Rimmer slowly brought his hands up over his mouth in mortification at the sight that beheld him. He muttered several bad words to himself and tried to ignore the giggles and coos of his coworkers as they walked past him desperately unloading the vending machine that had been stuffed with chocolate liqueurs and teddy bears. He wasn't sure how much more he could take of this sort of grand gesture.
When Lister had boldly informed him of his growing affections and that he wished to pitch woo at him (not the Scouser's exact words), Rimmer almost had an internal gay panic but Lister's charisma and confidence made him curious about what he had in store for him. "You carry on, miladdo," Rimmer said equally boldly but it was completely fake. He assured himself that Lister was just working through some things after the Kochanski debacle, and if he got a few presents out of that then what was the harm?
He misjudged how enthusiastic Lister could become. First it was mushy letters, written in a drunken scrawl on Rimmer's own personal stationery, then it was huge bouquets of flowers in his bunk. Rimmer had thought the final embarrassment would be the impromptu love song Lister performed in Parrot's the previous night. Oh he didn't say Rimmer's name in the lyrics, but everyone guessed. There weren't many technicians with "floofy hair and nostrils that flare". A clever rhyme nonetheless.
But now there was this and Rimmer was livid. He marched over to where Lister was setting up candles on their work trolley for a romantic lunch. The young man beamed at him obliviously. "Did you like your prezzie? Don't suppose you brought any of the chocs back for dessert?"
"You're lucky I didn't eject them into space. As it is I hate wasted food and I'd probably get some of my credits deducted if I had done, so instead I donated it all to passersby."
"...I take it you didn't like it then."
"No!" Rimmer flailed. "No I didn't like it! It's embarrassing! I don't like all these grand gestures."
"I'm just trying to show you how much I love yer."
"Well it's too much." Rimmer got out his notebook. "And unfortunately you have to go on report."
"Oh come on…"
"One count of leaving your station. One count of misuse of tools. One count of misappropriation of a vending machine. One count of insubordination."
"If you weren't so gorgeous when you're reporting I'd be miffed."
"One count of flirting with a superior whilst on duty - argh!" Rimmer clicked his suddenly empty pen. And it was his last one too, typical.
"Want me pencil?" Lister asked as he shyly pulled a stubby 2B from behind his ear.
Rimmer hated writing reports in pencil but he did it anyway. He didn't trust himself to remember. Now he not only had to restock the vending machine on top of his other duties but now he had to go grab a new pack of ink cartridges after work. It would cut into his studying time and he had little of that as it was. "Go on lunch," he snapped at Lister as he finished the final point.
"I'll just grab a quick snack," Lister said and picked up one of the meals he'd prepared for their date. "Leave the vendor, I'll do it when I get back. It's not fair if I leave it for you."
"I'll get into trouble if you work through lunch."
"Then we won't tell anyone. Our secret." Lister winked cheekily.
Rimmer shook his head. It was best to let Lister do what he wanted. "Fine. But if I find out you've used this break for some other elaborate scheme I'll-"
"I won't, I won't," Lister said. "I get the message."
Rimmer certainly hoped so. He ate a little of the food Lister left behind, which wasn't too bad, and went about his duties. Unfortunately, thanks to a leaky pipe that seemed determined to stay leaky, Rimmer went into overtime. He dismissed Lister an hour after their shift amidst passionate protests, and worked well into his studying time. He all but crawled back to his room, napped in the shower, and pulled out his text books and stared at them glumly. He reached for his shirt pocket to grab a pen to start writing his notes with and stopped. "Oh for smeg's sake," he groaned as he realised. There had to be a spare pen somewhere. He lived and breathed pens, how could there be none? He rummaged around his drawers to no avail. He was about to give up when he saw a small paper bag on his pillow.
Rimmer rolled his eyes. Another gift. Or perhaps not. The bag was plain and white. There was nothing written on it, there was no bow or musical card or holographic tag. He cautiously opened it to find a pack of his favourite type of writing pen and some highlighters. With them there was a note that read:
Thought you'd forget if you didn't write it down so I got them for you. Noticed you needed highlighters too. I'll be drinking with the lads tonight so you can have some peace xxx
Rimmer dropped the package, pulled on some trousers over his boxers and ran down to Lister's favourite bar. The other man shrank back amongst his friends sensing some sort of trouble when Rimmer barrelled his way through the throng of patrons but before he could beg forgiveness for whatever he'd done now, Rimmer grabbed his shirt and hauled him up onto his toes and kissed him. "You insufferable bastard," Rimmer grumbled as he set him down.
Lister's face split into a grin. "Thought you didn't like grand gestures."
"Yes um," Rimmer coughed, suddenly registering what he'd just done in front of half of maintenance. He wondered if it was too late to get transferred to another ship or hope everyone on board would agree to never speak of it again.
Lister excused them to his friends and they walked back to their room. News spread fast, and even as far ahead as the sleeping quarters people were nudging one another as they passed. Safe at home Rimmer sank into his bunk with an agonised moan. Lister sat the other end. "Thank you for the pens," Rimmer said as he fished the gift out from under his back. "How did you know I needed highlighters?"
"You usually run out after three weeks. Regular as clockwork. Well, only the blue, green and orange. You don't use the pink and yellow unless you really have to. They hurt your eyes."
"How on Io do you know that?"
"You said so."
"I had no idea you were paying that much attention to me."
Lister laughed. "Sounds a bit creepy when you say it like that. I'm not creating a database on you or anything. I just…"
"Notice the little things."
Lister shrugged. "Suppose."
"No-one's ever done anything like that for me before. I don't think even my own mother knew my habits or favourite things. Like colour."
"In clothes, blue. On walls? Almost any grey."
"You tell people it's filet mignon and hasselback potatoes but it's really sausage and mash."
"Organising your toy soldiers by rank and hair."
"Celebrity, Napoleon. Real life, no-one. But maybe if you were pushed for an answer" - Lister looked over coyly and shifted nearer - "it could possibly be me?"
"Correct," said Rimmer as the pens slowly fell to the floor and Lister slowly fell to his lips.