“I can’t believe we just spent that many dollarpounds on a cottage,” Rimmer grumbled as he engaged the Wildfire’s initial planetary approach sequence.
“Yeah, it was a lot, but it’ll be worth it.” Lounging on the tiny bunk behind Rimmer’s seat, Lister sighed happily and cracked open a celebratory lager. “Besides, the JMC is paying for it. Good job we found those corporate expense cards in Hollister’s safe. Amazing that they still work. Wonder who pays the bills?”
“Probably some loopy, senile old accounting system. As long as I’m not receiving statements, I don’t much care.” Rimmer fiddled with an array of buttons for a moment. “Fiona, old love, prepare for touchdown,” he continued, addressing the ship’s computer in the smooth, dulcet tones of Ace.
“Touchdown protocols initiated, darling,” Fiona cooed.
Rimmer chuckled softly at Lister’s derisive snort and nearly inaudible, “Smeg off, you electronic slag.”
“Ah, here we are.” The hologram skillfully set Wildfire down on a landing pad in the back garden of a passable replica of a small English countryside cottage, and turned to smile fondly at his partner. “Honey, we’re home.”
Hologram and human stood together in the front garden, admiring their new property. “It’s quite lovely,” Rimmer said, pulling Lister into a warm embrace. “Are you happy, karulo?”
Lister nestled into Rimmer’s arms and laid his head on his chest. “Very. Thank you for agreeing to this, darlin’. I know how much you love Simulants and droids and all those other sort-of-peopley people...”
“Which would be ‘not in the slightest,’” Rimmer said, nuzzling his partner’s curls.
Lister gently pinched Rimmer’s backside, chiding, “Hush, man. I’m trying to thank you, so just listen, yeah?”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“Right. As I was saying before some smeghead rudely interrupted me, I know you aren’t keen on other, um, people, so for you to agree to this means a lot to me.”
“Well, when I heard about this place, I thought you might like it. I can’t give you Fiji, but at least I can give you a little home of your own, even if it is just in a development on some resort planetoid.” Rimmer kissed Lister’s cheek. “You deserve it.”
“I’d say that anywhere is home as long as I’m with you, but you’d call me a maudlin little gimboid, so I’ll just think it instead.”
“Good. I wouldn’t want to hear it, as I can’t stand that sort of mushy nonsense.” The hologram kissed Lister again. “Shall we go inside?”
“Nah, man. I’d rather stand out here like this all night.”
“Cheeky little bastard. Come on, and let’s have a look.”
As Rimmer searched his pockets for the door lock keypad sequence, he offhandedly said, “I still find it hard to believe that Hercule Smegging Platini is managing a holiday home resort. That pompous bastard probably charged us double the actual asking price.”
“Wasn’t he the captain of that holoship?”
“Yes, the arrogant git. I recognized several other crew members when we were at the office complex as well.”
Lister bit his lower lip thoughtfully, then asked, “Did you see her?”
Puzzled, Rimmer stopped searching for the key code and looked at his partner. “Her? Her, who?”
Hesitating for a moment, Lister finally answered, “You know. Nirvanah. Your holo-bird. Miss Constant Sex. Was she there?”
Hearing the uncertainty in Lister’s voice and noting the sudden sadness in his eyes, Rimmer took him into his arms for a comforting hug. “I didn’t, no, but, even if I see her, it won’t mean anything to me. She doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ll say hello and chat a bit, and that’s all. I’ve got you for my constant, guilt-free sex needs, miladdo, and don’t you forget it. Now, where’s that smegging key code?”
“This one?” Smiling impishly, Lister held up a small card, his sunny mood restored.
“Where the smeg did you get that?”
“Nicked it from your pocket just now. Gotta keep me pickpocket skills sharp.”
“It’s true. You are the bad boy my mother warned me about.”
“Yeah, and you love it. Move over and let me do the honors.” As Lister was about to punch in the code, a shout from across the road startled him.
“David Lister? Is that you? Hello, new neighbors!”
“What the smeg? Who...?” Lister spun around to see who could possibly be addressing him. “Oh, for smeg’s sake. Not them.”
Rimmer turned to look, then rolled his eyes in disgust. “Fansmeggingtastic.”
In the front garden of the cottage across the way, Simulant Chancellor Wednesday was waving wildly at Lister, while Dominator Zlurth stood behind him with a sour expression to match Rimmer’s own.
“Welcome to the neighborhood,” muttered Rimmer.
“Don’t wave back, Lister,” Rimmer hissed in his husband’s ear. “Ignore them.”
“I can’t,” Lister replied resignedly as he acknowledged the Chancellor’s frantic gesticulations with a tiny wave of his fingers. “That’s rude, and me gran taught me that it’s rude to be rude, y’know?”
“Do your gran’s rules of rudeness apply when you’re dealing with someone who actively attempts to kill you? I seem to have missed that chapter in the etiquette books my mother forced me to read.” Rimmer shot a murderous glare at the Dominator, who glowered back malevolently.
“To be fair, we have destroyed their ships, what, five times now? That probably makes us even,” Lister replied. “Look, I’ll just go say hello to be polite, and then we can ignore the smeggers.” As Rimmer growled in annoyance, Lister tromped up the path to the garden gate and called out, “Cheers, mate!”
The Chancellor, bouncing on his toes like an enthusiastic puppy, exclaimed, “It is you! I said to my Dominator, ‘That looks like David Lister and his hologram boyfriend,’ but he thought I had to be mistaken.” Turning to his companion, who was occupied exchanging dirty looks with Rimmer, he triumphantly chirped, “See, my Dominator? I was right!”
“Yes, yes,” the Dominator replied distractedly. “I see. Apparently, we failed to kill them again. That’s becoming a rather distressingly bad habit, Wednesday. Perhaps we can rectify that issue.”
“Try it, you cyborg freak,” Rimmer snarled, stalking over to the fence. “I swear, I’ll tear off your bloody thick head and use it as a football!”
“Bring it on, hologram,” Zlurth growled back. “I’ll greatly enjoy skipping that light bee of yours out over the lake, Ace!”
“That’s it!” Rimmer tried to hurdle the garden fence, but caught his foot on it as he went over. He landed in a graceless heap in the lane, cursing volubly in every language he knew. As he got to his feet, he heard the Simulant yelp. The Dominator hopped about on one foot, clutching the other as he bellowed in pain and anger. Rimmer arched an inquiring brow at Lister, who shrugged and said, “The smegger shut his foot in the gate.”
Overhearing Lister, Wednesday offered an explanation while soothing his enraged partner. “This development is governed by a Karma Field. It keeps disputes civil. Stops neighbors from warring with one another, quite literally in many cases. My Dominator knows this, but he tends to forget himself when irritated, so things like this happen. Come inside, my love,” he urged Zlurth. “Let me tend to your poor foot. I’ll talk with you later, David,” he tossed over his shoulder as he herded the Dominator into their cottage.
Rimmer and Lister stared at one another in disbelief for a few minutes. Rimmer spoke first. “What just happened, Listy?”
“I think we just met the neighbors.”
“Smeg. Forget them. Let’s go inside. I could use a gin and tonic.” Taking Lister’s hand, Rimmer escorted him up the garden path to the front door. As Lister reached for the doorknob, Rimmer restrained him with a gentle hand on his arm, and playfully scooped him up into a bridal carry. “Allow me. It’s traditional for the man of the house to carry his spouse over the threshold.”
“I thought that was only after weddings.”
“Whatever. Welcome home, you little goit.”
Kryten and Cat arrived for a visit a week after Rimmer and Lister had settled in. The mech had made himself right at home, and was cheerfully fixing a celebratory dinner, while Cat thoroughly inspected every inch of the cottage.
“Buds, where are the window treatments for this kitchen? You can’t just go around with bare windows. People will talk!” Pulling a small tape measure out of a pocket, Cat began taking measurements.
“They’re in the bin over there,” Lister answered, gesturing towards a garbage can stuffed full of cheery fabric. “Rimmer took one look at them and tore them down.”
“I tore them down because I have a bit of a thing about red and white checked gingham,” the hologram remarked as he wandered into the kitchen. “It doesn’t bring me joy.”
Cat briefly examined the binned curtains, sneering dismissively at them. “I’m with Goalpost Head on this one. Those are awful. Now, crisp white cotton eyelet curtains would look good in here. We’ll have to go to the Bed, Bath and Beyond on the Dwarf and see what’s in stock.” Pulling out a small notebook, the felinoid jotted down the window measurements. “Now I need to check out my bedroom. The biggest room is mine, of course. You monkeys are just gonna sleep in bunks anyway.”
“Cat,” Lister began.
From the master bedroom, Cat yowled, “A king bed and an en suite with a Jacuzzi tub and a walk-in shower? All right!”
“Cat, man, listen...”
Ignoring Lister, Cat continued exploring the tiny cottage for a few minutes. He soon appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Buds, there’s a library, a TV room, one more bath, and a little bedroom with a single bed.”
Rimmer asked, “Your point, moggy?”
“Where are you guys gonna sleep?
“In our master bedroom, you moron. Our master bedroom in our cottage, which is ours. Rimsy-and-Listy ours, not the whole damned family ours.”
“There’s another master bedroom?”
“No, Cat, there isn’t,” Lister sighed. “Look, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. This place, well, it’s mostly for Rimmer and me. I’ve always wanted me own bit of land, and we’ve been talking about having a little getaway spot for a while now. When we heard about this place, we decided it would be perfect for the two of us. Now, that doesn’t mean...”
Kryten’s shocked gasp startled Lister, interrupting his little speech. “Oh, Mr. Lister, sir! You’re leaving me? How could you do this to me?” Sobbing, the mech sank into a kitchen chair, burying his face in a handy tea towel.
“Oh, good Lord, we should have seen this coming,” Rimmer grumbled. “Kryten, snap out of it, you ridiculous bog-bot! He isn’t abandoning you!”
“Yes!” *sob* “He!” *sob* “Is!”
“Krytes, I’m not, man.” Lister rested a consoling hand on the distraught mech’s arm. “I just want to spend time with Rimmer, y’know?”
“You love him more than you love me!”
Lister scooted his chair next to Kryten’s, and awkwardly embraced the mech. “I love you both, but in different ways, yeah? You’re me mum, and he’s me husband. I want to be alone with him sometimes. You know, for inny-outy things?”
Kryten’s wails intensified as Cat chimed in, eyeing Lister suspiciously as he asked, “Wait - are you saying that big bedroom isn’t mine?”
“Somehow, I don’t think any of that was helpful, Listy,” Rimmer wryly observed.
“Thanks, Officer Obvious. Help me out here, man!”
“Fine. Look here, Kryten. There’s a big laundry area and cleaning storage cupboard in the basement. We’ll help you set it up as your quarters, and you can visit us when you’re missing Listy. You are not, however, staying permanently. Neither of you are living here permanently.” Nodding towards Cat, Rimmer continued, “As for you, you vapid feline, you can have the guest room when you visit. You can even decorate that room with whatever atrocious seraglio theme strikes your fancy. You will not be decorating anything else, so get any thoughts of that out of your head immediately.”
“So, that room’s not mine?”
“You’re putting me in the little room?”
“Aw, man! How do you expect me to live in such a small space?” Cat took a seat at the table and, arms folded, leaned back pouting in his chair.
“You’re a cat, you fool! You sleep in cupboards! Also, you aren’t living here full time! Why is this so difficult to understand?”
“I can’t believe I have the tiny room! Where am I gonna put all my clothes?”
“Oh, please don’t leave me, Mr. Lister!”
“Thanks, Rimmer. Very helpful,” Lister snipped as he rubbed Kryten’s back.
“You’re all nutters, you know that? I have a family of nutters. I’m going outside.” Muttering under his simulated breath about lunatics and space madness, Rimmer opened the door to the back garden, and stumbled backwards as the Chancellor fell against him. “What the smeg? Oh, this is exactly what we need right now. What are you doing here, and why are you coming round the back garden?”
“I’m sorry, Arnold,” Wednesday apologized. “I saw you had company, so I thought I’d stop in with some freshly baked raspberry tarts. I was just about to knock on the door when you opened it, and lost my balance.”
“I told him to come round the back, Rimmer,” Lister added. “Me gran always said that friends don’t use the front door.”
“Nutters.” Rimmer pushed past the Simulant and stomped outside.
Rimmer puttered around the garden for a while, tending to his newly planted rose bushes. Despite his best efforts to distract himself, his thoughts kept drifting to the chaotic little scene from which he’d fled, and he wrestled with himself over the question of what to do about Kryten and Cat.
That blasted bog-bot and stupid moggy aren’t coming to live here, no matter how much they protest and whine and sob.
We’ve all been together for so long, though... we’re the Boys From the Dwarf!
It doesn’t matter how long - there’s simply no room!
But, the cottage is larger than our sleeping quarters, and that’s where we all spend most of our time. We manage quite well there.
No, it’ll never work. I can’t make wild, passionate love to Listy with the others under the same roof! It would be embarrassing!
Never stopped me before, though. I remember that time in Blue Midget when I pulled him onto my lap and...
Not really. Besides, how often do we engage in strenuous sex anymore? We’re getting old, squire. Family is important, remember.
They aren’t “family.”
They are family, though - far more so than my own family ever was to me.
I wonder what Lister is thinking. He’ll probably want to give in. There’s absolutely no reason they need to stay, though. They’ll be fine on the ship.
Or, will they? The Cat will end up staring at himself in a mirror and forgetting to eat, and he’ll starve, and Kryten will manage to sob himself to death somehow.
No, that’s ridiculous.
No, it’s not. They need us, and we need them. We’re the Posse.
Resigned to the inescapable conclusion that Kryten and Cat would be the cuckoos in his love nest, Rimmer heaved a sigh and made his way into the house.
The atmosphere of the kitchen was much more pleasant than it had been. The aroma of a roasting leg of lamb suffused the air. Kryten had put the kettle on, and set out biscuits and the Chancellor’s tarts. The Dwarfers and their Simulant guest were gathered around the table, chatting and laughing. Rimmer paused in the doorway for a moment, drinking in the sight.
Lister spotted him, and, smiling, rose from his seat and patted his chair. “Come sit here, and I’ll make you a cuppa.”
“Where do you plan to sit?”
“On your lap, smeghead - where else?”
Rimmer had no answer to that, so he sat down and accepted the tart the Chancellor offered him. “My compliments - this is delicious.” As Wednesday shyly thanked him and offered to give him the recipe, he continued, “I’ve been thinking.”
“You what? Thought I smelled something burning.”
“Listy, shut up. Kryten, Cat - I’ve decided that you can stay if Lister agrees to it. Far be it from me that I should break up the Posse.”
“Thanks, love.” Lister set Rimmer’s mug on the table, clambered onto his lap, and pecked the tip of his nose. “We’d already decided that that was happening, but I’m happy you’re fine with it.”
“Yes, well, I don’t want to have to tidy up after you. Kryten is welcome to that thankless job.”
Cat demanded, “What about me? What’s my thankless job?”
“You can make me feel better about myself when I fail at something, because at least I’m not a daft cat.”
“Don’t mention it. Oh, and Cat - one more thing.”
“You still aren’t getting the master bedroom.”
Rimmer stood in a corner of the back garden nursing a whiskey and lemonade, and watching his husband flitting about from guest to guest like some sort of round, slightly inebriated Scouse butterfly. He hadn’t been thrilled with the idea of a garden party, but Lister had insisted, and, as Rimmer could deny his karulo nothing, they were now hosting a rather motley crew.
Butler was assisting Kryten with the food. Of course, Rimmer knew perfectly well there was a bit more to the situation than simple catering help. He’d observed the lingering looks and surreptitious touches between the mechs, and had almost walked in on a stolen kiss in the kitchen. Despite himself, Rimmer couldn’t help thinking that the budding love affair was, Io help him, almost cute. I’m getting soft in my old age, he thought. Listy’s fault.
Snacky was visiting from his lab on the Dwarf, and was enjoying catching Kryten and Butler up on the latest developments in his stasis-based time travel research. Hogey had stopped by long enough to have a burger and challenge Lister to a duel across time and space. Some of the neighbors with whom the Dwarfers had become acquainted over the past several months were drifting around the garden, chatting amiably with one another.
Even that bloody nano-version of himself currently posing as Ace was there, as Lister had insisted on inviting the twonk. Observing him over the rim of his glass, Rimmer was pettily pleased to note that the idiot was longingly mooning after Lister. Look all you like, miladdo, but don’t touch, or I’ll feed you your own intestines. Glad Howard hasn’t bothered to turn up - one sorry git slavering over my husband is quite enough.
Then, there were the friendly neighborhood Simulants. The Chancellor had contributed several dishes to the festivities, and was happily helping man the makeshift al fresco bar. The Dominator had been wandering around the garden inspecting Rimmer’s plants with a critical eye. As Rimmer watched, the Simulant accepted a fresh glass of wine from his doting partner, and strolled over to him. “Lovely party, hologram.”
“Thanks. It’s all Lister’s doing.”
“Quite. I see you fancy heritage roses.”
“Indeed. I prefer antique roses to the hybrids. The blossoms may not be as showy, but the fragrance is far superior. Wednesday has mentioned that you also have an interest in gardening.”
“I do, yes, although I generally don’t bother cultivating anything as plebeian as roses.”
“Pardon?” Rimmer arched an eyebrow and flared his nostrils slightly at the thinly veiled insult.
“Roses are so common. Garden-variety, as it were. I much prefer orchids. The true test of one’s skills lies in his ability to keep orchids. Do you keep orchids, hologram?”
“How lovely, and, yes, I do,” Rimmer replied flatly. He did have a few orchids Lister had given him as gifts, and was perfectly competent with them, but wasn’t particularly enamored of them. “Frankly, however, I find them fussy and overly particular,” he continued.
“Of course you would,” Zlurth sneered. “You’re obviously an aficionado of the traditional English garden. How quaint.”
Rimmer swore he could feel his T-count elevating. “Well, as the Romans said, de gustibus non est disputandum, eh?” The Dominator looked at Rimmer for a long moment, although whether he was in agreement or merely confused, Rimmer couldn’t quite tell.
After what seemed like an eternity of uncomfortable silence, the Simulant asked, “Do you know about the annual garden tours and competition?”
“I had heard something of it in passing, yes,” replied Rimmer, who had been designing and cultivating his gardens since Day One with an eye towards taking the grand prize.
“I’ve placed every year since Wednesday and I came here, and I’ve won the top honors for the past four years. You’re welcome to enter your gardens, naturally, but be advised that I will most assuredly defeat you.”
“We shall see, won’t we? Ah, I do believe I hear my husband calling me. Delightful chatting with you - must do it again sometime.” With a cursory nod of dismissal, Rimmer excused himself and stalked into the cottage, where he found Lister freshening up in their bedroom.
Seeing storm clouds brewing in Rimmer’s eyes, Lister reached up with a gentle hand and stroked his partner’s face. “What’s wrong, love? I saw you talking to our neighbor.”
Rimmer snarled, “That bloody buggering bastard of a Simulant gets on my tits! He insulted my roses! Nobody smegging insults my roses and gets away with it!”
Trying not to laugh, Lister wrapped his arms around his hologram’s waist and rubbed little circles on his lower back. “What are you planning, Rimmer? You know there’s a Karma Field, so twatting him isn’t in the cards.”
“Oh, I’m not going to hurt him - not physically, at any rate.”
Lister pulled back a bit and quizzically looked into Rimmer’s eyes. “What are you going to do, then?”
“I’m going to win this competition if it kills me.”
“You’re already dead, babe.”
“Whatever. Let’s go back out there and see about booting this lot. I need to get to work.”
Lister snorted. “Should be interesting.”