• Published 22nd Jul 2015
  • 2,613 Views, 217 Comments

The Diamond in the Stars - Distaff Pope



After a devastating year, Rarity decides to get away from it all and spend some time with her friend Twilight. As their friendship deepens, the two turn to rely on each other with problems both internal and external.

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1. Standing in the Rain

I stuck close to the sides of Ponyville’s streets, struggling to stay out of the worst of the storm and keep my mane and tail looking somewhat presentable. I failed on both accounts. What was I even doing here? I could be back home at the Boutique–

No, I couldn’t. Not now. There were too many empty places there. Too many things missing. Above me, thunder cracked, and the rainfall somehow managed to get even thicker. While I admit, the weather was certainly appropriate, a starry night would have made this walk far more enjoyable. I sighed and shook my head, rain seeping deeper into my coat. Where was I going? Not back home. I couldn’t. I–

I kept walking off into the dark.

♦♦♦

Only friendship and love can sustain a soul.

My words to Sweetie echoed in my head. She was falling, and what kind of example was I setting? I turned my attention back to the dinner I’d spent all afternoon preparing. The table was set perfectly, the apple pie was in the oven, and my grape-apple salad looked simply divine. Maybe I should cancel our dinner, or–

No, no putting it off, Rarity. We must lead by example, and a relationship that’s as likely to end with a major remodelling bill as a romantic evening is not something Sweetie should aspire to, even if–

Enough, Rarity. Enough pitying yourself and bargaining. We know our proper course, and even though what comes next is going to hurt immensely, we must do the right thing for Sweetie’s sake. Anything I can do to take her away from this thing that’s consuming her is well worth it. She needs a role model, and that means doing the mature thing. Who else is going to teach her the right way of doing these things? Certainly not my parents. No, they’d be completely fine if she just moved out on her own. They probably wouldn’t even notice.

Besides, it’s only a matter of time until your fights with Applejack end in somepony getting hurt. Maybe not soon, but if you keep going like this… Sweetie’s not the only pony who could benefit from a healthy relationship.

But, you love her. Yes, that’s true. Very much so, but we can’t… somepony will get hurt, or a line will be crossed eventually, and it’s better we end things before then. Right?

A knock came from the Boutique’s front door and I ducked beneath the windows. I could just tell her I was sick, or that I had an emergency trip to Manehattan, or– The candles I’d lit all around the room flickered. She could see them from a window, there couldn’t be any excuses. This had to be done, Rarity. Besides, we’ll– I got to my hooves and wrapped the doorknob in my telekinetic aura. We’ve been dating for two years and still haven’t managed to hit the three-month anniversary. She deserves better than that.

“Come in, Applejack,” I said, smiling at my marefriend and kissing her cheek. “I just finished preparing dinner.”

♦♦♦

“Alright,” Applejack said, shoveling thirds into her salad bowl. “You ain’t even touched your fancy salad, and I know you ain’t on one of them crazy diets of yours, so tell me what’s botherin’ you.”

I sighed. Time to face the music. No more putting it off, Rarity. “It’s about Sweetie Belle,” I said. giving her a smile that wanted to apologize for what was about to happen next.

“I know it’s been tough for you, Rares, but I think you’re doin’ a real good job tryin’ to set the right example for her. You’ve been tough on her, but you’ve been fair, and I think that’s startin’ to get through to her,” Applejack said before shovelling in another mouthful of salad.

“Thank you,” I said, nodding at her. There were three pints of ice cream in my freezer. Tomorrow, I’d need three more. Maybe more. Probably more. “That’s actually why I invited you over tonight. Applejack... we need to talk.”

Applejack blanched. Of course she would, nothing good ever followed the phrase “we need to talk.” That phrase was the death knell of happiness, and we both knew it. “I’ve been thinking for a while about this, and it’s been an agonizing decision, but–”

Don’t confuse adoration with friendship.

Don’t confuse passion with love.

How was Sweetie to listen to me if I couldn’t even follow my own advice? Hypocrisy, thy name is Rarity.

“You’re breakin’ up with me?!” Applejack said, narrowing her eyes. “What’d I do this time? Not appreciate your frou-frou home cookin’ enough?”

“First of all,” I said, feeling my voice raise, “I cooked this meal just for you, so a little gratitude would be nice, and second–” I caught myself and took a deep breath. Our tempers can’t rule us for this. We must be calm. Rational. Civil. If we fall into our usual fights, nothing will get accomplished and we’ll make up in less than a week. We both know the pattern too well. “This is precisely what’s been on my mind,” I finished, the perfect model of elegance and decorum.

“Your cookin’?” Applejack asked, raising an eyebrow at me. I had to stifle a laugh. Perfect; even now, she was trying to inject some levity into the proceedings. This was no time for that, though.

“No, Applejack, our fighting. We’ve been dating for years, but we can never seem to hit a three-month anniversary. Don’t you get tired of it?” I asked, keeping my eyes on her. Cool and calm, that’s how it had to be. There’d be plenty of time for tears once we were done here. “Don’t you ever want what everypony else has?”

For a moment, she said nothing and scrutinized every inch of her plate. “Sometimes, Ah reckon,” she said, rubbing the back of her head. “Sure, Ah wonder what somethin’ else might be like, but everypony does that from time to time. Ah like where we are now, and Ah figure one day, we’ll run outta things to fight about, and then it’ll be smooth sailin’ for us. Most of the time Ah’m with you, Ah feel great; who cares about the other bits?”

I sighed. It wasn’t going to be easy. I didn’t think it would be. I fixed the image of Sweetie Belle in my mind. For all our sakes, but hers most of all. “But you deserve someone you feel great around all the time, darling. Can you tell me, honestly, that you don’t want a relationship like your parents had? Like everypony but us seems to have?”

“So what if we ain’t got what everypony else got? That just makes us extra-special. We manage to make it work,” she said. She wasn’t answering the question directly. She couldn’t. She had to.

“Applejack, look me in the eyes and tell me the fights don’t bother you at all. Say that in your heart of hearts you don’t wish for a less volatile relationship, and I’ll drop this issue entirely – but be honest. Not just with me, but with yourself.” With her, I shouldn’t have to add the last part, but the heart can twist our better natures against us. Besides, is it lying if you believe what you’re saying?

She looked away. I’d won. There was no going back now. “We can work through it, though,” she said, still avoiding my gaze. “We could go back to that therapist you were so gung-ho about, I’m sure there’s something we can do to get rid of the fightin’. We can make it work.”

“We’ve tried making it work, Applejack. For two years, we’ve struggled and done everything to make it work, but we just can’t. Celestia only knows how many thousands of bits we’ve spent repairing damages to the Boutique and Sweet Apple Acres by now. Every fight seems a little worse than the last, and it’s only a matter of time until…” I trailed off, not wanting to complete the thought. “As much as I’d love it to be otherwise, we can’t keep doing this. Instead of finding somepony to serve as our verbal punching bags, perhaps we should try finding ponies who take away our need for a punching bag. Don’t you think that’s at least worth trying?” Her eyes were watering, but she was holding back the tears. Neither of us would cry in front of the other. Later, though, the dam would burst. It was a good thing Sweetie was off with Diamond Tiara tonight. Not the best, of course, but better than leaving her alone with the other one. The one who had Sweetie’s ear. Is it wrong for me to hate a filly? If Sweetie saw me spending the whole night sobbing... Actually, would she even care? I don’t know the answer anymore.

“Ah reckon it is,” Applejack said, blinking back. “But what if we don’t find anypony else? Ah like us.”

I smiled at her. The consolation. The distant promise to make the present more palatable. “If, in a couple of years, if we’re both single and think rekindling things would be a good idea, I’m certainly open to it, but for right now, let’s do our best to break out of this cycle of fighting and reconciliation we’re trapped in.” I tilted my head. “Agreeable?”

She nodded, and I could practically hear her neck groaning in protest. “Reckon so.” She returned my smile. “Besides, two years can go by lickety-split. We’ll be back together before either of us know it.”

♦♦♦

The wind gusted outside the Boutique, but I kept my eyes firmly trained on the dress in front of me. The ensemble for Sapphire Shores’ latest tour needed to be absolutely perfect. It had to be. Everything had to be perfect. My eyes went from the mannequine to the sketch and back. It didn’t hang right. Oh sure, it looked fine, but any discerning eye could tell that the dress hung a twelfth of an inch lower than it should. The whole thing was ruined.

Yes, that was it. I just needed to–

The shop bells jingled as somepony trotted in. “Can’t you see the sign says I’m closed?” I asked, turning around to look at the intruder. The lavender mare was immediately recognizable for possessing both a pair of wings and a horn. Only four ponies in Equestria had that unique combination of features, and out of those four, only one of them was a friend to me before she was a princess. I smiled at her in apology. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, Twilight, I’ve just been under so much pressure lately, and… you know I’d never be short with you, right?”

Twilight smiled. It was a beautiful small little thing. Utterly and completely sincere without a trace of guile or duplicity. A smile that said you were the most important thing in the world. “It’s fine,” she said, shrugging as the door shut. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay. None of the girls have seen you in a while, and Pinkie’s trying to figure some way to lure you out of the house. She’s convinced we have another fashion show situation on our hooves.” I should take offense that my friends had a shorthoof for my… occasionally unfounded fits of histrionics; but then, I had shorthoof for their foibles as well. Twilight’s was “tardy.”

“No, nothing so terrible, I’m afraid,” I said, giving another glance to the mannequine. If I restarted now, I could maybe have it finished by dawn, and I’d still have three days left to tweak it as needed before the deadline. “Just work.”

Twilight just stared at me, and I could practically hear what was going on in her mind. Are you sure, Rarity? You’ve barely left the boutique this last year, and when you do go out, your mind is always somewhere else. If you want to talk about your sister, I’m here for you.

Yes, I’m sure you are, I’d say in our theoretical conversation. But I’m fine, really, just killing time until Scootaloo can follow some instructions my sister gave her when she briefly became omniscient, because apparently every terrible thing that’s happened to her in the past year has been part of some master plan if you can believe it. I certainly can’t.

“Rarity, are you alright?” Twilight asked. “We’re all just worried about you.” Always dancing around the issue, so concerned with my feelings. Out of all my friends, she was the one most concerned with tact. The rest… well, they could speak plainly, directly, and honestly, but never artfully. Twilight and I could hold a conversation about things we didn’t say.

“I appreciate the thought, Twilight, but I’m fine. I’m sure in…” One year, two seasons, and sixty-three days until Sweetie Belle returned. Two seasons and eighteen days until Applejack and I could get back together. “I’m sure things will be back to normal soon enough. It just takes time, you know.”

“Well, do you want to get dinner some time?” Twilight asked, rubbing one foreleg and glancing away. Why so self-conscious now? “I’m a good listener, and maybe it would help to get some things off your chest. Not saying anything’s bothering you, but I know you haven’t had anypony to talk with lately, and I don’t know where I’d be without Spike to talk to, so… if you’re up for it, dinner maybe? Or it can really be whatever you want. I just thought you might like somepony to talk with.”

What could she say? What could I say that I hadn’t already heard before? I’d sobbed, I’d binged on ice cream, and I moved on as best I could. We were masters of moving on in my family. I smiled at her. It was nothing like Twilight’s smile. “That sounds lovely, Twilight. I’ll let you know when I have a date in mind. Perhaps after I’m done with this order.”

“Alright,” Twilight said, turning to look back at the door. “Is there anything I can do to help out? Maybe you need a model?”

“While I appreciate the thought, Twilight, you don’t quite have Sapphire’s build, plus wings, so… If I need anything, I’ll let you know,” I said, my mind turning back to the dress. This conversation was already over, now it was just the formality of wrapping up. Why had the dress hung so low?

“Promise me,” Twilight said.

“What?” I asked. No, this wasn’t how the conversation was supposed to go at all. She was supposed to say ‘Alright, are you sure?’ and then I’d say ‘Yes, absolutely,’ and the whole thing would be resolved so I could get back to work. I needed to work, it was the best thing for it, really. My productivity had never been better. Why, I’d practically done nothing but work this last year.

“Promise me that if you need anything, you’ll tell me,” she said, taking a step closer to me. “We’re all worried about you, and we just want you to be–” She almost said ‘happy.’ Thank Celestia she didn’t, I’d heard the word enough for several lifetimes. “Okay.”

“Very well, Twilight,” I said, turning back to the clotheshorse. “I promise if I need anything–”

“Anything at all,” Twilight interjected.

“Yes, anything at all, I’ll let you know. Now, as much as I’d love to continue this conversation, I really do need to get to work,” I said, waiting for the sound of the door shutting.

♦♦♦

It was such a small thing. If I was a betting mare – and I must stress the fact that I am not – I never thought a little tableau observed from the Boutique’s window would’ve been the thing to send me over the edge. But then, it’s never what you expect, is it?

I had been so diligent. I’d placed all of Sweetie’s things in her room, and done my best to put her out of mind. Obviously, I hadn’t completely succeeded, but I had compartmentalized. The wound was sealed away, and life continued. I had expected if anything would break me, it would be something related to Sweetie. Perhaps an interview in one of those magazines or… something.

But Applejack… No, I’d never considered. I’d just assumed she was as miserable as I was, and that at the end of my silly two-year moratorium on us dating, we’d continue as if nothing had ever happened. Oh, if only I’d known then how doomed my efforts with Sweetie were… If I hadn’t wanted to ‘set a good example.’

Foolishness, I know, but I never thought Applejack would actually take my advice and find somepony else. I suppose there’s a first time for everything. I was looking at the sky, chiding Rainbow Dash for putting off the rain until we needed to have a thunderstorm to make up for it. She wouldn’t have to work so hard if she didn’t put everything off until the last minute. Listen to me, I sound like – well, no, not my father, but certainly somepony’s father. Just a few more years away from complaining about fillies these days, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash is just a few years younger than you.

Then, who should appear out my window but the blue devil herself. Not to say she’s an actual devil – no, despite my current thoughts on the matter, Rainbow Dash most certainly is not a devil – but you know how the saying goes. The first fat raindrops were falling, smacking against my window – that’s what prompted me to look up – and there she was, walking on the far side of the street, her wing draped over Applejack to form an impromptu cloak. A tender action, to be sure, but I could have rationalized it away as Rainbow Dash having a rare moment of softness, if not for what happened after. As they hurried past my window, Applejack looked back over her shoulder, concern in her eyes. Rainbow Dash contracted her wing and pressed my marefriend – my ex-marefriend – against her. The way Applejack leaned against Rainbow Dash. The way she leaned against me during our few tender moments. There could be no doubt.

A tidal wave of memories came bearing down on me as realization struck. Our nights spent tearing my house down, the days spent rebuilding it. A metaphor for us, I suppose; a perpetual cycle of creation and destruction. We’d build something together, and when it was finally good, we’d demolish it with a sadistic glee, throwing every bit of frustration in our professional and personal lives at each other. Then, when it was over, when we were both so physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted that we couldn’t even keep our eyes open, we’d fall asleep in each other’s hooves and spend the next day making it up to each other. I suppose those days were just as destructive in their own special way.

I remembered our biggest fight. The one about Sweetie. The one that almost completely demolished the store. Holes were punched in the wall, and it’d taken a full day to patch things up. If I looked in the supply closet, I could still see the dent in the wall from when I threw the mannequine at it.

At that moment, I wanted nothing so much as to burn the whole Boutique down.

No, let’s not do that again. The rain would make it almost impossible anyways, and if I was being completely honest with myself, I’d probably regret it in the morning. Almost certainly. Still, I couldn’t stay here tonight. Not in the house we’d torn apart and rebuilt. I couldn’t go out the front door, either; they’d see me then, and then we’d have to put words to the truth.

I trotted to the kitchen. The back door it was, then. How many times had I slipped out here for a rendezvous with Applejack while Sweetie slumbered? No, not thinking about that. The dress hung a twelfth of an inch too low. Better. The whole thing would have to be scrapped, but think of this as an opportunity, Rarity. A chance to make an even better dress, one sure to impress Sapphire Shores. Yes, this wasn’t setback at all, it was a golden gift. One that–

The rain came pouring down and washed away whatever delusions I had left. I was out in the deluge, unable to avoid the truth any longer.

The two most important mares in my life were gone.

I was alone.

♦♦♦

I stared at the giant golden doors to Twilight’s castle, a knocker the size of my head ensconced in my magic.

Clang.

Clang.

Clang.

Each bang of gold on gold was a wave, managing to sweep the world away for a second before fading.

Clang.

Clang.

Clang.

Some odd hours of wandering in the rain later, and here I was, rain seeping into every inch of me. I’d have to be wrung out and hung out over a fire if I ever wanted to be dry again. I saw a letter of complaint being sent to the head of the Ponyville weather team in the very near future. Something asking just why we even bother creating a weather plan if we’re just going to let it fall to the side until we need a big earth-shaking thunderstorm to get caught up. I swear, the mare goes out of her way to force as many storms on us as possible.

“Hello?” Twilight said, the doors to her castle swinging open. “Who’s–?”

She froze when she saw me. I couldn’t blame her. I must’ve looked positively ghastly. My soaked mane hung down almost to my hooves, and my tail had been dragging through the mud since the storm started.

“So,” I said, trying to smile at her. “Is now a good time for dinner?”

Author's Note:

Are you happy now Tchernobog? Are you? I killed my favorite ship for you (and also because it complemented the themes of my larger narrative, but mostly you)!

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