“Where's Rimmer?” Lister asked in utter confusion as he entered the science room. He hadn't seen him in the bunkroom when he woke up, or during breakfast.
Kryten and the Cat, who were hunched over a screen together looked up in surprise.
”I haven't seen him yet today, sir.” Kryten said, not sounding too worried.
The Cat broke into a smile. “Goalposthead is missing? What am I still dreaming?”
Shaking his head Lister chose to ignore the Cat. “Could you check for his lightbee signal Kryten? We need him when we go check out that derelict in a bit.”
A scowl replaced the Cat's beaming smile. “Need him? Are you sure? He's as much use as a porcelain fishcake! We're much faster without him!”
Once again ignoring the Cat's usual but unnecessary Rimmer bashing, Lister noticed Kryten looking confused. “What is it?” he asked.
“Are… Are you certain Mister Rimmer wasn't in your room, Mister Lister, sir?” The Android seemed stunned.
“Yeah, positive, why you ask?”
“Well, the computer is picking up his signal from there.”
That remark stirred a strange worried feeling inside Lister’s stomach, but he tried to hide it with a careless handwave.
“Maybe he went back there?” He shrugged faux airily.” I’ll call him.”
Quickly Lister dashed back to the bunkroom and, following his intuition, dived for Rimmer’s duvet.
Opening the duvet covers, Lister went pale and cringed. It was as he’d feared; barely visible in the mattress was a tiny light bee, giving off the saddest of light flashes. With a sigh, Lister sat down on the edge of the bed and pressed the ‘on’ switch.
The Arnold J Rimmer that materialized wasn't the one Lister was used to: this Rimmer was pale, red-eyed and unkempt and carried a haunted expression on his face. Seeing Lister, the sad looking man turned away to face the wall next to his bunk and curled into a ball.
“Rimmer? What happened to you? Are you okay? It's time to go, man!”
“Rimmer, come on, we need to go to that derelict — the thing will explode in a few hours. What if we miss out on supplies?”
More silence… or at least Lister thought there would be, until a tiny voice, barely recognisable as belonging to Rimmer answered: “Go without me, please.”
“What? Why? Hey, come on answer me, are you okay man?”
“I'm fine, just tired. Look, just go, Lister!”
“As if man, somethings up. You switched yourself off on purpose, didn't you?”
“Meaning yes. Why?”
”Why do you think?!” he snapped, shooting up from his bunk as if the conversation was enough to give him a temporary burst of energy. ”I'm a useless waste of space. Everyone is better off without me and you know it.” Energy depleted he collapsed back into a crumpled heap and returned to facing the wall, arms wrapped around himself tightly.
“Rimmer, what happened to you? Did something upset you?”
“No, nothing in particular. I just got fed up...”
“Fed up with what?”
His eyes screwed close tightly to hold back the tears, Rimmer swallowed. A large part of him wanted to spill his metaphorical guts right then and there. But what good would it do me? he wondered. He wouldn't listen to me… “Nothing. It doesn't matter Lister. Just let me sleep, at least till I can find the strength to switch off again.”
Shaking his head Lister went to the door, the excitement of visiting a derelict long gone. Rimmer is in a very bad state. What if he shuts himself down permanently while I’m gone? He shuddered.
“Okay, here's what we'll do: you're gonna sleep, we're gonna do a quick check of the derelict, and don't you dare switch off til we've had a chat, understood?” Lister tried, knowing such lines usually meant nothing to the severely depressed. But he had to try ...
“No, promise me!”
”I'll see… Just leave, okay?”
The sound of Rimmer's voice was off; too flat, too monotone, it made Lister shiver. He turned back and looked at the curled up wreck that was Arnold J. Rimmer and he was certain: he'd not be visiting any derelicts that day.
A few minutes later the door of the bunkroom whizzed open again and Lister ambled in, armed with a tray filled with goodies. “I sent Kryten and the Cat off to visit the derelict. Time for us to get out the good stuff.”
The lone figure in the bunk stirred and turned round with clear difficulty at those words. “Aren't you going?” Rimmer asked timidly.
Despite the haggard look on the face of the man in front of him, Lister couldn't help but smile; having the hologram turn to face him was a big step. “Nah, didn't feel like it.”
Clearly confused by these words Rimmer frowned. “What? You've been looking forward to this for weeks!”
With a shrug, Lister put the tray on the table so he could set himself down on the edge of Rimmer's bunk again. “Yeah, but it's no fun without me best mate, especially when I know he's clearly feeling like smeg.” He said as he began rubbing Rimmer's back in circles.
“What, me?” Rimmer's eyebrows shot up in confusion. “Since when am I your ‘best mate’?”
”Don't patronise me Listy,” the hologram snipped as he wrenched away from Lister's touch. ”In this crazy set up, Kryten is your best mate and the Cat is your party buddy. I am the annoying goit that just happened to be selected by Holly, and stayed on because you're too polite to switch me off. Thought I'd spare you the trouble and… you know.”
”Rimmer? Smeg! You really think that? You really think that we, that I don't care about you?”
”If Holly'd given you a choice would you have chosen me? I sure wouldn't.” Rimmer said, his words trailing off to a mutter near the end. Why would anyone? he inwardly said.
”Don't push me into that corner Rimmer. I might have wanted Kochanski, but I'm glad it was you I got.”
”What?” Rimmer’s voice had incredulous undertones to it. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. No way was it true.
”Like that old Stones song: You can't always get what you want but if you try, sometimes you get what ya need. And I did. It was you I needed to get me through.”
“Twaddle!” he spat. ”You thrive on hating me, just like the Cat does.”
“Yes. That stupid gimboid always goes on about wanting me out, dead or otherwise.”
“I didn't know that he was getting to you.”
“I tried not to let it, but… It's been going on for centuries now, relentless day in day out. Not just him, everything," Rimmer held his head in his hands, frightened to let go, as if it would split in half at any second and all his fears and instabilities would come rushing out, infecting Lister with the depression virus. ”It all keeps…repeating in my head, adding to all those other voices that mocked me in my life.”
“Smeg, is that what drove you to–?”
He finally looked up at the Scouser blank-faced. “Drove me? No Listy, this wasn't a real suicide attempt. A hologram can't kill itself unless their disc and code are destroyed too. I just wanted rest and give you all a break from me.”
“Well, you could have asked first Rimmer. No reason to be so smegging drastic about it.”
“Oh, just leave it, Lister,” he said, waving a dismissing hand. ”A bit late to suddenly show an interest, isn't it? You've made it pretty smegging clear that I'm not needed. You never listen to me, all my suggestions are ridiculed. We never really talk like we used to. But I understand, you've got Kryten, and you've clearly started preferring him to me.”
”No. No I didn't, I just started hanging out with him more seeing as how you've gone so quiet. I guess I know why now, you're really depressed, aren't ya?”
Near imperceptibly, Rimmer nodded. “It's– I… I just thought… I always mess things up; I can't pass my exams, everyone thinks I'm in the way, and I failed as Ace. I thought, ’would it matter to any of you, or the universe if I stayed in bed all day?’ And it didn't. Then I thought, ’would it matter if I just disappeared?’”
”It wouldn't, would it?”
”It would matter to me. Come on Rimmer, you know it does. You have no idea how much.”
“True.” Rimmer then sighed. “I don't...”
Hearing Rimmer say it so matter-of-factly broke Lister's heart. He lay himself down next to Rimmer and wrapped his arms around him, The hologram stiffened.
“What are you doing?” he grumbled, pushing Lister away.
“Showing you what you mean to me. Rimmer, I need you, we all need you — even the Cat. Without you, we wouldn't be the 'Boys from the Dwarf',” Lister drew in a sharp inhale and continued. ”When you left to be Ace all those years ago it felt all wrong, and I never want to feel that way again. We're the last of the human race, we need to stick together.”
“I'm a hologram...” Rimmer’s voice quavered with emotion. So much loathing and sadness were attached to the H-word, he could barely even say it anymore.
“You're human enough for me man. Come on, give us a hug," Once again Lister wrapped his arms around him.
”What are you doing? Lister, stop it!"
The two wrestled a moment, one trying to comfort, the other trying to leave until eventually, the hologram relented. He did have to admit it felt lovely. Warm, even. Before he knew it, he was nodding off, finally getting the rest he so desperately needed. Not exactly in the way he’d wanted it, but it was close enough. And a thousand times better.
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes
Well, you might find
You get what you need