Closed Settling In
Dr. Dietrich had considered staying in the inn the first night back in Madsmoor. His home was hardly habitable with all the boxes freshly shipped and waiting to get unpacked. He hardly knew what to do with the kitchen, and there was little comfort in the drafty, unfamiliar house that would eventually become his home. By the time evening had rolled around, however, he was exhausted enough to fall asleep on the couch, half-buried in books he was trying to sort through.

Morning light stirred Oliver from his sleep. He groped around for his pocket watch… quarter past ten!! He scrambled up and rummaged through some boxes to find some clean clothes to freshen up in. Philomena wanted to meet him this morning, it would be lovely to see her again. Her enthusiasm for learning did not seem diminished in the slightest if her letters were any indication.

He was in the middle of trying to figure out the tea kettle… there must be some missing component that was still buried in a box somewhere- when there was a knock at the door. “Good morning, Miss. Muzuran!” He greeted cordially before a smile started to grow. “It’s good to see you again!”
Philomena fairly flung herself at the doctor, just barely refraining from flinging her arms around him and giving him a bone crushing embrace. In lieu of, knowing how Oliver typically shied away from such intimacies, she contented herself with grabbing both his work worn hands in her much plumper, softer ones, and giving his a squeeze of delight, which sentiment was reflected fully in her radiant expression and joyful smile. ”Oliver!” she exclaimed, foregoing any formalities that time might have tried to reinstate between them. ”Oh, Oliver….I am so very glad to see you again!”

There was no hyperbole in that statement. The doctor’s departure from her current home had been devastating, and she had, in fact, written an excess of letters to him. Mainly they were framed in terms of questions or observations upon topics which she was reading up on. But a secondary impetus for the many sheaves of paper which she had filled in the intervening weeks had been her need to keep that one lifeline intact. For her existence at Madswitte castle was dreary and dull and bereft of intellectual stimulation of any kind. Her fantasy of ever fulfilling her dream of one day escaping her father’s medieval outlook on a woman’s role in perpetuating her family’s fortune by the sole means of marriage had seemed dashed, destined to expire without the breath of life giving air with which the medical researcher had imbued it during his brief time ensconced in the bosom of the Madswitte family. With his return, Oliver had brought back not only an immediate outlet for her academic aspirations, but also…hope. If only one person believed in her abilities, perhaps, one day, she would somehow find the means to attend university.

Thus her joy was  both for his person, and for what he symbolized, to her, and, unable to restrain herself as she gazed at his scholarly, slightly saturnine, far from dashing, dear, dear face, she impulsively hugged him, breathing out excitedly and with complete contentment, ”You have no idea…”
In his absence, Oliver had forgotten what an enthusiastic pupil Philomena could be. It was contagious- through her eyes he could find a renewed passion for his practice and excitement in scientific curiosity. He could compare clearly now- her hunger for knowledge against the dull jaded politics of the faculty at the university. Oliver knew how much she wanted to attend, but even with all other matters aside, they didn’t deserve her.

As she threw her arms around him, Oliver couldn’t help but wonder if this was how parents were supposed to feel about their children. Having someone who missed you. Someone that made the world a little warmer. “Oh, my dear.” He put a hand on her head. Though most of her complaints about her own father were about his reluctance to send her to school, Oliver had seen occasions where he was downright cruel. Even at the masquerade, in front of all the guests. It concerned him more than she might realize, the thought that he still may have no idea.

Oliver swung open the door and stepped aside to let her in. “I’d offer you tea, but I’m having some trouble brewing it at the moment.” He led her to the kitchen. “There are scones, however.” He gestured to a box of pastries he picked up the day before.
She let herself be set aside, quite gently, by the good man, and with her face still beaming, entered further into the dwelling, unbuttoning her coat and moving to take the pins out her hat, to release it from her hair. ”Perhaps I can help you figure it out,” she said with a laugh, following him to the kitchen. ”I’m sure between the two of us we can get some water to boil, don’t you think?” Ah, she felt so light hearted and merry, as different as day is from light, compared to the girl she had been these last long, dreary weeks.

Her outer habillement removed, she tossed both items aside, carelessly onto an unpacked crate, as she glanced at the premade scones. ”You shall need a cook, Oliver! You bachelors are so notorious for failing to take care of yourselves.” She shook her head like a scolding school marm. ”I’d apply for the position, except for the fact that I have no idea how to cook! I’d probably wind up poisoning you!” She said it so cheerfully, but it was meant as a joke, of course.

She crossed to the stove and looked at the kettle. ”Isn’t there supposed to be a bit that goes in the spout? The part that has the whistle?” Without waiting for an answer she began to root around in the closest box. It would seem that the young woman was well accustomed to making herself at home, messing about in Oliver’s things.
Without even being back to Madsmoor for more than twenty four hours, Oliver’s disposition was already beginning to change. There was life here, unlike Cambridge. For all the stories of the town being haunted, Oliver was positive there were more ghosts in his old home.

“Yes, I’m sure I can do that quite well on my own.” He joked along, in regards to poisoning, as he sorted out his cleaning materials from his collection of jams. “My housekeeper didn’t have an interest in moving and has several other clients in Cambridge to keep. I suppose I ought to start looking for a suitable replacement.” His mind jumped immediately to Meril, which only served to remind him that their next encounter was sure to be awkward. Should he notify her he was in town before they happened to run into each other. Would it be strange to single her out with such a message? Maybe he ought to just hope Gordon would mention it to her.

Oliver was a little surprised that Philomena dived into his belongings without hesitation. “I think it might be packed over here.” He directed her to another box, which gave him an opportunity to check the contents she had been rifling through and closing it back up. Though he considered himself honest, there were things he prefered to keep private, even things he was inclined to hide. Though he liked Philomena, he wasn’t sure how comfortable he was disclosing details of his personal life just yet. It wasn’t long ago when he was really just the employee of her family.

Whistle or not, Oliver could hear the water in the pot beginning to boil. He scrambled to check the boxes out on the countertop. “Let me know if you find the teacups.... I’ve only found the leaves and strainer.” He turned with a jar in each hand. “Which do you prefer, English breakfast or Earl Grey?”
She took the redirection without any thought that Oliver might have secrets to keep from her. In her mind, he was like all old people. They could not possibly have experienced any excitement in their lives – no heartache, no burning passions or unfulfilled dreams that might lead one astray, cause one to commit folly, or worse. She smiled still, rummaging now for tea cups, and pleased when she found several, though no saucers. She extracted them and set them down, just as Oliver produced tea and a strainer. ”Earl Grey,” she replied promptly, letting the doctor see to the pouring of the water into the tea pot, which she had located along with the cups, and now pulled from the same box and set on the table.

”So, what news do you bring me of Cambridge?” she asked, with a dreamy look forming on her face. ”How wonderful it must be there.” She regarded him speculatively. ”I am delighted that you have chosen to return, to move here permanently, although I can’t see why you did so exactly.” She hesitated, but felt there was one matter she really should get out of the way before they proceeded further. She was not one for keeping secrets herself, except from her father of course. In her mind, that was a different matter altogether.

”Unless, of course, it was to be nearer to your son…”
“Not much.” He answered. “Same old business among the faculty at the University. Most of the news I got from visiting, I had already read in The Lancet” Oliver explained as he put the water on the stove and began looking around for a potholder- or a rag if that failed- to retrieve the tea once it was boiling.

Oliver had his excuses for returning on the tip of his tongue. After all, he expected a fair deal of questions, and he wanted some honorable ways to explain himself. He prefered the slower pace. He took up the the job in the hospital when he saw the need. He found a good deal on the property. All of these would sound reasonable, and all of them dried up as soon as Philomena mentioned Felix.

He stood abruptly from his search. His first thought was how she had found out about Felix, he had never told her about his relation to their new footman, but of course news would travel. His eyes shifted, his characteristic poise gone for a moment until he could collect his words. “It’s a factor, yes.” He didn’t want to lie to her, it was bad enough that he had kept the truth from her this long as it was.

“It occurred to me the significant people in my life are in Madsmoor, and the people that made Cambridge significant are memories.” He hesitated a breath before his final word.
She gave him his moment – those few seconds to have his carefully constructed wall come down – a vulnerability that she would not dare trespass against, and which she found endearing. But his words caught at her kind heart and she stepped to him and took both his hands in hers. ”Yes. Here we are. And here you belong, Oliver.”

She went up on her toes for the briefest of moments, and like a swallow dipping and whirling through a bright blue sky, she placed a light kiss on his dear cheek. ”And here I hope you will stay,” she finished, releasing his hands and stepping back again, her face beaming. ”For all our sakes.”

Did she have some idea, some scheme, some plan – to determine the cause of the rift between father and son, and attempt a repair? Not exactly. But to her practical turn of mind, it seemed logical that if a rapprochement was to ever occur, it would only really be feasible if both men were in the same location. And she quite liked them both, father and son, though she barely knew the latter. Well, time would heal all wounds, or not…it remained to be seen in the case of the Dietrichs.

”So…I have heard you are taking up the directing of the new hospital. That sounds most exciting!” she said, her face alive with the very idea of his being able to practice his art in such a (in her mind) lively and busy setting.
Oliver smiled lightly with Philomena’s affection. He felt hopelessly unable to express what her words meant to him. It was a great comfort to know that he was needed somewhere. And if he and Felix couldn’t be on good terms, then at least there were people here who did want him nearby. “Of course.” He assured her. He moved properly, and he was going to try to make this work.

“I have!” He explained, grateful to be able to talk about his work, rather than trying to sort through a web of emotions. “I think I can do quite a lot for the town, since it seems like it has been without a local doctor for some time. As much as I enjoyed my position at the manor, it always struck me as a bit unfair for only the wealthy to have access to good medical care.”

He poured the hot water as he spoke, and handed Philomena a cup and saucer. The kitchen table was cluttered with boxes and knick-knacks, which hardly made for a decent atmosphere for tea, but he took a seat anyway, as though he were taking a seat in a garden or a parlour.
She sat as well, and as they waited for the tea to steep, she said wistfully, ”Yes that is so true! The poor wretches! They die in the gutters without any care whatsoever. Your experience and knowledge is sorely needed here.” She smiled at him for a moment, but then grew more thoughtful, biting down on her lower lip.

”I have met the nurse, Mrs. Leclerq. She said the hospital is still not fully staffed, and those she has under her are worked to the bone night and day, the need is so great.” Her thoughtful expression became one of frustration. ”And here I sit, or rather, I sit at the castle, doing nothing, all day! When I could be helping! I could be learning and then using my knowledge too!” She made her hand into a fist and banged it down on the table as a vent for her feelings.

”Oh, Oliver! I’m so useless! I’m no good to anybody! Least of all myself!”
Dr. Dietrich grimaced, hopefully the condition wasn’t as bad as all that. He agreed to be the town’s physician, not a plague doctor. From her smile, he thought it could be safe to assume that Philly might just be exaggerating to make him feel more useful.

“Ah, yes. Mrs. Leclerq.” Admittedly, she had not made a very good impression on him. She seemed a bit stilted, and it took a terribly long time to convince her to let him see his own patient. Oliver hadn’t spent too much time worrying about it, though. He was confident once he started at his post she would have no reason to doubt his authority anymore. And having a judicious nurse was a virtue.

Phillomena’s table pounding startled him back to attention. He picked up his tea, hastily before it could be spilled. “Philly, my dear.” He tried to console her. “So many would relish the thought of having days they could spend in study rather than toiling away.” He offered first, though even on his ears the advice sounded empty. While he was living at the manor, Oliver admitted he missed working in the bustling frenzy of a hospital, and on top of it, most of her studies had to be done in secret from her father. He sipped his tea thoughtfully.

“Well, I can’t tutor you at your home anymore, but… you may be able to visit me at the hospital and we could continue your studies.” He offered carefully.
Her expression bleak, her eyes leached of that inner light that so often burned within, Philomena reflected his words with the same dull disbelief that he himself felt at their utterance. She knew it was useless. She knew her father was never going to change his mind and that Oliver would never…

Her head jerked up. What? What had Oliver just said? Her lips parted, and her eyes widened, truly unsure that he had said it! That she could continue her studies with him – at the hospital!

This time she really did spill the tea!

Philomena literally leapt to her feet, and rushed to his side, stooping to envelop him in yet another exuberant hug. ”Oh, Oliver! I…I…I don’t know what to say!!” And speaking was certainly going to be hard for the tears had begun to roll from her eyes, which now sparkled with the intensity of her pure joy.
Oliver hardly had a moment to gape at the splattered tea before he was pounced upon. He laughed, out of surprise mostly, between the fact the gesture was so unladylike of her and his usual company was so cooly reserved. And his own son, so angry and resentful, he’d get an eye full of spit before an expression of gratitude like this.

The poor girl. Her own father didn't give her much to be grateful for, either. A shame. Worse that that, a waste. Oliver pulled her tight, surprised how much he felt her gratitude was a relief. He had been so hesitant to return to town, but here was proof he could make a difference. Not to mention that after Felix, Oliver wondered if he even had anything worth offering the next generation, but here Philomena was beyond thankful, she was enthusiastic to learn and follow in his footsteps.

He patted her shoulder after a moment, “Let's get that spill cleaned up, then perhaps you can help me unpack.” Oliver offered. “I am afraid there is little here to entertain with until I get my belongings sorted out.”

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