Michael, as usual, was low on cash and headed to his mother’s that Sunday evening, hoping that she had made something good for dinner. He walked into his childhood home and found Debbie in the kitchen.
She turned around when she heard the front door open. Looking at her son, she remarked, “Oh, it’s you. What do you want?”
Michael scowled at his mother for giving him such a cold welcome. “I wanted to see what you were making for dinner.”
“Carl’s eating dinner with some friends before bowling tonight, so I’m just making myself a sandwich. I really don’t feel like having you for company right now.”
“Maaaaa, what did I do?” Michael whined.
“What did you do… what did you do?” Debbie yelled, flapping her arms. “I’ll tell you what you did, you vindictive little shit, since apparently you’re too dimwitted to remember. Melanie told me everything. You got up on that witness stand and tried your damnedest to cause Sunshine to lose custody of my grandson because of your petty jealousy. We’ll know tomorrow what the judge decides, and if it’s not in Sunshine’s favor, I will never forgive you for taking part in it. Hell, even if he wins, I still won’t forgive you. You have been out of their lives for the last eight years because of what you tried to do to them, but you still got up on that stand and lied about Sunshine and Brian. I am so ashamed of the man you have become, and I am so grateful that Brian wants to adopt JR and that Sunshine will be her step-father after they’re married. At least they’ll be good fathers that love her and will raise her right, along with Mel.”
Michael realized what his mother was saying about JR and he was furious. “What the fuck are you talking about? Brian is not going to adopt my daughter, and that fucking blond bastard will not be raising her. I won’t let them.”
“You don’t have any say in the matter, Michael. You gave up your parental rights, remember? You haven’t even seen that sweet little girl since she was three years old; again, because of your petty jealousy. Mel is going to petition for full custody of both of the kids when she files for divorce from Lindsay, and Brian is going to have his rights to Gus reinstated and adopt JR if she’s successful. Brian has helped to financially support JR since she was born, sending money to Mel when they needed it. He even opened a college fund for her. You never contributed a cent for JR, not even before you gave up your rights. Brian has always been there for that little girl and it is high time he was recognized for his efforts. JR absolutely adores her ‘Uncle Sunny’, by the way, and considers Keegan her baby brother.”
Michael knew there was nothing he could do about any of this. He really didn’t want to hear his mother sing the praises of Brian and that fucking blond any longer, so he left.
Everyone gathered in the courtroom on Monday morning and waited for Judge Dennis to enter. The whole family had showed up except for Blake and JR, who were babysitting Keegan and Phoenix. Melanie had allowed Gus to come to court to hear the verdict.
Justin, Brian, Melanie, and Al were sitting at their table while the rest of the family was sitting behind them. Just as before, Curtis and Turner were the only ones on the other side of the courtroom.
Justin was very nervous, even after everything that had been said in his favor during the trial. He didn’t know what he would do if the judge awarded custody to Curtis, how he could possibly give up his precious son that he loved so much. That was the main reason Brian was sitting at the table with him and holding his hand for comfort. He knew he would fall to pieces if the verdict did not go his way, and he would need Brian to help him get through it.
When Judge Dennis entered the courtroom, he looked at Curtis and Turner with a blank expression. He didn’t even glance at Justin and Brian at all. When Justin noticed this, he squeezed Brian’s hand and barely held back his tears, terrified that it meant he was going to lose his son.
Brian leaned over and rubbed his nose on Justin’s cheek. “We’re going to be okay, Sunshine,” he whispered.
When the judge started to speak, Justin’s heart was pounding so hard he could barely hear what the man was saying.
“After carefully reviewing the evidence from both sides and reading the detailed report from Charlotte Sanders, the social worker assigned to this case, it is my decision to deny Dr. Anderson’s petition for legal and physical custody of Keegan Mercury Taylor. The child will therefore remain in the custody of his biological father Justin Taylor.”
When this was announced, Justin’s side of the courtroom erupted in cheers. Justin sat there with tears pouring down his cheeks.
Brian kissed his Sunshine and held him tight, saying into his ear, “It’s over… he’s ours forever.”
After waiting a few more seconds for the happiness to die down, the judge asked for quiet.
“Additionally, in light of the fact that Mr. Kinney expressed his desire to adopt Keegan, I have taken the liberty of expediting the adoption. Mr. Kinney, is it still your desire to adopt this child?”
“Absolutely, yes,” Brian answered, crying his own happy tears.
“Ms. Marcus, do you have the petition ready to be signed and filed?” the judge asked.
“Yes, I do,” Melanie happily said, reaching into her briefcase on the floor beside her. “We are also petitioning that Keegan’s last name be changed to Kinney. Justin plans to take Brian’s name after they’re married.”
“Well then, Mr. Kinney, please approach the bench with the petitions.”
Brian took the paperwork from Melanie and walked up to the judge, a big smile on his handsome face. Once Brian had signed everything, the judge signed and stamped the orders.
Judge Dennis then announced, “Brian Kinney is now the legal father, along with Mr. Taylor, and the child’s legal name will now be Keegan Mercury Kinney. Are there any objections?”
Hearing none, the judge banged the gavel, ending the trial. Brian shook hands with the judge, thanking him.
There was more cheering and tears from their side of the courtroom.
Melanie broke away from Justin’s hug when she saw that Turner and Curtis were leaving. She followed them into the hall and called out to Turner to get his attention.
Curtis also turned when he heard Melanie’s voice. “Hey… uh, congratulate Justin for me, will you? Keegan does belong with him and Brian; it’s what Daph wanted. I won’t ever bother them again.”
Melanie addressed Curtis one final time. “I just want you to know, I’m going to send a transcript of all of your testimony to the head of the hospital. In case you were not aware, Doctor, it is highly frowned upon for a senior staff member to engage in relations with one of his students. In fact, it can constitute sexual harassment.”
Melanie took great satisfaction in the look the suddenly very pale doctor gave her.
Turner and Melanie both watched as Curtis walked down the hallway to the elevator, and Melanie addressed Turner when Curtis was out of earshot.
“God, I could just slug that piece of shit right in his perfect teeth…” Melanie muttered. “Why did you take on this suit, Charles? You had to have known from the beginning that it was a loser. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such a shoddy, frivolous case with such flimsy testimony from plaintiff’s witnesses. You and that asshole client of yours made Justin’s life hell for the past three months over what, money? Give me a fucking break.”
Turner shrugged. “It was a lot of money. I get paid regardless of the outcome. I wouldn’t have gotten any of the insurance payout, but whatever. Curtis insisted every step of the way that we proceed, no matter how many times I told him that our case was shit. I can only work with the evidence and witnesses I’m given. Sorry about your wife’s flip-out, by the way.”
Melanie scoffed. “Oh, I’m sure you’re very sorry. That wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t called her as a witness.”
“Hell, you ought to be thanking me. Maybe this will make it easier to get your kids away from the crazy bitch,” Turner pointed out.
“You are scum,” Melanie said to the sneering attorney, although he wasn’t wrong about the part about Lindsay. “You could have given Curtis his money back and walked away at any time. Lawyers like you are why people don’t like lawyers.”
Turner smiled. “Maybe we’ll get to square off again someday, counselor. Hopefully I won’t have to call your wife and baby daddy as witnesses.”
Melanie curled her lip at him before turning to go back into the courtroom to rejoin her happy family.
All Justin and Brian wanted to do was hold Keegan and tell him that his fathers loved him, but they made sure to thank everyone individually for their love and support during the trial.
While they were preparing to leave, the court clerk came back into the courtroom and approached Melanie.
“Judge Dennis sent me to ask you, Mr. Kurtzman, Mr. Kinney, and Mr. Taylor to please come into his chambers so that he can discuss how he came to his decision.”
Brian, Justin, Melanie, and Al all looked at each other and shrugged before following the lady into the judge’s office. They found the judge sitting behind his desk wearing a shirt and tie.
“I just wanted to commend all of you on your behavior during these proceedings and to explain my reasons for not dismissing this case after you moved to dismiss,” Judge Dennis said. “I was very curious as to why Dr. Anderson seemed so determined to get custody of Keegan. Not once during Mr. Turner’s direct examination of him did he mention having any kind of feelings for the child, so I suspected there had to be another reason. I was very relieved when Mrs. Johnson found those papers and brought about the real reason.”
He then directly addressed Justin and Brian. “I also wanted him to hear Mrs. Horvath and your son Gus extoll your virtues, just to rub it in that you two would be exemplary parents to Keegan. I also wanted all of you to hear what Gus had said about you. I raised five children, including three boys, and I know that they can be very closed-mouthed about their feelings during their teenage years, especially towards their parents. I don’t mind telling you that I cried when I read his letter, because it was so beautiful and heartfelt.”
Justin nodded, feeling new tears threatening to fall. “It meant a lot to us to hear it.”
“I know that you must want to get to Keegan now, so I apologize for keeping you,” Judge Dennis said. “I felt that I really needed to explain why I did things this way, before you left. I have every confidence that you two are going to have a wonderful marriage and raise a great son together. I have no doubt that I made the correct decision today.”
Brian and Justin looked at each other, having another one of their silent conversations.
Brian then turned to the judge and asked, “Sir, would you be available to marry us on September fifteenth? We’re having the ceremony and reception at our home, which is about an hour outside of town.”
The judge smiled. “I would be honored to officiate your wedding. I’ll make sure that my calendar is clear on that date. You know, Mrs. Horvath was right when she described you two as soulmates... you can just look at each other and have conversations without a sound. It really is amazing to watch. Thank you for asking me.”
Justin added, “We’d love for you to bring your wife and stay for the reception, too.”
“I think we will, thank you again. I told her about the two of you, and she said you sound like a lovely couple. She’s a sucker for love stories and you two have quite a special one. You can send our invitation to my office here, if you’d like.”
Everyone shook the judge’s hand before saying goodbye.
Back out in the courtroom, Justin assured Daphne’s family that they were always welcome to visit Keegan anytime they wished, since he wanted Keegan to know his mother’s family.
“Try and stop us,” Delia said before giving Justin a hug.
Blake had Keegan, JR, and Phoenix in his living room with Beauty and the Beast, JR’s current favorite movie, playing on the TV when his cell phone started vibrating. He saw that Ted was calling, so he went into the bathroom and closed the door before he answered it. If it wasn’t a happy phone call, Blake did not want JR seeing his reaction.
“He’s our nephew, forever!” Ted yelled excitedly into the phone. “And the judge immediately granted Brian’s adoption for him, too.”
Blake smiled, relieved. “That’s wonderful. I’m not going to say anything to JR. I’ll let them tell her the good news when they get here.”
JR had noticed Blake’s not-so-stealth exit and pounced on him as soon as he returned to the living room.
“Any news yet, Uncle Blake?” she asked, hoping that this ordeal was finally over for her family.
“Nothing yet Sweetie, but we should be hearing something soon. Keep Pheonix out of trouble, okay? I’m going to change Keegan.”
Blake took Keegan into Phoenix’s bedroom and put him in one of his son’s old t-shirts that he had outgrown. He had to cover it up with a zippered jacket until Brian and Justin got there.
The shirt said “I LOVE MY TWO DADS” inside a rainbow-patterned heart. It had originally been a gift to Phoenix from Emmett and Drew.
When the cars started to pull up in front of the house, the front door flew open and JR went running out.
“What happened?” the young brunette asked. “Why didn’t you call?”
When she saw that Justin had tears in his eyes, she started crying.
“Papa, no!” JR screamed before throwing herself into his arms. “No, they can’t take Little Sunny away from us!”
Justin cupped her chin and looked into her eyes. “It’s okay, Beautiful. Keegan’s ours forever - mine and your Uncle Pop’s. No one can take him away from us.”
“Yay!” she screamed, wriggling out of Justin’s embrace before grabbing his hand and dragging him into the house.
Blake had removed the jacket covering the shirt and held Keegan out for everyone to see.
Justin looked at the shirt and the tears started again. Taking his son in his arms, he covered his curly head in tears and kisses.
Brian came up behind Justin and wrapped his arms around both of them. “Hey, do you mind not covering my son with your snot?”
Hearing Brian’s comment, Justin looked up at his fiance and smiled his Sunshine Smile. He then looked at their son and said to him, “I guess your Pop would like to hold you, too. Both of your daddies love you so much.”
JR suddenly realized what they were saying.
“Uncle Pop, you adopted him? That’s so cool.” She then quietly added, “I wish that you were my Pop, too.”
Brian and Justin looked at each other, knowing they would discuss this with her at a later time.
Neither Justin nor Brian was willing to be away from their son when they got home that evening. They kept taking turns just holding the baby and telling him how much they loved him. It was as if they feared he would disappear if he was out of their sight for even a moment. When it was Keegan’s bedtime, they lay on their bed with their son between them, speaking quietly so the baby could sleep.