Feels Like Forever


Emilie comes to a stop in the hallway outside of one of the guest rooms. Niall is sat on the floor with Ryder, showing off a line of books geared for children; there’s a small box of toys off in the corner, a small bookcase, and a nightlight plugged into an outlet, but everything else in the bedroom screams “adults stay here”. She watches the two for a moment then clears her throat quietly to announce her presence.

Niall glances over his shoulder, grins brightly, but then he turns back to Ryder. “And this is Freddie’s favourite book. He’ll be here in a couple days, so you’ll have a little mate to play with.”


Niall pronounces the name again, this time slower, and Ryder tries once more. He gets closer - “Fed-ee” - and Niall huffs out a small laugh and seems to accept it. After brushing a gentle kiss to the child’s soft hair, Niall shifts him off his lap, telling him he can play with whatever toy is in the box. Emilie smiles up at him once he stands in front of her.


“Hi. I figured he could stay in here, it’s the room Lou and Freddie use whenever they decide to stay over.”

“It’s… it’s very much appreciated.”

“Good.” Niall ducks down to kiss her. “Thank you for saying yes to spending the holidays with me.”

“Thank you for inviting us. And before you ask, no, I didn’t really have any plans already. I mean, maybe I would’ve caved and gone to Paige’s, but Mom is on a cruise for Christmas and Dad’s somewhere in, like, Europe or wherever. I think. So Ry and I would have just been chilling by our lonesomes.”

He kisses away any more of her words, and she smiles against his lips. He calls for Ryder, wrapping a hand around the child’s smaller one. Emilie’s heart clenches tightly at the sight. It’s wonderful, amazing, promising so much good in their futures. It’s what Ryder deserves. And this happiness? The contentedness? The potential for a life of love with an amazing man? It’s what she deserves.

With a sigh, Emilie moves away from the bedroom door. Ryder is fast asleep, so impossibly tiny in the middle of the guest mattress, Lionel the lion tucked securely under his arms and a thumb in his mouth. The day has seemed to drain all of his endless energy; between running around in the backyard chasing the football with Niall and Mully, splashing in the pool with Niall keeping him afloat, and the lack of a nap, Ryder didn’t fuss or fight against his bath or bedtime. All he’d asked was that his Ni-Ni read him a story first.

Niall is already turning down the blankets when Emilie enters his bedroom. He grins at her over his shoulder then disappears into the closet; she blinks stupidly for a moment before shrugging it off. She makes her way to the suitcase that sits against the wall, rifling through the rolls of clothes until she sees the familiar plaid. She doesn’t bother going to the bathroom, just strips down to her undergarments right there. Warm hands slide along her waist, and she leans back into Niall, letting her head fall against his shoulder.

I’ve missed you,” she whispers, shivers when his chuckle ghosts against her skin, his lips following close behind. His hold on her tightens, and she lets him lead her toward the bed. “I’m… I’m glad we came.”

Niall’s hands wrap around her wrists, and he tugs her down to sprawl on the mattress next to him. She knows that Ryder is just across the hall, he can wake up at any minute, but she lets her boyfriend cover her body with his, his fingers dance across her skin, lets the fire burn her clean from the inside out.

{… … …}

Christmas dawns bright and warm - and far too early. Ryder crawled into the bed between Emilie and Niall at some point in the night, and his knees have been digging into her back for the last hour and a half. So her sleep has been incredibly uncomfortable. She can’t find a reason to be upset, though. She checks the time on her phone; it isn’t even five in the morning, but she’s wide awake now. She rolls over carefully, slowly, hoping to not wake the child.

Thankfully, he’s undisturbed by her movements. Emilie stares at the sleeping pair, and something in her chest tightens with warmth, the desperate wish that this moment would stretch into forever. It’s surprising how little trepidation there is though she knows that everything can go wrong so quickly. A shiver runs along her spine when she thinks about all the potentials that can destroy this bubble of peace, but the fears are muted by the love that courses through her.

Derek was right, all that time ago: Emilie has spent most of her life too afraid to jump headfirst into anything - anyone - that brings her happiness. Time has brought her the wisdom to know that the last attempt at a serious relationship failed because of her own doing. She kept herself too guarded, too closed-off, unwilling to give Jason the kind of love he deserved. He’d been such a wonderful guy, promised to give her the time she needed, but all she wanted was the isolation that came with not being in a relationship. She had Derek and Monica, her family; she thought she didn’t need anyone else. Being with Niall has shown her how wrong she was.

Blue eyes meet hers in the dim lighting of the room, and Emilie smiles, reaching across Ryder to brush Niall’s hair from his face. “Happy Christmas, babe.”

“Best Christmas present ever,” he murmurs through a wide yawn. “How long have you been awake?”

“Only about half an hour. Ry isn’t very considerate to my kidneys when he sleeps.”

Niall lifts his head and smiles down at the child still snoring. “Think we should wake him?”

Emilie nods but makes no move to actually follow through. A small part of her is reluctant to break the serenity of the early morning, content to stay here in bed with the two people who have stolen her heart so effortlessly. The world could be burning to ashes outside of these walls and she wouldn’t care, so long as Niall and Ryder were by her side. Staring down at her godson, she can’t help but feel grateful that she has custody - it’s terrifying to know that every move she makes has the potential to screw him up beyond repair, but she’s selfish enough to admit that her life would be empty without him.

Niall tugs a shirt on while Emilie changes Ryder’s diaper. She huffs out a laugh when her boyfriend scoops the child from her arms, heads for the door without a backwards glance; Niall’s voice trails off, his question of how Ryder slept fading with the distance. Emilie exhales slowly, relishing the domesticity for a moment, then pushes off the bed to change out of her pyjamas.

Dressed in a pair of black wide-legged cotton pants and a tank-top, Emilie hurriedly sends a text message to her family and friends to wish them a happy holiday before putting her phone on silent. Any conversations can be held later. She crosses the room, pulling her hair into a sloppy bun on her way. Voices carry up the stairs, a myriad of tones and pitches and accents, though all of them have one thing in common: Each speaker is in high spirits.

She comes to a stop on the bottom step, stares out at those gathered. Louis is sat on the floor with Freddie, who’s scrutinising Ryder with the seriousness of a child unhappy with the idea of competition for affection and attention. Ryder is far too distracted by the bright lights and shiny baubles on the tree, the massive pile of gifts on the floor, and the way Niall is completely focused on him. Melody, John, and Mully are engrossed in a conversation that Emilie can’t hope to follow. Harry taps away at the screen of his phone, but he looks up as if he senses someone’s attention on him. His face splits with a wide grin, and she gets no warning before he’s bounding over to her, embracing her tightly.

“Morning, sleepyhead.”

“Sleepyhead?” she protests, laughing when he doesn’t release her, keeps her held close to his body. “I’ve been awake for an hour now. Ry and Niall slept longer than I did.”

“Oi, hands off my girl,” Niall calls out; Emilie rolls her eyes at the cheeky grin, though she is thankful that there is no jealousy in his voice or expression.

Harry squeezes her once more then releases her, going back to where he was sat before. Emilie carefully picks her way through the people around the room until she can drop onto the couch beside Niall. He leans over, kisses her forehead, and she lets her head fall to his shoulder. Melody watches them closely; Emilie can’t read the look in her eyes, but she doesn’t let herself question it.

“Let’s open some presents!”

John’s demand serves as a useful distraction: Emilie allows herself to get lost in watching as Mully and Louis pass out the gifts, listening to Ryder and Freddie squeal in delight with each wrapped box placed in front of them, and feeling Niall so solid and present against her side. Even if she hadn’t gotten any presents, this would have still been the best Christmas morning she’s experienced in her adult life.