Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Modern Family
Character/Pairing: Phil/Claire, also mentions Jay/Gloria
Challenge/Prompt: whatif_au 8: Magic AU
Word Count: 2,241
Date Written: 28 November 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to ABC, not the author, and are used without permission.
“PHIL!” Claire cries out, turning quickly around to hide her wand behind her back.
Her husband embraces her, then reaches behind her and brings her hands out in front of her. He’s puzzled to find them empty for she’s already made the wand disappear, but he quickly hides his confusion and kisses the base of one of her palms instead. “You sound almost upset, milady,” he teases.
Then, still hugging her, he looks around them. “Were you worried I would discover your secret?” he whispers against her ear.
“What secret?” She tenses in his loving arms. Her heart races. “What secret? I haven’t got any secret!”
“Of course you do,” he says, kissing her other hand and slowly drawing her into a dance. “You are one amazing woman, Claire Dunphy. You’ve already cleaned the whole house, washed the dishes and the clothes, and I’ve barely been gone two hours!”
“I was just surprised to see you,” she argues, careful to keep her tone light and seemingly natural. “That’s all that was.”
“Surprised but not disappointed?”
“No. No, of course not!” She loops her arms over his shoulders and gazes up into his handsome face. The poor dear doesn’t suspect a thing, but she loves him anyway. “I didn’t expect you so early!”
“Can’t a man break away from his duties to pay a surprise visit to his loving wife?” His body slides against hers. It would be so easy to just close her eyes and let the years melt away, too easy right now, because although her husband seems witless, he could always surprise her. “Can’t a man catch a Witch -- “
“What?” she demands, her blood seeming to drain from her in that one word.
“I said, can’t a man catch his wife and sweep her up into an impromptu dance?”
She tries to relax her tense muscles. Truly she does, but every instinct is screaming at her to run. Phil would never be like the other lovers she’s had in the past, though. He’d never condemn her for her Witchcraft or sentence her, or their children, to the gallows. Phil is sweet. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body! He would never, ever --
Her thoughts shatter as he presses his lips to hers. She melts in his arms, and for a while, they are only a man and a woman, a husband and his wife, again, but when she comes back to herself in his arms later, she’s glad once again that she made her wand vanish just in time, just before he could reach behind her, grab the proof of her Devilishness, and brandish it to the world and against her.
She’s surprised to find Phil already awake and gazing lovingly down at her. He strokes the hair from her eyes. “You’re thinking too much today, Missus Dunphy.”
“Am I?” she asks innocently. “What about?”
“I don’t know,” he answers truthfully, stroking her cheek. “Why don’t you tell me?”
She wants to. She wants to tell him so badly at times that her heart aches with the need of sharing her last secret with this wonderful man, but she can’t do it. Phil doesn’t know how to keep a secret, and he doesn’t know how to be serious. If he didn’t expose her for being a Witch to the world, he’d never understand the dire necessity to keep her powers concealed. He’d think she could do grand things, like feeding the starving and creating endless shelter, food, and water for everybody. He’d think she could save the world, and perhaps her magic could -- if those who fear it because they don’t understand it would simply stop hating her and her people.
“You know you can tell me anything, Claire,” Phil whispers, running his fingers through her soft, blonde hair, and she desperately wants to believe. She wants to believe in him, and in them, and she wants to share everything with him. But her magic is the one thing, even after all her years of loving him, she can not share.
And yet . . . What will happen when he grows old and gray and she still doesn’t have a single wrinkle? How will she explain how she does not age, how her father never grows any older than he already is, how her brother’s hair stays a perfect, bright orange while everybody else’s around them gradually falls out or turns to white? How will she explain to their children when they reach the age from whence they no longer wish to grow how they stop aging, or how when Phil dies, she will still be alive, healthy, and thriving if not full of the love she now feels only for their father?
Loving a mortal comes with many hard decisions and many responsibilities, but the one thing for which she still is not ready is all those questions to come, and the pain of answering them truthfully. She also can not bear the thought of seeing him age and die and leave her behind. She wants to spend eternity with him as she promised him on their wedding date. Phil’s not at all that bright, but he’s funny and sweet and charming in his own way. He’s trustworthy, she knows, and truly always has the best interests for their family at heart. Oh, how she wishes she could trust him completely!
“Claire?” he asks, brushing her cheek again with fingers far more delicate and softer than any mere, mortal man should have. “Sweetheart?”
She can see the pain welling in his eyes, the tears springing forth from the feeling that she does not trust him. She does trust him. She trusts him not to hurt her, not to hurt their children, but what if she’s wrong? She’s been wrong before. Her father was wrong, and her own mother almost killed herself and her brother. If it hadn’t been for their inheritance of their powers from their father, they would have surely died.
But they had lived. They had lived and created new lives for themselves, and their lives are now prospering and full of love. Her father has even found love again, and with a bruja at that. He was so proud when he told her that he’ll never have to hide their magic or any of the truths of what they are from Gloria. She wishes she could do the same with Phil not just because it would be a load off of her mind and conscience but also because he knows there is something that, even after all these years, she is still keeping from him. She sees the pain clearly in his dark eyes now, and it hurts her to know she’s hurting him.
“I was just wondering,” she whispers quietly, almost afraid someone might overhear them even though they are alone in their own home, a home he’s worked hard to give them and which she cleans every day once the others are gone with her powers. It’s the only way, she thinks, to truly keep up with three teenagers and a grown man who acts much more like a teen himself than their father, or at least, that’s the way she excuses her lax use of her powers every time she’s alone at home.
“Ask me,” he pleads with her. “Ask me anything, and I’ll answer honestly.” He leans forward to kiss her, but she moves slightly. He kisses her forehead instead and leans back and looks at her, waiting with such patience, such understanding --
She almost tells him. After all these years of hiding the truth of what and who she is from him, she almost tells him. But instead of speaking the words she longs to be courageous enough to say aloud, she asks, “Will you still love me when I’m old and gray and ugly?”
“I’ll always love you,” he vows, and she can see the truth of his words shining in his sweet eyes. He does kiss her this time, slow and sweet, but she’s the one who breaks off their kiss too soon.
“But what if I’m like, like really, really ugly?”
He grins, once more stroking her hair. She’s thought of growing her hair out before just to give him more to caress at times like these, but she never has. Long hair, after all, makes it easier to be snatched by the hair by Demons and mortals alike. “You’ll never be ugly,” he tells her, “not to me.”
“But what if I am?” she insists. Once again, she wishes she could say the words. It shouldn’t be so hard to tell him. After all, he knows everything else there is to know about her, and he’s never condemned her for any of the few mistakes she’s made. He’s never condemned her, and she knows he would never willingly hurt her or their children. But Phil doesn’t know how to keep a secret, she remembers, and the beans would be out before she could say “magic carpet ride”. Not that she’s ridden on actual flying carpet in years.
He still hasn’t answered her question, so she probes a little harder, “What if I’m ugly and have green skin and a warty nose?”
He laughs this time, and her cheeks burn at the sound. She has to remind herself that he means no harm by the laughter. Phil’s a joyous soul. Some days, that joy is courageous and she can’t help being touched by it deep within her heart and soul, but today is not one of those days.
“Stop worrying,” he tells her.
“But -- “
“I would love you even then, Claire,” he declares, taking her hand in his and interlacing their fingers together. “Even if you were ugly with warts on your nose and green skin, I would still love you. I’ll always love you, rather you’re an old maid or a Witch or a thing that rhymes with Witch -- “
“Phil!” she scolds, but then she laughs. It’s impossible to stay sad around this wonderful man. She snuggles closer to him and kisses him. “So when did you say your next showing is?”
“Milady, I’m clear for you until one o’clock.”
“It’s almost noon now,” she says, glancing at the clock behind him, “so we’d better hurry.” Beside the clock sits a photograph of their family. She looks at their smiles and remembers cracking up that day because of him. She remembers laughing and loving and actually feeling, for the first time in her long, long life, truly loved. He made that all possible for her and continues doing so to this very day. Her life, sometimes, feels like a fairy tale, and he is certainly her Prince, her King, her Knight.
But she, Claire thinks with a shiver, is the Wicked Witch in disguise. She could bring their fairy tale world toppling down all around them with only a whisper of a few words, with only one, single admission.
He feels her shiver and wraps his arms and the blankets closer around her. “I’ll keep you warm,” he promises, kissing her forehead, her nose, and then her lips again. “I promise.”
And he’ll keep her loved, Claire knows. Even if she ever finally finds the courage to tell him the truth, he will still love her. He will always love her, and she will always love him. Maybe one day she’ll find the words. She’ll find the courage to tell him the truth, but for today, the only truths, she tells herself, that matter is that she loves him and he loves her. It’s enough to make her heart soar and to chase away her old fears yet again.
He’ll keep her warm. He’ll keep her, and their children, loved. He’ll keep them all happy, healthy, and alive if only she doesn’t make the mistake of telling him what she is. If she tells him, he might freak out at first, but he’ll come around. He isn’t the problem. His loose tongue is. He’ll never harm them, but if he slips up and trusts the wrong soul, and he is a very trusting soul himself, others will come. Others will harm them, kill them, probably even kill poor Phil while he tries yet to protect them.
No, she can’t tell him. She may even have to find a way to fake the aging process. But she can not tell him. She loves him too much to ever see him be hurt, so for another day, she lets her worries over her secrets fall away underneath the wonderful, passionate pressure of his lips. She lets go of her worries, and she loves. She loves and is loved, and one day, she knows, Phil may yet discover the truth but he’ll love her nonetheless. He will always love her, and she him, and that is not only the greatest fairy tale ever told but the very, utmost wonderful feeling that can never be taken from them.
Haters can kill them. They can hurt them. They can take so many things from them -- their freedom, their children, their lives --, but they will never be able to take their love. Their love is eternal, and even after her death, regardless of rather it happens so or far, far into the future, it will last even after she is gone from this world, after they are both gone from this world and passed into the next. Their love will last forever.