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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When Bucky awoke, there was a cool wet cloth laid over his eyes and there were voices speaking in hushed tones. Bucky was in his own bed, the scent was unmistakable. His mouth was dry and his lip throbbed where he had bit it, a second heart beating, thudding through his muzzle.

“—it is normal for a pony to feel fear, it is part of what being an equine is. The trouble is, the parts in Bucky’s mind that allow him to feel fear have burned out… very much like a light bulb that has gone bad. So under most circumstances, he doesn’t feel fear.”

That was Luna’s voice. Sounds had an odd echo to them. Something small and warm against Bucky’s side wiggled. It took a moment in Bucky’s muddled state to figure out that it was Cadance.

“Isn’t that a good thing though? Not feeling fear?” Derpy asked.

“No, that’s terrible,” Berry Punch replied.

“I don’t understand… and now I feel a little stupid,” Derpy said.

Wincing, Bucky’s attempt at movement was met with pain spiking through his body. He went still and kept listening. Beside him, Cadance stopped wiggling and Bucky was glad that he did not wake her.

“Derpy, a pony needs to feel a little fear on a regular basis. Be spooked. It helps us combat our inner nature. By dealing with this fear on a regular basis, we learn to cope when we are overwhelmed by the fear response, which is really just a cocktail of chemicals prepared by our brains.” Berry Punch paused and the room was silent for a moment. “Bucky has stopped feeling these little moments of day to day terror… like Luna said, that part of his mind has burned out, no doubt due to some kind of condition involving trauma and stress.”

“Yes, and when Bucky is subjected to something that actually causes him to feel afraid, something that causes him terror, he is overwhelmed. There isn’t much that Bucky fears. His sense of self preservation is gone, more or less. He feels fear for external sources, like those around him, but internal sources have become problematic.”

For a moment, while there was a lull in the conversation, Bucky pondered Luna’s words.

“So whatever remains of Sombra’s shadow scares Bucky because Bucky knows he can’t beat it… Bucky fears what he might become, and Bucky gets scared when bad things happen to foals… so these are Bucky’s weaknesses?”

“Yes, Derpy, these are his weaknesses and Sombra’s fell shadow is exploiting them… it was just a dream though… Bucky doesn’t get enough sleep. When a pony is sleep deprived, they can go into a semi dreaming state even while awake. A false sleep of sorts. Bucky not sleeping is leaving his mind vulnerable,” Luna replied, explaining everything in a low patient voice.

“Bucky being afraid is giving the bad part of Sombra strength, but Bucky can’t stop being afraid?” Derpy asked.

Heaving a low sigh, Bucky remained quiet and hoped that nopony would notice that he was awake and aware now. There were things he was afraid of. Failure was one of them. It meant the end of Cadance. The horrible chewed up faces flashed before Bucky’s mind’s eye and he felt his whole body tense.

“This is just a little scare… Sombra’s shadow wanted to scare Bucky a little. It isn’t strong enough to do anything else, but this does worry me. It should not have enough power to reach out to Bucky like this. This is unexpected and worrisome.”

Luna’s voice was concerned, Bucky could hear that. Bucky also noted anger and something about that comforted him. There were times where Luna seemed cold and distant about what he endured.

“Sombra’s shadow will not be around forever though. Sentinel is being trained… there will come a day that Sentinel will visit ruination upon the darkness that plagues Bucky. Sentinel has no idea of the power that he possesses. Things in the darkness festered during my long absence. Sentinel will be the one to help restore the balance, when he is older and more aware of what he is capable of,” Luna said.

“I don’t want Sentinel to be special or have some great destiny… just look at Bucky… look what all of this is doing to him… as his mother I can’t bear the thought of Sentinel being in the same condition.”

Laying as still as possible, Bucky listened to Derpy’s words. He could hear the fear in her voice. The pain that was present. He wrestled with himself, wanting to say something to try and make her feel better, but not wanting to reveal that he was awake just yet. He felt torn inside.

Beside him, Cadance vibrated for a moment. There was a wet whooshing sound followed by Cadance letting out a startled cry. For a moment, Bucky was filled with morbid curiousity and he wondered how fast smell traveled. And then, that moment was gone, the repugnant stench he was now witness to destroying his ability to think.

Sitting up, the cold cloth across his eyes slid off and Bucky saw several heads all turning to look at him. A second later, he saw the herd of mares scatter, their heads turning away as hasty escapes were made.

“Oooh… that makes me feel nauseous.”

From the bathroom, Thistle’s voice had an odd echoing effect.

There were precious seconds left to react, to change Cadance’s diaper before she began to cry. She was already getting all wound up for the event, her barrel was expanding, her wings fluttered, and she kicked all four of her legs around in the air.

“Oh sure… all of this talk of worry and concern for me… I’m being haunted by the damned bogeypony… but when a foal explodes, I’m left all alone!”

 

 

“Higher… I need to be higher, Lugus,” Dinky said. She could feel Lugus’ talons encircling her whole body and the rough texture of his talon-finger pads tickled her ribs. She tried not to giggle as she strung the electric lights around the top half of the tree. Her horn was inches away from the ceiling. Perhaps Lugus had hoisted her just a little too high. At least now she could see what she was doing.

The living room was full of ponies and griffons. Every sofa, every chair, every available spot to sit was packed. Looking back over her withers, Dinky looked at her father. He didn’t look well, but he was trying to have fun. Luna was on the floor with Erebus, Cadance, Harper, and Peekaboo. Loch Skimmer was telling their guests, Violet Velvet and Helia, some sort of joke that Dinky wasn’t sure that Loch Skimmer should be telling. Uncle Barley was in his chair. Lyra was teaching Belisama something about music that Dinky did not understand. Ripple, Sparkler, Rising Star, and Bittersweet were playing some sort of board game that Dinky found rather boring.

“Hey Piña, how’s it looking down there?” Dinky asked.

“Too many blue balls,” Piña replied.

Dinky became aware that the room was now almost silent. The conversations, the noise, the laughter of moments before was now gone. Something had happened, but Dinky was not sure what. Lugus was shaking as he was holding her up.

“There are red, green, and golden balls as well for the tree… there are just too many blue balls down here,” Piña said.

Hearing her father snort, Dinky turned her head to get another good look at him. Her mother, Derpy, had her eyes closed and was shaking while little snorts escaped. There was a thump when Berry Punch fell off of the sofa. The room filled with Loch Skimmer’s howling laughter.

Something was funny, but Dinky did not understand what it was.

“Who gave the tree blue balls?” Piña asked. “There are other colours—”

“Ach, Piña stop, yer killin’ yer uncle Barley with all this talk about the holiday wood having blue balls,” Barley said as he clutched his sides.

“I don’t understand,” Piña said as she looked around the room.

Neither did Dinky. Dinky was set down upon the floor and then Lugus fell over, his large body crashing down upon the wooden floorboards.

“This just isn’t fair… I say something funny and nopony laughs… Piña says something funny and the whole room falls apart,” Sentinel said as he settled into a sulk. He understood the joke and why the adults were laughing.

“I can’t breathe!” Thistle cried out as she clutched her stomach.

“Sentinel, perhaps you could ask for a new sense of humour for the holidays. Borrowing your father’s sense of humour does not suit you,” Luna said to Sentinel.

Dinky watched as her father excused himself, rose from the couch, and left. A moment later, Luna also left and Dinky wondered what was up. She heard her mother Derpy cry out in pain as she got to her hooves and then Derpy went wobbling off down the hall after Luna and Bucky.

 

 

“It was nothing that you said… I just don’t feel well.”

Bucky pulled his head out from under the sink faucet and shivered as he felt the cold icy water running down his neck. It wasn’t so much that it was cold, but that the running water tickled. His wet mane clung to his face and his neck.

“You left just after I said what I said… I thought that—”

“Really, it was everypony laughing. The noise. The volume… it made my head hurt,” Bucky said, offering Luna an explanation. “I never did thank you for popping into my little nightmare and bailing me out.”

“That was not me.”

Bucky stood in the bathroom, looking out through the doorway at Luna, dripping water upon the blue tile floor. He could feel water running down inside of his ear and for a moment, the memory of the shadow tendrils invading his skull was almost too much to bear.

“Bucky, that was Odin.”

A sense of confusion settled over Bucky and he gave Luna a blank stare. He heard the bed creak and saw Derpy was laying down. He shook his head, trying to get the water to stop trickling down the inside of his ear. “He can do that?”

“I am not the only one who walks through dreams. Odin once did much the same, but for different reasons. My purpose is to scare equines back into goodness and to turn them away from evil… Odin moved though dreams to inspire art, music, to give the world a sense of beauty. He gave the dreamers dreams, the poets beautiful words, and the artists got much needed inspiration,” Luna replied.

“Did he lose his power to do this or something?” Bucky asked.

Luna nodded. “Yes… yes he did. As the balance was destroyed various agents of harmony lost their power.”

“Which in turn further caused more decay in the world,” Bucky said, understanding all too well the danger that the world faced.

“Odin was exhausted after saving you, but he will recover. He hasn’t had the strength to walk the dream realm in a very long time. I spoke with him briefly after the incident. He told me what he saw. He pulled Sombra’s shadow away from you.” Luna cocked her head to one side and studied Bucky as he stood there, drenched from the neck up and dripping water upon the floor. There was more silver in his mane now.

“I have questions for Odin… I hope I get a chance to talk to him.”

“Like what?” Luna asked, feeling curious.

“About this eye of his… when I was Vanhoover, I had my photo snapped for the paper. In the photo, I still had my sunstone eye. I looked like how I was. And when I was on the roof of city hall, Sunset Shimmer swears I had my old gemstone eye.”

Puzzled, Luna’s mouth fell open and she stared at Bucky. Realising that she was standing there slack jawed, Luna recovered herself. “That is peculiar.”

“Anyhow… I’m going back to the living room to be with my family. I’m glad you are here with us, Luna,” Bucky said.

“I shall have to return to Canterlot soon. I am needed for Hearth’s Warming there. Tourmaline is no doubt missing me.”

 

 

 

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