A Good Old-Fashioned Lynching

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Summary: When Elli catches her husband of three idyllic years in an indelicate position, the girls of Mineral Town band together in an effort to expose him for what he is. So, how did the doctor get dragged into this mess?

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Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, and once again, they're probably looking at me funny.

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Chapter 1 – Elli

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Have you ever had one of those days when you spend almost the entire thing wishing vainly that you had stonily ignored your alarm clock and then your husband's kindly teasing insistence that it's time to get up, Sleepyhead, in favour of snuggling deeper into your little nest of blankets and pillows?

The kind when the highlight of your day is the delicious piece of apple-cinnamon coffee cake you treated yourself to for breakfast with your morning tea, and everything after that goes steadily downhill?

The kind when, just as everything seems to be looking up, everything gets so much catastrophically worse that you'd just like to curl up in a miserable little ball and take a nap on the floor of whatever building you might be occupying at the time that you finally realize that nothing good can come of being awake, before the bewildered eyes of whatever onlookers might be onlooking?

Yes, thank-you, I am currently learning the full and excruciating meaning of such days.

I thought I was good at disaster; Liam always teases me about being too excitable, but the doctor says I have a rare gift for keeping a cool head in a bad situation.

And if this isn't a bad situation, I don't know what is.

I know there are worse situations than coming home to the sight of your house looking like a women's department at a department store had exploded in it, none of which belongs to you, when all you were trying to do in the first place was run home on your lunch break to make sure your husband is eating properly, because he's been looking so tired and pale lately, which is apparently due not to malnutrition, but to overexertion.

I'm in the kitchen of our two-story farmhouse right now, staring in bewilderment at a half-eaten bowl of grapes on the kitchen table, one of Liam's best blazers – a deep wine-red colour that I always try to get him to wear more, because it's the most wonderful colour in the world on him – curled around it like a very unhealthy sort of cat. His shoes – dress-shoes, thank-you very much, and polished more immaculately than they were for the wedding – are standing sentinel on either side of the bowl-blazer combination. A pair of dress trousers are draped over the chair he ordinarily occupies, while the other seems to hold a beautiful soft purple silk sundress, tied to the chair with Liam's belt, while a blazer of darker purple, turned inside out with its silky insides spilling all over the place like a fat lady who forgot her corsets, snuggles up to one of Liam's shoes, and a bunched-up pair of black thigh-high stockings peek out of the top of the other.

Bizarre. My husband has apparently been making some very strange friends.

Not that I object to my husband having female friends; I think it's only healthy in a marriage for both partners to have opposite-gender friendships. It's a good way to build trust, and reduce the chance of boredom. At least, that's what Grandma tells me. After all, I like to think that I'm still very close friends with both the doctor and Carter, and all us girls are friends with one another's husbands to the point that we can carry on a decent conversation, at the least.

However, there is a very definite line that should be drawn at some point, and while sharing a nice, relaxing lunch is a nice idea, I believe that line comes quite a bit before Liam apparently stood up and tore off all his dining companion's clothes before she could even finish her share of the grapes. And I thought he was so polite!

With the wreckage that the kitchen is in, I'm almost quaking at the thought of further exploration, but this is no time to be a coward.

Resolutely and only feeling a little like my insides are being gripped and twisted by something with an iron fist, I climb the stairs and cringe as I pull open the door to our bedroom.

Eventually, I work up the nerve to open one eye and peek inside a little, fully expecting to see Liam, some gorgeous blonde, the Kappa, and the Harvest Goddess all engaged in group sex on our tasteful blue-and-yellow plaid comforter.

Instead, the bed has been remade a little since the last time I saw it.

Purple satin sheets, if you'll believe it.

Those icky, dull, boring, absolutely gorgeous and elegant white Egyptian cotton ones that Anna had sent in for us for a wedding gift are balled unceremoniously and shoved into a corner.

The whole room reeks of some kind of sandalwood and jasmine and lavender incense that gives me an instant headache and draws tears to my eyes.

Well, of course, it's the incense! Why else would any reasonable woman start crying at a time like this?

At this point, I begin to wonder: how many days a week on average does my husband turn our bedroom into some sort of brothel while I'm out at work? I'm almost admiring their restraint, in not hanging new curtains, just to complete the transformation.

My next discovery, upon storming over to the bed, intent upon ripping those purple sheets off and possibly to tiny pieces, makes me choke and gag and nearly pass out at the same time. Draped across the garish dark purple encasing one of our beautiful, soft, snuggly feather pillows is a corset.

Yes, a real, honest-to-goodness, high-class whore house corset. Purple (of course), edged with darker purple lace, black ribbons, even a hint of fur, and those dangly bits to hold up stockings.

Oh; well, that explains the stockings in Liam's shoe. It's a relief, if nothing else, to know that he wasn't the one wearing them.

Forget gagging; I think I might be sick.

Particularly when I notice the jewelery laid out on my dressing table, dark, ornately carved wood and a good-sized oval-shaped mirror – Grandma's wedding gift.

I remember those earrings; he bought them in a little jewelery shop on our last trip to the city when he thought I was busy in a bookstore, and I kept waiting apprehensively for a gift I didn't want in the least; partly because I don't have pierced ears and I thought, annoyed even at the time, that he should have known that, and partly because I don't really like flashy jewelery.

And flashy they are; they're about the size of ping-pong balls, starred with diamonds and amethyst, and shaped like hard, sparkling little flowers.

Truly disgusting.

But the point is, that trip was about five months ago. How long has he been seeing this girl?

Okay, slow down, Elli; before you go screaming through the streets of Mineral Town to cry on Grandma's shoulder, at least find out who she is. Maybe remove her appendix or something.

I haven't spent five years watching the Doctor for nothing.

Although, the Doctor doesn't usually remove them through peoples' noses, while I fully plan to.

I don't know why I've chosen the washroom to begin my search, because aside from that horrid, strong, sickly-sweet flowery perfume that's been permeating my brain since I walked into the house, there's nothing here.

Although, I do find Liam's wedding ring hidden underneath the soap dish.

Now, I've just found out that my husband is undressing women in our kitchen, dragging them half-naked upstairs, and swapping bodily fluids with them in our marital bed, after dressing them in the most disgusting fetish-gear imaginable, and by the look of things, has been doing it for several months now. Given these circumstances, it's a little strange that this new development upsets me more than the rest of it put together.

But what can I say? Regardless of the Doctor's assurances that I'm an extremely level-headed girl, I'm just as capable of illogical behaviour as anyone.

Come to think of it, I haven't seen any of our wedding photo around, either. Does he really need to escape from his life with me that badly?

A quick search of the cabinets downstairs reveal the picture, in its heavy brushed silver frame, along with a few pictures of me that I hate but he insists on keeping on his bedside table, wedged in between the Stolichnaya and the Kahlua. I stare for a minute at the picture of a tanned, muscular young man with long, thick brown hair tied back into a decorous ponytail to go with his decorous tux, his arm around an ecstatic, wedding-gown-clad me, both of us grinning away at the camera.

I really thought he was happy. Three years, and he's been sweet, and silly, and wonderful the whole time. We've spent more time laughing than not, even when we bickered.

Especially when we bickered. It was fun. I know he had fun.

I know I was happy. Up until about an hour ago.

On a whim, I grab the Stoli and have at it.

And then choke uncontrollably as my unseasoned tastebuds and sensitive little tummy are assaulted by the alcohol burn my traumatized little mind is inflicting upon them.

It's at this point that I notice an absolutely gorgeous black leather purse perched proudly on top of the TV, and go to investigate.

Ah. Very interesting.

Her name, according to her driver's license, is Juanita Cunningham.

Five-foot-ten, a hundred and twenty pounds.

And a size 34-D, according to the corset I snuck a quick peek at.

I would love to say that she sounds absolutely, hideously skeletal, but she's probably got the body to rival the Harvest Goddess.

Juanita Cunningham and Liam Ford. Damn it, they even sound cute together!

However. As it is the middle of the day, with all her things currently scattered around my home, logic dictates that she is not far away. Taking another long gulp of the vodka and choking and sputtering yet again, I carefully settle the bottle back exactly where it was, and snatch up Liam's old hammer to settle this the messy way.

Halfway to the barn, I give up and leave the hammer behind.

It's heavy, alright? I don't want to exhaust my strength before I get to the good, sound beating.

As I draw closer to the building, the two voices from within, one Liam's and one a woman I've never heard before, grow louder.

Creeping silently up to the door, I peek in the tiny crack they've been left open.

Liam, it seems, is getting around to milking a little early today. It's usually an evening chore, but I guess the stunning dark-haired girl won't be here to help this evening.

Because of course, she's stunning. Gorgeous thick shoulder-length hair, big bright blue eyes, and the amazing figure I've been fearing, although you can barely see it, because she's wearing one of my old dresses.

Well, it's only practical, I suppose; she can't exactly help Liam with the milking in the silk and strappy sandals I found inside.

It's good to know that Liam chooses smart girls to have his little side-flings with.

Right now, she's seated on the milking stool, reaching very carefully and gingerly underneath Daisy, Liam's first cow, if I recall correctly. Liam grins and makes some horrible, disgusting comment about it being his turn next after she's done with the cow, and unable to listen to any more, I take off.

I didn't think I'd drunk that much, but apparently, half a bottle of vodka is enough, because I have very little clear idea where I'm going, and I've reached Mother's Hill before I know it.

I stop to pick some flowers, because Grandma always told me that it's therapeutic when you're feeling down.

I wonder if Grandpa ever took gorgeous women to bed behind her back.

Considering he was almost too shy to tell her he loved her, I doubt it.

I'm seated at the edge of Goddess Peak, inching farther off every second, when Gotz finds me.

And by "finds", I mean "jumps at with a yell and drags forcibly away from the edge".

Now he's yelling at me, saying all sorts of things about how a strong wind could've swept a skinny little thing like me right off, and what was I thinking, and how many more people were going to have to be killed up here before people learned to damn well be careful, and I've about had enough of it.

I shut him up very, very quickly with a stream of profanity that draws a sparkle of grudging admiration to even his jaded, experienced old eye.

Then I proceed, calmly, to explain to him (with only minor slurring) that I've just found out something very bad about my husband, and I am a little upset right at the moment, so if he could kindly not yell at me, I would appreciate it greatly.

Without a word, but with a grim, furious expression that says plenty, he picks me up and starts along the path down the mountain.

I have to admire the man; he barely even stumbles, even with a great load of muscle and terrifying womanly woman like me weighing him down.

I think that might be the alcohol talking.

Either way, I must have fallen asleep at some point, because the next time I open my eyes, he's pounding at the door to the Clinic.

Oh, no...

I forgot about work. Just completely and utterly forgot that the Doctor would be waiting for me. He's going to be furious...

Furious, no; frantic and wild-eyed, hair sticking up in every direction from the way he always drags one hand through it when he's upset, yes.

I wish he'd been angry instead.

"Tim, I'm so sorry," I burble, throwing myself at him and hugging him tightly when he's finished fervently thanking Gotz for bringing me back safely. "I didn't mean to worry you. It hasn't been a great day."

"And that's why you went home to cook your husband lunch and didn't come back?"

Ah. Now the anger is coming through. Tim very, very rarely gets angry like this, but I suppose spending an afternoon looking for his nurse, only to have her show up, unharmed and reeking of alcohol, will do it.

"I can explain."

"I'm waiting."

"Liam is having an affair. I—I got upset. I know it isn't a particularly good explanation..."

I didn't think it was possible, but his expression gets even tighter with anger. When he rests one hand at my shoulder, though, his touch is very gentle.

"I understand," he finally says. "If you'd like to take the rest of the day off--"

"No, that's fine," I break in hurriedly. "I'm ready to work."

"You're half-drunk, and Gotz told me he found you ready to jump off a mountain."

"I wasn't trying to jump! I was trying to get a closer look!"

"At what? The ground? Listen, just...go home."

"I can't."

A loud, tense, uncomfortable silence follows as he leads me to the couch in the waiting room.

"Why?"

"She'll still be there."

"Do you think he's insane? He'll have sent her home by now; he probably sent her away right after you caught them together."

"Um, I really don't think so," I admit timidly, looking instinctively away. "I didn't really confront them, as such."

"And 'as such' means...?"

"At all."

I really have to feel for him. Even in the middle of all this, I can tell how gut-wrenchingly hard it is for him not to tell me that I'm crazy, that I should have removed Liam's cheating, lying, good-for-nothing skin the second I saw the clothes scattered all over the kitchen.

"Are you planning to do it tonight?"

"Well, that depends."

"On what?" he asks very gently.

"On whether or not Liam admits what happened. This could be a one-time thing." Blatant lie; it's been going on for at least six months. But Tim doesn't have to know that.

Apparently, he knows enough, because he's giving me this horrified, disbelieving look.

"Are you insane?" I don't think that even warrants an answer, Doctor. "Listen, Elli, it isn't my place to get involved, but as a friend...please, don't be stupid."

"You call that friendly?"

"No, I call it the truth. Ignoring it and hoping it doesn't happen again is...ridiculous."

"It is not; it's trust."

"They're the same thing, if the trust is given to someone who's proved he doesn't deserve it."

I bolt up, already shaking.

"Don't tell me what my husband deserves." I'd like to blame this on the alcohol, but really, I just have this terrible feeling that I'm only trying to hurt someone else, because I'm too selfish to suffer alone. I'm sure righteous anger fits in there somewhere at the fact that my older, wiser boss doesn't even trust me to run my personal life. "You don't know a thing about him. Or about us."

He looks like he's talking himself out of saying something else, so I save him the trouble and continue.

"Look, maybe I'll take that offer after all. I can go see Grandma for a while."

Looking tired and, in this light, almost old, he nods, then stands and starts back to his office.

A needling sensation of guilt hits me, and at this point, just ticks me off even more, to the point that I storm out of the Clinic, nevertheless making sure to close the door quietly behind me, because I know he hates pounding and slamming, and old habits die hard.

Now, to Grandma's, for a little bit of sensitivity and cuddling.

But not, apparently, until an angry brown-and-blonde-and-purple streak named Karen is finished with me.

Whimper...

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End Notes: Hmm, I think this one is going to be fun to write. Depressing as heck, but fun. I'm planning on doing chapters from all five girls' perspectives, because I love the idea of them being this tightly-knit little group that'll do anything for each other. I'm sure that eventually, little bits of Doctor/Elli are going to make their way in there, and I'm already planning huge heaping loads of Karen/Rick, and very likely the rest of the default pairings, but I'm going to try not to go overboard on that, because the whole point of the story would probably be lost.