Author's Notes I: Well, at long last, the end of the story is here. I'm sorry for the delay, but I hope it was worth the wait. Thank you for reading and even bigger thank you to all of my reviewers. Enjoy.
Both Eric and Evey nearly jump right out of their skins as they spin around and face the new person. She's leaning against the door jamb watching them with an amused smile on her lips and her eyes are dancing with mirth. Her long red hair is pulled back into a ponytail now and she's wearing worn jeans, a turtle neck sweater and hiking boots, the country-western ensemble from earlier long gone.
"Liberty?" Evey finally asks from her spot still in the chair.
"Ta most people, Ah'm called that," Liberty replies with a sigh. "Though it's not tha first time Ah've had an alias."
"Who are you?" Eric demands, eyes narrowed at this woman.
"Am Ah that forgettable, Chief Inspector?" Liberty sadly inquires, the sadness evident in her eyes.
"We've met before?" he questions as he steps closer to her. "And I'm not Chief Inspector any more. That's Dominic Stone's job now."
"Ah saw Detective Stone at tha concert," she continues conversationally. "Tha poor man was sittin' all by his li'l lonesome. But Ah do have ta wonder how many Southern Belles ya'll have met o'er tha past several years."
"How did you find this place?" Evey demands, finally coming to her feet.
"Ah saw ya'll come down through Victoria Station," she answers. "Ah'd been tryin' ta remember where V had hidden tha Gallery. He never took meh out o' Victoria Station, but Ah knew that it would beh near one that started with a 'V'. Tha man was absolutely obsessed with that letter."
"How did you know V?" Evey grills as she steps past a rather confused Eric.
"Ya mean ya'll haven't figured it out?" Liberty counters. "Ah guess 'Shadows ta a Song' never made a connection with ya then."
"Of course it did," Evey shoots back. "It practically describes the year I knew him. But how the hell did you know him?"
"An it describes the six months that Ah knew 'im," Liberty softly replies and she turns those green eyes back on Eric. "Well, Chief Inspector, have ya'll figured it out yet?"
"The missing logs are from before V blew up the Old Bailey and you mentioned a date nearly seven months before then," Eric whispers and her gaze becomes quite intense. "There was a case I was working on...a murder...and a kidnapping..."
She watches him expectantly, pushing herself away from the wall with a fluid ease that belies the tension in her body.
"Bloody Hell!" he suddenly shouts and that thousand watt smile from earlier in the evening is back on her face. "AUDREY! AUDREY MEADOWS!"
"How are ya, Chief Inspector?" she asks with a laugh in her voice.
"You made it back to North America safely," he states with obvious joy as he steps up to her and grips her upper arms in his hands. "But how did you know V?"
She just grins at him, trying to hold back her laughter and his cringes as it finally hits him.
"The Man was V," he groans as he drops his his chin to his chest, his hands finally dropping down to his sides. "That cheeky bastard, he was leading me on a bloody merry chase well before he blew up the Old Bailey. If he was here, I swear I'd shoot him."
"He's really gone, isn't he?" Audrey softly asks, turning her attention to Evey now, her eyes begging the other woman to let it not be true.
"I gave him his Viking funeral myself," Evey sadly replies.
"Damn," Audrey quietly swears. "Ah had hoped ta thank 'im properly."
"But how did you come to live with him?" Evey repeats.
"Mr. Finch could tell ya, but Ah imagine tha answer ta that is also in that box," Audrey states as points to the small chest on the desk.
Audrey walks past the other two and calmly plugs in zero-eight-zero-four. With a beep and a click, the lock opens without a problem. She completely removes the lock and carefully opens the box to reveal the missing logs and an envelope with Audrey's name on it.
"An' here is ya'lls answer," Audrey states as she moves the envelope out of the way and lifts the first leather bound journal out of the box, flipping to April eighth.
Evey takes the journal and starts to read with Eric reading right over her shoulder. Several minutes later they finish reading the entry and then look over at the red haired woman. She's sitting in the computer chair and reading what appears to be a letter, the now open envelope sitting on the desk next to the box.
"He knew he was gonna die, didn't he?" Audrey quietly questions, though it's more of a statement.
"Yes, he knew," Evey confirms.
"Damn infuriatin' man," Audrey grumbles.
"Tell me about it," Evey scoffs and the two women look at each other and both smile.
"That last song you sang," Eric says after a few moments of silence as he gives Audrey a speculative look. "It was the same one you sent the twins before you went back to North America wasn't it?"
"It was," Audrey confirms, a sad smile on her lips. "Ah had ta see tha boys again, even if it was from a distance."
"You think they'll ever figure it out?" he asks.
"Maybe," Audrey answers with a sigh. "A lot depends on what their aunt is willin' ta tell 'em. V may have given meh an' England our freedom, but he left those boys orphans. Ah sometimes wonder how they would feel about their new national hero if they knew."
"Come on, I'll put the kettle on and you can tell me about your time with Code Name V," Evey says as she turns towards the door. "And at midnight, you can join us on the roof to watch the fireworks."
"Sounds wonderful," Audrey replies with a smile while she stands and follows the other woman.
With a bemused look on his face, Eric trails along behind the women as they start to chat like a couple of long lost friends. They continue on, barely noticing that the jukebox is playing softly in the background.
It's nearing day break when she finally comes stumbling back into her hotel room, exhausted, but happy.
"Did you find it?" a voice growls from behind her as she carefully sets the box down before she shrugs her coat off and lets it fall to the floor.
"Yes," she softly answers as she sits on the edge of the bed and starts trying to take her boots off.
"Well?" he nearly snarls as he gets down on his knees in front of her to get the job done for her.
"He added a few things since tha last time Ah was there, but fo' tha most part, it was tha same," she tells him, her exhaustion evident, though she has a contented look on her face. "Most o' tha artwork in tha storage room was gone, but that's how it should o' been."
"I've been worried sick about you," he grumbles as the last shoe is tossed off to the side and he lays his head in her lap.
"Ah'm sorry," she replies as she tiredly strokes his hair. "It was somethin' Ah had ta do on my own."
"I know, love, but it wasn't easy watching you go without me," he sighs while his arms circle her waist.
"When did Ah become 'love'?" she asks after a few moments, still combing her fingers through his hair. "Ah used ta beh a whole lot o' words, but 'love' wasn't one o' 'em. Useless...annoyin'...bitch...When did that change?"
"When you showed up on my parents front door step nearly four years ago to make sure that my sister was alright," he tells her, sitting back on his heels to look up at her. "You absolutely floored me when you walked in the door."
"Ah don't know who was more surprised, ya'll or meh," she admits as she reaches out and strokes his cheek. "Ah sure as heck wasn't suspectin' ya ta beh there."
"You know that since that trip I haven't set foot one on another fishing boat," he states.
"Ah know that now, but not then," she reminds him as she reaches up to remove the band holding her hair back.
"Did you go see the boys?" he asks as he reaches up to comb his fingers through her freed hair. "Besides at the concert."
"No, Ah couldn't do it," she quietly admits. "It would've been too hard ta explain what Ah was doin' there an' Ah know if Ah got my arms around 'em, Ah would have never let 'em go. They're Ruby an' Tim's now. Ah never had a right ta 'em anyways."
"I'm sorry, love," he whispers, giving her a gentle kiss. "I know they meant a lot to you."
"Sean?" she softly asks as the sun starts to peek over the horizon.
"Yes, love," he quietly answers.
"Give meh a li'l un o' my own," she requests, her eyes pleading. "Give meh one that no one but God Himself can take away."
"You just made my parents very happy people," he chuckles as he moves even closer. "But what about your career?"
"It'll beh there when Ah'm ready ta go back," she tells him. "An' if it isn't, then Ah can just sell tha songs Ah write. Besides, Ah've been investin' tha money Ah've earned just in case. Please, Sean."
"On one condition," he responds as he reaches into the pocket of his jeans, pulls something out and holds the small gold band up for her to see. "This never comes off again."
"Agreed," she readily agrees as she holds her left hand out to him.
Without another word, he slides the ring that he only gave her three days before onto her ring finger and then spends the next couple hours making her forget her training.
She's in a dark place, but off in the distance she sees a light. She quickly heads towards the only source of illumination in the tunnel she's traveling. As she gets closer to her goal, she can faintly see the walls around her and they seem familiar somehow. When she gets to the end of the tunnel, she realizes where she is and isn't in the least bit surprised to see the door to the Shadow Gallery standing slightly ajar.
What has her a bit disconcerted is the fact that she knows she shouldn't be here. Her last memory was lying down in her bed to go to sleep in Canada. She's not sure how she got back to England, but curiosity gets the better of her and she pushes the door open.
It's just as she remembered it from so long ago. She softly shuts the door behind her and wanders further into V's home. The first place she stops is the jukebox and she gently runs her fingers over the buttons before pushing the three that will bring up her parent's song.
"Hello, Audrey," a familiar voice greets as the song begins to play
"Hello, V," she calmly replies as she turns to face the dark figure behind her. "How ya'll doin'?"
"I'm doing rather well, thank you," he answers. "And you?"
"Ah'm doin' very well, thank ya," she responds with a smile as she brushes her long red hair back over her shoulder, refusing to notice how her hand is no longer old and withered looking or her joints no longer ache with arthritis.
"So tell me, what have you been doing since you left?" he asks while he indicates they should move further into his home.
"Oh, Ah've been doin' lots o' things," she says happily as they make their way towards the couch.
Once they're seated, she gladly tells him of her adventure getting back to North America and the unexpected but very pleasant surprise of finding her family. Then she tells him about adjusting to life as a free person with no children to care for. Finally, she tells him of her career as a singer, of the concert in London, the last concert she ever gave, and her last trip to the Shadow Gallery.
"After Ah saw tha boys, Ah just knew it was time ta start my own family," she admits with a sad smile. "Ah was already married, so findin' a father wasn't gonna beh a problem. Ten years after tha concert, Ah had three beautiful children an' a career writin' songs fo' other singers. Then Ah got tha biggest surprise Ah ever did have."
"And what was that?" he asks.
"Tha twins found meh," she answers, tears welling up in her eyes. "Ah was so sure Ah'd never see 'em again, but one day, they just showed up on my front door step."
"How did they find you?" he inquires with that all too familiar head tilt.
"Tha song Ah sent ta 'em an' than sang at tha concert was their biggest clue," she replies with a guilty grin. "After they compared pictures o' meh when Ah was pretendin' ta beh their mum an' o' meh from my public pictures, plus what their aunt told 'em what little she knew, they came lookin' fo' answers. Ah couldn't deny 'em tha right ta know tha truth. Ah showed 'em tha journals ya left meh."
"How did they feel once the knew the truth?" he questions, leaning back into his seat.
"It was a shock fo' 'em," she responds. "They left that night an' Ah didn't theenk Ah'd ever see 'em again, but tha next day they were back. They had talked about it at their hotel an' decided that even though Ah didn't give birth ta 'em, Ah was still their Mum."
He has to chuckle at the rather smug look on her face.
"So, what have ya'll been doin' since Ah left?" she asks.
"I've been keeping busy," he answers.
"Ya blew up parliament an' tha Old Bailey an' had Suttler and Creedy jumpin' at their own shadows," she points out.
"I did at that," he replies a bit proudly and with a fair amount of amusement coloring his voice.
"But that was years ago."
"These days I mostly help certain people find their way. Special people."
"Am Ah a 'special people'?"
"Is that why Ah'm here?" she softly inquires. "So ya can help meh find my way."
"Yes," he quietly responds, his face dipping down in remorse.
"Then this isn't a dream," she sadly sighs.
"No, I'm afraid not," he says.
"It was a good life," she tells him proudly, her chin coming up defiantly. "Ah know those years as a slave were no picnic, but Ah had tha love o' the twins ta help meh through those dark days. An' when it was o'er, Ah had my family an' my music. It was a good life."
"I am not the one you need to convince," he replies as he comes to his feet with graceful ease and holds out his hand to her.
"Then who do Ah have ta convince?" she questions while she slides her hand into his and allows him to help her to her feet.
"Only yourself," he answers as he turns, tucks her hand into his arm and then starts to lead her through the Gallery.
"It was a good life," she repeats, looking up into the mask she never thought she'd see again. "Thank ya, V."
"You are most welcome, Audrey," he responds.
Without another word, they make their way towards eternity as the music plays on.
Unforgettable in every way
And forever more, that's how you'll stay...
A/N II: So why did I write this story? I needed to justify to myself why a man who had been living alone for nearly 20 years had a spare bedroom. Pretty crazy I know, but my mind is a very strange place.