Pound felt an empty feeling inside as the door closed behind him. Even though they got in fights all the time he was still closer with Pumpkin than any other pony, even their parents and Auntie Pinkie. It just didn’t feel right not having her there with him.
He was still worried about her. He could take the meanie-pants just fine, but Pumpkin was more fragile than him. He didn’t want her to get hurt.
Her words came back to him. “You’re my one and only hero, Pound.” “Get in there and get a whole lot stronger so you can protect me better.”
Taking a deep breath he tried to calm himself down. If he wanted to keep being her hero then he had to work hard to become better. Pumpkin was already pretty good with magic and was practicing. He couldn’t even get himself off the ground yet. If Pumpkin needed him then he couldn’t even do what needed to be done, and that was unacceptable. He took a quick look around at his classmates, imagining Pumpkin being stuck in a tree or falling from a great height. He was fluttering his wings while they swooped up easily and grabbed her.
“Oh, wow!” Pumpkin says, her eyes shining with gratitude. “You’re so much more amazing than Pound! YOU should be my new brother!”
His stomach began burning and he tapped his hooves a few times as he pictured that. No one was stealing his fire!
“Hello, there!” said their teacher, a pegasus mare. “I'm Miss Nimble. What’s your name?”
“H-huh?” Pound said, shaking his head as his daydream faded.
“What’s your name, Sweetheart?”
Pound forced himself to focus. “I’m Pound Cake,” he said respectfully, though his insides were still burning with humiliation from his fantasy.
He was directed to a seat, where her got to chat with a few other pegasi while they waited for a few last students to arrive.
Pound’s class was a bit different than Pumpkins. Unicorn classes were focused more on theory and books. Pegasi classes were more about practical demonstration and exercises to strengthen wing muscles and retain concentration for once you were up in the air.
Like Pumpkin he found the whole process fascinating, having more of a concept of how he was different from his family. Even though they were all ponies, he’d never really thought about how they incorporated all three pony races. He was a pegasus, but his sister was a unicorn and his parents were earth ponies. Not that it mattered that they were different. He still loved them just as much. He was just coming to appreciate the difference.
He paid close attention to everything the teacher said, but he still couldn’t fly just yet. He had homework to practice the skills he had been taught so his wings would get strong enough to let him fly.
Once his lesson ended and the bell rang he was taken to the lunch room. When he got there he looked around for Pumpkin. When he spotted her he ran over to her, almost knocking her to the ground as he gave her a big hug. “Hey, Sis!” he said happily. “I’m so glad to see you again!”
Pumpkin held him back unenthusiastically. “Hey, Pound,” she replied in a dull voice.
“What’s wrong, Pumpkin?” he asked, concerned. “Nobody picked on you, did they?” Rage began to enter his voice. “Who was it? Who was mean to you?” He looked around at the unicorns.
“No one,” she said with a sigh. “Let’s just go get our lunch and I’ll tell you about it.”
Pound let her go. “Okay. Did you stink in your class or something?”
She shook her head. “Later.”
Pound decided to let it go for now. He and Pumpkin joined the line of students getting trays of lunch. When they got theirs they headed to a table that was pretty empty. Pound began digging in right away, but stopped when he noticed Pumpkin wasn’t touching hers.
Swallowing the food in his mouth he said in a cautious voice, “Come on, Pumpkin. What’s troubling you? You really wanted to come to school. So what’s wrong with it?”
Tears began to fill her eyes, dripping onto the lunch tray. “Pound, ” she started with a sniff, “d-do you think I’m bad?”
“Bad?” Pound responded. “Why would you think that? Did your teacher say that? Do you need me to go have a few words with him? Like “kick?” Or “karate chop?”
Despite herself Pumpkin began sniggering. “Pound, you dope!” she said, giving him a light shove. “You don’t need to beat anyone up. This has nothing to do with my teacher or the other students.”
“So what’s the problem?”
Pumpkin sighed, resting her head on her hoof as she grabbed an apple piece and shoved it in her mouth. “I guess I was just thinking…” She chewed and swallowed. “This is one of the few times we’ve HAD to be apart, because we’re different. No matter what you’re never gonna be able to use magic, and I’m never gonna be able to fly, and our parents aren’t going to ever do either of those things.”
“I don’t know… I guess I just feel it’s wrong. I’ve been using my magic all the time and you guys will never get to know what that’s like. I-I really like who I am. I love being a unicorn, and being able to do magic.” She hugged herself as she took a hiccupping breath, her tears falling freely over her tray. “I-I-I’m ju-just scared that you’re gonna think I’m just showing off and you won’t like me anymore.”
Pound quickly grabbed her, turning her toward him. “Hey, hey! Pumpkin! Don’t be silly. You’re a unicorn! That’s what you are. Using magic is a part of you, just like Princess Twilight told you. You shouldn’t NOT do magic because of me or Mom and Dad. I mean, the whole point of cutie marks is that all of us have a unique talent that no one else can do. It’s our destiny, because all of us are unique and can do different things. Just look at Auntie Pinkie. No one can throw a wild and crazy fun party like her. And someday I’m gonna be an amazing flyer like Rainbow Dash, because my wings and flying are a part of ME.
“There’s a big difference between using your natural talent and showing off. If you were going 'Ha ha! I can do magic and you can’t!' that would be one thing, but you’ve never done that. So you shouldn’t feel scared or upset that you’re getting good. You should be proud.
“I realized during my lessons today too how different we all are, but no matter what we’re still family, and I’ll love you no matter what.” He smiled at her. “So cheer up, okay?”
Pumpkin leaned forward, resting her head on his shoulder and gently hugging him. “You’re the best, Pound.”
“I know!” he said in a smug voice, making Pumpkin roll her eyes.
She pulled herself up, wiping her face. “I’m getting hungry now, so let’s eat and then go play outside.”
“Sounds good!” he said happily.
In brighter spirits now Pumpkin cleaned her plate, and the pair dropped their trays with the other empties before heading to the door leading to the playground.
As they were walking to a swing set a voice called out to him. “Hey, Pound! Let’s go play.”
Pound looked over, seeing some of the other pegasi from his class. He looked unsurely at Pumpkin.
Pumpkin gave him a gentle shove. “Go on, then. Go play with your new friends.”
Pound stayed where he was. “I don’t want you to just say that, Pumpkin. Are you sure you’re okay now?”
“Hey, like the principal said we have each other all day usually, and we SHOULD make some friends so we don’t get sick of each other. That’s how we always wind up getting into fights.”
Pound still felt uncertain. “Are you sure you’re okay with it? Pinkie Promise?”
Pumpkin sighed lightly, rolling her eyes again before giggling. “Yes, Pound,” she said exasperatedly. “Pinkie Promise.” Moving her hooves in the motion she said, “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”
That was enough for Pound. Nopony breaks a Pinkie Promise, so he knew she was telling the truth. He gave her a quick hug. “I’ll see you later, Pumpkin. You can tell me about your classes.”
“Okay!” she called after him as he ran. “Brothers…” She shook her head, knowing he did it because he cared about her.
Pound went on a jungle gym with his friends, climbing up as high as he could and standing at the top.
He was hanging upside down with another colt. “This your first day?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Pound responded. “But isn’t it everyone’s?”
“No. This is my second year here. I guess you’ve never gone to school before.”
“No. Princess Twilight got us in here. She’s awesome!”
“Princess Twilight?” he responded in shock. “You know a princess?”
“Yeah, she’s friends with my aunt. She comes over, like, all the time to visit.”
“I’m Pound Cake. Who are you?”
“That’s cool!” Pound said, slapping his hoof.
Getting back to an upright position Water asked, “I noticed you’re struggling with flight a little more than the other kids. Would you like some pointers?”
Pound blushed. “No!” he said sharply, turning away. “I was just pretending to stink. I just didn’t want to show off in front of everyone. I could fly all around the playground if I wanted to.”
“You don’t have to get upset.”
“I’M NOT UPSET!” he said harshly, climbing down.
‘Oh, great,’ he thought, ‘I already got ponies feeling sorry for me. I could TOO fly if I had had a teacher like Pumpkin before this. And Twilight is an alicorn. She has wings! Why didn’t she teach me stuff too?’
When he reached the ground he saw a couple of colts practicing. All three of them keep jumping and flapping, hovering off the ground for various amounts of time before they landed.
He began to have a hot feeling in his stomach. He was getting jealous. Scootaloo had told him that all pegasi learn to fly at different speeds, and that she herself didn’t fly until she was about five years older than he was. That wasn’t acceptable! Pumpkin would need him before then. He couldn’t wait that long.
He imitated the group of boys, jumping into the air and flapping as hard as he could. Almost immediately he fell flat on his face.
“Owww,” Pound said as he got up, holding his nose. His face went beet red as he heard a few of them laughing at him.
“Hey, Pound,” said Water Balloon, “Are you okay?”
Pound forced a smile. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Do you want me to get a teacher?” he asked, looking towards the other side of the playground where two ponies were keeping an eye on things.
That only made him angrier. “No! I already told you I’m just holding back to make you guys look good.”
“Yeah, right,” said a filly, laughing at him.
“What a loser,” said a colt.
Pound’s face was burning with shame and humiliation. “Oh, yeah? I’ll PROVE that I can do it.”
“Oooohhh,” said a colt with fake wonder. “How ya gonna do that?”
Pound looked around, spotting the flagpole. “Someone go distract the teachers and you’ll find out.”
“This should be good,” said a unicorn filly, walking off towards the teachers. Going around so they were facing the other direction she gestured to Pound.
Pound walked to the flagpole, jumping and wrapping his legs around it. Deep down he knew how stupid this was, but he was angry enough he didn’t care. He shimmied up and up and up until he reached the top. With some careful effort he managed to stand upright on top of it.
Pound gulped, seeing how high up he was. Fear was beginning to temper his anger.
“Come on, then!” a colt called out. “Put up or shut up!”
“You gonna stay up there all day?”
Pounds heart was racing. If he backed out now everyone would think he was a total loser and a coward.
The kids began to chant together. “Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump!”
Pound took a deep breath. “I’m not a loser!” he said stubbornly, unfurling his wings.
On the other side of the playground Pumpkin was making a sand castle with some of her friends. “Why is it getting so loud over there?” she wondered, looking behind her. She saw all of them gathered around the flagpole. “What’s so interesting about a flag?” she wondered aloud.
“Hey, Pumpkin,” said one of her classmates, looking up in wonder. “Isn’t that your brother?”
“Where?” she asked, scanning the crowd.
“No. There!” She grabbed Pumpkin’s head, pushing it upward.
Pumpkin’s eyes widened. “What is he doing up there? If he falls he’s gonna get hurt." When she saw his wings open up she gasped. Surely he wasn’t going to jump?
Getting up she began running toward the flagpole, before letting out a loud scream as he jumped.
Pound felt a sense of exhilaration from his reckless action. The wind whipping past him, being up in the air. The feeling didn’t last. As he fluttered his wings they barely even slowed his fall, let alone let him gain air. Fear was rushing through him. What should he do now?
He tried as hard as he could to stayed airborne, but it was a futile effort. The ground was racing up to meet him faster and faster.
His momentum suddenly slowed down immensely as a blue aura surrounded him. Looking over he saw Pumpkin straining to stop him.
Seeing Pumpkin’s fear wiped out his own. Mentally revisiting his lesson he extended his wings as far as they would go and held it, hoping he could at least glide to safety.
He just barely avoided crashing into his school-mates as he went soaring over their heads before coming down hard and skidding a bit on the ground, panting, as the group surrounded him
“That was awesome!” said a colt, slapping him on the back.
Pound awkwardly waved at them, knowing it was only Pumpkin’s intervention that had allowed him to do it.
Pumpkin forced her way through the crowd. When he saw her she had a furious look on her face. Before he could even say a word she had hit him in the face hard enough to knock him on his back, stopping the chattering instantly.
“P-Pumpkin?” Pound said in shock as he sat up, holding his cheek. “What did you do that for?”
Her whole body was shaking. “Pound, you… you…” Her cheeks were crimson with rage. She began hitting him repeatedly. “You stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!”
Pound put up his hooves to defend himself, but Pumpkin had already stopped. Pumpkins eyes were now filling with tears, and she let out a large wail as she began sobbing hysterically, holding onto him.
The teachers were now breaking the crowd up, trying to figure out what exactly had just happened.
“P-Pumpkin,” Pound said, confused by her sudden change in attitude. “It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m fine.”
Pumpkin just glared at him, her sobbing abruptly stopping as she pushed him away. “Yes!” she said with disgust. “It’s okay! It’s just FINE! Wasn’t it enough that you almost died ONCE? And then you decide to do something STUPID like that? I thought you cared about me. I thought you loved me. But I guess you really don’t care about my feelings.” She stormed off with one of the teachers behind her, leaving Pound feeling the worst he had ever felt.