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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“What is going on?” Celestia stood in the entrance to the kitchen with Raven and Violet standing just behind her. All three of them looked sleepy. “I heard all manner of unpleasantness coming from the kitchen.”

Bucky, crawling forward on his belly, did not respond. He pulled himself towards the cupboard, sliding over the tile floor, and reached out with his talons. He grabbed the handle on the cupboard door and pulled it open just a little bit to peer inside.

He saw a pair of almost luminous blue eyes peering at him for a moment. They blinked. An ear piercing shriek came out from the cupboard, sending little griffons scrambling for cover. Bucky shut the cupboard door.

“Yes, I know I’m ugly… sorry about that…” Bucky’s head dropped to the tile floor and he felt the coolness of it against his chin.

After several long moments, the scream ended, trailing off into a whimper.

“We found her in here eating granola. She had ripped the bag open. Didn’t see her very well. When the light came on, she scooted into the cupboard and hid in the back on the bottom shelf where she is hard to reach.” Lugnut looked at Spanner and sighed. “She’s terrified of us.”

“And of me too, so don’t feel bad,” Bucky said. He heard another whimper from inside the cupboard.

“Bucky, get out of the way.”

There was a warm tingle of magic and Bucky felt himself being dragged over the floor as Celestia dropped down on her belly and crawled up to he cupboard.

“Hello?” Celestia asked as she pulled open the cupboard door.

She was greeted with a brief shriek followed by a keening wail.

Celestia shut the cupboard door. “Not one word… just not one word Buckminster.”

“Giant. You’re a giant. I mean, think about how big you are to the common foal,” Bucky whispered.

Reaching out her wing, Celestia gave Bucky a halfhearted slap on the backside. “I said not one word!” She ignored Bucky’s chortling and stared at the cupboard door. “She can’t be more than a yearling. She’s so scared that she’s defecated.”

“You scared the shite out of her?” Bucky asked in a low voice.

Her wing still extended, Celestia landed a not so halfhearted slap on Bucky’s backside.

“Ow!” Bucky rolled away, getting himself out of reach. “That stings!”

“Don’t sass your auntie!” Celestia said in a low but commanding voice.

“Bad auntie used a contraction!” Bucky said, confident he was out of reach.

From out of nowhere, a newspaper appeared and began to slap him all over his head and neck. He ducked his head and covered it with his forelegs, trying to escape the not so gentle correction he was being given.

Celestia raised her front hoof and the beating stopped. She pulled open the cupboard door just a crack and a sound that was very much like a tea kettle coming to a boil greeted her, rising in pitch and frequency.

The cupboard clicked shut and Celestia frowned. “I fear that we are going  to have to pull her out of there for her own good. Hopefully, we can still earn her trust.”

“No… we shouldn’t force her… it doesn’t feel right…” Bucky frowned.

Berry Punch, rolling her eyes, planted her front hooves against Celestia and shoved, moving the big alicorn out of the way and slamming her into Bucky, crushing Bucky against the wall. He grunted and was lost under the larger bulk of Celestia’s body. Celestia squeaked in surprise.

Dropping down on the floor, Berry crawled up to the cupboard door and lay there for a few minutes, doing nothing at all. She rubbed her head for a moment with her hoof and waited just a little longer.

“Hello?” Berry asked in a low voice, leaving the cupboard door closed.

There was no reply.

“Hi… I know everything is real scary right now… there were big scary griffons, a pony with a scary face, and a really big scary giant pony, but we’re not going to hurt you. And if you want to stay in there, you can and we will leave you alone.” Berry placed her hoof on the cupboard door and concentrated, waiting, hoping to feel something through the wood. After a moment, she felt a faint vibration, a sound so soft that it could only be felt and not heard. She could feel it in her frog.

Berry Punch cleared her throat. “You’re crying… I bet you really want a hug. You can trust me… I’m going to be a mama… if you come out, you can feel the foals in my belly… I have two of them.”

Bucky’s head popped up from where he was, pinned between Celestia and the wall.

“She’s so scared.”

Berry Punch turned and looked at Tourmaline, who was peeking out from between Violet’s legs. Berry made a gesture with her hoof for Tourmaline to come closer.

“The fear hurts,” Tourmaline said. “I can feel it in my backside… it burns… she’s feeling an old hurt because she’s scared… it really hurts.”

There was a low rumbling growl from Bucky, which was silenced right away by a glowing field of golden magic that wrapped around his muzzle. The hairs on his neck and his back were standing up. A long ribbon of drool dribbled down from the corner of Bucky’s mouth.

“I really hope that doesn’t mean what I think it means,” Berry said in a low whisper. She pulled Tourmaline close. “When I open this door, you stick your head in there and say hi.”

The jet black foal nodded.

Berry rolled out of the way of the cupboard door, allowed Tourmaline to get close, and then she opened the door. She watched as Tourmaline stuck her head in.

“Hi!” Tourmaline said in a chirpy voice just as the foal in the cupboard began to scream.

Jerking her head out, Tourmaline backed away, her nose crinkling, and Berry shut the door. Tourmaline waited, being patient, saying nothing until the foal stopped screaming. And then she said, “Poor thing.”

“Bucky, stop drooling! That is disgusting! I swear, it is like you are part dog now…” Celestia’s voice was almost inaudible as she squirmed away from Bucky, a glistening and shiny spot of drool on her back. She reached out her wing and tried to comfort the frantic looking stallion beside her. “You cannot always assume the worst.”

“Well… I’m sorry, but I’m going in.” Berry took a deep breath, shoved Tourmaline out of the way, and pulled the cupboard door open. She dove inside, almost not fitting, squeezing her front half into the bottom shelf of the cupboard and reaching out her forelegs.

The kitchen filled with terrified wails.

Tugging the foal out, Berry wrapped her forelegs around her. The foal was slick with urine and feces. Just when Berry thought she had a good grip, the foal popped free, landed on all four hooves, and took off in a panicked run, squealing with terror.

Celestia reached out, trying to pin the foal down with her foreleg, but missed. Raven blocked the doorway and Berry Punch shut the cupboard door. Berry tried to catch the foal again, rolling over on the floor after her. Tourmaline, now also squealing, scrambled out of the way but had nowhere to go with the kitchen door blocked.

Trying to be a good foal and get out of the way, Tourmaline slipped on a patch of feces and took a tumble.

Bucky launched himself over Celestia’s back, one hind hoof stepping down upon her spine as he lunged forwards. He tried to grab the foal, hit the urine slicked floor with his right front hoof, and went sprawling, almost landing on top of Tourmaline.

Not one to be denied, Bucky extended his left front leg, wrapped his talons around the foal’s middle, and pulled her close. She was a tiny thing, just as Celestia had said, she couldn’t be more than a yearling. Bucky tried to sit up on his haunches, almost fell over, and managed to wiggle his way to the corner, where he planted his back against the wall to prop himself up.

He wrapped his forelegs around the foal and let go with his talons. She wiggled, she squirmed, she kicked, one hoof connected with Bucky’s jaw, causing him to bite down on his lip, and drawing blood. He redoubled his grip, squeezed, and crushed the foal against him, trying to make her go still, but careful not to do her harm.

He spat out blood, a great glistening glop of it landed on the white tile floor, and then he made wordless shushing sounds as he held the foal against him.

“Has she gone mustang?” Celestia asked in a low fearful voice, not moving, but staring at the spectacle in front of her.

The foal’s ear piercing screams of terror filled the kitchen. Panicked howls, one after another came forth and she continued to fight.

Crawling through the filth and the muck on the floor, Berry went to Bucky, got herself up on her haunches, and reached out. She began stroking the filthy mess that Bucky held in his forelegs, rubbing her hooves along the foal’s back and sides.

Using the edge of her hoof, Berry Punch scraped some of the filth away.

“She has a mark,” Tourmaline said, pointing with her hoof.

Berry Punch looked but saw no cutie mark. She looked again, and saw a triangle with three lines through it. A brand. Berry’s heart sank and she felt a tightness in her throat. She wiped again with her hoof, trying to get a better look. The skin was still pink, hairless, and by the looks of it, it was a recent healing. And then Berry noticed something else.

“She’s a zebra.” Berry looked down at the brand and studied the leg the brand had been burned upon. She stroked the foal’s back, and noticed that the foal wasn’t kicking as much and wasn’t as loud.

“Why would something do that to something else?” Tourmaline asked as she pointed to the zebra foal.

Celestia, looking at Bucky, did not know how to answer Tourmaline in a satisfactory way, so she remained silent, having nothing she felt comfortable saying.

The foal gave a final kick and went still. Her panicked screams became sobs.

“How did she get on the ship? Why wasn’t somepony watching her?” Violet asked, looking unsettled and upset.

“The Shetlands are a different sort of place, in case you didn’t notice,” Berry replied, still stroking the foal. “Little foals like this one are looked after by the bigger ones, if they bother looking after the little ones at all. Didn’t you see all the little ones running around in a free roaming herd?”

“I did… but I thought that somepony was keeping an eye on them… I mean—”

“Somepony sees that they get fed, but only the foals that need milk get looked after.” Berry scowled. “The war was not kind. Too many foals, not enough ponies free to look after them all. They’ll grow up independent and cussy and carry on the fine traditions of the Shetlands. They’ll be half wild and crazy. Most of them will probably grow up to be soldiers and the rest will be rabble rousers.”

“Somepony needs to do something,” Violet said, shaking her head.

“I saw all of the foals in the castle… I thought they were the foals of the ponies that worked there… some of them seemed to be. How could I be so blind and stupid?” Celestia asked. “This is no different than how we did things one thousand years ago… I thought we had moved past that point.”

“Do you think griffons marked her?” Tourmaline asked.

“Very likely,” Celestia replied.

“Why?” Tourmaline sat down upon the filthy floor, her barrel hitching.

“So they would know who she belonged to.” Celestia closed her eyes, unable to look at Tourmaline as the black foal started to cry.

Bucky, who had been still and silent up to this point, gave the zebra foal a little squeeze. “Feel better?” he asked in his softest voice.

There was no spoken reply, but he felt a little muzzle move against his neck, a little nod.

“Can you understand me?” Bucky asked.

It took a moment, but Bucky felt another nod.

“These griffons will not hurt you. They’re like Keg Smasher’s griffons… good ones. I promise you, they will not hurt you. Do you see how they let you go and how they waited for me?”

The foal was still, there was no reply of any kind.

“Do you know how old you are?” Bucky asked, his voice as soft as silk being draped over velvet. He felt the foal tremble for a moment, shudder, but there was no other reply. “Do you have a mama?”

A pained whimper filled the kitchen and Bucky regretted asking the question. Cursing at himself, he should have known better than to be so careless. He closed his eyes for a moment and thought about better ways to build trust.

“My name is Bucky… this is Berry… she’s delightfully huggable. Berry is my wife… do you have a name?” Bucky ran the soft side of his fetlock down the foal’s back, feeling the soft bumps of her spine. When he reached her bottom, he felt her dock quiver against him. She had a corded tail, different than a pony. Bucky waited for some kind of reply.

“Somebody get a glass of water or something,” Berry said.

“Come on, you can tell me your name.” Bucky lowered his head and placed his lips near the foal’s ear. He blew, causing a tickle. The foal’s ear quivered.

“No.” The foal’s voice was raspy, scratchy. She had screamed too much.

“You don’t have a name?” Bucky asked. “Surely you have a name.”

“Yes.” The foal was starting to tremble now.

“You can tell me.” Bucky hoisted the foal in his forelegs, cradling her, laying her back in his embrace so he could look down at her face. She was striped, her eyes were a remarkable shade of blue, and there was a long scar that ran from one of her nostrils almost up to the corner of her eye.

“Say name, get hurt.” The foal rolled over in Bucky’s forelegs, burying her face against him. Her barrel hitched, rose and fell, and then she went still.

“Nopony is going to hurt you… you can say your name… whatever happened before isn’t going to happen now.” Bucky blew on the foal’s other ear this time, and watched as it twitched.

Celestia inhaled, unaware that she had been holding her breath for several minutes now. She saw stars in her vision as much needed oxygen hit her burning lungs.

“If you tell me your name, I will see that you are given a big slice of cake… or pie… or a big pile of cookies… after we get you a bath of course. But if you want something, you have to give me something. And that something is your name. So say it… pretty please?” Bucky, trying to cajole the foal, began to rock her back and forth in his forelegs. She wasn’t much larger than Harper, thin, underfed, and her whole body seemed to be covered in a fine latticework of scars.

She had seen the lash. It chilled Bucky’s blood. Rather than rage and feel despair, he once more blew on the foal’s ear, tickling her. He watched as it twitched back and forth.

“Want some milk? It’s fresh. We have that. We have chocolate milk… which all little foals love. Or you can have more granola, you seem to like that.”

“Sukari.” The foal’s voice was so low and soft that a coughing mouse would have drowned out what little sound she made. Her whole body tensed and she flinched in fear.

“Good foal… how about we get you cleaned up, we get you a little something to eat, and then maybe we tuck you into bed?” Bucky asked. “Is it okay if we do that?”

The foal shrugged and did nothing else.

“Sukari is a nice name… what does it mean?” Bucky asked as he made ready to lift the foal in his magic so he could get up.

The foal shrugged again.

“Zebras have some of the most beautiful names… and each one has meaning. I’ll tell you what, I will help you find out what your name means.” Bucky gave the foal another squeeze.

Her head turned. Bucky saw blue eyes looking up at him. Almost luminous blue eyes. It was enough to almost leave him breathless. Her expression was pleading, hopeful, but also pained.

“Want a bath?” Bucky asked.

The foal nodded, still looking at Bucky.

“See, you said your name and nothing bad happened,” Berry Punch said, glancing over at her husband as she spoke. “Whatever happened before isn’t going to happen now. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

“Sukari,” Bucky said, repeating the strange word as he made ready to get up on his hooves.

 

 

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