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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“I cannot believe that I allowed you to talk me into this,” Luna said as a snowball impacted upon her neck. She shuddered and blinked. “Buckminster, how dare you make clucking noises at me and accuse me of being poultry!”

Celestia guffawed and then her laughter was cut off short by a gasp when she was hit by a snowball. She looked over at Luna and Bucky.

“Nopony has ever accused me of cowardice and lived,” Luna said in a gritty voice that was full of gravel.

Bucky took a sip of wine, swallowed, and then lowered his mug. “So you are saying that I should begin boasting of my accomplishment? Once more I have done the impossible.”

“Buckminster… there will be words…”

“Why are Bucky and I worth a copper bit?” Twilight asked. She looked over at the long line of ponies and saw Rainbow Dash. Twilight took a deep breath and summoned her patience.

“When I am done with him Buckminster will be worth far less than a copper bit,” Luna said, the white snow she was dusted with standing out in sharp contrast against her coat of blue.

Allowing her guard to fall away, Celestia found herself getting lost in the moment. “Says the alicorn princess that is only worth a silver bit.”

“Sister! Watch your tongue!”

“It makes sense,” Bucky said, knowing he was playing a dangerous game. “The sun is golden and Celestia gets a gold bit. Moonlight is silver and all that. Besides, I wouldn’t pay more than a copper for myself anyway.”

“And what of Twilight?” Celestia asked. She heard a snort.

 

“Not one word, Bucky, not one word,” Twilight said as she flinched at an incoming snowball.

“Actually, a lot of ponies are laying down gold bits to take a shot at the Lord of Winter,” Tannis said from his spot where he was collecting money.

Lifting his mug in salute, Bucky smiled at  the crowd. “It is good to have enemies.”

“You insolent smug little ruffian!”

Looking over at Luna, Bucky gave her a smug smile. “Sticks and stones may break my bones… but whips and chains excite me.”

There was a full moment of silence from Luna, several snowballs worth, and then Luna began to howl with laughter, almost falling off of her makeshift throne.

Reaching out his foreleg, Bucky brushed away some snow from Belisama, who was sticking it out beside him. “Doing okay?” He watched as her head turned around to look at him.

“Fine, thanks for asking,” Belisama replied.

“Just a heads up Bucky, Cheerilee has gathered a number of her students… she says it is time for a demonstration about civic duty,” Agnetha said, offering Bucky a warning.

Holding her head high, Twilight looked over at the crowd. “This has become educational… I don’t know how I feel about that.” Her eyes moved away from the crowd and towards Luna, who was collapsed onto her throne and laughing like a madpony. Even Celestia was acting silly, making faces at the crowd and sticking out her tongue.

The ponies that she idolised were acting like… ponies. Every time this happened Twilight felt unsettled. Celestia had always been a near mystical figure for Twilight, a figure of near perfection. Celestia was the immortal princess. And then, at some point, life had gone crazy. Twilight had seen Celestia at her best and at her worst. Twilight had discovered that Celestia was still a pony, and not all that different than the rest of them. Luna was even more flawed than her sister.

Twilight’s thoughts were interrupted by a snowball hitting her. She looked over and saw Rainbow Dash offering Scootaloo advice on how to whip out a snowball using a wing. Twilight smiled and felt her lip quivering, all thoughts of snowballs now forgotten. Scootaloo and her stunted wings… but Rainbow Dash didn’t treat her any different and was still trying to show her pegasus things that Scootaloo could do with her wings.

The pair had never given up; the thought made Twilight feel warm and the winter chill melted away. Using her wings, she wiped at her eyes after feeling the sting of tears. She didn’t want ponies getting the wrong idea.

Rainbow Dash had changed. They all had changed. Twilight was all too aware of the changes that she herself had endured. She wasn’t so sure how much Celestia had changed, but Twilight was aware that her own perceptions about Celestia had changed. Pinkie Pie was different. Applejack seemed more wise. Rarity was more aware of the things she said. Fluttershy had changed. Distracted, Twilight was lost in her own thoughts, so much so that she didn’t notice the incoming snowballs.

 

 

The snow was unrelenting. As it grew later in the day, it became obvious to any observer that the snowfall was growing stronger. The temperature plummeted. Ears went numb and snoots began to sting from the bitter cold.

As all things do, the festival ended. For some, the out of doors celebration moved indoors, with Celestia opening up the grand hall inside of the castle. For others, they went home after hearing warnings that the blizzard might shut down the trains later.

Canterlot was covered in a blanket of white. The city, which had suffered so much turmoil, had been put to rest and covered with a shroud. Come spring, the shroud would vanish and the city would be reborn, like so many other things when spring came around.

Far below Canterlot, the city of Ponyville had its first taste of what the winter would be. Its citizens had celebrated the snowfall, but that celebration became alarm when many of the old timers realised that this was going to become a major blizzard.

When the sun finally settled and darkness began to creep across the land, most of Equestria was buried. Even far flung places like Dodge City and Appleloosa had several feet of snow already. With the darkness, the blizzard intensified.

 

 

The howling wind could be heard through the thick stone walls. Sentinel’s ears perked even as the rest of his body slumped over in his chair. Feeling a little depressed, he didn’t feel like joining everypony else for the festivities of the night.

Moonbow was gone.

The day together had been happy, a good time had been had, and Sentinel had retreated into quiet solitude to figure out all of the many thoughts in his mind. He watched Shining Armor, who was playing with Cadance, Harper, and Peekaboo.

The power of a promise.

Sentinel’s young mind struggled to put to terms the thoughts and feelings he had. Moonbow was a pony that, at times, he felt he knew too little about. In spite of this, he felt a powerful sense of attachment to her, a feeling of devotion and dedication. Try as he might, Sentinel could not figure out what it was that he felt for Moonbow, but there was something there. A sense of duty? A feeling of obligation? She was a goal, a reward to be had later, something he had to strive for.

Derpy was still smothering poor Dinky, refusing to let the filly get too far away. Sentinel felt a moment of fierce pride for his sister. Derpy was in the corner of the room, in a chair, with Dinky, Piña, Tourmaline, and Glass Slipper all smooshed in around her. In another chair next to Derpy, Barley was reading a story to the foals Derpy was smothering and drinking glass after glass of whiskey. Sentinel knew why too. Barley’s joints were bothering him. Many glasses of whiskey later and Barley still showed no sign of being drunk.

“And up from the cellar came a terrible ogre!”

Sentinel’s ears swiveled around at the sound of Glass Slipper’s squeal. He could hear every single heart beating in the room. Tourmaline was acting as though she was unafraid, but her heart was thudding inside of her and Sentinel could hear every beat.

Sentinel knew Tourmaline’s secret. The others were unaware. Tourmaline smelled wrong. She was no pony. Her heart beat was different. Sentinel had been told the truth by his father as well as Luna, and then sworn to secrecy.

Once more, Sentinel’s ears focused upon the sounds around him. His father had whispered something into his mother Berry Punch’s ear. Now Berry Punch’s heart was racing and the earth pony mare was giggling. Sentinel had heard every word spoken, but had tuned them out. A curious part of his mind took note and resolved to try his father’s suggestion upon Moonbow or Diamond Tiara later.

A promise was a promise.

He and Moonbow had made a promise to one another. Now, she was gone, enduring who knows what, preparing herself to keep her end of the promise, while Sentinel got to sit in a warm room with his family, drinking cider and eating treats.

Sentinel had made many promises.

A promise to keep his siblings safe, a promise that Sentinel remained serious about. Today though, Dinky had kept him safe. In the back of Sentinel’s mind, he realised that he owed his sister a debt. It was not a conscious thought, but the awareness existed.

“I’ll use yer bones to pick me teeth!”

The smell of fear filled the room. Not from Dinky, not from Piña, but Glass Slipper and Tourmaline were terrified. Sentinel had a vague awareness that if Dinky was faced with a pony eating ogre, his sister would respond with terrific force and there would be no more ogre.

“Just who writes these books for foals?”

Bon Bon’s question went into one ear and slipped out the other. Sentinel had no concern about the issue. He was thinking about too many other things. Like the quiet reaffirmation that had happened when Moonbow had to leave, the pledge made to one another to be faithful to their duties until such a time they were free to be together. This time, Diamond Tiara had stood with them, also promising to work towards the greater goal and to hold herself accountable, to make herself worthy.

“This story is positively dreadful! The ogre is wearing rags!

Rarity’s theatrics did not reach Sentinel and he tuned them out. Coco murmured something, Sentinel could make it out but it was something that was intended to be private and so it sort of faded into the background like everything else.

Pinkie Pie exploded into the room, bringing with her more treats, and then she was gone, leaving the smell of fresh baked cookies in her wake. Sentinel’s nostrils flared and he took in the scent of the cookies. Pinkie Pie, along with Applejack, Diamond Tiara, and Cheese Sandwich, had commandeered a small servant’s kitchen and were now providing an endless feast of sweets, treats, cookies, and cupcakes. Diamond Tiara was learning something new at Applejack’s insistence.

“And then the terrible ogre began slicing up bits o’ carrot and celery as he prepared to turn the wee filly into soup!”

For a moment, Sentinel wondered if the ogre would take the time to sauté the carrot and celery first or if the raw vegetables would just be tossed into a pot full of water. Without realising it, Sentinel had listened in on Semillon far too many times and learned a great deal from the cook.

“Sentinel?”

Snapping out of his almost fugue-like state, Sentinel blinked a few times and looked at Lyra as the unicorn was climbing up onto the couch beside him. Saying nothing, he scooted closer to Lyra, glad to have her near. He felt himself embraced, her foreleg wrapping around him, and he pressed his head against her neck.

“Sentinel, you look out of sorts, are you okay?” Lyra asked.

Closing his eyes, Sentinel continued to rub the side of his head against Lyra, not realising he was marking her with his scent glands that were below his ear. “I was just thinking about stuff.”

“I bet it was nice to see Moonbow. Did you have a nice day together?” Lyra asked.

Blinking, Sentinel opened his eyes. The fire crackled and popped. The smell of cookies was overpowering. A faint scent of fear lingered. Lyra smelled of her usual Lyra-ness, but also of cider, of whiskey, of ginger and something spicy. “We had a lovely day together. It was nice.”

Glass Slipper let out a shriek as Barley dropped his book and made a scary face.

“Lyra?”

“Yes, what is it Sentinel?”

“I’m worried I can’t perform my duties.” Sentinel’s confession pained him but it was something that had been pressing in upon his mind for some time. It felt good to admit it.

Lyra squeezed the colt, lowered her head down, and dropped her voice into a whisper. “What do you mean, I don’t understand, can you explain?”

Taking a moment to gather his thoughts, Sentinel closed his eyes and tried to think of the right words to say. With his eyes still closed, he said, “Thistle is about to have her foal. Derpy and Berry are both going to have twins. Harper is starting to explore stuff. Cadance will be running around all over the place before we know it.” Sentinel paused, took a deep breath, and pressed his face into Lyra’s neck. “I am obligated to look after my siblings. I feel overwhelmed as it is right now, soon there will be too many.”

Lyra Heartstrings exploded into laughter, unaware that Sentinel didn’t think this was funny at all. The unicorn mare continued to laugh and Sentinel began to sulk, slumping in Lyra’s affectionate embrace.

“Sentinel, nopony expects you to look after all of them, I don’t know what gave you that idea.” Lyra took a deep wheezing breath, reached up with her fetlock, and wiped away a tear from the corner of her eye. “Ah… Sentinel, sometimes, I don’t think you realise how funny you can be.”

For Sentinel, nothing about this was funny and the colt scowled, his brows furrowing. Lyra was still laughing, which for some reason, bothered Sentinel a great deal. He heaved a frustrated sigh and said nothing.

“You take everything so seriously. Relax a little Sentinel. Everything is going to be fine, just you wait and see. You’re going to be the best big brother ever and your little siblings are going to love you to pieces.”

“But there is only one of me and there is going to be so many of them—”

“Sentinel, try not to think of it that way,” Lyra said. The unicorn cleared her throat. “Learn from what is around you, Sentinel. There is only one of Bucky, your father is outnumbered, and we, his wives, we all want his attention and his affection. The way things are looking, you’re going to wind up in a similar situation with Moonbow and Diamond Tiara. With the funny way that life usually works out, there might be somepony else… or even somebirdy else in the future. What you have here is an opportunity.”

“I don’t understand.”

Giving Sentinel an affectionate kiss upon the top of his head, Lyra tried to figure out the best way to say what needed to be said. She looked around the room at the many ponies and griffons all enjoying each others company during this private celebration.

“Sentinel, each one of your siblings is going to want your attention, your affection, some of your time. What you are going to have to do is learn how to make each one of them feel special, how to do something that makes them feel like you care about them in some unique way. One day, Moonbow and Diamond Tiara will want the same thing from you. Bucky does it for each of us, or he tries to. He isn’t perfect, but he never stops trying and let me tell you, that makes us, his wives, feel a lot better. Sentinel, just try and make sure that none of your siblings ever feel left out… that will be the best thing you can do to look after all of them.”

“How do I do that?” Sentinel asked.

“I don’t know,” Lyra replied. “To be honest, I still don’t know how Bucky does it. Just remember that you can always come to one of us for help. None of us will ever think any less of you if you come to us and ask for help.”

“Father told me the most disappointing thing I could ever do is to not ask for help if I am in trouble,” Sentinel said in a low worried sounding voice. “It’s really hard… I want to figure things out on my own and do the right thing. It feels wrong asking for help sometimes.”

“It comes down to trust Sentinel.” Lyra gave Sentinel a reassuring squeeze. “Bon Bon and I might seem like we're annoyed with each other, and Bon Bon might seem like she is being hard on me, but it is mostly an act. Mostly. For us, it is an elaborate joke. I depend on Bon Bon a great deal. I don’t do well without her. There might be some codependency issues… anyway, I am always trying to show my independence and I usually manage to screw things up pretty good as I go down my usual spiral of self destruction. I make one mistake, freak out, get nervous, make more mistakes, and at some point, I have to go running to Bon Bon as a nervous mess. Bon Bon has never turned me away when I needed her, no matter what sort of mess I had made. No matter how badly I screw things up, Bon Bon is always there for me.”

“So what you are saying is, it is fine for me to make an attempt at something, but if I am in over my head, I should run and find help immediately,” Sentinel said.

“Yes, exactly. We’re your parents. No matter what sort of mess you make, we’ll help you.” Lyra felt an odd emotion welling up inside of her. It was overwhelming, too strong to deal with, and Lyra resorted to the only coping mechanism she knew. Humour. “Even if you get Diamond Tiara pregnant, we’ll still love you. Just be a gentlecolt and buy her chocolates if you do. Eventually, everything will be okay and chocolates make everything better.”

“Mother!” Sentinel squeaked as he heard Lyra giggling. His cheeks blazed with inner fire and Sentinel felt his stomach twisting into knots.

“Let me prove it,” Lyra offered. She cleared her throat. “Hey Bon Bon, what’s one thing that makes everything better?”

Bon Bon looked up from where she was sitting and replied, “Chocolates Lyra, chocolates make everything better.”

Still giggling, Lyra could feel the embarrassed heat rising up from off of Sentinel as she held him. “See, Sentinel, I told you so… I’m your mother, I’d never mislead you.”

Hearing Lyra’s infectious giggle, Sentinel somehow managed to let out a nervous scratchy laugh. In the back of his mind, he filed away the real lesson to be learned here, and promised himself that he would never put himself into a situation where he needed to buy Diamond Tiara chocolates until he was older. Much older. And married, for good measure.

“Hey, I got Sentinel to laugh!”

 

 

 

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