“You’ll never guess what’s in the fridge!” Josh exclaimed.

Mart winced. “Dude. I told you that I’d clean up the science project.”

“No!” Josh’s excited voice carried easily through the small apartment. “Come here. You have to see it!”

Mart flipped his text book closed and stacked his loose papers. Josh didn’t often get excited about anything in the kitchen. He shoved back the battered wooden desk chair and walked the paltry fifteen steps to the kitchen.

“Well?” he asked.

Josh gestured dramatically at a container in the back left corner of the fridge.

“That isn’t...” Mart breathed, incredulous.

“It is. I’m sure of it!”

“It can’t be! How would Dan even get it here? He hasn’t been in Ohio for months! And it certainly hasn’t been here since his last visit.”

Josh shook his head and automatically brushed his hair away out of his eyes. It fell back again immediately, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“He’s like smoke, man,” Josh decided, his voice full of awe.

They both stared at the offending object until the fridge beeped, letting them know it had been open too long.

“So what are we going to do with it?” Josh asked.

Mart hesitated, his lips pursed as he stared at the now-closed fridge door. The intensity of his gaze should have bored holes in it, but it stood strong under the assault.

“We’ve been challenged,” he finally said.

“Duh.” Josh rolled his eyes and flopped onto a kitchen chair. He jammed a large piece of rice crispy treat in his mouth and then talked around it. “Do we have to give it back to Dan? Or can it be to one of the other Bob-Whites?”

Mart chewed his bottom lip. “We get extra points if it goes back to Mr. Maypenny.”

“The old guy who lives in the woods?”

“Game preserve,” Mart corrected absent-mindedly.

“Whatever.” He paused. “Isn’t Maypenny, like, old? This should be easy!”

Mart snorted. “You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But no. Rumour has it that the fruitcake originated from his Aunt Ethel, and that he’s been trying to get rid of it for years. He won’t let that thing get within a hundred yards of his house. He has radar.”

Josh sucked in a breath. “It’s not, like, cursed, is it?” he asked, staring at the fridge.

Mart snorted. “No.” The 'dumbass' he added in his head wasn’t lost on his roommate.

“Why does he want to get rid of it so badly?” Josh wondered aloud.

Mart sighed. “His Aunt Ethel came out one year and totally ruined his Christmas. Insisted on baking her own fruitcake, even though Maypenny made the better one. Well, she forced him to eat some, and before he could stop himself, he spit it out. Totally offended the old busy body. She sent him a fruitcake the next Christmas, telling him that the only way he could get rid of it was to eat it. It had to be kept in the family.”

“But you’re not fam—”

Mart continued, ignoring him. “So Maypenny kept the stupid thing in his ice box for thirty years. He couldn’t give it to anyone, because he didn’t have any family. And he couldn’t bring himself to eat it.”

Both men shuddered at the thought of trying to stomach the unpalatable concoction.

“So we do have a cursed fruitcake in our fridge?” Josh questioned.

Mart shrugged. “No one knows if it’s cursed or not. But Aunt Ethel was a real weirdo, apparently, and no one wants to take the chance.”

“But that still doesn’t explain—”

“Dan’s his family now,” Mart said quietly. “When Mr. Maypenny took him in, everything changed.”

Josh’s expression softened, but he still eyed the fridge with trepidation. “So, is it cursed or not?”

Mart shrugged again. “Don’t know. Probably not. I hope.”

“Hey! You’re not family, either!” Josh protested, his mind catching up slowly.

Mart smiled. “Sure I am. The Bob-Whites definitely count as family.”

“Huh.” Josh settled back on the chair and crossed his legs at the ankle as he stretched out. “So you guys pass off the fruitcake on each other for fun?”

“Sure. Why not? The best part is...” Mart paused, watching in satisfaction as Josh leaned forward to catch his words. “Whoever has the fruitcake on Christmas Eve has to bring it to the Bob-White Christmas party.”

“That’s the good part?” Josh questioned. “If that’s the highlight of your party, you guys need help.”

“Whoever has it has to eat a slice,” Mart finished, grinning broadly.

Josh shuddered. “That’s awful!”

“Yep,” Mart agreed cheerfully. “You should have seen Trixie’s face when she had to eat a slice last year!” His grin was wide and unapologetic. “Of course, this year she gets to cut the slice for whoever has it,” he finished nervously. He eyed the fridge.

“Dude. You do know that it’s December 22nd, right?”

Mart winced. “Crap.”

Josh squirmed in his chair. “Am I going to be at this Christmas Eve shin dig?” he asked.

“Of course you are,” Mart told him. “You’re practically family.”

“Ha!” Josh exclaimed. “Practically family! But not actually family!” He grinned evilly. “Now explain to me exactly why I would want to help you foist this thing on someone else when I could have the pleasure of watching you try to down a slice?”

Mart paled.

“And I happen to know that Trixie thinks I’m cute. I bet it wouldn’t take much to convince her that you need an extra thick slice.” He chortled.

“Nice try,” Mart snorted. “She might think you’re cute when she’s here visiting, but when she’s in the Bob-White clubhouse with both Jim and Dan, she won’t even know you’re alive,” he taunted.

Josh shrugged, letting the accusation roll off him. “Maybe. But I still don’t think it would take much to make sure you get a nice, full tummy on Christmas Eve.”

Mart winced. “Did you just use the word 'tummy'?” he asked scornfully. “I take it back. Trixie will be so disgusted by your un-manliness that she’ll convince everyone that you’re family and make you eat a slice, too.”

“She wouldn’t!” Josh protested.

Mart smirked.


It was now or never.

Mart held his breath as he waited for Celia to finish talking to Cook. They couldn't talk much longer, could they? No. Cook, especially would have to be up early the next morning to make the mountains of food that the Wheelers required for their Christmas Eve brunch. It took time to fry bacon, sausage, eggs... The growling of his own stomach alerted him to the fact that he was in danger of blowing his own cover if he didn't get his errant food fantasies under control.

When Celia and Cook finally did leave the kitchen, he ducked out of the hallway and into the nearest doorway. With any luck, he would stay hidden long enough for them to pass, and then make his way to one of the massive stainless steel refrigerators in the kitchen and hide the brown paper bag wrapped cake now clutched to his chest.

“Mart! What are you doing here?” Jim asked, and Mart squinched his eyes shut in defeat. This was so not fair. The one time he would have been happy for Jim to be off somewhere smooching with Trixie, he was in the one room where Mart had chosen to hide. Sitting in the dark. As if he'd been waiting for him.


“How did you know?” he demanded, opening his eyes to glare at the red head. “And some lookout you turned out to be!” he ranted, causing Josh to abandon his look out post.

“Sorry,” Josh apologized, wincing at the furious expression on his roommate's face. “I didn't know he was in there! What with the lights off, and all.”

“What were you doing sitting in the dark?” Mart demanded, looking past Jim into the inky recesses of the room.

Jim took a half-step back into the room, looking a lot less smug. “Now, Mart,” he said, in what Mart assumed was his “let's placate the rabid animal” voice.

“Oh, for Pete's sake,” Trixie said, and flipped on the light. “We were waiting for you,” she declared, her hands on her hips, her curls bouncing. “What did you think we were doing?”

At Mart's raised eyebrow, Trixie flushed. “Well, we weren't,” she muttered, sneaking a look at Jim out of the corner of her eye.

Well. That wasn't so bad, then. Still... He focused his anger on the bundle he still clutched. “I guess I'm not hiding it at the Manor House, am I?” he inquired glumly.

“That's okay,” Josh said. “I'm sure you wanted to pay a visit to the Lynch estate anyway, didn't you?”

It was Mart's turn to flush. “Well, yes, but...” He rolled his eyes. “I hardly think Mr. Lynch would appreciate it if I showed up in the middle of the night,” he finished wryly.

“Di might,” Trixie said under her breath, causing Mart's eyes to bulge.

“Back to Crabapple Farm it is,” he said, desperate to leave the awkward situation behind. “Trixie? You coming?”

Trixie sighed and walked past him. “See you tomorrow, Jim,” she called over her shoulder. “Don't forget about our ride!”

Mart watched Jim, who smiled at her retreating form. “I'll be there,” he promised.

He rolled his eyes, hoping that he didn't look quite that sappy when he smiled at Diana. Oh, who was he kidding? Even in love, Jim had 'stoic' practically tattooed on his forehead. So much so that Trixie remained completely in the dark as to his real feelings. Di, however, was well aware of Mart's affection. The goofy smile he'd been trying to suppress spread across his face at the mere thought of her, and he found that he really didn't mind looking goofy all that much. Not if it garnered him the continued attentions of the most beautiful girl in Sleepyside.

“Gah.” Josh made a retching sound, and proceeded to shove him along the hall toward the door. “It's my own fault,” he lamented. “I shouldn't have mentioned the Lynch estate.” He glanced back at Jim. “I might have known he'd zone out.”

Jim smirked. “We're used to it,” he assured Josh. “Eventually you'll learn not to mention anything about Di unless you have food to lure him back out of his little fantasies.”

All three men looked at the fruitcake in Mart's grasp.

“No,” Mart said firmly. “No. I will not be eating fruitcake. Not now, not at the Christmas Eve party, not ever.”

“Big talk,” Jim jeered, folding his arms over the considerable girth of his chest. “Cook has been told to keep an eye open for you. Don't think for a minute you'll be successful if you try to sneak in tomorrow and stash it in the fridge.”

“And you can't put it in your own fridge at Crabapple Farm, either,” Josh said, taking a lot more pleasure than he should in reminding Mart of the rules that Mart himself had recently explained to him.

“I'm not out of options yet,” Mart protested. “There's still the Lynch estate, and, of course, the cabin.”

“The cabin!” Jim scoffed. “You're joking! If you think you can put one past Mr. Maypenny, I'm going to have Brian check you out for a serious case of Delusions of Grandeur.”

“Ha ha. Very funny.” Mart poked a finger towards Jim's chest, but stopped shy of making contact. “We'll just see who's eating fruitcake tomorrow night, won't we?”

All three men shuddered.

“Nasty fruit,” Jim muttered. ”Why couldn't it be a chocolate cake?”

“Because Trixie, Honey, and Di would hog the whole thing and not let anyone else get anywhere near it,” Mart informed him. “Remember?”

“Hey, where is Trixie?” Jim asked. “I thought you were going to walk home together.” He frowned at the empty hallway leading to the empty foyer.

“I guess she got tired of waiting,” Josh said, giving Jim a pointed glance.

Mart stifled his chortle, but just barely. “We should go,” he muttered, pushing Josh out the door. “Now.”

“I'd say 'good luck',” Jim called after them, “but...”

“Yeah, yeah,” Mart muttered. ”I love you, too, Jim.”


“Are you really going to try to get the fruitcake into Mr. Maypenny's cabin?” Josh asked curiously the next morning.

“Oh, I'd pay good money to see that!” Trixie chortled, setting a jug of milk on the table and pouring herself a glass.

“I don't understand why it's so hard,” Josh said, cutting into the stack of syrup-drenched pancakes on his plate. “I mean, surely this Maypenny guy leaves his cabin sometimes, right? What's the big deal?”

“Dude.” Mart shook his head and poured even more syrup over his pancakes. He took a large bite of his extra-crispy bacon before continuing. “The man is like smoke. You think he's on the other side of the preserve, and bam! He's waltzing into the clearing, looking like he knew all along that we'd be there.” He shook his head. “I don't know how he does it.”

“Okay. So outsmarting the elderly recluse is out,” Josh surmised, earning himself a smack on the back of the head from Trixie.

“Don't encourage him,” Mart groaned. “If he thinks acting like an idiot will get you to touch him, he'll never stop.”

Blushing furiously, Trixie cleared away her empty plate and set it in the kitchen sink. Leaning back against the counter, she said, “So, I take it you're on your way to Di's?”

“You can't warn her,” Mart reminded her. ”You know the rules.”

“Yes, I know the rules,” she retorted, smirking. “Which is how I know that you're going to be enjoying a really thick slice of that fruitcake tonight.” She brandished a cake knife pensively. “Maybe I should practice cutting. I want to be able to cut the perfect thick, juicy slice for you tonight.”

“Do you think Di knows that I have it?” he asked, his tone pensive. “I mean, did Dan blab to everyone?”

Trixie snorted and replaced the knife in the wooden rack. “Dan? Blab? Have you met him?”

“Yeah, I guess you have a point,” Mart admitted. Dan Mangan was not the type to offer information. “Wait,” he said, his eyes narrowed. “You didn't exactly answer the question, did you?”

“Oh, didn't I?” Trixie asked, grinning wickedly before leaving the men to finish the rest of the washing up. “Good luck, brother of mine. You're going to need it!” She left the kitchen, still chortling.

“You know,” Josh said, “I used to wish that I wasn't an only child.”

Mart buried his head in his hands and groaned.


“Di, I'd be happy to get the drinks,” Mart offered, standing quickly and starting to edge toward the kitchen. Well, at the least the hallway leading to the kitchen. Or the hallway leading to the wing that housed the kitchen. Whatever.

“Oh, Mart, you shouldn't,” Di scolded. “You know how Harrison gets when someone invades his domain.”

He collapsed in the nearest chair, defeated. “Yeah,” he agreed glumly. “I know.” In point of fact, Mart had no desire to unleash Harrison's wrath. He still couldn't get the prim butler to add more than two miniature marshmallows to his hot chocolate. If he antagonized him on purpose, rather than the unintentional blunders he seemed to continuously make, he could only imagine what Harrison would do in retaliation. Ban him from desserts? Offer him only carrots? Or, even worse, celery?

Or, he swallowed hard. Fruit? Surely he wouldn't...

“Are you okay, Mart?” Diana asked. “You looked worried about something.”

He glanced up at her sharply, but the only sign that she was aware of his plot to pawn off the fruitcake was a mischievous twinkle in her lavender eyes.

Which was more than enough.

“You know, too?” he groaned. “Dan told everyone!”

“Dan told no one,” she corrected him, now grinning outright. “You, my dear Mart, have no subterfuge.”

Well, that was probably true, he thought, wiping away the beads of sweat that had formed while he'd been trying to figure out how to gain access to Harrison's fridge. A master of deception he was not.

“What am I going to do?” It wasn't exactly a wail, he told himself. And, if it was, he was totally justified. Still, he scrambled to school his features back into a somewhat more calm expression. He didn't need Diana thinking that he'd lost already.

“I'm sure you'll come up with something,” she soothed, reaching over and sweeping a curl off his forehead. She'd mentioned, months ago, that she'd like to see him with longer hair, and like the lovesick fool he was, he'd grown out his signature crew cut He had the uncomfortable suspicion that he currently resembled Trixie from her junior high years, but if it got Di to touch him like this more often... Well. He could always cut it. In a few months. Maybe.


Mart flinched at Josh's reproachful tone. “I'm sorry,” he said. “Okay?”

Josh glared at him from the Lynch twins' playroom. “You said ten minutes. Ten minutes! I've been helping Jenny and Mandie wrap Christmas presents for the last hour and a half!”

Mart tried valiantly to repress a chuckle as he took in the state of the playroom. Wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, and other paraphernalia that he couldn't even identify littered every available surface in the room, including the table, floor and couch. Josh himself had a piece of tape attached to his shirt, and a purple bow in his hair.

“Why are you wrapping your presents on the twenty-fourth?” he asked the girls, watching out of the corner of his eye as Josh tried to rid himself of the glitter clinging to his skin. “I thought you and Di always had wrapping parties a week before Christmas to get it done early.”

The girls exchanged guilty looks. “Well,” Mandie said, “it may have had something to do with the fact that we snuck out of the house to build snowmen with Larry, Terry, and Bobby.”

“What's the big deal?” Josh asked. “Your parents have something against snowmen?” He rubbed harder at the glitter, frowning when it only seemed to imbed itself deeper into the skin on his arm. Mart decided not to mention that his face was practically glowing with the iridescent sparkles.

“No,” Jenny said slowly. “The problem was more that it was kind of a midnight snowman run.”

“Past midnight,” Mandie corrected her. “We waited until 1:30 to sneak out, remember?”

Jenny grinned. “Yeah. That was awesome!”

“Wait,” Mart said, holding up a hand. “You built snowmen in the middle of the night?”

“Well, yeah,” Mandie said. “How else would it be a challenge?”

“Ri-ight,” Josh said slowly.

“So who won?” Mart asked curiously, catching the bow Josh had plucked from his hair and tossed at him.

Mandie flushed while Jenny smirked. “Bobby,” they said in unison, apparently forgoing their vow to never, ever fall into the twin stereotype of speaking as one.

“He wouldn't have won if Larry and Terry hadn't thrown a snowball at our snowman,” Mandie pouted.

“Wait,” Josh said, eyes twinkling. “You're telling me that your snowman was bested by snow?” He shook his head. “Couldn't have been that great of a snowman to begin with, then. No defence skills whatsoever.”

Recognizing the narrow-eyed looks for the danger that they were, Mart took a step back. “Time for us to go, Josh.”

Oblivious, his roommate shrugged and dusted off more sparkles. “Sure. I take it you were... successful?”

Mart resisted the urge to smack him upside the head. Josh was a great guy, and he'd been darn lucky to have him as a roommate for all of his college years so far, but honestly! The man wouldn't know subtle if it hit him with a two by four.

“Or not,” Josh said, recognizing his mistake by the increased colour in Mart's complexion.

“Diana wouldn't let me near the fridge,” he admitted.

“You're stuck with the fruitcake this year?” Mandie asked, looking much happier about it than Mart thought was really polite. Of course, she was just coming off being grounded, and he was pretty sure that his younger brother Bobby had been the instigator of the incident that led to said grounding, so perhaps she wasn't completely unjustified in enjoying his predicament. Still...

“He's not stuck with it,” Josh said firmly. “He's waiting for the perfect moment to make his kill.”

Mart blinked. He was? He had been pretty sure that this was his last chance.

“And he'll be getting the bonus points,” Josh continued. “That fruitcake is going back to its rightful owner. Today. Mr. Maypenny's not going to know what hit him,” he boasted, rubbing his hands together.

Well, a little false bravado probably couldn't hurt the situation, Mart decided. And who knew? Eventually, someone would be able to put one over on Mr. Maypenny, right? The niggling suspicion that this was not that year was getting harder and harder to ignore.


“Are you sure we needed to ski?” Mart asked, frowning at his cross-country skis as they cut through the snow on one of the many paths in the game preserve.

“Dude. Have you not seen The Spy Who Loved Me?” Josh countered. He didn't have the same level of experience Mart did, but he was a natural athlete, and took to skiing easily. “We're in spy mode,” he reminded him. “We're on a mission.” He paused. ”Well, a mission that doesn't include an ugly orange ski suit.”

Mart rolled his eyes. “You and Trixie. She has a thing for Bond movies, too.”

“She does? Why didn't you tell me? I could have been using that to my advantage!” Josh complained.

Mart shook his head and veered down a narrower trail leading to Maypenny's cabin. “I keep telling you. You have no chance. None. Not in Sleepyside.”

“But she's not dating Dan or Jim!” he protested, listing slightly as he lost his balance in the face of the long-standing argument. He veered off the path and into a snowdrift, finally steadying himself by wrapping his arms around a birch tree.

“Tree hugger,” Mart muttered, shaking his head. “Doesn't matter. When Jim and Dan are around, the only thing you'll be kissing is your chance goodbye,” Mart reminded him. “Not that you're allowed to think about kissing my sister.” He shivered. “Well, I guess you can, as long as I don't have to think about you kissing my sister. Which you won't be doing.”

Josh drifted to a stop. “Dude. I thought you left the Honey-speak to the girls.”

“Shut up,” he muttered, pulling ahead of his friend and making his way toward the clearing. ”And why couldn't you like Honey?” he asked. “You just had to pick my sister to crush on.”

“Well, Di is awfully pretty,” Josh said thoughtfully, his eyes glinting with mischief. “And she's nice, too.”

“Didn't I say 'shut up'? I'm pretty sure I remember telling you to shut up.”

“You say a lot of things. Hey! Is that the cabin?” Josh stopped beside him, staring through the trees and into the clearing.

“Yup,” Mart answered glumly. He stared at the simple log structure, somehow knowing that the attempt to return the fruitcake wasn't going to end in success.

“Is this Maypenny guy home, do you think? There's smoke coming from the chimney.”

Mart shook his head and shifted on his skis, wishing that he hadn't agreed to the ridiculous mode of transportation. Now they'd have to waste time removing the cumbersome implements. Time that would probably bring Maypenny down on their heels, no matter where he was in the preserve. ”He leaves the wood stove burning all day,” Mart informed him. ”Otherwise the cabin would freeze, and Maypenny isn't getting any younger. The cold isn't good for his arthritis.”

Josh nodded. “So we don't know if he's inside or not.”

“Well, he usually checks feeding stations in the mornings and does miscellaneous jobs in the afternoon,” Mart said. “If it's really cold, he comes back for short breaks to warm up. And Dan said that they had a project they were working on this afternoon, so I'd imagine that we're fairly safe.”

Both young men stared at the cabin and the plume of smoke rising into the sky.

“No sense putting it off,” Mart decided, and pushed through the trees and into the clearing. Josh followed, following in Mart's tracks.

When they reached the rough-hewn door of the cabin, they stepped out of their skis and leaned them against the wall beside the door.

“Won't the skis be a dead giveaway if Maypenny passes by?” Josh asked, frowning at their obvious position.

“Dude. If Maypenny comes by, he's going to catch us whether he sees the skis or not. And why did you think I didn't want to use them in the first place?” he finished, exasperated.

“Huh. James Bond never seems to run into these problems.”

Rolling his eyes, Mart knocked softly and then pushed open the door.

“He doesn't lock it?” Josh asked, staring at Mart askance. “Not even when someone's trying to bring back the cursed fruitcake?”

Mart grinned. “The cabin doesn't even have a lock,” he explained. “We're pretty laid back out here. And I never said the fruitcake was cursed.”

Staring at the Spartan furnishings curiously, Josh agreed. “Is there even a bathroom in here?” he asked.

Mart's smile widened. “Only for welcome visitors. Anybody else gets sent to the outhouse.”

“That's just cruel,” Josh said, aghast.

A low chuckle greeted them, and Mart's shoulders slumped in defeat as Mr. Maypenny appeared, as if from nowhere.

“The outhouse isn't cruel,” the older man said. “It's functional and in good repair. Enjoying watching you try to stomach that fruitcake? Now that's cruel.” He rubbed his hands together and sent Mart a gleeful look, leaving no doubt that he was perfectly fine being cruel in certain situations. “The party is in a few hours.”

“I know,” Mart replied glumly. “I know. Believe me, I know.”

Josh smirked at Mart's dejected expression, but sobered quickly when Mr. Maypenny turned his attention to him.

“And you, young man,” he said, looking at Josh sternly. “I'm not above making you an honourary member of my family. And since the fruitcake was in a fridge used by both of you...” He let his voice trail off, but his gaze was pointed.

Josh's eyes widened. “No, no,” he said. “I mean, the Bob-Whites are great and all, but...”

“But you'd like to leave the testing of hazardous materials to those with stronger fortitude than your own? I understand,” Mr. Maypenny said, the corners of his lips twitching. “And I can't say as I blame you.”

Josh winced, embarrassed at being caught in his obvious cowardice. “It's just that it's fruitcake,” he said. “Eating something like that stays with you. Literally.” He shuddered.

Maypenny chuckled and gestured to the dining table. “Have a seat, boys. If you're going to be eating that cement brick of a fruitcake tonight, I have something for you.”

Josh grimaced at being included in having to eat the fruitcake but nodded gamely. “Hey!” he protested when he saw what Mr. Maypenny was bringing to the table. “I thought Mart had the fruitcake!”

“I do,” Mart said, grinning from ear to ear. “This, my friend, is why we all put up with being a part of Mr. Maypenny's extended family.” He paused. “Well, that and the fact that we, well, you know, like you,” he added, realizing that his comment hadn't been particularly flattering to their host.

Instead of responding verbally, the older man cut three thick slabs of fruitcake and set a plate in front of each of his guests. Mart and Mr. Maypenny dug in with relish while Josh regarded his piece of cake with obvious doubt.

“Try it,” Mart urged. “I've never met anyone who didn't like Mr. Maypenny's fruitcake.”

“At least, not once I forced it down their throat,” the older man quipped. His eyes twinkled as he looked from Josh to his untouched food. “You know, if you plug someone's nose, they're forced to open their mouth in order to breathe.”

Josh gulped and reluctantly used his fork to break off a bite-sized piece of the cake. With both Mr. Maypenny and Mart watching, he took a tentative bite. “Not bad,” he admitted after chewing carefully and swallowing. He broke off a second, much larger piece.

“Lots of rum,” Mr. Maypenny confided. “It's my secret ingredient.”

“Not so secret,” Mart said, grinning. “Moms wouldn't let any of us near your cake until we turned eighteen.”

“She's a smart woman, your mom is,” Mr. Maypenny agreed.

“Shouldn't that have been twenty-one?” Josh asked, frowning.

Mart shrugged. “Spirit of compromise. Plus, it's not as if we were drinking the fruitcake.”

“And hey! How is it that Dan was the one to put it in our fridge? Didn't you say that Trixie had the fruitcake last Christmas?”

Mart raised an eyebrow, intrigued by Josh's question. When he was in a probing mode, he didn't let anything go until he had all the answers he wanted. “That's right,” he agreed. “The only reason I knew it was Dan who had left it in our fridge was because of the letter D written on the packaging.”

The three men paused as they contemplated how ownership of the fruitcake had been transferred from Trixie to Dan. “Aw, geez,” Mart said. “I bet she sweet talked him into taking it.” His upper lip curled in distaste. “Crap. Now I have to get that image out of my head.”

“You think Dan would fall for that?” Josh asked. “I mean, Trixie's hot and all—”

“Hey!” Mart protested.

“But Dan seems like he wouldn't really let that sway him,” Josh continued, ignoring Mart's yelp of protest at hearing his sister admired.

Mr. Maypenny smiled a little and busied himself by cutting another slice of fruitcake and placing it on Josh's empty plate. “Everyone has a weak spot.”

“I don't want to hear this,” Mart complained.

Josh smirked. “I bet she was real persuasive.”

“Have some more fruitcake,” Mr. Maypenny offered, placing a thick slice on Mart's plate.

Happy to push thoughts of his sister and Dan aside, Mart dug in with gusto.

“So how is it that your fruitcake is actually edible?” Josh asked. “I mean, no offence, but...”

“Secret family recipe.”

The two young men stared at him.

“Different side of the family than the cursed fruitcake,” he explained.

“Ha!” Josh's fork clattered to his plate. “I knew it! It is cursed! Dude! We had a cursed fruitcake in our fridge! We're going to have to get rid of everything it touched!”

“I don't think it's contagious,” Mr. Maypenny said wryly. “And I only meant cursed in the sense that being forced to eat it is cruel and unusual punishment.”

“Hmm...” Josh didn't look convinced.

“Well,” Mr. Maypenny said, standing and putting a hand on each man's shoulder. “It's getting to be about that time,” he reminded them, not bothering to hide his smile.

Mart and Josh stood reluctantly. “We should go,” Mart said glumly. “We have to head back to Crabapple Farm to pick up the presents and food.”

“Well. You boys have fun tonight,” Mr. Maypenny said, steering them toward the door.

With a heavy sigh, Mart allowed himself to be herded out the door. The Bob-White Christmas Eve party at the clubhouse was always a highlight of the year, and he had no doubt that he'd enjoy it. Once the fruitcake settled, at least.


Mr. Maypenny stood at the window, watching as the two young men fastened cross country skis to their boots and glided smoothly across the clearing toward the path leading to Crabapple Farm.

“You think they figured out that it wasn't me who broke into their apartment?” Dan asked, moving silently across the cabin to stand beside his surrogate father.

Mr. Maypenny shook his head. “They're clueless. The 'D' I left behind has them convinced it was you.”

Dan's brief nod was sharp. Though Mart and Josh had disappeared into the thickly treed preserve, both men still stood watching at the window. “You know, you never did tell me why you left a D. It could have been any one of the Bob-Whites' initials.”

Mr. Maypenny smiled mysteriously, and Dan narrowed his eyes in sudden suspicion. “The 'D' isn't for Dan, is it,” he said, and though it was phrased as a question, it was clearly a statement.

But Mr. Maypenny only smiled. “You'll have to try harder than that,” he chided. “It's not as if my first name is that mysterious. And isn't it about time you headed over to the clubhouse yourself? You wouldn't want to miss Mart eating the fruitcake, now would you?”

Dan grinned and picked up the bottle of pop and tin of shortbread cookies he'd made himself. The Bob-White Christmas Eve party really was one of the best nights of the year. And, as he remembered what Mart had said about Trixie sweet talking him into taking the fruitcake, he wondered just how hard he should work to make sure that the fruitcake somehow ended up in her possession again.

Author’s Notes

So, er, Bonnie, you still love me, right? Right? Bonnie?... *gnaws on bottom lip and hopes that Bonnie will one day forgive her for inflicting her with a fruitcake themed story* Merry Christmas, my friend! I hope your season is filled with family, friends and an absence of fruitcake. *grin* I was absolutely thrilled when I discovered I'd be writing for you this year, and I hope you enjoyed this silly little bit of fluff. *hugs*

Huge thanks to Dianafan for editing and graphicing. Santa himself couldn't work harder. ;) Also thanks to my dad for editing.

Merry Christmas, Jixers!

Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. Story copyright by Ryl, November 2012. Graphics copyright 2012 by Mary N.

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