The dreaded day finally came and Justin was running around at the last minute, making sure he had everything packed for his weekend in Chicago. He had a cab picking him up to take him to the airport and as the time drew near, he could feel the usual butterflies dancing around in his stomach. He had spent the week mentally preparing himself for the psychological bashing he was sure to receive over the next few days. Once he was finished, he sat by the window and waited until he saw the taxi pull up out front before grabbing his bag and making his way downstairs.
Like a man facing a firing squad, he climbed into the car and told the driver where he was going before sitting back and letting his thoughts run. At first, he started thinking about his family, but mid-way through his trip, his thoughts turned to Brian. It was something that was happening more and more in the recent weeks since the few times Justin had caught glimpses of the older man. Going to visit Dillon was bringing Brian into his mind even more. Brian was the one person who made the family gatherings bearable and now he didn't even have that. He was going in solo and had to bide his time until he could return to Pittsburgh and his nice, comfortable life.
* * *
Brian watched the scenery go by as he sat in the back of his cab, waiting to get to the airport. He knew by the amount of snow falling that his flight would most likely be delayed, but he still had hopes of being in the air within the next few hours. A long weekend in Florida was just what he needed to wash away his winter blues. He hated the cold. Trudging through the snowfilled streets in his Prada boots and Armani suits wreaked havoc on his wardrobe. Not to mention his severe distaste for the holidays. Holidays in the Kinney household meant more alcohol consumed and more chances of beatings, so Brian learned early on to despise anything related to holiday cheer. Thinking back, the only holidays that were ever good for him were the ones he shared with the Taylor family. They always welcomed him with open arms and it was the one time when he was assured that Justin would be there because his parents wouldn't have it any other way. He immediately tried to push that thought away, wondering again why Justin was constantly creeping into his thoughts. After more than two years without seeing him, two brief near run-ins had the blond on his mind more than he was comfortable with.
Looking up, Brian saw the airport come into view and pushed away all thoughts that weren't related to his impending trip. That was what was important and all he had to focus on. After paying the cab driver, Brian went inside and checked in, leaving his luggage with personnel before making a quick trip to the bathroom. Once he was finished there, he found his way to the Liberty Air counter and was happy to learn that there was only a 45 minute delay in all outgoing flights while the maintenance crew cleared the runways. He turned around, ready to find himself a small corner to hide in when he spotted a familiar blond head off to the right. His first thought was to continue on and act as if he didn't see the man sitting alone waiting for his own flight, but he decided he might as well say hello. The way he kept running into the blond would have had him thinking there was a greater power working against him; if he believed in those kinds of things.
* * *
Justin was sitting in the airport waiting for his delayed flight when he heard a familiar voice from behind. He turned quickly, surprised by the sight of Brian standing over him.
"Hey Brian, how've you been?" Justin said as he stood up and greeted Brian with a kiss on the cheek, trying to hide the nervousness that swept through him.
"I'm good. How've you been? Are you still working for that magazine?" Brian asked as he stood back, thrown by the kiss he just received. He and Justin had always greeted each other like that in the past, but it was different when he was dating the blond's brother. Now it seemed more intimate and unnerving.
Justin chuckled. "No, I'm actually working at a graphic design place now. I've had a few jobs since that crappy 'zine went belly up. I started at this place a couple of months ago and I'm really enjoying it. What about you? Still taking the advertising world by storm?" Justin asked, gesturing to Brian before taking his seat again.
"Yeah, you know me. Always out to prove that I'm better than everyone else," Brian said with a smile. "Where are you headed?"
Justin laughed. "Chicago. I've fallen behind in my self-esteem beatings so I thought I'd spend the holidays with Dillon, Mom, and Dad."
"Are they still giving you a hard time? I would've thought they'd be over that by now," Brian chuckled.
"You'd think, but no. It's still the same old thing. Thank God cloning is still against the law. Otherwise they would've created a second Dillon and forgotten all about me," Justin teased. "So where are you headed?"
"I'm going to be tanning my ass in Florida for the next four days and loving every minute of it. I'm sick of the fucking cold already and it's only November."
"You were never a fan of Pittsburgh winters, huh? I wish I could accidentally get on the wrong plane and go with you," Justin replied, only half joking.
Brian laughed, wishing for the exact same thing and chastising himself for his thoughts.
They spent the next half hour talking about everything under the sun and enjoying each other's company until the announcement came over the loud speaker, calling for flight 586 to Chicago.
"Well, that's me. I guess I better go. It was good seeing you again, Brian. Take care of yourself and enjoy the sun," Justin said as he grabbed his carry-on and prepared to board his plane.
"You too. Say hello to your family for me," Brian said and then watched Justin walk away, saddened by his departure and confused by his sadness.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Justin pulled his bags out of the back of the taxi and paid the driver. He entered the lobby of his brother's apartment building. It was opulent to say the least - full of marble and mirror and thick carpeting. He gave his name to the man at the desk who checked his list and directed Justin to take the elevator to the seventeenth floor. Dillon's apartment was "A".
As he rode up in the elevator, Justin couldn't help but chuckle at the irony. Dillon was in apartment "A". Everything about Dillon was "A" class. Justin, on the other hand was probably a "D", if not an "F". Hell, if he had an apartment in this building he would probably be relegated to "Z".
The elevator door opened and he exited at his brother's floor. Apartment "A" was just across the hall. He pressed the buzzer and waited. His blood was pumping very fast and he knew he was flushed. He was so not looking forward to this.
"Justin," Dillon said with a smile as he opened the door. "Come in."
Justin almost started to reach for Dillon to give him a hug, but he held back waiting to see if his brother would initiate the gesture. After a moment of awkwardness Dillon grabbed Justin and gave him a quick hug.
"Hey," Justin said escaping from the stiff hug.
"How are you, little brother? I'm so glad you decided to come."
"I'm fine," Justin said. "Are Mom and Dad here?"
"Yeah, they're in the kitchen putting some last minute things together for our Thanksgiving feast."
"I see," Justin replied realizing that making the food had to be far more important than coming to greet their son that they hadn't seen for months.
"Justin," said his mother emerging from the kitchen. "You're here at last." Why did it always sound like he had done something wrong, by making them wait, by not being punctual enough, by not having made more Herculean efforts to get there sooner?
"All the flights out of Pittsburgh were delayed," Justin said by way of explanation. "We had a snowstorm overnight."
"That's what you get for living in a godforsaken second-rate town like Pittsburgh," Craig said following Jennifer out of the kitchen.
'Second-rate,' Justin thought. 'Just like me.' "There's not much I can do about the weather," Justin said.
"Except choose a better place to live," Craig continued with a smile.
Justin saw the cheery smile, as cheery as Craig's smiles ever got, but he felt the sting of the words. His choices never measured up. He always ended up in a second-rate town, a second-rate apartment, a second-rate family. His parents had abandoned Pittsburgh for New York not long after Dillon had moved to Chicago. Justin had been in New York for a while but he hadn't measured up there either. Justin gave himself a shake. "This place looks great, Dillon," he said with a smile.
The place was everything an up and coming lawyer could possibly want in an apartment. It was huge. The living room/dining room area was bigger than his whole apartment. He had yet to see the rest of it.
"Care for the fifty cent tour?" Dillon asked.
"If I can afford it," Justin muttered.
"Oh honey," Jennifer reacted having heard his mumbled words. "You haven't lost this job too, have you?"
"No mother, I was making a joke."
"Oh," she replied not seeing anything funny in Justin's words at all.
"Grab your bag and I'll show you where you'll be bunking."
Justin picked up his bags and followed Dillon down the hall. He couldn't imagine that there would be a bunk anywhere in this fucking building. He wondered where Dillon would stick him.
"This room is mine," Dillon said as they passed a doorway. Justin glanced in and saw a magnificent four poster bed surrounded by rich tapestries.
"Looks opulent," Justin said in passing.
"Mom and Dad are in the guest room," Dillon said waving at another doorway they passed. "It has a queen size bed so I thought they would be most comfortable in there."
"Of course," Justin replied trying not to sound bitter.
"I put you in the den. The couch pulls out."
"Of course it does," Justin said as he stepped into the tiniest room in the apartment. "This should suit me just fine." He wondered if Dillon would recognize the sarcasm in his voice. He dumped his bag on the couch.
"The guest bathroom's down the hall. You'll have to share with Mom and Dad."
Justin was about to make some snide comment but he bit it back. He'd hardly been there fifteen minutes and he felt like shit already. However, what good would it do to antagonize everybody? He had to stay until his flight left on Sunday. Unlike some members of his family he could hardly afford the fees to change it to an earlier flight.
"If you want to freshen up, go ahead," Dillon said. "Dinner should be ready in about an hour."
"Fine," Justin replied. Dillon gave him a funny look and went back down the hall.
Justin flopped on the couch next to his bags. He didn't need to 'freshen up'. That only happened in polite society. He wasn't a member of that lofty group, so he'd just sit here for a bit and avoid facing his family. He fucking hated it here. Nobody had seen his new apartment, even though he was pretty darned pleased with it. But it sure as fuck couldn't measure up to this huge place. Another thing about him that just didn't measure up.
A little smile lifted the corners of Justin's mouth. He was thinking about his encounter with Brian at the airport. He wondered if he should mention it to Dillon. He could say how friendly Brian was and how great he still looked. Maybe he could stir the pot a little.
However, nothing had really happened and they would ask him questions that he couldn't answer. Maybe it would be better if he didn't say anything about their encounter. Besides that would mean he knew something that Dillon didn't. That would be nice, even if nobody else knew that he knew.
"Jesus Christ, Taylor, get a grip," Justin said to himself. "You're acting like a fucking two year old who hasn't got his way."
With a sigh Justin pushed himself up off the couch and headed out to the living room. It was time to face the music regardless of how unpleasant the tune might prove to be.
"Help me finish setting the table," Jennifer said as Justin appeared.
"Sure, Mom," Justin said as he picked up the silverware and started laying it out.
"I'm so glad you could join us for Thanksgiving," Jennifer smiled.
"I mean it. It's been a couple of years since you've really taken part in any family activities."
"I didn't have the money to come to New York to visit you or Chicago to visit Dillon."
"You know we would have helped you."
"I know, but I like to look after myself."
"Even when it means that you're cutting yourself off from your family."
"Sometimes it was necessary." Justin watched his mother's eyebrows rise. "Why is there an extra place setting?" Justin asked as he finished laying out four place settings.
"Didn't Dillon tell you?" Jennifer asked with a big smile. "Your brother has been dating this doctor for a couple of months. Chad will be joining us."
"That's his name, and he's just so handsome and successful!"
"Would Dillon settle for anything less?" Justin griped. Now he would have to sit through a dinner watching his handsome successful brother with his handsome successful lover while his parents gushed all over the two handsome successful men. If only he could be invisible. In fact he would be, to those in attendance, but he wished he could actually disappear and not have to play nice during this fucking display. "Where do you want me to put him?" Justin asked gesturing with the cutlery. He knew where he'd fucking like to put Chad.
"Put your father at one end and me at the other. Chad and Dillon can be on one side and you on the other."
"Perfect," Justin said sarcastically knowing that meant he would have to watch every minute of the handsome successful men fawning over each other. He could hardly wait.
"I wish you had someone to bring to Thanksgiving dinner," Jennifer said wistfully.
"Not bloody likely," Justin mumbled.
"Are you seeing anyone?"
"No, Mom, I'm as pathetic at dating as I am at everything else I do."
"You're not pathetic! Don't talk like that. That's probably why you don't have anyone with a negative attitude like that it's no wonder."
"I know Mom! If only I'd shape up!" Justin yelled and stormed down the hall to the den. He slammed the door behind him.
"Craig! Craig! You have got to talk to your son. He's being totally unreasonable."
"What did you say to him?" Craig asked coming out of the kitchen holding a bottle of beer that he had just opened.
"I didn't say anything. I just want him to be happy, to find someone like his brother has."
Craig sighed. "Relationship crap! I should have known. Having two gay sons is bad enough, but I don't know why I have to get into counseling them about their love lives. What do I know about fags in love?"
"Want me to talk to him?" Dillon asked following his father out of the kitchen carrying his own beer.
"Would you?" Craig asked.
"Dad," Dillon frowned. "You're okay with us being gay, aren't you?"
"Not in my wildest nightmares did I ever think I would have two gay sons, but you're both fine boys and I can handle it. I just can't start an 'Advice to the Lovelorn' clinic for homosexuals. I have no frame of reference." Craig laughed and shook his head.
"Okay," Dillon said squeezing his father's shoulder. "I'll give Justin the wisdom of my years of experience in matters of the heart."
"Thanks, son," Craig said gratefully.
Dillon went down the hall wondering what he could say to his brother to make things better. He tapped on the closed door and then pushed it open when Justin didn't respond.
"Justin," he said. "I've been sent to rectify whatever faux pas Mom made."
"Yeah right! Like you can rectify anything." Justin sat on the couch clutching a cushion to his chest and looking forlorn.
"What did she say to you?"
"It's not her fault exactly. I just Oh fuck it!"
"What's with you, Justin? I know you really didn't want to come here this weekend. What's going on?"
"You really don't get it, do you?"
"If I did, I wouldn't be asking you," Dillon said with a frown.
"Maybe you'll figure it out one of these days," Justin said petulantly.
"What's so horrible about being here with your family?"
"I don't want to talk about this anymore."
"How can we fix it if you won't tell us what's wrong?"
"What the fuck makes you think you can fix anything in my life? It's my life and I'll live it the way I want without any help from any of you." Justin glared at his brother.
"Justin, I'm sorry if you think we're interfering in your life. We're just trying to help."
"Well, butt out! I'd like that a lot better than your idiotic suggestions about what I should do."
"You've got it. I won't say anything more about your life for the rest of the weekend."
"I'll still hear it one way or another."
"What do you mean?"
"Never mind! Go get ready for your dinner."
"Are you going to join us?" Dillon asked as he stood up.
"Of course, I wouldn't miss it for the world," Justin said sarcastically.
"Good, I wanted you to meet Chad."
"Speaking of Chad, why didn't you tell me about him?" Justin asked.
"Um we've just started to get serious," Dillon hedged.
"You must have known he'd be here when you called me to come."
"Yeah, I guess. I didn't want to explain about Chad over the phone. I wanted you to meet him without any preconceived ideas."
"I don't know. I know how much you liked Brian." Justin winced at the mention of the man he had met in the airport only a few hours ago. "I want you to like Chad."
"What's wrong with him?" Justin asked.
"Wrong? There's nothing wrong with him. He's just about perfect."
"I should have known," Justin muttered. "That's what you used to think about Brian, but you got rid of him."
"I didn't get rid of Brian," Dillon said frowning.
"What would you call it?"
"We had different goals."
"And you and Chad have the same ones?"
"I can hardly wait to meet Brian's replacement."
"Don't call him that."
"Well, he is, isn't he?"
"No, Chad's the man I want. Brian is history." Dillon walked out of the room on that stinging note.
Justin sat on the couch staring at the door. How could Dillon talk like that about Brian? Justin pictured Brian in the airport looking so elegant and so beautiful. Justin wished Brian was here right now to sit beside him at dinner and put Chad to shame. Dillon would shit himself. Justin chuckled out loud. He wasn't sure where that idea had come from, but he liked it. Maybe if he pretended that Brian was sitting beside him at the dinner table, he could get through this fucking dinner.
The sound of the doorbell brought Justin out of his reverie. It had to be Chad. He should go out there and meet the latest paragon that he would never be able to live up to. Justin grasped the doorknob and opened the door. Taking a deep breath and plastering on the best smile that he could muster he headed down the hall.
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