On the nights when the breeze was light and skipped the smog away for a few hours, they had an unspoken agreement to watch the sunset.
The city slept insidious, poison leaching from its pores into the streets, and the girl at the front warned those following behind her to watch their steps. Concrete jungle, indeed, and the eyes of the creatures in the shadows glowed neon in the dark. Tripwires and vines snaked across the cracked, jagged road at the edge of the Deep End, greedy fangs reaching out for unaware ankles. But the sunset awaited, and they kept going.
Climbing Falco Tower was no easy feat, its sheer glass sides a moment away from bringing legions of security down on them, the rosy sky glinting off the mirror-smooth sides. Scaffolds encircled the top few floors, and when the blond boy, ripped red shirt slung over one shoulder, knocked thrice on the topmost window, a lamp light flickered on and the pane slid away. Wordlessly, she took his hand and the pack carried on to the top.
The sun was just beginning its descent below the buildings on the outskirts of town, melting over rooftops towards the blank, black horizon. The boy, wild blond hair whipped back, clambered onto the rooftop first. Turning with an easy grace, he offered a hand to haul up everyone behind him.
“Strat, I’m fine,” the first boy whined, pulling a plastic knee pad back up absentmindedly. “I don’t need your help.”
“Sure, Tink, but isn’t it easier like this? With friends?” Strat tossed him a careless grin, grabbing him by the wrist and helping him over the last few feet.
He grunted, standing up and dusting off his shorts. “Friends,” he said, “and others,” glaring back towards the edge as Raven pulled herself over. His hand twitched towards the waist of his shorts, and Strat was quick to grab his wrist.
“Leave the knife, Tink, c’mon,” he chided, and he lowered his hand. The sky shifted gradually from dusky blue to deep pink, and they lined up on the far edge of the rooftop. One by one they settled down, some sitting with their feet dangling over the dozens of stories-tall drop, some laying back across each other, arms and legs draped over and intertwined with each other. Blake settled down behind Valkyrie, crossing his legs and pulling her hair back. Deft fingers separated it into three even sections and began to braid, twisting tawny locks around themselves until a long, smooth plait lay flat against her back. She laughed, thanking him, and he moved to sit beside her instead.
The girls clustered around one corner, Raven and Zahara in the center, pantomiming a scene that looked suspiciously like Falco tripping down his marble stairs. Mordema threw her head back, laughing into the twilight, and the sound echoed across the rooftops.
Tink draped himself backwards over the air conditioning unit, throwing his arms over the cage above the fan, hair blowing wildly in the updraft. “Are you guys watching out for the flash?”
Ten pairs of silent eyes fixated on his face, staring blankly.
“The what?” Zahara asked, the uneasy silence shattering around her words.
“The flash! You know, that old legend?” Tink answered, brightly, bouncing to his feet. “Lemme explain.”
Everyone settled in, turning to face the boy with fresh intrigue on their faces.
“A long time ago, back before the sky choked out on the smoke every night, people used to watch for this thing called the green flash. They said,” he trailed off, glaring as Strat wandered closer to Raven, “they said that if you saw the flash, you’d get good luck, or a wish come true, or something. Anyways—”
“That’s bullshit,” called someone from the back, only to be shushed by the crowd, eagerly listening. “Go on,” someone else encouraged. Tink took a deep breath.
“Anyways, the sky’s clear enough tonight we can see straight out to the ocean, and I’m gonna sit on the edge and try to see it. You should all do it with me, come on,” he pleaded, the whiny tinge of a boy still too young slipping into his voice.
And maybe a sliver of hope in all of the Lost wanted the chance to wish on a flash in the sky, or maybe they were just willing to indulge the boy who still held out a spark of his love for the world, but every single person on the roof stilled and stared at the horizon, shimmering with heat a lifetime away.
They all wished for different things in the split second after the flash disappeared.
Valkyrie wished for a home, wished for somewhere to call her own as she absently carded her fingers through Ledoux’s hair, twisting a tiny braid near his temple. An image of her corner of the abandoned subway station flashed into mind, and she smiled. Home. Ledoux shifted absently.
Ledoux, head in Valkyrie’s lap, grinned up at her. Tink said to make a wish, and he tried, he really did, but here, touched for the first time in years, loved for the first time in years, he had nothing left to wish for.
He wasn’t paying attention, but when the whole rooftop held its breath, Blake remembered to wish for gentleness. Remembered to wish for soft touches, kind smiles, voices not raised in anger but honey-smooth in love, and he heard Zahara humming under her breath, deep and warm and safe, and his eyes slipped shut.
Zahara missed the music, missed when she could turn the stereo up high and sing her heart out without fearing anyone hearing and judging, without waiting for the door to slam again. She hummed softly, some song half-remembered, and wished that no one would tell her to stop. No one did.
Tonight was the first silent day Scherzzo could remember. Her mind had always been filled with the roar of motorcycles and the shouts of the militia, but tonight? Tonight she could hear the breeze, and she wished it could stay like this forever. The world heaved a breath around her, and she relaxed into the quiet.
It wasn’t Mordema’s choice to climb Falco Tower on these nights, to risk exposure at the top of a building, but every time she set foot on the creaky old fire escape, she’d offer a hand to the people below. The green flash blinked and faded, and she wished the people surrounding her wouldn’t disappear that quickly.
Strat didn’t make a wish, sitting atop the silent air conditioning unit, fingers loosely twined in Raven’s. Not a wish for peace, nor a wish for her, nor for anyone else. The flash shot across the horizon, and he squeezed her hand tighter. And she squeezed back.
Tink’s wish could never come true; Strat wasn’t his to have, not now or ever. But he was happy. Tink could see it in his eyes.
And tonight, just tonight, he set it all aside, and wished only for everything to remain just like this: golden-hued and breathless in the sunset.