Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Modern Family
Rating: Light PG-13/T
Challenge/Prompt: beattheblackdog 123: Demand
Word Count: 2,266
Date Written: 18 August 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
Claire sunk low in her seat and began to slink out of the room. She had been worried this would happen ever since Phil had told her he’d been asked to do another show. The poor, dear, innocent man thought that he was being asked back because the hotel recognized his talent as a magician, and though she’d tried to argue with him, he had, as he often did, refused to see reason. The hotel had asked him back, but only because their clientele had found him so hilarious an act. It had nothing to do with his talent but was indeed just the exact opposite: they billed him as a magician, but in talking about the show, they always jested at his misfortune.
But they wouldn’t do so much longer this time. Claire had racked her brain over the problem for weeks when they had left the last time and Phil had told her he’d been asked back the next time they were in the city. She’d tried her best to keep him from knowing the true location of the convention she’d come here to attend. When he’d learned the truth, he had been so angry at her that he had actually accused her of not wanting to share the “limelight”.
She shook her head now as she almost crawled out of the audience. Her poor, dear husband would always be out of his league when it came to her. That was no secret. But that didn’t mean she didn’t want her man to have his just due when he did well, or that she didn’t want to see him succeed. It was, in fact, just the opposite, but of course, she’d been unable to convince him of that.
When she’d returned from the convention, she’d found two roses with a note inviting her to come see the “Master” perform. It was all she could do now not to roll her eyes at the memory. Phil was a sweet man, and he did have some talents, but he was hardly a Master at anything, except, perhaps, role playing. Her chapped lips lifted into a grin, and a sparkle came to her brown eyes. In an odd, roundabout way, it was Phil who had given her the solution she’d needed as to how to save his day.
Yet he would never see it coming. She might even have to argue and flirt her way onto the stage with him, but so be it. She’d heard the calls from the people all around her. She knew they were laughing at his expense, and she’d be damned if she’d just stand idly by and let her man fall flat on his handsome face again. Leaving the room, Claire ran for their hotel suite.
She was back minutes later, but dressed completely different. She felt eyes on her the moment she sashayed into the room, and they weren’t her husband’s. She ignored the other men. She might envy Gloria’s ability with guys, but she didn’t need their attention to know that she was a powerful and alluring woman -- or that she was just as beautiful as her stepmother in this getup. She tried not to think about how much skin the slit up her black dress showed as she stalked toward the stage.
She waited until she was about halfway there and drawing equal attention as Phil before she removed her long, classic pipe from her mouth. She wasn’t actually smoking. She was being careful not to breathe in the incense when the pipe was in her mouth, and nobody in the audience, or even Phil for that matter, would know that she wasn’t smoking. She knew this role -- it was one of her husband’s favorites --, and she played it well.
“You are very good, Mister Magician man,” she said in a thick Russian accent. She smiled slyly as Phil looked up from pulling handkerchiefs out of his top hat, his eyes connected with hers, and he almost swallowed his tongue. “But I vonder how much of vhat you do is just for show. Tell me, Mister Magician, vhat can you do vith a body?”
Gloria had a number of stunts that she performed that drove men wild. One of them was shaking her breasts while not moving the rest of her body and not just out right deliberately wiggling them. She made it look natural, and Claire had copied the motion in secret for years as she’d tried to emulate the other woman’s ability to make absolutely any man she encountered want her. Now, for the first time, she pulled that stunt in public.
Women slapped their husbands and boyfriends. Teenage boys whistled and shouted out with cat calls. One old man’s snowy head went back against his chair. The two closest to her definitely looked like they were about to lose it. One young girl left the audience, and it took her beau a whole minute to realize that she was stalking off on him before he followed her.
Claire took it all in out of the corner of her eyes, but her attention remained fixated on her husband. He still looked like he was about to eat his tongue, but she knew he recognized her despite her getup. With all their years of being together, he had to recognize her despite her dark wig, dress, and even the pipe in her hand.
“I . . . didn’t ask for volunteers,” Phil finally managed to speak.
“I am volunteering any way,” she said, tapping her pipe and causing sparks to fall from it. She sashayed on up to the stage.
“Oh, come on, baby,” one of the young men in the crowd called out, “I’ve got more talent than him in my pinky finger!”
“I can show you a better time!” offered another.
“How much for your services?” a third called.
“You Americans,” she spoke, tapping her long pipe again. “So funny. But I vant man vith real talent.” She touched the end of her pipe to the front, right lapel on Phil’s jacket. “You have real talent, but I vant to know how much. Can you saw a woman in half?”
“I -- I don’t have a saw.”
“I’m sure you do somevhere.”
“Not -- Not with me,” he stammered.
“Then can you make me disappear? Vanish me,” she said, waving her free, gloved hand in the air. “Make me disappear, and then bring me back. Show this crowd of nonbelievers you have real magic.” Phil gaped at her, but then she issued a challenge from which she knew he couldn’t back away. “Show zem magic is real,” she demanded.
“I -- I -- “ She could hear his nervous gulp despite the feet that still separated them. “All right.” He hurried to a large, black box he hadn’t used in years, but which she had told him to bring with him. She’d told him it would look good on the stage even if he couldn’t use it, but now her smart man was beginning to put two and two together.
He wheeled it out to the center of the stage and opened the door. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he called, waving his arms in a flourishing manner to draw everyone’s attention, “I will now perform the ultimate task of magic: I will make this beautiful woman, who has kindly volunteered her time and, uh, her body and who I do not know from anyone -- she most certainly isn’t my wife -- “ He laughed nervously until Claire cut eyes at him, wordlessly shushing him. “I will make her disappear!”
Claire walked up to the box. It was a small fit, but they had practiced this act years ago. Phil had never been able to get it right, but when she’d been planning his rescue from this very scene, she had figured out how to make it work and had had no trouble hiring Cameron and Luke to sneak in and fix the hole in the stage she needed to make this act work. She would have had trouble keeping their mouths shut about her secret, but she’d gotten dirt on both her brother-in-law and her son that had effectively sealed their mouths shut. She’d keep those secrets, too, because who knew when she might have need of them again?
It was all she could do not to smirk as she faced the audience and sashayed up to the box. She handed her pipe to Phil, who fumbled it nervously and almost dropped it. She ignored his flailings with it as she began to fold herself down into the box.
“You’re nuts, lady!” one of the guys called.
“If he does manage to make you disappear, you’ll never get back!” warned another.
“Oh, please! He won’t be able to vanish her in the first place!”
“Ah, skeptics,” she tisked in her fake, Russian accent, “every one of you! Ze Master vill show you!” She winked up at her husband. “Make me disappear, handsome,” she said as she slowly drew the last limb she had hanging out of the box into its tight confines. She was wearing fishnet pantyhose, and the hosiery coupled with her black high heels made her legs look longer and smoother than they were.
Phil’s hands were sweating; she could see how they faintly trembled. She winked at him again. She had this, and because she had this, so did he. He wasn’t going to fail this time. When he stepped up to shut the door on her, for just a moment, his body blocked the audience’s view of her. She stole that second to whisper to him, “You can do this.”
“Claire -- “ he whispered back, and she knew he was fighting to keep from shaking all over. She hadn’t heard such fear in his voice since the last time Haley had been in a wreck.
“You can do this,” she said again, “Master Magician.” She winked at him once more. “I have complete faith in you.”
He swallowed. He wouldn’t admit that he had little faith in himself, but he did flash her a grin. “I love you,” he whispered hurriedly before shutting the door. He turned the box around three times, then tapped the top of it with his magic wand, waved the wand over the box, and spoke some nonsense words.
As he was speaking, Claire hit the button inside that opened the bottom of the box. Then she pushed the boards down beneath her and fell into the hole Cameron had fixed while Luke had kept watch. She had just put the bottom back into the box when Phil opened it again. She heard the crowd gasp, one woman scream, and several voices demand that he bring her back. She smirked and had to cover her mouth with her hand to keep from laughing out loud.
She heard the click of the box shutting again and moved swiftly, reopening the bottom of the box and pushing herself upward. Thank goodness she had practiced this at least a hundred times, because for the first time, she had no trouble thrusting herself back up into the tight, narrow position. By the time Phil had turned the box the third time and tapped it with his wand, she was in position. He spoke the purported magic words, and when he dropped the lid, she smiled out at the audience.
The same, shrill woman screamed. Applause rippled through the audience. A few people actually got to their feet while others muttered how they didn’t believe their own eyes. Phil held his hand out to her. She took it and stepped gracefully out of the box. For just one second, she felt her heel twist and was afraid her shoe was going to snag and ruin everything, but she’d practiced working these shoes she’d bought at the same time Gloria had bought herself another pair. She wriggled her foot free and stood amongst the growing roar of applause.
Phil bowed. She started to move off to the side and collect her pipe from where he’d set it on his table when he’d picked up his wand, but he held her hand tight. “I believe the beautiful and brave lady should also bow,” he spoke quickly out of the corner of his grinning mouth to her.
She looked at him, basked in the pride and joy with which he was practically glowing, and bowed. They took three more bows while holding to each other’s hands before Phil finished his show and they snuck away backstage like eager teenagers.
“You were amazing!” he exclaimed as they slipped into their room.
Claire shrugged as though all she had been working on for him over the last several months was nothing. “I learned from the best.”
“You did,” he said, grinning, “but you were still amazing! Now come here, you foxy magician’s assistant you!” He pulled her close to him and began ravishing her mouth with his. Claire had a feeling that this wouldn’t be the last time she performed the magician’s assistant, but the role was no longer so bad. It was nice to see Phil happy, nice to see him actually succeed at something, and if all doing so cost her was a little time and effort, then it was time and effort very well spent indeed.
He touched one of her secret spots, and Claire melted in his arms with a moan. In some ways, her husband was a talented magician, she thought as her logic faded away, overcome by passion. He had managed to win her, after all, when no other man could come close.