Closed Close Quarters
It was a cold morning to start his new job on. The sky was still grey, and the dew had frozen into a thin frost on the grass and windows outside Oliver’s home. It surprised him how much he felt excited for the new post, considering he had turned it down when initially offered.

Dr. Dietrich arrived at the hospital with two trunks in the back of a cart. The attendant helped him move them into the front before heading out, leaving Oliver in the unusually quiet ward. It didn’t take long for him to find the office. Singular office, which it appeared he would be sharing with the nurse, Catherine. A second desk had been added, but he couldn’t help the look of surprise and disappointment on his face. It must have been years… no, decades since he shared an office with anyone.

“Good morning.” He tipped his hat, and reached to hang it on a hook before he realized there wasn’t yet one attached to the wall. He would need to fix that, of course, Mrs. Leclerq wouldn’t have a reason to keep on for herself. “I hope settling in here won’t disturb your work.” Oliver added, though if it did he hardly had a choice in the matter. His belongings wouldn’t unpack themselves.
"Good morning Doctor," Catherine rose from her desk as the man entered without so much as a knock. Fortunately she had been expecting him, and the office was tidier than usual, its monolithic shelves freshly dusted with the curtains drawn to let in the fresh winter morning light over the dark wood, and two new bouquets of flowers set out, one for both his and her desk.

"Oh, no you won't disturb anything at all, please make yourself comfortable." It was indeed a white lie, born of Catherine's innate desire to placate. She had greatly enjoyed the space to consult with patients in private, or to have a place to focus on keeping the hospital records up to date, or even to just catch her breath and gather her thoughts. Still, the work alone at the hospital with only a few other, new nurses to help her was overwhelming at times and in the early nightfall of winter the large imposing office was lonely.

"I can't tell you what a relief it is to have the position filled at last," she offered, welcoming. The doctor, after their brief encounter earlier in the fall would not have been her first pick on his temperament alone, but she had been assured that he had come to know the little town of Madsmoor well, and the trust of the local villagers, not to mention benefactors, was worth a great deal in her book.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Catherine offered, silently noting the doctor's failed attempt to hang his hat.
Dr. Dietrich smiled, thankful for the welcoming words. Her attitude was a great deal warmer than when they had met a few weeks ago regarding a patient from the manor. It had taken her a long time to let him just simply do his job. Hopefully his new position here would clear up any similar misunderstandings.

“Oh, I would hate to impose.” Oliver excused, as he moved the vase of flowers from his desk up to the top of the shelf to make room for his briefcase. “I imagine I’ll mostly be unpacking today, and I suspect you have other work to do?” He asked with a hint of curiosity. After all, unpacking would be twice as face with twice the hands.

He opened his briefcase and began to move his collection of pens and stationary to the top drawer of the desk. The drawer was a bit sticky, causing a screech as he opened it. Older furniture, he frowned. Probably would loosen up once the dust was cleared.
After a moment's hesitation, Catherine returned Dr. Dietrich's smile. This was her first time seeing the expression on the man's features, and she supposed, in that moment, that perhaps there might be a civil working relationship after all. Or perhaps it was all just perfunctory. She cast a glance over to the sound of the vase being removed to the shelf as the doctor mentioned her schedule.

Ah, Catherine thought, and there it was. The suggestion she should get back to work, hidden under the usual English niceties. Her expression returned to its usual professional demeanor. The idea that he might think her anything less than as busy as she was crept under Catherine's skin. Indeed, she had scheduled for this, but there was always more work to be done around the hospital.

"Unfortunately, I indeed do," she replied, offering an apologetic smile in excuse. "We've been short on staff, what with the hospital being new and all, and the difficulty of finding trained professionals out in a small town as this, though I expect your work here will be of great help." She winced as he opened the drawer. "I'll be in the ward, feel free to call one of the staff if you need anything, and we'll make introductions once you're all settled." With that, Catherine gathered up her charts and bustled out, a curious look in the direction of the two trunks the doctor had brought in, and what they might hold.
“Right. Of course.” Oliver’s good composure spared him the indignity of heaving a sigh. It looked like he’d be on his own when it came to unpacking all of it. Not that Catherine owed him her time, obviously she had a full days work already. He strained a smile through his disappointment until she crossed the threshold of the office and Oliver could let his face fall.

He took the moment of privacy as an opportunity to more carefully examine his desk. Oliver took a seat in the chair, trying to get a sense of how it might feel after a long day’s work. The top of the desk was worn, chipped here and there and a clear stain from a teacup san saucer. It reminded him of his desk when he started his job in Cambridge. It was years before they had a chance to come through and replace them. That replacement had become his desk- he could remember when it got each chip and tea stain.

Oliver ran his hand through his hair, pushing the memories away. He had plenty to take care of.


The contents of the trunk had mostly resided in his bedroom while he was a guest at moorland manor. Dozens of jars of human scrap, bobbed around as he delicately unpacked them and lined the shelves. He couldn’t help but smile at the shriveled hand, articulated into a menacing pose, that he had bought off of one of the mystic women in town. He placed it on his desk next to his lamp.
It was mid afternoon when Catherine returned, tea service in hand and her book of patient records tucked firmly under her arm. Between it all she managed a sharp knock at the office door before entering. In a way it seemed a silly thing to do when the office had been her own for some time now, but it was a small price to pay for the good of finally having a proper doctor on staff. No sooner had the smile crossed her lips at the thought, than her eyes fell on the...things...that now lined the large bookshelf at the back of the room behind her desk.

"Good afternoon Doctor Deitrich," she managed, setting down the tea as she tried to make out the item on the middle shelf, right at the head of her chair. Was that... a liver? Whatever it was it was where the next volume of admissions and discharges belonged once she filled the current one, and she shuttered to think what a patient might think at the whole display when she inevitably would have to consult them in the midst of it all. Still, Catherine remembered her manners. Doctor or no, Oliver was new here - and stubborn opposition rarely led her to desired results.

"How has the unpacking been going?" She asked kindly, taking her teacup from the tray, and leaving the other, as well as the cream and the sugar behind for the doctor. "There's tea if you would like," she indicated, sitting down directly underneath the liver, and heavens knew what else, placing the charts on the large desk in front of her to review as she did daily. That task however, would have to wait. "You seem to have quite the collection of specimens. Are they for study or education?"
“Slowly.” Oliver had quite some time to unpack in silence after Catherine abruptly left to stew on the fact she abruptly left. “But I’m just about finished now.” He slid into his seat and checked his pocket watch.

It couldn't be that late… “Oh my goodness, I must have forgotten lunch.” He did a somersault inside, despite his effort to sound disappointed. He hadn't forgotten lunch since he worked back in Cambridge, while he was working at the manor lunch was often the only major event during the day. Aside from the occasional shooting, seance, or other excitement of such an untoward variety.

At least Catherine seemed interested in his collection. She was a nurse, after all, it would make sense if they could at least share an enthusiasm for human anatomy. “What is the difference?” The doctor asked, genuinely confused. “They’re for my research.” He clarified.
Catherine acknowledged his reply about missing lunch with an empathetic nod. “Heaven knows I too often do the same. We shall have to tour the facilities once you finish up and I will be sure to point out the kitchen. There should be more than enough to fix yourself a quick bite.”

She glanced at his untouched tea, pausing a moment before she dissected the next bit. From the doctor’s reply, he clearly was not seeing what she, and most people did - a stark reminder of their own mortality. The whole setup made the office look dingy and unclean in a way that no amount of bright flowers and curtains could amend. Still, despite her strong opinions on the matter, it would not do to bring it up outright. “Where do you plan to consult with patients and their families?” She prompted. Perhaps an air of curiosity rather than reprimand might make him consider.
Oliver had already spent his morning bumbling his way through an unfamiliar kitchen, and was in no rush to attempt it again. “Of course I’d love to see the facility.” He closed the lid of his empty trunk. “If you are available now?”

Looking around the office, the surgeon tried to figure out why she was asking. “I thought I would be consulting in my office, here.” He hadn't shared an office in some time, though, and never in such a small hospital. “If you are concerned about the patient’s privacy… or perhaps we can be sure not to schedule consultations to overlap? I can’t imagine things will be terribly busy.” As far as Oliver knew, she was aware of the tricky situation of sharing the office already. It was a small hospital and it was better to have a proper surgeon and physician on staff than trying to accommodate personal consultation space. He didn't want to feel like an imposition if he accepted the job in order to help.
Catherine paused, trying to decide where to start. The tour would have to wait until she sorted this. His office? Things were not terribly busy? She exhaled, gathering herself. The man was every bit as pompous and entitled as when she had first met him. At the same time however the hospital desperately needed an attending physician. She was going to have to make this work.

“Why yes, of course, you would be consulting patients in my office,” she could not help herself from claiming the office entirely as her own in turn. She, after all, had been using it since the hospital had been built. Still, she kept her tone matter-of fact. “What I mean to say, Doctor, is, I do not believe your...research...will go far to put our often very ill patients and their loved ones at ease in a time where they are already starkly reminded of their own mortality.” Unsurprisingly, bobbing brains tended to make most people uncomfortable, herself included.

“Perhaps we can find a more...suitable location for your...effects?” she offered.
Claiming the office as hers didn’t slip by the doctor, but he only acknowledged it by steepling his fingers. She did make a decent point however, about the items he had. Perhaps these country folk wouldn’t appreciate the comfort of cold, exacting science in their place of healing. It seemed ridiculous to Oliver, though. If he were ill, he would want to be sure the person treating him was well educated and fully rational.

He frowned, “Where then, do you suggest I conduct my research? Working in the ward would hardly do, regarding our bedridden patients, and exposure to infection there could ruin my sample tissues.”
“The ward? Hevens, no.” Catherine dismissed instantly. At least they agreed on that it seemed. “Quite possibly the one place worse than the office to upset the poor patients,” she found herself tsking. Never mind the samples! Insensitive and odd, and she had no problem in setting her boundaries now and letting the doctor know it.

Still, what the man was asking for, a study it seemed, was only fair. “We are a new facility, and fortunately we have free space yet. The basement still has some rooms available apart from the scullery and the morgue. Perhaps a space down there might suffice?” Catherine tried with renewed cheer in her voice. There was little chance he would upset the patients with his “samples” there. She glanced up at the liver once more, suddenly wondering just how it came to be in his possession, though her expression, mouth a terse, flat line, remained otherwise unchanged.
Dr. Dietrich could have been offended by the suggestion he take his studies to the basement, but he turned the proposition over in his mind. It could be a good opportunity, and a way that he could stay out of the way of too many prying eyes. At the manor, he had dragged back a few untoward remnants through the basements to avoid raising suspicions about his grave digging. And, well, if he conducted his studies next to the morgue…

“It will do well, I believe. Thank you, Catherine.”

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