A/N: This MLP story goes out to my IRL brony friend (who knows who he is), as a thank-you for his continued support of my little writing hobby. It's also an excuse for me to try out this particular prompt set, and practice the characterisations for Speak, which is always a plus.
Here's the rub: seventy-eight prompts, one for each tarot card, drawn in a random order from a pre-shuffled deck. Short pieces, with no limits on pairing or characters (although I've been practically ordered to throw in some Bic Mac/Fluttershy and Twixie) and no real limit on word counts, although ostensibly there probably won't be many that breach two thousand. I'll name the Tarot card at the beginning of each chapter. Without further ado, let's begin!
It was an understatement to say that working together was not something Applejack and Rarity did well.
So when they did, it was understandable that most other ponies took some...precautions. Mostly involving a very, very secure room located several miles outside the prospective blast radius. Arguments between Applejack and Rainbow Dash were explosive, but arguments between Rarity and Applejack were nothing short of volcanic.
Twilight Sparkle was not most other ponies. She was, surprisingly, Twilight Sparkle, and she feared no argument (at least not with anything smaller than a dragon). She was also fairly new to Ponyville, and thus did not recognise the signs of an incoming AJ versus Rarity grudge match- locked doors, closed windows, and Pinkie Pie installing an underground bunker in Sugar Cube Corner. She did not notice that dust danced on the deserted streets of Ponyville, cavorting in graceful maelstroms produced by the fell wind that had fallen upon the town. She even ignored the fact that open/closed sign on Rarity's boutique had been replaced by some conscientious pony with one saying 'Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.' All she knew was that Spike had sneezed on her scarf, and she wanted a new one that was prettier, and preferably not quite as on fire.
However, when she opened the door and saw Applejack wrestling furiously with a sewing machine, she was not so foolish as to not feel a vague and dreadful sense of panic.
"I still can't see why ya'll didn't just corral Fluttershy into helpin' ya out. She's got the freaky sewing knowledge and all," Applejack grumbled. There were beads of sweat forming on the pony's forehead, and her tail looked frazzled.
"Fluttershy and I have certain stylistic disagreements," Rarity sniffed, using magically animated scissors to cut through a swathe of cloth.
"What y'all mean is she's better at it than you," Applejack grinned through gritted teeth.
"What I 'all mean' is there's only so much French couture one pony can withstand," the unicorn shot back, lifting the fabric and scanning it critically with an expert eye.
Twilight thought, very seriously, about escaping. It seemed the wisest course. But it wouldn't really be very nice of her, and besides, it left the issue of today's letter. 'Dear Princess Celestia, today I learned that when your friends are helping each other out, the best thing to do is hit the deck before something bad happens.' She didn't think it would wash. A quick egress, then, was out of the question; she would just have to brave the storm.
"Hi, girls. Did I come at a bad time?" she asked. Rarity dropped her fabric and Applejack almost lost control of the sewing machine. Apparently, they hadn't heard her come in.
"Oh, darling, of course not! There are no bad times among friends, you know, none at all, in fact I can't think of a better time!" Rarity replied, running over to her and fixing her with a manic grin. It didn't take the penny long to drop.
"Does this mean I'm being...um...'corralled'?" Twilight asked uncertainly.
"Why, no, of course not, don't be ridiculous, I couldn't, although, I suppose, if you wouldn't mind-"
"She means yes," Applejack deadpanned. "Pull up a sewing machine and git started, Twi."
"I didn't know you could sew, Applejack," she confessed, doing as instructed.
"Ah can't. But ah can use one of these here machines plenty well enough. It's jest straight lines, right? Like ploughin', 'cept more finicky," Applejack explained. "Plus, Rarity made me this here picture to work from. It's got altogether too many numbers fer my likin', but it works just fine."
The diagram was passed over, and Twilight found herself agreeing. The dimensions of everything were listed, including things they had no control over, and all down to five or six decimal points. Rarity's attention to detail had clearly not diminished.
"So, why did she ask you, anyway? I mean, no offense, but I wouldn't think you'd be Rarity's first choice for this kind of thing," Twilight asked sheepishly. In the background, there was a minor light show and about forty pieces of cloth circling Rarity. This, she dutifully ignored.
"Neither did I. But, what with her and Fluttershy's 'stylistic disagreements', ah guess I was the only one left. Rainbow and Pinkie ain't exactly cut out fer this kind o' work. And y'all are so busy studyin' that it'd feel bad to disturb ya. So, I guess I was the proverbial bottom of th' barrel," Applejack laughed, not at all bitterly.
"That's ridiculous, darling, and you know it!" Rarity called from somewhere within the tornado of half-compiled clothing. "You're such a terrific worker, you know, a little lax on the detail but certainly expedient. And you're so good at reminding me not to lose focus and begin a new masterpiece."
"Yeah. Twenty dresses by tonight and this loco unicorn wants to start tryin' out upside-down cross-back blanket stitches or some such nonsense. There's inspired, and then there's jest asking fer it," Applejack muttered darkly.
"Oh, but it'll be just terrific, wait and see! With you two at my side, I could make forty dresses!" Rarity cackled, the storm of silk abating for a moment so four resulting dresses could be placed on hangers. Twilight groaned. Something told her she was in for a long day.
As they began to finish up, Rarity looked over their work critically, pacing as she did. Each individual seam was appraised by an expert eye, one that scoured for aesthetic perfection in everything it saw.
"This seam, here. Applejack, it's so very poor! How could you let this one slip through?" Rarity cried, pointing out an obviously loose thread on an otherwise perfect dress.
"It's only one seam, Rarity. It'll hold together fine enough," the earth pony replied, not without a hint of exasperation.
"Hold together?" Rarity's voice turned shrilly as she spoke, and her flaring nostrils spoke of equal parts fear and outrage. "This dress is meant to be a masterpiece, a statement of pure perfection for the purchaser! It is an outward expression of their inner beauty! Even the smallest flaw cannot be permitted!"
"Well, excuse me fer bein' practical. Ah shoulda known you'd make a big deal over nothing 'fore the day was through," Applejack replied, visibly bristling.
"And I should have realised that you're altogether too coarse to understand the rigours of the profession!" Rarity screeched back. "This dress will have to be done again, from scratch!"
"Well, y'all can do it yerself, since you're the only one prissy enough to do it right!"
"I shall! Hmph!"
Bewildered the argument about to reach critical point, Twilight settled for checking the dress herself to see how bad it really was. With a sinking heart, she began to recognise the fabric.
"Uh...Girls? I made this one," she said, and felt the air in the shop grow uncomfortably close and tense. There was an ugly, predatory silence, like the silence of a dragon as it decides whether to eat you raw or smoked.
"You made this? But, darling...I thought you could sew!" Rarity gasped at last.
"No. Whatever made you think that? I was using magic most of the way through to help correct my mistakes," Twilight explained gently. "That one was the first one I tried, before I realise sewing's hard."
There was another silence, although this one was of a definably more embarrassed character.
"Applejack, you have my greatest apologies. I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions," Rarity said at last, pawing the ground bashfully with her hoof.
"And ah shouldn't have been so quick to pick a fight," Applejack grinned, extending a hoof. "Friends?"
There was a pause, in which Twilight was honestly a little scared Rarity would say no.
"You didn't spit on your hoof this time, did you...?" Rarity asked at last. Applejack simply broke out laughing. Hesitantly, Rarity shook.
"The dress will still have to be done again, of course, but as it's only one dress I shall attend to it myself. I've certainly caused enough discord already today," she said after a while. Twilight found herself blushing in embarassment. In a way, the whole argument had been her fault.
Applejack seemed unperturbed. "Sure. Remember now, y'all gotta give me some help next Applebuck season for this."
"Oh, that's right! Of course I'll help, darling, of course. And you, Twilight! I owe you for your help today as well," Rarity said, glowing at the chance to practice her oft-praised generosity. "Perhaps a little fashion advice? I have a corset that's just so you, dear-"
Quickly, Twilight stopped her before things got into dangerous territory. "N-no, that won't be necessary. But, well, actually..."
There was a certain nervousness in the air when she left the shop, the dresses complete and fond farewells still ringing in her ears. Night had started to fall on Ponyville, but everypony was out on the streets, making up for the time they had spent hiding. It was looking to be a chilly walk home, but her new scarf (pink and lilac stripes, very soft but made out of some weird material Applejack had insisted Rarity use- a demand to which Rarity had strangely agreed to without argument) was at least keeping her neck warm. She was surprised, though, when she saw Spike running towards her.
"What's the matter, Spike? Has something happened?" she asked.
"Oh, Twilight, I was so worried about you! I heard you went to Rarity's house and that Applejack was there, and everypony said you were gonna get hurt!" Spike wailed, then sniffed. His cold hadn't abated, and the cold night air wasn't helping things.
"Well, they were both there. But why would I get hurt?" she wondered aloud.
She was interrupted by Spike drawing in a great lungful of air, and an ominous 'huh- huh-'. She tried, but wasn't quite quick enough, to avoid the 'hachoo!' and the jet of fire that accompanied it. The little dragon was knocked over by the force of his own sneeze, landing nose down in the cobbled street. Luckily, the flame wasn't nearly so strong the sneeze, so Twilight was relatively unharmed. Her scarf, on the other hand...
"Completely unscathed. A fire-retardant scarf, huh? Nice call, Applejack," she grinned, as Spike looked up at her mournfully. "Come on, Spike. We ought to get home, out of the cold. We can use those sneezes to heat up the hot water bottles."
"No sympathy for a dragon in distress," he muttered, slowly getting up. Twilight sighed, and with a deft magical twist, wrapped her new scarf around his neck, and told him not to damage it.
After all, she thought, it may only have been a scarf, but it was also proof that even the most unlikely of ponies could work together and do the impossible. Not only that, but they could make scarves, too.
A/N: Kinda stuck for a decent ending there. Oh well. Note: I added a scene for a reviewer.