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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“She’s going to be fine. Just a bit of a headache, that’s all.”

Derpy’s wings fluttered at her sides and her ears fell back against her head. “She doesn’t seem fine. She had a bloody nose and her eye is messed up. You’re not a doctor.”

The older unicorn mare heaved a patient sigh. “Ma’am, I’ve been one of the school nurses here at Princess Celestia’s school for a very long time, longer than you’ve been alive.  I assure you, she’s going to be just fine. This sort of thing happens all the time. It is like when somepony chokes or coughs too much, it can make their eyes bloodshot or might cause a little nosebleed. What she needs is a little cuddle time and some calm.”

Chewing on her lip, Derpy looked over at Dinky, who was laying down on a paisley printed sofa. She let go of her lip and swallowed the accumulated nervous drool flooding her mouth. “I’m sorry… but this scares me.”

The nurse smiled. “Don’t be scared, be proud. Out of all the unicorns I’ve met in my life, there is but a scant few that could have done what your little filly did. To have that level of control at her age, that’s something. I’ve only ever seen that in two other unicorns… Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer.”

“So she just needs some rest? Some time laying down?” Derpy asked.

Nodding, the nurse looked over at the earth pony coming through the door and then back at Derpy. “Yes ma’am. A bit of a nap and a cuddle will do her good. Little unicorns are sensitive to head pressure. She put a fair bit of strain on her thaumaturgical glands. It really is no different than a harsh bit of coughing or even a particularly violent bit of sneezing. So you can relax and it will all be okay.”

Derpy watched as Berry Punch crawled up onto the sofa beside Dinky, pulled the foal close, and then shushed Dinky when Dinky started to say something. She felt some of the tension in her muscles ease away. Bucky came through the door a moment later, holding a small tray. On the tray was a bit of a snack for Dinky and a large glass of chocolate milk. Bucky did not seem too concerned. He had been a bit panicked at first, but had calmed down. Derpy realised she was chewing her lip again and she made herself stop. If Bucky was calm, then it had to be okay.

She took a few steps closer to the sofa, Berry Punch, Dinky, and Bucky. She watched Bucky set the tray on the small table near the sofa. “Bucky, I’m sorry… I’m going to stay here with Dinky and Berry. I can’t be with you during whatever is happening later.”

Bucky turned, took a few steps, stretched out his neck, and gave Derpy a reassuring kiss on the cheek. “No worries, love. You look after Dinky. I brought her some brownies, cookies, and a few coconut macaroons. Celestia said a few sweets are actually a good idea in this situation.”

“I’m starved,” Dinky said as she squirmed in Berry’s embrace. “I don’t see what the big deal is, I feel okay. I don’t want to miss everything.”

“Dinky, you need to eat plenty of food and get some rest. Do not argue. Your mother is already stressed out, don’t make it worse.” Bucky, treading on the fine line between gentle and firm, hoped that Dinky would take a hint. He looked his foal in the eye and then moved his eyes towards Derpy, hoping that Dinky would understand.

After a moment, Dinky looked at her mother and nodded. “You know, a snack and a nap doesn’t sound too bad.”

“Good girl, Dinky,” Bucky said, feeling relieved that Dinky got the hint. “I’m proud of you for what you did. You showed a remarkable level of control and saved a lot of ponies from being hurt. You responded quickly and even managed to hold back your fear and your panic.”

The nurse began to walk towards the door. “My work here is done. For now anyway. I’ll be back in a few hours to check on Dinky. Make sure that she gets plenty of fluid. She’ll be prone to dehydration if she doesn’t.”

As the nurse trotted out the door, Derpy lept up onto the couch and settled in beside Berry Punch. She looked at Bucky, then Berry, and then at Dinky. “I don’t understand how you responded so quickly.”

Shrugging, Dinky gobbled up a cookie being offered to her by her father. She didn’t want to admit it, but she was feeling sleepy. Berry was warm and soft. The cookie was an oatmeal cookie, with shredded bits of raisin and carrot, along with some kind of spice. After swallowing, a yawn that Dinky failed to hold back escaped. She smiled a sheepish smile and accepted another cookie.

 

 

A lot was happening all at once. Music was playing. A crowd was gathering. Celestia had told him to sit down upon his throne. The guard were gathering in the background. His family was a short distance away. Bucky felt a sense of unease; he didn’t like not knowing what was going on. The throne was tacky looking, gaudy, and covered in snow. He had dusted it off before sitting down and used a little magic to warm his seat.

A podium was brought out for Celestia. Bucky had no idea what she was up to, but she was smiling. A large lock box was also brought out, and something under a curtain. He dredged his memories, hoping that something from the past, some memory of Sombra’s would tell him what was going on.

The snow was already several inches deep in places, even more was coming. The first snowfall over Canterlot this year had turned into a blizzard. Bucky felt more than a little proud of his work.

For a moment, he thought of Dinky, Derpy, and Berry. Derpy had panicked when she had heard Dinky’s cry. Bucky had heard nothing, but Derpy had somehow heard Dinky’s cry over the sound of the crowd and the muffling effect of the snow. The power of motherhood amazed Bucky, and as he thought about it, he felt humbled.

“My good ponies, we are gathered on this day to celebrate the first day of winter and to revive an old tradition,” Celestia said, her voice amplified with magic.

Bucky’s eyebrow raised and he leaned over on the arm of his throne.

Celestia stood straight and tall, looking somehow whiter than the snow falling around her. She was radiant, beautiful, and laughing.Bucky began to feel a vague sense of concern, a prickle of anxiety.

“Winter has long been a difficult time of year. After our struggle with the windigos, there were many widows and orphans. Sombra, the Lord of Winter, got himself slobbering drunk one day and tried to think of a means to help those who could not help themselves during this cruel season.”

Celestia was laughing as she was speaking and this was not like her at all. Bucky felt his body tense with panic. Something was up. The very fact that Celestia was even speaking of Sombra in public spoke volumes.

“On that fateful day, the Lord of Winter, back when he was still a good pony, if perhaps a little flawed, had himself a revelation. The poor, the downtrodden, the labourers, all of them wanted to be on even hoofing with the aristocracy and the upper classes. So when Sombra brought about the first day of winter, he invited ponies to come and throw snowballs at him, but at a price. One copper bit, with the money collected going towards the care of widows and orphans.”

Bucky blinked. All of a sudden, the memory was there, clear as day, and Bucky groaned. He watched as the cover was yanked off, revealing a large sign. He couldn’t see the words on the sign from where he was sitting.

“The festival proved to be very popular. Sombra would sit upon his throne, drink wine, and get pelted with snowballs. A lot of money was raised for the poor and it became a tradition that spanned a number of years…”

Bucky could hear Celestia’s words fade out and he knew why. Eventually, Sombra lost his goodness. He watched as Celestia’s ears splayed out sideways. She wasn’t laughing now, she had fallen silent. She was still wearing her public mask, her stoicism was on full display, but Bucky knew that she was hurting.

“There are rules. I ask that you observe them. Be kind, be respectful, do not be malicious. If you hurt him, there will be consequences. This is to be done in fun. I am trusting you, my good little ponies, I am trusting in your goodness and your civility. I ask that you do not disappoint me.”

There was a flutter of wings and a flash of brown-gold. Bucky was startled for a moment when Belisama landed beside him in his throne. Her crest was up and her feathers were fluffed out.

“I don’t want my husband humiliated or made into a public mockery!” Belisama cried.

 

Celestia stood, looking flummoxed. Her mouth hung open. The crowd was silent. Bucky didn’t quite know what to do. He could hear Belisama’s heavy breathing. He lifted one foreleg, wrapped it around her, and pulled her close.

“He isn’t here for your sport or your amusement,” Belisama said as she squirmed out of Bucky’s embrace and gave Celestia a defiant stare.

“Belisama, come here… no, stop wiggling, come here.” Bucky, forced to resort to using his magic, pulled the irate griffoness close to him and gave her a squeeze. “It’s okay. I’m alright with this. This is for a good cause—”

“You’re a slave just like I am and they’re putting you on display—”

Bucky became aware of Belisama’s talons squeezing onto his metal prosthesis as he cut her off mid sentence. “You are not a slave. Now silence… take a deep breath. Do not get yourself worked into a tizzy. This is for a good cause and I’m okay with it.”

Belisama’s eyes were filled with emotion, Bucky saw confusion, anger, sadness, her beak was open and her small body was heaving from the force of her breathing.

“But a lot of ponies hate you… I’ve seen what is in the paper… what if somepony tries to hurt you?” Belisama asked as she looked at Bucky. “What if somepony only does this to be petty? To shame you? To hurt you?”

“Then they pay like everypony else, obey the rules, and the poor still benefit. Let them,” Bucky replied. He looked over at Celestia and was unable to read her expression.

“I… I don’t like this,” Belisama said, her voice raspy and full of emotion.

“It’s all in fun. And for those few bad apples that might want to get their digs in with a snowball, let them. So long as they play by the rules, I’m fine with it.” Bucky pulled Belisama closer and gave her a hug followed by a kiss on the side of her face, just behind the spot where her beak was rooted.

“I want everypony to remember this,” Celestia said in a loud clear voice.

“Go on Belisama, there is no point in both of us getting pelted with snowballs,” Bucky said as he let Belisama go.

The griffoness shook her head. “No. I’m not leaving.”

Two figures moved through the crowd, moved past Celestia, and approached the throne. Bucky saw Sentinel and Moonbow, it was nice seeing Moonbow. Both of them stood on either side of this throne a short distance away. Moonbow had grown a great deal in the past few months, becoming bulkier and larger. She was already as large as most adult mares, but far more solid, her legs were as thick as most ponies necks.

“Please, be respectful of the Lord of Winter. One bit gets you a snowball.” Celestia’s words hung over the crowd and she turned to look at them.

“Right then, I see everypony is going to be a bit spooked after that display. I’ll take two snowballs please.”

Rolling his eyes, Bucky sighed and shook his head. He could always count on Lyra.

“Lyra, I can’t believe you’re doing this,” Bon Bon said as she gave Lyra a disapproving look. “I don’t know how I feel about this either.”

“Bucky’s okay with it, nopony could force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do, and the funds raised go towards widows and orphans… I bought you a snowball Bonnie,” Lyra replied, ignoring Bon Bon’s scolding stare.

“Hey, waitaminute,” Bucky said as Lyra was using her magic to make a snowball. “I need a drink... I think Belisama needs one too.”

“Fetch the Lord of Winter and his wife some hot mulled wine,” Celestia commanded.

“Say… Celestia…”

“Yes Lyra?”

“How much would it cost to throw a snowball at you?”

 

 

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