Title: Red Heat
Author: Thesseli (email@example.com)
Timeline: Series 8, after 'Pete'
Summary: The sequel to 'Red Dawn', which is the sequel to 'Back in the Red Part 3.5'.
Disclaimer: I don't own Arnold Rimmer, Dave Lister, or Red Dwarf. No money is being made, and no space bums were harmed in the writing of this story.
Arnold Rimmer stared contemptuously into the mirror, scowling at the reflection that gazed back at him.
He was sick of this. Sick of the brig, sick of Red Dwarf, sick of everything.
It hadn't been a particularly good day. He'd managed to annoy Captain Hollister yet again, making his chances of an early parole about as likely as Baxter and Killcrazy winning the Nobel Prize in quantum physics. He was utterly disgusted with his situation. He'd thought he'd been bad off before, as a lowly second technician on a mining ship while his three brothers were high-flyers in the space corps. He didn't know then how good he'd had it. His only consolation now was that his family was all dead, and they didn't have to live with the even greater humiliation of seeing him in prison.
Rimmer took one last look in the mirror, loosening his tie and preparing to change back into his prison jumpsuit. Inmates who were also crewmembers were only allowed to wear their regular uniforms while performing duties outside of the brig, and he wanted to avoid getting into any more trouble, at least for the rest of the day. As he did so, he spared a brief glance at the man resting in the cell's top bunk. Yes, he was doing it again.
Lister was watching him out of the corner of his eye while he was changing clothes.
Rimmer shook his head slightly, but said nothing. He'd grown accustomed to all of Lister's other idiosyncrasies; why not add a few new ones as well? Including the peculiarity that Lister didn't seem to mind being here.but after being lost in deep space for so long, Lister was probably so thrilled to be around other people that he didn't care. Either that or he'd gone space crazy. Some of the things Lister said, plus some of the things said about him by Cat, Kochanski, and Kryten made Rimmer wonder sometimes. And Lister actually being civil to him was a definite tip-off that something wasn't quite right in the Scouser's head. (Although Rimmer had to admit that he was reaping some minor benefit from his bunkmate's association with his hologrammatic duplicate. Lister was, after all, being fairly nice to him.)
Rimmer pulled the jumpsuit from its place alongside his canary uniform when something inside caught his eye. It was a tag, protruding from a seam in the inner lining.
"That can't be right," he said to himself, his brow creasing slightly.
Lister looked up from the magazine he was doing a poor job of hiding behind. "What can't be right?" he asked curiously.
"The size, that's what," he said. "It must be some new kind of numbering system for the prisoners' clothing or something."
Lister sat up and unzipped the top of his own jumpsuit, getting it halfway off and twisting around to look at the tag. "Mine's right," he said.
"No, it can't be." Rimmer looked at it himself, then looked back at his own.
"Everyone puts on a bit of weight as they get older, Rimmer," he said with a shrug, jumping down from the upper bunk and taking a seat at the table in their cell.
Rimmer frowned and shook his head again. "I don't understand. Four weeks ago this would have been swimming on me."
"Four weeks plus three million and seven years, remember?"
Rimmer's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"
Rimmer didn't answer him. Truth be told, he'd noticed the change in his appearance. You couldn't *not* notice; it was obvious. He'd realized something was different almost as soon as Lister had come back. At first he'd thought he was just tired, or stressed, or that he had some kind of space sickness. When a few days had come and gone and he still looked the same, he'd started to get worried. Since then there had been more pressing matters to deal with, however, and he hadn't paid much attention to it for the past few weeks. Now it had returned to his conscious attention, and he wasn't happy. "I don't understand," he said, unable to hide his dismay. "Why did this happen to me?"
"I dunno. Maybe Kryten's nanobots wanted to put everything back as close to normal as possible, meaning you would still be older than me. You've got a year for each year I spent away from the 'Dwarf -- and from the looks of things, so does everyone else on the ship." He sounded almost apologetic, but then he grinned again. "Didn't you see Hollister? He's gotta be twice the size he was before."
Lister's good humor about the situation didn't make him feel any better. He sat down on his own bunk, chin in hands, across from Lister. "Lovely," he muttered. "If I thought my life was bad before this, just add instant middle age."
"It's OK, man. It really is," said Lister, sounding sincere and.something else Rimmer couldn't quite identify. All joking had gone out of his voice. "You look fine."
Lister's odd, almost wistful tone made Rimmer pause. "You miss him, don't you," he said. It wasn't a question.
Lister's face was kept carefully neutral. "Miss who?"
"The other me," he said matter-of-factly, sitting up a bit straighter. "That's why you're being so nice to me, isn't it? Telling me I don't look like I'm ready for a midlife crisis, telling me we're somehow going to get back to Earth, and telling me that everything's going to be all right.even though we're in the brig."
Lister fidgeted, as if he didn't know what to say.
"I know that when you first saw me, after you came back, you thought I was him," Rimmer said. "But I wasn't. And I know that you would have *rather* seen him -- you would have rather had those nanobot things remake the hologram Arnold Rimmer into a living human being, instead of them remaking.me." The self-deprecating words came too easily to him, as he stared down at his folded hands in his lap. Damn, he couldn't even do a good job at being himself. A computer-generated copy had done it better. A computer-generated copy had gained Lister's trust, his friendship, even kept him sane. "No wonder you were disappointed, when you found out who it really was," he sighed. "If the nanobots could've done that, then *he* would have been alive again, just like he'd always wanted. Here with you."
"You're him," Lister reminded him gently. "Everything that was in him is also in you."
Something in Lister's voice made Rimmer look up again. Lister was staring at him so intently.it made him forget everything he was about to say, about how unfair it was that a copy of him, a pattern of recorded brainwaves and electronically-maintained algorithms, was somehow preferable to the actual person it was based on. Instead, something else came out. Something that had been at the back of his mind since the incident with Cassandra.
"Listy?" he asked hesitantly.
"Yeah?" Lister was still staring at him in that intense, unnerving way.
"You and the other Rimmer.were you and he." He wasn't quite sure how to ask this, but it was something he'd been wondering for some time. He wanted to know.
He cleared his throat and tried again. "Did the two of you ever."
His voice trailed off, but Lister seemed to know what he was saying, even if he couldn't say it.and he nodded in affirmation. "Yes."
//Smeg, I was right.I was *right*.//
"You were together? You and him?" he asked cautiously, needing to hear it out loud.
Lister nodded again. "Me and him," he declared. He looked both sheepish and relieved at being found out, and more apologetic than when he'd explained why everyone looked more than half a decade older than they had the month before.
"I see." Now Rimmer didn't know what to say.
"You don't know what it was like, Rimmer," he began. "All that time, years of it, not being able to touch anyone. It was the closest to hell a person could be." He exhaled sharply. "And once he got the hard light drive."
Rimmer's face twisted. He wasn't sure what sort of explanation Lister was going to give for what he and the hologram had done, but he was certain this wasn't it. "Are you saying that you did it as a favor to him? Out of pity?" he said angrily. "My duplicate gets sympathy fucked because he was so desperate for physical contact that he would've taken *anything*, and you felt *sorry* for him?"
"No, man," he said quietly. "I was talking about me."
"About.you?" Again, this wasn't what Rimmer had expected him to say, and he gazed at Lister in confusion.
"Rimmer.it's not what you think. It wasn't out of pity, or boredom, or anything like that," Lister said hastily, as if to dispel his skepticism. "We'd been bunkmates for all those years, alone together. We'd gotten closer with time -- we all did, you and me and Cat and Kryten. But for the two of us it was more than that. It was different. We had what was important in common."
"What was that?"
"Shared history. *Humanity*." He looked away for a moment. "We were the last ones."
There was something almost unbearably sad in Lister's tone, and Rimmer felt his anger draining away. He found himself reaching out tentatively to the other man.
Lister met him halfway, gripping his hand tightly and scooting his chair against the bunk.
"There was a time when he.when *we* would've given anything for this," Lister said, only inches away. "Even before we were together."
"You keep saying 'we'," Rimmer whispered. "But it wasn't me who was there. It was him."
Lister shook his head, then reached up with his other hand, caressing Rimmer's cheek. "I told you before.all that he was, you are too."
A shiver went through him and Rimmer was silent for a moment, leaning into the touch. "Lister?"
"I've.never done this before." He closed his eyes, almost shyly. "But then you probably know that."
"I know," Lister replied, still stroking his cheek. "But I also know how good you are at it -- or how good you're going to be at it, anyway."
Rimmer opened his eyes, unable to hide the pleased, hopeful smile. "Really?"
"*Really*." And then Lister kissed him.
Rimmer had never felt anything like it. Not that he had all that much experience, but still.
It was like there was electricity flowing from his mouth through his entire body, and he couldn't stifle the groan that was torn from him. He kissed back, parting his lips slightly so the other man could explore his mouth. His eager response seemed to encourage Lister, although he could tell that Lister was going slow. All this was new to him, and Lister was taking that into account -- even though for him it was very familiar. They continued to kiss until Rimmer finally had to pull back, gasping for breath.
"Sorry," Lister said with a little smile. "Usually I was the only one who needed to breathe."
"I'm sure that made things very.interesting," he said, letting out another gasp as their lips connected again. He could feel Lister's hands traveling down to his shoulders and back, kneading and massaging the muscles beneath his skin. "Oh.oh, Lister, that's just."
"Just exactly what you like?" Lister murmured. "Don't worry. I know *everything* you like," he said, unbuttoning Rimmer's shirt more carefully than the other man would have thought possible. "I know your body even better than I know mine -- I know every inch of it." He punctuated this with a sweep of his fingers over Rimmer's exposed chest.
"So he." Rimmer was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate. "So it didn't feel any different, him being a hologram? He was an exact duplicate of the human me?"
"Yeah. Except for one thing." Lister drew back a little and regarded him thoughtfully. "It's kind of strange, seein' you without the H." He traced the other man's forehead with his thumb. "I got so used to it that you look sort of funny without it. *Naked* without it." He kissed him where his counterpart's hologram designation had been, and then along the side of his jaw, over the scar that even the hologram had.
"What did it feel like?" His breathing was becoming more rapid. "The H?"
"Smooth, like metal," Lister said between kisses. "But warm. Almost hot."
Rimmer moaned, suddenly unable to keep his hands off his cellmate. He was surprised at how turned on he was from hearing what Lister and his duplicate had done together; somehow it was more arousing than any magazine or vid he'd ever seen. He moaned again, not knowing exactly what to do and frustrated because of it. He wrapped his arms around Lister's waist, trying to pull the other man onto the bunk with him. Lister obliged, then guided Rimmer's hands to the bottom of his t-shirt, encouraging him to help remove it.
"Tell me.tell me about your first time. With him," Rimmer urged.
Lister raised an eyebrow. "You sure, man?"
Rimmer nodded fervently as he pulled Lister's shirt off, leaving the other man wearing only the lower half of his jumpsuit. Lister grinned and kicked it off, revealing his worn boxers and what was straining to get out of them. Rimmer's enjoyment must have been obvious, because it only seemed to spur Lister on. "It was on Starbug, the day after we met Legion," he purred, as he began unfastening Rimmer's trousers. "He went through the ship, touchin' everything. I found him, and let him touch me too." Rimmer raised his hips so that Lister could slide his trousers off more easily. "It was all innocent at the beginning. We didn't realize at first what we'd started."
"And then?" he panted, wearing nothing but his white regulation boxers and his open uniform shirt.
"We both wanted it. Dunno for how long, but we did."
Rimmer clamped his eyes shut as Lister's fingers found the waistband of his boxers, pulling them down to reveal the hardness underneath. "And was it good?"
"The best," Lister promised, moving in between his spread legs. "And after that, it only got better."
Then Lister's lips closed over him and all coherent thought was lost.
Rimmer threw back his head and let out a loud cry, fingers digging into the cotton sheets as Lister took him to the back of his throat. Speech was beyond him now, and he reached desperately for the other man, straining to connect with some other part of his body while still keeping Lister's mouth on him. Lister seemed to realize what he wanted; and without losing the rhythm he'd been building, he managed to shift his position so that his lower body was alongside Rimmer's chest.
Hoping he was doing it right, Rimmer yanked off his boxers and took him with both hands, stroking him a few times before finally pulling him into his mouth.
Lister shuddered and moaned, but still he didn't break the pace he'd set. Rimmer was trying frantically to keep up, but he didn't think he could hold out much longer. He'd never done this before -- never had this done to him before either -- and he wanted to make it as good for Lister as it was for him. To speed his partner's release, he began alternately squeezing and fondling Lister's testicles while he worked him with his mouth.
That did it. Lister yelped as his entire body spasmed, shooting hot liquid into Rimmer's mouth. He swallowed automatically, trying to take it all in. This pushed him past his own breaking point, and with another loud cry his own release came, spilling over into Lister's mouth and then down his throat.
For a few minutes afterwards, there were only the sounds of their rapid breaths returning to normal. Exhausted, Rimmer lay still as Lister pulled himself upwards to rest his head on the pillow. He turned to Rimmer and kissed him again, resting his head alongside Rimmer's and snuggling closer to him.
Rimmer smiled. He should've known Lister would be cuddler.
"Toldya you were good at it," Lister murmured sleepily, a mischievous glint in his eyes. But there was something else there too, something deeper, visible even in the muted lighting of the cell.
Rimmer gazed at him sympathetically, holding him tighter. "It must have been very lonely for you," he said softly. "After he left, I mean."
"He had to go," Lister replied, his voice barely above a whisper.
"But you still miss him."
"I've got him," Lister said, wrapping his arms around his lover. "Everything that was important about him is still here, in you. It always was." Lister smiled. "Maybe it's a little deeper inside, because you're a few years behind him, but."
"But maybe.you could help me find it?" he asked hopefully.
"I'd like to think that we've already started."
"Thank you. From both of us."