Frank toyed with the idea of asking for help, but in the end, decided against it. He wasn’t embarrassed, exactly, or ashamed, but this was new and unsettling and he wasn’t ready to share it with anyone else.
He couldn’t meet his own gaze in the mirror and his skin felt tight and prickly as he stripped away the layers of clothes and slid into the shower. He was blushing, he could feel the heat in his face and it pissed him off, because there was no shame in what he was going to do, and yet—
He didn’t want to examine what he was feeling too closely.
Gerard wouldn’t be back for hours, so Frank had the house to himself, and he took advantage of it, taking his time in the shower, using Gerard’s fancy body wash and the scrubby bath pouf.
Carefully, he shaved his legs, cursing loudly when he managed to nick the back of his ankle. There was a lot of blood and Frank wasn’t sure why women put up with doing this on a regular basis, just for the sake of some fucking arbitrary standard of beauty.
He ran his hands over his legs slowly, surprised at how soft and smooth his skin felt. There were a couple of spots that he’d missed, so he went back over them with the razor. The water running down his body felt strange against his skin, and his tattoos gleamed under the fluorescent lights.
His fingers were pruney by the time he forced himself out of the shower stall, wrapping a towel around his waist. The mirror was steamed up, there was nothing but the clouded shadow of his upper body, but he needed to see to shave his face, so he swiped at the mirror.
It was ridiculous, but he still couldn’t meet his own eyes and his hands shook a little as he filled up the sink with hot water. He made quick work of lathering his face up with shaving cream, drawing the razor down his face and swishing it around in the sink.
The smell of shaving cream brought back memories of being a kid and sitting in the bathroom watching his father shave, a generations-old male ritual. He remembered his father talking about how one day Frank too would shave and be a man.
Frank straightened his spine and finally looked at himself. There were streaks of shaving cream left on his face, but he pretty much looked like he always did. A regular dude, a little tan, pointy chinned, dark hair falling into his eyes. His skin was good, he had a few scars, but not as many as you would expect for all the jumping around he did on stage. His nose was straight and bigger than he wanted, and his left ear was a bit higher than his right. Frank tilted his head. Or maybe it was the way his long hair was cut, framing his face.
He could see his mom in his features; he definitely had her lips, and he got the shape of his eyes from her. His dad. . .not so much. His dad had a rough, lived-in sort of face, with a blunt nose and bushy eyebrows. No one would ever mistake Frank Senior for a woman.
Frank touched the spot where his lip ring used to be. The delicate bit of jewelry hadn’t helped make him look any more masculine. So beautiful, Gerard had whispered breathlessly, the first time they’d kissed, and the words had made Frank flinch somewhere deep inside.
“Pretty,” he said roughly. His throat was dry and he had to clear it. He thought of all the words that Gerard had used to describe him. "Gorgeous. Attractive. Delightful. Exquisite. Stunning." He licked his lips and remembered of some of the other words he'd heard over the years. "Girly. Effeminate." He paused. "Fag. Queer."
He held his breath and didn’t let himself look away from his reflection, bracing for the instinctive cringe and flood of heated humiliation. He exhaled noisily as he realized that the shame he'd always felt at hearing those words was gone.
They're just words, Frankie. Just words. Gerard had tucked Frank's hair behind his ears. They only have power if we give it to them.
Maybe Gerard was right.
Putting the stockings on took patience; it was one of those fiddly kind of tasks that Frank usually failed at. The dress was easy, he just slipped it over his head like a really long tee shirt and smoothed it down his legs. It'd taken him weeks to find a dress that he liked and he'd mainly chosen this one because it was a dark green color that suited him. Also, it matched his favorite pair of combat boots perfectly.
He sat on the bed to lace up his boots, finding a weird sort of comfort in the ritual. It let him forget about the fact that Gerard would be home soon. He could pretend, for a little while longer, that his hands weren't shaking and that his stomach wasn't churning anxiously.
He combed his hair out, wished that he'd thought to get it cut. If it were shorter, he could spike it up, but at this length, he couldn't do anything other that try to keep it out of his face. Frank had debated with himself about the makeup, and in the end he decided that a little bit of eyeliner and eyeshadow never hurt anyone. He used his own stash, though, because he was so past the bright, bold colors that Gerard still favored.
Black eyeliner never went out of style. His skills came back easily enough, and when he took a good look at himself, he was reminded forcefully of how much he liked the way he looked with makeup on.
He dug out the old cigar box that he kept his jewelry in, finding his lip ring and pushing it back through the partly healed-over hole, doing the same with his nose ring, putting on an assortment of chains and bands and bracelets on his wrists. He toyed with the idea of putting plugs back into his ears, but it'd been a while and he just didn't want to fuck with them. On his fingers, he just wore the ring that Gerard had given him.
In the bedroom, there was a full-length mirror on the wall; Frank had teased Gerard about it over the years, calling him vain. Gerard had always just flipped him off. Now, he approached it hesitantly, almost terrified of what he would see in the mirror. "C'mon," he chided himself. "There's nothing to be afraid of. Just your fucking reflection." Gerard would laugh at him if he caught Frank talking to himself.
He stepped in front of the mirror and looked his reflection over, from head to toe. "Oh." He didn't look like a girl, or a guy trying to be a girl. He just looked like...himself. Wearing a dress, his boots and a little bit of makeup. He looked nice, like someone who'd made an effort to look good.
Frank's eyes flicked to the clock; Gerard was back early. He took a deep, calming breath. "In here." His fists were clenched by his side and he shook them out, rolling his shoulders as he heard Gerard padding down the hallway.
"Mikey and 'Licia say—Frank?"
Gerard sounded uncertain and Frank shut his eyes tight, suddenly wondering if he'd made a huge mistake. He could feel Gerard hovering uncertainly behind him and he just couldn't look, terrified of seeing disapproval or disgust on Gerard's face.
"Frankie?" Gerard was standing right behind him, chest pressing close to Frank's back, mouth next to Frank's ear. Gerard rested his hands lightly on Frank's arms. "Frankie?" Gerard sighed quietly. "You look gorgeous."
Frank shivered at the way Gerard's voice teased at his nerves.
"You going to open your eyes and tell me what's up?" Gerard tucked his chin over Frank's shoulder.
He opened his eyes slowly, meeting Gerard's in the mirror. There was nothing on Gerard's face but love and curiosity.
"I—I wanted to see—"
Gerard just tipped his head a little.
Frank inhaled, counted to five and exhaled. "I was just thinking about how people've called me names in the past, and perception, and gender and—"
Making an encouraging sound, Gerard squeezed Frank's arms.
"And I wanted to experiment. . ."
"Okay." Gerard pressed a kiss against the corner of Frank's eye. "How can I help?"
Frank grinned, suddenly feeling confident. He should have known Gerard would understand. He peered up through his lashes, coy. "Thought you would never ask," he murmured.