This year the tree was fake.
Last year Nagi had sneezed so much from the real thing that Crawford had banned vegetation of the non-edible kind from entering the apartment again. Schuldig had pouted. Crawford had been adamant. Farfarello had ignored the whole debacle.
And Nagi had continued sneezing until the damn tree had been removed the day after Christmas - Schuldig had wriggled that much of a concession out of the precognitive. And as Nagi was highly unwilling to think about, let alone do what Schuldig had probably done to secure that special consideration, he had just had to grin and bear it. Or rather, sneeze and bear it.
But this year the tree was full, bushy, glorious, scent-free plastic. Schuldig, in Nagi’s opinion, had been disproportionately outraged.
His initial revenge had been a CD of saccharine carols and Christmas songs sung by some English singer, ‘Criff Rikards’, whom Nagi had never heard of before and hopefully never would again. Fortunately Farfarello had shared Nagi’s musical tastes for once, and the CD had gone the way of all good Christian soldiers - the ones that had met the lions.
Then Schuldig had threatened to fly to Germany and brainwarp his favourite band Rammstein into making a cover of “O Tannenbaum”. Nagi figured only the fact that Crawford refused to let Schuldig out of the country had spared them that particular atrocity.
And even then, Nagi had a phantom metal version of the song thrashing through his mind for several days. Schuldig had sworn it wasn’t his doing, that it was just an ‘ear worm’, whatever that was. But quite aside from the general inadvisability of believing Schuldig when he smiled like that, the fact remained it had gone away after Nagi had wallpapered Schuldig’s room with fluorescent-green pine tree wrapping paper. Even Schuldig had had enough taste not to enjoy the sight.
Having been forbidden by Crawford to indulge in any further escalation of “The Christmas Tree War”, Schuldig had fallen back on the patented weapon of last resort for air-headed pubescent schoolgirls, angry misogynistic adolescents and stymied telepaths; he sulked. It suffused the air of Schwarz’s apartment even more heavily than the scent of pine had last year, and even permeated through the barrier of Nagi’s usual indifference to the discomfort of others.
“It’s not like he says or thinks anything,” Nagi complained, “But I just wish he’d shut up!”
“This is your problem. Fix it,” Crawford’s newspaper told him.
“What?!? How is this my problem?”
“You’re the allergic one. You’re the reason we don’t have a real tree in the living room.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” Nagi had the suspicion he was whining like a teenager, and that just pissed him off even more.
“You’re Schwarz. You’re trained to improvise in situations like this.”
And that was about as helpful as Crawford got.
Nagi had thought about ‘the situation’, then thought about what he could do about it. The first half-dozen plans he’d had to abandon. Leaving certain team-members either dead or permanently incapacitated was probably not an ideal outcome in Crawford’s eyes. Finally he’d gritted his teeth and come up with this . . . compromise.
Which was why Nagi was here, staring at the front of the Koneko. It wasn’t that he wanted to spy on that other obnoxious redhead’s sister (unlike Schuldig who cruised past occasionally in order to freak out her little look-a-like friend), it was just that this was the only florists anywhere nearby that had what he wanted in stock.
“I hope you’re not here to cause trouble.”
The youngest member of Weiß had emerged from the shop’s doorway. There was a hint of a threat in his tone, even though Tsukiyono Omi smiled as he spoke.
Nagi acknowledged his presence, noting how much he had matured and changed since the last time Nagi had seen him. Which, if Nagi remembered correctly, had been a serious attempt on each of their part’s to kill the other, involving a barrage of various sharply-pointed objects on Tsukiyono’s side and the application of psychokinetic force and a large marble pillar on Nagi’s.
“Takatori Mamoru,” he was corrected.
Nagi felt his eyebrows rise of their own volition. This development was new. And also interesting. Crawford had probably Seen Nagi and Bombay meeting, but just how irritated would Schuldig be that there was something important Nagi wasn’t telling him?
“Mamoru,” he almost-smiled.
Schuldig appeared in the doorway to Nagi’s office, glee fairly radiating off him. Obviously he’d been into his bedroom.
Nagi ignored him.
“And Fröhliche Weihnachten to you, too.”
“Sure you don’t want to come decorate it with me?”
The expression that accompanied the jibe was not Schuldig’s usual manic smirk however, but one of his rare happy smiles. Nagi looked up from the monitor and scowled at him.
Schuldig replied and turned to leave.
“Track needles through the apartment and I’ll scatter your porn magazines all over the Greater Tokyo district.”
Schuldig’s voice laughed in Nagi’s head,
*Just so long as you remember you’re not old enough to read them before you do so.*
Damn telepath. He always
had to have the last word.