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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After a bit of tea and something of a second breakfast, Berry Punch was back outside with Berry Pinch and the others. Berry Pinch was being well behaved—which was a wonderful thing, but it came at a terrible price. Whenever wee little Pinchy got startled, which was often, Sour Mash nipped her. It upset Berry a great deal and frazzled her nerves. Berry could not deny that it was effective though, after a show of dominance, little Pinchy settled down and acted almost like a normal foal.

Which is what she was doing right now at this moment. Berry Pinch was laying in the grass, soaking up the sun, something she hadn’t been able to do for a while. She spent most of her time locked into a room with Barley. The old stallion was also having himself a nice moment in the sun, he was sprawled out on his side in the grass, his eyes closed, letting the warmth soak into his old bones.

Overhead, Rainbow Dash was teaching a group of students advanced evasion skills, how to stay safe in a crowded sky. Berry Punch watched the little pegasi and griffons as they flew, almost crashing into one another, flying in very tight formations to simulate traffic. Berry sighed and felt good about life. Rainbow Dash might have had the destiny to be the world’s fastest pegasus, but she made for an excellent teacher. A pony was more than their cutie mark. Berry Punch rubbed her stomach, feeling a strange feeling of emptiness, and thought about how much happier Rainbow Dash appeared to be as a teacher than a weather captain.

As Berry watched the excitement overhead, Derpy was taking this chance to get a little sunshine as well. The littlest ones were in the house, being watched over by Magpie and Broom. They would need to be fed soon, but Derpy was making the most of her time outside, and she was chatting with Sour Mash, along with Yew Wood. Yew and Sour were old friends with a lot of catching up to do.

The breeze was warm and coming in from the south; it was the gusts that came down from the north that were still pretty chilly. Berry Punch almost felt sleepy. Everything was idyllic, calm, everything was perfect. Had Berry been paying attention, she might of had her guard up, because with this family, this clan, calm was a sign that something was amiss.

And that something amiss was Ripple, who was not in school like she should have been. The bell had rung and classes were in session. Piña had whined and pleaded, right along with Dinky, as both of them wanted to spend time with Sour Mash, but they had been sent off to school with the assurance that Sour Mash would be there when school was let out.

Ripple, a clever sort, who had spent just as much time learning from Bucky as she did from Lugus, waited until everypony’s guard was down, until nopony was paying attention, and that was when Ripple chose to strike.

Wings flapping, the charcoal grey filly with the light blue mane and tail came streaking down over the yard, her forelegs extended, her hind legs stretched out behind her, and with what could only be described as kinesthetic perfection, she snatched up Berry Pinch in her forelegs and flew off with her. The startled filly kicked and struggled, but Ripple nipped wee Pinchy on the ear and the filly calmed a bit, but still looked quite upset about her situation.

Before anypony else could react, Bucky had already turned into an owl and was flying off after Ripple. Yew started to fly after them, but was pulled down by Derpy. Overhead, Rainbow Dash and her flight school foals all came to a halt and watched as the drama unfolded.

“Oh sod it,” Berry muttered as she realised that things were about to get interesting. As she spoke, she saw a streak of blue go shooting off from the phoenix tree, and she heard a worried squawk. “Can’t this family just go for one damn day without doing something stupid? It’s like we live in defiance of the sign over the front door!”

Freezerburn was now in the air, which made things even more interesting.

 

 

“Ripple, darling, are you having one of your episodes? Are you feeling unloved and neglected again?” Bucky the owl asked as he flapped after Ripple. “Look, I understand the nesting feeling can be difficult for a pegasus filly your age—”

“I’m not having an episode!” Ripple’s retort was shouted back into the wind at Bucky and her face became rather angry looking. “I’m not letting you take her back to the Shetlands! I can’t!”

Bucky noticed that the had a companion in the air with him. He glanced over at Freezerburn and was glad to see his old friend. He poured on a little more speed and drew closer to Ripple. “Ripple, honey, I’m sorry that I can’t take your word that you’re not having an episode… if you’re not going crazy again, then you need to tell me what you’re doing and make me understand—”

“Don’t patronise me!” Ripple cried as she squeezed Berry Pinch, who looked more than a little confused and startled by all of this. “She can’t go back to the Shetlands! I won’t let it happen!”

Bucky could hear the frantic fear in Ripple’s voice. Turning his head, he saw that Ripple was now between him and Freezerburn. Bucky began to wonder if perhaps Ripple was under too much stress, too much pressure to perform, too much school work, too much of everything, and wasn’t getting enough of her special family time to keep her leveled out… and sane. Of course, he was no paragon of sanity either.

“Ripple, just talk some sense and everything will be fine, I promise,” Bucky said.

“She’ll have no choices if she goes back to the Shetlands! No choices at all… I know what happens to little fillies that are left unattended… the little colts dominate them and mount them and sex happens and she’ll have no say in the matter and she’ll grow up in a shite place thinking that everything that happens to her is normal and I CAN’T LET THAT HAPPEN!”

Flapping his wings, Bucky came to the stunning realisation that Ripple was fantastically sane. Sure, she was having a poor response to her anxieties, but he found that he could not blame her.

“I watched it happen… I even warned Dinky and Piña to stay away from the other foals and the little colts and I watched the feral gangs and what they did and the fillies that grow up in those gangs are always so submissive and stallions talk about how they make good wives once they’re broke in and I can’t let you do this to her!”

Bucky felt his heart breaking as Ripple started sobbing. She wasn’t crazy though. Ripple seemed to be in possession of all of her senses and all of her marbles. He watched as Ripple nipped Berry Pinch’s ear once more to make the filly submit and be still. In this surreal moment, Bucky loved Ripple more than ever. The filly, his filly, was willing to risk everything just to save one pony.

“Ripple, can you please land so we can talk?” Bucky asked. “I promise, I’ll hear you out and we’ll sort this out, I promise.”

“No, you’ll send her away and I can’t let that happen… you give me your word that we’ll keep her… otherwise, you can just chase me forever!” Ripple’s tears were torn away from her cheeks and slipped off into her slipstream.

“Ripple, baby, I can’t promise that… we need to try and sort out what is best for little Pinchy—”

“Then you can just feck off!” Ripple spat as she zoomed off, leaving a blue contrail in her wake.

Bucky watched her go for a moment, she was fast… real fast. Almost, but not quite, Rainbow Dash fast. She zoomed off towards the treeline in the direction of Ponyville. For a moment, Bucky wondered if he had made a mistake, but then reconsidered. Making an empty promise and then breaking it would destroy Ripple’s trust. It was better to be honest with her.

Letting out a screech, Bucky took off in pursuit of Ripple, with Freezerburn flying right beside him. As he flew, he flogged his brain and hoped that he could find some kind of solution to all of this, some conclusion that was beneficial for all involved, including Ripple. He didn’t want her hurt from all of this. She wasn’t being a loony, she was just a filly with far too many hurts, old hurts that haunted her. Bucky pitied her.

No doubt, Ripple had acted without thinking, and now, she was running with no place to go. Bucky drew a few conclusions, one of them being that Ripple wanted to be caught. Ripple clearly wanted to have a say in this, but was far too emotional to make a rational argument. Being a pegasus, Ripple had resorted to action, most likely because in her emotional state, words may have become difficult for her. Bucky thought of Derpy and the times that the grey mare had bit him multiple times back when they were on the Shetlands, when Bucky was trying to be reasonable about Keg Smasher’s proposal about marriage to Thistle. Derpy had broken down completely and had resorted to nipping to assert her dominance as alpha of the herd. This whole morning had been one big lesson in nonverbal communications among equines.

As troublesome as they might be on occasion, Bucky found that it was still worth loving pegasi. He chased after Ripple and tried to come up with a plan. As he flew and gave thought to everything, he realised that Ripple did make a valid point. Berry Pinch would grow up with a very different life if she went to the Shetlands, and he wasn’t sure that he wanted to do that to her.

Having an idea, Bucky landed, became a pony again, and teleported himself back to the farm. He was going to need some help if he was going to make this work. Freezerburn, Bucky’s corrupted phoenix, did not give up pursuit, but continued after Ripple, leaving his chicks in the care of his mate, Philomena.

 

 

With a startled cry, Ripple felt herself falling from the sky. Her wings weren’t working very well. She wasn’t very high up, but crashing, even at this low altitude, would be bad. She didn’t want her precious cargo being hurt. She heard a squawk from Freezerburn and she wondered if her father was behind this.

Before she smashed into the ground, she felt herself suspended in magic. She looked around, frantic, fearful, worried, and sure enough, she saw him. He was standing beside a bright orange pony, Sunset Shimmer. Ripple opened her mouth to protest, but she felt the tickle-prickle of phoenix claws upon her back. A strange feeling of relaxation crept over her and she couldn’t quite remember what it was that she wanted to say.

She was put down on the ground and Berry Pinch slipped from her forelegs. Ripple tried to grab her before she could run off, but little Pinchy was too fast. The little pink foal wasn’t fast enough to avoid Freezerburn though. The phoenix lept onto Pinchy’s back, but his razor sharp claws did not rend her soft, delicate skin. Berry Pinch toppled down into the grass with a dopey grin, a smile of blissful happiness upon her face.

Sitting on top of the pink unicorn foal, Freezerburn began to preen himself in the most smug, self assured manner that a corrupted phoenix could muster. He let out a triumphant squawk as Bucky approached.

Reaching Ripple’s side, Bucky sat down in the grass, took Ripple into his forelegs, and pulled her close. He gave her a warm, paternal smooch, stroked her cheek, and then brushed her short blue mane out of her eyes.

“Sorry, Daddy…” Ripple mumbled.

“Don’t be sorry,” Bucky replied, “Never be sorry for wanting to protect ponies from harm.” Bucky gave his troublesome pegasus filly another kiss, squeezed her, and then looked over at Sunset Shimmer, who approached Berry Pinch.

Seeing Sunset, Freezerburn let out a demonic, guttural hiss and spread his wings.

“Don’t you dare hiss at me, you eyeball plucking, soul slurping abomination!” Sunset’s legs stiffened and she assumed a challenging, aggressive posture. “I just want to see that she’s okay, you horrible, bloody bird!”

Freezerburn fluffed out, looking insulted, extended one wing, and showed Sunset Shimmer his central primary feather in very much the same way a pegasus would when showing off the ancient symbol of war.

“You horrible motherplucker!” Sunset gritted her teeth at the blue freezing phoenix.

Squawking, Freezerburn stood his ground, defying the now angered orange unicorn.

“That’s enough! Both of you!” Bucky shouted.

Freezerburn let out a hiss, took wing, and flew off of Berry Pinch. His flight was short and he landed on top of Bucky’s head, perching on Bucky’s horn. After landing, he screeched at Sunset Shimmer, spread his wings, and did his best to look protective.

Taken by the moment, Ripple began laughing, a drunken sounding laugh as she was still all dopey from the phoenix pheromones. After a good long laugh, She wiggled in Bucky’s embrace and gave her father a kiss.

“You know, Bucky, it occurs to me, if we could have Freezerburn sedate Berry Pinch, she’d be a lot easier to manage.” Sunset tried sitting the filly up, but she flopped over, giggling as she did so.

“What sort of life would that be?” Bucky asked.

“Better than life on the Shitelands,” Ripple replied in an almost drunken slur.

“Ripple, honey, life is a rotten thing sometimes… and sooner or later, you are going to have to make peace with that. From what I know, the feral foal gangs are a way of life on the Shetlands. Yes, awful things happen. But I don’t know if we can look after little Pinchy here.” Bucky heaved a sad sigh and shook his head.

“Sukari was in a feral gang,” Ripple said in a woozy voice, “your sweet little Sukari… I… want you to think of a gang of little colts dominating her… I want you to think about it… dirty little colts with dirty little dicks, humping at her from both ends, because that’s what those horrible little colts do… I… I had to tell Piña and Dinky about it… I warned them… I warned them… it all starts so early.”

Ripple’s whole body tensed and Bucky felt a sensation of nausea deep down in his stomach. He didn’t want to think about Sukari being treated that way. He certainly didn’t want to think about it happening to Berry Pinch either. A forlorn sigh slipped from his lips and above him, Freezerburn let out a worried sounding peep.

“Why doesn’t Keg Smasher do something about this?” Sunset asked.

“How?” Bucky replied. “The sweeps are over. Orphans are now a big problem on the Shetlands. Before, the ferals were rounded up and brought to Equestria. Well, some of them. The ones they caught. Now, with no more sweeps, and with the war and everything that’s happened, the feral gangs are a big problem.”

Sunset pulled Berry Pinch a little closer and gave the foal a squeeze. “Master, I’m sorry, but I must side with Ripple on this issue. I cannot in good conscience allow you to send Berry Pinch off with Sour Mash.”

“Yesh!” Ripple’s lips made a flatulent sound as more air than was necessary to say the word escaped them. “Come on Sunset, we can take him… you can toss him around and we’ll tag team him… help me, Sunset! We’ll both fart on his head!”

“Ripple, I’m not about to pick another fight with Bucky.” Sunset’s brows furrowed and she looked distracted. “I don’t know what to do. This is a tough situation, it throws all of my morals and all of my ethics into a blender and tries to make a smoothie out of them.”

“What sort of life would little Pinchy have if we kept her doped up all the time? That doesn’t domesticate her. That would just leave her with a raging drug addiction problem and the inability to act normal without said drugs… whatever passes as normal for a foal that cannot function without being medicated.” Bucky, reaching up with his talons, brushed Ripple’s blue mane out of her eyes once more, as it had fallen back down over her face. “How do we care for her? She’s big… big enough to be dangerous, not only to us, but to our other foals. We’re overrun as it is, as much as it pains me to admit it. Berry is right, it’s killing her, and she cries at night in her sleep, but she’s right. At least Berry Pinch will have a chance on the Shetlands. Sour Mash will keep an eye on her and try to domesticate her as time and circumstances allow.”

“Minotaur shit,” Sunset swore, “that doesn’t fix an alicorn damned thing.”

“Minion, be mindful of my sweet, innocent little Ripple’s ears.” Somehow, Bucky said this with a straight face. “She’s little, she’s sweet, and she’s girly. I wish to preserve that.”

Sunset snorted and let out a bitter, angry laugh, which stood out against Ripple’s almost drunken giggle. Sunset looked down at the foal she was holding in her forelegs. Berry Pinch was blitzed from Freezerburn’s touch. The little pink unicorn was giggling and staring with wide eyed wonder at the world around her.

“Daddy, the world isn’t fair and I don’t like it,” Ripple said, her laughter dying. Now, she sounded a bit more like a crying drunk. “I didn’t mean to cause trouble, honest, I just couldn’t think of anything else to do to get your attention, please don’t be angry with me.”

“I’m not angry with you, Ripple. You’re not in trouble and I’m kinda proud of you.” Bucky angled his muzzle down and give Ripple another affectionate kiss, then one more for good measure.

“There things I can’t fix by punching them… I don’t know what to do… it hurts me so much to think about what is going to happen to Pinchy.” Ripple shuddered and wiggled in Bucky’s embrace. “I’ll look after her… I will, I promise… I’ll do all the work, I’ll do everything required, and I’ll keep her safe.”

“Ripple, baby”—Bucky shook his head and he rubbed Ripple’s neck with his hoof—“we both know that’s not possible. You have school, your training, your life, all of it, is pretty busy. You don’t have the time to look after Pinchy and give her what she needs. None of you do. Loch Skimmer is going to be having a foal of her own soon and we’ll probably be taking care of that one. Loch Skimmer is overloaded with school work, she’s taking nursing lessons so she can be a better paramedic. Sparkler has her job, her school work, and she wants to be a teacher as well. Rising Star… where do I even start with Rising Star. He has his school work, his job in politics, his job in the foundry, and he’s started teaching. As for Bittersweet, from what I understand, she’s one very busy donkey. How would any of you find time to look after little Pinchy? You couldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair to her. That would be worse than shipping her off to the Shetlands.”

Ripple, hearing the truth in Bucky’s words, began blubbering. She twisted around in Bucky’s embrace, threw her forelegs around her father’s neck, and wept bitter tears. Freezerburn, looking both annoyed and concerned, lept off of Bucky’s horn and landed atop Ripple’s head. The corrupted phoenix started preening Ripple’s mane to comfort her.

“But she’s family,” Ripple sobbed, “would you just send me away if I was a problem?”

Bucky, not knowing how to respond, remained silent and gave Ripple a squeeze. He didn’t know how to console the distraught pegasus filly he was holding. He gave her another fierce kiss, pressing his lips down against her ear to comfort her and let her know that he loved her.

“Master, I cannot allow this to happen. I can hear it in your voice… you and Berry are going to ship little Pinchy off to the alicorn forsaken islands and I can’t let that happen.”

“Minion… what are you doing, Minion?” Bucky watched as Sunset got to her hooves. “Minion… hey, you… Sunset… you answer me! What are you doing?”

But there was no reply. Bucky watched as Sunset snatched up Berry Pinch in her magic and then took off, running towards Ponyville. For the second time today, Berry Pinch was foalnapped by somepony that Bucky loved. For the second time today, somepony had make a rash, foolish decision based on emotion rather than logic. Bucky sighed. Sunset Shimmer did not take the lesson of the family motto to heart.

Don’t do anything stupid.

Yep, there was no mistaking it now, Bucky was certain. Sunset, a pony that he loved, had just proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was family. She had passed the test by failing it. She had committed herself to rampant idiocy just like the rest of them. Bucky sighed and gave Ripple another squeeze.

Before the day was out, Bucky suspected that he too, was going to have to resort to stupidity and he wondered how much Derpy and Bon Bon would lecture him when the inevitable happened.

 

 

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