Single White Farmer - Chapter 3

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From their very first meeting, Gina had regarded Alex as very nearly the nicest man she had ever met.

Of course, her Papa, a gentle, quiet, sensitive artist who had loved her dearly as both a daughter and a connection to the wife he had lost in childbirth (himself long since dead), would always fill the top spot; her grandfather, a friendly and congenial soul with a soft spot for children in general and Gina in particular (also long since dead), a close second; Dia's grandfather, a gruff, austere, yet infinitely compassionate gentleman (also long since dead - Gina had often thought it a shame that all the nicest people in the world seemed to end up that way), a third.

But even among these titans of kindness and compassion, with each passing day of their acquaintance, Gina was more and more wont to number Alex among them, perhaps the adored older brother that she had never had.

Therefore, when she turned from the counter and the herbal ointments she had been mixing to soothe her conscience regarding the undeniable fact that she was not, in fact, at work, only to find that same young man behind her, dark eyes warm with concern, she reacted in the most natural way possible.

"STAY AWAY FROM ME!"

Dia, who had heard the front door opening, assumed the visitor to be Jill, thrown on a robe and proceeded to stomp downstairs to dispose of the problem her way, stared. Compelled by sheer terror, Gina Forester had, for the first time in her life, found the capslock key.

Meanwhile, Gina had begun to edge slowly along the counter, eyes wide and panicked behind her glasses. Alex watched her fixedly, moving an inch closer for every inch she moved back. Then, as she reached the edge of the work area, she bolted. Lightning-quick reflexes honed over the years by many a would-be runaway terrified at the prospect of a blood test, the doctor made his move.

"Gina, this is ridiculous," he said sternly, catching her in a sort of backwards bear-hug to keep her in one place and still her flailing limbs.

"No, it isn't!" Gina wailed, struggling frantically.

Sighing, he hauled her over to the waiting area, dropped her on the couch, and knelt in front of her, hands firmly on her shoulders as she continued to struggle.

"It's the second day that you've phoned in sick this week. It's also the second day that you've phoned in sick since you started. You know that I'm glad to give you time off if you're ill, but I have the strangest feeling that your health isn't in any actual danger."

"If I come near you, even if it's for work, Jill will murder me! That seems like danger to me!"

"Are you still worried about that?" Dia demanded impatiently, recovering from the shock of hearing her best friend utilize the full potential of her soft, whispery voice. She dropped to the couch next to Gina and took her hand. "You can't let her intimidate you like this! She's completely controlling your life, and it's ridiculous!"

"I'd rather let Jill control my life than have her end it with a rusty farm implement," Gina retorted weakly into Dia's shoulder.

"You don't have to worry about it anymore, Gina," Alex said firmly. "I've spoken to Jill about her behaviour, and she knows it has to stop."

"And anyway," Dia added with a soft laugh, "she's already been at this for four days. She's probably gotten tired of it. After all, no one has that much free time on their hands."

"Ah, but you underestimate me!" a painfully familiar voice proclaimed grandly as its owner emerged from inside the coat closet, brandishing an axe.

"Alright, fine; almost no one," Dia grumbled, chin in her hand.

"I can always make time to protect my sweetie from the vile clutches of ugly four-eyeses who would seek to spirit him away from me!" Jill growled, advancing on Gina, who had leapt from the couch, scrambled over the back, and bolted for the back door at the first sight of those bone-chilling pigtails.

"Jill, how long have you been in there?" Alex asked wearily, once he had recovered from the solid kick that Gina had inadvertently delivered to his nose in her frantic effort to escape from his girlfriend.

"Long enough to know everything, darling," she replied, arms extended dramatically towards him, the romance rather robbed from the pose by the massive axe in her grip. "I know that you aren't to blame - I know that you would never leave me. You've just been tricked by this villainous harpy and her determination to claim you for her own. And for that," she finished, glaring darkly at the back door, still swinging to and fro, "she'll suffer."

As she took off, setting the door swinging more quickly, Alex scrambled to his feet, alarmed.

"Jill, wait!"

Dia sighed, chin in her hand.

"Just once, I'd like to find out what this boring country life is like."

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Gina couldn't remember the last time she had run like this, although she was reasonably willing to bet that it had involved ferrets.

Incidentally, she had always found something very unsettling about ferrets. There was just something about the noises they made that all but froze her blood in her veins.

It was then that Gina came to a dead halt, struck by revelation.

That was what Jill's furious ranting reminded her of so strongly: a pile of angry ferrets, all lunging for unsuspecting sock at once! And come to think of it, those pigtails did look a little like ferrets, all floppy and flappy.

Unfortunately, as this revelation did, indeed, involve a dead halt, it provided ample time for Jill, also running as she had never run before (at least, since the last time she had chanced to overhear that the bespectacled temptress was lurking about her sweetie, which, come to think of it, had been just last night), to catch up.

"Oh, dear!" Gina whimpered, bolting into action again.

Her eyes darted about frantically. Just ahead was Ronald's orchard. To the left, the road leading to the Blue Sky Ranch. To the right, the path winding up into the mountains.

Gina thought quickly. She could jump the fence and try to lose her pursuer among the thickly growing fruit trees. Ronald wouldn't mind, and might even help her hide. But then, wasn't that Dan perched on the edge of the fence? Dan, with his love of pretty girls, and his corresponding belief that ugly girls like her had no business existing in the first place, we would be almost certain to turn her over to Jill.

"Hey that doesn't sound anything like me!" Dan objected, outraged and hurt. "I strongly feel that there's something beautiful about every girl, and looking for the beauty in all the world's young ladies is one of life's greatest pleasures."

His protestations were entirely ignored, as was his concluding cheesy grin, with Jill sparing little thought for anything but the red haze of rage surrounding and obscuring her brain, and Gina still busily weighing her options.

She could try to reach the ranch. Ellen would definitely help her, for she had been on the receiving end of Jill's wrath for the brief period that Jill had harboured a fondness for curly-headed blond fellows who, in turn, harboured fondnesses for sweet little short-haired rancher girls in aprons. Even Blue would deny having ever seen her, should Jill happen by in pursuit, as much as he might shake his head and grumble about the whole proceeding afterwards. And Bob, whose patience with Jill had been dwindling ever since she had begun trying to talk Gwen into divorcing him for being too ugly, might even lend a hand. Hopefully, in the form of violence. Nothing that would leave her permanently disabled, of course, but maybe a little light scarring would drive home a message or two.

But then again, if Gwen herself should happen to be around, as she often had been since the wedding, Jill would definitely find herself permanently disabled, if not even more permanently dismembered, as Gwen had long borne a severe dislike for people telling her who she should and should not like.

The mountain path it was. No matter the agony the ferret-haired psycho was putting her through, she didn't want to live with the dismemberment of her boss's girlfriend on her conscience. With her luck, Jill would probably be even more terrifying as a ghost.

Choked by panic, by the dust kicked up by her own immaculately polished little Mary Janes, and by the undeniable fact that twelve-hour work days simply didn't leave much time for a regular jogging circuit, Gina whimpered slightly as she reached the top of the third sharpish incline, only to find another behind it.

But was that not the way it was in life? Or at least, the way it was destined to be, if she spent her life fleeing from confrontation. Eventually, the trials that she would overcome in the name of avoidance would become far more gruelling than the trial she was avoiding in the first place.

Dia was right; it was no way to live. Also, it was about time to start carrying a gun and miss work once in a while. And what was the other gem of wisdom Dia had imparted to her the other day, in the blessed, enchanted time back before all of this had began? The one about baking her beautiful and talented best friend's favourite cookies and cakes more often?

The revelation that she needed more baked goods in her life was of remarkably little use right now. The one about facing up to conflict, however...

And so, enveloped by the bright, shining light of revelation, conveniently timed to the exact instant of a midmorning ray of sunlight falling across her path and dancing off the river far below, Gina came once more to a dead stop, hands clenched into fists and eyes narrowed as she turned to face her would-be attacker.

Unfortunately, this was not a unanimous decision by all those involved in the impromptu chase scene, and although Gina had indeed ceased her rapid progress forward and turned just as she reached the middle of the rope suspension bridge, Jill had not.

"Ack!" Gina lamented sadly as Jill pounced.

"Urk!" she continued in dismay as they landed heavily on the narrow wooden slats of the bridge.

"Eep!" she concluded plaintively, entirely ignoring Jill's death-grip at her collar as the bridge began to creak ominously.

Let us take a moment now to step back from the struggle of woman versus woman, and examine briefly the life of the Flowerbud Village Mountain Suspension Bridge.

It was far from an easy existence, with angry ranchers stomping across it every other day, grumbling and muttering about everything under the sun. Between Jamie and Jill, its resolve had long ago begun to chip away.

Unfortunately, by resolve, the chronicler means structural integrity. And thus, when two girls landed heavily in its very centre, the process of chipping away was at long last completed, and the fraying ropes gave out entirely.

For once united by a common thought, both girls shrieked simultaneous, terrified profanities as the bridge beneath them was, suddenly, no longer there.

Meanwhile, approximately five hundred yards away, Alex froze at the sound of his girlfriend and his nurse pursuing a mutual career in competitive cursing, and grabbed Dia's hand.

"This way!"

And so it was that the frantic pair sprinted onto the scene just in time to see the bridge flopping uselessly against the side of the opposite cliff, one badly frightened rancher clinging desperately to it, and one nurse, presumably likewise if the continuing expletives drifting back up towards them were any indication, notably absent.

"GINAAAAA!" Dia shrieked amid the distant splash that followed, with a lung power that Alex would later confide to Martha that he wouldn't have believed her capable of if he hadn't hear it for himself.

At the moment, however, the young physician had other things on his mind, such as stripping off his labcoat and neatly pressed shirt and trousers, and revealing one of the lesser known Facts About Your Local Doctor.

Jill stared, at first drooling slightly as her boyfriend's clothes fell to the ground, and then nearly forgetting, in her shock, to cling to the former bridge's wooden slats as he sprang from the edge of the cliff in a flawless dive. Even Dia, who had hitherto been crouched at the edge of the cliff and begging her friend to answer her, spared him a startled glance before continuing to watch anxiously for signs of movement in the little blue and white shape bobbing limply to the surface of the water below.

Then, as Jill followed Alex's progress downwards with her gaze, a touch of vertigo began to kick in, and giving her head a quick shake to clear its spinning, she put an end to her time as a cat teaser and scrambled up the conveniently ladder-esque remnants of the bridge, to the safety of the cliff.

"You should get down there!" she called to Dia once she had caught her breath. "Don't worry about me! And tell Alex not to worry! I'll find a way to get down!"

As Dia, who had taken off down the mountain path at the first suggestion and not looked back, disappeared from view, Jill pouted.

"Geez, you send one four-eyed loser to an early grave, and everyone hates you!"

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The first thing Gina became aware of as she floated hazily back into consciousness was the rain. It was very cold, streaming down from the sky in torrents.

She wished the sky would knock it off; it was becoming a little tiresome.

But then, something odd occurred to her. It seemed that the streaming torrents were landing in icy shocks between her eyes, but only between her eyes.

Was Jill behind this? Was she, Gina, to spend the rest of her days locked in the dark, dank, atmospherically eerie dungeon Jill had no doubt built beneath her house for the purpose, enduring some variety of water torture, aware of nothing but the chill of the concrete and the agony of that constant drip-drip-drip?

"No water torture!" she whimpered sadly, finally managing to get her eyes opened. She blinked, surprised, as she found herself face-to-face with Alex, silhouetted against the clear, blue, and utterly un-dungeon-like sky, a steady stream of water dripping from his bangs.

She became dimly aware of a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob, just to her left, and the next instant, Alex gave an annoyed shout as he was shoved bodily out of the way to make room for the soft, warm shape now landing on top of her and hugging fiercely.

The next thing Gina became aware of, incidentally, was the strange combination between the pleasant warmth of her new human blanket, and the exceedingly unpleasant dull, itching pain in her left leg.

"Gina, I'm so sorry I didn't take Jill seriously! We should have left town as soon as she started harassing you, and I just kept telling you to ignore her, and when I saw you fall,and you weren't moving, and I thought you were dead, and--" Dia broke off in another sob, burying her face in Gina's sopping wet hair.

"It's okay, Dia, I'm fine," Gina cut in woozily, trying to decide whether to return the hug and leech as much body heat as she could, or push Dia off, both to stop the unpleasant jarring in her leg and to prevent her illness-prone best friend from ending up with a cold.

"Well, you're mostly fine," Alex corrected, picking himself up off the ground and helping her to sit up once Dia had been detached. "Although, with a fall like that, you're lucky that a broken leg is the worst of your injuries. We'll have to get you back to the Clinic and get it set, as soon as--" He stopped abruptly, his expression changing from concerned to alarmed. "Hey, where's Jill?"

"Oh, she's still up in the mountains," Dia replied impatiently, shrugging out of her little spring coat and draping it over Gina's shoulders. "Along with all of your clothes," she added, averting her eyes delicately as the full impact of her doctor in only a pair of polka-dot heart boxer shorts finally hit her.

Alex stared, incredulous.

"You just left her up there, dangling from that bridge?! You didn't stop by to get someone to get her down, or--"

"You just left her up there, dangling from that bridge?! You didn't stop by to get someone to get her down, or--"

"She almost killed Gina!" Dia shot back, glaring heatedly. "Why should I care what happens to her? And anyway, she climbed up the rest of the bridge, and she's fine - she's just stuck on the other side."

Muttering something mildly impolite under his breath, Alex started for the path into the mountains, only to be stopped in the act by a tremendous splash from the river.

"Hiya, babe!" Jill grinned once she had surfaced.

Back to the river in mere seconds, Alex stooped to haul the brunette from the water.

"What were you thinking?!" he demanded angrily, nevertheless pulling her into a tight embrace. "You nearly got Gina killed! You nearly got yourself killed!"

Her eyes grew huge and piteous.

"I'm sorry I made you mad, sweetie."

He shook his head and swore under his breath, loosening his hold only slightly.

"We'll talk about this later. Right now, I'd like to get all of us into some dry clothes, and get Gina's broken leg set." Pushing her off gently, he knelt and gathered the cringing little nurse into his arms. "Alright; this may hurt a little, so bear with me."

"Okay," Gina agreed in a nervous squeak, tensing against the anticipation of pain.

The trek back to the Clinic was very quiet, Jill sneaking nervous glances at Alex, Alex responding with warning frowns, Dia casting murderous looks at Jill, and Gina trying her very best to avoid all eye contact.

When, at long last, they reached the big, starkly white building, Alex stopped.

"You two should head home and get some dry clothes," he told Dia and Jill.

"I don't need them," Dia replied absently, her brow wrinkling in concern as Gina's features grew tight with pain.

"Well, then, could you run to the Sanitarium and get some for Gina?" he asked gently.

And with that, Dia Gevora, the pretty green-eyed daughter of massively wealthy ship builder Alphonse Gevora, indulged and spoiled for most of her twenty-three years in place of parental contact and affection, and thus very used to giving rather than taking orders, obeyed without a question.

"Can I come back after I change?" Jill asked pleadingly, resisting the urge to make everything worse by glowering at the blue-haired hussy nestled in her sweetie's arms.

"Yes, you should; I'd like to take a look at you too," Alex replied a little tersely. "And then I'd like you to rest at the Sanitarium for the rest of the day."

Gina gave a piteous little moan.

"Hush, Gina," Alex scolded gently, pushing the door of the Clinic open with one shoulder, slipping inside, and leaving a terribly distraught little farmer in his wake.

With one last mournful look at the closed door, Jill turned and slunk down the road towards her farm.

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"And that should do it," Alex announced approximately an hour later as he wheeled Gina out to the Clinic's tiny waiting room. Stooping and withdrawing a black felt pen from his pocket, he added the finishing touch - his signature and a little smiley-face - to the plaster cast encasing Gina's leg from thigh to toes. "You can expect to stay in the cast from six to eight weeks, and then we'll see about moving you to a walking cast. In the meantime, let me know if the pain worsens, and I can see about bringing in some stronger pain killers."

Jill was up in an instant from the bench that she had hitherto been sharing with a madly fidgeting Dia.

"Well, at least she won't be able to stalk you anymore, sweetie-pie," she pointed out in a tone of great satisfaction, nudging the wheel chair out of the way and nuzzling affectionately against his shoulder.

He smiled tiredly, patting her still-damp hair lightly.

"No, I suppose she won't. And she won't need to either, because I'll be over at the Sanitarium at least once a day, checking up on her."

Jill pulled away, her face fixed in an expression of horror.

"Dammit!" she wailed. "Dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit! I worked so hard, and now I'm going to lose you anyway!"

Alex stared blankly at the half-hysterical girl in front of him, his mind whirring away in vain attempt to follow her train of logic.

"Jill, slow down. What on earth makes you think you're going to lose me?"

"You work together!" Jill replied, her voice breaking on a sob. "You spend so much time together, and you respect her, and now that she's infirm, you'll get to see her fragile, vulnerable side, which will in turn bring out your nurturing side, and you'll fall gradually in love, eventually consummating the relationship after her first sponge bath, when you can resist the temptation no longer!"

Dia, who had been attempting to distract herself from this entire conversation by tracing artful patterns of flowers and vines around Gina's leg, threw down her felt pen in annoyance.

"For heaven's sake, Jill, put down the trashy romance novels, and pick up a clue!"

Jill blinked big, brown, tearwet eyes.

"Um...what?"

With an impatient sigh, Dia stood.

"Well, first of all, the doctor is a professional. He isn't in the habit of falling in love with every pretty girl who crosses his path, whether it's his nurse or his patient. Secondly, people with broken legs do not have sex. Well, maybe they do, but certainly not with doctors, who know better. And thirdly," she finished, glaring warningly at everyone in the room, just for good measure, "if you think that I'm going to let some man give my girlfriend a sponge bath, you are sorely mistaken. That is for my eyes, and my eyes alone."

Amid the stunned silence that followed, Gina felt the cold of her impromptu dip in the icy early-spring river quickly fading as a warm blush swept over her cheeks.

"Girlfriend?" she repeated, peeking shyly up at Dia. "I'm your girlfriend?"

"No arguments," Dia said firmly. "Someone needs to look after you, and you certainly don't listen to me as a friend."

"Okay," Gina replied dreamily, catching and cuddling Dia's hand. "Just making sure."

"And on the subject of sponge baths," Dia continued, moving around behind and taking the handles of Gina's wheel chair, "I think we could both use a little hydrotherapy right now. Good day, Doctor."

Alex returned Dia's polite nod with a stunned gape as she wheeled her furiously blushing lady-love out the door. After a few moments to gather and rearrange his thoughts, he turned to Jill. His good-natured quip that apparently, she had never had a thing to worry about in terms of losing her boyfriend to Gina died on his lips when he noticed her expression of grim suspicion and outrage.

"I get it now - they're both trying to steal you! Tempting you with lesbian kissing scenes and vague promises of a perpetual threesome...those manipulative wenches! No man can resist such wiles!"

"Um, Jill--" Alex attempted, despite knowing perfectly well that he would be completely ignored, his attempts at reasoning mercilessly trampled.

"Well, I just hope for their sake that Dia can push that wheel chair really fast, because as soon as I catch up with them, I'm going to let my fists do the talking! And let me tell ya, they've got a lot to say about this!"

Alex sighed. There was really only one thing left to do.

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Louis wandered slowly up the road from the Inn, lost in thought. He was on his way to the Moonlight Mine, which never failed to set his imagination abuzz. Perhaps he would find something worth selling, and earn the money to finish his latest project at last. Or perhaps he would find something that might be of use in his latest project. Or perhaps - oh, bliss! - he might even run into Miss Ann, and get to spend the afternoon with her, digging happily away and trading stories about both their latest projects!

The possibilities were endless; that was just the magic of the mines.

He had just passed the Junk Shop, finally managing to tear himself away from his rapt examination of the home of the special girl in his life, and begun to approach the Clinic, when the door was thrown open.

"Oof!" Jill noted curiously as she was deposited unceremoniously on the front step. Gathering up the remaining shreds of her dignity, she scrambled to her feet and wheeled furiously on the door, closed once more. "Well, that's just fine with me, Mister! You just go have your pervy threesomes! Those brothers at the Workshop are way hotter than you anyway, so I'm just going to go have a pervy threesome of my own!"

With that, she stormed down the sunbaked down the sunbaked dirt path, kicking up a cloud behind her as she went. She caught Louis's eye.

"What?" she snarled.

"Um, nothing," he assured her quickly, continuing toward the mine at nearly a run.

Okay, so maybe some of the villagers were weird, but every town had its downside, right?

For now, this was exactly where he wanted to be.

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End Notes: And once again, the most non-sequit-ey ending I could have possibly given it without switching fandoms altogether. Oh, well. I'm still pretty proud of the conclusion. I was going to have Jill get over her insecurities and live happily ever after with Alex (while Dia and Gina enjoyed naked pillowfights galore), but this just seemed to fit better. What can I say? It's just not believable to me that the young ladies I'm basing this Jill on will ever grow the heck up and stop assigning people motives they never even remotely thought of having.