Second Best

Chapter 12



Brian heard a commotion on the other end of the line before the connection was lost. He tried calling right back, but the call went right to voicemail, so he waited for Justin to call him back. After about twenty minutes it was apparent that Justin wasn't calling back and Brian began to wonder what was keeping Justin from returning his call. He could've sworn he heard a guy's voice close in the background and pretty soon his mind was conjuring up all sorts of visions he didn't want to think about. Justin had seemed preoccupied and he claimed that he was being cruised by guys that'd do in a pinch. Brian didn't like the sound of that one bit. Dragging himself out of bed, he made his way to the liquor cart and grabbed a bottle of Jack. He needed something to stop the horrible thoughts that were running through his head.

By the time Justin pulled back from the kiss, he was breathless and a little annoyed. He told the kisser to fuck off, not caring if he insulted anyone, and reached for the phone. He quickly dialed Brian's number, but ended up with a recording that told him that all circuits were busy. His holiday wasn't turning out anywhere near what he imagined a week ago. After thanking Ken for the invitation, he left the party and headed back to his hotel. On the way there, he thought about Brian and his night out with his friend and immediately began feeling some of the anger and betrayal that he'd felt earlier. When he reached his room, he decided to give up trying to call the other man back. He'd wait until the following day and see what Brian had to say. It took awhile, but Justin finally fell asleep, heart a little heavy, but still slightly relieved that the man had called as promised.

Brian woke up to a pounding on his door equal to the pounding that was going on in his head. After losing contact with Justin the night before, Brian proceeded to drink himself into a stupor, thinking about how important Justin had become and how much he missed having him close by. Once he realized that whoever was at the door was not going away, Brian dragged himself out of bed and unsteadily made his way over to stop the offending sound. He pulled back the door to reveal Michael on the other side smiling.

"Hey, you look like shit," Michael commented as he walked past Brian and entered the loft. "I thought you weren't going out last night."

"I didn't," Brian growled. "And what the fuck are you doing here this early?"

"Early? Brian, it's after noon. Did you and Justin stay up all night having phone sex?" Michael teased.

"No, if Justin was having sex last night, it definitely wasn't on the phone and had nothing to do with me," Brian replied bitterly as thoughts of the night before flashed through his mind.

"But I thought one of the reasons you didn't come out with us last night was because you and Justin were going to bring in the New Year on the phone because you couldn't be together."

"Yeah, that was the plan," Brian sighed before filling his friend in on what happened the night before.

Michael listened to Brian's story and had a feeling that he was overreacting. "Just wait till you talk to him. I'm sure it's not what you're thinking. Now why don't you go jump in the shower and come with me? I have to be at Ma's in an hour and I know she'd love to see you."

"I don't think so, Mikey."

"Oh come on. I'm leaving tomorrow and I don't know when I'll be back. It's better than sitting here wallowing in self pity," Michael replied.

"I don't do pity. It makes my dick soft," Brian said, using the mantra that he was known for. He saw Michael's skeptical look and sighed in resignation. "All right, all right, give me a few minutes and I'll go."

Michael smiled at his friend as he staggered towards the shower and couldn't help but laugh to himself. Brian Kinney had it bad.

Justin woke up a little after noon, feeling a little bit better than he had the day before. He decided before falling asleep that he would call Brian and talk to him, asking him outright if things were okay between them. The not knowing was driving him crazy and he needed to know what was going on. Reaching for the phone, he dialed Brian's number and was shocked when a strange man answered.

"Uh…hi…I think I have the wrong number. I was looking for Brian," Justin stammered nervously.

"Oh, you got the right number. Brian's in the shower. Can I take a message?"

Justin froze at the man's words and then heard Brian in the background asking who was on the phone. He immediately hung up the phone and burrowed under the blankets, the truth of the situation shattering his world.

Michael placed the phone back in the charger before looking up at Brian. "I don't know. They hung up."

"Shit, it was probably Justin." Brian went over to the phone and dialed Justin's number and slammed the phone back down when he got no answer. "Fuck."

"What's the big deal? I'm sure he'll call back," Michael said reassuringly.

"The big deal? Justin's away and calls my loft to be told by some guy that I'm in the shower?"

"Are you guys like exclusive or something?" Michael asked.

"No…not really. But something's bothering him and this is not going to help." Brian tried calling again, but again no one answered. "Fuck!"

"Look Brian, maybe it wasn't even him. Just get dressed and we'll go to Ma's. You'll have your cell with you. I'm sure he'll call you in a little while."

Brian sighed and hung up the phone before going to get dressed. He hoped Michael was right, but if it was Justin, he had a feeling the distance between them just doubled in size.

Justin listened to his phone ring with tears streaming down his face. His heart ached to answer the call, but his mind wouldn't let him. He should've known better than to get involved with someone like Brian. He'd never be able to keep him happy. He was never enough for anyone, especially someone like Brian Kinney.

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

The next two weeks seemed to drag as Justin walked around on auto-pilot. He didn't want to disappoint Tom so he put everything he had into getting the office ready for its opening, but his heart was broken over his failed relationship with Brian. For the first few days after New Year's, Justin's phone rang at different times throughout the day, but Justin had refused to answer. He felt that a clean break would be the best way to handle things. He'd obviously been right. By mid-week the calls stopped and he was finally left alone to deal with his pain. A few of the people at Galactic 2 had noticed a difference in him, but he put them off by telling them that he was just tired and not sleeping well at the hotel. Eventually everyone stopped asking. By the time Justin boarded his plane, he was completely exhausted and ready to get home and lick his wounds in his own place.

As he walked into his apartment, his mind flashed with memories of Brian and all the fun they had while they were together. The tears that he managed to fight off washed over him and he suddenly felt as if he couldn't breathe. It was all too much and he collapsed on the couch and gave in to the pain and sadness. He didn't know how long he sat there, grieving for the man that he loved, but before he knew it, the sun had set and he was sitting in darkness. He pulled himself up from the couch and went over to his phone. He saw that he had a few messages and hit the play button. He listened to numerous calls from solicitors before a call from Dillon caught his attention.

"Hey little brother, guess what? It appears that I'm going to be in Pittsburgh. There's a law conference there from the nineteenth to the twenty-first. I made reservations at a hotel because I didn't want to impose, but I was hoping that we could get together while I'm there. I'm flying in on that Wednesday so I'll give you a call then. See you."

Justin felt his stomach drop at Dillon's words. His brother would be in the city the following day. That was the last thing he needed. Maybe he could not answer the phone and pretend that he was still in Miami. Dillon wouldn't know the difference. Besides, he had a feeling that his brother's sudden interest in seeing him was more about appearances than anything else. If Justin was out of town, Dillon would have the perfect excuse to come to Pittsburgh without a brotherly reunion. With his decision made, Justin went to take a shower and unpack. He had to be in the office early the next day and knew it was going to be a long night.

As predicted, Justin wasn't able to fall asleep as he kept thinking about the last time he slept in his bed. Brian had been with him and he'd been so content to be wrapped in a pair of strong arms all night. When he finally arrived at Galactic the next morning, he blamed the travel for the dark circles under his eyes and his short attention span. Tom looked at him questioningly, but didn't pry. Instead he let Justin go home early, claiming that he felt bad about sending Justin away for so long.

Justin wanted to argue. He really wasn't ready to go back to his apartment and his memories, but knew he'd be useless in the office with his mind so far away from work. He got home and lay down on the couch, finally succumbing to sleep with images of Brian fresh in his mind.

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

"Cynthia, where the fuck are the Remsen specs?" Brian bellowed over the intercom.

"They're on your desk," she said trying to hold her temper. Her boss was like a bear with a sore paw these days. Ever since the New Year's holiday there was no pleasing him.

"Well, I can't fucking find them! Get in here."

With a sigh Cynthia stood up and ventured into Brian's office. She never knew when he was going to take her head off so she half held her breath as walked over to his desk and pulled the folder he needed out of the pile in front of him. She handed it to him with a flourish.

"Thanks," he said grudgingly feeling foolish for not having found it himself. It seemed like he couldn't do anything right these days.

"Why don't you call him?"


"You heard me. Call Justin."

"What the fuck for? It's over."

"Not the way you've been acting," Cynthia muttered.

"And what the fuck does that mean?" Brian frowned wondering how transparent his unhappiness had been the last couple of weeks.

"Since New Year's there have been no calls from Justin. You haven't asked me once to get him on the line. You haven't made a reservation that wasn't related to work. What happened?"

"I … he … we … I don't want to talk about this."

"Then call him and talk to him about it."

"I tried. He won't answer the phone."

"You could go over to Galactic and wait till he comes out," Cynthia suggested.

"Act like some lovesick teenager? I don't fucking think so!"

"So you'd rather act like some grumpy asshole instead."

Brian snorted.

"I'm going. I'm going," Cynthia said knowing she had pushed things as far as she dared. She quickly exited Brian's office.

Brian leaned back in his chair. It had been well over a week since he had last tried to call Justin. His call had gone to voicemail like all the others and he hadn't bothered to leave a message. Justin's silence was telling him loud and clear that whatever they had was over. He stared off into space wondering what he should do. He had no intention of staking out Galactic, but maybe he could go to Justin's apartment and wait for him there. The way Justin was behaving, he would probably go back inside and lock Brian out. That he wanted nothing more to do with Brian had been made eminently clear.

Brian's hand caressed the phone as he thought what he might say if he got Justin on the line. Maybe after all these days Justin would be ready to talk. If only he could tell the blond how much he needed him, how much he missed him, how lonely every day was without him. He picked up the receiver and dialed the familiar number. It rang several times and went to voicemail. Brian opened his mouth to leave a message, but he couldn't think of anything to say that would make a difference. He dropped the phone back onto the cradle.

With a long sigh Brian picked up the Remsen file and started going over the figures. He wouldn't think about Justin Taylor. That was if he could stop himself from thinking altogether.

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

Justin was startled out of a deep sleep by the knock on the door. He was disoriented and it took him a moment to get his bearings before he was able to get up off the couch and head to the door. He was shocked to find Dillon on the other side.

"I had your address so I thought I'd surprise you," Dillon said happily until his eyes rested on his brother's face and he took in his appearance. "Hey little brother, are you all right?"

"Um…yeah…I'm fine," Justin lied, feeling very self-conscious under his brother's scrutiny. "Uh…come on in."

Dillon walked into Justin's apartment and looked around, secretly impressed by the small but comfortable living space. He also took note of the artwork on the wall. He never really paid a lot of attention to his brother's talent, but in his apartment it was staring him in the face and screaming for acknowledgement. Justin was damn good. Dillon turned back to offer his praise when he saw a sadness reflecting back at him from deep blue eyes.

"So, what's going on?"

"Nothing…I uh…just got in from Miami yesterday and I guess I'm still a little tired. I didn't sleep well in the hotel for the last couple of weeks," Justin explained, telling himself he wasn't lying. He really didn't sleep well in Florida, although it had nothing to do with the hotel and everything to do with Brian. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"You got a beer?" Dillon asked. His brain was busy filtering through Justin's explanation for his appearance, trying to find some truth in his words. Whatever was wrong with his brother, it was more than being a little tired from a business trip. He decided to subtly pry further to get to the bottom of things. He took the beer that Justin was suddenly handing him and downed a swig before sitting on the couch.

"So how long are you in town for?" Justin asked as he sat down in a chair opposite Dillon. He knew he wasn't going to get lucky enough to get rid of Dillon anytime soon so he figured he might as well be hospitable.

"Till the end of the weekend. I hate these damn conferences, but I wasn't able to get out of this one. The last seminar is on Saturday so I booked my room until Sunday. I figured that since I was here, I'd stay on an extra night and try to spend a little time with you and Brian. How's he doing?" Dillon saw the pained expression cross Justin's face and suddenly knew what had caused Justin's pale complexion and dark eyes.

"He's…uh…okay I guess. We…we're not together anymore." As Justin said the words, he felt his whole body shudder involuntarily. It was the first time he'd said it out loud. He immediately tried to shake off the horrible sadness that washed over him by changing the subject. "How's Chad doing?"

"Chad's fine, but let's get back to Brian. What happened? You two seemed pretty close a month ago."

"Yeah, well things aren't always what they appear to be. Are you hungry? I haven't had time to shop since getting back from Florida, but I could order take out." Justin jumped up to get the menus he kept in the kitchen but was stopped by Dillon who had jumped up along with him and grabbed him by the arm.

"I'm not hungry, Justin. I'm worried about you. I'll admit that I probably didn't handle the situation at Christmas as well as I should have, but any fool could see that you and Brian were happy together. What happened since then?" Dillon could see that Justin was trying to come up with a valid excuse for the break up. "And don't give me one of your flip answers. What really happened?"

Justin sighed but sat back down, taking a deep breath before answering. "I wasn't enough for him. I'm sure you of all people can understand that. I've never been enough for anyone. Brian, you, Mom and Dad…no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to be what everyone wants me to be."

Dillon was shocked by the tearful admission and didn't know what to say. "Jus…I'm not sure what you're talking about, but…"

"Come off it, Dillon. You know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm not a high priced lawyer or a businessman. I don't live in a luxurious apartment or drive fancy cars. I only own one brand name suit and I sure as hell don't have a ton of money in the bank. I just spend all my time painting…what was it that you and Dad said? Painting pretty pictures? I'm nothing but a disappointment to my family and apparently Brian realized it, too. Now can we please drop the subject?"

"But Justin," Dillon tried again.

"I said fucking drop it!" Justin exclaimed angrily before taking a moment to calm himself down. "Look, it's been great seeing you again, but I'm really tired and need to get some sleep. I have to be in the office early tomorrow. Next time why don't you call before dropping by?"

Dillon knew he was being dismissed, but decided to go along with it until he could figure out what to do next. There was no way he was going to ignore his brother's misery and pretend there was nothing wrong. He planned on getting to the bottom of things. "Fine, I'll go for now. You definitely need a little sleep. Why don't we get together for dinner tomorrow night? My treat. I'll be out of the seminar by five. We could meet here at say seven o'clock?"

"I don't know. Give me a call first and I'll let you know," Justin replied. He had no intention of going to dinner the following night, but he was too tired to argue. He walked Dillon to the door, anxious to be alone again.

"Get some sleep, little brother. And if you want to talk to someone, call my cell. I'm here if you need me."

Justin watched Dillon walk away, confused by his brother's sudden interest in him. He never remembered Dillon even caring about what was happening in his life. Well, whatever brought on the change, it didn't matter. Justin was used to being alone with his thoughts and feelings and even if he did want to talk about it with someone, Dillon would be the last person he called.

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

Dillon sat through the first half of the seminar bored out of his mind and trying to look like he was paying attention. He breathed a sigh of relief when they finally broke for lunch and he was able to get away. He hailed a cab and asked to be taken to Kinnetik. Luckily the driver knew where to go since Dillon had no idea himself. When he got out of the car and looked around, he couldn't help the laughter that escaped him. Leave it to Brian Kinney to open an agency in an old bath house. There weren't many things he remembered about Pittsburgh, but the baths and the clubs always held a special place in his heart. When he and Brian first started dating, they spent plenty of nights prowling around Liberty Avenue and tricking. It was a part of him that not many people knew about; especially his family, but he always felt that it wasn't anyone's business. What he did on his own time was strictly for him. No one else needed to know. Shaking off the memories that assaulted him, Dillon walked into Kinnetik like a man on a mission.

"Good afternoon, sir. May I help you?" the woman behind the desk asked as Dillon approached her.

"I'm here to see Brian Kinney," Dillon replied.

"Do you have an appointment?"

"No I don't. I'm an old friend of his who's in town for business. I just wanted to see Brian again and maybe take him to lunch." Dillon tried to turn on the charm but he sensed the woman wasn't having any part of it.

"I'm sorry, sir, but Mr. Kinney is tied up all day and doesn't want to be disturbed. If you'd like me to give him a message," the woman responded as she reached for a note pad.

"Look, just tell him that Dillon Taylor is here. I'm sure he'll see me," Dillon assured her confidently.

"I can't do that. I was given strict orders that he didn't want to be disturbed. Now again, if you'd like to leave a message, I'll tell him you were here."

"Dillon Taylor, what're you doing here?"

Dillon and the receptionist both turned to see Cynthia walking over to them. The receptionist seemed taken back by Cynthia's recognition, but Dillon just smiled brightly at the woman.

"Cynthia, I should've known that Brian would have you on his payroll. He always told me you were the best assistant a man could ask for," Dillon said as he hugged Cynthia. "You look great."

"So do you," Cynthia replied. "What're you doing here? Brian told me that you're working in some fancy law office in Chicago now."

"I am. I'm in town for a boring law conference and thought I'd pop in and see if I can get Brian to go to lunch with me," Dillon explained. "Do you think he can fit me in?"

"I'm not sure if you want him to," Cynthia said, her expression turning serious. "He hasn't exactly been a ray of sunshine lately."

"Oh, is something wrong with him?"

"I'm not sure, but Brian would kill me if I said anything more. You know what a private person he is," Cynthia replied.

"Is this about Justin?" Dillon prodded.

Cynthia was startled by the question. She had no idea that Dillon and Brian were still in contact with one another other than the yearly Christmas cards. She grabbed Dillon's hand and pulled him into her office, closing the door behind them. "You know about Justin?" she finally asked when they were alone.

"Cynthia, Justin is my little brother," Dillon explained. When he saw the shocked look on her face, he couldn't hold back his laughter. "Yeah, that was my reaction, too. Imagine my surprise when Justin tells us he's bringing home a boyfriend for Christmas and shows up with my ex. It was a very interesting holiday."

"I bet," Cynthia laughed. "Have you talked to Justin? Has he said anything to you about what happened?"

"Well, Justin and I aren't that close. I showed up at his apartment last night and he looked like shit. He finally admitted that he and Brian weren't together anymore, but that's about it. He did say something about not being enough for him, so I was assuming that Brian was the one to break it off."

"I don't know about that. If it was Brian's idea, why would he be walking around like a lion with a thorn in his paw, biting everyone's head off over everything? I suggested he call him, but he said that Justin won't answer his calls. I don't know what happened. Before New Year's Eve Justin called here every day and Brian gave specific orders that all his calls were to be put through immediately. Now he never calls and Brian is completely miserable," Cynthia said. "Is that why you're here?"

"I was kind of hoping to find out what happened between them. I'll admit that I wasn't too happy with their relationship when I first found out, but Justin's my brother and I hate to see him so upset. I have to at least try to fix things between them. If that's even possible since I have no idea what happened."

Cynthia saw the sincerity in Dillon and reached for the phone. She buzzed Brian and asked him if he had a couple of spare minutes. After listening to his bitching about only having a few because no one seemed to know what they were doing in the art department and how he needed to fix everyone else's fuck ups, she told him she'd be right there. "Mr. Kinney will see you now," she teased.

"Oh great," Dillon sighed. He heard Brian's ranting on the line and suddenly began rethinking his idea to confront the man. "Send me into the lion's den when he's got a thorn in his paw."

"Hey, at least you don't have to deal with him on a daily basis. I've done all I can do without ending up on the unemployment line," Cynthia laughed.

"Like he'd ever fire you. He knows you're the only one who can put up with his shit without killing him. All right, lead the way."

Brian was sitting at his desk, pouring over the boards in front of him when he heard his door open and close. "Make it quick, Cyn. I'm kind of busy," he said without looking up.

"All work and no play make Brian a very dull boy," Dillon teased as he dropped down in one of the chairs in front of Brian's desk.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Brian asked in shock as he looked up and saw Dillon across from him.

"Now Brian, that's not very nice. I thought you'd be thrilled to see me," Dillon replied with a smirk. He looked closely at Brian and noticed that he had dark circles identical to Justin's under his eyes.

"And why would you think that? After the way you acted at Christmas, I should have you thrown out of here," Brian growled.

"All right, I know I wasn't the most gracious person in New York, but you have to admit that seeing you and Justin together was a shock for me. I know how friendly you guys were while we were together, but I never imagined you'd be fucking," Dillon explained.

"It was more than fucking," Brian replied bitterly. "And besides, it's not like you came home and found us in bed while we were together. You and I have been finished for years. Justin and I only started seeing each other a few months ago."

"And now you're through," Dillon said softly.

"Yeah," Brian whispered, fighting the emotions that Dillon's words were bringing back up.

"What happened?"

"How the fuck should I know? He's the one who stopped taking my calls." Brian stood up from his desk and walked over to the window, staring out at nothing. "Everything was fine until he went to Miami. I noticed he started getting weird, but I didn't get a chance to talk to him about it. I think he called me on New Years Day, but Mikey answered the phone and he hung up. He hasn't answered any of my calls since."

"Mikey? How's he doing? I haven't seen him in ages," Dillon asked, giving Brian a few moments to pull himself together.

"He's good. Happily partnered with a professor and living in California," Brian answered.

"Wow, he actually moved away from Deb? She must've had a heart attack over that one," Dillon teased. He'd forgotten how much he enjoyed being with Brian while they were together. It was a shame that they couldn't make things work between them.

"Yeah, she cried for about two weeks straight but once she realized that he was happy, she settled down some. He was here for the holidays. That's why he was at my place to begin with. He came over to drag me to Deb's for dinner. I was in the shower so he answered my phone."

"And Justin must have thought he was a trick," Dillon sighed in realization.

"I guess. I don't fucking know because when I called back, he didn't answer. I tried at least ten times a day after that, but still no answer. I finally gave up. He obviously doesn't want to talk to me," Brian turned back to the window silently.

"Holy shit! You love him, don't you?"

Brian spun around, ready to deny what Dillon was saying, but then decided against it. What would be the point? "Yeah, I do."

"Well if it makes you feel any better, he's miserable without you. I stopped by his apartment last night and he looks as bad as you do," Dillon told him.

"Then why is he avoiding me? What the fuck did I do?"

"He said something about not being enough for you…for anyone," Dillon said sadly.

"Fuck! I knew it had to be something stupid like that," Brian replied angrily. "Do you have any idea what you and your parents have done to him?"

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Dillon asked in confusion.

"I'm talking about the beating his self esteem has taken over the years. All he ever wanted was to be accepted by his family and you couldn't even give him that. He's had to live in your shadow, listening to your parents brag about their smart, successful son. Asking Justin why he couldn't be more like you. I saw it from the beginning. In fact, that's one of the things we used to talk about during all those family dinners. It hurts him to think that he's second best. Do you know the first time we made love; he actually asked me if I compared him to you? He thought that if I compared him to you, he wouldn't measure up."

"What did you tell him?" Dillon asked curiously.

"I told him there was no comparison. There wasn't. What you and I had doesn't even come close to what he and I have." Brian saw Dillon wince at his words and felt bad for being so blunt. "Sorry about that. I didn't mean it the way it sounded, but you and I always knew that we weren't going to be forever. It was good while it lasted, but we didn't have what it takes to be together for the long haul."

"And you do with Justin?"

"Yeah…or at least I thought we did," Brian replied softly.

"Then you need to fix this. You need to go to him and make him tell you what's going through his head. Brian, I've never seen him like this before. He looked so lost. I may not be the best brother in the world, but I love him and I don't want to see him so heartbroken. If he won't answer the phone, then go over there. Bang on his door until he answers and don't leave until he listens. Let him know how much he means to you."

Brian knew Dillon was right. He also knew that he'd eventually do exactly what he was suggesting. He'd just been putting it off for fear of finding out that Justin had gotten over him and moved on. That he maybe met someone in Miami and decided Brian wasn't all he thought he was. Hearing Dillon say that Justin was miserable gave Brian hope that all was not lost. He reached out and grabbed his phone, dialing Cynthia's extension. "Cyn, I'm leaving and won't be able to be reached for the rest of the day. Reschedule anything I had for this afternoon and handle anything that comes up."

Dillon waited until Brian had hung up before speaking again. "Brian, for what it's worth, I think Justin's great. I never meant to hurt him. All I ever wanted was for him to be happy."

"Don't tell me that. Tell him," Brian replied.

"I will, but first things first. Go to him and do what you have to do to fix things between the two of you," Dillon said. "He has my number. Give me a call tomorrow and maybe we can get together this weekend. I think it's about time for a real heart to heart between brothers."

Brian grabbed his briefcase and walked towards the door before turning back and addressing Dillon. "Dillon…thanks."

"Anytime man. Now go fix my brother's broken heart." Dillon watched Brian as he hurried out of the office with determination in his step. Justin didn't know what he was in for. He walked over and closed the door to the office, taking advantage of the empty room to make an important phone call. He hit speed dial and waited for someone to answer.

"Hello Mom, we need to talk."

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