The Daleks seem to have frozen. He picks himself up in a quiet, dark world. "I suppose I'm dead."
"For the moment," a voice says.
He turns around with a start and sees a young woman standing there, her arms folded, looking both amused and sad. She is pale as milk with jet-black hair, heavy eye makeup, black jeans and a black tank top. Her motorcycle gloves and leather cuff are also black. Her necklace is a glinting silver Ankh.
She is quite possibly the most beautiful being he has ever seen. The empathy and love shining in her eyes rivals Rose's.
He whistles. "This is a major improvement on the Grim Reaper."
"You can't go with me yet, sweetheart."
She sighs. "Mortals do very foolish things and very loving ones. Power can be misused with the best of intentions. You won't remember me. You may dream of me. You will see me again."
Before he can ask what she means, he feels something tugging at his soul, and the rush of noise and life consumes him.
He stares at his bullet-ridden body. "I'm not looking very pretty at the moment."
She is there again. This time dressed in a tuxedo cut for a feminine figure, white lace at the cuffs and throat, a silk top hat. Still with eyes full of understanding. "I've seen worse."
"I bet you have." They have very little time together. He knows the Universe will spring him into shape faster than he wants it to. "Do you appear to everyone?"
"When it's their time, yes. And not just for people. Everything. I will one day close up this Universe and wait for the next thing."
"Will I die?"
"Of course you will. Everything dies. It'll just take you a bunch of rehearsals."
"I'm getting tired of it." He doesn't even bother to see if she's shown up. The past score times she was invariably present; why would she stop now?
She wears a black gown and her hair is piled in ringlets. "If it makes you feel better, you are doing a lot of good for the world. You have saved many lives, righted many wrongs. And you've romanced an impressive number of people."
"What happens to someone when they go with you? When they don't get called back?"
"It depends on the person. Who they are. What they want. What they truly feel they deserve."
"I'm just so tired," he repeats, sounding a little petulant.
She reaches out and hugs him. She is shorter than he but he feels like he's the one being held. "If you could see yourself like I see you…"
But he returns to life before she finishes.
During that terrible year he lets himself break down in front of her. He can't do it in front of his enemy. He wouldn't give him that satisfaction – it's all cheer and quips to show he's not beaten.
For the precious minutes that he's dead, the Master can't hurt him. And she is there, and she holds his head in her lap, strokes his hair, lets him cry.
"I wonder if it's on his to-do list," he chokes out.
She smiles. "Maybe. '8 AM: Wake. 8:30 AM: Shower. 9 AM: Kill Jack.'"
He starts to laugh even as the tears fall and he veers dangerously close to hysteria. "12 PM: Lunch. 1 PM: Kill Jack. 2 PM: Taunt the Doctor, using as many double entendres as possible. 3 PM: Kill Jack.' It's a wonder he has the time to enslave mankind."
"I won't let you break," she promises. "I won't let that happen."
Her hands are cool and soft. It feels so good to be touched. When he's alive he misses being touched, with kindness and affection, more than he misses food and water during the long stints where the Master neglects to feed him. "I think I'm in love with you."
She kisses his forehead. "I love you too, Jack."
"How are you so sweet and kind?" They have a little more time than usual – his body's been blown to bits and is slowly coalescing. She brought tea and a table and chairs.
"I wasn't always. I mellowed out over the millennia. I am the least terrible of my family."
"You have a family?"
She smiles and offers him a biscuit. "It's dream food. My brother gave me a package. There are seven of us. One's sort of a black sheep, but he's still our brother."
Despite being unreal the biscuit tastes like gingerbread. He wishes it were like the food in Hades, so that once he has eaten them he will be unable to go back. He doesn't want to say goodbye. "Do you have parents? Who could be your parents?"
"No parents. Just me and my brothers and sisters. You've met Delirium. She likes you."
"Teen-looking girl in tattered, punk-style clothes and extremely bright multicolored hair? Disconnected way of speaking? Her dog got hit by a car in 2006 and you called the vet and paid for the surgery. You offered her a ride home from the animal hospital but she said no."
"That was…that was the personification of insanity?" He didn't flirt with her - she looked far too young - but he remembers the hug he gave the strange girl and his assurances that her dog would be fine.
"Yes, the poor dear. I asked her to leave you and the Doctor alone, no matter how much she felt both of you calling out to her." She sees him staring and squeezes his hand. "To be mad and functionally immortal is bad enough for Del. No one else should have to go through that."
"You were right. I am getting older." He looked his soul-shape over. "But I'm still a young man when I'm dead."
"This is the age you are in your heart of hearts. No matter how old you get, you are always vibrant and caring."
She giggles. "Now, Handsome Jack, do you want to go down in history as the man who seduced Death herself? Because it's not going to work."
He pulls her a little closer and stares in her eyes. "But you love me. I love you. It's not my fault La Muerte is a foxy Gothette."
"I love everyone," she says, but she doesn't pull back.
"Are your family not allowed to love individuals or something?"
"The Endless may love, but not mortals. The rules were made when the Sun was young."
"So who does that leave?"
"Gods and similar beings. My brother Dream had a child by one of the Muses. Orpheus."
"I thought Orpheus was the son of Apollo."
"Do I even count as mortal? I mean, I was deified on this one planet after a rather exhilarating festival week…"
She laughs and her laughter is like crystal chimes. "Next time I see you, we can dance."
He strokes her hair now. It feels so human. "Have we ever done anything else?"
"I never died while grocery shopping before," Jack muses.
"I've seen it plenty of times."
"It just feels so stupid."
"Trip on a grape, fall and bang your head the wrong way. Freak accident. Be glad it wasn't violent death for once." She holds up a matte black boom box. "I remembered. Did you?"
"Why do you have an umbrella and a broom?"
She turns it on, and music from "Mary Poppins" fills their private world. "Props."
He grins and grabs the broom. "I can totally out 'Chim Chim Chiree' you."
"It was amazing to see the Doctor and Martha again. And I told him what he needed to know to avoid paradox. I hope Sister Hayes will be all right. She took good care of me."
"You just saved an entire planet with your dying breath," she says. She looks the way she did when they first met.
So does he, come to think of it, down to the shirt and pants. Good. He didn't want to spend the afterlife as a disembodied head, albeit a telepathic and teleporting one. "I'm finally going with you."
"Do I…do I have to move on?"
"What do you mean?"
"You don't live in Heaven or Hell or Valhalla or whatever. But you've gotta have somewhere where you rest and do things other than your job."
"I have a house, where I have goldfish and books and clothes and stuff."
"Could I see it? Could I stay with you?"
She is surprised. Her eyes show doubt. Then they sparkle. "I thought you were tired of everything."
"Not of you. Never of you."
She takes his hand. "The Endless don't have a good history of relationship success."
"Neither do I, but I'll try anything at least once."
She laughs and they kiss. Her lips are cool but soft.
Then she leads him to a place of quiet fields and cozy solitude, where his pain is a fading memory, and where she has a very impressive collection of floppy hats.
After a long and winding way, Death has finally taken in Jack Harkness.