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Lister's only just started on his second curry of the morning when a cardboard box is unceremoniously dumped on the table in front of him. He pauses with a forkful of chicken halfway to his mouth, and looks at the box, then at Rimmer. "What's in there?"

Rimmer stands with his arms folded, the fingers of one hand drumming a slow tattoo on the opposite bicep. "In there, Listy, are all the magazines, games and cassettes of a certain nature that have been left strewn around our quarters by yourself over the past month. And, tragic though it is, it's spring cleaning time, so we'll be saying cheerio to Galaxy Sex Tour 15, au revoir to Lubed and Messy, and adios, tatty-bye and pip-pip me old china to Supersize 3: These Tits Are Made for Fucking."

"What are you on about, Rimmer?"

"In a nutshell - new home for the muck, or come next garbage pod, it's getting flushed faster than a transport shuttle toilet."

Lister tries to shove the box out of the way of his vindaloo sauce. "Come on, it's not like I'm the only one on this ship who owns any porn. I've seen stuff you forget about sometimes."

"What I own, Lister, is artistic, tastefully-crafted erotica, not porn."

"The Adventures of Strap-On Suzie?"

Multiple expressions manage to flit simultaneously across Rimmer's face. "Well, alright, maybe not that one," he says, after a moment. "But it's still a different matter entirely!"

"The only difference, Rimmer, is that I don't care if you know about mine, but you don't want me knowing about yours."

"Absolutely not! I don't need it the way you do because I have my desires completely mastered. Yes, I still retain an aesthetic, intellectual interest in the naked form, but, let me tell you, some of the greatest painters in history appreciated the nude. Titian, Picasso, Matisse..."

Lister looks at him. "Hogtied Whipping and Caning?"

Rimmer slaps the lid of the box shut, turning a delicate shade of simulated puce. "Just find a cupboard for all of this and keep it to yourself. You don't look in mine, and I don't look in yours, is that agreed?"

"Look, if it'll make you feel better, I'll get Kryten to make two labels, 'Lister's porn' and 'Rimmer's porn'."

Rimmer grimaces. "Please. If you ask that go-faster toilet brush to start labelling porn, we'll probably find our names on domestic appliances. That'd be a hell of a turn-off, wouldn't it? Looking for something that tickles your fancy, and you find that the latest XXX rating's been given to a three-speed multi-function blender. No, thankyou. I'll settle for never ever mentioning this again."

Lister sighs into his curry. He can see where this is heading, and it's getting really close to putting him off having a third one, at least until this afternoon.

He and Rimmer have been getting on better lately; a bit more pally, a bit less of the non-stop snarking and nitpicking. They've actually had some decent conversations. Last Thursday, when the Cat was brushing down every single one of his suits and Kryten was making an evening of removing the fluff from the tumble dryer, Rimmer had surprisingly agreed to go for a couple of drinks at the officers' club, on the condition that Lister didn't finish off the festivities by singing Rastabilly Skank or doing his impersonation of an elephant by turning his pockets inside out for the ears. Then there had been the night when neither of them could sleep, and they hadn't bothered to put the lights on but lain there, each in their own bunk, talking about loads of stuff for hours. It had been nice, saying it into the dark without having to look at each other, only listen. On Monday, they'd done some routine maintenance work together without a single insult; in fact, they'd been pretty in sync and finished in plenty of time for Lister to have a nap and Rimmer to put his feet up with some Morris classics. They've had a run of a few good weeks, and that's a treat. It goes in cycles these days; a period of truce where they aren't exactly mates, but manage something pretty close to it most of the time, followed by an interval of Rimmer being more of a git than he's been in years, with added bellend for flavouring. At the moment, they're about halfway through the bellend part.

"Rimmer, there's nothing to be ashamed of. We're stranded three million years into deep space, and we're both sexually frustrated. The porn's just like... living vicariously through other people or something."

Rimmer's returned to his spring cleaning and is sorting old Risk campaign sheets into chronological order, ready to be catalogued. "Frustration is never getting any, Lister, something which in your case would be disputed by multiple nubile game beauties."

"It's not the same, though. I mean - they're sprites. They only do what you program them to do. They don't feel anything."

"Reading between the lines of your Wimbledon program, those girls feel more balls than just Dunlops."

"You don't get what I'm saying. It's just a fancy way to bash one out, isn't it? It's not real. It's not enough."

"It's the same outcome. As I'm sure Kryten would testify to after he cleans the AR suite."

"You don't get it, Rimmer, because you've only ever spent twelve minutes having sex with anybody who didn't need a bicycle pump as foreplay."

Lister's barely finished speaking when he glances at Rimmer, and immediately groans inwardly at the genuinely hurt, embarrassed look that flashes across the other man's face. There's a lot of stuff they could have knocked pretty harmlessly back and forth; he didn't have to say that.

"Rimmer?" he says, after an awkward silence. "I'm sorry, guy. I really am."

Rimmer stacks some papers and straightens the corners of the pile in a focused way. Lister tries again. "What I miss the most, y'know, is being held by someone. Being touched. The closeness. That's what makes the sex so fantastic."

"Well, you don't get much of a chance to experience that in twelve minutes. All you really get is, 'which hole - top one - something feels sticky - smoke 'em if you've got 'em'."

"Everybody's got to have a first time, Rimmer. It gets better with practise."

"In case you'd forgotten, Listy, I followed it up by dying, thus making it my first, last and only time."

"There was that Nirvanah bird," Lister offers.

"There was that 'Nirvanah bird' if you count trying to cram in a pre-scheduled bonk before a 'time up' buzzer. There's not much time for raw sensuality and naked eroticism in a window like that."

"Yeah, but you've got another chance now, haven't you? You've got your hard-light bee. You never know what tomorrow's going to bring."

Rimmer looks briefly up at him. "On this ship, the one thing it's not likely to bring is any women."

Lister examines his curry again. He pokes it around, half-wondering if it really is chicken nowadays, or something weird and genetically-engineered that Kryten's breeding down in the cargo bays. Guilt still chews at his brain about what he said about McGruder - never mind Rachael - and combines with a sudden rush of almost-depression. He's had to admit to himself lately that he doesn't actually enjoy insulting Rimmer that much anymore. Lightweight bickering, with Rimmer giving as good as he gets, yeah, but not fighting. When they've spent time together, just chilling out, he's found himself wishing it could work out that way more often. Rimmer can wind Lister up, but Rimmer's still what the Cat and Kryten are never going to be: human.

He really is lonely. And physically lonely, too; starving for what the AR machines and the videos can't give him. And still horny. Maybe it's that which puts the two thoughts together in his head and makes the words fall out of his mouth. "There's me, though, isn't there?" he says.

Rimmer's hand freezes on the ring binder he's about to open, and Lister would have squirmed under the look the hologram gives him if he hadn't noticed the slow bob of Rimmer's Adam's apple as his program simulates a swallow. "Correct me if I'm wrong," he begins, after a moment or two. His voice is half an octave higher than normal. "But are you suggesting, Lister, that you and I try making the pleasure GELF with two backs?"

The back of Lister's neck reddens slightly. He feels his screaming brain trying to automatically drag him away from anything remotely resembling the idea, but decides to stick his fingers in his ears and ignore it. It's been too long, he thinks. He can't hack it any more. He needs - something. "No! Maybe we could... I dunno... cuddle." He feels his neck getting even hotter. "While we both, y'know, do it."

"You mean while we..?" Rimmer vaguely mimes a particular hand action.

Lister could swear he looks pink now, too. He starts to feel ticked off with them both. Smeg it.

"Yeah. Yeah, while we both have a wank. It's not like we haven't heard each other at it already. How different could it be?"

"Very different!" Rimmer hesitates, and his eyes suddenly get an extra-panicky glaze to them. "Wait a minute - exactly when have you heard me, and what else was I doing?"

Lister shifts in his chair, breakfast, incredibly, almost forgotten. He wants to run at this now before he gets cold feet. "Look, it doesn't matter! If you want to try it, I wanted to let you know that I might be interested too. It's not a wind-up," he finishes, more quietly. "I'd like to. Honest. I think it'd be good."

Rimmer resembles a rabbit caught in the headlights. "Lister, I don't..." He stops, and looks a bit helpless, all the rancor suddenly drained out of him. "I really don't know," he says, lamely.

Rimmer hasn't marched out calling Lister a disgusting, deranged little pervert, or started to mock him relentlessly, and he doesn't look like he's planning on doing either; not immediately, anyway. He seems torn. Six-hundred-and-something years without touching anyone except yourself. Smegging hell, Rimmer. How can you stand it? Lister bites his lip.

"Would you just hold me, then? While I do it? Please," he adds. He only mouths the last word, but he sees the slight shift it causes in Rimmer's expression.

"Would you give me some time?" Rimmer asks, eventually. "To think about this?"

Lister nods. He feels shaky himself, now. "Yeah. Okay. We'll have a chat."

"You don't chat about spanking the monkey, Lister." Rimmer reaches for the holepunch and neatly positions his first sheet of paper. He punches it, dead-centre, and then pauses. "Ask me again in two days time."

When Lister asks him, halfway out of a service duct with the other man about to pass him a ten and a half inch screwdriver, Rimmer says yes.

*** *** ***

Lister hasn't prepared so thoroughly for a wank since he lived with his gran and had to do it in the bathroom with the taps running to hide any noises and the bog roll ready for a quick cleanup and flush afterwards. He starts off putting all their pillows on the bottom bunk and plumping them up to make a sort of nest, then wonders if Rimmer's going to throw a wobbler at the idea of Lister doing it in his bed and tries them out on the floor instead. He gets a couple of cans out of the fridge, more for himself, because there's a coil of nervousness snaking around somewhere inside him that at the same time feels really good. Some of it's simply anticipation, newness and novelty poking his cock awake and making it lift up its head and have a look around, but another part's getting him right in the gut.

Rimmer's actually going to do this for him. Maybe he's picked up another holo-virus and gone stark raving bonkers. Lister doesn't care. The knowledge that he's going to be touched intimately again by the closest thing around to a living, breathing human is filling him up until he can almost feel the tears of relief burning his nose. He feels like he could hug the man.

They're going to be doing some of that this evening, aren't they? Hugging. Fondling. And then Rimmer's going to watch him come. Feel him come. Lister's starting to get more excited than the Muff Munchin' Girls of Mimas ever dreamed of making him. But exactly what he's going to say at first - to get the ball rolling, if you like - when Rimmer gets back from his shift, and what Rimmer's going to do, is what he's not that sure of. He and Rimmer have swapped memories, swapped bodies, and he's walked through the murky manifestation of Rimmer's psyche. He shouldn't have to come up with a step by step plan as to how they're going to get down to this, especially when Rimmer's already agreed to it in principle. Still, Lister wishes he could get it out of the way.

Rimmer partially solves the problem. When he does get in, he pauses as the door swooshes closed behind him, eyeing the lights as if he thinks they might be involved in some sort of conspiracy.

"Are there power issues in here too? We're having random outages for some reason. Kryten and the skutters are still checking for wiring faults."

Lister gets up from his chair a bit too quickly. "No. It's fine - I asked for forty percent lights. Thought it might be good for tonight." He tries offering Rimmer a grin. Got to keep this easy. Relaxed. "D'you go in for mood lighting?"

Twin spots of colour put in a fresh appearance in Rimmer's face. "I didn't think I had to be in the mood."

"Do this for me, Rimmer, yeah?" Lister takes a step forwards. When Rimmer doesn't immediately move to meet him, he walks the rest of the way and reaches down for Rimmer's left hand, slightly amazed, as always, at the recreation of skin folds and textures; the small bones underneath. He holds it, loosely, rubbing the back with his thumb. "There y'go. Nice place to start."

Rimmer looks down at their joined hands in a way that smacks a lot less of disgust and a lot more of abject confusion, as if the gesture's almost completely alien to him. Slowly, he tries out a little return squeeze. Lister beams at him.

"Come and sit down, man. You look knackered. So how many power blips's Holly found?"

Rimmer lets himself be led fairly passively over to their small sofa. "Apparently they're intermittent, but floors 581 through 613 are taking the brunt of it. Holly says she detected a peak of a thousand faults, but I wouldn't trust Speak 'n' Spell on steroids to detect burning toast."

Lister throws a glance at the kitchen area, where you can see a box under the sink, cocooned and papoosed in sixty feet of super-strong duct tape. "Don't mention smegging toast."

He strokes Rimmer's hand again, because he can. "581 to 613 - that includes the holo projection suite."

"Yes. Unaffected, so far."

"That's good. Don't want you going wrong on me in the middle of something important."

Rimmer's right leg jiggles slightly. His lightbee runs mostly independently of the holo suite, but, if it's in range, it automatically checks in with it every so often to swap data. If the system's down completely, it tries again later, but blips and error messages can give Rimmer a few problems. Weird things, like the time the Cat blew a fuse with his styling equipment as Rimmer was getting an update through, and he suddenly had the overwhelming urge to hum Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes, or just random headaches and signal losses.

"The irony of it, eh, Lister? Arnold J. Rimmer, born to command legions, has no control over his own body beyond what a senile computer having a good day can hash out for him."

"Everybody's got things they can't control," Lister says. He's very aware that Rimmer hasn't asked for his hand back yet, and, now they're sitting together, he can feel the warmth of his projection, a bit stronger than a living person's would be. He doesn't want to get distracted or let Rimmer go off on one. He tries inching his bum across the cushions to get them closer, and when Rimmer shifts slightly as if to instinctively put some space back between them again, Lister tightens his grip, bringing him up short. "Like I can't control wanting you to hug me."

Rimmer doesn't pull away, but he doesn't volunteer himself any further in Lister's direction, either. "I don't know if I can do this, Listy," he says, after a moment.

"Course you can. It's natural."

"It might feel natural to you. It never really did to me."

Lister's chest aches. Something so simple, and so important. He used to hug Petersen, Chen and Selby all the time, because they were his mates. Hugging Kochanski was brilliant, partly because he liked the cushion of her boobs against his chest, but a lot because he liked kissing her hair and feeling her fingers working in his clothes and smelling her smell mingling with his. He can't imagine not wanting to put your arms around someone you care about. But then Rimmer's never had anyone who cared enough to teach him to.

"Come on," he says, softly. Gently. "C'mere, smeghead."

It takes some arranging of their limbs - mostly Lister manually arranging Rimmer's - but they manage it, and there they are, Rimmer behind Lister, leaning against the back of the sofa, and Lister half-lying on his chest. Lister finds Rimmer's hand again and puts it on his own chest, holding it in place.

"See, not that bad, is it? Comfy."

"I'm being the pillow here," Rimmer points out.

"We can change over if you like."

"No. It's alright."

They sit there quietly. Cuddling, more or less. It feels simultaneously incredibly weird and stunningly good. Lister's cock apparently thinks it feels even better, because things are starting to get crowded down there now. He considers changing position, but realizes that there isn't really any way he can hide it without making it obvious he's trying to. It's not as if Rimmer's not going to end up seeing a lot more, anyway; Lister's got no intention of going and grabbing a sheet to wank under.

"D'you mind sitting here? Didn't think you'd want us to go on your bunk."

"Lister, I'm not a completely anal, obsessive-compulsive neurotic."

Lister grins. "Yeah, you are. Doesn't matter, though." He adjusts himself, still trying to keep it at least subtle and knowing he's probably failing. "So, what kind of a day have you had? Before the power problems?"

Rimmer's fingers flex beneath his. "Is that really a normal conversation to be having before... well, before?"

"Rimmer, it's completely and totally normal. You talk about stuff when you're together. What you've been doing. What's worrying you. Funny things that happened. I used to do it all the time with -" Lister starts to say 'with Kochanski', but something stops him from going there. "With my girlfriends," he finishes.

"It always seemed to necessitate my being evicted from our quarters pronto, though, didn't it?"

"It's all part of it, Rimmer. One thing leads to another. You're laughing about something and it turns into kissing. Or you touch each other, and it ends up feeling just right." He's getting uncomfortable in the trouser department now. Rimmer's warm, if awkward embrace and his own anticipation are doing a real number on him. "Don't go into goit mode on me, okay? I'm feeling good here."

For the first time since Lister initially suggested this, Rimmer looks completely taken aback. "Are you?"

"Course I am. Why wouldn't I be?"

Rimmer's shoulders move in a not-quite shrug, more a twitch of hologrammatic muscles. Some hidden part of Lister's brain remembers how good his muscles look there. Big shoulders, he's got. Those arms around him are decent, too. "I suppose I never imagined that you would. With me, I mean."

"What have you imagined?" Lister asks. The soft light, the warmth soaking into him, and his general level of horniness are making him cheeky. Flirty. He's not completely sure whether or not he's trying to flirt with his bunkmate, but he's enjoying it.

"This is supposed to be for you, Lister."

"It's for both of us," Lister says. He moves his hips, and pats Rimmer's hand. "Need to start getting out of some of this, yeah?"

Rimmer releases him, scooting back on the cushions, and Lister rolls off him to the side. He doesn't want to either look like a twonk or break their connection by standing in front of Rimmer doing a striptease, so he stays where he is and lifts up to pull his t-shirt over his head, chuck it in the direction of the floor, and unfasten his belt. He can't help his little grunt of relief as he pops his fly button and eases the zip gently down, leaving his cock constrained only by his much looser boxers. "Smeg, that's better," he mutters.

"How much are you taking off?" he hears Rimmer ask.

"I'm not wanking in my leathers."

"Oh," Rimmer says, and, for the first time, Lister's sure he can hear the tiniest hint of disappointment. He peeks at the other man.

"Forgot you were a kinky sod in your head. D'you like leather, Rimmer? I could keep my gloves on." When he sees Rimmer start to prickle, threatening to spoil the cosy atmosphere, he reaches out and touches his leg. "I'm teasing you."

Rimmer's nostrils stay slightly flary, but he doesn't appear to object to the touch, which looks promising to Lister. "You'd better be."

"Fun to be a bit kinky sometimes, though." Lister inches the waistband of his trousers under his bum and tugs them over his hips. He's already kicked his boots off. He's still trying to keep things light, but the way Rimmer's eyes immediately dart around the outline of his cock causes a fresh burst of heat in his groin. He can't wait much longer for this.

Lister hooks his thumbs into his boxers and pulls them down, and Rimmer inhales sharply through his nose. He's visibly tensing up now, and one hand is gripping the seat cushion beneath him. As soon as Lister can finish getting rid of the boxers, he moves up to Rimmer's side, just being close, not making his penis something Rimmer has to look straight at yet if he doesn't want to. Lister's an uninhibited bloke, but how easy it is to get naked in front of his bunkmate is surprising even him.

"Hey. S'okay. It's only me."

"Yes, I don't think there are going to be any cases of mistaken identity this evening."

Lister waggles his eyebrows. "So what d'you think's my most memorable feature?"

"We can probably rule out the dimple on your left elbow."

"You're funny when you let yourself relax. Know that?" Lister nudges Rimmer, gently. This is actually feeling even better than he thought it would. He really wants to hold hands again, but his cock's sending him some warning messages that it's going to be requiring his attention sometime in the next five minutes.

He plucks at the quilting of Rimmer's partly-open jacket, and can't decide whether it's real or not. Rimmer's got tailored versions of most of the clothes his program generates these days. Sometimes holo-generated clothes are more static-y. If there's any unusual electrical activity outside the ship, both Rimmer and Kryten can build up quite a bit of static; Lister and the Cat have had shocks off them before, like when someone goes around rubbing their feet on a nylon carpet.

"Lose this?"

Rimmer hesitates. "For both of us," he says, quietly.

Lister's not completely sure whether he's asking for confirmation or repeating what he himself said before, so he just gives his leg a squeeze that he hopes might be reassuring. Rimmer unfastens his jacket the rest of the way and loses it and the t-shirt underneath it as well, carefully draping them over the back of the sofa as he strips to the waist. Real, then. His tongue runs around his lips, moistening them with hologrammatic saliva as he raises his eyes uncertainly to meet Lister's, and for a minute he looks so vulnerable, and things feel so nice between them, that Lister's heart gets as warm as his groin. He heaves himself into Rimmer's lap again, aware of the long, delicious shudder that goes through both of them as he presses his bare back to Rimmer's fantastically solid chest and feels the brush of nipples. Being touched again, by someone who feels it like he does. He doesn't give a toss if the ship's log says that Rimmer's a stiff.

"Hold me," he says, in a half-whisper. "Please, man. I need you to..."

Teeth-grittingly slowly, Rimmer slips his arms around him, clutching him briefly around the ribs, then letting his fingers slide down to somewhere near his stomach. He winds Lister in close, then closer, simulated breath hitting the back of his neck in little puffs, and Lister murmurs something that he doesn't even understand himself, reaching for his swollen cock. He grips himself, hard, then more loosely, beginning a slow, gentle rhythm. He wants to make this last, in case it never happens again; wants to wring enough out of it to keep him going the rest of his life.

He sees if he can rock his hips sitting like this, and the movement bumps his arse against Rimmer's velour-enclosed crotch. The soft, almost silky material strokes his cheeks, like it's trying to tease him into wanting more. Lister stops thrusting to deliberately rub against it, and what seems like every miniscule hair on his body stands up as his skin goosepimples. He can feel an erection pressing into him, and finds himself incredibly, stupidly grateful. He really does want to get off with Rimmer. He wants to be able to share this, all of it. He takes hold of his penis again, cradling it softly, brushing his thumb across the head and feeling the throb of pleasure each time.

"Talk to me," he says, breathlessly. God, he sounds like he's losing it. "Tell me how horny you are."

"I can't... I never could..."

"I know, Rimmer! I know you think about sex every smegging minute of every smegging day! I know how you feel like you're going crazy. I know you get yourself off every dirty way you can think of, and it's still not enough. I know, 'cos I do it too!" Lister strokes himself, fast enough to stay rock hard, but not fast enough to come. "That's why you said yes. That's why we both wanted to do this, so much."

Rimmer's shivering, a deep, full-body shiver that gets into Lister's bones. "Oh, God, Listy," he mutters. Lister thumbs a bead of wet from his tip, and Rimmer's hips jerk against him. "Oh, smeg -!"

"Tell me," Lister says. Then, again, softer, gripping the long fingers splayed over his abdomen with his free hand. "Tell me."

"I'm so smegging horny, Listy. I've been horny all day, just thinking about this. I couldn't say yes at first because I couldn't let you know how much it turned me on, being touched - any touch. I thought you'd use it against me... tell me how pathetic I was..."

Lister doesn't know whether he wants to cry or come. He feels like he might end up doing both at the same time. "You daft bugger. It's human! You should have told me -"

"How could I have done that? Gone up to you and said, 'Lister, I need a hug -'"

"Rimmer, I'd have hugged you any time, even if I'd wanted to twat you again five seconds later!" Lister's had it now, completely had it. This is definitely going to go beyond what he'd originally intended to leave it at. He grabs Rimmer's hand and brings it to his cock. "Smegging hell, touch me!"

"Oh, God," Rimmer says again, unsteadily. For the first time, he makes a fist around a penis other than his own. Lister pushes up on his elbow so that he can thrust into it, the slightly awkward position not taking anything away from the wonderful pressure building in his balls. His brain flickers from the enjoyment of one sensation to the next. Rimmer's hologrammatic skin tingles very, very lightly wherever it touches Lister's, just enough to stimulate him further and making his own tingle in response. He pants unashamedly. He feels utterly fantastic. His body's singing in sheer joy, every pore wide awake and throbbing. He doesn't want them to hurt each other. This is what he wants; this lovely, lovely closeness. Why haven't they done this before? This is the best, the hottest, the smegging horniest wank that Lister's ever had in his life.

"Show me what you do to yourself. Show me what makes you come, really hard."

Rimmer inhales, sharply. "You wouldn't like it."

"How the smeg do you know?"

"You wouldn't. I know you wouldn't."

A sort of craziness starts to overtake Lister. He could come like this, easy, but he wants more before he does. More Rimmer, more him, more of the messed-up, needy, complicated layers of bloke underneath. "Try me!"

Rimmer is shaking as he uncurls his hand from Lister's cock. Lister replaces it with his own, picking up the momentum and stroking himself again, playing with his foreskin. The silence seems to go on for ages, but he forces himself not to fidget and to stay in position, pliant and waiting. He's rewarded for his patience when he feels Rimmer cup his arsecheeks in his hands, squeezing into the space between them both. Lister wriggles his bum appreciatively, making it clear that he's into this and spreading himself in the process, letting Rimmer's fingers slip down between his legs. They're not a demanding presence, but they're there and he can gradually feel them more and more, his own weight holding them between his arsehole and his balls. The pleasure's definitely there too, but it's like it's hard to locate in a specific spot, different from his cock. All he knows is that he feels warm and pulsing and generally good down there.

"S'nice. Feels great." He looks down at the thick thread of precome slowly detaching itself. "Smeg, I'm really leaking..."

Rimmer shifts Lister slightly to one side, reaching for his penis. He hollows his hand beneath it to catch his wet, and when that doesn't work, stops and tries again, winding it off around his fingers. Lister turns his head to catch Rimmer's eye, offering him a smile that forgets any resentment and any insults; everything but this gorgeous intimacy, the erotic energy between them. When he feels Rimmer's fingers brush the sensitive skin around his arsehole, with the implications of that, such a wave of hot lust washes over him that his vision almost whites out.

"Smeg, yes!"

"Are you sure? Are you absolutely, definitely, completely sure?"

"Rimmer, tell me what I need to do to get your finger in my bum, and I'll decide afterwards if I'm sure!"

Rimmer shuts his eyes. Faintly, Lister can hear the working of his lightbee, a tiny, high-pitched hum that only carries when things are very quiet, like a heartbeat. "Push out," he says, after a minute.

"Eh?"

"Push out! When I'm pressing in." Rimmer sounds desperate. Lister's starting to get desperate himself. He's so hard; can't get any harder. Kryten's never had a groinal attachment stiffer than the one between Lister's legs right now. He tries to spread himself wider.

"Go for it."

Rimmer manages to breach him shockingly easily, Lister's muscles doing something amazing and beyond his control, and sucking Rimmer's finger in to lie quietly inside him. It immediately feels about a quarter weird, a quarter embarrassing, and half extremely hot. Even when Rimmer partly withdraws his finger and slips it back in again with a friend alongside it, Lister doesn't get much sensation - they're just there - but Rimmer's quivering breaths and the idea of what he's doing is more than enough to keep Lister going. Then Rimmer slides in a bit further and brushes a particular spot inside, and all of a sudden, a small lightning bolt is tickling the head of his cock. It's like one second he's only starting to climb the mountain, and the next he's nearly falling over the edge.

"Smegging hell!"

"That's it - there. That's -"

"Don't need it explaining..." Lister finds himself starting to pant as the minutes pass and Rimmer keeps massaging slow circles over that small, swollen bump, his touch making Lister tingle inside the same way it does outside. It feels better and better, the longer he does it. A series of waves and pulses crest and fall, stronger each time they peak, until Lister's stopped stroking his penis and is just holding it, letting it jerk and twitch by itself as he rides the pleasure inside him. He wonders if he even needs to stroke it, because this is starting to feel close to one continuous mini-orgasm.

Rimmer's giving him this. He tries to work the fingers in deeper, rubbing his bum against his bunkmate's groin in the process, and hears a deep, throaty moan in response. This is in-smegging-credible. Lister feels like he doesn't want them to ever separate again.

"Don't stop, Rimmer... for smeg's sake, don't stop..!"

"I want to watch you come, Listy. I want to make you come. I want you to come because I'm touching you... because we're touching each other..."

"Make me come -" Lister repeats. His legs are starting to shake; tremors that start inside and radiate outwards. Every vein in his body's pulsing.

"Oh, yes. Oh, yes -" Rimmer ducks his head and swipes his mouth across Lister's bare shoulder; kisses it, sloppy and clumsy and urgent. Lister reaches up and hooks one arm around Rimmer's neck, trying to ground himself. His face feels hot and blushy, and there's a fullness in his groin like he's about to take the best piss of his life. He keens and moans, scruffing Rimmer's curls in his hand.

Then he yells.

Lister manages to grab his cock as the most intense release he could imagine crashes through him. It seems to come from deep within his pelvis, and it's completely overwhelming and completely uncontrollable, shaking him like a leaf as he shoots more come all over his hand, their legs and the sofa than he ever thought he had in him. Somewhere beneath it, he's dimly aware of Rimmer humping his arse for all he's worth before emitting a choked gurgle of, "Listy!" and going rigid against him.

It takes ages for his cock to finish spurting and dribbling, and even after it does, Lister can still feel the faint spasms and contractions for a while. When they finally stop as well, and Rimmer's fingers slip out, Lister collapses on top of him, or maybe he collapses on top of Lister. Either way, they half-fall, half-roll into a horizontal position, holding each other tighter than should be comfortable with the sweat/sex reek between them. Not that Lister's ever been bothered about things being pongy.

It takes him a good five or ten minutes to reconnect with all his senses. When he manages to make his lips move, he uses them to plant a slow smack of a kiss on the closest thing to them, which happens to be Rimmer's stomach.

"You utter bastard," he mumbles, against it.

Rimmer stares down at him hazily from under sex-heavy eyelids. "What..?"

"Why the smeg haven't you ever told me about that?"

"Because you'd have called me a bender and told me you had no interest in the pervy perverted ways I got myself off."

"No, I wouldn't." Lister frowns, vaguely. "Well, yeah, maybe I would've. Once. Long time ago." A lovely, warm afterglow is settling in over him like a heavy blanket. "Feel different now."

"You feel wonderful," Rimmer says. His voice is very soft and un-Rimmer-like. Or maybe it's completely Rimmer-like. Maybe this is what he'd sound like more often, if he had a reason to; if he had some love. Someone who needed him as much as he needed them.

Lister shifts up, so that he can wrap one leg around Rimmer and tangle them further together. Closer. Closer. Closer. He's sort of aware that all the stickiness is his, and the crotch of Rimmer's trousers is completely dry. "Didn't you come?"

"It disappears. Anything does, as soon as it's not attached to me."

Lister nods. "Handy. No clean-up." As an afterthought which sounds as if it makes sense, he adds, "I'm not going to disappear, y'know."

"What about on Hammond organ recital nights?"

Lister pokes him. "See? I said you were funny." He's starting to get drowsy. Does Rimmer's program simulate that as well? He's tired to the bone, everything wrung out of him by the melting pleasure and the explosive climax, but it's a good tired. He really fancies a cosy after-sex nap. Naked, against Rimmer's hot hard-light body. Perfectly simple. Simply perfect. "Maybe I'll like, find somewhere else to be for a bit. I'll come back, though."

"I don't think I could stand it if you didn't," Rimmer says, tightly. "Not any more."

"Try and smegging stop me, if you're going to give me those orgasms." Lister stifles a yawn. Even he's starting to admit they could probably do with at least a quick shower, but they'd have to move to do it, and that seems harder at the moment than getting the top off a child-proof bottle of cough medicine. He drapes a hand over Rimmer's hip, next to his own leg. "I'd come back just for this, though."

"Just this?" Rimmer still sounds unsure of himself.

"Being together," Lister says, comfortably.

"I wouldn't mind it all that much if we could be together more often." Rimmer makes a throat-clearing noise. "That's if you wouldn't mind it either. Possibly. Sometimes."

Lister smiles into Rimmer's side. "Nah," he says. "Don't think I'd mind."