Down the Rabbit Hole, Chapter Seventeen
Friday, May 23, 2008

Simon and Mal have spent the night hiding from the Feds. As the escape deadline looms, Simon is still talking to himself. Wordy fellow. Not slash.


Hi. It's been shameful, I know, four months. But seeing mal4prez and 2x2 and anjoulie post made me try to get back in the game. (And the game's almost over!) This isn't beta'd because I didn't want to chicken out and start editing again. I'm sure I'll edit it tonight. And tomorrow. I never stop, actually. But here I am, breaking the unspoken rule (don't post on Fridays, no one reads). Hope you enjoy. Oh, and roll over for translations. Thanks. ----------------- If you care for a refresher, you can read the last chapter here: Chapter Sixteen (correct link now!) -------------------------------------------

Had he known how much of his time on planet he’d spend racing across rutted ground and between trees, Simon thought ruefully, he might have dressed differently. Light all-terrain boots, he decided, as he slipped around the edge of the hillock in the growing dawn light …would have come in handy… one last look across the brightening clearing …right…now! He launched himself yet again, head low, legs pumping, battling the impulse to turn back to the shelter, accepting each jolting step as punishment for abandoning Mal.

No, he told himself fiercely. I didn’t abandon him.

No? To his horror, the opposing voice in his head was Kaylee’s. Got a differ’nt name for it?

I didn’t… he stumbled. I’m trying to save… He envisioned her face, mouth twisted with skepticism. It was too late. I had no choice.

Always a choice, Simon. Her voice was cold. Cap’n could die, while you’re out here. Runnin’.

“I know!”

His voice echoed as he pitching himself into the woods, hand bracing on the trunk of a scrub tree, head bowed in concession. Behind him the upside-down horizon flared with reds and yellows, and he squinted under the assault. “I know.”

He pushed off the tree and minutes later had dragged the scratched and dirty hover out from its cover and settled it beside Ames. The homesteader was still placidly deceased.

“I hope you’ll forgive me,” Simon grunted, gripping beneath the unyielding arms to leverage the small, stiff body onto the vehicle. It was certainly a task made easier when the person didn’t outweigh you, and you didn’t much worry about making their health worse.

“I know the captain would have liked to let you rest in peace.” He shifted the corpse’s weight. “I think he might even have come back out and seen to it that you were properly buried. If I hadn’t shot him.” Simon moved his hands away to test his passenger’s stability. Ames seemed balanced enough to make the ride if he was held in place. “If I had any decency I would bury you myself. But it seems I am being inexorably made to understand that the needs of the living---” resting his hand on the man’s back, he flipped the ignition “---however objectionable, trump the rituals of the dead.”

Bringing the hover about, he was faced with the smoldering ruins of Ames’ home. His joking attempts to keep his errand impersonal fled with the smoke that still rose, and instead the events of the night caught in his chest.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, grasping the back of Ames’ belt much the same as he had secured Mal hours ago, regretting the light comments he had just uttered. “I’m truly sorry for how they treated you.” He started off with his cargo, hoping he had earned absolution.

The fastest way to the engineering station was straight across the flood plain but, as was the case the night before, the route offered no cover. Simon instead followed Mal’s plan of sticking to the trees, staying just inside the canopy where he could move quickly enough and keep an eye on his objective and his surroundings. Accompanied this time by birdsong rather than gunfire, and with every step illuminated, Simon quickly found himself standing outside of the tunnel opening, face to face with his unsettling plan. The idea had unfolded suddenly before him, as he had brooded by Mal’s side, as the obvious course to take. Calling it a plan glorified the actions – it was more following steps that someone left for him, moving on instinct, trying very hard not to think.

Swiping a sensor with the engineer’s ident card, he opened the hatch from which he had escaped some twelve hours earlier. He slid the homesteader off of the hover, pried the rifle from under his rigid hands, and, silently begging his forgiveness, lowered the body and let it drop feet-first into the tunnel, flinching at the thud.

Returning to the hover, he popped open the center compartment, and pulled out the remaining contents. He scattered the reams of paper and playing cards in every direction, stuffed the leftover curtain scraps inside his shirt, and set the whiskey bottle on the ground. Grasping Ames’ rifle, he raised it high and brought the butt end down on the console. The movement jarred his arms and spine and still he repeated it until he had smashed the glass and shorted out the Cortex link. He continued hammering the vehicle with rifle blows, and with one almighty heave, toppled the unit onto its side, vaguely satisfied that this would appear the act of a crazed saboteur. He tried not to dwell on the satisfaction it brought to a fugitive doctor.

With another quick glance around – he would be doing that in his sleep now from now on – Simon let himself down the hole and into tunnel control room. A whir of electronics from the control board greeted him, that and the blinking lights of the tunnel schematics.

Ames was blocking the bottom rungs of the ladder. Simon dragged him to the wall facing the control board – very close to where Mal had been when he’d shot the engineer. There wasn’t much he could do with such an immoveable body, so he settled for leaving the rifle on the floor next to the outlaw.

Gauging the exact position across from Ames, Simon punched the control to open the iris door to the tunnel. He moved quickly – someone would notice action, wherever it was they monitored this station – pulling the body of the engineer from the tunnel by the boots Mal hadn't taken, and sliding him behind the control board.

Kneeling beside the corpse, he took a second to bestow his own gift of peacefully closed lids, but the petrified face would not yield. Someone else would have to grant that blessing, ease the shock of those surprised eyes once the rigor mortis passed. For Simon, the accusation stood.

Producing the engineer’s gun, Simon attempted to place it in the dead man’s hand but, finding the fingers as immoveable as the eyes, let it rest on the floor. The engineer himself Simon roughly propped up to lean across the controls, taking care to have his dead weight resting over the tunnel mechanism. It could appear as though his body had shifted and that had caused the door to open. Not that anyone was going to buy this scenario for long. The man clearly hadn’t died where he stood. Still, Simon wiped the engineer’s ident card clean and tucked it back into the grey uniform pocket. No need for that to be missing.

He took more of the cleaning pads intended for the keyboard, and wiped down the control buttons and the guns. He hoped the Alliance wouldn’t look for prints beyond that, but it was a feeble expectation. Any half print convicted him, or Mal. Even so, he wiped the engineer’s boots.

Stepping back, he assessed the adversaries he had arranged, opposed in death. “Gave both sides wha’ they wan’ed…didn’ I? ” Mal had said. “Kill’d th’ engineer for the old man. Kill’d th’ old man for the Feds.” All they needed was for the engineer who was about to show up, and the team he would call in, to believe – only for a few precious minutes -that the two men had killed each other. Just an extra few minutes for an escape, before they tied the crime to Simon and loosed the fury of all their hounds.

The com at his belt crackled “Zao an.”

He almost dropped it in his haste to reply. “Ni zài na li?”

“I have just passed through port.” Inara was calm, conversational. “And you? “Ni shenti hao ma?”

“Wo henhao.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Which direction from Kingstown?”

Direction… The lighted map blinked beside him. He traced their route on the tunnel system. “Northeast.” He was sure he sounded anything but composed. “Shouldn’t be far. Look for - ” The hell with the code, there wasn’t time. “You’ll detect the remains of a rural homestead fire. A big one. I can direct you from there.”

“I’ll see you shortly.”

He didn’t bother to add “hurry,” but skipped over the legs of the dead engineer and made for the ladder. He had taken two rungs before he remembered. Jumping down, he reached up to the lifesaving niche on the opposite wall and grabbed the bundle that was Mal’s coat, his own vest wrapped within. He started back up, cleaning pad washing over the rungs as he climbed.

He was halfway back, running again through the trees and fighting a ferocious stitch in his side, when he saw the unfamiliar ship descend into view. Smaller by far than Serenity, sleek, almost delicate.

Gui”, Jayne spoke with his usual eloquence. “You all get drunk n’ have a bonfire last night?

“The berm,” Simon panted, “the hill. He’s there.”

He saw a figure leap from the ship and head for the hill.

Where are you?” Inara asked.

“Almost there. Don’t shut down.”

No, I won’t.

“Can you move to the other side of the hill? Is there any room?”

Yes.” The ship rose again and skimmed partially out of sight behind the rise. Anything, anything to give them more time…

I got him,” Jayne broke in. Biao zi de dì yù, looks like crap.

“Is he – how is he?”

Breathin’. But not hardly. All wrapped up like a stiff. What the gui happened?

“Don’t move him, wait for me.”

Can’t, gotta go.

“What time is it?” Simon looked behind him in a panic.

Time’s up, is what time. Why the hell ain’t you here anyhow? Ya run away, then change your mind?

“Don’t jostle him!”

Ruttin’ late for orders now. I’m movin’.

Meet us at the ship, we have everything ready,” Inara soothed

Simon reached the blackened yard at a sprint. Ahead of him Jayne bore Mal along the base of the berm. He had the captain slung across one shoulder, and a large pack over the other, but the big man moved quickly in spite of his burden. By the time Simon reached the unfamiliar ramp, Jayne had laid Mal out of view in the small ship.

“Simon.” Inara was holding aside a beaded curtain that separated the inner confines of the vessel from the entry area, her face and voice a mix of relief, concern and question.

Simon smiled as he reached out to grasp her shoulders, remembering almost too late the filth on his hands. “Thank you,” he nodded instead, knowing the words were hardly adequate but needing to get to Mal. She returned his smile before slipping through another curtain to the cockpit, but before he had gone two paces she called him back.

“He’s arrived.” She pointed through the windshield at the distant figure pulling up at the engineering station and dismounting his own hover.

“Doc!” Jayne bellowed from the beyond the curtain.

Simon swallowed. “The instant he goes down the tunnel, get us out of here.”

He found Jayne and Mal in a storage closet just large enough for the two of them to crouch on either side of the supine captain. Jayne was in a near panic, displaying the IV catheter that was no longer in Mal’s arm.

“It come out!”

Bù rán.” Simon grabbed Mal’s wrist, rubbing the inside of his forearm.

“Put it back in!”

“Can’t.” He moved to Mal’s uninjured leg. “Knife, please.”

Jayne complied with a large blade. “You can’t?”

Simon shook his head as he cut away Mal’s trouser leg. “Veins are gone. That blue box please.” He indicated the medical supplies laid out on a clean medsheet. Zoe. Or River. Thank God.

“Whaddaya mean the veins are gone?” Jayne gingerly handed Simon a blue case barely larger than his begloved palm. “He ain’t dead?”

“No.” Simon lifted the small plastic device from its case, the ergonomic grip perfect in the curve of his hand. It had cost him all of his cut from their last two jobs, and he prayed that in the next 30 seconds it would pay back every coin. He loaded a catheter and bore and depressed the trigger, smiling in appreciation at the high-pitched whine. Using his teeth he ripped open an alcohol pack, swabbed Mal’s well leg just below the knee, and set his target.

Jayne jumped at the noise. “What the – ” He paled as he recognized the tool. “What the hell’re you doin’?!”

“I am starting…” Simon felt the hard bone give, and pulled the drill back, inserting the catheter, “a line.”

“With a drill! Ain’t how you do it! What’s wrong with his arm?”

“His veins have collapsed.” Simon handed the drill gun to a traumatized Jayne, quickly threaded a proper emergency cannula and secured the lock. “And intraosseous therapy provides a more rapid infusion directly into the marrow---” “You won’t never use that on me, will ya?” Jayne’s voice sounded weak.

“As it’s only for incidences where I want to save lives…” Simon connected the bags of fluid and blood and switched spots with Jayne, “probably not.”

“Okay then.” Jayne leaned slightly against the wall, dutifully holding the IV bags Simon handed to him.

“Keep those high, and the lines straight.” Simon repositioned Mal’s head, feeling his neck. The pulse remained feeble and Simon silently wondered if ,even with the IO, they had been in time. “Come on, Mal.”

“What happened to him?”

“He was shot. Twice.” Simon hissed as he checked Mal’s collarbone. The support bindings had stood no chance against being thrown across Jayne’s shoulder and bounced over the terrain. While the skin had not been pierced, there was obvious damage beneath which would require surgery.

“Been shot plenty times, never looked as dead as he does now.”

“We had no supplies, Jayne. And moving made everything worse.” “Maybe you hadn’t run off, he wouldn’t be so bad.” “Yes.” Simon kept his head down as he investigated Mal’s leg wound. “ I am sure you’re correct. So, what is our plan?”

“’Nara set up a meetin’ with the commander ‘a of the dock searches.”

“She’s going to service this man to guarantee our escape? This wound is going to need a thorough cleaning out.”

“No. Don’t trust him, read his profile or somethin’, says he’s like to take his fun and still search the ship after.”

“Wonderful.” Sepsis. Surgery. So much to look forward to, if Mal survived. “Then what are we doing?”

“Ain’t we so much as you.” Jayne tilted his head. “You’re hijacking the ship.”

“Hijacking. Fine. All right.”

Why not? He’d seen enough madness in the past 12 hours. He’d shot a man. He’d desecrated bodies. Hijacking a ship would be the least of his achievements. He could hijack a ship. He covered Mal with a blanket and, remembering the brown coat, rolled it under the captain’s head.

“Simon.” Inara called from the controls.

“I’m almost done here.” He selected a bag of antiobiotics.

“There’s no time – we’re at port.”

Simon slapped the bag down. Zong shì xian yu.”

“Jayne.” He looked threateningly at the merc. “Don’t you lower those bags. And if he wakes, you’ll need to keep him quiet.”

“Like he’s gonna wake.”

“Give me your gun.”

“What?" Jayne put his free hand protectively over his weapon. "Why?”

“I am hijacking the ship," Simon explained patiently. "I find it useful to have a gun.”

Reluctantly Jayne handed over a pistol. “No ruttin way you get ta touch Vera. And don’t fire that!”

Simon took a deep breath. “I’ll try my very best not to.”


Friday, May 23, 2008 12:04 PM


Hooray, at LAST a new chapter! Really, really enjoying the pace here and finally getting to see more of the bigger picture. Poor Mal, he really is in a bad way. Hope he recovers okay and that the rest of Simon's plan goes without a hitch. They surely need a break. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, May 24, 2008 2:49 AM


“You won’t never use that on me, will ya?” Jayne’s voice sounded weak.

“As it’s only for incidences where I want to save lives…” Simon connected the bags of fluid and blood and switched spots with Jayne, “probably not.”

Best snarky Simon line on the whole fic - and a perfect Jayne moment! Love seeing more of this fic and glad you guys all had a group catharsis to get all this wonderful work posted. The universe turns in mysterious ways.

This is such a great Simon story as you explore his thinking, his doubts and insecurities, and his true genius at planning which gets terribly underrated in most fic. Hope his murder cover up doesn't have to stand up to too much scrutiny, but you did a great job planning out where all the pieces were going to eventually fit together. Since mal4prez is going to post again soon, does that mean you will too? Pretty please??

Saturday, May 24, 2008 4:24 AM


I've really enjoyed am ecstatic that you've posted new chapters. I love that this explores Mal and Simon one on one. You do such a good job of faithfully characterizing both. More soon. PLEASE?

Saturday, May 24, 2008 2:03 PM


So glad you posted!!!!! Simon's learning a lot from this little adventure.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 5:38 AM


There you go - posting on Friday of Memorial Day weekend no less! Took me a while to find this!

I'm so glad the posse showed up, and that Simon made it out. For a second there, I thought he might end up stranded, with Jayne all in a rush! And now it's almost time for Simon to face the heat about shooting Mal...

I like how he's all calm and slightly snarky (yes, the lines to Jayne are perfect!) in the face of medical emergency. I'm a little confused as to why Simon's the hijacker du jour. I'm not suprised that he accepts so easily - that fits where his brain is. But I'm not sure why Jayne's insisting that Simon do it. Jayne's needed elsewhere?

I'm sure I'll find out. Bring on Simon's continued foray into crime!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 11:15 PM


well worth the wait - and then some:)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 5:53 PM


No insult taken by this Paramedic, I promise. So enjoyable, watching you figure out the problems you've created for our Heroes!

Rob O.


You must log in to post comments.



Yes, Jayne, at a Parade
Oh dear, a silly little crackpiece "Based on Actual Events" that anjulie is forcing me to post as a birthday present to her.
Pokers and nudgers, I am looking to post the end of Down the Rabbit Hole in the first week of July. Really.

A short musing on Mal's thoughts when he brings Tracey home, via a prompt and a word limit, which I broke. 200+

Down the Rabbit Hole, Chapter Seventeen
Simon and Mal have spent the night hiding from the Feds. As the escape deadline looms, Simon is still talking to himself. Wordy fellow. Not slash.

Water's Edge
Another wartime fic, and the last of the stash of Zoe and Mal fics on my hard drive. Might last me through the winter. Thanks to those who have enjoyed and commented, these have been fun to post.

Three short fics about Zoe and Mal
Three short preseries fics because Slumming was kind enough to say she'd like to read more. And because I love Mal and Zoe. Three because they're too short to post alone.
(Knows she is supposed to be writing Simon.)

Early Mal and Zoe, wartime. (Early homespun, for that matter.) Zoe's POV. One-shot.

Down the Rabbit Hole, Chapter Sixteen
Simon and Mal hiding out from the Feds. Not slash. This chapter: With no one else to talk to, Simon asks himself the tough questions.

Down the Rabbit Hole, Chapter Fifteen
Mal and Simon continue to evade Feds. Not slash.
This chapter: Get oooout of the hooouuse.

Down the Rabbit Hole, Chapterette 14
Simon and Mal hiding from the Feds, awaiting rescue. Not slash. This chapter: Try not to faint, it's only a short chapter. Almost an interlude, but I couldn't cut it out. Still in the house, still not rescued. Thanks for reading.

Down the Rabbit Hole - Chapter Thirteen
Simon and Mal, still hiding out from the Feds. And still not slash. <b>This chapter:</b>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.