A/N: I can't believe how long it's taken me to update this! I'm so sorry! Part two of the story, Adjustment Periods will be up today as a Christmas present, again sorry!
The courtroom was packed with people, all there to show their support for the man and the child. Upon his arrival on the case, Jacob Jones had made it exceptionally clear to Ben as well as the boy and his case worker, that while this should be an open and shut case. The boy's father would have to be proven utterly incapable of being a good role model, for them to give Ben the child.
After four days, probably one of the longest adoption cases Jones could recall, deliberation had finally been made. And now, a boy, barely ten years old sat on the witness stand, staring out at the crowd with his big blue eyes, looking for all the world as though he were lost and alone. And he was asked the one question he knew the answer to, but was terrified to say.
"Riley, are you aware that in accordance to the District of Columbia, as well as Child Protective Services, you are not yet considered old enough to make this decision on your own?"
Riley looked up at Judge Cooper, she seemed like a nice older lady, and her heard seemed to be in the right place, that helped. But Riley was aware of this, Mr. Jones had made it very clear early on. Riley would have to testify to the abuse his father had lain on him all those years ago. But the problem was drudging that up. It had taken him two days and when he finally had, it had left him with nightmares and exhausted.
"Yes ma'am," he replied softly.
Sighing, Judge Cooper looked out at the crowd that had gathered this had become a bigger court case than she'd ever intended. But to her surprise many people had come to show their support for both Riley and Benjamin. Two men's lives were hanging in the balance, one faced jail, and one faced fatherhood. And it all came down to one little boy, who for all the world of him, looked utterly petrified. "Riley, come here sweetie," She beckoned him up to her seat, watching as he pushed himself from the pedestal and slowly made his way in front of her. "You're scared aren't you?"
He nodded slowly, "There are lots of people here…and my father looks angry," He whispered the last part so only she heard.
Judge Cooper looked over, and was not surprised to find Mr. Poole looking quite upset. "Riley, the court system says that until you're age twelve, you aren't able to make this decision because you don't think you know what's best, for you. What do you think?"
He shrugged, afraid to answer. She nodded, "Okay, I need an answer sweetie, otherwise I can't make a ruling, and I won't make one until I have an answer from you. What do you think is best for you? Do you like Ben Gates?"
"Has Benjamin ever hit your, or raised his hand in anger?"
"Has your father Andrew Poole?"
"Yes ma'am." He whispered.
She nodded, they already had plenty of proof to put the child's father away, and frankly her decision had been made three days ago when Andrew had screamed in front of the court that Riley was just a whelp who deserved everything he'd gotten. But she wanted to see that Andrew had a full trial and that Riley was sure of the decision he made.
"Okay, why don't you go have a seat with Benjamin, you're shaking sweetie," she gave him a gentle push.
Riley hurried to where Ben was sitting, he wasn't disappointed. Ben immediately lifted the boy into his lap and held him close. Judge Cooper smiled sadly and looked out over the court. "I've been ruling over cases like this, and similar to this one for the past fifteen years. And in fifteen years, I've seen parents who are brave, who are scared, and who face the rest of their life without their child. In every case, it's my decision as the judge to do what I feel is best for the child. In many cases, it's being with the birth mother, or the birth father. Or in many cases it's also handing the child over to the adoptive parents because they have the finances, and ability to support a child. Some of you probably believe and feel that this was an open and shut case. Perhaps it was, but one must know all the facts to decide the best course of action. It's never easy to make these decisions. I always hope that by making the choice I did, I've provided the child with a stable and loving home."
All eyes were on her, so she continued, "It's in my experience I've learned, nine times out of ten, not matter what age the child is. They can usually make the choice themselves. This situation doesn't appear to be any different. It's our civic duty to be good role models to the children in our country. So many children like Riley, are faced with these situations and never get the help they need. I hope we've all learned a valuable lesson here today."
"This court finds that Riley Poole's permanent guardian should be…"
Ben felt the child in his lap shiver, so much had lead them here, this was the moment where Riley's future would be decided. Whether he'd get a future was decided. Ben hated the man Riley once called father, and he didn't want to his son to go to such a man. But with the boy in his arms, Ben was well aware he could lose the little boy.
There was a sigh of utter relief sweep through all those present, "Mr. Gates, welcome to fatherhood, we're entrusting a bright little boy into your care. I expect to see you both do great things."
Ben, grinning from ear to ear, and pulled his new, legal adoptive son into his arms. "I love you," he whispered, hugging him close, "God I love you," he whispered, pressing a kiss to the child's cheek.
Riley was sobbing in relief in Ben's shoulder, holding onto the man as tight as he could with his cast. Emily grinned as she gripped her hands and stepped over to the father and son. Ben looked up at her, lifting his son into his arms, he grabbed her into a hug as well, crying into her shoulder.
"Mr. Andrew Poole, you are to be held in the state penitentiary for six months while a jury hears your cases and chooses a sentence for you. There will be no appealing this decision. Court adjourned."
Riley hugged his new father close, smiling at the victory. "I love you," Riley whispered quietly in Ben's ear.
"I love you too, son." Ben whispered. As he held tight to his little boy.
Three Months Later
Ben and Riley pushed the doorway open to the school building, Riley grinning from ear to ear as he gripped his toy before him. "And it was the tallest and the fastest-"
Ben chuckled as Riley talked his ear off about their robot, which was currently nestled in his arms. "Wasn't it cool Ben! Did you see how fast it went!"
"Of course I did, I was there," joked Ben as he ran his hand over the boy's hair. "Hey, come here," Ben pulled the boy's sleeve lightly. "Kneeling down in front of his kid he straightened Riley's collar, "I'm really proud of you kid."
Ben walked to the car, his arm wrapped around the boy's shoulder. There was a faint pop somewhere in the distance. Ben grunted as he opened the door. He glanced down at his stomach, where are dark red spot was beginning to grow.
"Ben?" Riley questioned.
Ben's face was contorted in pain as he gripped the spot, "Riley," he whimpered as he crumpled to the ground.
"DAD!" Riley cried as he rushed to his father's side. "HELP DAD! SOMEONE CALL 911!" He screamed, his robot and first prize forgotten as he knelt at his father's side. "HELP!" He sobbed.
Ben lay, his eyes wide open as pain tore through his stomach and side, his thoughts only of his son and if he was safe. He could vaguely hear people calling for help, people screaming around him as his eyes closed.
To Be Continued…