Luke looked at me, across the million miles that separated us. I think he was afraid. “What of me, Dee?”
I took a deep breath. No matter what happened, I wasn’t going to win. But maybe I didn’t have to lose completely. I looked at Brendan and Una. “Do you remember what you said that first night I met you?’”
“He remembers everything,” Una interrupted me. “He’s like an elephant.”
Brendan held up a hand. “Shut. Up.” He turned to me. “What did I say?”
I stumbled over the words, not sure how to say what I wanted to. “You said that Luke had played with you—that he played with you in the past. You said he was like you, more like you than most people. And—” My eyes found Thomas Rhymer, watching from nearby. “And Thomas said that humans who live with the faeries don’t die. If I give his soul back—do you think—so he has a chance to prove where his soul belongs—”
Luke’s eyes darted to me, and then to Brendan. I didn’t even know if he wanted what I was trying to get for him. Maybe he’d just think he was going from one prison to another. Then he looked from Brendan to Una. “Will you have me?”
Brendan frowned at him before speaking. When he finally opened his mouth, it seemed he was choosing his words carefully. “You’ve spent so much time among the iron.”
“Indeed,” added Una. Luke was frozen beside me.
Brendan frowned deeper. Slowly, disgust began to grow on his face. My stomach turned uncomfortably. “You stink of it. The filth of iron. I cannot imagine us—”
Una giggled, and Brendan elbowed her. He turned back to Luke. “I just do not think it will be possible. I’m sorry.”
Luke started to say something, but then Una began to laugh, a beautifully silly laugh. She laughed so hard she had to crouch down on the pavement and rest her hand on the ground. She finally gasped, “Brendan, love, Luke Dillon believes you.”
Luke made a face at Una and looked back up at Brendan. “Are you having fun with me?”
The disgust melted off Brendan’s face, replaced immediately with an easy smile. “You and your flute don’t have to ask whether you belong with us, Luke Dillon. We’d be honored. You are far more faerie than you are human.”
Una wrinkled her nose. “But also more gullible.”
Luke made a soft little noise—whether sadness or appreciation, I couldn’t tell.
It was so unfair. After all we’d done, after everything that had happened, I should have gotten to stay with him. But there was no way to make it fair.
“Do it,” Una said. “Stop moping. You have the rest of Solstice with him. We’re here as long as the music is.”
I left James and walked back to the cage. Luke kissed my cheek, my forehead, my lips. Then he whispered against my skin, “Thank you for making it mean something.”
Eleanor strode over to us, regal in her bloody crown, and pulled out her bone-white dagger. “Truly,” she whispered reverently, “This was a wonderful game.” She handed the dagger to me. It took me a long moment to realize she meant for me to open the birdcage with it.
Without giving myself time to second-guess, I sliced through the top of the cage. The bars sprang outward like wires, and the dove flapped in the bottom, its eyes frightened. I could see its heart pounding through its fragile skin.
“Shhh,” I whispered. Reaching in, I cupped its wings to its sides. It was unimaginably light, and I felt as if it would disintegrate in my hands if I pressed too hard. I looked up at Luke. His eyes were locked on mine, unmoving.
In my hands, the soul tugged toward Luke, and I let it guide my hands to his chest. I imagined Luke before me, young and vibrant and grinning, and everything we could have had. I wanted to say something like “goodbye,” but in the end what was there, really, to say that we hadn’t been saying all along? And then I let his soul flutter back into him.
Luke gasped—and when he blinked, he was alive. He was so alive, his eyes so bright, his face so light, that I realized I didn’t know anything about him. He grinned at me, this strange, young, wild thing, and he kissed me, hard.
Una came over and gripped Luke’s shoulder. “You’re one of us now. You’re bound by music. Music owns you. Music is your life.”
Luke looked at me. “I’m here as long tonight as the music lasts, pretty girl. Get your harp.”