Title: Starting Over
Rating: PG, I guess. Deals with grief
Spoilers: None, really. Set in 6oth century, after "Jack" has returned from self imposed exile to keep from tripping over his Time Agency self. Torchwood has become a very powerful agency that looks after colony worlds and diplomacy around the edges of other species' territories.
Disclaimer: TW and Jack are not mine. I would have been much nicer to them if they were. "Coop" came to me when I was contemplating how people dealt with grief.
A/N This is a one off, but I do intend on trying to continue with Family Members and of course, my Happy Pants verse.
The Torchwood staff had been kindness itself. Since the accident had occured while her team had been doing freelance work for them, the Torchwood legal department had made sure that Cooper retained the price the station was paid for the scrapped hulk that had been her home and source of income. They also very firmly repelled the blood relations of her dead crewmates, who mstakenly believed that they had any rights to profits that were accrued from the "Nimravid"s last freight run. Or any rights they felt to those deceased crewmates's savings or property. As many of these relations had had almost no communication with this deceased crew for quite sometime, they were shocked and dismayed to discover the clause that the six crewmates had added to their ship's charter; that since they had grown up together in fostered care due to their distant relations lack of concern for them, they would legally become each other's next of kin. They would all inherit from each other, all their property would stay in "Nimravid" hands until the last of the six died, at which point anything left would go to charity.
Of course most of this drama unfolded while Cooper was in a medically induced comma, so they could safely heal her skin grafts and keep her spine together. But the doctors were very pleased with their work. She had no visible scars on her body, and her spine and nerves functioned perfectly. Clean bill of health!
No one working on the station was foolish enough to leave her to herself, though. She had lost her whole family and crew. For the first time in many years she was alone. So the engineering staff had asked if she wouldn't mind helping them out until she decided what to do with herself.
Cooper had found that she simply had no more energy left to cry or to care. Money would be no problem. Financially she was set, as she could quite easily buy a share of a new freighter and also had her engineering skills to see her through. There was always work for a good engineer. Cooper agreed to lend a hand on the station. The people she worked with all understood what she was dealing with, they didn't pry or pretend that everything was fine. They knew her life had been smashed to pieces all around her, there was no one left who really knew or loved her. While working on various parts of the station's equipement, the other staff allowed her to retreat for a few minutes and simply try to recover her breath, because she kept calling over her shoulder for someone to bring her certain tools, and of course the people she called out to were never going to answer her or bring her a tool again...
She was still young, only 25 Earth years old, she could still, the psychiatry people said, have family and a happy productive life. She had somehow managed to arrange her face into a smile, somehow managed to thank them for their well meaning advice. Idiots. She had spent 15 wonderful years with her crew family, the six of them joyfully intertwined with each other. The pain of their absence was simply ghastly. The brutal amputation of their existance left gaping unhealing wounds in her soul. How could she ever let anyone else take their place again? She would not seek to end her life, no, it had been bought at far too high a price. But she certainly didn't intend to go looking for "replacements" for her family either. That would be madness!
Such was the state of things when the Torchwood officer sought her out in the engineering staff's cafeteria during a lunch break.
"Do you mind if I sit at your table?"
Cooper looked up from the infopad she was browsing through as she nibbled a sandwich. The person before her wore a very well broken in Torchwood uniform. He was obviously from somewhere in the command staff, Cooper wasn't exactly sure how it all was sorted. He had a tray of soup and sandwiches in hand.
Cooper shrugged, grimaced slightly, nodded. Went back to her infopad. He sat down in the seat opposite her.
"So, how are the portside docking bay doors coming along? The new wiring seems to be finished. Much more to do?"
Puzzled, Cooper glanced up. Why was an officer she didn't know curious about something so unimportant as that seldom used docking bay door? She looked at him properly. He was calmly cutting up a sandwich because, yes, he was a dunker. Dunk a piece of sandwich in his soup, then pop it into his mouth. Bright inquisitive pale blue eyes. Very dazzling smile. Cleft in chin. A bit passed his mid thirties, Cooper thought, he should be mature enough not to engage in this sort of tomfoolery by now. Wearily Cooper realized that he probably didn't know who she was, and that no one had had the opportunity to warn him off from "trying it on". She would have to deal with this Romeo herself.
" There's a problem with one of the doors. It was slightly buckled during that last meteor shower. It can be rewelded and straightened out, though. Soon fixed. " She grinned briefly, dropped her head back to her infopad. Hopefully he could take a hint.
Jack kept dunking and popping. He looked at her, all pulled in and quiet. She had scraped all her softly curling brown hair into a tight ponytail, and wore an old stained set of work overalls that were too big for her. Her shoulders were hunched in, as if she was trying to pour herself into the little hand held data sorting computer she was using. And he hadn't been imagining it, he had actually seen that gap between her front teeth when she had flashed him that travesty of a smile. Ye gods, after all this time. The request he had made so long ago, before he "retired" to the far reaches of known space to avoid himself during the time his younger self had been junketing about as a Time Agent.....for Torchwood Medical to keep an eye out for people with certain DNA, track them and their descendants. Jack knew when he came back, however much time had passed, he wanted to be able to put a team together again and get back to work. He knew what kind of people he worked best with. People from a certain area on Old Earth. And THIS one! Named Cooper Williams! He had some cherished data crystals with certain images stored on them. And this woman was one of those images come to life!
He had to manage this carefully, he had been warned she was fragile.
"Any thoughts on what you'll do when the repairs are done?" Jack asked casually. Dunked. Popped.
Irritated, Cooper raised her head and levelled a steady gaze at him. Jack was impaled on a set of rich dark brown eyes. He stopped chewing, lost in a memory of Gwen's angry glare. Dear Gwen, so long gone. And still here in this poor young woman's eyes. She sighed tiredly, put down her infopad and stared down at her hands, then up at him.
"I'm sorry, I'm not really interested in seeing anyone right now, especially not for a fling." She held up her left hand, exhibiting the ring on her ring finger. " As you can see, I"m spoken for, and I don't cheat. Sorry." Insufferable cad dealt with, she went back to working on her infopad.
Jack managed to swallow his mouthfull without choking and began chuckling. Grinning delightedly he took in the site of a riled female engineer about to dump half a bowl of cooling soup over his head. What a teammate she would be!
"No, you've got the wrong idea! I'm putting a new crew together, and I'm looking for good people to fill in some empty spots. The Chief Engineer of the station gave you a glowing review. I"ve been given the captaincy of "Myfanwy", and I want a good engineering staff for her."
Cooper was impressed. The Myfanwy was a legend. Not the biggest ship that Torchwood flew by any means, she was still full of packed muscle that was used to defend and support struggling colony worlds on the fringes of known space. And not just human colonies. "Myfanwy" defended any race from the depridations of pirates and unscrupulous traders. Torchwood knew that out on the borders between spatial territories your closest neighbors were often not of your own species. Indeed, there were several mixed species worlds where humans had decided to cast their lot in with other colonies in order to survive. For the most part, these mixed colonies were often roaring successes.
She frowned a little. "I worked freighters with my crew. I can do payload work as well. But, why would you be looking outside of your company for crew?"
Jack put down his soup spoon. He sighed. "Your crew, your ship "Nimravid", you had a good reputation. We used you a number of times. Nimravid gave good work at a fair price. And you have a good reputation out on the colony worlds. Your crew took on mercy runs to bring in medical or emergency food supplies and didn't ask for payment. You are what's left of Nimravid. I'd be a fool not to ask you. "
News of Nimravid's good name warmed Cooper's heart. Proud of their love and committment, the crew had often done without payment out of pride. They had so much wealth; they had each other and a fine little freighter and almost more work than they could handle. Why shouldn't they offer compassion to the desperate? But now all she had was a fat credit balance, five rings on a black cord around her neck and one on her left hand. Each ring had a small ancient feline predator engraved on it. And her family was as dead as that Old Earth predator. What would they want her to do now? What contribution could she make, as gutted and broken as she was?
She looked up into a gaze of crystal blue. " You know how I ended up here. We were hauling a shipment of raw ore in to be tested. Someone else thought that ore might be worth killing for." Cooper reached up and fingered the black cord around her neck. " My family...the crew put me in a medpod, after the first attack. We really had no weapons to speak of, after all we didn't carry anything of real value. Bigger freight companies did, we just caught the smaller cheaper loads. After the...after the other ship was finished, the interior of "Nimravid" was exposed....to vacuum. " She drew in a steady breath. The Torchwood medical people had helped her to learn how to keep breathing during times like this." I was fine, the seals of the medpod held. My family, the crew....the rest of the crew died in vacuum. And the ore we were carrying had no value to the other ship after all." A Torchwood ship had found the smashed remains of "Nimravid" and had carefully retrieved the bodies of five crew members as well as a surprisingly still functioning medpod. The hulk had been towed in , because recycled metals had some value. As a ship, "Nimravid " was finished.
Cooper got a grip on herself and continued on. " The doctors here are first rate. They had me stitched back up in no time. And the legal staff kept those garbage feeders claiming to be our families from getting their paws on "Nimravid"s credit accounts. We kept a copy of our wedding liscence and company charter at what ever space stations we worked out of, it just seemed like a good idea. We thought we had forever....we had plans...Nona and Carys wanted to have babies with Larry and Kev...." Again, Cooper controlled her breathing, gripped the cord at her neck tightly. " I honestly don't know what use I could be to you, I have nothing in me anymore. I don't know if I can commit to another team like that again." Cooper's eyes were hopeless , her lower lip trembled slightly.
Jack carefully reached out a hand, gently took one of Cooper's in his. He held it lightly, offering comfort but escape at the same time. " I know what it's like to lose close family, teammates. Each time it happens I swear never again, I'll never let myself be hurt that way again. But, then I want to honor their memory, I want to share my memories of the time we had together. I remember that I'm all that's left of a part of them, and that I can keep them alive in my heart by loving and sharing my life with others. " Jack cradled Cooper's tough little hand in his much larger palm. " I know what grief is, I've shut myself off, I've done some stupid and self destructive things to punish myself for surviving when someone I love doesn't. I have been so blessed, some truly wonderful people have been in my life through the years. I keep boxes of data chips and crystals, little mementos.... I find being able to tell stories about them, let other people know about them....I share their lives, and somehow a part of them goes on." Jack gazed into sad brown eyes.
Cooper drew in a long ragged breath. " I've got 15 years worth of stories about 5 wonderful people to go on about."
Jack smiled softly, wrapping his warm hand around her small one. " I have lots of time to listen and lots of stories to share. By the way, did you know one of your ancesters worked for Torchwood a long time ago? I think I know a few stories about her. Aha, you're interested now, aren't you? See, you'll have to come with me , or else you'll never hear about her!"
Cooper allowed herself a small smile. "Well, it's not as if I've got a lot on my plate. I guess I can see my way clear to accepting your offer. I'll have to get myself added to the Torchwood company charter. When I go to personnel , who shall I say requested me as crew?"
"Didn't I introduce myself?" He shook his head, grinning. Cooper could see the years drop away as mischief crinkled around his eyes. " Captain Jack Harkness at your service , Miss Williams!"