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but the greatest of these is love

Chapter Text

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like Chara was, but after a spewing of curse words that were enough to even make Chara cringe, their privileges had been revoked.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?"

Chapter Text

"This is stupid," Chara said moodily, kicking at the dirt with their foot. Hanging off their shoulder, Temmie agreed with a snort.

"Why bother saving all of these worthless creatures?" the toy whined, not even bothering to pretend with their usual cutesy tone. "Someone else will just kill them off eventually. They're too weak."

"Now, now, that's not true at all," Blue said disapprovingly, shooting the pair a scolding glance. "They're much more likely to die of natural causes, especially since the anomaly in this timeline has already been taken care of. Whether they make it to the surface or not is another story, but they probably won't get murdered."

"um... hello?" the Sans he was working on healing said, a faintly bewildered edge to his voice. "i'm still here, y'know."

"Yes, and we're all very grateful!" Blue said, beaming down at him. "Don't worry, I'm almost done."

The Sans sputtered, skull flushing a light red, and fell silent. His eyelights darted away, clear embarrassment in his form.

Blue liked these ones. His little trio was in one of what they tended to call the 'Underfell' timelines, where monsters had fallen to going along with Temmie's ideal of Kill Or Be Killed. Most of them were unpleasant and violent, but that didn't mean they didn't deserve his help.

Everyone deserves to live - everyone deserves a second chance. At the very least, people that cause problems should be obligated to stick around long enough to help fix them.

As always, there was a lot of variations in timelines. This one was what Blue privately referred to as a 'Cherry' timeline, where everyone was a little bit softer, a little more scared than was typical for an Underfell timeline. People were more willing to help each other out, to have faith in other monsters, and the Sans and Papyrus of these versions usually got along pretty well.

Blue was glad of that. He had very rarely come across a timeline where the two brothers absolutely hated each other or anything like that, but he had come across far too many that didn't treat each other right. Timelines, both 'fell' and not, where the brothers acted harshly and sometimes even cruelly with each other, in some misguided attempt to 'toughen them up'.

It was upsetting to see that - not only because it bred some very unhealthy relationships, but because it was so hard for him to witness a world where his brother wasn't his everything.

Blue had taken care of Papyrus, from his years as a babybones and up until the day he died.

He hated to see any pair of brothers that took their bond for granted.

"t-thank ya," the Cherry Sans said, still stuttering a bit from nerves. "don't know how i can ever repay you for this. a-and, for helping the kid, too. they're not evil, and i know they didn't want to hurt anybody. it means a lot, knowing that we're both gonna get a second chance to do things right. so, r-really. thanks, other me."

Blue's smile softened, becoming just a little bit more real.

"I should really be thanking you," he said easily. "Without your ability to keep the kid busy, we wouldn't have been able to get rid of the anomaly in time. You're really strong, y'know? You should be proud of your efforts!"

Sans blushed a deep, crimson red, his bones trembling slightly. "t-thanks. i, uh, i'll try."

Blue giggled at his expression, and let his hands fall back to his sides, the green magic fading. He'd done all he could for this Sans - it would have to be enough.

"I now pronounce you cured!" Blue declared cheerfully, standing and offering a hand to his counterpart. "You should be all set to go, now. Everything else is up to you."

Sans accepted his hand, pulling himself to his feet. "oh, uh, do you have any advice? i mean, what should i do to make sure the kid makes it this time?"

From behind him, Chara snorted.

"Maybe do a better job of actually watching over them," they said bitingly, crossing their arms. "If you really wanted to help them, then the very least you could do is toss a little monster food their way. Y'know, something to stop them from dying so often?"

"Maybe you could throw yourself in front of the blow!" Temmie chimed in, their face split in a cruel leer. "After all, isn't freedom for monsters so much more important than you? I mean, it's not like anyone would - "

"Enough!" Blue said sharply. He could feel himself frowning, and made an effort to drag his smile back into place.

"We don't need to go that far, Temmie," he said, voice sugar-sweet. "I'm sure Sans will do an excellent job of watching over the child! After all, he's a counterpart to the Magnificent Blue, isn't he? It's a given!"

Sans, who had been looking steadily more queasy as the two children lambasted him, brightened, shooting Blue a shy smile.

"i'll do my best!" he agreed.

Blue smiled back kindly. "That's all you can do. I trust you, Sans. I know that you'll do the right thing."

Chara and Temmie stayed silent. There was nothing for them to say here, really. Not while Blue was around to undermine their efforts at least. They would have to wait until the next world, and sneak away when he wasn't looking.

Then they could really have fun.

“i should get going,” Sans said finally, after a full minute of just staring at Blue’s face. He was starting to get a bit concerned. Why did everyone keep doing that? “i was supposed to be home from my station hours ago. my bro’s probably worried.”

Blue felt the practiced smile on his face grow slightly strained, and viciously shoved down the feelings of jealousy that spread within him. He had to get over this - it was useless. And to blame his counterparts for it was cruel.

His brother was dead and gone. He was just gonna have to accept that.

“Alright! Be safe, Sans. We’re counting on you!”

...

"SANS, THERE YOU ARE! I'VE BEEN WORRIED SICK ABOUT - I, I MEAN, UH, YOUR PET ROCK HAS BEEN WORRIED SICK ABOUT YOU! HOW COULD YOU STAY OUT SO LATE AND MAKE IT SCARED LIKE THAT!"

"heh, sorry boss. it was a one-time circumstance, i promise."

"DON'T APOLOGIZE TO ME, I WASN'T WORRIED AT ALL! APOLOGIZE TO THE ROCK!"

"right. sorry rock. i'll be more careful next time."

"MAKE SURE THAT YOU DO! WHAT WERE YOU EVEN DOING OUT THIS LATE?"

"i was, uh, talking to a friend of mine. don't get to see him too often, so it was pretty important."

"HUMPH. AND MAY I MEET THIS 'FRIEND'?"

"...maybe, boss. we'll see."

Chapter Text

Fuck. Blue knew that those two couldn't be trusted. He knew that, but he still had to give them a chance, because he was a huge idiot.

"At least they're probably not gonna kill anyone," he grumbled to himself.

It wasn't much of a positive, however. The only reason Chara and Temmie wouldn't be able to knife anyone to death was because there was no one in this timeline left alive.

Or at least, he hadn't been able to find anyone.

Which was... unfortunate, to say the least. They'd come across a few timelines like this before, and it always made Blue's soul ache. There was nothing he could do for these places, and no way for him to save the monsters that had once inhabited them. Only by the human Resetting could these timelines go back to the way they were before, but if it was empty like this...

That likely meant that the human had lost interest. Or that the anomaly had finished their game, and wasn't planning to come back anymore.

Without the human, Blue couldn't get rid of the anomaly. He was useless.

(Wasn't he always?)

And it was a shame, too. This timeline appeared to be a 'Fell' version of his own timeline - he could tell by the way a ruined spider café was sitting empty in the middle of Snowdin town.

Blue had never really interacted with the monsters of this type of timeline. He'd wanted to, of course, because he loved making friends, but the few times he'd ended up here had mostly been used getting rid of the anomaly without attracting attention. He wanted to make sure he didn't give Chara and Temmie any excuses to start causing mischief, after all.

He'd managed to catch a glimpse of his alternate self once. A proud monster, with deep scars running down the left side of his face. The other Sans had been busy barking orders at some of the Royal Guard members, with his brother (a tall, scarred-up version of Blue's brother that had made him want to flinch away) two steps behind him.

It was always interesting, to see these versions of who he could have become.

So lost in his thoughts of alternate universe and futures-that-weren't, Blue neglected to realize where his feet had taken him until he looked up to see the boarded up windows of the skeleton brother's residence.

"...I guess I always end up coming back here, huh?" If his smile was a little bittersweet, there was no one to call him out on it.

Making his way up the stairs, Blue pushed the door open, a bit surprised to find it unlocked. But then again, it wasn't as if there was anyone around to steal shit.

The inside of the house was dark and musty, like no one had opened the windows for weeks. Standing there in the entryway, Blue found himself caught in the steel-trap of his memories. If it wasn't for the slight color change and the obvious patch jobs in the walls, this could've been his home.

Just the way he left it. Dust and all.

"Hey, Papy... I'm home." The words emerged from his mouth entirely out of his control, leaking out with a feeling like thick sludge. "Stars, is this what you do when I'm not around? You... You haven't cleaned in days. I can practically taste the grime."

Almost without his notice, shiny blue tears began to trace a path down his cheekbones. "I... I missed you while I was gone, Papy. Did you miss me?"

"...sans?"

Blue's skull snapped up at the (un)familiar voice. There, at the top of the stairs, it was Papyrus - !

It was a Papyrus. One with a long, dark coat that looked like it had definitely seen better days, a pair of golden fangs, and an expression so desperate and longing that Blue couldn't stop his tears from overflowing even if he tried.

"sans, sans, sans," he chanted mindlessly, vaulting over the railing of the stairway and landing right in front of Blue.

He flinched at the sudden movement, but he couldn't take more than a single step back before the Papyrus had him in his grasp.

"sans, sans, sans, m'lord, brother," came the wracked whispers against the side of his skull, Papyrus holding him in a tight embrace.

Blue could do nothing but stand there awkwardly, caught halfway between responding to the affection and pulling away to explain that he wasn't Sans - not this timeline's Sans, at least. In the end, the choice was taken from him.

Papyrus swept him up into his arms, making Blue let out a squeak of surprise, and settled onto the stained and lumpy couch, cuddling the smaller skeleton to his chest.

"won't let them hurt you again, m'lord," Papyrus rumbled, the words practically vibrating through Blue's skull with how entangled he was with the other. "i'll do my duty this time, i'll keep you safe no matter what."

"I-I..." Blue gulped, trying to get his voice back under control. He tried to push away from the counterpart of his brother, but the Papyrus only held on tighter. This was too much. Without Chara and Temmie around to distract him, he always got depressed and introspective, and this was just making it worse. "I'm not - "

Papyrus cut him off, squeezing him around the middle and pulling him closer, making it so that Blue couldn't see anything except for the dirty tank top the other skeleton was wearing under his coat.

"won't let them hurt you," he repeated, clearly choosing to not acknowledge Blue's attempts to escape.  "i won't let anyone hurt you. never again."

"I'm sorry!" Blue said through gritted teeth, just barely managing to push away from him. "But I'm not your brother!"

Papyrus went completely still, and then stiffened. Blue made as if to sit up, only to yelp in surprise when he felt the sudden sensation of Papyrus taking a shortcut.

They landed in a dark room, the curtains drawn and preventing any of the Underground's artificial light from pouring in. Blue tried to scramble away, but Papyrus caught him by the arm and pulled him back, keeping Blue trapped beneath him.

When Blue attempted yet again to pull away, Papyrus growled, rusted orange magic sparking from his eye socket.

Blue's own magic flickered, wavering, unsure if he could actually bring himself to attack this aching version of his brother. Hands clenching in the sheets of the bed he was laying on, he took another glance around the room, searching for anything that could possibly get him out of this mess.

His eyelights lingered on a set of polished armor that was propped up in the corner of the room. It looked about his size.

Oh. It hit him like a punch to the sternum. This was his counterpart's room.

He looked back up at Papyrus, that horrible ache settling somewhere in his soul.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "But I'm not your brother. I'm from another timeline, I can't - "

"i don't care," Papyrus cut him off, snarling. He looked truly feral now, his phalanges pinning Blue down with a punishing grip. "you're sans! sans, my sans..."

Blue's eye sockets fluttered closed, a pained sigh leaving him. Then, they snapped open - with the left one flaring a bright, iridescent shade of blue.

Chapter Text

Blue managed to shove the other skeleton off of him, wincing at the snarl it earned him. Before the Papyrus could try to reach out and grab him again, Blue used his magic to hold down his soul, pinning him against the floor.

"I'm sorry," he said again, and he really was. "I'm not your brother. I can't replace him, either."

Blue almost wished that he could.

"then why won't he come back?" Papyrus said, and it seemed like all the fight had been drained out of him. He slumped against the floor, not even bothering to try and fight Blue's hold. "it's been months now. why won't he come back? why won't the kid reset already?"

Blue hesitated for a moment, wondering what he should say. He sat up on the bed, looking down at Papyrus. Was he in any state to be hearing about this?

...And, more importantly, would it be fair of Blue to keep it to himself?

No, he decided. It wouldn't. He would have given anything for someone to explain these things to him before, back in his own universe. Blue would be an huge hypocrite to deny this counterpart the same opportunity.

He slid off the bed, sitting down next to Papyrus's head. Cautiously, he released the magic holding him steady, but Papyrus seemed disinclined to move anywhere. He only tilted his skull slightly, tracking Blue's movements.

"Let me explain," he said softly. "It's pretty complicated, and there's still some things I don't know, but I'll do my best."

Papyrus said nothing, just watching him silently. Blue nervously messed with his gloves, trying to figure out where to begin.

"There's... There's someone else, out there somewhere, who controls a lot of Chara's actions. I know, I know," Blue said, raising a hand when it looked like Papyrus was about to interject. "It sounds crazy. But just hear me out. This person, whoever they are, is classified as 'the anomaly'. I'm sure you've heard of that phrase, considering the way this world is."

When Papyrus nodded slowly, his gaze sharpening, Blue went on.

"The anomaly is the one who chooses whether to fight, or give mercy. The anomaly is the one who decides the resets. The anomaly gets to pick who lives and who dies, basically, by using the children as an avatar."

"children?" Papyrus finally spoke up. "more than one, you mean?"

"Yeah, it's not just Chara," Blue smiled, glad that he had picked up on that. "There's another set of universes that's quite a bit different from ours. The roles of a lot of monsters are swapped around, with Toriel being the one in the Ruins, for example. In those universes, the child is named Frisk, and Chara was the human adopted by the royal family."

Papyrus's brow furrowed, genuinely weirded out by that revelation. "okay, i guess. but i was always led to believe that the anomaly is what controls the timelines. even if they aren't the one using it, doesn't the kid still have that power?"

"Yeah, but they don't have any control," Blue explained. "As soon as we got out onto the surface, Chara said that the save points disappeared, and they couldn't access them anymore. The anomaly has no control once we leave the Underground, but they can still reset everything back to the beginning, which is what always happens. The only way to stop it is to get rid of the anomaly."

"but..." Papyrus looked away, clear lines of frustration on his face. "there hasn't been a reset in months. doesn't that mean the thing is gone?"

Blue's smile wavered. He had... well, he had hoped that he would be able to avoid this part of the conversation, somehow.

"If it really has been that long, then... It, the anomaly... It probably got bored, to be honest. That happens sometimes, where the anomaly just stops 'playing the game' after a while," Blue directed his gaze to the floor as he continued talking, unable to look Papyrus in the eye as he finally confessed. But he quickly shook it off, trying to find the silver lining. "It does usually happen after endings like this, but not always. I once came across a timeline where the anomaly quit in the middle of Chara's journey through the Underground, so they just stayed in Snowdin! That was a pretty fun one, I got to see - "

"then what happens to me?" Papyrus interrupted, causing Blue's mouth to snap shut with a hint of shame. "what happens to my brother? am i just stuck here, trapped by myself until the end of time?"

"I mean, you don't have to be," Blue said, shrinking under the other's angry glare. "I, I could... help you out. Get you to a different timeline, one on the surface maybe? There's plenty of universes that the anomaly has been pushed out of. No more resets. No more loads."

"no more brother," Papyrus finished bitterly.

Blue let out a heavy sigh. "I... No. Even if you go to another timeline, similar to your own, it won't be your brother. I was trying to tell you that."

"and where's yours?"

Blue blinked. "Um, what?"

"where's your brother?" Papyrus moved fast, slamming one hand on the floor by Blue's skull and trapping him against it. "what happened to him, huh? why are you the one traveling the multiverse, trying to figure all this shit out? did you leave him behind? or did you fail to protect him?"

Blue's gaze hardened, and he wrestled down the sudden anger that flared up in his chest. "I did not fail. It wasn't my responsibility to keep him safe. I did all I could, but if he wasn't willing to listen to me, then - "

"oh, so you practically killed him yourself then?" Papyrus snapped, baring his fangs. "weren't enough to protect him, huh? lost your only brother because you were a weak, sniveling coward? is that right - "

"Who exactly are you talking to?" Blue snarled, lashing out and grabbing his arms in a punishing grip. "Me, or yourself?"

Papyrus's eye sockets widened, looking honestly stunned.

Blue stared at him for a moment, and then sighed. He let go, allowing his arms to go limp by his sides.

"Look. This isn't the time or place. Let me go find Chara and Temmie, and we can figure out where to go from there, okay?"

"okay," Papyrus agreed numbly, rolling off of him and getting to his feet.

He didn't give Blue a hand up, but he'd expected that. He stood up, and began leading the way.

Chapter Text

Blue walked down the streets of the deserted Snowdin Town, trying to seem unaffected by his tall, quiet, and possibly violent shadow.

He didn't look back at the other, even when his instincts were screaming at the danger that was being presented. He had to show a little trust here, make sure that Papyrus knew that he didn't mean any harm. What had happened back at the house... he regretted it.

Blue had long had a bit of a temper problem, though he went to great lengths to keep himself under control. But seeing this doppelgänger of his brother accuse him of something so utterly vile was enough to force through some of that constant flood of anger, though he had thankfully reigned himself back in before the situation could get any worse.

And considering the fact that this was a pretty shitty situation all around, that was really saying something.

He had never intended to hurt Papyrus - to dig into those clearly vulnerable wounds. Honestly, Blue kept being tempted to apologize, but he always held his tongue at the last second. Being from a fell world, he doubted that this Papyrus would appreciate it.

Instead, he merely concentrated on tracking down Chara and Temmie, those little troublemakers. Maybe then, he could finally get this show on the road and move on.

He wasn't lying when he said that he was willing to help Papyrus get to a better timeline - he'd done it before, in some of those rare cases where the brothers were abusive towards one another. He'd rescued some counterparts from 'bad endings', too - including a very tall and buff counterpart of himself, who was absolutely miserable after Undyne became the queen and started performing more experiments - most unwillingly, on her subjects.

It was hard, sometimes, for Blue to see that. To see what his friends could have become - he still remembered having nightmares for weeks after seeing a timeline where a fell Sans had become king, only to order the immediate execution of anyone who dared to defy him, including his own brother.

Blue had been able to save the Papyrus of that timeline at the last second, but the whole thing had left him extremely shaken up. It didn't help that it had actually been one of the first fell timelines he had visited, which certainly paved the way for a lot of wariness on his part, moving forwards.

But he didn't have time to ponder that right now. Papyrus - this timeline's Papyrus - was right behind him, close enough that Blue could sometimes feel the fur from the other's long jacket brushing against his back.

It was... unnerving, but he put up with it. Hopefully, this would all be over soon. He'd never actually had someone from another timeline fixate on him like this before, so he could only hope that dumping Papyrus in a different universe would get rid of that little issue.

Making his way through the dense woods surrounding Snowdin, Blue sighed. He had a good idea of where Chara and Temmie had gone, even though he hoped for their sakes that they hadn't. If the rest of this place was any indication, there was barely any monsters left, and Asgore was usually one of the first to go.

Those two brats didn't care about much. They were basically unable to after the disastrous events of their shared timeline, never bothering to get attached to anyone when they knew that they were just going to die. But Asgore had always managed to push past that. They had both been his adopted children, once - and a child can never truly forget their father.

(They could never truly forgive him, either, but that was a story for another day.)

Regardless, barging into the Ruins just to come across Asgore's dust would only upset them. Hopefully, Blue could catch up to them before they made it that far.

"the ruins?" Papyrus asked quietly, almost making Blue jump with the sudden reminder that he was there.

"Yes, most likely," he answered vaguely, still distracted with trying to spot the two children in the distance. "With no one else around for them to torment, they've likely retreated to what's most familiar to them. That would be the Ruins, for sure."

Papyrus snorted, the sound so bitter that Blue nearly winced. "you talk about them like they're your enemies one second, and then your best friends another. so which is it, exactly?"

Blue hesitated, slowing his brisk pace until he came to a stop, turning to face Papyrus. This wasn't something that was easy to explain, and honestly he was a bit worried that Papyrus just wouldn't understand, no matter how well he explained it.

But Papyrus had asked, so Blue would answer - it was only fair.

"Well, they're children," Blue said honestly, shrugging. "I'm not sure if I would really call them my friends, but they're not my enemies. Despite everything, we're stuck on this crazy journey together, and even though there have been plenty of times when I wanted to just punt them off the mountain, I have never once regretted bringing them with me."

"if the kid is anything like the one i know, then they don't care," Papyrus said quietly. Blue wasn't sure if this was actually an improvement over the blistering rage he had seen before. "they don't care about you, or your feelings. they don't care what you see them as, because they see all of us in the same way; obstacles to be overcome. enemies to be defeated. they killed your brother, didn't they?"

Blue stiffened, and then closed his eye sockets for a moment before opening them again, exhaling sharply and letting the rage that had built up in him from such a careless comment just float away with the wind.

"They did," Blue said agreeably. "They killed a lot of monsters. But as I told you before, they didn't have much of a choice."

"you always have a choice," Papyrus said sharply, and Blue could see that his hands were curling into fists in the pockets of his jacket.

"No," Blue said, thinking of broken timelines and dust on his hands and the never-ending battle against someone who was hurting monsters, killing them, just because they were curious/morbid/bored or a million other things. He thought of Chara, crying over the remains of a Queen they were never able to become close enough to. He thought of an orange sweatshirt, abandoned in the snow. "Sometimes, you really don't."

Chapter Text

Things were quiet after that, in a way that could almost be described as comfortable.

Papyrus at least seemed to be thinking about what he'd said, but Blue didn't hold out much hope for this one. Sometimes, the hurt was too much. Sometimes, not even the promise of a better future was enough to make up for the past.

Blue had never been naive, but he no longer threw himself onto the blade for someone who wouldn't even listen to his warnings about it. He'd had enough of that in his own timeline - he wasn't about to start doing it now.

True, he was doing a lot of things that he didn't have to. He didn't have to help this Papyrus at all; he didn't technically have to help anyone.

But he would. Because that was part of who he was, at his core - someone who wanted to help, who wanted everyone to have a chance to be better, and he wasn't going to destroy that part of himself just because the resets had tried their utter best to make that happen.

If anything, it had just made him cling tighter to his ideals. He would help people, just because he could. Nothing would stop him from doing that.

At the reminder, Blue let out a steady breath, centering himself. That was why he was doing this. Whether this timeline's Papyrus chose to accept it was another thing, but Blue would always offer.

"is that them?" he said suddenly, catching Blue off-guard as he pointed to a little crop of trees ahead.

Blue peered in that direction, brightening when he saw the tell-tale sign of Chara's brightly colored sweater disappearing around the corner.

"Yes, that's them!" he said, quickening his pace. "C'mon, we've almost caught up to them!"

Papyrus let out a huff, some unidentified emotion on his face, before he reached out and placed his hand on Blue's shoulder.

"hold on."

That was the only warning Blue got before the world blurred around him, Papyrus dragging him into a shortcut without any further ado.

They emerged directly in front of Chara and Temmie, startling the two children into jumping back with a yelp.

"What the hell, comedian?" Chara yelled, holding their hand over their chest like they were about to have a heart attack. "You scared the shit outta me!"

"Yeah, watch it!" Temmie growled, flashing their large fangs at the two skeletons.

Blue held up his hands in a pacifying gesture, and Papyrus only snorted.

"Sorry, guys," he apologized, still feeling a bit disoriented himself. "But we wanted to catch up to you before we got too far. This timeline is empty except for him, so I'm not sure that we can do much here."

Chara rolled their eyes, looking utterly disgusted with the whole thing. "Oh, goodie. Another dead end. What are you going to do with this poor bastard then? Toss him in a post-pacifist timeline?"

Blue winced at their callous words, but didn't bother to reprimand them. It wasn't really the time, and Chara could never stand to be scolded in front of other people anyway.

"That's up to him to decide," he said diplomatically, ignoring the almost startled look Papyrus shot him. "I'll bring him where he wants to go, and he's also free to stay here if that's what he wishes. You know that I never force anyone to do anything."

Chara scowled, crossing their arms over their chest, but didn’t dispute his claim. They knew that it was true, however much they wanted to argue it. Temmie sneered, but they also didn't try and attack, just clinging to Chara's shoulder like they always did. That was a big improvement over how things would have gone if Blue had made that statement at the beginning of this journey.

"Fine, then," Chara snapped, before turning to Papyrus. He looked at them with a guarded expression, clearly still unsure of how he was supposed to react to this. "What's the plan, skinny? Got somewhere to go? 'Cause we all know that this idiot isn't gonna leave it alone until you make a choice, since he's a complete and utter masochist."

Blue pouted, but kept his protests to himself. It... wasn't entirely off-base, to be honest.

"skinny?" Papyrus smirked, looking like he really couldn't help himself in that moment. "i've always thought of myself as more slim, you know."

"Fine, you're Slim," Chara said, rolling their eyes again. At this point, Blue was worried they would roll their eyes right out of their head. "Hope you're fond of that descriptive, because that's what I'm gonna call you for the rest of your life. Now, do you have somewhere you wanna go? Because if there's really nothing else here, then I wanna get a move on."

"There's plenty of different timelines you could stay in, if you wanted to," Blue interjected, before Papyrus (Slim? well, it did fit.) could shoot back a retort. "Do you have any sort of preference?"

Slim studied him for a moment, eyelights tracing up and down his form, and Blue made sure to keep himself looking as non-threatening as possible. After everything that he had gone through in this timeline, he really didn't want to end it with more dust on his hands.

"i think i'll stay with you for a while," he declared, making Blue blink in surprise. That hadn't been one of the options! "if i wanna pick a place to spend the rest of my life in, i wanna see it myself first."

Blue smiled at him cheerfully, even though he really wanted to groan in dismay. Slim was definitely making a smart decision on his part, but it would be making things a lot harder for Blue.

"Oh, no way in hell - " Temmie began, only for Blue to cut them off.

"Okay, that's settled then!" he said, clapping his hands together and ignoring Temmie and Chara's look of betrayal. "You can come along, and decide what timeline you want to stay in at any time, alright? You just let me know."

"i sure will," Slim said, shooting the two children a triumphant look behind Blue's back.

They both scowled at him, Temmie sticking out their tongue.

Blue just sighed, keeping his smile on his face with monumental effort. He could already tell that this would be a disaster.

Chapter Text

Chara took out their knife, making Slim tense up.

"Don't worry," Blue said lowly, placing a hand on the other's arm so that he wouldn't attack. "This is how we jump universes. It's alright. I won't let them hurt you."

It wouldn't be honest to say that Chara wouldn't try to hurt him, because they very well might, but at least Blue could guarantee that he would be able to stop them.

Slim didn't relax, but he did place his hand back in his pocket, instead of out and ready to launch some bone attacks like it was before.

Chara scoffed at the little display, but didn't say anything. Temmie did bare their teeth, however, clearly not trusting Slim to hold himself back.

That was fine. Blue could handle this. He could make sure that no one got hurt. He could do this, and he would. Firming his resolve and feeling his soul pulse once with his renewed conviction, he took a step forward, gesturing for Chara to get on with it.

"A new universe, please," he requested politely. They would be able to show Slim how some other places worked, and then let him decide if he wanted to try a certain timeline.

It was a strange quirk of the ability, but once the anomaly had completely vanished from Chara, their Determination had increased dramatically, enabling them to do things that were impossible back in their own version of the Underground. Chara had once confided in him, quietly, with Temmie asleep by their side, that they felt like they could even erase the world, if they wanted to.

'Erase it,' they had said, eyes looking too shadowed for one so young. 'And move on to the next one.'

Blue couldn't even begin to imagine how that felt, what it must be like to have that much power. Terrifying, he supposed.

But then again, despite his own sizable power levels, Blue had always felt utterly helpless. So, maybe it wasn't that different.

"Yeah, yeah," Chara said curtly, as their knife began to glow a deep, crimson red that reflected the color of their soul.

Once the blade was fully red and faintly smoking, like it had been dipped in hot magma, Chara drew a long line in the empty air in front of them, causing reality to start tearing itself down the middle.

There was a strange hissing sound as the portal opened, and Blue had to resist the urge to grimace. Something about this never felt comfortable for him, no matter how many times they did it. The sensation was nothing like his own shortcuts; which he rarely used anyway.

This always made him feel ill. Like he was stepping into a completely empty space - which, he supposed was kind of what they were doing. Traveling through the space between worlds.

"C'mon then, time to get moving!" he said cheerfully, clasping his hands together in front of him. He then turned to Slim, remembering that there was some things the taller skeleton should probably know. "We never know quite where we're going to end up when we head to a new universe, or what place in the timeline we'll arrive, so it's best to stay on your guard in the beginning. But we usually land out in Snowdin forest somewhere, since it's one of the best places to lay low. So, just be prepared for that, I guess!"

Slim shrugged, evidently fine with it. Smiling as best he could in this situation, Blue forcibly turned up the cheer.

"Okay!" he chirped happily, deciding to go ahead and make the first move. "Let's go!"

Blue stepped through the portal without another word, unaware that Chara and Temmie exchanged a quick glance, before the latter jumped down from their usual perch on the human's shoulder and followed Blue through the portal.

Chara and Slim stared at each other evenly, neither breaking eye contact.

"I don't like you," Chara said bluntly, crossing their arms over their chest. They tapped the blunt side of the knife against their shoulder as they did so, smirking when Slim's eyelights automatically tracked the movement.

The skeleton monster's mouth turned up in something that was more a baring of teeth than a smile.

"same."

Chara snorted, entirely unbothered by his statement. "Good. Then we're on the same page. And just so you know..."

They stared directly at him, their bright red eyes blazing in the artificial light of the Underground.

"I don't hate the comedian. We've had our differences in the past, and I would gladly sink my knife into that brother of his if I ever got another chance, but I'm not in this to hurt him. There was nothing left in our original timeline. Nothing worth sticking around for, anyway. I'm doing this because it's more entertaining than wasting away in an empty universe that even the resets couldn't fix."

"sure," Slim said, hands still in his jacket pockets. He seemed utterly unaffected by their words, but Chara could see the way his grin tightened. They knew that look - it was the same look that the Papyrus they used to know had. Heh, no wonder Blue went out of his way to try and help this bastard. "but what does that have to do with me?"

Chara almost wanted to roll their eyes. Didn't he get it? All of this was about him - it was about Blue being a sucker for the broken ones, and about his apparent desire to be a glutton for punishment.

Chara would've just ditched this guy, no problem. But of course Blue couldn't do that. He never could.

That was why it was up to Chara and Temmie to look after this idiot, and make sure he didn't get himself killed while he was trying to make sure everybody else didn't get killed. Even if that meant they had to get their hands dirty.

While under the control of the anomaly, Chara had done that plenty of times. It actually felt a little better to do it under their own power.

"If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you," Chara declared, and then abruptly spun around to head through the portal. They had waited for too long already - who knew what trouble Blue had managed to get himself into by this point.

...

Hm... This was unfortunate.

"I totally understand where you're coming from," he said soothingly, holding his hands up where the guards could see. "But I'm not here to hurt anyone, I promise."

"Then how did you appear in the middle of the throne room, huh?" the guard accused, sticking their spear closer to Blue just in case he got any ideas.

"Uh..." Blue could practically feel himself sweating. "Magic?"

By his feet, Temmie groaned. This was already a complete train wreck.

Chapter Text

Blue raised his arms a little higher, ignoring the way the guards moved closer. He was trying his usual technique of looking as cute and helpless as possible, but it didn't seem to be working much.

Temmie, by his feet, let out a pitiful whimper, curling their lips and making their eyes look big and glossy. Curses! He was being beaten on the cuteness front!

The head guard, one with long bunny ears sticking out of the top of their helmet, which vaguely reminded Blue of those two guys who were always hanging out behind the NTT resort, sighed, relaxing their grip on their spear.

"Look, dudes, just come with us, okay?" he spoke gruffly, gesturing for them to follow. "We won't, like, stab you or whatever, but you better not cause any trouble!"

"No trouble, got it!" Blue said cheerfully, subtly nudging Temmie with his foot as they started moving further into the castle. He really couldn't afford for the small monster to start any shit today, so hopefully they would restrain themself.

Temmie gave him a look, but then huffed, rolling their eyes. Seemed like they wouldn't go out of their way to provoke anyone, at the very least.

Blue let out a sigh of relief, and allowed himself to relax a tiny bit as they kept walking, guards surrounding them on all sides. He didn't know where Slim and Chara were, but hopefully they weren't far behind.

The rabbit-eared guard went a little ahead of them, slipping through the door and into the throne room. Blue waited patiently, but after moment of Temmie looking bored and like they wanted to start wandering around, he bent down and carefully scooped them up, ignoring their indignant hiss.

Temmie liked to be picked up. Only by certain people, of course, but Blue was thankfully one of those people, even if Temmie would never admit it. But the mere fact that they didn't try and wriggle out of his grip was enough of a confirmation.

"Don't worry," Blue muttered, scratching behind the stuffed toy's ear. "It's okay. We'll be okay."

The other guards, who were still surrounding the two of them, looked at them with sympathy, which was a good sign for them getting through this without issue. Fell timelines or ones that had bad endings didn't usually have this many monsters alive in the first place, let alone ones that felt sympathetic towards the prisoners.

This was going to go great! Blue had a good feeling about this one.

"The King will, like, see you now," the bunny-eared guard announced, coming back into the hallway.

Blue followed his command, walking into the throne room with Temmie in his arms.

This was definitely not a Fell universe. The golden flowers that were growing through the floor was a perfect indicator to that. They were beautiful, and pristine, blowing in the slight wind that came from being so close to the barrier.

Standing in the large patch of flowers was two figures - one large and imposing, the other much, much shorter.

"Welcome, friends," Asgore said calmly, giving the two prisoners a genuine smile. "It seems there has been something of a mix-up, here?"

"Yes, I... suppose so," Blue said, gaze transfixed on the other figure in the room.

It was Frisk. Happy, smiling, and standing next to Asgore as if they weren't worried about being speared through by him at any moment.

"Nice to meet you," the child said quietly, nodding in greeting.

Blue automatically returned it, his mind still reeling with the possibilities of this. Exactly where in the timeline had they landed? Had there ever been a time when he had seen Asgore and Frisk like this together, in the Underground?

Well, he knew the answer to that - no way. On the surface, sure, there were plenty of universes where Asgore and Frisk considered each other family and spent a lot of time together. But never here, in the Underground, especially without Toriel there to supervise!

How utterly fascinating.

Temmie squirmed uncomfortably at the sight of Frisk, having never quite grown used to seeing other versions of their adopted sibling still alive and well. Seeing other versions of Chara was one thing, since their Chara was always with them, but seeing Frisk hurt.

Blue could relate. Their little posse had visited several other timelines like their own, but he could still never bear to interact with the Papyrus' there more than he had to. It hurt too much, dug too deep into those (still raw, still aching) wounds.

"I wasn't aware that there were other skeletons left in the Underground," Asgore said kindly, drawing their attention back to him. If he had noticed the way both of them had been blatantly staring at the child by his side, he didn't mention it. "I'm sure Papyrus and Sans will be thrilled!"

"W-Well, extenuating circumstances and all that..." Blue managed to stutter out, trying to regain control of himself. He had never been confronted in such a direct manner before - this whole thing had really caught him off-guard.

"Yes, I would like to know more about that," Asgore nodded, making Blue stiffen. He didn't seem to be aggressive yet, but Blue knew personally just how quickly that could change. "My child, would you be willing to go get our guests some tea?"

Frisk nodded brightly, shooting Blue and Temmie a considering glance. He noticed, a bit belatedly, that this Frisk seemed quite a bit older than the ones he had dealt with previously. "Of course! Do you two have any preferences?"

Blue clapped his hand over Temmie's mouth, knowing on instinct that the small monster was about to say something incredibly rude or fatalistic, as was their apparent go-to.

He smiled back at the child, even though the expression was strained. "Ah, no, not really. But before we do anything like that, I think I should mention that there were two other people traveling - "

"HEY! Lemme go, you overgrown mutt!"

"Traveling with me," Blue finished with a sigh, eye-sockets fluttering closed in his only sign of exasperation.

Chara and Slim were lead into the room by some more guards, these ones part of the canine unit that operated in this type of universe's version of Snowdin. Slim was only restrained with his hands behind his back, and looked horribly relieved to see Blue for all of a split-second, and then the expression vanished.

Chara, however, was being held aloft in the air by one of the other guards, futilely kicking their legs around in an attempt to get down.

When they were finally released, the child scurried over to Blue without delay, crossing their arms over their chest.

"This is such bullshit!" they complained, and scowled at Blue when he gave them a cross look for the language. "And where the heck were you, anyway? In here smelling the flowers? We have better things to be doing, y'know - "

"Chara..." Came the whisper, voice hoarse.

Oh, fuck. Blue had completely forgotten about them. Only a few feet away, eyes filled with tears, Asgore was staring avidly at the face of his long-dead child.

Chapter Text

Chara froze, some kind of fear response that they would never admit to. Asgore strides over, his cape billowing behind him as Blue watched, helpless.

What was he supposed to do here? He had to do something, didn't he?

But when he stepped forward to try and get in between them, Slim stopped him with a hand on the shoulder, shaking his head. So Blue remained in place, anxiously watching the proceedings.

"Chara... my child," Asgore said, falling to his knees before them. "How is this possible? How is it that you stand before me, alive once more?"

Chara's eyes darted around as they searched for an escape, looking like they were about to have some kind of panic attack.

"I-I..."

"Dad," Frisk interrupted gently, coming to stand beside the two. "I think there's something else going on here. Could we take a moment to let them all explain?"

"...Of course," Asgore said, as if he had only just remembered that they were all in the room. He glanced back over to Blue, saw Slim standing beside him, and seemed to come to some revelation. "Guards, leave us."

"Sire - " the bunny-eared one began to protest, but he was silenced when Asgore raised his hand.

"Leave us," Asgore commanded, though not unkindly. "And please, tell no one of what you saw here today."

"...Understood!" Though they still seemed reluctant, the guards all saluted and filed out of the room, closing the doors gently behind them.

Asgore turned and went back to his throne, sitting down heavily.

"I am afraid that there are no other chairs, but please make yourselves comfortable," Asgore rumbled. "I get the feeling that we may be here for quite some time."

Blue laughed a bit nervously, but didn't deny it. This wouldn't be the first time he'd had to explain things - he usually tried to nab one of his counterparts if possible, since they would already know a lot of what he was going to talk about, but he was okay with discussing it with others as well. Especially since none of them would remember it after the RESET, so he didn't worry about disturbing the natural order or anything.

He found a clear patch in the flowers and carefully sat down, Temmie immediately making themself at home in their lap as the other two sat next to him on opposite sides. Frisk just hopped up onto the arm of Asgore's throne, their legs swinging, totally carefree.

There was a lot to say here that would be about them. Blue was going to try and avoid that as much as possible, try and preserve some of the peace that Frisk had gained here. The anomaly wasn't gone from this timeline, obviously, or Blue wouldn't be here.

Which means that no matter how happy this timeline was, it would RESET. It had to.

But Blue wasn't going to say that, not here. Not right now, when Frisk was grinning at them like an excited little kid and called Asgore their Dad.

It just wasn't the right moment - to say it now would be purposefully cruel.

...Which, was why Blue was going to have to keep a very close eye on Chara and Temmie during this little chat.

"As I'm sure you've already guessed at this point, I'm Sans," Blue began, trying to smile and only barely succeeding. "But please, call me Blue. This is Papyrus, who we call Slim, and... uh, Chara, along with Temmie."

Asgore was paying attention, but his eyes were still glued to Chara. "You all are from some kind of... alternate universe, I assume?"

"Yes, exactly!" Blue beamed, almost tempted to applaud. No one usually got it this quickly, though most of the monsters that they came across didn't have nearly the same amount of emotional investment in Chara the way Asgore did. Blue wasn't planning to talk about alternate timelines or anything like that, so this was the best (and simplest) explanation to roll with. "We travel the multiverse, helping out the universes that need it and making sure that there are no anomalies messing around with everything."

"Anomalies?" Frisk said. That seemed to have caught their attention, because their gaze zeroed in on Blue.

He nearly shivered. It had been a while since a Frisk had looked at him like that, and he forgot how intense they were. Chara and their counterparts tended to be snarky and talkative, often waving their knife around as a threat, but there was very little about them that Blue found actually threatening.

Frisk, on the other hand...

Blue quickly covered up his unease, wiping any trace of it from his posture as he smiled back at the human child.

"Yep! Sometimes, something can go wrong with a contained universe, and cause huge issues. This is called an 'anomaly'. I have taken it upon myself to go to other universes and make sure that everything's okay!"

"And, the others?" Frisk said, gaze lingering on Blue's traveling companions.

He knew what they meant, but he wasn't going to give it to them. Not that easily, anyway.

Instead, he faked a laugh, rubbing the back of his skull. "Well, they really just came along to keep me out of trouble. As I'm sure you've noticed, I have a bit of a habit of getting in over my head."

"And where do you come into this, my child?" Asgore asked, directing the question to Chara, who had stayed uncharacteristically silent.

Chara's eyes darted to Blue for a second, but when all he did was shrug helplessly, they sighed.

"I was the seventh human to fall Underground," they said tersely. "Frisk was the first."

There was a prolonged silence - Blue had no idea what Asgore was thinking.

"I see..." he said finally, leaning back in his throne as if he couldn't bear his own weight any longer.

For a moment, it seemed like Chara was just going to leave it at that, but then they couldn't stop themself.

"I met you in the Ruins!" they blurted out, catching his attention. "You cared for me... helped me when no one else would! I know that I'm not... I'm not your Chara, but I still think that it's important you know that you were the best Dad I ever had."

Asgore chuckled, and even though the sound was strained, it was genuine. "I am glad to hear it, my child."

While this little moment was going on, Blue and Frisk locked eyes. They nodded to each other, subtly. They knew that they had things to discuss.

Chapter Text

"Tell me more about your Underground!" Asgore said eagerly, leaning forward a bit in his throne. His tears had dried, and he seemed to be in much higher spirits now.

Chara and Temmie exchanged a look, before glancing over to Blue. He merely smiled at them, urging them on.

"Sounds like fun!" he chirped, catching Frisk's eye. "In fact, I wanted to ask Frisk some questions of my own, so this is the perfect opportunity!"

Slim studied his face for a moment, apparently trying to see if he should interfere, so Blue just smiled calmly at him. This was fine. Blue could handle himself, and this Frisk didn't seem to be much of a threat. Not to him, anyway.

Blue stood up, and Frisk went with him, the two stepping over to the large windows that were letting in light from the barrier. With Asgore distracted by the others, this would be the best time for them to chat.

"Did you get to the surface?" Frisk asked, not bothering to try and sugarcoat things.

Blue resisted a wince, and nodded. "Yes, a few times. It never lasted, I'm afraid."

"It RESET, then?" Frisk said. It wasn't really a question - they already knew the answer, just like Blue.

"Yeah," Blue answered anyway, smiling ruefully. "Chara can't control it. I assume it's the same situation with you?"

"They can't control it at all?" Frisk said, humming thoughtfully when Blue nodded in reply. "I can control the Resets, but only if I'm in the Underground. As soon as we get out, it lasts for about two months on average."

Blue's eye sockets widened, and he whistled in astonishment. "That's a surprise. It barely lasted even a couple of days for us. Most of the time we didn't even get to the bottom of the mountain."

Frisk frowned, tapping their fingers along the windowsill. "So, our situations do have some differences. I suppose that's not too surprising. Do you know how to stop it, then?"

"Mm, kind of," Blue said off-handedly. He didn't want to give away all his cards in this, not yet. "Honestly, it will require more from you than it will from me. And you'll have to RESET."

Frisk glared at him sharply, their golden eyes glittering in the light. "No. I absolutely will not, this is the only time I've managed to make an ending where everyone is happy!"

"Are they really?" Blue asked, though not unkindly. "I don't mean that your efforts are a waste, or that they don't love you and appreciate what you've done. But they're all still Underground. And... Believe me, once you've gotten a taste of freedom after so many years in the dark, it starts to become all you yearn for."

Frisk was silent, contemplating. Blue could see the pain in their eyes, and he sighed.

"Honestly, I'm rather surprised that the Anomaly has let it go on this long in the first place. Yours must not check up on you very often."

"What...? Anomaly?" Frisk stared at him for a moment, thoughtfully, then let out an amused huff. "You really are a Sans. He's always spouting things like that. Not in the same way as you, he thinks I'm the anomaly."

If the child's words were a touch bitter, Blue didn't mention it. He also didn't mention how being called Sans still made something in his chest tighten, like a wounded animal shying away from any contact, good or bad.

"My brother was the same way," he said ruefully, ignoring how that statement made the wounded animal in his chest shy away even more. "Never bothered to look at anything that wasn't right in front of his face, that lazy jerk..."

(The animal was whimpering, now. It was in so much pain.)

Frisk tilted their head to the side, examining him, and then relaxed. They shrugged, an easy smile falling to their lips once more.

"Sounds like a guy I know," they said agreeably. "So, tell me this. If we get rid of the Anomaly and I RESET, that'll be the end of it, right? I'll be able to take the path I want, bring everybody to the surface without having to worry about being thrust back? No more RESETs?"

"Only if you want to," Blue said quietly. “You’ll be in control.”

There was nothing he could do to stop that. Most of the Fallen Children weren't interested in staying in an eternal loop of living their journey through the Underground over and over again, but some...

Some did. Some were afraid of what they would find on the outside, so they would rather stay with what they knew. Some, despite everything, didn't want the monsters to go to the surface, for one reason or another. Some were just bored.

Blue couldn't stop that. All he could do was help direct them in getting rid of the Anomaly, and give them the ability to have a choice.

And sure, not all of them made good choices. But there was no magical cure for that.

"I don't want to," Frisk said, shaking their head. They looked straight at Blue, their golden eyes blazing with something that he could only describe as Determination. "They've been through enough, I've been through enough. I've lived so many years in the Underground that sometimes I forget how old I am, how old I'm supposed to be. I've forgotten about so many things on the surface, lost so much of who I once was. I just want peace. I just want this to end."

Blue let out a steady breath, clenching his hands. If only the other children could see this, could understand this conviction that Frisk was showing.

He didn't blame them for their actions - how could he? But... He was bitter. Blue could freely admit that. He was a monster, a monster that had lived an average and mostly happy life, with friends that he admired and a brother that he absolutely adored.

What happened to him, what happened to all of them - it wasn't fair. That's why it's Blue's job to make things fair.

"One last RESET," he said, holding Frisk's gaze with a Determined expression of his own. "Just one last time. Then, I promise you, this will all end."

Chapter Text

It wasn't long until they had to go back to the others - Chara was only able to keep Asgore distracted for so long. But Blue was okay with it.

He didn't necessarily need Frisk's help to get rid of the Anomaly. He needed their help to RESET, since Chara wasn't capable of that in other universes, but everything else he could do on his own. However, that didn't mean that he wasn't happy for the assistance. It certainly made everything easier.

(He could still remember one particularly disastrous incident on a surface timeline when he'd had to fight against a Chara that was still under the control of the Anomaly. It was a nasty business all around.)

"How long will you be staying?" Asgore said, as Frisk and Blue walked back over to the rest of the group. His eyes were fixed solely on Chara, and Blue couldn't find it in himself to fault the man for the hope in his expression. "Will you be needing any help with accommodations?"

Catching the Monarch's attention with a polite smile, Blue shook his head.

"Thank you so much for the offer," he said. "But I doubt we'll be staying long enough to have any need of that. There's a small Anomaly here that I have to deal with, and then we'll be on our way."

That managed to catch Asgore's interest, and he straightened up in his throne, frowning. "An anomaly? Like how you described earlier?"

"Yes, exactly," Blue said. It wasn't quite a lie, either. "I promise, it hasn't hurt anyone. In fact, I doubt it would have any noticeable effect at all. But I always feel that it's important to deal with these things as they come, so that they don't bloom into bigger issues in the future."

Asgore sighed, nodding along with the explanation, though he didn't seem particularly happy about it.

"I can see the wisdom in that," he said ruefully. "Is there any preparations that you will need help with? A specific location?"

Blue exchanged a look with Chara, who could only shrug.

"Well..." he said slowly. "There are areas within the Underground where it's easier to access the Anomaly. By the barrier, for example, or the area at the beginning of the Ruins. If both of those spots are too difficult, or sensitive for security, there are other places that we could try."

Usually, he went for the area between Waterfall and Snowdin. That was the spot where Papyrus usually died, and since that was a conscious decision that the Anomaly had to make, it was a stronger area than most. There was also a weird hallway in Waterfall that had so much energy it was nearly exploding with it, but Blue couldn't always find it for some reason.

Regardless, seeing as the barrier was literally ten feet away from where they were standing, it would be the most convenient place. But Blue could also understand why Asgore wouldn't want them going anywhere near it (near the place where he held the human souls), no matter how many humans wearing the face of his dead child showed up today.

Asgore studied him carefully, for a long moment. Blue stared back, trying his best to look sincere. He really was sincere. He had absolutely no plans to steal a human soul, or cause any more harm to monsterkind.

He had witnessed enough dust in the air. Blue kinda wanted a change of scenery.

"I will guide you to the barrier," Asgore said finally. "I hope that my presence there will not disrupt your work."

He didn't phrase it like a question, and Blue smiled cheerfully even as his thoughts flew in every direction.

Asgore was a good man, but he had never been a good King. Even in his home universe, Blue had always found Toriel to be the better ruler, despite the mistakes she made.

But, then again, considering that Blue had worked for her for many years, he was probably considered biased.

Regardless, this was a rare breed of Asgore. One who was not entirely weighed down by guilt, but also one that had accepted Frisk as his child without leaving the Underground. Curious.

There was a lot that he would like to learn about this timeline, and Blue was hit with a surge of disappointment when he realized that he likely wouldn't get the chance to ask it. Maybe after all of this, when the Anomaly was gone and Frisk made their way through the Underground for the last time.

Maybe, when they were all living happily on the surface, Blue would ask.

For now, he kindly thanked Asgore for his assistance, studiously ignoring the way that Slim was apparently trying to bore a hole in the back of his skull with the way he was staring.

He knew that in the initial explanation to the other skeleton monster that he had left a lot of stuff out, but this wasn't the time or place to try and pull his brother's counterpart aside and fill in the gaps. They had to present a united front, here.

Even though Blue and Slim didn't look remotely alike (beside the fact that they were both skeletons), they could still pass it off like they came from the same universe. Anything else would plunge them both into some very uncomfortable conversations about where their brothers were, and why they had decided to travel together.

Hopefully, Slim would take the hint on that one, though Blue wasn't really worried. Papyrus, any Papyrus, was tougher and far more cunning than anyone gave him credit for. And besides - everybody loves a good prank, right? And this was practically the same thing.

(If you ignore the very real implications behind their brothers' conspicuous absences.)

"Shall we, then?" Frisk said calmly, gesturing for everyone to follow behind them.

Blue wondered, absently, what memories Frisk had of this place. He knew that Chara certainly didn't have any good ones - the child was scowling and grinding their teeth at this very moment.

Blue wished that he had time to stop and comfort them, wished that he had time to actually enjoy the beautiful architecture of the castle, he wished...

Well, he wished for a lot of things. But wishing wasn't his job here - saving the universe was.

So he trotted after the rest of the group, feeling a surge of determination rise in him. Time to get to work.

Chapter Text

Blue let out a deep breath as the small group traveled onwards, stopping in front of the strange white glow of the barrier.

This was it.

He didn't usually have to do this in front of such an audience, and he could honestly admit to a bit of stage fright. Blue could still feel Slim's gaze boring into the back of his skull, and he had to fight hard to stop himself from sweating.

Somehow, he really didn't want to mess this up.

Luckily, since the Anomaly had apparently left this universe alone for so long, this should be a simply fix. There had been plenty of timelines where he'd had to fight against the human child, or even the world itself. If the Anomaly was paying attention, it would use everything in its power, everything that it could manage to get control over to try and stop him.

But that wouldn't happen here - if Frisk had truly been in control for so long, and had actually managed to control their RESETs to an extent, than this should be easy. Famous last words, but Blue was actually pretty confident about this. These things followed patterns, after all, and even the Anomaly could not fully go against that.

"Alright, is this good enough?" Asgore asked, turning to face them after a long moment of staring at the barrier.

(Blue noticed Frisk squirming a little bit as he did that, and hoped that they were taking Blue's previous statement to heart.)

"This is absolutely wonderful, thank you so much, Your Majesty," Blue chirped, trying his damnedest to be optimistic about this. He refused to let some foul attitude bring him down!

He stepped forward, still smiling. "I do need you to take a step back, though. If you could go and stand with the others, I would be much obliged!"

After a moment of silence, Asgore obeyed, apparently willing to trust Blue on this.

Blue watched him go, taking a second to see how the others were taking this. Chara and Temmie looked utterly bored - no surprise there, considering how many times they'd seen him do this before. Slim seemed a bit more interested, though he appeared more exhausted than anything, which made Blue's soul give a painful twinge.

Maybe, after this, they should take up Asgore's offer of a room after all? Just for the night, anyway...

No. They shouldn't stay any longer than they had to, and it wouldn't be fair to Chara. He knew that they wouldn't want to stay here and have Asgore stare at them with such heartbreak, no matter how much they missed the old goat.

Blue would have Chara bring them to a timeline that they had already helped, one on the surface. That would be a good experience for Slim, and let them all take a moment to breath before they went back out into the fray.

Nodding to himself, Blue turned back around and faced the barrier, ignoring the way Frisk's eyes were watching him sharply.

He raised a hand, his left eye flaring a bright, iridescent blue.

In front of him, a thin blue line cut through the air. Reaching out, he pulled it open, revealing a small, dark-tinted screen. The screen was blank at first, but after he tapped it gently, numbers bloomed into existence.

"What is that?" Frisk asked, nearly making Blue jump in surprise. They had managed to sneak up from behind him, and was staring curiously at the scrolling numbers.

"This is... well, think of it as a code," Blue said, wracking his brain for an explanation that would make any kind of sense. He didn't usually go out of his way to explain this stuff to others - it was all very instinctual to him, and hard to explain in the first place. "I did a lot of work dealing with alternate timelines, back in my own world. After a while, and various experiment - "

(Most of them spent trying to get his stupid, damn father back.)

" - I was able to find a way to access this. Didn't really have the stamina to keep it up for long, and I can't actually change much, but this allows me to block off the Anomaly from interfering."

(Determination could do some terrifying things.)

"That's... really cool," Frisk said admiringly.

Blue blinked, smiling at the child. It was, perhaps, one of the most genuine smiles he had given in a while. It had been a while since anyone had complimented him, especially on something like this.

"Thank you, I do my best," he said - and his tone was honest, if not a little teasing.

Giving Frisk one last smile, Blue turned back to his work.

Honestly, it was both more and less complicated than he had said. Since he was unable to really affect the 'code' in any permanent way, he had to be very careful of what he did here. Trying to change the data, force the world into a RESET or anything like that, would be utterly disastrous.

Thankfully, the Anomaly itself was considered an outsider, almost like a virus within the system. As long as Blue isolated that and got rid of it (or at least blocked it off from interfering within the world), there shouldn't be any issues.

These were hard lessons, and one's that he'd had to learn in a harsh manner. Luckily, for everyone, he knew better now.

Blue couldn't change the past. All he could do was try to better the future.

Strings of numbers flew by, Blue's eyelights tracking their progress easily. A part of him was reminded of those days spent in the lab, back before his brother was born. Things were different, then.

Of course, things were different now, too.

Disregarding the thought, he carefully plucked out the line of data that corresponded to the Anomaly. His suspicions were correct - the Anomaly of this timeline had very little power over the world anymore, just enough to force a 'reboot' if the monsters were on the surface for too long.

It seemed like, just as with Slim's world, the Anomaly had grown bored. That was good for Frisk, at least.

Blue carefully separated that piece from the rest, pulling it aside. Then, he proceeded to shore up the defenses around the code, making sure that no other 'viruses' could get in. No Anomaly had ever managed to successfully break back into the code of a world after being ejected from it, but he preferred not to take any chances.

After he had finished that, he grabbed ahold of the small bit of data that signified the thing that had caused so much pain in this world.

And, vindictively, he crushed it.

Chapter Text

The piece of data crumbled away, almost disintegrating in Blue's clenched fist.

Slim watched in fascination, utterly enthralled by the whole process. He'd never imagined that such a thing was possible, that someone could actually change the state of an AU like this. He knew that Chara's RESETs definitely didn't have power over the world to this extent.

Though... he supposed that it wasn't really Chara who had been doing that, was it? If Blue was to be believed, then it was a nameless, faceless identity from a separate universe that had controlled the child, directing them in who to kill and who to leave alive, making them turn back time like nothing had even happened in the first place...

It was hard to believe, honestly. He did, if only for lack of a better option, but it was hard. Harder still, since the Chara of his own universe wasn't around for him to ask.

Slim remembered that first time, though. Chara had never spoken to him, not once, and at the time, he'd thought they looked so confused and frightened. His soul had ached for this child caught up in the remnants of a war that had ended long before their birth.

He'd felt bad for them, wanted to help them. And then...

Then, he'd found his brother's bandanna, abandoned in the snow. If his dust was on it, it was impossible to tell. Every other trace of the monster that had been his most precious person in the Underground... it had all drifted away in the wind.

Slim's sympathy had disappeared rather quickly after that.

But now, he found himself feeling so unsure. Had it really been Chara who had done that, or were they just the vessel? And even if Chara wasn't the one responsible for making that choice, had they enjoyed it anyway?

He didn't know. And now, it was impossible for him to ask.

Damn it. He'd grown complacent, figured that just because it had always been RESET, because Sans had always come back to him in the end, that everything would be okay.

So, Slim had sat. And waited. He didn't know for how long - it felt like it could have been months, or years. He was still waiting.

And then, Sans, his beloved brother, had returned to him! ...Or so he thought.

It wasn't the right one, and quite honestly, he hadn't really cared. He just wanted his brother back.

But Blue wasn't his brother. Slim didn't think that he could even attempt to treat Blue like he was, to be completely truthful. He didn't think of Blue as his brother. Blue was a tentative ally, at best. Slim thought better of him than the alternate Chara and Temmie, at least, but he could still tell that the smaller monster was hiding something.

It just made him twitchy, untrusting. Blue's brother had clearly died, but how? And what happened to their timeline? How had they even discovered the identity of the Anomaly in the first place?

There was just too many unanswered questions, and Slim wasn't sure if he trusted Blue to be honest with the answers. Perhaps that was unkind, but for right now, it was the truth.

(He wasn't an idiot. Blue reminded him far too much of his own brilliant, ruthless brother for him to let his guard down.)

But that wasn't important at the moment. Now, he was watching Blue with something almost like awe bubbling up inside him, reluctantly admiring of the display of sheer power going on in front of him.

And Blue was totally brushing it off like it was nothing!

"Okay, all done!" he said, dismissing the strange screen he'd been using and turning back to face them all with that fake-ass grin. "Thank you so much for your patience!"

"So, that helped to... destroy this anomaly?" Asgore said slowly, clearly caught off-guard by the display, just as Slim himself was. "Without any long-lasting effects?"

"Pretty much!" Blue said cheerfully, and Slim knew that was a damn lie. There was way more to this process than Blue was telling any of them, and it was only becoming more obvious as time went on. "If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them, your majesty."

Ha. As if.

Slim could see the relief in Blue's expression when the old monarch shook his head, apparently satisfied with what he had discovered here.

"That's quite alright," Asgore said gently, stepping forward to wave a hand back in the direction of the throne room. "Now that this whole business is finished, would you care to join us for a cup of tea?"

Blue hesitated, looking torn, but then his eyelights darted to Slim for a split-second.

Slim had no idea why. Was there something on his face? He couldn't think of any other explanation for Blue to be looking at him like that.

"That would be lovely," he said finally, tearing his gaze away and thanking Asgore with another phony smile.

(Actually, Slim wasn't sure if he'd seen Blue give an actual smile all this time, despite the many occasions he pretended to.)

Slim followed behind the rest of the group as they made their way back, though he had to hide a skeptical snort. Why had Blue suddenly changed his mind?

Before, he'd gotten the impression that Blue wasn't one to stick around for long. Like he wanted to leave as soon as he'd managed to help everyone get their 'happy ending'. What could have happened recently to make him switch up his usual routine?

Oh, well. He supposed that it didn't really matter, even though it made him burn with curiosity at the thought. This was one puzzle that he definitely wasn't going to poke into.

(No matter how appealing it was.)

Frisk, the opposite counterpart of the child he'd once known, fell back to look up at him with unbridled curiosity.

Slim simply stared back, not understanding what they could have wanted. Seriously, was there something on his face? Why did everyone keep looking at him like that?

The child suddenly gave him a mischievous grin, before skipping ahead to whisper something to Blue, who responded with a surprised choking noise.

Slim narrowed his eyes suspiciously. There was definitely something going on there, and he intended to get to the bottom of it.

Chapter Text

Blue sipped at his tea with a relieved sigh. That had actually gone a lot better than he thought it would...

"Care for a refill?" Asgore said politely, holding out a kettle that looked comically small in his large paws.

Blue shook his head, smiling politely. "Thank you, your majesty, but I believe I'm all set for now. We really should be going soon."

The only reason he had even decided to stay for the tea was because Slim was starting to look exhausted and overwhelmed. He hadn't wanted to make things too hard on the poor guy right now, considering how much had changed for him in even the last few hours.

"I see..." Asgore frowned, though he didn't protest.

Blue figured that he was hoping to spend some more time with Chara in particular, but they just couldn't afford to wait that long.

Besides... Frisk was going to RESET everything. Asgore wouldn't remember this encounter - no one would except for Frisk. He wouldn't even remember the pain.

(He wouldn't remember the joy, either, but that was the price you must pay.)

"Thank you so much for your hospitality," Blue said, standing up from the little table they had sequestered for themselves. "Truly, it was an honor and a privilege. But there are other universes that need our help, and it would be rude to keep them waiting."

He flashed the native duo a quick smile, trying to show that there was no hard feelings. The last thing he needed was for Asgore to try and detain them for whatever reason.

Luckily, Asgore didn't seem like he was about to do that. In fact, he just seemed... sad.

"I understand," he said heavily, staring down into his teacup like it held all the questions of the universe. "Safe travels, my friends."

Blue only nodded in reply, his smile taking a sympathetic edge. He knew that this wasn't easy - it was never easy to let go, no matter what the circumstance was. And it must have been even harder for a father to let go of a child he thought was lost.

(It didn't matter that Chara was not the Chara of this universe, just as it really didn't matter that Blue was not Slim's brother. The pain was still there, and perhaps even made worse by the reminder that your loved one can never be replaced.)

But still, there was nothing Blue could do to relieve him of that pain. It was time for them to move on.

As one, their little group stood and made their way to the door, intending to exit out into the corridor and have Chara make a portal there.

As they passed by, Blue caught Frisk's eye. The child's expression was unreadable, and when Blue smiled at them, they looked away.

Oh well. He'd said it before, and he would say it again - he couldn't control people's choices, all he could do was give them the ability to have a choice. He knew that Frisk was reluctant to RESET. If they chose not to, despite everything... Well. It wasn't really his problem.

But somewhere, deep in his soul, Blue prayed that his words had been able to reach them.

...

Frisk watched them go, a terrible conflict in their heart. Did it have to be this way? Did they really have to lose all of the memories, all of the love and care that they had been able to gain in this timeline?

They didn't want to RESET. They thought they'd been done with that when none of their previous attempts to save monsters had worked, when the thing controlling them had finally let up. Even if they had to stay in the Underground forever... It had been easier, kinder than redoing their journey constantly and causing everyone so much pain.

(Sans would never, ever forgive them. It didn't even matter that it wasn't Frisk's fault, that they'd had no control over what was happening. He refused to listen, and would never forgive them. They knew that.)

But... Blue had said that if Frisk RESET now, they could free monsters for good. And with Flowey's cooperation, they could do it a hell of a lot faster than the first time!

A smile grew on their face at the thought, some of their old enthusiasm emerging at the idea of (re)introducing the monsters to the surface world. There was so much that Frisk wanted to show them, so much that Frisk wanted to share with them!

It just sucked that this was the only way to do it. Frisk already knew that they couldn't break the barrier as they were, now. The circumstances needed for it were too specific, and that was actually the one thing that neither Flowey nor Sans could remember.

If they wanted to do this, they would have to start over.

Behind them, someone let out a heavy sigh, and Frisk blinked in surprise. Turning, they witnessed Asgore watching the otherworldly group disappear with something like resignation in his eyes.

Frisk had to push down a sudden wave of jealousy. Of course Asgore would be sad over seeing a version of his dead kid, why wouldn't he?! They had no right to get jealous or possessive over that.

(Even if it had taken Asgore literal years to accept Frisk calling him 'dad', and that was only after many, many runs of him trying to stab them with a trident.)

"It's alright," they felt compelled to say, walking back towards him and placing a gentle hand on his arm. "Everything is going to be okay, now."

They'd made their decision. Maybe they would lose the family they had gained, and maybe Sans would be even more upset with them than before, but... They had to do it.

Monsters had to see the sun.

"I do hope so," Asgore said ruefully, drawing Frisk out of their thoughts. "There was a lot that I didn't understand about that, but I know that 'Blue' had the very best of intentions. I can only hope that the outcome matches those intentions."

Frisk couldn't say anything. They couldn't even try to hug their father like they so desperately wanted to. They knew that if they did, they would lose their nerve.

Instead, a glowing button, invisible to all except Frisk, appeared in front of them. And so, with a heaviness in their soul but hope in their heart, Frisk reached out...

[RESET]

Chapter Text

“So, Slim,” Blue said cheerfully, gesturing for Chara to wait a moment before opening the portal. “Got any idea of what kind of AU you would like to check out?”

Slim said nothing at first, merely staring down at Blue with a bored expression, but when Blue simply waited patiently for his answer, he scoffed, eyelights darting to the side.

“whatever,” he mumbled, shrugging. “i’ll follow you.”

Blue’s smile became pinched, but he let it go.

“Okay!” he said, trying his very best to stay positive about the whole venture. “Let me think, then...”

They could always just go to a new timeline, one that they knew nothing about, like this one. But... he wasn’t sure if he wanted to risk that again. He knew that Slim still didn’t trust him right now, even if the thought actually kind of hurt. So Blue had to make sure that they didn’t end up in a dangerous situation, one where Slim would have to defend himself (and probably end up killing someone).

Hm...

Blue snapped his fingers, pointing to Chara enthusiastically. “Can you open a portal to that timeline we went to a little while back? The one that where the human hadn’t fallen yet?”

“The one where you tied me to a tree?” Chara said sarcastically, crossing their arms over their chest. Slim actually snorted at that, seeming a bit amused, but Blue only continued to smile.

“Yes, please!” he then turned, addressing Slim. “It’s another timeline like this one, where everyone’s roles are all switched around. I met the Papyrus of that universe, and he seemed very friendly. Of course, we don’t know what state it will be in when we get there, but I have a feeling it will be alright.”

Slim shrugged, wordlessly. Seemed he really was just willing to go along with whatever they chose.

Chara opened the portal, without any further delay, and Blue was the first one to head through.

He really hoped that things were alright. He’d been wrong before, and he doubtlessly would in the future, but some part of him truly believed that the Papyrus that he had met would be able to keep things from devolving into chaos.

After all, no one could stop the human child from killing monsters, not even the child themself. But it was what happened in the aftermath, how the monsters chose to react and deal with their new troubles, that really defined what kind of timeline they would become.

Truly and sincerely, to the very bottom of his soul, Blue wished for this universe to have a good end.

...

When he stepped through the portal, there was no immediate indication of how things were going. That, in itself, was a good sign.

Once again, he had landed in Snowdin forest, as was typical. There was the faint sound of normal forest activity - the rustling of trees and falling leaves. That was another good sign! When there was a lot of killing done in Snowdin, the whole area seemed to fall unnaturally silent.

The best sign of how things were going, of course, was the Riverperson. If the Riverperson was manning their boat as always, then the human hadn’t killed too many yet.

Of course, he wasn’t able to test that just yet.

Instead, he waited patiently for the others to come through the portal, knowing that they all had to decide what to do together. He wasn’t sure of it would be smart to bring Chara with him, or if the child even wanted to go at all, so it would be best to wait until he could get their opinion.

It only took a second, with Chara the last one through. Blue noticed immediately, however, that the child was shivering, an uneasy expression on their face.

“Chara?” he said cautiously.

“I’m fine,” they said tersely. “I think Frisk RESET right as I was going through, I got hit with a bit of the backlash.”

Blue frowned, resisting the urge to fuss over them. If Chara said they were fine, he knew they wouldn’t appreciate him continuing to make a ruckus.

“Alright. What do you all want to do, then?” he said, addressing the group.

As he had somewhat expected, Slim just shrugged, and Chara crosses their arms over their chest with a scowl.

“We’re probably far enough into the timeline that Frisk has shown up,” Temmie said, surprisingly insightful. “Maybe we can get to them before they get too far into the Underground, and keep them busy while you block off the Anomaly.”

Blue looked down at the small monster, nodding thoughtfully. He often forgot just how much Temmie knew about this sort of thing - they were the one who had control of the timeline before Chara fell down, after all. It made sense that they were good at keeping track of patterns and things like this.

“Sounds like a fair plan to me,” he allowed, turning to the others to see what they thought. “Anyone have an objection?”

“not necessarily an objection,” Slim said slowly, making Blue perk up. Finally, he was willingly participating! “but what’s the plan if we see our counterparts?”

Blue blinked. He... hadn’t really taken that into consideration. He usually tried to avoid his counterparts if he could.

“We’ll just say that we’re from out of town,” Blue suggested. “The Papyrus of this timeline thinks that I work with the Royal Guard, so as long as we don’t meet with Undyne, we should be okay.”

“...but we look almost exactly like them,” Slim pointed out, sounding utterly exhausted.

Blue shrugged. “So? Did you ever see any other skeletons Underground?”

“...no.” Slim had to admit to the truth on that one.

“So we’re new in town,” Blue said, hands on his hips. “Simple as that.”

“Yeah, simple,” Chara said, rolling their eyes. “There’s no way this plan can go wrong.”

“Glad you agree!” Blue said cheerfully. He had already somewhat established himself here, even if it was only with some of the Snowdin residents and Papyrus. He was pretty confident that things would be okay.

Chapter Text

Honestly, Blue didn't get what everyone was acting so worried about. It was gonna go fine. He could already tell that this timeline wasn't going in too bad a direction. Maybe a few deaths here and there, but nothing that couldn't be solved with a RESET, which would have to happen anyway.

Blue felt pretty good about his chances, here. After all, he'd already visited this place once and everything had gone just fine. The last AU had been given a rather weird landing, to be honest. Chara usually tried to get them to Snowdin's forest, which meant that they rarely had to deal with things like the Royal Guards.

(Technically, there were some stationed in this forest, but it was really only the dog squad that did anything, and they were easily bribable, no matter what timeline they were in.)

As long as everything stayed true to the script, he could figure out where they were in the timeline and act accordingly from there.

Easy!

Of course, the second Blue thought that, everything went to shit.

"we should turn back," Slim said suddenly, stopping in place and putting out his arm to prevent Blue from moving forward.

"What, why - "

Blue cut himself off with a muffled curse, ducking out of the way of a bone attack. A blue one, at that.

Slim stepped directly in front of him, glaring darkly at the skeleton who had just slipped out from behind a tree.

It was this timeline's Sans, and he looked like he'd been through hell.

Though there was no trace of dust on his clothing (Blue shuddered to think of the timelines where he'd witnessed such a thing), and he wasn't wearing Papyrus' scarf, he appeared extremely ruffled nonetheless.

His blue jacket, while not always entirely pristine, seemed like it hadn't been washed for several weeks, and even from this distance, Blue could see that Sans had a faint tremble to his bones.

Sans wasn't really looking at them, though. He was looking at Chara, and the wild expression on his face was enough to make Blue want to shy away.

"what did you do?"

The words were quiet, but absolutely merciless. Blue knew instantly that there would be no reasoning with this Sans.

(Though that didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to try.)

Chara, of course, instantly decided that they were going to make this worse.

"What haven't I done?" they said coyly, drawing out their knife and tapping it gently against their chin. "Do you have a complaint? Please, tell me, I'm dying to know."

Blue wanted to die. Why did Chara always insist on making things harder on them?? Was this some form of masochism? Thought perhaps it would be better described as sadism, considering the fact that Blue was always the one who had to deal with the consequences of a situation like this.

Fuck. He definitely should have left the kids tied to a tree.

Sans' eyelights blazed, the left one flickering blue. "you - !"

Blue panicked, ducking under Slim's arm with his hands raised in surrender.

"We're not here to cause a fight!" Blue cried out, ignoring the fact that Sans had been the one to throw the first attack, and that all of his other companions were perfectly happy to cause a fight anytime, but even more so right now.

Sans twitched, looking over at him as if he'd forgotten that Blue was there, making him pout, just a little. Blue was the one that Sans had tried to murder!

Sans took a step forward, something strange twisting in his expression, and from behind him Blue could hear Slim making a low, strangled hiss.

Giving a vague gesture behind him, Blue tried to stop Slim from making this any worse. He already had Chara doing their level best to fuck things up, if any more bone attacks got tossed around, then this could get bad.

"i knew it," the other Sans breathed out, his fists clenching. The look on his face made it seem like he had found a great revelation, and simultaneously his worst nightmare. Then, he swung back around to stare at Chara, his expression one of utter loathing. "i knew that you were messing with the timeline. now look what you've done!"

Blue paused, blinking. Did Sans...?

Oh. Sans thought that they were here because of Frisk. He thought that Frisk was messing with the timeline, and had screwed something up as a result.

Not an entirely bad assumption to make, but still one that Blue couldn't help but smile at, trying to hold back his laughter.

Sans thought that they were mistakes of the timeline, failed copies. He must have also assumed that Frisk messed up their own appearance too, otherwise he never could have mistaken Chara for the other human child.

Still, funny as it was, he had to correct this.

"I'm sorry," Blue said, attempting to keep a straight face. "There's actually quite a reasonable explanation for all this, if you're willing to hear me out."

But Sans was already shaking his head before Blue could even finish speaking, and his right eyelight winked out, leaving only the eerie blue light that threw the caverns of his skull into sharp relief.

Suddenly, this situation wasn't quite so funny.

"i don't need an explanation," Sans said, and it would have almost sounded calm if it weren't for the heavy aura that was beginning to permeate the clearing. "i already know what you are. and if i get rid of you, things will go back to normal, right?"

There was a bit of panic creeping into his tone at the end there, and Blue could have almost sympathized if it weren't for the fact that Sans was clearly about to attempt some good old-fashioned murder. Again.

Still, he gave it one more try.

"I know that this is confusing, and probably really upsetting for you, but please - "

A wave of bones came up through the forest floor, and Slim once again saved his hide, pulling him back in time to prevent any fatalities. Chara and Temmie, both with increasingly murderous expressions on their faces, had also managed to get away in time, and were clearly itching to get this show on the road.

Blue could only sigh.

"Okay. Let's try this, then."

Chapter Text

Blue brought his magic to the surface, throwing his arm out to keep Slim from advancing.

"Let me handle this," he murmured. He could practically sense the taller skeleton's hesitance, but when he didn't move any further, Blue considered that a win.

Now, to win this.

Sans threw out a line of bone attacks, and Blue quickly countered, pulling up a shield to defend his small group. Then, he leapt forward, his own eye shining brightly.

He had to end this, and quickly. Sure, he could already tell that he was stronger than Sans, but the last thing they needed was for this altercation to catch anyone's attention.

If there really were monsters left in Snowdin forest, then he definitely didn't want any of them to come running to his opponent's aid. That would just cause an even bigger mess.

Sans twitched at the defensive move, his frown threatening to turn into a beastly snarl as he threw attack after attack.

Blue easily blocked everything that was headed towards his companions, and was able to duck out of the way of what was aimed at him. This Sans had patterns, just like all the others.

Now, Blue was never especially happy about fighting against his counterparts, no matter what the reason, but he had ended up doing it an alarming amount, really.

Did he look like a pushover? Was that the reason? Did he seem like he would be an easy kill, for whatever reason?

...Was it because he actually made an effort to be nice to people? His counterparts, he had noticed, often relied on their brothers to do that job for them, even counterparts from timelines similar to his.

Well, it wasn't like his brother was around, so that was probably the main difference. Blue had seen differences in many, many timelines, but never anything that even came close to his own situation. That was for the best, probably - it would become a major hassle to have multiple dimension-traveling skeletons going around and screwing everything up. Blue would never call himself a saint, but at least he had a solid reason for what he was doing.

"hey, are you even paying attention?" a voice demanded.

Blue blinked, absent-mindedly refocusing on what he had been doing. Oh yes, this was a battle, wasn't it?

Sans appeared to be quite annoyed by his inattention, and Blue couldn't blame him. Though, in his own defense, he had a lot of things on his mind.

"Of course I am," Blue lied, smiling cheerfully at his opponent. "Just trying to think of what to do next!"

From behind him, Slim snorted. Blue had to resist a smirk. Slim, at least, seemed to be catching on more to his brand of humor.

Sans' expression wavered, exhaustion lining every inch of him. Blue could tell that he was faltering, unsure of what to do.

This was Blue's chance to break him. Metaphorically, at least. (Probably.)

"Sans," he said gently, "we're not your enemy. I really want to help you. Please, will you let me do this for you?"

He seemed unsure, frightened. Whatever it was that had gone wrong in this timeline, it had affected him deeply, enough that he was afraid to trust anyone, even another version of himself.

Blue could sympathize, really! But he had a mission. And no weak skeleton that was barely staying on his feet would be able to stop him.

Blue was trying to be kind, to do this the way his past self would have insisted on, the way that his brother would have approved of.

(Papyrus was always soft for Sans, just like he had been indulgent of his brother in return. Those tendencies had failed them both in the end.)

But he was struggling. Blue was no longer the same monster he had been then, and he knew that it would just be so much easier if he simply defeated Sans in battle and moved on. Would it really matter? Everything was going to be RESET anyway.

What was a bit more dust on his hands? It's not like it was permanent.

Abruptly, Blue shook his head, ridding his mind of such nasty thoughts. No, he couldn't become the type of monster who would do something like that, he refused to!

As long as there was another option, another way to solve this problem, Blue would show mercy, always.

"Let me help you," he repeated. "Please."

Sans' shoulders slumped. He just looked at Blue, for a long moment, his eyelights dimming in a way that made him seem weary and vulnerable, enough to make Blue feel distinctly uncomfortable at what he saw reflected back at him.

"if this is another trick, if this is just some sick game you're playing - " Sans began, a desperate sort of hope beginning to shine through him, and Blue immediately shook his head.

"No, never," he said firmly, as if seconds before he hadn't been considering killing Sans just to make his own situation easier. "I really want to help you. We all do."

Chara made a bit of a disagreeing sound, but Slim merely grunted. Blue turned his skull just slightly to see him staring at Sans with an unreadable expression.

Well, Sans might not be his brother, but he was still a Sans. It made sense that Slim would be interested in what he was like.

Blue ignored the uneasy twinge in his ribcage at the thought, and turned back to his new ally(?).

"I don't know what put you in this situation, or why you thought getting rid of us would help - " he was gratified to see Sans wince just the tiniest bit at that small jab, " - but I'm willing to find out. Whatever's going on, whatever you need help with, I'm here to provide it. I promise."

A promise from a Sans was a powerful thing, and despite everything, Blue was still Sans at his very soul.

Sans closed his eyes for a moment, and then let out a sigh, finally allowing his attacks to drop.

"i know when i can't win," he commented, and his voice didn't sound nearly as grudging as Blue had expected. "okay. i'll explain. but if i find out that you're just screwing with me..."

Sans trailed off, menacingly, and Blue nodded in reassurance, trying his best not to remind Sans that Blue could have easily kicked his ass at anytime.

"I'm listening," Blue said, settling himself in for the wait. It was about time for him to get to the bottom of this.

Chapter Text

Sans was just about at his wit's end, here. It felt like he hadn't slept in months (which was quite an accomplishment, seeing as he strived to be spending all of his free time asleep), his headache felt like it was literally pounding in his skull, and he'd just gotten his ass kicked by some lookalike from another dimension.

Yeah. Apparently that was a thing.

He'd been rightly suspicious when Papyrus had come home excitedly telling him about meeting another skeleton monster. There were no other skeleton monsters around - Sans knew that for sure. But when he'd tried to find out where this other monster had come from, he couldn't find anything. It was like the guy showed up with the express purpose of talking to Papyrus for a while, and then disappeared again.

(Somehow, in the back of his mind, he had begun to hope... Well. It didn't matter now.)

But, whatever. Right now, nothing mattered except figuring out how to put the world back in order!

"it started when that human fell to the underground," Sans began, his counterpart listening with rapt attention. The other three didn't seem too interested, honestly, and the weird little Temmie was giving him creepy vibes. He was trying to ignore the other Papyrus - if Sans looked for too long, he would end up asking where he got those scars from, and that wouldn't end in a fun time for anybody. "if you're really me, or, another version at least, you probably know about the time skips, right?"

Blue's expression twitched slightly, like he was trying to hold back a laugh. Sans realized, with a strange, dawning terror, that the look on his face was actually very familiar. And annoying, considering that he only used that look when he thought someone was being deliberately obtuse.

"I do, though your situation will probably have variants on mine," Blue agreed graciously, still with that same damn look that made Sans want to huff and turn away.

"i'm sure," he said instead of doing that, because he really did want answers. "well, time kept skipping back, and at first i wasn't sure why. but then the kid finally made it out of the ruins, and i saw the phenomenon first hand."

Sans stopped to take a breath, and cautiously looked to see how his counterpart was reacting. Even though he had pretty much already shown his cards here, some part of him couldn't help but be afraid. Afraid that they wouldn't believe him, afraid that they would think he was crazy.

("please believe me, i swear he's real!"

"Kid, get going already. I told you, no one named G@$73r has ever worked here.")

But Blue was only looking at him in sympathy, nodding along with his words. The other Papyrus, Slim, Sans recalled, was staring at him steadily. His gaze was penetrating, but not... entirely unkind. The two kids were still stubbornly looking away, but Sans could see how their posture had relaxed, just a tiny bit.

Encouraged, he kept going. Maybe there was hope for this situation yet.

"to be honest, i didn't think much of it at the time. such things have been recorded before in the past, and it wasn't like the kid was hurting anybody - " Blue let out a sigh of relief at that, making Sans briefly wonder what had happened in his universe, before continuing. " - in fact, it seemed to mostly be happening because the kid kept getting hurt."

He had felt a little bad about that, but for all that he had made that promise to the lady behind the door, he wasn't really that interested in babysitting some human. And after he'd realized that the kid could just go back in time if they ever got hurt, he'd thought he was in the clear!

...Of course, nothing in his life could ever be that simple.

"time kept rewinding, but the kid was making steady progress," Sans said, skipping over all of the boredom and exhaustion and forced acting he'd had to go through in the process. "but then... they disappeared."

Blue straightened up, frowning in concern. "Disappeared? As in, you can't find them?"

"as in, they're not in the underground," Sans corrected, sticking his hands in his pockets with a sigh. "ever since then, weird things have been going on, like areas disappearing or not letting you leave, paths changing, monsters suddenly appearing in places as if they had been teleported."

In the back of their little group, Slim's eyelights sharpened. He glanced down at Blue for a moment, almost searching, before his posture forcibly relaxed itself.

Well, Sans thought wryly, there was a story there. Not one that he had the time to get into, unfortunately, but if Blue did genuinely want to help him figure this out, then maybe he could do a little snooping of his own afterwards.

"That's... peculiar," Blue commented mildly, but Sans could tell by his expression that he was a million miles away. He was concentrating, trying to puzzle something out...

Sans, suddenly, was reminded of his brother. Papyrus often had the same look on his face when he was presented with a difficult crossword puzzle. Did they truly have so many traits in common?

"I'll say," the child introduced as Chara scoffed. "We've come across a lot of weird shit, but nothing quite like this. Huge glitches like this... It's like someone is trying to tear this timeline apart from the inside out."

Blue panicked, trying to shush his charge with a sharp exclamation of "Chara!", but the damage was already done.

Sans could practically see himself paling, his already bleached bone becoming even whiter. "i... what? what does that mean?!"

His exhaustion was catching up with him - he could feel his gaze flickering. Rip it apart? Was there an actual person responsible for this?

"Sans, wait - " Blue called out, hurrying to stand in front of him with his hands outstretched.

"no," Sans managed to say. "no."

Then, his vision went dark, and he fell.

Chapter Text

Sans collapsed onto the forest floor, and Blue only had enough time to utter a startled "ah, fuck - " before Slim was there, catching him before he hit the ground.

Blue let out a sigh of relief, hurrying over. He knew from personal experience that even one HP monsters weren't actually that fragile, but he still liked to take precautions. And Sans had undoubtedly been running himself ragged with all of this, so a little care would not be so out of place.

"he's alright," Slim reported, gently cradling the smaller skeleton as he kneeled in the snow. "hp is stable. just the shock coupled with exhaustion, i bet."

"Sounds about right," Blue said, rubbing at the back of his skull with an exasperated expression. It felt like he should say something to Chara about that, but...

He glanced over to the red-eyed child, and saw that they were trying to get a glimpse of Sans and see if he was okay. Of course, they weren't trying to be too obvious about it, that would ruin their image. Heh.

"Should we take him into town?" Blue pondered aloud. "It would probably be a good idea to let him get some rest in the inn, or his house, but if what he said about all of the weird glitching is true, then who knows what that whole scene could look like..."

"Do we really have any other options?" Chara pointed out, walking towards them with Temmie nestled safely in their arms. "He may not technically be injured right now, but that's not likely to last if we stay out here."

Fair enough. Blue let out another sigh, this one a sign of his own exhaustion. When had things become so complicated?

...Probably the first time he and Chara had worked together to rip a hole through time and space. Funny how that worked.

"Let's get going then," he said, though it was a bit grudging. Blue turned to Slim, concern creasing his brow. "Are you okay with carrying him? If not, I can do it, no problem."

"...it's fine," Slim said, his raised eyebrow making him seem a bit dubious about Blue's ability to carry anything heavier than a feather.

Blue resisted the urge to pout. He was plenty strong - he had worked with the royal guard, after all. And he had magic to help him! But, on the other hand, if it got him out of doing more work, then he probably shouldn't complain too much.

"Okay, let me know if you want to switch off," he said, offering a compromise. Chara and Temmie both snorted, clearly seeing that Slim would never go for it even if he was having trouble, and Blue resisted the urge to let out yet another sigh.

This had been a tiring day, and the day had hardly even begun. Maybe after getting to the town, everyone could take some time to recover while Sans was resting. As long as the whole place wasn't completely fucked up, anyway.

"Let's just get moving already," Temmie said imperiously from their perch in Chara's arms. "We won't know what the situation's like until we get there, especially with this idiot falling unconscious. So let's go and find out!"

"The phrasing could use some work, but you're right," Blue said, nodding to himself. He straightened up a bit, pulling together his resolve. This was hardly the time to be falling to exhaustion! "Let's go!"

Slim hefted Sans up into his arms as he got to his feet, nodding solemnly. With that, their little group started to make their way through Snowdin forest.

Blue could totally see what Sans had meant about strange things happening, even far out here. Some of the puzzles were messed up, and not in ways that could be attributed to mischievous school children. One of the spike traps was missing all of the actual spikes, the tops shaved off like someone had come at them with a shitload of sandpaper.

At one point, quite accidentally, Blue had been talking to Chara and not watching where he was going, and ended up walking through a tree.

Yeah. There was definitely some weird shit going on.

Thankfully, the bridge into Snowdin town was still there, and didn't try to vanish underneath their feet, which he had honestly been a bit worried about.

Maybe things would be a bit more stable inside the town itself...? he thought, hopefully.

His dreams were almost immediately dashed, however, when he realized that the town's welcome sign was just completely gone.

"Oh, great." Blue scrubbed at his face, feeling his exhaustion coming back full-force. "Well, as long as there's still somewhere to sit down, at the very least, I won't complain."

Slim grunted in agreement, still holding Sans carefully in his arms. Temmie and Chara, however, looked... uneasy.

"Blue, I don't like the feel of this," Chara whispered, and that was enough to immediately put him on guard. Chara never confessed anything like uneasiness, never mind something that could be interpreted as fear.

He glanced around, trying to see what could have gotten their attention. All of the buildings in town seemed to still be there, and intact, so what...?

Oh. Wow, he was an idiot.

It was too quiet. All the windows had the shades drawn, every single store had their closed sign hanging out front, and no one was outside talking amongst themselves like they usually were. Even in full no-mercy timelines, some of the townspeople would still be hanging around. But not this time. There was no one.

Blue hurried over to the inn, trying to peer inside. He couldn't really get a good glance, but it didn't sound like there was anybody home. Not even those three brothers that had pretty much permanently rented a room for their hibernation cycle.

"Slim, can you - "

Slim didn't waste any time with answering, or even waiting for Blue to finish the question. He kicked down the door, making it knock violently against the back wall, and strode inside.

Blue blinked. "I was going to ask you to teleport inside, but okay..."

He followed after, Temmie and Chara on his tail. Like he had suspected, the bunnies that ran the inn were nowhere to be found. They might have been over in the shop, but he seriously doubted it.

This place was looking more and more like a ghost town. He had to figure out what was going on. He wasn't even sure that he would be able to alter the code if the timeline was so fractured!

"You three, stay here and look after Sans!" Blue called out over his shoulder, running out of the inn without heeding their protests.

Blue would go check on the other houses in town, see if there was really no one left.

No one in the shop, no one in the first few buildings... He was about to go down to where the skeleton brothers' house was, when a small, shaky voice called out to him.

"S-Sans...?"

Blue turned around, his eyelights widening. A monster had been hiding behind the big Christmas tree in the center of town.

"W-What's going on? Where is everybody?"

Blue didn't know how to respond.

Chapter Text

Tentatively, Monster Kid stepped out from behind the large Christmas tree, their tail wrapped around their legs. The child seemed confused, and frightened.

Blue didn’t know what to say, didn’t know how to respond. He’d never actually spoken with a Monster Kid before, not matter how many times he had seen one, in these strange, mixed-up timelines. It always made his soul ache something fierce.

Was this what Temmie used to be? Had that violent little stuffed animal once been a breathing, living child?

He already knew that was the truth, had known it even before this whole journey even started, but it was still strange to see the proof - perhaps even more so than it was to see the alternate versions of himself and his friends.

“Hello, Monster Kid,” he said softly, trying for a smile. If Monster Kid was the only one left in town, then they would doubtlessly be an invaluable resource in figuring out what had happened to the others. “I am Sans, but not the one you know. He’s not feeling well right now, so he’s back at the Inn with my friends. Do you want to see him?”

Almost immediately, Monster Kid took a step forward, before hesitating and looking at Blue warily.

“Y-You… You’re not one of them, are you?” Monster Kid said in suspicion. “The gray ones?”

Blue’s breath caught in his throat, and he had to consciously resist the urge to flinch away.

Oh no. If someone like Monster Kid had realized the existence of the Gaster Followers, then something was deeply wrong with this timeline. They usually kept to very out of the way areas, and typically weren’t visible if you didn’t know exactly where to look.

But… Monster Kid spoke like the Followers had been in the town, as if they were dangerous.

That was bad.

“I’m not,” he managed to get out, behind the panic trying to keep his voice trapped. “I’m just here to help. I promise.”

That was enough to warm Monster Kid to his presence, being the trusting child they were, and they raced over, nearly crashing headlong into him.

Blue immediately reached out to steady them, nearly doing it on instinct. In that instant, his mind flashed back to being in this exact same place, preventing a small goat child from tripping over his poncho and getting a face full of snow.

“Haha, thanks, Mr. Skeleton Dude!”

He briefly closed his eyes, feeling a momentary pain.

It wasn’t often that he thought of those left behind, especially the ones that weren’t his brother (though he felt awful and selfish just thinking it), but Asriel… He missed Asriel. And those emotions didn’t hold any of the same bitterness that the ones surrounding Papyrus did.

“Oh, thanks for catching me, dude!” Monster Kid said, still able to sound somewhat cheerful, despite everything. “So, should I just call you Sans? It’ll be a little confusing with the other one, but I’m willing to put in the effort!”

Blue didn’t bother to hide his smile this time, allowing Monster Kid to right themself as they both began walking back to the Inn. People had offered to call him many things over the years, but they’d never quite said that they would be willing to call him Sans, not like this.

For a long, long moment, the ache in his heart only grew. He had been Blue for so long, to be called Sans again, if only for a little while...

"Thank you, but you can just call me Blue," he said, smiling down at Monster Kid. He truly was thankful for the offer, and a part of him wished that he could be selfish enough to take it.

But that wasn't who he was. There was so little that he could truly do to help any of the others, especially in the grand scheme of things. Allowing Sans to keep his name, to not try and steal that part of his identity, seemed like it should be obvious.

(It wasn't like he was trying to separate that part of himself from the rest of his life. That was ridiculous, no matter what Chara said.)

"Okay, Blue!" Monster Kid said, their tail finally unwrapping itself from its protective position and wagging happily. "Let me know if you change your mind."

Blue resisted the urge to pull the little monster into a hug, and merely lead them into the Inn.

"I found someone!" he called out, causing Chara to peek their head out from behind the desk where they had been hiding. Temmie was still in their arms, but Slim was nowhere to be seen. Probably upstairs, watching over Sans. Blue wasn't quite sure how he felt about that, but he shoved it down easily enough.

"Woah, are you a human?!" Monster Kid exclaimed, bounding over to get a good look at the other child. It seemed that even the entire population of the town disappearing hadn't been enough to truly dampen their spirits.

"Uh, yeah..." Chara said warily, backing up. "I'll just... go get Slim. Wait here."

They scampered off, leaving Monster Kid to appear a bit put-out, but they reappeared with Slim momentarily.

Slim was apparently ready for business, because he barely spared Blue a nod of acknowledgement before he went right into the questioning.

"what happened out there?"

"Hm, hard to say for sure," Blue answered, stepping forward and giving Monster Kid a reassuring pat. "Monster Kid was the only one I found. Seems like the place is mostly intact, there's just no one else around."

Slim's gaze shifted to the child, and it was absolutely piercing in a way that made Blue shiver, not even knowing why.

"so then, you must have seen what happened to the rest of the town?" Slim asked, something a little off in his voice, just enough for Blue to sit up and take notice.

Monster Kid curled up, avoiding eye-contact. A surge of protectiveness came over Blue, but he managed to hold himself back. They needed this information. Comfort could come later.

"I... kind of," they admitted. "We didn't realize it at first. Monsters disappeared, but it was like they had never existed in the first place. All their stuff would still be here, but we forgot all about them. It wasn't until we finally saw the gray monsters that we realized something else had to be going on."

"the gray monsters?" Slim said, tilting his skull to the side in confusion.

Blue stared at him, wide-eyed. Did he truly not know - ?!

Oh man. Seemed like there was another explanation in store.

Chapter Text

"It's, I mean," Blue hesitated, gaze darting over to Chara, who only shrugged unhelpfully.

Temmie, who sighed and rolled their eyes, reluctantly got off of Chara's lap and trotted over to where Monster Kid was standing, looking between Blue and Slim in confusion.

"Hey, kid," Temmie spoke up, tugging on their pant leg slightly. "You're worried about Sans, right? He passed out, so we put him upstairs. Want to come see him?"

"Oh, yes!" Monster Kid jumped, giving the other child a small smile. They seemed a bit unnerved, but willing to go along with it. "I would really appreciate that, thank you!"

"Yeah, sure. Come on, Chara." Temmie trotted off, the other two children following behind them.

Blue shot the monster a grateful glance, knowing that he definitely owed them one. He didn't particularly want to have this conversation in front of Monster Kid, and he honestly didn't want to do it in front of those two either.

He tried to explain it to them before - tried to explain how he knew so much about science and multiverses and broken timelines, tried to say who had taught him all of that, but it never really worked out. Chara believed him, and Temmie did too, even if they had a bit of a harder time with it. But the whole thing was pretty hard to comprehend, and Blue understood that.

Hopefully, since Slim would be coming at this from a similar angle to him, he would be able to understand it better.

"Okay, let's, uh, sit down," Blue managed to say, stumbling over his words in a way that he hadn't in quite some time. Slim was just staring at him, and even though it didn't seem too judgmental or anything, Blue couldn't shake the uneasy feeling it was giving him.

Still, though, he didn't protest, sitting in one of the chairs in the waiting room and giving Blue an expectant look.

"another thing that you neglected to tell me?" Slim said, his tone dryer than the desert.

Blue winced, rubbing the back of his neck as he sat down in the chair next to the other skeleton.

"To be fair, I thought you already knew about this," he offered weakly, but he already knew that he deserved it when Slim gave him a flat look. Blue sighed. "Alright. Let me try to make this quick."

He shifted in place for a moment, wondering how to start. His own brother had only vaguely remembered Gaster, knowing that he was their father, but little else. Though, that could be attributed to age, as well - Papyrus had still been very young when Gaster had disappeared. So, he should probably start there.

"Do you remember a monster named Gaster?"

Slim jumped, just a little, as if someone had hit him with a jolt of electricity.

"i..." he hesitated, eyelights darting away. Blue didn't push him, even as his soul began to pound in excitement. "yes, of course. not everything. but i remember who he was."

Blue let out a sigh of relief. That was actually better than he thought it would be! Now that the initial hurdle had been overcome, he found himself a bit excited! Blue never got to talk about Gaster with anyone -  even with his own brother, he could tell that speaking of their lost father only made him sad, so Blue had resolved himself to simply not bring it up.

Of course, this was hardly the best circumstance, but he would take what he could get.

"Those 'gray monsters' that Monster Kid mentioned are connected to him," Blue explained, feeling himself relax as he fell into his lecturing mode. "His 'followers', as they're usually called. That's literally what they are - other monsters who worked with Gaster at the time of the accident. In a world like ours, they would be members of the Royal Guard, but in a world like this, they worked with Gaster as scientists."

Slim nodded, slowly, appearing to take in the information and carefully turn it over in his mind.

It seemed like he had believed Blue without any problems, though, which he couldn't help but be grateful for. He smiled gently at the other monster, feeling his gratefulness and affection rise up to the surface.

Slim glanced up, and upon seeing the expression on Blue's face, instantly moved to stare at the ceiling, his cheekbones traced with a burnt orange color.

"sure, okay," he said quickly. It seemed almost like he was trying to change the subject, and Blue tilted his skull to the side in confusion. "but why would they be hurting everyone? do they have any motivation to do something like that?"

Blue pushed that peculiar question out of his mind, knowing that he had to focus on what was going on right now.

"Honestly, I don't know," he admitted. The Gaster Followers had never really caused trouble before. Sure, they were creepy sometimes, but they usually just stayed in their own little corners.

Though, considering everything that had been happening in this AU...

"sans didn't mention anything about them," Slim pointed out, bringing to attention exactly what Blue had been thinking.

"Which means that this likely started happening after he left town," Blue mused. "Monster Kid made it sound like it had happened over a certain period of time, but with all of the glitching going on, it may have only seemed like a lot of time had passed when it really hadn't? That's actually one of the more common glitches out there, though it usually only happens for a short period of time before returning to normal. I wonder..."

Blue considered the evidence, trying to give himself a little more to go on before stating his theory.

But it seemed that he didn't have to - Slim's gaze on him was sharp.

"you don't think they're responsible."

"No, I don't," Blue shrugged, unashamed. It just didn't make sense. Why would the Gaster Followers be stealing monsters away from town? There had to be something else going on.

Something else...

"Guys!" Chara's voice shouted from above. "He's awake!"

Chapter Text

Instantly, Blue jumped to his feet, looking eager to be getting out of that conversation. Slim couldn't blame him, either - he'd been scrambling for some kind of escape too.

"We should go up and check on him!" Blue said brightly, and Slim only nodded in reply. That made the smile on the other skeleton's face twitch slightly, some sort of half-expression that Slim didn't know how to interpret.

It seemed that there was a lot of things that he didn't know.

And, watching Blue bound up the stairs as Slim lingered behind him, he couldn't even blame Blue for it anymore.

They hadn't been together for long at all - only a couple of days, and with very little rest, so Slim thought that he could perhaps excuse his less than stellar comprehension, but...

There was so much that he didn't know, and even more that he couldn't understand. Slim thought that he had figured out Blue pretty well; Blue was quite similar to his own brother, after all. They were both sly, and clever, and determined enough to do anything they set their mind to, including, apparently, defying the laws of time and space.

But he was wrong. He could recognize that now. Blue was similar to Sans, yes, but they were also incredibly different. Not just in their color schemes, either, but in their mannerisms.

There was things about Blue that just screamed 'Sans' - tiny scoffs when Chara did something bratty, the way he gestured grandly when he was trying to make a point, the poker face (even if Blue did it with a smile instead of a scowl).

And those things were prevalent, there was no doubt about that. But they were also... small. Habits, ingrained reflexes. They didn't say anything about who Blue really was.

Blue was the kind of monster who went out of his way to help others, even when Slim could tell that he was vaguely annoyed by the whole thing. Blue sucked it up and put on a smile when Slim knew that his own brother would've thrown an angry fit big enough to rock the mountain.

Blue had let Slim cling onto him, obsess over him, treat him like an imperfect replacement... When his own brother would never have tolerated such treatment.

That was probably the wake-up call. Blue was kind and gentle, and Slim's brother could be those things too, but not like this. Not in a situation like this, at any rate.

Man, he thought ruefully. My brother would be really pissed at me right about now.

The thought didn't hurt as much as it used to, even a day ago, but it still sent a sharp sting into his soul.

Slim thought, for a moment, about the foul words he had spat at Blue during that first meeting. He thought about Blue's dead brother, and wondered if it still hurt for him, too.

He wasn't sure if he really wanted to hear the answer. But maybe, after this damn mess was over, he would ask.

Slim didn't always have to like the answer for it to still be worthwhile. It might just be what he needed to hear.

Drawn out of his thoughts by the sound of Blue opening the door, he quickly caught up, striding into the small bedroom behind Blue.

Sans was there - not his Sans, never his Sans again - and he was awake, sitting up in the bed. He looked distinctly uncomfortable, caught between the two powerful forces of Chara and Temmie sneering at him from one side of the bed, and Monster Kid chattering away nonstop from the other.

Slim almost felt bad for him, and Blue must have felt the same, because when Sans cast the both of them a pleading look upon their entry, Blue clapped his hands loudly, getting everyone's attention.

"Okay! He's just woken up after passing out in a forest, so let's try our best not to completely overwhelm him, alright?" Blue said, giving the two children under his care a reproachful look.

Chara and Temmie, of course, were entirely unmoved, with the latter actually sticking their tongue out. But, they didn't say anything, and Blue seemed to realize that was the best that he was going to get.

He let out a little sigh, rubbing at the front of his skull. Slim, suddenly, irrationally, felt the need to reach out, to... to do something, he wasn't even sure what. Comfort? Soothe?

Contrarily, Slim shoved his hands in the pockets of his jacket, looking away with a stubborn scowl. Hadn't he just been thinking about how Blue wasn't his brother? How they were more different than they were similar, even if some small part of him really wished for the opposite?

Slim didn't understand why his instincts got pinged like that. Blue wasn't his brother. What other reason would he have to care about him?

Blue, completely unaware of the turmoil running through his companion's mind, folded his arms over his chest, turning to his bedridden counterpart.

"Speaking of which, how are you doing? We've come across some very important information thanks to Monster Kid, and your shortcuts would really come in handy. If you're up to it, I mean."

Judging by Blue's tone of voice, Sans better be up to it, and he seemed to realize that too, by the way his expression pinched. But he nodded, carefully stretching out his arms.

"i feel much better," he said quietly. Sans shot a glance over to Monster Kid, his expression unreadable. "you the only one left, kid?"

Monster Kid, who up until that moment had still been all smiles... wilted.

"I think so, Mr. Sans," they whispered, and Slim could see from this angle how the little monster's tail wrapped around their legs in a defensive manner. "If anybody got out, got to a different area... They haven't come back to tell anybody."

Slim straightened up, a thought occurred to him.

"actually..." he said, gaining everyone's attention. He went on, ignoring the strange sensation of Blue's gaze prickling on his bones. "that's something weird. sans, you knew about strange things happening all around the underground. but... no one's come to check on snowdin? no royal guard?"

Sans frowned, the thought apparently registering to him a little bit late.

"gimme a second."

Without another word, he vanished from the bed in a flash of navy magic, too fast for Blue's protests to reach.

"Wait - !"

And as soon as he was gone, he came back, his bones bleached white. Sans swayed on his feet, and Slim almost found himself lurching forward, seeing a flicker of his brother in this skeleton's face.

"i can't leave snowdin," he croaked, eyelights blown wide. "i can't get out."

Chapter Text

Shit. No way.

"W-What do you mean?" Blue stammered, hoping somehow that Sans was just too exhausted to get that far, that it wasn't actually what he was afraid of.

Sans instantly shot him a glare, and Blue winced. Guess he wasn't that lucky.

"i mean i can't get out of town!" he hissed, gripping the bedsheets in some attempt to steady himself.

His skull looked bleached, and he swayed dangerously on his feet, but even when Blue was trying to figure out whether his help would be welcome, Sans let out a deep breath, centering himself.

"i tried to teleport to waterfall, but i could only get as far as the edge of snowdin," he said, tone far more calm as he looked at Blue with a slight apology in his eyes.

Blue nodded in response, showing that no harm was done, but on the inside his mind was racing.

He'd never come across a situation like this before... had he? Well, he'd come across some empty worlds, some entirely corrupted ones, some that were literally falling apart. But in timelines like that, the monsters occupying the Underground were usually the first things to go. He had once happened upon a timeline where everyone was frozen in place, stopped mid-sentence or mid-action like the world's creepiest game of freeze dance.

So why was Sans still around? Why was Monster Kid still around?

"Sans..." Blue said slowly, the gears turning in his skull. "You said that the kid just vanished, right? Like, they're gone?"

Sans blinked in surprise, probably wondering why Blue was going back to that, but nodded.

"that's correct," he said cautiously, clearly itching to ask why Blue needed to know that for sure, but Blue didn't give him a chance.

He turned to Monster Kid instead, urgency underlining every one of his movements.

"And you, you said that you were the only one left in town, right? You didn't see Papyrus anywhere?"

Out of the corner of his vision, he saw the way Sans' eye sockets widened, as if he hadn't even thought of that. Slim, from where he was standing next to Blue, shifted uneasily.

It was... regrettable, but this was important. Blue just knew that if he could figure this out, he could fix this.

This timeline wasn't beyond hope, not yet. He had to believe that.

"I'm the only one," Monster Kid said, curling in on themself as their voice wavered. The child stared at the floor, shoulder slumping as they were cast back into the memories of what had no doubt been a rather traumatic experience so far.

Blue closed his eyes for a moment, trying to fight an upset expression. He hated this. He hated this guilt, he hated the reminder.

(Am I all alone? Where is everybody? Papyrus? Chara? Please, don't leave me all alone - )

Blue straightened up, opening his eyes and shoving aside that old fear that had begun rising up inside of him. He didn't have time right now.

"Alright," he said decisively, hands on his hips. "Maybe we can't get into Waterfall, but we may be able to get into the Ruins. If that way is still clear, I may be able to find a way to fix all this."

There was a lot of maybe's in that sentence, but he was going to try his best.

"...i can't get into the ruins," Sans said slowly, giving Blue a strange look. "the door has been closed for centuries. i can't teleport into some place i've never seen before."

Oh, that's right. Blue had honestly forgotten all about that. He'd been to the Ruins, and the palace, and the lab, and just about everywhere else, including the Surface. He hadn't remembered that everyone else might not be able to do the same.

In fact -

"Can you?" Blue said, turning to look up at Slim.

Slim hadn't been surprised by the revelation that it was Asgore behind the door, so that surely meant that his Chara had managed to get them all up to the surface at least once, right?

"nope," Slim said simply, shaking his head. "never been inside."

Blue frowned, though he grudgingly admitted that was fair. After all, he hadn't gone into the Ruins until things had really started going wrong in his timeline and he had been searching for answers.

He could probably take at least one other person with him... But he really didn't want to.

It probably sounded a little dumb, but his adventures were not usually this stressful. Most of the time he tried to lock Chara and Temmie in a closet somewhere so that they couldn't cause trouble and then went to deal with the situation himself. Having to keep those two troublemakers nearby along with Slim scrutinizing his every move was enough to give any sane man a ulcer.

"I'll see if I can do it, then," Blue declared, holding up a hand to stop Sans' protests before he could say them. "If I can make it through, then I'll do a quick investigation and come back. If not... Well, you'll know."

With that, Blue took only a moment to concentrate on his magic, and then with a flash of blue - he vanished.

...

Sans stared blankly at the empty space where his counterpart had disappeared, a warning still left on his tongue.

...Shit. He really didn't want to be alone with these guys - not these creepy children or the guy who looked way too much like his baby brother. Not with the revelation he'd just had.

"everything alright?" the other Papyrus - Slim, wasn't it? - asked in a low tone, looking Sans over with a critical eye.

Sans smiled, trying to disguise the nervousness he was feeling.

"uh, yeah, just... was a bit concerned," he said, and that wasn't a lie, at least. "last i saw, the door to the ruins was just gone. nothing beyond it, just empty space that you couldn't even look into."

Slim frowned, shoving his hands in the pockets of his long, furred jacket.

"we'll know in a minute," he said decisively. "blue'll come back any second."

So, they waited.

But Blue did not appear.

Chapter Text

Temmie scoffed to themself, pointedly turning away when the freak-out began. They didn't care what happened to Blue. Really. Why was Chara smirking at them like that?!

Monster Kid, rounding to their side of the bed with a commiserating look on their face, only smiled.

"I get it, yo," they said quietly, trying not to disturb the two skeletons who were now panicking very loudly. "This is all super scary. Monsters disappearing left and right, weird shadow creatures showing up... Things ain't easy right now."

"Sure," Temmie said boredly, looking to Chara for an escape, only to find that they were well-engrossed with the other spectacle in the room, seeming utterly gleeful. Temmie sighed. Guess they were on their own.

They turned back to look at Monster Kid, despite everything in them that was screaming for them not to. It was... eerie. They didn't like seeing these other versions of themselves. These ones that didn't know how good they had it - to still have parents, a human (sibling) friend, a soul. They could never understand the suffering Temmie had been through. No one but Chara could.

(And Frisk could've. Temmie knows that for sure. But Frisk isn't here, are they? And they never will be again. Temmie's Frisk is dead dead dead.)

"But I know that everything will be okay," this distorted mirror-self said, staring back at Temmie with a smile that showed them they they had never known true pain.

(What it was like to fall away into dust.)

Temmie considered Monster Kid for a moment, thinking about what a life like that would have been like, and snorted.

"Sure. Whatever."

Foolish. A child's dream.

And Temmie - all three of them really, Temmie and Chara and Blue alike - couldn't afford to act like kids anymore.

...

Blue grunted as he landed on the ground, only barely managing to keep his footing. At that, he frowned to himself and took a quick look around. It wasn't often that he had a rough landing with his teleportation - his were relatively smooth, especially compared to his brother's, which often felt like he was getting dragged through a hurricane.

Actually, he remembered a time when Papyrus had been trying to hide a bag of sweets from him, and -

Blue furiously shook his head, trying to knock some sense into himself. Now was not the time to be going down memory lane, no matter how (eerily) familiar this situation was turning out to be!

Instead, he concentrated, trying to check out what condition the Ruins were in.

They appeared to be... fine. Honestly, if it wasn't for the fact that there was no monsters around, Blue would say that there was nothing wrong at all. Since this was one of the mixed-up universes, there should be Froggits and Whimsuns hanging around, right?

But there was nothing. It was complete and utter silence in the ruined caverns, something quite unlike anything Blue had ever witnessed before. There had been timelines where the Anomaly had used the human child to wipe out every living creature in the Ruins, going back and hunting out everyone who was left, and even that didn't have the same ending silence as he was hearing right now.

He didn't know how to explain it. But still, Blue shivered, clutching a hand to his chest. He felt empty, all of a sudden, and it wasn't exactly a feeling that he was comfortable with.

Whatever. He shook it off, shoved that strange feeling down to be examined sometime later (probably), and went on his way. He had teleported right outside Asgore's house - no wait, it was Queen Toriel's house here. Well, either way, that was the first place to check. If she wasn't around, he would head back to Snowdin so that he could keep the whole group informed of what was going on.

Carefully opening the door and peeking inside, Blue couldn't help but feel a bit silly for the caution, but he really looked like a misbehaving child right now, trying to sneak back inside while his parents were asleep.

It certainly held a similar vibe - the Toriel of his own universe had always been more a Queen than a Mother, but she was still an expert in the 'disapproving' face all parents were experts in. Blue definitely didn't want to be caught snooping around her house.

Luckily, that wasn't much of an issue. She wasn't there. It seemed that no one had been there, not for quite some time.

When Blue checked out the child's bedroom, he saw that the whole place was covered in dust - the normal kind, for once. Clearly, no one had gone in here for years, and that meant all of this mess had occurred in a spot in the timeline before Toriel had discovered the human child that fell down. Or, at least, before Toriel got the chance to come back and clean the place up for them.

Shutting the door behind him with a gentle respect for the fallen children who had all once resided there, Blue did a quick sweep of the rest of the house. As he'd suspected, Toriel had disappeared a while ago. His best clue was in the kitchen - sitting there, half-rotten and entirely cold, was a butterscotch-cinnamon pie.

His fingers twitched upon seeing it. Even though, by all rights, it should have appeared disgusting, Blue had only rarely gotten a chance to eat the Queen's pies, and they were always the best thing he had ever tasted.

It wouldn't hurt to take just one bite, right...? Just one little spoonful?

Blue smacked his forehead and immediately left the room, knowing that he had to get out of here before he made a monumentally stupid decision. Clearly, the lack of food and rest was getting to him. It had been a long week.

Instead, he concentrated on his magic, drawing up the well of blue that rested inside his SOUL so that he could return to the Inn.

And... nothing happened. Blue blinked, bewildered despite himself, and tried again. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Why wasn't this working?! He'd been able to get into the Ruins, hadn't he?

Frustrated, and nearly grinding his teeth, Blue tried something else. Maybe he couldn't get to the Inn, but to the outside of the door? That should be possible.

...Nothing.

Damn it!

He tried Hotland, the Barrier, Waterfall, the Castle, anything that he could think of. It all amounted to nothing.

"Fuck," Blue muttered under his breath, trying to stop himself from panicking. "Okay, one last go."

Finally, at his wits end, he decided to try teleporting to the very beginning of the Ruins, before all of the traps and puzzles. Maybe he was only being prevented from leaving the Ruins? Fuck, he sure hoped so.

And so, he closed his eyes and focused on that blue magic -

And opened his eyes to find himself crash-landing on top of a couple of very surprised bystanders.

Chapter Text

Blue gaped in shock, almost unable to believe his eyes, before quickly remembering the position he was in and attempting to scramble to his feet.

"I'm so sorry, that was an accident!" he said nervously, his cheeks no doubt stained blue at the embarrassing introduction he'd just given them.

The Papyrus he had landed on top of only laughed, shaking his head with a magnificent flick of his scarf.

"QUITE ALRIGHT," he said, smiling benevolently. "THESE THINGS HAPPEN, YOU KNOW, ESPECIALLY TO ONE AS POPULAR AS THE GREAT PAPYRUS! IS THAT NOT CORRECT, HUMAN?"

Frisk, who simply laid facedown on the ground and made no move to get to their feet, merely gave a thumbs up in response.

Apparently, Papyrus was used to this, because his smile only increased as he turned to address Blue without another word to his companion.

"AND YOU, MR. GUARDSMAN? ARE YOU DOING ALRIGHT?"

Blue started at the words, having actually forgotten that he had met this Papyrus once before, earlier in this timeline. Now that he took a moment to look, though, it seemed that Papyrus had certainly remembered him, because his 'battle body' actually had some modifications on it that appeared similar to some of his armor pieces, though they weren't made of the same material. The difference was small enough that Blue hadn't actually noticed at first, but once he did it was incredibly jarring.

Within timelines of the same nature, there was not often variations in things like outfits. It was just a bit... disconcerting.

Well, whatever. That didn't matter right now anyway. The important thing was that Blue had found the kid! And, on top of that, he was in a perfect spot right now to try and block off whatever the glitch was doing - the flower patch at the entrance to the Ruins was absolutely brimming with power.

(He knew, thanks to long-lost conversations with his own universe's Asgore that he had buried his adopted child here, though it was a pile of red leaves instead of a flower patch. Blue... wondered about that, sometimes. Was he, even now, standing upon some Chara's grave?

...Better not to think about it.)

"I'm just fine," he said, giving Papyrus a distracted smile as he tried desperately to wrench his thoughts away from the dark place they'd started to meander towards. "I am sorry about landing on top of you two, though. Why are you here, anyway? How long have you been here? Things are getting pretty crazy on the outside."

Papyrus shrugged, seeming unbothered. "I JUST WOKE UP HERE WITH MY NEW HUMAN FRIEND! WE DON'T KNOW WHY WE'RE HERE, BUT WE CAN'T LEAVE. MY GUESS IS, THIS IS A NEW KIND OF PUZZLE THAT I JUST DON'T HAVE THE TOOLS TO SOLVE YET! BUT DON'T WORRY, I'M WORKING ON IT AS WE SPEAK!"

Blue blinked. "...Sounds good."

Honestly, Papyrus (any Papyrus) was smart as hell if he put his mind to it, so any insight he could offer would absolutely be welcome. For now, he had to check with Frisk and see if he could get their side of the story.

Briefly, he prayed that this was one of the Frisk's who spoke, or at least knew how to use sign language, and knelt down to gently shake their shoulder.

They rolled over, looking up at him blearily, and his mouth almost twitched into a grin when he saw their indignant expression, but he kept himself under control.

"Do you have any idea of what's going on?" he asked. "The whole Underground is messed up. I met Sans, and he said that you had been doing just fine before, and then you suddenly disappeared. How did you end up here?"

Frisk blinked, looking rather taken aback, before they sat up and raised their hands.

*I thought everything had been RESET,* they signed swiftly, clearly eager to have someone to help try to explain this. *It was very sudden. But when I woke up back here, I couldn't leave the room. Flowey and Toriel never showed up. Papyrus only came here a little while ago, and he just appeared out of nowhere. He was actually stuck in this weird pose for a long time, until he suddenly started moving around and talking like nothing ever happened. I don't think he fully understands what's going on.*

Blue glanced at Papyrus, who was ignoring the exchange and staring thoughtfully at the door, muttering something about a pulley system.

Yeah, it didn't seem like he really understood just how weird this was.

"Can you RESET?" Blue asked seriously, staring seriously at the child who had a bit of a strange expression on their face. "I might be able to stop this corruption, but it won't go back to normal unless you RESET."

*Not... manually,* they signed slowly, not looking at him.

Blue blinked, confused as to what they meant, before it hit him like a speeding train.

Frisk couldn't RESET on their own, like most of the counterparts could. They would have to get killed first, and then they would be given the option to LOAD or RESET.

Chara had explained that to him once, a long time ago, but it hadn't been much of an issue in the past. Any time Blue'd had to force a RESET was when the human child had been completely in the control of the Anomaly.

He'd... He'd never had to...

"Um, I understand," he managed to get out, studiously looking away. "Let me, ah, see what I can do about the glitches, first."

He didn't want to do that. He didn't want to kill this child. But what other choice did he have? Ask Papyrus to do it? Ask Frisk to do it on their own?

Inconceivable. This would just have to be another sin to lay on his shoulders. Blue would take responsibility for that.

Desperate to distract himself, he pulled up his blue screen, magic flaring in his eye.

Slowly, and possibly with more care than he generally gave, he went through this timeline's data, picking out the pieces that were causing damage.

The Anomaly was intertwined with many layers of the code, and he took time to carefully pick it out, losing himself in the mind-numbing work.

Finally, he grasped the final piece, the last bit of the Anomaly, and crushed it out of existence, wiping its influence from the timeline. After constructing a barrier to keep the Anomaly from breaking back into the code, he knew that he was out of time.

He turned to look at Frisk, who stared back at him blankly.

Next to them, Papyrus finally glanced away from his own distraction, watching the two curiously.

Blue raised a hand, his eye flaring with magic, and Frisk closed their eyes.

Chapter Text

A white bone formed in the air next to Blue's head, and he launched it towards the child in front of him, not allowing any hesitation. If he stopped to think about this for too long, he wouldn't be able to go through with it - he knew himself well enough to be able to say that. And this had to be done. The world wouldn't be fixed until Frisk RESET.

They understood that, and Blue did too.

Papyrus, on the other hand, did not. He lurched forward with a startled cry, calling his own magic to the surface in an attempt to block the blow, but it was too late. The bone pierced right through Frisk's chest, making an awful wet sound that Blue was only barely able to resist gagging at. It was so much easier with monsters. They just turned to dust - the whole process wasn't nearly as messy.

Frisk's eyes fluttered open, for only a moment, but the light had already drained out of them, and the child collapsed onto the cavern's floor.

They landed on the flowerbed, Blue noted dispassionately. Red blood was soaking through the petals.

When Blue finally looked up, Papyrus was frozen in place, looking absolutely horrified. He... actually felt a bit bad about that. If only he could have moved Papyrus somewhere else, or somehow convinced him to - what, sit in the corner and cover his eyes?

There was nothing he could have done. Blue had only done what he'd had to.

"What have you done?" Papyrus said numbly, his usual boisterous tone completely missing.

Blue didn't reply, glancing away. It was going to RESET soon. There was no point in explaining.

But to his surprise, Papyrus reached out and grabbed the collar of his shirt roughly, bodily pulling Blue up and off of the ground.

"What have you done?" Papyrus repeated, looking so lost and confused, but with the barest stirrings of righteous anger. "What did the human do to deserve such a thing?"

Blue almost smiled, but managed to hold himself back at the last moment. Papyrus just looked so much like his own brother right now, his eyelights burning a bright orange, and a stubborn set to his shoulders that told Blue that Papyrus wouldn't be giving up on this anytime soon.

"They didn't," Blue said, belatedly remembering to at least make it look like he was paying attention. "The human didn't do anything wrong. Don't worry."

"Don't worry?" Papyrus yelled exasperatedly, using one hand to gesture at the corpse slowly beginning to cool on the dirt floor. "How could I possibly do that?!"

Blue smiled at him gently, reaching up with one hand to pat the arm still holding him aloft.

"Don't worry," he said again. "Soon you won't even remember this pain."

It felt wrong to say that. It felt too much like the excuses he had used in the past, the excuses both he and his brother had used in an attempt to protect each other. It had only ended up hurting them in the end.

But it was true. And honestly... what else was he supposed to say?

"I - " Papyrus started to say something, his expression seeming frustrated as all hell, but he was cut off by the shiver that suddenly ran through Blue's body.

He screwed his eyes shut, knowing what was happening, while Papyrus dropped him, making some kind of vague panicked noise that Blue didn't register.

The world was RESETing - took the kid long enough. And Papyrus didn't feel anything, of course; he was from this timeline. He was supposed to be here. Blue, on the other hand...

He curled into himself from where he had landed on the floor, squeezing reflexively at his elbows as he tried to push past the pain. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he hoped that Slim was alright. Chara and Temmie had dealt with this before, and also didn't seem to be as effected by it as he was. Hopefully, Slim's situation would be the same.

But for now, all he could do was -

...

Papyrus woke up. This wasn't an especially strange thing, considering that he had woken up every single day of his life before this, but it still somehow seemed notable.

He stared blankly at the ceiling of his bedroom for a long moment, unable to figure out why he was frozen in place. He... must have had a weird dream, or something. He couldn't remember it, but that was alright. Somehow, it felt like he was better off forgetting.

With what felt like monumental effort, he managed to drag himself out of bed despite the way his mind protested. But he absolutely refused to become a lazybones like his brother, so he was getting up!

The mere idea of such a thing was terrifying to him, which made what happened next all the worse. When he finally managed to get downstairs (after almost three whole minutes of stalling!), Sans was already awake. He was awake, and talking to someone in the kitchen.

Okay, clearly the apocalypse had happened while Papyrus was asleep. It was the only possible explanation.

"BROTHER, IT'S SIX O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING!" Papyrus declared, walking into the kitchen with his hands on his hips. "WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING AWAKE ALREADY - "

The words died in his (nonexistent) throat. There were two other skeletons in the room with his brother, along with a Temmie and a child of some sort.

One of the skeletons was the Royal Guardsman who had come by a few weeks ago, and Papyrus was elated to see him again!

...Wasn't he? His mind wasn't cooperating. Somehow, seeing the guard did not fill him with joy as it should have.

Instead, Papyrus just felt... afraid . No, that wasn't quite the right word. He felt suspicious, and disappointed, and a hundred other things that he didn't know how to name.

Why was his mind betraying him in such a way? And - why was the guardsman staring at him with such a regretful look?

Chapter Text

Blue just looked... bad. There was really no other way to describe it - his shoulders were drooping with exhaustion, eyelights fizzling. He swayed on his feet as if he was going to collapse at any moment.

Slim's phalanges itched with the urge to hold him up, to help him, so Slim shoved his hands in his pockets, stubbornly looking away.

His brother had never looked like that. Even on his worst days, he had never allowed anyone to see his weakness, never allowed anyone to know that he had any weaknesses. Not even Slim.

Whatever.

He turned his attention towards Papyrus instead, who was looking understandably flabbergasted at their little assembly of freaks.

"hey, bro," Sans greeted, seeming rather tired himself. "y'know that guardsman who came by the other day? well, he and his brother - "

"We're not brothers." / "we're not brothers."

Slim and Blue spoke at the same moment, before glancing at each other in surprise. Blue's expression went soft after a moment, gentle and kind and so utterly unlike his brother that Slim had to grit his teeth to stop himself from snapping at him.

His brother was kind, but in understated ways. He worked from behind the scenes, made sure that everyone had what they needed without ever having to ask.

His brother was also dead, and Slim still couldn't stand it.

How did Blue live? How did he just go about his day without a care, go on smiling and helping random strangers when his brother was dead too? It baffled Slim, truly. He was on this little quest because it was better than staying in a goddamn wasteland, but what stake did Blue have in this?

What was the point?

And why did Slim care so much about the answer?

"uh, right," Sans blinked, apparently caught off-guard. Maybe he really had thought that Slim and Blue were brothers. "well, regardless, they came by to do some... inspecting, and blue remembered that you lived around here, so he wanted to pop by and say hi before they left on their next assignment."

"OH, I SEE," Papyrus said, but there was a certain tightness to his expression that Slim couldn't quite place.

He chanced a glance at Blue, and managed to just see a flicker of pain cross the other's face before it disappeared.

Clearly, something had happened. Blue had only told them that he had been able to teleport into the Ruins but not out of them, and had managed to find the kid and get them to RESET. Maybe something had happened with Papyrus the last time he'd been here? Or maybe Papyrus was remembering something from a previous loop. That could happen sometimes, for sure.

Slim made a mental note to ask Blue later, when this whole mess was finally over and they could move on.

Blue stood up from the table, walking over to Papyrus and holding out his hand. His smile was still gentle, and sad, and Slim couldn't bear to look at it.

"It's good to see you again," he said, shaking the other's hand when it was offered (with a slight, strange hesitance). "How... how have you been?"

"QUITE WELL, THANK YOU FOR ASKING!" Papyrus beamed, something in his shoulders untensing. He seemed a bit more open now, and Slim actually felt himself relax in response.

Had he been preparing to jump to Blue's defense? ...It seemed so, even without his conscious input.

Slim frowned, ducking his head down to hide it behind the collar of his coat. He didn't think of Blue as his brother. That delusion was long gone, he knew that. So, why was he still willing to help him out so readily? Why was he concerned about Blue's mental and physical state, why did he give a shit about any of that?

It was then, quite suddenly, while Blue and Papyrus were chatting enthusiastically in a kitchen that was like an uncanny valley version of his own, that Slim had a horrifying revelation.

He liked Blue. He liked him as a person.

He liked that Blue did go out of his way to help others, that he was willing to stick around and assist anyone who needed it, even if it wouldn't benefit him. Sometimes, like in the cases where they saw other Papyrus' (Slim wasn't blind to the way Blue's soul seemed to be audibly pained in those instances), it actually hurt him to stick around for long, and he still did it anyway.

Slim liked that Blue was open and free with his kindness, he liked Blue's slyness and his under-the-breath sarcasm, he liked the fact that Blue was clearly so tired but still, despite everything, determined to move forward.

He liked that Temmie and Chara cared about Blue, he liked that Blue cared about them, he liked...

Slim liked the fact that it was so obvious Blue cared about him.

He let out a smothered groan, hiding his face behind his hands. Of all the times to have a revelation like this...

"everything okay?" Sans said, voice tinged with an amusement that Slim seriously did not appreciate.

"no. nothing is okay and i'm dying," Slim muttered, the sound muffled with his attempts to suffocate himself with his bare hands.

"you get used to it," Sans promised, patting him lightly on the shoulder.

Slim let his skull fall onto the kitchen table with a muted thud. He didn't want to get used to it.

Fuck, things were easier when he was stuck in his own timeline bored out of his mind and slowly going insane. Yeah, that actually seemed like a better place right now.

"You alright?" Blue said, gently touching the crown of Slim's skull in concern.

Slim didn't look up, sure that his face was burning orange. "yep. totally. never been better."

Somewhere to the right of him, he could hear Temmie and Chara sniggering to themselves. If he wasn't worried about Blue seeing his stupid, blushing face, he would have totally kicked them both.

Chapter Text

Papyrus was certainly suspicious, Blue could tell that much, but thankfully his innate good nature meant that he refrained from acting out his suspicions, willing to give Blue a chance even if he did give off a strange impression.

Blue was thankful for that, at the very least - this whole situation was hard enough to explain without having to confess to Sans that his brother had seen Blue cavalierly murder a child. Not the greatest opening line, he could admit.

But, fuck. He was too tired to care anymore, too tired to worry about Papyrus remembering something or Sans suspecting something. He was done with all of this. Blue had did his job, and now he was ready to get the fuck outta dodge.

"Thank you both so much for your hospitality," Blue said, turning away from where he had been inspecting his traveling companion's condition worriedly. "But I think that Slim is getting a bit of a headache, so we should probably get moving."

Chara, who had been standing silently in a corner of the kitchen, watching all of them with sharp red eyes, stepped forward, nodding in agreement. Temmie, in their arms as per usual, stuck their tongue out and made a weird face.

"Yeah, it's been a long day. Already." "Tem SLEEP! Tem need go nite-nite!"

Both children spoke up, giving halfway-convincing yawns to go along with it. That... would have made more sense if it was actually close to night, instead of it being early in the morning, but whatever. Blue leapt on the excuse, smiling widely even as he had to hide his exasperation.

"Yes, yes, of course," he assured the children, who gave him twin looks of disdain. "Let's get moving."

Sans blinked, seeming a bit bemused at the sudden exit, but nodded in agreement, standing from his chair.

"yeah, of course." Then, he smiled, and it was a kind, almost gentle thing, worlds away from he stressed and panicked monster he had been when this whole disaster had started. "if you're ever around, pop in and say hi, yeah?"

Blue smiled back despite himself. "Absolutely."

Nudging Slim on the shoulder, he attempted to get the other up and going, but he just groaned, banging his skull on the table a couple more times.

Blue huffed out a laugh, and then snagged the back of Slim's furred hood, pulling him up from the table.

"Time to go," he said amusedly.

Slim's face was a little flushed, but he nodded nonetheless. Blue frowned, wondering if he wasn't feeling well, but dismissed it.

They were going to go leave and relax anyway. If he wasn't feeling well, then that would be exactly what he needed.

"WELL, IT WAS NICE TO BRIEFLY MEET YOU AGAIN UNDER MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES," Papyrus said, a touch wryly. "UNTIL NEXT TIME."

Blue nodded in farewell, and gestured for Chara to go ahead of him as he hauled Slim up. They left the cabin in what might have been a bit too much eagerness, and Chara didn't even bother to check if anyone was watching before they sliced open the portal and made their way through.

Blue couldn't even find it in himself to argue - he was just as eager to get out of here, and jumped through the portal as soon as it appeared, Slim on his heels.

When he landed on the other side, he couldn't stop a smile from breaking out on his face, closing his eyes briefly.

Sunlight.

There was nothing else quite like it - for all that the Underground's artificial light was useful, it could never compare to that first feeling of gentle warmth that came from feeling the sun's rays on your bones for the first time.

Behind him, Blue heard a quiet noise, something soft and shuddering. He took a step forward, glancing behind himself.

The portal was closing even as he watched, but he couldn't pay it any attention. Not with the look on Slim's face, the awe and gentle pain that encompassed him as he stared up at the sky.

Something inside Blue began to ache. He remembered the first time he had ever made it to the surface - the celebrations they had done, the tears and joy. Centuries of imprisonment, finally over.

And then time had wound itself back, and every escape after that felt like a hollow, momentary victory against an entity that they could not fight.

Blue loved the sun, the sky, the surface, but he would never be able to love it as purely and simply as he had that first time. He would never be able to look upon this world with wonder the way Slim was doing right now.

Some part of him missed it, but the majority of him didn't know how.

When he glanced back in front of him, wondering why Chara was being so suspiciously quiet, he saw the child staring at him, shades of some emotion he didn't understand coloring their face. When they saw him looking at them, they abruptly turned away, busying themself with stroking an oddly silent Temmie.

Blue wondered, sometimes, if Chara still blamed themself for what had happened in their native timeline. It wouldn't surprise him, honestly.

He had suffered, when the Anomaly was in control. He had suffered, and broken, and caused himself and others so much pain.

But he hadn't suffered like Chara; it wasn't his body that was under the Anomaly's control. For all that he'd had his own role to play, he hadn't had the choice literally taken away from him like Chara did.

And even though that was the truth, that Chara hadn't been able to stop themself from killing or saving or whatever the Anomaly decided to do, Chara still blamed themself for it. Because it was their hands, their soul, their power.

And Blue had no idea what to say to that. So, he didn't say anything.

"What timeline is this one?" he said gently, walking towards Chara and Temmie, figuring that he would let Slim have his moment.

"The Underfell one we visited a while back," Chara said briskly, still avoiding his eye. "Where we fought against Frisk to save Sans. The Cherry one."

"Perfect."

Since it was on the surface, everything must have worked out okay. Blue could finally relax. And, with any luck, the others could too.

Chapter Text

All of his worries, all of his concerns, everything that he had been silently mulling over since the day his brother had died (for the last time), all just faded away.

What else could he do, in the face of this?

Slim closed his eyes, letting out a shuddering breath. Once. His timeline had made it to the surface only once before, and it didn’t even last long enough for him to pause for a moment and enjoy it. He had barely felt the sunlight on his bones before it had all RESET again. Of course, at that point, he had pretty much expected that. It had already been several runs since the beginning, and Slim had rather lost a sense of permanence in his life.

It wasn’t the same now, though. Now, he was working together with someone who was asking sure that things like that wouldn't happen again. Now, he was living in an existence where he was the one who got to call the shots. Or, y’know, mostly.

Blue was the real boss around here, after all.

At the thought, Slim opened his eyes - though with a strange feeling of reluctance, like if he didn’t treasure this moment for as long as he could, it would disappear again - and caught the tail end of Blue’s conversation with Chara, wondering vaguely what a ‘Cherry’ universe meant.

Blue, noticing his sudden attention, smiled up at him. It was almost a genuine smile, but somehow Slim couldn’t take it personally anymore. He got the feeling that it had been a long time since Blue had given anyone a genuine smile - or at least one that wasn’t entirely lined with stress.

“We’re in a Fell timeline, one that is a swapped version of yours,” he explained, making Slim tilt his head in curiosity. “We’ve been here before, and already dealt with the Anomaly. The fact that they’re on the surface now means that they’re here to stay.”

“damn,” Slim muttered under his breath. A swapped version of his world? He wondered what that was like. What kind of life would he and his brother live in a situation like that?

(He wondered what it was like to have any kind of life at all.)

“Indeed,” Blue said solemnly, but Slim could see the way his grin was twitching at the edges.

That was enough to drag Slim out of the foul mood he’d been accidentally (or not) been allowing himself to fall into. He let out a soft chuckle, and revelled in the surprised look Blue shot him before he immediately turned away, looking a bit embarrassed.

“shall we get going, then?” He suggested, trying not to seem too eager, even as he knew his eyelights were growing larger in his excitement. “you got any idea where they are?”

Blue blinked, seemingly shaking himself out of some kind of daze, and then nodded. “Probably. Most settlements on the surface are remarkably similar, no matter what timeline they come from. We should still walk though - if something has happened, it wouldn’t be a good idea to teleport right into it.”

“gotcha.” Well, Slim couldn’t say he was happy about it, but he understood the necessity.

Blue’s expression turned sympathetic, but he remained firm. Instead, he turned to Chara and Temmie, asking if they were ready to go.

“Let’s just get moving, comedian,” Chara snarled out, stomping off further into the woods before Blue could get more than a word out. Temmie, in their arms, gave the two skeletons a leering expression before the children were out of sight.

“...Well, okay then,” Blue said, a hint of amusement in his voice, though he still sounded more tired than anything. “I believe that is certainly our cue. Ready?”

Slim took one last moment, letting himself soak in everything that made up the surface, a world above ground. The sun was shining, the birds were singing...

(Distantly, he wished that his brother was here to see it with him. He wondered if Blue was thinking the same. Maybe now that he was relatively certain Blue wasn’t trying to intentionally screw him over, he could work up the courage to ask.)

Slim strode forward, gently knocking Blue’s shoulder as he went.

“let’s move.”

...

It wasn’t hard to see where the human town ended and where the monster establishment began. A lot of monsters, Slim noted with amusement, had managed to simply bring their houses from the Underground up and onto the surface.

Some monsters were up and about, which made sense since it was early afternoon, but it seemed like school hadn’t been let out just yet. When their little group had passed by it, Slim couldn’t help the warm feelings that had overcome him. All the topiary in front of the building was definitely Asgore’s work, no doubt.

One of them was actually in the shape of his head. Well, kind of? Slim had to assume that it was actually meant to be the Papyrus of this timeline, since the shrub had all sharpened teeth, but no real fangs. The plant had a very triumphant expression, and if this timeline’s Papyrus was anything like his own brother, then he could understand why.

“Honestly, I hope nobody’s home,” Chara murmured under their breath, making Slim glance over at them.

“where are we headed, exactly? the skeleton brothers’ house?” He asked, unsure of what about that would make Chara seem so hesitant.

“Yeah,” they said, though they absolutely did not look happy about it. “We said so earlier, but we’ve already met the Sans of this timeline. He’s not a complete bastard, so he should at least be able to point us in the direction of a place we can stay.”

“we going to be staying for long?” Some part of Slim really wished that they had discussed these kinds of things beforehand, but the other part of him was fully willing to acknowledge that he barely paid attention anyway.

“At least a couple of days,” Blue spoke up, rubbing the back of his neck with an exhausted expression. “I don’t know about you guys, but it has been a very long, exhausting day. Two days. Whatever. I’m just tired, and I want to get some real sleep. After that, we can take some time to hang around and see what this timeline has ended up as.”

Slim didn’t say a word, merely nodding, but he couldn’t help the thrill he felt at that idea. To be able to explore the surface without worrying about it being RESET? Without having to worry about any responsibilities at all?

Sounded like paradise to him.

Chapter Text

Temmie peeked out of the shelter of Chara’s arms, taking a look around. Some part of them, the part that was still a child (despite everything) couldn’t help but feel exhilarated at the sight that met them.

Monsters, on the surface. Walking freely, without fear of pain or persecution! Of course, this was a fell timeline, so they were perhaps a bit more twitchy than another timeline would have been, but still. This was probably the most relaxed you would ever see a group of monsters from that hell of an Underground.

And it wasn’t just monsters, either - humans walked with them, side-by-side. On their journey to the skeleton brothers’ place, they even passed by a bunny monster and her human girlfriend, both holding hands and giggling together as if their races hadn’t been at war for centuries.

It was... nice. Healing, almost. This was what Temmie had always wanted, after all. But it had never been given a chance to happen in their timeline, and now, it never would.

They hunched back down into Chara’s embrace at the reminder, but didn’t allow it to make them upset. What had passed, had passed. They couldn’t change the past, not anymore.

As Blue was ever so fond of saying, all they could do was work to make a better future.

The monster in question perked up when their little group turned the corner, picking up the pace as a big wooden house with lights strung haphazardly across the front entered their view.

“Man, is that ever a sight for sore eye-sockets,” he muttered under his breath, making Temmie snigger, before he plastered a smile on his face and turned to look at them.

“Okay!” Blue chirped, hands clasped together in that creepy thing he did in some vague attempt to seem more harmless. “With any luck, Sans won’t be at work and we can ask him for some help, just, y’know, real quick. I’m sure we could ask Papyrus too, considering this timeline is one of the kinder ones, but I’m not quite sure how that could go, so let’s stay on guard!”

Chara grumbled out an agreement, Slim merely nodding as Temmie rolled their eyes.

They really hoped that Slim and Blue would take this downtime to work out their issues. It was honestly exhausting to watch Blue try to play the cheerful idiot all the time, especially when the mask became so thin. They doubted that Slim had fallen for it to begin with, honestly.

Still, they kept silent as Blue went up to the front door and knocked politely, rocking on his heels as he waited for someone to answer. It was hardly Temmie’s place to tell them to get their shit together; and Slim didn’t seem much like the patient type, not when it came to things like this.

Luckily, they didn’t even have to wait for something to explode - the Sans of this timeline answered the door, rubbing at his eye-sockets in a way that showed he had definitely been napping five seconds ago.

“what is it?” he mumbled, not really registering what he was looking at. But it was quite obvious when he did, a moment later, because his eyelights widened and his face immediately flushed red. “oh! um, it’s you! how... are you? is there something wrong?”

“No, no, everything’s fine,” Blue said with a little laugh, and it was only with the ease of long practice that Temmie could hear the edge of impatience in his tone. “We just wanted to come back and see how everything was doing! Make sure that you got the happy ending that you always wanted.”

Sans flushed a little darker, looking flattered. Temmie resisted the urge to scoff - it could be hard to tell, sometimes, if Blue was actively being manipulative, but moments like this were so obvious it was sad that anyone fell for them.

(Then again, Temmie proudly counted themself as a master manipulator, even if they didn’t have much use for those skills anymore. It made sense that they would be able to see through most of Blue’s schemes, since the skeleton monster typically wasn’t very malicious, even at his most manipulative.)

“well, thanks to your help, everything’s been amazing,” Sans said, and even Temmie could see that his smile came much easier than before. “once the anomaly was gone from the kid, they did everything right. mercy, for everyone, just the way we never dared to even dream. seriously, i can’t thank you enough.”

Now Blue was the one blushing, just faintly, but enough for his cheekbones to gain a slight blue tinge. It was funny, to think that after everything that had happened to the three of them, Blue could still get so flustered from just a simple compliment.

“Oh, um, you’re welcome,” he said, sounding perhaps a bit more excited than he had meant to.

Temmie snickered under their breath, and shot a glance at Slim. There was nothing on the taller skeleton’s face, but he shifted a bit uneasily, which only made the toy’s laughter increase.

Oh, this would be fun.

“I did want to ask you something, though,” Blue began, coughing into his hand with a slight aura of embarrassment. “Would you know a good place for us to stay for a few days? Some relaxation has been a long time coming, to be honest.”

Sans glanced over to the rest of them in surprise, appearing to have never even noticed their presence. But his attention was brought back to Blue within only a second, making Temmie almost break out into giggles again at the way a cross expression passed over Slim’s face for a moment.

“of course, anything you need,” Sans assured him, smiling lightly at Blue’s profuseful thanks. “i’ll pay for a week at the inn. after what you did for me, heck, what you did for everyone in this timeline, that’s the absolute least that i can do.”

Blue, looking a bit startled, was obviously caught off-guard by the generous offer and tried to refuse, but Sans would hear none of it.

“i’ll get you set up at the inn,” he insisted, not allowing Blue to try and talk his way out of it. “after that, i’ll let you guys relax, and then tomorrow you can have the grand tour, okay?”

Blue was obviously going to try and reject it again, so Temmie, tired of standing around (even if they were being carried the whole time), decided to interject.

“Sounds like a plan, skeleton man,” they said, giving the leather-wearing skeleton an especially toothy grin.

Sans didn’t flinch, but it was a near thing.

Chapter Text

Some part of Blue still really wanted to refuse. It felt wrong, being in someone’s debt, even if that someone was merely another version of himself.

But, he rationalized, it wasn’t like they were likely to come back here after this little side-trip was done. And no one here could follow them, either. This was safe, about as safe as it could be. There was no reason for him to be so paranoid and anxious.

(That didn’t actually stop him from feeling that way, but it hardly mattered.)

“Yeah... okay,” he said, accepting his fate as Sans beamed at him. A second later, they were back out on the road, Sans leading them towards the Inn, chattering away.

Blue tried to pay attention, but lost his concentration within the first minute, allowing the sound of his counterpart’s voice to wash over him. He hummed and nodded in the appropriate places, the words flying through him without recognition.

He was so tired. The kind of tired that felt like it would never go away.

(And how long had he been feeling it? How long? Was it from the day they picked up Slim, or the first time his timeline RESET? Was it the first time his brother died, or the day he realized his brother wasn’t coming back?)

“okay, here we are,” Sans said, managing to snag Blue’s attention back.

He glanced up, letting out a low whistle at the sight that greeted him. The Inn had definitely upgraded from its location in Snowdin.

The building itself had a few extra stories added, and a new paint job. Blue knew that Fell versions of the Inn tended to be in shabby shape to start with, so this was a magnificent improvement, by all accounts.

There was a dining hall added, and Blu could see several groups of humans and monsters - some of them even mixed - partaking in what must have been a late lunch. There were big, opened windows, and he was astonished at the amount of care that had gone into this.

Sans lead them inside with ease, still clearly knowing the workers here quite well, since he was able to call out to all of them by name. When they got to the counter, he cajoled and flirted his way into getting a discount, making the bunny behind the counter roll her eyes with an indulgent smile.

Here, more than seeing the skeleton brothers’ house, more than seeing his counterparts or those of his brother, more than anything else...

Blue was hit with a wave of homesickness. This Sans had grown up in Snowdin, just like him, and the monsters of Snowdin still adored him, no matter how the timeline was changed. Blue’d had that, a long time ago, and he was astonished at the strange sense of rage that hit him.

Blue fought to keep his face open and friendly as he accepted the room key from his counterpart with a murmured thanks. He couldn’t take this out on Sans, he refused to.

(But why was he able to find happiness? What had he done to deserve it? Why was it that everyone but Blue was allowed to try again, to keept trying until they found their ‘happy ending’? How was that fair?)

Sans left them at the door, though he had shuffled his feet and stalled, and acted generally like he wanted to talk to Blue about something, but Blue had kindly told him that they would see him tomorrow for their tour, and closed the door.

He didn’t have the patience or the energy to help Sans with something today. Chara and Temmie, bless them, clearly caught onto his mood, because after staring at him for a long moment, they muttered something about getting some food and left the room in a real hurry.

Blue collapsed onto the bed with a miserable sigh, immediately stuffing his head under the pillow. The room had two beds and a pull-out couch, so he would probably end up taking the couch later to allow Chara and Temmie to use the bed. For now, he wanted to take a nap while he still had the chance.

Which, of course, was interrupted, because it was a law of the multiverse that Blue wasn’t allowed to have good things.

“so, the last time you guys were here... what exactly happened?” Slim questioned.

Blue could hear his voice, and he blearily pulled his head back out from under the pillow, trying to look as patient as possible.

“The child of this timeline is Frisk,” he explained, perhaps a little more tersely than he would normally. “The Anomaly was actually possessing them when we showed up, so we fought them off with the help of Sans, and managed to hold them back long enough for me to get rid of the Anomaly’s influence. After that, the kid RESET and managed to bring everyone to the surface, apparently.”

Slim nodded, slowly, a look of concentration on his face. “so, this place is safe now?”

The thought hit Blue like a lightning bolt. Oh shit, he’d completely forgotten the whole reason he’d brought Slim with him in the first place!

He sat up, exhaustion fading somewhat under the force of his excitement. “Yes, that’s exactly right! No more Anomaly, on the surface with no chance of RESETing. This is the perfect chance for you to look around and see if you want to stay!”

Slim’s expression shifted, surprise and something else Blue couldn’t identify, but before the tall skeleton could even open his mouth to reply, Blue was already off.

“A surface timeline like this is great, and it’s even a fell one! It’s swapped with yours, of course, which is probably for the best, but it will still be at least somewhat familiar! Oh, you have to tell me what you think, okay? Even if it doesn’t end up being this exact timeline, there are plenty of others around that are similar! I’d be happy to show you them, of course!”

Blue bounced a little on the bedcovers, beaming excitedly at him.

“This is perfect!”

For some reason, Slim didn’t look quite so enthused.

Chapter Text

Slim hadn’t known how to respond to Blue’s sudden jubilance. He’d wracked his empty skull for something to say, someway to respond, but it just... hadn’t happened. Still smiling to himself happily, Blue had settled down for a nap before Slim could even get a chance to respond.

Perhaps that was for the best. Slim had a lot to think about, and even though the sight of Blue’s sleeping (unguarded, shouldn’t he know better?) face was rather distracting, he pushed past it, standing up to stride over to the window.

The monsters outside were acting so casual, so carefree. If they were really from a fell timeline like his own, shouldn’t they have been a bit more on-guard? True, Blue had mentioned that this was a ‘softer’ timeline than the norm, but the difference was still huge.

His hands curled into fists without his notice as he stared down at the passerbys. It was just so unfathomable to him.

...Could he really live in a place like this?

“what a joke,” he muttered aloud, bitterness curling in his soul.

As if he would ever settle in some town where everyone had forgotten their instincts, forgotten how to defend themselves. Sure, he could tell that they weren’t as laid-back as some of the other timelines they’d seen, even briefly, but it still made Slim itch with discomfort.

There was just no way.

He leaned more solidly against the widow frame, letting out a deep sigh. Momentarily, he found himself missing the way his breath would fog up the windowpane, back in Snowdin. It was such a small thing, but it hit him hard in that moment.

Slim wasn’t sure that he wanted to live on the surface at all. Admittedly, he had no desire to go back to being trapped in the Underground, but for as beautiful and intriguing the surface world was shaping up to be, there were so many unknowns. So many things that could go wrong.

But...

Then, where else was he supposed to go? What would be enough to satisfy him? Honestly, it didn’t seem like anything would.

Maybe... Maybe if things had been different. If his brother was alive, or had some way of coming back. Maybe then, Slim would have been satisfied with the surface. No, he would have been satisfied with even their underground prison if it meant he could be with his brother again.

But that was never going to happen. So what was he supposed to do?

Slim glanced over at his companion, who was breathing softly as he pressed his face into the pillow.

Momentarily, Slim found himself softening. He walked to the bed’s side, almost hovering over Blue.

Blue couldn’t see his brother again either. Slim still didn’t know the full story there, but he could pick up context clues well enough. Something had happened that made it so the kid couldn’t RESET anymore, even though they were still in the Underground. And that there was no one left but the three of them when they discovered that.

He wondered, faintly, if it was anything like the hell he had been living in, before Blue had found him. Always waiting, always being left behind...

(He wondered if it was better or worse to have the kid with him. He wondered what had changed in their relationship, to have the kid defend Blue and snarl at him in the same breath. He wondered, just slightly, if it could have been possible for him to have that kind of relationship with his own Chara, his own Temmie. Could Slim have done that? Would he have wanted to?)

Slim, lost in his own head, absentmindedly reached out a hand to - what? He wasn’t sure what he was doing, what his hand was supposed to do, hovering just ever-so-slightly above Blue’s face.

Luckily, he didn’t have to face that internal crisis just yet, because that was the exact moment Chara and Temmie decided to burst back through the door, both of them already arguing about something that had gone on downstairs.

“ - and I’m telling you,” Chara insisted, squeezing Temmie tightly, “that there is no way that was Shyren. I know she’s supposed to be all quiet and meek in this type of timeline, but she never acts like that.”

“It definitely was!” Temmie argued, scowling up at Chara from where they were resting in the child’s arms. “I would recognize that hairstyle anywhere! What, do you think I’m some kind of idiot?”

Chara didn’t deign to reply to that notion, but did give the stuffed toy a very pointed look, which made them relent with a sigh.

In the bed next to where Slim was standing (and he hastily took a step back when he realized how close he had gotten, snatching his hand away and pondering the sense of loss that hit him) Blue began to stir, muttering incoherently to himself.

Slim frowned at that, turning to the two children with a stern look.

“quiet down,” he rasped, crossing his arms over his chest as they both wilted. “blue’s trying to get some rest.”

The two looked properly mutinous, but noticeably stopped talking, and looked to be acting as quiet as possible as they settled onto the couch.

It turned out to be in vain, however, when Slim heard a sleepy laugh, and turned to see Blue sitting up, rubbing at his eye sockets.

He didn’t seem to be unhappy, however, so Slim relaxed his stern stance just a bit, looking him over to see how he was doing.

Even the short nap had apparently done the other skeleton some good, and he beamed up at Slim with good humor.

“You sounded just like a scolding parent,” Blue joked, and Slim actually took a step back in his shock, before he quickly composed himself.

“it’s been a long day,” he muttered, unsure if he was trying to excuse himself or give an explanation.

Blue’s returning smile was sympathetic, and the sight of it made the last bit of tension fade from Slim.

“Yeah, for sure.”

Then, Blue climbed out of bed, turning to address the kids as well.

“Let’s get the room set up for tonight, okay? You two can take this bed, I’ll have the couch. After we’re done, we can go get something to eat, and then rest. Sound good?”

“i can take the couch,” Slim offered, even though he had no idea why. The couch didn’t even look like it was long enough for him to lay on comfortably, but for some reason he really didn’t want Blue to be inconvenienced like that.

Blue must have been thinking the same thing, however, because he gave Slim an amused look.

“While the offer is appreciated, I don’t think you would even fit. You’re way too big.”

Chara snorted, muttering something under their breath, and Temmie sniggered.

Blue rolled his eyes, looking at them with his hands on his hips. “Got something you want to share with the class?”

“No, Blue,” Chara said, a pout forming on their face, and Temmie snickered again.

Well, despite what Blue had said earlier, Slim thought that with this stance and that tone of voice, Blue looked much more like the scolding parent.

Chapter Text

Sans walked to the Inn with a certain spring in his step, his excitement clearly visible. His brother had been a bit suspicious of where this sudden uplift in mood had come from, but luckily Papyrus was much too busy with his work in the Royal Guard to properly investigate what Sans was up to.

And Sans sure wasn’t gonna tell him. Sure, he loved Papyrus, more than anything else in the world - but he also liked to have some things that were just his, y’know? His entire life, he’d always shared everything he had with his kid brother; it was nice to keep some things to himself.

Something like his super cute counterpart, for example.

Sans had been about at his wits end when Blue had swooped in like some kind of avenging angel, blocking the kid from attacking and taking care of the Anomaly at the same time. Now, not only did Sans sincerely appreciate someone stopping the endless RESETs and murderous timelines that were starting to drive him mad, Sans was also self-aware enough to admit that he found Blue’s take-charge attitude and sheer display of power to be... what was the phrase?

Ah, right. He found it super fucking hot.

So, yeah. Sue him, Sans really didn’t want to share his counterpart’s time with his brother. He was allowed to be selfish once in a while.

Which was, uh, why he couldn’t help but be disappointed that some other skeleton had shown up too. One that might have been able to parse his intentions, seeing as the guy had practically been glaring daggers at him for the whole time that Sans had been leading them to the Inn.

Hopefully he would be able to shake the Papyrus-lookalike and the kids for the afternoon, and just spend some time with the blue sweetheart. The guy was clearly from another fell timeline, so he knew the score.

Sans would just have to show him that he’d gotten first dibs, that’s all. Besides, Sans knew that the group was going to move on soon enough - this other Papyrus could have Blue then.

Right now, it was Sans’ turn.

...

Blue woke up to the sound of someone knocking on the door, jolting back into awareness. For a long second his soul was racing, hands clutching at the cheap sheets he was under, until he remembered where he was.

They were in Underfell, at the Inn. He was okay. Everything was okay.

Blue let out a shuddering breath, before sliding out from under the blankets and walking over to the door, not bothering to change out of his pajamas.

It was just a nightmare. There was no reason for him to be so worked up.

(Skeletal hands grasping for him, pleading, but he could never quite reach - )

(Maybe there was a reason that he didn’t sleep much.)

On the back of the door, he belatedly noticed a note, plucking it off with one hand as he opened the door with the other.

“Can I help you?” He said absentmindedly, finding himself grinning against his will at the perfect lowercase papyrus font that embellished the note.

It seemed that Slim had very neat handwriting - that seemed to be a commonality among his counterparts, no matter what timeline they were from.

“just wanted to see how you were doing,” A voice responded, and Blue looked up to see Sans gazing at him with a friendly smile.

Reflexively, Blue smiled back feeling a lot more hospitable now that he had actually gotten some decent rest. And, according to the note Slim had left, his three companions were off to get some breakfast, so at least Blue didn’t have to worry about the kids getting into any mischief with Slim there to look after them.

He had to hold back a laugh at that line of thought. Man, this whole situation was starting to sound more and more like some kind of family vacation, huh? It was silly, maybe, but...

Blue was glad.

Belatedly, Blue remembered that Sans was just standing there (probably waiting for some kind of reply), and he hastened to return the greeting.

“Oh, uh, everything has been going just fine, Sans,” he said, hovering awkwardly in place. Was he supposed to invite him in? What was the protocol here? “Thanks again for doing this for us, I really appreciate it.”

Sans just shrugged, and though there was something mischievous in his gaze, the edges of that emotion was soft.

“hey, you know me. no skin off my nose,” he winked, making Blue let out a snort, raising a hand to hide his grin.

Blue wasn’t really good at puns or wordplay himself, but he did have a secret love of them. Papyrus had hated puns, said they were the lowest form of humor... He wondered if Slim felt the same way?

“so, uh,” Sans said, managing to regain Blue’s attention from where it had wandered off once again. “when do you wanna do the whole tour thing? i’ve got plenty of time today.”

Then, he seemed to gain a bit of an eager edge to his expression, stepping forward. “or we could just, y’know... stay in for the day.”

Blue rolled his eyes, a teasing smirk rising to his face as he reached out with one hand to push Sans back.

“Now come on, I’m not letting you use me as an excuse to slack off,” he mock-scolded, pushing Sans back far enough that he stumbled a little bit, letting go of the door. “Just wait a minute. I’ll get dressed and be right out.”

With that, Blue shut the door, firmly locking it so that the other wouldn’t be able to try and cajole him into changing his mind. Sans could always shortcut inside, of course, but Blue was counting on the fact that if Sans was too lazy to take them on a tour, he was probably also too lazy to work too hard at convincing them not to.

True to form, Sans was simply waiting for Blue when he stepped back out, leaning against the wall with a vaguely sleepy expression.

“Okay, now I’m good to go,” Blue declared, taking a moment to fix his bandanna as he shut the door behind him.

“the others coming along?” Sans asked, looking rather like he didn’t care much either way.

“Oh yes, of course! They’re apparently getting food right now, so I figured that we could grab them on the way out.”

“...great.”

Chapter Text

Slim glanced over when the door opened, only to huff in disappointment when it turned out to be just another random guest, yet again. They hadn’t been down at the dining hall for too long, but he still felt incredibly antsy about leaving Blue on his own in their room.

However, Chara and Temmie had both insisted that they couldn’t wait any longer, and Slim knew that Blue would want him to be with the kids instead of hovering over him ominously.

Besides, he was aware that Blue could take care of himself. If some of the things he had seen and heard were any indication, Blue was a lot tougher than he looked. At the very least, during their first encounter back in Slim’s timeline, Blue’d had absolutely no problem overpowering Slim once he’d decided to actually fight back.

He could still remember the way Blue’s magic had shimmered, the sheer power pouring off of him in waves... If Slim hadn’t already been half out of his mind at that point, he was sure that he would’ve retreated when faced with an opponent like that. Slim wasn’t much a fan of fighting losing battles, after all.

Still, though... just the memory of it was invigorating. As a monster from a dangerous timeline, Slim could admit to a certain admiration for that kind of strength, no matter where it came from. The fact that it was Blue only made it -

“Hey, are you done daydreaming already?” Temmie interrupted, putting their two front paws on the table so that they could look directly up at Slim, their expression quite imperious. “We’re done eating. If you wanna go back and wake up the comedian, now’s the time.”

Slim blinked rapidly, noticing that all the food on the table had disappeared sometime while he was lost in his thoughts. Good thing he had already eaten what he wanted - it seemed like the two children in their group might as well have been black holes, for all they ate. They’d acted the same way last night, at dinner, actually.

Ah, but at the same time... They hadn’t really been eating much for the past couple of days, had they? The group had been on the move the whole time, even before Slim had encountered them. There had only been time for a small snack here or there, and Slim couldn’t recall Blue eating anything at all before yesterday night.

That was concerning. Slim caught himself frowning, trying to remember when Blue had rested or relaxed in any way, but nothing really came to mind.

“...no,” he said finally, after Temmie began scowling at receiving no reply. “why don’t we hang out in the lobby for awhile? let him get some more sleep. in fact, if you two are still tired, we can go back and get some rest, if you want.”

Slim didn’t think anything of the offer, figuring that it was just common sense, but Temmie actually seemed to shy away from him, and Chara stared mutinously down at the table, their cheeks looking a little more flushed than usual.

“I think I liked you better when you didn’t pay us any attention at all,” they muttered, and stood up, reaching out to allow Temmie to jump back into their arms, the kids moving to leave the dining hall without another word.

Slim cocked his head to the side, feeling faintly befuddled. Was it something he’d said? Oh well.

He stood up to follow them, not at all bothered by their hurried pace. Temmie stuck their tongue out when he strode up to walk beside them, but otherwise the two didn’t react.

As they left the hall, Slim perked up, hearing the surprisingly deep tones of Blue’s voice in the distance.

When they turned the corner, he spotted Blue walking towards them... with that other Sans by his side. Tch. How annoying...

Slim didn’t let any of his irritation show on his face, walking over with a normal, calm pace. Chara hurried over, reaching out to punch Blue on the shoulder.

“What took you so long, comedian?” They scolded, looking like they probably would have punched him again if they weren’t holding onto Temmie at the same time. “We already finished eating.”

“Oh, that’s fine,” Blue said, smiling politely. “I’m not especially hungry right now, so I’ll just grab something quick to eat while we’re out and about. Is that okay with you, Sans?”

Sans jolted at being addressed, his cheekbones reddening. “oh, uh, of course. whatever you want.”

Next to him, Temmie sniggered, hiding their grin behind their paws, and Slim had to suppress a jolt of irritation. He wasn’t even sure why he was getting so angry...

Well, he knew part of it. He was from a fell timeline, after all, he knew exactly what Sans was up to. But it wasn’t like he had any right to feel upset about it - like he’d said before, Blue could take care of himself. If Blue could fend him off without any problems, he could definitely send this chump flying if he needed to.

Still, the possibility of it was what was making Slim annoyed. And sure, he’d always known that he had a possessive nature, but Blue wasn’t his. Blue was barely even an ally. For all that he was really starting to like the guy, he couldn’t say that he fully trusted him. A part of him wanted to, really, really badly, but there was still so many unanswered questions.

Slim brooded silently to himself, not bothering to pay attention to Sans’ ‘tour’, especially when it was abudently obvious that Sans was hoping the rest of them would buzz off so he could have some alone time with Blue.

By mid-afternoon, however, it seemed like Blue was running out of patience. He had been trying to engage Slim the whole time, pointing out different buildings, and the way life seemed to work around here.

Slim wasn’t interested, especially since he knew it was only to try and gauge his interest in staying here permanently, which he absolutely wouldn’t be doing.

Then, Blue spotted a Nice Cream store, and took the opportunity it presented.

“Hey, Sans?” He said, catching the other’s attention. “Could you bring Chara and Temmie to get some Nice Cream? Here, take my gold. Slim and I need to talk about something.”

With obvious reluctance, Sans went along with it, and the children only gave Slim a teasing (if surprisingly sympathetic) glance before they entered the shop.

Slim turned to face Blue, something wary seeming to climb up his spine.

“so, uh, what’s up?”

The returning glare he recieved was not promising.

Chapter Text

“Look, if you’re not interested then you can just tell me,” Blue said, knowing that his disgruntlement was seeping through despite his best attempts otherwise. “I won’t hold it against you.”

“...not interested?” Slim parroted, his expression blank.

“Yes, of course,” Blue said, wondering why it sounded vaguely like they were having two different conversations. “If this timeline doesn’t appeal to you, we can keep moving. But I want to hear what you think, what your opinion of this place is. I can’t make your choice for you, after all.”

“oh, that,” Slim muttered, turning away so that he could stare off into the distance.

The two of them had stepped off the sidewalk, standing in the shade of a large tree. Blue followed his gaze, trying not to make his frustration too obvious.

Slim had barely reacted at all, the whole time Sans had been showing them around. In fact, it often seemed like he was trying his best to seem disinterested, which just didn’t make any sense! If he didn’t like this timeline for whatever reason, that was fine, whatever, but Blue needed to actually know about it. That way, he could better judge what kind of timeline Slim would like, and take them there instead.

Honestly, with the way Slim had been acting, it was almost like he... wasn’t interested in finding somewhere to stay at all.

Blue stole a glance at his companion, his anger cooling at the thought. He could understand at least a little of that, especially with the state his AU had been in. It probably felt impossible to think about settling down anywhere, not after everything that he had been through, everything that he had lost.

Blue, certainly, wasn’t looking for a ‘forever home’. He had a job and a duty, something he had devoted himself to. He wouldn’t abandon it for anything.

But Slim didn’t have that. So what could he possibly be looking for?

“this place is fine,” Slim said finally, shrugging. He didn’t seem very enthused, of course, which Blue had already expected. “i don’t wanna live here, though.”

Blue waited for a moment, wondering if he was going to get some kind of explanation, but when none came, he merely sighed.

“Alright, I understand,” he said wearily. It wasn’t like there was anything else he could do - except grabbing Chara and Temmie and leaving Slim behind, but that was something he would absolutely never do. Blue wasn’t that cruel.

Slim looked over at him, clearly a bit surprised at the easy acceptance, but Blue merely gave him a strained smile.

“somehow...” Slim spoke, his tone having a certain humor to it that Blue had never heard before. “i don’t think you really understand. that’s fine, though. i have time.”

With that, he pushed off from where he had been resting against the tree and began meandering over to the Nice Cream store, leaving Blue in a scramble to catch up.

“H-Hey, wait a second! What does that even mean?!”

Chara could tell immediately that nothing had happened. Or, at least, nothing that either Slim or Blue had wanted.

Sans could see it too, and they noticed the way he seemed to be debating with himself if that was a good thing or not, but Chara didn’t pay it any mind. Honestly, whatever Sans was scheming (and it was definitely something - probably having to do with kissing and other gross things, if the way Temmie found the whole situation so utterly delightful was any indication), just wasn’t going to pan out. Not this time, anyway. They were going to be leaving soon, and Sans had definitely shown himself to not be assertive enough to catch Blue’s attention.

See, Chara had known Blue for years at this point, (long years that looked like days and when he was still called ‘sans’ - ) and they knew how he operated. He may have lost a bit of his shininess, a bit of his boundless optimism (or most of it, to be completely honest), but at his core he was still the same cheery skeleton that they’d met on that day. He hadn’t lost that part of himself, not yet.

And that meant that he was oblivious as hell. Sure, give the guy a murder to solve or a timeline to fix and he could snap up a solution no problem, but his grasp on emotional issues were still... lacking, to say the least.

Interestingly enough, that was a trait that his other counterparts shared as well, for all that it seemed like Papyrus should have been the one with that problem. The fact of the matter was, the Papyrus’ that Chara had encountered knew quite well what an emotion was and how to deal with it, they typically just chose not to. Sans’, on the other hand, thought that they did, and were exceptionally wrong.

(Seriously, how many times could someone verbally threaten a child before they figured that it might not be appropriate behavior? At least Blue and his brother had never tried that shit. Chara had a lot of sympathy for the Frisk’s of those timelines.)

And, well, to put it bluntly; there was no chance of Sans successfully hitting on Blue, because they were both weird and repressed and didn’t know how emotions worked. There was probably an okay chance of Slim successfully hitting on Blue, if he ever got over his own hang-ups.

But somehow Chara got the feeling that it might not be as easy as that, especially with the way Slim was currently ignoring Blue’s attempts to draw him back into conversation.

Heh. Chara had to hide a smirk.

While it was true that they were probably going to leave in the morning, with everyone distracted like this, there might be a chance for Chara and Temmie to sneak off and have some fun of their own!

How long had it been since they’d been able to cause some real chaos? Blue, unfortunately, had grown wise to most of their schemes.

“Hey Blue,” they said carefully, hoping to draw his attention (but not too much). “Would it be okay if - “

“Absolutely not,” Blue said, without even missing a beat. He was still staring at Slim with a frown, but he hadn’t needed to take his eyes off the other skeleton for him to shoot down Chara’s (perfectly innocent) idea.

Chara scowled, hiding their face against Temmie’s fur.

“Next time,” the plush toy whispered up at them.

Oh, definitely. It had been way too long. Whatever their next timeline visit was, they were going to destroy it.

Chapter Text

Much to Slim’s amusement and vicious satisfaction, Blue completely rebuffed any of Sans’ attempts at conversation, after that. He was polite, of course, and as mild-mannered as ever, but it’s clear that his attention had wavered.

Now that he knew Slim has no intention of staying here, he’d lost interest. It was as simple as that.

Slim could admit to some smugness, especially when Sans shot him an almost pouting look.

Too bad, man. You snooze, you lose.

Not, Slim quickly amended, that he was going after Blue, or anything. Sure, he had already acknowledged that he liked the guy well enough, and found him and his attitude pretty attractive, but it wasn’t like he... he...

Oh, fuck.

“i’m ready to leave,” he said abruptly, ignoring whatever last-ditch attempt Sans was doing to get Blue to ‘come over and hang out’.

Blue turned to him, blinking in confusion. “Are you sure? It’s only been a day. I figured you would want to rest a bit more.”

“no, i’m good,” Slim said tightly. He refused to explain why.

Tapping his foot on the ground, Blue sighed.

“How about this,” he proposed, “let’s just spend the night. Unless you have somewhere specific that you want to go, the next timeline will probably be a complete mystery. We have no way of knowing what might happen there, or what condition it will be in, so it’s best that we get some rest while we can. Tomorrow morning, we can go right away, okay?”

Slim supposed that was fair enough. “...sure.”

That didn’t mean he was happy about it, though. Usually he liked to avoid his problems, not sleep in the same room as them.

“Perfect!” Blue clapped his hands together, looking genuinely delighted in a way that even Slim couldn’t tell if it was faked. He then turned to Sans, who was standing sullenly off to the side, and grabbed his hands, leaning in to whisper something that Slim didn’t catch.

Sans brightened up a great deal, which Slim wasn’t quite sure how he felt about, and then willingly stepped back, giving them all his goodbyes before hustling off - apparently to his house.

“What did you say to him?” Chara wondered aloud, meandering over to stand by Blue. “I thought he was going to keep clinging to us forever.”

Honestly, Slim had been worried about that too. There was only room for one fell-verse monster on this trip, okay?

“Don’t worry about it,” Blue said evasively, and when he caught Slim’s eye, he winked.

Okay, Slim had no idea how to take that. Did he have to go kill Sans now, or something? What kind of assassination did this situation require? Because, hell, at this point Slim was totally up for it.

“let’s just get back to the inn already,” he said gruffly, walking ahead. His long strides allowed him to get a major leg up on the others, leaving them scrambling to catch up with either a bout of sudden laughter (Blue) or angry shouting (Chara and Temmie).

Slim hid a smirk.

...

Chara knew, from the very second they opened the portal, that this was gonna be a bad one.

See, if Chara had been to a certain timeline before, they always knew how to get back.

(You can always find your way home, after all.)

But with new portals, it was impossible to tell. It was even impossible to know where they would end up, and if they would land in the same place, as plenty of disastrous timelines had shown them.

It wasn’t a risk that Chara necessarily liked, but it was one they had to deal with, so they went along with gritted teeth.

(Did they have to deal with it? Did they have to deal with any of this at all?)

But, whatever. Usually it wasn’t too much of an issue. Chara couldn’t work up enough Determination to force a RESET in someone else’s AU, but Blue and Temmie were both very good at... ‘convincing’ whatever fallen child was there to help them out, and Chara had only gotten killed in one timeline so far. And, to be fair, Blue had actually gotten killed before them, so Temmie had been the one to track down the Frisk that was messing around and kindly ask them to stop. That had been such a mess of a timeline, honestly...

Not that this one was shaping up to be any better, by Chara’s first estimate.

Okay, so, it started like this - a fell timeline, right? Sure. That was fine, they visited those kinds of timelines all the time. And sure, they tended to be more dangerous than their other counterparts, but that was just part of the job. And honestly, Blue was a beast when he got going, so Chara wasn’t really worried about that.

But... Things were different now. Before, things had been kinda okay, because all of them were from the same timeline - and the same type of timeline at that, which meant that it was easy to avoid the other timelines that were like theirs’. Or, at least, stay out of sight and solve their issue as quickly as possible.

Chara detested seeing other versions of themself - it was just creepy. Luckily, in most of the timelines they’d been going to recently, their counterpart was already long dead, so. Small blessings, or whatever.

But now, Slim was with them, the bastard. And of course he made everything way more complicated.

As things were now, literally half of the timelines they could end up in were troublesome. And, y’know, because Chara apparently hadn’t suffered in life enough yet, that was exactly what happened.

Literally, the first thing they said upon realizing where they’d landed, was;

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“Language!” Blue protested, (though more out of habit than anything else) as he stepped through the portal, but the second he realized what was going on, he immediately cursed.

“Ah, fuck me,” he muttered under his breath. Slim, stepping out of the portal behind him, sucked in a sharp breath. “We’re in another fell timeline.”

The other Papyrus - laying unconscious on the snowy forest floor in front of them, his jacket nearly the same style as Slim’s and his scars in almost the same place, was enough evidence of that.

Chapter Text

It was - it was another him.

Fuck, Slim knew that he should have expected something like this at some point, but it was still way too bizarre for him to process.

And, as Blue hurried forwards with a concerned sound, gently pulling the other Papyrus into his arms, Slim also felt... weirdly?? jealous??

Okay, maybe it wasn’t too weird. Maybe Slim knew exactly why he was feeling this way. But this was also definitely not the time to address that. If Slim had any choice in the matter, there would never be a good time for it.

“What the heck happened?” Temmie murmured, jumping out of Chara’s arms to land lightly on the snowbank in front of them.

The two children approached, and Chara reached out to poke Papyrus on the head, a scowl on their face.

“He’s not dusting, so he can’t be that hurt,” they said, sounding almost disappointed by that news.

Slim couldn’t help the snort that escaped him as he approached their little group, and found himself surprised when Chara shot him a sly grin in return. Had that been... a joke? To cheer him up?

...Nah. Just the kid being sadistic, as usual.

Blue certainly seemed to think so, because he gave Chara a scolding look, though Slim could tell that he was fighting a smile.

“No, no, he’s okay,” Blue said, shifting back to look Papyrus over. “He just got knocked out. Though... I don’t really have any idea why.”

Slim cocked his head to the side, not knowing why there was the confusion, and Chara must have seen it, because they rolled their eyes.

“If this timeline is in the middle of a bad run, no counterpart of mine is the type to knock someone out instead of killing them,” Chara said dryly. “Especially not a Papyrus.”

Which, okay, fair. But still, Slim thought that he should be a bit offended by that.

“what do you think happened, then?” he said gruffly, sticking his hands in his pockets as he looked over his counterpart.

And wasn’t that still damn creepy.

“Well, if it wasn’t Chara, it must have been someone else,” Blue mused aloud, absently pulling on his magic and making his hands light up as he focused on the other’s wounds. “I can’t imagine that this was an accident. Unless you also had a habit of wandering off into Snowdin forest and, I don’t know, slamming headlong into a tree?”

Slim actually had to force down a chuckle at that one, catching the mischievous glint in Blue’s eyes.

That short period of rest had really done the other monster a lot of good. Even though it had only been two days, Slim could tell that Blue was more relaxed than he’d been before, more open, and looked much less harried overall.

It was clear that he’d been much happier when they weren’t in the middle of another mess like this.

(Which begs the question - why continue? Duty? A sense of guilt? He got the feeling that Blue wasn’t quite ready to answer that.

But, to be honest, Slim wasn’t ready to talk about why he was sticking around either, so that was understandable, at least.)

 

“no,” Slim said, unable to stop the slight sense of amusement slipping into his tone. “i didn’t make a habit of that, generally.”

The answers to those questions didn’t really matter right now, anyway. They wouldn’t matter, not so long as slim was able to trust Blue even the tiniest bit (and he did, though he would never speak those words aloud), and Blue continued to let Slim stay with them without question (which he would, because Blue was soft, and Slim was too well-trained to not take advantage of it).

Blue’s answering smile, so delighted at Slim going along with the joke, was enough of an answer on its own.

That, of course, was the exact time the other Papyrus decided to wake up, because Slim could never catch a break, apparently.

He shook himself back into wakefulness with a low groan, brow furrowed in confusion and the beginnings of rage, enough to make Slim tense up in reaction.

“what... sans?” he murmured, upon seeing the monster hovering over him with a fretful look on his face. “you... you - !”

Papyrus lunged forward, reaching out as if to grab Blue by the edge of his shirt, and Slim reacted instantly, pulling Blue away and stepping in front of him with a low growl.

Papyrus acted like he wasn’t even there, his eyelights shining with a furious sort of magic.

“what the hell, sans?!” he spat out, only continuing to grow more incensed as the seconds went by without Blue reacting the way he wanted. “why would you do hat?! i was only trying to help - you need my help, you can’t do this on your own! what, did you already fail and decide to come crawling back? i was still unconscious, too, it clearly didn’t take you long!”

By the end of it he was breathing heavily, still not acknowledging the others in the clearing, eyes only for Blue. Well, Slim could understand that. But he still made as if to step forward, not about ready to let Blue take the beating for a Sans that wasn’t even here, when Blue himself gestured for him to wait, moving to stand in front of the other Papyrus, hands on his hips.

“Are you done?” he said icily, and the tone just on its own was enough to make Slim shiver, almost wanting to shy away even when it wasn’t aimed at him. “I sincerely hope you are, because even if I am not your brother, I don’t think it would be wise of me to ignore such behavior.”

Those words didn’t seem anything like Blue, no teasing or warmth to be found, and this time Slim really did take a step back, almost wanting to hide behind the kids, who were at least disguising their reaction better than he was.

Papyrus looked at Blue, really looked at him, expression growing shocked. And then, quite suddenly, fearful.

Yeah. That was understandable.

Despite all the animosity Slim had been feeling for his alternate not even a moment ago, he suddenly felt a lot more pity instead.

Chapter Text

Papyrus had already been having a pretty shitty day, to be clear. This situation had only made it worse.

And, well, maybe it was his fault. Or, at least, partially. Papyrus was not willing to take the full blame, not when things would have been so different if his brother was willing to just slow down and listen to him for once in his life - !

But... this wasn’t his brother.

“shit, i - i,” Papyrus stammered, scrambling back from the other skeleton’s piercing stare. How could he have possibly thought this guy was his brother? Even aside from the difference in fashion, Sans had never taken that kind of cold tone with him before. Sure, his brother yelled and screamed and ranted, but Sans was rarely ever angry with him, and certainly not enough to sound like that. “who are you?”

The other’s expression softened, for just a moment, before he let out a weary sigh.

“I’m Blue,” he said, offering his hand to help Papyrus stand up. “I’m here to help.”

Papyrus took his hand, somehow unable to stop himself, but he pulled back as soon as he was standing again, suspicion prickling at his nerves.

“what does that mean?” He said, caught between wanting to shove his hands in his pockets and pretend to act casual, or keep himself ready to attack if necessary.

Blue’s expression was calm, but Papyrus somehow got the impression that he was distinctly amused.

“It means that whatever problems you’re having with the timeline right now, I can help stop them,” he claimed, which was absolutely outrageous.

“how the hell would you be able to help?” Papyrus said, the words coming out... perhaps more accusatory than he had meant them to. “you’re definitely not from around here.”

“No, we’re from a different timeline altogether,” Blue said, his smile and expression almost obnoxiously cheerful. “So we’ve been through all of this before. A little perspective can’t hurt, right?”

At the word ‘we’, Papyrus looked over, finally noticing the other figures in the clearing.

Immediately, he choked on his own spit, unsure of which one he was supposed to be the most freaked out about.

First of all, there was another version of him standing there, which was a shock all on its own. Then, there was the kid, and that annoying little monster that was always hanging around and whining.

Upon seeing them, Papyrus almost lashed out, wanting to finally kill that brat once and for all, but then the rest of Blue’s words registered with him, and he noticed the differences.

The human child he knew would never sneer at him like that, like he wasn’t even worthy of being dust under their shoe, and this kid also had a different outfit on. Even their complexion seemed to be a little bit different, more of a healthy glow to their skin than the brat who was always running on fumes. Temmie, too, was different, probably the most different they could be, considering the little stuffed toy hissed at him with a scary face as soon as he locked eyes with them.

Even the other version of him was different, scars more pronounced and a deadly look in his sockets that Papyrus didn’t think he would ever be able to master.

 “...another timeline, huh?” It was the only thing he could think to say.

“Several, actually,” Blue beamed at him.

Again, Papyrus got the feeling that his excitement was entirely sarcastic in nature, but he wasn’t sure how to prove it.

Then, quite suddenly, the time he’d spent out here caught up with him, and Papyrus sucked in a startled breath.

“how long has it been since you found me?!” Papyrus demanded, whirling around to face Blue, whose cheery facade cracked slightly as he showed his confusion.

“Not more than fifteen minutes,” Blue answered promptly, narrowing his eyes in thought. “You... your brother did this to you?”

Papyrus gave a wordless snarl, not surprised that his brother’s counterpart had managed to put the clues together.

“that idiot!” he sneered. “he thinks that he can do it all by himself. we came out here to discuss what we were gonna do about the kid, and he knocked me out!”

To his ire, the other Papyrus huffed out a laugh, and even Blue seemed to be hiding a smile.

“Yes, that sounds about right,” Blue said lowly, amusement seeping into his tone that Papyrus did not appreciate. Then, he sobered, looking up at Papyrus with a steady expression. “I wasn’t joking, before, or trying to trick you. I’m here to help. And if your brother has gone off to try and confront Chara on his own, then you’ll need the help.”

Which, okay, Papyrus might have been able to admit to that. But...

“who the hell is chara?”

That was enough to get a genuinely startled reaction out of Blue, and the kid snorted.

“You... you’ve never made it to the surface, then?” Blue said mildly, almost as if he was afraid of upsetting some kind of unspoken agreement.

“you have?” Papyrus couldn’t believe that. Alternate timeline, sure, he was willing to back up the science on that.

But they had never found a way to get past the barrier, not in all the centuries that monsters had been trapped down here. Not without the human souls. And since the kid could come back to life whenever they died, getting their soul was definitely not going to work.

(It was only a matter of time before they got to the palace, got to the Queen, only a matter of time before they reached freedom - )

Blue stared at him, something truly unsettled in his gaze.

“Has the fallen child ever left the Underground?” he asked, and there was an urgency there that Papyrus didn’t understand.

“no, not yet.” Papyrus shook his head. “sometimes they get close, but they haven’t managed to make it to the queen, thankfully.”

“guess that explains it,” the other Papyrus interjected smoothly, giving him an almost withering look.

Papyrus bristled under the scrutiny, wondering what this guy could possibly have against him.

“Whatever,” the child interrupted with a scowl on their face, stepping forward to confront Papyrus, hands on their hips. “It doesn’t matter. But for your information, I’m Chara.”

...Ah.

Chapter Text

Blue had to fight back an amused snort at the look of such plain shock on Papyrus’ face. Man, this version was very... open, wasn’t he?

Well, from the sound of it, this timeline was on its first real ‘run’, which meant that this Papyrus had likely only experienced LOADs at this point, and no RESETs. It may sound a bit stupid, but the first RESET changed you, for sure.

He was less hardened, less guarded. Blue could tell from just one glance at Slim that he was a bit embarrassed by his counterpart’s actions, and not the least bit amused, which was fair.

Still -

“Yes, this is Chara,” Blue said, smoothly intervening to be the peacemaker once again. “The human child in your timeline is also named Chara, though you wouldn’t have found that out until you left the Underground for the first time. Our other companion, as you probably know, is named Temmie. And this - “ here, he gestured to Slim, who had his arms crossed over his chest and generally looked very disapproving, “ - is Slim. He is from a timeline similar to yours, while my own timeline is quite different.”

Not swapped, like the ones with Frisk in them, but this timeline would certainly be different to someone who had lived their entire life in such a dark version of the Underground.

“i...” Papyrus began, before shaking his head. “look, this is all crazy to me. i really have no idea how to respond to this, or anything. but it doesn’t matter - i have to go after my bro. who knows what’ll happen to him if i’m not there?!”

Again, Blue found himself smothering a grin. This Papyrus was a little more outwardly protective than most, wasn’t he? No wonder the Sans of this timeline got fed up with it and left him unconscious in the middle of the forest.

“Where do you think he would have gone?” Blue said calmly, trying to keep this professional instead of teasing Papyrus like he dearly wished to. “Taking a shortcut would be easier, so just let us know where you plan on going.”

“you know about shortcuts?” Papyrus said, blinking in surprise, before he seemed to shake it off and move on. “ah, whatever. i’m pretty sure he would try and stop them before the entrance to waterfall. he doesn’t want alphys to get involved in this and end up getting hurt.”

On the one hand, Blue really wanted to comment on how much Papyrus had apparently been trying to keep his brother in the dark - which he doubted had worked; he and his own Papyrus had kept many secrets from each other (it had lead to their own destruction, in the end), but they had never bothered to pretend about it, at least, and Blue didn’t think this Sans would be so ignorant of things either, especially since he lived in a fell-verse - but, more importantly...

“Alphys getting hurt?” Blue said sharply, knowing immediately what that meant. “So the human has been hurting monsters?”

That wasn’t good... If the Anomaly chose to go for no-mercy right off the bat, they were usually one of the more persistent ones. Not that Blue wouldn’t be able to handle it, of course, but it would be more of a hassle than he preferred to deal with.

Papyrus actually hesitated for a moment, though, before shrugging.

“it depends,” he said, “and there’s no rhyme or reason for it. sometimes the kid kills, sometimes they only injure a monster enough that they surrender, and sometimes they run away. hell, i’ve even seen the kid spare a couple of monsters they came across in the forest!”

Ah, Blue thought grimly, one of those types. They would have to do this quickly, because this type of Anomaly wasn’t interested in sustaining or ‘completing’ the journey - they just wanted to have fun figuring out what they could do (what they could force the fallen children to do), and then they would RESET and start ‘playing for real’.

This wasn’t the usual type. In fact, Blue would say that this was the rarest method the Anomaly used. At least, not right away, and not usually in a single run.

“Right,” Blue said briskly. “That means that they might spare your brother, or they might kill him. Let’s go.”

Blue firmly gripped Chara’s shoulder, knowing that they were holding onto Temmie, and didn’t look back at Slim as he concentrated on his destination, confident that Slim would follow his lead.

He disappeared in a pop of blue magic, taking Chara and Temmie with him.

...

Slim only hesitated for a moment, before striding forward to be directly in front of his counterpart. He noticed, dimly, that he was actually taller than his other self, and wasn’t that a strange (if somewhat satisfying) thought.

“don’t be an idiot about this,” he said lowly, holding up a hand to stop Papyrus from protesting when the other bristled indignantly. “look... if this timeline is anything at all like mine, then your brother is a hell of a lot smarter than you. stronger, too. he always has been.”

Slim almost let himself get caught up in his memories for a moment, before shaking himself back to the present. Papyrus was watching him, a strange look on his face that Slim couldn’t quite decipher, as odd as that felt, not knowing how to interpret an expression on a face nearly identical to his own.

“sans is trying to do his best with you,” he said instead, trying to impress this knowledge upon his counterpart with a desperation that even he found startling. “he has a duty, and a soft heart. he wants you to live, more than anything else. that’s why he did this. maybe you had a good plan, and maybe he really does need your help, but he can’t need it, because this is something he’s always known he would have to do. ...do you understand me? even a little?”

Papyrus blinked. “no, not at all.”

Then he tilted his head to the side, and that sudden calculating look was definitely something Slim recognized.

“but this is definitely something i want to hear more about later. for now, let’s go, yeah?”

Chapter Text

Well, say what you want about this timeline’s Papyrus, he’d been able to predict his brother’s actions with perfect accuracy.

Blue had landed behind the skeleton brothers’ house, as planned. Then, after threatening to tie Chara and Temmie to a tree again if they didn’t behave (though, ruefully, he already knew it was a futile effort), he’d left them behind in relative safety and quietly made his way towards the entrance to Waterfall.

Just like in his own timeline, the area was filled with a dense fog, cutting down visibility to a serious degree. The temperatures of Snowdin and Waterfall had never agreed with each other, and if Blue had the time or patience to care about such a thing, he would be worried about how the Underground had managed to last this long in the first place, with all of its weird contradictions.

Regardless, he had been able to see the faint outlines of two figures in the distance, and subtly made his way closer, trying to stay out of sight.

It turned out to be a futile effort, however, when the Sans of this timeline began gearing up an attack, and the fog was cleared for several meters thanks to the force of his magic. Fortunately, neither of the combators had noticed Blue yet, and he took advantage of that as best he could to evaluate the situation.

This... This was definitely the Anomaly’s fault. The Chara of this timeline was breathing heavily, their knife brandished in front of them with a shaking hand. All of their body language said that they didn’t want to be doing this - almost every Chara that Blue had ever met had a perpetual smile across their face, but this one was grimacing in pain.

Sans could see it too. Blue could practically read the conflict on his expression, how his attacks all seemed to hesitate slightly, just a little bit slower and more obvious than Blue knew they could have been.

Even as Sans called out to the child, sneering and trying to provoke them into a reaction, they said nothing. Chara only raised their hand to prepare another slash of their knife, bloody-red eyes brimming with unshed tears.

Blue was struck by that image, of how scared this Chara was. And Sans, too, stuck between his duty and his desire to protect, the innate thought that everyone could be a good person if they tried, just like Blue himself believed.

How long had it been since the first time? Had his Chara been scared, then?

Blue couldn’t even remember.

(He tried not to, most of the time - tried to forget about a time when he had been called Sans, tried to forget about a time when things had been so much more simple and his brother had been alive and all of his friends had known who he was - )

Blue knew he had to interfere - he couldn’t bear to hold back any longer, not when the both of them were battling with nothing but agony on their faces.

Without even saying a word, Blue shortcutted directly in the middle of their conflict, his eye already brimming with blue magic.

“That’s enough!” he snarled, swiping his hand out and forcing both of them to be flung backwards.

Sans was back on his feet in a second, his own blue magic coalescing enough to be nearly visible around his entire frame.

“GET OUT OF THE WAY!” Sans said, a fierce scowl on his face. “DON’T INTERFERE WITH MY BATTLE, YOU BASTARD!”

But even with the other’s harsh words, Blue could see the undercurrent of worry in his tone, the way he was clearly trying to make Blue back off and get back to safety.

“No,” he said simply, ignoring Sans’ answering growl. “You’re injured.”

And it was true - though Sans had been meeting Chara blow-for-blow, bone marrow was beginning to leak through his gritted fangs, and his right arm (which Chara had apparently gotten a lucky hit on) was laying uselessly by his side, already flaking off into dust.

This couldn’t go on any longer. Chara would have to RESET, have to go back and cleanse the timeline so that they could do it right, but there was no reason for them to have to do it with even more dust on their hands.

Blue turned to face the human child, who seemed to be sizing him up. A look of despair was quickly creeping into their eyes, unhappy at the thought of more fighting.

That, more than anything, was enough to convince Blue that he could do this. Chara didn’t want to fight, didn’t want to kill anyone - as long as Blue could hold them back, get rid of the Anomaly, he knew that this kid would show mercy. As long as they were given the chance.

At that thought, he smiled, and he knew it startled Chara to see it, drawing back from him slightly as if he might have some kind of contagious disease.

“Don’t worry,” he assured them, this child who looked so much and yet nothing like his own. “I’m going to fix this. I’m going to help you, and then we can help everyone, okay?”

The tears in Chara’s eyes spilled over, breath hitching under the force of their silent sobs, and though the Anomaly still didn’t allow Chara to say anything, the child managed to force a single, tiny nod.

“My name is Blue. I’m not going to hurt you,” Blue said, raising his right hand in the air as his soul flared with magic and intent. “And I’m not gonna let you hurt anyone else. We’re going to do this, together. I promise.”

Chara, unable to hold themself back anymore, lunged forward, knife bared even as their mouth opened in a silent scream of warning.

Blue felt his grin tick upwards, just the tiniest bit. Now, this was something that he knew how to deal with.

Taking care to make sure no attacks would reach Sans, who was still behind him and still struggling to step forward, trying to return to the fight (to his duty), Blue smiled wickedly, and made his move.

Chapter Text

Sans took a step back, unable to stop himself - the sheer power emanating off of this other skeleton was so dense in the air, it was nearly suffocating.

The human child, too, looked like they wished to flinch away, but under whatever strange power was holding them, they were unable. They continued to strike out with their knife, each blow swift and true...

And easily avoided.

This skeleton (Blue?) seemed to move weightlessly through the air, never dropping his smile as he dodged each attack perfectly. Not even a scrap of his clothing was hit, the red marks of Determination that were giving Sans so much trouble - they were nothing but a nuisance. Nothing even close to a real threat.

Sans was astonished, and not a small bit frustrated. He had been fighting for his life, doing everything he could to just survive, and Blue was still grinning like this was all a game.

If it wasn’t for his confident words earlier, that he would not allow anyone to get hurt, Sans would have interfered no matter what. But even though a part of Sans was bristling, looking for weak points in the both of them just in case he had to take them down, he still waited.

Grudgingly though it may be, Blue was obviously much stronger than him, or at least more experienced. He could hang back a little longer and see how things developed.

At the very least, Blue didn’t need his help with this battle. Even as he kept to his promise of not allowing the fallen child to become hurt, he had no problem blocking or deflecting any of the kid’s increasingly desperate blows.

The kid that was slowing down, actually. Sans had been fighting the human for nearly an hour now, and they had only seemed to grow stronger as he began to stumble. Despite the shame he felt at his own inadequacies, Sans could sense the stirring of real respect for this other skeleton, no matter how obnoxiously cheerful he acted.

Finally, the human pulled back, a grimace still twisting their face into a truely gruesome visage, and Blue allowed them to retreat for the moment, his magic still illuminating his position in the foggy grounds.

“Doing okay there, kid?” Blue said, and Sans would have thought it mocking if he wasn’t able to hear the genuine question in his words.

The child only closed their eyes for a second, as if catching their breath, before they made their next move.

They made a gesture that Sans recognized immediately as a Check, and he held his breath when their face melted into a confused expression that he had never seen on them before.

Blue only laughed.

“Yeah, that won’t help you much,” Blue said, and this time his tone was definitely teasing. “Unfortunately, since I’m not from around here, my Check won’t be able to do you any good.”

Instinctively, and fueled by that damned curiosity that he had never quite been able to suppress, Sans Checked him.

And... yeah. That response was pretty worthy of some shock. 

 

*BLUE(??) ??? ATK ??? DEF
*???????????????
*Not from around here...?

Sans had never seen a Check screen like that, not in all his life. And he had ended up Checking a lot of monster, especially with his work in the Royal Guard, so this was... extraordinary.

Immediately, Sans found himself intrigued. If they weren’t still in the middle of an important battle, he would have demanded some answers right away, but he could wait. The victor of this altercation was obvious - he could bide his time and get what he wanted after this whole mess was over.

Blue seemed to be of a similar mind, because he lifted a hand into the air and swiped it down, a strange sort of blue screen opening up in front of him. It... vaguely hurt to look at, somehow, like if Sans tried to stare at it for too long that it would make his head go all fuzzy.

The human child seemed to jolt in place, their body lurching forwards unnaturally as they raced directly at Blue.

With one hand tapping away at the screen, Blue didn’t allow his attention to waver, easily dodging the attacks launched against him. He wasn’t smiling anymore, though, face set in concentration as he focused on both staying alive, and completeing whatever task he had set out to do.

Sans had confidence that the other skeleton could still handle himself, but...

He dredged up the very last of his magic stores, a faint light emanating from his eye-socket as he launched his own attack.

Sans purposefully made it slow and easy to dodge, which the child had no problem doing, but he wasn’t trying to hurt them, anyway. Not anymore. He hadn’t even wanted to do it in the first place, so now that he had an excuse not to, he had to take as much advantage of it as he could.

But most importantly, it brought the human’s attention off of Blue, even if it was for just a moment.

While the kid’s head turned to stare at Sans in a move that was truly disturbing (and coming from him, that was saying something), Blue quickly switched to using both hands on the screen, typing rapidly.

“Okay, okay, okay,” he chanted to himself under his breath, eyelights darting up to keep track of the human. “We got this.”

The child moved as if to step towards Sans, and Blue quickly intervened, moving in front of him and never pausing with his work.

“Just hold on, Chara,” he said, making the child twitch violently, and Sans feel a spark of... something, deep in his soul. “Just hold on, one more second.”

The child - Chara? - shivered, swaying back and forth as if they were about to collapse, but did not move. It seemed to be causing them quite a bit of pain, but they didn’t relent. They held themself back, for as long as they could.

And then, just when Blue released a cry of victory, Chara lunged forward.

Chapter Text

Blue looked up from his screen, letting out a slow breath.

The Chara of this universe was only inches away, frozen in place. They were surrounded by a burnt orange outline, and Blue knew instinctively that Slim had arrived just in time.

(He had to think about that for a moment - since when had he gotten to know Slim well enough to recognize him by the aura of his magic? That was... certainly something, alright.)

Fuck, took him long enough, too. Did he just show up for the climactic ending, or what?

The mist began to clear away soon enough, the two tall skeletons approaching rapidly. Slim had one hand outstretched and his magic flickering around him, a cold look in his eyes that was honestly startling.

Blue smiled at him, tilting his head to the side when Slim merely blinked, his stance relaxing slightly.

“everything alright?” Slim said lowly, walking over.

Papyrus rushed past him, heading to his brother, who was now breathing heavily after using what was probably the last of his energy in that final attack.

“I’m okay,” Blue said, and he was happy to say that it was the honest truth.

The Anomaly hadn’t yet become deeply entrenched in the timeline, like he’d feared. Blocking it off had merely taken the use of a strategy that Blue had become quite fond of over the years - distract the kid and cut the link. It was the same thing he’d done when he was helping to fix the last fell timeline, though the actual event behind that had happened before Slim joined their merry band.

“You can, uh, probably let go of Chara now,” Blue added belatedly, seeing that the child was still stuck in place.

Slim grunted, not looking entirely happy about that idea, but he did comply, releasing his hold on Chara. Immediately, their momentum continued to pull them forwards, and Chara stumbled, pitching face-forwards into the snow.

Blue winced, hurrying over.

“Are you okay?” he said, hovering next to them. He wanted to give them a helping hand, but he was unsure if they would welcome his touch, and was left standing there, wringing his hands as he watched the child slowly push themself up.

“I...” Chara began, their voice hoarse - and then they clapped their hands over their throat, tears welling up in their eyes. “I can talk! I can talk again, oh god - “

Blue respectfully gave them some space, though he wouldn’t have been able to hide his smile if he tried. A lot of the Frisk’s he’d seen didn’t talk much, or at all, so that restriction hadn’t bugged them too much, but for the smartmouth Chara, he knew that it had to have been agony.

He knelt down next to them in the snow, keeping his expression kind and open when they glanced over to him, weeping quietly.

“I promised, didn’t I?” He said gently. “It won’t be able to hurt you anymore. And it will never force you to hurt someone else. Never again.”

Chara could still decide to hurt people all on their own, of course, but Blue had confidence in this one. This timeline would be okay, he could just tell.

“Thank you,” Chara said, voice wobbling as they scrubbed at the tear-tracks on their cheeks. The words were heartbreakingly sincere, and Blue’s smile only grew.

His faith was rewarded a moment later, when Chara glanced down to see that they were still holding the dusty knife in their hand, and dropped it immediately with an expression of deep revulsion.

Blue heard a crunching sound from behind him, like boots in the snow, and turned to see Sans and Papyrus approaching, the shorter leaning heavily on his brother’s side.

“WE SHOULD GO BACK TO THE HOUSE,” Sans said, surveying the three of them with a critical eye. “IT SEEMS WE HAVE MUCH TO DISCUSS.”

Well, not that much really, but Blue supposed that it wouldn’t hurt. It would be better to get Chara out of the cold, regardless, and his Chara was most definitely making a nuisance of themself by now.

Speaking of which...

As their little group began the slow trudge back to the skeleton brother’s place, Blue turned to speak to Chara, curiosity sparking inside of him.

“Hey, did you travel with Temmie at all?” He said, making to explain further when Chara seemed vaguely confused. “A little white monster, looks like a stuffed toy? Wearing a striped sweater? ...Probably fairly wimpy?”

That was what the Temmie of this timeline often appeared as, at least, which had been quite the shock for Blue when he first came across one - the Temmie of his timeline could be described as many things (most of them having to do with murder), but wimpy had never been one of them.

Chara’s eyes lit up with recognition after the description, nodding.

“I did meet them, briefly, at the entrance to the Ruins,” they said quietly, their voice rough and scratchy from disuse. “But I think my, uh, zombie-esque state scared them off. Haven’t seen them since.”

Blue briefly frowned, wondering at that. In fell timelines, either Temmie or that weird Flowey usually followed the fallen child around, offering their assistance when it was needed. He doubted that Temmie had completely abandoned the child - their resemblance to the stuffed toy’s dead sibling was usually enough of a guilt factor for Temmie to stick around, even if it was only in the shadows.

Well, that was something they could look into later, at least. For now, they had finally arrived, and Blue was mainly glad to see that the place was still standing after he’d let Chara and Temmie loose with no supervision.

“Oh, right,” he said aloud, addressing the whole group as they stepped up to the porch. “I’m from a timeline similar to yours, so my version of Chara and Temmie are traveling with me, and they should be around here somewhere.”

Knowing them, they had already broken into the house and were now just laying in wait -

“...A WHAT SIMILAR TO MINE?”

“Your version of who?”

Ah. Did he forget to mention that?

Chapter Text

When Blue (who was Sans. He was another version of Sans. From an alternate timeline, what the fuck) had gotten them all settled in the house, he’d patiently explained the circumstances behind him and the others being here, all while that somehow even taller than usual Papyrus had scowled at the rest of them from behind Blue’s back.

Chara could admit to some... difficulties. Before today, they would have never thought that something as fantastical as visitors from another dimension could be real.

But, at the same time, before recently they hadn’t believed in monsters, or that they could be controlled like a human puppet by some nameless, faceless figure of evil, so it seemed like this was the time for discoveries all around.

And, of course, the situation was made even better with the introduction of Chara’s otherworldly counterpart, a scowling child that made Chara poke at their own face self-consciously, wondering if their expression had ever looked so fierce.

They couldn’t remember. This place... The Underground had taken so much from them. They had tried to count the days, at first, but before even three days had passed, the thing controlling their body had winded back time, making it impossible to figure out what was going on. Usually, it only happened if Chara died, but sometimes the thing did it for reasons Chara couldn’t possibly understand.

(What’ll happen to this if I do this? What’ll happen if I kill you faster, kill you slower? What will happen if I let you live? What will happen if I pretend to let you live, only to stab you in the back when you least expect it? What will happen? What will happen?

Of course Chara couldn’t understand that. To them, this was their life. It wasn’t a game.)

But they were forcibly knocked out of their musings when the other Chara marched over to them, the creature known as Temmie held aloft in their arms.

“C’mon,” the child said gruffly, grabbing Chara’s arm and dragging them into the kitchen for some relative privacy, Blue watching with anxious eyes but refraining from any interference. “We need to talk.”

Chara could only nod, dazedly, going along with it more out of exhaustion than any real sense of compliance.

They weren’t being controlled anymore - Chara was pretty sure the cavern ceiling could collapse on top of them right now, and it wouldn’t matter at all.

As long as Chara could control their hands and eyes and voice, they knew that they could handle anything this world could throw at them.

...

Chara scowled at their counterpart, resisting the urge to spit bitterly. It wasn’t like it was really the other kid’s fault, after all. Chara had their own issues, and it wouldn’t be fair to take those out on the other.

However...

Seeing that look on their face, that sheer joy taking up their expression... It was enough to make Chara sick.

They hated seeing their counterparts, hated seeing what other versions of them could have been. Nothing good came of it, in their opinion. It only made them feel worse about their own situation, and they knew that Temmie felt the same.

Blue was hard to read, in this case, but they knew that he wasn’t fond of coming across timelines similar to their own, even if he hid it better. But Chara had spent years with this bastard, and they knew what it meant when his smile got tight and his tone of voice became especially chipper.

That’s also how they knew that Blue was feeling relatively good right now, so they didn’t feel bad about leaving him to deal with the two skeletons still clambering for answers in the other room.

They had something more important to deal with.

Chara roughly let go of the other kid, turning to face them now that they could speak without being interrupted.

“Get ahold of yourself,” Chara snarled, that same old anger bubbling up inside of them at the sight of their dopey expression.

Temmie, from safe within their embrace, snorted quietly, and Chara squeezed them a little tighter in warning.

The other Chara appeared confused for a moment, before that melted away and their face became dopey once more.

“My apologies,” they said, still making no effort to actually do what Chara asked. “I am just... very happy right now.”

What, do you want a fucking sticker? Chara almost retorted, before being able to catch themself at the last second.

No, no, they couldn’t do it like that. Not only would Blue give them his (weirdly guilt-inducing) disappointed face, Temmie would never stop making fun of them if they couldn’t even handle one measly alternate without having a breakdown.

They could do this. The right way, even. Chara had that much confidence in themself, at least.

“I’m... glad you’re happy,” Chara struggled to get out, nearly grinding their teeth. It wasn’t a lie, but damn if Chara hated having to say it out loud. “But I’m here to give you a warning. Will you listen to me, honestly?”

The smile (so annoying, Chara hated hated hated it!) thankfully faded slightly from the child’s face, their eyebrows knitting together in confusion.

“A warning?” They questioned, like they thought that everything was done now, like just because they weren’t being tugged around anymore meant that the problem was solved. Ha. As if.

This was one of those things that Blue didn’t pay much attention to. Chara didn’t blame him too much, but they also didn’t expect him to keep on top of it, so that meant it was their job instead.

“You’re gonna RESET,” Chara said firmly, not leaving any room for argument. “You’re gonna go right back to the beginning, and you’re going to try and do this the right way, try to save them all no matter what, right?”

“I... I suppose so,” the other Chara said slowly, watching them carefully.

“Well, it’ll suck,” Chara said bluntly. There was no room for them to mince their words on this. “It’ll suck so bad. You’ll get killed a bunch of times, and no one will want to help you without getting something in return. They’ll take advantage of you, of your kindness, and they won’t treat you right until you’ve already given them what they want. Is something like that really worth the pain?”

Finally, the smile was gone.

“No,” Other-Chara said softly, with an expression firm like steel. “But I refuse to accept any other outcome.”

Chapter Text

Papyrus kept his eye on the kids when they left the room, but quickly found his attention brought back to other, more important matters.

Blue was slowly healing the wound on Sans’ arm, distractedly answering their questions at the same time.

“so, it’s just gone now?” Papyrus said, his hands compulsively curling into fists as he thought about the entity that had gone out of its way to make their lives a living hell.

Blue spared him a quick smile before going back to concentrating on his magic. “Mhm. The kid can still control the LOADs and RESETs, but no one will be able to force them to do it against their will anymore.”

Honestly, that didn’t sound like much of an improvement to Papyrus.

“IS THERE SOME WAY THAT WE CAN TAKE THAT POWER AWAY FROM THEM?” Sans spoke up, voicing the very thoughts that had been running through Papyrus’ head.

Blue’s expression closed off, quite suddenly.

“No. Not in the way you’re thinking.”

“...so there is a way,” Papyrus reasoned, able to catch the subtext behind his words easily. “you just don’t want to tell us about it.”

Blue sighed heavily, pulling away from Sans as he finished the healing.

“It’s not a matter of whether or not I want to tell you,” he explained wearily, moving back to stand by Slim and leaning against the taller skeleton without a word. “It’s a matter of whether or not you’re ready and prepared to hear it. And trust me, you’re not.”

Papyrus bristled, but before he could snap at the other skeleton, his brother interfered.

“WHY IS THAT SOMETHING YOU’RE ABLE TO DECIDE?” Sans asked, quite reasonably in Papyrus’ opinion. “YOU TWO MIGHT BE OTHER VERSIONS OF US, BUT YOU’RE NOT US. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE CAPABLE OF.”

Slim snorted, at that, and Blue looked like he sorely wanted to agree, but he held back.

“I’d like to think I know you well enough,” he said instead. “And, to be honest, this is too important to be so cavalier about.”

“...i don’t understand,” Papyrus admitted finally. What could be so important about the kid’s powers that it would cause all this fuss? Papyrus had studied this kind of phenomenon before. It wasn’t like he was some idiot messing around with power that he didn’t understand.

“It’s - I - “ Blue actually stammered for a moment, looking frustrated. Then he glanced up at Slim, clearly searching for some support, and the other skeleton squeezed his shoulder without a moment's pause, pulling him a little bit closer.

Blue took a deep breath, clearly rallying strength from his companion, and tried again.

“Imagine you were in a story,” Blue said quietly. “Imagine that every choice you made had an impact, every decision had a consequence. Now... imagine someone gave you a cheat sheet, a way to get to the perfect ending that you always wanted. You would follow those instructions, right?”

“...well, yeah.” Papyrus kinda knew where he was going with this, but he thought that the answer was still obvious.

“But would you have done it because you really believed it was a good idea?” Blue challenged. “Because you thought it was the right thing to do? Could you confidently say that you would have made all of those right decisions regardless, even if you didn’t know it would get you to the ending you wanted?”

Papyrus... Papyrus was silent. He really didn’t know what to say in the first place. This was the kind of question where there were no right answers.

“AT THAT POINT, IT WOULD HARDLY MATTER,” Sans pointed out, though even he seemed a bit subdued. “THE DECISIONS WOULD HAVE ALREADY BEEN MADE. EVEN IF WE WERE SIMPLY GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS, SHOULDN’T THE END RESULT BE THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS?”

Blue grinned, then - a sorrowful, ancient looking thing. He suddenly seemed so much more tired, so much more weary than he had a moment ago.

“Maybe,” he said, acknowledging Sans’ point. “Maybe, if it had only involved you, it would be okay. Maybe if that was all it took, it would be okay. But this isn’t just about you. There are other people involved too, people that don’t deserve to suffer. And if I told you the only sure-fire way to reduce the human’s powers, the ‘perfect ending’ that you’ve been looking for, well... It would hurt them. And I don’t even think it would work.”

Papyrus tensed, frustration welling up deep inside him.

“so what?” he snapped, resisting the urge to growl. “we’re supposed to just stay like this for the rest of our lives? to suffer in the place of someone that you think is more worthy of mercy?”

Now Blue was looking at him with pity, and damn if that didn’t sting.

“I don’t want you to be hurt,” he said quietly, genuine in a desperate sort of way that was difficult to look at. “I would never, ever want that. But if I told you the answer, gave you the cheat sheet, it would hurt you.”

Then, he hesitated, falling silent for a long, long moment. Slim, still watching over him like a silent guardian, had a sad, tired expression too. It was different from Blue’s, but so eerie to see on a face so similar to his own that Papyrus nearly wanted to shy away.

“I know that you don’t understand right now,” Blue said slowly, piecing each word together like strings on a bead. “But when you do, when you get that perfect ending, you will. And you’ll get that ending because you want it, because you were willing to make yourself vulnerable, to love and be loved in return. You’ll understand then, I promise.”

That odd sense of desperation was back in him, then, still a rather difficult thing to witness.

Papyrus turned away.

“sure. whatever.”

He knew that he sounded bitter, but he couldn’t help it right now. He’d thought the fight was over, that the Anomaly wouldn’t be able to fuck with the timeline anymore, only to find that the power had just been transferred to some kid instead.

In the face of that, pretty words were only worth so much.

Chapter Text

Sans watched as his counterpart plead and bargained, watched as his (always too stubborn) brother refused to listen.

He understood Papyrus’ pain - how could he not, with the way their lives had been recently? But Sans... Sans thought that he also understood his counterpart a bit better than Papyrus did.

Blue wasn’t telling them anything, not even a hint, because he truly believed that they could do this on their own. They didn’t need his help. Somehow, some way or another, in the short time Blue had spent in this timeline, he’d seen something that had let him have faith in them.

Faith that, when the moment comes, they would choose to do the right thing.

Now, Sans couldn’t say that he knew exactly what ‘the right thing’ is, but he had his own suspicions. In his kitchen right now, for instance, there was a young, bruised child who had raised a knife against him, tears in their eyes and fighting themself every step of the way.

Maybe Sans didn’t know the right thing to do. Maybe he didn’t know how to get the ‘ending’ that he wanted, or even what that ending really was, but he knew his duty. He knew what he could do, and that had to be enough.

And right now, something that he could do was to talk to his brother’s counterpart that had been studiously avoiding looking at him this whole time.

“IT’S COLD IN HERE,” Sans said, apropos of nothing. He stood from his seat on the couch and crossed his arms over his chest, just daring anyone to disagree with him. “I WANT TO GO GET FIREWOOD, BUT MY ARM STILL ISN’T FULLY RECOVERED. SLIM, COME WITH ME.”

The skeleton in question jolted at being addressed, something close to panic darting across his expression. He looked down at Blue for some kind of rescue, but Blue only smiled, taking a step back and allowing Slim to move past him.

“Be careful!” Blue chirped, ignoring the baleful look Slim shot him.

Sans was tapping his foot rapidly, over by the door, but Slim managed to drag himself over soon enough, following Sans out the door like a man walking to the hangman’s noose.

“DON’T WORRY,” Sans said once they were outside, and out of earshot. “I’M NOT GOING TO LECTURE YOU, OR INTERROGATE YOU. YOU’RE NOT MY BROTHER, EVEN IF YOU DO LOOK LIKE HIM.”

At that, Slim flinched, but nodded jerkily. Sans actually felt a little bad about that, but he wasn’t done just yet.

“HOWEVER,” he began, his tone just the tiniest bit quieter than normal. “I DID WISH TO ASK AFTER YOUR HEALTH.”

Slim blinked. “my... health? ...why?”

Sans snorted. Sure, Slim might not be his brother, but in a time like this, Sans could really see the resemblance.

“YOU DO LOOK LIKE HIM,” Sans reminded him, almost gently. “AND EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT MY BROTHER, YOU ARE THE BROTHER OF SOME SANS, OUT THERE. SINCE HE IS NOT HERE WITH YOU, I ASSUME HE IS UNABLE TO BE.”

“...yeah.”

“WELL,” Sans said briskly, “THAT BEING WHAT IT IS, SOMEONE SHOULD ASK. AND WHILE I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT BLUE IS TRYING TO DO RIGHT BY YOU, IT CAN SOMETIMES BE HELPFUL TO SPEAK WITH SOMEONE WHO IS A BIT MORE... OUTSIDE YOUR SITUATION, SO TO SPEAK.”

Sans couldn’t be truly outside it, considering he likely had a very similar appearance to Slim’s brother, but this was likely the best he was going to get.

“...i - i’m okay,” Slim said hesitantly. “...blue picked me up from my timeline. there was nothing left.”

And didn’t that have an awful lot of awful implications?

“he let me stay with him, travel with him. told me that he would help me find the perfect place to live, any kind of timeline i wanted.”

Sans bent down, grabbing some of the firewood from behind the shed to mask his bemused expression.

“THEN, THAT WOULD BE A GOOD THING, YES? NOT MANY PEOPLE GET THE OPTION TO CHOOSE WHICH DIMENSION THEY WANT TO LIVE IN, AFTER ALL.”

There was a long moment of silence, and then Slim bent down to pick up some logs as well.

“yeah, i guess so. maybe.”

Sans nearly smiled. That was the same tactic Papyrus used whenever he was upset, trying to deflect attention off of the problem with his ‘too-cool’ attitude.

“SO, THEN, WHY ARE YOU STILL UPSET?”

Slim nearly jolted, giving Sans a slightly skeptical look. “upset? i’m not upset. i’m just... having trouble choosing. that’s all.”

Sans had to resist rolling his eyes. “ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT CHOOSING THE CORRECT TIMELINE, OR THE CORRECT COMPANIONS?”

Slim sputtered, the bridge of his nose ridge lighting up in a dark orange blaze. “i - what - “

Sans didn’t know why he was bothering to try and hide it. Slim obviously cared deeply about his companions, Blue and the children alike. Sans wasn’t too surprised, honestly - if this Papyrus shared any trait with his own, it would be caring too much and too often.

“AVOIDING YOUR PROBLEMS IS HARDLY THE BEST METHOD TO SOLVE THEM,” Sans admonished. “BLUE IS CLEARLY NOT AN UNREASONABLE MONSTER, AND IT SEEMS LIKE YOUR PRESENCE HAS DONE HIM A LOT OF GOOD AS WELL. HE RELIES ON YOU, TRUSTS YOU. THAT IS A PRECIOUS GIFT.”

Slim’s gaze dropped to the snowy ground, something conflicting in his expression.

“i know, but...”

“BUT YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO SAY IT,” Sans completed, feeling inexplicably fond despite himself. Slim really was like his little brother.

“i don’t even know if i really want to,” Slim said, frustration coloring his voice. “am i just projecting on him? am i just happy about being useful?”

“SLIM, DO I RESEMBLE YOUR BROTHER?” Sans said, knowing exactly what to say.

“yeah, almost identical,” Slim answered automatically.

Sans hid a smile. “SO, IF I ASKED YOU TO STAY HERE WITH ME, AND BE USEFUL UNDER MY COMMAND, WOULD YOU?”

He could see that Slim didn’t even have to think about it before his face scrunched up in displeasure, and then, realization.

Ha. Big brother always knows best.

He headed back to the house with Slim in tow, firewood held securely in his arms and victory coursing through his soul.

Sans even did Slim the courtesy of pretending not to see his tears, or his last comment that drifted away on the wind;

“...thanks, bro...”

Chapter Text

In the end, they had ended up leaving that timeline in a rather hurried way, with Blue being the first one out the door. It wasn’t that he disliked it here, or anything - ah, no, it was exactly that. Could anyone blame him?

It seemed like the others had all gotten something out of this fun adventure, Chara leaving the kitchen with an expression of grim resolve, and Slim coming back into the house with Sans somehow seeming more... at peace, than before, as strange as that sounded.

For once, Blue felt like he was the only one who was eager to leave, the only one who was running away. It was an uneasy feeling, and not one that he particularly enjoyed.

But what else could he do? Sans had seemed somewhat understanding, even if he hadn’t liked it, but Papyrus had been cold to him, after Blue had refused to tell them how to take away Chara’s powers. It had actually surprised Blue, how much that hurt. He had barely even spoken to this Papyrus, didn’t know a single thing about him.

So why did it bother him to see such a look of distaste on that face...?

Well, he supposed that it didn’t really matter. He wouldn’t tell them the answer - he couldn’t. Chara, the Chara of this timeline, deserved better.

After all, the only way to reduce LOADs and RESETs was to get to the surface. The fallen child could no longer LOAD once all monsters were freed, they could only RESET back to the beginning. And that didn’t happen often, especially with a darker timeline like this one.

So, yes, technically Blue could have just told them that. Told them that they needed to be friends with Chara, help Chara through the Underground, and then everything would be okay.

But his previous point still stood; a relationship like that, no matter how well-meaning, wouldn’t be genuine. There would always be some part of them that was waiting for the other shoe to drop, to be betrayed. There was no genuine trust or affection in a relationship like that, and that was why Blue couldn’t tell them.

In the end, he had no doubt that it would only make them miserable. And even if the skeleton brothers might get over it, that was hardly fair to Chara. That child deserved better, deserved more.

So they were all going to have to earn it - together.

And besides, Blue had done his part. The Anomaly in this timeline was gone, and now it was up to them to make the most of it.

Truth be told, Blue was glad to see the back of this timeline. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen now, but he had faith. And whatever happened, it would be their choice. That was about all he could do.

His optimism was what pushed him forwards, and when he landed in the next timeline Chara had ripped into, he was feeling pretty good!

And, because the universe can’t have something like that happening, that good feeling immediately vanished at the sight of where he’d landed.

...

It was like a dream. That was Chara’s first thought - it was a dream. A horrible, aching thing that dug at the soft and vulnerable parts of them.

This was not the first timeline they had entered that was identical to their own, and Chara doubted that it was the last. But it still hurt just as much, every time.

They glanced over, avoiding looking at Blue’s frozen form, to land on Slim instead, who had a suspicious expression as he gazed over the snowy ground.

Suddenly, Chara felt paralyzed too. What was he looking at? What had he seen that they didn’t?

They hurried over to his side, Temmie slipping from their loose grip to land on the ground and walk beside them.

“What is it?” They said sharply, following his gaze and trying to catch up. Chara cursed the fact that even skeletons had better senses than humans, because with all the snow, Chara couldn’t tell if there was dust anywhere.

At their (admittedly, a bit nervous) tone, Slim reached out within looking, crowding Chara a bit closer to him. Chara went without protest, too stunned to stop him as Slim pulled them against his side, like he was... like he was protecting them, or something.

(Chara would deny the pleased flush on their cheeks until the day they died.)

“it’s too quiet,” he murmured, as if he was worried that he would catch the attention of something if he spoke any louder.

“Don’t you think that’s a bit cliche?” Chara teased, but made an effort to keep their own voice down as well.

“No, he’s right,” Blue said absently, his attention seemingly stolen by the empty guard stand in front of them. That was how Chara had known exactly what type of timeline they were in - Papyrus had decorated his own stand the exact same way, back in their own timeline. “Look.”

Blue pointed away from them, down the long path so similar to the one Chara had walked on that first big adventure. They peered down, Slim doing the same - he was still lightly gripping their shoulder, a pronounced frown on his face that only grew when he saw what Blue had noticed.

Way, way down at the end of the path, the door to the Ruins was wide open. That could only mean one thing...

Asgore, along with all the other residents of the Ruins, were dead. Otherwise, the door would be closed, just like it had always been. Chara could say with a relative certainty that anyone who had been in Snowdin forest was probably dead too, or else someone would have tried to investigate by now.

(Chara, irrationally, felt the urge to run down to the door and slam it shut. They didn’t want anyone to go in there, didn’t want anyone to disturb Asgore’s dust - )

“No Mercy,” Blue said grimly, and Slim’s grip on Chara’s shoulder tightened, just a little.

He looked as if he wanted to say something, but Blue started moving before he could, expression and voice horribly even.

“We have to hurry. They may not have gotten too far.”

That look on his face was something that Chara recognized, and not something that they particularly enjoyed.

Chapter Text

Blue had recognized it the second they arrived - how could he not? It was like staring into a mirror, a distorted, cracked reflection. How many times had his own timeline gone through his? How many times had he seen Snowdin forest so empty, so silent?

Not even the birds were singing, anymore, and Blue had to grimly expect the worst.

They didn’t bother trying to take a shortcut - teleporting in a situation like this was bound to get them accidentally involved in something that they wanted no part in; Blue had only had to accidentally land in someone’s dust pile once to come to that conclusion.

But as they neared Snowdin, his tension only grew. This... this was even worse than he’d feared. Usually, there was someone left. Complete and total massacres, like what had happened in Slim’s timeline, were not the norm. Usually the residents of Snowdin were still alive, at least the ones that stayed inside the town. And the Anomaly usually didn’t attack the shopkeepers.

But... Again, that was all circumstantial. Just because most of the timelines turned out that way didn’t mean that all of them did, and this seemed to be one that went to the full extreme.

Slim hurried his pace, from where he had been standing by Blue’s side, and Blue scrambled to catch up.

“H-Hey, what’s - “ The question died in his throat. He knew.

Just outside of town, past the skeleton brothers’ house, a blue bandanna was laying on the snow. There was no dust pile, doubtlessly blown away by the wind, but the bandanna looked crumpled and somewhat dirty, as if -

As if someone had stomped on it, pressing it down further into the snow. Blue shuddered. Logically, he knew that the action had probably been the only thing that kept the bandanna from flying away too, but the image of it was just too brutal.

A strange, strangled noise came from the back of Slim’s throat, but when Blue looked up at him worriedly, his face was carefully blank.

Blue glanced behind him, catching sight of Temmie and Chara standing in the snow, both with unreadable expressions. Blue noticed Chara’s hands twitching, as if itching to reach for a knife. Temmie just seemed thoughtful, their beady little eyes narrowed in concentration.

The words left his mouth before he could even think about it. “Chara, Temmie, you two stay back, okay? Go break into the Librarby or something. This is dangerous.”

For perhaps the first time (or maybe just the first time he had really noticed it), Blue wasn’t worried about the kids causing trouble, or going off to increase their kill-count. He... he was worried about their safety, about their mental state after having to witness yet more tragedy.

He didn’t need them to fight for him. He just wanted them to be okay.

Some part of that must have gotten through to them, because although Chara’s head snapped up as if they were waking from a dream, they still nodded, and turned back without another word.

Blue turned to his other companion, brow furrowed in worry. “Slim - “

“don’t,” the taller skeleton said, his tone more firm than anything Blue had heard from him before. “i can handle this.”

Blue let out a deep breath.

“Right. Okay, let’s go.”

He would have to trust Slim on this. And more than anything, he had to trust himself not to lose control. Maybe it really would be a good idea for Slim to come along.

...

Waterfall was equally silent. At least, silent from the sound of other monsters, the sound of people on their way to work or simply going about their lives, completely gone.

Well, not quite. The Echo Flowers were still there, after all.

“I’m scared, what are we going to - “

“No, no, get away!”

“A-Alphys... Alphys is super cool, and mega-strong! She won’t let you get away with this!”

“Darling, just what do you think you’re doing? An attack like that won’t work on a ghost, you know - guh!”

“I don’t understand... I just don’t understand!”

“I... I think it’s for the best if you don’t meet my neighbor’s daughter.”

Finally, walking through the reeds and water, the duo ended up at the cliff-face, past the bridge where Alphys would have challenged the human to combat.

“...And with that power...”

“...this world...”

“...will live on!”

Blue didn’t cry. After how many times he had seen this exact scene, he didn’t have it in him to cry. But there was a deep sadness inside of him, tearing away at a wound that had only barely begun to heal.

Slim, in a strange contrast to this, only looked more determined the further in they went. His resolve seemed to get stronger with every pile of dust, every forgotten momento. When they reached Undyne’s lab, the doors of which were wide open, he gained a steely glint in his eye-sockets.

Suddenly, Blue was desperately glad that Slim was here with him. If he wasn’t, if Blue had been forced to make this pilgrimage all on his own... He was sure that he would have broken down somehow, by now. It was all just too much.

But he could take strength from his companion, just as Slim, in the last timeline, had silently taken strength from him.

“we’re here,” Slim said, startling Blue out of his own thoughts.

He looked up. The Castle, the place where, in this timeline, Queen Toriel lived. How many times had he walked up these steps? How often had he come here, happily, just to attend to his duties and nothing more?

So many, many times, over a span of years. The majority of his life, actually, though in these days it never felt like it.

He took a deep breath, and placed his foot on the first step.

And then the world spun.

Slim hissed in alarm, reaching out and grabbing Blue by one shoulder, pulling him close.

“what’s happening?” He spoke roughly.

Through his blurry vision, Blue could see another figure approaching them from inside the castle, too tall to be the fallen child.

“It’s a R-RESET,” he managed to squeeze out through gritted teeth, and then everything faded away.

Chapter Text

When the world realigned itself, they were still standing in front of the Castle - except this time, there was a member of the Royal Guard waiting out front, who seemed very surprised to have the two of them (presumably) pop up out of nowhere.

They fumbled with their spear for a moment, before relaxing after getting a good look at them.

“Oh come on, Papyrus, what have I told you about scaring me like that?” They complained good-naturedly. Slim couldn’t see their face, but he could tell that they were smiling. “Hey, what’s with that outfit, anyway - “

Slim didn’t wait for them to finish, taking advantage of his already tight grip on Blue to teleport the both of them back to Snowdin, now knowing where to go in order to not catch any attention.

“We need to get to the Librarby!” Blue hissed as soon as they’d landed, standing in the empty clearing where the mysterious Riverperson was always waiting with their boat. “That was a RESET, and Chara tends to react bad to them. If they stayed in the same place like we did, then they should be there!”

Slim nodded, and he took a moment to pull his hood up and over his head. Even if his clothes were way off basis for what the Papyrus of this timeline likely wore, hiding his scars from view would definitely make the disguise more plausible.

They hustled down to Snowdin proper, trying not to catch anyone’s attention. It was rather difficult, seeing as they were in Snowdin (home of the skeleton brothers) and there wasn’t exactly many skeletons in the Underground (read: two). But they made it, and when Blue ducked into the Library with Slim directly behind him, they were rewarded for their hard work.

“Oh, thank god,” Chara breathed out, hurrying over to their side, Temmie at their heels. “I’ve been hiding in the ‘human history’ section for the past hour. Why is it literally only manga? Shouldn’t there be at least one legitimate book in here?”

Blue couldn’t help the snort that escaped him at the nature of their complaint, but more than anything, he was just grateful that they were okay.

“Come on,” he said, beckoning them closer. “We should go find somewhere to regroup and figure out how we want to do this. We’ll have a while until the human manages to escape the Ruins, no matter how they go about it.”

Chara grimaced, clearly uncomfortable at the thought of their adoptive father’s death, even if the one in this timeline wasn’t really him, but they didn’t argue. In fact, both Temmie and Chara had been very... obedient, lately. Still sassy, still mischievous, of course, but less hostile, somehow. Or maybe more at ease, was a better term for it.

Blue stole a glance at Slim, who had one hand on Chara’s head as he murmured softly to the child.

Well, he knew the reason for Chara’s recent contentedness, at least.

They left the Library like they were on a stealth mission - attempting to seem casual, and failing miserably. But honestly, Blue didn’t think they were doing too badly.

Some of the other residents of Snowdin (alive again, blessedly alive, and wasn’t that a miracle that he had forgotten how to appreciate?) caught sight of them, but they all thankfully seemed to treat it as yet another ‘wacky scheme’ of the skeleton brothers, a concept that Blue took shameless advantage of, even if it was a bit embarrassing, they way they all looked at him as if he was a child.

It had been a very long time since Blue had been doted on like this, and while a part of him reveled in it, just as he always had, a perhaps more important part of him felt crushed - knowing that he was only getting all of this positive attention, all this care, because they thought that he was someone else.

They left Snowdin in a bit of a hurry. Blue couldn’t say that he was entirely sad to see it go. They headed out back again to Snowdin forest - Blue felt like he spent way more time among the snowy trees than he should have to, but they were the best place to go in the Underground if one wanted to disappear.

When they successfully hidden behind a crop of trees, no longer worried about getting accidentally stumbled upon by any random monsters, Blue kneeled down and gripped Chara by the shoulders.

“Are you okay, Chara?” He said deliberately, locking eyes with them. He knew that the child would doubtless try to deflect if he used any other method to get through to them, and this was too important to mess up.

A tinge of surprise crossed their face for a moment, enough to remind Blue of those old thoughts of his, back in their own timeline (why would Chara come to the Underground in the first place? Somehow, he didn’t think it was for a very happy reason), but then they scowled, crossing their arms over their chest as they stubbornly looked away.

“I’m... fine,” they said shortly, and when Blue gave them a disbelieving look, they huffed. “Seriously, okay? It gave me the shivers and shakes, but I don’t get all dainty and swooning like you do when there’s a RESET.”

Their words were grudging, but at least they were honest, so Blue was willing to ignore the jab for now.

“I’m glad,” he said warmly, kind enough to ignore the embarrassed flush on their cheeks. then, he glanced down at their companion, who seemed rather startled to be addressed. “And you, Temmie? I know that RESETs don’t impact you much, but I was still worried.”

“...I’m okay,” Temmie said in an even tone. It was always a little strange to see them like this, calm and measured but without the cruel edge of calculation that they’d had before. Even when Temmie had been pretending to be harmless, they hadn’t quite been able to hide their vicious side, but after the destruction of their timeline, they became almost muted.

Blue honestly wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.

Still, though, he let out a deep breath, allowing his hands to fall from Chara’s shoulders.

“Okay, we’re fine. Everyone’s fine.”

“yep.” A new voice interrupted, making Blue nearly jump out of his (non-existent) skin. “i’m doing great too, thanks for asking.”

Chapter Text

For one, strange, wild moment, Chara thought it was Slim who was talking, but Slim and Blue both jumped when the intruder spoke, and Slim had never spoken to Blue like that. Even when he was upset and holding a grudge, like he had been in the very earliest days of their trip together, Slim had always spoken to Blue with an undercurrent of respect.

This voice wasn’t necessarily disrespectful, but it was teasing, more... more brotherly than Slim’s interactions with Blue. (Though there was absolutely nothing brotherly about those two.)

They spun around, and their eyes immediately caught sight of Papyrus leaning up against a tree, cigarette dangling from his mouth and a smarmy-ass grin on his face.

Ugh. Talk about a blast from the past.

“now, i thought what i saw was a bit strange, but i’m glad to see that i wasn’t hallucinating,” he said softly, and his voice was so close to the one that Chara knew, they couldn’t help but shiver.

It wasn’t like Slim. Slim was taller than Papyrus, kinder than him, for all that he liked to pretend that he was just a tough guy. Slim’s voice was deeper, rougher, and his magic was a darker shade of orange.

Chara had never been afraid of Slim, not really. But they had always been afraid of Papyrus.

“I...” Blue stepped forward, swallowing audibly. “Yes, hello. This was... not intentional, I assure you. Are you, ah, alright?”

“oh, i’m just fine,” Papyrus said nonchalantly, standing up from his relaxed position and making his cigarette disappear in a flash of orange magic.

God, what a fucking show-off. Had their Papyrus been this bad? Chara thought so, but the memories were so warped that they couldn’t even be sure.

But they still stayed tense, not underestimating him. Papyrus had always been at his most dangerous when he was pretending to be calm.

“That’s, um, great,” Blue said awkwardly, clearly searching for a way out. “I suppose I should, um, explain this situation a little more to you, huh?”

“it would be appreciated,” Papyrus said mildly, his eyelights flickering over all of them, cataloguing their weaknesses, no doubt.

...Okay, maybe Chara was being a bit too cynical here, but they thought that they could hardly be blamed - the last time they’d faced a Papyrus with that expression on his face, they’d ended up dying a lot more times than they were strictly comfortable with.

Haltingly, with a lot more stuttering than was typical for him, Blue began to speak of their mission, and who they were.

When he introduced himself and the rest of the group, Papyrus had reacted with no surprise when Chara’s name was mentioned, which was the first big clue they had been looking for. This timeline had made it to the surface already, at least once.

Damn. No wonder that under that cool veneer he was clearly ready to rip all of them a new one.

“The Anomaly is, um, basically, the thing controlling the human child, forcing them to make those decisions,” Blue fumbled to get out, and Papyrus only nodded, not looking very surprised.

“yeah,” he said, his tone making it sound like he figured this was obvious, “i know that.”

Blue blinked in surprise, and Chara felt their breath catch in their throat.

Okay, that was actually... a little different than normal.

“if this scheme of yours can make it stop, give the kid control back, then i’m all for it,” Papyrus said grimly. He was serious now, Chara realized. He was worried.

Suddenly, they actually felt a bit bad about their uncharitable thoughts than before. Papyrus had always been a terror, yes, and a really awful opponent to face in battle, but... He had always been at his best, his most manipulative, when he had something that he wanted to protect.

(That thing had just never been them. Chara ruthlessly shoved down the hurt that thought evoked, not allowing themself to dwell on what-ifs or why wasn’t i enough - )

Blue must have realized it as well, because even though the tense line of his shoulders hadn’t relaxed, he began to speak more confidently.

“I can,” he assured Papyrus, his head tilted up in an expression of pure determination.

(Blue had also always been at his best when he had something to protect. Chara didn’t want to jinx it, but they thought that maybe, this time, that might include them.)

Chara checked in on the other skeleton in the clearing, who had been almost suspiciously quiet, only to find that he wasn’t looking at his counterpart at all. No, Slim was watching Blue, and his steady gaze made the last bit of anxiety leave Chara, wondering why they had worried at all.

Blue wasn’t so weak that he would get overwhelmed just by seeing a monster with the face of his dead brother. They’d seen many Papyrus’ before, and they would see doubtless more in the future. Besides, though Chara would never admit it out loud, Slim was better at reading people than they were, and if he wasn’t worried about Blue, then there was no reason for Chara to worry either. Problem solved.

“we should head back to the house,” Papyrus suggested, having completely dropped the teasing tone now that he knew how and why they were here. “i’ll grab my brother, and then we can work together to figure this thing out, deal?”

Strangely enough, Blue didn’t accept immediately. He glanced up at Slim first, giving his companion a questioning look, and when Slim only shrugged and nodded, he turned back to Papyrus with a smile

“Okay, sounds great!” He chirped. And, sure, the enthusiasm was faked (even Papyrus could tell, by the amused look he gave Blue), but the fire in his eyes was not.

They had been doing this for years. Time continued onwards, even as they hopped from dimension to dimension, timeline to timeline. But Blue had never given up, never lost hope.

Chara figured that the least they could do was follow his lead.

Chapter Text

Well, this had turned into a bit of a mess. Papyrus had pretty much known it would, the second he’d caught sight of what was supposed to be his dead brother along with some scarred up version of himself, but he still found himself mourning the loss of his own plan.

Then again, just based on the more in-depth explanation Blue had given on the state of the Anomaly when he had asked, it was probably for the best. Papyrus’ plan had just been to find some way to keep Chara from advancing through the Underground, hopefully waiting out whatever was controlling them. But even if that might have worked (and Blue had looked thoughtful when he’d said it, saying that it wasn’t a bad plan, if not for the fact that the Anomaly could RESET at will, anytime, anywhere), Papyrus wasn’t sure if he could actually go through with it.

Something like that... it would have been for the good of everyone, even Chara, but keeping the poor kid captive like that would have really hurt his metaphorical heart. It wasn’t their fault that this was happening - it didn’t seem fair to punish them for it.

But now, if what Blue was saying was true, he’d be able to block off the Anomaly entirely, and as long as Chara RESET, everything would go back to normal.

Papyrus had confidence in that, at least - for some reason, the Anomaly really liked to linger in the Ruins, always taking their time as they go through. Even when they weren’t killing all of the inhabitants, they spent more time in the Ruins than any other part of the Underground.

Blue had hummed in thought at that revelation, but whatever conclusion he came to, he kept it to himself.

Honestly, Papyrus was fine with that. As long as they could get this to work, then he could forgive just about anything.

After getting the four settled in his home (and man, was that weird, especially since all of them had already known where everything was, and had clearly only been following along out of politeness when he’d shown them around) Papyrus had shortcutted directly to his brother, knowing that Sans’ inherent punctuality meant that he followed the same patrol route every day, no matter what.

Sans had startled at his sudden entrance, hands on his hips as he scowled up at his taller brother.

“PAPY, I TOLD YOU NOT TO SCARE ME LIKE THAT!” he scolded, wagging a finger at PApyrus’ entirely unrepentant face. “ONE OF THESE DAYS YOU’LL REALLY CATCH ME OFF-GUARD AND I’LL ACCIDENTALLY THROW AN ATTACK AT YOU! WE DON’T WANT THAT, NOW DO WE?”

“nah,” Papyrus said lazily, but with full confidence. “that won’t happen. you’re too cool to ever hurt me, bro.”

Sans blushed, his cheeks flushing a dark blue, but he didn’t relax his stance. “THAT MAY BE TRUE, BUT - UGH! OH WELL. DID YOU NEED SOMETHING?”

Papyrus nodded, leaving the jokes behind for now. “yeah. there’s some people at the house - they’re gonna help us with the whole... ‘loop’ problem.”

Sans drew back, blinking in surprise. “REALLY? THAT’S...”

He trailed off, already lost in thought as his mind raced to take in this new information.

“IT’S NOT ANYBODY I KNOW,” he said distractedly, and Papyrus only watched with a smile. He loved seeing his brother do his work. “NOT ANYBODY YOU KNEW EITHER, BEFORE THIS MEETING. AND THAT DOESN’T LEAVE MANY CANDIDATES. IS IT POSSIBLY... SOMEONE FROM OUTSIDE THE UNDERGROUND?”

He seemed doubtful, as if unsure how that could possibly be true but unable to come to any other conclusion, and Papyrus beamed.

“yep,” he said, voice full of good humor. “a couple of new friends, just for us, bro. but i think you’ll actually find them pretty familiar.”

Sans looked skeptical, probably wondering where the trick was (ah, Papyrus knew playing all those practical jokes on his brother would come back to bite him one day), but Papyrus didn’t allow him to deliberate any longer, reaching out and pulling him back through a shortcut and straight into their living room.

Sans took one look at the odd little group assembled in their home, and he caught on to what Papyrus meant immediately.

“OH, YES. I CAN SEE HOW I MIGHT FIND THEM FAMILIAR.”

It was only Slim’s steady arm around his back that kept Blue from collapsing where he stood.

He’d thought that seeing Papyrus (not his Papyrus, no, never again) was bad enough, but seeing the two of them together -  it was devastating.

It wasn’t like they were a mirror image of what Blue and his brother had once been, or anything like that. No, they were better.

Even after what they had just experienced, even after the Sans of this timeline had clearly died a brutal death, they were comfortable with each other. They were light, obviously having been in the middle of a joke right before they arrived by the fondly exasperated look on Sans’ face, and the mischievous one on Papyrus’.

This wasn’t about seeing a double of his brother, anymore - it was about possibilities, about what could have been, about what they could have had if Blue (Sans, Sans, his name is Sans) had just tried a little bit harder.

But he would never have an opportunity to try, because Papyrus and everyone else he had ever known were dead, and Chara couldn’t RESET in their timeline. No one could, not even another fallen child that Blue had desperately asked for help, in the very beginning.

The barrier stayed up, the dead stayed dead.

But not here, not in this timeline. For that, Blue hated them just a little.

Still, he plastered on a smile as he stepped forward, expertly ignoring the strange feelings evoked in him by shaking hands with another version of himself.

“Hi, I’m Blue,” he said, making an extra effort to be friendly in order to better hide the antagonistic feelings that were swirling around somewhere inside of him. “It’s so good to meet you.”

Sans blinked at him, head cocked to the side.

“OH, I’VE MADE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE, HAVEN’T I,” he said matter-of-factly, making Blue take a step back in alarm. “YOU DON’T NEED TO BE JEALOUS, YOU KNOW. I’M SURE YOU DID YOUR BEST WITH YOUR BROTHER, EVEN IF HE’S GONE NOW.”

Blue gaped, and Papyrus, from where he was standing next to his brother, smacked his forehead.

“always, always...” he murmured under his breath.

Sans just seemed confused at all the fuss.

Chapter Text

“I - I, excuse me?” Blue stuttered, almost believing that he’d misheard the other.

“YOU DON’T HAVE TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS,” Sans said, helpfully, as if what he was saying should have just been obvious to them. “IT’S WRITTEN ALL OVER YOUR FACE. NOT THAT IT’S NECESSARILY A BAD THING, BUT I JUST THOUGHT THAT I WOULD REASSURE YOU THAT - “

“I don’t need reassurance,” Blue snapped, unable to listen to this any longer. Had he ever had such a lack of tact? Oh, he sure hoped not. “And you don’t know what you’re talking about. I would appreciate it if you didn’t say something like that so cavalierly.”

Now he was actually looking a bit insulted, as if Blue was the one acting rude!

“I ONLY MEANT THAT - “

“Quite frankly, I don’t care what you meant,” Blue said coldly, making the other shift back in clear surprise. “You have no right to say something like that to me. I can’t - I won’t accept it.”

How could some random version of himself ever know the depths of the pain Blue had been through? How could he ever, ever dare to bring up his brother like that? If Sans had gone through no-mercy runs, then he shouldn’t at least understand some portion of his suffering?

Why would he say that?

“hey now, let’s not get too upset, now,” Papyrus interjected, moving to stand in front of his brother slightly.

That tiny movement, so protective in nature, was the final thing needed to make Blue’s anger boil over.

(To be entirely honest, it had been bubbling inside of him for many, many years now, and it was only bad luck for these two that they had been the ones to finally witness it explode.)

“Don’t tell me what to do.” His tone was an icy command, and it clearly affected Papyrus with the way he flinched, and Blue could even see Slim wincing slightly from where he was standing.

Blue refused to regret it, though.

“I’m here to help you,” he said evenly. “But I don’t have to.”

It was cruel. It was so out-of-character. Blue had never wanted to be the kind of person who held their power over others, never wanted to make anyone, no matter how awful their timeline or how awful they were as a person, to feel like their safety and ability of choice was dependent on his happiness.

But this was too sensitive of a subject, and these two had crossed a line.

Sans scoffed, not at all intimidated, and stepped forward so that he was face-to-face with Blue. They were almost the same height, Sans being less than an inch taller, but Blue stared steadily at him, not willing to back down.

“YOU KNOW, YOU SHOULDN’T LET YOUR INSECURITIES GET TO YOU LIKE THIS,” he bit out, because he clearly had not learned a fucking thing. “YOU SAY THAT WE NEED YOU, WE NEED YOUR HELP IN ORDER TO BE HAPPY, BUT THAT’S NOT QUITE TRUE, IS IT?”

“Excuse me - “ Blue snarled, still cognizant enough not know that he was probably scaring Chara by the way the child was looking between the two of them anxiously, but too worked up to care.

“AND IT IS TRUE THAT YOUR METHOD WILL HELP US, BUT YOU’RE NOT DOING IT FOR US, ARE YOU?” Sans said, so fucking smug that Blue just wanted to punt him right back out the door. “YOU’RE DOING IT TO MAKE YOURSELF FEEL BETTER. BECAUSE THE GUILT IS JUST EATING YOU UP FROM THE INSIDE OUT, ISN’T IT? YOU DON’T CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO US, YOU DON’T CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO SLIM, YOU DON’T CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO CHARA AND TEMMIE. YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING AT ALL, DO YOU?”

Blue was speechless, hand clutching the fabric of his shirt right over where his soul was, where his soul was aching.

“YOU JUST KEEP GOING FORWARD, KEEP REACHING FOR THIS UNATTAINABLE GOAL, BECAUSE AT LEAST THAT SLIGHT FEELING OF SATISFACTION IS BETTER THAN BEING EMPTY, RIGHT - ?”

“will you shut up already?!” / “that’s enough!”

Both Slim and Papyrus intervened at the same time, and Blue realized belatedly that he was shaking.

He was shaking, and tears were welling up in his eyes, and the others were all arguing now, because of him it was all his fault, he couldn’t - he couldn’t -

He couldn’t handle it. Blue disappeared in a flash of blue magic, shortcutting away before the situation could get any worse.

...

He landed directly next to the barrier, and then he fell to his knees, his breath caught in his throat.

He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe.

And Blue knew that he was wheezing now, that he would have to quiet down or the Queen would come to investigate, but he couldn’t stop himself. It felt like his soul was trapped in a vice-grip, like every word the other Sans had spat at him had done critical damage to his HP.

It - it wasn’t true. Blue was a good person, he was trying his best, and sure sometimes he lost his temper but that didn’t mean he was a - a monster!

He had worked too hard for this, put too much effort into it for all of it to just be fake!

He knew his feelings. And he, he loved Chara, and he loved Temmie, and fuck he loved Slim. Yes, he was tired all the time and yes he felt so numb and yes it seemed like it had been a long time since his happiness had been genuine, but...

But...

Blue sighed, an aching, shuddering thing. He didn’t want to focus on this right now. He thought that if he did, he might actually break down.

Glancing up from his kneeled position, the great barrier was stretched out before him. It was as strange and technicolor as it had always been, always so far past his comprehension. It seemed that it didn’t matter how much time passed, or how many timelines he visited.

Some things still eluded him.

Blue reached up his hand, used magic to pull out his screen, and got to work.

Chapter Text

When Blue disappeared, there was a moment of shocked silence.

Temmie rolled their eyes. They didn’t know why anyone was surprised - Blue had clearly been about to lose it, and even if he had actual ly broken down and yelled at someone for the first time Temmie could ever remember, Blue was still a weirdly recitient guy. He was probably off crying in a corner somewhere.

Not that Temmie could... entirely blame him. It hadn’t even been directed at them, but those shitty deductions that Sans had been pulling out of his non-existent ass had been making them feel highly uncomfortable too.

As everyone registered what had just happened, Slim turned on Sans in a fit of temper. “just what do you think you’re - “

“Enough!” Temmie said sharply, jumping down from the couch where they’d been sitting, moving to stand in-between the two groups. “Really, that’s enough. We’re not solving anything like this.”

Sans huffed, crossing his arms over his chest, but he did actually look a bit contrite. If he was anything like the Sans that Temmie knew, he hadn’t meant for it to actually go that far.

“NOTHING I SAID WAS A LIE,” Sans grumbled, ignoring when his brother gave him a reproachful look.

“That is a lie,” Temmie said sharply, extending one long leg to poke Sans’ knee. “You said that because you knew it was hurtful, not because you thought it was the truth.”

Sans wasn’t the only one who knew how people's heads worked, after all.

Sans tried to keep up his defiant look, but he dropped a moment later, letting out a sigh.

“I... I WILL APOLOGIZE, WHEN HE RETURNS,” he said, and it was only halfway-grudging. “I WAS TRYING TO BE NICE, BUT THEN HE GOT SO ANGRY FOR NO REASON!”

“don’t start with that,” Slim said, though he seemed to have mostly calmed down by his more mild tone. “you know why he was angry. you brought up his dead brother out of nowhere, with no warning. maybe he shouldn’t have reacted so sharply, but you can hardly blame him. and honestly, you should have had more tact to begin with.”

Sans looked about to protest, but then Papyrus held out a hand, preventing his brother from starting up the argument again.

“i agree,” he said calmly, ignoring Sans’ look of betrayal. “bro, i know you meant well. but the fact of the matter is that you said something that sounded vaguely cruel and entirely condescending to someone who has clearly lost a lot, and is still mourning those losses. and when he reacted badly, you immediately went on the attack.”

Sans looked... confused for a long moment, as if he hadn’t even realized the impact of what he’d said, before his expression turned thoughtful. After another moment of silence, he looked up again and nodded.

“WHEN HE COMES BACK, I’LL APOLOGIZE,” Sans repeated, and the sincerity in his voice allowed Temmie to finally relax.

That feeling was, of course, shattered when Sans turned to them, a semi-curious glint in his eyelights.

“WHAT DID HAPPEN, ANYWAY? I WAS ABLE TO PARSE THE MAIN PIECES JUST FROM SEEING HIS REACTION TO BROTHER AND I, BUT I OBVIOUSLY DON’T KNOW THE SPECIFICS.” When Slim sent him a flat look, Sans hastened to defend himself. “JUST SO THAT I DON’T TREAD ON ANY MORE BAD TRIGGERS, THAT’S ALL!”

Temmie was tempted to roll their eyes again, but turned to meet Chara’s gaze instead.

After a moment of contemplation, Chara nodded, but then proceeded to pull their phone out of their inventory and fiddle around with it, meaning that it was okay to talk about, but Temmie would have to be the one to do the explanation.

They sighed, but went along with it.

“Everyone sit down,” Temmie ordered, jumping up to make themself comfortable on Slim’s lap when he did as he was told. “I’ll tell you.”

Okay, be quiet and don’t interrupt. I’m not kidding - I will stop right in the middle of the story if you make nuisances of yourselves, clear?

Good.

Well, for all the time we spent on this - our whole lives, really - it isn’t that long a story. I imagine that it’s a story rather similar to your own.

Regardless, the story begins the same. Chara was controlled by the Anomaly, and though they had done different routes at first, never quite repeating an action, eventually the Anomaly chose no-mercy, every time.

I don’t... I’ve never been particularly close with the skeleton brothers, so I couldn’t tell you the particulars, but it seemed like they weren’t handling it very well. At first, neither of them knew that the other remembered, and when they realized, they had a huge fight about it.

Like I said, I don’t know the little details, but their relationship was never the same after that. They worked together, but they would fight often. Papyrus was convinced that this was all Chara’s fault, that they were just toying with everyone. Sans - Blue, didn’t agree.

One day, things were different. The Anomaly, somehow, managed to spare Blue. Blue, and no one else. That had never happened before - Papyrus usually didn’t fight the Anomaly unless there was no one else left, but the Anomaly managed to make it happen.

We didn’t realize it then, but the Anomaly had somehow managed to change our behavior, our patterns. We did things that we normally wouldn’t have done, did things that we would have done, but in different circumstances.

When the Anomaly was still around, we didn’t even notice it. The control they had on the timeline was so completely absolute... Like they had dug into the code of the world itself, altering it as they wished.

It was... unpleasant.

But something happened, that time, with Papyrus and everyone else dead, but Blue still alive. Everything... broke.

Chara couldn’t RESET anymore, or LOAD. They regained control right before they were about to kill me, thankfully, but nothing else we tried did anything.

It took us a long time to figure out how to use Chara’s determination to travel timelines, and for Blue to learn how to affect the code of a world. But he, he can’t fix anything. He can only block off the Anomaly, get rid of the part that isn’t supposed to be there.

So, our timeline is stuck like that. Frozen in time, never moving forward or back. Everyone who’s dead is dead.

Forever.

No do-overs this time.

Chapter Text

The silence after Temmie finished their explanation was different from before. More sad, maybe, or some other emotion that Slim didn’t know how to interpret.

He wasn’t even sure how to interpret his own feelings right now; sympathy, certainly, for the monster who had lost just as much as Slim had; guilt, perhaps, for the cruel things that Slim had said to him on that first day, the day that even now, felt like a lifetime ago. He thought that maybe he was a bit angry, too, at the brother that had argued with Blue and then gone and gotten himself killed, though Slim admittedly knew that he didn’t have much of an authority on that subject.

But it was surprising, really, just how much he was feeling. Slim had been waiting so long for this, so long to finally hear the whole truth (the last real obstacle before he could trust Blue fully), but now that he had it, it didn’t feel like much of an accomplishment.

Maybe that was the point, though. He had wanted to know the story behind the tragedy that Blue carried on his shoulders like a dark cloak, and now he knew. It was really his own fault for not being prepared for the consequences.

“thanks for telling us,” Papyrus said, the first one to break the silence. He scrubbed a hand over his face, and looked extremely tired. “that explains a lot.”

A part of Slim bristled, wondering what Papyrus could have possibly seen in Blue that Slim hadn’t noticed, but he forcibly calmed himself a moment later. For all that Slim had momentarily, delusionally hoped that Blue was his brother in that first meeting, Blue had never done the same. Blue had never looked at him and seen some other Papyrus in his place, not the way he’d done the first second he’d laid eyes on the Papyrus of this timeline.

Besides, it was a brother’s prerogative to know these things. It was really no wonder Slim had missed it.

Chara, who had been pointedly wrapped up in their phone for the past ten minutes as Temmie explained, cleared their throat.

“It doesn’t matter too much, in the end,” they said briskly, pocketing the phone and looking at the rest of them. “We’ll likely be leaving as soon as Blue gets back.”

“AH, BUT THE ANOMALY - “ Sans began, likely worrying that his words from earlier truly had been enough to dissuade Blue from helping, but Chara only snorted, slashing their hand through the air in a dismissive gesture.

“I have no doubt that Blue has either already taken care of it, or is doing so currently,” they said boredly. “He likes to make himself useful, after all.”

And, well, if their words were a bit pointed on that last sentence, Slim rather thought that Sans deserved the way he shrank guiltily in his seat.

“Just...” And there, Chara hesitated - uncharacteristically, at that. “The story, what happened to us - I think it’s best if you take it as a serious warning. Even if you ignore everything that the Anomaly did, things fell apart way before the RESET button stopped working. Papyrus was trying his best to kill me at every turn, and Blue was trying to prevent it, so those two were fighting with each other on top of everything else.”

They looked down at their hands for a moment, and Slim thought that, maybe, Chara might blame themself for that.

“They lost their trust in each other,” Chara continued, tone gruff but still serious. “They never hurt each other physically, but there are other ways to cause someone pain. It was a bad deal all-around, and only made worse by how much they still loved each other.”

They sounded pained, almost tearful, and Temmie immediately jumped back in.

“Just take us as a cautionary tale,” they said, their eyes so much older than their body and physical age would have showed. “There are ways to solve your problems, but not our way. Our way was very permanent, very final. We can’t take back the decisions we made, not anymore. Do you understand?”

They weren’t just addressing the other pair of skeleton brothers with this - Temmie craned their neck up to give Slim a considering look as well.

“I THINK SO,” Sans said slowly. “I’LL TRY, ANYWAY.”

Papyrus, too, nodded, the monster looking much more relaxed now than he had throughout this entire incident.

“you won’t have to worry about that with us,” he said, so confident that Slim couldn’t help but believe him. “we’re a good team. we won’t lose sight of that.”

Chara looked horribly relieved, for one, striking moment, before their expression was blank once more. Slim wondered if they had been waiting to give this story, this warning, for a while. He wondered if the child had been aching to give it to every pair of skeletons they’d met, each of them imperfect and loving and an irrefutable reminder of something they would never have again.

Then, he looked down at Temmie’s expectant gaze, and nodded.

“i promise,” he said quietly, with a weight that everyone in the room understood.

He didn’t have to clarify - Temmie knew exactly what he meant.

Temmie’s eyes were satisfied, and absolutely ruthless.

“You better.”

Slim quirked a smile, and the tension in the room broke abruptly, the others laughing and smiling, something lighter in the air now than there had been before.

This was the atmosphere that Blue walked back into, seeming totally calmed-down, and actually looking a bit embarrassed about everything that had transpired.

Before the rest of them could do anything (and before Papyrus could do anything except give his brother a pointed look and an elbow to the ribs), Blue walked up to his counterpart, totally unafraid.

“I’m sorry,” he said, entirely sincere and ignoring the way that the rest of the room gaped at him. “What you said made me angry, but it wasn’t right to react that way. It wasn’t right to insinuate that I wouldn’t help you, just because of some schoolyard taunts. I went and blocked off the Anomaly, so as soon as the Chara of this timeline RESETs, they’ll be in complete control, and be able to fully choice their destiny.”

Sans found his voice a moment later, and scowled. “WELL THAT’S JUST GREAT! NOW YOU’RE MAKING ME FEEL WAY WORSE.”

Chapter Text

“I’m... sorry?” Blue said again, wondering just how he was supposed to go about this.

Sans just groaned, however, and Papyrus shook his head. Blue could see the slightest edge of a smile flickering on his face, and steadfastly ignored the pain that image brought him. He was usually so much better than this, so much stronger.

He really needed to get a grip.

“JUST LET ME - UGH. I CAN’T DO THIS. PAPY!”

Blue blinked in confusion, but Papyrus only snickered for a moment before he reached out, gently placing his hand on Blue’s shoulder.

“Wait, what - “

A second later, they disappeared in a flash of orange, landing in... Hotland?

“Is this the NTT Resort?” Blue said in interest, glancing around what appeared to be a very fancy hotel room.

Papyrus shrugged, and Sans flounced over to throw himself dramatically upon one of the armchairs.

“i’ve got a permanent, private room,” he answered.

Blue whistled appreciatively. “Nice.”

When he looked back at the two brothers, they both seemed distinctly uncomfortable, and Blue sighed as he placed his hands on his hips.

“Well, out with it,” he said, trying not to sound too impatient. He didn’t think he could handle another fight right now, as weak as that sounded.

Papyrus gave his brother a pointed look, and though Sans squirmed for a moment, when he straightened to face Blue, he had clearly pulled together his resolve.

“THANK YOU FOR YOUR APOLOGY,” he said stiltedly. “I ACCEPT. AND I HAVE TO OFFER AN APOLOGY OF MY OWN.”

“...What?” Blue thought he must have misheard him.

“I’M SORRY,” Sans said, and even though the words didn’t come out of him easily, Blue could tell that they were entirely sincere. “I SHOULDN’T HAVE SAID THOSE THINGS, NO MATTER HOW ANGRY OR THREATENED I FELT, AND I SHOULDN’T HAVE ACTED LIKE I KNEW BETTER THAN YOU. I HAVEN’T EXPERIENCED THE THINGS YOU HAVED. WHILE I DIDN’T MEAN TO BELITTLE YOUR PAIN, I DID. AND I HAD MEANT TO HURT YOUR FEELINGS.”

He didn’t sound too regretful about that, but Blue could at least appreciate the honesty.

“It’s okay,” he said, more than willing to just put all of this behind them. “I understand that you didn’t - “

“it’s not okay,” Papyrus interrupted, and Blue nearly shied away. Why did he sound almost angry all of a sudden? “you - you shouldn’t - “

He cut himself off, looking frustrated. Sans smoothly stepped in, leaving Blue to marvel at the clear communication between the two of them, the easiness.

“WHAT MY BROTHER IS TRYING TO SAY... WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY, IS THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ACCEPT MY APOLOGY,” Sans said, and Blue could see a shade of himself in the way Sans was looking at him now. “I ACTED CRUELLY TO YOU - MORE THAN YOUR OWN ACTIONS COULD HAVE EVER DESERVED. IT WASN’T RIGHT. AND JUST BECAUSE I FEEL BAD ABOUT IT, DOESN’T MEAN MY WORDS ARE EXCUSED.”

“I...” Blue was speechless, for the second time that day, and for entirely different reasons. Sure, the incident had caused him some... distress, but it hadn’t really been as bad as Sans was making it out to be.

Blue was just overreacting, that was all, it had always been one of his major problems -

“I THINK,” Sans said suddenly, eyeing Blue with a thoughtful gaze, “THAT THIS IS SOMETHING THAT YOU NEED TO HEAR. I THINK THAT MAYBE NO ONE HAS SAID IT TO YOU, OR AT LEAST NOT ENOUGH, SO I’M GOING TO SAY IT.”

Well, that was fairly ominous.

But when Blue stared back at his counterpart, a little lost, the other’s expression was almost unbearably kind.

“THIS ISN’T YOUR FAULT,” he stated, like it was just a fact of life. “NOT WHAT HAPPENED TODAY, OR BEFORE. I SAID EARLIER THAT YOU ONLY HELPED PEOPLE BECAUSE IT MADE YOU FEEL BETTER, AND THAT WAS WRONG. IT DOES MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER, BUT THAT’S NOT A BAD THING. IT’S A BIT OF A SAD THING, THAT YOU CAN’T FIND ENOUGH HAPPINESS IN YOUR OWN HEALTH AND WELL-BEING, BUT IT DOESN’T MAKE YOU A BAD PERSON.”

“i would argue that as long as the results are positive, the motivations don’t entirely matter,” Papyrus said quietly, a complete contrast from his brother’s brash, take-no-prisoners tone. “but in your case, that’s hardly the point. you helped us, after all, even after what happened. maybe you do this because you feel guilty over being unable to save your own timeline, but it doesn’t take away the fact that you want us to succeed, too. you want us to be happy, to find that happiness and learn from your mistakes. and you believe that we can do it.”

“...I do,” Blue croaked out, not even sure what part of their speeches that he was agreeing to. “I want you to succeed, I mean. And... I do believe that you can do it.”

How could he not? What else would he have, if not that? Someone had to do it. Someone had to succeed in the ways that Blue and his brother (oh, Papyrus) had been unable to.

At least this way, with the Anomaly gone and the biggest issue out of the way, whatever choice that they made, good or bad, would be their own.

“I KNOW,” Sans said, and he sounded almost gentle. “BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO. YOU DON’T HAVE TO FORGIVE ME, AND YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO HELP US.”

“Of course I was going to help you, I never meant that!” Blue protested immediately.

“I KNOW,” Sans said. “BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO.”

While Blue’s mind was reeling, Papyrus spoke.

“you’ve more than made up for your mistakes. you didn’t have any more control over your situation than we did. i’m not saying what you’re doing is bad, or unhelpful, but... you don’t have to punish yourself, you know. you’ve done enough.”

Blue had absolutely no reply to that, and they must have realized it, because they both stood, Sans stretching his arms out over his head.

“ABOUT TIME TO HEAD BACK, I THINK,” he said. “JUST REMEMBER WHAT WE SAID.”

“Right,” Blue said numbly, more out of habit than anything else. Then, his mind caught up with what was happening, and he had to say one more thing. “And, uh, I do forgive you. I do.”

Sans was silent for a long moment, before Papyrus reached out to teleport the three of them back.

“THANK YOU,” Sans said, before they were all caught up in the flood of orange magic taking them home.

Chapter Text

When they got back, the look on Slim’s face made it obvious what had happened. Blue had already known, of course, just based on the conversation he had with the skeleton brothers, but somehow he had hoped that Slim had been absent for that part.

“You know, then?” He said. It wasn’t quite a question, but Blue was still desperately hoping for Slim to say no.

“yeah,” he said instead, which was fair enough, and hardly his fault anyway.

“Okay,” Blue replied. “Okay.”

He repeated it to himself a couple of more times, muttering it under his breath as he tried to take it in. Who had told - ? Temmie. Chara wouldn’t, Chara didn’t even like to think about it. And Temmie wouldn’t reveal any too personal details, even though Blue was quite sure that the little sneak knew more than their fair share of them.

Temmie, who was sitting on Slim’s lap and looking entirely unrepentant, glanced up at Blue.

“Sorry I didn’t wait for you,” they said, and that was sincere, at least. “But I felt like this was important. Are you ready to go?”

Blue let out a steady breath, glad, for once, that Temmie was so good at reading people.

“I do think we should head out,” he said, and though neither Sans or Papyrus protested, there was a strange, uncomfortable air.

Chara stood from where they were sitting on the couch, coming over to stand by him.

“It’s nothing personal,” they said. “We’re done with all that now. We’ve told you everything we can, everything you need to know. When you work with your Chara now, it will be because you want to, and because you want this to work. There isn’t a reason for us to stay any longer.”

“Besides,” Temmie added, jumping off of Slim’s lap as he stood up and they both meandered over, “The Chara of this timeline will probably RESET soon, and we should avoid getting caught up in that if it’s possible.”

“YES, OF COURSE,” Sans said, and though he seemed faintly dissatisfied, he didn’t raise any actual protest. Then he turned to Blue, nodding. “REMEMBER WHAT WE SAID.”

“So long as you remember what we said,” Blue returned teasingly, and the two of them grinned at each other, those sour feelings from before vanishing under their mutual understanding.

Papyrus reached out his hand, and then pulled back, aborting the movement abruptly. He looked like he wanted to pat Blue on the head, or maybe hug him, but instead he merely grinned, a lazy half-thing that Blue could almost look at without pain.

“you’re going to do just fine,” he said, like a promise, like a vow. “all of you.”

Blue laughed, shaking his head. “Shouldn’t that be my line?”

But... this was okay. He could handle this. And -

“Chara? I think I know where we should go next.”

Chara glanced back at him, eyebrow raised, before whatever they saw in his expression made their eyes widen in surprise.

“I... Alright,” they said slowly. “If you’re sure.”

“Yeah,” Blue said. He didn’t think that it would ever be okay, but he was sure. And they wouldn’t be on their own, not this time. This time Slim would be there too, and they all had their own new experiences and hope to give them strength. “Let’s go.”

Chara didn’t hesitate any longer - they turned back around, their knife flashing out in a dash of red as they opened the portal. Even though they had only gone back there once, even though they hadn’t been there in years, they didn’t even have to take time to think about it.

You always know the way back home.

The other three stepped through the portal ahead of him, and Blue turned at the last second to face Sans and Papyrus, who were watching them go with an expression that was one part wistful and three parts contemplative.

“Hey,” he said, gaining their attention. “I really do forgive you. And I’m glad that I met you.”

With that, he rushed through the portal, not giving them the chance to react.

But he caught a fleeting glimpse of their smiles as the portal closed around him, and that was enough.

Slim had kind of known where they were going, realized the implications of what Chara and Temmie and Blue had been saying, but it didn’t really hit him until he stepped out of the portal into a living room that looked exactly like the one they’d left behind.

He almost thought that Chara’s portal had failed for some odd reason, until he realized that there was a thick layer of dust on all of the furniture. And not monster dust, either - simply the dust of something forgotten.

“Well!” Blue said briskly, as he stepped through to join them and placed his hands on his hips, surveying the room. “I better get this all cleaned up. Just give me a moment, then we can all relax for a bit.”

Slim automatically moved to help him, but Blue shooed him off, working with a startling efficiency as he used his magic to freshen the place up. Slim supposed he shouldn’t be surprised, since he’d always known that Blue had a great deal of magical power, but he’d never actually seen Blue use it for something mundane like this.

It had always been life or death, a battle or saving a timeline from itself. Seeing it like this, seeing Blue like this, was... It was nice.

Soon enough, Blue had the whole house cleaned in the sort of rapid, frenzied movement that Slim had only seen from his brother on the days when Alphys would come over for an inspection. He’d aired out the bedrooms, too, allowing the children to take his old room while he took his brother’s.

He’d shrugged when Slim had asked, saying quietly that Chara wouldn’t have been comfortable staying in Papyrus’ room.

Slim had been all prepared to sleep on the couch, but Blue had only rolled his eyes and declared that Slim would be sharing with him, obviously.

And, well. Who was he to object?

Chapter Text

Slim knew that the room they’d stepped into was once Papyrus’, that it belonged to a dead man who had been dead for quite some time, but he probably wouldn’t have known that if Blue hadn’t told him first.

Anything that could have been a personal item was gone, the linens all simple patterns, impersonal. It could have been a hotel room, a guest room - it could have belonged to anyone in the world.

As Blue settled down on the bed, falling back with a groan, Slim took one last look around. It was nothing like how his room had once been in his own timeline, and he figured that the other bedroom in this house, the one that Blue had once occupied, looked very impersonal too.

He silently vowed not to ask where Blue had put all of Papyrus’ things. It was none of his business, and he was actually a little glad of it. Now that he knew at least a little of what had happened to Blue and his brother, he had been a bit worried about being surrounded by reminders of the man’s presence, like a ghost.

Slim strode over to the windows, pulling the curtains aside and letting the artificial light of the Underground filter in. When he looked out, there was nothing and no one there.

The house wasn’t so bad, but Slim didn’t think he would be out and exploring the rest of the place. He had already seen Snowdin as a ghost town before - he didn’t think investigating this one, that had long been abandoned, would do him any good.

Blue, when Slim turned back to lock, had shifted so that he was facedown on the bed, apparently trying to smother himself with a pillow.

Slim found himself chuckling, the action coming so easily to him, and he went over to sit himself down beside Blue. He reached out, gently petting the other on the skull, and Blue only grumbled a tiny protest before scooting over to lean against Slim more fully.

It didn’t bother him - he even relaxed a bit more, letting Blue curl up against his leg.

“we should get something to eat soon,” Slim murmured, though he hated to ruin the moment.

Blue whined desperately, shoving his head underneath the pillow he was holding, but he let it go a moment later with a huff.

“Alright, alright,” he said grudgingly.

Blue got up, stretching his arms out as he did so, and Slim briefly mourned the loss of contact, but Blue held out a hand to him a moment later.

“Come on,” he said, cocking his head to the side. “You wanted to go eat, right?”

“mhm.” Slim took his hand, and didn’t fight the surge of happiness that welled up in him as Blue’s fingers gripped his so steadily.

Slim left his coat in the bedroom, content with just having his undershirt, and Blue left the heavier parts of his armor behind too. Slim, beaming, wasn’t sure if Blue understood just what that gesture meant for someone in his timeline, but decided to still take it for what it was worth.

Blue felt comfortable here, and with him. Even if he didn’t need Slim to protect him (definitely not, by all the things Slim had witnessed at this point), the vulnerability was still there, and Slim was honored that he was allowed to witness it.

They went down the stairs hand in hand, walking over to the kitchen to find that Chara and Temmie were already there, settled at the kitchen table and yawning into their hands.

Blue grinned ruefully at the sight, and checked out the window briefly.

“Well, it’s still light out, but it won’t be for long,” he declared. “Let’s take this as our supper, and then we can all go to sleep. We can figure out what our next move will be tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” / “Sounds good.”

Temmie and Chara both agreed, and Slim merely squeezed Blue’s hand in answer.

They probably wouldn’t stay here for long, just considering how much weight the place held, even after all this time, but for now, it was... it was nice.

It was different from that other fell timeline, that’s for sure. Though Slim was certain the others had a fun enough time, he’d been rather stressed and worried during the whole adventure, even though they were supposed to be relaxing.

Here, at least, he was finally at peace with himself.

The revelation struck him, enough so that he didn’t protest when Blue pulled away to start preparing their food. While the fridge had been empty, all four of them kept a decent amount of food and ingredients in their inventories, and all the kitchen appliances in the house had still worked.

Chara had grumbled about the unfairness of it all, cursing something about magic under their breath, but they were still (grudgingly) willing to take advantage of it.

Slim sat down at the table opposite of them, watching Blue bustle around cheerfully. And it was cheerful, truly. Tired, perhaps, and there was an edge of wistfulness in his expression that he couldn’t hide, but at least being here didn’t make him upset.

It didn’t look like it upset Chara or Temmie, either. Temmie was on top of the table, curled into a little ball and snoozing quietly, and Chara was watching Blue, some emotion in their eyes that he couldn’t name.

Suddenly, Slim was reminded of those questions that had once emerged in him, about this Chara and the one he had known previously.

“chara,” he said, grabbing their attention before he could doubt himself. “did you ever do anything like this on the surface?”

They simply raised a brow at him, and Slim hastened to explain.

“i just mean… you seemed interested in what blue’s doing. did you ever do anything like this on the surface?”

With your parents? The words weren’t spoken aloud, but they drifted in the air between them nonetheless.

Chara was quiet for a long moment.

“No,” they said finally. “Never like this. And you know, despite everything that’s happened, I still like this better.”

And, well. What more was there to say?

Chapter Text

Blue busied himself with what he was doing, trying not to eavesdrop on Chara and Slim’s conversation. It was nice to seem them getting along - in fact, he was fairly sure that Slim knew how to handle the kid better than Blue ever had.

He wasn’t at all upset by that fact; more relieved than anything. Blue did his best, of course, but there was a great deal of history between him and Chara, history that hadn’t always been friendly. Slim was a good third party, for all of them, and Blue honestly could not be more grateful that they had picked him up.

Which lead him to the topic that had been rattling around in the back of his skull for a while now.

What was Slim going to do? Where was he going to go?

Blue wouldn’t be so selfish as to ask Slim to stay with them, not when he doubtlessly had his own life and journey that he wanted to pursue, but...

But sometimes, he thought that Slim looked at him with something more than simple affection, more than gratitude or suspicion or whatever else had kept him around in the beginning. Blue had taken a huge risk, extending his hand like that to Slim earlier, though he had done his utmost to seem like it wasn’t a big deal.

He... He really cared about Slim. In ways that he didn’t think he had really cared about anyone before. Blue would have preferred for Slim to stay, but he wouldn’t make that choice for him.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow they would discuss what timeline they should head to next, and see if Slim had any preferences for what he wanted to check out. Until then, Blue was going to enjoy the time they had.

“Dinner’s ready!” Blue said cheerfully, bringing over the plates of pancakes he’d cooked up.

Chara and the newly-awoken Temmie leapt upon them with gusto, and Blue only shrugged at Slim’s amused look.

“So, maybe it’s not dinner, technically,” he admitted, feeling his own grin twitch at the corners of his mouth. “But it is food, and I felt like we could all just use something fun after the last couple of days.”

It seemed like things had just been going on non-stop for as long as Blue could recall, and he just wanted some good food and bad laughs right now.

Slim didn’t say a word, merely helping himself to some pancakes before the greedy children could gobble them all up.

“thanks for the food,” he said quietly as he ate, and Blue beamed at him.

“Yeah!” Chara said, voice slightly muffled from their stuffed cheeks. “Thanks!”

“Thank you,” Temmie echoed, staring in misery at their now-syrup stained paws.

Blue muffled a laugh at that image, and after swallowing his last bite of food, he went and grabbed a washcloth from the sink, carefully relieving Temmie’s paws from their sticky torment.

Temmie gave him one last thanks for that, and then the table fell into a comfortable silence as everyone ate their fill.

Blue sent Chara and Temmie off to bed, ignoring their protests. It was fairly easy with the way Chara’s voice kept breaking out into a yawn, and Temmie had already started drooping halfway into the conversation.

Blue stayed behind to clean up, his magic lifting plates into the air as wiped down the table and counter with his hands.

Slim joined him a second later, and Blue just shot him a grateful look before the two of them worked together in tandem, finishing all the chores in half the time.

“Okay,” Blue said with a relieved sigh as he dropped the sponge back into the sink. “I think we’re done. Wanna head up to bed?”

Slim, whose eyes had closed for a brief moment, jerked back to attention, nodding as he held up a hand to hide his yawn.

“sure,” he said sleepily. “sounds good to me.”

Blue ushered him up the stairs, trying not to blush as the reality of the situation set upon him.

There was absolutely nothing to blush about, he told himself sternly. They were just sharing a bed, not doing anything particularly scandalous.

Even though Slim, as it turned out, was a particularly clingy sleeper, Blue still found it easy to drop off in his embrace.

All of his worries, all of his fears - they could wait for the morning.

The next morning, he’d felt itchy and anxious. Obviously, it was for the best that he hadn’t brought any of this up yesterday when everyone was exhausted and emotionally drained, but it still sucked that it resulted in him having to deal with the situation today.

“Um, good morning,” Blue whispered. Slim was awake, even if he was trying valiantly to pretend that he wasn’t, so Blue sat up and nudged him gently on the shoulder. “It’s almost noon.”

And wasn’t that a surprise? But then again, Blue had been particularly exhausted, so perhaps it wasn’t that strange after all.

Slim groaned, but did grudgingly open his eye-sockets, looking up at Blue.

Blue smiled sweetly at him, unable to hide the rush of affection the image gave him.

“Good morning,” he repeated, and this time Slim worked up enough energy to say it back.

“good morning,” he said in a hoarse whisper. “we should probably get up, huh?”

Blue laughed. “Yeah, probably.”

Slim seemed a bit disgruntled, but he sat up anyway.

“so, where are we headed next?” He said, rubbing at his eyes as he did so.

Blue didn’t allow himself to hesitate.

“Anywhere you want to go. I have some recommendations if there’s a particular type of timeline that you’re interested in, and - “

“are you still going on about that?” Slim interrupted, causing Blue to freeze in confusion. “i’m fine. i don’t care. i just want to stay with you.”

Blue didn’t say anything, trapped in the rapid rise of emotion in his soul, when Slim turned to him, looking a bit more awake - and more worried.

“only if you want, of course,” he rapidly affirmed, looking so worried, so silly, as if Blue would ever want him anywhere else. “if you’re... willing to have me.”

Blue surprised even himself when he leaned forward, letting his forehead rest against Slim’s chest.

“Yes,” he whispered. “I think I would like that very much.”

Chapter Text

When Blue and Slim came down the next morning looking suspiciously happy, Chara very pointedly did not say anything.

Sure, pretty much everyone had seen it coming, but that didn’t mean Chara wanted to acknowledge it in anyway. Just, no.

Instead, Chara immediately pounced on them when the two entered the living room, wanting to get the most important part over with.

“Where are we going next?” they said impatiently. “Or are we just going to another random timeline?”

Chara didn’t bother asking whether Slim would be coming with them - that question had obviously already been asked and answered.

“Actually...” Blue seemed hesitant for a moment, before pushing past it and continuing on. “I think that we should take a break for a while.”

Chara stared. Now, that was actually a surprise. And not just to them, if the curious look that Slim shot him was any indication.

“Really?” Temmie spoke up, their tone undeniably skeptical.

Well, it wasn’t like that was too unexpected. As soon as they had all figured out how to do this in the first place, it had pretty much been one non-stop trip since. Chara didn’t mind it, because there was hardly any timeline that they wanted to stay in permanently, but a break didn’t sound too bad.

“Yeah,” Blue nodded, and then elaborated. “Even if the Sans from last time was just saying all that to irritate me, there was some truth to it that I can’t ignore. I do want to help people, and I think saving the timelines is really important, so I don’t want to quit entirely, but... I think it would be a good thing to have a base of operations. A schedule. Something else in our lives besides just this, y’know?”

Chara sat down heavily on the sofa, thinking it over. It wasn’t... a bad idea, per se. Chara even thought that it might be a good one, as long as Blue never tried to force them to go to school, or otherwise ‘go back to normal’. Chara could never go back to that again, if they’d ever had it in the first place. But... though they would never, ever say it aloud, they trusted Blue. He would never do something like that without their permission.

(And wasn’t that a mysterious, marvelous thing? Wasn’t that trust amazing?)

“Yeah, sure,” they said out-loud, instead of all the mushy, gushy, horribly emotional things they had been thinking. “I’m fine with that.”

“Same,” Temmie put in, a lazy expression on their face like this had nothing to do with them, even though Chara could see the spark of hope behind it.

Blue brightened, and turned to look up at Slim. Chara didn’t know why he bothered - he could have probably asked Slim to go break down the barrier at this point and the other skeleton would have done his damnedest to accomplish it.

“sounds good,” he drawled, and Chara almost laughed at the way he had the same lazy, careless air about him as Temmie did.

Instead, they decided to reiterate their earlier question, though it now had a new flavor to it.

“Do you have any idea where we should go?”

Blue’s expression turned mischievous. “Oh, I have a few ideas.”

...

Frisk stared listlessly out the window. It was hard to do anything else, with the oppressive air in the house.

Toriel… Toriel was kind. She always had been. But it had been a very long time since Frisk had truly known her, had been able to call her mother. She so desperately wanted Frisk to stay with her, to be a family, and Frisk hadn’t been able to bring themself to say no.

Now, they really, really wished they’d had.

Even though Frisk had been through this whole process many times, for the rest of them (or at least most), this was all new.

It was difficult for Frisk to be around them, to see Alphys still so nervous and upset, crushed over losing her job as the Royal Scientist, rather than the fantastic, supremely talented robotics engineer that she would become in the future. It was difficult to see Undyne, who was friendly enough with them, and yet still suspicious, still disliking humans when she would eventually become the greatest police chief that the town of Ebott had ever seen.

The worst one was Asgore. Worse than Mettaton, who was back to being a distant friend instead of the doting uncle that Frisk remembered him being, worse than even Toriel, who couldn’t help but treat Frisk as a replacement for her own lost children, whether she meant to or not.

No, Asgore was the worst, because Asgore was afraid. Afraid to hurt them, afraid to be near them. This was not the Asgore that Frisk had called Dad, and they weren’t sure if they would ever call him that again.

They had gone through the Underground, sparing everyone and making things right. And it was all on their own this time, no outside influences involved. And sure, Sans (and Papyrus, to a certain extent) had not believed in their intentions, and threatened them on more than one occasion, but Frisk had long since given up on the skeleton brothers. They had tried, many times, to explain that they hadn’t been in control of themself during those awful times, but they were never believed.

(Blue had understood. He hadn’t condemned them for something that, again, they could not control.)

Frisk didn’t truly blame them - but it did cause this whole house party to be excruciatingly painful.

Sans was sitting in a corner, glaring at them as if he expected them to pull out a knife at any second, and Papyrus kept interrupting anyone who seemed like they were going to go over and talk to Frisk.

All in all, this was a horror show.

Frisk just wanted… they wanted their family back. But that was never going to happen, was it?

With a sigh, they stood from their chair and made their way outside, mumbling some half-hearted excuse to Toriel when she tried to stop them.

When they left, walking to the little park down the street, they wondered what was stopping them from just going.  

What was keeping them here? A family that didn’t exist? Memories that were no longer real?

...It just wasn’t fair.

They sat down on a park bench, head in their hands. A moment later, someone sat down next to them.

“Whew, you sure walk fast, huh?”

Frisk’s head snapped up, ready to tell whoever had followed them to just leave them alone, when they noticed who it was.

Blue the skeleton, smiling brightly, was looking back at them, with Slim, Chara, and Temmie by his side.

Chapter Text

Slim knew better than to laugh, but he could immediately see the moment that Blue began to panic, and it was right about when Frisk took one look at him and promptly burst into tears.

He’d flailed for a moment, clearly unsure of what he was supposed to do here, when Chara became impatient and gave him a little shove in Frisk’s direction.

“Go on and make yourself useful,” they said imperiously, and to his credit, Blue only hesitated a second longer before he gently placed his arms around Frisk, the child collapsing against him in a sobbing heap.

“Um, there... there?” He said, looking up at Slim desperately for help.

Slim only smiled back - Blue had this handled.

And he did; he sat there for what must have been twenty minutes, simply allowing Frisk to cry on him as he said soothing things.

When they finally quieted down, sniffling slightly, Blue pulled back and looked them right in the eye.

“I won’t ask you if you’re okay, because the answer to that seems obvious,” he said seriously. “So instead I’ll just ask this; is there something I can help you with? Something that we can do? Even if it’s just sitting here for a while longer, that’s fine. It’s all up to you, Frisk.”

Frisk took in a shuddering breath, and gave the group a weak smile.

“N-No, it’s okay. I’m okay. I’ve just been... rather upset lately.”

“Yes, that seems clear,” Temmie said scathingly, but they jumped up onto the bench and into Frisk’s lap, making themself comfortable.

Frisk didn’t seem to mind it, actually reaching down and petting the little toy’s fur, so Slim didn’t interfere. Besides, he knew that Temmie would never be able to resist a crying Frisk, and especially not one that they were already fond of.

Chara moved to Frisk’s other side and sat down heavily, giving Frisk a piercing look.

“Well, what’s got you all upset for?” They said, crossing their arms over their chest. It was clear that they wouldn’t be leaving without an answer. “You know that you’ll never get out of it now, not after that busybody’s seen you.”

They gestured at Blue with that last sentence, and the skeleton in question only shrugged. It was true enough.

Slim sat down next to Blue, knowing that he was probably intimidating Frisk by just standing over them like that. He looked to see them peering over at him, probably wanting to know his opinion.

He gave them his best attempt at gentleness, smiling encouragingly.

The child perked up - so much like Chara, so hurt and so overwhelmingly desperate for any sign of care, and sat a little straighter, drying their eyes.

“Well... y’see, I - “

“what is this?”

The voice interrupted Frisk’s stuttering attempts to explain, and Slim’s hackles immediately rose at the clear anger in that tone. Even more than anger - there was hate.

They all looked over, and what must have been the Sans of this timeline was approaching, Papyrus by his side. While Sans had his hands in his pockets, expression absolutely stormy, Papyrus was wringing his hands nervously, glancing back and forth between the two groups with clear worry.

“Oh, hello!” Blue said, jumping up to hold out his hand to the newcomer. Slim knew him well enough by now to know that his smile was fake, and even knew him well enough to spot the cold calculation hidden in his eyelights. “It’s marvelous to meet you. I’m Blue, this is Slim, Temmie, and Chara. We’re friends of Frisk.”

“no shit,” Sans sneered, and Slim watched as Blue’s expression went from vaguely friendly to arctic. “what are you? how did you get here?”

Then, Sans turned on Frisk, which Slim could have told him was absolutely the worst possible idea at this moment.

“what did you do?” he demanded, stepping forward as if he wanted to loom over the poor kid - he was only stopped by Blue being in his way, and that didn’t seem to deter him much.

“I - I didn’t - “ Frisk looked afraid.

That was enough for Slim to act. He stood up, revealing his true height - far taller than this Papyrus, and definitely taller than Sans. His looming, understandably, was much more effective.

“now, that’s no way to talk to the savior of monsterkind,” he said quietly, but with clear censure.

Sans backed up a step, his brother hovering over his shoulder anxiously, but he regained his courage quickly.

“i don’t know what you’ve been told, but that thing is no savior,” he spat.

It was honestly quite unnerving - Slim had never seen a look like that on his brother’s face, or on Blue’s face; a look of complete and utter hatred.

Chara, on the bench, bristled when Frisk flinched, and they opened their mouth, clearly about to say something very disparaging and make the whole situation worse, when Blue interfered.

“Sans,” he said quietly, with a voice like steel. “This is not something we’re going to agree on. I suggest that from now on, for your own health and Frisk’s, that you do not interact with each other.”

Sans reared back as if Blue had punched him, unable to comprehend what he was saying, or maybe the way he’d said it. Papyrus had his hands covering his mouth, and Slim thought that maybe he’d known that this would happen, at least someday.

“what, i - “ Sans stuttered. “you can’t tell me what to do!”

Blue gave off an air of being very unimpressed, and Slim resisted chuckling when he realized it was the same aura he had when Chara was trying to convince him that no, really, one more chocolate bar couldn’t hurt.

“You can’t tell me that you think this is healthy, Sans,” he said, and Slim would have thought he’d be gentle about it, but there was nothing but resolve in his posture this time. “I know that you think you need to stick around to keep an eye on Frisk, or whatever, but it’s not doing you any favors. The timeline isn’t going to RESET, not anymore. I think it’s about time for you to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. And, Papyrus,” the tall skeleton flinched when Blue’s attention turned on him, “I think it would be a good idea for you think about what your best choice here, is. Wallowing won’t solve anything, especially not when you keep digging into the open wound.”

Then, leaving both of the skeleton brothers gaping, Blue turned back to Frisk, holding out his hand.

Slim nudged the child gently, encouraging them to take it, and they did so after sending a wide-eyed look in Slim’s direction.

“We’re looking to buy a house in the area, Frisk,” Blue said, and now all of his gentleness was out on display. “Would you have any recommendations for us?”

Frisk was laughing and crying and looked like they wanted to collapse on the spot, but still, they nodded.

Chapter Text

Morning was always an awful rush in their household. Blue didn’t really understand it, because it wasn’t like any of them had somewhere urgent to be, but still, someone was always running late, someone was always waiting for the bathroom, and someone was always coming back in at the last second to grab something they’d forgotten.

“Frisk, be careful!” He called out, watching with a mix of exasperation and amusement as the child - once again - tripped over the last two steps of the stairs. At this point, that was also part of the morning routine.

“Sorry Blue!” they answered with a wave, rushing into the kitchen in search of something to eat. “I’m almost late for the bus!”

“I know, just watch your feet,” Blue said, knowing that he sounded unbearably fond.

Frisk grinned back at him, taking a bite out of their apple as they rushed out the door. “Be back soon!”

Blue turned to watch them run down the street, a bubbling happiness emerging from inside him.

Frisk didn’t live with them officially, especially since their group still sometimes took off for a day or two to help out another timeline, but everyone knew that it was in name only. Toriel, when Blue had met her, had been particularly teary about it, but had confessed that she had difficulty connecting with Frisk, and if Blue could do that, then she was grateful, no matter how much it pained her.

The others had all been quite accepting, most of them not even bothering to question the fact that two skeletons and one unusually literate Temmie had appeared out of nowhere. Chara, for obvious reasons, avoided the older monsters of this timeline, and when Blue had been asked, well -

He had... kind of panicked, said their name was Kris, and that they were very shy and didn’t like to go outside much, which Chara had understood the necessity of but had still pouted at him for. He assured them that when they got a bit older, they would be free to walk around as they wished. Though it felt vaguely wrong to say it, or even think it, well - the Chara of this timeline had never been given the chance to grow beyond their childhood. Once Chara got older, any similarities between the two could be written off as a coincidence.

Blue heard someone else tromping down the stairs, and hid a smile. Speak of the devil...

“I don’t understand why Frisk gets so worked up,” Chara said through a yawn, hand lifted to cover their mouth. “It’s not like they’re the one that needs to catch the bus every morning.”

“They like to go see Monster Kid before school starts,” Blue reminded them, and grinned at Temmie’s little scoff.

Chara just shrugged, stumbling into the kitchen and promptly rummaging through the cabinet for their morning cereal. They had sulked for weeks when Blue had refused to get the double-chocolate flakes kind, but they seemed to have gotten over it by now.

Still, though, Chara had done a good job of reminding him - Blue leaned back against the sofa, thinking about what they should do today.

Chara and Frisk both had a home tutor, who was only around for half the day; eight am to noon. After that, Blue or Slim or both of them would take the kids out for some kind of educational field trip. How educational it really was tended to depend on who was taking them, of course.

Blue had been rather hesitant about it at first - not that he didn’t think Chara and Frisk were capable, no, he knew that they could both doubtlessly do any level of schoolwork and be fine. But he had worried about them socially, since he knew that interacting with their peers more would probably do both of them some good.

But after he and Slim had talked to the kids about it, and then both Toriel and Asgore for advice, they had decided that this was their best course of action. 

Frisk had been through public school enough times that they could recite every lesson in their sleep, and they hardly needed help making friends. Chara, on the other hand, would benefit a lot more from one-on-one teaching, and even they could admit that entering any sort of public arena should probably wait until the kid had some therapy under their belt. Both of them, to be honest.

To help encourage them, Blue and Slim had set up some therapy sessions of their own, and had been pleasantly surprised about how much it helped. For obvious reasons they wouldn’t tell the therapist the full truth of their pasts, but even just talking about emotions and bad habits and other things that they had been trying to train themselves out of was immensely useful.

Even though Chara still didn’t go to public school, they were a lot more steady in themself, and Blue couldn’t be more grateful.

Just as he was reminiscing on all of this, he felt the couch cushion suddenly dip beside him, and he leaned over without thinking.

Slim, still in his white undershirt from the day before, rumbled tiredly, pressing his skull against the top of Blue’s as he relaxed.

“good morning,” Slim mumbled, and Blue couldn’t have stopped his smile if he tried.

“Good morning,” he whispered back, not wanting to break the cozy atmosphere they had cultivated.

While Slim dozed off against him and Chara (loudly, and pointedly) poured out their disliked cereal, Blue reveled in the home that he had created.

He thought, for a moment, that he could feel the ghost of his brother sitting by him, the ghost of Alphys and the Queen and everyone else that he had lost in order to get this far.

He thought that they would be proud of him, happy for what he had gained. He imagined, for just a split-second, that his brother was smiling down at him just as he always had, all the tiredness and pain gone from his face.

Then, the front door slammed open as Frisk came back inside, already chattering away about what Monster Kid had told them before they’d had to leave, and the spell was broken.

That was alright, though. Blue didn’t need to cling to ghosts anymore.

A gentle hand gripped his chin, and Slim tugged his head up to give him a kiss, soft and sweet.

“today,” Slim said, after they’d separated, “we should bring the kids to the natural history museum.”

Blue blinked, and then pushed him away, laughing despite himself.

“Now way!” He scolded through his giggles. “We did that for the last three times you picked!”

Slim looked unrepentant. “well, they change their exhibits all the time, you know.”

Blue laughed again, and the three children piled into the room, already arguing about one thing or another.

This, too, was part of their morning routine.