Sparkler walked up the sidewalk to her house humming cheerfully to herself. It had been a long time since she’d felt so good about her life- not since Butch had jilted her at the altar just over a year ago. It had been quite a shock then to find out that Butch really hadn’t given up his old ways of banditry, but over time Sparkler had picked up the pieces to her life and had started over. Sparkler could even bring herself to wish Butch well, and wonder if he had had success with the old sweetheart he had alluded to in his farewell letter.
But Sparkler’s new, bright outlook on life had also been helped along by a certain stallion. Several weeks ago, her best friend Powder had introduced her to her brother, Talcum. Since then, Sparkler had been seeing a lot of him and believed his intentions were honorable. In fact, she was hurrying home right now in order to prepare for their date that evening.
However, as Sparkler neared her house, she started as she saw there was a figure leaning against the siding next to the door. She couldn’t be sure, but could it be- “Butch?!” she gasped.
“Uh... hey, Sparkler,” the stallion looked up sheepishly from under his cowboy hat.
“What are you doing here?” Sparkler said warily.
“Well, to pay off my debt to you, of course.” With a flourish, Butch presented her with an envelope stuffed full of bills.
Sparkler took it incredulously. “Your debt?”
“I did take off with a lot of your store’s stock when I left,” Butch said nonchalantly. “You didn’t think I was just going to leave you hanging, did you? That envelope there covers the cost of all the gewgaws I took, plus interest.”
“Butch! I’m amazed!” Sparkler said admiringly.
Butch looked hurt. “Did I really seem like that kind of stallion?”
Sparkler refrained from replying. “Well... thanks. It’s very... kind... of you.”
“And if you could put in a good word for me to the police?” Butch put forward hopefully.
“If you promise not to get in any trouble like this again,” Sparkler said sternly. “But this repayment does cause me to look more kindly upon your past behavior. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Gee, thanks, Sparkler!” Butch said gratefully. “That means a lot to me. I mean to set up housekeeping in these parts again and wouldn’t want any of my past indiscretions to harm my family.”
“Your family?” Sparkler echoed.
“Yep,” Butch said proudly. “Me and my girl back in Bolivia finally tied the knot, and I decided to bring her and little Butch, Jr. back to my home here.”
“A baby, too? Congratulations!” Sparkler said warmly, though she had her suspicions as to why exactly Butch had had to vacate Bolivia.
Butch beamed. “And he’s already taking after his old man. Heh, heh.” He abruptly changed the subject when he saw Sparkler’s censorious look. “Er... well, I’d better be gettin’ back to them. You won’t forgot to see the police as soon as you can, right?”
“I’ll try and get it done before I change my mind,” Sparkler said dryly. “So we’ll be seeing you around again.”
“Could be,” Butch said succinctly, pulling his hat down further over his eyes. “Well, thanks again. I knew I could count on you.”
* * *
Meanwhile, back in Butch’s cabin in the Dark Forest, a mare was industriously working to clear out the dust and dirt that had accumulated in a year while humming a lullaby for the benefit of a newborn baby pony ensconced in a makeshift crib.
Suddenly, a knocking was heard on the cabin door. Bolivia was immediately on edge. Who else but Butch would have come here? And Butch would have simply let himself in. Praying her husband hadn’t gotten himself into trouble, she opened the door with trepidation.
Bolivia’s worst fears were confirmed as a police officer stepped forward, flashing his badge. “Ma’am, do you know anything about the whereabouts of a stallion going by the name of Butch?”
“Oh!” the mare gasped in dismay. “You are here for Butch?”
“Yes,” the officer confirmed. “He’s wanted for a robbery. Any information you could give us would be appreciated.”
“But he told me he’d given up all that!” Bolivia wailed, becoming thoroughly distraught.
“Just what relation are you to Butch, ma’am?” the officer queried, while the two lackeys behind him fended off a duck bent on their demise.
“H-his wife,” Bolivia stuttered, grabbing up the baby pony and clasping him to her protectively.
“Well, why don’t you come down to headquarters with us and answer a few questions about your husband.”
* * *
Butch walked down the forest path, whistling merrily. Now that Sparkler’s cooperation was assured, he wouldn’t need to worry about Bolivia being ostracized for what he’d done last year. Hey, maybe tonight he’d take her around town and show her the sights! The Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe was, of course, a must-see. And then the casino, where he could find out if his luck was still holding out. And, heck, maybe he’d even let Bolivia do some shopping for around the house, even if interior decorating really wasn’t his thing.
“Hey, Liv!” Butch hollered upon opening the door after stopping to greet an obnoxiously quacking Quackers. “I got that debt I told you about settled. How about I show you around Dream Valley tonight? Umm... Liv?” Suddenly realizing he didn’t have an audience, he peered into the other two rooms of the small shack. No one there.
Butch went back outside. “Quackers, what’s up here?” he asked his pet duck, puzzled. “Liv and Baby Butch aren’t outside, are they?”
Quackers quacked angrily and with one wing pointed down the path leading towards Dream Valley. Then Butch started noticing a number of fresh hoofprints in the dirt, ones that he hadn’t made.
“The scoundrels,” Butch scowled as he started off after his wife and son.
* * *
Granite was on duty at the front desk, reading over his latest letter from Niobe, when a furious dark blue stallion barged through the front doors.
“Alright, what have you done with my wife and son?” Butch demanded, standing in front of the desk and glaring down at the stallion.
Granite’s eyes bugged out as he realized the identity of this citizen. “B-Butch?” he stuttered. “Oh, man. Chief!”
The chief, who was in fact Tawny, and not the head of the fire department whom he often got confused with, poked his head through a door off the main entrance. “What is it, Granite?” Then he noticed the other stallion at the desk. “Well, well! Just the pony we were looking for, Butch!”
“Tawny!” Butch snapped, seeing the real object of his ire. “What have you done with Liv and Baby Butch?”
“Don’t take that tone with me, buddy,” Tawny said threateningly. “Stridor brought them in earlier for questioning after we got tipped off to some activity back in your cabin.”
“Is it a crime to move back into the area?” Butch said irritably. “Let me see them!”
“Step on in,” Tawny invited dryly. “While you’re reassuring yourself on their safety, allow us to refresh your memory on exactly why you’re in our black books.”
“Oh, man, don’t tell me it’s still that stunt I pulled with casino!” Butch complained. “That was just some harmless fun, and-“
”That was you?” Tawny said in surprise. “Well, anyway, apparently you’ve forgotten the whole incident with Sparkler last year...”
“Butch!” Bolivia, seated with Baby Butch at a table inside the room, cried out. “Thank goodness you’re here! They said you were involved in a robbery!”
“Aw, Liv, they’re blowing it all out of proportion,” Butch said flippantly. “It’s just a loan I took from a friend before coming to win your hoof. Don’t let these guys confuse you with details.”
Tawny took a seat at the head of the table. “All right, Butch, now that you’re here, let’s hear your side of the story.”
A lot of good Sparkler’s done for me, Butch thought sullenly as he launched into his explanation.
* * *
At that moment, a purple-haired blue-bodied unicorn entered the station, looking self-conscious. “Umm...” she approached Granite, “Is Tawny available?”
Recognition dawned on Granite’s face. “Ah, Miss Sparkler! You must be here concerning Butch.”
“Yes, how did you know?” Sparkler asked curiously. “I want to drop charges against him.”
“You want to what?”
“He paid me back,” Sparkler insisted. “I want him off the hook for the robbery of my store last year. Really.”
Granite looked apprehensively at the questioning door room. “Umm... chief...”
* * *
“Butch! What are you doing here?” Sparkler exclaimed upon being admitted into the room.
Butch scowled at her. “You could have acted a little sooner, y’know.”
“What, how was I supposed to know you’d be getting into trouble with the law so soon?” Sparkler snapped. “I wasn’t about to cut short my date-“
”Hey, that’s just not fair, Sparkler! These officers abducted-“
”Now, now, let’s calm down and discuss this like civilized ponies,” Chief Tawny took charge. “What was your purpose in coming here, Sparkler?”
“Butch came by my house earlier,” Sparkler said after taking several deep breaths, “and explained his reasons for taking off with my store’s stock last year. He also paid me back for everything that was taken, so I’d like those charges against him dropped.”
Tawny looked bemused. “That seems to agree with what Butch told me. Are you sure you want to do this, Sparkler?”
Casting a quick glance at Butch, then at Bolivia and Baby Butch, Sparkler nodded her head. “Yes.”
“Well then-“ now Tawny looked at Butch- “unless you want to tell me more about the casino incident, I guess you’re free to go.”
“Gee, thanks!” Butch said. “See, what did I tell you, Liv? These cops always exaggerate things.”
Bolivia still looked nervous. “Gracias,” she said to Tawny. “Thank you.”
Butch grabbed her foreleg and pulled her towards the door before Tawny could change his mind. “Okay, Liv. Now that that’s taken care of, let me take you out on the town and I’ll introduce you to everyone in style! It’s been a pleasure, Tawny, Sparkler.” He quickly whisked his family out back onto the street.
* * *
“So,” Tabby was saying to her companion, Baby Noddins, over ice cream sundaes, “I’m like, wow! And then Ah-Loh looked in the mirror and said, ‘Me scared.’ “
”Furby dress-up sounds like fun,” Noddins replied. “I’ll have to try it with Waylo.”
“Well, look who we have here!” A dark blue hoof slammed another sundae onto the table. “See, Liv, I told you some of my old buddies would be here. Hey, Tabby! Mind if we join you?”
Tabby gaped. “Butch? You’re back?”
“In the flesh,” Butch said proudly.
Baby Noddins’ eyes bugged out. “Cool!”
“And,” Butch said with a flourish, “let me introduce you to my lovely wife, Liv- er, Bolivia, and, of course, Baby Butch.”
“Hola,” the mare spoke up shyly, and Noddins eagerly invited her to sit down next to her.
“Greetings,” said Tabby, still a bit stunned. “It’s a... pleasure.”
“Ooh, he looks just like you, Mr. Butch!” Noddins enthused over the newborn baby pony Bolivia held. “Do you have a last name, Bolivia?”
Bolivia had to admit that she did not, but nevertheless Noddins immediately drew her into an involved conversation on the intricacies of pony names. While they were thus occupied, Tabby turned her attention to Butch.
“Tell me everything,” she demanded, always eager for details.
“Everything?” Butch blinked. “Oh, you mean after I left?”
Tabby nodded sagely. “You did leave under rather suspicious circumstances. And then Tex disappeared in December. What’s been up with you two?”
“Why, I didn’t think you cared about Tex, Tabby!” Butch said in surprise.
“I don’t,” Tabby said venomously. “But I’m curious. So tell me! Why’d you rob Sparkler and run off and all?”
“To get money, of course,” Butch said matter-of-factly. “I wanted to keep Bolivia in some measure of comfort after we were married. Besides, I paid Sparkler back. I guess it was a kinda shabby way of treatin’ her, but I couldn’t find any other way to get enough money to go back to Bolivia before Tex did.”
Tabby’s ears perked up. “Ooooh, you mean both you and Tex were in love with her?”
Butch scowled. “Yeah. But Tex hardly knew how to appreciate her. We both promised her we’d be back when we had enough money to support a family. As you can see, that bounder Tex got too caught up in the local mares to give another thought to Bolivia. That was just as well for me, of course,” he concluded.
“How exciting!” Tabby squealed. “But when Tex left Dream Valley last year, he did go to Bolivia, didn’t he?”
“After his current twinkle-eye dumped him, he finally followed me to try and win Bolivia’s favor,” Butch concurred. “But, of course, it was too late... seeing as she’d already married me and all.”
Tabby clapped her hooves gleefully. She always enjoyed hearing of Tex’s misfortunes. “That’s grand! Hey, you’re gonna stay around here now, aren’t you?”
“That’s the plan,” said Butch. “I still got my cabin out in the woods, and that’ll work for us fine. Quackers has kept any intruders away from it during my absence.”
Tabby scowled as she recalled last fall’s incident with Butch’s pet duck. “Yeah, except for the wild party he threw for all the local pets.”
“Did he, now?” Butch said in surprise. “Well, I suppose he got awful lonely out there. I see he’s got a pretty new mate now, though.”
“Yes, she was supplied by a local farmer so Quackers wouldn’t abduct other pony’s pets any more,” Tabby explained. “And she’s a Rouen, just like him, so there aren’t any family feuds to take them apart.”
“Ah, is that what happened with his first girl?”
“Yes. She was a mallard, you know. Her family wasn’t too pleased that she was involved with a Rouen.”
“My, you sure know a lot about animals, Tabby,” Butch said, impressed.
“Speaking of animals, what happened to Tex after he caught up with you?” Tabby said conversationally.
“I haven’t kept track,” Butch shrugged, “but I heard rumors he was spending some time back in his native Texas. Supposedly found another girl to court.”
“Like that means much,” Tabby said cryptically.
“Hey, is that a hint of ill-usage I hear in your voice?”
Smack! came the resounding reply as Tabby walloped him over the head. Butch quickly took back his insinuations.
“So how old is Baby Butch?” Tabby said conversationally as Butch sat nursing the new wound on his head.
“Oh... ‘bout two weeks or so,” Butch conceded. “Born halfway between here and Bolivia.”
“It can sound very strange talking about two different Bolivias at the same time,” Tabby commented. “Hey, why don’t you and Bolivia stop by for dinner some night?”
“With your cooking? No, thanks,” Butch put up his hooves in defense.
Tabby glared at him. “I have gotten better, you know. I’ll have you know that even without Elaine to help me, I was able to put an entire meal on the table for Mom and Dad. And they actually ate it!”
“Well, you’ve made me curious. This I have got to see. An edible meal made by Tabby, who would have thought!” Butch shook his head and slowly inched away as Tabby started glaring at him again. “Alright, we’ll take you up on that offer sometime. See ya around, girls.” Tipping his hat to Tabby and Noddins, Butch took his leave along with Bolivia and Baby Butch.
“This is so cool!” Baby Noddins enthused after they were gone. “I’ve got to go and tell Baby Falling Leaves.”
“I don’t have anybody to tell,” Tabby pouted. “Sugarberry and Vanguard are off in Vulcanopolis, and Tiffany doesn’t care about gossip anymore... well, I suppose she might be interested to hear about Baby Butch... the new Tiffany will probably immediately send over some aid... plus there’s Tamara too, I keep forgetting she’s back in Dream Valley now with little Hugh... Clever Clover and the guys might be interested, too...” She grinned at Baby Noddins. “You’re right. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”