Fanfic Sampler™: A proper farewell to the Brig
For those like me who wish for a bit more closure to the story of one of the most beloved characters ever to grace the small screen. Dedicated, with the greatest of love and respect, to the memory of Nicholas Courtney.
The Doctor watched them all go, one by one, through the portal, back to their own times and places. Finally, Sir Alastair was the last remaining one. He offered a hand to the Doctor, who took it and shook firmly. “Thanks for your help, Brig—Sir Alastair,” he amended hastily.
“Glad to be of service, Doctor,” said Lethbridge-Stewart equably. “But you can't hold that portal open much longer, so I’d best be going now myself.”
The Doctor sighed, but he knew his friend was right; holding the gate open more than another minute or so would dangerously destabilize it and strand the poor man. And there was no guarantee the TARDIS could find its way out of the chronospatial cul-de-sac; he didn't dare risk this man of all people in addition to himself and Clara. “Pity," he said. "I was looking forward to us catching up. How’s that daughter of yours, by the way?”
“Funny you should ask,” replied the old man. “She’s just recently joined UNIT as a civilian science advisor. She won’t even use our family name; says she doesn’t want any special treatment. She’s calling herself ‘Kate Stewart’ now. She’ll be running the place inside of a year—you just watch.”
The Doctor smiled; he already knew that, but didn’t say so. “You must be very proud of her.”
“I am indeed.” Sir Alastair smiled back. “There were some rocky moments, but she turned out all right.”
“Can I tell her you said that? Next time I see her?”
“Of course.” Sir Alastair searched the strangely young-yet-old face of his old friend. “What is it?”
The Doctor’s nearly-nonexistent eyebrows climbed up his forehead. “What is what?” he asked innocently.
“Come now, Doctor,” said Sir Alastair sternly. “I’ve known you far too long, in all your guises, not to know when you’re keeping something from me. Out with it—that’s an order!” His voice took on that tone of command the Doctor knew only too well from long experience.
The Doctor sighed, fumbling for how to express his feelings. Finally he said, “It’s just, well…the last time I visited Earth, I looked you up…and they, um…they said you’d died.” He looked down at his feet, then back up at Sir Alastair miserably. “Obviously, it hasn’t happened for you yet. It’s sort of hard to see you now, like this...and not feel guilty that I wasn’t—won't be there for you when…when the time comes. I should have been there for you, of all people.” He brightened. “I could go back and fix it, you know—now that I know roughly when it happens, I could be there. I could even save you; I can probably find a cure for whatever illness you—”
“No.” Sir Alastair cut him off sharply.
“No?” The Doctor looked startled.
“Absolutely not,” replied Sir Alastair firmly. Then, seeing the Doctor’s hurt expression, more gently, he said, “We all have our time to go, Doctor, sooner or later; Time Lord or no, even you won’t live forever." He stopped and looked at the Doctor uncertainly. "You won't, will you?"
The Doctor chuckled and shook his head. "No."
"Then think about it: when your time does come, how d’you want your friends and loved ones to remember you: weak and ebbing at death’s door…or as you are now—alive and well?”
“Well…as I am now, I suppose. Or as I was whenever they knew me.”
“That’s how I want you to remember me, then—not on my deathbed, gasping out my last. I won’t have you subject yourself to that kind of pain on my account. I’ve had to endure it myself far too often…most recently with Doris, God bless her soul.” A dark cloud of sadness passed over Sir Alastair’s bearded face.
You think you’ve had to watch lots of friends die? Try being a centuries-old Time Lord, the Doctor thought but did not say. Aloud he only said, “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t wish that on anyone, least of all you,” Sir Alastair went on. “And no trying to save me, either; you’ve saved my life quite enough for several lifetimes already.” He wagged a finger at the Doctor. “When it’s my time, I’ll go.”
The Doctor looked anguished. “But…but you shouldn’t die alone!” he finally said miserably.
Sir Alastair smiled. “I won’t be alone. If I’m fortunate enough to die in bed at home, certainly Kate will be there…and others as well. And if not, even then she’ll be with me in spirit…as will you, and Miss Smith and Major Sullivan and Miss Shaw and Benton and Yates and all the rest. You’ve never left me, you see—none of you; not up here…” He pointed to his head, then his heart. “…and certainly not in here.” He paused a moment and looked reflective. “What was it you said once? ‘There must be no grief, no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs…and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.’” He regarded the Doctor soberly and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Very good advice, Doctor; you should take it yourself. Don’t grieve for me…or at least, not for too long; a man does like to be missed at least a little bit." He smiled wryly. "I’ve had a good, long run, a remarkable life; been places and seen things most people can’t even begin to imagine, thanks to you and UNIT. Some horrors, to be sure…but also a great many wonders. I’ve had many good friends, known the love of two good women and somehow raised a third…and had the kind of chance to do some good in the world that very few people ever get—and I'd like to think I have done some good. When my time comes, I’ve no cause to complain.”
The Doctor smiled finally. “When did you get so wise?” he said ruefully, shaking his head.
“Wise? Me?” Sir Alastair snorted derisively. “Hardly, Doctor; I’m as foolish as the next man—more, in some ways. I’m simply an old, old soldier who’s managed to learn a few things.”
“And how did you know I said that?” said the Doctor accusingly. “That wasn’t recorded anywhere except the TARDIS comms buffer—and I said it long before I ever met you.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised what’s recorded on you, Doctor…particularly in the Black Archive.” The old man grinned mischievously. “Ask Kate to give you the tour sometime. “ He paused, enjoying the Doctor’s look of discomfiture a little. “Are you familiar with the epitaph Robert Louis Stevenson wrote for himself? A poem called ‘Requiem,’ I believe.”
The Doctor thought a moment, and then it came to him: “Under the wide and starry sky / Dig the grave and let me lie…”
“Glad did I live and gladly die / And I laid me down with a will,” Sir Alastair finished for him. “D’you know the rest of it?”
The Doctor smiled. “This be the verse you grave for me: / ‘Here he lies where he longed to be / Home is the sailor, home from sea / And the hunter home from the hill,’” he recited softly. Sir Alastair nodded.
“Good-bye, Doctor, and thank you,” he said, taking both the Doctor’s hands in his own. “For everything. And when I am gone, whenever that may be...if you want to honor my memory, just keep doing what you do so well, what you’ve always done: fight the good fight—stand up to evil, help those who need it, and look after my world and its people…especially all our mutual friends.”
The Doctor’s blue eyes were bright with what looked suspiciously like tears. “Always.” Then he suddenly lunged forward to throw his arms around the elderly Earthman.
“Good heavens! You never used to be this maudlin, Doctor,” Sir Alastair chuckled in resigned affection and returned the hug, patting the Doctor’s back.
“I’ve lost a lot more people since you last saw me,” said the Doctor as they broke the embrace. “Makes me value the ones left all the more.”
"Anyhow, I don't know what you're so sad about," said Sir Alastair tartly. "You've got a bloody time machine! You can visit me at any stage of my life you care to. I'll never be dead to you!"
"Doesn't change the fact that it happens," replied the Doctor sadly.
"As it must, Doctor," said the old Earthman gently. "As it should. For if we never know death, how can we ever truly appreciate the miracle that is life?"
Just then Clara came back, stopping as she took in the tableau. Sir Alastair came to her and offered a hand. “Goodbye, Miss Oswald,” he said. “Pleasure meeting you.”
“It’s been an honor, sir,” Clara replied, taking his hand and shaking it firmly.
“Oh, and, uh...look after him for me, will you?” said Sir Alastair conspiratorially, leaning close and nodding toward the Doctor. “I’ve found he gets in far too much trouble for his own good without some adult supervision.” He smiled a small smile, and his eyes twinkled with humor.
“I’ve noticed,” said Clara, grinning knowingly back at him. They looked at each other a moment, enjoying the kind of shared joke that only those who had traveled with the Doctor could. Then Clara impulsively leaned over from the step above Sir Alastair where she stood, and kissed him on his snow-bearded cheek. He started a bit, but then had the grace to blush.
Sir Alastair turned and stepped toward the portal, tipping his hand at his forehead in one final salute to his old friend and ally before stepping through. The Doctor pressed a button on his sonic screwdriver, and the portal closed behind Lethbridge-Stewart, leaving the Doctor and Clara alone in the hold.
“MacArthur was right. Old soldiers never die,” said the Doctor softly, smiling as he slipped the device back into the inside lapel pocket of his tweed jacket. “They just fade away…” He turned to Clara and clapped his long, bony hands together. "Right, Clara! What d'you say we go find the TARDIS and get out of here ourselves?"
"Sounds absolutely smashing to me," said the young woman, smiling back at him. She followed his loping gait out of the now-open doorway into the corridor, heading for their shared home-from-home.