When they stumble off stage, a little drunk and high on adrenaline, Ray has the biggest smile Gerard has ever seen on his face. It's so bright and wide and it's making Ray's eyes crinkle in the corners and Gee can't help but smile back.
It's Ray's smile that makes him believe.
For the first time since they started down this crazy fucking road, Gee believes they're going to make it. He can feel it in his bones.
He pulls them all into a group hug, Mikey, Ray and Otter, and they're all shaking and sweaty, swaying and giddy with relief that they didn't get booed off stage.
Frank comes barrelling backstage, yelling "You guys fucking rocked it!" before throwing himself bodily at the group and almost knocking them down to the sticky floor. "Told you, motherfuckers," he crows triuphantly.
Ray's still smiling and something clicks into place in Gee's head. Suddenly, his legs feel rubbery and he feels dizzy; he drops into a rickety chair and put his head between his knees before he passes out.
This is it. They're really going to do this.
It was during Warped Tour that Patrick found himself shoved into the corner of the couch in the lounge of My Chem's bus. There's less clutter but more filth than on his own bus, but he doesn't care, because he finally has a chance to talk to Toro.
Patrick usually considers himself to be pretty shy; that's why Pete's the frontman. He's not one just to go up and introduce himself and start talking. . .unless it's about music. Then all bets are off. Pete's called him a pushy motherfucker on more than one occasion because of it.
He's probably invading Toro's personal space in a major way, but there's nothing he can do about that; he's wedged pretty tight in his corner. If Iero would just stop bouncing on the other side of Ray—
Ray turns to him and Patrick instinctively sticks out his hand "We haven't officially met, but I'm Patrick, Patrick Stump."
Solemnly, Ray shakes his hand. "Ray Toro."
And Patrick doesn't hesitate, don't think twice. "So, musical influences? I think I hear a lot of old school true blue rock 'n' roll in your playing. Hendrix, Clapton, Page?"
For a long moment, Ray just looks at him, forehead wrinkled and Patrick wonders frantically if he's just made a horrible faux pas; maybe Ray's one of those guitar purists who hates Hendrix because he played his guitar upside down and strung backwards.
The smile that slowly dawns on Ray's face is—Patrick searches for a more appropriate word, but no, beautiful is the only word that fits. It's a smile that speaks of a lifelong love of music, of years of band practice and hanging out in music stores, playing shitty clubs and spending all of your allowance on new guitar strings. Ray gets it and his smile almost bowls Patrick over.
"Dude! Dude, yes, yes, yes!"
Christa still wasn't sure how she got conned into coming to the party; it totally wasn't her scene. She should have been at home studying, not at some stupid scene party, trying not to get hit on by drunken guys who thought being in a band made them special.
But Jenna had wanted to come because some hot chick she had a crush on was supposed to be there, and Jenna had hooked up with the girl almost immediately. Christa had ended up wallflowering and nursing a beer for the better part of an hour before giving up and deciding to call it a night.
She looked around, but there wasn't anyone to say goodbye to; Jenna was long gone. She sighed and started weaving through the crowd toward the front door. Once she was outside, she'd call a cab and go home.
She got distracted by some guys shouting in the corner and bumped into some dude, bouncing off of his broad chest and wobbling a little as she tried to regain her balance.
"Whoa, there," he said, a laugh threading through his high-pitched voice. He cupped her elbow carefully in his hand, helping steady her.
"Sorry," she said, and looked up. He had the curliest, fluffiest hair she'd ever seen in her life. "Didn't mean to—"
"Hey, no, s'fine. No harm, no foul." And he smiled at her, open and sweet, and there was something about it that captivated her; she couldn't look away. "I'm Ray."
"Christa," she replied, taking the hand he offered. His hands were big and she couldn't help thinking about the old wives' tale, big hands, big feet, big dick. . .she pushed her glasses up her nose and tried to pretend she wasn't blushing a little.
His smile grew a little lopsided. "So, I'd like to get to know you better, but I'm really drunk right now. If I give you my number, will you call me?"
Christa shouldn't have been so charmed, but the way he smiled made her heart feel funny. "Okay," she agreed, and he used a Sharpie he bummed off his dark-haired friend to carefully write his number on her arm.
She spent the cab ride home tracing the numbers with her finger, remembering his smile.
They'd been working on the hook for a while, and Mikey wasn't fucking getting it. His fingers weren't working right, stumbling over the chord progression and he felt like an idiot. He could do this, he could. Maybe.
Ray started to go over it again and Mikey just held up a hand. "I know, Ray." He tried, but probably failed pretty spectacularly, to keep the frustration out of his voice. "Just—let me—" pound my head against the wall for a while "—get through this."
"Okay, dude," Ray replied easily enough, and Mikey went to stand in a corner, back to the room. He rested one hand on the neck of his bass and closed his eyes, concentrating on just breathing, tuning out the sounds of the rest of the band. He needed to relax and stop thinking so hard.
After a few minutes, he opened his eyes and played the section perfectly. "Fuck, yeah," he muttered and joined the rest of the band. They ran through the song twice more and he didn't miss a beat. He looked at Ray, who was beaming at him, like he'd known all along that Mikey could do it.
It staggered him, that smile. It was faith, and trust, and unconditional belief all rolled into the upward curl of his mouth, Ray Toro's special superpower. After all this time, it still made Mikey blush and feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Ray clicked on the link Gee sent him and started going through the photographs and video clips that had been taken that night. He still couldn't believe it, felt a stupid grin creep on his face, seeing them on the stage in their Killjoy outfits, and Brian fucking May. Brian fucking May. Christ.
He saw Gee and the fierce way he sang, a 'fuck off' to all the doubters, the ones who said they'd never make it. He watched Frank and Mikey, both so proud and happy, playing their hearts out in front of close to eighty thousand people.
Pausing the video, he looked at himself on the monitor. He was covered in sweat, hair hanging in his face, and he was smiling so hard— His grin grew wider, just remembering the pounding of the drums and Brian thrashing on his guitar, the pyrotechnics and the confetti and the fucking crowd.
The crowd had been amazing, singing, dancing, responding to the music, to them and throwing all the energy back to them. Ray had felt light-headed and dizzy, and everything went by in a slow-motion blur of moments that were burned into his memory.
It had been a dream come true, playing, headlining Reading with Brian May, one of his guitar idols. He was never going to forget that night. Or that smile on his own face, the smile that said he was the luckiest fucking bastard in the world and he knew it. Yeah.