DISCLAIMER: I own nothing and no one. I can't believe I'm writing this. It's just a little something to tide me over during my period of writer's block on Differences, and it's probably only going to be four to six chapters at the most. I'm awful with the dialogue of the period and am only going by what I've heard from period-piece films and the books on the Titanic that I've read. Reviews would be lovely :) Any typos are of my fault and I apologize. I wrote this at 2AM. Title taken from what people of that time called the Titanic and from There She Is, from the wonderful musical by Maury Yeston.
When Kyle's car pulls up to the dock he has to crane his neck to see the top of the four smokestacks. A small flock of seagulls circles around the black tip of the one closest to him, the wind skittering around white puffs of clouds in the endlessly blue sky. With a huff he collapses back into his seat, closing his eyes.
The tension in the car is thick and unbearable; his parents sit on opposite seats, looking everywhere but each other. Kyle wants to scream, tell his parents you used to love each other, what happened? but his mother had instilled in both him and his sister that such outbursts were not socially acceptable.
Morgan, his sister, sits next to their father, looking every bit as prim and proper as the Burns family should be and every bit the clone of their mother. Kyle resists the urge to roll his eyes; they were teenagers, just kids. Rebellion was expected of them, no matter how much money their parents had.
What did it matter, anyway? They were going back to America so their parents could get a proper, quiet divorce. Kyle planned on moving as far away as he possibly could once the papers were signed and the lawyers were bribed into silence. He'd miss Morgan, but dealing with the craziness that was his family was exhausting.
The door on Kyle's side opens and the brunet looks out to see their butler holding it open for him. Kyle restrains himself enough not to jump out, legs cramped from the long drive, and once his feet are firmly on the cobblestones of the street he can't help but be surprised at the sheer size of the ship. It towers over any other ship currently docked and any building along the waterfront. Kyle hates to admit it, but he's impressed and maybe a little excited to be on her maiden voyage.
Behind him his mother delicately steps out. Kyle can hear her talking to their butler before he goes to the trunk to unload their bags. Morgan strides over to him, her gaze following him to the length of the ship. "Marvelous, isn't it?"
Kyle makes a noise of agreement. "Astonishing." He watches a few of the crew start loading the expanse of boxes and bags into the hull of the ship. Above their heads a crane brings a Renault town carriage motor car into a precarious high-altitude dance before lowering it safely to the dock, red paint gleaming in the early-morning sun.
The atmosphere is optimistic and bustling, well-wishers and on-lookers gabbing and motioning with wild gestures. All the wealthiest ladies in their finest wear stand close to their finely-dressed husbands, steamer trunks surrounding them like small armies. Men and women in standard sailing uniform gather up parcels and bags, carrying them along the loading dock. Camera bulbs flash as newspaper reporters stand close by; ready to capture the moment the Titanic is set free.
Morgan turns to look at him, brown curls swept off one side of her face; eyes shadowed by the voluminous hat perched atop her hair. She looks gorgeous and Kyle feels a sudden surge of pride for his sister. No doubt she would find a future husband on board this magnificent liner. "You're not excited to go back, are you?"
Kyle makes and minutely shakes his head. "Not in the least. It's going to be hell when we get back, you know that, right?"
"It is. But Mother and Father love us all the same."
Kyle runs a hand through his own brown hair instead of answering. He knows their parents love them, but couldn't they love them together? Granted that Kyle may be twenty-four but the need for parental love doesn't age.
Their mother steps up next to Kyle and gently places a gloved hand on the shoulder pad of his suit. Kyle doesn't look over at her before asking, "Where's Father?"
She sighs, and when Kyle sneaks a glance over at her, her lips are pursed, eyes steely as she too takes in the girth of the ship. "Bill has gone to have a word with the Captain." She pauses. "It really is a beauty, isn't it?"
Kyle wishes that they could talk about something other than the Titanic. He wishes he could be like some of the poorer passengers in their normal garb, talking freely and laughing loudly, children exclaiming excitedly and running around while their parents waited to board. He wants his mother to have laugh lines, not frown lines.
But that was something that would never happen to Kyle, no matter how much he wished. Instead he agrees with his mother and steels himself for what would surely be a long wait to board.
The close call with the New York as the Titanic prepared to leave the harbor should have been the first sign. The sheer size and pull of the White Star Line's newest vessel had caused the bearings holding the New York to its dock to snap and break loose, causing the smaller ship to intercept the Titanic's sailing path. Danger was narrowly avoided as the Titanic turned and the New York was safely pulled back.
It was such a glorious day, and after the averted crisis passengers began proclaiming the Titanic's unsinkable reputation with a renewed fervor. Kyle, who had been watching anxiously from the space outside their first-class stateroom, felt an ominous shiver that passed along his spine. He blamed it on the wind.
"Kyle, honey, you know I hate it when you wear your hair like that," his mother says.
Kyle rolls his eyes and grips onto the freshly-painted railing, smooth metal cold under his palms. "Even if I fixed it the wind would mess it up, and seeing as how I do not intend to spend our entire trip locked in the stateroom I feel no need to fix my hair. Besides, I think it looks atrocious slicked back and you know it."
His mother sighs and pulls her shawl tighter around her shoulders. Kyle turns to face her and feels a spark of warmth in the pit of his stomach when he sees a faint, amused smile on his mother's face. "You always were incorrigible," she replies.
Kyle grins crookedly and presses his back against the railing, shoving his hands into the pockets on his trousers. "I pride myself on my incorrigibility." He looks out at the expanse of water spread around them, the breeze of salt-tinged air caressing his cheeks while he listens to the splash of waves against the ship. Land is only a faint spot behind them, almost lost on the horizon.
"Where's Morgan?" Kyle eventually asks.
"The library, I believe. I hear there are some fantastic books aboard."
"Mother, are you trying to get me to read?" Kyle asks dryly, moving to make way as an older gentleman strides past them. His mother smiles, the gesture accenting the crow's feet gathering at the corner of her equally-as-blue eyes. "I would never try to get you to do such a thing. You and I both know your life lies within your father's company."
As quick as it came Kyle's good mood fades, like the last specks of England as they sail on. "Mother," he starts dangerously, knowing he's going to regret using this tone later. "You know I do not wish to be a part of Father's company. My fate lies in California, not the oil wells of Texas."
"There's not much of a choice," she says, voice just as dangerously even. "Morgan cannot take over for Bill when he retires now can she?"
"Don't make this about her," Kyle says, fists clenching inside his pockets. A few more people stroll by, unaware of the animosity crackling between the two. "She has a free pass and we both know it. All she has to do is find a wealthy man and she's free to live her own life full of maids and ridiculous dinners."
"This life is far from ridiculous," his mother says sharply, taking a step toward him. Kyle steps back, teeth gritted. "People dream to have what we have. Working men strive to afford our luxuries. We are the best of the best, Kyle. If you left this life you would regret it."
Kyle's eyes flash. "That's what you think," he spits before turning on his heel. He hears his mother calling out for him but he can barely hear it over the cacophonous noise of the roaring of the sea and the roaring in his ears.
How Kyle finds himself on the third-class deck he doesn't know. He leans against the railing, closing his eyes against the sting of the wind and the sting of angry tears. He's an adult; he shouldn't be getting so worked up about things like this.
Truth be told, Kyle wishes he lived a simpler life where he didn't have to wear suits of tuxedos every day of his life. Where he could be free to enjoy himself however he pleased. His mother was always harping on him to find a nice girl, a wife, when Kyle didn't want that.
He peers down into the water, watching the stream of foam that trails along in the ship's wake before disappearing completely into the blue abyss. Out here it's peaceful, far away from the jaunty celebrations of the third-class and close enough to the edge that only a few brave men would wander close, girlfriends staying in the safety of the middle of the deck.
Kyle runs a hand over his face. He's had this argument with his mother thousands of times, and it never changes, no matter how much Kyle argues his extremely valid case. It's a new world and Kyle's itching to explore it, to get his feet wet in anything that interests him.
The cinema is his real calling, not being the heir to an oil fortune. The beaches and climate of the West Coast are where he should be, not in some stuffy mansion in Dallas, sweltering in the summers.
"You look extremely out of place," a voice says, raised in volume to be heard over the wind. Kyle lifts his head, startled, and is met with the sight of a shorter man, another brunet with hair closer to black. Kyle raises an eyebrow and turns around, stepping away from the railing. He wants to have a snippy comeback, as is his custom, but he can only give the truthful reply. "I don't feel it."
Now it's the other man's turn to raise an eyebrow skeptically. "Shouldn't you be up in your stateroom?" He says the word with the disdain Kyle normally reserves when talking business matters with his father. He definitely admires this man's spirit and brashness.
"Shouldn't you be drinking ale with your drunken friends?" Kyle shoots back. To his surprise the man laughs, eyes crinkling at the corners, smile revealing nearly perfect teeth. Kyle sucks in a breath. His retort was merely out of instinct; this guy had the same Southern drawl Kyle's father had. The only ale he'd be drinking would presumably be cheap Texan beer.
The man fixes his tattered brown jacket. "You're Kyle Burns," he says.
"Indeed," Kyle replies, smirking. "And you are…" He pauses. "Let me guess, from Texas?"
"Ah, so that explains it. The Burns family is only famous in good old Texas."
The man grins. "Not as famous as the Astors yet, are we?"
Kyle grimaces. "God, I should hope not."
The man extends a hand, which Kyle gladly shakes. "Jonathan Cook. I'm being forced to return back to America by my mother. I found London much more enjoyable and free."
"You could always get off at Cherbourg or in Ireland. I'm sure they're much more enjoyable. I personally would rather be stuck there instead of returning home," Kyle says as he shakes Jonathan's hand.
Jonathan looks genuinely surprised as he steps back. "I don't think I've ever met anyone who doesn't want to be wealthy before. I moved to London in the hopes of gaining some personal wealth," he confesses, looking a little ashamed.
Kyle shrugs and looks up at a smokestack. The sun is beginning to set, rays painting the sky in different shades of orange and pink. "It's not as wonderful as it may seem. At least you're free to pursue your dreams," he says bitterly.
"And you're not?"
Kyle laughs humorlessly. "No way." He isn't sure why he's unloading on this stranger—a third-class passenger, nonetheless; his mother would be furious—but it feels good to finally have someone who won't judge him because of his own personal dreams. It may only be 1912 but times were changing and everyone knew it. Kyle wanted to take advantage of every second.
"Not interested in taking on the family business?" Jonathan asks and sits on a bench, patting the seat next to him. Kyle takes the invitation and sits down wearily, resting his elbows on his thighs as he stares at the dark grain of the wood flooring.
"It's not where my heart is," he says after a pregnant pause. Jonathan nods and stares at the sky. They're both silent until the horn blares, signaling dinner. Kyle sighs and stands up, running his hands through his hair in a futile attempt to fix it. He turns to Jonathan and sticks out his hand. "Nice meeting you, Jonathan."
"Likewise," Jonathan replies, shaking Kyle's hand. They both stare at each other awkwardly before Kyle clears his throat, saying, "I'd better go. It'll take me a bit to reach the first-class dining room and Mother hates it when I'm late." He flashes an awkward smile before departing.
It was too bad that gender and class separated them both.