A/.N: There's a dark theme to this story, which is why I've rated it T. I have to work through some issues right now and sometimes I feel like I'm going through everything alone, and sometimes that really gets too much for me. I guess this fic is the result of trying to convince myself things are worth hanging on for. But are they?
Don't Jump, Not Today
He has this dream sometimes. The sky is the bluest he's ever seen it, the clouds that hang there are the most perfect little fluffy white clouds. They look like plump marshmallows or whisked peaks of pie topping. He watches them meander along, so white they dazzle his eyes, and he can almost taste them.
The sun hangs like an eye suspended in space, glaring at him, hot and harsh, yet benevolent, life-giving, warming his face and neck. He cannot look at it but he shades his eyes to try. Tears spring up, the sun laughs. Told you.
Lowering his head reverently, he looks at the grass beneath his feet. Green, green grass. Of home? Several years ago he would not have called this place home- this was only temporary, they would be home soon. But now this place is home. He doesn't even know if he'd recognise his own home now, even if they went there tomorrow.
It's perfect here. Everything is perfect. The sea chuckles on the rocks below the cliff, birds screech and wheel, plucking fish from just beneath the surface like beady-eyed missiles, darting and diving, emerging with feathers streaming diamond droplets in the sky. Palm trees give him shade, coconuts hang teasingly. Shall we fall today? Maybe...or maybe not. Wanna take a chance?
In the midst of all this perfection, thoughts begin rushing through his head. Skipper was mad at me today. I don't even have to do anything any more, it's like he gets mad just by looking at me. Like he knows I'm gonna screw up so he's just getting in there first. Ginger looks at me like I'm nothing but a big kid. Mr. Howell only wants a houseboy, even now, after all these years. The Professor and Mary Ann are the only ones who are nice to me, but sometimes even they get impatient.
He knows these thoughts feed on themselves. He knows that once the ball starts rolling downhill it only gathers speed until it hits something and stops. He hates the way thoughts buzz like mosquitoes in his brain, irritating him and not going away, even when he tries to block them out. In fact, trying to block them out just makes him more aware that they're there, and they'll be back, worse than ever, as soon as he lets his guard down.
He takes a step closer to the edge of the cliff. He lifts his face towards the sun. He spreads his arms out, red sleeves against the blue sky. The sun waits, watching.
So peaceful now, he thinks. Just the birds, the gentle swish of palm leaves and the soothing hush of waves. No yelling. No sidelong glances, no more smacks on the head.
He closes his eyes. Instant disorientation. He smiles, he leans forward. The heat of the sun pulls him into the depths of the sky and the air transforms around him as he begins to tumble, no longer sure which way is up, which way is down. Just a sudden whirl of everything, the sound of space and time closing in, wrapping him in dark arms, bringing him home.
He awakes with a jolt and a yell and the hammock lurches so violently it tips him out onto the floor. Someone comes running into the hut- the Skipper. The big man pulls him to his feet and dusts him down and says, are you all right, Little Buddy, are you okay? What happened? Did you have a bad dream?
Uh-huh, he says, nodding. He clings to the Skipper, breathing hard, sweat trickling down his face and neck, his entire body clammy and drained of blood.
Well, it's okay, Gilligan, I'm here now. The Skipper pulls him into a bear hug, a real, tight, vice-like grip, the sort of hug everyone needs once in a while.
You were yelling at me, everyone was yelling at me. I'd had enough, I jumped off the cliff.
The Skipper lets go. You what? He shouts. It's instinctive, he's horrified.
It's okay, I would never do anything like that for real.
The Skipper holds Gilligan at arm's length and looks him straight in the eye. Gilligan tries to avoid his gaze, he looks down and to the left, his eyes shimmering with tears.
Sometimes I feel so alone, he admits, his voice cracking.
Oh, Gilligan, says the Skipper. He doesn't know what else to say. He pulls Gilligan close again.
Sometimes I think you all hate me.
Gilligan, no one hates you. Sure, I get a little exasperated from time to time...
You get exas...exaspr...that thing, every day. You're always hitting me with your hat, even in front of the others. And then they see that it's okay to treat me that way so they do it too. Don't you see? I'm not a little boy any more. I stopped being a little boy when I joined the Navy. I'm not a kid, I don't deserve to be treated like one.
It comes out in a torrent of half sobs as Gilligan stands in the Skipper's arms, his own arms hanging loosely, not touching the Skipper.
If you like me then act like you do, don't punish me for things I haven't done. Don't blame me for everything. I do my best, I'm not a bad person, all I want is to be loved.
The Skipper wants to say a million things, but all that comes out of his mouth is, don't you ever even think of jumping off that cliff, Gilligan. You hear me?
You're shouting again, Gilligan says, stiffening.
I'm not shouting, I'm just...the Skipper catches himself shouting. He goes quiet. I'm worried that you might do something silly, that's all. It scares me.
And you don't think it scares me? Gilligan wriggles out of the Skipper's arms and begins pacing. It's not the first time I've had this dream. I'm scared to go to the cliff now in case it actually happens.
The Skipper comes closer, Gilligan moves away. Don't talk like that, Little Buddy. Tell me what I can do to make it better.
Gilligan paces and paces. Tell me you don't hate me, he says. Tell me you don't hate me, and mean it.
Gilligan, I don't hate you! Whatever made you think that I hated you? Gilligan, you're my Little Buddy, you saved my life!
I thought I prolonged it?
That was just a joke!
A mean joke.
No, just a joke.
Gilligan huffs and raises his hands to his head.
I don't hate you, Gilligan. It hurts me that you think that. I don't hate you. I love you. You're my Little Buddy, my sidekick, my right hand man. We've got each other's backs. We're like father and son, brothers in arms. We're best buddies, and we always will be. And if you ever go and do something stupid and leave me on my own, why, I'll...the Skipper shakes his fist like a cartoon villain, ...I'll moider you!
Gilligan pulls his hat off and runs his hand over his hair. Did you hear a word of what I said?
Of course I did. I heard every word. I was just trying to lighten the mood. I don't like talking about...what we're talking about. It scares me. Gee, Gilligan, it would scare anybody. I can't imagine my life without you. The girls, why, they'd be heartbroken. They'd be inconsolable. If you did anything like that, it would...the Skipper hesitates, draws a deep breath. His voice drops to a whisper. It would kill all of us, he confesses.
Gilligan shuffles his feet, looks at the ground. Way to make me feel worse, he mumbles.
I'm not trying to make you feel worse. I'm trying to get you to see the severity of the situation.
Gilligan scrunches up his face. The what of the who?
Skipper laughs drily. See, this is what we'd all miss if you were gone. You're unique, Gilligan. You're unique, and we love you, and life without you would be awful. I couldn't bear waking up in the morning and not seeing you snoring and grunting in the hammock above me. Or shovelling so much food into your mouth you look like a chipmunk storing nuts for the winter. Or doing all of the millions of other things you do every day that make you you.
Gilligan smiles wryly. I could do without being hit on the head every time I do one of those millions of things that make me me.
The Skipper returns the smile and blushes with embarrassment. I guess I do go overboard with that sometimes. Nautical pun not intended.
What's a Nautical pun? Gilligan asks.
It's a jokey reference. I said 'overboard', like when you fall overboard. But I meant it in a different context.
Oh. I see.
You don't see, do you?
Gilligan pulls a face. Not really, no.
The Skipper sighs deeply. Gilligan, promise me that if things ever get so bad you feel like jumping off the cliff, you come and talk to me first. I want you to promise me that. A real promise. A buddy-to-buddy promise.
Like a blood brothers promise? Gilligan says, excitedly.
Yes, but without the blood.
Good, Gilligan replies. Because I can't stand the sight of blood.
I know, the Skipper chuckles. You'd be face down on the floor before I'd even opened my pocketknife.
I'd be face down on the floor with a mouthful of sand, Gilligan laughs.
Like a dead starfish! The Skipper laughs too.
Yeah! Gilligan grins. Like that!
The Skipper's face becomes serious again. Promise me, Little Buddy.
Gilligan looks awkward. He bites his lower lip, scratches the back of his neck. I promise, Skipper, he says. If things get so bad I feel like jumping off the cliff, I'll come and talk to you first.
You know what'll happen if you don't.
You'll moider me?
No, the Skipper smiles. I won't moider you. I will listen to you. Just as long as you keep that promise. And I'll promise not to lose my temper so much or hit you with my hat.
That would make me feel better, Gilligan says quietly.
You know what, the Skipper replies, it would probably make me feel better too.
I don't want to jump off the cliff, Gilligan says. But in my dream it just feels so peaceful. No more worries, no more yelling, no more goofing up. Like all of that just...stops.
I know, Gilligan. But it's a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Don't you see? If you stop living, you'll never know whether things would have gotten better. What if you jumped off the cliff and then we were rescued the very next day? By a luxury ocean liner? With an all-you-can-eat buffet? The Skipper's eyes twinkle.
Gilligan's eyes grow wide. I'd sure love an all-you-can-eat buffet.
You sure would, Little Buddy. Imagine that, we'd all be travelling home in style! All of us, you and me, the girls, Mr. and Mrs. Howell and the Professor, all together. And there'd be thousands of people to welcome us home. Here come the castaways! Here they are, home at last!
That sure would be neat, Gilligan smiles. I'd sure miss all of that if I jumped off the cliff.
So you're not going to jump, are you? The Skipper steps forward and puts his hands on Gilligan's shoulders. You're not gonna bail out on me before we get our heroes welcome. You promise?
Gilligan nods. I promise. It was just a dream, anyway. Just a bad dream.
The Skipper hugs Gilligan and Gilligan hugs him back. No jumping, he says, mock-sternly. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.
No jumping, says Gilligan. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.