The Chase

Bucky Bitters struggles to escape the airborne affections of Derpy Hooves after a chance encounter caused them to bump noses together. His real mistake was trying to comfort the mare after the snoot-bump. Little does the poor stallion realise that their meeting was only the prologue to a journey that will change not only his life, but the lives around him forever.

This story is a sequel to The Catch

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101. 101

Derpy held tight to Bucky as he struggled and kicked above her. She was beneath him, her belly pressed against his back, her hind legs wrapped around his middle, one front leg around his barrel, and the other front leg around his throat. She applied gentle pressure, restricting his breathing enough to take some of the fight out of him. Berry was pressing down from above, and Bon Bon was stroking him and whispering soothing things into his ear.

A glowing white orb of magic was inches away from her face and Derpy was afraid. Lyra’s magic was faltering. The panicked unicorn had frantically explained that she had no hope of holding back a unicorn as strong as Bucky for very long.

In the middle of the chaos, a small pink form slipped into the fray. Derpy’s fear turned to outright panic. “Piña, stay away!” Derpy shouted.

Sparkler scrambled to pull Piña away, too frazzled to use her magic. Piña eluded Sparkler’s attempt to catch her and she made a frantic rush to Bucky’s side. She reached his face and touched it, stroking him just below his remaining eye.

“You promised me a tea party,” she said soothingly. “Come back to me,” she begged.

Derpy felt Bucky’s whole body tense.

Sparkler grabbed Piña and dragged her away. Piña kicked and screamed in protest. Not knowing what else to do, she chomped down on Sparkler’s leg, causing Sparkler to drop her. Sparkler let out a stream of profanity that made Piña’s ears burn. She evaded the swinging cuff that came from Bon Bon, and returned to Bucky’s face. She touched him again.

A stream of black shadowy smoke dribbled from Bucky’s ear and a second later Sentinel exploded into existence with a pained cry. He landed on top of Piña and the earth pony clutched her sibling. The lunar pegasus let out a squealing screech, a sound made by his echolocation system.

Derpy felt Bucky go limp and his magic ceased. She heard Lyra gasp in relief. She did not relax her grip however. She kept one leg firmly locked around Bucky’s neck, ready to bear down if need be to subdue him. She kissed the back of his head and hoped that he was aware enough to feel it.

Sentinel did not stop screeching. The colt was making the most horrible sound. Ripple bounded across the room, her wings flapping crazily, lept, and landed near Sentinel and Piña, She wrapped her forelegs around both of them protectively and tried to figure out what was wrong with Sentinel.

Rising Star stared at Ripple from some distance away, worried that she might get hurt. He pranced in place, frantic with worry, fearing that he was going to lose his mind from fear.

There was a banging from the locked door, which only added to the chaos. All of the screaming could probably be heard all over the castle.

“He’s choking… he’s bleeding from somewhere,” Thistle cried. She was standing near the bed.

Derpy could hear a wet gurgle from Bucky. “We need to get him on his stomach,” she barked.

Berry and Bon Bon pulled away and Derpy used her strength to roll her body and Bucky’s dead weight over. She remained locked on to him, but she relaxed her hold around his neck. Bon Bon resumed stroking him.

Dinky, unable to listen to Sentinel screeching any longer, came charging in from the corner where she had been told to stay. Several feet away from the bed she lept, and she soared through the air and over several ponies in her way. She landed with a meaty thump on Ripple, causing the pegasus to grunt. Ripple moved swiftly in reply, and Dinky found herself locked in with the others in Ripple’s forelegs. She wrapped herself around Sentinel and tried to comfort him.

A second later, the door was torn open and was nearly ripped from its hinges. Keg Smasher burst into the room and his wings flared out wide. “Where are the damn wolves?” he bellowed. “I’LL KILL THEM ALL!”

 

 

Bucky came to awareness, overcome with too many things all at once to take them in. He could taste his own blood. He was being crushed under a considerable amount of force. He coughed and sputtered.

“He’s coming around,” a voice said.

Bucky struggled and squirmed. He could hear a pitiful screeching sound. Something had him pinned down. He couldn’t see.

“He is definitely coming around.”

The voice belonged to Bon Bon. Bucky could feel her touch. He knew her touch. Her touch was unique, and it cut through the chaos. Bucky felt himself go limp.

“Bucky?”

Bon Bon’s voice was full of concern and it settled into his mind. It was soothing and calming. She was rubbing little circles against his side, just as she had done when he was healing from his cracked horn.

Bucky tried to reply but only gurgle.

“Looks like you bit your tongue or something.”

That was Derpy’s voice. He realised she was on top of him, pinning him down.

He felt the pegasus’ grip on him relax. She was holding him now, not pinning him down. Bucky remembered his dream and Derpy’s cold body. He could feel her warmth. Unable to do anything else, Bucky broke down into sobs. As he wept, he felt something sharp scrape over his tongue. He panicked, his body tensing up once again. Fangs.

He squirmed, trying to work his way free. Much to his dismay, he could not squirm free. “My mark,” he rasped. “My mark!”

“Mark? He’s asking about his mark,” Bon Bon stated.

“What is it?” Bucky gasped.

“The hops plant… same as it ever was. Bucky, what happened?” Bon Bon said gently.

Bucky went limp with relief. He took a few deep shuddering breaths.

“Berry?” he asked. “I don’t hear Berry,” he murmured.

“She’s fine. She has a fat lip and a headache,” Bon Bon said soothingly.

“I’m fine,” Berry called from the couch.

“I need my foals,” he whispered in desperation. “Need them. Foals. Must have them. Foals. Foals now,” he said in manic whisper.

Derpy looked down at her husband curiously and then at the mass of bodies wrapped around Sentinel. She nodded at Ripple, and the pegasus filly pushed all three of the foals secured in her grasp forwards to Bucky.

Bucky lifted his head weakly and extended his forelegs. He pulled them close. Ripple squirmed a bit but allowed herself to be held as well.

“Sentinel?” Bucky asked.

There was no reply. Sentinel continued to screech and wail.

“Sentinel?” Bucky asked again, his voice much louder and stronger.

“Burns,” Sentinel cried. “Hurts!”

Bucky response was immediate. He lifted his head and tried to get a good look at Sentinel, remembering that he had been hurt in the dream. Strength flooded through his body as his concern increased. “Let go of him,” Bucky commanded. “I need to see.”

Dinky and Piña reluctantly let go of Sentinel and clung to Bucky’s neck instead. He felt stronger from their embrace.

Sentinel was burned. His withers and crest were blackened. His wings were blistered near the joints. Patches of hair were discoloured.

“You didn’t seem this bad in the dream,” Bucky whispered. “I don’t understand…” He cradled Sentinel in his forelegs gently, trying to not touch the burned places. “He burned my foal,” Bucky growled.

“Who? What happened?” Derpy asked.

“Bucky, what is wrong with your teeth?” Bon Bon asked, recoiling in fear.

Derpy closed on eye, reached down with her hoof, and pulled away the corner of Bucky’s mouth. Cold fear flooded through her body when she saw what Bon Bon had seen. She pulled away her hoof and Bucky grunted.

Bucky shook his head, trying to hold back his rising rage and panic.

“We’re overwhelming him,” Bon Bon said authoritatively. She took charge. “Keg Smasher, thank you for checking on us. We appreciate you and your guard coming to our aid. But we need quiet family time. I think everything is going to be okay now,” she said in a loud clear voice to the worried group of pegasi still in the room. “Everypony else, quiet. Bucky will tell us what happened when he is capable. For now, let us just give him what he seems to need, which is a quiet moment with his foals.”

Keg Smasher made a gesture with his wing and the pegasi began to file out. “If you could tell me what happened at some point, I would appreciate it,” he said in a low concerned voice. He departed, saying nothing else.

 

 

Bucky reveled in the touch of his foals. He pressed his face into Dinky and Piña, cherishing their warmth. He continued to hold Sentinel, who had quieted. The colt’s breathing was laboured and shallow. Bon Bon was still rubbing Bucky’s back. Derpy was on the sofa with Berry and Thistle.

Much to his surprise, Loch Skimmer had moved to his side and was pressed against him. She said nothing, but her eyes stayed wide with concern. Sparkler and Rising Star were close by on the bed.

And Bucky continued to hold that which he held most valuable.

“I thought I had lost you,” the distraught unicorn whispered, still unable to explain what had happened.

The bed shifted as Lyra crawled near and touched Bon Bon. She settled down, pressing herself up against the stocky earth pony.

“When everypony was scared I knew that you wouldn’t hurt me,” Piña said gently into Bucky’s ear.

Bucky trembled, worried about what might have happened. He felt Piña kiss him and for a moment, his heart was in his throat. The memory of how they had been was still too fresh and too real in his mind. “You can do that all you want Piña,” Bucky whispered.

Derpy, unable to take it anymore, slipped from the sofa, climbed onto the bed, and piled on Loch Skimmer, squashing her against Bucky, careful not to disturb the filly’s leg. Derpy pressed her snoot against Bucky’s shoulder and remained silent.

Bucky took a deep breath and steeled his nerves. He cleared his throat, closed his eye, and then told them all everything he could remember in the dream, starting with seeing Sombra, what he was, what Sombra had done, the change in his mark, and then finally waking up and finding them all dead. He held nothing back, telling them how he he planned to kill himself. And then he told them of Sentinel.

And when he was done, the room remained silent for quite some time.

Finally, Bon Bon reached down and touched Sentinel gingerly upon his haunches. “Sentinel, I know you are suffering greatly right now, but I need to know something,” she said.

Sentinel raised his head. His eyes were glassy and unfocused. He peered at Bon Bon.

“We can keep Bucky safe here,” Bon Bon began. “But you are the only one who can reach him wherever it is that dreams take place. I know it is a lot to ask of you, but can you keep Bucky safe? If this happens again, can we depend on you to bring him back to us?”

“Of course,” Sentinel replied in a wavering voice. “I am going to kill that shadow pony,” the colt hissed. His head sank back down onto Bucky’s foreleg.

Berry slipped from the couch, walked over to where the trunks were stashed, and retrieved a brown crockery jug in her teeth. She carried it to the bed, hopping up onto the bed carefully. She set the jug down and sat down near Bucky and Sentinel.

“When a colt does something particularly brave, he earns the right to have a drink with his father,” she said in a low whisper. “You did something brave. Tonight, you took your first big step towards being the stallion that I know you can be,” Berry solemnly. She reached down with her head and pulled the cork from the jug. She sniffed carefully, not sure what Bucky had left in this particular jug.

Whiskey.

Berry made a gesture with her forehoof to Bucky and he lifted Sentinel in his magic, raising him to a sitting position. Sentinel’s head wobbled on his neck and Bucky steadied him. A patch of burned and blackened hair fell off, revealing charred and blistered skin beneath.

There was a pained gasp from Dinky and the filly squeezed her eyes shut, unable to look.

Sitting on her haunches, Berry lifted the jug in her forelegs and brought it up to Sentinel’s lips. “This is going to burn like liquid fire, but I think you are brave enough to handle it. You’ve shown that you can fight like a stallion, now I need to see that you can drink like one,” Berry coaxed in a soothing voice.

She pressed the jug to Sentinel’s lips and gave it a well practiced tilt.

Sentinel’s eyes went wide and he coughed and sputtered. A pained wheeze escaped his lungs. To his credit, he did not spit the whiskey out. The colt banged on the side of the jug with his forehoof.

“I can do better,” he gasped.

Berry raised the jug again and gave him another swallow. Sentinel growled and shuddered after he swallowed and Bucky eased him down to the bed, where he lay limply.

Bucky took the jug in his magic and guzzled down a few swallows, which caused Berry to raise her eyebrow in appreciation. “Not many ponies can chug whiskey like that,” she quipped.

Sentinel belched loudly and flicked his tail.

Bucky placed the cork back into the jug and then set it next to the edge of the bed. He looked down in concern at Sentinel. The whiskey made the gash in his tongue burn but he didn’t care. He was fiercely proud of Sentinel at this moment.

“Ish feelsh bletters,” Sentinel announced after several minutes of silence.

Berry sighed deeply and then she stroked Sentinel’s ears.

“Will it ever be safe for Bucky to sleep again?” Derpy asked.

The question caused a flood of equine sounds of concern from around the room.

“A shade without a body only has so much power. There might be another attempt, but after tonight, I am fairly certain that whatever it is that attacked Bucky has been drained. If there is another attempt, Sentinel can interrupt it. And whatever attacked Bucky has to know that Sentinel is now a credible threat. So it is going to bide its time and recharge its power. Meanwhile, we need to figure out how to train Sentinel,” Lyra explained.

“Lyra, you’ve been reading about necromancy again, I just know it,” Bon Bon grumbled. “How do we do that? How do we train Sentinel?” Bon Bon asked in a low voice. “We’re not lunar pegasi.”

“No, but we are dreamers. We let Sentinel climb inside our heads while we sleep. We talk with him. We let him play around in the sandbox of our dreams,” Lyra suggested.

“This seems reckless and dangerous,” Bon Bon said.

“I agree,” Derpy replied. “But so is almost everything else that has been done lately.”

Bon Bon nodded but looked reluctant. “You know Lyra, you don’t need to look so pleased about all of this reckless experimentation,” Bon Bon chided, causing the unicorn to slump.

“I will let him inside of my head,” whispered Ripple, her hushed voice clearly frightened.

“Thank you Ripple,” Derpy acknowledged.

Piña looked at Dinky and the two fillies nodded. “We’re in,” she said sleepily.

“I am not sure if Sentinel should see what I have been dreaming about lately,” Loch Skimmer said in a nervous voice.

Rising Star raised an eyebrow and nodded and his gaze lingered on Loch Skimmer, who was still squished between Bucky and Derpy. “I agree. There are, uh, things in my dreams that would be bad for him to see.”

“So we keep him in the foal’s heads for a while because they are innocent,” Lyra stated. “And Bucky’s because we need a strong connection between the two,” she added thoughtfully.

“I never would have thought that Lyra’s dabblings into questionable magics would be so useful,” Bon Bon admitted. “Lyra?”

“Yes Bonnie?”

“Your mind control spells that you know… if something like this happens again, can you seize Bucky’s mind take control of it?”

Lyra’s lips pressed together nervously. “I probably could. Bucky has an iron will. It wouldn’t be easy. I don’t know actually. I think I could. But it would be pretty damn hard,” Lyra replied.

“Lyra, what if you and I spent some time communing and you had time to learn my mind,” Bucky suggested.

“That is an awful lot of trust,” Berry interjected as she continued to stroke Sentinel’s head.

“Yeah Bucky, you would be handing me the keys to the kingdom so speak,” Lyra said with a nod.

“I trust you Lyra… I would rather you have my mind. You would keep me safe,” Bucky replied. “The alternative would be to allow him to have it,” he hissed.

“Shumblitch!” Sentinel shouted suddenly, raising his head and then snarling. One ear was pointing upwards and the other had fallen down to the side of his face. His lips curled back, revealing sharp serrated teeth and fangs. He calmed under Berry’s touch and lowered his head.

“First wolves, now this,” Rising Star muttered. His horn flared and he pulled the whiskey jug to himself. He popped the cork and took a swallow. He gasped and struggled to breathe. His tongue hung from his mouth and he fanned himself with his hoof. He re-corked the whiskey and carefully set the jug down. He shuddered violently and blinked the tears away from his eyes.

“Why didn’t Luna come to your aid?” Berry asked. “I mean, if some old dead shade is trying to take over your mind and could potentially wreck Equestria, you’d think that she would be here to stop it from happening. She should have been prowling around in your dream looking out for you.”

Bucky nodded in agreement. Something felt off. “I do not know the reason, but I do not believe that Luna or the rest of the princesses would abandon me to such a fate. Something must be wrong,” Bucky said, expressing his realisation.

“I lovesh mysh shishtersh,” Sentinel mumbled.

“If that is the case, then we are truly cut off. We only have ourselves to rely upon. We need to make plans to be self sufficient and keep each other safe,” Bon Bon stated in a commanding tone. She cast a worried glance at the now inebriated lunar pegasus foal and hoped that the pain had subsided.

“I uh, kinda sorta know a few necromantic wards, “Lyra confessed. “They, uh, well, they can help keep dead things away from the living,” she explained.

“Will it help keep Sombra’s shade away from Bucky?” Bon Bon demanded.

“Maybe?” Lyra replied. “It couldn’t hurt. Every little bit helps.”

“Then I want this room warded. And the cabin on the ship as well. Anywhere Bucky sleeps, it is to be warded,” Bon Bon commanded.

“Bonnie, this is dark magic… like Bucky was casting earlier. Black flames. Red eyes,” Lyra explained.

Bon Bon glared at Lyra, her face stern. “Do it,” Bon Bon growled.

Lyra nodded, feeling slightly confused and a bit aroused that Bon Bon had just given her approval to practice a bit of necromancy.

“If something is so wrong that Luna couldn’t come to Bucky’s aid, then I really hope that Barley is okay. I’m worried. We have one more herd member and he isn’t with us,” Berry said. “What if everything has fallen apart? I mean really fallen apart?”

“Barley is a very canny unicorn. I am sure that he is okay, no matter what might or might not be happening. No matter what is actually happening, I am confident that Luna is looking after him,” Bucky said, finally speaking. “But I am sure that everything is fine.”

“I hope so,” Berry said, looking distressed as she continued to stroke Sentinel.

 

 

Author's Note:

The aftermath.

Next chapter: Thistle's purpose finally revealed, and more of Sentinel's purpose as well.

And Bucky still having his hops mark means exactly what you think it means.

 
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