Mickey raised his fist and pounded it on the door again. No one had answered the first time, but he'd seen some movement from the corner of his eye-someone was looking at him from behind the half-torn curtains. Why did he have to go running around the woods following some path that disappeared half the time? Rose got to wear fancy clothes and go inside the castle, while he got stuck with the tin dog errand again. And now he couldn't even do what he'd been sent to do.
"Hello!" he shouted. "I'm here for business!"
Finally a small square in the middle of the door slid open. "We're not open for business," said the old (really old) man whose face was half-visible.
"The Doctor sent me," Mickey blurted. "It's important."
The square closed again, and finally the door opened with a loud squeak. A wizened hand poked out and motioned for him to come inside, so he did.
It was dingy in the tiny house. A small table covered with breadcrumbs stood in the small central room; Mickey could see a fireplace with a big kettle in the corner.
"The Doctor, eh? You're not him, though, are you?" The old man had a wheeze in his voice.
"Me, nah. I'm way better looking." Mickey grinned as he said it, then decided that maybe the cocky attitude should wait until he knew more about this Miracle Max for himself.
"Does he still have the... you know." Max-or at least Mickey assumed this was Max-wiggled his hands on each side of his head.
"Oh, the big ears? No, now he has this crazy hair." Mickey started to wiggle his own fingers above his forehead in imitation of Max's gesture, then stopped himself. He collected his thoughts and said, "We're on an important mission and the Doctor said you would know how to help."
"Look, I don't know what the Doctor told you, but I'm retired now. Made a bundle of money after the King's stinking son got deposed, and now I don't have to work. I got stocks and bonds and gold." He grinned and Mickey could see a gold-capped tooth in the smile.
Mickey thought about how to go about this. He could try cajoling or bribery, but maybe another route would be better. He sighed and rolled his shoulders. "I guess I should have known better. It's too bad, though. I don't know how I'm going to break the news to the Doctor. I'm sure he'll understand, it's just..." He let his voice trail off in disappointment. Max was looking intrigued but it wasn't quite enough.
"I'm sure we'll figure out some other way to save the world." He took a step toward the door. Still no break from Max but at that moment a woman (at least, he thought she was a woman, it was hard to be sure under the wrinkles and rags) whirled out from the other part of the house.
"Save the world?" she rasped. "We'll do it!"
"Valerie, you don't even know what he wants us to do! It could be dangerous! It could be expensive!" Max said the last word with a melodramatic shriek that made Mickey jump.
The woman ignored his naysaying and sashayed over to Mickey. "Hello. I'm Valerie." She batted her eyelids and Mickey gingerly took her proffered hand in a handshake. Looking disappointed that he didn't kiss it, she said, "So nice to meet a friend of the Doctor's. Is he going to visit, too?"
"Erm. Possibly?" Mickey thought of their tight schedule. For someone who had a time-traveling box, the Doctor had a terrible habit of leaving hardly any time to accomplish saving the world. Of course, it's not like any of this was planned ahead of time. Disaster and chaos apparently had a magnetic pull for time travellers.
Max chimed in with another refusal. "I have a strict policy of neutrality when it comes to charity work-"
Valerie overrode his remarks. "So what do you need?" She was sliding her hand up his arm as she spoke. "A strong man like you, I'll bet you're very helpful in difficult situations." Both of her hands were now curled around his bicep and Max was glaring at him.
Mickey hadn't heard the word 'helpful' pronounced in such innuendo-laden tones before. "Um. A simple potion, really," he stammered. Valerie edged in closer-he thought maybe she was surreptitiously sniffing his chest? Okay, so the tin dog metaphor didn't quite cover it. Tin dog sounded like an enviable role right now, actually.
He wasn't sure if he should tell the Doctor and Rose that they owed him big-time or never to speak of this again.