Summary – The children all begin to settle into fairly normal lives when – surprise – they are soon engaged in yet another adventure and good vs. evil battle.
Author's note – This is a Kaynie fic, so you can expect some fluff, but not all. I've created some new characters, kept old ones, and adore reviews and requests, so don't be shy to speak up! Also, should be noted that while the fic is basically complete in terms of plot, I am in the process of going through and fixing/updating the chapters, because it's kind of a mess. I'll be posting updates more consistently on Archive Of Our Own, here: /works/1184860. Enjoy!
It's just the first day, Reynie thought, nervously tapping his pencil on the desk. Calm down.
Truthfully, though, calming down seemed nearly impossible, seeing as first days didn't tend to go well. In fact, he'd only really attended one "first day," and that was four years ago. Back then, it was under rather different circumstances – namely, to thwart his mentor's evil twin and restore peace to an otherwise imminently-corrupt nation. Or something like that.
Other students slowly started filing in. Reynie was instantly reminded of that auspicious day, also four years ago, when he took the series of tests that eventually promoted him to said assignment. He'd been so very anxious, waiting all by himself in a state of confusion.
Things were hardly the same now, however, as they were then, he reminded himself sternly. He now had Miss Perumal and her kindly mother, Pati; his best friends Kate, Sticky, and Constance; and he'd even grown to be taller and slightly less average-looking. Mr. Benedict, Number Two, and Rhonda still lived in the same house, with Constance as their legally adopted daughter.
No, he had nothing to worry about. He had such a strong, loving support system, and just thinking about them made him smile. He couldn't wait to see Sticky and Kate, despite the fact that he'd seen both a only few days ago. Sticky had sprouted up just like Reynie, and, of course, retained his prodigious memory. With the aid of family therapy, his parents had gradually grown to forgive themselves, and consequently were marginally less clingy.
Kate lived happily with Milligan and Moochos on the farm; she had "simply blossomed," as Number Two, increasingly fond of such sentimental pronouncements, stated during their last visit. Indeed, thought Reynie fondly, she was, if possible, even more agile, clever, and thoughtful – not to mention her eyes, which had become more noticeable in passing years, for they were the same deep blue as her father. When Sticky remarked factually upon their hue, along with a series of obscure references to other little known objects that shared their color, Kate threatened to punch him.
And then there was Constance. Reynie had to smile at the thought of her. She had probably changed (and somewhat improved) the most of the three, because according to Sticky behavioral and limbic development during toddler years was tremendous. She was indignant to find herself growing, complained about shrinking clothes, yet even as her fourth and fifth birthdays passed, the fussiness diminished significantly. Rhonda called her a "diva," which for some reason amused Mr. Benedict greatly – and, Reynie thought with a familiar surge of pride, he could now laugh as much as he wanted with no risk of falling asleep due to narcolepsy!
Constance's skills had been fine-tuned via home-schooling (even as he contemplated this, she was still at the house, undergoing daily lessons and tests), and she now possessed an impressive capacity to predict and seemingly "read minds" that, while unnerving to many, seemed perfectly normal in the eyes of her three comrades.
Reynie's thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of his homeroom teacher. She clapped her hands – everyone clambered hastily to their feet – and said crisply,
"Hello, everyone. I'm Mrs. Bryant, your sophomore English teacher!" Her voice was sharp, but somehow pleasant. "Ignore whatever you've heard about me; you are here to do nothing but learn, do you understand?" She fixated on every student with an intense gaze, then consulted her clipboard and announced, "We have a new student this year: Reynard Muldoon."
Heads swiveled around to stare at him, and he did his best to appear calm and relaxed. "Hey, guys," he said nonchalantly.
"He's cute," a girl next to him whispered to her friend, who shrugged and nodded half-heartedly. He flushed at this, making a mental note to ask Miss Perumal about what precisely it meant when a girl said that and how best to respond. As a matter of fact, how was he going to learn what life was like as a normal fifteen-year-old boy in a normal high school with normal classmates? At the orphanage, everyone mocked him for being nerdy, and his experiences at the Institute could hardly be used as proper examples of public school.
The teacher continued to call out names, Reynie raising his hand like the others when his was uttered, and then, after distributing a stack of necessary papers to be signed by guardians at such and such a date or else, Mrs. Bryant allowed them to talk quietly among themselves until the bell rang.
"What do you think of her?" a boy next to him asked. He was short, with glasses and rather messy blond hair.
"Mrs. Bryant, the teacher. My sister had her. She says she's the best but strictest teacher in the whole school."
Reynie tried to look properly awed by this, but found himself distracted. Was it just him, or had one of the ceiling tiles just moved?
"That's nice," he replied awkwardly, still eyeing the ceiling. "Can you, uh, excuse me?"
"Sure. See you around, man."
"Right. Have a nice day." Reynie quickly gathered his things and slipped out of the room and into the hallway. A few seconds later, as he'd properly predicted, Kate Wetherall dropped down in front of him. Though she was almost a year his senior, they'd been put in the same grade because, thanks to her years at the circus, she was a bit behind in studies. (Sticky, on the other hand, was attending a highly acclaimed university a few blocks away.)
"You really shouldn't do those things here, you know. They'll expel you," said Reynie.
"I know." She grinned, pulling her hair back into a ponytail. "A bunch of kids made fun of my bucket today."
He glanced at it, a shiny silver affair featuring a hidden catch and multitudes of pockets inside, attached to her by a sturdy black belt. The Benedict Society might be used to it, but being unusual, was likely to warrant some brand of ridicule. "What did you say?"
"I told them there was a laser pointer in it that could take their ears off if they didn't shut up. I even reached into my bucket for show. They got quiet pretty fast after that."
Half-amused, half-concerned, Reynie had to laugh. "Kate, that's hardly an inconspicuous start," he said sternly. His recent growth spurt had finally put him almost four inches taller than her, much to her chagrin and his smugness.
She shrugged. "You know me. I don't do inconspicuous."
"That's for sure." There was comfortable silence for a few minutes as they observed the lines of rusty lockers and gum-strewn floors in the hallway, and then Kate reached out and spontaneously pulled him into a hug. She'd learned to be a little more gentle when doing this, at least with people who didn't have superhuman strength like Milligan; thankfully, Reynie's ribs didn't feel as though they'd cracked.
"I'm so happy we're here!" she enthused in a sudden outburst of energy, proceeding to perform a complicated series of back flips to express just how happy she was. "I mean, we don't need to worry about Ten Men, or Mr. Curtain, or who we can and can't trust, or anything! Do you understand how amazing this is?" She seized Reynie by the shoulders and started to shake him so hard his teeth clattered. "Oh. Sorry." Letting go, she began pacing animatedly. "I mean, imagine what it would be like if we'd never met each other or taken those tests! I'd be stuck feeding elephants all day, Sticky would probably still be on the run or in jail or something awful, who knows what would have happened to Constance, and you, you'd be at the Stonetown Orphanage getting mocked all day without me to deck those awful kids!"
Not knowing what to say to that, Reynie said conversationally, "This girl in my homeroom class called me 'cute.'"
Kate paused. "What?"
"I was saying hi to the class, and she turns to her friend, this other girl, and goes, 'He's cute!'" She narrowed her eyes at him calculatingly. "I mean, what was that about?"
"Well…" Kate cocked her head, still scrutinizing him. "You don't look as scrawny and boring as you used to. You're polite, kinda dorky, but sweet." Out of character, coming from her, but Reynie didn't mind. "I can see why they'd say that."
She grinned, tweaking his nose. "Nah, I'm just kidding."
The bell rang; both of them jumped. Kate scampered off before he could say anything else, and he stood there, wondering where he was to go and why in the world he felt disappointed to discover that she'd only been joking.
Kate hurried down the hallway, if only to escape being in Reynie's presence which, for some strange reason, made her feel suddenly tongue-tied. The thing was, she hadn't been kidding whatsoever.
Over the past summer, she'd begun to feel... not odd, but just distinctly different. It frustrated her beyond belief that such bizarre new feelings could just waltz in unannounced and begin interfering with her normally clear mind.
Really, what was wrong with her? Why did she suddenly feel this way about Reynie, when they'd been close friends for years now? Somehow she wanted to be around him much more than normal, and felt goose bumps when he walked into the room and smiled at her.
It wasn't like she could talk to Milligan about this issue. She most certainly didn't want him to judge or worry about her for feeling this way and thinking these things. And if he knew that she was in any way compromised, the chances of him recruiting her for a secret mission were sure to be greatly reduced.
However, these feelings weren't at all unnatural. She wasn't compromised, not in the least. Good heavens, if everybody who develops crushes and attractions to other people were put at a disadvantage, the entire world would be crumbling already. No, there was nothing wrong with her, nothing wrong whatsoever. To a girl who was used to jumping out of airplanes and outsmarting sinister Ten Men, all in under ten seconds, though, this was quite unprecedented. And Reynie? Of all the people to like as more than a friend!
Kate glanced up, realized she was lost, and doubled back the other way. Come to that, she had no idea where she was or where she ought to be going. Which was most unlike her, and only served to prove that this – this boy thing, or whatever it was, was simply too much of a distraction. No, she decided stubbornly, she would simply have to smother this strange feeling and move on with life.
Still, it wouldn't hurt to take a break. While the concept of school was just peachy, she didn't do well with structured time. Not to mention that it was lovely weather outside. And so, without thinking twice, she walked out of the building, up the adjacent hill, found a tree, and practiced hanging upside down, lassoing the uppermost branch, and executing a splendid triple twist to right herself, all in barely fifteen seconds.