Four Days 3/4
by JBMcDragon

"So, this is one of those things you don't get to use superpowers to fight, isn't it?" Conel asked as he read the note Anthony had left.

Brendan ripped it out of his hands and crumpled it, throwing it in the trash. "Yeah," he said bitterly. Conel was still dressed in his pajamas, though Brendan had put on khakis and a T-shirt. Anthony had left. The note said as much, along with using every derogatory word Anthony probably knew (and some that Brendan was pretty sure were made up) when referring to Brendan and Conel. Brendan was fuming. Anthony had *no right* to do that. "I'm really sorry, Con," he said softly.

"No problem," Conel said, and he truly looked like it wasn't a big deal.

Brendan sighed. "It must be nice being famous."

Conel shrugged, a graceful lifting of broad shoulders. "It has good points and bad points. Like anything else, I guess."

Brendan kept washing dishes. "That note didn't seem to bother you," he said quietly.

Conel picked up an apple and bit into it. "The press has called me all sorts of things," he said. "Most of it made up. Just because some bozo who doesn't even know who I am does it and adds a few names shouldn't bother me."

Brendan stopped washing and turned to look at Conel. "You sure are odd," he said at last.

Conel, his mouth full, looked questioningly at Brendan.

"Well, a little cut freaks you out," Brendan said, pointing at the Band-Aid on Conel's finger, "but being called something really foul doesn't. You get nervous talking about your family, and all concerned talking about losing your powers, but you seemed to really love being the center of attention at the fair--with perfect strangers!--the other day."

Conel took another bite of his apple. He eyed it as he chewed, as if considering it seriously. He turned it with his fingers, then bit again.

"You're not going to answer me, are you?" Brendan said after a moment, smiling.

Conel shrugged. "What do you want me to say? Everything you listed is true."

Brendan frowned slightly, setting a dish down on the drying rack and turning off the water. "Why are you like that? What makes you so antsy about talking about your family?"

Conel sighed and hopped off the counter, tossing the half-eaten apple into the garbage. "I don't know," he muttered at last. "I mean, what family am I supposed to tell you about? The institute that created me? That's an institute. I could tell you about the Kents--they treat me nice. But they're not my family. Closest I got is Roxy and her family, but I only lived with them for a little while--not long enough to have lots of family stories. And that whole thing was... different."

Brendan watched Conel, who hadn't once looked up as he shuffled into the back bedroom and closed the door. There were a few sounds, then Conel walked out dressed, his feet in socks and his shoes in his hand. "So what, exactly, should I tell you?" He sat down at the tiny kitchen table and propped one foot up, putting a sneaker on. He stomped, then propped his foot up again and tied his laces.

Brendan frowned and shrugged uncomfortably.

"I mean," Conel continued, tying his other shoe, "it's sort of okay when it's you. You know. But Jenny--? She wouldn't understand because she doesn't know who I am. And she can't know, because that would put her in danger." Conel put both feet on the floor and looked up, his hands on his knees. "Got any suggestions?"

Brendan bit his lip, thinking. Finally, he sighed and shook his head. "You wanna hang out today? Just you and me? Because you can tell me this stuff. I know, remember?"

Conel hesitated, then grinned and nodded once. "There a mall around here?"

Brendan flashed a smile and nodded. "Let's go."

"Woooo-whee!" Conel yelped, dipping his head so his sunglasses slipped down onto his upturned nose. "Man, I love malls! Smell that processed air! Hear the frenzy of pretty babes searching for that perfect sale, fighting over that skimpy dress! See the multitudes, walking around in a daze, not knowing how to get out, obsessed with the fluorescent lighting!"

"Nothing like you, of course," Brendan laughed, rolling his eyes.

Conel flashed a brilliant, picture-perfect grin. "Nah. I'm obsessed with the girls. Hello, girls!" he said with a flourish as they walked by a group of chattering teens. The four young women laughed and moved on. Like a raven caught by a sparkling object, Conel suddenly detoured and headed into the racks of men's clothing, looking over the rim of his sunglasses at several shirts. "You know what your problem is, Bren?" he said, pulling out a green shirt, eyeing it, and hanging it back up.

"I'm sure you're going to tell me," Brendan answered good naturedly, leaning against a row of Polo shirts.

"Yup. I am. Your problem is that you don't dress the part."

Brendan's eyebrow rose. "I wasn't aware I was playing a part."

"You're not, that's the problem," Conel said.

Brendan laughed. "A minute ago the problem was that I didn't look the part!"

Conel stopped, looked up, shrugged, and tossed a light blue shirt at Brendan. "Buy that. See, in order to *be* gay you have to *look* gay."

Brendan started to respond, but Conel went on heedlessly."Right now, you look perfectly straight. I mean you look like the total stereotypical teenage boy who has no fashion sense and still lets his mom dress him." Conel grabbed a leather jacket off the back wall, held it up to himself, and headed for a column mirror.

"My boyfriend likes the way I dress," Brendan grumbled, following Conel.

Conel stood in front of the mirror, turning this way and that before finally setting the jacket aside, not bothering with putting it back. "Well, your boyfriend would like it a lot better if you'd pick up some fashion mags. Or paid attention to the television."

Brendan eyed Con, part of him feeling nearly hurt and the other part agreeing.

Conel looked back, and smiled again. "C'mon, Bren. I mean, you're almost a stud! If I were gay and you were all unattached, I'd go for you! But, y'know. I'm not, and you are. Moot point." Con turned away and left the store, then whipped back around. "Buy that before leaving," he said, then wandered over to a group of girls sitting on a bench near the escalator.

Brendan sighed in frustration and put the shirt back--like he had the *money* to buy clothes right now!--then followed after Con.

Conel took one look at him, and his face fell. "You didn't buy it!"

"No cash on me," Brendan muttered, glancing at the girls. He didn't feel very comfortable talking about his money--or lack thereof--in front of others.

Conel shrugged. "So, Lisa," he said, turning back to a little black haired girl and smiling, "you live around here?"

Lisa grinned back, shrugging one shoulder. "Around. You?"

"Nah," Con answered. "Just visiting."

Brendan sighed and glanced around. One of the girls--a little blond--smiled prettily at him. He smiled uncomfortably back. "Con? We should get going," he said softly.

Conel looked at him, blinked several times, then looked back at the girls. "Oh!" he said, as if with a sudden realization. "Right! I'll have to catch up with you later, Lisa!" he said cheerfully, winking before sauntering away. "Sorry," he said after a minute, "I forget that you don't care about flirting with chicks."

Brendan chuckled, shaking his head. "'Chicks'? Do you really think they'd like being called that?"

Conel shrugged. "Doesn't matter. They're not here!" He grinned brightly and kept walking. "You need contacts," he said after a moment.

Brendan looked up at him, lifting a brow. "Really," he said, though it wasn't a question.

"Truly!" Conel answered, seemingly oblivious to Brendan's less-than-exuberant response. "You look like part of the Scooby-Doo gang with those glasses."

Brendan looked up at Con, stunned. "I don't look like *Velma,*" he muttered darkly.

Conel didn't pay attention, walking briskly along with a spring in his step. "Glasses aren't becoming on anyone--not you, not me... well, yes me--everything looks good on me."

Brendan stopped, standing still while Conel went on talking and striding forward, only pausing when he finally looked over and realized Brendan was no longer there. He turned and raised his hands, a 'what are you doing?' gesture.

Brendan crossed his arms over his chest and eyed Conel. Slowly, Conel came walking back.

"What's up? See something you like?" Conel asked uncertainly.

Brendan continued glaring at him, consternation, hurt, and anger warring for supremacy.

"What?" Conel asked again after a moment, running his fingers through his black hair self-consciously. "What'd I do?"

"I can't believe you just told me I looked ugly in my glasses," Brendan said.

Conel frowned, ran his fingers through his hair again, and tugged gently on his gold earring. "I didn't--"

"You just said to me that no one looks good in glasses," Brendan said, talking over Conel's words. "Before that you told me I had bad fashion sense. What, you learned I was gay or that my brother bashes me, and suddenly it's okay? Fuck that." The words were without heat, though they sounded hurt even to Brendan's ears. He turned and started walking away, back toward the doors.

"No, now wait," Conel said, hurrying to catch up. "That's not it at all."

"Go away, Con," Brendan muttered. "Go stay at Jenny's house for a while."

"Brendan--wait! Would you stop for a minute?"

Brendan felt Con's hand on his arm, and even without his superpowers the other boy was able to stop and turn him. He glared at Conel wordlessly.

"It's just that... it's that I thought maybe if you dressed a little nicer--"

Brendan pulled away, stepping back. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the group of girls they'd passed on the way in, watching and giggling. "This isn't about how I fucking *dress!*" Brendan snapped, too hurt to worry about attracting attention. "This is about treating your friends like shit! Conel, you insulted me and hurt my feelings--what, they didn't teach you to play nice? No, I suppose they wouldn't--that's a parent's job, and you don't have one." Even as the words poured out of his mouth, he couldn't believe he was saying them.

Conel's face fell, and paled. He broke eye contact, looking at the floor, tugging on his gold hoop earring wordlessly. "I--"

"Con, I--"

They both stopped, Conel shifting from foot to foot, Brendan unsure of what to say.

"Con, I'm sorry," Brendan said after an awkward silence.

"No, hey, it's okay," Conel muttered, stepping back and glaring at the floor. He crossed his arms over his chest, then tugged again at his gold hoop. "I mean, it's true. I don't have parents, and I guess I wasn't nice, and, hey, Rob is always yelling at me to think before I do anything. I didn't mean to hurt you, y'know? I like you and all. I just... I wasn't thinking."

Brendan frowned, nodding, looking down at the same spot Con was staring so intently at. "I shouldn't have said that, though. I was just hurt. And I guess I'm a little touchy about my glasses."

Con nodded, wordlessly. "So. Um. You still wanna hang out?"

Brendan hesitated, then nodded once. "Yeah. I guess."

"'Kay," Conel answered. They stood there a moment more, silently. Finally, Conel said, "You wanna get some lunch? There's probably a food court somewhere around--I'll pay."

Brendan paused, then nodded again. "Sure."


"It's funny, you know? All this stuff that most people don't even think about. And I don't, either, until it's pointed out to me. All this stuff I don't have, because no one thought about it."

Brendan let go of his straw and looked up, swallowing his mouthful of soda. "What stuff?"

Con shrugged. "Well, like your bike. Who taught you to ride?"

Brendan had to think about it, but finally managed, "My dad."

"Yeah. Exactly."

Brendan blinked and looked up, frowning. "Oh."

Conel nodded, picking at his fries.

There was silence for a moment, broken by the sound of chewing.

"And now I don't even have my powers, so there's not even that to make me cool." Conel sighed, sitting back. His blue eyes were fastened on the red plastic tray before him. "And I can't spend a day with someone without treating them like shit."

Brendan cringed. "Hey, look, it's not that big a deal. I mean--you're still cool, even without your powers. And it wasn't really that bad. People fight sometimes, you know? No big thing."

Conel snorted, but still didn't look up. "I don't think I've ever seen the girls fight," he muttered, mushing one fry into a pulp.

"They probably do," Brendan answered. "It's part of living." He paused, then asked, "Girls?"

"In Young Justice," Conel answered listlessly. "There's like, three of 'em."

Brendan nodded, trying to act cool. The way Conel dropped these things, like it was no big deal at all. He couldn't even imagine hanging out with superheroes, just for fun. Brendan glanced up, realizing that Conel was still staring morosely at his food. "Hey," he said, trying to catch the other teen's attention. "Hey! Enough brooding! So you don't have parents. So what? You have like, an entire *lab* of people watching over you. And you don't have all this emotional garbage that parents give you. And you don't have to call home every night--"

Con snorted and pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, eyebrows raised.

"Okay, so maybe you do--but you don't have to worry about other parenty things, and you get to hang around with people like *Superman!* I'll never even get to *meet* Superman, and he's my hero. I mean, heck, he's everyone's hero!"

Conel smiled reluctantly, nodding. "Yeah. Yeah, okay," he said at last. "I'm sorry--"

"Hey, don't sweat it," Brendan said, frowning. "I said some stuff I shouldn't have, you said some stuff you shouldn't have--let's just call it even and start over, okay?"

Conel hesitated, then nodded. "Sounds good."

Brendan grinned. "Yeah. So--"

"I'm just saying," a girl at the table over said to her friend loudly, "I don't think Superboy is real."

Conel's eyebrows shot upward, and he leaned toward the two girls. "Excuse me," he said, smiling, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. You don't think Superboy is real?"

Brendan managed to stifle his laughter and looked at the two girls seriously.

They both were looking at Con, one coolly and the other--the one who'd spoken--smiling.

"No. I think he's something the government thought up to get more morale in America or something. You know. 'Love your country--we have Superpeople!'"

Conel laughed, but shook his head. "Of course he's real," Con argued. "He's been on television all over!"

"It's probably all staged," the girl said. "I mean, Superman's an alien--he can't even have kids!"

"But Superboy isn't Superman's kid," Conel answered. "He's a clone."

"No way," the second girl said heatedly. "First off, it's illegal to clone humans. Second, if the government were corrupt enough to do it, they wouldn't then *flaunt* it. They'd be trying to conceal it."

That seemed to stump Conel. He frowned, turning into a more comfortable position to think. "Then what about all the good that--the Kid--has done?" Conel asked, twisting around again.

"Hollywood sound sets. If any of it was real, probably either the real heroes--like the JLA--or the police took care of it."

Conel slumped again. "That is just bizarre logic," he chuckled.

"Bizarre or not," the first girl said, standing and winking, "it's right. Think about it. Have *you* ever seen Superboy? Doubtful."

"C'mon, Chelsea," the second girl said. "Our ride's here."

"Bye!" the one--Chelsea--said, hurrying off.

Conel looked at Brendan, an expression of bemusement on his face. "How am I supposed to answer, 'have you ever seen Superboy?'"

Brendan grinned, picking up his tray and standing. "I dunno. Hey, maybe they're right. Maybe you *aren't* real." He grinned impishly, dodging the fry Conel tossed at him.

"You're *such* a big help," Conel said sarcastically.

"Help, schmelp. We gonna mall crawl or what? Get up, you un-real person!"

"Your invisible friend, that's me," Conel muttered, getting his own tray.

"Nah," Brendan laughed. "My invisible friend was much cuter than you!"

Conel just gave him a mock-glare and dumped his trash in the dispenser.

"Jenny's mom sure can cook," Conel sighed happily, ca-lunking over the breaks in the sidewalk as he glided along on Brendan's roller blades.

"Mm-hmm," Brendan agreed, standing on the petals of his bike as it rolled down the street. "Why do you think I eat there so often?"

"To get out of your house?" Conel suggested on a laugh.

"Well. That, too. Speaking of--turn right here."

"Right here? Or right, here?"

"Go right!" Brendan said, turning the bike and almost running into Con. Some fast footwork kept them from colliding, and he set off again after Brendan.

"Look! The seven sisters," Brendan pointed out, nodding toward the stars. Con turned, skating backwards to see them.

"That little cluster?"

"Yeah," Brendan said. "I like stars."

Con grinned, twisting forward again. "You should see 'em when you're in space."

"Oh, man," Brendan breathed. "That would be so awesome. You've been in space?"

Con shrugged. "A time or two."

"You're shitting me!"

Conel grinned.

"Man," Brendan sighed again. "I am so jealous." He squeezed the handbrakes, stopping the bike in front of his house. Inside, the lights were on and the television could be heard playing. He let it drop near the doorstep, then stood and watched as Conel pulled off the skates, unslung his shoes from his shoulder, and put them on.

Brendan went into the house, shouting that he was back, and headed for his room. Conel followed right behind him, silent.

"This was fun today, Con," Brendan said, flopping down on his bed. It bounced beneath him, and he folded his legs Indian style.

"Yeah," Conel agreed, flopping back into the beanbag chair. "You guys are really nice for putting up with me like this."

Brendan grinned. "Well, you sure impressed Jenny's parents. I think they're in love with you."

"Eew!" Conel yelped, making a face.

"Not *that* sort of love, moron!" Brendan laughed. "Just, y'know, as one of their kid's friends."

"Oh." Conel grinned sheepishly, tugging on his gold earring and running his fingers through his hair. "Well, that's okay then."

Brendan laughed, rolling his eyes, and threw a pillow at Conel, who ducked and grinned broadly.

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