• 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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19-4: The stolen blanket

Pound was at a loss as he sat in bed, curled up in a ball, glancing over at Pumpkin every so often. The day had gone by in a blur, and he could barely recall anything that had happened between Pumpkin’s confession and the rest of the day.

He still couldn’t believe what Pumpkin had done. And worse, he wasn’t sure what would come next. He had tried to sleep, but every time he fell asleep he was plagued with nightmares of Drill Bit getting revenge, each one worse than the last.

It started with just him focusing his bullying on Pumpkin, tripping her or shoving her, then it escalated to him physically beating her up, then to the other four ganging up on her. The last one he had involved him straight up killing her and laughing about it, but his mind blurred the details of the cause of the death and Pumpkin’s appearance. He didn’t make an attempt to recall them. He didn’t want that kind of thing in his memory. Scared about what he’d see next that was the last time he attempted to sleep. He’d been sitting there for the last hour, attempting to calm himself.

Drill Bit was a bully, no doubt about that. The colt’s relentless teasing and mocking had made many of his days miserable, and prevented him from giving it his all. His words were hurtful and rude, and he always seemed to find ways to avoid being near a teacher when it happened. When ignoring him didn’t work he did try talking to his teacher, but it ultimately didn’t fix the problem.

Through the haze of his mind came flashes of memories: Starry Sky’s kindness, holding him and providing a measure of comfort when he was overwhelmed; his teacher, who had heard about the incident, offering to let him go to the nurse and be with his sister. He had refused, not wanting to see her, although he vaguely recalled the new kid Pumpkin snubbed him for offering to go instead.

The end of the day just made things worse for him. The vast majority of the time Pinkie took them to and from school, but occasionally one of their parents would pick them up. This was one of those days.

He was a little surprised when he found out it was his mother there. Pumpkin hadn’t come back before the end of the day, so she was curious when the principal was waiting to talk to her instead of her daughter. Pound followed behind the two adults to the nurses office, where Pumpkin was lying down resting.

Cup had had the same reaction he did as Pumpkin sat up and greeted her, a big black mark on her cheek. She started out with concern, but when she heard what had supposedly happened she exploded, going on about inadequate supervision and demanding to know what had happened to Drill Bit.

Pumpkin laid it on thick, bemoaning how she was just trying to be nice and crying all the while as their mother held her.

That was when he had found out Drill Bit got a week’s suspension. Since nobody else had been nearby and no one would think she’d hurt herself that badly all his denials had been overridden.

In some way it had been a relief to him, knowing that Drill wasn’t going to be permanently kicked out. A week seemed a fair punishment for all the things he’d done and gotten away with.

On the other side, though, was dread that he would return. He didn’t think for a second that Drill Bit was just going to turn a blind eye to things. Of course there was a chance that a week off would help him improve just like it did for him and Pumpkin, but it might just make him behave even worse.

His mother threw a fit over that too. “Just a suspension? You were all too willing to try and expel MY kids when they got into a fight!" The principal responded that they had bent their student entry rules at the insistence of Princess Twilight, allowing them in even though they were past the submission deadline. It seemed to show a lack of gratitude that they were allowed special treatment and then mucked it up the first day, so that was why their punishment was going to be harsher.

Their mother, unsurprisingly, wasn’t impressed. She yelled a lot and made threats like reporting the school or having them pulled from enrollment.

He had stood there, watching it all, his stomach feeling like it was tied in knots. How might he feel if he didn’t know the truth, or if Drill had actually attacked her? He couldn’t take any pleasure in it, knowing that it was all based on a big, fat lie.

Besides learning to fly, protecting Pumpkin was the most important thing in his life. He had stayed silent about the truth because Drill’s punishment wasn’t that bad, and telling on her would make the pain Pumpkin had put herself through meaningless, but he didn’t like it.

His family gave him space the rest of the day. Amidst his mother raging and stirring up Pinkie and his dad, they all seemed to lose those angry feelings when they considered him. They knew how he felt about Pumpkin, and it felt like his silence had been deafening. They expected him to be screaming and ranting and furious with the rest of them, but he didn’t speak a word. They had asked if he wanted to talk, but he just shook his head and went out with Champ for a long walk.

He was in his own world the rest of the day, scared at what might come next.

And now here he sat, afraid of falling asleep again. He kept going over it again and again in his mind, trying to come to an understanding. He knew he was missing information. Namely, whether Pumpkin had approached Drill Bit, or the other way around. However, he didn’t want to talk to Pumpkin at the moment. He didn’t know what he should feel toward her actions, but he couldn’t bring himself to face her.

It just wasn’t like her to do this sort of thing. He was the impulsive one, the kind that did dumb things because he didn’t take the time to think things through. Pumpkin had a good head on her shoulders. While he needed countless attempts during Twilight’s training to get a handle on his hot-blooded desire to attack others in defense of his sister, she only required a few.

The only thing he knew for sure that had changed in her life was the new kid. Pumpkin brushed him off rather rudely to spend time with him, but he couldn’t just blame everything on him because of that.

What was he like? Did Pumpkin actually like him, or was he just interesting because he was new? It was another bit of information he didn’t have and didn’t get the chance to ask.

He thought once more of the words she had spoken to him before being carried away to the nurse’s office. She had done this for his sake. That was what she told him. She smacked herself in the face to frame Drill Bit so that the colt couldn’t pick on him anymore. He didn’t know how to react to that knowledge.

He didn’t know what Pumpkin was feeling on her side of the room, either. He could only hope that she had left him alone as well because she was feeling guilty.

He squirmed and jerked himself around restlessly, forcing himself to stay awake. Finally, he decided that he had to ask for help. He couldn’t handle all these feelings on his own, and he shuddered at the thought of his next nightmare, and then shook his head before his brain could start thinking up ideas on how it could be worse than Pumpkin being murdered.

He hopped out of bed, told Champ to stay when the dog woke up and seemed about to follow, and left the room.

Pinkie mumbled sleepily, feeling something shaking her from sleep. She cracked open an eye, and she saw Pound standing there, looking lost.

“Hey, Pound,” she said in a croaky voice. “What’s wrong?”

“Auntie Pinkie, can I stay with you tonight?” he responded. “I can’t sleep.”

She pushed herself up to a sitting position. It had been quite a while since one of them had asked to spend the night with her. Picking him up she set him on her lap, trying to shake herself awake.

“Come on, Pound. What’s troubling you?” She let out a small sigh. “No, I guess I already know. You’ve been quiet all day because of what happened to Pumpkin. Are you having those same feelings now you did about Tree Leaf? That you should have beat the stuffing out of him instead of letting the adults handle his punishment?”

Pound groaned. “No. I meant what I said to Twilight. I don’t want to fight anymore. Revenge just leads to more revenge. Someone has to stop it or it’ll just keep going.”

Pinkie gave him a nuzzle. “Well, I’m happy to hear that you’re taking a more mature stance on things. It makes me feel so proud of you.”

There was a brief feeling of joy at her words, but it was quickly squashed by his other feelings. He took a deep breath and said, “What do you think about a pony that does something wrong to help someone else?”

Pinkie was glad he was getting right to the issue. It was sometimes difficult to get him to open up with his problems. “What do you mean?”

“Today, I…” He hesitated, unsure of how much to say. He didn’t want to tell the truth. Or, at least, the whole truth. He still wasn’t sure what to do about Pumpkin, and that’s why he went to talk to Pinkie, but he didn’t want her to know what had happened. “Umm… today I was told a secret that I wish I didn’t have to keep. Someone told me that they did something against the rules, thinking it would help me. But any benefit I might get from it is just outweighed by guilt and fear.”

He looked around the room, thinking. “Like, um, let’s call the secret ‘the stolen blanket.’ I was walking along on a really cold day, shivering and talking about how I was freezing, and someone felt bad for me. So they went and grabbed a blanket they saw hanging up on a clothesline and wrapped it around me. Now I feel warm and comfortable. But then right after they say, ‘Hey, I stole this blanket to get you warm.’

His eyes filled up with tears, and his voice became strained. “What am I supposed to say to that?” He rubbed his head with a hoof. “Should I be happy, or mad, or upset? Should I just thank them, or yell at them? I don’t know what to do!”

His breathing grew short as the tears ran down his face. “What should I do, Auntie Pinkie? I feel so confused and hurt and sad and… and…” He stopped talking, and just buried himself in her chest, quietly sobbing.

For Pound to be so heavily affected she felt the secret had to do with Pumpkin. She found it odd that he was so focused on that secret when Pumpkin had been attacked. That usually drove Pound over the edge. Maybe he was so high-strung about the secret BECAUSE Pumpkin was hurt, which was making everything else seem more dramatic. Or, more likely, he was focusing on the secret to distract himself from what happened to Pumpkin. Given the severity of the wound Pinkie would never have guessed that Pumpkin’s wound had been self-inflicted, so she wasn’t sure what the secret could possibly be.

“Let me just clarify something. You don’t want to tell me what this secret is, right?”

“N-no,” he replied.

She should have expected that. “Very well. Then I’ll use your example to give you my answer.”

He pulled back, and Pinkie wiped his eyes. He looked up at her, waiting.

“I don’t know how deep this secret goes, whether it might lead to someone getting hurt or if it already has, but without knowing the truth I can only offer you advice.

“Whatever they did you can’t consider just their actions. We have to look at the context in which they did those actions.”

“What does ‘context’ mean?” he asked.

“It means information about the circumstances surrounding the incident. Without that knowledge a scenario can seem radically different.

“For example: Pumpkin is standing outside, minding her own business, when I suddenly tackle her to the ground. What is your first reaction to hearing that?”

“It’s an evil Changeling disguised as you.”

Pinkie smiled, but shook her head. “Nope. It’s the real me.”

“Mind control,” he said right after.

She shook her head again. “Not mind control either.”

Pound crossed his hooves. “Then what you’re saying is impossible. You’d never be so mean to tackle Pumpkin like that.”

Pinkie’s smile grew wider. “Ahh, but you’re missing the context, the reason for my actions. That’s why you can’t accept it, because it sounds like I’m just being mean.” Pound just stared, waiting for her to continue.

“What if I told you that nearby a group of ponies were playing soccer, and a bad kick sent the soccer ball directly towards Pumpkins head? How does that information change your perspective of the incident?”

“You were actually protecting Pumpkin from danger, not trying to hurt her.”

Pinkie nodded. “Right. Without the context it sounds like a totally different story.”

She ran a hoof through Pound’s hair. “So now let’s talk about your incident. Someone stole a blanket, and stealing is wrong. So that pony should get the full punishment thievery deserves.

“But wait! Don’t we have a piece of information that changes things a bit? What is the context behind the theft?”

“They saw that I was cold, and stole to help warm me up.”

“Now that is a very sympathetic motivation. They didn’t steal to cause mischief, or because they had a grudge against the house owner. No, they did it because they were worried about you and cared about you.”

Pound looked into her eyes for a while, contemplating. “So… are you saying… that I should just do nothing, then? Or thank them for it? Just keep hanging out with them and pretend nothing happened?”

Pinkie shook her head. “Not at all. Even if it was for the best of reasons, stealing is still stealing, and stealing is wrong. What I was saying is that they have a sympathetic motivation for their actions, which makes them more likely to be won over. If, for example, they stole the blanket because they hated the homeowner and helping you was just a bonus, then they’re less likely to listen to you.”

Pound once again just stared for a while. “What’s your point? That still doesn’t tell me how I should feel, or what I should do.”

Pinkie shook her head. “I disagree. Do you believe in your heart that this pony truly did this for you, because they cared for you?” Pound nodded. “Well, if they cared about you enough to turn to thievery for your sake, then they’ll be more likely to listen when you tell them this isn’t the sort of thing you want them to be doing for you.”

“Oooooh,” Pound responded, looking intrigued. “I get it.”

“How should you respond? Don’t praise their action of theft, but thank them for thinking of you. After that, firmly tell them that if they really care about you then you don’t want them to do those sorts of things. After all, there’s more to consider than just their actions. You also have to think about how the homeowner will react. He might be understanding, but he might also be furious. If he spots you with his blanket he might think you stole it, even though you were innocent.”

Pound groaned, glancing around the room before focusing back on Pinkie. “He knows. He knows that Pump-” He jerked, and quickly backpedaled. “-um, I mean they, no, HE did it.” He laughed awkwardly.

Pinkie could feel his little heart racing a mile a minute. ‘Pump.’ ‘He knows that Pump-” As she thought it had to do with Pumpkin. His rapid take-back to a generic ‘they’ and ending up with ‘he’ only made his lie even more transparent.

She could call him on it, but she wanted him to talk more, so instead she feigned ignorance. “Well, go on. The homeowner knows that the mystery colt stole his blanket. And?” She felt a reduction in his heart rate.

Pound mentally smacked himself. He had nearly blown the secret. He had to keep a better cap on his mouth. Somehow he had gotten away with it. Worst came to worst, he could claim he just used Pumpkin as an example, much like Pinkie did before.

“Well, he knows that it was stolen, and he’s really mad. She, um… made it seem like the blanket had been hers all along, and the owner was made to look bad.”

“I see.” Pinkie held him closer, largely to break eye contact and think. If she put the pieces in their proper place, then Pumpkin convinced some people that a lie was the truth. The only incident she had been told of was Pumpkin getting attacked by Drill Bit, making the colt the ‘homeowner’ who ‘had his blanket stolen.’ He had been suspended for a week for fighting.

So the final piece was… she wasn’t quite sure. The wound on Pumpkin’s face was real, no doubt about that. Pumpkin didn’t have the kind of skill to fake something like that. Perhaps… Pumpkin crashed into a tree while parting from Drill Bit, and took advantage of that injury to blame Drill for it on the spur of the moment.

In any case, she knew that Pound had the last piece of information she needed. If her thought process was correct then Pumpkin had set up Drill in some way, and let Pound in on it. That being the case, she had to get Pound to open up.

After considering it for a minute she decided to be blunt. She’d act as if she knew the truth, and it would probably shock Pound into talking. Playing the bad cop was her least favorite style of discipline, but she had to be flexible. There was always the chance she was wrong. Either way, she wouldn’t know for sure until she pushed him.

She took a deep breath to steady herself, then put on her most dangerous face and used her most threatening tone as she pulled him back. “Pound Cake!” The colt flinched at her chance in attitude. “That colt didn’t do anything at all, did he? DID HE? Pumpkin set him up to take the fall, right? HUH?”

Pounds whole body tensed up. He had said too much! He was breathing heavily through his nose, trying to force himself to calm. He let out a pathetically obvious fake laugh. “Oh, c-come on,” he stuttered. “T-t-that’s just crazy talk.” He tried to force a smile, but he failed at that too, too terrified of Pinkie’s expression. “L-look, your advice was really helpful, so I’m just gonna go back to bed. Thanks.”

Surprisingly, Pinkie didn’t stop him. He got down on the ground without a fuss.

“Goodnight, Pound.” She got off the bed too. “I’ll come with you. I have to go wake up your parents and tell them just what Pumpkin did.”

Pound froze, letting out a panicked groan. He spun around, tears forming in his eyes. “You can’t! You can’t do that!”

Pinkie ignored him, heading towards the door.

Pound ran in front of her, hopping up and placing his front hooves on her chest like a dog. “STOP! PLEASE!” he begged, the tears streaming down his cheeks. To his relief she did.

Still with her authoritative voice she said, “I’m going to give you one chance to tell me the truth. If I think you’re lying to me I’m going right to your parents. And in case you want to test me on that-” she moved her hoof around “-that’s a Pinkie Promise.”

Pound’s cheeks puffed out as he held his breath. What was the point now? If he told the truth Pumpkin would get in big trouble. If he stayed silent Pinkie would tell their parents what she suspected, and Pumpkin would still get in trouble.

He sank to the floor, feeling helpless.

Pinkie didn’t relent. “If I tell your parents what I think it would mean big trouble for your sister, wouldn’t it?” She heard Pound let out a muffled sob on the floor. “Depending on what you tell me, however, I might be able to work with you.”

Pound glanced up at her, sniffing.

She turned around and went back to sitting on her bed. “Get over here before I change my mind.” Mentally she hated what she was doing, but it had to be done.

Pound reluctantly got up and climbed into her lap. He groaned again, before saying, “Pumpkin… I don’t know anything about what started things between them. I didn’t even know anything was wrong until one of my classmates pointed her out being taken inside.”

Pinkie had her eyes closed, silently listening, so Pound went on.

"I ran over to see if she was okay, and that’s when I saw the bruise on her face. She told me she needed a hug, and I gave her one.” He drifted off.

Without opening her eyes she said, “I can go wake up your parents anytime.”

Pound whimpered. “W-well, while we were hugging she got real close to me and whispered something in my ear.”

“And that was?”

Once again he hesitated, but there was no way out. “She told me… she… she told me that… that…” He let out a resigned sigh. “She said that she hadn’t meant to hit herself so hard, but now I wouldn’t have to worry about his bullying anymore once he was expelled.” His stomach burned as he waited for Pinkie’s response.

It was the last piece she needed, but she really, REALLY wished she hadn’t gotten it. She could understand why Pound had been so quiet all day. He was probably just as disappointed in her behavior as she was.

So now, how should she respond to this truth? She rubbed her head, feeling so heavy. She opened her eyes, the colt looking at her like she was a bomb that could go off at any moment. “Pound… this isn’t the sort of thing I can keep secret.”

Pound let out a strained wail. “Auntie Pinkie, please! Please don’t tell!”

“Pumpkin got that boy suspended on a false charge. I know he’s been treating you badly but it still doesn’t make this right.”

“Please! Please! Please! PLEASE! PLEEEAAASSEE!” He was becoming increasingly distraught, his voice getting higher-pitched.

“Pound… I’m an adult, and I have to be responsible towards you two. I can’t just let this slide.”

Pound wailed into her chest, soaking her coat as he continued his frenzied pleading, his words eventually becoming unrecognizable.

Pinkie hated it. She hated hearing him in pain, but what choice did she have?

Before she could say anything else her door opened, and Cup Cake walked in. Her steps had been muffled by Pound’s crying.

“My goodness, Pound,” she said sleepily, yawning, “What is going on up here? You’re practically echoing throughout the house with ‘Please, please, please, please.’”

Pound froze. His parents were the last ponies he wanted up here right now. He cast a pleading look at Pinkie, terrified she was about to spill the secret.

Pinkie could see the heartbroken look on his face, and though she knew she should be honest she just couldn’t bring herself to add to it. “After what happened today Pound had a nightmare, so he was trying to get me to let him sleep with me.”

Cup glanced at her oddly. “Really, Pinkie?” she said, sounding disappointed, “I know that I’ve said I want the kids to sleep in their own rooms when there’s trouble but how could you refuse him when he’s freaking out so badly? This is so unlike you.”

She shook her head, yawning again. She made a dramatic gesture with her hoof. “There,” she said, a touch of sarcasm in her voice, “you officially have my permission for him to sleep with you. Good enough?”

Without waiting for an answer she walked over to Pound and gave him a hug. “Feel better, Pound,” she said lovingly, before setting him back down. “Goodnight.” With that she left, muttering under her breath, "Unbelievable."

Author's Note:

WHEW! :ajsleepy: This turned out a lot longer than I expected it to be, so I had to break the Pound-then-Pumpkin viewpoint thing I'd been doing the first 3 chapters, and I cut the rest of the conversation into the next chapter so it wouldn't be so long,

Pinkie finding out the truth wasn't something I initially planned, but giving Pound a confidant meant he didn't have to shoulder the burden all alone, which I felt he needed.

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