Title: Substitute
Author: Thesseli (thesseli@msn.com)
Fandom: Red Dwarf
Timeline: AU (for the reference to Holly), between Series 6 and 7
Archive: Yes
Pairing: Rimmer/Lister
Rating: PG-13
Summary: The things we do for love.
Disclaimer: I don't own Rimmer, Lister, or Red Dwarf -- Grant Naylor does. No money is being made, and no hard-light holograms or space bums were harmed in the writing of this fanfic.

Rimmer laid very still, Lister's arm around him, watching through half-closed eyes as the other man drifted off to sleep.

<< It's always the same afterwards. >>

<< He sleeps, I stay awake and obsess. >>

Rimmer closed his eyes, listening to the other man's breathing. There was no use in brooding about this. But then, that's what he always told himself, each and every time. Because each and every time the reality of the situation came crashing back to him afterwards, while he laid there and waited for Lister to fall asleep.

Rimmer was well aware that he and Lister had initially come together out of loneliness. Being marooned in deep space with no other human company, it was understandable, especially after he'd regained the ability to touch. That's how it had started, but it hadn't stayed that way -- for himself, at least.

He thought back to the first time they had done this, and the strange but oh-so-good feeling of Lister inside him, and wondered just where along the line this had become more than a diversion to him. His own feelings had changed, and what had been merely physical release and a way to ease tension and boredom had developed into something deeper. But he knew Lister didn't feel the same way.

To Lister, this was still what it had been from the beginning -- a diversion, a pleasant illusion, but a poor substitute for what he really wanted and for what he could never have.

<< And I'm the substitute...not the one he really wants, or who he loves. If I was, I wouldn't have to wait 'til he falls asleep -- I wouldn't have to because I wouldn't _need_ _to_ in the first place. >>

Rimmer sighed, forcing his thoughts away from this subject yet again. Thinking like this would only depress him, or drive him crazy, or make him do or say something he would regret later. He had been through all this before, inside his mind, and he was determined not to let it ruin what they had.

Because what they had was all it could ever be, and it would have to be enough.

"Holly," he whispered softly, so as not to wake his sleeping bedmate. "Swap disks."

As always, his form shimmered from Kristine Kochanski's back to his own; and very gently, he placed a chaste kiss on his lover's cheek. Then he moved back into the other man's arms, finally able to fall asleep.

At least he would wake up as himself.