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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At long, long last, some semblance of peace and quiet returned to the nursery. Ditzy, who had quite a pair of lungs, had been on a crying jag that had lasted for hours. She was now drifting off into exhausted sleep. Her sibling, Dizzy, frustrated by his sister’s wailing, had also cried in protest, while thrashing about and even kicking his sister in the face, which had done nothing to further the cause of peace and quiet. Even little Barley, who was rather laid back for the most part, began screeching when there was just no quiet to be had. The only quiet one had been Brandywine, who had mysteriously slept through most of the incident, somehow ignoring the screaming of her siblings. Crisis, when faced with a crisis, had run around the nursery, wailing like a siren, making an eerie warbling wail that resonated in the back of her throat. The strange little foal was now sleeping in a pile with her siblings.

Thankfully, Bell Heather had been spared the hullabaloo, having gone off with her mother, Thistle, who had taken her foal with her to work. The house, now recovering, was a fine collection of high strung, highly emotional equines and a few griffons.

Worried, Bucky couldn’t help but see Berry Punch’s bloodshot and sleep deprived eyes. Berry, who had been trying to deal with her own private tragedy, was now dealing with everything that had just happened, and not dealing with it very well. Stretching out his neck, Bucky nosed Berry Punch’s neck, his nose coming into contact with a patch of pelt that was hard and crusty from dried out spit up. He pulled his head away and wiped his nose with his foreleg, which, much to Bucky’s dismay, was covered in spit up that wasn’t dry and crusty, but fresh and wet. Bucky sighed the defeated sigh of exhausted, almost burned out parents everywhere.

“Ugh,” Bucky grunted as he pulled his foreleg away. He had a vague notion that he stunk something awful, but he was too tired to do anything about it. He heard the creak of bedsprings in the bedroom, and guessed that Derpy had rolled over in the bed. The grey pegasus was exhausted, just like the rest of them, and in a dreadful state because of her worry for Dinky. This made Bucky worry even more. Derpy had become a bit despondent and he didn’t know what to do to make her feel better.

Saying nothing, Berry Punch threw her forelegs around Bucky’s neck. Bucky pulled her closer, and both sat there on their haunches, holding one another, offering whatever comfort they could to each other.

 

 

Sitting in the kitchen, hunched over the table, Bucky stared downwards with a dull, checked out expression. Beside him, Berry Punch was sitting, nursing a cup of coffee that Bucky suspected was more whiskey than coffee. The pair had been sitting in silence for a while, with nothing needing to be said. Bucky’s thoughts lingered on Sentinel, Dinky, Piña, and Boadicea, all of whom were in Canterlot.

“Daddy?”

Blinking his bleary eyes, Bucky turned his head, looked down, and saw something pink. He smiled, or did his best to do so anyway, the bitter taste of bile in the back of his throat making it difficult to do. Cadance, the shining beacon of hope, looked radiant, cheerful, and her bright, beaming smile made Bucky feel a little better. The feeling of love emanating from her felt like sunlight, a gentle, penetrating warmth that lifted the spirits.

“Cady time?” Cadance stood up on her hind legs and placed her front hooves on the edge of Bucky’s chair as she gave him a hopeful, pleading look.

Leaning over, Bucky hooked his talons, mindful of his claws, under one foreleg of Cadance, and his right front hoof under her other foreleg. He lifted her, marvelling at how heavy she was becoming, and there was a worrisome moment when his chair wobbled. Cadance was already as big as a common yearling, if not larger. Long legged, long necked, with a lithe, slender body. Her wings were large, perhaps too large for her current body size, and Bucky had no doubts that she would grow into them.

“Daddy stinky.” Cadance made a face as Bucky pulled her close and she put her forelegs around Bucky’s neck with slow hesitation. Cadance’s smile vanished and she became very serious looking. “Sentinel?”

“He’s gonna be okay, Cadance. Lunar pegasi are tough.” Bucky sounded more like he was trying to convince himself rather than Cadance. “Having a rough morning, Cadance? Has the house been too hectic for you?”

Sighing, Cadance rested her head against Bucky’s neck, not caring that he was covered in spit up and stinky. Bucky, exhausted, somehow found the strength to cradle her in his forelegs, not complaining about the dull ache in his muscles or the painful, throbbing pulse in his spine as he held her.

“You know, after mornings like this one, I can understand why my mother just gave up. I ain’t saying she was right for what she did, but I can understand it.” Berry Punch’s face soured and she stared down into her whiskey laced coffee. “She was a real bi—”

Berry Punch went silent as Cadance’s wide, innocent eyes bored a hole into her soul. The earth pony blinked, then reached up and rubbed her stinging, burning, dry eyes. When she pulled her foreleg away, Cadance was still staring. Berry Punch, feeling guilty and ashamed, slumped down in her chair and took a long drink from her steaming mug.

“That’s not fair, Cadance, using your cute and adorable alicorn powers against poor Berry,” Bucky said, crooning to Cadance in foal-talk. He tickled her, and Cadance came to life in his forelegs, wiggling and squirming.

“No!” Cadance’s protest fell upon deaf ears and she began to giggle.

As Cadance tried to escape, Bucky held on and continued to tickle, delighting in Cadance’s laughter. Cadance was strong, so very strong for her size, and gaining grace. She twisted around his grip, broke free, launched herself, and glided down to the floor on oversized wings. She landed with a solid thump, wings flapping, and then took off at a run, laughing and squealing, which made Bucky cringe as he worried about the sleeping newborns waking up.

Setting down her coffee cup, Berry Punch laughed. She looked at Bucky, smiling, her first real smile in a while. “I think you just made her morning.”

“Sometimes, I wonder if I should do that,” Bucky said in a low voice. It was almost as if he was speaking his thoughts aloud rather than speaking to Berry Punch. His face darkened a bit and his ears drooped.

“Should do what?” Berry asked.

“What I just did,” Bucky replied.

“Making Cadance feel good?” Berry, confused and wondering what was up with Bucky, forgot about her own troubles, the horrible morning, and was curious as to what Bucky was thinking about now. She saw him take a deep breath and she waited, hoping he would explain.

“Berry, we teach our foals that no means no… or we try to. No chocolate candy before dinner means no chocolate candy before dinner. We teach them that no means no, and that they should stop whatever they are doing when somepony tells them no.”

“Bucky?”

“I told Sentinel that if he was doing something with Diamond Tiara and she said ‘no’ that he was to stop whatever he was doing immediately and respect her wishes.” Bucky’s voice lowered. “I really drove the point home to him that he was bigger and stronger and that she was weaker and smaller and he really needed to be careful.”

Berry Punch placed her hooves on either side of her coffee cup and felt the warmth permeating her frogs. She looked at Bucky and thought about what sleep deprivation did to a pony’s brain.

“We place so much emphasis on the word no and how important it is… and I think about it a lot… but while we place all of this importance on the word now, we grab our foals and we tickle them, and they shout ‘no’ and we just keep tickling them.” Bucky reached up and scratched the scaley side of his face with his talons.

“Bucky, little foals like being tickled. Shouting ‘no’ is all part of the game,” Berry said. She saw a sour expression creep over Bucky’s features and she could hear the scritching sounds of his claws sliding over his metallic scales.

“Berry, I want you to stop and think about what you just said… just… think about it for a moment, and apply it to other circumstances and situations.” Bucky’s face darkened. “Maybe I’m just being neurotic about it, I’m sorry.”

Thinking about Bucky’s words, it took Berry Punch some time to make the connection. Her eyes narrowed. How had Bucky taken something so innocent, so innocuous, and made it so dark? She thought about far more adult situations and Bucky’s own worries about Sentinel and Diamond Tiara. She felt the whiskey and the coffee in her stomach gurgle as she thought about what she had said. Shouting ‘no’ is all part of the game. Berry realised that Bucky had stumbled into a confusing, somewhat alarming double standard. They were in fact, teaching their foals that the word ‘no’ was a command that demanded immediate response and respect. At the same time, there were instances where the word ‘no’ was ignored completely. Berry Punch slumped down and wondered if she was a bad parent.

“I think you reached the same conclusion that I did while I was working late one night and my brain just wouldn’t shut up.” Bucky rubbed his neck with his talons and grey-white flakes of dried out spit up fell like snow from where his talons scraped it away.

“But… we’re just playing,” Berry said in a low voice.

“Yes, but if no means no, what sort of message are we sending during those times when we ignore it?” Bucky shook his head. “I’m worried, Berry… I keep thinking that we’re making a colossal mess… that we’re screwing these foals up… that we’re failing. It keeps me awake at night that I might be a bad parent. My own parents were terrible and no doubt, their parents were terrible, and now the endless cycle continues and I have nightmares about our foals complaining about how horrible we were as parents.” Bucky took a deep breath. “I think all of this stress is getting to me.

“But… but… it’s just innocent play,” Berry said, more to herself than Bucky, trying to convince herself. She shook her head, stammered, but couldn’t get any words to come out. After a moment, she fell silent and hung her head.

“I keep thinking I should go and apologise to Cadance.” Bucky sat there, looking troubled by his own admission. “But I doubt she would even understand.” Bucky shook his head, looking distraught. “How is it that the simplest and most basic things in life can lead to the most catastrophic outcomes?”

“I don’t know, Bucky.”

Drumming his talons upon the table, Bucky glanced over at Berry. “Saying no is never a simple thing, is it? All those instances when no means yes and is part of a game. Or a fantasy.” Bucky heaved a long sigh. “Why do things have to be so complicated? How did we end up the way we are? Sometimes, sometimes I loathe the burdens of sapience and self awareness. I look at the dumb animals standing around and grazing in the grass and I think to myself, ‘They have it good. They don’t even know how lucky they are.’ But then I think about the sound of your voice. Or Derpy’s voice. Or Thistle, when she’s happy, and she’s humming to herself. Or Harper and her endless stream of impossible questions and I realise that I appreciate all of those things.”

Reaching out her foreleg, Berry Punch placed her hoof over Bucky’s lips to silence him. She looked at him, gazing into his eyes, watching his barrel rising and falling. When Bucky was stressed, he tended to over think everything, just as he was doing right now. If left to his own devices, he would keep going until he suffered a full blown brain meltdown.

“How about you and I crawl into a tub together and, after exchanging consent, we give each other a good scrubbing?” Berry asked, her eyebrow raising. After a moment of waiting, she saw Bucky give her a nod, and she could feel his muzzle moving beneath her frog. Already, Bucky looked a bit calmer.

Berry smiled. “And then after that, we consent to take a nap together. I’m pooped.”

 

 

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