Having resolved Pinkie’s feelings the twins were feeling much better.
“We know about pressures and responsibility,” said Pound calmly. “It’s what got us into that crazy situation in the first place.”
“Yeah,” said Pumpkin. “We were feeling a little overwhelmed by everything earlier, but I wouldn’t trade our experiences for anything.” She grinned up at Pinkie. “After all, it’s everything we’ve gone through that allows us to help you as much as you help us.”
Pound nodded, then giggled. “Well, a nice massage from Mom certainly helped.”
Pumpkin chuckled too. “Can’t deny that. She’s really good at that.”
Pinkie shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. I’ll just have to take your word for it.”
“If you’re feeling stressed I’m sure Mom wouldn’t mind giving you one too.”
Pinkie laughed. “Maybe not, but I’m not feeling stressed anymore. Not after the two of you went out of your way to help me.”
They both grinned widely.
“Why don’t we go make some dinner? Now I’m starting to feel hungry.”
“Okay, Auntie Pinkie!”
The three of them went downstairs, the twins smiling at their parents as they passed by their room.
As usual, Pinkie found a way to make things fun.
“Go long!” she called out to Pound, throwing a head of lettuce in his direction.
Pound jumped for it, but it suddenly went up a foot out of his reach, enveloped in a blue glow.
Pumpkin grabbed it. “And Pumpkin with the steal!”
Pound just chuckled as Pinkie threw a tomato at him, and he caught this one.
Pinkie grabbed some zucchini, and together the three of them began making a salad.
After chopping up the zucchini Pinkie grabbed some tofu burgers out of the freezer, setting them on a pan on the oven. She turned on the heat, humming to herself as she worked on them.
When the food was done they called down Cup and Carrot from upstairs and had dinner.
After hearing about Pound and Pumpkin’s day, and destressing, Pinkie felt ready to talk about her own day.
When dinner was over they cleaned up and went to the living room to relax by the fire. The twins stayed by Pinkie to ensure her continued better mood.
After a few hours of quiet family time it was time for the twins to go to bed.
All five of them went upstairs. Pinkie kissed them both at the door, and they hugged her back as they said good night.
As the twins headed for their beds Cup called out to them and they turned around.
“What is it, Mom?” asked Pound.
“That was a very nice thing you did, spending so much time with Pinkie after her disaster of a day.”
“It’s only fair,” said Pumpkin. “She’s always been there for us.”
“We wouldn’t abandon her,” said Pound.
“You told us that you had been growing tired of your responsibilities,” said Carrot, “and yet you focused only on Pinkie instead of coming back to ask us to continue with your massage.”
“We already explained that. What are you getting at?”
“A good deed deserves a nice reward, and since you were so mature we’ll allow you to be babies for tonight.”
That made both of them raise their eyebrows. “What does that mean?” asked Pound. “We got a little down before, but we’re already over it. We don’t want to go back to acting like babies.”
“Is that right?” asked Cup genially. “So would that mean you wouldn’t accept if we offered to let you sleep with us tonight?”
The twins eyes widened a bit, before they both began crawling around doing baby talk.
“Goo! Goo!” said Pound.
“Wanna sweep wit you!” said Pumpkin.
Cup and Carrot both began to laugh. “I love our children,” said Cup.
“Me too,” replied Carrot.
The twins dispensed with the theatrics and ran over, hugging their parents.
“This is so awesome!” said Pumpkin.
“Got that right!” said Pound. “We haven’t gotten to sleep with you since last year.”
Pumpkin looked toward her brother with a sly expression. “I know, right? That was when they became, like, the worst parents. ‘Oh, you’re terrified of that mean old thunder? Well, deal with it, losers.’ “
Pound snorted. “So mean. I guess it’s good we never convinced them to have another child. They’d probably make the newborn find its own house after a week. What terrible parenting.”
“Oh, is that how it is?” Cup said with fake anger, pushing Pumpkin away from her. “Since we’re so horrible I don’t see why you’d want to sleep near us.”
Carrot turned around and began walking away. “Come on, honeybun! I am hurt.”
Cup started walking away too. “Goodnight, losers! Deal with it!”
It only took a few moments for all four of them to burst into laughter. When they got themselves under control a little the twins jumped up onto their parents’ backs and went to their room.
Standing in front of their bed Carrot and Cup looked mischievously at each other before lowering their back halves and bit and lifting them hard, sending their children flying off their backs onto the bed.
They screamed at first, but began laughing once they landed and bounced. They screamed again as their parents hopped onto the bed with them, towering over them with evil expressions.
“Let’s see just how horrible we really are,” said Carrot, lifting a hoof, pulling a few stray feathers from his pillow and handing one to his wife.
“I’m game,” said Cup as she bit down on the nub.
The twins tried to run, but it was no use. As the feather tickled their skin they couldn’t help laughing. They’d squirm and pull out of their parent’s grip, only to quickly be captured again.
After a few minutes of “torture” they were finally allowed to rest and catch their breath, wiping away the tears in their eyes from laughing so hard.
Cup and Carrot laid on their sides next to their children, Cup next to Pound and Carrot next to Pumpkin, and pulled them close.
Pound and Pumpkin turned on their sides, hugging them back. The fun and games were over, but that was okay. They loved it when their parents were a little immature and just let go, but they also loved their affectionate side.
Cup nuzzled Pound’s nose. “Not so horrible now, hmm?”
Pound nuzzled her back. “No way.” He squeezed a little tighter. “I sure missed this.”
“Me too,” said Pumpkin.
“It’s nice,” said Carrot, “but don’t get used to it. This is a special exception.”
“We’ll see-ee!” said Pound in a sing-song voice.
“Oh, no, mister,” said Cup. “I’ll send you to your room right now if you’re gonna start that.”
Pumpkin let out a little sigh. “It’s not fair that we can’t do this every night. It makes us happy. It makes you happy. So what’s the big deal?”
Carrot sighed in return, rubbing her back. “It’s always nice to snuggle with you two, but while we’ll always be there to provide our love and support, a part of growing up is distancing yourself from us to become your own ponies. It’s about maturing and becoming more independent. It’s the same way that we don’t give you showers or baths anymore. It’s something you can handle yourself.”
“I don’t get it,” said Pound. “It’s fine for Champ to sleep with me, and we can sit on your lap as much as we want, even sometimes falling asleep there. So why is it bad for us to sleep with you?”
Cup kissed Pound on the forehead. “You already know the answer, Pound. You’ll never outgrow affection, but you do have to outgrow relying on us just to go to sleep.”
The colt pouted. “But it’s not ABOUT relying on you to fall asleep. It just feels nicer to have you nearby.”
Cup gently shook her head. “But that is what it’s about, Pound. If you’re saying that being in someone’s hooves makes it easier to fall asleep you’re saying that you’re uncomfortable sleeping alone.
“I admit, we could have done a better job at helping you past your fear of thunderstorms before making you stay in your own rooms. I mean, Pinkie managed to get Pumpkin over her fear, and then Pumpkin in turn taught you. Regardless, the reasoning for that was to get you to deal with your fears on your own, and not just run to us for help the moment you got scared.
“Sleeping with us helped you feel better about your fear of storms, but it was only temporary. And given how easily Pumpkin got over that fear permanently simply by changing the way she thought about storms it becomes clear that you never really needed our help in the first place. You only thought you did.” She put a hoof over Pound’s heart. “That power was in you all along. You just needed to learn how to bring it out.”
“But… we… you…” Pound stopped, unable to think of a good counter-argument.
“Pound,” said Pumpkin, “just give it up.”
Pound turned his head towards his sister.
“Just think about it. The more you try to argue she’s wrong the more right you make her look.”
Pound let out a huff. He didn’t want to admit it, but Pumpkin was right.
Scootaloo’s words came to him. She had told him that there was nothing wrong with asking those you cared for for their assistance. It only became a problem when you began to use their strength as a substitute for becoming stronger on your own. If the ones you relied on weren’t around then all that courage and strength would disappear with it.
As much as he would have loved to be in his mother’s loving hooves forever, he knew there was no way he could if he ever wanted to continue growing.
“I understand,” he said. “Our friends were all difficult to get, but we only were able to help them with their problems because we had grown up enough and learned enough to do it.” He nuzzled his mom’s chest. “I can’t go backwards now. But for tonight…”
Cup nuzzled his cheek. “Yes, for tonight you can stay with us.”
“And tomorrow,” said Pound, making Cup snort.
Pound giggled. “I’m just kidding.”
“I know.” He looked into her eyes, feeling all his love for her blossoming. “I love you so much, Mommy.”
Cup got misty-eyed. “I love you too, Pound.”
“What about meeeeee?” Carrot asked, sniffing.
Pound turned his head. “Eh, you’re alright. Your massage game is kinda weak. Come back when you’re as good as Mom.”
“Oh?” Carrot’s eyes narrowed a bit. “Is that how it is?” He sat up, picking up Pumpkin and setting her on her mother’s side. “Here. Take Pumpkin, honeybun.”
“Uh-oh,” said Pound as his dad reached for him.
Carrot stood up, holding Pound with one leg as he slowly started walking for the door. “Oh, Pumpkin?”
“Yeah, Dad?” she replied.
“Congratulations! You’re about to become an only child. I’m taking your brother to an orphanage.”
“Cool! Can I have his dog too?”
“You sure can!”
“Noooooo!” said Pound. “You can’t do this to me. Mom! Stop him.”
Cup just shook her head. “Sorry, Pound. You shouldn’t have insulted his massage game. You know how sensitive he is about that.”
“Pumpkin, please! Help me!”
Pumpkin sighed. “Stop, Dad!”
Pound let out a sigh of relief.
“Why should I?” said Carrot.
“Because it’s too late. The orphanage isn’t going to be open.”
“Aww,” Carrot said, disappointed. “Can’t I just leave him in a basket or something outside their door?”
“Well, yeah,” said Cup, “but then we’d be out a basket. And we all know that that basket is worth more than our son.”
“Hey!” said Pound.
Carrot turned around, heading back towards the bed. “Ugh! I GUESS you can stay here one more night.”
“Hmph!” He dropped Pound on the bed. “I already Pinkie Promised not to tell anyone about today, but there must be some way to get my revenge.”
“That’s easy,” said Cup. “I just have to find some old photos of the babies.”
“Oh, really?” Carrot said deviously, rubbing his hooves together. “What did you have in mind?”
“Hmm… well, we were supposed to save those for when the kids were teenagers and had their first relationship, but I’m sure we have some of Pound’s old potty training pictures somewhere. We can show them off to all his friends.”
Carrot put on an evil smile. “Oh, yes. That sounds wonderful!”
Pound sputtered for a few moments. “You better not!”
Cup suddenly began laughing hysterically.
“What’s so funny?” asked Pumpkin.
When she got herself under control she wiped a tear away. “Oh, boy! I just remembered the funniest and yet grossest memory of your brother ever.”
Pumpkin smiled widely. “What? Tell me?”
Pound wasn’t sure if he was ready for this.
“Well, there isn’t much to tell. When you were old enough we bought both of you potty chairs. The first time Pound went number one successfully he was so proud of himself that he decided to wear the seat as a crown.”
Carrot put a hoof to his face, laughing. “Oh my gosh! I remember that! Got himself completely soaked.”
Pumpkin stuck her tongue out in disgust, but after a few moments she began to laugh as hard as her mother had been. She rolled off her mother, barely even noticing when she fell onto the floor. “That’s great!” she said between laughs. “I don’t know whether to laugh or barf.”
Pound was blushing.
Cup looked up thoughtfully, putting a hoof to her chin. “Hmm… I really should go look for that.”
Pound jumped on his father, attempting to twist his hoof. “Burn it! BURN IT!” he yelled. “You’re not showing anyone! Destroy that photo or I swear I’ll burn this whole house down!”
Carrot only chuckled, easily overpowering Pound and pinning him down. “Relax, Pound. We were too grossed out to actually get a picture of that.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Cup. “It’s funny now, but at the time it was horrifying. I quickly scooped you up and threw you in the tub.”
Pound looked between them. He thought they might be telling the truth. “You promise?”
“Pinkie Promise,” they both said.
Pound gently panted, feeling relieved. He went back to his mother, hugging her. He was subdued now. “Please,” said Pound quietly. “No more teasing.”
“Alright, Pound,” said Cup as she hugged him and he snuggled into her hold.
Pumpkin got up and back onto the bed. “Aww, does that mean I can’t threaten Pound with telling everyone that story?”
“Well, sure you can,” said Carrot. "You can tell anyone you want."
“Dad!” Pound said angrily.
“But then it would only be fair to show them a picture we did actually take of Pumpkin hoofpainting.”
“Okay?” said Pumpkin.
“What’s supposed to be embarrassing about that?” asked Pound.
"It was just supposed to be a fun little activity for the two of you. We put paper over the floor, and showed you what to do. Dip your hooves... then put it on the paper." He mimed the action. "Everything was going smoothly at first, until we got distracted by someone at the door. Classic early parenthood mistake. We thought you'd be fine for a minute or two."
Neither of them could tell where this story was going. "So Pumpkin made a mess, or fell in the paint?" Pound said in a dull voice. That was nothing compared to his story.
"Oh, it's worse than that. We got caught up in a conversation, and it was only when we heard Pound crying that we realized how long we had left you alone."
"Okay... and?" Pound was fuming. "Get to the juicy stuff already."
"Oh!" Cup said suddenly. "Oh... oh. Now I remember." She began to laugh. "Go on. You can tell it."
"Thank you," said Carrot. "Pound was upset because Pumpkin stole the large piece of paper with the paint on it. We focused on him first, getting a little bit of paint on us as we held him, but it was washable."
"Pumpkin was laughing in our room, and we kept hearing several bangs in a row. We left your room, and all we saw all over were two large circles right next to each other. It was bigger than your little hooves, so we weren't sure what you were dipping into the paint.
"We were trying to remain calm from the gigantic mess, but as we said it would wash out with a little scrubbing."
Cup began to snicker again.
Pound was getting interested. Pumpkin had no clue what was supposed to be embarrassing here.
Carrot continued on. "So we go in, and we gasped at the number you did on our room. On the floor was the paper with the paint on it. Before we could yell Pumpkin did something that I'll never forget."
"What? What?" said Pound, really intrigued now.
“Well, Pumpkin decided that hoofpainting wasn’t for her, so she’d paint with something else.”
Cup chuckled as she put a hoof to her mouth. “Like her butt!”
“What?” Pumpkin said, her eyes bugging out.
Pound began laughing. “Really?”
Carrot began laughing too. “She sat down right in the middle of the paint, getting it nice and wet, and began to slam her behind against the wall. So, yeah, she made imprints of her rear end all over the second floor and our room, laughing all the while at her masterpiece.”
Now Pumpkin was blushing and Pound couldn’t contain his laughter.
"That's great!" Pound said, kicking his back legs. "And you got a picture of that too?"
“So, Pumpkin,” said Cup meaningfully, “do you still want to share your brother’s story?”
The filly shook her head hard. “No! No! That memory can go in the corner and be forgotten FOREVER! Thank you!”
“Glad to hear it,” said Carrot, grabbing her and lying back down.
“Wow,” said Pound. “We were pretty crazy babies.”
“Yep,” said Pumpkin. “Let’s never go back to that time.”
“You said it.”
“Oh, fine,” said Carrot. “Just be boring.”
“I’m fine with being boring,” said Pumpkin. “I’d like to just enjoy being here with you.”
Pound nodded. “Same here. We can talk about embarrassing stuff any time. If this is going to be the last time I want to make the most of it.”
“Aww,” Cup said sadly. “But there are so many funny stories I can tell.”
“NO!” the twins yelled.
Now she put on an angry voice. “So, what then? Am I expected to just huggle and snuggle and talk about how much I love you? Is THAT what you want?”
“If I must.” She kissed Pound a few times before squeezing him and saying tenderly, “I love you.”
Pound let out a happy sigh. “I love you too.”
Carrot kissed and squeezed Pumpkin as well. “I love you, Pumpkin. WAY more than your brother.”
Pound sucked on his cheek. “That’s fine, ‘cuz I love Mom way more than YOU!”
“Come on now,” Cup said gently. “No more teasing.”
“Yeah!” said Carrot, blowing a raspberry. “Listen to your mother.”
Pound blew one back, and they repeated this a few times before Pound left his mother and jumped onto his dad, both of them laughing. He hugged his dad around the neck. “I love you too, Dad.”
“And I love you, Pound.”
“Help me, Mom!” said Pumpkin dramatically, holding out her hoof. “Save me from these immature boys.”
Cup pulled her over. “We girls have to stick together. After all, boys have cooties. I have to brush my teeth every time we kiss.”
That caused Pound and Carrot to both blow raspberries in their direction. Pumpkin gave one back in return.
Just when it looked like things were about to devolve into wrestling and playtime again Cup said firmly, “Enough!” With their attention on her she dropped back into a casual tone. “This is fun and all, but it’s bedtime. No more playing around, okay?”
“Okay, Mom,” the twins said reluctantly.
Cup and Carrot lay on their backs next to each other, Pound and Pumpkin on their bellies.
Pound nuzzled his dad’s chest as he rested his head. “Dad makes a good pillow.”
“So does Mom,” said Pumpkin as she followed suit.
“Glad we’re so squishy,” said Carrot, rubbing Pound’s back.
“Hey, Mom!” said Pound.
“Yes, honey?” she replied.
“Let’s make the most of our last night.”
“What do you mean?”
“Pumpkin wasn’t there that day you gave me a massage. She got to experience that before, but she never got the other half of the package.”
“Do I have to spell it out for you? I want to hear you sing!”
Cup blushed slightly. “Come on, Pound.”
“But your voice was so beautiful, and Pumpkin never got to hear it.”
Pumpkin turned to Pound. “Quick, Pound. Activate puppy dog eyes.”
Cup good-naturedly rolled her eyes as their eyes began to shimmer and their lower lips quivered. “Alright. Alright. But this is the last time. Got it?”
Cup already knew that Pound loved her singing from a few months ago, so she knew her voice wasn’t bad, but it was still a little embarrassing.
She closed her eyes, cleared her throat, and gently moved her head side to side as she began to sing one of their old lullabies.
For Pound it was just as good as he remembered. Pumpkin thought she was fantastic, closing her own eyes as she put her head back down.
Once she got past her nerves Cup fell into the groove much like she had with Pound, going back in time to when the twins were smaller.
When she finished her first song the twins applauded before looking at her expectantly for more.
She was more comfortable now. Her children were happy and safe. What more could she ask for?
Pound and Pumpkin blissfully drifted off to sleep and began quietly snoring.
Carrot let out a gentle sigh. He loved his wife’s voice too. “That was great.”
At first there was no response, but then he heard a sniff coming from her. He turned his head, expecting to see a look of joy, but she looked devastated. “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” He put a hoof around her neck. “What’s wrong?”
“Why does it have to end, Carrot?” Tears streamed down her face. “Would it really be so bad to just let them sleep with us all the time?”
Carrot started to speak, but then he realized she was just getting nostalgic. He didn’t think she really meant what she said.
“I-I-I mean, we only have a limited time to spend with them. Before you know it they’ll have jobs and partners and start going on dates and then they’ll move out of the house forever and have their own families and never visit and-”
“Easy there!” said Carrot, putting a hoof over her mouth. “Just breathe.”
He moved the hoof to her cheek. “They’re only a little over seven. There are still many years ahead for us to spend time with them before they’re adults. Your baby birds aren’t leaving the nest any time soon.”
Carrot’s words slowly wormed their way into her mind. She wiped her eyes. “I… I know. I just got a little lost for a few moments there.” She looked at her daughter. “The time just seems like it has gone so fast. I want them to grow up, but there’s also that part of me that wants to pull them close and never let them go.”
It was quiet for a few seconds, then she added, “I guess I still have some growing up to do myself.”
Carrot kissed her. “I don’t think you’re that bad. It’s something every parent has to go through at one point in their lives.” He looked at Pound. “All we can really do is cherish the time we do have, and be proud of what we’ve helped our children to become.”
Cup lifted one on her legs, putting it around his neck as well as she nuzzled his cheek with hers. “I agree. Unless they grow up to be supervillains. Then we’ll deny all responsibility.”
Carrot had to put his hoof to his mouth to stifle his laughter. Once he got himself under control he said, “Sounds like a plan. But if that did happen you know what we’d have to do, right?”
“Of course. A good parent is supportive of their children, so we’d have to join them in their conquest of the world and become the evilest family team. The two of us would get Canterlot. Pumpkin could have the Crystal Empire, and Pound could have Ponyville.”
Carrot shook his head. “I was gonna say try to get them back on the side of good, but I guess your plan works too. Alicorns are overrated, anyway. Earth ponies all the way.”
The two of them met eyes, and then had to cover their mouths to avoid waking the twins as they laughed.
Cup began rubbing Pumpkin’s back. “Ah, I needed a good laugh to get me back in the right state of mind. Thanks for that.”
“You’re very welcome.” Carrot began doing the same for Pound.
“Well, I think that’s enough excitement for one night. Tomorrow everything will go back to normal, but for tonight let’s just enjoy the wonderful feeling of being a parent.”
“And a husband.” He kissed her cheek.
Cup kissed him back. “A handsome stallion, an enthusiastic, optimistic mare, and two wonderful children; I have all the ingredients I need to have the perfect life.” She kissed him again, giving him a tender smile. “Thank you, Carrot, for being a part of it.”
A tear came down his eye. “And thank you for being a part of mine. I love you, honeybun.”
“I love you too, snuggle bear.”
They put their heads together, closing their eyes as they began to join their children in sleep.