Rarity knew that she had a guest coming, so she did as much of her work as she could, setting up the next stage in an inspiration blitz, before he could arrive. She jumped when she heard the doorbell ring: she thought she had more time than this, and far from being ready, she was just a little sweaty and dirty from her efforts. Regardless, she could not keep her gentlepony caller waiting, so she put the cloth she was working with down so that it would not wrinkle, and quickly made her way to the door, slowing down to a normal speed for the final three steps. She cleared her throat, then opened the door.
All words failed her at the sight of the individual waiting for her. "Hi!" He said.
"Oh, hello. You're one of Sweetie Belle's friends, aren't you?" Rarity was a little annoyed, but she could also feel her stress slipping away at the absurdity her expectations had set up. And not for the first time.
"Button!" Sweetie Belle swept down the stairs and tackled the Earth Pony colt. "Hi!"
"Hi, Sweetie Belle. Can I come inside, or did you wanna go play at my place?"
"I'll be going out, so it might be better if your mother could watch you," Rarity said. "Just be sure to have Sweetie Belle back before dark, even if I'm not back yet."
"Roger that, Ma'am!" Button said, saluting.
"I'm not old enough to be a 'Ma'am' yet,"
"Alright, go and play."
"Just let me go get my bags," Sweetie Belle got off of Button Mash, and ran back up the stairs. The colt took the opportunity to recover his own hooves and dust himself off. "Okay, back, bye!" Sweetie Belle came sweeping back down the stairs and seemed to pick up and carry Button away with her. Rarity was left on her own front door, giggling to herself.
"Oh, I'd better get ready," the Unicorn said, and she turned to go inside.
Only her date had arrived. "Good morning, Miss Rarity," the statuesque Unicorn stallion said. Statuesque in stature, but not in personality, Rarity thought. The last few times she had seen him he had behaved rottenly, either to her or to her friends. But Prince Blueblood had promised that he would try to change. Now would be a good test to see if he had carried through on that promise -- partly because Rarity was a bit of a mess.
"Prince Blueblood, how nice to see you," Rarity winced slightly, since she was not giving off the best physical impression at the moment.
"It seems I've caught you a bit early, and unfortunately we haven't the luxury of time."
"One of Aunt Luna's plans, apparently. Are you okay with going out like that?"
"Then lets see what I can do, and please call me 'Blueblood' today." The Prince took his cape off of his shoulders, and using his magic, wrapped it around Rarity until she was covered completely. She could not see out of it, but she was beginning to get angry. She would have railed against Blueblood if he did not pull on the cloth, spinning her. When she came to a stop, she was clean and her hair was as she had made it at the Gala. "My memory's far from perfect, but will that do?"
Rarity strode to the nearest mirror and examined herself. "Quite," she said, retrieving an evening gown and slipping it on. She turned to see Blueblood still waiting beyond the threshold, so she came over to him. "Shall we?"
"Of course," Blueblood said, and they walked off together.
Because of her previous experiences with him, Rarity was watching Blueblood's actions with a careful, critical eye. They ate a quick breakfast at one of Ponyville's little restaurants, which surprised Rarity because she thought Blueblood might protest against eating with the 'common folk,' and then they took the train to Canterlot. During the train ride, Blueblood surprised Rarity again, by asking her questions about her personal preferences and about her work. He did not volunteer any information about himself, and he did not boast, which was even more impressive. So as they pulled into Canterlot, Rarity asked him what he was up to these days.
"Aunt Celestia and Shining Armour are giving me military training. I'm hoping to become an effective field commander, but I can't do that without the soldiers' trust. That's what the chess game taught me."
Rarity remembered the game: with ponies standing in for the pieces, Blueblood had faced off against Luna. The better the connection between commander and soldiers, the more quickly they responded to commands. Blueblood lost completely after Luna gained such an end in charisma over him that she was able to command her pieces in real-time. Blueblood had then made an effort to correct his mistake and catch up, but he had taken too long. Still, for the sake of those fighting for him, he refused to give up until the very end. That persistence had won him enough of his soldiers' admiration that Luna lost her real-time command in mid-move, and had to correct from over-reaching. It was impressive that Blueblood had not lost so completely that he had not taken any pieces. In fact, given that he had realized his error at all, it was impressive that he had recovered enough to have Luna on the defensive for a little while.
All of this reminded Rarity that Blueblood seemed to be honest in his attempt to change his attitude. She was glad to see that bearing out so far, but she was still angry at him for how he had treated her at the Gala, and felt that he deserved the defeat that Gearhead had given him then -- and another in the guise of Alicorn Prince Dusty during Hearthswarming Eve. Rarity wondered how their date would bear out now. Perhaps a visit to an art gallery or museum, an opera or theatre show, and a diner at Canterlot's finest establishment?
With these expectations, it was justifiable that Rarity was surprised when Blueblood brought her to a Museum of Pranks. They had a good chuckle together at all the artifacts on display from pranks that Princess Celestia and Luna had pulled on each other and on their castle staff. There was also a good selection of items and details on pranks that Starswirl had pulled in his day. Twilight would flip if she saw this, Rarity thought: she idolized Starswirl as a role model, but from the exhibit, it seemed he was closer in demeanor to Pinkie Pie than to Twilight herself.
After the museum, they did go to an art gallery, but Blueblood led Rarity to a wing housing more contemporary art. The pieces were by ponies from all over Equestria, including some from Ponyville. Because they were all displayed at the gallery equally, and because Blueblood seemed genuinely interested, it gave Rarity a feeling of warmth and gratitude.
At lunchtime they ate in the outdoor section at a restaurant that was small and out of the way, similar to the one at which they had had breakfast. The food did not look particularly spectacular, but it was delicious, and Blueblood did not hesitate to eat any of it.
After lunch, they went to see a show at a comedy club that was practically build behind the castle. Rarity was doubly surprised because half of the comics were ordinary Earth Ponies, while the other half were Unicorns who Rarity would have expected to see at the high-society gatherings at which she had taken part around the time of Twilight's birthday. Instead of making fun of each other, they made fun of themselves -- except in those cases when they teamed up as duos, and then most of the time it was the Earth Pony who played the Straight Man, and the Unicorn played the fool, although with the twist of it being a fool who thought he was being smart.
Rarity only remembered laughing so hard to Pinkie's jokes. Beside her, Blueblood showed no sign at all of holding back. It was as if he was competing to laugh louder than she was. "So the same Prince Blueblood who fussed about a little mud doesn't mind being uncouth enough to laugh at a joke?" Rarity asked him after the show.
"Am I the same?" Blueblood scratched his chin. "Maybe, maybe not. Just don't tell anypony: I have a reputation to uphold as a snooty member of the Canterlot elite class." From the word 'snooty,' he turned his nose up in a parody of Jet Set and Upper Crust, nose straight up in the air so he did not have a chance of seeing where he was going, and he turned his voice completely nasal. The previous comedy act had primed Rarity a bit too well: she could not possibly hold back her laughter.
After that, Blueblood chose a restaurant that specialized in food from the West Coast as their place for dinner. Rarity had to admit that not only had he been a gentlepony to her, and avoided going to all the places snooty ponies would go, but he had been fun and entertaining too, and all of this was a nice chance of pace for Rarity.
When Blueblood escorted Rarity all the way home to Carousel Boutique, it was well after nightfall, and they were both surprised to see that Button Mash and Sweetie Belle were sitting at the kitchen table, on their portable gaming terminals. "I wasn't expecting this," Rarity said.
"Was getting dark, so of course I walked her home," Button said in the somewhat choppy language of a gamer caught in his game. "We got back, but you weren't, so I couldn't leave her alone."
"Stayed and played," Sweetie Belle said helpfully.
"So I see," Rarity said, "and it's sweet of you to do that, but if you stay much longer I'm sure your mother will start to worry."
"Can't leave. Hard part," Button said.
"What are you playing, anyway?" Blueblood asked, coming up behind Button to see.
"Is that a pickax? Foals play games that emulate work and find it entertaining?" Blueblood blinked at Rarity, who shrugged.
"S'not work. Game,"
"So what's the point of it?"
"Collect resources, build house, get better stuff."
"And don't get killed by monsters," Sweetie Belle added. "Ah, Creeper -- run away, run away!"
"That tree thing on legs? Why is it hissing?"
"Oh brother," Button sighed. He'd been trying to get away, but he moved too late, and was caught in the explosion. Blueblood jumped back, startled, and watched as Button's character respawned.
"That was... unexpected."
"I hate when that happens: I lose all my stuff."
"If you can get it back quickly, I'll allow that before asking you to get your things together and going back home," Rarity said.
"I'll be quick," Button promised. With Blueblood watching, the colt really was quick. He even got back to the relative safety of his game character's house before shutting his terminal down.
"Thanks for today," Sweetie Belle said, and she pecked him on the cheek, provoking what Rarity thought was the cutest little blush. He managed a little incoherent mumbling as he walked out the door. Rarity was worried until she saw him walking straight in the direction of his house. Apparently the night air had knocked him sober. Sweetie Belle gave Rarity a hug, then she went upstairs to prepare for bed.
Rarity turned to Blueblood. "Thanks for today," she said, copying her little sister.
"Does that mean I get a kiss?"
"Well, since you were so good..."
Blueblood smiled, and Rarity gave him another reason to do so. As he left the house, he wasn't nearly so knocked for a loop as Button had been, but he still looked a little stunned at the day's success. Yes, Rarity would call it a success. It had been an excellent learning experience.