• Published 6th Aug 2012
  • 16,968 Views, 1,096 Comments

The Literary Appeal - HiddenBrony



Cheerilee gets an unexpected invitation from Ponyville's librarian, but her mother has other plans.

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The Literary Appeal

Author's Note:

Hey there new reader! This fic was started at the end of Season 2, so if you're unclear of what has and hasn't happened... the main things to remember are : Discord is stoned, Twilight's a unicorn, and Shining Armor and Cadence are married. And the CMC don't have their marks. Also I haven't seen anything after Starlight Glimmer got beat. I heard she's part of the main cast now. Good for her.

The Literary Appeal

“And remember everypony, the book reports on Dr. Hoofslove’s classic story about being quiet and loving his fans is due this Monday!” Cheerilee said, giving her class her best and brightest smile to combat the chorus of groans and various foally headdesks. She lightheartedly chuckled at her class’ usual demeanor toward homework and dismissed the legions of children to the drastically unprepared streets of Ponyville. As Cheerilee watched them all flee, she sighed, watching the clock on the wall tick just past three. Another week, another lesson. The red, one-room schoolhouse echoed a certain soundlessness that, ever since Hearts and Hooves Day, was really starting to eat at her. Rapping on her desk with her hooves, she stared at the mountain of paperwork she had before her, glaring at it. It was the most she had ever had to deal with the entire year, and she cursed her short-sightedness in assigning three different project due dates on the same Friday. To say that her students were appreciative of such a folly would lead oneself to buy a very lovely lakefront property in Appleoosa.

She found herself actually contemplating the action of daring the homework to correct itself. As if the right answers would get check marks and the wrong ones get little sad-faced circles on them just by her granting permission to the lifeless stack itself. Stranger things had happened.

“Well go on,” Cheerilee muttered. “I haven’t got all day. Go ahead. Do yourself. You’re hard and normally I’m completely fine with that. Foals can be hard too, but I deal with them just fine. But I’m just not in the mood for your size today. So do yourself.”

“E-excuse me? Cheerilee?” Cheerilee felt her blood run cold. Looking slowly over to the entrance, she saw the Princess’ protege herself framed in the doorway with a mask of confusion written all over her face. “H-have I come at a bad time?” Twilight eeped, looking for an escape.

Cheerilee’s fuchsia complexion ran white as she looked between her giant, phallic stack of papers and immediately slammed her hooves on it, attempting to shrink its size down to hide it from Twilight Sparkle. However, try as she might, she couldn’t keep the paper tower from her friend’s view, and was only serving to heighten Twilight’s awareness of the wobbling monstrosity.

“T-T-Twilight Sparkle! Yes! I mean, no, not at all!” Cheerilee turned to stare at her quivering monument to homework, inadvertently rubbing her face into its side. “Just... talking to myself. About all this homework I have to correct. That’s it.” Cheerilee quickly moved her hooves from the top of the unstable pile, her eye uneasily watching the paper decide whether or not if felt like sticking straight up. “Just a little pep-talk.”

“Well, it sure sounded like you were talking to somepony...” Twilight guessed, her eyes scanning the room for some other pony, but she was met with the same vacant room that her friend was met with every day after the foals went home.

Clearing her throat, Cheerilee tapped her hooves uneasily on the floor, the blood returning to her cheeks in full force. “So, um, Twilight, what brings you by the schoolhouse? After hours. On a weekend.” Mentally, Cheerilee added the term without knocking to her list, but chances were one of the schoolfoals left the door wide open and she had simply forgotten to check.

“Well, actually, I was wondering...” Twilight trailed, her eyes glued on the papers, completely unable to look away from the incoming train wreck that it was. “Um, are you sure you’re not busy? I mean, I can come back later.”

Cheerilee fought the urge to pout as her face struggled to keep some semblance of a smile. “It’s fine! I’m fine, I mean. Really Twilight, what can I help you with?”

Twilight finally allowed herself to match gazes with Cheerilee, but almost immediately looked away, her cheeks oddly flushed. “Oh, well I was just gonna ask you if you wanted to, I dunno, hang out later.”

Cheerilee’s face contorted. “Hang out?”

“Er, like, spend some quality time together?” Twilight tried, her mouth suddenly dry of vocabulary. Walking through the classroom, Twilight made a show of looking at the various pictures that adorned ed the walls. “I mean, I know we have before, especially when the Crusaders are up to something, but we both seem to like the same things so I thought maybe we could be better than acquaintances.” Stopping at one of her friend Applejack made by who she assumed to be Applebloom, Twilight finally made eye contact with Cheerilee again, her face stretched in a hopeful smile.

For her part, Cheerilee raised an eyebrow and gave a sidelong smile. Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia’s personal pupil and two-time Heroine of Equestria, was actually shy enough to think that somepony wouldn’t be her friend. “Are you asking what I think you’re asking Twilight?”

Twilight lowered her head, her smile turning absurdly sheepish. “Eh heh... yes. Or, Maybe?” Raising a timid hoof, it looked to Cheerilee that she was waiting to be called on. “Maybe we could talk about popular literature? Catch something to eat...”

“I don’t see why not Twilight, it should be a fun time!” Cheerilee sang, motioning toward the suddenly far less intimidating pile on the table. “You’ll just have to give me some time to finish correcting all these. How about tomorrow, say, noon?”

To say that Twilight’s face was beaming would be an understatement. With a grin that would make Pinkie Pie fall into a diabetic coma, Twilight galloped to the other side of the room, making the old schoolhouse shudder with her gleeful abandon. “Yes!” Taking Cheerilee’s hoof between her forehooves, Twilight shook with exuberance. “Deal! Tomorrow at Noon, meet at Sugar Cube Corner. It’s a date! See you then!” With a skipping trot, Twilight left as quickly as she came in, crashing headlong into the screen door. “Ah! Um! Sorry! I’ll just–” With a glow of her horn, the unicorn soundlessly repaired the door and slipped out, her face as crimson as Big Macintosh’s coat. “Bye!”

Standing silently, Cheerliee could only stand with her mouth open as Twilight skipped off like a filly. “Either she’s really excited about friendship, or...” Cheerilee began, her eyes searching the ceiling for inspiration behind Twilight’s good mood. The fumbling around, the unexpected stammer, even the fact a simple stack of papers could seem so embarrassing around her made it all seem like Twilight had some sort of... “No, that’s just laughable.” Cheerliee tittered, trotting over to her desk with a soft smile.

“Not that it wouldn’t be... interesting.” Taking no mind that she was talking aloud to herself in an empty classroom, as long as it had the good mind to stay empty. “Ponies around Ponyville are progressive, it’s not like mares loving mares is looked down upon. And Twilight is such a nice pony!” Cheerilee paused, chuckling absently. She stared up at the tower of foalish wisdom with an unamused glance. “It would be nice to have another pony with a solid head on her shoulders to help me with some after-school lessons.” The implications of her words were lost to the teacher, but unfortunately, it wasn’t to the last pony she ever wanted to hear her say that.

“Well that is the best thing I’ve heard since you told me about Hearts and Hooves day!” a mature voice called, turning Cheerilee’s chilled blood into an icy wonderland. “So naughty, Cheerilee, I didn’t think you had it in you.” The pony in question had a faded maroon coat, with a streaked pink mane that fell over her wrinkles and set simply on her wide dimples.

Mother!” Cheerilee wheeled around, her tail swinging through the air like a mace. It connected with the already jumbled mess of papers and in no time at all the words and reports of her entire class were sprawled over the floor.

“...Ponyapples. Horsefeathe- Oh buck it.”

o.0.o

“Gleeee~!” Twilight bounded Pinkie Pie style into the library, barely remembering to close the door and only just recalling that she had to sort her mail that was left on her counter by her lazy lizard of a dragon assistant, Spike. “She said yes! She–Yes! Yes! Yesyesyesyesyesyes–”

“Snap out of it!” Spike yelled, looking over the newest copy of the Foal Free Press. Somehow, he had made a habit of reading the paper with a fez and robe and Twilight had been unable to coax him out of silly garb. At the current moment, she could hardly care.

“But Spike! She said yes!” she said, her grin stretching the physical limits of her face. “I went over to Cheerilee’s after she let out her last class of the day and I asked her and she said yes and we’re going on a date and it’s going to be romantic and we’re going to talk about Fetlock Holmes and Namby Pamby’s blossoming career.” At every ‘and’ the beaming mare took another step closer to her assistant, pushing him ever closer to the wall. “Oh! She could even be interested in knowing the formulas behind mathemagical equations for her unicorn students!” Twilight’s forehead collided with Spike’s as the dragon could no longer back up, her eyes almost pressing against his. “It’s going to be so fun!”

Spike, for his part, felt he really was having enough of this and could feel the fez on his head threatening to fall. With a furiosity born of awkwardness, the dragon quickly scampered underneath Twilight, slipping between her hooves and leaping for the salvation of personal space that lay just behind the strands of the purple and pink tail. With a final push, Spike rolled commando-style toward the center of the room. “Spike! How many times do I have to tell you not to do that!”

Brushing himself off, Spike carefully readjusted his fez and patted his robe in search of his bubble pipe. Producing the wooden instrument, the dragon fully adjusted into his comfortable, newspaper-reading demeanor. “At least once more, or until you stop doing that to me. Seriously, a little respect for my personal space wouldn’t hurt.” Blowing a few bubbles, Spike stroked his never-existent beard. “So you asked her out on a date?”

“Yep! Aren’t you proud of me?” Twilight spun on her hooves next to the chair, looking as proud as she could with her puffed out chest and tall stance. She resisted the urge to throw one hoof over the other like Applejack did whenever she did some amazing feat.

Spike nodded. “Yeah, I didn’t think you would just walk over and ask a pony out on a romantic date like that!” Even now, Twilight could see the gears turning in his little dragon mind on how this could relate to Rarity. “I mean, if you could tell Cheerilee that she was accepting a date, then what’s stopping me?” Making for the door, Spike grinned as he broke out into a run for the door.

“Hold your hooves there, Casanova.” Reaching out, Twilight caught Spike in her magic. “You have to have some idea about what you’re going to say to her.” The dragon kicked against the magic binding him to thin air, but quickly went limp, knowing full well there was little he could do to escape Twilight’s magical grip.

“Well fine, how’d you do it, then?”

Silence filled the library as Twilight recalled the conversation she had with the sexy fuchsia schoolteacher. The vague, completely non-committal discussion in which they agreed to lunch to talk about books.

In retrospect, most ponies wouldn’t find the prospect of a two person book club to be romantically stimulating. Most ponies weren’t Twilight Sparkle. Cheerliee was not Twilight Sparkle, and therefore probably did not connect talking about books with a kissy face.

“Oh. Dear. Celestia.”

“What? Are you saying I should take a letter?” Spike asked nervously. “I don’t think Princess Celestia needs to hear about how you picked up the local schoolteacher, Twilight.” He wasn’t exactly prepared for Twilight releasing her spell on him in mid-flight. Spike found himself deposited onto the ground in an ungraceful heap, looking through stars at his surrogate sister. “Ow! What was that for!?”

“I’m sorry Spike, but–Oh no! Oh no oh no oh nononononono!” In a rush of hooves and mane, Twilight quickly called upon every secretly stashed document and expertly inked quill. “I can’t believe I did that! How could I?” Checklist after checklist flew in front of her until she finally selected one, the rest of the scrolls impossibly creating a floral pattern on the floor. “Step one, go to Cheerilee’s. Check!”

“Step two: Begin discussion with Cheerilee. Check.”

“Step three: Establish a desire to spend time with Cheerilee. Check.”

“Step five: Profit.” Twilight let the list go slack as she pondered what exactly the profit was, but in this case she scientifically concluded that an established meeting was grounds for a profitable venture. “Check. Where did I go wrong?”

Dutifully, Spike had been picking up every list of Twilight’s secret, often completely not-for-his-eyes that she had left on the floor. The stuff on these private scrolls would likely cause anypony to look at Twilight Sparkle in a new, probably sad, pitying light. Or they’d scandalized that his young dragon eyes had seen them. Of course, seeing as it was a list, and he wrote the lists as Twilight prattled them off, he really wasn’t in the mood to revisit the implications. However, he was at least conscious enough to catch the fault in Twilight’s logic. “I dunno, Twilight. Perhaps because you missed step four?””

“Step four!?” Twilight– nearly but not so completely– screamed. Scanning the checklist in double triple-check fashion, the erroneous lack of step four had been completely overlooked. “What... what have I done? Spike! Do you have any idea what this means?”

“Not gonna lie, Twilight. I don’t,” Spike shrugged, putting the assembled checklists next to the fireplace. With a loud burp, he lit it on fire, casually tossing each checklist into the roaring flame. “Does it mean you don’t have a date?”

“Yes! I mean, no!” Twilight screeched, raising the list to her face and dropping it, hoping that step four will magically appear. “I mean, yes I have a date, but no it might not be a date! It’s disastrous!” Twilight danced on her hooves, looking every which way. “We’re meeting tomorrow at noon and I don’t know if it’s a date or a... a play date! A fake date for a failed pony romance! This can’t do for a friendship report!”

“Friendship report? Twilight, Celestia said not to rush those!” Spike argued, tossing another one of the scrolls into the fire.

Twilight snorted. “But this was something new! Romance reports, Spike! Celestia needs to know that I can move on beyond friendships! That I’m more than the filly who left Canterlot and have become my own mare!”

Spike placed his index claw in his other paw as he considered Twilight’s thought process. “So you’re trying to get your mentor to tell you that you’re your own pony.” Dropping his claws to his side, Spike shook his head as he kicked another scroll into the fire. “I don’t get it.”

Twilight sighed, her legs slipping out from under her as she sat down. Looking up slowly, Twilight finally noticed Spike diligently removing all the evidence that had lead up to this hollow point. However, something nipped at her mind as she watched the scrolls be lit up and eaten by the flames. “Spike, what are those checklists and notes made out of?”

Looking up, Spike matched Twilight’s gaze as he tossed yet another scroll into the inferno. “Paper. You said that when you finally asked Cheerilee out that I was to destroy all evidence–”

Twilight picked herself up, her eyes fixed on the blaze as Spike held the last copy of her more-than-private notes. With a forced sense of calm, Twilight stepped toward Spike. “Yes, paper. But what kind of paper?”

“Um, I guess it’s made out of parchment? Like those made from the trees at the base of Canterlot? I mean, it’s griffin technology transposed onto wood, but the idea is the same...” Spike started, completely missing the looming sense of dread dripping from Twilight’s words as he flipped the last piece over his shoulder and into the hungry fire.

“Spike! Are those made of the same material as the scrolls I use to send reports to Celestia!?” Twilight shouted as she failed to catch the burning remnants of her more adult thoughts. With a widening pit in her stomach, she peered away from the fire and stared straight into Spike’s soul. “The ones that magically transport themselves to Celestia when burned by dragonfire?

Beads of sweat fell off Spike’s brow as he offered the most sheepish of smiles. “I... think...so?”

o.0.o

“And that’s when the councilmen taught me that you always bring a banana to a party,” Celestia finished, bringing a round of laughs to the assembled ambassadors from beyond the reaches of Equestria. Luna sat at attendance as well, sporting a very regal and yet very fake smile as everyone passed pleasantries. Leaning down to her sister, Celestia privately remarked, “See? This can be fun.”

Luna completely failed to keep herself from rolling her eyes. “Yes, Sister, this is so very... fun.” With a plastic smile and a wave of her hoof, Luna dismissed the attempt at comradery between herself and her sister. She may know the tradition, but that didn’t stop it from being utterly boring.

Celestia sighed, but kept up her appearance as she addressed her crowd, “Now, on to business...”

However, before she could go much further, a wisp of green magic whirled through the open window and flashed into matter in a golden light. “Oh!” the monarch chuckled, unfurling the document with a happy grin. “I’ve told you all about my pupil, Twilight Sparkle. She’s a national hero after stopping the reign of Discord after his unexpected release some time ago.” There was a smattering of grunts and general remarks of praise toward the unicorn mare’s work in keeping the world safe from beings of dark and chaos, all of which were quickly cut off by yet another piece of parchment, this one missing its royal seal as it unfurled on the table. “I wonder what new lesson she has learned, no doubt it is important...”

Not five seconds later the entire meeting was besieged with the hormonal mutterings of Equestria’s Hero in paper form. Celestia was quick to disband the assembled leaders to another room, trying desperately to keep Twilight’s personal notes from their admittedly eager eyes. All the while, Luna’s clear laugh could be heard over the commotion.

“You are right, dear Sister! These meetings are quite fun indeed!”

o.0.o

“Mother, please.” Cheerilee laid her head down on her desk as her mother walked circles around the homework that carpeted the floor.

“Look, Cherry, I’m just saying it’s normal for a mare like you to mess around a little. What about that big fella you were head over hooves for? Big Huckleberry or something?” the aged mother tried. “You wrote me this big sappy letter over him, and yet before I could even meet him, you had already broken up with him.”

Cheerilee picked her head off the table only so she could let it fall back into the hard surface. “Mother. Big Macintosh and I were under a spell. We’ve been over this. Plenty of times.” Putting her hooves down on the desk, Cheerilee realized she was not going to get to her paperwork anytime soon. “I am not looking to get laid at the moment, either.” With a half-hearted glance at the door, she was finally rewarded with the sight that nopony else had heard her say that. “I’m perfectly happy being a single pony.”

“I’m not saying get into a relationship, Cherry, just, well, it’s been four months–” her mother began, but Cheerilee cut her off.

Yes Mother. I know. I was there. I was there before it happened, I was there when it was happening, I was there when you needled me for three weeks straight about ‘that pony you saw me with,’” Cheerilee exasperated. “This is not a conversation I want to have. Ever. With anypony, least of all my own Mother!” Grunting with her final frustration, Cheerilee again sought solace in the hard, wooden surface of her desk.

The old maroon pony wore an incorrigible grin and finally walked over to her daughter, patting her hoof with her own. “There there, Cherry,” she said, refusing to let go of the foalhood nickname, “I suppose I could stand to be a little more discreet.”

“The word you’re looking for is tactful,” Cheerilee muffled into the desk, but she slowly raised her head up. “But yes, you could. I'm surprised you're able to admit as much.”

With a wrinkled smile and a wink that scared Cheerilee more than putting her at ease, the old mare removed herself from her daughter’s personal space. “So tell me a little more about this Twilight Twinkle.”

“Sparkle, Mother,” Cheerilee said. “She’s known for saving Equestria from evil.”

“Current events were never my strong suit.”

Cheerilee grimaced but decided not to comment. A teacher must always be able to catch her tongue. “What’s there to say. She wants to talk about books tomorrow at lunch.”

“And the ‘afterschool lessons’? I wasn’t born yesterday, Cherry.”

“Coming from my mother that can be the single scariest thing I’ve heard my entire life, and I teach elementary school.” Her mother could only smile on through those impossibly gentle wrinkles that screamed ‘Grandmother of the Year.’ Which possibly drove her mad due to Cheerilee being single and without a foal of her own. “Actually, Twilight is an impossibly smart pony, those afterschool lessons were exactly what they sound like – an opportunity to teach foals afterschool, especially ones like Sweetie Belle or other unicorns. There is only so much magic theory I can teach and Twilight Sparkle is a name that will go in the history books for what she can do with it.”

“Sweetie, I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re boring me. I don’t want to know about your plans further down as a teacher, I told you I’m already as proud as a mother can be that her daughter teaches the next generation, but I. Want. Grandfoals.”

“Mother!”

It didn't take long for Cheerilee's mother to break out laughing. “Don’t ‘Mother’ me, Cherry!" she chided. Yet, the mischevious grin on her face never went away. "You grew up for years saying you wanted to be as good as a mommy as I was– bless your heart– and now you’re making me go through such agonizing years with nothing more than a love potion induced letter about some false boyfriend to keep me sated.”

"I was seven,. I didn't know exactly who my mother really was yet." Cheerilee lifted her head from her desk, her eyelids doing their best impression of a one-dimentional plain. "Besides, I'm gay, mother. If you want grandfoals you'd be better off barking up Cherry Blossom's tree."

With a sigh, the old mare sat herself down at one of the desks in the front row of the classroom. “Your sister... well, she's been spending her days wrapped around other mare's torsos since whe was a foal." Cheerilee's mother smiled serenely. "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Cheerilee groaned and put a hoof against her face. "I think we both fell just far enough, thank you. I'm doing fine they way I am."

Her mother huffed, and possibly puffed. Cheerilee removed her obstructing hoof to see if the latter was true, but unfortunately she was too late to confirm. "I just want to know if my baby is happy. The rest can come later, but you’re in your prime, Cheerilee!”

The schoolteacher was forced to doubletake. It wasn’t every day her mother used her full name. “Foalbearing isn’t on my list of things to do right now. I have my career, my students are like my children...”

“Oh manure, some of those foals need a good smack on the behind.”

Mom!” The part that infuriated Cheerilee more was the smile on her own face.

“You’re just mad ‘cause I said it out loud. If you ask me, Filthy’s kid needs a bit more than a kick in the ol’ patootie. I’d send that brat off to a boarding school for a couple years. Set her straight and away from daddy’s money.” With a conspiratorial smile, Cheerilee could only let her face fall into her hooves as she considered how was it that she could be a schoolteacher, and yet her mother be such... be such her mother “Now, Twilight Sparkle. You going to try for it?”

“Try for– it’s just lunch, mother.”

“If we’re talking about the little purple spit of a filly that was bounding away from here with a grin bigger ‘n Granny Pie, then I’ll eat my tail if she was that happy over lunch.” Cheerilee looked up from her hoof to see her mother pointing at her accusingly. “That filly has you on the mind.”

“I’m just a schoolteacher, mother. She’s a hero, I don’t really think–”

“Horseapples! You’re gonna treat that pretty filly to a nice, romantic date, and that’ll be the end of it!” A million different reasons and excuses raced through Cheerilee’s mind as she faced her mother, all of them completely valid. I’m my own mare, I don’t need my mother playing matchmaker! I have a career to focus on, I don’t have tenure yet and I can’t risk anything to chance, be it marriage or a broken heart! Why am I having this discussion with my Mother, anyway?

As everything welled up within her, Cheerilee stared into her mother’s eyes and said, “Okay, fine.”

o.0.o

High noon over Sugar Cube Corner. The sun was high in the sky, the clouds had been expertly handled by Rainbow Dash, and those annoying bugs that screech when it’s just so abysmally hot out we’re doing their thing. Cheerilee thought she was going to melt. In fact, upon broad examination of Sugar Cube Corner, she could have sworn the entire place would have sagged over in the humidity alone. The entire place looked like a giant confectionary treat, and considering its inhabitants, it wouldn’t surprise her to see pony-sized holes chewed out of the woodwork.

But then again, these were the same walls that, along with the Boutique, were subject to her love-fueled attack on the town. With a flare of red to her cheeks, Cheerilee realized she could never be sorry enough to the Cakes for not pressing charges on herself or the fillies who crafted the love poison. She was pretty sure she could never have a normal discussion with Mrs. Cake again, especially after she bore witness to her most public of shames for hours on end. With an idle glance, she checked the window to the Corner, and sure enough, Mrs. Cake was there, staring at her with unease. Cheerilee chanced a subtle wave, a small, I’m-not-crazy-I-swear flick of the hoof that hopefully would take the edge of seeing her again.

Mrs. Cake just stared, unblinkingly, until she moved away from the window. Cheerilee resisted the urge to headdesk in public, her face compromising by slamming into her waiting hooves. “Today is already off to a great start.”

“It is?” asked a voice that could only belong to Twilight Sparkle. At this point, Cheerilee was completely expectant of somepony being behind her when she said something out loud to nopony in particular. “D-do you want to cancel the lunch? Is it a bad time? I mean, I–”

“Twilight!” Cheerilee greeted, as if she didn’t just hear the verbal outpouring of low self-esteem. “Good to see you, you wanted to do lunch, here I am. Although...” Cheerilee coughed. Her mother’s face flashed in her mind and it was everything she could do not to visibly grimace. “I would have rather done dinner.”

Twilight’s tail twitched without her will as Cheerilee discussed dinner with her. “What? Oh! Um, we can still do dinner then. Or as well!” With a strained smile, Twilight looked at the sun, willing it to move ahead another five hours. Failing that, she looked back at Cheerilee, her eyes crossing as she tried to remove the glowing dark spot she had burned into her retinas. “Lunch and dinner, ah ha ha... ha?”

Cheerilee couldn’t help but smile. While it was extremely childish behavior, she couldn’t help but be a little enamored in it when it came from Twilight. “I suppose we can do that. I do have a free weekend ahead of me.”

“Saturdays are all about fun! Or so I hear, I spent most of my Saturdays in the Royal library, scouring over books and doing my homework. I even got a lot of extra credit for doing that.” Twilight tried, trying to connect the schoolteacher with the number one student. “Do you do extra credit assignments, Cheerilee?”

“All the time, Twilight. I love when a pony puts forth that little creative spark that keeps learning fun and exhilarating.” Both ponies stared at each other a moment as every bad schoolteacher trope filled their head about ‘extra credit’ that was ‘fun and exhilarating.’ “And then I raise their grade!” Cheerilee blurted out. Twilight continued to stare as Cheerilee quickly decided the grass underhoof was so much more interesting than continuing to speak. Ever.

“I’m, um, impressed you care so much about the study of your students.” Twilight tried, her thoughts trying not to focus on how awkward they were being while simultaneously wishing every euphemism she picked up on to become true.

“Twilight, can I be frank for a moment?” Cheerilee said, prompting Twilight to look directly at her for a moment, deep blush and all. “Did you mean to ask me out to lunch and talk about books... or did you really mean to ask me out to dinner and talk about us.”

Twilight’s pupils shrank. “I, um, asked you out to lunch to talk about books like Fetlock and Hemmingmare and Starswirl–” There was a poignant beat, before her face went full flush, “But I don’t care about the meal, as long as I talk to you,” she chanced. “About books. And things. And classes. It’s all so interesting when I’m talking to you, I even went to a school play to be with you a little longer. Do you know how many school plays I’ve been in? One! It was mandatory and I hated it but the one here, in Ponyville, I’ve got nothing but good memories.”

Cheerilee stared at her friend, a small smile creeping up on her lips. “Oh. Darn.”

Twilight slumped to her rump. “Darn?” Cheerilee didn’t like her. She had no romantic feelings for her what-so-ever. In fact, why did she even consider the fact she liked stallions? I mean, sure the love-poison thing with Big Mac was, well, love poison, but it was still a stallion. “O-okay. Yeah. I guess... darn!”

“Oh, no. I just hate when my mother is right.”