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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7. 7

“Tell me, during all of your time spent living in Ponyville, have you met my student Twilight Sparkle? How much do you know about her friendship studies?” questioned Celestia, leaning on her desk, her forelegs crossed politely in front of her on the desk.

Bucky squirmed in his chair, looking up at Celestia. “I’ve never actually had the chance to meet her,” he replied. “And I’ve never bothered to learn anything about her friendship studies,” he added, feeling a dreadful sinking feeling as he saw a single ear twitch from Celestia. Bucky’s neurotic mind interpreted Celestia’s movement as being critical, a sure sign of her displeasure.  

He had no idea that Celestia’s ear itched and she was having a mighty struggle not to scratch it, forcing her forelegs to remain folded on the desk before her.

“Buckminster- Bucky, please, there is nothing to be guilty about, listen to me my little pony,” said Celestia. She took a deep breath and smiled at her student, trying to calm him before she spoke again; “I want you to look into her friendship studies, and, more importantly, I want you to begin your own.”

“WHAT?” exclaimed Bucky. “I came to you for help and you are giving me homework?”

“Yes,” replied Celestia, smiling gently, her eyes warm and bright. “And I know that you will do this, not for my benefit, but for your own. You were always such a good little pony once you were past your mischievous stage and began to settle down.”

Bucky blinked. Several times. He sat there in stunned silence, not quite believing what he had just heard. He certainly hadn’t expected to hear that. He had come away with the understanding that he was a bad little pony. Sure, he was no Sunset Shimmer, the whole school spoke of her legendary downfall, but Bucky had spent an awful lot of time in this chair being taken to task by Celestia personally. He had been left with the impression that he was an awful pony and at best, a lukewarm student. His parents had certainly made the fact known, telling him endlessly about how disappointed they were by his school progress reports and how little his instructors thought about him.

“You seem confused,” mused Celestia.

“I am,” replied Bucky, feeling the first painful twinge of panic now blossoming in his barrel, a painful thudding ache that felt like it was squeezing his heart.

“May I be frank with you Bucky?” asked Celestia.

“I cannot stop you,” said Bucky, not able to meet his teacher’s gaze, the painful squeeze around his heart now reaching an alarming level of intensity.

“Bucky, look at me, you can stop me. All you have to do is let me know you are not comfortable with this and walk out that door. I cannot and will not stop you,” Celestia explained, now looking worried, which Bucky did not see, because he did not look up. “But I may plead with you to give me another chance to help,” she added.

Bucky slumped in his chair, too confused and feeling his panic attack starting to bounce around through his brain after escaping his barrel.

“Bucky dear, remember to breathe Bucky,” soothed Celestia, sensing something wrong. She saw the panic, it had its claws deep in Bucky, as it always had.

Bucky took a deep breath, then another, and finally, one heaving shuddering breath.

“Better?” questioned Celestia, still worried, knowing how bad panic attacks could be. She had seen so many, been witness to so much pain, grief, and worry.

Bucky nodded, and then looked his teacher in the eye. “I was always under the impression that I was a terrible student. I spent so much time in this office. I felt like I was always in trouble,” he said, now looking Celestia in the eye, his breathing still heavy.

“Just like you thought that nice pegasus mare was going to do something awful?” asked Celestia, smiling a gentle smile, a merry twinkle in her eye.

“Wait, woah, uh, what- This has been another misunderstanding of perspectives hasn’t it?” asked Bucky, one eye beginning to twitch alarmingly. The panic gave him another squeeze, letting him know that it was still there, waiting to pounce.

Celestia beamed and nodded.

“Oh bother,” muttered Bucky, his gaze falling down to the floor again. “I feel like such a stupid pony.”

“Bucky,” Celestia said sternly, her gaze now piercing, “you must never say that again in my presence.”

“Yes ma’am,” Bucky said, slumping, now feeling some shame and fear along with his panic, all of them swirling and promising to overwhelm him if they had the chance.

“I want you to commit yourself to your own friendship studies. Spend some time with other ponies. And other types of ponies. Spend some time with the nice pegasus mare. Find more friends. Try to understand them, and, more importantly, try to understand their points of view. If you are having trouble, just ask them to explain. The ponies that are willing to explain their points of view are the sorts of ponies you want to make friends with. Stop isolating yourself,” said Celestia, her tone firm, motherly, and gentle.

“Yes ma’am,” repeated Bucky, taking a deep breath, pressing his swirling emotions down, trying to repress them, stuff them down, make them go away.

“And if you need help, come to me at once and I will do anything I can to help you,” promised Celestia.

“I don’t know how to talk to her,” Bucky blurted suddenly, opening himself up. “I’m wordy. And being wordy makes her uncomfortable. Somepony hurt her… And words had a part of it. It is like she speaks a completely different language. She lifted me into the air and I thought she was trying to kill me, she was actually trying to gain my trust. Nothing makes sense. Nothing!”

Celestia looked at Bucky, whose heavy breathing had returned. His eyes were wide and one ear made a circular twitch. She waited patiently, allowing Bucky to have a moment, and then she took a deep breath and spoke; “Bucky, the most important thing to do may be to listen, not speak. And when you do speak, ask questions. Be gentle. Be warm. Be the pony I know you to be on the inside.”

Bucky blushed, his face feeling heated, and he shyly raised his gaze to meet Celestia’s. He forced himself to look into her eyes for several minutes, silently, trying to will away his fear.

“Pegasi and earth ponies are very, very different than unicorns,” began Celestia. “Pegasi and earth ponies are very similar in many ways. The pegasi call their herd a flock, the earth ponies still use the term herd. Both have a strong focus on family, social groups, and maintaining societal bonds. Pegasi approach everything with the notion that the best defense is a good offense, while earth ponies believe the opposite is true, that when trouble comes it is best to stick with those you know and protect the weak by presenting a united front. Pegasi approach trouble with surgical precision, making carefully coordinated strikes to weaken and cripple their enemies. Earth ponies approach conflict in the same way they approach hard work, by throwing numbers at it and overwhelming whatever it might be that threatens them. In times of trouble, the pegasi and the earth ponies have almost always managed to come together. Now, this is only a condensed and brief explanation, but it should be enough to get you started. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is this as follows… both of them take a very physical approach to life. There are two little ponies that I have the privilege of knowing. One is named Applejack, and she is the Element of Honesty. The other is Rainbow Dash, the Element of Loyalty. One is an earth pony, the other is a pegasus. Both are remarkably similar, but also very different. They are fierce competitors. They share a good natured rivalry and are always challenging one another. And even with all of their faults and squabbles, they are near perfect examples of their respective tribes and their ability to co-exist,” said Celestia, finishing her long explanation.

“And nothing about unicorns in any of that,” said Bucky sadly. “And I know why. I think I am starting to see the bigger picture,” he finished, heaving a sigh.

“It is never too late to join in,” said Celestia in a hushed voice. “All you have to do is open the door, go outside, and invite a pegasus to chase you. If you will allow them to get to know you, I know the flock will show you how to fit in. It will very likely assault your senses and leave you confused. They will razz you, they will harass you, they will establish their pecking order, and when everything is said and done, you couldn’t ask for better friends. They will show you the way.”

“What about earth ponies?” asked Bucky.

“It isn’t that different. If you find yourself in the company of good kind earth ponies, don’t be afraid to show your weakness. You will find yourself surrounded and protected by stout friends until you can figure out your way,” answered Celestia.

“I still feel confused,” Bucky admitted.

“And that is to be expected. It isn’t easy to rediscover what it means to be a pony. Allow the herd to pull you in. Stop using magic to block pheromones…” Celestia raised her eyebrow as she spoke, her smile broadening. “Allow yourself to be taken. Just let go for a while and trust in your fellow ponies if you can. I have never been wrong in trusting the good that my little ponies are capable of. Just like you. I’ve always had high hopes for you,” she said, now smiling broadly.

Bucky looked at Celestia, seeing her now as a friend, not a teacher. His mind buzzed with a million questions.

 

 

There had been a lot of thinking on the train ride home. The afternoon was slowly changing into evening, the skies filled with the oranges and purples that hinted at the sun settling down on the horizon, and the train was nearly empty as it ran its course back to Ponyville.

Bucky began to realise the damage done to him, worried if he had the strength to change. Celestia seemed confident that he did, and had told him so, and her words had made his shaky confidence soar.

Twilight Sparkle had been, and, to some extent, still was, a neurotic mess and she had been alright. Bucky flipped the page of the book he had been given, reading about Twilight’s troubles, having only two tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala and six friends. It was a messy and confusing situation.

As he read, Bucky realised he would have failed under pressure. At some point, he would have simply melted down and gave up. It seemed like too much effort to try and deal with all of this headache, trying to juggle all of these different needs.

As he thought about this, he had a thought, a profound thought, he thought about Twilight Sparkle and he realised that at some point, she had probably given up as well. And it had probably been her friends that had pulled her along. Friends looked after each other’s needs.

Celestia had looked after his needs.

His parents had never looked after his needs. They had allowed that task to fall upon others, leaving him to be looked after by strangers, his parents never giving him the one thing he needed most.

Bucky quietly resolved that he would begin his own studies by looking after the needs of Miss Hooves, it seemed to be as good of a place to start as any. He could start by listening to her perhaps, she probably needed somepony to listen to her. He would start now, tonight, figuring out where she lived, saying hello, and announcing his intentions.

He would be home soon. He forced his mind into silence and turned his attention to his book, reading about the friendship studies of Twilight Sparkle.

 

Author's Note:

And there we go. The dialogue half of the previous chapter.

Unfortunately, this isn't going to be a short little romp like some of my other stories. I should let you know now, this is going to be a long and involved story, with multiple points of view of the same events, as seen by the observers.

I am still debating if I will actually include Bucky's friendship letters to Celestia. It almost feels cliche, but I still sort of want to do the occasional letter. I just don't know yet.

 
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