A/N: I was watching "How I Met Your Mother" the other day and the episode "The Pineapple Incident" came on and it became clear to me in that episode that Ted and Nate are basically the same person. Hence I wrote this. Enjoy!

Happy reading!


Drunk Dialing

By angellwings

"So," Mitchie asked as their drinks finally arrived. "What's everyone up to tonight?"

"Oh I plan on going home and making out with Jase on his kitchen floor," Caitlyn said honestly.

The rest of the group groaned.

"All I can say is thank God you're going to his place," Ella said with a chuckle. "One less scarring image for me to come home to after my date tonight."

Nate's brow furrowed before he cleared his throat and feigned an unconcerned face. "So, you, um, have a date tonight?"

"Yes," Ella said with a nervous sigh. "This guy from the office across from mine has been asking me out nearly every day for a month and I've always turned him down because—" She cut herself off and gave Nate a frantic look before turning back to her drink. "Well, just because, and finally today I thought…'why the hell not? No one else is asking me out.' And said yes."

Mitchie gave Nate a sympathetic look before she spoke up again. "So, who's the guy? What does he do and what time does your date start?"

"Um, his name is Brian, he's the president of some small sporting goods store chain, and he's meeting me here in about ten minutes," Ella said with a nod.

"And he's filthy rich," Caitlyn added. "I mean, dude's got more money than all three members of Connect Three combined."

Ella bit her bottom lip. "He doesn't have it yet. He's going to inherit it on his next birthday. It's…family money."

"So, you've got a date with a rich guy," Nate said with a nod. "Nice. Have fun."

Ella flashed him a weak smile. "Thanks. I hope I will."

Nate felt everyone giving him tired meaningful glances and he took a big swig of his beer to block them out. Just then Jared, the bartender, stopped by their table. This was their usual bar so Jared knew their group fairly well. He set a tray down in the middle of the table with six shot glasses resting in the middle. They were filled with some kind of bright green concoction that looked-there was no other word for it-toxic.

"It's on the house. It's my own creation. I call it 'The Brain Eraser'. Enjoy," Jared said with a smirk before he walked back toward the bar.

Ella's eyes widened and she poked one of the glasses gingerly. "If we dropped one of them do you think it would explode?"

Caitlyn picked up a glass and quickly sniffed the drink. Her eyes widened and she nearly gagged. "Oh god, that's intense."

"No thank you," Jason said as he took the glass from Caitlyn and set it back down on the tray.

"I think I'll stick with my beer," Shane agreed as he attempted to scoot away from the table.

Ella's eyes landed on the door and she smiled. "Oh, my dates here. Gotta go, guys. Wish me luck."

She stood up from the booth and walked away with a small wave. Nate watched the couple leave the bar before he groaned and banged his head on the table. He huffed as he looked back up at the group. "She's on a date?"

"Dude, why haven't you asked her out yet?" Jason asked. "You've had plenty of time."

"There are just too many things that could go wrong. I mean, what if she thinks we'll ruin our friendship? What if we actually do ruin our friendship? I don't want to make things awkward and I certainly don't want to lose her," Nate said before he took yet another sip of his beer. "Every time I think about asking her out I just…I can't."

"And right there is your problem," Caitlyn told him. "Too much thinking, too little doing."

"Caitlyn and I spent eight years thinking before we finally started doing," Jason said with a nod.

Shane let out a snorting laugh. "Doing. That's funny. Oh, the implications."

Mitchie smacked Shane's arm. "Shut up. You're ruining their point. They're right, Nate. Don't think about it anymore. You're wasting time."

"Who are we kidding? Nate couldn't shut off that colossal brain of his if he tried. Hell, I bet he can make pros and cons lists while wasted. I also bet they're ten times more anal than his sober ones," Shane said with a chuckle. "Am I right or am I right?"

"I am not that bad," Nate said defensively.

The group collectively cleared their throats and looked away from him.

"What? I'm not!"

"Well," Jason said with a wince. "No, you're not. Not all the time, but…"

"But?" Nate asked.

"Most of the time you're too concerned with the many ways something could end badly," Caitlyn said as she finished Jason's sentence. "For example, if I were to say to you…'Nater-Tot, drink that shot!' what's the first thing that would come to mind? Be honest."

He groaned before he answered reluctantly. "No, thank you, I prefer to keep my wits about me."

"And now you're thinking up a thousand scenarios, all of which end in…"

"An arrest, jail time, probation, my face splashed all over the tabloids."

"See?" Caitlyn said with a triumphant grin. "Give your brain a rest, Nate. For once in your life."

Nate glared at the shots sitting in the middle of the table for a minute before finally reaching for one. "Fine."

Mitchie's eyes widened. "Nate, what are you doing?"

"You want me to give my brain a rest, right? What better way to do that than to down a few shots?"

Mitchie turned to glare at Caitlyn. "Look what you've done! Fix it, Cait! Fix it!"

"No way! I wanna see this," Caitlyn said with a smirk.

"Yeah, me too," Shane said with a challenging grin. "Down them all, buddy. All six."

Jason groaned hopelessly and sunk down in his seat. "This is not going to end well."

Caitlyn and Shane cheered Nate on as he downed shot after shot of the bright green liquid until all six of the shot glasses Jared had brought over were empty. Nate rested his head on the table and looked up lazily when Jared approached them.

"Wow, you guys were thirsty. What happened to the shots?"

"I drank all six, bitch!" Nate said loudly with an idiotic smile.

Caitlyn covered her mouth and muffled her laughter while Shane shook with silent laughter.

Jared's eyes widened and he nodded before turning to Caitlyn. "If he throws up in my bar you're cleaning it up."

Caitlyn rolled her eyes and waved the bartender away with an amused grin.

"You realize we're all going to have to babysit him now, right?" Mitchie asked as she gave Shane and Caitlyn pointed glares.

"Fine with me. I have a feeling this will be the best entertainment we'll have all year," Shane said with a smirk as he put an arm around Mitchie's shoulders.

Nate immediately pulled out his phone and pressed a few buttons before holding the phone up to his ear.

"Who are you calling?" Jason asked worriedly.

Nate leaned his chair back on two legs before he answered. His speech was a bit slower than normal.

"Ellll-LA," He said with a grin.

Jason shook his head and tried to reach across the table. "Dude, that is not a good idea. She's on a date remember?"

"No, no!" Nate said as he waved a hand at his oldest brother. "It's totally cool."

Jason's brow furrowed and he shook his head. "No, it's not."

Nate held his hand over the receiver and leaned toward his brother before he mouthed the word 'voicemail' very slowly. "Yo, Elllllll-LA, it's Nate. Nathaniel. Natey-Nate."

Caitlyn was laughing so hard that her eyes were watering and Mitchie was slowly catching her laughter. The corners of her mouth turned upward and she closed her eyes. Shane had given up trying to hold it in and was now laughing hysterically from his seat across from Nate.

"I…I, um, I know you're on a date and everything with the rich guy. I'm just gonna call him RG from now on. Hey! That's kinda like Ross Gellar or Rachel Green. Haha, you're dating Rachel Green. You know, from Friends? Anyway, I just want you know this RG guy-or just RG cause the G stands for guy—is nowhere near as awesome as me, okay? I'm waaaaayyyy better than him. You know it and I kno—"

Jason reached across the table and snatched Nate's phone out of his hands. "Good lord, stop."

"Hey! That's my phone! I was telling Ella how awesome I am!"

Jason pressed the end call button and handed the phone to Caitlyn. "Put that in your purse and do not let him have it back."

"Aw," Caitlyn said with a whine. "But drunk Nate drunk dialing is so much fun!"

"Hey! Hey!" Nate said suddenly. "You know what's weird?"

The four of them turned to face Nate slowly.

"I said you know what's weird?" Nate repeated.

"What, Nate?" Shane asked with a grin.

"The word politics."

They blinked at him for a full minute before Mitchie finally spoke up. "Huh?"

"Poly means many and then it ends in ticks. As in the blood sucking insect," Nate said as he chuckled at himself. "So politicians are many blood sucking insects. Oh man, that's funny. I'm funny."

"Yeah," Caitlyn said with a light laugh. "Hysterical."

Suddenly the two legs Nate chair had been standing on slipped out from under him and he fell to the floor. They all winced at the loud crash and Mitchie leaned over the spot where Nate fell to make sure he was okay. He pushed the chair aside and crawled around until he could get his footing and stand up.

"I'm okay!" He exclaimed to the rest of the room. "I'm not hurt!"

"Yeah," Mitchie said with a sigh. "You need to go home."

"Nuh uh!" Nate exclaimed. "I don't want to go home! I haven't finished my beer yet!"

"Trust me, buddy," Jason said as he patted Nate's shoulder. "You don't need it."

"C'mon, dude," Shane said as he stood up and walked behind Caitlyn and Jason's chairs to get to Nate. "We'll take you home."

Mitchie nodded and stood up as well. "Good idea."

Nate whined and grimaced. "No, bad idea. Really bad idea."

Shane rolled his eyes and pulled Nate to his feet. "If you come with us we'll stop and pick you up some honey mustard pretzels. Sound good?"

"Good?" Nate said. "That sounds great! Let's do this!"

Nate ran for the door and stumbled more than a few times on the way. Shane and Mitchie sprinted after him. Shane took Nate's keys and drove him in his car while Mitchie drove Shane's car. Shane took Nate home while Mitchie stopped at the store to pick up the pretzels and then met them at Nate's house.

She arrived to find Nate sprawled across his living room floor staring thoughtfully at is ceiling fan. "Dude, you can barely see the blades. How fast do you think that fan is going? Hey, you know what's weird?"

Mitchie rolled her eyes and dropped the pretzels off in his kitchen while Shane attempted to get Nate to stand up. Hopefully they could get him into bed, he'd pass out, and they could leave. Mitchie left the kitchen just in time to see Shane pushing Nate toward his bedroom.

"You never asked me what was weird," Nate said as he dug his feet into the hardwood floor of his hallway.

"Fine," Shane said with a sigh. "What's weird, Nate?"

Nate smirked and chuckled. "Your face, dude!" He turned to Mitchie and held his hand up. "High five for the burn!"

Mitchie laughed at him and conceded to the high five. Shane glared at her and she shrugged. "What? That was sort of awesome."

Shane finally managed to get Nate through his bedroom door and Mitchie held back the covers and motioned for Nate to lie down. He huffed but made his way toward the bed. He jumped onto the bed and dived under the covers before looking back up at his middle brother and his girlfriend.

"You guys take such good care of me. What would I do without you?" Nate asked.

"Well, without Shane you wouldn't be drunk off your ass right now," Mitchie muttered. Shane shoved Nate's phone into his hand and Mitchie gasped. "You can't give that to him!"

"Bro, if you have any problems call us, okay?" Shane told him.

"Jason took that away from him for a reason, Shane," Mitchie said in a scolding tone.

"What if something happens while he's here and he needs one of us, Mitch?" Shane said. "He has to have his phone."

"That is not why you're giving him his phone. You just want to see what happens," Mitchie said as she rolled her eyes. She turned to Nate and gave him a stern glare. "Nate, you have to promise me that you will only use that phone to call Shane and myself or Jason and Caitlyn. No Ella. Promise?"

He nodded and blinked slowly.

She gave him a skeptic look and held out her pinky. "Pinky promise?"

Nate linked his pinky with hers and nodded again. "Pinky promise. Hey, why does it have to be the pinky? Why can't you use your thumb or your ring finger?"

She rolled her eyes and chuckled. "Go to sleep, Nate. You need it."

Mitchie gently patted the top of his head before she and Shane turned and headed for his bedroom door.

"G'night, mommy—I mean, Mitchie," Nate said in a quiet sleepy tone.

Mitchie laughed softly and shook her head as she shut the door behind her. "Oh, you are never going to live that one down. Ever."

About fifteen minutes later Nate heard his front door close and he immediately popped out of bed. He grabbed his phone of the bedside table and immediately made a call.


"Jaaaaaayyyysooooooonnnn," Nate said loudly. "Dude, I got my phone back! Oh, so Caitlyn doesn't know I know this, but she has a stash of those pornographic romance novels under her bed. Ella told me not to tell anyone so you have to promise to keep it a secret! Promise?"

"How the hell did you get your phone back?" Jason asked.

Nate shrugged. "I don't know. Shane gave it to me."

"I'm gonna kill him," Jason said with a sigh.

"Mitchie made me promise not to call Ella."

"You haven't, have you?" Jason asked worriedly.

"Nope! Not yet! Oh! But I should!"

"No! No, you should not!" Jason exclaimed.

"Hey, so did you ever think it was weird that people build bird houses but the birds don't ever really live in them? They prefer to make nests in trees. Don't you ever feel like you're wasting your time when you make a bird house? Oh man! How cool would it be to make a life size bird house? Would you live in it? You would, wouldn't you?"

"Actually, you know that might not be a—Oh no! You will not distract me like this! Nate, go to bed," Jason said sternly.

"But I'm not really tired. You know, you guys had a point about giving my brain a rest," Nate told him. "It's nice to just say whatever thinking. You know what I think? I think you might actually be a better guitarist than me. I mean, I still rock the drums, but I will totally let you be the king of the guitar. I still have the better hair though."

"Shane might disagree with that."

"What? Dude, his hair sucks."

"Go to bed, Nathaniel."

"Hey! Only Ella is allowed to call me that!" Nate told him. "Oh! Speaking of Ella. I'm going to call her now. G'night!"

Nate hung up on Jason and quickly called Ella. He got her voicemail. Again.

"Sooooo, Elllllll-LA. Jason tried to take away my phone, but Shane got it back for me. Mitchie made me promise not to call you. She thinks I'm drunk off my ass, but you know what? I've never felt better! I mean I don't see how I'm drunk. I haven't even felt the urge to ralph yet. Why do they call it ralphing anyway? I mean what poor stupid guy is responsible for that? Oh crap, hold on. Gotta go. I think I'm gonna ralph."

Ella sighed as she closed her apartment door. She really didn't understand what was going on with her lately. She complained about never having a date, but then when she did have one she just…didn't feel it. She either needed to get over Nate or quit complaining. Tonight had been great. Her date was wonderful. He was the perfect gentleman and very charming, and yet…she wasn't into him at all. She growled and headed straight for her freezer. She pulled out a pint of ice cream and a spoon before she sat down at her kitchen table and dug through her purse for her phone. She always put her phone on silent during dates. It just felt polite to do so.

She dug the spoon into the pint and glanced down at her phone. Her eyes widened and she pushed the carton aside.

She had ten missed calls and a voicemail for each and every one. She hit 'view more' on her phone and nearly spit out her one spoonful of ice cream. They were all from Nate. Nate. She called her voicemail and prepared for the worst.

"Yo, Elllllll-LA, it's Nate. Nathaniel. Natey-Nate. I…I, um, I know you're on a date and everything with the rich guy. I'm just gonna call him RG from now on. Hey! That's kinda like Ross Gellar or Rachel Green. Haha, you're dating Rachel Green. You know, from Friends? Anyway, I just want you know this RG guy-or just RG cause the G stands for guy—is nowhere near as awesome as me, okay? I'm waaaaayyyy better than him. You know it and I kno—"

The message ended abruptly and Ella pulled the phone away from her ear. She stared at it in shock. What in the world happened after she left that bar? Nate sounded—dare she think it—drunk. He never let himself get drunk.

"Sooooo, Elllllll-LA. Jason tried to take away my phone, but Shane got it back for me. Mitchie made me promise not to call you. She thinks I'm drunk off my ass, but you know what? I've never felt better! I mean I don't see how I'm drunk. I haven't even felt the urge to ralph yet. Why do they call it ralphing anyway? I mean what poor stupid guy is responsible for that? Oh crap, hold on. Gotta go. I think I'm gonna ralph."

Ella grimaced and then chuckled. Yep, he was definitely drunk. She couldn't help but grin a little bit. He'd gotten drunk because of her date. It was fairly obvious.

"I didn't ralph! I did, however, accidentally drop my toothbrush in the toilet. Sooooo, my breath is gonna STANK in the morning. Just a warning. Hey, that rhymed. I should put that in a song, don't you think? I could give it a hip hop dance beat. Do you think Caitlyn would choreograph? Oh, b-t-w, I might have told Jason about Caitlyn's porno novel stash. I didn't mean to. It just kinda slipped out. Sorry. So you'll never guess what I—"

There was a loud crash and then the message ended. Ella looked at her phone in concern for a moment before the next message started and made her grin.

"I fell off my bed. Which I wouldn't have done if I hadn't been jumping on it. But I am O-KAY. Promise. Hey, so, do you think I have the best hair? I mean, between Jason, Shane, and myself? I think I have the best hair. Hold on I've got another call."

Ella put the phone down for a minute to laugh. Oh God, drunk Nate was hilarious. He was very talkative. He'd said more in these voicemails than Ella had ever heard him say. She had 6 more to go.

The next one started and she heard faint music in the background that she recognized. She couldn't quite tell what the song was until Nate started singing. She smirked and giggled softly as he sang along with a Huey Lewis and the News song.

"Hey, I know they're your favorite. So…wait for it. Here I go. 'I been phoning all night and morning. I've heard you say tell him I'm not home. Now you're confessing but I'm still guessing I've been a fool for so so long. Girl, don't lie just to save my feelings. Girl, don't cry and tell me nothing's wrong. Girl don't try to make up phony reasons. I'd rather leave than never believe. If this is it please let me know. If this ain't love you better let me know. If this is it I wanna know. If this ain't love, baby, just say so. You've been thinking and I've been drinking…"

That continued until her voice mail service cut him off at the three minute mark. It wasn't his best vocal performance ever, but it was certainly hilarious. That voice mail was being saved. No doubt about it.

"Hey, do you think it's weird that Goofy and Pluto are both dogs, but one talks and stands on two legs and the other one doesn't? I mean, how did that happen? Was Pluto a high school dropout or something? Not that Goofy is the brightest crayon in the box, but it could be argued that Pluto is smarter. Just a thought. Okay, bye."

She chuckled and shook her head. She was never going to let him live this down. Ever.

"And one more thing, why did Donald Duck wear a shirt, but not pants? Also, why did he put a towel around his waist when he got out of the shower if he never wore pants? It's not like he had anything to hide. Everyone saw him from the waist down daily."

She took another bite of her ice cream as her phone moved onto the next message but she nearly spit out that bite as well.

"Here's something I've never told you. I love you. Did you know that? And not in that stupid friendly way, but in a really real way. You know? I love you. I loooooooooooovvvvvvveeee youuuuuuuuuuuuu. I love you the way Jason loves Cait or the way Shane loves Mitchie or the way Brown loves Camp or—as 50 Cent once said—like a fat kid loves cake. Yep, I'm the fat kid and you're the cake and I love you."

Ella gulped and bit down on her bottom lip. He loved her? Oh God, did he mean it? He better have meant it. Would he remember it tomorrow? She took a deep calming breath as the next to last message began.

"Once again, I love you. I. love. You. Wow, that feels good. Actually saying it. Out loud, I mean. I've said it to myself plenty of times. In my head. If I don't remember this tomorrow will you remind me? I think I might be drunk. At least, everyone says I am."

She could hear sleep creeping into his voice. This next message must have been his last one before he passed out. She took another deep breath and attempted to calm her heart as it pounded in her chest. He loved her. He really loved her. But why did it take copious amounts of alcohol for him to admit it?

"And another thing, you should be on a date with me right now. Not RG. RG is a jerk. Okay, so I don't actually know RG, but he's keeping you away from me so in my head he's a jerk. I should have asked you out forever ago. I mean, I love you so we should date, right? We should go to dinner and there should be candlelight and hand holding and footsy and all that gross stuff Caitlyn and Jason do in public. We should be doing that kinda stuff too you know? Only maybe not on the kitchen floor. Kitchen floors are really dirty. Even without all the extra DIRTY stuff they do on it. If you know what I mean? But I really do think we should consider going on a date and making out. At least one or the other, but preferably both. My eyelids are really heavy. I should probably go, but before I do, just one last time…I love you, Ella Pador. I really really really really really do, and I'm not lying or saying it just because I'm wasted. This confession is legit. Super de duper legit. As legit as a confession can get. Hey, that rhymed. I'll have to add that to my 'stanky breath'song. So, I think…I'm…gonna…sleep…now."

The last voice mail ended and Ella gulped. What in the hell was she supposed to do now? She huffed and called his phone. He didn't answer. Good, she'd expected that. She got his voicemail and wasted no time thinking about her words.

"Damn it, Nathaniel Lysander Gray, why do you do these sorts of things to me? I'm going to remind you right now of everything you've admitted to me tonight and if I show up at your apartment tomorrow and you pretend it didn't happen I will play every single one of them for you just to prove you wrong. You think you're awesome, you were drunk off your ass last night, you revealed a secret I told you in confidence, you think you have the best hair of all the Gray brothers, you actually own music by Huey Lewis and the News, you think way too much about Disney cartoon characters, you love me, and you want to date me. So, consider this your warning, you have one last chance to make a move. It better be tomorrow, and you better be sober. If you chicken out then I will move on because I cannot sit around and wait for you forever. Either you love me enough to take the chance or we both need to stop wasting our time. I'll be at your place tomorrow morning with a bottle of water and aspirin. Be prepared to talk."

And with that she hung up. Her emotions were all over the place. She was touched, amused, angry, determined, but most of all she was frustrated. Now she knew she hadn't been imagining things. Nate had feelings for her too. He was just too chicken to do anything about them. Well, she'd decided that wouldn't do. He was going to make a move tomorrow and that would be the end of it.

Well, maybe not the end. She was actually hoping for a beginning.

The next morning Nate slowly came to. He opened one eye at a time. He didn't remember hardly anything from last night. He knew he'd been drunk. Way drunk. So drunk that he was surprised he didn't feel worse than he did. Right now he just had a decent headache. It wasn't insignificant but it wasn't the size of Texas either. It was just there. His stomach was a little queasy and he was starving, but other than that he was fine. He glanced over at his phone for the time and noticed he had a missed call and a voicemail from Ella. His brow furrowed and he called his voicemail to check it. As he listened to her message his eyes grew wider and wider and wider. He'd admitted what? He'd told her what?

And she was coming over. She was coming over to talk about the voicemails he'd left her (he'd left her more than one? Oh God.) This was bad. This was very bad.

He had just enough time to get up and get dressed before an urgent pounding knock sounded at his door. He rushed toward the door and nearly tripped over the rug in front of his front door. He jerked the door open and tried to catch his breath.

A pair of pretty slender manicured hands held a water bottle and a bottle of aspirin out toward him. He followed those hands to the face and body they belonged to and gulped nervously.

"Good morning, Nathaniel. How's your head?" Ella asked with a pointed glare.

He took the pills and water from her. "Nothing a couple of aspirin won't fix."

He stepped aside to let her in as he took two aspirin and guzzled down half of the bottle of water. He closed the door and locked it behind her. She sat down on his couch as he made his way toward her. "So, um, how was your…date last night?"

"Decent," Ella answered honestly. "Good guy, no spark. How was your alcohol last night?"

"Honestly? I wish I could remember," Nate said as he sat down next to her on the couch. "After shot number 4 everything's a big gray haze."

Ella's eyes widened. "Shot number 4?" She paled when she remembered the tray that had been sitting on the table. "Oh God, you didn't? Jared's shots? Please tell me you didn't."

He took a deep breath and shook his head. "I can't do that, Ells. It seems I had all six of them."

Ella smacked his shoulder. "Are you just plain stupid? Don't ever do that again!"

Nate smirked at her. "Are you concerned, Ells?"

"Yes! And do not smirk at me! You have a lot to answer for this morning, Mister!" Ella said as she shoved his shoulder violently.

"Come on, Ella, the voicemails couldn't have been that bad," Nate said with a sigh.

"That's just it!" Ella exclaimed. "They weren't bad! They were…adorable! Why can't you be that honest when you're sober, Nathaniel?"

He gulped and grinned at her. "Well, I could try to be." He paused thoughtfully. "And we could start with this: I really love it when you call me Nathaniel."

Ella blushed. "You do?"

He nodded. "I do."

Ella shook herself. "No! This is not what I came to talk about! Oh, you can be a charmer when you want to be. Listen, we have to talk about us. You said a lot of things last night that you probably don't remember, but I do. And I need you to say them again now that you're sober. If you don't feel that that's possible then I'm afraid this little flirtation we have going on will have to end."

"So, what do you want me to say?" Nate asked cluelessly.

"I want you to be honest. That's all, Nate. Just tell me how you feel about me," Ella said in a pleading tone.

"How I feel about you?" Nate asked himself. He nodded and gulped before he continued. "Well, I feel…I feel that you're…wonderful."

She blinked at him and huffed. "Wonderful? I'm wonderful? That's it?"

He rubbed a hand across his lips to hide his smirk before he turned to face Ella. "Yes, is that not enough?"

"But what about—Nate, what about those voicemails from last night?" Ella asked.

"What about them?"

She glared at him. "Nathaniel Lysander Gray, do not play dumb with me! You said you loved me last night, and I'd like to know if you can admit as much while sober!"

He tried not to grin but he'd always found Ella amusing when she was riled up about something. It didn't happen that often and when it did…well, it was adorable. But still she had a point. He'd apparently admitted how he felt last night. It was out there. He knew it. She knew it. That fact alone should make it easier for him to say. But he still had no idea how she felt about him. He took a deep breath and angled himself so he could look her in the eyes. "Ella, I…"

"Yes?" Ella asked expectantly.

"I love you and I'd like to take you to dinner sometime," he said hurriedly. He paused and gave her a worried look. "Is that okay with you?"

She smiled brightly and launched herself at him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. "Is that okay? Okay? Nate! I have been waiting on you to say that for months. No, that's a lie. Years! It's definitely more than okay!"

He laughed lightly and wrapped his arms around her. "This is a much better reaction than I expected."

Ella pulled back and gave him a strange look. "What did you expect me to do? Slap you?"

He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "No, but I did expect something decidedly more platonic."

Ella smiled affectionately at him. "There's nothing platonic about how I feel about you. I promise."

"You promise, huh?" Nate asked with a soft smile. "Could you maybe prove it?"

She pressed her forehead to his and grinned. "Oh, I'll prove it. Every damn day."

"How do you plan to do that?" Nate asked with a knowing smirk.

She smiled slowly before she impatiently closed the distance between them and forced Nate further back on the couch. His smiled against her lips before he responded by kissing her back just as eagerly. His hands dove into her hair and he gently held a few strands between his fingers. Her arms were completely wrapped around his neck and her body was resting flush against his as they sprawled out on his couch. After several minutes of deep and enthusiastic kissing they pulled a part to catch their breath. Ella rested her head in the crook of his neck. Her lips faintly brushed his skin and he nearly pulled her back in for another kiss.

"You're gonna do that every day?" Nate asked with a grin.

Ella's chuckle was muffled against his neck before she turned her head to the side and rested her cheek against his chest. "Is that a problem, Nathaniel?"

"Oh, Definitely not," Nate said before he kissed the top of her head. "In fact, I'm looking forward to it."

Their eyes met and her expression turned serious before a warm smile spread across her lips. "I love you too, you know? I have for a while now. I just have one favor to ask."

"What's that?" Nate asked nervously.

"Don't wait until the next time you're wasted to say it again, okay?" Ella requested. "Feel free to say it as often, as loudly, and as enthusiastically as you want. I won't mind."

"Your wish is my command, Ms. Pador," Nate told her with a bright smile before he gave her a quick kiss on the lips. "I promise."