"I can't eat this."
Michael has to take a deep breath before responding. Last week, it was an organic macrobiotic diet (trashed after a "lunch" session with their mother); the week before, an attempt to fit into a new dress purchased on the company credit card (which she still hasn't forgiven him for making her return).
"You always order pork, Lindsay."
She sighs, like he's the one being difficult. Family, he has to remind himself.
"It isn't kosher," she says finally, and storms off in a huff before he can tell her none of them are Jewish. He finishes the last of the egg rolls, throws the empty cartons away, and puts the leftover pork in the fridge.
It's almost the most ridiculous thing she's said all day.
Three days later, she's still Jewish, and he's suitably impressed by what amounts, for Lindsay, to a long-term commitment, that he makes a huge mistake.
"Michael," she says, and she's got her I-need-a-favour face on. "I need a favour."
"Let me guess. You need money."
"No," she says, looking faintly scandalised. She pauses. "Well, yes, but that's not what I wanted to ask."
"If this is about mom -"
"It's about my fundraiser. I need a place to host it."
"What fundraiser?" he asks, and her expression darkens.
"My Jewish awareness fundraiser. It's a very important cause, Michael -"
"For the awareness of ..."
"Jewishness, obviously." Lindsay's looking at him like an idiot. Sometimes, he wonders how they ever end up on the same wavelength.
"Obviously," he agrees. "And the money would go to?"
"To Jews, Michael."
Ah. "Like you?"
"Well, theoretically -"
"This is exactly the kind of prejudice we need to combat," she says, and sometimes, he really misses the contact high he gets whenever their mother is around. "Which is exactly why ..."
There's more, but he's not listening. He's already wondering how many people they could fit into the living room for a fundraiser.
Lindsay's slumped over the kitchen counter at the end of the night, a wine glass in one hand and bottle of vodka in the other.
"I thought you were mom," he says, and she glares up at him.
"Not funny, Michael."
"So," he says, and settles down next to her. Almost as an afterthought, he swipes the bottle. "Did you raise much money?"
"Two hundred dollars."
"Two hundred dollars? That's not -"
"No," she says, and drains her glass. "I mean, it cost us two hundred dollars."
She twists away from him, opening up the fridge and pulling out a carton.
"Lindsay, that's -"
"Screw it," she says, and jabs a pair of chopsticks into the pork. "I didn't really want to give up Christmas, anyway."
2. Persecuted by an evil vizier
It doesn't surprise Michael to hear Lindsay call their mother a tyrant (other than the uncommonly astute observation).
After family movie night, it changes to vizier.
He should have known watching Aladdin would be a bad idea.
He has no idea where Lindsay got the costume, but it's ... distracting, to say the least.
"I thought it would be fun," she says, as if she's wearing more than a wisp of cloth that barely covers her legs. "I'm just getting into the spirit of move night, Michael. After all, it was your idea."
He wishes he could forget.
"Don't you want to watch something different?" he asks, but between Buster's need for G-rated entertainment and the fact that Tobias already rented the video again -
"You can pay me back later," Tobias says, and of course he can.
Between Lindsay (and the scratchy, nearly nonexistent fabric of her costume) pressed up against him on the couch, and Tobias' insistence on singing Jasmine's part of A Whole New World in falsetto (he's thinking about getting into musicals next, and Michael can't say he's surprised), it's difficult to concentrate on the movie. Michael leaves halfway through, and he really wishes he hadn't overheard Lindsay wondering whether she could get another costume in Tobias' size.
"I'll marry whoever I want!" Lindsay yells before storming out, and Lucille looks at Michael over her fourth dry martini.
"What on earth was that about?" she asks, and Michael wishes he didn't know. "And who the hell is Jafar?"
A week later, Michael's taken to calling buster 'Iago' in his head, and it's more than a little disturbing.
Not nearly as disturbing as the sight of Tobias in costume, however.
"I think that meant to be ..." he starts, and gives up. If Tobias doesn't know it's a woman's costume, Michael isn't going to tell him, and if he does -
If Lindsay's still looking for her Aladdin, she's probably going to be disappointed.
"I can grant you three wishes," Gob says, and Michael only has one: to never, ever have to watch that movie again.
He flat out denies Lindsay's request for a pet tiger, and decides now might be a good time to start doing overtime at the office.
3. A woman
The walls of the model home are thin, but Michael is used to blocking out most of the things he doesn't want to hear. Even Lindsay and Tobias' fights barely register any more, and he's well-practised in the art of pretending he doesn't know every detail of their sex life (nonexistent) or whether Tobias is still wearing cut-offs underneath his pants (yes).
Sometimes, things get a little out of hand. And if he thought watching Tobias wander around the house naked was hard ...
Watching Lindsay do the same is even harder - worse. It's even worse.
"Lindsay," he says, and if his voice is a little strained, that's only to be expected. "What are you doing?"
"I'm showing my husband that I'm a woman, Michael."
Tobias, if it's possible, is averting his eyes even more than Michael is, and Lindsay leans over him as if to make her point.
"George Michael," Michael says, once he can think of anything other than his sister's breasts. "Go to your room."
"The last time we tried to make love," Lindsay pouts, "he wouldn't even open his eyes."
That's really more than he ever wanted to know, thin walls notwithstanding. "Lindsay, can you please -"
"I'm a woman," she says, and he's not sure if she's talking to him or to her husband. "I have needs."
"And I'm a man," Tobias says, and Michael really doesn't need to be here for this. "And I need -"
Michael's pretty sure he doesn't want to hear the rest of that sentence.
"I'm a woman, Michael," she says later, and he doesn't tell her he's well aware of that fact. At least she's dressed, now.
She closes the door behind her, and moves forward until her hands are on the bed in front of him. Her voice is low, breathy. "I have needs."
Michael closes his eyes, and wonders what the weather is like in Arizona this time of year.
Family or not, he's leaving. (Again.)