Pumpkin was sitting on her bed, quietly reading a book. Tiger Lily was lying down next to her, fast asleep.
Every once in a while she’d glance toward Pound, who was likewise on his bed and being silent. He hadn’t said a word since he had gotten home from walking Champ.
She turned the page she was on with her magic, hearing Pound let out a huff.
“Do you have to be so loud?” Pound snapped. “Why don’t you go read somewhere else?”
Pumpkin ignored his rudeness, trying to just focus on her reading. She spotted something out of the corner of her eye, and got a mild scare as she was hit with a stuffed animal.
Keeping her composure she closed her book and went over to Pounds bed, setting down his stuffed bear. “I think this is yours.”
“Don’t be cute,” Pound growled. “Why don’t you go show off somewhere else?”
“I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not showing off.”
“Then I’ll make you leave!” Pound moved, but Pumpkin was quicker, stopping his hoof with her magic as he went to hit her. “That’s enough, Pound.”
“It’s not enough! Just get out! I don’t want you here! Don’t you get that?”
“I know you don’t really want me to leave, so I’m not going to. A few days ago, when I was in a bad spot because of what happened with Masky, you stayed by my side until I was ready to talk.” She released him from her magic. “So of course I’m gonna do the same for you. I owe you that much after how terrible I made you feel.”
A few seconds passed, and then Pound’s expression softened as he silently cried.
Pumpkin crawled up onto his bed, giving him a big hug. “I love you, Pound!”
Pound took in some shaky breaths before he hugged her back, quietly sobbing.
“There you go,” she said comfortingly. “Don’t hold it in. Just let it all out. I’m here for you.”
Pound tightened his grip. “T-thank you,” he said thickly, gulping.
After a few minutes they each moved to the edge of the bed, Pumpkin with her hoof over his shoulder. “So talk to me, Pound. You got into a fight with Drill Bit, right?”
Pound sighed, staring at the floor. “Yeah, but he’s not the problem. I got frustrated with him because of his attitude and insults, but the real problem is with me.
“Even since I talked with Scootaloo I thought I knew the secret to becoming great. I’ve told myself over and over that I’m just an ugly duckling. That, even though I’m weak now, one day I’ll stand among the greatest fliers of our time.”
Tears started coming down his eyes again. “Lately, though… I’ve just been feeling defective. Even though in my mind I know what I’m supposed to do my body just won’t cooperate. Every time I hop into the air I lose my head and just start flapping wildly like an idiot instead of focusing and trying to do it right.
“I’ve lost faith in myself, and I just feel like no matter what I do I’ll never fly. That’s why it feels so aggravating sometimes to see how talented you already are with your magic.”
He put his hooves over his face. “Maybe I’m not an ugly duckling after all. Maybe I AM just ugly, and I’ll just be stupid and pathetic my whole life!” He began sobbing loudly as he put his head against hers.
Pumpkin quietly cried alongside him, holding him close. “You know what I think?”
He took some shaky breaths as he said, “W-w-what?”
“I think it’s for the best you and Drill Bit are mad at each other.”
“Sure, he’s got talent. He might be the one best suited to teach you among the kids in your class, but he doesn’t have the right attitude to really help you excel. Failure is a part of success. It’s how you learn to do better. Of course his constant taunting and insults would eventually wear away your self-confidence. You’re starting to believe in those insults, when they’re just not true.
“He doesn’t care if you improve or not. He’s only helping you to boost his ego. You want my honest opinion? Forget him. Get a REAL teacher to help you, like Rainbow Dash or Scootaloo.”
Pound sniffed. “I don’t think training with Rainbow Dash would be much different than with Drill Bit.”
“Well… I guess you’re right, but Rainbow Dash doesn’t think so lowly of you as Drill does. And she can have her soft side too.”
Pound thought back to his chat with Scootaloo. She had said much the same. Rainbow had been tough on him when he was being a brat, but she grew compassionate when she brought up his plight of feeling betrayed.
“If there’s one thing that I believe about you it’s that this isn’t enough to break you. You’re one of the strongest ponies I know, and so I know you’ll get past this and keep moving.”
Pound sighed. “I don’t feel strong,” he said in a downtrodden voice.
“While I was off being stupid you were the one who avoided a fight with Drill Bit and offered to take on my punishment for attacking Princess Twilight. No weak pony could do what you did, Pound.”
“That’s the problem. I’m only strong when you’re involved. Other than that I‘m a complete weakling.”
“No one is strong all the time, not even Rainbow Dash or Auntie Pinkie. When you’re not strong enough that’s what your family is for, to help save you and get you back on your hooves.”
Pound looked over at her, seeing her encouraging smile. His lip quivered a bit, and then he leaned into her again, resting his head on her chest. “I am feeling weak right now. And I do need you, more than ever before.”
“Yes, Sir!” she replied with a laugh, hugging him again as he rested. “You’ll fly when the time is right, and you’ll be incredible. That’s what I truly believe.”
“Thank you, Pumpkin,” he said sincerely. “I really mean it. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Pound,” she said as she gave him a squeeze.
Drill Bit was on his bed, a blank expression on his face. He kept thinking of his brothers story. He had grown up around competition, winning nearly every contest he came across. With every medal, every award, his parents showered him with praise and admiration.
His brother had been the same way. It had been incredibly ambitious to claim that he would become the leader of the group responsible for protecting one of the most important figures in the whole world, and yet he had nearly accomplished it. He was second in command of the whole thing.
Now his brother seemed to be throwing all that away in favor of treating everyone as equals. And all because one weakling had saved his life.
So what should he do? Listen to his brother? Or keep listening to his parents? He really didn’t know. However, he knew how he could find out. He could test it for himself. He’d try to begin anew with Pound, and see if it really made a difference.