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This is great. I’m going to get a good grade in horsefic, something that is both normal to want and possible to achieve,


Rainbow Dash is determined to reclaim the top-scoring spot on her favorite arcade cabinet.

In the spirit of May Pairings

This was originally a Hearth's Warming gift (during an exchange organized by Quills and Sofas) for Writing Spirit, who requested a crackship! It's about time it found its way onto the site

Chapters (5)
Comments ( 41 )



iamsinner systems: read engaged

And it's a comedy!! For YOU!!! :rainbowkiss:

oh my gosh flashback to me obsessing abt cheeridash on tumblr. can’t wait to read this!!

Howdy, hi!

Loved this. Has all the best aspects of your writing on display. Love this pairing and how you wrote their chemistry together. Cherilee and rainbow are just so much fun. Also the way you describe this restaurant gives me flashbacks and it is a trip. Anyways this nerd romance was top tier and I loved it.

Thank you for the read!

Yes!! I was inspired by your cheeridash posts when I was hunting for a good crackship to write :D

Rainbow Dash is a dork and a half and she needs to accept this fact or die by Cheerilee's sword

Thanks for reading my friend :)

Never really thought of this pairing, but you made it really work. It’s great that you gave the two something to bond over, with both of them realizing that they’re not the best and that they have to get over it. I really like the portrayal of the Hayburger as a place you go to when you want to get away from life. That trope, of having a respite which you always return to, is one that I really love, but don’t really see as often as I feel I should.

The characters felt very natural. I very much enjoyed them. Rainbow Dash would totally try and fight for the top after seeing she’d fallen from it.

I do have to commend this quote, though:

I did my best to let go of the perfectionism…

I love this quote in the context of the story, because earlier on, Cheerilee mentioned that a lot of the students’ essays were about perfectionism. Cheerilee mentioned that the essays were supposed to be about something they learned, and I really like this because in spite of Cheerilee mentioning a lot of the essays were similar, it was something that Rainbow Dash hadn’t quite learned yet. This implies that she’s always learning, and I really love that.

I enjoyed reading this story, and Rainbow Dash is now a gamer in my headcanon.

I'm so glad you caught that detail!! I always try my best to incorporate the special talents of ponies who, like Cheerilee, we don't get a lot of in the show. I find that this helps these characters ring true with readers, even when they depart from what little content exists of them in the first place. For Cheerilee, this means that a lot of her character revolves around guidance - both for her students and for Rainbow Dash.

Thank you for reading! I'm so glad you liked it!

It's always good to see Cheerilee get more love (both from the fandom and from other ponies), and it's nice when a reference to the comics shows up in someone's story. I liked reading this.

The only nitpick I have is that while Dash lives in a cloud house, she does live within the boundaries of Ponyville, not in Cloudsdale. (She and 'Shy are from Cloudsdale, that's all.)

Edit -- forgot to mention that I love the cover art. Very retro.

Starlight is best life coach, lol.

Pretty funny in a good way. Love the comedy.

"That was hard to watch," Starlight said, setting a glass of cola down beside my right hoof. "But a really good science experiment. We now know that it takes exactly two hours for video games to suck the social skills out of a pony completely."

Oh Starlight, have mercy.

I love the description of this place. It’s horrifying but somehow so real at the same time.

Also Cheerilee is great.

These two are so awkward with each other, it's great. Normally neither of them don't get nearly this lost for words.

Oh wait, you need to edit the cover so Cheerilee's sprite is taller.

This was a pretty fun story. It was enthralling seeing the interplay between Rainbow and Cheerilee, as their respective issues bumped up against each other and they eventually worked out their feelings. Also, as others have mentioned, you've described the restaurant in a very horrifically realistic manner.

oh man. i finally got around to reading this and wow do i wish i had done so sooner!! the palpable awkwardness between rainbow and cheerilee that slowly turns into a friendly rapport really sucked me in.
sidenote; as an avid idw comics fan (i think i’ve read the mlp run at least three times) i’m completely ashamed at how long it took me to get the reference haha.

Aw, thank you so much!! I'm glad you liked it - I really do wanna revisit this pair again. You just made me love it!!

It's about time it found its way onto the site

Damn right it does, I say, as I arrive super late to the comments section.

But yes, finally managed to find the time to reread this. And yes, it's still as cutesy and fluffy as I remember it to be. The dynamic you've crafted between Rainbow and Cheerilee was captivating as it was adorable. Really shines a light on so many parallels between the two that I never would've considered before. And though it was pretty clear how the story would turn out, I'm just so engrossed in their interactions that it doesn't really matter anyway.

Beyond our rare pair, I dig all the little glimpses we have of the diner they're in. Also loved the snappiness and bluntness of the prose—Dash's personality comes through so well, I could hear her voice doing the narration in my head as I was reading this! I could go on and on about the little details here and there, but really, this story was genuinely majestic as it is simple and I'm glad it's out here now for everyone to read. All I wanted with my prompt was to read a story someone enjoyed writing and you've delivered that in spades.

Once again, thank you so much for writing this, Mush. Hope to read more from you soon!

Wracked with agony, I cry out, "Nooooooooo!!"

Hello! I reviewed this recently, and I had a very good time with it. Been a while since I've chuckled that much at a shipfic. I adored the colour and atmosphere about that restaurant, even as I was glad it was in a different dimension. Ten million points too for actually making Cheerilee's feelings about the Twilight "I Do What I Want" Sparkle School of Friendship a (minor) plot point. Have a like and a fave!

Thank you so much!! I was wondering where this story's little boost in views had come from - it's always heartwarming to receive such a nice review :twilightsmile: have a good one!

It's been pointed out to me that my inline link just pointed back to here. Sorry about that! For the sake of correctness, this is the review. :twilightsmile:

That was a good story.

Rainbow's competitiveness was perfectly written. That she was self aware of how dumb it all was made it better. Definitely felt the awkwardness with Cheerilee.

This went a lot deeper than the summary implied. I'm stunned by how a scenario like this just... occurs. The existential talk was well done and I dig how they flirt.

Looks like they're going to be okay. Your descriptions of the "restaurant" are so good. They give me flashbacks to Chuck E' Cheese and give me a sense of humourous horror now that I'm looking at it with an adult mind. Starlight was a top tier wingmare.

Well that was really cute

Odd to think of a fighting cabinet with no 2 player option.

Huh. Given the line about not being able to cream your friends two chapters ago I assumed it didn’t have a second player option.

Fun romp. I’d be interested to see a continuation.

"I'm the best there is at Hoof-to-Hoof Combat!" I cried. "Whoever beat me worked hard to do it! And they had to top RBD on the high score list—no way they didn't know it was me."

hehe Rainbow Dash is definitely the perfect choice for this

"Well. Thank Celestia for small favors, I guess," Starlight said with a smirk, giving me a half-hearted pat on the shoulder. "I'm gonna get another soda. You want anything?"

I only grunted in response.

"Perfect. I'll get two."

aww, love their friendship

The goal of Hoof-to-Hoof Combat is super easy: you beat your way through a series of increasingly ridiculous pro-wrestler ponies in a quest to… well, I dunno. I always skipped the opening cutscene, if I’m honest. But it really was easy; just learn one good combo and spam it fast enough to wipe out your competition.

also extremely Rainbow Dash! if this were a show episode i would expect the skipped opening cutscene to be a key to a better strategy or something

It wasn't the sort of game you memorized to win—not like Super Mare-io or whatever.

terrible, awful pun. love it

I blinked a few times. I couldn't see anything past the super bright Hayburger lights.

Maybe Twilight was right. Maybe video games were bad for your eyes.

hehe this reminds me of the whole Rainbow Dash has bad eyesight but is too proud to admit she needs glasses fandom idea that i love

"Scootaloo's teacher!" I beamed with pride at having remembered. "Uh… Miss Cheerilee! Hey, didn't you used to date Big Mac?"

Cheerilee frowned. "That's—that isn't—" She paused, shook her head, and tried again. "You can drop the 'Miss'. We're the same age, Rainbow."

ahaha oof, love Cheerilee’s understandable exasperation here

"I mean—or you could start calling me Miss Dash," I said quickly. "Since I… I'm teaching now, I guess."

dang Rainbow, buy a lady a drink first!

"Uh… n-no, I actually teach friendship stuff at Twilight's school," I said. "Loyalty stuff. Like, we read books and write essays about, uh. L-loyalty."

Cheerilee made a face that said she had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. That was probably fair. Most of the time, I felt like I had no idea what I was talking about.

extremely fitting to how vague that concept was in the canon school. RD is definitely winging (heh) her lessons each time!

"Well, then," Cheerilee said. "I've got to get back to my papers. End of semester grades are due soon, and I've got a stack of poorly-written essays to praise."

oof teaching flashbacks

"That was hard to watch," Starlight said, setting a glass of cola down beside my right hoof. "But a really good science experiment. We now know that it takes exactly seven hours for video games to suck the social skills out of a pony completely."

ahaha love Starlight’s reaction. though i’m pretty sure this is how RD would have reacted in pretty much any context!

Starlight shrugged. "I just told you: I'm here gathering data on nerds," she explained. "And to get you soda. But I can just go home if—"

"You can stay," I muttered.

Duck. Dodge. Duck, duck, dodge.

"Aw." Starlight gave me a friendly nudge. "What a softie."

love them

“This is a sports-related injury!” I spat back, rubbing at my sore tendons.

It wasn’t.

It was from playing an arcade game for nine straight hours.

hey e-sports are a thing now supposedly!

“Sure, sure. And what part of being a Wonderbolt hurt your gamer hooves, exactly?”

hehehe gamer hooves i love it

Starlight shrugged. “You need me. I’m your coach. Like, uh…” She tapped her chin. “I’ll be honest, I can’t think of any famous coaches.”

huh same here

The Hayburger was not my favorite place to hang out. Not by far. It always smelled a little bit like the inside of an ear in here, and all the surfaces were just a little bit sticky, and all the food tasted a little bit exactly the same. That would have been fine if it was just between the savory dishes, and it would have been fine if the flavor was ‘grease’, but it was a completely unidentifiable taste that only the Hayburger seemed to be able to cook into their food, and even the apple hoofpies had it.

this reminds me of the food at the bowling alley i used to go to with my family as a kid! ah, nostalgie…

Right now, I could spot a foal smashing fries into a thin sheet on the tabletop before peeling them off and hucking them at the wall, a family of six eating in emotionless silence while the parents played hoofsie under the table, and—somehow most disturbing of all—an adult mare shamelessly slurping at a cup of ketchup like any other drink on the menu.

dang you really capture the vibe of this kind of place so well! though through my adult eyes i now have a deep appreciation for the adult mare slurping at a cup of ketchup like any other drink on the menu. i am glad she is there and i hope she continues to be

Then, all by themselves, my eyes drifted over to Cheerilee again.

She was blushing too.

Her eyes were turned down to the paper, but she was blushing fiercely. Her pen was still.


Her head was down, all hints of a blush gone as she went back to work furiously grading papers. She was holding a red pen in her mouth. Red pen seemed significantly worse than the pencil she’d been using yesterday.

aww love the dreaded red pen! though i deliberately used purple for my grading to make it less intimidating

Now that I thought about it, it was kinda weird that she’d choose to hang around the Hayburger to grade. There were, like, a million other places in Ponyville that were way better for nerd stuff like that. Twilight always did her grading at Cafe Hay—quiet, and good food. Win-win.

honestly it’s a waste to do grading in a space that is quiet and calm. that’s where you study or research!

Hoof-to-Hoof Combat wasn’t a popular choice at this particular Hayburger. Maybe it was because the game takes some actual skill, unlike the very heavily and abusively used Pac-Mare machine next to it.

hehe, “Pac-Mare”, love it. also oof, burn on all the competitive Pac-Mare players out there

“Wyldfire, huh?”

I made an utterly inequine sound, and my wings flared out at my sides as I did my best to hold my ground against the sudden presence on my left. “Some warning next time!” was all I managed to say to redeem myself.

ahaha love that

“Or. I guess she looked like how I wanted to look,” I said, noting the mohawk.

so true

“Cool,” I replied. Was that the only word I knew?


“Is it… working?”

“Ha!” Cheerilee shook her head. “Not even a little.”

I cracked a smile.

Cheerilee smiled back.

hehehe so true to life. also love how you build connections on small moments like this



“This game’s harder than I remember,” I admitted, sinking into the booth across from Cheerilee. “How in the hay did I get so many high scores?”

“Littler hooves?” Cheerilee suggested with a giggle.

aaaaaa too cute

I flopped backwards into the vinyl and let out a sigh of despair. “You’re right. I’m past my prime,” I said wearily. “Just another washed-up cabinet gamer with no future. Helpless. Hopeless. Brainless. Fameless.”

dang RD is a bit of a poet

“Ugh.” Cheerilee hung her head. “I swear, if I have to read one more essay about perfectionism, I’m going to… well, I don’t know what I’m going to do! Just… keep grading them, I suppose.”

so true

“Um…” Cheerilee scratched her head. “Well, let me put it this way: a foal is never going to admit to their teacher that they’re no good at their times tables. Though I suppose all of these say pretty strongly that my little ponies need to work on their grammar.”

yaaaaaay always love the phrase “my little pony” used by the characters!

Cheerilee gave me a pained look. “I’m making more of it than it is. Procrastinating, you know?” she said softly. “I don't even have a good reason for it, honestly. This is just how I get sometimes."

I nodded again. "Yeah… I know what you mean," I said.

same… i’m supposed to be finishing up something from work right now!

I know that move. I mostly know it because I've had a lot of ponies stop me super fast from doing something super dumb, so when somepony hesitates it means they actually really want you to do what you're about to do.

aww love Rainbow Dash’s self-awareness

This semester, I learned a lot about the environment. The environment is cool because there’s lots of different kinds of biomes in it. For example, the taiga biome is a biome you can find in the environment.

love this, A+ opener

Cheerilee giggled. A small snort snuck out. “You fell asleep! In the middle of the first essay!” she laughed some more. “Then I fell asleep. I think we pushed it a little too far.”

I pushed myself up from the booth. “You fell asleep too?”

“You just looked so cozy!” Cheerilee argued, her face flushing.

auaugh this is too cute

Cheerilee’s face crumpled into a scowl of disappointment, and she buried her face in her hooves. “Ugh. Sometimes I just wanna make up the grades and be done with it,” she muttered. “I mean, it’s not like I couldn’t take a good guess. I know my students.”

and oof, i know this temptation too well

I didn’t wait for Cheerilee to move, just leapt up and climbed lizard-style over the back of the booth and dropped to the tile on the other side. Cheerilee made a small squeak, but I expertly ignored it.

fantastic mental image

"The pink one," he said, nodding to Cheerilee. “She’s been here for days. Never stayed overnight, though. Wonder what her deal is.”

I furrowed my brows. “Yeah,” I said. “Me too.”

oof that is concerning

“I-I’m not avoiding anything,” I lied.

Her smile changed. Sincere to sympathetic. “Well… then neither am I.”

oof very concerning

"Yeah, and so did the drunk guy who's too afraid to go home and face his wife," Starlight hissed, gesturing to a stallion slumped in a corner booth. "What's with Cheerilee, anyway? Isn't she, like… smart?"

i would be concerned as well!

She stood there like a lopsided stack of wood blocks while I loaded bits into the machine.

fantastic simile

I snorted. "Mystery Mare?"

Cheerilee cast me a cocky glance. "Have something to say about that?"

ehehe is this when RBD finally realizes who “TMM” is? (also now for some reason i’m thinking of RD’s full name being Rainbow Belinda Dash)

Cheerilee shrugged. "What can I say? I guess I like the unpopular ponies."


Cheerilee nodded. "Mhm,” she hummed. “Still sounds like you’re trying to show off. I’m afraid non-students can’t earn the title of teacher’s pet, Rainbow.”

dangit Cheerilee is very good at this

"You got pushed to second," Cheerilee said. "And then you came in here, and you saw--"

I set my jaw and hung my head.

"Oh." Cheerilee shuffled her hooves. "I see."

and ooh, of course! facing the inevitability of aging and mortality like this, augh. all too relatable

"I just wonder sometimes why I'm not teaching there," she said. I was starting to recognize the Twilight stress tone—it’s the sort of thing you’re trained to recognize when you’re friends for so long. “If teaching is my special talent, then shouldn't I be doing it at the best school? And… and if I can't teach at the best school, should I even be teaching at all?"

and augh, yeah. we never did see Cheerilee’s reaction to Twilight setting up her own school in the canon, and that is definitely some good existential angst fodder

She was taller than me.

She looked down at me.

She smiled.

That was… I dunno.

I laughed. Just a little laugh that was kind of weird and awkward and sad.

She didn’t seem to mind.

and augh, the short paragraphs to control narrative rhythm really work well here. just poetic

“It’s not.” Cheerilee smiled. Gently. “We support the next generation, right? Students, Wonderbolts… at some point we have to step down and let the new best-ever step up.”

I bit my lip.

so true but augh so difficult to admit that one’s time in the sun is over

“My sister is Mystery Mare,” Cheerilee said.

for some reason this makes me remember some sort of masked wrestling storyline in the comics with Cheerilee in it but i’m not certain that my brain didn’t just make that up

“Uh… no.” I swallowed hard. “I, uh… I just came up with a great way to reinforce this life lesson, though.”

Cheerilee faked a gasp. “Don’t tell me you’re teaching?”

“Heck yeah I am,” I said. “And you’re going to teach me how to play this game like a master. Because teaching matters.”

Cheerilee made a face and clicked her tongue. “It’s flimsy. Maybe a C on argument logic.”

hehe great banter

She gave me a look.

I looked back at her.

She was taller than me.

I liked it.

hoowee, great throughline

“It doesn’t matter,” I moaned. “I’m never, never, ever going to win. I’m just gonna be number two on the cabinet for the rest of my natural life.”

Cheerilee giggled. “Well, in that case, thanks for making me look good.”


She giggled again.

It was a nice sound.

Like, really nice.

so this is how Rainbow Dash learns to accept being second-best… very relatable!

Starlight shook her head to clear away the daze. “Uh. I actually just came by to get food, if you can believe it.”

this does sound difficult to believe!

Starlight sighed. “If I just leave you to your own devices you’re never going to ask her out, are you?” she asked.


I looked back over my shoulder at Cheerilee, who was methodically beating the crap out of yet another pixelated pro wrestler. Her tail swished along the floor.



augh love it when ponies notice each other’s tail swishes

Cheerilee had no idea who she was, but she smiled and waved politely in return, only with a twinge of confusion in her face.

hehe love that Starlight, Savior of Equestria and Destroyer of Multiple Equestrias, is a background pony to Cheerilee’s life

Starlight smirked and nodded once. "Great. I'm coaching you in life," she said. "Please go ask out the mare who's clearly into you so you can stop hanging out in a disgusting foal's restaurant. I'm literally begging you."

now that is good life coaching

Cheerilee blinked. "Don't you live in Cloudsdale?"

I smacked my forehead with one hoof. "Aw, crap. You're right. Duh."

"Never taken a non-pegasus out on a date before, have you?" Cheerilee asked slyly. She gave me a little nudge and a smirk to match.

My knees practically gave out. Does that happen? Do knees give out?


Cheerilee giggled. "I've been waiting for you to… well, I don't know. To at least suggest we go spend some time somewhere else," she said. "I'd be stupid to turn down a date with the second-best Wonderbolt, wouldn't I?"

I forced a laugh. "Don't push your luck, Cheer."

auaugh, love it! this was such a delightful romance, light with just enough emotional ballast to give it heft. i just love how perfectly you wrote these character interactions, and the use of repetition to slowly build up the spark over the chapters. and the way that Rainbow Dash and Cheerilee sound like a randomly generated combo, but you made it feel like the most natural thing in the world. masterful work!

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Is the term "Smarmlight" a thing in this fandom? Cause it really feels like it should be a thing.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I love a good bit of snark, but... well, maybe it's just me, but I thought there was a real sense of smugness to her bits that got really grating really fast.

I mean, it didn't ruin the story or anything - the romance, character exploration and delightfully disgusting descriptions more than made up for it. Just something I felt I should note.

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