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Envy: it was hardly the most generous emotion. Rarity seethed with it whenever she looked at Fluttershy. Her good friend never had to try to be graceful, it just was so natural for her. Even her sneezes were dainty, for goodness’ sake! She would never admit it of course, but she envied her friend for that natural grace. Rarity had sought beauty and poise her whole life. Now that she thought about it, she supposed it was her way of rebelling against her parents. Yet every move her pegasus friend made was beautiful without conscious effort. Rarity huffed in agitation.
She had arrived at the spa early, of course; a lady never kept her company waiting. Fashionably late is for parties dear, not social arrangements with friends. Rarity smiled warmly at her friend as she approached the spa's entrance. "Darling, I am so very glad you could make it! When you said Angel had a cold earlier this week I was afraid the poor dear might be too ill for you to break away."
Fluttershy smiled back, and it was as if the sun shone only on her for a moment. She froze, staring at the beautiful sight. "Oh, he's fine now." Sweet Celestia, that smile is not fair.
"Splendid! No sense in waiting any longer, let's go in." Rarity glanced around the foyer as they entered. Interesting, they've been redecorating a bit. New bench in the waiting area, new carpet. Oh, I do like that carpet, the colors remind me of Twilight's mane. She nodded to Aloe and Lotus. "The usual please, darlings." They quickly adorned their two clients in their respective monogrammed robes and led them inside.
The trip began with a nice sit in the steam room. She luxuriated in the heat, reveling in the feeling of stress leaving her as she always did. She gazed at her friend, who smiled shyly back. Neither felt the need to speak at that moment. So Rarity let her mind wander a bit and soon enough she found herself thinking back. Given the vision of glory she had experienced when Fluttershy came in, it was only natural that she thought back to when she first realized how her feelings were developing. Ah, the fashion show! She was so beautiful that day...
"Guess it's time to see what all the fuss is about." The agitation in her voice was clear as Rarity moved her way into the crowd. She had been going out of her way not to watch other ponies fawning over Fluttershy as they had begun to do. Lately, she had been growing more and more angry with her ‘dear’ friend; after all, she managed to miss their spa appointment! For a photo shoot! Rarity had never let herself become so busy. Oh come now, really? You know she would have understood if you had missed one, surely you can afford her the same courtesy. Try not to be so blatantly jealous.
The audience grew quiet as the musical introduction began, but Rarity didn’t pay much attention yet; it always started a bit early. Instead, she looked around at the stage itself. Oh my, this is marvelous isn't it? I'll give Photo Finish credit. She may not know true fashion when she sees it, but she does know how to run a fashion show, or at the least how to hire the right ponies. I just wish she'd seen fit to use my designs, how can she not see how wonderful everypony would look in them?
She chided herself mentally, shaking herself out of the jealous funk. Now now, be fair, dear. She did see something in Fluttershy. Let's be brutally honest, there is a lot to admire about the mare. Still, why does it have to be her? Why not me? I work hard, I deserve this kind of attention! The lights focused on the stage. Jealous or not, her heart fairly leaped at how wonderful her friend looked on stage. Oh, it's starting! The lights, the cameras! Oh my, she looks... Why, she looks utterly gorgeous!
She smiled just a bit, Fluttershy looked so incredibly cute as she hesitantly walked down the runway. However, her smile quickly turned to a frown. Wait, something is horribly wrong! Is she having some kind of episode? Why is she moving like that? Murmurs of confusion were coming from the audience, as they all seemed to be thinking the same thing. Why is she on her head? Now she's sliding forward on her face by flapping her wings? Oh.Sweet Celestia. Did she just bray like a mule? She could not quite stop a small chuckle as she watched her normally graceful friend, of all ponies, picking her nose! Oh, this is priceless!
The murmurs were turning to outraged cries, the crowd was clamoring and complaining. About her. About Fluttershy. Poor, defenseless Fluttershy. "Oh no..." The crowd is turning on her, she looks so scared and alone up there! She began clopping her hooves on the floor in furious applause. "Bravo! I say, bravo!" Everypony stared at her like she was mad, but she cheered and cheered. Nopony is going to make my Fluttershy feel this way!
"Bravo! Bravo!" The crowd joined her, after a time and she smiled grimly. Crisis averted! But if that was the case, why did her friend look so sad?
"How are the new designs for the spring line coming, Rarity?" Fluttershy asked in her quiet, sweet way.
Rarity shook herself out of the vision. She had apparently drifted off a bit, enough to be noticed, so she laughed (a bit of a manic laugh, if she was frank with herself) to cover. "Oh, you know, well enough I suppose. I just need that little bit of inspiration to hit."
They were finished with the steam room now and were being led to receive mud masks and the “specials”; a horn filing for her and a nice preening for Fluttershy. To think, they resisted the idea of learning how to handle preening! Their clientele went up by twenty percent the day they added it to their list of services offered. The two sat in relative silence, only the occasional note of appreciation emitting from the others lips. Fluttershy always seemed so embarrassed to have her wings done, but in the privacy of the baths she had admitted it was nice to have them done by somepony else.
She wasn't certain what to do when she realized that her feelings were more than just envy. Maybe it was the way Fluttershy constantly hid behind her hair, as if it were a shield she could duck behind. Perhaps it was the hesitant way she always spoke. It might have even been the way Fluttershy could be devastatingly observant, yet simultaneously so very unwilling to express what she saw. Whatever it was, Rarity found that jealousy was not quite the emotion she was feeling about this mare. She didn’t feel jealous, nor was it quite envy. No, she wanted more than anything to possess her. Or to be possessed. The difference was a thin one, in her mind.
Next was a nice massage. Oh, yes! Right there! Now more to the left... YES! Oh Celestia! Thank the sun, the moon and the stars! That knot was driving me mad! Admiration was hardly a new emotion to her. She felt it whenever she looked at any of her friends in their own personal niche, or witnessed a piece of glorious inspiration, or saw a fine uncut gem. Aloe, you are a goddess! Now, more on the right... Her feelings for Fluttershy, however, went beyond admiration. She wanted to possess her, mold her, shape her. If she could shine so brightly in her natural state, what brilliance would result with polish? She recognized this was selfish of her as well. Fluttershy did not need shaping, certainly not her shaping. She was a wonderful and amazing pony just the way she was.
Rarity took off the robe for the moment. They were being led to the mud bath. It wouldn't do to get it anywhere near that. Think of the stains! They both shared a warm smile, getting ready for the immersion in the healing herbal mud. They settled into their mud bath, Rarity in her seaweed wrap, Fluttershy au naturale.
"We will come for you when it is time for your hoofbath," Aloe said as she was leaving.
"That will be fine dear, thank you," Rarity replied gratefully. She really appreciated how Aloe and Lotus let them just be alone together for a time. The spa date they kept every week had become her favorite day. With the exception of the intrusions by the sisters who ran the spa, Fluttershy was all hers. Although the intrusions were really more of a kindness, given how often they broke Rarity out of a dazed stupor, caught staring at the pegasus mare. None of the others particularly cared to pamper themselves on a regular basis. She encouraged Fluttershy to accept any and all of the services, paying for it all out of her own purse. Anything to spend more time with her.
Even so, she knew these emotions were hardly fitting for the very spirit of Generosity. It was so very selfish to want to keep that lovely mare for herself, even for a little while. And on this particular day it seemed she had forgotten herself and had spent too long gazing at Fluttershy. Again. She was daydreaming of what could be. She sometimes did the same when looking over a new bolt of fabric, thinking of all the potential in one piece of cloth.
"Rarity, is everything all right? You have a far-away look in your eyes," Fluttershy inquired, her voice soft and quiet.
Rarity smiled apologetically, trying to think of an excuse for her rude behavior; she really had been looking at her friend longer than was socially acceptable. "Terribly sorry, dear, just remembering a joke Pinkie told the other day."
Fluttershy gave her that smile, that accursed smile. Somehow it managed to convey shyness while also seeming proud in some little way, as if to say ‘I know I’m cute and I am very sorry about that’. "Oh, I see. Do you remember how it went?"
Rarity's laughter turned slightly nervous. "Ahahaha! Um, no, I just recall being amused." She thought quickly, scrambling for a lifeline. "I believe the punchline was something about... oatmeal?" She gave a nervous grin, hoping Fluttershy would not pursue the matter.
Fluttershy went back to relaxing in the mud. "That's nice."
Rarity winced again; such personal desires were hardly generous, or even ladylike. Do stop staring, dear. How will you explain it if she notices again? She lifted a couple of cucumber slices with her magic and laid them over her eyes, if only to prevent further faux pas.
Envy: it wasn't a very kind emotion. Fluttershy gazed at her friend as she lay back in the mud bath, eyes covered with cucumber slices. Not a care in the world, not now. Every time we come in, she manages to relax so much. I wish I was like her. At times she wondered if Rarity had any idea how lucky she was. She was so confident, so sure of what she wanted to do with her life.
Fluttershy had such trouble with confidence. When she tried to assert herself it always seemed to backfire on her. The Gala had shown her she did not do well with rejection.
“YOU'RE GOING TO LOVE ME!”
Iron Will had shown her how easily she could take being assertive too far.
"I can't believe that the two most frivolous ponies in Ponyville are trying to tell new Fluttershy how to live her life, when they are throwing their own lives away on pointless pursuits that nopony else gives a flying feather about!"
She winced at the memory. When she tried confidence, or anything really— She could never find a balance. It was all or nothing.
Fluttershy was certain Rarity would never spend a moment mooning over another pony she admired. Well, her prince maybe, but who doesn't have their idealistic ‘perfect somepony’? I know I do. Rarity would immediately ask the pony of her affections out, without a second thought. Fluttershy would probably squeak and run away. She dearly wished she could ask her friend for advice, but how to explain who the object of her affection was?
She sighed, shifting into a more comfortable position in the mud.
Rarity lifted one of the cucumber slices with her magic and peered at her. "Something the matter, dear?"
Fluttershy squeaked. "Oh no, just settling into the bath."
"It is lovely, is it not?" Rarity chuckled as she allowed the slice to cover her eye once more.
Fluttershy sighed again, looking at her friend admiringly. "It really is..."
"Do you really think it will work?" Fluttershy was so nervous their plan would fail, but she would do anything to end all this attention.
Twilight nodded. "They love you for being you. So all I have to do is make you not be you. Just leave it to me."
She stepped out into the blinding light. There were so many ponies and every single one was watching her. Watching her every move. She hated it, but she couldn't bear to disappoint Rarity by telling her so. She walked hesitantly onto the stage. That was when she felt the magic wrap around her.
Twilight’s magic made her flail wildly. She had no control over her own actions. She was having second thoughts at this point, but if this was what it took to end her modeling career she would do it.
Oh... my... They are really angry aren't they? Oh, I’ve disappointed everypony.
She tried to say something, but it came out as a bark instead. She felt perhaps she would just die of embarrassment right there on stage.
This was a mistake, Twilight, stop! Just stop. Oh, I'm so sorry everypony.
From the back of the room a sound rang out, louder than the cries of shock and anger. A single pony, clopping and shouting.
"Bravo! I say, Bravo!"
Rarity? What are you doing? You're applauding me?
"Such attitude, such pizazz! She's invented an entirely new kind of modeling! Bravo!"
The realization struck her hard. Oh, I am a horrible friend. I get the chance of a lifetime and try to throw it away. I must go on, for her! I must...
The audience's attitude quickly changed when they saw who was cheering her on. Soon the whole crowd was cheering along with Rarity.
I wish I had your confidence Rarity. It should have been you, you would have loved this. Oh dear...
The crowd only loved her more, they called her an innovator! Fluttershy's eyes had teared up in that moment. Her friend was there, supporting her, as she did all she could to throw her career away like so much trash. At that moment she was truly jealous of Rarity. Had it been her, she would not have shunned the attention, she would have reveled in it.
She had been so relieved to hear Rarity didn't want her to stay in fashion, but she still felt so guilty at times. If only she wasn't so uncomfortable in the spotlight. If only she had half the confidence her friend had. She looked at her friend with... affection? Yes, it was definitely affection. If only she had the courage to speak up. Before she could speak, they were led to the hoofbath. Rarity smiled at her as she eased in. She smiled back.
Oh, sweet Celestia, what was she going to do? She was falling in love with somepony and couldn’t even ask her best friend what to do. Because it was her best friend she was falling in love with! Life really was unkind at times...
She felt like a new mare as they left the spa, which is not to say she felt entirely pleased. After all, she had just spent another hour, alone, in the baths with Fluttershy. And even with all that time, even with utter privacy, she could not spit it out. Rarity sighed and continued to trot back to Carousel Boutique. Too nervous to confess to the shyest pony Equestria had ever known. Life certainly was not being generous with her today.