Title: A Friend in Need III: Crash and Burn
Email: Sure, just please ask first.
Rating: T for language
Disclaimer: Phoenix, Iceman and other X-Men depicted within are property of Marvel Entertainment. Characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement intended, and no profit is being made. Dr. Foxx and Isabella are original creations and may not be used without the author's permission. "Crash and Burn" is by Darren Haynes and Daniel Jones of Savage Garden, and can be found on their CD "Affirmation." Complete lyrics can be found at the end of the story.
Summary: Longtime friends Jean Grey-Summers and Bobby Drake go shopping. But, as is often the case in the lives of the X-Men, their peaceful afternoon is interrupted by tragedy. The team is then left to pick up the pieces.
Author's Notes: I'd like to thank Kelley and Mirage for the awesome beta. As always, you ladies keep my on my toes; you help me to smooth all the rough edges to create a wonderfully polished final product. Thank you for you patience and your insight.
A Friend in Need III: Crash and Burn by Somogyi
Let me be the one you call
If you jump I'll break your fall
Lift you up and fly away with you into the night
If you need to fall apart I can mend a broken heart
If you need to crash then crash and burn
You're not alone
"Thanks for agreeing to come with me, Jeanie," Bobby said as he pulled into the parking space, put the car in park, and cut the engine.
"It's no problem," she replied, unfastening her seatbelt. "You seemed like you really needed the moral support."
"Yeah," he sighed, getting out of the car and walking around to the other side to open the passenger side door. "I really appreciate it."
Jean looked up at him and smiled. "Ever the gentleman, Bobby," she said, placing her hand in his and allowing him to help her out of the car. "I'm just so flattered you asked for my advice."
"Well, I'm horrible at picking out these sorts of things. And God only knows what I'd end up with if I brought Hank with me. But I definitely trust your judgment. You've got good taste. With your help, I just may pull this off."
"Such pessimism, Mr. Drake. You've got to go into this with a positive mental attitude."
He looked at her in disbelief. "I still can't believe you enjoy this kind of thing."
"I never pass up the opportunity to go shopping. C'mon, Bobby, this is going to be fun," she assured him.
"You say that now, but wait until we've hit a few places."
"You underestimate my endurance, and my resolve. This type of challenge I never back down from. We have a mission, and we will succeed."
Bobby eyed her warily. "Scott subjecting you to some of those self-affirmation tapes again?"
Ignoring his remark, Jean took his arm and pulled him toward the end of the parking lot and the nearest entrance to the mall. They had only gotten a few yards inside when Bobby suddenly stopped short. Looking up at the seemingly endless row of storefronts, he swallowed convulsively. He suddenly felt way out of his league. He had no idea of where to even begin.
He felt Jean squeeze his arm reassuringly. "C'mon, let's start with a department store."
"Macy's is the closest. Let's go there."
"You sure you know what you're doing?" he asked as they took a right and made their way to the store entrance.
"Bobby Drake, did you ask for my help or not?"
"Sorry, Jeanie. It was a moment of weakness. I have complete faith in you and your ability to help me find the perfect birthday gift for my mom."
She smiled at him. "See, that wasn't so hard, now was it?"
"I guess. Ask me again in a few hours. That is, if I manage to survive this experience."
They entered the store, almost managing to avoid the saleswoman with the perfume samples. Almost being the operative word.
"Care to try Desire, our latest scent?" a young woman in a smart suit and way too much make-up asked Jean.
"No, thank y-"
"Sure," Bobby replied, accepting the proffered card and offering the woman a heart-stopping grin that actually made her blush.
Jean watched impatiently as he lifted the card to his nose and inhaled. She had to stifle a laugh as he fought to keep from coughing.
"Do you like it?" the woman asked him.
"It's . . . uh . . . quite powerful."
"Well, it's on sale if you'd like to purchase a bottle today."
"We'll think about it. Thanks."
"My pleasure," the woman replied, beaming at him, as he waved good-bye.
"You finished charming the ladies, Casanova?" Jean asked with mock impatience as Bobby hurried to catch up to her.
"You're not the only one who can multi-task, you know," he said, shaking the card in the air to emphasize his point.
"Get rid of that thing, will ya?" Jean asked, waving her hand in front of her face to clear the air.
"What, it doesn't make you Desire me?" Bobby asked, waggling his eyebrows.
"Well, maybe if I wasn't a happily married woman. . . ."
"What's a happy marriage got to do with having a little fun?" he teased.
"How about an insanely jealous husband who can pulverize you with a mere look?"
Bobby thought about that a moment. "Yep, that's certainly a mood-killer." He tossed the card into a trashcan that they passed. "Whatever happened to the saleswomen who sprayed you with perfume as you entered the store?"
"You didn't hear? They got Logan right in the eyes with Vanilla Lace, and then there was hell to pay."
They laughed. Then Bobby once again grew somber. "So, uh, where do we start?"
Jean looked around. "Hmm. . . ."
He followed her gaze to the ladies' clothing section. "Uh uh, no way no how. I don't even know my mom's sizes. Besides, I want something more personal than a blouse or a dress."
"Okay." Jean looked past the clothing section and began to walk. "What about a nice handbag?" she suggested, heading for the accessories.
"A purse?" he asked incredulously.
"Well, you could get a nice Prada, Coach, or Gucci bag." Seeing the way his eyes bugged out, she quickly added, "Or something like Nine West, if that's more in your price range." She began to look through the racks of leather bags.
"I don't think so, Jeanie. My mom's the type of woman who's happy to just shove all she can in her purse. I don't think she's into this designer stuff."
"Okay," Jean fingered the strap of a stylish Gucci pocketbook with a sigh before moving on.
Hmm, mental note to self: make Scott a gift suggestion for Jean's next birthday. For a moment, he lost sight of her amongst the accessories. "Jeanie!" he called. "Where'd ya go?"
"How about a hat?" she asked, suddenly darting out from between two displays, a long-brimmed black sunhat placed at a chic angle on her head.
Bobby smiled. "I think that one's more your style than my mom's." He reached to the side and put on an argyle driving cap. "What'cha think?"
Disappearing down an aisle, she called back, "Too 'Driving Miss Daisy,' Grandpa!"
"I suppose you can do better?"
"How about this?" She sauntered over to him, hands on hips, wearing a red pillbox hat with a sheer veil pulled down over her eyes.
"You misplaced your cigarette holder, Greta," he replied, adjusting his own hat.
Jean took a good look at him-black beret placed jauntily on his head, matching scarf, and dark sunglasses-and laughed. "I know what you can get your mom, man. Tickets to a blues club!"
"Humph," he replied, ducking back down an aisle.
They both returned at the same time-Jean in a purple hat whose brim was pushed up and adorned with several large artificial flowers-and Bobby in the same style, only in yellow. They both broke out into hearty laughter.
"I think it's time to move on," Jean said, returning her hat to the rack.
"I agree," Bobby said, replacing his as well.
"Although that last one really was you, Bobby."
"Yeah, maybe I should get it to match my Easter outfit."
Smiling, Jean headed toward the center of the store and the glass showcases. "There's always perfume."
He looked at her skeptically. "What, you mean Desire?" he asked, the name a breathy whisper on his lips.
Jean tilted her head back, wrist to forehead. "Please, Mr. Drake, you shall make me swoon."
"Not exactly the effect I'm going for with my mom."
"Touché. Well, there are plenty of scents to choose from."
Bobby followed her sweeping gesture towards the many display cases, behind each of which stood at least one or two saleswomen. He suddenly felt like a lamb being led to the slaughter. "You know, Jeanie, my mom's been wearing the same perfume for as long as I can remember. It's, you know, a scent I just associate with her. It's . . . mom." He shrugged.
"You could get her a bottle of that."
"Yeah, but that's not very personal. Besides . . ." he shoved his hands into his jeans pockets and studied his sneakers. "I, uhm, I'm not even sure of the name."
"Oh. Well, do you know what the bottle looks like?"
He shook his head.
"Well, you could smell around a bit at the different samples."
The prospect of sniffing over a dozen perfume samples made his stomach lurch. "Ixnay on the erfumepay."
"Kay-oh-ay," Jean replied with a nod. "There's always make-up."
Together, they began to wander among the various displays: Estee Lauder, Ralph Lauren, Clinique, L'Oreal. . . . Jesus, how many different brands were there? he wondered.
He wandered up to one counter that boasted 'The hippest new shades for the season.' He stared in bewilderment at the palate of colors offered.
"See something you like?" the young woman behind the counter asked. She had blonde hair that was obviously not her natural color, her eyelids sparkled more than most diamonds, and her lips were a color that would whet Dracula's appetite. Resting her elbows in front of her, she leaned forward, giving him a perfect view of her ample cleavage peaking out from her partially unbuttoned blouse.
"Uhm, I was just looking for a gift."
"Girlfriend?" the woman asked carefully.
"No, actually. My mother. It's her birthday-"
"Oh!" she cried, her face lighting up. "I know just the thing to help her feel young again!" She bent down to slide open the back door to the display case, stealing a glance at Bobby from below lowered lashes-from their unnatural length, obviously false ones. She reached inside, picked up a rectangular-shaped black compact, and brought it up to the counter. "This is the latest in eyewear."
Eyewear? I thought sunglasses were eyewear? What the heck has this girl been smoking?
She opened up the case, revealing several squares of eye shadow in various shades of blue. "This can be complemented nicely with eyeliner number 603, Ocean Breeze-" she somehow managed to produce the appropriate pencil- "and adorned with our best-selling product, Sparkling Diamonds-" She pointed to her own closed eyes with a flourish.
"Uhm . . . very pretty."
"Ya think? Thanks!" she replied with a giggle. "So can I wrap a set up for you?"
"Uh . . . I'm not sure this is my mom's style. . . ."
"Find something?" Jean asked, coming to stand next to Bobby. Touching his arm, she bent down to look at the palate on the counter. "Oh. This is . . . interesting."
"Perhaps your girlfriend would also be interested," the saleswoman suggested to Bobby.
"I don't think it's my friend's style either," he replied with a gracious smile. "Do you have anything a little different?"
"Sure. Let me get you something from over here," she said, replacing the eye shadow and heading for a different counter.
"Hopefully something from this decade," Bobby muttered to Jean under his breath.
"Hush! Haven't you heard that retro is back?"
"Yeah, well, maybe I should get her a pair of bell-bottoms to go with the eye-shadow." He suddenly cringed at the thought of his mother in hip-hugger jeans.
"How about this?" the woman asked, producing a montage of lip glosses. They ranged from hot pink to rust orange to a reddish-brown so dark it was nearly black.
"Ooo, how gothic," he said, picking up the latter.
"I'm sure your dad would love that one," Jean said, perusing the display. "What about this one?" She selected a more traditional shade of red.
Bobby looked at her and thought very hard. Five bucks says I can guess the name of that shade.
Jean's eyebrows rose as she obviously picked up his thought projection. You're on.
I guess . . . 'Blow Job Red'.
Bobby! Though her thoughts were indignant, a bark of laughter escaped her lips.
What? I see that shade, that's the first thing that comes to my mind.
"What's so funny?" the saleswoman asked them, oblivious to the telepathic exchange.
"Nothing," Jean replied, biting her lip to control her laughter. She quickly replaced the lipstick in the display. "Thank you, but I think we're going to keep on looking. Come on, Bobby," she said, grabbing his arm and pulling him away from the counter.
"So was I right?" he asked her.
"I don't know. I didn't look," she whispered, avoiding his gaze.
"What? But why? We had a bet!" He looked down at her. "Jeanie . . . you're blushing."
"I am not."
"Yes, you are. Your face almost matches your hair-and that lipstick."
She went even darker, if such a thing were possible.
"Please don't tell me you're that easily offended. You never used to be."
"It's not that."
"Well, what then?"
He looked at her expectantly.
"It's just. . . ." She swallowed, still unable to meet his eyes. "I have that same shade of lipstick at home." And with that, she increased her step to browse at another display.
For a moment, Bobby stood where he was, dumbfounded. It took a while for realization to hit. Well, I'll say one thing . . . Scott is one lucky man.
I heard that! Jean snapped.
Chuckling, her hurried to catch up to her. She was staring down at several rows of nail polish-in every color of the rainbow, and then some.
"I just don't get it."
"I bought it on a whim . . . to go with a new red dress."
His brow furrowed. "Huh? Oh, I'm not talking about the lipstick. I've moved on." Though obviously you have not-conjuring up some good memories?
I choose not to dignify that with a response, thank you very much.
Second mental note to self: get Scott drunk and ask him about the night you wore a new red dress.
Bobby, if you don't behave, so help me, I'll-
"As I was saying, I just don't understand all these shades of nail polish."
"What's there not to get?"
"Well, take a look at some of these: black, orange, blue, purple . . . hell, even green!"
"And what's wrong with green?"
"Well, just look at this!" he declared, picking up a bottle of forest green polish. "You put this on, you'd look like you have moss growing from your fingertips."
"Well, I happen to like green. It matches my eyes. Or so Scott tells me."
"But . . . forest green!" he asked in wonder, gesturing with the bottle.
"Well, maybe not that exact shade. A more subtle one."
"More subtle? How can green be subtle? It's . . . well, green!"
"For your information, Mr. Drake, green can compliment one's eyes, and one's dress, quite nicely. I like it. In fact . . . I'm wearing it right now."
Bobby's brows knitted in confusion. He reached for one of Jean's hands, looked down at her nails. "Wow, I didn't realize they started making invisible green nail polish. I should get some for my mom!"
She scowled at him. "Not on my hands, silly!"
Holding onto his arm for support, she slipped her foot out of her shoe. As Bobby followed her gaze and looked down at the floor, she wiggled her toes at him from beneath her sheer panty hose. They were, in fact, adorned with green nail polish. Though, to Jean's credit, it was more like a mint green.
"Jeanie! How could you?"
"What? Don't you like it? I think it's pretty. It matches this nice floral-print dress I have."
Hr shook his head disappointedly.
"I don't care what you think, I like it."
"Suit yourself. If you want to look like you've got toenail fungus. . . ."
"Hey, I can't help it if you're seriously lacking in taste. For your information, Jubilee gave it to me-the polish, not the dress. And if she doesn't have her finger on the pulse of hip and trendy, I don't know who would."
He sighed. This was obviously an argument he was destined to lose. "Okay, okay. You win. Your polish is tres cool. Now, can we please find a gift for my mom? I don't think this make-up thing is panning out."
"On that matter, we agree."
"What, then? Please don't say we have to venture out into the mall proper."
"Don't give up hope yet. We still haven't exhausted every possibility in here."
"No linens, electronics, or china. No furniture either."
Jean gazed around, doing a slow three-sixty. She stopped suddenly. "I've got it!"
"What? What is it?"
"C'mon, sunlight's burning!" Grabbing his arm, she practically dragged him across the store to another section.
As they entered the new department, Bobby realized that she just might have been struck with divine inspiration.
"Jeanie, you're a genius!"
"Why didn't I think of this sooner?"
"I don't know."
"My gosh, I'm sure we can find something perfect!"
"Don't jinx us just yet."
"No, no, you're right. But where should we start?"
"Hmm." She thought a moment. "How about fine gems?" Before he had a chance to reply, she took his hand and pulled him toward a nearby jewelry counter. "Does your mom prefer gold or silver?"
"Uhm, gold. I think."
"Well, she doesn't wear much jewelry."
"What color is her wedding band?"
"Uhm . . . gold?" Catching sight of her scowling face, he gulped. "Gold," he repeated more confidently. "Yeah, it's gold. I'm sure of it."
"Does she like necklaces? Bracelets?"
"I guess. I don't know. She doesn't really wear either."
"Are her ears pierced?"
"Studs or danglies?"
"Does she wear studs-you know, things like pearls that are attached directly to a post-or does she prefer a style that hangs down past her earlobes?"
Bobby thought for a moment. "Uhm, studs, I think. I've mainly see her wear a pair of pearl earrings, now that you mention it."
"Well, then, I think it's time we expanded her horizons," Jean said, fingers lightly glazing across a glass countertop as she perused its contents.
"What exactly did you have in mind?"
"Well, how about one of these?" she suggested, pointing to a particular display.
Bobby walked over to where she indicated, crouching down for a better look. "Wow. Those are awfully pretty."
"Pretty? Pretty? Bobby, those are downright beautiful! That pair in particular-" she gestured to the earrings that had caught her eye- "are gorgeous!"
"And they're on sale for fifty percent off," said a dapper, gray-haired man in a navy suit as he approached them from behind the counter.
Bobby looked at Jean and smiled. You thinkin' what I'm thinkin', Red?
Jackpot. He looked up at the salesman. "Do you take American Express?"
End Chapter 1