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A Tale of a Chemical Romance

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September 13, 2001

“I wanna do this thing for real. Like, I think we really have something special here. I can feel it.”

Gerard Way is speaking out loud, and although his friends Raymond "Ray" Toro and Matt “Otter” Pelissier are hanging out with him in the tiny, half-destroyed attic, he feels as though he’s speaking mainly to himself, the passion kindling deep within him taking him someplace far away in his mind…

Just days earlier on September 11th, Gerard had watched helplessly from across the Hudson River in Hoboken, NJ as the Manhattan World Trade Center towers crumbled to the ground after a massive terrorist attack. Gerard had been on his way to work at Fun House at the time (where he was designing action figures full-time), and as he stood there watching the black smoke and debris billow above the heartbroken city, he realized that he's wasting his time with cartoons, that life is precious and short, and that he needs to go out there and really achieve something during the time he has on Earth. He decided to say 'fuck off' to the rest of his life and start a band; he knew right away that’s what he wanted to do.

Earlier that year, while working at Curious Pictures, Gerard had begun working on his own project called The Breakfast Monkey; an often surreal cartoon about a monkey obsessed with breakfast. The Breakfast Monkey had earned Gerard and his animator boss, Joe Boyle, a meeting with the Curious Pictures executives to discuss the possibility of turning Gerard's idea into a kids' television show. Unfortunately, the higher-ups at Curious Pictures started to warp Gerard's vision of the project, talking about making it into an educational show and creating merchandise, toys, and fucking stuffed animals—they were missing the point. That isn’t why Gerard had gotten into it at all. The company told them they had a show that was already similar to Breakfast Monkey (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) so the changes were necessary. The whole experience caused Gerard to become disillusioned with the prospect of writing his own television show. The Curious Pictures executives had changed his artistic idea into something completely bullshit and corporate; something he’d never wanted it to be in the first place.

It's a surreal time for Gerard. Just that past weekend he'd been out celebrating his younger brother Mikey’s 21st birthday without a care in the world, just getting shit-faced and popping pills and having a good time. And now this dark cloud is hanging over the entire country, capturing its innocence. But, at the same time, there is hope. Gerard always hangs on to hope; he believes that there is always good that can emerge from an unfortunate situation. And that’s how his inspiration to start a band came about.

On the very night of the 9/11 attacks Gerard had gone home to his room in his parents’ basement, gathered up all of his notebooks full of ideas, short stories, and angry thoughts, and sat down on the carpet with the books open and strewn around him. And with a very small practice amp and a very old Fender guitar, he began to write. All this stuff had been inside him for years and he wanted to get it out. By the end of his painfully emotional session he had a few songs written. His favorite was called “Skylines and Turnstiles”—probably because writing it had been like therapy for him as he processed the tragic events that had happened that morning.

Gerard spends a lot of time in that basement of his—probably too much time, as Mikey is always telling him. Gerard doesn't think he's depressed (he assumes that the Prozac is taking care of that, for now) but he knows he is definitely a hermit. He'd graduated from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, NY two years earlier with a fine arts degree in cartooning and now spends most of his time working. When he isn’t physically at work he’s either writing or working on his portfolio in the basement. It definitely takes a lot of effort to get Gerard out of the house, but when he is out with other people he’s really funny although somewhat quiet. He sees a therapist on and off to attempt to make sense of his life, and so far his therapist thinks Gerard's problem is that he worries and thinks too much and ends up getting himself depressed. Gerard had become aware of his own mortality at a very young age which sometimes gives him anxiety when he thinks about losing the people that he loves.

Mikey is the complete opposite of his older brother. He’s way more outgoing and sociable than Gerard and he’s very involved in the live post-hardcore music scene in New Brunswick, NJ. After graduating from high school Mikey had tried going to college (mostly because he thought he would meet some people there that he could start a band with) but he didn’t find what he was looking for there and dropped out after a couple semesters. In the summer of 1999 he somehow ended up interning at Eyeball Records, an independent record company based in Kearny, NJ that's driving the local post-hardcore scene and had recently signed the up-and-coming band Thursday.

When Mikey first got the intern position at Eyeball he was mailing out records, carrying equipment, and putting up flyers; basically doing anything he could to help out the scene he loved so much. Eventually Mikey became a notorious part of the furniture at the house of Alex Saavedra, the founder and owner of Eyeball Records. Mikey would go over there, drink all of Alex’s beer and vodka and then just hang out and never leave. He’s pretty much the youngest guy in the group, so in a way everyone thinks of him as their kid brother who they always have to keep half an eye on. They always have the best time at the Eyeball house; lots of local bands hang out there and there are sometimes impromptu “ragers” on the weekends where there are a few hundred people at the house and everyone gets drunk and someone usually ends up getting arrested. It’s always a good time for Mikey, causing trouble with all his friends and waking up on the floor in the morning with some girl he didn't remember sleeping with.

It was during one of those ragers that Mikey had met Geoff Rickly, the lead singer of the local post-hardcore band Thursday. Geoff had approached Mikey at the Eyeball house in December 1999 after Thursday’s debut album ‘Waiting’ was released, and asked him if he knew anyone who could draw some designs for Thursday’s T-shirts. Mikey immediately thought his comic book artist brother would be perfect for the job and then introduced the two. Gerard had met Geoff outside of St. Mark’s record store on Kearny Avenue where Alex had worked at the time. He’d thought Geoff was a strange-looking kid who looked like he was in Joy Division: he had a black mop and he looked emaciated and pale-as-shit sick as though the sun was killing him. But he was so nice and they hit it off immediately. Gerard thinks Geoff is super cool and he loves Thursday’s music. One of the seeds of playing music for Gerard was last year when he went to see Thursday play at the Loop Lounge (the Passaic rock bar that is central to the New Jersey post-hardcore scene). Tucker had just gotten this orange drum kit and the band were way too big to be playing that place; they could go to any hall and there would be hundreds of kids turned away, it would be like a mob scene on the street of kids who couldn’t get in. So for Gerard, to be able to see Thursday at this bar, in a very intimate setting, that was it for him. When people talk about moments where a band changed their life, this was Gerard’s. He didn’t have a band then, he was just drawing shirts, but he was like: “This is it. I have to do this.”

Since his internship at Eyeball Records ended Mikey has moved on and is now working at a local Barnes and Noble, although he still maintains contact with the Eyeball guys and stays present in the scene by going to lots of shows and parties. Mikey wishes Gerard would come out and hang with him more often instead of just staying holed up in their parents’ basement all the time. The brothers are really close and they usually do everything together. Mikey dreams of being in a band with Gerard one day—it's sort of his favorite thing to think about.

Gerard had met up with Otter at the Loop Lounge the day before, rented a room for an hour, plugged in his Fender and played him “Skylines and Turnstiles.” He’d told Otter to have a listen to the song and if he wanted to play to it, then great. The song came out okay when he played it for Otter, but Gerard quickly realized that he can't sing and play guitar at the same time, which led to him calling up his friend and amazing guitarist, Ray Toro.

This brings us back to the nearly-torn-down attic in Otter’s house, where the three 24-year-old men are processing what they have just heard. Otter is sitting on the round, black chair behind his drum set with his sticks in one hand, while Gerard is sitting on the dusty floor with his old Fender guitar and tiny practice amp, and Ray is sitting on a chair next to them from where he'd been watching them play. They are all in awe of what they have just heard; Gerard’s voice is a hidden gem that has been revealed. It has been years since he’s sung and it’s surprising even to him that he still has a decent sounding voice. Plus, it’s unique, too. The music sounds urgent and dangerous and so emotionally charged. The guys can’t compare it to anything because there is nothing else to compare it to—it’s in a class of its own. And that’s how they know they really have something here. They are going to do this thing for real.

Chapter Text

October 12, 2001

It’s just after one in the morning at the Eyeball house and 19-year-old Frank Iero is comfortably drunk/stoned and standing around in a semi-circle of bodies clad in jeans and band T-shirts. There are about 50 kids in the basement crowded around watching bassist Gabe Saporta and the rest of Humble Beginnings play an impromptu show. Alex’s place is a funhouse decorated with horror-movie memorabilia and comic book collectibles. In the last year it had become a punk-rock bed and breakfast of sorts and the meeting place for some of Jersey’s most musically creative minds. It’s hot and dirty and crowded down there in the basement and Frank fucking loves it.

Frank had been introduced to hardcore punk at age 13 by his best friend John “Hambone” McGuire who is a few years older than Frank and is an obsessive record collector. Along with punk had come weed, rebellion, skateboarding, and a new and exciting world of experiences as Frank became an active part of the New Jersey post-hardcore music scene. Frank lives and breathes music. His Pop and Grandpop are both jazz drummers and had gotten him excited about music at an early age. Frank had tried out a bunch of different instruments and had chosen the guitar as his favorite, partially because he can effortlessly smoke cigarettes and play at the same time, which just wasn't possible with wind or brass instruments.

Back in high school Frank and Hambone had started a band called Hybrid, which was inspired by the local NJ punk bands that had been popping up at the time. However, John left Hybrid after a couple of years to go to college, so Frank re-named the band Sector 12 and continued playing in that band until June of last year when things fell apart after Frank’s now ex-girlfriend cheated on him with the drummer of the band.

Last August, Frank and Hambone had reconnected and called up a few friends who were in between bands to form a new band called Pencey Prep. Everyone in the band had been single and miserable at the time, so they had nothing better to do but practice seven days a week. They’d pressured Alex into signing them to Eyeball Records in January, and by May they were recording their first album at Nada Studios (aka sound engineer John Naclerio’s basement) in New Windsor, NY. Every day they are still re-writing and perfecting the songs that they have in order to prepare for their upcoming three week tour of the mid-west. Pencey isn’t a popular band by any means; they have a small but loyal following. However, Frank puts his entire heart and soul into everything he does, no matter how insignificant it might seem to anyone else, and he believes in the band. They play shows wherever they can, often renting out VFW halls or playing basements like the one Frank is in right now.

Gerard is in that very same basement chatting to his good friend Geoff, whom he hasn’t seen in a while because Gerard is usually sitting at home in his underwear eating cereal and drawing comics. Mikey had literally dragged Gerard out the door tonight to get him to come to this party with him.

Just a week prior, Gerard, Ray, and Otter had recorded a demo of three of their recently written songs (“Turnstiles,” “Cubicles,” and “Bring More Knives”) in Otter’s attic, which they’ve called Dreams of Stabbing and/or Being Stabbed but refer to simply as The Attic Demos. They’d used Otter’s cheap 16-track board and a bunch of beaten-up microphones for the recording. The drums and guitars were played upstairs in the attic by Otter and Ray, respectively, while the mics were run down the steep, winding staircase to a tiny bathroom where Gerard sang. Over the last week Ray has been sending The Attic Demos out to as many people as he can, and much to the band's surprise, a lot of their friends love it so far. When Mikey had first heard the demo he said to Gerard, “Fuck, man, I want to be a part of this. This sounds incredible. This band sounds like everything I always wanted to be a part of.” Gerard liked the idea of including his little brother in his own band, so Mikey quickly learned his stuff and soon the band had a brand new bass player.

Geoff and Gerard are pretty much shouting at each other in the crowded room in order to be heard over the pounding drums and incessant guitar noise of Humble Beginnings. “It’s great to see you, man,” Geoff says sincerely. “I’m always asking Mikey, “When’s your brother gonna come hang out?” and he just tells me, “Give it up, man, it’s not happening,”” Geoff laughs.

Gerard smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Yeah, I just hang out in the fucking dark making comics. I’m not social at all,” he says. “Like last night I just smoked cigarettes and drew Spider-Man all night long. I’m fucking tired but Mikey made me come out tonight.”

Geoff’s expression turns thoughtful. “You okay, though? You look totally bummed out,” he says. He can tell that Gerard is severely depressed. Geoff’s best friend had committed suicide two years earlier and because of this he wants to make sure that Gerard isn’t going through anything serious. He couldn’t take losing someone else, especially someone he cares about as much as Gerard.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m still seeing my therapist and everything,” Gerard assures his friend. “Hey, I got a band. Mikey’s in it, too,” he says enthusiastically, a hint of excitement appearing in his eyes.

“Really? Cool, man,” Geoff says casually, because when your friend says that to you at a party you just think, “Okay, whatever.”

“No, I’m serious,” Gerard continues, shifting his weight where he stands. “We’re going to be called My Chemical Romance. Mikey came up with the name while he was looking through some Irvine Welsh books at work yesterday.”

Geoff laughs and says, “Well at least you’ve got a great name. I’m sure you’re gonna be huge…”

Undeterred by Geoff’s dismissive attitude, Gerard says, “I have three songs written already. Can I play you one?” He comes off as slightly overbearing as he motions to one of Alex’s old guitars in the corner.

Geoff shrugs. “Yeah, sure,” he says. He doesn’t really want to listen because they’re at a party, but he loves Gerard like a brother and feels sorta bad for the guy so he figures he'll just let him play the song.

Gerard picks up Alex’s guitar and the two young men head up the stairs to the main floor where it’s quieter. Gerard sits by the stairway and takes the guitar onto his lap. Alex’s guitar is hopelessly out of tune and broken with bad strings, but it’s all Gerard has right now so he plays. He’s doing all these really strange fingerings as he sings a song about vampires, trying to get the song to sound the way it did when he'd played it for Ray and Matt on his own in-tune Fender guitar. Geoff is wearing a strange expression on his face as he watches, because the song—if you could even call it that—sounds horrible. Gerard is obviously not a guitar player, but his singing voice makes up for what he lacks instrumentally. Gerard finishes the song and looks up at Geoff.

“I know it’s nowhere near perfect,” Gerard says when Geoff remains silent with a calculating expression on his face.

Geoff nods thoughtfully. “Yeah, it definitely needs some work,” he says. “But you have a great voice,” he adds, smiling.

Gerard smiles back at his friend. “Thanks,” he says.

“If you guys are interested…Pencey Prep is looking for another band to share their practice space with. It’s here in Kearny. We share the space with them, too, but the rent is pretty high so it’d be nice to have another band to split the cost with. They’re super nice guys,” Geoff says.

“That would be fucking awesome,” Gerard beams. “Right now we’re playing in an attic with no walls. It’s a wooden, run-down piece of shit,” he laughs.

Geoff laughs. “Sounds like this could work out then. I’ll introduce you to Frank. He’s Pencey’s singer/screamer/rhythm guitarist—awesome dude. Ever seen them play?”

Gerard shakes his head, leaving the guitar leaned up against the railing and following Geoff back downstairs towards the music. “I don’t really go to shows, except when you guys are playing,” he says, and Geoff isn’t surprised in the least.

Meanwhile in the basement, Humble Beginnings have just finished off their set when Frank feels someone nudge his side. Frank turns to his right and his face lights up when he sees who it is—it’s Mikey Way, a kid he’s met a number of times before here at the Eyeball house. Mikey’s a taller guy with blond hair tossed messily across his forehead and black, square-framed eyeglasses resting on the tip of his nose. He’s wearing a worn out, black Anthrax T-shirt with jeans and a goofy smile on his face.

“Mikey fuckin’ Way!” Frank exclaims, giving the taller man a quick hug. “How’s it going, dude?”

“Hey, Frank! It’s going good,” Mikey says. “Saw you guys play last week at 331; you fucking rock!”

“Thanks, man! So happy you’re still comin’ out to shows, didn’t run into you at that last one at Somerset.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t feeling great that night so didn't stay to hang out. I left right after your guys’ set,” Mikey explains and Frank nods.

“Fucking terrible what happened in New York, eh?” Frank says.

Mikey shakes his head. “I know…I felt sick to my stomach that entire day. Still can’t really comprehend that that happened.”

“Yeah. The world fucking sucks,” Frank says cynically. “But at least we still have good friends, good music, and good beer,” he smiles, and the two clink their beer cans together.

“My brother, Gerard, wrote some songs the day it happened,” Mikey says after swallowing a sip of his drink. We started a band—My Chemical Romance. I’m gonna be the bass player,” he continues with excitement in his voice.

“Really? That’s a rad name,” Frank says, not really taking it too seriously. After all, he'd heard Mikey play guitar last summer when he'd auditioned for a part in Pencey Prep, and he wasn't very good at all. Plus, most of Frank's friends are starting bands lately; the news isn't anything out of the ordinary for him. “I didn’t know you play bass now,” he adds.

“Well, I don’t, actually,” Mikey laughs. “I taught myself the parts to my brother’s songs, but I’m planning on figuring the rest out as I go along.”

“Awesome,” Frank commends, nodding. “So all that shit that happened the other day made you guys wanna start a band?”

“Yeah, it was totally Gerard’s inspiration though. He’s probably the better person to tell you about it,” Mikey says, looking around the room for his older brother.

“Wait—he’s here?” Frank asks, surprised. Mikey has talked about Gerard lots before, but Frank has never seen him around here. As far as Frank knows, Gerard is this weird comic book artist/genius vampire nerd who hangs out in his parents’ basement all the time getting drunk alone in his pajamas. Frank is really interested to finally meet him.

“Yeah, I convinced him to come out of his cave tonight,” Mikey laughs. “Hey! Gerard!” he yells, visualizing Gerard somewhere on the other side of the crowded room. He’s with Geoff and says something to him before pushing through some bodies, making his way towards Mikey and Frank.

Frank watches as a twenty-something guy with a medium build walks over to them as Mikey waves him in their direction. Gerard has short black hair that’s spiked a bit at the top with gel and he’s wearing a black pullover hoodie and jeans. In one hand he’s holding an unlit cigarette and in the other he's carrying a beer.

“There you are,” Gerard says to his younger brother. “Just ran into Geoff, haven’t seen him in forever,” he continues before his light, hazel eyes settle on Frank’s hazel-green ones.

“Gerard, this is Frank Iero. He plays guitar and does vocals for Pencey Prep,” Mikey begins. “And Frank, this is my brother, Gerard.”

“Hey, nice to meet you,” Gerard says, extending his hand out to Frank. “Geoff was just about to introduce me to you.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” Frank says confidently, shaking Gerard’s hand firmly. “How do you know Geoff?” he asks.

“He asked me to draw some designs for the first-ever Thursday shirt a couple years back and we ended up becoming really good friends after that.”

Frank's eyes light up. “That’s so fucking rad,” he grins, becoming more and more intrigued by the older Way the more they talk. “Geoff and that whole band are so awesome.”

Gerard nods in agreement. “He told me you’re in Pencey Prep and that you guys are looking for a band to share your practice space with. Me and Mikey and a couple other guys just started a band and we’re practicing in a shitty attic right now. Any chance we could share the space with you guys?”

Frank doesn’t hesitate for a second before replying, “Of course, dude. You guys are more than welcome to.”

Gerard and Mikey both look at each other. “Wow, thank you so much,” Gerard smiles, and Mikey echoes him enthusiastically. Gerard is slightly taken aback by Frank’s hospitality since they’ve just met, but he’s beginning to realize that this whole scene is like one big family and everyone helps each other out willingly.

“Don’t mention it,” Frank shrugs. “I'm really stoked to hear you guys play.”

“I was telling Frank about the band before you came over,” Mikey says to Gerard. “He was wondering what made you decide to start it.”

Gerard looks down at the 5'4" punk-looking kid, noticing the intense look in his bright, youthful eyes. He replies, “Well, you know what happened in New York last month, right… Well, I saw it happen and it was basically that and just being fed up with doing nothing important with my life, y’know?” Gerard explains, and Frank notices the thick Jersey accent in his voice. “I’ve been working in the comic book industry for the last couple of years and I feel so brutally empty, like my soul is being sucked out of me every single day.”

“Yeah, I totally get what you mean,” Frank nods. “I think it’s fucking rad what you’re doing now though, dude,” he says, his hazel-green eyes holding a sincere look.

“Thank you. It’s really nice to hear that,” Gerard smiles. “There are a lot of things I’ve wanted to say for a really long time, and with this band I’ll finally be able to do that.”

“Do you guys have anything recorded yet? When do I get to hear your stuff?” Frank asks eagerly. The corners of Gerard's mouth lift slightly because he realizes that this kid is actually genuinely interested in hearing their music.

Gerard and Mikey both look at each other and then Gerard responds. “Yeah, we have a demo. We recorded it last week. Our guitarist, Ray, is sending them out to whoever will take one,” he says casually. “I’ll hook you up when I see you next.”

Frank nods. “Awesome. That’s pretty much what we did with Pencey,” he begins. “We have two demos out—have you heard them?” he asks Gerard.

“Yeah, Mikey blasts them in the car all the time,” Gerard smiles, tilting his head in Mikey's direction. “I really like your guys' sound.”

Frank beams. He feels like Gerard saying he likes his band is one of the best compliments he’s ever received. It probably has something to do with the fact that Frank looks up to Gerard as this totally rad goth-ish art school grad who’s like five years older than him and has been published in a few comic books already at age 24 (according to Mikey); he just feels like Gerard must have good taste. Mikey gets pulled away by some girl (probably to go make out somewhere) leaving Frank and Gerard alone to continue their conversation in the small, crowded basement.

The two start talking about music; Frank tells Gerard about the bands he’s been in and about getting signed to Eyeball earlier that year and recording an album. Gerard is pretty impressed by everything Frank has accomplished already at the young age of 19: he’s been in three bands, he’s been signed to an independent record label, he’s recorded an album that’s set to be released next month, and he’s going on a short tour of the Midwest with his band after the album’s out. He can definitely tell that Frank has a burning passion for music and that it’s the only thing he ever wants to do for a living. Frank’s energy and passion inspire Gerard even more to follow his dreams of pursuing music.

Similarly, Frank admires Gerard’s abundant creativity and his drive for starting a band. He finds Gerard’s determination to create something beautiful in the wake of a tragedy commendable and inspirational. It makes Frank think about living his life to the fullest and reinforces what punk culture has already taught him: to do whatever the fuck he wants with his life.

The two end up talking the rest of the night and become fast friends. They have each other’s numbers and are planning on meeting up with Geoff tomorrow to finalize the rental stuff for the practice space. Frank finds himself heading home with Hambone wearing a perma-smile on his face because he’s finally met Mikey’s older brother and he’s not weird at all—he’s fucking rad as hell.

Chapter Text

October 26, 2001

It’s a chilly, fall evening in Ewing, New Jersey. Outside of the town’s VFW hall Gerard and Mikey are sitting next to each other in one of the back seats in Pencey Prep’s old school bus with an open 24-can case of beer in-between them (the brothers have evenly shared 18 of the cans already). Hambone, Pencey Prep’s bassist, is sitting on the other side of Mikey in the back, and Frank is in front of them, sitting sideways in one of the bus’s middle seats while looking back at his three friends. Ray and Otter are standing outside the bus waiting nervously for their other two bandmates to gain their composure. Tonight is the night that My Chemical Romance will be unleashed into the world at their first-ever show. They’re slotted as the first opening act for headliner Pencey Prep, and Frank’s cousin’s punk band will be taking the stage after them as the second opener. Without a doubt, Gerard and Mikey are fucking terrified; waves of fear pass over them each time they think about what they’re about to do tonight.

Hambone presses his hands onto Mikey’s shoulders as they sit in the bus, looking him square in the face. “You’re gonna fucking kill it up there, man. Forget about the crowd. Who gives a fuck if you don’t get all the notes right; no one will notice as long as you’re confident,” Hambone is saying, giving the younger bassist a much-needed pep talk which is nothing short of a general ordering his troops into battle. Mikey is way past drunk and he’s freaking out. He’s only been a bassist for a few weeks and he’s scared shitless to be playing a real show in front of people he’s never met before.

“How many kids are in there?” Gerard asks anxiously, mirroring Mikey and reaching for his tenth beer. He chugs the drink, hardly noticing the taste now; he’s relying on the effects of the alcohol to get him through their performance. At this point he’s just hoping he doesn’t fall over on stage.

“Like 30 or 40,” Frank says calmly, keeping his eyes on the wasted singer who’s now nodding thoughtfully. Gerard has grown his hair out and it’s now a stringy, jet-black mess in front of his dead-pale face. He’s wearing all-black attire: a black Motörhead Bastards T-shirt under a ripped, black leather jacket; black jeans; and black faux-leather shoes. Frank thinks Gerard looks pretty badass.

Since Gerard, Frank, and Geoff had finalized their rental agreement last month for the practice studio in Kearny, My Chemical Romance and Pencey Prep have been practicing together in that same room. Watching the more experienced band has been great for My Chem. Pencey Prep has a real work ethic; they practice every day for hours and hours. The My Chem guys have learned how a real band operates from watching that band practice. It’s great because they’re able to just hang out and watch someone else’s practice, do their own, share ideas, and show people what’s going on. The two bands have become really good friends and it’s always a blast getting together with all the guys at the studio to play music.

Alex, who’d been pretty impressed after hearing My Chem’s Attic Demos, invited Geoff to take some time out from his hectic touring schedule to come to My Chem’s band practice one day. Gerard had told Alex that he would want Geoff to produce the album if they got the chance to record one with Eyeball. After seeing the new band rehearse, Geoff didn’t think much of them as they were still struggling to gel, and he admitted to Alex that their drummer is fucking terrible (Geoff is obsessive about drummers—it’s his thing). Alex countered, “Yeah, but what did you think of the songs?” And Geoff responded, “I don’t know, I didn’t hear any songs, I heard the drummer missing those ones.” But in the meantime, Geoff was taking what he knows about Gerard, taking the songs he’d heard, and imagining what could be. By the time he got home, he was like, “Yeah, I’m in.”

When Frank had heard My Chem’s demo for the first time a few weeks ago, he was immediately impressed. He’s absolutely in love with their unique sound and every time he hears Gerard sing it’s an entrancing experience because he's so good at what he does. The Pencey Prep guys have been listening to The Attic Demos on their way to shows to get them pumped up and ready to play. The My Chem guys are like family to the guys in Pencey and they’ve pretty much taken the younger band under their wing, helping them out as much as they can. For instance, Frank had pulled some strings with the venue to get My Chem on the bill for tonight’s show.

Frank hops out of the bus, knowing that My Chemical Romance is due to go on stage soon, and Hambone gives his final efforts in helping the Way brothers pull themselves together. Gerard stumbles out of the bus next, followed by a similarly stumbling Mikey, and then Hambone emerges last.

Frank has lit a cigarette which he drags on slowly, eyes slightly squinting, white wispy smoke rising. He looks over at Gerard and the older man is swaying side to side where he stands, obviously extremely intoxicated. “Come here,” Frank says to the singer. Gerard steps over to Frank, and Frank places the lit cigarette between Gerard’s lips. Gerard inhales deeply and feels the rush of nicotine somehow settle the queasiness in his stomach. He breathes out, eyes slightly squinting, white wispy smoke rising, and looks at Frank. Frank's sincere, hazel-green eyes are ever-so-calming to Gerard in this moment; it’s unreal.

“How do you do that?” Gerard says, and his voice is nearly inaudible as though the words were only meant to be a thought. He hands the burning cigarette back to its rightful owner.

Frank raises an eyebrow as he taps grey ash off the cigarette with his forefinger. “Do what?” he asks.

Gerard shakes his head, contemplative. “You calm me down better than fucking Xanax,” he slurs.

Frank laughs, and his expression soon turns thoughtful when he sees that Gerard hasn’t cracked a smile; he’s serious. The moment ends abruptly before Frank can even say anything back.

“C’mon, Gerard, we’re on!” Ray shouts from behind them, in front of the stage door where the rest of his bandmates are gathered.

Gerard looks at Frank once again and Frank sees the fucking terror in Gerard’s drunken eyes. Frank instinctively pulls Gerard into a tight hug, saying, “You guys are gonna kill it. I’ll be watching at the very back. Go knock ‘em dead, dude.”

And with those reassuring words fresh in his heart, Gerard pecks a friendly kiss on Frank’s cheek before heading over to the stage door to meet his band.

Frank’s sort of worried about how much he’s grinning after being kissed on the cheek by the male singer of his favorite band, but he tries not to think about his questionable sexuality while he’s hurrying to the main doors with Hambone to get a spot at the back before My Chem takes the stage. Inside the hall, which is basically a little room that’s usually used for AA meetings, about 40 kids are tightly pressed in right up against the tiny stage. There are no monitors and the vocal PA is run-down, but hey, it’s a venue that’ll let them play so they’re not complaining. Frank finds a chair at the back of the room and stands on it, ‘cause it’s not easy being a short dude at the very back of a show.

Just offstage, My Chemical Romance pull themselves together, the beer they’ve consumed giving the Way brothers enough courage to move towards the stage. The lights are brighter than ever and Gerard finds himself squinting to make out Frank’s figure at the back of the room. Frank’s standing up on a chair and Gerard can’t help but smirk at his friend's perpetual vertical challenge as he walks to center stage. Mikey and Ray plug in their guitars and Otter takes his seat behind the drum kit. Gerard grabs the mic and exchanges one last look with his bandmates before commanding:

“Let’s go.”

What happens next is historically magical. The pounding opening rhythm of “Skylines and Turnstiles” begins and within seconds the room just blows up and the hall becomes a thrashing ocean of bodies against the music. The kids fucking love the band. Gerard is losing himself in the music, becoming an out-of-control and drunken performer, wholeheartedly owning his frontman role and giving his all vocally. Mikey, who’s standing at stage right, is coolly playing his bass parts and nodding his head along to the drum’s rhythm. At stage left, Ray, who’s normally quiet and reserved, is headbanging and thrashing around onstage; he’s wild. Otter is beating the shit out of the drums behind the three of them. The band ploughs through the songs, riding on the crowd’s wave of enthusiasm, and each song gets the same response. They feel totally on fire.

After the show all covered in sweat, the band staggers outside into the frigid fall night air, full of fire and energy. They feel like a gang. They feel fucking unbeatable.

Chapter Text

May 19, 2002

"You dudes coming to the bar tonight?" Alex asks in his boisterous, booming voice.

Everything he says sounds like he's making a joke, and Gerard can't help but smile a little from where he sits on a chair at the small table in the tiny hotel living room, munching on some gourmet fruit gels someone had delivered to them at the hotel. Ray is sitting at the table with Gerard, though he's about to head out with Alex, Mikey and Otter to check out some New Windsor bars and meet up with Geoff and his girlfriend. Frank's close by, lying on his back on the couch with a beige blanket pulled over his legs.

"Nah, I'm feeling way too shitty," Frank says in response to Alex's question.

"Stomachache?" Alex asks.

"The fucking usual," Frank replies, nodding. His digestive system is messed up and has been ever since he was a kid. Because of this, Frank has to eat lactose-free, gluten-free, and high-protein gross shit just so that his guts can function like a normal human being's. And, on top of that, he's a vegetarian (needless to say, it's absolute hell finding foods that Frank can eat when they stop for food on the road). However, despite Frank's diet changes his ongoing stomach issues still leave him feeling constantly nauseated and constantly irritated about feeling sick.

"Poor baby," Alex teases emphatically, making Frank chuckle and shake his head. "What about you, Gerard?"

"I'm staying in," Gerard says. He's staying partly because he's not in the mood to go out, and partly because he doesn't want Frank to be left alone in the hotel room feeling shitty.

"All right. Gerard's gonna take care of our sweet baby," Alex coos, referencing one of the group's inside jokes. Alex takes every opportunity to tease Frank about his age since he's the youngest one in the group at the tender age of 20.

The guys all laugh and Frank full on giggles from embarrassment and Gerard can't help grinning because the sound of Frank's high-pitched giggle gives him pleasant flutters in his tummy. It just seems so unexpected: Frank's this punk rock kid with dirty-blond dreads and a scruffy looking beard who can scream like murder and doesn't take shit from any-fucking-body, yet he emits this pretty, high-pitched giggle every so often when he's nervous or embarrassed and Gerard just thinks the entire package is amazing.

Alex, Ray, Mikey, and Otter leave the hotel room soon and now Frank and Gerard are alone. The room is messy: luggage is scattered across the floor as well as random articles of clothing and empty bottles. The mess is just what comes with fitting eight people into a hotel room meant for two—a result of the very tight budget they're all on.

Frank's quiet; he's stoned and his stomach hurts and he's wishing he was back home in Jersey. However, despite his homesickness, Frank has been having a blast with his friends in New York so far. He's both ecstatic and terrified to be the newest member of his favorite band and to be recording an album with them this week. Otter tracked drums with John and Geoff for three days at Nada Studios, and Ray and Frank just finished tracking the guitars today. It felt pretty rushed (Frank would go out into the van, write his parts, and then run back into the studio and record immediately) but it was awesome nonetheless 'cause Ray is a fucking guitar genius. Tomorrow morning John is recording Mikey's bass parts before Gerard starts tracking vocals.

From his spot on the couch Frank is pretending to be aloof for whatever reason—maybe he's just nervous to be alone with Gerard since that like never happens, and he thinks that if he acts like a jerk then Gerard won't have to be subjected to his awkwardness? He watches Gerard get up from his chair and walk into the kitchenette. Gerard fills the electric kettle with water and turns it on (making instant coffee, Frank presumes). Frank just watches him...watches him walk circles around the kitchen, humming to himself, maybe thinking of some last minute lyric changes for tomorrow. He's so imaginative, Frank thinks, not to mention motherfucking adorable. It's so strange...just months ago Frank thought of Gerard as Mikey's mysterious art nerd brother and now he's still adorably nerdy, but he's also a sexy charismatic singer and Frank just can't deal sometimes. He often can't tell if he's actually into Gerard or if he's just obsessed with the idea of being with him, touching him...fucking him...making him come. Frank physically shakes his head, as if doing so will knock the filthy thoughts right out of his brain, and then startles as Gerard is suddenly standing in front of him holding out a steaming mug of something.

"Made you some tea," Gerard says.

Frank's surprised and he smiles, quickly sitting up to accept the mug of tea Gerard's handing to him.

"Aww, you didn't have to do that. Thanks dude," Frank says, taking the mug. He immediately feels like a dick for ignoring Gerard a while ago.

"It's peppermint. Helps with digestion, apparently. It's really hot still though, I'd let it cool off for a bit," Gerard says.

Frank sets the mug down on the carpet. "Here, sit," he says, patting the empty space next to him on the couch. Gerard sits.

"How're you feeling about working on vocals tomorrow?" Frank asks.

"I'm really excited," Gerard smiles and runs his fingers through his black hair, a nervous habit. Goddamn, that smile, Frank thinks. Gerard's teeth are tiny and cute and oh God just his whole mouth is so, so pretty...

"Good. I'm excited to watch you," Frank says, and hopes that doesn't sound creepy and/or weird.

"John's been great with you guys so far," Gerard muses.

"Yeah he's awesome, really easy to work with," Frank says, and rubs a hand across his stomach when he feels an intense wave of nausea.

Gerard sees the slight wince on Frank's face in that moment and he says, "You okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, it's...whatever," Frank shrugs, trying to put on a tough face even though he feels like absolute shit right now.

"I could—," Gerard begins, but then he gives up on words and just puts his hand on Frank's stomach over his t-shirt and starts rubbing slow and gentle circles, soothing his screaming insides.

Frank looks over at Gerard who just smiles a bit shyly, as does Frank. He looks down at Gerard's hand on his stomach, his fingers splayed out so Gerard-like, so beautiful.

"Feels nice," is all Frank can manage to say because he's enjoying this way too much, although it is really helping to calm his raging guts.

"Does it ever go away? The sick feeling," Gerard asks.

"Yeah. There's a couple of instances where I actually feel good for once," Frank says.

"And when's that?" Gerard implores.

Frank does that giggle again; he's nervous, though Gerard doesn't know why.

"Uh, well right after I play a show I don't feel sick for a few hours. And um...like right after I come sometimes I feel okay for a while," Frank says, giggling a little as he says that last part.

Gerard laughs, intrigued and a little turned on thinking about Frank coming. "So do you like, jerk off all the time so you don't feel sick anymore?" he asks.

Frank laughs. "No, no. It's like...it has to be a really fucking good orgasm. Like, you know...one that leaves you just totally wrecked. Not like, a quick handjob you give yourself in the shower."

Gerard nearly shudders at the visual imagery Frank's giving him and licks his lips, looking down at his hand splayed out across his rhythm guitarist's stomach.

"I wanna totally wreck you..." Gerard says, his voice low, not knowing if Frank is gonna go for this, and he's trailing his hand down Frank's stomach until it's resting on the bulge at the front of his jeans.

Frank's breathing hitches in his throat. He's so caught off guard, and so down for Gerard.

"Come here," he says, and in seconds his lips are on Gerard's and they're making out intensely. Gerard's hands are on either side of Frank's face, cupping his jaw, rubbing his soft hands against the rough beard and he loves it and Frank loves it and they've both wanted this for too fucking long.

Chapter Text

August 13, 2003

Since finishing recording their debut album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love at Nada studios at the end of May 2002, the guys in My Chemical Romance have been touring solidly. It's the middle of a scorching hot summer and they've been on the road for over a year now with little time to breathe in-between tours. But, that's kind of the point; to go out on the road as much as possible. The band's mindset is exactly how Frank so blatantly puts it: "Do you have a show? Does anyone have a show? Put us on it, we'll open for any-fucking-body, any-fucking-where. We don't give a shit, just let us play." The band's record was released in late July of last year, and the reputation they gained from playing as many shows as they could after the release earned them a slot at a three-day music festival called Skatefest in September of that year, which was a pretty big deal for them.

My Chemical Romance had a bit of a breakthrough in February when they were invited to tour Europe as the support act for a band from Utah called The Used who would be headlining the tour. The guys were scared shitless to go to Europe as none of them had ever left the States before in their life. But, at the same time, they felt so honored and thankful to be given such a valuable opportunity for them to expand their band's fanbase and let their music infiltrate the other side of the world. As it turns out, The Used's tour manager, Brian Schecter, was so impressed by My Chem that at the end of the tour he offered to manage them. The guys didn't even have to discuss anything; Brian was a good, hardworking guy and they were ecstatic to work with him.

The guys met a ton of new friends on that Europe tour, including Robert "Bob" Bryar, who was the Used's soundman and an accomplished drummer. Gerard formed a rather intense friendship with Robert "Bert" McCracken (The Used's frontman) on that tour, with the two spending almost all their time together before and after shows. During one of the van rides to the next city there had even been a game of Truth or Dare where Gerard and Bert ended up making out. Given his history with Gerard and those annoying, sickly-sweet feelings he's been having towards him, Frank didn't exactly enjoy watching Gerard and Bert spend time together. It just bothered him watching them get shit-faced together and hang off of each others' bodies all night after finishing a show. It's not like Frank didn't have Ray, Mikey, Otter and the other Used guys to hang out with when Gerard was off drinking (and whatever else they got up to—Frank was too scared to ask) with Bert, but it wasn't the same...Gerard just has this way of understanding Frank without him even having to say anything, and he's never had that with anyone else, not even with Jamia. Gerard feels like home to Frank when they're a million miles away from home.

And that's why the two young adults are lounging in the van together on this sunny Monday afternoon in the back parking lot of the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., chain smoking cigarettes and listening to Walk Among Us through the shitty speakers. My Chemical Romance is in the middle of a U.S. tour with Reggie and the Full Effect, Senses Fail, and Midtown, and it's been a blast so far.

In the van, Frank is lying on his back with his head in Gerard's lap and his feet pressed up against the right passenger side window. He recently buzzed off his reddish-blond 'faux-hawk' and so his chocolate-brown hair is still short—nowhere near long enough to do anything cool with yet. However, he is now sporting a stainless steel nose ring and black 6mm ear gauges to go along with the lip ring he'd had in for over a year now. Gerard definitely enjoys how Frank chooses to express himself with his piercings and tattoos; he especially likes the scorpion tattoo high up on the right side of Frank's neck that he'd gotten after getting home from Europe earlier this year. Frank's eyes are closed behind his dark sunglasses and Gerard is keeping an eye out to make sure he doesn't fall asleep with the cigarette in his hand. The window on Gerard's side is open a crack and he's quietly humming along with the fast-paced punk music while his hand rests on Frank's stomach, rubbing slow, soothing circles.

"Feeling any better?" Gerard asks softly.

"A little," Frank replies before taking another long drag on his cigarette and blowing out the white, toxic smoke. "I'll be okay."

"That's what you said yesterday...right before you puked."

Frank laughs a little. "Some days are better than others..."

"So your doctors seriously just expect you to live like this?" Gerard says, exasperated. He can't imagine constantly feeling nausea and pain.

"They've tried everything. And I'm sick of doctors now, so fuck it."

"I just wish you could feel good more often than you feel shitty," Gerard says, his empathy killing him inside, as usual.

Frank shrugs. "You learn to live with it...the pain becomes you."

Gerard sighs loudly and reaches over Frank to stub out his cigarette in the ash tray between the two front seats. He wishes he didn't care about Frank as much as he does...he literally feels his pain and it kills him.

"I need a drink...or three or four," Gerard says, running a hand through his greasy, chin-length jet black hair.

Frank sighs. "Yeah I'm gonna get started soon too," he says, sitting up slowly next to Gerard.

"Well I didn't mean right this second," Gerard says, putting his arm around Frank's waist and holding him close. "We're barely ever alone together..."

Frank looks at Gerard with longing eyes and tucks a lock of his pretty, black hair behind his ear. "I love the way things are right now. I love playing shows and being on the road with you and Mikey and our best friends and falling asleep wherever we end up. But I also really fucking hate it...I wish I could give you more of my attention, I wish I could take you to nice places. I wish I could give you the world, G...you deserve so much more," he says.

Frank catches a twinkle in Gerard's eyes. "You are my whole fucking world, Frankie. And that's always going to be enough. You're always going to be enough."

Frank is so touched he wants to cry, but he kisses Gerard hard on the lips before his tears of happiness have a chance to form. His right hand comes up to gently caress that spot behind Gerard's ear as they kiss each other slowly and passionately.

Gerard pulls away after a few seconds to take Frank's sunglasses off. "That's better," he smiles. "I can see your pretty eyes now."

Frank giggles and kisses Gerard again. "God, I love you..." he mumbles against the softness.

It's only when Gerard's lips stop moving for a moment that Frank realizes that he's said it. Damn! He was planning on saving it for a better moment but it just slipped out and—

"I love you too."

There it is. Frank instinctively pulls Gerard into the tightest hug and they stay that way for a while, just enjoying how they make each other feel.

"To be honest, I don't know what we are, Frankie. Like, there's Jamia and there's Kat, but...none of that even matters when we're together. I'm so tired of fucking labels. I just love you so much. If you're happy then I'm happy."

"Oh, I'm happy alright," Frank says, smiling as he holds Gerard just a little bit tighter.

They hang out in the van together for another hour or so before Mikey comes looking for them, not wanting to start drinking without his brother.

*

It's just after 8:00PM now and the guys are hanging out backstage around the dressing rooms at the 9:30 Club. The band's merch guy, Jon Cheese, has his camcorder out and is walking around with the guys, filming them as they get ready to go on stage. The band's guitar and bass tech slash best friend Edward "Eddie" Auletta is placing cold water bottles on top of some towels in the dressing room as a cigarette hangs out of his mouth. Gerard is so drunk: he's holding a cup of beer while talking to Jon and then someone starts singing "Live and Let Die" and of course Gerard joins in, singing (fucking beautifully), "...you used to say live and let live...you know you did, you know you did, you know you did!" And Frank is just wandering around while smoking, somehow always ending up right next to Gerard (he always secretly looks out for Gerard when he's drunk). They're both really private about the extent of their relationship so Frank just keeps his talking to a minimum, especially since Gerard is wasted right now and Jon's filming them.

Frank makes his way down a hallway towards the stage (and away from the crowd of people talking) to stretch before they hit the stage, and Mikey and Gerard both follow behind him.

"What are we playing tonight?" Gerard slurs cheekily as Frank turns a corner to stretch against the wall. Frank just lets Gerard be and then Mikey (who's also pretty drunk) starts saying something.

"It's Tyler's birthday and he's twenty today! And Lars is in the crowd! Shoutout to Lars...dedicated...he just got back with his fiancée!" Mikey slurs.

"Dedicated...don't get me started. He just got back with his fiancée he doesn't get dedicated shit," Gerard says. He walks a little further down the hall to see what Frank is doing and sees that he's just around the corner leaning against the wall with his hands, stretching his hamstrings and calves.

"Alright," Mikey says, backing off.

"You get back with a girl you don't get shit dedicated to you," Gerard continues, speaking into Jon's camera now. Frank is now leaning against the wall close to Gerard, listening to his drunken rambling and making sure he's okay. "That's what I'm talkin' about. Jon Cheese on the camera-ugh! Like, fuckin' nine-six. I'm wasted, more than I've ever been all tour. I don't know how it's gonna be tonight, man. I just don't know what's gonna happen. You know, what I think is gonna happen is that rock is gonna blow up in people's...private parts."

Jon then turns the camera to Mikey, who grins and does the "OK" sign while saying, "What he said!"

Next, Jon turns the camera to Frank, who just shrugs and then squats down to tie up the shoe lace on one of his Adidas' which he's just noticed is undone. He also just hates being filmed right now because he's fighting off an anxiety attack as their stage time gets closer and closer. He really wants Jon to fuck off with the camcorder but if he says something then he'll have to talk about his anxiety and that's not fucking happening right now.

"You guys better not suck tonight," some ginger guy just down the hall says. There's a group of random guys just standing there and none of the MCR guys know who they are.

"I hope not," another guy chimes in.

Mikey and Gerard give each other a look.

"I drove all the way down here," the ginger continues.

"Alright," Gerard says, waving a hand and turning away from the negativity so it doesn't kill his vibe.

"Are people setting up our shit?" Mikey asks Frank, hearing the sounds of guitars being checked on stage.

Frank shakes his head, "No, just sound checking."

Gerard looks down at Frank's swamp-green T-shirt and notices that he's written "Cunt." across it in black Sharpie.

"I like that," he says, looking up at Frank and putting one arm over his shoulders.

"Cunt!" Mikey says into Jon's camcorder.

"I love you," Gerard says to Frank sincerely.

"Love you too," Frank says quickly, feeling a little awkward because Mikey is standing right there and Jon has the fucking camcorder in his face.

"You're my two kid brothers, you know that, right?" Gerard says to them both when he realizes that Frank feels a little uncomfortable.

"Yeah, man," Frank says casually, stealthily sliding his shoulders out from under Gerard's arm.

Mikey shouts, "Cunt!" into Jon's camcorder once more, this time with the addition of a middle finger, before he realizes what Gerard is saying.

"You're my two kid brothers," Gerard repeats now that Mikey's listening.

Mikey and Frank exchange a weird look and then Mikey puts his hands on either side of Gerard's face, grinning as he smooths Gerard's hair down and tucks it behind his ears.

"You little dude," Mikey grins.

"Do I look sweet?" Gerard asks.

"Yeah, bro!" Mikey says.

Frank is leaning against the wall behind the brothers, casually blowing smoke and watching Mikey fuck with G's hair and trying not to let on that he's checking Gerard out, admiring his gorgeous face.

"I feel sweet," Gerard says just before Mikey ruffles his hair. "Mmm, thank you Mikey, I probably look like shit now...workin' on my goddamn hair all day..."

Mikey walks away down the hallway and Frank moves from his spot against the wall to stand right behind Gerard, who's unaware he's there.

Frank slowly blows out the smoke he's been holding in; he blows it right against the side of Gerard's face and then quickly turns and walks away towards Mikey, leaving the smoke to surround Gerard where he stands in front of Jon and the camcorder, leaning his left shoulder against the wall.

"...I love having long hair, dude, because you walk out..." Gerard's voice trails off when he realizes what Frank has done. He turns around but Frank is already down the hall talking to Mikey. Gerard can't help but smile a little to himself because he was the one who told Frank that when someone blows smoke in your face it means they want to have sex with you. Gerard is definitely wanting that with Frank, too, whenever it happens—tour isn't exactly the place for romance.

But right now Mikey's saying that someone who isn't Eddie is setting up his bass on stage and tuning it, and Frank says, "Alright, I think we should go out there."

When they find Eddie, they all walk out to the stage with Jon still filming behind them (making Frank's stomach churn). Gerard watches Frank and Mikey join Ray and Otter on stage and begin checking and tuning their guitars. If he had it his way Gerard would've pulled Frank in for a kiss before he went up on stage. Gerard runs into Gabe by the side of the stage and he asks if Gerard is okay and wishes him good luck.

The show is fucking awesome like every other night, and Frank gets a few hours of relief from his stomachaches during the comedown after the show. Frank, Gerard and Ray end up hanging out with James Dewees after the show and he tells the younger guys some tour stories from when he was starting out in Coalesce and The Get Up Kids. It's a great night.

And tomorrow we'll do it again.

Chapter Text

January 20, 2004

My Chemical Romance are in Los Angeles, California in the middle of recording their follow-up to Bullets at Warner Bros Studios with Howard Benson as their producer. It has been a rough few months, especially for Gerard and Mikey who'd lost their grandmother, Elena, the night they got home from tour in November.

The brothers had both taken the news pretty hard, but Gerard especially had just felt completely and totally lost. He'd felt angry with himself for not being there when his grandmother died. Elena was the one who'd encouraged Gerard to be creative and to develop his singing voice. She was just one of the most inspirational and influential people in Gerard's life, and when she died he couldn't fathom how he would make it through the rest of his life without his beloved mentor.

The rest of the band have been so supportive of Gerard and Mikey, even allowing Gerard to spill out his feelings of anger and pain in one of their new songs called "Helena," which is a tribute to the Ways' late grandmother.

Now that they're in California, the mood of the band has been slightly lifted and the Ways are starting to feel some closure. However, Gerard is still in a very fucking insane headspace right now. He's faking it as best as he can, drinking heavily and popping Xanax and pretending to be this crazy singer. But really, he's just trying to hide his hurt behind characters and personas and alcohol. He doesn't want anyone to know the real Gerard...but little does he know, he's slowly losing that person.

Just two weeks ago the band played a short three-date headlining tour in the UK before flying out west to California to start working on Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge with Benson. The band had been signed to Reprise Records last October after A&R representative Craig Aaronson had approached the band at one of their U.S. shows. The band had been quite weary of signing to a major label at first (it took many meetings with Aaronson for them to feel comfortable with signing a deal), but Aaronson turned out to be a great fit for them. He doesn't push the band to do things they aren't comfortable with; he trusts them and lets them be creative in their own way. He also happens to love the band which they all think is pretty awesome.

While recording the album the guys are living at the Oakwood Apartments in Burbank, which is a cluster of buildings in a sleazy area near the Warner Bros headquarters. Mikey had been eager to share an apartment with his brother, but Gerard had managed to convince Mikey to share an apartment with Ray instead so that he could share with Frank ("You and I have lived together our entire lives," Gerard had argued). Otter is the only person in the band who lives alone because certain personalities just can't live together. Plus, they're starting to feel more friction than usual between Otter and the rest of the band, and as a whole they think it's best if they don't spend too much time with Otter outside the studio in order to preserve the friendship (and the band).

After a long day of writing, re-writing, and recording (and Benson working Gerard harder than any of the other guys, as per usual), Gerard and Frank are lounging in Mikey and Ray's apartment, talking and drinking with them. The apartments are actually quite nice: fully furnished with in-suite laundry, and bright with big windows letting in lots of the California sunshine during the day. The guys feel like they're in another country with how different it is out here compared to the East Coast.

"What if we're the only people who like the record?" Ray says, thinking out loud. He thinks the record is awesome, but he's so attached to it that he doesn't know if he can make an honest decision about it.

Mikey laughs, looking up from his flip-phone. "What, you wanna re-do the whole thing again?" he says.

Ray laughs and shakes his head, remembering last week when he'd seriously wanted to scrap the record and make it better. "No, no. I'm just worried that no one will get it."

Gerard sighs loudly, looking down at his lap through his stringy, shoulder-length black hair while tapping his fingers against the cup of vodka and Red Bull he's holding (Gerard calls it Rocket Fuel: it's ten parts vodka to one part Red Bull). "Can we not talk about the record for five fucking seconds, please?" he slurs, sounding pretty irritated despite being stoned out of his mind on Xanax right now. Benson had really pushed Gerard hard during vocal tracking today, so after the session Gerard had popped a few of the anti-anxiety pills to numb himself out. However, he's still reeling from the painful emotions that had surfaced during today's session. He's practically re-living the nightmare of his grandmother's death—the worst moment of his life—all over again.

Frank and Ray exchange a look and Mikey closes his flip-phone.

"Everything okay, man?" Ray asks, wondering if he's going to have to have another talk with Gerard about the alcoholism and drug abuse that he knows has been getting more intense lately.

Gerard shakes his head, not really wanting to share his feelings right now but knowing he owes his friends and brother an explanation for the way he's acting. "I'm just totally done. This whole week has been very overwhelming...Benson works me so fucking hard all the time," Gerard explains. "Like, I'm not complaining; I respect his methods. But...I just really need to be fucked up," he says, feeling so empty yet so full of despair.

Frank has a feeling that Gerard might need to get out of here, so he says to the singer, "Wanna go take a walk or something? Get some air?"

Gerard nods and is on his feet in seconds, thankful for Frank's thoughtful exit strategy. He's eager to just be alone with Frank and relax.

Ray looks at Gerard, worried. He and Brian are the only ones who know that the reason Gerard couldn't track vocals on Monday morning was because he'd wrecked his voice from snorting cocaine all Sunday night at a party in LA. Gerard had confided in Ray about this early on Monday morning because he felt scared. He knew the studio time was expensive and that Benson had a schedule to stick to; he didn't want to waste anyone's time or money. Ray'd had a long talk with Gerard that morning and had thought he'd gotten through to the singer, but he can tell that Gerard is drunk and/or high out of his mind right now and he's concerned about the dangerous and destructive path that his best friend is going down.

"You guys going out later?" Mikey asks before Frank and Gerard leave the apartment.

Since arriving in California, Mikey, Gerard, and Frank have all been partying a little (although hiding the details about the extent of their partying from Ray and Otter), drinking heavily and popping pills, mostly. It's Friday night and they have the weekend off again, which means they don't have to be back in the studio with Benson until Monday morning. It also means that they can get as fucked up as they want for the next two days.

Frank looks at Gerard who looks back at him and shrugs slightly. "Yeah, we might," Frank replies, not sure if Gerard is up for it tonight.

"'Kay," Mikey nods and then looks down at his flip-phone again, leaving Frank to assume that Mikey's going to call him later on if he wants to meet up with him and G.

Frank and Gerard walk out into the night and Gerard immediately lights a cigarette when the door shuts behind them. Frank lightly puts his hand on the small of Gerard's back to steady him, and Gerard relaxes a little into the comforting touch.

"I'm losing it, Frank," Gerard says matter-of-factly, blowing out a large cloud of white smoke and looking dead inside.

Frank sighs quietly. He already knows. He can see it in Gerard's eyes. "What's going on, G-bear?" he asks gently.

"I've created a persona of this wasted, reckless, street-drifter. I get fucked up to get in character, I get fucked up to get out of character. I don't know how to be myself anymore. I don't know who I am. It terrifies me."

Frank grabs Gerard's free hand and holds it tight. He wishes he had the right words to say to Gerard to make him feel like things are going to be okay. But truthfully, Frank has no idea if things will be okay. Frank is messed up in his own ways and he feels like too much of a disaster to be giving Gerard any sort of advice. He wants to get fucked up just as much as Gerard does. He wants to escape the depression of not being at home in New Jersey, to quell the feeling that everything around him is changing at warp speed...everything except for himelf.

"I love you, G...more than you know. I'll always be here for you no matter what," is about all Frank can say without crying. Gerard squeezes Frank's hand tightly, also fighting back tears. They're both a mess.

They soon arrive at their apartment door and Frank swipes the key card, letting them in and flicking the lights on. Living together these past few weeks has been so amazing for both of them, but they both know that it's only temporary: come mid-March, instead of waking up next to each other every morning they'll each be waking up alone in a tiny tour bus bunk.

Gerard sits down at the dining room table and Frank approaches him from behind and gently places both his hands on Gerard's shoulders, leaning in close to him.

"You sounded amazing today, baby. I'm so, so proud of you," he whispers into Gerard's ear before kissing it gingerly.

Gerard reaches up and places one hand on top of Frank's where it rests on his shoulder. "Thank you, Frankie," he says sincerely.

"Are you wanting to go out tonight, or stay in?" Frank asks, heading over to the kitchen and curiously opening the fridge.

Gerard runs a hand through his hair and thinks about having to fake his way through another party, pretending to be happy. "Y'know, I wouldn't mind spending the weekend with just you," he says.

"Yeah?" Frank says, grabbing two beers out of the fridge (there isn't much else in there) and walking over to Gerard again.

"Yeah," Gerard says, accepting the cold beer from Frank. "I think I'd really like that."

"Me too," Frank smiles, and he holds out his hand to Gerard.

Gerard takes Frank's hand and they relocate to the bedroom, putting their drinks on the bedside tables before lying down next to each other on the bed. Gerard snuggles up next to Frank and lays his head on the younger man's chest, feeling relaxed and at home.

"I still have E from the other night," Gerard says.

"Hmm, I'm down," Frank says casually, accustomed to getting high with his best friend. He reaches for Gerard's hand and takes it, gently intertwining their fingers like puzzle pieces. He grazes his cheek against Gerard's messy hair, kisses his forehead and whispers, "I love you so much, baby..." while softly rubbing his calloused thumb against the back of Gerard's soft hand.

"I love you too, Frankie," Gerard smiles, looking up at the guitarist with drowsy-looking eyes. Even though Gerard's fucked up and sad right now, this moment is still the best he's felt all day.

Frank softly kisses Gerard's pretty mouth, closing his eyes and tasting alcohol and sweetness in G's saliva. Gerard is losing himself in the kiss, letting his brain shut off and his body take over as Frank gently and passionately explores the singer's mouth with his tongue. Gerard feels the coolness of Frank's metal lip ring against the right corner of his mouth and lightly tugs on the ring with the tip of his tongue, making Frank let out a soft sigh/giggle. Gerard just can't handle the cute, sexy sounds that come out of Frank's mouth when they kiss; they make his stomach churn in the best possible way, they make him want so much, they make the blood rush pleasantly below his waist.

"I need you, Frankie," Gerard says against Frank's lips.

At first Frank isn't exactly sure what Gerard means by this, but then Gerard pulls his fingers out of Frank's intertwined grasp and places it over the bulge at the front of Frank's jeans and it's super clear to him then. Frank knows that Gerard loves giving him blowjobs (plus he's super fucking good at them), and assumes that that's what he's needing to do right now.

Frank moans lightly, completely turned on feeling Gerard's beautiful hand gently squeezing and rubbing his cock through the fabric of his jeans. He sucks Gerard's bottom lip into his mouth, causing G to echo Frank's soft moans and press his body up closer to Frank.

Gerard skillfully unbuttons Frank's jeans with one hand before pulling the zipper down and slipping his hand down the front of Frank's underwear, grasping his quickly stiffening cock.

"Goddamn, G..." Frank groans, closing his eyes as Gerard slowly strokes his dick to full hardness.

Gerard is loving this: the look of pure ecstasy on Frank's face, his mouth hanging open slightly, the soft little moans escaping his lips... He wants nothing more than to see and hear that while Frank is above him, fucking into him hard.

"Frankie..." Gerard says between kisses. Frank opens his eyes and looks intently into Gerard’s light hazel ones. "I need you to fuck me. Please, I've never needed anything so badly..." he says.

Frank just about shudders because Gerard is so fucking sexy when he's begging and he's never had anyone need him like this before. They've never done this; they've exchanged countless blowjobs on the road and Frank has eaten Gerard’s ass out a few times since they've been living here together, but they've never had penetrative sex. It'll be Gerard’s first time doing anal but what's weird is that he isn't even nervous about it; he's just eager to please Frank and watch him come so hard for him.

"You're too beautiful to fuck," Frank whispers against Gerard’s wet lips, their foreheads pressed together. "I want to make love to you."

Gerard is pretty sure his insides have turned to cotton candy because Frank is so damn sweet and such a gentleman...he's making Gerard feel so special and Gerard is so down for him.

It's not long before Frank is pulling on a lubed condom and staring down at Gerard’s beautiful, naked body laid out beneath him on the bed.

"God, you're pretty..." Frank smiles, blushing a lot. He feels a little nervous but he's trying his best not to show it.

Gerard smiles and pulls his knees back into his chest, exposing himself as the 23-year-old gets between his legs and positions his cock against his tight cherry. He can tell that that Frank is nervous and he thinks it's adorable.

"Ready?" Frank asks, looking down at Gerard, barely able to control himself because of what he sees below him. Gerard’s hard cock is lying against his pale belly, leaking an obscene amount of clear pre-cum, and his asshole looks so good with his cheeks spread open like this for Frank.

"Yeah," G nods eagerly, just wanting Frank to fill him up and fuck love him into oblivion.

Frank slowly presses the head of his condom-covered cock against Gerard’s asshole, keeping his eyes on Gerard’s face the whole time. G’s eyes widen a bit and he sucks in a sharp breath of air when he feels Frank’s cock suddenly pop through his sphincter. It doesn't hurt (he's way too fucked up right now to feel any pain) but it's certainly a shocking feeling being suddenly filled up like that.

"Holy fuck..." Frank moans, closing his eyes and throwing his head back. He's biting his lip, drawing blood, trying his hardest to hold still for a bit and let G get used to the feeling...but it feels so fucking good. He lowers his body so that he's lying right on top of Gerard and kisses him passionately on the mouth. "You okay?" he asks attentively.

"Yeah," G nods, smiling dazedly up at Frank. Gerard wraps his arms around Frank’s neck and pulls him down for a long kiss. He's eager for Frank to keep pushing into him; he's loving how full he feels right now.

In a few moments, Frank is pounding into Gerard’s ass hard, watching the eyes of the singer below him flutter closed every now and then when Frank’s cock slams against his prostate, practically sending him to heaven each time.

"Fuck me as hard as you want, Frankie," Gerard urges, sounding like a complete whore as he moans loudly below the younger man.

The drugs Gerard has taken are causing him to drift in and out of consciousness as Frank continues to fuck into him deeply. At one point he glances up and notices Frank's "Jamia" tattoo below his left nipple and feels incredibly filthy and turned on at the same time.

Frank doesn't want to come yet but Gerard’s ass feels too damn good around his cock and he's soon feeling that pleasantness build up in his lower abdomen. Before he knows it his whole body is rigid and he's rhythmically spilling out his cum into the condom as he thrusts deep into G’s hot tightness.

Frank lays his head against Gerard’s left shoulder, still inside him. He's breathing heavily and he feels G pressing soft kisses onto his sweaty left temple.

"Sorry that was so quick," Frank breathes out, feeling so bad that he couldn't last longer for Gerard. "I can blow you, just gimme a minute..." he says, catching his breath.

"Frankie, babe...there's nothing to be sorry for; that was amazing," Gerard assures him in a soft voice, wrapping his legs around Frank’s waist. He's honestly not even sure if he's able to come right now with all the drugs and alcohol in his system. "I love you so fucking much," he says.

Frank smiles and kisses Gerard’s neck, feeling totally blissed out. "I love you too, G-bear," he says, sighing contently. "Let's run away together," he whispers into the crook of G’s neck after a while.

Gerard smiles, eyes closed, and says softly with his mouth against Frank’s ear, "You can run away with me any time you want."

Chapter Text

July 4, 2004

Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge was released through Reprise Records on June 8th and My Chemical Romance had left to go on tour immediately after the sold-out record release show at Starland Ballroom in New Jersey where they'd played for a large audience of 2,500 fans, friends, and family members. Much to the band's and the label's surprise, the record has been selling extremely well so far: on the very first day of sales for Revenge they sold twice as many records as Bullets had sold in its lifespan at that point. The band feels like they're finally starting to reap the rewards of the intense touring schedule they've been keeping for the past two years.

The 10th annual Vans Warped Tour has been in full swing since late June, and My Chem are almost halfway through playing their run of 22 dates on the tour. They've been having an absolute blast so far, especially since some of their friends from home (Senses Fail, Thursday) are playing Warped Tour this summer as well. This morning the guys are waking up in their bunks in Las Vegas, NV in a large parking lot at Desert Breeze Skate Park. On this sunny summer day the buzzing drills, cranking ratchets and pounding hammers of the Warped Tour crew can be heard as they build stages and set up tents for the punk rock festival that will become the Skate Park in just three hours.

Ray is up by 08:00AM as usual, eager to check what time My Chemical Romance is scheduled to play today. Every morning of the tour the staff assigns each band a random time slot to play; that means it's possible for a band to play at 11:00AM one day and at 08:00PM the next day.

Frank stirs awake in his top bunk when he hears Ray energetically hop out of the top bunk across from his. He also hears Gerard still softly snoring in the bunk directly below him, sleeping off a hangover after getting completely fucked up after their 07:15PM set last night. Frank decides to let Gerard sleep despite really wanting to snuggle with his baby for a few minutes before starting the day. Soon, Frank smells the full-bodied aroma of freshly brewed coffee—Ray's just put on a pot of the energizing liquid to lure the rest of the gang out of bed.

It's not long before Gerard stretches awake in his bottom bunk, yawning and burying his face in his pillow as he fights the angry bile that's starting to rise in his esophagus. His mind feels fuzzy and dull from all the Xanax he'd abused last night; he needs coffee immediately in order to properly wake up, and then beer to get himself in a good mood and help him get into his "wasted, reckless street-drifter" character for their set later (whatever time that will be at today).

"Wake up, boysss!" Ray calls brightly down the tiny hallway where the bunks are. It's already 9:00AM now and Ray and Matt are the only ones who are out of their bunks. Frank has been lying awake in his for an hour, waiting for Gerard to get up, and Mikey has been passed out in his the whole time.

"What time do we play?" Gerard calls out groggily from where he lies in the darkness of his bunk. He feels almost too depressed to find the motivation to speak.

"We play at one. On the Maurice stage, as usual," Ray shouts back.

"Thank fuck," Gerard mutters to himself, relieved that they're not playing the first time-slot at 11:00AM.

"Bouncing Souls play at four," Ray shouts down the hallway, mainly for Frank as they're his favorite band.

"Thanks Ray, you're the best," Frank calls out sleepily. He opens the curtain to his bunk and waves across at Mikey, whose bottom-bunk curtain is also open. "Morning," he says.

"Morning," Mikey says back groggily. He rubs his tired eyes before putting his glasses on.

"Gerard?" Frank says, wanting to interact with the older Way.

"What?" Gerard snaps from behind the curtain to his bunk. He sounds pretty annoyed for whatever reason and Frank's a little hurt by it.

Frank and Mikey exchange a look, both knowing that something's up with Gerard. They've all noticed that Gerard has been drinking a lot more since they've been back on tour and taking way more pills than he needs, but G has been really good at avoiding any sort of confrontation about his issues with addiction and substance abuse (his favorite line is, "I'm fine!"). It's been really hard for Frank to get Gerard to talk to him about any of it, and to be honest, Frank just wants to pretend that everything is fine because it's just so much easier that way.

"Wanna grab some coffee and take a walk with me?" Frank asks, hoping that Gerard will join him.

"Sure. Gimme a few minutes," Gerard says, sounding slightly calmer now.

By 10:00AM, Gerard has his coffee (which is about 1/3 vodka, unbeknownst to Frank or anyone else) in a Styrofoam cup and a few Xanax in the front pocket of his black pants. He's wearing his usual stage outfit: a black T-shirt underneath a white button-up shirt with a black-and-white striped tie and a black blazer over top. Below the waist he's wearing black jeans and his signature bat belt buckle. There's red eye-shadow (a warm red with a pearl finish) brushed onto his eyelids and around his eyes, smudged on random spots on his face, and also staining his shirt and tie. He'd written "KILL" in black Sharpie across his white shirt a few nights ago but it's starting to fade now from the amount of sweat that soaks through the shirt during the energetic set the band plays each day.

Frank is wearing dark-colored shorts and a white T-shirt and he's now walking with Gerard through the maze of tour buses and lorries in the large parking lot. Other musicians are also beginning to leave their buses now and head over to the breakfast tent which serves the bands and crew a buffet of simple breakfast items every morning. Neither Gerard nor Frank feel like eating anything right now—Gerard's too hung over and Frank's rotten guts are giving him pain again—so they just walk around the tents, smoking cigarettes and people-watching and enjoying the morning desert sunshine.

"I'm sorry I snapped at you this morning," Gerard says, thinking back to earlier on the bus.

Frank shrugs, "It's okay," he says. "I'd be sick of me too, by now," he adds, sounding more passive-aggressive than he'd intended to.

Gerard shakes his head. "It's not like that...I could never be sick of you," he says. He's holding his vodka-coffee in one hand and a burning cigarette in the other. "It's just that sometimes I feel shitty about myself and I take my frustration out on you cause I'm an asshole. You don't deserve that at all, Frankie. I'm sorry."

"It's okay, G. And you're not an asshole—you're human," Frank says, his words freeing Gerard from the guilty feelings that had built up inside him.

Gerard sighs. "Truth is, I really fucking miss you..." he says, sharing a look of longing with the younger man, both of them thinking back to earlier that year when they were blissfully living together while recording Revenge.

Their privacy is super limited on this tour, so their intimate interactions consist mainly of risky make out sessions in-between tour buses, dirty text messages exchanged in the darkness of their bunks during the wee hours of the morning, and the occasional sloppy on-stage kiss ("To piss off the homophobes," they tell their bandmates) during their thirty-minute set.

"I really fucking miss you too, G-bear," Frank says sincerely, making Gerard smile because he loves it when Frank calls him that. "Wanna kiss that pretty fucking mouth of yours," Frank smirks, getting all hot when he glances up at Gerard’s lips and remembers what else they can do...

Gerard feels his body shudder involuntarily with need when he imagines Frank’s lips pressed up hungrily against his. "Find a way to get me alone tonight," he says needily.

Frank chuckles, taking a drag on his cigarette. "Baby..." he says. He's shaking his head but it's not because he doesn't want to get Gerard alone tonight; it's because he doesn't think he can handle the way G is talking and looking at him right now without jumping him.

"Fucking need you so bad..." Gerard says, knowing full well what he's doing to Frank. Frank adores Gerard’s "needy whore" routine and Gerard knows it.

They're walking close to the parking lot again and Frank suddenly drops his cigarette and pulls Gerard by the wrist into a narrow gap between two large cargo trucks. Surprised, Gerard drops his cigarette and his Styrofoam cup of spiked coffee when Frank pins his shoulders against the side of the truck but he doesn't care at all because he needs this more right now. Frank buries his face in the crook of G’s neck, kissing and lightly nibbling the older man's pale flesh. Gerard is moaning quietly, grabbing Frank’s ass and making him grind up against his crotch.

"Wanna fuck your tight little asshole..." Frank pretty much growls into Gerard’s ear and Gerard shudders from the lust he feels radiating from Frank.

"God, Frankie..." G groans, throwing his head back with a thud against the side of the cargo truck.

Frank eases his weight up off of Gerard’s shoulders, freeing his arms, and Gerard immediately wraps his arms around Frank’s neck, pulling him in for a passionate kiss. Frank wraps his right arm around Gerard’s waist and his other arm pulls Gerard’s right leg up to wrap around his waist.

G’s eyes flutter closed when Frank starts dry-humping him hard against the truck, leaving him practically begging for the real thing.

Neither of them notice that a crew member has emerged from behind the truck they're rutting up against until they hear the person clear their throat loudly. Beyond embarrassed, they immediately let go of each other and exchange a horrified look before quickly walking off in the opposite direction towards MCR's tour bus.

When they're far enough away, Frank bursts out laughing and then Gerard does too. They look at each other and shake their heads, knowing full well that it could have been G's brother or one of their friends that had caught them in the act.

By the time 1:00PM rolls around Gerard is completely wasted; he's staggering around beside the Maurice stage trying not to throw up or fall over while Ray, Frank, and Mikey tune their guitars on stage.

The band's set is crazy and unpredictable because Gerard is totally fucked up. The wasted singer falls over onstage multiple times and even loses his pants at one point ("It's that women's cut...they always fall down," he explains later).

Before they play "Our Lady of Sorrows," Gerard makes a short speech about friendship, shouting drunkenly at the crowd of teenagers and young adults: “You probably came with your best friend… you to turn to that motherfucker, you grab ‘em by the throat and you say, ‘You’re my best fucking friend, and I would die for you!'"

Right after Gerard says this, Frank walks over to Gerard, grabs his throat and screams in his face: "You're my best fucking friend, and I would die for you!" Their eyes lock intensely for a moment and then the show continues on.

Near the end of the set Gerard invites Geoff up onstage to sing part of "Vampires Will Never Hurt You" with him. They have the best time rocking out together, singing: "Struck down before our prime, before we get off the floor! Can you stake my heart? Can you stake my hear-ar-arrrt?"

After the band's thirty-minute set Gerard quickly disappears and finds a random group of people to drink more beer and vodka with in order to continue his performance-high and slowly slip out of character and back into whatever shell is left of himself. Later he'll start popping Xanax to mellow out, but for now he sticks to alcohol.

Frank has been hanging out and drinking with the guys from Senses Fail since My Chem's set ended (he couldn't find Gerard anywhere after they got offstage). He's drunk, but not nearly as wasted as Gerard is right now. They're standing by Thursday's merch tent where Geoff and Tucker are signing autographs for the lineup of kids all waiting excitedly for their turn to meet their favorite band. There's really not much else to do now besides watch other bands play, hang out on the bus like an asshole, or get wasted.

The Bouncing Souls are playing on the Main Stage in twenty minutes and Frank wants to find Gerard so they can go watch the NJ band's set together.

"Hey, I'm gonna go find Gerard," Frank says to Senses Fail's rhythm guitarist, Dave Miller.

"Sure, man," Dave nods. "Meet you over at Main Stage at four."

Frank walks around the park, in-between the tents and stages, but he doesn't see Gerard anywhere. Finally, as he's heading back towards the parking lot, he sees Gerard standing close to MCR's tour bus, swaying on his feet and looking like he's fighting a sick feeling. Gerard is no longer wearing his stage clothes, he's now wearing a black pullover hoodie and camo shorts.

As Frank approaches, he sees Jon with his fucking camcorder out, filming Gerard stumbling around the parking lot but not doing anything to help him. Matt Rubano (the bassist for Taking Back Sunday) is also standing there drinking beer from a blue plastic cup and looking on, apparently finding Gerard's alcoholism amusing. Frank's blood is fucking boiling for the two of them.

Suddenly, Gerard bends over and vomits into some bushes next to the bus before tripping off the sidewalk and clumsily guiding his body down to the ground. Frank's anger is now instantly overpowered by concern for Gerard.

Completely ignoring Jon and Matt, Frank gets in close to Gerard and squats down next to him where he lies face-up on the hot pavement. The singer is closing his eyes, groaning softly, and all the color has completely drained from his face making him look like a sad ghost.

"Hey, G...you okay?" Frank asks quietly, brushing a strand of Gerard's stringy black hair away from his barely-open eyes with one hand while the other hand grips a blue plastic cup filled with cheap vodka and Diet Coke.

"I...fuckin'...God...." Gerard slurs, almost totally incoherent. He feels like complete shit; he wants to fucking disappear or just fall asleep and never ever wake up again.

Frank is wearing a concerned expression as he grasps one of Gerard's hands, preparing to pull the wasted 27-year-old back up to his feet. Matt comes in closer and squats down with Frank, realizing that Gerard is in pretty bad shape right now.

Frank grips Gerard's hand tightly. "Let's get up," he says.

"Yeah...'kay," Gerard nods, finally opening his eyes fully.

Frank looks into G's hazel orbs and notices that they look completely vacant right now, like the real Gerard has been zapped away by the booze and pills and now all that's left is a shell of the person that Frank has come to know and love so much. This realization fucking breaks Frank's heart, but despite the pain still he manages to pull Gerard up off the ground and onto his feet.

"He's alive!" Jon says in a comically high-pitched voice from behind his camera lens.

Gerard staggers to his feet. "Yeahh," he says, his voice a growl as he sways on the spot.

"Right on," Frank's says, dusting the dirt off of Gerard with his free hand.

"What happened was, I um...went right off the sidewalk and into the bushes," Gerard slurs with a drunken smile gracing his ghost-pale face. "I was like 'Whoaaa!'—" he gestures dramatically with his arms for a moment, "—and I fucking killed like so many plants," he finishes, bringing his hands up to his face in genuine remorse at accidentally destroying nature.

Frank giggles, appreciating for a moment how silly Gerard is acting right now before saying, "Alright, let's get you to your bunk."

With the two of them alone on the bus, Frank gets Gerard a bottle of water from the mini-fridge and then helps him get changed out of his street clothes and into his pajama pants and a T-shirt. Soon, Frank helps Gerard get into his tiny bunk and then squishes in there next to him.

Gerard lays his head on Frank's chest and sighs softly. "Frankie, you're amazing..." he slurs, closing his eyes now.

Frank can't help but smile to himself because even in his drunken state Gerard is still a complete sweetheart. "You feeling better?" he asks.

"Mmm," Gerard nods, getting too sleepy to form proper words.

Frank sighs quietly. "You know, I'm not always gonna be there to pick you up off the ground, babe," he says, tucking a lock of G's shoulder-length black hair behind his ear. "You gotta cut back a little. I'm worried you'll get taken advantage of when you're like this. It's why I'm usually stuck in your side when you're drinking. I just want you to be safe."

Gerard shifts his position in the cramped little bunk. "You're too fucking good to me...what did I ever do to deserve you?" he slurs sadly.

What's left of Frank's heart shatters. He knows Gerard is hurting so much right now but he doesn't know what to say to ease the pain. Frank keeps quiet; to him, saying nothing is better than saying something that might make G feel worse.

"I know our life has gotten pretty crazy," Frank says. "But we'll get through it together—I promise. I'm always gonna be here by your side no matter what happens."

Gerard sighs contentedly. "Love you so fucking much, Frankie..." he mumbles sweetly against Frank's chest just before dozing off.

Frank smiles, looking down at his beautiful Gerard. "I love you too, G-bear."

Chapter Text

July 19, 2004

My Chemical Romance is on a headlining tour with their friends in The Bled and Funeral for a Friend. After playing a show in Denver yesterday they drove over eight hours through the night and are now in Kansas City where the driver has parked the tour bus in for the night. Gerard has been tossing and turning in his bunk trying to get his brain to shut off, but he just can’t sleep. So, he ventures out to The Hurricane, a local rock bar in the downtown area, and gets completely wasted and even scores an 8-ball of cocaine which he has been sampling discretely in the men’s room all night. By the time the bartenders are shouting “last call” Gerard is completely out of his mind. He staggers out into the night, passing by the bouncers at the door who are giving him concerned glances but not making any move to help him.

Over the past several months Gerard has been on a slow, downward spiral; every day getting closer to hitting rock bottom. He’s been drinking a bottle of vodka a day and using about $150 worth of illegal prescription pills a month. The substance abuse has been affecting Gerard’s physical and mental health, the quality of MCR’s live performances, and the relationships between the band members. Frank, Ray, Mikey, and Otter obviously know that Gerard is hiding something, but they don’t want to deal with it.

Gerard is stumbling away from the bar when he suddenly feels the force of stomach acid and chunks rise from the back of his throat. He keels over and spews out vomit onto the dirty street beneath his feet. Gerard wipes the grossness from his mouth with the back of his hand; his breathing is shallow, his head is pounding.

Miraculously, Gerard finds his way back to the band’s tour bus and climbs up the stairs at the narrow entrance, shutting the door behind him. The bus is dark and silent and Gerard tries to be quiet as he walks to the back of the bus and climbs into his tiny bunk.

Gerard has never felt so suicidal in his life. He just feels so much despair, more than he has ever felt in his entire life. He’s wide awake but physically and emotionally exhausted; mentally tearing himself apart while his heart pounds so hard he thinks it might burst through his chest. He feels completely desperate. He wants everything to stop; he wants it all to be over. He wants to go home to New Jersey, he wants to freak out and smash things—and he wants to hurt himself doing it. He wants it all over, all of it…everything.

Gerard lies awake in his bunk until he sees daylight peeking in through the crack where his bunk drape opens. There was no chance of sleeping in the state he’s in. Still in a bad headspace and unsure of what to do next but knowing he needs help, Gerard fishes his phone out from his pocket and calls the band’s manager.

“Hey, Gerard. What’s up?” Brian says on the other end.

Gerard is silent for a moment, trying to think of how to say this.

“Hello? Gerard?” Brian says, thinking it’s a connection issue for a second.

“Hey, Bri…” Gerard begins unsurely, his voice croaky from dehydration and snorting coke.

“What’s up, dude? Everything okay?” Brian asks.

“Uh…not really,” Gerard says. He’s trying to stay quiet cause he doesn’t want to wake up the other guys.

“Well, what’s going on? Talk to me.”

“I got wasted last night, did cocaine again… I haven’t slept all night. I’m just feeling extremely suicidal and I don’t know what to do.”

“Gerard, everything is going to be okay. I promise. You need to trust me on that,” Brian says. “Where are you right now? Where are the guys?”

“I’m on the bus. Everyone’s asleep. I don’t want them to know.”

Brian sighs. “Okay,” he says. “We’re going to get you some help. We can cancel the festival shows in Japan and then you can take your time with getting back out on tour.”

“No, we’re not cancelling the Japan shows—I can’t do that to my band,” Gerard says. Plus, Japan would be a cool place to die, he thinks. “I’ll just…make it through somehow.”

“Gerard, this is serious. I’m really worried about you. It’s really nothing to feel bad about if we cancel the Japan trip, you guys will definitely get the chance to go back. Just look how well everything has been going for you guys!”

“It’s fine, Brian. I don’t wanna cancel.”

“You need to promise me you’re not gonna hurt yourself, Gerard. I need to make sure you’re gonna be safe.”

“I promise I won’t hurt myself. I think a lot of that was the drugs talking…I’m starting to come down a bit,” Gerard lies, still feeling empty and suicidal but wanting to appease Brian.

“You did the right thing to tell someone. We’ll get you some help as soon as you’re home, okay?”

“Yeah,” Gerard says. “Thanks.”

“Any time. Call me whenever.”

***

Days later, My Chemical Romance fly to Osaka, Japan to play Summer Sonic festival. Gerard didn’t pack anything except for his stage clothes and a couple changes of underwear because he doesn’t think he’s coming back home—at least not alive.

Since arriving in Japan, Gerard has been binging on sake, getting so drunk that he could barely perform at the first show in Osaka. Tonight the show is in Tokyo and Gerard is in similar (if not worse) condition compared to last night.

During their performance, the whole band notices that Gerard seems different, like he’s in pain the entire time, mournfully singing the lyrics to his sad songs, collapsing down on stage every now and then, and almost crying at certain points. It’s really painful to watch, but the crowd seems oblivious: they’re all smiles, singing back every lyric, jumping up and down with fists in the air.

Frank wants to end the show halfway through their performance. Gerard is on the ground growling into the mic which isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but it just seems different, like Gerard is really hurting right now, and Frank can’t stand to watch. He knows something has been going on with Gerard but Gerard has been harshly pushing Frank away for the past few weeks and Frank just doesn’t understand it. He knows better than to take offense to it though because he knows Gerard is having some issues right now with alcohol and taking too many pills. Frank just wishes Gerard would come to him when he’s feeling overwhelmed instead of pushing him away.

After playing the final song, Gerard rushes offstage and the other guys follow him. Immediately, Gerard leans into the nearest garbage can and starts throwing up continuously. Frank rushes over and puts his hand on Gerard’s back, rubbing gentle, comforting circles while Gerard spews his guts out. Mikey and Ray follow behind Frank and they all exchange worried glances. Brian and Matt come over to the group a few minutes later and Ray is even more worried as Gerard still hasn’t stopped throwing up.

“You’ve got to get this dude some help,” Ray says to Brian, “He’s sick—look at him!”

As his bandmates look on, Gerard groans and then collapses onto the ground, a crumpled pile of black fabric and pale white skin.

The guys carry their ill, passed-out frontman back to the hotel where they lay him on the bed to rest while they pack their things and get ready to travel back to New Jersey. Brian makes a few phone calls during the taxi ride to Haneda Airport, seeing if he can get Gerard a spot in some sort of rehab facility back home.

Gerard sits between Frank and Mikey in the airplane. He starts shaking and crying during the flight, already starting to experience some withdrawal symptoms. He's sweating, he feels like he's gonna be sick, he's anxious, and his head is pounding. Frank and Mikey are each holding one of Gerard's shaking hands to try and comfort him through this, and it's extremely difficult for the both of them to see Gerard like this. To say they're sick with worry would be an understatement.

They arrive at Newark Liberty International Airport about eighteen hours later, jet-lagged and emotionally/physically/mentally drained.

In the lobby, Gerard hugs each of his bandmates and his band's manager, thanking each of them for everything and telling them he's going to get some help.

Gerard gets to Frank last and he can barely look him in the eyes because of the guilt he feels for shutting him out these last few weeks. Frank senses this and instantly pulls Gerard into a tight, warm hug, trying to let him know that everything's going to be okay.

"I've got a problem," Gerard says, still wrapped in Frank's embrace. "I'm gonna go fix it so we can be a great band."

Frank lets go of Gerard and finally their eyes meet.

"You don't have to do any of this alone, G. We're gonna get through this together. You're going to be okay. I love you so much," Frank says quietly, holding back the kiss he wants to press against Gerard's lips as well as the tears that are stinging his eyes.

"Thank you, Frankie. I love you, too. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me...I just want you to know that, just in case..." Gerard's voice trails off sadly.

"You're going to make it through this, Gerard," Frank says, placing both hands firmly on the older man's shoulders.

Gerard nods and Frank pulls him into another hug.

Still, Gerard is unsure of whether he can get sober...unsure of if he'll ever see his bandmates again.

Chapter Text

March 4, 2005

It has been seven months since Gerard had his last drink, and My Chemical Romance are like a brand new band. Now clean and sober, Gerard feels totally in control and on top of his problems. Granted, it has definitely been a long journey to get to where he is now. In the first couple months of being sober, Gerard didn't have any confidence and felt bizarre on stage a lot of the time. He wasn't confident about how unhealthy he looked, about how bloated his meds were making him; he didn't want to look like a washed-up dude. Gerard felt like he'd created this "drunken street-drifter" character so well that it was all he had. When he stopped drinking it felt like he had to live up to the drunken Gerard. He'd felt invalid; like he'd lost the thing that made him him. It took a whole tour for him to sort that out. Eventually, Gerard realized that the booze wasn't the reason he was performing; it was his talent. Realizing that was a huge confidence booster for him. Now, Gerard is increasingly comfortable in front of the spotlights, his movements and speeches no longer feeling as forced as when he first tried them sober.

Gerard's sobriety isn't the only thing that's different about the band now: after getting home from Japan last August, the guys decided to ask Matt to leave the band due to his unpredictable performances and friction with the other band members. With Matt gone and no replacement lined up, the band were in a bit of a bind as they were scheduled to shoot a video for "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" and go out on tour in just a few days. So, they asked sound engineer and friend Bob Bryar if he wanted to be their new drummer, and he was more than happy to help them out. Bob was turning out to be a great fit, as he was an amazing drummer and a great guy to have out on the road.

Late last year, Kevin Lyman (the founder of Warped Tour) had reached out to My Chemical Romance and invited them to be a part of the very first Taste of Chaos tour which was sort of like Warped Tour’s crazy little brother. The band immediately agreed to the tour as they would be playing with some of their best friends such as headliners The Used and fellow Jersey-natives, Senses Fail.

Tonight they’re playing in Toronto, Ontario at Arrow Hall. Most of the Taste of Chaos tour dates are sold out and they are playing to larger crowds than they ever have before. It’s a surreal time for everyone in the band; they’re doing things they’ve never done before like playing live on MTV, posing for magazine photo shoots, filming high-budget music videos for singles they’ve released and signing an increasing number of autographs for their ever-growing fanbase. Most of their days off while on tour are spent travelling to the next city or doing interviews and promo for ...Revenge, leaving them very little time to rest and recover in between performances.

Before the show tonight, Frank and Gerard have been asked to do an interview with video jockey Devon Soltendieck for MuchMusic. The two bandmates meet Devon at the venue around 11:00AM after soundcheck, both tired as they didn’t get much sleep during the bus ride from Montreal last night.

Gerard’s wearing large black sunglasses to hide the dark circles under his eyes as he hasn’t put on his foundation and concealer yet, and his shoulder-length black hair is stringy from not washing it in a few days. He’s wearing a black coat over a grey hoodie, and jeans, and he’s drinking crappy instant coffee out of a Styrofoam cup. Frank is sporting a new haircut and dye-job: black down the middle with a long fringe hanging down the right side of his face, and shorter cut sides that are dyed blond. He’s wearing a black coat that has a “Revenge” patch on the left sleeve over a black hoodie, and black jeans. Gerard had already helped Frank put some red eyeshadow around his eyes earlier this morning.

“You’re in that spot right now where you’ve been around for a while, but a lot of people are starting to hear about you guys for the first time,” Devon begins the interview while the camera guy films them all.

Frank and Gerard both nod and say, “Mhm.”

“Talk about that,” Devon says, holding the microphone up to Gerard after he finishes speaking into it.

“Um...let’s see, well it’s-it’s interesting for us, um...” Gerard’s voice trails off and he looks at Frank from behind his sunglasses, not really knowing what to say next.

Frank notices Gerard’s loss for words and immediately picks up where he’d left off while Gerard takes a sip of coffee from the Styrofoam cup he’s holding. Devon moves the mic in front of Frank.

“Yeah, it’s weird, there’s a lot of new fans, a lot of different kinds of people coming out now that are...you know, they hear it on the radio or hear it on TV, and uh, it takes some getting used to. There’s a lot more of “Gerard take your clothes off” than “I like that song,” and, uh...that’s weird,” Frank says.

“It’s gotta be kind of a shock, too, for some of these fans that are seeing us the first time, cause they probably have preconceived notions about what the band is, and then, I mean, it’s a lot to take in at once I feel, this band. Um, I don’t think you get it in one time. You have to kinda see it a couple times,” Gerard says.

“Well, what do you think makes a good performer?” Devon asks. “Cause you guys go all out on stage and I mean, you don’t even - it’s not like you just go on stage and kinda have this rock story, like...you kinda live it, right?” he continues before holding the mic out in front of Gerard again.

“Yeah, yeah, and so what we try to do is like, in order to like, really keep it honest and sincere is just like, y’know we get up there and it’s like no joke, and uh...where nothing’s contrived, nothing’s planned out. Very few of the things I say, unless I feel they’re important, I’ll repeat. A lot of the shows I’ve said stuff...I can’t even remember stuff I said like ten shows ago cause I won’t say it again, you know, I’ll say it once. And, a lot of other things happen, too, like, just one time, stuff will happen. Um, so that’s why it’s always fun to see this band live,” Gerard says, gesturing with his left hand while the right one holds onto his cup of coffee.

Devon speaks into the mic again, “That’s the great thing about, I mean, this kind of music you’re playing, and you’re kind of - this tour is kind of like, you’re pitching to a certain lifestyle, cause like, for these kids this kind of music is a lifestyle,” Devon says, pointing the mic in front of Frank afterwards.

“Yeah, for us it is, too, I mean, we live this, that’s what we write about. And, um...every day we get up on stage we go through the same emotions that we had while creating the songs. So, we get up on stage, we’re born, we live and then we die. And, um...hopefully we’re reborn at the end of it. But uh, yeah it’s-its just us, it’s opening up your chest and showing what you have inside every night and that’s why it gets, uh, very hard to do consistently for, uh, eleven months out of a year,” Frank says.

Gerard picks up, “Yeah, it’s like really...that’s like the biggest strain on the band, is that that’s what it is every night for us. I look at every single show as like, another chance to save our souls. Every single show is that to me. So, when you have three-hundred-and-sixty of those in a year, um, different soul-“

“A lot of redemption,” Devon cuts in.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of redemption that you’re trying to achieve, um...and a lot of destruction as well, and uh...so it really takes a lot out of us, y’know; it really beats us up,” Gerard says.

“How long did it take you guys to say yes to this tour?” Devon asks.

Gerard and Frank look at each other.

“Uh...right away,” Gerard says before sipping his coffee again.

“Yeah, not very long I don’t think,” Frank begins. “Uh, it was just one of those things where, “Hey, do you wanna tour with all these bands that you’ve toured with before?” Bands that you—we toured with in the beginning, and see them again and get to see these great bands every night, and we were like, “Yeah, sure why not?” But I think the only, uh, problem was knowing what we had planned or what we were doing. But uh, we knew it was a Kevin Lyman tour, we knew it was gonna run really smoothly, uh, and the fact that we were asked to do the first one at Warped Tour was just a great—it was flattering,” he says.

“Yeah,” Gerard says, “Kevin’s such a big supporter of this band that he put us on Maurice Stage last year when, y’know, we didn’t really have the record sales to kind of necessitate being on the second stage. And, uh, not only did he go that far, but then he would bump us up to the main stage about six times cause he really believed in the band, and uh...I think every time he bumped us up he was right, too; we always pulled it off. Uh, so any time Kevin asks for something, pretty much he’s gonna get it from us.”

“I guess everything you guys do you’ve been doing since you started out, right, but you guys have been doing things on a bigger level now. Talk about that, that must be kind of a mind-...” Devon says.

“Uh, yeah it is. It’s definitely a mind-F,” Frank says, laughing a little.

“Mind-F,” Devon echoes and Gerard chuckles a bit.

Frank continues, “Uh, this tour is...very large scale. Uh, every venue that we’ve played has been a scaled-down arena, or airport hangar, or tennis stadium and, uh, it’s not—they’re not shows anymore; they’re concerts. And that’s hard to get used to. But, our next tour is also gonna be like that, too; we’re going on tour with Green Day. So I guess this is kind of, uh...a good tour to kinda get us into it a little bit more,” Frank says.

“Yeah,” Gerard agrees.

“Talk about that more; Green Day,” Devon says.

“You know, we’re not a band that’s really used to playing arenas, concert halls, stuff like that. We’re very much used to the clubs—even the bigger clubs, it’s still a club, you know, like even Roseland is a club, in a way. And, um...y’know, so, um, we’re just extremely excited to be out with that band, y’know, like, just feel like, I guess I feel we have a lot to prove,” Gerard says, now looking at Frank as he talks. “But maybe not. Like, maybe...it was so much respect for that band, and it was such an honour and such a validating thing to have them ask us to come out on tour with them, that...” Gerard’s voice trails off and he shrugs, looking at Frank.

“Here, here, I know what it is. Alright. We’re really excited to do it, and usually when we get up on stage, even when it’s our friends, we need to go on and kill everyone every night, and now it’s kind of like, uh, people that you really look up to, and people that shouldn’t have asked us to tour with them but did, and now you’re like, alright, how’re we gonna go up there and kill them every night, y’know,” Frank says.

“Yeah,” Gerard agrees.

“Though I’m sure we’ll figure it out,” Frank says with a laugh.

“They’ll probably encourage us to try and kill them, knowing them, cause they’ve been super sweet-,” Gerard says.

“It’s gonna be hard,” Frank cuts in.

“-but I can’t—I can’t imagine...it’s...yeah,” Gerard says.

The interview lasts another five minutes or so and at the end Devon thanks them for their time and they thank him for his, and they shake hands and part ways. Frank and Gerard head back to the bus to hang out with Mikey, Ray and Bob before they’re needed inside the arena.

Later that night, Frank and Gerard are standing side-by-side watching The Used’s set from the left wing of the stage. They’re waiting with the rest of their band to go on stage for “Under Pressure” which is performed nightly by The Used and My Chemical Romance together as the close-out song of the concert. The two bands had recorded a studio version of the cover song before the Taste of Chaos tour began and plan to release it as a single after the tour is over.

On stage, the charismatic Bert McCracken is talking to the crowd before The Used plays their next song, “Sound Effects and Overdramatics.”

“This next song is about how sweet and tasty Gerard’s asshole is...and I swear to God, I’d fuck it all day long!” Bert says into the mic, prompting a mix of squeals and cheers to emit from the crowd.

Frank and Gerard both look at each other at the same time but Gerard quickly breaks his gaze and it leaves Frank anxious, wondering if Bert is full of shit or if he and Gerard had really been that intimate. Gerard’s relationship with Bert is something Gerard and Frank have never talked about, mostly because Frank is too scared of what he might learn and Gerard is too scared of hurting Frank. The two frontmen had definitely spent a lot of time together last summer on Warped Tour before Gerard had gotten clean and sober, the pair sometimes disappearing for hours and returning giggling and fucked up on pills and alcohol. As far as Frank knows, the two of them have definitely made out, but as far as sex goes, Frank really has no idea. After hearing what Bert has just said on stage though, there’s no way he can just leave it at that—he has to know or else his mind will destroy him with anxious thoughts and imaginings of all the possibilities of what could have happened between the two. He just has to know, even if the truth hurts.

The concert ends with The Used and My Chem performing “Under Pressure” as usual (Frank’s eyes shooting daggers at the back of Bert’s head when he puts his arm over Gerard’s shoulder while they sing together), and then the crew tears down the set and the bands retreat to their buses to load their gear and head out. The bus driver makes the two-hour drive to London, ON where the next stop of the tour will be tomorrow night, and then the band checks into a hotel at around two o’ clock in the morning.

“Can we talk?” Frank asks, sitting on the edge of Gerard’s hotel bed.

“Yeah,” Gerard replies, sitting up.

Frank takes a deep breath. “I’ve been thinking about the shit Bert said up on stage tonight,” he says. “It really bothered me, hearing him say that stuff, obviously. I guess this whole time I’ve been hoping it was only me, and I just-... I kind of need to know so I don’t go fucking insane thinking about it,” Frank admits.

Gerard looks down at his hands and Frank knows then and his heart sinks. “Did you have sex with him?” he asks.

Gerard nods. “Yeah,” he says, finally meeting Frank’s eyes for a moment when he says it.

Frank nods, his mind thinking a million different thoughts at once.

“How many times?” Frank asks, not really sure if he even wants to know anymore with the weight of his heart right now.

“Like, three or four,” Gerard answers, looking at his hands again.

“I don’t understand how you could fuck someone else four times and say you love me on the same tour. Now it makes sense why you were pushing me away last summer.”

“I know I was a really shitty person and I’m truly sorry, Frank. That was a time in my life when I hated myself and didn’t care about anything but getting drunk and stoned, and I guess that’s why I spent so much time with Bert, because he encouraged that kind of thing. I never had feelings for him; it was just fucking. I never said anything to you about it because I knew it would hurt you and I didn’t want to do that. I pushed you away last summer because I didn’t want you to know just exactly how fucking broken and messed up I was at that point—I was ashamed of it. I always meant it when I said that I loved you, and I still do, very much. You were there for me through everything that happened, picking me up off the ground, sticking by my side even though I was an asshole and an embarrassment sometimes, and then helping me get better. I’ll never forget your loyalty. You really are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

After hearing Gerard’s side of things Frank immediately feels bad. “I’m sorry, G ,” he says quietly.

“What are you apologizing for?” Gerard asks, confused.

“We never even discussed anything about...whatever this is,” Frank says, gesturing to both of them. “And here I am getting upset with you over something like that. We’re not even really going out properly and we both have girlfriends. It wasn’t fair to make you feel guilty about it, and I’m sorry.”

“No, after all we’ve been through together, I should have told you,” Gerard says. “And I actually think it’s really sweet that you got upset about it. It says a lot...” Gerard says with a small smile.

Frank smiles back and gets on the bed so he’s sitting next to Gerard, leaning back against the headboard.

“There’s something I’ve been thinking about for months now that I wanna say...and I guess this just feels like a good time to say it,” Frank begins. “I know you don’t like labels and I know this is gonna sound really fucking crazy considering how things are right now, but...I really want you to be my boyfriend. I want to be with you, Gerard. Only you. And I don’t wanna hide how I feel about you anymore,” Frank says.

Gerard can’t help but smile and Frank’s heart melts at the sight, taking in how beautiful G looks right now.

“You know I want that too, Frankie...” Gerard says. “I just wish things were different.”

“What do you mean?”

“It would change everything for the band... I feel like the focus wouldn’t be on the music anymore; we’d be known as ‘that band with the guys who started dating each other’ and no one would take us seriously,” Gerard says.

“Our fans would still focus on the music and that’s all that really matters. You really care about what fucking bullshit magazines say about us?”

“It would affect Mikey, Ray and Bob, too,” Gerard points out. “How would that be fair to them?”

“I wish you weren’t so concerned about how other people would feel about it. If we love each other and want to be together, then what the fuck does anyone or anything else matter?” Frank says. “If you were willing to come out with me and tell everyone about us, I’d break up with Jamia right now.”

“I’m not as brave as you are, babe...” Gerard says. “I finally feel like I’m in control of my life. We’re so on edge in this band that I want everything else to be very controlled. I need it to stay sane,” he says.

Frank takes one of Gerard’s hands in his and holds it. “I know it’s a lot to ask of you and I know it would be a big deal. I get it, I really do,” he says. “I just wish you were willing to risk it all for us like I am.”

Gerard sighs. “I love you and I want to be at that point, Frankie, but I’m just not yet. I need some time to build some courage and to get over my fears about the whole coming out thing,” he says.

“Of course, G,” Frank says, tucking a lock of Gerard’s stringy black hair behind his ear. “Until the ground holds me in it’s arms I’m true, and I’ll wait for you,” he says. “I love you.”

Gerard leans in and kisses Frank’s lips gently, hanging onto his sweet, poetic words.