• 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 9 - Lilac & Lavender

“Gracious Waters,” Tail mumbled as she gawked at the old blue stallion. There was no inflection in her tone to indicate that the physicist was asking a question, yet the soft delivery made both of Tail’s guests perk up their ears and lean forward as if she had been. “You wrote the Discourse of War.”

“Yes, yes I did,” he replied in a worn, raspy voice. “It was an aspect that was often overlooked in the academic literature. Ponies today don’t really understand that weight in a battle because we have largely existed in a period without conflict. Skirmishes can perhaps be handled with the power of friendship. Our culture is built on harmony, and war, by its very nature, is a clash of chords.

“Personally, I found it interesting that, while society openly supported actions that we would find dreadful today, the equines of a thousand years ago were more resilient when it came to addressing more elaborate conflicts.” Gracious paused as a tapped cadence derailed his train of thought.

Sheepishly, the earth pony turned towards Dr. Batsy before he raised his hoof to adjust his glasses. “I may have promised the young doctor here a treat from one of the local bakeries to thank her for being my escort. You know what they say? Never keep a mare waiting, especially when a mango muffin is involved.”

Tail pressed her foreleg to her muzzle and chortled. “Well, we certainly can’t have that!” she tittered, drawing an eep from the embarrassed batpony stallion-sitter. “I wouldn’t want to keep you waiting any longer than intended, and I do appreciate the visit—and the apology. Your book was definitely inspirational. I drew from it quite frequently, and I would warrant a guess that your insights will be relied upon again when it comes to navigating certain facets of history. Perhaps we can find some time to discuss things… when we’re not in the damp underbelly of Canterlot Castle—”

Batsy reared up onto her hind legs and thrust her forelegs towards Tail. The mare’s coat fluffed as her entire body appeared to be engulfed by low-amplitude, high-frequency oscillations. “Come with us!” she squeaked again as her widened yellow-green eyes corralled Tail’s focus and figure. “I just want to num on a mango, not be a rude battu that interrupts your conversation.”

“There might be a lesson about irony in there somewhere,” Gracious added after taking his turn to laugh. Eventually, the echoing chorus subsided, and the old stallion clopped his hooves against the stone in approval. “But I think that sounds like a marvelous idea. What do you say, Colonel? Are you up for a little academic discussion and perhaps some tasty baked goods?”

Tail was fairly certain that the trio’s trek had taken her back to a section of Old Canterlot that couldn’t have been all that far from Barrier’s home. Here, a market square broke free from the confines of the cobblestone grid to create a sprawling, interspersed mass of trees, tents, and shops. Numerous brick and mortar stores lined the clearing, and their ornate window displays drew various onlookers to the impressive setups that proudly announced, This is our house.

The bakery in front of Tail was no exception to this rule of better business. Against the backdrop of a blue-tinted pane that arched above the entrance, the words Lilac & Lavender greeted patrons with an elegant and inviting script.

“Ambrosia’s muffins are the best,” Batsy commented in a deep, throaty whisper that drew Tail from her observations. The smaller mare swiftly hopped ahead of Tail and Gracious with a bouncy stride that sharply contrasted with the gritty timbre that carried her most recent delivery. She veered from the straight path to the recessed door to plant her snoot against the right flanking display window with a reverberating thud.

Gracious merely chuckled at the outburst while shooting a sidelong glance in Tail’s direction. “Wing warned me she might do that. Though, I can’t say I’m all that surprised. I have had the pleasure of dining here in the past. What about you?”

The pegasus shook her head. “No, can’t say I have. I haven’t exactly had a lot of time to explore the city until recently. Past few months were dedicated towards setting up my training and actually doing it. Though, Barrier’s place is pretty close by, so perhaps I’ll be making more visits—especially if these muffins are as good as she’s making them out to be.”

“Oh, they’re that good,” Batsy interjected with a voice that had been muffled by the mare’s plastered position against the glass. “So good.”

Another chuckle escaped the stallion’s muzzle as he sidestepped Batsy and made his way into the interior of the shop. “Mm, I think I am going to make my way to the counter. What is it that Wing told me? She’ll come in once she remembers that she doesn’t just have to look? Something like that.”

“I believe I’m with you on that one,” Tail added with a merry giggle of her own. With a leap, she slipped into the establishment before the glass-panelled door could close and made a graceful landing upon the tiled floor. Instantly, intoxicating aromas coaxed her senses. She clicked her tongue and inhaled, drawing in even the subtlest hints of baked dough, assorted fruit, and spices.

Seats and benches lined the wall opposite the counter, and shelves filled to capacity with various bits of baking paraphernalia stuck out from their earth-toned anchors. The counter showcases, however, were far more alluring to the intrigued physicist.

Bagels, muffins, cookies, and cupcakes filled a series of glass enclosures that stretched across three-quarters of the room’s length. A chocolate chip muffin could have had the mare’s name written on it already. Tail’s wings fluttered as she pranced towards the sweet confection. “Oh yes, you shall most certainly be mine.”

“Hunny, that’s my job, and we both know it.”

Laced with the tiniest hint of a rural accent, the unfamiliar call turned Tail’s head to the left. There, leaning upon the threshold to the kitchen, was a lilac mare who unabashedly perplexed the pegasus with a half-lidded aquamarine stare.

“Excuse me, what?” Tail answered with a peep as her ear tips flicked upright. Her sights rapidly scanned the earth pony, scouring features for any sign of clarity. But the sweep simply traced the outline of a brown chef’s coat, danced along the edges of an aquamarine bow, and followed the laser-lemon highlights that streaked through a blue-violet mane that had been carefully corralled into a high ponytail.

“Did you get into the poison joke at work again?” She took a step in Tail’s direction—all the while maintaining the salacious expression. “You could have told me that you wanted to play mare again. I would have stopped by the Bit and Bridle to pick up a few things. Then we could pit that pegasus pride of yours against my earth pony tradition—”

Gracious Waters coughed and attempted to intervene. “Ms. Ambrosia, that isn’t Wing…” The attempt fell on unlistening ears.

“You look even more fit this time too. Have you been working out in secret?” Ambrosia reared up and draped her forelegs over the display case directly in front of Tail. She pitched her muzzle to lock onto the shrinking scientist and swished her hips. “I will definitely find something to drag over those thighs.”

“Sweety,” Tail began to piece together her response while her namesake snapped about, “you’re cute and all, but I’m already taken. I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about. I just came in for a chocolate chip muffin.”

Ambrosia went silent and narrowed her gaze upon the flier. She pursed her lips as the piercing stare made Tail’s pulse adopt a nervous beat. The baker curled her forelegs, and for a second, it genuinely looked as though she were planning to leap upon Tail to test the colonel’s latest declaration.

Thankfully, the pause bought enough time for Batsy to stroll to Tail’s side. The batpony promptly pressed her hoof against Tail’s flank, drawing out a squeak as she gestured to the cutie mark. “Not Wing!” she announced triumphantly to Ambrosia, whose muzzle immediately turned a deep shade of rose.

“Not Wing?” the baker asked. Her inflection skirted a strange superposition of timidity and disbelief. She narrowed her eyes further and scootched a teeny bit closer. “This isn’t some sort of prank, is it? The resemblance is uncanny. Same coat color. Same mane color. Even the eyes have a similar chocolatey hue. Though, I guess Wing does have a bit more amber in there—”

Batsy ushered another squeak into existence once she prodded Tail’s flank into Ambrosia’s view. “Amby, the cutie marks are different. Tail’s got two orbitals in the cute little shape of a heart. See? Wing’s got three in the boring old shape. Poison joke does weird stuff, but I’ve never seen it change a pony’s destiny.”

The lilac mare retreated from her perch as her eyes shot open. “Oh, sweet Celestia,” she gasped, scrambling to don a mitt before she rummaged through the showcase. “Chocolate chip, right? This is really embarrassing. I’m so sorry. I really thought you were my husband. You two look so alike… I thought he went off the deep end with one of his experiments again.” She deposited the treat into a paper bag and stretched her hooves over the counter. “I hope this is a more appropriate welcome to Lilac and Lavender. This one is on the house.”

“I wouldn’t worry too much. My roommate has put me through far worse,” Tail giggled as she took possession of the muffin. A delighted hum punctuated her jovial melody as she peeled back the paper and sank her teeth into the dessert. The bolt of lightning that leapt from her taste buds sent her fur and feathers into a fluffed frenzy, and the pegasus quickly chomped another bite.

“Seems like you’ve wrangled another customer, Ms. Ambrosia. Can’t say I’m all that surprised. With the way Dr. Batsy was bouncing around on the way here, one could assume that you generate enough business with your mango products alone.”

At the mention of the fruit, Batsy jumped from Tail’s side and hurled her torso onto the area of the counter directly next to the register. Bits, an offering to the oven spirits, spilled out from under one of the batpony’s leathery wings in the wake of a frenzied rustling. “Amby,” she whined, shooting the baker pony a watery-eyed, puppy-dog stare, “feed me!”

Amby lifted her foreleg and pressed her hoof to her lips. Her chest flexed slightly, and soft snorts escaped her nostrils as if the mare were engaged in a brief battle to suppress a bout of laughter. “Well, General, it’s like I always say. Batsy may keep Wing’s lab in line, but she makes me the breadwinner. Now, before I get this silly mare her mango muffin, what would you like?”

Gracious sidestepped the mares that stood between himself and the goods. He examined the treats carefully, but after passing by all of the cases, he scrunched his muzzle and unleashed an inquiring grunt. “They all look delicious, but today, I’m looking for something specific that Wing and Trigger brought to my attention yesterday. Something about an apple whiskey muffin…”

Ambrosia cocked her head to the side and leered mischievously. “Oh? So you got some intel from my favorite cowcolt of reverie and my silly pegasus stallion?”

Tail’s ears ensnared the drifting words as she crunched through the last bites of her muffin. The conversation churned in her brain, and the figurative cogs lurched at the sudden onset of realization. The second after she swallowed the final, delicious morsel, she sucked in a rush of air with such fervor that the whooping noise easily snatched everyone’s attention. The scientist’s sights darted about the bakery before they latched onto Ambrosia’s confusion-laden figure.

“You mistook me for your husband? And your husband is that Wing?” Tail’s foreleg sprang towards Batsy. “The same Wing that works with her? Your husband is my mysterious Canterlot benefactor—the guy Princess Luna wants me to meet—and he just so happens to look like me? And he knows Trigger? The odds of that are incredibly infinitesimal. I mean probably not as infinitesimal as Luna working with me, or me ending up in Princess Celestia’s bathtub, or me predicting a successful B.C.T. run a decade ago, but st—”

Tail squeaked. Through her excited rambling, the pegasus had dropped her guard. She hadn’t even noticed the three new arrivals that had trotted in during her barrage of questions, and now, something belonging to one of those ponies plopped atop her head. And it did a fine job of obscuring her vision too.

“Geeze, Flicker, sometimes you’re insatiable. Try not to fluster the best baker in Canterlot until after I get my fix.” Trigger’s smug grin greeted Tail once the stallion retrieved his Coltston from the top of her head. “And it’s not unusual for me to know ponies. I run a bar in a city full of guards.”

Ambrosia’s subsequent chortles washed away the mare’s puzzled expression. Her pupils wandered upward, and one of her ears flopped to the side before a drawn-out interjection conveyed Amby’s building curiosity. “Though, it is a little unusual that they haven’t met yet.” She tilted her head and shot Batsy a prodding glare. “Has he been passing out in the lab again?”

The batpony dramatically threw her forehooves over the counter and moaned. “Amby! I need my muffin! Feed me!”

“I swear, sometimes the babysitter needs a babysitter.” Ambrosia snagged numerous bags from her stock and started wandering towards one of the cabinets on the back wall. “A mango muffin for Bats, two S.A.R. muffins for Trigger and General Waters…”

Amby paused, allowing the focus of the room to shift to the two other ponies that had entered with Trigger. Standing near the doorway was a beautiful alabaster unicorn. Her dark-red mane draped over her back, and a contented smile sat etched upon her countenance as her emerald eyes tracked her bartending companion.

Caressed by the embrace of a similarly colored magical aura was a squirming foal whose meandering amber sights could not settle on a target. A tiny, chatelle-colored horn poked out from underneath brown and burgundy locks—a mirroring symbol for the lavender-grey unicorn who kept trying to wriggle beyond the envelope.

“Moon Glow is in back if Peebles wants to go play with her,” Ambrosia added after teasingly waving one of the paper pouches. “Now, what can I get for you, Autumn Tea?”

Author's Note:

One of the chapters along the way that I've been waiting a while to share! We finally get to see some old school ASoD lore in action. Amby's there. Moon Glow is there! Heccin' Peebles! And Autumn Tea? Let's go!

I would post charts for this week's Fate metrics, but I only received one. A single FFL was delivered. Fate flat-lined. I killed her with feels. Let's be real. It's all Amby up in here. Anyhoo! As always, thank you for your continued readership! Next week is Chapter 10 — Chevrons... I wonder what that could be about. Hard to believe that we're only like 14% of the way through the content.

Trigger applies 1x Phoenix Down.

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