It was at Otherside that the young Time Lords first met. Both of them yet nameless, uninitiated, and innocent. The young boy of Lungbarrow's new generation had wandered off, away from his caretaker, during the festivities. At five years old he was precocious and painfully curious. Earlier, his caretaker had joked to his aunts and uncles that she needed a leash for him. He was so much less complacent than the other Timetots. She thought he would grow out of it. He wouldn't.
The boy found himself in a clearing behind a hill. He could still hear the music and people behind him, but there was no one back here. No one but another boy around his age with dark hair. He was sitting and pulling at the red grass in front of him and sniffling. There were tears drying on his face. This fascinated the boy from Lungbarrow house. He had so rarely seen someone cry other than himself. Whenever he showed too much emotion he would get tuts or looks of scorn from adults and jeers from other children. This boy was wearing different robes than him. He must be from another house. Rather than the orange and reddish robes that the Lungbarrow boy and his cousins wore, this boy wore dark robes. Purple and black with white trim. "Why are you crying?" he asked.
The dark-haired boy sniffed and looked up. "Callya doesn't want me anymore," he said.
The other little Time Lord plopped himself down in front of the crying boy. "Who's Callya?"
The boy across from him sniffed again. "My caretaker. She took me to the big house and they were all looking at me and I haven't seen her since then. She's gonna give me away to them! She doesn't want me 'cause I'm weak!"
Of course he felt bad for the other boy, but he couldn't suppress a little smile. Hadn't anyone explained it to him? Today was the day that all young Time Lords of the new generation were taken from the rearing center to their family households to become acquainted with their kin. "She's not giving you away," he said. "She's just taking you to meet your family. She'll be back in a little while. My caretaker, Shadra, picked me up a few minutes ago."
"Really?" the other boy looked hopeful.
"Yeah. She's probably looking for you right now."
The other boy smiled. The boy from Lungbarrow's heart went out to him. (This being his first body, he only had the one heart to give.) Something about this boy was different than the other Time Lords he knew. Different even than the other children. He was sensitive and vulnerable.
They talked and played for hours after that. Then Shadra found them and took the other boy back to his caretaker. The Lungbarrow boy got a stern talking-to about wandering off.
It was three years later at initiation that he saw the dark-haired boy again. They recognized each other instantly. "Are you scared?" he asked him.
The dark-haired boy just nodded.
He put a comforting hand on the other boy's shoulder. The dark-haired boy looked up in surprise at such an intimate gesture. Most Time Lords were cold and reserved. They didn't like to touch. The moment was lost though, as the dark-haired boy was called.
The elders took him outside. The Lungbarrow boy waited. And waited. When the dark-haired boy came back, something was different. Something had shattered. The Lungbarrow boy felt his stomach churn. Whatever had happened to his friend would be happening to him next.
As the elders ushered him outside, he watched the dark-haired boy being escorted away.
When they arrived at their destination he looked on in fear as the Untempered Schism opened up to him. It was terrifying. It was beautiful. It was horrible. It was everything. The whole of time and space, all possible timelines before his eyes, falling into his head. He wondered if his own psyche would shatter. He screamed. He ran.
When he arrived at Prydonian Academy, he was given a title. Theta Sigma.
At orientation the next morning, Theta looked for the dark-haired boy. He had been worried about him since initiation. The boy was not there. He sat through the boring speeches and wondered what life would be like for him now. He knew the procedures for a Time Lord's young life. You're born, raised at the rearing center until the age of eight, initiated into the academy, then graduate at ninety and join the family house. He had never been inside the academy building before, though. He'd seen it from the yard of the rearing center. Students filing neatly in and out, like drones, on their way to the next scheduled part of their day. He had feared losing his freedom like that.
After orientation, he was shown to his room. There were twelve boys to a room. It was large and cold, with twelve beds evenly spaced. To each bed was a small bedside table, a set of three shelves, and a trunk. Theta hurried to the end of the room, claiming the bed by the massive window. It was the first thing that drew his eye when he'd entered. It dominated the wall, running from three feet off the floor all the way to the cathedral style ceiling. At the very top of the window was painted the seal of Rassilon.
It was three days before he saw the dark haired boy again. The memory would always stand out in his mind. He was lying in bed, waiting fruitlessly for sleep to come to him as it had to the other boys, when he heard the door open. He heard some adults whispering then a small young voice made a single whimper. They ushered the child to the bed across from Theta.
"There's too many people here," he heard the boy whisper.
"Shhh," one of the adults hushed, "It's time for you to join the other children, Koschei. You're better enough now."
"But I can still hear them!" he cried. "You said I wasn't supposed to hear them!"
Theta heard some of the other boys stir at his outburst.
"Shhh, shhh. Listen. Listen to the other boys breathing. Listen to them talk in the morning. It'll help to drown it out."
Koschei started whimpering.
"Now, don't cry. You have to be strong."
He sniffled a little. "Strong," he whispered. Then his mood shifted to a brief wave of petulant anger. "I am strong. Stronger than any of you."
"Yes, all right. I'll see you at counseling tomorrow afternoon and we'll see how you're doing."
Theta waited until he was sure the adults were gone, then he climbed out of bed and went over to Koschei. As soon as he saw his face, even in just the moonlight, he recognized him.
"Koschei?" he whispered, "Do you remember me?"
Koschei sat up and looked hard at him. "Y-Yes."
"My name's Theta."
"What do you want?"
Theta was surprised at the question. Koschei seemed wary of him. Something had definitely changed in him. "I just want to talk," said Theta.
Koschei gave a small smile. "Okay."
"I've been looking for you since I got here. Where have you been?"
Koschei's face fell again. "They've been keeping me in a room. They called it a Zero Room."
"A Zero Room?"
"Yeah. It's all white. I can float if I try real hard. They told me it would bring me peace, heal me. They told me it would be quiet." He looked away distantly. "But it wasn't quiet. It's never quiet." He covered his ears and screwed his eyes shut. "It's still not quiet!"
Part of Theta was terrified, but mostly his heart just broke for this poor boy. "What do you mean, 'It's never quiet'?"
Suddenly Koschei grabbed him by the collar of his nightdress, his eyes wide. "Can't you hear it? Tell me you can hear it! They say they can't. They say it's not really there, but it is. It's always there. It's been there since I looked into the Schism."
"What is it? What's there?"
"The drumming," he whispered. "It's in my head. It won't stop." He started to cry. "Why won't it stop?"
He fell against Theta's chest and Theta held him as he cried. Eventually they lay down. Koschei's whimpers died down and they both fell asleep.
And that was how it started. Two outcasts drawn together. Neither of them knew it would end in tragedy.