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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The house, now settling down from the morning hullabaloo, was returning to what passed as quiet. The foals, the source of so much of the noise and the hubbub, were off in school. Bon Bon and Lyra, not wanting to leave, but needing to go, had departed.

The littlest of the foals were in the living room, save one.

And it was this one that Bucky had interest in. In the nursery, armed with treats, Bucky lay on the floor, trying to lure Sukari out to him. Sprawled out on a quilt by the crib, Bucky would drop a treat down and wait. He had come fully armed. Sugar cubes, banana chips, raisins, chocolate chips, and an assortment of dehydrated fruit.

He would drop one on the edge of the quilt and after a while, unable to resist, Sukari would come out, gobble the treat, and then make good her escape, lunging beneath the crib once more.

Bucky, not knowing what else to do, had constructed a rudimentary pillow fort around the crib, placing cushions along the sides of the crib, walling it off, and leaving only a small opening in the front, near the middle.

Tossing out a small cube of dried papaya, Bucky waited. He saw blue eyes in the entrance of the fortress of unbreachable might. He was tempted to grab her, he wanted to, but he stuffed that feeling down.

Instead, he dropped a piece of dried pineapple just inches away from in front of his snoot. He was going to make her work for it. He watched as a little orange tongue licked a grey-blue muzzle.

Sukari ate the papaya piece, her eyes never leaving Bucky, and then stood there, waiting, trying to decide what to do next, her eyes darting towards towards the pineapple bit. Hunger won out. Crawling forward on her belly, she came as close as she dared to Bucky, reached out her hoof, and tried to pull the piece of dried pineapple closer.

She failed.

Whimpering, fearful, she wiggled along on her belly, getting close enough to grab the treat with her mouth. And just as she was getting ready to make her escape, every muscle tensed, her legs pulled into the position to bounce away, Bucky dropped another treat.

This time, a chocolate chip.

“Hi.” Bucky dropped another treat, a wedge of dried apple.

Sukari looked at the entrance to her space beneath the crib and then back at the food.

“I was wondering if you would like a bath. Just me and you, a tub full of warm water, and when you are done, I’ll give you all of the delicious bits of fruit and chocolate you can eat.” Bucky’s voice was soft, enticing, and gentle.

Sukari, trembling, looked at Bucky with eyes that had shrunk down to pinpricks.

Using his magic, Bucky dropped a chocolate chip upon the foal’s muzzle. Her eyes crossed as she tried to look at it. While the foal was distracted, Bucky touched her with his right hoof, just a gentle touch on her side.

She let out a startled cry.

Wincing, Bucky froze and waited for the flood. After a moment that seemed to stretch out forever, the flood did not happen. There was a flurry of movement and Bucky felt two forelegs wrap around his fetlock, squeezing it.

Not knowing what to do, Bucky remained very still. The chocolate chip had slipped from Sukari’s muzzle and now lay, uneaten, on the quilt. The foal was clinging to his leg, hugging it to her. Laying on her side, her sides heaving, she was a pitiful sight.

“Baba gone,” Sukari said, her voice a soft pained whimper.

Bucky did not know what she meant, but he understood her pain. He wanted to pull her closer. It was tempting.

“Baba gone.”

Wiggling forward, Bucky pulled himself closer, coming just close enough to touch the foal with his snoot. When he touched her, she went rigid for a moment, clinging to his leg.

“Baba gone… ate.”

A chill went down Bucky’s spine. That sounded ominous. He lifted his head, scooted forward a little more, and then brought his head down, covering the foal. He could feel her body against his neck. She was shaking.

“I bet you’d like a bath… I know you like them. You kick and you fuss a little bit but once you are in the water, you calm down and you’re a good filly.” Bucky rubbed his chin along quivering little ribs. “If I pick you up, are you going to scream?”

The foal did not reply.

“Bath or no bath?” Bucky asked.

“Bath.”

Bucky smiled. “Okay, picking you up now… in my magic. There will be a warm soft tingle. It feels good. Every foal loves to be picked up and floated around in a telekinetic field.”

With slow careful movements, Bucky got to his legs beneath him and he rose. He lifted the zebra filly in a blue-green bubble of magic. In the bottom of the bubble, a golden liquid pooled.

Bucky sighed. “Sorry about that. I guess I spooked you. That’s okay. I’ll get you cleaned up and everything will be fine again. At least the mess is in the bubble and not on the floor.”

Still smiling, Bucky made his way to the bathroom.

 

 

The bathroom, filled with steam, fragrant with the scent of soap, and filled with the sounds of splashing water, was a comforting place. A place of refuge. A foal had been born here.

Moving over the tiles, Derpy, limping somewhat as she crossed the room, made her way to the tub where Bucky and Sukari were. The foal, fearful, watched Derpy’s every move, but did not cry out. She clung to Bucky’s foreleg, watching everything with her blue eyes.

Stepping over the side of the tub, Derpy lowered herself down into the shallow water.

“She keeps saying ‘baba’ and I don’t know what it means.” Bucky shook his head.

“You’re adorable, sitting in the bath with her.” Derpy eased herself down into the water. It wasn’t very deep, but it would have to do. She heaved a sigh of relief when she had her backside submerged.

As Bucky watched, Sukari let go of his foreleg and rolled in the water, getting herself drenched. Her frizzy mane, now waterlogged, clung to her head and neck.

“She’s just high strung… I think she’s calming down.” Derpy extended her wing, got as much into the shallow water as she could, and then scooped water towards her side with her wing.

It reminded Bucky of ducks and swans as he looked at Derpy trying to bathe in the shallow water. While it could be said that Celestia and Luna were swanlike, Bucky felt that Derpy was more like a duck.

“Mama?”

Peering over the edge of the tub were a pair of dark purple eyes. A frizzy bright orange mane, at least a half a foot tall, rose up into the air above the eyes. There were soft thumps as a little hoof was banged into the side of the tub.

“Hello Harper… can you be quiet and good?” Bucky asked.

Harper shrugged.

Scooping Harper up, Bucky dumped her into the big tub beside Derpy.

Seeing the other foal, Harper went still. “Sissy?”

“Yes, this is your sister.” Derpy gave Harper a nudge.

“Okay,” Harper replied. Harper walked through the water, which was shallow for the adults, but deep for her, her tail streaming out behind her. She made her way to Sukari and sat down in the water. “Stripes.”

Sukari, who was once again clinging to Bucky, lifted a hoof and touched Harper’s mane. “Jua.”

“She isn’t quite so afraid of other foals.” Bucky watched as the two fillies sized one another up. “You know, I think once she adjusts to a situation, she is mostly okay with it. Maybe it is the change that scares her… I dunno.”

“Sissy.” Harper reached out and touched Sukari.

Sukari let out a faint giggle. For Bucky, it was like hearing sweet music. It left him feeling confused, worried, and hopeful.

“Oh there you are!” Thistle, standing in the doorway, smiled. “Harper got away from me. She winked… she teleported and she was gone.”

“Oh dear.” Derpy’s face contorted into motherhood worry. “Doesn’t teleportation make unicorns sick?”

“Sometimes… chaotic teleportation is different than intentional teleportation. Hopefully Harper doesn’t teleport into something solid, like a wall.” Bucky began to scratch at his ribs with his talons.

“Bucky, that did not make me feel better… just so you know.” Derpy, one eye now narrowed, gave her husband the stinkeye.

“Unicorn foals are full of fun and surprises—”

“I know… I raised Dinky.” Derpy’s face looked as though she was chewing on lemons.

“Hmm, Berry Punch has Bell…” Thistle looked at the tub with longing in her eyes.

“Bubbles,” Harper said, as bubbles boiled around her in the tub.

“You made bubbles!” Derpy made an exaggerated display of praising Harper, smiling and showing lots of teeth.

Sukari, made an odd face and then pressed her wet fetlock over her nose.

“I don’t think the water is deep enough.” Thistle frowned. “I’m going to go cause trouble elsewhere.” The kelpie turned tail and left, leaving behind a perfumed fragrance from her blooms.

 

 

Folding the paper, Bucky sighed. Luna had sent a terse note informing that the war was on and to expect no mercy, no quarter, and that she wanted a personal word with him when this was all over.

“My friend, one of your Raptors wants a word with you.” Lugus’ voice was a polite rumble.

Looking up, Bucky saw one little griffon in the door behind Lugus. “Do come in.”

“Go on, Gofannon, do not be afraid. It does not become you.” Lugus stepped aside and made a gesture to the much smaller griffon.

Gofannon slunk forward, his tail twitching, and lept up into a chair. He turned to look at Violet, bowed his head, and then looked at Bucky. The farmhouse library was warm, cozy, and the smell of strong coffee lingered.

“I know why you are here, I think,” Violet said, a coy smile spreading over her lips.

The griffon’s feathers fluffed out and his gaze dropped down to the floor.

“Go on, be out with it. I have a lot to catch up on.” Bucky lifted up his coffee mug and waited for Gofannon to gather up his nerve.

“My king… I… I would like your permission to court a very pretty pegasus…”

“Why would you need my permission?” Bucky asked.

Gofannon looked taken aback. He shrugged, his beak opened, and his talons flexed. “I… I am a soldier. I have duties and obligations as a member of your guard. I protect your foals. I am my queen’s servant. I have given my life to service.”

“You don’t need my permission to love.” Bucky inhaled the steam from his coffee and savoured its warmth. “It is possible to do all of those things and still be in love. Or be a husband.”

Gofannon gulped.

“Tell me about her. Are you happy?” Bucky asked.

“She is beautiful. I am smitten, I must confess. She has refused me for a while… I tried being witty, and she ignored me. I tried being poetic, she smiled and flew away. I tried bringing her mice, both alive and dead, and that was a mistake, I will admit.” Gofannon began to pick at his feathers and sort himself out.

“So what did it? What got her attention?” Bucky was smiling behind his coffee mug.

“One very dazzling plumage display,” Violet replied.

The griffon nodded.

“I am assuming that you are talking about Helia, the pegasus.” Bucky took a sip of his coffee, swallowed, and glanced at Violet, who was grinning the way cats do when they wish to invite mice to dinner.

Letting out a peep, Gofannon nodded.

“She is fat with foal…” Bucky set down his coffee cup on the table beside his chair.

“I am aware of that… sir… I… sir, I am willing to follow your example and take on a foal not my own. If my king can be so gracious, why should I do any less?” Gofannon sat up straight and his eyes narrowed. A fierce look settled over the griffon’s face. “I love all of her and her foal is part of her.”

“It seems to me that you will soon have a wife and a foal on the way. Going to be hard to support them on the pay you are getting… and living in the makeshift barracks is no place to raise a family.” Bucky looked at Gofannon with a solemn look upon his face.

The griffon slumped down in his chair, now looking very small and miserable.

“Lugus, tell me, how is Gofannon’s performance as a soldier?” Bucky asked.

“He is brave when he needs to be. He works with Rising Star and his skill as a smith is almost unequaled among the griffons that serve you. He keeps the Raptors' equipment in good working order, keeps everything clean, neat, and orderly. He is quiet and keeps to himself.”

Sitting back in his chair, Bucky gave consideration to Lugus’ words. “Sounds like an ideal soldier.”

Lugus nodded. “I would think so. He is battle tested and I would trust my back to him.”

Bucky raised his talons and made a gesture at Violet. At his unspoken command, the unicorn lifted her pen and made herself ready. In the fireplace, a log popped and crackled, causing a very nervous Gofannon to almost leap out of his chair.

“Gofannon, I am promoting you to the rank of ‘Wing Corporal,’ a rank that will be unique to the Raptors, rather than say, Lance Corporal or Pike Corporal in the celestial guard. You can expect a bit of a pay raise. With this promotion, I will expect more from you. A lot more. No more slacking off as a lowly Private. Lugus, are you agreeable with my decision?”

Lugus looked over at Bucky, his eyes thoughtful. “I am.”

The scratching of a pen could be heard as the room settled into near silence.

“Thank you…” Gofannon began to wring his talons together.

“Don’t get too happy yet… I have a task for you.” Lugus’ crest rose.

“Sir, what can I do for you?” Gofannon asked.

“I want you to whip Boadicea into shape.” Lugus began to drum his talons upon the floor.

“Sir, she is a hunter, I am—”

“You are a Wing Corporal and she is an impudent cub that is lost and needs to find her way. Do not test my patience so soon after getting a promotion.” Lugus’ eyes narrowed and he stared at Gofannon.  

“My apologies, sir. I will do as you ask. Boadicea will be whipped into shape.” Gofannon, now trembling, looked very meek and submissive.

“You will do to her what Ripple and I have done to you. You will run her until she cries and begs from exhaustion, and then you will run her some more. You will make her hard. See that she knows her place.” Lugus’ voice was flinty and harsh.

“Yes sir, consider it done, sir,” Gofannon replied. “I will have Loki run her until the time that he is exhausted.”

The big griffon’s head cocked to the side. “I did not say to be cruel, nobirdy should have Loki turned upon them…” Lugus paused and shrugged. “But do it anyway. Boadicea would be well served knowing that there are little griffons she should be terrified of. It will give her a healthy outlook on life I think.”

Bucky leaned forward in his chair. “Now that we have that out of the way, we need to discuss the winter games. Violet, you said that you have something to show me? Something from Ripple?”

 

 

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