“I need your help with a project.”
Bellamy emerges from the closet with the book he was looking for to find Madi sitting on his desk, watching him expectantly. He’s giving her a ride home today, so he was expecting her, but she usually at least says hi before she starts asking for favors.
“What kind of project?”
“The baking kind.”
He snorts. “Okay, yeah, that checks out. Do you have something to fundraise for? Is there a bake sale?”
She looks at him with that unique brand of unimpressed disappointment that only faces between the ages of eight and twelve can really convey. It gets a little more exasperated and cynical in teenagers, and adults are too beaten down, but there’s a purity to tween disappointment that Bellamy really enjoys.
“Do you not know what Sunday is?”
“Honestly, the only thing I know right now is that AP exams are next week. What’s Sunday?”
He pauses. “Oh.”
“You want to do something for Clarke?”
“She’s my mom,” she says, her awkward shrug of shoulders and aggressively casual tone highlighting her nervousness like a beacon.
Bellamy just smiles. “She is, yeah. What did you want to make her?”
Bellamy hadn’t been sure quite what to think when Clarke told him she wanted to start fostering kids. She’s his best friend, so of course he supported her in the broadest sense, but he hadn’t really ever thought of Clarke as the mothering type. Which, okay, that sounds shitty, but he doesn’t think of it as a bad thing. Clarke is amazing and his favorite person in basically the entire world, but he would not have pegged her as someone who actually sought out having a child outside of the context of a relationship. If and when she got married–which he tried not to think about too much–he thought she and her spouse might reproduce or adopt, but this was Clarke, on her own, finding a child.
Obviously, he told her he’d do whatever he could to help, but there had been a part of him that thought it wouldn’t last. The first couple kids didn’t stick, just needed temporary arrangements, and when she did get attached to one, Charlotte, only for a biological relative to step forward and reclaim her, Bellamy had thought that was it. The heartache wouldn’t be worth it.
But Clarke just got drunk and cried on him, and the next day she was talking to her social worker, saying she wanted to try again.
And now she has Madi, a bright girl with no family and too many hard edges, who’s decided after almost a year that Clarke deserves something for Mother’s Day.
Which obviously means Bellamy’s going to help her out.
“Madi wants to come to the softball game tomorrow,” he tells Clarke, as they’re making dinner. Friday dinners were always a loose tradition, until Madi came along, and the first time Bellamy didn’t show up to eat with them, she assumed he and Clarke had had a fight. Now they’re sacred. “I figured I’d just feed her after and bring her home.”
“So, you want her for the whole day?”
“It’s either that or stressing out about AP exams, and I can’t do anything about that, so I might as well try to distract myself. I’ll feed you too, if you want.”
Clarke hums, thoughtful. Madi had assured him that she was busy for most of the day, but it would be weird if he didn’t at least invite her for dinner. Having Madi has gotten Clarke a lot better at feeding herself, but she still falls into bad habits when left alone.
“I’ve got some errands to do, but I’ll stop by after? Probably around four.”
“Cool, just text when you’re on your way.”
Madi texts him after he leaves with the recipe she wants to make–red velvet cake, Clarke’s favorite–and a list of decorations for him to buy. She also offers to pay him back, which he always finds both funny and a little sad. He remembers being a kid with too little money, always stubborn about paying people back when kids with more let it go.
He can foot the bill on this one; that can be his Mother’s Day present to Clarke.
“So, what kind of cake are you thinking?” he asks in the car the next day.
Madi gives him a wary look. “I told you, red velvet. You replied to my message.”
“I got that. But–sheet cake? Layer cake?” He can see her frown out of the corner of his eye, and he clarifies, “Big, flat cake, or one of the tall, round ones?”
“Oh. Probably tall and round?”
“Okay, cool. I usually just do two layers, when I do layer cakes. Is that cool?”
“Two should be okay.”
“What do you want to put on it? Are we writing anything, or just sprinkles?” he clarifies.
“Probably, like, Happy Mother’s Day. Nothing fancy. I figure the important thing is that we’re making it, right? That’s the big thing. Effort.”
“Yeah, I think she’s going to be happy no matter what. I just want to make sure I’m giving you all the backup you need. This is your thing, I want to make sure you have everything you need.”
“It’s not just my thing,” says Madi. “It’s yours too. You want her to have a good day too, right? And get something nice.”
“Yeah, but she’s your mom, not mine.”
“She’s your girlfriend, that counts.”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” he says, with a roll of his eyes. It’s a familiar conversation with Madi, the first one he ever had with her, in fact; she’d been so sure she knew exactly what the deal was. Clarke was some woman rapidly approaching thirty, freaking out because her boyfriend hadn’t proposed yet, and she thought a foster-kid would force the issue. Bellamy had explained he wasn’t Clarke’s boyfriend, and it’s become something of a running joke between the two of them.
It only hurts a little.
“She should be,” says Madi, and he blinks. That’s her going off script.
“Why isn’t she your girlfriend? I’m serious. She might as well be. You spend all your time with her, if she needs you, you always come. I don’t know how you’d ever even be able to date anyone else, honestly. So, seriously–why aren’t you dating Clarke?”
He opens and closes his mouth, trying to come up with a good response. He doesn’t think there’s ever a particularly satisfying answer to why aren’t you dating this person; it’s usually something like we don’t like each other like that, and while he’d like to be able to say that, he doesn’t like lying, especially not to Madi.
She doesn’t like me like that is true, but Madi’s smart enough to notice the missing part of that equation.
“We’re not like that.”
“You are, though,” Madi persists. “You’re a better couple than lots of married foster parents I’ve had. You guys actually know how to talk each other, and you work together. And I know you like her.”
He leans heavily on the shopping cart. “Yeah?”
“You’re not that subtle when she wears shorts or low-cut tops.”
“Good to know.” He sighs. “We’re getting off-topic.”
“Maybe my real Mother’s Day present for Clarke is hooking you guys up.”
“Bad news about that one.”
“Just think about it,” she says. “I bet she’d say yes, if you asked.”
“You can tell her I’d say yes if she asks. I don’t mind going on the record. I’d totally date Clarke if she wanted to date me. I think the cake needs sprinkles,” he adds, before Madi can say anything else. “Maybe chocolate shavings.”
Madi is still watching him, and he might regret this conversation.
But all she says is, “Sprinkles and chocolate shavings?”
“It is Mother’s Day. Might as well go all out.”
“Yeah,” Madi agrees. “That’s what I was thinking.”
Bellamy is–just a little bit–paranoid when he makes his way over to Clarke’s the next day. The first step of the plan went off without a hitch; he and Madi made the cake and had it finished before Clarke showed up, and it’s warm enough that they could open up the windows to clear the smell out. They had dinner and watched a movie, and Clarke and Madi took off with Clarke apparently not even aware that Mother’s Day is coming. She’s not great with dates.
The part Bellamy’s worried about is step two, when he brings the cake over, and Madi may or may not have told Clarke things he’s not sure he wants Clarke to know, and he might have to deal with Clarke knowing he has a thing for her.
Granted, even if Madi did say something, he can probably downplay it. Pretend like she misunderstood, or he was joking around, or trying to appease her. Something that wouldn’t make her into a liar, but–
He rubs his face. He did tell her she could tell Clarke. If he throws Madi under the bus, he’s an asshole. If she told Clarke, he’ll just deal with it. Like an adult.
Jesus, Mother’s Day isn’t supposed to be stressful.
Clarke opens the door, which means the plan is already going off the rails. “Hey, what are you doing here?” she asks, with a frown.
“Madi forgot something at my place,” he says, thinking fast. “Just dropping it off.”
To his surprise, Clarke flushes. “Did she tell you to?”
Clarke nods, but she still looks a little uncomfortable. “Well, she’s not actually here right now.”
“She said she’d be home for dinner, but she’s working on a project at the library.”
“Well, uh, it’s not like–” He shifts on his feet; Madi definitely said something to Clarke, and there’s some sort of scheme involved, and it’s awkward. “I’ll just text and ask if I should leave it in her room? I don’t need to give it to her myself.”
“You know you can always hang out,” Clarke says. “I don’t mind if you want to wait for her.”
“Or just spend time with you,” he can’t help teasing. “I do like spending time with you.”
“Or that. Come on in.”
Bellamy puts the cake in Madi’s room, so Clarke won’t investigate it, and then they settle in on the couch, only a little awkward. Clarke doesn’t seem to want him to leave, but he can’t help wondering if Madi didn’t say something, and Clarke is trying to figure out how to let him off the hook easy.
Me: What exactly did you do
Madi: Be more specific
Me: You told me to come bring the cake and you’re not here
If you’re trying to give me and Clarke a date, you’re bad at it
Madi : YOU’RE bad at it
You’ve been friends with Clarke for six years and you’ve never made a move
Don’t take it out on me
Me: Maybe there’s a good reason
Madi : Definitely not
“What did Madi forget?” Clarke asks, and he pulls his attention up from the phone.
“I think she was–” She sighs. “She was trying to do something for me. She probably forgot it on purpose to get you here.”
He pauses. “What was she trying to do for you?”
“She’s been asking me about dating? Like, saying she’s going to find someone for me, asking me weird questions. I thought she gave up, but–she was asking about you this morning, and here you are.”
“Here I am.”
“Seriously, I’m sorry.” She rubs her face. “I think she’s trying to–I think she’s afraid that if I start dating someone, I’m going to forget about her. So she wants to test me, and you’re the person she decided to use.”
It’s a pretty safe way out of the whole thing. No one’s talked about their actual feelings, and Clarke will probably sit Madi down for an important talk about how she loves her and wants to keep her. Bellamy gets out of it with his feelings intact and safe.
But–Madi already knows Clarke’s not giving her up. Madi wouldn’t have asked to make the cake if she thought Clarke was ever going to get rid of her, and as soon as Clarke gets the cake, she’ll know that.
And if he lets this go, he doesn’t know how else he’s ever going to mention it.
He lets out a breath. “I don’t think she’s worried about losing you.” Clarke cocks her head, and he rubs the back of his neck. “She didn’t forget anything. She was at my place because she wanted to make you a cake for Mother’s Day. And she’s been telling me to ask you out since the first day she met me. I’m pretty sure it’s just–another Mother’s Day present.”
“That would probably explain this morning, yeah.”
Her voice gives nothing away, so he says, “What happened this morning, exactly?”
“She was just asking a lot of questions. Like–how we met and why we never went out.”
“Why didn’t we?”
She bites the corner of her mouth. “No good reason, I’m pretty sure.” He’s already leaning in when she says, “You’re sure Madi’s not–”
“I’m sure she’s wondering what the hold-up is.”
“She’s not the only one,” says Clarke, and closes the distance to kiss him.
“I don’t think you had to go to that much trouble,” Bellamy tells Madi, as they wash the dishes. The cake was a big hit, and he’s not sure he’s ever seen Clarke look so happy in six years of friendship. Apparently being Madi’s mom and his girlfriend is kind of her dream come true. “Like, this was way too complicated.”
“It really wasn’t. I wanted to make a cake, so we did. And then all I had to do was make other plans today. I figured you’d be stressing about whether or not I told Clarke you wanted to date her and end up spilling the beans.”
“Or you could have just–”
“What? You weren’t doing anything. Cake’s nice, but a boyfriend is a way better Mother’s Day gift. Besides,” she adds, with a deliberate pause, “I needed you and Clarke officially together for Father’s Day. So we can do something special for you.”
“Just don’t bake anything,” he says, like there isn’t a giant lump in his throat. “I don’t trust you guys alone in the kitchen.”
“We’ve got you for that,” she says. “You’re welcome, by the way.”
Bellamy wraps his arm around her, kisses her temple even though she makes a face. “Thanks. I’m pretty sure this is Clarke’s best Mother’s Day ever.”
“It’s her first one. We can do better next year, right?”
He grins. “Yeah, no question.”