Lateral to Relaxation

Chara Dreemurr

The Chihuahua of Flirting
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Chara looked across the car with a bit of a sigh, as She laid down in the back. Asriel had taken the front seat of the vehicle, as he was always a bit antsy in the back.

Chara was more the ‘nap in the car’ type, and Hughes didn’t say a word when he looked back and saw the youth sprawl herself across the entirety of the back seat in defiance of all common dignity and seatbelt laws.

But he did chortle.

For the moment, Asriel lead the conversation, though, as Hughes asked him a bit about his time here - and, to Chara’s surprise, his time where he’d once lived, too.

“-Yeah, I guess Snowdin’s as good a name as any at that point. Actually kinda good for something that old man did. But I still have trouble believing that kinda guy was a king, you know? He just seemed the type who’d rather, I don’t know, sell flowers.”

Asriel just gave a smile, “I mean, if my dad had sold flowers, we’d have probably been broke. He loves giving them away too much. Or - loved…”

Chara gave a sigh, “loves, Rei. We have enough bad things confirmed. I would rather hold out hope for the opposite to be true.”

Hughes adjusted his glasses, “Didn’t mean to bring up a hard subject, but… I hope so too. Well… with everything else getting completely crazy recently, I think your dad being around somehow is starting to get downright reasonable, don’t you?”

It was Asriel who spoke up. “...that reminds me. Chara?”

The elder dreemurr looked up. “...Bro?”

“You mentioned seeing Dad’s trident, right? And it was gone when you checked for it later?”

Chara gave a nod. “Yeah. It didn’t seem all that important at the time, given the circumstances…”

The young seer gave a sigh, preferring to avoid going in that trip down memory lane.

“But who’d steal his trident? It was well-made, but it wasn’t like… super-powered.”

Chara laid back, giving a shrug. “We can think about that another time, Rei. I have something more important to ask… Yo Hughes! When we eatin’?”

Speaking up immediately, the spring in Hughes reply seemed to banish the dark clouds of the conversation. “Oh, right after we get there! Once we’ve got you properly introduced to my Beautiful wife and my perfect little girl, I actually called Gracia beforehand. She’s preparing something special!”

And at that, Chara gave a raised eyebrow. “Something special, huh? Looking forward to it. The last time I ate ‘something special’ was before Dante’s abyss. And Asriel made too much.”

“You ate it all!” Asriel defended.

“Yeah, but my stomach hurt like crazy after…”

“Because you ate too much!”

“Because you made it too good!”

The two’s angry stares eventually lead to a heartfelt laugh, one that was shared through the car.

“Gracia is going to love you.” Hughes exclaims.

Chara just gave a lopsided smile… that fell to a frown as she got a sniff at herself.

“Hey, Hughes? There’d be time for a shower before we got to food, right?”

“Oh, that’s a requirement. For you, that is. Asriel smells fine.”
 

Chara Dreemurr

The Chihuahua of Flirting
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The following few days felt like a gold-tinged dream for Asriel. True to his word, Hughes introduced them to his family, and their first impressions were… good, overall. Hughes did have to explain that pulling Asriel’s fur was not a thing good girls did, to Elicia’s disappointment, but she had decided that Asriel was ‘best for hugs’ and that Chara was funny after a few puns slipped across the table - much to the mock aghastness of Gracia.
The three of them played outside for a little while after that, for as long as Chara’s body let her - she was a lazybones, at the end of the day!

Though, as he saw that sly glint in Chara’s eye, he had a feeling that she wasn’t just leaving to get beauty sleep, either. It was a worrying glint in a lot of ways, but after how defeated she’d been feeling recently… Well, seeing her like that made him happy all the same.
Still, something else had been on his mind, as they stayed around. While he’d been doing his best to practice his own magic and swordsmanship, something… disturbing had been noted as he’d done so.

He really lacked anyone able to teach him here. Hughes was cool, but he was both pretty busy and not exactly a fighter. He’d be able to teach him information and all, but it wasn’t really training.And Chara, well…

Asriel blinked. What made Chara a bad choice? I mean, she didn’t have any real skill with a blade and her magic wasn’t anything to sneeze at…

Asriel gave a sigh, a frown forming on his goaty ace as he picked at the slice of pie he was eating. He’d just seen so many things that proved the contrary - that Chara was never a slacker, not really, had seen the evidence several times now, but there was still that part of him that treated Chara like… well, like that human he knew in Snowdin. The one that barely could control her fire magic - who’d always told him that if a human came, well, that was a job for the future royal guardsman, right?

Asriel curled his paw. It was a bitter pill to swallow. For all the work he’d put into learning how to protect his sister, he had kept coming up short, and finding out just how far she’d come in the past few days. It didn’t hurt because he was watching his sister go so far beyond him - it hurt because he’d encouraged it, every day, only to find out she’d done all that work in secret. That all that suffering he’d wanted to spare her as a royal guard had been quietly endured in spades.

And then, when he ran away from her…

When she chased after him, took a shot that should have left him dead…

“Hey, kid.” Hughes familiar voice popped in, “I brought up some hot chocolate…”

Asriel turned to Hughes, the indulgent officer’s face, big smile included, fell a little. “I come in at a bad time?”

Asriel shook his head slowly. ‘O-oh. Sorry. I’m just thinking about… things.”

“Penny for your thoughts? As long as you’re not planning to blow up the base, I’ll keep ‘em secret.’

Asriel placed his paws on the table in front of him with a little sigh, as Hughes placed the hot chocolate between. It had marshmallows, and chocolate glaze, whipped cream and a little freezer bar stuck in the middle. Just the sort of thing Chara would have loved if she was here right now. His face puffed out, as he looked at it, and something left along with his appetite as he leaned forward.

“I’m… not a good brother.”

Hughes raised an eyebrow at that, his face falling to confusion for the first time since Asriel had met him. Asriel couldn’t tell why, as his paws curled.

“I haven’t been a good brother for a long time. I got absorbed into all my own studies and my own… business! And I kept pushing her into thins she didn’t want to do. Never realizing she was going through so much, I just decided she was lazy, and that she needed to apply herself… just listening to mom and… and never thinking. And when she put everything into me, and she kept us safe at all times…”

Asriel slumped forward, tears filling his eyes. “She never thought she could trust me. And I was… never able to help her. And I only…”

Asriel’s paws relax, as a somber tone filled his voice. “I want her to feel like she can rely on me. Share everything with me. But there’s always this wall, like she doesn’t want to. Like she doesn’t think I’m capable.”

There was silence for a second or two, as Hughes adjusted his glasses. “Now, where are you getting that from?”

Asriel stared up at Hughes' face. “How about the fact she never tells me where she’s going, still. or the fact she keeps things from me even after she said she’d tell me everything. Or the fact she keeps doing everything by herself!” Asriel snapped, “And now I’m sitting here like an [i[idiot[/i] while she’s off getting who knows what done, and I’m! Absolutely!”

Asriel’s pace slowed down, as his nex words came through… “...Useless…”

As he calmed down, panting, he looked to Hughes. Partly worried he’d just pissed off the big man. More worried he’d see some pity on his face.

“Well well! I’m kind of impressed. You’re usually quite a sweet guy, but seems like you have your moments like everyone else, huh?” Hughes would ask, looking… almost more relaxed at the thought, clasping a hand on Asriel’s shoulder. “Asriel… Listen to me. Trust in a relationship of any kind is important, but I don’t think this is about that to her.”

“Then what is it about?!” Asriel snapped, though the venom had already left his voice.

Hughes pushed his glasses up on his face, giving a grin. “Take my wife, Gracia. She is absolutely everything in the world to me, and I trust her more than I trust myself. She’s a fantastic wife and a wonderful mother, and she makes sure I have my head on straight each and every day. We are partners! But, I don’t usually tell her what i’m working on at the office.”

Asriel’s face fell, shifting between confusion and curiosity at the statement.

“It’s not that I don’t trust her. Or even that I think she can’t handle it. But most of what I do at my job is risky, stressful to do and talk about, and it’s a lot of things she can’t really change. Like it or not, I’m in charge of handling it. So at that point, why stress Gracia out and make her worry for no reason?”

“And she’s okay with that?” Asriel asked.

“Well, nowadays. Back when we were younger, I won’t deny there was a few fights about it. But we figured out a compromise. Even if I don’t tell her what I’m doing, I do make sure I mention how I’m feeling, and when there’s something bothering me. I let her in on the parts she can help with, and the bits we can work on together.”

“But… I’m not just willing to watch Chara keep getting hurt. And I can help her! I’m not… and, I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m demeaning the job, I know how hard Gracia works, but i’m not just a housewife! I can help her!”

Hughes took his hands off of the young Dreemurr’s shoulder. “Of course you can. I just don’t know if she knows that. She’s trying her best to make the world she wants for you - like I do with my family.”

Asriel looks up, “then… what do I do?”

Hughes’s smile broadens. “Well, I can’t tell you exactly how to talk to your sister. I think that’s your specialty. But, well, just like me and Gracia, I think you two need to have that talk. Chara’s pretty smart… but she might need a reminder that she’s not the only one, some times.”

Asriel’s hands balled into fists. He knew what he had to do.

But… first, this hot chocolate smelled really good!
 
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Chara Dreemurr

The Chihuahua of Flirting
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Chara grit her teeth as she headed into the firing range. DA ‘22. That’d been how long it had been since she’d held a gun, and yet, the familiarity had never fully left her.

Back when she’d first forced her to learn, Toriel had even said as much, since according to her mother, she was both a quick study and rarely rusted at anything - and also according to her, it was such a shame she didn’t apply that more often.

The eldest Dreemurr sighed. If there was one truly great shame, it’s that she hadn’t figured out how right mom tended to be on everything with her before…

Chara pushed the thought out of her mind, before heading up to the range, Pistol at the ready and Earmuffs in. Round after round - the first one going completely wide, missing the target, while the next 2 struck center of mass. She’d got the hang of it relatively fast… or so she thought, before the fourth round went partly wide, striking the shoulder.

Chara ‘tsk’ed at the shot. This was like learning how to summon knives all over again, but with a nice kick to her arm and the exhaustion of muscles added in. It was a hell of a lot more work and exercise than she felt up to after that last battle, certainly.
Chara unloaded the magazine from the gun, lowered the weapon slowly onto it’s fixed position, and fell backwards with a sigh.

To her surprise, she hit something… or someone.

Looking up, she found herself staring straight in the face of Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye.

Which means she was leaning straight into the…

Chara jumped up a good two feet, refusing to let the narrative finish that thought as she clambered.

“Chara! Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you…” Riza yelled above the din with a look of legitimate concern. Bless her heart.

Chara took a moment to catch her breath, putting a hand to her chest, before pointing away from the shooting range, hoping to have this conversation somewhere she wouldn’t need ear-muffs.

---

Outside the shooting range, Chara managed to recover her normal, calm demeanor, separated by a thin line of reason from her rampaging hormones. She closed her eyes as she leaned against a nearby wall, hoping and praying that it seemed like her way of looking like a cool teen, and not like she was desperately worried a second look at Riza would remind her of the forbidden valley and break her composure all over again.

“Lieutenant Hawkeye. You would not just come down here to see me, would you?”

"You're right. I'm here on my own time. However, it's not every day that a kid in a lime green hoodie finds her way down here. Or his way, depending on who I asked." Riza would add, "I figured this might be a good chance to speak with you."

Chara would give a nod, slowly opening her eyes as she finished focusing hard on an image of Jerry for a moment, meeting her gaze with hazel eyes. “In the last operation, Saren utilized a unique power to render me serene, as I reported… leaving my magic completely useless. I figured that means I need more than a knife, at least until this war is over. Besides… Karl Jak sent me a present.” Chara replied with a wry grin, recalling the delivery left straight on her desk, somehow, at the Hughes residence.

’Make sure to mention your Syntech sponsored weaponry when the media asks you how you survived your next boss fight! -KJ”

Riza raised an eyebrow. “Do you think he knows?”

Chara just shrugged. “If he does or if he does not, I doubt I could truly figure it out either way. Karl Jak is by far the hardest study I have dealt with in the crossroads, and I have yet to even have a proper conversation with him.” The Judge mused.

Riza nodded, “This is my normal shooting time, but I would be happy to coach you a little.”

Chara brushed a hand in front of her face. “I should not be taking time away from our sharpshooters' important training.”

Riza just gave a faint smile. "And I would much rather you be shooting at your best if you're going to be watching our backs on the battlefield. I don't mind. Though, there is something else..."

Chara raised an eyebrow, not sure where the conversation was heading, as Riza’s tone softened, choosing to quiet and allow Riza to explain.

“Earlier, when we talked on the rooftop, you mentioned your issues with Cevanti. A prison, you called it..”

Chara blinked, the response causing her face to fall to surprise, for once, at least, for an instant.

“You want to speak of that…?

Riza's brow would furrow. "Cevanti is my homeland. I won't pretend that it's perfect, but you're old enough that a statement like that isn't just childish complaining. Which means there's something you've seen that's deeply wrong with my home." Hawkeye gave a small sigh, her expression softening, "Would you tell me about it?"

Chara gave a slight frown, leaving one eye closed as she leaned forward from the wall, a curved smile slowly forming on her features. “...You already know a small part of the story. It just lacks context.” Chara would reply, “...I would like to leave this conversation until we return home.”

Riza’s stare was unflinching. “...You won’t run? And you’ll come back here even if you do die again?” Riza asks.

Chara’s eyes fail to meet her gaze as a grin creeps up. “The tablet I left upstairs. In Hughes’ care. The password is “Rei, come feed me.” with proper punctuation. If I fail to return, die in permanent fashion, or are unmade into one of Darkseid’s eternal slaves, Look in the third folder from the top. It will not explain anything well, but you will get some of your answers.” Chara would reply, “...though many more are personal, but I imagine you don’t-”

Riza met her eyes as Chara made the mistake of taking in the intensity of Riza’s gaze. “I do.”

And that was the end of that line of thought. Chara tried to think of a snappy comeback, one she’d actually want to say, and none came. The idea of showing her gratitude for such treatment properly also came to mind, and yet…

She had become quite the coward these days, after all. So in that moment, she could only manage an embarassed, “Heh…” in reply.

Then, inspiration struck, a second or two later, “So… then I suppose you’ll have to train me to aim real well, then, Lieutenant Hawkeye. Y’know, so I survive.”

Hawkeye nodded, “I hope you have the next few hours free…” she replied, and Chara gave a gulp. Exercise - let alone exercise for several hours was not her thing. But then…

Well, she could think of worse people to spend it with.
 
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