Written for: iristigerlily for the unit_family ficathon
Paring: Liz/Brig is the main one.
Prompt: ii. Liz Shaw/Brigadier. 'Cause they are the UNIT OTP XD
A/N: They don't want: i. NC-17 ii. extreme violence (anything extreme) and they got that. I'd rate it below a G if there was a lower rating.
The Doctor hadn't been at UNIT long before he realised that humans were as inclined to intrigue as his own people. The Time Lords spent their days in an elegant struggle for power both politically and socially, often devolving into elaborate schemes that might take a hundred years or more to come to fruition. He'd found their games rather dull and slow.
Humans, he had thought, were more direct about their wants. Prone to violence and shows of force rather than taking more tactical routes to their desires. But stuck here on Earth, in this time period, he had a chance to observe the social dynamics of a group of humans more closely, and he was very surprised at the subtlety they showed. A limited lifespan meant that these manoeuvres were played out over weeks and months instead of years and decades, but their similarity to the behaviour of his own people was unexpected.
Despite his outward insouciance, he had always been a keen observer and more aware of his surroundings than he was given credit for. He could play political games with the best of them, but he rarely saw the point.
And so he developed the habit of standing back and watching instead. UNIT was a small, controlled group, forced to interact in certain proscribed ways, but that didn't stop them from coming up with complicated twists and unexpected pairings. Politics made strange bedfellows, indeed. It was entertaining in a rather boring exile, especially as he had no desire to play. Later, much later, a human would enter his life who would make him forget his detachment, but for now his only interest in the proceedings was abstract.
The straight politicking didn't interest him as much as the social games. There was a soldier in the squad with three sweethearts that the Doctor knew of, and perhaps others he did not, who were not aware of each other. There was a girl in the typing pool who was in a foursome with two of the soldiers and a girl from the town. There was that new Doctor, Harry something, who threatened to break up Yates' and Benton's long-standing relationship. But most interesting to him was the unfolding of the relationship between Doctor Shaw and the Brigadier.
His original impression was that they were antagonistic towards each other. The Doctor found himself playing them off against one another, first for his own benefit, and then because he saw where their relationship was heading and thought he'd give them a helping hand, as they were both too stubborn to come to that conclusion on their own.
And it worked for a time. He recognised the tell-tale signs. Blushes, lingering glances, and absent-minded caresses when they thought no one was looking. Their sparring took on a tinge of flirting, then more than a tinge.
When she started subtly encouraging him to fall in with the Brigadier's wishes, he knew it was serious. She'd never willingly admit to liking the other man, but the Doctor could read between the lines and see that her alliance had shifted, though not openly.
He watched them make excuses to spend time together, the Brig coming to the lab for no reason whatsoever or Liz deciding that she needed to requisition more supplies. They seemed to assume he was oblivious to the whole situation, and he started to suspect that they were less discreet in his presence than elsewhere.
The Doctor was never certain why they kept their affair under wraps. There were many possibilities though - everything from military discipline to the awkwardness of an office romance. He was discovering just how little he knew about humans, despite the companions he'd had over the years.
He sometimes wondered if anyone else had noticed as they moved from antagonists to friends to lovers. The humans were as alien to him as he was to them and as much as he liked to talk to them, he could tell the conversations were different to the ones they had with each other. For the first time in centuries, he was aware of just how lonely his life had been since Susan left. So he watched, feeling ever the outsider.
Later, when he knew more about their culture, he would compare it to the fascination with the characters in a soap opera. Feeling trapped and isolated, he lived vicariously through them.
He wanted to believe they could make their relationship last. They had given him something good to hope for, stuck in this space and time. If he wasn't happy at least someone else was. If he wasn't free, at least they were.
But life doesn't work like that and one day the Brigadier told him that Liz had gone back to Cambridge. She hadn't even said goodbye to him, which hurt more than he expected. He couldn't ask the Lethbridge-Stewart what had happened; he wasn't supposed to know about them. However the Brigadier's explanation that she had gone back to continue her own research rang false in his ears. Something had gone wrong between them and he hadn't noticed. He wondered if it were some subtlety of human behaviour that he was still unaware of. He considered himself a student of human nature, but there was only so much you could understand from the outside.
Years passed and companions. He regenerated more than once, saw the Brigadier on numerous occasions, but never asked about Liz. The Brigadier married Doris, became a school teacher and an advisor to UNIT and always remained a good friend. Liz's path never crossed his own.
Sarah was the one who passed on the news. Having let her slip through his fingers once, he wasn't about to lose her again. His recent losses had made him realise how precious his friends were to him.
Doris had passed on more than a year before and the Brigadier was remarrying. She had called, not to invite him, but wanting information about Ace. The fancy computer Sarah had acquired in his absence couldn't locate Ace without more information and Sarah seemed to assume that he wouldn't be interested in attending the wedding. He couldn't help but wonder if this was related to their conversations in Deffrey Vale about moving forward rather than looking back.
He gave her the coordinates she needed and then suggested she contact Turlough as well. He nearly choked on his tea when his former companion suddenly appeared on the viewscreen beside her, making snide comments about his new face, and hinting to Sarah that they should invite him to go with them.
The thought of Sarah and Turlough in the same room for any length of time frightened him, but he covered his dismay by finally asking who the Brigadier was marrying. When Sarah mentioned Liz's name like it was some foregone conclusion, he did choke on his tea and it was several minutes before he stopped coughing long enough to accept their invitation.
After the call had ended, he was dismayed to realise that Turlough had talked him into attending the stag night as well. He sighed, decided it was another human custom he had yet to experience, and refused to admit, even to himself, that after all he'd been through getting drunk and forgetting sounded more appealing than it should.
The stag night went off as planned. Complete with good Scotch (which the Doctor appreciated) and strippers (strange human custom, that). Turlough took great glee in being the ringleader, and the Lethbridge-Stewart commented that he'd pulled worse pranks during his years at St. Brendan's and that he was growing staid in his old age. He shouldn't have. Turlough got his revenge by inciting the others to strip the Brigadier naked and tie him to a lamppost.
The next morning, Turlough and the Doctor were horribly chipper, whilst the rest of the group moaned about hangovers. There was something to be said for a non-human constitution. The Doctor deduced that the hen night had ended in a similar fashion, as Sarah was the only one with a smile on her face. Even thirty years ago she had been able drink the whole of UNIT under the table, and had proved it on more than one occasion.
Despite this, the wedding was beautiful, held in the garden of the Brigadier's house. Liz for no reason that he could understand decided at the last minute that she wanted him to give her away, in lieu of her father, who had died some years previously. For some reason this amused the rest of his companions immensely and he put it down to the youthful appearance of his latest regeneration.
Many of the guests were strangers to him, but Harry, Benton and Yates had shown up (apparently that situation had resolved into a threesome), along with a surprising number of his past companions. Sarah had, at Liz's request, attempted to track down everyone who had met the Brigadier, and for the most part she had succeeded. There were even a few companions, he hadn't realised had ties to UNIT, such as Jack Harkness.
He suspected Sarah's hand in the seating arrangements as well, as their table seemed to be assembled around the people he knew at UNIT: Benton, Yates and Harry, Jo and Cliff, and Sarah, with Jack, his date, Ianto and Turlough filling in the last two spaces. By now he knew that Sarah and Turlough were more than just friends, though how that had happened bewildered him, but it was a bit of a shock to realise Jack was involved with Jo's son. Sarah noticed his expression and cheerfully commented that this wasn't the first time such a thing had happened, as Tegan had married Barbara and Ian's son.
After his companions had stopped commenting on his uncharacteristic loss for words, the talk turned to this unexpected romance, and the Doctor learned that they had run into each other during an attempted alien invasion several years before Doris had died. They had immediately started talking and decided to stay in touch. Liz had ended up supporting the Brigadier after Doris' death, and the relationship had progressed from there, surprising both friends and co-workers.
Apparently, the relationship had been common knowledge among the rest of UNIT, though no one had expected it to last and the Doctor wondered if his view of them had been coloured by his exile. Somehow, this discussion led to the rest of the table encouraging him to propose a toast to the new couple. Not that he resisted much.
The Doctor went on at great length about how wonderful they were and how happy he was that they had found each other again, telling a few well-chosen anecdotes about his days in UNIT working with the newlyweds, and generally meandering until Sarah jabbed him in the ankle, which he took as a hint that he'd said enough.
He made a point of dancing with each of his former female companions, starting with the bride, and then Jack, Harry and Turlough insisted on not being left out. so he obliged them. The Brigadier refused politely and he didn't press.
In the end, the Doctor kissed Liz's cheek and shook the Brigadier's hand and wished them all the best. They deserved it, if anyone did. Somehow they had managed to find each other again after all this time, and he decided he must be growing sentimental in his old age, wanting them to have another chance at happiness.
And when Sarah invited his former companions to her house after the wedding, he decided that perhaps he hadn't lost quite as much as he thought he had. Maybe it was time to stop running from his own past. So he followed along chattering amicably about nothing in particular and resolving to keep a closer eye on his former companions. Judging by recent events, it was apt to be entertaining if nothing else.