“Wakey, wakey Arnie!!”
Arnold J. Rimmer groaned, what was Lister doing waking him up? He was tired and enjoying sleeping. Drowsily he batted his new partner away.
“No … gerroff … Need sleep …” He grumbled. “Five more minutes, Listy.”
A sloppy kiss on his cheek and a snort of laughter were his answer.
“Fine with me, babe. But you told … nay, ordered me to warn you atleast half an hour before Kryten comes to the bunk room. Well … I overslept. It's about ten minutes now ...”
For a few brief seconds Lister's words didn't register in Rimmer's sleepy brain.
“KRYTEN!!” With a flash he was awake and out of bed, far too fast. His brain still in sleep mode things briefly turned black and he staggered dizzily.
“Hey, careful Arn!!” Lister called after him worriedly. The Scouser was by his side in a flash to cradle the Hologram and help him sit down again. Shaking his head Lister then crawled behind his partner on the bed to massage his tense shoulders. “You know Arn, this whole charade is really getting on me tits, luv. I mean, every day we have to get up at silly o'clock, just because you wanna avoid ...”
Rimmer, who had sunk into the unexpected massage happily turned around to face Lister with an apologetic grimace.
“I'm sorry Listy, I'm just not ready for this. I'm certainly not ready for the Cat knowing.”
Lister shook his head.
“Why are you so obsessed with what the smegging Cat thinks babe? What makes him so special?”
Rimmer got up properly now and began pacing the floor, looking stressed and waving his arms about as he spoke.
“He has that look Lister. That annoying look, as if he's always judging you.”
From the bed Lister looked on bemusedly as his partner seemed to get more and more worked up.
“He has the look of an idiot who knows smeg all.” He interjected. “Always did. Come on Arnie, let's go out there, be us properly.”
Rimmer stopped his pacing to stand quietly for a few seconds, as if muling it over. Then he shook his head.
“But I love this whole hiding and keeping our secret just for us. As long as we do, Listy, it's magic. It's just us two. Something they don't know, something they can't spoil.”
Rimmer turned to face Lister, his eyes almost pleading. Lister snorted.
“Just admit you're scared of them, Arn.”
The Hologram in front of him cringed then nodded sadly.
“In a way? Yes. I'm afraid they'll ruin it, laugh at us. I love what I have with you. I'm happy for the first time in my useless smegging existence and I don't want them to sully it.” He looked at Lister, his eyes a mixture of sadness and pleading.
Quickly Lister sat up on his knees on the bed again to pull Rimmer closer to him and give him another kiss. His partner melted into his arms.
“This means a lot to you, doesn't it babe?”
“More than you could ever imagine ...”
Lister understood; happiness was rare for Rimmer and it was obvious why he didn't trust the Cat and Kryten with this precious gift; Rimmer barely trusted himself with it.
“We should go away for a bit. Be us without them. Loosen you up.”
Rimmer pressed his forehead against Lister as he spoke, breathing him in.
“That sounds wonderful, Listy.”
Gently Lister pushed Rimmer away from him and smiled up to his partner cheekily.
“Meanwhile Kryten will be at our bunk in about half a minute.” Lister giggled seeing Rimmer's face twist with horror. “If you could see your face right now!”
He stopped laughing when he noticed Rimmer's breathing getting faster, a clear sign the Hologram was having a panic attack. His eyes big and upset Rimmer took Lister's hands and stared at him desperately.
“Listy … what are we going to do? Please, not like this.”
This wasn't funny any more, Lister knew. He was yearning to be free to hug, kiss and fondle his partner whenever, wherever, but if Rimmer wasn't ready he wouldn't push him. The man had been so stressed lately it worried him.
“Hey, man, you're shaking. Okay, joke over. It's okay babe, here's what we'll do.”
Meanwhile, on the other end of the ship a humanoid feline and an Android sat in the ship's kitchen, discussing one lone human and a hologram.
“Eh, Condom head!” The Cat said, after he'd finished licking his breakfast crispy bowl.
Kryten cringed at what was clearly the Cat's new nickname for him.
“I take it you're referring to me sir?”
An indignant Cat face glared at him. “Seen any other guys shaped like a pleasure tool here? Of course I am! You noticed anything weird about Hamster face and Goalpost head lately?”
With a sigh the Android turned away from his washing up to face the Cat. “Now that you mention it, sir, there seems to be a lot of whispering, an inordinate amount of early nights and Mr Lister is suddenly going through the supply of mints like a dervish!!”
The Cat nodded eagerly in agreement. “I don't like it! Something's up and it smells fishy!”
With a shrug Kryten returned to his beloved washing cloth. “Well, atleast you'll enjoy the smell sir.”
After ten seconds Kryten was absolutely certain that the Cat did not get the joke and took the breakfast tray to the bunkroom. When reaching the end of the hallway the Android suddenly heard a wave of uproarious laughter, followed by the Cat wailing: “Fishy!! Now I get it!! Great one, bud!!”
Arnold J Rimmer dashed in through the walls, gasping for unnecessary, but still much needed air. Utterly exhausted he collapsed into the bottom bunk just as he heard Kryten open the door. He quickly curled up into his usual position, trying to hold his simulated breathing to stop himself from gasping, as he waited for the Android to come closer.
“Good morn … Oh my heavens!! Mr Rimmer sir, why are you on softlight and where is Mr Lister?”
Rimmer valiantly tried to hide fact that he was out of breath as he squeaked: “Listy ...” He cleared his throat and lowered his voice a bit too much. “Erm, I mean Lister? Not a clue. Softlight, Kryten, you say? Am I really? Well, I never! How on IO did that happen? Come on Kryters old luv, put that tray down and check my lightbee, would you?” What the smeg am I blithering about? Rimmer's always active brain said.
As Kryten did as Rimmer said, the door softly opened behind him as Dave Lister sneaked in and quickly sidled into the toilet.
“How odd Sir.” Kryten said as he fiddled Rimmer's lightbee in his hands. “I can't find anything wrong with it.”
Always a bad liar at the best of times, Rimmer hoped that the look of surprise he shot Kryten would be convincing enough. It seemed to work so far.
“Then what happened? I did have a nightmare. Do you think that could have triggered something?”
That was too much, he'll know I'm lying!!
“Highly unlikely, sir.”
Smeg, he's bought it!!
Rimmer blinked in surprise as he muttered;
“Oh well. Be a sport and switch me back to hardlight, would you, old chum?”
For smeg sake talk normally!!
The Android frowned.
Yep, that's it, taken it too far now.
“Erm … Sir, talking about odd things. Have you noticed … well … erm …”
That Lister and I have been snogging each others lips off? That I've always loved him? That I want you the smeg out of here?
“What Kryters? Out with it, metal chum.”
Chum? PUHlease I'm going to throw up!
“Well, for some reason you are beginning to sound like …”
A deranged lunatic?
“Yes, old luv?”
Mouth … fist – embarrassment overload ...
“Like Ace Rimmer, Sir!!” The Android chirped happily as he finally reset Rimmer to hardlight, the reset causing him to miss the clear horror on the mortified Holograms face.
A loud flushing noise. The door opened and a grinning Lister entered.
“Phew, that's a load of crap! No-one go in there for the next two hours!!”
Rimmer rolled his eyes just a little bit too much.
“And good morning to you too, Lister!” Rimmer said with as much a smug clipped tone as he could manage while his emotions and breathing were going haywire.
“Oh smeg off, Rimmer!” Lister said, as airily sassy as he had always done, it threw Rimmer.
“Steady on Lister, don't overdo it!”
Smeg, now I've broken character. This whole situation is just intolerable. Maybe I should just get it over with and tell those two gimboids the truth. Am I really preserving my happiness if it upset Lister and causes me panic attacks, constant anxiety and exhaustion? My T-count has spiked already. Maybe I should think about Lister and my health and speak out. But not now, not like this ... Oh God I ... I …
Just then Lister's hand gently butterflied Rimmer's as if to tell him it was okay and he calmed. To his surprise his inner turmoil had only taken a few seconds as Kryten was still wishing Lister a good morning.
“Glad to see you're still amongst us sir, breakfast is on the table.”
And with that Kryten left, leaving a still panting Rimmer to finally breath out properly and a smirking Lister.
“Well … That was fun …” Lister shrugged. Spaced out by everything that happened Rimmer didn't reply, but coughed instead, making Lister turn round to him.
“You okay, Arn?”
The Hologram shook his head. I've already been such a pain today, I won't bother Lister with how smegging crappy I feel.
“Yes, of course...” He sighed. “would you mind if I just stayed here for a little while longer …? I'm still a bit out of breath.”
Lister didn't reply, he just climbed into the bunk next to Rimmer.
“Sure, if you don't mind me being here next to you” The Scouser started to play with his lover's hair as Rimmer snuggled closer to him. “Think it's time to tell the guys. I don't think you'll make it through many more morning like this, man. You're knackered before the day's even started. It's stress, not good for you Arn, you know what Kryten said about your T levels. I want to spend my life with you babe.”
Rimmer nodded silently, he knew he'd been thinking the same thing.
If only I wasn't such a smegging coward or so freaking tired. I just need a few minutes to recover, I'm sure. How ridicules all I've done was run from the Captain's room to the bunk room it isn't that far, of course there was the panic but ...
“Think you should wake up now, Arn …” Lister Scouser lilt sang in his ear. Rimmer opened his sleepy eyes in surprise. “I fell asleep?”
“You could say that …”
“At least two hours.”
Rimmer bit his lip. “Useless”. His self loathing mind hammered.
“I'm sorry Listy.” Barely awake Rimmer once again wanted to jump out of bed immediately.
“Don't get up too fast and sorry for what?” Lister asked two questions in one sentence as he gently pushed Rimmer back down.
“Being the most boring lover in the universe.” Rimmer said with a sigh, making no effort to get up at all now.
“No you're not!” Lister laughed.
“Don't be stupid Listy, I am. I'm tired all the time, I'm no use to you or the crew. I'm just …”
What he was no-one would ever know, as Lister planted his mouth over Rimmer's lips and kissed him long and deep. Feeling Lister's lips, his protective arms, warmth and genuine love, Rimmer's defences broke down as his heart warmed and he knew, he just knew.
To hell with doubts, to hell with everything. Let them laugh at me, make fun of me. There's only one thing that matters ...
“Listy … I think I might have an announcement to make today ...”