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Mandatory Downtime, chapter 4

Location: the JLA Watchtower

Dr. Mid-nite was surprised to hear that Match had requested a meeting with him. Other than a few medical checks, he hadn't had any contact with the teen.

He entered the medical bay, and Match was already there.

"Hello, Dr. Mid-nite," he greeted him. "Thank you for coming."

He noted the lights were off, probably to make him more comfortable. "I would have thought that you'd like to be somewhere else than here."

"This room has been almost a second home to me, hasn't it? Regardless of that, I'd like you to examine me. There are few places equipped for it as here."

"Ah, you need a doctor. What am I looking for?"

"I have concerns about my development. Superboy has been demonstrating more and more of Superman's powers while I have only developed some of his enhanced senses. I'm wondering why we're on such different tracks."

"Are you actually worried that you're not keeping up with him?"

"It's not so much that as I'm curious. I suppose it's the equivalent of wanting a routine physical check-up, but I can't use a local doctor."

"That...makes sense. I'll admit that I was wondering about your request to meet you here. It was phrased so formally."

Match smiled ruefully. "That's my regular tone. My brother tells me that I shouldn't be so stuffy."

Location: the Kent's farm

Conner noticed that Max seemed to be acting a bit distant. It was clear that he had something on his mind.

First, he decided to take the direct approach. "Max, what are you thinking about?"

"It's nothing important," Max replied.

Conner was surprised. Max didn't usually make such half-hearted attempts at evasion. He was also very clearly lying.

"I know you're not being truthful with me. Does it involve top secret matters that affect national security?"

"No."

"International security?"

"No."

"Are you having problems with Dan?"

"No."

"Are you going to give me any hints?"

"There's nothing to discuss."

Location: Metropolis, the Daily Planet

The phone rang, and Clark picked it up.

"This is Clark Kent," he said. "May I help you?"

"It's Conner," the voice replied. "Do you have a minute?"

"Is everything all right?" Clark asked, worried. "Ma and Pa are okay?"

"They're fine. I need to talk to you about Max."

"Is he okay?"

"He's acting weird. Something's up with him."

"What's he doing?"

"He's being really abrupt. He's also focusing on something that he won't talk about. I think it's some personal thing."

"Did you get in a fight with him?"

"No, he just came back from the weekend and was this way."

"Sometimes siblings fight for really odd reasons. Something which doesn't seem important to one is to the other. I've heard stories that Lois and Lucy fought over a hairbrush."

Lois poked her head in the door. "I heard my name being taken in vain."

"Conner's on the phone. He said that Max is acting weird."

"Does he know why?"

"No, that's why he's asking me."

Lois held out her hand. "Give it here, Smallville. Let the one of us who grew up with a sibling take the call."

"I think I can handle this just fine," Clark said, before turning his attention back to Conner. "Sorry, Lois came in my office and distracted me."

Conner told him something and a hurt look flashed across Clark's face before he held out the phone to Lois. "He wants to talk to you. He was trying to get you, but he could only find my office number."

Lois flashed a smile. "You save the world; I'll save the family."

"I want to save the family too," Clark grumbled.

"Conner, it's Lois. Tell me what's going on."

Lois listed for a while as he described Max's behavior.

"You haven't done anything different?" she asked.

"No," Conner told her. "That's what's driving me crazy!"

"It sounds to me like he's jealous."

"What?!"

"Don't blow out my eardrum! It sounds like he's specifically being short with you, so there's something you've gotten recently that he hasn't. Any ideas on what that might be?"

There was a pause while Conner searched his memory. "I got better healing but he's had that for ages."

"That could be it. He could be feeling threatened that you're getting everything that he has."

"So, is it threatened or jealous?"

"Maybe both. I'm not a shrink, you know."

"Thanks a lot. So, what do I do?"

"Nothing. He has to work this out himself."

"That's your advice? Just wait?"

"Yeah."

"I'm not sure I can take the cold shoulder for much longer. It's worse than him hitting me."

"You'll get through it. He's a good kid; he'll get over it soon."

Location: the Kent's farm

A couple days later, Max's behavior hadn't changed at all. Conner was trying to keep his temper in check; he had moved from feeling uncomfortable to feeling annoyed.

Dan came up to their room. This was a little unusual since he had already gone back to his home after dinner.

"Dan, is everything all right?" Max asked.

"You've been acting strange," Dan told him. "What's up?"

"It's...nothing."

"You may be able to lie to other people, but you can't do that to me. What's got you messed up?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

Dan pushed him onto the bed and climbed on top of him. "I'm going to keep you here until you tell me."

"This isn't funny-"

Max broke off as Dan's mouth met his. Conner got up to leave, but Dan stuck his leg out to block him.

"Don't go anywhere. I'm pretty sure this involves you," Dan said. "Max, are you going to talk, or am I going to have to get serious?"

"It's just your imagination-," Max started before he broke off as his neck started to get nuzzled.

"Please?" Dan asked, resorting to dirty tricks and giving Max a pleading look.

"You win," Max said. "You're too reckless for me; I can't win against you."

Conner sat down, and Dan made himself comfortable.

"I was concerned about my development, so I had Dr. Mid-Nite do a checkup," Max told them. "The results came back and while I may have a few more enhanced senses, those are the only other powers I'll develop."

"Why?" Conner asked. "How are we supposed to do that?"

"I've been exposed to Joker venom and dipped in a Lazarus Pit. Those and my constant emptying of my solar reserves really strained my system. I'm never going to be as strong or as powerful as you."

"That's why you've been in a funk?" Dan asked.

"There are some serious implications. Since I look like Superman, people will think that I'm as strong or tough as he is; I never will be, and that can be dangerous. I also thought I'd get to have these other powers that Conner has, but it's just senses for me. No heat vision, no x-ray vision, no natural strength or invulnerability. I was feeling a bit...jealous."

"I don't have any powers, and I get along just fine."

"I really wanted heat vision," Max whined. "I thought it would be cool."

"You've got a lot of skills that I don't have," Conner pointed you. "You know things I don't. I get jealous of that sometimes."

"You're much sexier than he is," Dan told Max.

Max blushed. "You're just saying that."

"I'm serious! You can tell because your boyfriend completely blows away his girlfriend!"

Dan grinned, and Max couldn't help from smiling back.

"Are you going to get up, or should I give you some private time?" Conner asked.

"Give us a little time," Dan said. "I need to cheer this guy up."

Conner beat a hasty retreat. He was glad that Dan had forced the issue, but he wondered how accurate Dr. Mid-nite's analysis was. He always expected Max to demonstrate those powers eventually. He had hoped that the two of them would eventually share Clark's mantle; it would have made the burden easier to bear.

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