Titanium

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

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5. -Four-

-4-

“Are you ready, Kerrigan?”

Doctor Gomez was far, far too cheery for so early in the morning.

He yanked the curtains open, the light falling on my face and forcing me to abandon the act. Hannah was with him, smiling apologetically, and I was abruptly grateful that Mum had finally taken my advice and gone to stay in a hotel, rather than kill herself sleeping on the couch in my room. I had Liam to thank for that; he’d helped me convince her during his visit- a whole four days ago, but it felt like only yesterday.

Despite myself, I couldn’t help but smile. He’d stayed for over four hours and probably would have stayed forever had the ward matron not kicked him out, and had his security team not been anxiously trying to bundle him back onto a plane so he wouldn’t miss a show. He’d left me with his contact details though, which were currently in a leather-bound journal on my end table. It was given to me by the hospital counsellor, who thought I’d benefit from writing my experiences down.

“… walk again, Kerrigan,” Doctor Gomez brought me back to reality with a bump, and I looked at him with a mixture of shock and terror

“Walk?” I repeated, eyes wide. “But… are you sure?” my hand fluttered to my hip, which was mostly healed now. They’d given me an entire new one, a whole hip joint made out of titanium, as the bullet had shattered enough of it to make natural recovery impossible. The operation only took place yesterday; they’d said I’d be up and moving soon, but this felt too soon to me.

Hannah hid a smile and produced a walking frame, painted bright purple. My favourite colour. Must’ve been Mum’s doing, that one. “Today, we’re gonna get you to stand up, see if your new hip can support your weight. Then, we’ll slowly get you to walk around this room, then down the hall, until you can make it to the lifts unaided. As soon as you can do that, we’ll clear you to fly home.”

My ears perked up at that and I flung the blankets off. “Let’s get started then!” I cried, grinning despite feeling sick to my stomach. It wasn’t that I didn’t like being here, I liked Hannah and the staff were mostly very good, but home sounded better than ever. I’d only spoken to Max and Layla- the two I’d been travelling with before the incident- once or twice on Mum’s phone, and they were eager for me to get home so they could visit. If I was honest, I just wanted proper tea, not the watery rubbish they served here.

Hannah placed the frame as close to the bed as she could and Doctor Gomez watched, arms folded, as she helped me swing my legs over the edge of the bed. The feeling of bending my knees was heavenly, but also painful, and I groaned as they sank to finally touch the floor. So far, so good, I thought, placing my hands on the grips.

“Take it slowly, Kez, don’t push yourself,” Hannah encouraged me gently. I breathed in and out slowly, closing my eyes as I worked myself up to pulling myself, shakily, to my feet. My left leg bore the brunt of my weight for a second or two, my arms shaking as I struggled to hold myself up. My right leg extended all the way, and my foot was flat against the ground, but it was taking all my focus to even think about putting weight on it. All my instincts screamed at me to leave it alone; I fought with my better reasoning and finally straightened up, grimacing and hissing through my teeth the whole way.

“Good girl!” Doctor Gomez cheered, throwing his arms up in the air. “You can get back in bed now, if you like. Unless you feel up to trying to walk?”

I considered falling back to bed for a second, before gritting my teeth and shaking my head. “Walk,” I grunted, shaking my hair back as I looked up to the door. The figure standing and watching me shocked me; my hand left the walker’s rail as I jumped in surprise; “Liam!” I cried, forgetting everything for a moment as my legs supported my weight without any upper body help, and I tried to take a step towards him.

It lasted all of five seconds before my hip gave out and I toppled, saved from falling only by Hannah who had swooped in to catch me. Liam’s face was a mask of pain at seeing the tears in my eyes; it bloody hurt. Slowly, Hannah and the doctor helped get me back in bed, covered my bare legs again, and quietly left the room. I took my painkillers without complaint and let my head fall back, willing the pain to go away.

“I’m so sorry,” I heard Liam say.

Cracking open one eye, I found him standing on my injured side, his hands hovering above mine as if he’d like to hold it again. I reached up to pet his wrist, smiling, though it might’ve looked more like a grimace. “It’s okay,” I replied, trying to laugh. “Seems I’m always hurting myself when you’re around.” I regretted that comment as his face instantly paled and he coughed, looking anywhere but at me. “Oy. Stop it.”

“Sorry?” he asked, still not looking at me. His eyes were on my hip; he’d probably seen the gauze covering the stitches. I was gonna have one wicked scar when this all healed.

“Being guilty. Stop it,” I explained, poking his arm until his expression cleared and he finally, finally, smiled. “See? Your smile makes me feel better. Do that more often,” I demanded, sounding bratty, but it made him laugh and I could almost see the guilt melting away from him. I thought we’d been through this last time he came to visit; I didn’t blame him, nor did I regret what I did. I’d do it again.

“New hip, then?” Liam asked, crossing around to sit in Mum’s chair.

I nodded, adjusting my bed so I was sitting up more. “Call me Terminator,” I growled, in a piss-poor imitation of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Still, Liam chuckled and leaned back, folding his arms.

“Sorry for dropping in like this,” he said quietly.

“Are you kidding? Best surprise ever.”

He grinned and from his pocket produced his phone, before leaning over so I could see the screen. “I made them all say hi,” he explained, starting the short video. It was the boys, one after the other, having Liam demand they say hello. Louis pretended to be terrified and screamed shrilly when Liam approached; Harry gave the camera a soulful pout, Niall said hi through a mouthful of food, and Zayn held a drawing of a brunette Batgirl. Giggling, I pointed Liam to my phone, in the dresser across the room, and had him send it to me so I could play it over and over.

“Your turn, Mr Payne,” I said, turning the video camera feature on him. He looked surprised for a moment before realising what I wanted, and smiled.

“Hello,” he waved with the tips of his fingers, and before I could process what he was doing, he stood up and kissed my forehead gently, squeezing my shoulder. “Thank you,” he whispered against my skin.

This time, when Liam left, it was with a spring back in his step and- I hoped- less guilt in his head. I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I had surprise visits from Liam Payne, but seeing him reaffirmed that this was real, I’d really done something stupidly brave. And his quiet assurance that he thought I was amazing gave me more strength than I thought I could possibly hold. 

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