Because I Could Not Stop For Death

In the shadows of his bunker under his office in the depths of the Hub, Jack opened his eyes. He knew all the sounds that occurred in the hub after his team left. The sound he had just heard shouldn't be there. Silently, he slid out from under the light blanket. He pulled on the trousers that had been discarded next to the bed and slipped on the t-shirt that lay beside them. Next, he stepped into his boots before moving toward the ladder. He paused listening again.

Instinctively his hand reached to his hip, but nothing was there. Cursing himself silently, he pictured his Webley nestled in top right hand drawer of his desk.

Deciding the ladder would leave him too vulnerable; Jack turned away and took the steps to the main level of the Hub. He approached his office from the back. Pausing once more just outside the door, he listened again. There was someone… or something in there. Why hadn't the alarms gone off? Even the normal entry alarms hadn't sounded. Had the intruder found some other entry into the Hub?

His back against the wall, he moved to the corner and peered into his office. At the far end of the room, facing the wall stood what appeared to be a young man wearing a dark suit. The man was thin, but not skinny. Jack could see the muscles moving beneath the obviously very well made charcoal suit. He was tall, but well proportioned. His short hair was blonde… almost white and immaculately in place.

"Oh come now, Jack. Just don't stand in the doorway. Come in." The man's voice carried no hint of any accent… of any kind. It wasn't just the lack of a British or Welsh accent, there seemed to be nothing identifiable there. Just a voice that would be at home anywhere.

Jack, knowing when the game of stealth was up, stepped around the corner and into the office. The man, if that's what he was, had turned and was now standing with two glasses of brandy.

"Care for a drink?"

Stepping into the room, Jack stopped at the edge of his desk within easy reach of the drawer containing his gun.

"Who are you?"

The man smiled. It was not a pleasant smile, Jack noticed. "We've already met, Captain."

Jack kept his face and voice neutral. "Really? Where?" He paused and smirked. "Or… when?"

The young man's smile widened, but didn't gain warmth. "You probably never noticed me. You never stayed very long." He crossed the room handed Jack one of the glasses.

Since his current line of questioning wasn't getting him anywhere, Jack decided to change the subject.

"How did you get in here?"

A quiet laugh escaped the man's mouth, almost as if he were indulging a child. "Oh Jack, you disappoint me. You of all beings on this world should know that no door, no lock, no bit of technology can keep me out. I can enter any dwelling from the lowliest shelter on the street to the mightiest fortress."

Jack put the untouched glass on his desk and thought for a moment, then spoke again. "What are you?" He put the emphasis on the first word.

The man set his own untouched glass on the desk next to Jack's, his smile never wavering. "Ahhh, now that is a question."

He paused as if he were considering the answer, then he smiled again. That intriguing yet frightening smile. "I have been called many things. Some call me an angel, some call me a demon. To others I am simply an action, but I have also been seen as a god."

"I have many names… as many names as there are beings in the universe. On this world I have been called Azriel, Hades, Odin, Yama, Ankou, Father Time…" He paused then, as if for emphasis. "The Grim Reaper."

Jack stepped back. "You're Death?" He asked incredulously.

"You don't believe me." The young man said matter of factly. "I can show you a more familiar appearance, if you'd like."

Almost imperceptibly, the form of the handsome young man was replaced by a ghostly black robed skeleton. "Is this more fitting?" The skull grinned. "Or perhaps something more personal."

The skeleton morphed into the familiar shape of a dalek. "This was the form I held when we first met."

Jack staggered back gasping as the forms continued to change before him… soldiers from wars, various aliens, past Torchwood members, The Master… before finally returning to the shape of the young man.

"I thought this form would put you more at ease… its non threatening." He smiled that horrible smile.

Jack took a deep breath, calming himself before trying to speak. "Why are you here?"

"One thing is constant throughout the universe… all things die." He stopped for a moment, the smile disappearing from his face. "Except you, Jack."

"What are you saying?"

The young man looked at Jack as if studying him. "Every creature, every being in the universe dies. Some live longer than others, but eventually I claim them all. Even the mighty Time Lords have a finite existence. But not you. You, Jack, are the one creature in the universe over which I have no dominion."

"You mean I will never die… ever?" Jack seemed shocked at this revelation.

"I cannot claim you. You must come with me of your own free will."

Jack let the thought sink in. How often had he wanted to give up this curse? To simply let the darkness claim him… to not have to watch those he loved grow old and die while he continued on.

As if he were able to read Jack's mind, the young man smiled again. "Do you want to die, Jack?

Jack's thoughts turned from those of past loves and the pain of losing them to the man still asleep in the bunk below. He couldn't leave. There had already been too much loss, he wouldn't do that to the man he loved. Not now.

"No… not yet." He said meeting the young man's intense gaze.

"Jack?" The moment was broken by a voice from below. Jack looked down to see Ianto at the foot of the ladder gazing up at him sleepily. He smiled at the disheveled Welshman. "What are you doing?"

"I was just…" He turned is eyes to the now empty room. He smiled. "Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me…"

Fin