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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For Apple Bloom, the past few days were a blur, today was a tortured nightmare, and tomorrow was going to be the most difficult day of her life. She drew in a deep breath, held it for so long that her vision went fuzzy, and then let it out just so she could gasp in and take another deep breath.

She looked up at Bucky, watched him take a bite of food, and felt tears in her eyes. “Thank you Mister Bitters, for letting me stay here with you. Been kinda necessary to work around the clock. Being here makes it easier.” Apple Bloom heard Bucky swallow.

“Do try to get a little rest when you can. I know what you’re up against,” Bucky said.

Apple Bloom scowled and then her expression softened. “Yeah, I am up against Hawthorne and his amazing ink plants. He accused me of causing the explosion that happened a while back.”

“Everypony is under a lot of stress, Apple Bloom.”

“I know, Mister Bitters… he apologised for it and then we sat down in the school cafeteria for a slice of pie together. I think he has a good chance of winning.” Apple Bloom felt a sinking feeling in her guts as she said the words, but she was determined to be a good sport about this.

“I have cleared all of your classes, but you are not excused from the work. You will have to go back and do all of your assignments once all of this is over. So all you need to do is focus on your work, see it through, and show some of that grit that you Apples are known for.”

The earth pony filly felt a smile spreading over her muzzle. “Thank you, Mister Bitters.”

“Call me Bucky, really… Mister Bitters sounds… awful.”

“Applejack says that’s disrespectful-like,” Apple Bloom said in a low foalish whisper.

“Just Bucky will do, I assure you.”

 

 

Tension. The tension in the air was thick enough to cut it with a knife. Bucky could feel it all over the school. Important exams were coming for some students, for other students a new round of classes were just beginning, and then there was the big science fair where Princess Celestia herself was going to be there.

Some of the students were broken down sobbing messes. Others were high strung wrecks. Standing in the hall, Bucky watched them, feeling worried, knowing that they would get through these troubling times, but unable to convince them of that.

Doctor Mawu had been one very busy zebra with all of the mental strain.

When the alarm went off, Bucky sighed. At least these were not boring times.

 

 

There was no sign of Semillon in the kitchen. The house felt a bit too quiet for Bucky. Sighing, feeling a little alone, Bucky thought about lunch and his empty house. Derpy and Berry were off seeing the doctor. In a move that was certain to cause all manner of chaos, the foals had been packed up and taken to town, including Luna and Erebus. Thistle and Belisama had also gone, leaving the house with an empty feeling.

After standing there and moping for a while, Bucky decided that some lunch was in order. He pulled open the refrigerator door and that was when a pink pony lept out and shouted “HIYA BUCKY!” as confetti went everywhere.

Staggering backwards, Bucky wondered how he could explain to Princess Celestia that the disintegration of the Element of Laughter was an accident. He could feel his heart thudding in his throat.

“Hahahah! You’re not laughing now! See, being afraid isn’t funny!” Pinkie Pie stepped out of the fridge and shut the door behind her. She advanced on Bucky. “You laughed at a really inappropriate time and now you’re not laughing at all!”

Confused, Bucky had no idea what Pinkie was going on about as he fell over into a chair and sat down, clutching his chest and wheezing.

Crossing the kitchen, Pinkie Pie stood next to the counter, opened a drawer, and Cheese Sandwich sprang out with a shower of confetti.

“Hmm, I was certain that he was going to go after a spatula so he could make grilled cheese sandwiches,” Cheese Sandwich said in a low voice as he looked around.

Still trying to collect himself, Bucky didn’t not even want to know how an earth pony fit into a utensil drawer. Some things, it was better if they were never explained and left unknown. He gulped in more air and tried not to think about how he had just almost obliterated the pink pregnant pony.

“What is going on?” Bucky asked.

Pinkie Pie stalked across the kitchen, got up in Bucky’s face, and stood snoot to snoot, eye to eye, and replied, “I’m glad you asked.” Pinkie Pie took a dramatic pause, narrowed her eyes, and pitched her ears forward. “When we went to Griffonholm, you hurt me… you laughed as you went down the hall and started killing. It was the most horrible thing I had ever heard in all of my life… you laugh when a foal is born, you giggle to scare away the ghosties, you laugh at jokes, but you don’t laugh while you are killing… how could you?”

“I’m sorry… forgive me… my mind goes to dark places and I never meant to hurt you intentionally.” Bucky saw Pinkie Pie step back and she scowled as she also looked surprised. And then, he saw Pinkie’s mood shift. Her eyes watered and her lower lip quivered.

“Hasn’t darkness claimed enough? Why has it claimed laughter too? Why must everything be touched by the dark? Laughter is supposed to be an expression of joy, as light as a balloon, that floats and drifts and carries you away from trouble… your laughter made the darkness worse… it made it all too real… and I felt all of the hope I have inside just shrivel up like a raisin in the sun. I wanted to die and it wasn’t the griffons that were trying to kill us that made me feel that way, it was YOU! You hurt me more than they ever did! How could you?”

Bucky watched as a single tear rolled down Pinkie Pie’s cheek.

“When I heard you laughing, I never wanted to laugh again, because I didn’t want to be reminded of the most horrible sound I had ever heard in my life.” Pinkie began to sniffle.

“Pinkie, why are you here?” Bucky asked.

“I came here for some good natured pranking and to teach you a lesson about laughter… but then I saw how sad you are for hurting me and now I am sad and you and I are going to have a good cry together instead—”

“Wait, what?” Bucky slid from his chair and started to back away from Pinkie, something he would realise was foolish in hindsight.

The plump, pregnant pink party pony, Pinkie Pie, pronked, pounced, and then Bucky was born down to the floor under Pinkie Pie’s bulk. Pinkie Pie began sobbing, and for Bucky, it was one of the worst things he had heard in his life. It was heart breaking. He felt himself pulled into a hug and Pinkie Pie got her forelegs around him. A moment later, he felt himself sandwiched by Cheese Sandwich, and then all three ponies began to cry in the middle of the kitchen floor.

 

 

“I’m so sorry,” Bucky said as Pinkie Pie wiped his nose with a kleenex from a box that Pinkie Pie had pulled from out of nowhere. “I never meant to hurt you… I would never want to hurt you… that really wasn’t a laugh as much as it was a cackle and for us unicorns cackling is not a healthy sign it means that we’re sick and I’m so, so sorry.”

The trio sat together on the kitchen floor in a miserable huddle.

“It’s hard being you… I get that. You’re the Answer that nopony wants,” Pinkie Pie said as she continued to wipe Bucky’s nose.

“Wait… how do you know about that? What do you know about—hmph!” Bucky was cut off by a snotty kleenex being stuffed into his mouth. He felt Pinkie’s other foreleg tighten around his neck and keep him still as he started to struggle.

“Never mind how I know… I know.” Pinkie Pie leaned over and kissed Bucky on the cheek as he spat bits of kleenex out of his mouth. As she pulled away, the pink mare sniffled and looked at Cheese Sandwich. “I’m sorry I scared you… this was supposed to be a series of pranks… a fun time… looks like life had other plans.”

Spitting out more kleenex, sputtering, Bucky looked into Pinkie Pie’s blue eyes.

“If bad laughter is a symptom of a sickness, Cheese and I are going to have to find a way to cure you… that’s a sickness we can’t have,” Pinkie Pie said in a voice full of earth pony gentleness.

“Somepony has to look after you, you may be the Answer that nopony wants, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are a pony.” Cheese Sandwich pulled both Pinkie Pie and Bucky into a crushing hug, revealing immense strength in what appeared to a skinny, weak body. “It’s hard feeling left out and left feeling unwanted.”

“How about we all get cleaned up and I fix lunch,” Pinkie Pie said. “And then we can sit down and have lunch and laugh together and stop being sad… I don’t want to be sad anymore today if I can help it.”

 

 

With her eyes half closed, Apple Bloom stared down into her bowl of creamy vegetable bisque. A few broken crackers floated on the surface and steam rose from the bowl. The earth pony filly took a sniff, yawned, took another sniff, and felt her mouth water.

A moment later, she picked up her spoon and resumed eating.

“Apple Bloom, things are far from perfect, but we’re managing. Don’t look so gloomy,” Sweetie Belle said as she watched Apple Bloom eating. “Everything is going to be okay.”

Swallowing, Apple Bloom looked up from her bowl and stared at Sweetie Belle. “You’re just trying to make me feel better… and it’s kinda working because of your talent.” Apple Bloom wiped her chin with her foreleg and waved at Sweetie Belle with her spoon. “You and Scootaloo have your cutie marks. Scootaloo has life all figured out now… and you might not know what you want to do yet, but you have a direction… I feel like I am just… just… drifting, like, I don’t have a direction. I’ve thrown myself into this project, I have thrown all of myself into this project, I have given it everything I have, and the results are far from perfect. I’m gonna fail. I’m gonna fail and this is going to blow up in my face and we’ll be lucky if we're not covered in tree sap. If I had a cutie mark I might know what I am doing, but I don’t, so I am making a mess of things. I can see the wreck from here.”

“Don’t give up just yet, Apple Bloom,” Scootaloo said.

“I ain’t giving up,” Apple Bloom replied, shaking her head. “I’m just making peace with the fact that I am going to make another mess.”

“Sometimes, you gotta make a mess. Loki says, ‘no guts, no glory, and at the end of a good day, you’ll be covered in both.’ He’s all about preparing for glory. Glory is messy, glory is gooey, and you have to accept that you might die covered in glory.” Scootaloo smiled.

“Loki Apple needs to watch what he says around foals,” Apple Bloom said as her mouth twisted into a scowl. “Granny will go after him with a wooden spoon again.”

“We’re with you till the end, Apple Bloom. We’re Crusaders. We’ll always be Crusaders. If there is a mess to be made, we’ll help you make it, and we’ll help you clean up afterwards.” Sweetie Belle gave Apple Bloom a winning smile.

“Crusaders… prepare for glory!” Scootaloo cried.

Apple Bloom jerked back her head. “No… ew… I don’t mind being covered in tree sap, but I don’t want to die just yet… we have our whole lives ahead of us.”

Giggling, Sweetie Belle poked Apple Bloom in the ribs. “Two of us do. I think Scoots is getting a death wish just like Princess Punishment in the comic books.”

 

 

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