Rarity rued the day she had ever heard the word “diner.”
With every jolt and jostle of the train, the unicorn could feel her stomach give a foreboding lurch. The previous evening’s fries and hay burger sat in her belly as heavy as rocks. Of course, in addition to all that, there was the deplorable state of filth in which the entire restaurant had existed. She shuddered to even think of it.
Well, she would have shuddered, except that doing so would have woken up Snips, whose head lolled against Rarity’s shoulder while the young stallion snored away like a lumberjack. She suppressed a sigh. He’d been so excited at the prospect of a visit to Ponyville that Rarity hadn’t had the heart to leave him behind, but right now, she was questioning the wisdom of that decision.
She could only hope Pinkie would be back soon from her foray to the dining car.
To while away the time--and to take her mind off her stomach ache--Rarity used her magic to pull out a quill and sheet of paper from the carry-on bag that rested at her feet. She laid the paper on the empty wooden seat in front of her and thoughtfully bit her lip.
My dearest Duchess, she began, her quill strokes short and tentative. Hmm. Would that be too forward or familiar? Or even be regarded as sarcastic? One had to take extra care with the written word, after all, as tone could be so hard to infer. Perhaps she’d best try again. She pulled out a fresh sheet of paper.
I must offer you my deepest apologies for the disgraceful behavior I exhibited at your most recent social event. It was unacceptable under any circumstances, as well as an insult to your considerable hospitality, and I have felt terribly about it ever since …
Rarity paused. For just a second she pondered over whether she should admit to what Pinkie had told her … but then she remembered a charmless prince at a joyless gala, whose memory was quickly followed by one of her plummeting through the air while staring deeply into the wide, trusting eyes of a young dragon. And, just like that, she knew that she shouldn’t breathe a word of what Pinkie had confessed. If she could offer nothing else to the duchess, she could at least do what she could to preserve the poor mare’s sense of dignity.
With just a tiny jump, Rarity glanced up from her letter to find that Pinkie had returned and now sat in the seat beside her. The earth pony grinned widely and carried a pile of cookies, cuddled against her chest as one might hold a foal.
“Ah, hello there, Pinkie,” the unicorn replied, careful to keep her voice low so as to not wake her assistant. “I’m just penning a bit of an apology note to the Duchess of Hoofington. How was the dining car?”
Pinkie Pie eyed the sheet of paper with a furrowed brow. “Oh, the dining car was good. Not enough kumquats, but that’s a pretty common problem. Trains, y’know? So I got a bunch of cookies instead.” She cocked her head. “Are you gonna invite the duchess to our party?”
“Darling, I must remind you that I still have yet to agree to even hold a party.”
“But Rarity! How’re we gonna make her smile if we don’t have a party?”
Rarity shushed the other mare, while gesturing towards the still-sleeping Snips, before she replied. “Firstly, I’m not sure either of us are really in the best position to be bringing a smile to the duchess’ face, all things considered. And secondly, while parties are absolutely delightful, they can’t solve everything, you know.”
Pinkie squinted at her and mouthed the words “Can’t solve everything?” with a deeply confused expression on her face.
With an indulgent sigh, Rarity leaned over and placed a kiss on the other mare’s cheek. “Never mind, my dear. Forget I said anything.”
“Done, and done!”
Pinkie grinned widely, and almost involuntarily Rarity smiled in return.
“You’re beautiful.” The words were out of Rarity’s mouth before she’d even realized she’d been thinking them. “You’re one of the most beautiful ponies I’ve ever met. Do you realize that?”
And it was then that Rarity came face to face with something she’d never thought she would see--a completely speechless Pinkie Pie. She could swear the earth pony was even blushing, just a tiny bit.
The unicorn’s smile turned tender. “I first noticed it the night of the after-party, but I don’t think it was until just yesterday that I really saw. That I really, truly understood.” She leaned back slightly and gave Pinkie an appraising look. “There are so many different kinds of beauty, I am finding--and I feel as though I’ve learned more about them with you over the last few days than I have in the last several years.”
“Oh, Rarity …”
“I hope to learn much more, too. If you would be amenable to teaching me, darling.”
“I think ...” Flustered, Pinkie giggled a bit. Her eyes shone with a hint of wetness. “I think that sounds super. Really, really super.”
Then, before either of them could say anything further, a voice shouted out, “Next stop, Ponyville! Ponyville, next stop!”
“Whazzat?” Snips bolted upright with a snort. “Wasn’t sleeping in class, Miss Cheerilee! Honest!”
The two mares glanced at the stallion then back to one another before both burst into giggles. The moment from earlier was gone, but Rarity found she didn’t mind so terribly much. There would be other moments, other opportunities. Of that she felt quite sure.
As soon as she stepped off the train, Rarity was tackled to the train platform by a blur of yellow fur and feathers. After taking a moment to gather her wits, she smiled gently and returned Fluttershy’s enthusiastic hug. One never received hugs like this in Canterlot, after all. It was best to take advantage of it while she could.
Meanwhile, Twilight Sparkle’s eyes went wide as Pinkie bounded off the train next. “So it’s true that you two--”
“That you decided to come to Rainbow’s surprise party,” Fluttershy interjected, shooting an indecipherable look in Twilight’s direction.
“Oh! Right!” Twilight began nodding energetically. “Yes! The surprise party. That. That is totally what I was referring to, yes.”
Rarity gave her two friends a penetrating stare. “Darlings, is everything all right? You’re both acting stranger than usual, no offense.”
While Fluttershy disentangled herself enough from Rarity to stand back up, the white unicorn studied her two friends. They looked much the same as they had the last time she’d visited town. Twilight had the exact same mane cut she’d had from the very first day she’d set hoof in Ponyville, which surprised Rarity not in the least, and the only real difference in her appearance from those bygone days was the pair of reading glasses that hung from a cord around her neck.
Fluttershy, for her part, had her long mane tied back in a loose, casual braid. Rarity suspected that the braid was due to equal parts developed confidence--negating the prior need to hide behind a lengthy, flowing mane--and a desire to keep the hair from her face as she went about her daily chores around the cottage.
Their little group was still incomplete, however. She wondered as to how Applejack and Rainbow Dash were looking these days and, as if she’d spoken that thought aloud, Pinkie piped up, “Hey, where are Dashie and Applejack?”
“They’re both at Sweet Apple Acres right now.” Fluttershy smiled and blushed a bit. “Applejack said she’d try to keep Rainbow Dash, um, occupied while we set up the surprise party.”
Pinkie’s eyes lit up. “Oh! So Dashie doesn’t even know that we’re in Ponyville? Then it’ll be an extra super duper surprise!”
Rarity tilted her head as she realized someone else was missing, too. “And where is dear little Spikey-Wikey?”
“Well, first of all, he’s not so little,” replied Twilight, with an amused chuckle. “He’s grown another two or three inches since you last saw him. And he stayed back at the library. I asked if he wanted to come to the station with Fluttershy and me, but …” She paused to sigh. “But he told me that he was, and I quote, ‘in mourning.’ Which is more than a little melodramatic, if you ask me.”
“Oh, dear. Is he quite all right?”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “He’ll be just fine. Trust me.”
“If you’re certain, Twilight … well, in that case, we’d best make the most of the time available, then, and get Pinkie’s party set up while Rainbow is otherwise engaged.” Rarity glanced over her shoulder and added, in a slightly imperious tone, “Snips! Aren’t you coming, darling?”
The other three ponies followed Rarity’s gaze, towards the open door on the train car, just as the unicorn stallion came stumbling out onto the platform. His steps were shaky and uncertain, as he was weighed down under a veritable mountain of luggage.
Twilight raised an eyebrow at Rarity, as the little quintet began walking away from the train tracks. “And just how long were you planning to stay in town?”
“Oh, just for the weekend. But you never know what outfit you might need or when. Best to be prepared, I always say.”
Pinkie nodded in agreement and replied, very seriously, “That’s why I always pack extra balloons and back-up supply of streamers whenever I go on a trip. Never know when you’re gonna encounter a party emergency!”
Twilight Sparkle blinked. “I … see? I think?”
As Twilight seemed to puzzle over the concept of a party emergency, Fluttershy quietly inquired, “Will you be staying at the cottage again, Rarity? I’m always happy to have you, you know.”
“Oh!” Rarity hadn’t given two thoughts as to her lodging arrangements, actually. The events of the last few days had taken up most of her attention. “That’s very kind of you, Fluttershy, but … well, you see …”
Pinkie quickly cut in. “But I kinda already asked Rarity to stay at Sugarcube Corner! ‘Cause, um, I was the one to invite her to Ponyville and all.”
Rarity looked over towards her pegasus friend with a worried expression. “Is that all right, darling? I know I’ve usually stayed with you ever since I sold the old boutique, and I’d hate to think I’ll offend you if I stay elsewhere.”
“Oh, no, that’s fine.” Fluttershy smiled softly, and her eyes sparkled with some emotion that Rarity couldn’t quite place. “Don’t worry, Rarity. I understand.”
The unicorn was tempted to ask just what it was that Fluttershy understood, but a side conversation that had started up between Twilight and Snips, regarding how well the young stallion had been adjusting to life in Canterlot, quickly distracted Rarity from that line of thought. Soon she was joining in on the conversation, praising Snips’ skills as an assistant and alternately giggling and rolling her eyes at Pinkie’s humorous little interjections, as they cheerfully ambled away from the train station.
“This … is totally awesome!”
Rainbow Dash stood in the center of Sugarcube Corner, which had been decorated to within an inch of its life with streamers every color under the sun, and wore as broad a grin as Rarity could remember ever seeing on her friend's face. With a little squeal of joy, Pinkie Pie bounded forward and threw herself at Rainbow, hugging the pegasus tightly.
“Were you surprised, Dashie? Oh, I hope so! ‘Cause you sure look surprised!”
“Yeah, definitely!” Dash chuckled before turning to Rarity. “Were you in on this, too?”
Rarity smiled. “No, I’m afraid not. I was mostly just along for the ride, you might say.” She used her magic to pick up a package from a nearby table and levitate it over to the pegasus. “This, however, is indeed my doing.”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes lit up. “I get presents, too? Ha! Best surprise party ever!”
Wiggling herself free from Pinkie’s embrace, Rainbow quickly took the package between her hooves and began tearing off the wrapping paper with her teeth. Rarity studied her athletic friend as she did so. Rainbow Dash’s hair was considerably shorter than it had been the last time they’d seen one another--it rather resembled that one Wonderbolt’s mane style, now that Rarity thought about it. What was that pony’s name? Sunfire? Spitfire?
“Look, guys, it’s a dress!” said Dash, holding up the garment and grinning a lopsided grin. “Never woulda guessed!”
Applejack let out a little snort of amusement. She was standing right beside Rainbow and looked exactly as she’d always looked--indeed, sometimes Rarity suspected that Applejack had been born with that beaten-up old Stetson atop her head.
Putting on a pout, the unicorn pretended to be offended. “Now, now, Rainbow. As a Wonderbolt, you surely attend many formal events and need to look your best, do you not?”
“Hey, you know I was just kiddin’, right? Seriously, Rarity, it’s a really awesome dress. Thanks bunches!”
“Think nothing of it, darling. I’m simply happy that you’re happy.”
From her position over by the refreshments table, Fluttershy spoke up. “Why don’t you go try it on, Rainbow? Um, if you want to, that is.”
“Yes, yes, please do!” Rarity nodded eagerly. “I’ve only seen how it looks on the mannequin thus far, but I think your beautiful coat coloring will look simply stunning against the dress’ fabric.”
The boastful pegasus didn’t need much encouragement, and soon she was trotting happily upstairs to use Pinkie’s loft apartment to change. As soon as Rainbow Dash had left, Applejack sauntered up to Rarity with a broad grin. “So, Rare! If’n all them Canterlot papers can be believed, then you’ve gone and--”
“Gone and made quite a name for yourself in the fashion world!” shouted Twilight, with a nervous giggle. She glanced over to the farm pony. “Isn’t that right, Applejack?”
Applejack frowned in evident confusion. “Uh, I reckon so?”
Something wasn’t right here. As unease curled up in her stomach, Rarity cut her eyes over to Pinkie Pie and raised a questioning eyebrow. But Pinkie just smiled at her and shrugged.
Rarity sighed as she turned back towards the others. “I trust that eventually all of you will explain just what is going on here?”
“Oh, yes,” Fluttershy replied in a reassuring tone, nodding.
“Explain?” blurted out Twilight, at the exact same time. “What’s there to explain?”
If Rarity’s eyebrow went any higher, it would be on the opposite side of her head. Abruptly, she whirled around so that she was face to face with Applejack, and she narrowed her eyes. “Applejack. You are the Element of Honesty. I know you’d never stoop so low as to lie to such an old and beloved friend as I am, now would you, darling?”
Applejack’s eyes went wide in panic. “I … I don’t right know what yer talkin’ about, Rare …”
There was a loud clop of hooves from above, and all of the ponies on the first floor of the bakery glanced up in time to see Rainbow Dash begin descending the stairs. She was a vision of gloriousness and grace in the dress, nigh utter perfection, as the chiffon swirled fetchingly around Rainbow’s legs with her every movement. Rarity felt a burst of pride and satisfaction as she saw how her dress enhanced the pegasus’ natural beauty.
Once she’d reached the main floor, Rainbow Dash grinned at all of her friends. “So what’d I miss? Did Pinkie and Rarity admit they’re fillyfriends yet?”
As the party wore on, they separated into smaller groups. By the bakery’s front windows sat Fluttershy with Twilight Sparkle. Fluttershy was speaking quietly but with great animation about some new experiment in horticulture, and Twilight was nodding at appropriate intervals. Snips had long ago disappeared somewhere or other with young Miss Twist. Rarity suspected that they were on a romantic moonlit stroll. At least, she hoped they were. Snips was a lovely and lovable stallion, for all his failings as an assistant, and he deserved a bit of happiness.
Meanwhile, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash were ten cookies into an eating contest, and Rarity was beginning to feel ill just looking at the two of them. She’d never fully understood how those two ponies could eat as much food as they did and never gain an ounce. Certainly, Rainbow had on her side the fact that she was a pegasus, and pegasus ponies were nearly hummingbirds in their metabolisms, and Pinkie never rested for a single moment while awake. Still, though.
Every so often, Pinkie would glance over and give Rarity a flirtatious wink, which did help quell the unicorn’s disgust at the proceedings--and also, much to her chagrin, caused her to blush. And for her own part, Dash would occasionally look up and grin at Applejack, who stood watching beside Rarity. The earth pony would simply shake her head, while grinning in return.
As she sipped cider from a mug, Applejack lazily asked, “Kinda gross, ain’t it? The whole eating contest business.”
Rarity nodded her agreement. “Indeed. Quite so.”
“Rainbow’s been stayin’ at the farm, y’know. Just over the last few days, that dang pegasus has nearly eaten us out o’ house and home.”
“I can’t say as I’m surprised.” Rarity smiled. “I’ve noticed an increase in my food expenses during the time that Pinkie has been in Canterlot, as well.”
Applejack chuckled heartily at that, before the two of them back fell into silence. It wasn’t like those silences at Canterlot social functions, where the silence was wielded as a weapon and cut to the bone. No, this was an entirely different sort of silence--easy, gentle, friendly. Not unlike Applejack herself, really. Rarity decided that she liked it.
“Hey, Rare?” The tentative note in Applejack’s voice caused the unicorn to glance over, and she saw that the farm pony was shuffling her hooves a bit. “I just wanted to let ya know … we were all real happy when we heard about you and Pinkie. Confused as the dickens, mind ya, but happy. We’ve been worried ‘bout ya.”
Rarity blinked in surprise. “Worried? Whatever for?”
Applejack gave a slight shrug. “Well, you’ve been surrounded by all them fancy city ponies for so long, and we weren’t real sure whether they appreciated ya the way we do. Whether they’d look after ya, y’know? But we knew Pinkie wouldn’t let nothin’ happen to ya--well, nothin’ that she didn’t cause herself.”
Rarity opened her mouth to protest the ridiculous idea that she needed looking after, but then she thought better of it. Sneaking a glance over towards Pinkie, who was laughing uproariously at something Rainbow Dash had just said or done, she replied, “I fended for myself fairly well, I should like to think. But I must admit that it’s been … a pleasant change of pace, having someone there to catch me when I take a fall.” She paused. “And it’s good to be back in Ponyville.”
“And it’s good to have ya home, sugar cube.” Applejack grinned, and there was a gleam in her eyes. “Even if ya are as much of a persnickety fuss-budget as ever.”
“I must say, my dear Applejack, that I find you just as stubborn and unconcerned with propriety as the day we met, as well.” She smiled warmly. “Don’t ever change, darling.”
“Heh. Wasn’t intendin’ to.” The farm pony’s grin faded slightly. “But seriously, though … you ever think about movin’ back?”
Rarity drew in her breath. That was a question she honestly wasn’t sure she was ready to answer. She’d felt a tremendous sense of ease and happiness ever since they’d stepped off the train, it was true, but years of work and effort and striving had been poured into building the life she had in Canterlot ...
“I mean, I ain’t tryin’ to pry. I just know that Rainbow’s been thinkin’ of coming back, and I figured--”
“Wait a moment, darling. Why in Equestria would Rainbow Dash …”
All of a sudden Applejack wouldn’t meet her eyes, and Rarity could swear she saw a hint of a blush on the farmer’s cheeks. And just like that, everything fell into place. In fact, Rarity couldn’t believe she hadn’t pieced it all together earlier. Why Pinkie had sent the telegram to Applejack. Why Rainbow was staying at the farm. Why Rainbow kept looking over at Applejack and grinning.
“I cannot believe it,” the unicorn breathed, her voice caught between a giggle and a gasp. “You and Rainbow Dash?”
“Not so loud! Besides, it ain’t nothin’ official-like. She ain’t promised me her hoof in marriage or anythin’, I mean.”
But Rarity couldn’t resist clopping her hooves together in glee. “Oh, this is wonderful, darling! Just splendid!” She threw her forelegs around Applejack, who whinnied in distress. “I’d given up hope for your romantic prospects ages ago, my dear Applejack, but Rainbow Dash may be the one pony even more hopeless than you are in that realm!”
“I’m gonna git you for this, Rarity,” Applejack muttered under her breath. “You just wait and see.”
Then, from across the room came a sudden squeal. “Dashie and Applejack are dating? Oh my gosh! We should totally throw them a party!”
“Aw, c’mon, AJ! I thought we weren’t gonna tell anypony ‘til apple bucking season was over!”
As Rarity pulled back from her hug, Applejack glared her very best glare. The unicorn chuckled apologetically and, after a beat or two of stern silence, Applejack softened and began chuckling too.
Author’s Notes: So here we are. I’ve written a story, where I’ve shipped Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Applejack … but not in their OTPs of RainbowPie and RariJack. I don’t even know what’s wrong with me, y’all.
Do I have to turn in my RainbowPie and RariJack shipper cards now?
I’m … I’m gonna go drink whatever it is that Rarity had at the Lucky Horseshoe …