Rimmer: Rimmer's low self and high self both seem to identify as homosexual. This bothers him, as does Lister's admiration for his parallel personality, Ace. Why?
Rimmer didn't give it much thought at first. Being rudely awakened by noises from Dave Lister was an occupational hazard of being his bunkmate. Infuriating but expected.
But after a while he started to notice ... things. Lister was definitely avoiding him during the daytime. To a certain extent that was normal, but Rimmer's upbringing had given him an acute sense of degrees of avoidance. This had ratcheted up several notches.
Lister was quieter than usual, and the dreams he was having were out of the ordinary. Usually sleeptalking, for him, was limited to the occasional "Oh smeg yes, Kris!". Now he seemed to be having nightmares.
Or rather, one recurring nightmare.
The first time Rimmer heard his name pass his sleeping bunkmate's lips, it took him a moment to work out what was wrong about it.
Since when was Dave Lister scared of Arnold Rimmer, even in a dream?
"Sir, I'm really not sure about this."
"For the last time, Space Corps Directive 5673 clearly states that a superior may waive privacy considerations at their discretion if an inferior is suffering physically or psychologically, providing the purpose is to discover the cause of that suffering."
"I think you'll find that's Space Corps Directive 5672, sir. 5673 is..."
"Kryten, I don't care what ludicrous drivel you're about to spout. The point is, Lister is having nightmares and I want to find out why." At Kryten's quizzical look, he added impatiently: "Because the smegger's keeping me awake".
"With respect, sir, why don't you just sleep in another room?"
Rimmer stuttered, blinking. "Because ... because that room is mine! I had it first! It was assigned to me by the JMC and I'm not leaving it for anyone."
"Apologies, sir. It's just I've been wondering."
"You're getting way too big for your boots, Kryten. And why aren't you worried about Lister?"
"I am, sir. I'm just not sure you watching his dreams is the solution. Maybe he just needs to try a different type of curry."
"This isn't indigestion, you stupid bog-bot. Sadly I've bunked with him more than long enough to know the difference. Stop arguing and turn it on. And give me voice control."
After a short battle with his programming, the mechanoid did so. Rimmer extracted his promise of silence and dismissed him.
"Hello, my pretty."
Rimmer gaped as the - apparition - strutted down a flight of steps, displaying gangly fishnetted legs. That was supposed to be part of him? Impossible. As though he would be seen in public half naked - outside the bunkroom, anyway.
That doesn't count.
"What do you want with me?" Lister sounded as though he didn't really want to know. Neither did Rimmer.
"I want to hurt you." OK, that's not much of a surprise. It could have been worse.
Rimmer rolled his eyes. Poor naive Listy, always expecting the best of people.
The - thing - moved closer, allowing Rimmer to take in its appearance. Piercings, feathers ... eyeliner, for smeg's sake! But the over the top outfit was undercut by the attitude, reminiscent of a hunter eyeing prey.
"Because," - pregnant pause - "I'm not a very nice person." Rimmer cringed as the - creature - produced something he vaguely recognised as a holowhip, raised it into the air and struck Lister in the face.
"I'm going to lash you to within an inch of your life. And then ... I'm going to have you."
Rimmer fell through his chair.
He landed in a heap, the safety measures built into his software kicking in to stop him from falling through the whole ship and out into space.
His mind in a whirl, he barked "Pause!" at the screen. He winced as it froze on a close-up of - it - leaning over a cowering Lister, tongue waggling lasciviously.
He turned away from the screen and tried to think.
What had it done to Lister? Did he want to know?
But it couldn't have, his subconscious protested. It's incorporeal, like me. Unless ... the holowhip...
Rimmer shuddered. Surely not, or Lister wouldn't just be avoiding him. He'd probably have turned him off straight away.
He briefly considered rewinding the tape and pretending none of this had ever happened. No - there was no way he could stop now. Not without finding out.
Cautiously, he started the recording again, immediately putting it on slow fast-forward. A grotesque pantomime played out on the screen as all four Lows took it in turn to torment Lister. Rimmer couldn't help feeling relieved though that very little actual touching was involved.
But then there didn't need to be. He uneasily recognised the remote control device that had forced the Scouser to try to murder his shipmates. At the time, still exhilarated by their escape from the Lows and recovery of Red Dwarf, it had seemed funny to subsequently use it to make Lister hurt himself.
How were we to know? It was Cat's idea anyway.
Kryten had stepped in after a few minutes and Lister had retreated to the cockpit in a sulk. Or so Rimmer had assumed at the time.
He let out a sigh of relief as the picture shifted from the Lows' disgustingly grimy Drive Room to a corridor. The High versions of himself and Lister ambled along, chatting amiably as though they were on their way to a yoga class instead of in mortal danger.
Stupid hippies. Still, after what he'd just witnessed, the sight was almost comforting.
"Have I told thee today how much I love thee, brother? How much my heart glimmers like a newborn star when I gaze upon thine beauteous countenance?"
High Rimmer smiled beatifically. "Thy love refreshes and cleanses me like a babbling mountain stream, brother."
Rimmer only realised how quickly he was breathing when he began feeling dizzy. Unwilling to risk the chair again, he spread his long limbs out on the carpet. Recalling the crash procedure from their encounter with Ace, he tilted his head forward, placed his hands behind his neck and concentrated on breathing in and out.
That means nothing. Nothing at all. It's just touchy-feely smeg.
Unable to contain his curiosity, he continued watching. A gagged Lister, knife concealed behind his back, approached the High duo.
"Mmphh! Mmmphhh!" His eyes bulged helplessly as his hand brandished the knife.
"A knife! Are you hungry, brother?"
"I have some pulses and a little curd for your refreshment."
Rimmer groaned in disbelief. Exactly how stupid were they? But his scorn turned to shock as Lister's knife slashed at his double. Ugly scarlet patches appeared, marring the pure white of his robe.
"Forgive me, brother. I appear to have stained thy knife-end with my blood. A thousand apologies." With that, High Lister collapsed, all too clearly dead or dying.
Rimmer heard his alternate's reaction with incredulity. "Brother, permit me to furnish you with a fresh knife."
He watched with mixed feelings as High Rimmer's light bee was crushed and he faded and vanished.
People that brainless deserve to die.
Still, he couldn't pretend it was pleasant seeing two beings identical to himself and Lister destroyed. Especially by Lister, who had neglected to mention this turn of events to him. I wonder if he told Cat or Kryten?
He studied the freeze-frame of his bunkmate's horrified face and felt a pang of sympathy. Listy wouldn't care that the two idiots would have ceased to exist in a matter of minutes anyway. This was the man who wouldn't even shoot an unarmed but psychopathic simulant in the back.
So ... what do I do now?
Suddenly realising he had no idea, he reactivated the tape. A kaleidoscope of images and sounds assaulted his senses. The Lows, sneering and grunting. The twisted version of himself, whipping Lister and leering obscenely at him. High Lister, slumping to the ground. His own counterpart, image sputtering and dying.
Eventually the screen cleared, briefly fading to black. Then, as though a curtain had been pulled back, a new scene began.
Lister carried a tray along one of Red Dwarf's innumerable dingy corridors. On it were two steaming mugs of what looked like tea or coffee and a plate of biscuits neatly arranged in a circular pattern.
He entered the medibay and smiled at the person already there.
Oh, for smeg's sake! But Rimmer did not pause the tape.
Ace was washing his hands at a sink. Behind him on a hospital bed lay an unconscious Cat, leg in plaster.
"Um, Kryten thought you might like a cuppa. Least we can do after you saved Cat's leg."
"Tish, p'shaw, nonsense, old chap! I did cause it, after all."
Lister gazed at him with unabashed admiration. "You're so different from Rimmer, it's not even funny. Nothing's ever his fault."
Rimmer snorted. Why am I listening to this?
Ace sipped his drink. "You're not so different from Spanners, you know. 'Course he sports a moustache and specs, but you're both top chaps."
"Really, he wears glasses?"
"Nothing wrong with that, old chum. Didn't stop him becoming the best Flight Engineer in the Space Corps."
"An engineer? Wow. Next you'll be telling me he's married to Kristine Kochanski."
Ace said nothing, merely raising an eyebrow slightly.
"Oh. Do ... do they have kids?"
"Twin boys, Jim and Bexley."
Lister's crestfallen expression didn't mesh with his later nonchalance about Spanners to Rimmer.
"Don't worry about it, old love. You'll get your dream one day. Or you'll find someone else."
Lister swallowed noticeably. "I suppose. Want another biscuit?"
"Don't mind if I do, old fruit." Ace reached out to the plate and selected a custard cream, smiling at Lister.
Rimmer scoffed internally at the tableau. I don't know who's more pathetic, that prancing ponce or Lister, acting like a giggly schoolgirl around him.
What did it mean, though? This clearly wasn't part of the nightmare as far as Lister was concerned, much though he, Rimmer, might disagree. He restarted the recording.
"So you and Spanners get on really well?"
An odd look appeared on Ace's face. His response lacked his usual easy self-assurance. "Yes ... yes, we do. Wonderful chap."
Then the whole picture slowly faded until indistinct shapes and sounds were all that was left. Rimmer felt as though a caption should have appeared onscreen: "The End".
He rewound the recording to the beginning and went through it, lingering on sections he had impatiently fast-forwarded the first time, assuming the fact that he had been present during the early stages of the triplicator saga meant that he couldn't have missed anything significant.
"You're a toad, Rimmer. You're a weasel. You're a slimy, river-dwelling rodent with the morals of a preying mantis."
Rimmer flinched, not so much at the words - they were like water off a duck's back at this stage of his existence - more at the accusing look those dark eyes were directing at the him of a few days ago.
Why is he taking it so personally? I was just looking out for number one. Nobody else will.
Except Lister, his subconscious piped up. Lister always came back for him. He frowned in confusion, then scowled as he remembered the last time he'd been stupid enough to believe Lister cared about him. He'd rescued him from his self-loathing beast, true. But then he - they had to go and spoil it all by pretending to love him just to get off that smegging planetoid and throwing the lie back in his face as soon as they were safe. Lying little goit.
"I don't believe there's any part of me that wants to - dance - like that."
"Plainly there is, sir. Deep inside you have a secret urge to express yourself artistically."
Rimmer remembered an incident from his childhood. His mother had found some pictures he had drawn and torn them up in front of him, then sent him to bed without supper. The next day his father had forcefully impressed upon him that no son of his would turn out a sissy artist.
And I always loved colouring in the maps in Geography, and my revision timetables... Does this mean they really are extreme versions of us?
He considered his High counterpart. One thing you could say about him; he seemed happier than Rimmer. But what about that conversation with High Lister? Glimmering stars, mountain streams - it was practically love poetry-
Rimmer felt icy fingers of dread trail along the back of his neck. The Low version of himself had seemed happy too. No, "happy" was the wrong word - contented? Confident?
He forced himself to properly watch the scene with Lister in the Low Drive Room, paying particular attention to the interaction between their Low selves. Not that there was much, as all the focus was on Lister, but Rimmer caught a shared glance between them and shivered. A pair of amused cats toying with a helpless mouse.
What about Ace?
That fitted as well. His fondness for Lister, the wistful note in his voice when speaking of Spanners...
Let's face it, you don't need to be smegging Freud to notice a pattern here-
Rimmer jumped violently as the door of the room he was in slid open. But I locked it!
His panic increased as he recognised the intruder.
"Lock. Cheers, Hol."
The door resealed itself behind Lister as he stepped into the room.
Rimmer struggled to his feet with an undignified stagger as his light bee faithfully reproduced the sensation of pins and needles. "How did you...?"
"I asked Hol to put in an override."
"Stupid senile Filofax-"
"Oi, I heard that."
"Holly, you said you'd leave us alone. Please?"
"OK, Dave. For you."
"I suppose Kryten blabbed? Stupid machines, can't trust them as far as-"
"Rimmer! Let me speak!"
Startled, the hologram nodded reluctantly.
"Yeah, Kryten told me. He couldn't help it - you know what his programming's like. All I did was ask where you were and his guilt chip went into overdrive."
"Then he'll have explained to you why I'm doing this. Space Corps Directive-"
"Don't give me that smeg. You were having a nosey at me dreams."
To his horror, Rimmer felt himself blush. "What if I was? How is that worse than what you did? Changing my memories!"
For the first time Lister looked uncertain. "Yeah. I was angry at first, but you know how slow the lifts are. On the way here I did some thinking."
Rimmer bit back the obvious insult. "About what?"
Lister glanced at the vid screen, frozen on an image of Low Rimmer breathing down his neck just after he'd been forced to eat a live tarantula, and winced.
"C'mon, man - look at that. You've been staring at it for smeg knows how long. It didn't make you think?"
"I have no desire to watch you eat spiders, Lister. Disgusting."
"You don't have to tell me that - I made meself chuck afterwards. Nah, it's not that obvious. It's like - the Highs, that stupid dance they did. Some part of us wanted to do - not that, something like that. Like - when I play my guitar and write songs."
"I-" Rimmer recalled his exchange with Kryten and tailed off.
Silence echoed between them, eventually broken by Lister. Rimmer jumped as he yelled towards the computer monitor: "Holly!".
After a suspiciously short pause, the blonde-bobbed image materialised. "Yeah, Dave?"
"Hol, why did you choose to bring back Rimmer as a hologram?"
She sighed. "This again? If I've told you once-"
"The truth this time, Holly."
The computer hesitated. "Sure you can handle it?"
" 'Course we can."
Rimmer huffed. "What do you think we are, children?"
Holly decided to let that pass. "I chose Arn because you two are like - well, like a couple." Pausing for a response, she saw only gaping mouths.
"Yeah, I know you fight like cats and dogs. But c'mon, you've had the run of this ship for five years and you're still sharing a room. You'd be lost without each other."
Rimmer cleared his throat. "When you say "couple", you mean in a platonic, entirely above board manner, don't you?"
Holly glanced meaningfully towards the still frozen vid screen. "I never said that."
"Um, thanks, Hol," Lister said weakly.
"Rimmer ... I can't believe it's taken a smegging computer to make me do this. I'm sorry."
"What? What for?"
"For lying on that planetoid."
Rimmer's expression hardened. "Don't worry, Lister. I know you don't care about me, no matter what that batty computer thinks."
"No, you don't get it, man. The lie was when I said I didn't care about you."
Despite himself, Rimmer felt his simulated heartbeat quicken. "Then why did you lie? Come to that, how do I know you're not lying now?" He cast a hasty glance towards the doorway, half expecting Cat or Kryten to walk through it and start laughing at him.
"I lied because ... I couldn't face it. When I saw you in that cave, being threatened by that ... thing, I realised I ... did care about you. I think that's what the nightmares are about. Me subconscious or whatever trying to tell me something."
He waited for a response, but Rimmer simply stared at him, mouth slightly open.
"I don't blame you for being suspicious, but think about what you've just seen. It wasn't one-sided, was it?"
Rimmer considered the Highs, beaming at each other in mutual devotion. The Lows sharing a conspiratorial glance that was probably as close as they could get to affection. Ace patting Lister's shoulder and receiving a grin in return.
"Theoretically speaking - and bear in mind I'm speaking theoretically here - if I did have feelings for you, what difference would it make? It's not as though we can do anything about it."
"Yeah, I know. But then it can't hurt you to admit it, either."
"How do you know you can trust me?" Rimmer gestured towards the dream recorder.
"C'mon man, he's not you. He's you without a conscience." Lister's eyes glinted mischievously. "Guess you do have one after all."
Lister held out his hand to Rimmer, who looked at it as though he thought it might bite him. He was about to give up when the hologram's long fingers reached out towards his.
It was almost, but not quite, like touching air. He felt the faintest brush of something and a slight crackle like static electricity.
"I accept your apology, Lister."
Small steps. This is Rimmer we're talking about. "Thanks, man." He smiled broadly.
Any lingering doubts he might have had that his feelings were reciprocated vanished as Rimmer blushed, dropping his gaze.
THE END (Possibly)
Diminua's fic (please note it contains BDSM and is rated NC-17): http://reddwarfslash.livejournal.com/331667.html