‹ Prequel: Feels Like Forever

Feels Like Forever (one-shots)

promise that i'll love you


Ryder bounces on the bed, the one singular thing that Emilie is consistent with telling him not to do — at least, usually. But right now, it’s keeping him out of her way so she can finish packing. Shirts, jeans, her favourite creme-coloured dress and its accompanying denim jacket, underwear… Her mind races as she looks over the neat piles of clothes tucked away.

What is she forgetting?

Hygiene products. Right.

Emilie scoops Ryder into her arms, blowing a raspberry against his neck, and his protests turn to high-pitched giggles. He squirms to get away, but she presses a smacking kiss to his cheek and breathes in the smell of strawberries. As she carries him through to the en-suite, she lets herself think about the last four months and all that has changed.

“Marry me.”

The words she thought she would hear from Niall, she said herself. When he was asleep. Her fingers brushed over his cheek, the curve of his brow, the slope of his nose, and she wondered why she ever thought marriage with him was anything but a forgone conclusion. After all, he had stolen the pieces of her heart that didn’t belong to Ryder. She was, and always would be, irrevocably his.

“Mhm,” he snuffled, breath gusting out of him as he slipped further into sleep — then sat upright instantly, staring down at her.


“Did-did you just ask me to marry you?”

Emilie stifled a giggle, reached for his hand to lace their fingers together. “I mean, if that’s what you want?”

“Of course it — wait. Why?”

“Why what?” she managed to ask after a long minute of blinking stupidly at him.

“Why are you asking?”

“Because… I want to?” She frowned at him through the lamplight. “What the Hell. I thought you’d be happy about it.”

Niall scrubbed a hand over his eyes and blew out a breath. When he looked at her again, his face was scrunched up — whether from sleepy confusion or the light, she wasn’t sure; all she knew was it was one of the most adorable sights she had ever seen. The puzzlement slowly faded from his expression, and Emilie watched as her words, the meaning behind them, registered in his mind.

Eyes wide, Niall squeezed her fingers with his. “You’re serious?”


“Fuckin’ Hell, you mean it?”


“We’re getting married?”


“We’re getting married!”

She didn’t get the chance to respond before his body was pinning hers to the mattress, and he kissed her harder than he had in a long time. Uncoordinated and sloppy, interrupted by his wide grin and heady chuckles, it was perfect. He pulled away far too soon, all but leaping out of the bed.

“What are you doing, you nutcase?” she laughed.

He didn’t bother replying. Instead, he let out a soft laugh, his hands coming up to clench in his hair, and he stared at her. The lamplight caught on the soft sheen in his eyes, the slight tremble to his lips. His chest rose and fell rapidly, as if he was struggling to breathe at the news.

Emilie clambered off the bed and crossed the room. His heart raced under her palm as she pressed it to his chest. Up close, he was even more beautiful in his joy, and she fell that much further for this wonderful man.

“Say it again,” he whispered, pleaded.

“Marry me,” she whispered back, and he snaked his arms around her waist, brushing his lips against hers.


Everyone who matters already knows — Mully was the first to find out, considering he was tasked with babysitting Ryder while Niall and Emilie left to ‘run an errand’. Clever man that he is, he noticed the rings the second the couple walked back into the house.

After that, it was the simple matter of calling their families. Emilie’s parents were ecstatic, her mothers’ voices blending together over the video-chat, and Jackson waited for them to calm down before asking Emilie if she was sure this is what she wanted. Emilie had watched Niall dancing through the living room with Ryder, Black and White playing on the stereo, and known that she’d never wanted anything more in her entire life.

Maura demanded that Niall give his phone to Emilie, only to spend five minutes blubbering and trying to speak through her tears. What came out eventually was a general idea of happiness, Maura being thrilled at the engagement, and a slight chiding: “Pet, the man is supposed to be the one tied up in knots waiting for an answer. It’s the least they owe us for us tolerating their shenanigans.”

“I wasn’t worried about his answer,” Emilie had replied, and it was true. She knew he would say yes. Not only because he’d already said it was a nonnegotiable requirement for a steady relationship, but because he has shown her, every single day, just how much she means to him. How much of his life revolves around her and Ryder.


“Hmm? Yeah, baby?”

“We leave?”

Ryder’s soft voice crackles on the question, and Emilie looks away from the toothbrushes in the stand. His blue eyes are full of worry and tears. She exhales sharply and sets him on the counter.

“Oh, honey, no. I mean, yes, but… I promise you we will never leave Daddy again, okay? Just like when Daddy has to go play his music, he always comes back, right? Well, that’s us. We have something to do, but we will come right back home before you can even miss it. Trust?”


“Attaboy. Now, grab the toothbrushes so we can finish packing.”

Emilie has just gotten the suitcase zipped up and by the stairs when the front door opens. Leaning over the half-wall, she grins brightly at the two newcomers. Jordan grins brightly, waving up at Emilie, then heads toward the kitchen. Mully frowns.

“Where’s Ry?”

“Unc’ Sean! I here, I here!”

“Hey, there, mister, slow your roll,” Emilie scolds as she reaches out a hand, and Ryder pouts when he’s tugged to a stop. “Nope. No puppy eyes. You know you’re not allowed to run by the stairs, and you certainly aren’t allowed to go on the staircase without holding someone’s hand. So, you wanna try this again?”

“An’ Em, I go see Unc’ Sean?”

And who is Emilie to argue with that.

Thankfully, Mully keeps Ryder entertained so Emilie can carry the suitcase out to the car. He distracts the toddler during the toilet break and on the drive to the airport; the aircraft does the rest. As soon as Ryder gets his first glimpse of the planes, he squeaks and goes silent, tugging at Jordan’s hand.

“Gonna miss you,” Emilie whispers as she hugs Mully tightly. “Please make sure Barbara doesn’t die.”

“Your aloe vera is safe in my hands, I promise.”

“Hootie is gonna need watered tomorrow, too. Remember -”

Mully sighs, rolling his eyes. “Drown and drain, I know. Now get a move on, or you two will be late to your flight.”

To Emilie’s complete surprise, Ryder waits patiently for their flight to be called. He spends the entire time kneeling in his seat to watch planes land and take off, his eyes wide and mouth a perfect ‘o’. Emilie wishes she could be that easily amused, but instead, she’s worrying about how he’ll handle being on a plane, whether this is going to be worth the hassle. Of course it is, her brain scolds. She isn’t quite so assured.

Her fears go unfounded. The flight is completely uneventful. Ryder watches the land disappear from under the plane, whines a bit when his ears start hurting, and falls asleep in the middle of an episode of Paw Patrol. All in all, it’s better than Emilie could have asked for, even if the plane is late to take off and land.

There’s no time to drop off the suitcase, but Paul promises to have someone take care of it as they hurry through the corridors. Emilie swallows down the disappointment that the plan has been derailed slightly — she was meant to be here before the show started, but hopefully, Niall understands.

Emilie isn’t sure how it happens. One second, Ryder is clinging tightly to her hand as he dances to Everywhere beside her, and the next, he’s darting out from the wings, his tiny hand slipping from hers. She gasps, reaching for him and hissing out his name, but he ignores her.

The toddler stumbles to a stop and stares out at the bright lights and wall of noise, and he shoves the finger of one hand into his mouth and waves awkwardly with the other. The fans go quiet before erupting into a massive swell of adoration. Niall’s voice trails off in the middle of chatter, and Emilie meets his eye across the distance. Shrugging, she mouths “I’m so sorry” and takes a step forward to get Ryder off the stage.

John grins and kneels down next to Ryder. Emilie can’t hear what the man is saying, but then he’s tapping the three-year-old on the shoulder and pointing. Ryder follows his finger and squeals, racing the rest of the way to Niall’s side. Her fiance hands his guitar off to a tech and swoops the child up into his arms.

“Sorry, everybody, looks like we have a surprise guest,” he laughs into the microphone, his cheeks a brilliant pink, but he doesn’t let Ryder go. Instead, he kisses the child’s hair and smiles down at him. “What are you doin’ out here, sweet boy?”

“I miss you.”

“I missed you, too. Wanna help me sing?”

Ryder shakes his head, hands coming up to hold the headphones over his ears so they don’t slide off his head. “I no sing. You sing.”

“Okay, I can do that. I think.” Niall pauses, eyes narrowing as he lifts Ryder up a bit. “Big question for ya. I need some courage to do this. Think you can stay with me so I can borrow some of yours?”

Ryder giggles and mimes handing over two fistfuls of ‘courage’. Niall bites down on his lower lip, pretends to put the courage into his heart. Thanking Ryder for being so generous, he turns back to the mic. Emilie sniffles, wiping away tears, and watches the man who stole her head holding their child in front of the entire stadium.

“Ugh that’s too cute, I might throw up.”

Emilie glances over her shoulder as Cari and Lewis approach, flashing them both a watery smile. “It really. I can’t feel my heart any more.”

“Lemme guess, a puddle of goo?” Cari laughs, and Emilie nods.

“A puddle of goo.”

Throwing an arm over Emilie’s shoulder, Cari stares out over the stage, the way Niall sways with Ryder tucked carefully against his chest, the content smile on the child’s face as he stares up at his daddy. “Niall hasn’t shut up about you two. It’s always ‘Ryder and Emilie this, Ryder and Emilie that’.”

“When he told us you were coming to visit, I had to have him repeat himself five times,” adds Lewis, scratching at his nose. “I think he reached octaves only dogs can hear.”

“I’m glad we came,” Emilie murmurs as she faces the loves of her life, wondering how this isn’t just a dream.

Next month is their second anniversary, and Niall has been so apologetic that he’s going to be on tour for it. It doesn’t matter to Emilie; even with him gone, it’s bound to be better than their first. The one she spent feeling so alone with him right there. The one during which the whole world became witness to the cracks in their relationship. Their dying love.

Emilie has learnt her lesson, though: She talks, she listens, and she keeps fighting to make their relationship stronger. Niall has done the same, and the distance has seemed so small even though it’s so vast.

Put a Little Love on Me comes to an end, and Emilie joins in on the cheering, whistling sharply as Niall sets the microphone back in its stand. He grins, winking at her from the centre of the stage, then turns his attention to the child in his arms. Emilie’s heart lurches at the frown that tugs at his lips — is Ryder okay? What’s wrong?

“Is -? Fuckin’ Hell, I think he’s asleep,” Niall laughs and holds a finger to his lips; the crowd grows quieter at the motion. “Shh, let’s not wake him. Poor lad needs his rest. Today was his first plane ride, and I’m sure he’s exhausted now.”

A hand pushes at Emilie’s shoulder, and she tries to stay rooted to her spot. With Lewis helping Cari push, however, Emilie has no choice but to stumble out of the wings and onto the stage. Never before has she heard such quiet screaming from thousands of people, but she hears it now, as she makes her way on shaky knees to Niall’s side.

She brushes her hair from her face, waves at the audience, and reaches out for Ryder once she’s close enough. Niall lets her take him. Emilie freezes when her fiance’s lips brush against her cheek, when he murmurs ‘I love you’ into her ear. She pulls back enough to look into his eyes, the sparkling blue that has enraptured her from the very beginning.

“I love you, too,” she whispers; he can’t hear the words, she knows that, but he knows what she’s said anyway.

His arm snakes around her waist, and Emilie is stunned when he pulls her closer, kissing her in front of the crowd. He doesn’t release her even when he speaks into the microphone.

“Thank you, everybody, for letting this beautiful devil guest-star during that song. He, uh, he was actually with me when I wrote ‘Put a Little Love on Me’. We woke up early one morning, and we wanted to let the lovely Emilie sleep in. So we went downstairs, sat at the piano, and just… started playing. Ryder is an amazing songwriter, so if you ever wanna break into the music scene, you definitely need him on your team.

“I’ve gotten asked a lot over the last few months what the album means to me, the inspiration behind the songs, and I can tell you now, I won’t ever tell the full story. Because I like leaving things up to interpretation.” He laughs quietly, gaze flickering to Emilie’s face before back out to the fans. “But I will say this.

“Emilie, this absolutely stunning woman by my side, has been such a wonderful, amazing partner. Really, the best I’ve ever known. She’s put up with so much shit, and y’know, I couldn’t ask for better. She and Ryder make my life better than I ever dreamt possible, and I’m so thankful that she’s decided to marry me.”

Deafening silence, Emilie’s heart racing in her chest, lungs ceasing to function. He’s said it. He’s announced it to the world over, when he’s done nothing but keep the relationship private for the last two years. Does he realise what he’s done?

He winks quickly at her, leaning over to kiss her. “I love you, darling.”

The microphone picks up his words, screams and cheers, and Emilie gets no warning before she’s being surrounded by Niall’s bandmates. Everyone is hugging her, the fans are going wild in their seats, but Emilie doesn’t care much for anything other than the utter joy that surrounds her. Ryder jerks awake at the noise, and Emilie can’t stop her laughter at the confusion on his small face.

“That first night, we were standing at your door…”

Emilie rolls her eyes at the slowed-down version of Black and White then looks at Ryder. “Hey, baby, can Mama have this dance?”

Thankfully, once the band is back behind their respective instruments, the song kicks into high gear, the bright and fast rhythm coming from the amps. Emilie giggles when Cari sprints from the wings to dance with Emilie and Ryder; Lewis joins only seconds later. He ducks his head to speak directly into Emilie’s ear.

“Congratulations, future Mrs Horan.”

She grins and spins in a circle, arms tightening around a squealing Ryder. Niall leans away from the microphone long enough to press a kiss to her cheek as she dances by, and she sings along to the chorus as she realises —

This is what she’s wanted her entire life.

This happiness.

This love.

Whatever she’s found with Niall, she’s searched for this since she first knew what love was. This is the forever she hoped for.