Summary: Kate and Reynie are together. So are Milligan and Rhonda. Mr. Benedict and Number Two are still coworkers (but not romantically). Constance made the whole thing possible. So, surrounded by all of this collaborating, where does this leave Sticky? Who cares about Sticky Washington when everyone's infatuated with each other? Sticky x OC.
A/N: I could not believe the extent of fics about Kate and Reynie, and even Constance, especially where Sticky is mentioned only in passing or not at all. I'd been wondering about how Sticky would feel about a girl for a while, so I had him meet one at the library. Who knew that Reynie was responsible for Sticky's fame?
There are six books that are either mentioned, referenced, or described. Whoever names all of them correctly will have my next MBS fic dedicated to him/her. The second and third MBS books and series names do not count. Specific books are required. Except for one, they are all first-in-series.
Such a dreary day.
I hate gray skies. I hate cold days. I don't like warm ones much, either, but cold really takes the cake. After all, in the cold weather you have school, you have to stay inside, you have to wear the itchy sweaters that are much too big for you, you actually have chores, and the sky is almost never light. It's a variety of colors, of course – gray, light gray, dark gray, blue-gray, black-gray, perhaps white-gray. And the leaves are always brown and falling; the skeletons of trees are visible. Not to mention the cold. Snow doesn't even fall until January! No white Christmas here. Okay, occasionally there's a white Christmas. Still, though – it's always dreary.
Not to mention that this year was turning out to be my worst ever. Even my thirteenth birthday was looming ahead, carrying advanced-degree level lessons and even more responsibility. Why was it bad? you ask. You're with your friends and family, Sticky. Curtain's in jail. Everything's going good. Yes, I'd tried to tell myself that, but it wasn't working.
I was beginning to despair. I knew I was too young for such things, but first there went Kate and Reynie. They were fine at first, only hanging out with each other when I wasn't around. But now they've taken to doing it all the time – running off and hiding somewhere that they think no one will think to look. I know that they're gone, they can't hide from their best friend. But I was starting to feel like a third wheel around them, even though that description isn't relatively close to reality. And now, what with Milligan and Rhonda engaged... they were going to be married in April! I was surrounded on all sides by people falling love. I wanted someone to feel about me that way, and I wanted to feel the same toward that someone. I know that everyone expects me to be next in line if Kate doesn't pick Reynie, but the truth is that I just don't feel about Kate that way. To be quite honest, she still scares me. She's always rushing around, never afraid of anything. She's very loud, and confident with everything she does, and she even swears when she gets hurt. Not to mention that she'd had a hand in getting her dad and Rhonda together. I didn't mean any ill will toward her and Reynie, but I wished that Reynie would just forget about her and hang out with me again. I was, after all, his first friend. I should get some of him, too!
Such were my thoughts as we, Constance, and Rhonda were heading down the street to the library. Milligan wasn't with us; and I couldn't say I was sorry. It was enough having to watch Kate and Reynie. Frankly, I agreed with Constance – though I didn't feel the need to show it by miming disgusting bodily functions, as she did.
It was such a day as I've just described: cold, dreary, gray. It was after Thanksgiving, but not December yet. The entire mood was happy – everyone had moved on to planning their Christmases together, and I knew that Reynie was fretting about what to get Kate. She'd like just about anything he gave her, even if it was a cheesy card. He'd told me that was what made it hard, so long ago on her thirteenth birthday. See? I cared about him. But did he even acknowledge me anymore? No.
Kate and Reynie were up in front of Rhonda, cheerfully discussing different books. Kate was in the middle of a series that she hoped to get the next book for; she said that Constance reminded her somewhat of the protagonist. I hadn't been listening carefully, but it had been something about the Greek gods' and goddesses' children, and the first had something about a lightning bolt. Reynie was smiling and listening to her as she gave him every little detail, trotting backwards along the street as she was prone to do, with her red backpack slung over one shoulder. Constance walked behind them, complaining and groaning about the fact that her bag was too heavy. I wanted to slap her to make her be quiet. She only had about four books, all of them kiddie. It wasn't like Kate, who checked out about fifteen books every time we went, or Reynie, who just got one book and then read the rest of the ones in Mr. Benedict's library. I only tagged along to browse. After all, I'd read all of the books in the children's section and Mr. Benedict had most of the adult ones, so actually getting something was unheard of.
Rhonda was just walking behind the three of them, smiling as she listened to Constance's grumbling and Kate's prattle. She didn't even notice I was missing.
She slowed down until she was beside me, glancing at me with concern. "Ah," she began, "I thought that someone was missing." She smiled, expecting me to smile back or something, but I didn't stop sulking. "Sticky, is something wrong?" she asked.
I looked over at her and found myself surprised. When I was eleven, she'd been taller than me even though she was short, and it surprised me to see that I was now a few inches taller than her. It was funny how she would be getting married to Milligan, who was just about the tallest person I'd ever met (except for Moocho, but he was a strong man and didn't count). "Well," I began, unsure of what to say.
Luckily for me, Rhonda pulled one of her amazing guesses and put her arm around me. "It's just a phase, Sticky. Kate and Reynie will get over it and come to you, begging your forgiveness." Her eyes twinkled, and she smiled brightly. I knew that she was trying to cheer me up, but even though I knew that they would notice me eventually, I knew that it wouldn't be any time soon and that he and Kate would barely stop acting the way they were.
So she was partially right, and partially wrong as well. But I didn't mind. No one had ever noticed Sticky Washington before, why should they now? But I felt a twinge of anger at her, and then guilty for feeling angry.
We came up on the Stonetown Public Library in the next ten minutes. Kate was so busy talking to Reynie, and Reynie was so busy listening, that Kate forgot to turn around at the steps, tripped, and landed on the concrete, her bucket clattering and all of her books spilling out. I laughed as Reynie went down, too, but landed on her books. He smiled sheepishly, and Kate began laughing. She pecked him on the cheek and began to recollect her books. Constance caught my eye and made a gagging gesture. I smiled.
After Rhonda was through checking them for fatal injuries, we kept going up the steps and into the library. In the entrance was a huge wooden book, depicting a boy standing in the sea in a middle of a storm, holding what looked like lightning. I frowned at it. There were so many impossibilities about that scene. Underneath it, making the pedestal, was a book with a name on it written in letters that appeared to be made of lightning; they had a sort of magical feel. Directly underneath it was a book with a beige cover and red lettering on a scroll. On the bottom was an old-ish statue of a book. It had a different bind than color (the bind was dark blue), and there was an eye at the top, with the number one emblazoned on it. Those books hadn't changed in two years; they were the most popular ones so far. In Stonetown, at least.
Kate was pointing out the book on top to Reynie; apparently that was the one she'd been telling him about. She danced right past it ("danced" being a loose term) and straight to the HOLDS section to see if it had arrived yet. Reynie followed her, muttering something about the book with the red cursive writing.
I headed over to a section at random, just to see if they had anything new that I hadn't picked up yet. I knew almost immediately that they hadn't. If they had, Kate would have mentioned it. So I grabbed a random book with a forest illustration off of the shelf and sat down to read, not really caring what it was. It seemed like some sort of fantasy, though – it had a wizard, elves and dwarves and some little thing called a... a flobbit, or something. I didn't look up again.
"Oh, um, hello," someone said in a quiet voice. I shifted my gaze upwards. She had brownish skin, silky black hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, and her eyes looked very, very shy. She swallowed. "I was just, um, wondering if you were done with that book?"
"Oh, you can have it," I said quickly, handing her the book.
She smiled. "Thanks! This is the prequel to a series I've just started. I figured that reading it would give me more background information." She placed it on top of three or four other books, all of which were about an inch in width and looked heavy. Some of the titles looked familiar. Perhaps I'd read them some time ago. I didn't ever forget anything, it was true – but some things (especially from years and years ago) took a while to come back.
"Y-you're welcome," I stammered. I hadn't had a girl smile at me other than Kate, Rhonda and my mother, who didn't count. Kate and Rhonda were practically family. "I like to read things for background information, too. Mostly I read encyclopedias and such things, and almanacs, but I like fictional books, too. I mean, as long as they're not nonsensible, then I don't like them much at all, historicaln is much more up my alley -"
"You're babbling," she said.
I blushed furiously, and then even more because I was ashamed for doing so. "Sorry," I mumbled, and stood up quickly. Before I could go, though, she grabbed my arm.
I turned back to her. She was smiling sheepishly. "I kind of like encyclopedias, too. Mostly I like them when they're interesting. I don't like reading about wars and such things, or about people. History is all about dates and places and names that I can't ever remember. I'm not good at it. But I really like science," she continued. "And mechanical engineering. I'm really good with computers and inventing things. Kind of like Violet Baudelaire."
"You've read A Series of Unfortunate Events?" I asked, amazed. I rarely met anyone who had. Then again, I rarely met anyone at all.
She nodded. "Violet is my favorite character. I couldn't ever be as brave as her, though. I wouldn't have the courage to go and rescue my little sister from a man with hooks for hands – I really, really regret having to say that."
She sat down on the bench and put her books next to her. "I guess I'm more like Klaus," I said. "I've read just about everything in this library..." I trailed off. She's going to think I'm weird, I thought, she's going to think I'm a nerd and then she'll leave after making a bad excuse. I didn't meet her eyes.
"Seriously?" she asked, her eyes widening. I nodded slightly, not wanting to admit to it. "That's amazing! I've been coming here all my life and still haven't finished the science section! Do you remember any of it?"
I looked cautiously at her, trying to detect sarcasm in her voice. But it wasn't there. In fact, her eyes were bright and she looked eager. She's just amazed that I said that, I told myself. She doesn't really believe me. I nodded again. "I remember everything I read, word for word."
Her eyes narrowed, and she selected a book from the top of her stack. She opened it to a random page. "Okay then," she said. "I don't want to sound rude, but please quote page 250 of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen back to me."
She'd deliberately picked a book that nobody thought I would have read. It was true I hadn't enjoyed it, but I could remember.
I closed my eyes, remembering the page as best as I could. My brain conducted its search quickly and found the page. My photographic memory displayed it before me, and I just read it. "'At length, however, the remarks of her companions on her absence of mind roused her, and she felt the necessity of appearing more like herself -"
"Okay, I believe you," she said, snapping the book shut and putting it back. "That's amazing. I don't suppose you've ever read The Mysterious Benedict Society, have you? You remind me of Sticky Washington."
Wait, what? What had she just said...? That was... huh? "Sorry, I don't think I'm familiar with the title."
She shrugged. "I've got the book right here," she said. "I own it too, but my friend wanted it so I'm getting for her as I've already lent out the actual thing. Here." She thrust a beige colored book into my hands. On the cover was an illustration of Mr. Benedict's house in a cartoon style. I saw Reynie at the top, and Kate scaling a tree. Constance was standing on the steps, doing... well, whatever Constance does. There was a spiral staircase on the outside (I didn't quite understand that) and there was I, back when I was still bald, carrying a large book under my arm. My eyes widened, and I looked down at the author. Trenton Lee Stewart. Reynie had told me that when he was in the orphanage, he would write stories under that pseudonym... I looked back up at the girl. She was staring innocently at me.
"Can I borrow this for a minute... um, sorry, I didn't catch your name." I blushed again. Curse my fickle blood.
"Sonali," she said. Ah, I thought. She's from India then. "Of course. Can I come with you, though? I'd like to keep an eye on it, that's the only copy here." I nodded, then stood up. She followed me.
I found Kate and Reynie in the fantasy section. Kate was digging through several books, searching for something. Reynie was simply sitting beside her, reading a book that looked very boring. But I'd learned that with Reynie, things were not always as they seemed.
Reynie glanced up when he heard footsteps. "Sticky!" he exclaimed.
I heard Sonali gasp a little. "He looks exactly like illustration..." Sonali whispered. I held up the book, aware that my expression was not one of pleasure.
"Reynie, what is the meaning of this?"
Reynie turned pale and gulped. Kate turned around and jogged over, her bucket clanking. "What's up, Stickster?" she asked cheerfully. Then she saw the book. Her eyes widened as she snatched it up. "Holy smokes... My bucket is not that small! Who illustrated this?"
"More importantly, who wrote it?" I pointed out, glaring at Reynie.
Reynie bit his lip as Kate turned to him. "Reynie, what's going on? How long has this book been out?"
"Only a couple of years," he said.
"Spill," Kate demanded.
Reynie spilled. "Remember when Sticky tried to write about our adventures? Well, it gave me an idea. Miss Perumal had said I was a decent writer, and I figured that if I published it under a pseudonym no one would know. So I started by writing in notebooks. It took a long time. When I got the first draft done, though, Mr. Benedict gave me his spare laptop for my twelfth birthday. You remember that, Kate." Kate nodded. We both remembered. "Well, in the first document, he'd written, 'Tell them to beware the Gemini' and I knew that he knew I was writing it. So I copied the first draft into it and edited at the same time. Just after we'd rescued Mr. Benedict and Number Two, I gave the final version to Rhonda, who edited it even more thoroughly. Then we sent it off to a publisher under the name Trenton Lee Stewart, and it was good enough to get published." He took a deep breath. "Pati illustrated it, Kate."
Kate blushed. "Sorry," she muttered.
"Reynie's the one who should apologize," I said rather loudly, causing everyone around us to shh. "After all, we didn't know about it till now! How could you?"
Sonali was just blinking at everyone in surprise. "Y-you're Kate Wetherall," she said, pointing at Kate. Kate grinned and bowed.
"I thought so. It's so nice to be sure now," she said. Reynie laughed.
"And you're Reynie Muldoon!" Sonali turned her gaze to Reynie. Then she gazed at me. "Sticky?" she whispered. I nodded, blushing again. "That's amazing! So everything you did in the book actually happened?"
"Well," Reynie said, "Almost. I left out all of the Milligan and Rhonda romance throughout the series."
Kate arched her eyebrow, perfectly channeling Milligan. "You what?" she demanded. Reynie gulped. "So they were... even back then... but -"
"Ugh! Do I have to explain this every time?" said a loud voice from the end of the aisle, obviously tired out. "Rhonda and Milligan liked each other from the first time they met. Then Milligan found you, and decided not to remarry just yet. Then they just forgot, and I -" continued Constance, pointing to herself and sounding as if she was a genius "- had to concoct a plan to get them together, like with Kate and Reynie."
Sonali blinked. "Constance Contraire?"
Constance glared at her. "That's my name, don't wear it out," she grumbled. "Now someone help me with these books!"
"She is annoying," Sonali whispered to me. I nodded.
"Wait until you see Kate and Reynie," I replied. She looked confused. "Together. Dating." I mouthed, and her jaw dropped in surprise.
Reynie picked up the girl's bag, and his jaw dropped. "Are you kidding, Constance?" he said, handing it to Kate.
Kate laughed. "Wow, Connie-girl. I never knew you needed help with two books."
"That just so happens to be the rest of the series."
You could hear a pin drop, it was so silent.
"What series?" Kate asked warily. Constance pulled out her books. There was a blue one that had a clear illustration of the Shortcut, and a gray one with the illustration of a bus. Kate turned to glare at Reynie.
"Hello," Reynie said quietly. "How are you?"
Kate rolled her eyes. Then she turned to Sonali. "What am I like in the books?"
"Very heroic, and exactly like you are now," said Sonali. "Plus, it's obvious that Reynie likes you. And your circus tricks are awesome. I especially love the scene in the second book where you tackle Reynie after trying to regurgitate."
Kate blushed. "Ah, shucks," she said, and sat down beside Reynie, who had started babbling an explanation in such low tones we couldn't hear him. "You devil," she muttered, pulled him toward her, and kissed him.
Sonali almost squealed. "Can I have the book back now?" she asked. I nodded and passed it back to her. She turned around immediately and began heading towards the front desk to check it and the rest of her books out. I followed her.
When I caught up to her, she avoided my eyes. I could see her blushing furiously. "Sorry about that," she muttered. "Sometimes I get so nervous that I just leave. My friends say that it's really annoying on the phone, because I'll hang up randomly."
I smiled. "It's fine. I used to be that way, too. Or did Reynie leave that out?"
Sonali frowned. "Don't give him a hard time. He really got you all spot on, and the books are really, really good. It's one of the most popular books among kids my age."
"How old are you?"
She blushed again. "I'm almost twelve," she said, and began walking away again.
I almost laughed. Almost. But really I just ran after her. "I suppose you like Reynie, then," I told her dejectedly. It was true, though – what girl wouldn't fall for Reynie? He was smart, handsome, brave, sensitive (don't ask me how I know these things). I was just smart and sensitive.
"Most people do," she acknowledged. "On a fanfiction site that I read, most of the stories are about Kate and Reynie. Most of them are amateurish," she continued, "so I don't read all of them."
"What are the others about?"
"There's a couple with Constance."
She blushed again. "That's it," she mumbled. I looked down at my shoes. Of course. Nobody cared about Sticky Washington. "Kate and Reynie is a big thing for them," she continued. "They all believe they go together. I hate to say it, but you're only ever mentioned in passing."
The sulking, angry feeling that I'd had as I walked to the library today came back. "Of course," I mumbled, then turned on my heel and stalked away.
I didn't know that Sonali was following me until she tugged on my arm, dropping her books at the same time. I bent down to help her pick them up. "But you know what," she started, then blushed again.
"What?" I asked.
"My friends all say I'm weird because of it."
That couldn't be good. "Go on."
She looked straight at me. "You've always been my favorite character," she said, and then laughed. "It's so strange -"
"Yeah. I'm a weirdo," I mumbled, not looking at her.
She grabbed my shoulders and turned me to face her. "Not that! It's strange talking to my favorite character. So strange that I'm tempted to think this is a dream."
"Only when it actually is a dream, you don't think of that."
She nodded, and smiled gently, still blushing. "Yeah. That's what's convinced me that this is really happening. And I know it's really you, and not an actor," she said factually, "because you quoted that page to me. No boy would read Pride and Prejudice except for two reasons: either they've been forced to or they're Sticky Washington."
I smiled at her compliment. "You can call me George," I mumbled before I knew what I was doing.
"Do you want me to?" she asked cautiously.
"Not particularly, but you can. I don't even let Reynie and Kate do it, so if that says something -" I stopped there, too embarrassed to even go on.
"Sonali!" Someone called, along with a string of words in Hindi. Sonali whirled towards the sound, and answered. Then she turned back to me.
"I've got to go," she said. "It was nice talking to you." She stood up and cocked her head, seeming to consider something. Then, she said in a fierce whisper, "I come to the library every Wednesday at ten." She ran off.
I just looked after her for a few minutes, thinking. Many things had happened today:
One, a girl talked to me without leaving after two minutes.
Two, Reynie had written books about our adventures and published them without our knowledge. I would get him for that (and I would enlist Constance for help).
Three, everyone who read the Mysterious Benedict Society knew that Kate and Reynie had ended up together by default.
Four, I had learned a girl's name without ruining the whole thing, and in return she'd told me where to find her.
"Sticky?" Rhonda called out softly. She looked around for a few minutes before seeing me sitting there on the floor still. I stood up hastily, all too aware of the fact that I looked like an idiot.
"I'm here, Rhonda," I called back.
She smiled and walked over to me. "Ready to go?"
She put her arm around me and asked whom I'd been gazing after. I just stared at her and mumbled an incoherent excuse in my surprise. Had she been watching the whole time? It wouldn't have surprised me. Rhonda was good at that sort of thing.
Reynie, Kate and Constance were coming. They'd finished with their books and were now going out the door. Kate waved to us and stepped outside. Rhonda and I followed.
"I told you, Sticky."
"I told you that people care about Sticky Washington. In fact, I just heard a few people saying that they found your confidence in the second book inspiring."
I stood up just a little straighter and resisted the urge to make sure that my hair was okay. "Really?" I asked.
"Indeed. And I believe that you are one someone's favorite character."
That settled it. Rhonda had been watching the whole time. Normally that annoyed me, but this time I didn't mind.
It was nice to be worth watching for once.
A/N: So, who named them all? Could you figure them out? I thought that they were pretty obvious. Though, the book that Sonali asks for is difficult... I'm sure someone will figure it out.
Maybe someone will write another thing with Sticky now that I've begun.