Reindeer of a Gift
Shifting Through the Snow Collection
Getting hurt on Christmas Eve hurt Prince's pride more than his ankle, but he never imagined to fall off the roof of a such a hottie.
Prince knew his ankle was tender so it was no surprise when he slipped off the roof during deliveries. The team and Santa continued on, leaving Prince to wait until morning for a lift a home. The broken family in the home welcomed him inside and Prince found his accident was exactly the present the single father needed.
He’d known playing soccer two days before Christmas Eve night was a mistake. Yet, Prince had still done it. The odds were low, he’d told himself, you won’t get hurt, he’d assured the self-doubts floating in his head.
The twang of pain in his right ankle every time they landed on a roof, reminded him of how wrong he’d been. He could tough it out, the same stupid voice from before assured him. And maybe he could have, if there hadn’t been a blizzard over half the United States. Kansas was rough, and by Nebraska the dull ache was cutting into his hoof so much he was pretty sure part of his leg had been left in Wichita.
The team hit the next roof and his leg didn’t catch right, or rather it skittered on some ice and the rest of him wasn’t able to get grounding. He was on the left side, third reindeer back. If he fell off the roof, he’d be taking the whole team and sled with him. Something similar had happened in ’86 and one of the elves had since installed a safety switch. Prince had forgotten all about it until he saw the reins and harnesses connecting him to the other reindeer coming undone.
He had about twenty seconds to decide if he wanted to hit the ground in his reindeer form or his human form. Whichever he picked, would be the form he’d be stuck in while whatever bones he broke in the fall mended.
If he was human, at least he could be indoors. Six to eight weeks of barn rest didn’t sound as appealing. He shifted, felt his good ankle hit the rain gutter, likely leaving a mark, then he saw a flash of brick before the world exploded in white.
At least it’d been snowing for a while so the drift was a good cushion. He looked up at the night sky as more snowflakes fell. He could count on both hands the amount of times he’d been injured on the job. Only Blitzen held a better record—of zero, the cocky bastard.
Dancer, the deer behind him in the lineup, looked down in his antlered form. The top of Santa’s hat was visible but nothing else. A small object arched up from the red hat, then landed in a puff of white dust next to him. He fished the radio out of the drift. The sled jingled, then in a quick flash it was gone. Prince left behind, because on Christmas Eve, there could be no delays, no accidents, no matter what.
He clicked the transmit button on the radio. “Headquarters, this is Prince.”
“What?” The woman’s voice squawked with more unease than normal.
“Reindeer down,” Prince said. He hated to say it, but… “Santa will need my backup for the rest of the route. I’ll need a pickup.”
“Turn on your beacon. I can’t promise a pickup until at least the western hemisphere is done.”
Priorities. Prince had already figured as much.
“I understand.” He turned the volume down on the radio and flipped the lever on the side so the beacon would be on. Now he just had to wait. He’d landed in a drift to the left of the resident’s front door. He moved some of the snow around so his sore ankle was propped on a drift.
He unbuckled the pouch around his waist and retrieved a t-shirt and shorts. It was routine to always pack a set of clothes in case something happened and you needed to shift. He quickly dressed, although he doubted he would encounter anyone at two in the morning on Christmas. A naked man in a snowdrift was quite an attention grabber though. It wasn’t much clothing, but as a reindeer he was used to colder temps and his blood ran warm. He closed his eyes and settled back in the drift. He would enjoy a nice nap while he waited for his ride.