Don knew he’d done something wrong long before Ahim had approached him after dinner, looking sad and more than a little put upon. Then, Luka had gotten involved, coming up behind him to poke him repeatedly in the back as they’d marched him to the base of the stairs and the ladder up to the crow’s nest. Not that he’d really needed the prodding – or the bruise in between his shoulder blades – and considering Luka’s role in this whole affair, Don thinks it was a bit rich of her. But considering that Ahim had handed Marvelous and Joe dish duty to free Don’s evening (and for the next several nights as punishment, possibly for him since he’ll have to replace everything they manage to break and rewash all the dishes in the morning), well, Don can see why Luka’d felt like she needed to be seen helping. All in all, between the two of them, it had felt an awful lot like he was being made to walk the plank.
Don can count the number of times he’s been up to the crow’s nest on one hand, even considering he’s the one in charge of maintenance. Besides that he’s busiest – ignoring situations where things or people are trying to kill them – when they’re onboard, he likes being inside. The view of the vast sky above and the horizon spread out below while they’re planet bound just isn’t as appealing to him, as say, not falling to his death if a strong breeze comes up, or if Zangyack tries to shoot them out of the sky. But the crow’s nest is the preferred brooding site for the rest of the crew – not that Don would point that out to anyone, but to an interested observer it’s a pretty obvious trend. So Don, like Ahim, had known that when Gai had missed dinner, that’s where he’d be, which is why Don is now making his way to the highest point of the ship instead of being safely curled up under a console or tucked up in front of his desk.
Absently Don notes the odd points of wear on the stairs and ladder rungs as he climbs, since although the GokaiGalleon will let him know when something needs repair, she’s a pirate through and through – more so than any of them really – so she’ll often do it by sending up a warning only after someone has fallen through a patch of floor or been subjected to an ice cold shower. She tends to be more upfront with him – he’s never sure if it’s because she likes him in particular, or if she’s afraid of chasing away the one person who’s willing to actually read her output – but in a case like this, with Ahim and Luka rushing him off, she’d have had no way of warning him beforehand. Also, he’s noticed warnings tend to be delayed for the areas that are generally frequented only by Marvelous, Joe or Luka, who honestly seem to enjoy the occasional challenge to their continued well-being.
Don finally reaches the last rung of the ladder, and pushes the hatch above him open, pulling himself up through it and on to his belly before flipping over. And maybe it’s the stress of the climb of possible death, but he has a moment of pure panic when he looks around and sees nothing, but a cloudless night sky full of alien stars above him, and the red boards of the crow’s nest around him.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, taaaap, taaaap, tappa.
He can just barely hear the rhythmic tapping of heels against the boards over the thundering of his heart, but Don breathes a sigh of relief at the sound coming from behind him. Even if he knows it’s stupid and silly to worry about Gai, after all in serious fight Gai can, and has, given Marvelous a run for his money – although not when there’s money involved since Marvelous cheats outrageously – it doesn’t stop Don’s quick mind from producing several very messy and unpleasant reasons for not seeing the earthling.
Don pulls his feet all the way out of the hatch, and tilts his head back. By its light he can just make out what must be Gai above him, sitting on top of the railing, his feet dangling over the ledge with his heels tapping against the outside of the nest. There’s a soft whump as the hatch closes, and although it takes several seconds for Don’s eyes to adjust to the darkness, he manages to only bump his head once against the boards as he slithers to the other side of the basket.
“Don-san, why do you get so annoyed when I call you ‘Don-san’?”
Even without his eyes adjusting to the gloom, slowly revealing details like Gai’s hands clenched against the wood, his hunched back, and the fact that he is leaning far too much over the edge for Don’s liking, Don doesn’t have to see to know that Gai hasn’t looked to check who came up. Then again, Don considers as he uses the railing to pull himself to his feet, it’s likely less that Gai was expecting – waiting for ? – him, and more likely that he’s been around long enough to know Don’s the only one who tends to find walls head first.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, taaaap, taaaap, tappa. Ta –
“I’m really sorry I let them eat your chocolates!” Don bows as deeply as he can given the cramped nature of the crow’s nest, and only narrowly avoids finishing the job the wall started by almost braining himself on the mast. “I didn’t know –”
Don flinches at Gai’s interruption, but doesn’t lift his head up. Gai’s voice is monotone and so unlike the usual bubbling enthusiasm that characterises him that, quite frankly, Don’s afraid of what he might see if he does. It’s suddenly very quiet around them, as Gai’s feet hit against the wall one last time and stay there, and Don is conscious of the blood starting to rush to his ears, the muscles in the small of his back letting him know he’d better not be thinking of holding this pose for too long, the slight ache from where he’d hit his head on the wall, and Gai’s quiet, oh so quiet, breathing.
They stay like that for what feels like an eternity, to Don at least, but he can only hold the pose for so long before there are black dots starting to dance across his eyes, and his back seriously protests and Don’s forced to straighten up and actually look at Gai. When he does, Gai hasn’t moved from his position on the edge of the railing. His only response to Don’s presence is the question still hanging between them and, as Don watches, he curls in on himself just that bit more in response to Don’s scrutiny.
Don sighs, and walks over to stand beside the man he once thought of as his rival, and now thinks of as his teammate and maybe, if he hasn’t messed things up too much, would consider for other, no less or more important, labels. He takes a minute as he leans against the railing to look out over the planet he’s come to think of, well, not as home – that’s the GokaiGalleon – but if he were to consider settling down planet-side again; Earth would definitely be his first choice. But it isn’t where he was born, and sometimes the cultural divide seems almost as daunting as the gulf that currently separates them from the planet below.
Honestly, how was he to know that chocolates could have a meaning? Especially since Gai gives them to him all the time. He can generally count on getting several little silver -wrapped cones a day, more if he’s been injured, or done Gai a favour. The steady flow of chocolates meant that it hadn’t occurred to Don that when Marvelous, Joe, and Luka had asked for some of the ones that Gai’d given him today – slightly oddly shaped and strangely enough white, but still covered in the typical silver foil – he should have said ‘no’. It just hadn’t clicked that they could have been for him, let alone made for him. Obviously, Gai had given them to him, smiling bright enough to near blind, but that’s Gai, or, as Don considers the sombre form beside him, that’s how Gai is normally.
And he owes Gai, more than for just some chocolates, so Don tries to think of how to explain this life they – he’s –lived up here in a way that would make sense for someone incredible enough to be GokaiSilver. An earthling who walked up to a group of pirates and forced his way into the crew, filling a space between them that they hadn’t even known had existed. But, Don supposes, if he says something wrong or absolutely mortifying, he can fall back on pretending that Gai misinterpreted something, a tactic he’s seen Luka use several times, since the cultural divide goes both ways. Or, he thinks, raising a hand from the railing to rub absently at the sore spot on his head, maybe he can just claim a concussion.
“I’m not very good at being a pirate,” Don says, not deprecatingly like he often does in front of the others, but a statement of truth here with the stars and the cities lit, making the darkness around them stretch and flow in waves of silence.
Don can feel Gai’s flinch beside him, and his hand drops, almost of its own accord, to move towards Gai’s, but he manages to catch himself, pulling back instead to clasp his hands together on top of the rail. Almost sadly, he knows that however unpleasant it might sound out in the open, even Gai, with all his never ending optimism, can’t argue his statement is anything other than the honest truth. Realistically, none of them are great pirates, although Ahim and Luka probably come closest out of them all.
“Actually,” Don laughs a little, feeling the railing bite into his palms as his hands clench together. “I’m not much good at anything, besides what I’m good at I mean, and everything I’m good at is something that they could be good at too if they really wanted.”
Don suddenly notices his hands are very cold, and, looking down, he can see his knuckles are white, almost as white as the chocolate Gai’d given him earlier. Shakings his hands out, he wraps fingers around the railing, a little disappointed that his nails are too short to bite into it when he grips. Fleetingly he thinks that, although it might have been a bit cathartic, at least he’ll be able to lecture the others about not damaging the ship without feeling like a hypocrite next time Marvelous asks for a Treasure Navigate, or Luka decides to steal all the screws from Marvelous’ chair for gambling stakes.
“And you,” Don continues, feeling the blood flow to his fingers cut off almost entirely from how hard he’s gripping the railing. “You can do everything I can and then some. I don’t mind! Well… Not anymore.”
Don cuts off Gai’s response by the simple expedient of leaning against him. He’d meant it as a companionable nudge, but the added pressure causes his numb hands to slip along the railing and he ends up dropping the majority of his weight against the solid presence at his side. While most of his mind is caught up being desperately grateful not to have cracked his head open on the railing, or with his luck, gone over it, Don notes absently that Gai is a little colder than he should be for how long he’s been outside, especially considering he’s wearing his usual silver jacket and scarf. Don considers he’ll have to update the meal plans to include some foods to improve circulation, since, after all, Gai isn’t used to living at the altitudes the rest of them have long since adjusted to. It’s hard to remember sometimes that he’s only been a part of the crew for a few short months, but then it’s hard to remember that they’ve only been here, on Earth, for that long as well. Don adjusts his feet so he’s a bit more balanced, but, since the other man hasn’t pushed him away, he stays tucked up against Gai’s side. After all, he considers as he goes to carry on, it’s not just Gai that could use a little bit of warmth right now.
“I mean, I cook and, yes, I watch to make sure everyone is staying healthy, but you could do that, or Navi could program it into the ship if we asked. I fix things, but if any of you would take the time to learn about how the ship works that’s no challenge either. She even tells you where the issues are and what needs to be done. Sometimes even in time to fix it. It’s incredible actually.” Don can’t keep the smile off of his face thinking about the GokaiGalleon; really she’s just that amazing. “I’m pretty certain that although they pretend otherwise, Luka and Joe can read the computer outputs and I know Marvelous can. He’s just embarrassed to be good at it; doesn’t suit a pirate Captain after all, but you know him.” Don also thinks it’s part of the game GokaiGalleon plays with her Captain, since generally a string of output that Don will swear is entirely incoherent is preceded by Marvelous doing something incredibly irresponsible, and followed by a quiet huff of fond laughter from the Captain.
Don takes a deep breath, a pause to think and try to order his thoughts into something solid, something certain. “Joe is incredibly strong, not just with fighting, but as a person, you know? Ahim is the heart of us, the times when she’s knocked Marvelous onto a path we could agree on…” Don trails off, shivering against not just from the cold, but also memories of fights and friction, before they were all this crew, this sentai they’d become. “Luka, well, she’s so brave, and Marvelous is… like the Gokai Galleon… right? He’s just amazing, and without him we wouldn’t be here, any of us… Even you, Gai.”
“I guess, when the others call me Doc it reminds me that I’m important to them. That I have something to offer to this ship and this crew. That Doc has a place here… Even if Don’s not that great.”
Don shrugs, feeling his shoulder rub against Gai’s arm and pulls back to give the other man a bit of space; he hadn’t meant to stay up against him for that long. Even if Gai still hasn’t pulled away, he hasn’t leaned back either, so Don figures he’s still a bit pissed off and this lack of reaction is his – slightly petty – response. Either that or Don’s broken him, which almost makes Don laugh when he thinks it, since that really can’t be the case.
“I don’t expect you to understand, but… Well, when you insist on calling me Don-san, it’s like– it’s like reminding me that I’m Don too. That I might pretend at being Doc, at being GokaiGreen, at being brave and a hero, but no matter what, I’m still just Don. Don who’s not… Not very brave, and not very good at things.”
Don looks down at his hands, again clenched tight enough to be almost nothing but white shadows against the red boards. Gai’s hands are the same beside his, barely visible in the twilight, and, as still as Gai is, it’s only his quiet breathing that convinces Don he’s actually there and not some silvery ghost called up by the moonlight. It’s such a difference to Gai’s normal presence that Don wouldn’t have thought it were possible, and Don wonders, not for the first time, if Marvelous had made a mistake in letting Don stay, in letting him fight with them. He always messes things up, and it seems like a waste, when there are people like Gai in the universe, to have someone like him, like Don, on the team.
And then Gai lets himself drop off of the railing.
Don lunges forward and grabs the hand outstretched to him, falling against the railing and holding on as tight as he can. The boards dig into his ribs and he nearly screams as his right arm is almost wrenched from its socket, but thankfully he’s able to keep his hold as Gai dangles above the deck.
“Gai?!” Don’s certain no divide, cultural or physical, has seemed as wide to him as the one between Gai’s feet and the deck far, far below.
Even leveraged against the railing, it’s a challenge for Don to pull Gai back into the crow’s nest, fighting as he is against gravity and Gai’s own weight. For all that Gai looks like a strong wind would knock him over, Don figures the effort he’s having to put in confirms Gai’s all muscle; unless his scarf is actually made of silver. Gai also doesn’t seem that interested in helping him out at all, appearing almost unconcerned that the only thing stopping him from dashing to death on the boards below is Don’s own – and not very impressive – strength. Don succeeds eventually, his shoulder aching, and his hands shaking with nerves, but with a final tug that sends them sprawling together onto the floor, Gai’s finally safe, a warm weight on top of Don has he gasps for air, sagging onto the boards with relief.
“Who saved me?” Gai demands. He moves lightning fast to Don’s adrenaline-clouded mind, positioning himself so he’s straddling Don’s waist and planting his hands on Don’s biceps.
“Hun?” Don wheezes, still trying to pull air into his taxed lungs. Experimentally, he tries to move out from under Gai, but honestly he can’t put in more than a token effort. He’s a little uncomfortable with their positions, and Don’s pretty sure it will get more uncomfortable as Gai sitting on top of him isn’t going to reduce the amount of adrenaline in his system at all. It’s not painful though, which tells Don Gai’s noticed the shoulder and is doing his best – given that he’s pinned Don beneath him like a pro-wrestler – to keep his weight off of it.
“Who saved me?” Gai asks, a bit softer this time, and he tilts his head to meet Don’s eyes. “I didn’t need a cook, or an engineer, or a medic, or dietician, or any of the million jobs that you do, when I needed someone, you, Don. You were there.”
Don stares up at Gai, totally uncomprehending of what’s going on. It’s a bit unfair that Gai seems to be expecting verbal responses from him right now; honestly, he’s pretty proud to be conscious at the moment. Equally, with the way Gai’s whole body moves when he talks, still subdued, but becoming more animated, if not for the hard boards under him and the fact that they’re both wearing pants, he wouldn’t have bet against this being a – slightly atypical – wet dream.
“I call you Don, because Don is important to me. I could care less about Doc.” Gai continues, almost snarling the nickname, and Don can feel Gai’s hands tighten on his arms. Gai is rarely angry, but when he is it’s a sight to behold. Although possibly, Don thinks, wincing as his already abused arms protest the pressure, not from this close.
“I didn’t make chocolates for anyone else, but Don.” Gai almost whines, the fierce expression on his face falling, and with it Don feels something wet hit his cheek. “Because Don is always there for me, because even if I do something stupid, like – ”
“Like jumping off of the crow’s nest!” Don yells, and maybe he didn’t have to, but he’s comfortable blaming it on the fact that there’s enough adrenaline in his veins to kill an Action Commander with how Gai keeps shifting on top of him.
He is thinking straighter though and although the sight of Gai in tears wrenches at Don’s heart – and hurts more than his shoulder – Gai could have died. Don clenches his hands, and feels his nails bite into fabric where they’d moved onto Gai’s thighs, not so much trying to hold Gai in place as to anchor Don to him. Another tear falls onto his face and Don has to blink furiously to keep it out of his own eyes since Gai seems similarly unwilling to relinquish his arms.
“I knew you’d catch me!” Gai protests, letting go of Don’s right arm to wipe at his face with his sleeve. “It’s just you who doesn’t know it! Just like – like, I bet the others only call you Doc ‘cause they think you want them to! I bet –”
Gai drops his hand to Don’s cheek, wiping away the tears there, and Don absently notices his face has gone a bit pink, probably from the scrubbing he just gave it, but most of his brain is caught up in the feel of Gai’s knuckles as they stroke along his jaw before returning to Don’s arm as Gai leans down.
“I bet if they met Don, not the Don who’s so worried about being Doc, but the Don who yells at me when I do something stupid, who patiently answers all my questions, who listens to my stories about how awesome Earth is, and who always is there when you need him. Well, I bet they’d love him as much as I do.” Gai whispers it into the silence between them, and around them the darkness seems to ripple, keeping it close, like a secret between the two of them.
“I– You–” Don sputters incoherently, words – as they often do when he’s stressed – tumbling over each other in his haste to say something, anything. Since sure, he likes Gai, and if he’s honest, like is probably not the right word even considering how Ahim and Luka snigger about how much Marvelous likes it when Joe uses five swords. Last time, he’d liked it so loudly that they’d quietly had a talk with Joe, and asked him to hold back on that particular style until Don had upgraded the soundproofing. It’s still on Don’s bucket list, but a silver lining to Zangyack’s increasing presence is that there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity for showing off so it hasn’t been the priority it could have been. However, like is a long way from love, and although Don’s willing to admit he has limited experience with the standard protocols on Earth, he would think some steps between the two are pretty universal.
“You haven’t even kissed me yet!” Don points out, although why this seems to be the point that his brain finally settles on, he’ll never know.
“I give Don-san kisses all the time,” Gai responds, an altogether unusually sly – and adorable – smile crossing his features. He lets go of Don’s arms and sits up a little, rummaging in a pocket and pulling out a familiar silver shape. His smile grows even bigger as Don can feel realization dawning and at least now he knows what those little chocolates are called.
And Don thinks that maybe, maybe Don’s braver than he’d given himself credit for, since although Doc’s stared down Zangyack and bounty hunters and Marvelous, it’s Don who reaches up to grab Gai’s scarf and pull him down for a kiss – a real kiss – that leaves them both panting. And it’s Don who licks his way into Gai’s mouth, finding traces of chocolate and tasting something a bit sweeter that makes his chest clench as much as the feeling of Gai’s fingers coming up to tangle – gently, since Gai always notices when he’s hurting – in his curls.
“Don,” Gai whispers the name into the space between them when they finally break for air, and Don wraps his arms around Gai’s neck so he can bury his face in the space there, although he’s sure the earthling can feel his blush through the fabric of the scarf.
“I think if you’re going to keep calling me Don, then – Then, I wouldn’t want the others to.” Don mumbles against Gai’s neck, but he knows Gai’s heard him by how still he goes. “I think– I think– Well, can I just be your Don. For now at least?”
Gai doesn’t respond right away, but rather pushes them upright so they’re sitting, with Don’s legs tucked under him as he kneels on the boards. Don can’t help but be a bit jealous that Gai makes it seem so easy, even with Don clinging to him like a space barnacle. He worries this means that he’s messed something up again, that maybe this is another cultural divide between them, but then Don feels Gai’s arms come up to encircle his waist, and pull him tight against Gai’s chest.
“You’ll be mine?” Gai asks, moving a little so Don’s head is tucked firmly under his chin. His fingers trace along the top of Don’s pants, sliding up under his shirt to stroke the warm skin at small of his back. Don sucks in a startled breath – they are very cold indeed – and mentally moves updating the nutritional files to the top of his priorities, even if it means Marvelous keeps pouting at him, and then Gai tilts his head down, and, really, even the nutritional files can wait, there are other ways of staying warm after all.