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Joshua Donovan Does 'Secret Santa'

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Okay. I know what you're thinking – why didn't I ever say anything? But here's the thing, okay? I could never control my sister. Not at ten, not now that she's all grown up older, not when she gets crazy Christmas ideas in her head. You have to understand, we didn't have a lot of Merry Christmases when she was just a kid. I did everything I could for her, but you know how it is, everything isn't enough when you're dirt poor, struggling to get by, and have a kid sister who is dangerously close to being smarter than you are.

So when she told Isadore that Artie was dying, I really had no choice but to go along with it. Especially since I'd been the one making those 486 phone calls to find the piano. And really, her heart had nearly broken when Pete announced they were going home. Even though they did wind up having to stay, I know she was upset that they would have left, leaving just me, her, Artie, and the mistletoe [If you thought that kiss with Artie was something, you should have seen the way Claud manage to deftly get us out from under it with that snowglobe of hers. Crisis very much averted there].

Hard to be upset at a kid that is beyond thrilled to unite a man and his father – no matter the lies it took to do it. Gotta admire her for thinking so fast on her feet – she definitely didn't learn that one from me! I mean, breaking into a warehouse, taking a hostage, never stopping until she got him to see that I was still alive? That takes skill. I'm a little sad she had to be the one to learn it. And you didn't even see the best of it, on the way back to South Dakota. I'm driving, letting Claud prattle on and on, offering a simple nod here and there where I can, when she starts weaving tales of me and her and how excited she is that both families can be together. I get it, you don't want to tell a [semi] total stranger all about how your brother was locked in another dimension for half for your life, but there's a line, right? Somewhere? Only thing is, since my sister got to basically raise herself, she got to set the boundaries. And you know Claud – there's not a boundary she's met that she's actually liked. Or listened to.

Things only got a little tricky when Artie kept calling on the Farnsworth, looking for her. Claud put it under the seat, in the glove box, in the trunk, and we could still hear the damn thing going off. On the Illinois toll road I rolled down the window and told her to chuck it, garnering a laugh from the backseat. It was the first time I’d heard Isa make a noise of anything other than unhappiness towards the situation. I mean, the man didn’t even like my car, and wouldn’t sit in the front seat, calling it a death trap. Just because it’s nearly as old as Claud doesn’t mean it’s not a very decent car. But anyway. Back to the Farnsworth. Claud then decided to leave it open and on, but not making another call, just so Artie couldn't get a hold of her.

I didn't realise how bad things could go until that moment, when Isadore said absolutely nothing in regards to why his son was trying to get a hold of a worker of his this badly. He didn't ask any questions about Artie, actually, none at all, so Claud supplied in whatever she wanted, which was to tell the most ridiculous tales of Artie that she could think of. During dinner in Worthington, MN I tried to bring up the idea to Claud that maybe this wasn't such a great Christmas present to spring on Artie. I don't think she heard a word I said, laughing to me about how it would be fine, and was this not the best Christmas we'd ever had?

Despite everything, I really couldn't deny that it was.

I stayed in my room once father and son hugged, firmly tucked away for when it all went to hell – and it was all going to go to hell. Even the best laid plans do, and this was nothing near even a good laid plan. Looking at Claud though, before I went back up the stairs ... It made me realise how much I'd really missed with her. It wasn't really anyone's fault, but we'd lost so much time – she'd lost so much time. Now she was an innocent devil, if such a thing could be.

"Haven't you caused enough trouble!"

I almost didn't go downstairs for that one, to make sure neither one of the men were strangling Claudia on the spot. I couldn't blame them if they were, but instincts are instincts, y'know? I got to the top of the stairs when I heard "Shame on you, you're a liar," and I couldn't tell which of the men it had come from. I cringed on the steps, but the next thing I knew, Claud was back in the hallway, a ridiculously happy grin on her face, giving me another thumbs up.

So that's why I didn't say anything. I would have traded – I don't know. A thousand moons, to see that look stay on my sister's face.

Myka and Pete came home after that, and I got to see more of the 'family' dynamic. Pete and Claud giggled around the tree, pointing at gifts, Pete telling her what was inside all of them and Claud laughing hysterically while Myka looked on and rolled her eyes. And I missed all that, y'know? I missed watching her fall in love with this holiday the way she has. And then I got back and ran off to CERN and never really stayed to find out what else she'd managed to fall in love with [No worries, I've heard the rumours about the boy the US Government relocated because of her – like I said, Claud and boundaries don't really mix].

So now here we are, one crazy, messed-up family. I mean, my kid sister knows Jewish prayers, and we're wearing t-shirts of things that have nearly killed us. You're telling me that's not crazy and messed-up?

Ah well.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.