Chapter Twenty One

The Doctor was angry. First, Rose gets abducted and now they were on a wild goose chase through a forest on an alien planet he didn't want to be on. He'd only just regenerated and he was still trying to adjust and a planetfull of alien cats wasn't helping that.

Not to mention he was surprised to find himself insanely jealous of Gaz and his marriage to Rose, even though he was the one that basically gave his blessing to it in the first place. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized how weak his tenth and eleventh selves had been. A weak, emotional man with vanity issues who pushed people away when he should be coveting them.

The Doctor was shocked and he stopped as he realized where his train of thought was leading him. The others, noticing he was no longer walking, stopped and looked back at him.

"Doctor, what is it?" Clara asked, walking over to him.

The Doctor glanced at her and didn't answer. He shook his head and walked away. But Clara was persistent and followed him while M'nan'do and Shi'tak'wa glanced at each other.

"Doctor, what is it?" Clara said as she followed him off the path.

"Clara, go away, I need to be alone!"

"No, I want to know what's going on, what is it?"

"CLARA!" the Doctor bellowed as he suddenly spun around.

He swallowed hard at the look of shock and hurt on his companion's face.

"I'm sorry, forgive me," he said.

"Doctor, what's going on?" Clara said.

She took his hand and to her relief, the Doctor didn't jerk it away.

"Doctor, please tell me what's happening," Clara said gently, ignoring M'nan'do and Shi'tak'wa who were now several feet away watching and listening to them.

"Clara…this reboot. This isn't normal and I think it's…affected me in many ways," the Doctor said as he stared at the ground. "Maybe it would have been better to just let the Daleks finish me."

"No, Doctor, you can't say that," Clara said, grabbing his arm. "The universe would have suffered if you hadn't regenerated. The universe needs you…I…need you."

Twelve looked at Clara and saw her misty eyes. He put his hands against her cheeks and gazed at her tenderly.

"It has often been said that my companions are faithful," he said to her. "And that is what you are, my faithful companion."

"Thanks," Clara said, holding back tears.

She turned to the two cats who were still watching them.

"You see, he's not evil," she said to them. "He's not a world destroyer. He saves worlds. You've got it all wrong!"

The Doctor wasn't entirely sure about that but he kept silent and let Clara have her say. Besides, he enjoyed watching his companion stand up to M'nan'do. He loved knowing that the alien cat would like to attack her but he knew he was scared to since M'nan'do kept looking at him.

"The Doctor is here to help," Clara finished saying. "But cross him and you'll find yourself in a world of trouble."

"So he is a destroyer," M'nan'do said smugly.

"No, I'm protective of the people I care about and travel with," the Doctor said, walking up beside Clara. "And that is why you will find Rose and…Gaz and take us to them. Is that understood?"

M'nan'do hissed.

"No hairless creature is going to tell me what…"

"M'nan'do, silence!" Shi'tak'wa barked at him.

M'nan'do was stunned and fell silent but his fur still bristled and he growled low in his throat as he stared at the Doctor. Shi'tak'wa ignored him and walked towards the Doctor and Clara.

"You are at war with yourself?" he asked the Doctor.

"You could say that," the Doctor replied.

"Why? Do you fear the prophecy is true?" Shi'tak'wa said as he studied him.

The Doctor lowered his head and swallowed hard.

"I don't…know," he said softly while Clara's heart ached for him. "I don't want to be a world destroyer. I thought I was once but it turned out not to be true. Sometimes, I don't know what I am and perhaps it was better that I didn't continue on, except that Clara thinks I'm essential to the universe…and she cares about me."

"There is always a choice, my friend," Shi'tak'wa said gently as he put his hand on the Doctor's arm. "Prophecies are not set in stone; they can come true or be prove false, it is up to you. If you know this prophecy then you can take steps to avoid making it a reality, is that so?"

"Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no," the Doctor said. "There have been times when I've tried to avoid a prophecy, only to end up being a part of it anyway."

"Perhaps, but I think you are a strong man and I think you have the power to change what has been written. It's all up to you," Shi'tak'wa said. "Now, shall we go find your friends?"

The Doctor nodded, glad that at least one cat was on his side. Shi'tak'wa patted the Doctor's arm before turning and telling his son to go on ahead. The Doctor sighed as M'nan'do glared at him, hissed softly and turned to lead them all further into the woods.

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