Here's a new, shorter one to make up for the last really long one. As a reminder, R&D stands for Research and Development as explained in the last chapter. As always, feel free to make suggestions, it might make it in (just like this one did!) And thanks to everyone who has faved/followed/reviewed. I enjoy feedback to know if I'm writing something that you guys enjoy.

Introducing the Keeper of the Handbook

It had taken a year, but Scott Calvin had turned out to be a great Santa. As far as Santa's went, Bernard didn't have many complaints. Scott was very involved; he knew how to cheer up the elves and motivate them. Best of all, the elves liked him too. Sometimes though, Bernard feared Scott might be a little too motivated at increasing production and cheerfulness, and now was starting to feel like one of those times.

Bernard crossed his arms and stared at Santa where he sat at his desk. Bernard stood straight and tall in his usual dignified manner. "I don't like where this conversation seems to be going, Santa."

"Nonsense Bernard, you need to loosen up some," Santa got to his feet and headed towards the door, Bernard watching him. "I've been thinking it over, asked for a few recommendations, and well, you know Curtis from inventory, right?"

"I'm the Head Elf, Santa, I know all of the elves," Bernard felt a little miffed by the question.

"Well, meet our new Keeper of the Handbook," Santa opened the door and Curtis stepped in.

"Reporting for duty, sir," Curtis saluted Santa who returned the gesture with a hearty laugh.

"Keeper of the Handbook?" Bernard's arms shot to his sides in alarm. "We've never had one before, why is Curtis 'Keeper of the Handbook' all of the sudden?"

"It's the only title I could come up with on short notice," Santa gave a small shrug. He made his way back to his desk. "His duties now consist of updating the Handbook and knowing it inside and out, and," Santa held up a finger while he sat down. "And now he also helps you with your duties as well."

Bernard's mouth opened in surprise.

"And I will put my all into it," Curtis gave a small fist pump into the air. "I already know the handbook better than anyone else and I have great organization skills and a great memory."

Bernard suppressed a groan. "I don't think I fully understand. I also don't understand why I wasn't asked about this in the first place," he gave Curtis an unimpressed look. Curtis didn't notice, he clasped his hands behind his back, mimicking Bernard's famous pose at the pole and beamed at Santa. He turned his head to look at Bernard who immediately looked away.

"I'll keep track of your schedule for you and make sure you don't forget anything. You won't have anything to worry about!"

"I think I can handle all that by myself just fine," Bernard frowned.

"Give us a minute please, Curtis," Santa eyed Bernard wearily.

"Sure thing, boss," Curtis cheerfully left. They could hear him greet Judy before the door closed again.

"Santa," Bernard fixed him with a stern stare.

"I thought you would be happier about this, you will basically have your own personal assistant," Santa threw his hands up in defense.

"Even if I needed a personal assistant and had been given a say in the matter, I wouldn't have picked him for the job."

"I like him and you were busy. I didn't want to put even more on your plate," Santa leaned back in his chair.

"You only like him because he knows how to suck up. If you absolutely had to do this without my input, Laney from inventorying or Mika from R&D would have been preferable. Or even Mikael from the control center."

"If Curtis doesn't do well enough I will let you put one of them in the job," Santa reached for the plate of sugar cookies sitting on his desk and gingerly chose a snowman.

"Am I not doing a good enough job here? Is that what this is about?" Bernard's expression hardened and he crossed his arms back over his chest.

Santa looked up in alarm. He finished chewing his mouthful of cookie before replying. "It's not that. I think you are doing a great job here, I just thought maybe you could use some help."

"Because I'm not up to par?" Bernard turned his head to watch the fireplace instead, not wanting to look at Santa.

Stunned, Santa studied him for a moment before answering. "No. I could never ask for a better Head Elf than you," he softened his voice. "You're the one who keeps everything together around here. I figured out of everyone, you deserve more time to relax. With Curtis, you can pass off all the duties you don't like onto him and give yourself more time off work at the end of the day. You've never done anything that made me question your abilities. I put Curtis in this position for your benefit, not his or anyone else's."

Bernard stared down at his feet, not knowing what to say. He felt uncomfortable, and despite Santa's words he still felt like Santa was dancing around the issue of him not being up to par.

"I used to work at a toy company, I know how stressful work can be, especially now as Santa. I have you to help me, but you don't have a specific person to turn to when you need extra help."

"I don't need a specific person to help me," he protested.

"Just give it a try. It'll help take some stress off your shoulders to keep you in top shape." Santa smiled warmly at him. "It'll make things more manageable for you. You can devote yourself to the important matters and let Curtis deal with the trivial ones so that they don't drain your time."

"I feel like you are just putting him in this position to train him as the next Head Elf," he still refused to look at Santa. There was no need to start training a new Head Elf yet unless Santa wanted to get rid of him. He still had hundreds of years left before he could retire, and Scot would be long gone before then.

With a sigh, Santa got up and went to Bernard, laying both hands on his shoulders, forcing Bernard to look up at him. "Never. I promise you that he is here to help you and nothing more. With the North Pole expanding, you could use an assistant. Besides, I can't see him as ever being Head Elf material."

Bernard smiled at that. "He isn't."

"Time's a wasting. Get back to work and take Curtis with you. He needs training and I need to find Judy to see about getting some more cocoa."

"Yes, sir," Bernard said respectfully before turning to the door. In the hallway he found Curtis talking to a bored looking Judy. "Judy, Santa needs more coca."

"Right away," her face brightened up. She practically skipped away from them.

"Come on, we have work to do," Bernard motioned for Curtis to follow him.

Curtis scurried to catch up, and when Bernard glanced over at him, he saw the younger elf holding a notebook and pencil. He was positioned as if her would start writing at any second.

"What's that for?"

"For taking notes. I want to make sure I don't forget anything"

"Oh," Bernard really didn't know what to say. If anything Curtis seemed a little too eager. In time, the stress would knock that out of him. He still seemed like too much of a suck up to Bernard and he didn't like that. He himself had always gone through great lengths to make a statement through his abilities and work without gloating, not by sweet words and compliments and trying to be a teacher's pet. Every year in school there was always one kid that was the suck up, and he could never stand them. Those years were enough to make him bristle whenever he had to deal with someone like them.

"So...where to first? I heard Dasher is sick and the painting department is running low on blue paint."

Bernard stopped walking and Curtis almost bumped into him. "Actually, you are going to go check on both of those, while I go do other things."

"What?" Curtis's head snapped up, a look of alarm on his face.

"Since you seem to be so well prepared you should be able to handle it just fine."

"Oh...Uh...Where will I meet back up with you?" Bernard had gotten him. Curtis wanted to appear capable and prepared.

"I'll come find you," Bernard walked away from him, leaving him standing outside of the kitchens looking bewildered.

This was going to be a long week and he wouldn't let Santa get away with this so easily. He'd bring it up every day if he needed too. The least Santa could do was replace Curtis with Mikael. Worst case scenario he'd wait until the next Santa to get Curtis replaced. Either way, he didn't want to have to put up with the younger elf. He'd rather go back to R&D before putting up with Curtis every day.

He let out a huff of air before putting on a smile for the elves. He almost felt bad for the stables and painting department for having to put up with Curtis. Almost, better them than him.

"Hello, Bernard," three elves from wrapping chorused in unison.

"Susie, Jonathon, Madison," he greeted. It was time to forget about Curtis and get to work. However, he'd have to arrange another chat with Santa soon.