This fic is set in the time period between Weiss and Gluhen. I'm pretty much ignoring Side B and anything else there may be for this time period, for the pure and simple reason that it is nearly impossible to find any information whatsoever.

To paraphrase Omi in one of the English bloopers: Damn. If only I could read Japanese…

Warnings:

This will contain yaoi. There's lots of Weiss yaoi out there, so don't act all indignant and surprised. If you don't like it, then click the back button and leave me alone – and I mean that in the nicest way possible.

I have at least five fics I'm actively working on, either online or off, at any given time. Add to that school, work, my novels, and personal time and it means that it's hard to find the time to update. Sorry. I try to be a responsible author, but life gets in the way. Trust me, I wish it wasn't so.

I own nothing. There are a few OC who make an appearance for background noise, but I really can't say as I care about them.

(Z)

To be honest, he had absolutely no idea what he was doing there.

To be completely honest, he didn't want to be there at all.

Something deep inside Ran "Aya" Fujimiya had died long ago – the night his innocence had been ripped mercilessly from him by the murder of his parents and the near-fatal "accident" that had stolen away his beloved baby sister.

Old news. He had been suffering from that wound for more years than he would like to think about. He had almost grown accustomed to the pain.

Some days, the pain was his only companion.

Survivor's remorse – or so said the shrinks at Krittiker who had taken such pleasure from picking apart his already-fragile psyche. The thought tormented him day and night: why had he been permitted to carry on, healthy and (moderately) whole, when his loved ones could not? An old question. Sorrow might have killed him had the pain not been so sharp that it kept him from seeking his eternal rest.

How could he close his eyes in that final sleep when the guilt was boring into his mind like some persistent parasite? He would never be able to sleep.

Pain had kept him alive.

Vengeance had given him a purpose.

But now what?

Now what?

After Taketori's death, his reason for existence had died as well…yet somehow he had continued on – a mere shell of a man who could not bring himself to abandon his helpless sister, nor to leave the team that looked to him for guidance. He had been dead for a very long time, but Weiss…

Weiss had nearly succeeded in returning his soul to his body. For a short time, he had been able to convince himself that he lived once more.

The elders of Esset had torn them apart. They had wanted to destroy the world and, in a way, they had succeeded.

At least for Aya.

The strange, small family his heart had reluctantly accepted was utterly destroyed. The boys couldn't bear to look at each other.

With his sister awake at last, the young warrior fled Japan. He could not face her with blood on his hands. He could not allow her to look at him and see a monster.

One of the dark beasts he had fought so hard to slay.

There was no difference.

It had been over two years now. The company that had hired him (a real job, not murder) had sent him back to Japan three days ago. They wanted the cooperation of a certain business in a project they were planning and thought Aya would be the perfect ambassador.

He had been able to think of no reason to tell them no that wouldn't expose those deep, personal wounds, and so he had agreed. In return, he was jovially slapped on the back, praised for his devotion and reliability.

Had he been a weaker man, he may have wept from despair.

His bosses knew next to nothing about Japan, of course. They chose the hotel they were putting him up in because they liked the name.

It was not a good hotel.

It was not a good area of town.

It was, however, far from the flowershop and most of his old haunts.

He was expected to live there for the entire duration of his "three to six month" stay. Aya would have found himself an apartment, or at least a better hotel, and paid the difference from his own pocket, but he found that he couldn't bring himself to make the effort. When he had been with Weiss, most of his pay had gone toward his sister's medical bills. He had grown used to living simply, and found frugality a difficult habit to break.

Anyway, he had few memories of the area around his current residence.

Business. There were three people he needed to persuade to lend their time and money to the proposed project before he could return to his small, now much-missed apartment in L.A.

Two of those people had decided to unceremoniously drag him off to a bar Friday night.

Aya found himself most reluctantly squeezed between the two of them in a booth, squinting in the light of the blinding strobe lights and fighting to be heard over the pounding music.

"I have to visit the restroom!" He shouted finally, excusing himself and gratefully slipping out of the overcrowded booth.

He felt better just getting away from his companions – the party scene certainly wasn't his thing. He thought for sure it would have been more bearable if the two had only left him alone and gone off to dance or something, but once they had discovered that he had no plans to join them they had promptly glued themselves to his side.

"We'll teach you to have a good time, Fujimiya-san!"

The bathroom was reasonably quiet and cool. At least it wasn't crowded. In fact, it was deserted. Aya grabbed a handful of paper towels, wet them, and pressed them to his face. He was definitely getting a headache.

He caught sight of himself in the mirror as he rose up from the sink and he couldn't help but stare at his surprising reflection. The man before him bore absolutely no resemblance to the boy who had left Japan two years ago.

Perhaps he had spent too many years as an assassin, changing his appearance like a chameleon in order to better survive a mission. Without really thinking about it, he had dressed for the club: black leather pants, violet silk shirt, black, silver-studded choker.

He hadn't cut his hair since leaving Japan and it hung, silky and fine, just past his shoulders. With the shirt his eyes were dark and luminous, his skin pale and perfect.

It was a painful sight.

Aya took a moment to glare at his reflection before hastily drying his face.

He had lingered as long as he dared. Much longer and his companions would begin to suspect something embarrassing.

Three steps out of the bathroom and some drunken fool slammed into him. A drink splashed across his shirt.

"I'm sorry!" Hands began to swipe at the spill. Aya quickly stepped back.

"It's nothing."

"I'm such an idiot. That's real silk, isn't it? Look, I'll pay for the shirt."

"No." Aya put more emphasis in his voice, finally looking up. "Really. It's noth…"

Eyes clashed. Brilliant violet into surprised green. Someone gasped, and Aya had the sinking suspicion that it had been him.

"Aya…"

He couldn't stop staring. He couldn't move. Those vibrant emerald eyes. The softly curling golden hair.

"Kudoh."

A hand closed around his arm and he allowed himself to be pulled back into the bathroom, too stunned to attempt to fight. Had Yohji been an enemy, Aya would be dead.

In the bright fluorescent lights of the bathroom, there was no chance that the sight of his former teammate was mere illusion. The man hadn't changed at all.

"Aya? Aya?"

He quickly snapped out of his thoughts, focusing his attention on the blonde's concerned face.

"What?"

The playboy grinned.

"You haven't heard a word I've said, have you?"

"No." He stated slowly. "Sorry."

Abruptly he was being hugged, crushed against Yohji's strong chest, held tightly within the circle of his warm arms. For an instant his depression vanished. For a moment he felt as if he…was home.

Aya pushed violently away.

"Let me the fuck go."

Yohji laughed, that contagious, wild, confident laugh that was as golden as the rest of him.

"Same old Aya." He stated fondly. "Still a stubborn tight-ass, I see."

"Still an irresponsible jackass." Aya answered, fighting a smile.

They stared at each other a long moment, Yohji grinning like a maniac, Aya fighting not to.

"Man." Yohji breathed at last. "Man!"

"What?"

He shook his head. "I can't believe how happy I am to see you! So, what's going on? What have you been up to? Where you been?"

"Don't you have a party to be getting back to?"

"Not important."

For a moment, quick as a flash, Yohji Kudoh was completely serious. In that moment, Aya knew. He saw the darkness in his former teammate's eyes, the pain that stretched his face.

Aya hadn't been the only one to be hurt to have lost Weiss.

"How are you?" The redhead asked quietly, letting himself soften a little. He had never really gotten along with the playboy, but that didn't mean he didn't care. They were almost family, in the end.

Yohji shrugged, loosing a bit of his trademark confidence. "Took a while before they'd let me out of the hospital…still have a few problems sometimes."

"Problems? Like what?"

A small, humorless smile. "I had to quit smoking, for instance."

"Aa."

"You know…I always wanted to ask…why didn't you ever come see any of us? You were our leader, and we were hurt. Omi almost…"

"I couldn't."

"Yeah…it was hard. Especially…for thirty-two hours, we weren't sure if we were gonna loose Omi or not. Ken was a wreck, I wasn't much better. We really needed you. You were the strongest."

"No I wasn't…"

"And you didn't even tell us before you left!"

"I know." Aya dropped his eyes. Truthfully, he was ashamed of his behavior two years ago. He should have stayed to be there for his team. He was their leader.

He hadn't even known about Omi.

A hand touched his face, bringing his eyes back up to Yohji's.

"I really missed you." The blonde whispered.

Aya opened his mouth, but whatever he had been planning to say was lost as the door opened most unexpectedly.

Satoshi Morita was a large man in every aspect of the word. Tall, bulky, overweight. He always wore a smile and his face was always flushed. He was friendly and pleasant.

Aya didn't like him.

However, he was one of the three he had to schmooze.

"Here you are, Fujimiya!" He said, sounding all-too pleased. "We were getting worried about you!"

"I spilt something on my shirt." He answered shortly, snatching up some paper towels.

"Shirt's probably ruined." Yohji drawled, looking him leisurely up and down. "You should just take it off."

"Shut up, Kudoh."

Morita's smile didn't falter.

"You two ah…know each other?"

"You could say that." Yohji answered, tone suggestive.

Aya shot him a glare. "We are mere acquaintances." He informed Morita. "Let's go."

"Call me, Aya-kun!" Yohji called.

"Goodbye, Kudoh." He growled.

What he had really wanted to say was "go fuck yourself, Kudoh," but he was, technically, working. Couldn't use such vulgar language around someone he was trying to impress.

The redhead fought a smile.

(Z)

The task Aya's bosses had set for him was certainly not an easy one. Morita was not the only one whose presence he found abhorrent. In their own ways, the other two were just as bad.

Jiro Nakamura was the most important to impress, but Aya was lost as to how to go about doing it. Traditional to a fault, Nakamura did not want to do business with someone who looked as foreign as Aya Fujimiya, no matter how good his Japanese. He had been the one absent from the party at the bar.

Mei Teng, however, had been there. She was somewhere in her late thirties or early forties, but she dressed as if she was still a teenager – and sometimes acted like one, as well. She kept a very young, very attractive male secretary, and never missed the chance to flirt with anything male.

It seemed the Chinese woman had Aya as her next target. He put up with it in the hopes that she would be the first to agree to support his project and would help persuade the others.

So far – nothing.

She had shown up at his hotel room bright and early Saturday morning and announced that they were going to spend the day together working out business. They never actually got to the business part; the entire day had felt more like one of the few, rare dates Aya had been on back when he had still been Ran.

He hadn't said anything, though. In fact, he had ended up buying her dinner.

Well, al the very least he had been able to go home alone.

He opened the door feeling very tired, and walked into his room. Almost immediately he froze.

"Welcome home, dear."

Aya allowed the door to swing shut behind him.

"Kudoh."

The man on the sofa grinned, laying his arms across the back of the couch. "Isn't your line 'honey, I'm home'?"

Aya narrowed his eyes. "How did you find me?"

"Easy."

"Fine." He ceded. "How did you get in here."

"Aya! I'm insulted!"

He sighed, reluctantly admitting to himself that his question had, indeed, been a stupid one. Warily, he sat down in the chair opposite the couch and refused to take his eyes from the blonde.

"What do you want?"

It was Yohji's turn to sigh. "Your manners are atrocious – is this any way to greet an old friend? A good host would have at least offered me a drink."

"You broke into my hotel room." Aya stated slowly.

"Fine, fine. Be that way."

"Kudoh."

He stood swiftly, his grace astounding, and began to pace the small space.

"You wanna go somewhere?" He asked. "I feel all claustrophobic and stuff."

"Kudoh."

"What are you doing in a rathole like this, anyway?"

"Kudoh!"

He stopped, bowing his head. His golden hair fell down either side of his face like a curtain and obscuring him from view.

"I wanted to see you. Is that all right with you and the stick crammed up your ass? You better ask it, god knows it's been up there long enough to have developed its own personality."

"Sit down, Kudoh."

"Yohji." He corrected.

"Sit down, Kudoh."

Yohji glared for long enough that Aya thought he was going to try to argue. He was gearing himself for a knock-down, drag-out brawl when Yohji took the indicated seat, plopping back down onto the couch in a graceful sprawl.

"Look," the blonde said, voice more sincere than he'd ever heard it. "I know we didn't exactly always get along before, but that doesn't mean I don't care about you."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Do you have to make everything difficult?"

Aya nodded once, sharply.

Yohji frowned, patience wearing thin. "How many times have we saved each other's asses?" He demanded. "There's no one I trust more than you. I like to think we're friends." He stopped as if expecting some kind of rude comment. Aya stayed silent.

"Things haven't been right since the team broke up." Yohji said finally, smiling humorlessly. "I need some of that back."

Aya felt his glare slowly melting away.

"I need it back, too." He said quietly, refusing to break eye contact.

"Okay." Yohji breathed. They stared at each other for a long moment, the silence that stretched between them the closest thing to friendly that Aya had ever shared with anyone other than his sister.

"So how do you propose we do this?" Aya asked quietly. "How do we get 'it' back?"

"Well," Yohji drawled slowly, thoughtfully, "We start by spending time together. Try to be friends. Since we don't live in the same house anymore, I would say that means that we should have dinner sometime."

He thought about it a moment, then decided it was a sacrifice he was willing to make if it had even the slightest chance of taking away some of the emptiness.

"Fine." He agreed. "When?"

"Friday. Seven."

Aya raised his eyebrows suspiciously. "That was quick."

"Fuck you." Yohji grinned.

(Z)

Thursday afternoon Yohji called his cellphone. He didn't bother asking how the blonde had gotten the number.

"What's up, hotpants?"

"Kudoh, I'm at work. What do you want?"

"Are you always this pissy, or does your cell just have an embarrassing ringtone? Strike that, I know you really are this pissy. So, how's Bob?"

Aya knew asking was a mistake. Nevertheless…

"Who's Bob?" he sighed.

"That's the name I gave the stick that lives up your ass."

"Of course. Does this call have any pertinence to the real world whatsoever, or did you forget your meds?"

"Was that a joke?"

Silence.

"Aya?"

"…No."

A laugh. "Good. I wouldn't want you to risk injuring yourself."

Aya ran his hand through his hair, fighting the urge to smile.

"Get to the point, Kudoh."

There was still laughter in Yohji's warm, golden voice. "I just wanted to remind you about tomorrow night. We have plans."

"I remember."

"Well, I just wanted to make sure there's no way you can back out of it. Say you're sick, and I'll know you're lying."

"I'm not going to back out." Aya sighed. Truthfully, he was looking forward to seeing the man again. He knew better than to let the blonde get ahold of that bit of information. "Goodbye."

"Wait! One more thing!"

"What, Kudoh?"

"Wear something sexy."

The line went dead before Aya could begin to yell. He hung up feeling a deep sense of dread, Yohji's words ringing in his ears.

What had he gotten himself into? If Yohji thought he was dragging him off to some club or party, he had another thing coming. What was he planning, really? Did he expect Aya to drink with him? Participate in whatever narcotics he was currently using? Proposition women?

Shuddering at the thought, the redhead began to contemplate faking his own death.

(Z)

Yohji hung up the phone, a wide grin spreading across his face. Teasing Aya was something he had always wanted to do but never even had the courage to try.

Aya would spend all day worrying now – it was almost too funny for words.

Whistling cheerfully to himself he went back to working, his day suddenly brighter.

(Z)

To be continued

You'll find out what Aya's new job is next chapter. Send all comments and questions my way – I live off reviews!