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but the greatest of these is love

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Blue hummed to himself, smiling happily. He finished tying the knot, tugging on it gently to make sure that it wouldn't come loose.

"There, perfect!" he said, grinning down at the child and small monster that he'd just tied to a tree. "Don't worry you two, I'll be right back. Just need to check out where we landed and make sure the coast is clear!"

"You could have done that without tying me to the tree," Chara grumbled, stubbornly looking away. Temmie struggled, futilely trying to pull off the cloth covering their mouth. Originally, Temmie had been free to speak like Chara was, but after a spewing of curse words that were enough to even make Chara cringe, their privileges had been revoked.

"If I did that, you would have immediately started killing everyone," Blue pointed out, his hands on his hips.

"I mean, obviously, " Chara rolled their eyes. "That's the whole point."

Blue sighed, shaking his head. When violence was imminent, drastic measures had to be taken. Unfortunately, Chara had yet to prove themself trustworthy enough to be allowed out with the general public. "Well, we can work on it later. I'm gonna go see if I can figure out what condition this AU is in. Stay here!"

He began to walk away, stomping through the snow, when Chara called out to him.

"Wait! What if this is one of the violent ones, and a monster tries to kill us?"

Blue paused. The child raised a good point. Then, he shrugged.

"Do your best not to die while I'm gone!" he said, giving a lazy wave over his shoulder. Chara's hiss of anger was enough to bring back his smile, and he hummed jauntily to himself as he made his way to Snowdin.

Besides, judging by the clear scent and lack of dust on the breeze, they were in one of the kinder timelines. Chara would probably be fine. Probably.

Eh, whatever.

"Sans! Hey, Sans!"

Blue twitched, his shoulders drawing up. It'd been a while since someone had called him that...

He spun around, smiling brightly. It was a Snowdrake that was approaching him, shuffling through the snow with a teasing tilt to their beak.

"What the heck are you wearing?" they chuckled, gesturing with their wing to his worn and weathered battle body. "The costume party isn't for a week, y'know!"

Sans laughed in response, even as his soul ached at the reminder. His armor used to be purely decorative, a fun project conceived between him and his brother. It had actual metal in it now, meant to be protective instead of merely cool-looking. Though it was still very impressive, of course.

"just getting ready," he said, trying his best to imitate his brother's more laid-back tone. If a Snowdrake was here, than this world seemed to be one of those 'swap' ones, where Papyrus was the enthusiastic one who wanted to join the royal guard, and Sans was the lazy scientist. "i've got a good feeling about this one, wanna make sure it all fits right."

"Oh, okay!" the Snowdrake said, shrugging casually. They then brightened, their feathers fluffing up in their excitement. "Hey, can I practice a few more of my jokes on you? I think I've come up with some great new material!"

Blue smiled back, chuckling slightly. "sure thing, kiddo. go right ahead."

The young monster beamed at him, and promptly began rattling off a series of snow and ice puns. Most of them were pretty overused, but Blue kept grinning anyway. There was little that could upset him these days, and some bad puns were at the very bottom of the barrel.

Besides, Snowdrake was clearly trying very hard! It would be cruel not to encourage their efforts.

And so, for nearly an hour, Blue stood patiently and listened to the teenager, actually laughing out-loud at a few of the particularly clever ones.

" -  and I mean, wow, talk about giving me the cold shoulder! " Snowdrake finished, watching for his reaction eagerly.

Blue cheered, smiling and clapping enthusiastically.

"Thank you for sharing with me, that was fun!" Blue said, accidentally slipping out of lowercase without his knowledge.

The Snowdrake blushed, ruffling their feathers with an air of importance. "Hey, snow problem! Anytime!"

The two parted with a friendly goodbye, leaving Blue free to finally continue on. He didn't mind the delay - he rarely got a chance to just stop and chat with his fellow monsters nowadays. He appreciated every precious moment he could get.

The puzzles he passed by were all deactivated, clearly being checked for maintenance. Blue felt a wave of nostalgia creep up on him, nearly strangling him with it's sudden ferocity. Sometimes, he really missed those days.

Most of the time, however, the bitterness outweighed the happy memories.

Blue shook it off, approaching the long bridge that would lead him to Snowdin.

There was someone standing on the other side.

Someone with a red scarf tied around him like a cape, wearing shorts and a t-shirt that had 'COOL DUDE' written on it in sharpie. Someone very familiar, and yet dramatically different at the same time.

That someone finally noticed Blue as he made his way across the bridge, and waved energetically.

"OH, HELLO FELLOW SKELETON! HOW WONDERFUL OF YOU TO VISIT!" the Papyrus bellowed, making sure that he was heard over the blustering winds of the cavern.

Blue crossed to the other side, and approached him with a big (fake) smile.

"AH, HELLO!" he said, instinctually switching to uppercase speech. There was no way he would be able to fool Papyrus into thinking that he was the Sans of this timeline - he had found that even the most oblivious of Papyrus's had almost supernatural senses when it came to their brothers. "I'M BLUE! IT'S SO NICE TO MEET YOU."

It really was. Even the darker and more murderous Papyrus's made something in his chest feel lighter.

"I AM THE GREAT PAPYRUS, SENTRY EXTRAORDINAIRE!" Papyrus beamed, holding out his hand to shake.

Blue accepted, shaking his hand with a smile. (He never could deny Papyrus anything.)

"ARE YOU VISITING FROM THE CAPITAL?" Papyrus questioned, despite the fact that Blue had come from the exact opposite direction. "I DON'T THINK I'VE SEEN YOU AROUND HERE BEFORE."

"I'M JUST PASSING THROUGH," Blue said truthfully, skillfully skating past explaining where he had come from. "BUT IF YOU'RE A LOCAL, WOULD YOU MIND GIVING ME A TOUR?"

"CERTAINLY!" Papyrus beamed, looking absolutely thrilled that Blue had asked. "AFTER YOU!"

Papyrus lead Blue into the town, babbling about everything that Snowdin had to offer. He showed off the Librarby and town center, as well as reluctantly gesturing to Grillby's bar and pub. He ended the tour at "SCENIC MY HOUSE", leaving Blue to stare up at the lights still strewn across the second floor of the building.

Despite his best efforts, he could feel tears welling up in his eye sockets.

"OH NO!" Papyrus said, dropping his tour-guide impression when he caught sight of Blue's face. "HAS MY MAGNIFICENCE TRULY BROUGHT YOU TO TEARS?"

"Yes, it was wonderful," Blue managed, giving the counterpart to his brother a sincere smile. "Thank you so much, Papyrus. I have to get going, though. I have people waiting for me."

Judging by Snowdrake's words and by the sedate nature of the town, this timeline hadn't had the human fall yet. There was no point in staying here for now - it would only waste time that he could be using to help the timelines that were really in danger.

"I UNDERSTAND," Papyrus nodded. "YOU HAVE A JOB TO DO!"

Blue jolted, wondering if he'd said that last part out loud. He glanced up at Papyrus, askance, and the taller skeleton merely smiled down at him.

"YOU'RE ON A SUPER-SECRET MISSION FOR THE ROYAL GUARD, RIGHT? I FIGURED THAT'S WHY YOU WERE WEARING SUCH COOL ARMOR, AND WHY I HADN'T SEEN YOU BEFORE!"

"WELL, IT'S A SECRET," Blue said, neither confirming nor denying the other's suspicion. It was a useful enough assumption, at least. It probably meant that Papyrus wouldn't go blabbing about his presence too much - he was very serious about royal guard business.

"I UNDERSTAND!" Papyrus said, giving an audible wink. "UNTIL NEXT TIME, FRIEND!"

Then, Papyrus reached out towards him. For a second, Blue stood stock-still, unsure of what his intentions were, before he hesitantly reached out his arms.

Papyrus enfolded him in his arms, dragging him into a warm and comfortable embrace. Blue clutched onto him desperately, burying his skull in the other's neck. For a moment, he thought that he could smell cigarette smoke...

Papyrus released him, and Blue quickly let go, stopping himself from latching on and refusing to let go.

"IT WAS VERY NICE TO MEET YOU," he said, expression so sincere that it almost hurt. "I HOPE YOU CAN VISIT AGAIN IN THE FUTURE!"

"Heh, maybe I will," Blue managed to say, though he knew that it would be better for both of them if he didn't. If he did come back, that meant the anomaly was messing with the timeline, and that wasn't a fate that he wished for this sweet, caring monster.

Blue managed to wrench himself away, walking unsteadily towards the edge of town. It was about time he got back to Chara and Temmie - they were only going to get more cranky, the longer he waited.

Besides, it wasn't like this was his home, or his Papyrus. There was nothing here for him.

(No matter how much he wished otherwise.)

...

"BROTHER! I HAVE A NEW IDEA FOR MY COSTUME!"

"hm? i thought you wanted to go as a pirate."

"YES, BUT I CHANGED MY MIND! I WANT TO GO AS A FEARSOME WARRIOR!"

"a warrior? well, that'd be one way to impress undyne."

"YES, I THOUGHT SO! I WAS INSPIRED BY THE ROYAL GUARDSMAN THAT CAME BY LAST WEEK."

"oh? i didn't hear about this. what was he like?"

"HE WAS VERY KIND! I SHOWED HIM WHERE ALL THE BEST SPOTS IN SNOWDIN ARE! ...AND GRILLBY'S."

"heh, sounds like you two were cooking up a good friendship."

“HUMPH. YES, THAT’S TRUE. AND I GAVE HIM A BIG HUG WHEN HE LEFT, HE LOOKED LIKE HE REALLY NEEDED IT!”

“nice, bro. glad to hear that you’re embracing your kind nature.”

"UGH! HE MAY HAVE LOOKED LIKE YOU, BUT AT LEAST HE DIDN'T TELL THOSE AWFUL PUNS LIKE YOU."

"...what?"

"OH, DIDN'T I MENTION? HE WAS A SKELETON TOO! HIS APPEARANCE WAS VERY SIMILAR TO YOURS, BROTHER! ONLY A BIT SHORTER. AND MORE FIT."

"heh, okay. ...mind telling me some more about this guy?"