Feels Like Forever


Emilie’s heart stutters in her chest, blood going cold. It is never a good thing when someone says “We need to talk”, and it is an especially worse sign when that phrase comes after an upheaval of the “you asked me to move in with you, but I said no” kind. She swallows harshly in an effort to clear the lump in her throat, but it remains. Monica frowns, though she doesn’t say anything, just quietly encourages Ryder to keep eating.

“A-about what?”

Niall chuckles softly in her ear, and a shiver runs down her spine; she remembers how it felt to have his breath ghosting over her skin, and her entire being aches for that easiness. “It’s not a bad thing, love, I promise.”

“Well, that’s reassuring,” she quips, though it really is. It doesn’t take the edge off her fear, but she no longer feels quite as close to vibrating right out of her skin. “So... what have you been thinking?”

“I know you said you can’t move in, and - and I understand, don’t think I don’t. This isn’t me trying to guilt you into changing your mind. I was just thinking last night, and I figured I’d ask if you would be okay with you and Ryder coming here for Christmas?”


“Come here for Christmas, unless you have plans already?”

Her head swims with the sudden onslaught of relief that this isn’t him breaking up with her; warmth flows through her, and she feels unsteady, like she will fall off the counter if she so much as takes a breath. It takes a moment before she can think properly. “I, I don’t think we do. Are you sure?”

“Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because... fuck, give me a sec. Mon?”

“Go on. I can handle this.”

Emilie makes her way to her bedroom, closes the door tightly behind her. Niall stays silent, only his breathing coming down the line. She drops onto the end of her bed and stares at the far wall. Eventually, she gets her thoughts in order, and her inhale is shaky. The sound of her picking at a thread on the comforter is steady, solid, and she focuses on the thwack-twang as she pushes through the anxiety.

“I want to. But Niall, it’s different being around a kid constantly. It wouldn’t be like whenever you come here, where you can leave whenever you want and not have to think twice about Ry. And it certainly wouldn’t be like the week I spent there.”

“Do you think I don’t know that?” Niall replies softly, though his snort is louder. “Em, I invited you to move in. I knew full well that it wasn’t going to be as easy as when it was just you and me. I know that with Ryder here, too, we won’t be able to do half the things we did whenever we want, including having sex on the couch - which, by the way, Mully still hasn’t quite forgiven me for.”

Emilie can’t help it: The laugh bubbles out of her without permission, and heat rises in her face. She knows that Niall is only saying it to make her feel more comfortable, less nervous about this conversation. She appreciates it, though. It’s just another point of evidence that he is far more than she deserves.

“Has he forgiven me?”

“Are you kidding? He swears that I seduced you with my evil, dirty ways, and that’s the only reason it happened.”

“Right. I had no choice but to go along with it.” Emilie sighs and frowns as the amusement fades away, leaving her standing on the edge of the abyss; she may not know quite yet whether she’ll jump or run away, but she can’t make that decision until everything is settled. “You’re certain that you want us to be there?”

“Emilie - what’s your middle name?”

Emilie blinks owlishly at the abrupt change in topic. After a moment, she shakes her head and replies, “It’s Taylor, why?”

“Emilie Taylor Ellis, trust me when I tell you I am absolutely certain about this. I want to spend Christmas with you and Ryder, no matter how different it will be compared to every other time we’ve spent time with each other.”

“Okay, then I guess Ry and I will be there.”

“Good. I should’ve been in the shower already, so give Ryder my love, and I’ll talk to you later, all right?”

Emilie hangs up and bites her lower lip. He didn’t end their relationship; in fact, he did the complete opposite. She knows she should be thrilled, doing a happy dance and shouting from the rooftops, but a dark cloud hangs over her head. There is still the chance that he can find everything too much to handle and change his mind. He may say he understands, but there is literally no preparing for having a child suddenly in your life every second of every day.

Emilie had months to ready for Ryder’s existence, and she still is overwhelmed with all the responsibility that comes with being a stand-in mother. Niall has had sporadic periods of being around Ryder. It’s not the same.

A knock sounds at the door, jerking Emilie from her thoughts. She scrubs a hand over her damp cheeks - when did she start crying? - and croaks out, “I’ll be right there.”

She gives herself another minute to compose herself then stands. The fears and doubts slip back into their box in the rear of her mind, obediently waiting until she has the time to examine them further, and right now isn’t that time. Right now, she has a child to care for, so that’s what she is going to do.

The next few hours are spent binge-watching Letterkenny while Ryder naps and kissing him goodbye once he wakes. Her life may be topsy-turvy at the moment, but that doesn’t mean she can shirk her responsibilities regarding her education. Emilie hates that she chose a slot so late in the day, but it was the only one that would work with Derek and Monica’s schedules. She is grateful that she can be home before Ryder has to be in bed, though.

Somehow, she makes it through class without her attention straying from the lecture for too long. Emilie says goodbyes to the people she’s come to view as friends as they walk through the doors to the car park. Her phone emits a low ding, and Emilie waits until the car is started before checking it.

The email turns out to be from an airline. Her brows draw tightly together, even as she skims over the message. Two flight tickets, bound for L.A. on the twenty-second and back to Austin on the third of January. There is no question in her mind who purchased them.

Emilie would be upset about the fact that Niall spent so much money on two plane tickets - if she wasn’t certain that he did it out of fear of her changing her mind. She marks the email as important then brings up Pandora. Tom Petty floods through the speakers, and her lips twitch at the familiar song. Adjusting the volume, she reverses out of the parking stall and points the wheels toward home.