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Fic: Goodbye
Title: Goodbye
Rating: G
Characters: the Doctor (eleventh), River Song, Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart
Warnings: Character death—possible tissue warning?
Spoilers: for "The Wedding of River Song."
Summary: No-one should die without knowing how much they're valued.  And time can be rewritten.

Author's note: This takes place shortly after "The Wedding of River Song."

The old man always woke up when the nurses came in.  He generally went straight back to sleep again once his soldier reflexes had identified them as nonthreatening.  This time, however, he woke from the awareness of someone simply standing in the room.  After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and said, "Can I help you, miss?"
He was, as always, a bit bothered by the way his voice sounded.  He'd always counted on having a proper, no-nonsense, commanding sort of voice.  My god, I sound like an old man, he thought.  Common sense replied, you are an old man.
The woman wasn't dressed as a nurse.  She was wearing high heels and her hair fluffed out in an unrestrained cloud around her face.  "I realize we're disturbing you, sir," she said.  "But we would be risking a paradox if we let the nurses know we were here, and frankly, I wouldn't have missed this for anything."
The old man realized that there was someone else in the room, a bit behind him, over by the window.  He turned to see who it was.
Ah.  Of course.
"I've read all about you," the woman went on.  "Took a class on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  The Smith biography was one of our core texts.  And I just wanted to say—"  She stepped forward and put out her hand.   "It's an honor to meet you.  Sir Alastair."
He shook it.  "Just Alastair, please, Miss—"
"River.  River Song, but I'd be delighted if you'd call me River."
Silly newfangled name, which made perfect sense, considering.  "Any friend of the Doctor's is a friend of mine, River.  Tell me, which century are you from?"
"The fifty-first," the Doctor said.  He turned around and gave Alastair one of his peculiar ancient smiles.  "By her time, the English language has altered so much that only historians and linguists can read Shakespeare in the original.  The moon is never completely dark anymore; it looks like a glowing spiderweb when it's new, all those trains and domes connecting the great Lunar cities like Armstrong and Collinsville and Sylviengrad.  There are ships taking off hourly from Manchester Interstellar, bound for planets with names like Pearl and Eridain and Nov'elisium.   There are cities that drift in the stratosphere.  There are people with eight eyes and green skin whose families have lived in London for generations.  And all of it, all of it, exists for one reason."
"What's that?" Alastair said.
"Because," River said, "someone kept the Earth safe so it could happen.  I'll leave you two alone, now, but I wanted you to know: it's amazing to meet you.  Earth's Champion.  The Brigadier."
She was, visibly and palpably, as sincere as she could possibly be.  "The pleasure is mine," Alastair said, more or less automatically.
River mouthed thank you at the Doctor, blew him a kiss, and retreated.  It got a mildly silly smile from him.  Alastair wondered if he knew she was flirting with him.  He'd known the Doctor to miss the occasional human subtlety.  Like the fact that Viking helmets and furs stood out just a tad.
"And that," the Doctor said, "is the closest I've ever seen her to starry-eyed hero-worship.  She's usually self-confident to the point of smugness.  Bit of a scramble sometimes to impress her, actually."  He didn't look as if he minded the prospect.
And if the Doctor described someone as overly confident—actually, it was probably because he honestly didn't see the irony.  Some things didn't change, no matter how the face did.  "You're Earth's champion," Alastair said.
"I've been known to borrow the title when grandstanding," the Doctor admitted.  "It's not as if it's exclusive.  Sarah Jane, Ace, Martha Jones—a fellow named Jack will carry the title, intermittently, for quite a long time indeed—but when we don't need it, we all know who to return it to."  He pulled one of the chairs close to the bed and sat down, that slightly mismatched face a study in contradictory emotions.  "In thirty centuries, three times my life and thirty times yours, children will still learn about you.  Generations have grown up safe and free because of things that you did."  Alastair realized, with a stab of sympathetic embarrassment, that the Doctor was crying.  "I thought you ought to know."
"Before I died," Alastair said.  "No, you don't have to deny it.  It's no secret."  He looked away to give his old friend a little privacy.  Not that the Doctor seemed to care that he was crying; he was just doing it.  "I can't help but think that you're exaggerating a bit, Doctor.  I was hardly the only soldier in UNIT."
"No.  But you were the best."
"Poppycock."  A quick glance showed that the Doctor still had tears in his eyes.  "Old friend, I don't have to be the best to die contented.  And I don't have to be famous, although I can't say I object too strongly.  I just have to know that I was good enough to matter.  Knowing that the world is safe—knowing that I helped—"  He really was having uncommon trouble with the voice tonight.  "That's the best present you could possibly have given me.  And I thank you."
"You are," the Doctor whispered, "very welcome."
Alastair tried to school his voice back to normal, and then decided just to ignore the fact that it wasn't working.  "So, Doctor.  What have you been doing lately?  New assistant, I see."
"Actually," the Doctor said, "she's my wife."
"Come again?"
"My wife.  Bit peculiar to say.  Still haven't got it completely sorted in my head."  He seemed almost as bemused by the notion as Alastair was.  And then he looked alarmed and started talking rather faster as a thought occurred to him.  "The marriage actually occurred in an alternate timeline while on the run from memory-destroying aliens on top of the Great Pyramid, or else I would have invited you.  And everyone else.  I hope you're not insulted, it was just a bit of an emergency—"
Only the Doctor.  "Actually," Alastair said, "I admit to being somewhat relieved.  The best man arranges the stag, I understand, and the thought of what might gate-crash yours—I might actually be too old for that sort of thing."
A grin.  "You?  Not possible."  His eyes were still sorrowful, but he leaned back in his chair a bit, relaxing into the camaraderie that had always marked the best bits of Alastair's long, strange association with the man.  "Let's see.  I spent some time travelling with a lovely couple—her parents, actually, although they're considerably younger than her—long story, complicated.  Amy and Rory Pond, they were called.  You would have liked Rory.  One of the single sanest people I've ever met, and he didn't let me get away with anything.  I had to test him once—determine whether he was still human—so I implied that I wasn't going to bother to save Amy's life.  And I swear to you, if the universe hadn't got rebooted, I think my jaw would still ache . . ."
Alastair smiled and closed his eyes, listening to the Doctor rattle on about Romans and meeting his TARDIS and dancing at weddings.  The man was getting positively domestic in his young-looking old age.  For a unique Doctor value of domestic.
He drifted off to sleep, into odd dreams of steam trains on the moon and Sarah Jane Smith teaching a primary class how to spell brigadier.  But his last conscious thought on Earth was that he wouldn't have missed any of it, not for the world.

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That deserves a great big "awwww!"

Absolutely lovely!

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed.

This is GORGEOUS. And so damn perfect. I can see this and hear this in the little TV in my head, and if I can do that, then it rings true. And this rings clear as a cathedral bell.

Wonderful job.

Oh, thank you! Always a bit of a challenge transferring things from the TV in my head to the page; if you can see and hear it, it means I'm doing something right.


(Of course, it was Sexy's idea to make sure the Doctor's call went through shortly after the Brig's death. She knows what her thief needs to hear.)

Thank you.

(I was actually rather impressed that the Doctor was calling him in the first place, considering how hard he generally runs from any reminders that his friends have short human lifespans.)

This is wonderful -- sentimental without being cloying. Sweet and sad and just right.

Bonus points for humor:
"Actually," Alastair said, "I admit to being somewhat relieved. The best man arranges the stag, I understand, and the thought of what might gate-crash yours—I might actually be too old for that sort of thing."

I'm glad you liked it. "Sweet and sad" is what I was going for—not just because it was a tearjerker of a moment in the episode, but because the real world got just a little less awesome when Nicholas Courtney passed away.

I must admit, part of me is disappointed that we won't get to see what the Doctor's stag night would have been like. The gate-crashing monsters, the companions (especially Captain Jack), the Doctor dancing like a drunken giraffe—the sheer chaos would measure on the Richter scale.

Oh. Oh, this is so lovely and so bittersweet.

I admit to being a new!Whovian and have yet to watch a complete classic!Who episode. But even so, this tugged my heartstrings and it is just so clear in this story how amazing the Brigadier was.

The Brigadier was, indeed, made of awesome. He had this sort of understatement, this habit of under-reacting to the frankly bizarre things that went on around him. For whatever reason (probably because it's extraordinarily quotable) a lot of people think that the archetypal Brigadier moment is one where he encounters a vicious winged gargoyle sort of thing, and his only reaction is to order, "Chap with wings there, five rounds rapid." No fear, no surprise, just utter composure in the face of utter weirdness. And the thing is, I've seen that episode, and I didn't even notice that moment. It was just the Brigadier being the Brigadier.

In fact, I think the only moment we've ever seen him actually floored is when the Doctor (after regenerating into Tom Baker and putting all traces of sanity in storage for the next seven years) tries to convince the Brig to let him wear a Viking costume as his signature getup. (Anyone's guess on whether the Doctor was serious, possibly from post-regeneration loopiness, or trying to wind the Brig up, possibly so he wouldn't balk at the scarf.)

Canon. Definitely canon. I cried through the entire thing. Absolutely perfect.

Oh, definitely canon. Thank you so much.

God, I loved this one. Thank you so much for writing it.

You're very welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

*Cries messily*

Ohhhhh....oh that would have been so lovely!! Ohh, how I miss the Brig so!! And the Doctor should have been able to say goodbye to one of his oldest friends! That's just...awful!! So crushing!!

Thank you for this....this made the ache a little easier to bear.


*hugs back*

This story is part of my canon and nobody can tell me it didn't happen. I think during the phone call in the episode, my face was pretty much like the Doctor's face, just—blank with hurt. I mean, the Brig. How? Some things shouldn't happen.

(Which is not to say it was bad writing, of course. It takes good writing to hurt like that.)

'Sweet and sad' indeed. A lovely fusion of past and present 'Doctor Who'. Thank you.

You're welcome. I'm so glad people are enjoying this.

"Actually," Alastair said, "I admit to being somewhat relieved. The best man arranges the stag, I understand, and the thought of what might gate-crash yours—I might actually be too old for that sort of thing."

I actually laughed aloud at this bit. Such a gorgeous, lovely, lovely scene with the three of them. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Thank you, and you're welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

"I admit to being somewhat relieved. The best man arranges the stag, I understand, and the thought of what might gate-crash yours—I might actually be too old for that sort of thing."

I can so imagine this . . .

Lovely story. Thank you for writing it--I had the same idea, but I didn't have anything to build around. Now I don't have to. ;-)

I can so imagine this . . .

*g* The Brig knows the Doctor well enough to imagine it too, and would want to watch the ensuing chaos from a safe distance. Such as France.

I'm glad you enjoyed it! For me, this was one of those stories that can't not be written. My brain pretty much said, "Computer, you, now."

I love how River, who is never overly impressed by pomp or rank, is being so very formal. A sign of respect. Even if he doesn't know how great a one.

Definitely tissue alert time. The Doctor's not the only one crying.

"You would have liked Rory. One of the single sanest people I've ever met."

Another wonderful character description, you have a way with them. Yes, Rory is the sanest person ever. No idea why.

"For a unique Doctor value of domestic."


Absolutely, positively, gorgeous fic. Thanks so much for filling that in for us. It would have been too sad for these two old friends not to have gotten a last meeting.

And it was worth it just to hear the Doctor say, "Actually, she's my wife."

"Come again?"

Thank you. It seems a bit weird to say, but I'm glad this fic needs a tissue alert.

Yes, Rory is the sanest person ever. No idea why.

Dunno, but it's more or less his superpower, isn't it? Although the Brig might be as sane as Rory, in his own way. He's managed to cope with a chaotic and sometimes downright lunatic universe without losing his poise. Not to mention a chaotic and sometimes downright lunatic Time Lord.

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