Breaking Free

Ever felt smothered by everyone else's idea of what your life should be like? Have you ever just wanted to say "Stop! It's my life!" to those closest to you? We all have, haven't we? I bet you were too afraid to do it though. So you kept your mouth shut, and did exactly what you always told yourself you would never do: you followed the rules set by people who don't really know you, and let THEM control your life. But what could happen if you finally just said no? If you decided to follow your own dream? Would something amazing happen? Would you fall in love? Would you find what you've been looking for your whole life? What could happen if you just...broke free?

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61. The First Night

Belle and Louis disembarked the plane wordlessly, making their way across the paved airstrip and into the terminal. As they stepped into the open air though, both were in awe of the beauty around them. The air was hot and humid, but not overwhelmingly so. The perfect blue sky seemed to go on for ages, and the atmosphere just seemed so...refreshing. A drastic change from the cold and wet London they were so used to.

Once in the terminal, both Louis and Belle grabbed their luggage. Belle turned to Louis.

"So I'm assuming Syco booked us in the same hotel?" Belle asked. When Louis nodded, she sighed. "Well c'mon then, let's go." She said, gesturing towards the many taxis outside the airport. 

Once outside again, Louis led the way to the nearest taxi and opened the door for Belle. She stared at him for a moment before mumbling a thank you and climbing inside the car, Louis taking both their luggage and putting it in the trunk.

Belle told the driver directions to the hotel, just ten minutes away, and an awkward silence soon ensued.

"Um, thank you." Belle muttered under her breath after a minute or two.

Louis turned to look at her in surprise. "For what?" He asked.

"Y'know, for back there...on the plane." She replied nervously, ducking her face and pushing her hair behind her ears.

Louis chuckled and leaned back in his seat. "It's no problem." He said nonchalantly. "And you already thanked me once." He added with a smile, turning to look at her.

Belle laughed. "Yeah, I know. But I really do appreciate it. I meant to save one Xanax, I shouldn't have taken both of them when the plane took off."

Louis was quiet for a moment. "Why do you take them?" He asked suddenly, rotating his torso so he was fully facing her. "Since when do you have to take heavy pills like that?"

Belle took a deep breath, plastering on a fake smile and avoiding eye contact. "That was just a one time thing, You remember how much I hate flying, it's just a mental thing. It's not like I take them all the time, I just--"

Louis interrupted Belle's rambling by grabbing her chin with his thumb and forefinger, turning her head and making her look him in the eyes. She instantly stopped talking.

"Why are you taking the pills?" Louis repeated seriously. Belle was awestruck at the way he was staring at her, with so much concern and worry.

"I-I have really bad anxiety attacks." Belle finally spat out. Louis' eyes went wide and he dropped his hand. 

Louis opened his mouth but it took a moment for him to form the words. "Since when?" He asked. "You've never had them before...?"

Belle sighed and looked down at her lap, where she twiddled with her fingers nervously. "The first one was about four months ago. It was when Nathan first became my manager and was setting up all these appointments, asking me all these questions I didn't know the answer to, accusing me of not wanting to be a real artist, saying I wasn't taking anything seriously..." Belle's expression was distraught as she thought about her horrible manager. "The stress just built up so bad and suddenly I-I couldn't breathe."

As Belle paused, she glanced up at Louis and saw that he was listening intently. She continued.

"The doctor first just gave me the pills for whenever I needed them, and I hardly ever did. But then Nathan kept telling me to take them every day just in case it got bad, and he upped the dosage and...it's just gotten out of control. The only person that knows about the attacks is Kaylie. And you, now."

"Niall doesn't know?" Louis asked, surprised.

Belle shook her head. "No. I know he'll worry himself to death over me, and he'll just blame Nathan for the whole thing." She chuckled sadly. "Niall hates Nathan."

Louis laughed. "Yeah, I know. He complains about him to me and the boys all the time." Belle smiled at that. "Why don't you just fire the guy? He obviously is putting too much stress on you if you started having the attacks once he became your manager." Louis asked sympathetically.

Belle looked down and shook her head. "I can't. Nobody sees the way he treats me because he always does it behind closed doors. And he's honestly good at his job, I've gotten loads of press about the album thanks to him. He's the reason I'm even at the top of the charts right now."

"No he's not." Louis quickly said. "You're the reason you're number one right now. It's your talent, not his." 

Belle looked up and saw that Louis was speaking with conviction. She smiled lightly. "Thanks Louis." She said quietly.

And then, in the back of that smelly taxi, Louis and Belle had a moment. It didn't last long, just a second or two. But it was still one of the most significant moments of their entire lives together. They looked into each other's eyes, and it was as if they were apologizing for every single thing they had done. Belle was saying sorry for abandoning Louis and the boys on their tour, for dating his best friend, for stealing Kaylie away from him. And Louis was sorry for messing up a good thing, for being so despondent, for lying so much.

That moment, that split second in time where it felt as though the earth stopped turning just for those two, was the moment where the spark reignited.

A dangerous spark that had the potential to burn everything to the ground.

***

"Alright Miss Costa you are in Room 613, and Mr. Tomlinson you are in room 614. Enjoy your stay." The front receptionist said with a bright smile. Belle and Louis thanked him and began to head towards the elevators, pulling along their luggage.

The hotel that they were staying in was absolutely amazing, much too glamorous for Belle's taste. However, Syco was paying so she wasn't exactly going to complain. Once in the elevators, Louis hit the button for the sixth floor and leaned back against the interior wall.

"I'm surprised nobody really recognized us." Louis suddenly said. 

Belle chuckled. "It's because we haven't really gone anywhere with teenage girls. Our flight information never got leaked, and everyone at this hotel is a stuffy businessman it looked like."

Louis chuckled. "Yeah I guess that's true."

The elevator pinged, and the doors opened to the sixth floor. Louis stepped back for Belle to step out first, not at all minding the back view of her short khaki shorts and long tan legs. Belle blushed, feeling his eyes on her.

Once at their side-by-side rooms Belle turned and smiled meekly at Louis as she put her key in the lock. 

"Erm, the official presentations start tomorrow morning at ten, so uh, meet downstairs a little bit before then?" She asked awkwardly.

Louis smiled back and nodded. "Yeah sure." He said simply. His eyes lingered on Belle's for just an extra second longer before nodding again and turning around and going to his door as well.

Both glanced at each other just one more time before opening their doors simultaneously and entering their rooms. Once both doors were closed, Louis and Belle each leaned back against the hard wood, taking in a deep breath.

This week was going to be interesting.

***

An hour later, Belle was throwing her wet hair up into a messy bun. The second she was alone, Belle knew she needed to take a long, hot shower to get off the airplane smell and also to calm down from all this Louis drama that had come out of nowhere.

She was planning to go out to dinner in a few minutes, so she had put on a casual blue strapless floral dress that reached mid-thigh along with her plain brown sandals. The air was too humid to do anything with her hair except put it up.

However, there was one thing she still hadn't done since she had gotten off the plane.

Picking up her phone, Belle dialed the familiar number. It only rang once.

"Hey babe, how was the flight?" Niall's cheerful voice rang out.

Belle smiled, happy to hear his voice. "Hey to you too." She said. "The flight was uh, good." She added, cringing despite herself.

"Well it doesn't sound like it was good. What's wrong?" Niall asked.

Belle took a deep breath, sighing dramatically. "Louis is here." She said simply.

The line was quiet.

"What was that?"

"I said Louis is here." Belle repeated. "He was on the plane when I boarded, I had no idea until I saw him. Apparently he's here to represent all of Syco."

Niall scoffed. "Are you serious?" He asked, obviously upset. "What the hell?! Why didn't anyone tell us?!"

Belle shrugged her shoulders even though Niall couldn't see her. "I don't know. Look, don't be upset. I'm fine, it was really weird at first but..." She paused. "I don't know, he's actually being kind of...nice."

Niall faltered. "Really?"

"Yeah." Belle replied. "He even seems really sincere about helping Allies for Alan. He hasn't said anything to make me upset and he has some great ideas to present to the Board of Trustees for HMSA."

"But I don't understand, why does he want to help?" Niall asked, obviously doubting Louis' intentions.

Belle sighed. "I think he still feels guilty for Alan's death. In Louis' mind, he's convinced that if he had told someone about Alan's phone call to him that night, maybe...maybe he could have saved him. So perhaps he's here because he wants to, I don't know, find a way to forgive himself?"

Belle could hear Niall breathing on the other end of the line, and she could imagine him sitting down running a hand through his hair frustratingly, thinking about the whole situation. She smiled at the mental image.

"Yeah, I guess you're right." Niall finally said. "But if he tries anything with you, or says anything to hurt you I swear to God I'll come down there and--"

"Babe stop." Belle interrupted. "Don't worry about me, I can take care of myself and I can certainly handle Louis. Nothing bad is going to happen. I'm going to present to HMSA and Louis is going to help me, and that's all. Just focus on spending time with your family okay?"

Niall sighed. "You're right, I'm sorry. I trust you, I just don't trust him I guess."

Belle chuckled. "Well thank you for trusting me at least." She said lightly. "Well I'm going to grab some dinner okay, text me later if you--"

Belle lost her train of thought, screaming shrilly as she turned around with her phone to her ear, seeing Louis standing in her room. He had come in silently through a connecting door between his room and hers, and was leaning against it, smirking at her.

"Belle? Belle what is it?" Niall asked worriedly on the other end.

She took several deep breaths, glaring at Louis, who was just chuckling away as he leaned against the door with his back foot propped up.

"It's uh, it's nothing." Belle said into the phone, turning her back on Louis. "It was a, uh, a spider." She lied, rubbing her temple and scrunching up her eyes.

"Oh." Niall replied.

Belle glanced over her shoulder and saw Louis looking around her room. What the hell was he doing there?

"Like I was saying though, I'm going to go to dinner and I'll uh, talk to you later, alright?" Belle spluttered out.

"Alright, sounds good." Niall said cheerfully, thinking Belle was completely fine. "I'll text you in a bit, I love you." He said.

Belle faltered, as she did every time Niall said those three words. She sighed into the phone.

"Talk to you soon." She said simply. "Bye."

With that, Belle hung up the phone and turned on her heel, glaring menacingly at Louis.

"How the hell did you get in here and why are you in here?" Belle spat.

Louis smirked again. Smirked

"We have connecting doors and your side was unlocked, so I thought I'd see if you wanted to grab some dinner together." He said casually.

Belle scoffed in disbelief. "You just think you can walk in here and--"

"Was that Niall on the phone?" Louis interrupted.

"What?" Belle asked incredulously. "Yes it was, but that doesn't matter, what matters is that you just came in here when I could have been--"

"Did I hear him say I love you?" He asked, narrowing his eyes at Belle.

Belle's jaw dropped, shocked at his audacity. "Louis what the f--"

"Why didn't you say it back?" Louis continued, not giving Belle a chance to speak. "You guys have been dating for what, five months? I figured you would have said it by now. So why not? Was it because I was in here?" He asked.

Belle was speechless. She opened her mouth but no words came out. Finally, she was able to speak.

"No, that's not the reason." She managed to say, her brow furrowed.

"So why not?" Louis asked once again.

When Belle was silent for a moment, Louis cocked his head at her. She glanced at him for a moment before looking away and walking over to her suitcase and unzipping it, taking out random clothes and laying them on her bed.

"I just..." Belle began, shaking her head. "I'm not ready to say it." She muttered. 

Louis moved over and sat on the end of the bed, making Belle flinch. She could feel his eyes on her, thinking intently, but refused to look at him.

"I call bullshit." Louis finally said bluntly.

Belle's jaw dropped and she turned to him. "Excuse me?" She asked incredulously.

Louis simply nodded. "Yep, I think that's bullshit. You're just too chicken." He said with a taunting shrug of his shoulders. He stood up and walked over to Belle's sliding glass door that led out to a balcony, leaning against it with his back to Belle.

"You don't know a damn thing." Belle mumbled. Louis turned around slowly, crossing his arms.

"Oh yeah?" He asked. "Then tell me why you won't say those three special words to Niall if he's so wonderful?" He asked sarcastically. 

Belle looked down and continued to take out clothes, mumbling something inaudibly under her breath.

"What was that, I can't hear y--"

"I said I don't believe in love anymore." Belle said louder, looking up at Louis with a cold expression. His mouth parted. "I don't believe in it, so I'm not going to say it." Belle added with a hard look in his direction.

Louis shook his head in disbelief. "How can you not believe in love?" He asked, shocked.

Belle laughed bitterly. "Oh gee I don't know Louis, maybe because love fucked me over once or twice?" She asked sarcastically, laughing yet again and shoving her now empty suitcase underneath the bed. 

Louis was stunned. How could the one girl he loved, not believe in love anymore? Did Life really hate him that much?

"Look Louis I'm about to go to dinner, and I'd really appreciate you not barging in my room again okay?" Belle said, standing up and crossing her arms, glaring at Louis.

"Is it my fault?" Louis asked in a hoarse voice. When Belle looked at him with a confused expression he continued. "Am I the reason you don't believe in love anymore?"

Belle's face fell and she looked down, scuffing her sandals on the floor. "I...you know what, it doesn't matter. Um, weren't you saying you wanted to go to dinner?" She asked with feigned cheerfulness, smiling in a tight line and grabbing her purse from the side table.

"Belle I--"

"C'mon, let's go to that restaurant downstairs, it looked really nice." Belle said, smiling at Louis. He could see past her act though. She was just desperate to get away from this topic of conversation.

Which answered his question louder than she ever could have.

Louis swallowed thickly, pursing his lips in a smile and nodding.

"Yeah that sounds great." He managed to say.

***

Once downstairs in the hotel's restaurant, Belle and Louis were sat outside, the air cooler as the sun began to set. They sat at a small table, twinkling lights all around them. There were only a few other people outside, mostly couples.

Louis couldn't take his eyes off Belle. She looked amazing, her shoulders exposed from the strapless dress and her messy bun.

Likewise, Belle was having a hard time not ogling Louis. He was wearing khaki shorts and a blue button up, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He had styled his hair into a quiff, and Belle noticed how thick it had gotten. Furthermore, his shirt was unbuttoned dangerously low, giving her a good view of his most recent tattoo on his chest. She couldn't quite make out what all the words were though.

A waiter came and took their drink orders, Belle getting a virgin margarita and Louis a beer.

Louis chuckled once the waiter had left.

"What?" Belle asked in annoyance.

Louis just shook his head, leaning back in his seat. "Oh it's nothing. I guess I'm just surprised that you ordered a virgin margarita." He said jokingly.

Belle blushed, looking down. "Yeah well the last time I drank with you when we weren't dating we ended up sleeping together, so I figured I better not risk it another time." She said contemptuously.

Louis felt the heat rush to his cheeks and also to his groin as his mind took him back to the night where he and Belle had slept together, right after they had met. They both had been smashed, but it was still one of the best nights of his life and he would never forget it, nor regret it. Unfortunately though, he never got the chance to be intimate with Belle like that again, even when they were dating. She wanted to wait until she was one hundred percent ready, and he fully respected that. It confused him though, she had said she was in love with him, so why hadn't she ever been ready?

Had she slept with Niall yet? He suddenly wondered. The two had been dating for five or six months, it was entirely probable. But Belle said she didn't love Niall, or anyone for that matter. And he knew Belle well enough to know that she wouldn't sleep with someone she didn't love. So...had they or hadn't they?

Before either Louis or Belle could say anything else, the waiter returned with their drinks. Once their dinner orders were taken, they each looked at each other awkwardly from across the table.

"What's your tattoo say?" Belle finally asked breathlessly, having been holding the question in for quite some time. Louis' eyes shot up and before he could reply Belle said, "It's been driving me nuts since we sat because I can only see the last half of it." 

Louis began to chuckle, shaking his head at her adorable rambling. "It says, 'It Is What It Is'." He answered, leaning forward and opening up his shirt collar further so Belle could see all of the cursive writing.

Belle looked at it for a second before nodding. "Nice. Why?" She asked.

Louis thought for a moment. "I suppose I finally had to accept that I can't always change the reality in front of me. My mum and dad, being away from my sisters, the hate I get, dealing with paps, stuff like that. So many amazing privileges and blessings got me to where I am now, so I just need to be thankful and accept that it won't always be perfect." He looked at Belle with serious eyes. "And I can't always get what I want." He added in an undertone.

Belle froze at his words, her mouth parting slightly, but not knowing what to say.

"What about yours?" Louis suddenly asked calmly.

Belle's eyebrows shot up. "Wh-What?" She stuttered.

"Your tattoo." Louis said, nodding at the left side of her head. 

Belle's hand immediately went to behind her ear and she touched her tattoo. It was more exposed because her hair was up.

"I thought you said you'd never get one." Louis continued, looking at her with narrowed eyes. "What changed?" He asked.

Belle smiled bashfully, lowering her hand and looking down. "I dunno, I just kinda figured I'd do it one day. I didn't really think it through." She said with a shrug of her shoulders. "But I like it a lot." She added quickly.

"Can I see it?" Louis asked.

Belle hesitated for just a second before saying, "Oh yeah, s-sure."

Louis leaned forward across the small table at the same time Belle did, tilting her head to the side so that he could see the black ink just behind her ear. They were close, their faces just inches apart. Belle shivered involuntarily as his breath fanned across her neck. Louis pretended not to notice though so he wouldn't embarrass her.

As Louis looked at the intricate tattoo, he murmured his appreciation. It was a treble clef, with various small designs around it. He was just about to lean away though when something caught his eye. Inside the curve of the clef was a minuscule, almost undetectable letter A.

Not thinking, Louis reached out and gently traced his finger over the hidden message. Belle gasped, flinching away. She leaned back and looked at Louis contemptuously, who still had his hand raised and a look of shock on his face. They made eye contact and both sat back down in their seats slowly.

"Is that..." Louis began to say. "Was that for--"

"Alan." Belle finished for him, holding her chin high. "Yes, there's an A for Alan within the ink. You're actually the first person to notice it." She added, a bit ruefully. 

Louis shook his head in awe. "Wow, that's...that's really cool Belle." He said with a light smile. 

Belle smiled back for a moment before dropping her eyes to her lap.

"You really miss him." Louis suddenly said, making Belle snap her face back up to him. "Alan. You miss him a lot, don't you?"

Belle opened her mouth for a second before closing it and smiling sadly. "So much." She managed to say, her voice quavering. "Every single day something happens that I want to tell him about. I wish he was here to give me advice, to tell me to just suck it up and keep going. I wish I had the chance to tell him I'm sorry. I wish..." Belle looked back down and sniffled, a single tear falling from her eyes and into her lap. "I just wish I had my best friend back."

Louis was unashamed to admit that his bottom lip quivered a bit. He had never been a big fan of Alan's when he was alive, but Alan was Belle's number one fan, even if the guy did screw up a few times. And anyone who loved Belle as much as Louis did, was in good standings with him.

Belle took in a deep breath and quickly wiped her face, sitting up straight once again. "But Alan is gone and I have accepted that.  Which is why I started Allies for Alan, to keep his memory alive. To somehow...thank him for helping me achieve my dreams when it meant sacrificing his own." She said boldly, with confidence.

Louis smiled, looking at Belle's awe-inspiring self assurance. 

"You never cease to amaze me Anabelle Lee Costa." Louis said softly, looking her straight in the eyes.

Belle was silent for a moment before smiling lightly. "Call me Anabelle ever again, and I swear to God Louis, I'll saw off your hands."

Louis burst out laughing, leaning back and lifting his face to the sky. He couldn't remember the last time he had genuinely laughed like that. Not to mention, the last time he had laughed with Belle.

Belle began laughing as well, smiling at Louis' carefree expression. For the past several months Louis always looked so hopeless when she saw him, like he was dead inside. It was an amazing feeling for Belle to know that she had caused him even just a few seconds of genuine happiness.

The waiter then came with their dinners, and the two sat together and ate. They laughed, they talked, they shared old memories. For that half hour or so, it was almost as if nothing had ever changed between them.

But unfortunately, things had.

***

"So uh, if you can meet me in the lobby around nine-fifty or so tomorrow morning, that would be great." Belle said with a smile as she put her key in the door to her room, Louis at her side in the empty hotel corridor.

"Alright, sounds great." Louis said, waiting on Belle to go into her room. 

But she didn't. Belle stood there with the key in the lock, and her hand on the doorknob, but she was frozen. Slowly, she turned around and looked up at Louis.

"Y'know, I had a really good time at dinner tonight." She said seriously, surprised at herself.

Louis smiled. "I did too. It was almost as if we were back to the way things were." He said. "I've missed you Belle. When we fell apart and distanced ourselves, I lost one of my best friends." He added softly, a look of pain etched on his perfect features.

Belle inhaled sharply. "I know, I did too. I...I wish things were different." She mumbled, looking down at her feet.

Louis hesitated for a moment before stepping up closer to Belle. He expected her to flinch away, but she didn't. 

"Things could be different, you know." He said softly, standing dangerously close. "If you wanted them to be, that is. We could go in your room together right now and just make things the way they used to be. I miss you Belle, and I know you miss me too, I could see it in your eyes tonight." He paused, taking in a deep breath of courage to make his proposition. "Just give me one night Belle, and I'll show you that I've changed."

Belle gasped lightly as she felt Louis' hands rest on her waist. Their chest were almost touching, they were so close. She looked up and saw his sparkling blue eyes gazing at her intently, instantly captivating her just like they used to so long ago.

Louis was terrified, his breathing ragged. He was being bold, bolder than he ever had been. Suddenly though, Belle began to smile up at him. Then her smile turned into a light chuckle and she leaned her head against his chest. Louis was stunned, cocking an eyebrow, but he smiled too.

"Uh..."

Belle leaned back and looked at Louis before chuckling again and lightly pushing him away with her hand. He took a step back and they each smiled, knowing exactly how this was going.

"How about if I decide I want you in my room for the night, I'll unlock that connecting door." Belle said cheekily, knowing that it would be a one in a million chance that she would ever unlock the door. She wasn't a cheater, she couldn't do that to Niall. Especially not with her ex.

Louis looked down at his feet and laughed, glancing up at Belle from underneath his long eyelashes. 

"Goodnight Louis." Belle said with a light laugh, opening her door.

"Is it going to be unlocked anytime soon?" Louis called out after her. 

Belle stopped and looked at Louis from over her shoulder. "Don't hold your breath babe." She said teasingly, closing the door.

And when Louis went into his room, he couldn't help but check and see.

The door was locked.

For tonight, that is.

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