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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His apprentice had been gone for hours. Bucky was starting to worry a bit, a real, genuine sense of worry that he tried to push from his mind with the coping techniques that Fluttershy was teaching him. Be calm. He could almost hear Fluttershy’s voice in his ears. Be a good pony. There was lots of deep breathing on his part. Be a good example for your foals. Yep, that was what Bucky was trying to do at the moment. Be a good example. He wasn’t about to fly apart and launch into a blistering tirade that his apprentice was a foal napper.

Sunset Shimmer was just… foalsitting under creative circumstances. It was a positive thing. Bucky was trying to see the good in it. Barley O’Blivion was getting a much needed day off, some time to rest and recuperate. Poor Barley was covered in bites, many of which had been stitched. Barley needed the rest. Caring for wee Pinchy had been difficult.

Berry Punch was showing signs of strain as well. She was being a dutiful mother, an attentive host, a considerate fellow-wife, she was going out of her way to be the ideal pony—because that was Berry Punch’s coping mechanism during times of trouble. Work harder. Sour Mash was being shown a lovely time. Berry Pinch was being cared for and the two cousins had plenty of time for catching up.

Ripple had recovered and been sent back to school after a short, stern lecture by none other than Derpy. The grey mare wasn’t upset at all that Ripple had acted in poor judgment and had snatched up Berry Pinch in an attempted foalnapping. No… Derpy was upset about Ripple missing school. To show her displeasure, Derpy had wing slapped Ripple several times, enough times to draw tears, and when Ripple was truly sorry, Derpy had hugged her, kissed her, hugged her, kissed her once more to say she cared, and then sent her off to school with one final wing slap right across the backside for good measure.

What hurt Ripple more than the wing slapping was the fact that her punishment had been public and had been done in full view of the school. The sting of a wing slap was nothing compared to public embarrassment and the shared sense of shame that pegasi had. Ripple had goofed—and the head of Ripple’s flock had given her sound punishment. Now, her flockmates would tease her about it for a long time, further driving home the lesson. It was a self governance system within the flock that was almost as old as the pegasi tribes were.

Bucky needed to be working on things for the invasion, but he was far too distracted. It was bad, letting everything slide, but he had been under a lot of strain lately and he was no good to anypony if he made it worse. Bucky realised that what he needed was a distraction. Using his magic, he snatched himself up the first foal within snatching distance, which just so happened to be Sukari, who had been going over to check upon her siblings.

The zebra filly let out a startled snort, her blue eyes wide, and she gave her Baba a look of disapproval for scaring her. The hard look vanished when she was held close though. Saying nothing, the quiet filly slipped her forelegs around Bucky’s neck, pulled herself closer, and settled in for a nice snuggle. As Bucky held her, he sorted out the yellow ribbon tied into her mane, and then picked up a nearby currycomb to go over her pelt.

Foals required a lot of brushing. It was an endless task. Squirming in and out of couch cushion forts, sliding over the floor, wrestling on the carpet, having slobbery siblings, the everyday activity of the common foal left their pelts dishevelled and matted. Sukari had enough problems with her scars and her general appearance. She cried if she saw herself in the mirror and she looked too out of sorts.

There were clean, sleek, shiny, well groomed foals, and then there were parents that failed in their most basic duties. Bucky didn’t like failure. He had a standard that he rigorously held himself to. Long ago, he had been the basic maintenance sort. If a foal was a little dirty, they had a quick shower. Manes were brushed just enough to look decent. Pelts were brushed in places that looked matted.

But Bucky had learned that simple, basic maintenance wasn’t enough. Quick showers did not replace thorough scrubbing and actual cleanliness. A well combed, well brushed mane looked good for a lot longer than a mane that only had a comb ran through it with a few quick strokes. The same went for pelts. A thorough regimen of meticulous care saved time in the long run and gave Bucky an excuse to spend time with his little ones.

Of course, Bucky often looked like he was the one that needed meticulous care.

 

 

“Sentinel, you look out of sorts,” Diamond Tiara said in a low voice as she gathered up her books. She had a self image appointment with Little Slip and Doctor Mawu, the overworked zebra bocor that always seemed to be working and never resting.

“I’m fine,” Sentinel replied.

“Liar.” Diamond Tiara poked Sentinel with her hoof.

Sentinel sighed. “I’m not fine,” he said with a huff.

“What’s wrong?” Diamond Tiara asked.

“This.” Sentinel pointed at the stubby blue horn on his forehead.

“Are you upset that you can’t do unicorn magic with it?” Diamond Tiara forgot about her appointment and sat down beside Sentinel. Some of her books were still scattered upon the study table, along with a big pink eraser and a pencil sharpener.

“No.” Sentinel shrugged. “Yes.” He squirmed and turned away from Diamond Tiara. “Maybe.” He let out a frustrated sigh that was the epitome of adolescent non verbal language and then looked at the pink filly beside him. “It’s just there. In the daylight, I have no real magic at all. I can’t make shadow magic happen unless it’s dark. But that isn’t what is bothering me… it isn’t the fact that my horn is useless for most of my waking hours.”

“Then what is bothering you?” Diamond Tiara adjusted her glasses and leaned a little closer to Sentinel.

“The fact that I have it.” Sentinel gritted his teeth for a moment and his folded wings flapped against his sides. “Oh sod everything.”

Diamond Tiara’s muzzle crinkled at Sentinel’s profanity, but she endured. “I don’t understand. Help me understand, Sentinel. If I can understand, I can help you.”

“I don’t deserve this.” Sentinel turned his head and looked Diamond Tiara right in the eye, his snoot a few scant inches from hers. “I didn’t do anything to deserve this.”

“Sentinel, am I going to have to go mega-brute pegasus on you and slap some sense into you?” Diamond Tiara asked in a low voice. “Believe me, I will… I took lessons from Moonbow on how to speak to you in a language you will understand.”

Ears pinning back, Sentinel looked worried for a minute. He assumed a more submissive posture, ducking his head down. “No, really, hear me out.” He gave Diamond Tiara a pleading look. “Just listen to what I have to say.”

“Fine.” Diamond Tiara folded her forelegs across her barrel, took a deep breath, and forgot all about her self image therapy session. “I’m listening and I won’t cast judgment until I’ve heard everything you have to say. But… if you’re acting stupid… I’m telling your mother.” Diamond Tiara left her threat open ended by not saying which mother. It was a dirty thing to do, but all was fair in love and war. Diamond Tiara knew Love and War personally.

Sentinel gulped at the terrible threat. This could end in any number of ways. A wing slapping in front of the school. A lecture. A long lecture. Some very embarrassing cuddle time. The endless possibilities were almost too much to bear.

“I went to face Sombra’s fell shadow… and I wasn’t the one who destroyed him. We all did. I was just sort of there. It was just something that happened and I really didn’t do much of anything, I just stood there while the Hearthfire did what it did. So…” Sentinel’s words trailed off and the colt let out a frustrated huff to empty his lungs.

Sitting there, her forelegs still crossed over her barrel, Diamond Tiara waited and one graceful eyebrow arched, a silent warning, it was almost as if her eyebrow was announcing her intention to carry out her horrible threat.

“As for the Hag… what did I do there exactly?” Sentinel scowled. “I got my face melted off because I slipped into a berserk state. That wasn’t exactly proving myself. That was a failure. No mistake, that was me fecking up. I think about it and I cringe I feel so bad about it.”

“You dodo.” Diamond Tiara rolled her eyes and then focused on Sentinel. She leaned forwards, invading his space, and her snoot touched his. “Apple Bloom says the same stupid crap. She didn’t do anything to deserve becoming a princess. She led a group of ponies through a difficult, no, impossible task and now she is becoming an even better leader. As for you…” Diamond Tiara’s eyes narrowed behind her glasses and she pushed her snoot even more against Sentinel’s causing both her snoot and his snoot to crinkle. “You had a group of ponies who believed in you enough to follow you to the top of the world in a stolen airship to help you do what needed to be done. You had friends that risked paddled plots and an endless summer of punishment to help you. You took initiative to do what needed to be done. Up there, in the frozen north, you took lessons of leadership… hard ones… and you took them to heart. We earth ponies had to be your beasts of burden, even though you hated it. And make no mistake, you hated it. It made me love you, you doofus. You cared about how I and my fellow earth ponies were being treated. That all by itself was a tough lesson and you took it well.”

Sentinel swallowed and at that moment, he wanted the snoot smoosh to become a kiss. Diamond Tiara smelled like toothpaste, chocolate milk, and the raviolis she had eaten at lunch. His heart was thudding in his chest.

“As for the Hag… every great leader has a moment of failure. How they recover from that, how they pick themselves up and continue after falling on their face, that says a lot about their character. So you fell in battle… the Hag put you down… so what?” Diamond Tiara snorted against Sentinel’s nose. “The rats were your finest moment. You led an entire town into battle and your brave actions saved so many. And you didn’t act like some general giving orders from a secure place of safety… oh no, you were right there on the ground with your troops, fighting shoulder to shoulder.”

Blinking, Sentinel realised that was true. He also realised that he felt a little better.

“Now, Sentinel, since it seems that you are having some self image issues, you are going to come with me to therapy. I’m allowed to bring up to one foal, cub, calf, or puppy in need of help to join us in therapy. For Little Slip and I, part of our therapy is helping others.” Diamond Tiara’s forelegs unfolded and she slipped them around Sentinel’s neck. She gave the colt a quick peck on the lips, mindful of the school rules. “Get your stuff together and hurry. We’re late.”

Not knowing what else to say, Sentinel nodded.

 

 

“Master, forgive me, I might have done something stupid.” Sunset Shimmer said these words beneath the sign above the door, the sign with the warning that nopony followed.

Sunset Shimmer looked miserable as she stood in the doorway to the farmhouse. Of Berry Pinch, there was no sign, and it made Bucky worry a bit. There was however, a basket hovering in the air beside her, held aloft in her magic, and Bucky wondered if she had picked up a little gift or something to say she was sorry.

Bucky, raising his eyebrow, got right down to the issue. “Minion, where is wee little Pinchy? Barley hasn’t been bitten in hours and I think it’s starting to affect his mood.”

“I deserve a lot more than sarcasm,” Sunset said as she slumped.

“Minion—”

“Just let me explain,” Sunset said, begging, looking at Bucky with wide, sad eyes. “Look, just let me get everything out, okay?” Sunset waited a moment and watched as Bucky gave her a faint nod. Berry Punch appeared on Bucky’s left, and Derpy moved in on Bucky’s right. Somehow, seeing them made this all the more difficult.

She took a deep breath, stuck her courage to the sticking place, and gave the three of them a nervous smile. “Well, I, uh, well, there is no two ways about it, after Ripple abducted little Pinchy, I did too. I went into Ponyville with little Pinchy and I cried my eyes out to Twilight Sparkle. Twilight tried to help me get sorted out, but Berry Pinch bit her, and I do mean bit her, and there was arterial spurting and everything. Pinchy got a lucky nip on Twilight’s leg and blood gushed everywhere and I started freaking out and Twilight, even with all of the arterial spurting, contacted Princess Celestia asking for help and then Rainbow Dash got her to the hospital before she passed out from blood loss… like I said, it was a one in a million lucky nip and Twilight lost a few pints of blood.”

Sunset paused and found that she could no longer meet her Master’s gaze. She stared down at the floor, took a deep breath, and wondered how to continue.

“Princess Celestia came down from Canterlot… she said she needed the excuse to get away, a committee was boring her to death wanting to discuss the plans to turn Fillydelphia into a tourist trap for the insanely wealthy. She was really, really happy to have the excuse of an emergency to get away.” Sunset Shimmer moved the basket she held in her magic in front of her and her face contorted from her many emotions.

Whimpering, her ears pinning back against her skull, Sunset Shimmer set the basket down upon the floor in front of Bucky. The moment her magic ended, the room was filled with the sounds of wet snuffles and soft breathing. “So I talked to Princess Celestia about everything and she agreed to help me but then she ran into a problem but that’s okay because she understands she had friends to help her now and then Discord got involved and Princess Celestia and Discord worked together and”—Sunset sucked in a deep breath with a sharp whine so she could continue— “and the two of them working together used their magic to roll her age back so she could be a newborn again, kind of like how my special spell works and she’s been given a second chance at life and she’s probably really hungry right about now so you’d better feed her.”

Sunset fell silent and raised her head. She looked Bucky in the eye and was unable to read his expression. Beside Bucky, Berry Punch had her head down in the basket and was rooting through the blanket. There was a flash of soft pink.

“I now owe Princess Celestia one favour. A solid, if you will.” Sunset’s voice was gritty and low. “She also said that she would never do this under normal circumstances, but there wasn’t much of Berry Pinch’s mind up there. She was full on mustang.”

“Minion…”

“Have mercy upon me, Master… I acted out of emotion.” Sunset watched as Bucky took a step closer towards her and every muscle in her body tensed. “She, like so many others, deserves a second chance. Surely there is room for just one more. I’ll change diapers. I’ll help. I’ll help foalsit all of them. Bartleby and Trixie too. I’m sure they’ll help me if I ask.”

Taking another step forward, Bucky kissed Sunset on the cheek as Berry Punch rubbed her face against the tiny foal in the basket. Derpy’s barrel began hitching and her eyes misted over.

Derpy let out a long sigh. “There’s always room for one more, I suppose…”

 

 

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