Feels Like Forever


Emilie sighs, wipes her hands on the dishtowel as she makes her way to the door. It’s not even six in the morning - no one should be here yet. Derek grins brightly at her, pushing past her. She laughs quietly, locks the door, and follows him into the kitchen area. He sets the dish in his hands on the counter and turns to face her.

“What do you need me to do?”

“I… have no fucking idea.” She runs a hand through her hair, staring around at the half-started meals littering the countertops. “Derek, why did I do this?”

“Do what?” he asks over his shoulder as he moves things around in the fridge.

“Offer to cook a Thanksgiving dinner. I’m going to fuck it all up. I know I am.”

“Calm down, Emma-bean. You’re gonna rock this. Trust me.”

Emilie forces herself to take a deep breath, tries to believe her best friend. But it’s hard. The last few years have been spent with just her and Derek and now Ryder, but this year, she invited Niall and his friends. She wants this dinner to be perfect. Ryder deserves his first actual Thanksgiving to be a good one, and she can’t bear the thought of being humiliated in front of her boyfriend. If Derek was the only guest, they would be able to laugh off any mishaps, get drunk and forget that dinner was ruined. That isn’t an option now.

“What if it sucks?” she whispers after a moment, and Derek faces her, places his hands on her shoulders. “If this isn’t perfect…”

“Look, if somehow everything goes wrong, well, Ry is too young to remember, we have plenty of wine and whisky, and Niall is obviously head over heels for you, so he won’t give a damn. All he’ll be is happy that he got to spend time with you. As for whoever he brings… Em, you’ve told me how awesome his friends are, so they’re not going to care or judge you, either.”

She exhales slowly then sets about getting the food ready. She and Derek work in silence; he focuses on the turkey and ham, while Emilie mixes together the ingredients for green bean casserole, cornbread, and scalloped potatoes. After everything is in the double-oven, she can breathe easier. It is barely past seven-thirty in the morning, but she pours herself a glass of wine anyway then heads to her room to get dressed. Usually, she’s stuck to leggings and a loose top, but today, with the promise of seeing Niall and his friends, she decides on a plum-coloured wrap dress that falls to her mid-thighs and sheer tights. Her fingers tremble slightly as she works the clasp on the necklace that Niall bought for her, the opal pendant settling against her skin just above the swell of her breasts.

The sound of shuffling comes from behind her, and Emilie turns to see Ryder clambering out of his bed. All the anxiety and worries that she has been struggling with since she woke up at four melt away at the brilliant, face-scrunching smile he gives her. She scoops him up into her arms, kissing his cheek over and over until he squeals in delight, then sets him back on his feet. He toddles out of the room, and Emilie follows, grabbing a diaper from the shelf as he lies on the floor. Once he’s in a fresh diaper and his outfit for the day, Ryder makes his way to the bin in the corner, drags out the building blocks.

Derek has pulled the bottle of Jack from the freezer; the glass is frosted over, but Emilie can see it’s still mostly full. Three bottles of different types of wine surround the whisky, and he’s already grabbed down enough glasses to inebriate a small army. She finishes down the last mouthful of wine in the bottom of her glass, handing it to her best friend for a refill. He does that as she double-checks that the timer is going then carries her glass to the living room to watch Ry play.

“I’ll get it!”

Emilie shushes Derek but can’t do more than hiss at him, too busy pulling the casserole from the oven. He mutters under his breath as he heads to the door, though what he says, she can’t hear. She ignores him, sets the dish on the stovetop then tosses the dishtowel aside. Derek has evidently warned the newcomers that Ryder is napping, because they’re all whispering when they enter the kitchen.

Emilie lets out a small squeak of surprise when warm lips press to her cheek. She glances over her shoulder to see Niall standing there, grinning widely. She holds up a finger, turning back to the pot of boiling water and macaroni noodles, and gives it a quick stir; Niall’s arms immediately come up to wrap around her, pull her close, when she pivots to face him. Derek snorts in amusement from across the kitchen, but she ignores him in favour of kissing her boyfriend, relishing the taste of him over the moscato that’s on her tongue.

With a sigh, Emilie pulls away. The macaroni is the last dish to be cooked, and she really doesn’t want to mess it up. A quiet whimper comes from the bedroom; she curses and takes a step, but Niall shakes his head.

“You keep doing that, I can get him.”

“You sure?”

He nods, kisses her again, and her head spins by the time they part. Emilie doesn’t get the chance to say anything before he’s gone. She huffs out a laugh and focuses on cooking. Once the pasta is drained, Emilie calls out for someone to hand her the milk and bags of shredded cheese from the fridge. Mully does as asked, stands by her shoulder and watches as she adds sharp cheddar, parmesan, and colby-jack to the elbow macaroni.

No one speaks as Derek makes a plate for Ryder or as they load up their own dishes, except to ask each other for a serving of this or a scoop of that. Emilie stands back out of the way while her friends get what they want, and there’s a peacefulness that wraps itself around her heart. The food looks and smells delicious, nothing was visibly ruined - though whether it tastes okay is a different story. She’s just placed a slice of ham on her plate when someone groans from the living room.

“Holy fuck, Em, you’ve outdone yourself.”

Her face heats up with the compliment, and she waves a hand at Derek. The discomfort only grows when the others chime in with more praise. Niall pats the couch next to him when she enters the living room; Emilie is almost surprised to see Ryder’s high-chair right beside the sofa and that he’s already stripped down to just his diaper. She leans against Niall once she’s sat, kisses his cheek.

The television flickers on, and within seconds, the Pandora logo fills the screen before disappearing, replaced by an album cover. Harry perks up at the opening guitar riff for Edge of Seventeen. Emilie eats quietly even as the others laugh and talk amongst themselves, occasionally singing along to whatever song comes on. Mully asks why they aren’t watching any games, and Derek frowns. Before he can answer, Emilie laughs and explains that he’s vehemently against sports since he got kicked off the baseball team in high school. That leads Derek into sighing and telling the story of why it happened. Emilie knows this tale, word for word, but she still winces when Derek reaches the part where Mike decided to swing a bat at his head and it caused a massive brawl amongst the players.

Hours pass with the easy camaraderie between the group. Ryder doesn’t even whine when Niall cleans him up, and Emilie marvels at the comfortable way that the toddler has taken to her boyfriend. Harry, Mully, and Derek start packing away leftovers and washing the dishes, but she watches as Niall changes Ryder’s diaper and dresses him again. When he finishes, his brows furrow when he catches her staring at him. She shakes her head at his unasked question, reaches out for Ryder. He comes easily, laying his head against her collarbone as soon as her arms are wrapped around him.

“Hi, little dude. Didja like dinner? Was it yummy?”

“Um um um!”

“Yum yum! Wanna colour for a bit?”

“No. I sit Ni-Ni.”

“Does Niall even want you sitting on him?”

Ryder gives her a flat look, lips pursed and nose scrunched. “Yes.”

“What do you think, Niall?”

“Ah, I think I can handle my little bud sitting on me.”

Emilie passes Ryder back to Niall then stands. She cards her fingers through her boyfriend’s hair as she passes. Derek stops her before she can step foot into the kitchen.

“No, you go. You cooked, we’ve got this, so you just go sit on your pretty little ass and drink some wine.”

She shakes her head but does as ordered, making sure to fill a glass for Niall, too. There’s an odd expression on his face, but he shrugs when she asks quietly if he’s okay. Her brain automatically replays the last two minutes, and she sighs as she understands why his mood has suddenly changed. She sets her glass on the coffee-table, sliding off the couch to sit behind Niall, her legs stretched out next to his. She rests her cheek against his shoulders, wraps her arms around his waist.

“Only you, babe,” she reminds him softly, and the tension bleeds from his muscles.

Neither of them move even when they hear the sound of a camera shutter, but Emilie calls out a demand for that photograph to be in her inbox immediately. Harry laughs and promises it’s on its way. Eventually, her lower back starts to hurt from sitting on the floor, so she leans up to press her lips to the back of Niall’s neck, murmuring Only you into his skin, before she pushes herself to her feet.

Derek grabs the blankets from the closet, passing them to Harry and Mully, and Emilie says goodnight, ducks into her bedroom. Ryder sleeps peacefully on his cot, and she stops to stare down at his angelic face then continues on to her dresser. After grabbing a pair of cotton shorts and an oversized T-shirt, she turns back to her bed. Niall steps into the room, closing the door behind him. His hands instantly come up to cup her jaw, and she breathes in the scent of his cologne and the whisky he’s drank.

“I’m sorry I got jealous.”

“Don’t be, sweets. I understand.” She pauses, stepping closer so that their mouths are a hair’s width apart; her lips catch on his as she whispers, “If I remember correctly, the last time you got jealous, we had mind-blowing sex.”

“We did.”

No more words are spoken as she closes the minuscule gap between them, and her body ignites with the surge of want. Emilie links their fingers together, tiptoeing backwards toward the bathroom. Niall follows blindly; once she has both doors shut, she locks them and turns on the light. His eyes are dark with lust, and he exhales sharply when she unwraps her dress, lets it pool on the floor at her feet. The kiss they share is bruising, demanding - it steals the breath from her lungs and sets her nerves aflame.

It’s an awkward thing to start up the shower, but she manages it in between darting back in for kissing and touching, tasting. Niall helps her over the ledge of the bathtub, crowding her against the wall and capturing her mouth with his. His hands leave burning paths of need as they skim over her skin, and Emilie shivers at the slight pinch when he rolls a nipple between his thumb and forefinger, his touch light as a feather over her breast; she wraps a leg around his waist, murmuring a please don’t stop against his lips, and he growls low in his throat before shifting his stance, lines himself up. Her back arches, body screaming for more, but he keeps his movements slow, methodical, tantalising, no matter how much she begs and pleads - and she does.

Niall presses a kiss to Ryder’s forehead, running his hand over the toddler’s soft hair, then turns his attention to Emilie. She leans forward to meet him in the middle, hopes he can understand what she’s feeling as she kisses him. He pulls away looking a little dazed, and she takes it as a victory even while her heart breaks in her chest. Harry hugs her as well as he can with a child in the way; Mully does the reasonable thing and waves from the entryway. Emilie follows her boyfriend and friends to the door, watches them disappear around the corner.

“I think Thanksgiving was a success,” Derek announces from the couch.

“Yeah. Yeah, it was.”

“Y’all aren’t quiet, by the way. We totally knew you two were getting nasty in the shower last night.”

Emilie’s cheeks burn, and she scowls at her friend. “Sh. Ry doesn’t need to hear that.”

“Neither did we, but what can ya do.”


“Sorry, sorry. Was something bothering him yesterday? Niall, I mean. He just seemed... off after dinner.”

She hesitates then sets Ryder down by his toy bin; Derek moves his leg so Emilie can flop down onto the couch next to him. She wonders if she will be overstepping her bounds to tell him; she dismisses the thought, it’s Derek, after all. So she explains about Niall’s jealousy, the way it rears its ugly head on occasion. Derek frowns, runs a hand through his hair.

“I didn’t mean to make him jealous,” he says softly. “I guess I’m just used to the way our friendship works, and it’s habit by now.”

“I get that. So does he, I think. It’s just hard on him because we don’t get to spend a lot of time together, whereas you and I see each other almost every day.”

“Should... should we stop?”

“I have no idea,” Emilie admits, and they fall silent with the confession. She can’t help but wonder what she’d do if she was made to choose between her two favourite men. The fact that she doesn’t know is terrifying in itself.
♠ ♠ ♠
this chapter would have been great to be posted on thanksgiving, yeah? the story of derek getting into a fight with a teammate because they swung a bat at his head? not merely fiction, made up for a story - it happened to me when i was a kid playing baseball with the neighbourhood kids (don’t worry - I won that fight along with the grand prize of a massive headache and spectacular bruise for a two weeks. i probably should have gone to hospital, now that i think about it...)