Pound sat in front of Pumpkin, looking uncomfortable. “Pumpkin, this isn’t easy for me to say, but just like I told the truth about what you did I have another secret that I’ve been keeping. You’re… you’re not going to like it, but it is the truth.”
“Okay…” Pumpkin was curious. What punishment could Pound possibly give to her? Pinkie sure seemed to know, but she could see her parents and Twilight were clueless.
Pound groaned. He really, really didn’t want to do this, but it needed to be done. It would be better for Pumpkin this way. “Pumpkin… Masky doesn’t actually love you back.”
Pumpkin’s cheeks went red as her eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about? Of course he does.”
“At lunchtime, when you went to the bathroom, I asked him what he really thought of you. He told me he was just playing along with you.”
Cup and Carrot looked at each other. Assuming Pound wasn’t just making things up, and they didn’t think he was, Pumpkin was about to have her heart broken.
Pumpkin’s body went tense, tears starting to form in her eyes. She shoved him hard, knocking him to the ground.
“Pumpkin!” Twilight said sternly.
“SHUT UP!” she yelled, hopping up. “You think I don’t know what this is really about? You’ve hated Masky ever since I snubbed you at lunch because I wanted to spend time with him instead of you. You’re just jealous that you can’t possibly match up to someone as cool and experienced as him!
“WELL, GUESS WHAT?” she yelled. “We’re in love, and you’re not going to separate us with your stupid lying lies! So you better get used to it!”
Pound sat up. “I know it hurts, Pumpkin, but it’s the tru-” He recoiled as she socked him hard enough to knock him back to the ground.
Cup gasped, while Carrot scoldingly said, “Pumpkin!”
“SHUT UP!” She was shaking angrily. “Shut up, shut up, shut up! You better shut up right now if you know what’s good for you!”
Pound winced, getting up slower this time as he put his hoof to his nose. She didn’t make his nose bleed again, but that was the second hard hit he had taken there in the past half hour. “I can’t,” he said. “You can hit me if it makes you feel better, but I’m not lying. Masky really is lying to you.”
Twilight’s horn glowed as she stopped Pumpkin in mid-air, keeping her from tackling him to the ground. “Calm yourself, Pumpkin!” she said, walking over.
“Let go of me!” she said angrily.
“If you’re going to attack your brother if you’re free then, no, I’m not letting go.”
Pinkie walked over to her, sitting down and pulling Pumpkin onto her lap. She placed her hooves around Pumpkin to keep her in place, then looked over at Twilight, who ended her spell. “That’s enough, Pumpkin. Hasn’t Pound suffered enough today?”
She shook her head. “NO! I’m not going to just stand here while he makes up stories about my coltfriend! If he keeps it up I’ll mess him up worse than that bully did. YOU HEAR ME?” She shook her hoof at him.
“Pound told me the whole story after school. Don’t you realize how bad of an influence he’s been on you? He encouraged your bad behavior that led you to framing Drill Bit. He used your feelings of love to get you to abandon your values because he found it amusing. I know that you fancy him, but is he really worth it? Even if he actually did love you, is he really the kind of colt you want to stay with? Someone who will bring you down and ask you to attack or set up others?”
Pumpkin began trembling. “Y-you… I…” Her body went limp. “N-no! It’s… it’s not true. It can’t be true. He… he…” She thought of the nice things he said to her, the way he hugged and kissed her. Surely he couldn’t have faked all that?
But even as she thought that memories began surfacing. He started out his introduction by putting on a big performance and stating he wanted to be an actor. He demonstrated his ability to convincingly lie when he told the story of how he tricked Princess Celestia.
All of it was just a lie? He didn’t actually love her? Her heart couldn’t accept it, but it made sense in her mind. She had lost herself trying to impress him, and freaked out Pound to the point he had an anxiety attack and passed out. She had abused her magic and done things completely out of character for her usual attitude.
She gulped, finding it hard to breathe. What had she become in following the love she had for him? Tears slowly came down her eyes. “If… if you knew,” Pumpkin said in a croaky voice, “if it’s really true, then why didn’t you say anything before? Huh?”
Pound took in a deep breath. “I just didn’t know if I should. You were… just so happy.”
Pumpkin tried to pull away from Pinkie, but the mare held her tight. “If you have something to say to him then you can say it in my lap,” she said. “I’m not letting you hit Pound anymore.”
Pumpkin growled, but she knew it was pointless to fight it. Even if she could get away from Pinkie, Twilight would simply hold her still with magic. “Fine! Masky was the one who told me to set up Drill Bit if he wouldn’t listen to reason. I admit it. But what does that prove, Pound? It’s not like you’re perfect or haven’t done stupid stuff to protect someone you cared about, Mr. I’m gonna threaten a princess, or I’m gonna tell her to shut up, call her stupid, and accuse her of being a vain glory-seeker just because things didn’t go your way. We’ve all done dumb stuff, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love each other.”
Pound thought of the story Masky had told him. It might be true that Masky was doing something foolish because he was a kid like them, but that wasn’t the main issue. Pinkie’s idea of pointing out how he had been a bad influence on her behavior wasn’t going to be enough to get her to change her mind.
“So is that what this ‘stolen blanket’ business was about?” asked Cup, frowning.
“A stolen blanket?” asked Carrot. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Pinkie said it was a code word he was using for a certain secret.”
Pinkie looked over at Cup. If Pound was being honest she might as well be too. “Last night Pound told me what Pumpkin had done. He didn’t want to, of course, but he gave me enough information in his hypothetical scenario that I puzzled it out and confronted him about it.”
“Ah,” said Cup, “I thought your behavior odd when you refused to let Pound sleep with you even though he was begging loud enough to wake the house up. That wasn’t the reason at all, was it? He was asking for your silence, right?”
Pinkie nodded. “Yes.”
Twilight walked up to her. “Considering this information is just coming out now then obviously he was successful. I can understand you feeling bad for Pound but, Drill's other behavior aside, you were going to let an innocent party receive a punishment for something they weren’t even guilty of?”
Pinkie didn’t avert her eyes. “I should hope you’d know me better than that, Twilight. I had no intention of allowing things to stay as they were. Right before Fluttershy arrived to invite us over here we were getting ready to resolve everything. I just needed some time to process things and, hopefully, that Pumpkin would realize the wrongness of her actions on her own.”
Twilight’s expression softened. “I understand that, but in this case it would have been better if you had stayed home to resolve things than to come out on this group outing. As Pound suggested Drill Bit can serve out the rest of his suspension and we’ll leave it at that. Drill Bit isn’t what I’m concerned about right now, as Pound believes he can win the colt over.
“Pound, come over here.”
Pound walked over in front of her, sitting down. “Yes, Twilight?”
“Let’s settle this matter once and for all. You said you had a conversation with Masky where he confessed to you. I want you to think about that.”
“Okay,” he said. Her horn glowed as he thought back to his talk with Masky, and Pound’s head glowed as a magical energy floated above it, showing things from Pound’s perspective. In front of him was Masky.
“What do you think about Pumpkin?” came Pound’s voice. “She obviously loves you, but what do you think about her?”
Pumpkin tensed, gulping.
“Heh heh,” came the laugh of Masky. “How long have you been waiting to ask about that?”
“Pumpkin would have gotten mad if I asked before. Tell me the truth. Do you love her?”
Masky crossed his front hooves, leaning forward with a cocky expression. “Does it matter?”
Pumpkin's head tilted a little. How could it not matter?
“Of course it matters! I don’t want to see her get hurt.”
Masky shrugged. “Well, I’m afraid it’s too late for that. It was too late the moment I got assigned to her class.”
“What does that mean?”
Masky pushed further forward, so his face was right in front of Pound's. “You want the honest truth, then fine. No, I’m not in love with your sister.”
Pumpkin let out a shocked exclamation, lifting a hoof as if trying to touch the memory. Her body went limp as tears started out anew. He had stated it so plainly, even arrogantly, as if he had no shame at all about his falsehood. She took in some trembling breaths, opening her mouth as if to say something, but nothing came out. Her breathing grew shorter and shorter.
Pound closed his eyes as Pumpkin suddenly let out a loud wail and began sobbing uncontrollably. “Oh, Pumpkin,” he muttered quietly. Knowing that it had to be done made it no easier to take.
He walked over to his mother and fell into her lap as he cried along with her.
Cup sighed as she put her hooves around him, rubbing his back.
“What a mess,” said Carrot as he beheld both of his miserable children.
Pinkie cried too, though she was more restrained. She knew it had to end this way.
Twilight tapped a hoof in irritation. Looking at and talking to the colt earlier he had seemed a good pony and a good friend. She wouldn’t have imagined he’d be the cause of such distress. Despite it all she had to retain her impartiality. She couldn’t take their side just because she was friends with them. She would allow him to defend himself as was her duty as the Princess of Friendship. Perhaps things could be worked out between them.
When they’d settled down a bit Pound pulled out of his mother’s grip and walked over to Pumpkin. “I’m sorry,” he said.
She looked thoroughly uninterested, not even glancing up at him. “Whatever,” she said emotionlessly.
Pound let out a quiet moan. She looked so despondent. “Pumpkin, it’ll be okay. We can get through this together.”
“W-what-ev-v-ver!” Her voice quivered, and it looked like she was about to descend into another round of sobbing.
He didn’t know what to say.
Pumpkin’s horn glowed, pulling Pinkie’s legs from around her, and she started running, letting out an anguished cry.
“Pumpkin!” he called out, starting to run too, but Pinkie grabbed him.
“I think your sister needs a little time alone,” said Pinkie. “We’ll see where she winds up and just stay nearby if she needs us.”
Pound groaned again. “Well, I’m scared! You remember what I was like when I experienced my first betrayal. I broke everything I could and hurt all of you. I don’t want Pumpkin going through that too.”
Cup stood up and walked over to him. “We weren’t able to help you because we weren’t sure what had you so upset, and you refused to tell us. The difference here is that we know what’s upsetting her.”
Carrot walked over too. “Uh-oh.”
“What uh-oh?” said Cup. “What’s wrong now?”
“Oh, just that Pumpkin is running right toward the rest of the group.”
All of them gave each other a panicked look. Cup threw Pound onto Carrot’s back and they all took off running.