Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who
A/N: This is meant to take place a little more than month after the sixth Doctor has regenerated (meaning Peri hasn't quite gotten used to him yet and probably still considers him to be slightly unstable). Peri was good for the Doctor, I suppose, but I liked Melanie (curly ginger hair, whatdaya know) better. Still, Peri was in the majority of the episodes, so I used her.
Amy took one look out of the door before shouting, "Doctor!"
"You've landed us in a freezer."
The Doctor poked his head out the door. He glanced around at all the frost-covered food. "Yes, well, the janitor's closet was too small, so I had to go for next best thing."
"Where are we, then, huh? Some sort of microwave-food restaurant?" Amy asked, picking up a box a that advertised an 'Instant warm-up (very tasty) meal!'.
The Doctor picked up one of the boxes, took one look at the picture, and stuck out his tongue. "Blech. I'm glad I never ate here – definitely not an Marie Antoine Carême," he determined instantly. He flung the distasteful food in the corner.
"So is it a restaurant or not?" Amy prompted.
The Doctor shrugged. "It's more of a drinks place."
"You mean a bar, sweetie."
The Doctor sent River, who had just stepped out of the Tardis, a look. "To put it bluntly," he sniffed.
River let out an exasperated sigh. "Let's not be prejudiced just because you think alcoholic beverages taste like Dagoon swamp water."
"They do!" the Doctor exclaimed.
"Besides," he added. "The bartender here is absolutely horrible – he didn't know where anything was. And I'm still waiting for my order."
"Lemonade?" Amy inquired. River smirked.
The Doctor sniffed.
"So where's Rory?" the Doctor asked, changing the subject. He peered back into the Tardis. "RORY!"
A muffled, "Almost done!" came back.
"Finishing breakfast," the Doctor informed.
"Have fun waiting. I'll be in the 'restaurant', watching for you," River said. She turned the freezer-door's long handle. "Cheerio, then."
"See you!" the Doctor said, giving her a wave. Then the door was shut, cutting off the flow of warm air.
River canvased the bar's dim interior and came to the immediate conclusion that this was a smuggler's joint. It made her glad that she'd changed clothes – that blue dress was much too ritzy for this place.
What in the universe would compel the Doctor to come in a place like this was beyond her – it looked too run down to carry much importance in the Doctor's work. Most of his contacts (even the shady ones) usually hung out in more propitious locations. This was just a corner nightclub on some out-placed earth colony.
Still, the Doctor claimed he'd been here.
So River slid past a table of gamblers and sat herself at the counter next to the most well-dressed person in the room.
He wasn't bad looking either.
River looked up to see the greasy bartender baring down on her. "Lady!" he said loudly.
"Yes?" she asked, putting her elbow on the counter.
"You gonna order anything?" he asked snappishly, cleaning out a glass with a grayish rag.
River raised her eyebrows. She doubted the drinks were any better than the food. So she leaned forward and tried, "I'm meeting someone."
The man leaned closer and she had to focus on not flinching as his fowl breath hit her nose. "Pay, or leave."
"That's a bit rude," she said sweetly.
The man snarled.
"Hey," the man next to her said. He flipped the bartender a silver coin. "Leave the lady alone."
The greasy man caught the coin and rubbed his fingers over it greedily. After sending River a nasty look, he nodded at the smartly-dressed man. "As you will, sir."
Someone in the back shouted out a meal order.
The bartender grumbled, but quickly shuffled through to the kitchen door. He wasn't going to miss a chance to cheat someone out of their money.
"Thanks," River said, turning her head to get a good look at her well-dressed rescuer.
"Ah, I'm sure you had it all under control," the man said casually, leaning back in his seat. "But we smugglers need ol' Harry alive. He's one of the few bar owners that let us operate in the open. Plus... I like helping out pretty ladies."
River gave him a wry look. "I'm sure you do," she said, tracing the patterns on the counter with her finger, while keeping full eye contact with the man.
"So," the man said, relaxing. "Who are you meeting? Not romantic I hope."
River's eyes flashed. "Heaven help the man who tries to take me on a date to this place," she said in a matter-of-fact tone. "I think I'd murder him."
The man next to her chuckled.
"I imagine you would."
"So what's your name?" River asked. "Are you into smuggling weapons? That's a nice Bowzer automatic you have, hanging by your belt."
The man smiled. "So you appreciate weaponry, huh? I'm suddenly liking you even more. The name's Ricky Keyes." He held out his hand.
She gave him her hand, only to have him bring it to his lips and kiss her knuckles gently. "Melody Smith," she intoned, noticing how he'd avoided mentioning what sort of trade he dealt with.
A loud yelp came from the back room and her hand was dropped gacelessly.
Ricky had glanced up sharply. "That was Harry," he said stiffly, looking nervous. River suddenly got the distinct impression that the man was new in the smuggling business. For all his smooth-talking, he was far too jumpy.
None of the other clients seemed to have heard the yell, or (more likely) they didn't care.
And then came a muffled, "Rory, what did you just do?"
"He was manhandling my wife!" the clear tones of her father came from the back.
"Oh," was the Doctor's reply.
"I'm fine, Rory," Amy replied, sounding annoyed. "Nice punch, though."
River let out an exasperated sigh. "I leave that man alone for two minutes..."
Ricky frowned. "Who's back there?" he asked.
River smacked her lips. "A babysitting job."
The smuggler looked unimpressed, and slightly suspicious.
Just then, the Doctor managed to come bumbling through the kitchen's entrance, closely trailed by Amy and Rory, who both had wrinkled noses – probably due to the rapacious smell of cheap alcohol and sweaty men. River sighed again. The idiot hadn't even bothered to look for the side exit, the one that came from and led to the loo.
The Doctor was glancing around wildly before he relaxed and said in a stuffy tone, "Oh good, I'm not here yet."
Ricky raised his eyebrows.
Amy looked disappointed. "Oh, you mean you're not the hot guy sitting next to River?"
Both the Doctor and Rory gave the Scottish girl a discomfited look.
"No, of course not," the Doctor said, looking miffed, while simultaneously, Rory was asking, "What do you mean, he's hot?"
"Well, he is!" Amy defended, gesturing at Ricky. "Isn't he River?"
River wished her mother hadn't addressed her directly.
"Yes, dear," she said. "Now go sit in a corner like your supposed to."
Rory on the other hand, was all for it. He grabbed her arm. "C'mon," he muttered, "people are giving us strange looks. Besides, he could show up at any minute."
At this, Amy cheered up slightly, and she let her husband drag her around the counter to an empty table tucked in the shadows. They sat down, both nervous by all the attention they were receiving. Rory rectified this by slouching and making himself look small as possible, while Amy straightened her back and stared defiantly at anyone who dared look their way.
"What in the blazes is going on?" Ricky hissed. "You aren't police are you? And I thought your name was Melody Smith."
The Doctor leaned against the counter and chuckled.
"What's so funny?" Ricky asked. River noticed his hands were drifting towards his gun.
The Doctor glanced at River. "I'm just trying to imagine her upholding the law, is all," he said, amused.
"Doctor," River warned.
"What?" he asked, indignant.
Oh, he was hard young!
"You're supposed to be sitting with Amy and Rory," she reminded coolly.
"Won't you introduce us before he leaves?" Ricky asked, a dangerous edge in his voice.
The Doctor gave him an annoying smile. "No need. I remember you well enough, Ricky the smuggler," he stated.
River clenched her teeth.
Ricky leaned forward. "I'm sorry, I can't place your face," he said, eyes shooting high-frequency lasers.
"You wouldn't," the Doctor said, looking smug. "You haven't actually me yet."
"Doctor!" River hissed. If he said one more word...
"If you lied about being the police..." Ricky drew his gun and set it on the counter as a promise.
The Doctor balked.
River groaned. The guy really was an amateur – threatening people in such an obvious manner.
A second later, the door at the front of the bar swung open. The bell hanging over the entrance jangled loudly, and rang loudly again as the weights forced the door closed. Two people had just entered the bar, and neither seemed to notice that all eyes were focused on them, for a fairly good reason too.
"Ech! Doctor," the girl whined, "this place smells horrible! It's so... dingy."
The man beside her sighed. He was waving a hand in front of his nose, as if that alone would rid the atmosphere of its fetidness. "Peri, this is one of those rare circumstances where I happen to agree with you. Unfortunately, there's not much we can do about it."
He strode up to the counter, not noticing Amy, who was following him with her eyes, a horrified expression on her face. River saw her mouth to Rory, "And I thought the bow-tie was bad."
The brightly dressed Doctor banged on the counter, looking at his older self without a hint of recognition.
"Bartender," he ordered pompously. "Me and my associate would like a couple lemonades – if your establishment even has lemonade, which I highly doubt."
"Doctor," Peri huffed, "this is a bar – and an awful one by the looks of it. Bars don't sell lemonade."
The Doctor pursed his lips. "Well that's all I feel like at the moment, so they'll just have to deal with it." He looked back at his older self, who had a shell-shocked expression on his face. "Well? Do will you be able to fill my order or not?"
The 'bartender' swallowed and finally managed, "Erm... I'll think I'm going to have to check on that one."
The Doctor looked unamused. When the bartender made no move to try and fulfill his order, he gave an exasperated sigh.
"I need to start carrying a canteen around with me," he muttered.
"Like Mad-Eye Moody?" Peri asked. "The one from those Harry Potter books?"
"Exactly," the Doctor said. Then he gave his young companion an appreciative look. "You finally finished those?"
"What do you mean, finally?" Peri asked, sounding offended. "It only took me five weeks to read all seven."
The Doctor snorted.
Peri was about to defend her case when he broke her concentration by shouting at his older self, who was trying to slowly back out of the room.
"Wait just a minute! I also need to identify a 'Ricky Keyes'," the Doctor said. Beside her, River could feel Ricky freeze. "An informant told me I could find him here."
The Doctor, who was rooted in front of the kitchen door, flitted his gaze towards the smuggler. This didn't go unnoticed by his younger self, who immediately turned to face the people sitting four feet away. The older Doctor took the opportunity to bolt into the back room.
Before sitting down, the Doctor flicked the tail of his waistcoat away from him, not wanting to chance getting it soiled by the greasy-looking seats. Following his example, Peri gingerly took the stool next to him.
"Who told you about me?" Ricky rasped. He looked nervous.
The Doctor clapped his hands together. "So you are Ricky, then! Good, I wasn't sure."
Ricky squirmed, realizing his mistake.
River decided to bring attention to her own presence. "And who are you?" River asked the Doctor, examining her fingernails.
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "The Doctor," he said. "But why should I be talking to you? Unless I have this wrong – I rarely do – and you're Ricky..." he suggested mockingly.
River was unappreciative.
"If I was," she began, "what would you want me for?"
The Doctor looked at the ceiling.
Then he turned his gaze on Peri and asked cynically, "Is your species entirely incapable of being monosemous?"
Peri scowled at him. "That's not even a word," she snorted.
River leaned across the space in front of the Doctor and whispered helpfully, "He means 'unambiguous'."
Peri wrinkled her nose and gave River a look of dislike. River figured she probably didn't know what 'unambiguous' meant either.
Apparently the Doctor was having the same thoughts because he leaned against his elbow and asked his companion, a small smile on his lips, "You do know what 'unambiguous' means, don't you?"
The American girl gave him a ruffled look. "Of course I do!" she exclaimed. "I'm not stupid you know." Then, to prove that she did, went on to say, "It means 'to only have one meaning'."
"Very good," the Doctor congratulated dryly. "I was only checking. You did take five weeks to read the Harry Potter series, after all."
"Only because you're always dragging me off to chase after all those weird aliens! I barely have any time to relax," Peri defended. River could actually see her point. There wasn't much time for reading when you were traveling with the Doctor.
"Five. Weeks," the Doctor emphasized.
Peri rolled her eyes. "I'm never reading anything you ever suggest to me again," she muttered.
The Doctor frowned. "What kind of petty attitude is that? I still haven't told you about the epic novelization of-"
"Will you cut it!" Ricky finally shouted. The bar went silent.
River closed her eyes and wondered when this would be over.
Ricky licked his lips and said in a low voice, "I don't know who you are, or how you heard of me. But I swear, if you don't tell me..." he picked his gun off the counter.
"Doctor..." Peri said nervously.
River smiled as kindly as she could towards the girl – hopefully it didn't look like a smirk. "Don't worry, dear, I've already disarmed the weapon," she said, holding up the ammonium cartridge as proof.
Ricky immediately examined his weapon and found, to his dismay, that she had.
"Well that was anticlimactic," the Doctor said, giving River an appreciative glance. "I'm assuming you aren't with him, then?"
"Only for the past ten minutes," she answered smoothly. "But I am interested to find out exactly what he deals in." Ricky flinched.
The Doctor waved away her curiosity. "It's nothing spectacular," he said, suddenly bored. Ricky frowned. Everything he traded in was 'spectacular'. The Doctor continued, "It's only ion moss crystals."
River raised her eyebrows.
Ricky shushed him and looked around violently, trying to see if anyone had heard the loud idiot. The smuggler gulped, seriously hoping they hadn't.
"Doctor," River began slowly, "do you have any idea how much those little things are worth?"
The Doctor scoffed, "Monetary value means nothing. It's what they can do that should be interesting– and believe me, it's not terribly interesting at all."
"Why's it so much money?" Peri asked. "All he needs it for is to clean his circuitry."
Both River and Ricky groaned. Ricky was so affronted that he slammed his head onto the counter top.
"What is it?" Peri asked.
Ricky mumbled something incoherent then lifted his head. "Ion moss crystals," he said softly – almost profoundly, "Are the best anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-rust, anti-dust..."
"Basically, they clean everything," River said shortly, her voice also lowered. "And of course he's using it on circuitry!"
Ricky nodded. "They were discovered on a planet where they were considered a plague – the natives needed half the things the moss crystals got rid of," he said. "So, for almost free, human and other alien species scourged the planet of the things and were made wealthy overnight."
"But why's it so expensive?" Peri asked. "Can't anyone just go to the planet and get some?"
Ricky turned grave and shook his head.
"The planet was destroyed in a freak meteor shower," River explained. "Luckily, most of the inhabitants were saved, due to erroneously-based circumstances," she didn't look in the Doctor's direction, and the Doctor was suddenly very interested in a spot on the ceiling.
"But the price of the moss crystals sky-rocketed. Smuggling is the only way for anyone who isn't a billionaire to get one nowadays," Ricky said, puffing out his chest. "And those are some of my cargo. I currently have twenty-four in stock."
The Doctor harrumphed.
"It's not all that impressive," he said, his blonde curls bobbing as he leaned back. "I have a stash of at least a thousand somewhere, but I can't seem to find them."
Ricky's jaw dropped open and River smiled wickedly. If the Doctor hadn't found them since then... she wondered what the black market would do if she suddenly turned up with them.
"You have at least a thousand and you..." Ricky spluttered, "...lost them?" He looked a little pale.
"My stash of jelly babies is missing too," the Doctor added sadly. "I imagine they're in the same general vicinity."
With a generous sigh, the Doctor shook himself.
"So? How much for one?" he asked Ricky, suddenly very businessman-like.
"First," Ricky said, holding up a finger, "I want to know who told you I was here."
"Why?" River asked. "This isn't your usual hang-out then?"
Ricky shook his head. "Not mine – my father used it a lot though."
River almost rolled her eyes. The boy was much too trusting, answering all her questions. If he'd been a real smuggler at heart, he would've been gone as soon as the Doctor had shown up – either of him.
"Actually," he said, "barely anyone know that I am a smuggler. My father passed away a couple days ago, and I've inherited his business."
"Fascinating," the Doctor said, looking bored.
"I'm on vacation – in mourning, you know," Ricky said, propping himself against the counter, not looking like a person in mourning at all. "Not much extravagance obviously, but at least I don't have thugs on my tail twenty-four/seven – yet anyways."
"Are you still willing to sell your stock?" the Doctor asked impatiently. "We can come back later, if you'd like."
Ricky held up a hand. "No. No. I'm always willing to do business," the man said quickly. "Just tell me who told you where to find me, and then how much you can pay, and I'll tell you if I can sell you one."
"What sort of currency do you use?" the Doctor asked,
"Um... shadow credits," Ricky said, the expression on his face clearly asking whether there was any other currency that could be used in intergalactic money deals.
"Ah! Of course," the Doctor agreed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of British pounds.
"Wrong pocket," Peri said dully.
The Doctor sent her a look then reached into his other pocket. "Peri, while I'm looking, could you be a dear and describe the gentleman who told us about this our 'Ricky Keyes'?"
Peri nodded firmly. "Right," she stated. After considering a moment she said, lifting a hand, "Well, he was about this tall... with blackish, grayish hair, and kind of a large, bulbous nose. Very ugly."
"Not very nice," the Doctor said distractedly, pulling out a banana.
"But true," Peri defended. "Anyways, he was also kind of pale, and he had a circle tattoo around his eye."
Ricky stiffened. "A circle tattoo? Around his eye?"
Peri nodded. "It was in purple."
Ricky stood up violently, the stool screeching as he moved. "That bastard's found my stash!" he raged. Everyone in the bar ignored his outburst this time – apparently this guy was just one of those customers.
The Doctor reached around River and pulled the young man back into his seat. "What are you raving on about?" he demanded.
"The man with the circle tattoo – he was my father's ex-partner, Variusi Burk" Ricky explained sullenly. "He threatened me at my old man's funeral, wanting me to make him a partner. But of course I wouldn't," Ricky snorted. "The man's a back-stabbing coward!"
"And what has he just done to make you so violent?" the Doctor asked.
"Burk's found where I keep all my supplies in between runs," Ricky said with a groan. "I hired guards but- OH! I'm a bloomin' idiot!" the man suddenly exclaimed.
"The guards were set ups, sent to you by Burk," River guessed dully.
"Which also means you don't have any moss crystals to sell me," the Doctor sighed. He stood up and gestured to Peri, "Well, since there's obviously no point to being here, let's see if we can go find that Burk fellow again."
"And he sent you to me as a message!" the depressed smuggler sent accusing glares towards Peri and the Doctor. "Probably thought you didn't have enough money to pay him."
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Well, we'll just have to prove otherwise. Come along, Peri."
"Finally," Peri said, her heels clicking as she hurried after him.
Ricky laughed maniacally after them. "Just don't let him shoot you!"
"What?" Peri exclaimed, looking back. She grabbed the Doctor's arm. "Doctor, maybe we'd better not do this."
"Stop worrying, Peri. Good bye, then!" the Doctor called, waving. Then, with the sound of the jangling bell on the top of the door, he and Peri slipped out into fresher air.
River stood up as well.
"Well this was fun," she said. "But it looks like the person I'm waiting for is no-show, so ta-ta, then!"
Ricky slumped onto the counter. "My life is over!" he complained.
"What's he moaning about?" Amy snapped, standing behind River.
"Just lost his job," River said unsympathetically.
"Well get a different one, then!" Amy proclaimed, kicking the man's leg. "Surely you have a life savings or something?"
"Can we go now?" Rory asked. He looked worn out. River felt slightly guilty. She hadn't been paying attention to her parents at all, but she imagined that Amy had probably been throwing a fit for the entire episode.
Ricky was blinking, staring at Amy as though she were an angel of goodness. "That's it!" he babbled excitedly, sitting up straighter. "I'll just do something different!"
Amy raised her eyebrows and she looked at River. "Is he drunk?" she finally asked.
"That or stupid," River said.
When Ricky scowled, River tossed the cartridge she'd stolen onto the counter and told him bluntly, "You'd make a horrible criminal."
Ricky tried to look affronted but he couldn't get around the sheer obviousness of the statement. His shoulders slumped. "No kidding," he muttered.
"Don't worry," Amy said encouragingly. "You've got great looks! And you seem like the type who'd be good at dinner parties. People will love you... you'll see."
"Thanks," the man said, feeling slightly better than he had a couple minutes before, but not by much.
"Great looks..." Rory muttered. Then he asked loudly, "Can we go now?"
"I'm all for it," River said, already on the other side of the counter.
"Anything to get out of this place," Amy agreed, following her daughter's example. Rory trailed doggedly behind her.
"The Doctor is going to have his bow-tie collection burned tonight," River added, matter-of-factly, as they entered the freezer.
"And that horribly colored suit of his!" Amy proclaimed, shuddering. "I bet he still has it."
"Can I light the match?" the normally passive Rory asked.
Author's Note: To be honest, I'm not particularly happy about this chapter. I wish I would've place more emphasis on the Doctor and less on 'Ricky the smuggler'. Sigh... Oh well. Maybe I'll rewrite this at some point. But until then - on to number seven!