I am so, so sorry for this, but I couldn’t resist.
Rincwind was past the point of being startled by the sight of a black robe and a skull. After the kind of life he’d lead, it all sorted of blended into a terror too generalizes to make it to his nervous system. He’d probably have a nightmare tonight just as usual and that’d be it.
“Don’t tell me,” said Rincewind wearily, “The shelf is going to collapse again when I get back to the Library. I told the Librarian, I said, you know you can’t have dueling grimoires on unbolted shelves and it’ll be trouble, but did he listen? No.”
PARDON? said Death. He was standing politely outside the gate of the university, just within talking distance. Rincewind was glad he didn’t have to yell, not that people didn’t expect that sort of thing from wizards.
“The reason you’re here.” Rincewind gestured. “I suppose you can’t tell me anyway.”
IF I WERE HERE TO WITNESS THE END OF YOUR LIFE, said Death, THEN NO, I COULDN’T TELL YOU. BUT AS IT HAPPENS, I AM NOT VISITING ON BUSINESS.
Rincewind narrowed his eyes. This was almost certainly a ploy to catch him off-guard, but he wasn’t going to fall for it. “Well, I’m not just going to roll over and die just because you–”
I JUST THOUGHT WE COULD GO FOR A DRINK, said Death.
“What?” said Rincewind, who had lost track of events somewhere around the time when Twoflower had entered his life and never expected to understand things now. Even so, there were limits. “Can you drink?” he added suspiciously. “Won’t it, you know, fall out?”
The blue glow in Death’s eyesockets faded for a moment. THAT’S A VERY RUDE QUESTION.
“Well, I’m sorry, but I’ve never had a drink with a skeleton.” Rincewind thought about this for a moment. “Well, never one that I could have a conversation with, anyway.”
I HAVE, IN FACT, BEEN DRUNK, said Death proudly. TO THE POINT OF UNCONSCIOUSNESS, EVEN.
Rincewind decided that asking how Death could become unconscious would probably go down worse than the drinks thing. “How about that,” he said, slightly uselessly.
I JUST THOUGHT, said Death, THAT WE SEE EACH OTHER SO OFTEN. PERHAPS WE COULD GET TO KNOW ONE ANOTHER.
“What’s there to know? You want me to die, I don’t want to die. It’s my main passion in life, not dying.”
Death shrugged, a very visible motion on someone with no flesh. I NO LONGER RESENT THIS. IN SOME WAYS, YOU HAVE GROWN TO FASCINATE ME. YOUR LIFETIMER IS UNLIKE ANY I HAVE EVER SEEN – THROUGH ALL ETERNITY.
Rincewind hadn’t been asked on a date in a very long time. In fact, if you’d asked him, he would have said he’d never been asked on a date, ever. This was technically untrue from the perspective of all human beings who had ever tried to ask him on a date: Twoflower, for instance, would have said they had been on many during the course of his vacation.
There were some things, however, that were a lot harder to miss somehow from a seven foot tall skeleton with glowing blue eyes.
“Are you flirting?” he said.
Death’s eye sockets dimmed again. AM I DOING IT WRONG?
Rincewind sighed, and pinched his nose. He wondered why no one normal ever flirted with him*. “No. No, you’re not doing it wrong.”
I’M GLAD TO HEAR THAT. I HAVE MADE A CAREFUL STUDY.
“Of what?” said Rincewind, thinking with trepedation about the kind of library you could get in Death’s Realm.
MISS SALACIA ROSE’S THORNS OF PASSION SERIES. IT WAS RECOMMENDED TO ME AS A PARTICULARLY USEFUL GUIDE.
MY MANSERVANT, ALBERT. HE IS AN AVID READER OF THE AUTHOR.
“Um,” said Rincewind. “I see.”
WELL? said Death. HOW ABOUT THAT DRINK?
Rincewind blinked. When was the last time someone had found him fascinating, anyway? When was the last time anyone had really bothered to notice anything about him?** “What the hell,” he said. “All right, if you’re buying.”
LOOK AT IT THIS WAY, said Death, as they ambled towards the Mended Drum. YOU’VE ALREADY MET MY DAUGHTER.
*Twoflower had been, in many ways, a borderline case.
**Last Octeday; Ponder Stibbons, but he hadn’t said anything. Wizards are not masters of fliration.
My hand slipped