Pumpkin sat on her mother’s lap at the hospital, quietly crying. She looked over at her brother, sleeping in the hospital bed. His right front leg was in a cast, and bandages were wrapped around his stomach. There was a breathing tube on his mouth, pumping oxygen into his system. Around his head were more bandages. At various points on his chest were suction cups attached to a heart monitor.
As she looked at her brother she couldn’t help but think about how it was all her fault. The two of them had gotten into a gigantic fight earlier, hitting and pushing and shoving each other. At one point Pound had grabbed her hair and ripped out a few strands, holding it up and laughing at her. She had really lost her temper then. Her magic had burst to life, and everything around her was shoved away. Pound got knocked into a bookshelf.
That was all she intended, to hurt him a little. He had gotten up fine, but then the impact caused the whole thing to topple over. She had barely had time to warn him to move before a cascade of books came down upon him, along with the bookshelf itself. She had tried, she really did, to use her magic to get him out of danger. She was still too inexperienced, her magic only coming in short bursts when she was in very emotional states. She had managed to divert some of the books, but it hadn’t been enough. She could still remember the sickening cracking nose the bookshelf had made when it slammed into the back of his head.
Letting out a yell she screamed for her parents, using her magic to do as much as she could until they ran in and helped her uncover him. There was a large bruise on his head and he wasn’t responding to any of them. She could still remember the expression on his face. His eyes were open, but there was no life in them. They quickly rushed him to the hospital.
“M-m-mommy! I’m sorry!” She sniffed, tears blurring her vision. “I’m sorry! It’s my fault! It’s all my fault!” She sobbed into her mother’s chest. “I shouldn’t have gotten so mad! I didn’t mean for my magic to do that!”
“There, there,” Cup Cake said, holding her daughter closer to her. “It was just an accident. Your brother will recover.”
“No!” she yelled. “I hurt him. I almost killed him! I’m the worst pony ever. You should give me up as your daughter.”
“Shhhh,” said Carrot Cake, rubbing her head. “Stop it now, Pumpkin. It was an accident! I know it hurts, but sometimes these things happen.”
Despite her parents assurances she still didn’t feel convinced. She continued shaking and crying.
A doctor came into the room. “Hello, there. I am Doctor Brown. I just wanted to give you an update on your son’s condition.”
“Okay,” said Cup Cake.
“Is my brother gonna be alright?” Pumpkin asked urgently, her voice cracking.
The doctor walked over to the side of the room, placing up some x-rays. “He broke his right foreleg and sprained a rib from all the things falling on him. If that was all it was we could still expect a full recovery in a few months. However, the biggest matter of concern is that he was brought in unconscious. That bump on his head is worrisome. He’s in a coma right now, which is never a good thing. Until he wakes up his fate is in the air. If he regains consciousness within a few hours and seems to be coherent then I have high hopes he’ll recover, but there isn’t much else we can do until he’s awake. I’m sorry, little one. We’ve done all we can for the time being.”
Pumpkin nodded, looking down at the floor with a frown.
“If his condition changes be sure to let us know.” With that, the doctor bowed his head a little and took his leave.
“Where… where am I?” Pound asked, looking around at his surroundings. He was in the middle of Ponyville, but it didn’t look right. Everything was blurry and distorted, buildings were floating, the sky was green, and there was absolute quiet, not a soul in sight. He walked around cautiously, calling out for anyone to help him. “Hello? HELLO! Mom? Dad? Pumpkin? Auntie Pinkie?” He walked through town, feeling discouraged that no one was answering.
“I don’t like to be alone,” Pound said with a sniff, a few tears coming down his eyes. “Why would they do that to me? It’s dangerous.”
“You’re not alone, little one.”
Pound spun around, looking for the source of the voice. There was a unicorn there he had never seen before. He was gray with a long black mane that covered most of his face. “W-who are you?” he asked, feeling afraid.
“Are you lost?” the unicorn responded, ignoring his question.
“Um… yes. I don’t see my family anywhere.”
“That’s too bad. I could help you. Where do you live?”
Pound hesitated, backing up a step. His parents had warned him about talking with strangers. As he looked around though he realized that he was kinda stuck. He needed someone to help him get home. “I… I live at Sugarcube Corner.”
“Ah! That’s that marvelous sweet shop. I’m Night Guide. What’s your name?”
Pound reluctantly told the stranger his name. “I’m Pound Cake. My mom is Cup Cake, and my dad is Carrot Cake.”
“Okay, then, Pound Cake. Let’s get you home.” Night Guide came over and put his hoof out. After a few seconds Pound took it, following the stallion towards his house. He sure hoped his family was home.
Three hours had passed. The beeping of the monitor remained steady. Pound was still, his breathing the only movements he was making. Pumpkin had moved to her dad’s lap so her mom could stay by her brother. Her dad was rubbing her back, and she was half-asleep, but every time she felt like she was about to conk out she shook her head so she’d stay awake. If her brother regained consciousness the first thing she wanted to do was tell him how sorry she was. She had never intended to do this to him, no matter how much he annoyed her.
“Pumpkin,” said her dad gently, “You should get some sleep.”
“No!” she said strongly. “I’m not going to sleep! I want to be awake when Pound gets up.”
“How about this?” He moved his hooves the way Pinkie taught them and said, “I Pinkie Promise that if your brother wakes up that you’ll be the first one I tell. If you’re going to talk to your brother you should be awake for it. You’re exhausted.” He gave her a kiss and said, “I’m worried enough about your brother. I don’t want to have to worry about you too, sweetheart.”
Pumpkin sniffed, tears coming down her eyes. “O-okay, daddy. I… I’ll try. I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry for what I did! Please don’t hate me!”
“Shh, shh, shh. It’s okay, Pumpkin. We’ve already told you we don’t blame you. It was an accident. How many times do we have to tell you that? Your brother will be fine. He’s tough. You should know that better than anyone else. Pinkie told me how he stood up to a pony twice his size to try to protect you.”
Despite her turbulent emotions that memory brought a smile to Pumpkins’ face. “Yeah… you’re right. He’ll be fine.” Feeling comforted by her memories and her dad’s promise she closed her eyes, letting herself drift off to sleep.
Pound felt so relieved as his house came into view. He raced inside, leaving Night Guide behind. “Mom! Dad! I’m home!” He waited, but no one responded. “Uh-oh. Don’t tell me they’re not here either? Where else would they be? Why would they just abandon me like that?” Tears came down his eyes again as he looked around the ground floor. He went through the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room. Everything looked as it always did, but his parents weren’t there. No Pumpkin. No Auntie Pinkie. Nobody.
“What’s wrong?” asked Night Guide.
“They’re not here!” Pound cried out, wiping his eyes.
“Don’t you worry about that. I’m sure they’ll be back soon. Say... aren’t you getting tired?” The unicorn looked deep into his eyes, and Pound shook his head as drowsiness began to overtake him. “Don’t you just feel so sleepy?” He blinked a few times, trying to stay awake. The unicorn walked up to him, taking him by the hoof. “Come on now, you. It’s time for you to go to bed. Come with me.”
Now that the stranger mentioned it… he was feeling kinda bushed. He began walking with Night Guide towards his bedroom upstairs. He opened the door to his room, seeing his bed. It looked so much comfier than he ever remembered it. It felt like there were lead weights on his eyeballs. He struggled to walk. It would be so easy to just fall to the floor and sleep there, but there seemed to be a light coming from his bed that filled him with peace and comfort. That’s where he wanted to be.
Pumpkin’s heart was racing. She had been woken up by a commotion. The beeping of the heart monitor had rapidly sped up all of a sudden. Their mom had jumped up and hit the emergency call button. In what felt like seconds four doctors raced into the room. She didn’t understand everything they were saying, but what she could make out terrified her. The beeping of the monitor, her parent’s panic, the solemnness of the doctor’s words… it all made it clear to her that her brother’s condition was worsening. That realization made her guilt blossom anew. Her brother was dying, and it was her fault. She cried into her dad’s hooves as Carrot rubbed her back more roughly than she was used to. It only showed her that her dad was just as nervous as she was, and that did nothing to keep her spirits up.
She was having trouble breathing. Her breaths came in short little gasps.
“Yes… that’s it… just a little more now. Come, little Pound Cake. Sleep and forget.”
He was almost there. The bed was so close. The rest of the room was slowly getting darker, making the light of the bed so much more prominent. He struggled to climb up onto the bed. He just felt too weak. It was so close! So close! Just a little further and he could get the sleep he so desperately wanted. A nice nap would surely make everything better.
“Help, please!” he said to the stranger, his voice hoarse from his fatigue.
“Of course.” Grabbing the colt around the sides he lifted Pound into the bed.
“Finally,” Pound said in a relieved voice. He put his head on the pillow, the stranger lifting the blankets up.
“That’s right. It’s time to go. Come with me to your final rest.”
The stranger’s words didn’t make sense to him, but he didn’t care. Pound had never felt so comfortable in his young life. Nothing could pull him away from this. The warmth and delight washed over him like a bubble bath, the pillow like silk. He smiled as he closed his eyes. Everything else was drifting away.
“Yes, young colt. Don’t fight it. The final sleep awaits you.”
“NO!” came a strong voice, echoing throughout the room.
Pumpkin had been afraid before, when the machine had been rapidly beeping, but when it suddenly became a steady one it terrified her all the more, especially when it seemed to send the doctors into a tizzy. They brought in a machine that had two things attached to wires. Putting it to Pound’s chest the doctor said, “Clear!” There was a zapping sound, but nothing happened. A few more times the doctor did this, and still Pound didn’t react.
Her dad was squeezing her so tightly it hurt. When she tried to pull away to look up at her dad’s face Carrot Cake just held her head tighter. Something was wrong. She just knew it. When she heard one of the doctor’s say her brother had stopped breathing her own heart sped up in response.
After another minute or so one of the doctors came up to them. “I’m sorry,” he said. “He’s not responding to the treatments. His life functions are ceasing. He’s not going to make it.”
Pumpkin let out a wail. “No!” she yelled. “Pound can’t be dead! He can’t!” She wouldn’t believe it! She wouldn’t!
Pumpkin pulled herself out of her dad’s hold and climbed up onto the bed by her brother. Sitting down on his good side she gave Pound a kiss. Tears came down her eyes and she had to take several breaths to keep from breaking down. How she wished he would react with disgust as he always did when she kissed him. She would give anything for one of his stupid jokes. She would even settle for him pushing her and making fun of her. Anything other than… than this!
Snuggling up next to him like when they would sleep together she held him close, setting her cheek on his. “Oh, Pound!” She shook with her emotions as more tears came down her eyes. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! Please wake up! Don’t leave me!” She broke down, sobbing long and hard into her brother’s face.
Carrot and Cup held each other. The two of them wanted to break down crying, but they tried to hold it back for Pumpkin’s sake. It was going to be hard enough for her without the two of them becoming blubbering babies.
After just a short while Cup couldn’t take it anymore. She got up, running out the door. Carrot followed her, closing the door behind him. She sat on the floor, holding herself as she let out a mournful wail. She grabbed onto her husband. “Carrot! Oh, Carrot! My baby! One of my babies is gone! Pumpkin is gonna hate herself the rest of her life! What do I do? WHAT DO I DO?” She didn’t know how she was going to survive.
Carrot held his wife, forcing himself to be strong for her sake.
Outside the room Pumpkin could hear her mother’s pain. My fault. I killed him. My fault. I killed him. The words kept echoing in her mind until she couldn’t take anymore. Her head was pounding, her heart hurt, and she felt so out of it. She couldn’t stay awake any more. She needed to sleep.
“Be gone, knave!” There was a bright glow, lighting up the room.
Pound heard a cry of pain. He had been so close to falling asleep, but curiosity got the better of him. He opened one eye to see the pony that had been helping him had vanished. Into his field of vision came a different pony, much larger than his parents. She was dark like shade, with a wavy mane. “Who are you?”
“I am Princess Luna, the ruler of the night. I sleep during the day, and I felt you and your sister in my dreams. I could see that you needed help.
“Pound Cake,” said Luna gently. “It’s time to wake up.” She walked over and picked him up out of the bed.
He resisted, letting out a whine. “Noooo! I’m tired. I want to slee-ee-eep!”
“I understand, but it is not time for you to sleep yet. Your parents and your sister are worried sick. Your sister has fallen asleep in her worry. Would you like to see what she is dreaming?” Luna’s horn began glowing.
Pound didn’t care about his dumb sister or his parents right now. Rolling over he fell onto the floor, walking back towards the bed. He was too weary to care.
Loud crying reverberated through the space. Their house drifted away in huge chunks like it got sucked into a vacuum cleaner, replaced by a black void. Only the bed and the parts of the floor around it remained.
Pound stopped, his attention slowly getting pulled away. The comfy bed was right there in front of him. He was so drowsy, his head so heavy. He just wanted to let everything fade away and rest. Still… he recognized who was crying. It was Pumpkin.
He looked back and forth between the bed and the emptiness. Pumpkin’s crying wasn’t coming from the direction of the bed.
“Pound!” he heard her voice echo out.
“Pumpkin!” Pound cried out. Turning his back on the bed he shook his head hard, fighting his fatigue. “Pumpkin! Who's making you cry? No one makes my sister cry! I’ll beat up anybody who hurts my sister.”
Pumpkin appeared in front of him, running away from him. “Pound! Pound! Come back! Pound! Don’t leave me! Please don’t go! I’m sorry! Don’t leave me!”
“Pumpkin! I’m right here.” As he continued looking he could see himself far away, making him rub his eyes. Was he seeing things? Why were there two of him?
“This is your sister’s dream,” said Luna. “Pumpkin is being completely crushed with guilt.”
“Guilt?” he asked, looking up at Luna.
“The two of you got into a fight, and you were seriously hurt. Now she feels responsible for what happened to you. Your sister loves you very dearly. In her mind she is running for you, but she can’t catch you. She wants to help you, but you’re too far away. Her heart is breaking in two at the thought of losing you. The doctors say you’re dead and you’re not coming back. She feels that it is her fault for losing control of her magic. Her pain is so heavy it intruded on my dreams. If someone doesn’t come to help her soon then she will never recover, and your parents will lose the both of you. That is how deep your bond runs. She can’t feel complete without you nearby.”
“Pumpkin…” Pound felt tears start coming down his eyes.
“Only one pony can dry her tears. Only you, Pound Cake, and no one else in the entire world of Equestria. She is desperately hoping that you’ll come back to her safe and sound. But… I suppose there is something more important for you to do, isn’t there?” Picking him up she turned him around and set him down, toward the empty house and the bed with the comforting light around it. “Go on, then. Sleep, if it is so important to you.”
“NO!” Pound yelled. No matter how tired he felt he would never abandon his sister. Turning around he started running. “Pumpkin! I’m coming, Pumpkin! You don’t have to cry anymore!”
The blackness of the void began fading away, and a much brighter light than before appeared. Compared to the bed this felt ten times better. “Hold on, Pumpkin!” he yelled as he jumped into the light. “I’m… almost… there!”
Blinking in the light Pound opened his eyes. He muttered something incomprehensible. He felt something quivering on his side, and he could see his sister. Pumpkin was shaking like a leaf, sporadic sobs coming from her. Every so often she would let out a miserable, “Pound… Pound...” in her sleep. Her face was stained with tears. Pieces and fragments of his dream were coming back to him. Moving a little he began rubbing Pumpkin’s head. “Pumpkin,” he said weakly. “Wake up.”
She didn’t move at first, so he gave her a hard shake. He was still feeling weak, so he couldn’t do much. Pumpkin blinked, her eyes slowly opening.
“Pumpkin,” he sputtered out. “Don’t… don’t cry… anymore… Pumpkin.”
Pumpkin blinked a few times, unsure if this was real. “P-Pound? Pound? POUND!” He turned to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Hey!” she cried out, backing away from him.
Letting out a weak laugh he said, “Heh. You don’t like it… when it’s done to you… do you?”
Pumpkin let out a laugh that sounded like a sob. “Pound! You dummyhead!” She gave him a strong hug. “I thought I had lost you!”
“No way,” he said quietly. “Princess Luna came to me in my dreams. She showed me what you were dreaming.” Using his good hoof he pulled Pumpkin close to him. “I wanted to sleep so badly, but I couldn’t stand it to see you crying.”
“Thank you, Pound! Thank you!” Her eyes became misty again as she held her brother tight. “Oh! Hold on!” Letting him go she hopped off the bed, opening the door. Her mother stifled her tears. “Mom! Dad! Pound’s awake!”
“WHAT?” The two of them cried out, both of them getting up and running inside. It was true. His eyes were open.
“Hi, Mom and Dad,” Pound said groggily with half-lidded eyes.
Both of them began crying as they raced over to the bed, raining kisses on his face and holding him in relief.
“Enough, enough!” He put up a hoof to protect himself.
“Oh, Pound!” said Cup Cake. “I’m so glad you’re alive! I thought I had lost you.”
“No way, mom.” With a weak smile he said, “If you lost your favorite child all you’d be left with is dumb old Pumpkin.”
“FAVORITE CHILD?” asked Pumpkin, outrage clear in her voice. “HE’S your favorite?”
Cup Cake rolled her eyes. “BOTH of you are my favorite. Now stop fighting. That’s how we got into this situation to start with.”
“Yes, Mom,” they both responded.
Carrot Cake left to go inform the doctors of Pound’s recovery. After giving him an exam the doctors were satisfied he was going to make it just fine.
After they left Pound said, “Hey, Pumpkin?”
“Yeah?” she responded.
“I’m feeling really tired. Sleep with me?”
“If I have to,” she responded, but she couldn’t suppress a grin as she snuggled up with her brother, nuzzling his face as the two of them closed their eyes.
Carrot Cake pulled the blanket up, smiling warmly down at his children.
Drifting off, Pound looked out the window to the full moon outside. “Thank you, Princess Luna,” he whispered, holding his sister tight.
As he fell asleep he saw his sister there waiting for him. They were in a room with every type of toy imaginable. “Come on, Pound! Let’s play!”
“Yeah! Let’s go!”
Luna watched over the pair, letting their dreams meld together so they could both enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company, even while asleep. “Good night, young foals,” she said serenely as the two of them played together. “I shall protect you from the dangers of the night, so play. Play to your heart’s content.”