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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Pacing, having had very little sleep, Princess Luna wondered where Erebus was. When she had awoken, there was no sign of the foal, and Luna, being in a terrible mood, had not asked about his location. She knew that he was being cared for. She had other, far more pressing concerns. Hearing a knock upon the door, Luna’s ears stood at attention.

“Enter.”

The door opened and a Myrmidon mare entered, wearing full heavy plate, her features obscured under the suit of protective metal. Princess Luna still knew who it was from the distinctive stomp-stomp-stomp.

“Shiver Storm.”

“Mistress.” The big mare bowed her head, her armor glinting in the flickering candlelight in Princess Luna’s private chambers. Extending a wing, the mare of exceptional size lifted up her visor, revealing her eyes and her scarred face.

“Report,” Luna commanded, her voice both terse and tense.

“Mistress… all in Hoofington are dead, including the missing foal, Sand Piper. Her parents have been informed. We are of course trying to determine the cause of death, but is likely some sort of brain embolism brought about by psychic trauma. At least, that is what I have heard. I am not a doctor.” The mare folded her wing against her side and her eyes narrowed. “We also found several other foals that match the description of foals who went missing from Ponyville, some of which stretch back several years. It is speculated that this Hag lured foals away and into the Everfree, where she claimed them for her own nefarious purposes.”

“Right underneath our noses this whole time. Right beneath Canterlot and next to Ponyville. For who knows how long, luring ponies into the wood, where they would never be seen again.” Princess Luna shook her head.

“Mistress, some ponies did come out of the Everfree, telling strange stories—”

“And then ponies would go into the Everfree to find the source of the trouble and then were never seen again… trickery!” Luna stomped her hoof and there was a metallic ringing, like a bell.

“Mistress…” Shiver Storm, her face stony, stared at Luna, her eyes glittering.

“My most devoted servant has isolated himself with his family. My godfoals were in mortal peril… and Sentinel… Sentinel… Sentinel…” Luna, stammering, tried to find the words to express herself. “Alas, poor Sentinel. Tragedy has befallen him, and it is all my fault.”

“Mistress?”

“My fault,” Luna repeated.

“I do not follow, Mistress.” Shiver Storm stepped forwards and her armor made a faint creak. “How is this your fault? I do not understand how you are to blame.”

“Sentinel,” Luna said, shaking her head, her eyes glassy with tears, “I have failed Sentinel. I believed Sentinel to be above his bestial nature. He is so… intelligent. Civilised. Sentinel is so rational. I wanted so very much to believe that he was all of those things.”

Sighing, Luna closed her eyes.

“I was mistaken. You, my foals of the night, are all the same, no matter how cultured, how civilised, how intelligent you might appear.” Luna’s eyes opened and she looked at Shiver Storm, who stood there, as still as a statue, her face expressionless.

“All of you are bestial brutes. Monsters. Terrors of the night. Much has to be done to repress your monstrous natures. All of you have such a thin veneer of civilisation about you, and with little provocation, it crumbles away, leaving behind only the monsters that you really are.” Luna blinked away tears, then reached out with her wings to wipe her eyes.

“I had so hoped that Sentinel was more… well… more than that. More than a monster. He had such potential. He lived around the others, those weaker than himself, he was so gentle, so kind, he was so affectionate… Sentinel was so good. I allowed myself to believe that he had somehow gained dominance over his bestial nature. I had some concerns after the incident in the Sea of Grass, after his father was injured. I thought to myself, ‘any foal might respond like that, Sentinel was just reacting, he will be fine.’ But I think I was wrong. Not enough was done to help him repress what he really is. What all of you really are.” Luna drew in a deep breath, held it for many long second seconds, and then exhaled one word. “Monsters.”

“We are what we are, Mistress. It is through your grace that we know peace from the nightmare buried within each and every one of us,” Shiver Storm said to Luna in a cold, emotionless voice. “This is why those of us who do not become Myrmidons live on the fringes of society, far, far away from others. We are unfit to live around our smaller, weaker, more vulnerable cousins. Given the chance, we’d eat them. They’re food, like anything else.”

“I have failed Sentinel. This is my fault. I made a mistake, I believed him to be more than what he is. Had he been trained, had he been conditioned, he might have contained his anger. He might have held back his brutish inner nature. He might have contained the beast within and acted with sane rationality. But these things did not happen. He went berserk and attacked with mindless, unthinking rage. It cost him his face and his eye.” A tear rolled down Luna’s cheek and splashed upon the stone floor, leaving behind a dark spot. “I have failed Buckminster, his family, and my own godson.”

Striding away, Princess Luna threw open the doors to her balcony, spread her wings, lunged forwards, and with a powerful kick, launched herself into the sky. Borne on silent wings, she flew away, leaving her room and her Myrmidon Shiver Storm behind. Weeping, she angled herself upwards, heading for the stars.

 

 

“Bucky?” Peering into the thick shadows, Applejack strained to see the figure that she had a hunch was there. “Stop being spooky, show yourself.” Waiting, Applejack watched as the shadows in the dark half of the room materialised. The small lamp beside the bed flickered, the electric bulb dimming a bit, succumbing to the darkness.

Shivering, Applejack could see a darker shadow within the shadows, a hole cut into the blackness. She felt cold chills running up and down her spine and it felt as though her dock had been dipped in ice water.

“No one knows I am here,” a voice whispered in the darkness. “I did not feel like dealing with Celestia or Luna trying to comfort me with softly spoken platitudes or weak, ineffectual apologies. Everything feels so meaningless right now.”

Applejack turned and looked at the bed where she was sitting beside. Diamond Tiara lay sleeping, her forelegs wrapped tight around the slumbering griffoness beside her. She had gotten out of bed to sit beside them and watch over them, unable to sleep. After a moment, she turned and looked at Bucky.

“Both of your foals here are fine,” Applejack said. She paused, reconsidering, then corrected herself. “Well, one foal, one cub I reckon.”

When Bucky did not reply, Applejack took a deep breath. “Fine, be creepy, Mister Spooky. But I know why you are here. You’re checking on your foals. All of them. And Diamond Tiara is one of them. I’m just her caretaker, just like Rarity, but we all know that she is yours.

“Mister Rich was my dear friend. I cared for him a great deal.”

Ears twitching, Applejack had to strain to hear the soft whisper coming from the shadows. She squinted, still trying to see, but all she could make out was the dark hole cut into the blackness. “It’s rough, ain’t it… I know how you’re feeling, make no mistake. I felt my heart being torn out my daggum chest when Babs was in the hospital. I wanted to die.”

“I went and saw Sentinel… I had to leave. The room started to frost over. I could not help myself. Try as I might, I could not contain myself. The cold might have hurt him in his weakened state. I fled.”

In the bed, Boadicea let out a whimper and kicked a bit beneath the blankets. Diamond Tiara’s legs tightened and the griffoness went both silent and still. Applejack watched them both, her face sad and sorrowful. Reaching out, she stroked Diamond Tiara’s ear with a soft touch from her fetlock.

“I used to hate her, you know. I hated Filthy Rich too… I dunno, I just hated them both,” Applejack said, whispering her admission. “I had me some powerful anger because of how she tortured Apple Bloom and her friends. I think back on it and I feel bad, real bad.”

The darkness in the corner made no reply.

“I blame myself… funny, but it’s true.” Applejack turned to look at Bucky. “If I hadn’t been so openly antagonistic of Filthy Rich, we might have got along better. Maybe if I had spent more time getting to know Diamond here, she might have been nicer to Apple Bloom. Maybe if I had done things differently. But I was just plain mean… I was dishonest, that’s what I was, because I’d smile at the both of them and put on a good show, but when I had my chance, I’d get my digs in. I acted friendly but I wasn’t. And that’s lying. And maybe, just maybe, me lying made things worse for little Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara.”

Applejack sighed and shook her head.

“Thing is, I’ve done gotten to know Diamond Tiara. And I like her. I’ve grown to care about her. Nuts, I love the little cuss. And now, I feel real ashamed of what I did. I should have done more to be nice to her. I might have made a difference. As it was, I was a phony, a liar, and I probably made things worse. It’s all my fault.”

Lifting her head, Applejack’s lips curled into a faint, sad smile. “I’m proud of her, I am. She came here to look after those she loves. She’s willing to do the hard work that’s needed to care for them. She’s there for her friends. She’s grown and she’s changed. She’s become a pony that I’m proud to know. I should have been there for her when she was having a hard time.”

The shadows moved and something rustled. Applejack saw a shadow coming forwards, a black cloak draped over a small, thin, frail body like a funeral shroud. She shivered, but not from the cold.

Bucky was maybe a foot away when Applejack felt something inside of her stomach kick. Her eyes opened wide, her ears twitching with excitement, and reaching out, she grabbed Bucky by the foreleg with her fetlock.

“Somepony is kicking their mama,” Applejack whispered as she placed Bucky’s talons against the curve of her stomach where she could feel little hooves kicking. “Feel that? Ain’t it great? I bet this is what my mama felt like when she was done had me, or Big Mac, or Apple Bloom in her belly.” She squeezed Bucky’s foreleg and pressed him tighter against her, lost in the magic of the moment, all of the horrible trouble forgotten, at least, temporarily.

“Thank you, Applejack.”

“Aw, shucks,” Applejack replied.

“No, really, thank you,” Bucky insisted.

“For what?” Applejack’s brows furrowed and she tried to see beneath the voluminous folds of Bucky’s hood, which was obscuring his face.

“For reminding me of what I’m fighting for and how important it is for me to keep my shite together.”

“Oh.” Applejack didn’t know how else to reply. She smiled, not knowing what else to do or say, then reached out, grabbed Bucky around his neck, and pulled him closer. She gave him a hug, squeezing him, and rubbed her cheek against his hood where she guessed his face would be. The pony beneath the cloak was thin, frail, bony, almost skeletal, light, and Applejack felt a flash of pity for him.

Letting go, she felt Bucky pull away. Reaching out, Applejack poked her hoof into Bucky’s hood, lifted, and pulled away the heavy fabric. His mismatched eyes were peering at her. She marveled how the fake eye was still somehow bloodshot and tired looking.

“I worry about you, ya know,” Applejack said in a low voice that was filled with concern. “Who takes care of you? Right now, I bet everything is real busy and with everything that’s just happened, you probably need somepony to look after you. Poor thing. You’re all thin and sickly lookin’.”

She saw Bucky look at her, she could see the pain on his face. She placed her fetlock against his cheek. His grey eye flashed, reflecting the lamp light. The slitted pupil narrowed. She stroked his cheek for a moment, then pulled her foreleg away.

“I should be going,” Bucky said to Applejack. “I’m needed at home. Everything has fallen apart. I intended to only slip away for a moment. Applejack, please, look after them. I’ll be coming back, but I’m needed at home. I hope they’ll understand. Berry isn’t well. The newborns are demanding. There is just too much. I can’t keep up with all of this.”

“I understand… I’ll look after yer little ones. Now go home, ya spook.”

 

 

 

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