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Chapter 44

The Doctor pulled the lever that would send the TARDIS back into the vortex after leaving Rain and Jet on the Earth-like planet. "So do you actually have any idea what you're going to do to 'fix this'?" River asked.

He ran a hand through his hair in agitation before answering. "Why does everyone always expect me to have a plan?"

River gave him a look that was obviously meant to say, because you always do have a plan.

"Okay, okay," the Doctor said. "But this one isn't that simple. If I knew how to just expel the Silence from someone's mind, I would have done it to you on the day we met in Berlin!"

He did have a point there. "Okay, so even if you can't fully get rid of the Silence's influence, there must be a way to at least weaken it."

The Doctor groaned. "Yes, there probably is; I just don't know it yet!"

River could tell that he was stressed out right now. "Sweetie, just sit down and relax. Maybe take the day off. You aren't going to get anywhere in this state."

He sighed. As much as he hated to admit it, she was right. "Fine. Fine, you're right." At that, he fell into the captain's chair, closing his eyes as he attempted to calm down.

River took this as an opportunity to go check on Storm. He had been quieter than usual today, and she would have been suspicious of this if she hadn't been so busy trying to reason with the Doctor.

As she walked into Storm's room, she noticed something rather odd. One of the bars of the crib had been broken in half and lay on the floor of the room. River cringed as she walked closer, confirming what she was already afraid of: Storm was gone. But no one had broken into the TARDIS. After the new security they'd added, that would be impossible. As she examined the inside of the crib, she saw scratches on several other bars. From what she could gather, River came to the conclusion that Storm had broken out. She chuckled to herself. It was only natural, since his mother was a master of breaking out of prison.

Unfortunately, she had no idea how long Storm had been gone. He could have broken out hours ago. In that time, he could have gone any number of places in the TARDIS. River considered not telling the Doctor, as she didn't want to worry him with anything else. However, she finally decided that Storm would be easier to find if more than one person was looking for him.

So now she calmly made her way back to the console room, where the Doctor hadn't moved since she'd been in there last. "Um . . . Doctor?"

He didn't open his eyes when he spoke. "Yes?"

"We might have a problem."

Groaning, he ran his hands over his face a couple of times before standing up to face River. "What sort of problem?"

River wasn't exactly sure what the most believable way to word this was. "I think Storm . . . escaped."

The Doctor raised one eyebrow sarcastically, a smile playing at his lips. "He escaped?"

"It's true!" she insisted. "One of the wooden bars on his crib was broken. It had scratches on it, like he had tried to break it."

Her words were starting to convince him, yet he still wasn't sure how much of this he believed. "How long ago did he break out?"

River rolled her eyes. "If I had known that, I would've been searching for him sooner!"

"Okay," the Doctor said, now thoroughly convinced. "That means we don't know how far he's gone. Still, I think it would be best to check the rooms closest to his first." He began to run down the hall that led to Storm's room as River followed him. Once there, he turned on his heels to face her. "Right. Now, we'll probably find him sooner if we split up. I'll go that way," he said, motioning to a hall that branched out to the left, "and you go that way," he said once more, pointing in the opposite direction he had the first time.

River ran down the hall, looking in door after door, but all the rooms she looked in seemed to be empty storage rooms that the Doctor had never needed to use. Needless to say, Storm wasn't in any of them. Still, River continued on, as she didn't know how far Storm was capable of getting.

Meanwhile, the Doctor was moving at a slower pace, as the doors he was looking in actually held large, important rooms with many cracks and crevices that a baby could easily hide behind.

The first room he came to was the library. That one was fairly easy. The shelves lined the walls, so there was no way that Storm could be hiding behind them. There were a few chairs, but the Doctor made sure that the boy wasn't in any of them. Once he was convinced that his son was not in that room, he hurriedly left. After what happened with River in his last regeneration, libraries still made him feel anxious and guilty.

The next room he entered was the gym. He laughed at the site of it. Sexy always added a gym, but he had yet to use it. After all, he did quite a bit of running without it. Still, he took the time to look around all the equipment. As expected, though, Storm was nowhere to be found, so the Doctor moved on to the next room.

This one was the swimming pool. It was Olympic-sized, complete with three slides and a high dive. He rarely ever used it, but it still looked like a lot of fun. The first things he checked were the slides. No Storm. Next, he looked down at the clear water to make sure that the boy hadn't fallen in. No Storm. Finally, he checked the high dive. No Sto-

The Doctor had to do a double-take. There, on the ledge of the board was Storm, laughing as if he thought that this whole goose chase was funny. The Doctor's eyes were wide as he slowly ascended the ladder, not wanting to scare Storm and cause him to fall.

"Stormy," he called gently once he reached the top. "Stormy, come to Doctor." Yes, he realized that it sounded like he was talking to a dog rather than his son, but it was all he could think to say.

Now Storm's eyes connected with his. Those bright blue, stormy eyes connected with the Doctor's, and for a minute, seemed to be filled with a mischief that surpassed his years. The boy wriggled closer to the ledge.

"No!" the Doctor called, a little louder than he had meant, causing it to echo through the room. "Stormy, wrong way. Come this way!" He pulled out his sonic now, pressing the button on its side. This seemed to attract Storm's attention. "That's right, Stormy! Come to the pretty light."

It almost worked, too. Storm was so captivated that he actually did lean forward slightly. However, once he realized what the Doctor was doing, he wriggled backward once more. The Doctor gasped, expecting him to fall, but he never did. "Stormy! You've got to stop doing that! Just come this way." Maybe it was the Doctor's imagination, but the boy seemed to actually shake his head. "Well, if you're not going to come to me, I'll just have to come to you."

At this, the Doctor began to step hesitantly onto the board, walking slowly once more, in order not to scare Storm. He took step after step until he finally stood right in front of Storm. In one more step, he could pick up his son and take him back to his crib. The Doctor picked up one foot, preparing to set it down slowly. Suddenly, Storm shot forward, crawling between his father's legs. The displacement of weight on the board caused it to shake, sending the Doctor sprawling into the pool below.

As he surfaced, gasping, from the pool, the Doctor noticed that Storm now sat safely on the ground, looking innocent, as if nothing had happened. Now, the Doctor picked him up and left the pool, heading toward Storm's room.

Before he could get there, though, he ran into River. She immediately started laughing at his dripping appearance. "Have a little trouble, Sweetie?"

"Don't. Ask," he answered. But even he couldn't help but laugh.

River smiled as he handed Storm over to her. "Well, I guess that's one way to cheer you up."

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