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Apple-picking Upstate

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There was just something about upstate New York in the autumn. The sensation had driven Steve, Darcy, and Bucky out of the Compound to an apple-picking festival. The holographic display on Bucky’s arm was good for times like this when they were hoping to appear average. It was also amazing what a baseball cap and sunglasses could do, or so it seemed. Though occasionally some small child still made Steve as Captain America.

Steve was doing his best to make the child happy without attracting the attention of anyone else. Fortunately, the kid seemed to be the quiet sort who just wanted to ask a couple of questions, and their parents snapped a quick picture of the child with Steve while Darcy and Bucky stood back smiling at the scene. The child waved as his parents guided him off in another direction after the encounter and Steve scanned for if anyone else had noticed that 'also known as Captain America' was hanging out among them.

"You're pretty good at that." Darcy chuckled a bit.

"At what?" Steve was smiling, though he wasn't sure what he'd done.

"Carefully and thoroughly attending to that kid's interests without drawing any additional attention to yourself. It's a delicate balance and you make it look easy." The three of them had moved slowly since that first encounter the morning of the hot air balloon festival. They spent a lot of free time hanging out around the Compound, including in each other's rooms kissing, but that was about it. They hadn't pushed deeper into anything, nor had they ventured outside the Compound.

Steve shrugged looking a bit sheepish before he leaned in and kissed Darcy's temple, letting his lips linger a bit as his nose nuzzled softly in her hair. "I don't want to disappoint them, but I also really just want to enjoy this day with you. We've finally worked up the daring to try a day out. I had hoped it wouldn't have taken this long, but I guess Bucky and I weren't as sure as we thought."

Darcy wrapped one arm around Steve's lower back and reached the other out for Bucky's hand, who quickly grabbed hold and stepped in closer to her. "That's okay. It's happening now, and it feels like just the right time. I haven't been disappointed by any of our previous dates at the Compound. I think I've gotten to know you both better and faster because we're usually just in one of our rooms or around the grounds focused largely on each other. It is fun to see you guys doing normal things beyond the Compound with all the associated distractions. But I don't regret the pace we've taken."

Bucky had worried the same as Steve. Sometimes they bolstered each others confidence around Darcy, but they also sometimes had the same worries about the world beyond the Compound. "That's good. We do want to make the most of this, since we're finally here."

"We will. And the first, and main, task is to pick as many apples as these bags will hold." When she grinned and chuckled Steve and Bucky both relaxed and smiled a little more.

"I think I can get enough apples for you to make several of those apple crumbles you talked about on the drive up." Bucky's mouth had practically watered when Darcy had described the dessert she planned to make with some of the apples.

"I think I'm smelling apple cider, I might have to see if I can find a way to make that too." Darcy started glancing around to see if she could spot where there might be cider available.

"I can definitely smell cider too." The scent of apples and spices had been dancing around Steve's nostrils since they got out of the car and had followed him around as they started picking some apples. "I think it's coming from over there."

Bucky nodded agreement and lead the way toward one of the buildings on the property, still holding onto Darcy's hand. "I don't know that I've ever had apple cider, but it definitely smells good out here."

"It's been a while for me, but I have a vague memory of going on this local artist's studios tour with my dad when I was like sixteen and it was early fall or something and one of the artist studios had apple cider. I don't remember a lot about the day, but I remember it was a little outside town and the cider was warm and cozy and there was art." Darcy spotted a sign as they neared the farmhouse building that directed inside for cider.

The cider was sold from the roomy kitchen of the farmhouse and in rather large cups for quite a reasonable price. At least that was Darcy's feeling given how warm and tasty that first sip was. She had both hands curled around her cup so Bucky was simply hovering close to her side with his own cup, and a hand on the small of her back, while they decided where to sit as Steve got his own. There was some cute wicker furnishings on the porch, which seemed a good spot to settle. Darcy lead them out and the guys sat on either side of her. She'd gotten used to that, but it still made her grin just a little bit.

One of Darcy's knees hooked over Bucky's. She didn't even think about it, he simply had scooted in so close she tried to get a little closer in turn. They glanced at each other and smiled. Steve seemed to chuckle softly at it and sat close to the other side, but slightly less aggressively so. He did casually sling his arm around Darcy's shoulders though. She definitely didn't have to worry about the cool breeze making her cold with the two of them around.

"You think you can make cider like this too? Not that you have to, but..." Steve didn't want her to think she had to. But her mentioning it, and now trying it, had him very interested. "There is just something strangely comforting about it."

"That is a strange thing about cider. Hot chocolate and tea can do it too, I think in a way coffee doesn't. It's not just about the warmth but the scent as well. And I do think I probably could. I'll have to check online for some recipes and try it with some of the apples." They had already picked some before the kid recognized Steve, but none of their bags were even half full yet. If they all filled them to the brim, there would be plenty of apples for crumbles, cider, and more.

After a bit of lingering on the patio they slowly wandered back out to the orchard. It was perhaps surprisingly relaxing wandering through the trees looking for the apples that somehow spoke to them. Darcy spied Steve pausing for deep breaths with his eyes closed several times, after which he blushed when Bucky chuckled at him. But then Bucky would get caught just gazing at an apple before picking it. Darcy found the whole thing spectacularly adorable and she was starting to wonder if she was smiling too much.

It took them an hour or so to actually fill their bags with apples during which they started hearing music carrying across the grounds. Darcy followed the sound until she could hear actual voices coming from an open field area where a small stage was set up. "Oh, there's people sitting around watching the band. I'm hungry, but it looks like fun."

"Well, a picnic seems like the obvious solution to that. The kitchen had some food. I could go get us all some sandwiches or something and more cider and we could have a picnic." The way Darcy's face had gone from soft to excited when she spotted the people in the field made Steve feel the need to find a quick solution. They'd planned to leave and get some late lunch right after the apple picking, but he didn't see any harm in a little picnic with music before they headed out.

"I think there's a blanket in the car too. If you want to find us a good spot. Something along the edges might be nice?" Bucky liked the idea, but the area right around the stage was definitely more crowded than around the edge of the field.

"That sounds perfect. I'll pick a spot near the trees there and see you guys in just a few?" They both nodded at her and Darcy's smile managed to get even brighter.

"Here, give me the bags and I'll put the apples in the car too." Bucky reached out before anyone could move away and took both Darcy and Steve's bags.

It didn't take long for Bucky to reappear with the blanket. He and Darcy were just getting settled watching the band when Steve arrived with a to-go tray full of ciders and a bag of food. They dug in pretty quick and then leaned back to enjoy the scene. Steve and Bucky crossed their arms behind her so she could lean back while they sat on either side of her. It was possible both guys watched Darcy more than the band or other people, but each took the occasional scan of the field. The sun was gently warm, but not too strong. The air had a distinctly autumn coolness that kept them all comfortable. They were quiet for a while, just eating and enjoying the place, perhaps Darcy especially so, her head bobbing a bit at times to the music and smiling.

Once the food had been finished and Darcy felt both their eyes decidedly on her, somewhat intensively, she glanced between them. "Did you guys want to get going? The music is good, but I'm good to go if you guys want."

"We can stay a bit longer if you want. We're just enjoying watching you." Steve knew he was staring, and that Bucky was too.

"I don't want it to get too tiring or too long or too much for you guys." She had gotten to take the whole scene in and enjoy the full experience on offer at the apple orchard so she was good with packing it in and heading back. It was mid-afternoon and they'd been out here since mid-morning. She didn't want either of them to feel taxed by the venture.

"Not at all tiring and we're far enough from the crowd I feel relaxed still. The music is good. Not like we used to listen to in the old days, but it somehow has a good vibe for the fall season. We just really like watching you, as you watch." Bucky had a bit of a lopsided grin.

Darcy smiled more, again. "Then maybe a little longer. Another song or two. Then we can go and maybe I can make a crumble once we get back."

"Ooo, that sounds good. Deal." Steve actually grinned and gave Darcy a little squeeze, with one arm, before letting himself take in the scene as a whole again. He did want to remember all of this. It was out of his ordinary, which he'd perhaps felt a bit of trepidation about when they first arrived, but he was finding the whole thing rather enjoyable now.

Darcy giggled and snuggled into them both for a couple more songs. She felt Bucky kiss her forehead before resting his head to hers and gazing out across the field as well. She was glad they seemed to genuinely enjoy their outing. She hoped maybe there would be more to come, not that she was in a rush. It was a step forward, and she was glad it had been a good one. At the moment, though, she had more desire to get back to the Compound and have them all to herself than anything else.