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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Sitting in the grass near the garden, Bucky watched the earth ponies who had come to work the garden. There were two adults, a filly in her teenage years, two colts, also teenagers, and a foal that followed them all around trying to be helpful. They were moving through the rows slowly harvesting onions, tomatoes, and eggplants.

He envied them their gift, their connection to the earth.

It was all they had to fall back on. The only useful skill they had left it seemed. The ability to work the land. As refugees, Bucky supposed they could have been almost anything in their old lives, but now, they were farmers. It didn’t seem fair.

Having been distracted by watching the earth ponies work, Bucky didn’t notice that the foal had slipped off until it was too late, and discovered much to his surprise that she was sitting before him, looking up at him curiously.

“Hi little one,” Bucky said in a soft voice, the same sort of voice he used when Harper and Peekaboo were frightened and were in need of comforting. He cocked his head slowly to focus his remaining eye upon the foal.

“Citrus Summer… get back here… you’ll make us lose our jobs!” a mare shouted.

“Citrus Summer is it?” Bucky asked.

The foal nodded. She moved a little closer and tried to wipe dirt from her face with her dust covered foreleg. All this did was leave her dirtier. She froze up completely when Bucky slowly reached down and lifted her mane out of her eyes with his stump. She peered up at the unicorn and blinked a few times.

“Citrus! Get over here! We need this job!”

“Where are you from little one?” Bucky inquired. The little foal was orange, exceedingly orange, and Bucky found that he liked her eye searing colour a great deal. She was living sunshine and it was impossible not to feel cheered up by being around her.

“My family and I are from Dodge City,” Citrus Summer cautiously replied.

“How is life being a farmer?” Bucky asked.

“Easy!” Citrus Summer answered.

“Easy? This looks like hard work… and you seem to be working the hardest out of all of these ponies,” Bucky said to the foal, who began blushing and making a painfully adorable face.

“This is like a dream for us. Before, my mama, my daddy, and my oldest brother worked in a copper mine… my very oldest brother died there because it wasn’t safe,” Citrus Summer explained.

“I am very sorry to hear that,” Bucky said, lowering his head and drawing nearer to the foal. She was smiling now, and didn’t seem afraid, but one mare, presumably her mother, was rapidly approaching panic.

“The mine was really hot. Dodge City was really hot. My parents worked all night when it was cooler, pulling carts in and out of the mine. Mama said the carts left my daddy swaybacked,” Citrus said, now chatty in a way that only foals who just met somepony can be chatty.

“So you like farming work?” Bucky asked.

“It isn’t hard work like pulling a mine cart… mama sings while she is working and she smiles a lot, and she and daddy get to stand together, and I get to be with them,” Citrus replied.

The mare crept forward just a little bit more and then stopped, looking sick with worry. “Please… she’s so curious. Don’t be upset. She knows she isn’t supposed to go off and bother the ponies we work for. We’ve already lost a few jobs because of her-”

“Hush,” Bucky commanded, interrupting the pleading mare.

She fell silent and began to look very afraid. Chewing on her lip, her eyes darted out to the other earth ponies in the field, all of whom had stopped working and were watching the unfolding situation intently.

“Your mother has a green bean cutie mark. I am assuming that is your mother,” Bucky said to Citrus in a soft voice.

“Yep, that’s my mama. She has a bean cutie mark and her name is Dandelion,” Citrus announced. The foal beamed up at Bucky, the smile of foals and extraverts everywhere. “My father has a wagon wheel cutie mark and his name is Pinto.”

“Very interesting,” Bucky said with a wry smile.

“We live in a tent,” Citrus Summer said. “We’ve been camping for a long time now.”

“My name is actually Dandelion Fluff… I’m very sorry she bothered you…” the mare said in apologetic tones.

“She isn’t bothering me,” Bucky responded. “I like foals. I like foals a lot.”

“You are a very patient stallion,” Dandelion said, dropping her gaze into the dirt submissively when she saw Bucky was looking at her.

“I try to be. Tell me, do you enjoy farming?” Bucky asked.

“Yes sir, very much so sir,” Dandelion replied.

“I am going to ask this again. This time, I want an honest answer not brought about by fear. Do not attempt to supplicate me,” Bucky said to the mare. “Do you enjoy farming?”

“Yes… we do. It is much easier on my husband. He has a bad back. We like working together as a family and while it is hard work, it isn’t working in a dangerous smelly mine full of poison gas. It is very peaceful here and Barley has been very kind to us,” Dandelion answered.

Pressing his lips together into a straight line, Bucky nodded a little bit and then began to look at the others. “The filly and the colts are yours I take it?” Bucky asked.

“Yes sir… they are sir. They’re good foals. Quiet. My oldest filly is smart… I don’t want her being a farmer… Her name is Honeysuckle and the two colts are Butter Bean and Lima Bean,” Dandelion said.

“I like your foal,” Bucky announced. “She’s brave. Let’s be honest, I look awful. And she came up to me anyway,” he announced as he gently nudged Citrus softly. “How would you like jobs? Let me put this another way… how would you like to live here and look after these fields and the grounds around the school?”

Dandelion shot a nervous glance at her husband and her older foals. She then looked at Bucky. “Live here?” she asked. “I suppose we could move the tent here,” she murmured to herself.

“Well, the tent would be temporary. I’d have a house built,” Bucky said .

Dandelion looked at Bucky shrewdly. “And we spend the rest of our lives working to pay off the house so we could live in it?” she asked.

“No,” Bucky replied. “I build you a house because I am generous to my servants and wish to inspire their loyalty. The house is given to you and a good working wage is offered to you as well. I do have a condition though.”

“And that is?” Dandelion questioned.

“All of your foals are to be educated. This means reading and writing. Especially Citrus Summer. She seems bright,” Bucky replied. He blinked in the bright sunlight and wondered where his goggles might be. He was going to have to try and conjure them later.

“So we work on your land and you give us a house?” Dandelion asked in disbelief.

“Seems very simple,” Bucky stated. “And I will pay you. Might need some time to establish my finances.”

“And we just have to do common farmer stuff… work the fields, maybe pull wagons, keep the grounds looking neat and orderly, stuff like that?” Dandelion inquired.

“Mama, you're making this complicated,” Citrus said as she rolled her eyes.

“No more wagon pulling for your husband. At least not until I can pay for a doctor to get his back examined and maybe fixed,” Bucky said.

Her eyes narrowing, Dandelion peered at Bucky. “And what about when my husband and I get too old to work? What then?”

“You retire and continue to live out your days here as management, telling the new generation of servants what to do, how to do it, and how I like things done,” Bucky said with a soft chuckle.

Dandelion looked at her husband, whose head was bobbing up and down enthusiastically. She turned her head back towards Bucky. “We accept. After we finish today, we will go and pack up our tent. Just let us know where to settle in.”

“Oh, and one more thing. Do not disturb the lake,” Bucky said in a serious voice.

“Understood,” Dandelion said as she shot a glance around to her foals.

“I am glad we could work out something,” Bucky said.

 

 

“Peekaboo! I see you! I see you!”

Twilight Sparkle wondered how this would end. Pinkie Pie had discovered Peekaboo, the same Pinkie Pie that had once checked her mailbox every few moments for six hours straight without tiring. She watched Pinkie, who was sitting on the floor with the foal, and Pinkie seemed entirely too willing to keep playing the game until one of them lapsed into a coma. And it would probably be Peekaboo.

“Where did Peekaboo go? I’ve lost a foal! Oh woe is me… oh there she is! I see you!”

Berry Punch watched the pair with a big smile upon her face and Barley, who was sitting beside her in his chair, was cuddling a very sleepy Harper who needed her mid-morning nap. It felt good to be near Barley again. The family felt complete. Fluttershy, sitting beside her on the sofa was humming to herself as she watched Pinkie playing with Peekaboo.

There was a knock upon the door and it was Lyra who answered. A guard announced that there was a visitor for Twilight Sparkle.

“Oh that’d be Rainbow Dash with the daily report,” Twilight said. “I should go talk with her.”

“Send her in,” Berry announced. “No need to leave.”

The guard nodded and stepped away from the door.

A moment later, Rainbow bounded into the living room with her usual swagger. She flicked her tail around and immediately went for the sofa where Twilight was sitting. She lept up, settled in, and hugged Twilight, making happy little grunts as she did so.

“Aye… Rainbow Dash… when are ye gonna let me plunder the pot of gold in the south end of yer rainbow?” Barley asked.

Everything fell silent for a whole minute as Barley’s words lingered in the room. Fluttershy squirmed uncomfortably. Twilight’s cheeks looked like two tomatoes. Berry’s mouth hung open in shock. Lyra darted off down the hall, fleeing the living room. Pinkie Pie was oblivious, still locked into a deathmatch game of peekaboo with Peekaboo.

Rainbow Dash exploded with laughter and fell over on the sofa clutching her sides.

Barley grinned and looked over at Berry as he waggled his eyebrows.

“You two… are horrible,” Twilight muttered. She poked the guffawing pegasus beside her with her hoof. “You shouldn’t laugh at that! It only encourages him… it’s awful what he said.”

Wiping her eyes, Rainbow Dash sat up and tried to pull herself together. “We’ve got a few situations Twi’,” she reported.

“Oh?” Twilight inquired in a monosyllabic utterance.

“The White Tail Woods camp has an outbreak of hoof rot. The living conditions there are deteriorating. We’ve spoken with the camp leader and tried to explain that they need to move the camp and give the land time to heal, but they are scared that they are going to be sent off someplace horrible and everypony refuses to move. They don’t believe us when we tell them we just want to move them over the rise and down into the gorge,” Rainbow Dash explained.

“Buggery… I was hoping to have a few days with my family. I’ll go talk with them,” Barley groused. He carefully passed Harper to Berry. “Here, look after my little fluffball.”

“Need a lift?” Rainbow Dash offered.

“Are ye finally offering me the ride of a lifetime?” Barley asked as he squinted one eye at Rainbow Dash.

The rainbow maned pegasus giggled like a school filly and then looked guilty when Twilight Sparkle cleared her throat. “I’ll carry ya over,” Rainbow Dash offered. “And I’ll bring ya back too.”

“Anything else before you go?” Twilight asked.

“Well, a few things actually. We’re facing a water shortage. We can’t schedule the heavy rain like we used to. The meadows where the rainwater runs off and collects into the local waterways are now filled with camps. If we have a hard rain, the meadows will become mud pits and everything will become a nightmare. We need a big rain Twilight. Applejack says it is affecting the coming apple harvest. Cherry Berry of the Airborne Watch tells me that timberwolves have been coming out of the Everfree along the southern edge of Ponyville and prowling. She has watchers along the outskirts, but it is something to be concerned about. I’ve posted some of our militia out that way, but we are spread thin. Also, poison joke has begun sprouting all over the Sweet Apple Camp along the Everfree border,” Rainbow Dash said, offering a detailed report.

“Anything else?” Twilight said, raising her eyebrow.

“Oh, the Rambling Rock Ridge camp are all getting the green apple splatters… they’re all sick Twilight,” Rainbow Dash said, now looking very concerned and serious.

“If we make it rain, it floods the camps. If we don’t make it rain, we face a food shortage… ugh! I don’t know what to do,” Twilight muttered.

“We better be going,” Barley said, his voice now serious and businesslike.

 

 

 

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