Pound and Pumpkin pulled back from their hug, looking at each other with teary eyes and smiling.
“Well, there were a few hiccups here and there,” said Pinkie, “but I’d say this was a rousing success. They settled things on their own, just as we wanted.”
“With a little help from our awesome parents and our favorite aunt,” Pound added, turning toward her.
“All we did was give you some gentle pushes in the right direction. You were the ones who decided to walk that path.” She walked over to him, rubbing his head. “And I’m very proud of both of you for that.”
Both of them hugged her. “Well, what else were we supposed to do?” asked Pumpkin. “We didn’t want to see you cry anymore.”
“And we were both tired of fighting.”
Pinkie pulled them both close, hugging them back. “It’s so wonderful to have peace again. Now that you’re friends again we should get back to the marshmallows.” Pinkie let them go and headed towards the fireplace.
Pumpkin followed her, but Pound stayed put. He didn’t feel any more anger towards Pumpkin, but he still didn’t feel it was a satisfying resolution. Nothing had really changed. Tomorrow, when he went back to school, everything would just start all over again.
Carrot noticed his expression. Tapping his shoulder he asked, “What’s bothering you now, Pound?”
“Hmm?” Pumpkin turned to look. “I thought everything was okay now.”
Pound sighed. “Between us it is, but none of you really understand how I feel. You’re a unicorn, and Mom, Dad, and Auntie Pinkie are earth ponies. How am I supposed to talk to you about flying when you’re never gonna do it anyways?”
Cup sighed now. Pound had been so happy for just a moment, but now he looked defeated again. “Answer me something, Pound. Is it actually not flying that really bothers you, or is it just the teasing from the other kids?”
Pound didn’t answer immediately. When he did he said, “It’s a little of both. The teasing hurts a lot worse, but I hate being last in my class. And Pumpkin’s already using her special trait of magic. Everywhere around me ponies are getting better and improving, and I feel like I’m just standing still.”
He reared up and slammed his front hooves on the ground, yelling, “I HATE FEELING LIKE I CAN’T DO ANYTHING!” He panted, tears coming down his eyes.
Pumpkin walked up to him, hugging him again. “What are you talking about? There’s always been something you’ve been able to do: be an awesome big brother who protects me when I’m in trouble.”
Pound’s lip quivered. That made him feel a little better.
Cup leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Don’t tell your father, but I still owe you a nice massage, remember?”
That also made him feel better.
Pinkie walked over, carrying a stick with a toasted marshmallow, taking a bite. “Come on, Pound. Let’s all sit by the fire and have some marshmallows. Now that we’re together again we have a lot of family time to catch up on.”
It took him a minute, but he gave a small smile and said meekly, “Okay.”
Cup picked him up bodily and carried him to the fire, setting him on her lap in front of it. Carrot, Pinkie, and Pumpkin joined him.
He took a stick and impaled a marshmallow, setting it over the fire until it was browned. He waited a bit for it to cool, and took little nibbles of it, the rest of his family doing the same. They usually didn’t pig out so much on dessert at night, but he guessed they just wanted to celebrate.
When he finished his marshmallow he took another one, impaling it on the stick, but he didn’t heat this one. He was still troubled, his thoughts returning to the lingering issue.
Cup heard him let out a heavy sigh. She ran a hoof through his mane. “What’s wrong, Pound?”
He just sighed again before saying, “When I go back to school tomorrow all my bullies will still be waiting for me. I’m glad that me and Pumpkin aren’t fighting anymore, but I don’t want to go back to school just so I can be made fun of all the time.”
Cup gave him a hug. “I’ll tell you what. Tomorrow I’ll go talk to Princess Twilight. I know kids hate the concept of tattletales, but there wouldn’t be anything suspicious in the Princess of Friendship giving a lecture about emotional damage caused by bullying. How does that sound?”
Pound shrugged. “Okay,” he said emotionlessly, still staring blankly at his marshmallow.
Carrot sucked on his cheek. Wasn’t there something else they could do?
Pinkie’s eyes brightened as something came to her. She walked over, picking him up out of Cup’s lap. “I know just what you need, Pound.”
Pound let out a quiet moan, showing no expression.
Pinkie pushed on, ignoring his disinterest. “You said before that we couldn’t understand what you were feeling since none of the rest of us are pegasi. Sooooo… what’s stopping us from finding one for you to talk to? We know a whole bunch. Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Scootaloo, and… well, I don’t know if we can count Twilight, since she’s an alicorn. But she has wings! Surely they can understand your feelings.” She was delighted to see Pound’s face grow thoughtful.
Pound couldn’t believe he had missed something so obvious. He knew three, technically four, pegasi. He could just choose one of them.
He quickly discounted Rainbow Dash, the one who had pulled off a legendary move as a filly. He highly doubted she’d understand his feelings of inadequacy when she’d always been exceptionally talented.
Fluttershy was endlessly kind and understanding, but in this case he didn’t think she’d really understand him either. She was the opposite of Rainbow Dash, who dedicated her life to the air and stunts. Fluttershy cared almost nothing for flying, mainly using it only when she had to. If she somehow lost her wings she probably wouldn’t even care that much.
He thought about Twilight, but she wasn’t much different than Fluttershy when it came to flying. He had hardly ever seen her fly, as she could just teleport to where she needed to go. It made sense. She had started out as a unicorn, so it was no surprise she was focused more on her magic than her wings.
On the middle of the spectrum was Scootaloo, and he quickly decided she was the one he wanted to talk to. She hadn’t gone into detail, but he remembered her saying once that she had had a slow start in flying. She seemed perfect for that alone.
“I wanna talk to Scootaloo,” Pound said.
“Okie-dokie-lokie!” Pinkie said brightly, throwing him up in the air and catching him. “We can go visit her tomorrow.”
“Tonight!” Pound said firmly. “I have no choice but to wait to fly, but I don’t want to have to wait to feel better.”
“Mmm.” Pinkie looked at the clock. It was just coming upon eight o’clock. It was a little late, but Scootaloo was probably still awake. “Okay, then. Sounds like a plan.”
Pound gave a quick nod as Pinkie set him down. He wasn’t sure if Scootaloo could actually do anything for him, but he always felt better when he felt the one he was talking to actually understood what he was going through.
It was like the time Rainbow Dash helped him through his shattered trust after Tree Leaf attacked Pumpkin. His family hadn’t been able to restore his trust in others, nor Fluttershy, but Rainbow Dash had gone through a painful betrayal of a friend herself. It allowed her to break the barriers he had been putting around his heart. He sure hoped Scootaloo could do the same for him.
With a hop Pound climbed up onto Pinkie’s back, eager to get going. He bid farewell to his family and they headed out the door.
Scootaloo’s house wasn’t that far away. She lived by Rarity’s house, so it only took about five minutes to get there. Pound was feeling impatient the whole way, and only barely stopped himself from kicking Pinkie’s side to urge her to move faster.
When they got close Pound jumped off Pinkie’s back and jogged up to the door, knocking on it several times. He felt so full of restless energy it was all he could do not to just start running in circles to burn some of it off.
After what felt like an eternity the door opened, and Scootaloo was there. “Hey, Pound. Hey, Pinkie,” she said. “Not the company I was expecting, but it’s always nice to see you.”
“Who’s coming over?” asked Pinkie.
“Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle are spending the night. We have to do this supremely boring report.” She let out a groan of disgust and mimicked throwing up.
Pound chuckled. He had always liked Scootaloo. She was tomboyish like Rainbow Dash, but minus the ego that sometimes made Rainbow unbearable.
“So what brings you two over here so late?”
Pinkie pointed to Pound. “Well, the little guy over there wanted to talk to you.”
“Sure. I’ve got nothing better to do until the girls get here. What’s on your mind, kid?”
Pound opened his mouth, then shut it. He glanced over at Pinkie, gesturing his head toward Scootaloo with an uncomfortable expression.
Pinkie felt she understood. Pound felt ashamed of his own inability to fly, so he was being considerate of Scootaloo’s feelings. “Well… it’s kinda personal, so I think Pound would rather talk to you one on one. Why don’t you go for a walk? I’ll keep an eye out for your friends.”
Scootaloo shrugged. She was curious what was so secretive. She occasionally acted as foalsitter for the twins but she couldn’t say they were especially close. That being the case she wondered why he singled her out to talk to.
Pinkie sat next to the doorway, keeping watch, as Pound and Scootaloo walked off into the distance.
After a minute of silence Scootaloo said, “So spill it, punk. What’s on your mind?”
Pound came to a stop suddenly, his composure breaking. He felt an outpouring of empathy welling up for her, knowing the pain she had to have gone through growing up. He looked up at her with tears already coming down his eyes as he hugged her.
Scootaloo was nonplussed, but hugged him all the same. “Come on, Pound,” she said soothingly. “Talk to me.”
He looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry, Scootaloo. It hurt so much, didn’t it?”
Scootaloo’s eyebrow went up. She couldn’t begin to imagine what he had done to her to cause this reaction. She hadn’t even seen him recently.
“How long did YOU have to take being bullied for not being able to fly before you finally did it?”
It clicked in her mind then what he was there for, and why he had wanted to talk in private. Sympathetic tears came down her own eyes, knowing exactly what he was going through. She sat on her knees, pulling him closer. “So you’re the target everyone goes for, huh?”
“I hate going to school!” he whined. “Kindergarten was supposed to be fun! Both of us were supposed to learn to use our special gifts, but Pumpkin is the only one doing just fine. The best in our class always calls me the ‘flightless wonder.’ It sucks!”
Scootaloo let out an angry growl, her hold becoming uncomfortably tight. “Things never really change, do they? There’s always someone who grows up a total brat no matter how many times we hear about friendship and unity being the most important thing.”
Pound pulled out of Scootaloo’s iron grip. “How many was it for you? I have at least five, but I think most of them are just following his lead.”
“Luckily for me it was usually just two: Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. They were the class bullies. Since they came from wealthy families they were spoiled brats. They usually didn’t mention my wings, though. Me, Apple Bloom, and Sweetie Belle were all picked on because we were the only ones without a cutie mark in class. Their nickname for us was ‘blank flanks.’ It drove us crazy, because we were always trying really hard to get ours, but never seemed to succeed.
“Although, there was one time they singled it out.” She turned and started walking, Pound jogging until he caught up and he walked next to her. “Our whole class was given the opportunity to do an introduction at the Equestrian Games. The three of us had a great performance, trying to show off the beauty of our three races living in harmony. We were good enough that they felt threatened, and since insulting our lack of cutie marks didn’t dissuade us they singled me out. ‘How can you do a performance about the three races when you’ve got a pegasus who can’t even fly?’”
Scootaloo was now the one to stop short. “It scared me. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I spent hours upon hours just trying to get myself airborne, knowing the deadline was getting closer and closer and always failing.” She sat down, sighing. “I almost gave up on the whole thing. Rainbow Dash scolded my friends for giving up on me when I said I wasn’t going, and the three of them came to talk to me.
“I expressed my fears to her, and she told me that it wasn’t important if I ever flew or not, because she thought I was awesome anyway.” She smiled now, another tear coming down. “It meant so much to me. It gave me the courage to proceed. Even if I couldn’t fly yet I had my scooter, and my wings were of use to me in that way. It was enough. We managed to win despite that setback.”
She looked up thoughtfully. “Rainbow Dash… I look up to her more than anyone in the world, even my family. She’s everything I aspire to be. She’s talented and loyal, she’s blunt and honest, and she knows just what to say to motivate me to keep going when I’ve felt like giving up.”
Unfurling her wings she took to the air, doing a few small laps around the area, then a few loop-de-loops before landing back on the ground, a serene smile on her face. “It hasn’t been easy to be patient, but with her guidance I held on until I got off the ground.
“You asked how long I was bullied for not flying before. While I wasn’t exactly bullied for it much, I didn’t actually start flying myself until I was eleven years old. The wait was excruciating, but the payoff was well worth it. Now I’m living my dream.
“So what about you, Pound? What do you think about Rainbow Dash?”
“She’s… um, well…” He hesitated. He wanted Scootaloo’s support, and he didn’t want to risk alienating her by insulting her idol.
Scootaloo chuckled. “You think she’s a showboating, egotistical mare that only sees helping others as a means to puff up her feeling of self-importance?”
Pound flushed. “H-hey! I wouldn’t go that far! She’s not THAT bad.”
She rubbed his head. “Easy, there. I look up to Rainbow Dash, but I know she has her faults. Sometimes she can be too tough when I’ve hit my limit and want support. Sometimes she can seem patronizing in her sympathy when I feel I can keep going. Sometimes her boasting grows tiresome and overblown. That’s why having friends is so important. We teach each other to rein in our more unpleasant aspects.
“And even though she gets better at reading situations and acting more mature I still don’t expect her to be perfect. After all, none of us are. All of us make mistakes, so there’s no reason not to forgive if they’re genuinely sorry.
“Rainbow Dash isn’t cruel. It’s just that she believes in tough love.”
“Hmph!” Pound rolled his eyes, sitting down hard and crossing his front legs. “I know that. One time she got mad at me for being rude to her and threw me off her back in mid-air and didn’t come to save me until I apologized.”
Scootaloo laughed, then sighed wistfully. “Yeah. That sounds like her.
“She’s tough, but fair. She pushes hard, but only because she believes they can handle it. She isn’t hard to be cruel, even if it seems that way. She doesn’t sugarcoat things or pretend something is what it isn’t to make you feel better. She’ll tell you the blunt truth. However, if you can get past the tough part of her you’ll see the real her emerge, kind and gentle. It’s one of the things I love most about her.”
“Mmmm.” He could see it that way. After getting him to quiet down and listen to her she told him the story about Gilda, and after that she was very gentle when she spoke about knowing the pain of betrayal. “I guess… it’s just hard to tolerate her long enough to get to that point. That’s why I like you so much, Scootaloo. You’re like Rainbow Dash, but without the ego. You’re really cool.” He gave her a hug.
Scootaloo blushed a little, chuckling. “Well, thank you, Pound. I really appreciate it.”
“If you’re willing to listen I’d like to tell you a story that Rainbow Dash told me when I was younger. It didn’t help me fly in itself, but it gave me the courage to hold on until I did.”
“Sure! That’s what I came here for.”
“Then get on. Let’s go for a fly.”
Pound walked a few steps and climbed up onto Scootaloo’s back, curious. When he was situated Scootaloo stood up, unfurled her wings, bent her knees, and then jumped as she flapped. She angled herself upwards until they were about thirty feet up, then leveled off.
“It’s nice up here, isn’t it?” Scootaloo asked, looking down at the ground beneath them.
Pound made an incomprehensible noise. He had been interested in the story, but being up in the air just reminded him of how far he had to go. “Scootaloo, do you think I’m ever gonna fly?” He let out a quiet sob, hugging her for support.
Scootaloo felt a burning in her heart. She had asked Rainbow Dash that same question several times over the years, whenever she felt like giving up on the idea. “I’m not going to tell you that I believe you can fly. It’s a waste of time if YOU don’t believe you will.”
“What do you mean? Isn’t it good to be encouraging to others? Isn’t that what family and friends are for?”
“Ah. You hit upon the keyword there: encouraging. There’s a difference between encouraging someone to do their best, and telling others what they want to hear, no matter how good-intentioned it’s done.
“Am I you, who can tell what it feels like as you move your wings? Am I a doctor who’s examined your wings for a condition that might be stopping you from flying? Am I someone with the power to change reality, like Discord? I’m none of those things, so I have no clue whether you’ll ever fly or be any good at it. I’m not going to insist you’re going to fly and give you what could only amount to a false hope.
“What I WILL do for you is tell you to work your hardest and not give up, because that is something that applies to all areas of life and it’s the only thing that might one day allow you to fly.
"Are you gonna fly or not? I can’t answer that, Pound. That’s something you have to discover for yourself. All I can do is tell you what Rainbow Dash told me, and hope that it inspires you like it did for me.”
Pound had hoped she would say he definitely would, but he guessed that she had no way of knowing either. She was almost twice as old as he was when she started flying. He wondered if he had to wait that long too, or maybe his wings were just defective altogether, and he would never fly.
“Okay, so tell me.”
“This is a story that is about you. It’s called ‘The Ugly Duckling.’”
Pound flushed. “So now you’re calling me ugly as well as useless?”
Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “Would you just listen up?”
Pound sucked on his cheek, crossing his hooves. “Fine.”
“The story is pretty simple. A mother duck is sitting on her eggs, waiting for her babies to hatch. All of them break out of their eggs, looking almost identical to one another. All of them were the same pretty orange color. All of them… except one.
“The last one to hatch is the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen. His body is a dark gray, his feathers messy. The other ducks treated him like an outcast, excluding him or pushing him away most of the time. Even the mother duck put him last.”
Pound squeezed her neck. That didn’t fit his family life, as his parents always tried to treat them equally, but it certainly reminded him of school life.
“Well, to make a long story short, things changed greatly when the ugly duckling grew up. His messy, gray feathers turned white and beautiful. His other nest mates were stunned at the change. He had wound up the most beautiful and good-looking at all.
“The truth was that somehow his egg had ended up in the duck eggs. He had never been a duckling at all, but a swan. And like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon the ugly ‘duckling’ had emerged the envy of all his brothers and sisters.
“And then it ends all sappy with the swan finding his actual family or something like that.
“Do you get the point of that story?”
Pound seemed pretty happy now. “So you’re saying that even though they’re ahead of me right now that eventually I’m gonna be the best flier out of all of them by far? That I’m an ‘ugly duckling?’”
Scootaloo turned her head to face him and shook her head. “Not at all.”
Pound’s eyebrow went up. “Then what was the point of telling me that story?”
“I can’t tell you that because an ugly duckling isn’t born. They’re created.”
“Huh?” Pound responded, looking even more confused.
“YOU have to decide what you are, Pound. You could be an ugly duckling or you could just wind up a loser, but that choice is entirely up to you and what you decide to do from now on.”
Pound stared into her eyes, unsure now what she had been trying to impart to him. “What do you mean? I still don’t get it.”
Scootaloo chuckled, turning her head forward again and gliding around. “Ah, Pound. You remind me of me at that age. Of course I was older when Rainbow Dash told me this story, and I didn’t get it either. But when she explained it to me it made me realize that my destiny is in my own hooves and no one else’s.”
“So what does it mean?”
She landed on a cloud and told Pound to get off. When he landed she pushed his head so they were eye to eye. “Those classmates that make fun of you. Do any of them talk like they want to be like Rainbow Dash? A fast racer or a stunt pony or something like that?”
Pound shook his head. “Not really. Not that I hear anyway.”
“All the better really for the lesson I want to impart to you. Your classmates likely don’t care much about flying. Really, the majority of pegasi end up average fliers. They fly around because it’s a part of them and it makes getting around easier, but that’s about it.
“And because flying isn’t that important to them they’ll stop putting effort into improving once they get to an average level. After all, what do they need to improve for once they can get around without straining?”
She gave him a pat on the head and put her hoof down. “And that’s where you come into this. All those ducklings around you will grow into adults and be average. But because you’re so behind, because you’re struggling and want to fly so bad, you’ll put your all into it until the day it comes to you, even if it takes you as long as I did. Wanting to improve and a little scared of going backwards you’ll continue trying to improve, to prove to yourself and anyone who doubted you that you can.
“And then… then will come the day when those ratty feathers and ugly coat will turn beautiful. You’ll soar further, faster, and better than the others because they’ll stop at a certain point, but you won’t.”
Pound was listening with rapt attention, both of them smiling at one another.
Scootaloo’s smile faded. “Or… you won’t,” she said bluntly. “You could give up on ever flying, abandon your classes, abandon your training, throw hissy fits and complain about how hard things are, and remain a pathetic, flightless loser the rest of your life.”
Pound winced, Scootaloo’s word reminding her of Pumpkin’s insult.
Scootaloo stuck a hoof out, touching his chest. Her voice dead-serious now she continued, “As I said before the choice is entirely up to you, Pound Cake. Those are the only choices available to you. You can fight harder than you’ve ever fought before, and grow out of your ugly duckling status, or you can be a whining loser proving that everything your classmates said about you is true. So what is it gonna be?”
Pound grew silent, tears coming down his eyes.
“You know what? Don’t answer that yet. I want to respond to something you brought up before.
“It isn’t getting moral support from loved ones that I was against. It was using their support as a SUBSTITUTE for believing in yourself.”
Pound just blinked. “Huh?” He was getting a little lost with all this heavy talk.
“No one is happy all the time, and when we’re down we need encouragement from our families or friends to help us get back on our hooves. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s how we survive bad times.
“However, if you don’t believe in yourself then you’ll never reach your true potential. Sure, having a cheering squad right next to you can make your heart soar and give you courage… but what happens when they’re not there? For instance, at school with all your bullies.” She mimicked crumpling something up and throwing it away behind her. “Where do all their encouraging words go then? Right in the garbage!”
Pound groaned and turned away.
“You believe more in the bullies making fun of you than the family and friends who love you because deep down you AGREE with them. That lack of confidence in yourself will cause you to turn every small victory into a defeat, and every defeat into a tragedy.
“For instance…” She took a few steps away from him, and he looked over at her again. Unfurling her wings she gave them a few feeble flaps as she jumped, landing quickly back on the ground. “This is you now.” She jumped again, but this time she flapped a little harder, and hovered in place, putting on a strained expression. “Here’s the next step in your evolution. What do you have to say about this? Are you excited because you’ve made progress, or will you dismiss it, because it’s not actually flying?”
She began flying in straight lines, still only a foot or two off the ground. “And what about this? Would you be happy with this, because you’ve gotten to the point of sustaining hovering and simple movement, or is it unimportant, because THEY have better control?”
She landed again, walking in front of him. He had an uncertain expression on his face. “This is what I’m talking about. Your mindset is going to be completely different between only believing when someone is there to tell you you’re doing great, and genuinely believing you will.
“In the former, you’re too worried about failure to give it your all. The words of your bullies will hit with a far greater weight than any support from loved ones. Any progress you make you’ll instantly dismiss as not being good enough. Any fall or failure will just confirm to you that you’re not good enough and just a worthless piece of trash. And a weak ego like that will never allow you to become who you truly are.
“However, things change completely when you have a GENUINE belief in your abilities. When you’re sufficiently driven, everything just adds fuel to your flame. You set out to prove your bullies wrong. If you fall you get right back up, because you know it’s just a temporary setback and you’ll do it differently next time. You’ll try harder and harder, doing whatever it takes to grab that victory. The small victories let you know that if you’ve come that far from where you were there’s no reason why you can’t reach the next step. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Pound was staring deep into her eyes, feeling her inner strength. He was captivated once more.
“So what comes next, kid? What’s the end result of learning to believe in myself and Rainbow’s training?” Scootaloo threw him on her back again, taking to the air and climbing up higher and higher and higher, until all the features of the land became miniscule. When she finally stopped she hovered in place, moving her hoof out in a semi-circle. “Just look at it all, Pound. When I was your age I never thought I would be able to do something like this. I never once thought I could see something so beautiful, or that I could ever be talented enough to succeed. But I persevered through all the hardship, and now look where I am. I accomplished something far beyond what I ever thought I could do. I shook off my ugly coat and became a swan, and it feels so wonderful. What does this feel like to you? Is a sight like this worth fighting for?”
Pound looked down at the ground. He had never seen Ponyville from above like this. With the light of the moon he could sorta make out the general area, though they were so far up the details were lost to him. The wind blew gently around them, causing the clouds to slowly float by. Up above them was the moon. He had never seen it so close before.
He thought of the time Discord had given them some of his power. He and Pumpkin had been having a lot of fun messing around, but he hadn’t done much flying. All the same, he knew that it felt nice to have that limitation removed, even if just for a short while.
Looking down below he thought of what the future could hold for him, if only he could grasp it. Scootaloo had had to be patient for four more years than him, but eventually she had grabbed onto her destiny and soared to the heavens. If Scootaloo could do it, why not him?
If all he did was whine and complain he would never be who he wanted to be. He could see that now. Was he an ugly duckling, or was he just simply ugly? The question passed through his mind, but there was only one answer to give.
He had made his choice.
His heart sped up, a strange excitement going through him. “Hey, Scootaloo?” A twisted smile pulled at his lips.
“Yeah, Pound?” she responded, hearing his shift in tone.
“Catch me!” he said, unfurling his wings with a big grin.
“Catch-wait!” But it was too late. Pound had already jumped.
“WOOOOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Pound yelled into the night air. He was free-falling, but there wasn’t an ounce of fear in him. He felt exhilarated beyond measure. He could feel the wind whipping past him as he flapped his tiny wings, tears of joy coming down his face. One day he would be able to do this himself. He would take to the open skies and be a true pegasus. He would make his parents and Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash proud.
There was nothing he couldn’t do if he just believed in himself. None of them were going to do the work for him. This was something he had to do on his own. He could see that now.
Scootaloo was rushing down, half in a panic. They were very high up, and Pound’s flapping was slowing his descent even though he couldn’t flap hard enough to fly on his own, but she still didn’t want to risk anything happening to him.
She caught up with him about halfway down, grabbing him around the stomach. She matched his pace and gently slowed to avoid giving him whiplash from a sudden stop.
Once she had him safely back on her back she panted heavily for a few moments. “You little maniac!” she said angrily. “Please don’t EVER do that again. You’re Pound Cake. I don’t want to start calling you PAN Cake.”
Pound laughed heartily. “Sorry, Scootaloo.” He wiped his face. “I just… I wanted to experience it just once, to see what it was really like.”
Scootaloo turned to face him, her angry expression fading. She knew what he was saying all too well. Rainbow Dash had forced it upon her, though she wasn’t exactly complaining about it.
It had taken her by surprise, that was for sure. Rainbow Dash had carried her way up, like she had done to him, and before she even had a chance to protest Rainbow had dropped her.
She had screamed and cried at first, sure that Rainbow was trying to force flight out of her by putting her in a life-threatening situation, but Rainbow had kept pace with her all the way.
“Come on, kid! Pull off some stunts. Enjoy the breeze. Experience what being a pegasus is really like, and you’ll never forget it. I’ll be close by the whole time, so don’t be afraid.”
Knowing that Rainbow was looking out for her settled her fears, and she had let out a triumphant cry much like the pegasus sitting on her back. She had never given it much thought before, but in her own way she was becoming one of the old generation, despite that she wasn’t even in her twenties yet.
Here she was, passing down a story to someone much like her, a kid who was part of the new generation. It was an odd feeling, but not unpleasant.
She gave him a tender smile, understanding him more than she had every understood anyone before. Even though Rainbow was her idol, she couldn’t say they had similar lives and misfortunes. And while she was an above-average flier, her scooter cutie-mark showed that she was likely never going to be as talented as Rainbow Dash was.
“So, Scootaloo!” Pound was excitably moving up and down. “Can we do that again?”
“NO… WAY!” she said firmly. “I don’t have Rainbow’s level of talent and speed. I caught you long before you would have hit the ground, but all it would take is a stray bird or something to make me lose focus and I might not have enough time to catch you.
“Until you’ve at least progressed to gliding there’s no way I’m risking your safety just for a cheap thrill.” She turned her head forward again, sighing. “Though I sure understand your feelings on the matter.”
Pound was a little disappointed. He wanted to prod her to give in, but he decided his health was more important. If something went wrong and Scootaloo couldn’t get to him in time he would go splat on the ground. It was safe to say that would put a damper on his plans of being a great flier. “Alright, then,” he said, giving in.
He nuzzled her neck, hugging her. “Thanks a lot, Scootaloo. What you said really helped me.”
Scootaloo grinned. “Glad to hear it, kid.
“It’s been about fifteen minutes. I think that’s enough. I don’t want to keep my friends waiting if they’re there, but if you ever want another pep talk just come back.”
She angled herself downwards, feeling a guilty twinge inside. “Loosen up your legs a bit, Pound.”
“Oh, sorry,” he responded, releasing her neck.
“The other set too,” she added, feeling a bit reckless.
Pound felt a little nervous. She wasn’t angled too sharply downward, so he wasn’t worried about falling off, but he didn’t think he’d been too rough on her. All the same he complied, letting his back legs hang limply.
“Whoa!” he cried out as she suddenly sped up, and his heart raced as he separated from her.
Before he could even shout her name she slowed down and with a thump he landed back on her back. He quickly tightened his grip with all four legs.
She chuckled. “How was that?”
Pound realized she had done it deliberately. “You butt-face!” he started angrily, but then he quickly grinned. “That was cool!” He released her and she did it again a few more times.
It was an odd experience, having something under him then a quick, rapid weightlessness before gravity took over and propelled him right back onto her.
He laughed most of the way down, but felt a little annoyed when she stopped, even though he understood she did it because they were getting too close to the ground now to play around.
She reached house level and started swerving around them as they headed back toward her house. “There it is!” she said, pointing out the green house.
“Yep!” Pound added. “But you’re going too fast.”
“Whoa, you’re right! Ahhh! I can’t stop in time! We’re gonna crash!”
“Eeek!” Pound braced for impact, but at the last second Scootaloo tilted upwards, doing a loop-de-loop and shaking Pound off her back before landing, catching him and holding him over her head.
“Da-na-na-naaaaaa!” Scootaloo said in a joking tone. “You’ve got a Pound Cake. This little colt wants to be the best, but he’s got a long way to go.”
Pound rolled his eyes. “Really?” he said flatly. “You’re quoting a dumb video game?”
Scootaloo chuckled. “Well, it is one of my classmate’s favorite games. Button Mash is a video game fanatic. Has been since he was a kid himself.”
She set him down, opening the front door. “Alright, let’s go, kid.”
He sighed, but couldn’t stay angry. “Thanks again, Scootaloo.”
She rubbed his mane. “Hey, anytime.”
They walked past the living room, following the sound of voices to the kitchen. Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Pinkie Pie were all sitting down at the table, drinking hot chocolate.
“There you are, Pound!” Pinkie said as she noticed him. “Did everything go okay?”
He nodded hard. “It went perfectly, Auntie Pinkie!” He trotted over to her and jumped into her lap, giving her a big hug. “I feel so much better now.”
“I’m glad to hear it. Why don’t you grab a cup of hot chocolate with us before we hit the road?”
“Sounds GREAT!” His body was moving up and down like he couldn’t sit still.
Pinkie could see he looked very giddy now. She didn’t know what exactly Scootaloo said to him, but the specifics were unimportant to her. If Pound wanted to tell her he would, or if he didn’t he wouldn’t. The results meant more to her than the details. Pound was happy again, and that was enough for her.
He turned to the other two. “Hey, Apple Bloom! Hey, Sweetie Belle! How are you two doing?”
“Just fine, Pound,” Sweetie responded.
“Except fer having to do some boring report!” Apple Bloom said right after.
“Well, at least we can all work on it together. That’s the one saving grace.”
“And,” said Scootaloo, walking over and grabbing the two of them, “I’ve got my friends with me.”
“Didn’t I just say that?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Hey, the report is only one thing we can do together. We can goof off the rest of the night, and there’s no one I’d rather goof off with than you two.”
“Can’t argue that,” said Apple Bloom, throwing her leg around Scootaloo too.
“Me neither,” said Sweetie Belle, doing the same.
“CUTIE MARK CRUSADER SLEEPOVER!” they yelled, then they all broke down into laughter.
“Man, we were always yelling stuff like that when we were kids,” said Scootaloo. “Glad to see you guys remember it too.”
“Well, you three look busy,” said Pound, “so we’re gonna take off.”
“Sure, squirt.” She walked over to him, giving him a big hug. “Just remember what I told you, and I know you’ll go far.”
He nodded as he held her back. “I won’t forget.”
She pulled him into the other room and sat him down on the couch.
“Before you go I just want to make it clear again that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you’re overwhelmed. I know kids can sometimes take things the wrong way.” She scratched her head. “Well, I guess adults can do that too.”
Pound nodded. “Mom and Dad and even Princess Twilight have told me that all of them make mistakes too, because all of us are still learning.”
“That’s right. It’s NOT weakness to ask for help. Weakness is relying solely on the help and doing nothing yourself to improve. I don’t want you to avoid asking for help and try to go solo in everything based on what I said, because all of us need help at one time or another. That’s all I want to say.”
“Don’t worry, Scootaloo,” Pound said brightly. “I get it. I’m the only one that can flap my wings. They can’t do it for me. But they can watch me flap them, and help me when I’m in need.”
“I’m glad you get it, because, well, I’m not used to being a role model.” She let out an awkward laugh, rubbing the back of her head. “I’d hate to think you took something I said the completely wrong way and wound up miserable.”
Pound laughed, getting up and hugging her again. “Aw, don’t worry. I think you did wonderful.
“I love you, Scootaloo! You’re the best!”
Scootaloo had that tender feeling building up inside again as she hugged him back, her face hot from his praise. “Alright, you little dork. Enough with the sappy talk before you make me cry. I got a reputation to uphold.”
Pound just snickered evilly, thinking of more stuff to say, but then he gave it up. She had done him a big favor, so he’d accept her wishes for now. He didn’t want to seem ungrateful.
With a few final farewells Pound and Pinkie headed for home.
“So you made up with Pumpkin and Scootaloo helped you with your fears,” said Pinkie joyfully. “That sounds like a productive night to me.”
“It sure is! And I’m… I’m ready to go back to school now!”
Pinkie was relieved. “I’m glad to hear that, Pound!”
“So… did she say anything interesting?”
Pound turned to her, beaming. Excitedly he said, “I’m an ugly duckling!”
“HUH?” Pinkie responded, dumbfounded.
Pound just laughed as he started walking. “Come on, Auntie Pinkie. I’ll tell you all about it.”