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To Wed Or Not To Wed

Chapter Text

A card is nowhere near as grown-up as a letter, but a card was what Lister had received that morning and he held it out in front of him like a kryptonite turd. He didn't recognise the writing on the envelope, but he just knew who had sent it. There was only one person who could possibly have anything to say to him.

"Mother?" said Rimmer when he was presented with the card. "Yes, it's her handwriting. Do you know what it is?"

"Bit thin for a landmine."

"Dave, she's not going to send you a landmine. Do you have any idea how much that would cost by rocket-mail? And besides, she sent me one as well," said Rimmer waving a similar card as he nestled into his favourite chair in their pokey little Fiji chalet. It was cramped, it was un-themed, but it was home. "It's a wedding invitation,” Rimmer exclaimed as he opened the envelope, his eyes widening. “John's settling down at last."

"A wedding? I love weddings!"

"Calm down, Captain Sparrow. Why did she send two invites when we live together?"

Lister grinned at him as he tore into his own invitation greedily. “You have to ask? She just doesn’t want to acknowledge us as a couple. Oh, here we go…

Dear Son-Stealer,

This is just a formality as I am sure Rimmer will bring you anyway. Thank you for ruining his career as a Rear Admiral Lieutenant General in the Space Corps.

Yours regretfully,

Mrs. Rimmer.

…She’s got daggers for me, eh?”

“I don’t blame her.”

“She loved me last year!”

“She loved polka-dotted wallpaper last year. Anyway, I’m going. That means you’re going too,” Rimmer said in his ‘don’t mess with me voice’, which normally encouraged Lister to mess with him.

Lister sighed instead and scratched the back of his head miserably. “Maybe… maybe I could make amends. Go there and show your mum how good Fiji is for you. How good I am for you.”

“Oh Dave,” Rimmer smiled and kissed his forehead gently. “You are good for me. However my mother holds onto a grudge like a politician holds onto a lie.”

Lister was hardly comforted.

***

The morning of the day before the wedding was hectic. It was three weeks since the invitations had arrived and naturally Lister had already forgotten that there was a wedding to begin with. So when Rimmer had reminded him the night before, as they post-intercourse spooned, there had been… well, a small upset. And the bad mood continued through to the next day.

“Lister, where are my galoshes?”

“I didn’t know you wore galoshes. I thought you had perfect vision.”

“Lister; that joke wasn’t funny last week and it sure as hell isn’t funny right now. Where are my galoshes? I packed everything last night. I laid out all my clothes on the armchair. My galoshes were right next to the armchair.”

Rimmer stomped about and checked everywhere he could think of – the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom – rather conveniently they were all the same room. Lister emerged from the only other room in the hut, swabbing his ear canal lazily with Rimmer’s hand-towel and tugging a piece of dental floss from between his teeth.

“Lister…”

“Hm?”

“Your feet.”

“What?”

“YOU’RE WEARING MY GALOSHES!”

“Oooohhhh, your wellies. Why didn’t you say so?”

Rimmer pulled the floss from Lister’s mouth, delighted at the pained yelp that followed. “Far be it from me to point out that Wellington boots and galoshes are two entirely different clothes items, but need I remind you that thanks to your inept time-keeping we are in great danger of missing the launch of our shuttle.”

“…And the shorter version of that is?”

“We’re going to be late. Get a move on.”

Thirty-seven minutes and twelve outbursts of rage later and they were on the shuttle headed to Io. Rimmer’s leg jiggled nervously for the entire journey, not soothed by Lister’s friendly humming of various Rastabilly Skank tunes.

John was getting married. Rimmer couldn’t believe it. John had the air of a perpetual playboy. He was the sort of chap that you thought would die at eighty-seven, making love to a seventeen-year-old Midan prostitute. Well, that end was still probable. But if what he’d heard from Howard was true, then John was in love with this current woman. Disgustingly so.

“We’re here.” Lister’s tone was almost ominous as the shuttle pulled abruptly into port.

Chapter Text

Lister always found travel on the non-atmospheric astral bodies fascinating. You couldn’t go anywhere without a constant fear of something breaking and being sucked out into space. On Earth, gravity was fairly reliable. Comforting.

Here though, it was death-defying simply travelling from one house to another and Lister gripped the seats of the shuttle-tram until he was white-knuckled and he stared through the glass at the barren land outside. Just metal and glass stood between him and space. Luckily for him, the journey from the spaceport to Rimmer’s house was too brief for his claustrophobia to set in.

***

The house was just how Lister remembered it. The glass dome sparkled. The tall plants glistened a healthy green as they swayed in the synthetic breeze. The door slammed in their face as soon as Mrs. Rimmer caught sight of Lister.

It had all begun rather well. Rimmer left Lister to drag all their suitcases up the path, while he went on ahead to wean his mother onto the notion of letting Lister stay. Suffice it to say, they had misjudged how good her eyesight was. She spotted him at the gate, immediately turned on her heel and said something unpleasant that Rimmer wasn’t prepared to repeat for Lister no matter how many times he asked.

“Mother!” Rimmer whined pathetically, rapping at the door. “It’s cold outside.”

“There’s no kind of atmosphere…” Lister sung gaily.

Rimmer glared at him and rapped on the door frantically. “Mother! You could at least turn the sun up.”

“Arnie, I need to go take care of something.”

“Sure, Dave, fine, go ahead- MOTHER!!!” Rimmer wailed, almost scratching the paintwork clean off of the wood with his continuous knocking.

Lister shrugged and left Rimmer to beg on the porch. He half-jogged back to the taxi-shuttle. “Sorry to keep you, mate.”

The driver nodded, handing Lister a large box. “Why didn’t you want this with all the other luggage?”

“It’s very delicate and I don’t want anyone to know I’ve got it.”

“Oh. A bomb?”

“What?” said Lister, almost dropping the box. “No no, it’s a cat. Frankenstein. Rimmer would kill me if he knew I brought her.” Lister paid the driver, and tucked the box under his chin, waddling quickly to a tree. “Okay Frankie, there you go. Grass! You’ve never seen that before.”

Frankenstein sniffed the blades curiously and walked around the base of the tree. Frankenstein had moved around a lot in her short life, and yet she seemed to take to new places surprisingly easily. Lister was always amazed at how adaptable she was in any situation she was placed into.

“DAVE!”

Lister jumped a mile. Frankenstein, sensing that she wasn’t meant to be there, scuttled up the tree. Lister turned around, only to be pleasantly surprised by whom he saw.

“John? What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be getting ready for your wedding?”

“It’s not until tomorrow afternoon. No point in being at home with Cassandra running around like a blue-arsed fly. I’ve come here to relax.”

“You’ve come here to relax?”

John grinned, nodding towards the house, “She’s not letting you in I take it.”

“Somethin' like that…”

John sighed, motioned for Lister to follow him, and they traipsed up to the house together.

“Wh-John?” Rimmer babbled as his brother sidled up to the step beside him. John tapped gently on the window and waited at the door patiently. After a few moments of waiting, he finally peeked through the mail slot and called, “Mother, it’s me, Jonathan.”

“Johnny, dear! Oh… I didn’t realise you were there too.”

“Now mum, why would you have sent Dave an invitation for the wedding and dragged him clear across the solar system just to slam the door in his face?”

“For exactly that reason – to slam the door in his face.”

“Mum…” he warned, trying to sound as stern as one could with their lips poking though a letter box.

“Alright, if you really want this.” There were some sounds of chains rattling, bolts unlocking, a dog growling, and then finally the door opened. “Come in Arnold, David.”

Lister gulped. Mrs. Rimmer stood, still defiant with a mop in one hand and a lead belonging to a German Shepherd in the other. “It’s okay Snuggleface,” Mrs. Rimmer cooed to the snarling hound. “No biting today.” Lister swore later to Rimmer that the dog had looked disappointed.

“When did you get a dog?” Rimmer asked, as the dog snuffled at his legs.

“Crichton? We got him a few months ago. He’s a retired police officer, yes he is. Who’s a boo? Who’s a boo-faced shnookums?” she cooed at the happy pooch. The dog’s wagging tail created dents in Rimmer’s right leg and Lister’s left leg as it fiercely swung from one to the other.

“He’s… sweet,” Rimmer finally managed. Lister gazed warily back at the tree, thinking of the poor tiny black cat that would be a mere hors d'oeuvres to Crichton.

Chapter Text

Bundled together in the taxi-shuttle, Lister felt that he could cut the tension with a knife. He was pretty sure he could spread it onto toast too. Rimmer sat to his left, nervously playing with his seatbelt. Mrs. Rimmer sat directly opposite him; her lips pursed together like an old-fashioned schoolteacher, petting Crichton’s head as he yawned. John sat to her right trying to ooze serenity in the hopes that it would permeate and dissipate the apprehension. He was not having much luck.

“So…” Lister began the conversation. “You’re having the wedding party tonight? Bit odd, if you don’t mind me sayin’ that.”

“Not at all,” John grinned genially, “it is odd. We just decided to have the party the night before the wedding because we’ll be running straight off for the honeymoon tomorrow evening.”

“Yeah but that means we can’t have a total piss-up tonight!”

Rimmer mumbled something about alcoholics.

John smiled understandingly at Lister. “Don’t worry Dave. You lot can have a piss-up tomorrow evening. The hotel is booked all weekend.”

“Brill,” Lister sighed – greatly relieved.

“Is drinking all you think about?” Rimmer snapped.

“Hey, don’t diss alcohol. It led me to you, don’t forget.”

Rimmer smiled slightly at this, though he could not hold it for long under the heated gaze of his mother. He decided to change the subject. “Is everyone already at the hotel?”

“Some people,” said John. “Janine and Frank are greeting the guests, Howard said he’d-”

“Janine?” Rimmer’s head shot up.

John nodded. “Well, yeah. Of course I’d invite my sister-in-law to my wedding, Bonehead.”

Rimmer slunk back into his seat, fiddling with his seatbelt with nimble dexterity and Lister couldn’t help a feeling of miserable foreboding looming over the atmosphere once again.

***

Lister wolf-whistled admiringly at the hotel as the taxi-shuttle pulled up. “Bet that cost a pretty pennycent.”

“Nothing’s too good for my wedding. Especially when Cassandra’s parents are paying for everything,” John replied, smirking casually.

“Brutal,” said Lister, almost skipping out of the door in eagerness. “Oh hey. Arn… I meant to ask you something.”

“I’m quite sure it’s an open bar.”

“No that’s not – wow, really?” Lister exclaimed, becoming sidetracked by his daydreams of free beers and spirits. Rimmer sighed and went over to his mother, drawn by the sound of her loudly arguing over the taxi fare. “Arnold,” she grunted as he neared. “Explain to this gentleman that I never agreed to pay an extra ten.”

“The kid in the leather jacket said I’d get an extra tenner, ma’am.”

Rimmer and his mother gave eerily similar glares towards Lister, who waved sheepishly.

“Do we dare ask?” Mrs. Rimmer called to him.

“I don’t think you do dare,” Rimmer sighed again, paying the money. In return, the driver pushed a box into his arms. Rimmer glanced inside and glared at Lister again.

“What is it?” Mrs. Rimmer inquired.

“N-nothing…” Rimmer marched back to Lister, leaving his mother furiously agape. Lister tried to find a convenient hiding place in time, to no avail. “You brought the cat?” Rimmer hissed as he approached.

“She’s preggers, mate. I couldn’t leave her swimming about the house all alone.” Lister knew there was no point in arguing. Rimmer would only be angry for about five minutes, until Lister did something else and then he would be angry from that instead. It was an organic process… of sorts.

Rimmer shoved the box at Lister, grumbling about getting it to their room as soon as possible. Lister concurred and they began to follow the bellboy up to the hotel. Rimmer’s breath stuck in his throat when he saw who was greeting the guests at the hotel entrance. 22 years of ex-model perfection stood, smiling and kissing everyone who walked past, asking how they were and being asked in return.

“Janine…” he said softly, crumbling the moment her eyes moved onto him. Her smile broadened and she seemed to float towards him in slow motion. Of course the reality was what Lister saw, and that was a crazy French girl galloping by and throwing herself onto his boyfriend.

“Ahnald! How good it is to see you!” she cooed, kissing him on both cheeks, presumably unaware that he was melting in her embrace. “And zis is Daveed? Oh, he’s so cute!”

“Nefur… meneh…” Rimmer gibbered in her arms.

Lister nodded and allowed her enthusiastic French greeting to transfer to his own cheeks. “You’re their sister-in-law Janine, then? Your English is very good.”

“Silly! I speak several languages fluently. I work as a translator within ze Space Corps. It is how Frank and I met. I merely keep zis outrageous aksent because it makes ze men go gooey. You see?” she nodded towards Rimmer, who appeared to be having difficulty standing up.

“Yeah, I see,” Lister frowned.

“Now zen, you two go inside and mingle. Nearly everyone is ‘ere already.” Janine ushered them through the doors and left them stranded in the hallway with no idea as to where they were going; Lister as always being clueless and Rimmer suddenly mindless.

“Earth to Arnold?” said Lister, waving his hands in front of Rimmer’s face.

“Not on Earth… On Io…” he mumbled dreamily. Lister adjusted the insanely awkward box in his arms and went to get their room key, moodily.

Chapter Text

Lister tapped his shoes against the floor, feeling extremely uncomfortable in his suit. Rimmer had begged, demanded and bullied Lister into smartening up for the occasion. He’d obliged, of course. It didn’t mean that he was happy with the situation, and he was determined to let Rimmer be aware of his misery. Typically, as is often the way in life, Lister hadn’t been able to find Rimmer since his brothers had dragged him away for what they would only refer to as a ‘mini-stag prank’. So Lister had been left to mull about with the few guests that had arrived in the reception room early.

“Fun gathering, hmm?” said one sat next to him.

“Yeah,” Lister answered, wishing the other guests would leave him alone.

“So, the old boy’s getting married, eh? Can you believe it? He was such a ladies’ man at one time. But it happens to the best of ‘em. It’s such a shame his father can't be here to enjoy this day. Taken from us so young, he was! He was so full of energy, of life – old Jackie. He always loved a good party. Shame he can’t be here.”

Lister blinked a few times. “Mr. Rimmer – you are here.”

“Am I? Very well - wheel me in the direction of the cake!” he cried, furiously pushing his wheels. Lister watched for a moment, before being kind enough to let off the brakes. Mr. Rimmer was soon across the room running over as many people’s feet as he could manage.

“Dave!”

Lister turned and was relieved to finally see Rimmer. “Where you bin, man? What was the prank?”

“I’d rather not say. Let’s just say it involved a ferret, a marrow, a copy of ‘Heat’ magazine and a small pencil topper in the shape of the Statue of Liberty.”

Lister gaped at him. “What was the ferret for?”

Rimmer waved his hand. “Don’t worry, there’s no need to call the R.S.P.C.A. Charlie was merely a voyeur.”

“Well, so long as you had a good time.”

“I did, actually. It was rather refreshing to be on the other side of one of my brothers’ tricks. How’re things here?”

“Bore-ring” Lister groaned, grabbing them both a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. “I have no smegging idea who any of these people are. I only know they’re related to you because all the blokes look like they have a golf ball stuck in their throats.”

Rimmer suddenly turned to face Lister, pretending to admire the decorations on the table. “Oh god, it’s Uncle Frank,” Rimmer groaned into his champagne glass.

“Where?” said Lister, pretending to be interested in the glittered objects as well.

“Over there with his daughters, Sarah and Alice.”

“Oh. Hey, are they the ones that you wanted to...”

“Yes.”

“But your Uncle Frank...”

“Yes.”

“Because he thought you were...”

“YES. Drop it, David.”

Lister complied, his face distorting as he tried not to laugh, finally resulting in a deranged snorting sound as he burst into fits. Rimmer twirled a fork in his hand, contemplating sticking it somewhere fleshy on Lister’s body.

“He looks nothing like your father, you know,” Lister finally said, wiping tears from his eyes. “Looks a lot like your brothers though.”

“What are you implying?”

“Oh nothing, nothing. I mean looks can skip a generation. Sometimes they even hop to the side.”

Rimmer frowned at the implication but said nothing. After all, it was suspected throughout the family that Uncle Frank was enamoured with his mother. Whether or not she had ever complied… Rimmer didn’t like to think about it.

“ARNOLD!” a voice boomed from behind them, and Rimmer turned around like a man about to face walking the Green Mile. Lister followed his example and was met by a bright and exuberant Uncle Frank.

“You must be the new beau!” he hollered at Lister, shaking his hand firmly. “So who wears the trousers in this relationship? Only joking, lads! Good to see Arnie-boy settled, even if it’s with a bloke. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Plenty of you lot in the Space Corps. We’ve got one in my old division called Mike. Biggest whoopsie in the world. Could make Graham Norton look like Chuck Norris. Do you know him? No of course not, that’s stupid. Thinking you all know each other. Though you might. He went to a school in Hertfordshire. Can’t remember his surname for the life of me. Possibly Baxter.”

“Uncle Frank.”

“Hmm?”

“Stop talking.”

“Oh, right-ho, Arnie-boy. Sorry. Got a bit over-excited there. How are you, my lad?”

Rimmer shrugged nonchalantly. Lister answered for him, “We’re great, Mr. Rimmer.”

Uncle Frank clapped Lister on the back fiercely, “My goodness me, lad – you’ll call me Uncle Frank like the other girls do. Not that you’re a girl, of course. You’re another boy, I just mean as the opposite to the boys. ‘The boys’ are ‘the boys’ you see. Perhaps I should call them ‘the nephews’ and you ‘the boy’…”

“Uncle Frank…” Rimmer warned again.

“Sorry. Shutting up. Quiet as a mouse. Won’t hear from me again,” he said, flashing them a dazzling smile. And then just as suddenly as he had appeared, he pointed away from them and yelled a relative’s name that sounded something like ‘Drippy Martin’ to Lister’s ears, before marching over to them arms outstretched for a warm welcome, in spite of the way they were obviously trying to scuttle away from him.

Rimmer exhaled deeply and gestured quite camply. “My Uncle Frank. Charming man.”

“He’s, um, memorable, that’s for sure. Hey! For a joke maybe I should’ve told him neither of us wore the trousers in the relationship. Just rainbow thongs. ”

“Don’t!” Rimmer exclaimed, horrified. “He’d believe you and it’d be around half the Space Corps. by Monday.”

“Wow, does everyone in your family work in the Space Corps.?”

“Pretty much.” Rimmer downed the last of the champagne. “It’s like a family trait.”

“Like the huge Adam’s apples?”

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Dave,” Rimmer said, then jumped as Lister’s arm thread around his waist. “What are you doing?”

“I be-holding my beauty.”

“One, that is a terrible pun, and two, not in front of everyone!” Rimmer growled, pushing him away gently. Lister leant against the table, sulking silently, hoping Rimmer’s attitude was due to Frankenstein’s unexpected appearance earlier. Hopefully.

Chapter Text

Rimmer slinked off to mingle by himself and left Lister to his own devices. The gathering only seemed to get duller and duller and Lister found himself almost hoping that Mrs. Rimmer would turn up and start a rumble with him. But fortune was not to smile upon him; rather it decided to gob on his shoe instead.

“Hello, Howard,” he mumbled as Rimmer’s brother suddenly appeared, beaming genially at him, with a distracted older woman at his side. She was tapping furiously at her phone, her otherwise pleasant face spoiled by a pursed mouth and furrowed brow.

“You’re… uh…” Lister started.

“Cassandra,” she mumbled back.

“Hang on, the bride?”

The galaxy’s most weary sigh escaped her and she finally looked up. “Backstory?”

“Um…”

“I’m asking Howard.”

“Youngest brother Arnold’s partner David,” he replied.

Her stylus snapped between her fingers. “Awmigawwwwd!!! Bro’s boo? Totes thrilled.”

“W-was that Esperanto? Are you a translator too?”

“Naw, I handle the social media side of the Space Corps. We’re on every sharing, blogging, vlogging, snapping, chatting site you can think of. And I’m part of keeping it all up-to-date.”

“Interesting.” Except it wasn’t. Lister searched for another topic. “So where are you going for your honeymoon?”

“We’re going skiing on Europa. It’s going to roxxor, lol!”

“Roxxor? Lol? What the hell?”

“It’s internet language. It means-”

“I know what it means. Why the smeg would you SAY it though?”

Cassandra’s furrow was back and Lister realised that he wasn’t doing very well with the women in Rimmer’s family.

***

Rimmer had never mingled in his life. Well, it wasn’t strictly true – there had been one incident at the Captain’s table that had begun and ended his mingling career with one sip of soup. Mingling had been a cunning and subtle excuse to perform a task away from Lister’s natural nosiness.

Alas, his mother had a similar penchant for secrets and had caught him in the driveway with a package. “More cats?” she asked.

“How did you-”

“Too small for a cat,” she decided, peering at the palm-sized box. “Cat food?” She wasn’t letting up on her line of questioning easily. Rimmer swallowed. There was no way on Io he was going to break. Nope. Not The Duke. Old Iron Balls. Ace Rimmer.

But the package had already been snatched up for a vicious shaking beside her ear.

“Please mummy, don’t…”

“I don’t know what you’re up to, but I am going to find out.”

Rimmer really didn’t know what to do. The contents of the box would probably cause her to have a stroke of her very own. But maybe if he very ever so gently carefully sensitively confessed…

“I’ll tell you what it is,” he sighed. “But you won’t like it.”

***

The relief Lister felt when Rimmer returned was short-lived. He looked terrified and wan. Worse still, Mrs. Rimmer was with him. And she wearing a tight-lipped smile.

Smeeeeeeggggggg…

Mrs. Rimmer swept across the room and clasped Cassandra’s arm. “Cassandra dear, the cake has arrived in the kitchen. Shall we?”

She scrolled through her schedule. “Far too early. FML.”

“What did she say?” Rimmer murmured in Lister’s ear.

“Smeg knows, I gave up ten minutes ago.” The three of them watched as the women left and once they were out of earshot sighed loudly. “So, Howie,” Lister grinned. “Here alone?”

“I’m… between partners right now.”

“Kinky.”

“Dave...” Lister felt Rimmer touch his arm gently. “Perhaps it’s time to check on our guest.”

“Eh?”

“In our room.”

If Rimmer hadn’t been such a moody smeg since they to the hotel, Lister might have been hoping for some hidden sex code. But this was obviously about Frankenstein and he realised that she’d been up there for a while now. “Do hotels have cat food?”

“I ordered some suitable fish.”

“You’re the best!”

Rimmer shrugged off the compliment as though he wasn’t going bright red. Lister turned back to Howard. “Sorry, Howdy-doody, we have to go rock the Kasbah if you know what I mean.”

Rimmer’s face went redder whilst he spluttered, “We are absolutely not rocking any Kasbahs!” waving his arms frantically.

“Maybe just a tremble then?” Howard smirked and Rimmer’s face intensified to purple. Lister, sensing an imminent explosion, threaded his fingers between Rimmer’s and drew him away.

Chapter Text

“Sorry.” It was probably the eighth time Lister had said it and it was getting on Rimmer’s nerves. “Yes, but you’re not, are you.” It wasn’t a question.

“I just forget that you’re a prude.”

“I’m not! I just… the way I was raised… we’re not as… vocal.”

“Pretty vocal during,” were almost the words out of Lister’s mouth, but Rimmer was already at Amber Alert judging from his leg jiggles. Time for a subject change. “Frankie’s enjoying her food.”

“Good; it cost enough.”

Lister realised it was time to give in, before Rimmer got out the Black card. “I’m going to have a kip. Want in?”

Rimmer raised an eyebrow, and Lister held up his hands in protest. “I am genuinely shagged out, and all the definitions it covers.”

“No I… I might read or something.”

Lister discarded his we’re-in-public-and-I-won’t-let-you-show-me-up clothes with glee and slid under the blankets. He opened an eye, peeking between a gap in the sheets and caught Rimmer sneaking a scratch behind Frankie’s ear. Soppy smegger, Lister smirked, wriggling back under. Rimmer loved her really, and was excited by the prospect of grand-cats even more than he was. There were a few soft footfalls and the double click of the bathroom door opening and closing again.

It seemed he was sleeping alone.

***

“There he is,” Frank nodded towards the buffet. His wife scoured the horizon eagerly. “Non, non, zat is Howie. I asked where is your cute little bruzzer.”

“You can’t seriously mean Bonehead? In what universe is he the cute one?”

“Daveed’s universe! And I appen to think he’s adorable too.”

“I suppose it’s fortunate for me you have low standards,” he murmured, almost losing his drink as Janine flung her arms into the air trying to catch Howard’s attention. He slinked over and accepted a spare glass of champagne from his brother with one gulp. “That bad?” Frank asked.

“Mum’s on a rampage.”

“Why?”

“News.”

“News?

News.” Howard repeated meaningfully then glanced at Janine. “Sorry, sis, you’re not privy to this information yet.”

“And why not?”

Howard gauged his words with as much care as he could. “You have a propensity towards… you’re not very… you tend to…”

Frank waved him silent and whispered into her ear. Across the chatter, across the barking, across the music, Mr. Rimmer dropped his vol-au-vent at the sound of Janine’s screech: “I AM NOT A LOUDMOUTH!”

“Sort of proving our point, my darling,” Frank soothed. “Come on, Howie, tell us.”

“All right, but keep it to yourselves. I only know because I was eavesdropping.”

Janine was desperate to point out his hypocrisy, but far more desperate to hear the secret and the three of them hustled to the corner of the room.

A moment later, Mr. Rimmer lost another vol-au-vent to another scream.

***

As quietly as Rimmer tried to rummage through their suitcase, Lister couldn’t sleep through it. Months of disturbed sleep on Fiji had ruined his ability to lie down in a bed and feign death for hours. He sat up, peeling the complimentary hotel mint from his face and ate it. Then he ate the one on Rimmer’s pillow.

“I saw that.”

“You said you wanted to drop some weight. I’m saving you from yourself.”

“Yes, but who’ll save you?” Rimmer poked Lister’s gut.

Lister grinned, “Yeah, but you like cushion for the pushin’. This is all for you, babe.”

Rimmer began to crack up laughing and had to turn away. He needed Lister to behave tonight and reacting to his antics only made him worse. “I’m going to see John before the party so I’ll meet you down there.”

Lister beseeched him,” Please don’t make me go down there alone again.”

“You can’t come with me. I’ve something private to discuss with him.”

“I’ll be really good.”

“No. Go shower and change.”

“I’m fine, just mist me.”

“Ugh, I don’t have time to argue.” Rimmer picked up his cologne and sprayed the air, scowling as Lister held his breath and spun through the mist. “There, practically the same as a shower.”

“Disgusting,” he snapped and marched out of the room, Lister in hot pursuit.

***

Falling against the door, John blearily peeped through the aptly named peephole. The fisheye lens wasn’t doing his brother’s nose any favours. “Bonehead, what do you want?”

“Shouldn’t you and Cassandra be at the party? It’s your party.”

“We were … distracted, shall we say.”

“Nice,” grinned Lister, earning himself an elbow to the rib from Rimmer. John let them in, adjusting his robe for modesty’s sake. Lister wandered off from the pack, as Rimmer had so politely begged him to earlier, and mused around the minibar. He whistled at the swanky names and dates on the wines. It seemed urgent, whatever it was Rimmer was speaking to John about, and Lister craned his neck as subtly as he could. Their earnest whispers stilled for a moment when Cassandra came out of the bathroom, but were soon revived when she moved towards Lister instead. “What’s going on with them?” she nodded towards the ‘them’ in question.

“Smeg knows,” was Lister’s astute reply. “And what were you two lovebirds up to?”

“Well, between you and me, we’re trying for a baby. We had a good window and didn’t want to miss it.”

Well, that was Lister sorted for the next ten minutes as the two of them eagerly chatted about babies – he wants Jonathon for a boy, yawn, I know, no imagination these Rimmers, I know right, has to be in the JMC of course, what about you two, it’s a Black Card discussion, what’s that mean, it means Arnie’s a git.

“Did you just call me a git?” Rimmer barked from the corner. Lister finished his beer guiltily. “Nah, babe.”

“Well,” Rimmer sniffed, heading for the door, “I’m done here. Thank you, John. We’ll be on our way.”

Lister shifted his feet. “Might hang back a bit. Talk some more about… cats, right Cass?” She coughed the word ‘window’ at him. Oh yeah... Better scarper. He found himself back in the draughty hallway, Rimmer pondering so deeply beside him that Lister jumped when he finally found his voice. “So, back to the party, then?”

“Really?”

“Well it’s that or stare at a pregnant cat the rest of the night.”
Lister moved subtly against Rimmer. “There’s other things… that can be done… in hotel rooms…”

“We can’t afford room service.”

It was like trying to shag a brick wall.

***

Lodged between Uncle Frank’s roars and Janine’s Cheshire Cat grins there was a frail old man and two of his sons. If Rimmer had been the sympathetic sort, he might have found some reason to peel them away so they might drink away the night in peace. But as it was, he had his own man-child to watch over and if he wasn’t to get any peace himself, then no-one would. But karma loved to keep an eye on Rimmer and his comeuppance was about to occur.

“Arnold. David,” his mother crooned. “We’ve barely spoken.”

“Why ruin the night?” would have loved to have flown out from his mouth. It got caught in a crosswind and ended up as, “Hn?”

“Articulate as always darling. And your…” she tilted her head to look Lister over, “boyfriend. I’m sure he’s still as silver-tongued as always.”

Lister glanced over at Rimmer and could see him daring him, daring him to make a pun about brown tongues and just see what happens to you miladdo.

“We’re good. About to have grandcats.” Lister had no idea if Mrs. Rimmer had a smarmy reply, for at that moment Mr. Rimmer and the others descended upon them, and for some reason also gave Lister a once-over as she had. “Daveeeed,” Janine giggled, squeezing his left hand meaningfully, “Are you having a good night?”

“Erm, suppose so?” He looked to Rimmer for help, but his partner was just glaring at her, which if he was honest he preferred to his earlier helpless dribbling. It was a hell of a 180 though.

“You two probably want to get back to your room,” the brother formally known as Frank winked.

“Get to business,” Howard joined in, delighted at the different colours his younger brother’s face was turning.

Lister looked around them all bemused, particularly by Rimmer’s mortified reaction. And then the joke dawned on him. “Oh, you’re going on about the Hotel Clause.”

“Ze what?”

“You know, couple staying in a hotel; they have to shag.”

“Ah, non, zat-”

“IS EXACTLY IT!” Rimmer suddenly burst into life. “That’s it. Aren’t they terrible Dave? That’s it. That’s the joke. Oh you… you jokers, you. Joking around. With jokes.” His family exchanged wry looks whilst Janine continued to palm Lister’s hand. “Besides,” he added, “we’re too busy for that.”

“Busy when?”

“With the cat. And the wedding… and the cat,” he argued weakly.

“You have to have sex when you stay in a hotel. It’s practically the law. I think you can be executed on some moons for not following it. Seriously.”

“Well just slap a ‘H’ on my forehead then.”

Lister was beyond frustrated by now. The moment Rimmer had clapped eyes on his family he’d reverted back to that gimboid he met back on Mimas. Lister had spent months coaxing a real human being out of him. Managed to turn their bitter arguments into amusing banter, uncomfortable confessions into whispered sharing and awkward apologetic fumbling into giggling love-making. Have I really wasted a year on this?

Rimmer didn’t seem to notice Lister’s inner turmoil, “I just like some of the things I get up to, to be PRIVATE,” the word obviously directed at his family though Lister had no idea why. Wasn’t this their bust-up?

“Arnie, no-one cares what we do, not even your family of amoebas, and I’ll prove it.” He got up on the buffet table, between the vegan quiche and celery sticks, and cupped his hands over his mouth. “Hands up everyone else who’s going to shag tonight because they’re in a hotel with free booze?”

“Shut up, Dave and for smeg’s sake Dad, put your hand down.”

“You mean I’m not getting any?”

“Not unless you turn into the pool boy,” his wife burbled into her wine. Lister got down from the table with a hop and a smirk. But Rimmer was already leaving.

Chapter Text

There are an almost infinite number of alternate universes out there. In one of them, Lister had done as he usually did – enabled Rimmer’s behaviour by crawling after him and pretending to grovel until the pouting ended and he was forgiven. In another, for all he knew he still on Red Dwarf getting drunk with Petersen and the others, probably pining for some girl way out of his league.

But in this particular universe, he was adamant he had done nothing more than he usually did, which had always been fine in their day to day life, and he saw no reason to change his behaviour just because Rimmer had his knickers in a twist over a bunch of relatives he barely knew, never saw and, if memory recalled correctly, he had actively divorced.

“Not that I don’t feel bad,” he assured Mr. Rimmer. Even if the old man had been listening, he wouldn’t have cared. The party was dying down, the food was mostly gone, and the only thing he had in common with his son’s boyfriend was the hollow feeling of hunger. He snapped finally, “Man cannot survive on finger food alone.”

“Smeg, tell me about it. I’d kill for a kebab right now.” His eyes lingered on the last few pathetic cucumber sandwiches and limp lettuce cups. Too much green, not enough red. Chilli sauce, masala curry, harissa paste, smeg even ketchup. Bloody flavour man. Flavour and bulk, that’s what food needed.

***

“This might be a push, but any takeaways around here?” was met with another confused frown. There were two types of people Lister was encountering – Cassandra’s friends and family and Rimmer’s friends and family and the two weren’t easily identifiable, apart from the obvious laryngeal prominence in the Rimmer men and the sucked-on-a-lemon puckering of the Rimmer women’s lips.

Rimmer’s lot did not know the area and were unhelpful, though Lister couldn’t help but wonder if they would be even if they did, and Cassandra’s group were appalled at the idea of takeaways. Fetch food for oneself? Ghastly.

In the end, Lister made the slow, hungry march back to his room. Facing Rimmer with an empty stomach wasn’t ideal.

***

Rimmer was clearly awake but words weren’t exchanged when Lister keyed his way into the room. In hindsight, it had been a bloody good idea to have two keycards, though Lister had initially protested. Two cards meant the possibility of being apart, which meant the possibility of being alone, which meant no protection from the possibility of Rimmers.

There was a quiet commotion of clothes finding a nearby chair (because he wouldn’t hear the end of it if they were on the floor in the morning) before Lister slipped under the covers.

“Aren’t you going to brush your teeth?”

Lister sighed, “Why? We’re not going to do anything.”

“You’re disgusting. Don’t think I’m going to be paying the dentist bill when all your rotten teeth have to be pulled out.”

“Hey, one good thing about no teeth,” said Lister tapping his lips, “better suction.”

Rimmer rolled over with an almighty huff. “Is that all you think about?”

“Do you EVER think about it?”

“I have higher things on my mind.”

Lister couldn’t argue with that. Telegraph poles were pretty tall. Rimmer flopped back over to face the wall, clinging tightly to the edge in annoyance, relaxing only when Lister shuffled over and nestled chastely against his back.

“Sorry.”

Lister sat up and began to rummage in the bedside cabinets.

“What are you doing?” asked Rimmer.

“Looking for a notebook. You just said ‘sorry’ and I want to write it down because I’m not going to believe it actually happened come morning.”

“Very funny,” he retorted moodily but Rimmer stopped sulking when Lister returned to his rightful place as the big spoon. “I just have a lot on my mind and… I want this weekend to go better than it is.”

“Why? It’s just your brother’s wedding. It’s his panic, not yours.” Lister stole a playful nip to Rimmer’s nape.

“Right… yes. Um…”

“Hn?”

“Time for sleep. Early start tomorrow.” He checked his watch. “Today rather. Go brush your teeth.” Lister shuffled reluctantly out to the dismal cold bathroom, but found Rimmer’s reception upon his return to bed blissfully warm and 100% more kissable.

***

Rimmer studied his reflection in the bathroom mirror. There were at least three of the bastards and it was all Lister’s fault. “Dave, there’s at least three of the bastards and it’s all your fault.”

Lister admired his handiwork, or rather lipiwork. “All you said was stay below the collar line and above the chest. Not much to work with, mate.”

“I look like a leper.”

“You’ll be fine once your tie’s all done up. How do I look?”

Rimmer’s tongue flicked out over his lips as he drank in the vision of Lister in a three piece. “You scrub up nicely.”

“That’s as good a compliment as I’ll get, innit?”

“For now,” said Rimmer, and there was a tone to his voice that Lister had been longing for all weekend. This wedding couldn’t be over quick enough.

Chapter Text

Lister fed and watered Frankie, whilst Rimmer was on litter duty (he lost the coin toss – had no idea Lister owned a double-headed coin and had yet to work it out after a year of lost bets because Lister was smart enough to lose purposely on occasion). She seemed to scowl at them from her cardboard box as she dug into her blankets. “She knows we’re off again.”

“We’ll be back in a few hours.”

“She has abandonment issues from being a stray.”

“The only thing she got from being a stray is fleas.”

“And pregnant.”

“Well quite.”

***

Crichton licked his lips unhappily. He’d been a very good boy so far today, mummy had told him so. He let her tie him up outside a building where lots of people were going inside. He wanted to be inside too, with the people. He liked people. But he was a very good boy. So he behaved. He let boorish old men pat his head whilst they smoked and waited for the service. Not a single whine did he utter. He let Cassandra take selfies with him, whatever those were. It seemed to involve having his face squashed up against hers. He was a very good boy and sat quietly as the pictures uploaded. But when his new favourite person – “that Fiji boy” as mummy called him – turned up with a strange new smell he almost pulled the bricks from the wall trying to get at him.

“The smeg is wrong with him?”

“Probably bored, you know how dogs are,” Rimmer drawled.

Lister’s heart melted, as it did with all pathetic lonely creatures. He looked up at one of said creatures and told him to go ahead so he could stay and give the exasperated dog the attention he thought it wanted.

***

Said creature went ahead indeed, pausing for a brief moment at the doorway. Part of his reluctance towards Lister’s advances all weekend had been due to the childhood-long consistent drumming that anything and everything he did in regards to his person would result in a nice warm stint in hellfire. And though adult Rimmer scoffed at such lunacy, child Rimmer was utterly convinced his feet would burst into flames the moment he set foot in the church. So last night had involved teenage necking and nothing more, just in case, but technically he had “lain with man as he would a woman” because that was as much as he had lain with woman. He had done more with Lister in their year-long relationship than he thought he would achieve in a lifetime, heterosexual or otherwise, and certainly more than the Bible had time to complain about.

His feet were fine when he finally forced himself to step through, threading his way up the aisle along the pews of the groom’s side, avoiding co-workers and friends and cousins until he found the top of the hierarchy at the very front. Mr. Rimmer had been parked aside, so Mrs. Rimmer found herself at the end of the pew, Frank and Janine having their place nearest the nave where John hovered nervously. Howard had taken the middle next to a large handbag. “Um…” began Rimmer.

“Hmm?”

“Could you move your handbag please, mother?”

She shifted moodily. “There’s plenty of room for you.”

“What about Dave?”

“He can sit in the friends section.”

Rimmer could feel the blood rushing to his ears. “Bu-but he sh-”

“He’s not family,” and she had the audacity to look him straight in the eye when she said it. “Family doesn’t make you give up a perfectly good career and drag you halfway across the solar system on a fanciful whim.”

His eyes fled to the floor. What could he even say? Sorry you spent who knows how many dollar-pounds and scratched who knows how many backs to get me into the Space Corps. just for me to throw it all away for a pair of brown eyes and the chance at a suntan. Better words, words that might put Lister in a favourable light were trying to form in his head but he had no rebuttal. His classical education was no help here.

Thank heavens for pissed off French women.

“If Daveed iz not famly zen I am not famly. We’ll all sit at ze back.” Janine’s slender fingers gripped Rimmer’s arm insistently.

“Oh nonsense, Janine.” But Mrs. Rimmer was clearly taken aback. After a pause, she dropped the bag onto Mr. Rimmer’s lap. He let out a pained little “oof”.

“Mate I don’t know what’s wrong with that dog. He’s off his nut about something.” Lister stopped in his approach as the whole pew gave him a frozen horrified look. “What?”

“Nothing!” Janine beamed, hanging off his boyfriend as usual Lister noticed. “Sit-sit, next to me and Arnie.”

Howard sensibly sat between his mother and brother. Lister slipped his hand into Rimmer’s. “Just to warn you…”

“Hm?”

“I cry at weddings. Like, a lot.”

He rolled his eyes with a smile, “Of course you would. You cry at Christmas adverts.”

“Hey, a baby meerkat making a snowman of one of his daddies is smegging adorable.”

***

Lister was a wreck the moment the music started but he tried to hiccough as quietly as possible. Cassandra looked beautiful if a little strange without any of her gadgets on her (Lister spotted them nearby in the hands of a trusted bridesmaid, possibly the Maid of Honour). Then there was the usual standing up and sitting down and murmuring through songs Lister was fairly certain even the clergy didn’t know the words to and it was always the same tune he swore it. A few people gave short little anecdotes at the pulpit about John’s misspent youth and how Cassandra spent her college days as a fortune-teller. The minister pointed at a random psalm and somehow made it relate to marriage. It would all have been going really nicely if it wasn’t for one small thing.

Or rather one big dog, making a racket outside. His unhappy whines progressed to panicked barks then desperate howls over the duration of the service and everyone in the church knew exactly who the owner was and were, not very subtly, glaring in her direction as she sunk lower into her seat.

Howard was the nearest and bravest and murmured as diplomatically as he could for her to do something. “I’ll not miss my son’s wedding,” was the curt reply. “They’re almost at the vows.”

Lister sighed. He was going to have to do the noble thing wasn’t he? He shifted forward. “Where are you going?” Rimmer hissed.

“Take him for a walk around the grounds or something.”

“You’ll miss the vows!”

“S’fine. Anyway,” he glanced over at Mrs. Rimmer, “not like I’m family.” She sank even lower as Lister shuffled past. Several pairs of eyes bore into her but none harder than her youngest son’s. “Right,” he said, looking over at his brother and about-to-be-sister-in-law. She was nodding encouragingly at him. That was all he needed. With a mouthed “sorry” he beetled out after Lister and the service continued without interruption.

Chapter Text

Crichton launched at Lister ecstatically. “Alright, ya filthy animal. Walkies!” Lister chuckled, the dog hopping impatiently as the chain was undone. Lister took out a pre-rolled cigarette and contemplated the last few minutes. Lister was normally above such petty emotional blackmail. But he had been patient and polite and was even babysitting an insane mutt so a mother could watch her son get married. He needed a little something back and letting Mrs. Rimmer stew was an exceedingly nice little something for him. Oh no, he was turning into Rimmer.

“I thought you quit.”

Lister continued puffing away. “Want one?”

“…Of course I do.” Rimmer was given the remnants of Lister’s and also, to his dismay, Crichton’s lead as Lister began making a fresh one. “They’re just for emergencies,” Lister attested, because he knew Rimmer wasn’t above the hypocrisy of complaining about disease and cancer with a cigarette hanging from his lips. “This counts, right?”

“I’d dare say so,” Rimmer said. He struggled with his words – Crichton insisted on yanking him forward with an increasing impatience. The pair of two-legged clumpy morons behind him didn’t understand any of his whines. He’d have felt relieved if he understood English enough to know that Lister had just suggested going back to the hotel. Bloody finally.

***

Porters see a lot in their career, but this particular porter had not yet seen two grown men being dragged through a hotel lobby by a German Shepherd. “What’s wrong,” the taller one snapped, “Never seen two grown men being dragged through a hotel lobby by a German Shepherd?”

“No,” she answered honestly.

They were dragged all the way to the lifts. The magic doors opened onto a room that made Crichton’s tummy feel funny and he led them back out again. Good, he had brought them exactly where they needed to be.

Almost.

Lister was trying to pull him down the other end of the hall. “Crichton, mate, your room’s this way.”

Why were humans so dim? “Aroooooooo!”

“Smeg, fine, we’ll go this way.”

“You don’t think…” Rimmer murmured slowly, “he’s after our room, do you?”

“What would we have in our room that a do-”

They gripped one another’s arms simultaneously.

***

Mrs. Rimmer tucked a few stray hairs behind her ear, her other hand picking at the foam-wrapped handles of her husband’s wheelchair as she surveyed the area. No dog and no son to be found. David was in the habit of stealing sons and dogs it seemed. Must be a Scouser thing.

She turned at the sound of her name, her new daughter-in-law waving enthusiastically from beside the wedding photographer. They really couldn’t wait for them much longer; the honeymoon flight was a few short hours away and check-in for Europa was always a bitch.

“What are we doing?” Mr. Rimmer started, having fallen asleep in a church and woken in a graveyard. “Bit presumptuous of you, dear, I’m not even ill.”

“We’re looking out for Arnold and David.”

“Oh they’re probably back in Neverland with all the other fairies – ow!” Mrs. Rimmer had ‘accidentally’ dropped her handbag on his crotch again.

“Mother,” John approached them, “Mother, they’re waiting. The photographer wants you for a mothers of the bride and groom shot, and then dad for the fathers and-” He stopped when he saw the way her eyes creased up. Their mother either through some personal vow or a lack of ability had never cried, or at least not in front of her boys. This was as close as she ever got and he thought it odd that it would be over something as simple as a missed photo opportunity. Or maybe it ran deeper than that. Arnold and Dave wouldn’t be in the wedding photos and it was ever so slightly her fault.

Was… was his mother actually feeling guilt?

***

Rimmer stood steadfastly. His fingers had alternating bands of white and red flesh from where he gripped Crichton’s collar and leash. Lister was pressed against the door, ready to run inside the second the door unlocked. “Sure you got ’im?” Lister checked one last time, and at Rimmer’s confident grunt everything happened in a mere moment; the lock’s light flashed green and Lister had slipped in as easily as vodka slipped into punch at a high school prom.

Outside Crichton relaxed, though his captor didn’t let up. He was sick at the sound of silence in the room and he tried every anti-anxiety trick in the book (and he’d read a lot of them) to calm down. Then, a resounding squeal brought him round and he ploughed against the door without thinking, with Crichton at his heels though he wouldn’t have had much choice in the matter considering Rimmer still had his hands around the lead.

The door didn’t yield to Rimmer’s shoulder, which was lucky as there was no way he could afford to replace it. Lister cracked it open and quietly ushered them in. “Go see Frankie,” he beamed, taking Crichton from a rightly confused Rimmer. When he knelt down next to her box, his own squeal was supersonic compared to Lister’s. Frankie’s small pink tongue was carefully working its way along five black velveteen sausages kneading at her tummy.

Lister squeezed the satisfied pooch’s face. “Who’s a good boy, Crichty?”

Me, thought Crichton. I’m a very good boy.

Chapter Text

There was a low chuckle as Lister ran his hand down the eagerly arched back of his bedfellow. “You like that, don’t you,” he mumbled, raking fingers over each and every bump along the spine. “Shameless. What would your mother think of you, eh?” A soft whimper told him to go higher. Lister walked his hand up to behind an ear. “…Here?” Crichton snuffled happily and Lister obligingly scratched until his wrist grew sore. Rimmer had toddled off a while ago for cat food and Lister couldn’t help wondering what was taking so long.

They’d sat next to the box initially, completely mesmerised by the suckling kittens and if it weren’t for the crick in his neck from leaning on Rimmer’s shoulder he’d probably never have even thought of moving for the rest of the day. Crichton sneakily claimed the bed whilst his erstwhile babysitters were musing on the floor. Just as Lister was considering getting up, Rimmer had surprised him with another apology. At this rate he’d use up his yearly quota before the weekend’s end. “What for?” Lister wondered aloud.

Rimmer studied his fingernails. “I should have defended you. Against mother, I mean.”

“Nah,” Lister grinned. “I get it. I’m a bit scared of her too.”

“I’m not scared of her,” he pouted defensively. “I just… I’m always disappointing her.”

“Well, I’m no expert on this sort of thing; parent/child dynamics and all – I’ve never been a parent, and I was only someone’s kid for a few years – but I think if yer mum is only going to support you when you do what she wants, she’s not really bein’ supportive, y’know?”

Rimmer had clearly never considered that in his life. It was an earth-shattering, mind-blowing realisation. You owe your parents your life.

But you don’t owe your parents your life.

He finally found his voice. “You’re deceptively wise, Dave.”

“Thanks. I think…”

***

Crichton emitted a muted woof and jumped from the bed. A gentle knock from the other side of the door told Lister that it couldn’t be Rimmer back and he hauled himself from the bed apathetically. Opening the door, he saw no-one, and it took a moment for him to register that it was because the visitor was knelt on the floor receiving overzealous kisses from her pining dog. “Heya, Great-grandma,” he winked and was relieved when she offered an (albeit wry) smile.

“Yes, I had heard about your blessing.” So Rimmer had been intercepted on his way. His lateness now made more sense and alleviated Lister’s concerns. Well, some of them. Mrs. Rimmer’s feelings towards him were still an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in a floral dress. But her feelings towards kittens were worn on her sleeve as she cooed at Frankie’s brood. “So this is what all that fuss was about, Crichty. My, my.”

“Yeah. He could probably smell hormones or something on me. I guess you could say…”

“Hmm?”

“Well, if I hadn’t brought Frankie then he’d probably have behaved himself at the ceremony. So I suppose I should apologise to Cass and John. For ruining everything.”
Mrs. Rimmer sucked her bottom lip under her teeth, perfectly aware of the ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card being offered. A more palatable explanation she could offer the friends and family. Yes, yes, the wedding was almost ruined but only because of David.

Lister flinched slightly as her pale hazel eyes settled on him. “Perhaps we should both take this as a lesson that animals do not belong at weddings.”

“What about when people put a cushion on their back and make them carry the rings? Or assistance animals? Or pets getting married?”

“Don’t pull threads, David,” she sighed. He was obviously just being facetious for the fun of it. Lister slumped beside her and gave Frankie a gentle pet. “Soz, I just get a bit excited about animals. Can’t wait for our farm to get up and running.”

“Farm.” Mrs. Rimmer sounded out every letter of the word.

“Er… yeah. We’re gonna have a sheep and a cow and breed horses.”

“With a sheep and a cow?”

Lister snorted. Rimmer had said exactly the same thing when he told him about his Fiji plans. “The fishing thing is just temporary.” He had a feeling that his explanation wasn’t comforting as he watched Mrs. Rimmer internally struggle over which lifestyle was worse. “We’ve got the land. We’re just trying to save up the dosh for the animals. Though, actually I might have new plans for it. This weekend got me thinking and well…”

Mrs. Rimmer appeared to brace herself.

“I was sort of maybe… gonna ask Arn to marry me?” Lister braced himself as well when he saw her lip twitch irregularly.

“I would advise against it.”

The answer left him a little hollow. He’d hoped for a positive reaction though doubted he’d get one; instead had prepared for a lot of screaming or perhaps even a shocked slap. “I’m not saying don’t,” she suddenly added, unexpectedly tender-voiced, “But now is not the time.”

“Well yeah, I mean, we don’t want to steal thunder away from the bride and groom. I’m doing it later, when everyone’s gone.”

“I mean it’s too soon for Arnold. This is his first relationship and it’s only been two years. You don’t want to be too intense.”

Actually it had been one year made-up and one year of official going out, not that they were going to confess that any time soon.

“I suppose you’re after our blessing,” she continued. “It’s clear you’re not asking for permission.”

“Would I ever get either?” Lister’s patience quietly snapped and to his further annoyance Mrs. Rimmer seemed amused. She got to her feet, brushing the dog fur and slobber from her dress. “I do not expect you to unreservedly accept my counsel. But please consider it.”

Maybe she was hoping that if Lister led Rimmer on for long enough he’d get fed up and go running back to mumsy and daddums and more importantly the Space Corps. Lister didn’t know for sure. But he wanted to believe that she was sharing a personal motherly insight into Rimmer’s psyche, and that he should trust her against all evidence and sense. “Okay. I’ll put it on the back burner.”

“Do you have a lint roller?”

Well that was a conversation derailment if ever there was one. “Er... yeah. Suitcase.”

“Thank you. We don’t want to be covered in hairs for the photos.”

“Photos?”

“Cassandra and Jonathan paid a little extra for the photographer to come back here for the group photos.” She looked up from her de-fluffing. “Well? Get your jacket back on.”

Lister almost ripped the seams in his rush.

Chapter Text

Several images of Lister and Janine deliberately misbehaving for the photographer and several minutes of bon voyages with John and Cassandra as they gathered their things ready for the honeymoon later, Rimmer discovered a few things about his family. The first was that he had never realised how awkward they all were with affection. Lister, Cassandra and Janine had hugged and kissed and cried like one of them was going off to war. John had given his brothers an emotional nod of regard (one between them, not even one each), his father the usual Space Corps. salute (nowhere near as advanced and trendy as the one he had invented, Rimmer decided) and his mother received the most poignant of shoulder squeezes.

The second thing was that most of the extended family was only interested in the wedding. Whether they had other commitments to return to or they simply had had enough of one another (Rimmer suspected the latter) a large proportion had biffed off the moment John and Cassandra were out of sight. Aside from brief mentions of meeting again for any future weddings or funerals, there was no impending desire to reconnect. Again, this was a revelation to him as something not normal for everybody, as Janine was swapping numbers and addresses with everyone she could, and even Lister was waxing lyrical about how beautiful Fiji is and how if any of them wanted to check out Earth, that they could accommodate a few people.

It was a blatant lie. He wasn’t even sure where the cats were going to fit in their tiny shack.

Thirdly, and more importantly, there seemed to be a personality divide based mostly upon age. The family that had gone were the older members, and the youngsters and the weak-willed that were still firmly under their parents’ thumbs. The remaining stragglers created Club Rimmer 21-30 and were eager to keep the festivities going.

Cassandra’s idea of an after-party wasn’t as insane as it seemed.

***

Lister experienced a flashback to his first weekend with Rimmer, where they had ducked into a gay bar to throw off his brother’s scent. The chart hits that reverberated around the reception were a far cry from his usual musical fare of Rastabilly Skank but it was a lot better than the Edelweiss stuff (Fur Elise, Cass had corrected him) that had been going on the day before. At least it had lyrics he understood, and a beat he could nod to. Which was more than could be said about the Rimmers valiantly trying to work out if they wanted to dance in time to the words or the music. It was cute, especially his Rimmer, frantically trying to follow Janine’s footwork as she tore around the dance floor like a whippet. The way his tongue flicked out in concentration – it was both adorable and alluring to Lister.

Not quite as sweet was the only older party member, Uncle Frank, eyeing up all the ladies in the room. Lister had a creepy feeling that Uncle Frank wasn’t fussy enough to differentiate between the ones that had married in and the ones that could offer him a kidney. “So er, when you going back, mate?” Lister tried to divert his attention.

“First thing in the morn after brekky, same as the others. Yourself?”

“Staying for the cream tea. Arn’s obsessed with it for some reason.”

Uncle Frank smiled. “Is he now? Perhaps he’s reluctant to have you and his mother in close quarters again.” That wouldn’t have surprised Lister at all. She was definitely being more pleasant, at least up until she excused herself from the festivities to go to bed but there was still some kind of rift there. Unseen, unspoken, but still sharp enough to cut him to the quick. “Just wish I could work out why she hates me.”

“Oh no no, you’ve got Ellen all wrong. She doesn’t hate you.”

“Eh?”

“She’s scared of you.”

“Of me???”

“You remind her of someone.”

Lister edged closer, intensely curious. “Oh?”

“She was a lot like Arnie-boy is. I mean how he is now, thanks to you. Sassy little thing she was, once upon.”

Lister could well believe it. He thought her quite sassy even now. At least when she wanted to be.

“And then, well let’s just say she knows what it’s like to be swept away, and swept aside.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Lister said defensively.

“Glad to hear it, Skipper,” Uncle Frank smiled against his glass. “And speaking of Arnie-boy,” he began just as Rimmer fell towards the bar. “Need… electrolytes… she’s killing… me.”

“Ahnie!” Janine squealed from the dancefloor.

“Oh god, save me, please.”

Lister downed the rest of his pint. “Let’s go check on our brood. Later, Uncle Frank.” Rimmer gasped a similar farewell though his voice was too hoarse to be understood.

***

Frankie was a stray, a cat and a female; three things that guaranteed she could take care of herself. She did not appreciate being babied by the humans she had taken pity on and adopted. Nevertheless, she gratefully took the salmon Lister had smuggled up for her. He watched her daintily pull it apart for consumption whilst Rimmer quenched his dance-induced thirst in the bathroom. He returned collapsing backwards on the bed feebly trying to remove his shoes with his toes.

“Good night?” Lister chuckled. A muffled “mmpf” was the reply. Lister returned to watching Frankenstein. Two soft thuds told him Rimmer’s shoes had finally hit the floor.

“Dave?”

“Yeah?”

“That hotel clause thing. That wasn’t true was it?”

“Eh?” Lister furrowed his brow. “Course not. I was just messing.”

“Pity.”

Lister turned to see Rimmer propped up on his elbows, shirt missing.

“You know I’m a stickler for rules.”

Lister was on him before he could even think ‘Geronimo’.

Chapter Text

Howard was the last man standing, propped up at the bar, and he was enjoying his drink in relative silence, or rather no-relative silence. His phone buzzed into life. ‘S’ was on the screen. Underneath was ‘soz i cudnt go’ followed by a sad face and lesser than 3 which he didn’t understand. He was a bit old-school like that. A moment later and his brain had translated it into a heart.

The barkeeper nodded to someone behind him, explaining that he’d already called time. Howard ignored his message for the moment and scoped out his fellow barfly. “Arnold, I thought you were off riding side-saddle,” he smirked.

Rimmer sniffed haughtily, “Actually I think the position was closer to Reverse Cowgirl but I find that term a bit sexist.”

His brother’s face was a picture. “Really?!”

But Rimmer wasn’t about to offer up a confirmation. Howard could squirm for all he cared and squirm he did. Rimmer motioned the barkeeper over. “Order for Lister, please.”

“Lister?” Howard asked.

“If I put in an order for Rimmer half the hotel could claim it.”

“Oh. Thought perhaps you were practising,” his brother goaded.

Rimmer cleared his throat.

“Don’t worry your curly little head. He hasn’t a clue.”

“Yes, well, you lot haven’t exactly been helping. How do you all know anyway?”

“We have our sources.”

“Speaking of which,” said Rimmer as the barkeeper returned from the kitchens.

Howard sniffed, “Is that…?”

“Indeed. I’ll be off now.”

Howard wished him luck, not that he needed it. If he was turning up with curry, Lister would say yes to anything.

***

Lister sighed happily into his pillow. He was convinced his pelvis had been pounded to dust but he’d bloody enjoyed himself, even when Rimmer had exacted a hickey revenge all over him. Things were finally back to the status quo. Except for Rimmer wandering off again. He was up to something – he’d been up to something all weekend. Every time Lister turned around he was sneaking away. It wasn’t always cat-related, of that he was certain. He sighed again at the sound of the door opening and shuffled up in bed carefully. “Mate, I think you broke me.”

“Oh god, what?” Rimmer squeaked, rushing over.

“Not literally!” he reassured, though Lister knew from previous bad experiences that Rimmer’s worry was well founded. In the early days there had been a lot of false starts. Eventually they shoved aside their pride and looked up some advice on where they were going wrong. Everywhere apparently.

But there was no time to dwell on that because Lister had caught wind of something even more delicious than Rimmer. “That’s…”

“Don’t think I haven’t noticed you picking at the buffets looking like a Greek with a soggy paper plate.”

Lister frantically unwrapped his present. Vegetable samosas (they counted as part of his five-a-day), a peshwari and a keema naan (because he could never make up his mind), five poppadoms and the little dips that came with them (including the weird onion thing that no-one he knew ate except for him) and his exalted adored and beloved favourite of chicken vindaloo.

He wanted to cry.

“Smeg,” he exhaled contentedly between bites. “I could marry you, y’know.” He hadn’t really meant to say it so suddenly, in such an offhand manner, and his regret was instant when he felt Rimmer arrest beside him. He had to backtrack, and quickly, before Rimmer had another kind of arrest. “I just meant I’m really happy right now. S’all. I really appreciate the little things you do for me. And this curry is brill.” No cardiac so far. He carefully gauged Rimmer’s face. He looked as if he were thinking deeply.

Rimmer eventually came back from wherever he’d been. “I’m glad you like it. Can I have a taste?”

Lister went to fork up a piece of chicken when he felt Rimmer press his lips against his. Cheeky bastard. Lister obligingly opened his mouth so Rimmer could get the full bouquet of flavour.

***

“Lister, I have something to confess,” Rimmer said as they walked hand in hand from breakfast. “We’re not going back home today.”

“Eh?”

“Mother said if we tried to move a nursing cat a day after giving birth she’d destroy our genitals.”

Lister whistled. “So we’re having a vay-kay?”

“Looks like it.”

“Can we afford that?” Lister asked with genuine concern etched on his face.

“All taken care of,” Rimmer replied but his reassurance was met with a pout. “What’s wrong?”

“Curry’s one thing but I feel like all weekend you’ve been working around me. I’d like to be a bit more involved in these little plans of yours. I involved you in mine. In Fiji. I didn’t just book a shuttle and pack your suitcase for you.”

“Dave… It’s not like that. Not exactly.”

"Nah I’m like, fed up of being passive here. I've got something I want to do." Lister took a deep breath for confidence and got down on his knee.

"Lister,” Rimmer gasped, “this is a public place!"

"Not that, you smeg! I’m proposing to you.”

Rimmer’s eyes shimmered with tears. “You. Utter. Bastard.”

That wasn’t the answer he’d expected. “What’s wrong?”

I was going to propose.” Rimmer hung his head despondently.

“Seriously?! Wait, I’ll get up. We’ll start again. Go for it.”

“There’s no point now. The surprise is ruined.”

“I’ll act surprised! I’m really good at it!”

“No, it’s all gone wrong,” Rimmer mumbled, “as usual.” Lister scuffed his weather-beaten boots at the synthetic lawn. Rimmer was really dejected at having his big moment ruined. He’d been trying so hard to make things perfect. Perfectionism; it was Rimmer’s primary characteristic and primary downfall in one. Lister smiled empathetically. “Were you really going to propose?”

“Yes. I even have a ring. Mother caught me with it.”

Then it occurred to him. “Wait what? When was that?”

“Day before yesterday.”

“Now is not the time.”

So she had been looking out for him after all. Lister couldn’t help laughing. “So, you really got me a ring? Can I see?”

“I suppose so.” Rimmer pulled out the small box he’d been coveting and handed it to the eager, grabby Lister. He flicked it open and stared at the contents for a moment, hand on mouth, and burst into tears.

“A-are you alright?”

“Arn, this is a replica 2154 Zero-G SuperMegaFinal winners’ ring.” The only year the London Jets, ever won. “They only made a thousand of these. This… where did you even get this?”

Rimmer shuffled anxiously. “Tracked it to a sports memorabilia store. And I know its history, I did my research. They’re your favourite team so I assumed it was an important year.”

Something else occurred to Lister. “You must’ve been planning this for ages.”

That caught Rimmer off-guard, especially when Lister wriggled into his arms. “I… maybe.”

“You’ve wanted to marry me all this time. You are so smegging cute.”

“Get off me,” griped Rimmer. But Lister found himself being held back just as tightly.

Chapter Text

“Hello?”

“Just wanted to wish you a good journey back, Howard.”

“Thanks, mum. Tell Johnny if the honeymoons on Europa are any good he should recommend it to Bonehead.”

“What?”

“Everyone knows, mum.”

“How does everyone know?”

“Not important. Big question is: are you going?”

“On his honeymoon?”

“To the wedding.”

“Of course I am. If I’m invited."

“Why wouldn’t you be?”

“I didn’t react quite the way I should have.”

“I doubt that’ll matter. And you could always find a way to make it up to them. Dave seems easy to please. He’s marrying Arnold after all.”

“I’ll certainly ponder about it.”

“Oh and I know you were hoping to meet my new girlfriend this weekend but-”

“I’m sure she had a good reason.”

“There were reasons all right. Don’t know how good you’d think they were.”

“Howard?”

“I’ve got something to tell you.”

So Mrs. Rimmer listened.