Fluttershy had a few appointments for check-ups that afternoon, but promised to return to help with the dresses in the evening. Rarity could not believe her good luck. This order would easily make up for the fire damage, and give her her ready capital to replace her materials. She was concerned, however, that she might be taking advantage of poor Fluttershy - the dear thing would do anything to help a friend. She had offered, of course, which soothed Rarity's guilt a little. She badly needed the help to meet the deadline...
It will be an excellent excuse to spend more time with her, too. She sighed and shook the thought off. Fluttershy is... precious to me, of course I want to spend every moment with her! I just worry about taking her for granted. It's nothing at all to do with the fact that every time she smiles I want to kiss that gorgeous mouth, and every time she laughs I want to tackle her and drag her up to my boudoir. Nothing at all!
Rarity sighed again. I really need to talk to somepony about this or I’ll keep going round in circles. Who can I tell? Who can I trust? My usual confidant would be Fluttershy, naturally, but in this case...
She lay back in bed and thought. Twilight Sparkle would normally be her go-to mare if Fluttershy was unavailable, but she stressed out far too easily when she had a secret to keep. Really now, betraying poor Spikey-wikey's confidence as she did. Certainly his feelings for me were plain as day, but that's no excuse. Whoever I tell needs to be totally discreet.
She pondered Rainbow Dash; certainly loyalty went a long way when keeping a secret. Rarity shook her head. Rainbow may not be able to relate to the problem at hoof. I don't think I have ever even seen her date. No, I need somepony who can give me advice as well.
She tapped a hoof to her chin. Applejack would truthfully give Rarity her opinion, but she was a horrible liar. For her, keeping secrets was nigh-on impossible. If confronted, anypony could tell Applejack was covering for somepony, and that's nearly as bad as shouting out the secret.
All of which left only one possible alternative. Strangely enough, she fit both categories perfectly. Pinkie could keep a secret like none other, and as for understanding her attraction... well, Pinkie certainly understood subjectively how two ponies could be happy together, after all. She was a master at getting ponies to smile and had also played matchmaker on more than one occasion. Yes! I even have a socially acceptable excuse to visit her this very moment! She asked me to see her about planning my party!
She pranced about, happy to have finally found a solution to her dilemma. Her poor heart felt close to bursting as she anticipated finally telling somepony. Well then, off to Sugarcube Corner!
Rarity casually trotted into Sugarcube Corner. She needed to ascertain if Pinkie could speak privately, so as not to give anypony the wrong impression. It simply wouldn't do to have somepony else ask her why she looked anxious, that would lead to questions that Rarity was not prepared to answer.
As she entered the shop, her nostrils tingled with the mingled scents of fresh baked goods. Muffins were piled in a neat stack on the counter along with doughnuts, bagels, and popovers. Cup was manning the counter this morning, which meant Pinkie was likely still asleep. "Good morning, Mrs. Cake! Do you mind if I check in on Pinkie? She asked me to come by to schedule a party with her."
Cup smiled, ringing up a customer. The bakery was swimming with activity as per usual. "Yes, of course, go right on up!"
Rarity smiled dazzlingly. "Thank you, Cup, I shan't be long. Be a dear, would you, and bag me a dozen muffins? Oh, and the cake was wonderful, darling!"
She trotted up the stairs, intent on carefully waking her friend. It seemed, however, that her concerns were premature, as she could hear Pinkie's voice coming from upstairs. Hmmm, why is she standing in the hallway?
"Last night was awesome! When do you want to 'experiment' again?"
A naggingly familiar voice responded; who was that?
"Let's plan for say... Thursday night?" A suggestive giggle followed.
"Okie Dokie Lokie!"
Rarity peeked up the next flight of stairs, but Pinkie's back was to her and she couldn’t see her companion. She and another pony were clearly in a passionate embrace, kissing deeply. She could not with certainty determine the identity of the other mare. I do have my suspicions however. After all, how many ponies in town have a purple coat?
Rarity ducked her head down, trying to give the lovers some warning of her approach. She loudly cleared her throat. "Pinkie Pie? Are you up, darling? I came by to discuss the party details with you!"
She heard a loud pop, and smelled ozone. Unicorn, that further reduces the list of suspects.
Pinkie Pie scrambled back into her room, quietly closing the door. She opened it again with a crash. "Rarity! Good morning!" She bounced over to her friend and caught her up in a huge hug.
Rarity coughed a bit as the air was squeezed from her lungs. "Darling, I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I can't breathe..."
Pinkie quickly released her stranglehold on Rarity. "Sorry, Rarity! Wow, I’m super-duper excited about planning your party! When do you want to have it?"
Pinkie led her into the bedroom, where they both sat on her bed. As she glanced around the room for a moment, her eyes latched onto a hairbrush left on the nightstand. A hairbrush with purple hair in it. And that leaves us with one.
Rarity smiled sweetly. "First things first, dear, how was your evening with Twilight?"
Pinkie froze mid-bounce. "W-what do you mean?"
Rarity looked abashed. "Darling, I didn't mean to intrude on a private moment, but I heard you talking just now. You said you wanted to "experiment" again?"
Pinkie's eyes went wild. "Um... Dream experiments! Twilight was studying my dreams!"
Rarity pointed a hoof, trying not to smirk triumphantly. Oh you are good, my friend, clearly I can trust you to keep my secrets. You try so hard to avoid revealing things, even when caught dead to rights. "That hairbrush has purple hair in it. So, she's studying you, and leaving her belongings here?"
Pinkie nodded enthusiastically, seeming relieved that Rarity was buying her story. "Yeah, she stays all night so she needs to freshen up in the morning!"
Rarity huffed in exasperation. "Pinkie, I also saw you kissing."
Pinkie’s expression began to look increasingly frantic. "Um... we were... practicing how the fancy ponies say goodbye!"
Rarity chuckled mirthlessly. Really darling, do stop panicking. I won’t tell anypony, I just want to hear you say it. "You normally kiss on both cheeks dear. Also, not quite so much tongue."
Pinkie sighed, defeated. Then she got down off the bed and onto her hind legs, holding her front hooves up in supplication. "Please, you have to swear not to tell anypony. Twilight isn’t sure about what we're doing yet. She doesn't want anypony else knowing until she figures it out herself!"
Rarity crossed her chest in the customary manner. "Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye. Now out with it, darling! I want details!"
Pinkie smiled brightly, her fears assuaged by the most solemn of promises. "There's not much to tell. Twilight found a book that mentioned "friends with benefits" and asked me if I’d be willing to study this "new area of friendship" with her. So now we fool around every chance we get!"
Rarity smiled warmly. There, was that so hard? "I am so happy for you two!"
Pinkie grinned and blushed slightly. "To tell you the truth, I'm kinda glad somepony else knows now. I have all these feelings trying to burst out and nopony to talk to about them."
It was Rarity's turn to blush. "Pinkie, I have a confession to make..."
Pinkie stared at Rarity. "Wow... You and Shy?"
Rarity slumped down on Pinkie's bed; it felt so good to finally let her feelings out to somepony. "I hope it goes without saying, dear, but I must ask you to tell nopony until I have resolved how to approach this problem."
Pinkie smiled, "Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!"
Rarity nodded, satisfied. She stared up at the ceiling and just let her stress pour from her with every word. "I have been bothered to distraction thinking about her lately. It's getting to be too much. I want to tell her how I feel, but I worry what that would do to our relationship. Every fiber of my being is screaming with longing, but is it fair to endanger our friendship over my own selfish wishes?"
Pinkie pondered the potential problem. "You keep talking about how selfish you feel. Do you want to make Shy happy?"
Rarity sat up and smiled warmly, dreaming of what that would be like. "I would love to devote the rest of my life to doing just that."
Pinkie prodded the pony ponderously. "If she said she didn't feel the same, would you still want to be her friend?"
Rarity looked wounded. "Of course, darling, I would never let that affect our friendship!"
Pinkie beamed beatifically. "Sounds pretty generous to me! You're offering everything and asking nothing in return!"
Rarity felt as if the world had dropped out from under her. Could it truly be so simple? Have I simply been creating irrelevant obstacles to my own happiness - and perhaps Fluttershy’s? "I've... never thought of it that way!" She scrambled to her hooves and hugged Pinkie with such ferocity that if she were not an earth pony it might have caused her serious injury. "Thank you Pinkie!"
Pinkie grinned, lying back on the bed and crossing her forelegs behind her head. "So what’s it like for you? Is it a warm butterflies in your tummy sort of feeling, or more of a mule kicked you in the head and you can't see straight around her kind of feeling?"
Rarity settled down beside her and chuckled. "A little bit of both, at different times. How is it with you and Twilight?"
Pinkie tapped a hoof to her chin. She turned to Rarity and spoke frankly. "Well, the making out is fun, but sometimes I just want to feel her next to me when I sleep. I like to snuggle. Gummy is kinda not all that great for that, and I miss her when she's not around. I like to talk to her about... anything really. Sometimes I just go to the library to listen to her talk about magic, or science, or how I make a mockery out of physics, or whatever she wants to talk about."
Rarity sighed, looking wistful. "That sounds wonderful! I would like to have that with Fluttershy myself."
Pinkie smiled widely as she poked her friend playfully in the ribs. "You already have most of that, you just want the kissies and the snugglies too. That's not selfish, Rarity. That's normal! Just tell her how you feel!"
Rarity looked unsure. "But... what if she doesn't like me that way? What if—" She was cut off by a pink hoof pressed lightly but firmly to her lips.
Pinkie patted her head with the other hoof. "You're either going to get the snugglies or you won't. Stressing out never helped anypony. If she doesn't like you that way you still have a wonderful friend. If she does... you still have a wonderful friend, and YAY SNUGGLIES!"
Rarity blushed. "Hurrah..."
Pinkie sat up poked her in the chest. "So! When are you going to tell her?"
Rarity was at quite a loss. She had no idea when or where to break this news to her friend. At the Boutique perhaps? No, that won't do, Sweetie Belle tends to barge in at inopportune moments. She needed it to be someplace more controlled. At our next spa visit? No, similar problem, lack of privacy. She supposed the most private location to talk would be Fluttershy's own cottage. Oh, but she'll be busy with her vet check-ups all afternoon... Wait, that's it!
"I have the perfect idea!" She slipped off the bed, clasped hooves with Pinkie and trotted excitedly on the spot. "Thank you, Pinkie, for everything." She kissed Pinkie lightly on the cheek, then she galloped out of the room and down the stairs. She stopped only briefly to pick up her muffins from Cup Cake before resuming her headlong dash back to the Boutique.
Pinkie held up a hoof in farewell. "Awwww, we never did set the party time..."
Fluttershy smiled as she completed the follow-up examination of Mr. Otter. "Now you be more careful about what you eat, okay? There is a difference between rocks and crabs, even if they kind of look the same," she chided as she sent him on his way. An omnivore’s eating habits could lead to trouble at times; no herbivore would mistake a rock for a plant.
Her next appointment was for Winona. Applejack was supposed to be bringing her by right about...
"Hay, there, sugarcube!"
Fluttershy smiled. "Hay, Applejack! Hay, Winona! How are you two feeling?"
Winona barked happily. Applejack smiled, reaching a hoof over to pet her dog. "Doin’ just fine Shy, so just a regular checkup today if ya please."
Fluttershy patted the examination table and Winona jumped up onto the padded surface. She began carefully examining Winona's foot pads for any signs of injury or damage. So many rocks and thorns on the ground... poor Winona wouldn’t even be able to tell Applejack if she hurt herself. Satisfied, she then checked all the basic health signs for anything that seemed unusual.
Applejack cleared her throat; she'd heard a story from Apple Bloom and thought Fluttershy might be able to supply a few more details. "So how's Rarity doing?"
Fluttershy, busy checking Winona's ears, jerked just slightly at the question. "S-she's fine. Why do you ask?"
Applejack noted the reaction, but wrote it off as Shy just being in her own little world. She was probably startled to be pulled out of it. "Apple Bloom told me she saw you coming in this morning as she an' her friends were runnin' off. ‘Bloom was mighty disappointed she didn't get a fire fighting cutie mark last night."
Fluttershy looked up in alarm. "Fire?"
Applejack smiled and nodded, it had been quite a tale. "Yeah, Sweetie tried to cook an' set the whole kitchen alight."
Fluttershy wrung her hooves. "Oh, I hope Rarity is okay. Oh, wait, I saw her this morning and, um, she was fine. I mean I hope she wasn't too upset when it happened. Well I guess she must not have been, because the girls seemed happy when they left and Rarity looked so pleased to see me and—"
Applejack held a hoof up, chuckling. "Shy, no need to get all worked up. She's fine. Heck, ya remind me of my Ma wringing yer hooves like that. She always seemed to go into fits whenever Pa had the sniffles. Ah’d almost think you're sweet on Rare or something."
Fluttershy blushed deep red.
Applejack stared at her. This was news. Hello! Really? "You are?!"
Fluttershy nodded, blushing furiously, unable to bring herself to speak.
Applejack was not sure what to do in this situation. As Fluttershy moved round towards Applejack, Winona took the opportunity to jump down from the table. The farmpony sighed and heaved herself up onto the table, hind legs swinging off the side. Fluttershy silently took a place beside her. Applejack supposed Shy would normally go to Rarity about something like this. Kinda hard to ask your friend how to deal with how you're feeling about... well, them. Celestia knew it took Dash long enough to come clean. Danged nuisance having her nap in the apple trees all the time until she finally got up the nerve to say why she was doin’ it. Still, Shy was a friend, and what was she if not the most dependable of ponies who would help a friend with anything? Even this. First things first though. "Have you told her?"
Applejack leaned in. "Run that by me again, sugarcube?"
Fluttershy took a deep breath. "I've wanted to for ages but I can never summon up the courage I want so badly to just take her in my hooves and kiss her she makes me think naughty things I want to be with her every waking moment I have to tell her but I just can't!"
Applejack whistled. Not a pause in that whole tirade. "Yeah, Ah'd say you got it bad, sugarcube."
Fluttershy slumped; it felt like a valve had been released. "What do I do?"
Applejack put a hoof on her shoulder. "Look, Rarity's yer friend. Ya need to walk up, look her in the eye, and tell her."
Fluttershy looked up, her eyes shining with some unknown emotion. "What if she doesn't feel that way about me?"
Applejack sighed, turned to Fluttershy and moved her hoof to encircle the pegasus’ slim shoulders. She looked her friend dead in the eye. "Look, sugarcube, it's better to be honest to her. You'll either end up with a new relationship, or a stronger friendship. It's not fair to Rarity to keep everything bottled up. She'd wanna either return your feelings or help you past ‘em so you can find somepony else. Ah know it's probably hard to think that way, but Ah think that's how Rarity would react if you told her."
Applejack got up to leave; she had trees to buck. She held up her outstretched forelegs. Normally she wasn't this touchy-feely but Fluttershy looked like she could use a hug. Fluttershy started crying and hugged Applejack gratefully.
Unseen by them both, Rarity had arrived, carrying her pampered pet Opalescence in her magic. She didn’t have an appointment, and in fact Opal was completely fine, but she hoped to catch Fluttershy alone and her cat made for the ideal cover story. She paused; Fluttershy seemed to be finishing a visit at the moment. Rarity peered in through the window curiously, trying to discern who was inside. Rarity recognized Applejack, who was now getting up to leave, and embracing — No... Oh no! She turned on the spot, mortified, and rushed off with stinging tears pricking at her eyes.
Rarity galloped home, let Opal out of her carrying cage and rushed over to Sugarcube Corner. She barely spared Cup and Carrot a glance as she ran up the stairs to Pinkie's room.
Pinkie took one look at her friend's tear-stained face and rushed to meet her. Rarity embraced Pinkie desperately as Pinkie hugged her comfortingly back. "Rarity! What's wrong? Did she say no?"
Rarity shook her head, which was now buried in her friend's pink mane. She leaned back and took a breath, her voice broken and hoarse. "She didn't have to say anything, she's clearly in love with Applejack! I saw them embracing as I arrived to have Opal checked out."
Pinkie now found herself in a bit of a pickle (and she was fresh out of barrels, too). She knew for certain Applejack was not dating Fluttershy; she’d been dating Dashie for months now! The big problem was that Pinkie was sworn to secrecy until the pair decided to come clean to the rest of their friends themselves. She couldn't break that promise, even to help Rarity now. "I'm sure that's not true Rarity! Think back, you saw how Twilight and I hugged, was Fluttershy hugging her like that?"
Rarity sniffled, but replayed the scene in her mind. It hadn’t been the same, had it? Fluttershy had been crying...
Applejack must have rejected her! That minx!
"I-I suppose you're right, Pinkie. Um, if you don't mind, could we plan the party for the early evening? Could you get invitations out by then?"
Pinkie nodded, relieved. "Of course! As the guest of honor you choose the time and day. As the hostess I will invite everypony else."
Rarity smiled. "Thank you, Pinkie, perhaps a party will be just the thing to cheer me up." Also, it will be the perfect opportunity to confront Applejack! How dare she reject such a wonderful mare!
The invitations were delivered promptly, and thankfully everypony was free to attend. They all made an effort to attend Pinkie's parties if at all possible. Dash had not been clear what precisely had happened the day she went to fetch Pinkie for her birthday party, however she had made it clear that it would be best if they did not miss a party of hers in the future unless it was absolutely necessary.
Rarity sat with Pinkie and Twilight, her mien one of calm good humor while inside her mind seethed with blind fury. How could anypony reject such a pure, sweet mare as Fluttershy?
Twilight leaned in closer to her. "Rarity, Pinkie told me you saw us—"
Rarity shook herself. It would not do to have her mood soured outwardly during the party. She smiled at Twilight. "I wouldn't dream of betraying her confidence or, by extension, yours. Have no fear, dear. That secret will remain with me until you two decide to come forward with the news, and I expect an invitation to the party when you do!"
Twilight nodded, relieved.
As they had been chatting the rest of their group of friends had arrived together. She smiled warmly at Fluttershy and quickly embraced her friend. The pegasus eagerly returned her embrace. "Hi, Rarity, do you think I could talk to you later? If that's alright with you that is..."
Rarity nodded absently. "Yes, of course, darling, we'll have plenty of time at the shop to talk."
Poor thing probably needs a shoulder to cry on. You will not take advantage of your friend in a moment of weakness, Rarity! No matter how tempting it may be!
The party was soon in full swing, and Rarity was quite enjoying herself in spite of how upset she had been feeling earlier. Fluttershy will need comfort, but perhaps I shouldn’t hate Applejack for this, it’s not her fault she wasn’t interested. The guests played games, danced, drank punch and generally enjoyed each others company. Things were going rather well until Rarity idly watched as Applejack brought Rainbow a drink... and then pecked her quickly on the cheek!
Rarity shot up from her seat. "Excuse me a moment, darlings." She strode across the room, planted herself in front of Applejack and smacked her across the mouth. Her voice came out in a barely audible hiss. "You two-timing scoundrel! How could you do that to poor Fluttershy!"
Rainbow Dash immediately jumped in between the pair. "Rarity, what the hay?!"
Applejack rubbed her face; for a unicorn that was quite a wallop. "Rare, what in tarnation are you on about?"
Rarity raised her voice slightly. "I saw you two this afternoon at her cottage. Did she confess her feelings to you? Why was she crying? Why are you kissing Rainbow Dash?"
Applejack held her temper in check for the time being. "What Fluttershy and I talked about ain't for me to tell. As fer me and Dash... well that's nopony's business but ours."
Rarity lunged again, giving up on any pretence of discretion and shouting for all she was worth. "So you don't deny it, that poor sweet innocent thing told you she loved you and you rejected her! How could you, Applejack?!"
Applejack held her hooves up. "You got it wrong! Rare, it ain't me she loves! It's... somepony else."
A voice rang out across the room. "Rarity! Stop!"
Fluttershy stood, glaring over at the three ponies. "Stop this at once. Applejack was just giving me some advice; she didn't hurt my feelings or anything remotely like that. Now please, can't we all just enjoy the party?"
Rarity breathed in heavily. She looked around the room at the shocked faces of her friends. Rainbow still looked ready to fight, but the confusion on her face was plain, while Applejack just looked wounded. Rarity hung her head in shame. "I am so sorry, everypony. My head is just... elsewhere today. I believe I will take my leave of you all before I make a fool of myself any further. Fluttershy, will you still be joining me tonight?"
Fluttershy nodded. "Of course."
Rarity held up a hoof to Applejack. "I have wronged you, Applejack. Will you accept my apology?"
Applejack grinned, glad the problem seemed to have been resolved. "No harm done, you were just being protective of a friend." She took the hoof and clasped it in her two of hers, shaking vigorously.
Rarity wished her friends good night and walked slowly back to her boutique, feeling very alone and foolish.
Rarity sprawled on her bed, one foreleg over her eyes. She could not believe what a fool she had just made of herself over a simple misunderstanding! This was simply intolerable. She had struck Applejack with no better proof of wrongdoing than a chance sighting of her two friends hugging. What a selfish, jealous thing you are, Rarity! Why bother telling her now? You don't deserve her!
She nodded to herself; it was true. However, she knew something concrete now - she knew her dear Fluttershy definitely loved somepony. Maybe she herself didn't deserve to have her, but Fluttershy deserved to be happy. She would secure her friend that pony, whoever it was. As Celestia is my witness, even if I have to move heaven and earth to do it, Fluttershy shall have her special somepony!