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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Behind him, Bucky heard singing. Even with the howling wind, the crunch of ice and snow as the sleigh runners sliced through ice encrusted snow, Bucky could hear the voices of ponies singing. For a moment, he imagined what it might have been like for the windigos, who must have shrieked and howled when Clover had summoned the fires of friendship.

Wrapped in blankets, the hot rocks activated, there was almost a party-like atmosphere in the back of the sleigh. For a moment, Bucky wanted to join them, to join in with the revelrie, but somepony had to guide the sleigh. Somepony had to keep watch. One pony always had to be mindful so others could have a good time.

Such was the nature of life as a herd animal.

He willed the spider golems to go faster, but was mindful of the treacherous conditions and how long it took to stop. There was no sense putting everypony at risk just to get home sooner. He just wanted to be home before the sun set.

Even with his urging, the sleigh moved at a crawl.

 

 

The sleigh came to a stop in front of the farmhouse. Bucky could see a faint golden glow coming from the windows, a golden glow that promised warmth, life, happiness, and love. The sleigh would have to be put up but Bucky was determined to see his passengers inside.

He heard a voice but could not make out who it was over the wind. Then there were other voices as ponies came out of the house to see their guests in. Bucky heard more laughter; a happy sound.

“Sentinel!”

Smiling, Bucky felt a warm feeling creep through his body, through his bones, it warmed his ears and made his heart thump. He watched as two small figures collided in the snow and clung to one another. Bucky took note that Sentinel held no reservations, held nothing back, was not shy nor embarrassed.

“Mother!”

Rising Star’s voice. Bucky waited, turning his head.

“Mother, I saw a foal being born… it was amazing!”

There it was. The payoff. That feeling deep inside that one felt as a reward for their devotion, their sense of duty, a return for their dedication. The best reason to do anything for someone else that you love. The reward of being a good father…

Bucky was tackled by something cream coloured. He felt a warm body against his and a warm snoot was pressed up against his own. He could smell peppermint, rum, the scent of chocolate. And then Bon Bon’s tongue was tickling the roof of his mouth. He could feel a strong foreleg around his neck, pulling him closer, tighter, the familiar creak of earth pony tendons.

The reward of being a good husband.

 

 

“You two look happy.”

Bracing himself, Sentinel waited for Piña to have her fun. Sentinel was well aware that he had let his emotions get the better of him and he had offered quite a display, squeezing Diamond Tiara… and crying. Reaching up, rubbing his eyes, Sentinel sort of wished that the crying hadn’t happened. It was embarrassing.

“Sentinel, it was hard watching you sit in the window and look sad… I’m glad you’re happy,” Piña said in a low voice.

Sentinel could hear the concern in his sister’s voice. There was no trace of teasing. He relaxed a little and allowed himself to press a little tighter against Diamond Tiara’s side.

“Rising Star sure looks happy. Look at him. He’s acting like a foal. It’s nice to see Rising happy… he’s so serious most of the time now. He works all the time, banging away on metal, or doing whatever he does as a stable rep. I worry about him a lot.” Piña turned her head and watched as Rising Star’s mother hugged Bittersweet once more. “I learned something… I figured something out.”

“What’s that, Piña?” Diamond Tiara asked as she rubbed the side of her face against Sentinel’s cheek.

“Hard to put into words.” Piña’s head turned to look at Diamond Tiara. “More of a feeling than anything else. I think it started back on the Shetlands. Then I came home and we started to settle in and things kinda returned to normal. Whatever normal is…” Piña stared down at her own front hooves, her words trailing off as she became introspective.

“Well?” Diamond Tiara asked, hopeful for an answer.

“I keep imagining myself all alone… or maybe just me and Berry living together… and not having all of… this.” Piña made a gesture, encompassing everything and everyone around her. “I have learned that this is what makes me happy. All of this. And when I grow up, I hope I have a big family.”

“I hope that we’ll all stay together,” Diamond Tiara said. “It is my fondest wish… I don’t want to be alone any more… I was so alone. I can see that now.”

“Therapy helps I guess.” Glancing around, his eyes darting to and fro, Sentinel sneaked a peck upon Diamond Tiara’s cheek and then looked away when he was done, looking innocent, as though nothing had happened. His gaze fell upon Dinky, who was giving Singsong and Brass Note cookies.

 

 

“She’s so adorable.” Sweetie Belle squeezed her eyes shut and bounced in place. “When she sneezed I thought I was going to die.” Opening her eyes, Sweetie looked down at Bell Heather.

“She is adorable,” Coco said, nodding her head in agreement. “I want a foal.”

Sweetie Belle turned to Coco. “And I want to be a big sister… or an aunt or whatever. Somepony needs to have a foal and soon.”

Coco smiled a sweet smile and gave a coy glance to Rarity. “Sweetie, it isn’t that simple. We need to find a father first.”

“How hard could that be? You and my sister are pretty!”

Sweetie Belle’s words got a laugh from the other ponies and griffons in the room.

“I like taking care of stuff.” Sweetie Belle flopped over on the floor and laid down beside Thistle. “I like knowing I’m needed. It makes me feel good and when I’m busy looking after others I’m not thinking about what my purpose is or why I don’t have a cutie mark.”

“Those things come in time,” Bucky said around a mouthful of chocolate and cashew nuts. He chewed, crunching on his treat, but held out his hoof as a gesture indicating for others to wait. He swallowed, closed his eyes, and shivered in delight. “Service to others is the best thing we can aspire to.”

“Oh… I don’t know… serving others is nice but having others serve you is better…”

“Lyra—”

“Well, it is Bon Bon.”

“Lyra—mmmph!”

Lyra, seeing no other way to champion her point of view, leaned over and pressed her muzzle against Bon Bon’s and wrapped her forelegs around Bon Bon’s neck.

“There is too much mistletoe,” Sweetie Belle said.

“You wouldn’t say that if Rumble was here,” Piña replied. She watched as Sweetie Belle turned a bright shade of pink that almost matched Piña’s own shade of pink. Piña giggled.

“I’d have to catch him first. He’s slippery—”

“Sweetie Belle!” Rarity cried, raising her hoof to her brow and throwing her head back.

“—and he’s fast too.”

“I need a drink!” Rarity shook her head, her eyes were wide. She batted her eyes, her long lashes clinging to one another as she did so.

“It is just an innocent playground crush,” Coco said in a soft voice that somehow overpowered all of the other sound in the room to make itself clear. “Well, maybe just a little bit more, but it is certainly nothing to panic over just yet.”

“You and mother think it’s cute.” Rarity’s lips puckered into a pout.

“You don’t freak out about Diamond Tiara and Sentinel—”

“Yes she does!” Diamond Tiara insisted.

“Oh.” Coco’s gasp, like everything else about her, was soft and demure.

Bucky sat down a glass of grog nog on the table near Rarity. It was more nog than grog; Bucky remembered the last time that Rarity had too much to drink. “There is no need to worry about Sentinel. He just had himself a good reminder on the importance of behaving. Didn’t you Sentinel.”

“Yes I did,” Sentinel replied. The colt shivered and closed his eyes. “I’ll never be able to unsee that. Life comes at a price.”

Rarity, who was guzzling her drink in a most unladylike manner, pulled her glass away from her lips, swallowed, and let out a teeny tiny little belch. “What a brilliant idea… Buckminster… would you mind if Sweetie Belle and Diamond Tiara watched the next birth?”

 

 

“How you holding up son?” Galaxy Guide asked in a low voice, speaking to Rising Star but looking at his wife, who was huddled with Rising’s wives and speaking in whispers. “I know you stay very busy.”

“I’m working on designing a new type of aircraft… the foundry keeps me busy… and my job as a stable rep keeps my mind sharp. There are about to be sweeping changes. We have hundreds of brand new laws… laws that keep things fair, or so we hope. New tolerance laws, labour laws, and new rules for the military,” Rising Star replied.

“What about your schoolwork?” Galaxy asked, his face becoming stern.

“I slacked off from that for a while, I admit. I needed time to get my head sorted out after the Shetlands. I buried myself in work… I was a very messed up pony for a while.” Rising Star reached up and rubbed his muzzle with his fetlock. “Schoolwork seemed so inconsequential. There were so many other pressing issues in the world. Now I see that if I am ever going to tackle those issues, I’ll need to be well educated. I’ve gone back to writing father… only instead of poetry, it is rousing speeches. Sentinel helps me.”

“Rising, you have become the young face that is the embodiment of hope. You are rapidly becoming the voice of your generation. Young colts and fillies your age are starting to take an interest in politics and making the world a better place. Almost every day your face is in the paper and there is some story talking about you and what you do… you owe those ponies who believe in you and what you are doing the very best that you have to offer. You need to be well spoken. They are going to follow your example… I know I keep pushing the school issue… but I’m not sorry… I am going to keep pushing the school issue. Colts and fillies your age need to understand that it is the education they get that will help them make a difference.”

Rising Star nodded. “Yes father, I know.”

“Colts your age are following your lead, your example… they are taking jobs, being responsible, becoming hard workers and they believe in the future… do you understand what is at stake if you stumble, if you make a mistake and slip up?” Galaxy Guide asked.

Keeping his voice low, Rising Star replied, “Yes, I am aware of what will happen if I slip up. I’ve become painfully aware of this knowledge. It keeps me awake at night. Everything I do is being scrutinised, everything I do is followed, every action I take others copy. It wears on me. It has become a burden upon my back. I lay awake at night and think about the other colts just like me my own age who have also gotten married under our new laws and are trying to make things work out for themselves and I know that if they fail, I am somehow to blame for it.”

Hearing his wife laughing, Galaxy Guide nodded. “This is the price of fame. Son, I know you’ll do your best. Just don’t make the obvious mistakes, the mistakes that are the easiest to make. I know how much you love them… and if one of them became pregnant, everything would be okay… for you. You have the means to support a foal and you have family backing you up. But think of all those following your lead. Most of them aren’t so lucky.”

“I never thought of it that way,” Rising Star replied in a nervous voice that made him sound far younger than he was.

“Son, your way of life is being judged in the public court of opinion. Not everything printed in the paper is good, or even kind. With those following your lead, what might be a minor mistake for you could be a source of ruination for them, and there are those who will seize upon that. It scares me… you… your life… the balancing act you have to perform every day. You’ve gone from being an absent minded daydreamer to a colt that has made your father proud… but your father is also scared to death.”

 

 

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