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Wilson didn’t turn around as one of his men murmured something to another. Their voices were too low for him to discern which of them were speaking, but he could have taken a guess when one of them left and closed the door him. He also didn’t turn when slow footsteps trailed closer to his spot next to the pool of dried blood on the floor. They stopped behind him and to his right – a respectful distance. Wilson continued to stare down at the red.

“Vanessa?” he asked.

“Safe.” Wesley’s reply was out almost before Wilson had finished asking. Then, as if it might make any difference at all, Wesley added, “And unharmed.”

“But she might have been.” Wilson’s voice was soft and steady. The calm before the storm. “She might have been hurt. Because of you.”

There were a thousand excuses Wesley could offer – how the warehouse had always been safe, how ten bodyguards should have been enough, how it had been Vanessa’s idea to see more of their operation in the first place, how Wilson had told Wesley to accommodate her wishes whenever possible. Wilson had sifted through these and dozens more in an effort to calm himself down. It hadn’t worked. The red was hovering just beneath the surface inside him, ready to burst forth at the slightest provocation and hurt Wesley, just like Vanessa could have been hurt.

Wesley didn’t offer him any excuses. “Yes.”

Wilson turned then.

The color of Wesley’s cheeks had run off to hide somewhere, leaving the man looking as if he’d come to face the devil himself. Wilson grimaced at the description: he was no devil. The rest of Wesley was standing firm, not a hint of retreat in sight. The emotionless mask he’d perfected over their association did little good in hiding the trembling of his hands, and Wilson had observed him long enough to know he didn’t usually stand quite so straight.

“You’re frightened of me.” His lips curled up into a wry grin. He’d managed to do the impossible: he’d actually fazed James Wesley. Somehow, it didn’t feel like a victory. “Do you think I’m going to hurt you?”

Wesley’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “I think you’re going to hurt the man responsible for Vanessa’s…earlier situation.”

“Then why did you come!” Wilson screamed. He picked up a nearby chair and threw it at Wesley. It sailed past his right shoulder and splintered against the brick behind him.

Wesley’s trembling kicked up a notch, and he reached up to adjust his glasses in one of his rare tells. Then he squeezed his hands together in front of him, one over the back of the other, and visibly braced himself for what was to come. “I thought it best to take responsibility for my actions.”

He didn’t have to mention how it would look if Wilson’s most trusted employee ran off right then. Nor did he have to mention that he was too dedicated to allow the doubt that would filter throughout their upper ranks like a poison if he were to be found hiding in some undisclosed location while Wilson pulled himself together. Even if Wilson wanted him to. Especially if Wilson wanted him to. Wesley always looked out for him. It was unfortunate that he hadn’t looked out for Vanessa with the same fervor.

Wilson’s eyes slid to the pool of blood.

He grabbed the next thing he could find – a box of tools that must have been left by some unseen repairman – and that too went flying past Wesley with a barely controlled scream of rage. It was to his credit that the other man barely flinched when it hit the wall. Wilson’s hands clenched and unclenched as he paced. He wouldn’t close the distance between them. He wouldn’t. So long as he stayed over here, he couldn’t hurt him.

Wesley watched him as impassively as he could manage while simultaneously looking as if he was about to faint.

Wilson wasn’t certain if he approved of his loyalty and dedication, or despised how he forced them into this interaction. The least he could do was remind Wilson of their shared history together, since he was finding it hard to remind himself. Not just stand there waiting for Wilson to hit him.

No. The least he could do was stop him, like he should have stopped Vanessa when she’d wanted to come here, like he should have stopped the man in the mask from getting her alone, like he should have stopped himself when he’d decided to walk right into Wilson’s rage.

It was fitting that Wilson growled just then, for the way in which he pounced on Wesley could be considered nothing if not animalistic. He had a moment to watch Wesley’s terrified eyes widen behind his glasses before he snatched him by the lapels and threw him to the ground. Wesley hit the concrete floor with a cry, but then pressed his lips together tightly and refused to make another noise, even as Wilson crawled on top of him and raised his fist above his head.

Wilson brought it down with enough force to break bone, and break it did when it smashed into the floor inches from Wesley’s face. He brought it down again and again, relishing in the pain he couldn’t bring himself to inflict on the only other person he cared for besides Vanessa and his mother. Wesley opened his mouth, so Wilson pushed his other hand across it with enough force to leave bruises for weeks to come. Blood speckled the side of Wesley’s face as he hit the concrete again, and then one last time.

He stopped to look at what he’d done. At what would require the best doctors in the land to heal properly. It wasn’t enough. Wesley needed to hurt for what he’d almost cost him. Wilson wanted to hit him and hit him and hit him but he couldn’t. He squeezed the hand that was pressed against Wesley’s mouth. If he could just- A muffled cry was forced out of Wesley, and Wilson snatched his hand back as if burned.

What had he done? What was he doing? Wesley- but Vanessa- Wesley-

“Hit-” Wesley winced. The dark bruises stood out against his still too-pale skin. “My ass. Hit me there.”

Wilson gave it only a moment of consideration before pushing off of Wesley with his undamaged hand.

Wesley hesitated a moment before rising to his knees. He unfastened his belt with deft fingers and tossed it towards the other side of the room. Wilson could still get it if he was motivated enough, but it helped remove the temptation. Wesley hesitated again after he’d pushed down his pants, before pushing down his boxers as well and lowering himself to his forearms so that his bottom was high in the air.

“You’ll need to see it, sir.”

Wilson didn’t disagree with him. He smacked Wesley with enough force to cause him to jerk forward. Wilson gave him no time to adjust before smacking him again. And again. And again. Soon his behind matched the red stain – which hadn’t been Vanessa’s blood, but could have been if the man in the mask hadn’t been intent on not harming noncombatants. He moved on to the back of Wesley’s legs, and the whimpers Wesley eventually released soothed the darkness inside him.

He stopped only when it looked as if Wesley would require serious medical attention. Wesley’s butt and upper legs were wrecked, and Wilson’s other hand was now bloody, though for a different reason than the first. Wesley would have difficulty walking out of here, if he could at all, and wouldn’t be able to sit comfortably for several weeks. But otherwise he was fine. Wilson hadn’t killed his friend.

He ran his fingers through the back of Wesley’s hair soothingly, imbedding it with blood that would no doubt make the other man fuss when he cleaned himself up later. The pain in Wilson’s broken hand was starting to come back to him now that he’d regained control of his emotions, but he wanted to give Wesley a time to calm himself before calling in help. After a few minutes, and once his breathing had evened out, Wesley himself called out for Francis.

Francis paused for a brief moment upon catching sight of Wesley before slipping off his jacket and gently laying it across his exposed bottom. Wesley hissed as it touched his skin, and Wilson’s heart clenched in response. Once that was done, Francis turned his attention to Wilson.

“Thank you, Francis. Please call my doctor. Tell him he’ll have two patients.”