Down the Rabbit Hole - Chapter Thirteen
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Simon and Mal, still hiding out from the Feds. And still not slash. This chapter:How long can two men hide in a slimy, abandoned house before one loses his mind? Apparently, not long enough. Warning for a long chapter.


Back to Chapter Twelve


The stillness that blanketed the kitchen was so complete, it could have passed for peacefulness. No word had been spoken in the 30 minutes or so since Mal’s discourse, and no outdoor sound disturbed the silence of the deep hours, so cherished by night owls. This, Simon reflected, was when restless artists found inspiration for timeless symphonies and epic poems. The only inspiration he had found was for a new variant of hellacious headache, caused no doubt by his thoughts elbowing and tripping each other to be the first among his worries. Sitting in the damnable odious muck didn’t help, either. He had just settled on which manner of huddling was the most comfortable when the chirping of the Cortex shattered through the gloom, launching him to his feet in relief.

“Wait.” Mal stopped him before he reached the panel. “Check th’ ident.”

Simon drew up short, rebuking his latest lapse in caution. Clearly he would never learn to live like an outlaw---“Lao tian!” He jumped back from the hover, eyes glued to the readout.

It wasn’t them. The ID wasn’t Serenity.

“It isn’t them!” he whispered, as though the unanswered sender could already hear him. “It isn’t them, what do we do?”

“Whassit say?” Mal was curiously untroubled by the news.

Simon read the source as it flashed. “Giac? S - Y. Player Moon.”

“Giacomo.” Mal coughed and cleared his throat. “Shipyard. Should be Zoe.”

“Should be?” The signal chirped again.

“G’ head ‘n answer. Just…stay off screen, either way.”

Either way? He didn’t need either way. He needed “Yes, that’s them, everything will go according to plan, see when they’ll be picking us up so this nightmare can end.” He needed that infernally smug certainty. But “either way”?

“Answer the hail, Doc, ‘fore they give us up for dead.”

That being a displeasing notion, Simon moved to the side of the hover away from Mal and the flashlight, leaned in, hit the responder, and quickly leaned back. He let out his breath when Zoe’s image filled the screen. There was silence until he remembered that she couldn’t see him.

“Alleyne!” That had been the greeting Mal had given her earlier, hadn’t it?

Zoe’s face betrayed the briefest surprise before her eyes narrowed. “If it ain’t the sidekick. Where’s your fearless leader, they lock him up already?”

‘Uh, no. Nope,” he corrected, reminding himself to use the sloppy Rim structure. “That old shan yáng has got himself falling down.” He heard Mal snort in affront. “Gone and done that,” Simon added. “Can’t even stay on his feet long enough to answer a hail.”

“Why don’t that surprise me.”

“Yes, it is a common, uh, common. Sure is. To tell the truth he’s getting to be troublesome. A mite. A mite troublesome. To take care of, that is. So any time you’re ready, I sure would appreciate a ride. Away. Before he’s more…troublesome.”

“Your troubles ain’t mine, boy. You’re lucky I found you any transport at all, busy as I am. Sendin’ a pilot and her hired man to fetch you.”

Simon felt his mouth go dry. “You’re,” he swallowed, “you’re not coming?”

It hadn’t occurred to him that anyone beside Zoe would come in for the rescue, especially now that Mal was compromised. He had replayed it in his mind: Zoe calling, Zoe coming to fetch them, calmly dispatching anyone who interfered. Who else would it be? Who would pilot? And the ‘hired man’ …oh God, not Jayne.

The onscreen Zoe laughed at him. “I’m too high profile to be ferrying the likes of you. Would ruin my reputation. She’ll fetch you, neat as you please, sometime before night’s end.”

“No,” Mal interrupted forcefully from the floor. “No, find someone else.” Any further comments were lost in a spasm of coughing.

“He is impaired, ain’t he?” Zoe asked, eyebrows raised. “You tell him just sober on up and not worry about who’s flyin’. Long as he got payment, we’ll bring him home. You do still have payment? Ain’t drunk that away?”

“Uh, yes,” Simon eyed Mal. “Yes we do.” He returned his attention to Zoe. “And I’ll add to it if you could get her here faster. You know how he is. If I don’t watch him, he’s liable to do damage.”

For half a second Zoe’s expression shifted dangerously close to worried, but again she mastered herself. “She’s expecting to get to you while you can still technically call it a night. Best she can do without breakin’ any laws, and I don’t hold to lawbreaking. So you just sit tight. You got a short-range?”


“Fine. I like my flyers to use that once they’re in atmo, so have it ready. Won’t have to bother your friend to use his Cortex no more.”

“Can I --- could you maybe send some, uh, hangover remedy?”

Zoe’s eyes flashed as she read his intent. “I could throw together something. But only because I don’t want him making a mess out of my transport.”

“That’d be a good idea.”

“All right then. And tell your partner there it’s too damn bad if he don’t cotton to women pilots. He has a problem, he can cool his heels another week.” Simon peered around the hull of the hover, but Mal did not comment. “I’m sure it will be fine,” he answered. “But I’ll still hold out a bonus if she can shave some time.”

“Then let’s get going,” Zoe answered firmly, and with a nod she cut the connection.

Simon splayed his hand over the screen, letting the hover bear his weight as he absorbed this new blow. Rescue wasn’t coming any time soon. And it wasn’t going to be Zoe. The pilot would be…Inara? And the protection would be Jayne. He closed his eyes and breathed out through his nose. Maybe the combination balanced out. He trusted Inara. She certainly had her share of flying experience. She’d do her best to get to them as quickly as possible, moreso once she knew Mal was injured. Jayne… there was no denying he was good with his fists and good with a weapon, so long as it wasn’t pointed at Simon. And, Simon realized, there was another reason Zoe was sending the merc.

Jayne could carry Mal.

Returning the Cortex to standby, he settled on the floor next to the captain. “Well, you were right,” he said, attempting a brisk cheerfulness that would fool neither of them. “They’re coming. We’ll just wait here a bit more, but they’re coming.” He adjusted the engineer’s dress jacket, pressed into service for what extra warmth it might give, across Mal’s upper body.

“Gonna be a time,” Mal responded, eyes on the ceiling.

“Zoe said they’d be here before morning. We sit for a few more hours, and they’ll pick us up.”

Mal sighed and covered his eyes with his hand.

“Your leg has stopped bleeding,” Simon pointed out, finishing a check of bandages. “A rescue is coming. If the worst we have to look forward to is trying to endure each other’s company, I’d say it’s not the most disastrous night. Well, not ever.”

“Gotta travel here. Gotta get through port… ”

“Which should bring them to us at 5:59.” Simon took advantage of the raised arm to check Mal’s pulse. “By which time we should be properly surrounded by villagers with torches. Perfect for a rescue at the last heroic minute. That is how you’ve trained them.”

“Ain’t no one train’d ‘Nara for that.”

“But she has come to your rescue. You and Zoe both.”

“Nod on my or’ers.” Mal shifted restlessly. “ ‘s too hot. Shoulda been clear a this. Shoulda took her where she wan’ed t’ go alrea’y.” “But she’s very capable. She’s a strong woman.”

“Strong. Yeh. Las’ time she rescued me, she slabb’d me. She slabs me, you shoo’ me. Megs a man… tetchy.”

Simon remembered the rescue of Zoe and Mal from Paradiso. First words out of Mal’s mouth once he’d reached the ship had been a complaint about Inara. “She hit me!” Today it would be “He shot me!”

“I’ll see that she doesn’t slap you. And I’ll try my best not to shoot you again.”

“Should tell Zoe no.” Mal brought his hand away from his eyes, only to rub his forehead savagely.

“It’s the only plan. Inara will be fine. We’ll be fine.”

“Would be fine ‘f were River comin’ in?”

“River is hardly the one we’d send on a rescue…”

“She wan’ed to, it be fine?”

“No. I wouldn’t allow it.”

“No,” Mal growled with finality, “you woul’n’.” He turned his head away as much as he was able, running his hand through his hair as his words faded to a mumble. “’n I can’t.”

Simon rubbed his hand over his own face before remembering how dirty his fingers were. Inara could do it. If anyone could get past the search crews in port, she could. He didn’t want her in harm’s way any more than Mal did. But he wasn’t willing to go so far as to call off the plan. He couldn’t do that to River.

Mal shifted again and the jacket slipped. Simon redraped it, receiving no acknowledgement as the captain kept his face averted. Which was fine, he had thoughts of his own to sort through. Such as rationalizing that he couldn’t risk not returning to River - even if making that return put Inara in danger - but he could risk keeping her on Serenity? Where every day was a bigger gamble than the one before? Where someone was always going to be trying to evade arrest or dodge a bullet or not be blown out of the sky? Look at this day, where a simple supply pickup, a legitimate errand, a shopping trip had exploded into a flight for his life, the ending of others’, and the endangering of more. He had to be insane to stay on.

“This is not the plan we agreed on.”

The snarl, dripping venom, caught him off guard.


Mal had pulled the jacket off of himself and was angrily jabbing with his right index finger. “You will get e’ery one a us killed.” He addressed the air, jaw tight, tone deadly. “I won’ stan’ for it.”

Go se.” Simon hesitated, unsure what to do next.

Chur ni-duh.” Pure contempt. Every syllable. “You don’t have the guts to fin’ a way outta here, I surely will.”

Mal pulled his gun from his holster and swung his right leg down from its propped position against the hover. Grunting, he attempted to follow with his left.

“Mal! What are you doing?”

“We gotta go.” Mal tried to brace his right hand against the floor but his revolver impeded progress. Wincing as he attempted to sit up, he didn’t seem to process that he would get no help from his left side. “I don’t have a… a good feelin’.” His tone was suddenly urgent. “There’s somethin’… We gotta go.”

“Stop.” Simon gently pushed against Mal’s good shoulder and was surprised by the strength of the captain’s resistance. “Mal, stop. You’ll reinjure yourself.”

“Can’t sit here,” Mal continued to struggle, seemingly oblivious to his injuries. He had mercifully released his grip on the gun, which Simon shoved out of his reach, and was trying to pull himself up on Simon’s arm.


“…no ma’ er what that bái chi lú zi says. Been ‘n this spot too long.”

Mal.” Simon barked into the captain’s face, trying to get the darting eyes to focus. It was shock-induced, the agitation, the disorientation, but he could bring him back. Fo zu, please let me bring him back. “Mal! We’re not moving now. The rescue is coming for us. We’re to wait here for it. That’s what Zoe said. Wait here.”

Mal stared perplexedly at Simon, breathing like he’d just been chased from the marketplace. “Zoe?”

“Yes, Zoe. She said wait.” Simon held his breath, praying the tactic would work. He was pondering how well the suspenders would hold as restraints when Mal’s expression melted, and he sank weakly back to the floor.

“Try to regulate your breathing.” Simon followed his own advice as he lifted Mal’s feet back onto the hover step, listening as the captain struggled to take deeper, more regular breaths.


“It is. I…” he shook his head slightly, “I got… a… lil’… confoun’ed.”

“That happens.”

“’m sorry.”

“It’s all right,” Simon managed, even as Mal’s thready pulse and racing heart told him otherwise. “I need you to try not to hyperventilate. Try not to move at all.” He pressed the skin on the back of Mal’s hand, and watched in the red of the flashlight as it took far too long for his fingerprint to fade. Even as blood was shunting from the extremities, a lack of oxygen was starting to confuse the brain.


“Yes.” He lowered Mal’s arm.

“ ‘m damn thirsty. Could use a drink.”

“We both could. There is none.” “Has t’ be.”

“No, Mal,” Simon said patiently, hiding his worry at Mal’s failure to remember the situation. “We’ve been through this. The pipes are broken, the well is contaminated ---”

No” Mal said angrily. “Lis’en. Has to be. Man was livin' somewhere.”

Mal continued, rolling right over Simon’s discomfort at patronizing the captain.

“Shoulda look’d alrea’y. Dunno wha’ I was thinkin’. Other buildings, saw ‘em. Has to be a nest. A place he goes t’ ground. Has to be water, supplies. Zoe’d kick my ass here to Hera she saw me runnin’ a command like this. I won’ hear t’ end of it.”

“That might be, but we only have a few more hours and they’ll be here. Zoe said sit tight. You’re in no shape to move.”

“Gotta find water. Gotta do recon.”

“I’ll go, I’ll find water.”

“You look through here?”

“Yes. There’s nothing.”

Mal looked around the kitchen as if assessing it for the first time. “Cellar?”

“There is no cellar. There’s just a crawl space, just dirt. Not enough room to stand.”

Simon wasn’t prepared to hear a laugh.

“Where you rais’d, son? That is a cellar. See fresh dirt?”


“Fresh dir’ – a stash. Good gorram. Anywhere men a been, boy, gonna find they lea’ valuables behin’. Learnt that the har’ way, me ‘n Zoe.”

Simon grabbed the flashlight. “I’ll look.” The possibility of water, so close... The small door under the slope of the stairs was badly warped. He’d taken a quick look inside earlier, but now he pushed the protesting wood open as far as he could, and, crouching, flashed the beam across the floor of the dirt space. Mud. The entire floor was an unbroken expanse of crusted mud. If there had been any indicator of a hidden treasure, the last Alliance flood had swept it away. He supposed he could dig up the entire floor with his hands, but trying the other buildings seemed more reasonable.

Backing out of the entry, he swallowed his disappointment before reporting to Mal. “There’s nothing, Captain.”

“Oh, no cap’ns here,” Mal was sarcastically jolly. “Men in the fine pur’le waistcoa’s seen to that. Expan’ recon to the outbuildin’s.”

Simon felt his stomach drop. So this is how it would be. In. Out. The captain was a Veer. Still, a Veer was better than a Chuck, a comatose patient. Because while if a Veer could zig out, a Veer could zag back in. For a while, anyway. And coherent or no, Mal was right in one fact. Water was a need.

“I’ll check the outbuildings. You need to stay here.” He pushed his advantage. “And don’t move.”

Mal semi-nodded his assent and Simon headed for the door, once again with his gun drawn. In the course of hours it had become second nature, almost, this slipping along with a loaded weapon and tentative steps. At the threshhold he threw one look back to make sure Mal was staying put, and was hardly shocked to see that he wasn’t. His head was up and he was motioning wildly at the ground with his arm. His hissed warning reached Simon just as the back of his neck started to prickle.

“Get back, get down!”

A ship roared low over the farmhouse, shaking the walls and windows as Simon dropped to the floor.

“They’ll be back! Use the hover.”

Simon crawled to the craft and crammed himself against its side, not sure if it would afford any protection in a cold state, but unwilling to test the alternative. He lay until the thunder of engines had again passed overhead and receded into the distance.

“Generals… mus’ be up early,” Mal observed calmly. “Lookin’ to wrap up this lil’ ‘venture… afore they have their toast n’ jam.”

Simon couldn’t bother to blink at the captain’s change in consciousness. The same adrenaline was pounding through his own veins. “Heat sweep?”

“Don’t dou’ it.”

“Do you think…”

“Thin’ our rescue better get here… ‘fore they do. One readin’… they might figure ’s the old man. Two …”

“They’ll know it’s us.”

They chewed on that for a moment. A race. It would come down to who could reach them first, the crew or the Alliance. God knew they weren’t running.

-------------- To Chapter Fourteen


Tuesday, January 8, 2008 8:54 AM


Still not slash? Does that mean at some point it will be?

How many chapters is this story going to be? Do you have it all written or do you mean to keep us waiting a long time for the next chapter? Could I possibly HAVE any more questions? LOL!

This was nicely done and the Captain's injury messing with his head, is a nice touch. Though I am getting a bit frustrated with the drawn out rescue.

Hopefully, that ship they heard overhead was the rescue and not the alliance.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008 8:59 AM


Ha, Leiasky, no, it's simply still not slash, a year later, and still them waiting for rescue, a year later. You think you're frustrated with the drawn out rescue? :D I am too. But hopefully not too frustrated to get to it. I estimate maybe three more chapters, and some of them are kinda sorta written. And hey, this was a quick update compared to my usual standards. Thanks for commenting!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008 10:10 AM


I've said it before and I'll say it again. I LOVE THIS STORY!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008 11:15 AM


Yay for the quick posting! I was worried that it'd be a few months again, so I'm so happy to see this!

Yeah, groggy Mal is well done, and Simon trying to talk rough - too funny that we wrote similar bits at the same time! And the conversation with Zoe was nice - passing the information carefully and clumsily at the same time.

I found this chapter maybe a bit less descriptive than your others, but I don't mind. I'm feeling like the quiet empty hours of night should be passing now, and I'm also wanting them to move on. In a good way. :) I want to see what Mal tells the crew - if he's still able to talk when they get there...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008 2:23 PM


So happy to have another chapter and I just rolled up at Simon trying to talk in Rim-speak to Zoe. Just hope the right people get to Mal and Simon first, I would say they are due for a bit of good luck for a change. That and a damn hot soapy bath to wash all the muck off! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, January 8, 2008 5:58 PM


Thank you so much for posting so soon! Loved Simon floundering with Rim speak, and Mal trying to keep Inara out of trouble.

I hope they get out of that house soon, my nose is getting stuffy from the mold.

Thursday, January 10, 2008 6:33 AM


Ohh, 3 more chapters? And some are already half done? That means you can post faster! LOL! :)

Saturday, February 23, 2008 6:02 AM


I know, I know. I've been absent far too long. But this story keeps pulling me back in. I can't say enough about it, so I'll say this: perfect in every sense. The humor of Simon attempting "Rim-speak." Mal's delirium. I could go on for hours.

Rob O.


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