Case Flatley is chipping away at a gray block of crumbly plaster using a toothpick-sized stick with a flattened edge.
The 5-year-old stops to brush away the dust and rubble, peering at the indentation in the brick. He's digging for dinosaur bones -- a triceratops, to be exact.
He's focused, but carries on a casual conversation with his dad, David Cossa, sitting next to him at their home in St. Peters, Missouri.
"Can we have pie?"
"Why do you want pie? You still have Easter candy," Cossa, 29, asks.
"No," Case clarifies. "Pie for dinner."
His other dad, Bryan Buffa, 37, is a pastry chef, so perhaps the request is not outside the realm of possibility.
No one is having pie for dinner.
Buffa has known Case since he was born.
He remembers when Case was 3 and his biological father, Buffa's cousin, died after struggling with addiction. Case had lived with his maternal great-uncle and aunt until Child Protective Services intervened.
By that time, Buffa and Cossa had been together for a couple of years. They knew they wanted a family. They decided to become licensed as foster parents so they could take care of Case, with the hope of adopting him.
It was a drawn-out process. They had background checks and classes and home visits and detailed paperwork. But they were committed to being ready when the call came.
The phone rang on a Friday in November of 2012.
"We are concerned for his safety," the social worker said to Buffa. "Can you take him for the weekend?"
Buffa didn't hesitate: Absolutely.
Case carried a bag of clothes with him and an old silk shirt he used as a blanket. At first, he asked a lot about Maw Maw and Paw Paw. Buffa told him he was going to stay with them until the judge made a decision about where he would live.
For the next year and a half, Buffa and Cossa went to court hearings, filed more paperwork and dealt with a rotating door of state workers. They felt like their lives were under a microscope. In September of 2013, they got legally married in Iowa, where gay marriage is recognized, and had a wedding in St. Louis.
Case was the ring bearer.
Almost nine months later, a judge terminated Case's biological mother's parental rights. The adoption was scheduled for five months later. They were finally nearing the finish line, although there were worries that gnawed at Cossa.
Only Buffa's name would be on the adoption certificate because their marriage wasn't recognized in Missouri. They planned to petition six months later to add Cossa's name as a legal parent.
"During the adoption process, there were some days when I felt left out," Cossa said. "I was doing all the same work Bryan was. I was just afraid with his name on everything, if something were to happen, (Case) wasn't my child. I had no rights over him."
He had been living with Case for two years and taking care of him while working, just as his partner had.
"He's my child, and I deserve those rights just as any father does," he said.
He worried what could happen if a cop stopped them and didn't believe Case was his son. Or what if there was a medical emergency -- would he be allowed to even see his child in the hospital?
He wasn't going to be an official father, even after traveling this long road to become official.
Then, two weeks before their adoption hearing, a Kansas City judge ruled that marriages of Missouri gay couples wed in states or countries where such relationships are legally recognized must be honored here, as well. A later ruling in St. Louis found Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.
As soon as the couple heard about the ruling, they called every state worker involved in their case to see if both their names could be on the adoption record.
A week before the adoption, their request was approved.
On Nov. 5, 2014, they took Case with them to the St. Louis County Courthouse.
The had explained to Case the night before that a judge was going to sign a paper and make it official.
"You're going to be our son forever and always," they told him.
The proceeding took less than 15 minutes. They both felt an overwhelming sense of relief.
"It was a relief to know he was going to be safe with me," Buffa said. He said he felt his cousin's spirit with him in the courthouse. "We were going to give him all the things his dad wasn't able to give him."
Cossa said he felt assured.
"Now you know they can't take him away from us," he said. "I used to go into his room and pray by his bed. I'd ask God to watch over him and keep him safe."
Buffa said every time Case calls him "Dad," it melts his heart.
On this ordinary day at their kitchen table, working on his dinosaur excavation set with his parents, Case is persistently chiseling, scraping and hammering away at that chunk of rock. It seemed immovable when he started half an hour ago.
He pauses and wipes his hand across his forehead. It's a little harder than it looked when he started. But he's as persistent as his parents. And just as the foundation of their family emerged gradually, he starts to see an outline emerging in the plaster.
"I found a bone!" he says. "Daddy! Look, I found some bones!"