Daphne knew that she was driving too fast on the winding country road, but she did not care. She angrily wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater before reaching into her purse sitting on the passenger seat beside her and finding the right number on her smartphone.
She sighed in relief when her best friend picked up after the third ring.
"Hey," Justin greeted in a cheery tone.
Daphne opened her mouth to speak, but all that came out was a choked sob.
"Daph, what's wrong?" Justin asked. "Are you okay?"
"No," she managed to answer before sniffling loudly.
"What happened?" Justin demanded. "Is it-"
Before Justin could finish his question, Daphne dropped the phone to grab onto the steering wheel, quickly turning it to the left to take the sharp bend in the road - a bend that Daphne had taken many times before but had managed to take her by surprise in her distracted emotional state.
Justin tightened the grip on his phone as he listened helplessly to the horrific sound of crunching metal and Daphne screaming in the background.
"Daphne!" he yelled into the phone, his heart rate picking up with fear.
One year earlier...
Daphne helped herself to a third glass of champagne punch - a recipe that she knew belonged to Debbie. However, unlike Debbie's famous brunch cocktail, which was made with orange juice concentrate, club soda, brandy, triple sec, and sparkling wine purchased at the Big Q for $9.99 a bottle, Daphne knew that this particular pitcher of punch was made with a bottle of bubbly that had come from Brian's wine cellar and had undoubtedly cost more than a hundred dollars.
She needed some liquid courage for the favor she was about to ask. She was really hoping that Justin would agree to her request.
Daphne took her seat in Britin's breakfast nook, which was built into an alcove off of the massive kitchen and awarded a view of the large garden. Although the ground was then covered in a layer of snow, she was looking forward to seeing the garden in full bloom in a few months, where Justin spent most of his free time lovingly attending to his flowers, vegetables, and herbs when he wasn't painting in his studio in the attic.
Taking the hand of the man sitting beside her, her husband of nearly five years, Daphne took a deep breath before looking across the table into the eyes of their two hosts.
"So," she began. "I wish I could say that Curtis and I were here only for a social visit today-"
"We suspected as much," Brian mumbled.
"Not that we don't love having you over," Justin chimed in, bumping Brian's knee with his under the table, "but we figured that you'd have some news."
"Yes, we do," Curtis said, sadness evident in his voice.
Daphne had met Curtis Anderson when they had both been students at the University of Pittsburgh. Much like Justin, Curtis had blond hair, blue eyes, and a vibrant personality. Daphne was attracted to him from the first time she saw him during her biology class in their freshman year. It wasn't until they were juniors that they began to date, after being brought together through mutual friends. Curtis had proposed to Daphne soon after each had earned their medical degrees in 2009, and they married at Britin the following year.
By that point, Justin had returned to Pittsburgh from the Big Apple after a rather disappointing attempt at making it as a successful artist. Along with suffering from terrible homesickness, it turned out that Justin needed much more than one positive review in a magazine to be a successful painter in New York. Although he had hoped his partner would find success during his three years away, Brian welcomed Justin back with open arms. After returning, Justin had enrolled in the Carnegie Mellon School of Art, earned his degree in Media Design, and joined Brian at Kinnetik. The two spent their weekends and holidays at Britin, the home Brian had bought for Justin in the country, and they happily allowed Daphne and Curtis to have their wedding at their grand estate.
Once they had established their careers, Daphne as a dermatologist and Curtis as an orthopedic surgeon, they had begun to make plans to start a family. After trying for a year with no success, the couple had consulted with reproductive specialists to see what the problem was. Justin and Brian were well aware of Daphne's failure to become pregnant, since she shared everything with Justin and Justin shared everything with Brian.
"Well?" Justin asked after several seconds of silence. "What did the doctors say?"
Daphne, afraid that she would cry if she revealed the results of their tests, looked to her husband.
Curtis looked down at his plate before saying, "Well, Daphne is just fine... they see no reason why she shouldn't be able to get pregnant."
"So then, what's the problem?" Justin asked impatiently. "You guys have been fucking like rabbits for the past year-"
Brian couldn't help but gag as he chewed his Eggs Benedict. "Please, I'm trying to eat."
Curtis gave Brian a tiny smile. "My doctor called on Friday to tell me that my sperm have low motility."
"He said that we could continue to try to conceive naturally, but it may never happen," Daphne continued.
Justin frowned. He knew that Daphne had always dreamed of becoming a mother and never imagined that she and the man she chose to spend her life with would have trouble making it happen.
"But... there are other options, right?" he asked. "They can physically join your sperm and egg in a petri dish, can't they?"
"In vitro fertilization," Daphne said, nodding. "That could work if it didn't cost $15,000 per round and if it was covered by our health insurance."
"Christ," Brian said as he brought his champagne glass to his lips. "Those little fuckers are expensive..."
Justin gave his partner a side-eye glare. Despite the fact that Brian was the biological father of fourteen year-old Gus and godfather of ten year-old Jenny Rebecca, he still wasn't a fan of procreation even if they weren't his own children.
"Plus it doesn't always work the first time and they normally transfer multiple embryos into the woman's uterus, which increases the odds of having multiples," Curtis informed them.
"Yeah, you hear about couples that end up with like, six or more babies after doing that," Justin said.
"And I couldn't imagine having more than one at a time," Daphne said with a chuckle. "One baby is time-consuming enough and I wouldn't want to carry a whole litter of pups at once."
"Right," Curtis said before nudging his wife with his elbow. "So..."
Daphne tossed back the rest of her punch before saying to Justin, "We want to know if you'll give us your sperm."
Justin dropped his fork on his plate. "Say what?"
The three others at the table couldn't help but laugh at Justin's un-WASPish reaction.
"Don't worry, I'm not asking you to fuck me or anything," Daphne assured both men across the table. "We would use artificial insemination."
Justin looked around the table, seemingly confused.
"You know the mechanics of it, Sunshine," Brian said to the befuddled blond. "You do the jerkin' and someone else will do the squirtin'."
Daphne snorted out a laugh at Brian's graphic explanation.
"Thank you, Dr. Kinney," Justin said dryly before turning back to the actual doctors at the table. "You're asking me to be the father of your baby?"
"You wouldn't really be the father," Curtis clarified. "Not legally anyway; only biologically. Daphne and I will raise the baby together, just as we would if we had conceived it on our own. You won't have any legal responsibility whatsoever. We were thinking that we could have a lawyer come up with a Donor Agreement for you to sign, if you were to agree to donate your sperm to us."
"You mean that you'd want me to give up my parental rights?" Justin asked as he tried to hold back his disappointment, recalling the trouble that Brian and Michael had separately gone through with Lindsay and Melanie.
"Well, yeah," Curtis said, his tone slightly condescending. "That's the only way I could legally adopt the baby."
"You could visit him or her any time you wanted, of course," Daphne quickly added. "You and Brian could be the baby's godfathers."
"Would you plan on telling the kid the truth about who its real father is when it's older?" Brian asked.
Daphne and Curtis looked at each other questionably, making it obvious to Brian that they hadn't discussed that possibility before.
"Um..." Daphne said.
"Because although I'm Gus's biological father, he has known for many years that Lindsay and I didn't make him the old-fashioned way. Without going too far into the technical details, kids at least deserve to know where they come from, in my opinion."
Daphne nodded. "That's true... although it wouldn't change anything, I'd want to know if my father wasn't my real father."
Curtis nodded in agreement. "Me, too."
"Maybe a detail like that should be added to the agreement," Brian offered. "That you'd tell the kid the truth, once it reaches a certain age."
"Too bad Melanie is still in Canada, since she has experience with this sort of thing," Daphne said to Brian.
Brian refrained from commenting and instead drained the rest of his punch. No matter how much time had gone by, his relationship with Melanie was civil at best and hostile at worst.
"You don't have to decide anything right away," Daphne said. "This is a big decision to make... Brian, how long did you think it over after Lindsay asked you to father her child?"
Brian chuckled. "She pestered me about it for months before getting me to agree, talking about how cute our kid would be and repeatedly saying that it was either me or nobody."
"Well, we'll use an anonymous donor if Justin doesn't agree," Curtis said to Brian. "We just wanted to ask him first."
"And this is something that the two of you should discuss together in private," Daphne added.
"I want to do it," Justin blurted out, tired of feeling like he was no longer part of the discussion.
"Really?" Daphne, Curtis, and Brian said simultaneously.
"Of course," he said, taking Daphne's hands in his across the table. "You've wanted to be a mother for as long as I've known you... hell, you named your kids when you were like, eight."
"You did?" Curtis asked his wife.
"Well, the names have changed a few times over the years, but..."
"Last I heard, Keegan if it's a boy and Fiona if it's a girl, right?" Justin asked Daphne.
Daphne squeezed Justin's hands and smiled. "Yep."
"How Irish of you," Brian cracked.
"Are you sure about this?" Daphne asked Justin.
Justin looked at Brian, silently asking if he was okay with it.
"It's your call," Brian said to his partner. "Shit, this may be your only opportunity to dispense your genetic material."
Justin got up from his chair and walked around the table to Daphne. She stood up and wrapped her best friend in a hug.
"Let's make a baby!" Justin said, prompting Daphne to laugh happily.
Justin soon met with a lawyer to discuss his plans to draft a Donor Agreement with Daphne and Curtis. The lawyer, a very intimidating older lady who had Don't Fuck With Me written all over her deeply lined face told Justin not to sign anything until after the baby was born, specifically a Donor Agreement.
"Why should I wait to sign?" Justin asked.
"Trust me honey, I've worked in family law longer than you've been alive," the lawyer said in a gravely voice. "I've had more than one client over the years who signed a contract with someone that he personally knew prior to the birth of the child and later regretted it for one reason or another. The court handles these types of issues on a case-by-case basis. They don't always enforce the contract when it was made before the child was born because paternity had not yet been established. Essentially, the father has no rights prior to the birth, even if the baby is made the old fashioned way. He can't agree to give away what isn't legally his.
"Give me a call after the baby is born, and then you can file the Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights form if you still want to go through with it. The court will probably grant it, given that you're not the intended father, and then the mother's husband can petition the court to adopt the baby. If you ever change your mind in the future, it will be bitch to get the court to give you any rights to the child back, so you better be sure before you sign the termination form."
Not wanting to piss off the wise old lady with questioning her years of experience, Justin accepted her $500 per hour advice.
Justin later let Daphne know what his lawyer had said, and she was satisfied with that explanation, with Justin promising her that he would not change his mind. Curtis, on the other hand, wasn't thrilled with this informal arrangement but his wife, citing her years of friendship with Justin, ensured him that a Donor Agreement was really not necessary.
It took four tries, but the testing stick finally turned blue. For the first three attempts, Daphne was artificially inseminated in a doctor's office. Deciding that she was tired of paying for the very impersonal procedure with no success, she had Curtis inseminate her with Justin's semen in the comfort of their own home. Justin even went out of his way, with Brian's very valuable and happy assistance, to provide six separate loads over three days to increase their odds. One of those finally did the trick.
Aside from some initial morning sickness, Daphne's pregnancy progressed beautifully without any problems. With Curtis and Justin by her side, Daphne was thrilled to find out at her twenty week ultrasound that she was expecting a baby boy.
Brian and Justin shared a bottle of Dom that evening at the loft, with Brian toasting Justin's accomplishment of producing a son.
"You know, I really had nothing to do with it being a boy," Justin pointed out. "That's just how the genetic dice rolled... it could have gone either way."
Brian refilled his glass, never one to pass up the opportunity to celebrate with alcohol. "Shut up and enjoy this moment, Sunshine."
"Or rather, the way the genetic coin flipped, because there are only two options," Justin corrected, causing Brian to roll his eyes.
Brian was relaxing in his office several weeks later after another successful client meeting when his cell phone rang.
"Kinney," he answered, hoping that whomever it was would be quick, as he needed a few minutes to just sit and decompress. He hadn't even checked to see who was calling.
"Brian, it's Curtis. Do you have some time?" Daphne's husband asked, needing a friendly ear. "I really could use someone to talk to right now."
"Sure, Curtis. Do you want to come to my office or would you like to meet for lunch somewhere?"
"Could you meet me at the diner across from the hospital, Brian? I have a couple of patients in recovery and would like to stay close for the next couple of hours."
"Sure. I could meet you there in about thirty minutes. Is that good for you?"
"Perfect, see you then."
Brian genuinely liked Curtis and was happy that Daphne had found a good man to spend her life with. He thought that it was nice she fell in love with someone that looked like he could be Justin's brother, remembering how after Justin had helped rid Daphne of her virginity, she had gotten slightly clingy and strained their friendship almost to the point of breaking it. Knowing and loving his partner as much as he did, Brian could understand how that had happened. If Justin could have that effect on the Stud of Liberty Avenue, how could a young girl escape the charms of the sunshiny blond?
Brian drove to the diner, getting a parking spot right in front. It was early for the lunch crowd so he was able to get a table right away. Curtis soon walked in and sat down across from Brian. He looked a little tired and stressed, but Brian figured that it was because of the surgeries he had done that morning.
"Hey Brian, how are things with you?" Curtis asked, not really knowing how to bring up the way he was feeling about the rapidly approaching birth of the baby and how Brian would take what he had to say.
"Things are great. I just signed a new client and Justin has a show coming up in two months. He wanted to make sure he waited until after Daphne has the baby. You know she has never missed one of his shows, and she told him that she definitely wanted to be there for this one, since one of the paintings he did was her pregnant profile in the moonlight. She'd be pissed if she had to miss seeing it displayed."
Curtis nodded, remembering how Justin had told the gallery that he could not do the show until at least a month after his friend had her baby.
"So Curtis, what did you want to talk to me about?" Brian inquired, noticing that Curtis seemed to be fidgeting with his napkin and refraining from looking at him.
"Well, the truth is, I'm not sure about all of this... becoming a father, the responsibility, you know."
"Not sure? Now you're not sure?" Brian responded, stunned. "Two years ago when you and Daphne first started trying, that would have been the time to question whether or not you were sure. Hell, a year ago when the two of you asked Justin to help would have been the time to question it. Now, almost eight months into Daphne's pregnancy, is definitely not the time you should be questioning whether or not you are ready for this."
Brian almost couldn't believe that he was lecturing Curtis about his impending fatherhood, but he continued. "This is not some abstract, maybe, maybe not thing - this is a human being. You need to man up, get your head out of your ass, and accept the reality of the situation. Have you said any of this to Daphne?"
"No, I didn't want to upset her. She's emotional enough these days as it is," Curtis answered, surprised at how vehement Brian seemed to be about him taking responsibility for his son. He knew that Brian wasn't exactly a contender for "Father of the Year" himself, since he was lucky to see Gus more than twice a year.
"I'm just... I'm not sure if I'm ready for this. Work is stressful enough, and now I'll have a newborn to deal with."
Brian shook his head. "Now you have put me in the position of not being able to say anything to Justin, because I don't want to upset him, either. I don't like having to keep secrets from my partner. You listen to me Curtis, this child is real and it is coming, so you better talk to a shrink or whatever you have to do, because you will not take your doubts, fears, or anything else out on your son. You better be sure that he knows nothing but love, because that is where he came from and that better be the way he is treated."
With those parting words, Brian left the diner and headed back to his office.