Cup and Carrot went into the living room, greeting Pound.
It took him a few seconds before their words got through to him, and he turned slightly toward them. “Hi,” he responded, his eyes flitting away with a touch of guilt.
The two of them sat on the couch, calling him over. Once again, he hesitated before complying. They placed him in between them, sitting on both their laps, each of them putting a leg around him.
Pound didn’t react.
“You’re hurting again, aren’t you, Pound?” Cup asked gently.
He tensed a bit, but didn’t answer.
“It’s okay to feel bad. We just want to make sure you know that we love you very much.”
He tried to get away from them, but they held him tighter.
“Please stay with us, Pound,” said Carrot. “We just want to talk with you.”
“N-no, you don’t!” He sniffed, tears starting to come down his eyes. “You want to yell at me, don’t you? You never punished me for annoying Pumpkin.”
“That’s wrong,” said Cup. “Nothing we do can punish you worse than you’re punishing yourself. That’s the same thing Pinkie explained to Pumpkin. If you poke a beehive enough eventually you’re going to get stung, and so you’ve already experienced your punishment by the consequences of your actions.
“So we’re not here to scold you or yell at you. You already feel bad enough. What’s the point of rubbing it in? We experienced our own consequences of that before when the two of you ran away from home, and we’re not going to make that mistake again.”
Pound looked between his parents, hoping they were being truthful. “So what do you want?”
“We told you,” said Carrot. “We just want to talk to you… spend some time with you. That’s okay, right? You’re our son, after all.”
He felt very suspicious. This wasn’t how things usually went. “And do what?” he asked.
“Whatever you want to.”
Pound crossed his hooves. “I don’t believe you. You’re probably just pretending to be nice so you can tell me to apologize to Pumpkin later when I’m in a good mood.”
Cup pulled her hoof from around him, picking him up and turning him around so he was facing her. She set him down in the middle of her lap. “Now, Pound, I don’t believe that’s fair. We already explained that we’re not getting involved in your squabble. It’s fair that you’re mad at Pumpkin for what she said, so if you don’t want to talk to her right now we’re not going to force you to do so. But why are you punishing us when we didn’t do anything wrong?”
His eyebrow went up. “What are you talking about?”
“Pumpkin was the one that said something hurtful to you, right?” He nodded. “You’ve been avoiding her, maybe because you were scared she’d say some more hurtful things, but up until Pumpkin left the house you wouldn’t come near us either. You didn’t leave the room, but you wouldn’t come to sit on our laps or ask for a bedtime story, or any of the other things we usually do together.
“That time we can have together with our children is very precious and means a lot to us.” She pulled him closer to her, giving him a loving hug. “Why shouldn’t I get to snuggle my little Pound Cake when he’s not even upset with me?”
Pound moved his legs so he was hugging her back. “I… I guess I was just expecting you to be mad at me.”
“Of course we were a little upset. We do wish you’d make better choices when you’re angry, but it doesn’t stop us from loving you. As we said before you already feel bad enough. We don’t need to make you feel worse by rubbing it in.”
Pound sank into her hold, enjoying the contact. “I’m glad you’re not doing that.” He gave her some nuzzles. “I kept expecting you to yell at me or something, so I guess I didn’t think you wanted to hug me.”
Cup bent over a little, kissing his forehead. “I’m always willing to provide hugs when you ask for them. I’m your mom, after all.”
Backing up a little he looked into her kind eyes, tears starting to form in his own. “WHY DID PUMPKIN HAVE TO SAY THAT?” He sniffed, his eyes clenching shut. The first of his tears came down. “You know what? I did pick on her because I wanted to make her mad. I admit it. I thought she’d just call me stupid or a dummyhead like she usually does. But she just HAD to bring up that I still haven’t flied yet. It does make me feel like a loser when I see everyone in my class getting better than me.”
He looked up at her again, his vision blurry. “Y-you know, I-I used t-t-to bring up Pumpkin’s accident where she put me in the hospital when she’d get me mad, because I knew how bad it would make her feel. But I stopped doing that because I know just how much it hurt her.”
“Well, Pound, that’s great that you stopped doing that,” said Carrot. “We all have our biggest mistakes, even if they’re accidents. But, as you just said yourself, you’ve done exactly the same thing as Pumpkin did to you, so shouldn’t you understand that bad things can come out of your mouth when you’re upset?”
Pound’s lip quivered. “I… I… I DON’T CARE! I have my own feelings, and I’m still mad at her.”
Cup pulled him closer again. “And that’s okay, Pound. Pumpkin did say something very hurtful to you, so you’re entitled to feel upset and angry. We’re not here to try and force you two to make up. We just want you to take responsibility for your own part in this.”
Carrot rubbed his head. “That’s a part of growing up, to admit when you were wrong.”
Tears dripped down Pound’s eyes. “I… I don’t want to… right now. I’m still too mad. A… a part of me really wants to hurt Pumpkin and get her back, but a bigger part of me is really scared of her now.” He hugged his mother hard, hiccupping breaths coming out. “I-I-I’m so scared! I’m scared that she’s right, and all I am is just a big, fat, pathetic loser!” He started sobbing into her chest.
Cup squeezed tighter to her hurting son, crying some too. “Oh, Pound…”
Carrot began rubbing his back, letting him vent his feelings in silence for the time being.
When he began to quiet down he looked up at his parents. “I don’t want to go to school anymore,” he said in a flat voice.
“What’s the point of going? I haven’t gotten any better at flying since I started. Why should I go somewhere where I just get bullied all the time?”
Cup and Carrot looked at each other for a few moments before turning back to him. Cup lifted him up in her hooves, saying in a bright voice, “Oh, let’s not talk about school right now. The three of us are home and none of us have any plans. Let’s play together. Pumpkin’s not here so you don’t even have to take turns on ideas.”
“Come on, slugger!” Carrot said. “We’re all yours today. How often does that happen?”
“Yeah, you can make all the rules today, and as long as you don’t go too far we’ll obey. We’ll even keep all this secret from Pumpkin.” She winked at him. “What do you say?”
Pound was debating on whether to let himself be coaxed out of his bad mood, but it was no contest. He was in charge for the day, with no Pumpkin and his parents all to himself? That never happened. “Let’s play pretend!”
“That sounds like fun,” said Cup Cake, releasing him.
He hopped off the couch, concocting a scenario for them to enact. “Let’s be pirates searching for treasure!”
“Arr!” Carrot said, closing an eye and adopting a rough voice. “That sound like it be a great idea.”
Cup and Carrot knew they still had more work to do to help him through his problems, but at the least they had gotten his trust and he was smiling. They could try talking to him some more later on.
After their first game was over Pound decided to test the limits of his rule-making ability. He went to his room and got a crown that belonged to one of his toys, and wrapped a blanket around himself to make a cape.
As he came down the stairs he said in a regal voice, “Your king has arrived. Bow down before your ruler.”
Cup and Carrot shot each other exasperated looks before complying. They knew it was only a matter of time.
As he reached the bottom of the stairs he lifted a hoof. “Rise, my subjects.”
As they did Cup said in a subservient voice, “Is there anything we can do for you, my lord?”
Pound thought about it. “Your king wants… a massage!” He lay down on the ground on his stomach. “Dad, um, that peasant over there, says that you give great massages.”
“Oh, she certainly does, my lord,” said Carrot. “But she is my wife. I certainly hope you’re not planning to steal her for your own.”
“Your king is kind. He will not steal your wife… if he gets some cupcakes while enjoying his massage.”
Carrot bowed. “At once, my lord.” He left the room.
Cup grabbed Pound’s back legs, pushing them together so she could kneel over him. Humming to herself she put her hooves on his back and began gently moving them up and down.
Pound let out a content moan, closing his eyes. He opened them a few seconds later when he heard the swing door open.
Carrot came in, holding a plate with 3 cupcakes and a glass of milk. He set it down in front of Pound. “Forgive me, my lord. I know you did not ask for it, but I thought you might like a drink to go with your cupcakes.”
“Your king… mmm… just… whatever.” Pound was enjoying the massage too much to get into his royal role. He picked up a chocolate frosted cupcake, taking a bite.
‘This is the life,’ he thought, bobbing his head to his mother’s humming.
“You’re really lucky, Dad, to get this every night. Mom is fantastic at this.”
Cup blushed at the praise. “Thank you, Pound.”
He finished one of his cupcakes and drank some milk, but he was becoming too relaxed to finish the rest, and just set his head down on his crossed legs, closing his eyes.
Cup’s maternal feelings were blossoming strongly within her. She thought back to when the twin were babies, and she used to give them massages when they were fussy and wouldn’t go to sleep.
She closed her eyes, beginning to sing an old lullaby.
Pound stiffened a bit, recognizing the familiar melody. A part of him wanted to tell her off for treating him like a baby, but as he turned his head he saw how happy his mother looked, and he couldn’t bring himself to make her frown. She looked so peaceful and serene, and that allowed him to get past his frustration and just enjoy himself.
Carrot was feeling a little left out of the proceedings. He felt a little ashamed that he was jealous of his little stallion, having to share something that was usually reserved just for him. As he heard Cup’s singing he too found his heart resonating with hers, wiping out the negative feelings that had started to build up inside. Ever since the kids had turned three he had rarely gotten to hear her singing voice, and it was lovely.
Pound’s body was relaxed again, letting her do what she wanted with him. As her song ended he could see tender tears coming down her eyes.
Cup had lost herself in the moment, and had just begun singing spontaneously. Now the moment was over, and she found herself flushed. “Oh… oh, my. It’s been so long. I must have sounded terrible.”
Pound shook his head. “No way! It was the best thing I ever heard in my life!”
Cup flushed deeper, picking him off the ground and hugging him close, quietly sobbing. “Thank you so much, Pound. That means a lot to me.”
Pound squirmed a bit. “Come on, Mom. Don’t cry.”
She nuzzled him. “Nothing wrong with crying when you’re happy, hmm?”
Pound looked up at her, asking, “Can you sing some more? Please?”
Cup looked away, feeling bashful. “Oh, I don’t know.”
Cup snorted into a hoof. “Uh oh. The dreaded ‘Mommy.’”
Pound tilted his head. “Huh?”
“You called me ‘Mommy’ instead of just ‘Mom.’ I can’t remember the last time you called me that.” Picking him up again she set him back on the floor. “Well, I suppose one more couldn’t hurt. But just one, okay?”
Now that she was consciously thinking about singing she was starting to feel a little insecure. She then remembered Pound saying it was the best he had heard. Praise didn’t get any higher than that. She took a deep breath, cleared her mind, and began to sing again. Her voice was hesitant at first, but she warmed up quickly enough.
All she had to focus on was that she was making her son happy, and it was enough to dispel her worries. Yes. She didn’t have anything to fear.
Pound closed his eyes, sighing, as she got back to massaging his back as well. He didn’t think he had ever been so relaxed. He didn’t get to spend enough time with his parents, and to see his mother bestowing so much attention and affection on him made his heart swell with joy.
He just wanted it to last forever.
When she finished her song a second time she felt a little more comfortable. “Once more, honey?”
Carrot was carefully observing the two. Pound and Pumpkins fight had disrupted their plans to help Pound through his self-esteem issues. Looking at Pound he wondered if they were doing that right now. Pound was certainly enjoying himself, and so was Cup.
They had demonstrated that they still supported him personally, even if they didn’t condone his actions, which was one of the biggest things they had wanted to convey to him. And if he was in a good mood then Pumpkin hopefully would be too when she got home. Then their squabble could be over and let them get back to good old-fashioned family fun.
Experience had taught him by now that it probably wouldn’t be that simple… but he could hope.