• Published 26th Aug 2013
  • 1,898 Views, 59 Comments

Cheer for Me, Cheerilee - Written Out



Five years after quitting teaching, Cheerilee finds herself pulled back to Ponyville to teach once again.

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Even If I Stumble, I'll Still Try To Teach (1/2)

Silence filled the first floor of the town library, the only sound the scratching of quill against parchment as Cheerilee wrote out her lesson plans for the next week. Helping her students overcome their personal problems was fun and all, but she still had her duties to them as an educator to think about. There was a storm going on outside that was blowing hard enough to make the windows rattle, making today a perfect day to stay inside and focus on work. Yes, today was all about productivity. Absolutely nothing would be allowed to distract her.

"Cheerilee!" The door to the library burst open with a howl of wind as Twilight threw the door open, a strong gust of wind screaming into the library and blowing the parchments Cheerilee was writing on in every direction possible. Her hard work flying through the air like leaves in autumn, Cheerilee turned to give the new arrival a flat look.

"Ehehehe, sorry." Twilight sheepishly laughed before using her magic to gather up every loose piece of paper and placed them in a neat pile in front of Cheerilee.

Cheerilee sighed and cleaned the ink off the tip of her quill. "It's alright, Twilight. I was nearly finished anyway."

Grabbing a nearby towel and quickly drying herself off, Twilight walked up beside Cheerilee as the schoolteacher slid the quill out of sight. "So what are you working on?" She skimmed the first page and her face lit up like a candle flame. "Oh, are you planning lessons for the children? Any idea what you're going to teach them?"

"Nothing yet," Cheerilee admitted. She slid her chair back and stood up, her back and limbs popping in a pleasant manner as she moved for the first time in hours. "I need to know how everypony's doing first. I'm making up some tests that should give me an idea on how far they are."

"Mmm." Twilight distractedly flipped through the pages Cheerilee had written out. "It looks like you've got a good variety of subjects. History, math, biology, social studies..."

Feeling somewhat self-conscious, Cheerilee hurriedly took the sheaf of papers out of Twilight's grip. She was mostly comfortable with the idea of Twilight being a Princess, but there was something in her that made having a Princess go over her lesson plans just feel wrong. "Right." Cheerilee coughed before putting the papers aside. "Anyway, what were you so excited about earlier, Twilight? And what were you even doing out in this-" She had to pause as a booming blast of thunder echoed throughout the house. "-this weather?"

"Oh, that's right!" Cheerilee squeaked as Twilight threw herself on her, the bookworm grabbing Cheerilee in a most unprincessly hug. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

Cheerilee tried to squirm out of Twilight's grip, but the strength of the alicorn meant that would be impossible without hurting her. "What - oof - What are you - agh - What are you thanking me for?" She felt something inside her give and cried out in pain. "My ribs!"

Twilight realized she was squeezing a bit too hard and quickly jumped off of Cheerilee. "Ohmygoodness, are you okay? I'm sorry, I didn't mean it!"

"It's- it's fine," Cheerilee reassured Twilight as she stood up, giving the flustered mare an encouraging smile. "See? No harm done." That's going to leave a bruise.

"Are you sure?" Twilight asked, looking contrite. Her head was lowered apologetically, her ears were pressed flat against her mane, and even her wings drooped sorrowfully as she looked up at the earth pony with eyes that pleaded for forgiveness. Altogether, she looked exactly like one of Cheerilee's students that had done something wrong and was sorry for it, so much so that Cheerilee couldn't help but release a snort of laughter.

"It's fine, Twilight, it's fine. No harm done." She scooted over to the large plush couch that stood off by its lonesome on one side of the library - perfect for ponies who wish to read something in comfort, so Twilight claimed - and dropped herself on it. "So what are you thanking me for? And no hugging this time."

Twilight still look regretful, but sat down next to Cheerilee anyway. "I was over at Applejack's farm," she explained. Seeing that Cheerilee nodded in understanding, she continued with more confidence. "Applejack told me what you had suggested for Apple Bloom, so I brought Spike over to see her. After what you did... Applejack's family looked happier than I've seen then in months!"

"Spike?" Cheerilee asked, noticing for the first time that Twilight had come home alone. "Where is that oversized reptile, anyways?"

Twilight giggled. "Cheerilee, that's terrible!"

Cheerilee flashed an unrepentant smirk. "You laughed," she pointed out.

Twilight smiled ruefully, shaking her head. "Spike's staying at the farm tonight. When I suggested the idea that he make friends with Apple Bloom, he was so eager to get started right away." A relieved smile spread across her face as she back against the couch cushions. "He's really so helpful."

Unnoticed by Twilight, Cheerilee was staring at her with unfriendly eyes. Are you really so blind, Princess? However, Cheerilee chose to keep her personal thoughts private. Scolding a parent or family member was something she was used to doing, but doing the same thing to a Princess was something she didn't feel her position was secure enough for, especially since Spike wasn't actually one of her students.

However, he is my friend, she scolded herself. Memories of that day after she returned to Ponyville, of that clumsy, earnest dragon three times her size looking down at her with concern in his eyes as he handed her a cup of coffee came to her.

"Cheerilee?" Twilight asked, noticing the teacher's sudden silence.

But am I sure this is the right idea? Cheerilee silently wondered, ignoring Twilight's concerned looks. Do I really think I know better than the Princesses? "Twilight?" Cheerilee asked, making sure to keep her emotions out of her voice. Twilight might be completely oblivious when it came to other ponies' emotions, but Cheerilee wasn't going to take any chances. She didn't want to risk offending Equestria's youngest Princess, and she already knew this was a bit of a sore point for the alicorn. The easiest, and safest, thing Cheerilee could do would be to let the subject lie where it was. But... "What is Spike to you?"

"Huh?" Twilight blinked. "Well, he's my Number One Assistant, obviously."

"And?" Cheerilee pressed. "Is that all he is to you? You don't think of him like family?"

"Of course he's family!" Twilight protested, offended. "He's like the little brother I never had!"

"Brother, huh..." Cheerilee hopped off the couch. Twilight followed her with her eyes as the older mare crossed the room and popped open the small bag that hung from a small hook. Since all her material possessions from her old home had gotten shipped to the Crystal Empire in a clerical error, this one bag that she had brought with her was now all she had. A moment's digging led to her finding what she was looking for, and without any hesitation she pulled out a cigarette and popped the end in her mouth.

Twilight wrinkled her nose as Cheerilee pulled out a box of matches. "Do you have to do that inside?" she grumbled as Cheerilee lit up.

"It's raining outside," Cheerilee pointed out. Taking a deep inhalation, she let the smoky substance fill her lungs for several seconds before releasing it. She knew it was bad for her body, but it helped her relax, and right now, she needed to be as relaxed as possible. lest she say something she'd regret. "Getting back on topic, if you're Spike's sister, than who's his mother figure?"

"Well, that would be..." Twilight considered for a second, tilting her head thoughtfully. "Probably Princess Celestia. She was the one who took care of him before I was old enough to, after all."

Thought so. Cheerilee felt absolutely no satisfaction in being right. After all, there was no reason to be happy over what she saw as the worst-case scenario. "Have you ever considered enrolling Spike in school?"

"Huh?" Twilight scratched the back of his head. "Well, no," she admitted. "I've been home-schooling him myself and taught him everything he needs to know. He's probably seven or eight years ahead of most ponies his age. Why do you ask?"

Because he desperately needs the company of ponies in his own age group, and if you're too much of an idiot to notice that, my respect for both you and his mother is going to plummet, Cheerilee most certainly did not say. Insulting a Princess? Bad idea. Insulting two Princesses in a single breath? Worse idea. Insulting two Princesses, when Cheerilee barely had a bit to her name and was currently living under the roof of one of those Princesses? Absolutely horrible idea.

Thankfully, Cheerilee had a second avenue of offensive she could take. "It's for Apple Bloom's sake," she said, lying through her teeth without an ounce of regret. "If her friends are going to school with her, I think it'll be easier to keep her from locking herself on the farm. Surely you, of all ponies, can understand the power of friendship?" Except when the issue's right under your nose, apparently, she mentally added with more than a hint of scorn.

"Well..." Twilight was clearly wavering on the idea, so Cheerilee decided to push a little harder.

"I'm a little worried," she added, forcing as much concern as she could into her voice. Seeing that Twilight was hanging on her every word, Cheerilee paused to take a deep drag on her cigarette. "Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo are going to be in the same class, after all," she pointed out, blowing out a lungful of smoke. "I don't know how Apple Bloom's going to react when she sees her former friends again, but I know she'll do better with friends of her own at her side."

"I... you're right." Twilight's horn lit up and a piece of parchment and quill floated past Cheerilee to her. "If it's for Apple Bloom's sake, I'm sure Spike will agree." Scratching filled the library as Twilight started to write. "I can send Princess Celestia a letter and ask her what she thinks. She'll probably go along with it, though." The scratching stopped and Twilight stared at Cheerilee over the floating parchment. "But are you sure about this, Cheerilee? Spike probably already knows everything you'll be teaching the class, so he'll probably get bored pretty quickly. Do you really think you'll be able to handle him?"

"I'll think of something," Cheerilee said with a casual shrug. Truth be told, she wasn't too worried about having a bored dragon desperate for something to do in her classroom. That wasn't something to fear. That said, she now officially dreaded the next parent-teacher meeting: 'Hello Princess Celestia, I need to talk to you talk to you about your son.'

Great.

"Cheerilee," Twilight said, sounding unimpressed. "This is important. Do you really think you can take care of Spike?"

Well, Cheerilee? the earth pony mare asked herself. Do you? If you go through with this, there will be no turning back. Do this, and you'll be putting yourself squarely in the line of sight of all the Princesses. Any hope you had of avoiding them will be lost. Maybe it's not as bad as you think it is. Maybe Spike'll be able to get himself through this without any help. Any even if he couldn't, what makes you think you'd be able to help him?

There was silence in the library for several seconds as Cheerilee seriously considered Twilight's question. She was about to open her mouth and tell Twilight that she didn't think it was such a good idea when she thought she heard something through the pounding rain. Her ears flicked and she strained to hear it again, but when it didn't repeat, she realized she had only imagined the sound. After that, it only took her a few seconds to realize what the imagined noise had been.

It was the sound of a certain dinky little unicorn filly, crying miserably in the rain.

Cheerilee couldn't help but laugh at herself. I've already lost my chance to go back, she admitted silently. It wasn't a pleasant thought, but nor was it entirely unpleasant. The only way for me to get out of this is forward.

"Yes," she said resolutely. "I'm sure."

___________

"Where do you want this?" Spike asked. In his claws, he held Twilight's spare desk above his head, careful not to drop the piece of furniture on the much smaller individual present.

Cheerilee glanced over the basement before pointing at the wall. "Just slip it over there, that should give me plenty of room." She stayed out of the way as the dragon carefully placed the desk on the floor. "Thanks for helping me, Spike." she said as she helped slide it into place. "I really appreciate it."

It was a day later, and Twilight had decided to give Cheerilee the basement to use as a workspace. School had already ended for the day and Cheerilee was pretty sure she has a good idea on the education level her students were at. There were a few topics each of them could improve on, but overall, they were at the level they were supposed to be. Knowing that was a weight off the teacher's back since it allowed her to plan for the future without needing to worry too much about who was falling behind. Apple Bloom still hadn't shown up to school, but Cheerilee hadn't really expected that she would.

"No problem, Miss Cheerilee." Spike smirked, giving her that not-quite comfortable looking grin of his that pointedly hid all his teeth. "Or I should I call you Teacher from now on?"

"Cheerilee's fine," the mare in question grunted as she gave the heavy desk a push. "I'm still not comfortable being called a teacher." Satisfied with the placement of her desk, she hopped up on it. Standing tall on her hind legs, she was just able to look Spike in the eyes. She wasn't used to the position, though, and had to use her forelegs to steady herself against the dragon's chest. "But what about you, Spike? I know Princess Twilight and Princess Celestia are on board with this, but I never got a chance to ask you your opinion."

"It's alright." Spike shrugged casually. "It's for Apple Bloom's sake, right? Applejack was so grateful when I- oof!" He rubbed at the scales on his chest where Cheerilee had just slugged him.

"That's not what I asked," Cheerilee scolded as she pulled her hoof back for another punch. "I asked if you were okay with this?"

"Isn't there a law about teachers not hitting their students?" Spike grumbled under his breath.

"I'm off the clock. You going to answer the question honestly, or do I have to hit you again?"

"Wouldn't most teachers just threaten to go tell the student's family?" Spike asked, trying another tack.

Cheerilee raised an eyebrow. "Really? You want me to go talk to your family? I don't think Twilight would be happy to hear how you've been hiding your feelings from her for so long."

Spike stiffened before sagging in defeat. "What gave me away?" he asked, looking at Cheerilee with pitiful eyes.

"'Gave you away'?" The earth pony scoffed. "Please. I've worked with so many children and adults trying to hid things from me that I've become pretty good at spotting hidden emotions. Just because you're a dragon doesn't make you any different." She lightly tapped her hoof against Spike's chest. "Guess you're more like us ponies than you fear you are, aren't you?"

Spike laughed. "I wish it were that simple," he admitted with a rueful shake of his head. "But do you really think this is such a good idea? I mean, Twilight probably already told you that I probably already know everything you'll be teaching."

Cheerilee rolled her eyes. "So long as you finish your homework assignments on time and pass all your tests, I could care less if you fell asleep in class. That's not what this is about."

"But what about..." Spike fiddled with his claws as his voice dropped to a scared whisper. "What about the parents of your students? Won't they be upset about having a dragon near their foals?"

Cheerilee's raised eyebrow rose even further, almost disappearing in her maneline. "Let me guess," she said in a complete monotone. "'Ahh, scary monster. Celestia save us from the rampaging dragon. Lock the doors and hide your children. The horror, the horror.' I get that right?"

Spike snorted at Cheerilee's utterly deadpan delivery, releasing a small plume of smoke into the windowless basement. "Something like that."

"I'm not worried." Cheerilee hopped off the desk and walked past Spike, heading for the basement staircase. "If those fools want to complain about one of my students, then I'll deal with them when the time comes." She smirked up at him. "Of course, if they really annoy me, I'll just point them in Twilight's direction and let her deal with it."

Spike burst out laughing. "That's evil," he crowed happily, clutching his sides as he tried in vain to restrain his giggles. "Those poor ponies won't know what hit them."

"Oh, that's not it." Cheerilee's grin turned malicious, a sight that most of her students would have been shocked to see on the formerly kind schoolteacher's face. "I'll be doing to protect them. If they're stupid enough to try and tell me how I should run things in my classroom and have the gall to insult one of my students to my face, then I'd be doing them a favour by letting Twilight Sparkle take care of them."

"Uh... hmm..." Spike nervously shuffled away from Cheerilee, suddenly feeling very aware that he was trapped in a very small room with her between him and the only exit.

"You worry too much, Spike," Cheerilee stated, the anger from a moment before dissipating as quickly as it had appeared. She quickly ascended several steps of the staircase, before turning around when she was about halfway up and able to look down on the dragon. "You're still young; you should enjoy yourself more. Leave the worrying to us adults."

"If only it were that simple," Spike muttered, his hand unconsciously coming up to his own cheek.

Cheerilee climbed the rest of the stairs, gesturing for Spike to follow her. "I see words alone aren't enough. Then I guess I'll just have to prove it to you."

Spike blinked. "How?"

_______________

"Hello, Dinky," Cheerilee said brightly. "Is your mother in?"

Cheerilee had dragged Spike out into town with her, ignoring the dragon's protests, and had hauled him all the way to Derpy and Dinky's home. Dinky had been the one to answer when Cheerilee had knocked on the door.

Dinky nodded with a cheerful smile on her face. Having her new teacher show up on her front porch with absolutely zero warning had clearly thrown the young mare for a loop, but she had recovered with impressive speed. "Uh huh. Let me go get her." Turning, the small unicorn vanished into the house.

Spike stood beside Cheerilee, hunched over in such a way as too make himself look smaller and his eyes flicking from shadow to shadow as if he expected somepony to leap out and scream at him at any time. "I really don't think this is such a good idea," he nervously told Cheerilee. "You know what, I'm heading back to the library. Let me know how it goes." Spike tried to make his exit, but a firm yank on his tail caused him to overbalance and fall on his back.

"None of that," Cheerilee mildly scolded as she released the scaly appendage without bothering to actually look in Spike's direction. "If you're too afraid to make the first step, nothing will change. Are you really content with the way you live now, hiding away in your little home and watching as life passes you by?"

Hypocrite, she silently rebuked herself. Those words apply to you just as much as they do him.

"I'm not letting life pass me by." Spike tilted his head so he could frown at Cheerilee from where he lay on the ground. "I have friends, you know."

"You have your sister's friends," Cheerilee countered, pressing her muzzle against Spike's nose. Which is more than I have. Quickly squashing her own personal feelings, she let her voice slip into her lecturing tone. "You hang out with them from time to time but you're not really part of their group."

Spike bared his teeth and let loose a deep, bone-rattling growl from the pits of his throat. "Don't you say that about them," he rumbled with all the anger an insulted dragon could muster. "Don't you dare-"

"Dare what?" Cheerilee snapped. "Speak the truth? Tell you like it is? You act like a pony, but you're not, Spike! You're a dragon! That's a truth you can't simply look away from!"

"Maybe I don't want to be a dragon!" Spike roared loudly that Cheerilee felt her teeth rattling. "I just want to live quietly with my friends!"

"But you are a dragon, Spike," Cheerilee pointed out, offering no room for a rebuttal. "You can't simply pretend that you're not and hope nopony will notice. You can't deny who you are and hope that life will work out for you. You have to trust others enough to believe that they will accept you for who you are. Hiding your feeling, emotions, and even your true self from others is the same as saying you don't trust them at all! You have... to..." Cheerilee choked on a sob, teardrops spilling from her eyes.

Spike stared at the mare standing above him, all his fury disappearing like mist in a rainstorm as he felt the earth pony's tears splattering against his thick scales. "Cheerilee?" he asked, his voice filled with uncertainty. "Are we still talking about me, or...?"

"Um... is this a bad time?"

Cheerilee and Spike looked up to see Derpy standing in the entranceway. The pegasus's gaze slowly shifted from one to the other, giving both of them a confused look.

"No, not at all," Cheerilee said, quickly wiping the tears out of her eyes as she moved away from Spike. "I... um... just wanted to say hello! Yes. That's right. How are you doing, Der-" Cheerilee spotted Dinky glaring at her from over her mother's back and hastily edited what she was going to say. "Ditzy? I said Ditzy."

"Oh. I'm doing well, thank you. And hello to you both." Derpy's mouth spread in a honest, happy smile. "What can I do for you?"

Cheerilee shuffled her legs nervously, suddenly left feeling very unsure about what she was going to say. The mental script she had penned had been tattered and filled with holes by her emotional outburst, leaving her to try and hastily scrape something together. She never was good at improv. "Well, I was wondering..." Was wondering WHAT? "If you... um... wanted to... toooooooooooo... drink coffee!"

Derpy cocked her head. "Coffee?"

"Yes! Coffee! Drink! With me!" Realizing how sporadic she was sounding, Cheerilee stopped talking and took a moment to collect her thoughts. "Ditzy," she said after taking a deep breath to calm herself. "Would you like to go get some coffee with me?"

"I don't know," Derpy hedged, looking uncertainly back at her house. "I should start making supper soon."

"No worries," Cheerilee said with a smile. "Spike can take care of it."

Spike blinked, suddenly hearing his name dragged into the conversation. "What?"

Cheerilee grabbed Spike's head, pulling him down so that she could whisper into his ear-frills. "You wanted proof that ponies won't care about you being in my class?" she hissed. "Here it is. If Derpy is willing to trust you enough to leave you alone with her daughter while she and I go into town, then I would think that would be more than enough proof."

"She's not going to just agree to that," Spike hissed back. "That's way too suspicious."

"Okay."

Cheerilee and Spike turned to stare at Derpy. "What?" Spike said blankly for the second time in a row.

"I said okay," Derpy replied with a cheerful smile. "If it's Spike, I'm sure everything will be okay."

Dinky interceded from behind Derpy, giving her mom a odd look. "Huh? But mom, you-" That was as far as she got before being interrupted by a mouthful of feathers.

"Shhh, Muffin," Derpy shushed her daughter with a pleasant grin and an upraised wing. "I'll just be gone for a little while. You'll be fine with Mister Spike, right?"

"Well ,yeah but-"

"Great!" Moving faster than Cheerilee would have thought the clumsy mare capable of, Derpy grabbed Cheerilee and rocketed into the sky before the schoolteacher could think to protest.

"Wait, Derpy, wait!" Cheerilee screamed as they vanished into the sky, her voice reaching a staccato screech. "I'm afraid of heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeights...!"

Spike and Dinky watched the two adult mares disappeared behind a cloud, Cheerilee's helpless screams slowly fading away. "So, uh," Spike said awkwardly, rubbing his claws together. "Should... I...?"

Dinky blinked. "Huh? Oh right." She disappeared into her house, gesturing for Spike to follow her. "Come on in. We can talk about books or something until they get back. Or gems, maybe. I dunno."

Despite how bizarre his day had turned out, Spike felt an honest smile spreading his lips. For the first time in years, he smiled wide enough to reveal his sharp, pointed fangs. "You know what?" he said carefully, lumbering after the much smaller unicorn. "I think I'd like that."

Author's Note:

And you get a setup chapter! Isn't that better then waiting nearly a year for the next chapter? (It was like 363 days, it still counts as 'nearly' a year.)

With some success on two students already, now seems like a perfect time for Cheerilee to spend some time with other adults and make some friends of her own, as well as make a little progress with Spike's issues. I admit, I wasn't sure about involving Spike this soon, but then I got the idea of linking Spike's problems to Cheerilee's own, and this is the result. I'll admit I'm still not completely happy with the chapter, but if 'happy' means waiting another year, forget it.

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