Bellamy’s settled at the picnic table next to the playground with a stack of essays to grade. He’s in middle of giving one of his tenth-graders a B+ when something tugs on his sleeve, making his pen skid across the page.
He sighs and looks down. “What is it, bud?”
“Darcy fell down,” Gus tells him solemnly, and that’s when he notices the tiny little blonde peeking around his son’s side. Her round cheeks are pink and tear-stained, but she’s down to sniffles.
“She did?” Bellamy replies, capping his pen. “Any major injuries?”
The little girl––Darcy––looks confused, but Gus nods and points. “Her knee got hurted.”
“Hurt,” Bellamy corrects. “Where are your parents?” he asks the girl, and her face crumples.
When she starts to cry, tiny, gut-wrenching sobs, Bellamy mentally swears and hopes her parents aren’t going to kill him for picking her up. But she can’t be more than three years old, and other than Gus she’s about the cutest thing he’s ever seen, and he’s got to do something in the face of her sad little tears.
“Hey,” he says softly, crouching in front of her and holding out his hands. “It’s okay.”
She hiccups and throws herself into Bellamy’s arms, nearly knocking him on his ass. Once he’s got his balance back, he stands up, rubbing a gentle hand on her back.
“Don’t worry about it, Darcy,” he says. “You can stay right here with us until your parents come.” It’s only feet from the playground, a prime vantage point for watching the kids, and easily seen by frantic parents in search of a missing child.
“Gus, get the first aid kit out, please,” he tells his son, and Gus hurries over to the backpack holding their lunch and the little first aid kit that Bellamy’s learned never to travel without. Gus is adventurous––a little too adventurous for his peace of mind, but his mother told Bellamy that he’d been just the same.
“Let’s get you fixed up, okay?” he says to Darcy, and she pulls her face out of his neck.
“Kay,” she says, rubbing at her eyes. She tries to push away the wispy blonde curls that have stuck to her damp face, and wrinkles her nose when she can’t get them.
Chuckling, Bellamy sets her down on the table and helps fix her hair. “There you go.”
He smiles at her, and she smiles timidly back.
He talks her through cleaning her scraped knee, and though her lip trembles when he uses the antiseptic wipe, she doesn’t cry again. Gus is helping her choose between Captain America bandaids and unicorn bandaids when Bellamy hears a shout.
“Mama!” Darcy squeaks.
He turns and sees a woman sprinting toward them, and he notes that Darcy’s the spitting image of her mother.
“Oh my god,” she gasps, shoving past him to grab Darcy’s little shoulders, pat down her arms like she’s checking for injury. “Baby, you can’t scare us like that!” She squeezes Darcy in a hug and lets out a long, shuddering sigh.
“Sorry,” Bellamy says awkwardly. He’s not sorry for helping the little girl, but he is sorry her mother was so obviously frightened. “Gus brought her over when she fell, and she didn’t know where you were.”
“No,” she sniffs, straightening up. Her golden hair is falling out of a braid, and one piece is tickling right above her mouth where he notices a little beauty mark. “Thank you. My mom was supposed to be watching her while I went to the bathroom, but then she had to take a call, and she lost track of her, and I’ve been going out of my mind for the last fifteen minutes.”
Bellamy opens his mouth to reply, but his son interrupts.
“Daddy fixed her all better,” Gus tells her earnestly. “See? Captain Unicorn.”
She makes little oohs and ahs at the two different bandaids plastered on her daughter’s knee, slightly crooked.
She thanks Gus very seriously for his help, and then hauls Darcy up onto her hip as she turns to Bellamy.
“Thank you,” she says again. “Really. I don’t…” To his horror, her blue eyes grow glassy and she clears her throat repeatedly.
“Please, don’t worry about it,” he says hastily. “I just held onto her until you came for her. No big deal.”
He can’t tell for sure, but he’s pretty positive he’d be as gutted by the mother’s tears as he was by the daughter’s.
She gives him a sincere if watery smile. “It’s a very big deal to me. I’m Clarke,” she adds, and shifts Darcy so she can hold out a hand.
“Bellamy,” he says, shaking it, and then Gus thrusts out his hand for a shake, too.
When Bellamy’s sister comes over for Sunday night dinner, Gus can’t wait to tell his Aunt O about his new friend from the playground. Bellamy’s stirring the pasta sauce at the stove while Gus chatters away about Darcy, and how she was lost and hurt and they fixed her knee, and then her mommy came and shook Daddy’s hand and Gus’s hand, and then she kissed Daddy, and then Darcy and her mommy had to go home.
“Wait, back it up, mister,” Octavia says, and Bellamy groans quietly. “Darcy’s mommy kissed your dad?”
“Mm hmm,” Gus replies.
“On the cheek,” Bellamy says. “It was a thank you type of thing.”
(It was awesome.)
Bellamy swears he can feel Octavia smirking at him.
"Wait, Darcy’s mom’s name is Clarke?” Octavia asks later, over dinner. Gus is still going on about his new friends. “Blonde, about my age, super hot?”
Bellamy coughs. “Uh, sure. Yeah,” he says, as if he didn’t notice just how attractive Clarke was.
“I know her,” Octavia says. “Darcy’s in my tiny tots class.”
He frowns. “But so is Gus.” He thinks he’d remember seeing either Darcy or Clarke at the kids’ jiu-jitsu lessons his sister teaches.
“Yeah, but he’s in the Tuesday-Thursday group. Darcy’s in the Monday-Wednesday-Friday class,” Octavia explains.
Bellamy makes it a week before he breaks down and lets Octavia know they’ll be switching to the Monday-Wednesday-Friday class.
“Gus wanted to see Darcy again,” he says, defensive.
“Uh huh,” Octavia replies dryly.
“Hi,” he says lamely when Clarke notices him among the other parents in the waiting area. “Is this weird? Crap, this is weird, isn’t it.”
She blinks, still registering the fact that he’s in front of her, then laughs. “No, it’s fine. Is Gus just starting here?”
He shakes his head and drags his coat off the bench next to him. To his relief, she takes him up on the silent invitation, sitting in the cleared spot.
It’s a popular class, which is why Bellamy had preferred to take Gus to the less busy Tuesday-Thursday sessions. But now he’s grateful the waiting area is so crowded, because the length of her thigh is pressed against his as she squeezes in next to him.
“We switched groups,” he admits. “My sister actually teaches the class.”
Clarke lets out a little ‘oh’ of realization. “Well, Darcy will be excited to see Gus. My dad’s starting to feel replaced as her favorite go-to guy with how much she talks about you two.”
“Your dad? Not her dad?” he finds himself asking, and then wants to kick himself because jesus, can he be any more obvious?
Her eyes go a little soft and sad, and when she says, “Mine. Her dad passed away before she was born,” Bellamy wants to pretty much punch himself in the face.
“Sorry,” he mumbles. “I didn’t––I shouldn't have asked.”
“It’s alright,” Clarke says, nudging him with her elbow until he meets her eyes. She makes a show of looking down at his bare left hand, then back at him. “But fair’s fair.”
“Sole custody,” Bellamy explains. “She wasn’t interested in being a mom.”
Clarke hums and looks through the observation window. Darcy and Gus are giggling wildly as Octavia leads the group through a tumbling exercise. “Too bad,” she says. “He seems like a pretty great kid.”
“So does she,” Bellamy says, and when she beams at him he doesn’t even try to tell himself that he doesn’t have a huge, fat crush on Darcy’s mom.
They sit next to each other during the kids’ jiu-jitsu lessons for the next three weeks, and Bellamy learns that she does art therapy at the same hospital where her mother is a surgeon, and she has a little house about a five minute drive from his, and Darcy just turned three.
He tells her about Gus, that his full name is Augustus, that he turns five in a couple months, and that until she died last year, his mother used to watch him while Bellamy taught at the high school. Now it’s a mix of preschool, his sister, and babysitters that allow Bellamy to go to work.
“My dad’s retired,” Clarke says. “He usually watches Darcy when I’m working. If you ever need someone to take Gus, I’m sure he’d love to have him.”
“Oh,” Bellamy says. “Uh, I don’t know if––”
“If you wanted to do a trial run, he could watch Gus and Darcy on Friday after tiny tots,” she continues as if he hadn’t spoken. “I already checked, and he said he would.”
“Yeah?” he says slowly, so he doesn’t stumble over his words like an overexcited fourteen-year-old. “What would, uh, we do?”
“I like frozen yogurt,” she says hesitantly, and he can’t keep himself from kissing her for one second longer.
When he pulls away, sooner than he wants to but later than he should have, given that they’re surrounded by other parents in a crowded room, she looks a little dazed.
“Sounds perfect,” he says, and this time, she’s the one who kisses him.
When Bellamy and Clarke go to pick up the kids from the Griffins’ house at the end of their fifth date, both of her parents open the door. Gus is clinging to Abby’s hand, and Darcy is on Jake’s shoulders, a gleeful look on her face as she clutches his hair for balance. Bellamy nearly has a heart attack when she lurches forward at the sight of them, squealing “Bell-me!”
He reaches up and grabs her before she topples off, and only when she’s securely perched on his hip does his heart start to slow down again.
“Hi,” she says, patting his cheek. “Hi Mama,” she adds a moment later.
“Hi, baby,” Clarke replies, her voice highly amused.
“Daddy! We made cookies!” Gus says, and leaves Abby to throw his arms around Clarke’s knees. “We got in trouble ‘cause we ate the dough.”
“Hey, that was supposed to be our secret,” Jake says, winking at Gus.
“Please don’t teach our children to keep secrets from us,” Clarke says dryly, one hand absently carding through Gus’s dark curls, and Bellamy’s stomach does a funny sort of flop at the ease with which she says our.
“Thanks for watching them,” Bellamy says, and Abby beams at him.
“Anytime,” she says, but her tone makes it clear it’s more of an order than a suggestion.
They name their third child Ella.