• 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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14-3 Pound vs Tree Leaf

Pound dragged his hoof across the ground anxiously as he waited for the door to open. His meeting with Tree Leaf was getting closer and closer and he still didn’t know what he was going to do when he saw the colt.

“Hello?” came a voice as the door opened. The mare twitched at the site of their visitor and quickly bowed. “O-oh, hello, Princess Twilight. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Twilight had that awkward feeling she always got when she saw other ponies bowing to her. “Please, raise your head.” When she did she said, “I’ve come to try for some peaceful conflict resolution.”

The mare looked a little confused. “Um… regarding?”

Twilight used her hoof to push Pound forward a little, and the mare looked down at him. “This is Pound Cake. He’s the one who got into an issue with your son Tree Leaf a few days ago.”

The mare blushed. “Yes, of course. I’m really sorry about that,” she said to him.

Pound didn’t respond. Of course he didn’t blame Tree Leaf’s mom for what happened, but he couldn’t just say that it was okay and not to worry about it.

Twilight said, “Now that some time has passed and they’ve had time to cool off I’d like for the two of them to try and resolve their differences. It doesn’t do to hold onto grudges and make enemies.”

The mare looked up at her. “Tree Leaf really is a good kid. He can just… get a little out of control sometimes.”

Twilight nodded. “I’m sure. The same with Pound Cake here. He got into a rebellious phase based on some faulty assumptions and then improved dramatically when I spent some time getting to know him better and figured out the way he thinks. And that’s why I’m here today, to give your son the same courtesy.”

The mare blushed deeper, feeling embarrassed. “O-oh, Princess. You don’t have to do that. I can handle this. I’m sure you have much more important business to attend to.”

Twilight put a hoof on her shoulder. “Nonsense. I’m the Princess of Friendship. This IS my important business.”

“W-well, if you’re sure…” She turned around and walked a few steps. “This way, then.”

Pound followed behind Twilight, dragging his hooves along the ground. There was a feeling of irritation and anxiety following after him like he might explode at the slightest provocation. When they stopped at a closed door and the mare knocked on it he felt his heart speed up and the desire to run in the opposite direction. He could only wonder how Tree Leaf’s mom would react if he tackled her son to the ground and began to beat him up.

The door opened a crack. “Yeah?” came the voice of Tree Leaf, gruff and bored. “What do you want? Can’t I just be punished in peace?”

“You have a visitor, Tree Leaf.”

“Oh, yeah? Who is it?” He didn’t sound interested.

Leaning over and whispering she said, “Mind your attitude. We have royalty in the house.”

“Royalty?” he asked, now with a bit of attention. “Really?” He opened the door a little more and peeked his head out to see Twilight standing there.

“Hello!” Twilight said brightly, walking forward. “I’d like a little bit of your time, if that’s okay.”

“Sure,” he responded, opening his door enough that his whole body was visible. “Wait,” he said suddenly. “You’re not here to yell at me, are you?”

Twilight shook her head. “Certainly not.”

“Okay, then.”

“Please go sit on your bed. I’ll be in there in a second.” When he complied she turned to his mother. “I’d like for you to just go about your business and let me handle things. He’s your son, and naturally you want to protect him, and I’m afraid your interference might wind up causing a bigger rift between them. I don’t want this to be about who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong and taking sides. First and foremost this is about resolving conflict, and as a princess it is part of my duty to be impartial and listen fairly to both sides, regardless of how close I am to either party.”

She looked like she wanted to argue about being told not to be there, but Twilight was a princess and she had to believe that Twilight knew what was best. “Very well,” she said in a bit of a frigid tone. “Do what you wish.” She walked away towards the kitchen, and they heard the clatter of silverware as she began to wash some dishes.

Pound whispered to her, “I don’t think she liked that very much.” Even he had noticed the expression on her face.

She whispered back, “Well, it’s true. This is between you and Tree Leaf, not you and his mother. Letting her fight his battles won’t help him learn anything. And if she got in your face and you got upset I would have to speak up on your behalf, making it seem like I’m only on your side. That sends the wrong message that I care more about the ponies I’m closer to than the ones I don’t know as well. As I said earlier I have to show equal concern and give time to every pony that needs it, not just my closest friends.

“Now, I’m going to start things off, but I mainly want to stay out of things and let you two talk it out. I’m only planning to interfere if it looks like things are getting out of control and you seem like you’re going to get violent.”

Twilight turned her head toward the door, before she suddenly turned back to him, narrowing her eyes. “Pound, you do understand that my impartialness extends to you, right? Don’t expect any special treatment. I meant what I said.”

Pound nodded, nervousness going through him again as Twilight jerked her head toward the room and walked in.

Tree Leaf was sitting on his bed as Twilight had told him. “Hello, Princess,” he said politely. “So what did you want to talk about?”

Pound let out a scoffing noise, thinking he was as fake as the costumes they wore on Nightmare Night.

Tree Leaf heard the noise, and when he saw Pound there his whole attitude shifted. His eyes widened for a moment before he hopped up onto his hooves, glaring at him. “What’s HE doing here?” he said nastily. “Get out of my room!”

“Why don’t you make me?” Pound said dismissively, meeting his gaze.

“ENOUGH!” Twilight said sharply, knowing she needed to nip this in the bud. “Sit down, Tree Leaf. Now!”

Reluctantly he tore his gaze from Pound and shifted his eyes toward her, dislike mounting in his features. Twilight met his eyes. Their stare-down continued for a while before he abruptly sat down and crossed his hooves.

When Pound snickered at seeing him give in she rounded on him next. “Be quiet, Pound,” she said harshly. “That’s not helping.”

His laughter was cut short, and now Tree Leaf was smirking at him.

Twilight suppressed a groan. From what she was already seeing this was going to be a contest between two Pound’s; Headstrong and defiant when they didn’t get their way, with a good dose of provocative humor designed to anger others that observe them. This was going to be tough.

“Good,” she said, seeing she needed to take control immediately or things would quickly dissolve into name calling, insults, and fighting. “Now, then. I’m here to try and settle the feud between you two. Obviously you both are mad at each other because of that incident last week. Now that some time has passed it’s an ideal time to get your feelings off your chest and make up.”

Twilight expected resistance from Tree Leaf, but to her surprise the tension in the room melted away as he began to laugh like she had just told the funniest joke in the world. “What’s so funny about that?” she asked.

Tree Leaf was getting his laughter under control, wiping a few tears from his eyes. “O-o-oh, that’s great.” He hopped off his bed and began walking toward them.

Uncertain of his intentions Twilight put a hoof on Pound’s chest to put a wall between them.

Pound’s body tensed as Tree Leaf came close enough he was on the other side of Twilight’s hoof.

“Come on, Pound,” he said, still letting out little laughs. “Is she serious?”

Pound felt confused to hear Tree Leaf addressing him like they were best pals, and curiosity began to overcome his frustration. “What do you mean?”

“It’s obvious, isn’t it? This is pointless. You’re not here because you wanna make nice. You’re just here because the princess ordered you to be here, right?”

Pound rolled his eyes, looking away. “It certainly wasn’t my idea. I didn’t want to see you again.”

“So there we have it. I hate you, and you hate me. This is just a waste of both our times.”

Pound silently agreed, but he knew he had to at least make the attempt to try. “Why did you hurt Pumpkin?”

“Because I felt like it, that’s why,” he said, smirking again. “Your dumb sister is just a loser brat, anyway.”

Pound’s anger returned in full measure, and Twilight put more pressure on him.

Tree Leaf snickered. “Are you so weak you have to hide behind the princess because you don’t have the courage to face me yourself?”

“Anytime, you jerk!” Pound said, pushing against Twilight’s leg holding him back.

“Stop it!” Twilight said. “Pound isn’t hiding behind me. I’m here to act as the mediator between you, and I’m going to give both of you a chance to tell your side of the story. “

“I know what you really want,” Tree Leaf said. “You don’t care about making friends.” He turned his head, pushing his cheek toward Pound. “Go ahead. I’ll give you a free shot. You’re not getting a better deal than that.”

The urge to sock Tree Leaf one, especially when he was flat-out offering, was almost overpowering.

“Pound, remember your sister,” Twilight said simply, not wanting him to fight but also not wanting to take away his ability to make a choice.

Tree Leaf was smirking at him, his face right in his, telling him to go ahead and take a swing. He was breathing heavy with the strain of holding himself back. Twilight’s words began to penetrate the haze of emotions, and his face puffed up as he held his breath, his eyes closed. The satisfaction of striking Tree Leaf seemed so tantalizing, so appealing. Revenge would be so sweet.

His whole body tensed as he gritted his teeth, letting out a long, slow breath. It would him make feel so much better to just slug Tree Leaf, but… that was all it would do. It would just make him feel better. Hurting Tree Leaf now was only going to put Pumpkin in danger. He had told Twilight he was going to do his best not to fight anymore because attacking others would likely make them seek revenge, and it wasn’t really protecting his sister.

Even with that knowledge it was still the hardest thing of his whole life to make himself back away a few steps so Tree Leaf was out of range of his hooves. “I-I’m… I’m not going to hit you!” Pound said, his voice shaky. “I’m not here to fight.”

Twilight beamed with pride, so proud of him.

Tree Leaf looked disappointed. “Oh, well. Guess that didn’t work out. It would have been worth the hit to see you get in trouble too. If the princess wasn’t here and it was only the two of us I’m sure you would have done it.”

Now that he had centered on his motivation he was feeling more confident. “It’s got nothing to do with Twilight. I just love my sister more than I hate you.”

Tree Leaf scoffed. “And what does that have to do with not hitting me?”

“You wouldn’t understand, and I don’t want to give you any ideas.”

“Boys,” Twilight said, getting their attention. “I think it’s time we get to the bottom of this incident. Pound, why don’t you start off with what you remember of that day?”

Pound nodded, determined not to let Tree Leaf provoke him anymore.

“Hey!” Tree Leaf objected. “He’s just gonna make stuff up to make me look bad. You heard him. He hates me!”

Twilight responded, “As I said earlier I will listen to both sides and make up my mind.”

“Liar,” he mumbled under his breath.

“And what does that mean?” Twilight asked calmly.

For a second he looked downcast and fearful, but then his expression hardened and he said angrily, “He’s your friend, right?”

“You could say that. His aunt is one of my closest friends, and I’ve spent time with him to help him improve his attitude when he screwed up.”

A tear came down his eye as he grew angrier. “You see? You’re just gonna take his side no matter what I say. You weren’t even there when anything happened, and you’re just gonna believe everything he says because he’s your friend, when why would you ever want to listen to some kid you never met before last week?”

Twilight stood her ground. “That’s not true. I explicitly told Pound before we came in that he’s not getting special treatment in this because I have to look at situations impartially in my role as a princess. I have to give everyone a sporting chance.”

He let out a derisive huff. “Yeah, right,” he said darkly as he looked at the ground.

“Twilight’s here to try and help you, stupid,” said Pound, stomping his hoof. “I got punished for getting into a fight at magic kindergarten, but she spent time with me to teach me to do other stuff than fighting. The old Pound would have hit you without even thinking about it.”

“Pound is right, Tree Leaf,” said Twilight. “I’m not here to punish you or make you feel bad. I want to help you improve. That’s the sole reason I’m here.”

“So then what’s HE doing here?” he said, thrusting his hoof toward Pound. “Can’t you just do it yourself?”

“Pound asked the same thing, but the reason you’re being punished right now is because of what happened at the beach. If the two of you can resolve your conflict and show you’ve learned something from the experience I’m sure your parents will cut your punishment short.”

Pound groaned quietly, once more forcing himself to move. He walked toward Tree Leaf, who took a defensive stance as Pound got near him. He held out his hoof, the words leaving his mouth as if someone else was saying them. “Can’t we put this behind us and be friends?”

Twilight was surprised that he was taking the initiative.

Tree Leaf eyed him suspiciously before slapping his hoof away. “Why would I want to be friends with you? You don’t care about anyone but your dumb sister. That’s the REAL reason you’re here, isn’t it? Isn’t it?” he snapped, shoving Pound.

Pound felt frustration bubbling beneath the surface, but he held it at bay. “What’s wrong with loving my sister? Don’t you love YOUR family?”

“Hmph. You’re so stupid. You don’t get it.”

“What doesn’t he get?” Twilight asked. “From what I’ve heard the three of you were playing together, and then at some point when you planned to race and Pound got ahead of you then you turned on Pumpkin and kicked sand in her eyes.”

“Prove it!” Tree Leaf said instantly.

“What?” Pound said sharply. “Don’t even try to deny it.”

Seeing the anger on Pound’s face brought the grin back to Tree Leaf’s. “Well, Twilight? You said that you weren’t going to give him special treatment and give both of us a chance. Are you just going to take his word for it? Pumpkin probably just tripped and the two of them made the whole thing up because he doesn’t like me.”

“WHAT?” Pound roared. “Don’t you dare-TWILIGHT!” He rounded on her.

Twilight saw the two colts both staring at her. In a slow voice she said, “I’m afraid Tree Leaf is right, Pound.”

“HA!” Tree Leaf said triumphantly.

Pound’s mouth was hanging open, and he was once again feeling betrayed. “He-you can’t-you… you KNOW he did it.”

“Then prove it!” Tree Leaf said again.

Pound’s cheeks were puffing out and he stomped a hoof in frustration as he said, “I… I can’t.” He turned toward the door and began walking toward it. “Thanks a lot, Twilight.”

“Pound!” came the sharp voice. “Come back here and sit down.”

He looked at her with disgust, a plethora of nasty words hovering on his mouth. He turned around and sat, but moved no closer.

Once more getting authoritative she said, “That’s enough from the both of you. I already told you that this meeting of you two is not about assigning blame and who is right and who is wrong. This is supposed to be about you two resolving your differences. Pound, stop sulking just because I’m not just agreeing with everything you say. You’re better than that.”

His eyes narrowed, but he didn’t respond for a few seconds before hopping up. “If you think I’m just lying then why did you bother going to talk to his parents when I told you what happened?”

“I never said I thought you were lying. I said that there is no proof of what happened. None of us were there to observe it.”

“NO!” Pound shouted. “Either you’re on his side or you’re on mine. If you don’t believe I’m telling the truth then you’re on his side.”

“I already explained to you that I’m on no one’s side.” As he opened his mouth she spoke over him and said, “Be quiet!”

He closed his mouth, looking at her as if she had attacked Pumpkin herself.

She turned to Tree Leaf, who was looking quite satisfied, and said, “You can knock that grin off your face, Tree Leaf. True, I wasn’t there to witness the actual event, but there is enough evidence to me that proves you’re the guilty party.”

Pound’s glare softened just a little.

“Like what?” Tree Leaf said defiantly.

“If Pumpkin really DID just fall on her face then I wonder why you didn’t bring this up before when we first came to talk to you about it. It seems unusual that you would take the blame for something you knew you were innocent for.”

Tree Leaf looked stymied for a second before looking away toward the ceiling. “I didn’t think you’d believe me, being his friend and all.”

Twilight followed up with, “Fair enough, but there is something I DID witness, and it happened today.” Her horn lit up, and a square appeared, playing a memory of Pound and Tree Leaf.

“Why did you hurt Pumpkin?” said Pound.

“Because I felt like it, that’s why,” Tree Leaf responded. “ Your dumb sister is just a loser brat, anyway.”

As the image faded Tree Leaf was standing there meekly, trapped by his own words.

Pound’s anger at Twilight had dissipated. She had Tree Leaf dead to rights.

“Good enough for you, Tree Leaf?” Twilight asked, raising herself up to her full height and saying seriously, “I already said this before, and I don’t want to have to keep saying it. This is NOT about guilt and punishment. I already know you threw sand in Pumpkin’s eyes. That’s obvious and past debate. We’re past that action of yours. The next step is getting to the root of your problems that led to that action. Pound offered his hoof in friendship and you were the one that slapped it away. “

Tree Leaf got some of his attitude back. “Yeah. And? If someone says 'let’s be friends' then that just makes everything better? He’s only doing it because you’re here.”

“Wrong!” Pound spoke up. “I’m doing this for my sister.”

Tree Leaf rolled his eyes, pointing at Pound. “You see what I’m talking about? Pumpkin. Pumpkin. Pumpkin. It’s all about her.” Facing Pound now he asked, “So when are you gonna send me the wedding invitation?”

“Oh, ha ha!” Pound responded sarcastically. “You’re so clever. It’s my job as her brother to protect my sister. Everyone else in my life is bigger and older than me and can look after themselves. That’s why I have to look after Pumpkin and protect her from ponies like YOU.”

Tree Leaf began to laugh again. “Well, you sure did a fantastic job, huh? Excellent big brother material.”

Pound scowled, taking a few steps toward him. “Don’t you make fun of me.”

“Face it. You failed.”

“ENOUGH!” Twilight snapped, her horn letting off a loud bang. “POUND, SIT DOWN!”

Pound was so surprised at her shouting that he complied without thinking about it.

“Tree Leaf, on your bed!”

Tree Leaf looked like he was debating whether to argue, but then he listened as well after a few moments.

“None of this is helping!” she said, pacing around between the two of them. “All you two keep doing is sniping at each other and trying to get each other mad, and I’m getting sick of it. The two of you are so similar in temperament it’s obvious that letting you try and work things out on your own isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

Tree Leaf huffed, crossing his hooves. “Then maybe you should have butt out of our problems. You just show up here out of nowhere and put us in the same room and just expect us to be best pals just like that? I don’t care if you are the 'Princess of Friendship.' You can’t force ponies to become friends. I never asked you to bring him here.”

Twilight looked at him out of the corner of her eye, taking a deep breath. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe my expectations were too high and I should have talked to you alone first. However, we’re all here now and I’d like for us to make the best of it.”

“The ‘best’ would be if you’d just get him out of here and leave my house.”

“Can’t say I don’t agree,” Pound piped up.

“You see?” Tree Leaf responded, pointing to Pound. “The two of us both agree on one thing: we can’t stand each other. YOU’RE the only one trying to get us to be all friendly when neither of us want to.”

Twilight looked between Pound and Tree Leaf, and she knew her inexperience with small kids was showing itself again. Perhaps they just weren’t mature enough yet to be able to resolve their problems. However, she didn’t want to throw in the towel quite yet.

“Tree Leaf?”

“Yes?” he responded.

“I can perfectly understand what Pound has against you. He’s very protective of his sister, and you chucking sand in her eyes made you an enemy, even if he was trying to befriend you for her sake. The piece of the puzzle both me and Pound are missing is your side of the story. I wanted to let both of you give your own interpretations of your time together, but the two of you spent so much time using verbal attacks and angering each other that we got completely sidetracked from my goal.

“Now, I want you to tell us what your real issue is with Pound. Or Pumpkin. According to Pound you said it was because you felt she was just a bother. Is that all of it?”

Tree Leaf stared at her blankly for a little while before looking at his bed. “Nothing,” he said emotionlessly. “She bugged me, so I taught her a lesson. That’s it.”

Twilight’s head snapped around to Pound, silently telling him to keep quiet, fully expecting him to get all triumphant at hearing Tree Leaf openly admit to his wrongdoing.

“Don’t have to look at me like that,” Pound said under his breath, but otherwise didn’t respond.

When she was convinced Pound was going to keep his trap shut she focused her attention back on Tree Leaf. “I don’t believe you. I’ve had to deal with Pound and his temper tantrums, and he shows a pattern of getting aggressive and belligerent when something is bothering him. Why was Pumpkin bugging you?”

He shrugged. “Just did,” he said in a small voice.

“Why?” she asked again. “Was she doing something you didn’t like?”

Tree Leaf had a very familiar expression on his face, the kind Pound usually had when he was trying to hold back his real feelings. “Just stop asking. I got nothing to say. I didn’t like her, and that’s the only reason.”

Twilight mentally reviewed everything she had heard. Stubborn as Pound, he wasn’t going to budge unless she had some ammunition to make a hole in his defenses. A question came to her. “Who are you really mad at, Tree Leaf? Because I’m a little confused. Is it Pound or Pumpkin?”

He glanced up at her for a moment. “What kind of question is that?”

“You claim that you just didn’t like Pumpkin. And if there was something you didn’t like about her that’s understandable. Not all ponies click together. So what’s your beef with Pound? You seem like you’re furious at him about something and won’t forgive him for it. So far as we know the only thing he did to you was tell his parents about what you did to his sister. Sure, no one likes to get into trouble, but it still seems a bit much to be holding onto a grudge days later for such a small thing.”

Emotion flitted across his features for a moment, something like sadness or pain, before his impassive expression returned. “He wasn’t a very good friend, that’s all.”

Pound had been silently listening, curious as well, but that response made his temper flare up. “AND YOU THINK YOU WERE A BETTER ONE?” he yelled.

Tree Leaf hopped off his bed as Pound stood up. “I sure do! You didn’t care about me. It was only about your sister, your sister, your sister.”

The two of them closed the distance between each other, glaring at each other as they stood in front of one another.

Twilight took a breath and decided to see how things played out. Neither of them looked like they were ready to assault the other yet.

“What are you talking about?” Pound said, tapping his hoof on the floor. “I loved having you in our group because I wanted to make my own friends, but then you turned around and betrayed me! What did you think was gonna happen when you attacked my family?”

Tree Leaf pushed his head forward so his forehead was pressing up against Pound’s. “Just shut up. What do you know about betrayal?”

Twilight used her magic to lift the two colts up and put some distance between them. “So is it the reason, Tree Leaf?”

“WHAT?” he said nastily. “Stop interfering!”

“Yeah!” Pound said. “Just stay out of it!”

“Tree Leaf,” she said, ignoring them, “you just said something very significant.”

“What?” he said dismissively.

“You keep bringing up that you felt Pound didn’t care about you and only about Pumpkin.”

“So?”

“Yeah. So?” Pound said right after.

Twilight let out a pained laugh. ‘Pound in stereo. Wonderful,’ she thought.

Out loud she said, “I’m starting to see the bigger picture. You felt jealous of Pumpkin because you felt Pound wasn’t paying enough attention to you, and so you felt hurt.”

Tree Leaf winced, and once more she saw his pain surface for a moment before he got himself under control.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Pound said sharply. “The three of us were all playing together in EVERY game. Tree Leaf was the one who kept trying to exclude Pumpkin from everything we did, so how did it suddenly become MY fault?”

Twilight went to speak, but Tree Leaf cut over her. “You can play with your dumb sister whenever you want. You live with her! Hello! The two of us were having a great time together before SHE showed up and ruined everything. ‘Oh, don’t do that. You might get in trouble. Ooohh!’”

Pound stomped over to him, saying loudly, “If you wanted us to play together alone then why didn’t you just say that in the first place, you moron? What made you think the solution was to chuck sand in her eyes? Even if I DID laugh about it and join you the two of us would have gotten in trouble anyway once Pumpkin told on us.”

“Because she was just gonna tell on us anyway for wrestling if we tried to tell her she couldn’t play. She seemed like a jerk like that, spoiled and bratty and a know-it-all, acting like she’s the boss.”

“Stop saying stuff about my sister!”

Once more they were butting heads. “Oh, I forgot! No one else matters to you, only that stupid cow of a pony.”

“That’s not true!” he said, pushing against his head and making Tree Leaf back up a step.

“I’m not like YOU!” Tree Leaf said, pushing back. “I don’t have any siblings. I’m not treated all special because I’m friends with a princess. I don’t get to go to Magic Kindergarten. I didn’t have any friends my own age to play with. So when I FINALLY made what I thought was a good friend he wasn’t really interested in me. He just HAD to have his sister intruding on all our fun, because he could care less about anyone else’s feelings. So long as his stupid sister is happy that’s all he cares about.” He pushed hard against Pound, forcing him to back up. “You’re just a selfish, stupid brat!”

“You’re so stupid it makes me sick!” Pound retorted. “Twilight doesn’t give me special treatment. She came here for YOU, in case you didn’t notice, because she was trying to improve your attitude. She cut my punishment short for fighting because she wanted me to learn stuff instead of being punished, and she knew that wasn’t fair to you to not help you out too just because she didn’t know you as well as me. I didn’t even want to come here because I was tired of fighting. I just wanted for us to work things out because I didn’t want you to try to get revenge on Pumpkin.”

Tree Leaf growled, suddenly backing up. Pound fell on his face with the unexpected loss of resistance. “YOU SEE?” Tree Leaf yelled. “YOU SEE? THAT! THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! Oh, I don’t care about you. I just came here for my sister. Can’t you think about anyone else for a change? I don’t even know how you plan on making any friends if you’re planning to just spend all your time with your sister.”

Pound rubbed his nose as he stood up. “My sister IS my friend, and that’s one more than you'll ever have, you loser.”

A hurt look came to Tree Leaf’s face, a tear sliding down his cheek. Pound’s words had cut to the bone. His eyes began filling with moisture as he fought to keep his composure.

“Pound!” Twilight said, shocked.

Tree Leaf ran forward, shoving Pound hard enough to knock him to the ground. “GET OUT!” he shouted. “GET OUT OF MY ROOM AND GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”

Twilight prepared to step between the two, but Pound got up with a dispassionate look on his face. “I’m done,” he said emotionlessly, turning toward the door. “I’m leaving. If I don’t I’m not going to be able to stop myself, and I don’t want to get into any more fights.” Walking away he said under his breath, “Attacks my sister and expects us to be friends? I wonder how he’d react if I went and socked his mom one?”

“You better not DARE touch my mother, Pound, or not even the princess will be able to stop what I’ll do to you!” Tree Leaf said fiercely.

Pound stopped, turning back to him with that same sort of unnatural calm. “You know something, Tree Leaf? If you had just stopped for a minute and put some thought into it things would have turned out so much better. You wanted some friends, and you got all jealous because of Pumpkin. If you didn’t spend so much time thinking she was such a pain just because she was trying to be helpful then you could have had two friends. And so instead of having two friends to play with you have zero. I hope it was worth it. Hmph.” He coldly turned away and began walking again.

Tears were brimming in his eyes again. “Fine, then!” he said, his voice shaking a little. “Just go. Who needs you? I… I don’t. I don’t need you. I don’t need ANYBODY!” Despite his attempts to stop it despair was creeping into his voice. “F-friends are just a joke anyway! They only pretend to like you until they can hurt you and make you feel bad.” He sniffed, gulping back his sadness. “Who needs friends? They’re a waste of time. So I’ll just stay here. ALONE! With-without anybody else! Because it-it-it’s b-better that way. They’ll just turn on me like you did, so I don’t ever want any more friends!” He spun around and hopped onto his bed, beginning to sob into his pillow.

Twilight looked between the two colts, feeling a sense of hopelessness. She had put too much pressure and expectations on Pound, and she also had just sprung Pound on Tree Leaf. Once more her inexperience was rearing its head. Two headstrong colts going head to head was bound to lead to trouble. She just really wanted to give them the chance to sort things out by themselves, but she hadn’t interfered enough or planned enough for what would happen once they arrived. Now Pound had got upset for nothing and Tree Leaf was swearing off friendship, and it was mainly her fault.

Twilight sighed. She would have to take Pound home and do as he had suggested in the first place: spending some one-on-one time with Tree Leaf. Especially with their talk on the way here it was crucial that she talk to him now, before he spent months dwelling on the idea that friendship was a bad thing.

Pound had stopped walking. Despite himself he couldn’t make himself keep going. Although it annoyed him to no end, as he didn’t want to have anything in common with a jerk like Tree Leaf, he found himself identifying with Tree Leaf’s feelings. Hadn’t he just been feeling the same way recently, even though it was Tree Leaf’s fault in the first place he felt that way?

More than that, though, his thoughts were also on the story Twilight told him of Moondancer. In his mind’s eye he pictured Tree Leaf as a stallion, walking through town and ignoring anyone trying to talk to him, yelling at everyone for trying to get closer.

Twilight walked past him, saying despondently, “Let’s go, Pound.”

Pound took a step after her, but then stopped again. His head turned toward Tree Leaf who was still crying into his pillow, muffling the sound of his lamentation. He saw himself throwing a tantrum in his room because he didn’t know what else to do with his feelings.

The more he tried to dissociate himself from Tree Leaf the more he felt he got it. He didn’t want to forgive Tree Leaf, or understand him, but the similarity between them was slowing melting away the bitterness in his heart, and a part of him genuinely began to empathize with his feelings.

Turning his body to match his head he walked over to the bed and climbed up on it, sitting himself next to Tree Leaf.

Twilight watched his progress, wondering what he was going to do.

“Tree Leaf,” Pound started, “I… I kinda know why you were acting like you were.”

Tree Leaf briefly popped his head up a little. “Oh, is that because I TOLD you how I felt? I only said it like three times.”

Pound didn’t feel bothered anymore by his attitude, and ignored it. “I… I was feeling the same way. I’ve had Pumpkin since I was born, but I wanted to make some of my own friends, and when I met you I felt the same way about you: that I had finally found my dream friend. So when you did that to Pumpkin it hurt so much that I also felt like I never wanted to trust anyone ever again, because I didn’t want to feel that pain again.”

Pound curled up, holding his knees as he remembered the scathing feelings that had overtaken him. Tree Leaf turned his head, an eye peeking out toward him.

“I knew that my family loved me, but I tried to do all the bad things I could so that they would hate me, and then I wouldn’t have to be afraid anymore. I’d know that they didn’t care about me, so I wouldn’t trust them. It hurt a lot more to be afraid of my family, but I just didn’t want to feel that sad feeling inside.

“They were trying so hard to be nice, even when I was being so mean, but every time I got them to lose it and yell at me I would laugh because it was like proving I was right, but it would also hurt so bad inside that I wanted to cry.”

Pound had a faraway look in his eyes as he stared at the bed, not really seeing it, a tear dripping down his eye as those feelings once more resurfaced. “It’s no fun being all alone, not feeling like anyone cares for you. I guess I just talk about Pumpkin so much because she’s the only one that is always there for me, because my parents and Auntie Pinkie usually have to work during the day, so we only have each other. Pumpkin… just makes me feel strong, that I can do something amazing even though I’m just a little brat who can’t do anything special. I can protect her, keep her safe, and she even calls me her hero. If it wasn’t for her I’d probably feel just like you do.”

Pound hesitated, as his pride was getting in the way. He didn’t feel he had done anything wrong. However, he felt guilty about not noticing Pumpkin was feeling left out, so it was only right that he also accept responsibility for not noticing Tree Leaf’s feelings either.

With a great effort he lifted himself up a little and put a hoof on Tree Leaf, saying, “I’m… I… I’m… I’m sorry.” He let out a heavy breath, the words feeling so freeing, and they came easier the second time. “I’m sorry for making you feel like I didn’t care about you.”

Tree Leaf blinked in shock, slowly pulling himself up to a sitting position. “And… you think that just makes everything better?” he said quietly.

“I don’t know. It works with my family. Do we really have to keep fighting? I don’t want to argue anymore. Twilight got me to come by bringing up my sister, but after everything that was going on with my family I just was sick of the bad feelings.” He sniffed. “I’m sorry! I don’t know what else to say. I never meant to make you feel like that.”

Tree Leaf got an odd expression his face, half a smile lifting up his mouth. “So you’re sorry, huh?” he said, giving Pound a small shove.

Pound blinked, hearing the tone shift in his voice, and gave him a shove back. “That’s right.”

“You gotta give this big sappy friendship speech. Makes me wanna gag. Bleh!”

Pound was smirking. “Well, you’re just a big crybaby.”

“Loser!”

“Jerk!”

“Dummy!”

Pound tackled Tree Leaf, pinning him beneath him.

Twilight was about to intervene, when she heard the clear, crisp sound of laughter erupting out of them as they began to wrestle one another. Her first instinct was to break them apart and not encourage their actions, but she knew she had to be flexible, and laughter was the purest joy that friends could share with one another.

Back and forth they went, just like how they had started, fighting for superiority, grinning and giggling all the while as they trash talked.

“Come on, tough guy!”

“Bring it, wuss!”

“Why don’t you just surrender?”

“Why should I, when we both know I’m just taking it easy on you?”

Twilight sat down, rolling her eyes lightheartedly as she shook her head.

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