• Published 10th Dec 2020
  • 3,819 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.

  • ...

PreviousChapters Next
Chapter 7 - A Caliber’s Debts

The gardens of Canterlot seemed like a distant memory as Tail meandered alone down a dusty road in Las Pegasus. A giant crescent moon just peeked over the horizon, and its argent smile flirted with the wooden rooftops of the old-style shops that lined the street. For whatever reason, Tail was the only pony that dared to drift about the dry, desert night, and sure enough, every building she passed peered back at her with blackened windows that echoed the stillness.

“What am I doing here?” the mare spoke in an airy tone as she swiveled her head in search of a familiar face. When no answer came, Tail staggered forward. A groan crawled up her throat as she slogged through the city. Her eyelids drooped, and she struggled to maintain a straight path, for the sands of a groggy nemesis toyed with her balance.

Her mind felt stretched beyond its natural limit—as though the streams of her consciousness were actually fibers that could be pulled until she was left with troubling pockets in her mental landscape. Each step brought additional weight that crashed upon her lean frame. Hind legs failed to support, forelegs failed to steer, and Tail’s surroundings began to swirl like water careening around the event horizon of a drain.

“Where are you?” she murmured right before the sound of Barrier’s voice barely brushed against her perking ears.

“...with a marginally sober stallion in a park…”

Tail’s wings had spread to the fleeting words, and she quickly stumbled forward at the sign of life only to spill onto her side when the silence resumed. An exasperated sigh burst through her parted mouth and flaring nostrils, and her legs strained as she battled against an oppressive, invisible weight that seemed to keep her prone.

“The Tartarus is this?” she groaned. The muscles in her barrel tightened when she tried to lift her body once more, yet nothing budged. She continued to struggle—and crafted a defiant scowl as her efforts to will her limbs to just do something! resulted in a racing heart and mounting frustration.

“Oh, come on!” Tail roared again. Her extremities felt like utter deadweight, and the grit of the Las Pegasus road drenched her sense of touch as the grains of dirt infected the mare’s lavender coat. She scrunched her muzzle in discomfort, but thankfully, the cringey ordeal did not last for long.

“Can’t have a fussy date…”

Warmth cascaded over Tail’s rebellious legs as the added statement flirted with her ears. The barren ground popped from her awareness as she was rolled onto her back, and a vibrant, sunny sky greeted the suddenly stunned scientist. Blades of grass sought refuge in her fur, and a soft, breathing mattress kept her quite snug beneath Celestia’s star.

“Barrier…” Her whisper rumbled throughout the wilderness. While quiet in volume, the name carried a surreal energy that made the ground tremble. She did not need to look back to identify the stallion who tightly held her. He could make it… even here… and that was more than enough. It no longer mattered that her limbs misbehaved, and the strange discontinuity in how she arrived at this place from Las Pegasus barely registered as a problem.

“Much better. You know a stallion could get used to having an adorable mare sleeping on top of him.”

Tail slowly turned her head to lightly nuzzle into his fluff. “I’m not asleep, Barrier,” she hummed. “You haven’t run me into the ground today, so how could I possibly fall—”

“But now I’m going to have to figure out exactly what to do with you,” the stallion continued speaking as though Tail hadn’t answered him at all. “There’s a lot I need to think about when it comes to you.”

Tail pursed her lips while her attention settled on the serious timbre that had usurped the unicorn’s tone. A torrent of words assembled in her head while gentle tugs at her mane marked the tender brushings Barrier had unleashed.

“How can I prepare you for the next step while maintaining this? Taking you to the next level and making sure you’re best equipped”—he gulped and took an audible breath—“to become my successor. Moments like this… are distant and rare for me, and I would be lying if I said I felt like I deserve them. I would be lying if I said I wanted you to be like me. I just don’t know how I can make you better. But then, you keep surprising me. You keep sticking up for me. You keep defying the odds.” He descended into a whisper that Tail somehow perceived as a roar. “You are the most important pony to come into my life in over a thousand years. You’re the sun to my sky.”

Tail’s body clicked. Her lungs swelled, and she inhaled with a ravenous ferocity that made it seem as though she had lingered on the verge of drowning. She rapidly sat up, and her head darted about to haphazardly throw her gaze around yet another location. A darkened room—devoid of Barrier’s tender warmth—greeted her, and Tail was left to confront an aura of an entirely different caliber.

Something old and something powerful waited in the shadows. It cast an eerie, mysterious darkness that contorted Tail’s features into a concerned, gaping stare. The mare reached out for the unknown, towards what she interpreted as a figure, and from the depths of that outline, a cylindrical form began to take shape in front of the pegasus’s widening chocolate eyes. It drew closer and closer over the course of a few seconds until a decidedly metallic surface finally came to rest against Tail’s outstretched hoof.

The scientist jerked from the sensation, and her ears instinctively flopped as curiosity naturally accompanied the unease. She delicately guided her hoof over the sloped surface and felt the seams and grooves that covered the unidentified, mystically shrouded object. Her muzzle quivered, and her lips wiggled as the question assembled in her mind. Though she did not have to ask.

A single explanation emerged from the voice of an older mare that carried wisdom in every facet of its tones. “Resolve.”

Ragged, staccato notes sprang from Tail’s muzzle as she heaved her torso from a firm mattress and assumed a seated position. Her hair, a quilt, and some silky sheets cascaded off her naked figure as her dilated pupils absorbed the first images of unfamiliar surroundings. Her sights initially fell upon a star motif carved into the bed’s hindboard. Its finer details had been snatched by the veil of greyscale that shrouded the chamber, but the swirling pattern of geometric designs spoke to her scientific instincts and allowed the beat of her respiration to shift to a much gentler tempo.

I’m awake this time… she commented to herself before her attention wandered to the source of the room’s darkness. To Tail’s left, heavy drapes hung over the windows, and only a trickle of exterior light managed to infiltrate. Even then, most of those intrusive pre-dawn photons abruptly fell upon a small, simple sofa placed directly in front of the window. The furniture’s finer features were robbed again by the dim environment, but Tail could discern the outlines of two armor kits stacked atop the light-grey cushions.

Tail blinked several times while this latest clue chipped away at the gap in her memory. Her feathers ruffled, and she stretched her neck as though she could crane for the story she yearned to reclaim. Her eyes dashed about, randomly hurling her gaze across the room and over numerous faint shimmers that tried to answer the mare’s call.

Armor… Stars… Stars… Garden! I must have fallen asleep with Barrier!

Tail’s mental page had turned, and her awareness immediately snapped to a sea of barely noticeable reflections that crowded the space. Her coat bristled once she identified the sources of each of those pinpricks, for every dot of light that condensed in the darkness came from the surface of an emptied bottle. Booze. Booze. Booze. Booze, the mare’s mind rattled as Tail obsessed over the glass contours. She finally caved in and leaned over the side of the mattress to pluck one from the floor—where she found the only comfort she could with that situation.

It’s dusty. All of them were dusty—as if they hadn’t been touched in weeks—as though whatever beast that had wrought this havoc had at least departed. With this train of thought established, Tail lowered her guard and twisted her hips to reach the wooden nightstand located beside the bed. She was okay with leaving the bottle there—at least until she saw what was placed atop the oak.

A dark cloth occupied that spot. It had been neatly folded several times over to form a makeshift cradle, and atop that soft fabric, her feather sat. “I told you. You’re not a monster,” she whispered aloud after quietly setting the bottle back on the floor.

Tail finally rolled to face her opposite side. There, Barrier rested beneath his quilt with the most contented smile on his muzzle that the mare had ever seen. The peace in that soft grin melted the mare’s heart, and the fragments of that troublesome dream faded into the land of the forgotten as she nestled into the warmth his barrel had to offer.

Her hooves drifted over his neck and ventured through his mane, pausing only to acknowledge the waking purr that seeped from his muzzle. “Oh, Barrier,” she cooed, trying to coax him from his slumber.

The stallion in question shifted slightly. His foreleg flopped around Tail’s back, and a light pressure held the pegasus in its cuddly confines. “Mm, no nightmares,” he muttered softly before Tail was further snatched by his embrace. “My Blanket.”

While lazily swishing her namesake atop the silvery sheet, Tail snickered at the new name. “First time you bring me to your place and I’m relabelled as an object? Your old-time dating customs are something else.”

Barrier opened one of his icy-blue eyes and quickly set his stare upon the physicist. That contented smile quickly spread into what Tail could have interpreted as a suave grin, and a throaty reply promptly emerged. “Nickname.”

Tail shuffled towards the headboard and repositioned her snout until her nose lightly tapped against Barrier’s. “Nickname, huh?” Even with the little light, her irides reflected a mischievous glow, and her lips followed suit by crafting a countering smirk. “I wonder what nickname I should give a stallion who’s soft, warm, huggable…”

“Mm, don’t know if it’s a good thing that I’m curious. Feels like I should be a bit terrified, and I might add that you’re the soft, warm, and huggable one here, Blanket.” Barrier lifted his foreleg, snagged the displaced quilt, and draped both his limb and the cloth back over the reclined flier.

The mare bit her lower lip after she was engulfed by the cozy domain. She wriggled in the unicorn’s gentle hold and threaded her forelegs around his body. “Well, I guess I can be your Blanket if you’ll be my Magic Bear.”

The stallion’s ear flopped and he tilted his head. “Magic Bear? Does that mean you want me to roar or something?”

Tail sharply inhaled and buried her muzzle into Barrier’s chest to suppress the laughter that rose despite her efforts. “Oh, my sweet stars, Barrier! It’s a play on the teddy bear thing Princess Luna teased us about, and while I don’t want to give her the satisfaction, the name really fits.”

“So…” Barrier began his response after yielding a quiet chuckle. “Relabelling a pony as an object with utility is bad, but relabelling a pony as a foal’s toy is fine?”

Tail giggled once more and stretched so he could catch her half-lidded glance. “You can always roar for me if you want to. Who knows? I just might like it. Though, I’m fairly certain that’s not exactly a third-date activity either. This coziness most definitely is, so I’ll take it and offer my thanks for being such a good caretaker. It’s quite sweet of you.”

Barrier flicked his tail in the wake of a quick peck to his cheek. “Least I can do for the mare who defends me like no other,” he answered quietly, rolling his head to sneak a peek at the drapes. “Nngh, but I’m not looking forward to getting up. Going to be a busy day with Bonecrusher and Indar, and I recall a certain filly promised a double date with a princess at 7 PM. I’m definitely going to have to add royal planning strategy to your executor curriculum.”

The pegasus grumbled, knowing that daybreak would soon be upon them—and that Barrier’s presence would be needed on the training field. She basked in his embrace for as long as she could and huffed once her mind finally admitted that it was time to get up. “I’ll probably be spending most of the day in my new lab. I hope you don’t mind, but I think Princess Luna has more in store for me.”

Barrier grunted and rolled his eyes. “She always has something in store. Don’t know if it’s a princess or an alicorn thing, but all of them are conniving little shits.”

Tail hummed affirmatively as amusement drew out a simpering countenance. “Well, maybe once she’s done, you can come down and see the place, and then we can go to Pop’s to meet Princess Cadance and Captain Armor. And”—her tone and pacing promptly picked up a more playful character—“you can add whatever you think is necessary to my curriculum, but I’ll stand by my actions last night until rainbows shine in Tartarus.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Barrier replied before giving the mare a gentle nuzzle. “You can take a shower if you want. It’s the first door on the left as you go into the hall. In the meantime, I can get a quick breakfast going for us. Thinking Prench toast. Something other than pancakes this time.”

The pegasus planted her forehooves into the mattress and pushed up, stretching her figure in front of the unicorn while her back briefly held a catty curvature. She watched him as he stared up at her with a dopey grin etched onto his muzzle, and she couldn’t contain the blossoming, beaming expression that utterly betrayed her emotion.

“Sounds good to me, Magic Bear.” She tittered and rolled from the bed as her namesake recovered its impish swish. “And you weren’t kidding when you told me your place was messy. I’m going to have to teach you the modern art of Canterlot recycling.”

Barrier swiftly sat up. His eyes widened, and his horn sparked to life. “Shit.”

All the while, Tail chortled as she watched the stallion scramble out of bed. “Hehe, it’s like I already told you. There’s a lot more here for you now.”

Author's Note:

Time for another Thursday! Let's go! As always, thanks for the continued support and reading. I love the discussion things have generated here and on Discord. Always brightens my day, and I'm stoked that I can finally post another chapter. Y'all know the drill. Fate Metrics below! Have fun, and see you next week for Chapter 8 — Showers & Steel.

PreviousChapters Next