Ray lay there on the bed, totally naked as the day he was born, except the day he was born he didn’t have a burgeoning erection and nothing to do with it. If he had, he’d have found out, if only when he stuck his name into one of those internet search engines, on one of those boring Fraser-less days, and found that the midwife had sold the story to the Weekly World News and that his itty bitty college fund was built on fees from the National Enquirer, and that would only be once he’d got through page upon page of Cliff Note wannabe junk that you couldn’t even scribble in the margins of, unless you were the sort of dumb that thought you could tip-ex computer screens. Ray could remember when they used to call computer screens VDUs, like they were some amazing electronic form of the sort of underpants that only Fraser would buy, back when Ronnie from twelth-grade got something that went blip from his parents, who clearly thought that Ronnnie was some sort of genius and it was the school’s failure to recognise this that led them to extreme measures. Ronnie had tried to take the thing apart to find the blip, and had set fire both to the entire house and his eyebrows.
At any rate, Ray was feeling seriously underdressed here. It wasn’t as if Ray was a big one for etiquette and social niceties, he was a come-as-you-are kind of guy. And he came naked, a lot. But that was all last night, and now he was beginning to feel seriously bare, the only thing that he had in his favour was that he was going very red “down there”. That he’d actually thought “down there” suggested that he’d spent too much time with Canadians and next thing you know he’d be into curling and poutine, but then it wasn’t as if he wasn’t into Canadians already, in fact he was very into Canadians, just not right now, which was why his dick was going red as Tunbull’s uniform as he put it on, and if something didn’t happen soon, his face was going the same way.
As Renfield struggled with his lanyard, almost tying both wrists together in a way that made Ray go even harder and let even less blood go to his already oxygen-starved brain. If this went on, he’d have brain damage soon, but then who would really know the difference? And on that depressing thought he said, “Ren, I feel kind of awkward here, with you in your uniform and all,” and then started babbling so there was no hope for him, except the one that Renfield found babbling a massive turn-on and would this very moment flunk work and leap into bed, “I mean, I feel kind of underdressed, and kind of inadequate, since you’re doing the whole hyper-controlled Mountie thing, and the only part of me that can stand to attention is doing it.”
He wasn’t really prepared for the answer he got.
He really wasn’t prepared for something warm and soft to hit him in the face the second he closed his eyes, trying desperately to get every thought of defacing The Uniform out of his mind.
It was soft, it was furry. It looked like a cross between something Captain Kirk had punched on the nose before stealing its perfectly formed green-skinned girlfriend and something that got served up at a seafood restaurant. A bad seafood restaurant, since good ones didn’t feed people fish-like things after they’d gone all furry. Though this was good furry not mouldy fish furry.
Eventually, the bemused stares became too much for Ren, “His name is Hugh.” Okay, Ray’s sort of boyfriend had a furry manta ray in his bedroom, for reasons Ray didn’t want to explore at this juncture, or like, ever; and he’d named it Hugh. Hugh Ray. Ray had met bad puns before and this one not only took the biscuit, but the entire pantry of the deep-South momma who made the biscuit.
“I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was younger, Ray,” said Ren, all that Mountie veneer peeling away like under a steam iron, revealing a boy who was forever borrowing fish books from the library, pestering his mom for an aquarium, crying when they’d died.
“What happened?” Ray knew what it was like to have dreams die, especially young dreams, Stella dreams. He knew what it was like to almost have your dreams broken for you, shattered like a pińata with a baseball bat of good intentions. What if, unlike him, Ren wasn’t the sort to sway there in the wind, yet not fall down? What if, instead he’d buckled, broken, come creaking to the ground like some tree too young to hold out in the storm?
“I saw her, Ray.” For a moment, Ray was confused, until his brain caught a clue-bus and recognised that tone of voice, the same tone of voice Renfield used the day they first met, trying to find a new home for her majesty’s portrait that was fitting for her dignity and stature. Who would have thought that this would happen? That he would end up in bed with a guy who would probably jerk off to a disk of the Queen’s speeches if you told him she was okay with it? Okay, maybe he wouldn’t, but that was the way he talked about her, and Ray wished that he’d talk about him in that same voice. He almost missed what Ren said next, “She was on her state visit, in ’81, and I saw her, in her carriage, surrounded by members of her mounted police on horseback, and I thought, that moment, that I would so like to serve her in the very same way. Be in some small part hers.”
Fuck, thought Ray, he’d heard the same tone off that kid in twelfth grade, the one that had wanted to be a priest so bad. Then he’s heard, at the school reunion his mom had made him attend, that the guy had slit his wrists when he’d realised that the blessed Virgin could never really love him, not the way he’s wanted her to, not the way the lady who did the altar flowers did…
He so didn’t want that to happen, so didn’t want Ren to wake up one day and realise what Ray already knew, that he wasn’t cut out to be a Mountie, that he’d sacrificed in vain to a goddess who never hear, it was like that poem he’d found in one of Fraser’s books,
“Great Cybebe, Mother Goddess, Berecyntian Queen, avert your fury from Catamite, eh, Catullus’ house”He couldn’t remember it all, it had all sorts of words in it, not ten dollar words like Fraser used, but ten million dollar words. He’d thought it sounded pretty until Fraser told him what it meant, the young man spurred on by the whomph of his goddess, chopping off his bits and then waking up the next morning to find what he’s condemned himself to be. He could see Ren, one day, taking a bath, the longest bath he ever would take, his blood colouring the water the colour of ill-advised sacrifice.
At least that thought had calmed down his erection, he’d thought he was going to explode if he didn’t fuck Renfield through the floor and into his landlady’s apartment. Now all he wanted to do was hold him, hold his lover and turn back time and make everything right, to tell that kid to follow his dream, rather than end up sitting in classes at Depot drawing fish in the margins of his books with wistful sorrow.
And then he had it, the answer. It just came upon him in a flash, perhaps Paul had been right, there had been something in the God thing, just not enough to save him when he fell. “Ren, Britannia rules the waves, right?”
Ren really didn’t have a clue where this was going, fingering his lanyard desperately, looking at his lover clutching Hugh in front of his swiftly deflating manhood, “Yes, Ray.”
“So, effectively, they’re, like the Queen’s waves, and if you were a marine biologist, you’d be keeping them safe for her. Much more important than minding a desk in some heathen country where they can’t even make tea right no more?” Ray tried to keep calm, tried to keep reasonable, used the nice sensitive voice that no-one ever believed he had until some battered girlfriend testified and some bastard went to Sing-Sing.
“Yes, Ray, why didn’t I see that?” Renfield’s voice once again acquired that dream like quality that was so absent when he talked about the Consulate, about his career, about everything but Her Majesty. And it was when Ray saw that lanyard fall to the floor again, that he realised he’d done right. He just hoped Renfield would excuse him any trips in submarines.