Feels Like Forever


Derek gapes at her when she finishes recounting everything, and Emilie squirms in her seat. Without a word, he stands and makes his way into her bedroom, and the drawer scrapes against its tracks as he pulls it open. He curses aloud; she twirls a lock of hair around her finger and waits for him to return. He does a few minutes later, the black box in his hand. His eyes are wide when he sits on the couch, and she stifles a giggle as he reaches for the glass on the table, drinking the rest of his wine in a couple short swallows.

“Em. I love you so much, you know this, but if you don’t jump on this dude, I will literally strangle you.”


“No. I’m tired of seeing you making yourself miserable just to make yourself happy. I’ve been watching you over the last few months. You’ve smiled and laughed more than I have ever seen since I met you. You are genuinely happier than I can remember you being.”

“D, I… I think I could love him if I let myself.”

“So what’s stopping you?”

She shrugs awkwardly. “I… don’t know. He’s amazing. Fuck, Derek, he’s honestly perfect. And the fact that Ryder adores him already is an enormous bonus.”

“Look, Emma-bean, this is all your decision, but you obviously care a lot about this guy, and he cares about you. Or else he wouldn’t have bought you a necklace like that. I just think you should give it a shot. Be happy, be in love.”

“I’ll consider it,” she murmurs after a long moment, and whatever Derek is about to say is interrupted by a knock on the door. Emilie checks the time on her phone. “Must be Danielle.”

It is, indeed, her former stepsister. The other woman sighs as soon as Emilie pulls open the door, pushes Ryder into Emilie’s arms. The toddler is a mess: Crusted-over remnants of food cover his cheeks and mat his hair, and Emilie frowns at the sight before lowering him until his feet are on the floor. She tells him to go to the living room and get a change ready; he toddles off contentedly, his fingers stuffed into his mouth. Danielle doesn’t bother waiting around once Emilie has a grip on the diaper bag, just turns on her heel and walks away. Emilie stares after her and wonders how long it will be before the woman wants her son back.

“There’s nothing clean in here,” Derek announces, sitting back on his heels with a sigh, and Emilie hefts the squirming child further into her arms and settles on her knees on the floor.

“Why am I not surprised. Okay, can you go grab something from my dresser, then? I’ll throw a load of laundry in once he’s in bed.”

She scrubs at Ryder’s body gently with the towel, and he grins at her before tugging the towel over his head. He screeches a peeboo! when she pulls it down. A smile twists her lips. She can never keep hold of anger when he’s around. Derek emerges from the bedroom with Paw Patrol pyjamas in hand, and Emilie takes them, reaches for the diaper next to her. Ryder struggles against her laying him down, but she wins, as usual, and manages to get the diaper on without too much trouble.

Once he’s dressed, she sets him on the sofa with his purple lion and turns on a cartoon for him. Derek promises to watch him while she gathers up all the dirty laundry that Danielle sent. She has just dumped the clothes into the machine when her phone rings loudly from the kitchen counter, Seeing Blind drowning out the sound of the cartoon on the television. She rushes to pick it up before Ryder gets frustrated at his show being interrupted, accepting the call quickly.


There’s a pause, then Niall huffs out a laugh, commenting, “That was fast.”

“Yeah, I didn’t want to upset Ryder during his pre-bed ‘toons.”

“Oh, I forgot it was Friday.” He hums softly then yawns. “Hi, I made it home.”

“I’m glad to hear that. How was the flight?”

“Boring. I didn’t want to be on it, but I had no choice.”

“I’m sorry, sweets.”

“Do you have time to talk?”

The question is seemingly innocuous, but the tone he asks it in has a weight to it. Emilie sighs, shutting the lid to the washing machine and pressing the button to start the cycle, and turns to look at her best friend and godson sitting on the couch. She chews at the edge of her fingernail then gestures toward her door. Derek nods, brows furrowed, but she shakes her head and disappears into her bedroom, closing the door behind her.

“Yeah, I do.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Had to come into the other room so Derek and Ry don’t overhear.”

“Derek’s there?”

She frowns at the odd inflection in his voice, and something twists in her gut. “Uh, yeah, he came to hang out for a bit. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he rushes to assure her, and she tries her best to believe him, no matter what her brain is telling her. “I guess I’m just tired.”


“It’s nothing, I promise. I’m just, I know you and him are close, I’ve known that since we started talking.”

“But because you’re tired and hungover, it’s bothering you that he’s here. Especially since we haven’t talked about what you and I are.”

He chuckles. “Exactly.”

“Guess we should talk about it then.”

The silence between them stretches on uncomfortably, and Emilie fidgets as she tries to think of something to say. She isn’t surprised when Niall asks if they can switch to a FaceTime call; this is a conversation best held face-to-face, after all, so she swallows down the nerves and taps the button for a video chat.

In an instant, her heart quickens, pounds beneath her ribs, at the sight of his face. The azure of his eyes isn’t as crystal clear through the video, but she’s captivated by them anyway. His hair is a mess, like he’s been running his fingers through it repeatedly throughout the day, and the beginnings of dark circles have formed under his eyes. His lips quirk upwards into a small smile, and Emilie clears her throat and forces herself to stop staring. She turns her attention to the bedspread, picking at a stray thread, and draws in a steadying breath.

“I… I thought I wasn’t ready for a relationship. Not with basically raising a kid and going to school full-time. My life was already full, y’know?” She glances at the screen to see him nodding. “But then you, you came crashing into my life that day at the coffeeshop, and for some reason, it didn’t bother me that I was making time to talk to you, that I was unwittingly adjusting my days around your calls and texts. I tried to ignore it - I figured that whatever we had had an expiry date, you’d move on, and we’d occasionally send a text to each other to catch up, and that would be it. But I couldn’t ignore it.

“I didn’t want to be the one to bring it up, because, well, what if you didn’t feel the same? Then I’d probably be out a friend because it would be too awkward, and Niall, you make me laugh. All the time. You make me happy. I wouldn’t have been okay to lose that. So I’ve kept it to myself. Then you came over last night, drunk as fuck, and I knew something was bothering you. I wanted to ask you what it was, I wanted to fix it. Everything I’ve felt since we met has just grown stronger with time, and… I can’t pretend that it’s still just a harmless crush that will go away if I don’t acknowledge it.”

“I can’t, either.”

She can’t help it; Emilie dissolves into laughter at those three simple words coming immediately after she’s unloaded so much in such a short time. Niall’s face twists up in confusion, but she shakes her head, waves a hand at him. When she calms down again, she drags in a deep breath and wipes at her eyes.

“God. Sorry, I don’t even know what the fuck that was. I guess what I was trying to say with all of that word-vomit is, I can’t do the casual kind of thing any more.”

“Do you… think you could handle a relationship? With us being so far apart all the time?”

“I think so.” She sighs, shoves a hand through her hair. When she looks back at him, her lips twist up into a smile without her consent. “I’m pretty sure that, as long as it’s with you, I can handle a relationship. I mean, you’ve already got a pretty good understanding that Ry comes first, and well, I can’t complain about the sex.”

His cheeks flush before her eyes, and he ducks his head as he laughs. She watches closely as he scrubs a hand over his face; her chest tightens with emotion, and a voice in her brain whispers a wish for him to be here. They hang up after a few minutes, his parting words asking her to tell Ryder he said hello - “in the morning, of course. Don’t wanna get him excited right before bed.” She sits on her bed for a moment longer, enjoys the warmth that burns beautifully in her chest. She bites her lip and brings up her camera, snapping a quick photo of her smiling face. She sends it off to Niall before pushing to her feet and heading out to the living room.

Emilie comes to a stop right outside the door, stifling a giggle when she sees that Ryder has climbed into Derek’s lap and is now snoring against the man’s chest. Derek passes the sleeping child over. She freezes when Ryder lets out a whimper, but he doesn’t wake. Thankfully, she gets him tucked into his cot without any problems, and she makes sure his lion is right beside him and the nightlight is shining in its outlet.


“Well…” She flops down and puts her head on Derek’s thigh, stares up at him with a giddy smile. “My boyfriend is amazing.”

“You guys made it official?”

She nods then bites back a yelp as his legs bounce underneath her head. His fingers brush her hair from her face, and he chews on his lower lip for a second. A bolt of unease flickers through her. She knows that Derek won’t try to convince her to not be with Niall - he was pushing for it, in fact - but he always manages to say things that she doesn’t expect.

“I’m happy for you, Emma-bean. Seriously. You deserve to be happy and loved in ways that I am unwilling to love you. I hope he treats you right.”

“So do I, D. It may be stupid, but I have high hopes for this.”



Once Derek is back with two glasses in hand, he passes one to her and lifts his drink into the air. “A toast to my best friend who’s finally got her head out of her ass and landed a hottie.”

“And a toast to my best friend who kicked my ass into gear so I could land said hottie.”

Her giggle is cut off by the sip she takes, and a pleasant heat sets up residence beneath her ribs, sends a buzzing along her veins that has little to do with the alcohol she’s about to imbibe and everything to do with the conversation she just had with Niall. She glances at the screen of her phone when it lights up, but before she can reach for the device, Derek is there. She grapples for the phone, finally managing to grab it from his hands. Her cheeks burn when she sees the five emojis blowing heart-kisses. She can’t even find it in her to worry whether she’s falling too hard, too fast; something about Niall makes her want to dive headfirst off the ledge and never look back.