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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Hearing the flapping of wings, Sentinel looked up to find the source. A slinky black figure descended down and landed in one of the nearby apple trees. He found that he was quite happy to see Boadicea. He nudged Diamond Tiara, who sat beside him, and gave the griffoness a grin.

“Come here to help out?” Sentinel asked, wondering just how much longer he could get away with taking a break.

“Nope.” Boadicea made herself comfortable on the tree branch and waved down at the pair.

“Nope?” Diamond Tiara looked a little disappointed. “Whattaya mean, nope?”

“I mean, nope.” Boadicea held up one talon-finger. “Today, I haven’t been in trouble, I haven’t had to shoot anything, I haven’t had to strangle anything, Loki is finally cutting me some slack, and Lugus let me get away with a few bruises and only one knot on my skull from training.”

“Wow, he’s gone soft,” Sentinel remarked in an astonished voice. “Is something wrong with Lugus?”

“I know, right?” Boadicea, now sprawled out in the fork of three branches, let out a yawn and began to rub her own tummy. She knew it was a dangerous thing to do, but she figured she could get away with it for a while before she tried to nip herself. She let out a contented yowl and ignored the disgruntled stares of the two ponies down below her.

Turning their heads, Sentinel and Diamond Tiara looked at one another, both of them saying a great deal without speaking a word. Eyebrows were raised. Ears perked. Displeasure was expressed. And at the end of it all, Diamond Tiara booped Sentinel on the nose. Turning their heads once more, both looked up into the tree where Boadicea lay sprawled out, rubbing her own belly, making slow, lazy circles with her right talons.

Sentinel gave a nod. Moving at his unspoken command, Diamond Tiara strolled over to the tree, turned around, and lined up her backside with the trunk exactly as Applejack had shown her how to do. She wiggled around, adjusting her aim while looking back over her shoulder, and then unleashed a mighty buck with her two hind legs.

With a startled squawk, Boadicea found herself falling out of the tree. Her wings flapped, but she hit a branch and then took a tumble down to the grass below, where Diamond Tiara stepped aside. Within a fraction of a second of Boadicea hitting the ground, Sentinel pounced, launching himself at the unsuspecting griffoness.

Looking mighty pleased with himself, Sentinel sat down and made himself comfortable on a cushion of nice, soft, screeching griffoness. He slapped her in the face with his tail and then, turning towards Diamond Tiara, he leaned over and touched noses with her while Boadicea squawked beneath him and made angry cat-bird noises.

Never a fair fighter, Boadicea stabbed her wings into a very delicate place and gave Sentinel a tickle. Letting out his own yowl, Sentinel lept up and bolted. Shrieking with laughter, Diamond Tiara fell over backwards and bonked her head on the tree trunk as Sentinel made good his escape.

Sentinel, who had his head turned around and was sticking his tongue out at Boadicea, ran smack into Applejack. He bounced, Applejack didn’t budge so much as an inch, and then, when he turned his head back around to see what he had ran into, Sentinel let out a fearful whimper as he looked into Applejack’s green eyes.

“Just what I needed. A griffon. Griffons is real good with rakes… it’s the fingers, ya see.”

“But I—”

“But you were just distracting and interrupting my workers, right?” Applejack smiled and her eyes glittered with gleeful mischief.

“No, actually, I was about to take a nap in one of your lovely apple trees.” Boadicea sat up and composed herself. “I was just minding my business when all of a sudden I was bucked out of the tree by Diamond Tiara. For no reason.”

“Right…” Applejack nodded. “You can find a rake in the tool shed right next to the barn.”

“Oh… cat farts.” Boadicea slumped over and shook her head. “And I was having a perfect day, too.”

“And now, you can have a perfect day spreading fertiliser with a rake.” Applejack took a deep breath, straightened out her hat, and brushed away some dirt on her foreleg. “No more lollygagging. I want this done before the daylight’s gone. Now get back to work.”

Looking dejected, Boadicea headed off to the tool shed, dragging her paws and claws along the ground. “Nobirdy knows… the troubles I’ve seen… nobirdy but my fleases... nobirdy knows the troubles I’ve seen… nobirdy knows my sorrows…”

Tipping back her hat, Applejack shouted, “Oh, cheer up Boadicea, and sing us all a good ol’ griffon work song!” Somehow, Applejack kept most of a straight face, only the corners of her mouth twitched up and down as the griffoness walked away, her black tail twitching from side to side.

“At the end of the day there’ll be a big dinner and desert and we can all be together.” Applejack looked around and her gaze came to rest upon Diamond Tiara, who she looked at with a fond smile. “But for now, we gotta work. All of ya owe me on multiple accounts, so let’s square off y'all's debts.”

“I lead Apple Bloom astray.” Sentinel’s head drooped and he let out a sigh.

“I didn’t stop Sentinel from being stupid.” Shaking her head, Diamond Tiara sighed as well. “I’m madly in love with a colossal idiot—”

“Hey!” Sentinel blinked his surviving eye.

“Both of y’all need to hush. No talking. More working.” Applejack’s eyes narrowed.

Sulking, Sentinel returned to work, singing in bold defiance. “Nobirdy knows… the trouble I’ve seen…”

 

 

Having felt the all too painful sting of rejection, Bucky let out a hesitant sigh as he approached his own house, uncertain if his family would be happy to see him. He had to trust that Celestia had fixed things, as his nose had taken a vacation. She had assured him that his sense of smell would return… someday. She had also given him knowledge of a spell that would protect him from the stench during his future visits to Tartarus.

Several yards from the front door, he paused and had a look around. In the distance, Ripple was playing with Bittersweet. Both seemed happy as they frolicked in the grass. Ripple almost seemed like a foal again as she pronked around and gamboled. Others were enjoying the spring day as well. Lugnut and Spanner had Sprocket and Cog out in the grass, and Firelock was trying to turn a cartwheel. Students played, enjoying the day off.

Squinting is eye, Bucky realised that his depth perception was back to being wonky again. Feeling a little morose, he sat down in the grass and thought about what he was giving up. A part of him wanted to relent and pop the Eye of Odin back in. But, the eye had secrets, and it told others of his secrets. It was a sapient artifact with a will of its own.

With a heavy heart, Bucky had some second thoughts about giving it to Sentinel. Hearing the sounds of construction, he looked over towards the school, where another greenhouse was being constructed, connected directly to the school itself. He stared, his expression one of vacant boredom, and he thought about how he kept second guessing himself.

There was a flutter of wings and Belisama landed beside him. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t even look at her, but he was thankful that she was there. When she sat down beside him, he let out a contented sigh. She had a shawl around her neck and in that shawl was Bandua, his adorable little horror.

“She’s growing in a little more of her crest,” Belisama said in a low voice. “She’s still mostly bald, but she’ll have a few feathers up there. She is fascinatingly hideous.”

His eye almost closing, Bucky took a moment to bask in the sensation of love that he felt. He thought about Crisis as he felt Belisama’s love, and then, because he thought of Crisis, he thought of Crisis’ mother. He cringed, the wound had festered and had become far more painful. Thinking about Posey made him think of Harper’s mother, in pain and dying. The guilt became a living thing that gnawed at his insides.

“Bucky?” Belisama reached out her small, delicate talons and laid them upon Bucky’s foreleg. “You’re having one of your mood swings… are you okay? What are you thinking?”

“About how I failed,” Bucky replied, being honest.

“Failure happens.” Belisama’s voice was somehow both soft and firm.

“Yeah, but I failed and now, now I have two little foals that will never know their mothers. But they will know the father that failed them.” Bucky shook his head, then reached up and rubbed his face, massaging the skin around his empty eye socket.

“Bucky…” Belisama scooted a little closer and pressed her small body up against Bucky’s side. “Sometimes, sometimes things just happen. It doesn’t mean that you failed. You didn’t fail Harper’s mother, she died, and that’s sad and all, but Harper lived. And as a mother myself, I can say that every mother wants their young to live. As for Chrysalis—”

“Posey!” Bucky snapped with surprising vehemence, his talons clenching.

Startled, Belisama drew her head back, and looked up at her husband. “As for Posey, you are giving Crisis a chance to right her mother’s wrongs. Posey is trusting you to help Crisis make things right.” Belisama’s ruffled feathers smoothed out and she poked Bucky in the side. “As a sister, I don’t think you failed me. Bandua is gone, it pains me, and I’m having trouble accepting it sometimes still, but I don’t blame you for it. You saved me. I get to live and sing songs about my sister’s memory. With you, I have created a living memorial to celebrate my love for my sister.”

There was no reply from Bucky, who just sat there, hunched over and looking dejected.

“What I am trying to say is, some things you just can’t prevent. You can’t be blamed for them. Harper’s mother died, but Harper got lucky. Posey made a choice. She made a choice and she embraced the consequences… there is a story to tell to Crisis, and I can’t wait to sing it to her. I hope I can write a worthy saga. But Posey’s last act provided a great lesson for her daughter to learn.”

Still silent, Bucky just sat there.

“No doubt, right now, you are thinking of some way to blame yourself for the death of Berry Pinch’s mother—”

“No I’m not!” Bucky protested, cutting Belisama off.

Fur and feathers fluffing, Belisama appeared to be almost twice her usual size. She let out a frustrated squawk and shouted, “Your defensiveness reveals everything!”

“No it doesn’t!” For the lack of anything better to say, he repeated himself. “No it doesn’t!”

His words only made Belisama puff up even more and she waved her talons at him in a griffon gesture that could be translated as, “Your eyes, Mister!” Her tail stiffened and slashed around behind her. Reaching up, she grabbed Bucky by his lower lip, pinching it between her talon-finger and her talon-thumb, and with a jerk, she brought his head down to her eye level.

“Othay, maythe Ith thougth abouth ith forth a thwile, buth thenth Ith couldn’th findth a wayth toth blamth mythelf,” Bucky confessed as Belisama yanked him around by his lower lip.

Satisfied with Bucky’s honesty, Belisama gave one final tug and then let go. She trembled, her whole body shook, and then she deflated. Closing her eyes, she pressed herself up against Bucky and clutched at Bandua. She took a few deep breaths and tried to calm herself.

“Hey, what gives?” Bucky asked.

Honesty. Belisama thought about what she had just done to Bucky and the reason why. She owed him an honest response. “The entire time I was doing that, I kept thinking about how I deserved to be punished, because that is no way to treat your owner. I can’t seem to fix my own thinking, Bucky. Sometimes, I still fall back into my old thinking.”

“We’re both creatures of consequence,” Bucky said, breathing out the words in a hushed whisper. “I did, in fact, try to think of some way to blame myself over what happened with Berry Pinch. I didn’t know how else to deal with it. How to cope with it. The only thing I could think of to do was to make myself feel guilty about it, to punish myself over it, so that way I’d feel obligated to do the right thing.”

“And what’s the right thing?” Belisama asked.

“I don’t know anymore,” Bucky admitted. “I haven’t known for a while. I just go through the motions, doing things that I hope I can apologise for and then doing other things just to appease others and make up for all the wrong I’ve done.”

“When everything's said and done, when this is finally over, when this threat has been dealt with, I suppose the survivors can figure out what was right and what was wrong. For now though, for good or for ill, I will follow you. You will not make your mistakes alone.”

“You know, that’s kinda comforting.” Bucky slipped his foreleg around Belisama and pulled her closer. “I don’t stink, do I?”

“Nope.”

“Ah, good.” Bucky let out a sigh. “Now to punish you for being a bad little catbird.”

“Oh no.” Belisama’s crest rose.

“Oh yes… and I’m going to start by kissing you all over…”

“Oh yes,” Belisama breathed. “I’m a naughty catbird. Meow.”

“Now, we just need to find a quiet place where I can make you purr…”

 

 

 

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