||[Sep. 27th, 2009|04:45 am]
All Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, all the time!
Word Count: 3637
Notes: God. It is five in the morning. I was just supposed to do a meme, and then “In the Hall of the Mountain King” came on. That was… a lot of hours ago. No beta, no clue, no SLEEP. Darn thing wouldn’t let GO of me. Wheeee! Also, I'm pretty sure I got the specs on Booster's force field wrong, since it lets him breathe in space.
(Because he's Batman.) But... oh well. It's five in the morning.
They're in a cave-in.
Booster has never been claustrophobic before. But then again, he's never had tons of rock crushing down on his force field before. At least he'd managed to grab Ted and put that up, barely in time. It flickers around them, a soft golden sphere, luminescent enough only to show the general shapes of their bodies and a cocoon of stone.
There's no reason for Booster and Ted to still be holding onto each other; the force field is just large enough for them to stand apart. But they hang on anyway.
"Oh God. Oh God," Ted whispers. "How far under are we?"
Booster swallows. "Y-you're the genius. You tell me."
He can hear Ted take a deep breath. "Six miles. We're six miles under."
Six miles in the earth, separated from the rest of the League. And this far down, with this much between them and open air, their communicators are useless.
"Booster. Tell me you can fly us out of here." Ted's voice is shaking.
Booster shakes his head, though Ted likely can't see it very well in the faint lighting. "Can't. The force field's built to handle brief points of impact--you know, getting hit. It's not meant to handle this much weight for an extended period of time. We can fly... but the force field can't move. We'll just slam into it."
Ted pauses. Booster's eyes must be adjusting to the dark; he can see Ted's eyelashes through his goggles when he blinks. "How long can your force field stay up like this?"
"I--I don't know. I've never had to test it like this before."
Ted is silent. If he's asking Booster for tech specs that Booster is positive Ted knows more about, things are bad. Ted is the genius, not Booster. If HE's panicking...
"Ted. Come on, buddy. Crack a joke, okay? Please? It'd really break the tension right now..."
For a moment, Booster isn't sure Ted said anything. "What?"
"Air. Booster, your force field only holds in air. It doesn't make new oxygen. We can't stay down here; eventually we're going to suffocate. In fact, I'm willing to bet that'll happen before your force field collapses."
"Oh God." And for the most fleeting moment, Booster thinks of letting go of the force field, because crushing is a bad way to go, but at least it's QUICK... if his suit lets it be. "Ted, what are we going to do?"
Normally, Ted is the more high-strung of the two of them, but this time, Ted pets Booster's back and says, "Stay calm. Don't panic. You use more air that way."
"That's not exactly reassuring!" The force field makes their words sound hollow in a strange echoing way; it only makes things seem even more claustrophobic.
Ted keeps petting him. "Ssh. Let me think. I have to think."
There are a million things Booster wants to say, but he swallows them. Because yes, Ted does need to think. Ted is a genius. Ted can do things with gadgets Booster can barely dream of, so if Booster is quiet, and lets Ted think, then Ted can come up with something brilliant involving Booster's flight ring and a Swiss Army Knife, and they can get out of here.
So Booster shuts up and lets Ted think. He knows he's shivering a little under Ted's hand, and he only hopes that Ted is too busy thinking to notice. He's been in a lot of bad situations, but never like this. He feels he's at the center of the earth, sealed off from everyone and everything. He feels like he's in his own tomb, and he remembers that when he was five and his grandmother died, he'd had nightmares of being buried alive in a box, unable to escape...
Ted's hand is on his face. "Easy. Easy. You're freaking out. Don't freak out."
"H-how can you tell?"
"I can hear you breathing. It's okay, Booster. I'll get us out of here. Just hold on."
High-strung, nervous Ted sounds calm and sure.
Booster holds on.
There isn't much room in the force field for them to move. Ted pulls a notepad and a stub of carpenter pencil from his utility belt and starts scribbling down numbers and diagrams, mumbling quietly under his breath and scratching his head through the cowl with the eraser end of the pencil. Despite the close quarters, there is enough room for them not to touch each other, if they really make the effort, but Ted doesn't. He keeps his free hand on Booster at all times, petting his shoulder absently. Maybe to keep himself calm as much as Booster.
Booster feels as though the air is getting thinner. Surely they haven't been in here that long, have they? He can't tell. He hopes he's paranoid.
"Okay," Ted finally says. "I have an idea."
"Is it a GOOD idea?" Booster asks.
"Well... it's not a BAD idea," Ted says, and now he doesn't sound so sure. "Obviously this is a hypothesis. Unfortunately, we don't have time to test it."
"Okay, what do we do?"
"We need to get more energy to your force field, enough for you to be able to fly. I need to redirect the energy from your suit, your gauntlets, and your visor to your force field, and your ring should be able to take care of the rest."
"Can you do that?"
"I sure hope so." Ted pulls a kit of tools from his belt and reaches for one of Booster's gauntlets; Booster takes it off and hands it to him. "I haven't mucked with your suit since you lost your arm, but hopefully, this new one isn't all that different. Rerouting the energy to your force field shouldn't be much different than rerouting the energy to life-support."
Booster swallows. "Okay. You didn't say it was a good idea. Which means there's a problem. What is it?"
Ted pauses in tinkering with the gauntlet's circuitry and exhales slowly. "The problem is, I don't know how fast we'll be able to move, even if I redirect all the energy to your field. I mean, this is a LOT of rock we have to move. Like you said, your gear wasn't meant to handle that. We're six miles down; if we can't move fast, we might run out of air before we get to the surface."
"That doesn't sound too bad. Same risk as before."
"Well, not quite." Ted pulls something from his belt that looks like a larger laser pointer. "I need to do some welding to get this done. Fire uses up oxygen. So."
Booster can already feel sweat on the back of his neck; he tries to keep from panicking. "Okay. Well. Extra air won't do us any good if we can't get out, right? Go for it, Ted."
Ted nods. "Shield your eyes," he warns, "my goggles are good enough, but..."
Booster closes his eyes, and a shower of sparks go up.
For the next few minutes, Ted half-asses extra power for the force field. The blowtorch makes things uncomfortably hot in the force field; Ted's face is streaked with sweat under his cowl, but he needs the goggles to protect his eyes, so he doesn't take it off. As for Booster, he takes off his other gauntlet, then his visor. He hangs on to his suit for as long as he can, not out of modesty (he's sweating under the material) but to protect himself from the sparks. Ted has already jumped up a couple times, swearing and swatting at the sparks burning through his tights.
Eventually, though, the suit has to come off.
"I can't reach the circuitry for your force field, and there's a slight risk you might get... well, electrocuted."
"Electrocuted, crushed, or smothered. I have all sorts of options to die today," Booster says. It's supposed to be a joke, but it isn't very funny.
"Well, at least you can die naked and beautiful. Strip down for me, okay?"
Booster's already half out of his costume. When he takes it off and hands it to Beetle, the force field automatically moves to stay centered on it, causing a grating groan of rock. Even though that's what supposed to happen, it makes Booster jump. For a moment, he thinks it's broken, the force field's going to crash...
He might have made a sound, he's not sure, but suddenly the hand is back on Booster's face, fingertips brushing over the hair at his temple, tilting his head down to meet Ted's eyes through the goggles.
"Ssssh. It's okay. Hang on, buddy. Michael. It's okay."
Booster breathes in deep. "Okay. Okay, okay." He tries to smile. "Would you believe normally I'm usually totally at ease naked?"
"We can chalk it up to shrinkage," Ted says, but the joke is automatic, and after a gentle pat, he turns to get back to work.
In a way, it's actually a relief to be naked; it makes things a little less stuffy. Booster edges as far away from the torch as possible, and Ted works with his back to Booster to protect him from spray sparks. While Ted curses at the burns he picks up and at twenty-fifth century wiring, Booster lets his mind rattle on, anything to think about besides their predicament.
He's been at risk of death a million times. Supervillains of all stripes and spangles have had him in his clutches. He's been in a Bialyan prison, and lost an arm, and spent a few years living on what life support Ted could jury-rig. But none of it stands up to this bone-deep smothered terror at being buried alive. At least with the life support, once it popped, he knew he'd be dead on the spot. At least if the supervillains got him, he'd know it was for a reason, trying to save the world and all. But to die in such a disinterested, impersonal manner, to slowly run out of air... to feel six miles of rock pressing down on him from all sides...
Booster hastily changes the mental subject before he starts to panic again. He watches Ted. He's crouched in a position that Booster mentally calls the Beetle Action Squat, surrounded by spare bits of circuits and parts that he's had to tear out of Booster's gear due to time constraints. His costume's pulled tight across his back and shoulders, showing the line of his spine.
Ted is not a naturally stoic, levelheaded person. Booster has seen Ted in all levels of freak-out, but so far, Ted hasn't lost it. He wonders if it's because Ted's keeping busy with laws of physics, numbers, and wrangling a lifesaver out of a force field. He wonders if it's because Ted's trying to keep BOOSTER from freaking out more than he already is.
He suspects it's a bit of both. Either way, it's very nice of Ted.
It occurs to Booster that if they die, there are a lot of things he'll regret not saying.
But Ted waves a hand at him impatiently, a nonverbal, "I'm busy, not now."
In what is probably Guinness record time, but feels like an eternity, Ted finishes. The air is definitely getting thinner, and Booster's certain it's not his imagination now.
Ted stands, holding up an ungodly mess of costume, visor, gauntlets, and wire. "Can you use it without wearing it? I'm afraid it'll come apart if you try and put it on."
Booster nods. "Yeah, I can do it. It'd probably be best for you to hang on to it, though, because I'm going to need to focus on carrying you and using the flight ring.
He bends over to let Beetle hop on piggyback like usual... and they both freeze.
And then they actually snort and laugh--not the high-strung, tension-wrenching giggles of before, but an honest laugh, because it's the stupidest, silliest thing. Booster and Ted have been naked in front of each other a hundred times. This is a matter of LIFE AND DEATH, for God's sake, and they actually feel the slightest compunction about...
"Oh, come on, c'mere, if we survive, it'll be worth the humiliation," Booster says. "Maybe we can scar Guy," and he's joking again, when did that happen, but Ted still doesn't jump onto Booster's back the way he usually does.
"Okay, how should we do this..."
"Don't want to damage the suit..."
"Maybe if I put my arm HERE, and you..."
After some delicate hopping and squatting and contortions to keep the suit from getting shaken up, Booster's got Ted in his arms, and Ted has the suit very carefully spread over his middle, some tool clenched in his teeth and blowtorch stuck down the sleeve of his glove. They look ridiculous, and maybe it's that they'll be out of here soon and the laugh has helped clear Booster's head of some of the terror, but he idly thinks Ted's in a similar position as to a bride on a wedding night. Which makes him think of those things he'd regret not saying again.
"Here. Do your mojo with the suit, see if you can't amp it up and start flying."
Right now, the flight ring is about the only thing Booster's wearing. He runs his fingers over the suit, forces his mind to clear. It's trickier to control the force field when he's not actually wearing the suit, but he can; the circuitry knows him.
He can feel the hack job Ted wreaked on it; it makes it a little trickier. Focus... focus... gently, don't overload it...
The force field, which has remained a dim gold the whole time, turns brilliant flaming neon.
Ted whoops. "There we go! Fly, Booster, fly, I don't know how long it'll last!"
Booster takes only a moment to test the pressure, and then he takes off.
With the suit hacked as it is, and not against his skin, he can't feel it telling him how the force is being handled, and he doesn't care; he's developing a headache from the rising carbon dioxide, and all that matters is getting them out. Rocks tears away at their sides with a deep grating roar, and Ted clings to him, watching the suit as though hoping it won't explode. He can feel the tension in Ted's back and thighs, and he realized, Christ, Ted is TERRIFIED, what other problems haven't been said about hacking the gear like this--
But he can't ask. With the sound of rock being torn apart above him, Ted wouldn't be able to hear anything he says anyway.
They blaze through the rock, and Booster's mind is starting to feel a little sluggish, but he forces his concentration into making the flight ring and the force field run as high and hot as they can. As they move, Ted spits out whatever it is he's got in his mouth, frantically picking at wires; his lips are moving but Booster can't hear him. It's only after watching for a few seconds that what Ted's muttering is, "Come on, come on..."
He doesn't know how far or how fast they're moving; the rock doesn't give any sense of distance or time. All he knows is that suddenly the force field stops blazing, starts to flicker.
Booster can't hear Ted over the rock, but he's definitely cursing, and quick and nimble, the hands fumble with wires and circuits and visor, trying to nurse just a little bit more energy out of them, a few more jolts of power--
The force field goes down to its normal dull glow, and Booster only barely halts in time to keep them from smashing into the force field wall.
"Damn it! Goddamn it!" And that's all Ted says, he's too busy messing with Booster's gear to rant any more than that.
Booster's vision is starting to swim a bit. He's breathing hard, despite the lack of physical exertion, but he knows he's not getting anything out of it.
Ted's words sound slightly slurred, but determined. "I can fix this. I can fix this. Give me a second, and I can fix this--"
"TED." Ted keeps working, but at least he looks up. Once he does, Booster fumbles at what he's going to say. He shrugs. "I... I love you, okay? I just want to make sure you know."
"Don't say that. We're not dead yet. I CAN FIX THIS." Ted yanks his BB gun out of its holster. "Come on, come on... it's a flare, not much, but there's still power, come ON..."
Booster's getting tired. He really wants to put Ted down and curl up on the floor of the force field with him and take a nap. The flight ring helps take some of the weight off, but it seems to take more effort than it's worth. He starts to weave a little.
Ted pinches him. "No! Don't pass out on me, Michael, don't you DARE pass out on me, I need you to work the flight ring, just give me five seconds and..."
Ted keeps babbling, but his words lose their meaning and start drawing out into chords and measures. Booster's tired, so very, tired. He somehow musters up the strength to fumble at his flight ring. Ted. Ted can use it. He seems to handle the air better anyway...
And that's the last thing Booster hears for a while.
* * *
When Booster comes to, the first thing he's aware of is pain. A midget has just taken a sledgehammer to his skull, from the inside. The second thing he's aware of is Ted's kissing--no, doing rescue breathing on him.
Booster breaks away, gasps, and the pain in his head spikes for a moment, making him moan. He automatically tries to clap his hands over his head, but his limbs feel heavy, and the world is reeling. He feels Ted's hands on his shoulders, gently pressing him back against the ground--he feels clods of dirt under his shoulder blades.
"Hey, hey, don't try to move." Ted says. "Give your body a moment to recover."
Booster groans. "I must be alive. I feel TERRIBLE."
Ted laughs, but it almost sounds like crying. "I'll bet you do." And then Ted's hugging him, rocking him a little. "God, I'm glad you're alive."
"You love it when I suffer," Booster mumbles, and then he decides it's best to do what Ted said earlier and not try to move.
Within a few minutes, he still feels dizzy and the headache is still brutal, but at least he doesn't feel on the cusp of death.
"You get us out?" He asks Ted.
Ted smiles; he's taken off his cowl, and Booster can see tear tracks among the dried sweat on his cheeks. "I got us out. When you passed out, I took your flight ring. Managed to hack our communicators, get just enough juice into your force field for us to break into normal realms of pressure, and then the flight ring got us out. Unfortunately, it means our communicators are still useless. When you feel up to it, I'll fly you home."
"Ah, you're the greatest." Booster ruffles Ted's hair; it's damp with sweat. "'Re you okay?"
"I'm okay. Have a mother of a headache, and I'm certainly not feeling GREAT, but apparently your twenty-fifth century brain needs more oxygen than mine does or something."
"'S just 'cause you're short." Booster says, and uses his grip on the back of Ted's head to pull him down and kiss his forehead. Ted starts a little, but doesn't resist. When Booster lays back, Ted pulls away a little to look him in the eye.
"Is that what you meant, earlier? It wasn't just the asphyxia talking?"
Booster considers lying, but he's too damn tired and half-dead to make the effort. "Yeah. Didn't mean just friends either. S'okay if you don't feel it." He ruffles Ted's hair again, this time in the more prankster way they've done in the past. "I can live with that."
Ted takes Booster's hand off the back of his head, and for a moment, if he weren't still feeling pretty rotten, Booster would worry he'd blown it. But then Ted kissed the knuckles and gave it a light squeeze.
"Much as I'd like to make out with you, I feel too worn out to do that right now. Wouldn't want to obstruct your breathing."
"Hey, I can..." Booster tries to sit up and immediately realizes what a bad idea THAT is. "No. No, no, I can't. Damn. It'd be perfect timing but... no, I can't."
Ted laughs and snuggles up to his side. "Here. This isn't a bad place. We're in the middle of nowhere. It's probably not regulation, but with our communicators down, let's wait until you feel up to being moved, and then we'll fly back home. You think you'll be okay?"
"Yeah, just give me some rest, I'll perk up in a bit. I mean, dozing a little in the afternoon sun, having thwarted death, with my best friend? That doesn't sound so bad."
"Just best friend?"
Well... whatever you want to be."
"Hm. I don't know. We can figure that out in a bit."
Ted curls up to him, and Booster wraps an arm around him, and he stares up at the sky, which seems infinitely broad and cornflower blue. Whatever happens next seems irrelevant. He has a Ted in his arms there's sunlight on his face, and there's tufts of desiccated grass and dandelions around him, and that seems perfectly good right now.
Then something occurs to him.
"Am I still naked?"
And Ted's laughter sends dandelion seeds scattering in the wind.