First, they had sex.
This, actually, was not part of the standard procedure. A human from the twentieth (or twenty-first) century might look askance at such a statement, but it was true. Sex and birth may be hopelessly intertwined among the more primitives species, but on the planet of Gallifrey—the shining jewel of the Kasterborous constellation—people were civilized.
However, the young Time Lady whose birth name was commonly shortened to Ushas and the young Time Lord who most people then called Theta Sigma were recent Prydonian Academy graduates and rebels in all things. The customs of primitive species were something their elders looked down upon—hence, they were something Ushas and Theta embraced. So in order to mark their decision to reproduce together, the two of them had sex. And they invited Koschei to watch.
Koschei was the third member of their little trio from the Academy. He and Theta had grown up together, sons of the same great House. They'd met Ushas shortly after matriculating and had hated her on first sight—she was, after all, such a frightful know-it-all. It had taken almost a year to warm up to her and in the end her lying about who'd let the paradox dragons out of their pen had a lot to do with it. However, by the end of their first decade as schoolchildren the three were inseparable. They may have had other friends—Drax and Runcible were two of note—but they always were most intimate with each other.
And so Koschei watched, chin on hand, as his two best friends screwed in the shade of the silver-leafed tree. It was less than elegant, but much more convenient than the more civilized form of sexual intercourse that their elders would on occasion perform. It looked more fun too. The official rite involved bells and chanting and ritual robes, which were so complicated that disrobing took an hour. There were drums as well, which Koschei rather liked. Otherwise, however, it was very boring to watch. The parts went into roughly the same places, but otherwise the Gallifreyan Rite of Sexual Congress was as different from his friends' frenzied coupling as could be.
"That looks fun," he said when he thought they were done. "D'you think I could have a turn in a little bit?"
"In a little," said Theta. "I need to get my wind back." He shook his head. "It's a wonder that primitives find time to get anything done."
"Only the very young are able to perform repeatedly," said Ushas dryly. "For the most part, the older members of those species have to take quality over quantity."
"It's no wonder so many of them have trouble with population control," said Koschei, drumming his fingers on the trunk of the tree. "I mean, I wasn't even taking part and I wanted so badly—"
"And just which one of us were you wanting, hmm?" Theta retorted, grinning in spite of himself.
Koschei laughed. "You. Both of you. How you are going to keep your hands off each other long enough to engineer your child, that's what I want to know."
"Well," said Theta thoughtfully. "We could always pay for an artificial womb and someone to fertilize one of Ushas' eggs."
"We are not," said Ushas heatedly. "I can't believe you'd even contemplate such a thing, Theta. We are scions of the Time Lords of Gallifrey and alumni of the Prydonian Academy—"
"—so it's loom or nothing?" Koschei guessed. He shook his head "Really, Ushas, I wouldn't have pegged you for such a snob."
Ushas sniffed. "It's not snobbery," she said. "It's a desire for superior results."
"Well," said Theta finally, "I suppose the other children at the Academy would give him a hard time if it came out he was gestated and not woven."
Koschei clapped his hand on Theta's shoulder. "There, Ushas—you see? He'll bow to superior logic."
"Just as well," said Ushas, lazily. "Otherwise I might have to recruit you in his place and nothing good would come from combining our genetic material."
Koschei made a face. "Oh no. I am not going to play father. Let me be the doting uncle, please. I'll teach him to hotwire TARDISes and mouth off to authority."
"It could be a her," Ushas pointed out, just for the sake of it.
"Or her," said Koschei, making a face at her. "The point is, you ought to get started on it or we'll be ten regenerations on and you still won't have put on your robes."
"Just for that, I'm not letting you have primitive sexual intercourse with me," said Ushas, rolling her eyes. Really, Koschei could be so tiresome at times.
"That's all right," said Theta with a grin. "He can have it with me." And then Koschei tackled Theta and very little was said for the time being.
Theta and Ushas were rebels in all things (well, except for Ushas when it came to genetic looms versus artificial wombs) and thus it shouldn't really surprise anyone that they began messing around with their progeny's genetic sequence long before they got their loom application approved by the Gallifreyan Reproductive Council. In fact, they'd finished preparing the genetic material weeks ahead of time and it had been sitting undisturbed in a corner of Ushas' laboratory since then.
Looking back on it all, the Time Lord who had once been Theta Sigma would wonder if that was why things had turned out the way they had, or if his own highly anomalous nature had been the cause of his child's trouble. For indeed, the child—a perfectly healthy baby Time Lord with the right number of fingers and toes—would prove to be troubled. He was also no less eccentric than his parents, having decided at an early age than instead of shortening his polysyllabic name to the customary first syllables of Listick, he would instead be known to all and sundry by the final syllable: 'Bob.'
During his first seven years of life, however, nothing seemed wrong. It was only upon returning from the Academy on holiday that something in young Bob had changed. He seemed… jumpier. Something Theta couldn't quite put his finger on. He told Koschei about it, but Koschei laughed and said Theta was worrying about nothing. And he supposed Koschei would know, given how close he'd always been to the child. If anything, they were even closer now.
They would become closer still as the years went by and Bob grew to resent both of his parents. He never wanted to talk to anyone when he came home from school—he only locked himself in his room and played music loud enough that the other inhabitants of the House would pound on his doors, yelling at him to keep that racket down. He also thought ceremonial robes were stupid-looking. (In this Theta secretly agreed with him.)
About the only time Bob would ever come out of his room was when Koschei was home from wherever it was that he was always disappearing to. Theta never really knew, though he suspected his son did. Wherever it was, Theta suspected it was dangerous. Koschei was already on his first regeneration by the time Bob was thirty. "Never underestimate Ivan Tsarvich," was all Koschei would say.
Theta would have brought it up with Ushas, only they didn't really talk anymore. Ushas was busy with her biological experiments—she didn't even call herself Ushas anymore. The Rani, she called herself, and when Theta attempted to call upon her to talk, she warned him to get out before he contaminated her semi-sentient fungi with the air from his lungs.
She'd changed, Theta thought, just as Koschei had. Even he wasn't truly the same as he'd been that golden afternoon, so many years ago.
Sometimes Bob would tap his own rhythm in counterpoint to Koschei's. Theta didn't let on how much that made him feel like a stranger in his own House.
The Master was a new man when he entered Theta's study. That was the first thing Theta noticed. The Master's hair color was lighter than it had been in his last incarnation—a mousey brown as opposed to the black Theta was accustomed to—and his robes were no longer the scarlet and orange of the Prydonians, but a stark and startling black.
"Hmmm," said Theta, looking him over. "You know, I think black suits you. Will Bob be along or is he with…" Theta waved his hand, as to indicate that the Master would know who he was talking about. Theta could never remember the name of the young Time Lady that Bob had become close to. The two of them had started going with the Master on his mysterious journeys soon after Bob had graduated from the Academy. They were gone sometimes for years at a time—once for a full decade—and Theta had never let on how lonely it made him feel.
"How very odd," Theta said after a moment, when it seemed like the Master wasn't going to say anything. "I hadn't expected you back so early—though I suppose that was foolish of me, considering that they'd want to be home to see their child leave the loom."
"There was an accident," said the Master quietly, "at a black hole."
And quite suddenly, there was no air in the room to breathe. "And my son… are they both…"
"I'm sorry, Theta," the Master said and Theta knew that he meant it. Knew that it would have never happened if his son hadn't gone with the Master.
"Don't call me that," the Time Lord who'd been Theta said, angry and not sure who he was furious at. "It's not me anymore, no more than you are Koschei or the Rani is Ushas. My name's not Theta Sigma—it never was, that was only what everyone called me. Because I told them to. But that's not me. I'm…" He groped for the word, the right word. Words came hard to him sometimes—he had a tendency to mix them up if he didn't watch himself. He didn't want the wrong word, the wrong name.
"I'm the Doctor," he said finally and he knew it was the right word, the right name, and that ultimately, it didn't matter.
The Master nodded slowly. "There's still the matter of the child, Doctor."
The Doctor looked away. "There is," he said, and there was still a certain breathless quality to his voice. "My granddaughter…she'll be quite alone in the world."
"No," the Master said, placing a hand on the Doctor's shoulder. "She'll have you."
Her name in the short form was Susan and when she ran away from the Academy the Doctor decided to run with her.