Dave Lister hummed cheerfully as he entered the bunkroom. Seeing the chocolate bonbon on the table he didn't think but just popped it in his mouth as he continued on his way to the sink. The day before all staff had been delivered a celebratory box of bonbons to their room to celebrate a rather fortunate mining expedition. Lister had dived in straight away and eaten most of the box' contend in seconds. He was surprised there was one left at all, but he wasn't complaining.
That was, until Arnold Rimmer entered the room, looked at the table and froze.
“Lister, where is the bonbon?” The Second technician glared at Lister rather accusatory. The Third technician shrugged airily. “Wha? Oh, ate it.”
Rimmer's expression went through a quick succession of emotions, ranging from horrified and upset to confused and devastated before cruising into apoplectic and furious then settling on exasperated and long suffering.
“Typical, just typical.” He spat, rather forcefully, Lister felt. What was it now? he thought, turning to his superior in surprised annoyance.
“Smeg sake Rimmer, now wha'?” He asked, surprised to find Rimmer looking as if ready to burst into tears.
“Lister, that was MY bonbon.” Rimmer whined. “You ate the whole smegging box, that bonbon was mine.” Lister blinked at him; what the smeg? Rimmer was upset about a little piece of chocolate? “Well, it was just laying there. How was I to know? Why didn't you just eat it?”
For a moment it looked as if Rimmer shrank to a little boy as he bowed his head and shuffled with his feet, looking rather embarrassed. “I wasn't allowed until now …” he muttered in a tiny voice.
“By who?” Lister asked, feeling highly embarrassed and confused by this bizarre event; he was certain the ship had no policy on when it's crew members were allowed to eat chocolate or not.
Rimmer bit his lip, his breath becoming rapid as the conversation clearly became all to personal for his liking. “Well, I … I had to finish my tasks first. I can't just sit down and eat candy willy nilly, it has to be earned. Smeg, I'd been looking forward to that since last night.”
Lister felt anger and sadness at the same time: that stupid man, had he really been looking forward to that tiny bit of chocolate for over 24 hours? What was wrong with him? This was just pathetic, there had been a whole smegging box. But on the other hand, he had utterly hogged that box and never even asked Rimmer if he'd wanted a chocolate last night. The box had been for both of them, after all. And … thinking about it, that last bonbon had been laying at Rimmer's side of the table.
A strong sensation of guilt replaced the anger. “Oh, hey, I didn't know man. Next time you do that please tell me.”
Rimmer nodded quietly, looking utterly disappointed and vaguely unsure.
“Really … since last night?” Lister asked in confusion, Rimmer had to be kidding.
“It's … it's my one moment …” Rimmer said, his eyes glimmering at the thought. “When I finish my tasks to satisfaction and there is chocolate around I am allowed to sit for half an hour, read a page or two from a good book and take a piece.” Rimmer shook his head and shrugged, the thing he did when feeling that he'd blabbed far to much. Lister smirked.
“You're really easily pleased, man ...” He thought for a second. “If you were looking forward to it that much, can't you just buy a few choccy's yourself?”
To Lister's amazement Rimmer actually physically flinched at that, shaking his head urgently like a plastic dog on a car dashboard.
“No, no! Never!! It has to be earned or given. Buying treats is not just cheating but sinful and weak. Anyway, the moment has gone now, I'm off to bed.”
There was a cold, weary silence as Rimmer undressed and turned in. Lister bit his lip. This was rather sad, he'd ruined someone's day simply by eating a stupid piece of chocolate. Besides everything else, it had only been the tiniest of bonbons as well. To Lister's astonishment Rimmer had actually ignored the big, marzipan filled pieces in favour of the boring plain milk one with no filling at all. That and reading a few pages consisted of a 'moment' for him? The fact that in all their time together he'd never seen him having this so called moment once was worrying. Well, he was glad Rimmer at-least hadn't selected the dark bitter ones as only that would have been more depressing. He sighed mulling all this new information over: yes, Rimmer was a smeghead, but it was obvious it wasn't all his fault. Something had clearly gone wrong while he grew up, because why else would a person make such a to do about eating a simple chocolate. Why else would buying a bonbon yourself be 'sinful'? It sounded horrible to never feel you earned a break, ever …
All things considered he would have liked to see Rimmer rest and unwind for a bit, it would have meant a moments peace for both of them.
“Rimmer …?” Frank Todhunter's voice managed to sound relatively cheerful calling the Second Technician's name down the hallway. Despite this Rimmer froze and jumped to attention following a quick double Rimmer salute.
“Sir?” He asked visibly terrified he might have done something wrong.
“At ease Rimmer, I'm here with good news for once.”
For a few seconds Rimmer stared at the taller man in front of him and blinked: was he trying to set him up? Sensing no malice he swallowed away the lump that had jumped in his throat, sighed and only then dared to stand at ease. “G ... Good news?” he stammered stupidly.
His question was returned with a smile and a jovial punch on the shoulder.
“Excellent news even, man. Haven't you heard? You're vending machine repairman of the month!!”
A disbelieving look met the officers eyes. “I … I am what?” Todhunter gave him a friendly shake.
“You Arnold Rimmer are vending machine repairman of the month.” A brief silence in which Rimmer's brain went through all the reasons why this had to be a lie.
“Are you winding me up? You are, aren't you?” Rimmer spat in a dazed voice. Something good happening to him out of the blue? No way. Todhunter just smiled patiently as one would to a slightly backwards child.
“No Rimmer, I am not, look here.” The Officer handed Rimmer a Captain signed document that branded his name. The Second Technician read it twice before looking up at the Officer in front of him in amazement, as his legs started to shake.
“Vending machine repairman of the month, me?” As the news sank in Rimmer's eyes went big and sparkled while his chest visibly swelled with pride. “After all these years I … I can't believe it!!”
Todhunter forced a smile and slapped Rimmer's back good naturedly. “Well, you're … erm … certainly dedicated and thorough enough so I guess … Well, what the heck, you've earned it.”
If Rimmer had grinned any-more his face would have split in half. “I've earned it?! This … this is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me!!”
He wanted to dash off to broadcast his news to the rest of the ship before Todhunter stopped him.
“Wait, wait, you haven't heard about your reward yet!!” Rimmer stopped and turned around; there was more?!! “R … reward?” He asked, sounding far more moved than he'd wish Todhunter to know.
“Oh indeed Mr Rimmer, a reward for twelve years of dedicated and uninterrupted hard work."
Lister barely recognised the man that entered the bunkroom a few moments later. What a difference a bit of praise could make to a person. He'd never seen Arnold Rimmer smile in all the months he'd known him, and here he was with a grin bigger than the rings of Titan. His posture was triumphant and so was his face that was flushed with joy, while his eyes sparkled like a kid that was promised a trip to Disneyland. He looked like a completely new man, a man Lister might actually like.
“What the smeg happened to you?” Lister asked with a smirk as he put his comic aside.
“I … I don't believe it …” Rimmer said breathlessly as he paced the floor. “I … I can't believe … Lister, I … I'm vending machine repairman of the month!!” He said as he stopped pacing and turned to face Lister.
“Wow, that's great man! Good for you.”
Rimmer started pacing again, shaking his head. His excited energy was clearly in need of an outlet. “Twelve years!! Twelve it took me but finally!! Finally they've noticed me!!” He stopped to smile at Lister. “I even got some presents!!” Lister jumped down from his bunk to sit at the table. “Ya did? Go on, show us then.”
Rimmer pointed at a hamper that he'd placed on the table. “It has a box of luxury chocolates, fresh fruit and champagne. I also received an award certificate … I need a frame for that. And there will be a luxury breakfast tomorrow. I've never had a luxury breakfast before …”
Lister smiled and nodded, taking delight in the sight of a man who's body and mind were clearly unaccustomed to dealing with happiness. Rimmer was shaking, breathing fast and pacing and all the while beaming so much he was close to putting lightbulbs out of business.
“And guess what Listy!!" Rimmer continued, his voice now entering dog whistle territory, "I have earned a day off!! This means that not only can I have TWO chocolates and read four pages, I can sleep in till seven as well!! Oh Listy, this is the best day of my life.”
For a second it looked as if Rimmer would hug his bunkmate in his mindless joy, but he stopped himself just in time and simply gave him another ridiculously large smile. Then the overjoyed Technician dashed to the small sink area to open his champagne, poring out two glasses.
Putting his feet on the table and lighting a fag, Dave Lister leaned backwards in his chair revelling in the warm feeling of a job well done. Seeing the utter joy mixed with gratitude and relieve on his bunkmates face, the Third technician knew it had been worth the two hours of teaching Captain Hollister how to make a “Fried Egg, Chili, Chutney Sandwich” and sharing half his supply of “almost illegal fresh Titan beer” with Todhunter. Shame he could never tell Rimmer he'd smegging well made up for eating that stupid piece of chocolate ...