Author's Notes: Takes place before Only the Good. I own nothing. Thank you for reading. Even more thanks for reviewing. Triple-thanks for favoritinginginging... Blabber, blabber, blab, blab, diddly-do, diddly-do, diddly-squat.
The door to the G-Block Top Level Prison Cell whirred and clanked as it slid open. It had been a long day on another death-defying Canary mission, and Lister and Rimmer were exhausted and feeling more or less dead to the universe. They stumbled into their cell, flanked by a guard, who gave them some encouraging shoves into their quarters.
"Alright, you two," he said. "Here you are, safe and sound."
"Thanks, Jives," Lister mumbled, leaning against his bunk for support.
"Supper should be on in about an hour. Just take a load off," the guard continued, and with that, he left the cell, closing the door behind him and leaving their tower.
Rimmer collapsed into his chair and put his elbows down on the table. "Okay, let's recap so we can file the report," he mumbled into his hands.
Lister sighed and sat down on the bottom bunk as he began to remove his Canary garb. "Do we have to do that now?" he moaned.
"Why would we put that off?"
"Well for a start, we just finished fleeing in terror from that giant tentacle-armed hell beast that had all the charm of a garbage disposal. Then afterwards we rode in that cramped shuttle next to Baxter's smelly pits."
Rimmer contemplated for all of two seconds. "Good point. We'll do it later," he said without looking up.
Getting his gloves and boots off, Lister undid the yellow vest and tossed it lamely at the closet before he just gave up on doing anything strenuous and climbed up and slithered into his bunk.
"You know, when we became eligible for parole, I thought things would finally get better for us," Lister said, giving out a world-weary sigh.
"Better?" Rimmer asked scornfully. "Lister, we're three million years from what we believe might have civilization, we're locked in prison, Captain Hollister probably has a vendetta against us, Ackerman is watching us like a hawk, we have uncomfortable beds, we have no women and the toilet in this room stays greasy even after we've spray-cleaned it. Going on parole just means can move more throughout Satan's Holiday Clothes Hamper."
Lister shook his head in disgust. "I'm telling you, man, it wasn't like this when the crew was dead."
Rimmer shot a glare at him. "Oh thanks a smegging bunch," he snapped.
Lister backpedaled quickly. "No, no, not like that, man. I mean, I had so much freedom! I had run of the ship! All the curries I wanted. I didn't need to worry about responsibilities. I didn't need to worry about those stupid credits. I was going out for rounds in Starbug and Blue Midget. I was living for a change!"
"Now I'm stuck in a prison cell and I have to wait till Thursdays before I'm allowed to have curries."
"Hmmm, yes. And they never think to provide the fire extinguishers for your tongue."
Lister rolled over in his bunk in annoyance.
Rimmer got up and began to remove his garb. "I'm going to use the shower. You don't mind, do you?"
"Nah, go ahead, man."
Rimmer began to remove his Canary Combats and began to strip down to his undershirt and boxers (he'd switched after Kryten pointed out how dorky his Y-Fronts were). He headed for the small shower in the corner next to the bunks and pulled the curtain around himself, and once concealed, he began to remove his shirt and boxers.
Just then, the little watch on Lister's wrist bleeped, making him look up in surprise. "That's Holly. He must want something."
"Typical," Rimmer muttered. "Always when I'm about to get in the shower."
Lister aimed the watch at the in-room screen.
Holly's gormless visage appeared on the screen.
"What's up, Hol?" Lister asked.
"Just checking in. How was the mission?"
"Oh it was hell…"
"Well, at first it looked like it was going to go alright," Rimmer admitted. "Then we started to get into the shuttle and it all went to hell."
"We had to track down this gigantic beast," Lister said. "You know how I once said that I wished that we'd actually start finding things on these little expeditions?"
"Yeah?" Holly asked.
"I put a hex on the Canaries."
Rimmer started his shower and felt the lukewarm water pour on him. "What do you suppose the Canaries were used for before all this three million years smeg happened? There can't have been that much going on. We never left the Solar System."
"Give them false hope of possibly murdering something, maybe," Lister muttered.
"Best guess is that they just came up with the Canaries after they found out we were in deep space," Holly supplied. "It was the best way to handle a situation like this, especially since we've no dogs or sheep onboard."
Lister nodded slightly.
Rimmer lathered up with soap and the cheap motel shampoo and began to scrub.
"How's the water today?" Lister asked, picking up a magazine.
"It's not bad. My spine's not trying to escape the chill," Rimmer replied, rinsing a bunch of soap off his face.
"Brutal. Anything else you wanted to mention, Hol?"
"Eh, nothing going on, really," Holly said. "I've been going through everything in the Red Dwarf computer banks. No hot tips so far."
"Wish we could say so," Rimmer mumbled.
"Nothing juicy this week?" Lister sighed.
"Not really. Petersen, Selby and Chen are still holding auditions for their replacement drunken bar-mate, Toddhunter gave a presentation for the Flight Crew, Petrovitch is taking his exams, one of the chefs asked out Kochanski, a new cache of Doctor Who videos just turned up – "
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Lister yelled. "What are you talking about?! Are you serious?"
"Yeah, the ones that had that Matt Smith bloke. He was the definitive Doctor, I tell you."
"Pah!" Rimmer snorted, turning the shower off. "Colin Baker had promise, I tell you. Those idiots at the BBC fired him."
"No, no, no! Someone asked out Kochanski?!" Lister exclaimed.
"Yeah, some bloke in the kitchens. One of the chefs, I think. What's his name…?"
"That's the smegger!"
"He asked Kochanski out?"
"He asked her out, Dave."
"He asked Kochanski out?!"
"He asked her out, Dave."
"He asked Kochanski out?!"
"He asked her out, Dave, he asked her out," Holly said, starting to get annoyed.
"He asked Kochanski out?!"
"Yes, he asked her out, Dave!"
"He asked Kochanski out?!"
"Gordon Bennett… YES, DAVE, HE ASKED HER OUT!"
Lister stared for a long few moments.
Rimmer had by now gotten out his bathrobe (smuggled to him by Bob) and was just putting it on after watching the exchange with some annoyance. He glanced at Lister as he pulled the shower curtain back.
"Lister…?" he ventured.
Lister stared at him for a long throbbing moment, looking very hurt.
"…He asked her out?!"
"YES!" Holly shouted.
Lister began to look around the room as he tried to figure this out.
"Why would she do that?" he wondered.
Rimmer sighed to himself and took a seat at the table. "Why wouldn't she?" he asked.
"Well, she's got that Hologram Dave in her dimension. Her oh-so-perfect Dave who can do anything and everything better than I can!"
"How's long has it been since she last saw him?"
"Oh, I dunno, probably a bit over a year now."
"Well, she's probably over him by now."
"No, no, she can't be over him! She just can't be!"
"If she gets over him, what chance do I have with her?!"
Rimmer rolled his eyes.
"You're a romantic fool, Lister. You think you can't survive without the love of a woman. I've gone more than thirty years without a woman, and look how I turned out!"
Lister stared at Rimmer. "You're using that as an example?"
"What's wrong with me?"
"Rimmer, you were withdrawn, grumpy, lonely, neurotic and a complete and total smeghead!"
Rimmer scowled and folded his arms, looking away and towards the fourth wall of the cell before he considered and looked back.
"'Were'?" he asked.
"Well, thanks to my guidance and perseverance, you've become a more exceptional member of society."
Rimmer snorted. "Your guidance?! You're the one who told me to put the laxatives in Ackerman's tea!"
"Yeah, that was brilliant! Man, that bloke can run!" Lister said, grinning like a child.
"I was punished by having to clean the prison mess hall with a pair of tweezers!"
"I know, great, right?"
Rimmer sighed heavily and looked away.
Moments later, a small grin tugged at the corner of his mouth.
"He looked like a bald-headed gazelle," he said fondly.
Lister nodded before sighing himself. "Man, I just don't get it… What's Tim got that I haven't? If anything, I'm more realistic than him! I'm the real deal! I don't hide behind some false mask! Have you seen Tim before?"
"He hangs out in the Officer's Club smoking those black cigarettes. He's a total phony," Rimmer said, picking up a towel and drying his hair.
"Exactly what I said! I don't get why Kriss wants to go back to him. He dumped her for another woman, and he only went back to her before because he lost his little fling, and she went crawling back, dumping me in the process."
Rimmer tossed the towel aside and opened a locker, pulling out his usual purple prison jumpsuit.
"So why do you want to go back with someone so emotionally unstable?" he asked. "Clearly she's not fit for a relationship."
"She is so! And I couldn't help it anyway. I'm crazy about her. Have you seen her smile?"
Rimmer looked at him strangely as he ducked behind the shower curtain again.
"I'm asking you, man, have you seen her smile?"
"Sure I have."
"Haven't you seen how wonderful it is?"
Rimmer tried to picture Kochanski smiling. If he was honest with himself, every time Kochanski had smiled in his presence, it looked like she was having a stroke. He wasn't sure if that was his own personal aura or if it was how she always looked. Then he tried picturing it through Lister's Love Goggles, but it only had the same affect.
For simplicity's sake, he simply looked at Lister and said, "No. Tell me."
"You know how when you play a game of Pinball and win the bonus game?"
He didn't, but again, for simplicity's sake, he said, "Yes."
"You know how the game just lights up with flashing lights and makes those wonderful noises?"
"It reminds me of that."
"Her smile reminds of a Pinball Machine," Rimmer stated.
"A bit, yeah…"
Rimmer pondered as he pulled open the shower curtain, revealing him to be in his jumpsuit again.
"Hmm, interesting," he said, crossing to his bunk to put his boots on.
"I just can't believe this is happening…," Lister sighed.
"Hey, man anytime you need to talk, just ask," Holly said sympathetically. "We'll pop some popcorn, get a tub of ice cream and watch Madison County together."
Lister rolled his eyes. "Cheers, Hol," he muttered, pressing the stud on the watch and deactivating the screen.
"What're you going to do?" Rimmer asked.
Lister sighed and snuggled up to his smelly pillow on his bunk. "I'm gonna sleep, and then when I wake up, I'll be able to address the situation with a clear head."
"See you in about a week then," Rimmer sighed, pulling out a book.
Lister didn't reply and just rolled over and dozed off.
The next day, Lister and Rimmer entered the Canary canteen, got their meals from the rude dispenser, and carried on towards a table where Kryten and the Cat were already sitting. The Cat had his meal, and Kryten was dutifully scrubbing the tabletop with some spray and a rag.
Lister and Rimmer sat across from them.
"Buddies!" the Cat said cheerfully. "Check it out! They've got half-decent soup today!"
"We noticed," Rimmer replied. "No insectoid body parts floating around today."
"And no mold on the crackers!"
Lister leaned across to Kryten. "Kryten, have you heard about Kochanski?"
"Yes, sir, I believe it to be genetic, personally," Kryten replied, not looking up from his cleaning.
Rimmer bit back a snicker.
"No, I mean about Tim asking her out?"
Kryten looked up, quite surprised. "I'm sorry, sir, I had no idea! But then again, Miss Kochanski's never been one to share her most personal details with me."
"She's your roommate!"
"But she's a very private person, sir. I must respect her boundaries. If I were to go barging in on her private life all the time, sir, I'd be forced to communicate through a game of charades!"
Lister sighed to himself. "Where is she now?"
"She said she would be on her way, sir. Should be any minute now."
"I can't believe this is happening. It's like before the accident all over again."
"Oh buck up, Listy," Rimmer said between spoonfuls of soup. "There's every possibility that nothing will come of a single date."
"You think so?"
"Well, I suppose there's always the off-chance that Tim is going to ooze his charm all over her like maple syrup, and then maple syrup will ooze all over her like his charm, and then…"
"Smeg off, Rimmer," Lister groaned.
Rimmer shrugged and resumed his lunch.
"You thinking negative bud," the Cat said. "You're thinking loser. You need to look on the bright side! Maybe some good can come of this whole Bud Babe dating somebody else thing!"
"What good could their possibly be?!"
"Well, one less person to buy a gift for Christmas!"
Lister glared at him.
Just then, Kochanski entered the canteen with her tray in hand. She took a seat next Rimmer, clattering her tray on the table.
"Hello, boys, how's the soup?" she asked noncommittally.
"Clean," the Cat replied.
Kochanski spooned a little into her mouth, and once convinced she hadn't just conceived small pox, she continued to eat it. Then she felt something strange tingling in the back of her mind.
Everyone was looking at her expectantly.
"…What?" she asked, looking at them.
"How was it?" Lister asked.
"How was what?"
Kochanski slammed her spoon down in sudden anger. "Holly told you, didn't he?" she snapped.
"What, you were gonna hide this from us?!"
"What business is it of yours if I go on a date?"
"Krissie, for smeg's sake, haven't you got a boyfriend in your dimension?"
"Dave, in case you haven't noticed, I've been trapped in your crappy dimension for a long time now. I should think it was time to give up on that, don't you?"
"So how was it?" the Cat asked suddenly, interrupting them.
Kochanski gave Lister one more glare before addressing Cat. "It was nice. He took me up to the observatory. We watched the stars and planets, we talked for awhile, we had a drink, and then he walked me back to the lift."
There was a silence as everyone continued to watch her.
"And…?" the Cat asked eagerly.
The Cat sighed, exasperated. "How was the sex?" he asked bluntly.
Kochanski stared at him incredulously. "We didn't have sex!" she nearly yelled.
"It was the first date!"
"First date?" Lister butted in. "So you plan to go on a second date?"
"Maybe, yes," Kochanski snapped. "And then maybe a third, and then, who knows, perhaps a fourth!"
Needless to say, Rimmer was beginning to feel awkward sitting between the pair.
"You're such a hypocrite! You always used to whinge about how wonderful your Dave was, driving us spare, and now you just toss him aside for that poncy chef bloke!"
"Oh get over yourself!"
"This isn't about my Dave, it's about you!"
"What're you talking about?!"
"I… I am…not!" Lister said pathetically.
"You are! You're pathetic!"
"Kriss, I'm just trying to –"
"You can't stand the idea of me seeing anyone, isn't that right?"
"You're not listening to me!"
"You don't own me, you know! I'm entitled to my own life!"
"When did I say you weren't?"
"God, you're such a pig-headed bastard! Go to hell!"
And she stormed out of the canteen, stomping her feet loudly as she left.
There was a long silence as Lister continued to stare over at the empty chair she'd been sitting in.
Rimmer, Cat and Kryten sat awkwardly, trying not to look directly at him.
Several other prisoners had been watching the exchange from a distance before shrugging and getting back to their meals.
Finally, Lister found his voice cowering under his lungs and managed to force it out, making it sound all scratchy.
"What the hell just happened?" he asked.
"Women…," Rimmer sighed, going back to his soup.
"Yeah," the Cat agreed. "I tell you, you get one emotion started up, and all of a sudden, twelve of 'em come in out've nowhere!"
Lister sighed sadly and held his head in hands.
The Cat then seemed to regret his statement and reached forward across the table and put a hand on Lister's.
"Hey bud…," he said quietly.
"…Do you think she'd mind if I took her soup?"
"Nah, go ahead, man."
And the Cat pulled the tray across to himself and began to lap it up with his tongue.
Lister exhaled his misery through his teeth and continued to stare into the depths of his own soup.
"Sir, don't worry," Kryten said assuringly. "I'm sure Miss Kochanski will see the error of her ways, and will realize that you were just looking out for her."
"Have you met her?" Lister asked as his head slowly leveled with Kryten's. "Remember when I caught the Epideme Virus?"
"What's the Epideme Virus?" Rimmer asked without looking up from his soup.
"It was an intelligent virus that was created in rival to the nicotine patch. Unfortunately, it consumed its host and zombified the victim to transfer to another victim, in this case, Mr Lister."
"Sounds awful," Rimmer commented.
"Kochanski told me I was being a baby and to get over it!"
"Sir, she stopped being condescending after she realized the severity of the situation."
"Kryten, I had just been tongue-hockeyed by a zombie about as attractive as Bonnie Parker after she'd been shot down!"
"Maybe she was jealous and was just patronizing you!" the Cat suggested.
Lister, frustrated, began to spoon his soup.
"So what happened with the Epideme Virus?" Rimmer asked.
"Well, the virus was intelligent, so we are actually able to communicate with it. We attempted to drive it off into one of Mr Lister's arms in order to contain it, and then cut off the arm. Unfortunately, some of the virus found its way back. In the end, it was Miss Kochanski who was able to save him by killing him and then transferring the virus to a decoy arm."
Rimmer stared at him, and then at Lister, who wasn't paying attention anymore.
"So how'd he get the arm back?" he asked.
"That's where my old nanobots came into play," Kryten replied. "We found out that they had stolen Red Dwarf and turned it into a planetoid, and they gave Mr Lister a new arm. You should already know the rest. That Epideme Virus was what led to your very resurrection, Mr Rimmer."
"Yeah, the start everything going to hell," the Cat muttered.
Rimmer scowled at him before starting in on his soup again.
That evening, Lister stood outside the cell and stood at the top of G Tower, leaning against the gantry and looking across to the main part of the ship a distance away. Sixty feet across a two hundred foot gap was all that prevented him from crossing to safety. He stared down at the other jail blocks rotating beneath him. He wasn't even sure what the floor looked like down there. There was probably a lot of gum.
He was thankful they had been given the top cell in the tower. That meant they didn't have to worry about some idiot from the top floor spitting tobacco or something worse from above and having it land on his head while he was out here. It would've been like trying to protect your car from pigeons.
Lister had found a slight charm in the setup around here. It was a bit like a stinking rotating rusty condo. Sure, it was cramped inside, but hey, at least they had a balcony.
The cell door opened and Rimmer walked outside and joined him.
"So, how're you coping?" he asked, leaning against the railing.
"Coping with the fact that the woman of my dreams is angry with me and going out with another bloke?" Lister asked flatly.
Rimmer paused to think. "Yeah," he said at last.
"I haven't jumped yet."
They stood in silence for awhile.
"Why does Tim need to go out with her again? He dumped her. He treats her like trash. I'd have thought that with her in the Tank, he'd have easily moved on."
Rimmer shrugged. "Maybe whatever new fling he's got isn't putting out right now. It's like with oil companies. Once one area dries up, you move on, drive out the current country holding the oil and drill the hell out of it."
Lister rubbed the bridge of his nose in despair. "Smeg…," he muttered. "Kriss is gonna get herself hurt again. I just know it…"
"So what're you going to do?"
Lister contemplated before he headed back into the cell, with Rimmer trailing behind him.
Once inside, he pressed the stud on his wristwatch and Holly's visage appeared on the screen.
"Alright, dudes?" he asked. "What's the haps?"
Rimmer rolled his eyes and looked away.
"Hol, I need you to do a bit of snooping through the computer banks again," Lister said. "I need some info on what Tim's been up to since we've been in the Tank. Can you do that?"
Holly nodded. "I'll search his profile. I'll drain him dry. No clue shall escape my highly-trained eye."
"Brutal. Get going."
Holly's face sagged slightly. "Oh, you wanted that done now? I was in the middle of Crime Watch."
"Just go," Lister sighed, pressing the stud on his watch again.
"Hope you're comfy, because we're going to be waiting awhile," Rimmer sighed, sitting down in his chair.
Lister nodded. "Draughts?" he asked, motioning towards the board.
"Sure, break 'em out."
That evening, Kryten was doing a bit of tidying around the cell. He'd just received a new load of bed sheets from the ship's laundry and was to iron and fold it all, all in line with his parole requirements.
Miss Kochanski wasn't back yet, but his anxiety drive hadn't fully activated yet. She was only a few minutes late, and she had had an argument with Mr Lister. Maybe things would perk up once she got back.
But then he heard laughter. His audio receivers were picking up laughter. He enhanced their quality and listened.
He recognized a woman's laughter: Miss Kochanski.
The other he didn't recognize. It was a man's voice.
Kryten was momentarily confused before his eyes widened in realization.
Miss Kochanski had brought her date home!
Surely she knew that Kryten would be there, right?
The sound of the platform from the lift connecting with their balcony sounded.
Realizing he had to look inconspicuous, he immediately became very engrossed in his ironing. He didn't even look up. He began stamping the iron into the sheets like he was stamping his name onto various documents.
Just pretend you're a bureaucrat, he thought to himself.
He heard the footsteps on the metal floor outside, and then the door to the cell slid open. He still didn't look up as they entered.
The laughter ceased and the footsteps halted.
"Oh, Kryten, you're here," Kochanski said, sounding rather deflated.
Kryten couldn't help but feel annoyed at that tone. Of course he was here. He lived here!
"Indeed, ma'am," he said curtly. "Just working on my parole duties."
"It's alright, Kriss, I'd like to meet the robot," the male voice said.
Kryten looked up to see Tim.
Tim was everything that he'd heard about: impossibly handsome, oozing charm, and from the looks of him, he was probably a great lover.
Mr Lister didn't stand a chance.
Tim extended a hand out to Kryten. "Hello, I'm Tim," he said in a very manly voice that almost made Kryten's audio receptors melt.
"How do you do, sir," Kryten replied, setting the iron down and shaking his hand. "My name is Kryten."
"Yes, Kriss has told me a lot about you. She says you're something of a science expert."
Kryten was surprised by what sounded like was a compliment that had come from Miss Kochanski. He glanced in her direction, but she was glaring daggers at him due to her severe nookie-shortage.
"Well, erm, yes sir, I do have a basic knowledge of many things mechanical and scientific," he said modestly.
"That's very impressive, Kryten," Tim said pleasantly. "You know, I'm actually taking a few mechanics classes. Maybe we can compare notes sometime."
"Oh, sir, that'd be very interesting. I may very well take you up on that."
"Excellent. I'll see you later. Bye, Krissie," he said, leaning in and kissing her cheek.
Kryten's brief liking of this man suddenly banked to the left.
That's Mr Lister's name for her.
Tim left the cell and departed.
Kochanski watched him go, and then turned to scowl at Kryten. "Look what you've done!" she shouted.
Kryten looked around the room in the utmost confusion, momentarily thinking he'd made a mistake in his laundry, but nothing was out of line.
"Ma'am?" he asked, confused.
"How could you do that?!"
"I'm afraid I don't follow you, ma'am."
"I was going to sleep with him, you metal twit!"
Kryten's CPU registered the statement, and it nearly crashed his systems.
"Ma'am, I… I don't… I didn't mean to… I was only… I… I-I-I… sorry."
"Well, you should be," she snapped, stomping past towards her bunk and removing her boots.
"But ma'am, I could've simply gone offline. I have a few files that need deleting. I could've given you at least twenty minutes."
Kochanski stopped struggling with her second boot and put her face in her hands. She was quiet for awhile before she finally managed to look around the cell again.
"I know, I know, I'm sorry, Kryten," she said quietly. "It's just…I'm back with Tim again, and I really want it to work this time."
"You're sure about that, ma'am?"
"Yes, of course I am. Why?"
"Well, it's just that nearly all of last year, all we ever seemed to hear about from you was 'your Mr Lister'."
Kochanski was silent.
"Well, we also had to put up with your constant whining, but still…"
"My point, ma'am, is that it just seems a tad off for you to go back to Mr Tim after all that dedication you seemed to be pouring into your Mr Lister."
"Kryten, I'm stuck here. I'm trying to live with it. I'm doing that by going out with Tim."
"But what about Mr Lister? This Mr Lister?"
Kochanski looked disgusted. "He's a bastard," she said, as if it were obvious.
"Ma'am, he'd transverse the entire universe for you. He's had it in his head for the past few years that he'll win you back, even before you were trapped here with us."
"See? He's delusional. That doesn't make for a good relationship!" And she ripped off her other boot and tossed it aside.
"Oh, ma'am, you're just making excuses for your own despicable actions!"
"Despicable actions?" Kochanski repeated.
"Yes! Not only are you tormenting Mr Lister, but you are clearly only using Mr Tim for nookie-nookie purposes!"
Kochanski's mouth dropped open, and while she was struggling to pull it back up again, Kryten continued.
"You've gone so long without performing the horizontal tango that you've decided to grab the first male willing to put out and have him grind your brains out!"
Kochanski considered slapping Kryten, but first off, his head is made of metal, and second, his angular features might hurt her hand. So instead, she picked up a wrench and clanged him over the head with it, making the poor mech stumble backwards in dazed surprise. Shooting him one last angry glare, she climbed up into her bunk and rolled over, not looking at him.
Kryten regained his senses and managed to stumble his way back towards the ironing board, where he resumed his duties.
"Well, I'm glad we had this talk, ma'am. I think we've made some progress," he said, and he went back to work.