I got to return home with the Winchesters on my birthday. Which, considering how long I'd been in the hospital, seemed to be a big enough gift at the time. I had strengthened my arms with the help of physical therapy, and was getting better at using crutches for more than just tools to annoy Dean. I hobbled into Mary's car, Sam and Dean were waiting at the house, so it was only Mary, John and I. Mary had thoughtfully brought another set of clothes for me to change into. Some loose fitting sweats that would fit over my cast and a comfortable t-shirt and jacket.
The car ride was silent for the most part. Not that I was complaining. Even the small distance of going from the entrance of the hospital to the car had left me tired. I dozed lightly until we pulled up into the driveway. John offered a hand to help me out of the car when we pulled up, which I took gratefully before fitting the crutches under my arms.
Mary hurried ahead of me to open the door. I hobbled forward, relief flooding through me at the sight of the familiar home. Although...I looked around confused. Baby-gates were placed at odd places. Cutting off the kitchen and the stairs. Strange toys littered the floor...
"What the-"my question was cut off when a little ball of fur came sprinting down the hallway.
The little puppy's whole body shook as it wagged it's tail. I lowered myself down slowly until I sat on the floor and placed my crutches to the side as the puppy rushed forward and kissed my face. I grabbed the little fluff ball in my arms and snuggled, laughing in spite of myself.
I glanced up at Sam and Dean who were grinning as they watched from the hallway.
"Welcome home," Dean told me.
"Happy birthday," Sam added as he giggled.
The puppy wriggled out of my grasp and ran to grab a toy.
"What's it's name?" I asked, watching the puppy entertain itself.
"I don't know," Dean replied with a shrug,"We were waiting for you to name it, it is yours."
"Mine?" My eyes widened as my grin grew, I laughed as the puppy ran head long into the wall before scrambling back to it's little feet, "Well...is it boy or a girl?"
"Boy," Sam replied, bending down to pet the puppy as it ran past.
The puppy ran back up to me and I grabbed a toy, teasingly holding it in front of the puppy, trying to remember the last time I had played with a dog.
"Well, do you guys have any ideas?" I wondered, jerking my arm to the side as the dog lurched forward.
Sam shrugged in a way that obviously said he did, but didn't comment. Dean shook his head.
I watched the puppy for a full minute, contemplating possible names. I chuckled as he stole the toys from my hand. I re-ran that thought through my mind, 'stole the toy...huh'.
"What about..."I paused, still thinking, "Bandit?"
Sam's face lit up, "Cool!"
Dean nodded approvingly, "Bandit it is, need a hand?"
I nodded and he reached down to help me back up to my feet.
"Is he potty trained?" I asked.
Dean snorted, "Well...he's getting there?"
I nodded, smiling down at the little ball of golden fluff who had already occupied himself with another toy, a stuffed pillow in the shape of a bone.
"Is he a pure golden retriever?"
"Who's ready for some lunch?" Mary asked from the kitchen.
Dean handed me my crutches.
"Thanks," I mumbled, positioning them.
He flashed a grin, "Feel good to be home?"
Home. One roof. Four walls. Three levels. Five people and one dog. My stomach lurched. I focused on Bandit who was pawing at the gate that cut off the kitchen. Obviously wanting his food. He was a nice, pleasant distraction from the thoughts that tumbled around in my mind at the one word.
After lunch I took some medication. I would have to take three pills a day, after meals, for five days, then two. One in the morning and one at night until the doctor told me otherwise. I hated pills. I've always hated any medication for that matter. Why did they always have to make it taste so disgusting? I mean you already feel like shit and then you have to take that crap...I shook my head and laid down on the couch while Sammy scrounged the shelves looking for just the right movie.
I stretched out on the comfy piece of furniture. Bandit jumped up too, clearly wanting some snuggle time. However, only his front paws managed to get onto the cushion. I laughed and looked at John for permission.
"Can he?" I asked.
John sighed as he took a sip of whatever was in his cup, "Fine," he finally replied with a small smile, "Just remember that it was your idea when he's eighty something pounds." He took a seat in one of the recliners with a satisfied sigh.
I grinned and picked the little fur ball up before laying back down. Sam finally chose a movie he thought everyone would enjoy. Shrek. Gosh, I couldn't recall the last time I had seen the movie. Bandit made his way up the couch and started licking my face, his little tail beating against my chest.
"Bandit," I moaned, although I couldn't keep the smile off of my face. I tucked the troublemaker under my arm.
It didn't take long for the pain meds to start taking their toll. I felt my eyelids drooping right as the talking donkey was first introduced.
I laughed along with my father as Shrek made some shrewd comment.
"Hey," Sam said quietly, nodding to the couch.
I looked over and my grin widened.
Lily was knocked out and so was Bandit. I supposed the long walk Sammy and I had taken him on, right before Lily arrived, had helped after all. Her hand was still placed over his back as if she had fallen asleep while petting him. The little puppy was curled into her and the two of them looked downright adorable. I pulled out my phone and silently took a picture, unable to stop myself.
"Dean," my mother's voice had a clear warning in it.
I shrugged, "I won't tease her," I promised.
I woke up to Bandit walking all over my chest.
"Really?" I murmured, blinking the sleep out of my eyes.
The puppy looked at me and wagged it's tail.
"No, I do not want to play," I told it, picking the animal up and gently placing it on the floor, "Go be someone else's problem for a minute, okay?"
Bandit looked up at me and started whining, before he started sniffing the ground.
"Oh gosh," I moaned when I put two and two together, "Okay buddy, hang on a moment."
I pushed myself to the end of the couch and grabbed my crutches before looking around for a leash. I didn't bother asking one of the Winchester's to take Bandit out, he was my dog after all, and the Winchester's had done enough.
I found the leash by the front door and hooked it onto Bandit, which wasn't easy with crutches let me tell you. I figured the best place to take him out would be the backyard so I dragged him down the hallway and outside. Bandit, of course, being the happy puppy that he was, had to walk all the way around the yard twice before he found just the right spot.
"Took you long enough," I muttered as I adverted my gaze.
We walked back inside, that's when I heard it, the hushed voices.
I bit my lip.
"Okay time to live up to your name," I murmured, tugging Bandit closer with the leash to keep his paws in the carpet, "Shut up for a minute, got it?"
"I just...is she happy here?" That was Mary's voice. It didn't take me long to figure out who the 'she' was.
Strangely, I didn't feel angry that they were talking about me, just curious as to what they would say.
"Mary we just have to give her time to adjust," John assured her.
"I just want her to be happy," Mary mumbled, it sounded like they had had this conversation before.
I looked down at Bandit thoughtfully wondering whether or not I wanted to hear what else they had to say, he met my gaze with his big brown eyes and slowly started wagging his tail. Could anything dampen his spirit? I shook my head and walked slowly towards the door and opened it silently before closing it loudly.
"Good boy Bandit!" I stated loudly which only caused the little fur ball to wag his tail faster and give a tiny bark in response.
"Oh hey," Mary said, walking out form the kitchen she wiped her hands on her jeans, leaving flour marks, "You should've just told one of the boys to take him out."
"Yeah," I shrugged, "It's no biggie."
"Well," Mary looked at her watch, "Want to walk with me to the mailbox? Get your daily exercise in," she offered with a kind but teasing smile.
I laughed, "Sure."
Bandit, I soon found out, loved chasing butterflies and insects. Mary took the leash from me until we got to the mailbox. It was one of those pedestal mailboxes so I held the leash while Mary unlocked the correct cubbie.
"Quite a bit of mail," I commented.
Mary laughed although her smile didn't quite reach her eyes, "Yeah, bills mostly."
I glanced at the stamps as she grabbed the leash from me again and my heart clenched. Not just any bills. My bills. Hospital bills. And those were anything but cheap.
When I got back into my room I found my cell phone and stared briefly at the background picture, summoning up enough courage to click the call button. Still contemplating my next move.
He picked up on the third ring.
I felt my nerves rise slightly but forced myself to sound calm, "Dale, hey, long time no see."
It took him a second, "Lily? My God I heard what happened, are you okay?"
I nodded before remembering he wasn't there in person, "Yeah, uh just got out of the hospital today actually."
"How're you holding up?"
I bit my lip and chose to ignore the question, "Dale, there's something I need to ask of you."
I hesitated. Remembering the games. The words thrown back and forth between Dean and I. the smiles shared, lessons learned...Then I remembered the pained expressions and hitches in their voices at the hospital when they thought I was asleep. Or the bags under their eyes that had yet to go away. I thought of Mary tucking the wad of bills under her arm and her and John's earlier discussion. Was I happy here? Before I would of said yes in a heart-beat, but how can you be happy if all you do is cause pain for those around you? i made the decision. Well, I had already subconsciously made the decision, it was only now that I chose to act upon it. I was leaving the Winchesters.