Almost Beautiful

by Donny's Boy

Chapter 1: Almost Beautiful

"Almost Beautiful"

by Donny's Boy

Synopsis: Rarity has always believed that there exists a prince for every princess. And she's not wrong about that. She's just not right for quite the exact reasons she thinks she is.

"Time stands still, beauty in all she is-
I will be brave. I will not let anything
Take away what's standing in front of me.
Every breath, every hour, has come to this …"
-Christina Perri, "A Thousand Years"

Twilight Sparkle was almost beautiful.

She had a well-proportioned and well-defined face, with classically patrician features. Her voice was melodious and gentle, yet at the proper moments, it could ring with impressive strength and authority. She held herself with a dignity that was proud but never pompous. The mare was intelligent-almost frighteningly so, in all truth-but seldom was she boastful.

And yet.

And yet there were moments, too many to ignore, moments that prevented Twilight from achieving true beauty. Her dancing-her ridiculous, awful, ungainly, strangely mesmerizing dancing-was high on that list of moments. Her lack of grace under pressure, her predilection towards panicking at the drop of a hat or a stern word from Princess Celestia, those too had to be included on that list. As did countless other things, ranging from Twilight's annoying tendency to lecture at length to the perfectly functional and perfectly unfashionable cut of her mane.

Twilight Sparkle was almost beautiful … but not quite. Not really. Not fully. And this had always been so, right from the very day Rarity first caught sight of the other unicorn on the eve of that fateful Summer Sun Celebration.

But never had Twilight been less beautiful than she was right here and right now. Standing in the doorway of one of the palace's large halls, eyes dangerously narrowed, nostrils flaring. Even though Rarity was standing some good few yards away, she couldn't miss the sharp glitter of anger in Twilight's eyes. Nothing good ever came after seeing that look in Twilight's face, and Rarity felt her stomach twist.

"You have to listen to me!"

Oh, but Rarity already had already listened. Indeed, even before they'd arrived in Canterlot, Rarity had done nothing but listen to Twilight. She'd listened to Twilight rail endlessly against Princess Mi Amore Cadenza for offenses both trivial and imagined, so utterly wrapped up in her own hurt over not knowing about the royal wedding that she'd lost all perspective. She'd listened to Twilight on the train and in their rooms, at dinner and at the dress-fitting. If there was one thing Rarity felt confident about, it was that she'd done more than enough listening to Twilight Sparkle lately.

But Twilight was not to be deterred. Twilight was never to be deterred. That stubborn determination, that sometimes awe-inducing tenacity, was yet something else that made Twilight almost beautiful but not quite.

"I've got something to say," Twilight declared, her voice ringing across the entire hall. "She's evil!"

Just like that, Rarity knew the wedding was doomed. Things had been trending towards "doomed" for some time now, it was true, but certainly this would prove to be the final nail in the coffin. The wedding was doomed, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and Captain Shining Armor were doomed, probably even Twilight herself was doomed. More importantly, Rarity and her chance to be a bridesmare in a royal wedding-to serve as bridesmare to an honest to goodness princess-well, they were doomed, too. Her chance to participate in a royal wedding which, after last year's Grand Galloping Gala fiasco, was likely to be the nearest Rarity ever got to marrying a prince herself. Doomed. Doomed, doomed, doomed, all of it.

And all because of Twilight Sparkle.


Twilight looked small as she stood across the cavernous palace ballroom, dwarfed by the room's majestic doorway. Twilight was small, of course-small even for a mare-but it was terribly easy to forget that fact. She usually seemed larger than she actually was, somehow.

"Rarity, are you all right?" Even from across the long, empty ballroom, the warmth and kindness in Twilight's voice shone like the brightest star.

Quickly Rarity put on a smile. "Why, hello, Twilight," she replied, with as much good cheer as she could muster. "I trust the reception festivities are still going swimmingly?"

The other unicorn began crossing the room, her every footfall echoing almost painfully loud off the high ceilings.

"Oh, yes, everything's fine. Princess Celestia can't stop talking about how beautiful and in love Cadance and my brother look, Fluttershy's discussing the garden menagerie with Princess Luna, Rainbow Dash is completely monopolizing that one Wonderbolt whose name I can never remember …" Twilight snorted and shook her head. "And Pinkie's trying to teach Canterlot's aristocracy how to do the Pony Pokey, but I'm not sure anypony really wants to learn it except maybe for Fancy Pants …"

Rarity's smile grew a bit wider, a bit more genuine, at the thought of Fancy Pants being led through the steps of the Pony Pokey by an earnest and enthusiastic Pinkie Pie. By the time Twilight reached her, in the dim little corner where she'd hidden away with her back against the wall, Rarity was even giggling a bit, too.

"So," prompted Twilight, as she sat down beside Rarity. "Are you all right?"

Rarity stopped giggling.

It was quite tempting to simply lie and say that she was fine. To concoct some excuse as to needing to go freshen her make-up or fix a torn seam or do any one of the dozen other little things that a lady might find urgently necessary at an event as important as a royal wedding. She was good at lying, after all, very good. It wouldn't be hard.

Besides, even if Rarity didn't happen to be good at lying, Twilight would be gracious enough to let a little fib pass without contradiction. Unlike some of Canterlot's born and bred, Twilight had manners. Twilight had compassion.

And it was that knowledge-the knowledge that she could have simply lied without any consequence whatsoever-that led Rarity to whisper, "No. No, I'm afraid I'm not all right."

Twilight nodded and scooted closer, close enough that her body heat could be felt even through the multiple layers of fabric comprising the two unicorns' gowns.

"What's up?" asked Twilight, her voice steady and gentle.

Rarity bit her lip. That … was a good question. A good question for which she wasn't at all sure she had a good answer.

"Rarity, did Prince Blueblood say or do something? Because if he did, I can ask Princess Celestia to go talk to-"

"No, it wasn't Blueblood." Rarity glanced over to Twilight and felt a strange thrill of pleasure from the furrow in her fellow unicorn's brow, from the glint of righteous determination in those violet eyes. "Actually, Prince Blueblood hasn't dared to step anywhere within twenty feet of me all night. I believe Fleur de Lis gave him a talking-to early in the evening."

Twilight grinned at that, but only for a moment. Quickly she schooled her facial features into something more neutral. "Okay, so if not Prince Blueblood, then what's wrong?"

And there was the problem, right there. Rarity didn't know. Oh, she had an inkling, of course. The sight of Twilight's dear brother and former babysitter together, embracing, kissing, gazing lovingly into one another's eyes, was more than enough to remind Rarity of everything she failed to possess even after all these years. Not that she begrudged the royal couple their happiness. Quite the contrary. If any two ponies in the kingdom had earned their happy ending, surely those ponies were Princess Cadance and Prince Shining Armor.

But it did make her wonder. It made her worry. As she did not have her happy ending-at least, not yet-did that mean she did not deserve one? There was a time where Rarity might have scoffed at such an absurd thought, and yet, after recent events, she was not nearly so inclined to scoff at the present moment.

Rarity felt a hoof fall lightly upon her shoulder, and she took a breath.

"I wanted to meet and marry a prince," she whispered. "I wanted to become a princess. I wanted … I wanted …"

"What my brother has?"

Rarity flinched, despite Twilight's casual and matter-of-fact tone. "I'm sorry, darling. You must find it utterly boorish of me to carry on like this, on what should be a joyous occasion centered around the happy couple. Especially given the apologies already owed for earlier."

Twilight chuckled. "You saw Shining Armor and Cadance leave for their honeymoon with the rest of us-it's mostly just a regular party now. Well. As regular as any party with both the princesses and Pinkie Pie can be."

Rarity glanced over to find the other unicorn smiling at her warmly. "And you truly have forgiven me for … for not believing you when the supposed princess was acting strangely?"

"Of course. You girls already apologized for that, remember?" Twilight's smile didn't flicker in the slightest. "Besides, that's what friends do, don't they?"

Thoughtfully Rarity stared at Twilight, trying to comprehend the magnitude of her friend's benevolence, the enormity of her generosity. She was not at all certain that she'd be quite so forgiving-or quite so willing to indulge prattling about minor romantic woes-if their positions had been reversed.

"My dear Twilight Sparkle." Slowly Rarity's lips curved upwards, as she returned her friend's smile. "You truly are a remarkable mare, aren't you?"

Blushing a bit, Twilight dropped her eyes and shook her head. "No, I'm not. Not really. But thanks for saying so."

Rarity could tell, by the flush on Twilight's cheeks and the timbre of Twilight's voice, that Twilight meant it. That Twilight honestly did not believe what Rarity had just said. Rarity knew from affectations and, if there was one thing Twilight Sparkle was not, it was affected.

And Rarity decided right then and there, on the cold wooden floors of an empty ballroom of Canterlot's royal palace, that if she could not have her happy ending then by hell or high water Twilight Sparkle would have hers.

Twilight Sparkle was almost beautiful. And if there was anypony who knew about beauty, that pony was Rarity. Beauty was not just her personal ambition, after all, but her life's work. Her life's purpose.

Twilight's life purpose was considerably different, but it was a purpose the unicorn pursued with a verve and dedication that Rarity admired nonetheless. Studying magic and serving as student to the Sun Princess herself were no stroll in the park, equal at least to Rarity's struggles as an artist and a businessmare, and Rarity respected all of that immensely even if she didn't always quite comprehend it.

There was rather a lot about Twilight that was admirable, really. Twilight relocating her entire birthday party to Canterlot just so Rarity wouldn't miss out on the festivities was endearing and even a touch gallant, in retrospect. So too was it a mark of a true blue friend when Twilight very generously encouraged her to leave the birthday celebration so that she could join the garden party outside. That birthday party in Canterlot had taught Rarity a lot about friendship in general and about Twilight Sparkle in particular.

Above all, it had taught her that Twilight had somehow utterly failed to learn any of the social graces, despite her entire lifetime spent amongst Canterlot's royalty and elite. At the time, Rarity had thought little of the matter, but that was then, and this was now. Right now, given the events of the recent wedding, Rarity found herself greatly indebted to Twilight for numerous reasons. And Rarity was a mare who paid her debts.

The more she thought about it, the clearer it all became. What did Twilight most desire? To study magic, of course, but more importantly, Twilight longed to earn her teacher's respect and approval. In turn, Princess Celestia was quite clearly grooming Twilight for some position of high importance in the royal court. But others among the Canterlot elite did not always value what deserved valuing, as Rarity herself had learned. If Twilight was ever to become the pony Princess Celestia hoped she would be-that Twilight herself hoped to be-then she'd need some tutoring in the finer aspects of life.

Fortunately, Rarity knew the perfect tutor.

The unicorn began simply. Subtly. She dropped by the library just a tad more often than usual, with gems for Spike and with gowns for Twilight. Twilight protested, of course, but Rarity had expected no less. She insisted that Twilight take and wear the gowns, as a personal favor to her, and eventually Twilight always did.

Things progressed easily and naturally enough from there. Little luncheons at cafes around town would provide opportunities for Twilight to ramble cheerfully about her latest spells while Rarity provided gentle pointers on proper table etiquette. Whenever Rarity had occasion to go to Canterlot on business, she always invite Twilight and Spike along. Twilight's parents were happy to babysit the young dragon in the evenings, which provided Rarity the opportunity to squire Twilight around her own hometown, showing the formerly reclusive mare all the cultural wonders that she'd been missing out on for so very many years.

Rarity had smiled the night Twilight declared opera an interesting but ultimately frivolous relic of pony antiquity. She'd smiled even harder when, as the last note rang out from the soprano on stage, she'd turned to find Twilight wiping a hoof across her glistening eyes.

Yes, things progressed quite easily and naturally, and Rarity found her student to be an excellent learner. And when the day finally came that Princess Celestia sent word that she had a test for Twilight-a very special test and a very important test, a test that would make or break the young mare-there was not a pony in Ponyville less surprised than Rarity. Nor a pony quite so proud or quite so pleased.

"I passed!"

Twilight stood before them just outside the large, heavy oaken doors of the royal palace. Her head was held high, and a broad smile spread across her face. She looked every inch the proud, triumphant student she had every right to be, except … except for her eyes. Those violet eyes were dark, troubled. A deep fear shone from those eyes, fear and worry and a lingering self-doubt.

Perhaps a less observant pony would have missed all that, but one of Rarity's great strengths had always been her attunement to things subtle and small-her "annoying attention to detail," as she'd once been told. And Rarity knew, from just one look at her fellow unicorn, that Twilight Sparkle was downright shocked that she had passed Celestia's test.

Rarity felt a sharp pang in her chest.

It wasn't right. It wasn't right to see that expression in Twilight's eyes, to discover that Twilight still didn't understand how amazing and brilliant and wonderful she was. How many times, now, had Twilight Sparkle saved not just the six of them but an entire kingdom? An entire people? And how many times more would it take for Twilight to finally see herself as the hero she was?

That was perhaps Twilight's most endearing trait as well as her biggest flaw-her inability to value herself for what she truly was worth. It was not a trait that Rarity herself shared, of course, and so its presence in her fellow unicorn both charmed and puzzled her.

Spike was hugging Twilight now, hanging from her neck, and the poor little dragon looked as though he'd worried over the test every bit as much as Twilight obviously had.

If only, thought Rarity with a small, silent sigh. If only all of this truly was a fairytale … the past few days, filled with secret empires and hidden artifacts and epic battles, so often seemed to resemble one. If only all of this truly was a fairytale, then Twilight would never have that terrible uncertain look in her eyes that was there now. Twilight would have come home to a grand ticker-tape parade that would have left no doubt in the mare's mind that of course she'd passed Celestia's little test.

There would have been cheering crowds and adoring fans and lovestruck ponies, mare and stallion alike. Best of all, there would have been a handsome, dashing prince, there to bow down low before Rarity-before Twilight, that was-to bow down before Twilight and to give the brave little unicorn a proper hero's welcome. To adore her and to cherish her, to praise her and to love her, to serenade her and sweep her off her hooves in a passionate display of-

Abruptly it occurred to Rarity that perhaps her thoughts had started to meander rather far afield.

The point, though, was that it was a shame. It was a shame that Twilight Sparkle had none of that, had nothing and no one who could wipe that heartbreaking insecurity from her young face. If only she could have the prince she deserved. That they both deserved. But right now, mostly the prince that Twilight deserved.

It was then, as Rarity watched Twilight finally disentangle herself from Spike's embrace, that a quiet voice whispered in the back of Rarity's mind, What if?

What if … what if Rarity could give Twilight her prince? Her moment of adoration? Her hero's due? If just this one time and if just for a few minutes?

Rarity's heart sped up within her chest, and she couldn't tell whether it was from excitement or from fear. But regardless, she couldn't deny that, once she'd had the thought, strange and ridiculous as it might be, it was a thought quite impossible to shake from her mind.

What if?

With shaking hooves and shaking smile, Rarity stepped forward, and Rarity sang:

"You were prepared to do your best,
Had what it takes to pass the test.
All those doubts you can dismiss.
Turns out you were prepared for this …"

And as she serenaded her friend, Rarity watched Twilight's face carefully, intently. She watched as Twilight's eyes went wide in surprise, and she watched as all of that tension and doubt drained away, only to be replaced with an expression caught somewhere between pleased and embarrassed. She watched as a faint blush stole across Twilight's cheeks, and she felt a warmth spread across her own face in response.

But she never stopped singing. And she never, ever broke eye contact.

Twilight Sparkle was almost beautiful.

She held her head high, confident yet not haughty, and she met the eyes of all who gazed upon her, prince and pauper alike. And those eyes! Those violet eyes, full of such intelligence and such kindness, shone and dazzled like one of Rarity's purest diamonds. But those eyes' true dazzle lay in just how little Twilight seemed to realize how they, and she, shone. Even with the entire crowd of ponies bowing low before her, Twilight grinned bashfully in response.

She grinned bashfully, with that same charming awkwardness she'd brought with her to Ponyville those short few years ago, and the intermittently fluttering wings upon her back were the only true sign that she wasn't exactly the same pony that she'd been at that first Summer Sun Celebration. The wings of a princess.

Rarity smiled at her new princess, along with all the other ponies gathered at the royal palace, and she stomped her hooves in applause when all the other ponies applauded. And if she stared at Twilight a little too long or a little too hard, that was certainly understandable. Inevitable, really, that she'd be intrigued by her friend's arresting transformation and enthralled by her friend's astonishing beauty.

No, no, not Twilight's beauty. Twilight was almost beautiful, to be sure, but she was not beautiful. Not quite.

Twilight Sparkle couldn't be beautiful. Because Rarity had a pronounced tendency to desire beautiful things, and Rarity absolutely did not desire Twilight Sparkle. Rarity didn't think Twilight was beautiful, and because she didn't think Twilight was beautiful, she couldn't possibly wonder if she only thought that Twilight was beautiful because her friend now wore royalty's robes. She couldn't wonder whether all her tutoring and mentoring had truly come from a place of selfless friendship or whether it had come from somewhere deeper and darker. She couldn't wonder what would change between the two of them-couldn't wonder if things would change at all-and she couldn't hope both that they would and they wouldn't.

And since Twilight was not beautiful, Rarity could not possibly feel an ache deep in her chest, like the bitter frost of a cold winter's night, the ache of knowing that Twilight Sparkle would never and could never be hers.

"Why have you been avoiding me?"

Rarity didn't glance up from her sewing machine. "Good afternoon, Twilight! It's good to see you."

There was a pause, short yet pointed, before Twilight replied, "I don't understand how you can say it's good to see me when you aren't even looking at me."

The click of the sewing machine being turned off sounded almost painfully loud in the otherwise dead silent boutique. Slowly Rarity turned around in her seat to face her guest, a pleasantly meaningless smile upon her lips.

"There," said Rarity, in a voice every inch as pleasant and as empty as her smile. "I'm looking at you. Now, how many I help you, darling?"

Twilight frowned, and her wings rustled at her sides. It reminded Rarity of nothing and nopony so much as Fluttershy trying to hide something. For her own part, Rarity just kept on smiling. She hadn't gotten this far in life, or in business, by being the first to blink in a game of chicken.

After a beat or two, Twilight glanced away, dropping her gaze to the floor. "I don't … I don't want anything from you. I just miss you. That's all."

Of course Twilight missed her. Twilight missed all of her friends, if she hadn't seen them for a while. It didn't mean anything extraordinary. Rarity knew that full well. There was nothing to be found in Twilight's plain words that should cause her heart to skip a beat or that should put a tiny crack in her perfect, bulletproof smile

"Please." Twilight lifted her head and, as she did, Rarity saw there was a hint of wetness in the alicorn's eyes. "Please just tell me what I did wrong, so I can make things better."

Rarity swallowed over the inexplicable lump in her throat. "You've done nothing wrong, my dear Twilight. I … I'm afraid I have no idea why you should think that you did."

In reply, Twilight stared hard into her eyes, seeking, searching. Never before had Rarity been on the end of such an uncompromising and intense stare. Rarity didn't so much as flinch.

Finally, tiredly, Twilight gave a small nod of defeat. "All right, Rarity. All right. If you say so."

And that was that. Twilight returned to her library and Rarity returned to her sewing, and all was exactly as it should have been. And if not exactly as it should have been, it was close enough, and sometimes "close enough" was all one could hope for. Quite probably things would have continued on in this precise same way for the rest of forever-except for the following Tuesday. On that Tuesday, Spike came charging into the boutique with tears in his eyes, panting hard and crying out, between pants, "Rarity, help! You're the only pony who can stop her!"

Usually, it took Rarity about fifteen minutes to walk from her boutique over to Ponyville's library. That particular sunny afternoon, it took her five. The front door to the library gave a highly satisfying crack as the unicorn kicked it open.

"Twilight Sparkle," barked Rarity, in her very best approximation of the Royal Canterlot Voice, "what in Equestria is this nonsense I hear from Spike about you moving to the griffon kingdoms?"

Slowly and calmly, Twilight looked up from the books she'd been packing into boxes. "Equestria could use an ambassador abroad, and I thought I'd be a good candidate for serving in that capacity."

"B-but you can't leave! You mustn't!"

Twilight smiled at that, a smile that cut like a knife. "I can't stay," she replied. "I'm still the same old Twilight, but nopony seems to realize that. Nopony treats me like … me. Not anymore."

Rarity stood motionless in the library doorway, her heart in her throat, her mind racing, and her hooves utterly unwilling to budge a single inch. Her eyes darted around the library's main room and, almost of their own accord, fell upon the framed picture Twilight kept of her, Twilight, and the other girls.

Rarity set her jaw.

"Surely the same Twilight Sparkle who defeated Nightmare Moon and King Sombra and who wrote a spell Starswirl the Bearded himself couldn't complete," she began, her voice silken steel, "surely this very same Twilight Sparkle isn't running away now? Isn't declaring defeat over such a petty matter?"

Twilight's smile evaporated into thin air. "That isn't fair! As bad as it's been having everypony else act weird, having you completely ignore me for weeks on end has been even worse!" She chuckled, but the sound was hollow, bitter. "'Had what it takes to pass the test' … all those doubts you can dismiss' … I guess those words meant a lot more to me than they did to you. I guess you never really believed in me at all."

Rarity's eyes narrowed down to tiny, dangerous slits. "I beg your pardon? I'll have you know that I meant every word of what I said that day."

"Oh, really?" Twilight pawed the floor, like a bull getting ready to charge. "Because you're always so honest, right, Rarity? You never, ever exaggerate?"

And just like that, whatever metaphysical force that had held Rarity frozen in the doorway released her. In a flash she was across the room, kicking the box of books to one side as she pinned Twilight Sparkle against the nearest convenient bookcase, gazing deeply and desperately into Twilight's eyes. Twilight stared back at her, her chest heaving and wings beating against the bookcase.

"I meant every word," Rarity repeated, carefully enunciating every syllable.

"R-Rarity, I, um, you … " Twilight blushed as she stumbled over her words, and the light flush on her cheeks contrasted with the deeper purple of her coat in the loveliest way. "You couldn't have mean it. You couldn't have. You're just so beautiful-you've always been so beautiful-and I'm just … I'm just ..."

Rarity smiled as she leaned forward. "You are Twilight Sparkle," she said quietly yet firmly. "That is who you are."

Twilight Sparkle was unutterably beautiful.

Rarity couldn't help but reflect on that plain truth as she lay beside Twilight in bed, with a warm breeze that blew in from the window of the library's lofted bedroom and gently ruffled Twilight's mane. Twilight simply lay there, her mane mussed, her wings spread out haphazardly, and she grinned. She grinned up at Rarity-grinned for Rarity-and the unicorn had never seen anything or anyone quite so beautiful in all her life.

"You're blushing," said Twilight, her grin widening.

"I most certainly am not." Rarity had the sneaking suspicion that she was grinning every bit as hugely and foolishly as Twilight was. "A lady does not blush."

"They don't?" Twilight raised an eyebrow. "Then what exactly is it that ladies do?"

At that, Rarity swooped down and claimed Twilight's lips with her own. Rarity could both feel and hear the alicorn gasp as their mouths met, and a shiver ran down her back. This was not their first kiss, nor their second, but it wasn't many kisses past those first few. The taste of Twilight on her tongue, the soft warmth of Twilight beneath her chest-everything about Twilight was still new and fresh and exhilarating.

But then, even if this had been their thousandth kiss, Rarity couldn't imagine it being anything but perfect. Anything but unutterably beautiful.

Twilight's eyes were closed as Rarity finally pulled away, and the grin from before was still firmly in place. "You know, that wasn't actually an answer."

Rarity smiled. "Very observant. But a lady never kisses and tells."

"Oh, really? Not even if it's a princess you're kissing?"

Rarity's smile slipped from her grasp.

After a moment or two of silence, Twilight opened her eyes, and when they alighted on Rarity, it was as though she were being stabbed with a fiery torch. The unicorn glanced down, eager to escape that terrible gaze, and she found herself staring at the downy, almost ethereal feathers of Twilight's wings. Those wings were beautiful, too, of course. So beautiful that Rarity ached to even look at them.

"I said something stupid. Didn't I?" But it wasn't really a question. "Please. Talk to me."

So beautiful. Almost too beautiful, really. Too beautiful to touch. Too beautiful to be real.

"Someday," whispered Rarity softly, "you shall come to your senses and realize how very much you deserve better."

"What? Rarity, that's ridiculous."

"It is merely the truth." With a sigh, Rarity reached out and gently ran a hoof along the very edge of one of Twilight's wings. "Long before you ascended to royalty, you had the makings of a princess in you. You … you have always been so very beautiful, Twilight. Far more beautiful than you realize and certainly more beautiful than I could be even with all the make-up and all the gowns in Equestria."

Twilight didn't say anything for several long moments. Only the breeze through the window, now a bit cooler than before, made the slightest sound, as it rustled the curtains. Rarity kept tracing along the lines of the other mare's wings, relishing in the feel of the soft feathers. Finally, Twilight reached over and placed her hoof over Rarity's own.

"Anything that's beautiful about me," began Twilight, in a voice that trembled like a leaf in the wind, "is because of you."

Rarity swallowed thickly. She wanted to laugh or to protest or to simply shake her head, but she found herself unable to move and unable to speak.

"I was a narrow-minded and ugly pony before I met you and the other girls. I'm not proud of that, mind you, but I was." Twilight's voice softened as she added, "All of you have taught me so much, but when it comes to you specifically, Rarity ... well …"

Breathing shallowly, Rarity forced herself to finally look up. To finally meet Twilight's gaze. "But when it comes to me?"

Twilight frowned thoughtfully for a few moments, her brows furrowing, until suddenly those violet eyes lit up in the way they always did whenever Twilight got a brilliant idea. It was a look that Rarity had seen many a time over the years, and it was a look that she'd come to adore quite dearly, if secretly, in her heart.

With a triumphant smile, Twilight said, "Your cutie mark. It's diamonds."

Rarity snorted in response. She couldn't quite help herself. "I am in fact aware of that."

"Do you know why diamonds are so special?"

Rarity hesitated before offering, "They are uncommon?"

"They're rare, yes. There's that." Twilight nodded, her eyes sparkling. "They're also famously beautiful, though I imagine you know that, too."

If Rarity had not been blushing before, she felt quite certain that she was now. Even if ladies didn't blush. She glanced back down, at Twilight's hoof covering her own. Twilight's hoof felt heavy, almost oppressively so, and she did not think she'd be able to pull her hoof away even had she wanted to.

But she did not want to.

"What not as many ponies know about diamonds, though, is just how tough they are," Twilight continued, her voice dipping into its more sonorous registers. "Diamonds are one of the toughest substances around, actually."

"Looks can be deceptive," was all Rarity said in reply.

Twilight chuckled at that. "They definitely can be. And as beautiful as diamonds are, they're also incredibly useful. They're used to make tools where precision and durability are needed to get a job done."

Rarity trembled slightly as Twilight's hoof ran lightly up her leg, then across her shoulder, coming to rest along her cheek. Gently Twilight raised Rarity's head, until they were looking into one another's eyes once again. By now, Twilight was leaning in so close that Rarity could feel the other mare's every exhalation against her face, cool and sweet.

"Diamonds are used to cut and shape other things. They're used to create. They're used to make other things beautiful, too." Twilight's eyes burned so brightly that they threatened to consume all of Rarity's being. "And that's why diamonds are so special."

Any reply that Rarity might have offered was lost as Twilight closed the distance between them and kissed her fiercely. But that was all right. Really, that was more than all right. Rarity found she didn't really need words to respond to what Twilight had said.

Author's Notes: I never shipped RariLight much until the S3 premiere-when Rarity started serenading Twilight, much as a prince would a princess in a Disney movie, bam, RariLight feels outta nowhere. I think that might be the shippiest non-canonical shipping moment in the entire series. I love it.

This story is comprised of a number of edited and revised Thirty Minute Pony Stories submission I've written previously. This includes stories written for the prompts "What if ...?" ( post/36721121264/prompt-181-a-heros-due-by-donnys- boy), "Everybody's changing, but I still feel the same" ( post/43381765954/prompt-263-almost-beautiful-by-do nnys-boy), "Romantic pony dreams, they never came to be" ( post/44199896401/prompt-273-a-heart-that-shines-by -donnys-boy), and "I don't think your cutie mark means what you think it means" ( post/46320266883/prompt-299-shine-bright-like-a-di amond-by-donnys).

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