A/N: Thank you to everyone who reviewed the first chapter of my new story. I don't know if this one will measure up to my first story, but I'll do my best. The rest of my comments will be at the end of this chapter. Enjoy!
The next morning, Matt grumbled as he crossed the hallway, reaching Becca's cracked bedroom door. He tapped lightly. "Hey, Bec, you up?"
He assumed not, which sucked, because now he had to feel guilty for waking her, knowing she had to work the graveyard shift that night. When he got no response, his marginal remorse gave way to the desperate situation at hand. He knocked louder. "Come on, Bec. I need your help."
"Let me guess," she said from the wrong direction. He turned as she turned the corner and leaned against the entryway. "You can't find your keys."
He frowned. "Give me a little credit. I wouldn't wake you up just to find my keys." He ignored her sardonic expression; he had only woken her up for his keys a few times.
Becca's eyes had moved to his chest and the haphazard necktie resting against it before moving heavenward. She muttered, "I should've known," then signaled him to follow her.
He complied, and he wondered why she was already up only after he met her at the corner of the bar. There was a half empty bowl of cereal and an open Diet Coke on the kitchen table. The coffee pot beeped, signaling it was ready for him. The dishes from the previous night which he had shoved into the sink had disappeared, presumably into the dishwasher.
Matt stepped back as she reached to undo the knot around his neck. "What's up with you? You having your downtime?"
She snorted and yanked him forward. "Why is it that guys always blame everything they can't explain about women on PMS? And don't talk about me like I'm one of your computer systems." Her fingers worked over the silk material effortlessly.
Matt watched her, though he gave up on figuring out how she did it long ago. Becca had learned the technique of the catalogue-caliber necktie from her mom, who used to be the one he ran to in such times of need when they were kids. The ends always lined up just right, and the knot at the top would have passed a ruler test for perfect symmetry.
When Becca finished, she glanced at her handiwork. "There, you're ready for GQ."
He grinned as he took a peek at his reflection on the shiny silver surface of the toaster.
"Just be glad I was already awake," she said as she went back to her breakfast. "If you'd have gotten me out of bed for that, you'd be hanging by that tie right now."
As Matt poured a cup of coffee, he watched Becca out of the corner of his eye. Her chin rested in her palm as she spooned out a soggy lump from her bowl. What happened to good morning? "So what's up? Did Felix shit in your Grape Nuts?"
Becca paused, her spoon halfway to her mouth, her eyes darting down into her bowl. A moment later she shrugged and took the bite anyway.
Strange, a reference to their adopted pet cockroach should have at least earned him something like, "No, but I did see him in your Folgers can." The more he tried to fish for what was wrong, the more she stonewalled him. Finally he gave up on trying to figure it out. If something was on her mind, she'd tell him. She never could hold out very long.
"Hey, Bec, you feel like meeting up for lunch later?" Matt took their dishes to the sink, talking over his shoulder as he rinsed them out. "I'll be at the medical complex all day, so I can swing by and pick you up."
For the first time that morning, Becca perked up. "Can you hook me up with a doctor?"
"Doctor, lab tech, the guy who rolls out people in wheelchairs, whatever." She leaned forward. "As long as he's single, straight, and employed, I'm good to go."
Matt snickered as he dried his hands off. "Is that why you're all sunshine this morning? You want a date?"
"Maybe I'm just tired of being a wife without getting any of the perks."
Matt cocked his head, not sure he'd heard her mumbled response correctly. "You what?"
Becca scowled as she got off her stool. "Forget it." She jerked her head toward the clock on the wall. "You're gonna be late."
He forgot what they were talking about as he checked the clock. He cursed, then ran into the living room to get his materials together. Once he shoved everything into his briefcase, he ran out the door.
He popped his head back in a moment later. He forgot his keys and had no time to look for them. Luckily Becca came through once again, tossing them to him seconds later. "Thanks, Bec, you're a lifesaver. I'll see you around lunchtime," he said, not waiting for her answer as he took the stairs in twos and rushed to his car.
It was the second time since taking his job Matt had to give a training class to a room full of doctors. Normally he enjoyed getting the chance to get out of the office and talk to new people about one of his projects. Most of the time those people were IT professionals who embraced technology and welcomed newer, faster, more streamlined methods of operation for their businesses.
Working with hospitals proved much different. Paperless systems for admissions, discharges, and medical records got rave reviews by administrative staff, but the doctors were always a hard sell. Especially the older ones who still grumbled about the good old days when they made house calls. Those guys liked dictating into mini tape recorders and flipping through color-coded charts which documented some patients' histories back to their length, weight, and distinguishing marks noted at birth.
Matt learned his first time around with a hospital contract he would spend less time teaching them how to operate their new system. Instead he had to convince them quality of care would improve. Less paper meant more time with patients and less chance for human error. They wanted proof that utilizing technology would not dehumanize modern medicine.
Despite the challenge, Matt appreciated their concerns. His coworkers avoided every medical contract, so Matt took them. When he met a particularly obstinate physician, Matt would relate to that person something he had thought about for years. If electronic medical records had been available when his mother was hospitalized after breaking her arm, one dictation from their family doctor noting a severe allergy to morphine would have made it to the emergency room within seconds. She had been in shock and forgot to say anything, but the doctor who saw her first still would have known not to feed that one painkiller into her IV, causing her to go into cardiac arrest.
Matt conveyed to the doctors what he really believed. If today's technology had been available twenty years earlier, his mother would still be alive. The new system his company provided would ensure the type of preventable oversight which ended his mother's life would not happen to their patients.
It worked every time, including this one. The younger doctors in the conference room, always more receptive to his presentations, nodded in agreement. The older group along the first few rows of seats looked at one another, their suspicious expressions softening into contemplation.
Having finished with the oral portion of the training, Matt adjourned the room for two hours to go to lunch and check in with their secretaries. It would give everyone time to think about what he said and look over the manual. He knew by the time they came back, they would be ready to try the new Dictaphone equipment.
As the room cleared, Matt dug out his cell phone and called home.
"You ready?" he asked when Becca answered.
"Just pick me up something," she said, her words sounding more like a yawn. "I don't feel like going anywhere."
She groaned as though she was trying to get off the couch without using her hands. "I don't want to. I wanna sit here by myself and wallow in my funk. Is that okay with you?"
"Not if you're just sitting on your ass."
Matt noticed one of the younger doctors had hung back and was now walking his way, though the guy halted when Matt glared in his direction. Matt pushed his annoyance at Becca aside. Covering the bottom of the phone with his thumb, he offered the approaching doctor an apologetic smile.
"Sorry about that, Doctor." Matt jerked his head at the phone. "My roommate."
The guy looked sympathetic. "No problem, Mr. Eldridge. I just wanted to ask you a few questions, but I can wait."
"Anything specific?" Translation: Is this going to take long?
The doctor shrugged. "Not really. I wanted to go over a few things you talked about."
Such a general response meant Matt could kiss his personal lunchtime goodbye. "Okay, give me just a sec."
He put the phone back to his ear. "Listen-"
"I heard. Don't worry about bringing me anything." A cabinet door thumped and plastic crinkled in the background. "We've got Ramen noodles."
"Yeah," she said. "Go earn your paycheck, slacker. Swing by the diner after work, and I might even feed you."
Matt grinned. Now that sounded more like his Bec. With one problem out of the way, Matt hung up and turned to the waiting doctor. "Okay, Doctor...?"
"Paul Rogers." The man stuck his hand out, which Matt shook.
"Okay, Dr. Rogers," Matt said as he led him out the door, "how about we head to the cafeteria. We can talk on the way."
Paul got so engrossed in his discussion with Matt, they not only spent the majority of lunch together, but Matt ended up answering more of his questions after the session ended for the day. Having been in town for less than six months, Paul barely knew his way around downtown Memphis, let alone felt comfortable enough to explore anywhere he might find a new set of friends. And Matthew Eldridge seemed to be the type who had never met a stranger in his life. Every time Paul asked a question about how the hospital's new system would work in certain situations, Matt broke it down in laymen's terms and even jotted a few notes down so he could check on some of the finer points and work out any kinks.
By the time they headed for the parking deck, they had discarded formality, discussing life in California once Paul learned Matt hailed not far from Paul's hometown in California. Once they got to common interests, Paul whistled in appreciation when Matt described his new television.
"You should come by sometime and check it out," Matt said as they got onto the elevator.
Paul nodded. "If I'm not on call, I'll take you up on that." His stomach growled, interrupting his train of thought. And he had a long night ahead too. "But right now I've got to get something to eat before I'm due back."
"I know a great place close by," Matt said. "I was headed that way right now."
Matt gave him directions. A few minutes later, Paul pulled up to the boxcar shaped building where Matt waited outside his car.
"This is great," Paul said as he got out and followed Matt inside. "I've never noticed this restaurant before."
Matt nodded, saying hello to a waitress while dodging another. "Yeah, it's one of the natives' best kept secrets. Good food, and there's always a few cops inside. Even before my roommate started working here, our dads used to take us all the time when we were kids."
"They liked the security, huh?"
Matt chuckled. "That and Bec's dad is the police chief." He scanned the booths, and he pointed to the one in the back corner next to the jukebox. "Yep, there's Chief right there. Come on, I'll introduce you."
Paul hesitated, not wanting to intrude. Matt never looked back, so he ended up jogging to catch up. Once they got to the table, Matt introduced Paul to the solemn gentleman nursing a cup of coffee. Chief Harris offered a greeting which sounded more like a growl, then shook his head and told Matt he better not be there to give his girl a hard time at work too.
Paul looked at Matt with raised eyebrows. To answer his question, Matt pointed toward the slim white counter. Between two more police officers stood a waitress, chatting and slapping the officers on the shoulder.
"She's trying to act like she doesn't see me," Matt said, grinning as he stood up. "Hey, Bec, what's a guy got to do to get some service around here?"
The other waitresses laughed and offered to come over, and Chief Harris poked Matt in the gut. Then the blonde haired woman turned and shot Matt an annoyed glare, and Paul realized two things at once. One, Matt's "roommate" was a woman. Two, Matt's roommate was pretty. Not beach bunny pretty. Simple pretty, like the kind of girl a man could actually take to the beach without worrying she would gripe if her hair got wet.
Her scowl transformed into a smirk when her gaze moved from Matt to him. "I should've known you were showing out for a new guy." She weaved around the tables sitting in the middle of the room before reaching the booth.
Matt acted as though he had not heard her comment. "Bec, this is Doc Rogers. He was in my training class today."
Becca looked at Matt like she'd never seen him before. "This guy's a doctor?" When she turned her attention to him, Paul straightened up a little. Then he realized he was in his scrubs. So much for first impressions.
She shook her head. "No way, you're too young to be a doctor. What do you really do at the hospital?"
It took Paul a minute to realize her question wasn't rhetorical. "I'm a second year resident."
She balked, her hazel eyes bugging. "You're kidding."
"Nope, but thanks for thinking so." He offered his hand. Who cared about clothes? She said he looked too young to be a doctor. "And call me Paul."
She glanced at Matt one more time before taking his hand, accompanying it with an easy smile. "Becca Harris."
"As in short for Rebecca?"
"Nope," she said. "My mom wanted to name me Rebecca, but Dad said, What's the point? Everyone'll call her something like Reba or Becca, and I don't like Reba."
So she was pretty and had a sense of humor.
Becca straightened as though just realizing where she was. "I guess I should stop running my mouth and get you guys something to eat." Paul wondered what it meant when she waved Matt off and said, "I already know what you want," without sparing him a glance the moment he opened his mouth.
She took Paul's order over everyone's laughter, then walked away. He nudged Matt in the arm as she talked to someone at a nearby table. He barely knew Matt and felt a little strange about prying, but Matt acted like an encyclopedia. If you want to know, get off your butt and find out.
"She's that roommate you were talking about?"
So far so good. "How long have you two lived together?"
Matt's brow furrowed. "Since I came back here to take this job, so I guess it's been almost two years now." He laughed and slapped Becca's father in the arm. "Doesn't seem that long, does it, Chief?"
Becca's father grumbled into his coffee cup while the man's eyes betrayed paternal affection. "Boy, you're like hemorrhoids. Just when I think I got rid a' you, you come right back, a bigger pain in the ass than the last time."
Paul watched them banter back and forth, proving Matt had been honest when he called this man part of his second family. The police chief treated Matt like a son, which led Paul to wonder just how close Matt and this man's daughter were. Matt called Becca his roommate, but if they had known each other since childhood, their relationship likely fell into one of three categories. Either they saw each other as a sibling substitute, they had failed at a romantic relationship already, or they were involved in such a relationship now but chose to call each other "roommate" to avoid complications. Like they feared Matt might end up on the wrong end of Chief Harris's revolver.
Becca returned with their meals, then sat down a few minutes later during her break. The more he watched Becca and Matt, the more confusing their relationship appeared. They sounded like twins, finishing each other's sentences and saying things spontaneously, but in unison. Or maybe they were like a couple who had been together so long, they became one mind, an inseparable entity. Perhaps that was why every time she tried to talk to him, Matt would cut in and monopolize the conversation. Then again, brothers did the same thing to annoy their sisters.
He gave up trying to figure the two out; she had to get back to work, he to the hospital. It was a shame really, because Becca gave the impression she might have liked to talk to him a little longer, and perhaps without Matt's constant interruptions. At least, that's how he chose to interpret her invitation to come back anytime while flashing him a cherub's smile over her shoulder.
It was likely they would run into each other again. After all, if the emergency room proved slow, no one could fault him if he stepped out for a cup of coffee at a nearby diner, right?
End Chapter Two
A note to a*vision: You mentioned it seemed off that eleven year old kids weren't allowed to cross the street. I realized I didn't explain that very well. Becca and Matt's childhood is set in my old neighborhood in Memphis (about the time I lived there too.) I drew that scene from my memories of my Granny not letting me or my cousins cross the street without an adult because people tore down that road really fast, drunk, etc since it was a good shortcut between two main roads. Plus there were two halfway houses on my street. I know I didn't clarify that in the chapter. Sorry about that, to everyone who wondered about that. I'll try to do better in the future with the details.
Thanks again for reading, guys! Until next time ^_^