Pound felt like he had been holding his breath the whole time his mother had been up there, and he panted gently. “Thank you, Auntie Pinkie.” He gave her a big hug. “I’m sorry Mom got mad at you.”
She hugged him back. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure she was just tired.”
After a few moments of silence she suddenly said, “Darn it, Pound. What am I supposed to do?”
“Isn’t there anything I can do to get you to keep the secret?” He was a little calmer now. Pinkie had already kept the secret once. Maybe he could convince her to stay quiet.
The room was silent for a minute. “Pound, you do realize what’s going to happen, don’t you?”
“About your sister. That pony Drill Bit is only out for a week. It’s all well and good that you’ve learned about how vengeance is bad, but do you believe he does? I doubt it. What’s going to happen when he returns? Pumpkin needs to be held accountable, and the best way to sooth his anger is by coming forward and being honest. At least if he knows Pumpkin was punished and he gets an apology from the principal he’ll be less angry as well as less likely to seek revenge. Isn’t detention or a few days of suspension better than Pumpkin being hurt?”
Pound didn’t have an easy answer for that. He already feared Drill’s vengeance when he came back, if his nightmares were any indication. It seemed like no matter what something bad was going to happen to Pumpkin. “But… what if telling the truth causes Pumpkin to get expelled? We already got a bad mark on us because of fighting on our first day, and we were only allowed to stay because Twilight intervened.”
“I see your point. Well… what if we fudge the truth a bit? If you can get someone to agree to it then you can create a new witness for the incident. They can say that Pumpkin tripped over a tree trunk and smashed her face into a tree, and Pumpkin assumed he made her trip. It doesn’t completely mesh with the facts, but a little confusion can be expected when you’re hit that hard.”
Pound nodded. “Yeah, yeah! I like it!”
Pinkie sighed at Pound’s bright expression. “This is wrong, Pound! I don’t want to make it seem like lying to avoid punishment is okay.”
Pound’s smile faded. He groaned. “I know.”
“It’s just…” she sighed again, a tear coming down her eye. “I know that the one who’s suffered the most through all of this is you, and with everything else going on you deserve it least of all.
“I’m willing to do this for you, Pound, but if your parents find out that I know the truth and I didn’t tell them-”
“I know, Auntie Pinkie!” he said quickly, as he gave her a nuzzle. “If you’re keeping quiet I’ll keep quiet too.”
She got a thoughtful expression on her face. “Look, we’ve got a week. I want you to talk to Pumpkin tomorrow and tell her what you think about what she did. If nothing else it will stop her from doing something like this again, but the main goal is to get her on board with this plan.”
Pound nodded. “I’ll do my best, Auntie Pinkie.”
Pinkie was now the one staring at him quietly. When she spoke she said, “Well, I have some context for you about the incident.”
“According to Pumpkin’s version of the story she got fed up with Drill Bit bullying you, so she got him alone behind the trees to talk to him about leaving you alone.”
“However, the colt didn’t relent, and eventually got fed up with her and smacked her with a stick.”
Pound gave a small nod. “Okay.”
Pinkie huffed. “What I can’t figure out is why she would do this! I mean, I know she did it for you, but I mean why did she-why-”
Pound gently put a hoof to her mouth. “I understand what you mean. I’ve been thinking that all day myself. Talking to him was fine, but framing him seems odd.” He put his hoof down. “It’s just not like her to do this sort of thing.”
“Would you like to know more about Drill Bit?”
“Pumpkin also told us some of the things he said. I don’t believe she’s lying here. According to her Drill Bit picks on you because he lives in a highly competitive family. The kind that thinks second place is as bad as last place. He’s so awful to you because you’re the worst in the class. In his deluded mindset he thinks that his bullying is being helpful to you.”
Pound gaped at her. “Come again?” he said flatly.
Pinkie shook her head. “His logic goes like this: if you can’t even match up to him how can you take on the rest of the world and its troubles? So he keeps on pushing you to get a reaction out of you, not because he dislikes you, but because he wants to provoke you into doing better.”
Pound was bewildered by that, but he thought of something. “That… sounds a lot like what Scootaloo was saying to me. ‘You’ll either push yourself harder than you’ve pushed before, or you’ll throw tantrums and whine and complain and prove that everything they were saying is right.’”
“Right. The ‘ugly duckling’ story.”
“I only just got told that yesterday. I need a little time to put it into practice. I kept repeating it in my head today whenever Drill Bit would start in on me, and it felt like it was working. If Pumpkin hadn’t did what she did I think I would have been fine.”
“Well, it’s too late now. Anyway, there’s something I want to ask you about. What do you think about Masquerade Ball?”
Pound blinked. “Well, I’ve never gone to one myself, but they sound nice.” He scratched his head. “Kinda odd change of topic there, Auntie Pinkie.”
“Sorry. Should I have said Masky?” Pound was looking at her with genuine confusion. “You don’t know? Pumpkin said they got a new student today.”
Pound’s expression darkened. “Oh. Him!” he said, annoyed. “I never got his name. I went to sit with Pumpkin at lunch like always, and she was very nasty about getting me to leave. That’s all I know, so I have no idea what he’s like.”
“Hmmm…” Pinkie got a strange look on her face. “Well, I don’t know how you’re gonna take this, but… Pumpkin’s in love.”
Pound’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Whaaaaaat? What do you mean ‘in love?’ She just met the kid today!”
“She gushed about him today, and although she didn’t say it in words it was obvious from her expressions and the way she blushed and giggled that she’s got a crush on him.”
Pound stuck his tongue out. “Ugh! That’s gross!”
Pinkie giggled. “Well, you’ll get there yourself too one day.”
“Please stop! I’m gonna be sick!”
She chuckled some more. “Okay, okay. According to her he’s part of a family that travels a lot. He got the respect of the whole class by whipping out a photo of him and his parents ‘vacation’ in the dragon kingdom with like a thousand dragons surrounding them.”
“Whoa,” Pound said, impressed. “That sounds pretty cool.” He frowned. “It would have been nice for Pumpkin to introduce us. I would have loved hearing a story like that.”
“Well… love is a tricky matter. She’s feeling a little possessive of him right now. Around the age of six or seven most kids develop their first crush because they’re interacting with non-family members in what could be a high-emotion situation. He made a good first impression.”
Pinkie glanced away. “I’m a little concerned.”
“About what?” Pound asked, pulling himself up higher. “Tell me.”
“Pumpkin feels strongly about him, but he might not feel the same way. Kids your age don’t really know what love is, at least from a romantic, boyfriend-girlfriend standpoint. It’s totally different from familial love. Pumpkin’s feelings seem like they stem from thinking he looks handsome, and the way he grandstands. You don’t come into school with a photo of yourself surrounded by dragons if you don’t intend to show it off.”
Pound looked down. “So what you’re saying is that you don’t think he actually cares about her?”
Pinkie let out a heavy breath through her nose. “I’m saying it’s a possibility. He might just like the attention. And, while I don’t know if it has any relevance, Pumpkin did pull her stunt the same day he came into the picture. Coincidence? Maybe. But I don’t know enough about him to even speculate. He might not have anything at all to do with it. That’s why I asked you about him. I was hoping you could shed some light on him.”
Pound looked back up at her. She was now looking at him again. Pumpkin acting strangely could be explained by him influencing her, but, as Pinkie said, he hadn’t even spoken a word to the kid, so it would be wrong to blame him for it.
Pound yawned suddenly. “All this talking is making me tired. Do you think we can go to bed now?”
Pinkie nodded, yawning back.
“Thanks for everything, Auntie Pinkie!” He gave her a big hug, nuzzling her cheek. “I love you so so so so much!”
Pinkie beamed, hugging him back. “I love you right back, so so so so much!”
When they let go he said quietly, “I really mean it. I know you lied to Mom a little while ago but I really was having nightmares. Each one of them about Drill Bit doing something horrible to Pumpkin for revenge. And on the last one he…” He shook a bit. “…he, well, he actually killed her. I don’t remember what he did, but she was definitely dead.”
Pinkie held him close again. “I’m sorry, Pound.”
“You don’t have to be sorry. Because of you now I’m not keeping this secret all to myself, and we even have a plan for dealing with it. And you even risked getting in trouble with Mom and Dad just to help me out.” He let out a quiet sob as he squeezed her again. “I’m so glad that you came to live with us all those years ago. Without you I don’t know what we would do. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to us.”
Silent tears came down Pinkie’s face. “There have been some hard times, starting with the very first time I foalsat you two, but I’ve never regretted coming to live here.”
Pound let out a small chuckle. He’d heard the story so many times, but it always seemed to make him laugh.
“You had been brats all night, constantly crying and making a mess of things, and the only thing that seemed to make you happy is when I poured flour on myself. I tried so hard to do the right thing, but I eventually reached my breaking point. I couldn’t control you guys, and eventually I broke down crying, feeling so helpless.”
Pound smiled. “And when me and Pumpkin saw how much we hurt you we came back with a bag of flour and poured it on ourselves, making you laugh.”
“And then later on, when your parents came home and saw how clean everything looked, they asked if I could be their permanent babysitter. After the disaster of a night I had I quickly refused.”
Pound smiled. “But you didn’t refuse for long.”
Pinkie smiled back. “Your first words were my name. Everything else ceased to matter, and I felt I would have dealt with twice as much struggle just to hear those two words from you again.”
Pound gave a content sigh. “Well, you’ve done a lot for us too growing up.” He yawned again. “I’d talk about it, but I think it can wait. I just want to say thank you again.”
The two of them got under the covers, both on their sides. Pinkie held him around the stomach. She couldn’t deny that she had missed this.
Pound was feeling much the same. He felt very secure being right next to her. “Goodnight, Auntie Pinkie.”
He closed his eyes, and in a few minutes he drifted off to sleep, this time thankfully without any nightmares.
Pumpkin woke up in the morning, feeling a little troubled. She had been woken up by Pound’s crying the night before, and he never came back down from Pinkie’s room.
She turned on her side, seeing his empty bed. Shifting her gaze over she saw Champ lying down right in front of the door.
Pound had been unusually quiet the day before. Sure, she got a little bruise, but it would heal. Wasn’t it worth it to get Drill Bit out of his hair for a little while? It didn’t quite turn out how she expected, as he’d only been suspended instead of expelled, but maybe without that jerks constant teasing Pound could get off the ground by the time he came back.
Her heart swelled as she thought of Masky. The ice pack had felt nice for her wound, but she had also felt a little lonely, with nothing to distract her from the pain. And as she thought of that he had come in, having gotten special permission to check up on her.
He spent the rest of the day with her, talking to her and keeping her company. And to top it all off he had started by congratulating her for her plan and then giving her another kiss. The pain had faded almost instantly.
She grimaced. Smiling too widely just made her cheek hurt, but she couldn’t help it. He was just so awesome!
She sat up, petting Tiger Lily. After that she cleaned the litter pan, changed her water and poured her some food.
Once her pet was taken care of she grabbed the stuff she needed for school. Since Pound was upstairs she grabbed his saddlebag as well.
She eyed Champ, and he gave a whimper. “Don’t worry. I’ll go get Pound for you, okay?”
The dog let out a bark, and now moved to a sitting position.
She walked downstairs first to set their stuff by the door, then went upstairs towards Pinkie’s room, knocking on it before coming in.
Pound was sitting on the edge of the bed, Pinkie right next to him with her hoof around him. Both of them looked up as she entered.
“Good morning,” said Pumpkin. “Your dog’s waiting by the door for you, Pound. Just passing along the message. Also, I put your stuff by the front door. See you at breakfast.” With that she left.
Pound just stared at Pinkie’s door. He was still uncertain about things, but he had a better idea of what to do now. “I… I think I’m gonna wait until after school to talk to Pumpkin. I want to do it somewhere private, where we won’t have to worry about being overheard.”
“That would probably be best,” said Pinkie.
He went downstairs to his room, and Champ went crazy, running in a circle and barking, before jumping up on him and licking his face.
Pound laughed as he pushed the dog away. “Okay, okay, okay! Down, boy!”
Champ complied, sitting down, but his tail was still wagging.
Pound went to his closet where he kept all of Champ’s stuff, taking out the leash. Pound was proud that Champ stayed sitting down, even though he was shaking with excitement and barking. He took the dog out to do his business before bringing him back in and heading to the kitchen for breakfast.
He kept glancing at Pumpkin, and thinking of what Pinkie had told him. What Pumpkin had done was not okay, but she had done it because she wanted to help him. That was what he had to keep in mind. The rest he could deal with later.