So much for all the prayers you've learned

Four things are always true, no matter what she hunts or where the road takes her.

Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine but I'd made Dean wear his boots all the time if they were.

Rating: T (Angst)

Characters: OCs (Gen)

Spoilers/Warnings: None.

A/N: This story was written for the Women of Supernatural Flashfic Challenge on spn-xx at Livejournal. I chose prompt #11:

"Better by far you should forget and smile,

Than that you should remember and be sad."

Beta: DharkCharlotte

Four things are always true.

She tracks the incubus across three states, building a pattern from the trail of broken bodies it leaves in its wake; a collection of lifeless dolls covered in blood and full of semen that the FBI blames on a serial killer, even when they can't explain to distraught parents how their daughters died without alarms being raised and doors being locked from the inside.

She stays one step ahead of the special agent in charge, slipping out of crime scenes once she finishes her readings and sprinkling holy water and salt in every doorway before she leaves. She scans newspapers for signs of its passage, marking red dots on her maps for every town with a 'but he was such a nice boy' story on page three, and hopes that the nearest college is its next target.

It's a shell game, pulling the trigger on the chance that the shot spreads a wide net.

And on the night Lily catches it in Beta Pi Rho, it's a shot in the dark that comes too late to save them all.

The girls it kills are lucky, not one of them left anchored to the places where they fell. She takes care of that herself, sending their spirits home while there's still enough of themselves left to hear the call – before the rage and the hate has the chance to set into the brick and mortar of the houses where they died; before they turn into cankers scurrying like rats through the walls.

Lily kicks in the back door, bursting into the kitchen where four girls huddle together; packed as tight as sardines in a protective circle. One of them clutches a container of Morton's salt and she's the only one who doesn't scream when Lily stands in front of the thing fluttering outside the ring, using her knives to slow the thing down long enough to spit out the words of the binding ritual.

She's the only one who doesn't scream when the body explodes, raining down on them as hard as hail.

The FBI can't explain why those girls are covered in blood that isn't theirs any easier than they can explain why the girls who survive are surrounded by salt. Every tissue analysis they perform won't give them the answers they're looking for and there's no identification in their database from the sample of dried semen one of them scrapes off of a dead sorority girl's thigh, no fingerprints they can dust from the hand-shaped bruises on their arms and their legs.

The case goes where they all go, special files tucked deep into cabinets that no one cares about once the killings stop – an older monster forgotten once the new one murders a different girl in another city.

But the girls who forget don't need an explanation, scattering to new colleges in different states. They still glitter at parties and shine for new people and, even on the nights when the moon hides behind the clouds, the only time they remember the crimson-drenched shadow is when it flutters on the backs of their eyelids. They are the lucky ones, the girls who only die in their dreams.

She leans against the doorjamb and watches the Bannister girl eat a bowl of pudding, precise movements of the hand to the mouth. The dark smudges under her eyes remind Lily of Katie Elkins and Lisa Martin and every other girl who has seen too much, every other girl who stares out windows and sees nothing but the night their world changed.

Lily never knows which girl it will be, the one who curls around her pillow and shakes herself to sleep – but she never expected that the girl who poured a circle of salt would be the one who slips into herself, a shell too medicated to know the difference between awake and asleep. Tessa Bannister is a mystery that will never be unraveled, no matter how long Lily watches her twitch.

She still doesn't scream.

Lily adds Elizabeth Bannister's sunken eyes to the list of things that she can't fix, the living ghosts that haunt her dreams. She touches Mrs. Bannister's arm and lies, pressing an old business card into the woman's hand, and her throat aches; a scar splitting open deep inside that remembers the day she became one of the mothers of the disappeared. Lily sets a black and silver cross on the table next to the bed before she turns on her heel to leave.

It's a false hope but Elizabeth is already putting the necklace around her daughter's neck before Lily closes the door behind her.

The girls who remember take longer to die, slitting their wrists before taking their last bath; reaching for a bottle of pills and swallowing them down until the bottle falls from their unconscious fingers and rolls into the wall. If there's any luck they still carry, it's the kind that lets them die in their sleep.

A scuffed blue Volkswagen bug sputters its way up the dirt road to her house, rattling to a stop on the pebbled circle in front of her door. Lily peers at its yellow luggage rack strapped down with boxes through the slit in the curtains, a hand on her back holster when the driver's door opens and a girl steps outside.

She's wearing a black and silver cross, stark against her pale skin. Lily watches the girl suck in a breath, twin to the catch in her own throat, and jam her hands into the pockets of her jeans before she shakes her head and walks to the front door. Lily waits for the knock, just enough time to close her eyes and make a wish.

But a wish is the only thing that fails more easily than hope – and Lily opens the door on the second brisk knock.

The words tumble out of the girl's mouth before Lily ushers her inside, the 'I knew it was you' and the 'I recognized your voice' spinning themselves between the stories; stories about a mother who believes that Lily Hamlyn is a guardian angel because a necklace brought her baby girl back from the dead and a girl who takes a wrong turn on the way back to school to meet the woman who saved her.

There's a ghost staring at Lily when she says it, touching the cross cradled in the hollow of her throat, and the only thing Lily is going to do is let the girl spend the night before cooking her breakfast in the morning. It's the only thing Lily is prepared to do until Tessa Bannister lowers her head and sighs.

There's no going back for me, is there? Not anymore.

Her voice doesn't crack but her fists clench at her sides. Lily gives her one last chance to leave, raising an eyebrow, but she just nods and follows Lily into the house. It's all Lily can do not to put an arm around the girl's shoulders when Tessa wipes her eyes but the first lesson starts when the threshold is crossed.

The unluckiest girl of all is the one who chooses to die.


The title of this piece is a lyric from the song "The Disbelieving Angel" by Kate Bush.