Feels Like Forever



Niall tosses the last toy into the bin and sets it off to the side, out of the way so no one trips over it. He can hear the laughter from the patio, everyone in high moods as dinnertime approaches. The children have been easy to wrangle today, which is shocking - Niall fully expected that Ryder would be upset about having to share his toys and the attention of his grandparents.

Surprising Emilie by having her parents fly in had been the hardest secret that Niall has ever had to keep. She’d acted like it wasn’t bothering her, going another birthday without seeing them, but Niall could see the sadness in her eyes whenever they were brought up in conversation. It hadn’t taken a genius to put together the plan. All it took was three days of trying to get a hold of her phone to get her mother’s number and one simple conversation for the plan to be set in motion.

Niall’s heart had nearly burst from his chest at the pure joy on her face when she saw Jackson and Rose out front, the way she’d barely been able to stay on her feet as she rushed out the door… The warmth of his pride at making her so happy remains still, thrumming in his blood and coursing through his veins. All Niall wants is to make Emilie smile like she’s done today, every day for the rest of his life. He would kill to see that smile.

He loves that smile.

He loves her.

“Can I talk to you?”

Niall forces himself not to react to the sudden voice from the doorway, turning to face Emilie’s father. “Of course.”

It takes all of his willpower to remain still under Jackson’s scrutiny. There is no amusement on the man’s face, and Niall wonders idly if this is the part where he threatens to hurt Niall if he ever hurts Emilie. It’s not exactly something Niall plans on doing, but he knows no amount of talking will sway the father from worrying about his daughter. Jackson sighs, crosses his arms over his chest, and glances back over his shoulder, ostensibly to be sure they are alone.

“I’m… not going to tell you that I’ll kill you if you ever cause Emilie any pain. I don’t believe in that shit. Someone should treat their partner right because they love them, not because they were coerced by threats to their well-being. Besides, my baby can take care of herself. But you hurt her even once? I won’t ever forgive you. I’ll be civil because that’s what Emmy would want, but I will never lift a finger to help you. If you were on fire? I’d grab a chair, pop open a beer, and watch you burn. We clear?”

Somehow, that statement is more intimidating than any of the typical father speeches. Niall swallows thickly and nods. “Yes, sir. For what it’s worth, hurting her is basically the last thing I’d ever want to do. She- she means a lot to me, Mister Ellis, and so does Ryder.”

“She really cares for you.” Jackson blows out a breath, gesturing toward the couch. Niall nods, sits after the other man does. “Ryder, well, he’s a kid. He pretty much loves anyone who pays him attention. But Em? She’s guarded, if you haven’t noticed. The bullshit with Danielle really put her walls up. She tried so hard to get Dani to change her ways, to love her family enough to fix herself. All Danielle did was let her down, which wasn’t exactly a good reason to convince Emmy to open herself up to the potential of being hurt like that.

“And as amicable as my divorce from her mama was, it still wasn’t easy for a six-year-old. And now that I’m divorced from her stepmom? It doesn’t really give her faith in relationships. She gets that from me, I guess. But when she looks at you… Niall, she’s happier than I’ve ever seen her be. She looks at you like you’ve given her the universe, and I’m so fuckin’ glad to see that. Please treat her the way she deserves, because she’s the best thing to come to my life. No matter what else I may do wrong, that girl has been my baby for twenty-six years, and the only thing I have ever wanted for her was to be happy and have a fulfilling life.”

“I promise to do my best. I-I still find it hard to believe that she ever gave me a chance.” Niall runs his fingers through his hair and blinks against the heat in his eyes. “I wake up every day thanking the stars for bringing this amazing, beautiful, funny woman into my life, and every night, I go to bed praying for another day with her.”

Jackson doesn’t say anything, but the dampness in his eyes and the smile on his face is enough. It tells Niall that he’s said the right thing. That putting the words - the truth - out there was exactly what he needed to do. Emilie’s father claps a hand to Niall’s shoulder and jerks his head toward the back door. Niall nods, follows him out onto the patio.


Emilie helps Monica and Harry set the table as Mully finishes up at the grill. Louis and Derek struggle to get the large umbrella set up around the kids’ seats, while Harry sits back and laughs, mocking them without malice. But then Rose pins him with a pointed look, and he scurries to his feet to assist the other two. Emilie suppresses a giggle; her mother’s Mom Stare has never failed to work on even the most stubborn of people, Emilie should know - she’s stubborn as they come.

“Where’s Daddy and Niall?” she asks when she realises they’re nowhere to be seen.

“Your dad wanted to talk to him, ‘man to man’, so...” Rose shrugs. “I’m sure they’re fine, sweetheart. You know your dad isn’t the type to threaten.”

Her mom is right, but Emilie can’t help but worry anyway. She hasn’t even told Niall she loves him yet, and if her father scares him off, she’ll never get the chance. That train of thought dives further into the land of doubts. What does it mean that they’ve been dating for almost a year and she still can’t get the words out? Could she really not love him?

Someone jostles her, rips her from her thoughts, and Emilie forces a smile at Monica. Her friend smiles, squeezes her hand gently.

“Need a map to get out of that mind of yours?”

“Nope, I’m okay. Thanks. I, um, I’m gonna go find the other two so we can eat.”

“No need, honey, we’re here.”

Emilie exhales slowly then turns toward her boyfriend. She can’t quite read the expression on his face, but there isn’t any abject fear, so she takes comfort in the possibility that he isn’t going to run screaming for the hills any time soon. He pivots on his heel and scoops up Ryder as he runs by, all in one smooth motion, and Emilie stares. Even with all the practice, she can never be that smooth when trying to catch the little bugger. She doesn’t get the chance to say anything about it as her mother guides her to sit.

Ryder stares down at the plate Rose sets in front of him, face screwing up as he pushes it away. “No beans.”

“Ry, you gotta eat your green beans,” Emilie says gently, nudging the plate back in front of him only for him to shove it away again. She blows out a breath and ignores the multiple sets of eyes on her. “Buddy, come on.”

Niall must be able to sense her building frustration because he shifts to face the child fully, ducking his head so they’re on the same level. “Okay, so no green beans. Got it. You want peas instead then?”

“No peas, p’ease.”

“You have a choice of green beans or peas, bud. Which is it?”

“Bock-lee,” mutters Ryder petulantly; he crosses his arms over his chest and slumps in his seat, and Niall has to turn away before he laughs. The others have no such compunction.

“Unfortunately for you, broccoli wasn’t an option. Peas or green beans. I have an idea!” He says it as if it’s the greatest, most surprising idea in all of history, and Ryder glances up at Niall, reluctantly interested. “How abut you take one wee bite of a green bean for me?”

Ryder takes the vegetable and stares at it. At Niall’s steady encouragement, he nibbles the end of the green bean and then promptly shoves it into his mouth. Niall stifles a chuckle and stabs at a pea with his fork, holding the silverware out to the child. Ryder is less hesitant this time, grabbing the pea from the tines of the fork and smashing it into his mouth. He blanches and spits the mushed pea onto his plate.

“Green beans then?”

“Beans p’ease.”

Crisis averted, Niall turns back to his plate of food, and conversations start up again. Emilie can’t keep her eyes off her boyfriend. He managed to convince a two-year-old to eat with minimal fuss. Niall is obviously a miracle worker.

Rose nudges her daughter, gaze darting between Niall and Emilie, and nods approvingly. Emilie looks back at Niall as he gently pushes Ryder’s hand away from the green beans on his plate, reminds the child to eat his own food. She traces a heart onto the tabletop with a finger, and her mother’s smile softens.