Shifting Through the Snow Collection
Can a snow-loving Prancer give up shifting and service to Santa to follow his true love to Florida?
Peter's ability to shift into reindeer form appeared at puberty. As a Prancer, he's in service to Santa, and working as an EMT in rural Vermont when he's not delivering gifts to kids around the world. But when his boyfriend needs to relocate to Florida, where it's too hot for Peter's shift to take place, which will he sacrifice -- his love or his service?
1 - The Kiss
The call came in over the radio: skier was down in the back country. “Friend states that he and Caucasian male, approximately twenty-four years of age, were on Upper Gilmore Trail when a storm swept in and knocked over a tree onto victim, whose leg is trapped.”
“Right on it,” Peter said into the radio. He looked out the window and saw heavy-bellied black thunderheads moving rapidly toward him. It was going to be a tough flight.
The air ambulance operated two-man teams, and Peter’s pilot Rich hurried to get the chopper warmed up and check the map while Peter gathered medical supplies. They took off a few minutes later, rising up into the air as winter currents buffeted them.
Peter held on to the rail as Rich headed in the direction of the Green Mountain National Forest, laced with cross-country ski trails. Without warning, they were in the heart of the storm, sleet slashing against the windows, and Rich struggled to keep the bird on an even heading.
“There’s no way I’m going to be able to land in this,” Rich said through the headset. “Going to have to drop you and meet you at the hospital. You okay with that?”
“I can manage.” Peter made sure all the gear was secure for a drop—the sled, the medical supplies, the harness. By the time he turned back, they were coming in low through a swirl of snow and sleet. Peter could just make out the trail, a ribbon of white threading through the dark green of the evergreen forest. And ahead of them, the victim’s fire-engine-red ski suit.
Peter admired the guy’s foresight in choosing an outfit that was easily seen. Rich pulled the throttle back, and they hovered as best they could, the wind pushing against them. Peter slid the door open, and cold, wet air rushed in. He slid the gear forward, out the door, and it dropped quickly to the ground, landing a few hundred feet from the man.
Peter slid the door closed. “Take her up,” he said through the headset. Then he removed it and unfastened his seat belt as the chopper rose. When the altimeter had reached three thousand feet, he gave Rich a thumbs-up and slid the door open.
Then he jumped.
Those first few hundred feet of free fall were always exhilarating. He breathed in the cold humid air as his body began to change. In a moment, his clothes were gone, replaced by a thick layer of dark brown fur. His hands and feet changed into hooves, and antlers branched from his head.
Quickly, his front legs were stretched out in front of him, and he was using the sensors in his antlers to control his speed and direction. He spotted the red ski suit and slowed his flight so that he could land on all fours a few feet from a guy about his age, mid-twenties, with one leg caught under the fallen tree.
The guy’s eyes widened as Peter approached. He used his powerful front legs to push sideways at the fallen tree until the man was free.
He knelt down beside the man, closed his eyes, and willed the metamorphosis to reverse. There was always some pain as he returned to human form, losing the extra strength that his shifted form provided.
When he opened his eyes again, he was human once more, and the man in front of him said, “I must be hallucinating.”
“The pain can do that,” Peter said. “Let’s get you checked out. What’s your name?”
“Okay, Jonny, I’m going to try and straighten your leg. If it hurts too much, let me know.”
Peter ran his hands carefully over Jonny’s leg. No bones appeared to have pierced the skin, which was a good thing. He was able to straighten the leg out without putting Jonny in too much pain, but it was clear that there was at least a fracture.
Jonny reached out and touched his arm. “You’re a human.”
Peter couldn’t help noticing how handsome Jonny was, with a gorgeous smile, dark brown eyes, and a slim Roman nose. “Yup. And a paramedic. I’m going to get my gear. I’ll be right back.”
He ran down the trail in the gathering darkness until he reached where the sled had dropped. It was already covered in an inch of snow, and he had to dig it out, then tow the sled back to where Jonny waited.
“I had the strangest dream,” Jonny said as Peter reached him.
“Yeah, I know,” Peter said. “I hear stuff all the time from people who get hurt. I want to splint up your leg, and then I’m going to put you on the sled, okay?”
“Sounds good to me.” He groaned, though as Peter attached the splint.
“I’m going to give you something for the pain once we’re ready to go,” Peter said.
Jonny smiled weakly. Peter worried that hypothermia might be setting in. Jonny had been out there in the snow for at least an hour by then, and there was only so much a down suit could handle. He worked quickly, finishing the splint and gently rolling Jonny onto the sled. Then he pulled a hypodermic needle from his gear and added a couple of CCs of a tranquilizer.
It would knock Jonny out at least until they got to the hospital, and hopefully either he wouldn’t remember seeing Peter in his reindeer form, or he’d accept it as a hallucination.
Jonny’s eyes closed, and Peter slipped into the halter attached to the sled. Then once again, he knelt and closed his eyes and willed the transformation to take place.
He did not usually shift back and forth so frequently, and each time he shifted, he lost energy and the transformation took longer to take place. He waited a minute, then another, then opened his eyes. He was still in his human form.
This had never happened to him before, and he was lost. What could he do? Drag Jonny miles along the trail until he found a place where Rich could pick them up? The storm was growing fiercer, and Jonny’s breathing was shallow.
Jonny opened his eyes. “I had a dream,” he mumbled.
“I know, Jonny,” Peter said. “Close your eyes, go back to sleep.”
“My friend Cathy says I never ask for what I want,” he said. “If I’m going to die out here, I have to try and change that. So I want you to kiss me.” He looked up. “I mean, if you’re straight, I understand and I’m sorry. But you’ve got a hard-on that’s poking against your pants, so I’m kind of hoping you’re gay.”
“I’m gay,” Peter said. “But we’ve got to get you out of here. We can think about kissing later.”
Jonny reached up and grabbed his arm. “No,” he said. “Now. Please.”
Jonny’s mouth looked so kissable that Peter couldn’t resist. He leaned down and kissed Jonny gently, his lips tingling at the contact. Jonny put an arm around Peter’s shoulder and pulled him down, deepening the kiss. Jonny’s lips were cold, but they warmed from the contact with Peter’s. Peter closed his eyes and let himself fall into the kiss, the way Jonny’s lips wrapped around his own, their tongues dueling.
It wasn’t an orgasm, Peter thought later. He hadn’t shot off in his pants. But his body was filled with the rush of endorphins from Jonny’s kiss, and he felt his body changing. He backed away from Jonny, leaving him with his eyes and mouth open, and all at once, he was back in reindeer form, the halter that connected him to the sled around his shoulders, and he pawed the ground twice, then took off at a run down the trail.
A moment later, he was airborne, the sled behind him, supported on the air current he created, and his internal compass directed him to turn toward Porter Medical Center in Middlebury. A few minutes later, he came in for a soft landing on the roof, and a moment later heard the whirr of Rich’s chopper blades.
Without thinking, he transformed back into human shape, and he was unbuckling Jonny from the sled as the doors to the roof opened and a medical team spilled out.
“You take care, Jonny,” Peter said. He leaned in for a quick kiss, blocking the team with his body.
That same tingle, though nowhere near as strong.