Summary: He's dying, and they don't even know his name. They don't know his birthday, but it doesn't matter because they bury him as Will Traveler, and that's all he wants to be.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from Traveler.
He thought it would hurt more.
Maybe he'd known, as he'd walked out of the building with his friends, tipsy with triumph at their success, that something like this was bound to happen. People like him don't get happy endings.
Slightly delirious, he registered that security should have been able to block the shooter –perhaps hired by a fallen Fourth Branch member with a remaining shred of influence. He watched as red blossomed rapidly on his chest, as his hands shook uncontrollably.
He thought it would hurt more, but he supposed that this was nothing. Perhaps the shameful relief had calmed his mind, even as large hands –probably Jay's– attempted to stay the flow of blood.
Kim was crying. His vision was blurred, fading in and out as he become more aware of his mortality. He heard Tyler –Tyler, in his crisp black suit, looking almost deranged as he screamed at the security, demanding and grieving because he'd been on the run long enough to know what a mortal wound looks like.
He'd like to tell them to stop, that it didn't matter now –he'd repaid them, he got their lives back after nearly destroying them. Kim's scars will never fade, but they had been able to save her before she broke, before she became something that was less than Kim. Despite having been completely exonerated, some part of the country will never forgive Tyler and Jay for their supposed attack. Fear isn't forgotten easily.
And neither, he thought wryly, was betrayal. But for a moment, as Jay's hands grew less heavy, as his breathing grew shallow and Kim's anguish came from farther away, he saw Maya, and knew it was worth it.
He'd never been meant to survive this life; to be honest, he'd never expected to. But he'd accomplished everything he'd wanted –they'd brought down the Fourth Branch, gotten Jay, Tyler, and Kim's lives back, and he'd avenged Maya. He would regret leaving them, but there was no life for him here, not anymore.
He didn't have many regrets, but he was struck with a sudden realization that he'd never told them his real name. No one knew –only him and the people long gone and six foot under. The man who had originally hired him had been shot down, but Maya had known –it'd taken much out of him to tell her, this intimate fact, but she'd only gently touched his face and told him that it didn't matter whether he was Daniel Taft, Will Traveler, or the boy he'd been born as. He was hers.
Jay had given up on plugging the hole in his chest and has now resorted to yelling at him, telling him to hold on, to not give up, not after everything. But he still doesn't know what "everything" entailed, not even with the small pieces of information he had given up about his life. Did it really matter? He wanted to ask of his best friends. And best friends they were, people he'd never expected to connect with, never expected more than shallow materialism and bitter determination. Kim? Kim's presence in their lives had made his job easier and harder at the same time –she had served as a distraction for Jay yet had almost prevented him from embarking on their road trip. She'd almost saved him from the disaster that would put them on the run for more than half a year.
It all came down to this, really. They had lives, they had families –he would be sad to let them go, but there was something better for him elsewhere, something he had lost all those months ago. And, he supposed, it was better this way. He'll always have enemies, always have people with grudges against the spy who'd betrayed them all, and saved them. At least, he reasoned, he would have a proper funeral this time, instead of having his body dumped and left to decompose in some godforsaken patch of dirt.
"I –" Blood gathered in his throat, choking his voice.
It wasn't important anymore. Knowing his name, knowing who he was, it was all insignificant now. He was no longer the boy or man he'd used to be, happily chasing the fireflies or killing blindly simply because someone had told him to. He'd lost himself during his time at Hometown, but had found it again at the Castle among drunken conversations, cold pizza and runs underneath cherry trees.
In his unguarded moments, he'd like to be remembered that way.
"D –" He coughed. "Don't give up on the Cubs."
Jay focused into sight, and he saw his face, torn between incredulity, grief and laughter. Sarcastic to the end, he must be thinking.
He saw all of them, full of tears and anger, disbelieving that after everything, something like this could happen. But they would be happy; they would resume the lives they'd lead before meeting Will Traveler, but a little wiser and truly grown up. And Will? He smiled as he felt the last of the pain release its hold on him, as he took in all of them –Jay, Tyler and Kim– and remembered. They faded away and were replaced with Maya, the edges of her golden hair hazy in front of the blinding light behind her.
"Maya," he said before his head slumped, leaving behind his double lives and constant betrayals, entering into some kind of peace.
He wouldn't know it, but his friends had viciously searched for his assassin, for the man who'd released the bullet meant for Jay. They'd found the bastard, knowing that, if security had not shown up, he would have shot them all. If it hadn't been for Will, they would have all been dead many times over. Some would argue that they wouldn't have been dragged into this mess in the first place if it weren't for him, but they didn't care. They only cared that Will Traveler, their best friend, had defied his powerful employers and saved his roommates, saved them all.
They didn't know his real name, but they didn't care. "He's still Will, after all," Kim had said as they arranged his funeral, a small affair blocked off from the media and politicians hoping to improve their public image.
His real birthday remained a mystery to them, even after a rather lengthy search into the Fourth Branch's records. However, it seemed that who he'd really been had been erased, along with the names of all Hometown recruits. They didn't let that stop them; instead, they carved the birthday he'd given them on his tombstone, recalling the time when Tyler had thrown the ill fated party with good intentions, which had resulted in the majority of the guests becoming completely trashed. They all had a laugh remembering the expression on Will's face at the "surprise."
They had no trouble finding things to write as his dedication. There almost seemed to be too many options, too many events to commend on with as few lines as they had. After much deliberating, they'd decided on a mix of tradition and humor –A devoted friend and loyal patriot. Forever a Cub fan.
Will Traveler was not what he had been, but it's who he was when he'd died. They buried him next to the tombstone he had arranged for Maya, when they'd believed the madness to be over. But perhaps he'd known something they had not, that it would never truly end, not for him. Perhaps he'd mourned an empty grave because of sentimentality and inevitability. They hadn't known who he had been, but they knew Will Traveler, perhaps better than he'd thought.
The quaint little graveyard had been speckled with black the day of his funeral, as the people they'd known gathered to mourn Will Traveler, someone who had become more than an alias, more than a chemical engineering major with dreams that didn't surpass the present. But Tyler supposed that someone like Will had to live in the present, thinking only of the mission and not the big picture. No, that had been his employers' job until they had threatened the lives of people he'd grown to care about.
It made them proud, knowing that despite his self-control and training, he had come to love them.
"But who can blame him?" Tyler had said in his eulogy, smiling sadly. "We're just that irresistible."
He left no will, no indication that Will Traveler had ever existed. But they knew the truth; he had been a part of their lives for three precious years, and they mourned the many years more they could have had with him. But people like him don't often get happy endings, they knew that, but they'd hoped that he'd be an exception.
Jay had squeezed Kim's hand during the funeral, wondering what would have happened if he'd lost her, as Will had lost Maya. It gave him some comfort to know that he was with Maya, the shopkeeper who had captured the soldier and made him human again. She had helped him create the persona of Will Traveler; he couldn't help but think that if it hadn't been for her, they would never have known Will after all, never have gotten as close to him as they had.
The funeral had ended, and its participants separated to their lives, the ones they'd lead before entering the graveyard. But three left with heavy hearts, determined to keep their friend as more than a distant memory, more than a soldier, more than a name among rows of names.
After all, he was Will, and that's all that matters.