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Fanfic / Down to Dust

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After it all came crashing down, Ernesto’s to-do list is short: stay hidden, and wait for the Final Death. Héctor’s is even shorter: enjoy being with his family again. But life - or rather, the living - will get in the way even of the simplest plans.

Down to Dust by Pengychan is a fanfic based on Pixar's Coco. The story focuses on Ernesto de la Cruz after his crimes as a liar and a murderer are revealed to the Land of the Dead, leaving him as a hopeless wanderer with nothing to do but wait for his Final Death. But everything changes when he is presented with an opportunity to strike back against the Rivera family one last time for revenge.


Has a side story, named The Heaven and Earth Series. It focuses on the adventures of Héctor and Ernesto as children. Lighter and Softer than the main story, but with foreshadowing and a Foregone Conclusion. It also has a sequel based on an alternate continuity named The Bedside Ghost.

The fanfiction is built heavily on spoilers from the movie. Thus, all spoilers will be unmarked.

Tropes in Down To Dust include:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Ezequiel del Rio goes by the nickname "Cheque" while Ernesto takes up the name "Neto" when he meets Cheque.
  • The Alcoholic: Ernesto has taken up drinking after his career flushed down the toilet.
  • Arc Words: "You thought he would never, until he did". Socorro says it to herself after she finds out the most negative traits about Cheque and realizes she didn't knew him as much as she thought making Héctor realize he didn't knew Ernesto as well, considering they were best friends, but Ernesto still killed him in the past anyway. Héctor repeats it at the end of the fic when he finds out Ernesto is suicidal and wants the final death.
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  • Ascended Extra: Coco was always an important character in the movie, but now she's given a more active role here as she participates in the search for Cheque and contributes to helping him learn about his family history. And is the one who convinces Ernesto to give the blessing to Socorro.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Cheque. Despite his mutism and adorable appearance, he isn't afraid of using these traits to manipulate others in order to help himself. He pulls off a lost child act in order to fool several thugs who captured Ernesto followed by seriously harming them during the rescue. Played for Drama when Socorro recalls an event in school where she realizes that Cheque was responsible for pushing a bully down a flight of stairs resulting in a broken arm and was able to get away unpunished.
  • Black Comedy: At the epilogue, when Ernesto makes a passing joke about Héctor's death by poison, Cheque finds it funny despite knowing what Ernesto did in the past. Héctor is understandably creeped out by this.
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  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Ernesto needs a few tries before he correctly remembers which of his romantic flings was Cheque's great-great-grandmother. Even after Hector brings her up by name. It's only after he calls her by her nickname that Ernesto remembers.
    Héctor: Mariquita, Ernesto! I’m talking about Mariquita!
    Ernesto: Mariquita? Oh! Of course I remember Mariquita! Why didn’t you say that right away? Who ever called her by her full name?
    Héctor: Everyone except you, really.
  • Continuity Nod: To the author's prequel fic, "The Heaven and Earth Series".
    • Cheque calls Ernesto "Neto", just like Héctor used to do when he was a toddler and couldn't pronounce Ernesto's name correctly. Also, Coco used to call him Tío Neto as a child.
    • The stream which used to be Héctor and Ernesto's playground in the prequel fic is mentioned.... The stream is gone and they built the road to Santa Cecilia on it.
    • When Héctor is reminescing about the now unexisting stream, he remembers how Ernesto almost drowned during the events of "Presagio". He also realizes that Ernesto's nightmare (about being crushed by a bell) back then was a premonitory dream.
    • Héctor briefly mentions that when he was young he used to be afraid of Esteban de la Cruz, who's Ernesto's father in that series.
    • Cheque uses his kid appeal sometimes to get what he wants, just like his great-great-grandfather Ernesto when he was young.
    • Ernesto tells Anita he was involved in the Mexican Revolution once, referring to the events of "Revolution".
    • When Héctor finds about Ernesto's suicidal thoughts and that Socorro set up an ofrenda for him but he rejected it beause he wanted to disappear, he gives him a Cooldown Hug to make him snap out of it. Just like Héctor did years ago in "Presagio" to make Ernesto snap out of his prophetic dream about his eventual death.
    • The fate of Esteban and Adela (Ernesto's parents) is revealed. After they died, they lived as guests in Ernesto's mansion, until they were forgotten in the living world and disappeared.
    • At the final confrontation between Ernesto and Héctor, there are fireworks in the sky. Just like in the night of their first meeting as toddlers in "Fireworks".
    • Also, don't call Ernesto "Ernestito" or "Tito".
  • Cute Mute: Socorro's friend Ezequiel or "Cheque" is mute and uses a whiteboard and marker to communicate. He is well aware that this trope applies to him and has few qualms about playing it up for his advantage.
  • Daddy's Girl: Despite her old age, Hector affectionately treats Coco as if she were a little girl. A Running Gag consists on Héctor covering Coco's ears everytime someone gets crap past the radar. Ernesto lampshades it in Chapter 11.
    Héctor: (covering Coco's ears) Ernesto! There is a child present!
  • Death of a Child: Chapter 2 has Socorro's friend Cheque being run over by an out of control truck.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Cheque. He knows exactly how he comes across to adults, and how to use it to his advantage. Even when Hector and others become aware of this, the fact that the boy does suffer from legitimate trauma and abandonment issues can make it difficult to tell whether he's being sincere or manipulative at any given time.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: The reason why Ernesto avoids the Riveras, besides his resentment for them (especially Miguel for ruining his plans) is that he doesn't want Héctor to pity him.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Socorro succesfully returns to the land of the living. She continues her normal lives with Miguel and makes an ofrenda for Cheque and Ernesto so they wouldn't vanish. Cheque is officially adopted by the Riveras, but he sneaks sometimes to visit Ernesto. And while Ernesto is still despised by the land of the dead and his friendship with Héctor will never be the same at least he isn't suicidal anymore, having learned to care and love for Cheque.
    • Bittersweet Ending: For Ernesto, at least. He ends up a shell of a man, a depressive drunkard plagued with suicidal thoughts and regret. However, he might have a chance at future salvation, particularly if Cheque continues to visit him.
  • Entitled to Have You / Disproportionate Retribution: What got Hector killed in the past. Héctor decides to stand up to Ernesto and put his own wishes (to return with Imelda and Coco) instead of what Ernesto wants for him (to continuing being a musical duo). Ernesto considered this a horribly cruel act of betrayal that Héctor had to be killed for.
    Héctor: I became a husband, I became a father, but that wasn’t important to you[...] No one was important to you but yourself. I mattered as long as I was yours - your best friend, your eternal little brother, your songwriter. Trying to be anything else amounted to betrayal. Am I right?
  • Flashback: There are several flashbacks that occur throughout the story that focus on the past of the deceased characters. Such as Héctor having the courage to talk to Imelda in their childhood or Coco falling in love with Julio for the first time. And several call-backs to The Heaven and Earth Series, a prequel fic about Héctor and Ernesto's childhood (See Continuity Nod above).
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Despite being murdered by him in the past, Héctor (after seeing Socorro and Cheque's friendship) realizes that he still cares about Ernesto and wants for him to let go of his depression and start over a new leaf. However, he also states that he will never forgive Ernesto for murdering him and a part of him still resents him somewhat. At the epilogue, he states that he wants Ernesto away from his life, but he still allows Cheque to visit him, since they're related and Ernesto cares about the boy. Despite the epilogue showing that they're starting to slowly get along again, it's clear that their friendship will never be the same.
  • Generation Xerox: 7 years after the epilogue, Miguel is living his dream of being a musician and writing his own songs, much like Papa Hector. Unlike Papa Héctor though when he first started, Miguel stays in close contact with his family and visits them on a regular basis.
    • When it's revealed that Cheque is the great-great-grandson of Ernesto de la Cruz, he is shown to have several of his grandfather's attributes such as his willingness to use lies to manipulate others and even brutal methods to severely harm anyone who stands in his way. Héctor becomes especially concerned about this, fearing that Cheque would betray Socorro, just like Ernesto betrayed him in the past.
      • And then averted in the end. When Cheque has the option to make Socorro stay in the land of the dead out of spite, in the end he decides that his friendship with Socorro is more important that his resentment.
      • As stated by the author, Cheque may have many worrying similarities to Ernesto in terms of personality traits, but his motivations and priorities are entirely his own, which makes all the difference.
    • At the epilogue chapter, Héctor sadly lampshades that Ernesto ended up like his father (Esteban de la Cruz, from The Heaven and Earth Series). Both became depressed alcoholics plagued with regret and guilt.
  • Hates Being Alone: Cheque grew up without friends, was abandoned by his father, and was separated from his mother at a young age. He had nobody throughout most of his childhood except his best friend Socorro (and they're eventually separated once Cheque dies and ends up in the land of the dead). One reason why he puts up with Ernesto is because he's the closest family he's ever had.
  • Hidden Depths: Anita, the matriarch of the underground alebrije fighting ring, is admitted to have fought in the revolution when she was alive. She is also shown to have helped Hector try to cross the marigold bridge on different occasions and is implied to have a minor crush on him.
    • Imelda admits that despite her fierce and passionate personality, she too feels afraid and pressured when things go chaotic and how everyone expects her to fix everything.
  • Honor Before Reason: Everyone, constantly. Yes, even Ernesto.
  • Honorary Uncle: Despite his protests about the position, Ernesto was this for Coco when she was a little girl.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Everyone believes Cheque is an shy mute orphan boy, but Ernesto quickly realizes that he can be cunning, dishonest, manipulative and petty. The Riveras continue to do so for the whole story, with the exception of Miguel and Socorro, who slowly notices her best friend's darker side. Héctor finds out in the epilogue and is not too happy about this.
  • Hope Spot: When Cheque dies, the dead Riveras are willing to adopt and treat him as one of their own after Socorro tells them about him. Then things get complicated when Cheque's case worker points out that the boy should be able to talk in the Land of the Dead if his mutism had in fact been the result of a botched surgery like he had always claimed, and accuses him of faking it now; believing that Socorro resents him after this, he runs away before the family can work things out.
  • Hurt/Comfort Fic: The list of characters who feel some kind of loss goes on and on. Sometimes there's comfort, but it's usually the loss of said comfort that triggers the hurt.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: While Imelda discusses with her family about her and Pepita's run in with Ernesto during the search, Hector unintentionally reveals that he knew that this took place in Shantytown even though Imelda never revealed where they found Ernesto.
  • It Runs in the Family: It's not the first time a troubled child with the surname De la Cruz becomes friends with a Rivera child who's blissfully unaware of their best friend's darker side. Héctor lampshades this to heartbreaking effect.
    "You thought he would never, until he did"
  • Ironic Echo: In Chapter 2, Miguel makes a comment to Cheque on how he's too good at playing the angelic orphan and how he could turn to a life of crime and no one would believe a word of his confession. This comes back to bite him in Chapter 10 when Anita's henchmen reveal to the Riveras that the boy delivered serious injuries to them after falling for his lost child act.
  • It's All My Fault: Socorro blames herself for Cheque's death.
    • Similarly, Héctor blames himself for not telling everyone that Ernesto was hiding in Shantytown, leading to Ernesto leaving with Cheque and Socorro having to search for them in order to get a blessing and return home.
  • It's Personal: Coco's is shown to have a deep rooted hatred for Ernesto for tearing apart her family and leaving them to suffer for so many years. She's even willing to talk back to her own mother so she can go speak to Ernesto in person after they corner him. However, she decides to move past her resentment in order to convince him to send Socorro back to the world of the living, convincing him that he must help Socorro as a way to atone for Héctor's death.
  • Karma Houdini: Deliberately invoked by Hector. In order to get Ernesto to give Socorro a blessing before sunrise, Hector promises to drop all charges against Ernesto allowing him to walk away a free man.
  • Like You Were Dying: After Hector inherits Ernesto's mansion, he decides to convert it into a convalescent home for all the residents of Shantytown allowing them to live more comfortably and enjoy their final days before being Deader Than Dead.
  • Morality Pet: Cheque slowly becomes one to Ernesto.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Cheque is horrified when he learns how little time Socorro has left because he ran away (and that the vagabond he'd been developing a friendship with was the infamous murderer de la Cruz), and starts desperately trying to force himself to speak the blessing, to the point of almost hyperventilating.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Cheque's death really affected Socorro, to the point it starts the plot when she becomes cursed after stealing an item from his grave as a souvenir.
  • Never My Fault / I Did What I Had to Do: In Ernesto's view, his murder of Héctor is a perfectly rational and reasonable consequence of Héctor choosing his faimly over him and betraying his own dream to be a famous musician. Only at the epilogue does he apologize for any of the shit he's caused.
    Héctor: ... Were you ever sorry at all?
    Ernesto: I sure am sorry now, since it got me in this dump, but I’m guessing that's not what you mean. Before, I was...sorry it had to come to it. I never wanted to do it.
    Héctor: (Oh no, not that again)
  • Not What It Looks Like: When Pepita goes after Ernesto and Cheque in the abandoned Shantytown, Cheque is under the impression that Socorro sent Pepita to hunt him down in order to get his blessing, thus making him feel betrayed and angry at his friend for doing such a thing. But in reality, Pepita only became aggressive because Ernesto was with him and was worried that he intended to harm the boy.
  • Parental Substitute: A family example. The Riveras open their home and hearts to Cheque knowing that his own foster family aren't providing him with the same love and support. Even after his death, both the living and deceased Rivera relatives decide to adopt Cheque into their family with the living giving him a photo for the ofrenda room and the deceased taking him to live with them in the mansion.
  • Person as Verb: To Ernesto's displeasure, his name has become synonymous for 'fake' among the dead community.
    "That’s what you get for buying cheap fakes. What model was it, Reloj de la Cruz?"
  • Poor Communication Kills: Cheque runs off before the Riveras got around to telling him that the blessing for Socorro must be given before sunrise. Thus he doesn't understand the urgency of the situation and is easily convinced by Ernesto that there's no rush for him to go back.
  • Race Against the Clock: Just like in the first movie, a Rivera descendant needs a blessing before sunrise to return to the Land of the Living. Only this time it's Socorro, Miguel's little sister, who needs the blessing of her deceased friend Cheque who has run off in the Land of the Dead resulting in the Rivera clan making every effort to find him before sunrise.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Hector gives a well deserved one to Ernesto in Chapter 11, calling him out on his selfish behavior and how he framed himself as the victim for so many years, and how he resorted to killing Hector because he refused to stay by his side and help his [Ernesto's] dream instead preferring to go back to his family. It's only after Héctor says he always had faith in him and genuinely believed Ernesto could become succesful on his own that Ernesto realizes that his murder of Héctor was pointless and is panged with a feeling he can't understand....which is regret.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: While Ernesto redeems himself by giving Socorro the blessing she needed, in the end he's still despised by the land of the dead and the Riveras (except Héctor). He's surprisingly okay with this, as he has learned to love and care for his great-great grandson Cheque, giving him a reason to continue living.
    • Reformed, but Not Tamed: Ernesto at the end of the story. Even though Cheque's inconditional love and Héctor's forgiveness were the reason he softened up, he still remains aloof and distant toward everyone else and hateful towards the rest of the Riveras. Even after it's clear to everyone that Ernesto is a far cry from his old self, he still claims to be a bad person.
  • Secret Keeper: In Chapter 1, Hector learns that Ernesto has been hiding out in the recently abandoned Shantytown. Out of pity for his former friend, he keeps this a secret from Imelda, the Riveras and the authorities.
  • Silent Snarker: Cheque. Ernesto in particular brings out this part of the boy's nature.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: The childhood flashbacks show that Héctor and Ernesto's conversations were mostly between sarcastic comments and playful insults. The epilogue shows them talking like this once again, a sign they've started to rekindle their friendship.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Before leaving Santa Cecilia, Ernesto is revealed to have impregnated Mariquita, one of the village girls who would then become the great-great-grandmother of Cheque.
  • Swapped Roles: Lampshaded in Chapter 11. The set up for the scene of Hector confronting Ernesto and calling him out on his pathetic and selfish attitude is very similar to the scene where Hector ends up dying on the street at night with Ernesto watching over him. Only now it's Hector watching over Ernesto who is kneeling in pain on the street.
  • Time Skip: The story takes place 7 years after the epilogue of the movie.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Coco in Chapter 12, who confronts Ernesto so he could give his blessing to Socorro and send her home. She also brought a rolling pin in case things needed to get rough.
  • Trauma Button: Cheque has claustrophobia and goes into a shocked state if trapped in an enclosed space. He developed this after seeing his mother overdosing on drugs while her abusive dealer forced him into a closet while he dealt with his mother. He even threatened to kill Cheque if he didn't comply or made any noise. This was also the event that resulted in his mutism.
  • Undying Loyalty: Despite being branded as a murderer, Ernesto's chihuahua alebrijes continue to follow him and stay by his side.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Imelda rightfully calls out Hector after he lets it slip that he knew that Ernesto was hiding in the now abandoned Shantytown. She yells at him for keeping this information hidden from everyone, including her, for 7 years and now it's come back to bite them since it's given Ernesto the opportunity to harm their family once again. However, in the end they find out that Ernesto warmed up to Cheque and gave Socorro the blessing she needed. At the epilogue, Imelda acknowledges that it was for the best that Héctor stayed silent.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: After Socorro succesfully returns to the land of the living, there's a one-year skip to detail what are the characters doing.
    • Socorro curses herself again, in order to visit Cheque, but this time stealing an item from her family so she won't have to ask for Ernesto's blessing again. It's revealed she set up an ofrenda for Cheque and they spend a day together during dia de los muertos. She also sets up an ofrenda for Ernesto (as Cheque requested) so he wouldn't vanish, but he rejects it out of spite and he believes he deserves to die instead.
    • Miguel continues working as a musician. On Socorro's behalf, he composes a song named "El Alma Sin Voz", based on Cheque.
    • Cheque is officially adopted into the Rivera household and gets to keep Ernesto's alebrijes. However, he constantly sneaks sometimes to visit Ernesto at Shantytown.
    • Héctor finds about Cheque's escapades but decides not to tell his family (for now) and accompanies Cheque to see Ernesto. It's shown that after finally calling out Ernesto's actions in Chapter 11, Héctor and Ernesto have started to rekindle their friendship. Even though it's clear their friendship will never be the same, at least they don't hate each other anymore.
    • Ernesto found a job crafting fireworks in Shantytown, but it's clear he still can't forgive himself for his actions and after losing his fame, believes he deserves to die. He tries to commit suicide by not crossing the bridge after dia de muertos, but realizes that Cheque would be sad if he died and doesn't go through it. He also finally apologizes to Héctor for mudering him in the past, finally giving Héctor the closure he wanted.
  • Why Can't I Hate You?: Héctor and Ernesto feel this way towards each other.
    • At the beginning of the story, Héctor understandably resents Ernesto and wants to see him suffer and bring him to justice. It's after seeing Socorro and Cheque's strong friendship (which parallels his own with Ernesto in the past) that he realizes he can't come to fully hate his former best friend. At one point he admits that even though he feels betrayed and resentful, he still can't bring himself to hate Ernesto entirely.
    • Ernesto has deluded himself for years that killing Héctor was a perfectly rational and reasonable consequence of Héctor abandoning their childhood dream to be musicians in order to be with his family, at least until Héctor's "The Reason You Suck" Speech in Chapter 11. Even after they reconcile at the epilogue, Ernesto prefers to avoid him because he feels upset that Héctor is willing to reach him even after all he's done.
    Except that Héctor had found him first, with that insufferable grin and kindness he didn’t know how to respond to. It would have been so much easier if he could hate him, keep piling blame on him like he’d been doing for so long... but damn him, he made it nearly impossible.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Just like in canon, Ernesto has no qualms about harming children. After piecing together that Socorro is from the Rivera family and needs Cheque's blessing to return home, Ernesto decides to keep him away from her until sunrise to spite the Riveras one last time. He's also willing to break Cheque's jaw to keep him from giving her the blessing.

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