“Perhaps I should explain, sir. I’m not your Rimmer.”
Yeah, tell me something I don’t know, ya sexy smegger. Even if Holly hadn’t tipped him off, he’d have guessed from the lack of Arn’s customary greeting when summoned to his office: “Navigation Officer Rimmer reporting for a thorough debriefing, sir.” Regardless of how many times he said it, he never failed to crack up at his own wit.
Not to mention this Rimmer’s undisguised horror at his presence behind the Captain’s desk and increasing outrage as Lister went through the usual pre-coital routine for the hell of it. He had to struggle to keep a straight face as he offered the burger and got a strangled “Nothing … sir.” This Rimmer was literally seething at seeing a Dave Lister as a Space Corps Captain.
Clearly Arnold Rimmers had a thing about outranking Dave Listers. Smeg knew even his Arn had never really got over it in one way, even if he’d come to love it in another.
It had taken Lister a while to realise just why he couldn’t simply leave his annoying former bunkmate behind as he moved up the ranks after the drive plate repair which had changed his life forever. At first he’d thought it was simply sympathy for Rimmer’s bad luck at missing out on a share of the glory as he languished in the medi-bay after his latest exam fiasco.
The residual guilt from that had kept him visiting Rimmer for a while in their old bunkroom after his first promotion. Rimmer had been both resentful and respectful of his new status, swinging from one attitude to another with dizzying speed.
As Lister had begun to grow more confident in his new authority, Rimmer’s attitude had veered more towards initially grudging but increasingly rapt obedience.
One mildly intoxicated evening, the penny had dropped. One minute he was gulping Leopard Lager, the next sampling Rimmer’s white wine spritzer as their lips had met in mutual realisation. The subsequent sex had been equal parts intense and awkward, Rimmer crouching in front of the lower bunk, calling him “sir” between enthusiastic mouthfuls.
As his orgasm began to build, he wondered why he’d taken so long to twig.
Not only about his feelings for Rimmer, or Rimmer’s for him. Also that he liked being respected. He might not want everyone on their knees giving him blowjobs - OK, some of them - but it made a smegging change to be someone they looked up to and trusted.
The cards had fallen in his favour, big time. His repair of the driveplate had led to questions as to why a lowly Third Technician had been assigned such a job in the first place. Captain Hollister had been exposed as an incompetent fraud and replaced by First Officer Todhunter.
Good old Toddy. The new Captain was a thoroughly decent chap who’d taken Lister under his wing and mentored him. He’d helped him to believe in his own abilities and realise that the other officers - many from upper-class backgrounds - weren’t all looking down their noses at him. His drive plate repair had earned the respect of all but the most snobbish, who weren’t worth bothering with anyway.
Over the next several years his relationship with Rimmer had been stormy, bouts of jealousy and shouting matches punctuated by frantic make-up sex. Eventually Todhunter had stepped in and ordered them to live in separate quarters for everyone’s sanity, including their own. Lister had used their temporary separation to take more exams and advance further up the pecking order.
Finally accepting that Rimmer’s envy of his status was poisoning their relationship, he’d used some of his newly acquired Helium-7 profits to pay for intensive private tuition and hypnotherapy to alleviate Arn’s exam nerves. Eventually it had paid off. The best part of two decades down the line from his first attempt, Arnold J Rimmer passed the exam for Navigation Officer by the skin of his teeth.
The universe - or multiverse - had obviously decided that was just a bit too jammy. Arn’s snooty family had suddenly shown interest in him again, waltzed back into his life and put pressure on him to marry a girl from a “nice” Ionian family and give them grandsons.
At which point Lister had snapped. He was no-one’s bit on the side, ta very much. He’d broken up with Rimmer - permanently this time, he promised himself - taken shore leave on Venus and come back married to Crystal, who was more than happy to jack in table dancing for an open relationship with a Space Corps First Officer. She’d taken up residence in his home on Earth and did pretty much as she pleased during his missions, as did he.
But fate still wasn’t done with them. First, Todhunter had been offered a promotion to Captain of a Space Corps Super Infinity Fleet ship and had accepted, recommending Lister as his replacement.
Whilst his brain was still whirling at his new status, he’d received a visit from Rimmer and his bride. Laura, it turned out, had agreed to marry him mainly in order to get as far away from Io as possible. They’d come to an agreement to have the kids they both wanted and bring them up well away from their grandparents.
That aside, Laura was basically asexual, which had taken him a while to get his head around. How could anyone not want to have sex, let alone with Arn? Incorrigible smeghead though he still was. That was part of the attraction.
And so the final element of his ridiculously lucky existence had fallen into place. Their ongoing affair was pretty much an open secret on the ship, but no-one seemed to care. They’d both mastered the art of getting by in their jobs and Lister knew he was a popular Captain, in no small part down to his relaxed approach. Holly was also an invaluable ally.
Not to mention Parkinson. The Science Officer was almost as into their barely clandestine relationship as they were, making her the ideal go-between. He sometimes wondered what miseries alternate universe Dave Listers were suffering to balance out his spectacular good fortune.
And here was an ideal opportunity to find out. Should he?
“I can’t do this. I can’t live in a dimension where you’re more successful than me. The pain would be … too much.”
Lister barely raised an eyebrow as this other Rimmer pressed his fancy skipping thing and vanished. Pathetic, but not unexpected. And it saved him a dilemma.
He looked around the old bunkroom and marvelled at how far he’d come. That was part of the bond between him and Arn - only they really knew. A vivid memory of their first coupling here sent an unexpected shiver through him.
“Hey, Dave.” He jumped as Holly’s blonde visage appeared on the screen.
“Hey, Hol. Thanks for the heads-up. Is Arn back then? Is he OK?”
“Yeah, he’s fine. Bit dazed though - he keeps mumbling about leather and dreadlocks. I told him to report straight to your office and you’d fill him in. So to speak.” Holly winked and disappeared.
Lister smirked. Sounded like today’s long lunch would be even more fun than usual.