• Published 5th Sep 2018
  • 1,350 Views, 38 Comments

Neither Rhyme, Nor Reason - Posh



When Sunset Shimmer gets a letter from a not-so-secret admirer, she thinks it's just a bump in the road. She doesn't know it's all about to end. But Cheerilee knows. She's always known.

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Dusk

Sunset wants to see Sweetie, and needs to see Cheerilee. It's three days before she can bring herself to face either. She decides to start with the easier of the two conversations.

Rarity greets her at the door with a hug, and quickly invites her in.

"I came home as soon as I heard," Rarity explains as she guides Sunset upstairs. "I'm sorry for not telling you, but I've been busy with Sweetie, and with fending off Vignette. She wasn't pleased with me for dropping the production, and I'm sure I burned a number of other bridges..."

"So you're not gonna have a job when you go back?" If, Sunset corrects herself.

"Let's just say that it might be a little while longer yet before Rarity takes Manehattan."

Sunset shakes her head. "Any regrets?"

"Well, I left a lot of outfits unsequined." Rarity pauses on the stairs, smiling back at Sunset. "But this is where I'm needed right now, I think."

Rarity leads Sunset to Sweetie Belle's bedroom door. Sunset bites her thumb. "Is she okay?"

"She's... coping. But she'll hardly speak two words to anyone. Even me." Rarity folds her arms. "Mom and Dad pulling her out of the theater program and grounding her hasn't done anything to assuage her guilt or make her feel better."

"You explained to them that it wasn't her fault, right?"

"As best as I could. They've gotten better at accepting such explanations over time, but they still don't fully understand." Rarity sighs. "I'll keep trying."

"You're a good sister, Rarity." Sunset squeezes her shoulder.

"No. A good sister would have been there for Sweetie before something like this ever happened." Rarity looks away. "And I'm a poor friend, too. I never should have mentioned your reservation. If I'd kept my mouth shut—"

"Something else would have gone wrong, and we'd still have a crisis to deal with." Sunset digs into her jacket pocket, and pulls out a tube of burgundy lipstick, which she drops into Rarity's hand. "Here. To prove there's no hard feelings."

"Er..." Rarity glances between Sunset, and the lipstick. "This is...?"

"For the one we broke." Sunset thumps Rarity's shoulder. "I hope you like it."

"Why, Sunset, it's... um..." Rarity uncaps it, her mouth twisting critically. "Store brand..."

Sunset tilts her head. "Nani?"

"Nothing!" Rarity closes the lipstick and beams. "Thank you, darling."

The girls embrace one more time before Rarity leaves Sunset at the door. Sunset takes a deep breath and knocks.

"Sweetie Belle? It's Sun—"

"Yeah, I know. You weren't exactly trying to be quiet," a muffled voice calls back. "You coming in, or not? Dad took the lock off."

Awkwardly, Sunset turns the knob and steps inside.

Sweetie's room is painted pink and well-tidied. Anime posters and wall scrolls with Japanese characters cover the walls; a prominent scroll depicting a red sun – either rising or setting; Sunset can't tell which – hangs directly over her headboard. Beside the bed is a wastebasket. A shiny red kimono, shredded and tattered, is stuffed inside.

Sweetie Belle herself lies on her bed, in gray sweats and a T-shirt, her back facing the bedroom door.

Sunset's eyes linger on the kimono as she crosses to the bed. "Can I sit down?"

"Free country," Sweetie mumbles. "Except for my room, which is, like, fascist Italy now."

Sunset sits on the foot of Sweetie's bed; Sweetie scoots her feet aside to make room. "Wanna stage a revolution? I'll teach you how to make a Molotov cocktail."

"You don't know how to..." Sweetie trails off and sits up – her face is plain, and her hair, freshly washed, is unstyled. "Do you know how to make a Molotov cocktail?"

Sunset smiles slyly.

Sweetie flops back on her side. "You're full of crap."

"Viva la Revolucion."

Sweetie Belle doesn't laugh. "How's Miss Cheerilee?"

"She's... fine. She's not mad at you, y'know. Neither of us are." It's not a lie, so much as it is an assumption – Sunset isn't mad, but she can't speak for Cheerilee with certainty.

Sweetie curls into a ball. "You should be mad. After everything I did."

"That wasn't you," Sunset says. "It was the magic."

"Maybe partly." Sweetie sniffs. "But there was still a little bit of me in there, wasn't it? Those feelings didn't come out of nowhere." She rolls over and looks up at Sunset, her eyes dewey.

"I was never gonna tell you how I felt. But when I put on that lipstick, and I saw myself in the mirror, I thought – I felt – like I could be honest, like I could speak from the heart. Like if I did, we could be together. And when you turned me down, I... I went a little crazy."

"Because of the magic," Sunset insists. "That's just what it does. It takes some feeling, some desire you have, and it twists it around until it consumes you. Like what happened with Juniper, and Twilight... and..."

"...You?" Sweetie says meekly.

Sunset closes her eyes, and lets out a soft breath before opening them again. "What were you expecting to happen when Cheerilee put it on?"

"Well. Everybody has something that they hide from everyone else, right? And the lipstick, it made me wanna speak from my heart. Miss Cheerilee..." Sweetie shrugs. "She's sweet and kind, but even when I had her for English, it was pretty easy to tell she didn't always have her act together. It's like there was something going on under the surface that nobody ever really got to see."

Sunset looks searchingly at Sweetie, who shrugs.

"It was a vibe," says Sweetie. "She's good at hiding it. But I thought, if I switched out the lipstick, she'd show some of that to you – and it'd be bad enough that you'd break up with her over it."

Sunset forces herself to smile. "Well, we didn't break up. We're okay. All that happened is—"

"I was forced to live in fascist Italy?"

"Uh. Yeah. But, also, now we've both had our brains scrambled up by Equestrian magic. That means we've got something in common." She nods at the kimono in the wastebasket. "Besides our sense of fashion."

"That's a costume from the kabuki show. Shoot, I'm gonna have to pay for it." Sweetie blushes and covers her eyes. "Ugh, I can't believe myself. Everything I did, and I'm worried about, what, my allowance? Being grounded? I brainwashed Miss Cheerilee, I tried to kill you, I stole Rarity's lipstick—"

"Kind of a minor offense, that last one, isn't it?"

"And all I can think about is how bad I feel!" Sweetie's chest is heaving now; whatever stability she has is hanging by a thread.

Sunset gathers Sweetie in her arms and pulls her close. She holds her tight and strokes her hair, until Sweetie's breathing stills.

"Don't beat yourself up over your feelings," Sunset whispers to her. "You're gonna be all you can focus on sometimes – your pain, your needs. You shouldn't feel ashamed of it."

"You know a lot about this." Sweetie turns to bury her face in Sunset's neck. "Someone broke your heart once, huh?"

Sunset glances up at Sweetie Belle's desk, at a framed picture of her with Rarity. A younger Sweetie grins at the camera, baring a mouth of sparkling braces.

"Not quite, kid." Sunset clings, tighter, to Sweetie.

"Sunset?" Sweetie whispers. "Does love... always feel this bad?"

"...Only sometimes. Love's kind of a bitch like that. This is what it's like at its worst." Sunset pulls away and tilts Sweetie's chin back. "But at it's best, when you love someone, and they love you back – when things are good, really good? It's bliss."

Sweetie sniffs, and smiles broadly, baring a mouth of straight, white teeth. "Think I'll ever have that?"

"I don't doubt it for a second," Sunset says. "But don't try to force it. Let it happen naturally. Let it come to you."

"I will. No more brain-scrambling magic for me. I'm going cold turkey." Sweetie's grin becomes a smirk. "Unless you go telling my future make-out partner that I tried to shank you in an alley. Then I'm coming after you with ten magic lipsticks."

Sunset laughs, and pulls her close again. And Sweetie's laughing, and the moment, itself, is perfect.

"You know," Sunset ventures, when they've finished their giggles. "If you need someone to cover the cost of your kimono, I can afford it."

She really can't – paying off La Bouche over their broken door ate up most of her savings. Thankfully, Sweetie shakes her head.

"I appreciate the offer." Even through her jacket, Sunset can feel Sweetie Belle smiling against her shoulder. "But I don't need any more free stuff."


Summer classes end in the early afternoon; most students and teachers are gone by five PM. Cheerilee's car is one of the last in the faculty lot today. She's stayed later than usual.

Sunset waits, nervously, on its hood.

It's almost six when Cheerilee emerges from Canterlot High, overburdened with a purse and a book bag. Her eyes are on the ground as she walks; she's tucking a fluffy lock of hair behind her ear when she looks at her car and freezes.

Sunset waves stiffly.

Cheerilee tightly purses her lips and closes the remaining distance with quick, rapid steps. Without a word to Sunset, she opens her car and tosses her things in the back seat. Sunset's almost afraid Cheerilee will drive off without saying anything – or without even letting her get off of the hood – but she comes back around and joins Sunset, leaning beside her on the car.

"You haven't been answering your phone," Cheerilee says. She pointedly keeps her eyes off of Sunset.

"It's been off all weekend. I still haven't turned it on." Sunset, just as pointedly, keeps her eyes on Cheerilee. "How many times did you try me?"

Cheerilee licks her lips; seconds stretch on without an answer. "Have you seen Sweetie Belle at all?" she says abruptly.

"Yeah. She's doing better. Grounded, but coping. Rarity came home to be with her." Sunset experimentally shifts her weight toward Cheerilee. "She threw away the kimono."

"That's school property," Cheerilee says in monotone. "She'll have to pay for it.”

"She knows." Sunset shrugs. "I could always donate my work outfit to them. I have a spare yutaka at home."

"You mean your happi?"

Sunset blinks. "I mean, I've had better days than this—"

"Your outfit. It's called a happi." Cheerilee spares Sunset a quick glance. "Also, 'Yutaka' is given name. The word you wanted was 'yukata.'"

"...Oh." Sunset smiles and elbows Cheerilee playfully. "Lookit that. More than a year out of school, and you're still teaching me stuff." Her heart isn't in the comment, or the gesture.

Accordingly Cheerilee doesn't react to either. "I told the administration about what happened."

Ice crashes through Sunset. "Cheerilee, we agreed—"

"That we wouldn't report the letter unless something serious came of it. How would you define last Friday, if not as something serious?" She looks sidelong at Sunset, avoiding eye contact. "Don't worry. They consider the matter closed; they're not going to subpoena you, or anything."

"That wasn't what I was worried about," says Sunset, who absolutely was a little worried about that. "Is anything gonna happen to Sweetie?"

"Luna wanted her expelled for stalking and harassing faculty. But, in light of the paranormal circumstances influencing her actions, Celestia and I argued her down to suspension from the summer theater program. Which her parents already withdrew her from, anyway, so the punishment is redundant."

"How'd you manage that?"

"There were more than enough paranormal cases to serve as precedent."

Sunset doesn't know how to respond to that – she silently twirls a lock of hair around her fingertip.

Behind the car, the sun continues to plunge below the horizon. The lovers' shadows stretch, like ghostly fingers, toward the empty school.

"Are we okay?" Cheerilee poses the question in a soft, fragile voice.

Sunset wants to tell her yes. Wants to wrap her in a hug and kiss her, wants carry her home and make love, wants to forget all their responsibilities and spend the rest of the summer pretending that none of the last few days ever happened.

Instead, she pushes off the car with a sigh.

"I puzzled something out during that whole 'journey to the center of the Sweetie Belle' head trip. Something Sweetie confirmed." Sunset turns toward Cheerilee. "The lipstick she wore, the stuff she swapped yours out with – its magic didn't force thoughts into the wearer's mind. It just made them say what they were already thinking. Twisted up, sure, but on some level, everything Sweetie said to me had some kernel of truth to it."

The sky behind Cheerilee is a mural of purple, red, and gold. Cheerilee, herself, silhouetted by it, is a heart-achingly gorgeous vision.

Sunset knows where she's taking this conversation. That this is the last chance to stop, to turn back. She almost falters.

She almost falters.

"That means what you said to me at the restaurant had some truth to it as well." Sunset folds her arms. Her pose feels hollow, awkward, like she could break in a stiff breeze. "Tell me I'm wrong."

Cheerilee looks away. She says nothing. Denies nothing.

Sunset snorts to hide a sniffle. "Well, then," she says, scuffing her boots against the ground. She has no idea how to finish the sentence.

Cheerilee picks up for her. "I don't think you're cheating on me, Sunset. I don't even necessarily think you would."

"But you're worried I'm going to leave you?"

Cheerilee nods.

"Even now? Even after Friday?"

Cheerilee bites her lip, shuts her eyes, and nods again.

Sunset shakes her head. "We've been together for a year, Cheerilee. Why am I only hearing this now? How could you not trust me; how could you still not trust me?"

"There's really two questions in there, aren't there?" Cheerilee says, with a cool look at Sunset. "Why didn't I tell you, and why do I feel that way? The former is very simple: Why would I open up to someone who's going to leave me in the end?"

Sunset gets no chance to react – not that she knows how to – before Cheerilee continues.

"As to the latter... Well, the better question, the honest, naked truth of the matter is... What reason would you have to stay? You're young. Beautiful. Noble. A hero, how many times over now? And you're going to settle for a dumpy old schoolteacher?" Cheerilee laughs once. "I'm your future? Really?"

Sunset's confident posture fails her. Her arms hang by her sides. "You think I'm settling for you? As if I didn't spend all of high school pretending I wasn't falling in love with you? As if this year wasn't the best I've ever—"

Her voice cracks. She's drifting out of control – she fights to master her emotions before she falls apart. Slowly, more evenly, Sunset begins again.

"What... what could I possibly do to make you understand that I love you for who you are?" She laughs bitterly. "No, this – this is ridiculous. I shouldn't have to prove a thing. You either trust me, or you don't, and it's pretty damn clear that you don't. And if I haven't earned that from you by now, then..."

The sun drops below the horizon; the shadows chase forward inexorably.

"...I don't think I can be with someone who doesn't trust me. Who doesn't know how."

"What are you saying?" Cheerilee's voice is low and tremulous, and begs for an obvious answer.

Sunset stops short of giving it. "I think we need to take a break from each other."

Life drains from Cheerilee's face as the words hit her. Then she snorts, shaking her head.

"Ending a relationship without the emotional burden of actually ending anything is the kind of adolescent drivel I would have thought you beyond," Cheerilee says, voice jumping. She sounds like one of the academic papers she's always reading, but Sunset has seen this facade before. Her voice is thick with feeling, bending, but not breaking. "I'll make it easy for you. We're either together, or we're not."

"What, so you force the 'emotional burden' onto me? Make me decide here and now?"

"I'm simply returning the favor," says Cheerilee. "Those are the only two ways this can go."

"Oh yeah, ultimatums. That's not 'adolescent drivel' at all. And what wonderful options you've given me, too." Sunset's hands clench into fists. "Either break up with you, or stay together, knowing that you'll always be waiting for me to break up with you. Would you want a relationship like that?"

"I've never wanted that. With you – with anyone." Cheerilee's lip trembles. It's the only hint of emotion on her face, and it cuts Sunset to the quick. "But it doesn't matter what I may have wanted. Relationships don't last. No matter your intentions, they never last. And if you see the ending coming from the start, then it doesn't hurt so bad when it hits you."

"That's pithy nonsense," says Sunset in an empty, airy tone. "You're lying to yourself. Just to make this easier for you."

"No part of loving you has ever been easy for me."

Street lamps flicker on in the parking lot, bathing it in white fluorescence. The shadows pool beneath the car, beneath Cheerilee, beneath Sunset. They stare at each other, in the overlit parking lot, the sun long since vanished from the sky.

Both wait for the other to speak. Neither says a word.

They both know how this ends.

Author's Note:

"History never repeats itself, but it often rhymes." -Various

Special thanks to:
-DannyJ, my longtime editor, occasional coauthor, and all-around partner in crime, for his feedback on the story and its prose
-Dubs Rewatcher, for helping me craft everything from dialogue to chapter titles to the story description (and helping me nail down more than a few finer points of dialogue), and patiently helping me cope with my crippling neuroses
-Majin Syeekoh, for once again helping me come up with a title and helping me plan the story
-AndrewRogue, whose considerable pre-reading and editing talents helped shape the content of this story
-GroaningGreyAgony, for giving me the name "La Bouche de Cheval" for the restaurant
-The Writeoff Association, for their constant encouragement
-Oroboro, for hosting the contest in the first place and giving me a platform for the sequel
-Any and all who read and enjoyed the first story enough to convince me that there'd be enough interest for a follow-up
-And all my other readers.

See you next year with "Live Free or Rhyme Hard"

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Comments ( 32 )

Really good, really awful. I hope Cherilee eventually sorts herself out.

That was a brilliant twist/extension on the title of last year's entry. I'd love to see you win first place twice in a row, and I think there's a pretty good chance of it.

Oof. Self-esteem issues ruin so many relationships. Sounds like someone needs councilling.

This was awful to read. Because I knew what was coming, based on the final lines of the previous story, and because of having been in a similar situation myself. I kind of hate that you wrote it. I'm going to have to find something super-duper extra-sappy to read to fix the way I'm feeling after reading this. I don't care if I basically asked for exactly this story in the end of the comments of the previous one.

Jerk.

9154250 You did this to yourself.

9154251
You're still a jerk.

This story broke my fragile queer heart. But in a good way! But in a painful way.

Probably for the best. Relationships are work. Take a look at Sunset's relationships with the girls. That shit's hard, sometimes brutal, work. Though you didn't exactly give a cross-section of the entire year Sunset and Cheerilee spent together, it sure didn't sound like there was any real effort in the relationship.

They were just two people that were kinda together because they meshed a little bit and liked fucking.

They used "adolescent" a couple times in that ending.... sounds about right.

Half of the relationships i have seen fail, either my own or close friends', have failed due to a crippling self doubt / lack of trust within one of the partners. It doesn't matter how many times one says "I love you", or how many ways one shows that love- if someone believes you will betray them or leave them, that belief becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. It is... a horrible thing to see happen ir experience, becayse it often takes months or Years for things to finally break down from that particular issue.
You portrayed it well... better than i wanted you to. Brings back a lot of memories.

Wow... did not expect this to be honest.
So, i gotta wait a year for the sequel.
Cool... i am marathoning Sunset/XXXXX romantic happy endings after reading this BTW.

You're a right bag o dicks man, but still good stories..

Posh. Posh no. No. No Posh. POSH. POSH POSH POSH PUT THE POTHOLDER DOWN!

9155091 ...th...thank you?

9155142 I... okay???

This is the most confusing batch of comments I've ever gotten...

9155148
It's because we love you.

9155148
I liked the stories but am mad about....well the realism

9155172
I find realistic stories about relationship problems ENORMOUSLY stressful to read, mostly constant 'been there, heard that exact phrase' moments.

Doesn't mean I don't like them though.

Owch.
That is very consistent with the characters as depicted, here and in the prequel.
But still, owch.

Well if I didn’t have depression before, I sure have it now!

Seriously, this was great. Your writing quality shined as always, and really managed to capture that uncomfortable tension of a relationship just teetering on the edge of collapse.

Part of me thinks that Sunset was a little hasty to break things off with Cheerilee right then and there. It seemed to happen specifically because that’s what the story needed to happen. It makes sense why she would, of course, but I can’t help but wonder if they could have tried harder to work it out once Cheerilee’s insecurity came into the light. Counseling is a thing.

However, this doesn’t detract from the quality of this story at all, and as always I’m glad to have read it!

9165482 I think that Sunset didn't consider the relationship beyond salvage until Cheerilee set the ultimatum for her. Her intention by suggesting that they "take a break" was so that they would both stay away from each other, to buy some time to work through their issues, before coming back and negotiating and trying to work through them.

But Cheerilee demanded an answer then and there, and so forced her hand.

(That said, if I'd given myself a bit more time, I think I could have added more strength and nuance to the break-up)

In any case, I am glad that you enjoyed it! I am incapable of writing any romance but sad romance, it seems. :twilightblush:

Oh geez, that ending gutted me. Well written. Thank you for sharing!

Poor Cheerilee just can't catch a break no matter what universe you're writing her in.

This one hurts, not because it's bad, but because it's too damned real. Cheerilee's a beautiful mess of issues, and Sunset's too temperamental to push through them once she's been slighted. Between the two there's a happy couple that dearly needs some counseling.

The magically possessed girl with some emotional problems to work out was also a delightful bit of authenticity.

if this contest comes around again next year I expect that sequel

I can't see this relationship having gone any other way without Cheeralie spending a lot of time working through her self-worth issues, and as deep seated as those appear to be that likely wouldn't be something that would quickly get better. I feel especially bad for her because while Sunset has a large support group to fall back on we don't know whether Cheeralie has any other friends. None have been mentioned that I can recall. Here's hoping she'll be ok.

Aww, man, you got depressing realism all over my happy, technicolor horses. Seriously, though, this was really good. I must have missed it in the raging Sunset storm Oroboro set off last month.

... yeah, I'm not feeling too bad about this one placing higher than mine. Fantastic dialogue, lovely prose, etc. Just good stuff all around.

I feel bad for my favorite moment being when the yutaka thing was corrected, since that was bugging the hell out of me.

But really, this was awfully good, even having not read the prequel (Which I need to do soon, clearly).

Congratulations on second place, and thanks for writing!

9255741

I feel bad for my favorite moment being when the yutaka thing was corrected, since that was bugging the hell out of me.

This was actually a mistake that I made early on while drafting, referring to the outfit as a yutaka, until I looked it up and realized the difference.

I decided to write it into the story after that.:twilightsheepish:

9256261
Ah, I'd assumed it was intentional the first time it happened, and was expecting it to be corrected in-story shortly, but when it kept going for a bit I had a comment primed and ready to correct you up until the last chapter :twilightsheepish:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Oh shit, that ending.

You definitely outdid yourself with this one. :D

9324436 did you know that I misspelled "cheval" for months on end? that I only noticed long after the contest was over?

"No part of loving you has ever been easy for me."

Wow.

But, isn't Cheerilee much older than Sunset?

10434547 Addressed in the previous story.

But also yes.

EDIT: Sunset is not a minor, nor was she when the relationship began.

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