"What? What is it, you smeg-brained gimp? Can't you see I'm busy?"
He pulled his book up to cover his eyes pointedly as he lay on his bunk, ignoring (with effort) the golf club that Lister had been swinging into his leg from the top bunk to get his attention.
"Pretending to read Advanced Esperanto again is not busy,"
"I am not pretending!" He snapped.
"Rimmer, the only thing you know how to say in Esperanto is 'Can I have a boiled egg?', and that's only because you thought it meant 'Where are the toilets?'. You're hardly at advanced level, man,"
He slammed his book shut, and made a face like he'd just bitten a remarkably sharp lemon.
"Well, at least I'm not wasting my evening drinking warm lager and reading- what are you reading? Slobbing: A Masterclass? How To Annoy Your Bunkmate in Four Words Or Less? Poor Hygiene 101?"
"Actually, that's what I wanted to tell you about. It's your old diary,"
Rimmer sprang up from his bunk, incredulous.
"Alright, don't get your knickers in a twist," Lister said, putting his hands up defensively, "It's not like it's your current diary or anything. I don't even know who half these people are,"
"No, it's worse!" Rimmer blustered, "You already know what I do currently- we're trapped in deep space, on the same smegging ship, with only two people besides us; my daily routines are hardly classified information,"
Lister sipped his lager idly.
"But you don't write your day to day activities in your current diary," Rimmer looked as though steam was about to come pouring out of his ears, "It's all smeg about your future plans to be an officer, then a lieutenant, then a captain. I mean, a captain of what? Humanity's been wiped out for three million years, what are you going to do, captain a crew of space weevils?"
"I can't believe you! I can't believe you would read not just one, but two of my diaries! My most private, innermost thoughts and reflections, and you skim through at your leisure like it's a copy of Guitar Weekly," He sat down at the table heavily.
"Don't be stupid, Rimmer," He scratched his nose, "I've read all your diaries, not just two,"
Bastard, Rimmer thought. Well, atleast he hasn't figured out the code I wrote them in. Ten points to Rimsy.
"Good job on the code in those earlier ones. Writing a little 'f' in brackets instead of saying you fancy someone, complex stuff man. You should work for GCHQ or something. Could have the next Turing on our hands," Lister was grinning mischievously, knowing he'd won.
"Shut up, you gimboid," said Rimmer irritably.
"The only thing I didn't get were the initials. Like, who's E.P.? You clearly fancied her, but I don't remember you ever mentioning anyone with those initials,"
E.P., Rimmer thought.
E.P. stood for Elliot Parker, a boy in the year above him at school. He was a tall, lean redhead who Rimmer often saw working in the library while he was cowering from bullies between the bookshelves. In Rimmer's eyes, Elliot was perfect; he was editor of the school newspaper; he was exceptionally bright; he was popular among his peers; he was fantastically good-looking.
In short, he was everything Rimmer wasn't.
Under ordinary circumstances, he would have hated the bastard, but he found that he could never quite bring himself to. Maybe it was that he smiled at him, which the others never did. Or maybe he just had a thing for gingers, who could say.
Arnold Judas Rimmer had never told a single other soul about this. It was his dirty little secret, kept locked firmly in his wankbank- and his school diaries. Rimmers weren't gay. His father had made sure of that, letting them all know quite plainly that he didn't tolerate 'those sorts'.
"Perhaps if they spent less time poncing about in feather boas and kissing eachother, and more time devising military strategy, they wouldn't be so... queer. After all, who ever heard of a gay general?" He would laugh afterwards, and so his sons would have to too. Mr Rimmer believed discipline, discipline, discipline was the way to keep his sons on the straight (literally) and narrow, so that was how he ran his household. Morning exercises, evening tests and a prestigious boarding school, accompanied by a healthy amount of boisterous horseplay and pranks- particularly on Arnold, whom he considered the weakest, and the most in need of a good, old fashioned beating. Mrs Rimmer wouldn't let him do it (much) so he encouraged the other boys to do their bit.
Not that it made a jot of difference. Despite his father's best efforts, Arnold was gayer than a same-sex spring wedding on the Isle of Lesbos, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Elliot Parker may not have been the first object of his affections, but he was the first Rimmer would never forget.
But luckily Lister hadn't got to that part yet.
"Give it here, you thieving little sod!"
Rimmer swung up the ladder and lunged for the diary Lister held at arms length, smirking, but tripped on a ladder rung, and grabbed the first thing he saw to hold on to, which just so happened to be Lister. Both were pulled unyieldingly back by gravity, falling past the ladder and the bottom bunk to rest in an ungainly heap on the floor. Neither moved, catching their breath. Rimmer was entirely trapped by Lister's bodyweight, and felt himself flushing red at their closeness, and the feeling and warmth of another person ontop of him. Even if it was Dave smegging Lister.
"Smeg, man," Lister wheezed, clearly winded, "What was that for?"
Rimmer mumbled something about it not being on purpose, while avoiding looking at the man pressing down on his body.
"Oh, sorry," said Lister, clocking Rimmer's discomfort and clambering up to stand, a little sorry to end the closeness. He had missed physical human contact, even if it was Rimmer.
"You landed on my arm, you gimboid," said Rimmer, desperately trying to quell his blushing, and realising in horror that he had a semi. "Right, I'm going for a shower. It might get the smell of vindaloo off me." He practically ran, angling his crotch as much away from Lister as he could without looking suspicious.
Lister thought he was acting very suspiciously, but shrugged it off as just another of his bunkmate's neuroses, and went off to find Kryten to check his ankle.
"Looks like a sprain to me, sir. Not to worry, plenty of rest and ice will have it right as rain in no time."
The medi-bay looked the same as it always did; clean, efficient and cigarette-free, much to Lister's annoyance.
"Thanks, Krytes. Hey, I was going to ask- do you think Rimmer's been acting, I don't know, weird lately?"
"No more so than usual, sir," Kryten replied, "Although, I suppose that would depend on your definition of 'weird'. Is the average adult male filled with paralysing cowardice and an ego that's bigger than Saturn's third largest moon? I would think not, sir, and yet Mr Rimmer manages it with such ease! I would be impressed, but I haven't quite got the hang of that emotion yet, so I'll settle for 'serene'."
He pulled a 'serene' face. It looked painful.
"Er, right. I think we'll have to work on that one,"
"Of course, Sir. Now, we'd better get you resting up with some ice."
Rimmer spent a long time in the shower. He let the water run its pure, crystalline tendrils over his body, trying to wash away the memories and the sin of lifetimes ago. He was three million years into the future, but to him it seemed Elliot Parker would never die, sitting like a ghost in the corner of his eye, or when he walked past a mirror too fast, half catching a glimpse of red hair, or black school blazer. The memory had been playing over in his mind ever since his moment of weakness with Lister. He wasn't interested in Lister, though. He couldn't be. He was just... he'd just been in space too long. That was all.
It wasn't like with Elliot. It wouldn't be.
He could hardly believe it when he'd finally spoken to him, spoken like he was a person, and not just some minor irritation, or obstacle. He'd asked what he was writing. He'd complimented his handwriting. He'd offered to help.
And that, Rimmer supposed, was where it all went down hill.
He'd gone up to Elliot's room with him, alone- fifth formers only had to share with one other person, and Andrew 'smug bastard' Jamison was out. Elliot had confided in him that Andrew had snuck out to meet his girlfriend.
He'd said that Arnold wasn't to tell anyone, that it was a secret, but he'd caught Andrew with his girlfriend a little while ago, on this very bed. They hadn't seen him, but he'd watched as he'd unbuttoned her trousers-
and he'd put his hand below her belt-
and he'd started to touch her-
"-just like this,"
"-she unbuttoned his trousers, and put her hand- yes, just there- just like that- and then-"
The door slammed open, and the story died on his lips, a moment of panic throwing his eyes wide, before fading, and hardening his mouth into a tight, angry line.
"Don't touch me, you faggot!" He leaped up as though burned. "Sir, he was trying to- to-"
"Rimmer!" The schoolmaster needed no excuses- he already hated the weasel that passed for the youngest Rimmer boy. "My office. Now!"
He'd protested, but to no avail. Elliot Parker wasn't queer. Don't be insolent, Rimmer, or you'll only make things worse for yourself. The message was clear; queerness was the crime, and he'd have to face the punishment. It was what he deserved.
The beating his father had given him had left no physical scars, but he could still feel the cold, sharp metal of his belt when he closed his eyes and thought back. He scrubbed his body with the flannel, determined to rid himself of the lashings, of Elliot's hands, of Lister's body pressed against his...
But to no avail.
He cringed at the thought of Lister reading that in his diary, seeing how weak he'd been, and cowardly. How he had taken his father's wrath lying like a doormat. How he still wrote fondly of 'E.P' from time to time. How unsure he's felt about the whole affair.
And, most importantly, he didn't want Lister to figure out his little gay secret.
He had to get that smegging diary back.