• Published 26th Mar 2012
  • 13,098 Views, 251 Comments

Two Kinds of Complications - GentlemanJ



Rarity wants a date. Sweetie Belle wants a brother. Lucky Graves just wants a day without headaches.

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Chapter 4

Chapter 4

“Sir, iz zere anything I can get you?”

Graves nearly jumped in his seat as the fancy waiter spoke: he hadn’t been paying attention.

“Uh… no thanks. Still waiting for someone.”

“Very well,” the man replied with an elaborate bow, “I shall be here when you are ready.”

Watching the fancy man leave, Graves returned to sitting stiffly and watching the crowd as he waited for his lunch companion to arrive.

She was late. Which was understandable, considering what little he knew about women, but it didn’t make it any more bearable. On the contrary, it made it worse, as every minute that passed simply made him jitterier. More than once, Graves had found himself checking the marshal’s badge, praying that some emergency business would give him an excuse to leave.

But none came, and his nerves just grew more and more frazzled.

“So sorry Graves,” a musical voice called out from behind, causing him to jump yet again (he really needed to stop doing that). “I simply couldn’t decide what to wear today.”

“Not a problem,” the young marshal said, standing awkwardly and turning around. “I’m sure you look–”

He froze, his eyes grown wide and mouth hanging slack in surprise.

“–fine.”

She was more than fine. She was downright stunning.

Her elegantly simple white dress was matched to a tee by an equally stylish blue-banded sunhat perched atop her typically perfect violet hair. The wide, navy belt cinched around her slender waist and glittering sapphire choker at her neck provided clean contrast while also bringing out her deep blue eyes; those sparkled even more than brightly the gems on her necklace. Neither ostentatious nor gaudy, everything she wore served to flawlessly complement and enhance her natural grace and beauty.

“Well, do you like it?” she asked, giving a small twirl to show off her entire ensemble.

“You look… nice,” Graves replied dumbly.

“Just… nice?” Rarity prodded, a mischievous smile playing on her face.

“Well, more than nice,” the marshal hastily amended. “You look really, really… nice.”

Rarity eyed him for a moment before chuckling merrily, her laughter ringing clear like a crystal bell.

“I suppose I can accept that,” she said with a playful wink as she moved to take a seat. Moving with surprising alacrity, Graves crossed to the other side of the table to pull her seat out for her. Now it was her’s turn to be surprised.

“Why, thank you, Graves,” Rarity delightedly remarked. “How chivalrous of you.”

“It’s nothing,” he mumbled, cheeks growing hot as he took his own seat. “Don’t mention it.”

Fancy man senses tingling, the café waiter returned the instant both were properly situated and handed the two a pair menus.

“Welcome, mademoiselle,” he bowed. “Would you and ze gentleman care to place your orders?”

“Yes, thank you, Pierre,” the pretty seamstress smiled. “I’ll have the summer salad with a bit of red wine vinaigrette – on the side, if you’d be so kind – and glass of lemonade.”

“Excellent choice, madame,” waiter replied as he jotted a few quick notes. “And for you sir?”

“… Ham and swiss panini, plus coffee. Black.”

Rarity gave Graves a funny look as Pierre repeated their orders, but said nothing and let the waiter clear their menus. Once he was out of earshot, however, the young lady leaned in to address the marshal.

“Is that really all you’re going to order?” Rarity asked, a slightly concerned frown appearing on her lips. “I offered to treat you, so there’s no need to hold back on my account.”

“It’s not that,” Graves replied, leaning slightly back as if to counter her forward motion. “Eating a lot makes me sleepy. Messes up my day.”

“Ah, I see. A habit you picked up from being a marshal?”

“I… guess so?” the young man replied with a shrug.

Rarity nodded and casually sat back in her seat, which prompted the marshal to parallel her motion. Picking up the napkin, the pretty seamstress pretended to dab at the lips, though really using the motion to hide a quickly growing smile.

Usually so calm and unflappably composed, Graves was clearly quite self-conscious about their little “date,” what with his rigid adherence to personal space and careful avoidance of any eye contact. Why, if he'd deviated the distance between them by so much as a whisker, then Rarity was second cousin to a mule. All this to say, Graves was probably even more nervous than Rainbow Dash had been at her first Young Flier’s Competition, a fact that Rarity found delightfully amusing and not just a bit endearing as well.

Of course, it’d be no fun it he spent the entire time wound tighter than a clock spring; perhaps a little bit of the fashionista's patented charm would help him loosen up.

“So, what is it like, being a marshal?” she asked with an innocently disarming smile. “I mean, I’ve heard the stories and rumors, but I honestly can’t tell the fact from the fiction in half of them.”

“Things do get exaggerated,” Graves agreed slowly. “What have you heard?”

“Well for starters, that each of you has the strength of ten men, more magical power than a genie, that you can fly like phoenixes without wings, and then some. You travel across the country, fighting monsters and brigands and Celestia knows what else, and are the only force standing between peace and total chaos. Or, something like that.”

Graves finally chuckled, a rich, warm sound that made the pretty seamstress’ own smile grow wider. She had hoped to ease out some of the marshal’s nervous tension by turning the conversation towards more familiar territory. Apparently, it worked because Graves began speaking in the slow, assured baritone that was so much more in line with his nature.

“First off,” he began as he settled more comfortably into his chair, “marshals are normal people. A bit more prepared than most, a little better trained perhaps, but still normal people.”

“So the strength of ten men and what not…”

“Just stories,” Graves finished.

“Well, what about being the last bastion against terror and mayhem?” the young lady continued.

“That’s a bit much,” he replied with a wry grin. “Royal guards do a good job keeping Equestria safe; doubt there’d be – total chaos, was it? – without us.”

“In that case, what do the marshals do?” Rarity asked, now actually quite confused. “I mean, everything I’ve heard about your group is that you travel and protect the people. If the royal guards do that, then what’s your purpose?”

Graves leaned back in his seat and thumbed at his chin, taking a moment to think on how to properly answer.

“…I guess we’re like the needle,” he finally said. Rarity blinked.

“Come again?”

“There’s a needle and thimble in sewing, right? Well, guards are the thimble and keep bad things away. The needle goes out and pokes the, cloth... or… something like that…” he trailed off. He’d tried to use an analogy a seamstress could relate to, but it’d quickly gotten away from him: very little knowledge of sewing, wouldn’t you know?

“So what you’re saying,” Rarity began slowly, picking up from where Graves had left off, “is you leave the actual defending to the royal guards while the marshals take a more… proactive role?”

“Exactly,” Graves replied, his intent finding expression through the young lady’s words. “We go if something particular needs doing; special cases and such. Guards take care of a place, we take care of problems. That’s why we travel in groups of five, so we can move quickly, stay mobile, and go where we’re needed.”

“Five?” the violet-haired girl repeated quizzically. “I know those… other marshals traveled in a group of five, but what about you? I mean, you did arrive to town on your own, and I haven’t seen anyone join you yet.”

“Ah, yes,” Graves said, a slight fog coming over his features and darkening his expression. “I’m… an odd case, so command lets me work on my own.”

Rarity was about to press further, but something about his eyes gave her pause. They'd quickly grown cold and distant, almost as fogged and detached as they’d been on his first day in town. She didn't know what the cause was, but Rarity's instincts warned her it'd be best to let the subject drop.

“Well, you’ve certainly been doing a marvelous job here,” Rarity smiled as she gracefully detoured away from that particular topic. “But as you’ve said, guard duty is more for… well, guards rather than marshals. What did you do before you came to Ponyville, then?”

“Traveled a lot, cleaning up messes that popped up,” the marshal answered calmly. While his eyes weren’t completely clear - they never were - Rarity was glad that at least they were considerably warmer than before. “Toured Equestria for a good bit, but thing’s started clearing up, so I spent several years abroad–”

“Wait, you’ve been outside of Equestria?” the seamstress gasped in astonishment.

“Um… yes?” Graves was surprised to see the young lady across from him literally squeal in delight.

“Oh my stars, this is simply amazing!” Rarity gushed. “I’ve heard so many stories about the wonders outside of Equestria, but I’ve never actually gotten the chance to go myself; it’s always been a dream of mine to see them, you know. Ooh, you simply must tell me all about it!” ” she exclaimed, reaching across the table to grab his hands.

Needless to say, the marshal was rather taken aback.

“Well… what do you want to know?”

“Everything!” she said before catching herself with an embarrassed giggle. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry about that. I just got so excited, I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s all right,” Graves smiled, and for once his eyes actually lit up with a glitter of excitement, “’cause for once, the stories aren't half as great as the truth.”

“So, there really is a waterfall ten thousand feet high and a hundred thousand wide?” Rarity asked, her sapphire eyes shining with curiosity.

“Jungles on the southern continent. Locals call it The World’s End.”

“And canyons that sound like a full symphony when the wind blows?”

“The Hallelujah Valley in the Griffon Imperium.”

“And massive caves made entirely of crystals that shine like the moon?”

“The Hall of the Dragon King…” Graves replied yet again before leaning in with a conspiratorial grin, “… and that's just the hall: the throne room's even better.”

As the young couple quickly got lost in conversation on the world’s many wonders, neither noticed the unnatural movement of the bush some twenty feet from them in the town square. As a result, neither noticed the eyes intently watching from inside the bush either.

*****

“Move over an' let me see,” Apple Bloom hissed at her purple-haired friend.

“I can’t. It’s not like there's much space in here,” Scootaloo shot back.

“Quiet!” Sweetie Belle whispered at both of them. “Keep up like that, and they’ll hear us!”

After a few moments of intense shuffling, squirming, and the odd bickering slap-fight, the girls finally arranged themselves so all three could observe the two at the table.

“So, what do we have to do first?” Scootaloo asked. Sweetie Belle pulled out a crumpled piece of parchment with notes from their earlier research session.

“First, we gotta get Rarity out of the house, so that’s done,” she replied, making a small check on the list. “Next, we gotta… do the circular thing exchange, get them to talk about their hobbies, tie them up, and if need be… give them a bath.”

“Okay, here’s how I figured it’ll work,” Apple Bloom said as she gathered her friends in for a huddle. “I’ll run back to Sweet Apple Acres and grab some rope an' a bucket. Scootaloo, you go and find some round things that they can trade.”

“What about me?” Sweetie Belle asked. “What do I do?”

“You stay here and keep listenin'. You know the most about Rarity’s hobbies, an' if they start talkin' about that kind of stuff, we’ll want to know.”

“Got it!”

“All right, Cutie Mark Crusaders,” Apple Bloom grinned, “Operation: Get Sweetie Belle a Big Brother is officially a go!”

**********