• Published 29th May 2017
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∩∩Θπ ~ Ö ~ ÇHΓΩ/\/\É - shortskirtsandexplosions



Twilight Sparkle helps Rarity around the Boutique after the fashionista is temporarily blinded by magic.

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Twilight

In darkness Rarity awoke, and in darkness she slinked out of the warm confines of her bed. Stiff hooves carried her tired body—awkwardly—out of the bedroom and down the second story hallway of Carousel Boutique. Despite her attempts at grace, she bumped into a wall or a piece of furniture more than once... twice.

Gritting her teeth in frustration, Rarity nevertheless maintained civility and poise. She slowed her steps, pausing every now and then to feel with her front fetlocks and—when in desperation—her telekinesis. In all cases, the world around her failed to light up; everything remained as dark and featureless as the moment she first broke through the veil of sleep.

This was the ninth day in a row of experiencing this—not that she could tell on her own. Somepony had to explain it to Rarity... had to assist her in measuring the motions of an unseen world around her. In a matter of moments, Rarity would be hearing her voice again.

This brought a smile to her lips, and she stepped with greater assurance, navigating the familiar textures and smells of her fabulous abode. At last, all these efforts took her where she needed to be: the second story lavatory. She stepped inside and—with far more practiced grace than any other part of the Boutique—Rarity blindly prepared herself a bath. In a matter of minutes it was warm and scented and bubbly and just perfect. Well, almost perfect.

As Rarity lowered herself into the soothing liquid, she sighed as she contemplated the missing ingredients. Somepony's voice came to mind. Youthful, precise, bold—yet tinged with an ounce of anxious frailty. Nevertheless, they were careful and articulate words that could only come from the muzzle of a pony far more generous than her—generous with knowledge, generous with caution, generous with the sheer decency of her existence.

Another sigh. The liquid of the bubble bath hugged her just like her thoughts did. Over a week had passed since the world went black, and yet Rarity didn't feel the sting of existential fear—not for one second. She knew whom she had to thank for that. She knew all the lengths that someone had gone to make sure she felt comfortable and protected and adored in a time of maximum discomfort.

Rarity's muzzle briefly scrunched. She reluctantly drew a hoof out of the water and felt the top half of her face. Her wet fetlock made contact yet again with the coarsely woven material bound tightly around her eyes and forehead. Brushing her fuzzy flesh up against it felt like scraping sandpaper. Rarity shivered from head to tail, causing the water around her to splash against the edges of the tub. She couldn't wait to be rid of that ghastly hood—healing properties be damned. Her mind went to disgusting places, imagining the disdainful faces of ponies seeing her trot about with her skull half-enshrouded in mummified wrappings. Oh, the horror! Who cared if it was only temporary! At this rate, she could just as well be buried in that dreadful thing—

Just then, a sound could be heard from the bottom floor of the Carousel Boutique below. It was the creaking of a door, accompanied with jangling keys. Not very long afterwards, Rarity heard a voice. Her voice: "Good morning, Rarity! Sorry that I'm late!"

Was she late? How far into the morning was it? Rarity paid the matter two thoughts, then none at all—for she was nothing but frenetic movement. Water splashed around her as she plucked the drain stopper and stood up in one single burst of fabulous energy. "Just a seconnnnnnd!" she sang, her heart leaping. The air tingled with the trailing vibrations of her visitor's voice. Rarity scarcely felt the chill of the warm water receding past her flank... legs... fetlocks...

"Spike had a stomach ache and Fluttershy came to take a look at him," Twilight Sparkle's voice continued. "Her skills in baby dragon care are getting better. I guess I-I got caught up in the discourse. I mean—can you imagine if someone from Ponyville became an honest-to-goddess dragon biologist? I know it's Fluttershy we're talking about, but still... the idea enthralls me—"

"Yes yes." Rarity panted, nearly falling over the tub's side. With more or less grace, she floundered and felt around for her towel and terry cloth bathrobe. Wet limbs dribbled all over the place. "Spike's sick and Fluttershy's getting more and more assertive. Mmmmhmmm. Quite..."

"Rarity?" Twilight's voice danced its goofy way up the hallways of Carousel Boutique. "Is everything alright—?"

"Don't come up yet, darling!" Rarity insisted, although the voice came out hoarse and insincere. She cleared her throat, throwing in extra gusto while she slid her trembling body into her robe. "I am terribly indecent at the moment!"

"Rarityyyyyy..." So childish and chiding. The world spun faster and faster with her arriving hoofsteps. "How many times have we been over this?" The voice had reached the second floor by now. "You really shouldn't be doing any complex stuff until your sight's back!"

"I'm a lady, Twilight!" Rarity upturned her nose to the ceiling, although she couldn't tell aside from the toss of her damp mane. "Am I not entitled to an ounce of early morning luxury?"

"It's eleven o'clock." Dull. Droning. Perfect.

"Even still!" Rarity inhaled, exhaled, tied the sash around her bathrobe and struck a pose by the sink. "The lavender bath salts were calling!" She locked her body in a dainty pose, facing the door, waiting. "You know how it is, darling."

At last, she arrived. The room instantly drew warmer, and a series of giggles fed the flames. "Rarity! Heehee! You're so wet!"

Rarity smiled... squirmed... and smiled some more. "Indeed!"

"You were trying to take a bath?"

"I was succeeding at it," Rarity insisted, fluffing her wet bangs. The room echoed with errant droplets of bathwater striking the tile below. "And doing so quite swimmingly until you arrived. Erm... if you pardon the grotesque pun."

"Heeheehee—" Nerdy chortles. Subtle. Nasal. Delicious. "Raritttty. What if you slipped and fell?"

"Surely you would comandeer a way to catch me, darling."

"Not if I wasn't here for when it happened!"

"Yes, well... you could cast a time spell—!"

"Oh gosh, Rarity—"

"Leap through a portal and come sweeping to my drowning rescue!"

"After what went down with Starlight, I think we both know that time magic is completely off limits."

"Really?" Rarity pouted. She laid it on thick and thicker. "Not even to save your best friend?"

"Ugh... Rarity..." The last breath came closer. Warmer. At last, a gentle hoof reached out and made contact with Rarity's. Rarity locked in place as she heard her friend's voice frame the fragile moment, stern and rigid and yet oh-so-earnest. "What am I ever going to do with you?"

Rarity gulped. "A tiny laundry list c-comes to mind."

"Here..." The sound of ethereal chimes. Rarity felt the whole bathroom come alive with Twilight Sparkle's telekinesis. "Let me dry you off."

At that, Rarity cleared her dainty throat. "I'm not a foal, Twilight."

"Fine. Let me dry you off, please."

"Hmmmm..." Rarity closed her blind eyes beneath the bandage and went limp. "Much better."

Over the course of a fluffy minute, Rarity allowed Twilight to dry off her mane and legs and tail. Soon, she stood dry in her bathrobe. Well, mostly dry. For all of her penchant for perfection, Twilight was prone to missing spots—especially when it came to beauty. Rarity made many a mental note of that, and she looked forward to the moment when she could tear off the bandage obscuring her eyes so that she may return the favor... and perhaps even teach Twilight a thing or two—

"There?" Twilight leaned back. "Better?"

"Absolutely perfect, d-darling!" Rarity managed, smiling from cheek to cheek. "You must let me tip you one of these days." She finished that with a delicate giggle.

If the act of rolling eyes had a sound, Twilight would be shattering the windows of that place. "Shall we go downstairs and help you continue from where you left off?"

"Sounds smashing."

"First thing's first. The Spell." Rarity felt Twilight gently grip her hoof. "Are you ready?"

The fashionista swallowed tightly. "As ready as I'll ever be." She tilted her head—and horn—forward. "Do me, darling."

And Twilight did. It was a slow process at first. Rarity felt it like the warmth from a tiny candle. But soon the blaze spread into something akin to a crackling fireplace. Before her fourth breath, Rarity felt that toastiness melt and coat every wall and floor of the place. As it did so, lines formed. Solid, geometric white lines that etched permanent vectors against an ocean of endless black. Within the span of a minute, the frame of the bathroom and the outline of every object inside it had solidified. Rarity could even see a sea of tiny white dots forming the fuzzy texture of the terry cloth bathroom she was wearing.

And all of this—the entire monochromatic fascimile of her dwelling that she now detected through the opaque material of her bandage—was made possible by a solitary source of illumination before her. It was a torch... a lavender torch... a lavender alicorn-shaped torch that was grasping Rarity's hoof. As the spell was fully cast, Twilight Sparkle leaned back, and the only distinguishable features on her person were a pair of glowing eyes that flickered with even brighter lavender. As she shifted her petite weight, Twilight's body cast a brighter glow on the tile and walls immediately around her. The black and white vectors were the brightest around her fetlocks, and when she spoke the room flickered as if with candle light.

"There. Tell me, what do you see?"

Rarity exhaled warmly. "My knight in lavender armor."

A giggle. The white lines brightened and dimmed with the musical cadence of Twilight's laughter. The glowing eyes curved from underneath, indicating a cheeky smile. Rarity imagined the finer details between the coming words. "Seriously, Rarity. Is it just as bright as the last few days before...?"

"If you must know, Twilight, and at the risk of alarming you... I daresay it's slightly dimmer than before."

"Oh! That's good!"

"It is?"

"Yes! It means that the bandage is working and your eyes are slowly returning back to normal! Soon—in a matter of days, I'd estimate—you'll be able to see like normal again!"

"Oh." Rarity's ears drooped somewhat. She looked aside, seeing the black-and-white frame of a bathtub lingering in the center of a newspaper mosaic. "Then... I won't be needing this elaborate spell any longer..."

"Well, no. But I'd be more than happy to come and check up on you as you reacclimate to your natural vision!"

"R-really?" Rarity spun to face her again. The white lines scrambled, flickered, and rediscovered their geometric perfection with the lavender figure in the center. "So... you'll keep visiting?"

"Of course, Rarity. You're my best friend!"

Rarity clenched her teeth to the point of shattering. She salvaged it with a delicate smile. "Far be it from me to question that."

"Ahem." Twilight cleared her voice, then happily chirped: "So... shall we go downstairs? I'll make you a breakfast and you can continue your work! You're just two gowns away from finishing the super-important commission, aren't you?"

"Hmmm?" Rarity jolted in place. "Oh! Yes! Of course! Pretty... pretty dresses." She cleared her throat and held her hoof out. "Please, darling. It's a dangerous set of stairs to traverse on my lonesome."

"Heehee. Ohhhhhh now you wish to be cautious!"

Rarity winked under her bandage. "Let's just say that my best friend has humbled me."

Another giggle. Another flicker of warm energy, and Twilight's figure gently took Rarity's hoof. Carefully, one hoof-trot after another, she guided Rarity down the stairs to her Boutique's first floor studio. As Twilight moved, the interior of the home was illuminated all around them. White lines bled into existence and faded, shone into focus by the proximity of Twilight's lavender glow. Rarity saw the railing of her stairs, picture frames with no faces, and the low arch of a ceiling. Even when she closed her eyes, she saw the framework of her house unraveling like a mess of white yarn against charcoal. The whole time, Twilight spoke—warmly illuminating the monochrome mosaic with her voice and mirth.

"...so I told Fluttershy about Moondancer. Remember how she's been working on a thesis about dragon temperament and the reasons why draconians factions haven't bothered to eradicate the equestrian races from the face of the earth despite their greater strength and numbers? It's more than a matter of might-makes-right. There's a magical symbiotic relationship at play between both civilizations..."

"Uh huh." Rarity hummed. Rarity smiled. Rarity followed the lavender light as it gently led her to the studio. As Twilight's lavender essence drew closer to the fashionista's workstation, a series of black and white ponniquins materialized, wearing black and white fabrics. Rarity found a cushioned stool and Twilight gently helped her sit down. With a satisfied sigh, Rarity telekinetically gripped a pincushion and a series of sewing needles and went to work. She snorted as she felt herself reaching magically for a pair of bifocals—pure muscle memory.

"How would you like your eggs?" Twilight asked, her voice growing slightly distant. As she went into the kitchen adjacent to the workstation, the dresses and fabrics in front of Rarity dimmed noticeably. "Scrambled?"

"Sunny side up, darling." Rarity smiled out the corner of her muzzle. "I'm feeling positively bubbly today."

"You can actually see the yolk in my spell?"

"Just humor me."

"Heehee. Alright." Rarity heard Twilight getting to work in the kitchen. There was the clatter of plates and egg cartons, and then Twilight's intellectually merry voice: "The way I see it: dragons are too large and oafish to mine their way into the deep hollows of the earth and salvage it for the crunchiest gemstones that they hunger for the most. So—with intelligent creatures like ponies and griffons existing small enough to acquire the diamonds and rubies ourselves—it's far better a scenario for dragons to allow us to live so that they can meticulously acquire the items they need for their hoardes! And so I got to thinking: 'Why couldn't Moondancer write that into her treatise? Is she scientifically biased against the idea of equine-draconic synergy?' And then Fluttershy said..."

"Mmmhmmm..." Rarity smiled. With each sentence that Twilight spoke, waves of black-and-white illumination rippled out of the kitchen and across the studio. Rarity timed her needle-threading with each pulse, putting the finishing touches on the laced hem of a majestic gown. All the while, Twilight talked about dragons, research citations, and the proper way to format an addition to a prominent Canterlot scientific journal. With each passing minute, the air grew more fragrant—laced with muzzle-tickling pepper and garnish.

At long last, the white lines framing the room brightened, accompanied by the lavender glow of their source... trotting up from behind Rarity and placing a warm plate of eggs on the table beside her stool and the dresses.

"...that's why it helps to have an openness of mind! For who knows what you might discover of other creatures—no matter how beastly!" A pair of eyes billowed with lavender light. "What are your thoughts, Rarity?"

"Hmmm?" Rarity looked up from her two-toned needling. "My thoughts on what, darling?"

Twlight's body flickered as her lungs emitted an adorably breathy groan. "Have you been listening to a single thing I've said?"

"Oh, naturally, darling!" Rarity levitated a black-and-white fork and stabbed into her black-and-white eggs. The food was scrumptious for the first few milliseconds of being in her mouth, but then Rarity swiftly tasted the burnt texture. It wasn't a ruined breakfast, really. It had character—predictable and precious. "Mrmmff... Moondancer thinks dragons are beyond salvation, but you and Fluttershy believe they are capable of naturally-inclined symbiosis with ponykind. Also, Spike's tummy aches."

"Huh..." Twilight actually sounded stunned. Rarity's heart leapt against her ribcage. "I thought you were... y'know... concentrating on your dresses."

"Mmmmm..." Rarity braved her way through a few more bites. "It's thanks to you that I can in the first place, dear."

"How many dresses did you have to make for Sapphire Shores again?"

"Oh. Uhm." Rarity fidgeted. "Twelve."

"Then you're two away from finishing!"

Rarity fidgeted again. "Yes. Precisely."

"Wow. And you're absolutely certain that this task of yours couldn't wait? I mean... I'm certain she would understand your having to delay the commission work on account of the incident your eyes have suffered—"

"No. No!" Rarity nearly fell off her stool. With a slight juggle, she straightened the plate of eggs in her grasp and seethed. "You... You simply h-have no idea, Twilight! I must get all twelve of these dresses done on time or else Sapphire Shores' extravagant tour in Fillydelphia next week shall be ruined! Uttterly ruined!"

"Wow. It must be something to have such a famous pony rely on your expertise so heavily."

"Yes." Rarity sighed melodically. "As proud as it makes me, it can be quite... terribly taxing."

"Looks like you have two more dresses to finish."

"That's right."

"So... I guess I'll have to spend a few more days making these visits... right up until your eyes recover."

"Indeed." Rarity sniffled. She pouted, her lips protruding slightly as her ears drooped. "I... do hope that isn't too much to ask, Twilight, darling."

"Heehee! Not at all, Rarity!" Twilight's voice sang and so did Rarity's heart. "It's like I told you on the first day! I aim to do everything in my power to make sure you recover healthily from this whole situation!"

"Hmmmmmm..." Rarity bit slowly, lusciously into her last morsel of egg breakfast. "My very own sweet alicorn nurse..."

"And just maybe this will teach you not to act so frivolously around strange, enchanted stones!"

"Erm..." Rarity felt her cheeks burning. She turned to gaze guiltily at a table full of monochromatic fabric. "Yes. Quite."

"Honestly, Rarity! What did you think the words 'Danger: Damaging to Vision' on the shipping crate meant?"

"I assumed my vision was strong and avant-garde enough to not be dismantled by such silly, raw materials!" Rarity huffed. "Is it a crime to think that the ruffians at the delivery warehouse labeled things in an abstract manner?"

"It's a crime to have my best friend visually-impaired for two whole weeks!" Twilight Sparkle's voice cracked. "Now, repeat after me: 'I will not stare at a shipment of celestial ingots with my naked eyes ever again.'"

"Don't be foalish, Twilight—"

Her glowing eyes sharpened atop her lavender frame. "Rarityyyyyyy..."

"Eugh..." Rarity crossed her heart, flapped mock wings, then stuck an invisible cupcake into the left side of her bandage. "I will not stare at a shipment of celestial ingots with my naked eyes ever again... despite how fabulous they were for the scant few seconds that I beheld their shimmering beauty.'"

"Eh... close enough." The white lines of the room brightened. "Heehee."

"But... but Twilight!" Rarity frowned. "Somepony had to appraise their quality! Who knows how damaged they may have gotten during their shipment!"

"Yes, well... next time wait for their starry radiance to wear off so they're not blinding! They were only plucked from the summits of the Constellation Mountains last month!" A shuffling, and the vectors of the room shifted as Twilight trotted closer. "Now... sit still."

"What for, darling?"

"What else? I wish to check up on you."

"Well, if you insist."

"I do. Now don't move."

Rarity didn't need much coaxing. She sat obediently still as Twilight came closer... and closer. She could smell the alicorn's breath. Warm. Cinammon and dusty books. A library wrapped around a confectionary and sprinkled with faerie dust—and all so kissably close. Rarity's lungs failed her as they always did, and she just knew that a squeaking sound was bound to pop loose.

Thankfully, Twilight's hoof made contact with her fuzzy nose—sucking all breath away. Beyond the delicious paralysis, Rarity made out the next gesture: Twilight was lifting the coarse bandage up over Rarity's muzzle and staring at her naked eyes. There was a modicum of truth to Twilight's proclamation earlier. Some faint texture bled through the black-and-white malaise, a weak hint at natural sight. The lavender face bore features—but they were too bright and painful to look at yet. So Rarity closed her eyes, and all was once again a lavender silhouette against a monochromatic backdrop.

Rarity must have responded with a painful trilling sound, for Twilight was swiftly—and cautiously—drawing the bandage back over the top half of her skull. "Okay," the princess breathed. "So... maybe it'll need a few more days."

Rarity shuddered. "Those infernal stones really did a number on me, didn't they?"

"Fear not, Rarity. Your irises aren't pale anymore. The effect's wearing off. Just... a little more slowly than I anticipated."

"But... I-I will regain my sight, yes?"

"Heehee. Yes, Rarity. For the hundredth time, it's only temporary, you silly pony."

Rarity sighed—it was joyous and melancholic all at once. She tilted her head until she saw the completed dresses lingering obscurely under Twilight's glow. "I suppose I should consider myself lucky—that I've managed to get so much done despite the circumstances."

"They look absolutely wonderful, Rarity," Twilight's said, her voice warm and mirthful. "Sapphire Shores doesn't know how blessed she is."

"You're... certain that they aren't botched in some horrible fashion?" Rarity bit the edge of her lip as waves of trepidation took hold. "I am a blind pony trying to make a masterpiece, after all..."

"Well, technically, you're only partially blind—"

"Twilight!" Rarity stomped a hoof, frowning. "What if I got the colors all wrong?! What if the hem's misshapen or the collar's too big or—"

"It's okay! Rarity! You're... ... ... they're beautiful!" Rarity felt a warm hoof on her shoulder. The lavender glow intensified, her eyes piercing. "I've been here with you every step of the way! Every needle-stitch and alteration! If you were somehow getting something wrong, I would have told you! Wouldn't I?"

"Mmmmm..." Rarity breathed slightly easier. She reached a dainty hoof up and held tight to Twilight's princessy fetlock. "Yes. You would."

"Unless... of course... you don't trust my taste in fashion—"

"No!" Rarity barked. "Perish the thought!"

"Heeheehee..." The lines stretched to the adjacent rooms and then receded. "There you go! If you can't passionately believe in yourself at a time like this, at least believe in me."

Rarity sighed defeatedly. "You truly are the Princess of Friendship, darling," she cooed. "Where would I be without this... this..." She shifted in her cushioned seat. "...I feel positively terrible. What's the name of this miraculous spell that you're employing, again?"

A giggle. Then—an explanation: "Starswirl's Glyph of Roselight. It was used ages ago to help proto-Equestrians communicate with sarosians during nocturnal negotiations."

"Don't you mean 'bat-ponies?'"

"I know what I said."

"Indeed." Rarity smiled. "Well, I would be in a positively dreadful state were it not for this 'Glyph of Roselight.' I owe you more than I could ever hope to say, Twilight."

"Well..." The lines around the room shifted as Twilight sat down beside her. "You know that I would be here to help you out even if I didn't have a spell to give you makeshift vision."

"Would you?" Rarity's eyes glittered beneath her bandage. "Would you really?"

Twilight laughed. "Milk me for all I've got, why don't you?"

Rarity tongued the inside of her cheeks. "Sounds like a lovely invitation."

Her friend was adorably oblivious: "How many years have you been generous to me and the rest of the girls, Rarity? Let's face it. You deserve ten times more than this. I'm very happy to lend you a hoof."

Rarity sighed happily. Softly. "You are, aren't you?"

"Besides! It gives us a chance to catch up!"

"Yes... well..." Rarity shifted in her seat, staring across the black-and-white sea of fabrics next to her. "...if only it will be that easy to catch up with myself."

"What... what do you mean?"

"Your help has been priceless these past few days, Twilight, and I owe the completion of my commission to you. But—suffice it to say—I'm still a blind mare stuck in her house and... and..." She sniffled. "...I just know my appearance must be an absolute wreck by now!"

"Don't be s-silly, Rarity! You..." There was hesitation. "...you don't look so bad!"

"OH!" Rarity leaned back, holding a limp fetlock over her bandaged forehead. "I look positively dreadful, I knew it!"

"Rarity—"

"'The blind hag from the boutique!' That's what all the children will be calling me!"

"Ugh... honestly—"

"Sightless for so long that she forgot how to groom herself! Why—my fetlocks must be positively shaggy with unshorn hair by now!"

"Pffft—haha—"

"How dare you laugh, Twilight!" Rarity pouted. "Why don't we just roll me grotesquely through a vat of distilled Poison Joke while we're at it! I'll be drowning in my own shaggy coat hairs!"

"Rarity, relax. You're fine. Here..." Quite strongly, Twilight grabbed Rarity and hoisted her up from her stool. "Look..." She guided the fashionista across the studio until a tall elliptical shape bled into view. Rarity observed the black-and-white framework of a dressing mirror coming into view. "Stand right here and stare into the mirror."

"But... a reflection...?" Rarity fidgeted in place. "...can I actually see—?"

"You can and will if you concentrate! Now..." Twilight stood directly behind Rarity, squeezing her shoulders and peering her lavender neck over her friend's frame. "...just gaze. I promise... all will become clear eventually."

Rarity didn't know what to make of Twilight's words. But that wasn't the focus of her struggling senses at the moment. As Twilight finished speaking, her figure glowed even brighter. Soon, a series of dark lines etched into the surface of the glow. It was a petite, fashionista-shaped figure set against the lavender.

Rarity's reflection.

There was no texture to be seen—no hint of frazzled coat hairs or ruined makeup. However, Rarity did spot several frazzled fibers branching outward like frozen ivory lightning from her crown. Instantly, she whimpered.

"My hair... oh Goddess..." Rarity shivered and her reflection did the same, forming a black-and-white tango of sobbing proportions. "...it's an absolute mess! A travesty! How will I ever get it back to its natural beauty?"

"Okay, so you got a little bit of bed-hair. So what?"

"It's a disaster, Twilight! I'm a trotting, blind, ugly disasterrrrrrrr—!"

Twilight sighed. She hugged Rarity warmly from behind, and somehow that was enough to melt the initial sobbing before it turned into outright wailing. "You've been through a rough ordeal, Rarity. It's totally understandable. And—all things considered—you could look a whole lot worse."

Rarity sniffed... sniffed again. She rubbed her fuzzy cheeks dry. "I could...?"

"Yes! I mean... Spike woke up with a tummy ache this morning and you should have seen how messed up his spines were after just one evening! Er... I mean... I guess you couldn't see his spines... not this week. Not unless I brought him here and performed Starswirl's Glyph of Roselight. But the trip might make him even more nauseaous and I wouldn't want him throwing up diamond bits and bile all over your commission for Sapphire Shores..."

Rarity giggled lightly. She sniffled one last time. "Poor Spikey-Wikey. I hope he gets better."

"Oh, he will. Fluttershy gave him some medicine. Still, it's nice of you to worry for him, Rarity. Ever the sympathetic unicorn. As for your mane..." Twilight craned her lavender neck around.

At first, Rarity was confused—but then she felt the air tingling with alicorn magic. Her stool slid over, as did a few other black-and-white things. Suddenly, she was being seated before the mirror... and then she felt an incredibly pony-soothing sensation.

A brush. Through her mane. From Twilight.

"Ooooooh..." Rarity tingled all over.

"Hehe..." Twilight brushed and brushed Rarity's mane with gentle, loving strokes. "...much better?"

"Yesssss.." Rarity cooed, turning to mercury in the alicorn's merciful grasp. "...much much much!"

"Heehee... I'm glad." Twilight fussed with a few tangles, but added a burst of magic—freeing Rarity's locks so she could brush them smoothe with an expert twist of the brush and comb. "You know... you really do worry too much, Rarity."

"Mmmm..." Rarity arched her back slightly, giving Twilight more room to work. "Quoted by Equestria's Princess of Worrywort."

"Hey. Watch it."

Rarity bit hard on her bottom lip. "Sorry."

"Hee-hee! It's o-okay, Rarity! Honestly..." Twilight brushed and brushed. Her lavender limbs flickered in the peripheral of the fashionista's impaired vision as she worked. "This is just what I'm talking about. You know I'll always be there for you in a pinch, right?"

"Mmmmm... I do."

"Then why must you carry on so melodramatically? What purpose does it serve?"

Rarity exhaled. She didn't have an answer to that. Well, that wasn't precisely the truth. But she dare not say the answer out loud.

Thankfully—it would seem—Twilight was in the mood to ramble off on her own. "You know, this is going to sound weird, but there are times that I sometimes wish that Spike was a pony and not a dragon. Looking after him can get... challenging at times. I mean... he was born with spines. I don't know how to groom spines. I mean... I've read books on the subject, but there aren't many books—if any—written about the caretaking of baby dragons. There are about iguanas! But... Spike is slightly bigger and more needy than an iguana."

"Mmmm... I've noticed."

A giggle. The lines flickered, receded, then pulsated around them with each brushstroke. "Still, if he was a pony..." Twilight's voice hummed. "...oh, how I would love to brush his mane from time to time. Take care of him just like Cadance took care of me when I was a foal, y'know? Polish his fetlocks... give him a sparkling hooficure. Does that sound weird to you?"

Rarity's lips curved. "It would sound less weird—I suppose—if he was a filly."

The brushing paused. One glowing eye closed shut in a lavender wince. "Er... yeah." A gulp. "It's obvious that I'm projecting, isn't it?"

"Tell me what you're really thinking, Twilight."

Total silence.

Rarity arched an eyebrow beneath her bandage.

"Shining never brushed my mane when I was little," Twilight's words resumed, as did her brushing. Her voice warmed the space between her and Rarity, punctuated by detangling threads. "I've always sorta regretted that. As I grew up, I'd brush... er... pretend to brush Smarty Pants' mane... get her to look nice and prim and proper before her latest pop quiz or study exam. I... I think a part of me really really wanted to have a little sister to look pretty with. All that silly filly glamour fantasy stuff, I guess. I suppose Princess Cadance rubbed off on me a bit over the years. And... well... I didn't have a lot of friends my age... at least any whom I got close enough to do girly things with. And—hehe—well, you know how old I was when I finally had my very first sleepover. That was so nice. I know... I know... it all sounds so pointless and silly. But... friends like us can share silly things. Don't you think so, Rarity?"

Rarity said nothing. She was lost in the brushstrokes, and soon she fell victim to stray imaginary thoughts. In an alarming crystal clear vision, she had leapt through a hole in time and landed in filly Twilight's backyard. There, the friends gasped, happy to have found each other through such a cataclysmic fissure of time and space. Not wasting a single moment, Rarity plopped filly Twilight onto her back and took her immediately to a salon in downtown Canterlot. She heaved all the golden bits in the world over the counter, and within minutes the tiny unicorn was being pampered and spruced up for every inch of her life. She was carried in a commoner and paraded out a princess. Ponies of all ages and walks of life gasped and bowed down immediately. Rarity looked on with pride, and as Twilight was moved to tears, she nuzzled the filly close and then leapt back through the portal in time. Within minutes, there was a knock on the front door to Carousel Boutique. Rarity opened the door and there was Twilight—now an adult—her eyes filled with tears because she suddenly had her entire foalhood filled with satisifed memories of beauty and sparkles and—

And she leapt through the door and fell into Rarity's arms. And Rarity hugged her. Rarity nuzzled her. Rarity cradled her. Such a doll, the doll she always wanted to have. Such a beautiful, adorable, precious little thing that had all the weight of the world thrown so mercilessly upon her shoulders. Of course she should have spent all those years having her mane brushed and her figure generously adorned in all the prettiest dresses ever known—rather than being forced to brutishly fight changelings or hurl burning mountains at Tirek or hounded and harrassed by Discord or... or...

Twilight deserved so much... so very much more... more than all the bottomless wells of generosity could afford. And she did nothing to demand it... nothing but be adorable... with the way her eyebrows twitched in delight when she saw a brand new book that she hadn't read... or the dizzy circles she spun in delirium upon discovering an entire library of forgotten tomes. The way she bowed her head when she was embarrassed or ashamed... the way she stomped her hoof when getting angry for the most redundant, pointless, scientifically infinitesimal thing...

Twilight deserved to be cherished for every challenge thrust upon her... for every test she so diligently strove to surpass... for every crisis she risked her precious little neck for. And if the grand, merciless universe wasn't willing to spoil her... then it was about time that somepony... that some fabulous pony did—

"Rarity?"

"Mmmmmmmm, love, Twilight—" Rarity flinched in place, grimacing hard. "I-I mean yes, Twilight!" She tilted her ears back into the gentle grooming. "What is it?"

"What do you think?"

"Erm... about what?"

"About my hypothesis concerning the sociological constraints on the marginalized stallion population and the rising percentage of sterility among married farming couples?"

Rarity's muzzle hung open. She lingered. Just how long had she blanked out? While Twilight was talking? She couldn't see the clock on her studio wall from this distance, and even if she did she wasn't certain that Starswirl's Glyph could illuminate the black-and-white hands rotating across the face.

"I... daresay I haven't got much thought to contribute to the topic, darling," Rarity said. Just then, her heart leapt with a mischievous flutter. "Perhaps if you were to expound even more about it?"

"Oh! I'm glad that you asked!" Twilight adorkably cleared her throat and continued brushing Rarity's mane. "So, to test whether or not there is—in fact—a rising percentage of sterility among the stallion populace, the experiment will require twenty lab assistants split up into four parties... each supplied with an ample amount of plastic cups, mind you, and..."

Rarity listened, and yet she didn't. Baptized in Twilight's warm voice, she merely leaned into the lavender brushstrokes and traveled through time and space. There—with a smile—she cuddled a bookworm under silk sheets and let her talk... let her ramble... let her giggle and gasp in her arms as she nuzzled and kissed any trailing awkwardness away.

And before Rarity knew it, the visit was over. She waved Twilight good bye, trotted back up the stairs, and continued the fantasy under the lonesome veil of darkness.