Summary: Theta was always weird, even by Time Lord standards.
A/N: I just made up the time signature stuff for the purposes of this story. It's not canon or anything (at least that I'm aware of). I'm not even sure how much sense this will make, because it's more of an introspective/angst piece than anything, and I wrote it late at night when I was tired but my thoughts wouldn't let me sleep.
Two-headed boy, all floating in glass
The sun, it has passed
Now it's blacker than black
I can hear as you tap on your jar
I am listening to hear where you are.
-"Two-Headed Boy", Neutral Milk Hotel
What is normal?
If asked, the Doctor would say that normal is boring. Normal is a 9-to-5 job and two-story house and a dog (though he loves dogs). Normal is routine and mundane, and why would you want to be normal anyway, when there are talking ostriches and diamond oceans and epileptic star clusters to be seen, and all those species, so many species of wonderful creatures thriving all over the universe? He would say this, but inside he would know: he doesn't really know what normal is. If he was telling the truth, he would only be able to define normal by what it is not.
Normal is not the Doctor.
Theta squinted into the mirror, leaning forward so that the front strands of his wild hair brushed the glass. His nose touched the mirror, and his eyes crossed. He furrowed his eyebrows in consternation. Nothing. Not a single wisp of time signature visible. The contraption behind him shook and sent out a small puff of orange smoke. He frowned deeper; that wasn't supposed to happen. He sighed, drew back from the mirror and pirouetted to face the smoking device. It shook harder, burping out smoke with greater frequency, and Theta knew what was going to happen next. He showed no outer signs of alarm as he dove for cover behind his bed just as the door slammed open.
The time signature visibility aid exploded with a single clanging shriek that sent orange-red vapors careening up to the ceiling. Theta popped up the moment the shriek ended; he dove for a window and quickly whacked it open. Upon turning back to his room he saw in the doorway his friend Koschei, who, being used to Theta's failed experiments, had utilized his knapsack as a makeshift shield. Koschei raised an eyebrow at his friend.
"What was that one meant to do?"
Theta busied himself picking up the torn metal bits now strewn around his room. "It was supposed to make my time signature visible." A small pause, then in a sheepish tone: "Also it could perform basic five-dimensional integrations. And make custard, and do a lights show." He tossed the pieces carelessly into his closet. Koschei threw himself on the bed, where he immediately assumed a lazily pretentious position.
"You still on that? You're not supposed to see your own time signature, stupid. You know that."
Theta sighed again and hurled himself on the bed near Koschei's feet. His arm rested on his forehead in a theatrical swoon. "It's got to be my time signature, Kosch. Why else would they set me apart?"
He turned to Koschei and squinted. They had only recently learned how to see others' time signatures, the unique energy fluctuations surrounding a Time Lord or Lady that marked them as time travelers and let others know where they had been and where they had the potential to go. One could not see one's own time signature, though Theta was determined to try. The other students in his House had long ago, by some instinctual and unanimous decision, decided that Theta was different. He was mad, they said, and dangerous, and probably part human or something inferior like that, because why else would he act so erratic? Lately, Theta had been convinced that it was his time signature that marked him as different and set him up for ridicule. He had tried to fit in— he really had— but since none of his actions seemed to make any difference, he had decided that the cause must be something he couldn't control, such as his time signature.
Koschei had an odd time signature. His wasn't as smooth and calm as the others' were; Koschei's signature was loud and wild, and flared with a faint beat, as if drumming out a silent steady rhythm. The streams of it wheeled around him without order.
Koschei was an outcast too.
Koschei nudged Theta's side with his foot. "Why do you care what they think anyway? They're all so boring and unimaginative. So normal. Ugh. Don't you ever try to be normal, Theta. I'd have to kill you out of mercy if you did."
Theta turned his face away, and studied the panorama visible from the open window. The red sky blazed overhead and sunlight was reflecting off the roofs and walls of the great towers of the Citadel. He turned back to his own blank ceiling.
"I won't, Kosch. I don't think I could be normal if I tried."
He has been bound, stretched out upon dissection tables. He has been imprisoned in barred cells and in glass rooms, to be observed and analyzed. He has been scanned and prodded and questioned and groped, and each time it happens, every time some alien race decides he is a specimen to be studied, he finds himself wondering the same thing:
What are they looking for?
Craig smiles at him, the empty plate still in his hands. The Doctor sips his lukewarm tea.
"Mate," says Craig in a fond tone. "Has anyone ever told you you're a little bit weird?"
The Doctor smiles back, a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. He thinks for a moment of red skies and glass cages, and he feels his two hearts beating in their own cage, and he sets his teacup down.
"They never really stop."