“Rimmer? What the smeg are ya doing babe?” Lister asked drowsily seeing the light on at the Hologram's desk and sadly missing his warm buzzing form next to him in bed.
He heard a little gasp and some soft rustling of papers.
“Oh … nothing ...” Rimmer said softly as he quickly turned of the light and slid back into bed with his partner.
“Ya feel cold.” Lister noticed in annoyance. “What are ya doing Arn? I swear I heard you pacing last night.”
A soft chuckle as Rimmer huddled into the warmth of Lister's arms. “Nothing, I promise. I'm just … brushing up on a few things.”
“Oh smeg, it's not an exam is it? Not right before Christmas! It's our first Christmas together. Oh come on, you promised.”
“It's not an exam, you have my word. Don't worry love, it's something good.” And with that a seemingly rather tired out Rimmer crawled even deeper into his partners arms and quickly fell asleep, leaving Lister to wonder what all this was in aid of. Knowing Rimmer and his tendency for stupid choices he decided he'd better keep an eye out.
“Hot chocolate and a marshmallow.”
“Beg ya pardon?” Lister said, looking up from his seat in the drive room to find Rimmer looking unsure with a tray in his hands.
“I said hot chocolate and a marshmellow. I … I hope I got it right … That's quite a Christmassy thing, right? I don't have cookies or anything … Yet. But I … I am learning to bake them … If … if that's okay?”
Why the smeg is he nervous? Lister wondered. Then he quickly took the tray.
“Hey, of course that's Christmassy Arn. I love it. Don't worry about the cookies, but if you do want to bake ask Kryten for help, to make sure you don't hurt yourself.”
Rimmer quickly nodded, then walked off leaving Lister confused but enjoying a nice tasting cup of cocoa.
The next day Rimmer presented Lister with a plate of, slightly charred, home made cookies.
“Wow … You learn fast!” Lister smiled at Rimmer who stood before him, looking expectantly and mostly covered in flour.
“Well …?” He urged. “Do you like them?”
Obediently picking up one of the odd looking subjects from his plate Lister frowned; they were obviously meant to resemble something, but what?
“They look really …” Just then his brain, thankfully, came up with the right word. “Christmassy!”
A beaming smile broke in Rimmer's face, only then Lister realized how terribly tense and worried the Hologram had looked before. Why was his partner looking like he'd just completed an exam and he was the judge? This was supposed to be fun!
Well, he'd better take a bite and say he liked it, whether he did or not. Apparently this meant a lot to Rimmer and he wasn't going to upset him.
When he took the bite it was almost as if he was taking Rimmer with it, the way that man was staring at him.
Relief! It tasted good!! Very good actually, almost like his Nan used to make.
“Smeg, Rimsy I love it!! It's perfect!! Thanks man!”
It seemed to Lister as if Rimmer had been holding his, unnecessary, breath until now and finally started breathing again at this praise.
“Good to hear.” the Hologram simply said. “So I'm doing it right? You're happy?”
Lister frowned. Something felt odd about Rimmer's behavior but he couldn't put a finger on what it was. “Of course I am Arn, why not?”
“Do you want to see what Kryten and I did?” The Hologram smiled at him hopefully. "It's a surprise for you."
“Sure ...” Lister smiled.
To Lister's astonishment what Rimmer and Kryten had done was decorate their corridor, bunkroom and the recreation room. It now looked like an old fashioned toy store at Christmas. What made it extra special was that this was something that had rarely happened over the last few years. It was glittery, sparkly and wonderful. It was perfect.
“A-smeging-mazing!!” Lister exclaimed, taking in the beauty of it all.
Hopeful eyes met his, Rimmer had that “please love it” look again. “Why do you look so worried luv? It's beautiful, I love it!”
A relieved sigh from his Hologram made Lister scoop him up in his arms.
“What's up with you eh? You're bringing me all this Christmas and you seem so tense doing it. You know I'll love it, it's Christmas. Even if you brought me a twig with a bow and a bauble I'd be fine.”
A soft chuckle in his ears, Rimmer pulled him closer. “Oh, but you deserve more, Listy, so much more.” then Rimmer pressed a kiss in his hair.
That night Lister woke up and once more found his partner not in bed, but reading a Christmas Biscuit guide at his desk.
“What ya up to?” Lister asked him sleepily.
A bleary eyed Rimmer smiled at him. “Shush, it's a surprise.”
Another surprise? Rimmer had done more than enough. Lister thought.
“Don't care, ya look exhausted.”
Suppressing a yawn Rimmer shrugged. “I have to build you a gingerbread house, it's scheduled for tomorrow.”
“Rimmer … smeg … I can't believe I'm saying this, but: You don't have to build me a smegging gingerbread house. It's not compulsory. You need yer rest. Why are you forcing Christmas on me like this?”
For a second Rimmer bit his lip: “Because I love you … you love me and you love Christmas.” he then said, his head held low, looking at his fingers.
“You're weird … weird but cute ...” Lister smiled at him.
Christmas Eve night and Rimmer was not in bed – again! This was really starting to get on his nerves.
“On!” he shouted at the light. Surprised it was dark, not even a study light?
When his eyes adjusted he soon realised why there were no lights: it was because there was no Rimmer. The man wasn't just out of bed, he wasn't even in the room!
“Smeg ...” Lister muttered as he got out of bed wanting to go look for his partner.
But wait … he thought, and he quickly dashed to Rimmer's desk. With the man gone he had a chance to take a peek at what he was hiding from him. As he'd done so often in the past he picked the lock with his screwdriver, still surprised that in all these years Rimmer had never noticed.
Immediately his eye fell on a study chart.
“Aw man, you promised!!” He sighed sadly.
But looking again he noticed something else: the chart didn't look like Rimmer's usual chart: the bright rainbow waterfall. This one looked like a decorated Christmas tree.
“Odd ...” was all Lister could think off. Taking a closer look he saw that the chart was called "Project Christmas". He smiled, his partner was certainly organized, if a bit OCD.
"Read up on Christmas, watch movies, study Christmas history, what are carols – not hymns?"
Were but a few subjects on the chart, which ran from the bottom to the top upwards, towards a lovely star topper resembling Christmas Morning.
“Cute ...” Lister nodded.
"Make Listy cocoa, bake cookies, decorate, Gingerbread, Cinnamon …"
Was higher at the top.
So that's why. Lister got it now.
“Make Listy happy” It said on the topper.
“Aw ...” Lister sighed, feeling rather loved.
He looked through more of the notes on Rimmer's desk: what Christmas meant on earth, most important Christmas songs, who was Cliff Richard, couples Christmas ideas, beloved Christmas traditions, Christmas presents, games. He picked one up that particularly interested him: “The Message and Meaning of it's A Wonderful Life” - Rimmer had studied that one a lot.
Then it hit him “Make Listy happy”!! Rimmer didn't have a clue about Christmas but had actually taken time to make a study of it just for him, to make him happy.
“Smeg, I'm so gonna brush up on Telegraph poles next year. Well, that or Morriss Dancing ...” Lister promised to himself. - It would be Telegraph poles.
What he also realised was that Rimmer had gone into this headlong just to make him happy, but what about his own happiness? Everyone had to enjoy Christmas, and as Rimmer clearly never had one, shouldn't it have been him making his Rimsy happy?
Where was he now? "Last Christmas romance brush up – Cinema Theater."
The beaming face of Candace Cameron Bure in a Santa hat greeted him when he entered the theater. Ah, he liked that film … Now to find Rimmer. He started searching the isles for a bit until, in the center row, he found the sleeping form of his partner, notebook and pen had slipped out of his hands and onto the floor. All those nights studying had clearly caught up with him, as Lister had expected. In fact he'd brought a blanket just in case. He'd also taken a tin of biscuits he'd found hidden in Rimmer's desk drawer that had apparently been deemed 'not good enough' for him - but were, in fact, delicious.
Softly he sank in the seat next to him and covered the both of them in the blanket, only then he woke Rimmer.
“Arn, babe, wake up. It's Christmas.”
“Is it …? I'll be there in a bit ...” Rimmer muttered. “Just no rice pudding …”
For a second it looked like he'd go back to sleep, but then he suddenly realised where he was. “Smeg … I'm … how … where …?”
“Yeah, I found out your secret babe …” Lister smiled. “Christmas studies, huh?”
Clearly not in the mood to really wake up yet Rimmer closed his eyes again and sighed almost contentedly.
“So I guess you've been going through my desk again?”
A jolt of surprise went through Lister. “You know I do that?” he was stunned.
His eyes still closed Rimmer smiled. “Of course I do! You're not that subtle about it are you? You never put anything back in it's propper place.”
Softly Lister put his hand on Rimmer blanket covered thigh. “But … you've never said anything? Why didn't you change the lock?”
Clearly unwillingly Rimmer opened his eyes to look at his partner. Tired hazel eyes that gazed at him with love and kindness.
“Because I need you to keep doing that Listy ...”
“Because it keeps me sane. I … I can go a bit loopy sometimes obsessing with things and … It's odd … the moment you start spying I … kind of know I'm going to far …” his eyes searched Lister they were hopeful and longing. Lister's heart melted.
“Oh Rimsy, you're adorable. Don't worry, I'll never stop spying on you babe, you're far too interesting.”
“Nah, you're just too much of a nosy bugger.” Rimmer said with a grin.
At this Lister wrapped an arm around Rimmer and the Hologram relaxed into the warmth.
“Really think it's sweet though, you wanting to learn about Christmas for me …” Lister said after a while. “But why not ask me about it? We could have done all that stuff together. I'd have loved that, it would have been so much fun.”
He felt Rimmer stiffen. “I'm sorry ...” the Hologram then whispered, sitting up again and looking embarrassed.
That wasn't what he meant Lister thought as he turned to look at him. Rimmer had done nothing wrong.
“Hey, no apologies, I loved what you did. But part of Christmas is doing stuff together …”
Rimmer thought about it for a bit as he played nervously with his hands,
“I didn't want to disappoint you, I guess.” he then sighed.
“How could you disappoint me?” Lister felt confused and a bit sad: Rimmer was happy in their relationship, but it seemed that “not disappointing Lister” had become second only to “becoming an Officer” on the Rimmer Obsessions List. Never having been loved had made him terrified of losing it now he had it.
“Not knowing anything about Christmas … not feeling it …” Rimmer's soft voice continued. “I know how much you love it, but I was never taught to like it. On … on IO Christmas wasn't fun … It was strict rules and regulations … no tree but daily church visits and silent dinners … Or if I got the quizzes wrong, which was almost every year, no dinner at all. Most of my life Christmas was just loneliness. I was brushing up to see what made Christmas special to people as you love it so much … I wanted to do it right for you.”
Lister's heart broke a little hearing this. He put his hand on Rimmer's cheek.
Rimmer placed his hand on Lister's and took his partner's other hand in his.
“It's our first Christmas as a couple and I want to make you happy. I know everyone always says I ruin the fun, I wanted to be different this time …”
“But in the end you turned it into an exam?” Lister asked, remembering the notes, the charts and Rimmer's late night studies.
The Hologram shrugged “I think it's my default state … I don't know how …”
He looked confused, clearly searching for comfort. Lister took his hands again and looked him in the eyes, then he kissed him gently, a kiss Rimmer returned eagerly.
“Arn, my lovely Arn," Lister said, as the kiss ended. "I know all this is new for you, but don't be scared to ask, okay? You are fine as you are. Don't forget: I fell in love when you were a smeghead. I don't expect you to suddenly be different or an expert on Christmas. I love what you tried to do but … there is no way to do Christmas 'right', ya just do it, it's spontaneous.”
A head-shake and a shiver from Rimmer. “I hate spontaneous, I can't be spontaneous … that scares me …”
He looked so appalled at the thought it made Lister giggle.
“Rimsy, every day is spontaneous. You might plan something but you never really know what might happen. You may plan to study your exams, but if a monster enters the ship you bet ya you gotta be spontaneous …” Rimmer suddenly looked horrified. “What?” Lister asked.
“Did you have to make it a monster?”
Hmm, yes, he had a point.
“Okay, better example: what if you planned doing your cute Christmas course but I decided I wanted to snuggle up and watch the movie with you instead?”
A light seemed to ignite in Rimmer's eyes. “Well … I guess I … could try to be spontaneous …” he sounded hopeful and the tension seemed to fade. This was good, Lister thought.
“There you go, ya cute silly smeghead … By the way … you've passed with distinction. Now come here, Officer Christmas!!”
With that Lister pulled his beloved partner closer and pressed a kiss on the top of his head. Clearly feeling cozy Rimmer relaxed and leaned against Lister as the film restarted. Soon he was happily back to sleep.
Christmas morning, his sleeping partner in his arms, a soppy Christmas movie playing, a cozy blanket and some delicious Christmas cookies at hand. Lister smiled happily: Rimmer had succeeded. For once he was truly happy at Christmas and he'd make sure Rimmer would be too.