Author's Notes:
Originally posted to AO3.

"Common sense," says Mel, elaborately signaling patience. "That little voice in the back of your head that tells you when you’re being stupid. Don’t you have one?"

"That’s why I have you," he says.

(Idiot. Time-waster. You don’t even deflect well, says the little voice in the back of his head.)

It’s not one of his past selves. He doesn’t have regenerative dissonance—he doesn’t. Plenty of other issues, but his past faces are all comfortably incorporated into his gestalt sense of self. They’re all pleased to have become him, and why shouldn’t they be? Think how well they worked together, him and him and Peri and Jamie.

It doesn’t mean anything that he chose evidence from this body’s future for his defense over anything from the more distant past. It was just an attempt to bolster his defense with paradox, so that they’d have to let him live so he could go on and fight the Vervoids. It doesn’t mean he feels disconnected from his past.

(I will, though, says the voice, small and angry and expressive. Not from them. From you. I’ll bury you so deep you’ll never—)

But maybe it was a mistake to link himself into his own future like that. It gave him something to live for, for a while. He knew he wouldn’t die on Evelyn, would he, because he hadn’t met Mel yet and he still had that to do.

(She liked me when she saw me, says the voice. When you went on that whirlwind tour and we crossed timelines? She thought we were sweet, me and my companions. But you’re not sweet, are you? Oh no. Wouldn’t want to be. Sweet tooth, maybe. And you’ll never have the nerve to visit her at the end of her life, will you, because you run away from pain—)

And Constance and Flip and Grant and all the others, too, of course; he’d known somewhere in his mind that if he didn’t screw up the timeline too badly, he’d make it through.

Once he did meet Mel, which was a bit of a blur, but however it had happened—

(Can’t even keep two or three conflicting timelines straight. Just you wait—)

—it came almost as a relief when the distress signal came through and he realized it was the Vervoid affair. He couldn’t quite focus on his memories while the experience was ongoing, but he was pretty sure it didn’t go down exactly the way he’d seen it in the Matrix. No surprise there; he’d called it, hadn’t he? Said the evidence was fixed.

He saved the Vervoids’ DNA sequence, hid it in Professor Lasky’s notes. They could be recreated if it ever became safe. He hadn’t wanted to kill them, he wasn’t a murderer. Shame they were so dangerous; they were wonderful creatures, Peri would’ve been fascinated—

(If you hadn’t left her to—)

Shut up shut up shut up. As if you’ll never fail a companion.

(It shuts up for a moment. Mel is looking at him oddly. He pulls himself together, goes back to flying the TARDIS.)

Mel knows he’s cracked in the head, in general; he’s warned her in case the amnesia and the delusions ever come back. But he’s also told her they won’t, and she kindly—or diplomatically—never brings it up. If they did, he knows he could rely on her to be sensible and calming and only blame him a little bit. But he hasn’t told her about the voice, because she doesn’t need to know, because it’s not a mental issue, is it?

It’s just his future self, watching from the sidelines, heckling him. Like when you’re watching someone else try to open a jar and you’re convinced that if they only let you try— It doesn’t mean anything. Okay, so his next self has a mean streak, no patience for perceived failures. Well, what else is new.

But the voice has stepped it up in the past few however-long-it-is since the Vervoids. Any day now, it says. I’ll have my chance and then we’ll see.

I could have hundreds of years in this body yet, he says. Shut up and wait your turn.

Yeah, and when have you had that long in any body? You had your guarantee and it’s over. My turn’s coming soon. I’ve got a to-do list already, see—

He wants to stay in this bright, colorful, comfortable body. He doesn't want to move on, doesn't want to be one regeneration closer to the Valeyard. One death closer to the moment when he'll suck air into new lungs, scramble to his feet, find a mirror and see that harsh, narrow, bitter face looking back at him.

Coward, says the voice. You want to believe you never could, never would.

No, he knows he has it in him, but he wants to keep it inside.

You're getting just like him already. All loopholes and keeping your hands clean.

Shut up, he says again. Someday “shut up” will stop working entirely and he doesn’t know what he’ll do then. He tries visualization: tying a handkerchief around that half-remembered, half-anticipated mouth, the blue eyes bright and angry over it, the dark eyebrows working. Maybe that will keep the little meddler quiet until it’s his go.

He has the gag out in an instant, of course. He studied with Houdini. And he doesn’t really exist physically, not yet.

Visualization was a mistake.

Shame we can't both really live at the same time, he thinks for a moment. Have our cake and eat it too, you know?

We're neither of us good at sharing, says the voice sadly. Especially not with each other.

And there's only the one body, of course.

What a shame. Come on, let me have a go—

The Doctor makes himself think about other things, makes himself ask Mel where she wants to go next and listen to her answer. He’s going to make the best of the time he’s got—

(Fritter it away taking Mel on holiday—)

She deserves a break. They both do.

(She could be so much more, she’s a genius, she could learn—)

She’s his friend. He doesn’t ask for more than that.

(Fine then. I can be patient, I can wait. I’ll have my chance and then you’ll see, I’ll make the universe better—)

['No more self-accusation, self-flagellation, self-castigation. I don’t deserve it. None of me does. Not even the person I used to be. No need to lock him away, no need for any of me to blame myself. I keep thinking as though I killed him, but I didn’t. I’m not dead.' (Kate Orman, The Room with No Doors)]