Pounds and Pumpkins
“Alright class, did everypony remember to clean out their desks properly?” Mrs Cheerilee asked her students, raising a suspecting eye brow.
“Yes, Mrs Cheerilee,” all of the kids in her classroom sang in unison.
“Then, for the final time in your lives, class is dismissed!”
A cheer erupted through the class as binders, notebooks, and whatever the students could get their hooves on were tossed into the air, every twelve-year-old in the room laughing and screaming in excitement.
“I can't believe it,” an orange mare with an even darker orange mane said as she collected her bags, talking with her friend Sunflower. “it's just... school is over. Like, done. Kind of feels a little weird, doesn't it?”
“Yeah, sorry to break it to you, Pumpkin, but I think you're the only one who thinks that. Figures the bookworm would get all teary about the last day of school!”
Pumpkin Cake adopted a half-serious glare towards Sunflower as she hooked a leg through her backpack.
“I am not a bookworm, I am just well read. That's not a bad thing!”
“Whatever you say, my little nerd!” Sunflower laughed as she and Pumpkin continued their idle chat fully equipped to leave. Meanwhile, a different, much more aggressive conversation was being had on the other side of the classroom.
“So what're you gonna do, Pound, go hide away with your pretty little flowers?” a rather large blue earth pony barked, laughing along with his small gaggle of goons.
“G-go away...” Pound Cake whimpered, trying to hide his face from the bullies as he peeked around for a way to slip through the four harassing ponies.
“Nah, thought I'd pound a good-bye message to you. Really make sure it hits home!” the blue pony laughed again as he raised a hoof to strike the cowering colt.
Right as he moved that part of his body, however, Pound was given an escape route. A narrow one, but if he moved quick enough-
A red line bled from Pound as he darted forward, squeezing right through the bullies and tumbling forward on the other side as he flapped his wings to give him more speed.
Mrs Cheerilee noticed the commotion just in time to see Pound skitter away from his would-be harassers, charging towards the door with reckless abandon. Cheerilee gritted her teeth at the blue colt, realizing she'd had this talk far too many times with him in particular.
“Cobalt! This is the last day of school; try not to get yourself expelled before the graduation ceremony!”
Cobalt flashed a guilty grin for a moment while Pound barreled right past Pumpkin, knocking her and Sunflower over. Pumpkin felt tears against her from where he'd brushed her.
“Pound,” she said to herself as she watched her twin brother snap out his tan wings, taking off in a zipping line of red wake.
“No offense, Pumpkin, but your brother is kind of a wimp,” Sunflower scoffed, pulling herself to her hooves.
Pumpkin just huffed. He was such an embarrassment.
- - - - - - - - - -
Pound let himself drift lazily through the sky, breathing heavy. After spending four hours doing nothing but heavy flying, he needed a little time to relax.
The moon wouldn't be up for a few more hours at the earliest, but the late sunlight bleeding across the forests northwest of Ponyville was absolutely stunning. He just wanted to swoop down and race between the trees, following brooks and animal trails until his wings couldn't beat any more.
Realizing it sounded fun, he pulled his wings shut and fell into a twirling free-fall, grinning like mad as the wind slipped past him. He sliced through the air, a thin jet stream of red trailing behind him as he dropped through the sky, his fudge-brown mane flipped back and pressed against his head.
Arching his back in synch with his opening wings, he corrected his course just in time to dart along the ground, quickly falling in trail with a winding creek, letting one of his hooves drop down and skim across the gentle water's surface.
Looking down, Pound could see his own reflection smiling back at him. Nature always made him feel so... peaceful.
As he followed the course of the creek, he could hear the sounds of the forest: little animals scampering around, the swaying of the leaves in the smooth summer breeze. This, he could listen to this all day.
As he approached the ending of the creek, he swept his wings beneath him, delivering powerful strokes that shot him up into the sky. He climbed higher, higher, higher, until he was so high he felt his breath mist as he exhaled.
Letting his wings work into a regular pattern, he looked down below him. The entirety of Ponyville was far below him, clouds dotting his vision of the little village. While he'd been gone, it seemed as though the preparations for the graduation ceremony had been finished, and with a start he saw that a particular series of lights were being lit. They were about to start!
Once again pulling his wings together, he dropped through the sky, steering himself this way and that with subtle flicks of his wingtips. He was closing in on the graduation site, fast too.
He let his wings billow open as soon as he felt the air grow dramatically thicker, a warm breeze cushioning him as his decent halted immediately. Soaring on his own energy, he directed himself towards the line of soon-to-be graduates, looking out for his sister. Spotting her bouncy orange mane, he tilted himself to the left and dropped further, until he was speeding along the surface of the grass. With a quick snap from his wings, he came to a stop a few paces behind Pumpkin, traversing the distance with with a few quick strides of his hooves.
“Hey, Pumpkin,” he said quietly as he stepped next to her, poking her with his wing.
“Ah!” Pumpkin yelped, jumping slightly at the foreign touch as she swung around to glare at him. Her gaze immediately softened as Pound visually crumpled beneath it, cowering.
“There you are, Pound, you had everypony worried where you were!”
“I was out flying,” Pound stated, his ears still flicked back from Pumpkin's glare.
“For four and a half hours?” Pumpkin asked, almost impressed.
“Yeah,” Pound confirmed casually.
“Dang, no wonder he has wings for his cutie mark,” Pumpkin thought. “I still think he's lying, though. He couldn't have been flying straight for that long-”
Pumpkin was pulled from her thoughts as a sousaphone belched through the air, the band ensemble falling into play behind it. The school anthem played, and then all was silent. At least, until Mrs Cheerilee made her way to the center of the stage provided. The students were huddled behind the backdrop, ready to trot on to the floor as soon as the teacher called their names.
“Welcome, family, friends, and guests, to the Ponyville Graduation Ceremony!”
A round of cheers erupted through the crowd, raising the confidence of everypony behind the backdrop.
Well, all of them except for one.
“I really don't want to go up there,” Pound Cake whined at the back of his mind. “So many people... Can't I just go fly some more?”
Pound Cake knew that wouldn't be a possibility, both with the knowledge that Pumpkin would hold him back if he tried to leave now, and that their parents were missing an important bakery competition to see them graduate. They had sent Pound and Pumpkin's auntie Pinkie Pie in their stead, and they were certain that Pinkie would win, but that wasn't the point. This was an important night.
Pumpkin, meanwhile, was more worried about less trivial things, such as how she would plan her winter to accommodate the lack of school, something she had never had to do before. Such were the thoughts of a twelve-year-old.
After a speech about the school and the student body, and then a boring, card-read speech by the valedictorian (who was not Pumpkin, however hard she may have tried), Mrs Cheerilee began calling off the names of the students who had graduated.
“Astral Leap, who will join the Equestrian Guard!”
The first pony in line trotted around the bend, everypony behind him taking a step forward to fill in the empty space.
“Isn't this so exciting?!” Pumpkin giggled, nervously stamping in place. “This is it, this is when we finally get to show the world what we're capable of!”
Pound looked sideways at his sister. She was excited, yes, but more than obviously nervous as well.
“What are you nervous about, Pumpkin? You're smart and already have a job with mom and dad. You have nothing to worry about. Me, on the other hoof...”
“What do I have to look forward to? My cutie mark is of the sky, but my family wants me to run the shop. I'm not as good a cook as Pumpkin by far, and I don't like ponies...”
Pound sighed, something that wasn't lost on Pumpkin. She scooted up next to her brother, bumping him reassuringly.
“What's wrong, Pound? You seem a little under the weather.”
“N-nothing, Pumpkin,” Pound muttered quietly. “Nothing at all.”
Now Pumpkin frowned. He was lying, she knew it. The two were close enough that she knew when something was bothering him, and nothing, not even a poorly fabricated, bold-faced obvious lie could prevent her from knowing that something was indeed wrong with Pound.
“Come on, Pound. You can tell me.”
Pound looked back at his sister. She was all ears for him.
“You really want to know?” Pound asked. Pumpkin nodded in response.
“I-it's just, I have no idea what I'm going to do after this. Not a clue.”
“That's easy, Pound!” Pumpkin said with a giggle. “You'll work at the bakery! Won't that be fun?”
“M-maybe for you,” Pound stammered as the two took another step forward with the line of students. “But I'm not so sure that's what I want to do. I mean, look at my cutie mark-” Pound interrupted his thoughts by waving over the winged red lightning bolt adorning his flank- “and try and tell me that it looks related to cooking in the least.”
Pumpkin chewed her lip at this. Pound did have a point, his cutie mark did have absolutely nothing to do with running a bakery. She could remember how he'd gotten it; it was a relatively simple story. Some bullies were picking on him, and he was running away, but then the bullies had turned on Pumpkin. Pound had turned around and grabbed Pumpkin, flying off with her.
Such a simple cutie mark, but she had remembered how happy he had been that day. He wasn't happy a lot, so it was times like those that Pumpkin tried to remember.
“I mean, look at your cutie mark,” Pound continued, going off on a tangent by this point. “A chef's hat with crossed spatulas. T-that is definitely cooking-related. You're already a way better cook than I'm ever going to be, not to mention you're super smart and even receive occasional magic lessons from Princess Twilight Sparkle herself!”
“Not to mention I've heard what some of the other colts think about your looks,” he thought to himself, but didn't think that was anything important enough to bring up at the moment.
Pumpkin was stumped, and she felt horrible about it. Pound had made a point. To anypony else, even to herself, she had her future set up for her. Meanwhile, Pound was stuck in a family job doing something he wasn't necessarily suited for with a cutie mark none of his family could relate to.
“I... I'm sorry, Pound. But I'm sure you'll find something!”
Pound muttered something that sounded like, “Sure...” before the both of them heard Mrs Cheerilee call them up.
“Pound Cake, who will continue the family business, and Pumpkin Cake, who will continue the family business, continue studies under Princess Twilight, and is currently awaiting acceptance to various advanced cooking schools!”
Pumpkin gave Pound a sheepish smile as they began their walk onto the stage.
Pumpkin flashed her most professional smile as Pound attempted his best at hiding behind her body, keeping his head hung low. They were close enough in size that this actually worked rather effectively, and Pound felt just secure enough to not have a panic attack on the way to their former teacher.
Many calls of “Congrats!” and cheers were heard from the crowd, understandable as their parents ran the most successful sweet shop in Ponyville. The ponies knew them, either by name or in person.
However, Pound was uncomfortably aware of the rather dramatic ratio of Pumpkin!'s being called out to the number of Pound!'s. As in, he never heard his name once. But Pumpkin sure was popular.
The two received their diplomas from Cheerilee, and then they had to stand in front of her for an extended photo shot.
To this day, even Pound feels bad for the little colt cowering against his sister in each and every photo.
Finally able to leave, the two of them trotted off, Pound more enthusiastically than Pumpkin.
“And there were are,” Pumpkin said with a barely controlled trembling of excitement. “We're... we're- we're DONE!” she shouted out, squealing.
Never before had she been excited at the concept of no more school, but now that it was here... she couldn't help but feel hyper over the fact she'd just completed such an important milestone.
Meanwhile, Pound stared at her, amused.
“She's so cute when she's excited,” Pound thought before he went over his thought again, feeling as though something was wrong with it.
“Cute? Is that the right word for this?”
He looked back at Pumpkin before smirking to himself.
“No, adorable would be the better word.”
Pumpkin threw herself at Pound all of a sudden, wrapping her hooves around him as she continued laughing. Pound couldn't help but smile along with her as he wrapped her up in a tight hug.
“Her body is so warm... I like it...” he thought, and then he knew that something was wrong. Why did he suddenly notice how warm her body was? Something was wrong. He felt a weird fuzziness in his stomach.
Meanwhile, Pumpkin rubbed her cheek against her brother's, glad to feel his tensions melting. She loved seeing him happy, she always had. Pumpkin broke away, looking back at her brother. He was very toned for his age, probably due to his flying habits.
“Wait, why am I suddenly interested in how toned he is?” Pumpkin asked herself, confused.
The silence that suddenly surrounded both of them was thick and cold.
A few other former students walked past them, jogging them from their uncomfortable situation. Deciding to go and meet their parents, they trotted away, staying a decent distance away from each other. Neither could detect the faint blush on the other's face.
“There you are!” Carrot Cake shouted as he rushed towards his children, wrapping them up in a big tight hug. “I am so proud of you two! Your mother is too, but don't try and get her to say it, she'll start crying again!”
As if in response, Cup Cake choked a little, tears swimming down her eyes as she smiled proudly at her children. Waving them near, she pulled them into a hug even more crushing than their veteran father.
“This day is very important to you two, so make sure you remember it!” Carrot Cake explained to them as Cup Cake released them from her grip. “Today is the day that you go from being children to being adults! Are you ready for it?”
“Yes!” Pound Cake and Pumpkin Cake shouted, excited by their father's words. With a huge grin on their faces, they turned to meet each other's eyes, giggling. Whatever tensions they had about graduating were gone. Even Pound allowed himself to be excited about it. They were now adults, as far as any pony was concerned! They could do what they wanted now!
Life could throw whatever they wanted at them, and they would be able to handle it. There wasn't anything they couldn't conquer!
Their gaze didn't break, and they felt the familiar blushes growing on their faces as their respective funny feelings came back to their stomachs.
That was life's way of saying Try me.
And thus, it all began.