This is a one shot about togetherness, strength in numbers, and friendship.

...

When the storm hit, it hit hard. The Skipper and the Professor had been monitoring the weather reports for several days beforehand, but even so, the sheer ferocity of it took them by surprise. The storm began just before breakfast time, sweeping across the South Pacific like a banshee. By mid morning the falling rain had become horizontal rain, lashing down on the island in sheets, swept along by howling winds that tore through trees and threw branches like spears through the air.

The angry sky roiled above them, dwarfing them like tiny ants at the mercy of a vengeful god. Clouds bustled and fought, tearing into each other, thundering and blaring. Lightning flashed incessantly, causing the girls to put their hands over their ears and eyes, cowering in the corner of the Howell's double hut where everyone had taken refuge. Mr. Howell had wanted to keep an eye on his money. He hadn't come all this way to be forced into liquidation. Everyone had groaned at the pun. The Howells always joked when times were bad, and while their jokes made everyone wince, they also raised a few smiles and that was important. Smiling and staying light of heart, even when a tempest raged around them.

The girls huddled together and Gilligan stood at the window peeking out at the devastation through a tiny gap in the battened down shutters. The hut swayed and rocked and the bamboo joists groaned with every blast of wind, but over the years they had modified their designs and built sturdier and sturdier huts until they stood firm, no matter what. The Professor found that he was using his brains and his ingenuity far more as a stranded castaway than he had ever done as an academic back in civilization. He had become both teacher and student on this tiny desert isle and there were times when he felt as though his life were beginning all over again. That everything he thought he knew had been turned upside down, because when all that mattered was survival it didn't matter how many qualifications you had, how many books you had read. When death was staring you in the face, you were the same as everyone else. Your smarts were for keeping you alive, and that was it.

Gilligan didn't have to worry about smarts. He ducked and bobbed at the window, whooping loudly as a dagger of lightning slashed through the clouds and a resentful howl of thunder followed on its tail. He stooped like a prize fighter and punched the air as if he were in the middle of the storm, battling the winds, throwing down his mighty hammer. He danced on the sand like Cassius Clay. Another bolt of lightning cracked as loud as a whip and he jumped into the Skipper's arms with a terrified yelp. The girls laughed, wrapped in each other's arms. Silly Gilligan, said Ginger affectionately as the Skipper dumped him back on the floor with a good-natured 'harrumph'.

The day went on, getting darker and darker until the relentless lightning strobing through the hut was their only source of illumination. With each flash their faces lit up with a different expression. Flash. Mary Ann wide eyed and frightened, staring at the dripping palm frond ceiling. Flash. Ginger with her eyes squeezed shut, her head pressed against Mary Ann's. Flash. Mrs. Howell's lips moving as the former society beauty prayed quietly. Flash. Mr. Howell holding onto her and Teddy, a look of fierce loyalty on his face. Flash. The Professor wearing a worried frown. Flash. Gilligan with his mouth open, torn between fear and excitement. Flash. The Skipper, endlessly stoic, his broad features set like stone, the Captain of the ship, no matter where they were.

The hours passed on through lunch time. They had brought food supplies into the hut but no one was hungry and so nobody ate. The pouring rain leaked relentlessly through gaps in the trembling roof, puddling in the sand, finally forcing the girls out of the corner and into the arms of the men. They gathered in the centre of the room with their backs against the Howells' beds, Ginger huddling with the Professor and Gilligan holding Mary Ann in a tight embrace. It was a matter of grave importance that he protect her in the face of such fury; he had failed to save her once before and he wasn't going to fail again. He noticed that the Howells were locked so tightly together that they made just one shape in the gloom and he pulled Mary Ann so close that she gasped for breath and squeaked that he didn't have to hold her so tightly, she wasn't going to blow away. This made Gilligan feel awkward and so he loosened his grip just a little, only to find that she was clinging to him like a limpet. Mary Ann, he grinned, I'm not going to blow away.

Thunder boomed directly overhead and Ginger began to cry softly. The movie star, usually so confident and self-assured with her beautiful head held high, was at a loss. The storm was not an admirer she could twist around her finger; Mother Nature was a haranguing, scornful woman, unimpressed with fiery hair or perfectly applied makeup or the sultry sway of voluptuous hips. Mother Nature treated Ginger with complete contempt, dripping rain into her hair and making her shiver with the cold and it frightened her, this lack of control over her own fate.

As Ginger continued to sob, hands reached out instinctively towards her. The Professor wrapped his brown corduroy jacket around her shoulders to keep her warm while Mary Ann pulled dampened ropes of hair away from her face and soothed her with kind words. Gilligan ducked his head shyly to catch her eye and gave her one of his best dimpled smiles. From his position at the door the Skipper watched the movie star being comforted, his steely eyes softening. He had always carried a torch for Ginger but he knew how much the Professor admired her and he'd decided long ago to let things be as they were. He watched in silence as Ginger dabbed her eyes with the Professor's handkerchief and his heart stopped briefly when she raised her eyes and smiled at him- at only him. He touched the brim of his Captain's hat in a quick salute before another brilliant flash of lightning momentarily blinded him, made him tear his gaze away from her. The Skipper knew that Ginger belonged to the Professor, but the brief and all too rare moments he shared with the flame haired goddess stayed in his heart to be cherished forever.

Mr. Howell cuddled his darling Lovey and tried to cheer her up with wisecracks about the weather. By George, Lovey! If it rains any longer we'll float back to Hawaii. If the wind blows any harder we'll fly back to Hawaii! This storm won't even cause as much damage as Gilligan on a good day. Look at the Captain standing by the door as though we were back on the Minnow! This last remark earned him a gentle dig in the ribs from Lovey. Hush, Thurston, you know how much he misses that dear little boat. Mr. Howell pouted at Teddy, who stared back, his black button eyes unblinking. Teddy thinks I'm funny, don't you Teddy? Teddy stopped listening to you a long time ago, replied Lovey. This gentle banter went back and forth between them and to the other castaways it was as soothing as a lullaby, the sound of the millionaires joshing with each other in between snaps of lighting and crashes of thunder and the incessant roaring of the wind and rain.

Hoping and praying that the storm would pass quickly, they buoyed each other up by singing songs, telling stories, wiping each other's fearful tears and giving each other comforting hugs and smiles. Just the touch of a hand resting briefly on a shoulder told the recipient they were cared about and loved- that they would weather the storm, no matter what. And all the while the Skipper stood at the door, a dark mountain of a man keeping watch over his passengers and crew- his precious cargo, people that he had grown to love and cherish.

The storm pounded its fists on the island and howled like a child having a temper tantrum well into the night, fraying the castaways' already brittle nerves. It was not until just before dawn that the wind began to die down and the thunder diminished to a belligerent muttering as the exhausted tempest finally moved away. The castaways were able to relax a little, snatching a few moments of sleep here and there. Mary Ann dozed off with her head on Gilligan's shoulder. Mrs. Howell snoozed in her husband's arms, using Teddy as a pillow, while her husband rested his cheek in the curls of her hair. The Professor waited until Ginger's swollen eyes drifted shut and then laid his head back against the bed to ease the cramp in his neck caused by the tension of worrying; worrying about the sturdiness of the hut, worrying about everything being swept away, worrying about his friends, worrying about Ginger. The only one who wouldn't close his eyes even for a second was the Skipper.

At daybreak they clambered to their feet, stretching and working out kinks. They emerged cautiously from the hut, blinking in the first rays of sunshine as the last shreds of thundercloud scudded out to sea. All was quiet save for the rhythmic dripping of rainwater, but the sight that greeted them made them groan in dismay. There was debris strewn everywhere - fallen trees and branches, leaves and palm fronds piled like confetti on the ground, clothes hanging from trees, furniture and personal items scattered far and wide. They looked at each other and sighed. But it was nothing they couldn't handle if they all pulled together; and at times like this, that's what they did. They pulled together.

They meandered through the devastation and despite how they felt inside, they made light of the wreckage as they stooped to pick things up. I always wanted a tree house, said Gilligan, surveying a hammock wrapped around a palm tree. I guess I won't need to wash the dishes, Mary Ann smiled ruefully, staring at a pile of broken crockery. At least we have fresh water for the next few weeks, the Professor observed, noting that the well had overflowed with rain. Good, that means we won't have to pedal the water wheel, Ginger replied with relief. That thing gives me saddleburn, Mary Ann agreed. They joked with each other as they picked up the pieces of their ragtag lives and attempted to put them back together. They knew they would be spending the next few days rebuilding and reinforcing, not only the damaged huts they lived in, but the bonds of friendship that held them together as people. Quarrels and silly disputes would be forgotten; it wouldn't matter who did the most work or who spent their time staring in a mirror or who messed up the rescue this time or who was losing out on valuable investments. What mattered more than anything, more than the fact that they were hopelessly stranded on an uncharted desert isle, was that they were all still alive.

They stood in the middle of the carnage staring at each other for a few moments, and then they hugged. Oh, how they hugged! They threw their arms around each other in deep felt gratitude and whispered their thanks while their bodies pressed together in friendship and solidarity. The Howells embraced like the young lovers they once were. The Professor kissed Ginger's cheek and wrapped her in a huge bear hug. Mary Ann pulled on the brim of Gilligan's hat and rubbed her nose playfully against his, and the Skipper hugged everyone and everyone hugged him.

In the midst of all the hugging, Gilligan found a yellow frisbee under some debris and threw it into the air with a happy shout. The castaways watched as the brightly coloured toy floated upwards on a gentle breeze and sailed away over the top of the Howell's hut where it disappeared into a tree and got stuck. They began to laugh, loudly and joyfully, a welcome sound after hours of screaming winds and rain. They clapped Gilligan on the shoulder, grateful for his childlike enthusiasm, and then they knuckled down to the grim task of sorting out what was salvageable from what was ruined. These seven unlikely friends who had been brought together by a storm, who were not going to let another one tear them apart.

End