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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Fluttershy was in a mild state of panic. Granted, she was almost always in a mild state of panic, but this time it was legitimate. Actually, it was more than legitimate: in this case, it was downright called for.

Rarity had missed their spa appointment.

Rarity never missed a spa appointment. The two girls had been meeting weekly at the spa for quite some time now, and while the busy seamstress might arrive late and looking like a frazzled hurricane, she’d always show up. Only today, Fluttershy had waited in the steam room till she was completely cooked, then waited some more in the mineral baths. The result of that were one very tired young lady, some very pruny fingers, and still no Rarity.

“I wonder why she couldn’t make it,” the demure girl mused as she walked out of the spa, head light from the heat yet heavy with worry. “I don’t think she’s ever missed an appointment since… well, since ever!” Then Fluttershy gasped. “What if she’s in trouble? Maybe she couldn’t make it because she got into an accident! Oh my goodness, what if she’s hurt? Rarity!” Breaking off into a dead run, Fluttershy sprinted for her friends boutique as her coral pink hair streamed behind her.

"Rarity? Are you alright?” she called while frantically (but gently) pounding on the door. “Rarity, please open up! If you don’t then I’ll, I’ll… kick it down! I mean, that is, if you don’t mind…” she finished meekly. Fortunately, the sound of footsteps approaching the door precluded any need for Fluttershy to unleash the full fury of her panic. Unfortunately, what she saw didn’t exactly assuage her worries either.

Rarity looked like a complete mess. Her white silk blouse had a few stray wrinkles, her hair was in a mild state of disarray, and the reading glasses she wore hung slightly askew at the tip of her nose. So in all honesty, she didn’t look too bad, but by the fashionista’s standards, it was the equivalent of answering the door in a burlap sack.

“Oh, hello, Fluttershy,” Rarity said, sounding rather tired and absent-minded. “How are you today?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” the shy girl replied politely. “I was just wondering if you were doing alright.”

“Me?” Rarity asked as if surprised. “But of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well...” Fluttershy hesitated: she really didn’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill. “I was just a teensy, itty-bitty bit concerned since I didn’t see you at the spa today.”

Rarity blinked, then ducked back into the boutique to pluck the little desk calendar from her work station.

“My goodness, was that today?” the disheveled seamstress gasped. “I’m so sorry, Fluttershy, it seems to have completely slipped my mind.”

“That’s okay, Rarity,” the quiet girl replied kindly. “I’ll bet you were working on something really special and got really absorbed in your work, right?”

“Er… something like that,” Rarity rejoined with an awkward smile.

“Well, I’m just glad that you’re feeling okay,” Fluttershy smiled. Though she meant to be encouraging, the expression faded into pensive silence as she took a hesitant pause. “You… do feel fine, don’t you?”

Rarity opened her mouth to respond, but seemed to catch herself and smiled sadly. Hearing about her friends’ problems would upset Fluttershy, but later hearing they’d been hiding them would simply devastate her.

“Honestly, no,” she admitted. “Things have gotten a bit… complicated recently.”

“Oh my, that sounds serious,” came the demure girl’s wide-eyed response. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“I’m afraid I can’t,” the seamstress sighed sadly; there was a fine line between confiding in friends and breaking a confidence. “I believe this is something the marshal and I have to deal with ourselves.”

“Well in that case, why don’t I bring him here? I’m sure that he’d–”

“No!” Rarity cried in abrupt alarm. Fluttershy was so startled, she merely squeaked in alarm and fell silent. Taking a slow, deep breath, the violet-haired girl calmed herself and smiled reassuringly at her friend. “I’m sorry, darling, that came out wrong. It’s just that I’m not quite ready to deal with the marshal at this time. You understand, don’t you?”

“I... I guess so?” the shy girl replied uncertainly. “Are you sure there’s nothing I can do to help?”

“Thank you for the offer,” Rarity smiled, “but right now, I just need some time to think.”

“Okay. In that case, I’ll be heading back now. I hope you and Mr. Graves get things patched up soon.”

“Thank you, Fluttershy,” the pretty seamstress smiled gratefully. “I hope so too.”

With one last uncertain smile, Fluttershy walked off and Rarity closed the door. Alone once more, the dressmaker sighed before wearily trudging back to her workshop.

*****

Settling back down at her desk, Rarity took a sip of tea that had long since grown cold, the bitter taste doing nothing to remedy her brooding mood.

The last week had been decidedly unpleasant, ever since her last real encounter with the marshal. Even the memory of the incident made her cringe, not because of what she’d seen, but solely based on the way she’d acted. The perfectly, dreadfully, horrible way she’d acted.

She had seen Graves without his shirt on, which would never have been an issue save for the fact that his body was covered in massive, ragged scars. Rarity had been completely unprepared for the sight and in a rare moment of shock, she’d screamed. That’s when things started going wrong.

Though people might not believe her, the pretty seamstress, from the bottom of her heart, regretted how she’d acted. Graves was a good man: a bit gruff on the outside, but surprisingly thoughtful and daresay even gentle underneath his rugged soldier’s exterior. She should have known this better than anyone; after all, she’d just spent an entire day getting to know the man behind the badge. And yet, when it had counted, she’d let her emotions get the best of her and treated the marshal like he was some… some kind of monstrosity.

It had been an awful, a judgmental reaction based solely on the shallowest of external features, and Rarity wanted nothing more than to apologize for her shameful outburst. Only, she’d never gotten the chance. The very next morning, Graves had received orders to deal with a banshee infestation and had been unreachable for more than two days. Various chance occurrences kept them still apart, and by the time Rarity actually met the marshal again, she no longer knew how to even broach the subject.

That meeting had been brief and awkward, with Rarity not knowing what to say while Graves remained silent and withdrawn, much like he’d been on his first day in town. They’d quickly parted ways, and since then, Rarity had seen neither hide nor hair of the marshal, giving the violet-haired girl a distinct feeling he was avoiding her. Then again, considering how deeply offended he must be, she couldn’t say that she really blamed him.

Even her tried and true method of problem solving hadn’t helped. Usually, when faced with a tricky conundrum, Rarity would lock herself in the boutique workshop and bury herself in work. The creative process of designing new clothes typically helped her form creative solutions to her problems. This time, all she’d gotten out of this ordeal were several dreadful prototypes, numerous sleepless nights, and now a missed spa date with Fluttershy.

So here she sat, stuck in a vicious cycle of increasing guilt. The longer she waited, the worse she felt. The worse she felt, the more she wanted to apologize, and the more she wanted to apologize, the more terrified she became of actually doing it.

“Still, it’s no excuse for putting it off,” she told herself firmly. “I’ll just have to forgo trying to be clever, walk straight up to him and tell him I'm sorry.”

Of course, if it were really that easy, she’d have done it long ago. The memory of his grey eyes, the way they’d grown cold and distant, as if hiding behind a veil of heavy clouds, very much made her doubt it’d be anywhere near that simple.

This was how Rarity found herself staring into the bottom of her teacup, wishing she could use the leaves to magically divine a solution to her problems. Try as she might, all she saw was a soggy, wet mess.

**********