Pairing: Maureen/Joanne + Mark.
Notes: Could actually be related to another fic I wrote. You get a cookie if you can actually figure out which one.
Disclaimer: Rent isn't mine. No, really.


Monday's were a bad way to start the week, Mark had realized. Monday was his standing coffee date with Joanne, an hour she cleared, no matter how busy she seemed to be. During that hour, she mostly ranted about Maureen, talked about the firm, asked him how he was.

"I'm fine," he always said no matter how the week was going. Because for an hour, everything was okay. Collins wasn't nearing the end, Roger and Mimi weren't fighting, and Mark wasn't sitting in the loft alone with his own thoughts.

Today, though, was different. There was no ranting about Maureen and no talking about the firm. There were the standard questions about his well-being, but even they seemed slightly off, a variation of the usual script.

Joanne's fingertips rested gently around his coffee cup. Immediately Mark knew she was holding back, unsure, two words he'd didn't usually use when describing Joanne.

He wiped his fingers with a napkin. "This isn't just two friends meeting for coffee, is it?"

"Of course it's two friends meeting for coffee," Joanne answered. The "but" wavered in the air and Mark waited for it to land.

"However…"

Boom. There it was.

"Maureen and I have decided to have a baby."

Was that all? That wasn't such a big deal. Will, it was, but not something he expected to set Joanne so on edge. A smile spread across his face. "That's great, Jo. But are you sure Maureen's ready?"

"No," she said, "but I am. I'm over thirty now—"

"You just turned thirty two months ago," Mark interrupted.

"Okay, so I did. But I keep saying I've have time, that the firm won't be so hectic, and that eventually it will happen, but I know myself. It won't happen."

"What about Maureen?"

"She's excited. She wants to buy out every baby store in New York and all I've done is have a few discussions with her about the issue. Part of me thinks Maureen will never settle and that I'd be crazy to want to try and raise a child with this woman, but…"

"Another part of you loves her and can't imagine how you'd do it without her," Mark finished. He knew the feeling. When he and Maureen were together he used to imagine what their children would look like, and had even gone as far as to mention that fact to Maureen, but he was met with a panicked look and a playful pat. It wasn't meant to be then, he supposed. Not with him, at least.

"It does."

"So will you adopt? Sperm bank?" he asked. "I mean, if you really plan on going through with this."

Joanne sighed. "I really do, which is what makes this even harder."

"Makes what even harder?" He frowned. He figured Joanne's secret was out, but the lawyer seemed tenser then he'd ever seen her.

"I'm not adopting," Joanne continued. "And sperm banks are impersonal and despite what someone fills out on a piece of paper, I'll really have no clue what kind of history my child will have."

His frowned deepened. "Okay, I'm confused. Because unless I totally zoned in biology class, I think you just tossed your only options out the window."

"No, I didn't toss all of them away." Joanne fingers tightened around her mug and her gaze dropped.

Oh shit.

His mouth opened, but nothing came out. His brain was forming words, but they all died on his lips. What the hell did she expect him to say? What the hell was he supposed to say? Was he supposed to be happy? Overjoyed? Pissed? Nonchalant? Upset?

Nothing, he could manage nothing.

Joanne looked back up. "I shouldn't have brought it up. I'm sorry."

"No, Jo, I mean…." He was surprised when the words came out. His own gaze fell to the table, and his hands nervously started shredding the napkin in front of him. "Does Maureen want this?"

"Maureen doesn't know I'm asking." She gave another sigh. "I know. I'm crazy. Why the hell would I want my girlfriend's ex to father my child? Especially considering that there is a part of me that is so goddamn jealous of what you and Maureen had. Before I met you, I kept telling myself you were awful. I mean you had to be for Maureen to cheat, right? But no, I meet you and you're sweet and I find myself wondering why she left. Of course, then I got to know Maureen and…well, I'm babbling. If this were a court case, I'd sure as hell be losing it."

Mark couldn't help but grin at the comparison. " Then why are you asking me?"

"Because if I had my kid turn out like you did, I'd consider myself lucky."

"Lucky? Jo, I'm a very poor filmmaker, still living in a crappy loft. I didn't even finish college."

"That's not what I meant, and you know it, Mark. You're sincere, kind, responsible, and…"

"Sweet?" he asked. "If I'm so sweet than why am I sitting here, alone, actually contemplating the idea of being my ex's girlfriend's sperm donor?" He shook his head. "Wait, don't answer that." He'd torn the napkin to bits and with nothing left to do with his hands he let them fall down to the tabletop. He looked back up at Joanne. "This is a bad idea. You and Maureen need to talk. This…well, like I said, it's a bad idea."

"I guess it is," Joanne echoed. "But, for once in my life, I need help being rational. Why?"

"Because…" Again, words failed him. He knew why, in his heart, it was wrong. Every time he looked at that kid, he'd see what he didn't have, what he and Maureen could have had. What he could have had. Thirty wasn't too far from him, and despite his love for the bohemian lifestyle, he'd always thought he'd have kids.

Just not someone else's kids.

"It could ruin our friendship," he finished, the excuse sounding lam, even to his own ears.

"Right," she answered. "Because you used to be with Maureen."

"Uh huh." He nodded his head, their eyes meeting. "Because I used to be with Maureen."

An awkward silence settled between the two them of them. He started to push the pile of shredded napkin back and forth, wondering just how to transition into something else.

He didn't have to. He felt a hand grab his and squeeze. "Please think about it. I wouldn't ask just anyone. I can't."

He swallowed. "Joanne, I…"

"Don't say no. Not yet, at least. Let me revel in the fact that I've done something that goes against I stand for, okay? Then we can both wake, laugh, and move on."

He almost grinned. Almost. "Maureen makes you want to be impulsive. It's hard not to. Though I would have expected her to come up with this idea."

Joanne snorted. "When you're with someone, something has to penetrate, right?"

"You got Maureen to commit. For good, I mean. That first time didn't count."

"I did." She paused. "Mark, I want this. Please, seriously consider it. I want you to be a part of our lives. All of us. You wouldn't be just a sperm donor."

"Would I be? Could you really handle that, Jo?" Because I can't, he thought.

"I've thought about it. A while. Made a pro and cons list. Honestly, I made several of them, including a mental one on the subway ride to met you. Just think about it. It's all I'm asking. Can you handle that?"

I have no idea, his brain screamed.

"I can think about it," his voice answered.

Because it was what Joanne wanted and needed to hear.