Button Stitch sat staring into space on Twilight Sparkle's couch, a blanket wrapped around her shivering shoulders.
She'd been brought around with smelling salts, dried off with a clean, fluffy towel by the quiet yellow pegasus, and soothed with a cup of strong tea containing a shot of something the orange earth pony referred to as "apple tonic".
The lavender unicorn had scanned her from snout to tail with her glittering horn, consulting a stack of large, dusty tomes from time to time while asking her an exhaustive battery of probing questions about the past few days, to which she replied with a vague sense of disconnection from the answers, while a little purple dragon stood nearby and jotted their exchange down on a piece of parchment.
Now, the unicorn librarian was giving her diagnosis. Button's best customer... that is... her friend Rarity sat beside her gently brushing her mane. While it felt good to have the tangles straightened out, she was tired, more tired than she'd ever felt in her life. The throbbing behind her eyes meant she was having trouble following the lavender mare's long winded dissertation about blah blah blah entropic imbalances and yada yada yada internal harmonics. The other mares and the little dragon didn't seem to be getting much more out of it than Button was.
The beige earth pony wondered with a twinge of guilt if this was how Miss Rarity's little sister felt when her elder sibling brought her to the shop. While she didn't really mind straightening the shelves and picking things up and putting them back in their proper bins after they'd left, it was the principle of the thing. Things had to be kept in their proper places.
Which was why the two books placed out of order on the shelf in front of her were beginning to drive her a little bit more crazy than she feared she already was. She just needed to fix this, and then she could pay proper attention. They were trying to help her. She'd help out a little too. That's all. Books should be in the right order so ponies could know where to find them. It was important that things should be organized.
Twilight Sparkle closed the book she'd been levitating in front of her. "... and so, to put it simply, Miss Stitch is experiencing these transformations because..."
She trailed off as the beige shopkeeper suddenly shrugged out of the blanket and stood with a determined look on her face. "um... M-miss Stitch?"
The beige earth pony marched across to the shelf and pulled the offending volume down, then slid it back on the other side of its immediate neighbor, turning back to the assembled ponies and dragon with an apologetic shrug. "I'm terribly sorry to interrupt, Miss Sparkle, but T-h comes after T-e and before marbles in the croypongo."
Rarity let loose of the brush and allowed it to clatter to the floor as she brought her hoof to her face. "Oh no! It's happening again!" Fluttershy let out a squeak and dove under the couch.
Twilight, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Spike watched in horrified fascination as the beige earth pony's body flattened and folded nose to tail, then twisted into a moebius strip that proceeded to contract tighter and tighter until it was a compressed knot with her rubbery legs waving in all directions, before inverting itself with a loud POP into the bizarre pink and purple equimonculous that had been plaguing them with its irrational actions the past two nights.
Rarity's cheeks bulged out as she clapped her other hoof to her muzzle as well, a strangled choking sound issuing from the back of her throat. She forced back her gorge with effort. "S-sweet diamond studded riding crops, that was even more dreadful than the first time."
The pony thing opened its mouth and coughed up its propeller beanie, which it placed on its head with a flourish. It tucked a hoof under an armpit and proceeded to squeeze out a rather unseemly rendition of the Equestrian Royal Fanfare as it rotated around its long axis and floated upward, coming to rest with its hooves planted between the support beams of the floor above. It bent its head upward as if grazing, leaving mouthfuls of lavender grass sprouting from the ceiling.
The assembled mares and small dragon were jarred out of their stunned reverie by the sound of the library's front door flying open, and their heads all whipped around to see another pink pony with a frizzy magenta mane come bouncing inside.
Her ears were alternating flops in tandem with her fluttering eyes, and she called out in a chipper voice. "Hey Twilight, I was wondering if you could help me figure out what this new twitch of mine might mean. It's been going on all day and it's been kind of hard to keep a straight face." She gave them a bright smile, her ears and eyes flopping and fluttering away, as they stared at her.
The sound of a slide whistle drew her attention upward, and her eyes widened as she reared back with a huge gasp, jabbing a hoof toward the bizarre creature reverse grazing on the ceiling. "YOU!!!"
The pony thing splayed its legs out like the spokes on a wheel and rotated to face her, pointing a fore hoof back at her. "Mott the Hoople! Eckspeleleoatendote waddatinchoo! Shpadoinkle!"
Pinkie dropped to all fours, let out a snort, and dragged a hoof on the ground in challenge, a fierce scowl settling on her face. "Bring it on, Donkey Kong!"
The bizarre inverted equine started making siren noises and spinning like a ceiling fan, faster and faster until it resembled a saucer with a beanie clad head poking up out of the center. It came spiraling down toward the pink party pony while her panicked friends scattered in all directions. Pinkie bunched her legs under her and poinged into the air with a mighty leap, meeting her foe midway in a burst of confetti.
The pink mare and mare-oid hit the floor jitterbugging, the boards beneath their hooves shaking with the fury of their swing dancing as the skies doubtless shook when Princess Celestia battled Nightmare Moon for control of the heavens a millennium ago. Twilight and the rest of her friends cowered back from the syncopated onslaught, scarcely able to comprehend what they were watching, let alone figure out where the big band music was suddenly coming from.
Pinkie and the strange creature's dance routine came to a sudden pause, with the pink party pony mere inches from the floor in a low dip with the swirling ponylike thing looming over her, its other hoof raised in a flourish. A smile curled across Pinkie's face, and she gave the thing a knowing look. "Touché, pussy cat!"
With that, she craned her neck up and planted a smooch on the creature's snout. It instantly dropped her, spluttering and grimacing and wiping its muzzle with the back of its foreleg.
Meanwhile, Pinkie sprang to her feet with a broad grin. "I'll give you points for enthusiasm, but you just don't have the skills to pay the bills, rookie." She reached behind her and seemingly out of nowhere produced a large forked log with long, snaking rubber bands looped around the ends. She handed the shaft of the wooden fork to the pony thing. "Here, hold this for me, would you?"
When the bizarre creature accepted it Pinkie took hold of the rubber band in her teeth and hopped lightly away, pulling the stretchy material out the door behind her. The beanie clad being stood with its eyes spiraling in opposite directions, dutifully holding the forked log as the span of rubber drew itself taut.
After a few beats, the band went loose again, and a moment later a huge boulder painted to resemble an eyeball came sailing through the door, splintering the frame, and slammed into the hapless ponyform, sending it crashing into the opposite wall in a shower of books.
In the stunned silence that followed, the five mares and one baby dragon could only trade thoroughly boggled glances with one another and stare into space. They all looked toward the door as Pinkie came hopping through, a top hat jauntily perched on her head.
She gave them all a grin, and flipped the hat off of her head and onto the floor. With a flourish, she jammed her foreleg down into the hat all the way up to her armpit. She pulled forth the dazed, disheveled figure of Button Stitch and set her upright on her rear hooves. Pinkie took a deep bow, while the beige mare weaved in place for a moment before toppling to the floor with a clunk.
With a satisfied nod, the victorious pink pony reached down into the top hat again and pulled out the green and yellow propeller beanie, which she placed on her own head and then turned, hopping out the door with her nose held high. "I'll be at Sugar Cube Corner baking snickerdoodles if anypony needs me."
Daylight crept into Button's consciousness, clearing away the dreamless, swirling darkness that her mind floated in. This was good. Morning. Princess Celestia's gift to all ponies. Nothing more dependable or predictable.
She savored the stillness for a few moments, allowing other sensations to drift over her. She was lying in a bed. This was good. She wasn't hanging from a closet rod or sitting in a sink or wedged uncomfortably under a coffee table or lying face down in a mound of popcorn like that... that first time.
The room's ambiance was different, though. It smelled clean, which was good, but with a strong hint of a perfume she recognized but couldn't place. The sheets felt like satin, not her accustomed plain starched linen. The mattress was much softer than she was used to as well, and wider. It was quiet, save for some indistinct sounds coming up from below. The ever present, comforting tick tock of her clocks was absent.
The earth pony dared to let her eyes open a crack. An elegant brocade of lavender and pink in a diamond pattern trimmed with snowy lace adorned a canopy over the bed. She stirred, and raised her head, casting a searching gaze over a finely appointed bedroom. She muttered softly under her breath. "This is not my beautiful house... Well... how did I get here?"
Her visual tour of her surroundings ended at the foot of the bed, where she met the gaze of a small primrose colored face looking over a set of little hooves propped up on the corner of the bed. She knew this filly, but couldn't place her name. Button was unaccustomed to the look of rapt interest etched on the youthful features.
Before the disoriented shopkeeper could speak, the young unicorn drew in a breath and shouted over her shoulder in a voice loud enough to crack the heavens and possibly throw even Celestia's dawn off schedule. "RARITY! MISS STITCH IS AWAKE NOW!"
The beige mare's ears levered back against her head and she gave a small whimper as the throbbing in her head took its cue from that crescendo and broke into a vamp.
When the pain had subsided enough for her to open her eyes, she found the filly still watching her intently. The pair of them stared at each other for a while, before Button decided to try to engage her spectator in hopes that she could persuade her to go away. "Um... Is there something you want from me, Miss... uh... Miss?"
The unicorn filly kept her soft green eyes riveted on her. "Are you gonna turn into a weirdo again?"
Before Button could even begin to parse what the little pony had asked, a mannered voice called out from the doorway with an admonishing tone. "Sweetie Belle! What sort of question is that?"
Filly and mare looked over to see Rarity standing there with a cross expression on her alabaster face, a tray bearing a silver tea service hovering behind her in a cloud of magic.
The younger unicorn tapped her chin in thought, and then looked earnestly at her sister. "A direct one?"
Rarity rolled her sapphire colored eyes and jerked her horn toward the door, causing the tray to bobble a little. "Well... you just go direct-ly downstairs and find something to keep yourself busy..." She paused, suppressing a small shudder before pressing on. "... while I talk to Miss Stitch and find out how she's feeling. All right?"
The filly raised a note of protest. "But..."
Her sister swished her tail in irritation and pointedly cleared her throat. The little unicorn's face fell, and her small hooves thudded softly on the carpeted floor as she pulled them off of the corner of the bed and turned to slouch out of the room.
She paused at the door, turned, and ran back to the bedside, rearing up with her hooves on the mattress and leaning in toward the nonplussed earth pony mare with a solicitous expression on her face. "Weirdo or not, I hope you feel better soon."
The beige mare blinked in surprise, finding herself rather touched by this little display of kindness. "I... I don't... T-thank you."
With that the unicorn filly leapt down and galloped out of the room, ducking around her sister as the elder sibling struggled to keep the tea tray level in her magical grip. Rarity cast a fond gaze after Sweetie Belle, before turning with a smile to approach Button stitch.
She brought the tray in for a gentle landing on the satin sheets next to the recumbent mare. She sat down on a stool beside the bed and levitated a teapot from the tray, pouring a measure of fragrant tea into a fine china cup. "So, Button dear, how ARE you feeling this morning? Did you sleep well?"
The earth pony shopkeeper slowly and carefully propped herself up, accepting the steaming tea as it floated to her on the elegant unicorn's magic. "I... I suppose I slept well. Wh-what time is it?"
Rarity gave the slightest pause before answering. "Don't worry about that right now, darling. You still haven't answered my first question. How are you feeling?"
Button rubbed her shoulders with her hooves, a haunted look settling on her features. "N-normal. I feel normal, for now. But... but... AM I going to turn into a... a weirdo, like your little sister said? Is... is that what's been happening to me?"
Rarity caught up the cream pitcher and sugar bowl from the tray and floated them to her. "Cream and sugar, darling?"
The earth pony pursed her lips and furrowed her brow. "I never take cream and sugar." Her expression darkened. "You're avoiding MY questions. If I'm supposed to answer yours, you should answer mine."
The alabaster unicorn settled the cream pitcher down but levitated a cube of sugar out of the bowl and let it plunk into Button's teacup. She gave an apologetic nod to the creeping indignation on her guest's face. "I'm sorry, my dear, but it's vital that you vary your routine if you wish to avoid becoming ahem... a "weirdo" again."
The shopkeeper's expression shifted from annoyance to puzzlement. "I... I don't understand."
Rarity sighed, and poured herself a cup of tea. "Well, if I've got my head wrapped properly around Twilight Sparkle's explanation, there are forces of order and forces of chaos inside every pony, that are more or less in balance as we live our daily lives. In you, however, those forces are rather out of balance. I may be presuming a bit on our acquaintance to say that you favor the side of order rather heavily."
Button's expression clouded. "Of... of course. Order means predictability, predictability means stability, stability means... means s-security."
The unicorn looked at her with searching sapphire eyes over her teacup. "So you adhere to such rigid schedules and patterns because they comfort you?"
The beige mare took a thoughtful sip of her tea. "Mm... Interesting flavor." A wistful expression settled on her face. "I won't bore you with the details, Miss Rarity, but suffice to say that my family wasn't what you'd call well off. We made ends meet, barely, and... and unforeseen events usually brought hardship."
Her brow became troubled as unhappy memories began to haunt her, and her lower lip started to quiver. She hugged herself, tears welling in her eyes, as her voice became softer and softer. "Un... unforeseen events like... like m-me..."
A blue sparkle of magic floated the teacups out of the way as Rarity rose to her hind legs and took the quietly sobbing mare into a hug, rubbing her back. "Darling... Shhh... Darling, listen to me. One thing my mother always told me is that a foal is ALWAYS a blessing, no matter what the circumstances of their birth."
Rarity cocked an ear toward the doorway to make sure there were no eavesdropping fillies hanging about. The sound of a crash and a clatter from downstairs both reassured and unnerved her, as she leaned in to speak to Button in a low voice. "My own little sister was something of a surprise to my parents, and to me as well, but never a day goes by where I'm not overjoyed to have her sharing the world with me. She is a treasure I would never part with for all the diamonds in Equestria."
She gently pushed the earth pony mare back so that she was looking her in the eyes. "Not all surprises are bad ones. Many are wonderful!" A pensive look settled on the earth pony's face as Rarity gave her a gentle smile.
The unicorn brought the teacups back into their respective orbits as she sat Button back against the head of the bed and took her seat once again, plucking another sugar cube from the bowl to drop into the beige mare's tea. "And that's why you need to open yourself up to a bit more randomness, my dear. In your pursuit of a highly structured life, you haven't so much eliminated the chaos part of you as you've suppressed it, let it build up like water in a blocked garden hose."
A dark scowl crossed the elegant unicorn's face. "When that dreadful Discord creature was unleashed, all that bottled up chaos probably drew him to you like a parasprite to a bushel of apples."
A troubled expression settled on Button's brow. "I... I remember when it started to rain... brown stuff... and then things became... odd... I... I remember a voice... like a grandfather clock with no rhythm... it was gloating... cruel... it said I was... I was like a blank canvas just ready to be made into... into a masterpiece..."
Rarity's eyes flared, and her voice simmered. "How dare he... How DARE he... To compare his vandalism to art... To pretend that his thoughtless unmaking was anything even approaching creativity..." She closed her eyes tightly and ground her teeth for a moment. "Twisting my generosity into mindless greed was bad enough, but to... insult my calling by equating it to the pain and terror he was causing innocent ponies... It cuts me to the very quick..."
The fashion designer let out a long, steady breath, meeting Button's troubled gaze with a wan half smile. "Well, thanks to the Elements of Harmony he's gone back to being a rather unattractive bit of clutter in the royal sculpture garden, and I hope the pigeons enjoy him..."
She laid a hoof on the shopkeeper's. "Anyway, to ride the garden hose metaphor into the ground, so to speak, what that horrible monster did to you was equivalent to making a hole in the hose below the blockage, so that what was bottled up would spray out all over, as it were. At least that's how I understand what Twilight explained to me."
The shopkeeper took a tentative sip of her tea and a mild grimace flitted across her face. "Ugh, too sweet." She looked up at Rarity with a pensive expression as the alabaster mare poured a bit more tea into her cup. "So... so when I try to put things in order, what I'm kind of doing is applying pressure and forcing the... the leak to open up again."
Rarity gave her a smile. "Yes, by Celestia I think you've got it. And allowing yourself to... relax a little... in addition to its own benefits, you'll ease the pressure, so to speak."
Button took a sip of her tea, and cocked her head. "Mmm. That's... that's not bad..." She looked at Rarity uncertainly. "But... but I don't know how to be random or relaxed..."
A guardedly wry expression came to her face. "I... I'm afraid I'd start trying to schedule my spontaneity and set myself right back to square one..." She cast the unicorn a pleading look. "What should I do?"
Rarity smiled at her over her teacup. "I think my first and best suggestion would be to be more open to making friends, darling. They provide no end of surprises."
She set the cup down and hopped off the stool. "And on that note, I think it's time you and I, as a couple of new friends, went and did something spontaneous. What say we take a stroll over to the spa and see if they can fit us in for a little pampering."
Button nearly choked on her tea. "Oh... The spa? I don't know, don't... don't we need a reservation? It...it's not the sort of thing I usually..."
She caught herself, and gave the unicorn a fragile smile. "Ah... I think I'll figure this out eventually..."
Rarity gave her a jaunty grin as she floated the tea set off of her bed and headed toward the door with it trailing behind her. "My treat dear, and don't worry. I'm such a good customer of theirs that they make time in the schedule for me whenever I show up."
She gave Button a wink and beckoned with her horn. "Come on."
A short time later, the two mares walked out of the front door to Ponyville's spa with their coats gleaming and their hooves sparkling in the afternoon sun. Button Stitch's light brown mane and tail hung loose in the warm breeze. The spa's expert stylists had added a bit of curl and some soft gold highlights, which set her amber eyes off beautifully.
Rarity admired the effect as they ambled across the town square. "My dear, you look like a whole new mare, and not a "weirdo" at all. I told you that Aloe and Lotus would find something better to do with your mane than winding it up tight like a new spool of thread."
Button smiled shyly. "I might have to start going there regularly, as long as it's not so regular I end up all..." She wiggled her head back and forth and briefly crossed her eyes before letting out a soft giggle.
The alabaster unicorn let out a chuckle. "Don't worry, I'm a fervent supporter of surprise spa visits. I'll make sure to help you keep things switched up."
The earth pony breathed out a long, happy breath, before turning to her companion expectantly. "So... What should we do now?"
A cagey expression settled on the fashionable mare's features. "Oh, I was thinking you might like to go to your shop and take a look."
At this, Button's face fell. "Oh... Yes, I suppose I'll have to face the chaos in there sooner or later. I guess it doesn't do anypony any good in the state it's in."
Rarity smiled and arched an eyebrow. "Well, I'll admit I do have a bit of an ulterior motive. I've got schedules I need to keep too, you know, and you and your wares are a pivotal part of that."
Button sniffled and gave the unicorn a smile. "You know... that's a good feeling too. Having someone depend on you."
A look of resolve settled on the beige mare's features. "The sooner I can get back on my hooves, the better. Lets go."
A joyous cry went up inside the small shop as soon as the bell jingled. "SURPRISE!"
Button stood with eyes as wide as saucers, taking in the spectacle before her. Her shop had been cleaned up, not to the pristine order that she had once kept it, but neat and tidy. It was complete, rather than perfect.
With the addition of balloons and streamers that had been liberally hung from the reconstituted shelves and bins, it was as inviting as she had ever seen it. Rarity's circle of friends, Twilight Sparkle and Applejack, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash, her little sister Sweetie Belle, looking happier to be there than Button had ever seen her, and the young filly's friends Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, all stood with bright smiles on their faces around a small table laden with sweets and punch.
Pinkie Pie, the chief architect of the festivities and ascended sage of spontaneity, bounded completely over the table and landed in front of the elated shopkeeper with a wide grin on her face, and placed a party hat with a tiny propellor on top on Button's head, setting it spinning with a flick of a pink hoof.
She let out a giggle as her limpid blue eyes met with her fellow earth pony's glistening amber ones. "A very wise pony once said 'A little nonsense here and there, is relished by the wisest mare.'"
Pinkie stepped forward, gave the shopkeeper a hug, and whispered in her ear. "Welcome to the fun side. We've been waiting for you."
Button Stitch grinned from ear to ear. "Better late than never." She looked around her little shop feeling more at peace there than she ever had before. "I think I could get used to this..."
The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.