It was one of those nights where Greg had won the luxury of picking where they ate, he loved these days, not because he got to eat what he wanted but because he was able to subject Jim to food he wanted nothing to do with. There was some payback in order because there were fuzzy memories of some ruined pizza places and weird feelings about cheese these days, so when he was granted the ability to decide where they ate revenge was a go. There was a diner that Greg loved just outside the city, he would stop in every time he went out to visit family, it was everything he loved in a diner and everything Jim complained about in food. The chips were greasy, the burgers could stop your heart, and if it wasn't drenched in grease it was covered in enough chocolate to send you into a diabetic coma. You'd think it was one of those throwback places, decorated in a fifties style, but it was pretty clear no one had bothered to change the decor since the place opened. Though they did keep the uniforms even though that had to be hard to do, however the place would have been better without the waitresses because they did little to actually help you.
Unfortunately Greg didn't make a clause about going without protest (or comparing any other food to animal fluids) but he took that all in stride because it was well worth it to have some giant, bacon covered burger that didn't have vegetables or come on some kind of weirdly named bread instead of a bun. Not caring if he didn't need to eat again for a week, Greg ordered the works, burger, chips, bonus onion rings, a chocolate milkshake, and coffee. Sitting like a king in his castle, Greg took the complaints and insults with a smile, proud of himself (never mind the fact that he didn't win anything) but he got to pick the restaurant. The man really was a child sometimes. Jim ordered the chef's salad, something he'd found on the back page, Greg didn't even know you could get salad here and to make matters better he requested they make sure there weren't any lettuce hearts in the bowl, too crunchy, that the tomatoes were cut in quarters not slices, that bacon was nowhere near his plate, and a bottle of whatever vinaigrette they had, not a cup. The waitress actually looked to Greg to see if the other was serious, it pained him to have to nod yes.
Once their order had been placed the men sat in silence for a while, Greg watched them move behind the counter waiting desperately for the waitress to bring him his coffee as though it'd been years since he had some, not hours. Jim straightened the table, rearranging the silverware, salt and pepper shakers, napkins, and the other things taking up space so that the table was more to his liking but once he'd done that he had nothing to do. The ‘boredom' lasted ninety seconds before he got up and slid himself into Greg's side of the booth, not sitting with the man just occupying the same side of the table, it was going to be necessary. Just because he didn't want to be in this shithole didn't mean he couldn't have fun.
"Alright Sourpatch, we're playing a game."
Greg groaned, he didn't want to play a game, he wanted his damn coffee and to be able to eat! He positioned himself against the window slightly, giving himself a better view of Jim, and pulled on leg up on the dirty blue vinyl booth. "Right, couldn't just be dinner." He said with a sigh, he knew he was going along with whatever it was Jim had so why fight it? "What are we playing? Crawling straw-wrapper worm races?"
"You know I'd beat you, you winning would involve you have water anywhere near your meal." Jim scoffed "No, I'm thinking something a little more involved than that, something before you go comatose and can't use your brain anymore."
"Fuck off" was all Greg shot back, harmlessly. Though the eye rolled showed a hint of annoyance, it was hardly a secret the lectures on eating habits were hated though.
"Later" Jim grinned "You're going to prove you're more than just a pretty face, I need my arm candy to be smart too." he teased, ignoring the scowl being thrown his way and carrying on with his explanation "Look around the room, tell me what you notice about the people in here, not what you see, what you observe."
Greg's eyebrows raised slightly as he nodded his head, he was impressed. Of all the things he expected to be requested of him, this wasn't it. Even when he was at work, the inspector's observation skills weren't put to the test, it was usually assumed he didn't have them due the company he kept. Accepting the cup of coffee that was finally delivered, Greg nodded vigorously towards Jim, willing to take on the challenge...excited to take on the challenge. As soon as the waitress was out of earshot, in a low voice just in case she could hear still, Greg started his task. "She's got a couple of kids. There's stains on her uniform they aren't what you get here. That mashed peas type baby food shit is on her shoulder, she held her kid without a cloth or anything which means she feeds them in a hurry, probably on her lunch break. There's jelly about waist-high so she has more than one." Greg smiled slightly, proud of himself.
"You can do better, keep going." Jim pushed.
"The older kid, you mean?" Greg asked, knowing he'd left that part out. You can't just go for it all the first try. "When she was suppose to be getting my coffee she put a reuben in a bag, to-go, everyone has food except us, well that I can see, but what really gave it away was she took her tips out of her pocket and put them in the bag too. Someone else has to eat, maybe has to pick up some things for the house. That's an older child."
"Too easy, I got all that before we sat down. The baby...it's babies, they're twins. You missed that. Charms on her necklace, get sharp." it was hard not to show off, not to tell Greg the children's genders but he needed him to keep going, to start paying attention, to show off what he could do.
"Fine." Greg growled. Taking a slow drink from the small white mug as he surveyed the room. There were a handful of tables with people at them, the counter was nearly full but they seemed to block each other and Greg didn't have a good view of any of those patrons other than the first one, even that was blocked slightly by the cash register. Narrowing in on a family sitting together on the opposite end of the room from Jim and Greg, perfect view. With a tilt of his head, Greg brought Jim's attention to the table, he knew it was another easy read but it wasn't known why it was so easy.
"There, the family? No. That's dad, we'll leave what he does for a living alone, too easy" Greg smiled, suddenly feeling a bit like Sherlock which was a nice change, talking down to someone rather than it happening to him though the only reason the statement worked without being an insult was because Jim was smarter than Greg (than Sherlock) and did know by looking at the man's filthy clothes, the coveralls, the name tag, the hat on the table, everything screamed mechanic and it didn't take a genius to catch that one. "He's divorced, wife has custody. That's not his girlfriend, not even his sister, but she's not court appointed so she's gotta be some friend. There's no...look how far they sit from each other, they don't even look at each other, she doesn't want to be here but he asked her to be. Which means he doesn't know his kids very well, look there's two older girls, he's trying desperately to connect but that doesn't work it's only pushing those two away. The little boy is upset with his dad, missed his football...no. NO! Swim meet...he missed his swim meet and he said he'd really be there this time, it's what they always say."
Greg swallowed hard at both the memories he'd brought up and what he accidentally revealed, trying as hard as he could to not react, to keep the attention away from the statement he continued on, a slight tremor in the next few words as he regained composure. "None of them are happy to be there, again, goes without saying. It's so uncomfortable in here, they're radiating it. See that guy two booths away? He actually feels it, he's been texting off and on, I keep seeing him pick up his phone as I watch the other family, he's texting his mother. Maybe he over heard them say something, he's close enough, but he's feeling guilt because of them."
Greg's deductions were interrupted by the waitress who made sure to scoff far too loudly, obviously over the fact that the men were still sitting on the same side of the booth, something they probably didn't see much out here. Dropping plates on the table with little concern for whether they went to the right person and leaving once her arms were empty. The sound of Greg's laughter started to drown out the hum of chatter in the diner as he looked over what was in front of them. His burger, fries on the plate, and plate of onion rings were pulled to his half of the table as the laughter grew. Pushing the other plates towards Jim, a pathetic bowl of lettuce with tomato slices on top, sliced cheese that was obviously meant to top burgers and not salads, an entire hard-boiled egg - not even sliced, and a small plate with a cup of what he was assuming was some thousand island type dressing on it. It was everything Jim asked for it not be...and then some. Greg could barely control the laughter to feel sorry for the other, of course if he could order normal food there wouldn't be this problem.
Still suppressing chuckles, Greg took the knife off his napkin and sliced about a third of his burger from the other two-thirds. Taking the little cup of ketchup and mayo off the plate, he plopped down the slabs of meat between greasy bread. "Eat something real, wouldya?" he said before turning back to his own meal. Still smiling as he stuffed a couple of soggy chips in his mouth, feeling far too proud. This entire thing meal had gone better than he could have dreamt.