• Published 13th Sep 2018
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Alternate Beginnings: Year Six - Doug Graves

Herd Apple continues to grow, both out and up, as Doug meets a few more colorful characters.

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7 Greed's Folly

February 25th, 998

"Come now, Sweetie Belle. You haven't been doing that badly," Rarity says, holding up the last of the playing cards.

"It's no use, Dam," Sweetie Belle laments, looking at the cards spread out on the floor in front of her. "I'm not getting any better at it. And I never will." She turns her head, a heavy grunt as her hoof swipes to the side, scattering the small pile of cards in front of her. She sits down on her rump, her front hooves crossing against her chest, heaving up and down as she breathes heavily.

"That's not true at all, darling." Rarity puts a hoof around her filly, squeezing tightly and wrapping her in a hug. "You've been making excellent progress. How long did it take you to get through the whole deck of cards before?" Rarity's horn lights, the deck of cards organizing into a neat pile between the two.

Sweetie Belle huffs, "Too long. Even Snips and Snails are faster than me." Her horn lights, one of the cards slowly levitating. It wobbles a bit, then flops off to the side as another card levitates, the filly giving up with a dejected sigh, the two cards dropping to the floor.

"You have to learn to do things for yourself, Sweetie Belle," Rarity says, replacing the two cards to the top of the pile. "You aren't going to reach your full potential if all you do is compare yourself to those who are doing better. You have to focus on how much better you are compared to yesterday."

"But that's what you do all the time, Rarity. You're always looking at what the fashion ponies out in Canterlot are doing, in those fashion magazines. And you get lots of inspiration for your designs by listening to input from other ponies and what they like." Sweetie Belle sighs, "And I'm always going to be last, all the other ponies in front of me." She shakes her head, "I'll be in my room, if you want to give me another role model to lag behind."

"Sweetie Belle," Rarity pleads, her filly walking out of her grasp, "Come now, dearest, let's not be too hasty here." She watches as Sweetie Belle leaves the room, a heavy sigh escaping her lips. "Some days," she says to herself, "I wish things were a little different."

Rarity slowly walks up to her room, one heavy step after another. She glances to the side as the door to Sweetie Belle's room slams shut, the lack of green aura a sad reminder of the struggle the filly is going through. Rarity makes her way to the master bedroom; the combination of study, designing area, and place for night activities is always in a perpetual state of organized chaos. Just the sort of place where she can lose herself to her inspiration. Her art has always helped before, when times are trying, and she gazes longingly at one of the half finished dresses on a ponnequin. Maybe if she tries reversing the color scheme, that would make it pop out a little bit more, but she is having a very difficult time working with the indigenous fabric.

"Ugh," Rarity wails, an exasperated cry as her pencil levitates down, her rage and disappointment taken out on the piece of paper in front of her. Nothing seems to be working, and twenty minutes later she tosses yet another crumpled paper into her wastebasket. It bounces off the stack of crumpled papers already inside, slowly rolling to a halt several feet away. Rarity groans, levitating the contents of the entire trash basket and compacting it, pressing it back into the wastebasket, and giving a frustrated grunt when three of the crumpled papers fall out. Apparently that trick only works so many times.

Rarity opens her desk drawer; she mutters to herself, "Oh, if only I was a Princess, married to a Prince, none of this would be a problem. Isn't that right, my Prince... Charming?" she stutters, reading through the poetry on her picture of Prince Blueblood. She gets to the signature and grimaces, a voice at the back of her mind telling her that if Prince Blueblood was the sire of Sweetie Belle instead of Doug, none of this would be an issue.

The other part of her mind immediately chides herself; she already has a devoted stallion in her life, a filly with him, and a herd with each member content with and dedicated to every other. She can't live her life through fantasy, thinking of a dream that will never be a reality. For why would Prince Blueblood deign to notice a common unicorn like herself, a beautiful jade hidden away in this geode of an earth pony town?

She grimaces; she can't even keep her fantasies from her recriminations about having fantasies.

But it's not like there are a lot of unicorn stallions around town, just looking for eligible mares to lead them, then or now; well, unicorns she could see herself with. Puppy Dog only got popular after he sired two colts in a row, and Rarity wouldn't have joined with him even if he could have promised her a colt as well. There weren't even unicorn stallions looking to add more members to their herd at the time! Probably why ending up with Doug in the first place was... well, not as unattractive as it might have been, if she had other options. Not that she would leave Doug or the herd, not at this point. It's not like her standing in the town was even affected that much, judging by her continued lack of steady business. Just enough to stay afloat, but never enough to hit it big or attract the attention of the trendsetters. Mm, Trenderhoof, now there is a unicorn who can put a place on the map! And he could certainly find a place on her.

Rarity shakes her head, dispelling another idle fantasy. But, where did this signed copy come from? While she could see Rainbow pulling a prank like this, the pegasus rarely, if ever, goes through her stuff, so how would she have known? Same with Applejack, and Pinkie Pie would never do something this hurtful, playing on her insecurities like this. Doug hardly ever leaves town, much less goes to Canterlot. Even if he did, he'd have to make his way into the noble's court, and somehow pry Prince Blueblood away from the many sycophants always crowding around him. Wait, Doug had mentioned Prince Blueblood had been there during his expedition; had Doug managed to get the signed copy from him then?

But, why would Prince Blueblood have been in Vanhoover? And, what, Doug had somehow managed to get the Prince away from the many mares only interested in climbing the social ladder just to sign this photo? Not like her, she would catch the Prince's attention immediately, and after their whirlwind romance she would be utterly devoted to him, and him to her, and-

Rarity's head thuds into her desk. No, that ship sailed long ago, if it ever even came to harbor. The picture falls back into the desk drawer as Rarity pulls the trash bag downstairs, her hoofsteps heavy in the empty Boutique. She just needs something to take her mind off of this situation with Sweetie Belle. She looks outside, her hope dashed as nothing can be seen through the storm. Not even any customers to break the monotony of the dreary day. Rain is falling, a heavy, ever present thudding coating the town in yet another layer of mud. Rarity moves up to the window, staring out; the landscape undisturbed by anypony walking about, going to stores, or even frolicking about the road outside, singing as they dance from storefront to storefront. Except for that one cloaked figure, slowly plodding his way here.

Rarity moans; why did he have to come here now? Her hooves cover her head, shying away from the open window. She turns, to start her way upstairs, maybe make herself a little more presentable when the door opens, the bell chiming merrily. Rarity glances back to the open door, Doug shedding his coat and boots, smiling initially as he notices her.

A touch of worry in his voice as he makes his way to her, his mouth turning to a frown, "Rarity? You doing okay?" He kneels down, his hand going to her mane as she turns away, trying to hide the tears in her eyes. His arm wraps around, pulling her in close for a tight hug as her head turns into his chest.

Rarity sobs, a halting confession, "Doug, you know that I love you. And I have always been faithful to you, and to the herd."

Doug slowly nods, his hand rubbing up and down her mane, a slightly confused look on his face. She can feel the hairs being pushed out of place, her perfect coiffure a pathetic mask for the shallowness underneath. She feels him going in for a kiss, another undeserved affection; she turns her head, his lips instead finding the side of her neck.

He sighs, one hand holding her tight as he sits down on the floor, the other reaching for her flank. She gives a light gasp as he grips her, rotating her so her back is resting in his lap, her hooves pawing at nothing, her tail uncomfortably bent around his leg. She feels her back side lift, and his hand gently pulls her tail to the side, only slightly ruining the curl as it lays against him.

She looks to the side, a little embarrassed at the exposed position as his hand moves to her belly, resting between her hind legs, fingernails lightly scratching and twisting around her fur. He quietly whispers, "Rarity, what is this about?" She gives the barest hint of a glance to her desk, the picture contained within, before she looks back at him, worry streaking across her face. "Is it the picture of Prince Blueblood?"

Rarity raises an eyebrow, "So it was you?" At his slight nod her hoof pushes against him, her voice raising, "It was you! How dare you!"

Doug sighs, his hands pausing their motions, his eyes briefly closing, "Yes, Rarity. I have a bit of a confession to make. It was me, and-"

"Well, I suppose it can't hardly be any worse than mine," Rarity deadpans, her eyes glaring at his. "Even if you started sleeping with Amethyst Star, it would just be part of the dating experience. Right?" A dejected sigh, "Even sleeping with Silver Set would be acceptable, all you'd have to do is get Spoiled and Filthy's approval." She swipes at him, fuming, "And I can't even have one lousy picture without you turning me into some kind of deplorable monster!"

Doug stares at her for a few seconds, "Um, I don't know where you got that idea in your mind, but I think you'd know if I was dating Amethyst Star, much less sleeping with her. And-"

Rarity cuts him off, an icy, "Oh, well, then just forget I said anything. That's what you'd like, isn't it?"

"Rarity, what brought this on?" At her silent glare he sighs, "It's the picture of Prince Blueblood, isn't it? I'm sorry I pulled that prank on you. It was terribly insensitive, and after I did it I thought a lot about what that picture means."

"Well, you should be sorry." Rarity huffs, "What were you thinking?"

Doug nods, "Well, it has to do with that picture of Prince Blueblood."

Rarity slowly nods her head, "So, you knew about that."

"Of course. I don't know how many times I glanced past it when I was cleaning your things."

"And you didn't say anything? Or care?" Rarity turns her head, no longer looking at Doug, staring at the wall instead.

Doug shrugs, "Well, it bothered me a little initially, I guess, but not enough to really do anything. I didn't really see the harm in it."

Rarity rolls her eyes as she looks back at him, a sarcastic, "Oh, well, that's just fantastic, I suppose. Would you care if I left entirely? Or, what if I just invited Prince Blueblood to buck me. Perhaps we could do it in Sweetie Belle's room, since all you care about is whether or not you are getting any?"

Doug's hand twitches, and he takes a deep breath before responding, "Both of those would hurt me deeply, Rarity. Why would you think otherwise?"

"Because I never see that side of you. It doesn't bother you that I have a picture of the most alluring stallion in all of Equestria in my possession? And not only that, I look at regularly, and sometimes fantasize about how much life would be better if I was with him, rather than stuck in this no account town with you?" For a split second Rarity's eyes go wide as she realized what she just admitted to.

Just as quickly Rarity's anger returns as Doug responds, "Is that what you want, Rarity?" Doug asks, his voice raising. "Do you want me to not trust you, to have to lock you away because you can't control yourself?"

Rarity yells, "Well, it wouldn't hurt to see how much you care from time to time. After all, who wants a stallion who is fine with his mares gallivanting off with whoever they desire?"

"Mama?" A hesitant voice comes from upstairs; the two look up to see Sweetie Belle, tears in her eyes, standing at the top of the stairs. "Is Daddy not going to come around any more?"

Rarity's voice instantly loses her anger, "Dearest, you don't need to worry about that," rolling to her hooves and walking up the stairs. She smiles at Sweetie Belle, "Your sire and I were just having a... discussion about proper roles in the family."

"Oh." Sweetie Belle stares at Doug as he stands, moving next to Rarity, his face neutral. "So, you weren't having an argument."

Doug says in a firm voice, "Yes, Sweetie Belle. We were having an argument." Rarity huffs, glaring at the wall as he bends down to look Sweetie Belle in the eyes, "But that doesn't mean that your dam and I are breaking up. We're just letting each other know how we are feeling, so that we can find a way to work past it." He glances over at Rarity, rubbing her mane; she resists his light pull initially, then grudgingly moves next to him, "And maybe we are both being a little louder than we should."

"Okay." Sweetie Belle moves over, nuzzling Rarity and then Doug, "I don't want a new daddy anyway." She walks back to her room, pausing outside the door, the three exchanging smiles.

Rarity and Doug moves back downstairs, Rarity sitting on her own until Doug sits next to her, his hand on her side. "Well," he says, taking a long time to work through his words, as if he is struggling against the concept himself, "What I was originally thinking about, before we got a little... excited about our discussion. So, Applejack had told me, oh, a year ago or so, that apparently sometimes a herd will have two stallions in it."

Rarity raises an eyebrow at Doug, "Yes, well, that is because the stallions... how do I say this..."

Doug rolls his eyes, "Yes, I know why it normally happens. And I'm happy with how things are in the herd, you don't need to worry about that."

"Okay, then, why are you bringing it up?"

Doug sighs, motioning towards Sweetie Belle, "Because I see how much trouble Sweetie Belle is having. And Scootaloo, and you and Rainbow Dash. Even Applejack and her fillies, they aren't faring too much better. And I know it won't do anything for them, but sometimes I wonder what might be best for the herd, if we did want to continue adding new members. Whether it would be better for everypony if there was, well, a pony for you all."

"Oh, Doug," Rarity says, nuzzling his side, "I don't know if I should hit you or kiss you. How do you possibly expect me to make a decision like this?"

Doug shrugs, "Well, I figured I'd get a say in it as well; I wouldn't do this for just any stallion, you know? And Prince Blueblood, well, he seems like quite the catch."

Rarity looks up at the ceiling, not expecting a response to her rhetorical question. "And you're okay with this?" At Doug's uncertain nod Rarity continues, "Well, um, if we were to go through with something like this, I would certainly need to get the approval of the entire herd. After all, I would be inviting him to potentially join with each of them, especially if we are doing this primarily for new foals." She nuzzles into his side, looking up at him, "And I assure you, I would never consider splintering off, to form a new herd with Prince Blueblood or whichever stallion we are looking to add to the herd. Although if we are only doing it for new foals..."

Doug looks over as Rarity trails off, "What are you thinking about?"

"Well, I like how our herd is. I like the dynamic we have between all of us, and I'm afraid a new stallion might ruin that. Even if it is a pony as desirable as Prince Blueblood." Rarity sighs, "That's the problem with fantasies, isn't it? There are so many parts that just get glossed over and ignored, merely focusing on the fun parts and none of the difficult."

"Oh, that's when your fantasies end too?" Doug smirks as Rarity swipes at him again, a smile on her muzzle. "I wonder if it might be better to do something similar to what Princess Cadance was willing to settle with. Studding, as opposed to joining the herd."

Rarity nods, "I think that would be a better option; though, the more I think about it and as we talk about it the more unhappy I am with it. Both with studding and the potential option to add a stallion." She glances up at Doug, "After all, Princess Celestia and Princess Cadance are confident that our grandfoals would be healthy, closer to normal as far as magic is concerned." She sighs, resting her body against his side, "And, even if we were to go through with this, and I'm not as sure that we should, we would definitely need to make sure that they are worthy. Now, how do we do that?"

Doug shrugs, "Probably talk about it as a herd? Go on a date with him? Can't be too different than thinking about whatever colt one of the fillies decides to bring home." He smirks, "Well, it's probably going to be closer to what happens when Sweetie Belle brings home, I dunno, a Diamond Dog or something."

Rarity laughs, "Now I know you're messing with me. A Diamond Dog? Why, the only way they'd be able to get a pony to stay with them is to foalnap her! Honestly, at least pick a reasonable example."

Doug grabs onto Rarity, the mare giving a quick yelp as he rolls her to her back, splaying himself on top. "I don't know," he whispers into her ear, "I managed to foalnap quite the beauty myself."

"Oh, dear," Rarity smirks up at him, "Good thing I'm not in heat or Sweetie Belle would have a new sister to share her room with." She grins as he nips her neck, going for a kiss as he lifts her up, her moans against his heavy footsteps as he carries her to the master bedroom. Sweetie Belle pokes her head out from behind her door, a slight roll of her eyes before smiling as the two disappear into the master bedroom.