Title: Red Dawn
Author: Thesseli (email@example.com)
Timeline: Series 8, after 'Pete'
Summary: 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.
It had been a little over a week since the crew was revived, and Rimmer was still trying to figure out just where he stood with Dave Lister.
It still took some getting used to. That everyone had been dead, that is, dead and then put back together via their DNA and personality disks. That it hadn't been done until years after the accident was also hard for him to wrap his head around. It had been years for Lister years gone by in the blink of an eye for himself and the rest of the Red Dwarf's crew. Years where Lister's only companions had been a mechanoid, a hyper-evolved cat, and a hologram. A hologram of himself.
This, combined with the fact that Lister just wasn't acting right, was the main source of Rimmer's discomfiture.
He'd noticed it soon after his bunkmate's return. Since he'd come back, Lister had been telling Rimmer bits and pieces about life after the accident, including things about the hologram. Rimmer was intrigued and a little disturbed that there had been a copy of himself, one that had done the near-impossible and kept Lister sane all those years. He was even more intrigued -- shocked actually -- that Lister spoke of this hologram with what sounded like affection. It just wasn't normal. And the fact that Lister didn't seem to realize he was doing anything out of the ordinary was even more unnerving. All this nice talk about his duplicate was starting to bother him. Here he was, flesh and blood, the very same man the hologram had once been. Didn't that count for anything?
"What?" he'd asked skeptically a few days ago, after hearing yet another amusing anecdote about something Lister and this *imitation* of him had done. "Are you saying that a dead copy of me was better than the real me?"
Unexpectedly, Lister had almost seemed hurt, and backpedaled quickly. "No," he'd protested. "I'm not sayin' that, but.." And then he'd launched into some weak excuse about how he and the hologram had spent so much time together -- blah blah blah -- and Rimmer had just snorted and shook his head in dismissal. But the more hed thought about it afterwards, the more puzzled he'd become. In the old days, Lister would never have even faked an apology. Now he actually seemed offended that Rimmer had doubted his sincerity. At the time, he hadn't a clue as to why.
It wasn't until the incident with Cassandra that he'd put everything together, that he'd worked out what exactly Lister was doing that seemed so odd.
It wasnt that Lister was being more civil with him than he was used to, or that Lister had been so tolerant of his duplicate, although these things were certainly part of it. It was that Lister had been treating him as if he *was* this other Arnold Rimmer, this copy of himself that hed been with for so long that they actually seemed to have called a truce. (Admittedly, Lister's companions had been doing it too, although not to as great a degree -- Cat had even called him "goalpost head" a few times, which he didn't understand at first, until Lister had explained it.) It was kind of strange but even stranger was that he'd actually found himself responding, for some unfathomable reason, by being nicer to Lister, even though he wasnt the Rimmer the other man had grown accustomed to.
No, not just accustomed to. Fond of. Lister had become fond of the hologram.
And he didn't know what to make of that.
Rimmer's thoughts were a confused jumble. *His* Rimmer, that's what Lister had called the hologram. Not that he was jealous. How could you be jealous of yourself? So what if he wasn't the Rimmer who Lister almost seemed to like. Come to think of it, the Kochanski who'd been with Lister on Starbug wasn't *his* Kochanski either. This wasn't the Kochanski from their Red Dwarf. This was someone from a parallel universe who didn't even *look* like the Kochanski that Lister had such a thing for way back when. *This* Kochanski had been put into stasis on her Red Dwarf, where that other universe's Lister had been resurrected as a hologram. And from what Rimmer had heard, that other Lister had changed a lot from the man sleeping so soundly in the bunk above him. No wonder the woman wasn't interested in him not that Lister himself seemed to be pursuing her all that closely. It hadn't even been two weeks, and it was obvious even to Rimmer -- and if he could see it, then everyone else could too. Especially a super-intelligent computer that could see into the future.
So why in the world had Cassandra tried to antagonize Lister by saying that he and Kochanski had gone to bed together?
This was another of the things that was bothering him.
To Rimmer, what Cassandra had done made even less sense than Lister's civility. That ploy would only have worked if the woman in question was the Kochanski from their universe, or if this new Kochanski had become involved with Lister on Starbug. But he knew that hadn't happened. Cassandra trying to provoke Lister into a jealous rage by claiming he'd had sex with this near-stranger wasn't logical. But then, jealousy didn't have to be logical, even if computers did. Maybe the thought of any version of Kochanski making love with another man would be enough to rile Lister. But Kochanski wasn't the type who'd go with just anyone. Unlike himself Rimmer freely admitted that if he'd had the chance, he'd have slept with Kochanski in a second. Lister certainly knew that. Their AR-trial had given them ample proof of Arnold Rimmer's lack of discretion. Cassandra probably thought Lister would believe her because *of course* an underhanded weasel like Arnold Rimmer would have a go at Kochanski if he could.
But why would Lister care if he'd made love to Kochanski, if Lister didn't want her?
This was getting confusing.
So maybe it wasn't about Kochanski. Maybe it was something about him. Maybe Lister had some deep-seated moral opposition to Arnold Rimmer having any fun.
Or maybe, Rimmer thought derisively, Cassandra was betting that Lister would shoot him not because he'd had sex with Kochanski, but because he'd had sex with *anyone* anyone other than him.
That thought, and the feelings it provoked, was disturbing enough to make Rimmer's stream-of-consciousness internal diatribe come to a screeching halt. He was surprised that such a bizarre notion had crossed his mind, and even more surprised when he realized that it didn't really bother him.
Maybe he'd been in deep space too long.
He sat up and gazed warily at the upper bunk. Lister's breathing was deep, regular and peaceful in the pre-dawn silence. There was something comforting about it.
Rimmer thought about it some more. Lister had come to him -- not to any of his old friends like Peterson or Chen or Selby -- when he'd hatched his plan to track down the nanobots and prove his innocence. He'd enlisted Rimmer's help, no-one else's. He'd even offered to help him in return. And after being sent to the brig, he'd insisted that he be allowed to share a cell with his old bunkmate.
Maybe all those years with the hologram had changed things, he thought. Maybe Lister was treating him as he'd treated his duplicate because, either consciously or subconsciously, he wanted to have that close a relationship with him. With the real, flesh-and-blood Arnold Rimmer. Maybe Lister really did care for him because he was the man that the hologram had started out as. Because somewhere, deep inside him, Lister once saw something worthwhile.
He laid back down and closed his eyes, a small smile on his lips. He could live with that.