When Gerard was little, he had a system. His mom taught him this system, and it helped him deal with his insecurities. The system was simple, really.
Gerard loves to paint, and even as a toddler, he always had his fingers in paint tubs. He found it hard to make friends, and even when he did make them, sometimes he found it hard to show people how he felt. So Donna, the creative mother that she is, taught little Gerard how to show those close to him how he felt.
A red handprint was for friends. If Gerard trusted someone enough, he’d give them a red handprint, because red was a fun colour. Blue handprints were for secondary family members, because the sea was blue, but Gerard didn’t get to see the sea very often, just like he didn’t get to see his aunts, uncles and cousins very often, so blue handprints were for them.
Yellow handprints were the special handprints. They were for only for his immediate family -- his mom, dad, Mikey and his grandma. The people that loved him most, and who Gerard loved the most. The primary life givers. He chose the color yellow because the Sun was yellow, and the Sun gave life to all the plants and stuff in the world, so it only made sense that he used yellow.
It was a simple system, and it made Gerard feel good. He liked giving people his coloured handprints, and his family would frame them and hang them in their hallways, or living rooms, and Gerard loved it when he’d go to visit.
When he grew up though, the handprints didn’t mean as much. Gerard didn’t think he really needed to give them out anymore.
“Or maybe you’ve just not met anyone new who deserves one?” Mikey had said one night.
Gerard just shrugged and slouched back against the sofa.
Growing up wasn’t very easy for Gerard, with or without the handprint system. The bullies in school were relentless, and the chemical imbalance in his brain didn’t help with his insecurities. Gerard was in his second year of college before he was finally able to come out to his friends and family (though Mikey claims he’s always known, the little shit, “You‘re an art student,” Mikey had said, eyes rolling in his head).
And that’s how Gerard met Frank.
It was an art showing for Gerard’s class, and Frank was working at the event. Gerard was in the corner just next to his exhibit when the tiny tattooed guy had appeared with a Starbucks in hand.
“You okay?” He’d asked. “You look more nervous than the other students.”
Gerard had chewed on his thumbnail and stared at Frank. “I do?”
Frank laughed and held out the cup. “Yeah. To be honest, you look shit scared.”
Gerard had stared at the cup then accepted it. “There’s no Starbucks in--”
“You look like you needed it,” Frank had said, winked, then walked back to the buffet table. There was a keyring hanging out of his back pocket (not that Gerard had been looking, of course), a little lego Stormtrooper just dangling there.
It had been love right then and there.
Now they’ve been dating for eight months and things are getting intense. Just last night Frank said something that completely threw Gerard for six.
They’d been having sex, which is always one of Gerard’s favourite activities with Frank, and Frank said the L Word. Gerard hadn’t known what to do, he’d just stopped, completely confused as to how he should continue.
It had been a very, very awkward night, Gerard has to admit. They’d ended up just throwing on a DVD and curling up on their respective sides of the bed.
Frank hasn’t said a word about it all day, and Gerard feels antsy. He doesn’t know what to do, because the L Word is just something he’s never said before. He’s never been in love, so he’s never felt the need to say it. Yes, he’s pretty sure he’s in love with Frank (because really, there’s no other explanation for the fuzzy feeling he has in his chest the whole time Frank is around him), but Gerard doesn’t know how to tell him.
They’re at Gerard’s mom’s house for dinner tonight, and Frank’s barely said a word, bar the polite small talk whenever one of Gerard’s family ask him a question. Gerard feels like shit.
Just as they start their main course, Frank finally speaks up.
“What’s that?” He asks, pointing to a little framed handprint on the dining room wall. It’s faded and the yellow isn’t so bright anymore.
“Aw, that’s Gerard’s,” Donna says, and she actually reaches across the table to squeeze Gerard’s cheek. “Yellow was for family, wasn’t it? People you loved?”
Gerard shrugs and nods, hanging his head. He really doesn’t want to talk about his stupid handprint system.
“Family?” Frank asks, and he cocks his head at Gerard.
“Yeah, red was for friends, blue for cousins, and yellow for family,” Mikey pipes up, and he winces when Gerard kicks him under the table. Mikey makes a face but Gerard is still staring at his carrots.
“Gerard doesn’t like to share his feelings,” Donna says, and Gerard finally looks up, exasperated. “So we came up with the handprint system. He gave coloured handprints to the people he cared about.”
Frank looks at Gerard, and Gerard just looks at him with an apologetic face, because really, Gerard hates his family right now. But Frank isn’t laughing, and he isn’t mocking him -- he’s smiling.
“That’s kinda cute,” Frank says, and for the first time that day, he looks at ease.
The rest of dinner goes swimmingly, and soon enough Frank’s got Gerard down in the basement, Gerard’s old bedroom, pressed against the door with his hand down Gerard’s pants.
Gerard’s slouching along the sofa when Frank wakes up the next day. It’s just after noon, and they don’t need to rush back to the city for another few hours, so Gerard figured he’d let him sleep late.
Frank appears in the living room doorway just as Donna comes in from the kitchen, fiddling with her wallet.
“I’m just popping to the store, does anyone--” She cuts herself off when she looks at Frank. He’s just standing there in an over sized pair of sweatpants and one of Gerard’s old Misfits’ shirts, and he looks a little confused at the way Donna starts to grin at him.
“I’ll be back in a bit,” Donna says, and she ruffles Gerard’s hair as she passes. She stops at Frank and presses a kiss to his right cheek before she grabs her keys from a dish in hallway and flies out of the door.
Frank turns to Gerard with a confused face, and Gerard just smiles and shrugs, before he turns back to Scooby-Doo.
Frank stares at the side of Gerard’s head for a few seconds before he waves a hand in the air and makes his way to the downstairs’ bathroom.
He doesn’t pay much attention as he does his daily bathroom business, but when he’s about to wash his hands, something in his reflection catches his attention. Frank straightens up and turns his head, showing the full left side of his face.
Right there across his left cheek is a yellow handprint. It’s dry and flaky, and there’s speckles of yellow paint stuck to his sideburns, but it’s as clear as day, bright and bold.
Frank grins and runs his fingertips over the paint. He quickly washes his hands and brushes his teeth, then makes his way back out and into the living room. He doesn’t give Gerard a choice when he climbs into his lap and presses a kiss to his lips.
Gerard smiles and wraps his arms around Frank’s waist.
Sometimes art can be more effective than words, and sometimes a yellow handprint is all you need to tell the man you love how you feel about him.