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Christmas Mysteries

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It all started with Ginger's famous hot apple cider.

Or rather, the cider she brought in every Christmas Eve from some café around the corner, but she insisted she had them make it special for her. It came in tall, lidded, plain white paper cups and was as delicious as diamonds. Feith didn't take Ginger on her word - only sensible - and last Christmas he and Guy had decided to follow her, with Guy dressed as a Red Cross worker. She had led them to the busiest shopping center in the area and disappeared completely in the third toy store full of hysterical last-minute shoppers.

The cider remained a mystery, and what would be a better Christmas gift than that? This was Will's first Christmas with the TRASH Company, so he was the only one who didn't ignore it when Ginger slipped out after they came back from their last, rather uneventful work assignment. Feith went out for cookies (Guy didn't even bother to join him in Ginger-shadowing this year), and Bobby, far-sighted as always, took up gate-guarding duties in the doorway.

"But we're done, right?" Will pleaded. He took a step to the side to walk past the penguin; Bobby took a step as well. "Please, I need to get home to wrap the last presents, and Kate--"

Guy took off Will's woolly hat as he walked past and tossed it aside. "Stop waltzing with him. You're staying for Ginger's apple cider. Want some cookies?"

Guy did. Without waiting for an answer, he went to the cupboard of secret sugary goodness that Ginger was usually guarding. Just like he had predicted, it was filled with baked motivational tools. He took a box of walnut cookies and started emptying it.

He heard footsteps from behind, but the cookies had the right mixture of softness and crunch, and deserved his full attention. Will could get his own. What was he anyway, a--

With one tug, he found his arm was pinned to his back. He hastily snatched the last cookie into his mouth, and then his wrist was trapped in a tight hold. His protest was entirely muffled by softness and crunchiness, and then he was turned around so suddenly that the cookie box fell to the floor.

He was staring into narrowed eyes, but not for long. Will stood up on his toes, and his teeth closed around the cookie that was still hanging half-eaten from Guy's mouth. Guy tugged back - it was his cookie - but that only made it break in half, scattering crumbs all over them both.

Will chewed without taking his eyes off Guy, who was starting to figure out he wasn't dealing with Will at all. He waited in walnut-tasting fascination.

Crosse swallowed and said, very quietly, "Now we're even."

Guy opened his mouth to speak, Bobby shrieked a welcome call, and the door was thrown open as Ginger tossed Feyth in, ass first.

"So, who wants apple cider?" Ginger asked, smirking victoriously.

"Um, thanks, but I don't really like apple cider," Will said tentatively, picking up his woolly hat. "But it was nice of you to--"

"Nice, nothing," Ginger replied with a dismissive gesture, "it's our little tradition, that's all, boy. Take that scarf off and sit down. We have cookies, too."

"No oatmeal. No raisins," Feyth said, and tossed Will a promisingly big paper bag.

"Um..." Will eyed Guy, pleadingly.

Guy finally swallowed the rest of the walnut cookie. "Better stay put. Ginger's apple cider is the best either of you's ever had."

And so Ginger's cider stayed a mystery another year, and was joined by a new mystery, besides. But Guy was of the opinion that Christmas was a fine time for mysteries, and slow-baked goods were the tastiest of all.