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The Colour of Autumn

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It was a beautiful day, but Kinshiro was nervous. He had no idea what was in store. All he knew was that Atsushi had told him to dress warmly and wear good shoes, indicating that whatever Atsushi had in mind would be outdoors. He of course was happy that Atsushi had invited him to spend a day off together, just the two of them. But he was also nervous because it was going to be just the two of them. His stomach flopped around mercilessly.

Ever since he and Atsushi started being friends again a month ago, his feelings for him had shifted into something more, something deeper, or perhaps those feelings had always been romantic in nature, it’d just taken him that long to figure that out. Being alone with Atsushi on an unknown outing, Kinshiro was unsure how his heart would be able to handle it. His weak heart, foolish for the being that was Kinugawa Atsushi. His weak heart that had always belonged to Atsushi, even during the years Kinshiro hadn’t wanted it to be, had tried to convince himself it wasn’t.

There was also the fact that he didn’t really like not knowing what to expect. He liked knowing everything so he knew how to prepare. But, it wasn’t like he didn’t trust Atsushi. As long as he was together with him, Kinshiro would be fine with anything.

Being with Atsushi, by his side again, was all he ever wanted. With that thought, his tense shoulders relaxed, and a new happy, giddy feeling made him feel light as air, like the autumn wind would blow him away.

And he was sure he would be blown away by Atsushi’s bright smile, brighter than the sun, than anything else, as he approached Kinshiro with a wave. He seemed just as excited as Kinshiro felt to see him. The flip flopping in his stomach continued, but this time it was for a whole different reason than nervousness.

“Kin-chan!”

Even Atsushi’s voice sounded excited to see him. Kinshiro still wondered if he deserved this happiness after all he’d done, but Atsushi was naturally a kind, forgiving person, and Kinshiro vowed he would never hurt Atsushi or be the reason for the smile to leave his face again.

“At-chan!” Kinshiro waved back, smiling a bit shyly. Atsushi had a backpack over his arm, and Kinshiro couldn’t help but be curious about what he had in there. Atsushi was also wearing an unfamiliar outfit - a blue sweater with a black jacket over top. Of course, he mostly saw Atsushi in uniform, so anything else would be different. A good different.

“Um... I like your sweater,” Atsushi said, sounding a bit awkward himself, scratching his cheek with a slight flush on his face, though that could just be from the wind.

“Oh... thank you,” Kinshiro felt his face grow warm. He hadn’t chosen anything special, a sunflower-coloured sweater he’d had in his closet for necessary outings on cooler autumn days. Even unnecessary ones like having tea in his favourite cafe, alone. But now he didn’t have to be alone, missing and yearning. The one he yearned for was right in front of him, smiling at him.

“Alright, should we go?” Atsushi said. Kinshiro nodded, following behind him.

“You won’t tell me where we’re going?” Kinshiro couldn’t help but ask again.

“Hm...” Atsushi said. “I know that you’ve never liked surprises, but... I think I’ll keep it to myself for now.” His mysterious aura and glint in his eye were captivating. It made Kinshiro think he’d fall off the earth for Atsushi.

“Alright,” he agreed.

Even though he didn’t usually like surprises, he found himself excited for this one.

--

Kinshiro had become even more curious when they’d arrived at the train station, but the trip hadn’t lasted too long before Atsushi ushered them off of it. Stepping off the train, Kinshiro was greeted by an expanse of trees at the other side of the road, beautiful trees of autumn colours, bright reds and yellows blended together.

He gave Atsushi a curious look, but his childhood friend just smiled at him and kept walking towards the trees.

To Kinshiro’s surprise, there was a walking trail leading into the forest.

“Is that where we’re going?” he questioned.

“Yeah! Don’t worry, it’s not too far away!”

“Is that so?” Kinshiro followed after him. The trail led into a wooded area. It was hard to tell how thick the woods were as they ventured along the path, but it really was beautiful here. He wasn’t even sure where he should be looking - Atsushi, or the beautiful scenery of the sunset coloured trees, leaves falling gently around them.

His eyes lingered on the trees before looking straight upwards at the bright blue sky, not a cloud in sight. It was absolutely stunning. Kinshiro had the zen garden outside his bedroom, but other than that, he usually didn’t get chances or take opportunities to enjoy nature. He was too busy, and it wasn’t something he thought of doing.

There was a rustling noise suddenly, and in his view, Atsushi was pulling out a map. So he had somewhere specific in mind, clearly. Kinshiro wondered how long Atsushi had been planning this. Despite the chill in the air, Kinshiro felt nothing but warmth from his heart.

The path swerved into a turn and they followed, Kinshiro looking at the trees with awe. He could see some birds in the distance, flying between trees, not getting a close enough look to determine what kind they were.

“I think we’re almost there,” Atsushi said excitedly. “I hope you like it!”

“I already like it,” Kinshiro promised. Sure, hiking and outdoors wasn’t usually his thing, but everything was beautiful, and Atsushi had planned this outing for them. He was just as excited to see what Atsushi had in mind.

The path suddenly twisted again, but Atsushi gave Kinshiro a reassuring look, lightly took his elbow, and led him away from the path. His instinctive first reaction was apprehension. Was it really okay to leave the path? Would they get lost? Were there rules against it? But Atsushi did seem to know what he was doing...

To his surprise, Atsushi was taking them up an incline - a hill.

“Is it okay to do this?” he voiced his concern. “It’s not trespassing, is it?”

“Don’t worry, Kin-chan,” Atsushi assured as he turned to face him. “I made sure of that before when I was researching...”

Researching?

Upon realizing he’d admitted that, Atsushi’s cheeks went a bit pink. Kinshiro stared at Atsushi in awe. So Atsushi had put a lot of thought into this outing...

Kinshiro’s chest constricted with butterflies, affection, and just love, so many feelings that made him pause, so overwhelmed that he forgot to breathe for a moment.

Atsushi was looking at him with concern. “Kin-chan?”

“I...” he said, unsure how to even word what he was feeling at this moment. A deep profundity was really difficult to express.

Atsushi turned around completely on the hill, taking a few steps closer to him when suddenly, Atsushi’s foot slipped on a stray patch of dirt, and it was almost like it was happening in slow motion - Atsushi slipping, falling forward, about to land awkwardly on the slope of the hill.

Kinshiro moved fast, stepping up really close to Atsushi, grabbing him around the waist as Atsushi fell into him. Thankfully the force wasn’t enough to knock Kinshiro down too, but he did feel himself slide a bit.

“At-chan, are you-”

Kinshiro’s words were smothered out when Atsushi lifted his head and he realized how close they were.

“-okay,” he finished, his voice coming out squeaky.

He was ultra aware of their position, Kinshiro’s hands on Atsushi’s waist, Atsushi’s hands on his shoulders as he tilted into him. Kinshiro’s heart was racing, racing so hard it had ever been in his whole entire life it felt like. His eyes were wide on Atsushi’s face, noticing that Atsushi looked just as shocked and was just as speechless. He felt Atsushi’s breath against his cheek, and if Kinshiro were the type to swear vulgarly, he would be doing it in his mind right this moment. Because if he wanted to, it would be so easy to just kiss Atsushi right here, on the hill under the autumn leaves. Atsushi’s mouth opened and closed again, and Kinshiro’s whole world was just this moment, nothing else mattered, it was all gone but the look on Atsushi’s face and the way he smelled like shampoo and the way his hips felt under Kinshiro’s hands-

It was that thought that startled Kinshiro’s sense of logic back into place. He felt his face flush hotter than he’d ever remembered it feeling before, taking a step back, flinging himself away from Atsushi in one quick movement.

So quick that it was Kinshiro’s turn to lose his balance. He felt his foot slip, and he felt himself tilting backward as a completely undignified yelp escaped him.

He perfectly expected the impact to hurt. Closing his eyes, he braced himself, but-

Instead, a warm hand grabbed him and pulled him up.

Opening his eyes again, he saw a red faced and wide eyed Atsushi grabbing onto his hand to stop him from falling.

“At-chan, wait, you’ll fall too-!”

“No, it’s fine-”

“Let go-”

“I got you!”

If it was possible for a heart to explode, Kinshiro would now be deceased. He gulped a breath of air as Atsushi pulled him in again, and Kinshiro regained his footing. His breathing had quickened, and so did Atsushi’s.

“Haha...” Atsushi laughed a bit nervously “I'm sorry about that, I should have been more careful... it was my fault.”

“No, this hill is very steep,” Kinshiro hoped the tremor in his voice wasn’t that noticeable. “It was an accident.”

And despite how out of control it made him feel, Kinshiro was actually glad for that moment of closeness, and he was glad that Atsushi was holding his hand. He still felt like he was on fire, but when had Atsushi not made him feel that way?

“Um,” Atsushi said, suddenly looking at the ground. It made Kinshiro’s heart race yet again - was Atsushi embarrassed? That look on his face was frankly adorable, and it made Kinshiro really, really want to kiss him- oh.

Perhaps he should try to stop having those kinds of thoughts. After all, he had no idea if Atsushi felt the same way.

But as they finished their trek up the hill, neither of them let go of the other’s hand.

When they reached the top of the hill, Kinshiro’s breath caught in his throat. At the bottom was a wide-open clearing, light green grass with leaves spread out everywhere, still falling from the trees that circled the area, most of them covered with scarlet foliage. At the edge of the clearing, Kinshiro could hear the running water before he saw it, a river crossing from one edge of the trees and moving to another - it was absolutely breathtaking.

He felt Atsushi’s eyes on him, watching his reaction instead of looking at the scenery himself. Something of a lump formed in his chest, the beauty and meaning choking him up, only made stronger by how Atsushi had researched so much to find a place like this to show him.

Kinshiro hadn’t cried in happiness since he was a young child, but now, he felt like he could.

“At-chan...” Kinshiro’s voice came out as a whisper. “It’s beautiful.”

An audible breath came out of Atsushi. “I’m glad you like it, Kin-chan... I searched for a while to find the perfect place...”

Kinshiro wanted to meet Atsushi’s eyes, but he didn’t. He didn’t know what his expression looked like, and it was too afraid that all of his feelings for Atsushi would show on his face.

But Atsushi saved him from that happening. “Come on, there’s one more thing!”

“Huh, one more?”

Kinshiro followed Atsushi down the hill, slowly, both of them still holding hands. When they got to the middle of the clearing, Atsushi let go of Kinshiro’s hand, to his disappointment.

But when Atsushi took off the backpack he was wearing, opening it, Kinshiro forgot all about it.

“You haven’t eaten today, right?” Atsushi looked at Kinshiro with a small smile. “I thought we could have a picnic here.”

“A picnic?” Kinshiro repeated with surprise as Atsushi pulled out a blanket and a couple of bento boxes out of the backpack.

“Yeah,” Atsushi said. “It’s nothing too extravagant, but...”

“It’s perfect,” Kinshiro rushed out.

A picnic with Atsushi? Bentos that Atsushi made? Kinshiro thought he was going to faint. He went light-headed, his legs swaying a bit on the spot as Atsushi laid out the blanket properly.

They sat down together, and Atsushi handed over one of the bento boxes to him, and then pulled out two thermoses.

“Tea,” Atsushi confirmed.

Kinshiro couldn’t speak, he was so happy and stunned by Atsushi’s thoughtfulness, by all of this, by just everything.

He looked up at Atsushi, his heart heaving with feelings. “At-chan, this is absolutely remarkable. I don’t even know what to say.”

“I’m just glad you seem to be enjoying it,” Atsushi said with a smile, a smile that pierced into him. He was sure his heart must be bleeding all over the place.

“I am,” Kinshiro murmured, his voice wavering with emotions. “To spend time planning all of this... and to spend the day with you... in this beautiful spot... I’m so happy. Thank you.”

Atsushi’s shy smile turned wider until he was beaming at Kinshiro, much brighter than the sun.

“I’m glad! Thank you for coming with me, too, Kin-chan. Also, I hope you liked the lunch, I made some basic sandwiches and some stuff you used to like. Though I don’t know if your taste changed much-”

Kinshiro took the lid off of the bento box, looking at the sandwiches and colourful array of food within.

“It looks delicious,” he said, his mouth watering already.

He was eating a bento made by Atsushi. It was something he’d never known that he wanted.

Atsushi seemed just as happy as Kinshro felt as he opened his own lid to an identical layout of food in his box.

“Thanks for the food,” they said together before they began eating.

Not that Kinshiro expected anything different, but the food was delicious.

The mini sandwiches were a delight, as were the other compartments, filled with an assortment of Kinshiro’s favourites.

For a while, they didn’t talk, just sat, enjoying each other’s company and the autumn foliage while they ate. It was peaceful, wonderful. As Kinshiro finished the lunch, his heart felt just as full as his stomach.

He put the lid back on the box and gave Atsushi a smile.

“It was really delicious, At-chan. Thank you.”

Atsushi smiled back. “I’m glad you liked it… and no need to thank me. Making lunch for us is something I’ve always wanted to do, so…”

“Huh?” Kinshiro’s stomach fluttered. “Really?”

Atsushi made a surprised face like he hadn’t meant to say that out loud. “Um… yeah. I didn’t start cooking until…” he paused. He didn’t need to continue for Kinshiro to know what he meant. “And En-chan and my other friends like my food, I always wanted to make something for you too…”

Kinshiro was so happy he didn’t even have the usual flash of jealousy at the mention of Yufuin.

“I’m…” Kinshiro swallowed, “really grateful you’d do all this for me. I’m really lucky I can be by your side again.”

And that you’ve forgiven me, he didn’t say, but he was sure Atsushi knew that he was thinking that, since he gave Kinshiro a soft, understanding smile.

“I missed you all that time,” Atsushi said. “I wanted to be by your side again too, no matter what. So… I’m really happy too.”

They’ve already had discussions about communications and not letting small problems fester, so Kinshiro was confident nothing like before would ever happen again - Kinshiro had grown, he would be a better person for Atsushi, someone Atsushi would be proud to be by his side, much like he felt for Atsushi.

“I missed you too,” Kinshiro sniffed. “I’m sorry-”

“We already talked about that,” Atsushi said gently. “It’s all forgiven.”

Kinshiro’s chest heaved with emotions. He nodded.

They stared at each other for a moment before they both broke out into new smiles.

“Well, I’m really happy to be together like this right now. I don’t quite want the day to end…”

“Me neither,” Atsushi agreed. “Well, we don’t have to leave yet. And on the way back, I know of a place we can get roasted sweet potato…”

Kinshiro nodded. “That sounds perfect. We got those together in this season as children often, didn’t we?”

He said it as a question, but he remembered it quite well, just like he remembered everything about Atsushi and him as children. For a while, the memories had been filled with sadness and bitterness, but now that Atsushi was by his side again, they were filled with light, as was the future. He wasn’t going to part with Atsushi again. Whatever university Atsushi chose, Kinshiro would follow him, no matter what his parents might want for him.

“We did!” Atsushi said excitedly. “After a day of playing outside in the leaves…”

Kinshiro chuckled. “I remember that. At-chan, you always got so excited by playing in the leaves.”

“It was fun!” Atsushi said.

“You were quite creative, pretending that the leaves were tornadoes, and you had to save Binan from it…”

Atsushi’s grin turned a bit embarrassed, his cheeks darkening. “Oh, something like that did happen, didn’t it…”

Kinshiro smiled as he took a sip of the tea in his thermos, hiding his fond expression. “I couldn’t understand at the time, but it was adorable.”

“Adorab-” Atsushi flushed darker, and Kinshiro decided he quite liked that shade on Atsushi. “Anyway, I regret that I always got you into trouble… you were always reluctant to get dirty by playing in the leaves, but because of me, you got scolded.”

“It… wasn’t fun to get scolded,” he admitted. His parents were very strict about him being proper. “But it was worth it in the end, after the time we spent together.”

Atsushi’s expression turned happier, more fond, if Kinshiro weren’t reading things into it. Maybe he was, but he just knew that Atsushi’s expression was turning his stomach into liquid fire, spreading upwards to his face.

Kinshiro didn’t know what else to say except I love you, At-chan, and he wondered if he could really confess his feelings like that, with the risk of being rejected and ruining the friendship he and Atsushi had rebuilt.

“Oh,” Atsushi suddenly said, his smile growing wider. He suddenly stood up from the blanket, holding out his hand to Kinshiro.

Atsushi had a plan. That much was clear by the look on his face. But he looked excited too, so Kinshiro took his hand, letting Atsushi pull him to his feet.

It was then when Kinshiro realized what the look on Atsushi’s face meant. It was the expression he’d always wore as a child when he wanted to do something mischievous.

It was so familiar, so right, it made Kinshiro’s chest flutter again. Though he put on a wary expression, much like he had as a child, ready to scold Atsushi if he had any crazy ideas.

“Play in the leaves with me again,” Atsushi said. And Kinshiro’s eyebrows creased.

“That?”

He’d expected Atsushi to say something more outrageous. But the earnest expression on his face was so lovely, Kinshiro would have a hard time saying no.

“Yeah, just like before?” Now Atsushi seemed a bit nervous, hesitant, like he guessed Kinshiro would immediately reject the idea.

And maybe he would have normally. But this day was special. And Atsushi was special.

“I, I don’t see why not,” Kinshiro ended up saying. “Nobody else is here to see us.”

Atsushi’s resulting beaming smile made every single thing worth it.

In one fluid movement, Atsushi tugged Kinshiro’s hand away from the picnic blanket, towards the line of trees where there were the most leaves, and flopped down onto a pile of them under a large tree. He grinned up at Kinshiro, picking up some leaves and throwing them into the air.

Kinshiro wanted to capture that view in his mind forever.

Even though Atsushi kept grinning invitingly at him, Kinshiro did hesitate for a moment. It wasn’t really in his nature to do stuff like this so easily, he wasn’t used to letting loose like this, he hadn’t in a long time.

But it was Atsushi. And Kinshiro felt comfortable with him.

He moved, sitting down on the ground beside Atsushi first, before lying down all the way. The crunch of leaves underneath his back was satisfying. He spent a moment enjoying the soft feeling of the leaves and grass under his back, the cool breeze hitting his face, the warmth of Atsushi’s presence on his side. He reached over, grabbing a fistful of leaves himself, throwing them up in the air.

It was more satisfying than he ever would have admitted. He laughed a bit to himself.

At the resulting silence, he looked over to see that Atsushi was staring at him with an unreadable expression on his face.

“At-chan?”

Atsushi snapped out of whatever it was. “Oh, nothing. I was just thinking I can’t believe you joined me after all… I felt a bit selfish asking for a moment since I know you prefer different kinds of activities.”

To Kinshiro’s surprise, Atsushi looked truly conflicted about this.

“You’re not wrong. Running amok and participating in improper activities isn’t really… something I’ve imagined. But, it’s a day off, not anywhere near Binan High School… so it’s fine. Since it’s with you.”

Self awareness at his words made his face flush, but he found it hard to look away from Atsushi’s expression. Atsushi was looking at Kinshiro like he was mesmerized, and it made every inch of his body feel all tingly. Instead of rolling around and throwing up more leaves, he turned onto his side so he was facing Atsushi. Atsushi did the same.

“Kin-chan…” Atsushi said quietly, biting his lip. “I…”

The way Atsushi was looking at him, the way he seemed nervous suddenly, the way he reached his hand out, the way Kinshiro reached back, taking Atsushi’s hand in his.

The mood, the atmosphere, the beauty of the day, how happy he was…

It was easier than he expected.

“At-chan, I love you.” The words were out before Kinshiro could realize he was saying them, but after they were there, out in the breeze, blowing along with the leaves all around them, Kinshiro realized he wasn’t even scared. It was how he felt, and he said it, and it felt right.

Atsushi’s expression shifted from surprise into happiness in what felt like just a second.

He squeezed Kinshiro’s hand, and Kinshiro was surprised to notice that Atsushi looked like he might cry.

It was then when a nervousness attacked Kinshiro’s stomach, causing it to twist into a knot.

“At-chan, I-”

“I love you too, Kin-chan,” Atsushi said, choked up, his face growing redder, almost as red as the leaves around them. Kinshiro was sure his own face looked similar. He didn’t have time to be embarrassed though, when it felt like his heart was going to beat out of his chest with happiness.

Out of impulse, Kinshiro pulled Atsushi’s hand, and Atsushi shifted closer to him, so close that their bodies were touching, their faces so close, just as close as they had been when Atsushi had almost fallen back on the hill.

Not speaking and both of them thinking the same thing, they leaned in at the same time, their lips meeting. Their hands still clasped on the ground between them, Kinshiro’s other hand reached up to Atsushi’s hair, running his hands through it. Atsushi let out a soft, happy sigh into the kiss that made Kinshiro’s heart overflow. If he’d been wearing a sleeveless shirt, he knew he’d still be warm thanks to Atsushi and his kiss. He’d never felt anything so magnificent and profound before.

He didn’t want it to end.

But it had to, eventually. Atsushi pulled away first, his face still red, his breathing quicker. Kinshiro felt his own breathing quicken, but not quite as fast as his heartbeat. Nothing could be as fast as his heartbeat. He felt his heartbeat all over, from his chest, in his ears, down to his fingertips, and he wondered if Atsushi could feel it in their clasped hands.

They stared into each other’s eyes, not saying a word, the shared look feeling just as intimate as the kiss they’d shared had been.

“I don’t want this day to end,” Kinshiro found himself whispering, not wanting the spell to be broken.

“Me neither,” Atsushi said, just as softly.

Holding hands like this made Kinshiro think of how they used to stargaze-

The idea struck him.

“At-chan,” Kinshiro said, “if you want… can we stay here all day, until the stars come out?”

“That’s a great idea, Kin-chan!” Atsushi’s voice was suddenly louder, excited, startling Kinshiro a bit, but he didn’t mind at all. “Nothing sounds more perfect than that!”

He nodded in return. Kinshiro wished he had a camera so he could take the perfect photo in a memento of this day.

But… maybe there was something else he could do, instead.

Sitting up suddenly, he let go of Atsushi’s hand.

“Kin-chan, what are you doing?”

Atsushi looked at Kinshiro with curiosity as Kinshiro began to rifle through the leaves around them, picking up a few different colours, mostly golden and red ones with a nice shape.

“I thought… it’d be nice to save some leaves and have them pressed,” he admitted. “As a keepsake.”

“Wow,” Atsushi said with awe, “you really have the best ideas, Kin-chan.”

“No,” Kinshiro said. “That would be you. It was your plan to come here, after all.”

“But still…” Atsushi looked like he wanted to argue, but he stopped himself. “Anyway, now I want to do it too.”

He looked at Atsushi again, smiling like he’d never smile before, wondering if it was possible for an emotion to be so big that it spilled out of him, that he couldn’t contain it. He supposed there was no question about it, it was how he was feeling now.

Kinshiro wanted to keep memories of this day forever.

Memories of the colour of autumn, which was a blend of bright golden orange, just like the leaves, just like the sun, just like his own happiness.