Gerard blinked up from what he was working on, the last of the series he was putting together for The Showing, as he'd come to think of it. About six months earlier, an agent from one of the more forward-looking galleries in SoHo had contacted Gerard and asked him to do a showing. Gerard had held onto the phone as tightly as he could and asked, "You're looking for Gerard Arthur Way?" just in case there had been some kind of mistake. Later on, he had realized that was perhaps not the smoothest response he could have managed.
The woman had managed to assure him that he was, in fact, the artist they were looking for. Gerard had gotten off the phone, called the garage and told Bob. Bob said, "I'm gonna get to see your art all big and on a wall?"
"Well, I'm kinda more excited and scared shitless about the part where people will come and see it and say things about it in newspapers and possibly buy it, if I'm lucky. But yeah, that part's pretty awesome, too."
"I see how it is."
Gerard laughed, then called Mikey, then Frank, then Tommy, then Matt, then Brian, who helped him by telling the center and the church. Then he worked on not panicking trying to figure out how he was going to have that many new pieces ready, what they would look like, what old pieces he was willing to sell, that sort of thing. The preparation had meant more than a few late night sessions with Mikey, trying to talk things out, figure out a beginning, and a considerable number of times when he worked himself to exhaustion and Bob had to bring him down as best he could, get him to sleep.
March was crawling nearer, however, and with it, the date of his opening. Gerard could admit that he had gone somewhere from manic and mildly freaked out to full-out raving lunatic somewhere in the middle of February, so when Bob said, "Break time," Gerard said, "I just--" Bob had to pull him physically from the canvas, out of the room and sit him down at the kitchen table on the chair that they had begun draping in plastic because Gerard had a tendency to take his work with him, literally.
Bob said, "Juice?"
Gerard took a minute to make himself think, pull his mind away from the paint and the surfaces to the kitchen and the table and Bob. "Do we have white grape?"
"Sure. Want some 7Up with it?"
"You're my dream man."
"After all this time, I'd hope."
Gerard laughed. "Sorry. I know I've been a little, um, preoccupied."
"I like watching you work. It's like revving Galina to ninety and seeing what she can do."
Bob had named the Jag Galina for Galina Ulanova, one of the great Russian ballerinas. Dasha had evidently owned every movie Ulanova had ever made, and had regularly made Bob and Ilya watch the splendors that were. Bob handed Gerard the drink and Gerard drank it down. Bob laughed. Gerard smiled. "I was kind of thirsty."
"Yeah, well, it's been five hours."
"Don't we usually go in increments of three when you're around?"
"You looked...settled. Intense, but settled."
Gerard glanced down at where paint was beginning to dry and crack on his skin. He hadn't noticed until now. "Yeah. That's-- Yeah." Then, "Wanna get me clean?"
"I had plans for that," Bob admitted. Gerard pulled his shirt off and left it on the floor, his very own trail of breadcrumbs.
"Gee," Pete said, his voice managing to be completely reasonable and utterly petulant at the same time, "you can't just go to your own opening night in jeans and a t-shirt. You have to let me take you shopping."
Gerard looked at Matty for assistance, but Matty stared back at him with a look that clearly said, the-things-I-do-for-love, and Gerard knew he was on his own. He had yet to get Patrick to help him out with anything; Patrick, the fucker, liked watching other people wiggle at the end of Pete's various hooks. Sure enough, Gerard sneaked a quick look at Patrick. He was watching the whole thing mildly, which was Patrick-ese for, "Vengeance is mine."
Gerard had once tried explaining to Patrick that he had done nothing to deserve vengeance, but clearly that was beside the point in Patrick's mind. Gerard supposed that if he was on the road with Pete all the time, it might be for him as well. "Pete, um--"
"I promise to not make you look like a tool. Mikeyway'd kill me. Well, I think he'd have Frank kill me, but either way ends in death, and I really like this new album we're writing, wanna see it to fruition, you know?"
Gerard laid down his terms: "No yellow, no neons, and no pastels."
Pete made a big show of making a mental note. Gerard said, "I wanna look like me, Pete."
"Right, but you also wanna look like somebody the critics can say intelligent things about and high-class muckety-mucks want to buy a painting or a sketch off of."
And okay, "True."
"I'm smarter about these things than I look, Gee, promise."
"You'd better be," Gerard told him, crossing his arms.
Pete laughed. "You're so not threatening."
"I'm an ex-con," Gerard told him.
Pete thought about it. "Yeah, still nothing." Gerard sighed.
"I'm not allowed to rip that off you and fuck you until you beg me to stop, right?" Bob asked evenly when Pete returned him from their shopping spree all done up in his opening duds.
"Whatever, you know I can outlast you," Gerard said, but he was grinning.
Bob put a finger to the corner of Gerard's eye, right where the eyeliner smudged. Gerard asked, "Do you mind?"
Bob raised an eyebrow. Gerard shrugged. "Just, normally it's only you I let do those things to me."
"Those things," Bob said softly.
"Things that can be misconstrued," Gerard clarified. Bob shook his head and leaned in to kiss Gerard. Gerard whispered, "Bob."
Bob said, "Just know what they mean. That's enough for me."
"And you? What does it mean to you?"
"If nothing else, I get to take my thumb and smear that shit across your face until you look as much like art as those canvases, get to kiss at the corners until you can't remember your own fucking name."
"What's the else?" Gerard asked. He wanted to stay attentive enough to find that out. "You said 'if nothing else'. What's the else?"
"The else is the part where it's fucking hot, and I'm gonna have a hard time not jumping you at your opening."
"Do I look like an artist?" Gerard asked. "Pete said I look like an artist."
Bob frowned. "You always look like an artist. You are one."
Gerard grinned and waited until he could hear his thoughts over the beating of his heart to say, "Okay, um, makeup smearing and yeah, all that, but do you mind if I just--" and went down on his knees.
Bob looked down and said, "Fucking artiste.
Mikey said, "I don't even get a peek?"
Gerard held his ground, though, hands on his hips. Mikey said, "But-- But I'm your brother."
In fairness to Mikey, this had been a fairly compelling argument in the past. But Gerard was set on this topic. "No. No peeking. You'll see when it's up at the gallery, in the right light, the right order and I need your perspective to be as fresh as everyone else's."
Mikey tilted his head at that. "Gee. Look, I don't mean to disappoint you, but there's a chance somewhere between slim and none that I'm not gonna think it's the coolest thing ever on this planet."
"Yeah, well, that's a big part of why I'm making you wait. I might really need that."
"Everybody else is wrong, you know?" Mikey asked.
Gerard rolled his eyes. Mikey shook his head. "No, Gee, no, you listen to me. I'm not just your brother, I'm your brother, and when you tell me I've done a good job? That matters more than any parole officer, any professor, any other person in this world. Why the fuck shouldn't it be the same for me?"
Gerard opened his mouth and then shut it. Mikey had a point. "It is more important. I just-- I still have to worry that you're biased. You tell me that I'm good, that I'm talented, so often--"
"Because you need to hear it," Mikey said. "If I thought it was getting old or you were starting not to believe me, I'd shut the fuck up. Should I?"
Gerard thought about it for a few minutes and then shook his head. "I never want to stop being your hero." He gave Mikey an abashed look.
Mikey grabbed him, hugged him hard, and they were alone and it was the two of them, but Gerard was pretty sure he'd never take that for granted ever again, held on just in case Mikey worried that Gerard didn't want the contact every bit as much as Mikey. Mikey said, "I think the time when you would have had to worry about that is pretty much gone."
Gerard didn't know how to explain that he never wanted to just make assumptions about Mikey, about what he needed and how he felt, so instead he just said, "Love you, Mikey. Love you so hard."
"Harder," Mikey said.
Gerard rolled his eyes. He'd never win. He'd let Mikey win too much as a child and now he had tactics. "You're a brat."
Mikey shrugged in the hug and didn't let go. "But you love me, so whatever."
Bob, Mikey and Frank all took the afternoon of the opening off so that Bob could drive them up to the city together. Gerard banished them while he was busy conferring with the employees of the gallery and the party planner, trying to get the last minute details put together. Bob left somewhat mournfully, staring all the while at the jeans he'd had to help Gerard into,--fucking Pete--the eyeliner that he'd watched Gerard painstakingly apply, and Frank had to pull Mikey away. Mikey wasn't quite so wispy as he'd once been and Frank lost his grip once, flying to the pavement.
Gerard felt uncomfortable in the black vest and white button down that was left just open enough to show off the jaguar tooth. There was too much of him there, far too much, especially when there would people around him, people he didn't know shaking his hand and perhaps clasping his shoulder and he would be theirs, except not, because Bob had assured him that he was Bob's and nobody could have what was Bob's. Gerard remembered how true that had been, so he trusted that it still was. People could look, but they couldn't touch, not really.
At ten minutes until the opening was set to start, Bob, Mikey and Frank came back and Gerard ate his weight in hors d'oeuvres while they looked around a bit. When they were done with their first look through, Mikey came and tugged Gerard over to where the exhibit started in theory. One could, of course, go in any order one wished, but there was a "proper" direction to go in. Mikey said, "We have something to show you."
Gerard let himself be taken, let himself be positioned in front of the oil-painting he'd chosen to start the showing. He didn't work with oils all that often, but he'd wanted to try something in the Munch-school of painting, and had painted a fairytale-esque scene, almost Hansel and Gretel but with two little boys. It was dark and swirling and Gerard could see every single place where it wasn't precisely what he'd wanted, but Mikey said, "Us, right? Grandma's? Home," and suddenly Gerard could also see all was the places where it did come together, where it was sort of perfect in a way.
"Home," Gerard agreed, and looked over at the next set of pictures: a series of four working off one of Tommy's negatives of their house. Despite the negative-type lighting, the four pictures somehow shone with more hope, more promise than the first picture. Each of the four was just slightly altered, Gerard had been working to try and capture something from Frank, Mikey, Bob and himself. The series wasn't meant to be sold separately; it told one story.
"Home," Frank echoed happily, and his hand hovered at the one of the four that was meant to represent him, hues of red and yellow snaking through the picture. Mikey grinned at Gerard; Gerard couldn't help grinning back. He almost didn't want them to see the next part, even if they'd already seen it, it was hard to imagine walking through it with Mikey, but he would. The next four pieces were all charcoal sketches, plain as plain could be, modern in the sense of their abstractness. Gerard had never really worked with metaphorical art before, not on his own, not if he wasn't drawing for cover art, but it had seemed time, seemed like this was the moment to try. He had attempted to relay the years in prison --one sketch for each year--through a number of drawings that took place behind bars but were paintings of everyday scenes of quiet despair: men going to work in suits, women at home by themselves, children looking at a closed candy store, feral cats in the rain.
Gerard had been worried that these weren't powerful enough, that without the blood and the violence, the stark degradation, he wouldn't be saying anything, but Frank said, "You should have called them 'Tribute to Leonard Peltier'," and Gerard heard in the soft hoarseness of the suggestion that Frank saw what he saw, which was all he needed--Frank who knew prison as well as any of them.
Bob said, "I like the title," and that was enough to settle Gerard, too. He'd titled it "Panopticon". Gerard kissed Bob and let himself be pulled further, onto the next two, which were also experimental--Gerard had wanted to try working with texturing, injecting objects into his art. Both were pictures of jaguars: one animal, one car. They were phenomenally alike looking, even with the different objects Gerard had worked with in each piece. They were meant to be.
Bob said, "I guess this means people are going to be looking at my neck all night." He was wearing a v-neck sweater so that the neck tattoo was well on display.
Gerard said, "Guess so," completely unrepentant. The next several were all older works, some of it the original prints of album covers or PR work that had never actually seen the light of day, some of it simply personal works that he was willing to sell to the public. The final image was very plain, nothing avant-garde or even particularly interesting except the clear, honest emotion Gerard had managed to convey in it. It was a watercolor, unusually stark in the accentation of each color, but otherwise just a watercolor showing the four of them at dinner, Mikey laughing at something Frank had said, Gerard happy that Mikey was laughing, Bob watching Gerard be an older brother--one of Bob's favorite Gerards--and Frank being proud of himself for making Mikey laugh. It wasn't a specific moment, just one of their moments. He didn't expect it to sell; he just felt that if people were going to see him on display, that they ought to see all of him, and this was the core of his existence.
Frank said, "Look, I'm funny."
Mikey said, "Funny looking," and settled his chin on Gerard's shoulder. "Gee. Gee. Us."
Bob said, "Us," and pulled them to him, Frank as well, not loosening his grip until both Mikey and Gerard settled into it.
Gerard said, "We made that."
"You did," Mikey told him.
"We did," Gerard argued. Bob kissed the top of his head.
When Brian showed up with Spencer, Gerard did his best to look horrified and asked, "What will become of the center? What?"
Brian said, "Oh, I left it to the monkeys. Don't worry, I bought plenty of bananas."
Gerard had reason to believe him when Ryan and Brendon showed up with Greta and Vicky. Vicky said, "Holy shit, Gee, why didn't you tell us you could draw?" and went to go look around. Greta laughed and smiled a little apologetically before following her to go actually look at the art.
Ryan looked around and said, "I hate you," and then went to go look on his own.
"He doesn't mean that," Brendon said, "he's a lamb. Baaah."
Gerard laughed and shooed him off before he did something embarrassing like crying over the fact that all these people were here. When Pete, Matty, Patrick and Chris showed up, he gave in and said, "I gotta pee," and then ran for a little cover until he could pull himself together. When he got back, Andy and Joe were there, too.
Matt and Jon showed up with Gabe and Ryland. Gabe tried blaming Ryland for the lateness of their arrival, but Ryland was actually fairly prompt, Gerard knew this from working with him on the house. He said, "You would have done better to blame Jon, dickface," and then sent them off to go look as well. Matt hung behind and said, "Gee," grinning.
Gerard said, "What, this isn't your usual with your parolees?"
Matt rolled his eyes. "I should be so fucking lucky."
Maja, AJ and Disashi showed up all decked out in the kind of sleek outfits that made Gerard feel like a complete slob, but AJ took one look around and said, "Shit, man, we can buy some of this, right?" and within the hour, the gallery host had informed Gerard that they'd purchased the prison series under the auspices of the law firm.
Linda and the Fatones drove up together, and Linda bought the oil-painting that began the exhibit. She told him, "Don't worry, young man, I plan to sell this at a grossly inflated price in a few years," and hugged him until he hugged her back. It didn't take very long, he just needed a second to process the shock.
The exhibit was attended by far, far more people than Gerard would have imagined, music and art buffs who knew enough of Gerard's public works to have an interest in his more private art. By the third hour, every piece was spoken for, even the very last one. Tommy had bought that one. Gerard said, "You know I would always--" and Tommy said, "I know. I wanted to show you how much I wanted it."
Alex said, "He's been saving since he heard you were going to show."
Tommy said, "Way to make me look cool."
Frank laughed. "Little late for that, yeah?" Mikey pushed Frank, playfully. Bob shook Tommy's hand.
Gerard laughed as well, but when he said, "Never. Never too late," he meant every word.