• Published 10th May 2014
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Pound and Pumpkin Tales 1 - Never2muchpinkie

Set a few years into the future, six year old Pound and Pumpkin have a lot of growing up to do. They fight and make up, make mistakes and learn lessons, and love and protect each other as much as they get on each other's nerves.

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12-3: What it means to protect.

It only took a few minutes to resolve everything. Pound kept a tight hold on Pumpkin’s hoof, leading her back toward where the group was. As they approached Pumpkin’s wailing drew their attention and Pinkie came running over to see what was the matter. He told Pinkie about Pumpkin having sand in her eyes, then went to Twilight, seeing her as the biggest authority figure, and told her about what happened. She was rightly angry, and came with him as he returned to where he had been playing with the other boy, pointing him out. She went up to him, demanding to know where his parents were. Even in his childish arrogance he didn’t dare defy a princess. Twilight told his parents what had happened, and they expressed their disappointment.

Seeing the boy get his comeuppance afforded Pound no satisfaction. He felt a cold anger still dwelling inside, glaring at him from afar, feeling he definitely would still attack Tree Leaf if the boy said anything to him, even in full view of Twilight. Turning around he began to run back toward the others.

His parents and Pinkie were tending to Pumpkin. Pinkie had the filly on her lap, holding her and saying comforting things while his mom dabbed at her eyes with a wet washcloth. Pumpkin was still crying and fussing. Watching Pumpkin’s agony only increased the feeling of rage inside of him.

He stormed off a short distance away, flopping to the ground facing away from them and curled up, holding his legs as he glared off into the distance, not seeing it.

Sometime later he heard Twilight calling out to him, but he ignored her. He didn’t want to talk to her.

Twilight could already tell he was in one of his moods. From what she’d observed of him that week, as well as talking to Fluttershy and Pinkie about him, she could see he was exceptionally stubborn and tended to get depressed or angry easily when things didn’t go his way.

Thinking about her experience with Pound and Pumpkin she had had the practical study. Now it was time for a test on what she had learned. First things first was to find out what he was mad about. As she had seen last week trying to get concrete answers from an angry child was an exercise in patience and not expecting to get results without a lot of hassle.

She sat down next to him. “Hey there, Pound. You left before the end, but Tree Leaf’s parents told me he’s going to be punished for a week for hurling sand at your sister. Maybe he can use that week to improve just like you and Pumpkin did.”

Pound offered absolutely no response. He didn’t even shift position. He was a rock, with no expression.

“In the hecticness of ensuring punishment for his misdeeds I wasn’t able to say thank you before. I was honestly kinda shocked how well you handled yourself. All that practice this week really paid off. You kept in control and told an adult about the problem instead of resorting to violence. I’m really proud of you, Pound Cake! I’m sorry if I didn’t say that earlier. I hope I didn’t upset you by not congratulating you earlier.”

Pound let out a loud breath that turned into a distinct growl at the end.

Undeterred by his poor reaction she continued on. “I’m sure happy that you made a better decision. However, you don’t seem to feel the same way. Is something the matter?”

It seemed she had finally hit his hot button. Uncurling himself he stood up, glaring at her. “Is something the matter? Of course there is!” He pointed angrily toward the rest of the group. “My sister is in pain! How should I feel?”

“I understand that, and I don’t expect you to feel happy your sister is upset, but don’t you feel proud of yourself for doing the right thing?”

His face puffed up, and his eyes narrowed so much they were almost closed. “NO!” he yelled. “I DON’T! Stop talking like you understand how I feel!”

“Why don’t you feel proud of yourself?”

“Because it WASN’T the right thing to do. It’s just what all of YOU want. He hurt my sister and made her cry.” He began to shake in fury. “He deserves to pay. I wish I had beat him senseless. I wish I had hurt him just as badly as he hurt her and made him apologize. But I did what YOU wanted, and it doesn’t mean ANYTHING to me.”

A part of Twilight wanted to get mad and upset hearing him honestly express a desire for vengeance and revenge, and to scold him for his behavior. A part of her was worried and terrified, thinking of a certain other pony that had let those feelings get the better of them and had been banished as a result. However, those parts of her were overridden by the clear, calm headed part of her who had experienced their hurt and pain last week, when they chewed her out and felt she was just a bully using her power to crush them. She was not going to make the same mistake as last time.

Going by both her experience when they returned from running away, as well as Fluttershy’s advice, she knew that punishing, scolding, yelling, or diminishing him might keep him quiet by having authority keep him in check, but it wouldn’t resolve his anger. Listening and understanding was what he needed right now.

She felt she had a better understanding of her own thoughts she had written in their friendship journal. It probably wasn’t that children feel their emotions stronger than adults do, but rather that they are less equipped to deal with them, lacking the power, the strength, or the vocabulary to adequately express them constructively.

As she had seen during the event the previous week what he was saying was stuff on the surface of the real problems. She had to peel off the top layers to get to the real issues he had inside. Empathy and feeling truly understood was what had dissolved his anger toward his mother when he was raging at all of them before. She just had to get to the bottom of his feelings.

Keeping on in a calm tone she said, “And what do you think that beating up that colt would have done? You wanted to see him punished, and he got punished. Is it that important who does the punishing so long as justice is served?”

He growled again before screaming, “SHUT UP, TWILIGHT!” Scandalized looks came his way but he didn’t care.

Cup Cake gasped, dropping the washrag and feeling her face going red, mortified that her son was addressing royalty that way. She turned and saw Twilight looking completely unperturbed. That, plus her daughter’s cries, got her attention back on the matter at hand.

Twilight blinked at his outcry, refusing to be goaded by a child. “Okay, then,” she said coolly. “Why don’t you tell me what the difference is?”

“It’s never enough, is it? IS IT? You always need to have more, don’t you? Auntie Pinkie told me you have murals of you in Celestia’s throne room, you were the personal student of the princess, and YOU’RE a princess. Everyone knows your name and loves you and counts on you and you’re so special and important and amazing, but it isn’t enough. You just have to play the hero, no matter what. Can’t you give someone else a try? Do you have to take away MY chance to shine too?”

Twilight eyed him flatly. That he was accusing her now of administering punishment solely for the sake of glory hunting was frankly so insulting and demeaning to all that she stood for that it was really testing her resolution. She could feel a dull anger creeping up, and for the first time in a long while had to resort to the old standby Cadence taught her of taking a calming breath or two to keep her composure.

She thought they were starting to get to the real issue now. He was mad at her because he felt she was overshadowing him. Another thing she had learned was that confronting child logic with real logic was a fruitless endeavor, so pointing out that HE was the one who had come to HER to punish Tree Leaf likely would do nothing. Even if he had chosen a different pony the outcome would have been the same.

With one more deep breath she felt ready to keep pushing him. “Why is it so important to you to protect Pumpkin?”

An eyebrow went up. “Are… are you STUPID or something? You’re the Princess of Friendship, and you’re asking me why it’s important to protect someone I love?”

Cup Cake winced as she heard Pound demeaning their princess again. It was so embarrassing. She knew Twilight wanted them to treat her like any other of their friends, and she tried her hardest to, but she couldn’t just completely ignore Twilight’s position.

Twilight shook her head. “No, I understand that completely. I’m asking why it’s so important for YOU to protect her. So long as Pumpkin is safe isn’t that the most important thing? So long as she’s okay why is it important who is the one that doles out the punishment? Unless, of course, you’re the one who’s in it for the glory?”

Pound gaped at her, becoming so furious he wrapped around back to calm again. “How dare you?” He slapped a hoof to his chest. “I protect Pumpkin because I never want to see her get hurt. If I beat them up then they’re gonna be too scared to ever pick on her again. That’s why Pumpkin looks up to me as her hero: because she knows I’ll do whatever it takes to help her and stop her from being hurt by anyone else. But now YOU’RE the hero, and you’ll solve everything, so I guess she doesn’t need me anymore.”

Twilight was feeling perfectly calm again. She thought she had a good understanding of his real underlying issue now. “So then, protecting Pumpkin from harm, being a good brother, is your main motivation. Adults won’t always be around to notice if she’s in danger. If you’re there though, and you make it seem like it’s a real bad move for anyone to pick on her, then they’ll be too afraid to do so. And if you go and attack everyone who tries eventually word will spread and you’ll gather a reputation big enough that other ponies with bad intentions will steer clear of your sister.”

Pound gave her a searching look. He hadn’t been thinking of that, exactly, but now that she said it, it did made sense. He gave a big nod, looking a little less angry.

Twilight felt that his emotions had calmed enough that he could start listening to her. “Pound Cake, let me ask you something.”

“Okay,” he responded in a polite tone. He still had this odd feeling in his tummy, thinking about Twilight’s words. He wanted to be seen as so big and powerful that ponies would be scared off by his name alone.

“What do you think it really MEANS to protect Pumpkin? For example, if you protect her today, does that mean you don’t have to do it tomorrow?”

He shook his head hard. “Of course not! I have to protect her every day.”

“Let’s try something else. You told me that you’re not trying to protect Pumpkin just to be a hero, right?”

He gave her a dirty look for a second, but then gave a blunt nod.

“So if you’re not looking to be a hero, then you would be happier if you never HAD to protect Pumpkin, right?”

He looked at her questioningly, trying to figure out where she was headed with this train of thought. “Yeeeessss,” he said slowly.

“You definitely have the right idea, Pound, but it’s only your execution that needs work.”

“Huh?” he said, confused.

“You said that the idea is that if you fight everyone who picks on your sister that eventually there won’t be any more. In other words, you help and protect Pumpkin until you get to a point where she no longer needs your help. Now, the second part of that plan is perfect. That’s just like the role of a parent. They teach you and aid and do what they can to help you grow and mature, and then let you go off into the world strong and confident. So your motivation for protecting Pumpkin is very just and I fully approve of it.

“However, the means you use to go about it is where you fail. If your actions wind up putting Pumpkin in danger then that’s not very helpful, is it?”

“Of course not!” he said angrily.

“Do you remember what happened a few months back when you got into a tussle with another colt? It didn’t wind up in her eyes, but the start of the fight also took place on sand.”

Pound glared at her, but he wasn’t really looking at her.

“You and Pumpkin had a small argument. Pumpkin threw sand at you, hitting another boy. In retaliating he shoved her over, and you wound up attacking him for it.”

“He deserved it!” Pound said remorselessly. “It was just an accident.”

“Do you remember what happened next? The boy wanted revenge. He came back with his older brother and some of his friends. What happened then? Pumpkin was filled with fear. She got hurt emotionally when she saw them hit you. She got hurt physically when she attacked the older brother to get him to stop hitting you. She lost control of her magic, flinging all of them up in the air in an effort to protect you. Without any knowledge of how to control her magic it faded, and if I hadn’t been there they all would have been seriously hurt. Knowing the guilt she felt over what she did to you the weight of their injuries likely would have weighed heavily on her spirit.

“So now comes the question. By attacking that boy did you actually protect Pumpkin at all, or did you indirectly cause her much more pain than you wound up preventing?”

Pound’s eyes widened, her words cutting right through all his layers of defense, making him feel cold inside. A tear came down his eye. “I… I… I only… but…”

“I remember later on you confronted me about my stance on violence by pointing out our use of violence on beings like King Sombra or Queen Chrysalis. My answer still stands, that these were situations with many lives in the balance and with no choice in the matter to try and settle things peacefully. However, I want to add to my answer.

“There is a big difference between justice and revenge. Your desire to keep Pumpkin safe and healthy is genuine, but it’s tainted by your need for revenge. You told me that you wanted him to suffer and hurt. That is not justice. Revenge is only about making yourself feel better. Justice is fair and considers the ponies involved and their circumstances.

“Attacking other ponies might make you feel better in the moment, but what happens when you attempt revenge on a pony that’s stronger than you? Or has a big brother like that other colt? Revenge is a selfish thing only for your own satisfaction, and the consequences of such an action can be felt by the other pony also seeking revenge. Just like you got revenge on that boy, and he returned with others that made Pumpkin suffer.”

Getting a serious, no-nonsense tone in her voice she said harshly, “Now, I’ll ask you again. What does protecting Pumpkin really mean? Are you still adamant that attacking others is actually protecting her?”

Pound’s eyes were filling with tears. He sank onto her, crying onto her leg. “N-no. T-that didn’t help Pumpkin. B-b-but what else am I supposed to do?” he asked in a squeaky voice, looking up at her. “I don’t know.

“I-I-I’m not that strong. I’m not that smart. I can’t fly, and I’m small and can’t do much, but Pumpkin still looks up to me.” He wiped his eyes, sniffing, continuing on in his lost voice. “It’s the only thing that really matters to me and makes me feel better. It makes me feel like I’m not a loser, because I can do something really important. And now you want to take that away from me? You want to be Pumpkin’s hero, and leave me all alone?”

And now they had finally reached the end, the true issue that had fueled his anger. Twilight let out a small sigh. “Pound, you’re wrong. Do you think that I could ever take your place? Do you think that I could ever replace the love Pumpkin has for you? She looks up to you because you’re not afraid to do whatever it takes to keep her safe. You were willing to take on four ponies older than you without any fear. That is true love, and nothing I do could ever replace that.”

He looked up at her, uncertain. “B-but now you’re-”

She put a hoof to his mouth, sitting down and putting him on her lap. “I know that you might not feel this way right now, but you’re very strong and very brave, with a lot of admirable qualities. If you didn’t have those Pumpkin wouldn’t feel so strongly about you.

“One of the biggest qualities of maturing and growing up is learning from your mistakes and doing better the next time. You definitely did that today. In the past you couldn’t control yourself. You HAD to pursue revenge, to hurt others, to make them pay for picking on Pumpkin. Today, you made a huge leap forward.

“We were talking earlier about what it really means to protect your sister, and how it would be better to help her get to a point where she doesn’t need your protection. Today you learned about how to accomplish both: by setting a good example for her.”

Pound sniffed a few times, tears still coming down his eyes. “W-what do you mean?” he asked, wiping his face again.

“You demonstrated self-control. In the face of a real experience where Pumpkin was hurt, you were furious. You were angry. You wanted revenge. But revenge isn’t the same as love. Revenge is selfish, for your own benefit, to make you feel better. We already talked before about how revenge can set off a cycle where the pony you hurt will want to hurt you back. In having to choose between revenge and your sister, you finally chose your sister as being most important to you. Instead of fighting and losing your temper you took her to get help, even though you wanted it so bad you could taste it.

“In addition to avoiding a scenario like the one with that other colt where he may have brought back friends too tough for you to handle, you also made Pumpkin’s safety a priority. By demonstrating self-control in a difficult situation you gave Pumpkin something positive to look to you for. In the future, Pumpkin may be faced with a difficult choice of what is right and what is easy, and it may be your example that helps her make the right choice, if for no other reason than because she doesn’t want you to 'beat her.'” Twilight gave him a wink.

Pound looked down at the ground, his eyes squeezing shut. “But if what you said is right then Pumpkin shouldn’t look up to me at all. I’ve been a terrible brother, and I wasn’t helping her at all."

Twilight put her hoof under his chin and pushed so their eyes met. “Not at all. You just had mistaken beliefs.”

“B-b-but P-Pumpkin got hurt because of me. It’s my fault that everything got so out of control that day.”

“All this time you were simply doing what you thought was the best way to protect your sister. As I said before that desire of yours is pure. You look out for her when no one else is around. Even though you know it’s wrong to fight you still felt you would do anything to keep your sister safe, even if it meant getting in trouble. There was nothing wrong with why you were doing what you did. It was only the way you went about it that was wrong and caused trouble.”

She hugged Pound to her. “I’m very proud of you, Pound Cake, and I mean that. You’re starting to grow up and become a pony your sister should look up to.”

He began to quietly sob against her as he held her.

Twilight rubbed his back as he cried. “You’re on your way, Pound. And I really want to thank you, as well.”

Pound looked up at her, teary eyed. “T-thank me? For what?”

“That note I wrote in the friendship journal and what happened when you two ran away really did help me to see that I had had a huge hole in my learning. Without spending time interacting with children around your age I just assumed they weren’t that different from Apple Bloom or Scootaloo. They’re older now, but at the time you were born they were only ten. Those four years might not mean as much when you’re older, but it makes a big difference when you don’t have a lot of years on you to start with.

“That incident helped me to see that I needed to change my approach, and I think I did a pretty good job learning my lesson about how to solve problems with the younger kids, don’t you think?”

Pound nodded. “M-me and Pumpkin were kinda scared of you before, b-because you were a princess, and you could tell our parents to punish us more. B-but today y-y-you acted just like Fluttershy. Y-you listened to me… even though I was being a brat.” He averted his eyes. “You didn’t yell or raise your voice or punish me.” Looking back up at her he said, “I’m really sorry I was so nasty to you before, calling you stupid and telling you to shut up, and accusing you of just wanting after more fame. D-do you forgive me?”

Twilight gave him a warm smile. “Yes, Pound, I do.” And she hugged him again.

Pound hugged her back, closing his eyes as he shared in her warmth, a joyful feeling bubbling up inside him.

“So there, Mr. Pound. Did I pass my taking care of little kids test?”

He looked up at her and giggled. “A plus!” he said, flashing her a big smile.

“Great. I don’t want you to think that I’m out to abuse my position as princess. Your parents should be the sole decider of disciplinary actions. They’re the ones who know you best. I don’t want to act royal around the ponies I’m closest to. That’s why Pinkie or Fluttershy don’t bow to me or treat me differently. I understand my role, and that the majority of ponies are only going to see me as a princess, but that divide only makes me feel like I stand out too much. That’s why I want you to see me as just another pony when you can. I really need that time of just having my normal life back at times so I can return to the tedium of being a princess. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Um… no?” Pound tilted his head.

“Hmm, let me see.” She sucked on her cheek, trying to think of something to compare it to. “You said to me before that you can’t fly yet, right?”

Pound winced a little, but said, “Yes. Some of the other kids in my class made fun of me for it.”

“What about at home?”

“My parents understand that I can’t do it yet, and they don’t care. Pumpkin only made fun of me once, and that was that day at school, and she was really mad, or else she wouldn’t have said it.”

“So it’s a relief to be at home, away from ponies who stress you out because they treat you differently than you’d like?”

Pound nodded, then she could see the lightbulb go on in his head. “Oh! I get it now.”

Twilight got a cunning grin on her face. “Let me see if you understand the difference between revenge and justice. Justice is about following the rules, and certain undesirable actions get certain responses, like disapproval, scoldings, or time-out and loss of privileges.

“But, if you want to make the rules, then we’ll give that a shot." She lifted him up in the air with her magic.

“What are you doing?” Pound asked as he floated in front of her. She moved into a sitting position, and drew back her hoof like she was about to attack him, and he asked with a note of panic, “W-what are you doing?”

“I’m going to hit you,” she responded in a calm voice.

His eyes widened. “W-W-WHAT?” he responded in disbelief, his voice cracking.

“I all but spent an entire week at your house getting to know the pair of you. In that time I’ve seen that you two are mainly friendly to each other, but you sometimes get into arguments and disagreements, and not just verbally. I’ve seen you shove her, smack her, tackle her, and throw things at her. According to Pound Cake rules ponies that hurt Pumpkin need to be hurt themselves so they learn to stop doing that. You can’t expect to be exempt from your own rules, can you?” She drew back her hoof a little more. “So I need to beat you up. Unless, of course… you DON’T want to play by your own rules?”

Pound giggled nervously, rubbing the back of his head as he blushed. “Um… T-Twilight Sparkle rules are just fine to me.”

“Are you sure now? Maybe you know something I don’t about what rules should be in place? I think I should give your rules a try.” She closed one eye, her tongue sticking out of her mouth as she lifted her hoof a little up and down like she was trying to decide the best place to hit him. “See if they work any better.”

“No, no!” he said quickly, shaking his hooves in her direction. “Your rules are better. I admit it.”

Twilight set him down. “Glad to hear it. The key part of making rules for everyone to follow is that those who make them are bound by them as well. If the makers of the rules won’t follow them ourselves how can we expect all the others beneath us to? And now you see the biggest flaw in your logic: you’d need to be hit and attacked each time you lost your temper with Pumpkin if you expected to be able to do the same to other ponies.”

Pound let out a shaky breath, his little heart racing. “Yes! You’re right! I was wrong! I wouldn’t want to get beat up every time that happened.”

“It makes me happy to hear you understand the problem.”

Pound grabbed onto her leg, asking, “Y-y-you weren’t REALLY going to hit me, were you?”

“No!” Twilight said firmly.

He let out a sigh of relief. Releasing her and getting up he looked out towards the ocean. “Twilight?”

“Yes, Pound?”

“What you said makes a lot of sense. It’s really hard sometimes to stay calm when I see other ponies hurting my sister, but I promise I’ll do my best to try not to get into any more fights. I see now that I was actually hurting Pumpkin by trying to fight everyone. If I became really scary other ponies might go after Pumpkin just to hurt me. I guess I really was just being selfish by trying to fight instead of letting adults handle things.”

He thought again of that day at the park. If he had let Auntie Pinkie or Twilight resolve things Pumpkin only would have had to deal with being shoved. But because he lost his temper he had caused Pumpkin to get hurt and upset and afraid and it almost led to those other ponies nearly dying. He didn’t want to cause those kinds of big problems for Pumpkin.

Twilight felt her heart soaring. “I’m really happy to hear that, Pound. Of course I don’t expect you to be perfect. You might lose your temper once in a while. Just like you we all make mistakes, but then we get over it and apologize and things get better.”

Closing his eyes he lifted his head, taking a deep sniff of the beach air. “Saying that, I actually feel a whole lot better for some reason. I think it’s the right decision. I guess all this time I was wrong, and I wasn’t actually being a good brother to her by trying to fight everyone. That’s why I gotta do better from now on, so she’ll have a big brother worth looking up to.”

“Hmm? I thought you and Pumpkin were twins.”

“Well, my mom told me that I was born first, just a couple minutes before Pumpkin, so even though we were born on the same day I’m still a little bit older than her.”

“I see.”

"I guess I was just scared that Pumpkin wouldn’t need me anymore if I let someone else do the punishing. OW!” Pound recoiled and saw stars for a moment as he got a solid whack to the back of the head.

He turned, rubbing his head, and saw Pumpkin standing there. “P-Pumpkin? What did you do that for?” He looked up at her face, and her expression was as hard as granite. She kept squinting and blinking. “W-what’s wrong?”

“Pound, you’re so stupid sometimes I can’t stand you!” she said in a cold voice.

Pound shrank away from her. He hadn’t heard her use that tone since he had tried jumping off the flagpole.

“Do you not see this?” she said sharply, pointing to her eyes, which were red with irritation. “Do you think I wanted to just sit there and wait around with sand in my eyes while you went to try and beat up that kid? Why did Twilight have to point out how dumb you are before you got it?”

Pound felt his recent joy leaking out of him as he hung his head.

“P-Pumpkin,” Twilight said, a little shocked. She had just dealt with one extremely angry pony. Now did she have to deal with the other one?

Pumpkin ignored her. Grabbing Pound she spun him around so he was in a sitting position, sitting down next to him. She wasn’t in the mood to mince words after that pain. She put a hoof around him, pulling him to her.

Pound was definitely confused. She seemed quite angry, but she was now holding him.

“Darn it, Pound. You’re my hero. I told you that before and I’ll say it again. Twilight’s a big shot, sure, but she can’t ever replace you. I don’t care what she does. You’ve been protecting me most of my life.

“You should really listen to her more. Mom and Dad and Auntie Pinkie have their job in the shop, and Auntie Pinkie also has to plan parties and help Equestria when the map calls her, but you’re always there for me. Together we’re growing up, and I’m glad you decided to listen to the rules instead of fighting. That really hurt, and it makes me happy that I’m the most important pony to you.” She rested her head on his, her eyes closed, more because it helped lower the feeling of irritation than anything else.

Pound rested his head on hers, closing his eyes too as he gave her a squeeze. Smiling a little he said, “Thank you, Pumpkin. I really should know better by now.”

“Yeah, you should!” she snapped at him. “Stupid,” Pumpkin said once more, but in an endearing way this time as she nuzzled him.

Twilight grinned contentedly down at them. Their bond of friendship was incredibly strong. They were opposites in a lot of ways, but they each complimented the other, filling in necessary roles in each other’s lives to help make each other complete.

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