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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“We shall arrive in just a little while. A few hours, if the wind holds,” Bucky said as he emerged into his cabin. He stopped when he saw Celestia in his bed, holding both Cadance and Bell Heather.

Lifting her head away from the foals, Celestia looked at Bucky. “You seem better.”

“I feel better… rested. Whatever you did… I’m not having the nightmares like I was,” Bucky replied. He looked around the room, taking everything in. Berry Punch was beside Celestia and Thistle was sprawled out on Celestia’s other side. Tourmaline was napping, her head resting upon Berry Punch’s back. Something was missing. “Where is Belisama?”

“With her subjects. They borrowed my camera.” Lowering her head, Celestia returned her attention to the two foals. “Buckminster… I must say… these past few days… have been some of the happiest days I have known in a long time. I glad that we took this trip and spent time together.”

“I’m glad that we could show you a nice time.” Bucky approached the bed, wondering where he was going to spread out. He lept up, landing beside Thistle, and rubbed his face against her ribs as he lay down. “Why did they need your camera? We have a good camera.”

“Mine takes better pictures,” Celestia replied. “They wanted to capture Bandua in all of her magnificent glory.”

Bucky blinked. “Oh…” He let his words trail off into ambiguous punctuation, not certain if he was making a statement or a question with his utterance.

“Berry tells me you were laughing in your sleep,” Celestia said as Bell Heather reached up and touched her muzzle.

“I dreamed about Sombra and Platinum… it was a nice dream. I saw them again… Platinum congratulated me on Bandua’s birth.” When the last word left Bucky’s mouth, he yawned and got himself comfortable.

“And that was funny?” Celestia asked.

Bucky raised his eyebrow, invoked an inquisitive expression, and looked at Celestia. “Bandua isn’t ugly, is she?”

“Oh no, Buckminster… Bandua is adorable… she is just perfect.” Celestia felt awful for lying. She looked at Bucky, her brows raising and she gave Bucky her best look of motherly concern. “Why would you even ask such a thing?”

“Sombra made a comment about how Bandua looked… I didn’t quite catch it, he muttered it, but Platinum heard it. She chased him around, slapping him and screeching at him about what sort of horrible brutish monster he was and telling him that all babies were beautiful,” Bucky replied.

Beside Celestia, Berry Punch began to chortle, biting down on her own lip to remain silent. Her eyes, wide, were full of mirth. She felt Tourmaline lifting her head and she knew that trouble was about to happen.

“Mama?”

“Yes Tourmaline?”

“You’re bad.”

Celestia sighed. “I know Tourmaline.” Celestia’s ears burned at the sounds of Berry Punch’s laughter and shame filled her from Tourmaline’s words.

Bucky’s ears fell back against his skull. “So you do think Bandua is ugly.”

“Bucky, they wanted my camera so they could take perfect pictures of the ugliest cub ever born. It has become a matter of pride for the griffons. They appreciate your scars as art. The griffons revere ugly as an aesthetic.” It took everything Celestia had to maintain her serious demeanour. A part of her still wanted to laugh, even though she felt terrible.

“Platinum… was she lying to me as well?” Bucky asked.

Celestia could hear the pain in Bucky’s voice. It was low, Bucky sounded vulnerable. The desire to laugh flickered and then died. “Buckminster, I don’t think she would have lied to you.”  

“You’re just saying that to make me feel better.” Bucky snorted, lifted his head from Thistle’s side, rolled over, and stuffed his head under a pillow.

Peering through her glasses, Tourmaline regarded the mare she called her mother. “This is why you shouldn’t lie.”

Celestia thought about what to say. She hadn’t tried to lie. She had tried to be diplomatic. It wasn’t even a full fib, but a little fiblet. She wondered how to explain to Tourmaline about all of the white lies required every day. If everypony went around telling the truth all the time, there would be anarchy and chaos. Ponies didn’t always lie, sometimes things were said with soft speech, or some things were withheld, and sometimes you lied to protect another ponies feelings.

“Tourmaline, Celestia wasn’t trying to lie to me. She was trying to protect my feelings. Sometimes, adults have to lie. You’ll understand when you are older… maybe,” Bucky said from beneath his pillow.

For a moment, Celestia wanted to give Bucky a kiss on the cheek and then she was struck with guilt. Even when he was hurt, Bucky was still trying to come to her rescue.

Heaving a sigh, Tourmaline lifted herself up, pulling away from Berry Punch, climbed over Celestia’s back, crawled over Thistle, and then flung herself on Bucky, wrapping her forelegs around his neck and squeezing.

“Life just keeps hurting you,” Tourmaline said in a low whisper.

 

 

Below Bucky were familiar sights. A quiet little village, now covered in snow, but still recognisable. A castle… a castle that Bucky knew too well. Pegasi and griffons were circling the ship. Other airships loomed in the air over the castle.

A mooring had been set up for The Scorned Mare. Beacons blazed with brilliant intensity, a helpful sight to guide Bucky in. He saw a smaller airship pulling up alongside of him and a group of unicorns stood on the deck.

A moment later, Bucky felt his ship under the control of others, being guided in by the tug. Pegasi continued to circle, trying to bring some measure of control to the wind. Bucky let go of the controls and let everything happen, trusting that the crew would get him moored.

A very large figure landed on the deck with a heavy thud of massive hooves. There was only one pegasus that big. Grinning, Bucky left the navigation cabin and stepped outside into the cold.

Standing on the poop deck, Bucky looked down on the main deck at Keg Smasher.

“Damnit lad, yer a sight to make eyes sore,” Keg Smasher said as he looked up.

As Bucky began to descend the stairs, the door opened and Thistle came out. She stood for a moment, steam coming from her nostrils, and then with a bleating cry, she took off running.

Bucky watched as she collided with Keg Smasher, leaping up and throwing her forelegs around his neck. Her hind hooves did not reach the ground. What was far more surprising was Keg Smasher’s reaction. The big pegasus stood there for a moment, frozen, and then his hind legs buckled, causing him to sit down. Bucky could see that Keg Smasher’s whole body was shaking, trembling, and it took him a moment to realise that Keg Smasher was sobbing.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs, Bucky watched for a moment, then took a step closer. He stopped again, not sure if he should intrude on this moment, not knowing if it was private. His eyes burned in the cold, Bucky realised he was holding back tears of his own, and he watched as Thistle and Keg Smasher clung to one another.

“My little lass… ye came back to me.”

Unable to stop the flow, Bucky felt a tear slip from the corner of his eye. He heard hooves behind him and a moment later, one hoof pressed into his backside and shoved him forward. He stumbled, caught off guard, staggered, slipped because he did not have a spell on his hooves to make them secure on the ice, and tumbled towards Keg Smasher and Thistle.

A moment later, there were wings around him, and then a foreleg. He felt himself being crushed, smooshed against Thistle. Keg Smasher had one leg wrapped around both of them, and Bucky could feel himself being smashed into the pegasus’ broad chest.

“You brought her back to me ye crafty bastard.”

Keg Smasher was sobbing now, weeping, and Bucky realised he was crying. Overcome, he buried his face against Keg Smasher’s neck, allowing himself to experience the moment, to just let go and let everything happen.

“I brought you a foal,” Thistle said, also sobbing.

“Ye brought me a foal?” Keg Smasher asked. “I cannae wait to see it!”

“I made Bucky a daddy and he’s happy and I’ve been so happy and life so wonderful even when its bad,” Thistle said, pressing her face between the two most important males in her life.

 

 

The dining room was almost as Bucky remembered it. The big difference was, it was filled with the sounds of laughter, of love, and of life. It was filled with ponies, griffons, zebras, and even a lone diamond dog. He looked around, seeing many strangers, a few faces he recognised, but missed several faces he was hoping to see.

“Where is Deadspin? Sour Mash? Where is Bunny?” Bucky asked.

Keg Smasher slumped, his good mood vanishing. “Aye lad… I’m right sorry, but they’re not here. They’re off with the fleet, looking after the little isles that exist between Minnowrock and the Shire Isles. There’s been an awful plague that only seems to affect earth ponies… makes their hooves rot and causes their frogs to swell up till they split open.”

“But Sour Mash and Bunny are both earth ponies!” Bucky replied.

“Aye, they’re fine, calm down… the zebras have a cure, provided that it is applied during the early stages of the disease. For a lot of ponies though, the cure did not arrive in time.” Looking morose, Keg Smasher heaved a sigh worthy of his massive size.

Bucky looked out at the eager faces, the bright shining eyes, the many warm looks of adoration. “Where is Crush?”

“Lad, I’m sorry,” Keg Smasher replied. “Crush met a bad end. When the griffons invaded, he got stabbed. It made him angry… he killed many. For a time, it looked as though he was going to be okay, but the wound was infected. He died, and it was a mercy.”

“I… I… I need to go.” Bucky backed out of the dining hall, pushing his way past several ponies, ducking beneath Celestia and darting between her legs, and then he was gone.

 

 

Trotting down the hall, his hooves thudding, Keg Smasher was alone, going after his friend. He knew where Bucky would be. Keg Smasher had even left the door unlocked and had made sure there was a fire in the grate.

He stopped and looked at the open door. Inside of the door was a figure wrapped in a black cloak. Keg Smasher cleared his throat.

“It looks so different now.” There was a long pause. “I’m sorry I left. There were too many ponies in the room… I was already feeling overwhelmed… and the news hit me hard.”

Stepping inside of the room to stand beside Bucky, Keg Smasher reached out with his wing and patted his friend upon the back. “We use this room for important guests now. Heads of state and the like. Look, there is an indoor sump hole now and a pump for water. There’s a right big bed and even curtains.”

Bucky wiped his face with his foreleg. “Everypony and everybirdy is probably worried about me.”

“All those months living in this room. I bet it still feels like home, don’t it?” Keg Smasher asked in low voice that was raspy with emotion.

Nodding, Bucky coughed and tried to get the phlegm from his throat. “It does. Sentinel became my son and my squire here.”

Keg Smasher sniffled, trying to clear his nose. He hated crying and had done far too much of it today. “Lad, while yer here, there is some stuff for you to look after. When you get a chance, there are a few ponies that would like to meet their king… a bunch of Shire Isles unicorns have been wanting to meet you… and there is a griffon that you need to figure out what to do with.”

“A griffon?” Bucky asked.

“Aye lad… a griffoness,” Keg Smasher responded. “The zebra army put most of the renegade griffons to death after everything that happened. It got bloody. But down in the cellar, we have ourselves a scout. She’s canny, she’s dangerous, and I can’t bring myself to put her neck on the block.”

“Why not?” Bucky turned to look up at his friend.

“She’s a little thing. She slew a number of my troops during her capture and the zebra regiment wanted to put her down just like all the others… but I couldn’t do it. Something just felt wrong about it. She’s smart… I’ve talked to her a bit. Tried getting her trust… tried talking to her. She’s tried to kill me a few times… she’s a wily little escape artist.”

“She’s a cub?” Bucky asked.

“She can’t be more than a decade old, but she won’t say… she’s not a mindless savage like so many of the others were,” Keg Smasher replied.

“Do you think the others are having a nice time without us?” Bucky turned his head and stared at the fire.

“I would reckon so.” Keg Smasher reached around and wiped his eyes with his wing.

“I need a little time alone… I’ll be along shortly. Tell the others not to worry about me. I just want a chance to sit and think about things.” Bucky moved towards the fire and when he felt the heat upon him, he sat down upon the stone floor.

“Aye lad… I’ll let the others know…”

 

 

 

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