Author's Notes:

I don't own the characters within, or any references to previously published material.

This is just a quick character study. I quite like those and I may be up to doing more later. We are given only so many pieces of the puzzle. I hope the picture I've made them into is an understandable one.


He had always felt second best. Unwanted. Unloved. He would never measure up to their expectations. He would never even come close.

His brother had been their firstborn. As young parents they had doted on Alex. They had filled his nursery with everything they wanted, and everything he wanted. They had bought him the best nanny money could buy. They had shown him off to high society. Their little heir, he could do no wrong.

Daniel had been their accident – their surprise – his mother had been quick to emphasize, back in those early days before she began to drown in her alcohol addiction, when he'd looked up at her with hurt in his eyes after another one of his brother's taunting sessions. Their parents allowed these small torments. Even looked on with amusement and indulgence. They were only children, after all, and wasn't that how children learned and grew? Alex was just practicing his debate skills and Daniel would have to toughen up. This world was brutal, and they would both have to survive in it. Privilege always came with sacrifice, and they were especially privileged.

Yes, Daniel had memorized that book long ago.

His brother had been merciless for years. "I'm the favorite," he'd say, "they didn't want you, you just came. I'm the one that matters. They don't love you."

His parents had never really denied it.

As they grew, his brother's taunts diminished and finally ceased entirely. He didn't need them anymore. In the eyes of the public and their parents, Alex was perfection itself. He did everything first and he always did everything better. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold, and high society was his own personal playground. The brothers weren't competing anymore. There was no longer any need. Alex had clearly already won.

But being the people's darling wasn't much fun. It was a tangle of networking and lies and schmoozing the right people to gain respect and rank. If you were good at it, charisma came as easy as taking a breath. Alex had been a natural. It was what he was born for. He lived and breathed it. It was too easy.

It was boring.

Fun was the one thing Daniel seemed to excel at. While Alex charmed and schemed his way to the top, much to his father's approval, Daniel had sunbathed on beaches in some of the most beautiful locations on Earth. He'd flown to France on a whim, just to drink fine champagne. He was a regular at the most exclusive clubs all over the world. That was all while he still received a monthly allowance from his parents. Once he'd gained his trust fund, his extravagances had tripled and he'd seemed to lose control.

He knew he'd lost long ago, and he'd taken himself out of the game. Now he was just trying to cover the hole that had eaten its way through his confidence. He didn't need to try to be better. He wasn't competing anymore.

Apparently Alex hadn't gotten that memo. His boredom started to give way to his destructive fantasies. If his brother could have fun, he could have more fun. He could seek out new and dangerous activities, and he would really live. He'd feel the moment of terror and absolute surety that he would die, then the intense euphoria that came just after, when his brain caught on that he was still alive.

A euphoria that he perhaps had not had the chance to feel after taking that leap from the helicopter.

Daniel missed Alex. Though his brother could be cruel, he was still his brother. In those times when they were friends, they were very good friends. Despite the competition between them, and the abuse towards him, Daniel had always rather looked up to his older brother. He remembered sadly the times when he felt he'd disappointed Alex, and he remembered fondly the really happy times they'd had together.

He had been hoping that Alex's death would bring him closer to his father.

The man had always seemed to hate him. His father was always disappointed in him. Daniel's grades weren't as good as his brothers. He hadn't gone to as nice a college. He wasn't good with money. He didn't have any business acumen. He was a charmer with the ladies, but was more than a little awkward in other social situations.

In short, he didn't measure up. He was never going to be the best, and his father couldn't love anything that was second rate. The man didn't seem to have emotions out of the public eye, anyway. It was all about appearances and photo ops. That Meade Industries had acquired the worlds leading magazine on cutting edge fashion was not surprising in the least. The Meades didn't just know the target audience, they were the target audience. It had been a perfect fit.

In their grief, the family had drifted apart instead of growing closer, and Daniel's hopes had been dashed. They each immersed themselves in their obsessions; Daniel partied, his mother drank, and his father worked. That was that… until Fey died. Daniel's father responded to Fey's death in typical fashion. He used it as an opportunity to make his disappointment into something he didn't have to be ashamed of. He'd all but ordered his son into the position.

Daniel had no illusions that his father was doing this for him. This was for Bradford's image. An attempt to recreate what he'd had with his favored progeny. Daniel didn't particularly care to participate in this latest publicity stunt, but he was broke, and he suspected his father knew that. So he accepted the job and the new life that had come with it.

He didn't expect much to come of it. He'd given up fantasies of care and respect from his father long ago.

He'd gotten much more than he bargained for, and he hadn't realized it.

Until this morning.

The day he'd suffered the worst humiliation of his life, and found his heart genuinely broken by a woman for the first time.

He was completely numb as he walked out of the studio. Too numb to focus, he even ignored the sorrowful voice of his former assistant. He had heard her call to him just before the show began, but had ignored her then as well. Sofia had taken him in with a story about a minor falling out that had resulted in the younger woman's anger, and so he hadn't answered his phone and he didn't respond to her yells. She'd been right as usual, though, and he was regretting it. He could hear the genuine heartbreak in her voice as she apologized to him, but he was too consumed with his own pain to deal with hers.

So he walked on past, and out of the building, into the limo waiting patiently for him. He sat there silently, in a grief stricken stupor, until his driver had answered his cell phone and was instructed to bring him to his parents' estate.

His mother was drunk again when he arrived, and immediately gave him a glass of something amber and potent. It had tasted like tar and it was burning his icy insides, and after a sip his throat closed and refused to be opened again, so he simply held the glass in silence. His mother couldn't cope and within moments had taken the glass back, and nursing the bottle of expensive liquer, had retired to some room or another.

His father just stood there with him.

Daniel had moved closer to the fireplace, staring blankly at the wall. He couldn't seem to get warm again. His father was silent and still behind him for endless moments. Then, suddenly, he'd exploded into motion, pacing the length of the room back and forth. Angrily he threatened to fire her. Daniel had laughed mirthlessly and coldly explained the facts of the business world to the man who'd taught them all to him. He couldn't fire her, it wouldn't be good business.

Then his father had said something that made his head spin.

"But you're my son. She hurt you."

You're my son. She hurt you.

You're my son. She hurt you.

For long moments those words head echoed in his head.

You're my son. She hurt you.

Did that mean the old man cared? Could he care? About Daniel?

You're my son. She hurt you.

It was the first time Daniel could remember his father openly expressing concern for him. He'd hinted before, claiming he'd been trying to protect Daniel from the truth about his affairs with Fey and those other women, but Daniel hadn't known if he could trust him. He taken those words at face value, but he hadn't known what to feel.

Now his father was standing right beside him, hand on his shoulder, offering words of comfort with a concerned, paternal look on his face. Not looking through him to his brother, or around him at cameras, but looking right at Daniel. Empathizing with the son who stood before him.

Willing to go down and fire a person who was almost guaranteed to bring the biggest launch of any magazine in Meade Industries' history, and was bringing a whole new market of readership to the company, just because she'd hurt him.

You're my son. She hurt you.

Daniel didn't know what to do with those words. He was overwhelmed and numb.

"It's just business, dad," he said, because he couldn't think of anything else to say. But he thought his father might have understood.

He wouldn't deal with it just yet. He needed time to lick his wounds before he was willing to take chances with anything again.

Yet maybe something good could come out of all this. Maybe his father really had cared in his own way all this time. Maybe this would result in a bridge between him and his father, the building of a relationship he'd never really had before.

He had always felt second best. Unwanted. Unloved.

Maybe that could change.