• Published 11th Mar 2015
  • 8,714 Views, 202 Comments

Mate in Five Moves - Karrakaz



Friends who play together, stay together. That was the philosophy Rarity had in mind when she suggested she and Pinkie play a game of chess every week. Unfortunately for Rarity, however, she finds out that Pinkie is playing more than just one game.

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The morning sun found a haggard Rarity half dead on her work bench. Despite trying her darndest not to let her thoughts run away with her, the worries about Pinkie had kept her up all night. She hadn't been able to focus on her designs for long; half an hour at best. Worse, the few scraped-together minutes of sleep she had gotten had been fitful and restless. It felt like she had been co-opted into a Wonderbolts Derby without any training and, at the end of it, participated in a running of the leaves for good measure.

She rubbed her bloodshot eyes with an angry huff and stretched. Today, she decided, I am going to stay home and relax. It was a promise to herself, one that she broke immediately after looking at the clock. Today was the day of her weekly spa date with Fluttershy, and even if she called it ‘fashionably late’, she was supposed to have been at the spa two minutes ago.

Scrambling up to her hooves and then up the stairs for a swift rendition of what was supposed to be her morning routine, Rarity was out the door in less time than she would have thought possible previously. Her trip to the spa was accomplished in less time still, although she couldn’t believe she would feel fully rested ever again by the end of it.

Fluttershy sat in the waiting room, smiling serenely while reading through a wild-life magazine as though she hadn’t been waiting there for over ten minutes. Rarity was never more grateful to see her best friend.

“Darling!” she said, terrifying herself with the raspy croak that was her voice. She pressed on regardless. “You wouldn’t believe the morning I’ve had.”

Fluttershy looked up, and the serene smile faded. It was replaced by an expression of alarm and—Rarity imagined—a good deal of horror. “Rarity!” the pegasus exclaimed, vacating her seat and swiftly moving to stand beside her friend. “What happened?”

Rarity gratefully leaned against Fluttershy. It seemed as though her legs had turned into noodles and she had a hard time remaining upright on her own power. “I’ll tell you all about it once we get settled,” she croaked, finding a smile somewhere underneath the pile of exhaustion that was her state of being.

The best thing about the spa was that there was little for Rarity to do but relax. Letting herself be pampered was always a treat, but today it was especially wonderful. The twins—apparently as concerned as Fluttershy was—even took extra steps to ensure Rarity was taken care of, which translated into brewing her some relaxing tea (chamomile, of course; they knew her so well) and even some cucumber sandwiches. She and Fluttershy spent the sauna and the cold bath that followed it in silence. Only when they’d settled into the mud baths did Fluttershy’s patience run out.

“So... uhm... what happened?”

Rarity shifted uncomfortably. The mud baths weren’t nearly as comfortable as they normally were. “I’m not quite certain,” she replied. “It’s just that...” she took a deep breath. The more she thought about it, the more it sounded silly in her head. “I’ve told you about the games of chess I play with Pinkie Pie, yes?”

Fluttershy nodded.

“Well, of late, I’ve been winning more and more of them.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Fluttershy asked, smiling faintly.

Rarity shook her head. “No. At least... I don’t think so. Pinkie seems distracted when we play, and according to Twilight she only looks like that—” she made a gesture with a hoof and pretended a dreamy look “—Whenever she’s bored of something.”

“So you’re afraid that playing chess with you is what’s boring her?”

Much as she didn’t want to admit it, Rarity found herself nodding. “I... yes.”

Fluttershy nodded in return, before asking: “Are… uhm... are you going to ask her about it?”

“And risk her taking what I say the wrong way? Heavens no.” Rarity shook her head softly. “No, I need to be certain that something has actually changed before I say anything.”

“How are you going to do that?”

Rarity sighed and hung her head. “I don’t know.”

“Maybe...” Fluttershy began before falling silent.

One of Rarity’s ears perked and swiveled in her friend’s direction. “Maybe what, darling?”

“Maybe it has nothing to do with you? Have you seen if Pinkie has the same problems when she’s doing something else?”

That made Rarity pause. Could it be that I’m making this out to be more than it is? The thought sounded sensible enough, attractive even, if only because it would imply that she wasn’t causing Pinkie any unpleasantness. “No, I haven’t,” she said finally. “Though perhaps I should.”

“Are you going to right now?”

It was only after Fluttershy asked the question that Rarity realised she was halfway to the door already, mud trailing behind her like a less edible version of cookie crumbs. She laughed sheepishly and made her way back. “Terribly sorry, darling. I guess I got a little ahead of myself." She settled back into the mud and made an effort to banish the thoughts about Pinkie from her head, choosing to focus on the pony next to her instead. “Tell me, how was your week?”

Fluttershy smiled back. “Well, I think Angel is finally ready to accept salads without all the fussing about the particulars, and—”

In the hours that followed, Rarity and the inside of the spa were treated to a side of Fluttershy not many ponies even knew existed. A happy, carefree, side that could talk about her animals and daily life for any length of time, complete with subdued squeals of elation. Rarity, ever the socialite, smiled and nodded when appropriate, and even asked for clarification now and then. But despite all that, she found it hard to really give Fluttershy the attention she deserved. Her mind was full of pink, chess, and questions.


After bidding Fluttershy a good day and stepping out of the spa, Rarity made her way over to the library. She needed more information on Pinkie’s behaviour when bored, and the best place to get it was from the pony who told her about it in the first place. The trip took longer than she would have wanted, and yet she kept stopping herself from breaking into a canter. A lady doesn’t rush for anypony; she takes it easy and arrives at her own pace, she thought to herself, ignoring the fact that her own body wanted her pace to be ever faster.

When the library finally came into view, she did speed up a little bit, careful to keep herself to a brisk trot. The door was open so she could walk right in, but when she did, it put her in front of a most curious situation.

“F4 to E5,” Twilight said before taking a bite from a cupcake she held in her magic.

“Awh poo. I liked my pegasus there.” Pinkie pouted and blew a strand of mane out of her face. “A1 to A6, check.”

Twilight smiled. “C8 to A6. Mate in six moves.”

Rarity’s ears perked up. Twilight and Pinkie were playing chess! Perhaps she could observe Pinkie in a game with somepony else to see how she normally played, and determine if it really had something to do with her lack of skill.

She very carefully peeked around the corner, wondering just how well Pinkie was doing.

What?

Rarity saw two mares, seated across from one another with only a table and a plate of snacks between them. What she didn’t see, however, was a chess set. She looked around the room in confusion. While she didn’t consider herself an expert by any means, she recognised the letters as being things Twilight had called out while playing with her the other day. It had seemed rather pointless at the time, but now she realized that the numbers and letters were locations on the board.

They’re playing... in their heads. They really are in another league.

It suddenly made Pinkie’s behaviour a whole lot more sensible. If she and Twilight could play the game without even needing a board to remind them where all the pieces were, there was no way that Rarity could provide her with an interesting challenge. It was a sobering thought, but for reasons she couldn’t explain, it didn’t quite seem to fit with what she had seen from Pinkie.

Perhaps I need to observe her in different settings. See if it really is boredom or something else altogether.

She did not move immediately, waiting for the match to play itself out before she made her presence known. Twilight did indeed win in the predicted six moves, or at least Rarity assumed she did from the way Pinkie congratulated her; though there was no hugging involved. She stepped back into the doorjamb and smiled. “Bravo, Twilight.”

Both mares looked up, startled, though Twilight quickly recovered and smiled. “Thanks, Rarity.”

Pinkie wasn’t as graceful and very nearly fell out of her chair, flailing her forelegs around in an attempt to keep herself balanced. When she did finally find it, she smiled, red-faced. “Hiya, Rarity.”

Rarity didn’t beat around the bush now that she had decided that she needed more information. “Twilight?” she said innocently. “I was wondering if I could borrow Pinkie for the rest of the afternoon?”

Pinkie’s eyes bulged out, and she somehow got even more flushed. “Oh, no! Were we supposed to do something together? I’m sorry, I forgot we had a—”

“Calm down, darling,” Rarity interrupted her, holding up a hoof. “You didn’t do anything wrong. I was just...” Her sentence faltered for a moment. While the idea was a good one, she hadn’t quite thought it through. As such, she had no real idea of where or what she could do to glean more information. “Wondering if you would like to join me for lunch?” She finished the sentence with a smile, mentally patting herself on the back. Smooth recovery, if I do say so myself.

Pinkie Pie was already nodding before she had finished the sentence, but stopped right after, glancing at Twilight before giving Rarity a soulful look. “I’m sorry, Rarity,” she said. “I would love to, but I promised Twilight we’d play more games.”

“Pinkie...” Twilight sighed and let out a short laugh. “We’ve already played fifteen games today. You don’t have to stay here just because you promised.” She got up and walked to the other side of the table, giving Pinkie a friendly nuzzle and pushing her forward with a wing. “Go on, we’ll play those games some other time.” The entire room was silent while Pinkie’s eyes darted between Rarity and Twilight, but before she could say anything, Twilight shook her head and said, “I promise.”

Pinkie’s smile was as wide as it ever got and she grabbed Twilight in a bear hug. “You’re the bestest friend ever, Twilight!”

Rarity couldn’t suppress her own smile while the alicorn was all but crushed by Pinkie. It was rather brilliant; by making a different promise about the games they were supposed to play, Twilight had absolved Pinkie of her own.

“Alright, alright. You can let go now, Pinkie.” Twilight disentangled herself from the hug and gently pushed Pinkie towards Rarity. “Have fun, and good luck.”

It was a bit of a weird statement, given that they would just be taking lunch together, but Rarity didn’t get the chance to ponder as Pinkie grabbed one of her forelegs and bodily dragged her in the direction of Sugarcube Corner.

“This is going to be so much fun! Mr. Cake just made a batch of cinnamon cookie rolls with extra powdered sugar!” Pinkie licked her lips and began bouncing with anticipatory glee; something Rarity wasn’t altogether happy with.

“Darling?” she said, looking around for something to brace herself against. Despite the fact that she did not consider herself a slouch in the least, she was no match for Pinkie’s strength—whether that was earth pony heritage or something uniquely Pinkie’s own, she didn’t know, but it meant that she couldn’t simply hold her ground. “Darling, please hold on a moment.”

It took three more tries and two more streets before Pinkie actually slowed down and another for her to stop. She finally let go of Rarity's foreleg and looked back at her with a puzzled frown. “What's wrong, Rarity? I thought you wanted to—”

“I do, darling. I do,” Rarity interrupted her, aiming to preempt any thought in her friends head about wanting to back out. “It's just that I was thinking of something other than sweets. It does get tedious after a time, doesn't it?”

Pinkie looked at her incredulously. “No?”

Inwardly Rarity let out a long-suffering sigh. Of course you wouldn't think so. Outwardly, however, she let out a short laugh. “Regardless, I really must watch what I eat, especially after those cookies you brought to our last game.”

That seemed to break Pinkie out of her funk and her smile returned. “Oki-doki-loki. So where are we going?”

It was another question Rarity didn’t have an immediate answer for, and she silently cursed herself for not planning ahead. On the other hoof, taking Pinkie to so fancy a restaurant probably isn’t the best of ideas anyway. She ran through other options in her mind, forcing herself not to wince with what came to mind; each name was worse than the last. “Well,” she said, finally. “I had wanted to keep things simple, so let’s go The Lilted Lily?”

“Oki.” Pinkie nodded and, in a rare display of restraint, allowed Rarity to lead the way.


The Lilted Lily wasn’t the same restaurant she had recommended to Twilight when the then unicorn first came to town. There had been a change in management and the new manager knew next to nothing about atmosphere; nor about good food, as far as Rarity was concerned. It was, however, still a step up from most of the dining opportunities around Ponyville. Rarity reasoned that she at least wouldn’t be run out of town by the rumor mill for being seen there, and that would have to be enough.

With a small smile, she made a further allowance because her company. Pinkie happily greeted most anypony in the establishment by name, and quickly found a spot near the windows. With the weather ponies being as wily as they were, Rarity didn’t want to risk eating outside, and it could be a golden opportunity to find out about Pinkie in a not quite familiar setting.

A pegasus mare with a soiled-white coat made her way over to them almost as soon as they'd sat down. “Heya, what can I getcha?” she asked in a cheery voice.

“Three hayburgers, two helpings of tomato slices, and a hayshake, light,” Pinkie rattled off in an equally cheery voice.

Rarity gaped at her friend at the extravagant order, which the pegasus skillfully wrote down on a notepad. Both of them looked at Rarity expectantly. She felt a little put on the spot, and wasn't quite sure if the restaurant still served the mozarella cheese salad with croutons that was her favorite. She certainly didn't remember them serving hayburgers. The seconds dragged on and she finally let out a sigh. “I’ll take a daffodil sandwich, if you don't mind.”

“Not at all!” The pegasus singsonged, putting her order on the pad and snapping off a quick salute to the both of them. “Be right back with your orders. Don't go anywhere!”

After the waitress was gone, Rarity took a good look at Pinkie. Her friend, while comfortable, obviously hadn't been here a lot judging by the way she looked around, trying to take everything in. Not that there was a lot to see, as far as Rarity was concerned. The inside of the restaurant still had the familiar elegant decorations that had put it on the map of Canterlot's high and mighty, although it perhaps wasn't as clean as it used to be. Contrary to her initial estimation of the new manager’s abilities—or perhaps in spite of them—the smell that drifted from the kitchen was pleasant and mouthwatering. And perhaps most important of all, ponies still respected each other enough to eat in relative silence.

“So, darling, how has your day been?” she asked after Pinkie'd had her fill of the surroundings.

“Great! Me and Twilight played a few games and read from a silly book for a while, and now I'm having lunch with you!” She fell silent for a moment, her face scrunching up in that absolutely adorable way that only she ever seemed to manage. “Although, I forgot to eat breakfast, so maybe it’s both breakfast and lunch? Breakunch? Brunch? Crunch?” Pinkie giggled softly which made Rarity smile as well.

“Yes, I saw your last game, and I have to say, I'm impressed. Playing without a board to remind you of where the pieces are can't be easy.”

Pinkie nodded animatedly. “It was very hard at first, especially with how fast Twilight makes her moves. It’s like she knows how the entire game is going to go just from which piece I move first, and she sometimes gets annoyed when I take a long time to decide what to do next.”

“I can imagine. The speed at which the two of you play is staggering. By comparison, playing against me must be quite boring.” Rarity felt a heaviness settle in her stomach but refused to acknowledge it; she was going to keep the conversation light. “I wouldn't be surprised if you got bored of it at times.”

Pinkie looked at her like she had just proclaimed that the moon didn't really shine, but only reflected the light of the sun. “Why'd you think that? I love playing games with you! You're always patient with me, and you don't mind when I get a little…” Pinkie twirled a hoof next to her head.

“Well, yes,” Rarity replied, taken aback by the conviction in Pinkie's voice. “But I’ve gotten angry and disappointed, even thrown away the entire board after…” She fell silent, too ashamed of her own outbursts to continue.

“That's not important, silly. Everypony gets upset sometimes,” Pinkie said with a small smile. “What's important is that you keep trying. That's another thing I lo— like about you.”

Pinkie passed over her slip-up in a fraction of a second, masking it further with a bright smile that disguised any hint of a blush as an expression of happiness. It was quick enough that most ponies wouldn't have thought twice about it.

Rarity was not most ponies.

She shifted into a more comfortable position and kept her breathing steadily. Pinkie often remarked that she loved things about ponies and had, in the past said the similar things about Rarity. It was accepted as the way Pinkie expressed herself, and as such wasn't unsettling or unusual in the slightest... which made it all the more telling that she hadn't. The implications were far reaching. The sort that could potentially end in disaster and heartbreak if not handled with care. Fortunately, the dilemma wasn't urgent. Pinkie's infatuation was obviously a recent development and Rarity's reply needn’t be immediate.

It shone a new light on everything that had baffled her before. Pinkie’s apparent distractible demeanour during their games; Twilight's wishes of good luck… Rarity hid a grimace. Twilight knew about it, and she didn't say anything. In any other instance, she would have been proud of her friend for keeping a secret—especially one that was romantic in nature—so well. As it was, she silently cursed the alicorn for not giving her a little heads up.

“Rarity?”

“Yes, darling?” she replied automatically before her attention returned from its journey inward.

Pinkie, still seated across the table looked at her worriedly, one and a half hayburger and a precious few tomato slices spread out in front of her. “Is everything okay? You haven't even touched your sandwich.”

Affecting a smile was easy when one trained for it, and Rarity had. “Forgive me, darling. I was simply lost in thought.”

“What were you thinking about?”

Rarity tittered and waved a hoof. “Nothing of note. Merely that I may have used too many sequins on my latest designs for Sapphire Shores, and of ways to fix that particular mistake.” It was a lie, on top of a lie. The first of many, she thought with a sigh, masking it by taking a bite of the sandwich that had appeared in front of her at some point. If she was going to let Pinkie down gently and preserve their friendship, however, it couldn't be helped. She took a moment to appreciate the taste of the sandwich, which was better than she would have expected, and then focused her attention on Pinkie once more.

Pinkie Pie had already worked her way through most of her second hayburger and showed no signs of slowing down, leading Rarity to idly wonder where she kept it all. It was like Pinkie had a bottomless pit where her stomach was supposed to be, which in turn lead Rarity to think about her friend's figure. Pinkie was perhaps the most… generously sized mare in their little group, but she was by no means ‘overweight’. The slight pudge in her flanks and cheeks endeared more than they distracted, and she looked absolutely marvelous in a dress. But then, most ponies managed that in a dress of Rarity's design.

“So, darling, how are the twins doing?” Rarity took another dainty bite from her sandwich and watched Pinkie's face light up.

“Oh they’re great! Pumpkin hardly cries at all anymore, and whenever Mrs. Cake is baking, she wants to try it as well. She's not very good at getting the batter mixture right; she always pours in every bit of sugar and salt she can get her hoofsies on, and if I make the batter she tries to eat it all, but she’s just the greatest with a rolling pin.” She giggled. “I think she would be rolling around the house with it, if we didn't stop her.”

Rarity nodded with a soft smile of her own. It was good to see Pinkie relax a little, and despite the situation, she was genuinely interested in hearing how the twins, and Pinkie by extension, were doing. “What about Pound?” she asked, digging up her last conversation with Pinkie from the depths of her mind for context. “Is he still wetting the bed?”

“Sometimes.” Pinkie shrugged and took a long drink from her hayshake. “It only happened once last week, so he's doing much better… but he's not interested in baking anymore. Not like Pumpkin anyway.”

“Oh?” Rarity would have thought that Pinkie would have been a little saddened by the news, given her own love for the art.

Instead, Pinkie leaned forward conspiratorially, eyeing the other patrons at the restaurant before gleefully whispering: “I found him waddling around my party supplies yesterday. I think he wants to become a party planner as well!” Her brow furrowed when she sat back. “Although I should probably keep him from crawling into the party cannon in the future. Mrs. Cake was so worried she almost fainted!”

Can't imagine why, Rarity thought sarcastically, and then immediately admonished herself. Pinkie would never allow either of the twins to come to harm anymore than the Cakes themselves. Still, she could relate to the sentiment and so said: “That is probably for the best.”

“What about you, Rarity? Whatcha been up to? Anything fun?”

There was an entire laundry list. From the fact that she had seen Rainbow Dash sneak into Fluttershy's cottage after both of them had disavowed the possibility of a relationship, to the rather 'intimate' letters between Twilight and her mentor, which she had heard about from Spike. It was, however, an entire laundry list centered about the theme of romance, and though she normally loved to gossip about such things, right now, she didn't want to do anything that could stoke the fire. It left her with precious little to talk about. She needed another angle.

“Always, darling,” she said with an air of confidence. “But I do very much feel that I'm doing most of the talking whenever we get together.”

“That's okay, though! I like listening…”

I don't doubt it, darling, but now that I know why, perhaps it's best that we didn't. Rarity smiled purposely. “Regardless, I want to hear more about how you've been doing. For instance... How is your family doing?”

Pinkie waved to the waitress and motioned to her empty hayshake, setting it down only after the waitress had nodded. “They're doing okay. Limestone visited me wednesday and—”

“Your sister visited you, and you didn't tell us?”

Pinkie's smile faded and she drooped a little. “I’m sorry, Rarity. Limestone only came over to tell me how much they missed me since I left the farm, and she doesn't really feel comfortable around ponies she doesn't know.”

Rarity smiled softly. “I forgive you, on one condition: Next time one of your sisters visits, you introduce all of us.”

With an enthusiastic nod, Pinkie agreed. “I promise.”

Rarity nodded curtly and then leaned forward. “So tell me, what did the two of you do?”

The waitress returned with a second hayshake and shared a smile with Pinkie, who thanked her for the drink. Pinkie then wrapped her lips around the straw and emptied half of the cup in one pull. There was absolutely nothing sensual about it, and the only reason Rarity watched her do it was that she was waiting for an answer.

“First we talked about the farm. Marble and Ma actually miss having me around,” Pinkie said eventually, smiling softly. “After that I had to work, but we talked about Da a little.” She giggled again. “After I gave her some cookies to try, she didn't want to leave. I had to promise to send her yummies every week to get her out the door.”

Rarity couldn't stifle a giggle herself, the mental image was too much. After it had run its course she sighed wistfully. “I wish my family was as enamoured with my work. I’ve tried talking about my newest line with them before; their eyes just sort of glazed over until I stopped, and then all they could talk about was how much they were looking forward to their next trip out of town. And Sweetie Belle only ever wants to talk about either her cutie mark, or ways to get it.”

“Could I see them?”

Rarity blinked away the mental image of her little sister with leather wings and a pair of devil horns to look at Pinkie. “Sorry, what did you say?”

“Could I see the dresses you've been working on?” Pinkie repeated softly. All of a sudden Rarity could feel the hammering of her heart in her ears. Had she misread Pinkie’s infatuation?

She couldn’t possibly be thinking—

Images of an awkward but heartfelt confession, followed by an attempt at a kiss flashed in front of her mind. She wouldn’t know what to say, and her unresponsiveness would leave Pinkie heartbroken.

No, it mustn’t happen that way!

She shook her head violently, rattling the thoughts loose before they could take hold. Don’t be absurd, Rarity. Pinkie might be spontaneous enough, but there’s no way she’s going to something as brazen as that. And yet, as she watched Pinkie’s ears pin themselves to her skull, and heard the sad “Oh,” from Pinkie’s lips, she couldn’t help but think back to scenes in the books that littered her nightstand. It took another minute before she realised that Pinkie had taken her shaking her head as a refusal.

“Sorry, darling,” she said, trying to mend the situation. “It’s just that... the dresses I was talking about were shipped out weeks ago, before my parents went on their trip. And, well...” she let out a humorless laugh. “You know how much of a mess my work space is at the best of times. I haven’t had a chance to clean up yet, and all I have now are sketches, not terribly interesting.”

Pinkie nodded, but it was clear that she only half believed what Rarity had said.