Happy Boostlethon, eliyes!
Word Count: 2671
Prompt: Booster & Ted (gen or slash); cool toys
Author's Notes: This one took quite a bit of thought. At first I thought, how would Booster react to JLI-era video games like Zelda or Mario? Then I thought, what if Ted introduced the beloved toys of his childhood, such as Tinker Toys or Lincoln Logs? Then I remembered the most obnoxious, horrifying toy of my youth and realized I had a winner.
When it came to the Superbuddies, Max knew his work was cut out for him, publicity-wise. With the JLI, it had been EASY; "Justice League" was already a household name. All he had to do was run with it, tweak it, and take advantage of the political climate.
The Superbuddies were NOT a household name. And since Captain Marvel had vetoed, none of the members had much of a following--unless you counted Fire and her Internet site, which was NOT the family-friendly reputation Max was hoping to cultivate.
He had to make the word 'Superbuddies' enter the zeitgeist. In Max's mind, that meant merchandise. How else was he going to fund this whole enterprise? He was a businessman, but he didn't have that much money to burn. Everyone knew Batman only kept himself in Batarangs and Batcars and other Batstuff with the proceeds from action figures and lunchboxes. Besides, kids were an easier market: they'd buy ANYTHING brightly colored and shiny, and they were free advertising via nagging their parents.
There was only one problem. Max had to keep the Superbuddies merchandise from falling into the wrong hands--that is, the Superbuddies themselves. Anyone who thought superheroes were paragons of human virtue and discipline had never seen Guy Gardner with an Ice action figure. (He was positive there was still some website with pictures of "Guy Gardner's Kama Sutra" somewhere. He preferred not to look for it and sue; the money wouldn't be worth the permanent blindness.)
At first, Max tried to keep the Superbuddies and the merchandise completely separate from each other, and invested in a post office box. A couple packages lost due to being too big to fit and the headaches of remembering to check the thing regularly quickly cured him of this idea. Sending packages home was out of the question; it made L-Ron mutter cryptic complaints about "bringing work home," in a way he wasn't sure he liked. And he knew better than to try mixing mail with another one of his companies; it was a migraine wrapped in brown paper and stamps.
There was no help for it. Max would have to get all his promo merchandise shipped to the Superbuddies headquarters.
Luckily, all of the promos came to Max's office in plain brown cardboard boxes, boring enough to not catch anyone's eyes. He further helped the process by telling L-Ron loudly around the complex about how his new business in orthopedic socks was really picking up, and asking Mary Marvel if she'd be willing to bring him the packages. She enthusiastically agreed, and voila, problem solved; Mary Marvel was the one person on the team he trusted NOT to snoop through his mail.
For a few happy months, everything went smoothly. The mailman would drop off the package at the front door while Max was sequestered in his office. Mary Marvel, who was like clockwork in regards to arriving ten minutes early, would tun up first, see the package, and happily fly it up to him. He'd thank her politely, retreat back to his office, and investigate the merchandise.
Yes, all was well in Max's world.
Until Mary Marvel got sick.
"She's got the flu?" He asked the phone incredulously.
"Yes, she does," Billy Batson said quite firmly, "she'd be telling you, but she's a little busy throwing up right now."
"...Mary Marvel can get the flu?" It seemed WRONG, somehow. Like Superman getting gonorrhea.
"MARY BATSON has the flu, Mr. Lord. She won't have symptoms in her transformed state, but she'll still be contagious. Do YOU want your whole team coming down with the flu?"
The very image made Max cringe. Superheroes were like doctors in that they made the worst patients. Ted was enough of a hypochondriac already. "Okay, I get it, she can't come to work. How long until she's better?"
"She'll be better when she's better. She'll call you." And that was that.
Well, damn. There went the muscle for the Superbuddies. Mary Marvel, who could bitch-slap Godzilla into incontinence, had been defeated by a tiny microbe. Max hung up grumpily and went back to doing paperwork. Somehow, he doubted Superman had ever been taken down by influenza.
Due to the more immediate, pressing concern of how to boost his team's power effective quotient, Max didn't even think about Mary's mail service, until a couple days later when a new package came in early without him knowing about it. That’s when he got a memory jogging courtesy of Booster's voice shouting, "Oh my god, Beetle! Beetle! Look what I found! They're so COOL!"
Max froze. Suddenly, it came to him. The packages. Mary. Promotional merchandise.
He wracked his brain. Quick, what was it that was supposed to come in today?
"Booster, what are you talking a--oh god. That’s not...?"
Now Max remembered. He let out a silent, teeth-clenched groan and let his head fall to his desk, cushioned by Neighborhood Watch complaints.
"Yeah! Beetle, we've got Superbuddies NERF GUNS!"
* * *
Ted believed in maturity. He had grown up from that bumbling doofus of his Justice League days. He didn't need to prank around with Booster anymore for self-esteem purposes. Besides, his heart couldn't take it.
"Ted, come on! Stop ignoring me! Look at it; it's so AWESOME! Come on, even YOU can't pretend you don't like Nerf Guns, I've seen the target you had hanging in your old office!"
That said, there was something rather intriguing about having a Nerf gun with your team name slapped on it.
"C'mon, Ted! It's called the Nerf Beetle Bomber! It's totally based off your BB gun!"
Okay. Ted had to look up at that. Just for ego purposes.
Booster was showing off his prize like Vanna White displaying a trip to Jamaica. And damned if the blockhead wasn't lying. The gun was decked out in shades of blue, with "Superbuddies" in smaller text below the Nerf title, and in even smaller, vaguely insectoid letters: Beetle Bomber.
Ted had to admit it: that was pretty darn cool.
"Okay, I've seen it. It's neat. Put it back before Max kills you."
"What? That's it? ‘It’s neat?’ C'mon, Beetle, this is the most awesome thing since they made action figures anatomically correct!"
"A six-syllable word? Careful, don't hurt yourself now."
In retrospect, Beetle really should've known better. The remark got him a foam dart to the face--a quick PAH sound, and it was sticking to one lens of his goggles like an amorous blue tadpole. Ted sighed and plucked it off with a soft smacking sound, and looked up at Booster, who crossed his arms and pouted.
"Come on. The only reason you're NOT excited is because you want to show me up with how mature you are."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Booster whipped out the gun again. With another PAH, he sent another dart sticking to Ted's goggles--the OTHER lens this time. Ted popped it off.
"Hey, cut that out!"
"No. Every time you pretend you're more mature than me, I'm going to shoot you. And I'm going to keep shooting you until you admit it."
Booster held up the gun threateningly. Ted sighed and rolled his eyes.
"Look, we're not twelve years old now; sure, they're neat, but they're not--"
PAH. Another dart.
"I mean it, cut it out! You're being juveni--"
"Do you really think you're going to win by--"
“Booster, this is the most infantile—”
PAH. "Wow," Booster said, "for a genius, you sure are learning slowly.”
Ted resisted a growl of frustration. Then he paused for a moment and looked at the chamber of the Nerf gun--easy enough, since Booster still had it pointed at him. A quick calculation. Then he plucked the darts off his goggles, carefully tucked the handful down the neck of his uniform, and grinned.
"Booster. Buddy. Pal," he purred, standing up from the couch. “Friend…”
Apparently Booster wasn't a complete idiot. He gave Ted a sidelong, distrusting look, and scooted back a step, still holding the gun.
"You've made a terrible mistake..." Ted continued to purr, clasping his hands and sliding up closer to him. Booster kept edging back.
"What? What do you mean? What, are you under mind control again or something?"
"Oh no, no-no-no, Michael. Nothing like that. You're just out of ammo."
At just that moment, Booster squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened.
Booster's eyes went wide behind his goggles. Beetle grinned satanically.
Booster's next decision proved the man had more intelligence than given credit for. He took off in a sprint, Ted hot on his heels.
"COME HERE, YOU! I'M GOING TO TAKE THAT BEETLE BOMBER AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR--!"
A digression, for a moment. Among students of beauty, psychology, and society, it is at times considered that an attractive male body reflects what humanity presumes is a healthy, strong, powerful body. Thus, compare Booster Gold, a modern chiseled Adonis who used to be a quarterback, to Ted Kord, who has a few extra years, a few extra pounds, and a heart defect. Using the above stated rule of thumb, most people would assume Booster Gold would be faster on his feet.
Obviously, those people had never had to deal with a berserk Beetle. Ted was on Booster within twenty yards, and tackled him to the floor like a rampaging rhinoceros, overturning a coffee table with a crash. Booster was only lucky that his suit didn't give him rug burn, though it did build up a charge of static electricity that give him an unpleasant little zap. The two superheroes plowed into the carpet like torpedoed lawn gnomes, and a wrestling match promptly broke out: Ted trying to get the gun from Booster's hand, Booster trying to get the darts from Ted's costume.
Booster was shrieking the whole time. "Don't break it, don't break it, Max will kill us both, oh God!" Ted was laughing maniacally, shouting, "Shoot me till I admit you're mature, huh? WHO'S MATURE NOW?"
The other Superbuddies wisely left them to it. They had long since learned their lesson, and Max was too busy cowering in his office, waiting for it all to blow over. If anything, Ralph might've asked Sue, "Booster or Beetle?"
To which Sue may have responded immediately, "Beetle. Dishwashing for a week."
And Ralph could've finished with, "No bet."
Regardless, Booster and Ted were left to sort out their differences in the traditional manner.
By all rights, Ted should've had the gun in a heartbeat; after all, the darts were buried somewhere in his costume, but the gun was only in Booster's hand. Besides, Booster was pinned to the floor, while Beetle still mostly had freedom of movement. However, Booster had a significantly longer reach; he had one hand pressed against Beetle's face, holding him back, while the other frantically held the gun out of reach. He wrapped a leg around Ted's calf, trying to keep him from getting up and tackling him again for a better grip. It only made Ted crash down harder on top of him, putting an elbow in his stomach.
The hand to the face really wasn't doing much to stifle Ted's volume. Booster could only thank his lucky stars that the man couldn't bite through his gloves.
"Give me the gun, Booster! Give me the gun!"
"No way! You're going to shoot me!"
"Damn right I'm going to shoot you! That gun has my name on it!"
"Give me the darts, Ted!"
"No way in hell!"
For a while, they were trapped in a wrestling stalemate, Ted unable to reach the gun, Booster unable to do anything but hold it away. Then Ted started to wheeze, and Booster took the opportunity to shift his grip and plunge his hand down Ted's collar.
That got the reaction Booster had hoped for; Ted automatically yelped and tried to pull away, which meant Booster's stomach was now blissfully elbow-free and he could move a bit more, though their legs were so tangled up that they couldn't quite detach yet.
Finally, Booster thought of the obvious strategy. Ted was far more likely to get the gun than Booster was to get the darts; the best strategy would be less about getting the darts and more keeping Ted away from the gun. Using his quarterback skills, Booster lobbed the gun back to the couch, a few yards away, and then used both hands to grab the front of Ted's uniform and yank him down, to prevent him from going after it. Ted was still wheezing a bit, so didn't put up much of a fight.
"You all right?"
"Out of... out of shape... ow... I think my side cramped..." Ted dug his fingers under his ribs with a grimace. Booster chuckled.
It was hard to keep a rage going when exhausted, and for a few seconds, there was only panting.
"Hey, you didn't say anything about your heart condition that time!" Booster said. "Ted, I'm so proud of you!" There was one benefit about this position: it made it very easy to give a sarcastic hug and ruffle Ted's hair. Well, his cowl, but Booster knew enough about Ted's uniform to know it would translate to some irritating static cling of his own.
Ted rolled his eyes. "Booster, YOU are my heart condition."
"Aw, that's great. You should put it on a Valentine." Booster got an elbow in the ribs again for his trouble, but it was worth it. Besides, Ted didn't make any cracks about needing to grow up. Maybe that's what made Booster say next. "I'm sorry for shooting you with the Beetle Bomber."
Ted paused, then raised an eyebrow. "You're... apologizing?"
Ted seemed to think this over for a bit. "Apology accepted." Then he looked over at the coffee table, which stood with its legs in the air in forlorn defeat. "I don't think I can really claim much maturity over you right now."
Booster grinned. "Well, that WAS the idea. Not like I could beat you at your own game anyway..."
He got another elbow, but Ted was laughing. "That bad, huh?"
"Ted, you're my best friend. But you can be a real pain in the ass."
Ted was still laughing, but he did wince in recognition. "I thought I was retired, you know? And now you're MARRIED..."
"Hey, I might give her a lot of flack, but Gladys is all right. We have a good arrangement. She's actually been wanting to meet you. Something about your old coleslaw recipe."
"Your ancient old Daisy Trump makes coleslaw?"
“Hey. Be nice to her. I don’t love her, but she is my good friend, which is more than I can say for some people who are married.”
Ted was quiet for a moment. “Just… you bashed her, so…”
“Ted, the reason I bashed her was to beat you guys to it. At least I will say I’m sorry to her later.” When Ted looked uncomfortable, he continued, “And for the record, her cookies are better, to be honest. She wants to watch us make your special coleslaw in Wonder Woman gear.”
Ted cringed; he looked away for a moment, thinking. Then he looked up and said, "Say, Booster, how many of those guns were there in that box?"
Booster shrugged again. "I dunno. Ten, twenty? I didn't really look, I was too busy going, 'oh, cool!'"
"That's fine, I was more wondering about ammo. I mean, no offense, buddy, but you're a lousy shot."
"Hey, I got you in the goggles all six times!"
"Yeah, from point blank range! A five-year-old could do that! I could tell you've never fired a gun in your life." Ted beamed. "How about I teach you how to REALLY aim? Use it on a moving target?"
Booster paused. Then a grin started to spread over his face. "Fire?"
They got up and scrambled for the box. They had some target practice to do.