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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The itchiness in his pelt was driving him to distraction. He reached up with a hoof and scratched at the base of his throat; this caused a mass of fine small hairs to drift down the grass. He glanced around him, twisting his head to make sure no pony was looking. He sat down on his haunches, balanced himself carefully, and then reached up with one trembling hind leg to scratch behind his ear. A front hoof lacked the leverage required for this kind of itch. Little tan hairs drifted away in the faint breeze.

For a moment, Bucky wondered if one could go mad from itching.

He tried to distract himself by thinking about something, but his thoughts drifted to Loch Skimmer and his discovery of strange magic. He wasn’t in the mood to ponder that so he pushed it out of his mind. He thought of Cadance briefly and felt a strange longing for her. He wanted her near so he could know that she was safe. That was distracting and he didn’t need distracting. He needed focus.

He needed help.

The canvas loomed before him and it was daunting. He’d been at at for a fair number of hours. He couldn’t remember how long he had been awake, but he was starting to feel a bit sleepy. The summer day seemed entirely too bright and a nice nap seemed like a really good idea.

He continued about his task and then he realised in a rather sudden burst of mental clarity that he had helpers. He cursed himself for failing to grasp the obvious. He had three unicorns that could potentially help him… what they lacked was the education. It had taken him years to learn the sort of enchantments needed for this kind of work and thousands of hours of practice in school to become confident in his abilities.

Princess Celestia insisted that ten thousand hours spent at a task was required for expertise.

The problem was, Bucky didn’t have ten thousand hours to bring his helpers up to speed. What he did have was the ability to commune. Passing along the subtle nuances of his craft would be difficult if not impossible. He would have to go over and check every square inch of their work repeatedly. He could give them the basic gist of what needed to be done, and then… Bucky wasn’t sure what came next. Simple spells were easy to pass along. Theory and thought was manageable. But this, this was going to be complex. He wasn’t sure about Rising Star’s ability to perform the task. Rising Star was more about brute force. Sparkler was a good candidate. She was a quick learner and had a keen mind. And then there was Dinky.

Dinky had given him quite a scare. Watching her growing irrational behaviour, coupled with the twitching and the fact that she wasn’t acting at all like herself had frightened him a great deal. He worried briefly about Sparkler and Rising Star, wondering when any issues might surface or manifest in their behaviour. He needed them leveled out. Too much was depending on them.

He reflected back on all of the times he had been “worn out” as a foal. Hours spent scrubbing the floors of Canterlot castle and the school. Polishing the marble staircase in the grand gala hall. Polishing every bit of brass, silver, and gold finish in one of the many well appointed rooms. A couple of times, Princess Celestia herself had taken time out of her busy day to loom over him, give him the stink eye, and lecture him into submission. She was a stickler for details, letting him know when he missed a spot or if there was a smudge left somewhere on a reflective surface.

And now, he understood why. It didn’t make it any easier to do to Dinky though.

He recalled one particularly harsh day polishing statues in the Hall of Memory. Princess Celestia had raked him over the coals. She and her assistant Raven had even had a nice lunch in the hall, a lunch he had not been invited to share. As he laboured, his itching now temporarily forgotten, he even remembered why he had been in so much trouble. He had broken into the book depository, stolen several books intended for classes far more advanced than the classes he was currently in, and then he recklessly experimented, accidentally creating a carnivorous potato that had latched on to one of his teachers with sprouted vines and then gnawed upon his teacher’s hide. Advanced transmutation spells were dangerous and he had learned the hard way.

He had wanted power, and Celestia had shown him how to endure. How to survive mindless drudgery and magical exhaustion. And now, he had power. He was able to sit here and perform this mindless, dull, repetitive task that he was doing now because he had spent so much time being “worn out” and subdued as a foal. He could sit in a dark room and mindlessly create spell jars for hours on end. He could prepare. And it had all started with scrubbing floors, polishing statues, washing windows, and menial magical labour.

For Dinky, it was carrying rocks, hauling lumber,  fetching water, and greasing a gate. Later in life, it would be repeating the same dull experiment a thousand times hoping for the one time that produces usable results, if she chose that path, and Bucky hoped that she would.

It would also mean control, which Dinky had been on the verge of losing this morning.

Another few feet of canvas were now enchanted and Bucky prepared to move on to the next patch.

 

 

“Ripple, please, don’t make me.”

Ripple looked back over her shoulder at Dinky. The foal was frightened and she had frozen in place. Her eyes were red and bleary from crying. A few sparks fizzled from her horn.

“I am sorry Dinky, but I promised that I would escort you to our daddy,” Ripple said apologetically.

“I blew it, I let him down,” Dinky said as she stood there trembling.

“Aw, Dinks, it isn’t that bad,” Ripple said as she turned around.

“You don’t even understand what I did,” Dinky said, sitting down with a plop and dropping her head. Her ears drooped.

Piña, unable to bear her sibling’s suffering, sat down beside her and leaned on her.

“Don’t touch me Piña, I don’t deserve you being nice to me,” Dinky mumbled.

Piña frowned and pulled away, only to turn herself around so she could throw her legs around Dinky. She pulled Dinky into a crushing hug that stole the unicorn’s breath away. Dinky was unable to draw enough air to protest.

“Maybe I don’t understand what you did, but I am sure you can be forgiven. Look, I’ll stay and sit with you through whatever happens. And even if he tries to send me away, I’ll stomp my hoof a few times and look adorable or sad or something. He’s a sucker for a foal face,” Ripple said in gentle tones. The pegasus was a quick learner and Sparkler had been giving her lessons in how to sway Bucky.

Dinky lifted her head and looked up at Ripple. “Promise?” she asked.

“On my wings,” Ripple replied.

“Well, let’s go,” Piña said.

 

 

Bucky stood, stretched, and then arched his back. His spine crackled and his hind legs made odd clicking sounds. He watched as more of his pelt hairs drifted away in the wind. He was shedding, Derpy was having a bit of a molt, it was little moments of misery like these that could push a pony over the edge.

“I’ve come bearing a message and a foal.”

Bucky turned at the sounds of Ripple’s voice. He saw Ripple, Piña, and Dinky, the unicorn hiding behind Ripple and peeking out at him.

“Give me the message and then I will want some time alone with Dinky,” Bucky said.

“Sorry, I can’t do that, I promised her I’d stay here with her for whatever happens,” Ripple responded.

“Loyal pegasi. A pony could ask for no better companion,” Bucky commented. When he saw Ripple blushing from his praise, he felt glad that he had made the filly feel good about herself. “Message?”

“Mama bird says you are done for the day and she wants you back in the nest. You’ve been awake for too long,” Ripple said. She leaned forward and narrowed her eyes. “I promised her I’d bring you back. Don’t make me break my promise.”

Bucky nodded. “I will go once we are done here,” he agreed. “Dinky?” Bucky said gently.

Dinky, hearing her father’s voice, buried her face into Ripple’s wing.

“Dinky, come here, I’m not angry,” Bucky said.

“I know you’re not angry, but I am ashamed,” Dinky whined.

Bucky waited patiently and sighed. He had hoped to lure Dinky a little closer so he could hug her, but she was still hiding behind the pegasus, trying to look as submissive as possible.

“Dinky, do you know what went wrong today?” Bucky inquired in a gentle and loving voice.

“A little,” Dinky admitted.

“Only a little?” Bucky asked.

“I thought about it as I went to sleep and after I woke up,” Dinky answered. “I don’t understand everything,” she confessed.

“I see,” Bucky responded. “So, care to tell me about it? You’re surrounded by those who love you, you know you can talk about anything, right?”

“Yeah,” Dinky squeaked. “Don’t make it any easier.”

“No Dinky, I suppose it doesn’t,” Bucky agreed.

“I don’t even understand why I was so angry. Everything was just making me angry. Everything. And then I felt jealous of Piña. And that made me angrier. And then… and then… and then my face started twitching and that made me angrier too and then I could feel a lot of pressure in my horn and-”

“Easy Dinky,” Bucky interrupted, seeing the foal’s distress.

“If I had kept going, something bad might have happened, right?” Dinky said fearfully.

“Perhaps,” Bucky said.

“DON’T BE SOFT WITH ME!” Dinky shouted. The little unicorn took a few deep breaths and tried to compose herself. “I don’t want be to be angry. I’m not angry. But please don’t be soft with me. Not about this,” she begged.

Ripple shifted her body around and wrapped a wing around Dinky. She wiped a few tears away with her other wing. Saying nothing, she leaned down and kissed Dinky on the head, something Loch had always done for her to make her feel better.

“I know what I can do… and I couldn’t live with myself if I ever hurt any of you. And today, I hurt you. I feel awful,” Dinky said. “I was just so angry. And it kept building up. I’ve been doing so much magic lately and now when I am not using magic I just don’t feel right and I start to get all shaky and I can feel my eyeballs vibrating,” she admitted.

“That sounds awful,” Piña murmured.

“It feels awful! And the feeling makes me angry,” Dinky confessed.

“Dinky, do you have any idea or do you understand why I punished you the way that I did this morning?” Bucky inquired. “You’re a smart foal… have you thought about it?”

“I don’t feel the magical itch. And right now I feel really calm. Mostly. I got a little upset a moment ago, but that was for a good reason. I don’t feel twitchy and angry. I’m not jealous of Piña. I don’t have this burning need to use magic… so I am guessing you drained me?” Dinky asked in a voice of uncertainty.

“Yes Dinky. I drained you. When I was a foal, we called it being “worn out” and it happened to me frequently,” Bucky said.

“That makes me feel so much better,” Dinky huffed.

“For those of us with ambition and the desire for power, tasks like these help us learn to endure and focus. You do want to be an actual wizard, right?” Bucky said, not mincing any words. “You want power.”

“Yes,” Dinky replied in a low voice. “And this morning I learned something from you… after you winked, you acted as though nothing was wrong. How?”

Suffering,” Bucky replied. “I had to learn how to suffer.”

“I suffered… did I do a good job suffering?” Dinky inquired with foalish honesty.

“Yes Dinky, I think you did. We quit because you finally threw yourself down on the ground and gave up. You lasted much longer than I thought you would,” Bucky answered.

“You mean to tell me that if I had just fallen over and gave up, my punishment would have been over?” Dinky asked incredulously.  The foal took a few deep breaths and let them out slowly.

“Yes Dinky. I thought you would have quit much sooner to be honest,” Bucky said bluntly. “Do you see what being stubborn and willful will get you?”

Dinky narrowed her eyes and glared at her father. Her muzzle scrunched. “I’ll show you…” she hissed. Her tiny nostrils flared and her breath came in snorts.

“Next time you are feeling a bad case of the angries, come to me. It is better to work these things out than to hold them in. Celestia and my teachers told me to do the same… but I never listened. I held it in until I got in trouble,” he admitted in shame. Bucky felt an odd sensation in his heart. Dinky was adorably angry and her tiny snorts made him feel a strong sense of affection.

“I know this is a funny thing to ask, but can we do this again? I mean, just push me until I can’t go no more?” Dinky asked.

“Why would you want that Dinks?” Piña asked, her eyes widening in shock and surprise.

“I want to be able to wink and just walk away from it. I don’t want unicorn mind problems creeping up on me. I don’t want the angries,” Dinky answered. “And I want power,” she admitted in a small whisper.

“Do you want lessons in how to wink?” Bucky inquired.

Dinky looked thoughtful and stared off blankly in the direction of The Scorned Mare. She remained silent for quite some time. Finally, she turned and looked her father in the eye. “I want that,” she said in a flat determined voice. “It is going to mean a lot of barfing isn’t it?”

“Oh, today was nothing. Nothing at all. Wait until you have two winks in a row,” Bucky warned. “You’ll swear that walking is preferable and that you will never wink again.”

“That sounds bad,” Dinky said with a gulp. “So uh, as a foal, was I able to carry a lot of stuff today?” she inquired bashfully.

“At one point, you had about two hundred pounds of rocks,” Bucky replied. “I don’t want to give you a big head, but that’s impressive. It also illustrates the point that you need to control yourself.”

“Huh,” Dinky grunted. “And earlier today I felt so angry because Piña was stronger than me. Which is silly. I can lift things with my magic. Why was I so angry?” she asked, hoping to find some understanding.

“Unicorn neurosis,” Bucky replied.

“So I am just going to feel angry for no reason at all?” Dinky questioned.

Bucky nodded. “That’s the way it is for most of us,” he answered.

“And you feel this way?” Dinky asked.

“All the time,” Bucky replied.

“How do you deal with it?” Dinky inquired.

“I used to just squash it down and then let it out slowly through hobbies and other activities. Now, I talk about it. I channel it out. Bon Bon and Berry Punch for some inexplicable reason have the uncanny ability to calm me down by touching me. I can’t explain why. I spend time with my foals, whom I love,” Bucky explained.

“I kinda have a love hate feeling for the new foal,” Dinky confessed. “Everypony thinks she’s great,” the little unicorn muttered sullenly.

“Dinky that’s awful!” Ripple chided.

“Ripple, that’s honest. And as unicorns, we need to be honest. It helps us,” Bucky said in Dinky’s defense. Bucky sighed. “Dinky, we need to work on making sure your head is clear about your new sibling. Unicorn siblings can do terrible things to one another in heated moments, which is why so many of my kind in Canterlot are only-foals,” he said in brutal honesty. “Regular pony siblings punch each other and fight with words. Unicorns can set each other on fire or any number of horrible things could happen.”

Dinky’s eyes shrank into terrified pinpricks. “No…” she murmured in fear.

“That’s awful,” Ripple said.

“I once sat on Dinky’s head and farted… should I be worried?” Piña asked.

“You’ll be fine Piña,’ Bucky said reassuringly.

“Are you sure?” Piña inquired. “It was wet…”

Dinky’s eyes narrowed and she nodded. “No… I don’t feel angry. But now that I remember it, I have to pay you back,” Dinky announced.

“That seems fair,” Piña said in a small voice.

“Daddy, do I have the potential to be an actual wizard? Please don’t coddle me or tell me what I want to hear,” Dinky asked suddenly, and she could see that she caught Bucky off guard.

“You’re a tough little foal. Tomorrow, I am going to teach you some new magic, and then I am going to work you until you fall over again,” Bucky answered. “But I think you’ll manage. Most foals your age don’t know what they want,” he said. “How bad do you want it?”

“Bad enough to suffer for it,” Dinky replied.

 

 

 

 

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