“I’m starved. How about you?” Matt asked as he picked up his stained menu. “Says here Benji’s has been here since nineteen forty-two.”
“Yes, I think the menus are original.”
The waitress, a middle-aged skinny African-American woman named Betty came up to their booth. “Coffee?”
“That would be great,” Matt said enthusiastically.
“Don’t bet on it. Tea. Green, if you have it.”
Betty looked down her nose at him. “Dr. Lassiter, you know we don’t have that.”
“I haven’t given up hope that if I request it enough times you’ll get a clue and start carrying it.”
“Don’t bet on it,” she mocked him. “Lipton?”
He sighed. “Yes.”
“Be right back.”
Matt studied him curiously. “They seem to know you here.”
“Twenty-four hour diner near a hospital. Yeah, everyone comes here at some point. They’ll know you before long, too.”
“What are you going to have, Dr. Lassiter?” Matt pushed a strand of his jaw-length hair behind his ear.
“You may as well call me Calvin.”
“Oh, okay.” Matt grinned.
“Outside of the hospital anyway.” He didn’t expect to see much of Matt outside the hospital, of course. “The one egg breakfast with bacon.”
“I think I’m going to have the Big Man breakfast.”
Calvin wasn’t the least bit surprised. The Big Man, which had been offered at Benji’s for many decades, consisted of three eggs, bacon and sausage, hash browns, and pancakes. “You must work out if you eat like that every day.”
Matt nodded. “I do and I don’t. Meaning, I do work out, but I don’t eat like that every day.”
Betty returned with their drinks and took their orders.
Matt sipped his coffee and grimaced. “Not the best.”
“You’ll learn to order tea.”
“How long have you been at the hospital?”
“Four years counting my residency.” Calvin added a packet of honey to his tea, thoughtfully brought by Betty who remembered he drank it that way.
“Lucky. I’ve been trying to get in here for months.” He grimaced again and added a big dollop of cream and several packets of sugar. “I liked the hospital I was working at before, but I moved to Glendale and it was getting to be too much of a commute.”
Calvin vaguely recalled most of Nathan’s family lived south of Los Angeles, including his stepbrother, and he wanted to ask Matt why he moved from Orange County to the Los Angeles area, but since he’d told Matt he didn’t discuss his private life, he could hardly be nosey with the man.
“This is a great hospital with a terrific reputation. I can see why you’d want to work here.”
“Definitely. You working tonight?”
“No. I’ve got the next few days off. I’ve got some sleeping to catch up on.”
“Yeah, and I’ll bet your boyfriend misses you,” Matt said with a sly look.
Calvin couldn’t help but smile just a little at his not so covert attempt to get the information he wanted out of Calvin. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“Oh.” Matt pretended to look mildly curious. He could tell it was a pretense. “I’m pretty sure Barnaby or Nathan said you were gay, though. Right?”
He could see the man just wasn’t going to quit until he admitted his sexual orientation. “Yes, I am gay.”
Matt nodded, as though satisfied. “Beautiful man like you? I’m surprised you don’t have a significant other. What’s wrong with the men in Los Angeles?”
“I really don’t have time for a relationship anyway.”
Betty brought their breakfasts and refilled Matt’s coffee and his hot water. “Enjoy.”
Calvin mixed his over easy egg with his hash browns and added just a smidge of salt. He’d been blessed with perfect cholesterol. “What about you?”
“Well, actually, I did have a boyfriend. Moved up here from Orange County to be with him. Too bad he turned out to be a cheating jerk.” Matt shrugged. “I decided to stay here anyway, get a new start.”
“That’s too bad about your boyfriend.”
Matt smiled a little and dug into his breakfast. He chewed several bites before he spoke again. “You know you aren’t so bad.”
The other man waved his fork. “You have sort of a reputation at the hospital.”
Calvin sighed. “Yes, I know.”
“If you know, well, why don’t you let them know you aren’t the prick they think you are?” Matt blushed. “Um, sorry.”
“Whatever. I know what they say about me. They aren’t quiet about it. I’m here to help patients who come in here with injuries or illnesses, often life-threatening. I don’t care about winning popularity contests.”
“Okay, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“I’m not,” Calvin insisted. He’d never found it easy to make friends. In fact, he could count on one hand how many people were actually close to him. Most of the time it didn’t bother him.
“I’m glad you agreed to have breakfast with me anyway.” Matt pushed his mostly empty plate away and patted his stomach. “I’m stuffed. I’m going to go home and do some errands before I catch a few hours of sleep. I’ll be off for a couple days starting tomorrow.”
Calvin picked up the check Betty had left. He pulled out his wallet and left several dollars for the tip. “I’ve got this.”
“Oh, hey, thanks, but I didn’t mean for you to pay,” Matt protested.
“Forget it.” Calvin moved across the booth and stood.
After he paid, they headed outside. Calvin looked at the overcast sky.
“Looks like rain maybe later,” Matt said.
“Yes. Well, see you later.”
Calvin frowned. “What?”
Matt stepped into Calvin’s personal space. The bastard was taller than him, too. His face was so close his hot breath brushed Calvin’s cheek as he dipped his head to speak. “I want to hear you say my name.”
Calvin laughed. “Please.”
Matt grinned. “Okay, please, Matt. It sounds even better.”
He backed up a step, but Matt pursued him. “Get real.”
“Come on. If you want me to go, you have to say it.”
Calvin glared and tried to move away, but Matt’s hand closed over his forearm. “Fine. Please, Matt.”