Title: Behind Closed Doors
Summary: Sephiroth, Zack, and Cloud's Friday night tradition.
Warning & Disclaimer: Friends don't let Zack operate power tools. All characters belong to Squaresoft.
Notes: This is massively late but it's for Lunar, who is brilliant and came up with ninety percent of the dialogue in here anyway.
"I got nothin'," Zack said, slamming the locker door shut and throwing a wadded towel across the aisle at Sephiroth. Sephiroth ducked it without even looking, too busy staring into the locker he was investigating. It was probably either porn or a gun magazine, because Sephiroth had that vaguely disapproving look that usually meant boobs or semi-automatics; the man was a stickler for traditional blade weaponry. Zack craned his neck to get a better view.
Ah. Naked girl holding a gun. Probably porn, but still, you never knew. He squinted at it. Cheesecake pose, some obvious airbrushing but not over the top, a lot of eyeliner. Points for creative use of camo-themed bodypaint, penalty for her incorrect grip on the gun. She wouldn't be able to shoot for shit that way. All in all, typical Shinra locker-room material probably torn from a seventy gil stroke rag, down to the tattered edges and the way it was mounted with masking tape.
"Nothing," Sephiroth said, and closed the door firmly.
Zack rolled his eyes, kicked a stray shirt left on the ground, and went to inspect the next locker.
The Shinra locker room was not particularly outstanding in comparison to any of the other areas in the building, but it at least had hot water most of the time, and the janitorial workers didn't need canaries to go before them when they cleaned, and there were some really fucking cool effects on the plumbing when enough people flushed the toilets simultaneously. There was the usual army detritus of single socks and marble-sized pieces of soap tossed underfoot. The main attraction was the massive pile of unclaimed clothes that sat in the south corner, quietly moldering and gaining sentience since before even Sephiroth's time; whole historical periods could be traced through the layers of uniform bits that had changed in style over the years. By unspoken rule, no one ever wore or touched anything off the lost and found pile until the night during Prank Week when squad Zeta had broken in, stuffed and dressed at least a platoon's worth of dummies, and left them in obscene positions on the roof of squad Gamma's barracks.
Regardless, it wasn't where many Soldiers or troopers lingered at eight o'clock on a Friday night, but Zack had sort of gotten used to doing things like this. He stared at the locker in front of him, absently chipping with his fingernail where the paint was flaking away and showing the layers. It came to him that the paint layers were the exact colour of puke, a queasy mix of green, brown, and purple. This was, he thought, the kind of metaphorical brilliance that a person would come up with if they had the type of life where time was spent hanging out in locker rooms on Friday nights.
When he told that to Sephiroth, Sephiroth just gave him a look.
Zack sighed, and went on to the next locker. They opened and closed steadily for ten minutes, sometimes calling back and forth.
"That's contraband. Put it back."
"Sweet, check out these nunchucks!"
"Stop swinging those. Put them back."
"I got a... God, what is this?"
"You don't know where that's been. Put it back."
"That's why I'm curious, because I can't figure out where you stick it. You have to give me a sec. I've never seen this kind of sex toy before. This needs some investigation."
"Put it back."
"Okay, whatever. Spoilsport." He closed the locker. "Shit, we need a better system for this. Cloud, bang twice if you can hear me!"
They waited. There were two faint bangs in the distance.
Sephiroth listened intently. "It sounds like he's somewhere in the Q's."
"They've been favoring the lower end of the alphabet lately." Zack rolled his shoulders. "We're in the, uh, G's. Let's go."
They walked slowly, keeping track of the aisles and listening for more noises.
"He's such a tiny little guy," Zack mused out loud. He couldn't help it sometimes, and he figured Sephiroth hadn't killed him yet so it was all right to keep doing it until Sephiroth smothered him in his sleep or hit him with a filing cabinet or something. Sephiroth didn't bother with warnings; whatever he did would come silently and without warning to the point that Zack bet he wouldn't even know he was dead until afterwards. So he might as well just talk. "You know something?"
The banging was getting louder.
"I should really just invent something that clips around his waist and put it on him before he leaves the apartment. Like, you know, those things they stick on steering wheels to keep people from stealing cars."
"He'd have to go through all the doors sideways so he'd fit. And we're in the O's now."
"That's the point. And people wouldn't get too close because if he turned around fast enough he'd just nail them in the junk."
"Hmm," Sephiroth murmured noncommittally, just as they came up the locker that the banging was emanating from.
Zack stuck his face up to the locker vents and squinted, trying to see inside. "How are you, kiddo?"
"I'm in a locker," Cloud said. The acoustics of the locker magnified his sigh.
"That you are," Zack replied cheerfully. "But aside from that?"
"Could you just get me out? Please?"
"I think you're blocking his air vents," Sephiroth said dubiously.
"Yeah, okay." Zack squatted down and pulled out the penknife he had started keeping for these very occasions. To automatically head to the locker-room and start searching when Cloud didn't come home after drills was second nature by now. "Stand back and let's do this. There's a movie on at nine that I want to catch."
Twenty minutes later, the lock was still firmly on the door and Zack sat back on his heels. "Shit," he said absently, and rubbed the back of his neck. "I hate these new locks. We're going to need some bolt cutters."
"Just kick it in," Sephiroth suggested.
"He's right, Seph. We'd need to ice the door before we could kick it, make it shatter more easily. You bring your materia?"
"Anything above a primary level materia casting isn't allowed in the locker room," Sephiroth said laconically.
"Why not?" Cloud asked, sounding curious in spite of himself.
"Corrodes the metal and it damages the plumbing system. The pipes can't take it. Ask Zack."
"You're a bastard, Seph," Zack said. He started searching through his pockets for a hairpin, and when that proved useless, started looking on the tile floor. Maybe Sephiroth had a paperclip. "It was just the once, and I mean, did I really do that? There were several other decisive factors"
"Yes, you did," Sephiroth said flatly. "And it was more than once and it was my bathroom too. There's still water stains on my kitchen ceiling because of it."
"Oh yeah," Zack said, and paused to properly savor the memory. "Well, you never cook anyway. It was fucking awesome, Cloud. You must've been on duty. I can't believe you missed it. It was, like, epic. It was. I don't even know how to describe it. It was just awesome."
"That's nice. Um. I'd like to get out now," Cloud said. His fingertips were hooked through the locker vents, pushing out as far as they could go.
"Don't they trust you with a master-key or something?" Zack asked Sephiroth.
Sephiroth was examining the graffiti scratched into the paint of another locker, and rolled his eyes. "No. Don't you have your little black bag?" he asked in reply.
Good point. He should. Zack thought about it. "I had it last Tuesday when I was here doing overtime because I remember having to get into the copier room. So… okay, I remember. Reno borrowed my lock picking kit last week when he was trying to get into the vending machines on the fifty first floor. He hasn't given it back yet and hey. Hey. That fucker. He never brought me the peanut butter crackers that he said he'd grab. I bet he's in the lounge right now, so I could haul him in here."
Cloud's fingers disappeared, and it sounded as though he was backing as far into the locker as he could. "No other people," he said hastily. "No way."
"Do you want to get out of the locker or not?"
"Shut up. They didn't give me time to get dressed before they stuck me in here."
"Dude, silver lining. I bet that'll really get Reno in here and working on it. You'd be outta there in record time."
"I don't want to be naked in front of the Turks."
"Theoretically, it would just be one of them. Take it for the team."
"Seph, don't confuse the issue."
There was a muffled thud as Cloud kicked the inside of the locker disconsolately. "Fuck you, guys."
"You kiss your mother with that mouth?" Zack paused in the middle of fiddling with the lock again. "You know, maybe we should let him sleep in there."
Sephiroth sighed and cuffed the back of Zack's head. "Just get him out. It's also his night to do dishes."
"This is why they pay you the big bucks, man. You're totally thinking of all the angles." Cloud kicked the inside of the locker again, harder this time. "I'm just kidding. Hang on, kiddo. I think I need to run out and borrow some tools real fast. Seph'll stay here so I don't forget which locker you're in."
"Can you hurry up?" Cloud sounded extremely forlorn. "I need to go to the bathroom."
"Aim through the vents," Zack suggested, and hurried away before Cloud could say anything else or, God forbid, actually take his advice. Better to let Seph be the one closest to the locker in that case.
He had to check three different floors before he found something that seemed up to the task. It took a shorter amount of time than he expected, but he still hurried on his way back. They were definitely going to miss the opening of the movie. He knew he should have set the VCR to record. Lugging his prize back into the locker room, he followed the noises again and found Sephiroth lecturing Cloud on proper sword care, which accounted for the banging this time. He'd knock his head against a locker too, if it meant drowning out Sephiroth.
"--proper whetstone quality," Sephiroth finished, and glanced in his direction. "Well. If that doesn't do it, than I suppose nothing will."
"What does he have?" Cloud asked nervously. The locker door rattled against its hinges as Cloud leaned against it, obviously trying to see out.
"Acetylene blowtorch. Yell if you start getting hot."
"He doesn't have a blowtorch," Sephiroth said.
"What does he have?"
"It's… not a blowtorch."
"What does he have?!"
"Cloud? Okay, I'm going to do this on the count of three. You, uh, might want to sort of scrunch yourself as far back as you can. Try to cover your head with your arms. Seph, give me the count."
"I'm going to die," Cloud said very quietly.
"Not too likely. The locker door will take a lot of the impact. You have a fair chance of getting maimed though, so I suggest you take Zack's advice. Are you away from the door?"
"Can you send my stuff to my mother, please? My address is on my footlocker."
"All right. Here we go. Seph?"
"Lie to her and tell her it was painless."
"And put clothes on my body before you call anyone."
Zack took one last calculating glance for angle, tightened his grip, and swung hard from the hips. The reverberating crash of metal on metal nearly drowned out Cloud's shriek of terror and Sephiroth's disapproving grunt as he watched the follow-through. Over-analytical bastard, Zack thought vaguely, and stepped forward to investigate. The lock wasn't quite off, but the hasp was definitely twisted. He swung again. The lock clinked in an optimistic way, and the third time was definitely the charm, as the hasp released and the door rattled open.
Cloud was huddled into the corner of the locker with his hands over his eyes. He wasn't quite at the point of gibbering, but Zack was pretty sure he caught a few words of prayer. Zack reached in and poked him, and Cloud cautiously uncovered his eyes. "I'm not dead?" he asked.
"Nope, you're not dead. Sorry, should have warned you about that last hit."
"Oh," said Cloud, who had obviously only heard 'not dead.' "Good."
Zack whistled as he helped Cloud out. "Damn, boy, you've got room to spare in there. No wonder the other troopers keep sticking you in these things."
"That's not funny." Cloud took a few wobbly steps, wincing as he rubbed at his thighs and blinking at the light. "Ow. Cramp."
Sephiroth cleared his throat. At some point, he must have gone into the shower area and found Cloud's clothes, because they were lying in a neatly folded heap on the bench. Cloud sat down on the bench and started rubbing harder at his thighs; Zack went over to help.
"Ow," Cloud said, and then, "you're not helping, you're just groping."
"We all have our flaws," Zack agreed, and kept on working.
"Where did you get a sledgehammer on such short notice?" Sephiroth asked, toeing it with his boot.
"The Turks had one lying around in their staff-room. I always said they were a bunch of kinky fucks."
Cloud was impatiently trying to push Zack off him. "I have to go," he said, and hobbled over in the direction of the toilets, clutching his clothes to his chest. He came back a few minutes later, dressed but still shaky. "You know, all the lockers here are the exact color of puke."
Zack shot a vindicated look at Sephiroth, who didn't look very impressed. "See? See?"
"I'm hungry," Cloud said.
"Hey, you want me to ride you out on my back?" Zack said. "And we'll stop by the vending machine on the way out. Reno didn't have my kit but I got some spare gil. You okay by that, Seph?"
Sephiroth shrugged again. "Just don't get caught." He picked up the sledgehammer meaningfully.
"Caught? Oh. Oh, just you try, man. Just you try." Zack started to grin. Hell. They'd missed most of the movie anyway by now. "I will take you down. I've been raiding the machines since the first day I signed up. I am the master."
"Hnn." Sephiroth gave a practice heft. "Someone needs to show him how to swing one of these properly. You needed three tries."
"Hey, who got him out in the first place? Okay, Cloud, you're going to have to time us when we do this."
Cloud sighed in resignation. "I think sometimes I'm better off in the locker."