The initial hearing for Curtis's lawsuit occurred a week later. Brian didn't think his appearance in court that day was particularly necessary, since he wasn't named as a party to the suit, but he didn't want to rock the boat by refusing to go. Things at home had been rather tense since he had basically refused to marry Justin or discuss adopting Keegan. Justin had told him that he understood and put on an indifferent act, but Brian knew that he was in deep shit, despite Justin eventually having sex with him after turning him down that one time.
Even though it was only an initial hearing and not an actual trial, several members of the extended family had showed up to offer their support to Justin. Jennifer, Molly, Debbie, Carl, Emmett, and Ted were there. Blake had offered to watch Keegan and JR that morning so Debbie could attend.
Also in the courtroom were Daphne's parents and sister Delia, who were solidly behind Justin's decision to raise Keegan after they had found out about Curtis's infidelity. Delia, who was just as tenacious as her baby sister, had gone to Curtis's house after Daphne's funeral to demand to know why he hadn't shown on that important day. Curtis, in his guilt, had confessed to cheating and recalled the last conversation he had with his wife. Delia later heard from Justin about Daphne's dying wish.
While Justin had all of those people sitting behind him, he immediately noticed that there wasn't a single person sitting on Curtis's side of the courtroom. He had assumed that Curtis's parents would be there in support of their son, since the Andersons had always appeared to be a close knit family, but even they weren't there.
Once the judge called the hearing to order, he asked Curtis's lawyer, a hotshot named Charles Turner, to give his opening remarks.
"Your honor, the foundation of my client's petition for sole legal and physical custody of the minor child currently known as Keegan Mercury Taylor is built on three things. First of all, the respondent, Justin Cole Taylor, made an oral agreement with my client roughly thirteen months ago that he would donate his sperm to my client's wife, Dr. Daphne Anderson. The fourth donation resulted in the conception of the minor child at the center of our case. The agreement explicitly included that Mr. Taylor would relinquish his parental rights to any children that resulted from that donation so my client could legally adopt the child and raise him or her as his own. The child was born on January 16th of this year at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center five weeks premature. My client's wife unfortunately succumbed to injuries she sustained in a car accident that had occurred just prior to the birth of her child by emergency c-section, passing away during the surgery.
"As nothing but a simple sperm donor, Mr. Taylor should have automatically given up his parental rights to the child after the birth. Instead, Mr. Taylor, without the consent of my client, had a paternity test performed while the child was in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital that established he was the biological father. Mr. Taylor then, again without the consent of my client, filed a birth certificate naming himself as the child's father and giving the child his last name. I believe that you would agree, your honor, that this is a clear breach of the oral contract. When the child was released from the hospital on January 29th, Mr. Taylor, along with his partner, Brian Aiden Kinney, took the child from the hospital and has been raising the child as his own son ever since in a home outside of Pittsburgh. My client tried to stop them from leaving the hospital but was told by hospital staff that Mr. Taylor was, by their standard, the child's father and was the only person allowed to take the child.
"Secondly your honor, once this case is set for trial and I have the opportunity to call character witnesses, you will see that Mr. Taylor and his partner Mr. Kinney, with whom Mr. Taylor has lived with as if they were spouses for nearly eight years, are in no way fit to raise a child. Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kinney are very well known within the gay community of Pittsburgh, mostly due to the fact that Mr. Kinney is the owner of a gay nightclub called Babylon. The club encourages its patrons to engage in promiscuous sex and drug usage. Both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kinney are known drug users."
Justin and Brian both had to bite their tongues. Melanie had warned them that Turner would attack them personally, but it still angered them. Neither ever did drugs or drank to excess anymore. They had each quit smoking a few years before, after one of Brian's routine physicals showed that he was at risk for developing emphysema due to his pack-a-day habit. Neither had touched another man since Brian had brought Justin home from Manhattan.
They each also wondered who these so-called character witnesses could be, since they knew that no one close to them that actually knew them would ever speak out against them.
Turner continued, "Additionally, Mr. Kinney is the father of a fifteen year-old boy whom Mr. Kinney relinquished his parental rights to roughly six months after his son's birth. During those six months however, Mr. Kinney was a very poor parent and has been absent throughout most of his son's life.
"Our third point, your honor, is that Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kinney, as you probably assume by now, are openly gay men in a romantic relationship. There have been several years worth of studies performed that show children do best when raised in a home with a mother and a father, and that it could be detrimental to a child to be raised by a gay parent. In addition, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kinney are currently not married and have no plans to get married anytime in the future, which would not provide the child with a stable home with two committed parents that children thrive in best. It is also unclear whether Mr. Kinney intends to adopt the child if Mr. Taylor is awarded custody. My client hopes to one day remarry and provide his son with a step-mother to help raise him, and my client would like to give his son some siblings in the future."
Justin wondered to himself if Curtis already had a step-mother for Keegan in mind, perhaps the intern he had been fucking before Daphne's death.
"In closing, your honor, my client requests that you order Mr. Taylor to relinquish the child to him before five PM today pending the conclusion of this case. We pray that at the conclusion of this case, you will give sole legal and physical custody of the child to my client and allow him to change the child's name to Curtis Logan Anderson Junior."
Justin knew that this request would be part of the hearing, but it still took his breath away. Melanie grabbed his hand under the table and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
Brian snickered and coughed at hearing the name change request, because of course the egotistical asshole would want to name the boy after himself.
Turner thanked the judge for his time before Melanie was given the opportunity to make her opposing argument. She had a speech of her own already prepared, but modified it slightly to refute each of Turner's three points.
"Your honor, much like the petitioner's case, our case is also threefold," Melanie began. "First, the oral contract that my client, Justin Cole Taylor, made with Dr. Curtis Anderson was made with the understanding that the child, whom I will refer to here on out by his legal first name ‘Keegan,' was to be raised by both Curtis and Daphne Anderson. The terms of the contact changed when Daphne died shortly after Keegan's birth, rendering it void. I argue that an oral or written contract such as a Sperm Donor Agreement, which promises before the child is even born that the father will voluntarily terminate his parental rights after the birth of the child, is against public policy and unenforceable due to paternity not yet having been established because, again, the child hasn't been born yet. Also, the insemination that resulted in Keegan was not performed by a doctor licensed to perform artificial inseminations, so my client therefore was not a ‘true sperm donor' under the law, and did not automatically give up any rights to a child born from that donation. Additionally, I plan to call two witnesses at the trial who will testify to hearing Daphne tell Justin before she died that she wanted him and his life partner Brian Kinney to raise Keegan.
"Our second point, much like the petitioner's second point, questions whether or not Dr. Anderson is equipped to properly raise Keegan. As Mr. Turner said, Dr. Anderson is now a widower which means if he is granted sole custody of Keegan, he will be raising him as a single parent. After subpoenaing and viewing Dr. Anderson's employee records over the past five years from UPMC where he works as an orthopedic surgeon, I found that Dr. Anderson works an average of fifty-two hours per week. He often works many overnight shifts, weekends, and holidays. My only presumption is that Dr. Anderson plans to have a family member, friend, or possibly hired help to take care of Keegan while he works those very long hours.
"My client, however, has a very flexible work schedule due to co-owning an advertising company called Kinnetik with Mr. Kinney as well as painting professionally. He is easily able to perform his work from home. He spends only sixteen hours per week at the Kinnetik office, during which time a very close family friend named Deborah Horvath babysits Keegan in her home that is only a few blocks away from Kinnetik. Otherwise, Keegan spends all of his time with Mr. Taylor, Mr. Kinney, and as of the last couple of weeks myself and my eleven year-old daughter at the Taylor-Kinney home outside of Pittsburgh.
"Furthermore, Dr. Anderson never once came to visit Keegan at the children's hospital during his fourteen-day stay, despite the fact that Dr. Anderson's employee records show that he was there on that same medical campus six out of those fourteen days after he had returned to work following his wife's death. The sign-in sheets at the NICU and the regular newborn nursery will show that my client was there to visit Keegan every single day for several hours at a time, sometimes staying overnight. Mr. Kinney also visited multiple times. Dr. Anderson has failed to establish any kind of relationship or connection with Keegan or even asked to see him since he was born five weeks ago.
"I will only briefly comment on the assertion that Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kinney would be poor parents. Yes, Mr. Kinney owns a gay nightclub, but that does not automatically mean that either one of them engages in promiscuous sex or drug usage. If it would please the court, my client and Mr. Kinney would each happily submit to drug testing, immediately if requested. Both of them have clean criminal records. Also, the fifteen year-old boy that Mr. Turner mentioned Mr. Kinney signing his parental rights away for is my son Gus with my estranged wife Lindsay Peterson-Marcus. Mr. Turner must be aware of this fact. Mr. Kinney gave up his rights to allow me to legally adopt Gus, since Lindsay is the biological mother. The arrangement we had prior to Gus's birth was not unlike the one Mr. Taylor made with the Andersons. Mr. Kinney was under no obligation to be involved with Gus's life whatsoever, though he has always been there for him financially and otherwise despite the fact that my wife and I have lived in Toronto for almost eleven years.
"For my third point, I would also like to mention some studies that research how children fare being raised by a same-sex couple or gay person as opposed to one consisting of a man and a woman. From my understanding, the results of the study really depend on the group that performs the study. Those done by conservative groups usually conclude that children are harmed by being raised by gay parents, while those done by more liberal groups conclude that they're not harmed. I could cite numerous studies by reputable groups that show same-sex couples to be just as capable of parenting a child as opposite-sex couples. I will call at least one witness at trial who was raised by a same-sex couple, and I also argue that a child would fare better being raised by a loving same-sex couple rather than a single parent who works fifty-two hours per week in a very high-stress job.
"Your honor, I ask that my client be granted sole legal and physical custody of Keegan Mercury Taylor at the conclusion of these proceedings. It is undisputed that Justin Taylor is the biological father and that he has been raising Keegan since he was released from the hospital a little over three weeks ago. Keegan is very well taken care of and provided for, as well as much loved by his large family, many of whom are sitting in this courtroom today. I respectfully assert that the petitioner has failed to make a convincing argument that would compel you to order Keegan be taken from Mr. Taylor's custody and placed with the petitioner while this case is pending. In fact, he said nothing that would make you believe that Keegan is in any sort of danger while being under Mr. Taylor's care. Thank you."
The judge recessed the hearing so he could go back to his chambers to make his decision.
Justin rushed out of the courtroom and ran down the hallway to a restroom, not even able to shut the stall door before he lost his breakfast. He was still heaving when Brian walked into the room to check on him.
Brian leaned over and rubbed his partner's shoulder. "You okay?"
Justin flushed the toilet and nodded. "Yeah... days like this, I wish I still smoked. My nerves are fucking shot."
Brian chuckled and helped the blond to his feet. They walked out of the stall and hugged each other tightly.
"It's going to be okay, Sunshine," Brian whispered into Justin's soft hair. "There is no reason to move Keegan from the only home that he has ever known, and Curtis couldn't say that Keegan is in any danger being with us. Also, the judge saw that we have plenty of support on our side and no one, not even his parents, showed up to support him."
Brian put his hand under Justin's chin and angled his face up, then placed their foreheads together before looking into the worried blue eyes of his partner. "I love you, always and forever."
They returned to the courtroom a bit later and waited for the judge to make his decision. The man in the black robe came back in a few minutes before noon.
"Each side made very good arguments today," the judge began. "I'm sure everyone would like me to keep this short and sweet, since it's close to lunch time. Today I am only going to rule on Mr. Anderson's request to be granted temporary custody of the child. I must agree with Ms. Marcus in that Mr. Turner failed to convince me that letting the child remain in the custody of Mr. Taylor would be dangerous to the health and safety of the child. Therefore, the child will remain with Mr. Taylor pending the resolution of this case."
Justin cried quiet tears while the court and the lawyers compared their calendars. The trial date was set three months out, giving each side lots of time to prepare.
After the judge adjourned that day's hearing and left, Justin and Melanie stood up and hugged.
"Thank you," Justin said to her. "You were so amazing."
"We won today's battle," Melanie said. "The war is only just beginning."
Justin made sure to thank everyone who had come that day to support him before they all left the courthouse. Everyone, minus Daphne's family, went to the diner for a celebratory lunch.
It was one of Justin's usual days to go to the office, but he was too shaken up to get any work done. Brian wanted to go into the office for a few hours, saying that he would use a car service to get home. Justin and Melanie had ridden into town with Brian, so Justin drove Brian's new Audi Q7 SUV to take Melanie to Ted and Blake's house, where JR was waiting for her, as well as relieve Blake from baby duty.
Justin decided to take his son on a trip, telling Melanie that he would be back to pick her and JR up a little later. He then drove across town to the cemetery where Daphne was buried a few weeks before. He had not been out to visit her since the day they had laid her to rest.
He carried Keegan over to Daphne's grave, which was covered in straw since it was too early in the year to grow grass.
"Hey, Daph. I wanted to bring Keegan here to see you and let you know what was happening. I named our son Keegan Mercury Taylor. I figured that since Freddie Mercury was the singer of our song, that you would like that for his middle name. I did exactly what you wanted me to do. Brian and I brought Keegan home with us to Britin because the loft really has no room for a baby. You would love the nursery, it's even better than the one you had set up at your house, and I only had a few days to get it ready. I painted a mural of you on the ceiling, watching over our son. He's a tough little guy and only had to spend a couple of weeks in the hospital. Keegan is doing great and he is such a good baby. Even Brian thinks so, but I think that's only because he usually waits until after we're finished fucking to cry. I can see you shaking your head at that."
Justin chuckled before he continued. "Curtis is suing me for custody. Melanie moved down from Canada though, and she's my lawyer now. She and Lindsay split up, and it looks like it may be for good this time. She did so great today, convincing the judge to let me keep Keegan while the case is pending. She said that it was good that the EMTs heard you say that you wanted me to raise Keegan, and it should help when we go to the trial.
"I just wanted you to know that I am doing my best to keep my promise, and I will come back to let you know what happens. Curtis is going to have to put up one hell of a fight to try and get Keegan away from me. We love you Daph, and I miss you so much."
Justin bowed his head and cried for the loss of his best friend, as well as for the love of their son and the fear he had of losing him, too.
After leaving the cemetery, Justin picked up Melanie and JR to head back to Britin. Justin was quiet all the way home, so Melanie made sure he was okay before she and JR went out to the guest house.
Justin fed Keegan and put him down for a nap, then headed up to his studio to paint. He needed to do something to take his mind off of the events of the day, plus he still needed to complete one more piece for his art show the following month. He had the baby monitor with him in case his son needed anything.
He started working on the painting of the mural he had done of Daphne for the nursery ceiling. He wasn't sure that he would ever be able to sell this piece or even put it in his show. He figured that the ceiling of the nursery would eventually be repainted, so he wanted to have it on a canvas.
Justin had been working on the painting for quite a while. He realized that it had become dark outside and he hadn't heard the baby lately. He started cleaning up so that he could get Keegan's evening bottle ready before it was needed. As he was washing out the brushes, he thought he heard something over the monitor. He shut off the water and listened closer.
Keegan was crying, and Justin heard Brian talking to him. Listening closer, he discovered that Brian was actually singing "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses to the baby. He rarely ever heard Brian sing and had forgotten what a nice singing voice he had.
"He's got eyes of the bluest skies as if they thought of rain. I'd hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain..."
Justin had tears running down his face as he listened to Brian finish the song. He then heard Brian talking to the baby.
"You are so beautiful, just like your daddy. I want everything to work out for us Keegan, and I really want to be your other father. It will be like getting to watch my Sunshine grow up. The only difference will be that you will have the unconditional love of both of your fathers, no matter who you fall in love with or what you want to do with your life. Just know that you will always be loved, my precious little boy."
Justin knew that Keegan needed his dinner, but he didn't want Brian to know that he heard anything, since those words were obviously only meant for Keegan. He stopped by a guest bathroom to splash some water on his face and headed toward the nursery. When he got just outside the door, he called out to the baby, "Sorry Keegan, I'm coming. The battery died on the baby monitor and I just realized you must need to eat."
He went into the nursery and found Brian rocking the baby in the rocking chair. He then walked over and gave Brian a kiss.
"When did you get home? I was painting and noticed it had gotten dark and I was coming to feed Keegan. I started on the painting of Daphne's mural."
Brian put a hand on Justin's cheek. "What's going on, Sunshine? You've been crying."
"I guess the stress of the day really hit me while I was in the studio. Keegan and I visited Daphne earlier before we came home, and that was the first time since the funeral that I've gone out to her grave. You know how my allergies act up."
Brian stood up with Keegan in his arms and kissed Justin on his forehead. "I've already changed him, so how about I feed him and we'll watch you make a feast?"
Justin smiled and fake-complained, "So you get to just sit there and hold a bottle, and I have to slave over a hot stove to make you something to eat?"
Brian nodded, as if it had been Justin's idea. "Yeah, that works for me. What do you think, Keegan?"
He held the baby up to his ear as if Keegan was whispering to him. Brian then smiled and nodded again. "Keegan says it sounds good to him, too."
Justin looked at his two favorite people and laughed. "Fine then, I guess I'd better get to work."
Melanie came over to talk after they were finished eating. JR had tagged along and asked if she could play with her ‘little brother' until it was time to put him to bed.
When Brian looked at her with a puzzled expression, she explained, "Gus is my brother and Uncle Sunny is Gus's Papa, so that makes Uncle Sunny's baby my brother, too."
Brian thought about that for a moment. "I guess that makes sense, and yes, you can play with him. Just be careful."
"I wasn't planning on using him for target practice, Uncle Pop," JR said, rolling her eyes at Brian. "Don't worry."