As Dave Lister reached out for yet another can, he noticed that Arnold Rimmer's hand moved towards the pile as well. He frowned; Rimmer was more than well over his one and a half can limit and had been drinking heavily for the last few nights. He put his hand over the Hologram's and felt it was shaking; “Are you sure about that Arn?” He asked, looking at his bunkmate. “You've barely recovered from your hangover, you're still looking a little green.” Rimmer sighed and looked up with difficulty, actually he was beyond green, Lister noted.
“Just … just trying one more …” The Hologram slurred, clearly swallowing back nausea. Lister frowned, this was weird. Over the last few weeks Rimmer had taken to sitting in the bar with him every-night, giving the Scouser his best attempts at doing 'lad talk' and being 'a regular guy', and drinking to the point of collapse. At first Lister had enjoyed this, as Rimmer trying so hard to be fun and 'laddish' was hilarious in it's own right, and the Hologram could be surprisingly good company when he tried. But as the days went by and Rimmer steadfastly continued to try and keep up with him drinking wise, Lister was becoming worried about him. The Hologram was suffering a perpetual hangover and looking rather pale and drawn. Lister appreciated whatever it was his bunkmate was doing, but it also confused him, as he knew this wasn't like Rimmer at all. His friend had a very low alcohol tolerance, even as a Hologram, so he knew this couldn't be good for him.
The man in question was now sitting next to him blinking slowly from alcohol induced sleepiness while trying to reach for a can with difficulty, the effort causing him to fall from his barstool.
“Rimmer …” Lister sighed, moving the cans away. “I'm cutting you off man. You're going to bed, now.”
From the floor two blurry hazel eyes blinked up at him.
“You come too?” For some strange reason Rimmer's lightbee then glitched for a second.
“In a bit, yeah, why?” Disappointment crossed Rimmer's face, a face that now seemed to be glowing a little with a bluish hue. “Then I'll just wait here, it's fine …” he mumbled, closing his eyes. Lister was about to tell Rimmer that he shouldn't be an idiot and ask him what the smeg he thought he was doing, when the bee glitched again, making Rimmer cry out a little. Lister made a mental note that he'd have Kryten do a complete check on Rimmer in the morning.
“Listy … I think I'm gonna throw up …” Rimmer choked out after his transmission finally restored.
“For smeg sake!!” Lister groaned in confused annoyance, then he quickly jumped from his chair to help Rimmer up and support him to the nearest toilet, where he held him upright and rubbed his back as the Hologram excreted a strangely glowing blue liquid.
After throwing up a few times the clearly exhausted Rimmer wanted to slide down the wall to rest on the toilet floor. But Lister had other ideas and dragged his bunkmate to one of the nearest sleeping quarters, where he let him lay down in the bottom bunk.
Relieved Rimmer closed his eyes to go to sleep immediately, but Lister was unsure if he should let him. He wondered if Holograms could suffer alcohol poisoning and seeing how the liquor had affected his friend already he wasn't taking any chances; he knew Holograms could die. Also, he had some questions, and with Rimmer's defenses down this was the best time to ask. As gently as possible he slapped Rimmer's cheeks to keep him conscious.
“Listy?” Rimmer croaked. “Please … sleep ...”
Lister smiled down at the barely awake Hologram. “Sorry Rimsy, got to keep you awake for a bit, to see if you're okay.”
Rimmer didn't really seem to understand. “But … so tired …” He eventually muttered, unable to keep his eyes open. Lister shook him worriedly and felt his body was buzzing. “Damn it Rimmer!” Lister cried out in exasperation. “What's wrong with you? What the smeg did you start drinking like that for?”
The eyes of the inebriated Hologram fluttered open a little and searched for his bunkmate with clear difficulty.
“Zz … bec … caussa yu …” Rimmer slurred tiredly, so desperate for sleep. “I … I … trying to be yur dri … drinking buddy …”
Lister froze, there was an answer he hadn't expected. “Rimmer?” he asked in confusion.
A weary sigh as the man in the bed forced himself to speak as comprehensive as he could manage.
“You're ... away ... every night, drinking and I'm lonely too. When it comes to it … we're all we've got!!” Rimmer closed his eyes, it was too much, but he tried to continue, falteringly. “You … you've been depressed, lonely … and K … K … chanski leaving … trying to … be there … so hard … do my job … Squid … showed … me f … failed … Smeg … think … think I'm gonna be sick again …”
Lister quickly grabbed the bunk bin and helped Rimmer to sit up. He cringed as he saw the lightbee glitch again, then the Hologram's picture broke up, when the picture restored Rimmer had lost consciousness. This was getting dangerous, he needed Kryten.
“You were right to call me Mr Lister sir. Mr Rimmer is suffering severe toxic overload. Any more alcohol and his program would have crashed and erased itself.” Kryten told Lister after he had worked on some of Rimmer's settings.
“Smeg, why did he have to be such an idiot. I didn't ask him to do this, did I?”
Kryten turned to face Lister. “Sir, I know it's not my place but … As you know Mr Rimmer is not the type to discuss things. He is a rather emotionally stunted individual. But he has seen you slide into depression after Miss Kochanski's erm … departure. You locked yourself away more and more, drinking night after night. Mr Rimmer has seen your depression and drinking, without knowing how deal with it. I didn't know either sir and it has been hard. And to Mr Rimmer, who takes his task as your keeper rather seriously, seeing you like this it clearly meant he failed, as the female Despair Squid showed us. He probably hoped that having a friend to drink with would make you happy and stop him from being alone each night as well. It was his way of reaching out to you.”
Lister shook his head as he looked at the unconscious Hologram before him. “That stupid smeghead.” Then he took his hand as he sat himself next to him. "I'm so sorry man ..."
To ease the strain on his lightbee, Rimmer was kept asleep until most of the alcohol had left his system. Lister sat by Rimmer's side as he slept, scared the Hologram might suffer more ill effects from the binge drinking sessions. The thought that Rimmer had felt that drinking with him was the only way of reaching him stung. Had he been that oblivious to other peoples needs? He kept forgetting what Kochanski had known instinctively; if necessary Rimmer would put aside his own happiness for him - to keep him sane. Not just for friendship, but because he felt it was his duty. But there was more, Lister remembered how Rimmer had been treated during the despair squid adventure; being told he had failed him by Katerina. There had also been the raw hurt after the squid attack, Rimmer had gone crazy with worry. This squid was supposed to bring happiness but had nearly killed Rimmer and made his depression worse. He had his drinking, but what did Rimmer have beyond loneliness?
A stirring on the pillow drew his attention.
“Listy ...” Rimmer whispered, slowly waking up. "I'm sorry, I messed it up again."
"What ya mean?" Lister asked, getting up to bring the clearly parched man a glass of water. "I'm the one who should apologize."
Rimmer slowly shook his head. "I tried to be what you missed - a Petersen, a real drinking buddy. But I couldn't hack it. I can't be fun ..."
He gratefully took the glass of water that was held in front of him. Lister was glad that it shut him up for a bit.
“Rimmer, listen to me, there is no way I am letting you become an alcoholic or make yourself ill on my behalf, you hear. I'm used to drinking, I sort of grew up a drinker, this is years of hard practice you see in front of you. I don't need you to be Petersen. I need you to be the sane one that stops me from killing off my kidneys or my liver!"
Rimmer looked at Lister incredulously and snorted. "Don't sweet talk me Listy, just admit that I'm crap at something again. You were beyond happy to have them back when the ship was restored. You want them around, you want Kochanski. Why else would you rather be in that smegging mourning room or out of your head all the time instead of talking to me since they're gone? Don't think I don't see it, or ... feel it. I ... I thought you needed ... Oh, I don't understand sometimes."
Moved by Rimmer's words, Lister took his hand. "I'm so sorry man. Seems I really neglected you, didn't I? You're right. I was so preoccupied with what I was missing I lost sight of what I still had. Maybe ... well ... maybe I sort of blamed you all for Krissy being gone. But ... I never meant for any of you to feel hurt man. What I mean ... I never meant to hurt you Arnold or to feel like crap. If you had died I don't know what I had done. You were right last night: we are all we have. I'll try and be there for you more, okay? Guess what I'll quit, I'll only drink myself silly on my birthday and Father's Day!!"
Rimmer looked at Lister with a smirk and then uttered a small snort of laughter. "You can't do that and you know it: you can't quit cold turkey. Dave Lister without a drink? That's not you."
Lister squirmed, Rimmer was right. "Okay, how about this: four beers every night while we play a card game; you can keep me in check."
The Hologram on the bed was clearly reveling in this thought and a smug smile begun to form on on his face. "Okay Listy, you're on."
For a second Lister doubted the wisdom of his next addition, but it was out before he knew it: "Meanwhile, you better keep me occupied."
A full megawatt smile formed on the face of Arnold Rimmer as he sat up to shake Lister's hand; "Oh, I certainly will, M'Laddo! There is a massive inventory waiting with your name on it!!"
Lister took the hand and shook it, smiling back: "Ah, there's the smeghead I know and love."