Three Gems and a Scooter

by RaylanKrios

Which is it?

Thanks to Rarity’s lullaby, Scootaloo quickly fell into a deep slumber. Even so Rarity remained in the room long after it was clear that the orange filly was temporarily at peace. As she watched Scootaloo sleep, she recalled the last time she had stood in this very room watching a different little filly sleep soundly.

It had been a few years ago and Sweetie Belle was staying over for the first time since she had moved out of her parents house.  Their parents had gone on a cruise and Sweetie Belle was overly excited about spending an entire week with her favorite big sister.  Naturally, as soon as she unpacked she came down with a terrible case of colic.  It was fairly manageable during the day, but the persistent cough and chest ache had left Sweetie Belle unable to sleep for more than a few hours at a time.

Sweetie had done her best to put on a brave face, but Rarity winced emphatically every time Sweetie was overcome by another coughing fit that left her writhing in pain.  Eventually after many applications of vapor rub and honey sweetened tea, Sweetie Belle had drifted off to sleep but Rarity had spent that entire night watching over her sister in a sort of vigil, as though her presence could ward off further suffering.

And here she was again, standing guard under the delusion that her mere presence meant something to an unconscious filly.  Eventually she realized that the only thing that was accomplished by her standing at the foot of Scootaloo’s bed was that she would be tired tomorrow, so she pulled a blanket up over the filly’s shoulders and went to her own room to try and salvage what little sleep she could.

The next morning Rarity poured herself an extra large cup of coffee with a double shot of espresso, but even that wasn’t enough to completely nullify the effect of her restless night.  As she haphazardly prepared some cereal, she took note of Scootaloo coming down the stairs.

The orange filly looked fine, as far as she could tell, and for better or worse she didn’t mention anything about last night’s episode.  She did however opt to greet Rarity with a very quiet “Hi” as she reached for her bowl of cereal.

Breakfast was quiet again and Rarity was beginning to think that mealtimes with Scootaloo were unlikely to ever produce the connection she was hoping for, but Scootaloo didn’t seem troubled. Maybe it was just her imagination, but Rarity could swear that the little filly seemed slightly more at home.

Sweetie Belle again came to walk with Scootaloo to school, and after doing the dishes, Rarity was relieved to find herself alone in her dress shop as though it was just another day as Ponyville’s resident fashionista.

She spent the morning working on the preliminary designs for her new winter line. It was early in the fall which was normally a quiet time for her business. The galas and events of Hearths Warming and New Years were too far away for most ponies to think about, and most couples planning on getting married had done so already.  There were the occasional back-to-school dresses or Running of the Leaves accessories that some ponies ordered, but for the most part, her revenue came from her off the rack selection, which she needed customers physically in her store in order to sell.

So when she heard the bell above the front entrance chime, she put on a big smile and bounded into the showroom. “Welcome to the Carousel Boutique where- oh, hello Autumn what can I do for you?”

Instead of a mare looking to buy a dress, or perhaps some stallion looking for a gift, in the middle of her showroom stood Scootaloo’s case officer, and from the expression on his face Rarity was willing to bet that he wasn’t here to do any shopping.

Autumn offered a smile and a friendly nod as he saw Rarity. “Remember how I said there’d be home inspections? Well, this is one of them. Is this where Scootaloo will be staying while she’s under your care?”

“It is,” Rarity was about to complain about the lack of forewarning, but it occurred to her that the surprise nature of the visit was most likely intentional. “This is my boutique; through that hallway is the kitchen and dining room. Upstairs is Scootaloo’s bedroom and bathroom, I trust you have no need to violate my privacy by rifling through my bedroom.”

Autumn shook his head, “No, that won’t be necessary.” He began to leave the showroom and begin his inspection, but stopped when he realized Rarity wasn’t following him.

“Don’t you want to monitor my inspection? Most ponies like to look over my shoulder.”

“I have nothing to hide and a lot of work to do.  You strike me as a gentlecolt, can I assume you won’t make a mess?”

“Everything will be exactly as you left it.” Autumn went into the kitchen and Rarity continued sewing her sequins on the gown she was working on.  Only a few minutes passed before Autumn walked back into the showroom.

Rarity lowered the needle and set the dress back on its mannequin. She looked up with a look of both surprise and concern that the inspection was over so quickly. “You found a problem already?”

“Quite the opposite in fact. I’ve seen all I need to.” Rarity nodded cautiously and waited for him to render his verdict.  “I spoke to Scootaloo this morning and she said nothing but good things, or at least she didn’t say anything bad. Furthermore, you appeared quite willing to give me free reign of the house, suggesting that you are, in fact, not hiding anything.  Lastly, your kitchen appears spotless.”

“Thank you?” Rarity said, not quite sure what to make of the last bit of praise.

Autumn smiled at the confusion. “I’ve been doing this awhile, bad parents usually have dirty kitchens.  Not always, and there are plenty of wonderful parents who just don’t like doing the dishes. But your kitchen looks like it’s out of a catalogue and your fridge appears well stocked. That combined with Scootaloo’s testimony tells me I probably don’t have to worry about you.”

“So you’ll name me her guardian and she can stay in Ponyville?”

“I’ll start the process and as long as you’re okay with her living under your roof I’ll continue to look for a family in town as a permanent option.”

Rarity felt a small measure of relief wash over her, one minor obstacle down, multiple larger ones still to go.“Wonderful, what happens now?”

“What do you mean?”

“I spoke with Scootaloo last night about how sometimes she meets with ponies who might want to adopt her and sometimes she doesn’t.  I was hoping you might clarify further.”

“Ideally we try and find a good match for any foal looking to be adopted; scheduled play time helps us do that.  But when a family decides it’s not going to work out we feel it’s best to remove the foal from the home as quickly as possible, less lingering negative emotions that way.”

“So when she moved to Mrs. Hoofington’s?”

“The family she was with decided that she just wasn’t going to be happy there.  Mrs. Hoofington takes in a lot of troubled foals.  It seemed like a good idea.”

Rarity considered what she just learned and added it to everything she already knew.  There were more than a few things that she couldn’t quite makes sense of. “If I may be so bold,” Rarity paused for a moment before deciding that there was no polite way to ask her next question. “You certainly don’t seem unsympathetic, and Scootaloo may be a bit closed off, but she’s not a bad filly.  Why haven’t you been able to find a home for her?”

If Autumn was offended by Rarity’s candor he didn’t show it. “I let any prospective parent know that Scootaloo has some emotional trouble, it’s fairly common in fillies her age who are up for adoption.  One of the reasons for the observational visits is so I can gauge how they handle that.  I think ponies are expecting her to be a little “closed off” at first, what causes them to reconsider is that six months later she’s still closed off.”

“Well then they should be more patient!” Rarity barked, unintentionally raising both the volume and pitch of her voice.

Autumn shook his head. “You misunderstand me. I don’t think they give her up because they're frustrated with her. I think they genuinely want her to be happy, and since it seems clear that she won’t be happy in their home they decide it would be best for her to try somewhere else, painful as that may be for everyone.”

Rarity was forced to admit she could empathize with that point of view, she had only lived with Scootaloo for a day and already she found herself hoping the familiar mantra of “it gets better” was true.  After six months if it wasn’t getting better would she really be able to continue?  

And would it be fair to Scootaloo to keep trying?  Despite the filly’s pessimistic worldview, Rarity refused to believe that happiness was some sort of pipe dream for her. And that meant that somewhere in Equestria existed a warm loving home where Scootaloo could find some measure of peace and belonging.  But those were questions for another time, right now the present seemed more important than a distant hypothetical future.“Have you spoken with Scootaloo about all this?”

“I’ve tried to. I think, after everything she’s been through, she has a hard time believing that anypony could care about her, so when her foster parents ask if she wants to try somewhere else she interprets that as them wanting to get rid of her.”

“Poor thing,” Rarity whispered softly.

“Yeah,” Autumn replied using a similar cadence.  The two ponies just stood there, neither one of them sure what to say next. “I have other visits I need to make today.  I’ll check in with you two later, and well, I guess you know where my office is if you need anything,” Autumn offered by way of trying to move the conversation forward.

Autumn left and as Rarity closed the door behind him she was again hit with the oppressive weight of the undertaking she had agreed to.  A very large part of her told her to grab the nearest carton of chocolate ice cream and hide under her down duvet for the rest of the day; and she would have done so if not for the fact that her appointment book told her that she had a fitting at two o’clock. She spent the next few hours working on a few dresses and selling the occasional off the rack item, but Scootaloo's situation was always in the back of her mind. She was about to drag herself out of the door, when she remembered that she had a house guest;  so she wrote Scootaloo a brief note, placed it on the table in her foyer, and then dragged herself to a house call.

Rarity seldom second guessed her choice of profession.  She adored fashion and her work generally garnered praise.  But if there was one aspect of her job that she wished she could delegate to another pony it was fitting sessions. As a creative pony who had to conform her idea’s to her clients wishes she was used to taking direction, even when that direction was so obviously a terrible idea. There were polite ways of gently letting a client know that despite how much they loved mauve it simply did not go with turquoise and no amount of flowers was going to change that.

 But despite all her best smiles and euphemisms she simply hadn’t found a tactful way of letting a client know that they had not dropped the four dress sizes they were planning on.  Rarity wasn’t superficial, she believed that every pony was beautiful, and in her own protest against the superficial nature of the fashion industry her dresses were always modeled by normal looking ponies, not waif thin runway models.  But when a client demanded that she make a size four dress despite their clearly being a size six, that’s when she ran into problems.

Her fitting was with a golden coated mare named Honey Pie (no relation to Pinkie).  And most of the time Rarity had a perfectly wonderful relationship with her.  She was sweet, as her name suggested, and always paid her bill on time; but she was always trying the latest fad diet, swearing this one was going to be the one that stuck.

And that meant that every time she ordered a custom dress Rarity would take her measurements and Honey would insist that Rarity take a few inches off everywhere so that when the dress was ready in a couple months it would fit the new Honey Pie perfectly.  Then a couple months would roll around and Honey Pie would either find a dress that was too small for her or she would yell at Rarity for not following her instructions.

Rarity had considered lying, telling her that the size eight dress she was wearing really was a size four, but being dishonest with a customer was exactly the kind of word of mouth Rarity didn’t need for her Boutique. Her prices were already high enough that customers figured they were paying extra for the service.

So after another fitting session of Honey politely seething that Rarity’s measurements must be wrong because there was simply no way she was the same size she was last time, Rarity returned home ready to reconsider if maybe her time as a weather pony really wasn’t all that bad.

She opened her door and headed straight for her kitchen only to find cupcake wrappers strewn about, and a half empty box of cupcakes sitting on her kitchen table.  The telltale sounds of hooves on tile coming from upstairs told Rarity that Scootaloo was most likely upstairs.

“Would you like to explain to me why there are cupcake wrappers all over my kitchen Scootaloo?” Rarity asked as she confronted the orange filly, unable to mask her annoyance.

“I didn’t know where you were and I wanted a cupcake. Pinkie said I could have the whole box.”

“Remind me to thank her,” Rarity muttered under her breath. “I left you a note in the foyer,” she said louder and directed toward Scootaloo.

 “I didn’t know that’s where you left notes. Most ponies put them on the fridge,” Scootaloo said with a shrug.

Rarity couldn’t quite argue with that logic, but it did raise an important point; Scootaloo was clearly going to have to get settled in, and that meant that things like where Rarity left notes and other details would need to be ironed out.  “I think now would be a good time to discuss the particulars of your living here,” Rarity said flatly.

“I don’t want to do chores around the shop,” Scootaloo quickly responded.

“Yes, you seem quite insistent about that particular point,” Rarity said, her annoyance at hearing the same thing three times creeping into her voice.  She took a breath and reminded herself that Scootaloo was not the pony who had spent the past hour and half disparaging her measuring skills.  “The Boutique is my shop, you don’t have to have anything to do with it if you don’t want to. If you would like to learn more about fashion I’d be delighted to teach you.” Scootaloo scrunched her nose and shook her head and Rarity just smiled at the reaction, the unintended humor causing her to regain a little more control. “Very well then. The Boutique is a working business however, when I have clients over I expect you to conduct yourself in a civil manner, and I expect you to stay out of my parlor room when I’m not home, there’s nothing in there but fabric and sketches anyway. Does that sound agreeable to you?”

Scootaloo shrugged, “Fine with me. And now you’re going to tell me that I need to do the dishes and keep my room clean or you’ll send me away, right?”

Rarity was too haggard to be diplomatic, and in a way it helped her connect with the filly in front of her. Scootaloo had a habit of speaking without any internal filter, and with her own filter temporarily disabled the two ponies could communicate on the same level. “No. I promised you a place to stay until you find a more permanent option and I am a mare of my word. Why are you so adamant about not doing chores?”

Rarity’s words struck a nerve because as soon as she heard them, Scootaloo flared her wings out and arched her back.  “I don’t mind doing chores! I mind ponies only keeping me around so that I’ll do the dishes for them!” Scootaloo yelled, unaware that her heightened emotional state brought about an increase in her volume.

“Scootaloo, nopony cares if you do the dishes! What they want is for you to make some sort of an effort!” Rarity shrieked back at her.

Scootaloo fixed Rarity with a stare and it was clear that this was a watershed moment for the filly. “So which is it? You either want me to do the dishes or you don’t care?” Scootaloo asked through gritted teeth, the tension in the room making it clear that there was a right answer to the question, from Scootaloo’s perspective anyway.

Rarity took a deep breath, she wasn’t much calmer afterwards, but her voice was more even. “Which answer would you like me to give?” She said in a clipped cadence that even an emotional Scootaloo recognized as being touched with anger just waiting to erupt. Scootaloo just kept her stare unforgivingly locked on her, the pause giving Rarity time to push down the more volatile aspects of her temper. When she spoke again her voice was still firm, but it lacked the hostility of the previous statement “I suspect if I tell you I expect you to do the dishes you will take that as proof that I am only letting you stay here so that can I reap some sort of imaginary benefit.  Of course if I tell you that you’re welcome here regardless of your attitude you’ll use that as an excuse to see just how far you can push me because it couldn’t possibly be true.  So, to borrow a phrase from poker, I refuse to draw against a made hoof.”

Scootaloo wasn’t really sure what that last phrase meant, but one thing Rarity said did jump out at her. “You play cards?”

Scootaloo’s surprising question had the effect of momentarily disarming Rarity’s irritation. “Of course dear, there is much business to be had in exclusive card games in Manehattan.” Rarity chuckled softly and faux dramatically placed her back hoof on her forehead. . “And most stallions are only too willing to invite the poor little mare from Ponyville who clearly doesn’t realize what she’s getting into,” Rarity finished with a wry grin.

Scootaloo giggled “That’s actually kind of cool,” Scootaloo said before she burst out laughing at the idea of smug Stall Street stallions watching in horror as Rarity politely collected her winnings.

Scootaloo’s laugh, filled with childish joy, was infectious and Rarity couldn’t help but to join in. “If you’re interested I could teach you,” Rarity said after the laughter had died down, the previous tension having all but dissipated.

“Maybe that’d be okay.” Scootaloo looked down at the floor. “And maybe I could sort of do some dishes occasionally.”