Return to A Pilgrimage to the Past Chapter One

A Pilgrimage to the Past

Author: electricblu
Rating: R for violence and adult themes later.
Disclaimer: Buffy characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, yadda, yadda, yadda... The Noir plot belongs to the great Tsukimura Ryoei, I take credit for neither.

Tara took a sip of her warm tea and then settled back in her seat with a content sigh, savoring the flavor of her preferred beverage. Blue eyes glanced across the room where her partner was perched on the windowsill, vacant eyes directed outside. Partner... Six weeks and she still found herself being surprised by that word. 'Tara Maclay' had apparently dropped out of business in these last few weeks and now used a new name... and she had a partner.

Willow sat by the open window, watching the rain pour down outside. Her eyes scanned the darkened skies before drifting to the splash of drops on the windowsill. In the distance, lightning flashed, momentarily illuminating the clouds. She had barely counted to two before thunder rocked the world, rattling the window panes.

"Chill and mirk is the nightly blast, where Pindus' mountains rise and angry clouds are pouring fast the vengeance of the skies."

Tara blinked in surprise at the redhead, then snorted amusedly. "Byron? Figures you'd like that."

"Is that what it is? I thought I read it somewhere." Willow smiled slightly, then dropped her eyes to the sketchbook on her lap. A drop of rain had hit the page, blurring a part of her drawing, but she made no move to close the window.

"I think I have a book by him somewhere, I'll give it to you later. It's entirely too depressing for me, but you're the type to like it."

"The type?" Willow shot her a questioning look.

"The taciturn, introspective type." Tara clarified with a half-grin.

Willow made an indecipherable noise and turned back to sketching the rain.

Tara had been surprised when Willow expressed a desire to draw, it wasn't a hobby she would have associated with the quiet assassin. But then, almost everything about Willow was confusing to her. She was always silent, studying everything around her, as if trying to commit it all to memory to avoid forgetting anything ever again. The redhead walked with her head down, always one step behind Tara and would happily do any chores around the apartment. When in action, though, she changed completely. Gone was the meek teenager that followed Tara everywhere. Her replacement was a cold, often brutal killer. While Tara preferred a more subtle approach, Willow had no such qualms about 'finesse'. Anything was a potential weapon in her hand.

Two weeks ago they had an assignment in New York. An important politician was holding a party in his mansion and they had infiltrated as serving girls. Their target had been a prominent lieutenant of an secret military organization that had made too many enemies underground. The following day it was in the first page in every respectable paper: the man was found with a silver fork impaled in his neck.

Willow killed with such ease and skill that Tara wondered just how long she'd been doing that. Even being five years her senior and in the business since she was 17, Tara had to admit that the redhead was as good, if not better than her.

Tara brought her tea cup to her lips and watched Willow over its rim as the girl absently ran her pencil on the book, occasionally lifting her face to look at the storm outside. She looked distant, as if something were on her mind, perhaps even troubling her. Willow often retreated into her own private world; she had done so several times in the past weeks. The quiet girl would stare out of one of the apartment's windows at seemingly nothing for hours at a time.

Tara frequently wondered what Willow ruminated on during those withdrawn periods of hers, appearing totally detached from her surroundings. She sometimes considered simply asking her, but she doubted even she would get a straight answer from the reticent girl, or at least one that would satisfy her.

Looking at Willow now while she gazed vacantly at the thunderstorm, Tara thought she looked rather sad as well as distant. Of course that wasn't saying too much considering that her normal everyday expression was usually melancholic. But after having lived with Willow for almost two months, Tara could generally tell how her broody partner was feeling.

She had learnt that using Willow's dark green eyes to determine her emotional state was the easiest and most accurate method. Her eyes were so expressive, soulful, and they seemed to speak volumes, poignant words poured straight from her heart. And right at this very moment, Willow's green orbs said clearly to the blonde that something was definitely bothering her.

Tara sighed and rose from her seat, walking over to Willow. She looked at the sketchbook on the redhead's lap, taking note of the detailed drawing. Willow drew the street accurately, with its tall buildings being pelted by the unrelenting rain. On the sidewalk, a single person could be seen looking up at the sky. There wasn't any feature to this person, merely a shadow blending with the background.

"Who's that?" Tara asked, pointing to mysterious person.

Willow just shrugged, rolling the pencil between her fingers.

For a moment, all was silent again, save for the sounds of rain and the constant patter of strikes across the roof. Tara and Willow held their breaths as another flash of appeared in the sky. This time, it was a full ten seconds before the distant rumble of thunder reached them.

There was some sort of inexplicable power to the storm, Willow mused inwardly. A part of her just didn't want to shut out the storm. Granted, it was only a thundershower, and not even a big one at that, but there was a kind of wild beauty to it. She watched helplessly as drop after drop followed its unerring course to the earth. Tentatively, Willow stuck her free hand out the window, letting the weather coat it with wetness. The rain was cold, but not uncomfortably so. It was kind of pleasant, clearing away the sticky humidity of summer heat.

Slowly, Willow drew her hand inside and sealed the window, muting the fury outside. With the glass between herself and the storm, nature seemed a lot less menacing all of a sudden. Still, the two of them stood there a while longer, as the storm played itself out. Unconsciously, Willow brought her wet hand up to her face, breathing in the scent of the rain.

"I wonder... if I ever played in the rain..." Willow whispered quietly.

"What?" Tara looked at her strangely.

"It seems so familiar, this feeling..." Willow sighed. "Did you ever play in the rain, Tara?"

Tara cocked her head at the unusual question, but didn't see any reason not to answer. "Yes, when we were children, my brother and I used to play in the rain. Mom would always scold us afterwards because we got sick every time." she added as an afterthought.

Willow looked at her wistfully. "Must be nice."

They lapsed into silence once more and Tara glanced at her watch.

"We should get ready." she finally said.

Willow nodded silently and jumped from her perch.

They had an assignment for tonight. Mr. William T. Bloodworth, commonly known in the underworld as Spike, was a narcotic ring leader and their next target. Their client, one Harmony Kendall, was the typical jealous ex-lover. As much as Tara hated passion crimes, they were being paid a hefty sum for old Spike's death, so they would undertake the case anyway.

Bloodworth's house was some way into the woods. A brick path led from the side of the main road to his home. It was pitch black that night, rain clouds still hung heavily overhead but it had stopped raining sometime ago. Tara and Willow wore dark clothes to blend into the darkness. Together, they crept along the side of the brick path. Following it until they were twenty feet from the end, Tara and Willow swerved to the left and into the bushes. Ahead of them, a door opened and several people stepped out talking and laughing, apparently quite drunk.

When the guests had left, Tara and Willow left their hiding spots and went around to the back. No one was there when they reached the back. It was dark inside the back windows. Apparently, Bloodworth lived alone. It was too easy a job. When they reached Bloodworth, he was too drunk to put up a fight. He was dead within an eye's blink. Too easy.

When the duo stepped outside, they came face to face with two dozen guns. Apparently Bloodworth had some security after all. Springing into action, Tara and Willow ducked back into the house. On their way in, they manage to pick off five of their enemies. They quickly ran to the back of the house to try and exit through the back. However, a few had managed to get there before them and opened fire the second they reached the back door. Knocking out a window, Tara returned fire, killing three of them. Willow fired through the door and caught one in the neck and two others in their chests.

"Upstairs!" Tara shouted to Willow.

They headed for the stairs, shooting several people who had gotten through the front door. Upstairs, they climbed out a bedroom window and ran along the side of the house's roof. With guns drawn, they jumped off toward the back and ran into the surrounding woods. Bullets cut down five men that tried to pursue them. In the woods, the rest searched for the duo and were picked off one by one in the darkness. When Tara and Willow were done, they headed back to the main road.

"You're bleeding," Willow noted, pointing at Tara's right cheek.

"It's nothing. I cut myself on a branch."

Willow nodded and followed Tara to the car.

"We were set up." Tara surmised as Willow gently examined the cut on her face.

Willow made a sound of agreement, not pulling her eyes away from her task.

"Do you think it was Kendall?"

The redhead looked into Tara's eyes for a moment before opening the bottle of peroxide. "Maybe."

"We should look into it." Tara said, then winced as Willow started dabbing a cotton swab on the cut.

"Sorry." Willow apologized quickly, but Tara dismissed it with a shake of her head. "We'll research later."

"We have to do it as soon as possible or they'll cover their tracks." Tara insisted.

Serious green eyes locked onto hers. "It's late and you're tired."

Tara sighed, knowing it was no use arguing when the redhead looked at her like that. Her 'resolve face', as Tara called it, pretty much ended any discussion. "First thing in the morning, then."

Willow hummed her acquiescence, putting back the first aid supplies.

"Good night." Willow bent down and pressed a gentle kiss on Tara's uninjured cheek.

Tara's eyes went wide at the unexpected gesture. If Willow noticed her surprise, she didn't show it. The redhead walked into the apartment's only bedroom, leaving the baffled Tara to stare after her.

"I'll never understand this girl." Tara mumbled to herself before following Willow into the room.

Return to Story Archive
Return to Main Page