Gerard doesn’t smile as much this summer as he did last summer. But when he does, it means more.
Gerard isn’t really smiling right now. It’s something, but he’s more… squinting. Frank considers it carefully. It’s almost a smile. Frank wishes it was a smile.
The early morning sunlight is pouring into the front lounge of the bus. It’s too fucking bright. Frank rubs his eyes and scowls at the coffee maker, willing it to brew faster. Gerard looks up from his notebook and sniffs the air. His eyes land on the coffee and one lip curls up just a bit, but then the bus curves and the sunlight shifts, falling right across Gerard’s face. He grimaces, frowning as he gropes around for… something. Frank spots sunglasses on the counter and tosses them into Gerard’s lap.
Gerard slides them on with the barest hint of a smile on one corner of his mouth. “Thanks, Frankie.”
Gerard’s sticking his tongue out a little bit while he draws. It fascinates Frank to watch Gerard create art. Frank loves the way Gerard’s eyebrows move as he jots down ideas. It’s like he’s having a conversation with himself inside his head. Gerard snorts at something he’s just done, shaking his head and erasing quickly before adding something else to the drawing.
Last summer it hurt when Gerard smiled. Well, a lot of the time it did, anyway - when he was wasted, which was most of the time. It always felt sort of like when you feel so crazy that you don’t know whether you should laugh or scream. When Gerard smiled, it reminded Frank of when you were a kid and had just done something embarrassing in school and then tried to laugh it off. Although, Frank is pretty sure that Gerard wasn’t embarrassed. He wasn’t that self-aware. He wasn’t reflecting.
He might be embarrassed about it now, but he wasn’t then.
Gerard’s been doing a lot of reflecting this summer. He tells Frank that was part of the problem last year. When Gerard tried to look inward, it felt like he was looking into hell, he says. So he didn’t. But Gerard is a naturally self-reflective person. The only way he knew to avoid that natural inclination was to get wasted.
It worked for a while.
This summer is better.
Gerard says his soul doesn’t stink like the rotted pit of hell anymore. Frank thinks Gerard himself doesn’t stink like that anymore either. Frank doesn’t miss the sweatboozedirtfilthvomit eau de Gerard from last summer at all. It makes him a bit easier to take.
Sometimes Gerard is harder to take, though - like right now.
Right now Gerard just wants to be left alone. That’s what he said when Frank and Ray invited him to play Zelda. It’s the perfect game to pass the time on a long day of driving. Gerard doesn’t want to watch a movie, either. He’s just sitting under a blanket on the corner of the couch looking out the window. He isn’t even sketching. Somehow Frank has a harder time with it when Gerard’s fingers aren’t busy making art or writing notes or even smoking... something. It’s when he just sits and stares that Frank gets nervous. He worries. He knows the worrying pisses Gerard off, but Frank does it anyway. He can’t help it. He isn’t able to stop himself from asking, “What are you thinking about?”
Gerard just shakes his head and leaves the couch. He doesn’t look upset. He almost looks too serene. His movements are careful and controlled as he walks the length of the bus to the empty back lounge, shutting the door behind him. Frank is terrible at calm. He knows how to handle rageyupsetyellingcryingpuking Gerard. But he doesn’t know what to do with this… quiet. He stands up and moves toward the back, but Mikey’s hand shoots out from his bunk to grab Frank’s leg as he passes by. Mikey’s reflexes are unexpectedly quick sometimes.
“Leave him,” is all Mikey says before he rolls over. Frank stares at the closed lounge door for a few seconds before sighing and turning around. He hopes no one notices that he grabs a t-shirt off Gerard’s bunk on his way back to curl up in his own bunk. He shoves the shirt under his pillow. The smell helps him sleep.
Some days the only time Frank can count on seeing Gerard is a little while before they go onstage. Make up time. They set up in the back lounge and close the door (so they can focus, Gerard says). It’s just the two of them. It’s nice. Today it’s quiet. The bus is parked really far from the stages, so it’s pretty calm.
“I like this venue,” Gerard comments as he peruses his multitude of eye shadow compacts.
“The stages are like a mile away.” Frank feels contrary. He can’t help it. It’s too quiet. It’s making him twitchy.
Gerard shrugs. “We can walk. It’s good for us. Or we’ll catch a ride if it’s too hot.”
Frank moves to pick up his favorite red eye shadow, but Gerard reaches for it first, pushing Frank’s hand out of the way. “Let me.” Frank stills for a beat then gives a quick nod as he turns so Gerard can reach his face. “You want it on top and bottom?”
“Yeah,” Frank breathes out as he tries to hold still. He watches Gerard’s face as he works. He’s sticking his tongue out just a tiny bit. Frank smiles when he notices it.
“What?” Gerard asks as he places his thumb gently on Frank’s chin to turn his face.
Frank complies, tilting his head as he shrugs. “Nothing, just… you’re good at this.”
Gerard snorts. “Art school, you know.”
“Yeah.” They’ve had this conversation before. But that’s okay. It’s safe. There are no surprises right now. Nothing nefarious is going to sneak up on them. Gerard is content and smiling as he concentrates on his work, his “art” - Frank’s face as his canvas. It isn’t a bright, brilliant, blinding grin. But it feels right. No second hand embarrassment. No trembling anxiety leaking out at the corners. It’s comfortable, peaceful.
Frank will take it.