[personal profile] psifi872
In the end, it wasn't isolation, a horrible monster, or even desperation that drove Arnold Rimmer and Dave Lister into each other's arms. There was no fiery eruption of passion or a dramatic climax to spending nearly ten years in each other's company, alternately driving each other crazy and keeping each other sane. No, they both agreed that it was a series of small, random events, like rain falling on a seed. Well, Lister said that anyway, when he was rather poetically drunk. Rimmer just snorted, but secretly he agreed. Lister knew he did, because Rimmer kissed Lister rather thoroughly, soon after the comment was made.

Rimmer denied that the first move had been made out of conscious affection. It was simply a small act of kindness towards his long-time bunk mate. Lister was sleeping in his bunk and managed to kick off the covers. Rimmer paused in reading one of his magazines to watch the blankets fall heavily to the floor. They'd been having problems with the temperature regulation. It wasn't very cold, but it wasn't warm either. Being a hologram, even a hard-light one, left Rimmer mostly unaffected. The same couldn't be said of his shivering bunk-mate.

Rimmer waited briefly, to see if Lister would wake up and fetch the blankets on his own. Lister, however, was still asleep, though not soundly. He was frowning lightly and attempting to curl up as tightly as he could to keep warm. By his own admission, if Lister had been awake, Rimmer would never have done it. He would never have made himself so vulnerable. Lister, however, was safely asleep, at least, mostly. So, Rimmer let himself get up and fetch the blankets. Lightly and carefully, he arranged the blankets over Lister, tucking them securely around him and pulling the blankets up over Lister's shoulders. Rimmer even delicately pulling Lister's dreadlocks back to lay on his pillow.

Lister's eyes fluttered briefly open, when he felt gentle hands brushing against him and moving his hair. He was just awake enough to register Rimmer in his blue jacket, standing close to him. Lister was rather exhausted from spending twenty-four hours awake, dealing with another pair of Psirens. He barely managed to mumble thank you, before sliding back into a deep sleep. Rimmer winced a bit, hoping that Lister didn't remember anything, once he was awake.

Lister claimed he remembered perfectly well and had been touched by the small gesture. He simply never said anything, because really, what was there to say? He strongly denied that his teaching Rimmer how to knit had anything to do with it. That was, after all, almost two months later. No, it was a simple case of he was bored and Rimmer was bored and why the hell not? Lister did admit he remembered that day fondly.

Rimmer was trying to read, if trying to read meant flipping pages idly back and forth, hoping the right bit of text would catch his interest. Lister was sitting across from him at the table, a knitting pattern open in front of him. Frowning lightly, Lister counted his stitches, making sure he hadn't dropped a stitch or committed some other, unknown error. Rimmer shut his book with a sigh and stared at the knitting needles, as Lister continued. The sight was almost hypnotic, in a boring sort of way.

"What are you making, Listy?" Rimmer asked.

"A rug. I found this pattern with little owls. Kind of a challenge, getting them right."


"It's fun, really," Lister defended.

"Well, yes. You and countless others certainly don't do it for convenience. You've got to've seen that shop full of yarn and stuff."

"Yeah, it's where I got this stuff from. You ever try it?"

Rimmer shook his head, shrugging. "No. Not the sort of thing my father would want to catch his sons doing."

"You haven't lived with that git, since you were fourteen."

"Yes, but his ideas are harder to get away from," Rimmer sighed. "I know men do knit, Lister."

"Well, c'mon then," Lister said. "Scoot over and I'll teach ya."

Rimmer chuckled, his expression hesitant and wry.

"I think your rug is a bit too advanced for a beginner, Listy."

"I can put the rug down," Lister said, suiting words to action. He put the rug and pattern away, pulling some yarn balls and needles from his bag. "A scarf is always a good first project. What color do you fancy?"

Rimmer looked at the various yarns and chose a dark green. He was never sure why he had gone along with the knitting lesson. It was simply a quiet, civil moment that he had chosen not to disturb.

"Right. So first thing is casting on. You just take the yarn and wrap it around one of the needles, yeah? Simple. The pattern will tell you how many times."

Rimmer cast on, holding the needle awkwardly.

"Good," Lister praised, handing out the other needle. "Okay, that one in your left hand and this one in your right."

Grabbing the line of yarn, Lister placed it in Rimmer's hands, shifting Rimmer's fingers to the proper positions. Rimmer stayed still, letting Lister move his hands and fingers around. He admitted in later talks that he'd been more than a bit distracted by the warmth of Lister's hands on his. In return, Lister admitted that was one of the first times he'd thought of Rimmer in a near sexual way, admiring his long, slender fingers.

In fact, Lister had taken to watching Rimmer as he learned to knit, just to see those fingers moving. Rimmer had assumed Lister was simply watching his progress. Knitting wasn't one of Rimmer's favorite past times, but he became fairly good at it, even knitting some gloves for Lister, as a thank you.

One incident they always disagreed on was the lager. Lister insisted it was important, while Rimmer dismissed it as too minor to have had much effect. For Lister, though, the lager felt like a symbol of increased respect. Afterward, Lister felt more accepted.

It was true that not much happened, at the time. The Red Dwarf boys had spent all day on a planet that was 41 degrees Celsius in the shade. They had found a crashed derelict and were stripping it for supplies and materials. Towards the end of the day, Rimmer had approached, carrying a knapsack. Lister had been standing outside, waiting for Kryten to come out with another load of goodies.

"How much longer do you think it will be?" Rimmer asked, standing close.

"Not long. We have two or three more loads...should be done in about twenty minutes," Lister said, wiping his brow. "I'll be glad to leave this place. So smegging hot!"

"You're not alone, miladdo. Still, twenty minutes isn't too much. Should be all right for me to give you this, at least," Rimmer said, taking off his pack and reaching inside.

Lister watched Rimmer, puzzled. He hadn't asked for anything. Supposedly, Rimmer had gone back to Starbug to secure some of the supplies and make room for the next loads. Lister was delighted, when Rimmer pulled a can of good lager from the pack, condensation dripping off the cold can. Rimmer held the lager out with a small, but not unkind, grin.

"Oh, wow, man, thanks!" Lister said fervently, popping the can open and taking a long draught. He almost choked on his next swallow, when he noticed Rimmer had pulled out a second can and was taking a healthy swallow of his own. Even genuine, deeply felt gratitude couldn't keep Lister from sputtering, "You don't drink lager!"

"Apparently, I do," Rimmer said, with mild amusement. "It seems appropriate, given this place and the day we've had."

"Yeah," Lister agreed, with a breathy laugh, taking another swig and not noticing that Rimmer was watching his throat as he swallowed. That confession would come much, much later.

"You're drinking lager?" Kryten protested, coming out of the derelict. "Sirs, in this heat, alcohol will only help dehydrate you!"

"Leave it alone, Kryten," Rimmer told him, placidly. "We're near enough done that it won't hurt anything."

Kryten tutted, but conceded the point. He was never directly asked, but did make a small point of remembering that day's events. The two humans, Kryten pointed out, rarely agreed, if they didn't have to, making the scene memorable to him. This assertion was met by mock looks of wide-eyed innocence from both men. Kryten decided it was best to let Rimmer and Lister decide the question between themselves.

Lister thought the next event, which both agreed was very important, proved him right. After all, the lager incident had only been a few days ago. Lister insisted that influenced him, when he decided to repair one of Rimmer's model airplanes. The airplane had suffered minor damage, mainly to its paint job, from an infestation of crab-like creatures.

The crew had landed Starbug on a moon teeming with life. They had seen a few of the mutant crab creatures, but not really taken much notice of them. The crabuloids, however, took plenty of notice, particularly of Starbug. Sometime during the day that the Red Dwarf boys spent there, several of the crabuloids managed to find a way onto the ship and hid. They managed to do a bit of damage to the living quarters, before Kryten and the Cat managed to round them all up. On the upside, the boys enjoyed a feast of fresh seafood that evening.

On the downside, Rimmer's airplane was badly damaged. Lister found the model under the table in their quarters, while Rimmer was busy with Kryten, making sure there was no important damage to Starbug itself. Still grateful for the beer, as he told it, Lister decided to repair the model himself. He got out Rimmer's paints and some glue and patiently restored the model. Rimmer came in, just as Lister was finishing up.

"Hey. I think I got it fixed. How does it look?" Lister asked, holding up the model.

Rimmer stared for a few more moments, surprised, then nodded.

"It looks fine. Good job, Listy. Um, thank you," Rimmer finished, still taken aback.

Lister grinned, rather savoring that he'd managed to get one over on his bunk-mate, while still doing something nice.

"No prob, guy. Glad to help," Lister assured him.

Rimmer took the model and placed it on a high shelf. It didn't escape Lister's notice that Rimmer put it in a more favorable spot than before. Rimmer just smiled, after they were together, when Lister reminded him of that.

The thought did occur to Rimmer, back then, that both he and Lister were becoming more tolerant of each other's hobbies and interests. He denied that he'd been keeping an eye out for something to give Lister. Rimmer insisted he had only gotten lucky.

A few weeks after the attack of the crabuloids, Rimmer had gone scavenging in the quarters of some midshipmen he had once played Risk with. He'd made a pretty good haul, really, finding some casual clothes that suited him and some books to read. He decided to check out the room of Paul Roberts last. Paulie had been a keen intellectual, though not very robust. Rimmer bluntly thought that the man had been a nerd.

Paul's closet didn't hold many surprises. There were a few cardigans, a few pairs of shoes, all highly shined, some Risk campaign books, and trousers that were neatly pressed and hung. The only item of interest was a wooden jewelry box, tucked far at the back. Rimmer pulled out the box, taking it over to Paul's table and opening it. Rimmer whistled in surprise. He hadn't thought Paul had these sort of tastes.

The jewelry box was full of Harley Davidson gear--a ring, a watch, a wallet, a couple of belt buckles, and a bracelet. It didn't take an expert to see that the items were old and would have been even before the accident. Of course, Paul had kept the items in good condition. The watch looked like it might run, if it got a new battery put in. Rimmer gave a moments thought, then shut the lid on the box and tucked in the sack with the rest of his finds.

Rimmer headed directly to his and Lister's quarters. Once there, he placed the box on their table and began putting away his new possessions. He looked up, when he heard Lister stroll in.

"Hey, man. Where've ya been?" Lister asked, curiously.

"Just scrounging through some of the crew's quarters. That box on the table is for you actually. I found it in the closet of one of my old Risk opponents. It seemed like something you would like."

"Thanks," Lister said, trying not to sound too surprised. It's not that Rimmer was completely self-absorbed. He did have his good moments. Neither of them, however, was very good at picking out things the other would actually like and they had, generally, stopped trying a long time ago.

Opening the box, Lister almost reconsidered that theory. Rimmer had guessed right this time! The Harley-Davidson items gleamed up at him and Lister found himself grinning. He picked up the bracelet. The Harley logo sat in between two lengths of heavy links that almost resembled a bicycle chain. The ring was a skull wearing a crown of flames.

"Brutal, man!" Lister said, awed, then couldn't resist asking, "One of your Risk mates had these?"

"I know. I was shocked too," Rimmer said agreeably. "I never would have thought Paulie was the type! I don't know what he was doing with that ring. He had fingers like limp spaghetti. It never would have stayed on."

"Maybe he wore it around his neck," Lister speculated.

"Maybe. I never saw him wear any of it."

"Hey, Rimmer? Thanks, man," Lister said seriously. "This stuff is really cool."

"You're welcome," Rimmer answered, an odd look on his face. On anyone else, Lister would have called the expression bashful.

Lister told Rimmer later that had really been a turning point for him. He'd began examining Rimmer and their relationship in a new light...a softer light. Sure, he'd felt affectionate toward Rimmer before that, but he'd always forced himself to downplay that, making it secondary to the bickering and name calling they routinely indulged in. Rimmer laughed at that, pointing out that they still bickered and called each other names. It had become a game between them, the old insults of "smeghead" and "gimboid" as much endearments for them as "love" and "darling" were for others.

Rimmer in turn told Lister that his turning point, when he began to accept his own feelings, came a few weeks later. The Red Dwarf crew encountered a small colony of holograms. The leader of the colony, Hardin, found the Dwarfers wandering around on main street.

"What are you doing here?" Hardin asked severely, glancing between Rimmer and Lister.

"Oh, hi," Lister greeted cheerfully, ignoring the man's tone. "We just dropped by to say hello and thought you guys might like to do a spot of trading."

"Trade," Hardin grumbled. "What have you got worth trading?"

"We've got a few valuables we can part with," Lister responded, shrugging. "What sort of stuff are you needing? We've done some scavenging and have a fair bit of spare parts. What have you got to trade with?"

"Not so fast. There's a condition. We'll trade with you, on the condition that he joins our colony," Hardin demanded, pointing at Rimmer.

"HIM?" Cat asked incredulously. "What do you want Goal-post Head for?"

"He's a hologram and this colony is one of the last enclaves of our kind. We need more people."

"Oh. Well. That's flattering," Rimmer stammered, taking a step back. "I'm...not really the frontiersy type, though. I'm not into settlements and roughing it. I prefer a good, cozy spaceship and the uncharted vastness of space."

"I'm afraid that's true, sir," Kryten added. "Mr. Rimmer really has absolutely no skills that would be of any use to you."

Rimmer glared and began to defend himself, but was cut off by Hardin.

"He can be taught skills. Even if he's stupid, he can still do manual labor. This isn't negotiable."

"But, I don't want to," Rimmer protested, his voice becoming high-pitched. "I am sorry, but I don't want to spend the rest of my life on some rock, with a bunch of people I don't know."

"I'm sure you'd make friends real fast," Cat gloated. "I say we do it! We can make a few trades and leave Alphabet Head behind for good measure!"

"Absolutely not! I am not staying here!" Rimmer insisted, swallowing hard.

"That's that, then," Lister said, accidentally giving Rimmer a moment of panic. "It's his decision to stay or not."

"Get out," Hardin ordered, disgusted. "Take your sniveling friend and leave this colony. You don't have anything we want or need."

"Hey, c'mon..." Lister began coaxing.

"GO. If you're still here in five minutes, you'll all stay...in prison!"

Lister shook his head in disgust and led his friends back to Starbug. Cat and Kryten both grumbled on the way. Opportunities for trade were rare and they were sorry to have lost this one.

"Why did you have to kick up such a fuss, Captain Nostrils?" Cat demanded. "We could have done some trade, if you had agreed to stay behind!"

"Why would I do that? Trade myself so you can get a few grubby handouts?" Rimmer argued, angrily. "No, thanks! I'd have been miserable there."

"Oh, I doubt that, sir," Kryten told him. "I'm sure Mr. Lister would have forced us to steal you back."

"You're damn right I would've," Lister told him sharply. "Rimmer is a member of our crew. We don't just hand each over or trade someone off!"

"But, sir, you were willing to put Mr. Rimmer aside in favor of Dr. Langstrom," Kryten reminded him. "This would have been a similar, practical move."

"No, I wasn't!" Lister protested, noticing Rimmer's flinch and the way he averted his gaze from the others. "I only said that, 'cause I was mad he didn't trust us more. You kept saying Langstrom was a genius. I figured she'd be able to find a way to run both holograms at once. I was never going to just shut him down or anything."

"So we would have gone back," Cat said, resigned. "It's not an option now, though, cause Grease Stain refused to cooperate."

"Knock it off," Lister insisted. "It's not Rimmer's fault. That guy obviously didn't want us there. Who knows what other sort of hoops he'd have made us jump through? We're well out of it."

"Hmph. If you say so, sir," Kryten reluctantly conceded. "If you'll pardon me, it's time to prepare dinner."

"Later, Krytes," Lister sighed, noticing Cat had already lost interest and slunk out.

Rimmer was leaning against one of the walls, his long arms folded across his chest.

"Rimmer? You okay?" Lister asked.

Rimmer looked up, nodding.

"Fine, yes," he said, but Lister thought there was a strange undercurrent in his voice.

"C'mooon. Don't take so much notice of those guys. They're just blowing wind most of the time," Lister coaxed.

Rimmer shook his head, an unusual, wry smile pulling at one corner of his mouth.

"It's fine, Listy. I just...thank you," Rimmer said somberly.

Lister blinked, not at all sure how to respond, not really sure why Rimmer was thanking him.

"It's no problem."

Rimmer seemed to consider something, then gave an impatient shrug, his shoulders jerking awkwardly.

"No one's ever stood up for me before. I know that sounds like I'm whinging, but I want you to understand...why that means something to me."

Lister tried to find something good to say, something to make them both relax, without dismissing Rimmer or shutting him down. Nothing came to mind and Lister found himself wishing he could just hug the other man.

"You're welcome, guy," Lister settled for saying.

Rimmer considered Lister, his bunk-mate and antagonist of so many years and the best friend he had ever had. Finally, he nodded, moving away from the wall, and walking away. Lister admitted to Rimmer that he'd worried at the time, wondering if he had messed up the moment. Rimmer kissed his lover, assuring Lister he'd left, because he hadn't known how to handle his own feelings.

Fortunately, the next weeks passed without incident, giving Lister plenty of time to examine his own feelings. Things had changed or maybe, he admitted to himself, he was finally seeing things clearly. Rimmer seemed somewhat more at ease and Lister could sometimes feel Rimmer watching him. That was fine. He was watching Rimmer, too, and liking what he saw at that!

Lister didn't make a conscious decision to act on his feelings. It wasn't something he planned. He insisted the moment just happened naturally on its own--a culmination of previous events. Rimmer wasn't sure he believed Lister, but he never argued the point. Planned or not, he was just grateful for the end result.

Lister, of course, was the one who had insisted that they help Kryten fold the laundry. It wasn't something that happened often. Every once in awhile, though, Lister would throw his mechanoid friend a bone and spend time with him folding things. He used a combination of guilt, bribery, and charm to get the Cat and Rimmer to play along, though Cat only worked on his own clothing.

Cat had already grown bored and was off a having a nap. Kryten left to switch the latest loads of laundry over and bring in freshly dried clothes. Rimmer watched them both go, shaking his head. Lister couldn't tell, if Rimmer was more amused or annoyed.

"Kryten, at least, will be back," Lister defended.

"Hm? Yes. I sometimes wonder if he doesn't wash clean clothes, just for the fun of it," Rimmer admitted. "How can three men generate so much laundry? It's not like you or I change clothes constantly."

"Cat generates enough for four of us," Lister pointed out cheerfully.

"Yes, but he does most of his own laundry," Rimmer countered.

"Yeah," Lister conceded, shrugging. "I don't know. Maybe he does."

"It'd help, if I understood what about folding enthralled him so much."

"I think you'd have to actually be a mechanoid to understand that."

To Lister's surprise, Rimmer chuckled out loud, a rare occurence. Generally Rimmer's expression of humor was confined to a smirk, a brief snigger, or the occasional, exaggerated guffaw. Lister wished for the millionth time that Rimmer laughed genuinely more often. He liked Rimmer's unguarded laugh.

"What?" Rimmer asked, a bit tense, making Lister realize he'd been staring.

"Nothing. You have a nice laugh, when it's real."

Rimmer didn't answer, just blushed a bit and handed Lister another shirt to fold. Lister took the shirt, giving it a cursory look over, before setting it down.

"Hey, Rimmer?"

Rimmer set down the trousers he had just neatly folded, turning to fully face Lister, one eyebrow arched questioningly. Lister stepped closer to the other man and pressed a soft, clinging kiss to Rimmer's mouth, pulling away almost immediately. He waited, his heart beginning to pound, for Rimmer to react.

Rimmer just stared at him with a sort of perplexed wonder. Lister took a breath to say something, but Rimmer finally moved, his hand raising up to rest lightly on Lister's cheek. Rimmer looked for a just a moment into Lister's eyes, his own gaze seeking answers. Whatever Rimmer saw, something he was never able to put into satisfactory words, he finally tilted his head, covering Lister's lips with his. Rimmer's kiss was hesitant and even softer than Lister's had been.

Lister gently grasped the back of Rimmer's neck, pulling him closer. He kept the kiss gentle, but ran his tongue firmly across Rimmer's lower lip, seeking entrance. Rimmer opened his mouth almost on instinct, letting Lister slip his tongue inside. Both men shivered slightly, when their tongues met. Lister controlled the kiss, letting their tongues slide softly together, sucking only slightly. Rimmer made a soft sound in the back of his throat and wrapped his arms around Lister at waist and shoulder. Lister hummed in approval, wrapping his free arm around Rimmer's back. Rimmer pulled back just enough for speech.

"Listy, you know I've only...I've never even..." Rimmer stammered, his voice low and barely audible.

"Shhhhh," Lister whispered soothingly, kissing and nibbling at Rimmer's jaw. "Me neither, y'know. Not with a bloke. Gimme a sec. Gotta make sure we're not interrupted."

Lister swiftly crossed to the door, shutting and locking it. He turned to find Rimmer staring at him with a wry smile.

"We could just go back to our quarters," Rimmer teased.

"No smegging way am I waiting that long to touch you," Lister promised, his voice low and hungry.

Lister walked back to his lover, then satisfied a long suppressed urge to run his fingers through Rimmer's curls. They were soft and moved like silk against Lister's fingers. Rimmer gave a quiet sigh, mimicking the move.

"Still don't know what to do," Rimmer said, running a hesitant hand down Lister's chest to just above his navel.

Lister considered the issue, then shrugged.

"It can't be all that different. Just...think of what you think would feel good to you, stuff you like, and do it to me."

Rimmer blinked, trying and, at first, failing to think of anything he personally liked. Finally, he recalled something Yvonne McGruder had done, during their brief encounter. He leaned down and ran his lips over Lister's neck, biting very lightly on his shoulder. Lister gave a slight moan, reaching behind to fondle Rimmer's arse. He expected Rimmer to tense and was ready to back off a bit, but Rimmer just gave an interrogatory grunt. He placed his own hands on Lister's hips, pulling him closer and capturing his mouth in another long kiss.

Their love-making was as soft and slow as their first kisses. Lister stripped Rimmer slowly, covering each area of newly exposed skin with kisses and bites, before moving on. Rimmer responded in kind for Lister, mirroring his actions. Naked, they lay on the floor together, locked in another kiss, while their hands explored their bodies. Lister listened intently, savoring Rimmer's soft gasps of surprise, the little moans and sounds of pleasure he made at the back of throat, and the small, questioning whimpers he made.

"I love ya," Lister whispered.

"I love you," Rimmer admitted, though Lister didn't miss the fear that flared in Rimmer's eyes at the confession.

Lister just smiled warmly, sucking on Rimmer's lower lip. He pulled their hips together and began a slow grinding and rocking. Rimmer moaned loudly this time, his head falling back. The sound made Lister shiver, as he took control, holding Rimmer close and guiding their movements. After they lay still and warm in each other's arms, placing soft kisses on each other's faces and any other areas within easy reach.

Naturally, the moment ended with Kryten banging on the locked door and calling out for both of them, in increasingly worried tones. It wasn't something either let the mechanoid forget. The mechanoid retaliated with dire threats of what would ever happen, if they did such things in his laundry area again! Rimmer and Lister wisely took the threats seriously, though later they had to point out that no one had said anything about other areas of the ship!



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