Feels Like Forever


Desiree’s face turns an interesting shade of puce as she listens to Emilie the next morning. Her fingers rap a staccato beat on the desk-top, her eyes growing harder the more Emilie tells her. She waves a hand in the air, and Emilie closes her mouth with a clack of her teeth.

“How often have you seen this man around?”

“Every day.”

“Okay. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. You’re right. It’s absolutely un-fucking-acceptable that he’s doing this. I know it isn’t ideal, but can you please let one of the men walk you to and from your car every day? Just until I can handle this, and I will handle this.”

“Yeah, I can do that. Thanks.”

“I’m so sorry for you having to go through this, Emilie. If you want, you can totally take a few days off.”

Emilie declines the offer; the thought of not working just because someone made her uncomfortable isn’t one she wishes to entertain. Desiree brings the impromptu meeting to a close with another apology, and Emilie leaves feeling less like she’s in this alone.

She promised, so Emilie follows through with sticking close to Logan and Josh as they make their way to her car after work that evening. She buckles Ryder into his seat then takes a second to text Niall saying she’s on her way home. Josh holds the door open once she’s slid into the driver’s seat.

“I know this may be stupid, but humour me, please. Let Logan or me drive you to work.”

“I’m way out of your guys’ way.”

“So drive to my house, then we’ll ride in together in my car. If the creep sees your car here, he’s going to search for you inside.”

“I’ll think about it.”

He nods succinctly, pushes the door shut, and steps back. Emilie reverses out of the parking space, waving as she drives away. Josh’s words replay in her mind, and she finds herself giving the offer serious consideration.

He made a very valid point. She can’t deny that it would be a worry lifted from her shoulders if she can ease any risk of seeing Him. The part that angers her most about this entire situation is that she doesn’t even know his name. He encroached on her privacy, her right to exist without him cluttering up her bubble with his presence, and never even had the decency to introduce himself first.


“An’ Em?”

“Please don’t grow up to be a creepy weirdo, ‘kay?”

“No weirdo,” he parrots cheerily from the backseat.

Emilie laughs, shakes her head at how easily he repeats things without knowledge of the gravity of the words. “No weirdo.”


Emilie glances up as footsteps near the bedroom; no sounds come from across the hall, so she assumes that Niall has managed to get Ryder to fall asleep in his own bed. Her brows draw together when her boyfriend appears in the door, practically vibrating out of his skin with - irritation? Anger? Frustration? She isn’t quite sure, but it is blatantly obvious that something is wrong.

He disappears into the en suite, and the door shuts behind him rather forcefully. Emilie stares at the door for a moment then finishes writing before locking her journal in the nightstand drawer. Settling against the pillows, she reaches for her phone to play a level or two of Toon Blast while waiting for Niall to come out again.

He emerges from the bathroom five minutes later. Emilie is never going to not be in awe whenever she sees him like this - just a pair of shorts, no shirt to cover up with. Hers. He collapses onto the edge of the bed, rubs at his eyes with one hand. She reaches out for him tentatively, and a spike of pain shoots through her chest when he pulls away.

“Babe? What’s wrong?”

“Just tired,” he mutters in response as he turns off his bedside lamp.

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s all, so cut the bullshit, yeah?”

His blue eyes narrow, lips tugging down into a frown, but she doesn’t shrink back from his glare. She only stares impassively at him, and eventually, he blows out a breath. Emilie takes it as admission that something is making him unhappy.

She turns to face him more fully. The silence between them stretches, but she stays quiet. She’s learnt that he has trouble with words sometimes, especially if he isn’t writing a song. The last thing she wants to do is force him to talk. So she waits.

“I…” Niall sighs and cards his fingers through his hair. “I don’t want to complain.”

“Complain away, honey. It’s only fair for me to listen.”

His lips twitch, just a bit, but he lets her hold his hand tightly in hers. “I, well, I love having you and Ryder here, you know that. Right? I do. But it’s harder than I expected to learn how to handle having two other people living here.”

“Okay. I’m with you so far.”

“It stresses me out to come home and see Ry’s toys everywhere on the floor.”

The words are rushed, forced out in a surprisingly small number of syllables. Emilie blinks a few times then reaches for her phone again. Niall scoffs, abruptly shoving off the bed; his motions are jerky as he yanks back the duvet and slides between the sheets. When he looks at her again, his eyes are aflame with anger, and the scowl on his face is severe.

“Really? You’re going to check your messages. Right now. While we’re trying to talk.”

Emilie doesn’t reply, just continues to search for the app. She presses the button and sets the device between them on the mattress. His eyes follow the movement.

“Actually, I’m recording this conversation. Because I want us to be able to communicate. I know this is important to you, to your happiness, so it’s important to me, too. I don’t want to get anything wrong or be unsure about something.”

“Em…” Niall’s face falls from anger, twisting into remorse, and Emilie shakes her head.

“It’s okay. Niall, I just want you to be happy with us here, and if something is bothering you, I want you to be able to talk to me, because I need to know. I need to have the chance to fix it. So please, give me that chance?”

He exhales sharply through his nose then nods succinctly; Emilie hates that he doesn’t seem to be able to meet her eye. He runs his fingertip over the smooth curve of her nails, the ridge of her knuckles, but he doesn’t once look at her face.

“I get frustrated when toys and books are on the floor in the living room. I know you have a lot to do around here, between taking care of Ryder and Freddie, trying to catch up on your classes, work…”

“But I could still do better at making sure at least the communal rooms are picked up. Got it. I mean, I can’t promise that Ryder’s room will always be spotless, but the rest, I can do.”

“I’m not attacking you, by the way.”

She shifts her hand until she’s holding his, presses a kiss to his knuckles before smiling at him. “I’m not upset. You’re right. I’ve been slacking when it comes down to it. I’m just… I’m used to being able to get by with letting his stuff lie around for a while until I feel like cleaning it up. Or until I feel like arguing with him to clean it up. Either way, it’s not an excuse, and I promise to not let it become a problem again.”

“Thank you.”

“Anything else?”

Evidently, admitting that one issue opens the door to others; Emilie listens carefully as he explains the things that stress him out, making mental notes of what seems to occur more often and vowing to change that. When he finally runs out of steam, he lets out a heavy sigh and leans against the headboard.

Emilie waits another few seconds before stopping the recording, saves it as Important important important!!!!, then sets her phone on the nightstand. Niall doesn’t hesitate to open his arms to her and let her curl into his side. She rests her hand on his chest, his heartbeat strong and steady beneath her palm, and tilts her head back.

“Thank you for telling me all this. I didn’t realise it was so hard on you, and I’m sorry for that.”

“I could have told you at any point over the last month and a half, so…”

“Just let me be apologetic, ‘kay?”

He laughs softly, ducking down to press his lips to hers. Her fingers automatically curl into the skin and hair beneath them as she deepens the kiss. It’s not much, but her heart begins pounding against her ribs regardless. She shifts until she straddles his waist, and his hands instantly come up to grip her hips, thumb pressing against bone. No words need to be spoken for them both to be on the same page, and Emilie tries to say the words she can’t speak aloud with the way she loves him.