Gerard barely recognizes the man staring back at him in the mirror. And for once, that’s not meant to be some profound and artistic statement, nor is it the first lyric of a poignant new song.
It’s because his hair is all chopped off. And it’s white!
He reaches out and tugs at the end of a lock, gently, almost like he’s scared it’s going to crumble under his touch if he pulls too hard. Surprisingly, it actually feels nice in between his fingers, all soft and clean. It’s a far cry from the dark and greasy split ends that have been synonymous with his name for so long, but it doesn’t feel wrong, necessarily.
If anything, it feels right. It’s absolutely perfect for the image the band is crafting for their new album. Still, it does feel different, very different. And sometimes, different can be utterly terrifying, particularly in the way that people react to something different.
Reactions have at least been pretty alright so far. Although only a few people have seen him and his bleached hair: the very talented (and very complimentary) hair stylist who did it, a teenage girl and her mother who stared at him like maybe they recognized him (or they were just marveling at how unnervingly white his hair is), and Mikey, via a mirror selfie that Gerard had just sent him.
Nice, looks cool, was all that Mikey sent in response. Concise and vague, as per usual. It took a lot of restraint to not spam his brother with a slew of needy and desperate messages, and he only just barely managed not to.
But it’s not so much Mikey’s approval that matters so much to him, nor his hairdresser's, or even the fans', really.
There’s only one person whose approval Gerard absolutely needs.
Knock, knock, knock!
And he’s here. Shit.
Gerard finally tears his gaze away from his reflection in the living room mirror and looks to the front door. “It’s open!”
Why Frank is even knocking in the first place, he doesn’t know, but now’s not the time to fixate on his boyfriend’s uncharacteristic civility. Taking a deep breath, he walks toward the front door just as Frank opens it.
Frank’s got a smile on as he enters, but one look at Gerard and that content expression is gone, replaced with an agape mouth and wide eyes. “Oh!”
“Oh?” Gerard parrots back, raising a skeptical brow.
“Yeah, it’s, uh...wow!” Frank says, which is hardly better than the ‘oh’.
“As in, ‘wow, that looks great!’?” Gerard asks. “Or, ‘wow, what the fuck did you do to your hair?’”
“Uh…” Frank mumbles, rubbing at the back of his neck. The fact that praise isn’t his immediate reaction is pretty telling of what he thinks. He takes a step closer and stares intently at Gerard, looking like he’s scrutinizing and analyzing a piece of art -- an expression the School of Visual Arts graduate is all too familiar with.
It was nerve wracking enough when his professors would do so with his assignments, but it’s even worse now that he’s the subject manner and it’s his boyfriend doing the surveying in place of some pretentious New York City artist.
“Well,” Frank finally says, after what feels like an eternity of agonizing anticipation. “You look kind of like...kind of like a creature?”
“A creature?” God, has he really gone from being constantly compared to a handsome vampire ala Count Dracula to the monstrous Creature from the fucking Black Lagoon? And by his boyfriend of all people!
Talk about a fall from grace.
“Wait, no!” Frank says quickly, shaking his head. “I...I didn’t mean that!”
“Clearly you did or you wouldn’t have said!”
“No! Christ, will you just give me like one minute? You always jump to conclusions.” Frank huffs and shakes his head. “Just...just let me look at you.”
Gerard heaves out a sigh that’s a touch melodramatic and concedes, falling silent as he allows Frank to stare intently at him once again.
This time, Frank reaches out and touches the hair, caressing it with those calloused fingertips of his. Because his hair is so short, Gerard can really feel those all too familiar hands, which are comforting as always. He leans into the touch as Franks glides the hand along the back of his head and down his jawline. Cupping the side of Gerard’s face, Frank looks him in the eye and clears his throat.
This is it, the moment of truth.
“You look like a…like a critter.”
Gerard’s brows furrow together and he frowns. “A...critter?”
Why does that somehow feel worse than the last adjective Frank had chosen? ‘Creature’ at least has a fun horror connotation, which Gerard of course loves. Critter just makes him feel...well, he doesn’t exactly know what, but it’s far from assured.
Although Frank sure seems quite confident in his words. “Yeah, a critter!” He repeats and smiles a little wider at Gerard, who’s looking at him dubiously.
Where the actual hell could Frank possibly be going with this?
“Alright, alright, let me explain.” Frank brings his hand back into Gerard’s hair, pinching the tip of a longer lock. “You know like all those animals that live in the forest? Like in those Disney movies? Rabbits, chipmunks, deer, otters--”
“--Otters don’t live in the forest, Frank,” Gerard interrupts.
“Hey, I’m being sincere here, be quiet!” Frank yanks on the lock of hair and Gerard winces a little, but ultimately shuts up and allows his boyfriend to continue. “But yeah, those animals, they’re just...they’re sweet! Cute, fluffy, adorable, y’know? Kind of like you.”
Gerard scoffs. “‘Cute and fluffy’ isn’t exactly what we’re going for on the new album, Frank. I’m supposed to look ‘dead and hollow’.”
“I know, I know, but like, I’ve always seen you as fucking precious,” Frank explains, his voice fond. “Even when you’re covered in fake blood, or posing with knives like some kind of badass, you’re always adorable to me, because I know how sweet you truly are. And this haircut, it kind of just accentuates it more. you’re like my very own little woodland creature”
“So that’s why you went with ‘creature’ first…not because I look like a fucking monster.” Gerard smirks for a moment, before it drops off as he timidly casts his gaze downward. “I’m still not sure if that’s better or worse than ‘critter', but I'll take it. I'll take them both.” Slowly, he looks back up at Frank and smiles. "How is it you always manage to talk yourself out of the strange bullshit that comes from that mouth of yours?"”
Frank chuckles, his eyes as bright and warm as his laughter. “What can I say, it's a talent!”
Leaning in, he kisses Gerard, allowing it to linger as his arms wrap around him securely. He’s smiling as they part, looking back up at the hair.
“Y’know, Bert is blonde now, too. And so is Adam! Who knew this would be the year ‘emo’ went blonde?” Frank laughs again, his arms wrapping around Gerard’s neck and gently petting at the short hairs there. “Although they don’t look half as good as you do.”
“You’re biased as hell, Frankie.”
“Mmm, don’t be so sure, Adam Lazzara is a beautiful fucking man.” Frank‘s clearly joking, but really, Gerard can’t argue with him (Adam Lazzara IS absolutely gorgeous, anyone can see that!) “But I’ve already got the most beautiful guy to call my own, so why do I care?”
Gerard rolls his eyes and smiles. “You’re such a sap.”
“Yeah, yeah, I am. AND you absolutely love it.” And Gerard can’t argue with that either.
Frank leans in and kisses him again, which Gerard gleefully returns. As they kiss, Gerard notices the mirror across the room and sees himself in it. Only now, he does recognize that white-haired man looking back at him.
Sure, he might look different in his quest to become the savior of the broken, the beaten, and the damned, but he’s still very much the man that Frank loves and sees for who he truly is.
And that’s the only person he ever wants to be.