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Ugly Green Curtains

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Junpei remembers when they first met.

He didn't realize a flame was on. Akane had been giving him baking tips, and the house was filled with warm smells- gingerbread and shortcake, and peppermint. Sugar tickled his nose and heavy clouds of flour hung in the air as he tried cleaning up what he could. It was a dumb mistake, his brain addled with teh thought of Akane making mini-mustached men out of cookie dough while they left the oven pre-heated.

But such was life. You want cooking lessons, you have to pay for them. So Junpei found himself rushing from his house as something caught the heat, as something started sparking and suddenly the kitchen was on fire and he was coughing out gobs of dried flour and smoke. The air was musty and the man had said Junpei was lucky nothing else was burned, save his curtains.

Honestly, they were ugly curtains- dark green frilly things Akane's brother had given him as a joke gift when he first moved into the house. He knew Santa was pulling his leg when he caught the smug grin upon opening the package, and even more when he was stuck having to use them because he just moved in with nothing else to put up. After a while, he grew to somewhat tolerate them, but they were still ugly.

"You gave me an excuse to toss those things," Junpei laughed as the firefighter led him to the ambulance, "So thanks."

The firefighter laughed- a hearty sound, his eyes crinkling at the corners and Junpei wanted to let the floor swallow him up right there. A reassuring hand on his shoulder, and Junpei wanted to melt.

"Maybe next time you should just return them instead of setting them on fire?" the man suggested, "Just a thought."

"Yeah," Junpei felt heat rise in his cheeks as the medic came over, and soon the firefighter was gone, leaving him to sit in the ambulance by his lonesome.

Akane and Santa were gonna have a field day with this, Junpei just knew it.

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He knew it.

Junpei was sitting in a cafe, having brunch at Akane's insistence as Santa sat across from him, his face beet red as he howled with laughter. Customers shot them looks, but Santa didn't let up, not noticing Akane's embarrassed look as he banged a fist on the table.

"This is why I didn't want to say anything," Junpei scrubbed a hand over his face, and a peek from the corner of his eye told him Akane was trying her best not to join her brother into fits of giggles. Reaching for his cup, he glared, almost snorting into his drink as Santa slapped him on the back.

"At least you weren't fried up, am I right?" Santa practically wheezed,

"Not funny," Junpei said into his cup. He could feel the liquid getting cold, his fingers almost sticky against the cream dried on the side of the mug.

"No, Santa's right," Akane grinned, "at least you weren't smoked!"

Awful jokes, all of them. Junpei sighed, leaning his elbows on the table, letting himself look around. A man was typing away on his laptop by the window, a woman moving to snag one of his empty chairs for her group of friends. The chime above the door jangled with the wind, the sound muffled as the metal pipes banged against the window with the falling leaves. Reds and yellows and browns. Black smoke, a green curtain, he can't breathe-

"-okay?"

Junpei blinked, finding himself staring wide-eyed at a young man whose blue eyes were brimming with worry. Peeking over his shoulder were Akane and Santa, no longer laughing as they watched the man pick him up carefully. Junpei frowned; he didn't remember being on the floor, he was with Akane and Santa, why was he on the floor? The man's hands were firm on his arm as he was guided into the chair, a calm voice asking him things- birthday, age, where they were now.

"Sir?" the man was saying, and Junpei blinked again. Up close, this guy... he was cute. Blond hair, blue eyes; somewhat familiar, but as he followed the finger with his eyes, he couldn't help but feel the man was familiar.

".... green curtains," Junpei said bluntly.

"Huh?"

Junpei cocked his head. Green curtains swam in his mind's eye, doused in orange as flames ate away at it, "I never liked them."

He failed to notice Santa's small "oh dear god" as the man looked between the two of them, snapping his fingers suddenly with a triumphant "You're that guy! With the ugly green curtains!"

"Hey!" Santa balked, "I gave him those!"

"And they were crappy curtains," Junpei drawled.

"Yeah, the smoke and the flames didn't make them look better, sorry," the man said sheepishly, adding, "But are you seriously okay? It looks like you took a tumble."

Junpei shrugged, "I guess? All I know is that I hated them and they caught fire and then you showed up- by the way really good timing, you a fireman or something?"

"Yeah, actually, I am," the man said, "Do you usually have a habit of getting into accidents?"

"Only if he doesn't appreciate my curtains, "Santa muttered under his breath. Akane gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder, eyeing the two men curiously.

"Junpei," she said after a minute, "Aoi and I are gonna go home. Will you be alright with...?"

"Carlos," the man supplied.

Akane smiled, "Right! Carlos! Well, we'll let you guys talk, and I guess we'll see you later!"

And just like that, they were gone, Akane dragging Santa out the door like their lives depended on it. The chimes swayed as the door banged once more, accompanied by a short gust of cool air and the whistle of the autumn breeze. Junpei swallowed, sharing an awkward smile with the man- Carlos, his brain supplied, his name is Carlos and he remembered the ugly green curtains and the fact that he didn't like them and-

Santa and Akane were never going to let Junpei live this down.