June 2007

A writing prompt written for ravurian, who asked for "Will Stanton and the Winchesters. A new dark rising, and only Will and a bunch of demon-blood baptised psychics to fight it."

Thanks to Hal for looking this over.

The Diner at the End of the World

by Kest

They stopped at a diner for coffee, a place right off the highway and attached to a gas station far too clean to be any relation. Sam slid in across from him and leaned against the window of the booth. The habit of living back to the wall was apparently a hard one to shake. In another show of habit, Sam's brother was up at the counter talking to one of the waitresses, laughter spilling from her side of the conversation like an overfilled glass. It didn't escape Will's notice that Dean was using her as an excuse to keep his distance as much as to scope out the place.

Will cupped his hands around his coffee. At four in the afternoon demand was slow, the service slower, and the coffee had been lukewarm before it even got to their table. He didn't care much for coffee, anyway, but the tea was likely to have been infinitely worse. The mug grew even more lukewarm between his hands.

Sam stirred a little; he'd been in a bit of a trance. "The main station was built sometime in the 1880s," he said in his academic's voice, the information rolling out from whatever cache he'd stored it in. "Abandoned in 1967." He pulled out a notebook covered in the narrow scratches of his writing and consulted it as if he hadn't been studying his notes the last hundred miles of highway.

"So," Sam added, almost expectantly, though he wasn't looking at Will.

Will waited.

"So you think that's where it will happen." It was still Sam who spoke, but Dean's skepticism carried through clearly.

Will shrugged. "It could happen there. For lack of a better term" -- and Will was well aware how sorely his terms lacked when it came to these two -- "it's a site of power. The Dark is drawn to such places."

Sam got that look of disbelief warring with understanding he always got when Will mentioned the Dark. He'd killed creatures of the Dark, could even accept the idea of an encompassing force behind them, but what Will meant by the Dark was a fairy tale to Sam. Their frame of reference was ancient to them; Will had no way of explaining how young it really was. "A matter of translation," Will said, as if completing his own train of thought.

"Sure, of course," Sam said, a little too quickly. But he was too bright not to have made connections himself, and he understood what Will was talking about more than most.

Certainly more than Dean, who walked up to the table, coffee in hand. "What were you saying again, Gandalf?"

"Dean," Sam said.

"I was telling Sam about the goblins. The ones that come out at night to steal children."

"We've seen weirder shit," Dean said, unfazed, stepping back to let Sam out of the booth when Sam mumbled something about using the toilet. He sat down in the place Sam left, body angled forward as if waiting for something -- some sign from Will to justify the trust Sam placed in him.

"You know you're not tied to this course with me," Will said. "Or Sam," he added, though he already knew that wherever Sam went, so followed Dean. They had an odd bond, these two. Will recognized it, but not in the way of his own sibling connections. Experiences that lost their meaning in the retelling, that could only be shared by those who had also been there -- everyone had them, but these two had it deep.

A sudden loneliness washed through him. Outside the window the world was a broad and unfamiliar landscape. So much space. Difficult not to be lonely, even if Will hadn't been the interloper he was.

"Doesn't matter," Dean said. "You know where the bad guys are, we'll go kill them."

Will envied him that singular focus.

Sam returned and settled up their tab at the counter. Will left his half-full coffee on the table and they made their way out of the diner into the too-bright sky, a recent, passing rain making way for sunlight and slick reflections on the pavement.

"Seventy miles," Dean said in an aside to Sam, "not even a hop. How much time do we have?" he asked, addressing the last bit to Will.

Startled at the inclusion, Will paused a moment. "Until nightfall, at least. Likely until moonrise."

Dean nodded. Keys in hand, he arrowed for the car. Sam followed, back in his trance, brain sifting endlessly through the various pieces of data at his disposal, close to gaining the full picture of what they dealt with. Sam had a lot of potential. It hit Will like a memory; the warmth of it an odd backdrop to what they faced.

Will closed the car door behind him. They hit the road again.