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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Hoping that the quiet would endure was its own special type of desperation, the foolhardy kind. It was an impossible hope, one so fragile and so easy to be crushed, yet Berry Punch clung to this hope as she worked through her checklist. Derpy was keeping the foals pacified somehow, allowing Berry to work. Thistle was proving to be competent help. She had grown, Thistle, she had matured quite a bit and had adjusted to life on the mainland.

Bucky was occupied and out of the way, he was somepony else’s problem. She didn’t care that he was off creating mischief for somepony else—she was thankful that he wasn’t here at home creating mischief for her, tugging her tail, being flirty, or being a tease. Not wanting to be one to rush to judgment, but Berry could not help but notice that her husband was a good deal more chaotic now; he was playful and disruptive, but that wasn’t such a bad thing. Until it was, like when one was trying to get important work done.

As she checked off her checklist, she realised that it was time to enlist some help. Berry Punch thought about what to do for a moment, more importantly, she thought about how to do this with some efficiency. There was much that needed to be done for the wedding and every step mattered. Barley had done so much and she owed him. She wanted for him to be happy. He deserved a special moment.

It bothered her that moments were all that Barley would get. Luna, while she no doubt loved him, would never be able to give him the time that he deserved. She was a very busy pony and there would be so many nights when Barley would be alone. Something about this bothered Berry, it bothered her Berry much, but she had said nothing.

To preserve the fragile quiet, Berry knew that desperate measures were necessary. Harper was feeling neglect, there was no doubt about that, and she was acting like a bit of a snot. Sukari was also no doubt feeling some neglect. The two yearlings were at a very needy phase. No doubt, Cadance was as well, but Cadance could not partake in what Berry was planning, which probably would not feel very fair. Poor little Cadance had to be watched over, guarded, protected. Thinking about it made Berry feel bad.

“Piña! Dinky!” Berry cried out, startling Thistle, who was having a quiet moment of recovery while sipping some iced water. She gave the kelpie an apologetic smile and then repeated herself, “Piña! Dinky!” School was out, where was those two?

After a few minutes, Piña burst into the kitchen, looking distracted and a bit breathless. Unable to help herself, Berry stared at her. Piña was growing. Maturing. The layers of foal fat were disappearing and being replaced with lean muscle. Her legs were a little longer, or at least Berry thought they were. There was a wide grin on Piña’s face.

“Piña… I have a job for you. A very important, very grown up, very adult job that I am going to trust you with.” Berry paused for a moment and allowed those words to sink in on Piña before she continued, “You and Dinky both are going to deliver some wedding invitations to just a few ponies. Nothing too strenuous. And you’re going to take Harper and Sukari with you. It’s time to be a big sister.”

Piña’s eyes brightened. “Really?” She blinked a few times and bounced in place. “That sounds great! Wait, whattabout Cadance?”

A soft sigh escaped Berry. “Piña, darling, while I am sure that Cadance would love to get out and about with you and her sisters, we can’t do that and you know why. She has to be protected. While I am sure that Dinky could do a fine job of protecting Cadance, others might not see it that way.” Berry hoped that a bit of flattery would soothe over any protests from Piña.

“You’re right,” Piña replied, nodding her head. The little foal looked disappointed. “Poor Cadance. Oh well, I’m sure she’ll be okay. So you want me to look after Harper and Sukari and drag them all over Ponyville while I deliver wedding invites. I can do that.”

Feeling relieved, Berry nodded.

“Dinky might be a few minutes. She and Sentinel are talking. He’s having a rough day.”

Tilting her head to one side, Berry Punch felt a gnawing curiousity about what might be wrong. “Did something happen?”

“Sentinel had an embarrassing colt problem happen in class and that’s all I’m saying about it. If you want to know more, you can talk to him yourself.” Piña’s cheeks turned a little pinker. “Dinky is helping to get him sorted out. I’m sure she won’t be long and then she and I will wrangle Sukari and Harper and we’ll go out on a grand adventure.”

“Try not to get into too much trouble,” Berry said to Piña.

“No promises.” Piña shook her head. “This is the risk you take when you ask me to help.” Piña’s grin became one of mischievous glee. “If things get troublesome, we’ll go to Bon Bon. She’s at work and she can help.”

Berry nodded and heard Thistle swallowing water. “Piña, there is one part of the job that requires some extra effort. Pinkie Pie. She is invited, but her services as a party planner are not required. She is to be a guest and nothing more. You need to make that clear to her. It might be heart breaking, but you need to make her understand that she is to be a guest, and not in charge of the wedding. We don’t want some big, crazy shindig. We don’t want no Pinkie party.”

“Got it, break Pinkie Pie’s heart.” Piña’s grin vanished and she now looked solemn.

“Be gentle about it!”

“Right, break Pinkie Pie’s heart and do so gently.”

A sour look took over Berry’s face. Piña was going to have to learn how to let other ponies down at some point. Might as well be now. Pinkie might cry a bit or be manipulative, but Berry had no doubt that Piña could also cry and be manipulative. Pinkie was no doubt a better player at this game, but perhaps Piña could learn something.

Staring at Piña, Berry began to have second thoughts about sending Harper and Sukari out with her. At some point, it would need to happen. Yearlings had to be socialised to the big wide world all around them. Harper was a social butterfly, she would be fine, of this Berry had no doubt, but Harper could be devious and she worried about Harper slipping away. As for Sukari, she was so shy and skittish—but at some point, Sukari was going to have to face the world and it would be good for her to learn to depend upon her sisters.

Unbidden, all of the ways that this could go wrong began to trample through Berry Punch’s mind. She reached up and rubbed her cheek with her hoof as she began to reconsider. She looked over at Thistle, who did not seem to be worried about sending Sukari out into the world. She returned her gaze to Piña. It would be okay. Dinky and Piña could be trusted.

“Don’t take too long,” Berry said, snapping herself out of her silence. “I’m sure you have homework to do. Rainbow Dash is probably your easiest target, as she should be just outside, wrapping up for the day.”

“Okay,” Piña replied in a chirpy voice.

“Oh, and Piña?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you, you little rascal.”

“I love you back…”

 

 

Looking up, Piña spotted Rainbow Dash. This was going to be easy. Dinky already had the invitation ready for Rainbow Dash, Twilight, and Flash. The rainbow maned pegasus was punching clouds and breaking up the makeshift obstacle course that had been assembled over the school.

Piña waved and waited to be noticed. Sooner or later, Rainbow was bound to look down. If she didn’t well, Dinky would just have to get Rainbow’s attention. Piña sat down in the grass and heard giggling from Harper.

Rainbow Dash zigzagged a bit and then came streaking down, looking a bit sleek and she had something of a bulge in her middle. Piña of course said nothing, but she wanted to give it a squeeze. Dash didn’t land, but hovered just a few inches off of the ground.

“What’s up?” she asked.

Dinky pulled out an envelope addressed to Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Flash Sentry, Glass Slipper, Spike the Dragon, and Scootaloo. She held it up in her magic and presented it to Rainbow Dash.

“Wedding invitation,” Piña said to Rainbow. “Small quiet ceremony. Not formal.”

“Sounds good, count us in,” Rainbow replied as she took the invitation. “Barley is finally gonna do it… good for him.”

“We have a lot to do so we need to be going,” Dinky said as Sukari stared up at Rainbow Dash with wide, almost unblinking eyes. “We have to go and give Pinkie Pie an invitation and tell her that she’s a guest.”

“Oh…” Rainbow Dash looked worried. “Good luck with that.”

Piña nodded. “Thanks!”

 

 

“Auntie Rayray?” Harper asked as she followed along behind Sukari, moving the confused and somewhat befuddled zebra filly along. “We see Auntie Rayray?” Harper’s eyes were lost, invisible under the tsunami of frizzy orange curls spilling off of her head.

It was a great mystery how Harper saw anything.

“Yes, we’re going to see Auntie Rayray,” Piña replied as she pranced along the long road into Ponyville. Harper loved Rarity with a strange, almost fanatical devotion. It could be said that Harper was obsessed with Rarity and loved to visit.

“No Peekaboo.” Harper bumped into Sukari to keep her moving and her curls bobbed.

“Nope, no Peekaboo on this trip. Just us.” Dinky slowed a bit and fell into step beside Sukari, who looked a bit alarmed and eyed the trees all around them. “It’ll be okay, Suki… try not to worry.”

“It’s a big world and not all of it is bad.” Piña also fell back a bit and walked on the other side of Sukari, sandwiching her in. She felt bad for the little zebra filly as she looked at Sukari’s scarred face. The filly had seen cruelty, she had endured abuse, she had suffered.

But she had also survived. Now, she was recovering. Every day, she seemed just a little bit better. She was starting to smile now, and play, she liked being brushed and having tea parties. Sometimes she even talked to her stuffed animals. Piña didn’t quite know what to make of everything, she didn’t understand everything, but she knew that Sukari was getting better.

Piña had her own scars, she was aware of that now. It was something she had trouble putting into words, but she was aware of it, she thought about it, reflected upon it. She had endured so much, survived so much, and she had been made tougher. She gave Sukari a gentle bump.

“You’re gonna be fine,” Piña said into Sukari’s ear. “Just stick with us and everything will be okay, Suki.”

“Yeah, okay!” Harper chirped. “Rayray time soonsies.”

 

 

Carousel Boutique had a sale sign in the window, something made with glitter and markers. It was rather obvious that Sweetie Belle had made the sign. A pony walked out as Piña approached and she could see inside for a moment. A whiff of perfume and laundry soap wafted out of the boutique and made her feel light headed. There was another scent as well, something fragrant, something delicate, something that made Piña think of Coco; the scent of tea. This was something graceful and elegant, like something Violet Velvet would make for special occasions.

She pushed the door open, stepped inside, and waited for her siblings to follow her. She was pushed aside by Harper, who exploded through the door in a riot of springy, kinky curls and loud over-excited giggles.

“Rayray!” Harper shrieked as her hooves scrabbled over the floor. She almost slipped, skidding sideways, recovered, and then flew right for Rarity, who braced herself for exuberant affection. “Rayray o’ sunshine!”

“Harper!”

There was nopony else in the boutique at the moment and Piña was glad that Harper was getting a chance to have Rarity’s undivided attention. Hearing hooves, she turned and watched as Coco entered the room. There was a serene smile upon Coco’s face.

“Hello, dears,” Coco said in greeting, “how are all of you? Sukari… what are you doing here?” Coco’s soft voice had a calming, soothing effect upon the anxious zebra filly. “Sukari, come here and give me a hug.”

After a moment of apprehensive hesitation, Sukari scooted over to where Coco waited and when Coco sat down on the floor, the little filly embraced the quiet, demure mare and squeezed once she had her forelegs around Coco’s neck.

“What brings all of you out our way?” Coco asked as she snuggled with Sukari.

“Wedding invitations,” Dinky replied as she pulled the whole stack of them out of her saddlebag. She flipped through them and pulled the one addressed to Rarity and Coco. “Come as you are, this isn’t a big formal event.”

“Oooh, fabulous… it will be nice to let my mane down… this week has been very stressful… and Bucky went flying by earlier in that confounded contraption… had the whole town in a tizzy! What was he thinking?” Rarity puckered up her lips and planted an affectionate kiss upon Harper’s cheek. “This mane of yours darling… I do wonder sometimes if there is something that could be done with it.”

“Make Harpy pretty?” Harper asked.

Rarity’s eyes widened. “Oh, Miss Heartstrings, you are already so very pretty!”

“Okay, Dinky, who do we hit up next?” Piña looked over at Dinky, who was looking at a gown. Dinky appeared to be distracted and there was no reply. “Dinky?”

“Huh? Oh… Fluttershy and Discord—”

“Auntie Disco?” Harper’s inquiry came out in a voice that sounded hopeful.

“Darling, I thought I was your favourite auntie.” Rarity’s voice was the perfect impression of mock distress. Her lower lip protruded in a moue and then, much to Rarity’s amusement, Harper copied her expression with perfect accuracy. “You are going to grow up and be so beautiful, darling.”

“Harpy knows this.”

Rolling her eyes, Dinky snorted and then let out a laugh.

“Before you go, would you like a cookie?” Coco asked Sukari. “There are some black molasses gingersnaps… they are still warm.”

“Cookie?” Sukari looked hopeful and she licked her lips with her orange tongue.

Coco’s head bobbed up and down. “Cookie. Just for you, because you are adorable.”

“I’d like a cookie, please,” Piña said to Coco. “We’d be thankful for a cookie.”

“Coco! Give them some cookies!” Rarity turned her blue eyes upon Coco and gave the soft spoken mare a pleading, sad-eyed look. After a moment of staring at Coco, she turned to Dinky and Piña so she could ask, “Do you have time for a glass of milk?”

“I’m sure we do,” Dinky replied. “Thank you for the snack. We appreciate it.”

Her cheeks turning pink, Coco smiled and gave Sukari another squeeze. “I think I like taking care of foals.” She paused, touching her side while looking thoughtful and contemplative. Being the quiet sort, she said nothing but held Sukari, her eyelids fluttering like butterflies in a warm spring breeze.

A concerned look caused a few wrinkles to appear in the corners of Rarity’s eyes. She held Harper up in front of her face and looked the foal in the eye. “Harper, darling, stay away from mirrors… you know what happened the last time… I’m still not sure I trust them!”

 

 

On the road to Fluttershy’s cottage, Harper practiced her pronking, trying to follow Piña’s lead. Pink ponies pronked; it was was something that came natural to them, or so Piña had told Harper. Sukari was starting to relax a little bit, but remained close to Dinky. Some of the residents of Ponyville were still skittish about zebras. While nopony had said anything, some had stared, which had caused Sukari, who was self conscious about her appearance, some concern.

For Dinky, this was a welcomed day. The world was starting to feel safe again, like the world had felt before they had left to the Shetlands. Dinky knew that the world hadn’t been safe then, at least she did on some level, but now, she was more aware of the dangers that lurked, waiting for an opportune time to strike. She couldn’t go back to how things had been, she had seen too much, experienced too much, but she did have an appreciation for when things seemed both calm and peaceful, like now.

She also knew that the world was getting better, safer. The big threats were being dealt with, leaving behind the little threats, like pony eating spiders and the pop quizzes that threatened to destroy your good grades. Somepony needed to do something about those.

As the foals drew near to the cottage, a tall serpentine figure came out to greet them.

 

 

“Auntie Disco!”

“Harpy!” Swooping down, Discord scooped up Harper and held her in his paw and talons. He shook her a bit and gave her a tickle, causing her to laugh, and then, still holding Harper, he addressed the others. “What are you doing here?”

“We have a wedding invitation to deliver,” Piña replied.

“You’ll have to give it to me,” Discord said. “Dearest Fluttershy is sound asleep. Lunacy and Tranquility have wore her out and there was an emergency involving a bear that had a hemorrhoid that Fluttershy had to look after.” The draconequus shuddered. “And you thought that bears were cranky under normal circumstances!”

Dinky pulled the envelopes out of her saddlebag, grabbed one, and put the last two away. She didn’t know what a hemorrhoid was and she wasn’t so sure that she wanted to know, if Discord found it funny. She peered up at the tall figure that was still holding Harper. Discord’s tail took the envelope and for a moment, Dinky had a very real fear that her father was going to wind up looking a lot like both Fluttershy and Discord. It was a very real fear for her and for reasons why she couldn’t explain, it filled her with dread.

“We’ll try to make it, but being creatures of chaos with two little bundles of chaos, it can be very difficult to accomplish anything,” Discord said in a voice that contained no trace of mirth. He slumped over a bit, looking very tired, and looked Harper in the eye as he held her. “Auntie Disco is worn out, Harpy. You look well. Electrocute somepony yet today?”

“Not yet,” Harper replied.

“Good deal.” Discord gave the forthright foal a nod of approval. “You smell like gingersnap cookies.”

“Yep.” Harper gazed into Discord’s eyes with unabashed affection.

“Well then, off with you… all of you… you had cookies, but not a one of you thought to bring me one.” Discord put Harper down upon the ground. “Shoo! I have work to do. Great work. Perhaps the greatest work any draconequus could aspire to. I am going to make Fluttershy’s chickens lay colourful decorated eggs!”

“What?” Piña asked, confused.

“Away with you!” Discord made a dismissive gesture and waved Piña away. “Really, foals these days! No respect!”

Just as Piña tried to protest, just as she tried to say something, Discord snapped his talons and then the world smelled like cheese, but not in a good way. Stinky cheese, left in the sun, smelly, repugnant, horrible cheese that made a pony feel nauseous but some ponies who just weren’t right in the head still ate it anyway, because they were weirdos and some ponies were just born wrong.

And then, Piña found herself someplace else…

 

 

Piña stood inside of Sugarcube Corner, looking at some very surprised ponies that were busy looking back at her. There was a lot of blinking, as ponies tended to do when faced with something that surprised them, stumped them, shocked them, or times when they just didn’t know how to react.

“Harpy smelled cheese.”

“Yes, Harper, I think we all smelled cheese,” Dinky said to her younger sister.

“I miss being a turtle.” Sukari stood frozen, there was no place to hide, there were ponies on all sides and no matter which way she went, ponies were able to stare at her. She pressed up against Dinky and tried to wait it out. Then, without warning, she sneezed because of the lingering scent of cheese.

“We came to deliver a wedding invitation,” Piña said, explaining their sudden appearance. “Don’t mind us, no reason to panic, Discord, uh, he did this.” Upon saying these words, Piña noticed that everypony calmed down and behaved as if everything was normal.

She also noticed that there was a chubby griffon eating cake in a corner booth.

Pinkie Pie came stumbling out of the kitchen, looking exhausted. Her eyelids sagged and she looked weary. She trudged over to where Piña stood, looked for a moment, yawned, and then sat down upon the floor.

“My Pinkie sense says I’m about to get invited to something.” Pinkie sounded half asleep.

Licking her lips, Piña swallowed, and then prepared herself. “Uh, Pinkie Pie, Berry Punch wants you as a guest at the wedding. Not as a planner, or in charge, or running the party, or anything—”

“Really?” Pinkie’s eyes widened. “Just a guest? That’d be great… I’m party pooped.”

Sukari and Harper both giggled at the word ‘pooped.’

“You’re okay with this?” Piña asked.

“Spring.” Pinkie rolled her eyes and waved with her hoof, as if she was dismissing something. “Soooooooooooooo many foals born in the spring. Too many. So many birthdays. I can’t keep up. I’m sick and tired of parties. I just wanna be a guest.”

“Well,” Dinky said as she pulled out Pinkie’s invitation, “this all works out then. Nothing will be expected of you at the party. Just show up and have fun.”

“Great!” Pinkie let out a cheerful but weary sounding sigh, snatched the invite, and then it vanished when she tucked it into her mane. “Cheesy and I will be there and somepony else can throw a party for a change.”

Dinky was just about to say something when she heard a faint, somewhat lispy voice say her name. “Dinky.” She turned and saw Twist. Almost right away, Dinky felt tongue tied and a bit awkward, and she didn’t know why. She stood there, stammering, unable to say anything.

“Do you think you can help me with my homework?” Twist asked.

Dinky stared, she wanted to help Twist with her homework, she really, really did, but she had Harper and Sukari to look after, and her own homework, and there was so much left to do, Applejack still needed an invite, and—”

“Please?” Twist looked hopeful. “I don’t understand the social studies assignment we have.”

“Dinky, I can look after Sukari and Harper… I think she needs your help.” Piña gave Dinky a helpful shove towards Twist. “Have a nice time you two, I need to go. Come on, Sukari and Harper.”

“Buhbootles!” Harper said, waving.

“Huh?” Pinkie looked confused and tilted her head to one side.

“Buhbye and tootles all mixed together,” both Dinky and Piña said at the same time.

“Oh, that makes sense.” Pinkie nodded. “Buhbootles!”

And with that, Piña made good her exit, taking her smaller siblings with her and leaving Dinky behind.

 

 

Sweet Apple Acres rose up from the road ahead like a pop up castle in a foal’s pop up storybook. Piña felt her pace quicken when she saw the orchard. She liked this place, she liked the ponies here, and she, like most ponies, had a fondness for apples. Sukari walked on her left and Harper on her right. Sukari seemed to be doing okay, she stayed close, but appeared to have relaxed a little, for which Piña was thankful.

Off in the distance, she saw Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara off doing something, Diamond Tiara was hooked up to a wagon. It was springtime, so there was lots of work to do on a working farm, and hours to do homework would be scarce. She waved and kept going.

The sweet smell of apple blossoms were heavy in the air and something about the whole thing made Piña wish that Larch and Babs were here with her. Distracted, she did not notice that part of her wish had been granted, as Larch was just but several yards away, doing work in exchange for a few bits, as well as getting in Applejack’s good graces. As for the other half of her wish, Babs was indoors, wrestling with a complex astronomy assignment.

No doubt about it, with Granny Smith gone, this was Applejack’s farm now.

As Piña approached, Applejack herself strolled out to greet her, and much to Piña’s shock and surprise, Applejack was hatless. The orange mare was wet and her mane clung to her neck, forming serpentine tendrils.

“Howdy.” Applejack came to a stop and smiled. “The new well is giving me trouble.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Piña replied. “I have a wedding invitation for—drats!”

“What?” Applejack’s eyebrow arched.

“I was supposed to deliver a wedding invitation to you, but it is sitting in Dinky’s saddlebag, and she’s off with Twist.” Piña gave Applejack a sheepish grin.

“That’s okay,” Applejack replied. “No sense worrying about it, Piña. Just bring it by whenever or send it home with Apple Bloom. You doing okay?”

“I’m fine.” Piña smiled.

Beside Piña, Sukari let out a whimper as she looked at the wooden carts. The zebra filly’s eyes glimmered with both tears and worry. Piña, noticing this, stopped smiling and thought about what to do.

“I think I need to go… I think Sukari is getting upset.”

“It appears that way,” Applejack replied. She gave herself a shake, whipped her mane out of her face, and then whipped her tail a few times to get some of the water out. “Sukari, darling, you gonna be okay?”

“Wanna go home.” Sukari turned her big wide eyes upon Piña and gave her a pleading look. “Home now.”

“Okay.” Piña gave the filly a reassuring nudge. “Sorry, Applejack, but I think I need to go. Sometimes, stuff just sets her off. She can’t help it. I’d love to stay longer, but she looks really upset.”

“I ain’t in the mood to deal with that confounded well, so I’ll tell ya what. I’ll walk you home and see if I can’t make little Suki feel better.” Applejack looked down at the zebra filly, lowered her head, and booped Sukari on the nose. “How’s that sound?”

“Home,” Sukari said, making a single minded reply.

“Let me go and get my hat… ponies might freak out if they saw me without it…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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