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Chapter 9

Chapter 9

“…I’m sorry, what?” Graves blinked, certain that he had simply misheard.

“My cutie mark. Would you like to see it?”

Nope, he hadn’t heard wrong. For a moment, the marshal just stared, unable to comprehend what would spurn that kind of question. Rarity, however, took the silence as lack of objection and upon turning around, began unbuttoning her blouse.

“Rarity! Why are you… what are you…?” Though his words were sputtered and disjointed, the meaning behind them was clear as his face lit up to a crimson bright enough to shame any of Big Mac’s flannel shirts.

“Do try and calm down, marshal,” Rarity tisked lightly. “I’m only going to be showing you my back. Honestly.”

“Oh… Right..."

Pulling her violet tresses aside, Rarity slipped the shirt from her pale, slender shoulders and lowered it just enough to reveal the upper part of her back. There, glittering as brightly as any jewel between her shoulder blades, were the images of three brilliant, sky blue diamonds.

“Well, what do you think?” she asked, half turned to face the marshal. Though her long hair partly obscured her face, it couldn’t fully hide the hot glow in her cheeks.

Nobody's cutie mark was ever really a secret, but it's not like they were on display for the world to see. After all, most decent clothing covered it up, and few people would ever see it unless it was explicitly shown.

That's what had lit the fire in the young lady's face. Showing someone else your cutie mark was a pretty personal act of sharing usually reserved for friends. Doing it in private was considered even more so, and considering it was just the two of them, a young man and woman alone and separated from the rest of the world, there was an awful lot of blurring at the moment on just where friendly ended and intimate began.

Ah well, she would worry about that later.

“They’re… nice,” Graves answered, though somewhat halfheartedly as his attention was quite divided: he had just learned that Rarity had some very lovely shoulders and the sight was more than just a little distracting.

“Just nice?” she repeated, smiling at the familiarity of the quip.

“Er… very, very nice?” The pretty seamstress simply gave him a flat look, to which Graves could only respond with a sheepish grin.

“Well, I suppose that’ll have to do,” Rarity sighed, unable to fully hide the playful banter in her voice as she slipped her blouse back on. Once she had finished, the violet haired girl turned to the marshal, only the faintest traces of a flush remaining as she composed herself and continued with her plan.

“Now the real question, my dear Graves," she continued, "is whether you know what it stands for.”

"I'd say it's... your love of fashion?” he guessed. "I mean, you are a designer, after all."

“Points for effort,” the young lady smiled, “but far from the whole picture. That’d be like me saying being a marshal’s about running around and playing with guns all day. I… do assume there’s more than that?” she hesitated: her personal experiences hadn’t exactly done much to alter that image.

“Guess you could say that,” Graves said with a slight grin. “So what does it mean?”

“My cutie mark,” Rarity began, drawing herself up proudly, “represents my love of beauty, whether it’s in people or things, or even places, like all those wonders you’ve seen in your travels. Of course, clothes and fashion are a big part of it,” she giggled. “After all, there’s just something magical about putting on the right outfit, but there’s so much more to me than just ensemble and accessory: do you know what I mean?”

“Not exactly, no,” the marshal admitted.

“Well, I can’t exactly say I’m surprised: you are a man after all,” Rarity sighed. “Let’s just put it this way: fashion isn’t meant to create beauty, but to enhance what’s already there. That’s why certain outfits work for some individuals and not for others. Do you follow?”

“Okay, I get that,” Graves nodded.

“Excellent. Now then marshal, think for a moment. What do you suppose separates a good designer from a great one?”

“Well let’s see,” he mumbled, brow furrowed in concentration. “If you enhance, you support. To do that right, you have to know what’s going on, which can also mean… I suppose you’d have to see what needs… enhancing, no?”

“Exactly,” Rarity beamed. “My talent, what makes me special, is that I’m very, very good at seeing the potential for beauty and bringing it out.” But then, her smile faltered as the violet haired girl looked away. hesitant, almost afraid. “Or rather, that’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“Come again?” Graves asked. He didn’t know why, but at that moment, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Maybe it wouldn’t be disastrous like their last few hours, but something was coming, and it wasn’t going to be pleasant.

“Before we continue, I want you to understand something,” the pretty seamstress began, pressing a hand to her fluttering stomach. “I don’t always behave as I should, and certain things I’ve done violate the very spirit of those diamonds you just saw. I wanted you to see them so you could understand that, and also to make things… even between us.

“Even?” the marshal repeated warily.

“In being exposed. I wanted to be in the same situation as you, to have a personal part of myself on the line before…” Taking a deep breath, Rarity looked back up into the marshal’s eyes. It was now or never. Time to take the plunge.

“... before we talked about what happened last week. You know, when you were in my store and I… I saw you.”

*****

Isn’t it funny? She’d just spent a day running from giant, flesh eating scorpions and an even bigger, flesh eating chimera, and yet here, her heart was pounding harder now than it had ever before. All at the prospect of having a conversation.

But it had been that day that had given her the chance. With the monsters, the cave in, and everything in between, both of them had been too busy trying to survive to worry about awkward tensions between them. And yet, she knew the feeling wouldn’t last. Once they got back to town, the silence would return and when it did, Rarity wasn’t sure she’d ever have the courage to broach the subject again. That’s why now, during the interlude where the walls had dropped, she needed to do everything she could to make sure they stayed down for good.

Graves, however, didn’t seem to share the sentiment, as he averted his eyes and looked instead into the fire. In the light of the flickering gems, they glinted like hot iron in a forge, although considerably colder and dimmer.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” he finally said, his tone now harsh and flat as a winter tundra.

Rarity winced: the walls had come back up and with remarkable speed. Still, she’d already started and with the most difficult first step out of the way, Luna have mercy on her if she gave up after that.

“Well in that case, you can just listen,” she stated briskly, even hastily as she charged on ahead before her nerves failed her, “because I have something very important to tell you.”

“When I accidentally crashed into the screen – accidentally mind you, not intentionally – I was prepared for the sight of certain things but not for others. The way I reacted wasn’t exactly appropriate… no, wait, not that… no, it was most certainly inappropriate, but the only reason I reacted that was because of shock. Do you understand me? Simple, utter shock, in the sense that what I saw wasn’t what I was expecting. At least, not in the list of certain things I would expect in that kind of situation. It was in no ways a statement about your character – which you’ve certainly demonstrated clearly enough here – and should only be regarded as an act of surprise at being faced with something completely unexpected. After all, I’m supposed to be very good at seeing people for what they are, and I’ve certainly seen you for being a very kind and wonderful sort of man because it’s my special talent, which is why my cutie mark is like it is… dear me, I seem to be rambling, aren’t I? I know I’m not being very clear, so I’ll just come right out with it. What I’ve been trying to say is…”

She took in a deep breath…

“I’m sorry, Graves!” Rarity cried, her voice practically a shriek as all the frustration, shame, and guilt of the past seven days spilled out in those few simple words. “I’m really, truly, terribly sorry!”

*****

How the marshal took her apology, Rarity had no idea, because she now stared intently at her lap, her cheeks burning in a mix of heart-pounding exertion and heart-stopping mortification. Apology though it was, she knew what she’d done had been incredibly insulting, and she wouldn’t be surprised if the marshal flat out refused to forgive her anyways. In his shoes, she probably would have too.

But as the seconds ticked by and still he said nothing, curiosity got the best of the pretty seamstress. Unable to help it, she dared to peek up at the imposing man brooding before her.

“Graves?” Rarity asked hesitantly. “Is there something wrong?”

“Not wrong,” he said with an odd expression, not happy or forgiving, but in no ways hard or cold anymore either. “I’m just… a bit confused.”

“I did speak a little quickly,” she admitted with a flush of embarrassment. “If you want, I can repeat it–”

“No, I got that part. Well, mostly anyway. I just didn't get the last bit.”

Now it was Rarity’s turn to look confused.

“Last part?” she asked. “That’s when I apologized, wasn’t it?”

“See, that’s what confuses me,” Graves replied as he scratched his head. “If anything, I thought I’d be apologizing to you.”

“…”

“…”

“… Wait, what?!”

**********