• Published 16th May 2016
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A Shimmering New Year - EchoWing



Sunset Shimmer and her friends struggle to deal with recovering from Anon-A-Miss as they move forward. New friends and a doctor, thankfully, can help them along.

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Chapter Three - Lunch Before The Storm

“I still think that Celestia’s being too soft on these kids.” Cranky Doodle studied his glass of milk and hoped that it would keep the inevitable ulcer under control. “First that mess at the Fall Formal with Sunset Shimmer, and then that Anon-A-Miss business just before Christmas. If she’d just expelled Sunset Shimmer after that first mess happened, we could have avoided all of that.”

“Cranky, you and I both know that wasn’t an option.” Cheerilee busied herself with making some tea, thankful for the selection in the teacher’s lounge. “Besides, Sunset didn’t force anyone into doing anything. She was the victim the second time, not the perpetrator.”

The older of the two teachers grunted as he sipped his drink. “Fine, but she still got off light, same as the ‘Crusaders’ and everyone else who took part. Some mass expulsions would’ve sent a message. Might’ve even bumped up our GPA a bit.”

A smirk and an arched eyebrow as the door leading into the teacher’s lounge opened. “You do remember that Sunset stands a good chance of being the valedictorian for her class?”

“Which comes as no surprise, given what I saw of her this morning.” The two looked to find the newest among their number standing at the door. “Sorry, didn’t mean to break into the conversation mid-way like that.”

“It’s alright, Doctor Turner.” Cheerilee caught some light grumblings from Cranky, but turned her attention back to the kettle. “Care for some tea?”

“Please!” He prepared a cup and a teabag and asked, “So what were you talking about in regards to Miss Shimmer?”

“Punishment, and not just for her.” Cranky regarded the younger man suspiciously and asked, “But I suppose you’re the sort that doesn’t go for discipline?”

“Oh, discipline’s well and good. I’m just not very big on overly harsh punishments.” Doctor Turner looked to him and noted, “I knew what I was getting into when I took this job, even heard a thing or two about similar situations elsewhere. Newspapers, the Internet, my wife.” At their surprise, he indicated a small golden ring on one finger. “She had something similar at her school growing up to this Anon-A-Miss mess you went through. She never did anything to hurt the victim, mind, but she always regretted not helping them. Sometimes the guilt is enough to do the job.” A shrug, and he admitted, “Of course in both occasions, the guilty party regretted their actions and no physical injury occurred. If there hadn’t been regret, if someone had been hurt or died, or both, well yes, fine, expulsion definitely, probably even jail time, but still, plenty of cases where folks jumped the gun and went too far, especially in this line of work.” Hot water was poured into both teacups, and he concluded, “Personally, I think Principal Celestia went just far enough.”

Cheerilee opted to change the subject at that moment and asked, “So, you’re married?”

Doctor Turner looked happy to change the subject. “Second time, actually.” Tea prepared, he and Cheerilee sat down with Cranky at the table. “My first wife passed away a little after my daughter was born. I waited a few years, eventually met my current wife and married her. She was the one who went through what I was just talking about.” He smiled and noted, “Sweetest thing, great baker. Brings a smile to my face whenever I think of her.”

“That sounds familiar,” the youngest of the three noted to the eldest with a teasing grin.

“Wha-?!” Cranky sputtered in shock, then protested, “You keep Matilda out of this!”

“Oh, married too, eh?” Doctor Turner joined in with relish and declared, “Good for her! A brilliant woman gets even better with a sensible fellow in her life.”

Despite his earlier frustration, the cranky old teacher smiled. “Well, I’d be lost without her, in any case.” The smile faded as he asked, “So, daughter huh?”

“Three, actually. One from the first marriage, one I adopted from the second, the third we took in together. Foster kid. The youngest is still too young for high school, even one with a six year program, but the other two?” The younger man grinned. “You’ll run into them soon enough.”

-

“So it turned out that old-fashioned card catalog wasn’t all that hard ta figure out. Th’ three a’ us got all those books right back where they were supposed ta go.” Apple Bloom groaned as she recounted her story. “Th’ real trouble was goin’ up and down those stairs with a buncha books in mah arms.”

“And kneeling down all the time.” Sweetie Belle added in her own groans. “My knees are killing me.”

Rarity gave her little sister a sympathetic pat on the shoulder as elder siblings, biological and honorary, escorted the Crusaders to the cafeteria. While they doubted that anyone would take things far enough to attack the three young girls, it was better to be safe than sorry. “Better your knees than your back, dear. I’m still feeling the ache from when I bent at the back to get Twilight’s disguise that one morning.”

“Yeah, besides, those aches and pains are nothing compared to what’s coming after school.” Rainbow Dash waved an arm and amended, “Just saying.”

“Right, that.” Now it was Scootaloo’s time to groan. “I kinda wish the soccer field was still covered in snow right now. More cushioning for the falls.”

“Come on. It’s not like she could get past all three of us, right?”

Another groan from Apple Bloom as they entered the cafeteria made their way to get in line for their food. “Sweetie Belle, ya gotta learn not ta’ say things like that.”

The older girls did what they could to restrain themselves as they obtained their lunches and then parted company with their sisters to take their customary table. Pinkie Pie gleefully waved them over and Fluttershy smiled as they sat down. “So? How’d things go for them?”

“Well, Ah’d say they’ve gotten some community service in. No clue what’s comin’ next for ‘em, though.” Applejack looked about and asked, “Speakin’ of the community, Sunset doin’ okay?”

Dash rolled her eyes. “She’s still talking to us, AJ. I’d say that’s a good thing.”

Rarity turned her attention to the food line as a familiar head of crimson and yellow hair approached, two unfamiliar faces following. “And hopefully, that talk will include introductions to new friends.” As Sunset closed in, she smiled. “Hello darling!”

Her greeting was answered with a smile. “Hi girls. Okay if we have a couple new friends join us?” She gestured to the two new students and introduced them. “Meet Amethyst Star and Roseluck. Sparkler, Rose, meet Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Applejack.”

“Nice ta meet ya, gals, have a seat.” The two new students joined them, and Applejack prodded, “So, you likin’ what you’ve seen so far?”

Sparkler smiled. “Yeah, I think we’ll like it here.”

-

“Huh. Haven’t seen them before.” Lyra turned her attention away from Sunset and the new students to her friend and wondered aloud, “New students?”

“Probably.” Sweetie Drops looked upon the newcomers with suspicion. “Little odd that they’re eating with Sunset Shimmer and her friends, though.”

“Most likely she invited them after giving them a tour of the school.” The two looked up to find Octavia standing close by, a lunch tray in her hands. “Forgive me for listening in, but she told me she was giving two new students a tour earlier. May I join you two for a moment?”

“Sure, but why not stay with us?”

Octavia sighed as she sat down. “I would, but Vinyl needs someone to keep her on track lest she ends up late for her next class. Besides, my business is brief.” She turned her gaze upon her fellow students and asked, “Lyra, Sweetie, the two of you have been working at the same shop as Sunset since last fall, correct?”

The minty green girl nodded. “She started working with us about two weeks after the Fall Formal, just in time for the Halloween rush. Why?”

“Has she caused any sort of trouble there? I don’t mean to accuse her of anything, it’s just that she’s going to be tutoring here at CHS soon, and I can’t help but be concerned.”

Sweetie Drops gave the musician a sympathetic half-smile. “Octavia, I don’t blame you for being a little anxious. None of the three of us were at the Fall Formal, but we all heard the stories. For better or worse, Sunset hasn’t caused any trouble at the shop. If anything, she’s been a model employee.” A shrug, and she admitted, “Of course, it’s just the four of us including Miss Zecora, but still.”

“Well, she has hidden behind a veneer of respectability and goodness before.” Octavia shook her head. “Perhaps I’m simply being paranoid.”

“Is it paranoid to be cautious in the presence of something you know can hurt you?”

“Hey!” Lyra gently elbowed her friend in protest, then turned to Octavia and added, “Listen, I’m not going to tell you to trust her or anything, but try to give her a chance, huh? I mean, she’s not all bad. And doesn’t she at least deserve a small chance after everything that happened at the end of last semester?”

Octavia gave a small nod. “I suppose. Thank you.” She then stood up and went on her way, leaving the two to their own devices.

Sweetie Drops rubbed where Lyra’s elbow had hit her. “Seriously?”

“Sorry Bonnie, I know we need to be wary about her, but still, she hasn’t caused any trouble since the Fall Formal.” She emphasized her point with her spork as she added, “And she gave us those nice drawings as gifts. She didn’t have to do that.”

“No, but those gifts are part of the issue here.” Her voice dropped to a whisper as she explained, “Lyra, we still don’t know how she knew about the portal, or Equestria, or the Elements of Harmony. We only know about them because Zecora told us. How do you think she knew?”

“Well, I’ve got a theory, but I’d love to hear yours first.”

A smile crossed her face as Sweetie Drops shared her theory. “Okay, we know that Zecora’s been collecting what she can about Equestrian magic for years, right? What if Sunset Shimmer is working with someone who obtained information about it, and used it for her little stunt at the Fall Formal?”

A shrug. “I guess, but it’s not as fun as my theory.” A thin eyebrow arched her way, and Lyra explained, “I think she knew about Equestria because she came from Equestria. That explains everything, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, but that leaves a big question, doesn’t it?” Sweetie Drops looked to the girl in question and asked, “Why would she come here? There’s little magic here compared to there, and what does she get out of being the queen bee of a high school?”

Lyra sighed and started picking at her food with her utensil. “Not much, I guess. Thanks for not outright calling my theory stupid, Bon-Bon.”

A smile crossed her face as she gently nudged her friend. “Your theories aren’t stupid, Lyra. And neither are you.”

-

“So dears, where are the two of you originally from?”

“Oh, that’s a tough question.” Sparkler waved a hand at Rarity’s query and explained, “All over, I guess.”

“Military family?”

“No, Dad’s just got something of a wanderlust.” A sigh. “That said, the most we ever stayed in one place for very long was five years when he had a job as a consultant with some top secret government thing. But he was still chomping at the bit to get out whenever we could for all that time.” She smiled in reassurance. “Don’t worry, though. Rose and me will be around for a little while yet. What about all of you?”

“Well with the exception of Sunset, all of us have lived in or near Canterlot our entire lives.” She gestured to the farmgirl at the table and added, “In fact, dear Applejack is something of a legacy here at Canterlot High.”

“My granny was one of the first students here after the school got put up. Liked it so much, she ended up comin’ back after graduatin’.” She gestured to her food and explained, “Y’all saw her when you were gettin’ yer grub.”

“That sweet old lunch lady is your grandmother?” At Applejack’s nod, Rose whistled in appreciation. “So, did your parents go here?”

“Parents, uncles, aunts, siblin’s, cousins. Not all of ‘em stayed, mind, but all of ‘em have passed through the main entrance to CHS at least once in their lives.” She grinned and gestured to Pinkie Pie. “Even discovered a couple distant relatives went here by accident.” A sad smile crossed her lips as Applejack added, “Heck, my mom and dad were high school sweethearts once upon a time.”

“Any chance we could meet them?”

“‘Fraid not. My parents passed away when Ah was eight.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.” Sparkler’s tone turned sympathetic as she explained, “My mom passed away when I was very little. It’s probably what started my dad’s wanderlust. It’s settled down since, but still, sore point for us.” She then turned to Sunset and asked, “What about you?”

A shrug. “I moved here about three years ago. Lost my parents when I was very young, moved in with an aunt and her family, ended up leaving them.” She noticed their concerned looks and explained, “Oh, don’t worry, it wasn’t them. They’re great people, I was just in a bad place for a long time. I’m hoping to reunite with them before too long.” She gave a half-smile and added, “Right now though, things are okay. Principal Celestia’s sort-of my legal guardian while I’m here in town.”

“Wow. That’s one good reason to keep up with your schoolwork, I guess.” Sparkler looked about and asked, “By the way, are there any teachers we should watch out for? I’m not saying anyone here’s mean or anything, I just want to know if any are inclined to give out tough assignments.”

“Well, perhaps we could see your schedules?” The two handed Rarity off their class schedules, and she studied them before frowning. “Hmm. The only one here that I’d worry about is Miss Sweet Agate. She’s a wonderful woman, but she tends to keep her students on her toes in her Literature courses.”

“She’s got a habit of adding to the syllabus,” Sunset elaborated. “And that ignores her obsession with Joseph Conrad. I’m just glad we got ‘Heart of Darkness’ out of the way already.”

Both new girls sighed in relief at that. “Oh thank God. We had to deal with it at our last school, and I don’t want to have to go and read it again.”

“The horror…” Rose moaned in terror, “…the horror…”

Sunset stifled a laugh at that all-too-perfect remark. “Anyway, getting back to what you said about your dad; it’s a little unusual for a single parent to take in a foster kid.”

Sparkler gave an apologetic smile. “Sorry. Should’ve mentioned, my dad remarried.” She smiled and added, “And I’m proud to say my stepmother is the sweetest woman you could ever meet, and Rose and I have an awesome little stepsister thanks to her.”

“Aw! That’s great!” Pinkie grinned and asked, “So, do we get to meet her?”

A shrug. “Maybe someday.”

-

“Trixie? Earth to Trixie!” The blue girl was pulled from the object of her attention as her grey-skinned friend noted, “I think maybe you might be obsessing a little.”

With a proud and indignant pout, Trixie sat up and declared, “The Great and Powerful Trrrixie does not obsess! She merely… focuses intently!” Her attention now fully upon her friend, she asked, “Anyway, enough about that. Did you bring them?”

A gleeful smile crossed her face, and Derpy opened her lunchbox and produced her promised goods. “As promised, peanut butter muffins.” A joyful squeal was her reward as she handed over one of the baked goods to Trixie. “I hope you like it. This is my first time trying this recipe out.”

Trixie took a bite of the muffin and moaned blissfully. “I love it! Thank you, Derpy!” Her joy was short-lived as she turned her attention back towards Sunset Shimmer. “Now if only everything else would work out in my favor for a change.” She noticed the uneasy look on her friend’s face and asked, “What?”

“Nothing.”

“Oh no, I know that look. Spill, Derpy.”

The blond sighed and looked to her friend with concern. “Trixie, I think you might be acting just a little too harsh towards Sunset Shimmer. I mean, I understand why, I was at the Fall Formal too, but maybe it’s time for you to let things go.”

Trixie’s free hand balled into a fist, but quickly loosened. “Derpy, you remember what happened that night, don’t you?”

“It’s hard to forget being brainwashed into someone’s teenage zombie minion.”

“And you really think I can let that go? Or that any of us should?” Trixie took another bite of her muffin, chewed and swallowed before continuing. “Principal Celestia should have expelled her for what she did. Instead she gets a suspension, and it’s like nothing happened. She might’ve said that she was sorry, but how do we know she wasn’t lying?”

A shrug. “Well, she did get blasted into the bottom of a crater by magic.”

“Yes, and that’s an entirely different kettle of fish.” She turned to her friend and asked, “But why are you so eager to get me to be nice to her?”

“Well, ignoring that whole episode at the Fall Formal, I don’t think she’s ever been truly bad.” At her friend’s incredulous look, Derpy turned as much as she could to face her and asked, “What’s the first thing you noticed when you first saw me?”

Trixie bowed her head and admitted with a little shame, “Your eyes.”

“Just like everyone else.” The wall-eyed girl gestured to her face and noted, “Most look at me and feel bad for me because of my strabismus. A lot of them get over it eventually. But there’s a few, kids from my old school especially, who took one look at me and, well, assume that I’m ‘special’, and treat me accordingly.” The air-quotes she made only emphasized her point. “And not the ‘put her up on a pedestal because she’s inspirationally disadvantaged’ kind of treat me accordingly, but that’s bad too.”

“We both know that you’re not retarded, Derpy. And no one here calls you by that name because they think you are.”

“No, but I am kind of a klutz with everything that doesn’t involve muffins.” The two girls laughed at that before Derpy continued, “Anyway, Sunset Shimmer’s never called me that once. I’ve always just been ‘Ditzy Doo’ to her.” A shrug, and she admitted, “I know that really isn’t impressive, but let’s face it, I was an easy target, and she never took a shot at me. Even at her worst, when she had the best chance to get away with it.”

Trixie rolled her eyes and sarcastically remarked, “What do you know? Sunset Shimmer cares about being politically correct.” She sighed and added, “More likely she knew that we all care about you here, and that she’d be chased out of town by an angry mob if she ever hurt you.”

“Well, I’m glad it never came to that.” A small smile crossed her lips as she noted, “But I guess that explains why I didn’t get caught in that Anon-A-Miss stuff.”

“Please; you’re an open book.” Trixie looked to Sunset and noted, “I honestly thought it was her behind all of that.”

“But it wasn’t.” Both turned to the Crusaders, huddled together and all but isolated from the rest of the student body. “They must feel terrible about what happened. I mean, what they did was mean, but still, I don’t think they thought it would go so far as it did. And I’m glad it didn’t go as far as it could have, whoever that student was.”

“Agreed. Bare minimum, Trixie is glad that she didn’t add any fuel to that fire. Guilt is not something I prefer to be intimate with.”

“Or me.” A small grin spread across her face as she asked, “So, an angry mob?”

“I’d light the torches myself.”

-

A soft, cold breeze drifted past her as she strode down from the parking lot to the front entrance of Canterlot High. She didn’t mind it too much. A part of her actually enjoyed the cold, as it reminded her of all the fun she’d have out in the snow with her best friend in the world. She’d had many a happy memory since, but those were the earliest ones, and the ones that stuck closest to the forefront of her mind despite feeling like an eternity in the past.

She sighed as some sad memories swirled to the surface of her mind, the bad intermingled with the good. They were a part of who she was, of course, and what ultimately led to her chosen profession, but still, it was not something she liked to dwell upon. The world was filled with more good than bad, and it was her place to help others see that.

This time, however, it seemed like she had her work cut out for her.

Finally, she reached the door, and just as one of her greyish heliotrope hands reached out to open it, it opened for her, a familiar face smiling at her. She smiled back and remarked, “You’ve messed up pretty badly for me to be here, Celestia.”

The principal’s smile turned into a smirk. “But I do have the courage to admit to my wrongs.” The newcomer entered, the door closed behind her, and the two women hugged. “And that includes not getting you here sooner, if only to see an old friend again. I’ve got more than one reason to be glad to see you here again, Hope.”

“Well, I won’t promise a miracle, but I’ll do my best to help.” A twinkle was in her arctic blue eyes as the two made their way through the school. “So, teacher’s lounge?”

“Conference room. I’m hoping that they can figure things out on their own. Far more rewarding that way.”

A soft giggle. “Celie, someday you’re going to be too tricky for your own good.”

“Oh, I hope not. I know how that can go wrong.”

-

“Anyway, we aren’t really going to be doing much today beyond sitting in and getting a feel for our classes. Nothing heavy until tomorrow.” Sparkler shrugged. “Not that I’m complaining.”

“Guess that makes eight of us.” Dash grinned as she leaned in and conspiratorially informed the newcomers, “The six of us are exempt from our classes this afternoon. Long story.”

“Though why we’re exempt isn’t exactly a good thing,” Fluttershy quietly noted. “I hope that you’ll understand if we don’t talk about it right now.”

The two looked to one another briefly, then nodded as Rose answered, “We can wait to find out, I guess.” She then turned discussion elsewhere. “So, what do you guys get up to after school?”

“Plenty a’ stuff; Ah got work to take care of back on the farm, Dash has practice, Pinkie, Rarity and Sunset have their jobs, and Fluttershy’s either volunteerin’ at the shelter or the vet’s office.”

Sparkler’s eyes lit up with interest. “Shelter? As in an animal shelter?” At the shy girl’s nod, she smiled eagerly and said, “I love animals! Do you need any more volunteers there?”

“Oh my goodness, yes!” Fluttershy’s own expression lit up as she dove into her backpack and pulled out a flier for the local animal shelter. “We’re always looking for a little extra help! So many puppies and kittens and bunnies and all sorts of other animals need attention, after all, and every little bit helps!” She suddenly caught herself and amended, “Well, of course, we’d welcome whatever you can provide.”

Sparkler laughed and accepted the flier. “I’ll do what I can to find time. Thankfully, I’m pretty organized, and Dad won’t say no. Maybe if I’m lucky, I can convince him to let me bring one home. He’s had a weakness for cats for years.”

Before anyone could comment upon that, the intercom blared from overhead. :“Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Sunset Shimmer, please report to the second floor conference room after lunch.”:

“And that’s us.” Sunset turned to the two new girls and said, “Anyway, if anything comes up or you need any help, just ask.” Her lunch finished, Sunset went to take care of her trash, the rest following shortly thereafter. The easy part of the day was over. Now the real trouble would begin.

Author's Note:

A brief bit of calm before everything gets cranked up. Hope no one complains. Also, peanut butter muffins are a real thing. As is peanut butter ice cream and, as I learned today, peanut butter milk shakes.

Speaking of muffins, does anyone else think that Derpy's audition for the Friendship Games somehow involved muffin juggling? I think that would be pretty awesome, her juggling muffins.

And if folks can't figure out the twist to come involving Sparkler and Rose, don't feel too bad. It won't be completely obvious for a while yet, but I like to think enough hints are there for someone to make a guess. Sooner to gain clarity is the identity of the shrink, however.

Edit on 7/7/2017 - I noticed a small gaffe and fixed it.

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