LOVE ITSELF HAVE REST

D M Evans

Disclaimer - Still aren't mine as much as I might want to adopt Connor. All rights belong to Mr. Whedon, though Yseult is mine and is a non-money making freeloader in my mind. All quote and lyrics belong to whomever I've notated.

Rating - FRM (for language, sexual situations and graphic violence)

Feedback - it helps me grow Line - Post Not Fade Away

Summary - Connor tries to deal with the 'very strange and violent, at times, inappropriately erotic...dream' left in his mind after Wesley shatters the Orlon Window

Author's Note #1 - Thanks to SJ and Kristi for the beta

Author's Note #2 - This was written for the lyrical ficathon.

CHAPTER ONE

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul outwears the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Lord George Gordon Bryon - We'll Go No More A'Roving

The cry died in his throat as he thrashed hard against the thin mattress of his dorm room bed. A warm trickle cut a runnel down his leg before he clamped down hard on his inner muscles. He wasn't going to do it again; throughly wetting his bed wasn't an option. The sharp tang of the small amount of urine the nightmare had let escape was humiliating enough.

Connor rolled out of bed, ripping the sheets off the bed before it leached into the mattress. He pulled off his soaked boxers and tossed them on the soiled bedding. Sweat soured the smell of the room, clung to his body like a sticky glaze. He yanked on some ratty jogging pants, tossing a glance over at James who snored loudly. His roommate was so utterly self-involved that he probably wouldn't notice Connor even if he started dancing naked around the room.

Instead, Connor grabbed a clean set of pants and his bucket of toiletries and headed for the bathroom. At three in the morning, even undergraduate dorms were quiet, in spite of the fact it was just two weeks into the fall semester. With the water practically boiling out of the shower head, Connor stood under the stream, letting it carry away the sweat and piss. However, it didn't revive him like he had been hoping. Maybe coming back to Stanford was a huge mistake. Maybe he should have gone with his family to New York.

Los Angeles didn't turn into a stinking pit from the 'terrorist' attack but large hunks of it were fairly ruined. He was just glad the Reillys had weathered it intact but his mom couldn't stand to be in the city any more, didn't feel safe. Why she felt safer in New York City, a site of a real terrorist attack, Connor couldn't even fathom but he had refused to go. He argued that Stanford was so far from Los Angeles that it might as well be in another state. Somehow, given how little his parents had fought with him over his choice, Connor thought they might be relieved he was gone. Ever since they found out he was 'special,' there had been a terrible strain on their relationship, as if they sensed he was some horrid cuckoo bird placed in their nest, intent on smothering them.

Just thinking about how his parents had looked at him when he drove off for college, as if they were relieved to be cutting their losses and ridding themselves of their strange son, brought his bile up. He bit back the urge to vomit, telling himself having the Reillys away from him where they'd be safe was a good thing because the demons would just come for him again. They already had, after all, but that possibility wasn't the thing that woke him out of the dream, pissing down his leg in fear.

It had been the overwhelming terror he had never indulged in, memories of the horrible night it had rained fire came back to haunt him, bringing back the terror of having a broken bone, realizing that he could be hurt and killed and that his fear hadn't mattered to those around him. That's what made him scream tonight. A monster had broken him. Worse, more frightening was that demonic powers had twisted up a woman so badly that she didn't stop, seeing his innocent fears and naivete, until she had fucked him until both of them were exhausted; that same feminine monster tore out his heart the very next day and the creature that fathered him wouldn't even look at him when Connor turned to him, terror in his eyes.

It's a vague dream, it didn't happen, he told himself, just like he always did. Every time his past bubbled up from the cauldron of his sick brain, Connor tried to tell himself that it was a dream, a movie, something that happened to someone else. It certainly didn't feel real and maybe that's what made it worse. His calming mantra didn't work. Naked and wet, he dashed from the shower, falling to his knees in a stall. Pain cracked through them as they slammed into the tile. His stomach emptied violently, acid burning his throat and nose until tears slid down his cheeks. He vomited until there was nothing left inside of him then dragged himself back into the shower.

Connor hadn't lied to Angel about any of it that day in the coffee shop, about it feeling like a strange and violent dream, not wanting to make a thing of it, of being grateful. At the time, he had been grateful. He understood what Angel had tried to give him but like most of Angel's plans, from what he could tell, it had gone to hell. The past ambushed him, torturing him until he barely slept. Changing the past obviously hadn't altered the fragility of his mind. It was too late for him. Connor was damaged goods slid into a pretty new box.

Sometimes his past would rush through him like a torrent and he'd say something that would have his friends staring at him like he was insane. It was as if they sensed that Connor Reilly, who used to play hockey for the Cougars, never saw the inside of that high school, had never played hockey and had never gone to the prom. When he kissed Yseult, his girlfriend, it was as if she knew he didn't really lose his virginity to Tracy in the backseat of his dad's car. He started imagining Yseult knew he murdered his daughter, that he had lusted after a Slayer and a demon-king who had slaughtered the only real mother-figure he ever had and slipped inside her skin calling itself Illyria. Connor was nothing but smoke and mirrors and his friends had begun to see behind the illusion.

One by one, they found reasons to drift away from him, as if they sensed the decay within.

Ever since the day he had been run down by that van, more of his life had been chipped away daily like marble under the hands of a mad sculpture. He was becoming more and more isolated, just like before. It was happening all over again. How long before he was babbling his brains out to a comatose woman in an abandoned church, longing to just lie down and rest, even if he knew that meant death? Connor had wanted to toss his arms open wide and embrace the Reaper. He still understood that feeling, knowing it would end his pain.

It never happened. It was a dream. Who am I fucking kidding? Connor turned off the shower, drying with a thick towel. A rest sounded so good to him. Why couldn't Angel have just let him go completely? Because he loves you. He felt his stomach flip again. As much as he craved that love, it still made him ill. Holtz had spread like a cancer inside him and all the love in the world might not be enough to irradiate it out of him.

Dressing in his clean pants, Connor picked up the ratty jogging pants, smelling the faint scent of urine that had soaked into them and headed back to his room. Setting aside the toiletries, Connor tossed the jogging pants on the bedding then scooped it all up and grabbed his laundry soap and some quarters. James snored on. That suited Connor just fine.

Connor wasn't even supposed to be in the dorm this semester. Laurence Reilly had been a Sigma Chi brother, making Connor a legacy. He had entered the fraternity in the spring and was supposed to be in the frat house for lodging but something had gone wrong. They said the room wasn't ready, maybe later in the semester he could move in. Connor felt like they didn't want him and couldn't discern if it was real or if his paranoia was growing.

The only friend who stayed with him was Yseult. Maybe she'd live up to her namesake, he thought bitterly, shoving his soiled sheets into the washer. It could be that Yseult was different. True to form, she was older, already in law school while he labored on in pre-law, wondering if this was part of Wolfram and Hart's plan. He was sure it was but he didn't know what else to do with himself. Nothing interested him and that was the problem according to Yseult. She tried to be supportive and the sex was great but he knew he didn't love her. He wasn't sure if she loved him or if he was just something to do until she graduated. She did care for him and had suggested seeing a therapist, thinking he had PTSD from the attack on L.A., like so many others had. Oh, he had post-traumatic stress all right but nothing a therapist could help him with. If he told the truth, he'd be lucky to ever see the outside of mental hospital.

Would Angel come visit him if he were committed? Doubtless. Would the Reillys? Doubtful. God, it hurt so much to even think it. Why was he so hard to love? Yseult, did she even try or was he a toy? His parents? No, he didn't imagine the relief in their eyes. Cordelia? It was a mistake, those were the words of the real Cordy, not the one who took everything from him. Jasmine? He still clung to the belief she had loved him but he knew that was a lie. She treated him like he was the child, not the other way around. Fred? She had guided his new life here but he had seen the viciousness in her when she wielded the taser. Angel? Vampires couldn't love.

A laugh, mirthless and dry, percolated up out of him. Vampires, why didn't that feel like a vague dream? Because they were everywhere. He had killed a fair number of them just on campus. The way he tore after "PCP gang-bangers" was one of the things that had begun to isolate him. The dream didn't want to be nebulous any more but it also didn't want him to get a handle on it. His past slipped through him like ice chips skittering over a frozen lake.

Maybe Angel could help him sort it out. Maybe there was a spell that could completely undo what Angel had done. It was so unfair to get his life back like this, in snippets and broken fragments of video tape in his brain. Maybe he should make a thing out of it. He needed help. Connor knew it. His family was all too aware of it. Yseult was pushing him toward help. He needed to be Connor from Quor-Toth or Connor Reilly but he wasn't sure he could live with being both together, their memories like a Jackson Pollock painting in his brain that he couldn't make sense of, eyes in the heat.

Every time he reached for the phone to call Angel, fear paralyzed him, as if he made the call, there'd be no going back. Everything normal in his life would be burned away and all he'd have left would be the nightmare. He couldn't risk it. Connor had only seen Angel once since the attacks. Connor had stayed around after Wesley and Gunn's funerals, haunting the cemetery like it should be his home, wondering if the voice he had heard on the Reilly's answering machine, telling him when and where Gunn and Wesley were to be buried, had been real. Had Angel come through the battle all right or was that a longing-filled fantasy?

Angel being all right was a stretch. That night in the cemetery his father shown up severely burned by something, his thick mane of hair gone and one side of his face melted. He smelled like roasted pork. The vampire used a crutch to walk, his leg obviously shattered and put together with a leg immobilizer probably stolen from somewhere since nothing human would still be alive with those injuries. A hospital hadn't treated him. Spike looked worse yet, his legs in similar immobilizers as he sat in a wheelchair being pushed along, apparently effortlessly, by Illyria. The demon-king didn't look more than badly bruised but maybe being blue-skinned was nature for her; Connor didn't know but she was wounded inside. He could see her all-too-human distress at Wesley's death. Faith was with them, self-appointed guardian of the injured heros.

He and Angel had talked that night like equals, never actually saying how happy they were to see each other. Oh, Angel had tried but he had cut his father off, not ready to hear how much he was loved, as if something inside him couldn't bear it. Angel had called his dorm several times since then; Connor was unsure why he had given the vampire the number if he was so unwilling to talk. He never picked up, leaving Angel to talk to the machine, never called him back, unsure if he hoped Angel would just give up or get fed up and just appear on his door step.

It killed him to admit that he might need Angel to help him sort out the reality from the spell. He knew which was which when he thought about it but his real world was behind doors, in the corners and under the beds of his brain while the fake life was out in the open. He felt the cracks inside of him and knew they were getting bigger, deeper and he didn't know what would happen when those faults got too big for his mind to plaster over.

He just wanted the dreams to stop turning into nightmares. He either wanted the stones to face his life and not wake up shrieking like a banshee or he wanted the reality removed again. He would just forget his father and go back to being Colleen and Laurence's son until the next time the demons came and chances are they'd all die.

Connor went outside, curling up under a magnolia tree and wept. He had no options. All he wanted was to rest. Before he had wanted to stop fighting and rest and now he had but this was worse than fighting. Maybe it wasn't the harshness that was so bad. Maybe it was the fact that love couldn't quite touch him that was the problem. Love had made this horror he lived in. Love had become his cage. He wished love would just rest and leave him be.