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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“You know Twilight, I could fix you…”

Most of Canterlot was asleep. Already well past midnight, most of the residents of Canterlot Castle had fallen into slumber as the storm raged on outside. Twilight, her mind on far too many things, could not sleep and had been roaming the castle, just as she had done when she was younger.

Looking over at her brother’s projection, Twilight shook her head. “I wasn’t aware that I was broken, Shiny.”

“Twily, I didn’t mean it like that. I mean… I mean I could make it where you could return to the Crystal Empire… I could remove the corruption caused by dark magic. It leaves a stain, Twilight.”

There was a sudden flash of anger, a hot feeling, and Twilight wanted to shout at her brother. She wondered if it was her or the so called stain, the corruption left behind by dark magic. She bit back her angry retort, feeling the need to remain calm and rational.

“Could you do this for Bucky?” she asked.

Shining Armor scowled. “No… no I could not. Twilight, the Collective fears him.” Shining Armor’s ears fell back against his head. “If I were to fix you Twilight, you must swear that you will never use dark magic ever again.”

“Dark magic has a few practical uses and it can be controlled,” Twilight said, restraining the need to say it through clenched teeth. The anger lingered and was not going away.

“So then, let Bucky handle it for you. I know for certain that he will do anything you ask of him,” Shining Armor said in a low voice, how brow furrowed as he looked as his sister. “Having trouble with your temper? Don’t lie to me Twilight. I know what is going on and I know why it is happening. Celestia has the sickness as well, and believe me when I tell you, it is a sickness.”

“What makes you think you know so much?” Twilight demanded. Something about Shining Armor’s calm all knowing demeanour was infuriating and Twilight failed to hold back her angry retort. Twilight regretted her actions right away. Her tail twitched and she dropped her head, her neck falling down to become level with her withers.

“Twily, please, let me help you.” Shining Armor dropped his own head, refusing to hold it above his sister’s height in a show of dominance. It would accomplish nothing. “You keep experimenting. You watch Bucky as he delves deeper and deeper into his knowledge of dark magic and your curiousity eats you up inside. You crave knowledge. You tell yourself that you can handle it because your talent is magic. But all of your experiments have left you feeling more and more hollow… I can tell you what you are doing wrong Twilight, and why knowledge of dark magic eludes you. Why you remain frustrated, and why your anger grows.”

“And why is that?” Twilight asked, now feeling intrigued.

Shaking his head, Shining Armor took a step towards his sister. “Because you run from pain. You fear getting hurt. Dark magic requires pain, it requires unbelievable amounts of suffering. It is a magic fueled by agony, by anger, by rage, it is the very opposite of the friendship magic that you’ve discovered. And if you keep trying to stick your snoot into the working knowledge of dark magic, you are going to ruin all of your hard work.”

“So Bucky succeeds where I fail because he is a masochist?”

Not liking the fact that his sister knew of that word, Shining Armor sighed. “Twilight, when you were a foal, when it came time to get your vaccinations, you cried, you begged, you pleaded, you offered to do chores around the house, but the idea of being pricked by a needle scared you to no end. You cried for days afterwards and had nightmares for months.”

“And just why are you bringing that up?” Twilight lifted her head and tried to figure out what her brother was up to. He wasn’t the gloating type, so there had to be a reason why this was relevant.

“When Bucky was put on trial, he was branded. Did he at any time do anything to make it stop? Did he resist? Did he struggle? Did he cry, or plead, or beg to make the branding stop?”

With a sick feeling in her stomach, Twilight recalled the smell of burning hair and seared flesh. Bucky had done nothing to prevent being branded. Beyond that, Bucky had fused on his own prosthetic. As much as Twilight hated to admit it, her brother had made a point. Twilight wasn’t sure that she could face being branded. She was still having nightmares about the pain she had endured in Griffonholm.

“When Bucky experiences pain now his mind sees it as a resource, a means for more power. Make no mistake Twilight, he craves power. He understands what gives him power,” Shining Armor said as he looked up at his sister and then raised his head.

“Do you think Bucky is dangerous?” Twilight asked.

Shining Armor scowled. “He could be. That’s the thing.” Sighing, Shining Armor prepared to tell the truth, feeling that his sister needed to hear it. “Twily, while Bucky could be a threat, he just… isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the potential is there, but his love of foals, his family, those things he loves, they keep him grounded. Stable. So long as he has those things, he will continue to serve.”

“There is something you’re not telling me.”

“Twilight Sparkle, you are more of a threat than he is.”

Curiousity overpowered Twilight’s anger. “Can you explain your reasoning, Shining Armor? I mean, I’m willing to listen if you are willing to explain.”

“Twily, your idle curiousity pushes you ever onwards. You keep dabbling in dark magic… little experiments. You keep poisoning yourself. You are not content to simply leave things be. You have to know, to understand, and at some point, you are going to make a mistake. Something bad will happen. And all of this just because you felt the need learn something.”

“So you are saying that I should close the book on dark magic, end my studies, and focus on other things,” Twilight said as she stared down at her own front hooves.

“Twily, think of your family. You have foals and one little dragon to look after. Think of Flash Sentry and Rainbow Dash. You’ve been growing distant from them. And your friends too. They think that you’re still a little shaken up over Griffonholm… I know what really happened there, and while that is part of it, that is not the whole of it. Is this knowledge worth losing your connection to them?”

The anger, the rage, it melted away, burned away by shame. Twilight’s head dropped once more. “Not when you put it that way… I’m sorry Shiny.”

“Twilight, some things aren’t worth knowing. I know that runs contrary to everything you believe—”

“But there is truth to that statement.” Twilight said, finishing her brother’s words. “Can you really fix it?”

Nodding, Shining Armor lifted his head high.

“I just wanted to understand how it works.”

“I know, Twily.”

“Will this hurt?” Twilight asked in what she feared was a foalish sounding voice.

“No Twilight, I promise you, this will not hurt you in the slightest,” Shining Armor replied, offering his sister a promise that he knew he could deliver upon. “You’ve been feeling more pain though. Become more sensitive, haven’t you? Things you barely noticed before hurt you far more now.”

“How did you know?” Twilight asked, realising her question was an answer after the fact.

“It is the nature of dark magic… as it begins to corrupt you, it changes you. Feeling pain more acutely, feeling more pain, it gives you more power. As you delve deeper and deeper, things hurt you more and more,” Shining Armor replied.

Twilight, filled with a pressing need to understand, looked at the brother, trying to figure out how he knew so much now. “So how come you know this and I don’t?”

“The knowledge is buried in the Crystal Collective. Sombra knew of it, he and Starswirl studied it extensively. I know everything that the Collective knows.”

“It makes sense, now that I think about it. I wonder why I never made that connection? Why didn’t I see it? I feel kinda stupid now.” Twilight closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep calming breath.

“Everything is going to be fine, I can promise you that,” Shining Armor said, trying to comfort his troubled sister. He took a step closer, then another, and then he was at her side, standing close. He leaned over, brushing up against her.

“You smell funny… kinda flowery,” Twilight said as she leaned on her brother. “You’re a projection? How is it that you can smell funny?”

“Cadance needed a bath. I helped Lyra give her one,” Shining Armor replied.

“And by help, you probably stood nearby and watched.”

“I have no comment,” Shining Armor replied as he rolled his eyes. “I have nothing to say at all. Such a terrible accusation that comes out of my sister’s mouth.”

“Bathtime is surprisingly complicated. I apparently don’t know what I’m doing,” Twilight said as she shook her head. “You would think that bathtime was all about getting clean, but you’d be wrong.”

“What?”

“Bathtime is apparently all about fun… Flash Sentry told me that I was too methodical and too focused on end results. He and Rainbow Dash both had a good laugh about it and poor little Glass Slipper just gave me the worst look ever.”

Shining Armor turned his head to look at his sister. “Cadance said bathtime was all about relaxation and personal time.”

“I don’t know why, but I seemed to have this faulty idea that when I put Glass Slipper in the tub, I was supposed to scrub her and get her clean. There are only so many hours in a day, things need to be done, bedtime schedules must be observed—”

“When this happened, tell me, had you spent any personal private time with Glass Slipper at any point during the day?” Shining Armor asked, cutting in on his sister.

“Well, no, I was busy, I had just returned from Canterlot, Flash was busy helping Spike, Rainbow Dash was trying to help Scootaloo with a book report, and Glass Slipper was covered with boysenberry jam, and this was just after she had already had one bath earlier before I came home—”

“Did you ever stop to think that perhaps, Glass Slipper was just trying to get some time with you and that she might have gotten herself covered in jam so you would take time out of your busy schedule and spend a moment with her?” Shining Armor asked.

“Well, no… no actually… that hadn’t occurred to me at all,” Twilight admitted. “Waitaminute, how come you know about this stuff?”

“Twily, I hang out with Bucky’s family. I spend time with Cadance… not just Cadance, but also Harper… Peekaboo… the whole time I am around Derpy gives me an earful. So does Lyra. Bon Bon seems to think that understanding foals will make me a better ruler. She might be right,” Shining Armor replied.

“I feel kinda dumb.” Twilight blinked and once more she leaned up against her brother. “Things are so complicated now. I have so many demands upon me. Not just as a princess… but as a wife.” Twilight paused for a moment and then continued. “As a mother… and then there are my friends, all of whom make demands for my time. The Black Cloaks. The Bureau of Thaumaturgy. The need to travel all over Equestria and do my job. I really hope I am not a bad parent… or a bad wife.”

“I was looking forward to being a father,” Shining Armor said, his voice deep and soft.

“There is always adoption Shining, remember that. I’ve adopted two and I love them dearly, even if I do apparently keep making dreadful mistakes with them,” Twilight replied.

“Celestia and Luna both have Tourmaline and Erebus. I like Erebus… Luna wants me to be his uncle.” Shining Armor felt Twilight’s wings against his side, a soft tickle against him.

“So… Shining, when did you want to, uh, do whatever it is that you need to do to remove this corruption? I’m willing to offer my super secret sister promise that I will not dabble in dark magic ever again,” Twilight said.

“Twilight, it is already done… what do you think I’ve been doing while I was standing here beside you?”

 

 

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