—"in whatever currency you prefer," Gerri promises. Her negotiating voice, all let me give you just what you want right until she pulls the knife out of your back and you bleed out all over the carpet. Roman's getting hard just listening to her. He keeps his eyes focused on the floor, lets her power wash over him. "Just get us to Shanghai without attracting whoever the fuck's running this second-rate remake of the French Revolution realizes we're here and decides to set the boat on fire."
The crew confer on board, obnoxious with their own perceived power as they make Roman and Gerri wait on the dock. They eventually decide to do what Gerri says; of course they do, she owns them now. It's pathetic. It's hot. Roman's hands are clammy, and he can't stop moving. His hair feels twitchy. He toes off his shoes as they step onto the deck, watches as Gerri leans over to pull hers off too.
Shiv's the one who warned him: get the fuck out of the country dickwad , texted from some burner phone.
Gerri was wearing a hotel robe with nothing underneath it, backlit by the ever-present glitter of the Strip outside their window. Her hair was wet. Roman couldn't stop staring at the streams of water flowing down the neck of the robe, daring him to—something, touch them, lick them, ride them like something in one of their theme parks.
"You're a lawyer," he said.
"Well spotted," she answered. Her attention was divided between him and whatever the prick on the news (clearly not ATN; Roman made a mental note to call her a traitor at some point later in the evening, possibly while she made him kneel) was saying about blah blah blah Tern Haven .
"So you know the law and shit, yeah?" he asked.
"And shit," she agreed.
"So if we, you know, like I said—you eat me, I eat shit—if we do." He paused, reaching for the right word in the spaces between breaths. Gerri turned the volume on the TV down, turned and actually looked at him. Her face was doing that half-smirk, half- what the actual fuck, Roman thing it does. "That. Get married, or whatever, we get that immunity thing, right? If I decide to go on a shooting rampage you can't tell anyone?"
"I mean, there is spousal privilege," she started, "But it's not."
His phone buzzed, and he—Roman Roy: certified idiot, fuckup, know- nothing—pulled it out of his pocket instead of paying attention to Gerri, which gave her permission to look back up at the closed captioning on the television..
"Shit," Gerri said, just as—
—"Shiv says to leave the country," Roman said. He typed back, im 🍆🍆🍆 ur godmother 🔥 , and paused for a second, considering whether or not to rock her tiny little brain. He added, justproposed , and stuffed the phone back in his pocket. Fuck it. She'd probably already dumped the phone anyway, but if not, hell, he sat through her wedding to Tom plus a motherfucking dinner party plus every other thing he'd had to do with Tom breathing the same air as him in his entire life. Plus this bullshit. Shiv deserved whatever she got. Whatever she thought.
"Shiv's right," Gerri said. She turned the TV off way too quickly. The back of her neck looked as white as her robe, and she was already pulling a blouse from a hanger—"Pass me a bra from the top drawer," she said, "And then go cash us out, quickly, and exchange it all for Euros or Yuan or Yen, whatever you can get quickly."—and untying her robe.
He wanted to watch her dress. To make her answer his half-assed proposal. "Don't wear a bra," he said, as he tossed the lacy black bra and panties he bought in Tabitha's favorite high end sex boutique onto the bed. "Just let it all hang out. Or only wear a bra. Either works for me."
"Stop being an asshole," Gerri said, "And go already." He went.
Outside their room, the world still seemed normal. The lighting made it feel like time was standing still.
"Gerri," Roman says.
Nothing. She doesn't even look up, she's such a stone cold bitch. It's hot. He hates it. She's hot.
"I'm bored," he says.
She looks at him over the top of her notepad (just one from a Godzilla-sized stack of papers and books; she won't let them use anything with an electronic signature tied to Waystar Royco, they're only a few hours out from shore), glasses slipping down just enough to give him a mean librarian boner.
"You can review some of this paperwork," she says. She pushes her glasses back up, and Roman palms his dick through his pants. "Do your fair share for once instead of jerking it in your office like an overgrown toddler."
" Nngh ." Roman's hips jerk, he can't even control his own body, and Gerri pulls his hand up and away so he's just twitching into the air like some sort of creepy uncle on a porn bender. "Paperwork. Sure. Cross those I's. Dot those T's. Compound interest can be calculated with the formu—"
She glares at him even harder. Disappointment crossed with judgment crossed with something that's just uniquely Gerri; he wants to play with her, to play with this moment, but they're on a ship on their way to literal China to outrun a revolution and even he knows this is probably not the right time.
"—shit, okay, right," he says. "The plan. Explain it to me again."
"Yǒng will meet us when we dock in China," she says.
"Okay, good. But maybe go back a little bit because I have no idea who the fuck that is."
"Wu Yǒng," Gerri says, and, "He was your father's protege for about ten minutes in the late '90s?"
"Wait, the hot Chinese guy with the," Roman gestures at his chin, the universal sign for goatee, "That made him look like a really sexy Jafar? I thought his name was John. I'm pretty sure that's what Dad always called him."
Gerri doesn't answer. She looks back down at her notes, scribbles something in a margin. Her cheeks are dusted with pink, which means she either forgot her sunblock (pretty unlikely considering what an obsessed harpy she is about making sure Roman wears his) or because she—
"Oh my god, you slut," Roman says—
"Fuck you," Gerri warns—
—slept with Hot Jafar, Yǒng, whatever his name is.
"That's so hot," Roman says. "I can't believe you fucked one of the stars of my adolescent spank bank. Did you record it? Is there a dusty VHS tape of the two of you getting it on in a basement somewhere? Because if so I want to buy it."
"No. And no."
"Come on," Roman says, "I will pay you literal millions of dollars for a copy of that tape. We can watch it together. It could be our, you know, anniversary thing. Sexy thing. Tradition."
"You actually remember the plan for 24 hours, and I'll consider telling you about it," she says.
He opens his mouth to make a witty retort, something fucking brilliant and amazing, but then thinks better of it. For the time being, at least. "Okay, fine," he says, crossing his arms across his chest. He slouches further in his chair. Tilts his chin up. "Hit me. You'll see, I'll remember the fuck out of this motherfucker."
Or maybe they were already on the road by the time Shiv got around to actually warning him. Literally on the road, driving a 2015 SUVt—"Is a car this ancient safe to drive?" he'd asked, studying a chip in the paint job on the passenger side door and stalling; "Get the fuck in and stop whining, Rome," Gerri said—like two fucking normos. All-American mom and son.
"It's too bad we don't have any guns with us," he muttered, but he climbed inside. Even buckled his seatbelt.
(He called her Mom at some dirt road gas station in the middle of nowhere. Begged her for a candy bar. "Naughty boys don't get candy," she said. He was hard forever after that. Forever and ever as she concentrated on the road, do you want me to drive us off a canyon , hard and staring out at the fucking scenery like some sort of rube.
Until, finally, years later, she touched him: hand brushing his thigh, smirking like the queen of the world, still careful to leave a safe distance between them and the car in front of them.
"I can't believe you don't even have the initiative to take care of yourself," she started, nails little pinpricks of heat and sex as they scratched along the fabric of his pants. "Just sitting there with a hard dick and no idea what to do with it.")
Before the gas station, though, Shiv had texted him. He sent her at least twenty eggplant emojis in a row, then flames to make sure she was a hundred percent aware of just how fucking hot Gerri is. lose the phone, asshole , Shiv signed off, so he did. Rolled down the window and chucked it.
"Idiot," Gerri said.
Roman shrugged. Tented his legs up in front of him, hands on his shins.
"You're lucky you didn't hit anyone," Gerri added.
"I think I'm going to puke," he said, and she pulled over onto the side of the road.
"Don't you dare throw up in the car," she said.
His body shook. His skin felt too tight. He forced himself to hold as still as possible, just shaking and shivering, until the car stopped and he could open the door. Throw himself out onto the dirt and sand and kneel there hunched over in a pile of litter while he waited and failed to hurl.
"So do you think they got it from the Smithsonian or something? Or did they hire some, I don't know, guillotine Jedi Master who's been waiting around for the call for a hundred years?" Roman asks.
"What?" Gerri says, turning the page of her book. Something with some Fabio wannabe on the cover, all pecs and hair and windblown sheets instead of clothing. It was the only kind of book on the boat. Roman wonders if she'll read some of it out loud to him. If they can act any of it out.
"All, Help me Obi-Wan Guillotine, you're my only hope and shit."
"Right," Gerri says.
Roman tries to ignore her in return. Looks out over the water, tries to concentrate. Sky. Water, Sky. Water. Sky. Mystery meat.
Roman blinks. The endless ocean and the freakishly blue sky keep blending together, blurry and way too sharp all at the same time. He hates it. Hates this. Gerri's ignoring him and they're halfway to nowhere and some assholes livestreamed beheading his dad off on some fucking app that he can't even access anymore because Gerri's stupid plan involves him being completely out of touch with the world until they make it to Shanghai.
"I'm hungry," he says. Five or ten or a million minutes later. Time has no meaning. He has no Apple Watch.
"Then go make yourself something to eat." Gerri folds over the corner of her page, puts the book down on her chair. "Make me something while you're at it, if you even can."
She gets up. Roman follows, because why the fuck not? She'll lead him to the food or to her bedroom or the bathroom or something, and there's fun to be had in any of those places.
"I can't believe we have to cook our own fucking food," Roman says. He stares at the eggs in the door of the refrigerator. Dares them to hatch into chickens or whatever the fuck it is eggs do if they're not made into some Brooklyn hipster's shitty brunch fast enough.
"Oh, give them over," Gerri says. She grabs the eggs from Roman, practically pulling his arm out of the socket as she does.
"Ow," he says. He can't find any bread. There has to be bread somewhere.
"Scrambled or overeasy?" Gerri asks. She cuts of knob of butter into a frying pan and watches it sizzle, browning, across the surface. She cracks an egg into the pan and adds, "Never mind, scrambled for both of us."
"We might as well move to the next island we see," Roman decides. "We can fish and grow our own, you know, salads or whatever. You can wear a coconut bra and I'll go au naturel and we'll be worshiped as gods." He finds a package of tortillas under some mass-produced orange cheese —"Fuck it, close enough"—and takes it out.
"Next island we stop at," Gerri agrees. She dumps the eggs onto a plate. Tosses a tortilla into the pan to heat it up and adds it to the plate; lather, rinse, repeat. She hands Roman a fork. "You catch even a single fish, and I'll wear a coconut bra all the way to Shanghai. Now eat."
Or maybe Shiv didn't warn him at all. Just fucking cozied back up to Senator Robespierre and watched as they burned the Summer Palace, as they took over Tern Haven and made it their revolutionary headquarters. Stood there in the same place they all drank that bullshit cocktail with the Pierces, fully visible in high definition, as they guillotined Logan Roy live on television and streaming. There's probably already a hologram in the works.
Roman watched it live on ATN from their suite (airing PGM's feed for added suffering): the march to the gallows, the confession of sins, his father wearing khakis and a polo shirt that didn't fit him properly as he kneeled and put his head down and—
It didn't look real. It looked realistic as fuck. Like the Marvel CGI, the good shit, and Roman wondered what they used to simulate the sound of a head being guillotined from its body. Who exactly was in charge of the special effects.
(He changed the channel. Turned off the TV. Stared out at the Strip, at the stupid fucking replica Eiffel Tower. Gerri was in the shower, singing Billy Joel songs just loud enough for Roman to hear.)
Roman's phone buzzed in his pocket. A text from Connor, fucking linking the video, with an invitation to Meet Me in the Bunker! Space is limited! First come first served, byog. Roman clicked on the link. Watched. Watched again, and again, looking for a glitch in the technology.
It felt like watching one of those bullshit superhero movies, something starring one of the fucking Chrises acting opposite a CGI French baker or something— "I will let them eat bread, hon hon hon!" —and featuring John Travolta as the King of France, Louis the Whatever, the Headless Wonder.
He called out for Gerri. "Get out of the shower before you get even prunier. Age jokes, funny, right?" When she didn't respond, he opened the bathroom door, walked into the steam and the off-key in the middle of the night , and then he stopped short. Almost forgot about the world fucking ending because Gerri was naked.
"I need to show you something," he said.
"I've already seen your dick," she said.
"It's not my," he said, and there must've been something weird about the way he sounded because she turned off the shower. Wrapped a fluffy towel around herself and held out her hand for his phone. "Here," Roman said. "Just click play."
She watched the video just once, stone-faced and dripping on the floor, and handed the phone back to him. She took another towel from the rack and began to dry her hair. "We'll need cash," she said, "Preferably foreign. And gold for bartering. A car."
And then it fucking clicked over in his good-for-nothing brain: that really wasn't the really good CGI Roman never could get his hands on in LA, that—
His stomach cramped, body doubled over, and he puked. Phone clattering on the tile as he threw himself to the floor. The toilet lid was already open (take that, every woman who'd ever tried to get him to close it after taking a leak!), and he flung himself over the rim and vomited up everything he'd ever eaten in his life.
—that was his dad. His dad's head.
Gerri crouched down next to him. Ran her fingers through his hair and picked up his phone for him, squinted at something on the screen, practically blind without her glasses. "Text from an unknown number," she said. "Just says to lose the phone and get the hell out of the country, and then a knife emoji."
Shiv didn't warn him. By the time she even remembered his existence, he already knew.
Her ring is plain on the outside—"Boring," he says, when she magics the rings from her pocket somewhere between Guam and wherever they're going next, passing them over to him. The sun is low in the sky. Their corner of the deck smells like a pirate movie looks, all wind and salt and whales and sex and rum.
"No one will believe I picked these out," Roman says. He peers at the cheesy cursive engraving on the inside of each ring. "Did you get these at Costco with all the normo American," he starts, stopping when he reads the filthy reference to his dick on the inside of the smaller ring. Gerri lets him put it on her finger. Slides his ring onto his finger in return.
(His ring says: Mole Woman , like some kind of a brand. Like she fucking owns him. He hates it, and they'll have to chop off his finger to get him to take it off.)
"We'll just say the paperwork went missing in the chaos," she says, shrugging, like the very existence of engraved fucking rings in her end-of-the-world go bag doesn't mean anything.
"But I wanted," he says (to exchange vows, to make Shiv turn green, to make Dad fucking explode). He twists the ring on his finger. Half expects it to leave a trail of green in its wake, ha ha, like I'd even pretend to marry you (and then Tabitha showing up out of nowhere, linking arms with Gerri, the two of them—) , but it's solid and warm and real. "Can we at least say we got married by an Elvis? You can pick which one—fat, skinny, black, white—but I think it would add an air of. You know, something. Je ne sais fuck you."
"Quoi," she says. Prim and proper: a fucking siren call to Roman Roy's dick if ever there was one.
He climbs over his chair and into her lap. Kisses her, as filthy as he can; his hands in her hair (her ears and neck and cheeks and shoulders), while she grabs his ass. She mutters something he can't make out. Sighs, and shakes her head, some sort of mysterious Gerri decision made, and gentles the kiss. His bones feel like they're liquid. He can't sit up, can't keep himself from melting until he's half sitting next to her, half still on top of her. He presses a kiss to her neck and rests his head against her shoulder. Turns to snap at her skin. To lick salt and sunscreen and sweat.
"Disgusting little pervert," she says. Roman closes his eyes. Unzips his pants. His mind is wonderfully blank, no memories at all.