Koschei had absolutely no interest in people. They were boring in most of the cases, perfectly easy to see through, all following the same pattern.
There were the parents, the grown Time Lords, craving for power, always more power, with their hollow words, their vacant eyes, their stiff movements.
There were the children, the people his age, nothing but pawns being moved in a chess game by their families and houses.
Koschei had early sworn to never become one of them. Their illusion of power and wisdom had turned them into empty shells, thinking they had reached their dreams, when in reality, no one stood out, no one was special, no one was anything the others weren’t.
He wasn’t going to be like everyone else.
And so he kept for himself when his first day of school started and he was surrounded by pawns. He kept to himself, happy with no company but his books, no company but pencil and paper. It was all he needed, all he ever had needed, all he ever had had.
The rest of the new children stood in a shrinking crowd awkwardly, waiting for someone to talk to them and free them out of their misery. Little groups had already found themselves, but nobody spoke to Koschei.
He sat there, waiting for someone showing him his room, a book in his lap and shutting himself off from the rest of the crowd.
At least that’s what the plan was.
Before brown, warm eyes found his and a face with a shaky smile plastered all over it, got so close to him, it was a miracle that round chin wasn’t lying on his pages yet.
“Can I help you?”
The boy grinned and he noticed how perfect his nose was – Perfect to put it into other people’s business (and books).
“Must be quite the read. Seems like nothing can get you to stop staring into that book. Care to share?”
Koschei looked at him with a dark glare for a few seconds, then decided he really, really wanted to get rid of him and showed him his book cover for a whole, generous second, before returning back to reading, pointedly ignoring the boy who was still standing in front of him.
“Never heard of it. What’s it about?”
“Listen,” Koschei said in a bored tone of voice, not even bothering to look up from his book. “You might be under the impression that I’m lonely and need some company – Which would be a quite wrong one. Or maybe you think “I’m lonely, I need some company – Hey, this guy likes books, let’s try him, I’m sure we’ll be great pals!” – Equally wrong. Let me just tell you here and now. Every impression you’re under when it comes to me? Wrong. Now go away.”
To his infinite annoyance, the boy laughed.
“Man, that’s an interesting book. Does it have a happy ending? Do they get together or something?”
Koschei looked up with a theatrical sigh, and noted, with surprise, that the eyes in front of him seemed to be… alive.
He frowned, and, for a single second, forgot what he was wanting to say.
“Do you think you’re funny?” he finally spluttered and to his absolute horror, the boy in front of him grinned.
“No, actually, I think I’m lonely and I need some company – And hey, this guy likes books, let’s try him, I’m sure we’ll be great pals!”
Koschei just stared.
“I don’t… want… to be your friend,” he finally brought out, caught completely off guard while this boy was beating him with his own guns.
And look at that, that awful, self-sufficient smile could grow even wider.
“Me neither, I’m really insufferable, I would never want to be my friend. So glad I have you for that!”
Koschei simply shook his head, eyes widened in shock. “You’re simply going to ignore everything I say to get rid of you, aren’t you?”
“What did you say? We’re friends now? Aw, that’s sweet! Appears a bit quick, really, but if you want to consider me your friend that desperately, I will….”
“Fine,” Koschei cut him off, and to his own surprise, felt a laugh in his voice. Oh. Oh. “I’m Koschei.”
The boy grinned.
“I know. We’re neighbours. Not that you ever noticed.”
“We… we are?” He let a hand wander through his hair sheepishly and watched the boy follow the movement with his eyes. Warm eyes, brown eyes, lost eyes, wide eyes, full of wonder for the simplest, easiest things.
And he felt a sting of recognition. Yes, he did know that kid. He had seen him walk through the village, head bowed, feet kicking stones through the dusty old streets, his father walking ahead, head held high and nose even higher.
“Right,” he said, trying to remember the details. “Right. Lungbarrow, right?”
“That is if you want to address the whole house, yes. But just between you and me, you can also use the name Theta.”
“Theta,” he tried it on and with a sudden frown, remembered that he wasn’t supposed to care. As if his tongue wanted to underline how little it cared about that sentiment, he repeated the name. “Theta.”
“Yep, that’s me! Nice to meet you, roomie!”
Oh, no, no, no, no! He had hoped of quiet and peace, maybe even being the one left over and getting a room for himself, never, in his wildest dreams, would he survive even a single week of sharing his room with this insufferable, never ending waterfall of words.
“No,” he said, a single word uttered fiercely and in determination, and Koschei was quite proud of how it didn’t convey any of his quiet desperation, his wildest fears, his absolute horror of even the idea of sharing a room with this talkative idiot, any of his hope that…. No. No hope. No hope at all.
There was something in Theta’s eyes, and Koschei would never ask, but he wasn’t sure, until this day, if it had been real or not – A flash of vulnerability, a flash of hurt, only there for a second, making these warm brown eyes looking sad and thoughtful and he sighed.
“Fine. But I’m warning you, if you’re even talking in your sleep, I will stuff your mouth with pillows.”
He didn’t like these eyes when they looked sad.
Theta’s immediately showed a bright smile and he took his hand, leading him through the crowds so quickly, Koschei almost lost the book he had on his lap. He stumbled after the boy, until he came to stop in front of one of the professors who were doing the sorting. He looked down on them with a single, raised eyebrow.
“We’d like to share a room!”
Koschei held back a growl.
Only after they had been reluctantly led into a double room, only after the man called Borusa assured them that they’d usually don’t take extra wishes and should shut up about it, only after the door had shut behind him and Theta had claimed his own bed with a wide smile and horrible sheets, he let the growl out, turning to the boy with this darkest glare.
“I thought it was already set. Not that you’d tell them to make us roommates.”
Theta shrugged. “That’s really not my fault. I didn’t say that it was already decided, not with one word!”
“I hate you.” He didn’t shout it, he didn’t even mean it as an insult, it was a simple fact, waiting to be stated.
Theta grinned. “Aw, look at us, we’re already so close, we’re at teasing level! I love this!”
Koschei shook his head, thinking that, clearly, he must be in shock because there simply was no other explanation for this boy being able to play him like this, to twist all of his words in whatever way he liked. Usually, Koschei wasn’t played by anyone.
“You’ll just… keep on doing this no matter what I say, aren’t you?”
For some weird reason, Theta’s little, quiet laugh wasn’t entirely unpleasant. He let himself fall on Koschei’s bed as if they’d already known each other for decades, looking up at him with an adorable little smile.
“Well, yes. Also, if you’re not saying anything. I can do this all day. It’s really easy, too.” He chuckled.
Koschei sighed. “I have to ask – Why me?”
“Oh, I liked your grumpy looks whenever someone disturbed your reading. Also – We’re neighbours.”
He stared, and, supressing a laugh, Theta stared back.
“We… are?” Koschei finally asked, not because he was trying to be rude, but because he genuinely didn’t know. "Right. No, you mentioned that."
“Yeah. The little villa next to your big villa, a bit off from your fields, you know, the one that isn’t actually little, but appears so in face of every single piece of swank your family has ever owned?”
He hesitated, unsure how to react. It wasn’t that he didn’t remember Theta per se. He remembered walking down the land road with his father, he remembered meeting their family, even greeting them. He remembered a lot of stuck up noses – not excluding his own one -, he remembered his parent’s nasty talk about “this house”.
And even thought he truly couldn’t say he had ever taken notice enough to actually recognize Theta here and now… there had been something he had noticed.
“You… you made the music.”
Theta nodded with a little smile, and even though Koschei had realized the second he had said the word “neighbours”, had known the second he had connected these sweet sounds with this boy, and realized that yes, it was so obvious now, so clear, it came as a bit of a shock.
“I… I listened… sometimes. I don’t know how you do it, but it’s… I liked it.”
“I know,” he said quietly. “I saw you sitting underneath my window. You looked so… so lost sometimes. Like you’re all alone in the world, with no one understanding you. And you’re not exactly the type of person to talk to people, so I thought… you know, music always helped me…”
Koschei finally comprehended what he was talking about, his eyes widening in surprise.
“You played for me?”
There appeared a gentle, shaky smile on Theta’s face and for the first time since he’s met that boy, he seemed to be genuinely nervous.
“Music doesn’t judge, music just… understands. I played you a song from my hearts and you… you felt it.”
That first night, Koschei lay wide awake, thinking about all the things about himself, Theta had understood without speaking a single word with him, and thought about how silly it was that only a few hours ago, he thought he would never be understood by anyone.
He had heard of falling in love. Never, in his wildest dreams, had Koschei thought it would ever happen to him, and in a way, it didn’t.
This wasn’t falling in love, not really. This was waking up one day, realizing you had always been in love and just needed to admit it.
His hearts seemed to have known Theta all along. In a way, they were the same. They both felt they didn’t belong, and really, they didn’t. They were bigger than this planet, craving to travel the universe, travel to get out and be free across the stars.
They were top of their classes, even with all the trouble they got into, and they were both, outcasts and wildly popular, they were like stardust, floating in their own universe, slightly out of reach for everyone else.
And still, he discovered Theta every day anew.
All his life, Koschei had seen the ever-same patterns in people, the ever same boring ways, the same striving for power, but Theta was the opposite of everyone he had ever met, Theta was unique, and he knew, deep in his hearts, he would never find anyone like him again.
He seemed to have his mind in the stars, never quite there, never quite in reach, even for Koschei he sometimes seemed so far away that he couldn’t help but envy the universe. There were thoughts, so complex, sometimes he caught them in the boy’s mind, trying to break out, trying to change the world, but always being held back by the knowledge that no one would truly understand. At times, when Theta realized that Koschei had sensed them, he looked at him with wide, brown eyes, as if he silently pleaded for him to tell him that yes, I get it, I hear you, I can follow.
And maybe he did, but Koschei was never really sure, and never really feeling the intensity of things as Theta felt them, and so he never told him.
There were other things in his mind, and Koschei could only ever suspect the true depth of it – Where he had been left bored in the patterns the world worked in, he could feel it hurting Theta deeply. The ache sometimes seemed so overwhelming, he had to flee his mind, resort to his own, while holding his friend tightly, assuring him that he was here, that he would never, not once, let him fall into that pit.
Sometimes, in hushed words, Theta would explain, but Koschei never quite grasped the meaning. He’d explain that, yes, he could see the patterns too, but they didn’t bore him, they frightened him. He told him that not belonging was the lesser of two evils, something he was used to, but that an absence of love, and closeness and kindness in people made him wonder, always wonder, of what the universe truly consisted.
And there were nights, quiet, gloomy nights, disturbed from nothing but Theta’s peaceful snores, when Koschei lay wide awake, his thoughts occupied by the depth of this small creature’s mind, the intenseness he felt for everyone but himself, and the way it seemed to consume his whole soul. Even though Koschei was sure he had never loved before, he also knew, deep in his hearts, that no one on this planet would ever love like he loved Theta, and that he never, not in this life time and not in a single other one, would love anyone else as he loved him.
It was the scariest thing he had ever felt, and time after time, a little whisper sneaked into his head, telling him with vicious voices, that this couldn’t be his own, that surely, Theta must have infected him, invaded him, completely taking him over with his way of feeling so much more than anyone else.
He didn’t mind – Loving Theta was the biggest adventure he was ever going to have, and he enjoyed every single second of it.
It took them almost two years to realize they had bonded. They didn’t know when it had happened, both assumed it must’ve been a gradual process for them both not to notice. Their minds, one so often occupied with the other, had entangled together more and more, until they were simply inseparable, until neither boy was sure anymore, where their own started and the other’s ended.
They sat in the library one day, looking up the implications.
“Oh,” said Theta, pointing at the line about how only adult Time Lords could reach the capacity to bond their minds together, as it was a process that required true maturity and deeper feelings than children could ever feel.
“Hm,” said Koschei, pointing at the line saying that it was necessary to always have the bond created with help of a trained Time Lord, as it was a dangerous and delicate endeavour, having caused many Time Lords to go mad over the history of time.
They both looked at each other with a grin, only seeing confirmed what they had already known – That they loved more than others, deeper than others, easier than others, and far, far more endless.
It took Theta decades to realize that Koschei truly was going mad.
It took Koschei even longer.
But one winter night, they lay underneath the stars together, both lost in their own thoughts which hadn’t truly been their own since their early childhood.
“Are you ever going to let me go?” Theta asked, because he had to, because Koschei had hidden the reply so deep inside, he couldn’t find it. “Or are you going to drag me down with you?”
A stream of anger flooded through their bond, and it didn’t scare Theta anymore, it was a feeling so familiar, it almost bored him.
“You want to leave me alone in my despair?”
Theta shrugged. “I don’t want to drown with you. I want to come up for air as long as I still can.”
It was an easy thing to say, really, when Koschei already knew. There were no secrets between them, no unspoken words, no own ideas. He knew it hurt him, but he also knew not saying it wouldn’t hurt him less.
“I don’t want to drown alone,” Koschei replied quietly, tonelessly, and that was it. There was no leaving when he wouldn’t let him, there was no breathing while one half of him was drowning, and no need for discussion, when one part of him had already decided.
But one night, another silent night, Koschei lay awake, in despair, breaking underneath the weight of love for Theta. And that night was all he had, a tiny, little window in which Koschei’s mind had almost completely pulled out of his own, had fled to the rims of themselves, and Theta could feel himself becoming what he never wanted to be – The only person in a universe full of strangers.
He could still feel the aftertastes of Koschei’s thoughts, echoing in his mind, he could feel the test for what it was, the silent question of “Will you stay if I let you leave?” and with a silent apology, a plea for understanding, a cry, a shout, a deep sting of pain, all of which Koschei never heard, he ran.