Problems of Another Father - Mark has never wanted children, especially not one that isn't even old enough to talk.
Mark stares at the infant held at arms length. The infant stares back.
Mark's brain is currently running along the lines of 'shitshitshitshitshitshitshit'. The infant burbles and sticks its hand in its mouth.
Mark puts the infant on a clear patch of floor and tries to get his mind back in gear. The infant picks up a gardening magazine – a delivery for the previous tenant that Mark hadn't thrown out yet – from the floor and starts chewing it.
Finally, the sensible part of Mark's brain, the part that's been jumping up and down to get his attention for the past half hour, makes itself known. Get Len. The infant spits out half-chewed bits of paper and manages to get them stuck to its face.
Mark soon discovers a flaw with his plan. For some stupid reason, the seats in his car aren't exactly made for an infant. Mark improvises with some cushions and a cardboard box and hopes no one looks too closely. The infant starts chewing on the cardboard box.
After a nerve-wracking drive, they arrive. Mark picks the infant up, vaguely remembering something about supporting its head, but he isn't sure if it applies or not. The infant doesn't seem to mind Mark's clumsy hold and gets gummed-up cardboard over them both.
Len's reaction is to stare – Mark has to admit that a baby with wrinkled pictures of shrubs stuck to its face and mushed cardboard down its front is quite a sight – then mutter something about condoms and sobriety levels. He looks close to shutting the door in Mark's face, despite Mark swearing that the baby is his, not Len's. The infant waves a soggy bit of cardboard at Len.
Once inside Len's apartment, Mark manages to hand over the infant and take a seat on the sofa with his head in his hands. Len disappears for a short while, then returns with a book and a can of beer. The infant is happily munching a handful of biscuits, only half of which are getting in its mouth.
Len passes the book and the can over to Mark. The alcohol tugs Mark back to this side of hyperventilation, while the book appears to be a guide on how to look after a baby. Mark opens it and finds an inscription on the first page.
'Snart, read this book and PAY ATTENTION. If you hurt one hair on my great-nephew's head I'll have yours. B Allen.'
Mark snorts, but starts reading.
Ten minutes later and Mark's panic hasn't decreased in the slightest. In fact it's increased now he knows what can go wrong.
Len asks for the infant's name and Mark looks at him blankly. Thankfully he finds that he brought the baby's birth certificate and other details along with him.
Somehow the name makes it all that much more real.
Mark has never wanted children. He sort of hoped he'd have Len's luck if there were any and the kids would be old enough to fend for themselves. Evan and Axel are old enough to sometimes join in with their poker nights if Len was hosting. Mark's still stuck on the fact that he's going to have to change diapers.
A problem which presents itself too soon for Mark's liking.
Len talks him through changing the diaper and is generally finding the whole situation amusing. Mark's trying not to swear when Josh pisses on him, or when he gets the diaper on backwards.
Mark has discovered a whole new level of respect for parents.
Thankfully Josh nods off while Mark's looking through the book again. Len puts the infant down in one of the bedrooms, then he asks what Mark is planning on doing.
It hadn't occurred to Mark that he could put Josh up for adoption until Len points it out. Len also makes it very clear that Mark will be talking to Evan before that happened. Len's firstborn – as far as anyone is aware, it's possible Len has some still-unaccounted for kids – had been in an orphanage and, from what Mark's heard, didn't like most of it.
Mark's real problem is that he's never managed to get a steady income. He's an extortioner by trade and stints in jail aren't going to help him raise a baby. Josh deserves better.
Mark doesn't know what to do.
It takes a few days for a solution to be found.
Both Mark and Len have been asking around for ideas, when Iris Allen offers to adopt Josh. Mark's not exactly happy with the thought of Barry Allen – the man who'd been responsible for several of Mark's stays in jail – bringing up his son, however, it's looking like the best option. The Allens are stable and have been trying for children of their own without success.
Evan makes it known – loudly – that if the Allens conceive a child and give up Josh, he'll make them regret it. Len pulls Evan away, mid-threat, though it's clear he'd be right in line behind Evan if they gave up Josh.
Mark's holding onto Josh tightly. These past few days have been more stressful than Mark would like to remember, but faced with the prospect of giving Josh up, he doesn't want to let go.
There's discussion of visitation rights, which Mark hopes someone thought to write down, since he's not doing a good job of listening to anything beyond Josh's gurgles.
Iris gently removes Josh from Mark's arms and promises to take care of him where Mark can't. Josh whimpers, but doesn't dissolve into tears, and as much as Mark would like to think his son has any idea what's happening, it's obvious Josh isn't aware of the situation.
Afterwards, Len takes Mark to the pub to get shit-faced.
Mark wakes up on Len's sofa the next day with a splitting headache and bare snatches of memories of the previous night. There's the sense that he'd broken down around the fifth glass or so, but Mark can't be sure.
There's a knock on the door that does absolutely fuck-all for Mark's aching head. After falling off the sofa and swearing into the carpet, Mark manages to get to the door and open it.
Evan and Axel are on the other side, along with that West guy. Evan's looking sympathetic, but Axel's looking like he's about to take advantage of Mark's hangover. He's done it before. The brat.
Len appears from his bedroom. He's looking nowhere near as bad as Mark's feeling. Bastard. He probably drunk in moderation to keep an eye on Mark, but Mark's not feeling particularly charitable right now.
Len thanks West for keeping the kids overnight and the guy leaves after stumbled commiserations aimed at Mark. Evan and Axel are shooed into their rooms to let Mark nurse his hangover in peace, but not before Evan gives Mark a hug and tells him that he's still 'Uncle Mark' to them.
The journey back to Mark's flat is wet. The skies are apparently in tune with his mood and the rain is bucketing down. Thunder and lightning crackle and boom across the heavens.
When Mark gets home he puts all the baby stuff he'd bought into a box and shoves it to the back of his wardrobe. He won't need it any more. He doesn't have a child to look after. Josh is with a better family. He doesn't need Mark.
Mark pulls out plans he'd been working on before Josh had appeared and sits down to perfect them. This was how he made a living and how he will continue to make a living.
He doesn't miss the diaper changes.
He doesn't miss the midnight crying.
He doesn't miss Josh's garbled coos and nonsensical babbling.
He doesn't miss reading to Josh.
He doesn't miss... Josh.
Maybe if Mark keeps repeating it, he'll be able to fool himself.