"You could come with me, you know."

They were staring up at the stars, waiting. Waiting for what, they didn't know. Waiting for Jack to appear at the window, waiting for Snyder to appear in the doorway and berate them for not being in bed, waiting for this to all end.

Just waiting.

Crutchie was waiting for an answer.

He looked over at Rose almost shyly, and then ducked his head to study the streets and people below. They were ants, milling about without bothering to glance up at the two children above them. He looked up, having quite enough of the people below. On many nights like this, he had looked down and learned almost everything there was to know about everyone passing by. No newsies, though. Of course. But above him, in the night sky peppered with tiny pinpricks of shining light, was where it was different. He could stare at the sky a million times and not get tired of watching it. He had done this back at the Lodging House sometimes, but this was different. Rose and Crutchie stood at the window, their arms folded on the ledge. From within the Refuge came soft snores of the others. But now, at this time of night (though Crutchie hated to think so) no one mattered except him and Rose. Her, with her green sparkling eyes he would never get enough of (like the sky, he assumed. They were connected in his mind) and white nightgown that fluttered in the breeze. And him...well, with his crutch and hat and regular clothes. These would be the moments Crutchie would come back to long after he had left the Refuge.

He sneaked another glance at her. Rose was gazing serenely up at the sky, her bright eyes flicking from one star to the next. With a sly smile, she tore them from the blanketed sky above, and to Crutchie's hopeful, cheeky face. She was glad the Refuge hadn't taken that from him yet. To Rose (though she wouldn't let him know it yet), Crutchie was her own star in this lonely, desolate world that was lorded over by Snyder. They had found each other when they both needed each other the most.

It was a shame that their time together was to be so short.

"To the boy's Lodging House?" Rose asked playfully, and Crutchie ducked his head again, hiding a smile. Typical Rose.

"Not there. Jus'...with me."

"So you'd have to hide me in the Lodging House, then. Because that's where you're going, right?"


"You could visit me at the girl's Lodging House, once I find it."

"I'll help you find it."

Rose smiled softly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. She looked up again at Crutchie, who was staring up at the stars again.

"You'd help me do anything, wouldn't you?" she teased, nudging his shoulder.

"Huh?" Crutchie tore his eyes away from the sky, and met Rose's eyes for a moment. He smiled a half-smile, nodding. "Yeah. Sure I would. What kinda person would I be if I didn't?"

"Not a very good one." Rose fell to studying the people below. It made her wonder if her parents were down there, walking among everyone. Would they be trying to find her, she wondered? Rose had only stolen to feed herself, being the selfish person she was. Or had been. She had learned a lot about life coming here, and meeting Crutchie. And yet, she still wondered.

Neither of them heard the heavy boots walking down the hallway to the room, deep in thought as Crutchie and Rose were. Each were so preoccupied that they only jumped when the door was forced open with a slam. The two turned to see Snyder standing there, framed by the light that was as bright as a sunbeam.

"What're you doing up?!" he shouted, and the other children gradually began to wake. "I said lights out for a reason!" It suddenly crossed his mind they might be talking to someone right outside. Someone like Jack Kelly, he thought as he took a glance at the frightened boy next to the crutch. The newsie from that little protest. Snyder shoved his way to the window, pushing Crutchie away and to the ground. Rose hurriedly ran to him, kneeling by his side and seeing if he was alright as Snyder peered out the window. He grunted, drawing his head back in. No one. But the children could have given Kelly a warning...

Crutchie resisted the urge to back away as Snyder shoved his face in his. "Were you talking to someone out there?! Was it your friend Jack Kelly?! Tell me!"

Crutchie shook his head no as forcefully as he could, and Snyder grunted again, his eyes landing on the crutch still propped up against the wall. He grabbed it, standing over Crutchie and ready to make him give the answer he wanted. Rose stepped in front of Snyder as calmly as she could, though inside she was shaking.

"You can't beat him," she said, her voice quivering slightly. "You can't beat him just because he didn't give you the answer you wanted! We weren't talking to Jack or anyone out there, just to ourselves! Why won't you just leave him alone?!"

Snyder glared at Rose, slapping her across the face. There was a pause, in which tears sprang to Rose's eyes, Crutchie looked up at her desperately from the floor wishing he could help her, and Snyder stared at her, thinking how much he hated children. But they were good for business. "What I do is not for you to decide, girl! You should know your place after being here for so long, and it is most certainly not right for you to talk back to me."

The other children stared quietly from their beds, too afraid to help or say anything. Rose stood there almost in shock as Snyder attacked Crutchie with blows so hard it was a wonder he stayed conscious. His head spun, and he saw stars. His left eye stung horribly, and he curled up in a ball, yelling out. Had Snyder stopped yet? He didn't know, and strained to hear something other than his own cries of pain.

"Tell me!" Snyder shouted with a blow that knocked the wind out of Crutchie. "Or I'll start on your girlfriend here." He raised the crutch once more, and a hand grabbed it. Crutchie pulled himself into a sitting position, gritting his teeth into a half-smile, half-grimace. Rose only then dared to look at him, ashamed of her own weakness.

"Like hell you will," Crutchie spat, and pulled himself up. He yanked his crutch away from Snyder who was sneering at him, unsure of what to do. Crutchie slid his crutch underneath his own arm where it rightfully belonged, and then punched Snyder in the face. Man and boy looked into each other's eyes for a long moment, seeing rage and hate and defiance reflected in both. It was then Crutchie decided that yes, he would help Rose. He would help her do anything. And he would help protect her from people like Snyder.

Snyder grunted again, almost snarling, and walked away and out of the room. The mayor was coming to discuss some important matters with him, and he couldn't be late just because of a fight with a crippled boy and some girl. The door was slammed closed again, and many of the children breathed a sigh of relief. They sank back to their beds, except for Crutchie and Rose who stood there still. Rose ignored her tears, taking in Crutchie's black eye and other bruises. It seemed to her that he hadn't even noticed them yet, and she was right. Rose ran to him, embracing Crutchie in a hug so tight he thought she would break some of his ribs. He smiled, breathing deep. Rose buried her head in his shoulder, finally letting the tears out.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. Hopelessness was the worst feeling in the world. "I'm so sorry."

Crutchie patted her on the back, hoping to reassure her. "Hey," he said softly, his voice muffled. "I ain't dead yet. That's good, right?"

Rose let out a slight squeak of a timid laugh. "Yes. You're not dead yet." She lifted her head, seeing that Crutchie's shoulder was now wet with her tears. She allowed herself another small laugh, and they broke away, looking into each other's eyes.

Rose glanced back out the window, her eyes widening slightly as she spied a shooting star fly past. She blinked once, and brought Crutchie back to the windowsill. More and more stars cascaded by, and Rose soon forgot her tears. Both of them were smiling, happy that this had turned into a wonderful night.

Crutchie gave another shy glance to Rose, whose emerald eyes reflected the stars darting past. To him, she was the most wonderful part of this night.

The two children sat there all through the rest of the night, taking comfort in the stars that seemed to be only for them. Rose would occasionally point out a constellation, and then their attention was turned back to the spectacle. The stars shot past as the night wore on. For a quiet night, the two felt they could do anything. Rose could look at Crutchie and see how happy he was now despite what Snyder had done earlier, and she just knew that everything would be alright if they just had each other. Their problems seemed to vanish as the stars winked out, and they felt safe for the first time in many days. Rose's head gradually drooped down onto her arms, and she gently fell asleep. Crutchie continued to watch the stars for a long time, hoping the boys at the Lodging House could see them too. But of course they could. Didn't Elmer have a map of the night sky, that he had ripped out of a newspaper? It was getting harder and harder to form thoughts, and Crutchie's last thought before falling asleep was how happy he was to have met Rose. They stayed there until the next morning where Snyder would find Rose sleeping peacefully on the ledge, and Crutchie leaning up against the wall, also asleep. Until then, they dreamed of the shooting stars, and each other as they would do until the day they died.