Author D. M. Evans

Feedback – ripewickedplum2@yahoo.com

Spoilers – Up to Angel Season 4  Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Buffy season 7 up to Same Time Same Place, goes AU after that

Rating – R

Disclaimer – All characters within are the property of Joss Whedon. I'm just happen for a chance to play with them.

Summary – You NEED to read Jocasta Revisited for this to make sense. This is a dependent sequel to that story. After Cordelia has a brief affair with Connor, she heads back to Sunnydale to try and find herself. Meanwhile, something wicked this way comes for both L.A. and Sunnydale.

'Bliss in Ignorance.'

Chapter One

"Disgusting," Gunn said as Fred clamped a hand over her mouth trying not to vomit. Two bodies lay in the park, skins gone and chests opened. Ribs glistened like a mangled cage that the hearts had escaped from.

"This is the third one like this," Angel said, seeing Gunn was trying to hide his own queasiness. The vampire was forced to admit these deaths were fairly gruesome. The first two times they had come across skinned bodies, there had just been one corpse at a time. Angel didn't care to think what this stepping up of the kill rate might mean. They were fresh kills. The scent of blood wafted from their denuded muscles. But Angel didn't think they had been killed in the park unless whatever had done it had lapped up all the blood. Besides, it was too exposed. It took time to skin a human.

"What does this mean?"

Leave it to Fred to ask. Angel glanced over at her. "I don't know. There are things that eat skin but they don't usually go for the heart and vice versa. Probably need Wes…"

Angel stopped. For a brief moment he had forgotten Wesley was no longer with the group and in that moment he missed him. It hurt even more knowing Connor was with Wesley. Angel, in some part of his unbeating heart, had forgiven Wesley but didn't have the right words to tell him so. It left him wondering what Wes might be teaching Connor. Oddly enough, he trusted Wesley not to poison Connor's mind against him further. He knew Wesley had tried to protect Connor even if it had ended horribly and every time they saw their one-time friend things found a new level of down when they should have been trying to find their way back together.

He figured Wesley would take care of Connor but during the few run-in's he'd had with Connor since Cordelia left a month ago proved Connor still had his mad on and that he seemed to think Angel hated the idea he was staying with Wesley. And the teen always managed to say exactly the right thing to yank Angel's chain and never let him say he didn't care so long as Connor was all right.

"We can do the research," Fred said uneasily, following Angel's thoughts.

Angel nodded, his head lifting as he used his keen sense to test for danger in the area. He thought he heard something. "We should get out of here before we're seen."

"Another one?"

Angel's team spun on the slick park grass when the new voice softly cut the night. Wesley stood behind them. Connor was only visible in the shadows by the stark paleness of his face.

"What do you know about this?" Angel asked, happy that he managed to keep the edge off his voice.

Wesley sauntered over, his face astonishingly impassive. "Not enough."

"Join the club," Gunn grumbled, lowering his hubcap axe, which had automatically been cocked up into an offensive position upon hearing an unexpected voice.

"But what would want to take the skin and the heart? Could it be eating it?" Fresh asked, a quiver tearing through her shapeless frame.

"Possibly. Could be they are harvesting spell ingredients," Wesley said, edging nearer to the bloody corpses.

"Trophies," Connor said, melting out of the shadows. He moved very purposefully to Wesley's side. He shot Angel a cocky look.

Angel remembered seeing his adult son for the first time. The boy had been clad in skins, a bandolier of trophies around his slim body. The first thing Connor did out on his own in this world was to take someone's ear. "Very possible."

"If either of you two are right that means we're dealing with humans," Gunn said flatly.

"Not necessarily. There are demons who collect ingredients for mages and others who take trophies," Angel said. "But we might be facing a human killer."

"What do we do then?" Fred edged closer to Gunn.

"I don't know." Angel tried to ignore Connor's smirk at that admission. How did he end up with such an arrogant child?

"What are you even doing here, English?" Gunn asked, looping an arm around Fred. "Spying on us?"

Wesley shot him a withering look. "Connor and I heard about the first killings and I thought it was something that bore researching into."

"Anything we find I'll let you know. I don't want Con…" Angel trailed off. He was about to say he didn't want Connor at risk but the look on his son's face said the boy knew what he meant and resented it. Reasonable, given his upbringing.

"Thank you," Wesley said, but the words were cool as the night air.

"Can I talk to you alone for a minute?" Angel asked, not missing the suspicious expression that darkened Connor's face. Wesley looked no less mistrustful but he moved away from the others, closer to a copse of trees.

"How is he?" Angel whispered.

"Good." Wesley glanced back at Connor. "He's listening, you know."

Angel nodded. "I know. I just want to be sure he's all right."

"He's fine. He's learning that he likes to read and I'm learning he has abysmal musical taste. Cordy calls him a couple times a week," Wesley said, a hint of warmth finally entering his tone.

"Good." Angel turned to go. "And I meant that, Wesley, if I learn anything you need to know I'll pass it along. And thank you for looking after him."

Wesley nodded and walked off. He paused and looked back. "Glad to do it."

Angel waved for Gunn and Fred to follow him.

"What was that?" Gunn asked as they got into the GTX.

"Just checking up on Connor," Angel said, sliding behind the wheel.

"That boy can take care of himself," Gunn said, sitting shotgun.

"Doesn't matter, Charles. Angel worries," Fred said, leaning over the front seat to pat Gunn on the shoulder.

"I do. He's still a boy," Angel said, slowly pulling out onto the road.

"Who tried to kill you." Gunn thumped a hand against the car door.

"Who was primed to do so for his entire life. He's not responsible for doing what Holtz spent eighteen years training him to do. Maybe it's too much to ask you and Fred to forgive him but I have," Angel said in a tone that suggested arguing would be a bad idea.

His companions hushed, looking guilty.

"What about Wesley?" Fred asked after several minutes of silence.

"Maybe it's time to mend fences. Maybe it's too late. I want to know one way or the other," Angel said. "And something is telling me I'll need his insight on this. Whatever else he is, Wesley's a storehouse for this sort of knowledge. With Cordy in Sunnydale, I don't have her visions to help us."

"She could call them in," Gunn grumbled, looking unhappy with the idea of dealing with Wesley.

"Of course but she hasn't had any. And I've gotten lazy, too dependent on her, on Lorne and whoever else, to guide me. It's time to start thinking things through on my own again. Or, should I say, start acting like part of the team again because I don't think any of us are assuming these deaths are going to stop any time soon," Angel said and to that they had no reply.