Left for Dead - Axel's played plenty of zombie games, but in real life med-kits and ammo don't fall out of crates or vanquished enemies. And you can stop a game whenever you want. AU to Blackest Night.
Warnings: zombies/black lanterns
AN: This is based on a thought I had about Blackest Night. If any person who'd been dead at some point got turned into a Black Lantern (maybe not immediately, but it was happening... I think, it's been a while since I read it) why didn't so many more people get changed? I know the entire Justice League was killed and resurrected at one point. Wally's 'died' just as much as Barry has, having ended up in the speedforce several times. And the Rogues went to hell...
Celebrating my last exam (ever!) today, so I thought I'd post this, since it's been keeping me sane over the past month when I relax in the evenings.
Inspired somewhat by Legacy by xanykaos.
It's unclear exactly what's happening around the world, but the main emphasis is on not good. Zombies and rainbow lanterns and other weird shit that makes Axel occasionally wonder how much less batshit insane his life would be if he hadn't waited for the Rogues to get from Salvation Planet.
They've talked about their time there in the early hours of the morning, when they're all too drunk to moderate what they're saying. It makes Axel glad he doesn't drink much, more chance of passing out early and missing their stories if he did. It also makes him glad he didn't wind up there with them.
The new old Flash's voice echoes through the hideout, telling everyone in the world to keep calm and not show emotion. Axel can't help the excitement though, as Cold starts making plans for taking on the zombies in Iron Heights. It's more like a video game than what they've done before and Axel's damn sure he's going to be the best at it.
Mirror Master's set up the mirror they're going to use when It happens. It is well deserving of a capital letter, thank you very much.
"Mark Mardon of Earth," a small black object flies into the room, Axel manages to see that it's like a twisted version of Green Lantern's ring, "You have seen the other side of death. Rise."
Weather Wizard tries to blast it, but it moves too fast and the next thing anyone knows the ring's on his finger and he's zombified. His green and yellow costume turns black and white and a weird symbol gets put on his chest. The other Rogues scramble as Weather Wizard creates a thunderclap that knocks them all over. Axel's up on his feet first, shoes sparking up and giving him height.
"Evan McCulloch of Earth."
There's only bare seconds between the words echoing and the ring finding its target, but they're Rogues, they fight the fucking Flash. Seconds are everything.
"Run, kid," Cold orders, freezing Weather Wizard solid.
"But you just said –" Axel starts, because Cold was just talking about Rogues not running.
"Kid, we've been to hell," Heat Wave says, "You're the only one going to be alive after this."
"Leonard Snart of Earth."
"Run," Cold says again, pressing his gun into Axel's hand a giving him a shove.
That more that anything shakes Axel, because Cold's fiercely protective over his tech and the one time Axel touched it he'd earned himself a black eye and a threat of worse if he did it again.
"Mick Rory of Earth."
Axel stumbles back and only avoids the huge gouts of flame Heat Wave is sending out due to being in the air.
"Rise," the word comes in stereo as the rings zombify both Cold and Heat Wave.
Axel scrabbles for the small window near the ceiling. Thankfully he's used it a few times to come in and out and it opens easy enough. The flames follow him, trying to catch on any of the number of explosives he's got on him, but Axel gets into the air and away.
They're going to come after me. Axel's not sure where the slightly hysterical thought comes from, but it's there with crystal clarity and he can't shake it. Axel checks through his pockets to make a list of what he's got with him and, for the first time in months, he takes his earphones out and turns his iPod off.
Smoke pellets, a couple of wads of sticky-gum, joy-buzzer, a few t-bombs, itching powder, a lightspeed energy bar, a vial of some acid he'd lifted from a lab and hadn't got around to doing anything destructive with yet, and Cold's gun. Not all that great against Rogue zombies.
Axel goes through plans as he runs.
"Gotta stay away from reflections," he mutters, steering clear of a shopping street with several large windows showcasing their wares, "Gotta keep moving. I could really do with a shotgun, that's what they always use in the games. It'd help if I knew how to use a shotgun though. Still, I've got the air advantage."
"Oh, you really think so?"
Axel whips his head around and only just ducks out of the way of a stream of some nasty black gunk that had been aimed at his face. The old Trickster is standing – hovering – there, a maniacal grin stretched over a half-decomposed face. He's holding a water pistol dripping the black gunk in one hand and his other hand is missing.
"Shit," Axel says, tossing half his smoke pellets and running. Last time he hadn't fared all that well when they'd fought and who knows what new advantages being a zombie gave the old man.
"Run, run, as fast as you can," the old Trickster taunts through the smoke.
Axel does so, and he could seriously use a Flash right now. Why aren't there any heroes around when you want them? Instead they put all their time and effort into appearing when you don't want them.
Axel stops to catch his breath, then the world tilts out from under his feet. He loses what he had in his stomach, but manages to keep his feet and look around for the cause. A few meters away there's a couple. Zombified and in black, white, and the symbol that seems to mean undead. The man's in stripes and the woman's wearing ice skates. The Top and the Golden Glider.
Axel tries not to think about the fact that, even though she's a zombie, Cold's sister looks kinda hot.
The Golden Glider moves forward before Axel can regain his equilibrium and the next second she's got him pinned to the wall with an ice skate at his neck.
"Not bad," she says, staring at Axel with creepy eyes behind her mask, "Fear... Rage... Avarice..." she drops her leg and leans forward, swiping a cold ragged tongue over Axel's ear, "Love... But I think we can do better."
Axel twists out of her grip and manages to get Cold's gun out and freeze her. The Top grabs Axel from behind, but Axel shoves his sparking joy-buzzer into the Top's face and runs into the air and out of telepathic range while his head's still on straight.
Several blocks away, Axel collapses on a rooftop and hunches down beneath a water tank. He should be safe for a little while here. There's enough shelter to keep him hidden and enough room to run if he's found.
The crinkling of his energy bar's packet sounds ridiculously loud in the quiet city. Everyone's staying indoors to avoid the zombies. Axel sorta wants to join in, but he knows that's only ever going to lead to getting trapped and dead.
Axel doesn't want to think about what had been going through Cold's head when he'd ordered them to take the fight to the zombies.
Axel's not worried though, he's the fucking Trickster, he's better than some lame-ass zombies. Even if they are the zombies of the other Rogues.
While he's sitting there, Axel runs through his inventory again. No more joy-buzzer or energy bar and only one use worth of smoke pellets left, but everything else is still intact. Axel takes out Cold's gun and starts fiddling with it, trying to get a feel of how Cold can do all the stuff he can with just one weapon.
He nearly ices himself to the roof twice, but Axel eventually manages to figure out how to narrow and widen the cold-beam. He's looking for the power-source when a voice interrupts him.
"Try harder next time."
Axel rolls out of the way as a bolt of lightning hits where he'd been a second ago. Looks like they've found him.
Weather Wizard and both Mirror Masters are grinning at him in that undead way. Weather Wizard's hair's turned white for some reason and it make Axel feel a little funny inside when he realises he won't be able to tease Mardon about it later.
Axel throws his gum at the three of them and only manges to hit Weather Wizard with it. The old Mirror Master blasts the bit aimed at him out of the way and the final glob just passes straight through McCulloch. That's slowed Weather Wizard down, but Axel's going to have to run to survive.
He ducks under a laser from the old Mirror Master and his foot is on the edge of the roof, kicking himself off, when his ankle's grabbed. Axel struggles to get free, but Heat Wave's stronger than he looks and tosses Axel across the roof. He comes to a stop against the upraised bit leading to the stairwell. Everything hurts, but Axel forces himself to his feet.
"Not enough, not nearly enough," the old Mirror Master's saying.
Axel doesn't know what he's on about, but then the zombies aren't getting any closer and Axel's about to try another run when a hand clamps down heavily on his shoulder.
"Thought I told you, Rogues don't run," Cold says behind Axel, "You're the last and you're gonna break our rules?"
Axel doesn't want to turn around. He doesn't want to see what's behind him, because it's likely to make him give up. Zombified or not, Cold's right, Axel's what's left of the Rogues and damned if he isn't going to make them proud.
"Everything but Compassion," Cold says, his fingers are tightening to the point of painful in Axel's shoulder, "And you don't know what that is anyway."
Cold's other hand stabs into Axel's back and Axel screams. He fumbles for something, anything, to make it stop and drops Cold's gun. There's a blinding explosion and Axel comes back to himself at the bottom of several flights of stairs.
If he'd thought he was sore before...
There's no sign of the zombies, but Axel's shoes have stopped working. He's lost his acid and itching powder too. Moving gingerly, though as fast as he can, Axel heads down the stairs. If he can get to street level he might be able to find some other weapons.
Axel's two flights down when he twigs that it must've been his fiddling to get a look at the power-source of Cold's gun that made it explode like that when dropped. Fuck yeah for inquisitive luck.
Axel finds an abandoned baseball bat in the lobby of the building and takes it with him. He's a little short for properly hitting zombies in the head, but better that than nothing. He checks his other items and finds he's down to one smoke pellet, the others having gone off in his pocket, and his t-bombs are still thankfully intact.
The streets are deserted. Axel considers hot-wiring a car, but it's likely to be too conspicuous and noisy for the little advantage it would give him.
Axel whips around as his name is hissed from a nearby alley. To his surprise, Owen is peering around the corner, looking just as surprised to see Axel. Axel limps over quickly, because it's good to see someone else who isn't zombified.
"Crazy party, hey, Owen?" Axel says, swinging his bat up to his shoulder.
"I..." Owen looks a little unsure for a moment, but then he tightens his jaw and gets this determined look on his face, "I need your help. I'm trying to find my dad."
"Your dad?" Axel repeats, "Isn't he... y'know..." here's where he'd usually say 'dead', but that's not right now, "All zombified?"
"Yeah," Owen says, "I thought I could keep him somewhere and figure out a way to fix him, but he got away from me." Owen glances around, "Can you help me find him?"
"Sure," Axel says, because there's not much else to do and sticking with Owen's likely to keep him alive longer, "Got any idea where he went?"
"I had him trapped this way," Owen says, gesturing for Axel to follow him, "Maybe you can tell which way he went."
Axel feels better, because it's fucking awesome being needed and valued. Owen's always kept Axel at arm's length, like he's kept most of them, but there's kinship there, being the youngest and all.
"When you say 'fixed'," Axel asks, "What d'you mean?"
"Alive," Owen replies, "He's in there and if I can just..." he trails off.
Axel can't help the stab of hope that maybe, just maybe, if Owen can fix his dad then Axel can find a way to fix the Rogues. They'd have to keep him on in a permanent basis if he brought them back to life.
Owen leads Axel to a construction site. Axel kinda wants to be back on the main road, because at least there there weren't all sorts of places for zombies to hide. Axel's not quite looking where he's going and he trips over something. He hasn't really tripped in some time, airwalkers giving him an advantage over those who walk on the ground. It's some lady's handbag that he caught his foot in the strap of.
"Looks like someone was in a hurry," Axel says, trying for a laugh and falling short when he sees a kid's teddy bear on the ground too. It's the sort of toy that's misshapen because its owner carried it everywhere and cuddled it tight at night.
Owen just tightens his jaw again and looks away. He's wringing his hands a lot and Axel's starting to wonder if he's ok.
"Over here," Owen says.
Axel walks over, keeping an eye on his feet this time. Owen's waiting by a pit and his hand-wringing has increased. Axel feels trepidation crawling up his spine, though he's not sure what it's from.
"I had him in that pit," Owen says and it has to be Axel's imagination but he can hear something moving in there.
Nevertheless, Axel moves closer to the edge of the pit. He gets close enough to see a shambling undead old Captain Boomerang when Owen gives him a sharp shove in the place that Cold had tried to rip Axel's heart out through his back.
Axel yelps and his shoes spark back to life for a moment, sending him careening into the edge of the pit rather than plummeting to the bottom. Axel just manages to grab a stuck-out pipe before his shoes die again. A quick look tells him he's only a third of the way down the pit and there is definitely a zombie waiting for him at the bottom. His baseball bat drops into the pit and hits the zombie in the shoulder. It doesn't even notice.
"What the fuck, Owen?" Axel shouts, twisting his head around to see Owen.
"It's going to help him," Owen says, he's got a boomerang in one hand and is sounding fucking deranged, "You're going to help him."
Axel reaches into his jacket and grabs his t-bombs. In the next second he's chucked them down the pit and Owen's thrown his boomerang. The razor edge clips Axel's fingers where they're curled around the pipe and he drops just as the t-bombs explode. The resulting shockwave and Axel's shoes coming back to life for another moment manage to propel him out of the pit.
Axel doesn't pause to catch his breath as he chucks down his remaining smoke pellet and makes a break for it. He snags a wrench from an open toolbox on the way past and doesn't stop running until his throat is raw and his legs won't take another step.
Owen let him go. There's no way Axel could've outrun even an erratic speedster on foot. Maybe that's Owen's way of feeling sorry for what he's done. There's something more than exhaustion sitting uncomfortably in Axel's gut when he thinks about that teddy without an owner any more.
He's out of tricks. He doesn't have a safe place. His shoulder hurts and the rest of him aches. Axel's doubting his chances of surviving the night.
Axel finds a worn tarp over a dumpster and decides he's not going to do any better. At least the alley he's in doesn't have any reflective surfaces. It stinks, it's cold, but it's safe. For now. Axel curls up by the dumpster under the tarp and holds his wrench close.
When Axel wakes up there's voices and movement and something making his shoulder scream in pain. He pushes himself up and tries to get free, but there's people holding him and he's sore. Axel doesn't want to be sacrificed to a zombie and squirms harder.
"...down. Kid! Axel! It's over, Axel. Trickster. Calm down. It's over. Listen to me. Kid..." Cold's voice slowly filters through Axel's haze and the scene resolves itself piece by piece in Axel's eyes.
He's back at the hideout. It's suffered damage from the earlier fire, but Axel can still recognise the place. For a moment he's worried that the Rogues are still zombies, but another look shows blue and green and orange instead of black. Axel stops fighting and Cold makes him sit down.
Heat Wave and Weather Wizard are talking quietly while they put together some food. Mirror Master lets go of Axel and goes over to join in the conversation. Cold doesn't give Axel a warning before smearing antiseptic gel on Axel's wound.
"Shit!" Axel yelps, because that fucking hurts dammit.
"Spend the night running from zombies and now you're complaining?" Cold grumbles, picking up the medical tape and gauze that's lying nearby.
Axel doesn't say anything, but complaining when you're in the safe zone's a Rogue tradition. He's almost tempted to ask what happened to the others and how come they're all back now? But the look on Cold's face warns him against that.
"There you go, kid," Cold says, giving Axel's shoulder a pat and getting up, "You hungry?"
"What happened to Owen?" Axel asks.
"Owen?" Cold looks confused, "You see him out there?"
"Yeah," Axel says and if he doesn't want to elaborate that's fine.
"Maybe he'll turn up later," Cold says with a suspicious look at Axel.
"Maybe," Axel says, even though he knows never will be too soon to see Owen again.
"Hmm," Cold clears up the remaining medical supplies then gives Axel a look that makes him stand up straight, "You didn't do too bad today, kid."
The smile that creeps across Axel's face isn't his usual manic grin and he quickly tampers it down. Cold notices though and gives Axel a push toward the other Rogues, grumbling under his breath all the while. Axel settles back into his normal grin as he joins in with the conversation.
Axel begins to notice little things.
The way Mardon sometimes takes his nose out of his book and comments on the plot of one of Axel's video games actually being taken from some dead author's work or something similar. That usually ends with them getting into an argument, or, on one memorable occasion, Mardon joining in co-op.
The way McCulloch occasionally doesn't shoo Axel away when McCulloch's looking for information through his mirrors and Axel's looking for porn over his shoulder. Even rarer is the time when McCulloch hands Axel one of the mirrors he'd been watching and tells him to return it in good condition.
The way Rory starts talking explosives and fire traps when Axel's up to his elbows in his tricks. Having a professional go over Axel's half-built designs means he's much less likely to have it blow up in his face when testing his shit, or out against the Flash.
The way Cold actually trusts Axel to do what he says and gives him more complicated missions. Or the way Cold gives Axel a rough pat on the shoulder when he passes, like he used to do to Owen, instead of shoving Axel out of his way.
Axel's always been a Rogue, it's just now everyone sees it.
Just in case anyone's wondering:
Rage – not as strong as the others would be, but he's pissed that he's scared.
Avarice – what villain doesn't have this? Especially with how Axel likely views the Rogues and his place there.
Fear – zombie team mates attacking? Especially when Axel probably sees himself as one of the weaker ones.
Will – he's the last Rogue and he's going to make that mean something. Yes, zombie!Cold said that on purpose to get that emotion into him.
Hope – because despite the zombification, Axel sees Cold as being the one who fixes things.
Compassion – no, Axel's a sociopath at the very least. Not that he doesn't care about the Rogues, but he doesn't give a damn about his fellow man.
Love – now stop me if I'm wrong, but I see this as recognising all forms of love. Romantic, sexual, familial, platonic, obsession, etc. It's unclear exactly what Axel sees the Rogues, especially Cold, as, but I'm willing to be that at least part of it has some form of love in there, even if it's a twisted one.