It was testament to the vitality of every pony (and dragon) within the Carousel Boutique that even as the clock struck four, their spirited partying showed no signs of stopping. The dancing may have been more intermittent than before, and the pounding dance music became progressively mellower and ambient sounding, but not one of the ponies caved in to any internal demands for sleep. Even further proof of this was their continually steady alcohol consumption which made this feat of endurance all the more impressive. Conversation became more the order of the day as the night wore on. Slurred words and nonsensical topics were no match for the determination of everypony to make this a night for the ages. Not even the more uptight members of the gathering – namely Cheerilee, Octavia and Bon Bon – were immune to the socially liberating qualities of vast quantities of wine (a fact that pleased and amused Vinyl Scratch and Lyra to no end).
Rarity once again lay in repose surveying her domain as a general surveys the battlefield. In the corner a large circle consisting of all the guests bar Spike, Fluttershy, Big Macintosh, herself and Applejack (albeit only temporarily) were engaged in a loud, lively and on some occasions lascivious game of truth or dare. Rarity herself was above such childish activities but couldn't help but wonder if a more relaxed and pressure-free environment – like the one the game provided – would aid her in overcoming what few but intense qualms she had about her feelings for Applejack.
Her eyes wandered to the edge of the circle and the blossoming couple sat wrapped in each others' forelegs observing the game from the outside. The timid twosome would regularly laugh along with the revelations coming to light or crack wise about the feats of 'daring' being undertaken. More often though they could be seen nuzzling up to one another, looking deep into each others' eyes and kissing with a love and compassion not oft seen outside of the theatre. If it were almost any other pony these displays of affection would be downright nauseating. With Fluttershy and her new beau however, there was no other way of describing it than touchingly adorable.
'How in the name of Luna did she manage it?' was the question that repeatedly plagued Rarity's mind. Here she was, fretting about her desires more than Twilight during an important assignment, whereas in the corner the two most bashful ponies in the whole town confidently basked in the glow that only new love can provide. It was baffling.
'It can't have been the mere bravado granted by gin, surely?' she wondered. By now everypony (and Spike) was very much worse for wear. She herself had been caught up in the spirit of things – albeit wearing a false smile to mask the colossal conflict being fought in her soul – and had consumed more than she had ever intended. Granted, much of it was consumed during an impromptu whisky tasting with Octavia, Twilight and Rainbow Dash (who was surprisingly knowledgeable in the field of fine single malts) but nevertheless it had filled her with the airy, warm and generally carefree feeling that drunkenness mercifully provides.
Except in cases where it came to speaking with the one pony she wished to open up to more than all else. Every time she had the welcome opportunity to speak with Applejack she froze up. It was as if behind the beautiful green eyes she had been possessed by the spirit of a cockatrice. The conversations weren't a total catastrophe and they had managed some typical banter (one of the benefits of a theatrical mother was that Rarity had learned some acting skills – most importantly how to fake an air of confidence). She had even managed to take Applejack's somewhat irksome nickname for her with good humour when she came out with it...
Applejack's voice called out from somewhere in the ether. Except it was different from usual. That name was usually said with joyful mocking, or on rarer occasion an undercurrent of anger. This time the voice was low. Every syllable was drawn out and caressed by that pure Southern drawl. Seduction oozed from the word. It flowed like honey. And Rarity loved it. The sound of it sent the tiniest prickles up her spine and caused her head to sway and eyes to close as if she were swooning.
It came again. Only this time with a touch more urgency and volume. It was more delightful than the first time, the shivering sensation in her back spreading all over her body. What she wouldn't give for that voice to be even closer – the breath expelled with it tickling her neck...
Another familiar but all too different voice accompanied a sharp poke in the leg. “Rarity?”
She opened her eyes to see Spike looking at her with a naïve yet bewildered expression on his youthful face, chewing on a roasted marshmallow.
“Spike!” she cried, her face growing ever redder, “What're you doing? You startled me.”
“Offering you some food,” he said, holding a stick with one of the sweet confections perfectly toasted impaled at the top.
“Why thank you darling. Though I must ask where you acquired them?”
“One of the privileges of being friends with Twi. Even moreso when she's a little more suggestible and willing to please.”
Rarity laughed politely as she sank her teeth into the deliciously chewy marshmallows. Spike hopped up onto the chaise longue next to her, a glint of determination in his eye.
“Rare?” he started nervously, “Mind if I tell you a secret?”
Rarity stopped eating, a sense of foreboding and alarm at a likely revelation now hanging over her head. 'Why tonight, of all nights?' she thought ruefully.
Spike leaned in closer, almost cheek to cheek with the unicorn.
“I think Twilight has the hots for me.”
It was a good thing Rarity had stopped devouring the marshmallow for it would have certainly choked her at this news. She fought the urge to laugh maniacally.
“Wow! I certainly didn't expect that,” she squeaked whilst urgently trying to regain some modicum of composure.
“Neither did I, to tell the truth.” Spike continued resolutely, “But then again, you know Horny Twi...”
Rarity struggled to contain herself as another wave of laughter bubbled inside her.
“Oh, indeed I do my dear,” she gasped through increasingly deep breaths. “So what's troubling you little Spike?”
“I just don't know what to do about it!” he cried out exasperatedly.
“OK, keep calm Spikey. First things first how do you feel about her?”
“I love Twilight. Course I do. Just not enough to do... well... anything of that nature.”
“Then that is what you tell her,” Rarity stated manner of factly, “It may be hard but it must be done to prevent greater heartbreak.”
Spike pouted a little, “It's so hard though.”
“That is life my young acquaintance. Sometimes the hardest things to say are the most necessary.”
The voice in Rarity's mind laughed dryly, 'Tell me about it.'
“And besides,” she continued, “it might just be a fleeting drunken fascination. It might not be anything too major.”
The young dragon perked up a tad at this revelation, “Hey, you're right! Maybe I don't have to worry about it tonight! I could just wait and see how things turn out tomorrow morning instead!”
Rarity looked a little apprehensive, but any potential objections to this plan were quickly over-ruled by Spike pulling her into a grateful hug.
“Thanks Rarity! This is why you're the best pony in the whole town.”
Rarity smiled and returned the hug. The whole scenario played out better than she had ever imagined. She knew about Spike's infatuation with her – 'I'd need to be blind not to have noticed,' the voice in her mind stated – and to have to hurt the dragon's feelings would have added to the immense feeling of dread she was currently experiencing.
“It's no trouble at all, Spikey Wikey,” she said reassuringly, leaning in to give him a polite peck on the cheek. Any other time she would have thought better of this action but the fact that Spike had chosen her as a party to such delicate information and the copious amount of alcohol flowing through her blood silenced any protests.
It was an action that the unicorn would immediately regret. No sooner had her lips touched Spike's face than she felt an overwhelming burning overcome her mouth. An unusual reaction given that she had kissed the dragon's cheek before and felt no such side effects. Such things never occurred to Rarity at the time given the extreme pain she was experiencing. Even more disturbing was the sight of a dark red liquid resting on Spike's face where her lips had been moments previously.
“Rarity? You okay?” Spike queried upon seeing the white pony's face turn a deep shade of crimson and her forelegs flail somewhat wildly. A point of her hoof led the young dragon to the source of her acute discomfort as he quizzically gazed at the liquid now covering his fingertips
His look turned to that of shock as he realised what had led to Rarity performing a remarkable impression of one of Pinkie Pie's more extreme twitching fits.
“Oh dear,” he quietly muttered, “I must have gotten some of my Sensation on my face when I was dancing with Cheerilee...”
Spike's embarrassed and ingratiating smile was to be in vain. The white unicorn tore off towards the bathroom like a pony possessed, eyes streaming and mouth ablaze. She never even paid any heed to Applejack's concerned questioning as she raced past and dunked her head in the sink.
By the time Rarity had surfaced with her suffering significantly sated, a few of her fellow ponies had taken the baffling decision to undertake Spike's Sriracha Sensation challenge. Judging by the expressions on Rainbow Dash, Lyra and Vinyl Scratch's faces the fiery concoction had proven too much for them. As she walked into the living room, Octavia had slammed her glass against the bar apparently no worse for her experience.
“My my, Miss Philharmonica!” Applejack exclaimed. “How in the hay did ya manage that?”
“An artiste never reveals their secret methods,” was the reply from the grey cellist to the laughter and applause of all.
Rarity sat once again on her comfortable couch ruing her bad luck. Her lips still nipped with the tingle of the much-lauded three varieties of hot sauce. 'So much for a romantic embrace with that beauty before me,' she mused with a visible grimace.
“What's gotcha glum, Rarity?”
She turned her face to see Pinkie Pie gazing at her with her own inimitable look of joy and curiosity. Time for her false smile once again.
“Oh, Pinkie my dear. Nothing at all – just still a little sore from that dreadful cocktail.”
“So it's nothing to do with the whole AJ thing?” Pinkie queried further.
Rarity could not contain her dismay at this. All her subtlety and secrecy dashed! And how? Her eyes widened visibly at the still smiling pink pony before her.
“I... I... how did you know?” she probed, the shock causing her voice to audibly crack. Pinkie merely giggled at this seemingly silly question.
“Silly Rarity. It's me! All I needed was 3 shakes of my knee, my forelegs to wave and my flank to clench to know that you are in l...”
Rarity clapped her hoof to Pinkie's mouth in desperation. “Not. Another. Word.” she tersely whispered to the party pony. “And not a word of this to anypony. Clear?”
From the rapid fashion in which she undertook the infamous Pinkie Promise it was clear that she had understood. Rarity removed her hoof and sank dejectedly into the soft sofa. Her feelings were now out in the open thanks to the downright bizarre and inexplicable actions of the hyperactive Pinkie.
“There there, it's alright Rarity. I know Applejack feels at least something for you too...” said Pinkie in a reassuring tone.
Rarity's ears perked up immediately at this new piece of information. “Really?”
“Yuh-huh.” Pinkie replied, shaking her head with such vigour it was a wonder it was still attached to her neck.
The unicorn felt every nerve in her body dance at this fantastic news. 'Applejack feels for me!' the voice in her head squealed in ecstasy. 'My intuition was right.' She would have leapt up into a lively jig were her legs not trembling with such rapturous ferocity. 'I could really be her Marshmallow! Her grin widened at this mere thought of that potentially loving pet name.
'All I have to do is talk to her...'
This final thought brought her crashing down from the high she'd never experienced before. Not even her infamous freefall at that Young Fliers' Competition could compete with the rapidity at which her mood turned from exaltation to fright.
“Something else wrong Rarity?” Pinkie questioned. In her delirium she had almost completely forgotten about the presence of everypony bar Applejack.
“I... I can't do it.” Rarity muttered with all the shyness of Fluttershy faced with a full grown dragon.
“Sorry? Didn't quite catch that.”
“I can't go through with it! What if it's all wrong and she doesn't love me? What if in pursuing a relationship we forget our initial friendship? What if you girls all hate us for it? What if Celestia doesn't want two of the protectors of the Elements of Harmony to date? What if...”
Rarity's rapid-fire stream of consciousness rambling was halted by a bottle of lemon cider being forced into her mouth by Pinkie Pie.
“Whoa there you fretful filly. That's too much to worry about! You just need to clear your head and let intuition take control.”
The unicorn yanked the bottle of cool and calming cider from her mouth to look at Pinkie with what could only be described as sheer dumbfoundment.
“There has to be more to it than that!” Rarity scoffed.
Pinkie sprang to her hooves, “Nope. All there is to it. Watch!”
The pink blur bounded over towards Rainbow Dash and in one quick swoop clenched her in her forelegs and smacked an insanely passionate kiss on the pegasus' unexpectant lips. All the boutique fell silent at this completely unforeseen display of affection. Neither the few kisses undertaken during the truth and dare session nor the plentiful kisses between Fluttershy and Big Macintosh could compete with it for unbridled desire. Dash's wings shooting to attention could testify to that.
Pinkie Pie broke away from Dash first. “Mmm... spicy,” she breathlessly stated before letting go of Dash who fell backwards onto the hard floor, shellshocked. The entire room collapsed into peals of laughter and genuine surprise. Almost the entire room, as a matter of fact. Rarity just sat on her couch, astounded as Pinkie hopped over happy as ever.
“And that's how Equestria was made!” Pinkie proclaimed as she flopped onto the couch.
“What? How? Why?” stammered the astonished unicorn.
“Do I have to get the cider again?” Pinkie said as she watched Rarity floundering and falling over her words.
“How did you manage to do that?” Rarity blurted out after a solid minute of bewildered utterances.
Pinkie Pie shrugged nonchalantly, “I threw caution to the wind. Like you should. Im'ma go help Dashie now. Catch ya later Rarity!”
Rarity was once again left alone to her thoughts. That was one of the most spontaneous things she had ever seen Pinkie Pie do. 'Dash certainly had it right – that Pinkie Pie is so random!' the voice her mind coolly stated before getting back to the main issue at hand.
'Maybe that's all there was to it,' thought Rarity. It didn't take countless glasses of cognac or a decade of planning to do what you wished. All it needed was the perfect moment and the ability to throw caution firmly to the wind. She stared over at Applejack still doubled over in laughter at what was sure to become a favoured memory of the six friends.
“I shall do it.” she whispered to herself. For too long she had waited for the ideal opportunity to fall into her lap. It was time for her to take the buffalo by the horns for a change. She would make the ideal opportunity herself that very night - and if everything went to plan, if that same electricity from earlier was present, she would take Applejack in her forelegs and...
Rarity snapped herself from her daydreams of what was to come. She glanced round at the still very much lively party. As little as she cared of what anypony else thought she still wished such an intimate moment to be carried out in more privacy than was offered at that moment.
“A little later, perhaps,” Rarity whispered again, smirking and lifting the bottle of cider left by Pinkie Pie to her lips. For now, the perfectionist inside her had a moment for the ages to formulate.