel, but that certainly wasn’t a deterrent. Quite to the contrary, Tail’s wings ruffled at the scientific challenge that brewed within her thoughts, and it was only Luna’s interrupting giggle that yanked the sky-high flier back to the moment.

Tail snapped her head to her left and glanced upward at the grinning, teal-eyed alicorn. “You can’t blame me for showing an interest in new equipment, Princess. And the feel of this room is just… It’s just so different from how my lab in Las Pegasus felt.”

Light danced about Luna’s iris after the giggle subsided and yielded its ground to a beaming smile. “Then fear not, Ms. Tail. The Crown shall reserve its right to giggle for more pressing matters such as the budding romance between two of its steadfastly loyal officers.”

The smaller mare inhaled rapidly and deadpanned. Her wings spread, and her feathers flicked about to the rising tide of embarrassment. “You really are an insufferable brat.”

Luna’s mischievous smirk eroded instantly, and a torrent of laughter soon followed. She hunched forward and slammed her foreleg into the floor while teardrops assaulted the corners of her eyes. “By the stars, you two really are meant to be together! The expression! The flat delivery! A certain somepony has learned well from her teacher.”

For an instant, the desire to sigh and scowl blazed across the confines of Tail’s mind. The muscles in her head reflexively twitched to the mounting need, but the physicist repressed the urge. She slid closer to the chortling Princess of the Night, lifted her namesake, and deftly swatted Luna across the alicorn’s crescent cutie mark.

“Rebellion!” the princess squealed from the benign blow. Her wings swiftly flared, and the rush of wind that emerged from the diarch’s span carried enough strength to push Tail a few paces away from the flustered alicorn.

A proud grin gripped Tail’s countenance, and her brow sculpted a smug expression that cut across her glimmering chocolate-colored eyes. “And you and Amora say that I’m easy. You’re already crying foul after one perfectly placed swish. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it, Princess.”

The playful tone in the physicist’s voice utterly eradicated the shock that had usurped Luna’s figure. “Oh no, my little pony,” she replied in a soft, sinister serenade, “you’re mistaking my shock for weakness. I didn’t expect you to be at this level quite so soon, but I guess I can finally welcome you to the game.”

Silence followed the exchange, and the two mares held their firm stares and straight faces.

Echoes of the day she met Barrier popped from Tail’s memories. The way they held those looks. That dangerous glint in Luna’s eyes is exactly the same as it was back then. Maybe there’s a little bit of catty pegasus in our nocturnal alicorn. Well, this time around, there will be no backpedaling from me, Princess.

For a few more seconds, the stillness lingered until splurts of wind sputtered through the mares’ tightly pressed lips. Once again, giggles and laughter followed, and the sounds quickly filled the massive volume of the lab with an added shot of joy.

“Ahh,” Tail sighed once the fit died out. Her body fell into that post-chuckle, contented daze, and she glanced over at the equally amused, slouching Luna. “So, Princess, are we just going to sit here pretending to do the Barrier thing all night, or are you going to tell me the reason why this room is absolutely covered in this bubbly aura?

“I certainly have a few educated guesses already, including one that I’d probably be willing to drop a few bits on, but I’d rather not make a wager when I can get the information directly from the source.”

One-by-one, Princess Luna replanted her hooves before straightening her posture. “Indeed, being Barrier doesn’t exactly suit you. You are more yourself standing at his side instead”—she drew a breath as the muscles around her chest contracted to repress the resurgent humor—“but that doesn’t have anything to do with your question. Given the cracks you put into the wall of the Las Pegasus lab, Celestia and I decided to have this room triply reinforced—sun, moon, and love.”

Tail nodded and hummed quietly while her sights scanned about her new domain. Eventually, she lifted her head to observe the beautiful, luminescent tiles that comprised the ceiling and replied, “Yeah, it was an unexpected result. Barrier and I have compatible wavelengths”—she paused to scowl at the impish look Luna flashed—“and resonance was definitely expected. I just don’t know how we broke the plateau.

“I redid the calculation seventeen times and even threw conservative systematic errors into the mix. The ninety-five C.L. is still 1.02 A.E.U. I’d rather not have this drift beyond you and your sister, but I don’t think this system can ever see general deployment.”

“Agreed,” Luna spoke with a firm, professional intonation that vividly projected her regal stature. “Much like the Elements of Harmony, that sort of power should only be trusted to those who have the dedication and resilience to wield it effectively. The resilience of someone like the pony in my presence works nicely—especially after the fine showing she gave in her B.C.T. final exam.

“My sources in the Equestrian Intelligence Service say that word of her determination has spread through the entire Canterlot patrol.” Luna paused and briefly held her forehoof to her chin. “On a semi-related note, I do not think you will have to worry about interference from the Equestrian Army anymore. Trigger’s wife will be taking over as the representative on the Joint Chiefs. Gracious Waters came to oversee the appointment himself.”

Tail’s muzzle reddened from the less-than-subtle praise, and her wings and namesake flicked several times before the familiar name reached her perking ears. “Wait, you mean the same stallion that wrote the discourse of war book?”

The princess nodded. “Yes, the very same, and I believe he would like to meet you in person before he returns home. I strongly suggest it. While you do receive royal support, Gracious is a powerful ally to have in your pocket. For now though, why don’t I help you get situated—or at least as much as I can—before my court begins? You’re going to have a lot of work over the next few days, I am sure.”

Feathers instinctively ruffled at the prospect, and Tail lightly waved her hoof to dismiss the burden. “Oh! You don’t have to worry about that. I can take care of things myself, and I should really catch up with Barrier anyway—”

Luna froze the smaller mare with a dramatic lift of her foreleg. Her teal gaze settled upon Tail’s inquisitively wavering frame. “It’s no problem at all, and Cadance still has plans for your coltfriend anyway. You can rendezvous with them later at the Phoenix Fire. Besides, Cady isn’t the only princess that can twist arrangements. I still have plans myself—for you.”

A rushed pace took Tail through the streets of Canterlot as she made her way from the castle to the Phoenix Fire. Somehow, Luna had shunned a portion of her court duties to help calibrate all six of those cute waveguides. A tiny smirk tugged at a corner of her lips. Loyalty was definitely proving to be her favorite thus far. Yes, she had named them after the Elements of Harmony, and the notion forged a quiet giggle as she reflected on the personalities of her latest bits of equipment.

With a flap of her wings, the armor-clad pegasus leapt over one of the many ornate houses. She landed softly in an empty alleyway and used the passage to bypass the nighttime restaurant crowds. Nopony wanted to trudge through the underbelly of Equestria’s capital. The stones weren’t whitewashed here. The mark of the modern elite vanished in these overlooked corridors. They were charcoal and gritty—like my stallion—and they were effective.

Eventually, Tail emerged from the maze about a half a block away from Colonel Trigger’s establishment. As she approached the door, her casual step morphed into a catty crawl. Her eyelids descended, and a foxy demeanor captured her countenance. She rolled her gauntlet-covered forehoof and stealthily propped open the wood slab like a card magician peeling off a double lift.

The drone of inebriated guards drenched the mare’s sense of sound the instant she created a perceptible crack in the entryway. She slipped in, maintaining the spirit of her prowl as she snaked her way towards the bar.

To their credits, the other patrons didn’t rat her out. In fact, they shot the newest member of their family sly looks and nodded her in the direction of her target.

Tail’s nostrils flared while she weaved her way around the tables and other ponies. Her heart thumped at the promise of latching onto that stallion after a long day of training and work. The primal recesses of her mind prodded, producing every silent step—invoking the very nature of what it meant to be a pegasus: proud, swift, and on top.

Finally, she caught sight of the unicorn haunched atop a stool. It was hard to miss his archaic armor kit, and it was even harder to miss the bright and bubbly pink alicorn sitting next to him. Tail crept forward and was about to complete her pounce when Barrier tossed his head towards the ceiling and downed a shot.

“Keep ‘em comin’, Trigs!” the stallion groaned in ecstasy. “Cadance still isn’t done tryin’ to get things outta me, and eleven just isn’t cuttin’ it.”

“Every. Detail,” Cadance reiterated, taking her sweet time to drill a little alcohol-aided emphasis into her words.

Barrier propped his foreleg on the countertop and promptly planted his chin on his curled limb. “So,” he teased, keeping his focus on the alicorn, “this is how the Princess of Love operates? Take a stallion out and get him shitfaced in front of his friends before picking at all of his deepest, darkest secrets?”

“Pbbbbt,” Cady sighed as she sprawled herself over the bar. “If you weren’t such a stubborn stallion, I wouldn’t have to get drunk—wouldn’t have to get you drunk to get all of the juicy details about you and your little pegasus.”

The other patrons responded to the princess’s childish outburst by erupting into a fit of chuckles. Tail, on-the-other-hoof, smirked in silence after she took a step back into the crowd. She didn’t want to interrupt this, especially when it came to Magic Barrier and his royal entourage.

“You getting drunk might actually be worth it, but you’re already at your limit. So there’s not much point in it, now is there?”

Cadance retaliated against the hotshot smile plastered upon Barrier’s muzzle with an overzealous pout. “I can take you any day of the week, Grandpa,” she slurred before pumping her hoof towards the ceiling. “One answer per shot! Whatever Trigger chooses!” She paused to throw a half-lidded stare in the bartender’s direction. “An’ make it a good’un. Shiny’ll get ruffled when he finds out I threw money at you. Makes the sex better.”

Tail snorted at the exchange and watched as the Coltston-wearing stallion behind the bar snapped his head towards the pink mare of honor. His midnight-coated fetlock tugged at the brown vest that covered his torso, and Tail noted the wry grimace that revealed Trigger’s pearly whites.

“That’s what everyone here wanted to know, Cady,” Trigger shouted over the raucous laughter that burst from table-pounding patrons and amused guards. “As for that deal you’re brokering, ya might want to make sure Ol’ Gramps is up for your challenge before I pour the good stuff. I hate wastin’ top product.”

Barrier flinched, drawing Tail’s attention as she leaned forward to get a slightly better viewing angle. His hoof dropped on the dark wood bartop with a resounding thud, and Tail didn’t have to see it to know that Barrier’s hellfire stare accompanied the subtle rolling of his head.

“I’m in,” Barrier answered cooly while his blue, two-toned tail whipped about beneath his stool. “I can drink this li’l mare under the damn table. I wonder if she can even make it through a single question.”

Trigger snickered and lightly shook his head at Barrier’s retort. “You’re in way deeper than ya think, Barry.” His hooves rummaged through the space beneath the counter, and after a few seconds of searching, the stallion retrieved a silver tray, ten shot glasses, and two bottles of hard liquor.

“A little Manehattan Liver-Knives for the stallion,” Trigger explained, filling half of the glimmering glasses with the golden liquid that flowed from the blocky bottle he had grabbed. He set the container aside and reached for the next selection before pouring an emerald elixir from the far more dignified, rounded glass. “And some d’Amour for our resident Princess of Love. May her hot, angry sex with Captain Armor be a story that we’ll never have to hear.”

No pony had to wait very long for the first pair of drinks to be consumed. Both Barrier and Cadance snatched their respective beverages at the behest of prideful magical auras, and both ponies tossed the brews down their throats without a flicker of hesitation.

Barrier focused on Cadance after he set the emptied glass down. She teetered atop her seat, and each time she leaned away from the captain, Barrier would drift closer and raise his foreleg as though he were preparing to catch her.

“Stop being a dad!” Cadance wailed. A happy giggle quickly swept the more aggressive demeanor aside, and the hot-pink alicorn clapped her forehooves together. “I get a question. I get a question. What—what do you see in Tail that makes you want to pursue her romantically?”

“Fuck,” Barrier grumbled under his breath. He faced the cluster of remaining glasses and reached for the second shot out of habit. “Determination,” he spoke louder. “When we first met, she told me she couldn’t quit. I was nothing short of an asshole that day, and she just shrugged it off. Didn’t matter how hard I pushed either. She didn’t flake.”

“Oooo, so she hit your respect button right off the bat.” Cadance’s purple eyes sparkled with excitement, and her light blue magic corralled her next endeavor. She downed the liquor and lifted her muzzle to guide a happy hum from her lungs towards the unseen sky. Again, she swayed briefly before recomposing herself to tackle the task at hoof. “And what about her physically appeals to you the most?”

The captain swallowed his second and third shots. He exhaled heavily as he stretched his spine and forelimbs. “Her wings and feathers. I love them. Maybe it’s only Trigsy that knows up to this point, but I have a huge feather fetish. Might be due to my time with Ember or the texture and softness of them. I don’t know, but they flick all the right switches.”

Tail’s ears twitched as she listened. Her wings—the ones that he loves—fluttered in the wake of Barrier’s admiration. She could feel the burn crawl upon her cheeks, and at least a couple guards made their chuckles heard as they gently nudged her sides.

“And what else?” Once again, Cadance slurred her words after consuming more of the colorful beverage. “There’s always something else. You know that, right?”

Barrier grunted and rolled his eyes. “I know how courtship works, and for your information, it’s her eyes.” As he spoke, the stallion’s tone took on a surprisingly solemn timbre. “They have more weight in them than any other pony’s I’ve seen. She’s got that fire in her—the one that reminds me of them.”

The Princess of Love tried to pick up her fourth glass with her magic, but the normally controlled aura refused to obey her whims. A low rumble rolled from her throat as she continued to try, but eventually, the mare gave up, lowered her mouth to the glass, and slurped the drink.

“Finally!” Cadance squealed while lifting herself up. “Now, do you…” She shook her head, and her brows lifted and fell as confusion carved its presence onto her visage. “Do…” She huffed and fluffed her feathers. “What’s your biggest fear with courting Tail?”

Barrier blinked. He promptly sloshed more Liver-Knives around his mouth and gulped down the alcohol. “Same as every other stallion in history. That I’m not good enough. Tail accepted me after I told ‘er everything. I’ve told her all of it, but I’m still afraid she’ll wake up one day and see me for the monster that I know I am.”

The lavender pegasus jolted as the words careened into her brain. Her chocolate-colored irides caught fire, and one of her wings darted out to the side. She stomped forward, no longer caring about how her interruption might alter the dynamic of Barrier’s interaction with Cadance. He had encroached upon a hallowed ground, and it was her right to do something about it.

The Princess of Love slumped onto the bar during Tail’s approach. Barrier’s attention was fully affixed to the fading princess until the pegasus wrapped a leg around the stallion, spun him around, and planted a passionate kiss on his muzzle that drew out every whistle and catcall imaginable.

Again, Barrier blinked to the fiery stare that bore into his sluggish, booze-filled body. He remained slack-jawed when Tail broke the kiss, and a heated breath dripped from his opened mouth.

“You’re not a monster, Barrier. I told you that already. I will never think that. Ever!” She spread the primaries of her still-opened wing and tenderly brushed them against his face before her eyes targeted a single lavender feather in the bunch. Swiftly, she plucked it from her appendage and tucked it into his mane. “Just so you don’t forget, Feather Boy.

“And as for you, Princess,” Tail continued her verbal bombardment after tilting towards the sprawled alicorn. “I hope that showed you exactly how I feel about my captain. I’ll be taking him home now, so with regards to that double date Luna told me you wanted… Pop’s Place for a 7 PM dinner. Tomorrow.”

With that, Tail hopped from Barrier’s post and sauntered to the door. The crowd parted for the mare and gave her all the room in the world to seductively strut with all of the confidence she had. “C’mon, Sweety, I’ll walk you home.”

Trigger tapped the countertop near Princess Cadance after nearly a minute had passed since Barrier’s abrupt departure. “Can’t say I’ve ever seen a stallion bolt after a filly quite like that,” he said to the unmoving alicorn. “I hope ya got what ya were hoping to see, Cady. It’s always fun being an asshole with you.”

The mare’s ears swiveled at the comment, and a broad grin split her muzzle. She opened her eyes, quickly peered up at the hovering bartender, and sat up without any sign of compromised motor skills. “Always, Trigsy, and thanks for the juice.”

Author's Note:

Happy Thursday and welcome to 2021! Time for another chapter. As always, thank you for your continued readership and support. It's honestly hard for us to contain ourselves each week and stick to the schedule. :3 Squees, once again, attacked Fate's emotions. Though, deaths and fuck yeahs had some decent representation. Stay tuned for next week's chapter: Under the Stars.

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