It took him so long to answer the phone, Gerri almost gave up. He didn’t say hello, but then neither did she,
“Good. We need to do prep for the press conference, and go over some basic platitudes for the hospital visit. I’m just finishing up revisions in my room now, would you like to meet downstairs in the bar?”
“Hello? Roman, are you listening? This is important.”
A sort of huffing noise, and then, a strained giggle?
“Uhhh, yeah Gerri I’m listening, I just - uh, um, okay so you know how we’re in Japan?”
“No, Roman, I blacked out from how vexatious you are and lost my memory. Meet me in the bar in 5 minutes.”
“Um yeah, so like - I can’t do that?”
“Why the fuck not, Roman? Are you drunk? Sober up, this is fucking serious and you only get one shot at it,” Gerri sighed, the newly formed tension in her brow drilling into her skull.
Stuck with the brattiest Roy, cleaning up his mess. What a career highlight in a string of coverups. At least she’d get some decent sushi out of it.
He fucking giggled again.
“I know, Gerri, I’m not a total moron, and I’m stone cold sober, which is probably why I pulled too tight - look I’m being literal here. I physically can’t meet you in the bar - because,” and the cocky ease she’d come to expect seem to drain out of Roman’s voice all at once, “I’m tied up.”
Gerri frowned, “Tied up doing what? Get out of it.”
“Literally. I said literally, Gerri,” he sounded frustrated now, and a little whiny, “I’m literally tied up. And I can’t get out of it. I - I might need you to help me?”
Gerri stopped typing and stared at her phone on the table for a beat. Maybe she had actually blacked out and this was all a hallucination.
“Are you - Roman have you been…robbed? If there’s somebody there - Should I call the police?”
“No, Gerri, it’s not like that, don’t freak out. I’m alone. I kind of…tied myself up. Can you, like, come help me or not? Because the maids who bring the clean towels won’t be here for hours, and I bet they’re not getting paid enough to not sell a photo of Roman Roy Boy Billionaire caught in a fucking jerk-off accident.”
Gerri continued staring at her phone, feeling a mixture of revulsion and intrigue sweep through her. She closed her laptop with a firm click.
“Roman you’re almost 40 years old. Are you telling me you need my help extricating yourself from-” she paused to close her eyes, couldn’t believe she was about to say this, “…an erotic mishap?”
“Yeah, Gerri. I am.” He had the gall to sound annoyed with her, like she’d taken too long to catch up.
Like she should have been prepared for this. Many different highly compromising scenarios involving Roman Roy had of course crossed her mind over the years for the sake of anticipating trouble, but ‘tying himself up in a Japanese hotel room’ had not actually made the top 100.
Still, Gerri let her practical nature take over. Stood up and brought the phone with her as she slipped her shoes back on and gathered her things,
“I’ll be there in no more than 15. Are you currently in any physical danger? Anything that could obstruct your breathing or cause,” she cleared her throat, “Personal injury? Can I get safe ingress to your room? Safe for both of us, I mean.”
“No. And yes. I’m okay and nothing will hurt you. I’m just…a little tied up.” The giggle was back. Insufferable. “And also a little embarrassed.”
Of course. The giggle was probably a nervous response. Having the company lawyer rescue you from a sexcapade was probably not on Roman’s to-do list either.
“So you should be. See you shortly.”
It didn’t take long or much convincing for the hotel to authorise her to have a keycard for Roman’s suite. Gerri went downstairs to collect it, and on the elevator ride back she steeled herself for what she couldn’t really begin to imagine she was about to find.
The door lock beeped, and she pushed into the room, mentally bracing herself.
He wasn’t in the living room, and Gerri sighed. Another boundary about to be crossed. Might as well get used to it with what she was about to see.
“In here!” His voice from the bedroom, as she feared.
No. Wait. The bedroom was empty too. His voice from the ensuite bathroom. Even worse. What were the odds he had clothes on? Fuck. Gerri grasped the door handle,
“I’m coming in now, is that okay?”
“Yes, please. These tiles are getting uncomfortable,” he sounded impatient, and that pissed her off.
This wasn’t her job. She opened the door wide, already scowling.
He had a t-shirt and jeans on, thank god. On the bathroom floor Roman was pretzeled awkwardly, his phone lying next to him. There was a sort of corsetry configuration of rope around his left thigh, from knee to hip, and then looped around his pelvis like he was going rock climbing. And god help her but Gerri couldn’t help noticing the bulge framed by those ropes. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was clearly the fact his right wrist was tied to his right ankle, bent knee under his chin. He looked up at her sheepishly and waved with his left hand,
“Hiiii.” He looked a mixture of mortified, relieved, and -
Her fingers tightened around her phone, and Gerri huffed her irritation - at him but also at herself, because now she was curious,
“Jesus Christ, Roman. What are we gonna do about you? What is this?”
Was she imagining the stutter in his breath?
“Uh yeah so you know how when you travel it’s really important to immerse yourself in the local culture? For that authentic experience?”
Gerri folded her arms and continued frowning down at him,
“So this is Japanese?”
He actually looked condescending now, and outrageously smug for a man tied up on a hotel bathroom floor,
“Yeah, Gerri. This is the sashimi of degeneracy - Anyway, whenever I find myself in Japan I usually visit certain discreet yet incredibly exclusive and luxurious establishments you would be considered too poor to enter, and get this done professionally, but because you’ve been up my entire asshole over this rocket bullshit with your prep this Roman, empathy that, Roman, I didn’t have time. So really, Gerri, this is-”
“Don’t you dare say this is my fault, Roman!” She snapped over his monologue, and his face froze mid-perverted allocution.
A little hiccuping sound escaped from his mouth, and his left hand flew up to cover it like he was trying to cram it back inside. At least he was quiet now. Gerri had visually assessed the knots while he was talking, internally screaming at the absurdity of thinking about Baird’s boat under these circumstances, and decided cutting Roman free would be easier. She started searching his toiletries and the bathroom cabinet for something that would do it, letting her frustration bubble over,
“I think you know this is not in my fucking job description, Roman. Bad enough I already have to be here to hold your clammy, useless hand through what an ounce of human decency and competence could’ve prevented in the first place,”
He was breathing louder, probably panicking. It increased her irritation,
“Do you have anything with a blade?” She turned to face him as she angrily shut another drawer with a flick of her wrist, and was shocked to see Roman with his jaw slack, pupils blown, looking up at Gerri as though in a trance. He licked his lips. It must be residual from whatever the ropes were for, or some kind of trauma response, it couldn’t be,
“A blade, Roman,” she snapped her fingers in his face and he reeled back with a deep gasp like she’d slapped him, almost knocking his head against the beautifully tiled bathtub, “For fucks sake, Roman, pull yourself together!”
He seemed to return from where he’d just been, “Uh, I fucking tried, Gerri - that’s how I got like this?” He was whining in a breathy way, and then suddenly self pitying, “You’d think after military school I could tie a fucking knot that-”
“Roman. Do you have something I can cut you free with or do I need to send down to the kitchen for a knife and hope they don’t ask questions?”
He slumped forward, studying the floor, and sighed, “You’ll have to ask.”
“Fine.” This was truly farcical. Gerri turned to leave the bathroom but stopped on the threshold, couldn’t resist catching his gaze, “Don’t go anywhere,” she raised an eyebrow at him and he burst out laughing, delighted wonder on his face.
“You funny bitch. Ugh.” he was smiling up at her now, relaxed, and it was inexplicably charming.
Gerri indulged them both with a smile back, then went to the bedroom to call down for room service.
Although the hotel would definitely not blink at a knife request from a billionaire’s son, the lawyer in her played it safe and ordered a well done steak for the plausible deniability. Better to be accused of disrespecting a Wagyu than whatever was going on in the bathroom. She collected her laptop from where she’d left it on a table and returned, took note of Roman’s incredulity when she sat on the edge of the bath and opened it up. He squirmed on the floor to face her,
“So…come here often?”
It didn’t deserve a laugh, but he’d surprised it out of her,
“Who’s the funny bitch now?” Gerri smirked down at him.
“Well if you hang out in bathrooms with perverts, expect perversion,” he shrugged and smirked back.
“Shouldn’t be long now, although I don’t know how many minutes it’ll take to saw through that with a steak knife. We do still have to go over your prep for tomorrow.” She gestured to the screen.
Roman groaned, “Taking advantage of me while I’m incapacitated, Gerri? Stone cold. Hot.”
“Uh huh,” she rolled her eyes, but let him see the corner of her mouth twitch upwards.
He beamed at her like she’d handed him a big blue ribbon.
20 minutes later when the room service knock came, Gerri was grudgingly impressed with Roman’s readiness as well as the solid evidence of his empathy and regret over the rocket incident. He was already fairly good at talking his way out of things, just needed her to help bridle his more base instincts. Some irony. But she was pleased to discover they actually worked well together, especially when he had no choice but to sit still and listen to her. Maybe he’d just needed to be humbled. Gerri had been doing her best to ignore the elaborate trussing around him, and when she risked a glance at his crotch, the bulge was somewhat diminished, and it seemed the danger was passing.
She thanked the room service delivery person, said a silent apology to the Wagyu, picked up a pillow from the bed on her way through, and returned to the bathroom with the knife.
“Planning to smother me, Gerri? I thought I’d been good, but not that good.”
“It’s for my knees, Roman,” she frowned as she arranged herself on the floor beside him, “Now keep very still so we don’t add having to cover up a hospital visit for either of us to this elaborate fuck-up.”
“Yeah,” he replied softly, looking at her with a strange intensity, “That’s me. An elaborate fuck-up.”
“Poor wittle rich boy,” she tutted as she worked the fingers of her left hand between his covered ankle and the rope.
She could hear him breathing again. She was glad to have chosen the leg end because it suddenly seemed very important not to touch his skin.
When she’d got some purchase, Gerri slipped the steak knife through the newly created gap underneath the rope and began the laborious process of sawing through it, knife gripped steady in her right hand. It was too quiet, but also too loud. She could hear and feel every one of Roman’s exhalations, and they were close enough to each other that she could smell his fragrance. Which meant he could smell hers. She reached for a distraction,
“So what’s this called?”
“Huh?” he came to his senses.
“The Japanese and the Germans usually have a name for very specific things. Something I’ve always admired as an appreciator of…specificity,” she glanced at him, then focused back on her work, “I’m guessing this has a name.”
“Why Gerri, you gonna google it later?” He sounded shaky, and Gerri pretended not to hear it as he continued, “Uh, yeah. Shibari. Japanese rope bondage. But just because it has the B word, doesn’t mean…” he hesitated.
“Mmm?” She encouraged him to elaborate, the rhythmic sound of the rope being cut a soothing underscore.
“It’s not always, you know, it’s not always about,” his free hand gestured to his lap, “Yay, sex. It can be about other things too. It kind of - kind of feels like a hug?”
He shrugged. She felt a peculiar intimacy building between them - Roman Roy, deviant in distress, and Gerri Kellman, unflappable knight-errant with her very small sword.
“And you get women to do this to you?”
Roman was obviously weighing up telling her the truth, “It doesn’t have to be women,” he mumbled.
She’d suspected. It was on her list of potential legal and personal liabilities for him.
“I think I get it,” Gerri smiled without looking at him, “Reminds me of that Japanese woodblock, The Dream of The Fisherman’s Wife.”
“Gerri Kellman, tentacle porn aficionado,” he sounded gleeful now, and she found herself not particularly shocked that he knew the reference, “Who knew you were just as sick as me?”
She shot him a disapproving look and didn’t miss the way his whole body tensed in response.
“Don’t get smart with a woman who’s holding a knife so close to your genitals,” It was barely a moan from Roman, could’ve been an extra loud sigh. But she was more than halfway through, thankfully it wasn’t such a resistant rope after all, “And don’t be reductive about important works of art. It’s not just about yay tentacle sex,” she gently mocked, pursing her lips in amusement, “It’s also about being held gently by something that could hurt you.”
Roman was really still now.
“Yeah,” he whispered, “That sounds…artistically important.”
The remaining rope was fraying rapidly, and with a few more strokes Gerri was through it, barely getting the blade out of the way before Roman’s arm jerked up and his leg splayed out, relishing his freedom.
He began efficiently untying his wrist,
“So, uh - thanks for that? Meet you in the bar in 15 like you asked?”
“No need, Roman. We did the prep. You’re ready. I think you’ll do a good job.”
His nervous giggle returned, “Yeah but, I haven’t had dinner and I bet you haven’t either. You just went above and beyond, Gerri. At least let me buy you some sushi and a martini?”
She considered him for a drawn out second, “How do you know I want a martini?”
“I’m dumb but I’m smart, Gerri, and I pay attention to people who matter,” he smiled at her as he practically bounced up off the floor, ropes still hanging from his hips, and offered her his hands.
She blinked at them. Definitely not. At some point he’d become mostly erect again. Gerri waved him away and used the bathtub to push herself upright instead,
“I’ll be in the bar in 5 minutes with an ice cold martini, you may join me in 7 to pay for it, and we’ll see if you earn dinner,” she narrowed her eyes, and found herself enjoying his answering smirk.
“Better make it 10, first I’ve got to see a fisherman about his wife - unless you want to stay?” he leered, and she rolled her eyes.
“In your filthy little piscine dreams, Roman.”
He laughed, loose and open, and Gerri gifted him one final smirk as she shut the bathroom door behind her.