Author's Note: Thanks go out to Higuchimon and Lacey for their help and support. They write good fics, so when you're done reading this one, why not go read a few of theirs?
Warmth in the Snow
"Look, look, look!"
Siegfried groaned, twitched a little, and completely failed to open his eyes. He loved Pegasus, but he loved him somewhat less first thing in the morning. Pegasus was a morning person, and capable of being wide awake and cheerful within the first five minutes of his rolling out of bed, but Siegfried was a considerably slower starter.
"Tell me what I should be looking at," he mumbled into the pillow, "and I'll decide if I want to see it or not."
"It snowed!" said Pegasus. He sounded utterly delighted by the prospect.
Siegfried groaned again. "Is that all?" he said. "You didn't have to wake me up for that."
"It's still coming down," Pegasus said, ignoring him completely. "It must be a foot deep already!"
"Which means we're snowed in. Go back to bed." Siegfried was keeping his eyes resolutely shut. He hated snow and cold weather in general. Not only did the snow keep him from getting to work, but the cold kept his precious roses from blooming, not to mention what the winter-dry air did to his skin. Snow he found particularly repulsive because it was cold and wet, and he couldn't stand to be uncomfortable for any length of time. As far as he was concerned, snow days were occasions to stay indoors close to the fire, preferably with something warm to drink and a blanket or two. Today was definitely not a day to go outside.
"Want to go outside?" asked Pegasus.
"No," said Siegfried flatly. "Neither would you, if you had any sense."
"But it never snows back home," Pegasus protested. Siegfried stifled a sigh at his partner's ignorance. Some days, despite the difference in their ages, he felt that he was older than Pegasus was. Pegasus was indisputably a brilliant man, with a flair for publicity and an insight to the workings of people's minds that was sometimes uncanny, but there were times when he could be absurdly childish. Living in the southwest as he did, Pegasus couldn't be expected to know about snow like this. Siegfried, on the other hand, had a lifelong acquaintance with the miserable stuff, and knew enough to want to avoid it.
"You're lucky, then," he said. "Trust me, snow is worthless unless you own a ski slope. Do as you wish, but you're not getting me outside in that."
"If you say so."
Siegfried opened one eye in time to see Pegasus, still in his bathrobe and slippers, leaving the room. If Siegfried had been at all awake, he would have suspected mischief. As it was, he snuggled back down under the blankets and attempted to go back to sleep. That was the one good thing about snow: he could stay in bed an extra hour instead of getting up to go to work.
What wasn't good about snow was getting hit in the face with it. Siegfried sat up spluttering as a snowball struck him. Wiping snow out of his eyes, he looked up to see Pegasus smiling wickedly at him.
"Sure you don't want to go out?" he asked. "Or shall I bring some more in?"
"I am going to lock you out in it!"
Siegfried made an uncoordinated effort to untangle himself from his sheets and made a wild lunge at Pegasus, who dodged him easily and sprinted out the door. Siegfried ran after him, shouting threats in English and German while Pegasus laughed at him. He didn't wake up enough to fully realize why Pegasus was laughing at him until he reached the main hallway, where a few baffled servants doing some morning chores stopped what they were doing to watch the spectacle. It was only then that Siegfried became aware of a draft and recalled one fundamental difference between himself and Pegasus. Both of them appreciated fine clothing, but Pegasus was modest when it came to being seen undressed; unless he was bathing or involved in certain intimate activities, he was always fully dressed. Siegfried, on the other hand, was not body-shy, and felt most comfortable sleeping in the nude. He had gone straight from his bed to chasing Pegasus. He had not stopped along the way to get dressed. Now he looked around, and watched the servants look quickly away. A few of the maids tittered to each other. Siegfried drew on his unshakeable pride, raised his head high, and grandly pointed a finger at Pegasus.
"This is all his fault," he said, and turned and stalked off.
Behind him, he could hear Pegasus saying, "Well, now that I've had my morning jog, I think it's time to have breakfast."
A few people chuckled at this quip. Siegfried ignored it and escaped back to his room to get dressed. He was not at all ashamed of his body - why should he be? - but in this kind of weather, he would have to be crazy to walk around wearing nothing but a ring on one finger. The ring was a gift from Pegasus, who enjoyed having someone to spend his fortune on. It didn't matter if Siegfried was perfectly capable of buying gifts for himself; he liked doing it anyway. The ring itself was platinum with a pink stone, with an engraved rose on one side of the band and a pallette and paint brush on the other, and their initials engraved on the inside. It was ridiculously expensive, preposterously flashy, and absurdly sentimental. Siegfried never took it off.
Once he was dressed and groomed, Siegfried reported to the dining room to find that Pegasus, still in his purple pajamas, was eating bacon and eggs and talking to Leon. The boy waved as his brother made an entrance. Siegfried was mildly disgruntled to realize that he was the only one at the table who was fully dressed.
"Hi, big brother!" said Leon cheerfully. "I heard you and Mr. Pegasus went jogging this morning!"
"Humph. Did you hear someone was playing very childish pranks on me this morning, too?" Siegfried replied. He pulled a bran muffin from a basket and nibbled at it. Concerned as he was about keeping his figure, bacon and eggs were not part of his daily routine.
Leon giggled. "Oh, come on. It was funny!"
"Fine. I'll throw a snowball in your bed next time."
"Eek, no!" said Leon, flinching away in mock-fear.
Pegasus laughed. "Fear not. I don't think he meant it... and I wouldn't dare. For one thing, you wouldn't put on nearly such an interesting display."
"You had me at a disadvantage," said Siegfried. "You attacked me before I was awake."
"It's not safe to attack you while you're awake," Pegasus pointed out. "So, are you going out into the snow with me now?"
"Definitely not," said Siegfried. "There's no point in purposely going out and getting wet and frozen. I'm going to stay in and get some work done."
"Oh, come on. You can't work today! What's a snow day for, if not an excuse to amuse yourself a bit?" said Pegasus. With a bombastic flourish, he added, "Consider the lilies of the field. They neither sweat nor toil..."
Siegfried waved away the rest of the quotation. "Idleness may be well and good for the lilies of the field, but this rose of Germany has things he should be doing. I'm snowed in often enough in the winter that I have alternate modes of getting things done. The internet is a wonderful invention."
"I wish I could play in the snow," said Leon, "but I have lessons first. I don't think my governess will let me off the hook just because it's snowed. I can play once I'm done with all my studies, though."
"Ah, well. It looks as if I'll be all alone," said Pegasus, affecting an air of misery. He looked at Siegfried who pointedly ignored him, choosing reach for another muffin instead.
"Go out and get turned into an icicle if you wish," said Siegfried, "but I am staying in here where it's warm. Don't come crying to me when you find it not to your liking."
"Spoil-sport," said Pegasus. He stuck his tongue out at Siegfried, making Leon giggle. Siegfried did what he could to hide his reaction behind his muffin.
"I'm simply being realistic," he said.
"You smiled," Pegasus pointed out.
"I did nothing of the sort," said Siegfried, raising a hand to hide the fact that he was.
"Of course, of course," Pegasus replied. "Well, if I must conduct my explorations alone, then that's what I must do! Which means I must get dressed. Lovely as these are, I doubt they're snow-worthy." He tugged at the sleeve of his pajamas. They were satin, a birthday gift from Siegfried. He'd worn them that night, but not for very long.
"You'd be better off going back to bed," said Siegfried.
Pegasus arched an eyebrow. "Oh, really? Was that an invitation?"
"Really, Pegasus, must you talk like that in front of my brother?" Siegfried sighed.
Leon took his cue. "I'm gonna go get dressed now. See you later. Bye, Big Brother! Bye, Mr. Pegasus!"
He waved and scampered off. Pegasus shrugged and rose to his feet as well.
"I think I will follow his lead," he said. "Really, Siegfried. The way you're carrying on about this snow, I could almost think you were jealous of it. Do you think I'm going to have an affair with a snowman? I hear they're a bit cold, but I'll bet I could melt one's heart. They're not fair-weather friends, you know."
"You should not be allowed to be so cheerful this early in the morning," said Siegfried. "You could at least wait until I've had my first cup of coffee. But nothing you say is going to convince me to go out in that."
"Have it your way," said Pegasus. "Just don't come trying to drag me back inside when you get lonely."
The two parted company. Siegfried finished his breakfast in slightly sulky silence and returned to his room to carry out his intention to get some work done. He settled down at his desk - which was not necessary, since he was getting his work done from a laptop and could have just as easily stayed in bed, but he wanted to be able to look out on the outside world. He rather liked being able to see the snow, if only to be reminded that he was inside, close to a roaring fire. He had a servant bring him a tall mug of chocolate-raspberry cappuccino to sip on while he worked. There really was nothing like being warm and snug in his room while everything outside his window froze. This was the first time he'd bothered to verify Pegasus's claims of snow for himself (the snowball didn't really count), and now he could see that there was indeed a foot or more of snow out there, obscuring everything in the gardens. Siegfried gave the icy landscape one last look, shivered a bit at the sight, and turned his attention to his work.
After a few minutes, he looked up again to see that someone had disturbed the perfect smoothness of the snow-covered lawn. Pegasus, now suitably attired for the cold weather, was trudging around in the midst of the storm, staring at everything as if he'd never seen anything like it in his life. Perhaps he hadn't. He had traveled the world when he was searching for ideas for his cards, but heavy snow tended to hinder travel plans; it was entirely possible that this was the first time he had been anywhere while a serious snowfall was in progress. What Siegfried saw as an annoyance, Pegasus plainly found enchanting.
Well, as long as he's enjoying himself, I suppose it's all right, Siegfried mused. He turned back to his computer, only occasionally allowing his mind to wander back to the present. At those moments, he'd look out the window to observe Pegasus taking childish delight in this intriguing form of weather, and mull on the interesting turn his personal life had taken.
This morning was not the first time that Siegfried had gotten annoyed with Pegasus's occasionally twisted sense of humor - far from it. The first time they had met, Siegfried had connected with him primarily from a businessman's point of view, seeing Pegasus as someone much like himself: intelligent, urbane, witty, driven, and with a certain amount of disregard for the rules when it came to getting what he wanted. It had almost been a disappointment to become better acquainted with Pegasus's lighter side and learn that he was, in fact, not just a rule-bender but a genuine prankster with a fondness for jokes of all sorts. He watched cartoons, for heaven's sakes! Even Leon had mostly outgrown those by now, and yet Siegfried had occasionally paid a visit to the great man's home to find him laughing himself to tears over a cartoon. It was hardly dignified and occasionally tiresome.
Siegfried finished off a round of e-mails to various important people, letting them know the status of various important projects, and stood up to stretch his legs. As he strolled around his room, working the kinks out of various muscles, he took another glance out the window.
"Well, what do we have here?" he murmured. "He really is building a snowman!"
Sure enough, Pegasus had already set up a sturdy base, as perfectly round and symmetrical as one could ask, and was now hard at work rolling up the center part. The lawn was looking a bit trampled, but the still-falling snow would take care of that, and Siegfried was willing to bet that this would be a snowman that was fit testimony to Pegasus's artistic abilities. Even from this distance, Siegfried could see that Pegasus was smiling as he worked.
And of course, that was the thing about Pegasus. Over continued visits, Siegfried had gradually come to learn that what he'd passed off as superficial silliness was in fact a genuine love for life, with all its splendid oddities - and also a keen understanding that life was temporary. Anything that was important to you could be snatched away at a moment's notice, so it was important to enjoy everything as much as you could while it was there. That was his philosophy, and he applied it to all areas of his life, including the ones that involved Siegfried. He was as attentive and devoted a lover as anyone could ask for, lavishing him with gifts and compliments, sending reams of letters, and generally living each day as if he might not get another chance to express his emotions.
Siegfried, for his part, enjoyed the treatment. He liked having someone around who treated him with the deference that was his due. It was pleasant, too, to have someone intelligent to talk to who shared some of his interests and moved in the same kind of social sphere as he did. Pegasus was an attractive man, and it had seemed that the two of them would have a good intellectual relationship as well as a physical one. That was what Siegfried had thought he was getting into when the two of them had begun their first tentative steps towards their current relationship. But something else had happened along the way that he wasn't expecting. Bit by bit, he'd begun to realize that he enjoyed Pegasus's clowning. All his life, Siegfried had been treated as an adult and expected to behave like one, with the ultimate result being that when he'd been called upon to run a large company while he was still in his teens, he'd been up to the challenge. That was, he felt, a good thing, but the fact remained that he'd never really had a proper childhood. Pegasus gave him that - encouraged him to go out of bounds, let himself loose and have some fun. Siegfried had laughed more in the year he'd known Pegasus than he had in all the rest of the years in his life combined.
I really am better off with him here, he mused. Even if he does have odd ideas about snow.
Come to think of it, maybe Pegasus had the right idea about that, too. Really, when had Siegfried ever made a snowman, or had a snowball fight? He'd never seen snow as a toy, only as cold wet stuff that kept him from being able to get out of the castle. Maybe he should give it a chance. Anyway, his work was done for the morning and there was nothing else that he couldn't put off until later. He rose from his seat and looked out the window, intending to see where Pegasus had gone and go out to meet him. His snowman was there - as perfect as any snowman could be - but its maker was out of sight. Ah, well. Siegfried would find him.
He trekked downstairs to find his coat and met Pegasus coming up.
"There you are! I was just coming out to look for you," said Siegfried. "Are you tired of the snow already?"
"Yes," said Pegasus, more than usually terse. He sniffled a little and rubbed at his nose, which was red with cold, a look that was not at all becoming on him. "I th-think I am done with s-snow for q-quite some t-t-time."
Siegfried had to raise a hand quickly to hide a smile. The coat Pegasus was wearing was fine for chilly days in California, but not nearly adequate for a snowy day in the mountains of Germany - or anywhere else, for that matter, if the weather was truly cold and wet. Pegasus appeared to be well soaked, with a coating of snow still resting on his clothing, and he was shivering uncontrollably.
"Oh, you poor thing," said Siegfried. "You should have listened to me. Delicate desert flowers such as yourself don't flourish in this kind of weather. But have no fear; I know how to put you to rights. Come with me."
He led his still-shivering companion back up the stairs to his room and helped him out of his clothing. Pegasus's hands were so stiff with cold that he fumbled the buttons of his coat, and Siegfried had to do most of the work undressing him himself. The coat Pegasus had worn had not been enough to protect his legs from the still-falling snow, and his slacks were sodden from the knees down. Likewise, snow had slipped down his collar. He would have been only slightly damper if he'd jumped into a pool fully dressed. In the end, he had to be stripped down to the bare essentials, and Siegfried left him on the sofa closest to the fire, wrapped in the warmest down comforter he could find. Once he was settled comfortably, Siegfried left him there and disappeared for a while, leaving Pegasus to thaw by the fireplace.
A short while later, Siegfried reappeared holding a heavy pewter mug filled with something that steamed invitingly, sending off an enticing aroma.
"Here," he said. "This will make you feel better in no time."
"What is it?" Pegasus asked, eyeing it with interest.
"It is... glühwein. I don't know your English word for it. Sweetened red wine heated with spices mixed into it."
"Mulled wine. Yes. That does sound like just the thing." Pegasus accepted the mug and sipped at it gratefully.
Siegfried sat down on the sofa next to him and rested his head on Pegasus's shoulder.
"So," he said, "now that you have experienced it, what do you think of snow?"
Pegasus gave the question his judicious thought for a moment. "I'd have to say... I can understand why Leon wanted to go out, and also why you wanted to stay in."
"Actually, I was just about to go out and join you when I met you," said Siegfried. "It occurred to me there was a chance it might be fun."
"It might have been if you'd gotten there before I was completely frozen," Pegasus replied. Reviving a little, he asked, "Did you see my snowman?"
"Yes, I did. I thought it was an admirable snowman. Leon will be impressed."
"Well, I'm glad I got something out of my endeavors," said Pegasus. He sipped at his drink and mused a while. "How long do you think this snow is going to last?"
"Quite some time, I'm sure," Siegfried replied. "It could be as much as three days or more before the road out is clear. We may be snowed in for a while."
"I see. So... what do you do while you're snowed in?"
"Stay in bed where it's warm."
"All three days?"
"Well... perhaps later I will go outside to see your snowman," said Siegfried. "I want to make sure his intentions toward you are honorable."
"I assure you he was terribly frosty towards me," Pegasus quipped. "I'd just as soon stay with someone who shows me a bit of warmth." He rearranged the blanket so it could cover Siegfried as well. "And I apologize for throwing the snowball at you."
"That's all right. It doesn't matter," said Siegfried, as he settled contentedly against his partner's side. "I think I could get to like the snow."