Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Modern Family
Character/Pairing: Cam/Mitch, Claire
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Random Flash Challenge: "Could you bring a large fruit salad?" "What would you consider large fruit?"
Word Count: 1,655
Date Written: 2 April 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to ABC, not the author, and are used without permission.
“Could you bring a large fruit salad?”
“What would you consider large fruit? You know I’m bringing Cam with me.”
“Salad, Mitchell. Salad!” Claire emphasized, looking crossly at her phone. “Not Cam! Not a man! Not your boyfriend! Not any person!” By this time, she was drawing looks from passersby and noticed a mother hurrying her young child along. “Salad!” she repeated a little louder, hoping to clarify her private conversation which the strangers were eavesdropping on. “S-A-L-A-D!”
“Sorry, Claire, it sounds like we have a bad connection.”
“Mitchell, don’t you dare -- “
Cam turned to face his partner, bouncing their baby on an ample hip as he did so. “Tell her I can dress in drag and do the hulu if she wants me to,” he offered, wriggling a plush lion in front of Lily’s face again. She squealed gleefully and clasped the lion with both hands.
“I heard that!” Claire exclaimed sharply, turning her back on the strangers who were continuing to be rude, listen in on her conversation with her brother, and make disgusted faces at her. “It’s a fruit salad,” she commented loudly, “not a fruit . . . community!” She rolled her eyes at her own lack of being able to come up with a better statement but stopped the gesture when she heard crackling in the phone.
“Mitchell, don’t you dare do that to me! I know the difference between a really bad connection and your mouth!”
“Sorry, Claire -- “ Again came the telltale sound that she was on the losing end of this conversation with her dumb, gay brother. “ -- breaking up -- “
“Mitchell! MITCHELL!” The phone went dead in her hand, and Claire glared at the device. Mitchell had been the one to ask what he could bring, and this was the reaction she was given?! “He’d better not show up with that fruit -- “ Again, she became aware of the strangers casting judgement upon her as they walked by. “ -- with the wrong kind of fruit!” she completed hurriedly. Tossing her phone into her bag with an aggravated grumble, Claire stalked toward her car.
She had started the party dreading Mitch and Cam’s arrival, but by the time she finally caught sight of them, Claire had all but forgotten their conversation. It was as though the moment had been staged, though, when she finally saw her brother, guests parted between them, and Cam appeared in full glow of the kitchen lights.
His back was to her, and Claire tensed as he started to turn around. She could practically hear the Lion King soundtrack playing in her head, and her mind flashed back on the moment he and Mitch had announced Lily’s adoption. Cam was definitely a Drama Queen! To make matters worse, he and Mitch loved to tease her about being too serious.
“He’d better not be -- “ she started to hiss at Mitch in a strained whisper.
As Cam turned around, however, his arms held high and his proud head tossed almost regally back, Claire heard two of the words she dreaded most in that moment. “Hakuna Matata!”
She closed her eyes and hid her face behind a hand, her other hand perching unconsciously on her hip. “No, no, no!” she muttered, shaking her head. “This is not happening!”
“What a wonderful phrase!”
She dared to peek through her tightly closed eyes. Then her eyes shot open wide in surprise. Cam was not dressed in drag or even a hula skirt, and he was holding a large, crystalline bowl of fruit salad! Despite everything, or perhaps because of everything she’d been through in organizing this party where she knew their mother and several important colleagues would be in attendance, tears touched Claire’s eyes.
Mitch came up behind her and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “See?” he whispered to her. “We don’t mess up everything.”
“I -- “ Claire turned her back on their guests and dabbed quickly at her eyes. “I didn’t say you mess up everything!”
“No, but you thought it.” She opened her mouth to deny his claim but shut it again at the pointed look he gave her. “Claire, just because we don’t seem to take things as seriously as you do doesn’t mean we don’t, and it doesn’t mean we’re going to purposefully let you down when you ask us to do something.”
“Well, you did ask me what you could bring,” she said with an awkward shrug.
His hand slipped from her shoulder to rub the tense muscles of her upper back. “Yes,” he confirmed, “I did, because I wanted to help. Cam wanted to help. Of course, his idea of helping was originally to provide the entertainment, but I managed to talk him out of it.”
Claire grabbed a drink out of Hayley’s hand as her teenager passed by them and barely registered her annoyed protest. She sipped it, confirming immediately that somebody had indeed spiked the punch as she’d predicted. “Thank you -- “
“For stopping Cam?” Mitch asked. “Of course.” He grinned wide. “I love him, but he can be a lot to take even for me sometimes.” He squeezed her shoulder. “That’s what brothers are for.”
He’d missed Claire’s silent indication that he should stop talking, but now seeing the look on her face, he turned and spotted Cam, looking utterly heartbroken right behind him. Cam turned, set the fruit salad on the nearest table, and nearly bolted from the room.
Mitch sighed and started to head after him, but Claire stopped him with a quick pat on his shoulder. “Let me,” she told him and smiled. “That’s what sisters are for.”
She followed Cam discreetly from the party and out into her family’s backyard. “Cam, Mitch didn’t mean anything bad by what he said.” She sat down beside him in her children’s swing set. “You have to understand. We were raised chiefly by a man who never knew how to show his emotions.”
“Jay seems to be doing pretty good for himself. He managed to land that hot, little senorita number.”
“A midlife crisis,” Claire interjected hurriedly, “or post midlife or -- “
“Your father’s passionate, Claire, even if you and Mitch don’t see it.”
Claire made a face. “Really?”
“Really. I’d just hoped that a little of that would rub off on Mitch.”
“Mitch is passionate.” She leaned over and rubbed Cam’s beefy shoulder. “He’s passionate about you,” she told him, “and about your baby. I’m never seen him as proud as when he talks about the two of you. But he’s also passionate about me. And I guess . . . Yeah, maybe I have been worrying too much about this party. There are so many people here who we need to impress.”
“You don’t need to impress anybody,” Cam spoke softly.
“Ha!” Claire barked out with surprised laughter. “Wish that were so! We need to keep those accounts, and we need to keep them happy.”
“Your father’s doing fine at that. Didn’t you see him in there? He looks like a real Lion King holding court.”
This time when Claire laughed, it was truly a happy sound. “Yeah,” she admitted, “he really does seem to be holding court fine in there. But I wouldn’t call him a lion to his face.”
“Don’t worry.” Cam winked at her. “I know more about keeping your family satisfied with us than you think I do.”
Claire looked up at him. “Cam, I -- I’m sorry if I -- “
“If you upset me? Nah. I just wish Mitchell didn’t feel the need to apologize for my behavior.”
“It’s not that. Believe it or not, he was trying to protect you in his own, awkward way. He used to do the same thing for me when we were kids, only he didn’t know that I knew he was always telling our classmates and other peers that I wasn’t born with a stick up my ass.”
Cam looked up abruptly, chuckling. Claire smiled beautifully at him. “See? I can make a joke.”
“You’re different from us, Cam,” she added after a moment, “but that doesn’t mean you’re any worse than we are. In some ways, you’re way better. You’re definitely better for Mitch. I see the way being with you makes him happy. And you . . . You do shine, Cam. You seem to always have a light around you, a light that’s all you.”
Cam blushed in her praise. “Aw . . . “
“Just don’t tell him I told you any of this,” Claire said, grinning.
“Don’t tell me you did what?” Mitchell asked, suddenly appearing, carrying Lily in his arms, and striding toward them.
Cam stood quickly. Claire just barely caught him glancing at her out of the corner of one eye. He grinned at his boyfriend. “She was just explaining to me how you help her to get the stick out of her ass.”
“Cam!” Mitchell cried in dismay, covering one of Lily’s ears. “Ixnay on the languageay!”
Cam grinned down at him. “It’s okay. She’s too young to start picking up our words.”
“You don’t know that.”
“When she does,” Claire spoke up from behind them, “she’s going to learn the true meaning of the word ‘fruit’ and not any of its . . . other connotations. You’re right as usual, Mitch. I’m too self-conscious.” She stood and threw her arms around both men.
“Claire,” Mitch asked in concern, looking at the emptied glass she’d set beside the swing, “are you sure that’s all you had to drink today?”
“I’m sure,” she said, still hugging them, “but we should go for drinks sometime, just the three of us.”
“I’d like that,” Cam hurriedly agreed.
Claire beamed up at them. She hugged them again, then headed back in to the party.
Mitchell looked uncertainly at his boyfriend. “What did you do to my sister?”
“It’s what we both did,” he said, “I think. She likes that we make each other happy.”
Mitchell grinned. “I like that too,” he declared and leaned over their baby to give his lover a kiss.