• 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 6 - Under the Stars

A melodic hum drifted from Tail’s mouth as she escorted Barrier back towards his home. After every few steps, she’d glance over her shoulder to make sure that the stallion was keeping pace. More often than not, she found that he was. In fact, more often than not, she found that his eyes were keenly following her swishing namesake—and that a blush would usurp his muzzle’s natural color every time he got caught in the act.

“Not fair,” he mumbled in an alcohol-induced drawl. “Cute pegasus, bar kiss, good view.”

Tail giggled at that one, and she promptly paused her stride to give the inebriated stallion the time he needed to pull up to her flank. “Form up, Captain,” she spoke with a tone that injected the standard order with playful mischief. “I don’t want to hear excuses for that when I can make an excuse to turn a bar kiss into a street kiss.”

Barrier’s ears flicked upright, and he stumbled forward as quickly as his sedated body dared to allow. “It’s dangerous to flirt with a drunk colt,” he commented after his meandering trot finally carried him to the correct position at Tail’s side.

“So is going to a bar with Princess Cadance, especially when said bar is owned by Trigger,” the lavender mare quipped while her sights swept over the unicorn’s armored frame. Concern plucked the sportive spring from Tail’s voice and firmed the features of her face. Beneath the gentle glow of a city streetlamp, the amber flare that periodically graced her gaze returned in full force to cast its hold upon the silenced stallion. “And it’s far more dangerous to call yourself monster when I’ve already told you I won’t believe it.”

Wings spread at the behest of the rising passion. Tail’s breaths quickened, and her heart raced while that heat coursed across her nerves like nothing else in the entire universe mattered at all. Her coat puffed at the internalized notion that her captain’s honor was on the line, and she became wholly transfixed by the blue eyes that cradled her attention.

Seconds of silence lingered upon their score, and eventually, the pegasus scrunched her muzzle, sharply inhaled, and waited for Barrier’s response. Yet Barrier stood still. The only hints that showed were subtle movements of pupils that outlined Tail’s cheeks, skirted her exposed feathers, or fell into her emblazoned stare.

Finally, it clicked. Barrier broke the silence with a gasp, lowered his frame, and nudged the pegasus even after he drew a squeak from her. He pressed forward, lifting her forelegs from the ground and pinning her back to that glorious streetlight.

Those unfolded wings stiffened as Tail felt the warmth of Barrier’s muzzle upon her neck. The sensation contrasted sharply with the dull feel of the pole pressing against the protective plates that adorned her back—or the weight of his armor clashing with the resistance that her own kit had to offer. His heat was far better, and the mare couldn’t help but shiver when the tip of his muzzle lightly tapped against her own.

“Your attitude,” he whispered with a volume just loud enough to tug upon Tail’s ear tips. He shifted his head forward to deposit a kiss upon the mare’s waiting lips. “Your personality. Your intelligence. Your dedication—”

It was Tail’s turn to blush. Crimson clearly showed on her muzzle and quickly spread to her ears as Barrier renewed his advances with increased vigor after each of his declarations. Somewhere buried in the depths of her mind, Tail’s foalhood counterpart flailed and squeed at the fulfillment of a reminisced romantic fantasy. In the present, her forelegs had moved of their own volitions to wrap around Barrier’s barrel.

“—are all dangerously enjoyable.” The captain brushed her mane with a wandering hoof and delivered a firm, punctuating kiss that drove home his arguments.

The mare’s hind legs quivered as the swelling tide of love drowned out the harsh taste of alcohol that still stuck to Barrier’s tongue. Her limbs relaxed, and she briefly slouched against the light post until the stallion’s free foreleg corralled her barrel and pulled her close. Time was ...a meaningless component of the spacetime four-vector… during that memorable moment, and when Barrier eventually retreated from his kiss, Tail peered up at her captain and held a silent, bated breath.

Had it not been for the barely perceptible curvature of the unicorn’s contented smirk, Tail would have immediately leaned forward to reclaim Barrier’s lips. Instead, she surrendered to the details that he gave her in that moment—from the tangible beat in his chest that transmitted through their embrace to the sparkle of mischief in his blue eyes that gave away a blossoming secret.

“I don’t think I want to go home yet,” he continued in a gruff murmur, revealing the truth behind that effervescent glow.

Tail laughed, tightening her own hold on the stallion as her muzzle crept towards one of his ears. “After a move like that, Magic, neither do I…”

The bushes and shrubs of the Canterlot Gardens whipped past Tail as she darted over the grounds. Streams of colors, drawn by flowers of all hues and shapes, blurred across her vision, and the pegasus took a brief moment to glance over her shoulder at the chasing Barrier. “Almost there,” she chimed, planting her left legs to make a push to the right.

Tail’s hooves navigated a gentle slope that rose above the borders constructed by the garden’s hedges. Forget-Me-Nots dotted the hill, and the way in which the soft blues captured the moonlight put a smile on her face. This was a place where they could put every bit of the city outside of their minds—where the ground peaked above the horizons etched by society and pushed her closer to a beloved sky...

That smile evaporated, and widened chocolate eyes accompanied the sudden presence of Barrier’s weight upon the mare’s back. Tail tumbled to the grass, and Barrier’s chuckling tones bit at her ears when he rolled her over and claimed his perch. That’s a pegasus thing, she reflexively thought as she peered up at a proud, less-inebriated grin.

“Gotcha,” he calmly announced in that gritty tenor that made Tail’s feathers ruffle.

The more she stared at that smug smirk, the more her muzzle scrunched. Finally, the pegasus lifted her leg and pressed her hoof to Barrier’s nose. “Sweety, you can’t count it as catching me if I’ve already crossed the finish line.”

“Is that so? Well”—the stallion paused, and his sights aimlessly wandered as though he were in deep thought—“Cady might say that love’s a battlefield, and where one places the finish line is up to interpretation. Right now, an observer would say I was winning.”

“We’re not on a battlefield, Barrier,” she snorted and defiantly flicked her namesake, “and you should be happy with that. Don’t forget, I outrank you now, Captain.”

The unicorn’s ears twitched in the wake of those words. It was his turn to contort his muzzle to the point that Tail believed he had started chewing on his cheek. A halfhearted scowl cut across his brow, and he yanked a breath into his lungs before delivering his rebuttal. “I thought we said no ranks outside of training.”

“I wasn’t the one who said love is a battlefield,” she purred in a singsong voice before her wingtip delicately ran over his chin. “And what kind of mare would I be if I let you have it both ways?”

Barrier ducked beneath Tail’s wingspan and rested his head atop the floof that escaped the purview of her golden breastplate. “The most amazing mare ever?” The cadence of his question quickened as a sidelong glance detected the deadpan response emanating from the pinned flier. His timbre took a shift of its own, morphing into something reminiscent of a pleading colt. “Can I at least count the streetlamp kiss?”

Tail settled back into the grass and softly sighed. She set her right forehoof just behind his ear and began to brush his mane—careful not to dislodge the feather keepsake—as the fresh memories of that kiss saturated her mind. Amidst those dreamy reveries, her attention gradually drifted to the stars above until the only earthly things she felt were the green blades poking up from beneath her body, Barrier’s radiating warmth, his occasionally tilting head, and the hairs with which she played. “Yes,” she eventually answered. “I’ll definitely give you that one. I’ll give you that one for quite some time.”

Several more seconds passed during which Tail’s focus gallivanted across the heavens, and the imaginary journey remained a silent one until the unicorn opted to accompany his date.

“Luna used to hide messages in them while we were on missions,” he commented quietly after dragging his muzzle towards Tail’s neck. “It was her way of keeping tabs on us from afar, and it was pretty useful when it came to the griffs. They thought that gift was just an equine myth.”

Like a slowly rising tide, a murmur brewed in Tail’s throat before a nostalgic wind dripped from her muzzle. “When I was younger, the stars really steered me to science, and… they strengthened my relationship with my dad too. We used to stargaze together a lot, and eventually, he started going out of his way to take me to the Ambler Planetarium to see all the exhibits and stuff. If we ever got to hear a cool lecture, he’d get super excited about the research going on around him. It was kind of inspiring to watch a scientist of his caliber jump around just like a foal.”

The pressure from Barrier’s subsequent snort jostled the fluffy tufts of Tail’s coat. The mare halted her petting and pivoted her head to take in the stallion’s sheepish smile. “What?” he answered the inquisitive expression that comically squished her countenance. “Am I not allowed to chuckle when you make it obvious where you got it from?”

Tail coiled her forelegs and reflexively puffed her cheeks. “Being told I’ve turned into my dad is absolutely the most romantic thing ever, Sweety,” she replied with a tone drenched in lighthearted sarcasm.

“Complain all you want, but I have yet to meet another pony who gets as worked up about science as you. I haven’t met a pony who takes to military history like you do either. We live in a magical world, but, if you ask me, that spirit needs a different kind of magic.”

The muscles in Tail’s face relaxed once those words reached her ears. Now, this I can work with, she thought, mischief stretching a corner of her lips. “I was just lucky to get an inspiring teacher who figured out how to get me moving. He’s a different kind of Magic, indeed.”

Barrier snorted again and shifted more of his weight atop the pegasus. “I sense your roommate’s terrible influence all over that one. Maybe we should finally do something about all the insufferable brats in our lives. Then we’d be free—” The stallion abruptly stopped, planted his mouth into Tail’s lavender fur, and groaned. “I can’t believe you agreed to that dinner with Shining and Cadance.”

“Mm,” Tail replied, draping her folded forelegs over his scruffy neck, “we don’t have to worry about them. The best part about this spot is that it’s just the plants, the sky, and us. We’re both going to have a lot on our plates tomorrow, so I propose that we let it be for now. Tonight, I want someone special to watch the stars with me.”

A minute passed in which the two ponies remained still. The mare’s chest gently rose and fell under the unicorn’s bulkier frame, and her mind swirled around the prevailing notion that sat bare upon her declaration. You’re the special someone…

Barrier swallowed hard, and the tension that surrounded the gulp flirted with Tail’s senses. His face started to noticeably flush, and the instant Tail’s demeanor transitioned from a concerned grimace to one that flashed a hint of awareness, the stallion’s horn lit.

Lavender fur rose to the tingling wave of magic that swept up the pegasus in its grip. Tail stretched in its hold once Barrier rolled onto the grass, and she uttered a quiet peep as the levitation spell deposited her back atop his waiting chest. She shivered blissfully as his muzzle brushed against her ear in piecemeal advancements that carried an aura of evaporating shyness.

“I would love to watch the stars with you,” he whispered. His forelegs wrapped around her torso before the remnant sparkle of his sorcery faded. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do this with anypony, and”—he paused and drew in the blueberry-like scent of Tail’s flowing mane—“stargazing was a family affair for me too.”

The relaxing physicist smiled contentedly as her sights once again greeted the numerous twinkling lights. “Is that so?” she playfully hummed. “Did you gaze up at them with Captain Armor, Grandpa, or are we talking a different kind of family affair?”

Tightening his hold on the smaller pony, the stallion grumbled, “You know I’m not actually his grandpa. One of my siblings gave birth to that branch of the family tree, and Cadance and Velvet skewed it more and more. Punishment for not accepting uncle, they said.”

In her head, Tail imagined little cartoon ponies jumping around Barrier while shouting teasing declarations regarding his grandfather status. One of them was, of course, themed in the color pattern of Princess Cadance. Another was Shining Armor, and the remaining participants were vague blobs of purple and blue that were left to the devices of Tail’s internal narration.

Bubbling laughter filled the air as the duet of her creativity and Barrier’s percussive rumblings pushed the mare past the brink of restraint. “From what I saw tonight, I’d say that you and Princess Cadance have quite the interesting relationship.”

“Yeah,” Barrier answered, his tone calming as he let the single word cling to the wind. “She’s a pretty important pony to me. Family is pretty important to me. It was the only thing I had left after I came back. But, to actually answer your question, this was something I used to do with my mother, so I guess we’re on even ground, Ms. Tail.”

“Well then, here’s to a resumed tradition, Mr. Barrier.” Her volume gradually diminished until a gentle stillness hovered around the pony pair. The pegasus’s heart thumped through the brief rest, and each quiet beat coaxed to the surface a more vibrant blush. Tail’s lips quivered, and the mare’s mind churned in search of the perfect lyrics. “I hope you know… there’s more for you here now.”

Author's Note:

Ohhh, another squee-dominated chapter declared by Fate. Let's go! Happy Thursday everyone! We're almost halfway through January, but we're nowhere near halfway through NLA. ;) We hope you're still digging the story so far, and every week, it is a trip to see your comments and rando DMs. I opted to wait a while before dropping a link to this one, but if you're still in the game 15000 words in or so...

We have a Discord server, located here: https://discord.gg/4u8h8Z6. Rules be pretty simple. Server has been chill. (Let's please keep it that way.)

See you next week for Chapter 7 — A Caliber's Debts!

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