A/N: So after a bit of a hiatus, I was inspired to write this. It's a little fluffy and possibly OOC, and most definitely AU, but I hope you like it. Also, it's set in my 'Ghosts' universe, but of course I haven't actually gotten that story up yet, so never mind. Hints of Mike/Kate, shameless Nav/ET and 2Dads/Bomber, and so, so much Christmas cheer. I'm going to do a 'Five Days of Christmas' challenge for myself so I'm going to update this every day until Christmas, so stay tuned. So please, read and review because that makes my day!

The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas on the Hammersley. Of course, December in Australia was as bright and sunny as always, but there was an element of festive cheer in the air. It had something to do with the gingerbread cookies Bird had churned out on a daily basis starting on December 1st and the regular supply of candy canes doled out by Charge instead of lollipops. Bird entertained herself throughout the day by playing a wide variety of Christmas music, from Kenny G to choral music to 'The Nutcracker', and once, Justin Bieber's Christmas CD. That lasted about ten minutes, and Buffer was sure he still had the CD and case on top of his desk to prevent her from playing it. Mike found himself whistling 'It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas' as he walked down the halls.

Then, there was that memorable time, after a brief shore leave, that a few crew members raided the Christmas section of the local dollar store and decorated every available, safe space and even a few that weren't with cheap tinsel, wrapping paper covered with fat, cheery Santas, glittery paper, and bows, whether they were red, green, gold, or silver. It was beyond tacky. Actually, Mike had a good idea of who the culprits were, because doing things at 2 am just isn't stealthy on a navy ship, but the decorations helped crew morale and he wasn't about to get mad at 2Dads and Charge for having a little fun.

It had been a while since they'd been to port and although they weren't exactly tired of each other, but they needed their time off. All the Christmas cheer in the world couldn't hide that, although it certainly helped.

The bridge was dark, except for the glow of controls and, of course, the multi-coloured Christmas lights wrapped around everything. It was a quiet night, and Mike was really looking forward to a little peace and quiet. That is, until RO popped his head in, holding the sat phone, and shattered his dreams.

"Nav Com wants to speak with you," he said, looking a little grim.

"Fantastic," Mike groaned, feeling all his holiday anticipation get squashed like it had been run over by a reindeer. He reached out and took the phone reluctantly. "Sir."

When he put the phone back, he sagged under the realization that he was going to be crushing a lot of dreams tonight.

"What's wrong, sir?" asked Kate, sitting back in her chair and taking a sip from her mug. Mike could smell the cinnamon wafting from her steaming cup of tea. She turned her head to shoot him an inquisitive look, eyebrows arched.

Mike sighed deeply. "We're not going back to port. We've got to turn the ship around," he replied wearily.

"Right," she said, turning back to the controls and beginning to steer the sleeping ship in an arc.

"Are you serious? What for?" 2Dads asked, whipping around and looking like a kicked puppy.

"Melrose Island was hit pretty hard by a tropical storm and Nav Com wants us to meet up with the Anzac to get a shipment of supplies to take out to them. We are, unfortunately, the closest asset," he explained, draining the last of his brew and standing up to go inform the rest of the crew that their chances of getting home for Christmas were slim.

He found Swain sitting in the Senior Sailor's Mess, chewing casually on a candy cane sticking out of his hot chocolate.

"Swain, I have some bad news," Mike said. "We're not going back to base. Nav Com has tasked us to take supplies to Melrose Island, and our chances of getting back to base are slim."

"They couldn't task someone else? I promised Sally and Chloe I'd be home!" Swain said, looking so heartbroken that Mike immediately felt a stab of guilt in his chest. His eyes burned with guilt and exhaustion. It was bad enough that Swain had missed his daughter's birth and many of her birthdays, but he'd never had to miss Christmas.

"I'm really sorry, Swain. I tried to get them to task someone else, but we're the closest asset," Mike explained, giving his friend a pat on the shoulder. "We're meeting up with the Anzac to get the supplies in an hour."

"Why can't they go instead?" asked Swain, taking a sip of his drink and looking up at Mike. He was grasping for straws.

"They've been out for too long, something about not enough fuel to make it back," Mike replied, trying to be sympathetic. There were times when Nav Com frustrated him, sure, but they all wanted to be home for Christmas.

For the first time in a while, Mike had been looking forward to getting some time off. He had invited Kate to come with him to Melbourne to visit his family, and surprisingly, the blonde had accepted. She had been planning on spending time with Nav and ET and their daughter Lily on Boxing Day. Swain had been planning on spending a quiet day at home with Sally and Chloe. Bird, Spider and Charge were planning on going to their respective homes. Bomber – well, Rebecca now – and 2Dads were going to meet up. They all had had their holidays worked out, and as of December 20, it didn't look like Christmas was going to happen for any of them, being three days from port and another two from Melrose Island. That, of course, was without the crappy weather blowing in and time taken to unload the supplies and get everybody back on their feet on the tiny island.

"I understand," said Swain, looking downcast. He swirled the candy cane in his hot chocolate, sucking contemplatively on the end. "I'll be up on deck to help unload supplies."

"Thanks Swain. Again, I'm really sorry," Mike responded, feeling awful about the way things had turned out. At least he would get to spend Christmas with Kate.

"It's alright, mate," Swain said, not looking sincere in the least, but managing a smile. With a final pat on the shoulder, Mike left the mess and made his way down to the galley to find Bird.

He heard her the second he put one combat boot on the floor. She was singing along to some Christmas CD, and surprisingly, she had a nice voice. He could also smell gingerbread, chocolate, and peppermint wafting down the hallway.

"Hi, sir!" she said cheerfully, taking what was clearly going to become a gingerbread out of the oven and putting it on the counter to cool. "Do you want a brew?"

"No thanks, Bird, I'm fine," he said, although caffeine wouldn't hurt right about now. "Look, we're not going to be getting into port for Christmas. We have to deliver some supplies to Melrose Island in the wake of a tropical storm."

"Oh." Her face fell as she began to spoon thick frosting into an icing bag. "I guess I should tell my folks I won't be home for Christmas, then."

"Look, I'm really sorry," Mike repeated for what felt like the millionth time that night. "I know it's going to be hard for you, not getting home."

"It's fine. We'll get home eventually and I know my parents will keep my presents waiting, and as long as I get some leftovers, I can't really complain," she replied, ever the optimist. She gave him a small smile. "Really, it's fine."

"Alright," he nodded, watching as she began to assemble candies and gum drops to decorate the gingerbread house. "Thanks for taking it so well, Bird. That looks delicious." He edged out of the galley, feeling even guiltier than he had with Swain. This whole night was a mess. Even the tacky gold tinsel wrapped around the every door and the Santa lights couldn't make him feel any better. He just needed to get some air.

Everything was quiet up on deck as the Hammersley made her way quietly through the night. Leaning on the rails, Mike looked up at the velvety night sky, feeling the cool night breeze run through his hair. The door creaked open, and a familiar slender figure stepped out.

"Hi," she said softly, moving to stand next to him. "Just not feeling the Christmas spirit anymore?"

"Nah," he replied. "How can I? I've just had to tell Swain and Bird that they won't make it home for Christmas and the rest of the crew will find out tomorrow."

"It's not ideal, but at least we're together," Kate said. "We're all practically family." She looked over the calm sea, smiling slightly in the dark.

"I know," Mike said, "but I still feel really guilty. Swain had his heart set on going home. Bird took it really well, though." He rubbed his eyes, feeling tired. Thank goodness his watch was almost over.

"Don't feel badly about it," Kate said. "We'll get Bird to whip up something special and then maybe we can sing carols or watch some cheesy Christmas movie. I bought 'It's A Wonderful Life' during the last shore leave."

"At least one of us is cheerful," Mike grumbled. "I was looking forward to getting home."

"When life gives you lemons…" Kate chuckled, raising an eyebrow playfully. "We'll make the best of it, don't you worry. We always do." Grinning, she patted the back of his hand and disappeared back into the bridge.