The Pendant
A "V for Vendetta" interlude by Tina Price.

Preview: A gift and a promise...

Disclaimer: V for Vendetta and all characters therein are the property of Warner Brothers Entertainment Company and DC Comics.

Author's notes: This story is rated R, for some mature content. The NC-17 version is available on my homepage As always, constructive criticism and advice are always appreciated!


Previously:

"V... " she begged. Then she noticed how still he had gone, and the pained look in his eyes. "What's wrong?" she asked, feeling as though she had been doused by ice water.

"I do want you," he whispered. "More than you can know, but we agreed to take things slowly, remember?"

Of course she did, but some part of her hadn't believed that he would take it that far. Drawing back, she stared at him and tried to keep the disappointment from her voice.

"I remember," she admitted. "I guess I just couldn't help myself..."

"Nor I." he released her, kissed her and hugged her to him.

After a while she lifted her head, unable to let the topic drop, though she knew she should. "So... you're not ready; to trust me?"

"It's not so simple as being ready to trust, love. I do trust you. It's a matter of striking a balance, of waiting until things are... right."

"And when will that be?" Again she fought to sound neutral, but her heart was pounding and she felt somewhat ill. She felt rejected even though she knew she shouldn't.

"Trust me to know when," he replied, then moved to kiss her again.

She evaded him and numbly began to rise from the sofa.

Again he captured her arm and held her a moment.

"Don't be glum," he sighed. "This is not a rejection. I really do need time to think, to plan... to come to terms with the fact that I am not dead. And I'm not the only one who needs to do some thinking. Everything is still up in the air, love. Be patient. We'll get there, I promise."

-excerpt from "Like Light and Cloud Shadow", chapter 7: "I, While Living..."


The Pendant

V adjusted the bow on the gift box, making certain it was just right, then set it down next to the silver tray bearing the wine and glasses. His head tilted slightly as he contemplated it, then, reaching out he moved the box ever so slightly and nodded in approval.

"There," he said aloud. "Perfect."

He moved to the doorway and turned, his eyes scanning the room once more, then finally satisfied, he left, closing the door behind him.

The gift had been a labor of love, taking him three weeks of daily work in his stuffy little workshop, a place as yet undiscovered by Evey.

Decorating the room had taken only a few hours.

There was no drudgery in preparing something of importance for the one you loved.

At least he didn't think so.

Certainly there were many jaded men and women in the world who would not recognize a precious gift when they had it, he reflected.

Passing through a heavy doorway in the tunnel, he paused to lock it behind himself. Tonight was THE night, a very special one; so he was especially anxious that everything be perfect.

He paused and tried to make one more important decision; mask or scarf? Neither?


"V?" Evey entered the gallery, looking for him. "I'm home!"

He stepped out of the kitchen, swept her into an embrace and gave her a quick peck on the cheek through the black scarf he was wearing. "That you are, and early as well," he observed, sounding pleased.

She smiled. "They let me out early for good behavior."

That got a chuckle out of him.

"No. Actually, my supervisor let me go early because of the extra time I put in on Saturday," she confessed. "I've gotten some serious attention and thank-yous for that."

"And well you should," he answered. "It's not every day that a museum obtains a piece like that. Would you care for a glass of wine?"

"In a minute." He still had his arms about her and she hugged him more tightly, her face pressed against his chest, above the apron he wore, where she could hear the steady, unhurried beat of his heart and smell his scent. He always smelled so good to her; of clean linen, leather and the oil he used to clean and polish that leather. Sometimes, when he had been working out, she would catch him before his shower and be rewarded with the slight undercurrent of his true smell; a very faint musk with a spicy tang to it.

That particular combination of scents was intoxicating, like catnip for her.

She felt him give her a peck on the head, his signal that he was about to turn her loose.

"So, how was your day?" she asked. "Get into anything you shouldn't have?" she asked.

He laughed at that. "It is so nice to be fussed over!" he answered, heading back to the kitchen. "But no, I didn't make any bombs, if that's what you're asking. It was the usual day; I kept busy by working out, did some tinkering and some shopping."

She followed and entering the kitchen behind him, she saw that he had been busy cutting vegetables before she arrived.

He changed the subject as he opened the wine and poured her a glass. "How do you fancy a nice roast pork for dinner?"

. "That sounds wonderful!" she replied, accepting the offered glass.

He went back to cutting. "Well, my dear, I must say how very proud I am at everything you've managed in the past few weeks; a new job, the slow reintegration of the Shadow Gallery back into society, a friendship with Detective Finch, now one of the most important people left in the interim government..." He nodded and made that pleased sound he often did. "It certainly is a far cry from those days when you just simply stayed down here."

"Well, I was taking care of a bullet-ridden man," she laughed.

He looked up then. "I think we both know that wasn't the entire reason you went to ground."

She looked away and sipped her wine. It was impossible to ever delude yourself when V was around. He seemed to thrive on truth when it came to knowing yourself and your own motivations.

When she looked up, he was still watching her, and no doubt would continue doing so until she fessed up.

"Yes, of course you're right," She admitted, quickly finishing the glass of wine. "I was afraid to go back 'up there' and confront the consequences of what I'd done."

"It wasn't what you did; it was what you did for your countrymen, Evey," he explained, going back to cutting the vegetables. "Of course such sweeping change brings upheaval, but in the end we must all play our parts to ensure a decent outcome."

She nodded. "And what part will you play?" she asked.

He put down the knife and met her stare. "What indeed? That, my dear, is the question, isn't it?"

"Any ideas?"

He tipped his head slightly. "A few."

"Going to enlighten me?" she cajoled, running a finger slowly up his sleeve.

His eyes followed her finger's trail. "Not at the moment," he replied, sounding rather distracted. "Then he caught her hand, brought it under his scarf to his face and kissed it.

She felt the familiar thrill run through her at the sight of his eyes darkening with passion and somehow found the strength to step back a pace. "Well, let me leave the cooking in your capable hands," she said, stressing the last two words. "I feel the need for a shower; a cold one," she added.

She heard him make that sound of his again as she headed towards the bedroom to collect her things.

A minute later she left the bedroom, only to find him waiting for her outside.

"Ah, there you are. Evey, would you do something for me?"

"Of course."

"Would you... dress for dinner?"

Truth be told, after working all day, she would much rather dress down in sweatpants and a T-shirt. Still, she would never wish to disappoint this amazing man, and she looked forward to actually being able to impress him in some small way.

"Will you be dressing as well?" she asked.

He looked down at himself. "In a cleaner, fresher version of this very outfit? Of course." His voice was quite amused.

"In that case, I shall," she answered, then sauntered off towards the bathroom, aware of his eyes following her the entire way.


An hour later, she emerged from the bedroom fully dressed; in the black dress she had worn the night they had met, the night he had saved her. She had even done her makeup. She wore stockings, heels and a splash of her favorite perfume.

V was waiting in the Shadow Gallery, pacing before the jukebox in apparent frustration. He stopped the moment he saw her and stared in admiration.

Which gave her the chance to study him.

He was also dressed as when they had met; complete with cloak, boots and mask. The only difference was that he wasn't wearing his hat or his knives.

She was very surprised to see the mask. Although he still wore it quite often, he never wore it at meal time these days: he really couldn't share the meal while it was in place.

He bowed and held out his hand to her. "Will you dance with me?"

"I'd love to." She took his hand and was swept into the circle of his arms.

He paused briefly in order to make a musical selection and then they were moving in harmony together around the open area.

"I had so hoped that you would wear that dress," he husked, still staring at her.

"And I'm glad that you wore the cloak," she teased. "There's just something about a man in a black cloak..."

Her reward was him pulling her right up against his chest and wrapping his arms about her waist.

She in turn wrapped her arms around his neck and so they found themselves slow dancing.

Evey buried her face against he fabric on his chest and closed her eyes, simply enjoying the smell and feel of him, so it was with great disappointment that she heard the song end a short while later.

He stopped moving but hugged her a little tighter as they took an extra moment simply enjoying each other's embrace.

Then he was stepping back and bowing to her. "Shall we eat?"

Her answer was a smile.

Again he took her hand, this time leading her to the kitchen.

The table had been laid with a crisp white cloth, a candelabra and his few pieces of fine china. A few Scarlet Carsons sat in a vase overlooking the entire thing.

"How lovely!" she exclaimed, then turned her attention back to him. "V? What's the occasion exactly?"

He pulled out a chair and helped to seat her. "There is indeed an occasion. Let's just wait and see if you can guess it."

Her mind began to work furiously, trying to come up with a reason for all he was doing. "Has there been word of a new government?"

"This is not a political occasion."

"V, is it your birthday?"

"You know I've no clue when that might be."

He moved to the shelving near the stove and turned his back to her. It took her a moment to realize that he was exchanging his mask for the scarf. Once finished, he moved to the stove and began preparing a plate for each of them.

Then he turned around, holding up a plate in each hand.

"Voila! Dinner is served."


"Explain this to me again?"

She was curled up against him on the sofa, her head nestled in the crook of his arm. They had finished a wonderful meal and shared pleasant conversation, he delighting in keeping her in the dark about the occasion. Finally, with much begging on her part, he had informed her that they were celebrating her latest achievements; her new job and her new life.

She'd been confused, unable to understand how it should merit so romantic an evening. And now that they relaxed together on the sofa, she was seeking that understanding.

V sighed, his fingers lazily running through her still short hair, admiring its color and texture. "When you left me earlier this year, what did you do, Evey?"

She shook her head. "I don't understand what you're asking me."

"Did you get a job? Did you make a friend?"

"Well, yes..."

"Did you leave your apartment daily and interact with coworkers and various people on the streets?"

She nodded.

"Did you exist in society; seeing what life was like for those around you and sharing in their misery and pain? Were you connected to the world?"

"Yes."

"Don't you see, Evey?" he spoke in an impassioned tone. "Almost from the moment you came back to me, you isolated yourself from all of that. You were content to simply be with me. You were hiding from the world that you helped to create. I couldn't have you like that. You would eventually have become bored, withdrawn, isolated... and it would have ruined us." He sighed. "I love you too much to allow such a thing to happen to you. God knows, I've lived my life in that way to some extent; isolated, withdrawn... yet I had no choice and at least I went above and made myself see with other people's eyes."

"Evey, in order to guide you in the right direction, I had to withdraw, frustrate you enough so that you looked elsewhere, so that you found some purpose, some goal that had to do with YOU, not me. I want you to live in THAT world, Evey, not in mine... not in darkness."

His words went right through her; they rang true and spoke of his devotion, his selfless desire for her to be happy.

She suddenly felt ashamed. She had indeed been willing to abandon the world outside and mushroom in the darkness. Yet, he would give anything to be able to lead a normal life; to live in the world, to socialize, to belong, something he felt was quite beyond him.

And now he was studying her, waiting anxiously for her response, for a sign that she really did understand.

Reaching up, she curled her fingers into the long hair of his wig and pulled him to her so that she could look directly into his eyes.

"You did the right thing," she whispered. "and I'm glad for it, but so long as you dwell in darkness, then some part of me must as well. Tell me; can you do likewise; can you live part of your life in the light?"

"I love the people, but do not like to stage me to their eyes," he quoted, then sighed and answered her in his own words. "For you I will find a way."

"We can't just stay here, can we?" she asked. "Sooner or later the gallery will be empty. Sooner or later Finch or someone else will come barging in on us, or the tube system will be restored..."

He thought for a bit and then answered carefully, "No, you're quite right; sooner or later we'll need to go. I had thought that myself and you're quite right. The tube system is certain to be restored and there is no way to predict when the new government will send teams down to appraise it. Best that we not be found here when that happens." His voice suddenly turned stern. "And all this talk of moving reminds me of a question that has been much on my mind."

"What might that be?"

"When, oh when, are you going to give up that flat of yours?"

"That depends. When are you going to formally invite me to move in with you?"

He did something of a double-take. "Oh dear. Have I unknowingly skipped an important part of the courting process?"

"I don't know. Is that what all this is; you courting me?"

Feigning indignation, he easily pinned her to the cushions, holding her arms above her head with just one hand. "You're not very observant, are you little missy? Did you miss the dinner, the fine tablecloth, the candelabra, the wine... Shall I go on?"

"Asking me to dress up..." she giggled.

"Not to mention the dancing and my hands all over you," he huffed.

"Well, perhaps you had me so distracted that I missed all the rest," she responded, trying unsuccessfully to free her hands.

"I know you have your doubts about my intentions," he laughed. "But in all seriousness, will you move in with me, Miss Hammond?"

She nodded.

"Even if we must up and relocate?" he added.

"Yes, I'd love to. Thank goodness, I've been wanting to get rid of the flat forever."

His head dipped low again, close to her neck and she heard him sniff.

"You always smell so good..." he husked, burying his face in the crook of her neck and allowing his weight to settle more heavily onto her.

At the feel of his breath on her neck, she moaned and squirmed, unconsciously grinding against him and he responded by fully lowering himself on her, his weight now pinning her so that she could not move, nor escape him.

He started to run his free hand over her... down her neck, over her collarbones... brushing the outskirts of her left breast...

And Evey moaned. Was this real? Was he truly initiating something? 'Please,' she thought, 'don't let him stop this time!'

And then she was putting her thoughts into words. "Please don't stop," she pleaded. "Tell me this isn't a dream..."

He stilled and lifted his head to look at her.

The silence dragged on for far to long.

"What is it?" she asked, unable to keep the fear out of her voice. Was he about to apologize?

"Do you remember our conversation about waiting until things were... right?" he finally asked, his voice nearly a whisper.

"Yes."

"And do you remember asking me when that would be?"

Her heart began to pound. "You said to trust you to know when," she whispered back. "Are you telling me that now is the time?" she asked, almost afraid to hope.

"It is and for all the reasons we've just discussed." he answered. Then he stood up and lifted her to a seated position as he rose to his feet.

She was confused by his sudden withdrawal but in the next moment he put her at ease.

"I must do something Evey. I promise I shan't be but ten minutes. Will you wait for me here?"

"I'll wait for you anywhere," she promised. "but now hardly seems the time to be running an errand."

"Ah, but I've a stage to set," he replied. Then he ran his fingers affectionately over her head before he departed, vanishing into the shadows.


In a swirl of his cloak, he reappeared next to the sofa not nine minutes later.

She was stunned to see the mask back in place. Why now? It made little sense.

Still, she kept her question to herself and reaching out to him, took his hand and pulled him down to sit beside her. As he settled onto the sofa she leaned back, pulling him down atop her. She hugged him to her then, her arms beneath his own and spanning the breath of his wide shoulders. And as he nestled his masked face in the hollow between her shoulder and neck, she turned and brushing his ear with her lips, whispered, "I love you."

"And I you," came his heartfelt answer.

Then he stiffened again.

"This simply will not do," he suddenly protested, lifting his head, the mask scanning the room around them.

"Huh?" to say that she was both startled and confused would be an understatement.

"This," he emphasized, gesturing around them with a sweep of his arm. "Tis the wrong setting."

As though by magic, he was suddenly on his feet and with no effort whatsoever he had pulled her up with him so that she was firmly in his arms.

The sudden motion was dizzying and tore a squeal from her, which made him chuckle. Apparently, he loved doing this to her; and it was a chance to show off in a way.

"Now then," he continued. "Where shall it be, my love?" He took a step forward. "The kitchen, perhaps?"

She was shocked at the idea and thoroughly against it, something he read instantly by her expression.

"Me thinks the lady doth protest," he said with some humor evident in his tone. "Then perhaps... the bedroom?"

Reading her expression and body language he began moving towards that particular room. "Ah, I see she likes the idea," he breathed. Yet when he was outside the door, he stopped again and tilted his head sharply, the mask seeming to give her a stern look.

"But no; it still isn't right..."

"V?" she prompted, anxious to know what he was up to, for plainly there was another of his plans at work here.

"This night calls for some effort, some grand gesture. After all, am I not the male intent upon wooing the chosen female to his bower?"

She laughed and hugged him tightly. "That you most definitely are," she confirmed. "And you've taken a good long while in doing so."

He pretended to be wounded by her criticism. "Tis important to capture the female's complete attention before continuing on... and I am continuing on. It's time to sweep you off to my bower and hope that you approve!"

He whipped around and began marching purposefully through the Shadow Gallery, passing through the doorway to the unused portion, then through the outer door into the corridor which led both to the tube system and to the street above.

"Where exactly are you taking me?" Evey asked, all amazement at the distance he was covering.

"Hush, my little bird," he admonished. "You've waited this long, surely you're not losing your patience now?'

She laughed. "I lost it over a week ago, as you well know!"

"Um... yes... silly of me to forget that you were most aggressive and not to be trifled with," he replied in a low pitched, intimate voice that nearly made her melt.

"I think you'd better hurry..." It was both a plea and a warning.

Turning, he paused to unlock the doorway leading to the tube station, his hands suddenly uncoordinated. She had never seen him fumble anything before, let alone a lock. It gave her a deep satisfaction knowing that, despite the front he put on, he was as impatient as she.

In the next instant he locked the door behind him, then entered the first door on his left; the rose nursery and set her down just the other side of the threshold.

Evey looked about her in amazement.

In the center of the room, he had covered the stone floor with a carpet that she had recently noted was missing from the gallery. She had assumed he had taken it for a cleaning, something he often did. In the center of the carpet was a mattress covered in a romantic pile of quilts, pillows and cushions. And on either side of the doorways, which stood at opposite ends of the room, dozens of candles lined the walls, Candles on trays, on stands, on pillars... they lit the room with dancing shadows, the faint smell of vanilla mixing with the intense rose scent from those plants not in a winter state of dormancy.

This room was the only one in the gallery complex which had its own external air ventilation system. V had told her that it had once been a mechanical room where train engines were repaired. He had chosen it to be the rose room for that very reason; you just never knew when you might have to fumigate pests. Now that ventilation system was running, albeit at a low setting and the room remained fresh, despite all the candles.

V had also draped heavy fabric in a red color over the doorway leading to Valerie's shrine, so that this first room was enclosed and cozy. Completing the picture was a bottle of fine wine, two wine glasses and a beautifully wrapped box, small enough to fit in the palm of her hand. The wine had been opened and the glasses filled.

"Do you approve?" he asked, his hands clasped before him, but his fingers twitching nervously.

"It's... amazing..." she managed to stammer.

He took a step closer, all signs of nervousness gone. "Then... approving of his bower, his female accepts him?"

She did her best to suppress the smile that threatened to light her face as she tried to remain serious. "She does indeed," was her reply.

He took another step forward, causing her to thrill with anticipation, knowing as she did, just how fast he could move when he chose to.

There was a long pause as they both stared at each other and then...

She was snatched off her feet and up into his embrace, then lowered gently to the quilts down below. He came down atop her, still embracing her, his mask buried in the crook of her neck.

"Evey..." her name, whispered near her face, made her squirm with the desire to kiss him, but she could only run her hands over him instead.

"Your mask..." she managed to gasp. "V, it has to go. I want to kiss you, SEE you!"

As the ivory visage came up to look at her, she added, "Please don't keep it between us tonight."

"The light in here would not be flattering," he warned.

"Candlelight not flattering?" she challenged. "I think we both know otherwise." She pulled him down and kissed the mask's nose. "I've already seen you, remember? Why do you still fear my reaction when it was so insignificant that you've already missed it?"

He sighed. "There is a difference between seeing glimpses and having the full reality thrust upon you." He paused a moment. "I know it is time to show you, that I must eventually... Tonight would be the best possible night, but Evey... how I fear and dread this!"

Now that this moment had arrived, and knowing the weight he placed upon the words of the bard, she quoted one of his best known sonnets to her love, "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. O no, it is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken... Do I need to go on?"

He let his breath out in a long, shaky sigh and embraced her tightly.

"V?"

Again a sigh. "I can deny you nothing."

She froze. "Then, are you saying...?"

He nodded, then sat up. "Yes, Evey, for better or for worse, tonight I shall keep no more secrets, not even the one hidden beneath this mask. Yet I cannot help but wonder if you know the tale of Pandora's box?"

She sat up beside him. "I know you feel that, when all is said and done, I might wish I never asked to see you, that something special will be damaged or altered by my actions, but you're wrong to feel that way. Trust me, just take that first step."

He nodded then reached behind him for the box she had seen earlier.

Her eyes traveled between him and the box.

"First things first," he said, his voice now sounding like deep, rich velvet. "I've a gift for you." He offered it to her. "Open it, Evey."

She needed no further encouragement and quickly tore through the beautiful wrapping and ribbons. There was a plain box inside, which she opened…

…and gasped at what she beheld within.

Nestled atop a swath of purple satin was a pendant; a Guy Fawkes pendant in a perfect likeness of V's mask. It was strung on a thick black cord with silver clasps.

The miniature mask was beautiful, made of small refractive granules that glittered when the light hit it. The eye holes seemed to be fashioned from two facet-cut bits of onyx. The back of the mask and a thin edge around it looked to be silver.

The detail on the mask was impeccable, with the miniature Fawkes' cheeks and lips glinting pink, his mustache and goatee a silvery black.

Evey was literally stunned by it and lifted it so carefully out of the box that someone watching would think she thought it a living thing.

Tears welled in her eyes as she turned to look at the man who had given it to her.

"V…" she choked and had to pause a moment. "It is the most beautiful thing… How did you get it? Who made it? I'm… God, I just cannot find words..."

Gently, he took it from her, unclasped it and placed it around her neck, his gloved fingers brushing her nape and raising goose bumps on her skin.

"It is a token of my love, a one of a kind piece," he whispered near her ear. "I am the artisan and aside from the onyx and silver, this miniature mask is resurrected entirely from the mask you took the night I nearly died."

She swung around to stare at him, as her hand convulsively clasped the pendant. "Are you saying that…"

He nodded. "Yes, Evey. It is made from the remains of the mask that blew up along with Parliament. I found it a few weeks ago in the rubble." Here he rose and withdrew an object from behind the rosebush beds, where he had hidden it. Bringing it to her, he handed it over for her perusal.

With shaking hands, Evey took it and burst into tears.

Most of the ceramic facade was gone, either due to the explosion or to being salvaged in the making of the pendant she now wore. The metal retained the shape of the face, complete with bullet dings and the edges were somewhat blurred, having melted in the conflagration that destroyed Parliament.

"There, my love," he comforted her, sitting and wrapping his arms about her from behind. "Don't be sad. Do you not think it fitting that this face has returned to you, just as did the man who wore it?"

Still, she could find no words and merely nodded as she tried to compose herself. Looking at the devastated mask was heart-wrenching for her; as though she were staring at someone she had loved and who had died.

"Don't you find it as deliciously ironic as I, that from this day forward you may wear that mask, whilst from this day forward, at your bequest, I will remove it?"

It was poignant when he put it like that. "And now I know why you're wearing it tonight," she finally replied.

"Yes." He hugged her more tightly and then reached around to grasp the pendant in his gloved hand. "In this vow do chain my soul to thine! And, ere my knee rise from the earth's cold face, I throw my hands, mine eyes, my heart to thee, Thou setter up and plucker down of kings, Beseeching thee, if with thy will it stands That to my foes this body must be prey, Yet that thy brazen gates of heaven may ope, And give sweet passage to my sinful soul!"

As he recited, one arm had left its place from around her shoulders and she now heard the faintest slide of the leather straps that held his mask in place. It was a sound she had heard many times before in the dark of their room, yet now, in the flickering light of dozens of candles she froze at what it signified.

Then the mask was off. He dropped it gently into her lap as he hunched over, leaned his chin upon her shoulder. Then he moved slowly forward until his cheek was against her own. She could make out only the slightest bit of him in her peripheral vision, not enough to see more than a blur.

He dropped the pendant and again wrapped his arms around her, but this time it was to remove his gloves in front of her while he watched over her shoulder. First one and then the other dropped in her lap before he took her hands in his own. "For I will touch thee but with reverent hands; I kiss these fingers for eternal peace, And lay them gently on thy tender side..."

She felt his breath on her cheek, then a light kiss.

"It's time," he breathed, his voice none too steady. "Look when you are ready, but for pity's sake do not draw this out overlong."

She fought down the sudden wave of doubt that struck her and slowly, ever so slowly, turned to face him.

Their eyes met first, then she allowed her own to wander over his face, taking it all in and overlooking nothing; the heavy scarring which pulled his skin tight, robbing him even of clues as to his age, the lack of facial hair, including eyebrows, the melted appearance of his ears.

He had also removed the wig and she could see the scarring over his head, where only a few tufts of medium brown hair were visible, sprouting here and there. She knew at the back of his head he still had a think growth, where he had somehow escaped severe burning.

The end of his nose was... gone, the remnants of his nostrils looked melted and were distorted by the scarring that pulled at them. His upper lip was likewise scarred and reduced by tension, yet the lower one was full and pliant as she well remembered from the kisses he had granted her.

She memorized each detail and then her eyes again met his own, which had been watching her with a pained expression. They were the one part of his face that were still supple, still expressive and relatively untouched by the fire that had consumed him. His lids were even lined with long, medium-colored lashes.

He flinched as she brought her hands up and her heart leaped painfully at the understanding that he had thought her about to slap him. But she forced herself not to freeze, but instead to complete what she had been about to do; she took his face in her hands and pulled him to her for a sound kissing. She kissed his cheeks, his eyes, his ears... his lips. Ah, but she soundly kissed those lips!

"There now," she soothed. "You see? Nothing at all has changed."

He let out a long,. shuddering breath, but remained silent, simply watching her.

"Tell me, would you love me any less if my makeup was running or smeared all over my face?" she asked. "Would your love for me die if you saw me like that?"

"Never," he vowed. "But this is not my face," he insisted. "Mine was obliterated in fire. What remains is unrecognizable, even to me and more than anything I feel a fraud subjecting you to this false visage. Evey, it is not me!"

"I understand what you meant now; 'there is a face beneath this mask, but it isn't me'…" She quoted him. "But at least there are no longer any secrets left between us and…" She stroked his cheek. "You can feel that, can't you?"

"Yes," he breathed, closing his eyes and savoring the sensation. His hand came up to cover hers, unconsciously holding it in place.

"And I can see that you feel it, that you enjoy it," she answered. "And I enjoy seeing that. Wear your mask, if you prefer, but know when it's appropriate to put it aside and trust that I will love you all the more for that.

She leaned towards him and he met her half way, kissing her first slowly, then with an increasing confidence and passion. When they broke apart, she raised up her pendant and again sighed with feeling. "This is the most precious thing anyone has ever given me… except for Michael." She breathed. "And I here I have nothing to give you in return."

He was taken aback and then asked suspiciously, "And what has the good doctor given you that is finer?"

She threw herself into his arms. "He saved your life; he gave me you... and there is nothing more important to me than you"

He held her tightly, his silent tears dampening her shoulder. "And you have given me everything I could possibly want; your love, your acceptance, your respect… and, for that matter, you've given me back my own self respect. Evey, do not ever feel that you owe me anything more than that. It is enough."

She pulled away just enough so that she could look at him. "Now that IS a shame… I was hoping that you would try to take more from me," she teased, her voice husky.

His irises dilated, his eyes seeming to darken with emotion; passion long held in check suddenly springing forth. "Evey Hammond," he husked. "If you have any second thoughts, now is the time to say so, because otherwise, this night, very shortly you will be mine. And I do mean that in the full possessive definition of the words."

"Oh do shut up and prove it," she replied, running a hand slowly down his chest, his belly... "And I do mean that as the challenge it is..."

He moved so suddenly it was as though there was an explosion before her eyes. A "hurf!" was torn from her as air was forced from her lungs. He had yanked her completely off her fanny, over his lap and onto her back on the other side of him and then he had come down atop her.

She gulped in air as her senses tried to catch up with her predicament. He had her well and truly pinned, his weight a controlled force which now made it difficult for her to breath, yet had not resulted in injury when he had landed atop her. Within seconds of that landing he somehow had her hands pinned above her head, though she could not even recall him having found them during her flight through the air.

She became aware of his hips pushing down upon her, his legs parting her own... and gasped. And he smothered that gasp as he covered her mouth and kissed her deeply.

Her head was spinning, whether from sensory overload or lack of oxygen, she could not say.

Tearing himself away from her lips, he fastened his mouth on her throat and began sucking, nibbling and licking his way down towards her collarbones.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, trying to wiggle beneath him. "V!"

He raised his head and paused in his endeavors just long enough to growl, "Say my name again!"

"Veeeee!"

She had seen what this man could do, she had always admired his strength, his intellect, his resolve... but never had she had it all turned upon her; used against and for her as it now was. He was almost a different man; a part of him hitherto hidden had been unleashed by her and he was now asserting his dominance.

"Yes..." he encouraged, his voice gravelly, passionate. "You'll be mine now, won't you?"

She nodded.

"Say it!"

"Yes," she moaned.

"Yes, what?" he shook her slightly, as though she weighed absolutely nothing.

"Yes, I'm yours... all yours!"

"Mmmm... you will be..." He planted his lips right at the spot where her neck and collarbones came together. Then he moved to capture both of her trapped wrists in just one of his hands, his right, leaving his dominant hand free to do as he pleased.

Meanwhile, she continued to writhe and wiggle, desperate to free her own hands so that she could do as she pleased...

He unzipped the side of her dress and impatiently pushed the straps off her shoulders, then shucked her like an ear of corn. He inhaled deeply at the sight of her black lace bra and undies; they left so very little to the imagination.

Evey suspected that he was just now appreciating the advantage of having light to see by.

Again he kissed her, as his hand slipped beneath her and unhooked her bra. In seconds it had joined her dress on the floor. And now he was running those eyes over her, drinking her in, his hand moving low so that he could hook his thumb in the front of her panties. Teasing her, he wiggled his thumb, then hooked the lace and slowly eased them down. They, too, joined her discarded clothing.

And now she was naked save for her thigh high sheer stockings.

Again his eyes moved over her hungrily. "Oh Evey..." he breathed. "If you only knew all the things I've dreamed of doing to you..."

She blushed from head to toe, then struggled against him again.

"Please..." she begged. "I want to touch you, too!"

"And so you shall, but not just yet." He continued teasing.

Reaching up, he began to slowly undo the closure of his jacket as Evey whimpered with frustration. Then, to her delight, he reached an impasse; he could not remove the jacket without releasing her.

Or so she thought.

With a devilish look, he pulled her arms down to her sides and straddled her, pinning her arms to the mattress.

"Oh! Not fair!" she protested as he laughed at her.

She immediately fell silent when he removed his jacket to reveal the unexpected: a red silk shirt beneath. Then he pulled it from his breeches and slowly unbuttoned and removed it as well.

'Dear God!' she thought, 'he's putting on a show for me...' Then she blushed furiously as he reached for the button closure at the side of his breeches and she was reminded that his crotch was less than two feet from her face.

"What is it, love; see something you like?" he asked, then suddenly he shifted and released her arms.

With a groan, she went straight for those buttons And after undoing them she pushed him off her.

He willingly allowed her to do so and fell onto his back, his breath quickening as she, in all her naked glory, rose up and pulled off first her stockings and then his pants.

She wasted no time in relieving him of his silk boxers as well, her own breath now ragged at the sight of him, at how ready he was for her...

And again he took over, rolling them over and covering her...


Evey awoke much later to find herself still nestled in V's arms. The candles had nearly burned themselves out, indeed many were already out and the room was therefore darker.

Shifting slightly, she looked at him and smiled. His face seemed so peaceful and she fancied that she saw a slight, self-satisfied smile turning up the corners of his lips. And he had every right to be proud of that performance, she thought, already breathing heavily just from the memory of it.

'Wow,' she thought. He was the total package where she was concerned; everything she could ever want... would ever want. And she could think of nothing better than to spend a lifetime reminding him of that.

Just then he stretched sleepily, like a large cat; a panther, she thought. Then his eyes opened and met her own.

An arm tightened around her, pulling her in closer for a kiss. "My love, there is definitely something to be said for seeing you when I first open my eyes. I could easily become addicted to this. In fact, I think I already have."

She smiled up at him, then shifted uncomfortably.

"Are you alright? Was I too rough with you?" he asked, as he rolled onto his side to better see her.

She laughed. "Oh, I'm sore all right – just about everywhere, but don't you dare apologize for it. I demand that you do that to me, and often." She reached up and began playing with the hair at he back of his head. This time she could enjoy the look of pleasure it invoked.

He in turn wrapped an arm around her, then rolled them over so that she was atop him.

"It will be my very great pleasure. As I've said, I can deny you nothing."

She kissed him soundly.

When they broke apart, he grasped the miniature Fawkes dangling from her neck and smiled. "A heaven on earth I have won by wooing thee," he quoted.

"And how very glad I am for that," she laughed.

It was a long time before they left their bower.


A heaven on earth I have won by wooing thee.
- All's Well that Ends Well: IV, ii

Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love
- This is Hamlet's letter to Ophelia

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
- Sonnet 116

I love the people,
But do not like to stage me to their eyes.
- Measure for measure

And in this vow do chain my soul to thine!
And, ere my knee rise from the earth's cold face,
I throw my hands, mine eyes, my heart to thee,
Thou setter up and plucker down of kings,
Beseeching thee, if with they will it stands
That to my foes this body must be prey,
Yet that thy brazen gates of heaven may ope,
And give sweet passage to my sinful soul!
- King Henry VI, part III: II, iii