“I'm never gonna pass Arn!” Dave Lister whined as Rimmer repeated the question for the millionth time. His head in his hands the Scouser shook his head; the Mechanical Officer exam was the next day and for some reason all his knowledge seemed to have disappeared. Suddenly he felt Rimmer gently placing his hand on his own and giving a soft, encouraging, squeeze,
“That's because you're frying your brain Listy,” His husband said as patiently as possible, despite the fact that he was clearly exhausted, sitting up studying with his partner for the tenth night in a row. “You need a good nights sleep and just do your best in the morning. Studying till the last second is the worst thing to do, trust me, I know.”
Lister looked at his worn out partner stifling a yawn and smiled to himself, feeling love swell in his chest. He loved how Rimmer had sworn to give up everything to do with studying and exams, as he had accepted he'd never pass his Officers test. But then, only a few weeks later, his Hologram had put aside his study aversion to be his study buddy each and every day for the past six months. He brought Rimmer's hand to his lips to press a kiss on it.
“You know Arn. You've studied for this almost as much as me and tested me so many times you probably know it as well as I do. You might as well sit the exam with me tomorrow.”
Immediately he felt Rimmer's hand grow cold as he froze and then started shivering, shaking his head ferociously.
“No, absolutely not!! This is your moment. I'd only ruin things. Forget everything or panic and faint or something, ruining the exam for you. You go ahead, I'll be here rooting for you tomorrow.”
Feeling a bit disappointed about Rimmer's ever present tendency for self loathing and dragging himself down Lister sighed and dropped the subject.
“I think it's time for bed now Listy …” Rimmer said after they'd studied a little more, a slightly longing sound in his voice. Lister felt guilty for keeping the man up at all hours, but he was too wired and nervous to sleep.
“No way I can sleep, I'm a smegging nervous wreck babe. Hey, I could do with a drink.”
Rimmer nodded and smiled at him. “I've read a relaxing drink to calm your nerves will help you sleep before a big event, so as long as you don't overdo it that will be fine.”
Lister wiggled his eyebrows at Rimmer. “Good to hear you approve, but I would have done it anyway Arn.” He was met with a snort of laughter. “I know. Shall I join you?”
For a second Lister considered the offer, then concluded that exhaustion followed by alcohol would probably not be the best combination for Arnold Rimmer. “No, you have an early night, or what's left of it,” A flicker of disappointed worry on Rimmer's face. “And anyway,” Lister added, “someone has to make sure I'm up in time.” A smile as Rimmer revelled in being given an important task.
With a quick kiss the Hologram departed to his bed gratefully as Lister made his way to the bar, excited about the big event in the morning.
At four o' clock Lister startled awake. Looking at the clock he sighed with relief: one drink had turned into two, three well, maybe sixteen, but thank smeg, he still had hours of sleep le … Then the horrible feeling of realisation sank in; PM!! It was four o' clock PM!! Not AM!! It was four o' clock PM!! He had overslept by half a smegging day.
“Oh smegging smeg!!” He groaned. What would Rimmer say? He would be so disappointed in him. His partner had been so proud of him finishing his studies and taking control of his life. He'd done it to make Arnold proud of him, to make him see that there was more to life, that there was a future. Now he'd smegged everything up by getting drunk the night before his big moment. Even failing his exam would have been preferable to sleeping through it.
“Good mor-ternoon sir. May I be the first to congratulate you on passing your exam?” Kryten said as he trundled into the room, tray in hand. Lister peaked over the bedsheets in angry confusion; Seriously? Kryten wasn't usually this insensitive. “Wha …? Gimme a break man, I'm hurting. I missed my exam and now have to wait six months to take a new one, gotta do all that bloody studying again.”
Kryten put the tray down and gazed at him, cleanly not understanding. “Sir, are you alright? You sat your exams this morning and passed with distinction.”
Now Lister sat up, anger bubbling. “Kryten what the smeg are on, has Rimmer put you up to this?”
Kryten searched his files for an expression to fit this moment, settling on mild paranoia. “Sir, don't you remember? You finished your last studies, went on a binge, took your exams and then crashed here.”
Staring at the Android Lister wrecked his brain; was this scenario in any way feasible? He knew in a few seconds that it wasn't. If he'd been too drunk to recall doing the exam there was less than zero percent chance of him giving even one slightly comprehensive answer, let alone pass his exams with distinction. Also, he was still in the exact sport where he'd remembered finishing his binging the night before; an old unused bunkroom near the bar. Something was off. “Wow, am I good or what?” He grinned at Kryten; not wanting to let on something was amiss before talking to Rimmer. “I don't even remember taking the smegging thing and I pass!! Dave "Cinzano Bianco" Lister strikes again!!” The Mechanoid stared at Lister with adoring eyes; “You sir, are a miracle.” Seeing Kryten's pride, Lister swallowed. This didn't feel right at all, he had to find Rimmer and see if he knew what had happened that morning.
Dave Lister walked into the exam room; his posture stiff, his cap pushed low over his forehead, his pencil case clutched to his chest. He sat down at the assigned desk and carefully lay out his pencils and material.
“Exams start in five, four …”
Lister looked up from his careful planning in horror and frustration.
“Give me a minute here you jumped up little gimboid of a computer!!”
With a big grin Lister turned off the black-box recording. This was getting interesting.
Lister found his partner fast asleep on the living-room-couch. He'd clearly been waiting for him, judging by the two glasses and the cooled bottle of bubbles on the table in front of him. As the Hologram looked rather exhausted, Lister at first wanted to let him sleep some more and wait for him to wake up, but curiosity won over kindness. Had Rimmer really expected that Lister would simply accept being told he'd passed his exams without any recollection of ever doing them?
“Wake up Arnie …” Lister shook him softly. Rimmer groaned tiredly and batted in annoyance at whomever was shaking him. "Arnie sleepy" he mumbled, much to Lister's amusement. Then he shook him again. “Arnie, come on now.”
Sensing it was Lister shaking him, Rimmer slowly opened his eyes.
“Listy … I fell asleep …”He muttered slightly dazed, as Lister sat himself next to him.
“You could say that.” The Scouser grinned, before continuing more seriously; “Now, care to explain how I passed an exam while unconscious, Arnold?” The Hologram's nostrils flared as his face turned crimson and his eyes went wide. Then he quickly swallowed as he reconstructed his features into a smile: “You passed??!!! Congratulations Listy!”
Lister grumbled and shook his head: “Rimmer!!” the man shrugged and played innocent to any wrongdoing rather unconvincingly. “Is … something wrong, Listy?” Oh please, Lister thought. Then he turned himself to look his partner in the eyes: “What's wrong, Arn,” Lister said forcefully, “is that I don't have any recollection of taking the exam. What's wrong is that the person that took them for me hid a big smegging H under his cap and called the exam droid a gimboid!!”
When Rimmer's eyes went dark and he started quivering upon hearing Lister's words, the Scouser wished he'd brought it a little gentler. Whatever he'd done, it had clearly been with the best intension at heart. “Hey ...” he said softer now, taking his hand.
“I'm sorry.” Rimmer breathed. “I … you … I tried waking you up this morning, but no matter what I did, I couldn't rouse you. Even the the sonic boom extra loud emergency alarm didn't work. I failed. I failed at the one smegging thing you asked me to do!!”
Silence, Rimmer looked sad and guilty at the same time, trying to make himself as small as possible in the corner of the couch, nervous hands fidgeting between his tights. “So …?” Lister asked, still confused.
“So, I felt … well, I knew it was my fault; I told you to take a calming drink. I should have known what would happen, I should have stayed by your side.”
A big smile broke on Lister's face as he sidled himself closer to his Hologram to take him in his arms. “Hey now, what's that you silly man? I'm not a child any more, you know. I would have gotten drunk last night with or without your say so. Stop trying to be my guardian babe.” More silence as Rimmer took in the embrace with obvious relief. “Well, what happened then, you didn't finish …” Lister urged after a while.
Curls tickled Lister's cheek as Rimmer continued. “Well, you studied so hard that it felt a crime to let it all go to waste. That's when I remembered the Holo shields and body swaps we did in the past. It .. it seemed like a good idea back then.” The curls stopped tickling and Lister moved his hand through them reassuringly. “But how? I haven't uploaded my mind recently …?” He asked in confusion. “True,” The curls nodded “I used my own. I figured I would try it for you as I had heard the material almost as often as you had, so it seemed fair and honest enough. All I needed was your body signature so I had to use your holo body …”
Rimmer continued talking, but Lister had long since stopped listening, all he could hear were those words: “I used my own.” Had that man any idea of what he had just said?
The Hologram didn't hear him, babbling on:
“Sorry, I'd planned to be there as you woke up, but I messed up.”
“I guess swapping bodies and going through the exam were rather draining ...”
Startled by the shouting, Rimmer sat up; “Listy, what?” he asked, panting a bit. The Scouser just stared at him in disbelieving confusion. “You … you … used your own mind?” Obliviously Rimmer shrugged, looking rather nervous. “Yes … was … was I wrong?” Lister sat closer, taking his hands; “And you passed?” Rimmer nodded, looking scared.
“Smeg, Rimmer, you know what you've done?”
“Ruined things for you?”
“Made a fool of myself?”
“No you smegger, please shut up.” Lister said, placing his hand over his husbands mouth. “Listen Arn, what I am trying to tell you is: do you realise that you've actually passed an exam?” Rimmer shrugged, and looked unimpressed. “Only because I thought I was you, this means nothing.” Lister wasn't having this. “No Arn, it was your brain, your mind. You passed this yourself it has nothing to do with the body you were in; you sat an exam and you didn't freak out, you actually remembered stuff.”
Rimmer bowed his head and made a soft sniffling noise. At first Lister worried that his husband was crying, then he realised he was actually laughing. “Arnie?” Rimmer shook his head, he was laughing too much. “What's the joke?” After a while Rimmer stopped and looked at Lister with ironic amusement; “If only someone would have told me centuries ago that the only way to make something of myself is to not be myself.” Lister pulled him towards him, and Rimmer stretched out on the sofa, his head on Lister's lap. They were quiet for a while, as Lister stroked his husbands hair and Rimmer was slowly lulled into a slumber. Then Lister suddenly spoke again.
“It doesn't count you know, for me?”
Rimmer opened sleep heavy eyes to look up at Lister: “What doesn't?” He sounded slightly confused.
Lister gave him a smile.
“The result, it doesn't feel right. I'm gonna have it annulled and passed on to you. There has to be a way. This is yours, Arn.”
With a flash Rimmer sat up and looked at him furiously. “Don't you smegging dare, you goit! I don't want to be a mechanics officer!!" He spat. "That's your thing!” He added softly.
A cheeky grin met the furious man and Lister produced a rather official looking paper which he handed to Rimmer.
“Tough, already did.”
For a few seconds all Rimmer could do was look at the paper and mutter; “I passed … Oh my God, I've passed!" as the realisation finally set in. Slowly he comprehended and a smile formed on his lips. He looked up at Lister. “So does that mean …” Raising his eyebrows Lister looked at him in confusion. “What?”
His chest slightly swelling Rimmer sat up straighter as he finished the question.
“That I'm an Officer now?”
Then the smile on the former Second Technician's face turned smug as the reality dawned on Dave Lister.