A/N: This is for LaPaige's prompt #58: Travel.

Sleepless

By angellwings


trav·el

–verb (used without object)

1.

to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship; take a trip; journey.


Ella glared at her alarm clock as another minute ticked passed. Why was she still up? Why hadn't she gone to sleep since she crawled into bed 6 and a half hours ago? She'd tried. She had honestly tried. Normally, if she stayed up all night it was because she got carried away sketching new outfits or making new outfits, but not this time. This time she had genuinely wanted to sleep, but her brain just wouldn't shut up. She couldn't stop thinking, and before she knew it it was 5:59 AM.

Finally 6 AM rolled around and Ella's alarm clock blared radio static. She pressed the off button, and groaned in frustration. She reluctantly set her feet on the floor and dressed for the day ahead.

Her eye lids were heavy as she slipped on a pastel pink camisole and a matching pink sequined cardigan. She pulled her dark wash skinny jeans on, and then put on her pink and purple plaid Toms shoes. She stepped into the hotel room bathroom to put on her make up and her jewelry and winced at the bags underneath her eyes.

She would definitely be avoiding the guys today. Especially Nate. Yes, she was the in charge of wardrobe for their tour, and yes she was their stylist, but it was possible to avoid them. She'd done it before. She had a bad habit of staying up far too late, and her entire circle of friends knew it. She had to learn how to avoid them if she wanted to keep from hearing the same lecture over and over again.

One look at the bags under her eyes and Nate, Jason, and Shane would send her back to bed. Going back to bed wouldn't help her right now. She knew sleep wouldn't come. Her brain just refused to rest. She pulled her hair back into a loose pony tail and applied soft, natural looking make up. She walked over to her suitcase that was mostly repacked and pulled out a thin scarf and wrapped it around her neck. She finished repacking her suitcase but left out her straw two tone fedora, and her brown Ray-Bans.

Ella was going to have to delegate any work that had her dealing directly with Connect Three to her assistants today. She picked up her phone and called Olivia. She would send Olivia out with the guys this morning. The thing about New York shows was that it would never just be the show. There were always live appearances and interviews before it was time for their sound check. Someone from wardrobe went with them to the appearances and interviews in case of a fashion emergency. Normally it was Ella, but today it would be Olivia.

Olivia eagerly agreed to switch places with Ella, and Ella told her to meet the guys and the rest of their entourage in the hotel lobby at 7 AM. Ella would go to the venue and organize and distribute the wardrobe to the appropriate dressing rooms and backstage changing areas. She put her sunglasses on in case she happened to run into one of the guys, and placed her hat on her head. She rolled her suitcase down to the back entrance of the hotel where the tour buses were waiting to take everyone else to the venue. Security loaded her suitcase in the appropriate bus.

Tonight was a quick-out night. Immediately after the show they would all be running to the buses while the stage hands stayed behind to load the tractor trailers with the wardrobe and the stage. Security wanted the busses packed and ready to go long before the show started. The group that was headed for the venue was leaving before the guys were leaving for their interviews. By the time they figured out Ella wouldn't be coming with them it would be too late for them to do anything about it.

She loaded the bus and once she got to the venue she and her other assistant, Lyndsey, set to work organizing the racks and racks of wardrobe for the guys, their back up band, and the string section. Ella had to go through it all and make sure it was perfect. She repaired any tiny rip or loose seam, worked on getting out stains or finding ways to cover them up, and redid hems where necessary. By the time she'd done all of that (it took hours to go through every single outfit) it was almost time for the guys to arrive for sound check. So she told Lyndsey to start taking the racks to the changing areas and asked her to tell Olivia to do the same whenever she arrived.

And then Ella went and locked herself in the wardrobe room. She monitored the door carefully. Only Olivia and Lyndsey were allowed in. Once the show started Ella delegated all direct work with Connect Three to Olivia and Lyndsey and then she assisted the string section and the back up band during the concert. Just before the last song Ella retreated to her wardrobe room yet again.

The guys had probably figured out she was avoiding them by now, and she knew if they had time they'd probably come pounding on the wardrobe room door and demand she come out. But that was the good thing about tonight being a quick-out night. They didn't have time for that. So, it was highly likely she wouldn't see them until the next day when she would hopefully be better rested.

Ten minutes after the last song had started there was a knock on her door. The guys had probably just gotten off stage and were headed toward their bus. That had to be security coming to get her and Lyndsey and Olivia to take them to their bus. She cracked the door open and saw Olivia standing on the other side. Ella opened the door wider and Olivia gave her an apologetic glance.

"Sorry, he told me I had to."

Ella's brow furrowed. "What are you—"

And suddenly she knew why. Nate stepped into the doorway and focused a very stern glare on her. Ella's eyes widened and she moved to step back but Nate placed his hands on her shoulders and pulled her out of the room. He turned to Olivia as he led Ella away, "Finish up for her, please."

He kept his hands on Ella's shoulders and led her toward the back entrance to the venue where Jason, Shane, and their security guards were waiting on them. Nate moved his hands from her shoulders and laced one of his hands with hers. She knew this was so they wouldn't get separated while they were running, but it still sent a tingle up and down her arm. The door opened and they all ran for the bus. Connect Three's bus was leaving for the next town first. The bus door opened and Ella was pulled inside. The door closed behind the last security guard and the bus immediately began to move.

Once they were through the massive crowds of fans three concerned glances turned toward her.

"Haven't seen you all day, Ella," Jason said as he quirked an eyebrow at her. "You wouldn't be avoiding us, by any chance, would you?"

"N-no," She stuttered.

"So, your sending Olivia with us this morning had nothing to do with you trying to get away from us?" Shane asked pointedly.

"I just thought the field experience would be good for her," Ella lied.

Nate rolled his eyes at her. "Right. It had absolutely nothing to do with you not wanting us to see those dark circles under your eyes."

Ella looked down at the floor and said nothing. Jason suddenly threw his damp sweaty towel at her and it landed over her head. She yelped and swatted it away. "GROSS!"

Jason chuckled and pointed to the couch behind her. "Sit or two more of those will be thrown at you."

She sighed and reluctantly sat down.

"I should tell you that we haven't showered yet and we're willing to give you sweaty hugs if you don't tell us the truth," Shane threatened with a smirk.

Nate sat down next to her and patted her knee. "Did you sleep at all last night?"

She paused before answering. "No."

"Did you even try? Or did you end up sketching all night long again?" Nate asked with a knowing stare.

"I tried. I didn't sketch at all," Ella told him.

Shane stepped forward and stretched out his arms as if to give her a hug.

Ella let out a soft squeak. "I TRIED! I promise! I just couldn't shut my brain off! I had a lot on my mind and it just wouldn't go away. I really tried to sleep. I swear."

"What did you have on your mind?" Jason asked.

"A-a lot of things. Nothing important though."

Jason, Shane, and Nate shared skeptical looks.

Nate glared at her thoughtfully. "You stayed up all night long and none of what you were thinking about was important?"

"No, it was a lot of measurements and designs and stuff."

"You're sure?" Shane asked.

"Yes, I'm sure," She said in a tone that wasn't at all convincing.

Nate stood from the couch and pulled her up with him. He led her to his bunk and started digging through his duffel bag. He handed her a pair of basketball shorts and an old t-shirt. Her brow furrowed and she looked at him questioningly.

"You're staying on our bus tonight so we can make sure you actually sleep," He told her.

She huffed and gave him a stony stare. "I'm not a child, Nate."

He smiled warmly at her and put an arm around her shoulders. "I know that, El. But you have a habit of staying up far too late, and now you've lost a whole night of sleep. Sleep is one of the most important things you need when you're on the road like this. I—we just want to make sure you're taking care of yourself. That's all."

She sighed and nodded in understanding. "I know."

He gave her a quick side hug and she made a face when a little bit of sweat wet her shirt.

He chuckled and pushed her toward the bathroom. "Go change and then take the extra bunk. Please sleep, Ella. We've got a long day tomorrow."

She changed and when she came back out she found Nate, Jason, and Shane standing in front of the extra bunk expectantly. Nate pulled back the curtain on the bunk and motioned for her to climb in.

"I can not believe you guys are putting me to bed like a six year old," She said bitingly. "Is there a bed time story that goes with this or maybe a night light?"

Nate rolled his eyes. "Just get in and lay down, Ms. Insomniac. We talked about this. You need to take better care of yourself."

"Sometimes I wonder if you guys would be like this if Mitchie or Caitlyn were here too," Ella grumbled.

"Ella, Michie and Caitlyn are two of the most mothering naggers on the planet. If anything you'd be getting even more of this treatment," Shane said with a laugh.

Jason nodded. "Besides, you're like…everyone's little sister. You should know that by now."

"Everyone?" She asked as she tried to keep her eyes from lingering on Nate.

"Everyone," Shane repeated.

"Great," Ella said with a wide false smile.

"Good night, Ella," Nate said softly.

She huffed and yanked the curtain closed.

"Good night," She snapped at them through the thick black curtain.

She waited until she heard them walk away before she rolled over on her side and faced the wall of the bus. She listened as the water turned on and off in the bathroom three separate times. She assumed that was the guys taking their showers. She rolled onto her back and heard them each climb into their bunks as the night went on.

Sleep still wasn't coming. She couldn't get over what Jason had said. Little sister. Surely she wasn't everyone's little sister. She really hoped that everyone didn't include Nate. But knowing her luck it probably did. Not being able to sleep on a tour bus was worse than not being able to sleep in a hotel room. There was no alarm clock in the bunk so she had no idea what time it was. Had she been in bed for hours? Minutes? She genuinely had no idea.

Ella propped herself up on her elbows and dared to peek out of her closed curtain. There was no one walking around on the bus. She heard snoring from the back, and had a feeling one of the security guards had fallen asleep in the recliner. That was all the noise she heard though.

The bus suddenly hit a bump and Ella lost her balance. Her bunk was close to the floor so luckily it didn't hurt when she fell, but she hadn't been able to stop the small yelp that had left her lips. She froze when she heard someone stirring. She jumped back into her bunk and closed the curtain.

She heard footsteps that stopped beside of her bunk. A hand grabbed the curtain and Ella quickly shut her eyes and pretended she was asleep. It had to be one of the guys, and there's no way she was going to risk them finding her awake. The curtain was pulled back and she heard a familiar sigh. It was Nate.

"Ella, I know you're not asleep."

She kept her eyes closed and didn't move. She heard him chuckled before she felt a finger poke her side. She squirmed away from him and made a soft high pitched noise.

"See, you're awake."

She opened her eyes and smiled half heartedly at him. "I'm trying not to be. Awake, that is. I just can't fall asleep."

He shook his head. "What is on your mind that's keeping you up like this?"

"Nothing, Nate. Don't worry about it."

"Ella, I'm already worrying about it. You have to keep up with your sleep on a tour. The schedule is crazy enough as it is and if you start ignoring basic necessities like sleep you'll burn out," Nate told her honestly. He held out his hand to her. "C'mon, let's go sit up front and talk. Okay?"

She nodded and accepted his hand. He helped her out her bunk and then they found a spot on the couch.

"So, what's up, Ella?" He asked simply. "Maybe if you talk about it you'll be able to get some sleep."

"Nate, I can't," She said as she shook her head.

"Ella, it's me. You can talk to me about anything. You know that."

She closed her eyes and gathered her courage. "Fine, I'll talk. You see, there's…this guy."

Nate tensed. "You're not sleeping…because of a guy?"

"Not just because of a guy. There are other things too, but he is a pretty big reason, yeah. See, I let it slip to my mom the other day that I had a thing for this guy, and she yelled at me. He's a musician, and you know how my mom feels about musicians."

Nate winced as he remembered the day he met Ella's mother. The woman had nearly made that day the worst day of his life. She had been nothing but rude to him the entire day. "I remember."

"She keeps calling me and trying to talk me out of it or trying to set me up with these other guys. And then I owe my brother like four hundred dollars because he had to pay to have my apartment sprayed—"

"Sprayed?" Nate asked with a furrowed brow.

"I bought a pillow that had fleas on it, apparently. They spread. Anyway, he needs the money like now. Not that he's asking for it, but I know he needs it because I know he's got a lot of college debt to pay off. Only I don't really have it right now. And then my dad wants me to come work for him," She said as she paused in her rambling. He sat up straighter and shook his head adamantly. She couldn't go work for him. That was a terrible idea. She yawned and Nate smiled softly as she continued talking. "Which I know would be a really bad idea, but he just doesn't seem to get it. Every time I say no he just offers me more money. And then in addition to this tour I'm supposed to be styling Mitchie and Peggy, and they both have movie premiers to go to next week and I still haven't found either one of them dresses. And on top of all of that I'm starting to think this guy doesn't feel about me…what I feel about him. There's just too much going on in my head and I can't make any of it go away."

She took a deep breath and let out a shaky sigh once she was done. He watched as she buried her face in her hands.

Her muffled voice spoke up again. "Now, do you see why I can't sleep?"

He gently pulled her hands away from her face. "Yes, that's a lot for one person to handle, but you seem to forget that you don't have to handle it all alone. And I don't know anything about this guy you like, but if he's not crazy about you than he's an idiot. As for the money you owe your brother…I could help you out with that. Then you'd owe me instead of him. You know I'm not gonna be in dire need of the money any time soon so that would have to be less stressful than owing him. And you'll find something for Mitchie and Peggy. You always do."

"You didn't say anything about my parents," Ella said thoughtfully as her eyelids drooped. She could feel herself beginning to doze off.

Nate leaned back on the couch and pulled Ella with him. He cradled her head against his chest and kissed the top of it. "There's not much I can do about your parents. Well, except maybe call them and give them an earful, but I don't think that would really help the situation."

She laughed before she yawned again. He could feel her body relaxing against his. He smiled victoriously. She was starting to fall asleep. Her breathing became deep and even. She closed her eyes and spoke up in a groggy voice.

"Nate? That guy that I was telling you about…"

His jaw tightened. How had he not seen that there was another guy in Ella's life? Where had he come from and why hadn't she said anything about him before now? He huffed and shook his head. "Yeah?"

"I think you should know something about him."

Her words were beginning to slur together and he smiled softly in amusement. "What's that, El?"

"He's you," She mumbled softly as her head snuggled into his chest and she finally drifted off to sleep. His head turned toward her sharply and he stared at the dark hair on top of head for several minutes. Had he really just heard that? Or was he imagining things? Had she even meant it? Could he trust something she said when she was half asleep? Could he trust himself not to be dreaming this?

He suddenly felt extremely tired and very drained. He relaxed his head against the back of the couch, and before he knew it he was asleep.


"Nate and Ella sittin' in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love then comes—OW!"

Nate's eyes slowly opened at the sound of Shane crying out in pain.

"Dude, what was that for?" Shane asked as he glared at Jason.

"For being an idiot. Leave them alone. Ella's sleeping."

"I can't leave them alone! Look at them! They're all snuggly and cutesy. You guys pick on me and Mitchie when we're like that!"

"No, actually, Caitlyn picks on you and Mitchie when you're like that," Jason chuckled. "We just let her."

"Same thing," Shane grumbled.

Nate yawned and took a deep breath. He wanted to stretch his arms but he didn't want to risk waking Ella. "What time is it?"

Shane smirked at him. "You're up! So, what did you and Ella do last night while we were all asleep? Hmm, little brother?"

"We talked, Shane. That's all."

Jason smiled at Nate. "How did you get her to go to sleep?"

Nate smiled down at her Ella's head before looking back up at his brothers. "She was just stressed out. She needed to unload some of it."

Nate very carefully untangled himself from Ella and laid her down on the couch. He walked back to her bunk and took the blankets off of it. He brought them to the front and covered her with them. He joined Jason and Shane at the small pull down table.

"What time is it? And how much longer till we get to where we're going?" Nate asked.

"10:50 in the morning, and we've got about 5 hours of travel time left," Jason said as he checked his watch. Nate stood and walked back to his bunk to retrieve his phone.

"Perfect," He said. "Just enough time for me to make some calls."

Hopefully when Ella woke up some of her problems would be solved.


"Yes, Caitlyn, I'm well aware that you're not Ella. Thank God."

Ella peeked one eye open as she took in her surroundings. She was on a bus. Her other eye opened and she spotted Nate sitting at the pull down table and talking on the phone.

"I'm not asking you to pick out their dresses. I'm asking you to take them shopping and let them pick out their dresses and then text me photos of the dresses so I can get Ella's approval on one. It's really not that difficult to understand. I'm really beginning to believe you're purposefully testing my patience."

She was on Connect Three's bus, and Nate was talking to Caitlyn about dresses.

"Nate?" Ella asked in a sleepy tone. "Why do you need a dress?"

His eyes widened and his head turned toward her. "I gotta go. No, Cait. Just take them shopping. I'm having Jason deal with you from now on. He has more patience when it comes to you."

Ella chuckled as Nate snapped his phone shut without so much as a "thank you."

"That was kind of rude," Ella said with a grin.

"She was making the situation more difficult than it needed to be," He said with a huff.

"Doesn't she always? Again, I ask: why do you need a dress?"

He smiled softly at her. "I don't. Mitchie and Peggy do."

"What?"

"I'm having Caitlyn take them shopping and then text me the photos so you can tell them which dress works best," Nate told her. "That way you'll have that done and you won't have to worry about it anymore."

She sat up and blinked at him. "Um, what?"

He chuckled and moved to sit beside of her on the couch. "Last night. You rambled, and ended up listing all these things that were stressing you out. Remember?"

Her eyes widened. "Oh! Oh God! I totally just unloaded all of my crap onto your shoulders, didn't I?" She closed her eyes tightly. "Nate, tell me you didn't do the incredibly sweet thing that I think you did."

"Um, that depends on what you think I did," He said sheepishly.

"Nate…"

"I didn't do that much, really. I took care of the money you owed your brother—"

"What does that mean? 'took care' of it how?"

"Well…I may have worked it out to where he doesn't have to make any loan payments for a while."

"Oh, sweet Moses. You didn't pay off his loans. Tell me you did not pay off his loans."

He chuckled. "No, I didn't. I just gave him enough money for about three payments. That's all."

"That's all? That's all? Are you aware how much money that is?"

"It's really not that much. I promise. C'mon, you know me. I'm a very practical guy, right?" Nate asked in a soothing tone as he reached over and grabbed her hand.

"Sometimes too practical," She agreed.

"So, with that in mind, would I ever give somebody more money than I could afford to give them?" He asked her as he studied her brightly painted nails.

"No, I suppose not."

"Then I don't want you to worry about it. Really, and he promised to pay me back whenever he could afford it. It's fine, really," He assured her.

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. "What else did you do while I was asleep?"

He cleared his throat. "Well, you promise you won't get mad?"

"Uh oh. What'd you do?"

"I called your dad."

She closed her eyes. "You didn't."

"I found him another stylist. Well, really I found him two. I promised him he'd be very happy with them—"

"Who'd you get?"

He chuckled before he answered. "Olivia and Lyndsey."

"Wait," She said as she let out a loud laugh. "Olivia and Lyndsey are now my dad's stylists? How did you convince him to go along with that?"

"I have my ways," Nate said with a secretive smirk. His smirk faltered and he bit his bottom lip before he moved on to the next thing. "I also called your mother, and that conversation didn't go as well as I'd hoped."

She squeezed his hand. "Nate, you didn't have to do that—"

"Yes, I did. I needed to talk to her or at least try to talk to her as the case may be."

Ella's eyes widened again. "She didn't happen to tell you about the, um, guy I mentioned last night, did she?"

Nate smirked at her. "No…she didn't. You did."

"What?" Ella asked in confusion. Nate let go of her hand and placed his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. He cradled her head in his chest just like he'd done the night before.

"Last night, we sat here just like this, and right before you fell asleep you said you needed to tell me something about this guy. Remember?" He whispered into her hair.

Her eyes drifted closed as his lips grazed her forehead. She suddenly remembered and turned bright red. "I—I told you. I told you it was you, didn't I?"

"You did, and that's why I had to try and talk to your mother. If I'm going to be your boyfriend then—"

"My—my boyfriend?" Ella asked urgently.

Nate smirked and nodded. "That's my intention. Is that alright with you?"

She swallowed thickly and nodded. "Well, yeah, that's perfectly alright with me. I mean…of course it's alright with me. You really want to be my boyfriend? You're serious right now?"

He rested his forehead against hers. "I wouldn't joke about something like that. I want nothing more than to be your boyfriend. If you can get passed the fact that your mother seems to hate me, that is."

Ella smiled slowly at him and turned toward him so she could wrap her arms around his neck. "She can't hate you. She doesn't even know you. She's never really given you a chance."

"She hates what I do."

"But that's not you. Yes, it's a big part of who you are, but you're more than that. Nate, you just spent the morning doing all of these sweet and wonderful things for me. You didn't have to. Really, it was enough that you took the time to listen to me complain. You could have stopped there, but you didn't. You're just this absolutely breathtaking man and you don't even see it. I know who you really are, Nate. Nothing she says can change my mind. I wanted you last night, I want you today, and I will still want you tomorrow. It's that simple."

"But I couldn't fix everything on the list—"

"You don't have to fix everything. It's more than enough that you tried," Ella said as she tightened her arms around his neck and she pulled herself onto his lap. "I want you to be my boyfriend and I want to be your girlfriend. That's all that matters right now."

Finally he smiled at her and nodded. "How do you do that?"

"Do what?" She asked.

"Make everything seem okay with just a few words?"

"I'm not 'making it seem' anything. I'm just telling the truth," She said as she felt his arms snake around her waist. "Now, boyfriend, will you please kiss me? Because I've wanted you to kiss me for some time now, and my patience is almost gone."

Nate smirked but said nothing as he closed the distance between them and seized her lips with his. His hands tangled into her hair as he deepened the kiss. Ella almost couldn't believe this was happening. Just last night she'd been worried that Nate didn't want her the way she wanted him, but now, only a few hours later, she found out that nothing cold be further from the truth. Nate wanted her just as badly.

And he was proving it to her with his kisses.

He had pressed her against him as tightly as he could. Ella was practically crushed against him. Not that she really minded if it meant he'd keep kissing her like there was nothing else he'd rather be doing.

"Gross! Dudes, separate!"

Nate growled as he pulled away and glared at Shane. Shane returned the glare.

"Don't look at me like that, man. You're making out on our couch on our bus. In the front of the bus no less where's there's no door for me to knock on so that I can warn you I'm coming. Do you think I wanted the image of you and Ella sucking face burned into my brain?" Shane grumbled as he grabbed his lap top off the pull down table. He shook his head and started to return to his bunk. He paused before he left. "Oh, even as disgusted as I am…let me take a moment to say…finally! Geez, took you two long enough."

Once he was out of sight Ella rested her head on Nate's shoulder and burst out laughing. It only took a moment for him to start laughing with her.

"Did you see the look on his face?" Ella asked him through her laughter. "That was epic."