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Rien Avant Dormir
By Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimers: Red Dwarf is not mine. It belongs to Grant Naylor productions and the BBC. I only own the story.

AN: My first RD fic. I'm so happy! Set sometime roundabout season seven. Post-Blue. It's short. It's about Lister. Enjoy.

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Face planted firmly in pillows, buried beneath a mound of blankets, and still he couldn't sleep. It was almost like it had been right before Kryten had trapped them all in the ventilation system. He'd hated that.

David Lister punched a nearby wall in frustration, then yelped and rubbed his stinging hand.

If only the 'bug weren't so cramped, if only Kochanski liked him, if only Kryten hadn't become completely jealous, if only Cat had a brain, if only...

He swung his legs out of the bed, tossing the covers to a heap on the floor. It didn't matter, there was no one to complain about it anymore.

Nothing really did, anyway.

He sprang to his feet and grabbed the mass of linens, tossing them back onto the bed. Then he cleaned up last night's curry and drank the rest of the lager. Finally he collapsed with a sigh into the uncomfortable chair at the small table in the middle of the room. The empty room.

It felt so bleak, so lonely...even if it was smaller than any accomodations he had before. Anyone could wander in at any time, as per usual with the crew, except...

"Smeg." he muttered aloud, dropping his head into his hands.

He knew, he knew what was the matter with him. That dream he'd had... His pigtails went flying as he shook his head violently.

Kris had made him feel better, Kryten had made him feel nauseous, but that was nothing.

Everything was nothing now. Lister nearly laughed. If anyone had ever told him...

It was a constant ache in the back of his mind, the phantom that haunted his restless dreams. Intangible, just as he had been for so very long.

Smeg.

There was nothing wrong with missing him. The only wrongness was in his not being there. Like this, he had no one with whom to argue, no one to talk to for hours on end about everything, no one to complain to, no one who could say something and just make him laugh.

He even missed the Risk stories.

It made sense, he supposed, after so long. One had become part of the other, able to pick up on moods instantly, able to read a thought in a glance.

Oh hell.

Holly had brought Rimmer back to keep him sane. Unbelievable, but somehow, some strange and abnormal way, they had become as vital to one another as breathing. Well, in his case, not Rimmer's.

At times like these, he wondered if he should have begged him not to leave, told him to forget about destiny and just stay where he belonged. But how could he not let him go? He had changed so much - enough to become Ace! The universe needed a protector... but David Lister needed Arnold Rimmer.

He felt so selfish.

They had a good... decent... working... sort of... crew on Starbug, with Kochanski taking over the void that his departure had created. She was an entirely different matter... right now he couldn't think of her pinball smile, but a smile that was sweet and precious in it's true rarity.

He would have killed to see that smile, fleeting and shy, just one more time. Just one more...

"Oh, man, just look what's happened to me," he muttered to the still, flat air of his bunk.

He could just imagine the response. "Well Listy, looks to me like you've gone straight off the deep end and kept on diving!"

"Too true," he sighed, folding his arms and flopping his head down onto the cool metal of the table.

Was it really possible to miss someone so much that it caused physical pain? Was it possible to do something that would once cause the other to throw a fit yet feel your soul die a little more when it was faced with only silence?

Cat and Kryten were all right, but he didn't know them half as well as he knew Rimmer. He didn't know himself half as well as he knew Rimmer. All those times when they didn't have a clue what was going on, when they were running from some unspeakable horror or the other, and he almost always knew what Rimmer would do.

As Rimmer had always known what Lister would do.

He jumped up, throwing his chair back violently and twirling to pace in a tight circle around the room. He didn't usually pace, but he wasn't usually this...

"I am not frustrated. I am not lonely. I'm perfectly normal. I'm talking to myself. Why the hell am I talking to myself? I'm not crazy."

He could picture the cheery mockery, the instant cure for any of his rare bad moods. "So you're in denial then?"

"I must be," he repeated fervently into the darkness, "I must be going smeggin' nuts."

The sudden mental picture of that checkered gingham dress made him smile with a hint of something that had to be affection. Did everything remind him of one of a million strange situations the Boyz had gotten into?

Yes.

And it hurt like hell.

It was so strange, so wrong like this. Cat didn't notice, Kryten didn't know, and Kochanski had never even met the git. How could he be the only one with this aching knot in his chest?

But then, the others didn't know him. They didn't know how much he had changed, how much all of them had changed. It was incredible, but Rimmer had actually become more likable once he was dead. Amazingly enough, he actually started to be more caring, braver, and less of a complete dork.

At times when the loneliness and hopelessness were too much, Rimmer was always there doing something to distract him. Whenever Rimmer was depressed or angry, David had been the only one to go after him to cheer him up. Ultimately, it was the perfect balance for them both.

But what happened once the scales were tipped?

Lister had tried hard to convince himself that he was fine, that nothing was wrong, and that if he ran out down the corridor and flung open the door to his old room Rimmer wouldn't be there and he wouldn't care, dammit, he wouldn't care at all...

He wouldn't stand there, staring heartbroken at the empty room and trying not to scream.

He collapsed back into his bunk, heedless of the tangled sheets and pillows poking uncomfortably into his back.

It was too quiet, too empty, too everything. Just him, his stuff, and the stillness of deep space.

After living with another being for... how many years was it? He couldn't remember. He hated the quiet when it was like this. Too deep, too dark, and no one to annoy into wakefulness, tease for a bit, and then fall asleep content and certain that the hologram was thoroughly annoyed with him.

Rimmer had always been there. Except now he wasn't. And he, one David Lister, last man alive in the entire universe, was going crazy without a man who could accurately be described as a total smeghead.

That dream had been heart-attack-inducing, but for one brief instant Rimmer had been there and everything was all right. After that, things had just gotten... weird. Either his subconcious hated him, or he really, really needed a good psychiatrist. Or... he didn't want to go there.

He longed for the memory of a man, now twice-thrice?-dead.

It was insane. It was driving him insane. His eyes burned with tears as he wrapped his arms around a pillow in a deathgrip.

With a sound that was half-scream and half-sob, he slammed it hard into the bulkhead, nearly denting the metal and cracking a few bones in his hand. He didn't care. There was no one to realize something was wrong and show up to scold him for acting like a child. No one to shake his head at his impetuosity and haul him down to the medical unit, chastising him all the while.

He sobbed for real this time.

How was he supposed to live like this?

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AN: The title translates as: "Nothing Before Sleep".

Written in 2001 Feedback?

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