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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Sugarcube Corner smelled like cinnamon, rye flour, and yeast. Dinky found the scent pleasant, comforting even. The past few days had been stressful, and Dinky had found herself worn a little thin. Luna had flown across the world with Cadance. Something was wrong with father. Her mother was having a hard time eating, and there was no telling what that might be doing to the twins. It scared Dinky to no end.

“You okay?”

Dinky blinked when she heard the somewhat lispy voice of Twist. Twist’s lisp was getting better. She had a retainer now, the Cakes had spent a lot of bits to help Twist out. Twist looked worried, her muzzle was crinkled, her eyebrows were low over her eyes, and her breathing seemed a bit heavier than usual.

“Do you need a hug?” Twist asked.

“I dunno, I’m just distract—” Dinky fell silent as Twist wrapped her forelegs around her and squeezed. Twist smelled like peppermint, she always smelled like peppermint, and she was soft, much softer than Dinky thought she would be. Twist was not hard muscled like other earth ponies, like Piña.

“Pinkie Pie says that if a pony looks like they need a hug, then you should give them one,” Twist said into Dinky’s quivering ear. Twist’s words caused Dinky’s quivering ear to twitch even more.

Dinky, feeling Twist’s soft breath on her ear, felt her cheeks begin to warm in a curious, pleasant sort of way. She twisted around and wrapped her forelegs around Twist, hugging her back. This was no different than hugging Piña, or her other sisters.

Except, this was different. The rosy glow that Dinky felt in her cheeks and spreading down her neck didn’t happen when she hugged Piña or one of her other sisters. Dinky closed her eyes and allowed the hug to continue, feeling confused, a little warm, and a little curious.

“Feel better?” Twist asked as she pulled away just a little, enough to look Dinky in the face. She saw Dinky’s eyes open, and then she watched as Dinky’s head nodded. “Good, now we can work on our project about dietary nutrition for biology. I like biology.”

Hearing Twist say that she liked biology caused Dinky to experience a curious new sensation. She felt her heart flutter in her chest and she could feel the blood pulsing through the thin flesh of her ears. Dinky understood enough about biology to know that her body was showing signs of heat stress, and blood was flowing through the thin flesh of her ears to help her cool down.

“I thought that we should study a primary foodstuff in our diet. Oats. Oats are really fascinating,” Twist said as she hunched over her textbook.

Oaths are weally fathinathing. Feeling lightheaded, there was something about Twist’s lisp that Dinky found that she liked. Other ponies teased her for it, but for some reason, Dinky thought it was sweet. Twist was a brave filly, she had started ignoring what others thought of her more and more and had started speaking out in class.

“The humble oat, also known as avena sativa, is a common, plentiful cereal grain that is almost ideal for equines. They can be served as is, ground into flour, served as hot cereal, made into breads and cookies, and can also be served as cold cereal, muesli, and granola, all of which are staples of our diet. Nopony respects the oat and all of the good things it does for us,” Twist said in a steady, but somewhat lispy drone. “Oats are the only cereal grain that can match globulin or legume levels of protein. The main form of protein in oats is avenalin, which is comparable to soy protein; which is to say that it is comparable to proteins found in milk, cheese, eggs, and even meat. Oats can contain twelve to twenty four percent protein, and no other cereal has as much protein. Evolutionary biologists say that our intelligence is linked to our protein intake, and oats are responsible for making us smart.”

Flummoxed, Dinky tried to take in everything that Twist had just said. Twist was smart. Something inside of Dinky flared to life and she leaned a little closer to Twist. “Where did you learn all of this?”

“I don’t have have a lot of friends. I don’t get out much. So I study. I like food,” Twist replied. “Nopony ever really pays much attention to what they eat.”

Dinky felt her mouth go dry. She inhaled, smelling peppermint. She scooted a little closer and then looked into Twist’s textbook, while inhaling more of the delightful peppermint smell. Twist was smart about food in the same way that Dinky was smart about magic, or so Dinky thought.

“Do you need glasses?” Twist asked.

“Huh?” Dinky lifted her head, turned, and almost bumped snoots with Twist.

“You kept getting closer to see into my book,” Twist explained.

“Yeah, I think I might need glasses. I have a hard time seeing sometimes.” Dinky thought about what she had said, fact checked it within her mind, and felt relieved that she had told Twist the truth. It was the truth, Dinky did have a hard time seeing. Twist didn’t need to know about the other reasons.

“It’s warm in here,” Twist said as she sat up straight and adjusted her own glasses, which were somewhat fogged up. “Is it just me or is it warm in here?”

Nodding, Dinky agreed. “It is a little warm in here.”

“Whew, I thought it was just me who was hot.” Twist pulled out a ledger, a folder full of paper, and another book from her book bag.

Something about Twist’s choice of words made Dinky want to giggle, but somehow Dinky held it in. She could not hold back her smile however. She pushed her hat back on her head, brushed her mane out of her eyes, and made ready a pencil. “So, where do we start?”

“We have to introduce the oat, the species that the oat is, the purpose of the oat, how the oat is used, the dietary content of the oat, and then the various ways that the oat can be prepared. We get bonus points if we can talk about how other cultures use oats or prefer them,” Twist replied.

“Shetlanders love to turn oats into beer,” Dinky said. “Uncle Barley loves his oatmeal porter and gets cranky if he doesn’t have it in the afternoon. He says it takes the edge off.”

“Edge off of what?” Twist asked.

Dinky shrugged. “I don’t know.”

 

 

Pacing the deck, Princess Celestia surveyed the mountain pass below. She was grief stricken, her heart was heavy, she was worried for Bucky, and fearful of the future. This war had seen death on a scale that frightened Celestia like nothing else. She felt the griffoness on her back shift, and wondered if Belisama was comfortable. The little griffoness was exhausted and Celestia worried for her health.

“You have done an outstanding job,” Celestia said as she looked down below.

“I tried.”

“Really, you did a remarkable job. How did you know what to do?” Celestia asked.

“I didn’t,” was Belisama’s blunt reply. “At first I thought about having the unicorns melt the snow, but then I realised that one of two things would happen. Those down in the snow would drown, or the water would just freeze again.” The griffoness yawned. “And then I thought about having the snow boiled away to get rid of it, but that would cook those still buried. In the end, I decided that we had to dig. The diamond dog slaves that we rescued, they were very, very helpful and they deserve recognition.”

“Many lives were saved. I am honestly surprised by the number of survivors.” Celestia lifted her head and turned around, looking at the griffoness on her back.

“Thousands got buried in the snow… we pulled out hundreds.” Belisama shook her head. “Most of them were crushed to death in the avalanche. We’ve pulled out a lot of remains.”

“I know.” Celestia closed her eyes for a moment, feeling the icy wind blowing through her pelt. “Out of the fifty or so thousand troops we gathered for this war, less than twenty thousand will be going home. This victory has come at a terrible price. We do not even know how many have died in this mountain pass. Bucky came up here with an army twenty five thousand strong.” Celestia shivered, feeling a chill that was more than just the wind.

“I hope my husband is okay,” Belisama said in a weary voice. The griffoness yawned again, shook her head, and then sat up straight, blinking. “It worries me, him not waking up.”

“We are all worried,” Celestia replied. She turned her head back around and began to head for the door. “You need rest. You cannot even keep your eyes open anymore.”

Belisama let out a peep of protest, but said nothing.

“Belisama, for your efforts, for your leadership, for remaining behind to do your part while you sent Bucky back to us so he could get the help he needed, Luna and I both feel that you deserve knighthood. Tomorrow, when I raise the sun, would you accept this heartfelt honour?”

The griffoness yawned and then her feathers fluffed out. “I was just doing what needed to be done, just like everybirdy… er, everybody else.”

 

 

Sitting by her father’s side, Cadance studied her bedmates, Tranquility and Lunacy. Something about them both was interesting. Cadance tilted her head to one side as she looked at the pair. She looked over at her father, blinked once, and then returned her gaze to Lunacy.

Cadance felt bad for Lunacy. Lunacy was love starved, and she was in pain. Cadance could feel that pain. Cadance had tried giving Lunacy love, but for all of Cadance’s exhaustive efforts, all of the love that Cadance had to give seemed like a drop of water in the bathtub. Or perhaps a drop of water in something bigger, like a really big bathtub, Cadance wasn’t certain. Lunacy ached for affection and Cadance wondered if anypony could understand that. She had tried saying something, she had tried giving voice to the confusing jumble of thoughts in her head, but all that had come out was garble and foal-talk, which was frustrating.

Lunacy was not a bad foal, she was just in a lot of physical and mental pain, the physical pain caused by her mental pain, and it made her a little cranky. Cadance sighed. She reached out a delicate pink hoof and pressed it against Lunacy’s blanket. The foal quieted and peered up at Cadance through her mask.

The mask was silly. There was no way that Lunacy would bring harm to Tranquility. Cadance wasn’t sure how she knew this, but she knew. Trying to remove the mask had earned her a scolding, which was awful.

Turning her head, Cadance looked at her father once more. He and Lunacy had a lot in common. They were creatures driven by pain and fear. It made them a little cranky. Both of them only wanted comfort, some way for the pain to end, some way to make the hurting and the feelings of emptiness to go away. Cadance knew how to make her father’s pain go away. One little zippity zappity of magic and daddy would lie down and take a long nap, free of pain, free of hurt, free of fear, happy and comfortable. Daddy was harmless and powerless against Cadance’s magic. She was not sure how she knew this, but she knew it. Cadance knew that her magic was the only thing that could heal what was wrong with her daddy, but the wound always reopened.

Lunacy presented a bit more of a problem though. One little zippity zappity didn’t do very much. It bothered Cadance that she had encountered a problem that her love could not fix. Her love could fix almost anything. She had helped her older brothers and sisters, Rising Star, Sparkler, Loch Skimmer, Ripple, and the gentle donkey named Bittersweet rediscover their love by giving a good zippity zappity to Loch Skimmer. Loch Skimmer was now blessed with love, and it had brought them back together, just like Cadance knew it would. With a good zippity zappity, auntie Celery had found comfort and love with Raven and Violet. Auntie Celery was still hurting though, but she was getting better. A broken heart does not heal right away.

Looking down at Lunacy, Cadance gave the foal another love tap with her magic. Sure, it might not be doing much, but it never hurt to try, and Cadance, the demiurge of love, would keep trying for as long as it took.

 

 

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