The deck and crow's nest of the Gokai Galleon were protected from the barren harshness of space by energy shields, strong enough to keep out radiation and debris, and keep in the climate controlled air of the ship, but completely invisible. Gai often spent hours up in the crow's nest, watching stars he didn't recognize and trying to figure out which direction Earth was in, especially once they left the Solar System. He was enjoying his time with Marvelous and the crew, traveling to new and exciting planets he'd never even dreamed existed, let alone that he would one day visit. They were still a long way from Zangyack's home planetary system, and had a lot more stops to make on the way, and Gai was soaking up all the experience from it that he could.
Still, the further they traveled from his home, and the more foreign the stars and planets around him started to look, he gradually began to realize just how much he missed Earth. How much he missed his home and his sun and his moon and his constellations. His excitement was still burning bright, and he wasn't homesick, not really, but he could be enjoying himself and still miss home, couldn't he?
He'd grown so used to the passage of time out there, to measuring days and nights and weeks by what Don had explained to him was the Galactic Standard clock and calendar, that he'd lost almost complete track of even what month it was back home. For a while he tried to follow along, tried to keep the Earth clock and calendar in his thoughts, even as he adapted to a 25 hour day and a 500 day - divided up into ten chunks that he equated to months - year, but at some point he'd lost track. He was pretty sure it was winter back home in Japan right now, but even that wasn't a certainty for him.
Gai sighed, leaning on the railing of the crow's nest as he tried to count the rings on the purple and red planet they were currently orbiting. A non-habitable world, Joe had told him, but with a small colony on one of its moons where they had refueled and resupplied for another long chunk of travel in deeper space. It was a really pretty view, and Gai made sure to memorize as much as he could, from the vibrant colors of the planet to the glowing lights of the colony on the nearby moon's surface.
"Oi, Gai!" Luka's voice was sharp behind him, but she was smiling when he turned around. "You're late for dinner, Doc's been causing a fuss over the fact that he had to make the whole thing by himself, so you better come down to eat before he feeds your share to Marvelous."
Gai smiled sheepishly at her, rubbing at the back of his head. "Ah, sorry. I guess I lost track of time. I'll help him clean up though! I promise!"
Luka shook her head and gave him a little shove in the direction of the stairs down into the ship. "Tell him that, not me."
As they moved down the stairs and into the common room, Gai's senses were assaulted by too many familiar sights and smells all at once. Greens and reds and silvers and golds, mint and cinnamon, fresh baked sugar cookies and some breed of roast fowl. The table was covered in food, a big dinner of things that were as close to Earth foods as they could find this far out from home, as well as baked goods that Gai knew Joe had gone all out on, making sure each little detail was perfect and authentic. The room had been decorated in garlands and bows and glittering lights. There was a small tree in the center of the room that was obviously some sort of evergreen, and while it wasn't much like anything that grew back on Earth, Gai could tell that his crew mates had tried to find the closest thing they could to a pine tree. It was the only thing in the room not decorated - except for lights that Marvelous was supervising Joe stringing up on it - but there were several boxes of ornaments near it, waiting to be put in their places.
"Merry Christmas, Gai-san," Ahim smiled sweetly as she walked up to him and placed a cup of steaming chocolate tea in his hands. He held it between his palms, letting the steam curl its way up to his nose. He could smell the richness of the chocolate, and the clean aroma of peppermint almost made him shiver as if he'd just come inside out of a cold snowy evening. Ahim held her hands over his for a long moment, like she was waiting to see if he was steady enough to hold the mug, and brushed her thumbs gently against his.
"It's Christmas?" Gai asked, as he finally found his voice again, gazing around the room with all the wonder of a child. Ahim nodded, and Luka laughed as she gave his back a firm smack, almost making him splash his tea.
"We guessed that you'd lost track of the Earth calendar," Don came into the room from the galley, holding a large pan of roasted nuts between oven mitted hands. He set the pan down on the table with the rest of the feast, and turned to face Gai proper. "So we decided to surprise you with the closest thing to a proper Christmas we could manage out here."
"I know you wanted to be back on Earth for the holidays," Marvelous said. Joe had moved further up the tree with the lights, and Marvelous was supporting him with one lazy hand spread out over his backside. "We figured this was the next best thing."
Joe glanced over and gave him a little thumbs up, keeping most of his focus on finishing up with the lights. Gai looked around the room again, and at each of his crew mates. They were all smiling at him in their own ways; Marvelous' lopsided grin, Don bright eyes, Luka's playful smirk, Ahim's sweet smile, and Joe with just the barest upturn to the corners of his mouth. Gai sniffled as his vision began to blur, finally having to just look down into his tea to compose himself.
"You guys..." Gai sniffled again, and when he blinked he felt wetness hit the backs of his hands, still clutching tightly to the warm mug in his palms. "You didn't have to do all this. I- I didn't even know it was Christmas."
"Don't be an idiot." Luka gave him a little shove, then threw her arm around his shoulders. Ahim took the cup from his hands as Luka jerked him around, dragging him over to the tree. Ahim set the cup down on the table before following after them, and Don joined them a moment later, slipping his oven mitts off his hands and tossing them into a spare chair.
"It's important to you." Joe said as he stepped down off the ladder, the lights finally securely wrapped around the entire length of the strange, but wonderful, Christmas tree. "So it's important to us."
Marvelous joined Luka in throwing an arm over Gai's shoulders once he reached the tree, and Gai was caught up in a tight sideways hugging grip from the both of them. Don gave his hair a ruffle as he moved past, him and Ahim reaching to pick up some of the boxes of ornaments. Don held one out to Gai, and he picked up one of the decorations, glittering gold letters that spelled out 'Merry Christmas'. He placed it among the long needled branches and sniffled again, rubbing hard at he eyes with the back of one hand after.
"Alright," Marvelous released Gai's shoulders and clapped his hands together, yanking the box of ornaments out of Don's hand after. "Let's get this tree finished up so we can finally eat. I'm starving."
Laughter followed Marvelous' words, some of them loud like Luka and Marvelous, some of them soft and only noticeable to those that were part of the crew, like Joe, but each one made Gai feel warm inside as they set about putting the decorations up on the tree. Gai helped instruct them on the proper placement of ornaments, how not to cluster them all in one spot, and to keep the smaller ones up top and the bigger ones down on the lower branches. Dinner was lively, and while the food was non-traditional in many ways, it was comforting, and familiar enough that Gai felt almost like he was back home on Earth, sharing his customs with his new family. No gifts were exchanged, but each of them told stories of customs from their own worlds that were even vaguely similar to Earth's Christmas, and Gai cried at least three more times before they were all ready to head to their cabins for bed.
Gai was the first one to make his way down the hallway leading to their rooms, but as he took a few steps down it, he was stopped with a grip on his wrist. Ahim's small hand slid down to hold tight to his own. She smiled sweetly at him, then tilted her head and glanced up toward the ceiling. He followed her gaze, and saw that just above him a cluster of green leaves and some strange looking white berries had been tied up there. It wasn't mistletoe, but it was close enough that Gai got the idea in an instant.
Ahim lifted herself up on her tiptoes, tugging him downward just slightly with their joined hands, and pressed a sweet brushing kiss to his lips. Gai felt his ears go hot, and he had a feeling there was pink dusting his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose when she pulled away. He opened his mouth to speak, but she put a finger to his lips, gesturing with a tilt of her head behind her, where the rest of the crew stood, then stepped aside.
Luka came next, tangling a hand in his hair and pulling him in for a much more forceful kiss than the one Ahim had given him. Luka liked to kiss hard, and with a bit of teeth added in, nipping at his bottom lip for an added bit of roughness. His lips tingled when she pulled away, and he knew he was blushing when she gave him a wink after.
Don stepped over, starting his kiss with a brushing of noses and a small laugh. He didn't kiss to bruise like Luka liked to, but he wasn't chaste nor shy about it, like Ahim often was, and his lips were softer than both of the girls, as Gai had learned before this. Don ended the kiss just as it began, rubbing their noses together, like quotation marks around a promise.
Joe was never one for public affection, not even entirely comfortable with it around the rest of the crew. So he was already a bit flushed and embarrassed when he stepped near. He cleared his throat and pressed an incredibly brief kiss to the corner of Gai's mouth, but the way he brushed his hand against Gai's as he drew back made up for the lack of sweetness of his kiss.
Finally Marvelous' turn came, and the smirk he gave Gai made Gai's flush darken all the more. He didn't lean in for a kiss though, didn't tangle his hand in Gai's hair nor wrap an arm around his waist. Instead he just grabbed Gai around the middle and lifted him up off his feet. Gai squawked as Marvelous threw him over one shoulder, one arm wrapped tight around his thighs to keep him in place even as he flailed in surprise.
"Enough of this nonsense," Marvelous laughed, and began making his way down the hallway with Gai still tossed over one shoulder. Gai made a show of trying to struggle, but he was laughing, he couldn't help it, his giddiness was nearly overwhelming him, and it only grew stronger as he noticed that the rest of the crew wasn't moving off toward their own rooms, but following after him and Marvelous' to the captain's cabin.
Joe closed the door behind them all, and Gai took a moment to reflect on how lucky he actually was - he may have been far from his home and all the familiar things there, but he wasn't alone in that, his crew was there with him - before Marvelous tossed him down onto his wide bed and quickly made the rest of his thoughts scatter with a deep kiss.