Title: The Chainsaw Job
Author: Annerb
Fandom: Leverage
Summary: In case of zombies, please use the stairs.
Rating/Warnings: PG. Uh, zombies? Carnage, implied character death.
Categorizations: Apocafic, humor, smidge of Hardison/Parker
Spoilers: None.
Recipient: soundingsea
A/N: Special thanks to aurora_novarum for the beta.

The Chainsaw Job

Eliot's been waiting about twenty minutes for Parker to come back out of a duct when he's made. It's just one guy (possibly security, but clumsy, no weapons), and Eliot is pretty sure there's something wrong with him, but he doesn't give it much thought, just starts kicking. For some reason though, the damn guy just won't stay down.

He's a bit too busy to hear Parker drop out of the vent, and anyway she moves like a damn cat, or a ghost even, so it's not like he would have heard her anyway. This bizarre guy is still getting up, no matter how many times Eliot hits the holy trinity of sweet spots, and he's getting tired.

He only realizes she's there when Parker swings the axe, cleaving cleanly through the dried sinews holding the guy's head on. The body crumbles as the head does a sick little polka down the hallway, leaving puffs of dust in its wake. There's a distinct lack of blood, but Eliot decides to ignore that for now.

"Beheading," Parker says, one hand on her hip as she blows a strand of hair out of her eyes. "Best way to kill zombies."

Fun facts to know and learn, but where the hell had she gotten zombies? Surely the headless corpse on the ground is just a weird thug. Haitian or something. But zombie? Just when he thought Parker couldn't be any more insane.

As if to prove him wrong yet again, she hefts a bottle of hairspray and a lighter (and he really doesn't want to know why she happens to carry those around). "Next to fire, that is," she informs him.

And then she torches the damn thing.

"What the hell, Parker?" Eliot yells, pulling her back from the pile of bones quickly becoming ash.

Parker shrugs, her head tilting to one side, the flames reflecting in her eyes. "Hardison made me watch all three Resident Evils. A lot."

Her face twists then, a sort of confusion there that is painful to see and Eliot wonders if she's worried about Hardison in light of the sudden appearance of zombies and maybe her mind just doesn't know how to properly process that sort of actual human emotion.

But then her face smooths out and she swings the axe up on her shoulder, looking eager. "Are there more?"

They'd been pulling a con in a network TV studio when everything started. (Eliot is sure there's a joke here about TV execs' brains being mushy and rarely used and therefore more tasty, but that's something Hardison would say and he's not here, so it goes unsaid.) Nate and Sophie were on the ground, Parker and Eliot in the walls, and Hardison guiding them all from the office.

"Get Parker out of here," were the last words Nate said before pulling his comm. Only a moment before had been the sound of Sophie screaming, and not one of her bad on stage ones, or even her brilliant fakes, but something throaty and raw and far too unpracticed.

Eliot grabs Parker and doesn't look back.

The only good thing about the things Eliot still refuses to call zombies, because, come on, is that they are slow as hell, one foot dragging behind, mouths hanging open with a continual moan of sound spilling out. Creepy as all hell, but slow, mostly. It's the way they just appear without warning, popping out of freaking thin air in large packs and how the hell is that fair?

He found a second fire axe during their scramble out of the studio. He adjusts his grip to lumberjack and tries not to resent that this wasn't part of basic training. If this shit is actually possible, you think someone might have mentioned it at some point.

When they finally reach their office building, a small pack of zombies are out front nibbling on Joe from the third floor. Watching someone you know, no matter how incidentally, getting their brains turned into appetizers somehow still isn't nearly as disturbing as recognizing one of the zombies as Mrs. Brady, the little old lady from next door who he's pretty sure he remembers dying last winter. She looks it too, like she's been moldering underground for a good six months.

They go around back, Parker making quick work of the service entrance lock. Walking past the elevator, they head for the stairs.

In case of zombies, please use the stairs.

They find what might have once been Mrs. Brady's cats between the fifth and sixth floors, tails missing and ribs poking out through their fur.

Zombies. This sort of shit never would have happened before he hooked up with Nate, of this, Eliot is certain.

Things are quiet on the top floor, but there are dark scorch marks on the hallway floor at various intervals. They seem fresh. Add in the shattered glass of the office door and things aren't looking good. Parker's brow is compressed again, only this time she's beginning to look angry.

Eliot adjusts his grip on his axe and edges forward towards the door, Parker right on his heels. They don't get very far, some sort of alarm being tripped because the next thing Eliot knows, he's slapping his hands over his ears in some attempt to blot out the high-pitched squeal that makes his brains feel like they are going to reverberate out his ears.

Eliot's knees hit the floor and just when he thinks he's going to pass out, the door yanks open, the sound abruptly ending.

Hardison is grinning down at them from the doorway, a remote in one hand and a plasma cutter in the other. "It's about time!" he exclaims.

"God, what is that smell?" Eliot demands as he walks into the office.

The place looks like its been bombed from the inside, a barricade set up in the entryway and the windows boarded up with what must have once been their office furniture.

"Chanel No. 5," Hardison explains, producing a bottle and spritzing him before he can protest. "The zombies harbor mad hate for the stuff."

Eliot coughs through the mist, waving his arms, thinking he knows how the zombies must feel.

Parker, meanwhile, seems unconcerned with the stench, instead marching straight up to Hardison, wrapping her arms around him in a way that manages in no way to resemble a hug, her forehead thumping solidly against his sternum. "I'm glad the zombies didn't eat your brain," she says.

Hardison doesn't seem to mind that she's pinned his arms to his sides, just smiles down at her, resting his chin on her head. "Yeah, me too, Parker."

Eliot isn't sure what's more disturbing, this awkward display of geek love, or the fact that it's the one thing he's seen today that actually makes sense.

They hole up for three days straight, and Eliot thinks they are waiting for the freak show to leave town. Or maybe that's just an excuse because they're really waiting for Nate to show up, Sophie in tow. Eliot's pretty sure they are going to have a long wait either way.

Television and radio disappear first, but the internet and its intrepid bloggers seem to be hardier than the rest of civilization. "Can't fight the signal," Hardison had remarked.

Eliot doesn't bother to ask because it's the end of the world and Hardison's still got his face stuck to his laptop. Then again, the day Hardison isn't glued to his laptop is probably the day they are well and truly screwed.

"Main theory seems to be a zombie lord in New York City," Hardison remarks.

"A zombie lo-," Eliot starts to ask before he thinks better of it. "Never mind. I don't want to know. We just stay as far away from New York as possible. Got it."

"Yes," Hardison draws out. "That is one plan."

Eliot narrows his eyes. "There's another plan?"

"Well, I figure our main goal is not dying, so there's really two ways to go. One, we run, hide, and pray to God this is a localized thing. And that zombies can't swim."

"Sounds good to me," Eliot says, already packing his imaginary bags for some tropical island in the middle of nowhere.

"Or," Hardison says, "we keep ourselves alive by, you know, getting rid of the zombies."

"I really hope you are not suggesting we con the zombie lord." God, did those words really just leave his lips?

Hardison grins in that 'scary mad-genius running around a lab' way that he's got. He flips open a thick black book that Eliot swears says something about dungeons and a dragon on the front. "The zombie lord is the mastermind, the only one who can call off his minions," Hardison informs them.

Parker, lying on the floor with her legs up on the couch, nods along as if a schoolgirl at her lessons, and why is it that none of them had seen before what an obviously bad influence Hardison is on her?

"We're going to need supplies," Parker says.

Of course they are.

On the way out of town, Eliot learns that once you've used your SUV as a weapon against mobs of moaning, animated corpses—seen them reduced to piles of dusty bits as you hit them going seventy—it's a hell of a lot easier to just give in and accept zombies as reality.

Of course, that leaves Eliot one small step from believing zombie lord and he's trying not to feel too pissed about that.

Forty miles out of town, Eliot turns down a dirt road.

"What is this place?" Parker asks as they pull into a deserted homestead.

Eliot parks the car near the dilapidated barn. "Fall back." Everyone in their line of work has one, the worst case scenario backup plan for that day when everything goes as wrong as it possibly can. He figures zombies qualify.

Hardison hops out of the SUV, looking around with amusement. "Your plan B is to be a farmer?"

Parker smirks, mumbling some twisted version of Old MacDonald under her breath.

Eliot ignores them both, heading around the barn to a pair of storm cellar doors almost completely obscured by an overgrown apple tree. The doors pull open with a rusty groan, revealing a second door with a pass code panel. He punches in the code and pulls the secondary doors open to reveal a staircase.

Parker's eyes widen in that way they normally do only for money as the staircase dumps them out into a survivalist's wet dream—shelves and shelves of any and all weapons, boxes of canned food, and booze.

"Nice," Hardison exclaims as Parker practically skips down an aisle and out of sight. "Everything a zombie slayer needs."

Eliot eyes Hardison, crossing his arms over his chest. "Just to be clear, going to New York is completely insane."

"Yup," Hardison agrees, sounding bizarrely cheerful and not even remotely discouraged.

For a bunch of criminals, Eliot thinks their sense of detachment and self-preservation have become badly skewed, and he's pretty sure they can blame Nate for that.

"I'm just saying, for the record, insane," Eliot emphasizes again, but Hardison's head is lowered back to his iPhone as he asks the thing for directions to New York City with the least proximity to cemeteries and hospitals, because, well, zombies.

Parker rounds the corner then, her eyes bright and smile one stop past loony. "Look what I found!" she says, practically bouncing as she pets the flamethrower cradled in her arms like a puppy.

Eliot doesn't know when the most surprising part of all this ceased to be the zombies, or even the fact that they are speeding towards danger instead of away like any self-respecting criminal should. No, standing there watching Hardison mark a road atlas with reported cases of zombie activity while Parker coos to her newest toy, the most surprising thing is the absolute certainty Eliot feels.

It may be crazy, but he knows that if anyone can pull this off, it's them—the biggest con of all time. They're going to save the entire freakin' world.

Grabbing a cowboy hat from a nearby shelf, Eliot jams it down on his head. "I call dibs on the chainsaw."