Closed Ruminations
Dr. Dietrich opened the door to his home to a familiar sight, the staircase running upstairs, the narrow corridor leading back to the kitchen, and the door to the sitting room ajar to the right. A second glance, however, and a few things struck him as out of place. The door to his office was closed, when he was around he left it open, but it was one of the few rooms in the house he did not want any lodger wandering into. An assortment of foreign knicknacks, mail, keys, hat and shoes were scattered near the front door. And it smelled different. An unusual cologne, perhaps, and cooking he wasn’t familiar with.

As Oliver put down his suitcase, he was alerted to footsteps at the top of the stair. The young man, a student at the University, who was lodging while he was away. “Oh! I wasn’t expecting you in town so early!” He exclaimed.

“Don’t mind me,” Oliver assured him. It would be odd living with a stranger until the young man found a different arrangement, but Oliver didn’t want that to interfere with him feeling at home in the meantime. In fact, Dr. Dietrich was more worried about whether he would settle back into a space so familiar and so foreign any time soon.
Dr. Dietrich thanked the delivery men and saw them out the door before turning around to survey what they had brought. The rest of his belongings from the manor that he didn’t want to take on the train personally. Dozens of jarred specimens were packed away in the sealed crates that crowded is foyer. He ran his hand along to the top of one, looking at the pair of addresses. They weren’t that far apart really, but even so it was such an effort to move such things between them. Packing everything up meticulously and now the prospect of unpacking it. And where even to put all of it now? He’d have to make room in his study, probably… clear out some books or move his boat models somewhere else.

Oliver tapped the top of the crate finally, he could leave this mess to sort out later. For now he’d just try to relax with a book for a while. A bit of reading after lunch was a habit he picked up at the manor that he was finding hard to quit.
I’ve got it, doctor.” Oliver backed away from the patient, his hands bloodied from repairing the compound fracture and a younger man in a white coat nudging him away. “You can go, your shift is more than over.” The man offered. Dr. Dietrich’s eyes were trained on the patient, however- compassion for their condition mixed with a wolflike hunger to fix it.

“But the bones could have splintered- a surgeon might be-” He explained quickly before the young man cut him off.

I am a surgeon.” That took Oliver by surprise. The boy hardly looked older than Felix. It gave him enough pause for the young ‘surgeon’ and three nurses to whisk the patient off to an operating table. The crowded, noisy din of the emergency ward seemed to grow quiet around him as he sunk into his thoughts. Everyone bustling around has a job to do, a purpose. Fresh faces coming in for the night shift blowing by with renewed energy. And he was just taking up space.

There seemed to be no shortage of surgeons and doctors and nurses here- with the University so close, any young man with a freshly minted medical degree could snap up a job. Unbidden, the memory of Madsmoor’s near-empty hospital flashed in Oliver’s mind. It was a wreck… hardly worth his time… but at least he’d have something to do there. He’d nearly have too much to do with the amount of infrastructure that it needed.

Dr. Dietrich knew he shouldn’t be ridiculous. At a large hospital like this, it was certain that he’d have more to do than tend some countryside cases of the flu. He picked up the chart from the nearest bedside, but before he could read it to the bottom two nurses had already moved the patient into a wheelchair and rolled him off.

Grimacing, he had to admit the only place to go now was home.
Dr. Dietrich came out of his office to the smell of roast chicken. Mrs. Brown had outdone herself again, putting together dinner. As he passed the library, he poked his head in, calling out to the tenant. They had exchanged a few conversations, and it seemed like they had a lot in common. Or at least they would have when Oliver had been his age. Despite himself, the presence of a young man around the house took him back to his brief, but memorable, bachelor days and he couldn’t help but show a little extra enthusiasm.

“I think Mrs. Brown is finished with dinner. Would you like to join us?” Oliver asked, while the young man had his nose in his studies.

Can’t tonight, Mr. Dietrich. Getting dinner with my lady friend as soon as I’m done here.

Oliver nodded, “Of course.” He should have guessed really. Ever since talk of this woman, he was hardly seen around the house. He followed the smell, instead, to the kitchen, where Mrs. Brown was just rinsing off the last of the pans.

“Have a seat, Mrs. Brown.” Oliver offered, pulling out a chair before taking one himself. “I feel like we haven’t just talked in ages.”

Oh, Doctor. You know I’d like to, but the nephew is in town and we’re puttin’ up the christmas things tonight.” She sighed, searching the room for her shawl before her eyes landed on Oliver’s forlorn expression. “It’ll all stay hot, don’t you worry. Maybe that young tenant of yours will join you. Bloke’s got quite the appetite.” Oliver laughed along with her halfheartedly until the door to the kitchen closed behind her.
It was a quiet night, but Oliver wasn’t in bed. He was sitting about six feet away in his chair by the window, watching the empty street and the moonlight off the river below. He couldn’t shake Madsmoor from his thoughts. Not from the letters Philly peppered him with, that he could hardly keep up with. Not from the significantly absent reply from Felix. Not from Meril’s words of advice. Not from memories of Henry in this town, which reminded him of Gordon, which reminded him of Kelvin and how he was improving, but still sick and the possibility that whatever Ezra might be treating him may aggravate it. Not from the hospital in need of a proper doctor.

It had all felt so suffocating, so slow and dramatic, Oliver thought he wouldn’t be able to bear another moment in the manor, but now he found he couldn’t bear to be so far away. He had starting rebuilding something there. It just took coming back to Cambridge to remind him that here he had lost everything. Coming back wouldn’t return it. It was time to move forward. Time to move to Madsmoor.

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