The changes to Lister’s outfit happen gradually. The boots come first, heavy and practical, Rimmer has to admit, for the realities of raiding derelicts and escaping murderous simulants. Then there’s the jacket – customised to Lister’s liking, over-large and beaten up, the sort of thing that his mother would call a ‘vagabond’s attire.’ The trousers are skin-tight and extremely form fitting; not at all what a respectable man should be wearing. Over the course of little more than a year, Lister’s attire shifts from loud, tacky tropical shirts and boxer shorts to black clothes and leather – the man looks like a cross between a biker and a goth.
He tells Lister as much too.
“Why are you bothered about what I’m wearing?” he replies, fixing up the laces on his boots. “Stick to your starched collars and your smeggy old tunics.”
Rimmer ignores him. “But surely it can’t be comfortable.”
“Since when did you give a smeg about my comfort?” Lister snorts. “Sorry if it offends you, Rimmer, but me leathers are stayin’.’”
Lister is grating, earnest and slobby at the best of times, positively reckless and foolhardy at the worst. Slinging his bazookoid over his shoulders as he strides into yet another one of his ill-thought out, needlessly careless plans, Rimmer has to admit, his scruffy leathers suit him well.
He carries himself slightly differently now. He’s more cocky, laidback, less unsure of himself.
Rimmer positively hates it.
They escape the GELF mishap by the skin of their teeth. Lister rounds the corner, laughing giddily, Cat and Kryten in tow. He collapses against the side of a storage container and removes his deerstalker, fanning sweaty skin.
“That was a close one,” says Cat.
“Yes, a bit too close for comfort, miladdo,” Rimmer points a finger in Lister’s face. “I told you we should’ve gone with my idea, but would you listen?”
“With respect, sir, your plan to flee wouldn’t have worked. Not only can the GELF ship outrun Starbug, it would’ve certainly exacerbated the situation. The N’ktau don’t taken kindly to cowardice.”
“God, aren’t you just the teacher’s pet?”
“Rimmer, what is your problem?” Lister unbuttons the top of his black shirt, fanning air directly at his chest now. “We got out alright, didn’t we?”
Rimmer glances up, meeting that hard gaze with his own. “My problem, madras breath, is that you never think anything through, do you? You just ponce about in your leather jacket like a Liverpudlian Marlon Brando, thinking you're the bees-knees, when actually you have all the self-awareness and subtlety of a narcissistic elephant.”
Lister raises an eyebrow. “Whereas you, you’re a natural-born tactician aren’t you? Funny how all your plans include scarperin’, you yellow-bellied git,” He turns before Rimmer can deliver his devastating riposte, fixing his hat back on top of his head. “We’d better get back.”
“Yes, sir," says Kryten.
Rimmer watches them leave, narrowing his eyes leather trousers. “Goit.”
He grabs another card from the deck, not quite meeting Cat’s gaze. “Don’t you have anything to say about it? You always have something to say.”
“About what? I think he looks good.”
“Well, as good as he’s ever gonna look. Let’s face it, some people either got it or they don’t and he definitely doesn’t have it,” says Cat, shuffling his cards. “Personally, I wouldn’t have gone with that look. It’s a little…played out for me - the leather and the chains and the black – way too retro when I’m all about innovation. But for a tacky fashion disaster like him?”
“You don’t think it’s ridiculous? Over the top?”
“Over the top? Do you see who you’re speaking to?” Cat gestures at his own teal sequined suit. “Put it this way, bud. I think his new look is light-years ahead of those stupid shirts he used to wear before. I dry my dishes with nicer looking rags than those.”
“Well, I still think he looks like the centerfold for Men in Leather,” Rimmer is snide. “He has a shocking taste in clothes.”
Cat casts him a sidelong glance over the top of his cards. “There’s a wise saying that I think applies here: those in glass spaceships shouldn’t throw asteroids.”
The first thing he touches when Legion gives him hard-light technology is Lister’s vest.
It’s something, in all honesty, he’d always been curious about, mostly because it’s been so damn long since he touched anything at all. He’d wonders what it feels like to Lister – whether it’s restrictive and tight or breathable and practical. Of course there had been that one time when they had switched bodies, but being hologramatic, it’s not as if it felt any different. And they hadn’t suited him at all. He was an upstart, well turned out gentleman, in Lister’s leathers he felt as if he was part of a YMCA tribute act.
Most of all he’d wonders what it would feel like under his fingertips. Would the material be smooth? Would it stiff or well worn in? And what would it smell like? These idle thoughts had roamed free through the wee hours of the morning, countless times during early morning duty when he was alone and tired and there was smeg all else to think about. He’d often thought that if he was able to touch, just once, his interest in Lister’s leathers would dissipate. It was the curiosity, nothing more.
So when Legion makes him hard-light, he seizes the opportunity.
But it doesn’t stop his boundless fascination with Lister’s attire. If anything, he finds himself dwelling on it more and at the most inopportune of times - he even dreams about it on occasion. The one featuring Yvonne McGruder wearing that forgotten heavy jacket had been bad enough; the one about an unnamed man with dark skin and leather gloves and familiar, playful smile is one he certainly doesn’t care to analyse too closely.
Look, it’s not that Rimmer is obsessed, he’s just….interested, that’s all. Fascinated, one might even say. From a purely detached, curious kind of way, of course. And there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
And if he’s slightly disappointed to see the back of those scruffy trousers and the overlarge jacket, then so what?
“Come on, we’re behind schedule,” Rimmer taps at his watch. “We should’ve finished the sixth load by now.”
“Sir, this would move a lot quicker if you were actually helping.” Kryten ventures. “Can Mr. Cat and I surely be expected to move all of this cargo?”
“You raise a good point Kryten: where on Io is Lister? Trying to get out of duty, is he?” Rimmer rounds the corner briskly, inventory notepad at the ready, and comes across the sight of the third technician, stood atop a mound of metal crates, smoking.
The light half catches him, casting him partly in shadow. He’s got both hands tucked into his pockets as he smokes, letting the cigarette dangle from his lips. He inhales, eyes closed, truly relishing it, and then exhales a perfect plume of smoke that rises above him in steady wisps. Rimmer takes in his profile, the long locs tumbling out of his leather deerstalker, the arch of his neck as he tips his head back, those full lips that steadily bracket the cigarette -
Smeg. He thinks. Smeg, smeg, smeg, smeggity-smeg.
If there’s one thing Arnold J. Rimmer is good at, it’s repression. He was an absolute master of it, after all, he’d had plenty of practice throughout his adolescence - and this, er, situation regarding Lister would be no exception. He will suppress it, extinguish whatever fleeting, puerile, base feelings he may or may not currently harbour towards his bunkmate.
As a former love celibate, he was quite used to quashing desires. And quashing this particular desire, towards this particular man would be a walk through the smegging park. After all Lister was hardly Mr. Irresistible, was he? Rimmer had almost nearly seven years resisting him just fine. He was the same old smeghead, the same disgusting loathsome man who had the hygiene instincts and the personal habits of nursing bonobo. It’s important, he feels, that he remind himself of that.
So Rimmer course corrects.
“How many times must I ask you to keep your stinking, disgusting, filthy, fetid, old boots off the console?”
“Alright, alright, keep your hair on, guy,” Lister sits up, boots hitting the ground. “What’s up your arse?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Lister takes a sip of lager. “In these last two weeks you’ve been on my case more times than I count.”
Rimmer snorts, crossing his arms across his chest. “Since your knowledge extends to single-digits only, I won’t lose any sleep over it.”
“Gerbil cheeks is right, though,” Cat chimes in. “I don’t think I’ve seen you this whiny and agitated since he was let out of stasis.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Lister sits forward, expression teetering between playful and mischievous. “You look like you’re one step away from putting me on report.”
“I don’t have to stand and listen to this unsubstantiated rubbish,” Rimmer blusters.“Just do your job. And keep your feet off the console.”
“Yes, sir,” Lister drawls in a tone that sends warmth trickling down Rimmer’s spine. He flushes, ignoring the snickering behind him as he storms out of the cockpit and curses Lister and his stupid, ugly, seductive face.
It’s 0200 hours and Rimmer is awake. Painfully so.
He frowns down at his Astrophysics for Dummies book, studiously ignoring the tightness in his trousers. His traitorous libido had been off the charts recently, something he suspected may, perhaps, slightly have something to do with this rather Lister-shaped problem. Ignoring it hadn’t proved much of a viable solution so far; this thing he felt toward Lister, evidently, seemed far more stubborn than he had initially suspected. What he wouldn’t give for some peace, though; some end to these gutter thoughts that reared their heads the second he was alone. He hadn’t felt this sexually frustrated since sixth form college.
Of course, he could just take care of it. But that would be admitting to it, wouldn’t it? And as depraved and desperate as he was, he could never stoop to that low. How on Io could he face himself in a mirror knowing he’d done that while thinking about Lister?
He flicks over the page, barely digesting the words.
Nobody would ever have to know, a traitorous voice pipes up in his mind. Lister would be out on the morning shift until 0500 hours. And what was he supposed to do? Just lay here, awake, pent up and frustrated, all night long?
He holds the book closer to his face, staring at the little diagrams.
He bites his lip.
Only once. Just to get it all out of his system.
Rimmer slides a hand down his waistband, muffling his relieved moan into his pillow. His eyes land on long discarded leather jacket crumpled in a heap on the floor and all at once he’s imagining Lister, leant back on his chair in the cockpit legs spread, shirt half unbuttoned, gloved fingers typing idly at the console. Biting back a groan, his mind draws up other pictures, memories; Lister walking around semi-clothed as he tries to locate a clean shirt, dark skin disappearing into tight leather trousers; the way his biceps move when he puts together the bazookoid; the look of ecstasy on his face as he smokes, head tipped back, eyes closed.
He strokes faster now, flushing furiously as he recalls that playful smirk he wears around Rimmer, the sound of his own name in Lister’s accent; that opens the floodgates and Rimmer’s mind leaps ahead.
“Yes sir,” an imaginary voice says inside of his head, just as Lister had said it that day, at once full of indignation yet something resembling flirtation –
His mind rushes. Lister on his knees, Lister flushed and desperate, Lister –
Just like that Rimmer is falling apart, so hard and so fast, he can scarcely conceal his own groan. At that moment, the unmistakable sound of footfall jolts him. He barely as enough time to whimper out a pathetic “lights” before the door opens.
“Rimmer? You awake man?”
He remains silent, simulated heartbeat thumping in his ears, still shaking from the ferocity of his orgasm.
“Just getting me cigs,” he whispers. There’s the telltale rustle of Lister rummaging through the pockets of his jacket, and then he’s leaving. As the door slides shut behind him, Rimmer stares up at the bunk above, the solid weight of his own actions hitting him square in the chest like one of Lister’s manky old boots.
He was smegged. Completely, utterly, and totally smegged.
The thing is Rimmer had always considered himself to, well, not lean in that particular direction.
In fact, he’d hoped, very much so, that that wasn’t the case. The last thing he needed was one more thing that would set him apart from his other, stupid, successful, smarmy brothers.
He’d therefore always put his poor luck with women down to just that: poor luck; not enough time, other priorities. He’d never been particularly oversexed and he’d just assumed that was the way of things. Of course he had ambitions to start a family and marry, all of the things that were expected of him – but they were vague ambitions, unrealised; distant. He’d found, as he got older, that he’d stopped dwelling on it so much.
This ever so slightly threw a spanner in the works.
If someone put a bazookoid to his head, he would have to admit that it made more sense than it should. And he’d suspected, deep down - further down than he’d even been brave enough to look at in the cold light of day. He’d just never thought that Lister, slobbo extraordinaire, would be the one to force him to introspect.
So Rimmer, a hard-light hologram brought three-million years into the future, long after his loathsome family had become nothing but stardust, quietly accepts that aspect of his situation with far more dignity than most would give him credit for.
As soon as they locate Red Dwarf, the leathers come back with a ferocity. Within a week, the smeggy old boilersuit is gone and Lister is back to his customised jacket and tight trousers. Rimmer learns to gets good at it – both laying on thick his barely concealed contempt for his roommate and spending most nights with his hands down his trousers, nervously listening out for telltale stirring on the bunk below.
In fact, he becomes so good at it that he becomes overconfident. Arrogant.
“I just don’t think that given the option, boinking would be enough,” says Lister conversationally. He lifts up the lid of his laundry basket, plucks one of his old shirts out and gives it a wary sniff, before discarding it. “Wilma Flinstone is definitely the marryin’ type. I mean, yeah, I’m certain she’d be good in bed, but it’s not just about sex is it?”
“It’s about more than that, it’s about building a life isn’t it? Not just a meaningless roll around in the hay – oh there it is,” he eyes the rumpled black shirt in the corner. “With this sort of thing, you’ve got to give it more consideration, guy.”
He pulls on his shirt, body arching as he pulls the material over his outstretched arms.
“I think, I honestly think I’d go all the way with her,” a pause. “Rimmer?”
“What?” he blinks. “Yes?”
“You’ve not been listening to a word I’ve said, have you?” says Lister.
“Of course. I was just... thinking.”
“Thinkin’ about what?”
“About what you said.”
Lister folds his arms, amused. “Oh yeah? And was that?”
“Er,” he grasps. “Zero G?”
Rimmer is indignant. “Can I help it if all you talk about is rubbish? Can I help that I occasionally have to tune you out?”
“Yeah but you were starin’.”
“I most certainly was not,” says Rimmer, not tracking the movement of Lister’s gloved hand, ruffling through his locs.
“You were. And you’re doing it now,” says Lister. “What? Have I got somethin’ on me?”
He rubs his hands down his face, over his shoulders, down his shirt – as he skims lightly over his groin, Rimmer stifles a whimper.
“No, you haven’t.”
“Then what?” He turns to face him now, taking in the high flush of Rimmer’s cheeks, the guilty expression on his face. His eyes widen for the briefest of moments. “Smeggin’ hell. Rimmer,” he breathes. “Were you were looking at me?”
Rimmer starts, horrified. “No.”
“You’ve been walkin’ around here with that look on your face for weeks now – Kryten and the Cat reckoned you’ve been at the marijuana gin.”
“Now hang on - ” says Rimmer.
Lister cuts him off, expression unreadable. “But all this time, you’ve been looking at me?”
He wants to cut him down with some sharp remark, tell him he’s being ridiculous, that he’s highly overestimated his attractiveness if he thinks for a second, bucko, that Rimmer is in any way looking at him – but all he can muster is a weak, “Lister.”
He points a finger. “I smegging well knew it.”
“I -” he cuts himself off as Lister stalks toward him, regarding him with a look that Rimmer had never seen aimed at him. He’s not sure what he’s afraid of more – a humiliating rejection or the small sliver of a chance that Lister might actually want this.
“I suspected it,” Lister amends. “Just never thought you’d ever, ever see past your own smegging neuroses.”
His mind screams at him to run but his can’t seem to move, he’s stuck rigid, watching in horror.
Lister’s grin turns cocky. “I know you, Rimmer. I’ve never seen anyone overcompensate as much as you do. Go on then, deny it.”
Rimmer searches for words that won’t come – he can’t stop looking at Lister’s mouth.
“What was it that caught your eye?” He glances down at his gloves, eyebrow cocking in question. “Was it me leathers?”
He swallows, something – some alien force probably, compels him to nod his head.
“Kinky sod,” says Lister, his lip curls into a salacious grin. “Well luckily for you, I’m not exactly repulsed by that.”
Rimmer clears his throat. He catches Lister’s gaze on his lips - smeg, the scouser looks as he’s going to kiss him - and suddenly, Rimmer wants it so desperately he can barely stand it.
A standoff. Lister’s dark gaze pins him in place, and there’s something like lust openly displayed there. “You with me here, smeghead?” he says, struggling to keep his tone light.
Something snaps in that moment and Rimmer is surging forward, propelled by bravery he never knew he possessed, kissing him armed with months of pent up desperation. Lister kisses back without hesitation pulling him in by his hips and crowding into him and it’s so, so, so much better than he ever dreamed of. There are fingers on his hips, and a tongue in his mouth and a hand cupping the back of his neck, scraping lightly through his hair. He nips at soft, full lips and Lister moans into his mouth, a shudder running down his spine - Rimmer grasps him, steadies him in place.
“I knew it,” Lister says again, giddy and smug as he bites at Rimmer’s jaw, working up towards his neck.
“Listy,” he breathes, eyes fluttering closed at the sensation. “Do you ever shut up?”
“'Fraid you’re going to have to make me.”He leans forward, making short work of his belt and Rimmer’s mouth goes dry.
“I’ll hold you to that.”
“Please do,” Lister says.
Rimmer grasps him by the arse, pushing against him, wordlessly rocking his groin into Lister’s – he whines at the feeling of solid hardness against his. “Please Listy.”
Lister stares back at him, biting at his own lip. Watching him move now, rocking into Rimmer, damp sweat collecting at his hairline, cheeks flushed, pupils blown almost entirely black Rimmer truly appreciates just how smegging, mind-bendingly hot his bunkmate is.
“Yeah. Okay,” the scouser’s voice is low and raspy. “Let me just get out of these.”
“No,” Rimmer stills him with a hand. “Leave it all on.”
His gaze darkens impossibly. “God, Rimmer. You know I’ll never, ever let you live this down.”
Then all at once, Lister is shoving him back onto the lower bunk with a gloved hand, pushing up his shirt around his armpits. Bracketing his legs around Rimmer’s groin, he pulls Rimmer out beneath patterned underwear. “Watch.”
Rimmer watches, mouth open in toe-curling fascination as Lister wraps that gloved hand around him. “Oh smeg.” The material is deliciously rough around him, and his eyes roll back, pumping his hips faster. “Oh my God.”
Lister speeds up his pace, places feathery soft kisses on him; his cheek, his neck, his hairline, his forehead. “It’s good?”
“Very much so,” he struggles, biting his lip.
“Good, that’s so good Rimmer.”
“Smeg,” the visual stimulus is too much. His hips buck wildly, chasing a staccato rhythm. “Lister.” He grasps aimlessly at leather, pulling him in by his jacket, breath faltering. “I’m going to -”
Lister kisses him, swallowing the wild cry he lets out as he comes apart harder than he ever has in his smegging life.
He drifts down with a shuddering breath, blinking up at the light.
The room is still, silent.
“Did that really just happen?” he says, staring at the ceiling.
“Can’t believe it either,” Lister stands up, shifting uncomfortably. “Think I’ll need a cig after that.”
“Lister,” he says after a moment. “What did you mean by ‘I knew it’? Does everyone know that I’m not – well, I’m -” he trails off.
Lister snorts, grasping for his lighter. “You mean to say you can do that with me, but you can’t say the word ‘gay’?”
“Well. It’s all very new to me.”
He lights up, taking a drag. “S’pose you’ll get used it after we’ve shagged a few more times,”
Rimmer blinks. “You want to do that again?”
“What, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Rimmer sniffs, aiming for nonchalance. “I just didn’t want to presume. But in that case, do let me know when you’re ready. I believe we started something that we haven’t quite finished,” he nods meaningfully at the bulge in Lister’s trousers.
“At your earliest convenience, yes please,” his raises his eyebrows. “I can show you how much I deeply enjoy watching you smoke.”
Lister stares at him, slowly digesting the words. “Oh I really, really like you, Rimmer.”