• Published 22nd Mar 2018
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Pound and Pumpkin Tales 2 - Never2muchpinkie

The continuing adventures of the now seven years old Pound and Pumpkin

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3-1: Burnout

“Come on, nerd! Keep up!” Drill Bit called out.

Pound was panting slightly as he tried to keep pace with the colt.

Drill did a loop-de-loop, allowing Pound to get in front of him, before quickly retaking the lead. “Not too much further now.”

Pound gritted his teeth, ignoring the ache in his wings as he pushed with his last bit of strength, touching down at the edge of the gate. He was breathing heavily now, his wings drooping. He couldn’t even lift them up to close them.

“Better,” said Drill. “Much better.”

Pound wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead. “N-nothing to it,” he said weakly, lying down to catch his breath.

“Well, I think that’s enough practice for today. You look wiped. I’m gonna go race with the real competition,” he said with a wink before taking off.

He was wiped. Drill Bit kept pushing him to his limits. Maybe it was pride, or maybe it was because he had finally gotten off the ground, but he didn’t want to turn down any opportunities to challenge Drill Bit.

He was quickly learning there was more to flying than just moving up and down or turning. He wanted to learn some of the advanced tactics Drill knew, but the colt told him he had to focus on building up his skills first.

He turned over onto his back, looking up at the sky. Drill Bit had been a lot nicer to him lately. His insults were now like friendly banter, used to pump himself up and dare his opponents to muster the energy to challenge him.

He tried his hardest, but he knew his weakness wouldn’t just disappear overnight. He had already made decent progress. There wasn’t anything he’d say he was particularly gifted at, but there was always time to find where his talents lie.

Weeks passed, and it felt like with every day his determination to knock Drill Bit off his throne increased. With every bit of improvement he felt like another one of his duck feathers fell off. It might take a year or more, but he would throw off his ugly duckling status and become a swan. He would prove himself worthy of Drill Bit’s time.

His stamina had increased, letting him go longer without running out of breath, as well as his wings not burning so badly as he pushed himself.

One day they were racing again. Drill Bit was in front of him, flying around. As he went between two swings he turned sideways, lowering himself and extending a hoof, pushing off and doing a full rotation before getting back in the air.

Pound didn’t trust himself to do such a maneuver. He had improved, but he wasn’t nearly that skilled yet. Still, he wanted to try something interesting. As he flew past the swings he curved himself upward and tried doing a loop-de-loop. Although he was successful he wasn’t used to the mechanics of upside-down flying, and he quickly went off course as he came back down again.

He let out a yelp, trying to slow or stop himself, but for all his efforts he still crashed face-first right into one of the poles stabilizing the swing-set.

For a few seconds everything went dim, until he felt something gently but firmly slapping him.

“Hey! Hey! Are you alright?” Drill Bit asked.

Pound groaned, putting a hoof to his eye. “That didn’t feel fun.”

Ms. Nimble trotted over, pushing Pound’s hoof aside to check out his face. “Ooh. I think you’re gonna have a bit of a bruise there. I need to get you to the nurse so she can get you an ice pack.”

“I got it, Ms. Nimble,” said Drill Bit, helping Pound stand up. “No need to disrupt the whole class for one student.”

She thought it over for a few seconds. “Very well,” she replied.

The two walked inside, Drill Bit supporting Pound as they walked. Drill Bit chuckled. “That was some crash. I’m impressed.”

Pound groaned. “You don’t have to rub it in.”

He laughed again. “Don’t take it personally. You pulled off your maneuver perfectly on your first try. You only lost control after you were done. You’ll get it with some more practice.”

Pound winced as his face throbbed painfully. It passed after a few seconds. “Since when are you so nice?” he asked.

He adjusted his position a bit. “Hey, I’m not completely heartless. You at least attempted a stunt, and you’ve proven you’re not so much of a loser as I thought.”

Pound gritted his teeth, letting out a low moan. “D-don’t think I’m gonna let you get the better of me forever. Once I get some more experience I’ll take you down.”

Drill chuckled. “Come on, brat. Just drop the bravado for now and walk. Although, I do appreciate it a little. It’s better than the whining you used to do.”

Pound laughed weakly. “I’m finally coming into my own. I don’t want to whine anymore. I have to be tougher if I ever want to win.”

“Glad to see you’ve got the right idea. Challenge me as often as you’d like until you get it into your head that I’ll never let you surpass me.”

Pound’s eyes shut as another wave of pain went over him. He was losing interest fast in being macho. He just wanted to get to the nurse and lay down.

Another few minutes later he was lying down with a soothing ice pack over his face. It was a relief. “Thanks, Drill Bit,” he said.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.

“I’ll be fine. You can go back to class.”

“Nah. I’ll stay for a little while.”

Pound gave him an odd look. “Don’t you have better things to do than hang out with a wounded loser?”

The colt shrugged. “Sure I do. But I’m curious how you’re going to take this accident. Is it going to affect your drive and determination, or make you hesitant to try out tricks in the future?”

“No way!” Pound said strongly. “Unless I lose one of my wings nothing is going to stop me from growing up and kicking your butt.”

Drill chuckled into his hoof. “Still on that, huh? Glad to hear it, but words are cheap. You’ll have to prove it the next time we go out there.”

“Hmph. Well, you’re not going to get the answers to your questions by watching me in a bed. So why are you really staying?”

Drill shrugged again. “Honestly, I don’t know. There’s something about you that intrigues me. I talk big, but I have the skills to back up my words. You acknowledge that you’re weak, but you sure brag about what you’re going to be like in the future. I wonder if you really mean what you say.”

He looked down at his knees, an uncharacteristically somber look on his face. “If you want to be the best it means a lot of hard work and effort. It takes sacrifice and being willing to take pain.”

Pound looked at him quizzically. “So are you telling me you weren’t a naturally gifted flier?”

“Everyone has potential. Some people just have more of it than others. But potential means nothing if you don’t put forth the effort to master it.

“All my other friends were already skilled before I got there and started competing with them, but you’re different. So far you’re managed to jump over all the hurdles put in your path and keep running, and it’s interesting to see how you’ve grown since then.”

Pound shook his head. “So I’m just a joke to you? Someone to waste time with before you get a real challenge?”

“I didn’t say that, did I? Look, it’s a fact that you’re inexperienced, and you still have a long way to go before you catch up to me. I guess it just reminds me of how determined I was to become a better me. Even from a young age my parents pushed me to be my best self. I feel like it made me strong. And it shows! My room is littered with awards for contests I’ve won.”

He leaned back in his chair, looking up at the ceiling. “Even if I don’t want to admit it a part of me is actually jealous of you.”

Pound looked at him strangely. Twilight had once told him that their time together was having an effect on Drill Bit, even if he didn’t realize it, but he certainly never expected the colt to actually say such a thing. “Jealous?”

“Hmph. Listen to me. It feels like your weakness is infecting me.”

Pound wasn’t going to let it go. “Why would you be jealous of me?”

“You’re getting better all the time, but nobody has any expectations for you.”

“That’s not true!”

“Sure it is. It was the same thing when you were trying to fly. Our teacher, your parents… everyone was patient with you. They told you to just wait, and that you’d fly when you were ready. There was no pressure from them to fly. It was just something you wanted.

“It’s no different here. If you were put in a contest for flying or whatever I’m sure you’d just be told to do your best, and that it wouldn’t matter what place you came in as long as you had fun. I’m not so lucky.

“Being a loser sucks, but being the best isn’t easy either. There’s a lot of pressure to excel. People have certain expectations of you that you’re expected to meet.”

Pound closed his eyes, trying to focus. Something about that sounded really familiar. He was sure that he had heard that somewhere before.

He was jerked out of his thoughts by a hard slap on his side. “Ow! Hey! What did you do that for?”

“Because,” Drill Bit responded, “you took a hard hit to the head. I wanted to make sure you weren’t passing out on me.”

Pound felt oddly touched. “I’m alright. I was just thinking.”

“Well, don’t strain yourself. You’re supposed to be relaxing, dummy.”

“Right.” It grew quiet between them for the next minute. He found that he couldn’t take it. Laying down and being silent only made him want to close his eyes and rest, and he didn’t feel like being slapped into alertness again.

“Do you actually like competition?” he asked.

Drill Bit looked at him curiously. “What kind of question is that? Have you not seen what I do every day? Shoot, even you have started to enjoy the thrill of competition, or so I thought.”

“I don’t know. It sure sounds like you think something is missing in your life. You said that you felt jealous of me because your family has high expectations for you and mine don't. It sounds like you’re growing tired of it.

“Really, just the fact that you even told me that is strange. It’s not like you.”

Drill Bit put his head on his hoof. “I love competition. There’s just a thrill that comes from it that I can’t get with anything else. Each loss pushes me to see where I went wrong, and where I need to improve. That’s why all of us are always challenging each other.”

“Except lately all your focus has been on me. Ever since I succeeded in flying you’ve been spending every day training me. You train me until I'm too exhausted to get off the ground anymore before you go to your other friends. When did I become so important?”

Drill Bit leaned back, staring at the ceiling again. “I don’t know. Messing around with those guys has just gotten a little… predictable. It’s more interesting to help you develop your skills, because I really do want to see how far you’ll go.

“Will you continue to push past every boundary, or will you give up? Every single day that question must be answered.”

Pound just stared at Drill Bit, trying to figure out what had gotten into him. He was acting so different from his usual persona he didn’t know how to respond to him.

Masky’s face flashed in his mind. When the colt had first showed up he had put on this cool, aloof persona in order to hide his inner pain. Maybe Drill Bit was putting on an act too. Without his friends around perhaps Drill Bit felt he didn’t have to put on his invincible façade.

“Hey, Drill Bit?” That made him turn his head. “I think you make for a fantastic teacher. I wouldn’t have come this far without you. Thank you so much for pushing me.”

Drill Bit’s expression became unreadable, before he looked back up. “You’re welcome, I guess. Don’t look too deeply into it. I’m only helping you because I was bored.”

Pound didn’t believe that. The more he thought about it the more sure he was that Drill Bit was hiding his true feelings. “You don’t really care about competing anymore, do you? It might have been important to you once, but now you’re putting so much time on me.”

“And?” he said dismissively. “There isn’t much point in competing with my friends. There are no awards for that. There’s no proof of my victories.”

“And why does that matter? If you know you beat one of them in a race why do you need a medal to prove it?”

“I told you already that words are cheap. It doesn’t cost anything to say you’re the best. The medals are proof that I excelled and trounced everyone else.” He leaned forward, his hooves crossed. “A real competition is a blast. When you have someone of similar skill to fight with, and come out on top, it just feels so satisfying. Everyone cheers for you as you walk up to get your trophy, and my parents are always overjoyed when they see me win.

"But… I guess a part of me just wants to take a break from all that for a little while. That’s why I’m training you. You’re far below my skill level, so I don’t have to worry about losing. It’s a refreshing change of pace to do something besides competing.”

Pound knew something was troubling the colt. He couldn’t put his hoof on it, though. “Hmph. I offered you that before I started flying. I invited you to my birthday party, remember?”

Drill Bit looked over at him again, looking more like himself. “Don’t tell me you’re still bitter over that? Grow up.”

“No, I’m not. I’m just pointing it out. Although given the crazy stuff that went on you surely would have had a blast.”

“Is that right? And what 'went on' there?”

“Why should I tell you?” He stuck out his tongue. "If you had gone you would have known all about it."

Drill Bit sucked on his cheek, seemingly unable to decide whether to be annoyed or amused. “Whatever.”

Pound chuckled.

Drill Bit just rolled his eyes.

Pound found their conversation to be quite interesting. He kept reflecting on it throughout the day. He was glad when school was over and he returned home, giving him some privacy. He quickly pushed himself through his homework and went to his room, closing the panels to divide his side from Pumpkins.

Even though they had the option now they rarely used it. They hadn’t gotten into a big fight for quite a while, and they still enjoyed playing with each other most of the time.

Now that he didn’t have any distractions he was free to really think. Drill Bit had dropped his guard around him. Just the way he talked seemed off.The colt always seemed strong and untouchable, but Pound was starting to think that he was right about Drill being like Masky.

When he had talked to Twilight about Drill turning him down to his party she expressed the thought that maybe his parent’s valued his accomplishments more than they valued him. He spoke of being under a lot of pressure to succeed, and that he enjoyed training together because he, Pound, wasn’t a threat at his skill level, allowing him to take a break from competition.

Maybe his fantasy had been right, and Drill Bit's parents only treated him lovingly when he was victorious. And when he wasn't...

Whether his theory was true or not didn't really matter. It was more about what Drill Bit believed. Just like Masky he probably never brought up his feelings because he didn't think there was a point.

He knew that Drill and his four friends hung out together outside of school, considering that time they confronted him at the park, but he didn’t think that any of them were close like he was with his friends. Competition and showing off seemed to be the only thing holding them together as a group. Of course, he could be wrong about that, seeing as how it was only one occasion, but he didn’t think he was too far off the mark.

Twilight had told him that just because he hadn’t won over Drill Bit back then didn’t mean that he hadn’t changed at all, and that, given more time, it didn’t mean he wouldn’t change even more.

Drill Bit really did seem to need a close friend, the kind he could share secrets with, or hug when he was feeling down.

As long as Drill Bit was his teacher it provided them time together where the colt could just take it easy, and for the moment that was how he could be a friend to him. Drill had already opened up to him, even if he didn’t intend to, and if he was patient he was sure he could pass the test of making him a better pony this time.

He thought about Mayhem forgiving Flurry Heart for her hurtful words. Mayhem said that he knew there was a good pony inside of her that could only come out when she got the bad things out, just like Fluttershy did for him and Pumpkin and Masky. Maybe he could do the same for Drill Bit.

It was going to take some more work, but he would succeed.

Author's Note:

Okay, after a bit of a wait I finally got the idea for how to start resolving Drill Bit's arc. I already have the next few chapters planned out, but I haven't yet decided what Drill Bit's parents are like and how their talk is going to go.

My concern is that it's going to wind up too similar to Masky's confrontation with HIS parents.

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