This one struck me randomly and I had to do it. XD Part of my Watchkeeper series. The original story is already up, though you don't have to read it first. Any in the Watchkeeper series can be read first except for the direct sequel to the original, which will be called "The Keeper's Return". :)

Well, enjoy the read!

"Midnight" by Cyrokin (Formerly Panhead13)- Part of the Watchkeeper series.

~.~( / )~.~

Pizza Shack was open 24 hours a day.

And Joe Hanson was working the late shift in a Pizza Cab.

Joe was willing to bet that anyone would be surprised at the amount of people that wanted pizza so late at night. He knew there were quite a few in the wee hours of the morning as well, but, fortunately for him, his shift ended at midnight. Joe was just getting his things together to go home near the end of his shift- it was 11:58 to be exact.

At 11:59, just when Joe was getting ready to walk out the door, the phone rang. Joe's coworker Brian picked up the phone. "Hello, Pizza Shack. What can we get for you?" There was a pause, and Brian's face contorted into an expression of confusion. "Sorry sir, did you say what kind of pizza you wanted? Just a pizza? . . . Are you sure you don't want to be more specific with your toppings, sir?"

Joe couldn't resist a chuckle and a headshake. People who ordered pizza late at night could place some pretty strange orders.

"Any kind? All right. We can get that for you, sir. What's your address?" Brian scribbled an address down on a sheet of paper. Joe waved his silent goodbye and left the Pizza Shack's back room, glad to finally go home. He had just reached his car when Brian came running out of the restaurant. "Joe, can you hold on a minute?"

Oh no, thought Joe, knowing exactly what that meant.

"Joe, you're the only delivery man here at the moment and I really need you to deliver this pizza," said Brian, handing Joe a warm pizza box and a piece of paper with an address written on it.

"I just got off my shift, Brian," said Joe. "It's cold, it's wet, and it's late, and I have classes tomorrow."

"I know you don't want to deliver a pizza when you've just gotten off work, but as I said..."

"I'm the only delivery man here right now," Joe finished. "All right. I'll do it."

Joe turned and unlocked his car, mentally cursing the other delivery people for not being there. Just drop off the pizza and you can go home, he told himself as he started the car.

But nothing could ever be that simple.

Joe's GPS couldn't find the address at first, and it didn't until Joe spoke the location for the tenth time. Grumbling to himself, he pulled out of Pizza Shack's parking lot, the pizza sitting next to him. Soon, Joe began to think he was lost. He had been driving for 10 minutes on streets he barely knew, navigating through neighborhoods and around corners.

Soon, he reached a shoddy looking little neighborhood. Many of the houses had boards for windows. In fact, the whole neighborhood looked abandoned. Joe repressed a shiver.

"You have arrived at your destination," said the GPS.

"What?" Joe snorted incredulously. "I have not."

"You have arrived at your destination."

Joe turned the annoying machine off and looked around. He saw nobody.

Then he detected movement nearby.

Joe turned to see what looked like a man approaching the car. The man was tall and looked to be very thin beneath his big black coat. Joe grabbed the pizza and cautiously stepped out of the car. "Is this your pizza?" he asked weakly.

"It is," said the man. He spoke in a thick Nobanian (British) accent. "What kind is it?"

"I dunno," said Joe. "I never checked."

The man appeared next to Joe and snatched the pizza. He opened it up and gave it a huge sniff. "It's pepperoni," he said, closing the lid. "I suppose I should pay you now." He set the pizza down on the hood of the car and started digging around in his coat pocket. "How much did this thing cost?"

Joe looked around the neighborhood nervously. "Um... I think it was seven dollars... or eight."

"I have a ten," said the man, promptly slapping the bill into Joe's hand. "Keep the change."

"Do you um..." Joe swallowed. "Do you live here?"

"Here? No," said the skinny man, picking up the pizza. "I have a place that I call home, but I haven't been there for quite some time. Perhaps I should consider going back sometime." He smiled.

"Is it in Nobania?" asked Joe. "You sound very Nobanian...ish."

"Yes," said the man, taking a bite out of one pizza slice. "That's where I live. I just wanted to travel a bit, 'sall."

"You staying anywhere tonight?" asked Joe.

The man shrugged. "In town," he said around his pizza slice. "Somewhere safe. I haven't nailed it down to the specifics."

Joe suddenly felt sorry for the man. He had no car and was far away from home, and he was going at the pizza as if he hadn't seen one in quite some time. "Need a lift?" asked Joe. "I mean, I've got to get home, but if you need a place to stay, I'd be willing to bring you to a motel or something. It's supposed to snow tonight."

"Snow's beautiful," said the man, absently finishing off the slice's crust. "And I don't mind walking. I've walked all this way in the cold and I haven't died from it yet." He sniffed back some liquid dripping from his nose. He offered out the box to Joe. "Would you like a slice?" he asked.

Joe kept a careful eye on the man and took one slice of the pizza, which miraculously seemed hotter than it had been when he'd left the Pizza Shack. The man's face was narrow and pale, even in the dark. He looked as pale and blue as the moon's light reflecting on his features. His eyes had dark circles beneath them. "You look like you're getting a cold," said Joe, biting into his slice.

"I might," said the man. He fished a second slice from the box and started to eat it. "My name's Henry, by the way. What's yours?"

He's also sort of off, thought Joe. "I'm Joe," he said.

"Joe." Henry smiled. "Thank you for your offer, Joe. I'd be glad to stay in a motel for once."

Joe was about to ask if the man would like a ride to one when Henry somehow opened the passenger door and entered Joe's car. Joe quickly sat back down in the driver's seat and closed his door.

"Take me someplace inexpensive," said Henry. "I'd hate to have you waste your money on a passerby like me."

Joe couldn't explain why he wanted to disagree with this peculiar traveler, but he did. He wanted to bring this man to an expensive motel just to give him something better for a night. But he also knew he couldn't afford to do such a thing; he chose to listen to Henry's request.

On the way, the man stared out the window as if remembering a time long ago. "It's amazing how things have gone this far," he said distantly. "Cars. Computers. Pizza delivery." He chuckled. "It's a strange world, let me tell you. Just 100 years ago people didn't have so many conveniences. There were cars, but... not like this."

"We've come a long way," said Joe. "It's not strange to me, though. I've grown up in this world, and so have you... for the most part. I guess, anyway."

Henry smiled knowingly, but said nothing in response. After a couple of more bites of pizza, he spoke again. "You're in university, yes?" he questioned.

"College? Yeah," said Joe.

"What are you going for?" asked Henry.

Joe sighed. "Dunno. I never really considered it that much. I'm probably going to keep switching my major until I find something I really wanna do."

"Well, you can't deliver pizza all your life," said Henry. "You're young. You have so much more potential than that."

The man's words were heartfelt... and they seemed to come from experience. Henry chuckled softly. "I never did go to university. I went out and got myself a job as soon as I was ready. I don't regret the job, but I do regret that I never went and got myself a higher education."

Joe pulled into the Super Eight's parking lot, considering what his "guest" was saying. "How am I supposed to know what I really want to do?" he asked, mostly to himself. But Henry had an answer.

"It will come to you," said the strange man. He coughed into his arm. "All in good timing, Joe, my friend. All in good time." He smiled. "Nothing good happens 'by accident'. I can only hope I've been good for you in the short time we've known each other."

More than you know, thought Joe. He smiled gratefully. "Well... I'll go get you a room. You just stay in here and finish up that pizza." With that, the young man got out of the car and entered the motel's office. He paid for a room and got Henry his key, then hurried back out to the Pizza Cab, which Henry was now out of and pacing around.

The thin man noticed Joe and walked toward him. "Thank you so much for your kindness," he said. "It's been a pleasure." He took Joe's hand in his own somewhat oversized hand and shook it.

Joe handed Henry his key. "Do take care of yourself," he said.

"I always do," said Henry. He smiled politely at Joe, nodded, and went on his way.

Joe waved and uttered a goodbye, then get back into the delivery car. He watched the man stride away at an awkward gait, looking like a tall, shadowy phantom as he disappeared into the shade of the motel room walkways. Joe was about to start the car again when he noticed a sticky note on the steering wheel. It was written in a scruffy cursive but was legible enough to read. It read:

Joe,

I'm going back home tomorrow, so it's unlikely we'll ever meet again. So I've taken it upon myself to tell you that, no matter what you choose to major in, you will be good at it. If you really like it and can't imagine yourself anywhere else, reach for it and DON'T STOP until you've reached your goal. You'll do great things in this world someday.

By the way, I really did enjoy that pizza.

-Your friend, Henry, Watchkeeper.

Joe was encouraged by the note, got a chuckle out of the last sentence, but was confused by the closing. What was a "watchkeeper", exactly? It was an odd word, for one thing. It couldn't have been Henry's last name. People didn't put commas between their first and last names. What was more, it sent a shudder down Joe's spine. It sounded like a title of some sort, but for a time traveler.

Could Henry be...?

No. Time travelers didn't wander the streets like homeless men, as far as Joe knew. Besides, time travel was impossible.

Deciding it was of no importance what Henry wanted to call himself, Joe started the car and pulled out, considering all that had happened that night. He felt encouraged about his upcoming classes thanks to the note, and had a new interest in people he'd meet on the late shift at Pizza Shack.

Yes, strange things always happened at midnight... but they weren't always bad things.

~.~( / )~.~

This one took some time to write, but it was fun. :D I enjoyed writing this one. It didn't end mysteriously or anything, but that's another way Watchkeeper stories will end... with an edge of hope. This is especially noticeable in another Watchkeeper story I'm working on, "Entropy".

Well, I hope you enjoyed the read. :) Please review and be sure to check out any other Watchkeper stories I may have posted!

Have a good day!

-Cy