Hey, got a call from realtor about awesome house but need to go ASAP, could you get Ethan from soccer?
Bellamy’s at the grocery store when he gets the message, but running these errands is the extent of his Saturday plans, aside from the usual grading/drinking/Netflix, and even that he might be able to put off to Sunday. He doesn’t have that much to grade, and he does have the new God of War. And while he was looking forward to that, it's not really a conflict with helping his sister out.
Me: What time/where?
Octavia: An hour
The youth center
Me: Would he be coming home with me after?
Octavia: Unless you want to bring him to the house we’re checking out
It’s cool if you’re busy, I can ask Indra
Me: No, it’s fine
I don’t mind taking him
Just text me when you want him back
Octavia: Thanks Bell!!
You’re the best!!
Cross your fingers for the house
Bellamy smiles and pockets his phone, reclaiming his cart to finish up the shopping.
He hadn’t been sure what to think when his sister told him two years ago, all in the same call, that she was pansexual, dating a woman, and that said woman had custody of her pre-teen nephew, but he has to admit it’s been good for her. Octavia has always been a bit of a wild child, despite his best efforts, and while he loves her no matter what, it’s been nice to see her settling down.
And now she’s getting married and buying a house. It's honestly a little surreal.
By the time he finishes his errands and drops everything off, it’s been close enough to an hour that he doesn't have time to do anything else, so he just heads over to the youth center to watch the end of whatever soccer is happening. He figures he's probably welcome.
Uncle hasn’t been a difficult role for him to settle into, not once he got over his impulse to backseat-parent. He loves Ethan, in the easy, uncomplicated way he thinks you're supposed to love family.
The youth center is close enough to the high school that he has the anxious feeling of having to go in to work on a Saturday as he approaches, but luckily the turn comes before it really kicks in. He hasn't been to the youth center since Octavia was a kid, and it's gotten nicer, upgraded a little with more athletic facilities. The soccer players are easy to find—all he has to do is follow the shouting—and while whatever they’re doing is still going on, he’s not the only adult there. He finds Ethan’s match and joins the other grownups, trying to figure out what’s going on. He assumes it’s not a game, or O would have been here, but—
He’s used to being recognized at school-adjacent stuff, even when it’s not his school, but he’s usually Mr. Blake for that. Unless he knows parents very well, they don’t call him Bellamy.
But the woman is familiar, pretty and blonde, young to be a parent. Another teacher, or maybe—
His jaw drops. “Clarke?”
She beams, and they manage one of those awkward hugs that no one actually seems to initiate, because neither of them can quite decide if they’re supposed to. But he's glad they did.
She's still beaming when she pulls back, tucking some loose strands of hair behind her ear as she studies him. "It's been, what--fourteen years?"
"Fuck, don't say that," he says with a groan. But the math checks out; he and Clarke knew each other in high school, barely aware of each other at first, no overlap in friends or extracurricular activities. But then they were in most of the same classes sophomore year and developed something of a rivalry that grew into a friendly rivalry and then an actual friendship by the time they were graduating. She was the one who told him to defer college a year when his mother was sick, the one who assured him that it was something rich kids did all the time to "find themselves" and it wouldn't hurt his future prospects in the least.
She was right, but he never got a chance to tell her; she went across the country and his mother died, and most of his high-school friendships just slipped away. He'd thought of getting in touch, from time to time, but he's never been good at that stuff. He wouldn't have known how to find her.
If he's honest, he wouldn't even have known what to say.
But Clarke is here now, and grinning at him. "I can't forget it, I keep getting stuff about my ten-year college reunion in June."
"We're getting old."
"So--what are you doing here?" he asks, when the conversation lags.
"Watching my kid." Her tone is bright and just a little smug, like she's daring him to ask.
He doesn’t miss a beat. "Busy sophomore year at college?"
"That was my third guess."
"What was your second?"
"Married to someone with a kid."
"Is that why you're here?"
"Picking up my sister's fiancee's nephew."
She laughs. "That was more complicated than I was expecting. Which one?"
“I only have one sister.”
"Oh, uh, Ethan?"
"Really? So your sister is--" She snaps. "Octavia. Wow, I can't believe I forgot."
"It's been fourteen years."
"Yeah, but how many people are nerdy enough to name their sisters after Roman historical figures?"
"Hey, she could have been named after Octavia Butler."
"Sorry, are you trying to tell me that naming her after a science-fiction writer would be less nerdy? Really?"
He bites back on a smile. "Point taken."
"So you're babysitting?"
"O and Niylah want to buy a house, their realtor got some new place she wanted to show them right away. So I've got him until they're done with that." He frowns. "Shit, I wonder if anyone told him."
"I assume he's met you before," Clarke teases, gentle. "He’s not going to think you’re kidnapping him.”
"Yeah, but--what is this? Is he going to be disappointed that O and Niylah aren't here to watch? There are a lot of parents here."
"It's just practice. I haven't been here the whole time, I just finished up work early and it was a nice day."
"You're working on Saturday morning?"
"I do freelance illustration on the side, I'm always working," she says, which sounds right. In high school, Clarke was one of those overachievers who felt like she did it less because she was trying to be the top of the class (even if she was) and more because it was a compulsion. She liked staying busy, and apparently still does.
"What do you do not on the side?"
"I work in a research lab, medical stuff," she says. "Addiction stuff. You?"
"High-school history teacher."
"Yeah, just up the road."
“That’s—I was going to say awesome, but I’m not actually sure. I feel like we were assholes to our teachers in high school.”
“It’s got its ups and downs,” he admits. “When it’s good, it’s amazing, but it doesn’t take a lot of bad to make you feel like a total failure.”
“Yeah, I get that.”
He snorts. “You would. I don’t remember you being great with constructive criticism.”
She elbows him. “Shut up.”
Something happens on the field and the rest of the crowd starts to cheer, so Bellamy joins in. The kids look flushed and pleased, scanning the audience for whoever's supposed to be getting them, so Bellamy catches Ethan's eye and gives him a wave. He doesn’t look surprised or confused, either, so score one for Octavia’s communication skills.
The coach gathers the kids up for what looks like a final pep talk, and then Ethan is jogging over to greet him, smile bright on his face. “Hey, Uncle Bellamy!" He falters. "Uh—Madi’s mom?
“She calls me Clarke, you can too.”
Right on cue, a girl joins them, about Ethan’s age, with dark hair and bright eyes. She gives him a somewhat suspicious once over.
Clarke rolls her eyes. “Come on, you can do better than that.”
She offers her hand. “Hi, I’m Madi. I don’t think we’ve met.” Her tone suggests Clarke had her memorize this off a flash card, but he’s pretty sure she’s just being a little bit of a brat. It’s pretty standard at her age.
So he accepts the handshake. “I’m Bellamy, Ethan’s uncle.”
"We knew each other in high school," says Clarke.
"Really?" asks Ethan, like this is the biggest coincidence of all time. Which, to be fair, the odds do seem astronomically low. But here they are, him and Clarke Griffin, hanging out again on a bright Saturday afternoon.
"Yup," Clarke confirms. Her eyes flick to Bellamy. "We were going to get ice cream, do you guys want to come?"
"We were not," says Madi. Clarke cocks her head, and she hastens to add, "I want to! But we definitely weren't planning to do that."
"Maybe I was planning and I just didn't tell you."
"Either way, we're going now," says Madi. "Are you guys coming?"
She directs the question to Ethan, but he looks to Bellamy. They've been family for almost two years, which is long enough to develop what Bellamy considers to be an appropriate level of comfort with each other, and a decent rapport.
Which means he's pretty confident interpreting Ethan's look as obviously I want to get ice cream, please say yes.
So they're on the same page.
"That sounds great," he says. "Do you have a favorite place?"
They split up to drive into town. Bellamy asks Ethan the usual questions about how soccer was (okay) and how school is (also okay; Ethan isn't the most talkative kid), and then asks, "Do you really want to do this?"
Ethan looks confused. "Do what?"
"Get ice cream with Clarke and Madi. I can tell them something came up, if you don't want to go."
"No, I want to. Madi's cool, I like her," he adds.
"Okay. You excited about the new house?"
"I will be once we get it," he says, with the most feeling Bellamy's heard the whole ride. "Niylah and Octavia are so stressed about it, I just want it to be done."
"I'd be stressed too. I know owning property is a good idea, but it's a lot of money."
"And Octavia says we're going to get a dog."
"Yeah, she's wanted a dog since before she could say dog," Bellamy says, with a smile. "She's probably going to get a whole pack of dogs."
Ethan looks genuinely awed, so he and O really are family, blood be damned. "Awesome."
Clarke and Madi are waiting outside the ice cream place when they get there, Madi on her phone and Clarke propped against the window, projecting nonchalance like it's her job. She's pretending she's not waiting for them with so much effort he can almost taste it, and it makes him feel almost giddy. There's something magical about rediscovering someone; it feels like a second chance he shouldn't squander.
He could use more friends.
Once she's seen Bellamy and Ethan, Clarke pushes off the window and gives Madi a bill. Madi scampers inside to get her ice cream, so Bellamy finds a ten in his wallet and gives it to Ethan too.
"Two scoop maximum," he says. "I don't want Niylah yelling at me."
"One not including sprinkles."
He and Clarke follow the kids inside at a more leisurely pace, Bellamy holding the door open for her. She studies the list of options, but he doesn't have to; they only have one sorbet, and he doesn't have any Lactaid on him. It's a no brainer.
"How did you end up fostering?" he asks, as he watches Madi. She seems bright and cheerful, happy, but he can't quite put together the chain of events that brought them here. He'd assume she was a relative, like Niylah and Ethan, but Clarke probably would have mentioned that.
"I was dating someone," she says. "A woman named Lexa. It was getting pretty serious, so we started talking about the future. And I guess--I always figured I'd have kids? Just kind of in the back of my mind. And she said she didn't want any. We went back and forth for a while, trying to decide if we could make it work, but the longer we went, the more I thought--yeah, I want this. And I wanted to start fostering right away."
She shrugs. "I guess I just assumed we wouldn't be having kids of our own. I started doing research on fostering to convince her, and I just thought--I could do this."
"So you broke up with your girlfriend and got a foster kid?"
"Pretty much. I was also relocating for work, which was the other reason Lexa and I were talking about our future. I got a new job, new house, new start."
"How long has it been?"
"Almost a year. We're working on formalizing the adoption."
They get to the counter and he lets her go first. She gets cookies and cream, in a waffle cone, with sprinkles, and he sticks to the raspberry sorbet in a dish, for all it makes him feel like he's setting a good example for absolutely no one.
"Fuck, you're lactose intolerant," Clarke says, as soon as she sees his order, and he laughs.
"I like sorbet. I didn't really expect you to remember my dietary preferences. And the kids are excited." He looks over at Madi and Ethan, who have claimed a table. They don't really need privacy, so he has no reason not to join them, but he kind of wants privacy. "And me. I wanted to come."
Clarke smiles, bumps her shoulder against his. "Good to see you again, Blake."
He ducks his head, stupidly pleased. "You too, Griffin."
"Ethan says you've got a girlfriend."
Bellamy rolls his eyes and accepts the beer his sister offers. "That's not what he said."
"No," Octavia grants. "He said you got ice cream with Madi's mom, and when I asked why, he said you guys were friends."
"Yeah, that's the accurate version of that story. We went to high school together," he explains. "We wanted to catch up. She might be a lesbian," he adds, in the hopes that it will end the conversation.
"Nope." He raises his eyebrows, and she shakes her head. "I've met this woman, remember? We've had the whole what flavor of queer are you conversation."
He takes a deliberate sip of beer, considering. It's tempting to let it go, to not give Octavia the satisfaction of his curiosity, but then he wouldn't know, so it doesn't seem worth it. "And?"
He nods. "Cool. We exchanged numbers," he goes on before O can pester him further. "We're probably going to hang out. It doesn't have to be a big deal, so don't be weird."
She nods. "Well, you know, any time you want to pick Ethan from practice, just let me know."
"Did we stop gender-segregating middle-school sports?" he asks. "Don't get me wrong, I'm all for that, just checking."
"It's because it's through the youth center. The school has official teams and those are boys and girls, but this is just a club sport." She taps her jaw. "He has practice again next Saturday, you could get him from that, and then the season starts and there will be games you could go to."
"Or I could just call her."
"I'm trying to make sure you actually get this done, Bell."
He rolls his eyes. "I can't even manage my own friendships now? I want to talk to her, okay? I'm planning to get in touch."
"Okay, fine. But if you want an excuse to talk to her, let me know. I've got the connections here. I can make this happen."
"Again, I can make it happen myself. She's the one who wanted to get ice cream."
"Well, keep me posted. And thanks for helping out yesterday."
He raises his beer. "Thanks for feeding me." And then, because she is his sister and mostly motivated by affection, he adds, "I'll let you know how it goes."
She pats his arm, her smile sweet. "You fucking better."
On the one hand, it's absolutely true that Bellamy can handle his own relationships. He totally can.
On the other, he isn't always great at activities. He doesn't have much trouble texting Clarke--he is, after all, a high-school teacher trying to reconnect with someone he attended high school with, so he can just tell her when things remind him of their time in Mr. Pike's AP US history class--but he doesn't know how to turn texting into actually seeing her again.
She is at least texting back, and texting her own messages when she's bored or frustrated or amused, so he doesn't have to worry that the whole thing is completely one-sided, but he would like to see more of her, and that's not something he's sure how to do. Aside from, obviously, directly asking if she wants to go on a date with him sometime, which does feel a little drastic.
So after two weeks, he gives up.
If I wanted to come to a soccer thing
Would there be something this weekend?
Octavia: There would!
First game of the season
So it's a big deal and there's a reason for you to come
Other than hitting on Ethan's friend's mom
Me: I'm not going to hit on her
Just talk to her
Octavia: Well whatever you want to do
You can come to the game
It's at one
Niylah says you need to at least act like you're coming to see Ethan
And not just using him as an excuse to get laid
Me: I do love him and I'm happy to support him
If you told me to come to his games I would
I just didn't think he cared
Octavia: It's more like if you're going to be there you need to also acknowledge him
I don't think that's unreasonable.
Me: Your lack of faith in me is always appreciated
I'm not going to be a dick to my favorite nephew
Octavia: He's your only nephew
Me: See you on Saturday
Octavia: Uh huh
In truth, Bellamy wouldn't have ever minded going to more of Ethan's activities, but he's never been sure if he's welcome. He didn't have an uncle growing up, and whenever his mother's boyfriends tried to participate in his life, it made him feel itchy. He wants to be a part of the family, but this is uncharted territory for him.
Maybe he could just start coming to all the soccer games, without any ulterior motives. He could be a weird soccer uncle. That's probably a thing. And if it's not, he can make it a thing.
He makes sure to find his sister and Niylah before anything else, waves at Ethan when he looks over, and only then does he let himself try to find Clarke in the crowd.
"She's not here yet," says O. "You're a little early."
"Don't you have a house to buy and a wedding to plan?" he asks, more impressed than anything. "How do you guys have this much time to worry about me making a friend?"
"Clarke is our friend too," Niylah points out. "I usually talk to her at games."
It honestly hadn't occurred to him. "Oh."
She flashes him a smile. "Besides, we wouldn't be planning the wedding here."
"Yeah, Bell, middle-school soccer isn't that boring."
"Oh good, I was worried." If they're going to talk about this anyway, he might as well take advantage of it. "If this is the first game of the season, how do you know her so well?"
"She moved here last year," says Niylah. "And Madi was already on the soccer team when Clarke started fostering her, so I was a little worry. I wanted to see how she was, make sure she was a good fit for Madi."
"Also, she's the only parent who's even close to our age," says O. "Plus she's queer, do we have more in common with her than anyone else. I can't believe I didn't know you guys knew each other! I guess I always call you my dumbass brother, not Bellamy."
He snorts. "Thanks."
"If the shoe fits. Anyway, yeah. Madi and Ethan were in the same class last year, so we saw her sometimes for school stuff. We're not BFFs or anything, but--"
"Enough for you to think you should matchmake."
"She's cute, you're--people seem to like your face, you're both bi, and you were friends in high school," says Octavia, shrugging. "Why would we not want that to happen?"
He has no counterargument to that and doesn't particularly want one; he would be pretty happy if Clarke decided she wanted that to happen too. It would be great if they were all on the same page here.
"There she is," says Niylah, waving, and Bellamy turns his attention to see Clarke, already on her way over. She's wearing a t-shirt and jeans, with her hair pulled back in a loose braid. It's only been two weeks since he actually saw her, but it's still nice.
"Hey guys," she says, sitting down on the grass next to Bellamy with a smile. "Honestly, I can't believe I didn't realize you two were siblings. Seeing the two of you together, it's so obvious."
"It would have been weirder if you did figure that out," Bellamy teases. "It's been a while since we saw each other, that would be such a weird thing to figure out. I probably wouldn't recognize your--"
"Yeah, I definitely wouldn't recognize your hypothetical sibling."
"Okay, fine, but--" She pauses, thinking. "It's just--it's kind of sad, that you were so close this whole time, and I didn't even know."
"Just a year," he says. "And you would have probably found out when Madi hit high school in a couple years anyway. We didn't lose that much time."
Her smile is soft. "Yeah, I guess we didn't." She turns her attention to Niylah, leaning forward a little. "Hey, how's your patient doing? The one with the broken arm."
They talk physical therapy for a bit, and Octavia wants to hear how the fall formal he's helping plan is going, and then the game starts, which effectively ends the conversation. Clarke is, not surprisingly, one of those parents who gets really into the game, shouting encouragement and occasionally telling the ref that her calls are wrong.
It's cute and, again, exactly what he would have expected from Clarke Griffin, thirty-two-year-old soccer mom.
Madi runs over as soon as the game is over, gives Bellamy kind of a nod but doesn't bother with a greeting for either of them. She has bigger fish to fry.
"Can I sleep over at Allie's tonight?"
Clarke considers. "Depends, has Allie asked her parents yet?"
“She’s asking now.”
“As long as it’s okay with her parents, it’s okay with me. But you have—“
“Piano tomorrow at two,” says Madi. “I know, I won’t miss it. I thought you could come get me before lunch.”
"That sounds like something I could do, yeah. How's the homework situation?"
"Fine," she says, casual enough that Bellamy believes it. "I have to finish up a couple chapters of my book for English, but I was just going to bring it over to Allie's, and even if I don't finish it there, I can tomorrow night. And I've got a math worksheet, but that's not going to take long. Definitely under control."
Clarke nods. "Okay, cool. Like I said, as long as Allie's parents are good with it, I'm good with it."
Ethan comes over then, and Bellamy joins Octavia and Niylah in congratulating him on a game well played. He does seem pleased that Bellamy is there, accepts a hug and thanks him for coming, so this is definitely something he could do on the regular. Fine family fun.
And Octavia is totally the one making it about Clarke, given she elbows him and says, "If Madi's sleeping over somewhere, guess who isn't busy tonight."
"Wow, you really think I didn't notice that? Come on, O."
"Honestly, I don't have a lot of faith in your game."
"I hadn't noticed." He slings his arm around her shoulders, giving her a quick squeeze. "I think I can handle this."
And, to be fair, he still might have let it go, if Clarke left or showed signs of wanting to leave, but he lingers while she talks to what he assumes is Allie's family, and when Madi leaves with them, she comes back over to talk to him.
It's not exactly subtle.
"Is the sleepover happening?" he asks.
"Yup. They want to go to the mall, so they're going to stop by our place on the way home so Madi can pick up her stuff."
"So you've got the night to yourself? I'm guessing that doesn't happen very often."
"Not a ton. Not that I'm complaining, I could definitely make it happen more if I wanted to. I've got friends who are happy to come hang out with her. But this is easier."
Her mouth curls in a smirk. "You're definitely flirting with me, right?"
"I was trying to keep it lowkey, but yeah. Definitely."
"Okay, so--are you doing anything tonight?"
"You want to do something with me?"
He has to smile. "That was the plan."
"I definitely had a thing for you in high school," Clarke informs him. Bellamy had assumed--for no particularly good reason--that she'd want to wait to have sex, but she dragged him to bed as soon as Madi was out the door, and now the only real question is how long they have to wait for round two. Apparently it's been a while for both of them.
He kisses her hair. "Yeah?"
"I had this fantasy where we went to the same college and hooked up."
"Huh. I had this fantasy where we didn't wait until college to hook up."
"That too. But--I liked you a lot. I didn't want to just lose touch after graduation."
"Which is exactly what we did."
"With good reason, though. You were busy."
"I was." He wets his lips. "So--what do you want now?" It's a question he could have asked before they had sex, but it's not as if it would have made a difference. Regardless of where else this is going, he absolutely wanted to have sex tonight. But he is hoping it's going to be a long-term arrangement.
"To get to know you," she says, slow. "And see where it goes? I liked you before, I think I probably still like you. So far, so good, anyway."
"So far, I like you too."
"Cool." She turns her face up so she can look at him. "I haven't dated anyone since I got Madi. I don't really know how it's going to be. But I asked her about it, and she says it's fine and she likes you."
"You asked her already?"
"We were texting a lot, she noticed. I told her I was thinking about asking you out. Like I said, she's tentatively okay with it. Assuming you don't start to suck. Which would also be a dealbreaker for me, so--"
He laughs and tugs her in for a kiss. "So I just have to be cool and treat you guys right and you'll keep dating me?"
"That's usually how dating works, yeah." She smirks. "And you can stop coming to middle-school soccer games to flirt."
"Can I keep on coming to be a good uncle and boyfriend? It's fun. You were just a bonus."
"I'm not going to stop you." She settles more comfortably on top of him. "Anything you want to do to be a better boyfriend is fine with me."
"Cool, so--dating, soccer flirting, and we'll go from there?"
"Sounds perfect," she says. "In the meantime--" She slides her hand down his side. "Want to go again?'"
He rolls them over so he's on top of her, kissing her long and deep. "Definitely," he says, and there's not much talking after that.
Next year, Bellamy somehow ends up coaching the youth-center soccer team.
"You just like doing things," Madi says, frowning at him.
"Is that supposed to be a burn?" he asks. "Doing things is cool. Don't let the media tell you that apathy is hip, it's not."
She rolls her eyes, but it's clearly fond. They've got a pretty good relationship, these days; they're well on their way to becoming a pretty awesome family. "Yeah, when you say stuff like that, it definitely sounds like you know what is and isn't cool."
"No one's on the cutting edge like high-school teachers," he teases.
"I'm going to pretend like I don't know you, that's cool, right?"
"Yeah, I figured."
It's not like he really thinks she means it--for one thing, everyone already knows she knows him, he came to the games last year and does parent stuff with Clarke sometimes--but it's still nice when he accidentally overhears her and Ethan talking to a couple of their teammates as they clean up.
"Your dad's pretty good at this stuff," says one of them, and then pauses. "Is he actually your dad?"
"What does actually mean?" Ethan demands. He and Madi got along before, but now that they are, for all intents and purposes, family, they've become ride-or-die allies. It's kind of adorable. "What does he have to do to be her dad?"
The kid rubs the back of his neck. "I just meant I didn't know if he married her mom or not."
"Not yet, but he's totally going to," Madi says. "But yeah, he's still my dad. And he's awesome."
He drives Madi back to Clarke's place, which is mostly his place now too. He only sleeps at home a few nights a week, and he's always trying to do it less. Pretty soon, he's not going to to do it at all. He and Clarke have been talking about that.
Madi runs upstairs to do teenage stuff as soon as they get in, so Bellamy can give Clarke a kiss without her making exaggerated retching noises. Which is always appreciated.
Clarke smiles. "Hey, how was it?"
"I don't know if we're going to be the best team, but the kids listened to me and we had fun, so that's the important thing, right?"
"Nope. If you don't win, it's pointless."
He snorts. "Right, forgot who I was talking to." He kisses her again. "It was awesome, we had fun, we're going to crush all our enemies."
"That's what I thought. Thanks for doing this," she adds. "I know it's extra work, but--"
"That's my brand, right? Awesome soccer uncle and boyfriend?"
"Madi said I was her awesome soccer dad," he admits. Just to see what she'll say.
She smiles. "That sounds like even more of your brand."
"Yeah," he says. "That's what I was thinking too."