About two months before the end of the year, a soft staccato thu-thump sounded on the roof of a house high up in the mountains.
Softhoof the Red-Nosed slowed to a halt, then looked back at the empty sleigh to which he was harnessed and sighed.
This just wasn't good enough.
As a magical flying reindeer, even if a rather soft and plushy one, Softhoof wanted nothing more than to bring the magic of Christmas to the world – albeit in his own particular interpretation. (Everybody wanted to be a deer, right? Of course they did!) But he could not pull the sleigh alone, not to visit everyone, and he certainly couldn't do it and hand out presents at the same time.
Softhoof pranced in his traces, beating a muffled tattoo on the roof of the house, then an idea came to him.
He thought about it carefully, because it wasn't very Christmassy in some ways. But in other ways it was just right, so he nodded to himself before setting off with a clatter of runners and a thump of hooves.
It was time to save Christmas!
“Ah, sometimes this is really worthwhile,” the Red Ranger said, leaning back in his chair and yawning.
Sometimes, being a Power Ranger meant fighting off otherworldly threats that had the strength to destroy buildings. Sometimes it meant trying to resist the influence of a magical dress that made anyone who wore it into the perfect little maid.
But most of the time, the time between monster attacks, it meant a place for five young adults to hang out together without pressure from anyone else – including being able to sleep there, wake up to a well-stocked kitchen, and just laze about a bit.
“Tell me about it,” Blue agreed. “Hey, Pink, thanks for stocking more croissants!”
“No problem!” the Pink Ranger replied happily. “I hope you guys left me some!”
Their morning banter was interrupted by a confused question from Green. “Uh… guys? Who set up the fake chimney?”
Putting down his drink, Blue got up with a groan.
“Let's see what it is this time...”
He wove through the rooms of the Ranger base, and found Green a few moments later.
“Huh,” he said, examining the fake chimney. It was cardboard, painted cardboard, and it was nestled into the corner of one of the rooms so it looked as though there was a fireplace with a chimney there.
Looking behind it, he frowned, then moved the cardboard out of the way.
“Look,” he said, pointing. “Presents.”
“Is this some kind of Christmas thing?” Green asked. “It's a bit early for it.”
Blue shrugged, moving the presents out into the main area of the room. There was a collection of wrapped fabric, two flat boxes, and a half-dozen or so wrapped bottles – all of them in festive reindeer-print paper.
“Hey, guys!” Blue called. “Did either of you get Christmas presents?”
“What, this early?” Pink replied. “No!”
“No, those are for late December,” Red agreed.
“No, I mean… someone left some presents here,” Blue explained. “If it wasn't either of you, it must have been Yellow.”
“She did go upstate last night,” Green agreed. “Maybe she decided to just leave these as a gift or something?”
“Yeah, probably,” Blue decided. “Maybe she thought we'd find them anyway?”
He raised his voice. “Guys, think we should open them?”
“Why not!” Red called back.
“Okay, here we go,” Red said, opening the first of the fabric presents. The paper tore, and out tumbled something that was mostly brown with a few white sections visible.
Picking it up and unfolding it, Red stared for a moment.
“What is this?” he asked out loud.
“It looks like one of those Christmas rompers!” Pink said brightly. “You know, the ones you wear on Christmas to look like a reindeer?”
“Oh, right,” Red blushed, as Green and Blue started laughing. “The kind of thing kids wear?”
“Yep!” Pink agreed, taking the other fabric present and opening it. “And look, there's two of them!”
Inspecting the one she'd taken more closely, Pink pointed out a few of the features – such as the hoof-like felt patches on the stockinged feet, the creamy-white front and the dappled white spots on the back, and the springy fabric antlers that would make it stand up if worn. She also found the zipper, nearly hidden at the front, and unzipped it.
“Huh, this one says it's for medium sized adult males,” she announced. “What does yours say, Red?”
“Uh...” Red checked his own. “It says adult females.”
“Then I'll take that one!” Pink said, and threw the one she had with her at him.
“I don't think I want any of them,” Red muttered, passing the female-fitted one over to Pink, who vanished into her room.
“Wait...” Green said slowly. “She's not going to put it on now, is she?”
“It looks like she is,” Blue replied.
He opened one of the flat presents, finding the box inside it to contain a headband with a pair of reindeer antlers attached to the top. “Continuing the theme, I guess...”
“Maybe she was planning on some kind of joke about it,” Red shrugged, as Green confirmed there were two of the headbands as well. “You guys can keep doing this, I'd better get back to the monitors.”
“Why?” Blue asked.
“Because otherwise I'm going to end up with you guys forcing me into the other reindeer sleeper,” Red said, already getting up.
“There we go!” Pink announced, coming out of her room and striking a pose. “What do you think?”
Blue and Green stared at her, then began sniggering.
“It's really not a 'cool' look,” Blue volunteered. “Despite it being a reindeer. It just looks a bit silly.”
“Yeah, but it's really comfy, and silly doesn't matter that much,” Pink countered, smoothing out the fuzzy surface of the reindeer sleeper. “Okay, I'm wearing mine, you guys had better put yours on too!”
She looked around. “Where's Red?”
“He decided not to get involved,” Blue said, tearing the paper on one of the bottles. “Huh, this is eggnog.”
“It is a pretty Christmassy drink,” Green chuckled. “But maybe we should just have it later, or not all at once.”
“Hey, there's no sign of any threats on the monitor,” Pink pointed out. “And if Red's being the designated Ranger, we can just have a lazy day in, right?”
“Sounds good to me,” Green said. “Where are the controllers again?”
He put one of the pairs of reindeer antlers aside. “I'll put those on some time later...”
“I know where the controllers are,” Blue volunteered, already wearing the other pair. “I just need to go and get them.”
As he left the room, Green opened the wrapping on another one of the bottles.
To his surprise, it was an unopened bottle of sherry. He looked at it, an idea coming to him, then slipped it under the sofa to retrieve later.
The others didn't have to know about it.
“Hah!” Pink crowed, waving her controller about, and Blue groaned.
“How did you do that?” he asked, looking from Pink to the screen. “I could swear I had you bang to rights!”
“That's just how I play,” Pink replied, sticking her tongue out, then took a gulp of eggnog.
Reminded, Blue took a drink as well. It was lovely, creamy stuff, much better than even the already nice normal eggnog they remembered from past years, and every swallow made him feel all warm and fuzzy.
“Another?” he asked.
“Sure!” Pink agreed. “Want us to make it three-player, Green?”
Green shook his head. “No thanks,” he said, in the clear way of someone who knows he might slur his words but thinks he's gotten away with it. “I'll just watch.”
He took a drink from his own glass, then put it down on the tray next to him and giggled.
“He's getting into the spirit, all right!” Pink said. “All right, here we go!”
As the two other Rangers got back into their game, Green retrieved the bottle of sherry and poured a little more into his glass.
It really was very nice sherry, and every mouthful made him feel better than the last.
“Yes!” Blue said, managing to beat Pink this time. “Take that!”
“Decider match?” Pink invited.
The antlers on her sleeper bounced back and forth slightly as she reached down for her glass of eggnog again.
“Okay guys, nothing tonight,” Red called, walking through into the main living area. “I've set the automatic alert, so we can...”
He slowed, staring.
Several bottles of empty eggnog were all over the floor, and Pink and Blue were rummaging through the games cabinet for something they hadn't tried yet. Almost half the presents were in a haphazard pile, and Green appeared to be both very drunk and not trying very hard to hide it.
“Come on,” Red sighed. “Look, guys, it's not actually Christmas. Okay? Maybe don't get so full of yourselves?”
Pink turned to look at him, and shrugged. “It's time off! What does it matter?”
“Well, maybe don't make quite so much of a mess!” Red countered.
“Hey, hey,” Green said, waving his hand. “Red – Red, listen. It's Christmas, right? Calm down a little!”
“It's not even the right month for Christmas!” Red countered, then sighed. “Whatever. But you guys are cleaning this up tomorrow!”
He checked the time, then shrugged. “I'm going to bed.”
After he left, Pink and Blue exchanged a glance.
“Whoo, angry,” Blue chuckled. “Hey, are you going to wear that to bed?”
“Why not,” Pink shrugged. “It's technically sleepwear anyway. Are you going to wear that?”
Blue reached up to the antlers, and looked dubious.
“Go on,” Pink invited, and after a moment Blue nodded.
“Sure,” he decided. “May as well.”
As they headed to their rooms, Green frowned, then picked up the bottle of mostly-drunk sherry from under the sofa and went to his own room.
That night, visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.
Green groaned, drifting awake, and glanced over at his alarm clock.
It said it was about four in the morning, and he groaned again before trying to go back to sleep. He rolled over, which seemed much harder than before, and he caught a faint view of his reflection in the mirror.
Despite his hangover, the sight made him stare.
Barely able to believe his eyes, Green blinked at the sight of an enormous fat bulk under the blankets. Then he tried to jump to his feet, though it wasn't easy – the bulk he'd spotted turned out to be some kind of big plush deer suit, which constricted his movements and made him much heavier than he'd expected to be.
Muttering dire imprecations to himself, Green got up – noticing as he did that his blanket had disappeared. Walking with some difficulty, he turned the light on, and got a good look at himself.
The first thing he really saw was the thick, soft, black gloves on his hands, but the suit did cover basically everything except his head. His feet were encased in softness, and his legs were so thickly swaddled in plush that it looked like he had hooves – marked by a little black area which seemed to be made of vinyl – while his body was heftily bulked out, making him look very fat in a jolly sort of way.
Turning, Green discovered that the suit included a little dock tail, and the sight made him blush. Then he sat down on the bed, wondering what to do and what monster could have done this, and he heard a loud crinkle sound.
Blushing again, Green felt around his lower body. It certainly seemed as though there was something crinkly wrapped around his waist, under the suit, and thoughts of what it might be made his ears heat up.
Weighing the idea of calling for help, Green hesitated for several seconds before deciding he had to – no matter how embarrassing it might be.
“Guys!” he called. “I think we've got monster problems!”
There were a few seconds of quiet, near silence, then a loud thump from the direction of Pink's room. Then some shouting, by the sounds of things both Pink and Blue.
Green stood up again, waddling heavily with the effect of his ridiculous deer suit, and opened the door.
Having the conversation out in the common area would at least let him take some painkillers.
“This is so bizarre!” Pink said, looking at herself in the mirror again. “How does this even work?”
“Monster stuff, like always,” Green replied, half-listening as he swallowed some aspirin. “Seriously, though, you put on a reindeer suit?”
“I thought a Christmas monster would come, you know, at Christmas?” Pink defended herself. “Besides, did you see this coming either?”
“No,” Green admitted, rubbing his forehead with the thick black gloves of the outfit. It had been real trouble opening the pill bottle and getting a glass of water, though he at least had a better situation than Pink – arguably, anyway.
While his suit was thick and plush to make him look fat, Pink's one was almost as thick but had an entirely different target in mind for what it was doing to her. There was the same plump, puffed-up and somewhat crinkly area around her rump, the same colour scheme – brown on her back, cream on her front, going up to the little tail in the same place Green had his – but her hands were covered in the same kind of hoof-gloves as her feet, and the sleeper's hood had become a hood wrapping most of the way around her face with fine reindeer horns sticking out the top and a pair of cute ears to the side, and the bulk was shaped differently – less to make her fat, more to make her figure a little more deerish in general.
And, most worryingly of all, the outfit was trying to force her down onto all fours. It wasn't quite managing to do that, but Pink was having to walk with a stoop and strain hard when she wanted to straighten up a little – and it still meant her probably-diapered rump was sticking up into the air.
“I did think it was just a bit of fun,” Green agreed. “And I thought Yellow sent it as a prank. But if she didn't… who did?”
“The monster, of course,” Blue replied, sitting down in one of the seats with a sigh. “No luck, by the way.”
Blue's outfit was the one which was the least humiliatingly puffy – relatively, at least – and gave him the use of his hands, though they had black gloves to go with the colour scheme matching that of the other two suits.
Blue's outfit was also differently designed, without much in the way of plushy bulk – instead, he was in mostly skintight shiny latex, though there was still a crinkly mass around his waist – and with the hood around his head joining smoothly to the antlers he'd put on the previous afternoon.
“So Red's still asleep?” Green asked, yawning. “After this?”
“I shook him, no luck,” Blue confirmed. “Something must be keeping him asleep.”
Pink fell onto all fours with a whumph.
Up on the roof, Softhoof the Red-Nosed tilted his head.
It sounded like things were going well!
He trotted over to a fine chimney near the edge of the roof, not particularly bothering to pay attention to where it had come from, and began to squeeze his way down it. His plushy body squished into the tight space, producing a few odd squeaking sounds, and the last part of him to disappear from view was his bright red nose.
“It's not coming off,” Blue said, and stopped pulling.
“Well, thanks for trying,” Green muttered. “Ah, at least my head feels a little better...”
He shook his head. “Okay, so none of the outfits are coming off. That's really embarrassing, but what worries me more is that we can't morph or get Red woken up.”
“Or use the computer,” Yellow supplied. “Blue might be able to, though.”
“I'll give it a go,” Blue agreed, and walked – or waddled – into the computer room.
Just after he did, however, a noise drew the attention of the other two Rangers.
Before their astonished eyes, something appeared in the fireplace that had been fake the previous night, but which now seemed to be acting very much like a real one. The object creaked, then popped out of the cardboard – revealing a pair of thick plush hooves, the legs they were attached to, and a large cream reindeer rump with a wiggly tail.
Another creak, this time with a bit of a crinkle too, and a big belly emerged. Then there was a final back-and-forth shake, and the rest of the reindeer monster came out of the chimney.
“What… the...” Pink gaped.
The monster turned to face them, smiling, and his big red nose glowed and pulsed as he wiggled his antlers.
“Hello!” he said brightly. “It's nice to meet some new reindeer!”
“Did you do this to us?” Pink asked, leaning against the sofa so she didn't fall over.
“He must have done,” Green replied, blinking. He tried to look over at Pink as he talked, but the monster's nose was just fascinating. “How else do you think...”
“Isn't it just a wonderful gift?” the reindeer asked. “Don't you feel all snuggly warm for the cold weather?”
“Well… I guess it is warm,” Pink admitted, in spite of herself, then shook her head. “N-no, stop...”
“Stop what?” he asked. “I'm just pointing out how good it feels to dress up snug and warm and be a happy reindeer!”
Pink felt a tingling run down her spine, coming from the antlers on her reindeer sleeper, and it made her feel all soft and warm and… oddly happy. Her gaze locked on the shiny red nose, and she slipped down onto all fours.
“See?” Softhoof asked her, as his horns began to glow faintly – coloured sparks running over them like Christmas lights – and the same colours appeared on her horns as well. “It feels nice and snug and fuzzy.”
He turned his attention to Green again, who was trying to back away, but as he did he bumped into the sofa and fell backwards onto his crinkle-encased butt.
Reaching back up into the chimney while Green was indisposed, Softhoof produced a gift-wrapped parcel. Carrying it in one hoof, he put it down just in front of Green, and antlers and horn glowed more brightly – reflecting on the ribbon straining to hold the present inside the paper.
“Open your present,” he invited. “Don't you like getting presents?”
Green picked up the present, ready to throw it at the monster, but once it was in his grip he hesitated. Then he moved it back, ready to throw, but the moment he did the ribbon burst and a giant plush reindeer-head exploded out of it.
Suddenly Green was holding a reindeer-suit head, one which looked a bit big even for his current overstuffed suit, and he blinked – the surprise breaking through his concentration.
“Ooh, lovely~!” Softhoof announced. “It's the rest of your costume! Have a look inside, it's made especially for you!”
In Green's startled state, he didn't really remember that the monster was an enemy. He reflexively looked inside the head, and once he was looking into it – holding it close to where it would go when he put it on – he simply couldn't find in him the strength to look away…
“On it goes!” Softhoof announced, and Green slowly lowered it over his head.
As soon as he did the antlers lit up in the same rainbow sparks as Softhoof and Pink, and Green nodded – slowly, with a docile acceptance.
“Now, you're one of the reindeer who helps me pull my sleigh!” Softhoof told Pink proudly. “And you are Father Reindeer, who hands out presents to all the good fawns!”
Green nodded again, accepting his new role.
“Okay...” Blue muttered to himself, typing as best he could with his clumsy gloves. “This is just… really annoying!”
He rubbed absently at the antlers on his head, which bobbed back and forth a little, then tried the command again. This time it opened up the secure console, and he shifted to awkwardly using the mouse.
The scanner was just showing an odd snow effect, but as he zoomed out he began to check the density of the interference. That might let him tell where the monster was… but no, it seemed to have thought of that. The whole city was covered with at least some interference, with the strongest point right on top of the Ranger base.
Sighing, Blue stood up.
“No luck,” he called, opening the door, and got a look directly at two padded-up reindeer suit butts. “Oh, real funny… guys?”
“Aha, there we are!” came a voice – and not one Blue recognized.
Pink and Green both turned to face him, and Blue stepped back in shock at the sight of Green's mascot-style reindeer head. Before he'd worked out why Green would possibly be wearing that, he spotted that their antlers were glowing.
His own pair of ostensibly fake antlers tingled, sending sparks of energy down into his mind, and Blue shook his head as he tried to fight off the mental attack.
“It's good to have another reindeer join the herd,” the voice went on, and Blue caught sight of a red light appearing from between Green and Blue.
The light was on the snout of a big, puffy-looking reindeer, and the oddness of it all made Blue stare for a moment – then he suddenly realized the danger, looking away again before he could be trapped by the very shiny nose.
“Don't you want to be a good deer?” the big plush reindeer asked, and the question sent another glissando of tingling sensations into Blue's mind – stronger this time, and seeming to come in pulses as the antlers of his corrupted comrades flashed.
Blue put his hands to his antlers, trying to pull them off, but they were held fast. His gaze went up to the red nose again, and he bit his lip before mustering the willpower to look away – and running for the door.
The move surprised his foes, who didn't make an effort to stop him until he was halfway through. Blue shoved it shut behind him, and escaped into the morning light – his head full of tingles and the odd desire to look at that shiny red nose again…
After a few seconds, Blue realized just what he was – and was not – wearing. He flushed, and made a promise to himself that he'd hide in the alleyway for as long as he could.
And, ideally, look for something to wear over the ridiculous latex reindeer costume.
“That's such a pity,” Softhoof sighed. “I really hoped he'd want to join us!”
His two new minions didn't cooperate, but Softhoof only had a moment to consider his annoyance before there was a wham as a door slammed wide.
Red levelled his blaster and opened fire, and Softhoof yelped in surprise before galloping for the cardboard chimney.
He vanished into it, followed a short moment later by his two converts, and Pink's suit-hoof had only just stopped wiggling in the cardboard fireplace before Red blasted it and destroyed it.
“What a mess,” the Red Ranger groaned. “Blue? You still here? What the heck happened?”
Up on the roof, Softhoof guided Pink backwards towards his sleigh. He picked up one half of the traces and clipped them on, the bells on her new harness jingling faintly as he tightened it, then fitted himself into the other half.
The sleigh had been a one-deer model when he'd gone down the chimney, but that wasn't any particular concern for him.
“In you get, Father Reindeer!” he told the suited-up Green, now essentially impossible to make out under his thick mascot-style plush. Green nodded, his antlers glittering, and squeezed into the open sleigh next to the big pile of presents.
Softhoof checked everything was ready, making his bells shake, then cantered forwards. Pink copied him, and the sleigh slid into the sky with the runners leaving behind a trail of bright sparks.
Red tried to push the piles of discarded Reindeer-themed stuff to the side of the room, shaking his head.
One of the bottles of eggnog nearly fell off the table, and he caught it automatically. It wasn't something he wanted to drink, but it would be good to at least not spill it on the floor.
Looking at all the potentially-corrupting material, he decided to keep to his suit – that way it couldn't get at him. It might be tiring to stay morphed for hours, but he could deal.
As he was contemplating that, the phone rang.
Running to the nearest handset, he picked it up. “Hello, who is this?”
“Red!” Blue said quickly. “It's me – Blue.”
“Blue, good to hear from you,” Red replied, breathing a sigh of relief. “What happened?”
“There was this reindeer monster-”
“Yeah, I saw,” Red agreed. “I fired at him and he ran off, but he took – well, I think it was Pink and Green, if you're okay. They're gone, so you can come back if you want.”
“I still need to get this suit off,” Blue said. “But – yeah, okay, if you've morphed then maybe we can get your Ranger Sword to do something. What's the plan?”
“Well – I'll come out to get you,” Red decided. “Where are you?”
There was a long pause, during which Blue didn't say anything.
“Blue?” Red asked. “Are you all right?”
He turned up the volume, and could hear a very faint jingling sound.
The phone slipped from Blue's gloved hand as the jingling bells filled the air again, making him feel oddly fuzzy… funny… happy. He frowned for a moment, sure something was wrong, but the bells made him tingle from his hooves – toes – to his antlers – head – and made him smile faintly.
As he blinked, shaking his head to try and concentrate, the jingling got louder. A sleigh swooped down to land just in front of him, and his antlers pulsed in time with the antlers on the three reindeer both in front of and in charge of the sleigh.
“You look thirsty,” said the puffy red-nosed reindeer on the near side of the traces. “And you must be cold, too! Out so early in such thin clothes!”
“I… well...” Blue began, and the reindeer stomped his hooves to make his bells jingle in unison. The other four-legged reindeer did the same, and the jingles smoothed away Blue's hesitation. “Yeah, I am kind of cold...”
“Well, that's an easy problem!” the red-nosed reindeer told him, antlers pulsing, and with every pulse Blue felt a little colder and a little thirstier – but, at the same time, a little safer to know this friendly reindeer was here to take care of him. “Father Reindeer can help!”
Silently, Father Reindeer passed Blue a wrapped box. Blue tore the paper off it, opened the cardboard box inside, and found a bottle of reindeer-brand eggnog – already nice and warm!
Thankful for the gift, he drank some of it down, and sighed with relief as the warmth flowed down his throat. He wobbled a little on his feet, took another drink, and felt a warm, fuzzy feeling come over him.
“Do you want a lift?” the red-nosed reindeer asked, antlers sparkling, and Blue nodded. Father Reindeer slid to one side on the bench seat, offering just enough room for Blue to slip in if he snuggled close, and Blue got in – already taking another drink of his eggnog.
Father Reindeer put one plush arm around him, and Blue sank into the soft body of the reindeer sleigh rider – feeling waves of happy tingling flow down through his antlers into his mind, making him relaxed as the antlers began to sparkle and flash.
His own latexy deer-suit began to puff out, a little at a time...
Red looked at the phone, sighed, then put it back on the desk and sank into the chair.
He put his head in his hands. He'd heard bells, then nothing, which sounded as though the monster had managed to sneak up on Blue and capture him as well – if Blue had had to run, he surely would have said something.
After carefully thinking it over, he picked up the phone to call Yellow – still on holiday.
“Hi,” he began.
“It's me,” Yellow replied. “What is it?”
“Some kind of deer monster, I'm afraid,” Red told her. “Big and soft, kind of cartoony in a way. It got the others.”
Yellow hissed into the phone.
“That's not good,” she said. “I'd better come back, then.”
“Thanks,” Red sighed. “That's a load off my mind… and watch out, too. I'm going to go handle things with the college so they don't ask where the others are.”
He ended the call, already thinking about what excuse he was going to use this time. Perhaps something about a stomach bug?
Up on a convenient roof, Softhoof inspected his new recruits with a sigh.
He'd been doing pretty well, it was true, with two full reindeer and one increasingly puffy one, but the problem was he had no full sets! This would make it much harder to set up the reins properly, which was a problem for a reindeer to think about hard and no mistake.
He put a hoof to his muzzle, squishing them together a bit, then shook his bells as he slipped his own harness. Trotting around to Blue, still sitting in the sleigh, he waved his antlers to get Blue's attention.
“Hey!” he said. “I've got a job for you!”
Blue looked up, getting a full look right into the shiny red nose. His expression went dopey and slack, and Softhoof smiled.
“It's a nice easy job,” he went on. “But you'll need to be dressed for it, so you don't forget what you're doing… you've got your horns, which is good, but you'll need your reins too! Father Reindeer, do you have another present for our newest recruit?”
Father Reindeer rummaged in his sack, then brought out a well-wrapped parcel.
“Go ahead, open it!” Softhoof encouraged, and Blue nodded a little absently before complying.
Inside was a fine harness, with blue material making up the straps, and festooned with little silver bells. It was hard to tell at first, but as Blue lifted it out it seemed to be sized just right to fit him – at least, with his outfit as puffed up as it was now.
“Doesn't that look nice?” Softhoof asked. “I bet it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy to get such a nice present from Father Reindeer! Now, on it goes, and then you can go and do your mission for me without getting sidetracked!”
His eyes swirled a little, keeping Blue focused on them as he talked. “You're going to give an extra special present!”
Red opened the base door, went through, then morphed as soon as he was out of sight.
Taking his helmet off and putting it to the side, he sighed. Sorting out the missing Rangers with their college had taken hours, partly just to have the same conversation three times over and partly because of the trip to visit a doctor miles away in the suburbs.
Months ago, when the Rangers had first formed, they'd managed to get a friendly doctor's help for whenever they needed some kind of official justification for not showing up somewhere. He was willing enough to provide them with doctors' notes saying something mundane instead of what had actually happened – but part of the complication was that Red had had to go and visit him instead of handling it by phone.
Still, that was done, and Yellow was going to be showing up before long – tomorrow, actually, once she finally got back to town. So Red just had to spend an evening in, and everything would be fine.
Slumping down in his chair, Red checked for any more messages on the computers – nothing – then shrugged.
Time for dinner.
Blue watched as the lights went on.
Part of him wanted to walk up to the door and ask for help. To get Red to do everything he could to get the suit off.
Memories of Softhoof's glittering antlers swam through his mind, and he frowned before shaking his head – making the bells jingle, and making it even harder to concentrate.
He stilled himself with effort, and took a step forwards – producing another jingle, and reminding him that Softhoof had told him to come back for another present once his job was done.
Another present did sound nice…
Blue took another step, and the jingles resonated in his head – not seeming to go away. He wavered, then turned and walked back the other way.
It wasn't far.
“There you are!” Softhoof smiled, as Blue arrived back at the sleigh. “Did you deliver all the presents?”
Blue nodded, bells jingling.
“Well done,” Softhoof told him with a smile. “Let's see what else is in Father Reindeer's sack for you!”
The entranced Green Ranger – now Father Reindeer – reached into his bag, rummaged around for a bit, and revealed a succulent orange carrot. As it emerged, Softhoof's antlers glowed brighter as he drew on the connections between all of his reindeer – amplifying the suggestion that Reindeer Love Carrots, stronger and stronger.
Blue's eyes lit up, and he took the carrot in both hands before starting to eat. With every bite his bells jingled louder, and Softhoof felt him sinking deeper into the right mindset for a good reindeer.
It was a happy moment.
Red finished his dinner, and took another drink from his squash.
Normally, there was nothing especially inspiring about just having something reheated from the freezer, and today was pretty much the same – except that the drink was really very nice! It was an odd thing, but the squash was much tangier and fruitier than normal.
It was probably just that Red had put a bit more concentrate in than normal, or something, but he'd have to remember to do that in future – it had really spiced up an otherwise morose evening.
He stifled a giggle, then took another drink.
It would be a shame to have some of it go to waste, really…
Red took another swig, then noticed with some annoyance that the drink was pretty much finished.
A little fuzzy, he decided to see if there was anything else to drink. Maybe it would be silly to have all the concentrate, but there were some other drinks in the building.
Like all that eggnog, for example…
After thinking about that idea for a bit, Red decided… it couldn't be too much of a problem if he had the eggnog, could it? After all, if he stayed morphed then it couldn't do that much to him.
Red sipped at his glass of eggnog.
It was very nice stuff! He could see why the others had had so much of it, last night – was it really only last night? - and there was enough left he had no fear of running out.
Licking his lips, he took a big gulp this time, then put the glass down and lay back on the couch.
It was a bit cold, even with his Ranger outfit on, but the eggnog had a lovely warming effect. Still, the warming tingle didn't last very long, so Red started to wonder how he could best stay warm for longer.
Taking another mouthful of eggnog to tide him over, Red looked around the room – then his eyes fell on the second reindeer romper, left in the corner of the room after Pink had offered it to him the previous evening.
No, it probably wasn't a good idea. Red shook his head, though something did continue to niggle at him.
Maybe it wouldn't be as bad an idea as all that? After all, the problem last night had been the monster coming in… and if he stayed morphed, in his Ranger costume, then he wouldn't be vulnerable like the others had been.
Still thinking, Red sipped some more eggnog.
It would look cute…
Some hours later, Red yawned.
The reindeer romper had indeed been nice and comfortable, in fact so comfortable it had raised his mood, and he'd sat down in front of the TV to watch a nice film.
It had been a very calming, pleasant experience, especially with a few more drinks of eggnog and even a bit of sherry, and he yawned again before lying down on the couch.
It sounded like too much effort to go to bed… he could just nap here.
As he drifted off, an animated film about reindeer played quietly on the TV screen.
Yellow checked the bus timetable again, then sighed.
After another missed connection, she'd be lucky to get back to base in time for a full night's sleep. Hopefully Red wouldn't mind if she spent a morning recovering from her journey – they needed to stop the monster, but it wouldn't be any good trying on no sleep.
After some odd, fuzzy dreams, Red muttered something before drifting awake again. It was an indistinct, not-really-there kind of awake, but it was enough for him to hear something.
“How are you?”
It was a nice voice, a pleasant voice, and Red smiled. “Good...”
“That's good,” the voice told him, and this time the words seemed to make a little tingle run down his spine. It wasn't much, and he stayed very drowsy, but it sounded nice too.
“Have you heard about Softhoof the Red-Nosed?” the voice asked.
“Mm...hmmm...” Red nodded minutely. “He's a reindeer monster… tries to trick people…”
“It sounds like you do,” the voice agreed. “Do you think he could trick you?”
Red shook his head this time, not seeing a problem with continuing the conversation. “No...”
He was too smart to fall for any of those tricks!
“Oh, but Softhoof is a sneaky reindeer,” the voice said, still calm and smoothing. The room was dimly lit, but it seemed to be getting a bit brighter – and a bit redder, as well. “You might not even realize you're falling into his traps… like drinking eggnog, or sherry… perhaps putting on something a reindeer might wear, or that makes you look just like a reindeer...”
Those words gave Red pause, and he shifted – beginning to feel worried, but in an odd kind of way as if he were a little boy who'd been caught out by a parent.
“Maybe he might even be so sneaky,” the voice went on, more and more persuasive, “that you might not even notice you're wearing a pair of antlers, staring at the red light of his nose, until it's too late to do anything?”
Red mumbled something, blushed, and fell off the couch with a thump. Scrambling to all fours – finding himself wrapped in thick plush – he looked up, and his gaze locked onto Softhoof's swirling green eyes and glowing red nose.
“There we go,” Softhoof chuckled. “Another happy new deer for me...”
“Okay, I'm back!” Yellow called, shutting the door behind her. “There was just problem after problem with the buses and stuff...”
She yawned, putting down the bag of supplies she'd got from the corner shop, then frowned. “Red?”
No reply, so she picked up the bag again and put the contents in the fridge before going to check on the computer records.
“Red, you idiot...” Yellow groaned.
She hadn't had time to watch all the available recordings, but it was pretty clear already that Red had made several foolish decisions – practically inviting the monster in to corrupt him! Though it looked like a lot of his mistakes could be blamed fundamentally on drinking all that eggnog…
Frowning, Yellow got up and sniffed the squash. Now she was looking for it, there was a faint hint of something intoxicating in there…
Screwing the top back on, Yellow sighed. So… somehow the monster, or one of her teammates under the monster's control, had managed to get in here and spike the drinks. That was a problem, and it meant she couldn't trust anything that had been in the base for more than a few hours.
Making up her mind, Yellow got out one of the energy drinks she'd picked up in the shop, and mixed up some coffee as well from the instant she'd got at the same time. Draining the coffee cup, then taking a quick sip of the energy drink, Yellow exhaled as she felt the rush flow through her.
When she morphed, there'd be another big rush of energy too, which would let her fight as well as she normally could.
It wouldn't last too long, and she'd crash something fierce when it all wore off, but until then Yellow had her chance.
After a few minutes rummaging around, Yellow found the pair of antlers left over from the 'presents' the monster had provided as if they were from her. Inspecting them carefully, she put them down on the table with half a roll of twine wrapped around them before going into the cupboard again to look for something she was sure she remembered from last Christmas.
Looking for this took longer, and she finally dug it out after almost twenty minutes – a pair of light-up reindeer antlers from last Christmas. The battery was worn out, but a quick bit of work with a screwdriver had the battery replaced with a new one.
Looking at them, Yellow went over her plan again.
Pretend to be controlled by the antlers. Lure the monster out into the open. Morph and attack him.
It wasn't a very sophisticated plan, but it was the best she could come up with.
Softhoof fussed over the harness of his newest reindeer friend.
With two four-legged reindeer, one two-legged reindeer, Father Reindeer in the sleigh, and himself of course, it was nearly enough – but not quite! He needed one more deer in the traces, so that way he would be able to gallop along in front of two sets of two deer.
At least now he could put Red and Pink nearest the sleigh, then Blue in front of them, and himself in front of Blue, but-
Softhoof left off his consideration when he spotted the door of the Ranger base open.
That last Ranger – Yellow? - came stumbling out, wobbly and distracted and with a pair of antlers on her head, and Softhoof quickly finished clipping Red into place with his big plush hooves before wheeling about and cantering off the rooftop.
Sparks flying from his hooves, he circled once as he headed down to ground level before halting in front of the Ranger.
Yellow tried not to show her nerves.
“I'm so glad you've come to see the magic of Christmas!” the plump plushy reindeer told her, shaking his head and making his antlers shake back and forth a little.
Yellow let her eyes unfocus, watching the antlers the way she was sure she was supposed to be, and nodded.
The monster was still too far away from her. She needed him to come a bit closer, so she could attack his antlers the moment she transformed.
“But you'll want to see your friends!” the reindeer added. “I forgot! They're your old friends, but your new friends as well!”
He shook his rump, hooves squeaking as they hit the ground, and Yellow saw something come shooting off the nearby rooftop.
It landed in front of her with a sliding, skidding sound, drawn by one two-legged rubbery reindeer and two four-legged plushy reindeer, and with a great big reindeer in a puffy outfit in the seat.
All four of them had antlers glowing in a steady glittering sequence as well, and Yellow blinked a few times – fighting the urge to shake her head and clear it.
“Don't they look so happy?” the reindeer asked.
He was still too far away, so Yellow nodded. “Yeah...”
“Such good reindeer, happy and without a care,” he went on. “Because I look after all my reindeer, even Father Reindeer. Isn't that right?”
The other Rangers all nodded in unison, their own antlers bobbing up and down.
“Yes, Softhoof...” Blue mumbled.
“There, see!” Softhoof smiled. “And I bet you're ready to join in too!”
He trotted around behind her, and Yellow turned – making it look as if she was following the lights of his antlers and his eyes and his glowing red nose, though she kept her eyes unfocused, but also ready in case he came too close.
Then something landed on her head.
“That's better~!” the reindeer caroled. “Much more snug!”
Yellow reached up, and found two pairs of antlers on her head – the ones she'd put on, and a new pair already making her feel tingles all down her spine.
“Hey!” she protested. “S-stop!”
“But you agreed your friends look happy, and that you've seen the magic of Christmas!” Softhoof replied, his antlers drawing her attention again – no!
Reaching for her wrist, Yellow triggered her morpher and transformed. “Morph on!”
The flush of energy she expected washed over her as she morphed, but it had an odd tingle to it – one which started at her head, infusing itself into the morphing energy as it rushed over her, and leaving her oddly light-headed.
“Oh, how thoughtful of you!” Softhoof said, antlers and eyes and nose all glowing together, and Yellow reached for her sword.
Her hand failed to grasp it.
Startled, she looked down, and saw just a plushy little black hoof on a brown latex-covered arm. Her other hand was the same, and her chest was covered in cream latex while the rest of her was brown as well.
She noticed the diaper that had formed under her suit a moment later, but then Softhoof's soothing voice spoke again.
“Doesn't that feel so much comfier?” he asked. “Cozier? Feeling your outfit puff up a little whenever those plush hooves of yours take a step?”
Yellow tried to resist, using all her mental strength to fight off his hypnotic words and the sight of his glowing, entrancing antlers, but pulses of calming light took the edge off her rage and reminded her how long it had been since she'd last had a chance to relax.
She took a step back, then another, and Softhoof kept talking.
“Don't you want to say thank you to Father Reindeer for giving you such a good gift?”
“Well...” Yellow wavered, then a pair of mittens came to rest on her shoulders.
She wanted to look away, but she couldn't drag her eyes away from the soothing stare of the reindeer in front of her.
The mittens squeezed both shoulders, making her realize that her outfit was – in addition to being very reindeer-y – a lot puffier than it had been before. Then the mittens let go, and a faint jingling lit sparks in her mind as a harness was strapped around her chest and shoulders and squeezing her diaper.
“Helping bring joy to everyone around,” Softhoof told her. “Sounds nice, doesn't it?”
Yellow nodded, floating on a curtain of soft fuzzy thoughts and happy giggly Christmassy energy.
“That's a happy new deer,” Softhoof said to her. “You're going to have a very happy holiday season~”
Over a month later, Softhoof looked out over the city with a happy smile.
It was snowing, it was nearly time for Christmas, and he was ready to bring Christmas to everyone! With his two two-legged rubbery reindeer behind him, the two four-legged plushy reindeer behind them, and a sleigh piled high with reindeer gifts and Father Reindeer himself… why, they'd be able to visit everyone and give them all a wonderful Christmas present!
That was just how Christmas worked, after all. Everyone was full of good deer.