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The Mask Slips

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Lister had let him go – that was something at-least. He was now safe, deep below in the Diesel Decks. But how long would it be till the effects wore off – and how would he know? He certainly wasn't recovered yet, that was certain, the first thing he did when he'd arrived in his hide out was give the place a thorough spring cleaning. How pathetic. Well, at-least that meant his surroundings were clean and he was tired enough to fall asleep without thinking.

Thinking …

He had resisted a long time before allowing Kryten to restore his own mind in his body as he had been happy with himself as an Android. Maybe that had caused all the after effects he was suffering now, the others seemed to have recovered within hours. Cleaning, obeying … all things that mattered to him more than Lister and the Cat.
Sadly thinking had restored itself with a vengeance and his thoughts led to Lister, well didn't they always?

What happened had thrown him, how close had he been to blurting out the truth? It had been one question, one question that had only just died on Lister's lips. He'd been terrified for him to utter it when cornered by the Scouser, he'd gratefully accepted being sent away. Even though it was without the supplies he had wanted to take with him, the smegging supplies that had caused the situation in the first place. But now, alone with nothing but his thought he started to wonder; would Lister forcing the question when he was under the influence of the Android brain really have been that bad? There might actually have been a positive side to it.

Instead of forcing the answer out of him Lister now wanted the talk when he was himself again. That was a problem: he would have to think for himself, which he hated. He didn't know if he was able to tell Lister his truth. How could he express his feelings when in his right mind? His mind, his own mind that always told him he would make a fool of himself the moment he even considered it. His inner critic that stopped him from confiding in Lister even when he was desperate for support. This went beyond asking for support, this was about telling someone he … loved him.

When things went wrong during their talk and Lister laughed in his face – which his inner critic convinced him he would, he didn't have the excuse of laughing his confession off as the strange side effect of his mind being affected by android tech.

He was certain Lister would want to have it out with him the second he returned. Who wouldn't after someone complimented their bum and ran off.
Well, no that wasn't what happened. Lister had been polite in the end, thinking it was best to let him go. But would the Scouser let go of wanting to know the truth behind that comment? Rimmer doubted it; when Lister was curious he went to great lengths to find out what it was people were hiding from him. He still remembered the Gazpacho soup incident and diary reading days vividly, despite it being centuries ago.
Wait … had he locked his holo-diaries before leaving? What if Lister decided to check the dream recorder when he was gone. The things he'd been dreaming recently, he'd never live it down. Smeg, what if Lister ...

Lister, always Lister; burning eyes that stared at him with that curious mix of mockery, curiosity amusement and pity. Decades of quiet longing to have those eyes look at him with love. Knowing the chance was zero and bottling everything up, afraid to make a fool of himself. Well, a bigger fool than usual. Afraid to lose Lister and their fragile friendship in the process. This was the main reason Rimmer regretted Lister letting him go: if he had forced it out while he was still, mentally, an Android he could have blamed Lister for exposing him. Anything better than showing an actual emotion that could crumble whatever was left of the fragile mask of indifference he'd worn for years.

Three days later Rimmer returned to the land of the living.
After showering, a strengthening meal and an afternoon nap Lister approached him, as he had expected.

“I think it's time for our talk.” The Scouser said, clearly anxious to finally have whatever secret Rimmer had out in the open.

“Talk, what talk?” Rimmer smiled as airily as he could, trying to hide the distinct quiver that went from his right leg all the way up to his voice and nostrils.

“The talk I said we'd have when you returned from the Diesel decks you smeghead!” Lister clenched his fists in desperation; was Rimmer really trying to weasel out of this one again?

“I don't remember any of that … Lister, have you gone space crazy?”

With that Rimmer quickly hurried away, to the observation dome this time, feeling both a coward and relieved he bought himself some more time.
Looking at the stars he despaired at the situation; he'd been running from this discussion all his life. As he was clearly doomed to live out the rest of his hologramic existence with a man he'd been unrequitedly pining after for the last several centuries, maybe it was time to actually do something about it. He'd often heard about people coming out later in life, but 757 might actually be a new record.

“Oh, smudge ...” Rimmer mumbled absent-mindedly as he got out a hanky to wipe it off the window.
Maybe he wasn't recovered after all ...