Rarity, huddled on the floor, refused to answer.
“Please, you have to tell me what just happened. Why was Fluttershy crying? Does she have something against fillyfoolers?”
That ridiculous statement alone made Rarity raise her head.
“Of course not. She’s my marefriend.”
Twilight’s mouth went into a slow ‘o’ shape as her eyebrows lowered in regret and guilt.
“Sweet Celestia, Rarity, I-”
“Please, Twilight... just save it,” Rarity interrupted, dismissing her hasty apologies. “I was a fool not to tell you sooner.”
Rarity turned to see Twilight’s eyes, which were close to spilling over with tears. She had still held onto that little hope, Rarity realized. All those months, she had still clung to it.
Twilight dipped her head in sorrow, letting a tear or two fall. But she soon straightened up, determination setting her straight and putting a fierce steel in her eyes.
“I have to make things right with Fluttershy. I can’t derail what you have because of my selfishness.”
She was already gone by the time Rarity managed to stumble to her hooves. Around her, guests were quietly shuffling to the doors, sensing the party was over. Rarity when through what had happened, so quickly and suddenly. She could hardly process it all. She needed a night of sleep, and a good talk with Anna. That was the best she could do, she realized. Twilight was already out, searching for Fluttershy, and she doubted the cream colored mare would be returning to her apartment that night.
She even felt a terrible, nagging doubt she wouldn't return to her apartment again, after this disastrous night.
She had dismissed the idea at first, of course. Psychiatrists were for crazy ponies, and she was a perfectly sane pony. But her parents had urged her into it, saying they weren’t just for the pony with a fondness of knives; they could help any pony with their problems, and could always be trusted to keep absolute confidentiality. They were under oath, after all.
So she relented, and asked around her circle of associates, and even a few of her close customers, if there was a good psychiatrist to be found in Canterlot. The answer had been an immediate yes, which shocked the mare- one, because she had always assumed psychiatrists were for, again, crazy ponies. But it turned out, when a pony had a problem, no one could be more helpful than a determined psychiatrist. And two, because there seemed to be one in particular who many had positive experiences with- a certain Ms. Annabeth Whitetail. This pony had been a close friend of Rarity's through her early years of schooling, but they had separated after middle school. They had been through some escapades in which Rarity had acted decidedly... unladylike.
Rarity had already entrusted her with her ‘big secret’ of the day, her fondness with mares. When Anna had replied with the same, and said there were many others, Rarity was practically in tears. She had assumed, wrongfully, that her attraction was wrong, as had been the norm from the dusty old textbooks the teachers still used. Half the time, they skipped over those parts. Some made care, though, to drill those parts over and over again into the impressionable fillies, their roots cementing their ideals.
Even if her parents had never said anything, those few teachers who said anything at all about being gay were against it; the rest were ambiguous. Unfortunately for her younger self, she paid more attention to the few than the many. That fear was long since gone- her excuse to Fluttershy the previous evening had been a lie, albeit a necessary one. She simply had not wanted to tell Twilight at that point. She didn’t care that they knew she liked mares- she thought they already had an inkling, but one could never really pinpoint these things- she really had wanted to avoid a confrontation with Twilight. She almost couldn’t bear the thought of seeing her first real, adult crush become sad or bitter. She still loved her friends, and even if that love was more physical for one of them, seeing another hurt because of it... she wanted to avoid it, at all costs.
If that cost was Fluttershy, too, though...
She walked all the more briskly past the front desk, giving a curt nod to the pretty receptionist who manned the desk. She was a mare with a purpose- no time for formalities.
She gave two short knocks on the door with the simple insignia of her old school friend inscribed on its opaque window. A voice called faintly from within, and Rarity pushed open the door.
“Good morning, Anna.”
“Good morning to you to, Rarity,” she replied, placing her blank coffee mug on her wooden desk.
Rarity took a moment to apprise the other mare’s state- even in such times as these, she had a keen eye for those details that seemed off about those around her.
The mare’s dull white coat seemed combed this morning, and her black mane was pulled straight, giving her red glasses something to stand out against. Her brown eyes seemed to be doing a quick overview of her as well, looking- Rarity guessed- for obvious signs of instability. Her eyebrows went in a small, inquisitive curve.
“Something’s on your mind. Something that isn’t giving you much thought to deal with much else, I see.”
“You always were a quick thinker, Anna. Should I tell you, or are you going to tell me?”
“Well, I noticed you didn’t use magic to open the door as you usually do for our appointed visits. Since magic requires some concentration, I knew as soon as you opened the door something was troubling you, something that was so concerning you didn’t use something that should be almost second nature to you.”
“And?” Rarity asked, expecting more.
“Well, your mane’s bent out of shape.”
Rarity gave a quiet curse and reached for the mirror on Anna’s desk. Her hoof was stopped, however, by her friend’s.
“That isn’t important right now. What is important is what’s going on between you and Fluttershy.”
Rarity couldn’t say she was too surprised, but her eyebrows went up nonetheless.
“And you know it’s about her by...?”
“Well, it’s what you’ve talked to me about the past four visits, and I know you’re somewhat anxious about telling your friends- and former lover, Twilight.”
“You nailed it right on the head, Anna.”
“And your mane is unkempt.”
This time, Anna allowed Rarity to fix it with a spot of magic, which seemed to only pop into existence for as long as was necessary before dissipating quickly. Rarity was in no mood to spend the usual effort and care that went into maintaining a coiffure as fine as hers.
“How does that help you, exactly?” she asked, exasperated.
“Well, you always told me you wanted to look your best for Fluttershy. You not looking your best would indicate you were not planning on seeing Fluttershy today, which knocks over a long line of dominos to indicate there is something going on between you two. Her birthday was yesterday, am I correct?”
“Yes, Anna. Honestly, you could’ve been a detective with the mind of yours.”
“And you could have been my partner, with that eye for little details.”
“Oh, you’re too kind.”
“I tend not to say things I don’t really mean.”
Appraising their history together, Rarity found that to be rather true. Her friend hadn’t been one to be sarcastic- sardonic maybe, but not one to tell lies to curry favor or make a few laughs.
“Back to the subject proper though- what happened yesterday, at the party I’m assuming you hosted?” she inquired, leaning forward.
“Well, I invited the six of us, the Bearers, to her party. Only one could make it. I think you can take a guess at who it was?”
“Naturally. So, when she arrived I was told by Fluttershy it was time I told her the news of our relationship. I went over to her and she asked me to dance; of course, I said yes.”
“And, while we were dancing, I was going to tell her. But she had something on her mind too. She admitted she still had feelings for me.”
“And you said?”
“That I wasn’t sure.”
“What happened next?”
“She kissed me.”
There was a pause in the natural flow of conversation they had been having. Anna seemed to contemplate this turn of events, a hoof to her chin.
“Well, that complicated things, didn’t it?”
“Yes, especially when I found myself... well, kissing back.”
Another pause, with more contemplation.
“Discovered us. She... cried, when she saw. And then she ran, out the door. Twilight talked to me for a bit after that, then decided to go after her. I could hardly think at that point, and I decided to see you in the morning. Fluttershy didn’t show at the apartment, of course.”
It didn’t seem like Anna could contemplate any harder or her hoof would go through her chin, but she spent some time formulating the words that followed her intense period of thought.
“So you have a decision to make, then. You are obviously in love with Fluttershy. You care deeply about her, from what I’ve seen of you, and you do strive to be your best around her.”
“But Twilight seemed to bring something back up to the surface from within you. You still felt something for Twilight. Something still remained from you short-lived relationship in Ponyville before you moved.”
“Following that, your decision becomes a clear one- Fluttershy or Twilight.”
Rarity was afraid it would come to this. She gave a nervous gulp before moving with the only trick she still had under her sleeve.
“What about a polyamorous relationship?”
Anna pondered it, her eyes seemingly searching for answers in the ceiling tiles.
“Have you ever talked of such a thing with Fluttershy?”
Rarity gave a little wince.
“Well, yes. I asked her if she would ever be willing to let a third pony be loved, by the both of us. She already had her opinion, though- love is between two ponies. She was fairly firm on that point. Besides, I think she already knew who I could’ve been suggesting.”
“Even back then, you were still contemplating Twilight?”
Rarity gave an embarrassed little shrug.
Anna gave a quiet sigh. She looked a slight bit exasperated, which spoke volumes of the usually controlled psychiatrist her workplace knew her as.
“Unless you have some other option, you still have my original question to answer. Twilight or Fluttershy?”
“I’m sure you understand that it isn’t going to be so easy, Anna-”
“Oh, I think it is, Rarity. Let’s go over the facts, shall we?” she suggested, in a way that indicated it wasn’t really a question so much as a command.
“For one, your relationship with Twilight lasted a very short amount of time. Your relationship with Fluttershy, however, has lasted for 2 months now. You seem to be built for each other.”
“It only lasted so short because I was moving to Canterlot, and she couldn’t leave Ponyville.”
“Be that as it may, she may have been willing to sacrifice some things, some comforts, to be with you as a lover. But she didn’t, and you weren’t about to let a career go down the tubes.”
Rarity nodded, with some sullenness.
“Fluttershy moved to Canterlot six months ago for familial reasons, correct?”
“She was willing to sacrifice something to be with her family when they needed her most?”
“Yes, she was, and it was a trait I thought most admirable when I heard she had moved into the city.”
“You had only been in town for a month at that point, correct?”
“Yes, and I had just purchased an apartment and room for the dress-making.”
“So, for a month, there was nothing on your mind but Twilight, there in Ponyville. Did she visit you?”
She was prepared to come to her friend’s defense, but she quickly found there was little to defend.
“But Fluttershy came as soon as she got into town, didn’t she?”
“Yes, we had a little get together.”
“As you used to have when you still lived in Ponyville. And, as time went on, your relationship became bigger and stronger, and she came to rely upon you when her parents, the ones she had moved to Canterlot to support, passed away.”
Rarity let a tiny tear escape her eye at that point, remembering the funeral in which Fluttershy hadn’t let go of her for a second.
“Your relationship turned romantic after that, if I remember the sessions.”
“Yes, that was when she really came to depend upon me. She didn’t want to live in her parent’s old house, the one they... died in,” she choked out, letting more than a tear out at that point. Anna leaned over and patted her shoulder, her normally stoic face breaking into a caring one. “She asked if she could stay in my apartment for a while, until she could sell the old house. Being so close to her at that point, physically and emotionally... it was hard not to fall in love with her.”
At this, Rarity gave a smile, her first really happy one since they had started their conversation.
“So, she depended on you, and you came to depend on her too?”
“Yes. She was there the first time I lost a customer to another business, that time someone tried to break into the shop. Having another pony with me, I felt safer. To think, meek little Fluttershy could make me feel safer.”
“She’s a strong pony, the way you’ve described her to me.”
Rarity had to remember that Anna had never met the ponies she talked about in her sessions, which could be difficult when she had neglected to mention Fluttershy was a pegasus the first time she had seen Anna.
“Yes, yes she is. I’m not so sure how well these first months would have gone without her by my side.”
“And there is the crux of it all. The pony who was there for you, thick and thin, not just the good parts where you had physical contact, was Fluttershy. Twilight was a fling, seven months ago, who showed up yesterday still hoping you were single and interested.”
Rarity was stung by the harshly honest description of her friend, again rising to defend her.
“She’s been my friend for years, Anna. I don’t think of her as a useless ex, coming around to see if I was vulnerable. She was, and is, my friend.”
“I am sorry if I have offended, Rarity,” she conceded, “but the picture you’ve painted hasn’t been too kind to Twilight. She showed up to the birthday party of her friend Fluttershy, when her only real intention was seeing if she could get with you.”
Again, Rarity was frustrated. She thought Twilight had seemed every bit as scared as one should’ve been when facing a pony they hadn’t seen in a while. She didn’t seem like the predatory ex so many romance stories seemed focused around. She then recognized that while this was all well and good in her head, it did nothing for her defense against Anna.
“Anna, I think she was just there to see if I still cared enough to accept her, and love her, even if she couldn’t have gone to Canterlot with me. She was scared, when she asked me, and she was only hoping I still had something for her. She was unsure, but still willing to take that risk, if it could only mean getting my love in return.”
She felt a little hope coming back to her. She had managed to set Anna thinking again, and hoped she had defended her friend well enough to prevent her thinking of Twilight as some kind of dirtbag.
“Still, Rarity. Who do you think deserves your love? And whose love do you think you deserve?”
That question stalled Rarity. She thought both ponies had the right to her love. She wouldn't deny either of them, given the chance- she was the element of generosity, after all. But of whose love she deserved... the question made her doubt herself more than she would have liked.
When it came to Twilight, she thought the answer would’ve been a simple yes- Twilight had come out all this way, just to see if they could get back together. But the more she delved into their history, the more she saw how she had been in the wrong. She should’ve never started a relationship the week before she moved; she shouldn’t have given Twilight such an impossible decision to make, barely five days after they’d admitted mutual attraction. She could’ve made the effort to visit Ponyville, but she never did. She’d kept Twilight in the dark, making her doubt herself for months as Rarity sat in Canterlot, never thinking of her friend more than as what could have been. She’d denied her the truth, when she could've ended her indecision a month before, two months with a letter, instead of intentionally hiding what she had from her.
She’d been awful to her. She’d forced her to make the only decision left to a pony who finally opened up to another, only to have that other leave after five days, and never come back. And she didn’t deserve the pony who would go through all that and still find a way to love her.
She doubted she’d be worth Fluttershy’s love either, given her behavior the night before. She almost didn’t want to, but she forced herself to look deeper, examine their relationship as she had with Twilight’s.
She had been a friend to Fluttershy as soon as she had entered the city, talking to her about her life, the lives of her parents. She had been a pillar for Fluttershy to lean against with the death of her family, and had offered shelter away from the crypt Fluttershy had once called ‘home’. She hadn’t forced impossible decisions on her, or left her to wonder, restlessly wonder, if she liked her back. The nervous question had been met with a nervous, yet honest, answer.
Her moment of weakness seemed so trivial to Rarity, now. Twilight was pretty, she couldn’t deny that; however, her true attachment was to Fluttershy now, no matter what physical traits Twilight did or didn’t have. Her bout of clarity was astonishing and sudden. It cleared the fog that had settled in her head, opened her eyes. She loved Fluttershy, like she had said the night before.
“As I expected.”
Anna had a smug look on her face for once, looking like she was taking a bit of pride in her assessment of Rarity’s personal life.
“You’re lucky you were right, or I would knock that smug grin off your face faster than you could blink.”
This, of course, only served to make Anna’s grin wider.