The voice was terribly loud and painfully high-pitched, and it came from somewhere rather too close to her left ear. The sounds were muddled at first but, gradually, they grew sharper and more distinct. Eventually, Rarity could make out actual whole words.
“Rarity, wake up! Wake up, wake up, wake up!”
Rarity let out a groan and rolled over in bed. She didn’t know what time it was, exactly, but she was fairly certain that, whatever time it might be, it was much, much too early.
“C’mon, Rarity! We’re gonna miss it if we don’t hurry.”
Without lifting her head from her pillow, Rarity waved a hoof in the general direction of the disturbance. “Go ‘way,” she mumbled. “Go play in your own room, Sweetie Belle.”
The voice giggled in response. “My name’s not Sweetie, you silly filly. It’s Pinkie Pie!”
Finally lifting her head, Rarity took off her sleep mask and cracked open an eye. A blindingly white smile and a pair of huge blue eyes filled up her entire field of vision. “Oh, yes, yes, of course. Good morning, Pinkie.”
Pinkie leaned back a little and bounced impatiently on her hooves. “So? Can we go now?”
“Go?” Rarity tried to fight off a yawn but promptly lost the battle. “Go where, darling?”
“To see the surprise! Oh, it’s the bestest surprise ever, and you’ll be really, really glad you came to see. I promise! Cross my heart and hope to--”
“All right! All right.” Rarity sighed. She knew all too well, from years of experience, that giving in was her only true option at this point. “Just give me a moment to make myself presentable, and then we’ll go see your surprise.”
Rarity completed her morning routine in a fraction of the time it usually took, prodded along mercilessly by an over-enthusiastic Pinkie Pie. Soon enough she was following her friend up to the roof of the building that housed both Rarity’s work studio and her apartment. The early morning air was chilly on the roof, and Rarity found herself walking as close as possible to Pinkie in a mostly unsuccessful attempt to keep warm.
Once they’d reached the edge of the roof, Pinkie pointed off to a spot in the far distance, miles and miles away. Just visible above the horizon was a strange, multi-looped, zigzagging rainbow.
“You woke me up at the crack of dawn and dragged me all the way up here just for a rainbow?” Rarity couldn’t quite keep the edge of annoyance out of her voice.
Rainbows weren’t entirely common, it was true, but they also weren’t entirely rare. And they absolutely weren’t worth the price of losing precious beauty sleep.
In reply, Pinkie rolled her eyes, but her tone remained good-natured and bubbly as she explained, “Not just any rainbow ... one of Rainbow Dash’s rainbows!” Pinkie smiled. “And it’s coming from the direction of Ponyville, which means she must be in town visiting, even though she didn’t tell us she was gonna be coming to visit. She’s such a sneaky pony sometimes, that Dashie.”
The unicorn scoffed in disbelief. “How could you possibly know that Rainbow Dash is the one who created that rainbow?”
Pinkie turned and gave Rarity a look that suggested the pink pony thought her friend had perhaps a few screws loose. It was rather a surreal moment. “Don’t be silly, Rarity. Dashie’s rainbows always have those extra loops, see?” She gestured towards one of the rainbow’s many twists and curls. “It’s ‘cause she likes doing tricks when she’s making them. Nopony makes rainbows like Rainbow Dash.”
Now that Rarity thought about it … Pinkie was right. Dash’s rainbows always did have that extra flair, those extra loops, didn’t they? Rarity couldn’t help but wonder just when exactly Pinkie Pie had noticed this. Actually, she wondered at all of these little things that Pinkie noticed about other ponies. And the unicorn abruptly wondered, with a touch of trepidation, as to what Pinkie might have noticed about her.
“Isn’t it so pretty?” asked Pinkie, her words soft and reverent. “Whenever I see a rainbow, especially one of Dashie’s, I always think about how rainbows taught me how to smile. And then I feel happy deep down in my tummy, like I did that day back on the rock farm.”
Rarity nodded but said nothing. The cold outdoor air had her feeling a bit more awake, and now that she was, she couldn’t help but notice how the soft, muted rays of the newly-risen sun made for a stunning backdrop and contrast to the hard, bright lines that comprised Dash’s rainbow. It was breathtaking, really. The part of Rarity’s mind that never stopped thinking about fashion started wondering if she could recreate this ambiance, this beauty and its attendant feelings, in a dress … perhaps a pastel chiffon laid over a more brightly colored and sturdier fabric ...
But her musings were interrupted when a quiet little sigh escaped her companion. “Sometimes … sometimes I get a teensy bit worried, though,” the earth pony said. She sounded almost mournful. “That rainbows are too, y’know, frivolous. Or simple-minded. And I shouldn’t like them as much as I do."
Rarity drew in her breath and wondered how best to respond. That had always been one of Pinkie’s problems--as quick as the pink pony was to forgive, she never, ever forgot.
“Rarity? Do … do you think they’re frivolous?”
There was a plaintive note in Pinkie’s voice, something yearning, almost childlike, and the unicorn felt a pang in her chest. “No,” Rarity replied gently. “No, Pinkie, I think they’re absolutely beautiful.”
There was a silence, and then Rarity felt something warm and soft press up against her. She glanced over to see Pinkie Pie nuzzling against her and beaming. “I knew you’d like the surprise.”
The building was huge, all polished stone and sparkling glass, rising up to touch the sky with all the majesty of one of the palace’s spires. It was one of Rarity’s absolute most favorite buildings in Canterlot. Even though its size and modernity made the building, as stunning as it was, feel a bit out of place in this very old city, Rarity adored the Museum of Contemporary Art and Culture.
“Wow,” murmured Pinkie Pie.
Rarity turned to gaze at her date for the evening, and she couldn’t help but smile. Pinkie was staring at the museum with wide open eyes, her entire face alight with wonder and the purest kind of pleasure. Rarity felt a burst of happiness at seeing Pinkie appreciate the building’s architecture as much as she herself did.
“Impressive, no?” Rarity asked, with a high, tinkling laugh. “And just wait until you see the interior, darling!”
After another moment or two of gaping, Pinkie finally dragged her eyes away from the museum and looked over at the unicorn with a ready smile. Still smiling herself, Rarity took an opportunity to give Pinkie an appraising once-over.
She’d dressed Pinkie in one of her very own gowns, a satiny affair in deep crimson, and she had personally applied Pinkie’s make-up, which was subtle but made the mare’s cheeks glow even pinker than they usually did. She’d also taken Pinkie to one of the most exclusive salons in Canterlot, much to the salon owners’ eventual horror and ever-lasting trauma. But the results had been worth it. Pinkie’s mane had been wrestled into something more orderly than its usual state--an up-swept style similar to the one she’d worn to their very first Grand Galloping Gala.
Right here, right now, the excitable baker and party planner actually looked the part of a pony who was named Lady Pinkamena Diane Pie. In fact, Pinkie looked downright breathtaking. Rarity felt a burst of pride in what she'd accomplished in just one little day.
“Um, Rarity?” Pinkie Pie was fidgeting nervously under the unicorn’s uncompromising gaze. “Is … is something wrong? Do I look okay? Oh gosh, I didn’t get my mane messed up already, did I?”
Rarity reached out with a hoof and smoothed it along Pinkie’s shoulder in a reassuring way. “No, darling, you have done an admirable job in keeping your hair neat and tidy thus far.”
“Oh, yay!” Pinkie clapped her hooves together as she cheered.
“Pinkie! Your manicure!”
The earth pony flinched. “Oops! Sorry.”
“It’s quite all right, dear. Now, do you remember all of our lessons in etiquette from this morning?”
Pinkie stuck out her tongue thoughtfully as she started counting off on her hooves. “Um, I think so? Lemme see … Don’t hug anypony. If there’s a chocolate fountain, don’t stick my whole head in the chocolate fountain. Don’t dance, no matter how great the music is.” She glanced up. “Are you sure about the no dancing part?”
“Darling, I have never been more certain of anything in my life.”
“I was afraid you were gonna say that.” She sighed gustily before she resumed her pondering. “Um, what else, what else ... that’s all of the stuff you taught me, I think.”
Rarity felt her lips twitch, trying to smile, but she forced her facial muscles into a stern expression. “No, I’m afraid you’ve forgotten something.”
“Oh, no! What? What did I forget?”
“Why, the most important thing of all.” Rarity’s smile finally broke through. “Don’t forget to enjoy yourself tonight.”
Pinkie grinned at her with those wide, blue eyes of hers. With an exaggerated bow, Pinkie Pie suddenly took one of Rarity’s front hooves between her own and lifted it to her lips. Then she pressed a light, gentle kiss to the unicorn’s hoof before letting go. “My dear Lady Rarity,” she said, affecting a ridiculously awful upper-crust accent, “shall I escort you inside to these most promising and, um, wonderous festivities?”
Rarity couldn’t help it. She burst out laughing. “Very gallant of you, my dear Lady Pinkamena. And yes, let's go in. After all, we’re just in time to arrive fashionably late.”
The large and ornate lobby of the museum teemed with ponies mingling, drinking, eating, and laughing their glittering, fake laughs. In a far corner stood two mares--young but no longer fillies, gorgeously attired, almost painfully beautiful, and the subject of many discreet longing glances. But neither pony noticed any of the looks being directed their way, as they were too busy whispering furiously to one another.
“And the dark blue stallion over there?”
“That’s Mr. Wrought Iron! He’s from Fillydelphia. I met him the last time I was there at a bakery convention. He owns a bunch of steel factories.”
Rarity gave a slight nod. The name sounded vaguely familiar, once she’d heard it. “And that unicorn mare by the hors d’oeuvres table? The one in the forest green dress?”
“That’s Lady Lovelace! She’s a baron--um, a barton--”
“You don’t mean a baronetess, do you, darling?”
“Yeah! That!” Pinkie Pie nodded cheerfully. “She’s originally from Trottingham, but she moved to Canterlot a few years ago.” The earth pony’s eyes lit up, and she bounced up and down a few times. “Ooh, ooh! And if you go over to talk to her, you should totally tell her to have a happy birthday tomorrow, ‘cause tomorrow is her birthday!”
With a small, thoughtful frown, Rarity murmured to herself, “Lady Lovelace, baronetess, birthday tomorrow. Right, got it.”
Then, before the unicorn could ask after any of the other reception attendees, Pinkie began shuddering and shaking uncontrollably. A few nearby ponies glanced over with anxious expressions, and Rarity herself felt a sickening jolt of worry before she realized--Pinkie’s Pinkie sense.
At last the shuddering stopped and, after a moment of appearing dazed, Pinkie shook her head and straightened her shoulders. She wore a determined look on her face. “Sorry, Rarity, but I gotta go handle a smile emergency. Be back in a jiffy!”
And before Rarity could even formulate a question as to just what constituted a “smile emergency,” the pink mare had bounded off and disappeared into the surrounding throngs of reception attendees. Rarity briefly entertained the notion of following after Pinkie but decided against it. She doubted she’d be able to convince Pinkie to call off whatever mission she had just embarked upon, even if she was somehow able to catch up to the lightning-fast earth pony in the first place.
She settled for sighing, deeply and dramatically, instead. It seemed she sighed more than usual whenever Pinkie was around, now that she thought about it.
“Lady Rarity? Is that you?”
The unicorn turned her head, just in time to see the Duchess of Hoofington approaching. The duchess looked as thin and as pale as ever, while wearing an overly ornate gown of the most ill-advised fabrics and colors. With more than a hint of smugness, Rarity thought to herself that money could buy many things, but it couldn’t buy good taste.
“Ah, good evening, Duchess!” Rarity quickly put on one of her prefabricated smiles. “It’s a pleasure to see you this evening.”
“And you, as well,” replied the duchess, in a sickly sweet voice. “I trust you’ve already taken a peek at the new exhibit? All black paintings--the entire canvas just coated entirely in black paint. It’s very avant-garde.”
Rarity was sure it was very something, but she kept that thought to herself. Instead, she simply nodded politely.
“Of course,” the duchess continued on, adopting a disdainful tone, “they say the artist is mad as a hatter. Depression, you know. That’s why he paints all in black. What was his name again? Rolling River? Rolling Rock?”
“Rolling Stone, I believe it was.”
“Yes, yes. Rolling Stone. That’s right.” The pale green unicorn laughed a bit. It sounded very much like braying. “But that’s quite enough about him. Tell me, Lady Rarity, surely a mare as lovely as you hasn’t come to this little event without a proper escort?”
Rarity perked up a bit. Here was a chance to brag a bit, and she did always like taking advantage of these little opportunities. “Not at all, Duchess. My companion for the evening is the Lady Pinkamena Diane Pie--who asked that I give you her regards, by the by--but I’m afraid Lady Pinkamena had to step away for a few moments.”
“Ah. I see.” The duchess smiled tightly. “If I may, I’d like to offer a word of advice. From one friend to another.”
A highly unpleasant feeling churned in Rarity’s stomach. “Of course. I’d be honored to hear any wisdom you might have to impart.”
“Ponies of our station do not … consort … with the hired help. It’s simply not done. I do understand that you’re rather new to--”
“Surely you don’t refer to Lady Pinkamena?” Rarity interrupted, her voice icy and her eyes dark with a silent warning.
The duchess paused. When she spoke again, her voice was low and conspiratorial. “Come now, Lady Rarity. We both know that the ladyships given to your little Ponyville friends were utterly undeserved and that you were the only one truly worthy of being made a lady.”
Rarity drew in a sharp breath and felt her magic suddenly begin flooding her horn. As of yet she wasn’t sure just what exactly she was going to do with her magic, but she suspected that it was likely to be swift and painful. The Duchess of Hoofington’ eyes went wide in surprise, and then--
Immediately all of Rarity’s anger drained away, along with her build-up of magic--only to be replaced with cold dread. She knew the voice that had just bellowed from the second floor of the museum. She knew that voice all too very well. Along with every other pony in the museum lobby, she slowly turned to gaze up at the source of the sudden interruption.
Pinkie Pie stood right there at the second floor balcony, perched atop the balcony railing while beaming down at the entire lobby. Next to her stood a smallish male earth pony with a dark green coat and deep purple mane. He looked more than a bit nervous.
Smart boy, thought Rarity. She knew that she should go after Pinkie to put a stop to … to whatever this was … but the numb shock caused by the entire situation left her rooted to the floor, motionless and mute.
Pinkie gestured with a forehoof as she continued yelling down to the gathered ponies. “Hi! This is my new friend, Rolling Stone! Most of you probably know him already, ‘cause he painted all the neat paintings that are hanging up on all the walls here.” She glanced over to the stallion and gave him a quick hug. “And he did a super great job, too! Didn’t he, folks?”
Rarity could hear some quiet murmuring go through the crowd. A few ponies were asking just who that crazy pink mare was, while a few others were suggesting that someone go fetch security.
For the next part of her speech, Pinkie put on an almost comically serious face. “But even though he’s painted lots of neato paintings, that hasn’t made him happy. In fact, he’s been really, really sad. Go on and tell ‘em, Rollie.”
Rolling Stone waved awkwardly to the crowd below. “I, er … well, Lady Pinkamena and I were--”
“Oh, silly, I told you that you can just call me Pinkie!”
“--right, right, Pinkie and I were talking, and she said a whole lot of things that made a lot of sense to me. About … you know, about not doing things unless you wanted to do them. And about loving what you do decide to do.”
Oh, Rarity did not like where this was going. Not in the least. She suddenly wished she’d had the chance to drop by the drinks table earlier in the reception to have a glass of wine or two. Or three. Or ten.
Meanwhile, the flustered artist was glancing over at Pinkie Pie, who just nodded for him to continue. Raising his voice a bit, he said, “So I’m not going to paint for galleries and museums any more. I’ve always hated that paintings get hidden away in dusty old buildings and denied the light of day, so I’m going to go back to my first love. My true love.” His entire face broke into a huge, goofy grin. “I’m going to go back to painting barns!”
The entire lobby of ponies gasped in perfect unison. For her own part, Rarity just closed her eyes and sighed yet another quiet, tired little sigh.
Author's Notes: This chapter was fully written, but not fully edited, before yesterday's new episode. The original rooftop/rainbow scene had Pinkie relating that Twilight had told her that rainbows were frivolous. I changed it as the new episode seemed to fit in rather well with what I'd already written.