Second Best

Chapter 1



Justin Taylor hurried along the street. The wind whipped between the buildings and blew dirt into his face. Winter would soon be here. There was no doubt about that. He ran into the entrance of Starbucks and shivered as he opened the door. He brushed the dust off his jacket and got into line. He needed a mega something or other to get him started this morning.

While he waited in the long line he thought about his new job at Galactic Graphic Design. Their offices were just down the street. "Galactic", that was a joke. They were fucking based in Pittsburgh. But they were a pretty good company and he had some talented co-workers. After only a couple of weeks he felt quite at home there.

One more person ahead of him. Justin hopped from foot to foot wanting his morning caffeine jolt. At twenty-six his life was starting to look up. He had his new job and his own apartment and a steady income. He was going to be a great big fucking success. His art would take a backseat to his job for a while, but he still intended to keep painting and maybe one day he would have his own show.

*   *   *

Brian Kinney walked along the street. He had parked his Corvette down the block finally finding a space. He pulled his cashmere coat closed at the neck to keep out the wind. Fucking Pittsburgh winters, and another one would soon be here. Brian was meeting a potential client nearby and had a few minutes to spare. He had learned in the business world never to be early. That made you seem too eager, too aggressive, or too needy. A couple of minutes late was just right. It didn't really keep anybody waiting, but it gave the client a chance to finalize everything before you arrived.

Up ahead Brian saw the ubiquitous Starbucks sign and decided that he could use a latte. It would cut some of the chill off the fall day. He walked towards it, his mind not really focused on anything.

*   *   *

Justin couldn't stop smiling as he stepped up to the counter and placed his order. He paid for the latte and moved over to wait for his order to be filled. His new job would allow him to do everything he wanted to do. He wanted to get some new furniture for his apartment as soon as he had saved a bit of money. Most of what he had now was secondhand. That would soon be rectified, and then there would be no more cast offs for him, only the newest and best.

"Sir," a voice said. Justin turned to look at the kid behind the counter. "Your latte," the kid said extending the large cup to him.

"Thanks," Justin replied taking the cup and moving to the counter where the sugar was kept. As he doctored his coffee he thought about his brother. Most of the furniture in his apartment came from his brother, Dillon, stuff that Dillon had put in storage when he had gone off to Chicago. Dillon had told him he could have the furniture now that he had a huge apartment with brand new furniture in the Windy City. Only the biggest and best would do for dear brother Dillon.

Even though he hadn't seen Dillon very much during the last couple of years, his brother's shadow still cast itself across his life. He was sick of being Dillon's little brother, Dillon's artist brother who could barely make ends meet, Dillon's unsuccessful brother who always needed help from the family. Dillon was the success in the Taylor family. Dillon belonged to a prestigious law firm in Chicago. Dillon could do no wrong. Dillon was very successful for someone his age, as their parents were only too happy to remind Justin.

Justin decided that he'd had it with his brother and the constant comparison that people made between them. Justin always came up short in that regard, and he was fucking sick of it. He finished fixing his coffee and tossed the stir stick in the trash. He picked up his cup and headed for the door.

*   *   *

Brian arrived at the door to Starbucks. He looked at the line inside and debated if he had time to get his latte. He glanced at his watch and decided to hell with it. He wanted a coffee, and they could fucking wait for him. Kinnetik was the most successful new company in Pittsburgh and this client would be lucky to get Brian working for him.

*   *   *

As Justin pushed the door open someone was coming in so he held the door for the man. The man barely glanced at him as he hurried inside when Justin stepped out of the way.

"Fuck," Justin muttered to himself as it dawned on him who the man was.

It was Brian Kinney, the man his brother Dillon, had lived with for a couple of years before they had finally broken up. Justin looked through the window of the Starbucks. He could see Brian in line. It had to be at least three years since he had last seen the man. He'd always thought Brian was hot when he and Dillon were together, but he had never even thought about Brian in the years since he and his brother had broken up. Brian still looked damn good though.

*   *   *

As he got into line, Brian turned around and looked back at the door. The man who had held it open for him had been vaguely familiar. He had looked a lot like Dillon, but Dillon was far away in Chicago living his own life. Nobody was in the doorway now. It couldn't have been Dillon anyway. Brian shrugged and moved up in the line. Why the fuck did Starbucks always have these lines?

*   *   *

Justin looked in the window of Starbucks and wondered if he should go back into the shop and say hello to Brian. They had been friendly once when Brian was with Dillon. But that was a long time ago. Justin watched Brian glance back at the door and wondered if the man might have recognized him. Brian still looked hot, even though he must be in his late thirties by now.

Justin took a drink of his coffee, looked at his watch and decided he better get the fuck to work before he was late. He pulled his scarf tighter around his neck and headed out into the wind. He had nothing to say to Brian Kinney anyway. The last thing he wanted to do was reminisce about Dillon.

*   *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *    *   *   *    *   *   *

Brian made his way back to the office after his morning meeting, a smile on his face. Even though it had been a year since he opened the doors to Kinnetik for the first time, he was still extremely happy when he landed a new client; especially one as big as Remsen Pharmaceutical. It proved that he made the right choice when he walked away from Vangard and finally branched out on his own. At 37, he was finally becoming the success his father claimed he'd never be.

Walking through the front doors, he was greeted by Cynthia who was anxiously awaiting his arrival.

"Well Boss, how'd it go? Should we be organizing a team for Remsen Pharmaceutical?" Cynthia asked, holding her breath for an answer.

"Tell Johnson I want him to put his top guys on it right away. I'll email him the notes from my meeting within the hour," Brian replied with a self-satisfied smirk.

"Yes!" Cynthia cheered as she pulled Brian into a tight hug.

"Cynthia, it almost seems like you were doubting my abilities. Did you really think I'd let someone like Remsen slip out of my grasp?" he teased.

Cynthia stepped back, adjusting her suit jacket and clearing her throat before answering. "Of course not, Boss. I never doubted you for a second. I'll go talk to Johnson right away." She smiled at him, giving him a wink before walking away to the sound of Brian chuckling behind her.

Once Brian had sent Johnson the notes from the meeting he had a few minutes to reflect on the morning and his run in with the familiar blond from Starbucks. At first he had thought it was Dillon, his ex whatever-you-call-it from three years ago. Dillon was a great guy and surprised Brian from the beginning when he managed to worm his way into Brian's life with little effort. They'd been together for two years, living together for most of that time, until life stepped in and brought their relationship to an end.

Dillon had been extremely ambitious. It was one of his most appealing qualities in Brian's eyes, but also what led them to break up. After working his ass off at one of the local law firms in Pittsburgh, Dillon was approached by a representative of a Chicago based firm. They offered him a great deal which included a chance at partnership in the future. Dillon had been ecstatic when he told Brian the news and Brian immediately knew that their relationship was over. They talked about trying to hold on to what they had, but Brian finally made Dillon see how impossible it would be. Dillon needed to move on and start his new life in Chicago, and Brian was right where he wanted to be, playing top dog in Pittsburgh's top advertising firm, waiting for the right moment to branch out on his own and show the world what he was made of. Their parting was friendly, with promises of keeping in touch, but neither one of them actually believed that it would work out that way, and they'd been right. After three very strained phone calls they lost contact except for yearly Christmas cards. Brian had been a little sad to see things end, but he knew that he would move on. Although they enjoyed their time together, he'd always known that they would eventually outgrow each other.

No, the man he saw that morning wasn't Dillon. It took a few minutes but Brian had finally realized that it was Dillon's brother, Justin, that had passed him in the doorway of the coffee shop. Justin was three years younger than Dillon and had always been a little on the shy side. Brian had gotten to know him when he was dating his brother and had enjoyed the other man's company at family gatherings. The brothers looked so much alike, but that's where the similarities ended. Where Dillon had been sure of himself and where he wanted to go in the future, Justin had his business degree but never found the job he wanted and was constantly looking for what would make him happy. Dillon and his parents used to get so upset, confiding in Brian their fears regarding the youngest member of the family, wishing he would settle down and choose a career as well as a partner. Justin liked to play the field a bit and was far from ready to settle down with anyone. Brian used to tell Dillon to give the man some time to decide what he wanted out of life, but nothing seemed to alleviate their fears.

Brian distinctly remembered a conversation he had with Justin about six months before he and Dillon went their separate ways. It was Father's Day and everyone was over at the Taylor house for dinner. The evening started out just fine, until after the meal was finished and Craig started in on his youngest son about what he was planning on doing with his life. Justin became very agitated and eventually walked away from his family, refusing to listen to any more of the lectures. Brian waited until the smoked cleared some from the confrontation and excused himself to go outside for a cigarette. He was standing out on the front porch when Justin came back from the walk he had taken.

"Those things will kill you, ya know?" Justin teased as he approached the older man.

"I know, that's what makes them so appealing," Brian joked before turning serious. "You okay?"

"Of course," Justin replied too quickly. He saw the look in Brian's eyes and knew the man didn't believe a word he said. Brian was always good at reading through other people's bullshit. "I just get so sick of living in Dillon's shadow. All my life, all I ever heard was Dillon this, and Dillon that. Why can't you be more like Dillon? Your brother has a great job; your brother has a great boyfriend. Why don't you settle down like your brother? I'm not fucking Dillon. I don't want to be like him. Why can't they see that?"

"Have you tried talking to them? Telling them exactly what you just told me?" Brian asked.

"What's the point? They don't listen to a word I say anyway. Did you know that I never got a new bike for my birthday or Christmas?"

"Huh?" Brian asked in confusion.

"I've always gotten Dillon's hand-me-downs. His old clothes, his old shoes, even his old bikes. I swear it's as if they want me to be a carbon copy of him. Just because we look alike doesn't mean we're the same person. I'm not Dillon, I'm Justin," Justin sighed in exasperation. "I just want to be Justin Taylor; not Dillon Taylor's little brother."

Brian could see the sadness in Justin's eyes and felt sorry for the man. It had to be hard to constantly be in someone else's shadow. "Then just keep doing what you're doing, and one day you'll find what you're looking for and you can tell them all to go to hell," Brian said, offering the only advice he could think of giving.

Justin smiled at Brian, happy to finally find someone who seemed to understand what he was saying, and knew that he would take the offered advice. He would keep looking for whatever it was that would make him happy. The hell with what his family thought.

Brian only saw Justin a few more times after that before he and Dillon split up, and despite the way everyone still hounded the man about his future, he could see the determination in his blue eyes and knew that Justin was going to be okay. He'd find his place in the world eventually and finally become the Justin Taylor he wanted to be.

"Brian," Cynthia said from the doorway, bringing Brian out of his thoughts. "Your 12 o'clock appointment is waiting in the conference room for you."

"Thanks, Cyn. Make sure you offer them some coffee and I'll be right there," Brian replied, gathering up the files he needed. It was time to put the Taylor brothers out of his mind and get back to business. He hoped that Justin had finally found what he was looking for.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

By the end of the day, Justin was exhausted and ready to go home and relax. His new job was very demanding but he didn't mind. After all the years of scrambling around to try to find something that he enjoyed, it was a thrill to finally be able to do what he wanted. He walked into his apartment, once again smiling at what he had accomplished so far, and dropped his briefcase on the couch. His stomach was growling due to a meeting that caused him to skip lunch and he started making his way to the kitchen when the phone rang, stopping him in his tracks.


"Hey little brother, how's the new job?" Dillon asked.

Justin sighed as he started back towards the kitchen with the phone to his ear. "Hi Dillon, everything's good here. How's the Windy City?"

"Windy," Dillon joked. "Listen, I was talking to Mom the other day and she said…"

"Dillon, I already told her that I would try to make it to Thanksgiving. I just can't promise anything right now. I've got a lot on my plate with work and I'm not sure now is the right time to take off. You're the one who insists on making us travel to Chicago for the holidays," Justin said, once again trying to get out of their usual family gathering.

"Come on, Jus; I've been living here for three years and you've never once come to visit. I want to show you my place and give you a tour of the city. Everyone is allowed a little time off now and then. Mom and Dad are excited about coming in for the holidays," Dillon pushed.

"Of course they are. Mom doesn't work and dad's semi-retired. They can easily jump on a plane for a few days. I have responsibilities here."

"Will you at least give it some serious thought? We haven't seen each other in forever and I really want you here," Dillon said softly.

"All right, I'll think about it," Justin said in resignation. "Look Dillon, I've got to go. I just walked in the door and I still have a lot of work to do before tomorrow. I'll talk to you soon."

Justin said his goodbyes before hanging up the phone and slamming it down on the counter a little harder than he planned. He couldn't help it. Dillon just had a way of pushing his buttons. He loved his brother dearly; he loved his entire family, but after years of being in the shadows he really wasn't sure if he was ready to go back to being Dillon's little brother. He looked through his cabinets before deciding on having a sandwich for dinner. It was easier than dirtying a lot of dishes when he wasn't really that hungry anyway. Thinking about Thanksgiving made him lose his appetite.

As he settled on the couch and tried eating, he couldn't help but let his mind drift back to Brian Kinney. His conversation with Dillon reminded him about his near run-in with the man earlier that day. Justin remembered the day that Dillon had told him he was moving to Chicago. To say he was surprised to learn that Brian wasn't going with him was an understatement. Brian and Dillon had been close during their relationship and no one imagined that they would go their separate ways after living together for almost two years. Their parents had thrown Dillon a celebration party when he accepted the offer in Chicago and Brian had been there to show his support. It was a strange break-up and it always amazed Justin that neither one seemed too upset by the separation. Justin may not have been into the whole relationship scene, but it wasn't because he didn't believe in it. It had more to do with him wanting to be ready to offer up everything he had to the right person, but never feeling as if he had anything to offer. He expected Brian and Dillon to be more committed to what they had. Not toss it aside as soon as it became inconvenient.

After the break-up, Brian seemed to disappear into the large city and Justin hadn't laid eyes on him again until that morning. He thought back to the first time he'd met Brian. Dillon had been talking about his newest find for weeks before finally bringing him around to meet the family. Justin was shocked to find out that his brother's new boyfriend was the same man that Justin himself had been interested in. Not that Brian even knew who Justin was. They'd never met before, but Justin had seen him around a few times and was always drawn to his good looks and well toned body. There was even an instance where Justin thought about approaching the man, but chickened out at the last minute. For some reason he always got nervous around him and tended to stay in the background when he was around.

Once he knew about Brian and Dillon's relationship, Justin gave up the thought of ever approaching the man. Aside from the obvious fact that Dillon was the one he wanted, Justin refused to go after someone that his brother had. There was never a short supply of men for Justin to choose from, and he never wanted to be put in the position of being compared to his brother. He knew he'd never measure up. His parents made sure to drill that into his head when they were children. From then on, Brian was off limits and Justin could relax around him, which is exactly what he did. For the next two years, Justin saw Brian often and they developed a comfortable friendship of sorts. Family gatherings were always more interesting when Brian was around and the older man seemed to be the only one who understood how Justin felt. In fact, it seemed as though Justin was more upset over the end of the relationship than either of the men who were involved. Since that time, Justin managed to come up with an excuse to get himself out of all the family shit, and was very happy with the results; until now. It appeared that he was going to have to make a trip to Chicago and the thought of being forced back into his family bullshit took away what remained of his appetite. He got up from the couch and tossed away his half eaten sandwich before going over to his desk and booting up his computer. He didn't lie to Dillon. He had a lot of work to do and it was just what he needed to get his mind off the past; and off Brian Kinney.

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