Warnings: Canonical femslash and character death.
Fandom: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer x Charmed
Characters: Prudence Halliwell and Tara Maclay
Prompt: In the afterlife, Prue and Tara meet and discuss how they miss their loved ones and watch over them.
Spoilers: Through the end of S6 BtVS and through S5 Charmed
Summary: Dying is the easy part. Death is impossible.
All Witches Go to Limbo (the Unbaptized Innocents Refrain)
Tara waits, unmoving and patient, in the dust. She's aware of her skirt, dingy with soot, of her feet, cold and gravel-bitten, of one frozen hand holding what's, inexplicably, a spell book. She doesn't want magic now, (doesn't crave it like Willow does, can't use it, here, to protect Buffy, there, can't teach Dawn and wouldn't want to). The world is unchanging and unchangeable, drawn with sharp lines, photorealistic to be sure but as painted as the bloody sunset at the end of a Western. If it came out of her own mind, unrealized desires or unspoken longing, it's taken on reality of its own, suffers its own seasons and freezes according to some heart other than Tara's. It not how she imagined or would want death to be.
For a long time she tasted only the slow seep of blood (her own?), washing away the memory of Willow's sweetness, but the blood's turned to ash now, too, in the chug-choo-choo of a train, following a track that winds from Yesterday into Tomorrow, never stopping to discharge passengers in Tara's world, timeless and unweeded. There's fog, and through it, hints of light -- the world she left, the world of swirling magics and souled vampires, the world of Willow -- but these glimmers fade when she sees them straight on, become just so many more motes of dust, floating through fallow fields to find their way to Tara's eyes.
She's been waiting for so long, she's forgotten which direction she came from, and where she's going, and only the distant howling of the train's whistle reminds her that other souls pass this way. The heavens, she always thought, would be illuminated by her mother's smile and the warmth of kindred witches' spells, and the hellish dimensions, friends have reported, are hot with torture, but this is purgatory, always cold and never blizzard.
The train that brings Prudence follows a track so unused it's overgrown, and its wheels flatten -- a month? -- a year? -- a decade? -- 's worth of weeds. It stops, and Prue detrains, dragging a trunk after her with careless power, sharp and perfect from many years' use. The train, the trunk, even the world, Tara suspects, will answer Prue's unconscious bidding. She's been practicing a long time, longer than Tara can count or remember. Prue's magic is stronger even than Willow's, and her stride is sure. She has destination.
"I'm looking for someone," Prue says. The train departs, disappears into a bleak horizon, and eve its lonely whistle fades.
Prue looks her over and smiles, a little unkindly. "Someone alive."
The only ghostly part of Tara is her smile, memorized then forgotten, frozen at the moment of death. She can form words naturally, can feel them stuttering out of her; she can move her limbs and clutch her skirts and watch the wind sweeping through weeds and dust, watch Prue brush bright black hair away from her eyes, but she cannot unsmile. That last grin, full of future, holds her mouth captive, a miniature reminder of Willow's charisma, a morning happiness, and a certain blood-stained shirt.
"Why -- why now? You've been dead -- a long time." Her body is too perfect, holding back decay.
"I have nephews," Prue says, talking to the sky, an opaque sheet of blue-grey. "I have family. I should be there and instead I'm... having tea with my grandmother's coven. Learning to make cookies from ambrosia. Memorizing family history when I should be there. I should be living it. I'm --"
"Charmed." It's not her magic, which is normal in kind (stronger in degree). It's not her blood, as rich with magic as Tara's own, the demon aspect (call a spade a spade; there's no one left who'll see her as she is) that gives power and takes it away. It's not how she carries herself, the confidence of a woman thrice protected by the Power of Three. It's -- an assurance stronger than surety of her physical safety. She doesn't defy death, Prudence, doesn't face death, just -- ignores it. She's looking past the clouds, Tara knows, and seeing her family, safe and strong and needing her.
"Power of Three," Prue agrees. "And my namesake's stronger than any of us."
"Your sister named your nephew Prudence?"
"Well. She would have." Prue's smile weakens. She might be fighting tears.
"I've been wai -- waiting for someone I loved." My lover "She's not coming yet." Not for a long time. Tara knows only glimpses of Willow, her hair longer than Tara ever knew it, around her shoulders, gleaming, framing a smile that might melt even this ice world. The soft smell of magic, the sweet smell of sex, some white-haired, terrifying ecstasy that Tara can't name.
"I can't wait," Prudence says. "They're not like -- they're my sisters." There was a time when she and Willow were better together, when their discrete powers joined and were unstoppable, strong enough to keep the world out, strong enough to keep Willow content. That was long ago, even in life, is further still in death, impossible to recapture or even to remember. Willow kept going without her, better, stronger, faster, smarter, crushingly careless and blindingly powerful. But neither they nor Willow alone were as potent as the Halliwells, linked forever and by stronger charms than first love, stronger even than Slayer.
"I can't help," Tara says. "This is -- just a way point." She shrugs around her. "Nothing here." Nothing that reeks of power, nothing that holds any portent.
Prue acknowledges that with a nod. She'll go further. Call another train, or something as archaic as a broomstick. Unfinished business has a way of using ghouls and ghosts and witches to finish itself.
"Could I take your picture before I take off? I'm running late already but --"
Tara blushes. "Mine?"
"I'm collecting -- mementos."
"Something like that. Our Book of Shadows is still unfinished. There are whole realms --" And Tara knows that Prue hasn't come from a heavenlike tea party, and that she'll go far deeper than purgatory for her nephews, her sisters, her ancestry.
"Of course -- of course you can take a picture."
And Prue does, hiding her tears behind a camera, capturing on film a windswept witch, a dusty plain, some overgrown train tracks and a frozen, fading smile, forever.