Notes:  This takes place at the start of series VIII - just after Lister and the newly back-from-the-dead Rimmer have been locked in a cell on floor 13
Disclaimers: These characters were created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
Title: Hearts in Jail*
Author: Elvichar


(*Yes it's a stupid title - it's from the song 'Prisoners of Love' at the end of Mel Brook's 'The Producers')

Hearts In Jail

by Elvichar


Maybe it was being cooped up in this cell for so long, but Lister was really starting to look quite presentable.

Yes, he was still the product of a mating between a mad hamster and a Cheshire cat, but every time he descended from the top bunk and his calves came in to view... god...

Rimmer tried not to think about it. This was absurd. He'd known Lister for years - they'd never even got on. What was it about him? He was more worldly than the old Lister had been - after all if he was telling the truth he'd survived deep space, fought hideous mutant creatures and saved the universe - several times. But it was still Lister. What was he thinking?

Lister looked at the ceiling. Rimmer. After all this time - after he'd gone through the fake funeral and the acceptance that Arnold Rimmer was now "Ace" - almost a superhero. He'd tried to pretend to himself that he hated Rimmer - especially after that dream. But it wasn't ever true. Not really. And now the old Rimmer was here - the Rimmer from before all the life changing events. An obnoxious little weasel - but still... god he'd missed that whiny smeghead.

Rimmer looked up from his book and glanced over to the top bunk. Why? Why was he feeling like this all of a sudden, it wasn't right. Maybe he had some sort of space bug.

Speak - that was it. If he said something he'd break the tension , stop these silly thoughts. If he talked to Lister then Lister would say something Listerish. That'd do the trick.

"Amazing... quite extraordinary. It says here that E equals MC squared. Who'd have thought it eh?"

"Rimmer - how many times ,did you fail your astronavigation exam again?"

Rimmer threw his book down and got up slowly. "Look I've just about had it with you m' laddo,"

Lister sighed, "Look I'm sorry Rimmer, I know you were just trying to make conversation. I just can't get over it - you. Here. Alive. It's amazing when you come to think about it."

Rimmer stopped mid stride. This wasn't right. Lister never used to hold back when it came to insults.

"Rimmer - I've missed you man," Lister suddenly jumped off the bed and down to the floor. Before Rimmer could stop him he had his arms around the taller man and was hugging him tightly.

Rimmer's arms hung loosely at his side and he tried not to panic. No - Lister was getting too close. In the mood he was in something might... oh no it didn't bear thinking about. But he couldn't stop himself thinking about it. Rimmer gasped. Lister looked up.

"What man, did I squeeze too hard?"

Rimmer couldn't help it. Tears started to well in his eyes. Within seconds he was blubbing like a big baby. He sat on the end of his bed while Lister looked at him in distress.

"Rimmer, what - tell me. Has something bad happened?"

Lister kneeled on the floor beside the crying Rimmer. He reached out a hand and gently wiped away a tear - which made Rimmer cry even more.

"Rimmer man - don't cry. I didn't mean to upset you."

"Why are you being so nice to me?"

"Look at you - you're real. Flesh and blood - alive. You've got your whole life ahead of you."

"But we're in prison."

"Yes but it's not for ever - then we can get on and explore new worlds - boldly go and that."

Rimmer looked at the chubby face in front of him. So warm, so friendly.

In the past all that friendship and love had been reserved for his stupid friends - that idiot Dane Peterson, and those other scum no-hopers Chen, Selby and whatsisname. And that bitch Kochanski.

What the hell ... he had nothing to lose.

"Lister... Dave....I think ... I...." but Lister interrupted him

"Rimmer I love you."

Rimmer looked up, shocked.

"What... you what.. did you just say...?"

"Yes I'm sorry I stopped you saying whatever you were going to say but this is something that's been building for years. I know you'll probably hate me now, but it's enough that I've said it. I love you. There I've said it again."

"That's ridiculous.. you can't possibly love me.," Rimmer was floundering for something to say , "Look at me I'm a mess. No-one has ever loved me - well if they have they've never said it. Have you gone space crazy?"

"Maybe. Who knows. All I'm certain about is I want to be with you for ever. Of course now I've told you that I probably don't have a chance in hell...."Lister's boyish grin spread across his face.

Rimmer couldn't help himself. He started to smile too - at first just a tiny turn-up at the edges of his mouth and then a toothy grin - possibly the biggest of his entire life.

"Ye-es you don't want to kill me - that's a start. I was worried..."

But Lister didn't get the chance to continue - Rimmer was kissing him too hard.

The next day they were on Canary duty. Red Dwarf had just passed a planet with a slightly breathable atmosphere and what looked like a spaceship graveyard.

When Lister and Rimmer arrived The Cat, Kochanski and Krysten were already standing to attention, ready to go.

"Where have you been?" Kochanski hissed under her breath.

Lister grinned, "I'll tell you later - you will not believe it."

"With you I'd believe anything Dave."

"Mr Lister sir - you've made us very late, is something wrong?" Kryten looked at Lister with a quizzical expression - or as near as he could manage with that face.

"Krytie don't worry man."

Rimmer was a few steps behind, looking happy but a bit dazed.

"Good morning all - Kryten, Miss Kochanski ma'am, Cat - I trust you're all well."

"What's wrong with Rimmer?" Kochanski asked.

Lister giggled. Kochanski stared at him.

On the shuttle down Cat, Kryten and Kochanski huddled together and whispered. Lister and Rimmer had found seats at the other end of the shuttle and both were beaming stupidly and glancing at each other quickly when they thought nobody was looking.

"I can't believe it Miss Kochanski - you honestly think that Mr Lister and," Kryten could hardly bring himself to say the name, "and Mr Rimmer have started some sort of... thing?"

"I think so - all the classic signs - blushing, giggling, being nice."

"Well surely they might both be suffering from some strange strain of flu?"

They looked over to the pair. There was definitely something happening there.

Lister caught Kochanski's eye and he waved and moved over to sit near them, glancing back quickly to Rimmer, who nodded at him briefly.

"Dave, hi, we were just talking about you," Kochanski said.

"Yes - I thought you might be. You've guessed then."

"I think so. My Dave in my universe always had a thing for Rimmer."

"Get out of town - you said you'd made all that up."

"It was a double bluff."

The Cat looked at Lister, "What? Is that what we were talking about - you and that thing ?"

"Cat what did you think we were talking about?" Kochanski shook her head.

"I wasn't really listening."

"Rimmer is not a 'thing' - none of you know him the way I do. You have to share a room with someone like Rimmer for years before you start to figure them out." Lister looked over at Rimmer who was pretending not to be looking back.

"You remember that kiss dream I had?"

"I would have thought The Rimmer Experience would have put that nonsense out of your mind," Kryten folded his arms and pouted.

"Yes - but this is a different Rimmer. It's like a fresh start."

"That's good?" Cat couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"I know all the things he could become - all his faults and all his good points - this is the man with the potential to be Ace Rimmer."

"So basically Dave, you're hoping to change Rimmer. Am I right?"

"Kryssie, that is so cynical. I love him - all his foibles, all his stupid habits, they're what makes him him. Why would I want to change that?"

"Oh my god - you are in love with him aren't you?" Kochanski's eyes grew wide and she laughed despite herself.

Rimmer couldn't believe it. They were laughing at him. After all that happened last night and Lister and that bitch were laughing at him. He decided to confront them.

He made an attempt to look tough and macho as he strode up the aisle - but his gangly legs got in the way and tripped him before he reached his prey. Lister stepped forward to help him up as the others burst into uncontrollable giggles.

Rimmer stared at them with undisguised hatred. He'd get them.

On the surface the canaries stepped into a hostile atmosphere. The air might have been breathable once, but now it was chokingly polluted - and extremely hot.

They stepped forward, out of the shuttle craft and onto dry, cracked ground.

"There must've been some sort of environmental catastrophe," said Kochanski.

The cat guffawed, "No shit Sherlock," and Kochanski hit him.

'Ow what was that for?" Cat rubbed his nose and glowered.

Rimmer was in front of them all, walking forward blindly and angrily. Lister hurried after him.

"Rimmer wait - don't be like this, it's all a misunderstanding man."

Rimmer span round.

"It wasn't just a misunderstanding it was a mistake."

"Don't be like that Rimmer - I've said I'm sorry. Tell him," Lister looked to Krissie for help, she shrugged her shoulders.

"I'm sorry Dave, I think he's right. You've done something stupid and the best thing to do is forget all about it."

"Krissie, I can't believe what I'm hearing." Lister felt betrayed. Why was no-one taking his side here?

"She's right - you've always wanted her, why don't you just get it over with," Rimmer glared at Lister and started to walk away.

"But she's me mum," Lister called after him. Rimmer didn't seem to have heard and kept on walking.

"Why don't you go after him Dave," Kochanski touched his arm.

"But you just said..."

"Why are you listening to other people - if you want to do something just do it. You can't expect me... or Kryten ... to make decisions for you."

Kryten looked guilty and pretended to look around as if he hadn't really been listening. But he had to butt in - he couldn't let that jumped up little Jenny-come-lately influence Mr Lister.

"Don't listen to her Mr Lister sir, the poisonous atmosphere has obviously rotted her brain - just let him go, he's not worth it."

"Kryten don't. Sheesh how many mothers have I got?"

"I say latex lobes is right. Let him go," Cat had only been half listening but he'd gathered it involved Rimmer going away and never coming back.

"No. Stop it all of you. I can make my own decision."

Lister paused - realising he had no idea what his decision was. He had a sudden impulse to rip off his space helmet, and Rimmer's, and kiss him deep and hard. But considering the pollution and the probability that both their heads would explode if he carried out that particular plan he thought it was best if he didn't.

It all became academic when the air started to rumble and a sleek looking craft appeared - seemingly from nowhere. A tall, well groomed and familiar figure stepped out of the cockpit.

Rimmer paused in his escape and turned around to see what all the commotion was about. He glanced at the man in the ship and his mouth fell open. Despite himself he started to walk back.

"Ace, I can't believe it," Lister grinned and hugged 'Ace' and whispered, "Rimmer man good to see you - don't look round you might get a bit of a shock."

'Ace' looked behind him in spite of Lister's advice. Rimmer looked at Rimmer, both looked dumbfounded.

"But - wha...I'm.." both said.

Lister felt they both deserved an explanation so he briefly told the 'new' Rimmer about 'Ace' and vice-versa.

He looked at his hologramatic friend - now wearing his hair loose and straight and without an 'H'. God he was sexy - this was going to be tough.

The new Rimmer felt pangs of jealousy, just as the old Rimmer had with the original Ace. Except now there was the added frisson of sexual tension. New Rimmer was damned if he was going to let go of Lister if someone else might possibly want him. He decided to stake his claim, so there would be no doubts in the old Rimmer's mind about how things stood.

"He's mine," Rimmer said and pulled Lister into a hug.

"Easy man," Lister nearly fell over.

Old Rimmer looked shocked. He glanced at Kryten for an explanation. As far as the mechanoid knew, old Rimmer was the genuine Ace - the original smeghead was long gone.

"It appears that Mr Lister has gone mad after the confines of prison life," Kryten offered.

Kochanski was herself staring - not at Lister and new Rimmer, but at 'Ace'. She couldn't believe that anyone who looked so much like Arnold Rimmer could actually be - she had to admit it - sexy.

"How do you do." she said, staring at Ace with wide open eyes and offering her had. Ace kissed it and Kochanski giggled.

"Krissie," Lister said," pull yourself together."

Kochanski bridled at Lister's words and glared at him angrily.

"Dave," she said through gritted teeth, " just leave it."

'Ace' himself was delighted, "So, Krissie eh - last Krissie I knew was a Kristine Kochanski..."

Lister stopped him before he said something stupid. "This is Kristine Kochanski."

'Ace' was confused - she didn't look like the Kochanski he remembered. More perky, slightly taller and darker - less Scottish. He looked at Lister for confirmation.

"She's from a parallel universe - she's the same Kochanski... but not. I haven't really explained it to her," He whispered under his breath, " To be honest I haven't actually told her she's not the same Kochanski from three million years ago."

Ace nodded. Right, so she was fair game - not the same stuck up little cow at all - nice.

Lister looked at Ace. Oh god why did he have to turn up now - just when the new Rimmer had started to mean something to him. Lister remembered all that he and the old Rimmer had been through and his stomach bubbled with longing, lust and possibly the remains of the illicit curry he'd persuaded Big Jim from the prison canteen to prepare for him the night before. And now it looked like Krissie was falling for Ace- and vice versa. Damn, why could he never be satisfied with what he had? He wanted Rimmer - the new Rimmer. Of course he did. But at the same time he wanted the old Rimmer - and in a funny way he still pined for the old Kochanski - as well as the new Kochanski. Damn why was it so hard? Literally.

Kryten looked from Mr Lister to Mr Rimmer. From Mr Rimmer to Ace - and from there to Miss Kochanski. Why was Mr Lister always chasing after these people? Didn't he realise what the love of a good mechanoid could do for him? Kryten pushed his bottom lip out in a sulk. But no -one was looking at him, so nobody noticed.

Old Rimmer was open mouthed. Staring at Ace. How could he compete with that - the man was gorgeous. Dave would surely abandon him now.

Cat was bored. Why were these people just standing there - the sooner this was over the sooner they could get back to eat.

The old Rimmer returned his attention to Lister - much to the chagrin of new Rimmer.

"So Listy - you've managed to get a shag after all. Never thought you'd do it. Well done."

"Rimmer," the name came out in a strangulated whelp, Lister tried to recover his composure, " He's you - you're him - doesn't it bother you that I've got off with you - I mean him?"

Old Rimmer was trying to ignore the implications.

"No of course not - I mean he's not really me is he - what is he from some parallel universe too?"

"No man - he really is you - the real you - the live you. Sort of."

Old Rimmer wrinkled his nose up. "You mean I - he - I'm with you now?"

"Well sort of."

New Rimmer could hold his tongue no longer. He stepped forward and jabbed 'Ace' in the chest.

"You had better not try and steal him from me - he's mine. Is that clear?"

Everyone stared at new Rimmer. He looked around and tried to regain his composure.

"Right," he said. "Glad that's sorted."

New Rimmer turned around and walked away. Lister shrugged in apology to everyone else. This was getting embarrassing.

'Ace' flew alongside the canary ship on the way back. Once at Red Dwarf he docked and introduced himself to Captain Hollister - who gushed and fawned over 'Ace'.

"It's quite an honour to meet you, " Hollister beamed. "Will you be staying long?"

Rimmer was amazed. Everyone seemed to love 'Ace' Rimmer. Over the year he'd spent living as Ace he'd learned that the persona was almost overwhelming. Just by pretending to be Ace he was charming, sophisticated and sexy.

Of course he was still there under the facade - the same old smeg head Rimmer - but no-one seemed to care about that.

To be honest it was all getting a bit boring.

The canaries were unpacking the scrap they'd salvaged from the poisoned planet.

"Wow," Kochanski said suddenly, " That Ace is quite a guy isn't he?"

"It' s just Rimmer." Lister said, trying to silence the tiny voice inside him that really, really wanted him.

"He's just awful," Rimmer said.

"It's funny - that's how he reacted to the original Ace. You can't get on with yourself can you Rimmer?"

"Why are you still calling me Rimmer ? I would have thought you could call me Arnie seeing what we've been through."

"Nah Arnie's a terrible name," Lister said mischievously.

Rimmer stopped in his tracks. A slow smile crept onto his lips. Slightly twisted. He grabbed at Lister and wrestled him to the ground. Lister started to laugh hysterically as Rimmer tickled his sides.

"No stop it man... ow... " Lister felt waves of pleasure and pain as he kicked and struggled ineffectually.

"Me or him Listy?" Rimmer said suddenly.

"You man - only you - honest," Lister struggled to say. Although in truth... what was the truth?

Rimmer leaned down and kissed Lister deeply. The other canaries were looking at them. Some snickering, some shocked, most not really caring. A guard walked over and intervened.

"Watch it you two ," he said - poking Rimmer in the ribs with a stick like a baseball bat.

Rimmer jumped to his feet. Lister followed.

"I'm watching you - no more funny business while you're working ," The guard warned, "Plenty of time for that later." He laughed and walked away.

They went back to hauling scrap.

Hollister had called Lister and both Rimmers to his office.

"I hear you two are a couple now," he said glancing at New Rimmer and Lister, "I suppose congratulations are in order." A mocking smile played along the captain's lips.

Lister shifted on one foot, embarrassed.

"Yes sir - we're absolutely and completely head over heels in love," new Rimmer saluted the captain. Oh my god - Lister couldn't believe he'd just done that.

"Rimmer," he hissed.

"Captain Hollister, why did you want to see us all?" Ace interrupted. He wanted to diffuse this situation. He could see how uncomfortable this was making Lister.

"Yes - well..." Hollister didn't really know - he thought he'd better make something up since he'd dragged them all here. To be honest he just wanted to look at the two Rimmers up against one another. He'd always admired Rimmer in a strange sort of way. The man kept trying no matter how many times he failed.

"Ah - yes, I need you all on a mission."

"A mission sir?" new Rimmer was standing stiffly to attention.

A brainwave, "I need you to go back down to that planet and take some soil samples."

"And that's going to take all three of us?" Lister had a feeling the captain was taking the piss.

"Yes - three people. Dismissed." Hollister swung his chair round so he had his back to Rimmer, Rimmer and Lister. He waited for them to say something. No-one did.

He turned back to see why - they had gone.

"Soil samples?" Lister shook his head," Why does he want soil samples?"

"I don't think he does - he just wanted to gawp," Old Rimmer said. Perception was one of the many things he'd learned since he became Ace.

"He gave us an order - we have to obey," new Rimmer said officiously and pushed in front of them.

Old Rimmer and Lister looked at one another. Lister shrugged.

"Is that really how I used to be?" Old Rimmer frowned.

"He's just a bit tense - a lot's happened..." Lister was desperately trying to justify the situation. It wasn't easy.

Old Rimmer smirked.

"I saw that," Lister grinned.

New Rimmer had walked around the corner, out of sight. He paused as the other two talked. They were laughing about him -behind his back. Again. Why had he let himself get into this situation? Still there was no going back now - everyone knew what had happened between him and Lister.

"But why on Io did you start something with him Lister?" Old Rimmer whispered." Have you always felt like that about me?"

Lister looked at him gravely and bit his lip. He carried on walking. New Rimmer heard them coming and pretended he had turned back to find them both.

"Ah - there you are - thought I'd lost you," He said, trying to force a smile.

They set off for the planet straight away. Ace piloted the craft while Lister and Rimmer sat in the passenger seats - maintaining a stony silence.

Ordinarily the pair would have been under armed guard - but Hollister had committed them to Ace's care - partly to see what they'd do and partly because he was too embarrassed to involve anyone else in this non-plan.

"So how long have you been together?" Old Rimmer couldn't stop himself. Besides they were bothering him. Lister was usually impossible to shut up. And that Rimmer - why was he such a drag? He was sure he'd never been like that when he was him - or whatever.

Lister broke his silence. Briefly. "About a day and a half."

"What? This is new then - it's just happened?" Maybe he could still save Lister from his stupid mistake.

Lister wasn't going to keep it all in any longer - he didn't have anything to lose - not really. Well he could lose Rimmer, but the way he was acting that might not be so bad.

"Rimmer I love you - I have for years but I didn't realise it."

Both Rimmers stared at Lister.

"Which Rimmer are you talking to?" Old Rimmer said quietly. New Rimmer glared sullenly.

"Both," Lister said almost hysterically. He buried his face in his hands.

New Rimmer got up from his seat and left the room.

"The trouble is you're the dream - he's the reality," Lister sobbed.

"Lister - I'm a dream? Are you mad - this is me - you know me. Smeghead Rimmer. You know, cowardly, snivelling Rimmer. You once called me "queen of panic". I'm not a superhero or anything - you're confusing me with some other Ace."

Lister laughed.

"We've been through so much together - and me and him..." he gestured to the back room where new Rimmer had gone.

"Maybe you should go to him Dave," Rimmer said gently. Lister nodded and followed new Rimmer.

Ace shook his head. Noble sacrifice - something else he'd learned.

"I've been a fool," Lister said when he located Rimmer.

"Yes you have." Rimmer was damned if he was going to forgive Lister without a lot more apology than that.

"I've hurt you and I'm sorry. It's just - you've got to realise - I love you because of all I went through with him."

"What do you mean?"

"I had to warm to Rimmer. It took a long time and I didn't realise how much I cared until he'd gone. But then I... I met you - I didn't need to warm to you - I already knew so much. And I was so relieved to have you back."

"What about him - what's going to happen now he's here?"

"Nothing - why would I want a copy when I've got the original?"

He hugged Rimmer.

Old Rimmer heard the conversation. He was a bit hurt, but how could he object?

Although when he thought about it the new Rimmer , a clone, was just as much a copy as he, a hologram, was. Maybe Lister was just thinking on his feet. Maybe Lister loved them both equally. He shook his head. /What do you know - I'm jealous. // He looked at Lister and Rimmer as they made up.

They did - they loved each other. Why had he never realised it before - he could have had love with Lister, been in love with Lister - escaped from the despair and loneliness years ago. Too late now.

Ah well - that Rimmer was a lucky man.

The end - possibly

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