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 morning was cold and Boadicea regretted leaving the warmth of the makeshift shelter. Inside, with Scootaloo and Peekaboo, it had almost been too warm, almost stifling. But the morning was cold and the air stung Boadicea’s throat and lungs when she yawned. Standing bipedally, Boadicea arched her back and made her spine crackle before dropping back down on all fours.

Pegasi were nature’s perfect space heater. They did nothing but produce hot air all night, even on demand when squeezed, and Boadicea understood the appeal of why so many ponies and griffons found pegasi attractive.

“Ah… Fresh Meat… so glad to see you. The injured civilian took a turn for the worst last night. Lots of swelling. She’s not able to walk. So… you and Table Scraps are going to make a stretcher out of two long lengths of wood and a blanket and the two of you are going to carry the civilian back to civilisation.” Gofannon allowed himself a chuckle as he looked Boadicea in the eye.

“I didn’t get a wink of sleep… damned owl kept hooting all night. Nothing attacked the camp though,” Kiara said after she emerged from her snow dome. “I wonder what owl tastes like. Is owl edible?”

Lugus looked around the camp. “You wouldn’t like this owl. He’s probably tough and stringy and the bones would get caught in your craw.”

“Something big did approach the camp though,” Callum said as he stretched. “In the hours before dawn, something went thundering past. I felt the ground shaking and snow fell down from the trees. Whatever it was, it was huge. Might have been a land drake or something.”

“Heya... Scraps, we have to make a litter… come on, let’s go,” Boadicea said as Scootaloo poked her head out of the small tunnel that led into the snow dome.

“What? I just woke up.” Scootaloo blinked tried to allow her eyes to adjust to the light.

“We have to make a litter and haul Yew back to the house.” Boadicea flexed her talons.

“But Yew is heavy—”

“Did you just call me or my mother fat?” Boadicea’s crest rose.

“Nope. I didn’t say anything.” Scootaloo dragged herself up to her hooves. “Let’s go.”

A moment later, Peekaboo popped up out of the entrance to the snow dome. She looked around, shivered, and then blew a raspberry to complain about her situation. It was cold.

“Look how cold it is… Peekaboo has turned blue!” Lugus cried.

“Peekaboo was always blue you silly birdy.” Yew reached out and gave Lugus a loving caress. “Come here, Peekaboo, before you turn bluer.”

Bounding through the packed snow of the camp, Peekaboo lept up and clung to her mother’s neck. “Mama! It cold mama!”

Reaching over, Lugus picked up both Yew and Peekaboo in his right talons. He pulled them close and wrapped his right wing around them.

Letting go of her mother’s neck, Peekaboo latched on to Lugus’ right foreleg instead. “Com- com- comododo- mand- commander daddy.” The foal looked frustrated as she stammered out the big word that was almost too much to say. Her lower lip protruded.

There was snickering around the camp. Lugus lifted his large head, opened his beak, and hissed at his troops for having a laugh at his expense. He wrapped his wing a little tighter around Peekaboo and Yew.

“She got the dodo part right,” Yew whispered.

Shaking his head, Lugus’s crest fell, and the big griffon was crestfallen. “No gratitude from civilians.” The big griffon watched as Loki loped off after the fledglings and made certain that no harm befell them. Lugus reasoned that anything playing with Loki was playing with fire, and nothing good ever came from playing with fire.

 

 

Discord paced back and forth in the somewhat round room, tapping his chin with his paw, his tail whipping back and forth, and his hind feet planted on the ground for once. He scratched his side with his talons and his brows were wrinkled with furrows that would make an earth pony farmer jealous. Behind Discord, a parade of spider golems paced with him, observing the thoughtful habits of the draconequus in action.

He paused for a moment, lifted his paw in the air, and looked as though he might say something, but then, Discord shook his head and resumed pacing.

In an overstuffed chair, Bartleby was napping. Trixie was sprawled over a couch, almost awake, and just about asleep. Sunset Shimmer alone was wide eyed and alert. She watched Discord pacing and waited.

“I am disturbed by this. I find that I actually desire to be helpful, but I do not know how to help, and I fear that if I do not help, it will look as though I am being a bad draconequus. This is distressing… I want ponies to trust me. Ever since a little piece of Fluttershy has latched itself on to me, I keep having these troubling emotions. I don’t like it.” Discord shook his head as he paced and stared down at the floor.

Discord turned about, the spider golems scurried out of his way, and just as he put Fluttershy’s hoof down, his stomach bulged out and hung low. “Oh bother… on top of everything else, it is my turn to be pregnant. What has my life become?”

“Ooh… foal!” Sunset Shimmer slipped out her chair, rushed over to Discord, and proceeded to nose Discord’s foal bump. “Hi baby!”

“Sunset… dear, have you become numb to just how very weird your life is?” Discord asked in a kind but somewhat sarcastic voice.

“I think Master has rubbed off on me… I have an overpowering urge to bring home new mates and stray orphans.” Sunset Shimmer gave Discord’s stomach one fine nuzzle and then trotted off. She sat back down in her chair and leaned back.

Shaking his head, Discord threw both of his front legs up in the air.

“Trixie’s life is full of weird vibes.”

“Vibrations,” Discord said, muttering to himself. “Consonance.”

“Agreement?” Sunset asked as she gave Discord a puzzled look.

“No… music theory. Consonance and dissonance. Bad vibrations,” Discord replied.

The draconequus shuffled off to he table. Snapping his talon fingers, he summoned water glasses, large goblets filled with water. He tapped each of them, producing a ringing sound. Each glass’ water level changed as Discord tapped it and each glass produced a different ringing sound. The effect was beautiful. But as Discord made adjustments, one glass was out of tune with the others, producing a sound that ruined the melody.

“This is consonance.” Discord tapped on the glasses in order, producing a beautiful melody. He tapped the one bad glass and it made what was almost an annoying buzz when compared to the other ringing sounds. “And this is dissonance. I find it beautiful but most will be put off by dissonant notes.”

“How does this help us?” Sunset Shimmer asked.

Discord shrugged. “I have no idea, but this is a good place to start. We need to figure out how to make what doesn’t belong ring.”

On the sofa, Trixie snorted and collapsed into sleep. “B flat,” she muttered as she drifted off.

Looking at Trixie, Discord frowned. “There is just no pleasing some ponies.”

 

 

Huffing and puffing, Scootaloo could feel the weight of the litter bearing down upon her back. Her legs burned and her spine ached, but she said nothing. There was no point in complaining. One day, all of this would be a memory and she would be flying. She knew that Boadicea had to be suffering just as much.

“Treeline is ahead. Once we clear the trees, home will be in sight,” Branwen reported.

“Oh, that’s not far at all,” Scootaloo said, panting more than just a little.

“Tired mama!”

Just after Scootaloo heard the words come out of Peekaboo’s mouth, she felt the weight on the litter increase just a little more. Just enough that each step made her ache in a whole new way. Scootaloo thought about the straw that broke the camel’s back and was glad that she was a pegasus, and not a camel.

The group broke the treeline and made their way into the open.

Overhead, a pegasus went shooting past, trailing a rainbow contrail. Beside her, a second pegasus flew, streaming yellow fire. Scootaloo knew who it was right away. Rainbow Dash and Surprise, who were doing strength training and flight drills. Scootaloo wasn’t certain what was going on, but she knew it had something to do with taking advantage of pregnancy hormones.

Rainbow Dash wasn’t pulling hard turns, or banking, or swooping about in her usual manner, this was constant steady speed. Scootaloo watched for a while, even as she kept one eye ahead of her. The farmhouse and the school were visible from here.

Constant steady speed. Scootaloo focused on placing one hoof in front of the other as she trudged through the snow. Without realising it, she fell into step and much of the bouncing of the litter went away. Her trot smoothed out and behind her, Boadicea also fell into just the right step with the somewhat increased pace.

At least Yew Wood would be bouncing a lot less.

 

 

The apartment over the foundry was empty. Sparkler went from room to room, looking around, tired after a long night. Ripple was out and away. Loch Skimmer was in the farmhouse. Rising Star and Bittersweet were gone.

There had been plenty of times that nopony was home to greet her, but now, the place they called home felt empty. Cold. Lifeless. There was no fire burning in the grate. There was no warm body in the bed.

There had been too many excuses. Too many promises to do things later. The dishes could be done… later. A bit of unicorn magic would make short work of them. But there was always something else to do, some other task, some other pressing need. Laundry would be done… later. Unicorn magic would make short work of it. But something else always seemed to come up.

The scent of soured milk hung in Sparkler’s nose. There were bowls on the table that had once held granola and milk. She wasn’t certain how long they had been there. For a while. Sparkler hoped that those were not the bowls of granola and milk they had all eaten on the first morning after they had moved in. She was certain they couldn’t be that old, because Ripple had tried to clean a few times, but the thought continued to nag Sparkler’s mind. How had things gone so wrong?

“You done fecked up.”

So startled that she turned to stone, Sparkler whirled around and saw Berry Punch. “I didn’t hear you come in… you… you scared me!” Seeing Berry Punch, Sparkler relaxed and became a purple pink pony again.

“GOOD!” Berry lowered her head and snorted. “Somepony I love a whole bunch is crying right now. Want to guess who it is?”

Sparkler’s ears pinned back to her skull.

“This place is disgusting. Look at it.” Berry Punch made a gesture with her hoof. “How hard is it to clean?”

Her lips curled back from her teeth as Sparkler replied, “Easy for you to say, you have Broom and Door to do all of your cleaning!”

Moving with incredible speed, Berry Punch slapped Sparkler across the muzzle, moving faster than Sparkler could react. Sparkler, stunned by the slap, stepped backwards, shocked that somepony could move faster than her stony reaction. She rubbed the side of her face with one front hoof and looked at Berry, feeling very confused and hurt.

“Broom and Door complain because there is hardly anything to clean. If there is a mess, somepony gets on top of it. Broom and Door are here because they love the little griffons and because they’re a little elderly and because they wanted to come here. They are household helpers, not servants, and they spend most of the time helping the griffons do whatever it is that little griffons do when we’re not looking. Broom and Door aren’t obligated to do anything at all, other than sit around and relax. They’ve suffered enough!” Berry Punch punctuated her words by grinding her teeth and glaring daggers at Sparkler.

“I stay very busy… things… just sort of blur together,” Sparkler said.

“Bucky stays busy too. He multitasks. He says it makes his magic stronger doing everything at once. While you're sitting there stuffing your face and reading a book, you could be cleaning without having to leave the sofa. The only thing stopping you… is you.” Berry drove her point home by poking Sparkler in the chest a few times with her hoof.

Knowing she was beaten, Sparkler hung her head and her ears went limp against the sides of her face.

“And I got something for Rising Star too, once he comes home. I almost let him have it this morning before he left for the train station, but I figured that he had enough on his mind. Bon Bon is stewing mad right now because I let Rising Star get away unscathed. I would not come anywhere NEAR Bon Bon right now… she’s likely to give you a good cussin’ out and we all know what happens now if Bon Bon cusses.”

“I’m sorry.” Sparkler was unable to look Berry in the eye.

“Not yet you’re not. Bucky made a mistake. He thought by moving you out, it would make you think you’re grown ups… he gave you a chance. He had high hopes for you. He had optimism. He had faith that if given a nudge, you’d do the right thing… have you?” Berry replied.

“No. I’ve messed up. I’ve made a mess of things.” Sparkler closed her eyes and felt her cheeks burn from within. Her throat felt tight.

“Bucky is beating himself up for this. He’s angry with himself. He feels that he made a mistake and that he had a lapse in judgment. He had faith in all of you to do the right thing, and you failed him.” Berry Punch stepped back away from Sparkler, her hooves kicking up against juice cartons and food wrappers.

“What now?” Sparkler asked.

Berry Punch closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She took another, then another, and then she took a deep breath and held it for several long moments. She opened her eyes and looked at Sparkler. “Here is what happens next. Loch Skimmer is going to ask Ripple to move back in with us. Bittersweet too. Ripple and Bittersweet actually tried to clean up in here. A donkey with no means to do much of anything put more effort into cleaning than you did.” Berry Punch took another deep breath. “You… you are not welcome to move back in with us. You will be staying here in this pigsty with Rising Star and both of you can continue to be each other’s screw buddies.”

“That’s not fair… Loch Skimmer didn’t exactly do much to clean.” Sparkler backed away from Berry Punch, hoping she wouldn’t get slapped again. Her cheek still stung and would probably continue to sting for quite some time.

“And Loch Skimmer has realised she has made a mistake. She’s asking for help to fix it so she can raise her foal in a clean feckin’ home and not some horrible feckin’ trash heap!” Berry kicked at a paper plate on the floor. “Are those semen stains on the floor?”

Sparkler shrugged but said nothing in reply.

“I’m leaving. I need a shower now. A really long fecking shower because I feel soiled just standing here,” Berry Punch said as she turned towards the door.

Standing there, dumb, Sparkler watched as Berry Punch left and slammed the door behind her.

 

 

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