‘I’ll admit, Arnold,’ said Howard as he, Rimmer and Crawford continued their awkward tour of the Trojan. ‘I’m already envious.’
Rimmer raised an eyebrow, concealing a smirk as best he could. He’d never expected to hear such an admission from his brother, particularly so soon. He couldn’t believe they were getting away with this.
‘Oh, surely not?’ he said, trying his best to sound humble. ‘Of course it’s a marvellous ship, and I am immensely proud of it. But surely it’s nothing on what you yourself have?’
‘The ship?’ repeated Howard distractedly. ‘Well, of course the ship – but I was thinking of Listerton-Smythe. Fascinating man.’
‘Oh,’ said Rimmer, deflating slightly.
Typical, he thought. The moment he got the chance to lord things over Howard, naturally bloody Lister would sidetrack the man.
‘Indeed – Listerton-Smythe is my most valued crewmember.'
‘He’s terrific,’ said Howard. ‘Incredible powers.’
‘Incredible,’ said Crawford, giving one of her sharp nods.
‘Oh, yes,’ affirmed Rimmer resentfully. ‘Incredible.’
‘Interesting hair,’ continued Howard thoughtfully.
‘Ah, yes – As part of our inclusion program, we prefer not to insist on regulation haircuts, hence also Hampton’s elaborate updo and Krytenski’s mostly uncovered, deformed skull.’
‘I like it.’
Rimmer frowned, glancing at Crawford who looked as unfazed as ever as Howard carried on.
‘The way those dreadlocks fall down his back. Enchanting.’
‘Erm – ’ Rimmer began.
‘Quite the arse on him, too.’
‘ – Excuse me?’
‘How can you stand it? Having a man like him on the bridge must be a constant distraction. Especially in that tight outfit.’
Rimmer stopped where he was and glared at his brother, suddenly speechless with rage.
‘You don’t suppose he’d be agreeable to a bit of alone time with me before we leave?’ Howard continued loftily, stopping as well. ‘I’d like to test those powers a little further. Of course he must have read the other things I was thinking and been too shy to repeat them in front of all of you, the minx.’
‘No!’ snapped Rimmer, finding his voice again and dropping his more Ace-like drawl for the moment. ‘I don’t think he’d be interested, Howard.’
Howard paused, taking in Rimmer’s angry expression and tense body.
‘Oh, I see,’ he said. ‘You and him?’
‘That is correct.’
‘My apologies. You really do have it all, don’t you?’ Howard didn’t sound the slightest bit remorseful as he clucked his tongue and looked Rimmer up and down again distastefully.
Rimmer cleared his throat.
‘Didn’t realise you liked men, Howard. You were always so fond of the ladies – quite a hit with them, too. If I remember correctly.’
‘I like women fine, but there’s something about a man sometimes, isn’t there?’ he drawled. ‘Father wouldn’t have tolerated it, so of course I refrained from making my less conventional interests known.’ A nasty smile spread across his face. ‘But he’s not around anymore, is he?’
‘No,’ said Rimmer, side-eyeing him between glancing up and down the corridor uneasily. ‘That was the reason I kept it quiet myself, as a matter of fact.’
‘Oh, no – we all knew about you,’ said Howard carelessly. ‘So, come on. What’s the little tease like in bed?’
Rimmer scowled at him, still horribly aware of Crawford lingering beside them.
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Is it always so rough with the telepathy, or does he get better at reading you after a while?’ Howard chuckled knowingly. ‘Ooh, I bet he knows exactly what you want, doesn’t he? I bet you don’t even have to ask him.’
Rimmer was near trembling with anger now.
‘I’m not answering that, you – ’ he started, but Howard cut him off.
‘Ah, it’s serious, then? My further apologies, little brother. And how long have you been together?’
‘Twenty-five years,’ said Rimmer through gritted teeth.
Of course they hadn’t been in a relationship that long, but they had been together for that amount of time (if you counted a few anomalies such as his nano-self’s time with Lister in prison). And he now counted those early days in their association as being very much a work-in-progress leading up to that fateful night they finally shagged on the floor. True they still couldn't quite agree on where it was – they’d been pretty drunk. He thought it was in their old quarters the first time, but Lister swore blind it was in the medi-bay. It didn’t smegging matter. Lister was his and Rimmer would die before he let Howard so much as touch his... hair.
‘Well,’ said Howard, looking oddly red-faced now, despite being a hologram, ‘you have my congratulations – ’ Suddenly, he froze, his expression twisting bizarrely as his image flickered. Rimmer blinked in confusion, and almost as quickly as it had started, it stopped, and Howard came back to himself. He gave a little shake, seeming unaware of what had just happened as he glowered at his brother. ‘Oh, yes. I’m envious all right.’
‘Sir?’ said Crawford, her electronic voice tinged with concern. ‘Are you quite well?’
‘Of course, Crawford. I’m fine. Let’s continue the tour, shall we?’
‘ – Of course,’ said Rimmer, gesturing to allow Crawford to move ahead of him as they picked up their slow pace along the corridor again.
Later, after Howard had ‘saved’ Rimmer (Rimmer still felt that was a bit of an exaggeration) and they’d stopped Crawford, the Red Dwarf crew returned to their own ship. They’d decided to keep the Trojan in case there was anything they could salvage from its superior technology and fixtures, and Lister and Rimmer watched from one of the observation decks as it docked in the cargo bay.
Rimmer looked down at Lister, who was still pouting over his missed call. He nudged him.
‘It was just a regular bit of tat, Listy,’ he said. ‘You’ll forget about it soon enough.’
‘I waited so long,’ whined Lister. ‘Smegging Crawford!’ He paused, turning to Rimmer and giving him the onceover with a smile. ‘You look great, by the way.’
‘So do you. Howard took a fancy to you, you know?’
‘ – You do?’
Rimmer tensed, trying to remember a moment when Howard would have had the opportunity to get Lister alone.
‘Read his mind, didn’t I?’ said Lister serenely, and then scoffed at Rimmer’s look. ‘I’m just playing around. I did think he was a bit overeager about sampling me Touch-T, though.’
‘You didn’t fancy him back, then?’
‘Nah. I’ve got my own ball of resentment and I’m quite happy with him. And besides, Howard was so plummy.’
Rimmer felt a warm sensation in his belly, and moved closer.
‘Lister – ’
Rimmer groaned, sliding his arms around Lister and pulling him in for a kiss.