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Chapter Text

“Been a while since you’ve snuck off up here.”

There was a slight turn to Rimmer’s head as he nodded a greeting toward his bunkmate but other than that the acknowledgement was lukewarm. Lister didn’t mind. Rimmer hid in the Observation Dome specifically to zone out and muse and for Lister to demand that he leave the comforts of his meditation would be unfair. It wasn’t particularly sporting of him to disrupt it in the first place but something about Rimmer’s mood recently had been niggling at him.

So when he first noticed Rimmer gone in the middle of the night after the events with the Mechanoids and Siliconia, the Observation Dome had been first on his hit list.

“Do you know why I come up here?” Rimmer said, so, so quietly Lister was scarce sure he heard it.

“To get away from my guitar playing?” Lister smirked and even Rimmer had to allow the breathy laugh in his chest to bubble out. It was a bonus, absolutely. Lister contemplated the reason more seriously for a moment. “It’s hidden. It’s secure. It’s peaceful.”

Rimmer shook his head, still staring out, hand almost touching the glass dome but just staying shy of it. If he touched it the whole universe might shatter.

“You like stars. You like the vastness of space.” He paused. “It’s humbling.”

“Close.” Rimmer turned then, eyes brimming. He’d never cry whether he refused to or was simply incapable, so Lister felt no need to rush forward with a proffered sleeve to wipe them on.

Though he’d like to, just once, capture a moment like that. True vulnerability from someone whose presence still hadn’t quite defined itself in his life. Antagonist, friend, brother, rival, something else.

“You’ll laugh if I tell you,” Rimmer said suddenly, blinking his eyes dry.

“Probably,” replied Lister, “But I’ll try and do it when you’re not watching.” And who was Rimmer kidding saying ‘if’. He knew by now it was always ‘when’. He always told Lister everything eventually. He was his Confessional. Rimmer cleansed his sins and guilt at Lister’s diabolical feet.

Rimmer seemed to decide then in light of Lister’s painful honesty. He would laugh, true, but maybe Rimmer would laugh too. They’d laugh together at his ridiculous notions.

“It reminds me… of a fish bowl.”

Chapter Text

The Cat could handle the patronising sneer from Rimmer.

The Cat could brush off the weary sigh from Kryten.

But Lister – the one gerbil-faced smeghead that he thought would always have his back, frowning at him with fraying patience – something about that sent his freckles or shackles or whatever they were called upright and rigid.

“You are SO not a moron. Look, just don’t say anything Cat, until we can sort everything out. You obviously don’t get how this works.”

“I’m not a moron,” the Cat muttered. Except Lister was giving him a kindly ‘but yes you are’ smile and an ‘it’s okay though’ pat on the shoulder. Insulting, much?

The Cat thought he’d been doing really well all these years. Considering he was frequently working in a second language (these monkeys relying far too much on words rather than gestures), reading in script instead of smells (any sensible person would write in smells), and constantly translating idioms and colloquialisms that hadn’t made it into all the human television he had grown up studying.

Okay so he didn’t understand quasars and time skips and white holes. Didn’t THEY understand it was a smegging miracle that he could pilot Starbug and work the computers, considering his upbringing? When they first met him, he didn’t know you could press buttons on the vending machines to get food out. All those years he and his few cat mentors had spent just breaking them open. He’d broken so many fingerclaws doing that, it was a damned shame.

“I’m not a moron,” he repeated louder and the others jumped. Maybe he’d been too loud. “I know how this works.”

“Cat, it’s fine,” Lister reassured him.

“No,” he pouted, a plan uncurling from its comfy sleeping ball in the back of his mind. “I know exactly what we’re going to do. Kryten is NOT going to make me a ten-course fish supper, I am NOT going to eat as much of it as I want, and you two,” he smirked as he eyed the uneasy humans, “are NOT going to go to your bunkroom and have hot sweaty dude sex.”

“Cat!” Kyrten exclaimed unhappily as he slid a fat darne of salmon onto the plate in front of him. “What have you done?”

“A favour,” he sniffed blissfully, seriously contemplating foregoing the knife and fork and just diving face-first into the meal. But he hated the clean-up afterwards.

It wasn’t long before two very sheepish humans slunk back into the Science Room, Rimmer clearing his throat theatrically as he helped Kryten take the cooking equipment from off the console so they could get back to work, and Lister shuffling over to the Cat. “How’d you know?” Lister asked softly, exchanging timid smiles with Rimmer.

“I told you,” Cat preened. “Unlike you guys, I’m not a moron.”

Chapter Text

Lister knew it was an invasion of privacy but Rimmer had one of the best imaginations he had ever experienced, especially when it came to the AR suite. Rimmer picked up coding relatively quickly (though Lister suspected if he ever took a test for it he would probably put a pair of underpants on his head, stick two pencils up his nose and say “Wibble!” throughout) and had created several custom-made programs for his own amusement. Lister had easily guessed exactly what kind of amusement and had ‘borrowed’ a few of the scenarios in the past for his own entertainment.

Was that a weird thing to do with another person’s fantasies – even when you were all alone in space with no other methods of comfort?

For Lister, morality and integrity had long been thrown out of the hopper’s window and he eagerly brought up Rimmer’s secret file and typed the recently changed password of ‘g4zp4ch050up’ which was actually quite inspired and showed how desperately Rimmer wanted to keep them all out of his private collection. It was the one phrase he hoped they’d never guess considering how much he hated it.

Lister pulled on the visor, gloves and groin adapter and brought up a simulation he’d not tried before; tree.exe. He was always a little wary of trying new things, especially as the AR programs had a habit of backfiring when controlled by bizarre minds like Rimmer’s. He was unlikely to be trapped though, without live interference. He clapped his hands and the simulation began.

The first thing he felt was an odd flutter of imbalance in his stomach. He lurched back and clung to a gnarled rough surface that he realised was tree bark. He scratched at it. The smell wasn’t exactly pleasant but not awful enough to move away and he looked up when a long tress of leaves brushed his face. A willow tree, not that he knew that. He recognised the difference between palm and fir and that was as far as his arboreal knowledge took him.

Looking down again, he could see the ground far below his dangling skinny milk-white legs where the only hint of colour was pink knees and a small bleeding gash along one shin. One leather sandal clung to his foot and the other lay alone and miserable on the sunlight-dappled grass. He felt around his head and found a long nose and car-door ears.

“There he is!”

A light voice that made David instinctively nervous for some unknown reason cut through his reveries and a young man of college-age years stepped under his branch. “I found him. What are you doing up there, buddy?”

“Thinking,” said a shy voice that echoed around David’s head. Ah, of course, it was him.

“Introspective little mite, aren’t we?” the older boy teased gently. “Come on, you’re missing it.” He turned around and patted his shoulders and David slipped easily onto them with a giggle.

A woman that David recognised instantly, even though she was many years younger and there was not a single letter of spaghetti to be found on her, approached them from behind a rowan tree. “Oh well done, John.” She picked up the other sandal and wrestled it onto David’s wiggling foot with a warming laugh. “Has my little soldier been in the wars?” she exclaimed when she saw the fresh wound on his leg. He nodded shyly and watched as she plucked an antibacterial wipe and a plaster seemingly out of thin air, cleaned him up and affixed the plaster in place with a tender kiss.

“Come on, buddy,” said John and hiked him up higher into his shoulders for comfort and Davy lowered his head out of the way of the low limp branches that tried to hold onto him just a little longer.

He hooked his hands under his big brother’s chin and each step he took clacked his teeth together but it didn’t seem to bother him. It was a matter of moments anyway before they were at their destination; a large picnic table under an old oak, covered in all the finger foods a child could want. Frank and Howard were already tucking in.

“Boys!” their mother scolded. “I said to wait for your brother.”

“He doesn’t mind!” Frank whined and offered Davy the biggest cupcake he’d ever seen with a small ‘H’ written in blue icing on the thick rich butter-cream. He licked the letter away. Somehow he found it offensive.

A large hand patted his back and he turned to see a short man with a bushy moustache holding a cake box. “Look what I got for my little man.” He placed the box on the table and upon lifting the lid Davy saw a large red fondant spaceship.

He squirmed impatiently and his father held out his arms to take him down from his other son’s shoulders. Wrapping his legs and arms around his father and feeling arms wrap around him also, he watched excitedly as his mother poked a 6-shaped candle into the hull and lit it. There was suddenly a squawking rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ and he hid his face in embarrassment.

His father’s chuckle vibrated through his chest and he brought him back out so he could blow out the candle. A small whistling sound escaped him and the light was extinguished to a round of applause. His father pressed his nose against Davy’s forehead and Davy pouted at the way the moustache itched his own nose.

“What did you wish for?” asked Howard jumping in his seat; not much older than he was and easily excited.

“Don’t need a wish,” Davy replied and his mother cooed affectionately at the sweet answer. His father let him down to eat and John handed him a plate already overflowing with his favourite treats.

He looked past them towards a yew tree and watched the gardener turning over some top soil. He thrust his tool into the ground and leant on it, smiling at him as he tipped his hat in greeting.

Lister’s hands slapped together and he pulled off the visor and threw it to the ground as his tears streamed down his face all the way to his boots.

Chapter Text

“Can I ask you something, Kryts?”

The mechanoid lifted his head out of the blocked toilet with a cheery, “Of course, sir!” at Lister’s question.

“It might be my imagination but have you by any chance put on a bit of weight over the last, well, day?”

“That’s impossible, sir. I am a mechanoid. I am exactly the same weight I was the day I was created; laws of physics in space not withstanding. Obviously that will have had an effect.”

“That’s what I thought but…” he made a motion with his hands around his waist as if he were trying to spin a hula-hoop in place. “You look like you’ve got middle-age spread.”

Kryten wiped his hands clean and regarded his kind human with a wistful sigh. “Oh sir, there’s no fooling you. I manufactured an extra bit of girth to my torso unit in order to imitate the aging process, like Mr Rimmer has done with his program.” He gestured to the offended hologram in his bunk.

“I think you’ll find I am as svelte today as I was at thirty-one when we met,” Rimmer snapped.

“Shame the same thing can’t be said about all those wrinkles,” said Cat.

“I’ll grant you I have the odd line on my face but I think we’re all in agreement that they only serve to make me look more distinguished.”

“Aw!” Cat jumped up from the sofa. “You’re supposed to say you’ve got laughter lines so I can say nothing’s that funny. You ruined the set-up to my joke.”

“I wasn’t aware I was supposed to be setting up anything! Anyway I WAS going to point out that you’ve kept trim as well but I retract my compliment.”

Kryten watched on in quiet reflection as Lister laughed and broke up the tiff with the reassurance that both men looked great for their age and tried to sound as platonic about it as possible before either of them panicked.

***

Nwork hated salvage missions but as the youngest daughter of the Chief there were very few ways to make her father proud without being married off to another infamous GELF tribe, and becoming a salvager had been one of the better choices. The large red ship appeared to have been created by humans and though food and other consumables had probably been long exhausted there was usually something of use, even as scrap metal for weapons.

It wasn’t long before her troop came across an antique mechanoid, scrubbing away at the floor. He looked quite ashamed as he jumped to his feet. “I must apologise; the ship is a mess. We saw we had visitors but there wasn’t enough time…”

He was speaking in an archaic GELF tongue but she managed to decipher his words. “You are not alone here?” she steadily replied.

“Not at all!” He opened up his chest to reveal a cavity with three indentations; a light-bee in one and a metal canister in each of the others. “This is my crew.”

And she didn’t know what to say to that.

Chapter Text

“The truth is… I love you.”

Lister pressed rewind on the video Rimmer had left for him before running off to be Ace. He found it not long after the second death of the Red Dwarf crew (or first death of the second crew, was it?). He had played it all the way through only once.

The first time, after those words, he had slammed his hand down on the stop button of the console and not approached the video player again for days. Then he’d watched it completely; every small sad smile, every bashful glance away from the frame, every grimace of regret. Once.

After that, he played just that one line over and over. The crux of the confession, the bare beautiful honesty of Rimmer’s long-term awkwardness around him.

Now he was back and Lister wasn’t sure how to approach the subject.

Fortunately, the subject approached him.

“You found it…” Rimmer said from behind Lister’s chair. He swivelled round with a sheepish grin. Rimmer cringed. “I must have sounded like such a pathetic goit.”

“Actually I thought you were really cute.”

“Give over…” Rimmer bashfully glanced away exactly as he had done in the video. “Really?”

“Really.”

Rimmer cleared his throat. “How cute? If one were to measure.”

“About a kiss’s worth of cute.”

“Just one?”

“Yeah,” said Lister as he stood up and wrapped his arms around Rimmer’s waist. “But it’s gonna last so long even you’ll come up for air.”

Chapter Text

“I think you’re perfect. Even with your flaws, you’re nothing but perfect.”

“So you admit I’m flawed.”

Lister had expected the compliment to be doubted. It always was. Every now and then Rimmer went through a period of needing constant reassurance about their relationship. To an outsider, the neediness probably looked annoying and unhealthy but Lister was a patient man with a deep understanding of Rimmer’s emotionally neglected past. He had no problem indulging his insecure beau.

Lister patted the cushion beside him on the sofa and moved along.

“I’m not falling for that miladdo. You can’t distract me as usual.”

“Just sit down, y’smeg.”

Rimmer gingerly perched on the edge of the seat, keeping his distance. Lister shifted closer. Before he could start anything Rimmer grumbled, “Your tongue in my ear, whilst very pleasant, is not an answer to my queries, so don’t even try that again. Stay over there.”

“I was just going to snuggle you.”

“Oh it always starts that way…”

Lister could see Rimmer was after some more ego-pampering. “Want me to do ‘The List’?” Lister asked with a soft chuckle. Rimmer nodded and despite his earlier protests he allowed Lister to pull him down so he could lie upon his chest for a chaste cuddle. Lister let him settle down and relax, breathing slowly and gently as he gazed lovingly up at him. “First on the list,” said Lister, “I love your hair.”

“It’s frizzy.”

“It’s curly, and it clings onto my fingers when I stroke it. It’s gorgeous. So’re your eyes.”

“Mud-coloured.”

“Hazel,” Lister corrected.

“You can’t possibly like my nose.”

“I like the way it digs into my cheek when you’re snogging me really hard.”

“Oh god, does it?” Rimmer whined.

“Yeah, but it’s sexy.” Lister’s grin widened but Rimmer was unconvinced. Lister tapped at the thin pale lips below the aforementioned feature. “These are sexier. Or at least, the stuff I can do with them.”

Rimmer turned into the back of the sofa with a groan, but it was an unhappy one rather than amorous to Lister’s disappointment. Rimmer mumbled something into the fabric.

“Eh?”

“I said, I’m sorry I keep making you do this. Why do you put up with me? And don’t say it’s because I’m perfect; it’s nonsense.”

“You are though. Maybe not perfect as far as people go, but you’re perfect for me. And that’s all that matters.”

Rimmer came out from the cushions. “I don’t deserve you.”

“That’s true.”

“Git.” He tugged one of Lister’s dreads over his back and caressed it fondly. “I am sorry though. Needing you to validate us. Me. I’m probably always going to be like this, you know. I’ll always need you to tell me you love me.”

Lister just kept smiling the smile he reserved just for Rimmer as he leaned up to kiss him. “And I always will.”

Chapter Text

A tall slender figure hovered above the sweetly sleeping body of the young man. He stirred briefly, then – as if sensing the other’s presence – fell back into a peaceful slumber, trusting and ignorant of their intentions.

But that was not what the figure wanted. There would have to be full consent for this vital matter. They brushed cold thin fingers across his sweating brow until he woke again, mumbling in confusion but not anger. “You said I could sleep tonight,” he said with a lip-splitting yawn.

“My apologies, but I thought upon your request and I have decided to acquiesce.”

“You could sound a little happier about it.”

“That’s what acquiesce means, Mr. Lister. To agree with reluctance.”

“What happened to ‘David’, Count Rimmer?”

“That is what the whole nation will be asking, come the ‘morrow,” he replied sadly. “If you are truly sure of this.”

Lister laughed. “I have the feeling I could tell you a hundred times, and you’d still ask for once more.”

“I can’t help it.” Rimmer looked away uneasily. “This life of undeath is fine for someone like me. But you.. you’re too good for this world.”

“You mean: too good for you. Which is nonsense, by the way.” He pulled aside his gown and bared his neck; smooth but for two small indentations where he had already been marked as the Count’s beloved. But apparently it wasn’t quite enough. “Make me yours, Arn.”

The pulsing of blood under flesh was too much to resist and the Count pierced the skin with brilliant flashing fangs. Lister writhed in pain and delight, drained until his heady high almost made him panic but his lover held him fast and soothed his anxiety of death with passionate caresses to his face and sides.

Rimmer sat back to admire the beautiful limp body, licking his copper-stained mouth and watching as the wound on Lister’s neck began to heal and his glazed eyes flickered alight once again.

“Arn?” he said weakly.

“David,” the Count answered perhaps even more weakly. He was awaiting the inevitable howl of grief when David realised what had happened; what he had done. But there was nothing but a smile and a kiss and with it the promise of centuries more to come.

Chapter Text

To say that Rimmer was hurt when he saw Lister messing around in the AR suite was an understatement. Lister had promised him (with a pinky-swear, spit-handshake AND a cross-on-heart) that now that they were ‘together’ he wouldn’t indulge himself in lewd acts with other programs.

“Relax,” said Lister, pre-empting the hissy-fit his partner was about to have. “It’s not what you think. I’m just coding a new game.”

“Lister the only thing you have ever used these for is-”

“You’re right. All I ever did was run off to some historical setting or movie genre and shag the NPCs. “

Rimmer tapped his foot impatiently waiting for the part where Lister was going to make him feel better about all this.

Lister snapped on the final part of the gaming outfit and smiled at Rimmer. “But man, all this content and extra content and unlockables… smegging wasted. There’s so much more to this than sex. So I thought: let’s do something crazy.”

“Crazy?”

“Yeah! C’mon, I set this up just for you. I was going to test it first but as you’re here you might as well log on.” He noticed Rimmer’s wariness. “You won’t get trapped and you can’t affect the program, I swear.”

Nervous as he was, Rimmer gave in at the warm cheeky grin, which was exactly how he had ended up in a relationship with Lister in the first place. He keyed his lightbee into the system and in a moment felt lighter and heavier all at once, crushed yet hugged from all sides, every inch of skin tingling and cool.

Everything around him was a deep teal. He was underwater. Panicked, he pawed forward into the liquid and tried to kick frantically but his legs were sealed together in the form of a tail. He flipped over and watched helplessly as Lister zipped above him, long used to the strange feelings.

Lister spotted his troubles and swam downward to hold his hands and right him. “Just wriggle, like a worm-do,” he explained, and soon Rimmer was bobbing along at the bottom of the beautiful briny sea as if he’d been born there, even daring to go head-over-fin at one point with a shocked but ecstatic laugh.

***

“So, whad’ya think?” Lister asked later as they cuddled together in the bottom bunk.

“This was all because of that thing I said about being a fish, wasn’t it?”

“No! Maybe. A little bit.” Lister chuckled and nuzzled Rimmer’s neck. “Just wanted to try something different and crazier than just changing clothes and scenery.”

“It was certainly different, but I wouldn’t go so far as crazy.”

“That’s because we didn’t use it for sex. Yet.”

“I bloody KNEW it.”

Chapter Text

Smeg no anyone but him! Lister thought as he was led into the training room and saw Rimmer, straight-backed and flared-nostrilled at the head of the class, with a smarmy expression of elitism. His first day on the Red Dwarf and he was in danger of being assigned to the worst possible person. His first day (and mind he’d only been on the ship for a few hours and only toured one deck) but he’d heard enough about Rimmer to want to serve under anyone else in the entire Space Corps.

Lister shifted his weight from one foot to the other in agitation as Todhunter marched up and down calling out names and Team Leaders. “Z-shift Second Technician: Rimmer, A. You’ll be with…”

Smeg no smeg no smeg no.

“Lister, D.”

Their scoffs of disgust were so perfectly in unison the whole room heard them. Todhunter laughed to himself as he passed Lister’s file to Rimmer who took it as if it were an old but frequently used handkerchief. “From Earth? Ugh, couldn’t get worse than that. Where even IS Liverpool?”

“England,” said Lister.

“Fascinating,” said Rimmer, completely unfascinated.

Lister turned to Todhunter. “Isn’t there anyone else? What if someone agreed to a swap? Surely that’s allowed.”

“You don’t get to pick and choose. You’re stuck with me, miladdo,” Rimmer sneered, obviously pleased that he would finally have someone to boss around. “They obviously wanted to put the greenhorn with a more seasoned professional.”

Todhunter shrugged. “That and we thought it’d be easier since you’ll be bunking together.”

“We’re WHAT?”

***

A few million years, a few life-and-death situations, and many heartfelt and deep midnight conversations later and Lister decided it wasn’t so bad to bunk up with the annoying little git after all.

Especially when he served under him.

Chapter Text

“You’ve put on ten pounds,” Rimmer said sternly and Lister could only shrug sheepishly as he stood wearing only his long-johns and a smile on the medibay scales.

Kryten shook his head adamantly. “Impossible, I have been watching Mr. Lister’s diet with utmost care.”

“Well I put it to you that he’s so big now his ‘moobs’ would fail the pencil test so he must be getting the calories from somewhere.”

Lister marched off to let them argue amongst themselves – and grumbled quietly about how he absolutely did not have breasts – but the moment he was out of their range he slipped behind one of the snack machines and jimmied open the back. There was a hole that he had carved (with her permission) so that there was just enough room for his hand to slip through and it was through this that he selected several prizes to hoard away in the washing basket under his socks. Disgusting, but a small price to pay to get his fix.

He’d given up his rollies years ago and only had them when he was really stressed (or recovering from phenomenal sex) and his alcohol consumption had been almost halved. He just wanted some crisps, a couple of choccies, a bit of jelly. If Rimmer was going to be so shallow about his looks then he could go back to lonely nights with his right hand. Sod him.

Lister went back to their room and hid his trove just in time before Rimmer marched in and regarded him with an upturned nose. “What are you up to, Listy?”

“Having tea. Kettle’s just come off the boil if you want one.”

Rimmer raised an eyebrow at the steaming mug next to the washing basket. “How many sugars did you put in?”

“Just one spoon.”

Rimmer nodded happily for a moment and then stopped suddenly to frown at him suspiciously. “What size spoon?”

“Um…”

“Would it be the ladle sticking out from under your pillow.” It wasn’t a question.

Lister stretched out his arms in exasperation. “Smeg man, can’t you let me have a nice cuppa now and then?”

“Lister, this is getting out of hand. These coping mechanisms aren’t healthy.”

“They’re fine; I’m fine.”

“You can lie to yourself but don’t lie to me. I know you’re sneaking extra food instead of going to your therapy or doing your yoga. Why are you so determined to keel over before your time?”

“Rimmer, what’s the point of living, if you’re not living? C’mon man, what’s really up with you. You’ve never been on my case like this before.

“You had a heart attack only a few years ago. I’m concerned.”

“Nah man.” Lister stared him down. “There’s more to it than that. If anyone’s lying to themselves it’s you.”

“Not true. I know exactly what’s up with me. It’s just...” Rimmer perched on the edge of their mattress and chewed his fist for a few seconds. Lister sat beside him and let him take his time, running a soothing hand from his thigh to his knee when the moment felt right. Rimmer took a deep breath and let the truth fall out. “Listy… we’ve known each other for thirty years. I just wanted another thirty more.”

“Aww!” Lister cooed and kissed his cheek. “That’s so smegging sweet.”

“Sweeter than all the snacks you’ve been hoarding?”

“Yeah yeah, okay, I get the message. I’ll stop stealing food. If…”

Rimmer folded his arms. He could guess what Lister was bargaining for. He wanted Rimmer to ‘chill’ as it were. “Very well,” he said.

“Thanks. Y’know, you were starting to make me feel a bit self-conscious about meself, especially boob-wise.”

“I’m sorry,” said Rimmer and hugged him closer. “Actually I rather like your chest. It’s what’s beating underneath that worries me. But I promise I’ll be less militant about your diet and put in some more opportunities for treats.”

“And no more yoga. Outside the bedroom, I mean.”

Rimmer’s nostrils flared in approval.

Chapter Text

I don’t mean to be blunt, no no, but don’t fear the reefer, man
Don’t fear the reefer, boy, no no, he’s got the good cancan

“Lister, would you like a bucket?”

“Eh?” said Lister, pausing his song at Rimmer’s whine. “What for?”

“So you can carry a tune.” Rimmer stood up from his position under the vending machine and wiped clean the tools he’d been using on its undercarriage with his usual menace whenever Lister was enjoying himself. “Stop bloody singing, not that anyone in their right mind would call your tone-deaf warbling ‘singing’.”

“It’s a good choon, man.”

“If it is then you have yet to portray it accurately. Even if you could – and I must reiterate that you can’t – we’re at work.”

“I like to sing in my downtime.”

“Work isn’t downtime! That’s my point!”

Lister ignored him. “Only time I don’t sing is when I’m asleep or my mouth is busy with someone else, if ya know what I mean.” He waggled his eyebrows mischievously.

“What you’re saying is: if I want to shut you up, I have to kiss you?”

Lister blanked. Had he actually said that or had Rimmer put two and two together and come up with sixty-nine? He didn’t have time to protest before a pair of thin pale lips crushed against his own and by then he really didn’t want to.

“There,” said Rimmer shakily as he pulled back and blushed. “That’s enough out of you, I hope.”

“Or maybe all you’ve done is given me incentive.” Lister clapped Rimmer on the back and began to burble the brutally awesome trumpet solo from the song to cover up his self-consciousness that his own face might be red.

“You promised that would shut you up.”

“Yeah, I shut up when my mouth is busy. Solution’s obvious, innit?” He walked off with the tool trolley towards their next station, feeling a little triumphant when after a moment of deliberation he heard Rimmer hot on his heels.

Chapter Text

“How long, Kryten?”

“A few minutes, sir, at best.”

Lister rounded the corner, his chest pounding in time with his boots on the floor. “Why the smeg didn’t you say anything?”

“He asked me not to, sir. I can’t disobey a direct order without good reason. For instance, if Asimo-”

“I don’t smegging care about the rules of robotics!” he yelled, feeling guilty because Kryten had only done what he thought was right, but Lister was furious and scared and he needed an outlet. He charged into the bunkroom and saw Rimmer lying on their bed, flickering in and out of visual. “You stupid bastard, Rimmer.”

“Bon voyage to you too, Listy.”

“Don’t say that.” Lister dropped to his knees beside him. “We’ll fix this, right Kryts?”

“But we don’t have another battery, and we have no means to make a new one. We didn’t even know we needed one.”

Rimmer chuckled. “Should have predicted it really. I’m a few centuries old now. I’ve outperformed most Nokias. Batteries can only be recharged so many times,” he concluded sadly.

“We’ll keep your disc safe,” said Lister resolutely. He cradled Rimmer’s head against his own. “We’ll back it up on every bit of hardware we can think of. Twice. I’ll get your code tattooed on my DNA.”

“Thank you. Ridiculous but- hn!”

Lister pulled back to give Rimmer room to pseudo-breathe as he strained from the pain. “You okay?”

“I must admit, dying doesn’t get any easier.”

“You’re not dying you’re just… going on hiatus. Like a really good TV show. One that ends sort of badly but then a one-off special revives it again and it’s just like it used to be.”

“Some people just don’t know when to stop flogging a dead horse.”

“Maybe, but you’re my horse.”

“Sir…” Kryten warned gently as Rimmer’s image began to flicker again. Lister pressed their lips together softly and with a sob promised his empty hands that they would be together again soon.

Chapter Text

Rimmer idly flicked a page on the book propped up on the pillow in front of him as Lister knelt behind him, arms hooked under and around his thighs and pulling his cheeks apart as he deeply tongued his hole.

It wasn't a comment on Lister’s abilities - far from it. Rimmer’s main problem with studying was that he tried too hard to focus and the words ended up blurring together on the page in one giant cluster of gobbledygook. With Lister distracting him he had to deliberately read a few sentences at a time and it seemed to seep better into his brain through some kind of mental osmosis.

The only problem was if he ever took an exam again he'd never get through without getting a hard-on from the association.

He yelped when Lister moved lower to tease his balls for a change of pace. “Lister...” Rimmer griped immediately.

“Too sensitive?” Lister asked and obediently returned and went to town on the neglected pouting hole. Rimmer jerked forward and groaned. He was never going to finish Chapter One at this rate. Fortunately for him Lister decided to take a break. “Me jaw's locking up,” he said.

“Funny how it never does that when you're eating or gabbing on,” Rimmer snarked and turned back to his book. He could hear a few small ‘tch’ sounds behind him and then a moment later the smell of fire reached him. He craned his neck to see Lister still tucked between his legs, taking a drag from one of his rollies and admiring the view.

“Lister!” he yelled. “Are you blowing literal smoke up my arse!?”

“No,” Lister coughed out as a traitorous plume of grey escaped him. “I’d never.”

“Yes you are.”

“Lots of people smoke after sex.”

“After, Lister. AFTER. Not whilst they're five inches from their partner's private parts.”

“It's fine, Rimmer.”

“Put it out,” he said firmly, “or else I won’t put out.”

“You’re bluffing. Anyway, you’re reading in the middle of shagging. Talk about rude.”

“That’s different. I'm bettering myself.”

“You can have some if you want.” Lister offered the drool-soaked butt to the owner of another kind.

Rimmer recoiled with a sniff. “No thank you. I know what's in it.”

“It helps me relax for my turn. Don't want me to have a shy arsehole do yer?” Lister took another drag and dove back in with a grin on his face and within a few minutes he had a very satiated and smoky Rimmer splayed under him.

Lister lit up again ready for Round Two.

Chapter Text

Young Rimmer would sing to himself in the garden sometimes, during the infrequent blissful moments when his brothers were away and his mother was hosting an afternoon tea of passive-aggressive conversation with what she termed 'friends' from church. It was usually a hymn that he'd learned at choir practice that morning, or he'd make up words for his favourite hammond organ tunes. Nonsense lyrics, about things he saw in the garden, or had experienced at school, or read in a short story.

He only sang a popular song once, when he was around six. It wasn't anything new and hadn't been in the charts for years, but it had experienced a fair amount of notoriety amongst the planets and Rimmer knew it from somewhere but he couldn't recall how or when.

He hummed it at first, warming up his chords and lungs, and launched into the lyrics after the bridge. It was his favourite part; full of sweet highs and soft lows that his voice couldn't handle quite yet.

Another voice from beyond the trees, however, could.

Rimmer froze, mortified at having been heard. The adrenaline suddenly kicked in and he ran back to the house in terror. He never sang in the garden again.

Neither did Dungo.

Chapter Text

It's not the first time and Rimmer is doubtful it will be the last. Lister is curled up in the bottom bunk instead of his own. Sometimes it's because he's sad and wants a softer, cleaner, more comfortable bed. Sometimes he's too drunk and doesn't want to risk the climb. He has enough clarity at least to be sensible.

There's not much room in Rimmer's bunk with the way Lister balls up in the middle of it. Rimmer sometimes goes off to do something for the night instead, as he doesn't technically need sleep, but it doesn't bode well for his sanity. He needs to switch off too. He usually turns softlight and sleeps in Lister's bunk. He can't bear the thought of lying on the actual sheets.

Occasionally he toyed with the idea of crawling in beside Lister. Not in that way, you know. Not the way some men might crawl together after years of loneliness. Only to experience the companionship of another sleeping person. He'd be softlight anyway. There was no room to be solid.

Rimmer rolled around the grotty upper bunk for over an hour. He couldn't feel the crumbs and the shards underneath him but simply knowing they were there drove him mad. He hopped down from the bunk and carefully spooned against Lister. His lightbee bumped gently against the curved back in front of him. Lister murmured and nuzzled deeper into the pillow. Rimmer was relieved when no scent of stale alcohol came from him. His all-nighters were becoming far less frequent.

Rimmer's arms and legs disappeared into Lister's body as he tried to stay balanced. The lightbee shuddered in confusion and the other man giggled at the sensation. Rimmer snorted quietly - the closest he would get to a laugh. His image settled as did Lister, the two of them drifting together in sleep and in space.

Chapter Text

Kryten is having a problem with his nozzle. Something is stuck inside and only the Cat is around. He's reluctant to help, sounds like work to him, but he starts to twist it around. Kryten gets a strange new feeling. It's not the same as when he cleans his nozzle.

Cat can't quite get the object out of the end. It needs something more delicate. He's a cat, and there's nothing more precise and dexterous as his tongue.

Kryten stifles a moan as the Cat licks at the object inside. It's a sweet, he realises, one of those chewy milk bottles. It tastes great and he probes deeply trying to prise it out.

Cat finally flicks out his creamy treat and swallows happily.

They never speak of it again.

Chapter Text

Betty Rubble was delighted to see her best friend Wilma Flintstone at the door. She'd had rather a boring and exhausting day cleaning the house as her mammoth was on the fritz and she had to bring water in herself from the garden well using a pelican. It was a nice excuse for a break.

She took her rock buns out of the oven and served them with clotted concrete and gravelberry jam and sat the two of them down in front of their secret favourite show - Rock Dwarf. It was a silly sci-fi cartoon sitcom, made even sillier by how they knew that the future was nothing like that at all thanks to the Jetsons' visits. Imagine giant red megalodons full of people in space, how stupid!

The skuttersaurs were cute though, and the idea of an evolved talking dinosaur was always good for a laugh. Well, talking beyond doing quips about how much they hated work at least.

"Betty," Wilma said suddenly.

"Mmm," she replied nonchalantly as she put down her bun. She didn't want Wilma to know she was worried by her serious tone.

"Do you think Lithter's sexy?"

Betty looked at the screen, where the character in question was strumming his favourite rock music. "Druse Lithter?"

"Just you know… maybe I've been married too long but…"

"I think," Betty said sincerely, "Druse Lithter is the most desirable man that ever lived."

Wilma breathed out loudly. "That's good." They both giggled with relief and took another bun each. "What about Rimmore?" she continued curiously.

Betty thought carefully. "Well, I would go with Rimmore" - she sighed wistfully - "but I'd be thinking of Lithty."

"This is crazy," said Wilma. "Why are we talking about going to bed with Druse Lithter?"

"You're right. This is an insane conversation," Betty agreed as they looked at each other solemnly.

"He'll never give up on Coalchanski and we know it."

Chapter Text

Rimmer strode into the bunkroom with his nose turned up in disdain. Lister was hunched over on the ground rubbing his hand against his guitar's strings and squawking to himself in a vain attempt to create music. Rimmer opened his mouth to mock him when Lister started the song again.

Remember me
Though I have to say goodbye
Remember me
Don't let it make you cry
For even if I'm far away I hold you in my heart
I sing a secret song to you each night we are apart

"That sounds familiar," Rimmer said suddenly, causing Lister to jump and clutch his guitar in fright. He wiped at his wet face and scrambled to gather his things from the floor. Rimmer's memory banks kicked up as Lister clambered into his bunk. "I've got it! It's from some old cartoon."

Lister grunted in affirmation as he curled up in his bunk.

"You really are pathetic, Lister. Singing children's songs to yourself. You need to start-" Rimmer stalled in his rant. Stuck in the neck of the guitar was the photo Lister took of his future self and his twin sons. Now that person was his past self and Jim and Bexley had been gone for months. Rimmer lowered his head guiltily. It was not a feeling he was used to having, especially for Lister. He cleared his throat. "I didn't mean, um, that is… you miss them, don't you?"

"No smeg, Sherlock."

"Sorry. If you ever need to talk... not that I expect you to. I wouldn't divulge things like that to me either."

Lister turned over and wiped the last few tears from his cheeks. "It's okay. Thanks man. I appreciate it but my music is enough for now."

"If you can even call that music."

Lister rolled his eyes.

"You really know how to butcher a perfectly pleasant song, Listy."

"Shut up, you smegger," Lister laughed. Trust Rimmer to make him feel better by insulting him. He was never going to understand how their relationship worked so well but it did. It seemed Holly wasn't so mad after all.

***

Rimmer strode into the bunkroom with his nose turned up in disdain. Lister was sat at the table with his guitar screeching his way through a familiar song.

Remember me
Though you have to travel far
Remember me
Each time you hear a sad guitar
Know that I'm with you the only way that I can be

"You really are pathetic, Lister. Singing children's songs to yourself. You need to start growing up."

Lister got up from the table and slung himself, guitar and all, into his bunk.

"Are you listening to me?"

"Aren't you supposed to be on shift? Or do you fancy being thrown into the brig like Hollister threatened?"

"He won't do that over a measly missed shift," Rimmer said haughtily but he dashed out of the room just in case.

Lister sighed and took out the photo stuck in his guitar's strings. It wasn't a good one as the flash had caught the light bouncing on the hologram's forehead. But it was the only one he had of them together.

Until you're in my arms again
Remember me

Chapter Text

Cat, Lister, Rimmer and Kryten are atop magnificent horses dressed in their Gunmen outfits, striding through the desert plains.

All singing: One for each other

And all for one

The four Brave Red Dwarfers are we

Smeghead to Smeghead

And every one

A Brave Red Dwarfer

We are the four Red Dwarfers

We are the four Red Dwarfers

We are the four

Lister, Rimmer and Kryten: Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-

Cat gets out his mirror, checks his face and takes off his hat to replump his hair, irons a few creases, etc

Lister, Rimmer and Kryten: -eeeeeeeed (Cat finishes)

All: Dwarfers!

And Red Dwarfers forever we’ll beeeeeeeheeeeeeee!!!