The smell of several different glues hung in the warm afternoon air, the appliqués and other finishing touches drying on their frames in the boutique.
Rarity, her mouth full of pins, moved to fix a ribbon on yet another hat she was creating for her new fall line. She took a moment to glance at the clock, seeing it was nearly six, and time to close up for the day. Not that she'd had many customers here between seasons, but the clock was a way to remind her to keep on schedule... and when she could take a break. A few more minutes, and she could rest easily, knowing she'd put in a true, full day's worth of work.
The bells above the door ting-tinged as it opened, and the sound of small hoofsteps followed.
"Don't forget to wipe your hooves, Sweetie!"
But instead of Sweetie Belle's familiar grumbling, an unknown voice responded. "Sorry, miss..." Rarity set down her work and went to the door.
There was a young filly, about Sweetie's age, but with a grey coat and a piece of silverware for a cutie mark. Rarity recognized the young one as Silver Spoon, one of her sister's "arch enemies" as Sweetie put it. The little filly was sniffling though, and holding some sort of broken jewelry in front of her.
"Well, darling," Rarity said, her voice full of kindness. "Whatever is the matter?"
"I... I need to find a way to fix this... before... before the dance tonight." She held up what seemed to be a broken tiara. It was snapped into two pieces, and bent slightly.
Taking the pieces in her aura, Rarity examined them. "Come on in, and tell me what happened, dear." She led the filly back into her workspace.
"Diamond and I were... were walking, and then..." She paused to wipe her nose on her fetlock. "Well, I think Diamond lost it when we ducked under this tree branch, and then... then I stepped on it."
"Oh, that is a shame." Rarity said. "But why the tears? It's just an accident."
"Diamond said... she said it was my fault, with my big dumb hooves, and if I didn't get it fixed before the dance tonight, she'd never be my friend again."
Rarity's ears laid back at that. She knew Diamond Tiara was a bit of a spoiled brat, and didn't get along with Sweetie and her friends at all. Foals were like that. But Silver Spoon was supposedly one of her friends. If she treated even her friends that way... well, that was just sad.
"Well, dear, I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm afraid I'm not very good at repairing jewelry. I mostly do fashion and clothing. Have you tried one of the jewelry shops?"
"I ran there first... but... but they just laughed at me, told me it wasn't worth their time to fix. But, Diamond loves this, and said it's way too valuable, as it has so many diamonds in it and stuff."
Rarity looked closer at the broken tiara. The "diamonds," while plentiful, were nothing more than cut glass, and the "silver" was rubbing off, revealing nothing but cheap copper underneath. She kept this to herself however.
"Well, yes, it is certainly a... 'unique' piece."
"I'm sorry, miss... miss Rarity. I just know you make pretty things, and you know a lot about gems and stuff. I thought maybe you might know how to fix it, or have something to replace it."
"I am terribly sorry, Silver, but I'm afraid I don't really carry jewelry of this 'quality.'"
"What about that one?" Silver pointed at a tiara atop the head of a dress form.
Rarity followed her hoof, and saw she was looking at Twilight Sparkle's coronation tiara. It wasn't the one that had housed the Element of Magic, but it was still a rather valuable piece of actual jewelry, belonging to a Princess.
"I'm afraid that one is already spoken for."
"I can pay you! My dad has lots of money. I know he'd buy it for me if he was here!"
Heart aching, Rarity sat down, so she was eye to eye with the filly. "Silver, listen to me... You can't buy friends."
"I... I know that, but I..." Silver Spoon dug for reasons to justify her actions. "But I broke it, so I have to replace it. That's just the right thing to do."
"Well, that is certainly very noble, but it sounds to me like you're just making excuses for your friend's ill-tempered behavior."
Silver sniffled again. "Diamond isn't that bad, really. She just, she just gets picky about her things, that's all. And I... I don't have any other friends."
"And you think that bringing her a new tiara is the only way to keep her as your friend?"
The filly wasn't dumb, Rarity could see. It was clear she knew friendship wasn't supposed to work like that, but she sympathized with the foal as well. It can sometimes be all too easy to get caught up in bad habits and unhealthy relationships, and all too difficult to break free.
"I... I know, Miss Rarity." Silver Spoon admitted after a moment. "But... she's all I have. I... I can't lose that. And I don't want her to be alone either."
Scrunching up her face in thought, Rarity took a deep breath and sighed. "Well—"
The two were interrupted by the sound of bells above the door.
"I'm sorry," Rarity called, demurely. "But we're closed for the day!"
"Well, I guess I'll just go spend the night at Apple Bloom's then," Sweetie Belle yelled back, as the door opened again. "See you tomorrow!'
"Oh no you don't, Sweetie! You've got chores and homework to do!"
"Awww, but Sis..." The whine was accompanied by the sound of clomping hooves as Sweetie rounded the entryway into the main shop area.
Sweetie's eyes went wide when she saw Silver Spoon standing there. "What the f—"
"Sweetie!" Rarity yelled, seeing the state her sister was in, covered up to her barrel in mud and grass. "Go back outside and wash all that filth off!"
Turning, Sweetie Belle departed, muttering under her breath, "In, out, in, out... sheesh, make up your mind!"
"What was that?" Rarity asked.
"Good, it better not be. We'll talk after you're done."
The door slammed a little louder than was strictly necessary.
"I'm sorry about that deary," Rarity said, turning back to Silver Spoon, "Usually we don't fight so much."
"It's... It's okay. At least you have each other to even fight with."
Ah yes, Rarity thought, that's where we were. The filly so lonely she's willing to jump any hoop just to keep the one abusive friend she has.
"How long until this dance of yours?" Rarity asked.
"Umm, it starts at eight."
Nope, no way to fix the tiara before then, and the costume supply stores in Canterlot were well more than that round trip away. Rarity sighed, then smiled, mind made up. Turning, she walked over to the dress form and lifted the tiara off of it.
"Are you sure Diamond would be happy with this one? It's quite a bit different than her old one, though it is, if I may be so bold, perhaps a bit nicer."
"Oh, yes ma'am! I'm sure she'd love it. It is very pretty. It looks like it could even belong to a princess or something!"
Rarity couldn't keep a slight smirk from forming at the corners of her mouth. If only she knew...
"Well, then I suppose the only way to resolve things is for you to take this one to her before then, yes?"
"Are you sure?" Silver said, hesitantly taking the offered tiara. "You said it was already spoken for."
"Oh, don't worry about that. It belongs to one of my favorite clients, yes, but I'm quite certain she would understand once she knew a friendship was at stake." She was, Rarity thought to herself, the Princess of Friendship, after all.
"Thank you so much! How much is it going to cost? I need to tell my dad how much to pay you."
The businesspony in Rarity had the number pegged on the spot, even though this particular tiara had never been for sale. It was a fairly significant sum of bits. She knew that the filly's parents were probably good for it, but...
"As it's not mine to sell, I'm afraid I can't put a price on it. How about we consider it a favor, and I ask you to do me a favor in return?"
"Umm..." Silver Spoon looked uncertain. In her experience, money solved most all problems. Having to actually do something felt strange. But there was a small part of her that also thought it felt right. A gift should be something from the giver, not just bought by her parents. "I guess so. What do you want?"
"I would like you to make me a promise."
Silver thought she knew where this was going. "I suppose you want me to promise to be nice to your sister and her weird friends?"
This got a very unlady-like snort of laughter from Rarity. "Oh, dear me! While I do love my sister, I dare say she sometimes deserves what she gets."
Silver Spoon wasn't sure what to make of that. "But don't you care about her?"
"Oh, more than anything in the world!"
"Sisters are a lot like friends. We love each other dearly, but... well, sometimes we can't stand each other either. Good friends—and good sisters—learn to work around that. You can be friends with somepony without liking everything they do."
"Then what is it you want me to promise?"
"My little pony, I want you to promise to be yourself."
Silver quirked an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"I think you want to be a lot nicer than you are when you're around Diamond Tiara. It sounds to me like you wish you had more friends than just her."
"Umm, I guess I kind of do, but no pony wants to be friends with me."
"Are you so sure about that? Are you sure it's you they dislike? Or is it perhaps that they don't like who you're always with, or what you do when you're together?"
"You mean teasing and stuff?"
"Yes, precisely that. Is that really something you enjoy, or is it just something you do because Diamond is cajoling you into it?"
Silver hung her head.
"I thought so." Rarity reached down and lifted the filly's chin with a hoof. "But it doesn't have to be that way, and I think you already kind of know that."
Starting to sniffle again, Silver Spoon pleaded, "But what else can I do?"
With a kind smile, Rarity answered, "Anything you want. And if I might be so bold to suggest a place to start, perhaps just try being nice to some other foals for a change. You might be surprised how easy it is to make friends if you just put in a little effort."
"But... I'm not sure I know how."
Rarity smiled warmly, "it's as simple as that promise. Just be yourself. You can do that, can't you?"
"Can you promise me you'll try?"
Silver Spoon took a deep breath and let it out. "Okay, I promise."
"That's all I could ask. Now, you'd better hurry along. I'm sure you need to go get dressed before the dance!"
Looking at the clock, Silver Spoon realized she would have to hurry to make it on time, and darted for the door. She then paused right at the threshold and turned back. "Thank you, Miss Rarity."
The door slammed, and jingled again a moment later.
Rarity turned back toward the door, and found a sopping wet (but clean) Sweetie Belle, dripping water all over the foyer.
"Why in the world was Silver Spoon running off with Twilight's crown?"
"I gave it to her to replace Diamond Tiara's broken one. And it's not a crown, it's a tiara."
"You gave it to her?!" Sweetie Belle yelled. "But she's like, the worst!"
"Says the filly getting water all over my wood floor!"
"Not an accident and you know it. You deliberately made sure to get as soaked as possible before coming back inside."
"I..." Sweetie trailed off, her "but I did exactly what you said" rebellion now seeming a bit churlish even to her.
Rarity just stared.
"I'm sorry, Sis."
"I know you are, and I also know you're going to mop it up."
Sweetie opened her mouth to respond, but thought better of it.
"But why the crown?"
Rarity moved to hug her sister, water and all. "I love you Sweetie, you know that, right?"
"But imagine if no one really loved you."
"Now imagine that the one pony that even pretended to be your friend said they'd stop if you didn't replace some stupid little trinket."
"Riiight... But that was a real crown... err... tiara. That wasn't just a trinket."
"Compared to a filly's anguish at just the potential of absolute loneliness? Why Sweetie, compared to that, all the gold in Saddle Arabia wouldn't be even a glimmer on the cheapest costume bangle."
Sweetie Belle stood in silence for a moment, contemplating the heartfelt words from her sister, the only sound the drip-drip of water on the floor.
"She's that lonely?"
This time, it wasn't just water starting to drip from Sweetie's eyes. She leaned in and hugged her older sister. "Thank you for being such a great sister, and I'm sorry I'm so stubborn sometimes."
"I can be pretty stubborn as well," Rarity admitted with a grin. "That's how I know we're sisters."
"I love you!" Sweetie said.
"I love you too," Rarity said, then pulled away, wiping her own eyes with her now-wet fetlocks. "Now go get the mop!"