Feels Like Forever



Emilie shuffles down the hallway, scrubbing at her eyes as she follows the smell of coffee. She woke up ten minutes ago feeling much less like someone had put her head in a blender, her stomach finally beginning to settle. She’d spent most of that time scrubbing her teeth until her mouth no longer tasted as if something died in there. She is still so tired, could honestly sleep for much longer than she already has, but guilt kept her from dozing off again.

Time means nothing right now - she doesn’t know how long she’s been recovering from whatever illness she contracted. All she knows is that Niall and Mully have had to rearrange their schedules to care for Ryder while she was down. She appreciates it, sure, since they probably had a lot of important things to do but were forced to cancel because she was sick. But she hates that they had to.

When the illness had first come on, she’d had a moment of panic. Did her birth control fail? What the Hell was she going to do if she was pregnant? She never really thought about having kids, and the desire to do so faded into nonexistence after Ryder was born. She doesn’t even know if Niall wants kids. But then the nausea had been accompanied by mind-melting fever and chills, and the worries of pregnancy blipped to dust in the back of her mind.

“I see you’re feeling better.”

Emilie finishes pouring a cup of coffee and turns to face Mully. He grins from where he’s sat at the table, pulling out the chair beside him. She smiles thankfully, drops into the seat.

“Much better,” she says before swallowing a mouthful of her drink. “How long was I out of it?”

“Not too long, a couple of days. You really don’t like taking medicine, by the way.”

Emilie runs her finger along the rim of her mug, grimacing at the thought, and huffs out a laugh. “Nope. Never have. How awful was I?”

“You weren’t awful. Promise. Just… very clingy.”

The memory is hazy, almost bearing the quality of a fever-dream, but it comes anyway: A cool hand against her forehead, gently easing her into sitting up, bitterness of medication as she swallows. The way her hands clung tightly to an arm as the person tried moving away to let her rest. Falling back asleep with fabric clenched in her fingers. She takes another drink to hide her mortification.

Mully chuckles, not unkindly, and nudges her with his shoulder. “Don’t worry. I found it to be adorable.”

Her lips quirk upward into an awkward smile, and Emilie coughs quietly before changing the subject; Mully seems to understand her discomfort, doesn’t comment further, but tells her that Niall took Ryder to daycare.

“He had something he couldn’t get out of, and he figured social interaction with kids his age would be good for Ryder.”

“He’s figured right.” Emilie sighs. “I’m sorry you guys had to deal with all this.”

“Don’t be, Em. We wouldn’t have done it if we minded. You and Ryder are family now, and we take care of our family.”


“Something like that,” laughs Mully as he climbs to his feet. “Well, hate to leave you alone when you’ve just come back from the dead, but I have a girlfriend to visit before she thinks I’ve forgotten about her.”

“Have fun.”

“Trust me, I will.”

“Oh, that’s crass. Go away. I didn’t sign up for this grossness.”

Mully’s laughter echoes as he bounds up the stairs, and Emilie shakes her head, smiling despite herself. Warmth diffuses throughout her chest when his words reply in her mind. Family. He called them family. Even after nine months of her dating Niall, three months of living here, it still takes her by surprise that Mully cares for her and Ryder like this.

He calls out a goodbye over his shoulder, doesn’t wait for a response before he closes the door behind him. Emilie stares around the kitchen, alone for the first time in a while. She has no idea of what to do with herself. She could pick Ryder up from Tiny Tots, but she scratches that option off the list. He deserves to have the chance to play with the friends he’s made.

Finishing her coffee, she rises and crosses the room to rinse her mug. The sky outside the window is clear, deep blue and promising no rain. Emilie goes to shower and change out of her pyjamas. This may prove to be a terrible idea, but the thought of going for a walk won’t leave her mind now that it’s there.

“An’ Em!”

Emilie crouches down to catch the toddler barrelling toward her. She holds him as tightly as he’ll allow, peppers his cheeks with kisses, and Ryder giggles wildly. Unfortunately, she hasn’t fully recovered from being sick, and she ends up having to set him down on the floor as her head swims. He doesn’t seem to notice, thankfully, just grins up at her.

“Hey, baby, did you have fun today? Were you good?”

“I paint!”

“I… can see that,” she murmurs as she rubs at the dot of pink paint by his nose. “Okay, why don’t you go on and play so I can say hi to Ni-Ni, yeah?”

“Love you rainbow.”

“And I love you more than the rainbow.”

Emilie stands upright, reaching for Niall’s arm to steady herself when the spinning grows worse, and shakes her head to clear the blurriness from her vision. Niall frowns and presses the back of his hand to her forehead.

“I’m fine, babe, I promise. Just leftovers of whatever bug I had.”

“You’d tell me if it was something else?”

“Yes. Now come here, I haven’t seen you all day.”

He chuckles quietly, tugs her closer, and she rests her forehead against his chest as he wraps his arms around her. It feels right to be held like this, especially after the last few days of isolation. After a moment, he pulls away and smiles down at her. She laces their fingers together and leads him to the living room, immediately curling into his side once they’ve sat down.

“Tell me about your day,” she murmurs, watching Ryder build a tower with his wooden blocks, and Niall kisses her forehead and does.


Emilie adjusts the neckline of her cream-coloured dress, smoothing out the lacy edges, then reaches for her denim jacket. The forecast calls for sunshine until evening, but considering it’s the middle of March, the weather has a chance of turning chilly. After a quick check in the mirror to make sure her makeup is flawless, she turns off the light and heads to the closet to pull on a pair of sandals.

She has just reached the foyer when the doorbell rings. Rolling her eyes, Emilie heads to pull the door open, her laugh fading when she sees Niall on the other side. He’s dressed casually like she is, but he makes casual look... perfect, really. Her mouth goes dry as she gives him a once-over.

“Hi, I’m here to pick up Emilie.”

She shakes her head and bites her lower lip. “One second.”

He waits while she tucks her phone into her purse, looping the strap over her shoulder, and locks up the house behind them. She laces their fingers together, tugs him to a stop. His confusion melts when she stretches up to kiss him gently. His chuckles ghosts across her face, and she slowly opens her eyes.

“That’s supposed to happen at the end of the night,” he whispers, though he certainly doesn’t seem to be bothered.

“Well, don’t be so gorgeous, and I won’t wanna kiss you every second of every day.”

Gentleman that he is, Niall holds the car door open for her, waits for her to get settled into the seat before closing it gently, and Emilie watches as he rounds the car. He buckles his seatbelt and puts the car in drive, reaching for her hand once he’s pulled out into the street.

“Ry settle in at Louis’s okay?”

“Yeah. He was a little upset that he couldn’t come with us, but Lou showed him Freddie’s toys and that was it. Barely got a hug from the little guy before he was off.”

“I’m glad. You did tell Louis thank you for this, right?”

“Of course I did.” Niall turns his head to meet her gaze for a quick second then focuses on the road again. “Emilie, I... understand that you’re nervous about leaving him with Louis while we go on a date, but please try to relax. Ryder loves Louis and Freddie, and Lou will call if there are any problems. So, deep breath, yeah?”

“Deep breath. Right.” Exhaling sharply, Emilie squeezes his fingers in hers, smiling at him. “You’re right. Sorry, this is just the first time I’ve ever let someone else besides Derek or Monie watch him, and that was only ever so I could go to class.”

He lifts their hands, presses a kiss to her knuckles. “I understand. But tonight is about us.”

Somehow, Emilie isn’t surprised when Niall parks in front of 40 Love, but she doesn’t mind. She has been wanting to come here since she heard about it but never really had the opportunity. Too many responsibilities with work, classes, and raising Ryder.

Niall seems to know what she’s thinking; he grins brightly and hurries to open her door. She is surprised by the fact that people leave them alone as they eat, especially when it seems like everywhere she looks, there is someone watching the two of them. Someone even takes a photo, but she ignores it.

The city sprawls out in the distance, and Emilie lets Niall help her to sit on the blanket. He drops down beside her; she leans against him, rests her head on his shoulder. Orange-pink leeches across the sky, and she shivers slightly in the breeze that picks up. This is already better than she anticipated a first date could be.

“Fucking Hell, this is our first date.”

Niall freezes next to her then laughs incredulously. “It is, isn’t it.”

“Almost an entire year, and we’re just now getting to the whole ‘date’ thing.”

“In our defence, we were sleeping together before we made us a thing.” He lets out a slow breath, catching her chin with his fingers. The kiss he presses to her lips is sweet and achingly tender. “I’m glad we’re doing this.”

His voice falls away when someone clears their throat a couple of feet away. Emilie pulls away and stifles a sigh. Thankfully, Niall looks just as frustrated as she feels to have their date interrupted. His expression smooths out as the cluster of teens approach, and he plasters on a smile that comes across as genuine.

“So what were you like in school?” he asks as soon as autographs have been given and the teenagers have dispersed.

Emilie huffs out a laugh, settles back into his side, though her gaze stays on the skyline that’s darkening against the brilliant sunset. “I was quiet, really, kept mostly to myself. Founded an art club for my high school, and was on student council. Kinda nerdy, to be honest. I hardly studied, and I still managed to set the curve for my history and English exams. And if you can believe it, I was a cheerleader.”

“Wait, what?”

“Yep! There wasn’t a gymnastics team, and the marching band sucked. So I went out for cheer.”

“That’s - actually, I can kind of see it,” he says after a short pause. “You’ve kept in pretty good shape since then.”

She leans back so she can catch his eye. “Are you saying you like my body?”

“Amongst other things about you, yes. I do. Know any cheers?”

“Hell no. I forgot them all the second I graduated.”

Giggling, Emilie adjusts the skirt of her dress and curls onto her side facing him. He follows suit, fingers fidgeting with the lapel of her jacket. His eyes dart down, stare at her cleavage for a moment; she clears her throat pointedly, and he jerks his gaze to hers, grinning sheepishly. She leans forward, kisses away his apology.

Emilie tells him stories of her childhood as the sun continues to set on the horizon, heralding in a twilight that twinkles and shimmers with billions of stars. Rolling onto her back to stare at the sky, she talks about her family, how supportive and wonderful all three of her parents have been since she was a child, and the time she accidentally started a fire in her Home Ec class while trying to bake a cake. He laughs at that particular story, but Emilie doesn’t mind - it’s been long enough that she can laugh about it, too, though she’d been mortified beyond belief at the time.

She recounts the heartbreaks she endured in high school, and he holds her tightly as she struggles to talk about everything that’s happened with Danielle over the years. When the familiar anger at her former stepsister starts to grow, Emilie shakes her head and asks for stories from his childhood. Anything to not ruin tonight.

There is something peaceful about being here, held close by Niall as the night settles in over the city, that she doesn’t want to let go of. She can’t remember ever feeling this relaxed. Having been dating Niall for the last nine months certainly helps the easygoing nature of the date. She could almost fall asleep right where they are, even with the people still around and the chirping of insects.

“I kinda don’t wanna leave,” she admits on a whisper, and Niall laughs quietly.

“I don’t want to, either, but we have a child who needs us.”

“What do you wanna bet the internet is going to be full of photos of us?”

He shakes his head as he helps her to her feet, but he doesn’t deny the possibility, just folds up the blanket in silence then tucks it under his arm. They walk hand-in-hand back to the car, and Emilie wonders when they can do something like this again. It’s been perfect in how simple it was.


Emilie exchanges a look with Niall then stares blankly at Louis, blinking as if it’ll clear up her confusion. “You - you can’t just keep him from us.”

“Yes, I can. Now shoo, go. I’m kidnapping your kid until tomorrow, so go enjoy having a night of, er, shall we call them ‘adult activities’?”

Louis winks before shutting the door in their faces. Emilie’s jaw drops as the lock clicks into place, but Niall begins laughing at her side. She turns to him, brows furrowed.

“He’s -”

“Giving us a chance to spend hours together, doing whatever we want without a toddler interrupting us. And, love?” His voice drops to a low murmur, sending a shiver up her spine, and his lips brush against her ear as he continues, “I have so many things I want to do.”

And who is Emilie to argue with that?