Usually, Kircheis was the one to stay at home. Reinhard found himself wondering how Kircheis could stand to do it.
It's not that being alone in the flat they shared was unpleasant, especially not when it was a typical Odin winter day with snow falling like feathers from a torn eiderdown and a wind that "whooed" around the stone corners of the building. The flat was warm, except for a few drafts of cold air where the windows needed better weatherstripping. Reinhard had work to keep him occupied and a pot of coffee staying hot in the thermo carafe in the kitchen.
Nonetheless, he was not on the couch in front of the laptop. Its screen had gone black several minutes ago. He'd only drunk half the cup of coffee; the remainder was now stone cold.
Reinhard was in front of the window, watching the snowflakes pile into the corners of each pane. Days off were when he usually did his best and most efficient work since he had no meetings, no interruptions, and no distractions. He and Kircheis would rise late and he'd get to whatever projects he needed to accomplish while Kircheis made breakfast. Often, Reinhard would slip back to his office to take advantage of the isolation and quiet. When Reinhard chose to work at home, Kircheis would always have some task of his own to accomplish.
What this meant was that Reinhard was simply used to being able to look up from the work he'd taken home and see Kircheis sitting there. More often than not, if he raised his eyes to look at Kircheis, Kircheis was usually looking up at him at the same moment.
My other self indeed, Reinhard reflected.
He couldn't concentrate in the apartment without that.
Suddenly, he heard the front door open and close downstairs, followed by the sound of familiar footsteps. Kircheis must have come down the street while Reinhard was absorbed in his reverie. He strode quickly back to the couch and dropped down into it, getting his computer back onto his lap just as the apartment door opened and Kircheis came in. Melting snow glistened on his red hair and the black wool of his overcoat. He carried grocery bags in his gloved hands.
Reinhard hoped he looked casual as he set the computer aside and went to help Kircheis with his coat. The cold still clung to it like a scent. "You took your time coming back here," Reinhard said as he hung the damp garment in the closet.
"I went shopping. The farmer's market was still open, so I wanted to take advantage of that." Kircheis reached into one bag and pulled out a white box. "I know it's probably not as good as Lady Annerose's, but I got us some berry strudel."
"I don't think Annerose will be jealous," Reinhard told him.
"I've got some ham, turnips, and bread for our supper, too. I'm hungry, so I'll get that started." Kircheis gathered the bags and headed on stockinged feet into the kitchen.
Reinhard heard cupboards opening and closing and the sound of Kircheis running water into a pot. Reinhard picked up the laptop again and found that he suddenly had the energy to start collating the information from scattered pieces of paper into his spreadsheet. He heard Kircheis turn on the radio and hum along with some music as he cooked. Reinhard heard the knife on the cutting board. He saved the spreadsheet and went to some online forms. He was halfway through one of them when Kircheis poked his head from the kitchen and asked, "Do you want more coffee?"
Reinhard looked into his cup with distaste. "A whole new one, please. I let this one get cold."
Kircheis emerged from the kitchen with two cups of coffee in one hand and a plate with buttered bread in the other. He sat down beside Reinhard and placed the food on the table in front of them.
"It doesn't look like you accomplished as much as you'd planned, Reinhard," he observed gently as he picked up a slice of bread. It was a rye, Reinhard saw. Kircheis would be making them sandwiches during the week.
"It's not that easy on a day like this," Reinhard told him. "I looked out the window and the snow hypnotized me."
"I'll have to be more vigilant about not letting that happen to you," Kircheis said, giving him the smile from which Reinhard had derived strength over the years. "I'll order shutters for the windows."
Just don't stray far from me, Reinhard thought, but knowing it was impossible for that to never happen, kept it to himself.