A/N: In the episode 'You've Been Disconnected', Ginger is making notes for the movie 'The Ginger Grant Story'. Gilligan is unhappy about the fact she keeps pointing out all the mistakes he's made and the rescue attempt he's sabotaged. I wanted to write a MAG one-shot, so I used his feelings about that as the basis for this. "Nobody's perfect," was what he told Ginger while he was sitting on the bamboo bicycle helping the Professor to cut the telephone cable that had washed up in a storm.
Gilligan sat by the edge of the stream, staring at his reflection in the water, thinking about the things Ginger had written about him. How he messed everything up all the time, how clumsy he was. How he broke things and destroyed the Professor's carefully arranged experiments. Gilligan had always secretly admired the glamorous star- he had seen almost all of her movies and could even recite whole chunks of them- but he wasn't happy with her ideas for 'The Ginger Grant Story' that showed him at his worst- bumbling, stumbling, idiotic Gilligan who always ruined every chance of rescue from the island. Even worse was the fact she kept going around reciting the things she'd written and making the other castaways laugh. Being laughed with was one thing, it made you feel good to think people were joining in with you. Being laughed at was quite another. Being laughed at singled you out, made you different from everyone else. As Gilligan watched his reflection looking sadly back at him, he decided that forever being the butt of everyone's jokes was something he would just have to get used to. Perhaps, in some odd way, it was his destiny to make others feel better about themselves. No matter how bad things get, we'll never be as dumb as Gilligan!
Gilligan sighed. He studied his reflection carefully, unable to decide whether he liked the way he looked or not. Sometimes he didn't even think about his looks until an off-the-cuff, chance remark from someone else made him wonder if perhaps his nose was too big or his eyes were too sneaky looking or if he was 'pointy-headed'. Gilligan had never been terribly comfortable with the way he looked- he knew he wasn't the ugliest boy in the world, but neither, in his opinion, was he the most handsome. Yet in his dreams he was always heroic; a matador, a Ship's Admiral, a secret agent whom women always wanted to kiss. He wondered why that was.
He stirred the water with the tip of a gnarled stick and his reflection dipped and contorted like the reflection in a funhouse mirror. He stirred more vigorously and his face broke into a million shards that danced in and out of ripples, his eyes winking back at him through flashes of surface sunlight, his smile widening like a clown's. He removed the dripping stick and watched the water settle. His features gathered together again, his reflection back in one piece, bobbing gently to and fro as though it had never been disturbed.
"Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble," came a soft, friendly voice from behind him. Gilligan looked up and around to see Mary Ann watching him with amusement from the shade of a tall palm tree.
"Huh?" he blurted.
Mary Ann smiled and stepped forward into the sunlight. Her thick, brunette hair gleamed with a chocolate sheen, her tan skin glowed like honey. Gilligan stayed where he was- only his head moved, tilting upwards as she drew closer and closer.
"You looked like you were stirring a cauldron." The farm girl made a stirring motion with her index finger and her pink nail polish sparkled in the sun.
"Oh, yeah." Gilligan blushed and let out a nervous giggle. He tore his eyes away and stared down into the water. "I think I need more eye of newt."
Mary Ann's reflection joined Gilligan's as she hunkered down next to him at the water's edge. Gilligan kept his eyes down and swallowed as a wisp of delicate perfume tickled his nose like a feather. Mary Ann removed the stick from his fingers, touching his hand lightly as she did so. She leaned forward to give the water a stir, and Gilligan moved his head so as not to accidentally see down her top.
As Mary Ann stirred the water, their reflections danced and swirled together in a way that made Gilligan blush. She was a little too close for his liking but he couldn't pull away, he was as transfixed as a moth hovering too close to a flame.
"Who were you casting a spell on?" she asked, and he couldn't tell if she was teasing him or not.
"No-one," he replied, mournfully. "Unless you count myself."
"Oh, Gilligan," Mary Ann murmured. "I hope you weren't having one of your moments again."
Gilligan kept his eyes fixed on the water. Their reflections writhed around each other until he couldn't tell one from the other, a hypnotic spiral drawing him into its depths like a whirlpool.
"All I wanted to do was stop the telephone wires from getting wet," he said quietly. "How was I supposed to know the cable would get washed back out to sea?"
"You weren't supposed to know," Mary Ann replied, equally quietly. "I think it was sound judgement to cover up the wires, Gilligan. None of us bothered to, and if the cable had stayed where it was, the wires would have been ruined by the rain."
"And then I would have been blamed for that, too."
Mary Ann said nothing. She kept stirring the water, watching the stick going round and round and round.
"I just mess things up all the time." Gilligan's voice was low and full of regret.
"No, you don't." Mary Ann turned to face him with concern in her eyes. "I wish you would stop thinking that way. You mustn't be so hard on yourself. You're a wonderful boy, and I wish with all my heart that you could see yourself the way I do."
Gilligan knew that Mary Ann meant every word she said- the look of genuine worry on her face told him that she cared, and besides, Mary Ann would never lie to him about something as important as that. She was sweet and kind and forgiving, and never failed to boost his confidence when he needed it. But there was a barrier inside him, a barrier that had been in place since he couldn't even remember when. A wall around his heart that always stopped her words at the last minute, even while his heart was yearning to let them in.
Gilligan picked up a stone and threw it directly into the middle of their combined reflections. Mary Ann's face broke away from his and disappeared in a series of jagged ripples. "I don't like all that stuff Ginger wrote about me," he confessed at last. "The Ginger Grant Story? More like, 'The Stupid Things That Gilligan Does' story."
Mary Ann sat back and put the stick aside. "I wondered about that," she said, gently.
"You did?" Gilligan turned and stared at her, his blue eyes widening.
Mary Ann nodded. She drew her knees up to her chest and curled her slender arms around them. "She read some of it to me. She thought it made for good comedy. She didn't seem to realise you could be hurt by it."
"Some of it's true though, Mary Ann. Even you have to agree, I am a klutz. I do mess things up. If it weren't for me, you probably would have been rescued by now."
Mary Ann shrugged. "Maybe I'm starting to like it here," she smiled. "Maybe I don't care if we get rescued. Maybe I'm secretly glad the phone cable was washed away."
"You can't fool me, Mary Ann," Gilligan said, wryly. "But thanks for trying to make me feel better."
Mary Ann laughed gently. "I wasn't trying to make you feel better, Gilligan. I know from experience that when you get like this, it's pretty much impossible."
Gilligan jerked his head back as though he had been personally insulted. "What do you mean 'it's pretty much impossible'?" he asked, staring at the farm girl with his eyes wide.
"I mean, you've never taken my word for it that you're a nice guy. That you're sweet and kind and gentle and well-meaning, and that anyone would be proud to have you as a friend. You'd rather sulk because Skipper made you go looking for that silly cable in the lagoon, or because Ginger thinks it's funny that you put the last signal flare on the Skipper's birthday cake." Mary Ann began giggling.
"Oh, so you think it's funny too, huh?" Gilligan pouted.
"It was funny seeing that cake take off," Mary Ann admitted. "The look on poor Skipper's face as he watched it sailing into the sky before he'd had a chance to taste it!"
Gilligan watched his friend's mischievous expression and decided it was okay when Mary Ann found him funny, because he knew she was laughing with him, not at him. But it still didn't change the fact that Ginger had wanted to make a movie that showed how inept and stupid he was, and how it was all his fault she had been away from Hollywood for so long.
"Everyone here already thinks I'm a walking disaster. I don't want the whole world knowing it," he sighed. He picked up the stick and cut sharply through the water, slicing his reflection in two.
Mary Ann leaned over and nudged his arm with her shoulder. "Gilligan, without you this island would be a very boring place," she told him.
"No it wouldn't," Gilligan grumbled. "It would be a safer place, and nothing would ever get destroyed or broken."
"Oh, you're so right, Gilligan. Except for all those storms and earthquakes we get, this island would be as neat as a pin."
Gilligan shook his head. "You can't get me to change my mind," he said, stubbornly.
"And that's exactly why I said that it was impossible to make you feel better," Mary Ann chuckled.
A moment of silence passed between them while they looked at each other, brown eyes into blue. Then Gilligan spoke at last.
"Boy, you women. You always have to be right about everything!"
Mary Ann unfolded her arms from around her knees and put them around Gilligan's shoulders. "I'd watch any movie with you in it, just so I could tell everyone I know a gorgeous film star," she murmured close to his ear. "And I don't mean Ginger."
Gilligan immediately began to squirm. "Ginger just wanted to make me look stupid," he muttered, unsure of the feelings that were welling up inside him from Mary Ann being so close.
Mary Ann smiled warmly at his confusion. "Why don't you ask yourself this, Gilligan? Why was Ginger paying you so much attention? Hmm? Why wasn't the Professor in every scene? Why not the Skipper?"
Gilligan had the answer straight away. "To make herself look good," he said, with a trace of triumph in his voice. "Because next to me, anyone else would seem perfect."
"Gilligan, nobody's perfect."
"That's what I said. Nobody's perfect. Except Ginger."
Mary Ann breathed in deeply and pressed on. "Maybe Ginger did it because she likes you," she said, giving Gilligan another gentle nudge. "Maybe she was just trying to get your attention." Mary Ann fell silent for a moment, then continued. "Gilligan, when you were a little boy, did you ever pull a girl's pigtails or put a frog down her dress to show her that you liked her?"
Gilligan's face broke into a lopsided grin. "Skinny Mulligan did. He put a worm down Florence Oppenheimer's pants and she screamed so loud the neighbors came out of their house, and the guy was wearing pink slippers and a pink housecoat."
"Well, then. And look what happened to them."
"The neighbors? I don't know what happened to them. I think they ended up getting a divorce."
Mary Ann grinned. "No, silly, Skinny and Florence. They ended up breaking the world kissing record."
"Only because their braces locked."
"Doesn't matter about their braces. They were kissing because they fell in love after Skinny put the worm down Florence's pants."
Gilligan processed this for a moment while the palm leaves rustled high about them in the tropical breeze. "What's that got to do with Ginger?" he asked, finally.
"Maybe Ginger's trying to put a worm down your pants," Mary Ann said. "Maybe she's trying to tell you something."
Gilligan's eyes bulged. "You're not saying?" he stammered. "You don't mean..."
Mary Ann smiled conspiratorially. "Maybe it's Ginger's way of getting your attention, Gilligan. Maybe she likes you. Maybe she even..."
"No!" Gilligan shouted. "Don't say it!"
"Why not?" Mary Ann sat up and faced Gilligan directly. "Llllllllll..." she teased, edging closer and closer. "Llllllllll..."
"Not the 'L' word!" Gilligan protested, batting at her with both hands, his long fingers splayed out like baseball catcher's mitts.
Mary Ann pressed closer and closer until Gilligan fell over backwards into the soft grass, and then she began tickling him. Gilligan's laughter jumped out of his throat as small, tan fingers worked their way in between his ribs and tickled him until he couldn't think straight. His heart hammered in his chest while Mary Ann laughed above him, her pigtails swishing to and fro and her brown eyes shining.
"Stop it!" he cried, breathless from laughter. He tried rolling over and away from her, leaving his hat behind in the grass. He lay on his stomach and kicked his feet up and back, grabbing Mary Ann around the torso with his legs, trying to pull her off him. His grip was so strong that Mary Ann felt herself yanked backwards and almost tumbled into the stream, her left arm splashing into the water.
"Gilligan!" she squealed. "I'm going to fall in!"
Gilligan bounced up immediately and dragged Mary Ann away from the water's edge before she toppled in. The two of them collapsed in a fit of giggles, lying on their backs in the grass while the sun warmed their flushed faces and made their eyes sparkle.
"You don't know your own strength," Mary Ann gasped.
"That's 'cause I'm a mighty sailin' man," Gilligan replied, turning his face towards her on the grass. "See these muscles?" He lifted his arms and flexed his biceps.
"Ooh, yes," Mary Ann giggled.
"Good, because I can't," Gilligan grinned, and that made them laugh even harder.
Finally Mary Ann calmed down and regained her breath. She stretched her bare legs out and watched a fluffy cloud trundle slowly across the sky, changing shape as it went. "If I were writing notes for a movie, these are the things I'd write about," she said. "Tickle fights, cloud watching, and laughing with my best boy friend until the tears ran down my face."
Gilligan smiled, half to Mary Ann and half to himself. He wasn't watching the clouds, he was watching Mary Ann's toes wiggling against a backdrop of lush tropical greenery. "I like your movie a lot better than Ginger's," he admitted, deciding that her little slim toes with their pink nails were prettier than even the prettiest pink hibiscus.
Mary Ann squinted against the sun as once again their eyes met, blue frosting melting onto a warm brown cupcake. "Would you like to be my leading man, Gilligan?" she teased.
Gilligan pursed his lips and shrugged. "I guess so. I don't think people would laugh at me so much if I was in your movie."
"No, they wouldn't. They'd say, 'there goes the sweetest, cutest, most wonderful boy who ever lived.' And they'd all leave the theatre wishing they had a friend like you."
Gilligan looked up at the sky through swaying palm fronds and let Mary Ann's words warm him from the inside out, feeling a piece of the barrier crumble. She had no idea what went on inside him- he wasn't even sure himself. But if she thought it was impossible to make him feel better, then she was wrong, and all he had to do was tell her so.
He watched her watching the clouds, saw them reflected in her eyes. He noted the upward tilt to her lips, as though she were smiling at some secret. He took a moment to appreciate how the breeze lifted strands of her hair and playfully twirled them around, then he moved his hand through the grass and gently tugged her pigtail.
Maybe nobody was perfect, but Mary Ann Summers from Winfield, Kansas came pretty close, he decided.