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The call comes on Clarke's thirty-fifth birthday, which seems appropriate. Five years since they decided kids weren't for them, and now the sight of Luna's name on the display of her phone makes her heart race with sudden hope.

She hadn't really expected to get invested in the whole fostering process, which made her feel guilty, at first. She was excited, of course, but she'd sort of thought she could take it or leave it, that if the whole thing didn't work out, it wouldn't be a big deal. After all, they've spent years and years neither having nor wanting children, and several of those years assuming they wouldn't ever have them. So she shouldn't mind never having kids.

But Bellamy was right: fostering feels like a good fit. It feels right. And she had been getting anxious about it not happening. She'd been so ready, she doesn't know what she would have done if some government agency had decided they weren't fit parents, after all this time. Bellamy was fit at eighteen, and nothing should have changed.

So she makes herself take a deep breath and pick up the call. "Hey, Luna?"

"Good morning, Clarke. Happy birthday."

"I assume that's in my file and you don't just remember everything about all your clients."

"It is, yes. On your file, that is. I tend to prioritize remembering that kind of thing about children, not foster parents."

"Yeah, I guess you would." She clears her throat. "So there's probably also another reason you're calling."

"I think we have a good match for you and Bellamy. You're open to potentially adopting, correct?"

Her mouth is dry, and it takes a minute to get the word out. "Yes, we're open to that."

"And you prefer an older child?"

"Yes."

She can hear Luna typing, like she's pulling up a file. "Madison Knight. Prefers to be called Madi. Her parents were in a car accident two years ago, and she went to her grandmother, but about six months ago she was declared unfit as a guardian. According to Madi, she should have been declared unfit long before that. She's been in group homes since then, but I think she'd do well with the right family."

"How old?" Clarke asks.

"Ten. Eleven in October."

"That sounds like a good fit," she says, feeling as if she's hearing herself speaking from a great distance, like it's someone else actually interacting with Luna while her brain works overtime. Already she's checking the time, trying to figure out if Bellamy is teaching right now or if she can actually call him right away. She probably shouldn't, regardless, but--it's big news. "What does the timeline look like? What do we need to be doing?"

"Assuming your husband agrees, we'd be looking to get her placed on Friday. You'll have the weekend to settle in, and then she can be back in school on Monday."

Clarke checks her calendar, seeing how much time she can take off between now and Friday. The museum tends to be fairly flexible with hours, as long as she doesn't have programs to run, and she can take time off for necessities without taking the whole day. Bellamy's a lot less flexible, but he'll have the afternoons to work on getting a room set up, and he might be able to take a personal day either Thursday or Friday. It's short notice, but his coworkers and the administration know they've been working on this, and she assumes they'll be understanding.

"Okay, let me just see if I can check with him now," she says, pulling up their chat window on her computer. "Before I let you go."

"The end of the day is fine," says Luna. "But if you have him."

Me: you want to get a 10yo girl on Friday

Bellamy: like with amazon two-day shipping?

Me: Luna's on the phone
answer now
I'm in

Bellamy: of course I'm in
fuck, FRIDAY?

Me: we can tell them to wait if you want

Bellamy: no, we can make it work
tell her yes
we'll figure it out once we have all the details

"We're in," Clarke tells Luna. "Friday. We'll have everything ready for her."

"Good, I'm glad to hear it. I think you'll be good for her. Once I have everything set up, I'll fax along the paperwork."

"Great. Thank you so much."

"The pleasure is all mine. I'm glad that I could find a good fit for everyone."

Clarke exhales, already starting a google doc to-do list. Intellectually, she knew things would move quickly once they started moving. But knowing that and experiencing it are two different things. "Me too," she tells Luna, belatedly. "Sorry, just--already thinking logistics."

"I thought you might be. But, Clarke, before I let you go--"

She tenses. "What?"

"Congratulations."

"Oh." The laugh that comes out of her is short and a little shocked, but genuine. "Yeah. Happy birthday to me."

*

"You know, the brush set I got you feels a lot less exciting right now," Bellamy tells her. They're in the furniture store, getting the basics for the room that's been cleared and painted for months. Luna's information included things like Madi's favorite color and a few likes/dislikes, and Clarke pretty sure they're going to spend the next few days debating where the line is between having enough stuff to make her feel welcome and having so much stuff she feels like she doesn't get to make the space her own.

It's a debate Clarke is really looking forward to.

"You got me a brush set? Spoilers."

"Again, it's hard to compete with an actual human child, in terms of good news." He pauses. "It is, right?"

"It is." She leans against his side, grinning. "This is amazing."

"Yeah, I thought so. Good thing I didn't try to get you a really great birthday present or anything."

"That's the most important thing, yeah. It's all about your ego."

"Always." He picks up a pillow and gives it an experimental squeeze. "Are you nervous?"

"Terrified. But we did okay with Octavia, and we had no idea what we were doing with her. Now we have practice."

"Second time's the charm. What if she doesn't like us?"

"Then we talk to Luna, figure out a timeline, and maybe don't keep her if it doesn't work out. We're not going to get along with every kid," she adds. "We can be good at this and still be a bad match."

"It's weird that we get to pick," he says. "That's not how it's supposed to work, you know? Your family is your family."

"I know. But the important thing is that the kid is happy, right?" she asks. "And if we can't make her happy, we should do everything we can to make sure someone else does."

"Yeah." He kisses her hair. "I want to be good for her."

"I know. I bet we can be." She pokes his side. "I still want the brush set. It is my birthday."

He snorts. "Yeah. I'll even buy you a cupcake on the way home."

"I knew I married you for a reason. We're going to be parents, Bellamy," she can't help adding. It still doesn't feel real.

"We were already parents."

"Yeah, but--not like this."

"No, not like this. But I bet we can do it."

They have a bed and a dresser, soft sheets and pillows and curtains and bookshelves. They have a room waiting for this girl Clarke's never met before and who already feels so important to her.

"Yeah," she says. "We're going to rock it."

*

There are always a few kids around the social services office, but this time Clarke is on high alert, unable to stop scanning their faces. The picture Luna sent was a school photo that looked a little out-of-date, and she's worried she won't recognize her, like they'll cancel the whole thing if Clarke and Bellamy can't pick her out of a lineup or something.

Bellamy squeezes her fingers, reading her mind like usual. "It looks like there's someone in Luna's office. Probably her."

Her head jerks to the window, and she sees the back of a head, just a few inches of straight brown hair under a black beanie, but it's still enough to make her heart speed up. That's their daughter.

"I didn't think I cared about kids," she tells Bellamy, and he laughs.

"Turns out you just don't care about biology." He gives her hand another squeeze. "Ready?"

"Yeah."

He lets go of her to knock on the door frame, and Luna looks up with a smile. "Here they are. Madi, this is Bellamy Blake and Clarke Griffin, your new foster parents. Bellamy, Clarke, this is Madi."

She does mostly look like her photograph, small and a little defiant, watching them like she's not sure what to expect. Which of course, she must not be. All she knows is that two strangers are here to take her to live with them. Clarke has no idea what Luna's said, but even if she said that they were the most awesome people ever, Madi still might not believe it.

Bellamy, of course, takes point. "Hi, I'm Bellamy. Everyone says it's really hard to tell which one of us is which. So, I'm Bellamy, she's Clarke. It's nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you," Clarke echoes, and offers her hand. Madi takes it, which is a relief, even if she's not quite looking at Clarke.

"Madi," she says, voice soft.

Luna doesn't look concerned, at least; she's beaming. "The paper work is all done, so you're free to take her whenever you're ready. Unless you have questions for me."

"Madi?" Bellamy asks. "You need anything? Any questions?" She shakes her head, and he nods. "Okay. Is that your suitcase?"

"Yeah."

"Just the one?"

"Uh huh."

"Do you want to take it, or should I?" he asks, and Clarke feels a spike of love for him. He's so good at this, just like she knew he would be. But it's nice to be right.

"I can take it."

"Okay, cool. Anything else we need to do?" he asks Luna.

"Not right now. I'll be coming by to check in next week, once you've settled in. But you all know how to get in touch with me. Madi, you--"

"I know the drill," she says. "I'll be fine."

Luna doesn't seem offended, but she's probably used to it. This is all old news for her. "Good. I hope the three of you won't need me much longer."

"Thanks again for everything," Clarke says. "Madi, all set?"

She grabs her bag. "Yeah, I'm good."

It's probably the most awkward walk of Clarke's life, for all it only takes about five minutes to get to the car. It's hard to just suddenly become a family.

But they have to start somewhere.

"So, you were in group homes for a while, right?" she prompts, once they're in the car. "We're your first family placement."

"Yeah."

"You're our first kid too," she says. "So if we screw anything up, just let us know. We're still figuring out what we're doing."

"You don't have any kids of your own?" she asks.

"Nope," says Bellamy. "Just a dog."

"Really?"

"Yeah. One dog, no kids."

"Why don't you have kids?"

They exchange a look, and Clarke's the one to say. "I guess we kind of did. We met in college, and Bellamy was raising his sister back then."

Bellamy nods. "My mom died my freshman year, so I was old enough I could take her instead of her going into foster care. Neither of our dads were ever really in the picture, so I'd already been taking care of her for a while."

"How old was she?"

"Your age. Ten."

"I didn't get involved for a couple years after that. But once we were dating, she was my responsibility too. And we took care of her all the way through college."

"And then she somehow found a job and a boyfriend and got a life of her own," Bellamy adds. "A couple kids, even. But we didn't want a baby when we'd just finished raising a teenager."

"So we thought we'd try fostering. And here you are."

"Huh," she says.

"Good huh?" Clarke asks.

She can see Madi shrug in the backseat. "I guess."

"I know this is weird," she adds. "We don't have to act like it isn't. It's really weird."

"Yeah."

"Do you need anything?" Bellamy asks. "We can go shopping tomorrow, but is there anything you want for tonight?"

"No."

"Okay. You want me to put on music so we're not awkwardly failing to make conversation?"

That gets her to crack a smile, even if she's still looking out the window. "It's okay."

Clarke reaches over to squeeze his hand. "How much did Luna tell you about us?"

"She said you're both teachers."

"Not quite. Bellamy teaches high school history, but I'm an educator."

"What's the difference?"

"I work at the art museum, not a school, so I don't have to give tests or do grading."

"She made the right choice there," Bellamy adds. "However much you hate homework, your teachers probably hate it even more." He glances back at her in the rear-view mirror. "That means we'll probably be pretty invested in your schoolwork, though."

"I like school," she says, a little petulant.

"What's your favorite subject?"

To Clarke's surprise, that topic actually works, and they manage to have a decent convention about school that turns into a conversation about books and hobbies. Madi likes to draw, so she's excited that Clarke's an artist, and her favorite subjects are English and social studies, so Bellamy's going to be a great resource.

They could be good parents to this girl. Clarke feels almost giddy with it.

"The dog's going to want to smell you, but that's it. He's just really enthusiastic about it," Bellamy tells her as he unlocks the house. Clarke's mother helped them with the down-payment, because they're millennials and home-ownership is beyond them without some outside assistance, but they're paying it off on their own now, doing pretty well, somehow.

They're taking care of themselves, and now they can even take care of someone else.

"What's his name?"

"Cerberus," he says. "We're nerds. He's friendly. Just--really friendly."

Cerberus does try to jump up, but Clarke catches his collar before he can. "Down. Sit."

He obeys, tail thumping against the floor like he's hoping to break it, and Bellamy nudges Madi's shoulder. "If you hold out your hand, he'll sniff you. That's a good place to start."

Madi hesitates for only a second, and Cerberus sniffs and then licks her, startling a laugh from her. It's the first time she's really shown any real spontaneous reaction to anything, and Clarke feels a profound gratitude for their weird, stupid mutt. He's not the brightest dog ever, has been known to run into doors and try to eat doorknobs. But he's as sweet as anything.

"You can pet him," she tells Madi, and she does, trying his head and his ears as Cerberus tries not to die of happiness.

"Good boy," says Madi. "Good boy."

"We can take him for a walk after you get your stuff put away," she says. "And then you can see some of the neighborhood."

Her shoulders stiffen a little, and when she says, "Okay," her voice is calm again, instead of warm. It's not a surprise, and it's not bad. This is new, and they're working on it. They're doing well, so far. It's going to be slow going, and they shouldn't expect miracles right away.

"You want to see the rest of the house?" Bellamy asks.

"Okay."

Their place isn't huge, and the room that they cleared out to be Madi's used to be a study. It was between losing the office and losing the guest room, and they do actually still have guests sometimes, so this seemed like the best solution. They didn't use the office much anyway; it just felt like something they should have.

"Kitchen's here," he says. "Living room. TV has cable and games, we can come up with a policy for how much screen time you get if we need it. Do you have a phone?"

"No."

"We can do that tomorrow," says Clarke. "We figured you'd want to pick what model you got."

"You're going to buy me a phone?" she asks.

"Otherwise we can't really get in touch with you."

"Bathroom," says Bellamy, when Madi's jaw ticks a little. "This is our room. It's not off-limits or anything, but it's pretty boring. There's probably not a lot in there you're interested in."

"Washer and dryer are here, this closet has cleaning stuff, this one has winter clothes."

"Basement's down there," Bellamy adds, jerking his head to the door under the stairs. "It's mostly got wine and canned food. And your room's upstairs."

"You have a lot of stuff," says Madi, looking around with a slightly critical frown.

"We've been living here for--" He glances at Clarke. "Almost ten years, right?"

"Something like that. We actually got rid of a lot of stuff when we decided we wanted to foster."

"Really?" She does not sound convinced.

"We knew that once we got a placement, things would happen fast," says Clarke. "We wanted to be ready. So we needed to make room for all your stuff, not just ours."

Madi doesn't have a response to that, so Bellamy just goes on with the tour. "That's the guest room. We don't have a ton of company, once every few months or so. Usually it's Clarke's mom, sometimes my sister and her family. That's her husband Lincoln, their son Gabe, and their daughter Willow. They're all really excited to meet you."

"You don't have to say that, you know," says Madi. "I'm not--you don't even know me. You don't have to pretend like we're best friends or anything. I got assigned to you, and you're willing to take me. That's nice of you and I appreciate it, but--"

"You think we're going to hate you once we get to know you?" Bellamy asks, mild, and she startles. "That's not usually Clarke's style. She starts with irrational hatred--"

"It was rational!" she protests. Her line here is obvious, and Bellamy smirks his approval. "You were an--"

"Clarke overheard me saying some things about her I didn't mean at a party," he says. "It was stupid of me. And she didn't let me live it down for--"

"Two months, tops. We were dating by the end of the semester. It was barely a grudge."

"Yeah, well it felt like forever to me." He turns his attention back to Madi. "Look, you're right, we don't know you. And this whole thing might not actually work out. But we want it to. So we're just going to assume it will until something goes wrong."

"And if it does, tell us, and we'll do our best to fix it," Clarke adds. "But for now, this is your room, and we're really glad you're going to be living in it."

The room is nice, at least. The walls are painted pale green, and there's a soft carpet and fresh sheets in navy and white. They put up a couple of Clarke's paintings and stocked the shelves with books they liked when they were kids. It doesn't have a ton of personality, as rooms go, but she thinks what it has is good.

"Luna said you liked blue, but the walls were already painted," Bellamy says, when Madi just stares. "We were worried it might be, uh--we thought it we painted it blue it might seem like we were hoping for a boy or something. If you decide you want to stay with us, we can always change the color later. Painting's easy."

"It looks nice," she says.

"Good." He glances at Clarke, and Clarke nods. "We'll give you some time to unpack, okay? But you can come downstairs when you want company."

"Or if you get hungry. There's food in the fridge."

"And we need to walk the dog, right?"

"Yeah, he'd like that."

Madi nods. "Okay. Um--thanks. I don't think I said that. But I'm--I appreciate it. You guys being so nice and taking me in."

"We're happy to have you," Clarke says. "Even if we don't know you yet."

"I know," she says.

"Do you want the door closed?" Bellamy offers, and when she nods, the two of them step out, and he pulls the door shut behind them.

"Good?" he asks Clarke, once they're downstairs.

She leans her forehead against his, feeling herself smile. "Good, yeah. Awesome."

*

It takes some adjusting. In a lot of ways, it's having a permanent lodger, except the lodger is a kid for whom they are legally responsible, and they would like to be bonding with her.

Cerberus is their saving grace in the early days, which isn't surprising. For all Madi is shy with her and Bellamy, she's very, very interested in the dog, and Cerberus is just as curious about her. He'll go to her room if he has to, but then he's conflicted between spending time with her and with Clarke and Bellamy, so Madi starts sitting in the living room with them, or outside on the porch if it's warm out. She gets rides to school with Bellamy and takes the bus over to the museum after work, hangs out there with Clarke until it's time to go home. She's still quiet, but she has more trouble keeping it up. They talk, and she wants to be involved. She can't help herself.

So that's pretty great.

Luna checks in every week, and seems to think it's going well, which makes Clarke feel better too. She's the kind of person who likes outside validation, and Bellamy telling her they're good is helpful, but not as helpful as Luna.

"You care too much about authority figures," he tells her, and she elbows him.

"You're a dick."

"Yeah, those are definitely both true. I still think we're doing fine."

"And so does Luna. Everyone agrees."

"Except maybe Madi."

Bellamy kisses her hair. "She doesn't think we're doing badly," he points out, and Clarke buries her face against his chest.

"I know. I just--I want her to be happy. I want her to love us."

"Give it time," he says. "We're totally irresistible."

"I think that's mostly the dog."

"Probably. But whatever works."

She really does do her best to not let it bother her. Rome wasn't built in a day, or whatever. It hasn't even been two months. At this point in her relationship with Bellamy, she was still throwing books at him and obsessively re-reading his overdramatic texts, and now they're married. She doesn't have to start panicking yet.

Spring rolls into summer, and school ends. Madi and Bellamy spend most of their time at home together, which makes her a little irrationally jealous, like the two of them are bonding without her. Which of course they are, but it's not like it's a competition. And the museum does a summer camp, which Madi enrolls in, and she likes hanging out in Clarke's office after, waiting for her to come home. She seems to just like being around them, being close, even if she doesn't say much.

And it's one of those afternoons when she asks, "How do you know?"

"Know what?"

"When you want to keep someone."

All the resentment she'd ever had about Bellamy being better with Madi suddenly evaporates and dies, and she wishes he was here intensely. He'd probably have a better answer. But Madi knows he's not here too, and she's asking Clarke. That was her call. This is the conversation she wants to have.

"In general?"

"Yeah."

"Usually it's not really a choice like that. You make up your mind a long time before you realize it."

"How did you know with Bellamy?"

"We were in a class together, and the semester was ending, and I realized that I might not see him again. He had his sister to take care of, so he lived off-campus and didn't go to many parties. And I really didn't want that. I didn't know I was going to marry him then, but--I knew I wasn't ready to lose him yet."

She nods, but Clarke knows her well enough by now to understand that she's not done. Just mulling it over. She does remind Clarke of Octavia sometimes, inescapably, but she's her own person. Clarke loves her all by herself.

"How did you know with me?"

Clarke considers. "Did you already ask Bellamy?"

She rolls her eyes. "Of course not. He's so easy. He wants to keep everyone."

"Wow. You're going to be so disappointed with my answer."

"You wanted to keep me right away too?"

"Yeah. No offense, but you're a ten-year-old. I know ten-year-olds can be assholes, but--I was pretty sure I was going to like you. I wanted to like you. And I do, so it was pretty easy."

"But if you didn't, you would have stopped wanting me."

"Honestly, I have no idea. Octavia was a handful sometimes, and sometimes I wanted to just--be a twenty-year-old with no kid and no responsibilities. But that's not how it works. When we decided to foster, we decided we wanted a family. And we knew it might be hard, but--yeah. We'd made up our minds before we ever met you. We were going to get a kid who needed us, and we were going to do our best. You'r family, Madi. Deciding to have a family is the same as deciding to keep them. So I guess it's up to you."

"Up to me?"

"Do you want to keep us? If you don't, you don't have to. We can tell Luna, and she'll find you a new family." She swallows, the very idea hitting her harder than she wants it to. "We all have to want to keep each other."

"And if we do?"

"Adoption's the next step, then. If you want."

"I do."

Clarke nudges her shoulder. "So how did you know?"

"Know what?"

"That you wanted to keep us."

"You have a dog," says Madi, and she laughs.

"We have a dog," she corrects.

Madi bites her lip, smiling. "Yeah. We have a dog."

*

When she's fourteen, Madi says, "I bet we could handle another kid."

Clarke and Bellamy exchange a look. "Who's we here?" he asks, amused.

"The family. The Blake-Griffin-Knight community."

"And what exactly are you doing to handle the kid?"

"PR. I'll tell them even though you try too hard at first, you're actually awesome. We get to decide when we want more family, right?" she adds, to Clarke. "I think we're ready to expand. Thoughts?"

"You know you're going to college in a few years, right?" Bellamy asks. "And then this is all on us."

"Exactly. I'll leave, you'll be empty-nesting. You guys wouldn't know what to do without a teenager."

"We'd figure something out." He glances at Clarke. "But we could probably handle another kid around the house. And now we have a good track record, so it might not take as long."

"It's not like there aren't still a ton of foster kids who need families," Madi says, pragmatic. "And we could be a bigger family, right?"

Clarke finds herself smiling, huge and warm. "Yeah,"she says. "We've still got room to grow."