I dream of a circle

She swallows her pills and falls asleep.

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

Rating: M (Language, Angst)

Characters: OFC, Dean, Sam

Warnings/Spoilers: None for the show. Non-con.

A/N: Written for the Women of Supernatural Flashfic Challenge at spn-xx on Livejournal. I bit the bullet and chose both prompts for Challenge #24; an object important to a female character as well as a quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

"One can never pay in gratitude:

One can only pay 'in kind' somewhere else in life."

It was also written for the Metal prompt at the occhallenge on Livejournal.

Beta: embroiderama

Tollete dolorem,

Tollete eum.

Dean finds her kneeling at the Hamlyns' gravestone with a handful of calla lilies. The grass is wet on her knees, soaking through her jeans as she sets the flowers on the ground; three months worth of grass since they lowered Lily into the earth and Tessa stills feels her thumb rubbing Lily's palm – brittle bones ready to snap underneath mottled skin.

She still sees Lily's smile after that last breath, holding Lily's hand and listening to Pyewacket purr curled up on his own pillow, but Lily's eyes never open no matter how many times Tessa says her name and it's five hours later before she thinks about notifying the police.

A woman's voice needs to do the calling.

"All she wanted was to be buried next to her husband." Tessa swallows, brushing the tears from her eyes even though it's raining. "And his goddamn family only stayed long enough for the reading of the will. They didn't have the decency to stay for the funeral."

She doesn't tell him that the money is hers, the one-way ticket to any life she wants once Tessa Bannister gives up the house and the books and the stores of rock salt Lily kept in the garage. She can still hear a voice too thick with tears when she makes the promise, when she tells Lily that she'll go back to school even if she's the only twenty-seven year old college sophomore who's ever helped burn the bones of a 19th century New Orleans socialite.

He waits until she stands up, watches Tessa's fingers tangle around the sharp edges of the cross she's worn since Lily gave it to her; trailing it back and forth along its chain. The metal is heavy in her hand and she snaps it off with one hard jerk, letting out a gasp along with the sharp sting around her neck.

A woman's hand needs to do the cutting.

Dean waits until she drops it next to the flowers, his hands in his pockets and an apology in his eyes before he sucks in a breath.

"Tessa, there's an incubus working its way down the west coast."

Spiritus malus,

Ite in facinum.

She tumbles into bed with the burn of aching muscles and the recoil of a rifle still rippling through her shoulder, sweet-smelling salve rubbed into blackened bruises before slipping on her t-shirt and sliding between the scratchy sheets. She swallows her pills and falls asleep to the sound of Lily's voice reciting the names of angels from the other bed; a low hum that the sputter of the air conditioner can't silence.

Alex screams when the pizza delivery boy's face shifts into a mask of itself, the rough 'oh god' when he's pushing Alex onto the carpet and ripping through her underwear – when his lips glisten from his tongue, forked into two for as long as it takes Tessa to blink, and the claws where his hands used to be pierce Alex's shoulders. Both of them crying out, her pain and his pleasure while his hips buck and his cat-eyes glimmer. Looking for someone else before Alex stops struggling, her scream flowing into a whimper as crimson as the blood seeping from between her legs.

The tips of Alex's fingers are covered in rust, misshapen hands crooked even when her arms lay limp on the carpet.

A woman's hand needs to do the cutting.

"Come on!"

Tessa grabs Kristi's arm as she stumbles backwards and runs for the kitchen, bursting through the swinging door with footsteps slapping behind her across the linoleum. Professor Burton's stupid lecture about truth in folk tales echoes through her head when she starts pulling spices out of the cupboard, only stopping when her fingers touch the cardboard canister of salt and she flips open the metal lid hard enough to rip off her thumbnail.

The salt burns and she trips over the tangle of limbs piled on the kitchen floor, of shudders and screams and bones moving in ways they never should, and her arms ache as she twirls the salt around them as many times as she can until the container is light as a feather; still clutching it with nails digging deep when there's a bang from behind and a shout from above and a murmur grows to a roar. A song in a language Tessa doesn't know and will never learn.

She bites down hard on her tongue, bites hard enough that a rusty tang explodes in her mouth and all she can do is watch the blood spray when metal meets flesh.

A hand touches her cheek.

"Stay inside the salt until I get back."

A woman's voice needs to do the calling.

She curls inside of herself, remembering that song when they're slipping pills past her lips – even when she sits up and one hand brings the spoon to her mouth and she swallows the pudding, her legs sinking into the mattress. Tessa listens to the murmuring voice that saved her from a shadow in the dark, matching it to the weathered face of a woman named after a flower who drops a black and silver cross on the night stand before closing the door behind her. Mom whispers about angels when she pulls back her hair and fixes the clasp, the cross falling heavy on Tessa's chest.

The metal is cold to the touch when Tessa's fingers tighten around it but it isn't enough to stop the man standing in the doorway, the doctor with the forked tongue and –

Her back arches and she's clutching the cross so tightly that her hand aches, every fissure in the metal filled with tender flesh. The sheets stick to the sweat right along with her t-shirt and the hair plastered across Tessa's forehead, and Lily's hand is cool when she brushes the strands away – murmuring the same spell into the dark that she does every night Tessa wakes up screaming, the same spell that Tessa whispers in tandem until Lily peels her hand from the cross. Rubbing Tessa's palm until the pain goes away.

In facinum sempiternum.

Facine claudete ostium,

"Are you in?"

Dean asks the question but Sam is the one who watches her, his eyes full of mercy that Tessa Bannister doesn't deserve.

A woman's hand needs to do the cutting.

She swallows, still tasting the salt in the air and the tang of blood from biting down on her own tongue when she's done, and sets down her glass. The burn in her throat never matches the crimson spray across her face, the tiny pricks that smolder when Lily's knives dance silver in the night; when Lily's husky voice is the rope she holds onto.

Tessa rubs her right palm with her thumb, feels its rough lifelines and the calluses from her Mark III where the indentations of the cross should be.

"I'm in."

"The sorority house's basement has access to the sewer system. Figured it'd be easier to go in that way." Dean grins at her, mouth full of chili cheese fries that he washes down with his beer, but the light Tessa remembers never reaches his eyes. "Sam thinks it's gonna hit there tonight. If we do this fast, we won't have to dodge the Feds someplace else tomorrow." He rifles through the battered leather journal spread out between them, stopping at a page with a green sticky note. "There's a banishment spell – "

"I know it."

A woman's voice needs to do the calling.

"Well, we're bringing the machete 'cause I don't trust any baby knife you can store in a fucking craft tote." Dean snorts when Tessa snatches the last of the cheese-covered fries off the plate, licking her fingers. "And don't even think that we're taking that piece of crap you call a car." He scoops up some chili with a ripped off piece of his hamburger bun. "You can use a machete, right?"

"I can use butterfly swords." She leans forward, flashing Dean the shadow of a smile before finishing off her Cherry Coke; circling the rim of the glass with one finger. "And I do own a weapons case." Tessa cocks her head. "Are you still dumping your guns underneath that flap in your trunk?"

Sam laughs as he flags down the waitress, piling plates and setting them on the side of the table. Dean's already pulling out the sewer plans before the table's clear, fresh copies with light blue lines that he probably conned out of some lonely girl in the county records office.

There's three of them instead of one, something Lily never had when she kicked down the back door at Beta Pi Rho, but Tessa can't keep from jerking when Dean touches her wrist; another question trapped in the purse of his mouth that he doesn't ask no matter how much her fingers tremble when she grabs his hand and squeezes.

"This is my demon to kill, Dean."

Mundi tenebricosi.

Abite tu male.


The title of this piece is a song lyric from "Circle Round" by 10,000 Maniacs.

I wanted to use something different than the usual demon banishment spell – the ever-famous "Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus" Catholic exorcism ritual. I found something used in the movie Phantasmagoria and suspect it was written for the film as I wasn't able to find any other references to it. It sounds much better in Latin, as it translates as:

Take up the sorrow.
Take it up.
Evil spirit,
Go into the talisman,
Into the eternal talisman.
Cast the spell
And close the door to the dark world.
Go away, you evil one.

It was never my intention to overshadow the boys; I just thought it was a nice touch that only a woman could bind an incubus, given that it preyed on them.

"Mark III" is the model of Tessa's pistol. It's a semi-automatic handgun based on the Browning HP design.

Butterfly swords are used in several Chinese martial arts, including Wing Tsun – the martial art that Tessa practices. Proficiency as a twelfth level student takes about four years with class attendance at twice a week, and includes the use of butterfly swords. It is a form commonly taught to law enforcement officials, including the FBI, so it seemed appropriate to me as a hunter; weapons are used in situations where the martial artist is in an extreme disadvantage.

Yes, the research I do for this fandom. ;-P