I thought our story was epic, you know, you and me.
Spanning years and continents.
Lives ruined, bloodshed.
(Veronica Mars - “Look Who’s Stalking”)
They finished their ”Where We Are”-tour on a Saturday night in Sydney, and Louis had never been as tired nor as high on adrenaline in his life. Looking back on it now, almost two years later, Louis can still hear the screaming fans, still feel the pressure from Harry’s hands squeezing his shoulder, still smell the sweat that clung to their bodies like a second skin, still feel the energy in the air. They’d stood there on stage, having just performed What Makes You Beautiful, arms around each other, grins matching, and it had felt like they could literally do anything in the world.
Truth is, back then they could have. They’d had success for breakfast, fame for lunch and idolization for dinner. They’d been the world’s biggest boy band, they were loved and adored and coveted, and, damn it, they were good.
And they were tired.
They were worn out, worked to the bone, and they needed a break. A hiatus, Liam kept calling it, feeling the need to remind everybody that it wasn’t the end, that it wasn’t permanent. They’d sat down in Louis’ hotel room on a Monday during the Australian leg of their tour, and it had been Zayn that brought it up first.
“Little Mix is taking 2014 off,” he’d said. “They’re gonna use the time to write a new album, right? But also, you know, to get some peace and quiet…”
And they all knew what he was getting at. Perrie and Zayn had been engaged since August 2013, but between One Direction and Little Mix, they saw each other so rarely that they hardly had time to be engaged, much less plan and have a wedding. They understood how much of a temptation it must be for Zayn, knowing that Perrie will be home in London for a year, knowing that they could finally be an actual couple, waking up next to each other every day, doing the weekly shop together and finally, finally getting married.
None of them had known how to respond, and the next few moments were filled with silence.
“It’d be nice, wouldn’t it?” Harry said eventually. “Just for a little while. Just to slow down a bit, yeah?”
And the thing is, it did sound nice. Nice and fantastic and unbelievable… and also fucking terrifying.
“It’d just be a hiatus, right?” Liam spoke. “Like we’ll take some time off, write some songs, appreciate the quiet life, and then we’ll be back, yeah? Together again? New album, new tour?”
“’Course, mate!” Niall smiled. “Like you could get rid of us that easily. We’ll still be One Direction when we’re old and senile.”
Four pairs of eyes shifted to Louis, who had remained silent throughout it all. He sighed quietly, ran a hand through his unstyled hair and nodded, “I think a break is exactly what we need.”
“A hiatus,” Liam corrected and Louis smiled.
“A hiatus.” Harry repeated, nodding, and that had sealed it.
Management had been harder to convince. They were certain that even if the boys did return from their hiatus, the fan base would be long gone, but they were steadfast in their decision. In the end they compromised. The boys would release a Greatest Hits album in time for Christmas and then the hiatus would be announced. They’d agreed on giving themselves two years. It seemed such a long time, but they’d been going a hundred kilometres an hour for four years and they needed it. They were to use the last six months of their hiatus to record a new album, so that it would be ready when they returned.
And that was where they were now. Two years later and ready to take on the world again.
It had been two strange years for all of them. Equal parts fantastic and horrible. It was nice to be able to live in the same place for an extended period of time, nice to be able to see their families more often, nice for those with significant others to be able to spend every day with them.
Zayn and Perrie had gotten married six months into the hiatus, a lovely quiet affair, and Louis doesn’t think he has ever seen Zayn that happy before. If nothing else, the hiatus was worth it just to see that.
But it had been tough as well, tougher than Louis had expected. It was quite natural that the hiatus meant seeing less of the boys, but it was something else entirely when it actually happened.
Niall went back to Ireland for a time, and ended up doing a bit of writing with various artists. They all wrote a lot during the hiatus, really. It wasn’t long before Niall rekindled the flame with Barbara, and a year into the hiatus, they went public with their relationship. It was the first time Niall had ever been officially taken since joining One Direction, but people had been extraordinarily supportive of it. Then again, it could easily just be because people didn’t care anymore? It was so hard to distinguish between the two these days.
Liam had spent the first seven months in London, and after a bad break up with Sophia, he’d packed his bag and moved to LA to live. He’d gotten involved in a lot of producing in his time there, and had found a genuine joy in being behind the scenes of the music making, besides just the writing he’d been enjoying for a long time now.
Harry had spent a lot of time with Ed. They’d taken up writing together, and Harry had co-written quite a few of the songs on Ed’s newest album. About a year into the break, Harry had joined Ed on his tour of North America, travelling with him for two months, and they’d surprised fans with a duet between the two of them. A bonus track for Ed’s upcoming album. That had spurned quite a large number of “Harry Styles Quits One Direction, Heartthrob Ready to Go Solo”-rumours, none of which held any truth, Harry was quick to reassure the boys.
Wouldn’t ditch you for a solo career even if it was the last thing on earth to do. Six months until it’s proper back to work, lads! Miss you .xx
In truth, they’d all been surrounded by break-up rumours and solo-rumours ever since they announced their hiatus. Few believed that they would ever return as a band. Little Mix had managed to do so with surprising success – a new marketing strategy making them much more attractive to the American market, and they were doing better overseas than they’d ever done before. The boys had been comforted by their apparent success.
As for Louis, he’d spent the first few months on his sofa, to be honest. It was the strangest thing, finally being completely free. When they’d broken up their actual relationship, and subsequently entered their publicity relationship, he and Eleanor had signed a two year contract, and when it was finally coming to its close in January 2013, Modest! had called them in for renegotiation. Neither of them had wanted to renew, sick and tired of the lies and the hassle, and somewhere along the way they’d gone from a friendship to mild dislike. They were sick of each other, plain and simple. They had somehow been talked into signing a six month contract though, in order for PR to set up a believable break-up, and Louis had finally been officially single in June 2014.
So when the tour was done, not only did he not have to worry about his obligations to One Direction, he also didn’t have to keep up appearances when it came to his supposed relationship with Eleanor. So he’d spent the first little while on his sofa playing shitty FIFA games and eating the kind of food Harry would have scolded him for.
He felt restless quickly though and took to writing a lot, penning plenty of potential songs for their upcoming album, even selling some to other artists. He grew frustrated, though, with his lack of musical talent, and decided one day to take up piano again, intent this time on learning it one hundred percent. He’d hired a private teacher, and it had taken a lot of effort and time, but eventually he mastered the piano to the degree where he felt confident in his abilities.
Besides occupying himself with the piano, he’d volunteered for a position as a footie coach for a team of young boys in Doncaster, leaving him at home every Thursday for training and supper at his mums. It was nice, the feeling that he’d come closer to his family during the break, ever since he’d broken up with El, and no longer felt the pressure of lying and pretending when he was home.
The boys had seen each other a lot less than they’d liked, but they’d never lost contact. They were constantly keeping each other in the loop, from texting to calling to silly snapchats of what they were doing. And they met up of course, albeit not as much as they wished they could, what with all of their individual projects.
All in all, though, they were all happy when it came to the time to meet up and start working on their new album.
He’d gotten the phone call on a Tuesday morning.
“Good morning, Mr. Tomlinson,” a vaguely familiar voice had said when Louis had picked up his phone with his usual “Hello?”.
“This is Amanda Carter, Mr. Griffiths’ personal assistant. We’d like for you to come in for a meeting tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock, if you are free?”
Louis had frowned in confusion, but agreed nonetheless. “Right, um, yeah, sure. I’m free.”
“Splendid. 9 o’clock in conference room 2, please. We’ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Tomlinson.”
That Tuesday morning – for all intents and purposes a Tuesday like all the rest – Louis would never have believed that in less than a month he’d be holding Harry’s hand, his best friend’s hand, for all the world to see, hundreds of camera-flashes going off, blinding them. Harry’s hand in his the only thing grounding him to the present.
And so it had begun.