"Sweetie Belle, where are the postage stamps? Sweetie Belle!"
"Over here, sis!"
Rarity had been tempting fate for ages, and it finally bit back. She was working overtime ever since the fallout from the Friendship Journal's publication, eyelids baggy and stress lines running across her forehead. Sticking her tongue out, she grunted and scrunched her nose, preparing the finishing touches on her latest creation. The final product surely would've won awards at a fashion competition, but that wasn't the purpose behind her work. It was something far more important, which surely would've showed everypony the true Rarity.
Like everything else in this beautiful world, she had her reasons. As her sister placed the pink and blue postage stamps beside the sewing machine, Rarity kept squinting at the scarlet dress. Every couple of seconds, she reminded herself of Coco's measurements, ensuring that the dress would've been just right. However, what truly annoyed her most of all was the sewing machine's clacking. It was tolerable on most days, but this was no ordinary day.
A little flair might've brightened the mood, but desperate times called for desperate measures. And Rarity, as was the case for approximately four out of seven days of the week, was desperate.
"Rarity, are you sure you need to stitch an apology dress for Coco?" Sweetie Belle asked, tilting her head and shrugging. In a flash, her sister glanced behind her shoulder and narrowed her eyes. Sweetie Belle flinched; she feigned a giggle and continued, "She's always had your back since you became friends. I think she was one of the few ponies who'd gotten the journal that loved your entries."
"A seamstress does not skip an obligation, dear!" Rarity replied, forcing a giggle. She brought her attention back to the scarlet dress, which had been finished, and slouched over her desk. "If I'm going to show the world the real Rarity, I must send apology presents and cards to everypony I've wronged! Why else do you think I bought Applejack all those new gardening tools?"
Sweetie looked at the floor, pursing her lips as she swished her tail like a broom.
"Exactly!" Lifting the dress with her magic, Rarity placed it over a mannequin and scuttled away from her creation, studying it one last time. The dark red colors and stylized furls would've complimented Coco's body shape and coat, and the decorations that wrapped around the legs made it seem like it'd been designed for royalty. Furthermore, a pink flower attached just below the collar was the perfect accessory. Rarity was unable to help herself from squealing with delight, bouncing like a spring.
"This is perfect!" Rarity exclaimed, rushing toward the mannequin and stroking its smooth body. "Coco will surely appreciate this gift, and I can imagine her being the star of any formal occasion!" Widening her grin and giggling, she returned to the desk, looking away from her supplies and at Sweetie Belle. "Thank you so much for your help, dear!"
"I only got postage stamps and some thread." Sweetie arched an eyebrow. "But you're welcome, I guess. You should probably relax." She turned away from her sister and approached the stairs. "The last time I saw you looking this tired, you fell asleep on the desk and drooled all over that dumb fabric."
Rarity's cheeks felt warm and tingly; she giggled and waved her hoof across her chest. "Oh, Sweetie Belle. I'll most certainly rest for a few minutes, but then I have to figure out who I'm supposed to help out next." She raised her head and stroked her chin, a puzzled look adorning her face. "I know Lemon Hearts and Raindrops loathed my journal entries. Maybe I should focus on arranging gifts and apology cards for them. But what about the times before I began writing journal entries? Photo Finish could surely use a new—"
"Okay! Okay! You don't need to yell." Rarity watched as her sister ascended the staircase, likely to get a snack or practice one of her songs. Moments later, however, she then resumed thinking about her next plan. The greatest apology giveaway known to ponies was almost complete, more successful than she could've imagined, and all that remained were a few ponies.
However, Rarity felt that she was forgetting something. She'd asked a few ponies for help for some things, yet as she tried scavenging through her memories, the most she recalled were asking Rainbow Dash and Applejack about two different incidents, both of which might've required uniquely generous deeds and gifts. Was she as tired as Sweetie implied, or had she been a little too focused on sewing Coco's dress? A little forgetfulness wasn't new for Rarity depending on the context. Fashion was the exception to that rule, as forgetting anything about it was the worst, most unforgivable sort of crime she could've committed.
Of course, there was one day where she'd thrown all conventions about fashion out the window.
Without warning, the front door burst open, and a light blue pegasus swooped inside. A rainbow-colored trail followed her every move, disappearing less than a second later. Rarity shrieked, eyes widened and the hairs on her coat standing up. Her heart skipped a beat, yet as she gazed into Rainbow Dash's eyes, the tension gripping her muscles dissipated.
"Don't surprise me like that!" Rarity scolded, trotting up to Rainbow Dash, the ends of her mouth tightening her cheeks as she frowned. Her friend donned a cocky grin and chuckled. Groaning, Rarity rolled her eyes and said, "You should enter with more grace and poise, darling. I'm sure all of your friends would appreciate a little less recklessness."
"Hey, I know where I'm going," Rainbow Dash said, landing on all fours and donning a slight smirk. Her cheeks tightened, and she rubbed the back of her head. "But you were the one who invited me over to Carousel Boutique. You said that we'd meet on Tuesday at noon, and it's Tuesday at noon!" She hopped over to the fashionista, stopping on a dime when they were inches apart. "You wanted to help the Wonderbolts, right?"
A chill coursed through Rarity's spine; her cheeks turned pale. Now she remembered why she'd arranged the meeting with Rainbow Dash, plus the incident that she would've rather forgotten. Strangely, she had never apologized to the Wonderbolts for knocking them out during the Best Young Flyers Competition. She recalled Spitfire and Misty Fly being rather embarrassed, whereas Soarin was more confused than anything. However, as was the case with all of her apologies, something generous needed to have been done.
But what could she have done for the Wonderbolts? The most she knew about the team was their unity, as she'd experienced while investigating Wind Rider's chicanery. That was generosity at work, but Rarity knew she needed something substantive. Only the most generous actions could've sufficed, and making another dress seemed like a waste of time. Those flight suits of theirs were plenty stylish enough.
One option triumphed above all; any proper lady would've done the same thing.
"How can I help the Wonderbolts, darling?" Rarity asked, suppressing a giggle. "There's so many ways I could share my generosity with them, I'm not sure where to even begin. You know a lot more about them, being a Wonderbolt and all, and sitting around and doing nothing is unforgivable!"
Rainbow Dash tapped the floor, clacks echoing throughout the room. "Let's see," she murmured. "They might have something, but I'm not totally positive." She then tilted her head and shook her wings. "I've gotta ask, but why do you need to force your generosity?"
"It's for an apology, dear." Rarity approached Rainbow Dash with long, graceful strides. She twiddled her mane and gazed into her friend's eyes. "One cannot force generosity without looking like a fraud, and I am no fraud."
"Duh, but are you sure this is gonna work?" Rainbow Dash leaned back and stretched her wings, some of the feathers rubbing against Rarity's barrel. "The Wonderbolts are definitely gonna appreciate your help, but that doesn't mean you've gotta be generous all the time. You've totally got admirers, even after that journal brought out the lameness of some ponies. You've just gotta focus on how awesome you are!"
"And this is how I choose to express my personality." Standing tall and raising her head, Rarity assumed a slight smirk. "Since you said that the Wonderbolts will appreciate my generosity, my decision has already been made. Even if we don't become friends, it's that one act that'll brighten up their day, possibly making up for my wrongs."
"Try not to do anything stupid. They so don't like that." Feigning a laugh, Rainbow Dash leaned closer to Rarity and sported that smug smile a second time. "Also, you're probably gonna be getting your hooves dirty."
Chuckling, Rarity touched her chest, eyes half-lidded. "Darling, it shouldn't be too much of a hassle. Whatever chores or duties Wonderbolt HQ requires, I'll gladly perform with a smile on my face. Just fly me over there, but not too fast, and everything will turn out marvelously!"
Sighing, Rainbow Dash turned to face Rarity and motioned toward the fashionista. "They aren't gonna be at HQ forever, and the longer we spend going back and forth about why you're acting—" she leaned her head back and shrugged "—kinda weird, the more you'll be working."
"I assure you, it shouldn't be too much of a hassle." Rarity widened her smile and, with a skip in her step, descended the stairs. "I'll have whatever the Wonderbolts need help with finished as soon as possible, and then I'll give them a long overdue apology. Let's not waste any more time."
Unfortunately, things were never that simple. After all, assignments and the like always took longer to complete than anticipated. Rarity wasn't sure what she would be doing for the Wonderbolts, likely something involving their exercise equipment or critiquing their stunts, but it shouldn't drive her crazy. Anything else wouldn't have made sense.
But when was the last time something made sense?
Rarity was never particularly fond of heights, whether flying or on the ground. Everything about the last time she'd sprouted wings and almost slammed into the earth rushed back into her memories. It partly explained why wrapping her forelegs around Rainbow Dash's barrel, closing her eyes as the mare sped toward Wonderbolt HQ, made her queasy in a matter of seconds. Luckily, the part where she clung onto her friend, screamed at the top of her lungs, and felt the wind brushing against her mane was over. Generosity was right around the corner.
Something about Wonderbolt HQ gave it plenty of charm, even if Rarity couldn't place her tongue on it. Maybe it was the classical architecture that blended seamlessly with the clouds, or maybe the dew-covered grass and flowers that surrounded the runway. Everything about the location was as clean as possible, save for the couple of trash bins stuffed with wrappers and other waste. Otherwise, Rarity felt a little jealous about how Carousel Boutique wasn't as clean, curious as to how they managed such a feat.
"Captain Spitfire should be outside," Rainbow Dash said, stretching her wings and then closing them. Taking a deep breath, she glanced behind her shoulder, making eye contact with her friend. "If she's somewhere else and you're gonna check the buildings, knock first."
Rarity nodded in an instant. "Of course, darling," she said. "One must always behave politely."
Turning to her right, Rarity then spotted a mare with a fiery mane. The two-tone colors identified the pony as Spitfire, and her skintight uniform shone in the sunlight. A slight smile ran across her face as she focused on a thick book. Some of the other Wonderbolts mingled with each other as they grinned and laughed, clapping their hooves and then taking to the sky. Their camaraderie was palpable, which was funny given Rainbow Dash's journal entry about the tryouts for the Equestria Games.
Then again, learning from one's mistakes was a part of life, something Rarity knew all too well.
"Hey, Spitfire!" Rainbow Dash called out, standing on her hind legs and waving her hoof. Even after becoming a Wonderbolt, she was full of energy whenever members of the esteemed aerobatics team were nearby. "Can you come over here?"
Rarity snickered, finding her friend's antics cute. "There's no need to yell."
Spitfire raised her head, eyes half-lidded, and smirked. Closing the book she'd been reading and clenching it between her wing and side, she made her way toward Rainbow Dash and Rarity. The Wonderbolt swished her tail, and her casual stride was graceful to where Rarity thought she was at a fashion show. Maybe it was because she found Spitfire attractive; she wouldn't have been the first pony who'd earned such a compliment.
"Hey, Rainbow Dash," Spitfire said, her tone soft and smooth. It felt surreal not hearing the Wonderbolt shouting with a raspy voice, but that might've been because there was no need for such conduct. "I see you've brought one of your friends. Normally, I'd chew you out for not clearing it with me, but—"
"Oh," Rainbow Dash murmured, her cheeks becoming a rosy color. Straightening her posture, she then stretched her wings and saluted the captain. "Sorry, ma'am!"
"I was going to say that I'm less strict about that rule whenever your close friends visit." Spitfire widened her smile, and she turned to face Rarity. The two made eye contact, Rarity managing to stay calm despite her chest tightening. "Speaking of which, I wasn't expecting to see you. How's the boutique?"
Rarity raised an eyebrow; she wasn't expecting Spitfire to have been so casual, but life was full of surprises. Clearing her throat, she gently waved her hoof and wore a fake smile. "My boutiques are all doing marvelously. I've opened a third in Manehattan, and the ones in Ponyville and Canterlot are thriving as usual." She pointed at Spitfire's chest. "I've heard the Wonderbolts have improved immensely ever since you reorganized things, or at least that's what Rainbow Dash tells me."
"Yeah, that's what a lot of ponies have been telling me. It's more of a team effort, however." Spitfire ruffled her wings and bent one of her forelegs. "I know why Rainbow Dash is here, but how come you're tagging along? Somepony would've told me if a dress or suit was coming."
"Actually, I'm not delivering anything." Rarity bit her lip and tittered, cheeks puffed while she fiddled with her mane. "For starters, I wanted to make an overdue apology for knocking you and two of your friends out cold during the Best Young Flyers Competition. That was most irresponsible." She took a deep breath, licking her lips. "The same goes for any other incidents I may have caused."
"That was long ago, and besides, you've already proven countless times that you're a good pony at heart." Spitfire walked up to Rarity, stretching her foreleg and poking the latter's chest. "We all make mistakes, and that's something we can't avoid. However, we can learn from them."
"Oh my gosh!" Rainbow Dash cried out, pressing her cheeks. "That's what I told you!"
"Yeah, you taught me that lesson." Spitfire chuckled, wiping her forehead. "Anyway, don't think you're a bad pony just because something went wrong. I've always doubted myself, usually because of messing up, but my friends will always have my back. I guess it's probably the same for you."
"That's the magic of friendship, darling." Rarity stretched her muscles, took a deep breath, and raised her head. "Anyway, I wanted to do something for the Wonderbolts. After everything we've gone through, it's only fair that I share my generosity." Looking around the area, she noticed nothing obvious that could've benefited from her special talents, and redecorating Wonderbolt HQ into something resembling her tastes would've been offensive. She might've loved tinkering with aesthetics, but there was a time and place for everything.
"There is something we could use a little help on, but we're not sure you'd like it," Spitfire said, donning a neutral expression. "If you don't mind getting your hooves dirty and doing something most ponies would love to avoid, you're more than welcome to help out. Otherwise, I can't think of anything else."
"I'll help out with anything you need, darling!" Rarity clenched her teeth, sweat dripping down her forehead. While generosity sometimes had its drawbacks, the way Spitfire introduced the potential problem sounded like it'd involve handling garbage or sweeping, neither of which she enjoyed for one reason or another. If she had a choice, it would've been the latter by a mile.
"Don't say nopony warned you." Spitfire puffed her chest out and took a deep breath, then stretched her wings. "Most of the trash bins throughout Wonderbolt HQ are full, and there's a dumpster at the back that collects all the waste and sends it to the local waste management plant. Since we'll be practicing for our next show in a couple of minutes, it'd really simplify things if that was taken care of right away. We'd normally do it together once practice is over, but it can get in the way of more important things."
"Lovely," Rarity muttered, wincing at the thought of handling bags full of putrid garbage. While she could've used her magic for most of the assignment, touching the trash bags or its contents was possible. Handling the recyclables would've been easy, but all other waste made her stomach churn at the thought. Her cheeks turned a hot pink.
"Hey, we can do it if you'd rather not." Spitfire stroked her chin and pursed her lips. She then fiddled with her goggles and cracked a smile. "You've already helped us when it came to that mess with Wind Rider, so don't feel like you owe us or anything."
"Nonsense, darling! As much as I may not like it, I'll help with the trash bins!" Rarity raised her hoof a little and stood tall. "Sometimes, being generous means doing something you may not like, but the end results are more than worth the effort. I wish you good luck in your drills, everypony."
"Same here, Rarity," Rainbow Dash replied, rubbing her friend's shoulder and giving her a confident look. The light blue pegasus flapped her wings and hovered in the air. "I'm gonna get dressed for practice. Don't think we'll finish up before you're done, but you never know." Giving Spitfire another salute, Rainbow Dash flew toward the dressing room, opening the door and gliding inside.
"Guess I should get ready, too," Spitfire said, turning away from Rarity and shaking her wings. She looked behind her shoulder and at the mare. "Feel free to let anypony know if you need help, and we'll do everything we can as soon as possible. Before you get started, do you have any questions you'd like to ask?"
Rarity's eyes focused on Spitfire's flank, her lips curled into a faint smirk. Twitching, she then assumed eye contact with the mare and shook her head, cheeks flushed. "I'm fine, darling. Sorry, I was lost in thought for a second. I'll have no trouble with the job."
Nodding, Spitfire widened her smirk and donned her goggles. "Alright, and I wish you good luck. There are twenty bins in total, some of them inside the different buildings. Get a map of the premises if you're lost, but it shouldn't take you too long."
A gust of wind brushed against Rarity's face as the Wonderbolt flew away, soon becoming a speck in the sky. Once everything became quiet again, Rarity rubbed her temple and readjusted her mane, watching all the Wonderbolts huddling together. However, while she would've loved watching the team's artistic talent and complex maneuvers, there was a job that needed her attention.
That job would've been the worst possible thing in most cases, something she only imagined herself doing if the fate of Equestria or her image depended on it. Fulfilling her duty as being generous toward ponies she'd wronged would've been easier than the norm. However, that only made her more determined to have succeeded at such a straightforward task.
Spotting the nearest trash bin, Rarity jogged over to it, lifting the bag with her magic. A putrid stench filled the air, the unicorn scrunching her nose and cringing as the smell intensified. Furthermore, the dumpster wasn't exactly nearby, and there were a few more trash bins that needed collecting along the way.
"What have I gotten myself into?" Rarity whispered under her breath. She tried pondering how it would've solidified her as the kind, generous pony that defined her character. Yet as she marched toward the dumpster and collected bags of trash along the way, she wondered if all this would've accomplished was coming off as somepony who never showered.
Having collected four bags of trash, three of which held recyclables, Rarity arrived at the series of labeled dumpsters. Her ears twitched as she heard whooshing sounds, undoubtedly the Wonderbolts beginning their practice sessions. Taking a deep breath, Rarity tossed the bags of recyclables into their respective dumpster without too much trouble.
However, as Rarity tried lifting the bag of general waste, it sagged to the point where it seemed close to breaking. Wincing, she rubbed her nose and nudged closer to the correct dumpster. She tossed the trash bag, yet it somehow missed the dumpster and crashed onto the ground.
Grumbling, Rarity tried tossing the bag. It went higher than before and reached the top, but rolled out of its proper home and back onto the earth. She gnashed her teeth, her blood boiling as she tried a third time, but that was an even more pathetic attempt than the last one.
Landing on the ground a third time, Rarity noticed a gaping hole running along the trash bag. Apple cores, pie crumbs, and all manner of disgusting garbage were spewed out of the bag as though it was regurgitating them. The stench it emitted became stronger by the second.
Rarity gasped, her heart skipping a beat as she saw the trash tarnishing the grass. Hyperventilating, she shoved as much as possible back into the broken bag, yet a few apple cores and banana peels kept spilling out. Hearing another whoosh, Rarity bit her lip and pressed her hooves against the garbage, forcing the rest back inside the bag. She held her breath and willed the broken bag into the dumpster, getting the trash to its rightful place.
Sixteen more garbage bins were scattered throughout Wonderbolt HQ.
Today was going to be one of those days.
Aside from the final bin, Rarity hoped that she never saw another one for weeks. The process of gathering and tossing the bags was monotonous, straightforward, and about as far from her special talents as possible. Nevertheless, Rarity smiled at knowing she was almost done, and the last bin just so happened to have been close to the runway. Its array of colors meant that it was likely the one Rainbow Dash fell into during her first day as a Wonderbolt, the writing on its side oddly belonging to the mare in question. Rarity recognized her friend's sloppy calligraphy from anywhere.
Approaching the trash bin next to the cafeteria, which was unfortunately one dedicated to general waste, Rarity repeated the usual process of pulling the trash bag with her magic. However, lifting the bag proved to have been like getting a couch through a doorway. No matter how many times she tried, the bag refused leaving the bin like a foal who loathed school.
Rarity groaned, rolling her eyes. "Not again," she muttered under her breath. Using her magic, she tried fiddling with the bag, yet all that accomplished was making the bluish aura enveloping her horn brighter. She ceased casting her spell, then trotted up to the trash bin and pouted. "How unfortunate that I'm cursed with yet another finicky trash bag." Her coat felt tingly, and she prepared for another round of melodrama. But given that she wasn't home, Rarity merely gulped and shuddered, resuming her efforts.
Arching an eyebrow, Rarity glanced to her right and noticed Spitfire, Fleetfoot, and Misty Fly standing a couple of steps away. All three of them were panting heavily, sweat dripping down their bodies, and Spitfire stuck her tongue out while Fleetfoot began talking about suggestions for their next formation. Rarity had no idea what their jargon meant, but just seeing them tickled her coat.
The Wonderbolts were more than attractive in those skintight suits; they looked downright marvelous. Form and function blended seamlessly with those sleek designs, and they complemented the ponies who wore them without any trouble. Why Rarity had dismissed those suits as nothing impressive at first made less sense as she watched the three mares catching their breath. Her cheeks felt warm and oddly sticky as she kept staring at the trio. She leaned a little to her left, hoping to get a better look at the ponies.
For reasons unbeknownst to Rarity, the ground felt damp. It was like the landscape had changed in a heartbeat, even if its appearance was the same. Glancing down, she noticed that the trash bag's contents on the ground, part of the torn bag clinging to her horn.
As was customary, Rarity shrieked and pranced in place, closing her eyes as she tried swiping the torn bag off her horn. No longer feeling the material rubbing against her scalp, she opened her eyes and frantically looked around for any way she could've cleaned her hooves.
That all required speeding into the Wonderbolts' cafeteria, which surely would've had bathrooms and sinks, unless the architect decided on doing things outside of the norm. Would nopony have batted an eye if she used them? Using Rainbow Dash as an asset might've worked, but she dreaded the thought of looking rude and proving her naysayers right. That was by far the worst outcome.
All she could've done was remove the garbage that clung to her hoof and scream at the top of her lungs, but mostly the second one.
"Rarity, calm down!" Spitfire barked, her raspy tone noticeable. "It's just trash! There's nothing to worry about!"
Taking a deep breath, Rarity collapsed onto the ground, watching as Spitfire, Soarin, Fleetfoot, Misty Fly, and Rainbow Dash all huddled around her with concerned looks. However, Rainbow Dash then arched an eyebrow and stifled a giggle, but immediately stopped once Misty Fly scowled at her and nudged the former's shoulder. Everything became silent, Rarity blinking a couple of times.
Couldn't have a day of stressful work without some melodrama. It was one of the unwritten rules of Rarity.
"You okay, Rarity?" Rainbow Dash asked, leaning closer to her friend.
Rarity nodded in an instant, catching her breath. "I've been better," she admitted, cheeks flushed. "I sincerely apologize for the theatrics earlier. You know I cannot stand garbage getting all over my hooves, but I was warned about the task at hoof."
"Could've been worse," Soarin said, forcing a slight smile. "Our breaks usually aren't this—" he ruffled his feathers, tapping the ground for a moment "—loud, but the good news is that you'll be fine. Just wash up and we can take care of the rest."
"How many trash bins had you cleared?" Spitfire asked, tilting her head.
Rarity sported the slightest of smiles. "All but this one."
"We'll get everything cleaned up, and you can relax for the rest of the day." Nodding, Spitfire assumed a warm smile, stretching her foreleg and pulling Rarity upright. "We appreciate the generosity, but don't feel like you have to do things you'd rather avoid. We'll understand if something's too much for you."
Chortling, Rarity shrugged and wore a sheepish look. "I'll be sure to keep that in mind for the future, darling."
"Gotta start somewhere," Fleetfoot replied, snickering and touching her lips. "Maybe tone down the theatrics for next time."
Rainbow Dash cocked her head. "You totally don't know my friend that well, huh?"
"This is actually mild in the grand scheme of things," Rarity added. She shook her tail and dusted off one of her shoulders, pursing her lips for a moment. "However, my mild may be your extreme, so please keep that in mind. I sincerely apologize for my overreaction."
"Apology accepted," Spitfire replied, nodding and widening her smile. "We're just glad you're okay."
"Me too." Rarity feigned a chuckle as she raised the torn bag, ensuring that nothing spilled onto the ground. "I'll continue my generous pursuits, but I'll perform them with delicacy instead of recklessness. Maybe a little rest wouldn't hurt before helping out again."
Even if the day hadn't gone as she envisioned, Rarity nonetheless wore a bright grin. She might've represented the Element of Generosity, but that never meant she couldn't have learned something about generosity. If anything, she finally had the perfect counterargument for any naysayers who'd read the Friendship Journal, and imagining their gaping mouths upon hearing the news warmed her heart. Furthermore, her fellow ponies were happy, and that was the most important part of them all.