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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Luna could not figure out what Bucky was doing. She watched as he took his hoof and ran it down Erebus’ side in a slow deliberate manner, going against the grain of Erebus’ pelt, pulling the hairs away, and exposing bare pink flesh. Bucky’s snoot was almost pressed against Erebus’ body.

“Bucky… what are you doing?” Luna asked in a quiet voice, hoping to not startle Bucky, who appeared to be in deep concentration.

“Looking for rat bites,” Bucky replied, his eyes focused upon his task.

The corners of Luna’s mouth curled downwards. She wanted to tell Bucky that there were no rats, but the words died on her tongue and left a bitter taste in her mouth. After a long moment of silence, she wanted to scream at Bucky to be serious, to snap out of it, to be reasonable, to be logical, to use his head and be rational; there were no rats.

But Luna knew that there was no point. With a heavy heart, Luna realised that Bucky was slipping away and that there was very little that she could do to stop it. Where she had always been able to shore up his mental defenses before, she found it almost impossible to do now.

“Buckminster… I… work very hard to keep the rats away. I assure you, Erebus is fine,” Luna said to Bucky, taking a step closer and lowering her head. She was careful and cautious, doing nothing that might startle Bucky.

“You’re a good mother. You do your best. But we can never be too careful. You and I both know what lurks beneath the beds of foals.”

Luna lifted her head, drawing herself up to her full height. Bucky was right of course, shadows were ever present, a constant danger, a source of corruption, but Bucky’s vigilance was bordering on mania. There was a difference between being aware of the threat and developing a maddening obsession.

It was difficult watching a pony that she so loved slipping into madness. Something had to be done. Sombra’s influence so soon was unexpected, but Luna knew the reasons why. Her spy network had told her of a great many things, and some of the most disconcerting was a group of necromantic cultists that worshipped Sombra himself, hoping to revive the fallen dark king.

At least Erebus seemed to be enjoying this. The colt grunted and made little whinnies as Bucky rubbed him down. Luna watched, not knowing what to say, but wishing she could say something that could help.

“I’d like to have a little colt. Don’t get me wrong, I love my girls, but a little colt would be nice.” Bucky ran his hoof along Erebus’ neck, his eyes squinting so he could see better.

“You have Sentinel,” Luna replied as she stepped away. She moved to the sofa and then eased herself down, settling into a pony-loaf position.

Bucky snorted. “Have you tried cuddling Sentinel? You’d have more luck snuggling a cactus.”  

“Sentinel is… aloof, I will admit.” Luna watched as Bucky checked Erebus’ ears. One of Erebus’ hind legs was kicking and one stunted wing flapped against his side. Unable to help herself, Luna smiled, her dark thoughts cast aside by Erebus’ apparent happiness. “Buckminster, are you hungry? There is food—”

“I ate earlier. I had not one, but two mares follow me into the kitchen and watch my every move. I’m not in the mood to deal with the dinner table,” Bucky said, cutting Luna off.

Luna’s smile vanished, replaced with a scowl. The last thing she wanted was Bucky isolating himself. Shaking her head, Luna did not know what to do.

 

 

“More pickled cabbage.” Using her fork, Piña prodded her food. Pickled cabbage. Sauerkraut. Something that was on her plate two or three times a week now.

“I thought you liked pickled cabbage,” Dinky said as she gave Piña a nudge.

“Oh I liked pickled cabbage, but then we started eating it every other night.” Piña set her fork down. “Pickled cabbage. Pickled beets. Pickled vegetable relish with cauliflower and carrots and I’m not sure what else.”

Sitting at the kitchen table with the foals, Yew Wood leaned over and looked at Piña. “Eat your food. Don’t complain. At least you have food.”

“Why do we have so much pickled cabbage anyway?” Piña asked.

Yew Wood took a deep breath. “Applejack was very kind to give us some barrels of pickled cabbage and a whole bunch of jars of pickled veggies.”

Staring down at her plate, Piña could not figure out why Applejack would give away pickled cabbage and pickled vegetables. “If there is a food shortage, how come Applejack gave all of this to us?”

Dinky, aware of the tension at the table, remained silent as she shoveled her meal into her mouth, adding a bit of pickled cabbage to her spoonful of mashed potatoes. Beside her, Sentinel had already cleared away one plateful and was working on the second. Following Sentinel’s example, Dinky set down her spoon and began to gobble her meal off of her plate.

Reaching out her foreleg, Yew draped it over Piña’s withers. “A few months back, before the cold set in, Applejack posted a notice on the barter board in Ponyville that she had a whole bunch of pickled vegetables, probably hoping to find somepony that liked pickled vegetables enough to trade. Bucky and Derpy took her up on the deal and offered her an equal weight of trade goods from all the stuff that Bucky looted from the griffon supply depot. Bucky traded a whole bunch of canned soup, canned fruit, cans of pudding, canned bread, and boxes of things like raisins.”

“So Applejack and her family got some nice stuff to help them get through the winter?” Piña asked, all too aware that Yew was staring at her. Piña hoped that she had picked the right words to say.

“Yes they did,” Yew replied. “As I am sure one little filly has figured out, eating pickled veggies all the time becomes tiresome. Just imagine eating them every night.”

Piña looked down at her plate. Sighing, she picked up her fork. “I suppose this isn’t so bad,” she said as she stabbed her fork down into her food and got a biteful. With a slurp, she stuffed her food into her maw and began chewing.

Sentinel belched with enough force to make the plates, the silverware, and the glasses upon the table rattle. He then looked over at Yew. “I liked canned bread.” He tried to look as hopeful as possible as he spoke.

“I know Sentinel, I know.” Yew Wood smiled. “You might be the only little pony I know that likes canned bread.”

“Sentinel likes to eat rats and dead things he finds in the woods.” Dinky gave her brother a teasing smile.

“You forgot slugs… on a sandwich.” Reaching up with his foreleg, Sentinel wiped his face as he replied to Dinky.

“Oh eeeeew!” Yew Wood stuck out her tongue and shook her head.

Piña gagged and took a moment to recover. “I can’t believe that Diamond Tiara kisses you even after she found out about all the stuff you eat.”

“Eat your food.” Yew Wood looked around the table, meeting the eye of each foal. “I’ll open up a couple of cans of bread and pudding if you do.”

“Canned chocolate pudding is awesome. Berry Punch says that there is something wrong with me and that homemade pudding made by Semillon is better… but there is something about pudding from a can,” Sentinel said, looking thoughtful, his food already gone.

“My brother has a hobby… eating weird foods from a can.” Piña, whose mouth was full, dribbled food down her chin as she spoke. “Like those canned crackers that he found.”

“Those were good.” Sentinel licked his lips at the memory.

“Daddy and Sentinel ate cat food,” Piña said.

Yew Wood almost choked. She looked at Piña and then at Sentinel. “Sentinel, is this true? Why would you eat cat food? That’s horrible!”

Sentinel’s ears drooped down the sides of his face and he slumped down in his chair.

Seeing Sentinel’s ashamed and hurt expression, Yew Wood felt bad. “Okay, maybe not so horrible, but that’s kinda gross. Why would you and Bucky eat cat food?”

“Father was checking up on his griffons… making sure they were all happy and okay. He was going from family to family, group to group, making sure they had everything they needed,” Sentinel replied. He sat up a little straighter and placed his front hooves upon the table in front of him. “This was the early winter… Father wanted to make sure that the griffons were settled. He and I both noticed that the griffons were eating something, something crunchy. Father was curious and wanted to know what it was. Turns out it was cat food, food intended for pets. Made of fish… this bothered father even though he could not explain why it bothered him… but he was upset that his griffons were eating pet food.” Sentinel fell silent and looked thoughtful.

“Well, don’t stop, I gotta know what happened… where was Lugus?” Yew asked.

“Oh, Lugus was with us,” Sentinel replied.

“Oh gross… oh gross... oh gross... oh gross.” Yew Wood closed her eye and shuddered. She then opened her eye and looked at Sentinel, leaning forward with anticipation.

“So father announces a new griffon law… right there on the spot. The griffons will eat no food that their king would refuse to eat. This causes quite a commotion, as the previous griffon kings ate all kinds of nice things while the little griffons survived on scraps and garbage. A bowl full of kibble is brought to father by a little griffon cub… she was very nervous about the whole thing and scared. So Father picks her up and holds her and she’s holding the bowl and father started eating the cat kibble, crunching it up while the griffons are all watching.”

“And what was Lugus doing during all of this?” Yew asked, wanting to know, but not wanting to know.

“I’m getting to that… father takes the bowl from the cub and holds it out to Lugus. Lugus is giving father a dirty look, but father says ‘this is not the worst thing I’ve asked you to do’ and Lugus lets out this big sigh and sits down. He takes the bowl from father, reaches in with his talons, and starts eating, tossing bits of kibble into his beak.”

“I’m having a loooong talk with Lugus later about when it is okay to go along with Bucky’s crazy plans,” Yew said, shaking her head in disgust.

“The cat food was actually pretty good. I liked it. Fishy, crunchy, a little salty, it was a nice snack. I can see why the griffons like to eat it.” Sentinel lifted his hoof and scratched his chin.

“There is something wrong with daddy,” Dinky said.

Piña nodded in agreement. “Uh huh.”

“You fillies hush up and finish your food,” Yew said. She looked down at her own plate and for a moment, was unsure if she could finish her own food after Sentinel’s story.

 

 

“Buckminster, if you could pay attention for a moment, this is very important.” Luna, still sitting on the couch, looked at Bucky with a hopeful expression.

Bucky rubbed his cheek against Erebus’ neck and gave the colt a squeeze. “What is it Luna? What do you require of me?”

Luna wasn’t sure she liked Bucky’s tone, but she let it slide. There was something very much like sarcasm there, or maybe she was just hearing something that wasn’t there. “Bucky, there is another pony in need of a vacation that will be coming with you—”

“And who would that be?” Bucky asked, lifting his head and looking at Luna. “You?”

Luna shook her head. “No Bucky. While I could use a break, there is one who needs it more. My sister is in dire need of a rest.”

“Celestia is coming with us?” Bucky asked, blinking his eyes in disbelief.

“Yes, if I have my way. If necessary, I will need you to enact your emergency authority. Twilight Sparkle has already promised help if need be. If Celestia will not go along willingly,  then I shall have to banish her from Canterlot. So she is going. While this is to be a period of rest and relaxation for you, I am assigning you as Celestia’s personal guard.” Luna looked at Bucky and waited, knowing that Bucky’s sense of obligation would win out.

“Of course… you don’t even need to ask.”

“You are to see that she has a nice time… and this means that if necessary, you are to show her a nice time.” Luna smiled, feeling clever. If Bucky had to entertain Celestia, at least he would be having a nice time and it might serve as a good distraction. Everything was working out better than Luna had hoped. There was no need to enact emergency authority, or to banish Celestia, Celestia was going along to keep an eye on Bucky and make sure that he was well.

At least now, Celestia would have a nice time while doing it. Luna, feeling pleased with herself, began to feel a little better about everything.

“This is good… this works out. This gives Celestia and I a chance to put our heads together and figure out how to crush you in the winter games,” Bucky said.

Unable to stop herself, Luna laughed.

 

 

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