...But It Often Rhymes

by Posh

Chapter 1: Dimples and Diamonds

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Author's Notes:

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” -Various

The first time Sunset sees her is in an underground nightclub. Moon Tea's always trying to drag her to places like this, and, for once, Sunset doesn't have an excuse to beg out.

The atmosphere is dense and heavy, warmer than the balmy summer air above ground. Clouds of conjured fog roll across the dance floor as multicolored lights blink out of sequence from an overhang. Bass-heavy synth music whines throughout the room.

Sunset wants to leave, but Moon Tea drags her onto the dance floor. Moonie dances, and Sunset awkwardly tries to catch the rhythm.

Then the crowd around the middle of the dance floor parts. Sunset spots a curvy, magenta filly throwing herself around in time with the beat and tossing her frizzy pink mane as she loses herself in the music. Her braces catch the glow from the lights, sparkling like diamonds set in white stone.

Sunset stares – she can't help but stare, because this filly is the most magnificent thing she's ever glimpsed. She gulps when the filly notices and turns a diamond-studded grin on her. Sunset averts her eyes, and they find Moonie's; those big bushy orange caterpillars that she calls eyebrows are wiggling the way they do whenever there's mischief on her mind.

Moonie's rump collides with Sunset's, and she stumbles into the empty space on the dance floor, smacking into the filly with the gleaming grin. Sunset babbles an apology, and tries to stagger away—

A hoof catches hers and spins her around until they're face to face. "Stick around," the filly calls over the pounding music.

Sunset's eyes are wide. "I can't dance," she tries to say, but she can't form words, not while she's staring into those gorgeous green eyes. She won't let go, and Sunset realizes she doesn't want her to let go.

The filly's limbs pick up the beat again; her body begins to move. Her hoof never leaves Sunset's, and through that contact, Sunset finds the beat. Her movements are awkward and ungainly; she doesn't care. All that matters is the music, and that mouthful of diamonds, and those eyes, eyes she could lose herself in...

She gets the filly's name before the night is over, with Moonie smugly watching. Sunset says it to herself, over and over again, on her way back to the castle, and it rolls off her tongue with lyrical grace.

Cheerilee. Cheerilee. Cheerilee.

Sunset never tires of it.

Sunset finds Miss Cheerilee hunched over her desk, a pile of papers towering over her head. Her purple pen scratches vigorously upon a student essay in front of her, almost in harmony with the piano music from her old CD player. A taut frown pulls at the corners of her mouth, but at the the sound of Sunset's knuckles on the door and the sight of her waving from the hallway, she brightens. There's a glint in Miss Cheerilee's eye as her lips turn upward, pulling back to bare her radiant white teeth.

Sunset tries not to envision Miss Cheerilee with braces.

"Come on in!" Miss Cheerilee clicks her pen and beckons Sunset inside. "I wasn't expecting to see anyone from your class today. Don't you all have the day off?"

"Unofficially," Sunset says, hugging a thick sheaf of papers. "I think all the seniors cut class to prep for the prom tonight. Looks like most of the school followed suit."

Miss Cheerilee chuckles and shakes her head. "Where the seniors go, so goes the nation."

"I mean, we did turn fake pony ears and tails into a school-wide fashion trend, so it's not like there's no precedent." Sunset nods at the work on Miss Cheerilee's desk. "You look like you're busy, though. If I'm interrupting—"

Miss Cheerilee blows a raspberry and waves Sunset's question off. "I've been at this since eight, and I've barely made a dent. Trust me, you're a wonderful and welcome diversion."

"Heh. You're gonna make me blush." Sunset steps up to the desk, standing still while Miss Cheerilee examines the sheaf of papers in her arms.

"Is that what I think it is?" says Miss Cheerilee, her voice quavering with excitement.

"As promised!" Sunset can't stop herself from grinning back as Miss Cheerilee reaches out to her. She drops the papers in her teacher's arms; Miss Cheerilee sags under their weight, but wears that delighted look regardless.

"You absolute madwoman! And I thought you couldn't possibly be serious when you said you'd prepare a fully annotated bibliography for your final project!" The papers thud when Miss Cheerilee drops them on her desk. "Just how big is this?"

Sunset's grin widens. "Sixty pages."

Miss Cheerilee balks. "That must have taken weeks! When did you have time to actually work on the project? When did you have time to sleep?"

Sunset brushes her chest with her knuckles. "Who says I slept at all?"

Miss Cheerilee shakes her head, laughing incredulously. "You little overachiever, you."

"AP classes deserve AP effort. And a promise is a promise." If Sunset's being honest with herself, then that's not why she went to the lengths she did. It's that look on Miss Cheerilee's face, that dimpled grin that sets Sunset's heart fluttering. "Although I hate to give you more work to worry about, when you have so much on your plate."

"Oh, it's no bother. I've already submitted grades for your class. " Miss Cheerilee pats the tower of papers gently, taking care not to tip it over. "These are all from my freshmen and sophomores. All you've done is given me something to look forward to – a little pleasure reading, once the rest of my classes are squared away."

That Miss Cheerilee would consider sixty pages of a completely optional annotated bibliography for a college-level research project to be 'pleasure reading' comes as no surprise to Sunset. The complement, however, catches her off guard.

She swallows. "I guess you've got me there, Miss Cheerilee."

"'Miss Cheerilee,'" the teacher echoes. "You know you don't have to call me that, right? I officially stopped being your teacher... oh, about twenty-four hours ago, actually. Just my name is fine – no 'Miss.'"

A chill climbs Sunset's spine. "You don't think that's a little... familiar?"

"I don't mind if you don't."

"...Cheerilee, then." It's been such a long time since she's said that name without the title; it rolls off her tongue differently. Yet it feels right, and that realization troubles Sunset. "I don't know if I can get used to saying that."

"I don't know if I can get used to hearing it. I get called 'Miss Cheerilee' so often that, sometimes, I feel like that's my full name. But I'll make an effort if you do." Cheerilee rests her hand on Sunset's paperwork. "I'm glad you came by today, you know."

Sunset coughs and pulls a lock of hair over her cheek, trying to hide a blush. "You, um, must've really wanted to get your hands on that bibliography."

"I did, as a matter of fact. But I'd have been glad to see you regardless." There's a pause, underscored by the gentle tinkling of the piano from the CD player. "I wanted a chance to tell you how happy I am to have had you for your final year. You brought a... a very different dynamic to the classroom than you did as a freshman and a sophomore."

Sunset's grip tightens on her hair. "Is that a polite way of saying I'm not as big a pain in the ass as I used to be?"

Cheerilee reaches over to her CD player and stops the current track. "I mean to say that, up until this past year, you've always been different on paper than in person. You're witty and incisive in your writing; you have been since you were a freshman. But this is the first year I've ever seen you lend that wit and incisiveness to class time, too. You didn't just participate. You led, and you brought a lot to the table."

"If only you could zap every problem student with a magical rainbow, huh?" Sunset means it playfully, but it seems to cut Cheerilee – she smiles, but her eyes are sad.

"Please don't sell yourself short," says Cheerilee in a soft voice. "However they started, the changes you've made came from within you. This year has been an unusual one – albeit my best since I started teaching – and your whole class has been part of that. But you, especially, made the life of this old schoolmarm a little brighter just by being in it. I'll miss that brightness that you brought to class."

She pauses, and folds her hands on the papers. Pale green eyes stare levelly into Sunset's.

"No, that's not quite right. I'll miss you, Sunset Shimmer."

Sunset almost laughs at the old schoolmarm bit. Cheerilee can't be older than thirty – a year past Sunset, by Equestrian standards, and eleven by those of the human world. But the rest of the compliments fill Sunset with warmth, and there's no hiding her blush this time.

"I don't know how to respond to that, exactly," Sunset says, speaking past a lump in her throat. "But you're welcome. I'm happy we got to know each other a little bit this year."

Part of her wishes they could have gotten to know each other more.

Instead of voicing that thought, Sunset takes a step back and glances toward the open door. "The morning's kinda getting away from me. I should probably—"

"Yes, I understand." Cheerilee gives Sunset another sad-eyed look. "I suppose this is goodbye, then."

"Doesn't have to be." Sunset links her hands behind her back. "You chaperoning the prom?"

"I am."

"Then we'll see each other there, won't we?"

Cheerilee makes a face. "I'd hate to distract you from your date..."

"Can't distract me if I don't have a date, can you?" Sunset pumps her arm and laughs weakly. "It's still socially acceptable to go to these things stag, right?"

Cheerilee's mouth opens, but whatever comment she's about to make dies on her lips. Instead, she clicks her pen open and, with some effort, pushes Sunset's annotated bibliography aside. "Then I'll see you tonight, Sunset."

"Right back at you, Miss—" Sunset pauses to clear her throat. "I mean... Cheerilee."

Cheerilee's expression is patient and understanding as she sets to work again. Sunset allows herself to stare, just for a moment, before leaving the classroom behind.

Next Chapter: Tears and Autumn Estimated time remaining: 44 Minutes
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