Note: I do not own or have rights to either Twilight or Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
I stepped off the train at the little depot, my medical bag in one hand and the carpet bag containing my meager belongings in the other. The brisk November wind ruffled my long wool coat and threatened to steal the black felt derby from my head. The cold gray sky promised snow and I suspected it would begin before nightfall. If I were human I would have found the frigid air uncomfortable, but being a vampire it didn't bother me.
I took a discreet breath, analyzing and categorizing the cornucopia of scents that wafted under my nose. Strongest of these at the moment was that of coal dust, axle grease, and smoke coming from the locomotive behind me. Beneath that were the more delicate aromas. Freshly cut pine lumber, I looked down and noticed that several of the floor boards on the platform had recently been replaced. Paper and ink, both the telegraph and post office were housed at the train station. Horses, what frontier town would be complete without man's most trusted and valued beast of burden.
And then of course there were the human smells, they were all around me like an ocean. I was practically swimming in them. The closest one belonged to a lanky gentleman who was busily sweeping the platform. He paid me no heed as he mumbled to himself in time the swishing of his broom. I cleared my throat to get his attention.
"Oh, good afternoon." he stuttered politely, the cold weather made his teeth chatter as he spoke. "Can I help you?"
"Yes," I replied as I tipped my hat. "I'm Dr. Cullen and I'm looking for the clinic of Dr. M. Quinn."
"Oh you mean Dr. Mike. You must be that new Doc that's supposed to be coming from Philadelphia." He smiled, wiped his hand on his apron, and then offered it to me in friendship. "I'm Horace Bing; I run the depot and the telegraph."
Ordinarily, I wouldn't have accepted the gesture, but considering the weather, his hand would likely be just as cold as mine.
"Dr. Carlisle Cullen," I introduced myself as I shook his hand, "and yes, I'm the new 'Doc' from Philadelphia." I paused for a moment and then prodded him again, "Where might I find Dr. Quinn? I'd like to present myself and then get settled in before the snow starts."
Horace was very forthcoming and I soon found myself strolling down the town's main street. I had come across Dr. Quinn's advertisement back in June, in one of the medical journals I often read. I had been at my current hospital post for four years and it was time to move on. Being eternally twenty three meant not being able to stay in any one place for very long . . . no matter how much I might want to.
We corresponded numerous times over the next few months. It seemed that Dr. Quinn had a young family and a growing practice. His small clinic had blossomed into a small hospital and he needed a second set of skilled hands to keep watch over the clinic and his patients overnight.
This was exactly to my liking, and by early September I was convinced that this situation would be a good fit for me. I wrote to him and informed him that I would be more than happy to accept the position . . . provided it was acceptable to him as well. When I received his positive reply in October, I was overjoyed.
I could have taken a posting at another city hospital somewhere in the northeast or even in the growing metropolis that was St Lewis, but I decided the frontier might be more stimulating. Of course, I couldn't overlook the fact that the hunting would be easier as well out here in the wilderness. When I wasn't reading, I had passed the long hours on the train looking out the window as the landscape hurtled by; deer, elk, and even bison were as plentiful out here as fleas on a dog. I would have no trouble finding sustenance.
"Hey, handsome," a female voice called out to me. "New in town, why don't you come up and we can . . . get acquainted."
I stopped in my tracks and looked up. The structure to my right was the corner stone of every frontier town, or so it seemed. What town would be complete without it 'watering hole'? The sign above the door read: Golden Nugget Saloon and Hotel, Hank Lawson, proprietor. Along with the scent of unwashed humanity, the smell of whiskey, cheap cigars, and even cheaper perfume drifted in waves from behind the swinging doors. The scantily clad young woman who called to me from the upstairs window continued to smile and wave at me.
Once again I tipped my hat. "Another time perhaps," I answered in my most gentlemanly tone. It had been my observation that women in the entertainment trade came by their profession less by choice than by tragic necessity. I truly hoped that one day the world would be more equitable to the fairer sex. "Is this the way to Dr. Quinn's clinic?" I asked in an attempt to change the subject.
"That's right, Sugar," she giggled. I could tell my natural lure was having an effect on her. "Just keep going straight, you can't miss it."
I nodded my thanks and continued on my way. Not long after my encounter at the saloon, I found myself standing in front of Dr. Quinn's establishment. True to the young lady's word I couldn't have missed it, even if I had tried. The scent of sickness, Ether, and blood permeated the building from corner stone to rafter.
After checking myself to ensure that I was presentable, I stepped up onto the narrow porch and knocked on the door. A few moments later my knock was answered as the door was opened by a young woman. I smiled as I discreetly appraised her.
She was tall, but still a few inches shorter than I, with a warm yet serious face. Her hair was the most glorious shade of coppery red and she had the front part pinned back while the rest of it fell in long cascades around her shoulders and back. She wore a simple blue cotton dress that, while modest, it still showed off her famine curves. I couldn't help my smile. Most of the time I paid little attention to the attractiveness of human females, as they held no fascination for me, but how could I ignore such beauty when it was so plainly put before me.
"Good afternoon Madam," I greeted her warmly. "I'm Dr. Cullen; I'm looking for Dr. Quinn."
"Yes, of course, please come in." She replied softly as she stepped back and opened the door further to allow my entrance.
I crossed the threshold into the cozy confines of what I presumed to be Dr. Quinn's waiting room. It was rustic but serviceable. By all outward appearances the good doctor ran an orderly hospital, I was beginning to like the man already.
"I hope my timing isn't inconvenient," I excused nervously. "My train only just arrived and I wanted to introduce myself as promptly as possible."
"Oh no, Dr. Cullen, there's no inconvenience, your timing is fine," she answered honestly. I liked that quality in a woman.
I took a deep breath and sighed. As I did, I detected the scent of two other humans in the building. Both were male and one was obviously a patient, as the smell of sickness lingered on him. The other human smelled of wilderness and wood smoke. I frowned.
"Is the doctor out on rounds?" I was confused now. Dr. Quinn wasn't exactly expecting me today and I wouldn't dream of having him put the needs of his patients on hold just on the off chance that I might arrive, but why had this woman not told me the doctor was out. "Perhaps I should come back later, when he's available."
"Is something wrong, Michaela?"
I turned to find the woodsy scented male standing in the doorway. He propped himself against the door frame, crossed his arms, and glared at me. Surely this couldn't be Dr. Quinn, I mused. He was dressed from head to toe in buckskin, his hair hung to his shoulders and a tomahawk dangled menacingly from his belt. He looked more like a fur trader or an army scout than a man of medicine.
I decided to give introductions a try. "Good day, Sir, I'm Dr. Carlisle Cullen. I'm here to see Dr. Quinn."
The man inclined his head in greeting. "Byron Sully," he replied, "Welcome to Colorado Springs."
Byron Sully, I repeated mentally. I was beginning to think that perhaps the poor soul who smelled of sickness was Dr. M. Quinn and he was in dire need of my professional services. My irritated thoughts were suddenly disrupted by the sound of soft giggling. I turned to the woman who had answered the door and found her trying to hide her mirth behind her hand.
"Madam, might I inquire as to what you find so amusing?" It took all of my control to suppress the irritated growl that tickled deep in my throat.
"Forgive me, Dr. Cullen," she began when her giggles subsided, though she still wore a smile. "If you like, I can arrange a train ticket back east for you."
Good heavens, I was being dismissed without ever having met my employer, how unprofessional. Then again, perhaps that's the way things were done out here in the wilderness. I was about to say something indignant when another thought crossed my mind, it might just be that the doctor isn't here because the doctor had met an untimely demise. Short violent lives were not unheard of 'out west.'
The poor woman next to me must be his widow. A wave of compassion washed through me and I did my best to put on an expression of sympathy.
"I'm sorry, Madam; I had no way of knowing." I assured her gently. "You have my deepest and most heartfelt condolences. If there is anything I can do to help you through your hour of need, please don't hesitate to ask." Then I paused briefly before adding, "Have you considered selling your husband's practice, if so I can think of several . . ."
The woman beside me suddenly burst into uncontrollable laughter. What an odd reaction, was she drunk? I couldn't smell alcohol on her but why else would she laugh at such a serious subject as the disposal of her husband's estate.
"Michaela," Mr. Sully interrupted gently. "I think you'd better set Dr. Cullen straight before he puts his other foot in his mouth."
Now I was really confused and my attention shifted back and forth between the woman and Mr. Sully.
"Dr. Cullen," she began in a more serious tone. "I'm Dr. M. Quinn . . . Dr. Michaela Quinn. It's apparent that you were not expecting a woman doctor. I wouldn't want you to be uncomfortable, so if you wish I can arrange passage for you back to Philadelphia. I'm sorry I wasted your time."
In two centuries of existence I'd never felt more embarrassed that I did in that moment. No, I wasn't expecting a woman doctor, but I had no right to assume a male one either. While they were exceedingly rare, it had been my pleasure to work with pleasant and competent female physicians before.
Time to eat crow, Carlisle, I chided myself. "It is I who owes you the apology Mad . . . um, excuse me, Dr. Quinn," I began honestly. "While you are right, I was not expecting a woman doctor that is no excuse for my behavior. I made an unfair assumption based on the prevailing accepted social norms. Obviously I was wrong to do so and I'm quite embarrassed. I consider myself to be of a progressive mind set and have always held the opinion that women, as a whole, have been grossly underestimated.
"If it still pleases you to have me in your employ, I would very much like to stay."
I watched a broad grin spread across Dr. Quinn's face and she nodded. "Welcome to Colorado Springs, Dr. Cullen."
"Thank you." Then I turned to Mr. Sully. "I owe you an apology as well, sir."
Mr. Sully chuckled as he shook his head. "You haven't offended me any, friend."
"Be that as it may, I entertained a number of very unprofessional thoughts about you based on your mode of dress," I confessed. "For that, Mr. Sully, I am deeply sorry."
"Fair enough, I'll accept your apology . . . under two conditions." He flashed me a strange mischievous smile that made me a little nervous. "One, never ever call me Mr. Sully again, it's just Sully. Got it?"
I nodded, "and the other condition?"
"Lose the 'back east' mannerisms and the highfalutin' language," he said as he shook his head. "Otherwise I'm going to end up rescuing you from more fist fights than I care to think about."
At this I could only smile and nod. Rescue me from fisticuffs indeed, if he only knew the truth of my nature, I mused. Still he had a point, I needed to blend in and that would be a good place to start.
"Agreed," I replied before turning back to my employer. "Now, Doctor, if you're not terribly busy, would it be possible . . ."
Sully cleared his throat loudly and glared at me. Highfalutin' language, I reminded myself and tried again. "A tour of your clinic, if you please?"
Dr. Quinn laughed. "Don't mind Sully, he treated me the same way when I first arrived. It means he likes you." Then she took several steps towards the rear of the waiting area. "Right this way, Doctor, and I'll show you the surgery."