Yaay, next chapter. This is how Bernard, Eloise, and Curtis all competed for Head Elf when they were young. Ready...GO!

"Ah, look you guys! It looks like a flower!" A young, strawberry-blonde female elf held up a bunch of tissue paper that did indeed look like a flower to her two male companions.

"Pretty," the chubby, sandy-haired one commented as he looked up from his part of the day's paperwork. "How'd you get it to do that, Eloise?"

Eloise beamed at him. "It's a secret," she said before looking over to the taller, dark-haired elf. "Bernard, look! Isn't it pretty?"

Bernard looked up from his own section of paperwork and scowled at Eloise. "Don't you have anything else to do? Like your share of paperwork?"

It was Eloise's turn to scowl. "I'm done with my share, thank you very much." She pointed to a tall, neat stack of forms, filled out carefully in her loopy handwriting.

"Then instead of making useless things, why don't you help us?" Bernard gestured to himself and his fellow male elf, both who still had large amounts of papers and forms to fill out.

Eloise scoffed. "No thanks, I hate it. Besides, it's not my fault you're inefficient." She picked up more tissue paper and started making another flower. Bernard muttered darkly under his breath, mostly things about how he hated useless girls. Eloise ignored him.

"How do you get through all this so fast, anyway?" asked the sandy-haired elf.

"Oh, easy, Curtis." Eloise stood up and dragged her chair to Curtis' s desk. "Let me see a form?" She reached across to grab a stack and showed Curtis how to get through them quickly and neatly. "See? It's easy. Bernard, want me to show you too?"

"No thanks," Bernard snapped. "Why don't you just go home already?"

Eloise looked at Bernard disapprovingly. "I always walk home with Curtis because he's my friend. If you weren't such a grump all the time, you could walk home with us. You only live two streets away from me."

"Oh, be quiet," Bernard said sourly.

"Well," said the Arch-elf to the three young elves standing before him, "Here we are." It was the Acrh-elf's last Christmas before his retirement. Santa was on his way around the world to deliver presents. It was time for him to pick a successor.

Bernard stood up straighter and clasped his hands behind his back. He was wearing his best clothes, as were Eloise and Curtis. He glanced at them. Eloise brushed her hand through her hair, pushing it all so it hung over her right shoulder. Curtis tried to flatten out the wrinkles on his shirt that came with wear. Eloise glanced over at Bernard and gave him a nervously crooked smile before mouthing, 'Good luck!'. Bernard looked away before she could see him blushing. Why was she always so friendly, anyway? He turned his attention back the Arch-elf, getting ready to accept his bid to be his replacement.

"It was very hard, trying to decide which one of you would be my successor. But in the end, I'm sure that I've made the right decision. This person is hard-working, and I know you'll do the job well, Eloise."

"What?" Eloise asked. Bernard echoed her. "Really? I can't believe it!"

"Really," the Arch-elf confirmed, nodding. Eloise squeaked with delight.

"Congrats, Eloise," Curtis said wanly, trying to hide his disappointment. He went to shake her hand, but she hugged him instead.

"Thank you, Curtis. I'm sorry," she said, holding her friend tightly. She let go, and turned to Bernard, holding out her hand. "Um…I'm sorry you didn't get the bid. But I really liked working with you, so let's be friends, okay?"

Before Bernard could refuse her offer, the Arch-elf commended Eloise for being so kind. "I'm glad you're interested in getting along with Bernard. Because I've spoken with Alfred, and because his own candidates were so disappointing, we've decided to make Bernard the Keeper of the Handbook of Christmas, your second-in-command."

Bernard tried not to scowl, and manage a hollow, professional smile. "Thank you," he said simply, taking Eloise's hand and shaking it. "I'll do my best."

"Um…" Curtis said uneasily. "What about me?"

"I think it best if we talk about that in private…" the Head Elf said, motioning for Curtis to walk into his office. "Eloise, Bernard. You're both free to go home now. We'll discuss your duties tomorrow morning."

"Yes, sir," they said together. They both made their way to the door, but Eloise stopped and turned around.

"Want me to wait for you, Curt?" Eloise asked as Bernard started out the door.

"No, it's fine. I'll see you later, alright?" Curtis promised.

"Oookay," Eloise said. "See you!" She left, and looked around for Bernard. "Oh…" she said softly when she didn't see him. "Bernard? Bernard…" she called quietly, walking down the hall and out of the workshop. She saw him in the street and broke into a run. "Bernard!" She touched his shoulder; he turned and glared at her through red, tear-stained eyes.

"Go away, leave me alone," Bernard snapped. He jerked his arm away, accidentally knocking her down. He froze in shock before he started to apologize.

"Don't worry about it," Eloise said, standing up on her own. She brushed the snow off her clothes and straightened out her scarf and hat. "I want you to walk home with me." Bernard stared at her and she smiled at him, letting out a small sigh. "Let's go. I want to stop and get hot chocolate on the way home before the Cocoa Café closes." And for some reason, Bernard followed her. She chatted easily to him, talking about whatever happened to float into her mind. "…I've been dancing for almost 30 years now, I really like it. I want to learn ballroom or swing or something, but I don't know any guys who'll go with me because…well…Curtis is the only guy I know." She laughed at herself. They stopped at the crosswalk and waited for the polar bear to let them cross. "What do you do for fun, Bernard?"

"Uh…" Bernard stalled as the polar had them move across the street. "Oh, we can cross now, let's go." Eloise frowned at him, but crossed without saying a word. They walked inside the Cocoa Café.

"Hi, Eloise! Oh…and Bernard too," greeted the elf behind the counter. She looked familiar to Bernard, but he wasn't sure who she was or where he had seen her.

"Hey, Judy. How's your perfect cocoa recipe going?" Eloise asked.

"Oh, pretty good. But I'm stuck…" Judy said, and Bernard remembered where he had seen her. She worked in the kitchen, part time. But if she could make perfect cocoa…she could probably be head of the kitchen department without even trying. Bernard made a mental note, he'd like to have her as part of his—oh wait. Eloise was Head Elf. Not him. "…It's at just the right temperature…but I still feel like it could be better."

"Well, how about letting me and Bernard try some? Two large ones?"

"Sure," Judy said, grinning. She made the hot chocolate, talking herself through the process. "Perfect temperature, some sugar, extra chocolate, a little cream…" She stirred the two cups of cocoa and handed them to Eloise and Bernard. "Free of charge!" she declared. Eloise and Bernard thanked her and took a sip of their cocoa.

"Mm!" Eloise said. "So good. The best I've ever tasted." She looked over at Bernard, and he also complimented Judy on the fine cocoa.

"I do have one suggestion..." Bernard said slowly, taking another sip. "Have you tried mixing it another way?"

"Like…shaking it instead of stirring it…?" Judy thought about it for a moment. "That's a great idea! I'm going to work on it right now. Sorry, but do you guys mind…?"

"It's okay, Judy. We'll leave you alone," Eloise said sweetly. "We should probably get going anyhow. Good luck!"

"Thanks, bye," Judy said distractedly, already measuring out ingredients for a new cup of cocoa. Bernard and Eloise left, and started towards home again. Once they had started walking again, Eloise looked over at Bernard until he asked her what was wrong.

"You never answered my question. What do you do for fun?" Eloise repeated, eyes sparkling.

"Oh…well…um. Don't laugh! I…I collect…and sometimes make…snow globes," Bernard stammered nervously. Why was he nervous? Why was he telling her anything? Why didn't he lie? But Eloise smiled.

"Really? That's so cool! Can I see your collection one day?"

"Uh…sure," Bernard mumbled, reminding himself to never let Eloise near his house. They walked a little longer, until they reached Eloise's house. It was brightly decorated with lights and wreaths and bows. In fact, her home looked very much like a Christmas present. "Hm…I'm going to guess that this was your doing?"

"How could you ever guess?"

"I have no idea."

Eloise laughed. "Well, I'll take that as a compliment. In any case…" she reached into her coat, searching for something. "Where did I…Oh, here it is!" She pulled out a beautifully wrapped package. It was long and a bit wide. "Here, Bernard. Merry Christmas!"

Bernard stared at Eloise as she held the package out to him. "Why are you giving me a gift? We're not even…I mean…I haven't been nice to you…so…"

"Oh, I don't know. I just thought you'd like it. It'll come in handy, since you like to worry about deadlines all the time," Eoise told him, shoving the box into Bernard's hands. "Now open it!"

Bernard reluctantly pulled the ribbon off the box and unwrapped the present. It was a silver pocket watch on a silver chain. It had his name on the front, in perfect cursive. "Wow…"he said quietly, lifting the watch out of the box by the chain. It glistened, even in the moonlight. He examined it closely. It was extremely well-made, and beautiful. The face was black, with silver hands counting the seconds between the minutes on the white roman numerals. "Where did you get the money for this?"

"I ah…asked someone in the workshop to help me make it."


Eloise couldn't help but giggle. "Nothing against Curtis, but do you really think he's tactile enough to help me build a watch?" Bernard couldn't help but smile as he admitted to Eloise that she was right. He asked her again.

Eloise beamed at him. "It's a secret!" She laughed, and turned towards her house. "Anyway, it's getting a bit chilly, so I need to go bring my trees inside…Good night, Bernard! Merry Christmas!" She ran off and into her house.

"Merry Christmas…" Bernard said to her retreating figure. He turned and walked home, clutching the watch in his hand as if it were a priceless treasure.

HA. Bet you weren't expecting that. :) I'll eventually put up a story on how Bernard actually becomes Head Elf, probably closer to Christmas, if I remember. Reading is good, reviews are better.