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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Nursing a glass of grog nog, Bucky snapped one piece of track to another. It took effort not to feel bitter about his own foalhood as he recalled the train that had been purchased for the holidays. He pushed the unpleasant thought from his mind.

Beside him, Rising Star was also assembling pieces of track, forming a figure eight shape that would wind its way around the tree. The house was quiet. The little foals were all in bed. It was late. Barley was also in the living room, his nose in a book.

“Bucky, why don’t we have electric trains, like this little toy train here?” Rising Star asked.

Shrugging, Bucky did not reply but took a swallow of egg nog.

“The electric train would be clean. No soot. Maybe quieter,” Rising Star said.

Looking down at the locomotive sitting in a little plastic rack, Bucky set down his glass of grog nog and considered Rising Star’s words. “You’d still need electricity. For a lot of places, that would mean burning coal to generate the electricity. So still lots of soot and pollution coming from somewhere. There is also the problem of getting electricity to the train. Powerlines can be knocked down. If you electrified the track, that would be a safety issue. Imagine a foal stepping on it.”

Rising Star scowled and lifted up a piece of track, holding it in front of his snoot. “I should have thought of that.”

“Going to see the rest of your family tomorrow, on Hearth’s Warming Eve?” Bucky asked.

Glancing at the window, Rising Star let out a groan of concern. “I want to see my mom and my dad… I want to see Singsong and Brass Note. But there is a problem with the weather. I suppose I could use my magic to keep the cold away and make the trek into Ponyville.”

“It won’t be easy, but it should be possible,” Bucky said as he lifted up his glass of grog nog. “Your wives will understand if you go, if that is what is holding you back.”

“That is part of it. This is our first Hearth’s Warming together. Sparkler wants for it to be special, but she won’t say what special is when I ask her. She just shrugs and says ‘special’ as if I am somehow able to ascertain the hidden meaning in her words.” After the last word left his mouth, Rising Star grunted in frustration. “We spend so much time apart sometimes. Loch Skimmer is becoming our little family… I dunno… warden or something. She’s been very vocal that we need to spend more time together… more than just sleeping in the same bed. She became annoyed when I was in Canterlot for the winter session… the Stable of Representatives trip bothered her. Sparkler is either out on patrol or doing schoolwork. Loch Skimmer keeps scolding Ripple, accusing Ripple of spending too much time training with the Raptors. Now that I think about it, I don’t know if I should go and visit my family… I have family here I need to look after… maybe… I don’t know.”

“Ripple is very stressed out right now. The winter games are coming. She wants her Raptors to do well,” Bucky said, understanding all too well how it felt to be under pressure and wanting to do well.

“What is that all about? Ripple has been tight lipped about the whole thing. If she starts to talk about it, she panics. I can’t seem to help her,” Rising Star said as he laid down more track.

“The winter games exist for the guard… during the dead of winter, perhaps to combat the boredom, the solar guard and the lunar guard gather up the best of the best, usually a squad or something thereabouts, and then there are war games. Since Luna’s return, the lunar guard keeps winning. This is fierce competition. There is actual combat… but the rules state no killing or crippling. Everything else is fair game. Since I am one of the heads of state, my guard was invited to participate. I was going to say no and politely decline, but Ripple flipped out, went nuts, and started shouting that this was a chance for her to prove that her Raptors have what it takes. Word got out that this year, Luna isn’t fielding her usual lunar guard, but Myrmidons. So Ripple is freaked out, and rightfully so. I fear that the Raptors will be crushed. I worry about their safety and I might forcibly terminate my participation even though it might make Ripple hate me,” Bucky replied.

“Releasing the Myrmidons, isn’t that like cheating?” Rising Star asked.

“War is full of final options and dreadful solutions. If I wanted to do so, I too could also field a group of Myrmidons… but then I’d need to worry about Ripple kicking the stuffing out of me, and she would have every right to do so,” Bucky replied. “The snow is going to get bloody this year. Celestia is afraid… very afraid.”

“I had no idea… I wonder if there is anything I can do to help my little Ripple,” Rising Star said as he laid out the cross piece where the track crossed over upon itself. “She’s becoming a mare you know… she’s gone from being a timid little filly that we had to rescue to being a little brute that rescues others. She’s grown so much. She was nothing but bones when we rescued her… I have trouble putting it into words how much I love her.”

“Have you told her this?” Bucky asked.

Rising Star nodded. “Funny how much we can love a pony and how complicated our relationships can become… you have Bon Bon and Lyra… we have Bittersweet and Ripple. There is no doubting it, Bittersweet is one of us now… I can’t imagine life without her. I love them both so much that it scares me, even though we… uh… well… you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” Bucky replied.

“Ripple and Bittersweet still haven’t done anything. Loch Skimmer is starting to worry that they might explode. Even Sparkler is starting to worry… I don’t know what to think. They have romance with one another but it never goes past a certain point… I think it’s kinda beautiful but Loch Skimmer thinks I’m weird for feeling the way I do. Loch Skimmer says that love is a physical thing… maybe because she is a pegasus.” Rising Star sighed and began to work a train car out of the plastic it was trapped in. “Speaking of doing stuff…”

“Yes?” Bucky asked.

“I plan to be a lot more careful,” Rising Star replied.

“Is that so?”

The colt nickered, a fitful sound. “There have been times where we haven’t done anything to protect ourselves… carelessness. Or maybe we wanted an accident to happen. It’s happened several times with Loch Skimmer and I… and that ain’t happening no more.” Rising Star looked Bucky in the eye. “We’ve been very lucky so far, what with all of the earth ponies in the house.”

“And what has changed your mind?” Bucky asked.

“What do you think Bucky? Seeing Thistle like that… I can’t do that to Loch Skimmer. Not now… not until we’re older. I mean, it’s all great fun and all, and sure, it feels good, okay it feels really good, but damnit, there are consequences. Real ones. Scares me to death,” Rising Star replied, shaking his head as he did so.

“If Berry Punch ever catches wind that you haven’t been careful with her beloved Loch Skimmer, she will run you down and pummel you into a puddle of broken bones and mangled meat.”

Considering Bucky’s words, Rising Star nodded. “I figured as much. And I would deserve it too… I’ve been careless… Loch Skimmer and Sparkler both deserve better from me.”

“I don’t even need to tell you what Derpy might do—”

“Nope, you don’t need to tell me,” Rising Star said. “I almost messed things up. I see that now… watching Thistle give birth has really screwed my head on straight.”

“It has changed my perspectives as well,” Bucky said.

Rising Star looked at the pony that he considered to be one of his fathers. “Has it?”

Thinking of Harper’s mother, a small whimper formed in the back of Bucky’s throat. He thought of everything he had killed, of all of the awful things he had done. He thought of Griffonholm. He thought of Labyrinthia. Closing his eyes, Bucky felt overwhelmed by these things.

“You okay?” Rising Star asked.

“I’m fine.” Bucky opened his eyes and looked at Rising Star. “I brought Harper into this world… but bringing Bell Heather into this world was different. It taught me that I can give life… make life… I can preserve life just as easily as I can take it. I’ve also learned that I’d rather bring life into the world rather than take it. Harper’s mother still haunts me… I have dreams about her.”

“That was a dark day for both of us.” Rising Star set the train car down upon the track and heard the sounds of Bucky swallowing. “I can still smell… I can still smell the burning flesh.”

“We all walked away from the Shetlands as very different ponies,” Bucky said.

“I was a colt Bucky… I was a colt and I thought I knew everything I needed to know about the world. I thought I had it all figured out. I was in love… only it was the stupid sort of love. And I had this great idea… I would follow the filly I loved off to some island somewhere… how bad could it be...” Rising Star sighed, then snorted, and then shook his head. “I found out. I found out that the rest of the world is nothing like Canterlot or Ponyville. I had to look at you after you got mauled… I discovered that there are places in the world where mares are little more than property. I found out that you need a lot more than a catchy cheesy one liner to battle evil… you need blood and sweat and pain… and then Ripple and Loch Skimmer happened. There was still the filly I wanted to impress. I wanted to prove to her how much I loved her. I wanted Sparkler to see that I would do anything for her, anything at all. So along comes Ripple and Loch Skimmer and it wasn’t long before I got all of these weird feelings and I was holding myself responsible for them. And then came the day when I realised that I wasn’t holding myself responsible for them to impress Sparkler… that was a messed up day. I had trouble sorting myself out, trying to figure out why I was doing what I was doing… and then came the self loathing as it dawned upon me just how stupid I was, just what sort of foolish thing I had done, and how I had gone into all of this for all of the wrong reasons… after that, I had the brilliant idea to make amends for what I had done. And after all of this, after everything that has happened, even all of the growing up I’ve done… much to my own dismay, when I heard Thistle hollering her head off, I realised… I’m still a colt and that there are things in the world that still scare me and I wanted my mama.”

“Nothing wrong with being a colt… one day you’ll realise that you are a stallion. Or maybe one day you’ll realise that you’re a father and then you’ll feel like an adult… or maybe not,” Bucky said.

“What do you mean?” Rising Star asked.

“I dunno… I still feel like a colt sometimes… but I have no mama to run to if something goes wrong… I guess… I don’t know.” Realising that he was stammering, Bucky fell silent.

“What about Celestia?” Rising Star looked at Bucky, feeling hopeful that he could make Bucky feel better somehow.

“That’s complicated… there is a lot more than just maternal feelings where Celestia is concerned. It gets weird if you think about it,” Bucky replied, shuddering as he thought about it.

“Is it odd that one of my best memories of Celestia involves her slapping both of us silly?”

 

 

 

 

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