There are some days, days that seem to be getting more and more common as time goes on, that Reynie doesn't feel like he's good enough.
Sure, he's here, and according to Mr. Benedict and everyone else, he wouldn't be if he wasn't extraordinary. Everyone is always telling him that he's smart, clever, intuitive. But that's the thing, all he is is smart. Your standard straight-A student. Whereas Sticky is a genius, able to memorize almost anything given a few minutes, and answered all the questions on the test just because he knew the information already, and Kate is an acrobatic master with an uncanny ability to judge distance and weight, and Constance is literally psychic despite her young age, Reynie is just... plain. He won't ever say that he's not smart, because he knows he is, but he's just your average kind of smart.
The four of them were supposedly picked for being gifted children looking for special opportunities, but Reynie doesn't feel gifted at all.
But the bad days where his mind is full of those thoughts, buzzing around constantly and blurring out the world until he locks himself away under the guise of feeling ill or wanting to read, they're few and far between for the most part.
He doesn't quite know when those bad days started to increase.
It doesn't make sense to him, that they're happening now, after Mr. Curtain is locked away and the Institute is no longer broadcasting those messages that still haunt Reynie's dreams from time to time. But maybe, he thinks, maybe with the lack of a threat he can finally step back and see them, see himself, for who they really are.
The bad days get more frequent and he's spending longer and longer periods of time locked in his room, hoping that no one will bother him because he won't be able to say no.
It's funny in a morbid kind of way that he feels so alone, although he finally has the family he's always wanted.
Of course, someone notices.
Reynie knew it was going to happen. He just hoped, as silly as it was, that he was wrong.
What does surprise him, though, is that it's Sticky who says something about it.
With how mild-mannered Sticky is, he never would have expected him to be the one who knocks on his bedroom door during one of those days, the soft sound of knuckles on wood shattering the bubble of thought and jolting him from under his covers.
Reynie doesn't know if talking to Sticky made him feel better or worse, but he still feels painfully ordinary next to the shy, bespectacled genius.
When he finally breaks, it's during a meeting of the Mysterious Benedict Society.
They're sitting in a circle as they always do, talking amongst themselves as Constance tries to come up with a poem to describe her latest psychic escapade, convincing Rhonda that Shakespeare invented the letter q, as Sticky silently questions the validity of her claim.
Reynie can't remember much, his head was too fuzzy with harsh thoughts to recall what exactly he said, but he can remember that he opened his mouth to say something--
--And the next there were words spilling from his mouth, coming like a waterfall as everything, every negative idea about himself, every self deprecating comment, all those horrible feeling that he'd felt choking him slowly fell off his tongue smoothly and without a hitch. He doesn't look at them the whole time he's speaking, eyes fixed on his weakly trembling hands in his lap, body hunched forwards ever so slightly as he tried not to raise his voice. But when the words weren't pouring from his lips anymore and there were tears welling in his eyes, he looks up at the other three, expecting to see contempt for everything he had just expressed.
But instead, Reynie saw sympathy and worry and shock, he saw Constance's mouth agape and cheeks wet, he saw Kate with a hand over her mouth, and Sticky with his eyebrows upturned, concern written all over his pallid face.
And the next thing he can remember is sobbing into Kate's signature striped t-shirt, feeling her strong arms wrapped around him delicately, Constance clinging to him like a koala and tearfully berating him for feeling like he was any less than the rest of them, and Sticky gingerly holding his shaking frame, mumbling words of encouragement into his shoulder.
And in that instant, Reynie feels like he just might be good enough.
The bad days don't entirely go away, because that's not how life works.
No, those thoughts still linger in the back of his mind, that maybe it was a mistake to include him in this group of special children. But no one will let him feel that way for long. If he shuts himself away in his room like he used to, Sticky will come and visit him, sitting in a comfortable silence until Reynie is ready to talk. If he seems unusually quiet, Kate knows how to get him up and doing something, helping to distract himself from the things fogging his mind. And some days, writing angry poetry with Constance is the only way to get his feelings out.
Reynie Muldoon might not feel special, but he means the world to his friends, and his friends mean the world to him.
And as they sit together in Constance's room, laughing as she struggles to climb out of a laundry basket with her stubby little limbs, Sticky reaching in desperately to help her out, they're just a group of kids.
And for now, at least, that's enough.