When Pound had settled down again he looked dead to the world, his eye’s tinged with a weight beyond his years.
“Pound,” said Pinkie, “I understand that things are really hard, but you can’t just give up. If you do that how will you ever reach your full potential?”
“I’m not going back,” he said emotionlessly.
Pinkie and Carrot tried talking with him more, hoping he would be receptive now that he had burned out his emotions, but that was the only response he would give. For the time being he was too emotionally exhausted to care about anything.
Pinkie, wanting something to get that blank look off his face, said brightly, “Why don’t we go have some ice cream?”
Pound looked over at her, then away. He was struggling on whether to go with it or refuse, not wanting to feel anything at the moment.
“Maybe we could make it a brownie sundae, with chocolate syrup and whipped cream!” Pinkie had to keep herself from drooling.
It was getting increasingly harder to keep up his apathy with each addition. “Okay,” he said quietly, the faintest hint of a smile on his face.
It was enough for the moment. Pinkie threw him on her back, zooming down the stairs without a word, just as eager for the treat as he was becoming.
Pumpkin felt a mix of emotions when she saw Pinkie back to her excitable self, her brother in tow. She was glad that Pinkie had cheered up, and it seemed obvious she had forgiven Pound already.
“ICE CREAM TIME!” Pinkie cried out, setting Pound down at a seat, a near blur as she grabbed the necessary items.
Carrot came down the stairs. A little post-dinner treat couldn’t hurt. He just hoped things would remain peaceable.
Cup grabbed a scooper and a few tubs of ice cream out of the freezer.
“What flavor do you want, Pound?” Pinkie asked.
“Chocolate!” he replied.
“That’s the spirit!”
Cup dipped the scooper into the tub of chocolate, giving him a generous helping.
Pound spooned a mouthful, feeling his negative emotions ebbing.
As Cup and Carrot began making their own sundae’s Pinkie said, “Come on, Pumpkin. Sit down with us!”
Pumpkin had been in the same spot since the two had come in. Pinkie was too forgiving sometimes. Despite her frustration, seeing the other three pouring toppings and sampling along the way made her want some dessert too, so she reluctantly walked over and took a seat. “I’d like some vanilla, please.”
“Coming right up,” Pinkie replied, filling up her dish. “You want any toppings?”
She didn’t answer that one, looking into Pinkie’s eyes. “Are you okay now, Auntie Pinkie?”
Pound stopped eating, his spoon halfway to his mouth.
“Right as rain,” Pinkie replied. “I shouldn’t have gotten so emotional. I’m already over it.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Pumpkin replied. “I could see how upset you were.”
Pound glanced over at Pumpkin, feeling some annoyance. “OF COURSE she was upset! No one likes having hurtful things said to them.” He gave an exaggerated cough.
All three of the adults rolled their eyes. Was it ever going to end?
Pumpkin ignored him, saying in a sickeningly-sweet voice, “I’m just glad you could forgive Pound for the HORRIBLE things he said to you, Auntie Pinkie.”
Pound was glaring now, slamming a hoof on the table. “You want to make something of it, buttface? It’s over with already, so you shut your big, stupid mouth!”
“Why don’t you come over and make me?”
“GUYS!” Pinkie yelled, slamming her hoof on the table herself. “ENOUGH! I know you’re mad at each other but can you at least TRY to be civil so we can have dessert in peace?” Pinkie put a hoof over her face, saying despondently, “I can’t take anymore sadness for one night. I feel like crying again.” A gentle sob came from her. “Please… just stop,” she pleaded. “For me?”
The twins had been having a stare-down, at first ignoring Pinkie’s words, but neither one of them wanted to make her cry, and that was enough to get through to them.
Both of them took some deep breaths, their raging expressions softening. Pound gently lifted his hoof, extremely reluctant, but he would push through for Auntie Pinkie’s sake. “Truce?”
Pumpkin looked down at his hoof, and after a few seconds put her own out. “Truce.”
The three adults let out a sigh of relief. Pinkie walked around the table between them, putting a leg around both of them. “Thank you.”
They glared at each other again as Pinkie’s hold pulled them within a foot of each other, but tamed their feelings again by letting their love for Pinkie overwhelm their anger.
The next ten minutes were pretty quiet, but blessedly peaceful. They all ate their ice cream, occasionally making some small talk.
Pinkie had already finished her second bowl, and was on her way to a third when a heaviness came to her heart. More and more she was missing these special times together, where they could just be a family and enjoy some time together.
“Can I have some more ice cream?” asked Pound.
“Sure, Pound,” said Cup, filling his bowl again.
There was a strained tone to his voice, but he politely said, “Pumpkin, can you pass the sprinkles?”
Pumpkin responded, “Sure, Pound,” with the same forced politeness, and handed it over.
He turned the container over, spooning up a glob. It was hard to remain hotheaded with a bowl of cold ice cream.
Pumpkin put her bowl to her mouth, scooping up the last bit of ice cream in her bowl. She wiped her mouth of vanilla stains. Trying to sound natural as she set it down she said, “You seem to be over your sickness, Pound. Does that mean you’re coming back to school tomorrow?”
Pound’s eye narrowed, tears forming in the corner of his eyes. He growled loudly before he swiped the bowl of ice cream as hard as he could, sending it flying into a wall. The bowl exploded into a rain of shards as he got up from the table and took off with a frustrated yell.
Pumpkin had a perplexed look on her face.
“Pumpkin!” Pinkie said sternly.
Confusion immediately turned to defensiveness. “WHAT DID I DO?” she snapped. “I just asked a question.”
“After dinner your dad and I talked to Pound about his feelings. He’s pretty dead-set against returning to school.” Pinkie put a hoof to the side of her head. “He even went so far as to say he’d rather get his wings cut off and live as an earth pony rather then return.”
Cup had gotten up to clean up the mess on the floor, but she stopped suddenly, gaping at Pinkie. Even if it was an exaggeration it still felt like too much.
“AND HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?” she cried out, raising her voice. “I was down here with Mom the whole time after dinner, remember? I have no idea what he said. YOU asked me to make nice with Pound, so I was just trying to be friendly.
"I already have Pound taking out his problems on me! Are YOU gonna start taking his problems out on me too now, Auntie Pinkie?”
Pumpkin looked on the verge of storming off like Pound, and Pinkie mentally backpedaled. Pumpkin was right. She hadn’t been up there to overhear what he had said, so how could she have known?
She walked over to Pumpkin, giving her a hug. “I’m sorry, Pumpkin. I wasn’t trying to take anything out on you. I’m just worried for your brother.”
Pumpkin was silent for a bit, not returning the hug. She finally responded in a calmer voice, “I… I’ve been worried too. I missed Pound at school all day, so I was just hoping he’d come with us tomorrow morning.”
She let out a quiet sob as she held Pinkie back. “I’m tired of fighting too! But… but… I just got so mad when Pound insulted you like that.” She squeezed tighter. “I just want things to go back to the way they were!”
A few tears came down Pinkie’s eyes. It seemed like all of them were hitting their limit. Despite his anger she suspected that even Pound wanted to let things go. He just wasn’t ready to admit it yet.
Carrot walked over to Cup. “I’ll finish cleaning up here. Right now, I think Pound needs his mother.”
Cup turned to him, nodding. She washed the ice cream off her legs and dried off before heading upstairs, feeling she had some good ammo for her talk with him.
She walked upstairs, seeing the door to the twin’s room was open. Pound was sitting on his bed, curled up with no expression. She gave a few knocks, but unsurprisingly Pound didn’t acknowledge them.
She sat down close-by to him. “Hello, Pound,” she started. Again he showed no reaction. “I won’t lie and say I know exactly what you’re going through, but I told you what went on at school with me, where I was made a fool of in front of the entire student body. I know the hurt of being made fun of and bullied. It certainly isn’t fun, but I didn’t make it through alone. I had your dad to help me through it.
“I don’t want to see you shut yourself away like this. There’s so much more you can be, but only if you don’t give up.” She put a hoof around his shoulder. “As I said earlier I love you from the bottom of my heart, Pound, regardless of what you can or cannot do. Not being able to fly yet doesn’t make me love you any less, and I know you’ll be great someday.”
Though he stayed almost perfectly still like a rock, she could see a few tears come down his eyes.
“I want to help you, but you need to trust me. I know you had some setbacks, but I still believe in you even if you lost your temper.”
She recoiled a bit as something suddenly touched her mouth, and she saw it was his hoof. Quietly he said, “Please… just stop talking.” Feeling a bit torn between his feelings of being unworthy and his need for comforting he found the words hard to get out. “Can… can we just… cuddle for a bit?”
Cup smiled. It was a start. “Of course, honey.” She pulled him onto her lap, facing her, keeping him in a gentle, but firm, embrace. Pound’s legs stayed at his sides.
She didn’t intrude on the silence between them. He would talk when he was ready. In the meantime she did much as she had done the day before, giving him the tender affection he needed. She alternated between hugging him close, rubbing his back, nuzzling him, and planting the occasional kiss on his forehead. He had been stiff as a board at the start, but gradually she felt his body loosening up as he relaxed.
She felt it was safe to talk then, but she knew she had to start slow, lest he lock himself away again. She tried pulling him back a little so they could talk eye to eye, but that just made him quickly raise his legs and squeeze her back. “Don’t let go, Mommy,” he said in a helpless voice. “Please… just keep holding me.”
She saw he wasn’t ready yet. “Just hold on a second, Pound. There’s something important I have to say to you."
He looked up at her, tears brimming in his eyes. He almost blurted out that he didn’t care what she had to say, that he just wanted her affection, but he had already deeply hurt Pinkie Pie with his careless words, and he didn’t want to do the same with his mother. “O-okay,” he said with a sniff, looking like he was about to break down.
Planting another kiss on his forehead she said again, “I love you, Pound, no matter what you can or can’t do. Pinkie Pie made you a Pinkie Promise that she would always love you no matter what; that even if you turned bad she’d still always believe in you that you’d come back.
“I’d like to do the same for you.” Lifting a hoof she went through the motions of a Pinkie Promise. “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye. I Pinkie Promise that my love for you is eternal and deep, and no matter how angry or upset you get, or what hurtful words you may say, or even if you never fly in your life… none of that will diminish the love I have for you in my heart.”
Her eyes grew moist as her heart filled with affection for her son. “I love you, my little Pound Cake!” She nuzzled his face. “And I always will. I just wanted to be sure you knew that.”
The tears in Pound’s eyes descended down his face, a gentle sob escaping him as he hugged her again. “I love you too, Mommy!” Her mentioning him possibly never flying should have been distressing, but what it meant for her Pinkie Promise outweighed it. He could see his mom was like Fluttershy. Fluttershy had been the one to be caring to them when they were love-starved and felt unwanted.
She ran a hoof through his hair, beaming. After a few moments she went back to hugging him again. She could tell her words and her promise meant a lot to him.
A few minutes later Pound spoke again. “Mom, I need to tell you something.”
“Okay, then. What is it?”
“The reason Auntie Pinkie didn’t come to dinner was because of me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Auntie Pinkie felt bad for Pumpkin, so she tried to talk to me about ending our fight. I… I got kinda mad about it. I told her she wasn’t my mother so it didn’t matter what she thought.” His face clenched up a bit. “She tried to tell me that family should come first, but I…” He felt a pain in his heart as he remember the look on Pinkie’s face. “I… I told her she didn’t have any right to talk about the importance of family when she left hers as a kid to come live here with you and Dad.”
Cup slowly took in a breath, then just as slowly let it out. She had heard the story from Pumpkin already, but she saw no need to harp on the matter. Pound felt bad enough about it. “As you said at the dinner table you and Pinkie made up already, so it’s over and done with.”
Pound was quiet for a bit, but then he spoke again. “I need to tell you something else too.” Cup didn’t respond, waiting patiently for him to start. “Last night, after we were tucked into bed, Pumpkin tried to talk to me. She offered to let me decide the punishment for what she said, like being my slave or giving me her dessert.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Cup Cake said quietly.
“I just yelled at her and told her she should feel bad about what she said. I told you yesterday that I stopped reminding Pumpkin of my accident because I knew how hurtful it was, and I told her what she said felt like that to me.”
Cup waited, but Pound didn’t continue. She looked down at him, seeing him waiting for her input. “I do wish that you had acted a little more maturely on the matter, but Pumpkin didn’t handle it well, either. Bribing you for forgiveness wouldn’t replace a genuine apology, and probably wouldn’t have done anything but lead to you humiliating her in return until she snapped and the two of you went at it again.”
Pound lowered his eyes. “I’m sorry, Mom. You made me feel really special yesterday, when you said all those nice things to me and told me you were proud of me.” He sighed. “I’ve been a big brat today. I know you still love me, but… I doubt you’re proud of me anymore.” A few tears fell onto his legs. “You’re probably ashamed of me now.”
Cup put a hoof under his chin, pushing up until they were eye to eye. “Pound, don’t forget that none of us are perfect. Every pony makes mistakes. It’s an inescapable part of life. What I was proud of is the fact that you tried to do what I asked. I don’t expect you to be perfect. I only ask that you make the attempt. If you fall short and screw up that’s okay. When you’re ready you can always give it another shot.”
Pound glanced away for a few moments before looking into her eyes again. “Mom, can I tell you a secret?”
“Well, I don’t really know if it’s a secret. Just, for now, I want to keep this between you and me. Promise?”
“I can agree to that, as long as it’s not going to lead to someone getting hurt.”
Pound sighed. “I… I’m not really so mad at Pumpkin anymore. She was right to call me out for what I said to Auntie Pinkie. Even though I said such horrible things to her Auntie Pinkie forgave me easily, even encouraging me not to feel so bad when I thought only the worst of the worst ponies would say such a thing.
“Pumpkin… she said something horrible to me, but I didn’t want to forgive her. I guess I just expect more from my family. I’ve been trying really hard, but I haven’t been getting any better, and Pumpkin knows that. That’s why it hurt so bad coming from her.”
Cup hesitated for a few moments, debating on whether to encourage Pound in melding things with his sister or give him a life lesson. She felt like Pound was coming around, so she chose the latter. “I know you’re growing up and becoming more mature in a lot of ways, but Pinkie Pie is an adult. And, although you hate to hear it, you’re still a child. She’s been through a lot of tough experiences, and has a better grip on her emotions. It’s just one of those things that improves with age.
“I don’t want you to beat yourself up just because it’s taking more than an hour to get over things. Even disregarding age everyone responds to conflict a little differently and at different paces. If you need more time then you need more time.” She put her face to his again, saying genially, “All I ask is that you try to be polite to your sister if you’re not ready to make up. Okay?” She gave him a kiss on the cheek.
Pound was loving the attention, but something was still bothering him as his mom pulled back. “Being bullied is no fun, so I took what Pumpkin said really hard. But… that wasn’t the only reason I didn’t want to forgive her.”
Cup was again in two minds, wondering whether to hear about Pumpkin or discuss the bullying. For the moment she wanted to address the more immediate issue. If the twins resolved their fight Pound would have more moral support, if nothing else. “And what else did Pumpkin do?”
Pound’s eyes faded out, and he looked down again. “I… well… I’m jealous of her.”
Cup rubbed his back comfortingly, genuinely curious. “And why are you jealous?”
“Things have been different ever since we started going to school. Pumpkin used to be the ‘weak’ one, always following my lead and letting me be in charge. I would protect her when she was in trouble, even if it was a bigger pony I couldn’t beat.
“Now… things aren’t even anymore. Pumpkin can do her magic, but I can’t fly. She’s so smart and gets her schoolwork easily, while I struggle with it. She’s popular and everyone seems to like her, while I get jerks who make fun of me.” Tears formed in his eyes. “She just keeps leaving me behind in everything, and it doesn’t feel fair. I don’t feel needed anymore. It feels like I’m just a big, fat loser who can’t do anything right.”
“That’s not true, Pound. You’re certainly needed. I’m here with you right now because I love you and I WANT to be here, not because I feel obligated to as your mother.”
Pound was still looking down, but his eyes slowly moved back and forth. “I… I know, but…”
Cup waited, but he didn’t finish the thought. “Yes, Pound?” she prodded.
“But you and Dad and Auntie Pinkie are all grown-up. YOU’RE the ones that take care of US when we need you, but you don’t need us. Not really.”
“I heartily disagree, Pound!” she said strongly, making him look up. “I see what you’re going for, that Pumpkin is a child like you and thus needier. You feel like you’re of more value to her than you are to us, since ‘you’re just a kid’ and what adult needs a child’s help?”
Pound slowly nodded.
“I’d like to remind you of what happened the first day of school. Once we got past all the hurt feelings you taught your father, Pinkie, me, and Twilight an important lesson. Realizing how deeply we hurt you we took a different approach to disciplinary action and have stuck with it. Twilight realized that she had a gap in her education she needed to fill, and spent a lot of time with us to rectify that. It taught us to give you room to make mistakes so you can grow as a pony.
“And, perhaps the biggest thing of all, is that Twilight, a princess, put YOUR words into the Friendship Journal, right next to hers. You remember why? It was because she believed that even a child as young as you could teach invaluable lessons.”
Pound let out a little whimper, his tears falling. He remembered that. It had meant a lot to him.
Cup lifted him up in the air. “So I don’t want you to ever say you’re worthless, Pound!” She threw him up into the air before catching him and pulling him close again, nuzzling his face with hers. "You got that?"
Pound giggled, nuzzling her back.
“You mean the world to me, and I couldn’t imagine a life without you. I NEED you in my life as much as I need your father and Pumpkin and Pinkie, and that’s a Pinkie Promise for life.”
Pound gently sobbed, hugging her again and slowly nuzzling her chest, feeling a little better now. “Thank you, Mommy.”
“Of course.” Putting her mouth right by his ear she whispered, “Can I tell YOU a secret now?”
Pound looked up at her, and gave a quick nod.
“It’s a good thing I didn’t immediately come up to talk to you, as I heard something quite interesting. Pumpkin wasn’t trying to push your buttons with her question. She said she asked about school because she missed you. She was worried about you when you were too unwell to go to school.”
Pound blinked. “Really?” he asked.
Cup nodded. “In her own words she’s tired of fighting and wants things to go back to the way they were.”
Pound let out a mournful, “Mmmm…”
Cup felt like he had something to say, and she waited patiently.
After about a minute he said quietly, “I’m tired of fighting too. I’ve been really sad and angry the past few days. What made me feel a whole lot better was after I first talked to Pumpkin. You picked me up and hugged me and told me how proud you were that I was trying to do what you asked. And today you’ve also been really encouraging and loving and I…” He smiled warmly up at her. “I just want you to know I really appreciate it.” He nuzzled her chest again. “I think you’re a fantastic mother, and I’m so glad I’m YOUR little Pound Cake and not some other mare’s.”
Cup smiled joyfully, tears coming down her eyes. She gave him a squeeze. “That makes two of us,” she said lovingly. "I love you, Pound."
After a time of snuggling Pound looked up at her again. “Hey, Mom?”
“I… I think I’m ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“To make up with Pumpkin. But… I’m a little scared.”
“Of what?” she asked, putting a hoof on his shoulder.
“I know she said she’s tired of fighting, but what if we start arguing again? What if she’s not ready to forgive me for what I said to Auntie Pinkie?”
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, but I’ll tell you what.” She put her face a little closer to his. “If things don’t go well I’ll give you another massage, complete with the singing you liked so much. After all, I told you that your success doesn’t matter to me as much as you putting in the effort to try.”
Pound perked up. “Can… can I have it anyway if things do go well?”
Cup giggled. “You’re going to make your father awfully jealous, you know that?” She winked at him. “But yes.”
“Woohoo!” He lifted his front legs overhead and pumped them a few times before hopping off the bed. “Come on, Mom!”
She followed after him as they headed down the stairs, always grateful for an appreciation of her talents.
They entered the kitchen but it was empty. They heard some noise ahead so they headed to the living room. The three were in front of the fireplace, talking to one another.
Pinkie turned as she heard the swinging door. “Hey, you guys! Want to join us?” She lifted up a stick with a toasted marshmallow on it. “We’re toasting marshmallows!”
“Not right now,” said Cup. “Pumpkin, could you come over here, please?”
Pumpkin stayed where she was a few moments, shaking slightly. She still agreed with Pinkie. She didn’t want any more drama. Reluctantly, she set her stick aside and stood up, walking towards Cup and Pound, her eyes on the ground.
When he entered her field of vision she sat down, but didn’t look up. “Yes?” she said quietly.
Pound didn’t feel any of the anger he had been feeling recently. There was so much he could say, but he didn’t think he could convey it properly. He decided to just go physical.
He threw his hooves around her, hugging her. “I’m sorry, Pumpkin!” he said emotionally, breaking down crying. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please forgive me!”
Tears came to Pumpkin’s eyes too, and she started sobbing as well as she held him back. “I’m sorry too!”
And that was that. The two of them just wailed and cried and apologized to one another, holding on to each other all the while.
The three adults were more restrained, but happy tears came down their eyes as well. They were a family again.