"Dandelion clocks!"

"Huh?" He turned a blank look toward his companion, lifting a hand to nudge the brim of his hat back from his face.

The dog days of summer had settled over the fields, the September sun turning the still air golden and thick like honey. With no breeze the heat was stifling, but after so much cold metal and dim, enclosed corridors clammy with moisture, the fierce sunlight felt good against faces and bared arms. It was just the two of them, the tall boy and the petite girl, and the fields sprawled out around them for acres, the grass frosted white with dandelion fluff.

She'd gone down on her knees in the grass with no regard for grass-stains on the sunny yellow fabric of her jumper, reaching to break a hollow stem and lift the halo of fuzzy white for him to see. "Didn't you ever call them that? We always used to say if you could blow off the whole clock with one breath, your wish would come true."

"Yeah?" He settled himself down onto the ground next to her, stretching long legs out over the grass in front of him and laying his rifle down within easy reach. He picked a dandelion for himself, considered it briefly. "What are you gonna wish for?"

She laughed, shaking her head. "Don't be silly. Telling spoils it. If you want it to come true you have to keep it a secret."

He watched her, contemplating the ruddy tints the sunlight brought out in the shine of her hair, and thought he could guess... but maybe that, too, would spoil the magic. He put the thought aside. It was by far more amusing to watch the way her shoulders lifted with the deep, dramatic breath she sucked in, taking in air until her lungs could hold no more, and the comical way her cheeks puffed out as she blew it all enthusiastically back out again. Dandelion seeds scattered into the air, but when her breath finally ran out in a sputtering gasp, a clump still clung to the stem in her hands. Her shoulders drooped briefly in innocent disappointment. "Aw. I didn't get it."

The seeds drifted, carried gently through the warm air on their miniature parachutes. He watched them settle, bowed his head over the dandelion in his hand to brush his lips gently against the fluff, silently communicating the shape of his wish to it. Gathered the energy within him and let it run from his chest down his arm in a shiver of cool air that gilded his fingers and the edges of the dandelion's fuzz with a glimmer of blue-white light.

He glanced aside to her, a crooked grin tugging at his lips, and winked, slowly and deliberately. Then he drew in a breath, and let it out into the white fluff in one whispered word.

A flick of his wrist tossed the spell and the dandelion into the air together.

Magic whipped the still air to life, a sudden wind swirling around them in a frantic spiral that blew grass and hair and clothing in all directions, the miniature tornado white with the flurry of dandelion fluff it kicked up from dozens of stems blown suddenly bare. The girl squealed with delight and bounced to her feet to dance in the midst of it, lifting her hands to catch the seeds just to let them go again.

Clasping his hands behind his head, he leaned back and tilted his face up towards the sun, grinning in deep satisfaction. That, he figured, should cover a couple dozen disappointed wishes.