Meanwhile, back at Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack did her best to conceal her enthusiasm. She paced about the barn. Not for the first time, she poked her head out the window to confirm that yes, nobody was around. With Big Macintosh off pulling stumps, and Applebloom off with her friends, and Granny Smith napping over in the farmhouse, there'd be nobody around to see her...dance lesson. And, sure enough, Rarity soon came trotting up the gravel road- and bless her hooves, she didn't even seem to mind the dust.
Just in case, Applejack scanned the skies, making sure Rainbow Dash or some other Pegasus pony wasn't playing voyeur. She'd never hear the end of it if Rainbow Dash (or Pinkie Pie, or...anypony, really) found out about these dance lessons. Thankfully, the skies were clear, with not a cloud (or a cloud-moving pegasus) in sight. Whew.
"Hey Rarity!" Applejack waved the unicorn over, "thanks for comin' all the way out here."
"I should be the one thanking you, Applejack." Rarity said as she trotted over. "Sure, it might be a mite more...rustic than what I'm used to, but an idyllic country getaway is just what I needed. All the way out here, there'll be nobody to bother me. Er, bother us, I mean."
"I just hope ya don't get too bored way out here."
"Oh," Rarity said, and pulled a record out of her saddlebags. "I'm sure we can think of something."
"Right." Twilight thought aloud. She reached forward to poke at the mannequin. "This...shouldn't be hard. I mean, it's just...applied geometry, for the design. And then making the suit's just a matter of structural engineering. Sort of. Oh! I know, I could put a little glamour on the fabric to make people like it better...yes! Perfect plan. Easy." She nodded to herself, confident in her plan of action.
The mannequin, however, remained bare.
"I just need to find the right pattern, that's all." Twilight nodded to herself, and then she glanced over at the various bolts and swatches of fabric beside Rarity's sewing table. Hesitantly, Twilight poked one with a hoof. Polka dots, maybe? Who didn't like polka dots?
"Oh good," said Prince Blueblood. "You're still here."
"Ah!" Twilight said, and spun around. Her horn glowed as she reflexively began a defensive spell, but forced herself to relax once she saw the Prince. The stallion just tossed his mane back, either ignoring or not realizing how close he'd come to being on the receiving end of a Prismatic Spray.
"I would like to make an apology."
"You would?" Twilight said, blinking. She shouldn't have been surprised- the day had already been weird enough. Maybe Prince Blueblood wasn't as bad as everyone said?
"Indeed. I have realized I've made a terrible mistake."
"Oh!" Twilight released a breath she didn't know she'd been holding, "You wouldn't believe how glad I am to hear that. Er, wait- that didn't come out right-"
"Think nothing of it." the Prince said. "The important part is fixing the problem."
"Right!" Twilight said, "we're both rational ponies- once we talk this out, we'll both have a good laugh about it-"
"Yes, yes," Prince Blueblood said, climbing up upon a small round platform. "I'm sure a...seamstress such as yourself will be able to take my measurements in no time at all."
"What." Twilight said.
"Oh, I know, a practiced eye such as yours should be able to discern my measurements at a glance, but I've a preference for a very...snug fit. Not to mention I believe I've lost a bit of weight recently, but that's neither here nor there."
Twilight twitched, if just a bit. "Uh. Right. Measurements." Thankfully, Rarity had left a measuring tape in plain view on her sewing table. Twilight wrapped one end around her hoof and walked over to Prince Blueblood, looking him over. Simple scientific observation, Twilight decided. That's all it was. The prince stood impassively still as Twilight stretched the measuring tape over his body. Somewhere, a little voice at the back of Twilight's mind noted that there was a certain thrill to be found in touching her hooves against the Prince's soft fur- and the firm musculature beneath. This little voice was soon shouted down by a far more practical one, which reminded Twilight Sparkle she had a job to do. She wracked her mind to remember where Rarity had measured her before: neck, shoulder, foreleg, waist, flank. Twilight marked each observation down on her paper, and finally took a step back.
"This should do it." Twilight said.
Prince Blueblood turned his head and peered at her. "Forgetting something?" he asked.
"You didn't measure my inseam."
Twilight's cheeks went red. "Oh. Um. Right. Ha ha. Silly me." She glanced over her shoulder at the door, then the windows...nobody else in the shop. Nobody walking by or peering in. No witnesses. She crouched down, carefully reaching beneath Prince Blueblood, stretching the tape upwards with one hoof. Just scientific observation, she told herself. And nobody would have to know-
"Cutie Mark Crusader dry-cleaners are go!" three fillies said in unison.
Twilight froze in horror.
Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Applebloom froze in confusion as they saw Twilight reaching beneath Prince Blueblood's undercarriage.
Prince Blueblood just kept his eyes on the mirror in front of him.
"Um. Hi girls?" Twilight said, dropping the measuring tape as she stood straight upright. "I wasn't expecting-"
Scootaloo managed to speak first. "We'reLeavingNowBye!" The little pegasus grabbed her two friends and dragged them out the door as fast as she could. Which was considerably fast, given that wings were involved.
"Wait!" Twilight said, desperately rushing to the door, "it's not what it looks like!"
"Don't forget to measure the inseam of my other leg!" Prince Blueblood said, not bothering to look away from his own reflection.
"...it's worse." Twilight's ears drooped.
Elsewhere, Spike shifted his stack of books so he could get a better look at Sugarcube Corner.
"You know," he said to himself, "Twilight didn't tell me not to buy a pie..."
"I swear, Applejack, keep up at this rate, and you'll wear me out before lunch!"
"Aaaaw, what's wrong? Can't keep up?"
"I shouldn't have to. While I do my best to keep my figure stylishly trim, I'm simply not as...statuesque as you are, Applejack. Besides," Rarity fussed with a lock of her mane, "a proper soiree would've gone at a far...slower pace."
"Proper soiree? We're in a barn, sugarcube."
"Yes, well. You could pretend." She huffed again, but smiled anyway. "In any case, as much as I love giving these dance lessons, I don't suppose I could trouble you for a bit of, ah...refreshment?"
"Well, I ain't sure iffin' this is fittin' for a proper soiree," Applejack managed to add at least three new syllables to the word 'soiree.' Possibly four. "-but it'll sure as heck getcha back on your hooves." Applejack rummaged around in a dark corner of the barn and pulled out a brown jug. The earth pony uncorked it with her teeth and poured herself a hearty (if unladylike) swig.
"Applejack," Rarity said, narrowing her eyes, "...why are there X's on the side?"
"'S just the bottle we used. Go on, try it!" Applejack said, and pushed the jug over towards Rarity. The unicorn took a dainty, experimental sniff- and then she gasped.
"There's alcohol in this!" Rarity said.
"Psh. 's just cider."
"It's not even noon yet!"
"Which is why I haven't drug out the whiskey. Ya do know I'm named after liquor, right?"
"Ah." Rarity bit at her lower lip for a moment, and then braved a sip of the cider. It was cool, sweet, and remarkably refreshing. "You know, that's not half bad."
"Dang right it ain't! Brewed it meself. Well, with a little help from Big Mac, but that big lug's more good for drinkin' cider than makin' it, iffin' ya ask me."
"How is your brother, anyway? I don't see him in town that often. Are he and the mailpony still...involved?" Rarity said with all the feigned casualness of someone in search of the juiciest gossip.
"I dunno. Ain't like I talk to 'im 'bout that stuff."
"But he's still gettin' up 'fore sunup ta get the mail every morning."
"Ain't none of my buisness. And ain't none of yours, either." Applejack said, and took the jug back from Rarity as she affixed her with a suspicious look, "Or have you been eyein' up my brother too? Bad enough that Rainbow Dash keeps on talkin'-"
"Oh! Far from it!" Rarity said, patting Applejack on the shoulder. "I'm sure MacIntosh is a lovely colt, but he's simply not my type. Too quiet, you know."
"He ain't that bad. He's just, uh...kinda like Twilight, I guess."
"He's an academic?"
"Aw, hay no. He's just quiet. He'd rather be out workin' the orchard than talkin' ta most folks. Sorta like how Twilight won't leave that library of hers 'til somepony drags 'er out, y'know?"
"Mmm, I see." Rarity sighed, then looked off in the general direction of Ponyville. "I do hope that Twilight's doing well. I'll have to make her something fabulous to thank her. Do you think she'd like a little black dress? Every girl needs a little black dress."
"I don't." Applejack said.
"You'd be surprised." Rarity smiled. "I think you'd look good in one-"
"Applejack!" Applebloom said, crashing through the barn door.
"Applejack!" said Scootaloo, crashing into Applebloom.
"Rarity?" said Sweetie Belle, crashing into Scootaloo.
Not missing a beat, Rarity discreetly pushed the cider jug behind a hay bale. "Girls!" the unicorn said, "What're you doing here? I thought you were going out cutie mark questing?"
"Crusading!" Scootaloo said, and climbed out from under Sweetie Belle.
"Yes, that." Rarity said.
"We were!" Applebloom shook hay dust out of her mane, "but then Sweetie Belle thought we should try being Cutie Mark Crusader dry cleaners, so we went by the boutique, but you weren't there!"
"Well, yes. I am allowed to visit my friend Applejack, aren't I?" Rarity said, "I don't see why you look so traumatized."
"But Twilight was there!" Sweetie Belle said.
"Ah yes, I asked her to watch the shop. I should've told you, but I didn't expect you to drop by-"
"With a boy!" Applebloom added on.
"Plenty of colts come by my boutique, Sweetie Belle. You know that."
"But it wasn't anyone I'd seen before! It was some big unicorn with a white coat." The little unicorn said.
"And fancypants hair." Applebloom added on.
"And he and Twilight were doing stuff." Scootaloo said.
Rarity's eye twiched. Repeatedly. "What...kind of stuff?" she said, very carefully.
"And just who's been tellin' you 'xactly what stuff is?" Applejack squinted at her little sister.
"Well, uh. Miss Cheerilee brought Fluttershy into school one day for a biology lesson..." Scootaloo began.
"We'reLeavingNowBye!" Applebloom and Sweetie Belle said in unison. They each grabbed hold of one of Scootaloo's legs, and took off with all the speed they could muster.
"Y'know," Applejack watched the dust trail recede into the distance, "sometimes I wish I were an only child."
"Did you...listen to them, Applejack?" Rarity said, pulling the cider jug out of its hiding place.
"Li'l bit. Half the time they talk so fast I can only catch every other word."
"They said...Twilight is doing stuff." Rarity took a less-than-ladylike gulp of the cider. And another. And another after that.
"They never said what stuff is."
"I think we both know what stuff is!"
"Yes! And who the certain unicorn is, too!" Rarity huffed.
"Oh, ya mean Price Blue-"
"DO NOT SAY HIS NAME." Rarity grabbed Applejack by the shoulders and shook her. Hard.
"-er, Whassisface?" Applejack said as soon as her eyes stopped spinning.
"Yes!" Rarity said. Her mad strength slipped away as she fell melodramatically back. "It all makes sense now! Twilight did all this on purpose! She probably invited him to Ponyville herself!"
"Why would she do that?"
"So she can seduce him!"
"What." Applejack deadpanned.
"Seduce him! With her feminine wiles!"
"I don't think Twilight's got any a' those."
"Oh, she does. I assure you. They're just not as obviously fabulous as mine."
"You've got feminine wiles?" Applejack said.
Rarity just gave her a Look.
"UH." Applejack said, "I mean...you've got...very nice ones?"
"Ah, thank you, Applejack." Rarity said, "But as I was saying, Twilight's got her own tricks- they're just more...underhooved than mine. All she has to do is play up the blushing bookworm, and then he'll just swoop in, and..."
"Then they're doing stuff. In my store! Probably even on my sewing table."
"So what if they are? Ya hate the jerk's guts anyway."
"IT IS A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE."
"Iffin' you say so."
"I do." Rarity said, and she took another pull from the cider jug. "Now, the proper course of action is obvious."
"Yeah, you're right." Applejack nodded, "we just need to sit tight, mebbe crack open 'nother jug a' cider-"
"-and then we're going back to Ponyville!" Rarity shattered the now-empty jug upon the ground. "And Celestia help anyone who gets in our way."