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Standard Operating Procedure

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"We're losing ranks for this, I know it," Zell shouted over the alarms. "They're probably going to drop us back to cadets for this one, I'm pretty sure they don't let you graduate if you don't know not to set a base on fire while you're still inside!"

Seifer was just behind him – yeah, Zell was still faster, baby, even if Seifer thought that having legs that were like eight feet long was an advantage – and made a noise that might have been a laugh. "Of course that's what you're worried about! Still a teacher's pet even after you saved the world!"

Zell took a sharp left and barrelled straight into the control room. He took out the first two guards just by charging through them, used the third one as brakes, and smashed the last one face first into a table until she stopped moving. "Keep laughing, Seifer, I'm blaming you for this in the report."

That was definitely a laugh as Seifer stepped over the unconscious guards to get at the bank of computers. They were still running at least, even though the lights had switched to the red glow of emergency power. "Which part? The part where you blew our cover by taking out that squad of guards —"

"They were going to execute you, you were supposed to fake getting caught, not nearly get put down —"

"— or the part where I brilliantly distracted everyone so we could finish the damn mission —"

"You set the garage on fire! That was our exit!"

Seifer waved a hand like that wasn't important, what the hell Seifer, and got back to tapping at the keyboard. The camera feeds popped up one by one; an evacuation in progress out of the main exit, people fighting the fire in the garage, a dozen three man crews starting to sweep the corridors. Seifer grunted and started looking for the map of the base.

Zell was coming over to lean over Seifer's shoulder and look when he noticed something wrong with Seifer's coat. There was a stain spreading along one sleeve and down the side of his coat, one that looked black and wet under the emergency lights.

"Seifer, what the hell?"

Seifer didn't even look, which meant that he'd known about it and hadn’t said anything, because he's an idiot.

"They stripped out my junctions," Seifer said, like it didn't matter, and the map finally popped up on the screen. "If we split up, you can take this corridor and with the files –" Seifer traced a line across the screen between the control room and the cafeteria. There was a faint red smudge left behind from his gloves, but it was hard to say if the blood was from Seifer or someone else. Zell glanced at the cameras automatically; distracted from his casting Cure, a couple of teams looked like they were heading that way, and a couple more to the control room. "– while I deal with the patrols."

"Are you —"

Seifer spun the chair around, leaning his elbow on the back of it like they were back in class. "What, you think I can't take out a few Garden rejects? Besides, this way I'll get all the glory for saving your ass twice."

Zell closed his eyes. Took a deep breath. Grabbed Seifer's coat with both hands and hauled him up out of the chair, straight into Zell's face.

He didn't punch Seifer in the face this time, but he was gonna do it when it wouldn't jeopardise the mission. Or kill him. Instead he reached for a Cure, the pins-and-needle tingle of it around his fists as he let it soak into Seifer's chest. Seifer almost went limp as it started to work. "You are an idiot," Zell said really clearly, in case Seifer had missed it. "And you're leaving this base with me if I have to punch through the walls to make us an exit."

And Seifer started laughing. He hung in Zell's grip, one hand on Zell's shoulder for balance, the other planted over his scar, laughing. Zell pulled Seifer in a little lower — and then Seifer kissed him.

It wasn't great – Seifer'd pretty much smashed their faces together, and everything tasted like blood and desperation – but Seifer's sticky hand shifted from his shoulder to the back of his neck, tight in the short hair there, and Zell could feel Seifer smiling against his lips, and that might have made it pretty good. Good enough that he leaned into it, pulling Seifer in closer, his grip shifting to Seifer's collar.

"You'd punch through a wall?" Seifer asked, right against Zell's mouth. "That's your plan?"

"Fuck you, I could do it!" Zell snapped. "And it might stop you getting shot again —"

"I'm touched," Seifer said, sarcasm less effective when he still hadn't moved more than an inch away from Zell's face. "Come on, let's go find out."