The feeling of own elbow sliding off the table jolts Lister awake. He blinks blearily, frowning at Rimmer’s nasally voice right in his eardrum.
“- so then, I rolled a 1 and a 6, and wiped out his vanguard. A very crafty move, I think you’ll agree –“
“Rimmer, are you still going on about this smegging game?” says Lister. His fishes around for a cigarette in his deerstalker and lights up. Smeg, he’s tipsy – in fact, he’s way past tipsy and arriving at quite nicely drunk, thank you very much, and from the way Rimmer’s swaying slightly as he speaks, so is he. Rimmer’s deathday; always a cause for major celebration, usually in the form of copious amounts of alcohol and retellings of old stories. Unfortunately, with drink came Rimmer’s tendency to ramble on about Risk, even more than he usually smegging did.
Rimmer blinks, affronted. “Well if you’re not interested then what would you have me talk about? Zero-G? Rastabilly Skank? Vindaloo? Go on then, since you’re tastemaker.”
“I dunno. Somethin’ interestin’, somethin'-" he fumbles for the word. “Juicy.”
“Juicy?” Rimmer echoes, disgusted.
An idea strikes him. He grins widely. “Truth or dare.”
“What are you blathering on about?”
“You’ve never played?” Lister stands now, slotting his cigarette in ear as he waves his mug emphatically, sloshing spirits across the floor. “It’s only the defining game of any preadolescent party. Used to play it all the time.”
“I don’t know if it has escaped your two remaining brain cells, Listy, but we’re not exactly teenagers anymore.”
“Doesn’t mean it’s not loads of fun. Especially when you’re drunk,” he rolls his ‘r’ with a suggestive grin and takes a perfunctory drink from his mug.
Rimmer’s expression is trapped somewhere between dubious and intrigued.
“How do you play it, then?”
“’S’all in the name, really. We take it in turns. Say, you ask me ‘truth or dare’, I pick ‘truth’, then you have to ask me a question and I have to tell the truth. Or - “
“Yes, yes I understand,” says Rimmer. “Let’s just get on with it, shall we?” His eyes are shining in a way that makes Lister slightly nervous. He hadn’t expected Rimmer to acquiesce quite so quickly.
“Lister, you suggested it.”
“Okay, okay,” Lister lifts his hands in defence, taking a seat beside Rimmer on the floor. “Since it’s your special day, big man, you can go first.”
“Truth or dare.”
Lister thinks for second, stubbing out his cigarette on ground. It’s a testament to Rimmer’s level of intoxication that he barely registers it. “Truth.”
“Did you flush the last of my Hammond Organ Orchestra Weeklys out of the waste disposal?”
He takes the moment to open another bottle of vodka lying beneath the bottom bunk, not quite meeting Rimmer’s gaze. “Er, not exactly. I mean, I didn’t flush them out. Not technically, no.”
Rimmer’s eyes narrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
"That sounds like another question to me, Rimsy. It’s my turn.”
Lister scans the hologram’s face. Over the course of the night, his neat hairstyle had become an unruly halo of curls, there’s the telltale flush of inebriation on his cheeks and he’s loosened the top button on his jacket, yet he’s still wearing his usual haughty expression as he regards Lister with an arched eyebrow. Lister wants to ruffle his feathers, wants to really get under his skin.
“Have you ever gone with a bloke?” he says.
Rimmer sputters. “No.”
“Rimmer, I remind you that we are now playing under the rules of Truth or Dare,” it’s Lister’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “You can’t lie.”
“I’m not lying,” Rimmer is indignant.
“I just thought when you were out being Ace, you might’ve. Dabbled. “
“Well you thought wrong, miladdo, didn’t you?” says Rimmer. A beat of silence passes between them before curiosity gets the better of him. “Why, have you?”
Lister shrugs. “Once or twice.”
“Am not,” says Lister matter-of-factly as he tops up Rimmer’s glass. “When I was younger I, er, dabbled a bit. Used to go out with one of the Heads from my band, Smeg and the Heads.”
Hazel eyes stare at him wide, scandalised. “All this time, I’ve been sharing a room with you and you’ve never once mentioned it? Oh yes, I heard all about Kristine Kochanski and Fiji and all of that pointless, moon-eyed smeg – but you never thought to say, ‘oh by the way Rimmer, I used to get off with the uglier sex back when I was a sprog’?”
“Oh honestly, Rimmer, spare me, ” Lister spits. “I’m havin’ a fun time. Now are we playing or what?”
Rimmer is silent for a moment, rolling his tongue beneath his teeth as he regards him. “I’ll pick truth.”
“Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever had sex?”
“Lister, why are all of your questions so puerile?”
“That’s the point of the smegging game,” says Lister, popping open a can of leopard lager. “Answer the question.”
“On the carpet in Room 62 of the Hotel Rio Grande.”
“What – even as Ace? You’ve never even had one wild night?”
“I’ll have you know Ace Rimmer was a chivalrous and respectful gentleman,” Rimmer sniffs. “All of his dalliances were had in five-star hotels.”
“Yeah – Ace might’ve been chivalrous and respectful, but you’re not.”
Rimmer glares. “Truth or dare, Lister?”
“How many men have you kissed?”
“Now who’s being puerile?” Lister grins around his can. “I don’t know – maybe, seven, eight?”
“Seven or eight? Listy, you’re practically Oscar Wilde,” Rimmer smirks. Lister shrugs again – the git’s aiming to unsettle him but fails because he deeply misjudges the depth of Lister’s complete and utter indifference.
“Truth or dare?”
Lister grins easy, loosened by the booze and the way they sprawl now comfortably into one another’s personal space. “What’s your favourite, er, act?”
“Y’know. Sex act.”
Rimmer blinks, but much to Lister’s surprise, he doesn’t withdraw into himself, barely even bristles at the lewdness of the question. Instead, he taps his fingers against his chin as he considers. “If I really had to pick, I suppose it’d be frottage.”
“It’s when you sort of rub up against someone else until you – finish.”
“Oh right,” says Lister, not quite sure what to do with the answer. It kind of makes sense – the hologram had never been one for mess; he supposes rubbing up against someone else did make for easier clean-up.
“It’s the desperation, the excitement,” Rimmer continues, expression wistful. He takes another swig from his glass. “The heat, smeg, the friction -” He catches himself and Lister swallows, suddenly warm.
“Truth or dare?”
Rimmer sits forward slightly. “What’s it like? With another man?”
Lister pauses, mouth hovering over the rim of his can. Interesting that - Rimmer’s sudden, relentless fascination with his bisexual proclivities.
He watches him carefully as he speaks. “Well it’s great because it’s sex, isn’t it? For me, it’s never really mattered. I mean, there are differences obviously. Sometimes it can be a bit more - firm, like there’s more of a fight there, more strength and that – but that really depends on the person, like.”
“Which do you prefer?”
“I don’t believe it’s your turn to ask, Rimsy,” Lister smirks. “Truth or dare?”
Lister pitches forward, emboldened. “If you had to choose a bloke to go with – any bloke – who would you choose?”
Rimmer says nothing for a moment as he mulls it over, running his tongue along his teeth. For a moment, Lister thinks he’s not going to answer - he’ll hold up his imaginary black card and decide to retire to his bunk for an early night - but then, “Well, if I had to pick, if I really had to choose – I’d have to go with Wentworth Brown from Io House Sixth From. That man was impeccably dressed, always clean.”
Lister can’t resist the opportunity to tease, knocking his elbows into Rimmer’s ribs. “There you go Rimsy, I knew you had it in you. See me, I think fluidity is natural, y’know. I’m don’t think I’ve met anyone that’s one hundred percent straight,” he frowns, considering it. “‘Scept maybe Chen.”
“Er, I know what you’re trying to prove, Lister, it’s not going to wash,” Rimmer sniffs. “The conditions were ‘if I had to choose’ not ‘who do I secretly wish I had shagged.’”
Lister raises his eyebrows, lighting up another cigarette. “I think you’re putting words in me mouth.”
“In a minute, Lister, I will put something in your mouth; perhaps a very large dead blow mallet. Shut up.”
“Yeah? Is that a promise?” Lister leers exaggeratedly. It’s mostly a joke, but Lister can’t deny that he finds the reaction - the way he flushes, but he doesn’t pull away, leaning easily now against Lister - all very interesting.
“Truth or dare?”
“Who was the best?”
He doesn’t clarify further but Lister knows what he means. “There was this bloke I met first day of art college. Total bonehead, absolute smegging yoghurt-eater. He thought he was the bees-knees ‘cos his dad was the ‘eadteacher, but he didn’t have a creative bone in his body. We didn’t have anythin’ in common but the sex was incredible cos we’d just take all our frustrations out on each other, y’know,” he sighs, staring at the wall as he remembers. “He beat out Lise Yates for most times in one night – seven. Can you believe that? Nobody ever turned me on like that. Nobody ever made me more crazy, either,” he pauses, glancing over at Rimmer. “’Scept you.”
Rimmer ignores the insult. “What happened then?”
“There no great story to it, Rimmer, we just went our own ways. I mean, apart from sex there wasn’t anything keepin’ us together, was there? He had his ‘chums’ at art college, and I had my mates down the pub, that’s just how it went. Still remember him though,” he leans back, resting his head against the metal bar on Rimmer’s bunk. “Still remember that mouth of his.”
They’re dancing closer to something; Lister can feel it in the way his own hand lingers, idly tracing the material of Rimmer’s jacket – in the way Rimmer’s legs are tangled in his – in the way they’ve been talking now, easily, about things that he knows for a fact Rimmer wouldn’t dare to entertain in the cold light of day. He wonders how far he can push it, how long he can talk about sex and men and mouths before it crosses the line – wonders if there still is a line. He’s not so sure about it now, not now Rimmer doggedly pursues this line of questioning unashamedly, hungrily - in the way Rimmer watches him with eyes he’s seen on men so many times before in his past.
“Truth or dare?”
“Truth,” says Rimmer.
“Would you ever? Even out of curiosity?”
Lister doesn’t clarify either, but Rimmer understands, eyes darting away. “Well, I suppose it hardly matters now, does it? Since we’re the only ones out here.”
“Hypothetically,” says Lister. “In a hypothetical situation. Say Red Dwarf was resurrected by nanobots again – say, I dunno, we made it to Earth and the human race was still alive - ”
Rimmer swallows. “But it isn’t.”
“Say it is. Would you?”
A moment of pure sobriety cuts through his expression. Hazel eyes are serious, earnest. His voice is small when he says, “I don’t know, Listy.”
He had been expecting outright denial, evasion even – but Lister hadn’t been expecting that. His stomach feels warm. Before he has chance to respond, the hologram asks. “Truth or dare?”
Lister’s voice his hoarse with something he can’t quite identify when he says. “Truth.”
“Do you ever miss it? With men, I mean.”
Lister inhales his cigarette, relishing the taste. He'd always found that cigarettes tasted nicer when he was drunk and horny. “Sometimes,” he says truthfully. “Sometimes it’s all I want – just to be pushed against a wall and kissed, y’know, or just like held down –“ he pauses, trousers growing tight as he thinks about it. He can feel Rimmer’s steady gaze on him. “I mean, sex of any sort, with smegging anyone at all, is all I think about some days. ‘I'm sure it’s the same for you.”
“Quite,” says Rimmer.
"I dream about it all the time."
“Kissing and touching,” Rimmer is saying. “Rolling around in bedsheets.”
“- Hands and fingers and mouths,” Lister bites his lip, stubbing out his cigarette. “Miss it more than anything sometimes.”
“Lister,” Rimmer’s eyes are locked on his, clouded with both arousal and inebriation. He leans forward and in one clumsy move, he’s kissing Lister.
A shudder of delight and desire runs through him, and he groans openly into Rimmer’s mouth, letting himself be pushed flat against the floor. Fingers tangle in his locs, one firm hand pinning his chest and smeg, he knew Rimmer would be like this, suspected it for so long, he’s vindicated and so turned on he can barely breathe as he feels the strength of hard-light technology against him.
As Rimmer’s lips find his neck, nipping kisses down to his collarbone, Lister summons the last rational part of himself buried beneath gallons of alcohol and years of misplaced desire for this strange enemy-turned-crewmate-turned something else and asks. “Y’sure about this?”
“Yes,” comes the immediate breathless response. He finds Lister’s hand and holds it against his solid length beneath tight black trousers. “I’m quite sure.”
Rimmer shudders as Lister dips his hand beneath the waist band and grasps his hand around him. “Lister.”
“Knew you’d be like this Rimmer – knew you’d be so good,” Lister can’t seem to stop talking as he ruts against Rimmer shamelessly, breathlessly - getting off on the sound of Rimmer’s groans and expletives in his ear. “Got no idea what you do to me.”
He hears the zip on his own leathers and is rendered mute from the feeling of Rimmer’s hand on him. Then Rimmer’s solid weight against him vanishes. Lister glances down his body and very nearly whites out as he watches Rimmer lean down, mouth hovering by his groin.
“I’ve never done this before,” says Rimmer, mostly to himself, before wet heat encases him and Lister’s hips stutter, eyes sliding shut.
“Smeg, Rimmer – oh smeg,” he’s being too loud, he knows it. There’s a very real chance Kryten or Cat will hear them and realise what they’re doing. He jams his own leather jacket sleeve into his mouth, muffling his pants and moans as Rimmer sucks him. Smeg - maybe it’s the years he’s spent drifting in space without sex or intimate companionship, or maybe it’s just Rimmer here, now, but he swears it’s never been this good.
He pants wordlessly at the ceiling as Rimmer moves along his length. There’s heat at the base of his spine, spreading upwards and outwards – he knows that it won’t be long. The only sound he makes now is Rimmer’s name, chanted over and over again, rendered inaudible as he bites down on leather. His hips move in abortive motions, back arching, resisting the urge to bury himself in deeper.
“I’m gonna – “ he warns, and Rimmer pulls off, replaces his mouth with his hand. He looks devastatingly beautiful, all red lips and flushed cheeks and Lister flies apart with a guttural moan.
Rimmer’s staring back at him, chest rising and falling, absolutely beside himself with uncertainty and need and Lister barely lets himself recover before he’s pushing Rimmer backwards flat, reversing their positions. He has Rimmer’s jacket pushed up to his armpits and his trousers unlaced before Rimmer has chance to collect himself. With a practiced hand, he strokes the hologram, watching the way his eyes slide shut, mouth opening.
“Listy please – oh smeg, please, please, please.”
Lister pushes himself upwards, burying his nose in Rimmer’s neck – breathing and kissing whatever simulated skin he can reach as he strokes and strokes, relishing the way he can make the hologram fall apart right in front of his eyes.
The moans get louder. Lister muffles the sound with his hands as Rimmer positively keens. It’s a sight he never ever thought he would ever see and a new wave of fresh desire rolls over him.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
The hologram’s breathing gets louder and faster, hips beginning to buck. Lister kisses him, swallowing his long-drawn out whine as he comes apart.
It takes them both a few minutes to recover.
Lister fixes himself, booze soaked brain doing its best to process what had just happened. Beside him, the hologram breathes heavily, leaning against the metal frame of the bunkbead. “Smeg.”
Lister stands unsteadily and climbs into Rimmer’s bunk. After a moment, he holds out a hand. “You coming in or what?”
“Listy, is that really all you have to say? We’ve just done - that – and you’re going to sleep? In my bed, nonetheless?”
“If you want to spend the night overanalysin’ and panickin’ then you can. Me, I’m going to sleep. Sober Lister can worry about it in the morning,” he pauses, voice softer. “I’m sure sober Rimmer can too.”
Rimmer wavers for a moment, glancing down at Lister’s outstretched hand. Then he takes it, allows himself to be pulled into bed. Rolling onto his side, he drapes one arm over Lister’s body.
Just as he’s about to drift off, Rimmer’s voice thick with sleep pipes up. “Not a word about this to the Cat or Kryten. Or I’ll garotte you.”
Lister grins into the pillow. “Wouldn’t dream of it, Rimsy.”
Tomorrow, there will be a reckoning, he’s sure of it. It will be messy and difficult as they try to figure it all out. But that’s tomorrow. Tonight, Lister’s content to sleep, lulled by the sound of Rimmer’s breathing in his ear.