The soft tinkling of the front door bell prompted Rarity to look up from her desk. Spectacles perched on the tip of her nose, she put down the quill and got up to see who it was.
“Twilight, back so soon?” the pretty seamstress smiled as she caught sight of the sweater-vested librarian. “I said I’d get the dresses made promptly, but even I can’t work that quickly.”
“Oh no, I’m not here about that,” Twilight replied with a quick shake of her head. “I just wanted to see how you were doing.”
“Doing?” the young lady repeated curiously. “Why, I’m perfectly fine. I’ve already been toying around with ideas, so all I need to do is refine the details and the designs will be trés manifique. I daresay, they’ll put the previous Gala dresses I made to shame.”
Twilight didn't immediately respond. Rarity seemed to be doing fine. It had taken Twilight just ten minutes to clean up the mess left on her floor - what with the sticky mix of eggs, flour, and water battering up the hardwood - but Rarity had already changed into a new outfit and finished doing up her violet tresses into their usual, immaculately soft curls. All in all, Rarity looked the very picture of composure and stylish grace, as she always did. Looked, that is.
“So… you’re excited about it, then?” Twilight gently hinted. “The Gala, I mean.”
“Of course,” Rarity replied, still sounding confused at her friend’s question. “I’m always excited for new chances to showcase my work.”
“But not about the Gala itself or actually attending, are you?” Though meant as a question, Twilight finished it more as a statement than anything else. It took a moment for the meaning to sink in, but realization finally dawned in her fashionable friend’s sapphire eyes.
“I’m... afraid not,” Rarity sighed, the slightest hint of a sad smile playing on the edge of her lips as she leaned against the edge of her work station. “After spending the whole evening with – ugh – Prince Blueblood, I guess you could say I’ve been thoroughly disenchanted with the whole event.” Twilight winced in complete empathy.
“Ah, that bad, huh?” She’d never spent time with the noxious noble herself, but from Rarity’s and Applejack’s detailed expositions, to call him a boorish lout would be an insult to boorish louts everywhere.
“Let’s just say the Diamond Dogs made far better company than he,” the pretty seamstress finished dryly. “As such, the Gala no longer appeals to me as it once had.”
“But I thought you loved fancy events like this,” Twilight rejoined, now slightly perplexed and twirling her lone strand of pink hair as she wondered.
“And I still do! It’s just…” Rarity’s earnestness gave way to a weary groan. “That evening was supposed to be the night where I met my true love. Only, my 'true love' turned out to be as attractive as the back end of a bullfrog. Rather spoils the magic, wouldn’t you agree?"
“Yeah, I can see your point,” Twilight grimaced. “But still, you could always find someone else, couldn’t you? Another, um... true love, that is. After all, it doesn’t have to be a prince, right?”
“Not a prince, no,” the fashionista readily agreed. “But at this time, I’m starting to seriously consider whether looking for romance in the upper echelons of society is even worth the trouble.”
“Say what now?”
Rarity sighed again.
“Before I actually met Blueblood, I’d only really thought about status and appearance. I blame youthful naïveté, but the result is that I never really considered what else was needed to make a good man. As it turns out,” she frowned, “no amount of looks can make up for a horrible personality. I still do love society, make no mistake, but I’m afraid that many of the young men who occupy it share certain… similarities with the dear prince.”
“Oh, I get you,” the young scholar breathed in understanding. “So what you’re saying is that you think going to the Gala’s going to be a repeat of the night with Blueblood all over again.”
“Exactly," the dressmaker nodded as her friend’s words struck home. “After that night, I came to the painful realization that there’s a lot more to love than a prestigious title and a pretty face. Of course, a title would be lovely and looks are always important, but there has to be more to it than that. More substance.”
“And what exactly do you mean by ‘substance?’” Twilight asked since ‘substance’ was far from the most descriptive of descriptions. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who was confused, because Rarity’s response was little more than a half-hearted shrug.
“I wish I could tell you. I’ve been wondering that myself, but other than a few miscellaneous ideas, I really couldn’t say.”
“Well, do you want to share?” her bookish friend supportively smiled. “When I can’t get a hypothesis down on paper, I find it helps to talk it out. Sort of solidifies the idea, if you catch my drift.”
“I really wouldn’t want to bore you,” the blue-eyed beauty chuckled, a touch self-consciously as a faint flush came to her fair cheeks. “I mean, it’s just some of my idle daydreams and fancies. Hardly anything of real value, as it were.”
“Aw, come on,” Twilight grinned as she leaned in with a conspiratorial wink. “I may be an egghead, but even I enjoy a little girl gossip now and then. Spill the beans, Rarity; what’s your type?”
“Well…” the young lady began with a hesitant, but distinctly pleased smile, “First off, I’d like someone with some manners. It doesn’t have to be anything special, but at least addressing ladies as such or even ‘Miss’ is a given.”
“Obviously,” the scholarly girl chuckled as she brushed a strand of purple hair behind one ear. “What else?”
“A well-cultivated personality. It’s no good if a man has a pretty face with nothing behind it, now is there? He should be a man of experience, both well-traveled and well-read, and able to appreciate as well as discourse on matters of our common interest, like good literature, culture, philosophy, et cetera. Granted, that doesn’t mean he needs to be a chatterbox, but the ability to clearly give a coherent opinion would be greatly appreciated.”
“Um… okay,” Twilight responded, thrown slightly off by the last bit. For something that was supposed to be vague and unclear, her friend was being awfully specific and decidedly lucid in her descriptions. “What about looks? Anything specific you’re looking for?”
“Let me see,” Rarity murmured as she pursed her lips in thoughts. “Perhaps it’s because of Prince Blueblood, but I’m finding myself more partial to darker hair these days, a sort of reversal of opinions, perhaps. And of course, the man should be tall, reasonably well-built and handsome, but not prone to pickiness about his appearance.”
“Wait, seriously?” the puzzled librarian rejoined in perplexity. “I’d have thought for sure you’d want someone as into dressing up as you were.”
“As did I, and we both saw how well that turned out," the fashionista glumly muttered. "No, I’ve come to believe that a man should take care of his appearances in a general sense, but leave the details to women. After all,” she smirked, “it’s not like we can trust them to get the details right, now can we?”
“You can say that again,” Twilight giggled. “Spike still thinks that brushing his teeth any less than a full minute and forty five seconds is sufficient for proper oral hygiene. I mean, hello? Details, right?”
“Er… right,” Rarity smiled. “Anyway, it just seems like a good man shouldn’t be too bogged down by minor issues. Now that doesn’t mean he should be sloppy by any means, but rather more or less… impassive.”
“Impassive?” Twilight repeated, now thoroughly confused. “You mean like Tom?”
“I thought we agreed never to speak of that again,” Rarity hissed, then sighed as annoyance gave way to acquiescence,. “... But then again, I do suppose that’s a rather apt description.”
“So what you’re saying is that you want a guy who's... like a rock?” Twilight blinked, to which the pretty seamstress replied with an exasperated roll of the eyes.
“Well, if you’re going to put it that way, yes. I’m just saying that a man should be firmly rooted, not given to panic or worry about every little thing that doesn't go exactly as he intends. In a way, it is rather like a rock. Rain or shine, snow or storm, you can count on a good rock to be there because it's so reliable. Am I making any sense?”
“Actually… yeah,” Twilight nodded, surprised to find that she actually meant it. “Wow, Rarity, it looks like you actually put a lot of thought into this.” Rarity simply waved an airy hand and laughed.
“Oh please, it’s all just a jumble of random thoughts with no particular order and doubtfully any sense.”
Of that, Twilight wasn't so sure. Contrary to what Rarity might believe, her descriptions had actually been very descriptive. Downright specific even. After listening to her friend's list of preferences, the young scholar could basically piece together the exact kind of man Rarity was looking for: tall and handsome with dark hair, decently polite and intelligent, eloquent if not chatty with a shared taste in hobbies such as literature, and above all, strong and reliable. It was a description that Twilight couldn’t help but feel was far less disjointed than one might think. In fact, she had the distinct feeling that those traits came together in a very sensible way…
How could she have missed it? The description had made so much sense because it had fit a certain silver-eyed soldier down to a T. In fact, it fit so well that, frankly, she was quite surprised it had taken her so long to figure it out.
“So, these things you’ve mentioned,” Twilight began as she fought desperately to keep a broad grin from breaking out. “You don’t think you’ll meet someone like that at the Gala?” Rarity sighed yet again.
“Doubtfully. The various young socialites of the male persuasion I’ve met have a propensity to act like the good prince. But even outside the Canterlot elite, I doubt I’d ever meet someone who fit my preferences so closely.”
“Maybe,” the sweater-vested librarian agreed with a loud cough that disguised an uncontained snort of laughter. “Then again, maybe you’re going about this wrong.”
“Come again?” The pretty seamstress gave her friend an odd look, as she was the one who was now confused.
“All I’m saying is that maybe you’re thinking about this too hard.” The irony of giving out advice to others on overthinking was not lost on Twilight, but she tenaciously pressed on. “Instead of going to the Gala and expecting to find Mr. Right, why don’t you just… you know… bring one along?”
“You mean like a date?” Rarity asked with wide-eyed astonishment. Twilight, giving dating advice? Would wonders never cease?
“Sure, why not?” Twilight continued, now beginning to enjoy the conversation immensely. “If you wanted, I could write to the Princess and get another ticket. Shouldn’t be too hard.”
“No, it’s not that, though I do appreciate the thought,” her violet-haired friend replied. “It’s just the whole… date thing. Wouldn’t that be a bit forward?”
“It’s just a party,” the sensible girl grinned. “All you'd be doing is asking a guy to come along to keep you company, possibly dance a song or two, and help you enjoy the evening without stressing about finding your prince charming. Might give you a… a whole new perspective on things, you know?”
“I suppose it would be nice,” Rarity hesitantly agreed as she slowly began warming up to the idea. “But the question then becomes one of who should I take?
“How about Spike?” Twilight suggested. “I’m sure he’d love to be your date.”
“I’m sure he would, bless his chubby, little cheeks,” the dressmaker chuckled. “But young as he is, I somehow doubt he’d fit the bill for a companion to a high society event.”
“So, you’re looking for someone older right?”
“Of a reasonable age, yes.”
“Who could fit in at a Canterlot party, yes?”
“That would be ideal.”
“And one you could enjoy spending time with?”
“I should certainly hope so.”
“In that case,” Twilight continued, now unable to fully hide the wide smile on her face, “why don’t you ask Graves?”
“... Graves?” Rarity repeated slowly, the word passing her lips coming as a complete surprise, even to herself. “Are you serious?”
“Why not?" the bookworm brightly beamed. "You two obviously get along really well, which means that you’d have a great time together. We also know he’s been stationed in Canterlot before, so he’s bound to be more at home there than any other Ponyville boy. And besides, I'm sure he'd look really nice in some of your fancy clothes.”
The pretty seamstress pursed her lips in thought as the first, flickering ember of interest ignited in her sapphire eyes.
“I have been designing some formal wear for him... in my general line of men’s clothes. He’s my model, you see,” Rarity hastily amended. “In any case, it would be a ready fit, and I do want to draw some more attention to my expanded selection...”
“See? He’s perfect,” Twilight pressed, almost giggling in delight as she watched her fashionable friend’s reluctance crumble like a dry biscuit.
“But what about his work? He is supposed to protect Ponyville, and I’d hate to put him in an awkward situation where he’d have to abandon his post.”
“Oh, what could one night hurt?” the amethyst-eyed mage said with her own dismissive wave of the hand. “I’m sure he’d appreciate having some time off every now and then, don’t you think?”
Had Rarity been in a clearer state of mind, she would have immediately noticed that Twilight’s logic was completely inconsistent with her normally stickler-for-the-rules character. However, the pretty seamstress was not in a clearer state of mind. Right now, she was decidedly distracted because her mind was occupied by thoughts of the very unique proposition that lay before her.
An evening at the Grand Galloping Gala? With Graves? As a date?
“Well?” Twilight asked, her eyes shining with anticipation. “What do you think?”
After a moment's pause, Rarity looked up. Her eyes, which had been cloudy with thought just moments before now sparkled like sapphires as a small smile curled her lips and a faint flush warmed her fair cheeks.
“… Would you mind helping me close up? I believe I have an invitation to extend."