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~ -  E q u e s t r i a    C o u t u r e - ~

P a r t     O n e   -   T h e    T i c k e t

by T-Brony Stackz

        Rarity could barely keep still while waiting for the mail. She anxiously paced back and forth, occasionally looking up at the sky, awaiting the Pegasus mailpony’s arrival. While expecting to see somepony at any moment, she was instead greeted by nothing more than a gentle breeze. She sighed and resumed pacing, her head hanging low in frustration.

It should have arrived by now. What could possibly be delaying the mail this much?  she thought.

While Rarity paced, Fluttershy walked past Carousel Boutique. She seemed very busy tending to a group of rabbits that were following her down the road and didn’t even see Rarity standing outside the shop.

“Fluttershy! Oh, Fluttershy!” Rarity called, waving over her friend.

“Oh, hello, Rarity.” Fluttershy said in a reserved tone as she guided her bunnies over to the boutique, “What are you doing standing outside?”

Ignoring her inquiry, Rarity responded by saying “You haven’t seen the mailpony at all today have you?”

“I’m sorry, I haven’t.” Fluttershy cooed, “Are you waiting for something to arrive?”

“As a matter of fact I am, darling.” Rarity beamed, “The greatest fashion competition in all of Equestria, Equestria Couture, is going to be hosted in Canterlot this week! I would just simply die if I wasn’t able to go! I special-ordered tickets for the event ahead of time to be sure I wouldn’t miss it. I was supposed to get them in the mail by today.” She huffed, “ If that darn mailpony got lost in a storm, I am going to be furious!”

“Oh, my! I’m sure they’ll arrive in time. Don’t worry.” Fluttershy smiled warmly and then turned her back, attempting to resume tending to her rabbits. As she started walking away she said, “I hope you have a wonderful time.”

“Oh!” Rarity’s eyes popped open upon her sudden realization that she forgot to mention something. She rushed over and blocked the path of Fluttershy, who took a few steps back in surprise. “I also wanted to ask you; would you be interested in accompanying me to Canterlot? Going all by myself wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t.” Fluttershy said, averting her eyes from her friend.

“Please, darling, I insist! It’s no trouble at all!” Rarity assured her, “I already have an extra ticket and you wouldn’t want me to waste it, would you?”

“But what about the other ponies? Twilight and Applejack and Rainbo-”

Fluttershy was interrupted by Rarity who burst out saying, “Oh, please. You know as well as I do that our other friends don’t appreciate high fashion. But you, however, know good craftsmanship when you see it.” Rarity’s eyebrows shifted, making her facial expression seem as though she was imploring Fluttershy, “Please come with me?”

“Well, I don’t know...” Fluttershy hesitated, “Are you sure it wouldn’t be a bother?”

“Not at all! In fact, I insist you accompany me.” Rarity grinned, her face radiating confidence.

“But,” Fluttershy said, looking at her bunnies, “who will take care of Angel and all the others while I’m away?”

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find someone.” Rarity assured her.

*        *        *        *        *

“Remember, you can’t forget one bit of my instructions.” Fluttershy said and then took a deep breath, “Now, remember to give the bunnies enough carrots to last them through the whole day in the morning if you don’t want to have to come running back to feed them. Make sure their beds are clean and check regularly to see if they’ve left any ‘little surprises’. The chickens need to be fed in the morning and at night, 3 bags of seed at each feeding time. Oh, and make sure they don’t get out of the coop or it will be a big pain to catch them. They have a tendency to go running off into the Everfree Forest. I’m sure that’s the last place you want to have to chase a chicken!” she giggled, “Make sure to feed the birds at the same time as the chickens - it just saves seed that way. Oh! And don’t ever forget to let them out of their cages a few times a day to let them stretch their wings. Excersize everyone regularly and don’t forget a feeding time or they will be cranky for the rest of the week.. Now,” she paused, “Did you get all that?”

Twilight Sparkle stood, mouth agape, her eyes wide open, “Now... um...” she stammered, “What was that about the uh... the um...”

Fluttershy stared at her, her mouth slightly titled into a bit of a frown. Twilight’s eyes shifted back and forth uncomfortably and then resumed looking at her.

“Say again?” Twilight reluctantly said.

Fluttershy again inhaled deeply. However, before she got a chance to speak, Rarity covered her mouth. Fluttershy mumbled something into Rarity’s hoof. With Fluttershy stifled, Rarity spoke with a sense of urgency, “I’m sure you’ll figure it out, Twilight. I bet you’ve read a book or two about animal care, anyway!”

“As a matter of fact I ha-”

Twilight was interrupted by Rarity who blurted out, “Good! See, I knew you’d have no trouble at all!” She slowly began to back away, dragging Fluttershy with her, “Now, if you’ll excuse us, Fluttershy and I have to get going. We’re going be late for the train to Canterlot!”

Once Rarity dragged Fluttershy away from her cottage, Twilight was left alone with a myriad of small woodland creatures. She uneasily looked to her right and left, forcing an awkward smile. “Hey, guys.” she said, unsure, “Looks like we’re going to be spending the next week together.”

Angel gazed up at Twilight with sparkling, adoring eyes.

“Aw,” Twilight said with a more sincere smile on her face, “You guys don’t seem so bad. I bet the next week will be a breeze!”

She bent down to pet Angel’s head, but once she got close enough to smell the creature, her nose immediately curled up and her eye twitched. She slowly raised her head and took a few steps back, her horn glowing as she lifted a small shovel and a plastic bag.  

*        *        *        *        *

“I’m so glad Twilight agreed to take care of my animals.” Fluttershy said as she looked at Rarity, who was sitting opposite her in the booth of a train car.

“Yes, she sure is a good friend.” Rarity said, “However, I still have to thank Rainbow Dash for finding that mailpony for me. If it wasn’t for her, I never would have gotten my tickets in time!”

The girls were interrupted when a male waiter pony walked up to them. “Would you like anything to eat, m’lady? Perhaps you would like to try our fresh salad, featuring exotic imports from the Everfree Forest?” he said with a refined British accent.

“Oh, thank you, sir, but no thanks. I’m trying to watch my figure.” Rarity explained.

You watching your figure?” the waiter said, astonished, “You must be kidding!”

“Oh,” Rarity giggled and then waved her hoof dismissively, “Stop it!”

He smiled and then directed his question towards Fluttershy, “Any for you, miss?”

“No thank you.” Fluttershy replied politely.

After the waiter left and was out of earshot, Rarity turned to Fluttershy and said in a whisper, “See how good the service is in first class? I just adore it!”

Rarity sighed happily and covered her face with her hoof, leaning her head back, pretending to faint. Fluttershy giggled at her friend’s dramatics.

“So, you haven’t told me yet if you’re going to enter the competition.” Fluttershy said, in an attempt to bring Rarity back down to earth.

“Oh!” Rarity snapped back, “Of course! You don’t think that I would travel all the way to Canterlot without at least trying to win the competition? I mean, being the best designer in Ponyville has to count for something.”

Rarity stroked her hair and closed her eyes, bearing a look of smug satisfaction on her face. Fluttershy smiled a bit, but couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated by her friend’s confidence. Fluttershy thought then how odd it was that the two were such good friends when their personalities were nearly polar opposites. However, she thought, we do both love fashion and I try to be friendly with everyone. Despite their obvious differences, the two were almost the perfect friend for each other: Rarity was a talker, Fluttershy was a listener. Rarity liked to be the center of attention, Fluttershy liked basking in anonymity.

Yes, Fluttershy thought, Rarity sure is a great friend.

*        *        *        *        *

“Thanks again for coming over to help out, Applejack.” Twilight said with an appreciative smile.

“It’s nothin’, Twi’! I rassle ornery critters on the farm every day, and a few bunnies and birds sure ain’t no rodeo.” Applejack replied, “So what do you want me to do? Round em up?  Hog-tie em? You know I sure can truss up any bird mighty fine!”

“I sure do.” Twilight said, “But actually, I don’t need you to do anything that spectacular.”

Applejack’s usually glowing face curled up with an inquisitive look, “Oh, really? Then what, sugarcube?”

“Actually, I just need help taking care of them.” Twilight answered, “I kind of forgot Fluttershy’s directions and I can’t seem to find any of my books on animal care. I figured with all your expertise you could show me a thing or two about animal handling!”

“Oh, is that all?” Applejack said with a chuckle, “Should be easy as apple pie. So where’d them little critters get to?”

Applejack turned around, making a full three-hundred sixty degree turn, looking for the animals. She stopped when she saw nothing and then looked back at Twilight whose face bore an apologetic smile.

“Yeah, um...” Twilight started, “See, that’s the thing...”

“What’s the matter? Somethin’ happen to the little fellers?” Applejack asked in a concerned tone.

“Possibly,” Twilight avoided looking directly at Applejack and began to pace the floor, “Well, out of all the instructions Fluttershy left me, the one that I remember now, after the fact, is  ‘don’t let the animals leave the cottage’.”

“You lost ‘em?!” Applejack exclaimed.

“No, no, no!” Twilight flailed, trying to calm her friend, “Not lost so much as ran ahead of me. I know where they are, I just didn’t go after them.”

“Well why in the hay not?!” Applejack scolded. Her demeanour shifted to a sudden serious, empty gaze when she realized why not, “Oh no! No way, Twi’! I ain’t goin’ into the Everfree Forest just for some critters!”

“Oh, but please, Applejack?” Twilight begged, “You’re the bravest and strongest pony in Ponyville! And they’re not just any animals, they’re Fluttershy’s! You know how much her animals mean to her. She would just be devastated if I lost them.”

Applejack uneasily shifted her eyes between the floor and Twilight, scraping at the floor with her hoof. She couldn’t help but feel bad for poor Fluttershy. Those animals did mean the world to her. When Applejack returned her gaze to her friend, Twilight stared at her with big, weepy eyes and a pouting lip. Applejack hated when ponies did that.

Oh, horse apples. Applejack thought.

 Applejack closed her eyes and yelled in frustration, “Oh, alright!” She grimaced, “Fine, we’ll go in after them critters.”

“Thank you so much!” Twilight exclaimed with glee. She wrapped her front legs around AJ’s neck and gave her a hug.

Applejack did not look amused.

“Horse apples.” AJ mumbled aloud.

~ -  E q u e s t r i a    C o u t u r e - ~

P a r t     T w o   - M a y   t h e   B e s t    M a r e    W i n  

by T-Brony Stackz

Later that day Rarity and Fluttershy arrived in Canterlot. The city was bustling with activity as ponies from all corners of Equestria came for Equestria Couture. The train station where Rarity and Fluttershy entered the city was packed with ponies. They began shuffling through the crowd towards the castle, where outside there were all manner of tents, stands and stalls set up showing off the season’s latest fashions. The wealthiest and most famous ponies in Equestria could be seen  brushing knees with aspiring designers and models from towns as small and quiet as Ponyville. Even Celestia herself was somewhere in the crowd. The scene was that of a festival, however an air of elegance could also be felt. Unlike the usual rowdy and raucous sounds of a typical festival, Equestria Couture was more subdued, with a mixture of classical music and techno filling the air. The classical was being played by a full symphony for the ponies wandering, admiring assorted clothing, whereas the techno music was being played at the numerous small fashion shows being put on throughout the fairgrounds.

To Rarity, the atmosphere was exhilarating. She felt truly in her element. She was starry-eyed as she gazed upon the grandiose nature of the affair. However, to Fluttershy, the huge crowds and massive expanse of the fairgrounds left her feeling uncomfortable. She would have much rather preferred to have been sitting in the forest, alone with her animal friends in perfect silence and contentment.

“Isn’t this just amazing?!” Rarity squealed, her head darting back and forth, trying to take in the atmosphere.

“Oh, uh...” Fluttershy smiled weakly, “Yes, it really is something.”

“Can you believe this is my first time ever coming here? All the wasted years!” Rarity exclaimed.

Rarity’s unbridled enthusiasm was starting to get to Fluttershy, who was beginning to feel a little more at ease in the crowd of ponies. “I have to say, the craftsmanship I’ve been seeing so far has been exquisite.” she said.

“All the biggest fashion houses in Equestria are putting on shows here this week! I’m so excited to see this season’s styles! And there are so many celebrities here too!” Rarity beamed.

“It’ll be nice to see some new haute couture by famous designers. Maybe seeing their designs in person will help me with my own work at home.” Fluttershy said, “I haven’t seen any fancy dresses by real fashion houses since that time I model-”

“Do mein eyes deceive me?!” Fluttershy was interrupted by a strangely familiar voice with a thick accent, “Fluttershy?”

The crowd parted before Fluttershy and Rarity, revealing Photo Finish in her distinct garb, surrounded by her entourage.

“Fluttershy!” Photo Finish bellowed, “Ach! It really ist you! This is fantastic!”

Fluttershy was a little startled by the energetic greeting, but managed to reply with a simple, “Hello.”

“Fluttershy, I had no idea you were a designer as vell as a model! Well, since you don’t want to model anymore you must be here to enter the competition, yes?” Photo Finish said. Before Fluttershy got a chance to respond she continued, “It really has been too long since we last spoke. Anyway, you must be pretty excited about entering the competition.”

“Actually, Miss Finish, I’m going to be entering the competition and-”

Rarity was cut off by Photo Finish who pushed her out of the way and said in an aggravated tone, “Yes, yes. Very geut.”

Photo’s attention was again on Fluttershy, who was attempting to back away from her as she stepped nearer. Photo Finish finally managed to press Fluttershy against a crowd of ponies, stopping her retreat, and threw her hoof around her neck.

“So, have you signed up for the contest yet?” Photo said eagerly.

Fluttershy hastily responded, “Well, no. But you see that’s because I’m not a designer, I’m just here-”

“Oh, don’t be modest! I bet you are just as good a designer as anypony here!’

“No, really, I’m just here with Rari-”

“Don’t you fret, my dear, I vill make sure you are singed up.”

“But that’s really not necessary, you see I’m just-”

“Not necessary? Of course it is necessary! You cannot win if you don’t enter! Powder Rouge! Sign up Fluttershy at once!”

As Photo Finish’s attendant dashed off into the crowd towards the Contest Registering Station, Fluttershy lowered her head in defeat.

“I shall see you tomorrow. Now...” Photo Finish paused for dramatic effect, “I go!”

Photo Finish dashed off, getting lost in a sea of ponies, leaving Fluttershy and Rarity frozen in place, in shock of what just happened. Rarity looked over at Fluttershy who uneasily returned her gaze.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t stop her, Rarity. I only wanted to come to support you on your big day.” Fluttershy said softly.

“It’s quite alright,” Rarity sighed, “Nothing like some friendly competition to make things interesting, right?”

Rarity tried to force a smile, as did Fluttershy, but they both knew this situation would cause nothing but strife between the two this coming week. However, neither would admit it for fear of hurting the other’s feelings.

“Well,” Rarity eventually said, “good luck and may the best mare win!”

*        *        *        *        *

While Rarity and Fluttershy were busy in Canterlot, Twilight and Applejack were venturing into the darkness of the Everfree Forest. The two ponies were trudging through the wilderness in hopes of finding Fluttershy’s lost pets. Any shred of light was lost in the forest’s thick canopy and they were soon stumbling over their own hooves in the dark. Twilight was beginning to worry if they would ever find Fluttershy’s poor little animals. It was impossible to see far beyond one’s own face in the dim light of the woods. Every tree branch and bush seemed ghastly in that lighting and Twilight was quite unnerved. Her fear distracted her from Applejack, who was walking beside her. AJ didn’t look afraid so much as she looked annoyed.

“How did you end up sittin’ for Fluttershy’s critters, anyway?” Applejack asked.

“Huh?” The question snapped Twilight out of her nervous trance, “Oh, well, she needed somepony to take care of her animals since she was going off to Canterlot. It was kind of a last minute thing. Besides, I’ll gladly help out a friend in need.”

“I know, Twi’, so would I, but did you wonder why she didn’t invite you to come along? Or me? Or anypony else for that matter.” AJ said, rather annoyed.

“Well, it wasn’t Fluttershy’s decision. It was Rarity’s.” Twilight replied as she carefully stepped through the forest.

“Rarity...” Applejack snorted.

“What, you’re not mad you weren’t invited are you?” Twilight smirked.

“Me? Care about some dumb ol’ frilly thing like a fashion contest? Why in the hay would I want to go there?” AJ snarled, “I’m just a might bit huffed that she didn’t even bother to invite anypony else. That ain’t very neighborly of her.”

“Well you wouldn’t have even gone, so why do you care? I guess she figured we just wouldn’t appreciate it that much. I’m sure she didn’t mean anything personal by it.” Twilight said.

“Well, she should have at least given us a choice is all.” Applejack grumbled, “I wouldn’t be wanderin’ around the Everfree Forest if I went on that trip at least.”

“Is that what this is all about?” Twilight said, scrunching her face into a frown, “Well you know, you don’t have to help. I thought you didn’t mind.”

AJ’s expression became apologetic, “No, no, no. I wasn’t sayin’ that!” She lowered her head and sighed, “Oh, nevermind.”

Applejack’s reaction caught Twilight’s attention who noticed she wasn’t exactly acting herself that day, “What’s the matter, Applejack?”

“Nothin’. Never your mind. I don’t want to be a burden on ya.” Applejack said somberly.

Twilight reluctantly backed down and didn’t ask her any more questions. She knew Applejack wasn’t one to share her feelings, even if something was really eating at her. She just answered her in the best way she knew how,

“Well, if you ever want to talk about it, I’d be glad to listen.”

AJ didn’t respond. The two continued to walk through the forest in silence.

*        *        *        *        *

Fluttershy sat on her bed in the hotel she and Rarity were staying at. The hotel room was very elegant and clean; the beds were made immaculately and the carpeting was lush and spotless. A dazzling crystal chandelier hung in the center of the room. Despite the room looking flawless and beautiful, the atmosphere was far from serene. The huge influx of ponies for Equestria Couture meant that the whole hotel was booked. Every room was filled with excited, carousing ponies wanting to party rather than sleep. Noise from the two adjacent rooms made it impossible to get any rest and so Fluttershy and Rarity were sitting up, awake. Contrary to Fluttershy, who was sitting completely tranquil in her bed, Rarity was panicking, a pillow covering her head. Her face peeped out from underneath revealing her anguished facial expression. Her eyes darted back and forth as her lip quivered from nerves.

“Are you okay Rarity?” Fluttershy asked.

“Me?!” Rarity popped up, the pillow flopping onto the ground, “Oh, of course. Never been better.”

Rarity fabricated an artificial smile so as not to worry Fluttershy, but Fluttershy was keen enough to see through her guise.

“What’s the matter, Rarity? Are you nervous about tomorrow?” Fluttershy said, trying to be supportive.

Rarity could tell she wasn’t going to fool her, so she gave in, “Alright, yes I suppose I am a bit nervous. But that’s only natural right? Everypony gets stage fright now and again.”

A loud thump and a crash, followed by an eruption of laughter could be heard from the room next door.

“I only wish these other ponies would pipe down so I could get some beauty rest!” Rarity threw her pillow at the wall.

Fluttershy flew over to the light switch and turned it off. “Let’s try to get some rest anyway.”

Rarity slinked under the covers of her bed. She was more nervous now than she could have anticipated. Now that Fluttershy had entered the competition, she was apprehensive and unsure of how to feel. Fluttershy was her best friend and Rarity didn’t want to do anything to hurt her feelings. If she beat Fluttershy in the contest, would that make Fluttershy even more insecure in her abilities than she already is? On the other hand, Fluttershy could surprise her and win the competition. After all, Fluttershy was very technically gifted. When Rarity designed her dress for the Grand Galloping Gala, Fluttershy had no problem picking apart every flaw the dress had.

Several minutes later, Rarity rolled over in her bed. She noticed Fluttershy was asleep in the bed across from her. She fell asleep fast.

All the excitement must be a bit much for her. Rarity thought.

Then an idea struck Rarity. With Fluttershy asleep, she could use this time to start pre-making her own dress for the first round of the competition. She figured she could at least draw out some designs and get all the fabric she needed. After all, there wasn’t anything in the rules that said you couldn’t do that. Then again, it had been a sort of unwritten rule for ponies not to start working until the first assignment was given out so everypony would have an equal amount of time to work.

Well, Rarity thought, considering her options, nopony will know. A little head start never hurt anypony. I bet there are some other ponies thinking the exact same thing right now. I can’t let them cheat me out of my victory!

Rarity got up out of bed and put her glasses on, levitating a pencil and some paper to a desk. She glanced over at Fluttershy, who was still sound asleep.

It’s not like Fluttershy even wants to win, anyway. Rarity mused.

With that, she got to work.