Title - Kate (1/1)
“I don’t even know what I would do with a Master’s in English,” proclaimed Kate. She was sitting on his bed, laptop cradled on her lap, staring at the screen.
“Then don’t get one,” suggested Brem, with a shrug, flipping the page of the Dr. Seuss book he was reading.
“I have to get something,” replied Kate. “I mean, what am I going to do with a bachelor’s in English? I need to get something else, and I don’t want to be a lawyer, and I don’t want to be a doctor, and what else am I going to do? I suppose I could get an M.B.A., maybe.” Kate, gnawing on her lip thoughtfully, tapped at a few keys.
Brem looked over at her. And then he just said it. “You could come with me.”
“Come with you where?” she asked, absently.
“Everywhere,” he answered, seriously.
She looked up at him then, silent for a moment. “What do you mean?”
“There are an uncountable number of stars out there, Kate.” He tossed his book aside, leaving his desk chair to sit next to her on the bed and smile winningly. “Welllllll, uncountable for a human. Come see them with me.”
“Sure,” she said, indulgently, turning back to her laptop.
He bristled a bit at the indulgence. “I’m serious. Forget about what you’re doing after we graduate, and come with me.”
“That’s not realistic, Brem.”
“What’s not realistic about it? It’s very real.”
“I can’t just run off to the stars, Brem, and just ignore the idea of what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. What happens when I come home?”
“Why would you have to come home?”
She looked up at him again. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you’d come home to visit your parents, of course, things like that; but, you know, you wouldn’t come home and need to find a job or anything.”
“What is it that you plan to do after we graduate?” Kate asked. It hovered always on the outside of conversations. Everyone was busy applying to graduate schools; Brem hadn’t looked at a single option. Kate had never really asked him what his intention was, and she realized now it was because she was afraid of the response.
“I haven’t decided where I’ll go first yet,” answered Brem. “I’ve got time to figure that out.”
“But what is it that you plan to do?” Kate persisted.
“I…Meaning what?” Brem looked genuinely confused.
“For a career.”
Brem actually laughed. “‘Career.’ What a funny, little, human thing to say to me.”
Kate frowned and put aside the laptop, deciding this was a conversational topic that needed to be pursued. “You’re just going to flit about the universe for the rest of your life?”
“Yes,” said Brem, in a tone of voice that suggested he dared her to question that.
“That doesn’t seem aimless to you?”
“Aimless? Saving the universe? Really? You think that’s aimless?”
“You’re just going to live in your parents’ TARDIS the rest of your life?” challenged Kate.
“Well. No. I admit that’s not ideal. But we’ll figure something out. TARDISes are big. And other forms of time and space travel exist, in the future. Not as good as a TARDIS, of course, but I can find myself something that will suffice.”
“And where will you get money?”
Brem arched an eyebrow. “We’re time travelers with psychic paper. Do you think we’ll ever lack money?”
Kate regarded him for a moment. Then, because she could think of nothing else to say, she pulled her laptop back over to her.
Brem watched her scroll through a couple of websites, the silence stretching. Then he ventured, “If you came with me, you’d never have to worry about anything, you know.”
“Except being executed by an alien race on some faraway planet, my parents never knowing what happened to me.” Kate tapped furiously on a few keys as she bit it out.
Brem flinched. “I’d never—”
“Of course not,” she said, and sighed. “Can you just let me pretend to be human and look at something boring like a master’s degree? I know it’s not saving the universe or anything, but…”
Brem watched her typing. The brewing argument had the feel of something insurmountable. If he pushed it, he thought, everything would shatter.
So he let it go. He let it go the way he knew only he could, with his father’s inimitable talent for sweeping things under the rug, for ignoring what he didn’t want to see. Brem could go on existing, with words unsaid, for an indefinite period of time. Or at least, he thought, until graduation, which might be when they would be unable to ignore things any longer.
Predictably, it was Kate who didn’t let it get that far. Kate who showed up with a thick, unopened envelope one day that she held up to him. It was a blindingly sunny day in the middle of winter, and Brem was seated on the floor of the living room, frowning at his latest contraption, which refused to work.
“What’s that?” he asked, of the envelope, before turning back to his work and idly spinning the bicycle wheel sprouting from the top.
“It’s a package,” she said. “It’s from Yale.”
“Yale?” he echoed, glancing at her again. “What does Yale have to say to you?”
She sat on the floor with him. “Where’s Matt?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Class, possibly. I’ve no idea what his schedule is.” In four years of school, he had never been able to master the idea of his own schedule, never mind other people’s.
“We need to talk,” said Kate, and he looked up at her in surprise at her tone. She was much closer to him than he had thought, and her eyes were very serious.
“What?” His voice sounded higher than he quite thought it should. “Why?”
She took a deep breath and handed him the envelope.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” he asked, in bewilderment.
“But it’s your envelope.”
“I want you to open it.”
Brem leaned back against the couch, opening the envelope. He could feel Kate’s eyes riveted to his hands’ movement, which guaranteed that he fumbled pulling the materials out. He had read the whole letter in less than a second, because he could, but he sat quietly and pretended to read it for a great deal longer than that.
“What does it say?” Kate asked, finally.
“You got in,” he answered, forcing joviality into his voice. “Congratulations.” He leaned over and kissed her cheek.
“I thought I did,” she said. “Big envelope, that’s what it means.”
“Wellllllll.” He had nothing else to say, so he handed the envelope back to her. “It’s good news, Kate. Well done.”
“Brem, I have thought about this so much,” she began.
“We don’t need to talk about this right now,” he cut her off, leaning forward with a pair of sonic tweezers, listening to the pitch of the revolving and spinning bicycle tire.
“Yes, we do,” she continued, and he made a minuscule adjustment to a spoke. “I came up with so many ideas, that I thought would be compromises for us. At first I thought maybe I’d try for Oxford, or Cambridge, because maybe if it were England you would…And then I thought maybe I’d apply for the Peace Corps, and that would be an adventure, and you love adventures, and maybe that would…But the truth is that every compromise I come up with is just delaying the moment when you leave me behind, isn’t it?”
Brem spun the bicycle tire once more, and then turned to her, swallowing. “Kate,” he began.
“We’re never going to be, for each other, what we really want, are we?” she asked, frankly.
He exhaled slowly. “I wish I could be. I really do.”
“You would be miserable. I know that. I’d try to make you, and maybe you’d do it, but you’d be miserable, and then I would be miserable because I’d made you miserable…”
“Look,” he pointed out. “We don’t need to talk about this right now—”
“Yes, we do. You’re so good at pretending. I’m really not.”
“I’m not pretending,” he protested. “I love you, and I’m happy now, and—”
“But we’re existing right now with an expiration date, and I can’t do that. The problem isn’t that we don’t love each other, and it isn’t that we’re not happy, it’s that I feel my future ticking at me, and you feel…the whole universe opening up.”
“That’s how the future should feel, Kate.”
She smiled sadly at him, and then leaned up and kissed him very gently. “I love you very much, I do. And I wanted to be perfect for you, I really did. But maybe we’re just…friends.”
“Don’t put a category on it,” said Brem. “Humans are always trying to categorize things.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Well, it’s not that big a deal, being categorized.”
“I wasn’t apologizing for the categorizing, Brem.”
“Don’t apologize for anything. It isn’t your fault.”
“It isn’t yours, either.”
“I know.” He reached out and spun the bicycle tire, which had slowed to a stop.
“What are you working on here anyway?” she asked, after a second.
“I don’t even know,” he said, slowly. “I was hoping it would…make itself into something.”
Kate suggested ice cream—“friendly ice cream,” she said, and he sensed that it was important to her that he make some gesture indicative of his acceptance that they would continue to be friends, and so even though it was freezing he walked with her into the Square and had ice cream with her, and when he got back to his flat Matt was there, making a racket in the kitchen pretending like he knew how to cook, which he sometimes did.
“Hey,” he said, by way of greeting, sticking his head momentarily into the lounge when he heard the door open. “Where’ve you been?”
“I got ice cream,” said Brem, vaguely, distracted.
“In this weather? I hoped you saved room for dinner, I am making us something very complicated.” He paused for dramatic effect. “Macaroni and cheese.” When Brem didn’t react, he said, quizzically, “You okay?”
Brem sat on the couch, leaned over and spun at the bicycle wheel. “I think Kate broke up with me,” he answered, fuzzily.
“Wait,” said Matt, shaking his head a bit, as if sure he’d misheard. “What?”
“It’s okay,” said Brem, spinning the wheel. “We’re still going to be friends.”
“I don’t know, she thinks we’ll make good friends.”
“No, I meant, why did she break up with you?”
“I’m not going to grad school, Matt.”
“I figured you weren’t.”
“And then when Kate gets out of grad school, she’s going to want to settle down. She’s going to want a house with walls and carpets, the same size on the inside, with a mortgage, and children, and the same life day after day.”
“Ah,” said Matt, after a moment. Then, “We can have something better than macaroni and cheese for dinner.”
There were any number of ways for Brem to get a message to him, if he wanted him, which was why the method Brem chose was so surprising. The psychic paper flashed it up at him. Can you come by? It was thoroughly unorthodox, and the Doctor stared at it.
“What’s that?” asked Rose, slipping past him in the control room to water the plants. This was a new experiment on Rose’s part, the plants in the control room. The Doctor wasn’t sure he liked them, but he assumed that it was only a phase.
“Message on the psychic paper,” replied the Doctor.
“Uh-oh,” said Rose. “It isn’t the Face of Boe, is it?”
“No, it’s Brem.”
“Brem?” Rose sounded as curious as he felt. “Why didn’t he just ring us?”
“Dunno.” The Doctor thought. “Maybe he wanted to bypass you? And the kids have never been good at broadcasting sentences telepathically, instead of just emotion.”
“Bypass me? Why would he want to do that?”
“Wellllll,” said the Doctor. “Special father-son things, maybe.”
Rose smiled at him. “Maybe. I hope so. That would be sweet.” She paused to peck a kiss to his lips, on her way out of the control room. “Go visit him, I’ll stay out of your way.”
The Doctor parked the TARDIS on the street outside Brem’s flat, for added privacy, and walked to it, knocking on the door. Brem opened it and looked pleased to see him.
“Dad,” he said. “You got my message.”
“Yes. Bit odd of you, though, Brem. Why didn’t you just ring?”
Brem ruffled at his hair. “I don’t know. I didn’t want to talk to Mum. Not for any…I just wanted to talk to you.”
It was odd, because the Doctor would not have said that his relationship with Brem was strained, and, indeed, from the relief of the slight tension that had existed for most of Brem’s life, until Rose had come back to life that day on the grass by Lamont Library, the Doctor actually thought he had never had such a good relationship with Brem, not since he had allowed him to hold open the breach and effectively, he felt, shattered his faith in him. But there was something about Brem clearly wanting his advice that made him feel absurdly touched. He was not sure he would have predicted Brem wanting to talk to him. He would have thought that Brem would have turned to his mother. He secretly had always suspected that Brem preferred Rose to him as a parent, which he did not think he could blame him for. The thought that Brem wanted to talk to him…If he’d thought Brem would have allowed it, he would have seized him in a hug and tousled his hair.
Instead he said, simply, “Of course you can talk to me. Is there something wrong?”
Brem frowned a bit and said, “Let’s take a walk,” grabbing a coat that he pulled on.
The Doctor decided to let Brem take the lead, and walked beside him in silence for a couple of blocks. Every time he wanted to break the silence, he bit down on his lip to keep the quiet.
“Has anyone ever broken up with you?” Brem asked, suddenly. “Because you weren’t ready to settle down?”
The question startled the Doctor, but he considered it seriously. “My romantic history is…tangled at best,” he ventured, finally. “And, for most of my centuries, not at all accurately described as ‘romantic.’ But I think it would be fair to say that…I’ve broken up with people, because I wasn’t ready to settle down.”
He felt Brem look at him in surprise. “Really?” he asked, curiously.
The Doctor watched his Chucks scuff at the dirty snow scattered across the sidewalk, and tried to determine whether he should tell Brem what he was about to tell him. “I was married, before your mother. Centuries before. Children and everything.”
“You had another family?” Brem sounded shocked.
“I did,” answered the Doctor, eyes on the pavement.
“What happened to them?”
“What happened to everyone?” countered the Doctor.
Brem was silent for a moment. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” The Doctor looked at him. “I was a terrible father. I don’t deserve sympathy for that.”
Brem’s eyes were very calm. He did not seem the least bit alarmed by this proclamation. “You are much harder on yourself than you deserve. I’m sure you weren’t a terrible father. I’m sure you were just a different father. And I’m still sorry. I’m sure we would have gotten along.”
They would not have, but Brem had no idea how little any of them would have gotten along with any of the Gallifreyans, and the Doctor didn’t want to get into all that now. He said, which was the honest truth, “I hope you would have.”
“I didn’t mean to dredge that up for you,” Brem said. “It’s just that…Kate broke up with me.”
“What?” The Doctor was surprised. “Why?”
“Because she’s normal and she wants normal things and I am never going to be normal and want normal things.”
“Now who’s being harder on himself than he deserves?” asked the Doctor, gently.
“She’s wonderful, Dad. Everything about her is wonderful. So why can’t I…I want to run. It’s a fairy tale of a life, and all I can think is it’s so bloody still.”
It was Brem’s turn to watch the pavement. The Doctor watched him. “You’ve stayed still a very, very long time.”
“I have such a very long life, compared to hers. Why couldn’t I throw away a few decades and stay with her? Why can’t I get myself to do that?”
“Kate’s wonderful,” said the Doctor. “I love Kate, you know that. But, if I’m going to be honest, I love you more. And maybe the problem here isn’t that you don’t want ordinary things. Maybe the problem is that Kate doesn’t want extraordinary things.”
“Kate wants lovely things,” said Brem. “Kate isn’t dull.”
“I never said she was,” replied the Doctor, mildly. “I’m just pointing out that it isn’t your fault. And it isn’t her fault. It just is. You can’t make yourself because it’s not who you are, and you have always been much better at knowing who you are than I am. That other family I had? I tried desperately, always, to be something that I wasn’t for them, and it was a disaster for everyone involved. If you stay for Kate, you’ll end up hurting her more than you would ever want to, no matter how you try not to.”
“That’s what Kate said, too.”
“Kate is very wise.” The Doctor looked sideways at Brem, who looked deeply unhappy and hurt, and remarkably the way he had looked as a baby, if the Doctor was going to be quite honest. Brem had seen old beyond his years for so very long, it was a shock to be reminded of how young he still was. And so the Doctor said it out loud. “And you are very, very young. Espcially young, for a Time Lord.”
“I know,” said Brem, with an air of not really believing it.
“I have lived my life in spans of hundreds of years where nothing ever happened, Brem. Hundreds of years in a life I didn’t enjoy and didn’t feel right, and then, when I finally got up enough courage to leave that life, hundreds of years tramping all over the universe, never getting too attached, never getting too involved. Then the Time War came, and everything changed, and it was terrible, and when it was over, I settled myself in for a few hundred years of, well, loneliness.”
The Doctor was silent for so long that Brem prompted, “And?”
“Well, you know what happened.” The Doctor was honestly surprised the rest of the story had to be told. “I met your mother and in the space of a breath my entire life shifted. That’s how it goes sometimes, you know: hundreds of years, and then there’s a moment in time—when you steal a TARDIS, or push a button, or grab a certain human’s hand—and everything changes. You know that, you can see it in the timelines. Our lives are shaped in instants. The point is that you’re fretting now that things didn’t work out with Kate and there might never be anyone else, am I right?”
“Maybe,” Brem allowed. Then, “Yes.”
“Girls like your mother are very hard to find. But, luckily, you have centuries in which to find one. Centuries during which you are going to have the time of your life in the meantime.”
Brem stopped walking and looked at him. “How do you know?”
The Doctor drew to a halt as well, hands in his pockets. “Because it’s what you want. You want to run. And you will. Every star in the sky, Brem. You will find your way, and you will be marvelously happy, in ways you cannot predict, in ways you wouldn’t want to predict because it would spoil the fun of it.”
“Because that’s how it was for you?”
“Yes. And because you’re Brem Tyler.” The Doctor smiled. “I wouldn’t recommend placing a bet against you.”
Aww, poor Brem and Kate. But what an honest story, with an ending that leaves a lot to hope for. I really want for Brem what the Doctor has with Rose... and keeping my fingers crossed we'll get to see it! Because if anyone deserves that, it's Brem.
This was a sad story, but it was necessarily sad for them. They're just different people who want different things, and I'm glad you thought it ended on hope, because I really did want it to. He'll find his Rose, it just takes a bit of time.
“I never said she was,” replied the Doctor, mildly. “I’m just pointing out that it isn’t your fault. And it isn’t her fault. It just is.
And that, was the most lovely thing the Doctor could say. It did feel weird reading Kate like this, even though the seeds were planted elsewhere.
Aww, thanks! The Doctor really is such a good dad, when he just doesn't fret himself out of it.
And yeah, I feel like Kate has been thinking these things for a while, but she loved Brem enough not to let them out until now.
Kate was nice for Brem at this time in his life, but long-term they just weren't going to work, as their very different ideas about the future made clear.
I loved to write the father-son talk. It was nice to show how much Brem really does rely on his father, and it was nice to show how good the Doctor is at being a dad. And yes, Brem will be more than okay. ;-)
"Brem actually laughed. “‘Career.’ What a funny, little, human thing to say to me.”"
You're right, or the Doctor is right, (both?) both Brem and Kate what something different, and even though they love each other, they would both be settling; and I'd rather they be happy.
Good fic. Sad. But necessary. Well done.
Yeah, I feel like it's easy to "blame" Kate for this, so to speak, but Brem can be a casually difficult guy to date sometimes.
This is sad, but it was something that I could see coming as soon as I started writing Kate. It just felt so right to me.
Kate is a pretty self-aware kid. And it's true that I'm not sure turning Brem down is a choice I would make, but I could see how *someone* could make that choice. Kate's never been an adventurer, and, in a way, that's what Brem liked about her, her *differentness,* her *normality.* And Kate was smart to figure that out now and to keep Brem from ignoring it for any longer.
I felt that Brem would feel like his father would be the only person to talk to about this. He adores his mother and trusts her implicitly but, to Brem, this "difficult" part of his psyche comes from his dad, so he was the one to go to.
And yes, Brem will be okay. And he actually will stay friendly with Kate in the future. Friendlier the more that time passes.
I'd like to leave a thoughtful comment, but I'm nearly in tears here. This is very, very honest, and it hit very close to home for me, for reasons that unfortunately have nothing to do with a time traveling alien wanting to wisk me away from my life.
This was beautiful and sad and extremely feel-good and horribly heart-breaking all at once.
Well done, woman.
This could almost be titled "In defense of Kate," in a lot of ways, because you do a great job of explaining their breakup without making it anyone's fault. And it would've been easy to inadvertently make it seem like some failing on Kate's part for not wanting to spend her life on the run like Rose did. So it's kind of funny that your best defense of Kate comes from the man who never stopped running.
Again, well done. ;)
Now I have to go back and read the end of the college-verse to see when Brem finds out he's getting his TARDIS, because I can't remember how long it will be till it's ready for him, and I gather it's significant that he doesn't even mention it to Kate.
ETA: Something about Kate is reminding me a lot of Martha here, btw. I'll have to mull that over some now. I think it may be because I recently saw the clip where Martha and Donna were talking at the end of the Sontaran episodes and Martha was not exactly encouraging (though not discouraging, per se) of Donna's goal to stay with the Doctor forever.
Edited at 2010-11-10 04:57 am (UTC)
I wanted to make sure that Kate didn't come across as the "bad guy" in this break-up. That was very important to me. I love Brem so much that I was worried I could easily demonize any woman who didn't love him as much as I do, but it just seemed to me that, well, that life *isn't* for everyone. And I love what you point out, that it's the Doctor who is best able to recognize that.
Brem doesn't find out about the TARDIS until the epilogue of "College," which takes place right after his commencement ends. And he breaks up with Kate in the late winter of his senior year. So, at this point, he didn't yet know he had his own TARDIS coming. I actually had to go back and change a few lines when I realized Brem didn't know about the TARDIS yet.
Interesting about Kate/Martha parallels. I think what I like about Kate is that she doesn't have another boy to go off to here, she has *herself,* and what she wants for herself. I think Kate takes some time, after getting out of the serious relationship that Brem was, to just be alone for a bit.
I've been waiting for this and I was not at all disappointed. This is so honest and Kate is so straightforward which is wonderful because we all know how obtuse Time Lords can be when it comes to something they don't want to talk about. I'm glad it didn't end between Kate and Brem on a bad note, just a mutual realisation that it wasn't going to work long term because they wanted different things. Ah! If only all break ups could be like that!
I know, this fic was a long time coming, and I'm glad that you enjoyed it. Kate has always had to learn to be more straightforward to counter Brem, and I think it comes out beautifully here. In a way, it's what makes Kate so awesome for Brem, the way she knows that she's *not* perfect for him.
I might have made a completely undignified noise when I saw this appear on my flist. This was a wonderful read and you did a fantastic job of tying up that dangling thread.
Although honestly, for me, I can't understand why anyone would go to grad school ever, so I'm still firmly in Brem's camp here even though it means he's sad for a while.
I *love* undignified noises, they are my *favorite* reactions! And thanks! That fulfilled a bunch of fic requests through the years, so I'm glad I finally got it out!
Heh. As someone who did go to grad school, I really wish an alien had talked me out of it!