I apologize for the crazy delay in finishing this! I started grad school a few weeks ago and my life is no longer my own. I wanted to get this out (instead of doing homework – oops) because I hate leaving things unfinished for so long! Thanks for your patience and I hope this last chapter provides sufficient closure, it was written rather quickly.
A few days after "How To Be A Hero."
Mary Ann stands on the beach watching the sleek figure move swiftly through the water. It glides, kicks, submerges and emerges, turns around and starts the lap all over again.
Gilligan is frustrated, she can tell. His palms cut forcefully through the water with every stroke. He has every reason to be upset and it's all her fault.
She watches him take out his aggression on the water, swimming back and forth across the lagoon in perfect military laps. His breathing is so perfectly timed that Mary Ann doesn't even notice it for the first few laps she observes.
He really could be the best swimmer in the whole United States Navy.
He swims across the lagoon, straight under the waterfall, and somersaults, pushing off the rocks with his feet and shooting out from the dark rocky crevice into the sunlit water like a torpedo. When he reaches the other side of the lagoon there are no rocks to push off of, so he has to stop and stand up for a moment to turn around.
She wishes she could swim like that. Freely, without a second thought, as if it's second nature. Instead she only knows a few basic strokes, probably enough to get her by, but she won't dare try again, not after what happened.
Mary Ann hasn't had a swimming lesson in over a week. Not since the day she had her lesson about kicks, the day she met Irving. The day she laid her head on Gilligan's shoulder and he held her up and promised her – again – that he'd never let her drown.
Because the next day she almost drowned him.
Ginger had been teasing her that morning, probably about her favorite subject – guys – and Mary Ann had been putting up with it admirably. The movie star teased her a lot and Mary Ann usually liked it, or at least didn't mind it, and it reminded her of what it might be like to have an older sister.
"Oh, Mary Ann!" the actress laughed. "Don't be such a chicken!"
It was good natured, Mary Ann knew, but in that instant all she heard was confirmation of her biggest weakness from a woman she admired.
"I am not a chicken!" Mary Ann shot back, a bit childishly, hating herself for being on the verge of tears.
She grabbed her towel and her bathing cap from the table. She scooped up her black swimsuit from where it still lay in a ball in the corner next to the door and left the hut in a dramatic flounce that the movie star herself would hope to emulate.
She wasn't ready, she knew that and it was confirmed for her when the Skipper had to rescue both her and Gilligan, but she wanted to prove something to herself.
Mary Ann stands on the beach watching Gilligan attack the water with each sharp stroke. He propels himself through the water faster than anyone she's ever seen, rivaling even dolphins and seals.
When he reaches the edge of the lagoon and stands up to turn around, he sees her. Mary Ann knows he sees her. He hesitates only for a second and dives back under the water before she can say anything. She wades into the lagoon until the water laps gently around her waist, reaching up over the waistband of her yellow bikini bottoms to caress her skin. The heat wave had finally broken and the heat isn't as stifling as last week, so she left her hair down this morning, but tied the yellow ribbon around her head like a headband. She doesn't anticipate doing any real swimming today anyway.
Gilligan pushes off the wall behind the waterfall and Mary Ann sees him glide past her about a yard out. When he stands up to turn around this time, she's ready for him. "Hey, sailor."
"Hey." He prepares to dive back under the water, but stops when she speaks again.
"Can I talk to you?"
He stays rooted to the sandy lagoon bottom for a moment, indecision creasing his brow. "Sure," he finally says as he straightens up. Gilligan splashes over to her, the water undulating and rippling under Mary Ann's palms as she holds them just on top of the velvety surface.
Gilligan stops in front of her and waits. Water is dripping from his hair and earlobes and running down his shoulders. He blinks the droplets from his eyelashes and raises a hand to rub the water from his face. Mary Ann watches lines of water run off his shoulders and down his chest and then pulls her gaze up to his face. He looks a little defeated, a little sad, but his stubbornness is there as well. It always is.
"I'm sorry, Gilligan."
He shrugs. "What for?"
"For not giving you proper credit for saving me. For not thanking you. For almost drowning you."
"I didn't save you."
"Well, you would have if it weren't for me." Mary Ann sighs. "I always make everything so hard for you."
Gilligan shakes his head. "No, you don't."
"I told everyone what happened. I told them that you jumped in first and it was all my fault." Gilligan doesn't say anything. After a moment Mary Ann glances around with heightened interest, squinting against the bright sunlight. "What are you doing out here, anyway?"
"Practicing. So that'll never happen again. I promised, Mary Ann. I always keep my promises."
Out of habit, Mary Ann reaches out to playfully tug on his shirt until she remembers that he's not wearing one. Her hand hovers in the space between them for a moment before she drops it back into the water. "Yes, you do."
"I've been trained for situations like this, Mary Ann. For people panicking. And I failed."
"No, you didn't. You know that people panicking is dangerous, right?" Gilligan nods glumly and Mary Ann takes one of his hands in hers. "But you still jumped in anyway. That's real bravery. You thought about me before you thought about yourself."
"Well, sure, Mary Ann. I –."
Mary Ann lifts her other hand from the water and presses a finger to his lips. "I put you in danger and you have no idea how guilty I feel about that. You have a lot of courage, Gilligan." Mary Ann takes her finger from his lips and lays her hand on his chest. "And a lot of heart. I feel a lot braver knowing you're around. Thank you."
Gilligan lowers his head and looks down at the small hand against his skin. It's warm. The warmth sinks in, seeps through his pores and touches his heart.
"You might not think you're a hero. And you might not think that anyone else thinks you're a hero. But I think you're a hero. You're my hero."
Gilligan's head snaps up and his eyes widen. Mary Ann's smiling up at him, genuinely. Before he can react, Mary Ann is up on her toes, one hand pulling on his hand, the other pressing against his chest as she draws herself up taller to press her lips quickly to his.
Gilligan briefly tastes the unusual concoction of salt water and lip gloss and it almost knocks him over, and then it's gone.
Mary Ann wraps her arms around his neck. She hugs him tightly and Gilligan instinctively hugs her back, like that day on the Minnow after the storm drifted away and they realized they had made it through. She giggles and he knows that in the altered gravity of the water he's inadvertently lifted her off her feet. Mary Ann squeezes her arms around his shoulders and turns her face to whisper in his ear.
"So are you gonna teach me how to swim or what?"
Gilligan grins. "Yeah." Their wet abdomens peel apart as he sets her gently back down on the bottom of the lagoon. "But we gotta be okay where we are before we can start moving. Maybe we should start with treading water."
Mary Ann nods and grins. "I like that."