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


26. 26

A group of sociable equines, plus one not so sociable but getting better, sat within the cozy confines of a small living room, Rising Star sitting in the overstuffed chair, Bucky sprawled out on the couch, sitting back into the cushion and leaning on the arm, Berry Punch beside him, reclining on her side, her head inches from Bucky’s cutie mark, and Sparkler, sprawled on the floor, laying splay legged on her belly.

They were all drinking, a highly sociable activity, something Bucky hadn’t expected. Among his social peer groups, drinking was done by adults. In this peer group, drinking was done by those responsible, and Rising Star and Sparkler both were sipping wine made by Berry from jelly jars used as glasses.

It was another social barrier eroded away for Bucky.

Derpy was upstairs, reading a book to Dinky and Piña, putting them to bed. Reading was a very difficult activity for the mare, but she loved to do it, even if she made silly faces closing one eye so her good eye could read. When two little heads finally gave up the struggle and nodded off, Derpy kissed them both gently, turned off the light, and carefully came down the stairs to join the others.

“So… what is earth pony courtship like?” Rising Star asked, the sort of question a young unicorn in the throes of first love might ask, his question gently drifting through the room towards the reclining Berry Punch, who lifted her head for a moment and took a drink of wine from a large mason jar, which she sat back down upon the floor and then rested her head again near Bucky.

“Depends on the earth ponies,” Berry said, belching lightly. “Sometimes, the two clans go to war or have themselves a scuffle, sometimes no. But between the couple themselves, usually they see if they can work together. Stuff like pulling a wagon in tandem, carrying a heavy load on their backs together, and in the latter parts of the courtship, a really lucky mare has a stallion willing to play “hunt the radish” before marriage, so she knows what she is getting.”

“Hunt the radish?” asked Rising Star, looking confused. Sparkler began to titter as Derpy stepped over her and claimed a spot on the couch, gently squashing Berry Punch, using Berry’s backside as a pillow to prop up her barrel.

“Well, down yonder south on a mare, or a responsibly aged filly, there is a patch of fertile earth a brave colt or stallion can go exploring, gently taking his snoot and searching for himself a little radish to nibble on, it is a proud earth pony tradition, we don’t have magic to make a mare feel good, we have to work hard at it like everything else,” Berry said, grinning wickedly, not needing to look at Bucky to know that he was under serious distress. Sparkler’s face was extra purple pink, Derpy was giggling…

And Rising Star looked quite thoughtful, making mental notes. “I see,” he said, looking thoughtful. “And what about pegasi?”

“We chase one another to declare intentions,” Derpy answered, giving a sideways glance at Bucky with her good eye. “And then we go through a period where we get to know one another. A brief period. Just like earth ponies, we pegasi don’t waste a lot of time in courtship. The signs of compatibility show up pretty early on and we go by instinct.”

“Brief?” Bucky inquired, looking very nervous. “How brief is brief?”

“Well,” Berry Punch replied, “my uncle Wild Oats met and married a pegasus mare named Golden Showers in the span of three days. She chased him, he chased her, he found her radish several times, wearing down her will, and Golden Showers found that she rather liked living on the ground, just so long as she could keep drinking his oatmeal porter and getting her radish hunted on a daily basis.”  

“Whaaaat?” Bucky asked, taking a long drink of wine from his mason jar glass.

“Three days,” Berry said, sniffing, lifting up her head, taking another drink, and setting her drink back down upon the floor.

“Uh, well, among the more gifted of the Canterlot unicorns, we still practice arranged marriage. We have long courtships, usually involving meeting each other’s therapists, going to couple’s counseling, settling any old claims or title disputes that might exist between two families, and a year of courtship is considered ‘rushing it’ among most of us,” Bucky explained.

“No way am I waiting for a year!” Derpy cried. “I could be eaten by a mailpony eating spider and die having never been laid a second time.”

Sparkler took a sip and nodded, enjoying her wine. She didn’t get a chance to have it often, and she liked the tart sweetness. She seemed unembarrassed about what her mother had just said. Instead, she gazed at Bucky pointedly, and he turned away from her stare.

“Thunderlane courted for a whole month and ponies accused him of being a coward,” Derpy said. “To be fair, he had cold hooves and a little brother to worry about.”

“Thunderlane is married?” Bucky asked.

“Sort of,” Derpy replied, suddenly going silent.

“Sort of?” asked Rising Star, looking curious, looking directly at Derpy. “Being married is like being on fire. You either are or you are not.”

“Thunderlane married two sisters, just like they did way back in the old days, and no, those two sisters don’t fool around with one another, not every mare in a herd fools around with one another,” Derpy replied, stealing Berry’s mason jar of wine from the floor and gulping it down. Berry raised an eyebrow, glaring at the pegasus mare. No one stole drink from Clan Pickled and Berry made plans to exact revenge later. “But the Crown no longer recognises herd marriage,” Derpy added, looking disappointed.

“My mother came from a herd marriage,” Rising Star said.

“Your mother came from a blessing of unicorns?” Bucky asked, looking very surprised.

“Yeah, rare as hen’s teeth, I know,” Rising Star said. “Mom’s family is a little weird going all the way back to olden days.”

“A blessing?” asked Sparkler.

“A herd of unicorns, or more commonly, a married group of unicorns,” Rising Star explained, looking thoughtful.

“Clan Pickled still engages in herd marriage. We’ve never fully accepted the rule of the Crown, being the anarchists that we are, living up in the Shetland Isles. My mother, bless her Pickled heart, wanted to see me married proper, finding me a stallion and a group of fellow mares to help raise my foals. It was damn near her only dream,” Berry said, looking sad. “And she got killed by that damnable still, that horrible dream wrecking still.”

Derpy got up to fetch Berry some wine, the least she could do after stealing Berry’s final swallows.

“And look what happened to her, she married a single stallion, trying to fit in and be good a member of the herd, and they both died, leaving me behind to raise Piña because nopony else was responsible enough, damn them all,” Berry growled.

Bucky, seeing Berry in actual pain, didn’t know what to do, but he reached down and stroked her ears gently with a fetlock.

“If mom had just followed the rules of Clan Pickled, there’d be other mares to help raise Piña. But I am stuck all alone, and my own rotten siblings abandoned me so they could go off and have a good time. Good thing I love Piña as much as I do,” Berry said angrily. The mare calmed slightly as Bucky stroked her ears. “I love that little foal to death.”

Derpy returned with more wine, the jar balanced on her nose as she carefully stepped through the living room, nudging the jar with a wingtip for balance as she stepped over Sparkler. Berry took the mason jar full of wine gratefully, and drank down almost half of it, then belched, not quietly, her lips extending to get proper resonance. She squirmed into a sitting up position, and then leaned on Bucky, looking sad. “It is irresponsible and stupid to get married and not make sure to provide for your foals. Look at the Apple family and all the heartache to be found there. What bloody good did Celestia’s little decree do for the Apple clan? That alicorn is a homewrecking busibody that doesn’t understand how hard life is for us little ponies.”

Rising Star blinked several times upon hearing Berry’s words, Sparkler laid her head down upon the floor, looking thoughtful, Derpy nodded slightly, and then leaned on Berry, who was leaning on Bucky, and poor Bucky was completely squished by the weight of two mares leaning on him and pressing him into the arm of the couch.

“Our entire social structure is built around a herd dynamic, I learned that in university. We were meant to exist in herds. It is part of our foundational psychology. And Celestia undoes countless generations of social and biological evolution with the stroke of a quill, thinking that it would fix the ills of society. All I see as a legacy of that event are entire generations of orphans, broken families, single mothers, and messed up societal values as we go against our own inner natures and try to follow this unnatural state of monogamy,” Berry said bitterly. “I had to spend money on lawyers to keep Piña, because of Clan Pickled’s history with herds, and we’re seen as unsuitable members of society to raise foals. I had to fight tooth and hoof to keep that filly out of the tender mercies of the government foal services system who had the nerve to tell me that we have a history of being unfit parents. Never once was our drinking brought up as a reason, just our marriage practices. Bastards!” Berry finished off her glass with a single swallow, and then set the jar on the floor. “And that’s enough ghost of the grape for me tonight, it’s making me angry,” she muttered, rubbing her head against Bucky.

“You gonna be okay Berry? Derpy asked, looking concerned. “I know all about foal services.”

“I know you do Derpy, I was there,” Berry said, looking distraught.

“I’ve never heard this side of the argument,” Bucky said thoughtfully. “I suppose I’ve taken a unicorn-centric view on the issue, knowing how much we Canterlot unicorns have to reduce stress and emotional triggers in our lives. Seems wise for us, not having to fight and fuss among one another, but it seems extraordinarily bad for the other tribes.”

“My family fled Canterlot because most of the unicorns there are really messed up,” Rising Star said.

“Rising, that’s awful!” Sparkler snapped.

“But Sparkler, it’s true. We are messed up. We are all a bunch of walking disasters and accidents happen all the time. Those of us with high magic, almost all of us have very messed up lives,” Bucky replied to Sparkler, looking pensive and worried.

“One of my uncles was a really powerful unicorn, attended Celestia’s school,” Rising Star said, taking a sip from his jelly jar. “Real gifted. Powerful. Remarkably stable for being so gifted, or everybody said so. Snapped one day. Went completely barmy. Right off the deep end. Embarrassed my mother’s side of the family something terrible. He started skinning foals and other ponies and making leather from their hides. Investigators found his journals. Turns out he wrote about something from Tartarus whispering to him constantly and visiting his dreams, offering him even greater power, and he took interest.”

“Oh my gosh, that’s horrible,” gasped Sparkler.

“Happens quite a bit,” Bucky said, staring into his own drink. “Our neurosis helps to act as a defense against such intrusions sometimes. Sometimes not so much,” he added .

“Damn,” Berry muttered.

“You ever hear voices?” Sparkler asked Bucky, looking at him thoughtfully.

“No,” Bucky replied. “No I haven’t. And if I ever did, they would find me a pathetically boring host to inhabit. I’m boring and repressed.”

“I hope Dinky never hears those things,” whispered Derpy, shivering as she did so.

“I’m really glad I don’t have more magic. I don’t know how I could live with that on my shoulders, knowing that there are things out there wanting to exploit me,” Sparkler said. “Rising Star, it is getting late and it is a school night. Want me to walk you home?”

Rising Star nodded. “Yeah, I don’t feel like being alone right now,” he admitted.

“I should be going as well,” Bucky said.

“Aw, don’t go. Stay with us,” Berry begged.

“I, uh, need to get rested for tomorrow so I can teach Dinky things she needs to know,” Bucky replied.

Derpy and Berry both sat up, allowing Bucky to wiggle free.

“Stay here on the couch again then,” Derpy said pleadingly. “I mean, we might tease you in the bed, but I promise, if you aren’t ready, we will leave you alone. Sooner or later, you are going to have to join us though. I am not about to go through a unicorn courtship.” The grey mare scowled at the notion of waiting a year.

“I make no such promises of good behaviour,” Berry said.

“So Sparkler, when you do you want to come by and have dinner with my parents?” Rising Star asked. “I can’t wait to show them the amazing filly I’ve found!”  



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