Pound and Pumpkin Tales 1

by Never2muchpinkie


18-6: Giving ground

Peppermint and Pumpkin listened to a few more stories from Starlight, but eventually they grew a little bored and were ready to move on.

They browsed the library for a while, taking out books that caught their interest. Pumpkin had picked out six books, and was all for sitting down and starting through them. She heard Pound’s mocking voice saying “Nerd!” and blushed slightly, adjusting her glasses with her hoof.

Letting out a moaning sigh she gritted her teeth, knowing she couldn’t put off the issue forever. She found Peppermint a few lanes over. “Hey, Peppy. You almost ready?”

“Peppy?” She giggled. “I guess I must be a good friend if I’ve got a nickname now.”

Pumpkin giggled back. “Hey, three syllables is way too much effort.” Getting more serious she said, “Can we go back to your house now? I think we should talk about my problem.”

“Oh,” she replied, growing solemn as well. “Of course.”

“Let’s go find Twilight so she can check us out.”

“No need for that,” said Pinkie, appearing around the corner. “Just follow me.”

The pair followed Pinkie to a counter near the entrance with a bell on it. She hit the bell a few times, and it glowed slightly. After about ten seconds Twilight appeared with a flash. “You rang?” she said.

Pumpkin levitated the books onto the counter. “I want to check these out.”

Peppermint flushed slightly, having to place hers on the counter manually. “Yeah, me too.”

Twilight was beaming. “Ah, the love of reading is one of the true joys of life.” She went under the counter, taking out two blank rectangular cards. With her magic she captured a shot of their faces, transferring it onto the cards. After asking some questions she added their information as well. “Here you go.” She handed each of them their own cards. “Cherish them well.”

“I got a library card,” Peppermint said wistfully. “That’s pretty cool.”

Taking out a stamp Twilight dated the removable cards on the back with the return date and jotted down the books being taken out. “Okay, you’re all set. Take good care of these books, okay? Having your library card revoked is like a fate worse than death.”

Pumpkin’s cheeks puffed up as she strained not to laugh. Peppermint tried to do the same, but she couldn’t hold it and burst out laughing, Pumpkin joining right along. Pinkie and Spike joined in as well.

Twilight eventually relented and chuckled too. “Okay, okay. Maybe it’s not that bad.”

Grabbing their books they said goodbye to Twilight, Spike, and Starlight, heading back to Peppermint’s house.

Peppermint and Pumpkin went back to Peppermint’s room, the two of them sitting side by side on the bed.

“Peppermint, what do you think I should do?”

“About what?”

“About Pound. Our parents want us to settle things ourselves.”

With a strained smile she suggested, “You could always just slug him one. If the two of you got into a fight he’d probably work out his anger toward you. And you could be like ‘If I win you have to forgive me.’”

She could tell Peppermint was joking, but it honestly sounded like a fine idea to her. It seemed a shame to reject it. She sighed. “That wouldn’t work. I mean, if I told Pound we should just fight it out I’d sure he’d agree right away. But… our parents have been trying to get us to stop using violence to solve our problems.

“And even if we could fight it out I’m scared that our parents might take our pets away. That would break Pound’s heart.”

Peppermint looked at her curiously. “I thought you were mad at him. What do you care?”

“I AM mad at him… but I love Tiger Lily so much, and I know Pound feels the same way about Champ. He was abandoned by his previous owner, so I think Champ would be just as sad as Pound if he had to go back to Fluttershy’s house. And I don’t have anything against Champ, so I don’t think he should be punished for something he didn’t do.”

“Well… what if you bribed him for forgiveness?”

Pumpkin glanced at her. “With what?”

“You two sleep in the same room, right?”

“Yeah. Even if Pound doesn’t want to be near me our parents make him sleep in our room.”

“So before he falls asleep go near his bed and ask what it would take for him to forgive you, and then just do it. Like, be his slave for a day. Or let him use you as a hoofstool.”

Pumpkin looked away, sighing. “Well, I guess I did say something really crummy to him. I… I guess I should let something unpleasant happen to me if it will patch things up between us.

“It sounds like a fine idea, but I don’t want to go home yet. I want to spend as little time as possible with Pound running away from me.”

“Hey, Pumpkin... can I ask you something?”

Pumpkin noticed her face was beet red now. “Yeah. Of course.”

“Do… do you think you could… you know… magic…”

Pumpkin’s eyebrow went up. “Huh? Speak clearly. You want to see more magic?” She lifted up a few objects.

“You know, when you told me what you said to your brother I reacted so negatively because I can’t do magic yet.” She looked at the floor. “If you were mad at me would you call me a ‘magicless loser?’”

“Of course not! Pound is… well, we’ve known each other since we were born, and we both know exactly how to push each other’s buttons.

“And magic isn’t that hard. It just requires proper focus and believing in yourself.” Her stomach twisted. “There was a time I thought I didn’t want my magic. During one of our previous fights I came very close to nearly killing Pound with it.”

Peppermint gasped, her mouth hanging open. “What did you do?” she asked.

“Well, it wasn’t so much the magic that hurt him. I knocked him away because he was annoying me so much. He would have been just fine, but the impact knocked the bookshelf in our room over, clocking him over the head.

“That was one of the scariest moments of my life. Pound recovered, but I was terrified of using magic anymore. It was Twilight that helped me overcome my fears, along with Pound’s encouragement.”

Pumpkin let out a meaningful sigh. She could almost see herself back then. Twilight, with her powerful magic, assured her there was nothing to fear if her magic went out of control, but still she panicked every time she tried to use it.

It had been Pound, the very pony she had hurt so badly, that had given her the courage to succeed, and she had been using her magic ever since.

Maybe… maybe it was time to let things go. Pound had been annoying, sure, but nothing out of the ordinary. Even if it meant bowing down and begging for forgiveness, or giving in to his whims, it would be worth it to have peace again. She had to admit she owed him a great deal. She’d do as Peppermint suggested, and wait until they were in bed.

For now, though, she’d see if she could help Peppermint learn to levitate stuff too.

***

Pound had fallen asleep for a short while, courtesy of his mother’s fantastic massage. When he awoke he was ready to resume his role as ruler for a day while he could.

Considering what he had been going through at school he made his first demand.

“Mom, Dad… have you ever had something really embarrassing happen to you at school?”

Both of them looked up and away, strained smiles on their faces. “Oh, yeah,” said Carrot.

Pound curled up, his head on his knees with a wicked smile. “Tell me, tell me!”

Cup and Carrot both took deep breaths. “Okay,” said Cup. “I guess I’ll go first.

“When I was in high school we were having a school election for student council president. I had submitted my name in it. I had seen several areas in which our school needed improvement, and I wanted to see us do better.

“So I campaigned, put up posters, talked with other students… all that stuff. From what I saw I had a good amount of ponies on my side, and it seemed I had a really good chance of winning.

“The day of the election students were all supposed to vote in the morning, and then the results would be revealed at the end of the day.

“Midway through the day I ran into our schools troublemakers. They had it in for me for no reason, and were always causing me grief. They all appeared to be in foul moods. One of them shoved me. Another called me a name. It was behavior I was used to.

“I got a surprise when I found out the supposed reason they were in such bad moods. They told me they had sneaked in to get a peek at the election results, and had found out I’d won. I was so happy I didn’t even care that they threatened to ruin my reign.”

Pound was listening with rapt attention. “You won, huh? That’s so cool.”

Cup shook her head. “Sorry, but I lost.”

Pound now looked curious. “You just said they were mad because you won.”

“That was the whole point.”

“Huh?”

“I had a hard time suppressing my excitement throughout the day. After classes had ended all of us were called to the auditorium for the results. I waited for the boring speech to end, anxious all the while.

“When he finished he opened the envelope, unfolded the paper inside, and announced the winner WAAAAAS…” Cup’s face lit up for a moment, before she finished flatly, “…Cinnamon Bun.”

“Soooo… they lied about who won just to make you feel bad?”

Cup shook her head again. “Oh, no. It was worse than that. Because I was expecting to win I didn’t hesitate to start celebrating after the announcement. I stood up in front of everyone, giving thanks for my victory, and was halfway toward the stage before I realized how quiet it was.”

She was blushing now. “It was the most embarrassing experience of my life. Once I processed who he had said won I was mortified. I was made to look foolish in front of the entire school, and I looked completely arrogant as well since I seemed so certain I had to have won.

“That’s when the laughter started. I could clearly hear my bullies laughing it up because they had got me, but other students joined in. The principal called for quiet, and when things settled down I headed up on stage anyway along with Cinnamon. It was the only way to save face after that fiasco.

“I congratulated her on her win, and apologized for being so quick to claim victory.”

Cup’s eyes faded out. “After the school finally cleared out I hid in the bathroom to cry for a while.”

Pound immediately gave her a hug. “Aww, don’t cry, Mom.”

Cup held him back, sighing. “One of the things that stinks about doing something humiliating in public is that ponies tend not to let you forget it.”

Carrot put a leg around Cup’s shoulder. “I was there for that. I was one of the few that didn’t laugh. Of course I didn’t know that she had been lied to about the results beforehand, but I did feel bad for her. I followed her, trying to get her attention, but I wasn’t going to go into the girl’s bathroom.”

Cup threw a leg around him too. “That’s right. You actually waited for me to come out. I was pleasantly surprised. You consoled me and offered support.”

“And I wound up walking you home.” He nuzzled her cheek with his.

Cup giggled. “Those bullies may have gotten what they were going for in the moment, but it was their cruel prank that led to us getting together in the first place. Sure, it felt horrible back then, but now I have the dream shop I always wanted, a fantastic husband, a surrogate daughter, and my two wonderful children.”

Pound bit his lip before he criticized Pumpkin. He didn’t want to take away his mom’s smile. He turned to Carrot. “So what about you, Dad? Tell me something that happened to you when you were younger.”

Carrot was blushing heavily already. “Do I have to?”

His dad’s reaction caught his attention immediately. He nodded hard. “Yes! You said I’m in charge today, so I order you to tell me!”

Carrot rolled his eyes. “Fine, fine.” He let out a half-sigh, half-growl. “Our school was having a school-wide academic contest. You had to write a short speech about a subject you were passionate and knowledgeable about. The goal was to try to inspire others to try new things they might otherwise never have attempted. The teachers would pick the best ones from each class, and all those students would read their speech in the auditorium.”

“Oh!” Cup exclaimed, making Pound look at her. “Oh-ho-ho-ho.” She got a devious smile on her face. “I remember where this is going now.” She snickered a bit.

Carrot snorted. “Glad you do.”

Pound was getting wound up. “Did someone lie to you too?”

Cup laughed into her hoof. “Nope. Try again.”

Carrot rubbed the back of his head. “No… I was one of the one’s chosen. Given our job I’m sure you can guess what my passion was.” Pound nodded. “We all took turns reading our speeches, everyone clapping after they were done.

“I was kinda nervous when I came up. I wasn’t used to speaking in front of a large crowd, but I was determined to do my best. I stood at the podium, cleared my throat, and before I even spoke a word…” He drifted off, his face red hot as the memory came back.

“What, what?” Pound said, his body rising up a little. “Did you trip? Or say a bad word?”

Carrot was mute, so Pound turned his head toward his mother.

Cup was trying to contain her amusement for Carrot’s sake. In as serious a voice as she could muster she said, “He accidentally let one rip.”

Pound’s eyes widened, his mouth falling open, before his smile expanded, filling his face. “He FARTED?” Pound fell to the ground, laughing hysterically as his legs kicked.

“Yep, and the microphone amplified the sound for everyone to hear.”

Carrot let out a slow breath. “That’s a part of my past I’d just as soon not have revisited.”

“Aww, honey,” said Cup, kissing him. “It gave us another reason to bond, though. You were there for me during my public embarrassment, and I was there for you during yours.”

Pound got up, giggles still coming from him as he asked, “So what happened next?”

Carrot closed his eyes. “Exactly what you think: everyone erupted into laughter. I knew that no one was going to listen to my speech now, so I took what was left of my dignity and left the auditorium. And as she said your mother followed after me to offer me support.”

Carrot put a hoof to his face. “Of course it didn’t end there. For the next few days every time I walked through the halls everyone kept going ‘Toot, toot.’ It was the fart train express. I got the nickname of Farty Cake. It was horrible.”

Pound was starting to feel a little bad now, so he went to give his dad a hug. “I’m sorry.”

Carrot hugged him back. “Well… the hype died down after about a month. School memories are always focused on the latest scandal or screw-up, so my incident became old news to everyone soon enough when they had something new to mock.”

Pound looked up at his parents. “School doesn’t sound like it gets any easier when you grow up.”

Cup shrugged. “Well, ponies are ponies, after all. Whether it’s at school, a job, or just out taking a walk, there’s always going to be those that will harm you. It might not be intentional most of the time, but we all harm one another. Some ponies just don’t grow out of that immaturity.

“I can’t even claim innocence myself. There were times I took part in school gossip, or snubbed a mare simply based on word of mouth instead of facts.”

Carrot nodded. “Same here. I was angry with my parents in junior high, and I went through a rebellious phase, bullying some of the ponies in the grades beneath me. I’m not proud of it, but at the time it felt right.”

Pound looked between his parents, pondering what he had just heard. “Sometimes I forget that parents make mistakes just like kids.”

“Well… it’s a cycle that’s been going on since the beginning of pony-kind. We grow up wanting to do what we want, and getting mad at our parents for trying to throw rules on us. Eventually we grow up, having kids ourselves, and then we understand exactly what all those rules were for. They actually helped us grow up mature and empathetic.”

Cup put a hoof on Pound’s shoulder. “I know sometimes it feels like we throw rules down just to be mean, or because we’re the authority and it’s fun to be in charge, but we make these rules because we’ve been where you’ve been when we were kids. You won’t truly understand this until you have kids yourself.”

Pound shrugged. “I guess you’re right. I find some of your rules annoying, but I can’t do anything about it because I’ll be punished if I don’t do what you say. Then again… I’M the one in charge today, aren’t I?”

“Yes,” they both replied, resigned to their fates.

“I think…” He put a hoof to his face, a thoughtful expression on his face. His face lit up. “I think you two should pretend to be kids again, like my age. And we have no parents to boss us around!”

Carrot nodded. “That sounds fine, but you remember what we said earlier, right?”

Pound nodded back. “I know. Don’t go too far.”

Cup said, “Well, we’ll let you know If you’re getting there, but for now…” She left the room, returning with a tablecloth wrapped around her like a cape. “Let’s play!” Her voice was now higher-pitched and squeaky.

“So what should we do first?” Carrot asked, his voice more kid-like as well.

“Let’s jump on the bed!”

“Woohoo!” Carrot cried out, running upstairs.

“Wait for me!” Pound said, laughing.

Pound had a ton of fun, all smiles and giggles, throughout the whole game. After jumping on the bed they raided the kitchen.

“Let’s take some cupcakes!” he said.

“Are you sure you want cupcakes?” asked Cup.

“Yeah!”

“Well, okay. Here you go!”

To his surprise his mother threw a cupcake in his face. “Hey!” he cried out as she giggled.

“Gotcha!” she cried out, slapping hooves with Carrot. She turned around and smacked her flank. “Take that, buttface!”

He wiped his face, scowling for a moment, before he got a playful grin on his face. If that’s the way they wanted to play then he was game. He grabbed a few cupcakes, getting in a safe spot and they had a cupcake war.

When that was over they did have to pause the game to clean up the mess, but he was delighted they were taking to the game so well.

The time just seemed to fly by as they played game after game. Eventually they sat him down on their laps like they did earlier.

“We want to talk to you, Pound,” said Carrot, his voice back to sounding like an adult. “Your sister is probably gonna be home sometime soon, so we need to say this before she does.”

Pound’s mood dropped slightly at the mention of Pumpkin, but he nodded. “Yeah. I know. Do… do you think we could play like this again, when Pumpkin isn’t around?”

Cup ran a hoof through his mane. “Well, you were certainly a kind master. I don’t think I’d mind that much.” Pound beamed. “That being said, this first time was a gift, used to show you that we don’t love you any less than Pumpkin just because you haven’t started flying yet.”

Pound looked downcast now at the mention. “Yeah… I know.”

“I think if you wanted this kind of authority a second time it should be earned.”

Pound’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t like that!”

“Why not?” asked Carrot. “Don’t you think that’s fair?”

Pound shook his head. “No! I know what you’re gonna say. You’re gonna tell me if I want to play again then I have to get over my fight with Pumpkin.”

Cup shook her head now. “Not at all.”

Pound crossed his legs. “So what do you want, huh? I’m all ears.”

Cup rubbed his chin. “I want you to just listen to what we have to say. I don’t mean follow rules in this context, just that I literally want you to hear what we say before you start judging.

“Earlier you said you were not ready to forgive Pumpkin, even though you did acknowledge you were in the wrong for deliberately provoking her.”

“And YOU said you weren’t going to get involved or force us to make up.”

Carrot nodded. “That’s correct. We’re leaving this up to you, because we believe in you that you can be mature.”

A red tinge appeared on Pound’s cheeks, and his legs fell to his sides. “What do you want from me? You can’t have it both ways.”

“We want you to do the right thing, Pound.”

“Let’s put it this way,” said Cup, lifting her hooves and putting them right next to each other. “Companionship is like a bridge. When something happens that causes a rift the bridge breaks.” She put her two hooves apart. “Let’s say it takes ten pieces of wood to repair that bridge and become friends again, and each of you has five of those pieces.” She moved one of her hooves closer to the other. “Even if Pumpkin has all five of her pieces in place and is doing her hardest to make up, it makes no difference if you won’t give any ground.

“We meant what we said. We’re not going to force you to make up, but as we said earlier we just want you to take responsibility for your own part in things. Pumpkin wouldn’t have said what she did if you hadn’t been bugging her as you did, and you know that.”

“So,” said Carrot, “we’re not ordering you, we’re asking for you to put just one of your pieces down. That is all we want from you for now.”

Pound silently looked from Cup to Carrot for a while. “And… what exactly does that mean?”

“You don’t have to talk to her. You don’t have to forgive her yet. It would be enough for you to just tolerate her presence.” Pound stared blankly at him. “In other words, stop running out of the room every time Pumpkin comes in.”

“That’s right,” said Cup. “You remember my issue with you from before? If you have a problem with Pumpkin why are you punishing us as well? It’s kinda distracting to be having a conversation with you, and then all of a sudden you’re bailing out of the room. It makes us feel like we’ve done something wrong.

“And if Pumpkin does want to apologize it’s not going to happen if you won’t even stay still for her to say it.”

Pound glanced down at his lap. “That’s… that’s all you want?”

“Yes,” said Carrot, putting a hoof on his shoulder. “It would be nice if you two would resolve things as quickly as possible, but from what we heard about your talk with Tree Leaf not all problems can be solved by just throwing two ponies in a room and asking them to get along.”

Pound sniffed, his face scrunching up. “Mom… Dad…” He looked up at them, tears beginning to stream down his eyes. “Do… do you think I’m ever gonna fly?”

Cup pulled him close. “Absolutely. I know you’ll fly when it’s your time. I believe in you completely, and that’s also why I know you can handle this situation without our interference.”

Pound closed his eyes. “I… I… alright, Mom. I’ll… I’ll try.”

Cup kissed his forehead. “Now that’s the boy I’m proud of.”

Pound smiled slightly, his cheeks growing hot. “I think I’m gonna need some super mommy hugs to give me courage.”

Cup beamed. “Of course.” Reclining slightly she squeezed tightly to her son.

He let out a long breath, feeling his anxiety melting away. He hoped it would be enough.

***

“Ha ha ha!” Peppermint laughed heartily, sweating a bit. Her horn was glowing green as she lifted up a stuffed animal. The glow was cut short and the animal fell to the ground.

“Whew!” She wiped her forehead. “This is hard… but I did it!” She hugged Pumpkin. “I didn’t think it would come this easily.”

Pumpkin hugged her back. “It gets easier with practice and a little study. When I first started I could only lift up little stuff, but now…”

She strained her horn, and the two of them floated a few inches off the ground. They quickly landed. “The heavier the object the more concentration and magic it takes.”

Peppermint let out a breath. “Wow.” She let go. “Magic is pretty intense.”

“It can be.” Her horn glowing again she lifted Peppermint into the air, moving her over her bed.

Peppermint was running in place. “Whoa!”

Pumpkin lifted her up and down slowly. “Look, I’m lifting weights.”

Peppermint let out an unwilling snicker. “Put me down, please!”

“Oh, alright.” She put Peppermint back on the bed. “I just wanted to show you what you could be capable of with enough practice.”

The two had a little lunch and played for a few hours, but eventually the fun had to end.

Pinkie came into the room. “Hey there, kiddo. It’s getting close to dinnertime. We should get going.”

Pumpkin knew it was inevitable, but still she wished it could have lasted a little longer. She gave Peppermint a hug. “Well, I guess it’s time to say goodbye.”

Peppermint hugged her back. “Thanks for your help. I’ll keep practicing.”

“You’re very welcome. Thanks for being there for me.”

“You’re welcome too.”

The two of them let go, slapping their hooves together.

On the way home Pinkie asked, “So… what did today do for you?”

Pumpkin glanced toward her aunt. “Talking with Peppy helped me to see that I was more in the wrong than Pound was. I’m… I’m ready to apologize and make up with him, and I even have a plan to do it.”

Pinkie beamed, giving her a big squeeze. “Aw, Pumpkin, I’m so proud of you!”

“Can’t… breathe…”

Pinkie released her. “Oops. Sorry! Hee hee.” She laughed awkwardly, but then grew a little more serious. “I like to see the two of you growing up. That’s one of the reasons we’ve backed away from this struggle, you know. The three of us won’t always be around to play peacemaker.”

Her mane drooped a bit. “Eventually the two of you will move out of the house and begin your own families. And if we don’t let you do things on your own you’ll never be independent enough to work things out. Imagine if you two got into a huge spat and never forgave one another, and I could only see one of you per holiday because the other refuses to show up. Or maybe you’ll both show up, but refuse to say anything to each other and things will be really awkward.

“It makes me wonder if I’ve been a good caretaker for the two of you, and have been raising you right. I worry about that sometimes, at night when I’m in bed. Someday I won’t have any power over you, and I’ll just have to let you be your own ponies, even if you two hate each other.”

Pumpkin tilted her head slightly, unsure of how to respond. She knew that Pinkie got upset and scared like any pony. Pinkie just didn’t experience them as often or show them openly when she did. She was a little surprised to hear Pinkie plainly talk about those kinds of feelings.

Pinkie suddenly came to a stop, getting down on the ground. Pumpkin knew what she wanted before anything was said, and climbed up onto her back. As Pinkie stood up Pumpkin hugged her neck. She began trotting away. “I’m sorry, Pumpkin. I shouldn’t have been saying those kinds of things to you.”

“But that’s how you really feel!” Pumpkin replied. “Why shouldn’t you say it?”

“I know you may take it as being condescending, but emotionally I don’t think you’re ready for this kind of talk. I saw your face, and I know you feel awkward. I don’t want you to feel guilty. I’m sure these kinds of thoughts go through any adults mind when they take care of a child over an extended period of time.”

Pumpkin didn’t even respond as she usually would, protesting at being called a child.

As if reading her mind Pinkie said, “Aren’t you going to tell me you’re not a child?”

Pumpkin didn’t say anything.

“Cheer up, Pumpkin.” Pinkie looked behind her. “You and Pound are the lights of my life. When you smile it feels like the world is great and I can smile too.”

Pumpkin couldn’t meet her eyes. “I can go to school and learn stuff, and I thought I was getting pretty smart, but it feels like there’s still so much stuff I haven’t learned yet, and it feels like I never will.”

“Well, life’s most important lessons don’t come from a textbook. They come from responding to what life throws at you. As you grow up you’ll start to understand this adult stuff better. You’re still a kid. You should enjoy this time while you can, because your responsibilities will only become greater the older you grow.”

Pumpkin sighed. “I can’t promise that something won’t happen in the future that will break me and Pound up, but I can at least try to make peace with him now. Would that make you happy?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

Pumpkin gave her a small smile, and Pinkie smiled in turn.

Arriving home, Pinkie opened the door.

Pound had just reached the bottom of the stairs. When he spotted Pumpkin he froze. The two locked eyes. Pound was all for storming off but his mother’s words echoed in his mind. “I believe in you completely, and that’s also why I know you can handle this situation without our interference.”

Scrunching his face up he said through gritted teeth, “Welcome home.”

Pumpkin climbed down from Pinkie’s back, approaching him. He was talking to her, so whatever their parents had said to him seemed to be effective. Or maybe, just like her, some time apart was just what they needed to start repairing their friendship. “Pound, I-”

But before she could get off more than that he put his hoof up. “Be quiet!” he said angrily, before he forced himself to politely add “please” to it. “I’m still not ready to forgive you, and I don’t want to talk to you yet. For now I'll stop leaving the room just because you come in it. Don’t bother me and I won’t bother you. That’s all I’m ready to do for you right now.”

Pumpkin closed her eyes. “Fair enough,” she said quietly. It was a start, at least. The first part of the make-up process was complete, each of them giving some ground.