Hello! I was prompted by a friend a long time ago to write a little story for Bernard, and I've been a bit blocked lately so this was a lovely and fun exercise for me to sort of get the juices flowing again. I haven't seen the third Santa Clause film yet (is there really no Bernard? -gasp- ) Anyway, hope you all like it!

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters from the Disney films "The Santa Clause". Don't own too much at all, actually so don't sue unless you really want to be the owner of some fine Frank Sinatra albums...but gotta warn you, those won't go without a fight!

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It all started by the Candy Room...well, that's not exactly true. I suppose that it really began in the hall between the Candy Room and the Ballroom.

You would think that the Ballroom would be some elegant sweeping hall adorned with fairy lights and magic...I mean, it is the North Pole, after all. The place where everything is ruled by ancient magic. Elves are magical beings by nature anywhere you find them – but Santa's Elves live differently from the rest of us...

You're probably wondering who the "rest of us" are, aren't you? Not surprising; it seems the only elves that anyone ever talks of anymore are the "special ones" – the chosen ones. I never thought that I would be one of the special ones...at least to him. Him being the head honcho himself – no, not that head honcho, not Santa – no, I'm referring to the Elf in Charge, the main man after the main man. Bernard.

You see, once a year Bernard and his team travel around to all of the elf villages searching high and low for the next lucky hopefuls to join the auspicious team of experts. The highest honour that one can have in our crazy little universe. To work for Santa and all of the children around the world. I think most of us dream about it from as early as any of us can remember, and that's a long time, considering our life expectancy is hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years! It's the ultimate aspiration. Fortune was smiling down on me that life altering afternoon; little did I know that fortune came along with a venomous dose of rain on your parade, bossy pants. Bah humbug!

Oh, I'm getting off topic – again. Sorry, I really do try to stay focused, it's a curse that I have been reminded of over and over again. My mind wanders, even when I make it up to keep a steady coarse; you're starting to get the point, aren't you?

Okay, I guess that I had better backtrack a couple of days before that illuminating Ballroom incident. I was born and raised in a little village called Grenelview. And, when I say little, I do mean little. There's really not much to do there, other than terrorize old Mrs. Schidernille. I mean, she's over 2500 years old and quite the unstable curmudgeon; so you can't really blame me, right? She's always rattling about town, wailing about how in her day youngsters didn't roam about willy nilly, disrespecting their elders. She's also got this very strange obsession with polar bears. The poor dear has convinced herself that all polar bears are really tax collectors in disguise and one of these days they're going to jump out and audit her to death...yeah, I told you that she's a nutter. So, I can't really help it if when I walk by her I accidentally yell "Polar bear! There's a polar bear behind you!" and then snicker mercilessly when she whirls around in a daze. Can I?

Well, anyway, Mrs. Schidernille runs the local market along with her sons, Vil and Til – I didn't think they were very clever names, either. One afternoon, as I was gathering my usual groceries (candy canes, cocoa powder, cookies, that sort of thing) I was met with an unusual sight entering the front doors. Strangers. We don't get many of them in these parts – I'm 920 years old and I can only remember two separate occasions when I've run into someone that I hadn't know for all of my life; and they were family members of my neighbours.

Naturally, being the curious being that I am, I deposited my bag back down on the counter (ignoring the protests of the old bat, telling me off for blocking her 'work space') and approached the odd couple.

"Who are you?" I asked, rather rudely now that I think about it.

"Well, who are you?" the dark haired man snapped back.

"Nollaig...now, who are you?"

Mr. Dark Hair looks at me sceptically. "No-what? What kind of name is that?"

"Null-ahg," I enunciated it phonetically for him. "What can I say? My parents are old fashioned."

He scoffed. "Some name."

His companion looked back and forth at us in amusement before finally extending his hand and offering, "I'm Curtis. And don't mind him, he's just a big grouch."

"Hi, Curtis," I shook his proffered hand before turning back to Mr. Dark Hair, "Hi, Grouch." I grinned at his annoyed frown.

"Bernard. My name's Bernard."

"Well, Bernard My Name's Bernard...that's a tedious name, ever think about shortening it? Oh, to maybe say – Bernie? Or Bernster? Oh, wait, what about Bernaroonie? Or you could go by–"

"Stop." He glared at me. "Bernard. That's it. Not Bernster, not Bernadilly, or whatever ridiculous name you were spouting out. Ber-nard. Get it?"

"Boy, you are a grouch, aren't you?" I asked with all of the innocence I could muster.

"You are exasperating, and I don't mean that in a nice way."

"Well, Bernard, you're not the first one to tell me that, and I'm sure you won't be the last."

Bernard tore his irritation away from me and directed it towards poor Curtis instead. "Why, did you want to come in here, again?"

"To spot any potentials."

"Yeah, well, there's obviously none so let's get moving," he cut back and was already almost out the door before Curtis had time to answer.

"What about her?"

My eyes widened when I realized that he was referring to me. "What about me?" I asked dumbly.

"You have spunk."

"That's a nice way to put it," I remarked dubiously, not understanding what in the world he was getting at.

"The Big Guy likes spunk. I think he'd like her, Bernard."

Bernard's thick eyebrows shot up so fast, they almost disappeared underneath his green cap. "Oh, no, no, no, no, no," he briskly walked back to us, wagging a finger in the air animatedly. "No," he added one more 'no' for good measure. "Certainly not. She's all wrong. No way. Not a chance."

I narrowed my eyes. "I'm all wrong for what exactly?"

"Doesn't matter, since you're not it."

"If it doesn't matter, why don't you just tell me?"

"Because, there's no use wasting any more of our time here. We're on a tight schedule, or have you forgotten that?" he asked Curtis testily.

"I like her."

"Good, so buy her a candy stick, say you'll call her when you know you won't, and be done with it. Okay? Goodbye, Ms. Nully," he bit out impatiently.

"Would you be interested in pursuing a career in Santa's Workshop?" Curtis asked me, pointedly ignoring Bernard.

"You're not serious?"

"Of course I am," he answer woodenly.

"Well, sure – sign me up," I told him, still not believing him. I mean, really, what are the odds that these two new comers were from Santa's? Not to mention, the absurdity that they would actually choose me out of all of the groves of elves always lining up to be hired.

"Ah, sorry but no." Bernard looked anything but sorry. "You're not what we're looking for."

"I'm not?"

"No."

"Why?"

He let out a long sigh. "Look, miss, I'm sure that your sass is appreciated here and I'll even bet that you have some –" pause "merit. But, you certainly are not North Pole material. Thanks for your time and have a elfing good life."

Boy, I sure wanted to wipe that smug grin off of his face. "What makes you so great?"

He took on a cocky air. "Who knows what bestows greatness upon us...some of us have it and some of us don't." He finished it off with an obnoxious little shrug.

"You really are delusional."

"Sorry, sweetheart; I don't make the breaks. Don't blame me."

"You are the most –"

"Super great Head Elf?" Curtis rushed to sever my next words. He looked at me a bit pleadingly. "Come on, Nollaig. Don't you want to work for Santa?"

"Are you two on the up and up?"

Bernard laughed out right. "The 'up and up'? Where do you pick up your phrases? 'Elves Go Ghetto'?"

"Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Prissy Pants. Not all of us were born with a silver spoon."

"I'll have you know I didn't come from some rich life. You don't know anything about me."

"You're right – I know as much about you as you as know about me."

Once again, Curtis intervened. "So, can't we just agree to start over? See, it's easy. Bernard, this is Nollaig," he gestured accordingly, "Nollaig, this Bernard."

"This is ridiculous," Bernard muttered.

"Well, I'll play nice if he does."

Curtis rubbed his hands together. "Alright, that's a start."

Bernard looked at him in disbelief. "Have you not been listening to a word I've said?"

"I've listened."

"Then you heard the part where I expressly gave my veto."

"I heard you say something to that extent."

"Good." Mr. Grouchy Pants turned back to me. "As I was saying earlier," he looked upward, as though he was searching for something to pull out of the air. "Ah, yes," his gaze went back to mine. "Goodbye." He smiled tightly before exiting the market.

"What is his problem?" I asked to no one in particular.

"He has a few issues," Curtis answered, and I got the very distinct impression that it's not the first time he's been asked that question.

"Aren't you going with him?"

"I want you to come with us."

"Your friend wouldn't be too happy."

A mischievous little grin stretched across Curtis' face. "All the more incentive to go."

A chuckle escaped me before I could stop it. "Santa's helper, huh?"

"Yes." His eyes were sparkling, you could tell that he loved his job...he'd have to really love it to be able to put up with that sour puss.

"Okay," I smiled back.

And that was how it all began. I had only a few hours to pack, say my goodbyes, and then I had to meet my new companions outside of the market. It wasn't hard, I didn't have many things to bring and my goodbyes were few and brief. Don't get me wrong, I have a few family members, a few friends; I just have a very difficult time letting anyone get too close to me; so it's not that hard letting go. And Curtis assured me that it wasn't as if I couldn't come back and visit.

The look on Bernard's face was absolutely priceless when I walked up to them. He was not happy. The contrast between his surly expression and his younger comrade's joy multiplied my amusement. I bit my cheek to hide my laughter, I didn't think that would do anything to help my already rocky anti-friendship with Mr. Leader there.

"Ready?" he asked shortly, not bothering to wait for a response as he began walking in the opposite direction.

Curtis and I followed closely behind, and I wondered where we were going. The village was not that big, and we were about to walk over the invisible barrier line, separating us elves from the humans. Then suddenly we stopped, and I squinted around trying to see the reason for it. I saw nothing.

Bernard craned his neck skyward before letting out a quick, shrill whistle. Before I knew it two reindeer came shooting down before us. He mounted the tall one, while Curtis perched himself on a much smaller and hyper looking deer. I looked at Bernard expectantly.

He exhaled loudly. "Behind me."

I quirked a brow. "Serious?"

"Unless you were planning on flying yourself."

I groaned as I attempted to hoist myself up, but I kept losing my footing and slipping back down. Bernard let out an irritated huff as he held out a hand and assisted me.

"What about my bag?" I asked as I looked down at the oversized lumpy satchel still waiting on the ground.

Bernard leaned down, sprinkling some sort of powder that he retrieved from his pocket. The bag shrunk before my eyes and hopped in the air, landing in his outstretched palm. He reached back and handed the miniature to me.

"Why has no one ever taught me that?" I wanted to know. What a neat trick – they never taught that in all my years at Elf School, and no one's shown me since, either.

"It's a North Pole trick. There's a lot to learn, so you had better start paying attention."

I was about to retort when Comet (that's what his tag read, anyway) roared to life, zooming into the atmosphere at record speeds. I could hear Curtis and his reindeer behind us. I was starting to wonder if this was all a dream, cheesy as it sounds. Exciting things like this just didn't happen to an elf like me. My day usually consisted of banging my alarm off three or five hundred times, finally getting up only half awake, drudging the day away at a very boring job at the local candy striping store, making small talk to the few people that I could stand, before going back home and repeating the process. Boring, heh? Told you.

There was one very frightening moment when I thought I was about to slide off of dear old Comet and plunge to the depths below; but what do you know? Bernard's arm snaked back behind him, clinging me to his back and narrowly saving my flailing heart and rumpled soul. He yelled back for me to hold onto him tightly unless I wanted to change from an elf to an ant. I held on. Boy, did I hold on. I'd be surprised if I didn't leave bruise marks on the poor guy, even through all of that festive clothing! Well, he asked for it.

After what seemed like a very long time, we reached our apparent destination and Comet landed flawlessly on the sparkling white snow with a flourish. Unfortunately for Curtis, his landing was not so smooth. He and his friend smacked right into us, sending Bernard and I both zipping over Comet's head and left us in a tangled mass of sprawling limbs.

To say that I was a bit disoriented when I looked up from my silly position and saw quite a little crowd around me would be an understatement. Almost a hundred worried faces were circled around us. I bit back a giggle as I realized that many of them were colour coordinated; green and red, Christmas colours year round. Yeah, the elves here really are different than back home.

Bernard shook his head, trying to regain his bearings. He flushed as he noticed that I was still half on top on him. Interesting. I thought that he couldn't stand me, yet he didn't make a move to dislodge me. And, alright, if I'm honest I'd have to admit that I was blushing, too. It's a curse of the elves – you always know when that warm, tell tale crimson flashes over you. Embarrassing. What's even more embarrassing – having a crowd of your soon to be peers smiling as if they're privy to some sort of secret that you're in the dark about and cooing "oooh". However, one look from Bernard and they all snapped to a sudden hush.

"Nothing to see here! Get back to work!" he barked at them, sending them flying in a fray.

"Um, would you mind...?" I asked meekly, indicating that he was sitting on my skirt, preventing my getting up and out of this awkward position.

He flicked his gaze down before immediately jumping up, as though he was afraid of getting scorched. "Sorry," he muttered lowly.

Curtis was standing behind us, a laughing smile on his youthful face. I sat on the ground another moment, expecting Bernard to give me a gentlemanly hand up but his back was already turned to me. I groaned to myself about the lack of chivalry as I stood.

"Let's see the Big Guy," Curtis said as he followed Bernard's retreating form.

And so we went to meet the magic man, himself.

He was exactly what you would expect – jolly, energetic, childlike in the best way, just all around wonderful guy! In fact, everyone in the North Pole seemed to be very nice, except for one exception. He was sulking in the corner as Santa brought me round the place, making warm introductions. Judy was most kind, bringing everyone mug after mug of the absolute most splendid, succulent, dare I say decadent, hot cocoa that you could ever imagine.

So went my introduction to the glorious Winter Palace. The next few days went by in a whizzing whirl, so many new things to see and remember, procedures to learn, names to memorize. I was placed in the brainstorming den, thinking of ways to update old classics – let's try giving the dolly highlighted hair, why can't we give the soccer ball new colours instead of just black and white, what about a striped canoe – crazy. Things of that nature were discussed, and it really is a fun place to work.

And this brings me back to my opening line. The Ballroom. I had been here for four days. It was all still new but I felt like I was starting to get the swing of things. Of course, during these few days I was often in contact with Bernard; being that he was Santa's second in command. He'd spare me a glance here and there, sometimes crab about some trifle that I forgot to do, but other than that he pretty much ignored me. I didn't care; in fact I was glad that he wasn't bothering me – right? Sure I was.

In light of this, I think it was perfectly justifiable what I said to Claire. We were walking down the hall to the Candy Room. There was some debate on whether or not to stripe some of the canes with white and black when, what do you know, he has to brush by us. He walked briskly by, but not without throwing over his shoulder the fact that we were "dallying" about and should be getting on with our work. So, of course, who could blame me when I grumbled to my new co-worker that he was a big grump. I also, may have, possibly, perhaps added the fact that the reason he's so gruff all of the time was probably because he hadn't had a date in so long...yep, I think I remember saying something of the sort. Bad, yeah? It is when said boss has the most excellent hearing of anyone that you've known and twirls on his heel, marching back to you down the long hallway with a terse expression.

Great. Claire took a few steps back, no doubt familiar with the Head Elf's temper. He took a very deep breath before turning to me calmly – too calmly. "I'm sorry, Nolly; did you say something about me?" He really loved to mispronounce my name, and I'm ashamed to say that I always rose to the bait.

"It's Nollaig. You would think that someone in your high stature would be able to remember a simple name."

He smiled mildly and that's how I knew that he must be Really angry. "Well, then – Nollaig, would you care to repeat what you told Claire, here?"

"Uh, I think I need to get back to wrapping!" Claire squeaked in a rush and was gone before I knew it. Swell, I got to face the bully by myself.

"I said that you were a grouch," I began, determined not to break under his scrutiny.

"Me?" he asked mockingly, one hand flying to his chest in faux surprise.

"Yes, you."

"Hmm."

"You asked."

He nodded his head exaggeratedly. "I did. But –" his brows rose in fake introspection, "now, that wasn't all that you said, was it?" he asked innocently.

I bit my lip. "No."

A puzzled line stretched his lips. "What else did you say? My memory must be fading..."

I should have really just said 'nothing'. Or made something up. That would have been the smart thing to do – but, when do I ever do the smart thing? So, instead I said, "I said that you're grouchy because you probably haven't had a date in so long." There, I repeated it. Done. Now all I have to wait for is the fireworks and my berating and be done with it. I wasn't expecting him to agree.

"You're probably right." His tone was so defeated, I felt so utterly wretched.

"I, what?" I was at a loss. What do you say to that? What do you say when you see a normally confident and crackly guy so broken looking, and knowing that you're to blame.

"I'm not going to say it again. Now, don't you have work to go back to?" he asked testily, staring right at me with those dark eyes that looked so hurt.

"Bernard, I was just being my usual idiotic self." I had to fix this.

He let out a mirthless little chuckle. "It's okay. Don't worry about it. Guess you just hit a nerve, that's all."

"You know, you could get any girl you wanted..." I began, not sure at all where I was taking this.

He blinked. "Yeah, all of the most eligible female elves are just queuing up to go out with me. I must have missed the line."

"You're very attractive, Bernard," really, what was possessing me to say this? It's the truth, I realized with a jolt.

He laughed sardonically, focusing his gaze on the floor. "Yeah."

"I think you are." Oh. My. Did I just say that out loud? Crap.

His head snapped back to me. "You do?"

I gulped. "Well, yes."

He let out a small snort. "Hmm."

"What's that mean, 'hmm'?" I was getting nervous. An exposed bundle of nerves, that was me at that moment.

He broke out into a grin – a bonafide, genuine grin. "I think you're very attractive. A little mouthy – but attractive." His mouth twisted into a smirk.

"You're one to talk. Always barging about, barking orders at everyone."

"Hey, gotta keep up appearances."

I couldn't suppress the grin that was threating my own features. "I know what you mean."

He suddenly became serious. "You know, I'm not technically supposed to date anyone of my employees."

"Oh." I hated the disappointment that I know coloured that one small word.

"But...sometimes rules are made to be broken." He raised a brow at me in question.

"Exactly."

"You know, it's very possible that we'll end up killing each other – you have quite a temper after all." He was teasing me, and I realized I could really get used to that.

"Yeah, and your temper is as mild as a blizzard."

"We both have trouble letting anyone getting close to us..."

"But we could work on that together, couldn't we?" I was mushing into a gooey puddle of girl, but help me, I was sort of enjoying it.

"I'd like that," he whispered as he stepped closer.

It was strange seeing this tender side of Bernard, and I loved it. He put a tentative arm around my waist, pulling me to him. The smile shone from his eyes as he slowly leaned in. One large hand lightly rested on the side of my neck, gently titling my chin up as his lips brushed mine sweetly. I thought I was going to melt. Our lips melded together another moment before he moved his face back slightly and rested his forehead against mine. This was good. This was right. This was sudden.

"Bernard?" a voice ricocheted off of the walls.

We came apart abruptly, looking for the owner of the voice, afraid that our blossoming relationship was already discovered. To our luck we were still alone, but wouldn't be for long. Bernard grabbed me by the hand and pulled me with him, ducking into the nearest door. The Ballroom.

We were assaulted with fifty bouncing balls twirling about us as we dodged them, running to the far side of the room. Both of us laughing madly as we zig zagged to and fro. We made it to the corner, catching our breath. After a moment, Bernard took my hand in his again, lacing our fingers together. He gave me a lopsided grin.

"We're going to have an interesting relationship, aren't we?" I asked, laughing.

"Without a doubt." He gave my hand a squeeze.

"Are we always going to have to keep us a secret, though?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. The last girl that I dated worked outside of the workshop – I don't think I've ever actually dated anyone in here before. I'm not sure how much that rule is really enforced."

"Might be sort of fun sneaking about," I said saucily.

That brought quite a reaction to him, causing me to giggle. "Oh, I like that. This is going to be fun." He placed another quick kiss on me. And I couldn't help but repeat the gesture. Then we heard a throat clearing, interrupting us. We both turned towards the noise sharply and I gasped. We were caught.

"Uh, carry on. Don't mind me..." Curtis said flustered before swiftly exiting.

Bernard looked at me intently, a broad smile on his lips. "Yes, interesting is probably the correct word for us." He enveloped me in a comforting hug, nuzzling my neck with his nose, and I was very grateful to fate and Santa for bringing me here...for finally leading me home.

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So, did you enjoy it? It had actually started out a bit darker, but instead it turned into an all out fluff ball...ah, well. Fluffiness is good, sometimes!

Pretty please review and let me know what you thought!