Another day, another suicide mission.
Lister, Rimmer, Kryten, Kochanski and the Cat sat huddled together on the shuttle taking the Canaries out to yet another derelict, feeling decidedly miserable. On this occasion they were being carted off to the Carpathia, a derelict on a small asteroid not far from where Red Dwarf was currently orbiting. As usual they had to go in, find out what had happened to the ship, kill anything that needed killing and salvage what they could. This was getting repetitive. They hardly ever came across anything that dangerous on these missions, and seemed to spend hour after hour traipsing round in the cold, with nothing to show for it but sore feet.
It wasn't that they actually had any desire to find anything dangerous; they just wished they could be back at the Dwarf where they wouldn't have to worry about it at all, and were pretty much guaranteed of staying warm and dry, which wasn't the case here. Canary missions sucked.
For Rimmer, who was a fundamental coward at the best of times, they especially sucked. The only good thing about it, as far as he could see, was that he looked good in the uniform. But maybe that was because he'd been spending far too much time with the Cat. He looked over at Lister, who was staring off into space, looking utterly depressed. Rimmer knew how he felt. To Lister, looking good in the outfit wasn't enough to make up for the severe downside of their job. Although, Rimmer thought absently as he watched him, he actually did look pretty good in the uniform. The colour suited him and, as they arrived at their destination and filed off, he noticed that the trousers certainly showed off his...figure...quite well. In fact, he didn't look half-bad...
Rimmer gave himself a mental shake. What a weird thought to have. He went back to focusing on the suckiness of being on a Canary mission. And on this particular occasion, he discovered when they reached the Carpathia, it was going to suck harder than Kryten's groinal socket on full vac-power. They got divided up into groups and he was separated from the others. He was stuck with Kill Crazy, Marsden and Warrick, so he wasn't even going to have the others to talk to. In all fairness, he could have done worse. Kill Crazy was a bit of a nightmare, but he wasn't too bad generally; and Warrick and Marsden, though a little withdrawn weren't actually aggressive. But still, it was going to be a long day.
They stomped through the damp corridors more or less in silence; except of course for Kill Crazy who was running on ahead, bellowing at shadows and shooting at any rats that were about. They'd been wandering around aimlessly for about an hour when they heard Kill Crazy's voice just up ahead; "'Ere! Wassis then?"
They found him in a large crumbling room full of banks of rusty equipment. After prodding around a bit, they started to find syringes, Petri dishes and mouldy test-tubes. "Some kind of lab, innit?" Warrick shrugged, "Not much left though. Don't think there's anything worth takin' back."
"Er...Do you really think we should be in here?" Rimmer asked gingerly, "I mean, we don't know what they were working on and we don't have any protective gear. Perhaps we should move along?"
"Aah, even if there was something dodgy in here there won't be nothing left of it now," Marsden replied, "Don't be such a wet ponce."
There was a smash behind them. They whirled round to see Kill Crazy looking sheepish with a smashed test-tube at his feet. "Sorry," he shrugged.
"Smegging hell!" Warrick walked over and gave him a cuff round the head, "What's wrong with you? Come on; let's get out of here before you bring the whole bloody roof crashing down!"
They filed out and in the distance they heard a whistle, the signal for them to get back to the shuttle and go home. Rimmer sighed with relief. At least nothing had gone too wrong.
Later that night, Rimmer sat with the rest of the crew in the prison canteen. He didn't feel well. The others all seemed fine, chatting away happily and picking at their disgusting meals to try and find the least inedible bits, but Rimmer couldn't even manage that. His head hurt and even the sight and smell of the slop before him was making him nauseous. Something about the smell of it was all wrong...
Lister looked at him and noticed something was the matter. "You okay, man?" he asked, "You've not said a word. And your food's going cold."
"Going cold?" the Cat snorted, pushing something particularly suspicious to one side with his fork, "It was only lukewarm when they gave it to us!"
"I don't feel great," Rimmer said. "I think I'm coming down with something." Lister bit his lip, concerned. The Tank was not a good place to be ill. "You don't look great either," he confirmed, "Try and eat something; you need to keep your strength up."
"I don't think I can," Rimmer said dismally. I think I'll be sick if I try and eat this." His face was already turning slightly green.
"Do you want to go back to the cell?" Lister asked him, "Maybe you'll feel better after a nap."
"Yes, I think that might be a good idea," Rimmer pushed his tray away from him and stood up. Lister did the same, "I'd better come with you. You look really rough." The others looked at him with mild surprise. "I'd finished anyway," he shrugged.
Kochanski and Kryten exchanged shrugs as they went out. The Cat was too busy sifting through his dinner to notice anything else; "Eeewww! Yeuch! What the hell is this?"
Back in their cell, Lister let the door swing shut and Rimmer flopped down onto his bunk. Lister looked at him anxiously, then went to the sink and poured him a glass of water. "Here. Drink some of this." Rimmer managed a couple of mouthfuls then gagged. "Thanks anyway," he croaked. His eyes were glassy and feverish. Lister started to feel really worried, "Maybe I should call for someone to take you to the doctor." Rimmer shook his head,
"Not worth the hassle. I'll just try and sleep it off."
"Well," Lister conceded, "If you're sure. Tell me if you want anything."
"I will. Thanks, Listy." He closed his eyes and tried to get comfortable.
Lister sat at the table and played cards by himself for a little while, keeping half an eye on Rimmer until he started to get sleepy too. Careful not to disturb him, he undressed and jumped up into the top bunk and after a while he drifted off to sleep.
Rimmer lay awake in the darkness of their cell. He'd woken up a little while ago feeling much better, his headache and nausea gone; but now his stomach was growling murderously; he couldn't remember ever being this hungry before in his life. Only a few hours ago, just the sight of food had nearly driven him to vomit, and now it was all he could think about. And the worst part was that somehow, impossible though it seemed, he could smell something delicious nearby. All the kitchens on board must have shut for the day hours and hours ago; but there it was, a delectable, mouth-watering scent that called to something within. Like a cross between sizzling bacon and rare, juicy steak. A scent that got right to the pit of his stomach.
In the bunk above him, Lister had been tossing and turning fitfully for the past half hour, in the grip of a bad dream. Now he was murmuring something in his sleep, sounding frightened and desperate. "No...No, stay away...Help..." Rimmer sighed heavily and climbed out of his bunk to take a closer look and decide whether or not to wake him. Either way, it was a distraction from the snarling in his gut. He stood up and peered through the darkness to examine his sleeping bunkmate.
He couldn't work out why, but somehow the outline of Lister's body beneath the twisted sheets was intriguing him. The naked slope of his neck seemed almost to glow in the faint, faint light that was creeping in through the grating of their cell. His stomach gave another ferocious growl.
Lister awoke from a dream of wolves and dark places with a gasp. There was a shadowy figure next to his bed; and in the dim light and the aftermath of his dream it took him a few heart-thumping moments to realise it was Rimmer. He sighed with relief, "Smegging hell...What are you doing standing there? You scared me half to death!"
Rimmer didn't reply right away and Lister wondered briefly if he was sleep-walking or something, but then he finally spoke up. "You were talking in your sleep. You woke me up. I was worried."
"Oh. Sorry," Lister said. There was something not quite right here, something odd in the disjointed way Rimmer had replied. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness now and he could see his face clearly in the soft glow of the emergency lights along their strip of cells. He was staring at him intently, with an expression Lister had never seen before. "What's wrong?" he asked quietly, "Are you still feeling ill?" There was a flicker of something in Rimmer's eyes and he took a step closer to the bed, "No, I'm fine, it's just..." he paused awkwardly, "I...I'm not sure."
Lister looked at him carefully and started to feel...strange. There was something about his eyes. They looked different somehow in this light. He couldn't look away from them. They looked...so pretty. He shook his head, "I think I must still be half-asleep, man. I don't feel quite right either."
Rimmer was still watching him in a disconcerting way and although it was dark, Lister could've sworn that he hadn't blinked once. "Are you okay, Rimmer?"
"I don't know," he replied, and although his voice sounded slightly dazed, his eyes were sharply focused on his cellmate. "I'm really...hungry."
"You hardly ate anything at dinner," Lister pointed out, "I told you it might make you feel better." He sat up and as he moved, Rimmer's face came slightly more into the light and he caught a flash of brilliant gold in his hazel eyes. He stopped and stared, "Wow," he whispered, "Your eyes never look that colour in the daylight."
"Your eyes, man," Lister found himself reaching out almost against his own will to lightly touch the soft lashes, "It's incredible."
As Lister touched him, Rimmer drew in a sharp hiss of breath, but Lister was too intent on exploring what he was feeling at that second to notice what an effect the feel of his hot fingertips had had. "I'm so hungry," Rimmer repeated through gritted teeth, "And something smells...really...good." The soft flesh of Lister's inner wrist was almost brushing his lips and it was impossible, he knew it was, but it was like that smell – that enticing meaty, salty smell was emanating from him. He couldn't help himself. He parted his dry lips and slipped his tongue out over his skin. Lister gasped but didn't draw back.
Their eyes met fully, and in the silence Lister felt his heart thrumming heavily in his chest. The gold flecks in Rimmer's eyes seemed almost to be dancing and it made him feel happy and dreamy and sexy all at the same time. They made him feel like he didn't care if Rimmer wanted to lick his wrist or anything else.
Rimmer felt like every nerve ending in his body was singing; every sense multiplied. Lister might have been able to feel his heartbeat, but Rimmer could hear it and the sound pulsed through his head like the throbbing of an orgasm. Lister didn't just smell good anymore, he looked good. He tasted good. Everything about him felt good. Part of Rimmer felt very horny suddenly; and that part of him was saying that Lister's skin was very smooth and warm, and his dark eyes were hugely intriguing and his mouth was looking very, very kissable. But in some weird way, the thought of getting into bed with Lister wasn't just piquing his arousal, it was also tempting the gnawing hunger deep in his stomach. Like fucking and eating were suddenly twined together in some twisted way in his head. He reached over to touch Lister's face and the feel of his skin triggered a burst of something like euphoria in his head. "I'm not quite sure what's happening," he managed to say in a low voice, "But I really, really think that I need you, right now."
He grabbed Lister and hauled him roughly out of bed. Still dizzy with sleep, and whatever strange hypnosis Rimmer was unwittingly performing on him with his eyes, Lister tumbled out of the bunk into his arms, and his kiss. Rimmer crushed their mouths together, practically biting his lips in his fervour; and began to tear desperately at their clothes; his own first, then Lister's. He needed Lister to be naked, needed to feel every inch of his skin, hot and bare and smooth against his own. With every part of him he uncovered, the more this strange arousal/hunger inside seemed to grow. Pulling him tight against his chest, he wrapped his arms around him and started to kiss and bite him all over. Lister just whimpered softly, his eyes closed and his head back in a picture of utter desire and submission, wriggling now and then to allow Rimmer freer access to his body.
By the time Rimmer had made his way down to his crotch, Lister was quivering all over; his cock as stiff as an iron bar, the tip wet. Rimmer felt a growl bubble up out of his throat. He needed this. Oh, yes. This fed the hunger alright. His mouth was watering. He grasped his hips and eagerly drew him into his mouth. As he sucked him, felt his cock sliding back and forth over his tongue, tasted his delicious juices, the hunger flared up. He wanted to bite him. To sink his teeth into the hot, tender flesh pulsing so exquisitely between his lips. He knew he couldn't, but dear God, the desire was so great. And with every gasp and groan that let him know just how close Lister was to orgasm, it deepened. He started to claw at Lister's lower back and buttocks, trying to hold back, trying to distract himself but it wasn't working...And then the smell. That smell filled the air and was everywhere and suddenly Rimmer knew what it was.
Ignoring Lister's moan of protest, Rimmer released his cock. He spun him round violently, shoved him down across the table in the centre of the room and latched his mouth onto the bleeding scratches he'd just made. Lister bucked against him and let out a cry. Rimmer didn't know or care if it was from pleasure or pain, and neither did Lister; because it was a disturbing mix of both. The only way to describe the sensation was that it felt like Rimmer had sliced him with a sharp knife and then poured fairy dust over the wounds. "...more..." he managed to whisper.
Rimmer was in absolute heaven. This was it, the source of that incredible aroma that had been driving him to distraction. Perhaps somewhere, far back in the depths of himself, he realised that something was very wrong, that this shouldn't be happening; but as he licked every last drop of blood from the slight marks he'd left on Lister's skin, all he could think about was how good it was. And when he heard Lister's soft plea, his heart soared.
He began to make more scratches higher up on his back, deeper and harder now, the blood flowing more freely and Lister writhed delightedly beneath him as his tongue travelled the path of the wounds, enjoying the sensation more with every passing second. And as he felt Rimmer press tighter to his back, his mouth locked to the skin between his shoulder blades, he began to feel a definite persistent nudging lower down. He raised his hips and felt Rimmer's cock slide up, hard and warm, into the crease of his butt. They both murmured. Without pausing in what he was doing, Rimmer started to rub his own sticky sap over the head of his cock and seconds later he was easing slowly, but determinedly into Lister ass. Lister whimpered and wriggled, but not in protest; and when Rimmer was right up inside him, their balls touching, he felt something...something that tingled and throbbed in response to the pressure of Rimmer's cock and he gasped and grabbed Rimmer's hand, bringing it to his own starved shaft.
For a moment, just a fleeting moment as they continued, Lister experienced a flash of coherent thought, saw what they were doing and knew that something was hideously wrong. For just a brief second, part of him watched Rimmer tear a furrow in the skin of his back with his nails and feast on his blood; and realised that even ignoring the fact that he was being screwed by another man, even turning a blind eye to the fact that said man was his best friend and roommate, even if none of that side of things mattered, what they were doing was still seriously fucked up – by anybody's standards. But it felt so incredible...and now Rimmer was stroking his cock even faster, ramming himself harder against that wonderful, incredible place inside him and he wasn't just scratching now, he was biting, sending all his nerve endings into a frenzy and the more he bled the better it felt.
Rimmer's mind had almost entirely whited out with pleasure. The taste of Lister's blood had both heightened and overwhelmed every other sense he possessed and now nothing mattered except his fast approaching orgasm and the need for the incredible nectar that poured over his tongue even now; but never enough...never enough.
He started to bite and claw desperately, instinct somehow leading him up from Lister's shoulders. Blood? I know where there's lots of blood... He pulled Lister upright, wrapping his arms around him and holding him tight to his heaving chest while they fucked. He roughly pulled his head to one side and buried his face in his neck; breathing that wonderful smell. He could see the pulse beating under his skin, the sleek, curving blue line of his jugular vein. He traced it with his tongue and felt Lister's ass muscles contract sharply around his cock and they both groaned...Almost there...so close.
Rimmer started to suck hard on Lister's neck. Need to raise the vein first or you'll never be able to bite through deep enough...With one hand he grasped Lister firmly beneath the chin to hold him in place, with the other he reached down to squeeze and pump his massive, straining erection. He won't feel a thing...It'll be perfect...
Sure enough, within moments Lister was writhing helplessly under Rimmer's tight grip, his face flushing red. Rimmer could feel every muscle in his body flexing against his and the sensation made his cock start to throb. He didn't think he could hold back much longer. And then Lister was there.
He let out a long heart-wrenched cry, his tight ass squeezing Rimmer's cock, his come dripping down over Rimmer's fingers. And Rimmer struck.
He sank his teeth down viciously into his neck, felt him gasp sharply, too out of breath to scream; and as the first shot of blood hit his tongue he reached his own orgasm.
Brightly coloured blobs shimmered in front of Lister's eyes. He knew something was wrong; he knew he was in pain, but it didn't seem to matter. He felt like he was flying. The deep ache in his neck was tempered by a sense that someone had just poured liquid gold into the wound. He felt warm and dizzy. That had been one hell of an orgasm. He didn't even realise when his knees buckled and he fell forward.
Rimmer caught his weight up effortlessly into his arms, steadying him. But then, something happened that startled him. The steady thrumming of Lister's heartbeat that had been echoing around his head this whole time...faltered. It didn't stop entirely; it just stammered; but after the past twenty minutes or so the beat had become so familiar that the slight irregularity was enough to shock Rimmer into taking his mouth away from the dripping wound and looking around.
And with the hunger partially sated, he suddenly realised what he was doing. "JESUS!" He dropped the swooning figure of his bunkmate to the floor and backed away, his hands pressed to his bloodied mouth. "What's wrong?" Lister asked drowsily, trying to lift his head and failing. "Oh God...Oh God..." Rimmer babbled, "Lister...God, what have I done?" He couldn't have managed to bite through to his jugular, at least. Rimmer had read somewhere that once the jugular was open, you only had about thirty seconds before you bled to death, and Lister was obviously still alive; but he was bleeding profusely.
"I have to get you some help!" Rimmer blurted out.
"Why?" Lister asked, rolling over to face him. His eyes were huge and dazed, "I feel incredible." He was actually smiling faintly.
"Lister, you're bleeding everywhere!"
"That's okay. You can lick it all up for me," Lister closed his eyes and stretched, curling his toes up like a satisfied cat, "I had no idea something like that could feel so good..."
"Do you even know what you're saying?" Rimmer asked him hysterically. And then the smell hit him again.
"Oh God..." he said weakly. The desire was like a sudden punch to the stomach. The blood was calling him. What the hell was wrong with him? What kind of creature had he become? "Lister," he said weakly, "You need to get as far away from me as you possibly can. Do you understand me? Get into the furthest corner of this cell, the hardest place to reach and try and stop the bleeding!"
"But it feels so good, man," Lister purred. Rimmer could feel his mouth watering, he was almost drooling. "Lister, please! For God's sake!"
"Come kiss it better for me," Lister invited softly, "I can tell you want to."
Almost against his own will, as though his mind no longer had proper control over his own body, Rimmer found himself walking towards his naked companion. The smell was like a magnet drawing him in and he had no choice but to succumb to its attraction. He knelt down beside Lister on the floor and was suddenly aware of other smells mingled with the blood. Sweat. Pheromones. The dark tang of semen; his own and Lister's. He realised with shell-shocked amusement that he could smell the difference between them.
Lister managed to sit up, leaning back on his hands, and gently kissed Rimmer's mouth; pausing now and then to softly lick away the splashes of blood on his lips and chin. It seemed only seconds before Rimmer's cock was ramrod hard again. He gritted his teeth. He couldn't do this. As wonderful as it felt, as much as Lister seemed to want it, he couldn't. He didn't know how, but he could see that somehow he'd managed to drug or enchant him and he wasn't himself. But the blood...Dear God, it smelled so good...And now Lister was turning his head aside, offering him the raw wound in his neck and he couldn't resist. He bent down and started to lap at it. He felt Lister tense up and murmur, then slide his arms up around his neck, pulling him closer. He started to lap harder, then he was sucking, and then gnawing; as though the desire got greater the more he drank. And surely his jugular couldn't be too far down from here, could it? Maybe just one more good sharp bite would do it...
"NO!" He wrenched himself back and flung Lister roughly away from him. "I won't do it! I won't!"
"What's wrong?" Lister asked gently, climbing up onto his hands and knees and crawling shakily back to him.
"I won't kill you! I won't do it!" He covered his face with his hands.
"I don't mind," Lister whispered, "I just want to make you happy. Come on..." He nuzzled up to him, "It's okay. Just do what you want. I don't care..."
Rimmer leapt up, knocking Lister away from him, and ran to the cell door. He started to beat against it with his fists, "HELP! GET ME OUT OF HERE! NOW! SOMEONE OPEN THIS DOOR! HEY!"
All round the Brig, shouts started to go up as the prisoners were woken by Rimmer's howls. "What are you doing?" Lister asked incredulously. Guards were starting to pound up the stairs towards their cell.
"What the hell do you think you're playing at?" One of them snarled, unlocking the door and hurling it aside. Rimmer grabbed him by the front of his uniform, "You have to get me away from him! You have to put me somewhere I can't hurt anyone! Do you understand?"
"No!" Lister said desperately from the corner, trying unsuccessfully to get to his feet. "No, don't leave me!"
"What's going on here?" The guard roared. Suddenly he saw the blood trickling down Lister's neck and shoulder and his eyes widened. "Smegging hell!" He turned to Rimmer, "Did you do that?"
"Yes! There's something wrong with me! I don't know what's happening! Just get me away from the blood!!!"
"No, Rimmer! Please!" Lister begged.
"WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!" It was Ackerman. He'd obviously been dragged out of bed by the ruckus and was still in his dressing-gown and pyjamas. Even the guards cowered slightly. He took in the scene and turned his furious eyes on Rimmer, "You'd better have a good explanation for all this," he said icily.
"Mr Ackerman, sir," Rimmer swallowed hard, "There's something very strange happening to me! I need the blood! I can smell it! I need help!"
"What are you talking about?" Ackerman snapped impatiently.
"It's a disease! Or a virus or something and it's making me crave blood! I need blood!"
"Rimmer," Ackerman looked about to explode, "Of all the stupidest, most pathetic, idiotic excuses I've ever heard..."
"Mr Ackerman!" Two more guards were racing up the steps towards them.
"What is it?" He snapped.
"Murder, sir! Three murders! Three of the prisoners have killed their cellmates! Torn their throats out with their bare teeth! I've never seen anything like it, sir!"
Ackerman paused. He looked at Rimmer. He looked at Lister. He saw the blood on Lister's neck. He swallowed hard. "Warden Phillips?"
"Put Rimmer in solitary until further notice. I have to see the captain."
"Yes, Sir." Ackerman started to walk away, then realising nobody was going to take the initiative, turned back in frustration. "And somebody take Lister up to the medi-bay, for God's sake!"
Rimmer sat on his own in a small cramped cell for about twenty minutes until two guards, both armed he noticed, came to escort him up to quarantine.
The first thing he realised when he entered the treatment room was that the three other prisoners who'd apparently been affected were - he wasn't that surprised to see - Kill Crazy, Warrick and Marsden. Something in that damn laboratory back on the Carpathia had done this to them. As they were prodded and poked by a team of doctors, he managed to find out from the medics that Lister had already been patched up and sent back to bed without much ceremony, although he'd apparently asked after Rimmer as well; and according to Doctor Ronson had seemed quite distressed.
Having been thoroughly examined, and with blood and tissue samples taken to be analysed, all they could do now was wait. They were locked into separate secure units for the rest of the night. Rimmer didn't know how the others were feeling, they had effectively finished their meals after all, killing their cellmates in the process, but Rimmer was still hungry. He didn't sleep well.
He was lying awake on his hard bed the next morning when one of the doctors, accompanied by guards, came to tell him their findings. "It's a virus," he revealed, confirming Rimmer's earlier suspicions, "It works almost like a hugely extreme form of anaemia. We think with a course of antibiotics and blood transfusions we can have you back to normal pretty soon."
"How soon?" Rimmer growled. Guards or no guards, if he didn't eat soon, somebody was going to die. "A couple of weeks, maybe. Certainly not much longer than that."
"And what do I do in the meantime?" Rimmer demanded, "I can't eat normal food; it makes me want to vomit."
"Well, the transfusions should start to take effect pretty quickly," the doctor reassured him, "But for today you'll have to make do with blue steak and black pudding, or something along those lines. I'll arrange for something to be sent up. But here; you can have your first transfusion now to get things moving."
It was a difficult first few days, but the doctor was right; it didn't take very long before the cravings started to wane and soon the four infected inmates were allowed to socialise again, although only with each other.
"It sucks in here, dunnit?" Kill Crazy remarked glumly one afternoon, "Miss the old suicide squad, you know. Nothin' to kill in here whatsoever." Rimmer rolled his eyes, "Are they sure you've got this virus? I'm not convinced this whole bloodlust thing isn't just part of your normal everyday behaviour."
"Nah, they're positive. Showed up in the tests and everythin'," Kill Crazy replied earnestly, "Would have been kind of a laugh though, you got to admit," he added wistfully, "I mean normally they just give you a great big gun on Canary missions, but I wouldn'ta needed one anymore. When some big monster showed up, instead of blowing it up, I could've et it," he said brightly. Rimmer shook his head despairingly.
"Still," Kill Crazy continued, "Bit of a shame about ole Harper. He weren't that bad really. At least he didn't seem to mind all that much..." Harper was, or more accurately, had been Kill Crazy's ill-fated cellmate. The doctors had found when interviewing them on the first night that, despite the violent nature of the attacks, all four of them had revealed that their victims had seemed more than happy to give up their blood and, in all cases but Rimmer's, their lives. Even the autopsies corroborated that the victims didn't seem to have struggled. Like snakes, they'd unwittingly hypnotised them into complicity in their own destruction. "Doctor says they're not going to extend my sentence though, seeing as it weren't really my fault. Once that smell hits you, it's all over."
"I know what you mean," Rimmer agreed despondently.
"Still, at least you managed not to finish off Lister, eh? I always had you down as being a bit wet, but you must have some kinda willpower, mate. I woulda devoured my own gran, had she been stood there." Rimmer wasn't entirely sure that Kill Crazy hadn't devoured his own gran, and his parents too, but decided not to press the matter. "It's not just the blood smell that makes you so crazy," he remarked, "It's the other feelings that go with it," Kill Crazy looked puzzled,
"What d'ya mean?"
"Well, you know," Rimmer said uncomfortably, "That urge of being hungry for...something else at the same time." Kill Crazy shook his head,
"Don't know what you mean. I didn't care about anything else, I just wanted the blood."
"Really?" Rimmer was surprised, "It didn't make you at all..." he floundered trying to think of the right word, "Horny?"
"Nah. But maybe your body reacted differently to the virus and that's why you managed to hold back while the rest of us all went a bit loopy," Kill Crazy shrugged indifferently then grinned as a thought struck him, "Smegging hell," he chuckled, "S'pose Lister was lucky in more ways than one that they pulled you off him before things went too far, eh?"
Rimmer laughed weakly. Maybe it didn't mean anything. Just because Kill Crazy hadn't been affected the same way as him, it didn't mean that none of the others had. It had to have been the virus. Why else would he...? Why else would Lister have let him...? There was no way it could have been anything else! Was there?
Two weeks passed and finally, after a last blood test to check that all signs of the virus were gone from Rimmer's system, he was discharged from quarantine and sent back down to Floor 13. Although he was relieved to be out, he wasn't hugely looking forward to going back to the Tank, or facing Lister; and it was with some trepidation that he entered their cell.
Lister was sitting at the table, looking thoroughly miserable. When he saw Rimmer being escorted in, he immediately got to his feet, but neither of them said anything until the guard had left. "You're back!" Lister said eventually, seeming stunned, "I was starting to think they were never going to let you out. Are you okay?"
"Am I okay?" Rimmer gave a small awkward laugh, embarrassed, "I should be asking you that. I mean...I did nearly tear your throat out."
"Oh," Lister's hand went to the fading mark on his neck, "It's nothing, man. The doc said he didn't even think it would scar."
"Good. That's really good," Rimmer nodded over emphatically. There was a difficult silence.
"I...er...I was trying to find out how you were from the guards and that but nobody would tell me anything," Lister told him, "That's kind of why I was getting so worried. I was starting to think I might sneak out one night and come find you...Just to make sure you were okay," he said softly.
"Oh, I was fine. Turns out it was just a virus in the end. We must have picked it up on that last smegging derelict. But it was pretty easy to get rid of; and in some ways it's nicer up in quarantine than it is down here. Kill Crazy was driving me a bit batty though. But the beds are comfier and the food was better."
"No sprout crumble then?" Lister asked with a hint of a smile.
"What?" Rimmer was confused.
The tension of tiptoeing around the subject was just too much for Rimmer. Something needed to be said. "Look, I...I'm really sorry about...you know...what happened."
"Oh, hey, don't worry about it, man. You had a virus, after all. And like I said, this should heal up completely in no time..."
"No, I mean...Well, obviously I'm sorry for that too, but I meant...the other thing."
"Oh." Lister went a little pink and looked at the floor.
"I mean, it must have been pretty embarrassing for you. With the guards there and everything, seeing what had happened."
"Well, actually," Lister looked up again with an almost shy smile, "I don't think they realised. They were so freaked out about the murders, and a load of the inmates were still making a ruckus about being woken up, they barely even noticed I had nothing on, let alone the...well, the mess. And I cleaned it up pretty sharpish once I got back."
"Oh," Rimmer said. He wasn't quite sure what else to say, "Well, I'm sorry anyway."
Lister seemed like he had something on his mind but wasn't sure how to say it. "I am...grateful, you know. That you didn't kill me," he said finally in a small voice. "It must have been really tough for you. And I know I didn't exactly help."
"Christ, Lister, don't apologise," Rimmer said wretchedly.
"It's just...Mad Kev has the cell opposite Kill Crazy's and he saw everything that happened in there. I heard him telling Baxter and that lot. He said it was the most horrible thing he'd ever seen. I'm just really glad that you at least were together enough not to do that to me. Even though I could see how badly you wanted to...and I wanted you to..." For the first time, Lister looked genuinely embarrassed.
"Lister, please! This isn't your fault! My god, if anything you were more out of it than I was! I'm the one who should be feeling shitty here. Everything you did, everything that happened that night, was because I was somehow messing with your head. I mean, smeg, if we're being honest here, I effectively raped you! And I feel awful, so please, please, don't apologise!" Rimmer hadn't even realised that was how he felt until he said the words. He fell silent, waiting for Lister's reaction.
There were a few seconds of awful, gut-twisting silence, before Lister finally spoke up. "You daft smegger," he said affectionately, walking over. "You didn't rape me!"
"It wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been...mucking around with your brain though, would it?" Rimmer pointed out miserably, "You never would have gone along with it otherwise."
"Rimmer, it wouldn't have started without...the circumstances involved. But I'm not sorry it happened."
Rimmer stared at him, "You're not?"
"No. Are you?"
"Well...I was. But then, I thought you would be. So..." He shrugged helplessly, "I didn't know what to think. I still don't."
"Let me tell you what I think then," Lister said. "I think that ever since I looked into your eyes that night, I haven't been able to think of anything else. Perhaps," he smiled mischievously, "With hindsight, the whole bloodletting thing wasn't as great an idea as it seemed in the heat of the moment. My back is still red raw, you know. But that aside, it was still the most incredible experience of my whole life. And when I begged you not to leave me that night, it wasn't just because I was still high from blood-loss and...whatever else it was you were doing to me, and I wanted you to keep going. It was because I was terrified that if they took you away because of what we'd been doing, that I might never see you again. And that thought was even worse than the thought of what you might do to me if you stayed." His swallowed hard and Rimmer could see his eyes were glossy with tears.
As genuine as Lister seemed, and as much as Rimmer wanted to believe him, he couldn't be sure. "Lister, it wasn't real what you were feeling," he said with difficulty, "It was a trick of the mind, a hallucination brought on by what I was doing to you."
"Then why do I still feel that way now?" Lister asked simply. Rimmer was startled. "What?"
"The effects of the mind-control can't have lasted this long," Lister pointed out. "And I'm not feeling any particular urge to let you bite me. But..." he looked up into Rimmer's face, "I know I still would if I had to. If it meant I wouldn't lose you."
"Lose me?" Rimmer repeated, "Lister, what...?"
"I've done some stupid stuff in my life," Lister continued firmly, "And I'm sure you're the last person who'd disagree with me on that score; but the stupidest thing I ever did was to let you go. The other you. And I don't want to make that mistake again."
"Lister," Rimmer said tentatively, "Are you saying what I think you're saying? That you're glad we did all that stuff?"
"I'm saying that I don't think it only happened because of your virus. And I don't think...that side of it...would have happened at all unless we'd both wanted it too."
Rimmer thought back to his conversation with Kill Crazy: I didn't care about nothing else. I just wanted the blood. "And I don't think," Lister continued, "That you would have been able to stop yourself the way you did unless deep down you had a really strong reason for holding back. For not wanting to harm me."
Rimmer was silent for a long time. "You know," he said finally, "When I talked to Kill Crazy about what happened that night, I didn't tell him everything obviously, but," Rimmer paused, "He said that he didn't go through anything like I did. That he just wanted the blood and nothing else. He though it was really hilarious that I got turned on by the whole thing. And it made me wonder if perhaps," He had to swallow hard before finally saying the words, "It had nothing to do with the virus after all. That maybe I wanted you anyway and the blood-lust just made me...lose control."
"And?" Lister prodded gingerly.
"I think..." Rimmer looked down at his hands, "That it might be true."
"And I think," Lister replied, "That the hypnosis wasn't the only reason I didn't stop you."
Rimmer looked at him helplessly, "What do we do now?"
"Well..." A slow smile appeared on Lister's face, "I say we wait until lights out. And then no-one will be able to see what we're doing." Rimmer smiled back,
"That sounds like a good plan to me."