In the green room in St. Petersburg, Ian had a guitar, like he often did. Dallon didn't have a guitar or anything good to do: he didn't feel like causing trouble with Brendon, he didn't need to call home like Spencer, and he didn't want to get told off by Zack for helping the roadies again. That left stretching out on the couch and watching Ian pace the room.
Ian's scales turned into a melody. Dallon didn't recognize it. Ian paused after a few bars and played a slightly different variation that wasn't any more recognizable. Ian passed through the whole thing a couple times before it clicked: Ian was writing a song.
Chord progressions played in Dallon's head. Ian's melody could be really interesting with a diminished fifth, actually. When they got back to the studio, maybe Dallon could see what kind of lyrics Ian had in mind, get an idea where he wanted the song to go...
Except Ian wasn't going into the studio with them.
Dallon shook himself. They'd just had a little backstage party for Ian not a full hour ago, complete with a cake and loud singing. Was Dallon still that jetlagged?
He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. Ian's melody only grew louder in his head.
Brendon said something. He was sitting just a chair apart from Dallon, but his words were lost beneath the echoing voices in Newark's Terminal C. Dallon looked up from his phone. "Huh?"
"Going deaf in your old age?" Brendon asked. "Will it be weird getting back into it without Ian there?"
Dallon frowned. "Did I miss some part of the conversation, or..."
"No, but we're out here finishing off the album, and Ian was getting in on rehearsals at this point in the last cycle. Feels weird, right?"
"You guys are the band." Dallon rolled his shoulders to ease some of the stiffness. Airport chairs weren't built for rational human shapes. "It's not that different."
"But Ian was the new guy with you. The peanut butter to your jelly."
Dallon smirked. "More like we were the bread to your jelly."
Brendon waggled his eyebrows, but he said, "Member changes suck. I mean, they really fucking blow. New guys to share hotel rooms with, get crammed in buses with..."
"Get naked onstage with."
Brendon sniffed delicately and adjusted his coat. "Ian was so giving about throwing his shirt off."
Dallon reached his elbow out to nudge Brendon. Brendon leaned closer into Spencer to avoid him, and Spencer grunted quietly. Spencer was listening to music with his eyes closed, which was his basic fuck-off-I'm-trying-not-to-exist-for-five-seconds signal.
In that time, Dallon's phone buzzed in his hand, and he flipped to his mail. "Hey. Speak of the shirtless, curly-haired devil."
But before he could check to see what Ian sent him, Zack stood up from his seat and jerked his head. "Back to California, dudes."
"Yeah," Brendon said, poking Spencer until Spencer took his headphones off and smacked Brendon's arm a couple times. "You'll have to wait to jerk off until you make it to the plane's bathroom."
"Who's jerking off?" Spencer asked, voice harsh with sleep.
"Your mom," Brendon said, grabbing his bag.
Dallon checked his phone one more time, but there was an attachment. No way he could look it over before he got on the plane. He turned his phone off and slid it into his pocket with a sigh.
Dallon spent a solid ten hours alone in his apartment drooling on his pillow. When he woke up, he ate for a while, showered for a while, and spent a while staring at his still-full suitcase. He was an adult who made it his job to go on trips - chose to do it, even - and somehow, laundry was still beyond him.
It was the hour after that, when he was actually digging through his bag, that he found his phone charger. He held it in his hand for a second, bouncing it a little. There was...something on his phone. Something to check. But a quick glance around the room didn't reveal his phone, so he shrugged. He would remember eventually.
It was after the washer was running and his laptop was firing up that it hit him like a slap to the head. Ian's email.
Dallon jiggled his leg while he waited for his browser to load - who knew a few seconds could feel so long? - and downloaded Ian's attachment without looking at the stack of other messages that had piled up. Ian himself hadn't included a message beyond the email and file title, which read "SOTD.mp3". Dallon wasn't quite aware enough to translate the title into Ian-speak just yet, so he clicked play to let the song speak for itself. Or play for itself.
It took Dallon two notes to recognize the song as the one from Moscow.
If some random guy had broken into his apartment five seconds before and asked him to sing Ian's song...well, after Dallon had started screaming and beating the guy with a couch pillow, he would have drawn a complete blank. But the song was so much that moment, just the two of them in the green room, that the association basically lived by itself.
The song was more complete in the file than it had been back then. No lyrics, but the time was steady, and there was a solid chord progression and layering. It sounded too clear and neat to just be recorded on Ian's iPhone.
When the last note finished, Ian's voice came on. "I've been tooling around with this for months, and I still can't come up with lyrics. Give me some?"
Dallon tapped his fingers on the arm of his couch for a second before sending back an email: what about b?
Considering how long Ian's message had gone without a response, Dallon didn't expect anything for hours. But before he could so much as put the laptop down, a reply came.
it sounds like you
Dallon had to wait through a stack of paperwork as tall as Brendon's styled hair and a lengthy discussion with the label's lawyer before he could pull out his laptop. At that point, Brendon was already checked out, slumping on his couch and reaching for a bag of Cheetos. Spencer ran off to pee or something, but that was okay. Dallon could play the song more than once.
Except he didn't even get to ask Brendon to listen to the song before Brendon looked at the waveform on Dallon's screen and said, "Dude, we're close to getting the album locked. It isn't time for demos."
"This isn't mine."
He played Ian's song for Brendon, and when it finished and Brendon looked at him expectantly, Dallon said, "Does this sound like me?"
Brendon stared for another second, like his brain was rebooting, before he laughed, loud and obnoxious.
Spencer poked his head around the corner. "I thought we weren't getting stoned until Dallon left."
Brendon waved Spencer over and pointed at Dallon's computer. He was giggling too much to get actual words out, so instead of making Brendon speak, Dallon hit play.
Spencer only got halfway through, not even to the part where Ian spoke, before he said, "Holy shit. Ian finally did it."
"Did what?" Dallon asked.
Spencer shook his head once and let his gaze go distant again until the song finished. He nodded when the track finished again, like hearing a couple extra rounds of the chorus confirmed something for him.
"How did you even know Ian wrote it?" Dallon asked when Spencer did nothing but continue to nod knowingly.
Brendon had joined the sage nod game, but his lips were twitching at the same time. Which was making Spencer fight not to smile.
"Jerks," Dallon said, closing his laptop lid. But he wasn't mad. He was maybe smiling a little, too.
"Sorry." Spencer stopped nodding. "We were just waiting for the day Ian declared his love for you, so we wanted to milk it."
Brendon pointed at the laptop again. "He sends you a track that sounds like he's cutting his heart out of his chest, asks you for lyrics, and says it sounds like you? Really?"
It was Dallon's turn to nod a couple times, but he felt more dazed than wise.
"Now tell me you feel the same way," Brendon said, "so I can go back to making fun of you."
"Well, fuck," Brendon said.
Spencer put a hand on his shoulder. "Why don't you go home and...write lyrics?"
Dallon tilted his head. "Really?"
But Brendon was bouncing on his side of the couch, adjusting his glasses when they slid down his nose. "He gave you a way to communicate. So communicate."
Dallon looked between them. "You ever think you should lay off the weed?"
"Sometimes," Spencer said solemnly. "But only when I'm out and I'm too lazy to buy more."
The idea of writing lyrics was cute. Maybe even romantic, if Dallon's grin as he drove back to his place was any way to tell. His fingers downright tingled as he sat with a notebook at his kitchen table, and that had to mean something, right?
Dallon wrote "Ian", but he scratched it out. He wrote "love" and a few adjectives that made him think of love, and then he scratched those out, too. He doodled a few hearts, and when nothing came from that, he crumpled the paper and threw it in the trash can.
And that was how two days passed.
There was a little variation: Dallon didn't stay at the kitchen table the entire time, for instance. He moved to the couch, his bed, and the Denny's a couple blocks away. He played with cadences silently in his mouth, hummed the melody under his breath, and played Ian's music over and over. Nothing. No words, no idea if this was what Dallon should be doing, absolutely nothing.
It was just after the sun went down the second day, and the pile of crumpled paper had grown larger than the trash can in the kitchen, that Dallon started laughing at himself. There still weren't lyrics in his head, but that wasn't always how inspiration came to him, anyway.
Instead, he had a plan B. And it had a lot of promise.
An eternity passed before Ian opened his front door. Or a count of eight. But it felt like an eternity.
Ian pushed his hair out of his face and blinked up at Dallon through puffy eyes. "You here to talk to me about the Lord, Elder Weekes?"
Dallon looked down. He'd been so busy running for his flight that he'd grabbed the first thing on his hanger, which just happened to be a white shirt and black slacks. All he needed was the name tag and the literature.
"I tried writing your lyrics," he said after a weird laugh. "And I couldn't get them right."
"So you wanted to come here instead?" Ian said, leaning against his door frame. He was smiling. That was a good sign.
"I..." Dallon sucked in a breath. "I figured the performance would mean more than the words."
And he leaned down and kissed Ian.
For two very long heartbeats, Ian did nothing. Dallon couldn't even see his face, since his eyes were squeezed shut. But two thuds, and Ian wrapped his arms around Dallon's neck and pressed back, moaning in a descending note. Dallon picked him up a little and held him close; what was the point in a size difference if he couldn't use it to his advantage?
When he finally put Ian down and drew back, Ian's hair was slightly more mussed, and his eyes were dark and wide. "You want to come in? I think I have a bass line I want to lay down."
Dallon practically tackled Ian and kicked the door closed behind him.