Kerrigan Brady just wanted to meet her favourite band. Not like this. Never like this.


9. -Eight-


I heard them long before they arrived. One Direction, that is.

It seems cliché to say, but they came in like a bloody hurricane. Liam was first, as he knew where to go and was the most keen to see me. He came skidding through the door and winked at Hannah- who shook her head and escaped- as he hurried to be the first to hug me. Niall was a close second, and soon took up residence on Mum’s chair, as Louis, Zayn and Harry filed in one after the other, glancing around the room and bursting into loud laughter when they spotted the Liam doll on my dresser.

“Oh my God, Liam!” Louis called, picking up the miniature.

“Careful,” I warned, shaking a finger. “Don’t hurt my Liam.”

The boy himself grinned at me as he wrestled himself away from Louis. “How did he get in here, anyway?” Liam asked, eyebrow raised.

I held up my hands in defence. “Not my decision! Hannah says there’s been stuff arriving for me for weeks now. Mum takes most of it to the hotel once I’ve seen it.”

“What kind of stuff? Food?” Harry asked, eyes scouring the room hungrily. They could probably smell the Nando’s that Mum had dropped off… I was currently trying to hide it in the cupboard next to my bed, but as soon as Harry had said the word Niall was sniffing the air and narrowing his eyes.

“Kez, you didn’t,” he beamed, catching the scent.

Knowing the game was up, I raised my hands in defeat. “Can’t win a trick with you lot. In the cupboard,” I tapped the door and Niall dove for it, the food being divided up according to order. Zayn and Louis seemed surprised- and a little flattered- that I knew their orders without being asked. “Liam told me,” I said, before they got the wrong idea.

Sitting down to eat, I waved a thank you at Hannah who arrived with a few extra chairs pinched from the common room down the hall. The boys made themselves comfortable- Niall was closest to me, on Mum’s chair, then Liam and Zayn on the couch, while Harry sort of squeezed in between the couch and the dresser and Louis tilted his chair back to lean on the end of my bed. Mum couldn’t have fit in here if she tried, there really wasn’t much room left.

“So what do you do for fun in here?” Louis asked, turning around to see me properly.

I shrugged. “TV, talk to Liam… occasionally freak the nurses out by taking myself for a walk.”

“Wicked girl,” Harry chastised, to which I poked out my tongue. Who was he calling wicked, the cheeky swot?

None of the boys acted like I was something precious, which I was so grateful for. They hadn’t even mentioned why I was here and the fact that they didn’t seem caught up on it made me relax. I didn’t like talking about what happened to anybody- the counsellor assigned to me said I drove her up the wall with my cryptic answers and dodging questions- and I certainly didn’t want this visit marred by talk of why I was here.

Mum said bottling things up was bad for me. I said I wasn’t bottling anything up because I truly couldn’t remember. Truth is, though, I’d been having nightmares. Flashbacks. Hannah had caught me in a couple but I’d told her they were fine, about something else; if she wasn’t convinced, she never let on, and I was careful not to tell anyone how fitful my nights had become.

With the food- and accompanying conversation- done with, Liam stood up. “There’s a DVD player in the common room,” he announced, grinning at me. “Think you can make it down? We could have a six-way movie date.”

Choking on my chips, I had to cough to clear my airways and was entirely certain the lack of oxygen was the reason my face had turned beet red. “Oh, how could I refuse?” I asked, pretending to swoon into my pillows. I waved the boys away from the bed and directed Zayn- who was closest- to grab my walker. Niall had to help him set it up and Liam joined in, the three of them puzzling it out until it was ready to go. “I don’t really need it, but Hannah will go spare if I go out without it.”

“She seems so nice, though,” Zayn said, confused, as I nodded enthusiastically.

“Oh she is, she’s wonderful. I’ll miss her when I’m home.”

“Speaking of, when are you heading back?” Niall asked, appearing at my side as I slowly got myself out of bed. It took a bit of effort and huffing and puffing- and waving them off when Niall and Louis tried to help me up- but I finally managed to stand.

Undistracted, I brushed back my hair and grabbed my chart. “By this… ten days, two weeks tops,” I replied, having studied the clipboard in my spare time. I liked knowing what was going on around me, and it made me feel smart.

“That’s excellent!” Harry enthused, holding the door for me. “You should come visit us in London. We’ll be home next month.”

“She can barely walk, Harry, how’s she gonna get to London?” Liam said rather snappishly, and my gaze shot to his.

She is not a cripple and she will find a way, thanks,” I replied heatedly, not liking the insinuation that I was helpless. “I couldn’t even stand when we first met and now I can walk down the hall.” I was bloody proud of that achievement too.

Liam flushed and placed a hand on my shoulder; I tried not to sway, but I really still struggled with putting extra weight on my leg and his comforting grip became a steadying one, eyebrows raised until I nodded. “Sorry,” he said quietly, and I just smiled as I held his arm the rest of the way. I might not have needed it, but Liam looked less hurt, less guilty, when he thought he was doing something for me.

By time we made it to the end of the hall, Louis and Zayn had already set up the room. We were the only ones in here- I didn’t think many people used it, really- and they’d turned it into a proper movie cinema sort of thing, with a row of six chairs. There was a comfortable armchair in the middle and they pointed me to it; I didn’t complain, and settled in.

“What are we watching?” I asked, gesturing to the cabinet of DVD’s by the wall. Liam wandered off to make a selection and Louis switched on the TV, turning it to the UK channel just in time for the football scores. I scored the results for Tottenham- my boys- and let out a cheer when I found they’d defeated Derby by a goal. “The Tots beat Derby!” I cried, celebrating my win.

“Traitor,” Niall grinned at me, a challenge in his eyes. “Derby’s a better team by far. The Tots cheated!”

“Take that back!” I gasped, unable to keep up the act the moment I met Niall’s gaze.

“You a football fan, Kez?” Harry asked, eyebrows raised.

“Oh yeah, love it. I used to play for Coventry.”

Louis and Liam turned to me, one looking excited, the other guilty. “Used to?” Liam asked quietly.

“Yeah well… midfielders get hit. I can’t take it anymore,” I mumbled, watching his face close off and knowing exactly what he was thinking. The tension in the room skyrocketed and I knew then that they hadn’t been ignoring why I was here, but had been distracting themselves from having to deal with it. The elephant in the room was the size of a hip joint and I was sitting on it, literally. “And stop blaming yourself, Mr Payne. You won’t be my favourite anymore if you keep that up.”

I was joking, but the insulted and amused reactions I got from the band- read, Louis, who yelped that “you can’t have favourites unless it’s me!”- made me laugh harder than I had in weeks, terribly glad they’d come to visit and hoping that this was just the start of many, many more occasions just like this.

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