Feels Like Forever



Late-afternoon sunlight spills through the room, illuminates everything in yellow-white, and Emilie adjusts the tie on her robe before picking up her cup of coffee. Her entire body aches in the most pleasant of ways, and she is completely spent.

After the shower, she and Niall had gone back to bed, only to continue the activities again. And a third time only forty-five minutes ago. It had been a wonderful way of spending the day, but the intimacy was purely physical. She can’t ignore the voice in her head that says this is exactly the routine they were in before.

She stands at the door to the patio, stares out over the backyard, and sighs heavily. Niall has never left her unsatisfied in bed. That’s never, ever been a thing. She expected it, especially back in the beginning, but he’s done everything he could to make sure she was sated before seeking out his own happy ending.

The lack of communication, though… that has been the problem.

And she doesn’t want it to be any more.

“Everything okay?”

Emilie turns, forces a smile in Niall’s direction. “Yeah. Actually… no.”

“What’s wrong?” he asks quietly, padding up behind her and wrapping his arms around her.

“Are we falling back into the same patterns as before?”

“What do you mean?”

“We haven’t really talked.”

He sighs softly and rests his cheek against her hair. “We haven’t. I guess we just got caught up in other things.”

“We did. Very, very good things.” She huffs out a laugh when he nods vigorously. “So what do you say we go pick up Ryder, have dinner as a family, and then tonight, you and I will do a lot more talking?”

“That sounds like a plan, though I vote for more of the other kind of talking, too. That means you’ll have to go get dressed,” he reminds her when she doesn’t move, and she nudges him with her elbow.

Emilie presses a kiss to his lips, grinning up at him before heading toward the stairs. To her surprise, Niall doesn’t follow after her, but that’s okay. She can’t be getting distracted again. As she drapes her robe over the end of the bed, she lets out a slow breath then makes her way to the closet. Something in the back of her mind isn’t settling right.

It isn’t until she’s pulled a lilac-coloured sundress on over her underwear that she realises what it is: This is what she’s wanted for so long. Even when she tried to pretend otherwise, she craved a loving relationship, one in which she could be herself and be accepted - flaws and all. Her parents may not be shining examples of successful marriages, but she’s used that as a marker, a goal to strive towards, a path to avoid taking.

And now she’s happier than she could ever imagined. She has amazing friends; even when they’re blunt, Derek and Monica have never steered her wrong, and they’ve been there through so much. Her parents are wonderful, always offering a listening ear and advice and their presence. She even loves her job, though it’s hard not to.

Most of all, though, she has the most fantastic, caring, generous man waiting for her downstairs, so they can pick up the kid they’re effectively raising together. A child that’s not theirs but is. Emilie’s heart has never been so full, and she could drown in the peace that comes with knowing that she has her support system, a circle of love that has no end.

Picking up Ryder is an adventure. Louis is on a call, so he barely waves hello to Emilie and Niall when they step inside his house. He ends up having to go to the other room because Ryder won’t stop running around, screeching at the top of his lungs no matter how many times he is reminded to use his indoor voice. Emilie’s face grows hot, her stomach churning, but Niall acts as if it’s just another day as he scoops the toddler up into his arms and murmurs something quietly.

They cook dinner as a family, with Niall at the stove and Emilie and Ryder as the taste-testers. The domesticity of it all is heartwarming, makes Emilie long for things to remain this way forever. He’s so gentle with the child, easily keeping Ryder from getting too close to the hot burners, blowing on a green bean to cool it before passing it off to Ryder. Everything feels like it’s finally settled into place.

“He did not want to go to sleep,” Niall complains as he drops facedown onto the bed, and Emilie stifles a giggle. “This isn’t funny. Seven songs. I sang seven songs to him before he finally closed his eyes.”

Emilie shrugs and sets her journal aside. “He’s missed his Ni-Ni. Y’know, this is the first time you’ve complained about anything since we got back.”

“Because I’m too glad you two are back home to be unhappy.”

“Ugh, you’re too cute. C’mere, I wanna cuddle.”

Niall laughs but does as she demands. True to her word, she cuddles into his side and sighs heavily. He may be glad they’re home again, but he’ll never be as happy as she is.

“You don’t think I’m with you just for your money, do you?” she asks quietly, picking at a hangnail on her index finger.

Niall pushes himself up onto his elbows, stares at her with a frown tugging at his lips, and Emilie pulls away. She avoids meeting his gaze; she never thought to ask him before, always figured that he knows why she began a relationship with him, but the blogger’s assumptions have weighed heavily on her mind lately. Emilie isn’t sure which answer would be worse.

If he says he knows his fame and wealth isn’t the reason, then she’s taking the risk of putting that doubt in his mind. But if he admits that it’s crossed his mind, then why is he dating her? Why does he love her? That kind of fear can’t be easily dissuaded, so is he just waiting for her to come clean so he can leave her?

“Where’s this coming from?”

It isn’t what she wants to hear, but Emilie knows this is probably the best response she could have expected - neither accusatory nor invalidating. She sits up and brings her knees to her chest, staring down at her toenails.

“There’s a blog on tumblr that I, uh, I’ve been checking on.”

“Okay, firstly, there’s your problem. You’re letting other people put crazy thoughts in your head.” Niall reaches for her, and his hand is so gentle as it runs down her back. “If I ever, even for a second, thought you were only after the things I could give you and Ryder, I wouldn’t be with you.”

“You didn’t think that, even in the beginning?”

Niall chuckles, tugging her into his side, and Emilie relaxes as he begins twirling the end of her hair between his fingers. “I’ll admit, it was a small doubt when we first met, but then you seemed genuinely surprised when you found out I’m a musician. I’ve never quite understood how you’ve never heard of One Direction, though.”

She shakes her head with a soft giggle. “First off, I said I didn’t listen to One Direction, not that I’d never heard of them. You know my musical tastes. If it isn’t country or music from the 70s and 80s, I didn’t really listen to it.”

“In any case…” Niall brushes her hair from her face, kisses her forehead. “I don’t doubt your feelings for me, no matter what some lonely soul on tumblr thinks. It took you a year to say that you love me. If you’d wanted my money, you would’ve said it as soon as possible. Unless you’re really good at the long con?”

“Of course I’m not. You know I’m awful with secrets.”

“Yeah, you’re probably worse than Ryder when it comes to keeping secrets.”

“That’s, that’s not true! You’re being incredibly rude, sir.”

But she’s laughing, a lightweight warmth filling her bones. He smirks at having lifted her spirits, and Emilie doesn’t even mind the gloating. Not when he seems so peaceful, so happy, to be here with her.

As she gazes up at him, she watches the amusement fade from his face. Something in his expression shifts, turns more serious, and her heart races as she tries to figure out what he could possibly be thinking. Fear coats her tongue and floods her chest, acidic and harsh, and her breathing grows harder to control.

“Do… do you want to get married?”

The world stands still for a split second - his words reach her through the vast distance, muffled by the blood roaring in her ears. She thinks she’s misheard him. She must have, because that’s not anything she expected to hear.


“Marriage. What’s your opinion on it?”

“I-I don’t - what?” Her brain catches up, registers what he’s saying and implying, and Emilie pushes away from him. “Are you asking me to marry you?”

“No. I mean, I guess I am, but for the future. I’m not saying we need to run off to the nearest chapel right this second. I just, I wanted to figure out where we were headed.”

“Niall…” Emilie scrubs over her face with her hands, aching when he doesn’t reach out to touch her. “I, I haven’t really thought about it. I love you, though, no matter what happens. Is, um, is not getting married a deal-breaker for you?”

“I want it,” he whispers after a long minute, and Emilie could cry with the trepidation in his eyes, the hesitation in his voice. As it is, she can’t stop the tears from forming.

“Niall, please understand. I watched my parents’ marriages fail, so I’m always going to be a little scared of that particular step.”

“I know, love, I understand that. But marriage is, it’s important to me.” He shakes his head but doesn’t meet her eye. “I don’t want to lose you, not again, but I can’t just accept that I’m not going to get that.”

“So… what does this mean?”

Niall sighs, scratches at his jaw. “It means we should figure something out, or…”

He trails off, but he doesn’t need to speak the words. Doesn’t need to put them out there for her to hear. She already comprehends the implication fully: If they don’t agree on something as large and life-changing as marriage, then what’s the point in staying together? It would be best if they split up permanently before the relationship goes on any longer.

She swallows thickly, and her voice trembles as she asks, “What about kids? Are those nonnegotiable, too?”

“That, I’m a bit more flexible on. I’d like to have children of my own one day, but it isn’t a requirement for our relationship to work. What about you? Is having kids a deal-breaker?”

“I used to want them, in that abstract way, but then Danielle had Ryder. He became my whole world, even though he wasn’t really mine, and... I dunno, I just saw what pregnancy actually did to her body and mental health, and I was forced to be a mother before I was ready.”

Niall nods slowly, and Emilie blows out a breath, hesitating before moving to curl into his side. Thankfully, he holds her tightly, no sign of annoyance in the way he allows her to cling to him. She hopes that he understands her misgivings about marriage has little to do with him and everything to do with the fact that it isn’t something she really allowed herself to want.

But as she lies there, pressed comfortably to his side, she decides to finally let herself consider the possibility

After all, would it really be so bad to be his wife?