La Noche wasn't easy to find; Lithe and ethereal where La Muerte was vivid and strong, she often glided along the moonlight rays and strolled in the places mortals had forgotten. Something about neglect and loneliness called to her, it seemed.
It had been three nights of fruitless search until La Muerte finally found her, sitting along the half-demolished wall of a temple long since left to rot in the thicket.
"I think I'll tie huesos de fraile on your sandals" she called out still from afar. La Noche turned to her, an amused smile making way through her lips.
"I like being hard to find. It's been a while, hermanita, come sit with me" she needn't say it twice, in a blink, La Muerte was sitting next to her, gazing down on the small town starting to spread at the skirts of the hill where the ancient temple once stood "It would seem everyone's forgotten this is here. I wondered how long it would take"
La Muerte took in the way nature had reclaimed its rightful place around them.
"Well, the people who came here to worship them is gone now" she muttered pensively.
"Gone?" La Noche let out an amused noise "What a nice way to put it. Cleansed out like vermin by those men in glimmering coats! Mortals kill each other over things as petty as the language they speak or the color of their skin...oh, sorry, hermanita, I keep forgetting you dislike to hear these truths about your beloved pets" she added with an unapologetic smile in return for La Muerte's stern look "What did you want? Must be something important for you to want to talk to me"
"There's been a certain rumor among the Gods these days..." La Muerte slowly started, as if it wasn't important "Something about you having a new suitor?"
La Noche's smile twisted into something more snarl-like.
"You sound like you doubt it"
"That's not it" La Muerte bounced back in a breath, but she knew La Noche wasn't completely wrong. Her bitterness and capricious behavior where so big that La Muerte couldn't grasp why anyone would want to pursue after her, except for the obvious, the beauty she possessed. It was not unheard of "What caught my attention was how...insistent he's said to be"
"Ohh, that" La Noche conceded, making a hand motion that meant she found the matter unimportant "He's sort of a mula, yes"
La Muerte stole a sidewards glance at her sister and took a breath, bracing herself.
"Candlemaker said it was Xibalba, the last of the Ancient Lords of the Underworld"
"He is the last, then?" La Noche asked, half-surprised, half-amused "And here I thought he was just saying that for show..."
But before she'd even finished saying it, La Muerte got to her feet, staring at her sister with alarm.
"Then it IS Xibalba" she cried.
"M-hm" La Noche nodded lazily, seemingly enjoying her reaction, and this fueled her indignation even further.
"Are you crazy, La Noche?! I never thought you could be this- this reckless!"
"Oh, I can understand why this would seem dangerous to you, hermanita. You lack the..." she trailed of, smiling quizzically "...qualities necessary to come out on top from this kind of situation"
She always did that, act like she were so infinitely superior than La Muerte, and it drove the latter furious every time. She had to take a few seconds to calm her anger, otherwise she would have ended pouncing on her sister as she had so often done on their younger years and both of them were already too old to allow themselves the indignity of it.
No, she had to calm down. La Noche thought so highly of herself that she barely pay heed to other people unless she thought it had anything to do with her or what she could earn by listening. Maybe it wasn't a matter of her being reckless but of being ignorant. La Muerte tried again, her voice calmer, patient:
"No, La Noche, look...this Xibalba- I've heard of him before! He's famous for being a foul, lying, cruel-!"
"Self-centered, anti-social, temperamental cabrón. Did I forget anything?" looking at La Muerte's indignant, wide-mouthed shock, she continued, heartily "Ay, La Muerte, allow me to be frank with you, if only because right now you look beyond disgusted"
'As if! Whatever she's going to say, I'd wager anything she was bursting to boast about it...'
"The truth is, I have no intention to return his affections" La Noche said, smiling as if she knew just what was crossing her sister's mind.
La Muerte would have breathed out in relief if that unnerving smile had not still been on her sister's face.
"I don't...wait- is he harassing you, then?" she staggered. Ancient God or not, if he was pressing unwanted feelings on La Noche, he'd be sent back to the hole he'd crawled out from faster than anyone could say 'Madres!' As insufferable as La Noche was, she was still family.
"Not exactly" La Noche laughed in her low, silky voice "Um, how to put this...? He doesn't know"
"What?" La Muerte mouthed a few times, before closing her eyes in defeat, pinching the bridge of her nose. She felt like trying to have a conversation with a monolith would have been less frustrating "A ver, La Noche, you lost me. Explain. Now"
"It's simple" La Noche replied, in the tone of one who talks to a remarkably unintelligent audience "I never said no, but I didn't say yes either"
"He would stop coming after me if I did. Did I forget to say he's ridiculously arrogant?"
"And what do you care? You're not interested!"
"He's...amusing. In my line of work, one can certainly use a good laugh. I get bored so easily..."
Oh, La Muerte knew that, alright. One of the main reasons why mortals where so afraid of the dark of the night was due to what her sister considered harmless fun. It ranged from approaching them under disguise to creep them out to whispering into their ears while they slept and giving them nightmares.
"And what's so amusing, if I may ask?" she all but groaned, knowing she wasn't going to like what she'll hear. La Noche's smile widened a couple of teeth.
"How easy it was to persuade him that enough insistence would get him somewhere! He's sure he can sweet-talk me into accepting him...I can tell that silver tongue of his is the only reason he's so popular, otherwise, it'd be simply unexplainable. He's ghastly to look at!" she shivered, disgusted.
"But, naturally, you pay no heed to his chatter, right?" La Muerte pressed on.
"Well..." La Noche purred.
"Oh, que la-"
"If you had someone tell you the kind of things he tells me, you'd be reluctant to let go too...but don't worry, hermanita, I'm not stupid enough to actually believe anythign of what he says!"
"I'm sure many of the others he's sweet-talked right into his hands started out that way"
"I have something they didn't"
La Muerte sighed, sure her sister was going to say something along the lines of 'Brains', never expecting what did come out of her mouth.
"He is actually in love with me"
A dry chuckle left La Muerte's lips, as she eyed La Noche, amused and the tiniest bit worried.
"Laugh if you want, it's true" La Noche assured, chin lifted in a dignified gesture.
"And you would know because..."
"It's obvious! The lengths he has gone to get my attention! Even when I make it clear it's not going to do anything, he just keeps insisting, he can't resist me"
"Alright, let's say I believe that – not because I think you're lying" she quickly added as La Noche opened her mouth to protest "But because this is a very accomplished liar we're talking about. Are you still going to drag him on and then drop him when he becomes boring? Even if it turns out he does love you?"
There was a pause during which she dared to hope her sister was pondering her words, but when said sister broke into a long, mocking laugh, it was clear this wasn't the case.
"And why on earth not?" La Noche said, once she was able to regain her breath.
La Muerte stared for her for a long moment, eyes incredulous and disappointed. She had always known her sister was not exactly kind, but the actual lengths she was willing to go to avoid boredom surprised and saddened her each time.
"...ay no, don't start" La Noche suddenly groaned, and when La Muerte turned to see her, she was rolling her eyes, seeming unamused "I know that look all too well, my sweet, kind-hearted, Santa hermanita. You aren't actually taking pity on that tar and feather old goat, are you?"
And as a matter of fact, she was. It was really sad to imagine that ancient, lonely God placing all he could at her sister's feet just for her to trample over without so much as a thought...but she crossed her arms and shook her head after a short pondering. No. Even if it did turn out Xibalba was genuinely in love with La Noche -and she was almost sure he didn't- someone so awful could merely be reaping what they sowed, being dragged into La Noche's little game.
"Chances are you deserve each other" she dryly said.
Taking in account there wasn't really anything to do about it and how La Noche's reaction to her interrogatory had gone, La Muerte decided to put her mind off the matter and focus on other things. It worked, watching humans as they went on their lives and afterlives made keeping her sister off her mind easy. She didn't even think of it again until, sometime later, she was greeted into her castle, back from the busy streets of the Land of the Remembered by a La Noche slouched out across her throne as if it were a divan.
"I'd appreciate if you'd remove yourself from there this instant" she hissed, walking past her and to the pantry that contained her best tequila. She could tell she was going to need a drink. La Noche obeyed, teleporting off the throne quickly...too quickly.
"My dear La Muerte" she called in an unusually sweet voice, walking towards her with an equally unusual smile, arms spread. La Muerte did a double take and stiffened when her sister's arms wrapped around her "How good to see you again"
"What do you want?"
"You are about to ask something of me" La Muerte dryly said, gently unprying her arms from her and taking a step back "Out with it. What is it?"
"No- I'm appalled!" La Noche placed a hand on her clavicle, reproachfully glancing at her sister in an all too theatrical fashion "That you insinuate the only reason I'd show myself gleeful at the sigh of my beloved twin sister would be if I were about to ask for a favor!"
"Oh, so it's a favor you want" La Muerte retorted, removing the lid from the tequila bottle and pouring some on the ornamented caballito without even bothering to raise her eyes to her sister until she was done, casually resting her hip against the pantry. La Noche seemed rather annoyed that she hadn't fallen for it, but stubbornly kept the smile in place.
"A small one" she unapologetically called, turning to walk to the table, eyes resting on the ornamented plates and it's contents, not in appetite, but calculating.
"Ajá. Let's hear it" La Muerte pressed on, before downing her caballito in one gulp and grimacing slightly. She knew the humans had yet to perfect the drink, but it was still rather good as it was.
"Well, you see..." La Noche started, her smile playful, a finger rolling a solitary grape over the plate "I need you to distract Xibalba for me"
La Muerte gasped as though she had received a pinch, stared at her sister for a second and proceeded to pour herself more tequila, shaking her head.
"I must have heard wrong" she grumbled.
"Por favoooor!" La Noche moaned, teleporting to her side again, catching her arm and staring at her in exaggerated plea.
"Has he really become boring so quickly?" La Muerte incredulously snapped, putting down the caballito with such force that the drink spilled around it. She moved away, as if fearing contamination "It didn't take long, did it?"
"It's not my fault if things fail to keep me interested" La Noche defended, following her. La Muerte didn't miss her choice of words -things, as if suitors were no different from a board game or a toy- and she glowered at her sister above her shoulder.
"Then stop this foolish game and tell him how you feel!"
La Noche made a face as though she were asked to do something she didn't have the interest of patience to do.
"I can't...not yet, anyway"
"And why, in the name of the Gods, NOT-?!" she cut herself, hands making gestures to accentuate her anger "No, never mind, I'm not going to like the reply anyway"
"I have my reasons" La Noche assured with a fiddling in her thumbs that told her sister she was definitely not going to like them.
'Probably just waiting to see whether she's already got all there was to gain from Xibalba' La Muerte thought, jaw set, still fumingly strolling around the table, away from La Noche.
"And all I am asking is that you distract him a couple of hours!" La Noche called, teleporting right in front of her "Just a couple of hours, I swear that will be all"
"Not even for a couple of seconds" La Muerte curtly replied, turning her back on La Noche and teleporting to her throne. She had hoped that declaration would make La Noche realize her request had fallen on deaf ears, but soon, La Noche was next to her again, her usual, unnerving smile twisting her lips.
"Well then..." she called softly "How about we play a little game instead?"
La Muerte didn't reply. She knew her sister's little games all too well, they hardly ever ended up nicely.
"And this time, it can be your favorite game" La Noche purred, resting on the throne so that she was inches away from her sister's ear "A wager"
La Muerte felt herself straightening up in interest, hands contracting slightly over the arms of the throne, spine tense.
"I'm listening" she whispered despite herself, after a short silence.
"Ah" La Noche triumphantly cawed "It's nice to see you never did get over this little addiction of yours" but she seemed to realize she was pushing her luck, because she hurriedly added, teleporting to La Muerte's other side "Bien, hermanita, hear me out. Right now, Xibalba is searching for me in the surroundings of that little town humans built on top of your Kingdom. San, um...San..."
"Yes, whatever. I propose to you that I show myself before him and start him on a chase around the town" as she talked, she strolled around the table casually "You'll be there too-"
"Me?" La Muerte got to her feet, following her sister without noticing.
"Yes, you. Hiding and running from him, the same as me"
"Hermanita, most of the Gods who have known us for decades still have troubles telling us apart. I highly doubt Xibalba doesn't...after you've left that" she motioned for her sister's sombrero "Behind, of course, I'm convinced the only reason you have it is so we don't look so much alike"
La Muerte twisted her mouth with an angry huff. So typical from her sister to assume everything she did had to do with her.
"Here's were things get interesting" La Noche continued, leaning on the table to shoot her a mischievous glance "Xibalba won't know which one of us is me, so he'll most likely chase us both, and I wager that out of the two of us, you'll be the only one who'll get caught"
La Muerte tried to laugh and render La Noche's words impactless, but her mouth felt suddenly dry. The whole thing sounded foolish and...exciting. Definitely, La Noche knew her weaknesses too well.
"And the stakes?" she half-reluctantly pressed, taking a few steps towards her sister, but still keeping enough distance not to appear eager.
"If I win, you will keep Xibalba out of my hair for at least a couple of hours" La Noche was positively beaming. La Muerte was suddenly sure she'd had this wager in mind since their conversation started "Not only now, but whenever I ask you to... at least until he's stopped chasing after me"
La Muerte froze on her spot. She was being played, she knew it...oh, but the idea in itself was entertaining! And she and La Noche were so evenly matched...the odds were good for either of them, really, despite La Noche's obvious insinuation that she was quicker than La Muerte.
"Very well" she agreed, a little annoyed at how triumphant La Noche already seemed "But, if I win, you will do the responsible thing and explain Xibalba you are not interested in him"
La Noche made a face for a second, but sighed and held out her hand all the same.
"Then, by the ancient rules, the wager is set" La Muerte recited, placing her hand on her sister's and shaking it.
C.C (A) The Author here.
Yeah, I wanted to make my version of Gravepainters meeting and falling in love. This will most likely be rendered unaccurate by Jorge R. Gutierrez's tweets but I still really wanna write it, so to heck with it, I'M DOING IT!
On a different note, I KNOW there are other multi-chapters I should update (Only Human, Who dares to love forever) I promise I'm working on them too!
Comments would be lovely