Feels Like Forever


The two weeks over the holidays could never have prepared Emilie for the reality of living with Niall. It isn’t nearly as easy or effortless as her week-long vacation in the summer, and she has to put forth a conscious effort to remind herself that this is new to both her and Niall. Of course there is going to be an uncomfortable acclimation period. Convincing herself is harder than it should be.

Most of the disciplining falls on her shoulders, and Emilie understands why. She really does. After all, she knows it isn’t the most comfortable feeling in the world to be a parental figure practically out of nowhere, so she doesn’t begrudge Niall for his hesitation or lack of stepping in, but it certainly doesn’t make her feel any better to be the “mean” one all the time.

A mantra has settled in the back of her mind, constantly making her wonder two things: If she truly is doing the best she can without being too strict, and if she can make this relationship work while raising a child that is biologically not hers - or his.

By the time she goes to bed on the first Friday after moving in, Emilie feels all sorts of upside-down. Ryder hadn’t wanted to go to bed - he’s been having troubles sleeping since Monica went back home, and too many times he’s woken up from bad dreams and refused to calm down unless he was in the same bed as Emilie and Niall. She knows this is only the after-effect of a massive change in his life. It’s still really hard to deal with.

The upside of the new living situation is she gets as many kisses and cuddles she can possibly ask for, whenever she wants them - in the evening, anyway. Niall has work to do and is often out of the house shortly after breakfast, but he’s been home before dinner. Emilie has enjoyed the little bit of routine they’ve been able to carve out over the last few days. She just wishes she had more time during the day with Niall instead of the last couple of hours at night.

Thankfully, it isn’t as awkward as she feared to be living with her boyfriend and his childhood friend. Mully is still just as easy to get along with whenever he’s home, and he doesn’t seem to have any issue whatsoever about a toddler roaming about the house. It’s pleasant, she’s found, to have another connection in her new home, even if their friendship only came because of the fact that she’s dating Niall. He does appear to go out of his way to reassure Emilie that she’s doing well as Ryder’s stand-in mother. She may not know why, but she’s appreciative of it nonetheless.

Niall leaves early Monday morning, promising to be back by the following night. The only consolation of it all is that he looks just as disappointed and reluctant to leave as Emilie is to have him leaving. But she knows his jobs are important to him, so she swallows back the pleas for him to stay, to ignore the world and his responsibilities and his passions. Selfishness has never been a good colour on her. Ryder has already grown accustomed to Niall being gone during the day, but Emilie is sure it’s bound to be an ugly bedtime tonight.

She’s just set his plate of apple wedges and a grilled cheese sandwich on the table when a knock sounds at the door. Brows furrowed, Emilie reaches the foyer right as it opens, Louis grins cheekily as he steps inside, Freddie toddling dutifully behind. Emilie rolls her eyes but leans down to scoop the child into her arms, hugs him tightly.

“Missed you, little guy. Mind if I give him a snack?” she asks Louis in an undertone, and he shrugs, ducking into the living room to set the diaper bag by the end of the couch.

Freddie chatters on about the stuffed animal in his hands, and she does her best to listen and respond. Unfortunately, her mind is still on the fact that she’ll be sleeping alone tonight - or rather, with a two-year-old who will fight against bedtime since Niall isn’t here - and the frustrations that she still struggles with.

“Talk to me, love.”

She jumps, startled at how near Louis’s voice is. “Hm? I’m fine.”

“Right. Is that why you’ve been stood there staring at the wall for the last couple of minutes? Because you’re ‘fine’?”

She blows out a breath and beckons him closer, explaining on a whisper that this is the first time that Niall hasn’t been here for bedtime since they moved in and she fears how Ryder will react when he realises it. After a hesitation that drags on slightly too long, she caves and confesses that she’s afraid that if something doesn’t change, she might actually grow to resent Niall.

“Resent him? Why?”

“Because…” She busies herself with washing the few dishes left in the sink from breakfast; it hurts too much to talk about, especially when he is staring at her with so much concern. “Because I’m tired of being the only one to dole out any sort of punishment. Like, if Ryder does something, who’s the one to scold or redirect him? Me. And, you know, I get it. I mean, it isn’t like Niall has ever had to actually parent a child before. He doesn’t want to overstep his bounds. But I’m just… I’m tired.”

“Have you talked to him?”

“And say what? There’s really nothing I can say that wouldn’t make him feel like I’m trying to guilt-trip him.”

Louis takes the plate from her hand, setting it back in the sink, and gently forces her to look at him. “Em, he won’t know anything is wrong unless you tell him.”

“Nothing’s wrong, really.”

“Except something is. No, don’t argue, okay? The only thing Niall wants is for you to be happy. You’re not happy right now. You need to talk to him.”

“It’s only been a week,” she protests, though she isn’t sure who she is trying to convince. “Things will get better if I give it time.”

“If you’re sure,” Louis murmurs, and Emilie can hear the doubt in his voice. “Just remember that he isn’t going to be upset if you talk to him about this.”

She shrugs and turns away from Louis’s searching gaze. Before she can say more, the children start fussing to get out of their seats, so Emilie distracts herself with wiping their faces and hands then setting them on the floor. Louis lets the subject drop, thankfully. Emilie adores him - it has been an utter pleasure getting to know him - but she can’t stand admitting that things aren’t as perfect as she’d hoped they would be. She moved too far from what she’s known for this to not be perfect.

She keeps one eye on the kids and Louis as she scrolls through job listings. He doesn’t try for more conversation with her, and Emilie is glad for that. Her thoughts continue to circle back to how overwhelmed she is lately; she would hate to unload everything on him any more than she already has. So she forces herself to focus on the site instead of her emotions. At least this is easier.

It isn’t a surprise that getting Ryder to bed that night is an exercise in futility. Even talking on the phone to her parents - and then Niall, when the toddler still refused to calm down - is no help. He just won’t stay in bed, and Emilie struggles to keep her temper in check. She’s just glad that the house is empty except for them. The last thing she wants right now is an audience to this show.

She gives up after three hours, too emotionally and physically drained to continue: She carries Ryder to the bed she shares with Niall, turns the television on, and searches through the channels until she finds one playing late-night cartoons. He sniffles as he curls into her side, and the newfound quiet is almost enough to drown at the twinges of regret that she’s caved. It is most likely going to set an awful precedent, but Emilie just can’t handle any more fighting. So she runs her fingers lightly through his hair and watches the cartoon with him, hoping with everything she is that she can get through this.