She had woken up earlier than usual so that she could get an early start on her new bow and arrow set. She was so excited because this set was going to be real, nothing like the toy ones where the arrows had to be made with an orange suction cup tip. After she got her venti pumpkin spice latte with an extra shot of espresso, she makes her way to the bakery. How the Big Guy managed to get a Starbucks in the North Pole was a mystery. She heard that Mrs. Mellark was having a fit that it was cutting into their business. So much so that the baker’s youngest son had to leave the bakery to work as a toy maker. But by the looks of it Peeta didn’t seem to mind one bit. Still, Katniss always made sure to stop by Mellark’s Bakery every morning for the cheese buns; none of the Starbucks pastries could hold a candle to those. The bell hanging above the door tinkles to announce her arrival.
“Be right there.” She hears a deep male voice call out from the back. All is silent, then there’s a clatter followed with a ‘bah humbug’.
“Is everything alright back there?” she calls back. Peeta walks through the swinging doors, beet red all the way up to his pointy ears. His usual unruly curly hair is covered by a hair net. He has broad shoulders and is medium height. Which for a fully grown elf it ranges from 2 to 3 feet unless you’re really tall like Gale, who is 3’5”.
“Yeah, I dropped the cookie sheet, but at least I had removed the cookies first,” he replied with a chuckle. Her stomach does its usual back flip when she’s around him, which has only gotten worse since he started working at the shop a few weeks ago. “What can I get you?”
“Two cheese buns and a blueberry scone.” she said. “So you work here and at the workshop?”
“No, I’m covering for Rye before heading to the shop,” Peeta said. They make idle chitchat about work as Peeta bags, and she pays for the pastries. When she heads out the door he calls out. “See you at work.” She turns and he is practically beaming with excitement. If only we could all be that happy to go to work. She smiles back, fighting a blush. He is so dang cute!
Katniss moved to Santa’s Village two years ago after completing her apprenticeship in toy making. She had excelled in crafting bows and arrows having previously been taught by her father. She came from a small village called the Seam which is situated on the outskirts of Panem. Santa’s Village is composed of the main workhouse dubbed The Capitol surrounded by 13 smaller workshops. Each shop has a foreman followed by department leads. She works in workshop 12 were the elf in charge is Mayor Undersee, that being his name and not because he was an actual official or anything. When she arrives at her shop she swipes her Santa’s helper key card to get into the main work area. It has 101 work stations; 50 on each side facing each other and separating the guys for the girls; 3 elves to a station. At the front of the hall is another work station for the foreman and the department leads. Romulus Thread for the girls and Haymitch Abernathy for the guys.
Even with her light tread her footfalls echo in the great hall with its sky-high ceiling to accommodate the Big Guy. Stopping by her workstation which she shares with Johanna and Madge; she leaves the blueberry scone and a cheese bun for them. Grabbing her work tablet she scrolls to the special wish order as she heads to the woodshop.
The wish order reads. Twelve year old Ethan was playing with his older sister’s bow and arrows without permission. He fell and landed on the bow breaking it in half. He’s really sorry and his only wish for Christmas is a new bow and arrow set for Kathy. Attached to the wish order are several pictures of the old bow and arrows for reference. After picking out an Osage orange wood stave she spends most of the morning diligently measuring, carving and tillering the bow. Stopping at times to greet the occasional elf that entered the room to get wood they need for their own orders.
“Hey brainless, are you going to spend all day in here,” Jo asks from the doorway. Katniss was tidying up the work area.
“I’m almost done cleaning up. I’ll sand and stain it at our station,” Katniss reply’s. Hurriedly putting away all the tools she had used. “What are you doing here anyway; morning break isn’t for another 20 minutes.”
“Restroom break, I got the new Northern Star. I wanted to catch up on Cato Pitt, Clove Aniston and Glenda ‘Glimmer’ Jolie.” Katniss shakes her head. Ever since Cato and action star Glimmer began filming, Mr. & Mrs. Noel they have been splashed all over the tabloids. Unfortunately girl next door Clove, will not be getting her happily ever after with Cato.
“How can you read that garbage?” Katniss asks, though she does sneak peeks when standing in line at the grocery store but she would never actually buy one. “Most of the stuff in there is made up.” Collecting the rest of her things they head down the hall.
“It’s a fun read,” Johanna shrugs. “Anyway, we have a bet going that the new guy won’t last until the end of the week without dropping another pile of easy bake ovens.” Katniss rolls her eyes.
“He won’t,” she said.
“How do you know?”
“He started double knotting his shoelaces after the second fall,” she said without thinking. She blushes when she realized she revealed too much.
“Oh?” Jo said with a raised eyebrow.
“Shut it,” she said. Because really, who notices those things about someone unless their keeping tabs on them but she doesn’t want to get into it with Jo.
Upon entering the great hall she quickly looks up scanning the ceiling to locate the mistletoes that float above them. Each morning they magically change locations, and she doesn’t want to be caught underneath one with Johanna Mason, who tends to kiss anyone on the mouth regards of sex, age or marital status.
“Katniss, you and bread boy aren’t fooling anyone. You two have been ogling each other since he started working here three weeks ago,” Johanna declares.
“We do not!” she said. Because stealing glances every now in then is not ogling. Katniss automatically looks towards Peeta’s station which is right across from hers and gray eyes meet blue which quickly flit away. See that’s not ogling.
“I bet you wouldn’t mind being underneath the mistletoe with him,” Jo gives her a knowing smirk. Katniss is saved from answering by their department lead, Romulus Thread. He drops 4 toy axes in front of Johanna with a heavy sigh, clearly exasperated.
Katniss turns to Madge who shakes her head. Johanna does this at least once a month. It’s a game that she and Beetee from inspections have going.
“We talked about this Jo. You’re making them to sharp. Do you want a kid to cut off a finger?” Thread asks.
“I’m only keeping the inspectors on their toes,” Johanna responses. “Besides the worst they’d get are a couple of nicks and cuts.”
“Fix these!” he points at the axes and then walks away grumbling about time wasters. Bells jingle to announce the morning break.
“Krampus!” Johanna exclaims.
“What is it Jo?” asks Madge.
“I sent 5 shitty axes and Beetee only found 4. He dropped the ornament ball on this one.” She scrolls through her order tablet. “Oh good it hasn’t been shipped to The Capitol yet,” she jumps off her stool. “I’m going to the stockroom to look for it.” They laugh at her as she hurries off.
“If she keeps that up she’ll end up in the stables tending the reindeer,” Madge said.
“Nah, for Jo that would be a reward, most likely it’ll be the mail room,” she said. Advance technology had not been ignored in the North Pole. The rows and rows of filing cabinets and stacks of wish orders have been replaced with servers and tablets.
“No way! They’ll want the wish orders to be scanned right the first time,” Madge said. “You know who will end up in the mail room if he drops another pile of ovens?” Madge asked with a chuckle. Katniss rolls her eyes.
“Peeta has been surpassing his wish order quota since day one. He’s not going anywhere.”
“Come on, let’s stretch our legs,” Madge said as she hops off her stool.
“I’ve been standing all morning. I think I’ll just stay here and finish my coffee,” she said.
Madge looks across the way at Peeta. “Enjoy the view,” she snickers. Grabbing at a stack of pink flyers and handing one to Katniss. It reads Kendra Paylor for Head Elf; listing her qualifications and plans for improving the workshops. Looking over at Peeta she sees him about to pick up a pile of easy bake ovens. She notices the top one dangerously wobbling.
“Peeta wait!” she calls out, getting off her stool and heading over to him. She’s going to make sure he doesn’t drop any more toys.
“You should let the toy handlers move these. That’s want they’re here for,” she informs him, while adjusting the top oven so it won’t fall. In addition to the foreman, leads, and 300 toy makers, they have 50 material toy handlers to move toys and refill supplies. “Or at the very least grab a cart.”
“Haymitch said I have to move my own toys, and I usually start off with a cart but it always gets taken by the toy handlers,” Peeta said. She nods her head. His ashy blond hair falls over his forehead, and she wonders not for the first time what it would feel like to brush it back from his eyes. She makes herself look away.
“He probably wants to slow you down. You’ve been making the rest of us look bad,” she teases. He rubs the back of his neck, and she notices a light pink bloom on his cheeks.
“Darius told me they’ll increase the quota because of me, so I’ve been trying to pace myself.”
“Oh god, don’t listen to Darius. They wouldn’t up the quota because of one elf. Besides the Big Guy has everything down to a science,” she tells him. “If Haymitch wants you to move your own toys he must have placed an order for your own cart. Come on you need to see Effie.”
“Won’t they just take that cart too?” he asks.
“Nope, you’ll see,” she said and leads him to the supply room. “So, do you know who you’ll vote for?”
There hasn’t been a vote for Head Elf in a long time. Senile Head Elf Coriolanus Snow was hitting the big 500 and had been trying to increase the work hours and add additional shifts, so he was forced to retire. The Big Guy placed Alma Coin as interim Head Elf, and she along with Kendra Paylor and Plutarch Heavensbee are in the running for new Head Elf. Jolly Old St. Nick was staying neutral, not wanting to influence the vote but Mrs. Claus was campaigning hard for Kendra Paylor, much to Alma Coin’s displeasure.
“I haven’t decided yet. Both Paylor and Heavensbee have similar plans but…” he trails off. She understands elves are worried that if they vote for Paylor their vote won’t count because Coin has a small following that could cost Paylor the Head Elf position.
They reach the supply room window and she rings the buzzer. They hear a ruckus coming from the back, and a moment later see a flustered Effie Trinket attempting to straighten her wig before walking over to them. They notice Effie’s lipstick is smeared all over her lips and Katniss stifles a giggle.
“Oh my! Is break over? I didn’t hear the jingle,” Effie warbles.
“Sorry Effie, we still have 2 minutes. We’ll wait right here so you can finish what you were doing,” Peeta said with a chuckle.
“No, that’s quite alright. What can I help you with?” Effie asked. Katniss has to taps the glass to get Effie’s attention. When Effie looks over to her she points as her lips and mouths lipstick. Effie’s blushes bright pink.
“You know what? I think I will take those two minutes after all,” Effie looks up and points. “But meanwhile, Mistletoe!”
So here’s the thing about year round Mistletoe. The elves don’t want to be spoilsports, but they also don’t want to upset spouses and partners so most keep it clean with a quick kiss on the cheek. The couple of times she’s spotted Peeta under the mistletoe he did the cheek kiss just like she does. But this time they stare at each other for a full minute. Peeta’s eyes drift down to her lips, and he licks his before looking back at her silently asking for permission. She nods and they lean towards each other. His lips barely brush against hers when they hear a voice.
“Well, what do we have here,” said Haymitch loudly. They jump apart and spot him through the glass. “I still had two minutes you know.” He looks at the Mistletoe pointedly “Well, go on now don’t mind me.” But the spell has been broken and they give each other a kiss on the cheek instead.
“Oh come on Haymitch, you Mistletoe blocker,” calls another voice from behind them. They turn and see Johanna down the hall walking towards them twirling a toy axe like a baton. Katniss takes Peeta’s hand and moves him away from underneath the Mistletoe before Johanna tries anything.
“Payback,” Haymitch said with a shrug.
“You and Effie have been snogging for years. They’re just starting,” Johanna sighs. She looks down at their joint hands and smirks. “Well at least they’re holding hands, I call that progress.”
Katniss goes to remove her hand from his. But Peeta’s grip tightens catching her by surprise. When she looks up at him she is taken aback by the expression on his face; where before it had a sweet shyness to it, now it has a confident determination with a silent promise of more. That look causes a slight shiver to course through her body. The bell jingles for the end of break.
“Peeta, Effie will help you from here and you girls back to work. Those toys aren’t going to make themselves you know,” Haymitch said bossily. Peeta gives her hand a squeeze before letting go to follows Effie into the supply room. As she and Johanna walk back to their work station she braces herself for the barrage of questions.
“So what happened, hmmm? Wasn’t it just last week where you were saying there was nothing going on between you and bread boy?” Johanna asks. “That I was only imagining things?”
“There’s nothing going on,” she tells her. Not yet, anyway she thinks.
“Riiiight. But you want there to be? Johanna said. Katniss remains silent, choosing to keep her hopes close to her heart. She’s been reluctant to voice her true feeling just in case they weren’t reciprocated, though after today she has an inkling that they might be.
Madge came rushing up to them vibrating with pure joy. “Be still my jolly heart! You’re not going to believe what just happened!” she squealed. “Father Christmas has disqualified Alma Coin for the running,”
“What!” Katniss and Johanna exclaim at the same time.
“I know!! They uncovered emails between her and Seneca Crane talking about rigging the election in her favor. She was given the option of resigning or being demoted to lead in 13. So she resigned.” Madge continued.
“Figgy pudding! I have to talk to Finnick,” Johanna drops the axe on her station. “He had told me that if it was only between Paylor and Heavesbee he’d vote for her, and I’m going to hold him to it. If he doesn’t he’ll be getting a swift kick in the chestnuts. Be right back,” and she off again.
“Do you think she plans on doing any work today?” Madge asks.
“Just enough to meet her quota,” Katniss said with a grin.
Katniss observes Peeta returning to his station with his cart and starts to load his toys. He turns to look at her but instead of his eyes flitting away he holds her gaze and gives her a smile and a wave. She blushes but returns them both right as Johanna plops on to her stool. Thank goodness Jo is too distracted to notice. While they get back to work, they happily chat about how the odds where in Paylor favor of becoming the first female Head Elf.
The buzz continues throughout the day with elves merrily visiting each other, and more pink flyers being handed out during lunch and afternoon breaks. Katniss and Madge sat with Peeta during lunch and she thinks they managed to convince him to vote pink. Campaigning is hard work but Madge is in her element.
The bell jingles for the end of the shift just as she’s polishing off the last arrow.
“Some of us are going to the new bar after work, care to join us?” Johanna asks her as they tidy up the work area.
“No, I came early today. So, I’m going home drink some hot chocolate and binge-watch shows on Poleflix in my pjs,” she said.
“Fine, but you’re coming next time; no excuses,” says Johanna.
After dropping off the bow and arrows set in the quality control room for inspection she makes her way to the girl’s locker room. When she passes the supply room she hears someone calling her name.
“Hey Katniss!” She turns and sees Peeta making his way to her.
“Dropping off your cart?” she asks.
“Yeah and thanks for that by the way. I don’t think Haymitch was planning on letting me know he had order it for me,” he said.
“Glad I could help.” They continue walking towards the locker rooms.
“I’m heading over to The Caroling Karaoke to meet up with some coworkers for eggnog and I was wondering if you would like to join me?” She had told Johanna no, but when she sees the hopeful expression on his face there is no way she’s go to say no.
“Okay, let me get my things,” as quickly as she could she puts on her green snowsuit, waterproof boots and thermal gloves. When she exits the locker room she notices that Peeta is wearing a similar snowsuit but in soft orange, and he happens to be standing right underneath a mistletoe with a grin on his face. When she reaches him, he pulls her close.
The kiss was tentative at first. His warm mouth moving over hers; his lips were softer then she had imagined; which was a lot. When they pull apart he rests his forehead against hers. “I’ve wanted to do that since the first day you walked into the bakery two years ago,” he admits.
“Me too,” she tells him. They lean in for one more kiss then head off to the bar hand in hand.