The first year in the Academy is boring, so Theta Sigma and Koschei decide to hack the biodata banks.
This proves to be a depressing non-challenge, as nobody expects a pair of good Prydonians to actually mess about with the Citadel records. They have some doubtful fun reading their schoolmates’ files and discovering such interesting facts as Drax’s crippling allergy to flutterwing feathers and Ushas’ susceptibility to hyperglycemia, but for the most part it’s a right dull read. Koschei suggests that they should have hacked their teachers’ files instead, but Theta is quite convinced that he doesn’t want to know anything about Lord Borusa’s physiology, thankyouverymuch.
So instead they start planting in facts. Theta is delighted to tailor his genetic data into the most desirable ever reviewed by young Time Ladies looking for the perfect match. Koschei just enjoys changing his reported eye color at random every other week and driving his classmates insane. It’s their first experience in changing rather than watching, and it’s not bad at all.
The next five years in the Academy are boring, so Theta and Koschei decide to build a TARDIS at home.
They both had do-it-yourself temporal engine kits when they were younger, so it doesn’t seem like too big a job. Koschei is curious as to how Theta thinks to pilot the TARDIS once it’s ready, considering that both of them flunk space-time navigation that semester, but some things are better left unasked. Besides, sleeping at lessons is keeping him awake at night, and Theta snores like a buzz saw. It takes them two hours to filch a full schematic for a Type 57 from the Citadel archives, and two weeks to admit to one another that they haven’t the faintest idea what to do with it.
“You’re doing it wrong!” Theta cries, appalled, when he finds out that Koschei had constructed a few smart little robots to do all the actual hand-work for them. Then he takes a sonic toolbox and gets down and dirty with the Time Vortex. Three weeks pass in which their room is constantly lit by one shade or another of blue, and Koschei falls out of the habit of sleeping at night altogether. Their professors are a bit surprised when the third attempts sees them both acing space-time navigation, but then a space-time navigator console blowing up in your face will do that to you.
They spend fervent hours on that TARDIS, sketching, welding, tinkering, generally getting themselves filthy and burned and excitable. They aren’t too sure what a TARDIS is supposed to look like yet, so it bulges in odd places and is vaguely hexagonal, which is Theta’s favorite shape. Theta starts calling it the Blob of Rassilon. It never takes off, but for five years they have a dream keeping them going but good.
The rest of the first decade in the Academy is boring, so Theta and Koschei decide to make friends with Ushas.
There’s this unspoken rule in the Prydonian chapter that says you don’t go too near Ushas if you can help it. For a while, Theta thinks this must be for some cruel and misunderstood social reasons, but then something big and green takes a swipe at his groin when he edges her lab door open and he gives that theory up. Koschei kindly refrains from saying I told you so, because he’s nice like that.
“She doesn’t want us to like her,” he stresses, but there’s no talking to Theta, who lives by the truism that everyone just wants to be liked, someplace deep inside. Recalling a certain tendency towards hyperglycemia, they randomly walk by her room with something sticky and sugary-smelling, and before they know it Ushas is running rampant about their room making comments about the chemical composition of the décor. Theta thinks she’s not so bad. Koschei just wishes he hadn't eaten that sticky thing. When his capacity for action degenerates into lying on his bed and moaning, Ushas fixes him something called tea and the friendship is cemented forever.
The next decade in the Academy is just as boring as the first, so Theta and Koschei decide to do some studying for a change.
Koschei is long out of the habit of sleeping at nights. Theta comes a heartbeat from being diagnosed as clinically unable to sit still for more than half an hour at a time. They’ve even made peace with Runcible outdoing them academically. And it’s not like they aren’t learning anything, they get practical experience. Or something, Theta says adamantly, because Theta is adamant about such things. Koschei lasts a week at doing his homework, but then Theta brings in a new type of spatial distortion lens and a box of filched industrial explosives and it all goes downhill. Theta lasts a day at the same, and for the rest of the week Koschei just does it for both of them, which is how they both knew this would end, really.
Theta compares studying on their own and studying in class to time travel as opposed to life on the slow lane. “You only really get someplace if you jump around till you land right on it. That’s how you learn the, you know, the environment. The context. You’re not stuck developing a single boring line of reasoning. You try it out, and see for yourself what works.”
“Or you explode,” Koschei says reasonably. Koschei is well-versed in time-related machinery exploding.
Theta snorts and hand-waves this. “Exploding is just part of the experience.”
The third decade in the Academy gets no less boring, so Theta and Koschei decide to revamp their quarters.
It is a long and delicate work that requires thought and concentration. Ushas calls them both insane, but then they aren’t surprised by that and possibly a little flattered. Their room is unlike any other room in the Academy because it’s dirty. Theta leaves unwashed plates and old socks behind him like a comet’s trail. Koschei takes apart everything and puts nothing back together.
They choose drapes. The drapes are pale yellow and flitter endearingly in the sunshine. They decide in favor of then against then again in favor of replacing the floor with something that looks and feels like and is for all purposes wood except the biological one, which Ushas approves of because she isn’t a fan of biology used frivolously. They let Ushas pick some pictures to hang on the walls because it seems like a nice thing to do, and she picks something abstract and colorful, which Theta claims reflects her personality very well.
After three months of intense work, during which Theta learns to hammer nails and Koschei learns not to trip over the Welcome rug first thing in the morning, Ushas gets them a tea set to celebrate a project well-completed.
“It’s not complete at all,” Theta says that night.
“Not in the slightest,” Koschei agrees.
Both of them are depressed for a while, because if they can’t even make the place they live in feel like home, what can they possibly ever get right?
The mural is Theta’s idea. Koschei paints it in a thousand dazzling colors, each shade as vivid as the glorious setting suns, the rolling hills, the silver sea they represent. When it’s done they spend a full day just sitting and staring at it, because they’re going to be Time Lords and they can afford to waste time like that if they want to.
“Why not stars?” Koschei asks. This is the third decade in the Academy and the stars have already gotten quite important to both of them.
Theta stretches back luxuriantly and falls across the bed. “Lots of stars,” he explains, “only one home.”
“That’s romantic,” Koschei accuses, but he doesn’t mind romantic as much as he thought he would.
The next week in the Academy goes back to being boring, so Koschei gathers up his courage and shoves Theta against the mural wall one day and kisses him till they both nearly suffocate.
The next year or so in the Academy isn’t so boring at all.
The following few decades in the Academy are boring, so Theta, Koschei and Ushas hatch the Great Escape Plan.
In a lot of ways, this is an inevitable development, and they welcome its coming like a breeze at the end of summer. They spend their nights outside, lying on each other in a complex geometrical formation and looking up at the stars. Theta babbles, Ushas muses, Koschei dreams.
“It’s not just learning how to pilot a TARDIS and not mucking up your own timeline,” Ushas says dryly. “It’s also a question of – “
“Outfits!” Theta raises a finger in a bold declaration. “Picking the right outfit. Vital if you want to blend in. Names. Sampling the local cuisine, dancing to the local music. Getting lost and ending up kissing complete strangers.” He prods Koschei with his foot.
“Mmm?” Koschei is mostly asleep. That’s just his luck.
Ushas is exasperated. “I meant, it’s a matter of knowing what to do with all that power and freedom, too. Wandering around so vast a continuum, purposeless, must be just as boring as staying right here. You shouldn’t joke, Theta.”
Theta actually laughs.
“And that’s where you’re wrong, dear Ushas,” he says. “We’ve said exactly the same thing.”
Graduation Day at the Academy comes by unreasonably fast.
For once, Theta and Koschei decide to look and act their part. Theta combs his hair into a semblance of straightness and arranges it properly under his new Prydonian hat. Koschei fiddles endlessly with his neckpiece, making it alternatively too loose or too tight. They both trip over their robes the first step they take out of the room.
“We’re not built for this,” Theta says as he tilts his hat off his eyes.
Outside the hall they stop, completely uncertain what happens now. Most of it isn’t so far fetched. Their room is waiting for at least one more night after the ceremony, and Ushas would likely have her own few ideas about how to celebrate, and there would be over the top imitations of Lord Borusa’s speech to be had tonight. They’re both looking forward to that sort of routine, really.
“You look stupid,” Theta remarks, his hand trembling on the door handle.
“At least my hair fits under the hat,” Koschei answers, stupidly, since it doesn’t.
They share a long, languid, defiant, hot kiss right outside the doors of the Panopticon, and Koschei puts his hand on Theta’s on that handle. He grins and Theta’s eyes twinkle.
“We made it after all,” Koschei says. “Congratulations, Theta.”
Theta laughs. “Congratulations, Koschei,” he says. “May we have an interesting life.”