Thank you to my wonderful beta jolinarjackson. This is the Epilogue (finally) and I couldn't have done this without you. The story wouldn't be as good without your invaluable input and constant grammar magic. It has been quite a ride and I hope you know how grateful I am for everything. You have been an amazing beta and I really don't know what I would have done without you! On that note, I've been a bad girl and added a few things after my beta saw this chapter so all mistakes are mine.
I can't believe this fic is over! I am so grateful to all that have supported me through it, even if I frustrated you and turned up the notch on the angst. I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments, alerts, lurkings, and love sent my way!
Buzzing all around him were city street noises of endless construction and cars, among them the many cabs, moving so slowly they might as well be parked. The noise confused his senses. Hundreds of people walking on the never-ending concrete sidewalks, phones in their hands, chatting away, bumped his body as he stood overwhelmed. All around him, buildings towered so high they blocked the scorching sun. The stench, sewers, subways, homeless, endless bodies in suits, exhaust, and exotic food smells left all his senses on overload.
He clutched the crumpled piece of paper in his palm as if his life depended on it.
For the last three years, Ianto Jones had traveled all over the world. The first two years were spent stationary working for the Peace Corps and living in Africa.
After the mess he had created, he'd finally found the strength to leave Britain. He had a lot of thinking and figuring out to do and being there hurt. The ghosts of Lisa and Jack lived on every corner, in every shadow. He'd just needed to escape.
He had felt like he'd lost himself somewhere along the way… And maybe, just maybe, helping others less fortunate could help him find the inner peace he was looking for.
So, for two years, he had taught kids in Kenyan schools, teaching and living in barely standing, derelict buildings surrounded by poverty and death. He loved each child knowing that not all would make it to adulthood and many wouldn't see old age. They taught him hope, humility, and love in one of the worst slums in the world.
But when his time there was over he still had felt lost, there was still a big part of him missing. He'd known his journey wasn't over yet.
He moved his right foot forward, then his left, right, left… and before he knew it, he was walking on the hard concrete. Terror churned his stomach; it felt like rats nested in there and were now nibbling at his internal organs. He wanted to tell himself that he'd been through worse but…
The last year he had spent drifting around the world. He had had money saved up from working all those years and selling his half of the flat with Lisa along with most of his possessions. After the first two years living in a foreign land, with foreign people, he'd gained confidence. With his new self-assurance, he'd decided to travel on his own, relying only on himself.
During that year, he'd drifted through the world, traveling aimlessly, searching for something that he couldn't quite place. He'd dined with monks in Tibet, stood in awe of the temple Angkor Wat, prayed in India (and his Welsh family would so disown his new found vegetarian self), climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, hiked the Inca Trail, camped in the wilderness of Alaska, drank kava in Vanuatu, and partied in Mexico.
During his travels, he could feel his soul heal but he was still searching, looking for something he couldn't define.
Over those years, a feeling of loneliness crept up on him. He didn't live like a monk and had his share of lovers, both men and women, but most were short term one night stands. The longest lover he had was a man in Morocco. The men spent two fantastic weeks there having fabulous sex before parting ways.
So, he wasn't surprised when one day, he'd woken up and crawled out of his tent on a beautiful beach in Mexico and felt a deep longing as the deep blue ocean transformed into a pair of soulful eyes of the same color. He'd packed his bags that very moment, hitched a ride to the nearest airport, and boarded on the first available stand by seat to the most arrogant, pretentious place on the planet, New York City.
He walked past his surroundings in a daze, a bag slung over his shoulder, as he clung to the small piece of paper crumpled in his hand. His hope scrawled in a messy handwriting, a coffee stain on the upper right hand corner.
It was in that one perfect moment on that beach that he had figured out how to end his journey. He'd learned to properly to care for others and seen wonders of the world but in all his travels, he'd still been missing one thing, missing his heart.
Searching for the one to fill that hole inside was the reason he'd boarded that flight and now stood on a chaotic corner waiting for a red light to turn green in awe as faceless masses bumped and shoved him out of their way. His heart was hidden somewhere within the depths of this city.
He wasn't sure what he expected; his heart could welcome him with open arms but more likely he would had moved on, married (or had a civil ceremony), and had five (well, maybe just one or two) kids by now. Or he would never find his heart in all this pandemonium, endangering the very sanity he'd worked so hard for.
His fist closed around the piece of paper. His one way of finding the one who had claimed his heart so long ago but he was too blind to notice.
He'd tried all the previous contact information but the e-mails came back undelivered and the phone number wasn't active anymore. He was determined to try one last thing, even if he was setting himself up for failure, because now he was good enough (he hoped) and if it was too late, then it would be nothing less than he deserved.
It was Owen who'd come through for him in the end.
When Tosh had heard about what had happened that night after the wedding that never was, she became protective of Jack, like a mama bear over her cubs, refusing to give Ianto a way to find Jack. She had every right to do that. He had hurt Jack even more on top of everything else. That hadn't been his finest hour. Actually, he was more ashamed of that night than he was of running out on Lisa at their wedding. Although, that one was a close second.
But Owen, whether he always had a romantic side or losing Katie had affected him more than he'd ever admit, had given in and sent him an email, in it an address and a threat that if he hurt Jack again, he'd find himself in A&E.
Tears silently fell from his eyes as he desperately hung on to his one hope. He was strong now, his two feet standing solid on the ground, and he was ready for… anything. He was ready for love, heartbreak, disappointment, happiness, pain, sorrow, peace, or anything else that came his way. He was ready to love Jack how he deserved, if his friend, his love, still wanted him.
After all, his Jack was worth every sacrifice he'd have to make.