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Cheating Death

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When The Three Caballeros rehearsed, it rarely involved… Rehearsing. Music, sure, sometimes, but not for the sake of preparing for future performances. More commonly, it involved Panchito playfully shooting up the building – “Makes it look lived-in, no?” – as José and Donald debated something, José remaining cool and calm while Donald worked himself into a frenzy. This could go on for hours, but when Panchito stopped shooting for longer than it would take to dodge a piece of falling debris, the other two knew something was up.

“Panchito, meu amigo, is everything-“ But the parrot stopped talking upon turning around. He and Donald stared, beaks agape, at the tall, dark figure that loomed over their friend.

“My daredevil friend, you have been cheating death for too long.”

“Xibalba,” Panchito finally managed to get out. “I-I do not know- This is all because I dodge the building as it falls on me?”

“Now, now, don’t play coy. You’ve participated in a number of risky stunts that, by all accounts, should have killed you. I don’t like to collect the dead by force,” Xibalba said in a tone that suggested, perhaps, he actually did, “but now it’s time for me to give you that little touch that will take you to the other side.”

Panchito gulped, and José rushed towards Xibalba, taking a reluctant Donald with him. “Senhor Xibalba, surely if Panchito has managed to evade death so often, he has earned his unlikely, long life!”

“Y-Yeah,” Donald squawked, without his usual venom. He could not ever remember being more frightened, and he wasn’t even sure who this Xibalba was.

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, boys.” Xibabla had the good grace to look apologetic – Very, very briefly.

Because after that he looked like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. José, Donald, and Panchito turned to see a skeletal but beautiful woman dressed in red. She did not look pleased.

“What are you doing?” she asked Xibalba, swooping closer.

“Well, you see, mi amor-“

“We have discussed the case of Panchito Quintero González III,” the woman said coldly.

“I, ah, prefer Panchito Pistoles,” Panchito spoke up. José glared and elbowed him in the ribs. “Well, I do!”

“Hush.” José looked back to the woman in red, and smiled charmingly. “Mulher bonita, do you mean to save our friend?”

“Of course, José,” she said softly, leaning down towards the three Birds. “I am La Muerte, and I rule over the Land of the Remembered. I will be happy to host Panchito one day, but,” she glared up at Xibalba, kindness gone, “not today.”

“Just because Panchito’s bravery is extraordinary, I don’t see why he should be spared what fate clearly has in store for him,” Xibalba pouted.

“We have discussed it,” said La Muerte, her voice growing more gentle as she moved around the Birds and over to Xibalba, cupping his face in her hands. “Mi amor, this is not a battle you can win, I promise,” she whispered. “And in years to come, you will be celebrated for sparing Panchito’s life.”

“Why?” Donald asked. Panchito gave him a dirty look. “I didn’t mean it like that!”

“You’ll see, Donald,” La Muerte laughed, before returning her attention to Xibalba. “Please, darling, let us not make this another war.”

Xibalba sighed. “Very well, then. I will continue to overlook Panchito’s transgressions against death.”

La Muerte smiled, then kissed him, and The Three Caballeros made surprised and confused sounds. She laughed again. “We should be going, mi amor.”

And just like that, they disappeared.

“What just happened?” Donald asked, quickly getting into his usual angry state.

“It would seem that bigger things have plans for our friend Panchito,” José said, sounding unfazed by the oddness.

“Not just I, surely!” Panchito insisted. “For we are The Three Caballeros, and our stories are intertwined! Our adventures will be taken together! All for one and one for all!”

“That’s The Three Musketeers,” Donald pointed out flatly.