Half an hour later Cup Cake and Fluttershy arrived at Sugarcube Corner. Before they even went inside there was the sound of a crash.
Cup Cake got a strained look on her face, hoping for patience, as a customer stormed out of the shop with chocolate frosting stains on her cheek.
When the mare spotted Cup Cake she said angrily, “Can’t you control you kid?” before walking off without waiting for a response.
Fluttershy entered the shop to see Pound being held by his father and scolding him for assaulting the customer. The colt didn’t look bothered in the least.
When they got close Carrot Cake saw Fluttershy and let out a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness.”
Pound looked over and saw her too, giving her a cocky look before saying, “Oh, look, it’s Stupidshy, the biggest coward in Ponyville.” He began to laugh to himself, snorting at his own wit.
“Hello, Pound,” Fluttershy said in a genial tone. “How would you like to come to my house for a few hours?”
He laughed again, sounding almost hysterical. “Sure! If it’ll get me away from all these losers. They’re just a bunch of-”
Cup Cake gasped at his obscenity, which only seemed to make him laugh harder.
“Something wrong, Mom? You gonna punish me again? Or is my punishment to have to hang out with the freaky animal lover? She’s such a loser she probably has to go on dates with Angel Bunny because no one else would want her.”
Fluttershy held back a tear. In a slightly shaky voice she said, “Come on, then, Pound. Let’s go.”
He snickered. “What, you want to go on a date with me instead? Is the bear not available?”
Fluttershy felt a sting in her heart. His words hurt, sure, but she could already see he had it bad. What exactly “it” was she didn’t know yet, but she knew this wasn’t like him.
Leaving Sugarcube Corner the two of them began walking. Pound kept spouting swears and looking at her, as though determined to get a reaction out of her. She did her best to ignore him, even if other ponies gave him dirty looks as they heard his mouth.
When they reached her cottage Pound had a very sour look on his face. Fluttershy wasn’t giving in. He got a good idea as he took off running and jumped right in her flowerbed, stomping the flowers down as he laughed vindictively.
“Pound!” Fluttershy called out in a hurt voice as she flew over and picked him up.
He began to laugh, and Fluttershy heard the distinct laugh his mother had told her about. It just sounded wrong.
“Come on, then, Stupidshy! Do it. It’s easy now, right?”
“Do what?” she asked as she took him inside to the living room.
“Go on and yell at me. I know you want to.”
She shook her head. “No, I don’t. I want to help you, Pound.”
“You can’t help me!” he said, his attitude shifting immediately. “I know! I know what you are! You’re just like my parents.” His face began to turn red as he gave her a contemptuous glare.
“And how am I like your parents?”
“You’re the same as them. You’re a filthy liar just like them. You keep on pretending, thinking that I don’t know. BUT I DO! I KNOW EVERYTHING!”
“Okay, then. You know something. Do you think I know it too?”
“YES!” he yelled. “Don’t you get it? I’m on to you. I HATE YOU!”
Fluttershy closed her eyes and took a steadying breath. If this was what Cup Cake had been going through for three days straight it was no wonder she was at the end of her rope. It was never easy to hear a loved one tell you that they hated you.
“Don’t feel left out though,” he continued. “You’re not alone. Pumpkin and everyone else. I can’t stand them. I never want to see them again. Or you either! I’m not going to do it again. I won’t!” He proceeded to swear under his breath.
Fluttershy took another slow, deep breath, trying to compose herself. She had never seen Pound like this. She’d foalsat them a number of times since they were babies, and she’d thought she’d seen the worst of him. He was never this bad before. Even when he and Pumpkin had ran away and the two of them were thoroughly depressed he hadn’t been this bad. What had sparked his feelings before had been getting attacked on all sides and feeling overwhelmed by being repeatedly scolded for the same mistake by several different sources.
She had to guess the difference was that this time Pumpkin wasn’t by his side. He saw her as an enemy like everyone else, so this time he was trying to deal with everything all on his own, and his stubborn streak certainly didn’t help matters.
Fluttershy sat there, temporarily stymied. He wasn’t holding a grudge against her personally, as she had done nothing to him that would make him feel that way about her. It just seemed like he was lashing out at everyone connected to him. Without some kind of clue or direction to go on exactly what was eating at him she wasn’t sure how to proceed. She highly doubted that everyone had done something to him that warranted such feelings. It seemed like whatever was bothering him deep down he was just extending it to all his loved ones, regardless of who they were or how long they had known each other.
“Come on, Fluttershy,” he said nastily. “You don’t have to pretend. I know you’re not Applejack but you should be honest.” He hopped onto his hooves, grabbing a couch cushion and throwing it at her.
She let out a squeak and ducked, and it went sailing over her head.
“THERE! Is that enough? Or do you need more?” He went to the nearby table and shoved a vase off of it, and it shattered, causing several of her animals to let out squeaks of displeasure and run away. “Come on then! I’m waiting! Yell! Scream! Get angry! It’s easy now, right? Now you don’t have to pretend you don’t hate me too!”
Fluttershy just looked at him, tears silently pouring down her eyes. Far from getting angry she only felt her heart breaking over him. What was eating at his young heart so badly? He was acting just as Cup Cake had said, attempting to provoke her into treating him negatively.
“Oh, Pound!” she said thickly. “I could never hate you. I love you so much!”
For a split-second she thought she saw his true self, the boy hiding inside his bubble begging for help, but then he only grew angrier. “SHUT UP! I don’t want to hear it, you stupid cow! Stop pretending!” He let out that twisted, drunken laugh again, getting an evil grin on his face. “I’ll force you to show your true feelings.”
Fluttershy thought he was about to break something else of hers, but she wasn’t going to make a move to stop him. A few broken personal items were nothing to the broken heart she was feeling inside.
She let out a loud gasp as he walked over to one of her cats and raised his hoof. “POUND!” she squealed out, rushing over to him and grabbing him as he attempted to bring it down.
Her heart was racing as she held him tightly, trying to keep him secure as he fought to get out of her grip. “Please stop this, Pound.” She managed to keep her voice neutral with great effort. If she showed any negativity at all it would only confirm his world-view.
“HA!” Pound said. “We’re almost there. That got you moving. You LOVE your animals, don’t you?” He tried to kick at one as it walked by, but Fluttershy pulled him back further.
“Pound, it’s one thing if you don’t like me, but please don’t take your hatred out on the animals.”
“I’m not!” he snapped. “I don’t have anything against the animals. I just want you to show how you really feel about me.”
“That I hate you?” she said in a quiet voice.
“Why do you feel that way, Pound? Haven’t I always been there for you in the past when you needed me? Isn’t that why you and Pumpkin came to me the first time you ran away from home?”
“I just did that because I didn’t know back then.”
“Oh, I see. So you don’t trust me now?”
His head tilted just a little bit, an eyebrow rising slightly, like he was considering whether to answer her question. “What if I don’t?”
“And I guess that goes for your parents? And Pinkie? And Pumpkin?”
“Yes!” he said forcefully, giving a strong nod.
“I see,” she said calmly. “Is there something I can do to earn your trust back?”
“Why don’t you tell me?”
Fluttershy maneuvered him around and hugged him tightly. “I love you, Pound,” she said firmly, “and that’s never going to change.”
Just like before it seemed effective for a second or two as he stopped fighting, but then he flew into a rage. He bit her shoulder, making her cry out in pain and drop him.
Pound was shaking in anger, reluctant tears coming down his eyes. “CUT IT OUT!” he yelled. “Stop pretending! I… I won’t believe it. I won’t! I can’t trust you! I can’t trust anyone! You’re just going to betray me! I know you’re just acting like you care. You’re just waiting for the perfect chance to double-cross me, you big traitor!” He looked down at the ground, looking disgusted at his momentary lapse. “That’s… that’s why I have to… to…”
Fluttershy rubbed her shoulder, trying to piece together the puzzle with this new bit of information. He believed that everyone secretly hated him, and was deliberately acting in ways to try to get a reaction that would confirm it. His two slip ups showed that he didn’t completely believe that.
According to Cup Cake his behavior started a few days ago, saying that they had their day at the beach, then they went back to school, and the night of their first day back Pound began to get rambunctious, before it escalated big time the next day. She had also said that none of his teachers or Pumpkin saw anything out of the ordinary in his behavior in school, making it unlikely that it was something at school that had triggered it. If Pound suddenly shifted without any obvious event it had to have been because he had made a sudden connection of two pieces of information that led him to his mistaken conclusion.
Over the past two weeks she had seen Pound and Pumpkin only twice: the day they had ran away, and the day they had gone to the beach. She knew that Twilight had spent the week trying to teach Pound to rein in his impulsive temper, and he had passed his test with flying colors when presented with a real challenge when the colt he had been hanging out with bullied Pumpkin and made her cry.
She suddenly gasped, her eyes going wide as the switch went on, the final piece clicking into place. She understood now exactly why he was acting this way. And with that she also understood that she couldn’t help Pound. However, she knew the perfect pony that could. The only one that could truly understand him.
“Well, Pound, you’re right. You can’t rely on me now.”
Pound felt disquieted by her compassionate expression and that she was agreeing with him. “Y-yeah. Yeah! You’re right. I’m glad you admit it!”
“Would it be alright if I took you to someone that CAN help you?”
“I don’t need any help! I’m handling things just fine on my own.”
“Well, you said you wanted to get rid of me, right? As you said to me, it’s easier now, hmm?”
Pound looked at her thoughtfully for a few moments, before he looked toward the corner of the room, sucking on his cheek. “Alright, then. Let’s go.”