Author's Note: I don't usually write for something immediately after seeing it, but by-gosh-by-golly if Coco didn't make me feel emotions. I had to write for it. Tonight. I think this is the fastest I've written anything before. It's not long and it's probably not the best, but I hope that you enjoy!
I'm not the best at Spanish: if you see an error, please let me know so that I can fix it? Thanks!
Also, spoilers, I suppose? Why are you reading fanfiction if you haven't watched the movie?
The sun had risen. The fiesta was over. Everyone had gone back to normal, yet still a-chatter about the amazing revelations of that night. Already the papers were calling it an 'unforgettable' Dia de los Muertos, the kind that would 'live in infamy for centuries to come'.
Héctor Rivera didn't care much about infamy. He was just happy that he still existed in this part of his afterlife. He'd had plenty of time to think about the Final Death, to, as he'd heard one soul put it 'resign himself to his fate'. But he hadn't wanted to go, hadn't wanted to take the same journey as Chicharrón. Sure, he'd played it off to Miguel as something inevitable, painless and constantly looming over the horizon. But it wasn't inevitable… unless you were a guttersnipe like himself.
He sat alone in his usual haunt, overlooking the slummy bungalows where the Forgotten lived their lives as best they could, indulging in what worldly pleasures they could beg—or swipe—from the souls who had families to remember them. It was a life without physical pain or torments, but the emotional hurt was still there.
He didn't belong here anymore, did he? He wasn't forgotten; the fact that he was here, in the moment, holding Chicharrón's guitar was proof enough. Miguel, his boy—how was his progeny such a good, resourceful child? It made him proud beyond belief, that the boy somehow had gotten Coco to remember her papá. His photograph was lost, and he could probably never cross over the bridge to the land of the living, but… that was fine. As long as he was remembered, he could wait for her. For them.
He ran his gentle fingers over the guitar, finding the same chords he'd known for as long as he could remember. Playing was as easy as breathing, but playing with heart—well, that depended on his mood. And right now, he played sadness, and grief, and heartbreak. He sighed, bony legs swinging off the edge of his perch as he gazed up to the bright lights of the main city, and the darkness of the sky beyond. He let the words fall from his mouth naturally, a soft, winding tune with no melody that spoke of world-weariness and a beautiful woman, unwittingly hurt by a man who was never able to make it home.
"I'm still angry at you, you know." The guitar flew from his hands as he jumped; he scrambled, overcompensating as he fought his now-clumsy hands for the instrument lest it break into pieces on the hard ground below. His slippery fingers found hold and he clutched the guitar to his chest, only to slip from his seat and land on his head at the feet of his love, his darling, his amada.
"Torpe." He pulled himself back together quickly, backing against the wall with a hesitant grin.
"I-I-Imelda! I didn't hear you come up, I—how did you find me?" She eyed him with her usual no-nonsense glare, the frankness that had so enamored him from the first moment she called him 'idiot' in the town square.
"I asked "Have you seen Héctor?" and followed the trail until I ended up here." She threw her hand out, as though gathering all of 'here' in a big pile, all of it beneath her and not worthy of being gazed upon. He assumed she gathered him up with the rest of it as well, and shrank into the stone wall.
"Ah, yes, well: What can your one true love do for you?" he asked, trying to draw himself up to a manly, presentable height. He wasn't planning on letting her live those words down anytime soon; they had been spoken out of anger and adrenaline, which meant they'd come from the heart. He got a cold glare for that, but gave a wink in return. He knew just what had enamored her, too. Her frown lessened, only just, and he knew that had she still flesh and blood, a blush would have been burning on her cheeks.
"Don't play fresh." She scowled, blinking a little too fast as she turned away. "I just came to… to…." She took a deep breath. "To say that I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" Instantly his heart, as soft as it was already, melted even more. His beautiful little wife… he wanted nothing more than to gather her up, kiss her again and again, drowning out all her protests until her sorrows were forgotten. It amazed him, how despite being a skeleton she was still the most beautiful creature he could imagine. His yearning for her hadn't faded just because she'd lost her soft skin and warm curves. In fact, it seemed only to grow with every glowering frown, every instance of his name from her lips. And he was just bony enough to suit her now, wasn't he?
"Sí, is there dirt in your ears?! Sorry, I'm saying sorry!" Oh, she would most certainly be blushing now, all flushed and indignant, wanting him to leave her alone. Mi amada, mi sirena, te amo….
"Yes, but why?" He tilted his head, trying to see around her shoulder without moving from the relative safety of the stone wall. "I've already told you that it's my fault. I should have known Ernesto would try to do something… he was always so, so changeable, always clawing for the top, he—" He shook his head, disgusted both at the greedy man and his own naivety.
"I know that," she snapped, crossing her arms. "It's… I'm sorry that I wanted Coco to forget you. A daughter shouldn't have to forget her father, especially when he was a good a father to her as you were. Even after I came here, and I realized what forgetting meant… what it really meant… I still wanted her to forget you. I wanted you to not exist. I was—I was glad to think that you would face the Final Death."
"Y-you were?" That seemed harsh, even coming from his Imelda. But then again… hadn't he deserved it? Dropping dead without even so much as a farewell? He hadn't written to them in some time, wanting his homecoming to be a surprise. What a selfish, foolish act! He deserved every torpe and calaca and tonto she threw at him. "But, but now—?" She rounded on him, as fiery as ever.
"Of course not now! I thought you had gone rogue and left us for some grand vision of your own, I thought you were playing in some plaza for coins, I thought you had forsaken us to drink wine in some big ballroom, I thought… I thought…." She blinked even faster, eyes glistening with unshed tears. "I thought you'd found some other woman, some prettier—nicer—"
"Imelda, cariño—" The guitar was forgotten, leaned askew against the wall as he stopped fighting the impulse and gathered her in a tight embrace. As he had predicted, her arms immediately pushed against him, turning her face the same way she always had, whenever he tried to make up with her after being gone one night too long.
"Get off me, you goat! Let me go, ¡Suéltame!"
"Ime—Imelda, stop it." He kissed her forehead, her cheeks, anywhere that he could reach without getting slapped. It was an ongoing struggle, but a halfhearted one; she wasn't trying to land any real blows. She wasn't even trying all that hard to free herself. "What woman could compare to you, mi sirena?"
"Don't you call me that!" She shoved even harder at his chest, chin wobbling. "Plenty of women could!"
"They could not." He ran his hand along her jaw, lifting her chin so that she had no choice but to look him in the eye. "There's only one woman in all the world for me, and that's Imelda Rivera."
"No… hush, listen—"
"You listen. No llores, no tears." He kissed her, the way he'd been wanting to since their reunion, when he played and she sang the way they used to. He was all teeth and no tongue (quite literally), but she didn't seem to mind in the slightest. For a moment he was a human again, embracing his flesh and blood wife, working hard to fulfill his dreams for her; he'd give her everything her heart desired, the newest dresses, the fanciest home, he'd sing for her every evening on their balcony and their daughter would live in the lap of luxury, just the way he always planned for them.
"Héctor, Héctor." She'd always been the one to give commands, never follow them; tears ran down her cheeks, dripping between her ribs and staining her dress with little dots. "I lost my faith in you… you can't forgive me for that."
"I can and I do, my love."
"You stubborn old—" She shook her head slowly, words lost on her trembling breaths. "I… fine. But I can't forgive myself for that." He pressed his forehead to hers, breathing in—wishful thinking?—the smell of their old home, of her laundry soap, the unique fragrance of her skin.
"We've all the time in the world for that," he assured her. She sighed, leaning against him, melting into him as she finally gave in, arms circling his neck and pulling him closer. They were a thousand memories at once, young and on their first date, in the wake of their first kiss, at the chapel where they were married, their Coco, their sweetest song, between them first in her stomach, then in her arms. Then he opened his eyes and they were here, in the moment, neither of them forgotten by their families… or each other.
"M… mi amor," she whispered softly, almost shyly, only the faintest traces of exasperation showing around her eye sockets.
"If I play… will you sing for me?" he asked hopefully, nodding to the guitar. She looked at it, mouth tightening.
"You… you were doing a good job of it yourself." She moved her arms down to his back, her head resting over the empty ribcage where his heart once beat—still beat, in the figurative sense. "Sing for me, Héctor."
He held her close, cheek resting against the soft curve of her hair, and sang her a song of love.