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'You are so exhausted.' Anna gazed at that face she knew so well. His eyes were worn, his face thin and lined. Anna gently traced a finger from his left brow down his cheek, feeling the warmth of his skin.

'It's okay, I did not sleep enough.' He smiled at her slightly, and even the smile was without energy. Her fingers stroked his cheek softly, falling away at his chin.

Anna looked at him fondly and smiled.

'You'll make mincemeat of that Uvakov.' 

He looked down before meeting her eyes, that amused smile she had received so many times in the past.

'Do you think that is what worries me now?' Was it possible she still had no idea? He looked at her, eyes lingering on her lips for just a moment...

Anna watched him carefully, her cheeks flushed a wonderful shade of pink.

'I don't even know what could worry me after what I have found out today.' He paused for just a second and took a breath. His eyes found hers, slightly wide and wet with expectation. 'Everything has changed, life will never be the same.'

'What do you mean?' Anna breathed.

'What I know now,' Shtolman tried to make sure his voice would not shake. Their eyes danced while the silence built. 'We need to stay together now.'

Moments, how many had they shared? Wonderful moments that had left Anna floating like a butterfly, and a smile on Shtolman's usually straight face. Gut wrenching moments that had been Anna being kidnapped, Shtolman tearing the earth apart to find her again. Awful moments that had torn Anna's heart from her chest. Nina arriving in town. Shtolman denying the existence of anything more between them. Anna wanting nothing more to do with Shtolman. Leave me alone.

Somehow, through the good and the bad and whatever they had in between, Anna and Shtolman had always found their way back to each other.

Anna couldn't find the words to express what his statement had meant to her. Words would never be enough, words beautiful enough did not exist.

She stood up and reached for him, cradling his head in her hands. She closed her eyes tight and rested her face on the top of his head.

Shtolman's eyes were also closed, his breathing slow and heavy. His own hands reached up and held hers. He moved her hand to his mouth, kissing it hard.

'Rest is what you need,' Anna said. She had said he could stay with her tonight in the hotel room. He needed to sleep, prepare his next move.

Shtolman thought he never need sleep again if it meant he could see her, the way she looked right now.

Slowly, he moved his eyes to her. He gazed at her body in its tight corseted dress, eyes devouring her.

Anna felt her heart almost slowing to a complete stop. The look in his eyes is one she'd longed for, had dreamt of time and time again, but had never been sure she would see it in real life.

There had been many of those moments they had shared - some good and some bad - where the line they never quite drew had been threatened, pushed a little, smudged...

His hands came to her waist and she felt his fingers on her clothing. His eyes slowly drew up, gazing and memorising what they could see. He wanted to take all of her in so he would not forget a single detail. The shine of her dress in the candlelight, the buttons reflecting the glow. He allowed himself the pleasure of looking at her chest, wrapped so delicately in the fabric.

He rose to his feet, hands riding up her sides, and they stepped closer together.

A moment. Two hearts beat as one. The universe had designed this union long ago, and tonight it would come to be.

Anna's hands were resting on his chest, fingers beginning to tremble.

Eyes were closed, and he reached for her. Her lips were soft and full and eager for him.

Anna's hand held onto his shoulders. Shtolman cupped Anna's cheek in his warm hands, his lips claiming hers. He couldn't kiss enough of her at once. He wanted and needed more.

Anna breathed heavily, a soft expression of pleasure falling from her lips.

Bringing a hand up, Shtolman loosened the pin that held her hair in place. His fingers felt the wavy locks and he sighed.

For so long now this had been inevitable, and yet neither of them could still quite believe they were here.

Shtolman and Anna had made it to the bedroom, mouths still kissing with fervour. He had guided them into the room, and it was now that they broke apart.

Anna's chest heaved, her cheeks still pink and glowing. She gazed up at him expectantly.

Shtolman wanted to make love to her now. He would have taken her on the breakfast table, or up against the door of the room, but that wouldn't be right. Not for now. This needed to be special, he knew Anna wanted that. He had to ignore his inner animal and wait. Just a little bit longer.

Shtolman approached her slowly, hearing the way her breath was shaking now. He placed a gentle kiss on her nose and she felt his hands reaching behind her. He thought he could manage to undo the buttons and just look at her, but it was impossible. She had bewitched him, and his mouth needed hers again desperately.

He decided to torture them both, and as he kissed her, he undid the buttons of her dress one... by... one. Slowly.

Anna didn't think she could last another second without fainting.

Finally, the last button was done. Shtolman forced his mouth away from hers. His strong hands reached up, and he let the dress fall from her body.

Still there were too many layers that he had to remove. His patience was not as strong now. Shifts and skirts were all practically torn away, and Shtolman reminded himself. Gently, gently, gently.

The ties of her corset and her underclothes were the last things standing in his way. Both pieces of fabric were finally removed, and she stood before him.

He drank her in, eyes greedily taking in all they could. His breathing had slowed to an almost complete stop now.

Anna's cheeks were dark now and she prayed he couldn't hear her terrified, excited breathing. Her bosom was heaving and she looked at his face. Slightly pinker himself now, Shtolman blinked hard.

He kissed her once more, then he began to remove his own clothes. A startled sound escaped his lips as he felt her own hands on him. He gazed at her, watching her work. Her fingers trembled at first, unsure and afraid. His eyes must have told her something, because after a moment her own eyes danced, and she removed his clothes quicker, tugging his shirt up and over, casting it onto the floor. Their clothes had moulded together in a heap.

Shtolman was now also without clothes. He watched her, saw Anna's eyes grow wider as they went lower.

They stepped together, closing the small bit of space that had dared exist between them. Anna gazed up at him expectantly. He scooped her up in his arms and walked over to the bed, setting her down gently. Anna fell flush against the soft mattress and waited. She felt her heart exploding in her chest as he knelt between her legs. He gently nudged them further apart, and he settled in between.

Shtolman kissed Anna on the nose once, gently. Her lips met his and she sighed into the kiss. He held her tight in his arms, feeling Anna's own hands clasped around his back. He entered her slowly and heard the sounds escape from Anna's lips. He didn't want to hurt her, but knew he had. He moved slowly, allowing Anna time to feel all of the sensations. Her eyes were wide and wet at this new feeling. Pain, and a sense of fullness she knew she would never be able to describe. Shtolman knew that Anna had not been with a man before, and if he had anything to do with it, she'd never know the touch of another man again.

Shtolman's eyes asked Anna an unspoken question, her own eyes giving him the answer. After a moment, Shtolman moved his hips back and Anna gasped. Her cheeks had flushed darker still and she was trembling. Shtolman kissed her and slowly moved again, deeper. Anna moaned as she felt him more.

After a short while the pain ebbed away. What Anna was feeling now was pleasure she never thought possible. She could feel the tiniest movement Shtolman made and slowly, her body had moved with his own.

Shtolman began to kiss Anna's neck, and she felt heat flashing in her core. She moaned low and loud, and Shtolman felt his head spin. The sweetest sound he had ever heard, it had fallen from Anna's lips like a lullaby. Every sound was his new favourite, and he wanted her to sing it for eternity.

Anna's hair had been splayed across the pillow, and Shtolman held a fistful of it in his hands. He held it tight but didn't pull, and Anna's hands were holding onto his shoulders firm. She felt the old gunshot wound on his skin and gently traced over it with her fingertips. Shtolman himself had gone pinker now, the heat of their union driving him wild.

Anna accidentally dug her nails into his skin, and her eyes froze as Shtolman's eyes flashed at her. She felt her heart pound in her chest. She had thought she had hurt him... His mouth began its attack on her neck once more, the sound erupting from his lips deep and full of want. Anna was breathless, and she realised. She gently stroked her hands up and down his back again, pressing down ever so with her nails.

Whatever either of them had expected this union to be, neither of them have ever imagined anything like this.

Shtolman felt himself growing harder, and Anna gasped as she felt it too. She needed to feel his lips again. She brought her mouth to his and they claimed each others. As they kissed and their bodies moved as one, Shtolman felt himself getting close.

He kissed Anna with fervour, thrusting deeper and harder now. Anna also felt something, although she wasn't sure what. Pleasure, like a wave, slowly becoming stronger.

Shtolman did grip her hair this time, holding her wavy locks tight in his one hand, Anna's body wrapped around the other. Nails were back scraping against his back.

One final moan of want falling from her lips was all it took, and they came together. Anna felt as Shtolman hardened and shuddered inside her, and she let the pleasure take control of her body. She sang the song Shtolman adore so, and by the end was breathless.

They lay together after, their bodies slick with sweat. Anna's hair was stuck to her neck. Shtolman moved it away and kissed her gently. She gazed up at him with heavily lidded eyes. He smiled lazily at her and tightened his hold of her. He felt her gently grabbing onto his forearms and he kissed her hands.

Anna was exhausted now, and soon she felt her eyes starting to close. She didn't want to sleep, she wanted to stay in this afterglow with him, with her Shtolman. Her body had never known the sensations it had tonight, and it betrayed her. Soon she was fast asleep, safe in his arms.

Shtolman had lain awake all night, gazing at her with such love in his eyes. He stroked her hair gently with his fingers, watching as her eyelashes flickered as she slept. He wondered what she was dreaming of, hoping it was only of happy things. At one point she had looked afraid, and he had pulled her closer and placed a comforting kiss on her cheek. She had settled again, and he had gone back to just looking at her, unable to believe that she was his.