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The Colors of Autumn

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The briskness of Autumn fell over Manhattan like a brightly colored blanket. Leaves, with their veins spun like delicate spiderwebs, danced through the air in a red, yellow, orange, and golden soiree. Drifting along the streets and gathering against buildings, they splattered the usual grey and concrete structures with bursts of fire like grace. The air -- with a nip against noses and fingers -- blew down alleys and into open doorways, heavily scented with damp earth and rain. The city was alive with oil paints of rich, deeply hued paints. It was breathtaking.

 

Together, Steve and Tony walked hand in hand, bundled up against the chill. With thick knit hats squashed onto their heads and oversized scarves covering most of their faces, they were hardly recognizable, and the anonymity was invigorating. Steve grinned into the wool in front of his mouth and pulled Tony closer, sliding his arm around his waist. His own smirk just as hidden, Tony leaned into the embrace. His eyes, the color of the bark on the trees, looked up at Steve, open and full of promise. 

 

Smiling down at Tony, Steve let his chin rest briefly on top of his head in a quick act of affection. His eyes, the color of the Autumn sky, twinkled in the chilly air. He was content for the first time in his life. They walked steadily and unhurried, just two people deeply in love and only concerned with each other -- past a bakery that smelled like heaven, a restaurant that smelled like cinnamon, and past a cafe that had Tony sniffing the air in delight. 

 

A flash of red and green caught Steve's eye. "Oh, those apples look good!" Steve pointed to a bodega across the street. Brown bins out front were toppled high with apples of all different varieties: Granny Smith, Empire, Golden Delicious… He licked his lips and looked down at Tony's upturned face. "Want one?"

 

"Is that even a question?"

 

Ten minutes later, armed with a plastic bag filled with the fruit, Steve and Tony walked into Central Park through the West 77th Street entrance and headed left toward Balcony Bridge. The crisp weather wasn't enough to keep New Yorkers or tourists inside -- not with a city so beautiful already dressed in such Autumn splendor. They took turns plucking apples from the bag, tasting the difference in sweetness and tartness of each, the skin breaking under their teeth and the juice bursting in their mouths. Holding up a fat, yellow apple, Tony beckoned Steve to take a bite. 

 

"This is my favorite, by far! It almost tastes like a pear, which doesn't make any sense, but it's incredible. Go on, you gotta try it!"

 

Steve grinned, always ready to indulge Tony in whatever made him happy in the moment. He leaned down and took a bite -- or he tried to. The apple wobbled in Tony's hand, and he had to bring up his own to steady it. Once his teeth had sunken in, he couldn't quite pull the piece from the whole without taking the apple from Tony's hand and dropping it. Giggling (and if you asked him, he most certainly did not giggle), Steve straightened up with the apple still in his mouth. 

 

"Where's the luau, babe?"

 

Hardly able to contain himself, Steve fell into a fit of laughter, the apple falling to the ground and rolling away, two bites missing from either side. 

 

"Now, that's just a crime," Tony said as the apple tumbled off the path. 

 

Still chewing the piece he managed to get, Steve asked, "Got any more of those?"

 

"Hey! No way!" Tony clutched the bag to his chest, "There's one more of those, and it's mine! Not my fault you eat like a baboon!"

 

"You're the one that made me laugh!"

 

"Uh-uh, I simply asked a question. Don't go walking around looking like a pig on a spit!" Digging into the bag, Tony pulled out an Empire apple and handed it to Steve. "You eat that."

 

"We have these all the time!" Steve whined, taking the apple anyway. "What about one of those Honeycrisp ones? I've never tasted an apple that was so sweet!"

 

"That-" Tony held up a finger to make his point, "-is because they didn't exist until after you were a Capsicle."

 

Steve stopped short, looking at Tony, aghast. "What?"

 

"They were created in 1974. At first, the developers said that the parent apples were the Honeygold and the Macoun, but-" he grinned at Steve's offended face, "in 2004 they figured out that one of the parents was a Keepsake apple."

 

"How could you possibly know that?"

 

Shrugging, Tony pulled out the last of the yellow, pear flavored apples and took a bite. Around the pulp in his mouth, he cheekily responded, "Genius!"

 

Scoffing, Steve lightly pushed him. "That's not an answer for everything, doll! One day, that won't work on me!"

 

Swallowing, Tony leaned up and slid his arms around Steve's neck, the bag swaying into Steve's shoulder. He slowly pulled Steve's head down and kissed him. Steve tasted the apples on his tongue and sighed happily. 

 

Finishing with a peck on Steve's chin, Tony raised his eyebrows. "But that will always work!"

 

Steve was silent for a few seconds, his brain scrambling to find a retort. He sputtered, sighed, and conceded. "Yeah, yeah. Spoiled rotten, you know that right?"

 

"Who me?"

 

"Yeah, you!"

 

Looking affronted, Tony grabbed his chest over his heart with the hand holding the bag, and threw the back of his other hand to his forehead. "I'm wounded!"

 

"You'll live," Steve teased back, pulling Tony's arm down and linking his through his elbow. "Come on, you spoiled brat, let's keep walking!"

 

"If I'm spoiled, it's all your fault," Tony jokingly griped, taking another bite. 

 

Steve chuckled, leaning over to kiss his cheek. "I never said I wasn't to blame."

 

The trees soaring above the path created a tunnel of fire. The colors mingled, and when a gust of wind swept through, a cascade of bright foliage drifted down upon them. Tony lifted his hand, trying to catch a leaf, but each time he came close to grasping one, the wind kicked up and sent it sailing away. Even Steve's reflexes couldn't snag a leaf, and it ended with them laughing and grabbing handfuls from the ground and tossing them at each other like an Autumn inspired snowball fight. 

 

They ran and chased each other like two high schoolers in love, tossing the leaves and laughing as the wind blew them back into their own faces. Slipping and sliding on wet leaves and grass in the large open fields where locals and tourists alike picnicked and laid out with flannel blankets, hot coffees, and scones and muffins they waited hours in line to get. They were a bit of a disturbance, but no one seemed too bothered by the cute couple play-fighting around them. Their fingers, caked with dirt, grappled at the ground to gain ammunition, and their coats, streaked with damp and mud, felt too heavy with the exertion. Tony had a leaf caught in his hair, and Steve's face was dotted with brown specks. 

 

A full fifteen minutes later, Steve lay catching his breath. Spread eagle along the cool ground, and he didn't -- not for a second -- see the large amount of leaves Tony had gathered up in his arms until the little brat dropped them on his face. 

 

Sputtering and laughing, Steve flailed and wiped at his face. "Hey!" he exclaimed, rolling to his side and spitting out some dirt that fell into his mouth. "Hey! No fair!" Reaching up, he grabbed Tony by the waist and yanked. 

 

Tony toppled and fell over, landing across Steve with a grunt. "All's fair in love and war!" He attacked Steve's face with kisses, peppering them from his chin to his cheeks, his forehead, and back to his lips, his scarf finally falling off and landing on the ground next to him. Wrapping his arms around Tony, Steve flipped them, pinning Tony beneath him.

 

"Is that so?"

 

"Yup!"

 

Diving down with a mischievous grin on his face, Steve headed straight to the spot on Tony's neck right behind his ear and latched on. The response was immediate. Tony's eyes fluttered closed, and he moaned softly, tilting his head back and to the side. His hand slid up Steve back, fingers trying to grip the fabric of his coat as Steve's mouth left yet another mark on his skin. The gloves made it hard to find purchase, and his hands slipped along bulky material. He finally gave in and wrapped his arms around Steve's body, dipping his head to chase his lips, his legs involuntarily falling open.

 

"Steve!" 

 

Pulling back, Steve broke the kiss and sat up. "We're in public, Anthony, you can't just go around spreading your legs." His tone was cheeky, but there was a deep lust filling his eyes.

 

Tony groaned and let his head fall back. "Then you can't start kissing me like that. You know what you do to me."

 

"Oh, I do." He sneaked a hand off to the side and came back with a fistful of leaves, unceremoniously dumping them on Tony's face. 

 

Surprised, Tony bucked up, throwing Steve off of him, and rolled to his side. "And you call me the brat!"

 

"That's because you are!"

 

There was nothing else to do but tackle him, even if it was like running into a brick wall. Steve took his weight easily, and overpowered him quickly enough, although he suspected that Tony allowed it. They rolled around for a few moments until he once again had him pinned. "Damn it, Rogers!" But Tony was laughing, his face split into a wide grin, and his eyes crinkled and dancing. Steve's hands found Tony's wrists, and he locked them in place above Tony's head. 

 

Leaning down, he kissed the tip off Tony's nose and shuddered. "You're freezing!"

 

"So? Warm me up!"

 

"How's that my job?" he asked incredulously. "See? This is why you're a brat!"

 

Tony snorted, and it was at once both adorable and absolutely ridiculous. "You chose me, remember?"

 

"Yeah, yeah," Steve smiled indulgently, kissing him sweetly, "I did, didn't I?" Without waiting for an answer, he stood and pulled Tony up with him. "Let's go home, and I'll warm you up. Brat." he added as an afterthought. 

 

"Will there be coffee?"

 

Bending down to pick up the discarded bag of apples and Tony's scarf, Steve hooked it onto his arm and adjusted the scarf so it was covering Tony's mouth again. "Of course."

 

"But first, you finish what you started, Steven!" The sound was slightly muffled, but Tony's sass came through anyway.

 

Laughing, Steve took Tony's gloved hand into his own, "I can promise you that!"

 

Later, as they lay naked in bed, Tony's satisfied body wrapped around his, Steve thought that of all the colors of Autumn, brown was his absolute favorite. How could it not be when he saw a burst of it every time he looked into his lover's eyes? 

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