The best thing about diners, in Booth's opinion, is that no matter where you were, eating at one always made you feel at home. Sure the quality of the food varied, but he didn't eat at diners for 5-star cuisine. He ate at diners for the all-American comfort food that fed the working class. And even if the food wasn't gourmet it was usually good.
In the case of "Mel's", the food was several steps above good. He was only half-way through one of the best cheese burgers he ever had when the door open up and let in a blast of cool air, some stray fallen leaves and two tall men.
"There's always time for pie, Sammy." The shorter of the two led the way to the table next to Booth's, eyeing Booth's food as he sat. "And a burger. There's always time for a burger."
Sammy scowled but sat down. "We're on a deadline, Dean."
"I know. But if I have to eat another microwaved burrito from a Gas-N-Go I'm not the only one who'll suffer. Besides, I'm told this place has the best pie in the state."
Booth surreptitiously studied the newcomers. Sammy may have been six inches taller but he was obviously the younger of the two, annoyed and resigned to following Dean. They seemed harmless but there was something about them that set Booth on edge.
There was a sharp cry and a clatter as tray full of dishes and the waitress carrying it crashed to the ground. Everyone jumped at the sound and stared at the hapless girl. Everyone except the two newcomers.
Sammy was out of his chair and over to the girl with a speed and grace that belied his size. His easy smile and charm clearly put the girl at ease and she was laughing shakily up at him a second after she'd been on the brink of tears.
Dean's movements had been just as fast and fluid, but less comforting. In an instant, he'd erupted from his seat and did a quick, thorough inspection of everyone in the diner. He held his hands loosely at his side ready to fight off a threat or grab for the gun that Booth suddenly knew he was carrying.
Booth stayed still, aware from the number of times Dean's eyes raked over him that he was on the top of the threat list. Booth had seen Dean's behavior before, in soldiers who had been too long in combat and too recently tossed back into the civilized world, still ready to meet every threat with lethal force.
Then, just as quickly as he sprung into action, Dean's stony gaze shifted into a boyish, disarming smile. "Everyone awake now?"
Someone laughed and the usual diner activities resumed. Booth ate slowly, keeping an eye on the pair. They returned to being the bantering, harmless pair that had walked into the diner. But Booth could see the hardened soldier in Dean simmering just underneath the grinning facade. He could see it in Sammy, too. Not as near the surface but there none-the-less. There were a lot of soldiers living civilian lives these days but these two looked as if they were still at war.
Booth finished up and crossed to pay his bill. He could feel Dean's appraisal as he passed and he knew that his shoulder holster was noticeable. He smiled at the cashier, all the while acutely aware that Dean still watched him. As he headed out into the cool autumn air, he wondered if Dean saw in him the same danger he saw in Dean.