Titanium

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

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6. -Five-

-5-

I was in agony, but that was the furthest thing from my mind.

“One more step, Kez, that’s it!” Hannah cheered, standing half a step behind me as I shuffled my way to my bed, almost entirely unaided. I fell onto it as gently as I could, avoiding the open laptop, and lay completely still, breathing hard. I couldn’t believe I’d done that. I had managed to walk an entire lap around my ward room; I’d used the frame until I reached the door before leaving it and trying my hand at using just a walking stick.

“I did it!” I cheered, joyful tears burning tracks down my face. Hannah high-fived me and grabbed the chocolate I’d been bribed with- it was something I still wasn’t supposed to eat, but as long as the ward matron didn’t find out, everything was okay.

Hannah fluffed up my pillow and replaced the IV in my hand, one that gave me morphine if I was having a particularly bad night. Usually after a rigorous physio session, my leg would ache for hours afterwards to the point where I couldn’t sleep for pain. The morphine would knock me out, though I had promised not to use it unless it was an emergency. “Do you want the computer?” Hannah asked, breaking into my thoughts. She held up the laptop loaned to me by the hospital and when I nodded eagerly, she placed it on the tray table. “I’ll be back in a few hours for your afternoon walk.”

“I know the drill,” I replied with a mock salute, one that Hannah rolled her eyes at as she slid the door halfway shut and left me alone with the computer and the noise of the city outside. Mum had gone out to the beach today; I’ll admit, I kind of bullied her until she did, because I hated watching her get so upset whenever I couldn’t do something as simple as stand on my own. But now I could walk so far, I was delighted. As soon as I could make it to the end of the hall and back without any assistance whatsoever, Hannah had sworn I’d be clear to fly home. At this rate, I’ve got another month of recovery in the USA before heading back to Coventry for the rest.

Doctor Gomez said it’d take at least a few years for me to be back to almost normal, though I would always have trouble with that leg. He’d warned me I might need a new hip in a few years, and said I couldn’t play contact sports anymore.

That broke me and I’d cried for hours. I loved football, absolutely adored it. I used to spend every spare moment practising and learning new tricks, new skills; I played for the girls’ team at my school and had been captain in my last year. Since then, I’d been playing with a local league and had been promised I could play for the county if I kept improving. The incident stopped all of that, though. It was too risky. If I put my hip out of place- by falling too hard or being hit or kicked- I could do some serious damage. I could end up not walking at all if I didn’t take care of it. Coming to terms with that was still a work in process and I had even shouted at Mum when she switched on the news to see if Tottenham were doing okay. Watching the game I loved hurt too much.

Realising I’d sunk into a very depressing line of thought, I booted up the computer and headed straight for Skype. If there was one person on earth- besides Mum, Max and Layla, who had weekly updates via phone- I wanted to share my success with, it was Liam Payne. We’d become fast friends since his two visits while I was conscious and chatted regularly. He practically demanded that I kept him up to date on my progress- I didn’t mind, it was an excuse to call him without feeling like a nuisance.

The Skype calls always started the same way, with me claiming I was just calling to update him… but before long we’d end up talking about anything and everything else. He was one of the only genuinely nice people I’d met in my life and I felt privileged to have become as close as we had; Liam claimed he was in awe of me, but aside from the obvious reason I still wasn’t convinced there was anything else to admire.

He answered the call on the fourth ring, warm smile in place. “Hey! There’s my titanium girl!”

Oh yeah. I also had gained a new nickname- courtesy of the press, who had been calling me that for weeks. Liam knew it irked me and so naturally found any excuse to slip it into conversation. Louis was no better; he quite enjoyed singing the song whenever he knew I was listening- Niall and Harry egged him on. Zayn was a bit nicer about it, though he had drawn a caricature of me as a superhero, in a silver-and-pink uniform, which I had stuck to the wall of the ward. “Hey, Liam. I have news!” I cried excitedly, as he shot me the thumbs up.

“You’re doing okay, then?”

I held up the chocolate, grinning triumphantly. He knew I only got chocolate when I managed to break my own distance record and Liam shot up from wherever he was sitting, unsettling the laptop and cheering as loud as he could. I heard my name in there somewhere as I stared at the ceiling until Liam righted me again. “Sorry! I had the cord on my lap, didn’t realise, but that’s fantastic!” he pointed at the chocolate. “How far this time?”

“Just to the door and back, but I did it alone!” I replied, genuinely proud of myself.

Liam wiped away a fake tear. “I’m so proud,” he said, and though he tried to laugh it off I could see he really meant it, and my heart swelled in my chest.

“Thanks, Liam.” He was about to say something when I saw another boy walk across the screen- a half-naked Niall. Thank God it was the top half, or I’d be blushing redder than Mars at this point. “Um, Li? You in wardrobe or something?” I asked, staring at the keyboard as shirtless Niall reappeared in my vision.

“Is that Kerrigan?” Niall asked, hearing my voice. He turned around and hurried over, pushing Liam out the way so they could both sit on what I assumed was a couch. “Heya, Kez!”

“Hi, Niall!” I waved at him as he grinned at me; both boys looked up as a female’s voice shouted at them from what sounded like the next room. I saw Liam nod seriously before a pair of jeans hit his face and he gave me an apologetic look.

“I’m gonna have to leave you with Niall, I’m afraid,” he said regretfully; “I hope you don’t mind.”

“We’ll amuse ourselves, won’t we?” I replied, winking at Niall who laughed as Liam shot us both scandalous looks and waved a finger at Niall threateningly, acting very much like a protective older brother.

“No funny business, Horan, I’ll be listening,” he said gravely, but there was mischief in his eyes and Niall just pushed him off the couch, rolling his eyes at me as I laughed and watched them tussle for a minute. Liam grinned one last time at me before dashing off, no doubt to answer Lou Teasdale’s voice- I assumed it was hers, at least.

“Kerrigan,” Niall caught my attention, and his laughter was gone. He glanced in the direction Liam had gone before looking back at me, eyes soft and bottom lip caught between his teeth. “I haven’t really had the chance to say this-“ he hadn’t, it was rare I spoke to anyone but Liam on his own- “but… Kez, I want to thank you,” Niall whispered. My smile faded as I read the seriousness in his eyes, and the frown on his lips. “Li… he’s my best mate and you…” Niall couldn’t finish, the words ending in a choked sound as he teared up.

“You’re welcome,” was all I could think to say. Niall smiled at me and my stomach flipped over in a way that had nothing to do with sneaking some chocolate.

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