“Arnold, wake up!” Lister almost sang, softly shaking him.
It took a while before Rimmer responded to being woken up and managed to open his eyes. He was a bit scared of waking up at first: scared that it had all been a dream and that Lister wasn't back at all. He'd been so frightened and lonely these past twelve days: all alone in that room with just his mind for company. Then he realised that it was Lister who was shaking him and calling for him to wake up. Lister sounded kind and happy, so it seemed safe. He was surprised to be greeted by the sight of Lister dressed up to the nines in a suit that was probably once owned by an officer and probably altered to fit Lister by the Cat.
“Listy …? Wha ...” Rimmer slurred.
“Hey babe. Time to get up and get dressed, we're gonna have fun.”
Rimmer's sleepy eyes looked at Lister in confusion.
Lister sat himself on the edge of the bed and gave Rimmer the cup of tea he'd made.
“Yeah, fun. Even if you don't like Christmas, we can still have fun. I was thinking: we're alone in the universe, what's to stop us creating our own traditions? Just the four of us having a day of fun, food and whatever else that starts with an f that's good. Funmas: a twig, the Cat's jewellery on display and me and you. Fun. What do you say, Arnie?”
As he listened to Lister's words the Hologram slowly started to smile and Lister knew he had him.
“Let's have some fun, Listy.”
Wrecked with guilt Kryten went out of his way to assure that Mr Rimmer would have the best day he could possible get. He made his favourite food, chased the Cat away from Rimmer's favourite spot which he'd made an extra effort to clean. He selected his favourite songs in the correct order and made everything as he knew Rimmer liked it. It kept him busy, but did not ease the Androids guilt one bit. There was nothing in his programming that could justify his actions: telling a lie that almost caused someone's death – especially someone he knew so well, and hurting Mr Lister too? It was too much!! Over the last few days he had offered Mr Lister to terminate himself. He even had tried to blast himself into space. But his favourite human had stopped him on both occasions, telling him to get a grip and take responsibility for his actions.
Unknown to Lister, Kryten had rebooted Rimmer's memories inside him. He wanted to re-watch, feel what Mr Rimmer had suffered to remind him, as a self-punishment. He'd visited areas he previously had avoided, including Mr Rimmer's love. He'd only glimpsed at it before, now he saw and felt it all.
The love that Mr Rimmer had for Lister overwhelmed the Android, he'd never known something like that could exist. The fact that Mr Rimmer had battled through 600 years in Rimmerworld just to see Mr Lister again – while all he had to do to end the pain was switch of, had caused simulated tears to flow. Kryten was very sensitive and this broke his mushy mechanoid heart. He'd never known.
He saw things that made him see Rimmer in an entirely different light: he deserved happiness, he deserved Mr Lister.
Seeing Mr Rimmer for the first time since the disastrous day was a shock to Kryten. The thought that he had been the cause of Rimmer almost dying had been on his mind every hour of every day. Seeing him arrive in the recreation room leaning on Lister's arm looking emaciated and infirm gave the remorseful Android even more cause for upset.
It was a jolt to Rimmer's system to be back in the recreation room after so many days locked inside his room. Seeing the decorations, a banner saying “Welcome Back Arnie” and all sorts of fun games and yummy snacks laid out – for him! - moved him to tears.
Lister felt that the man, who was leaning heavily on his arm, had started to shake. He looked up to see that Rimmer's eyes were soft and moist. He gently squeezed him. Rimmer looked at him and smiled. “This party is for you, Arn.” Lister said softly. “You have been through so much and yet you keep going, keep fighting. You deserve a Christmas that is all about you. We've all missed you so much!!”
“Listy, I … I …”
But he never got a chance to finish that thought as an irate Android ambushed him.
“Oh, Mr Rimmer!!” Kryten wailed. “Can you ever forgive me, sir?! If you want me to terminate myself, sent me on a scout mission to a radioactive Gelf planet or have me alphabetise every item on board of this ship; you name it. I deserve a faith worse than that.”
Rimmer looked at Lister with helpless confusion, he wasn't ready for this. Lister tutted in annoyance. “Kryten, man, don't crowd Rimmer with your guilt mate. Can't you see he's in no state to deal with that? He's only just left his room, man!”
Kryten looked horrified. “Of course sir, how stupid can I be? This is a party. I will discuss my punishment later. If it is more convenient I could self flagellate until then, would that help?”
Lister groaned. “Just get the Cat and serve breakfast please, Kryten.”
“No need for that, bud!!” A familiar voice wailed. “I'm right here!”
A closet opened and out stepped the Cat looking like a Christmas tree in red, green and gold.
“You seriously thought I'd miss out on a party?” Then he spotted Rimmer. “Hey, Goalpost head! Back with us at last? We missed you! Especially Monkey, he's like a sad kitten without his mum when you're not around. He was just moping all the time and …”
“Yep, erm, let's eat, shall we?” A blushing Lister interrupted when he saw a smug smile starting to form around Rimmer's lips.
Happiness … A rare treat for all aboard of the Dwarf. All four of them being happy at the same time was even rarer. But on that day it finally happened as they sat down to eat the Christmas dinner in Rimmer's honour. Well, almost all four. Kryten still felt so guilty towards Rimmer he couldn't stop fussing around him. All day he watched over him like a hawk – whenever Rimmer showed even the slightest sign of being thirsty, he refilled his glass. If he looked tired the Android readied the sofa for a lay down. If he seemed unsteady Kryten offered his arm or, at one point, even picked him up to carry him, much to Rimmer's annoyance.
Rimmer, Lister and Cat had been amused by it at first, but soon found the Mechanoids behaviour very stifling. Even though Rimmer did enjoy being fussed over a bit, something he'd not experienced often in his life, he knew that this would drive him up the wall soon enough. He decided to talk to Kryten to tell him it was okay, he understood what happened and didn't hold it against him.
When Rimmer told Kryten he'd already forgiven him it only made things worse; the Android just kept wailing, so he dropped the subject. Then Lister tried to explain to Kryten that his fusing was not contributive to Rimmer having a good day. This the Android understood and he lightened up a bit, for Mr Rimmer's sake and slowly he got into the spirit of things.
Seeing Mr Rimmer happy with his work soon cheered him up too. Noticing that there was, by now, an enormous pile of washing up in the sink that kept growing soon had him ecstatic in anticipation. Now everyone was in the mood for Christmas and everyone was truly happy.
The rest of the day went by without a hitch, although it did worry and annoy Lister and Kryten in equal measures that Rimmer never took more then a few mouthfuls of all the delicious food that had been prepared for him.
Breakfast was followed by parlour games and board games – including Risk, Mineopoly and charades. Rimmer won every board game and even had a go at acting out a few words in charades, though it proved rather exhausting for him.
For the Hologram the day was a multi-coloured blur of all the joy he had never experienced before. He had gone through hell and now he was in heaven. Everything he'd always wanted and dreamed off happened to him, including the most important thing: people wanted him around and to be happy. People – Lister!- had gone through the trouble of making sure everything he liked was there to eat, to hear to … He didn't know any way to express how it made him feel, it was overwhelming.
So halfway through charades, just as Lister was acting out a James Bond title, he burst into tears.
All three men immediately clamoured round him.
“Hey bud, what's the deal? You all right?” The Cat screeched, an arm around him.
Lister immediately covered him in hugs and kisses: “Arnie, babe, you okay man?”
Kryten meanwhile fidgeted nervously around him, unsure of what to do.
“Oh Sir, is there anything I can do?”
Rimmer shook his head, his sniffles turning into sobby giggles, as he gratefully accepted the Cat's silk handkerchief.
“I'm fine, I'm fine … It's just … I never expected to ever feel this happy or … loved.”
And so at that moment Arnold J Rimmer finally experienced what it was like to receive a real group hug. The warmth of true friendship melting away centuries of loneliness.
“Aw, don't cry babe, this is supposed to make you smile.” Lister whispered as he squeezed his shoulder. Rimmer pushed him away teasingly.
“I am smiling you gimboid …” Lister kissed his cheek, then seemed to have something on his mind.
“Hey, if you're good … I want you to try something. If it scares you, just tell me. I don't want anything to upset you. It's just I know you'd like it and it's my fault you never got a chance to eat it.”
Rimmer blinked at him, slightly confused. “What is it Listy …?”
“Wait here, hun.”
At Kryten's insistence Rimmer lay down for a bit as he waited for Lister to return. Annoyingly he realised the Android had been right to suggest it. He was exhausted. But he wanted to do so much more that day: catch up on all those Christmases he'd missed.
“Kryten …” He asked.
Within less than a second the Android was by his side.
“Is there some sort of Holo-vitamine booster? I don't want to miss out on anything today.”
The Mechanoid frowned as he thought for a bit, he really wanted to help. Before he could answer Lister entered with a saucer and a steaming mug. Rimmer sat up in surprise. When he saw the saucers content he involuntary flinched.
“Here, Arn. I don't want you to fear coco or mince pies because of me. Those are happy snacks, see. Filled with Christmas.”
Rimmer released an amused snort. “Listy … I … I love how soppy you are. Thank you.”
“Food, yes of course. Food is an option.” Kryten mumbled.
Lister looked at Rimmer askance. “What's he on about?”
Rimmer blushed and shrugged.
“Oh … nothing.”
Kryten was confused at that, not understanding why Rimmer would hide his question like that.
“But sir, you asked.”
The Hologram was annoyed by the Androids stupidity: he didn't want Lister to know he was tired, he might get too protective and cancel some of the fun!
“Not now Kryten.”
Lister looked at all of hem in confusion. “Wha?”
And that is where the Cat took over. The Feline was fed up with the group wasting precious Christmas time – they hadn't even finished Charades yet! He had three rounds left to go!!
“Goalpost head is tired, he said. Wants metal bud to do something to that bee of his.”
“Right, thanks Cat.” Rimmer spat, annoyance in his voice. A soft squeeze and a sweet smile reassured him. “Hey, you're tired? Want to take it easy for a bit?”
Immediately Rimmer got defensive, surely he wasn't an invalid? “No! I want to do more games, have more fun and I want that damn coco you've still not given me!”
Lister burst into giggles – he loved Rimmer being worked up about nothing, that showed he was getting back to his old self again.
“Oh, right, sure. Want it with cream or marshmallow?”
Rimmer's face turned soft again as he pondered. “I've never had marshmallow … could I?”
Lister softly dropped a marshmallow in the coco. “Sure. And the pies?”
The Hologram wrinkled his nose. “Just a half one, please.”
“But sir!” Kryten interjected. “Food will do you good! It will charge your light-bees energy levels and strengthen you.” Rimmer frowned and sighed, picking up a whole one. “Alright, I'll try …”
Lister looked at him worriedly. “Why aren't you hungry Arn?”
Rimmer wasn't really sure. “Chewing can be exhausting sometimes … “
“Oh, hey." Lister smiled as he rubbed his partners arm. "Atleast try a few bites? And no need to worry about missing out. You know we can return to games and stuff later. Got lots more planned. How does winter-wonderland in the botanical gardens sound? Kryten found a droid sled so you don't have to walk and first we have a movie marathon lined up. What do you say?”
Rimmer just stared at Lister for a second with joy and amazement alternating in his eyes.
“I love you.” He then whispered.
A warm feeling stirred in Lister's chest.
Kryten and Cat left the two lovers to their coco and pies while they got the sled ready. Kryten had programmed the botanical gardens to terraform to Lister's descriptions and now they looked like a scene from a Dickens movie. Staring at the results the Android released a happy sigh.
“Oh Mr Cat, isn't it beautiful?”
The Cat surveyed the scene and purred.
“Not as beautiful as me, but yeah, sure is.”
Kryten faced the feline with as warm a look as an Android could muster.
“Nothing will ever be as beautiful as you Mr Cat.”
The Cat cheerfully slapped Kryten's back.
“Thanks metal buddy.”
And with that the pair readied the droid sled. Kryten had stuffed the pick nick basket with mini snacks and gluhwein and laid out a few blankets to keep mr Rimmer warm. He would enjoy this so much, Kryten smiled. Oh, he couldn't wait to see his face!