I started this one-shot just after the New Year, yet felt that something was missing even after completing it. It was both an attempt to get the writing juices going again (seeing as how college is such an energy vampire), and to resolve an issue I've had for a while, yet never found time to put to paper.
How did Rose, with no identity and no real influence, manage to get all those UNIT personnel AND gear AND the TARDIS WITHOUT too much fuss? And then it came to me. Simply use an intermediary, someone who could and would use their name. This was partially inspired by the SJA episode "Enemy of the Bane," which showed that, even at his age, the Brigadier could still pack a punch.
As most of you know by now, Nicholas "The Brigadier" Courtney passed away Monday morning. Due to this news, this one-shot became even twisted. Even in the paragraph above, I had to change the present tenses to past tenses, though the story itself is kept with present tense for the majority of the time.
As Stephen Moffat so eloquently phrased it, "Somewhere out there, the Doctor just got a little lonelier." I think that goes for any Doctor, past, present, or even future. I also like to imagine that when he got to the afterlife, Jon Pertwee was tapping his foot and said, "Well, old chap, it only took you 15 years, but you finally caught up with me again."
Summary: Set during "Turn Left." An old companion of the Doctor's is called with the news. And meets a newer one.
Spoilers: "Turn Left," "The Runaway Bride," "The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky," "Aliens of London/WW3," "End of the World," the 1996 movie; some Torchwood references, "Exit Wounds," ; "Enemy of the Bane," and a paraphrased line from another Sarah Jane Adventures episode. I'll let you guess that one. Oh, and a quote from The Mummy Returns.
"Five Rounds, Rapid"
Sometimes, he wasn't sure how he'd lived to nearly 80 years old. He simply attributed it to military stubbornness, a fact that the Doctor had made light of over the years.
Had. Past tense. Something he'd never thought he'd ever associate with the Doctor.
Flanked by two UNIT soldiers, Privates Harris and Gray, he hobbled on his cane into the cold room. They remained respectfully silent.
There, in the middle of the room, on a raised table, lay a body covered with a white sheet. For a second, he thought the Doctor might sit up and laugh, proclaiming the whole thing to have been a joke. He had, after all, escaped a San Francisco hospital after "dying" and being placed in the hospital morgue.
An Asian-looking woman stood next to the table, a Torchwood doctor. Her face was sad as she held a thick folder, with a clipboard on top of it.
"Yes, that's me."
"I'm sorry we have to meet under such conditions. Dr. Toshiko Sato. Dr. Harper was supposed to be here, but, well…"
She broke off, too embarrassed to continue. His eyes flickered over to the body.
"Are you sure it's him?"
"I'm sorry, sir. I – I took an x-ray. It showed two hearts."
His one heart clenched.
"May I see him?"
"Of course." She reached over and folded the sheet back.
His face was younger, not as young as his blonde cricket days, but still. Brown hair stuck up in every direction, as though he'd been electrocuted. His face, even in death, was stricken with age lines. It had not been a pleasant ending.
"How did he die?"
The words were out before he realized it.
"He was underground when the Thames flooded and didn't get out in time." She consulted the clipboard. Belatedly, the Brigadier realized the thick folder was the Doctor's medical file. "His respiratory bypass system did not engage, resulting in asphyxiation."
He remained silent. His thumb stroked his cane in thought. Silently, she covered the Doctor's face again.
With a nod, he turned to leave.
He turned back.
"I met him before, but" – she swallowed – "he looked different then."
"Something he does – did, Ms. Sato. Took me a while to get used to it."
She dug around in the thick file. "This was taken during the Big Ben fiasco."
She handed a picture to him. It was a paparazzi photo of the Doctor at the time, goofily smiling and waving at the picture-taker, with a small number 9 applied to a corner. In the background was 10 Downing Street. Despite the circumstances, the Brigadier smiled.
"I was doing the pig autopsy when he came in. At Albian Hospital. I had put the body in storage, but it wasn't dead yet, and when I open the door because I heard the noise it was making, it attacked me. I screamed, and suddenly he was there, all calm, even said 'Hello' to it. But it was shot dead, scared one of the UNIT soldiers. After everything, he just quickly disappeared."
"Sounds like him."
She smiled. "Wish I could have known him better."
"I knew him for quite some years. Believe me when I say, just when you thought you knew him, he would do something completely out of the blue. I dare say the universe itself shuddered when he passed."
He shuffled out, Privates Harris and Gray following behind him
This wasn't how the Doctor would've wanted to go, he mused. What could have happened to cause the Doctor to, in effect, commit suicide?
The soldiers snapped to attention, bringing their guns on standby. Leaning casually against a wall, as though she visited this place every day, was a young woman. She looked to be in her twenties, blonde, a dark purple jacket over a pink shirt, with black pants. Her large gold hoop earrings reflected the lighting overhead.
"Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart?" she tentatively asked.
"Yes, that's me, who are you, young lady? And where did you come from?"
A corner of her mouth ticked upward in a smile. "Our mutual friend would have said, 'oh, here and there, this and that'."
With a start, the Brigadier realized this woman had travelled with the Doctor at some point. Poor girl must've heard on the news.
"You two go on," he motioned to Harris and Gray.
"But sir–" protested Harris, lowering his weapon.
"None of that now. I do not think she's a threat. Now, off with you."
He used his cane to shoo them off. Reluctantly, they left.
"Thanks," she said.
"So how long did you travel with the Doctor?" he asked.
"Two or three years, depending on how you view it," she said. "But I didn't come here to chat, Brigadier. I need a favor."
He raised an eyebrow. "You probably realize that I retired from UNIT quite some while back, Miss…?"
"But your name still carries some weight. And I can't afford to be seen by anyone who's seen me before. It might cause the space-time continuum to collapse."
He thought about that. Sounded like something the Doctor would've said. He also noticed she'd avoided giving her name.
"What kind of favor, exactly, would you need?"
"I need the TARDIS hooked up so I can determine the point at which this universe was created. Something happened at a small point in time, so seemingly insignificant that it's hard to track with regular technology. I need it recovered from under the Thames by UNIT. If Torchwood gets their hands on it, they'll disassemble it to figure out how to time-travel. Provided, of course, it doesn't die soon."
"The Doctor and the TARDIS have – had a telepathic connection. Without a pilot, it'll start shutting down and might even eventually turn into an actual police box."
"But – what about his people? The Time Lords? Won't they want to come get it?"
She looked at him sadly. "The Doctor told me there was a war. A war between his people and the Daleks. And in the end, everyone lost."
She turned away, her head bowed.
"The Doctor was the last. The Time Lords are really gone from existence now."
He gripped his cane. The Doctor had always been rather temperamental when it came to the subject of his people. They had, after all, forced him to regenerate, and taken away his freedom by sticking him on Earth. Still, he knew the Doctor, any of him, wouldn't have wished complete annihilation on them. He hadn't even taken the chance to erase the Daleks from history.
"Well, then, I suppose we'd best get the TARDIS to a safe place then, hmm?"
"No, I will not be put on hold!" he snapped for the fifth time. Against his protests, elevator music began to play. He drummed his fingers on the desk he had commandeered. Granted, it had once been his desk, but the UNIT corporal in the hallway hadn't known that.
"Captain Erisa Magambo speaking," said a woman's voice, hard, business-like.
"Finally, a human."
"Captain Magambo, this is Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart speaking."
There was a pause. Then. "I thought you retired, sir."
"I did, I did, but I need you to do me a favor. And keep it quiet."
"That blue box of the Doctor's, do not let it fall into Torchwood hands, do you understand me? UNIT is to retain full custody of it."
Another pause. "Sir, Torchwood is enroute for the box."
The Brigadier grumbled under his breath. "Delay them. It is imperative that they not get their hands on it, do you understand?"
He heard the sharpness of the salute on the other end. "Yes, sir!"
With a click, she hung up.
He leaned back in the comfy chair as the red-faced corporal burst in, demanding his office back.
UNIT today. No appreciation whatsoever.
It was starting to rain.
Quite frankly, Jack wasn't surprised. Behind him, Ianto and Gwen waited impatiently, at least having had the sense to grab rain slickers from the SUV. Of all the days for Owen to have another hangover…
He shifted from one foot to the other impatiently. Tosh had already left the hospital with the Doctor's body, enroute to the Cardiff Hub. He had given strict orders that under no circumstances were any other Torchwood personnel to come in contact with the Doctor's body. He didn't want to take the chance his old friend would be dissected.
Another UNIT truck came out, splashing water everywhere. He grimaced as he felt the mud splash his trousers.
He glanced back just in time to see a flash of bright blue box and long blond hair. He grinned. He'd recognize that person from the rear anytime.
"Well, shave my head, wax my legs, and use me for a surfboard."
"Sir?" queried Ianto, apparently confused as to whether Jack was serious or joking. It wouldn't be the first time, but a comment like that when an old friend had died seemed rather…misplaced.
Jack smiled, startling the rest of the team, just as more UNIT trucks blasted past.
"It's not the end of the world yet, guys."