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Hearts, Hooves and Misunderstandings (Phil the Time Wizard and Bramble Rose)

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Rarity nodded to herself softly as she finished sewing a particularly beautiful dress, special ordered by a young mare in town for Hearts and Hooves Day, which was less than a week away. She beamed proudly at it as she held it up before her, examining every last detail. Perfection! There was no way this dress wouldn't thrill and delight the mare who was soon to be its owner and leave her stallion charmed and enthralled. She couldn't wait until the customer came to pick it up so she could see her reaction. Sometimes her job was so rewarding.

This was a special time of year for her too. Hearts and Hooves Day was a wonderful, magical sort of holiday. Love was all in the air. Meek and mild ponies would suddenly be compelled to boldness for the one's they loved. New romances formed, old romances deepened. And of course, Carousel Boutique received quite the wonderful boon in business! Stallions came requesting gifts for their mares and mares came looking for the perfect dress for their perfect date. Sometimes it even meant making two dresses for the same mare. It made for lots of work, lots of bits and lots of happy customers, all of which Rarity could appreciate.

Though while Rarity did certainly love the holiday, she supposed it was a little bittersweet for her. There was no special somepony for her at the moment. She had spent much of her life set on finding her perfect prince. After enduring a certain Royal pain in the flank during the events of the Grand Galloping Gala she was now pretty confident that that prince didn't exist. It was kind of hard for her to reassess though, and it was difficult in general for her to settle for less than perfect. Furthermore, between running a small business which was growing exponentially more noteworthy by the day and making time for her friends who were oh so important to her, the time for finding a special somepony alluded her.

That didn't mean that Rarity couldn't still enjoy the day. She truly did enjoy the atmosphere it had, the warmth of it all, the romance. Even if her own day might be a little empty compared to the mare's she was making dresses for, she'd still be wearing a pleasant smile when the day came around.

She laughed quietly as she placed the dress she had finished aside. Today was a bit of an anomaly to her. This week was such a busy time for her shop usually, but she hadn't had a single customer walk into her shop in some time now. She still had a few dresses she needed to finish up but she had more than enough time to complete them all without event. She was confident this momentary lull would pass and things would become busy once again soon. Nodding once more, she found another dress and began to sew, humming to herself as she did, all the while glancing up at the Boutique's entrance every so often.

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(( Coming in from: A Hearts and Hooves Gift ))

Rainbow Dash paused outside the Carousel Boutique, steeling herself. She was used to crashing and burning on her own terms - Rainbow Crash strikes again - and she could handle that. She'd just keep trying and trying and trying again and again. That's how she got as awesome as she was now. What really worried her was letting down her friends - she had to play this cool and subtle.

Course, every time she walked into Rarity's shop, nothing went the way it was supposed to - and four times out of five, she ended up being dressed up in some fancy getup. course ... sometimes it was actually kinda cool, when Rarity made it specifically with her in mind ... but sometimes it was just stupid. And for some reason, Rainbow Dash just couldn't find it in her to say 'no' to Rarity, no matter how stupid the outfit looked. Well, if that's what it took ... then that's what it took. She took a deep breath, and stepped inside.

The bell at the door rang as she entered, and she smiled in relief to see the shop empty except for Rarity. Good! That meant she had free rein! "Heya, Rarity! How's it goin'?" She leaned casually against the nearest table, trying to seem really calm and cool. "Looks like things are goin' kinda slow for you?"

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Rarity perked up at the sound of her door opening. A customer, finally! She turned her head to the side quickly to see who it was, only to be mildly disappointed. It was her friend Rainbow Dash. She wasn't disappointed to see Dash, on the contrary, she was a great friend and seeing her on a day where she wasn't very busy was quite nice. She quite enjoyed using Dash as a model for dresses whenever she had the opportunity. She had just been hoping to get another shy and nervous mare wandering into her shop with Hearts and Hooves Day and a special somepony on her mind. They were such a delight to serve.

"Heya, Rarity! How's it goin'? Looks like things are goin' kinda slow for you?"

Dash spoke, but there was something off about it. It seemed a touch less natural than usual, like she was trying to be her laid back self and not just coming by it on her own. Rarity found this mildly peculiar, but not worth mentioning. She just nodded to Dash and smiled.

"Greetings, Rainbow, darling. What a pleasant surprise for you to stop by," Rarity greeted her friend, continuing to smile.

"Indeed. This is usually a very busy week for me. I am surprised to have such a leisurely day," Rarity said in a steady voice. Rarity giggled and shook her head. "But that means I'm all free to make for you the loveliest dress you could imagine! You could be the most dazzling mare in all of Ponyville come Hearts and Hooves Day, just say the word!"

She was of course mostly just teasing here. Dash liked her dresses more than she sometimes pretended, but she simply wasn't the sort of mare to get obsessed over looking pretty or Hearts and Hooves Day for that matter. She had invariably come to the shop for something entirely different.

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Dash couldn't help but let out a laugh. "Ah, what, and hand in my daredevil license? Yeah, that's what I wanna be known as - Rainbow Dash always dresses in style!" She let out another laugh. "That's more your sorta thing, you're the one who's always the prettiest around." Dash did kinda wonder what sort of dress rarity had in mind - but that wasn't important!

"No, no, I was just, kinda, dropping by to chat. See, um, how you're doing and stuff." She gave a wave of her hoof at the shop in general. "See how you're doing, and ... chat about ... stuff." Oh, Geeze, Dash! You can do better than this! What's wrong with you? "Did you know the Wonderbolts visited the school the other day? That must have been so awesome for the foals! Was Sweetie Belle all excited?"

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"Ah, what, and hand in my daredevil license? Yeah, that's what I wanna be known as - Rainbow Dash always dresses in style!"

Rarity had to giggle at this. Dash was right, that totally just wasn't her. Still the thought of it was somewhat amusing.

"That's more your sorta thing, you're the one who's always the prettiest around."

These words took Rarity off guard a little. She couldn't recall Dash ever really complimenting her on her looks. Compliments on anything aside from physical ability were rare from the boisterous pegasus. Still, it felt nice to receive such flattering words from a valued friend. Rarity blushed just slightly and smiled.

"No, no, I was just, kinda, dropping by to chat. See, um, how you're doing and stuff."

Stopping by for nothing more than a chat? Another unusual, un-Dash thing to do. Curious. Curious, but still not something entirely pressing. Between the Sonic Rainboom, Tank, the Mare Do Well ordeal and wrecking her wing Dash had been growing and learning a lot lately after all; a change in behavioral patterns might not necessarily be an indicator that something was wrong.

"See how you're doing, and ... chat about ... stuff."

Okay, that settled it! Something was definitely up with this pony. Her careless repetition of her previous words, said with even less conviction than before was definitely a tip off. There was something Rainbow Dash wasn't telling her, something she was nervous to speak about.

"Did you know the Wonderbolts visited the school the other day? That must have been so awesome for the foals! Was Sweetie Belle all excited?"

Rarity sighed. Now she was hastily changing the subject. Rarity gave a small sigh. How should she proceed? If Dash was really troubled about something, confronting her suddenly might not be the best idea. Perhaps easing her into it might be better? But if she didn't say anything, she'd maybe give Dash time to run away without telling her. It was quite the dilemma.

"Oh yes, Sweetie told me about that. She said it was quite fun, especially for little Scootaloo," Rarity said with a quiet nod. "I think it's just wondrous that they bring in successful ponies like that to help inspire the little ones."

"But you didn't come here just to talk about the Wonderbolts, did you Rainbow, dear?" Rarity asked, finally deciding it right to at least ask. "If something is the matter I would be delighted to listen."

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"The matter?" Dash exclaimed. "No, of course not! Nothing's the matter! I'm Rainbow Dash! What could be wrong? Naaawww. Though, I mean, if you want, I could use some advice on something. Nothing important, just a little thing..."

Subtle, Dash! Remember, Subtle!

"See, um, I have this ... friend ... " she gestured vaguely, "who's totally not me ... " Perfect! Nice and vague. "and this friend is totally into this ... fancy sort of a pony who's all ... like, into gems and clothes and stuff, kinda like you are. And this friend, who's not me, wants to get something for this other pony for Hearts and Hooves day."

She started talking a bit faster, then, gesturing with her hooves as she talked, "And my friend thought, hey, maybe a book would be nice, and to get this other pony a Daring Do book. Except maybe that's not romantic enough, and this pony likes clothes a lot, so maybe my friend could get her a Wonderbolts costume, except ... that might not be fancy enough. And you like fancy stuff, and clothes, and stuff like that, so I thought that you could let me know what sort of thing you'd like for Hearts and Hooves day?" She gave a big, innocent-as-possible grin, her wings flaring with excitement at having pulled it off so well. One could almost hear the faint 'squeee' sound effect of total innocence. "Then, of course, I could tell my friend what to get for that other pony!" she added quickly.

There! Rarity wouldn't have a *clue* that Dash was actually talking about her!

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"The matter? No, of course not! Nothing's the matter! I'm Rainbow Dash! What could be wrong? Naaawww. Though, I mean, if you want, I could use some advice on something. Nothing important, just a little thing..."

Oh? So Dash had come to Rarity for advice. Interesting. Dash wasn't necessarily speaking the type to seek the advice of others and certainly not Rarity. She had such an effortless cool to her usually. Dash did her own thing. Asking for help wasn't like her? Though perhaps what she needed help with was something particularly tricky? There did still seem something off about how she spoke. There was a certain visible anxiety about it all. Rarity gave an easing nod to her friend as she listened carefully.

"See, um, I have this ... friend ... who's totally not me ... "

Rarity had to stop herself from chuckling. This was a typical, clumsy little ploy employed by a pony who wanted to ask advice for herself without admitting that it is indeed for her. It was entirely obvious. Rarity smirked as she continued to listen closely. What could be so uncomfortable and embarrassing for Dash to ask about that she'd need to hide behind such things?

"And this friend is totally into this ... fancy sort of a pony who's all ... like, into gems and clothes and stuff, kinda like you are. And this friend, who's not me, wants to get something for this other pony for Hearts and Hooves day."

Oh! Now this was surprising! Rainbow Dash had taken an interest in another pony and wanted gift giving advice? Suddenly it all made sense to her. Romance wasn't Dash at all. Hence the awkwardness and nervousness. Furthermore, Dash fancied a pony interested in gems and clothing? How atypical. She wondered who this pony was. She could only think of so many ponies in Ponyville who had her same interests.

"And my friend thought, hey, maybe a book would be nice, and to get this other pony a Daring Do book. Except maybe that's not romantic enough, and this pony likes clothes a lot, so maybe my friend could get her a Wonderbolts costume, except ... "

Dash continued, and in doing so revealed three things, that she was indeed talking about herself, that she was terrible with gift ideas and that the one she was getting the gift for was a mare. While the first part had already been obvious and the second was fairly common knowledge, the third bit came as a mild surprise. With her sporty, entirely unfeminine attitude there had always been whispered presumptions about such things for the rainbow-maned weather mare around Ponyville. Rarity had never really cared to suppose anything on the matter, not believing it mattered. It still wasn't something she'd judge the pony for. Rainbow Dash would always be her friend.

"That might not be fancy enough. And you like fancy stuff, and clothes, and stuff like that, so I thought that you could let me know what sort of thing you'd like for Hearts and Hooves day?"

Rarity gave a small gasp. This was-! Could Rainbow Dash really be...? Just as her insistent denial that "her friend" wasn't her made it irrevocably certain to Rarity that Dash was speaking of herself, Dash's continual need to compare the object of her affections made Rarity wonder if it wasn't in fact her about whom Dash spoke.

"Oh my!" Rarity said through an exasperated sigh, stunned.

Was she reading into this right? Had Rainbow Dash fallen in love with her? She felt stunned. For a good several seconds she had no clue how to respond or even how to think. It was all there though. Rarity had given enough advice to other ponies to be able to read the truth into what was being asked here. Dash was asking her for advice on the perfect romantic present for Hearts and Hooves Day, when she likely planned to make her confession. Rarity couldn't let Dash know that she knew that though.

"T-that's quite a.... quite a difficult... er... I mean..." Rarity fumbled uncomfortably over her words, still not ready to speak. Her face flushed with red as she tried to slow her racing mind and remember how to think properly. "Oh, how delightful! This truly is an inspiring holiday to compel the romantic hearted as it so does!" Rarity started with forced enthusiasm.

Maybe Rarity was wrong? Maybe Dash's mare of choice wasn't her? Maybe she was reading into this? She'd start there. Confirming things certainly couldn't hurt.

"I'd be delighted to help!" Rarity said with a bright smile. "Why don't you tell me a little more about the mare getting the gift? You say she has similar interests to my own? How similar? Surely she has other interests as well? I need to know to ensure the gift I suggest is just perfect!"

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Rainbow Dash held her breath a moment. What was the mare like?! Rarity wasn't following the script! How did you describe Rarity without letting on that it was, in fact, Rarity! Couldn't she just ... give her advice?! If Rainbow Dash was asked to pick out a gift for someone like her, she'd be able to answer right away! But ... Rarity always needed everything perfect, the first time.

And that gave her the first line. "Well ... she's ... a perfectionist. She always likes everything right the first time." No, wait, that sounded bad. "That is ... she's an artist. She ... paints? Yeah, she paints! She's an awesome painter. Whenever she paints a pony, she makes that pony look totally gorgeous!"

Yeah, that was the ticket! Paint, not cloth, and it became easy!

"Yeah, she goes to these fancy events in Canterlot so she can show off her art to the snobby, rich ponies there ... um ... and she likes it. She ... " Why was Dash never able to say 'no' when Rarity wanted to try a new dress on her? Why was she friends with Rarity in the first place? They were so different! She looked up at Rarity, and her voice softed a little, and she gave a little smile. "She knows how it feels to want to be the best. To put all her time into trying to be the best. To practice all day long. And when she's not practicing, she's thinking about a new design. For her painting. She never gives up, never."

Dash laughed, and shook her head. "That sounds stupid. I doubt any of that helps ... I just don't know how to describe her."

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"Well ... she's ... a perfectionist. She always likes everything right the first time."

Rarity nodded. She had been accused of such things before. It was hard for her to really deny them. She felt one should always strive for perfection. This was another point toward the mare being her.

"That is ... she's an artist. She ... paints? Yeah, she paints! She's an awesome painter. Whenever she paints a pony, she makes that pony look totally gorgeous!"

Rarity had to stop herself from lying. The searching pauses, the awkward fumbling over her words, it was terribly obvious. Dash was clearly lying. She likely realized Rarity was onto her and trying to throw her off. Maybe Rarity should pull back a little? She should tread carefully. These were delicate matters for Rainbow Dash, so pushing too hard could be dangerous. She'd go along with her story for now.

"Yeah, she goes to these fancy events in Canterlot so she can show off her art to the snobby, rich ponies there ... um ... and she likes it. She ... "

Another awkwardly stated phrase that could be applied to Rarity. Rarity shook her head just slightly.

"She knows how it feels to want to be the best. To put all her time into trying to be the best. To practice all day long. And when she's not practicing, she's thinking about a new design. For her painting. She never gives up, never."

If it hadn't been obvious enough by now, these words made it painfully clear who Dash's mare was. Designs for a painting? Oh, Dash, that didn't make sense at all. Especially when you had just said she painted portraits of other ponies. The words around it were kind of interesting though. Rarity would have described Dash similarly if given the option. They were both the same in that way, both striving tirelessly for greatness, living for their dreams. Was that what Dash saw in her?

These thoughts reminded her of the very real fact that it was pretty apparent that her dear friend had fallen in love with her. How did she feel about this pony knowing now how she felt about her? Were Dash to really award her a gift and a bold confession of love come Hearts and Hooves Day, how would she react? Rarity didn't know how to answer that question yet. It seemed almost surreal to her.

It wouldn't be the first time another mare confessed to her. Beauty and elegance attract attention of all sorts. This was different though. This wasn't some mare she hardly knew who gravitated to her for mostly surface reasons. This was one of her closest friends, somepony who knew her well and understood her. It was entirely different and far more tricky, especially considering not handling it with care could damage what they have now.

She needed to think about this more, but she couldn't be silent any longer. Dash would take notice and find it strange. She needed to say something.

"I see. She sounds like quite the classy mare," Rarity said, blushing just a little, her voice kind of low and gentler than usual.

"So, this friend of yours... they really, truly cares deeply for this artist mare then?" she asked, wanting to see in what terms Dash described the attraction.

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Rainbow Dash swallowed nervously. Always more questions. Why was *this* one even important? "Um ..." she said, softly. "I ... that's ... hard to say, really. I don't think my friend's ever been in a serious relationship of any sort ... it sometimes seems like it's just a silly crush ... but sometimes, well, it seems that she's all my friend can think about. My friend puts up with just about anything for her."

Aw, man. Rarity was her friend, and Dash couldn't let her think that Dash was trying to choose her future, after she found out Dash was talking about Rarity ... "I mean, it's ... I dunno if it would work out. My friend is is ... younger than the artist. The youngest of all their friends. I doubt the artist would be interested in somepony younger than her ... but, hey, you know me. I always think you should charge ahead, even if you don't have a chance, or else you'll never do anything." She paused, thinking about this, then added quickly, "So of course I'm gonna help my friend, no matter how it turns out!"

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"Um ... I ... that's ... hard to say, really. I don't think my friend's ever been in a serious relationship of any sort ... it sometimes seems like it's just a silly crush ... but sometimes, well, it seems that she's all my friend can think about. My friend puts up with just about anything for her."

Rarity smiled. She wasn't expecting Dash to speak in such earnest terms about her lack of romantic experience and general confusion over her own feelings. She supposed when it was "a friend" and not her she could be candid. This effectively killed her doubts though. She made Dash put up with a lot of her playful whims, and yet the pony still came back and still agreed to help her at times. It just fit so perfectly in place.

"I mean, it's ... I dunno if it would work out. My friend is is ... younger than the artist. The youngest of all their friends. I doubt the artist would be interested in somepony younger than her ... but, hey, you know me. I always think you should charge ahead, even if you don't have a chance, or else you'll never do anything. So of course I'm gonna help my friend, no matter how it turns out!"

And this just made it all fit even better in place. Dash was the youngest of their six friends. She was a number of years younger than Rarity herself. It wasn't something Rarity really thought about much, so she was odd to hear it as such a big hang up for Rainbow Dash. As far as she was concerned a few years meant nothing in the face of love.

"As well you should, Rainbow Darling," Rarity said with a nod. "Make sure this friend of yours realizes this is a silly thing to get a hung up over. Age is just a number. True love can break down a barrier as meaningless as that without effort! Your friend should act boldly, and follow their heart without worrying about such petty inhibitions!"

After she finished speaking, Rarity came to the sudden realization of what she was doing. She was encouraging Rainbow Dash to confess to her when she still wasn't sure what her own feelings were. She wished she had more time to sort things out. This was such a delicate spot to be in considering how much Rainbow Dash meant to not only her, but her closest friends as well. Still, the romantic in her wanted to help Rainbow Dash let it all out, even if she still didn't know how she'd react to such a thing.

"But that isn't the manner of advice you came to me for," Rarity said in a more calm voice, blushing a little. "I suppose I should get to the point. A Hearts and Hooves Gift..." She started to think on the matter, looking up as she did. "Well, maybe you're not that far off... Something that would make the mare think about your friend whenever she looked at it could become an invaluable keepsake to her. On the other hand, something more practical for her that she could actually use for herself might be good..." She came to a pause and looked at Dash "What manner of things has your friend been considering?"

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Rainbow Dash brightened at Rarity's enthusiastic declaration about the importance of following your heart. She forgot, briefly, why she was here, as her face just lit up. "Yeah, that's exactly it! How is it you and I are so different, but we keep thinkin' the same thing like that? 'cept you use the ten-bit words!" She laughed softly. "Never stop, never doubt," she declared, then lifted her hoof to punch the air. "Forward momentum!"

She laughed softly, and shook her head. "Ideas for gifts? Oh, man, I don't even know. Someone suggested books ... and someone suggested flowers ... and someone suggested clothes ... " She laughs a bit. "Or apples, I'm sure!" She shook her head. "But I don't really have any ideas... I always thought this was a kinda stupid holiday. I never got any Hearts and Hooves gift, and I'm fine! But everypony makes such a big deal out of it." She rolled her eyes. "So, um ... my friend just isn't sure what to get. Just that it has to be something ... special. Something like... way, way awesome! At least 20% more romantic than anything else anypony ever got anypony! Which is why I'm here!"

She rubbed her hoof over her chin thoughtfully. "Something to remind her of my friend ... like ... a photo? A signed photo? Or ... practical? Do practical gifts really work? I always thought that was one of those big mistake-gifts."

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"Yeah, that's exactly it! How is it you and I are so different, but we keep thinkin' the same thing like that? 'cept you use the ten-bit words! Never stop, never doubt. Forward momentum!"

Rarity smiled and nodded at these words. They could be taken as a sort of motto for both of them. Honestly she wasn't sure her and Dash were so different as the rainbow-tressed pony seemed to express. Fashion and flight might seem worlds apart, but Rarity had seen this pony fly on many occasions. The stunning beauty of her movements through the air left little doubt that this pony was every bit the artist Rarity herself was. Likewise they shared such similar conviction.

Of all of her friends, Rarity might have actually said her understanding of this pony was the best. Her and Fluttershy had some common interests but they were almost polar opposites in terms of disposition, with the pegasus meek and lacking in conviction while Rarity remained bold and ambitious. Twilght with her bookishness and her awkwardness was like Rarity in neither interests or nature; Pinkie Pie was Pinkie Pie; and while much progress had been made to bridge the gulf between her and Applejack, it remained that they still came from very different worlds. Yet even if she could understand Rainbow Dash, did that necessarily mean she wished to deepen things? She still hardly knew how to even approach that question.

"Ideas for gifts? Oh, man, I don't even know. Someone suggested books ... and someone suggested flowers ... and someone suggested clothes ... Or apples, I'm sure!"

Book and apples? Rarity couldn't help but think that this meant in turn Twilight Sparkle and Applejack were part of the discussion. Flowers could mean Fluttershy or even Pinkie Pie, and clothing could have been suggest by anypony. Well this might make things awkward. Rarity smiled awkwardly. So Dash was already consulting their friends about this? Did everypony already know that Dash had this crush on her? If so, how long had they known? Rarity hadn't ever noticed it herself until now.

"But I don't really have any ideas... I always thought this was a kinda stupid holiday. I never got any Hearts and Hooves gift, and I'm fine! But everypony makes such a big deal out of it."

Rarity had to chuckle. This was a fairly common way to view the holiday she supposed. Dumb and silly until you have somepony special in mind. Rarity didn't quite think like that, but she wasn't surprised Dash did. It further spoke to her seriousness that this had shaken her into action though. Dash wasn't playing around here.

"So, um ... my friend just isn't sure what to get. Just that it has to be something ... special. Something like... way, way awesome! At least 20% more romantic than anything else anypony ever got anypony! Which is why I'm here!"

Aw, how sweet. Rarity blushed. Even if she still needed more time to examine her feelings, the idea that she meant to much to somepony that she'd endeavor to get a gift that could be described in such terms was really cute.

"Something to remind her of my friend ... like ... a photo? A signed photo? Or ... practical? Do practical gifts really work? I always thought that was one of those big mistake-gifts."

Rarity nodded again, deciding to speak. "It depends on the pony. Some ponies like to receive gifts they can actually put to practical use... Yet you are right. That is somewhat tricky. I personally don't mind that kind of gift, but it certainly wouldn't be as special as your friend is hoping for."

"For that kind of specialness and impact, it has to be something meaningful-- something that will be deeply cherished for time to come. However, the meaning of a gift isn't only determined by what it is, but by how it is delivered. For example, one of my favorite gifts I've ever received is that heart shaped fire ruby I got from our dear friend Spike not too long ago. Not only was it a quality piece that I adore for its shimmering beauty, but it was given to me selflessly by a valued friend who had no obligation to give it to me, on his own birthday, no less. That, even more than the gem itself has made it one of my most treasured possessions," Rarity smiled, thinking briefly about how that days had been memorable for more than just that, what with Spike's transformation.

"I suggest your friend find something nice. The mare is an artist, so like me she would appreciate beauty. More than that though, have your friend give the gift with sincerity and conviction. Even if the gift itself is lacking, that alone will go a long way to make it memorable," the unicorn concluded, giving a nod.

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Rainbow Dash grimaced a little as Rarity went on about Spike's gift. Yeah, that was certainly the gift to beat - Spike had been right about that. She let out a soft sigh. Ponyfeathers! Why was Rarity being so difficult about this? Was it that hard to come up with a gift that you'd want? Rainbow Dash could easily list off, like, a dozen things she wanted! Well, sorta. Gifts, yeah, but nothing like ... for Hearts and Hooves, she supposed.

She tapped thoughtfully at her chin, chewing on her lower lip as she tried to run over Rarity's words in her mind. "Man," Dash groaned, "Is Hearts and Hooves always this hard?" Being a wingmare was way harder than Dash had thought it'd be. As much as she had a fan club and everything, as much as she'd bragged to Spike, she'd never really gotten anything for Hearts and Hooves, or had a special somepony.

Even if Rarity admitted that a practical gift wasn't romantic ... that ruby was still a practical gift - she'd used it in her art. She made it into some gorgeous piece. And Rarity wanted something beautiful? But all the most beautiful things in town were made by Rarity! Even Rainbow Dash knew you couldn't give someone a gift that they'd made themselves!

Rainbow Dash was really starting to fret. She was going to let everyone down again... she'd gone through all this, and she still didn't have a clue! What was she going to do? What was she going to -

With a faint 'ding', the light went on for Dash, her wings flaring with a 'poomf' as inspiration hit. Only Rarity could make things beautiful enough for Rarity! Her face lit up with excitement. "Oh! Oh, that's it!" she cried happily, and even pranced in place with the excitement that the idea brought to her. "Oh, oh, oh! Thanks, Rarity! I think I figured it out!" She moved forward to give Rarity a quick, impulsive hug, grinning eagerly. "You're the best, Rarity!" she said, with absolute sincerity, then moderated it with a quick, teasing, "Well, right after me, anyway!"

She turned quickly to leave, half-opening the door, then paused and looked back over her shoulder. "Ummm ... do you need my help with anything?" she asked. "Cause ... y'know I'm always there for ya! Even if I look goofy in half those outfits ya put me in!"

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"Man, is Hearts and Hooves always this hard?"

Rarity smirked at these words. It kind of surprised her when she thought about it. She had never had a Hearts and Hooves Day that was too overwhelmingly difficult on her. It was kind of odd to think that Dash might have one before her. That said, depending on how things went for Dash, things might change for Rarity herself. There was still some disconnect there. It was strange. She still had no clue what she wanted in the picture. It was a hard step to take. What would her friends think? Well, there was the chance they were already giving Dash gift advice, which should mean they'd accept it... but still...

"Oh! Oh, that's it! Oh, oh, oh! Thanks, Rarity! I think I figured it out!"

Dash suddenly proclaimed, the idea apparently having hit her. Rarity smiled. She had some guesses. There were some very beautiful things Dash could do that no pony else could after all. It just had to occur to her that a gift doesn't necessarily have to be something tangible. Dash's talent wasn't in making physical things, but through her art she could make beauty that inspired feelings as great and captivating as one of Rarity's best dresses. A perfectly timed intricate flight display, perhaps even ending in a stunning rainboom was the most perfect gift Dash could probably give. Rarity figured that that had to be what had just occurred to the pony. And as enthralling as watching Dash fly could be to her, Rarity wasn't sure it wouldn't work on her...

"You're the best, Rarity! Well, right after me, anyway!"

Rarity was surprised to find Dash suddenly hug her. She blushed. Dash wasn't usually one to get physical with her, but knowing how Dash felt about her, it was even more surprising. It was kind of nice though, in its own way. As we're Dash's sweet, but so characteristically Dash words. Rarity had to laugh a little, smiling at the other pony.

"Well, I'm glad to have helped you out, Dash. I wish your friend the best of luck," she said with a smile as the pony turned to leave. "Just make sure you tell them to stay true to their heart and I'm sure the gift will be well received!"

"Ummm ... do you need my help with anything? Cause ... y'know I'm always there for ya! Even if I look goofy in half those outfits ya put me in!"

Dash added this bit as she was about to leave. Rarity smiled at her, a little surprised Dash would offer to stay longer when she was no doubt considerably worked up over this coming confession and gift. Still, Rarity didn't mind the idea of more time with Dash. It might help her sort things out on her end a little more.

"Oh, but Rainbow Darling, I think you look quite fetching in my dresses! That mane of yours compliments practically everything!" Rarity said with a playful giggle. She then shook her head a little "I don't have a lot of customers today, but I do still have a lot of orders due," Rarity said with a steady nod. "A live model could never hurt, if you're offering..."

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Rainbow Dash paused. Rarity wasn't supposed to accept! But she supposed she had walked into that one. And it was only fair - Rarity had just helped her, so she should help Rarity, right? But ... she couldn't just disappear for the rest of the day without letting the others know! They might be waiting for her!

And Rarity's compliments made her uncertain, a red flush spreading over her cheeks. She was a daredevil, she didn't care about looking 'fetching,' she cared about looking *awesome*! ... right?

"OK, well, first I have to go ... um ... tell my friend what I thought of. And then I can come right on back and help you out, promise! Will that work for you?" She gave a big innocent grin, a little "wheeeee" sounding in the background.

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"OK, well, first I have to go ... um ... tell my friend what I thought of. And then I can come right on back and help you out, promise! Will that work for you?"

Dash started. She looked somewhat surprised that Rarity had asked her to stay. She had likely expected Rarity to decline her offer. She probably would have on a busier day. Really though, having Rainbow Dash as a model was always something to enjoy, even before today. There was something about forcing her to wear some totally out of character dress that was just so very amusing.

The idea that she had to go tell her friend was kind of strange though. Rainbow Dash was her "friend". Maybe she intended to pass the idea by their other friends to make sure she wasn't making a mistake? Who knows, maybe she was just using this as an excuse to run away? She had made her offer to be polite, but the thought of actually working beside Rarity now would unnerve and fluster her. Rarity couldn't blame her if that was the case. She didn't know if Dash intended to come back. Either way was fine with her really.

"That is perfectly fine with me, Rainbow, darling," Rarity said with smile. "I hope your friend likes the idea!" she added, just for punctuation. She didn't want Rainbow Dash to know that she knew too much after all.

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Rainbow Dash nodded, with a grin. "Cool, that's a plan, then! Just gotta get things rolling, y'know, time's of the essence and all that! I'll be back as soon as I can! You know I wouldn't let you down!" She tapped her forehoof to her forehead briefly, and then was out of the door, leaving a streak of Rainbow behind her as she headed off towards the main marketplace.

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