Pairings/Characters: Phil/Claire; Cameron/Mitchell; Ensemble
Word Count: 1,919
Summary: A follow-up to “Truth Be Told.” Of lackluster Hugh Grant movies, scary psycho devil women, siblingly vengeance, prospective turtle names, and good mornings (at long last).
Author's Note: What's this?? I know! Something written! By me! It is some manner of miracle, you guys. Which makes sense, in a way, because this show is miraculously joyful. This is kinda the only thing I've written all week, when I am supposed to be writing stuff like ... my thesis, but I am pretty sure this brought me considerably more joy. So there! JUSTIFIED.
(Yeah, I'm doomed.)
“Wow,” Claire says when they come out of the movie theater, “Music & Lyrics was better than that.”
Which Phil totally agrees with, no question, because Music & Lyrics had tons of sweet eighties dance moves, not to mention a kickass soundtrack. (‘Pop! Goes My Heart’ has like 46 plays on his iTunes, and yeah, he’s also got the dance routine pretty much down; hasn’t had the chance to show it off to anybody yet, but he’s sure that day will come.) He can tell Claire doesn’t mean it in a good way, though. Claire hasn’t liked a Hugh Grant movie since Love Actually; just between you and him, he thinks she’s kiiiiind of a way-too-harsh critic.
“I thought it was decent,” Phil replies, rising gallantly to the defense of the Morgans. “I liked the part where they had to dress up as the front and back of a bull.”
“Yeah, well, honey,” she says distractedly, fishing the car keys out of her purse, “you would.”
They get into the car. Claire drives, so Phil fiddles with the radio ‘til he finds a good song. Then he drums along to the beat on the dashboard.
He’s all tik-tok-on-the-clock-but-the-party-don’t-s
Claire sighs. “Hon, why didn’t you just throw that away at the theater? The last thing we need is more trash in this car—”
He holds it out to her.
“Saved the blue ones for ya,” he says, grinning at her.
She looks over at him (not the safest driving, but honestly, it’s kind of a relief to be in the car without the kids and get to slack in that department a little). The corner of her mouth quirks up. “Thank you.”
He thinks about Denise’s hotel room key, hidden in the kitchen like some emblem of – of Facebook confusion and weird unfaithful debauchery that he wants no part of, would never want any part of. Not even if Scarlett Johansson started messaging him, all, ‘Hey Phil, How are you? I filmed a pretty hot sex scene today.’
It’s not like he’s Facebook friends with ScarJo, of course, but maybe one day.
“I love you, Claire.”
“Um,” she says, tossing a confused frown his way, “okay.”
“Really? That’s what I get? ‘Um, okay’?”
“I love you too, sweetie, obviously,” she says, in the tone that she tends to use while explaining to Luke that no, apples cannot grow in your stomach even if you do eat the core by mistake. “It was just a little random, that’s all.”
“Well, I do. You’re the best. You’re the only one for me.”
“That’s very reassuring,” she says, all sarcastic. “Because I was worried.”
“It’s just, Denise kinda got me thinkin’. And – living in unholy terror.”
“Phil, seriously, I was wrong, okay? Honey, I understand how women act, and she was just being friendly—”
“Uh, no. She grabbed my ass. With you in the room.”
“Oh, Phil, don’t make a whole big thing about it, she probably just tripped—”
“Claire. She gave me her hotel room key. It’s in the kitchen. When we get home, I’m showin’ it to you.”
Finally, she starts to look at him like she’s actually taking him seriously. Better late than never. “God. You mean she actually was—”
“Yes! Like, a lot. And it was totally, totally uncool.” He reaches over and pats her leg. “Thank you for not being a scary psycho devil woman.”
Claire shrugs. “I’m a little scary.”
Phil considers this. It’s a good point. “Yeah,” he acknowledges. “But you’re my scary psycho devil woman.”
“That’s really so romantic,” Claire deadpans, but she eats the blue M&Ms one by one, and doesn’t even roll her eyes when he turns up the volume so he can really rock out to the police shut us down-down-po-pos-shut-us-DOWN line. (Best part. No question.)
“If she takes me,” Luke says miserably, “am I gonna have to switch schools all the time? How far do you have to travel when you’re a door-to-door saleswoman?”
His voice is all muffled because he’s lying facedown on the floor.
Haley looks up from her computer. “Oh my God, Luke, she was just messing with you, you dweeb.”
“Really?” He twists around so he can look at her, but doesn’t sit up. Now he looks all weird and contorted. Her family is so full of freaks.
“Really. I was there when we brought you home from the hospital. Mom’s your mom. Not that that’s so great or whatever. At least Denise has all that makeup. I bet if you were her kid you could totally get free makeup all the time.”
“I don’t want free makeup,” Luke pouts. For a couple of seconds, he doesn’t say anything. Just looks sad. “Alex is mean.”
And don’t get her wrong, he is so annoying, but Alex is pretty much annoyinger, so. Besides, he is her little brother, and he might get his head stuck in the banister and forget to wear pants (which is LAME unless you’re Lady Gaga), but she figures she can stick up for him sometimes. And Dylan had to leave his computer to go put the clean dishes away, so it’s not like she even has anything to do for like the next twenty minutes.
She closes her computer. “You wanna flush her Einstein action figure down the toilet?”
Luke brightens. “Yeah!”
Haley bounces off of her bed, and Luke trails happily after her.
Jay suggests that Manny get a new turtle. Manny, with all that creepy wisdom of his, says that Shell Turtlestein will always hold a special place in his heart, and this is a wound that can only heal with time. Jay doesn’t exactly understand this philosophy – the way he sees it, what you do when you lose something is distract yourself from the pain with a new something that’s better (see: his marriages) – but he’s not about to argue with the kid. Still, Manny looks a little sad, and doesn’t even make it halfway through his first cup of coffee, so Jay keeps trying. They could at least pick out names, he suggests. So they’ll be prepared when the time comes. Manny agrees with that, after quoting some W.H. Auden. And then explaining, after Jay tells him, “Hey, kid, that sounded pretty good”, that he was quoting W.H. Auden, and didn’t just make it up off the cuff.
Excuse him for not knowing. He’s not a poetry anthology. (Although, for the record, the conversation inspires Manny to offer to lend him his.)
They get a pretty good vibe goin’.
“The Duke of Shellington.”
“Shell Woods,” Gloria contributes.
Jay and Manny stare at her. “Huh?”
“Legally Blonde. Ees a very good movie!”
“Girls,” Manny says, shaking his head.
“Totally,” Jay agrees. (Although privately, he’s a little surprised Manny’s not all over that. It kinda seems like his thing.)
Gloria leaves them to it, looking back down at her magazine; she’s smiling, though. And Jay doesn’t want to get sappy about stuff or anything, but that makes him feel pretty good. Like he’s doing okay here.
“Shellton John,” Manny suggests then, mischievous.
“Hey. Maybe if we’re giving it to Mitchell.”
He expects a lecture on – jeez, he doesn’t know, search him, the emotional resonance of Tiny Dancer or something along those lines – but instead Manny just laughs, this happy normal kid laugh. Jay chuckles back.
Mitchell doesn’t get out of bed ‘til almost ten; when he does, it’s to the sound of Cam singing Shout! in the kitchen while he makes breakfast.
“Morning, gentleman of leisure,” Cam says, smiling, when Mitchell shuffles in.
“Morning,” Mitchell yawns, stretching.
“How’d you sleep?”
“Well. Sort of weirdly well, actually. Are you supposed to feel this relaxed in the morning?”
“See, this is good for you,” Cam says sagely, poking Mitchell’s shoulder as he crosses the room to get the orange juice out of the fridge.
“Yeah,” Mitchell says – but then just agreeing seems a little too naively, blindly optimistic. There are at least a hundred things spectacularly wrong with him quitting; even now, he knows it. And it’s possible he’s tempted to make an actual, literal list, if only so he’ll have it to refer to when Cam gets too sunny. “We’ll see if you’re still saying that when we’re buying generic everything.”
“Oh, I will be.”
“Oh, you’ll see.”
Cam points soundlessly to the wall in the living room – … where Dad’s WHAT DOESN’T KILL US MAKES US STRONGER poster is hanging.
“You put it up.”
“Oh, I had to, it was such a nice gesture. Besides, it’s sort of uplifting, don’t you think? Not And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going uplifting—”
“Is anything?” Mitchell mutters.
“—but it’s got a certain direct charm.”
“I suppose.” And it’s funny: looking at it, he actually does feel a little bit better. Which is absurd. Especially considering it’s tinged with memories of like five dead childhood pets.
Odds are, him quitting isn’t going to kill him, or Cam, or Lily. And if it hasn’t made him stronger yet – well, at the very least, he’s feeling better. It’s a start.
“We’re gonna have to get a better frame,” he concludes.
“Oh, definitely needs a better frame,” Cam agrees without missing a beat.
“And wouldn’t you know,” Mitchell adds, feeling a smile start to sneak onto his face, “I have all afternoon free.”
Cam beams back. “You don’t say.”
“I do say. Frame-shopping excursion?”
“It’s a date.” Cam kisses him on the cheek, then heads back over to the counter. “Now, I’m going to finish up these waffles, and make some mimosas, and we’re going to have a breakfast befitting two gentlemen of leisure and their little princess.”
“Yeah,” Mitchell says, “no mimosas for the baby, okay?”
“Oh, you’re no fun. How ‘bout you go see if she’s up yet?”
He’s careful to be quiet as he pushes the nursery door open, doing it slow so there’s no creaking. The window’s open just a few inches: the room is full of air and sun, the curtains dancing gently with the breeze. In this light, even the Your Daddies Are Fairies mural is sort of nice. The sunlight catches on the painted clouds, turning them brighter, and he kind of gets what Cam said to try to justify its existence, that thing about the two of them always being there to watch over her.
Not that he is ever, ever, ever admitting that out loud.
Lily’s awake when he reaches the crib. She’s looking at the ceiling with calm, bright eyed interest. She turns to look at him. He’s not sure he’ll ever get used to this. He’s seen Claire on days when Haley swears she hates them all and Alex won’t dress up and Luke eats shampoo to find out if it tastes fruity too; he knows the parenting thing’s not always like this, all love and quiet. Still. He looks at Lily, and everything turns boundless, and simple, and a little bit perfect.
“Hey there, you,” he says softly, brushing her cheek with one finger. She curls her tiny fingers around it and makes a happy, shapeless little sound. It’s like the world’s best ‘good morning.’
“Yep,” he decides aloud, “Daddy did the right thing.”
“YES, DADDY DID,” Cam calls from the kitchen.
Mitchell glares (a little impractically) at the baby monitor. “Eavesdropper.”
“I EAVESDROP BECAUSE I LOVE.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Mitchell murmurs, smiling.