• Published 25th Apr 2014
  • 2,372 Views, 70 Comments

A Turnabout in Kind - alexmagnet

A dinner party gone awry; a priceless relic stolen; Rarity accused of grand larceny. All signs point to a conviction, but even with an ace Canterlot attorney on her side, she'll need more than a few "Objections!" to win the day.

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1 — Morning Machinations

“Fluttershy! Fluttershy, dear, wake up!”

Like an especially rude pair of squirrels after her almond cookies, wakefulness forced its way under Fluttershy’s eyelids. The glare of the sun followed, and, like the tails of those squirrels, caused her to squint as it entered her eyes. She held a hoof in front of her face to try and stave off the fuzziness filling her vision. Blinking a few times, she caught sight of a curly-maned silhouette in front of the window.


“Yes indeed!” The light reflecting off her grin blinded Fluttershy. “Come along now, we’ve got a lot to prepare for tonight!”

Fluttershy’s mane fell in front of her eyes as she sat up. “What time is it?” She asked, punctuating the sentence with a tiny yawn.

“Time to get up, of course! Things to do! Chop, chop!” A brush flew from a nearby vanity as Rarity lifted it up and began shunting Fluttershy’s bangs out of the way.

“Okay.” Another yawn, and she took hold of the brush herself. “I’ll be ready in ten minutes.”

“Breakfast is in five.” Rarity began prancing toward the door. “Hurry, now! Or else it’ll get cold!” With a twirl and a spark of her horn, she left the room. Fluttershy could hear her exclaim something like “Today’s the day!” before she trailed off into an extended squeal of joy.

Alone at last, Fluttershy took a bleary look around. It was never easy, sleeping away from home—waking up in a different environment even more so. It was getting easier, though; the silken curtains, the plush carpets, and the lavender walls were no longer alien. And if she was perfectly honest, she was even getting used to the extra-cushy bed and multiple pillows.

Of course, she still hadn’t gotten used to the view outside. With her eyes now adjusted, Fluttershy could see the white walls of a courtyard, the ordered tiles of a manor roof, and the soaring towers of Canterlot, gleaming in the morning light. The distant sounds of a city in motion filled her ears, while the smell of flowers growing in the garden below filled her nose. A pair of birds flew past the window, chirping the whole way.

It’s strange, to have nature surrounded by the city like this.

But then, this was Canterlot, a city all about being beautiful. And this was the home of Fancy Pants, who had a taste for the “charmingly rustic.” And if she was being perfectly honest, it was quite a bit nicer than, say, Manehatten.

Still, it wasn’t quite home, despite her and Rarity’s—mostly Rarity’s—best efforts. They’d brought plenty of things from Ponyville, had decorated this guest room with familiar photos, familiar perfumes, and one familiar pet.

“Good morning, Opal,” Fluttershy said to the cat, who was lying atop Rarity’s bed in a square of sunlight.

Opalescence looked up, gave Fluttershy a level stare, and yawned.

“Yes, it’s morning already.” She slipped from under the covers, stepping over to the bay window and looking outside once again. “And it’s a beautiful day.”

Opal stood, spun in place to pat down the blanket, and lay back down with her back to the sun.

“A beautiful day. Just a terrific day. The big day!” She swept a hoof in a wide arc above her head. “Where we get to spend all day getting ready to spend all night with ponies I’ve never met before.” A shiver made its way up her leg at that thought.

She spun around, showing off an over-wide grin. “Won’t that be ever-so-much fun, Opal?”

Opal spared her one look over her shoulder, then settled back into the covers with a feline grunt.

“My thoughts exactly.” Fluttershy sighed.

The wooden steps creaked slightly as Fluttershy descended them, despite her instinctive efforts at being as quiet as possible. A delicious smell met her at the bottom; it wafted along the opulent hallways as though beckoning her with outstretched hooves. She recognized it immediately, her mouth beginning to water.

A quick, light trot brought her to a set of rich wooden doors, and across their threshold, she found a high-ceilinged dining hall. Candelabras adorned the red walls, a coat of arms hung over a grand fireplace at the far end of the room, and a gilded chandelier hung over a long table of rich hardwood.

Seated at the table was Rarity, who currently had a cup of tea lifted to her lips, and the mustachioed gentlepony who called this place home.

“...And then,” said Fancy Pants, “the Chancellor says with a completely straight face, ‘That may be true, mademoiselle, but I think the goats would still take offense.’”

Rarity nearly spewed her drink across the table, holding a hoof over her grin. Swallowing, she gave a bright laugh. “Oh my! He does sound like a character! You’ll have to introduce me later this evening.”

“Mm. He won’t be here, I’m afraid. He said he’ll have his hooves full with the political entanglements of this whole affair.”

“Oh, that’s a terrible shame. Ah!” She caught sight of Fluttershy in the doorway. “There you are, Fluttershy!”

Fancy Pants looked around at her. “Good morning, Miss Fluttershy! Come, come, your breakfast is still warm and still delicious!”

She gave him a tiny grin. “It certainly smells delicious. Are we having what I think we are?”

“I figured a little taste of home would be the best way to start off today. Blueberry pancakes, hash browns, and daisies over easy.”

Taking her seat, Fluttershy looked over her plate. It all smelled even better up close. “Mmm… Thank you very much, Mr. Pants.”

“Please, Miss. As host I am obligated, but you have no need for the formalities. While under my roof, you can just call me ‘Fancy Pants.’”

“Well, thank you very much, Fancy Pants.” Taking up her utensils, she dug in with dainty bites.

Nodding, Fancy Pants turned back to his unicorn guest. “Now, Miss Rarity, all humor aside, I’m still worried about having too much in one place.”

“Oh, nonsense, it’ll be fine! You said yourself you wanted them to feel at home.”

“Well, yes, but I can’t help but feel as though there may be too much home. Are you sure the main foyer won’t be… overdone?”

“Overdone? Overdone?” Rarity chuckled. “My dear Fancy Pants, perish the thought! You know restraint is one of my greatest qualities.”

Fluttershy swallowed her latest bite of delicious pancake. “I thought you had everything figured out already?”

“Oh, we do.” Rarity waved a hoof across the table. “Fancy Pants is just having second thoughts. A little stage fright before the grand premiere.”

Fancy Pants frowned. “I’m not sure ‘stage fright’ is the proper term. More like, ‘concern for the future of international relations.’”

Rarity gave him a reassuring laugh. “Oh, now you’re just being silly! If the fate of this whole affair rested on how many tapestries we have, we wouldn’t even be here in the first place.”

He sighed. “I know, I know. It’s just…” He gave a furtive glance around, as though worried somepony might be eavesdropping. “These Snowbounders tend to be, well, somewhat uptight.”

Her eyebrow raised. “Oh? I never got that impression from what you showed me.”

“Pictures only show so much, I’m afraid.” He began tapping his hoof nervously against the table. “The Snowbounders, they’re… well, they have an eye for detail that I’m sure would rival your own, my dear.”

“Well, now I can’t wait to meet them!”

That produced a grin from Fancy Pants, but it was quickly overshadowed by his furrowed brow. “If something is out of place, or if it isn’t just right, they’ll know. Don’t misunderstand. They’re excessively gracious guests, but they won’t forget missteps.”

“Fancy Pants.” Rarity fixed him with a even look. “Please, stop worrying. It’s unbecoming of a gentlepony like yourself.”

He let out a tiny sigh. “I just want everything to be perfect for them, and nothing can be out of place. If there’s too much, or too little, anywhere, I want to know so that I may fix it.”

“No, no. That’s why you have us.” Rarity put a hoof around Fluttershy, startling her enough that she dropped her latest bite. “If there’s anything that needs fixing, we’ll be right on it!”

“We will?” Fluttershy said.

“Yes, we will,” whispered Rarity.

Fancy Pants looked between the two of them, a wide smile finally asserting itself over his features. “What would I do without you, ladies? No, nevermind, I know exactly what I’d do. I’d curl up in a ball and cry.”

“That would be unbecoming of a gentlepony like yourself.” Rarity chuckled.

“Indeed. Now, if you’ll excuse me, ladies, I’m going to ball myself up and go rolling around outside. Clear my head, and all that.” Standing, he gave them a bow and made for the door.

“All right. We’ll finish up here and come find you afterward. Oh, and Fancy Pants!” She planted her forelegs on the table, pointing a hoof at him as he reached the door. “You stay away from the main foyer until we get there! I mean it!”

He looked aghast, his eyes widening in over-exaggerated shock. “No! You’ve caught me! Please! Avert your accusing hoof!”

“Not until I have your word.” Rarity smiled a wolfish grin.

He bowed, low and respectful. “You have it, my lady.”

“Very well.” She lowered her hoof with a flourish. “Carry on, you rapscallion, you.”

“By my honor, I am off!” With a swirl of his coattails, he was indeed off.

“Hah!” Rarity breathed a contented sigh as she sat back down. “This day is off to a lovely start!”

Fluttershy looked at her. “Um… Rarity, I was just wondering, I mean, not to seem rude or anything, but it seems like you let Fancy Pants go when he seemed really concerned.”

“Hm? Oh, no, no!” She waved her hoof in dismissal. “It’s like I said, Fluttershy, it’s just stage fright. We’re on the eve of a big event, after all.”

Fluttershy’s eyes flicked away for a moment. “It’s just, well, I’ve never seen Fancy Pants looking so nervous before.”

Rarity looked down at her cup of tea. “Yes, I suppose he’s got good reason for it. I don’t envy his being Equestria’s goodwill ambassador, despite all the prestige.” She lifted her cup and took a sip. “Still, we’re here, we have all of our materials, and we have all day to prepare. Goodness knows, this is a far cry from a rush job.”

Fluttershy paused, considering her next words. All that came out was, “Mmhmm.”

“What is it, Fluttershy?”

“Well, Fancy Pants seemed to be kind of… intimidated by the delegation. Could they really be that scary?” Her ears flattened against her head.

Rarity’s expression softened. “Oh, Fluttershy! Now don’t you start getting nervous on me, too!” She placed a reassuring hoof on her back. “I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.”

But then, you’ve never met them either… “I hope you’re right, Rarity.”

“I’m sure I am. Think about it. If this Snowbound Republic were a nation of pony-eating monsters, would they be allowed anywhere close to Canterlot?”

That’s hardly the point, Rarity. “I guess not…”

“Exactly! There’s nothing to worry about!” She lowered her hoof and picked up her cup once more. “In fact, look at it this way. It’s a great opportunity to make some new friends.”

Fluttershy turned back to her pancakes. I just hope they are friendly...

“All right, this one goes up there, that one over there.” Rarity pointed a hoof at the banners on the floor, then to the mezzanine running around the foyer.

“As you wish, my lady,” said the pair of unicorn maids. Their horns glowing in unison, they hefted one of the banners high. White and black, it was adorned with the image of a winged creature with the hooves of a pony, the paws of a dog, and the head of a griffon.

As they carefully lifted it over the banister, Rarity continued, “And Fluttershy, if you could hang this one up there.” She pointed a hoof at the window near the peak of the ceiling.

“Okay, Rarity.” Taking the much smaller tapestry in her teeth, she floated up to the rafters. “Here?” she called back down.

“Yes, hang it just above the window!”

Fluttershy did as she was told, setting the deep-blue fabric on a hook. The interior of the foyer dipped into shadow as the light was stifled.

“Are you sure about that one, Miss Rarity?” said Fancy Pants. “It seems to have made things rather dark…”

“Oh, you’ve never seen moon silk in action, Fancy Pants?” Rarity chuckled. “Just wait until after the sun sets and the moonlight cuts through the cloth. Then you’ll see.”

He nodded. “I’ll take your word for it.”

“In the meantime, though, you can roll that one up, Fluttershy!”

“Okay!” Gently taking the cloth in her hooves, she hoisted it up like a sailor stowing away a sail. Her task complete, she floated down to ground level and took in the hall in its entirety.

It was coming along nicely. The room itself was already pleasing to the eyes, with its high ceiling, grand chandelier, and elegant staircase, and Rarity’s modifications only seemed to enhance that beauty. White brocades, glittering in the sunlight, were draped from the upper balustrades, giving the impression of snowcapped peaks far in the distance. The original red rugs had been replaced by fluffy carpeting, mimicking the look of fresh powder. Between those additions and the banners, it was…

“Just ostentatious enough,” said Rarity with an approving nod.

“I can’t but agree, Miss Rarity.” Fancy Pants spun in place, sweeping his gaze over everything. “It’s positively radiant.”

“So, are we satisfied, then?”

“I believe we are, yes. I don’t doubt our Snowbound guests will be immediately reminded of home.”

Rarity lifted hoisted up a quill and checklist. “Well, if that’s that, shall we have ourselves a quick rehearsal?”

“A capital idea. Let’s see… Miss Fluttershy, why don’t you go and stand at the entrance there?”

Fluttershy floated over to the main doors. “Like this?”

“Yes, just like that.” Fancy Pants and Rarity stepped up to her. “So, they’ll be coming in through the main doors, there, and we’ll all be standing by to greet them. Go ahead and act as though you’re entering, Miss.”

Fluttershy looked around sheepishly. “Um… How, exactly?”

“Oh, come now, Fluttershy,” said Rarity. “Remember strutting down the catwalk for Hoity Toighty? It’s the same sort of thing.”

“O-okay.” Lifting her head up high, she took a few stiff steps forward. “L-like this?”

“Yes! Just like that!” said Fancy Pants. “Believe it or not, that’s how the Snowbounders always tend to walk.”

Seems like that’d be uncomfortable… thought Fluttershy. “So, they come in, and then what?”

“I’ll have one of my servants announce their arrival to the group at large, of course, and offer a few words in personal greeting. Something like, ‘Ambassador, it is an honor and a privilege to welcome you to Equestria, and to our humble abode.”

“To which he would reply,” said Rarity, “‘The honor is all mine, Mr. Pants. I graciously accept your hospitality, and place myself and my entourage in your capable hooves.’”

“So, then,” said Fancy Pants, circling around Fluttershy and walking a little further into the foyer, “we’ll proceed through the main hall and into the courtyard… Or should we take them through the gallery first?”

“I should think they’d like to see the gallery,” said Rarity, “but if they’re as… well, terse, as you say, perhaps they’d prefer to get right to the main event.”

“True. And I suppose getting all of the artifacts set up there would be prudent as a first task. Though, on the other hoof, we’ll be needing to get the animals situated as well. Hmm…” He hung his head in thought for a moment, then turned to Fluttershy. “What do you think, Miss?”

She blinked. “Huh? Me?”

“Oh, excuse me. I meant to say, ‘What do you think, Ambassador?’”

“Um…” She pawed at the carpet. “I think I agree with Rarity. I mean, it’ll be better if my work goes last. The courtyard, I mean.”

Fancy Pants looked at her oddly, but shrugged. “So be it. I suppose it lets me show off the manor a little more, anyway. So, we step off from here, and make our way to the left hallway.” They did just that, padding their way toward a doorway set off to the side of the main staircase. “I suppose I’ll have to make some small talk on the way, won’t I?” He cleared his throat. “Well, Ambassador, I trust that meeting with Chancellor Bright Stone went well?”

Fluttershy stared at him, wide-eyed. “Huh?”

“Oh, yes, I suppose I should explain. Before the Snowbounders arrive here, they’ll be having a brief meeting with the Chancellor, just a little welcoming ceremony to get the political machine rolling. After that, it’s on to the cultural exchange we’ve got here.”

“Okay, I see.” She raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “Wait. Aren’t they meeting with the Princesses at all?”

“Hm.” Fancy Pants frowned. “Well, that’s the thing. Both the delegation and the Princesses are keeping their distances from one another.”

“I still don’t understand that,” said Rarity. “Why wouldn’t they want to meet the Princesses?”

Fancy Pants shrugged. “I’m not entirely sure myself. All I know is that it’s a mutual feeling. I get the sense that neither party wants to step on the other’s hooves, as it were. This is a delicate situation, politically.”

Rarity shook her head. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand politics.”

Do politics really have anything to do with it? “Me neither,” said Fluttershy.

“Well, I hope the politics will be checked at the door,” Fancy Pants, said, chuckling. “Because if I’m perfectly honest, I’m not one for them, either. I’m just in it for the sake of business.”

“Business and good company, I should hope,” Rarity said with a grin.

“Well, that goes without saying. Anyway, once we’re here,” Fancy Pants swept a hoof around the room they now found themselves in, another high-ceilinged affair, its walls adorned with paintings and more black-and-white banners, “we can start the culture sharing in earnest. Let’s see…” He looked at a number of empty pedestals which were scattered around the room. “Just to triple-check, we have enough space for everything they’re bringing, yes?”

Rarity eyed the hall, scanning over the decorations and fixtures with a discerning eye. “Unless they’re bringing enough to fill the Royal Equestrian Art Museum, I think we’ll be quite fine,” she said happily.

“Hmm… Just to be sure, I think we’d best take down the remaining paintings. I don’t want to distract from the Snowbounders’ own art, after all. Ladies?” he called to his maids. “Put these in the storeroom as well, please.”

The pair curtseyed, and began stripping the walls. Rarity looked back at him with a disappointed expression. “Oh, do they really have to take that portrait of your great-grandfather? I rather liked that one.”

“I’m sure Grandpa Knickers won’t mind. He’s always grumpy, anyway. So, once they’ve had a look at where they’ll be displaying everything, we’ll head for the courtyard.” He turned to Fluttershy. “That’s right this way, Ambassador.”

She picked her head up. “Well, by all means, lead on, Mr. Pants.”

Graciously waving his hoof, Fancy Pants motioned for Fluttershy to take the lead. “It’s just down this hallway, Ambassador. There’s a door that leads outside at the end.”

“Thank you very much, sir.” A spring in her step, she began trotting ahead.

“Well, look at you!” said Rarity. “I didn’t think you were one to prance, Fluttershy.”

I am when it means going outside. “I don’t do it often,” she said, blushing slightly.

Their path took them around a corner and out onto a well-kept patio overlooking the manor’s garden. It was an enclosed space; the manor’s walls surrounded it on all sides. The walls themselves were covered in leafy vines, reaching up toward the roof’s low-hanging shingles. She could see the window of their guest room on the wall opposite the patio. A large fountain stood in the center, its flow slowly cascading down into a wide pool at its base, and a grand old willow lorded over it. Several hedges cordoned the area into segments, and it was to these their attention now turned.

“So, Ambassador,” said Fancy Pants, “where shall we quarter your creatures?”

Fluttershy leapt forward. “Okay, so I was thinking the bears could go in this lower area here, since it’s low and shaded, which should give the bears a nice cozy den to shelter in. I’ve laid out a comfortable bed of leaves for them to rest on, and set some fresh honey off to the side in case they feel like a snack. The smaller animals we’ll put over here, where the hedges meet the wall. Most of them are burrowers, so the little gaps in between the shrubs will make them feel right at home. The rabbits will go here by the big hedge, the martens by the base of this statue here, and those adorable little pika can go off to this side near the base of the tree. The birds will all be in the tree itself, except for the herons and geese, who will obviously want to be closer to the fountain. Hmm… and come to think of it, we can put the otters a little closer to the water, too.” She spun back to face her companions. “Will that all work?”

Rarity and Fancy Pants shared a glance, before the former spoke. “Well, Fluttershy, it seems you’ve certainly got everything under control on this front. Though, how are you going to keep them all separated like that?”

“Oh, they won’t be. They’ll be free to mingle like the other guests.”

“And you aren’t worried about the… um, ‘cycle of nature’ taking its course?”

She shook her head. “Oh no, no, no. I’ll make sure they all understand not to be mean to each other. And I’ll make sure they all get fed, so there will be no reason for conflict.” She smiled serenely.

“The sentiment is nice, Ms. Fluttershy,” said Fancy Pants, “but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work out so cleanly. I’m sure our Snowbound guests will require cages.”

Fluttershy’s expression collapsed like an overcooked pastry. “Cages?! But—”

“Now, now, dear,” Rarity cut in with a calming hoof on Fluttershy’s shoulder. “If that’s what it comes to, we’ll do our best to work it out. Compromise, and all that.”

“Indeed,” said Fancy Pants. “A host must cede to his guests’ wishes.”

Even if those wishes are more like demands? Fluttershy hung her head. “Well, if that’s how it has to be… I suppose I can’t do anything about it.”

“Oh, but you’ve already done so much!” Rarity said. “With the amount of thought you’ve put into the garden here, there’s no way the animals won’t find some comfort. Isn’t that right, Fancy Pants?”

“Ah, er, yes, but of course! Again, whatever happens, we’ll find some way to reconcile things.”

Fluttershy hung her head. “If you say so. I just don’t want any of the animals to think they’re not being cared for and loved enough. That would be terrible.”

“My dear, given what I know of the Republic’s snowy climes, I think they’ll be grateful just to be out of the cold.” Fancy Pants gave a light chuckle, giving Fluttershy a soft pat on the back. “Really though, I’m sure they’ll be more than fine. Now then, what comes next?”

“I believe that’s that,” said Rarity. “Aside from our personal preparations, of course.”

“Ah, yes.” Fancy Pants pulled out a pocket watch. “I suppose I’ll leave you ladies to that, then. In the meantime, I must go and ensure the food is delivered post haste. Golden Skillet is a fine chef, but he doesn’t brook tardiness. And the last thing anypony wants is a disgruntled chef cooking for them.”

“Yes, quite,” said Rarity with a knowing look. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the fashion industry, it’s that you never get on the bad side of somepony you need something from. That goes doubly for food.”

“Then with that, I bid you both adieu. I’ll see you later this afternoon, and I must say, I can’t wait to see what fashions you’ll be exhibiting.”

Rarity chuckled. “My dear Fancy Pants, you have no idea. Come along, Fluttershy, we’d best be getting ourselves properly dressed.” With that, she began trotting back the way they’d come.

Sighing, Fluttershy fell into step beside her. “So that’s it, Rarity? We just put on our dresses and… start mingling?”

“Well, yes, I suppose.” A strange grin worked its way across her face. “Nothing else, except for a certain surprise, but that’s between me and Fancy Pants.”

Fluttershy raised an eyebrow. “A surprise?”

Rarity clicked her tongue, wagging her hoof. “Ah ah ah. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I told you what it was, now would it? Just wait and see, Fluttershy. It’s something that’ll tie this whole event together.” She kept on walking, up the stairs and toward their room.

It took several seconds for Fluttershy to realize she hadn’t followed. When she did, her steps were much, much more cautious.

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