29w, 2dThe Cake Family
Pound Cake didn't need to see the sun to tell that it was morning. He had his own personal alarm clock: the smell of cupcakes baking. Grinning, he leapt out of his bed and ran downstairs, ignoring his twin sister's grumbles. He slid into the kitchen on slippery hooves.
"Awake already?" asked Pinkie Pie, tossing a batch of pink cupcakes into the oven. "Maybe you can help me make the next batch of cupcakes!"
Pound Cake felt a knot grow in his chest, but he forced himself to keep smiling. "Um, no thanks. But I'm okay with watching you do it." He wasn't lying—he loved to watch Pinkie Pie bake. For as long as he could remember, he had always sat in the kitchen, while Pinkie Pie created some crazy new concoction.
Pinkie gave him the same worried smile that she had been giving him ever since he stopped baking, but she didn't force anything on him, which he was relieved about. He would never tell his mother and father, of course, but sometimes he felt more comfortable with Pinkie Pie than with them.
"Um, anyway, I've been thinking about how I should get my cutie mark," he said quickly. Pinkie's face brightened. He knew that she had been waiting for him to get his cutie mark ever since Pumpkin Cake got hers a year ago, but his parents had obviously told her not to rush it. "I was thinking that, um, maybe I could get my cutie mark in flying or something? I know that it probably won't happen, but . . ." He let his voice trail off. He didn't want to get her hopes up. Since when had he succeeded at anything?
"Ooh! That sounds super-fun!" Pinkie's cheery side was back. "How are you going to do it?"
Pound fidgeted. "Um, actually, I haven't really figured that part out yet. I figured that, I don't know, fly a really long distance or something. I'm the best flier in my class," he said, trying to make it sound like he wasn't bragging. "Didn't one of your friends get her cutie mark in flying?"
"Rainbow Dash did," said Pinkie Pie brightly. "She did a sonic rainboom! Maybe she could teach you!"
Pound Cake's shoulders fell. "Right. A sonic rainboom." Rainbow Dash was the only known pony that could do a sonic rainboom, so Pound didn't quite have high expectations. If that was what it took to get a flying cutie mark, he could cross flying off the list as a potential cutie mark. "I don't think that I'll be able to do that."
"Saying something's impossible makes it impossible!" said Pinkie Pie brightly, stirring pink frosting at lightning speeds. "My friend Twilight says that it's impossible to farm rocks, but my family sure was able to! We always had a big rock harvest every winter, and Dad just wrote to me telling me how many rocks sprang up out of the ground a weeks or so ago."
"Right," said Pound Cake. Most ponies were hesitant to believe Pinkie's stories, but years of living with her had taught him to just accept that she could do anything. "But anyway, Pinkie, I was thinking that maybe I could do something aside from a sonic rainboom. You know, something that's a little bit more . . . reasonable." He took a step towards the door, feeling hopeless even before he had experimented with flight. Pinkie Pie dashed out to block to door of Sugarcube Corner.
"You're looking upset again," she warned him. She held up a bag of flour. "I don't have to pour this flour on me, do I, Poundy?"
He smiled in spite of himself. According to Pinkie Pie, the first time she foalsat him and Pumpkin, they had cried nonstop unless she dumped a bag of flour on herself. (There was also a part of the story where he flew around the room and Pumpkin levitated herself with magic, but he didn't quite believe that part.) "No, Pinkie, I'm fine. I'm just a little tired. And don't call me Poundy."
"Here, take this cupcake," she commanded him, shoving a warm cupcake into his mouth. "I'll tell your parents where you are! Be home for breakfast, Poundy!"
He didn't bother to correct her about his nickname. "I will," he said, his mouth still full of cupcake. Turning to the door, he fluttered his wings just enough to lift himself off the bakery floor and drifted lazily out the door.
Outside, the sun was starting to warm the roads. A few ponies were setting up their businesses, including Pinkie's friend, Applejack. The orange pony waved to him brightly as she poured bushels of apples inside baskets. Blushing, Pound Cake waved back and avoided eye contact. He always felt a bit nervous around Pinkie Pie's friends—they had saved Equestria too many times to count and were personal friends with Princess Celestia! (Although, to be fair, he felt nervous around most ponies, unlike his outgoing twin.)
Feeling self-conscious flying around other ponies, Pound Cake veered away from the road and drifted a bit higher, just above the roofs of the houses. Flying always cleared his mind and allowed him to think, which sometimes was good and sometimes was terrible. Terrible was a good word for the thoughts going through his mind now.
It's not your fault, he told himself, echoing his parents' words. She forgives you. It's not a big deal. You worry too much. It was an accident. An accident. Why did he always have to cause so many accidents? Who cared if he didn't mean to cause them? He could seriously hurt somepony—and he had hurt somepony.
He stopped in midair, allowing himself to hover for a moment before he fell to the ground. Luckily, he wasn't high enough to hurt himself—or somepony else, he thought, the memory invading his mind as usual before he could banish it.
Pound Cake lay in his sprawled position on the ground for a few moments, enjoying how it felt to be connected to the earth. Sometimes, when he was flying or even when he was just walking, it felt to him that he wasn't really in Equestria—like somepony had stolen his soul away from him and he was just a body going through the movements.
Pound heaved himself off of the ground and slowly plodded back home, where there were distractions from his thoughts.
As long as he didn't look directly at his sister.
When he got back to Sugarcube Corner, there was already a line of hungry ponies. He gave a quick smile to Pinkie, who was serving the ponies, and headed to the more private section of the bakery, where his parents were frantically stirring up cake batter.
"Good, you're here," said his mother, globs of frosting stuck in her normally perfect hair. "Quick, eat your cereal and go bring these treats to Pinkie." She gestured to the many trays of desserts on the bakery's counters. "The ponies are beginning to get anxious, and the last thing we want are unhappy customers. We would do it, of course, but some unicorn in Canterlot ordered a cake that he has to have by the end of today." Pound Cake bolted down his cereal while his mother and father grumbled about how some ponies just couldn't be bothered to tell them in advance.
He abandoned his half-eaten cereal, growing tired of hearing his parents talk about business. He grabbed a tray of cookies, careful not to get too near to the oven, and pranced away.
"Hey Pinkie, I've got more—" He froze when he saw a flash of an orange mane. He tried to put down the cookies at Pinkie's hooves and slink away, but she spotted him before he could disappear.
"Poundy!" squealed Pinkie Pie, wildly waving a hoof. Everypony in the bakery turned to Pound Cake, who was blushing furiously and attempting to slowly back away without anypony noticing. She scooped him up with one hoof. "Are you going to help me serve these hungry ponies today, or are you busy helping your mom and dad in the kitchen?"
"Um, actually, I'm supposed to bring the treats to you," stammered Pound Cake. He was still trying to escape the room. He couldn't be in a room with her.
"You sure? Don't you want to serve ponies like your sister?" asked Pinkie Pie. With the hoof that wasn't holding Pound Cake, she scooped up Pumpkin Cake and dangled them in front of each other.
It was just as bad as Pound remembered it. The streaks of black and pink across her yellow face. Her horn chipped like a Changeling. He struggled to escape Pinkie's hoof, struggled to escape the staring ponies, struggled to escape the memories that were attacking him . . .
Laughing siblings. One misplaced hoof, and a filly's life changes forever. One second the air's filled with sugar and laughter, the next second it's filled with screams. And all you do is stand there and—
"Will you hurry up?" complained a stallion in the middle of the line. "I want my cupcakes already!"
"Yeah," shouted a gray pegasus. "I could be eating a dozen muffins by now!"
Pound managed to escape the powerful grasp of Pinkie Pie and sprinted back to the kitchen, trying to breathe.
"What took you so long?" asked his father, looking even more stressed than his mother. "It sounds like there's some sort of mob going on out there! Is Pinkie doing her job?"
"Yeah," gasped Pound, trembling from head to hoof. "E-Everything's okay." He grabbed a pan of muffins and handed it to Pinkie, who was oblivious to his panic. "Pinkie, would you mind asking Pumpkin if she'll get the food for a little bit? I've got to go do something important."
As soon as her pink head bobbed up and down, Pound disappeared out the doors and flew as fast as he could down the streets, stopping beneath a tall tree to catch his breath. He sank down, every bit of him shaking, and allowed himself to cry.