• Published 28th Jul 2016
  • 2,991 Views, 83 Comments

"Teach Me Goodness" - Posh

Cheerilee bids farewell to her friends and students before going back to school in Fillydelphia.

  • ...

(Original Story) Bonitatem Doce Me

Author's Note:


This is the original version of "Teach Me Goodness," submitted under the title Bonitatem Doce Me for the Writeoff Association's July 2016 FiM short story contest. It has been preserved in all its crapulence for those of you who wish to, uh, enjoy it.

Original Author's Note

This was my entry for the July 2016 FiM short story write-off. It, to my genuine shock, won, against many other stories which I thought were far better.

I've made a few minor edits, mostly for proofreading (as well as fixing two tiny continuity snarls resulting from errors in editing), but for the most part, this is identical to what I submitted to the competition, for better or for worse. At some point, I'll go back and revise it more thoroughly based on the feedback that I got, and submit that as the SUPER SPECIAL AWESOME REVISED SPECIAL EDITION WITH DEWBACKS AND DIGITALLY RESTORED JABBA THE HUTT, but the reception it got was positive enough that I feel comfortable posting it as-is.

The title of the story comes from the motto of the real-world College of Mount Vernon.

Summer vacation. The words had been on every pair of lips in the schoolhouse all month.

Across the classroom, foals whiled away the school year, chatting and signing yearbooks and every so often glancing at the clock, watching the seconds tick steadily away. Five minutes were all that remained, five minutes that could not pass quickly enough.

Cheerilee watched the clock with a sense of dread proportional to the students' excitement.

The last day of the semester was half the length of a regular school day, and little more than a formality. All tests had been graded and passed back; all final papers were read and marked up and returned. There was little to do that hadn't already been done, so Cheerilee assigned an in-class essay on the students' summer vacation plans that she had no intention of grading or returning, gave the foals a few extra minutes of recess, and allowed them to spend what time remained signing yearbooks and chatting and simply being the bright-eyed, precocious children she'd come to know and love.

She spent those last few minutes navigating the rows of desks, unnoticed, etching every detail of the day in her memory. A powerful sense of regret filled her. Moving forward in her life meant leaving behind what she'd built for herself in Ponyville. She'd come to terms with that a while ago. But saying goodbye to her students... That hurt too much to contemplate.

So she put it off, and kept putting it off, until the day came when they would gather under the same roof for the last time, and she knew she could put it off no longer.

Cheerilee walked to the front of the classroom and savored the view for a few more precious seconds before speaking.

"Settle down, everypony! If I could have your attention for the last few minutes of class?"

The chatter took a few seconds to die down, but one by one, her students dutifully gave Cheerilee their undivided attention. Their shining faces and barely restrained excitement brought a smile of her own to Cheerilee's face.

"Thank you all for being here today. I know that showing up for a half-day on the last day before vacation can seem a little pointless, but it gives us all a little more time to spend together. Years from now, when you look back on today, you'll realize how special those moments were." Her smile dimmed as her students' brightened. "Before you all leave, I have a final announcement to make."

"Oh no! You're goin' to jail, aren'tcha?!" Apple Bloom's question had her looking distressed. "You can't go to jail! Fight the law, Miss Cheerilee; you can win!"

Somepony else picked up the cry, and it carried across the room from one mouth to the next. Before long, all of her little ponies were pounding their hooves on their desks and chanting "Fight! The! Law! Fight! The! Law!"

Cheerilee's hoof met her forehead, but behind it, she was smiling. "I'm afraid it's nothing quite so colorful as that," she called over the chant. It died down gradually. "Rather, it's..."

She hesitated. For years, Cheerilee had been a rock in front of the classroom, the very picture of stability and confidence. Now she was stammering and shuffling her hooves like a nervous TA.

Just say it, damn you; just get it all out there.

"I'm moving." She spat the words out at last in an abrupt burst of air. In a slower, more measured cadence, she continued. "To Fillydelphia."

She waited patiently while her students absorbed the news, each one reacting in their own way. Rumble looked stricken; his jaw hung open. Twist took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. Apple Bloom's ears wilted against her head, and Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle exchanged a glance. Silver Spoon leaned toward Diamond Tiara to whisper something in her ear. Diamond Tiara gave no reply; she did nothing, said nothing. Her unfocused gaze drifted to the front of the room, looking past Cheerilee.

Then came the questions, an incoherent torrent of rushed, inquisitive babbling, ponies all jockeying with one another to be heard.

"Why are you moving? Are you quitting being a teacher?"

"Did you win the lottery and decide to retire?"

"Was it us? Are you moving because you don't like us anymore?"

Cheerilee held up a hoof, signaling for quiet, and let the furor die down again before she continued speaking.

"First of all, no, I'm not going to quit teaching. Second, I'm not leaving on account of anypony. This is my own decision." She drew courage from that reminder, and spoke with growing confidence. "I've decided to pursue a doctorate at the University of Fillydelphia."

That caused more than a few scrunchy, confused noses.

"You're becoming a doctor?" asked Rumble. "But how can you be a doctor and a teacher? Are you gonna be a teacher to other doctors? Teaching 'em how to do liver transplants and amputations and drain abscesses? Stuff like that?"

"Don't be a creepy weirdo, Rumble," snapped Silver Spoon. "She isn't studying to be a medical doctor. Having your doctorate just means that you're the most educated you can possibly be in your field. Which, for her, is teaching." She beamed at Cheerilee. "Right?"

"Something like that, Silver Spoon. Although that was an unnecessarily rude way to speak to your classmate." Cheerilee's face grew stern as she chastised the filly.

Silver Spoon, thus chastened, mumbled an apology to Rumble, who shrugged blithely. "I am a creepy weirdo. She's just callin' it like she sees it."

A fit of giggles came over the class. Cheerilee let it run its course before signaling for quiet again.

"I know this comes as a surprise to everypony," Cheerilee continued. "The truth is that I've wanted to do this for a while. But I kept putting it off, because I..." Her motherly smile returned. "Well, I'm quite happy here. I love my life in Ponyville; I love my friends, and I love my students. But I came to a point in my life where I realized that, if I didn't do this now, I probably never would."

She was perfectly happy and comfortable. In fact, she would be perfectly content to live and die as Ponyville's schoolteacher. But there would always be that little part of her that would nag and nag, that lingering regret at reaching to the sky and stopping just short if she didn't.

It was all said and done, anyway; she found a nice little apartment adjacent to the campus in Fillydelphia during a visit over the spring break; her house had sold with little fanfare; what little she owned that would fit in the apartment was already shipped to her new home, and what wouldn't was in storage. It was difficult, and she had to force herself not to stop and turn around at times, but everything was in motion now. She couldn't go back even if she truly wanted to.

Snips waved his hoof in the air. "When are you leaving?"

She'd been waiting for that question. It didn't make hearing it any easier. "On the first train to Fillydelphia tomorrow morning," she said hesitantly. "At seven sharp."

At that, the class erupted in cries of remorse and disbelief. The Cutie Mark Crusaders turned and huddled close to one another, sneaking glances back at their teacher. Silver Spoon morosely twisted a lock of hair around her hoof. Diamond Tiara continued to stare at nothing.

"I'm sorry for not telling you sooner." Cheerilee raised her voice this time, speaking over the class. "You deserved to know that you wouldn't be seeing me when you came back from vacation, and you deserved to hear it a long time ago. But I didn't want to spend our last few months together with that hanging over our heads."

I couldn't come to work every morning and look you all in the eye with that sense of finality between us.

"There's going to be a little get-together for me at Sugarcube Corner tonight. Anypony who wants to come out and say goodbye is more than welcome. Otherwise..."

The class fell silent and listened, rapt.

"I want you to know that my years as your teacher have been the best of my life, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. Thank you for making my life so—"

The bell cut her off, filling the room with its hideous ring. Cheerilee slumped over, shaking her head with a sardonic chuckle.

There's a lesson in here about procrastination.

"The party starts tonight at seven-thirty," she called as the students shuffled away from their desks, all traces of excitement and glee gone. "I hope to see some of you there!"

Silver Spoon said something to Diamond Tiara again, and again received no response. With a worried look at her friend, Silver Spoon left the schoolhouse along with the other foals, heading off into their first summer afternoon.

Diamond Tiara didn't move from her desk, and Cheerilee felt a mounting concern of her own. "You know, it's a beautiful day outside," she ventured, keeping her voice sweet. "I'm sure you don't want to spend any more of it than necessary cooped up in this old schoolhouse."

Diamond Tiara folder her forelegs tightly together on her desk. Her eyes found Cheerilee for the first time since the announcement.

"You're really just gonna go?"

Cheerilee had expected some of her students to take the news harder than others. She hadn't expected that Diamond Tiara, of all ponies, would be one of them. Throughout her time as Diamond Tiara's teacher, she reached out to her just as much as she would any other filly under her charge, but she seldom saw Diamond Tiara reaching back. She thought about her many memories of the filly: Diamond Tiara with her perfect grades, Diamond Tiara raising funds for the school, Diamond Tiara chairing the yearbook committee...

Diamond Tiara harassing Apple Bloom, Diamond Tiara pouting in detention, Diamond Tiara muckraking on the whole town...

But she hadn't seen that filly in her classroom for a long time, and she didn't see her now. Nor did she see the cheerful, gregarious Diamond Tiara who'd been showing up to her class since losing the school election to Pipsqueak. The wan, depressed filly she saw at the desk was very different from any iteration of Diamond Tiara she'd heretofore met.

Cheerilee sighed. "I'm afraid so."

Diamond Tiara rested her chin on her folded hooves. "But you're gonna keep being a teacher?"

"I am. Teaching is my passion, my calling. And, not to put too fine a point on it, my destiny" Cheerilee glanced at the flowers on her flank. "I won't ever stop teaching, or wanting to be a teacher. Think of my doctorate as..." She trotted down the aisle to Diamond Tiara's desk as she tried to put it into words. "As a way for me to be a better teacher. To be recognized by my fellow teachers. To learn from them, and help them learn from me. To help all teachers, everywhere, be better at what they do. Because fillies like you deserve it."

Cheerilee arrived at Diamond Tiara's desk, her shadow falling upon the filly's face. Diamond Tiara watched her impassively, sunk up to her chin in her forelegs.

"Is there something you'd like to talk about?" She put on her most encouraging smile and spoke as kindly as she could.

All for naught. "I'm fine," said Diamond Tiara, with a supercilious tone that Cheerilee hadn't heard from her in a very long time. She ripped her gaze away from Cheerilee, shoved away from her desk, and trotted out the door.

Cheerilee watched her leave, a perplexed look on her face. This behavior was new, and troubling, and something she neither expected nor was prepared for from her.

Perhaps she'll come around. Maybe I'll see her at the party tonight, and we can clear the air. She didn't want to part with any of her students on poor terms. But that might be unavoidable now. I should have told them sooner; I shouldn't have kept the truth from them.

Keeping the news of her departure quiet was something of a task in itself. Luckily, Cheerilee was fairly unassuming, and few took notice of her activities outside of the schoolhouse, of the wagons that came and went from her home, laden with possessions and furniture. She quietly found a buyer for her home without officially putting it on the market, to avoid attracting attention with real estate signage A few ponies knew – the Mayor, who needed to find a replacement, other ponies she was close to, and of course, Pinkie Pie had to know if she was to plan the farewell party. But all in all, Cheerilee wanted to keep her exit from Ponyville as quiet as possible, all to avoid drawing the attention of her students and forcing herself into confronting the reality that she was leaving them behind.

That meant hitting them with it all at once, though, with little time to prepare themselves emotionally. It hit her all at once, too. The emotions were overpowering; it took everything in her not to start crying in the empty schoolhouse.

Time enough for that on the train, or in Fillydelphia. I want to hold on to my happiness for as long as possible.

She wondered who was faring worse with this news – herself, or her students.

The steady rhythm of the electronic beat pounded in Cheerilee's ears as she finished signing the yearbook, writing her signature with a flourish and dotting her "i" with a doodle of a smiling flower. Cheerilee dropped the pencil from her mouth; the pink shimmer of an alicorn princess's magic caught it and tucked it back behind her ear, meticulously combing her mane over it to make it as unobtrusive as possible.

"All done, Featherweight," she said, beaming at the diminutive pegasus. "Thank you for the memories."

"Thank you, Miss Cheerilee!" Featherweight hopped up, fluttering his little wings to bring himself to eye level with Cheerilee, and wrapped his rail-thin forelegs around her neck. Cheerilee returned his embrace with a nuzzle. "You're the best teacher there ever was!"

"Maybe not the best. But top ten material? Definitely."

Featherweight pulled back and fluttered to the floor, and waved one last time before a passing conga line headed by Pinkie Pie swept him up in its undulating wake.

The party's turnout had an ebb and flow to it. Well-wishers came, lingered, and went; ponies she was closer to stuck around longer. A few had been there since nearly the beginning of the night. In particular, Twilight Sparkle was among the first to come calling and spent most of the night in Cheerilee's company while Spike tried his hand at Pinkie's party games. But there was never a point where Sugarcube Corner felt empty, or lifeless. For everypony who went out the door, another two came in, wanting a chance to bid farewell to their town's beloved schoolteacher, a fixture in the community for so long. It warmed her to know that she was so loved by so many.

What warmed her more were the students. She hoped that some would show up; she hadn't expected nearly as many as actually did. They came in groups and bunches, yearbooks clutched in their mouths, and begged their teacher's autograph. Cheerilee signed them all, and gladly, taking time out of her party to write a personalized farewell to each of them. There were hugs, and tears, and expressions of love and gratitude, and more than once, Cheerilee had to remind herself that it was too late to simply drop everything and remain their teacher forever.

But damn, her mouth was sore from all the writing.

Cheerilee kneaded her cheek. "You know," she remarked to the alicorn standing beside her, "not one of them asked me to sign their yearbooks this morning. Which isn't unusual, really. But now?" She worked her jaw from side-to-side. "Fourteen yearbooks in an hour. An hour! I haven't written that much in so short a time since college!"

Although I suppose I should get used to it again, or else invest in a typewriter.

Twilight Sparkle, who had taken it upon herself to organize the crowd of students and keep Cheerilee hydrated between signings, giggled. "You'd probably be less sore if you didn't take the time to write such detailed messages to them." A glass of punch floated beside her head, and she sipped a little of the purple mixture.

"Probably not," said Cheerilee. "But then, what's even the point? I'm saying goodbye to them, Twilight; I can't just write 'have a good summer' eighteen times."

"I suppose." Twilight sighed. "That kind of dedication is admirable, Cheerilee. It's gonna be hard finding somepony who can match it. Speaking of, how's the search for the new teacher coming along?"

Cheerilee shrugged. "I have no direct say in it. The Mayor showed me the shortlist of candidates, and I gave my input on all of them; she'll probably interview them before the month is out. Truth be told, they'd all make capable teachers, but none of them were really my first choice."

"Really?" Twilight drained her glass of punch. "Who was?"

"Oh, you know. You." Cheerilee winked.

Twilight's eyes flew open in surprise. Thankfully, downing her punch before asking the question precluded the possibility of a spit-take.

"M-me? Why me?!"

"Why not? You'd be a wonderful teacher. The foals like you; you're empathetic, and you're smart as a whip." She grinned. "And I've seen you lecture before – both academically and as a hobby. Take it from a pro; you're a natural."

Twilight blushed.

"That was a passing fancy, though," Cheerilee continued. "You have your duties as Princess, after all. I mean, what, am I gonna ask you to abdicate and live on a schoolteacher's salary for the rest of your life?" Cheerilee closed her eyes and laughed, but stopped when she realized Twilight wasn't laughing with her. She looked, and saw contemplation on the princess's face.

"You're... you're not seriously thinking of doing that now, are you?" Cheerilee asked.

"What?" Twilight blinked. "No, of course not. Just..." She tapped her hooves together. "Maybe… taking a little time off to get credentialed, is all..."

Cheerilee chuckled and pulled Twilight in for a hug. "You know, I'm really going to miss you, Twilight. It's been a joy getting to know you."

"You too, Cheerilee." Twilight returned the embrace. "You'll stay in touch, right?"

"Of course! And you had better visit." Cheerilee pulled away, holding Twilight at length with her hooves, and thumped her left wing gently. "Now that you've got these big ol' things to carry you back and forth, you don't have an excuse not to."

"Well, there's that," said Twilight with a conspiratorial grin. "And I can do it at the crown's expense."

"Why, Princess Twilight!" said Cheerilee with a scandalized gasp. "Such gross abuse of royal authority and taxpayer money!" She scowled condemningly, and held it for precisely three seconds before both the teacher and the princess collapsed into mutual laughter.

The bell at the door jingled, making Cheerilee's ears perk. She turned, and her smile widened at the sight of the latest arrival. "Diamond Tiara!" she called, waving at her erstwhile student. "You made it! And..." She took note of the mare standing over her, looking down her nose at everypony in the room.

"And you've brought your mother! How wonderful!"

Internally, she sighed. How wonderful.

"Yes, well," said Spoiled Rich, marching across the room toward Cheerilee with her daughter trudging along beside her. "We're holding a wine tasting in our private cellar tonight, but Diamond Tiara felt her presence was required here, for some reason, and insisted somepony escort her. Filthy demurred, and our butler Cummerbund is still on vacation in Las Pegasus with his brother, Wood-something-or-other." She scoffed. "And the rest of our household staff has their hooves full waiting on our guests. So, apparently, the task had to fall to me." She frowned at her daughter. "Surely you must realize how self-centered you are acting right now."

"Yes, mother," mumbled Diamond Tiara. She gave Cheerilee the briefest of glances before returning her eyes to the floor.

Spoiled nodded. "Naturally, I can't stay, as I am expected back posthaste. Diamond Tiara, you'll be alright making your way home by yourself, I trust?"

"Yes, mother," mumbled Diamond Tiara again. Her voice remained robotic as she gave the same canned answer to her mother.

"Splendid." Spoiled beckoned at Twilight Sparkle. "Now, Princess Twilight, be a dear and take Diamond Tiara. I'd like to say a few words to Ms. Cheerilee."

Twilight looked taken aback, but did as she was bid, drawing a wing around Diamond Tiara and leading her away toward the snack table. She leaned into Cheerilee's ear as she passed. "Just give a signal if you need me to rescue you."

"Such a helpful young mare," Spoiled remarked. "So down-to-earth and easy to speak to. One almost forgets that she was given her crown instead of being properly born into it." She clicked her tongue. "The peasant princess. What is this world coming to?"

Cheerilee felt a moment of pity for her successor. Perhaps I should leave a note of warning…

Spoiled turned back to Cheerilee. "Now, I am given to understand that you're moving to Fillydelphia, yes? To pursue an education?"

"Uh, y-yes." Cheerilee smiled. "A doctorate, actually."

"You know, I attended the University of Fillydelphia myself, back in my youth."

"Did you? What was your major?"

"Undeclared. Four years running."

"I... wasn't aware that you could graduate undeclared."

"There is much and more that you're not aware of; no doubt that's why you're going back to school." The corners of Spoiled's mouth lifted slightly.

Cheerilee maintained her polite facade with an effort.

"In any case, I wish you all the joy of it. I hope that whoever takes over your job may prove just as... adequate... as you." Spoiled sniffed and turned to the door. "Goodbye, Ms. Cheerilee."

Spoiled Rich left without sparing her daughter a word, or indeed, even a glance. Diamond Tiara didn't seem to notice; she kept her eyes on a cup of punch balanced on one of her hooves, sipping from a straw while Twilight spoke to her.

Cheerilee crossed to the snack table; Twilight saw her coming and backed away with a word of farewell to Diamond Tiara. The princess and the teacher exchanged a look of exasperation as they passed one another.

The notion of telling Twilight about Spoiled Rich's title for her crossed Cheerilee's mind briefly before being discarded.

"I'm glad you could make it!" Cheerilee said brightly to Diamond Tiara. "Did you bring your yearbook?"

"Mm-mm." Diamond Tiara sipped again.

"Oh. That's... I ask because your classmates all brought theirs. I'd have been happy to sign yours for you."

"That's okay."

"Do you want me to write something down for you anyway? You could always tape it to one of the pages of your book. I'm sure Pinkie Pie has something to write on somewhere around here."

"No, thank you." The last remnants of punch slurped through the straw, and Diamond Tiara discarded it in a wastebin to her left without looking.

Cheerilee bit her lip. "Diamond, is everything alright?"


"Are you sure?" Cheerilee knelt and reached out to the filly. Diamond Tiara started to pull away, but stopped, and let Cheerilee's hoof rest on her shoulder. "I can tell that something's bothering you. If there's something you need to talk about, or something you need to say to me, I'm here to listen. Okay? So please, don't hold anything back."

Diamond Tiara squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath. She looked at Cheerilee. "Ms. Cheerilee... the thing is—"

The door jingled again, and Cheerilee looked up in time to see Applejack sauntering over, grinning. Beside her was Rarity, a more subdued smile on her face. Both wore saddlebags over their flanks.

"Cheerilee, you ol' so-and-so," said Applejack. "Thought you could slither on outta here without gettin' a proper Apple family goodbye?"

"In point of fact, Applejack, I believe that's what the party is for," Rarity pointed out.

"Aw, that's a town goodbye. Totally diff'rent from an Apple family goodbye. Apple family goodbyes got a lot more present-givin' involved!" Applejack went in for a hug, acknowledging Diamond Tiara with a quick "hiya, DT; good t'see ya."

Cheerilee watched the filly's face fall. She patted Applejack back twice before disengaging. "Thank you for coming," she said hastily, "and I'm very glad to see you. But Diamond Tiara and I were just—"

"Forget it. It's nothing." Diamond Tiara shot Cheerilee a haughty glare and quickly stole away.

Rarity watched the filly go, an eyebrow raised. "Is she quite alright?"

"I don't know." Cheerilee frowned. "She's taking this awfully hard, I think, and she hasn't been very forthcoming when I've asked."

I should have said something sooner.

It was then that she noticed that neither Applejack nor Rarity had brought their requisite plus-one. "Where are your sisters, by the way? I was hoping I'd see them tonight, but they haven't been in at all.

Neither has Scootaloo, come to think of it, even after Rainbow Dash came and went.

"Oh, uh..." Applejack exchanged a look with Rarity. "We're, um..."

"We're not supposed to tell you," Rarity supplied. "If they could be here, they would be, I'm sure, but they've their hooves full with some project or other."

Cheerilee was quite familiar with the Cutie Mark Crusaders' projects. One in particular had adorned her bedroom wall at home for some time, and would have made it into her apartment if only she had space enough for a vast, sparkly pink heart. It went away into storage, sadly, but Cheerilee took comfort from knowing that it would surely brighten up the place.

"But we wanted to stop by on our own accord, and bid farewell face-to-face," said Rarity. "After everything you've done for our sisters, it seems only fitting."

"She's got the right of it," said Applejack. "That, and it wouldn't be right to send y'all off without somethin' good t'remember us by. So..." Applejack reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a jug of cider, which Cheerilee accepted and cradled in her foreleg. A sketch of Granny Smith grinned at her on the label.

"That right there?" Applejack pointed at the bottle, smirking. "That's the good stuff, Cheerilee. Makes what Filthy and Spoiled Rich serve at their wine-tastin' shindigs look like expired grape juice."

"Applejack, I'm…" Cheerilee shook her head. "This must cost… I can't accept—"

"Never you mind that," said Applejack, holding up her hoof. "I could give you a hunnerd bottles o'that same cider; it wouldn't come close to payin' back what we owe you. For everythin' you've done for Apple Bloom, an' for bein' a friend to us all. You take that, and you take my gratitude, an' that'll be the end of it. Y'hear?"

Cheerilee, at a loss for words, could only tuck the bottle under her foreleg and nod her thanks to Applejack.

Rarity cleared her throat. "As for me, well, my first thought was to put together something for you to wear – an outfit, a dress, a kicky beret – but on such short notice, I simply didn't have the time to do you justice. So instead, I went in a very different direction altogether. I'm sure it's something you'll appreciate."

Rather than reach into the bag, as Applejack did, she simply undid the strap holding it in place and set it on the floor in front of Cheerilee. Cheerilee peered inside and looked up at Rarity with confusion. "Gemstones? Don't you kind of… need these?"

"They're not just any gemstones, Cheerilee," said Rarity with feigned indignation. "There's history behind these – shared history! Do you remember when we were fillies, and I made those costumes for your performance?"

"I remember being the sparkliest sunflower that ever swayed on a stage," said Cheerilee with a nostalgic chuckle. "That was how you got your cutie mark, right? You found those gemstones and used them to decorate our––" Her eyes widened as she realized precisely what was in the bag.

Rarity smiled knowingly. "The very last of the vintage. As a reminder of days gone by."

Blinking back tears, and once more at a loss for words, Cheerilee set the cider bottle beside the bag of gemstones and pulled both mares into an embrace.

"I think she liked mine more," Rarity whispered teasingly to Applejack.

Cheerilee glanced at Applejack's face in time to see her roll her eyes, and found herself laughing her tears away.

The summer night's air was crisp and warm, but a welcome contrast to the stifling heat of the party inside. Cheerilee sighed with relief as she emerged, and she sat on the front steps to Sugarcube Corner, gazing up at the night sky.

So many stars.

Owing, of course, to the relative lack of light pollution in Ponyville. There wouldn't be many nights like that in Fillydelphia. Fillydelphia was bright, and brilliant, a city that never slept. Instead of shining in the sky, the stars shone in the street.

"I'm going to miss that sky," Cheerilee softly mused.

"So don't go," came a muffled voice from beside the stairs.

Diamond Tiara sat beneath one of Sugarcube Corner's front windows, her back against a chunk of gingerbread facade. Her cheeks were stained with dried tears, and her eyes were red from crying.

"Diamond? What are you doing out here by yourself?" Cheerilee hopped off of the stairs and sat beside the filly.

Diamond Tiara said nothing.

"Do you mind if I sit with you a while?"

Again, no spoken reply, but she gave the barest shake of her head.

Cheerilee settled beside Diamond Tiara, the muted beat of the music inside still pulsing in her ears. "I'm sorry we were interrupted before," she said. "I didn't mean to ignore you. Do you want to finish saying what you wanted to say?"

Diamond Tiara looked away, shutting her eyes. She shook her head.

"Okay. We don't need to talk; we can just sit here, if you'd like. Maybe the company will make you feel better."

"Nothing's gonna make me feel better."

"Well, that can't be true." Cheerilee smiled. "You have a lot of love in your life. A lot of friends, good friends, who I know want to see you happy. And, of course, it's summer vacation. You must have plans."

"The Neighchelles." Diamond Tiara's voice was utterly unenthusiastic. "My parents own a villa by the beach. We're leaving next week and staying for a month."

"Oh, the Neighchelles!" Cheerilee said, pressing her hooves together. "I've never been, but I hear they're lovely this time of year. Well, there you go! You'll come home smiling from that, I'm sure."

"No. I won't." Diamond Tiara wiped her eyes and looked up at Cheerilee. "Because you'll still be gone."

Cheerilee's smile failed to withstand the remark, and fell to pieces. "Diamond, sweetheart…"

The door to Sugarcube Corner burst open so loudly and suddenly that Cheerilee and Diamond Tiara both jumped. Pinkie Pie emerged, balancing on her back a cake frosted to look like a smiling flower. "Oh doctor~!" she sang. "Time for you to make the first incision! Ya geddit?!"

Cheerilee made eye contact with Pinkie and drew her hoof across her own neck rapidly, shaking her head.

Pinkie blinked, glanced at Diamond Tiara, blinked again. She grinned sheepishly and backed inside, cake and all.

Cheerilee turned back to the filly. "Diamond, I know how difficult farewells can be. I know I haven't made it very easy on you, either." She dug her hoof into the dirt nervously.

I should have told you all so much sooner.

"But you know that it isn't going to be goodbye forever, right? I'll come back and visit as often as I can... and you and I can always write to each other in the meanwhile."

"But you still won't be here." Diamond Tiara rose to her hooves, glared furiously at Cheerilee through gleaming eyes. "I don't want you to visit; I don't want you to write. I want you to stay here. Don't you get it?!" Tears ran down her face freely. "Don't you know that we need you here? Don't you know that I need you?!"

"Diamond..." Cheerilee reached a trembling hoof toward her.

The filly batted it away spitefully. "You know what? Forget it. Just forget it and leave me alone. I'm not your problem anymore." Diamond Tiara galloped into the night, down the road that would take her home.

Cheerilee watched her go, ears wilting against her head.

Twilight Sparkle appeared at her side. She watched Diamond Tiara pass gradually out of sight. "I'll make sure she gets home safe," she said, patting Cheerilee on the shoulder. "You go back inside. This is your night, remember. Try to enjoy it?" With a sad smile, she spread her wings and ascended, leaving Cheerilee alone, all traces of festivity gone.

Alone, outside Sugarcube Corner, Cheerilee looked searchingly at the sky.

She didn't sleep that night. Instead, she stayed up reading her students' last essays, smiling fondly at their wishes for the summer. She came to Diamond Tiara's and set it aside, the pain too near for her to read it.

On the train. I'll read it on the train.

When morning came, Cheerilee was out the door an hour early, and spent her final moments in Ponyville wandering through the morning mist, privately bidding farewell to the familiar sights and locales of home. A pair of saddlebags, holding books and mementoes, gemstones and cider, and her students' last essays, were slung over her back. Everything else, furniture and formal wear, all and sundry, were already shipped away to Fillydelphia, and awaited her at her new home.

When the clock struck a quarter to seven, when she knew she could put it off no longer, Cheerilee made her way to the station. What few ponies were taking the early train alongside her waited inside, hiding behind books and magazines and newspapers, and keeping the morning cold at bay with steaming cups of coffee or cocoa. Cheerilee decided to wait alone on the platform, to fill her lungs with fresh Ponyville air for as long as she could.

She wasn't expecting to have company. It was a pleasant surprise when she saw the Cutie Mark Crusaders on the platform, huddled beneath their Crusader capes and leaning their bodies against one another, sound asleep. Beside Scootaloo was a rolled-up banner, and sitting between the three of them was a little rectangular box, done up with a ribbon in a neatly tied bow. Warmth blossomed in Cheerilee's chest as she realized that the box and ribbon matched her coat and mane. She walked up to them and watched them sleep, wondering what the last few years would have been like without the constant presence of the Cutie Mark Crusaders in the classroom.

Very dull indeed, no doubt. She would spend the rest of her life teaching, but she knew she would never meet another trio like them.

By and by, Scootaloo yawned, stretched out her limbs, and smacked her lips. Her eyelids fluttered open halfway, but when she caught sight of Cheerilee, they shot open. She shook both her friends awake. "Girls! She's here; wake up! She's here!"

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle stirred, saw their teacher, and shot to attention. The three lined up shoulder-to-shoulder like cadets out for muster.

Cheerilee smirked at the show of discipline. "How long have you three been waiting here?"

"Since five in the mornin'," Apple Bloom said casually.

"But it wasn't a big deal; we were up all night anyway," Sweetie Belle added.

"I can smell colors!" Scootaloo chirped.

Cheerilee bowed her head and hid her mouth with a hoof to hide her snickering.

"We're real sorry we missed your party," said Apple Bloom. The others nodded their agreement. "We decided that a special teacher like you deserved a special send-off, so we spent all night puttin' together some tokens of our appreciation!" She elbowed Sweetie Belle. "That's your cue, dictionary girl!"

"Oh, right." Sweetie Belle's horn shimmered; the banner beside Scootaloo lifted into the air and unfurled over the three fillies' heads. On either end of the banner, a trio of flowers smiled down at Cheerilee. Running between them was a message in big capital letters, coated with so much pink glitter that she had to squint in order to read it properly.


Cheerilee, once more touched beyond the telling of it, shook her head. "Girls, this is wonderful, but you didn't have to go to all this trouble for me. Just seeing you and saying goodbye would have been enough."

"We didn't wanna do jus' enough, though," said Apple Bloom. "You'd never settle for jus' enough, with us or anypony else. That's what makes you best teacher ever!"

"I came up with the words on the banner," said Sweetie Belle smugly. "And I painted the flowers. It was my idea to make them look like your cutie mark."

"And I did the lettering!" Scootaloo added, pressing a hoof to her chest. "Can you tell?"

"It certainly matches your aesthetic, Scootaloo," she said with a smile.

Judging by the blindingly thick coat of glitter...

"We're glad you like it," said Apple Bloom. "But don't thank us jus' yet, 'cuz that ain't all we got for ya." At once, the fillies stepped backward, the banner floating with them, leaving the box where it sat. They looked down at it together and grinned.

Cheerilee stepped forward and took the ribbon in her mouth. She pulled, undoing the delicately tied knot, and lifted the box's lid. Her breath hitched when she glimpsed what was inside: the bolt of maroon fabric, and the yellow filly silhouette inside the crudely stitched blue chevron.

Sweetie Belle cleared her throat in a manner that reminded Cheerilee painfully of Rarity. "We, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, in recognition of your many contributions to our education—"

"And to helpin' us find our special talents!" Apple Bloom chimed in.

"Yeah, that too." Sweetie Belle gave Apple Bloom a miffed look before continuing. "Do hereby confer upon you, Cheerilee, the title of Honorary Crusader, now and for all time. And as a symbol of your new status..."

Her magic pulled the cape from the box and draped it across Cheerilee's body, cinching its ends around her neck. The fabric was smooth and soft, velvety, and warded away the chill of the morning.

"We bequeath unto you this cape." Sweetie Belle's voice broke, and she wiped at her eyes. "May you wear it forever with pride."

"And may you never forget us," Scootaloo added quietly.

Cheerilee knelt and opened her forelegs wide. The fillies rushed into her embrace, and squeezed against their former teacher.

"I couldn't forget you three if I wanted to. Being your teacher and watching you grow up has been a privilege. No – a blessing." Cheerilee pulled them closer, tighter. "And I am so, so happy that you found one another."

They lingered in the embrace, even as the train that would take Cheerilee away churned up to the station and the conductor opened the passenger car's door. The passengers inside the station filed out, bearing their coffee and their newspapers, and boarded, one after another.

"I'm afraid that's my cue, girls." Cheerilee squeezed her students one last time before releasing them. "Thank you for everything." She pulled away, gave each one a last, lingering smile, and turned to board the train.

"Miss Cheerilee!" Scootaloo's voice chimed frantically. "Wait!"

Cheerilee stopped, halfway inside the car, and turned. Her heart skipped.

Diamond Tiara stood in the station's doorway, panting, an envelope in her mouth. She trotted toward Cheerilee, who disembarked and closed the rest of the distance between them, meeting halfway. Diamond Tiara set the envelope on the floor in front of her Cheerilee, pulled away when the older mare reached out toward her, and passed back inside the station without a word.

"Gosh." Apple Bloom rubbed the back of her neck. "She's really takin' this hard, ain't she?"

"She is." Cheerilee stooped to pick up the envelope and dropped it into her saddlebag. "She's going to need her friends more than ever, I'm afraid. I think she'll want her space, too, and you should respect that. But if she reaches out to you, be there for her. Will you do that?"

The Cutie Mark Crusaders nodded, resolutely, as one.

The conductor stepped out of the train car, glanced at his watch, then at Cheerilee. He coughed, jerked his head toward the car's interior, and headed back inside.

"Now, I'm afraid that really is my cue," said Cheerilee with a sad smile. She pulled her students together for one last quick hug, and boarded the train. The seat nearest the exit was unoccupied, and she sat facing the platform through the window. The lovable bundle of energy, wit, and headache-inducing scheming that called itself the Cutie Mark Crusaders stared back at her, waving and calling out to her.

Cheerilee pressed a hoof against the window and smiled back at them.

The train whistled and churned forward; the Crusaders ran the length of the platform after it, their last farewells inaudible through the glass.

Then they were gone, along with the rest of Ponyville.

Cheerilee set her saddlebags down beside her and pulled the cape closer, wondering how long she could justify keeping it on before it became socially unacceptable to do so. She reached her head into her saddlebag and sought the envelope Diamond Tiara had given her; she found and withdrew it, tore it open with her teeth, and shook out a piece of paper into her hooves – a letter, folded three times, in Diamond Tiara's impeccable (and instantly recognizable) penmanship. It was written in the simplistic, uncertain voice of a young writer, but its heartfelt contents brought tears back to Cheerilee's eyes as she read.

Dear Miss Cheerilee,

I'm sorry for being mean to you. I was sad, and I couldn't think of the right words, and everything came out all wrong. So instead I'm writing them down, and I hope I can get it right this time.

You've seen how my parents are. My daddy loves me, but he can't show it without spending money. My mom loves me, but she loves her image too, and I don't know which one she loves more. Neither of them have ever tried to get to know the pony I really am inside. Neither of them has ever tried to help me be the pony that I want to be.

I know I haven't always been a good student. I get good grades, but I didn't have many real friends for a really long time because I allenated alienated almost everypony my age. I still don't think that they all really like me. I think they're afraid of me, and I think that I deserve it.

But you're different. You've always been patient with me, even when I was rude and bratty and mean to everypony. You've believed in me and been there for me and tried to make me a better pony. I couldn't always show it, but I always appreciated it. Even when it seemed like I didn't.

The next sentence was hastily scribbled out, just barely legible beneath layers of scratches.

I wish I had a mom more like you.

You were so good to me, and I just wanted to make you proud. I wanted you to see me grow up into the mare you believed I could be. And it hurts knowing that you never will now. That's why I yelled at you. Again, I'm really sorry.

I hope you have fun in Fillydelphia. I hope you can become a doctor, and I hope that I can see you again someday. I promise I will never forget you. Please don't ever forget me.

-Diamond Tiara

Cheerilee folded the letter back and clutched it to her chest. She finally let the tears come freely, ignoring the stares from the other passengers as she wept for her student.

The train rolled steadily, on and on, toward Fillydelphia, toward the future.

"Diamond Tiara," sniffed Spoiled Rich, "I have had quite enough of your moping. You haven't left the house in a week. The neighbors have started to talk."

"Sorry, mother," mumbled Diamond Tiara. She lay on her bed, belly flat against the mattress, her forelegs hugging her pillow.

"I certainly hope you won't take this attitude with you on vacation," Spoiled continued. "Bad enough that the Neighchelles will be crawling with diamond dogs at this time of year. I don't want to deal with a sulking daughter on top of all the other unpleasantness."

"Yes, mother."

There was a knock at the door; Diamond Tiara heard hoofsteps, then Cummerbund's voice. "Letter for Madame Diamond."

Confused, Diamond Tiara stirred and rolled over to see Cummerbund standing in the doorway, a letter resting on an upturned hoof like a silver platter.

Spoiled looked skeptically at her daughter. "Who would be sending you a letter?"

Diamond Tiara, having no answer, just shook her head.

Spoiled harrumphed. "Never mind, then. I suggest you finish packing and then get ready for tonight. Jet Set and Upper Crust are meeting us at Chez Prance tonight. Dress up and be on your best behavior. No more of this moribundity. Are we clear?"

"Yes, mother." Diamond Tiara hopped off her bed and walked to Cummerbund. He lowered his hoof to her face and she took the envelope in her mouth.

With a last, haughty look, Spoiled left the room, and Cummerbund quietly closed the door behind them.

Diamond Tiara took the envelope to her desk and carefully opened it with her hooves. Lifting the flap, she drew out the contents – and let out a small gasp of surprise.

It was a glossy photograph of a smiling, pink-maned mare in a maroon-colored cape, decorated with a golden filly against a blue backdrop. She leaned against a brick sign with silver letters. "University of Fillydelphia," they read.

Trembling, Diamond Tiara flipped the photograph over, and saw a message in Cheerilee's mouthwriting.

"Bonitatem et disciplinam et scientiam doce me"

("Teach me goodness and discipline and knowledge" – The motto of the University of Fillydelphia!)

Forever yours, forever proud,

"Miss" Cheerilee

P.S. - Have fun on your trip, and please write back to me when you get home. I can't wait to read all about it!

Diamond Tiara stared at the message for a long, long time, blinking back tears. And, gradually, to her surprise, a little giggle built in her chest. She laughed, and shook her head, and pushed away from the desk, and laughed some more.

Then she reached under her bed, pulled out a suitcase, and opened it up.

"Alright, Diamond Tiara" she said to herself. "You heard the lady."

Comments ( 45 )

Glad to see this get posted so quickly. An excellent slice-of-life story about the choices people make, and the consequences -- intended and unforeseen -- that result.

It's a nice story, but I hope the real Diamond Tiara grows up to be a little more independent and sassy than the mopey, needy, rather put-upon and slightly dull filly that's depicted here.

For a start, she needs to show some fire and talk back to her mother a bit more, as depicted in Crusaders Of The Lost Mark. There was none of her leadership capabilities on display either, which is a bit of a surprise, considering it's her main talent. Oh well, still well worth a read.

Okay, how'd I miss this? This is a excellent story!

7433147 Now now, lets not go overboard. It is pretty good, but 'excellent' is a very strong word. There's certainly room for improvement. Even the author said so themselves, that's why they're looking for suggestions in the comments for a SUPER SPECIAL EDITION to be unfurled in the future (can't wait BTW)

But I definitely thoroughly enjoyed it, even as it now. :twilightsmile:

7433160 Entries in the contest had to be between 2k and 8k words in length. Even keeping in mind that FIMfiction bloats word counts, I was edging pretty close to the 8k limit (my final draft was just south of 7900 words), which means that a lot of stuff needed to be cut or condensed, including, as you pointed out, Diamond Tiara's arc.

There's a definite disconnect between her portrayal here and her portrayal in Crusaders of the Lost Mark. She's depressed, and a lot less outgoing and assertive because of it, but the problem I see with that is that there isn't enough room to show her coming out of that depression and returning to her more pleasant, optimistic, assertive post-S5 characterization. I settled for giving her a giggle fit at the end of the story, and even that isn't really enough.

In short, her arc isn't an arc so much as a flat plane with a little bump toward the end.

So as far as major changes to the story are concerned, revising DT's arc is the biggest one I plan on making. Without the constraints of a size limit, I think I can pull that off effectively, and I think that would address the point you raised about her portrayal.

7433241 I understand. I'm writing a story about her at the moment, and even after writing more than 170k words I still feel like I'm only halfway through scratching the surface of what I want to accomplish with it. To have a word limit imposed for the kind of development you specify would be almost unbearable for me, so I appreciate you've done the best you could under the tough rules foisted upon you. :twilightsmile:

I meant all the glowing things I said about this in the Writeoffs, and it was a well-deserved win. This is full of heart and character, a wonderful example that you don't have to have huge stakes or immortal alicorn angst to pull at the feels.

What does Bonitatem Doce Me mean?

7434237 "Teach Me Goodness". Part of the motto of the real-world College of Mount Vernon, which is something like "Teach Me Goodness and Discipline and Knowledge".


7435808 Because that would be an easy system for authors to abuse to get their stories ranked higher or featured.

And I know that because I am totally the kind of person who would do just that. :trollestia:

I really loved this! It felt like such an accurate portrayal of the kinds of feelings and emotions that come from real-life situations like these. Very down to earth, very grounded in reality. I'm not so good at being critical, but I am good at catching errors, and it seems that those pesky italics ate a few of your spaces.

To help allteachers, everywhere

Jet Set and Upper Crust are meeting us at Chez Prancetonight.

7436211 Thank you for catching those; I had a whale of a time fixing the formatting for FIMfiction, and I guess a couple little errors like that slipped through the cracks.

Finally got around to reading this, because I'm a terrible writeoff participant. It's very good, and it made me feel feelings, which is a plus.

I do, however feel that as clever as it is, your non-indicative title is preventing you from getting the horsepoints you rightly deserve.

7436964 I have similar concerns.


EDIT: I plan on submitting the revised version to EqD; maybe that'll get me additional horse points.

7435889 Well, this is one of the few stories that deserve it that I've read.

Well this certainly wasn't one of the fast food fad fics that crop up on here.

I really liked this story. Cherilee and DT were characterized well, and you gave the characters great motivations. Great job!

I hope that Cheerilee keeps in touch with these four for the rest of her life. I get the feeling that she will never find anypony similar to them ever again.

7446662 B-Bricklayer san, I... *blushes*

Thanks for adding it to all them bookshelves 'n groups, too. :twilightsmile:

7446671 You're welcome,:twilightsmile: though I do have one question. What does the title of the last chapter mean in English?:applejackconfused:

7446680 "Needs More Cowbell"

("Teach Me Goodness")

7446461 Something tells me she eventually will, if that first chewing out at the end of "Crusaders of the Lost Mark" is any indication.

7446685 Ah, now I understand. I assume the language you used for it is Latin?


7446979 I have to respectfully disagree; Discourse on Fillies makes Bonnie look like The Spiderses.

It was also the story that helped inspire Bonnie, incidentally. Go give it some love. :twilightsmile:

7449488 It is my fondest wish that I leave behind, as my legacy in this fandom, a fanon trend of Rumble being written as a creepy weirdo.

7467153 Diamond Tiara is one hundred percent the type to communicate through emoji.

Even in a world where emoji don't exist as we know them. Diamond Tiara finds a way.

That story threw me under the feels bus, pulled me out, saved my life and repeated the process until I was in tears. You are an excellent writer and you made the characters and everything so real. :heart:

This was a lovely story. Congrats on the Writeoff acclaim and the RCL spotlight :twilightsmile:

Why thank you :twilightblush: I'm honored.

7534661 I stand by my praise, consarnit.

What an absolutely beautiful, heartwarming story! This is, and will certainly remain, one of my very favorites on the site! :yay:

8003856 Thank you! Didn't you write that story about Coco Pommel adopting Babs Seed and teaching her capoeira? I swear it's on my Read Later.

8002385 Yeah, that reference is a twofer. I wasn't sure anyone would ever get it.:pinkiehappy:


Thanks. I hope you enjoy it when you get around to reading it.

And thanks for teaching me a new word! :twilightsmile:

The only thing that was more enjoyed while reading this was the sequel.

I remember reading the original of this, and now getting to see the revised....
Great work. This fic is still absolutely fantastic. :pinkiesad2:

8029480 Batman

8098654 I hope you caught all the super sexy foreshadowing that only real hardcore Horsepionage fans would get.

There wasn't any. Although Cummerbund the Butler is common between both stories.

Also featured in the Royale Canteloupe Liberty.

–It's the little differences. A lotta the same shit we got here, they got there, but there they're a little different.
–Alright, when you… in Canterlot, you can walk into a comic book store and buy a magical cross-dimensional portal. And I don't mean no mirror shit either. They give you a book that sucks you in. And in Canterlot, you know what they say when the store's offering free melons?
–They don't call them free melons?
–No. They call them "Cantaloupe Libertés."
–That Prench?
–Yeah, Prench. Motherbuckers don't even speak it in the capital but it's Cantaloupe Libertés.
–What do they call cheese hayburgers?
–They call 'em "Royales with cheese."
–Royales with cheese! Ahaha! What would they call Big Mac?
–Big Mac would still be Big Mac, but they'd make him, like, Princess Big Mac.

It was horrible, of course, but only the baseline Posh level of horrible. Which is to say, I have nothing to criticise. You and your damned real life inspired Cheerilee character writing, I swear...

0/10 - Off to read the sequels now.

This story is peak fanfiction. About halfway through the party scene, I realized, that I was no longer reading somebody's take on What if cheerilee left and DT wasn't about it? I was reading exactly how it would happen. You tapped into the universe and played it straight, yet I can tell you've added your own personal experience as a teacher to elevate the story somehow without making it self-indulgent. That's a straight-up magic trick.

I'm fully unsurprised that this won in the writeoff. Thanks for writing it, Poshimus. And remind me, when I'm working on my Cheerilee Travels the World Against Her Better Judgment story to ping you a message for advice on how to write her, and to read this again.

Man, this story has so much texture. The schoolkids shenanigans, Pinkie bursting onto a heart-to-heart moment with a corny joke, the banter with Twilight... this was playing out as an episode in my head as I was reading it.

Uprooting your life is painful. Taking a gamble on the future can seem outright silly when you feel like you're already home. I just moved 2,000 miles, from North Dakota to North Carolina a few months ago, on a whim (a friend was moving there and he invited me). One of the most difficult, painful transitions I've ever made, but I'm settled in nicely now, found a nice job, and having a blast living with my best friend and his girlfriend. But that's not the perfect analogy; in North Dakota, I was getting the creeping feeling that I was outgrowing my home; I graduated high school nine years ago and a lot of my friends had moved away, and a couple of my best friends who were still in town had gotten married and had kids. Times weren't the same. But for Cheerilee, there isn't that sense of alienation from Ponyville. She belongs. She's held dearly in the hearts and minds of the entire town, and especially her dear students, and she's still willing to leave that all behind, at least for now, in pursuit of a lofty ideal. Which makes her decision even more painful (and perhaps admirable, depending on your perspective). Is it worth the gamble? Only time will tell. I do enjoy this sort of dynamic, and it's always good to be reminded on the impact our choices can have on others.

Ha! :rainbowlaugh:

Anyway, I've finished the story now, and I'll just say that, as a teacher, this story sure let loose a lot of onion-cutting ninjas. It was beautiful, genuine, and emotional without getting hokey or cloyingly sentimental. Truly a pleasure to read.

11286545 Thank you. You may come to my annual pot luck. Bring casserole.

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