Let's start off with back at the very beginning of My Chemical Romance's history, okay? The boys are just getting together - Frank's just signed on with the group, and they've only just finished making the video for "Vampires", and Pency Prep has already imploded - that's why Frank's free to BE a guitarist for MCR. Only, Pency Prep wasn't just a bunch of punk boys screaming their throats raw and thrashing up bars - they were all Cousins of Frankie's. Not blood, but still Family. Their fathers were Uncles, and their mothers were Aunts, and some way or another Frank had met them all through his dad's connections in the Vending Machine Business (that's what Frank - what anyone in the Family, really - told people who asked what his father did. Career day? "My dad's in the Vending Machine Business." Parent-Teacher conference, for cutting class one too many times in High School? "My dad can't make it - he has a vending machine delivery that day. Can my ma come instead?" Those who knew the name Iero knew what the Vending Machine Business meant, and those who didn't.....well, it's an innocuous enough answer to deter further questioning, or deflect the conversation about family onto topics less likely to end in consecutive life sentences, like his Grandpa's love of the drums). So, Pency Prep has split, but Frankie still sees Hambone and the rest of the guys all the time, because even if they don't want to be a unit onstage anymore, their paths cross all the time anyway.
So, anyway - Frank's introduction to MCR was kind of whirlwind. Mikey knew him from Pency and from Eyeball, and just kind of swept him up and away to join MCR. He'd gone from the sure sense of Family in Pency, to cramming guitar tabs into his every waking hour (and some sleeping hours, too) to learn enough music to lay tracks for "Vampires", to being basically shoved in a van and told to look pretty for the camera in the music video. It's all been very whirlwind romance, only not so much romance as burgeoning friendships, and not so much whirlwind as class four hurricane. So, it's not until the car trip back to New Jersey that Frank REALLY gets a chance to get to know his fellow bandmates...and they get to know him.
See, Mikey may have known that Frankie was a bitchin' guitarist who knew how to flail onstage and scream his heart into every word he sang, and he might have known that Frank was more than willing to jump onboard the MCR train at the loss of Pency Prep, but they weren't besties just yet. And Gerard hardly knew Frank at all, much less Ray or Matt. So, the car ride home became part Never Have I Ever, part 20 Questions, part Truth Or Dare. And when Gerard asks Frank, "Truth or dare?" and Frank answers "Truth," because even over just the last few miles AND IN AN ENCLOSED VEHICLE DRIVING 55 ON THE HIGHWAY NO LESS Frank's learned that Gerard is not one to pull his punches when it comes to truly awkward Dares, Gerard asks, "What would you be doing right now, if you hadn't come with us for the video?"
And Franks thinks about it for just a moment, because the answer's pretty obvious: "Either I'd be trying to convince Hambone to give me a piggyback ride, or I'd be putting an & Son on dad's Vending Machine Business."
Frank figures, get that part settled right away, put out the mundane answer and then steer the questions back towards bodily fluids and the secretions thereof - he likes Mikey, sure, and Gerard is mesmerizing like a shiny thing to a magpie when he's ON, and Ray and Matt seem like good enough folks but it's not like he KNOWS them all that well yet. He knows not everyone is an FBI plant, not everyone has a wire or a handler or a debt to settle with one of his Cousins or his father...but it doesn't pay to be risky. Plus, how exactly do you work in, "I'd be at the shooting range with Uncle Charlie, and then we'd drop by the Diner on Ashland to sit for a few hours and Talk To People for the rest of the day," without scaring off new bandmates? Frank really wants these guys to like him, he REALLY wants them to keep him - and okay, yeah, he's in their first video but that can be scrapped, it hasn't actually aired yet - and for all that the Family Business is part of Frank's life, his Father's and Grandfather's love of music runs through his VEINS. He NEEDS this band to keep him, and once they know each other better he can set the record straight then.
Only....well, Gerard and Mikey and Ray nod along, and it seems like Ray can absolutely understand the need for music instead of something less vibrant as a career choice (judging by the way he's nodding his head, at least that's what Frank infers), but Matt? Matt freezes a little bit, and jolts back, and gives Frank a second look that would probably have been a spittake if he'd been drinking from his Coke right then. Huh. So, Matt's one of those people who knows. Frank doesn't recognize the name Pelissier - not any of his Cousins, at least, though the Family has lots of extremely extended branches - but he makes a note to ask Dad when he gets home, just in case.
Time-jump fast forward....go! MCR is on their very first tour, and they're driving around in a shitty van that Matt brought to the table (and no, Frank's dad did NOT chip in on the Get A Working Vehicle Fund. Partly it's because, even though he understands Frankie's love of music, he really would rather Frank stick to the small-time local scene and keep his hand on his knife instead of a guitar. And partly, it's because anything that Mr. Frank Iero, Senior, doesn't contribute financially to, cannot be traced back to the Family - and if the van's going to be driving up to Long Island or into the City, it'll be crossing state lines, which means a greater chance of FBI interest should Frank ever get made, and the Family just doesn't need shit like that right now). So they're driving around Jersey, and making longer jaunts up to shitty bars on Long Island and shittier dives in Queens, and even going so far as Pennsylvania and Connecticut on a really rare day. It doesn't sound like much, but after a day of driving erratically/speedily/loose-my-lunch-inducingly for Mikey or Gerard, or a night of extremely strenuous drumming for Matt, sometimes a guy just DOESN'T WANT TO GET BACK IN THE VAN TO SLEEP. And it's not exactly like the label is fronting them the cash to sleep at hotels every night, not if they want to have gas money or food money or beer money as well. Which means, finding a place to sleep.
And that? Is where Frankie comes in.
Sure, the Family is not directly connected with MCR, or actually affiliated wit the band at all, but Frank's an IERO, and that doesn't just go away because he's strapped on a guitar. So, Frank knows people. Maybe they owe his father a favor, or they're looking to ingratiate themselves with the Ieros, or maybe they're a friend of a Cousin, or maybe they just happen to think he's cute.... but whatever the case may be, Frank usually manages to find his band a place to sleep that isn't on top of the merch boxes. It's about three nights out of five, actually, and maybe Matt would get suspicious about exactly how far Frank's Vending Machine Business connections go (they'd had a roundabout-beating-the-bush-vaguer-than-vague-itself conversation about vending machines, and how sometimes they ate your quarters but sometime you got an extra Hershey's bar instead. Frank was pretty sure that it translated to someone Matt knew being a Cousin of Frank's, but he didn't want to actually name names or incriminate anyone he didn't have to. Frank may have also slipped in the statistic about more people being crushed to death by vending machines every year than were eaten by sharks, just to watch Matt squirm...but that's because Frank's a little shit sometimes. He's not gonna call out a hit on Matt, Matt's in his band), but he's so grateful not to be sleeping sitting up with Gerard's unwashed socks propped against the back of his headrest, that he doesn't say anything about it.
And maybe the Family starts doing some more Vending on Long Island, and maybe Mikey starts getting laid a lot more than he would have before (all the times that Frank scores them a basement or a spare couch because he's "so cute, chicks think I'm adorable as shit"...and then he points out that he wasn't actually planning on swinging that way tonight, thanks, bi but not interested, and points them in Mikey's direction instead. Everybody wins: Frankie gets a shower, Matt and Gerard and Ray get to sleep on a non-moving surface, and Mikey'n'whoever get orgasms!), and maybe there are a few less favors owed to Ieros, but all in all, it all works out pretty well.
The band's playing Warped this summer, and Mikey has fallen in with Fall Out Boy, which means that the rest of My Chem also gets drawn into Fall Out Boy's wake. Frank's not gonna ask exactly what Mikey and Pete get up to in their time off - he knows Gerard thinks they're snuggling in a pillow fort in the back lounge of FOB's bus, and Frank isn't gonna be the one to burst that bubble - but when they're in sight, Pete always seems to know all the most interesting people. Well, for a Warped Tour value of interesting, anyway....which is how (officially) Frank Iero meets Gabe Saporta.
Officially, Frank and Gabe meet for the very first time in the shade of a tour bus, on the sweltering hot asphalt of Nassau Coliseum's vast parking lot, in the middle of the summer. They give each other nods, as newly-acquainted fellow musicians do, and then they watch as Pete attempts to steal Patrick's hat while riding Joe like a donkey. It's all very civil and unremarkable.
Unofficially, Frank Anthony Iero Junior and Gabriel Eduardo Saporta have been aware of each other's existence for years, in the same way that killer whales and great white sharks are aware of each others' existence: I know you're there, and I know you're competing for my food source, and I know I could inflict significant damage to you if I crossed your path but I'm not so sure I could win, so I'll stay out of your way and hope you stay out of mine. Frankie's Italian, and Italians have Family, but Gabriel is Uruguayan and they have Family in the Tri-State Area, too.
For the rest of the tour, Frank wonders if Pete's really that oblivious about apparently everything, or if he's playing some deeper game all the way out of Chicago's scene.
Can we fast forward to you go down on me... nope, wrong band. Right fandom, though! So now MCR is blowing up the charts, and they rank their own tour bus (which is great, because Frank's startingto run out of People He Knows the further out they go from Jersey, and he really doesn't want to start anything with anyone else's Vending Machine Business as they go on because he'll be able to leave with the band, but his Cousins will get left to handle the fallout), and then this AWESOME AMAZING FANTASTIC thing happens. THEY'RE ASKED TO OPEN FOR BON JOVI. (Nota bene: everything I know about timelines, I learned from fanfiction. This means that any and all such insignificant things as geographical locations, associated tourmates, and dates on the Gregorian Calendar found in this story may bear little to no resemblance to the actualfax events of reality....but you already knew that, right?)
Now, here's the thing: love 'em or loathe 'em, it is physically impossible to grow up in New Jersey without Bon Jovi playing an integral part in your development - and double that for a Jersey musician. There are varying levels of glee and flailing of arms and toasts raised (well, bottles-of-beer-and-a-Coke-for-Gerard raised - this is after Japan, and Gerard is sober now. It's entirely possible that Bert's tried to come in contact with Gerard since they've all been back in the States, but Frank's ever been so scared in his motherfucking LIFE as he was on that plane ride home - not even the time he fired his first fucking gun, or the first time he realized the bloodier side of his father's Vending Machine Business at age 12, or even the first time he had to use his fists and a pocket knife to save his ass and his father's pride, was as gutwrenchingly horrific as not knowing if Gerard would even make it alive back to the bus that night. Frank spent every moment from first boarding call to the end of the flight alternating between prayer and entreaty and threat, and he's gone with Uncle Vinny on his shake-down rounds so he knows what it feels like when intimidating meets fucking frightening, and on that plane ride was so fucking far past that place it doesn't even have a fucking NAME - so, it's only slightly hypothetical that Frank called a Cousin and asked for a bit of a roughing-up to fall on Jepha or Quinn. It's not that Frank dislikes those guys - hell, they're a good enough time to be had, all things considered - but Frank knows that Family comes first no matter what, and keeping Gerard safe and sane and sober requires he not fall back into bad habits or worse relationships, and Bert is all of that and more. There's absolutely less than nothing to do with Frank feeling like his heart grew three fucking sizes, the first time Gerard sang a set completely sober. No fucking thing. Bert's just a bad idea all around right now, and if he won't listen to Frank's words and stay away, then maybe actions will speak stronger and all that shit), and Mikey even goes so far as to make an expression when they heard the news. The recipients of promised backstage passes range from Ray's former co-workers at The Guitar Shoppe to nearly every Cousin Frank's met at a Family Reunion.
Frank's phone call home goes something like this:
"Frankie, how are you? When're you coming home? Call Aunt Vivian, she and Uncle Vinny were wondering what you wanted for your birthday and I told her guitar strings and those Girl Scout cookies you like, the mint ones, because you can buy whatever else you need for yourself since you're a fancy international rockstar and all, but I don't know if she's actually gonna listen or if she's gonna try and get you another one of those godawful sweaters again this year like she did for Christmas. I swear, I love your father but his sister drives me nuts. Oh, did I tell you? Vinny LaBrarro - not your Uncle Vinny, but your Uncle Charlie's friend Vinny - he's going into surgery on Thursday. He's going in for lung cancer - of course, he's only been smoking for like seventy years, so it's not like it's unexpected - "
"MA! Ma, listen!"
"Frankie, did you just interrupt me? I know I raised you better than that, so I'm pretty sure you did NOT just interrupt me - "
"MA! BON JOVI!"
"WE'RE OPENING FOR FUCKIN' - sorry, Ma - BON JOVI!"
"I know! Bon Jovi!"
"Oh, baby, that's wonderful! Do you think they'll let you do something with them, or just open? That John has such a tight tookus..."
"Ma-aaa. I'm not going to admire Jon Bon Jovi's ass with you. You can admire it yourself, okay? Just don't actually touch it. Please."
.....and then the concert happens, and it's fucking awesome like Frankie knew it would be, and Gerard's totally sober the whole way through even though it's Giants Fucking Stadium and basically every one of his little boy dreams of being a rockstar coming to life all at once, and fuck yeah Frank's nervous but his band is right there with him and he loves them all like brothers, more than his Cousins even (even though he still hasn't told them yet about the other things besides Vending Machines that his father's Business deals with - which, on the one hand is GREAT because if he'd told Matt in any kind of non-vague-as-fuck terms before he left, Matt would totally have gone to the cops, he was that pissed off at everyone. On the other hand, it's starting to seem less and less like protecting the rest of the Family, and more and more like Frank's a great big coward who doesn't want his crush to be disappointed in him, so.... well, he'll jump off that bridge when he gets to it, but signs say it's coming up soon enough), and it's MOTHERFUCKING BON JOVI. So everything post-show is basically awesome. And Frankie gets backstage, and he's making his sweaty/bruised/hoarse/horny way back to the greenroom (because Frank knows his own kinks by this point in his life, even if he doesn't always have time to enact them all, and exhibitionism is right up near the top. Also bruises. Also bruises left by Gerard. Also sweaty smiling sober Gerard), and there's such a crowd of My Chem's friends and family waiting for them all that things just get even better.
Annnnnnnd cue awkward introduction sequence: Ray's off catching up with his Guitar Shoppe buddy, and Bob's been great and all but he's pretty much doing his own thing right now since he doesn't really have family in Jersey, but Gerard and Mikey's mother is there. And so is Frank's Dad and Ma. And everyone wants to meet everyone else, and Frank has to tell Mrs. Way that his father is in the Vending Machine Business, and it drives it in deeper that he still hasn't told the guys exactly why they had so many places to sleep that first tour, and why he's so good with his hands at things other than the typical uses for guitar strings, and that he's basically been lying this whole time. But his Ma and Mrs. Way hit it off right away, talking about - from what Frank can tell - the completely scandalous thing that some girl from the salon's sister's boyfriend was caught doing with another girl at the shop where Mrs. Way works. And it's riveting, truly, but it leaves Frank and his Dad alone with the Way brothers....and all the other Cousins who came to the show in support of Frank. Which means that Gerard and Mikey tag along (because they are non-showering creepers like that) as Frankie makes the rounds, endures the hugs and cheek-kisses and shoulder-pats and "You really haven't grown since high school, have you?"s and "When are you coming home to work with your Dad? The place isn't the same without you"s and "Your Uncle Charlie/Philly/Nicky/Cousin Adam/Mathew/Brian misses you, wish he was here tonight"s. All the way through, Frank can see Gerard's face getting more and more quizzical - he knows by now that Frank's an only child, and Frank's sure he mentioned before that he always had a lot of Cousins around growing up, but now that Gerard can see all these relatives, he's probably starting to notice the lack of genetic resemblance.
Yup, that bridge is coming up fast.....
Frank tells them after Bob leaves. They've been together for years, and Bob's put up with so much of Frank's shit, and he's even caught himself on fire for the band's well-being, but through it all Frank was still hedging his bets when it came to Bob. He gets a tiny thrill of self-righteousness when Bob leaves, since he was proven right not to tell him, but the rest of Frank knows that Ray and Mikey and Gerard had stood with him through better or worse, through sickness and in health, to richer from poorer...and now it's sounding like Marriage Vows in his head, which Frank takes as a sign that either he's going crazy (doubtful - if a bus full of six weeks of unadulterated Waystink can't drive him mad, nothing can), or that it's beyond time to share the truth with the rest of his band.
It goes down like this:
Gerard's expounding again upon his ideas for the new album (which is "not a concept, but it's High Concept, y'know?" Um, no, Frank doesn't, but so far Gerard has drawn some pretty kickass-looking comics to illustrate his point (heee, pun!), and Frank's been entranced by the world he's creating with just his words and his hands and his sheer strength of belief in the four of them), and asks if Frank has anything he wants to add. Frank says, "Yeah, uh. Kinda? Only, not so much about the album, exactly, as um, something I've been meaning to tell you for a while?"
And Mikey and Ray exchange Significant Glances over Frank's head (because they've totally seen how, lately, all the dudes Frank picks up have basically become nonexistent, and all the chicks have been blonde with big eyes, and also Frank is not actually as subtle as he thinks he is when he's staring longingly at Gerard's ass), but Frank misses them Glancing Significantly at each other because he's fiddling with his shoelaces.
"So, uh? You remember my dad?"
And then everyone looks at Frank, because he's sounding really hesitant for a guy who regularly tries at least two death-defying stunts a day and three on Thursdays, which is just weird.
Gerard asks, "Is he alright? Frankie, do you need to go home for a while, stay with your Ma?"
And Frank's like, "No, no! Dad's fine, Ma's fine, Uncle Vinny and Aunt Vivian and everyone else are fine! It's just.....you remember the first time you asked me about my plans for if we didn't make it as a band?"
"Uhhhh, yeah? You said you'd go back to work at your dad's shop - Frankie! You're not leaving, too! Right?" And Gerard looks so anxious, and Ray is starting to look heartbroken (because he and Bob were pretty much lumped together by default a lot of the time, whether rooming on hotel nights or giving interviews or going for food runs, because the Brothers Way are codependent to a really creepy fault sometimes, and Frank can be an annoying little shit when he wants the single so he can get laid - which led to Ray and Bob being really close, best friends close, and Bob leaving pretty much tore a chunk out of Ray), so Frank has to jump in again.
"No! Fuck, Gee, let me finish a goddamn sentence. It's hard enough trying to tell someone who already knows, and I don't know how you don't know, you're definitely weird and creepy enough, and I think your mom might actually know already -"
"Um, what about Mom?" This time it's Mikey, and there's actual inflection in his voice - Frank must be talking himself into such dizzying circles that even Mikey's getting frustrated, if that's the case.
"Look." Frank sighs to his shoelaces. "My name is Frank Iero. Iero."
"Uh, yeah? I.....know?"
"IERO. How are you this dense? As in, son of Frank Iero? Grandson of Annette and Anthony Iero?"
And now all three of his bandmates are giving him Looks, but this time it's the why are you telling me about your family tree, we're not in third grade anymore Look. Although, Mikey might be catching on - he's got that glint in his eyes. (But then again, that might just be from his glasses.)
"Look - Did you ever watch, like, I dunno, Dateline? Or America's Most Wanted? Or even the fucking posters behind the counter at the Post Office? Cause I guarantee you, my Cousin Adam is on at least one of those posters, and I'm pretty sure Uncle Charlie has a tape somewhere in his basement of the time he was on the news."
Still nothing from the peanut gallery.
"My father is the current head of the Iero crime family, and he's wanted by the FBI for a whole lotta shit. And basically all my Uncles and Cousins, and a few of my Aunts, and I think they've even got some paperwork drawn up with racketeering charges and my name on them, if there was ever anything big enough to tie any of it to me. Um. Yeah. I guess I thought you should know."
And then Frank levers himself up off the couch and walks into the bathroom and locks the door, because no-one's saying anything and he just basically laid his whole Family out to dry and not only that but they're his band, his motherfucking BAND, and if this changes things so that they're suddenly, like, mortally afraid of him, he really doesn't want to know. He's pretty sure none of them will turn him in, if only because they don't actually have hard evidence of any crimes committed by him (Frank's made sure to keep as far away from the Vending Machine Business as possible when in association with My Chemical Romance, for a lot of the same reasons his dad never bought them a van, and also because he really wanted to earn this all entirely on his own merit, with nothing carrying over from his father if it didn't have to. Those places to crash on that first tour totally don't count, though - he is NOT A FAN of sleeping closer to Gerard's unwashed socks than he absolutely has to), but mostly because they're his band. But still. He's allowed to be freaking out for a little while, okay? He's never actually had to flat-out say it like that before, and the process was draining.
And then there's a knock on the door.
"Frank? It's Mikey." Mikey's voice drifts under the bathroom door, only just a little bit muffled, so Mikey's probably sitting right up against the door like Frank is on the other side.
"Y'know, Pete said some stuff, that summer. About Gabe, and Andy, and he kinda implied you, too, but nothing too concrete. I guess I thought, nah, Frank's too hyper to ever sit down and plot something diabolical like that, though." And Mikey's voice trails off, leaving a definite dead-air space for Frank's words to rush in and fill.
"No, man! I wouldn't - I never! My dad's thing is his own thing, and I really tried not to mix it up with us, y'know? I never - nothing at the merch table, never! I just - I wanted you to know, 'cause it felt like I'd been keeping it a secret long enough. I swear, Mikey, I never - "
"Okay, good." And it's Ray's voice now, coming from up high, like maybe he's standing over Mikey, leaning with one shoulder against the doorframe. All that's missing is Gerard, and of course he's the one to drag out Frank's torment.
And then there's something poking at Frank's butt. He's kinda perplexed, because the door goes all the way to the floor, but he shifts his ass around to see a folded piece of Subway sandwich wrapper sliding through the space between the edge of the door and the tile bathroom floor. He opens it, and his jaw drops, because on the paper is sketched out another panel of Gerard's comic-characters from their not-concept-High-Concept in-process album, and in this one -
And Gerard's voice comes through the door next, "I was thinking. For the album?We're gonna need to make a video. And, well, we're not part of the Iero Family," and here, the emphasis he places on Family is audible, and Frank can just imagine the face Gerard is making to go with it, "but we are pretty much part of the Frank Family, so..."
And Frank looks down at the sandwich wrapper in his hand, and he sees four brightly-drawn characters, ray-guns in hand, standing shoulder to shoulder against the world. And he's pretty sure that he doesn't have to jump off this bridge after all.
Mike Pedicone was an FBI agent. Mike Pedicone, with his badass ink and his awesome plugs and his fucking brilliant sticks, and his humor and his camaraderie, and he was a motherfucking FBI plant all fucking long.
Gerard handled it brilliantly, and Frank would have been so very impressed with him - would BE so very impressed with him, more than likely in the form of blowjobs and possibly handcuffs when he'd finally come to terms with it all - if it weren't for the fact that Frank just couldn't wrap his head around it all.
Mike was nice. He fit right in with the band, and he got their sense of humor, and for all that he'd missed out on some of their more intense formative moments it really felt as though he could've been a part of My Chem from their earliest days in shitty dive bars.
But, no. He was a motherfucking plant, from the motherfucking FBI, trying to find motherfucking evidence of drug-trafficking in MCR's merch sales. Just - no. NO. Frank would never do shit like that, not in conjunction with the band. Maybe, if he were back in Jersey and he'd never had the life Mikey brought to him that day after Pency folded in on itself, but.... not on TOUR. Not that Frank was, exactly, incapable of such a thing (he was his father's son, after all), but Vending Machine Business and Band Business were two separate things.
And, just - he lied. Mike wormed his fucking way into all their lives, and he made a place for himself in Frank's heart, and then it turned out that the entire time, he was trying to pin something on not just Frank, but FRANK'S ENTIRE BAND.
But Gerard had found out, and he'd talked to Mikey and Ray, and he hadn't said anything to Frank until after it all went down because he was protecting Frank - and if Frank had known beforehand, he definitely would have punched Mike IN THE FUCKING FACE, and then he'd be left to serve time for assaulting an officer or some shit, which, Frank knows what they do to guys like him in prison, okay? He's got a whole song about it. So, no - and sometimes people forgot that Gerard was a truly masterful storyteller behind his Lead Singer face, because the scheme he cooked up with Mikey and Ray's help? Was masterful.
Frank doesn't know everything that went down, Gerard hasn't told him it all yet, but he does know that Ray got Mike to slip up one night, and Mikey got it on tape, and Gerard managed to convince Mike that they'd go to the press with the story that the FBI was trafficking drugs through MCR's merch - and, sure, it'd hurt MCR in the short-term, but it'd RUIN the agency on a national level to be caught out by a group of rock musicians while it was running covert ops. And somehow - Frank doesn't know what Gerard had on Mike, but it must've been a doozy - Mike went along with a cover of embezzling money from the band, so he could report back home and still keep his job.
And thanks to Gerard and Mikey and Ray, Frank's safe.
Frank's Family is safe - Frank's Family back in Jersey, and Frank's family on the bus with him right now.
After all: Family comes first, no matter what.