Rarity knew something was wrong the moment she entered the Boutique. Her mind was full of thoughts for a certain somepony, and possible dress designs for said somepony. As such, it took her a moment to register what exactly it was that was wrong. Where do I know that smell from? Oh, it's somewhat pleasant in its way... incense? No, that's not it, it's a bit like the s'mores we made during Twilight's sleepover... Why would I think that though? It's not the smell of chocolate melting, that's not it... Perhaps the marshmallows roasting? Roasting, not exactly. Ah yes, burning, it smells like something is... NO!
She ran to the kitchen, her worst fears realized. Sweetie Belle was cooking! She immediately galloped to the fire extinguisher, only to find it was already off the hook. She spotted Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, the latter precariously balanced upon the former. Scootaloo was holding the hose with her muzzle, directing the foam to put out a fire on the curtains, while Apple Bloom was holding the canister and pressing the handle. Sweetie Belle meanwhile was attempting to douse the flames from the stove. The poor dear was attempting to heft a bucket of water with her magic, but somehow she kept managing to set the water on fire. Rarity idly wondered if she should be proud at her sister's improvements in magical control or horrified because her kitchen was ablaze. She set that argument aside for the moment, as she had more pressing matters at hoof.
Turning to the sink she made a split second decision. The fire was blazing merrily wherever it chose. It was minor plumbing damage or replace the whole kitchen. Strike that, the walls were now ablaze. She might lose the whole shop at this rate. Her horn began to glow, and she quickly sliced the faucet off with her magic. Water was soon spraying everywhere. She used her magic to control the flow carefully, splitting it into twenty separate streams. These were aimed precisely at the base of each flame, and the blaze was quickly and efficiently put out.
She eyed the wreckage dubiously. The table would have to be replaced, the curtains were a lost cause, and her sink would need fixing. She opened the cabinet doors under the sink and turned off the valve to prevent more water from flooding her kitchen. The walls would need minor repair as well. Still, the shop was saved and the fillies were unharmed.
Sweetie Belle eyed her sister nervously. "Um... Surprise?"
Rarity held her head in her hooves. She had gone to see the local plumber, who had promised to arrive early in the morning to fix the damage. The three fillies were sitting quietly on the couch. She did not like the fidgety look they had. She would have to think quickly lest they apply that energy to something potentially more devastating than what had already occurred.
Apple Bloom nervously spoke up. "We're real sorry Miss Rarity, we jus' wanted to surprise ya with dinner on the table. I shoulda probably insisted on doing the cooking, but yer sis was mighty persuasive. She said she's helped you cook recently and everything."
Scootaloo looked to the side in annoyance. "I still say it would have cooked faster if she just had turned the flames up higher."
Apple Bloom shushed her. "Please don't send us home, Rarity. we'll behave!"
Sweetie just sat there, miserable. Rarity sighed. She wanted to be upset, but her mood was still far too good to allow it. Besides, the damage was done, and the girls had attempted to fix their own error. She did however wish to talk to her sister privately, before the poor dear collapsed into a puddle of sadness. "Girls, I am not angry; I am far more relieved you are all all right. Granted, the table is a loss, but I had been meaning to replace those curtains anyway. The walls will need fixing, but the important thing is nopony was hurt."
She smiled at them encouragingly, letting them know she was not truly angry. "One moment, my little fillies. I will be back shortly." She left the room for a moment, going into her petty cash and filling a sack with bits. Then she returned, presenting it to the fillies. "Now then, we still need dinner. Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, would you two please take these bits and get us a meal at Chez Ponnise? You know the one, it just recently opened. Some dandelion salads should do. Oh, and please stop at Sugarcube Corner as well if you would be so kind, ask Pinkie for a slice of MMM. You may get what you wish for dessert as well."
The two fillies grabbed the sack of bits and hurried off to Scootaloo's scooter. That left only Rarity and Sweetie Belle alone. Sweetie Belle was crying softly. Rarity quickly rushed to her sisters side and smoothed her hair with a hoof. "Now now, none of that, dear. I know you meant well."
Sweetie sobbed openly now. "I'm so sorry Rarity! I don't understand how I can find so many ways to mess up when I can't seem to find the one thing that makes me special!"
Rarity continued to stroke her hair. "Everypony was young once dear. Did I ever tell you of the time I managed to set the living room of our house in Hoofington on fire?"
Sweetie Belle looked up, eyes wet with tears, but her sadness had been replaced with curiosity. "No, what happened?!"
Rarity tapped a hoof to her chin as she recalled. "Goodness, I think you were all of one year old at the time. It was cold, and I took it upon myself to attempt to restart a fire in the fireplace. I stacked the logs as best as I could and rekindled the fire, but one of the logs rolled out. Before I could react, the carpet was ablaze. Our parents were quick to react, thankfully. Father was furious of course, but Mother was quick to point out if he had not let it go out I would never have gotten the notion to restart it. Do you understand why I’m telling you this?"
Sweetie wanted to understand, but did not. "Um... Maybe?"
Rarity chuckled a bit. "The point I am making is that had I been here making dinner you would not have taken it upon yourself to attempt it, or at the least I would have been here to supervise. So no, sister. I don't blame this on you. Well, not entirely at least. Now, I have a favor to ask, assuming you wish to make up for your part in this mishap?"
Sweetie jumped up, so excited her voice cracked a bit. "Of course!"
Rarity pointed a hoof at her inspiration room. "I will be working with specific shades for the spring line. Would you please be a dear and separate the fabric by color? You recall, the same way you did for me on the day of the social?" She levitated the bloom from her hair to show Sweetie Belle. "Lay out these colors specifically. I shall be cleaning the kitchen while you do so."
Sweetie hopped happily into the room, pleased to have been given a task she could accomplish without making a mess. Rarity, still levitating the flower, placed it delicately into a vase. She looked at the kitchen and sighed heavily. Grabbing a broom and dustpan with her magic she set to work. She had a long night ahead.
Fluttershy could not sleep. Normally the sounds of the forest animals lulled her into a deep slumber, but tonight sleep would not come. She had agreed to model again. This was exactly how it had begun last time. The lights in her eyes, the ponies taking pictures of her everywhere. The wonderful friend cheering me on from the back of the crowd! They all cheered for me in the end, but her voice was loudest!
Fluttershy sighed happily. The same mare wanted her to model again, but only for her this time. No other ponies making her walk a certain way, no scary photographers, no screaming fans! Maybe just one fan... She blushed. I can do this! I will do this! It will make Rarity happy! When she's happy she might smile for me again... That radiant, excited smile... I wonder how else I might make her excited? She blushed even deeper. She giggled into her pillow.
She got up, turned on a light and looked in the mirror, striking pose after pose. "Um, how’s this one, Rarity?" No, not like that, be confident! She thought back to how Rarity had shown her how to flirt in the marketplace. "Hey there, beautiful! Do you like what you see?" She giggled again.
Angel Bunny hopped in, having been awoken by Fluttershy's movement, he came to investigate. Seeing her giggling and blowing kisses at the mirror, he groaned softly. Annoyed by the crazy mare, he threw a carrot at her.
She had been standing on her hindhooves holding her hair up in a pose. The carrot struck her on the nose and made her topple over. She scrambled to her hooves. "Angel! You're going to wake everypony else up! Do you know what time it is?"
Angel stamped a foot and pointed at the clock as if to say: "Do you know what time it is?"
Fluttershy looked at the clock. Only a few hours to go until she had to be at Rarity's. She blushed. "Sorry Angel. I guess I'll get some sleep now." Fluttershy climbed back into bed, turning off the light. She hugged her pillow, blushing and giggling as she did so.
They would not sleep! Rarity was close to tearing her mane out of her head. Her sister and her two incorrigible friends kept reporting back to be assigned more tasks. It had become a game to them! She supposed it could be worse. Looking down at the plumber's bill however, she had to keep reminding herself of that.
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo had returned with the salads, her slice of cake, and a baker's dozen cupcakes. They had all eaten their meals and Rarity had instructed them to not set anything else on fire. Then she had retired to her inspiration room. Once out of sight, she immediately attacked the slice of cake. It had become such a guilty pleasure. Inside the box the cake came in was a note from Pinkie Pie. Poor Rarity! All three at once? Hope you make it through the night okay. Consider this an invitation to the "My Friend Rarity's House Almost Burned Down" Party. Come by the Sugarcube Corner and we can decide a time and day. Try to have fun! Pinkie.
Rarity smiled slightly. Pinkie could cheer her up even without being there. That was talent. She massaged her left temple with her hoof. She set to work; she had the basic designs in mind but the creation was always the majority of the fun. Soon enough the entire room was in motion: fabric being cut, sewing machines being run, and dress palettes being laid over dummies. Despite frequent interruptions, she had made eight prototypes ready to be fitted to Fluttershy by the morning. The Cutie Mark Crusaders, meanwhile, had managed to clean the entire kitchen. They had also torn down her old curtains, removed the burnt remnants of the table, and one of them had even re-plastered the damaged sections of the walls. They were now sitting in a circle suggesting more implausible ways to try to find their special skills.
She looked over the dresses in satisfaction. She hadn't felt this much "in the zone" since she'd designed her friend's gala dresses. She always worked her best when she was designing for somepony specific, and she'd had a certain mare's curves in mind all night. She couldn't wait to see how they looked on her.
Fluttershy awoke with a start, her friend the rooster having just greeted the morning sun with his signature crow. She opened the window. "Thank you, Chanticleer! Have a good morning!" She hummed to herself as she got her brush. Fitting the strap of the brush over a hoof she began the long process of brushing her mane, coat, and tail. Next came a hot, relaxing shower. It was just the thing to work out the kinks from a night spent tossing and turning. Will I have the courage to say it today? What will she say? What if she says no? Will she still want to go to the spa with me? Oh... If she says yes maybe... Oh my... She blushed hard. She carefully dried her mane and tail, glad nopony was there to see her flustered. Then she walked downstairs to began her morning's chores.
Angel Bunny was hopping up the stairs as she trotted down. He yawned and followed her back down. Apparently she had woken up by herself after all. He was feeling generous this morning, so he only glared slightly as she made him a salad.
She broke into song occasionally as she fed the rest of the animals. It was a songthat had no words; it was purely an expression of her joy in the morning, surrounded by all her friends. She smiled warmly as she finished feeding the ducklings. Now she could return to have her own breakfast, then off to Rarity's shop. She squeed just a bit at the thought. She made herself a nice light breakfast of toast covered with preserves and some apple juice. After she finished eating, it was finally time to go see her friend. I can do this! I'll tell her how I feel! I'll show her how I feel! But what if... She shook her head. No! No “buts” Fluttershy, she's going to love you!
Fluttershy knocked on the door of Carousel Boutique. She heard a crash, followed by three giggling filly's voices, and Rarity's voice quickly following. The door opened and a very frazzled Rarity opened it with a smile. Three fillies rushed past her, off for today's adventure. They stopped when they saw Fluttershy.
They all said in unison, "Hi, Fluttershy! Bye, Fluttershy!" Then they ran off, giggling, to the scooter.
Rarity stifled a yawn and greeted her friend with a warm hug. Fluttershy buried her face in Rarity's mane a moment to cover the blush. "Good morning, darling! You're just in time; I need your adjusted measurements in case any alterations are necessary." Fluttershy was led to the fitting room where the measuring tape waited. Rarity's horn flared and the tape began to move in the soft glow of her aura. She began with the barrel measurement. No real changes there. Fluttershy barely has an ounce of fat to spare.
Next was the waist measurement. Hmmm, she's a bit thinner since I measured her last. Perhaps I should encourage her to make a stop with me to Sugarcube Corner every now and again. Goodness knows she burns it all off tending to that menagerie of hers! Measuring the hip, she noted something interesting. The tape had brushed her friend's cutie mark and she distinctly heard a stifled giggle. She is ticklish there! Rarity grinned wickedly.
For completeness sake she took the inseam again. Really darling, be honest, if only with yourself. You just wanted to touch her thighs while you took the measurement. An interesting response occurred when she held the tape against her friend's thigh. Her wings sprang open. Hmmm, reflex reaction, I suppose? "That's fine, dear. keep them open. I need to measure around the base of the wing next, for the back of the dress. We wouldn't want it to pinch." Fluttershy was thinking very hard about anything but where her friend was touching her right now.
The measurements done, and Rarity at last satisfied that no adjustments were necessary, Rarity led her to the dressing room with the prototypes on display. Fluttershy was always so amazed at what her friend could design from a simple idea. Her dresses were always more than just clothing, they evoked feelings in the wearer and the observer. These were no exception. The dresses were laid out on display, the designs meant to bring to mind specific images of spring. one was all in the colors of early sunrise, with light blues, oranges, and pinks. Another was meant to show the observer the budding plant life, all light greens and brown tones. Each one was beautiful in its way.
Rarity beamed with pride. "I daresay it's some of my best work to date. Come, dear. Let's get you dressed. I can't wait to see how it looks." After getting the first dress on her friend she stood back, frowning. "It's missing something... WAH-HA-HA! Yes, that would accent it perfectly. I'll need to make recreations of it in silk and wire-frame, of course, but for the moment... Yes, Au Naturale."
She trotted out of the room and returned with the blossom in her teeth. She used her magic to part Fluttershy's hair a moment, and reached up to place it delicately in her mane. She got back down to eye level with Fluttershy, their muzzles only inches apart. "There, much better, don't you agree?" Fluttershy said nothing. She hid her eyes in her hair, blushing furiously.
Rarity mused to herself wryly. If this were a romance novel, this would be the moment, wouldn't it? A quick peck on the cheek or a deep passionate kiss? Would she kiss back, or shy away? Keep dreaming, dear. nopony can blame you for those, can they?
Fluttershy was deep in internal conflict. Reach out, take her face in your hooves, and kiss her! Oh, its too daring! What would she think? What would she do?
She was just about to give into her more confident side when the decision was taken from her. "Ahem! Terribly sorry, am I interrupting something?" Rarity and Fluttershy looked at the room’s entrance. A unicorn dressed very stylishly had just walked in without announcing herself. She coughed. "Sorry, dears. The door was open but nopony would answer my knock. I am Lady Starlight of Baltimare. I am visiting family in the area, and was given to understand somepony in this shop knows a thing or two about dress design?"
Rarity was not planning on a showcase, but she was nothing if not a master of improvisation when she put her mind to it. Fluttershy gave the lady a private fashion show of each design, with Rarity showcasing the outfit with the appropriate lighting and illusions. Starlight was very impressed. She sat sipping the tea Rarity had prepared for her, enjoying the show.
Fluttershy gritted her teeth throughout. This was not supposed to be happening. Still, it was only one more pony. She simply pretended Starlight did not exist and simply strutted the stage for Rarity. The only trouble Starlight had was with the execution of the stitching, it was not to her expectations. After all the designs were shown she adjourned with Rarity to a table in the fourier. She told Rarity what she expected of her if she was to make an order. "Miss Rarity, I would like to commission three copies of each of these designs for my personal collection. However, I have a condition. My gowns must be hoofstitched. I accept nothing less in my clothing. These are clearly machine stitched."
Rarity was thrilled to have her first commission before the line was even on display in her shop or in Canterlot. Celestia knows it will help offset the cost of repairing the kitchen. "Darling, that's wonderful! How soon do you need them?"
Starlight sipped again. "Two weeks should suffice."
Rarity's jaw went slack. Twenty four dresses, in two weeks, hoofstitched. She barely kept the stammer out of her voice. "I-I see, and the commission payment?" Starlight lifted a sheet calmly from her saddlebags and set quill to it. She jotted down a figure and slid it across the table.
Rarity had not seen so many zeros in quite a while. Certainly not for a single order. Forget the kitchen, I could redo the whole shop. In gold plating! She whinnied in distress. She wanted to take the commission but she wasn't certain she could finish them by the deadline. Hoofstitching was ever so much slower than machine. She finally sighed. "I am sorry, m’lady. I do not think I can finish them in the time allotted."
Starlight frowned. "For the fee I propose, surely you could afford to hire a seamstress?"
A voice spoke from the side, a small, shy voice. "I'll help."
Rarity turned in surprise. "Fluttershy? What do you mean, dear?"
Fluttershy raised her head and tried to speak with a bit more confidence. "I mean, I'll help. Lady Starlight clearly knows the benefits of fine haute couture. I would be delighted to help." She blushed, realizing how brazen she appeared. "If... that's okay with you, I mean..."
Starlight nodded, satisfied. "Do we have a deal, Miss Rarity?"
Rarity smiled. "Yes, I believe we do."