Ethan James Gives Dating Advice (And It Actually Works)

"Dude. Help me," Conner says, and Ethan has to stifle a smirk at the spectacle that is Reefside's "studliest guy, like, ever" begging him for dating advice.

("Studliest guy, like, ever" being Conner's own description of himself, and an unusually modest one at that. In the spirit of friendship, Ethan has refrained from telling him that "studliest" is not a word.)

"Come on, Ethan," Conner continues, his tone vacillating between whining and wheedling. Whining is winning out.

Even though Ethan's eventually going to cave in and help him, he can't resist rubbing it in a little bit. "I thought Conner McKnight was a 'babe magnet.'"

(Needless to say, "babe magnet" is another title that Conner has claimed. At least this one has real English words.)

"Yeah, but this is Kira. And you know her ways."

"I still don't understand why she agreed to go out with you." Ethan frowns at his webcam, which he's been using to chat with Conner for the past half hour. It's only a fifteen-minute drive to Conner's house from Reefside Tech, so they should be having this conversation face-to-face; but Conner's car is in the shop and Ethan doesn't have a ride, so their only alternative was a video chatting program that Ethan devised to help the Dino Rangers keep in touch after graduation.

"Who wouldn't agree to go out with me?" Conner's blasé tone belies the hour-long pep talk he'd required of Ethan before working up the courage to call Kira. "I'm the Red Ranger. Chicks dig that shit."

"Ex-Red Ranger," Ethan corrects, feeling a momentary pang of loss for their powers. "And newsflash, that's not exactly impressive when said 'chick' was also a Ranger. So, again, why did she agree to go out with you?"

Conner frowns. "I don't know."

"…Weren't you participating in this conversation?"

"I don't know," Conner repeats. Definitely whining. "I just kind of said things that eventually made sense. It was embarrassing."

"Wow. That is sad. So I'm guessing she's in it for the lulz."

"The what?"

Sometimes, Ethan forgets that even the most basic forms of internet slang are way over Conner's head. "Never mind. Wait, so, are she and Trent off again?"

"Permanently off," Conner confirms. "They ended it when she came back here."

Kira and Trent had gone to New York together after graduation, the former to pursue a career in singing and the latter for art school. Kira had quickly discovered that she hated New York—"everyone is cold and miserable, and that's on a good day"—and she'd decided to move to Los Angeles, where she hoped to make better contacts in the industry. Trent, on the other hand, was in love with his school and had no interest in relocating.

"That sucks," Ethan says mildly. Conner shoots him a glare, albeit a misplaced one because he's looking at the computer screen instead of the webcam, and he hastily amends, "For Trent, I mean. I mean"—another glare—"it doesn't suck. At all."

At that moment, his phone vibrates, signaling the arrival of a text message. Speak of the devil, Ethan thinks, seeing Kira's name on the screen.

"So, our date is tonight," Conner continues impatiently as Ethan reads the message.

Got a call from Conner today… Agreed to go out with him… Am I insane?

"What are you laughing at?"

Ethan glances up at Conner's indignant expression. "Um… My friend just linked me to a funny comic strip. Sorry."

I was just wondering that myself, he texts back to Kira. Are you?

"I need some serious advice. Kira knows all my moves. She has an unfair advantage."

"What, you mean your dazzling smile might not be enough to win her over?" Ethan asks; but most of his attention is on his phone, and he's anxiously awaiting Kira's response.

"No, I actually have to talk to her." Conner looks very forlorn at this prospect.

Ethan's about to snort when he realizes that Conner is completely serious. "What do you normally do on dates?" he demands.

For a moment, the old Conner McKnight is back. "Dude," he says, raising his eyebrows.

Ethan's phone lights up. I guess I'll find out tonight, Kira's texted him. idk, yesterday I dropped in when he was coaching a kindergarten soccer thing and he was actually really good with the kids. They all basically worship him, it's kind of adorable. I think he might have grown up a little?

"But seriously," Conner continues, hunching over and staring at the computer screen as if he can compel Ethan to understand the depths of his pain, "I don't want to screw this up. I need you to help me come up with, like, conversation topics or something. Do you know the names of any record companies in L.A.?"

Maybe a little, Ethan concedes to Kira. Aloud, he says, "Conner, do you know the names of any search engines that might help you out with that? Like, I don't know, Google?"

"I am never going on Google again," Conner announces very seriously. "The last time I did, I found fan fiction. About us. About the Power Rangers. Do you know what fan fiction is? They write stories about us and—"

"I know what fan fiction is," Ethan interrupts him, rolling his eyes. Conner is, for lack of a better phrase, such a noob. Just out of curiosity (because he may or may not have read a few himself), he asks, "Did you read any of them?"

For a moment, Conner looks like he's about to cry. "I would never have sex with Dr. O!"

"Whoa, okay, did not need that mental image."

Ethan's still cringing when his phone vibrates again. Do you know anything about soccer? Kira's asking him. I'm trying to think of conversation topics, but I don't want to embarrass myself.

GOOGLE, he texts back. And then: Didn't you people talk to each other at some point while you were saving the world together?

"Conversation topics, dude," Conner reminds him. "Focus."

"I actually hate both of you right now," Ethan mutters to himself.

"I can't hear you," Conner says loudly. "Is our connection breaking up? Do I need to, like, adjust the microphone thing?"

"Do NOT adjust anything," Ethan orders him. Experience has taught him that Conner should never be allowed near the settings of any computer program, least of all one that Ethan has painstakingly created by himself.

Conner rolls his eyes. "Whatever, dude. Feed me your musical knowledge."

At the same time, Kira texts, Well, yeah we talked, but it was mostly about monsters. So can you please be a super awesome friend and help me learn the basics of soccer?

And Conner asks, "Who are you texting?"

And Ethan thinks, I should be getting paid for this.

But because he is a super awesome friend (who nevertheless really should be getting some form of financial compensation), he tells Conner, "My mom's having a computer crisis," and proceeds to walk both of his friends through the basics of their respective date's interests, which requires a LOT of Googling on his part because he actually doesn't know all that much about soccer or singing to begin with.

By the time his friends are feeling confident about their ability to knowledge-drop some appropriate factoids, Ethan is officially the god of multi-tasking. He deserves all the awards, and then some.

"Dude, you are a lifesaver," Conner proclaims, just as Kira texts, You are actually the best person ever.

And, he's not going to lie, that makes the headache worth it. As weird as it is to think of Conner and Kira dating each other, especially considering how much they clashed when they first met, Ethan's glad that he was able to help them out. They're his best friends, after all. If he can make things easier for them now, well, he'll do it, even if it means pounding back the Advil and occasionally wishing death upon technology.

(He does, however, repress a groan when both of them ask if it would be tacky to wear their former colors on the date.)

Once Conner and Kira head out with promises to report back when they return, Ethan turns off both his computer and his cell phone, staggers over to his bed, and promptly passes out. He is awoken several hours later by someone banging on his door, which is really just uncalled for this close to midnight. "Shut up," he groans, figuring it's some drunken idiot who's got the wrong dorm room. It wouldn't be the first time.

"Dude, you shut up," he hears, followed by a female voice saying, "Wow, that's not juvenile at all," and Ethan sits bolt upright.

"How did the two of you get in here?" he asks when he opens the door to discover Conner and Kira in the hallway.

"The security here is a joke," Kira replies. She has an arm around Conner's waist, which Ethan takes as a positive sign. "Some kid opened the door for us."

"So?" Ethan asks, stepping back so they can enter the room. "How'd it go?"

"Awesome—thanks to you," Conner says pointedly.

Kira playfully punches Ethan in the arm. "We figured out what you did today."

"Yeah, I knew something was up when she started talking about Pelé," Conner chimes in.

Kira shoots him a look. "And when you knew what a synthesizer was."

"So we put two and two together," Conner concludes, a distinct note of pride in his voice. "And we decided to come thank you in person."

"Seriously, that was some pretty impressive multi-tasking," Kira informs him.

Ethan's grin is so wide it hurts. "It was, wasn't it?"

"You were so devious about it, too," Conner remarks. Ethan barely has time to be impressed by the fact that Conner just used "devious" in a conversation before he adds, "I thought your mom had, like, fried her computer or something."

"Yeah, well, my brain felt like it was fried," Ethan jokes. Then he gestures around him. "My roommate's gone for the weekend, you guys want to crash here? I've got candy and movies."

"Sounds good to me," Conner replies.

"I'm in," Kira agrees, smiling as Conner squeezes her shoulder.

The three of them spend the rest of the night gorging on junk food ("If a monster attacks, screw it, one of the other teams can deal with it," Conner groans after his third bag of Skittles) and talking about everything and nothing. Once in a while, Ethan notices a subtle exchange between Conner and Kira—hands brushing together, a soft nudge in the arm, a surreptitiously shared grin—but it never makes him feel left out, never makes him feel like he's just tagging on. He's simply enjoying the company of his two best friends, who happen to be dating.

They crash at dawn, Conner dragging a pile of blankets onto the floor and Kira taking the absent roommate's bed. Ethan is about to pass out when he hears his name being whispered. He turns his head to see that Kira's still awake, the whites of her eyes shining against the darkness.

"Hey, Ethan?"

"Mm?"

"Thank you."

Ethan falls asleep with a smile on his face.