Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Weiss Kreuz characters or story elements used in this story; they were created by people far more talented than I. This piece was written solely to show my appreciation of this excellent series, and I am not making any money from this story.

Aya hissed in pain as a fat drop of blood welled up from the ball of his finger where the rose's thorn had bitten into his flesh. He dabbed the injured finger on the paper towel that he had brought over in anticipation of this situation and thought black thoughts. He hated roses for the hazards they posed, and hated them even more because Kritiker had seen it fit to assign him a red rose as his "code flower". He'd thought the cat code was bad enough, but when the Kritiker liaison had told him there was a flower code as well Aya had desperately wanted to walk out the door. Unfortunately, that wasn't an option, so he had stayed. He still hated his flower code, though. He also hated the sappy arrangements that contained the red flowers, such as the one he was currently slaving over: a disgustingly large heart wreath made of red, pink, and white roses with the commissioner's girlfriend's name written, again in roses, across the interior of the heart. It was nauseating, and it involved removing the thorns from what seemed like hundreds of roses, a task at which Aya, despite his almost preternatural grace and dexterity in most other matters, was clumsy. He could ask for help in removing the thorns from the roses but, given that he was sharing this particular shift with Yohji, he would rather slice himself to ribbons with the thorns than ask for help. The blonde had an infuriating way of ruffling the chilly calm that Aya did his best to project. Strangely, Yohji also had a talent for removing rose thorns. He was quick, and HE never cut himself. His dexterity might have come from using his wire, but Aya thought sourly that it was more likely the result of hours upon hours spent unlocking tricky bra clasps.

Aya shot a glare at the object of his musing who, true to form, was entertaining a circle of giggling female admirers. Somewhat surprisingly, these girls looked to be significantly older than the fan girls that usually inundated the shop, although they were no less giggly. Aya had to bite back a grimace of distaste. He hated the way women flocked to the shop. At least these girls seemed content with Yohji's attentions, and did not seem inclined to come over to bother him. As if sensing Aya's scrutiny, Yohji turned his head languidly towards Aya, an easy grin still on his face. The grin transformed as he took in Aya's baleful expression. His lips remained in the rough approximation of a smile, but his eyes hardened and the grin became mocking.

"Jealous, Aya, because I'm getting all the attention? Maybe if you tried being a little nicer, you'd get some company too."

Aya did not dignify the remark with an answer and, after shooting a venomous glare at his blonde teammate, threw the offending rose down on the counter and stalked into the back room, shoulders rigid under his orange sweater. In the cool dark of the storage area, Aya slumped against a wall and let out the breath he had been holding in a long shudder. Damn Yohji. Aya was furious with himself for once again allowing one of Yohji's remarks to nettle him. He closed his eyes and tried to ignore the painful pounding in his head. The headaches that had plagued him since his childhood had been coming with increasing regularity and severity in the past few weeks, and his altercations with Yohji always made them worse. Aya could hear Yohji explaining his disappearance to the crowd of fan girls in the shop.

"Don't worry about Aya, ladies, he doesn't know how to have any fun. Now, I on the other hand…"

Aya smiled bitterly to himself. No, he didn't know how to have fun. He didn't have the luxury. The thought fluttered through his mind that if Yohji had met him years ago, before Rejii Takatori ripped his life to shreds, he might have had a different opinion of his stoic teammate. Aya dismissed the thought. Even if he had met Yohji 5 years ago, Yohji would probably still have found his lifestyle unspeakably dull. He had never explored the club scene, he had never experimented with drugs, and he had certainly never participated in the wild, passionate, flings that seemed so integral to Yohji's conception of an entertaining existence. Aya's father had encouraged his children to excel academically, and Aya had been quite happy to spend most of his time in the library. His sister, the sister whose name he had taken and stained with blood, she had been different. She had chaffed at their father's regulations; the library was too somber for her vibrant personality. She had been forever trying to convince her brother sneak out with her for the afternoon. Aya had to close his eyes against the suspicious moisture that accompanied the memory. Unbidden, the thought crossed his mind. Yohji would have liked her.

Aya pushed himself away from the wall, and dashed his hand angrily across his wet eyes. The jagged shards of memory sliced at him, not at all blunted by the passage of years. Takatori. The name growled through his mind, and he gripped a broom handle until his fingers were bloodless and the wooden handle was in danger of snapping like a piece of dried kindling. He let his hatred rage through him, a flaming tide that melted the pain that stabbed at his gut. He needed the hatred, needed it to dull the pain of his memories so that he could do what needed to be done to care for his sister and avenge his family. Sometimes he thought that his hatred and need for vengeance were the only things that kept his heart beating, kept the blood moving through his veins. He rather thought that if he ever did manage to carry out his revenge his heart would stop beating right along with Takatori's, as surely as if his sword had plunged through both of their bodies instead of just through Takatori's black heart. He was not concerned by the thought. His agreement with Kritiker ensured his sister's continued care, and if by some miracle she did wake, it would be better that she did not see what her brother had become.

Aya slowly released the broom handle and felt the tingling of blood rushing back into his fingers. He replaced the broom against the wall and checked the clock on the wall. He and Yohji were off in 15 minutes. The thought of staying in the back room to avoid Yohji for the rest of the shift was a tempting one, but he still had the stupid arrangement to finish. Besides, the bit of pride he had left would not allow him to hide from Yohji any longer. He snagged a few sprigs of baby's breath in order to create the impression that he had simply gone into the back room in search of fillers for his arrangement, composed himself, and stalked back into the front room. He returned to his stool and resumed stripping the thorns from the roses. From the sound of things, Yohji was still entertaining his female companions. Aya kept his eyes fixed on his work and resolutely ignored his teammate. He hoped Ken and Omi would be on time for their shift. He had a visit to make.

Yohji watched the shop door close behind the group of girls with relief. He'd had to use nearly all of his considerable charm to keep the girls occupied with him and away from his red-haired teammate. Ordinarily, Yohji would have been insulted if anyone had implied that he might have to work to keep a group of women interested in him, but Aya's presence complicated matters. Yohji knew full well that he was a very attractive man, with his burnt-honey locks, golden skin, and mossy eyes. Aya though– Aya was stunning. His exotic coloring, angular, catlike, features, and lithe build attracted no little bit of attention from the female and male patrons alike, and even Aya's "touch me and die" glares and brusque service manner did little to deter his many admirers. Yohji knew how much Aya hated dealing with his fans, so when the gaggle of girls had walked into the store today and had moved with the precision of a ballistic missile towards the bench where Aya was working, Yohji had moved forward to intercept them. He seemed to find himself in this position every time he shared a shift with Aya, and he was always surprised by his instinctive defense of the redhead, since it wasn't as if the two men were close. In fact, considering that Aya seemed to want to ram Yohji through with his katana most of the time, they were about as un-close as two people could be. Somehow, that fact never stopped Yohji from trying to deflect the fan girls that locked onto Aya.

Today Yohji had succeeded in diverting the girls' attentions to himself, but now he wondered, not for the first time, why he had bothered. It wasn't as if Aya had ever shown any gratitude for his interventions, and more often than not Yohji was treated to one of Aya's frigid glares for his trouble. Today had been no exception, and Aya's hostility had sparked Yohji's temper, which had prompted Yohji to say the first cutting remark that had crossed his mind. Of course, Yohji knew Aya was not at all jealous of the attention that the girls were giving him, but he'd also known the remark would irritate the redhead. His interactions with Aya were taking on the regularity of a well choreographed, albeit hostile, dance: Aya glared, Yohji snapped, Aya glared again and left the room. Yohji sighed. He didn't see any way to break the pattern. Aya gave every indication that he would prefer a dead Yohji to a live one, and only Aya's painful practicality eased Yohji's fear that a katana blade would find him in the night. If Yohji died, Weiss's efficiency would be hampered, and Aya wouldn't do anything to jeopardize the effectiveness of the team no matter how much he disliked Yohji. The thought wasn't terribly comforting, and Yohji decided that from now on he would just let Aya deal with the fan girls on his own.

Yohji walked over to the cash register, leaned casually against the counter, and looked over at Aya. The redhead had returned to his workstation a few minutes ago, several sprigs of baby's breath in hand. Yohji wondered if Aya actually thought he was fooling anyone with the baby's breath; Yohji knew full well why Aya had retreated into the back room, and it wasn't for flowers. As he studied the redhead, Yohji didn't bother to be covert about his observation: one glance had been enough to tell him that Aya was pretending that he didn't exist. Aya employed the tactic often, and Yohji doubted that Aya would deign to look his way even if he burst into flames. Generally, Yohji hated being ignored, but Aya's determined indifference was actually somewhat welcome. It gave Yohji a chance to study the redhead for as long as he wanted without having his attentions met by an icy amethyst glare. Yohji shivered to himself. Aya had a glare that could chill a corpse. But now, with those cold, cold, eyes screened by a shaggy fall of ruby bangs and fixed steadily on the flower arrangement, Yohji was free to admire the graceful curve of Aya's neck where it was visible before it disappeared into his hideous orange sweater, the way the muscles in his forearms flexed and relaxed as he bent himself to his delicate task, and the startling contrast of his flaming hair against the pallor of his cheek. Aya was beautiful, there was no denying that, and Yohji had always been fascinated by beautiful things. Too bad the man was such a prick, though.

Yohji grinned as he watched color slowly rise to Aya's pale cheeks. Aya was far too aware of his surroundings not to have felt Yohji's eyes on him, and the prolonged scrutiny was clearly making him uncomfortable. However, since he had decided to ignore Yohji, he couldn't lift his head to glare at Yohji without violating his self-imposed rules. Highly amused, Yohji crossed his arms and settled into a more comfortable position to maintain his vigil until Omi and Ken arrived.

The door swung open, the bells hung above it jangling wildly, as the youngest member of Weiss tumbled in, cheeks flushed, and hair in wild disarray. "Yohji-kun, Aya-kun, sorry I'm late! I had to stop by the library, and then I had to get the notes for the class I missed doing recon for the job last week, and then…"

"Whoa! Whoa!" Yohji laughingly held up his hands as if to ward off Omi's breathless explanation. "It's not that big of a deal, you're only a few minutes late. Of course, you could always make it up to me by taking my Saturday morning shift." Yohji made mournful eyes at Omi. He hated the morning shifts. Omi laughed. "I'll trade you for my afternoon shift. Yaone wanted to meet up to study for our math exam Saturday afternoon, if we switch I can make it."

"Done!" Yohji grinned. Aya always volunteered for the Saturday morning shift, and now he wouldn't have to deal with the redhead's ire when he showed up for his shift late and hung-over. Pleased as he was to get out of the early shift, Yohji was surprised to feel a pang of regret at the thought that he would now be spending his shift with Ken rather than with Aya. Yohji told himself that the regret probably just came from the fact that he would now be forced to endure hours of Ken's endless soccer prattle, and pushed it to the back of his mind.

As Omi disappeared into the back room to fetch his apron, the bells jangled again as the door was flung open and Ken rushed in, nearly buried under an enormous mesh bag bulging with soccer balls. Ken heaved the bag off his shoulder and flung it onto the floor. A few soccer balls bounced out and rolled into various corners of the shop. One bumped into the leg of the table where Aya was putting the finishing touches on his arrangement, and Aya gave Ken an annoyed glance. Ken, oblivious as always, didn't notice.

"A couple of the kids' parents were late picking them up from practice, so I had to wait with them. Sorry guys!" Ken didn't wait for a response as he headed through the door that connected the shop to their living quarters. He left the door ajar, and reappeared in a few moments with a container of bright blue Gatorade in his hand. As Yohji watched in bemusement Ken tilted his head back and downed over half of the sports drink in a single gulp. Yohji didn't understand how Ken stomached the stuff at all, much less how he managed to consume it in such huge quantities. Yohji briefly considered trying to get rid of another one of his morning shifts by making Ken feel guilty enough to trade with him, but was forced to dismiss the idea. Ken wasn't nearly as much of a pushover as Omi. If Yohji complained about Ken's lateness, Ken would probably respond by commenting that Yohji was no model of punctuality himself, and Yohji couldn't deny that.

Omi returned from the back room, his apron on and Ken's slung over his arm. He handed Ken his apron with a smile. "Hi Ken-kun. How was practice?" As they talked about the events of the day, Omi helped Ken corral the run-away soccer balls. Yohji marveled at the energy of the two youngest members of Weiss as he untied his own apron and dropped it on the counter. The shop, so silent and tense when only he and Aya had been present, was now full of the sound of voices and laughter. The thought prompted him to shift his gaze to his silent teammate, but he was surprised to find Aya's table empty. The finished rose arrangement had been placed alongside the other arrangements waiting for pick-up, the flower clippings had been swept into the bin, and the tools were hanging from the metal hooks on the wall. Aya's apron was folded neatly on the bench behind the table. Yohji hadn't seen him tidying the work-table, hadn't seen him leave the shop, hadn't even heard the jingle of the bells as the door opened and closed. Yohji shook his head, mystified. All the members of Weiss had learned to move silently, but Aya put the rest of them to shame. Of course Aya hadn't bothered to say goodbye, or to let his teammates know where he was going, but Yohji had long since grown accustomed to Aya's disregard for common courtesies.

Yohji said goodbye to Ken and Omi and walked out of the shop into the bright afternoon sunlight. He winced a bit at the glare, grateful for his ever-present sunglasses. He glanced up and down the street, but he didn't see a familiar head of bright red hair. Aya probably wouldn't come back to the apartment until evening. He vanished almost every afternoon that they didn't have a mission, generally for hours at a time. Yohji had no idea where he went, and he was desperately curious about it. He had even considered following Aya some afternoon, and only the knowledge that Aya really would put his katana through him if he noticed he was being followed had stopped him. Obviously, asking Aya where he went was out of the question; Aya guarded his secrets fanatically. Shrugging, Yohji pulled an only slightly bent cigarette from the pack in his pocket and lit it with a practiced flick of his silver lighter. His eyes closed with contentment as the smoke filled his lungs. He wasn't allowed to smoke in the shop, apparently it was bad for the flowers or something, and at the end of a shift he was always dying for a smoke. He leaned casually against the wall and prepared to smoke the rest of his pack.

Author's note: I hope you enjoyed this first bit of my story, I realize that not much has happened yet, but I felt I needed to set the character relationships before things really got going. If you've read the story I would really appreciate your review – this is my first fan-fiction attempt, and I would really like to know what you think, even if you hated the story. Thanks for reading.