The graveyard is quiet, that calm sort of peace that can only be found in such a solemn place. Even the birds are keeping their silence. It's cool out, made colder by the marble statue you're leaning against, or rather hiding behind, but you don't really care. All you care about is the gleaming blonde hair and simple black dress standing a hundred yards away, staring down at the ground beneath her feet. Besides her and you, there is only one other person left in the cemetery; the man with the curly hair that's waiting a few yards from her, giving her her space. He's facing your direction but you don't have to be worried about being spotted by him. Just her.
She hasn't moved in a long time and if she's speaking she's too far away for you to hear. You can't even imagine what she would be saying anyway as she stares down at that little stone square. Is she sad? Angry? Indifferent? No, if she were indifferent then she wouldn't still be here. She's sad, surely. You remember the fear and anguish in her voice as she'd kept you conscious on your escape from Sri Lanka. She was the only reason you had made it to the hospital.
The hospital where, for all intents and purposes, you died.
It wasn't a lie, really. You had died, for all of six minutes, before being resuscitated. But then there had been a phone call from D.C. and an offer and a demand, and fifteen minutes later the doctor had gone out to the waiting room to tell Anne Walker that Ben Mercer had died in emergency surgery, and that his body was already being prepared to be sent back to America as per government orders. After a lot of government bullshitting about autopsies and clearances and debriefings, today was finally the funeral for Ben Mercer. It's been three and a half months since Sri Lanka, and today is the first time you've seen her.
"Jackson, you on your way yet?" The voice in your ear makes you grimace. You don't like the name, it still sounds too unfamiliar to your brain. Trent Jackson, the name on the ID in your pocket. A man who magically appeared in the systems the day that the rouge CIA agent died. You'd barely come off of the anesthesia from the surgery that had mended bullet holes in your back when you'd received a call from Arthur Campbell himself. He'd offered you a chance at redemption; a chance to start over. A new identity, a new life, and a position in deep ops. You'll be given free rein to use your skills to their full extent, and they don't care how you do it so long as their end is achieved. The CIA's private mercenary. It was with a heavy heart that you agreed. And it was all for her.
You don't belong in her world anymore. The two of you had a time, a chance, but that has passed. It took being with her again to understand that. You are the lynch pin that is holding her back from her full potential. No matter what you did to protect her, all you've ever done is bring more pain onto her. You know that now. This way, with a simple vase of ashes beneath a simple headstone, she can fully close that chapter of her life and find something new.
"I'm just getting ready to go," you say and hear a noise of assent from within your ear. This is your farewell. In just a few short hours you will be on a plane heading into South Africa and there is no saying when, or if, you will ever come back. You won't ever see her again after today. She can't know that you're still alive. No one can, save for the three people involved in your new identity. It's a secret to take to the grave, when you actually make it there this time.
Just as you're about to leave, Anne finally moves. You watch with fascination as she crouches down, one hand reaching out to touch the headstone, something in her hand. Then she straightens up, wipes a hand across her cheeks, and turns away. Her steps, determined and quick, take her to the blind man. He draws her into an embrace, and even from here you can see that he presses a kiss to her forehead. They walk out of the cemetery with their arms around each other supportively. A bittersweet feeling tightens in your chest, relief that she is loved but jealousy that it isn't you who is there loving her.
You wait for several minutes, until you are sure that they are long gone, and then head for the gravesite. Something in your chest catches when your eyes land on the headstone. There is a plain inscription that reads 'Benjamin Alan Mercer January 12, 1979 – September 14, 2010' and a single white lily is lying alongside it. And resting right on top of the words is a small shell bracelet.
Taking a heavy breath, you kneel down and draw a pocket knife from your shoe. You use the blade to dig a shallow hole beneath the headstone and then slip an identical shell bracelet from your wrist. You wistfully slide it through your fingers, ingraining every memory connected to it into your mind, and then you kiss the shells and drop them into the hole. Because Ben Mercer died and he took his love for Annie to the grave with him.
With the hole filled you stand up, wincing at the stiffness that hasn't quite left your torso yet. This is it; the end. When you turn and leave this cemetery then this life will be over for good. No more Ben, no more Anne, no more Sri Lanka. Everything you've ever known will be gone. It's for the best though. Your time was up. You can tell that she'll be taken care of now, there is a look in that blind man's eyes that says only too clearly that she is safe with him. He won't hurt her. Dying was the best thing you could do for her, in the long run.
You take one last, steadying breath and walk away from Ben Mercer forever.