She lays back in the cool bath and sighs. The cool flannel feels good against her warm skin. When she closes her eyes she sees him, eyes pink and wet, hands shaking. He leaves the set quickly, Sarah with an arm around him. They need time to unpack their characters, she knows that, but it still hurts when he walks away from her. Hurts when she squints at her phone in the Italian to see no reply.
J leaves as soon as she can, leaving Gerri locked up in a box in a trailer. That night, a cold flannel on the back of her neck, she cries into Kenny’s arms. She cries for two fictional characters that live in the space between two friends. At that moment, she is relieved she married someone who understands the movements of an actor. She cries herself to sleep, months of pent-up emotions and heat sickness taking over her body.
She feels better when she wakes up, apologetic to her husband who shrugs and makes tea. They cuddle on the balcony in the morning, but she struggles to shake the feeling off. Him looking up at her with real pain, looking at her with those wet eyes. The fall to the marble floor was real, the shake in his hands real.
She soaks in the cold bath and cries again. She doesn’t know why, she is happy. She is loved and she is making her own living from something she loved. It’s all little Jeannie could ever want. A tiny bit of her is worried about her career, if she will be invited back to the show post-season 3, if this is just her moment in the sun before the shade of playing the grandmother descends upon her.
She hears a knock on the doors and Kenny talking to someone. She hopes he knows that isn’t ready for visitors, and doesn’t think she can cope with socializing.
“What happened?” she hears him ask through the door. She removes the cold flannel from her forehead and listens. She can only hear her husband and some muffled sounds. Before she gains the energy to climb out the bath the door opens. Kenny crouches beside her and tells her it’s Kieran.
“I think something has happened. He only wants to talk to you.” Kenny’s t-shirt-clad shoulder is wet, she can’t look past that patch of darkened cotton.
“Is it Jazz?” she panics, sitting up in the tub. Kenny just shrugs and dips his hands into the cool water. “Send him in.” She is so worried, she doesn’t even think about her nakedness, the water barely covering her breasts.
She knows Kenny disagrees, and worries too much about her being overwhelmed by the Italian sun. Kieran is a mess, t-shirt crumpled, hair unbrushed, face unshaved.
“Oh, darling,” she sighs. He wipes his wet eyes on the back of his hand and sniffles.
“I’m sorry,” he sobs before he hides his face behind his eyes.
“Is Jazz okay?” she immediately panics for his young family. She hopes the flannel across her chest is enough to cover her modesty as she leans up, holding her hand up to him. He takes it and crouches beside the side of the bath, the exact spot Kenny stood moments before.
“I love you,” he croaks.
“I love you too,” she smiles softly. “Please talk to me.” She tries to read his face, he looks drained, like he has done nothing but
“No, I mean I love you,” he repeats, finally making eye contact with her. “I’m in love with you, J,” he says, eyes pooling with tears. She cups his jaw, feeling the stubble against her thumb. She doesn’t know what to say for a while, so she watches him lean into her hand. The cold water on her hands dripping down his neck and into his t-shirt.
“You have a beautiful family; you should be so grateful for them.”
“I know,” he sobs, pulling away from her. He collapses to the floor and places his head against the side of the bath. “I know, I fucking know. But all I want is you.”
“It’s going to be okay, just character bleed, you and Roman you are so alike.” She dips her hand into the water before running it through his hair, letting the cool water run through the unwashed streaks. Pushing his hair back only makes him look even more like Roman.
“I couldn’t sleep last night, couldn’t look at Jazz, couldn’t hold her. I just wanted you. I am such a shitty fucking person. Laying in bed with my wife wishing she was someone else.”
“Oh, darling,” she says, leaving a gentle kiss on the top of his head. “You’ll go home and meet your new little one and you’ll forget about silly old me.”
He shakes his head and looks up at her with big, wet eyes. “I think I’ve been in love with you most of my life,” She can hear herself gulp. “I thought I would feel better saying that,” he muses. “But I don’t. I feel like a douchebag who wishes he was married to my friend’s wife.”
“It’ll pass, honey. I promise you.” She knows what it is like to get caught up in a character and the baggage those feelings can have.
“I remember that purple dress you wore the first time I met you, and this blanket thing you had around your shoulder. And how curly your hair was when you had Nellie, and that fucking red dress at This Is Our Youth. I masturbated a lot to that dress. To the way your little nose crinkles up and your neck, you have a really fucking good neck. You're perfect.”
“I wish you were my wife. I wish my children were yours,” he murmurs. What else do you say? How you really feel with your husband in the room next door? Tell him he is a loser? Kick him out?
“I want to get in there with you,” he says, dipping his hand into the cool water. His fingertips brush against her thigh and send chills up her spine.
“Sure,” she sighs before she knows what is happening. He strips down to his boxers, white and too revealing. She lifts her legs up and gives her room to sit at the other end of the tub. “It’ll be okay, baby,” she says, rubbing at her cheek again.
“I know,” he shakily says. “But what if I never see you again? What if this is it for us, on the show, and we never see each other again. I need you in my life.”
“I’ll always be in your life, Succession or no Succession. We’ve always been more than one job, you know that?” He nods, unconvinced by her words.
He places his hand under her chin, his knuckle against her throat. “You’re so beautiful.” He looks down with no subtlety. The water is clear, her breasts visible under the water. He leans in and kisses her gently, his hand under her chin and hers cupping his jaw. The kiss is desperate, his face wet with tears.
“Roman,” she sighs into his mouth.
“Yes, Gerri,” he grins. She laughs, suddenly realising what he has said. “What a fucking mess,” he laughs. He buries his head in her shoulder, his lips brushing her neck.
“It’ll be okay,” she says. She leans back against the tub and takes him with her. He falls between her naked legs, the bulge of his boxers against her naked slit. His head is on his shoulder, his arms wrapping around her body.
“You feel good, J,” he says gently. They lay like this until he goes to sleep. She stares at the ceiling, feeling his breath against her neck. She thinks about their relationship, weaving and winding, inherently threading together through the years. She thinks about the pecks on the lips that she convinced herself were maternal, the lingering hugs, the arms slung over the back of chairs and the tight red carpet embraces.
There was one night, there was always one night. It was before Jazz, after Scarlett and Emma. She was red wine drunk and they kissed on a bar rooftop in the moonlight. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into him. The kiss is long and deep, she feels too safe in his arms. She wishes Kenny and her could have had a moment that romantic. She hates herself for feeling that way about her husband.
She’s too lost in thought to notice Kenny sneak into the bathroom. “Reminds me of when Nellie was little, you never wanted to let her go,” he says with a fond smile.
“I’m sorry,” she gently says, looking up at him with sombre eyes. No matter what is said and what happens, things would never be the same again.
“He’s in love with you,” Kenny says, sitting on the closed toilet lid.
“Did he tell you?” she asks with a furrowed brow.
“I’ve known for a long time. Do you love him back?”
She tucks Kieran's head under her chin and ponders the answer before choosing honesty, “I don’t know.”