Chapter 8: Remarkable Instincts
Jonathan Kent nodded again. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. J'onn J'onzz."
The Earthman displayed no other reaction. The announcement that his visitor was a Martian seemed to be as acceptable as if he'd said he was from Bigville.
Maybe more so.
The Martian Manhunter tilted his head in stunned curiosity. "You're not surprised?" he asked.
Jonathan shrugged. "Oh, I suppose I'm surprised a bit by the specific location. Clark's never mentioned any residents, and he's been dropping by there since he was knee-high. But I'm not terribly surprised that you're an alien. I've raised one, after all. Having another one over for dinner shouldn't be much of a shock."
Mr. Jones nodded, impressed again with his host's equilibrium. "But, you're not worried that I mean to harm him?"
Jonathan shrugged again. "Well, that's always a worry, I suppose. Clark's made more than his share of enemies in a short time, so we always have to be on guard. But Clark can take pretty good care of himself, and besides, you were coming around long before he went public. Figured if you meant him harm, you'd have done it long ago. And, well, even when Ma and I began to suspect that you knew about Clark, I didn't feel that you were a threat. I could tell that you cared about him."
"You ... trust your instincts, don't you."
Jonathan nodded. "Have to, I suppose. I've never been able to think of any other way to raise him. There's not much reference material on raising someone like Clark, you know."
Mr. Jones nodded. "I see your point."
"So like I said, it didn't seem like you were a threat. If anything, I've worried that you come around because he means something to you."
"I don't understand."
Jonathan looked away. "I ... I guess that ever since we found Clark, I've always been half-terrified that someone, whether from the government, or another country, or ... out there ... was going to show up and ask for him back. I was afraid that you were a relative of some sort. And that you would want him to come away with you."
"Oh," Mr. Jones said, suddenly understanding. "No. Not at all." He smiled at the mistaken inference. "Martians and Kryptonians are certainly not related. In fact, my knowledge of Clark is the result of mere coincidence. You see, I have many of the same abilities as he. One night about ten years ago, while ... traveling the skies, I detected the presence of a flying child. Obviously intrigued, I followed him here. As I can make myself invisible, he never discovered me. After observing him for a few weeks, I made my first appearance here as Mr. Jones."
Jonathan nodded slowly. "Oh, that explains it. He was only four then. Tarnation, he wasn't even supposed to be out flying at night. If I'd have known, I'd have tanned that steel hide. Well, if I'd thought it would have done anything other than hurt my hand, that is."
The Manhunter smiled at the thought. "I can certainly appreciate your concern that he might leave. He's a remarkable young man. Even aside from his abilities."
"Yes he is," Jonathan affirmed, pleased that his guest had noticed. "We were so fortunate to find him." They were quiet for a moment. Then Jonathan said, "So what now? Do you want to tell him who you are? Where you're from?"
Mr. Jones was surprised. "You haven't told him?"
Jonathan shook his head. "No. Figured you'd tell him if you wanted him to know."
Mr. Jones shook his head, almost dumbfounded at the steadiness of this human. "Thank you. I appreciate your trust." He paused for a moment. "But no, I don't intend to tell him."
"Fine by me," Jonathan said as he emptied his spent pipe. "Out of curiosity, why not?"
Mr. Jones stood and walked closer. "It's something I've struggled with, Jonathan. A part of me has always wanted to tell Clark. To let him know that there is someone else who knows what it is like to be different." Almost in a whisper, he added, "To let him know that there is someone else who has lost a world."
Jonathan looked up at him with an understanding that Mr. Jones would have almost thought impossible. The bemused country farmer was suddenly gone, replaced by a man of intense depth and compassion. "I'm sorry."
Mr. Jones breathed in slightly. "Thank you." He paused again, then continued. "But the larger part of me has always felt that it would be wrong to let Clark know. Why, exactly, I've never been certain. I think I've always been ... fearful of ... interfering in his destiny. I can't exactly explain it. It has much to do with the belief system of my people. But it's more even than that. Recently, that galactic organization I mentioned earlier became aware of my presence on Earth, and my knowledge of and contact with Clark. They brought me to their home world and spoke with me. Among other things, they agreed that not interfering in Clark's development was the proper course."
"So these ..."
"Guardians," J'onzz said. "The Guardians of the Universe."
"Guardians of the Universe," Jonathan repeated, not knowing quite how literally to take the title. "They know about us? About Clark?"
"Oh yes. They've known about him for some time. Even before you did, actually. You might say that they keep an eye on him. They believe he has a pivotal role to play in the universe. And in recognition of his importance, they believe that for both his sake and the sake of the universe, he must be left alone in order to develop properly. They have not interfered in his upbringing, and wish to ensure that neither I, nor ... certain others, do either. And," he added, "they also believe that he has already found the best possible environment for his development."
"Really?" Jonathan asked.
"Yes. They have no complaints with the choices you and Martha have made."
"Really?" Jonathan repeated, obviously impressed and pleased. Though all parents find child-rearing advice noxious, approval is always treasured. He looked off into the distance for a moment, then smiled. "But you said that you thought this even before they found you?"
"Yes. Not with as much certainty, perhaps, but I sensed it. I've always believed that Clark has, and will have, a ... unique position. Others with great powers may emerge on this planet, but I do not think any will eclipse Clark in importance. As much as I've wished to tell him the truth about myself, I've always known that ... in some sense, he has to ... experience himself as unique. Maybe that will change someday, but for now, I think that he needs to develop in relative isolation. I'm not sure exactly why I believe this, but I think that Clark will become the greatest hero this world, and perhaps any other, has ever known. The responsibility of such a status is monumental. I hope it doesn't sound cruel, but Clark ... has to grow up feeling that responsibility."
Mr. Jones raised his hands to his chest and gestured. "Of course, should he ever encounter a dire threat to his or Earth's well-being, I would come to his aid. So would the Guardians, or their agents from the Green Lantern Corps. But for his own sake, and Earth's, and that of countless other worlds, for now it is best that he believe that there is no one of his ilk on whom he can ... fall back."
Jonathan was quiet for a while. Then he said, "I think I understand what you're saying." He paused to take a deep breath. "And I think that I agree with you. It's just ... it's just a shame that you can't tell Clark the truth. Sometimes I think he's too aware of his ... uniqueness."
J'onzz nodded. "I can see that. And as I said, it is a dilemma with which I've struggled."
"Well," Jonathan said, "I still think Clark has learned a lot from you. And he sure enjoys your visits. At least he'll still have those."
Slowly, the alien shook his head. "I'm afraid not, Jonathan. This will be my last visit to Smallville for the foreseeable future."
He sighed in a manner that was purely Martian, but with a hurt in his eyes that was purely "Mr. Jones." "There are two reasons. First, I suspect that as Clark gains more experience with his powers, he may well be able to discover my true nature, thus defeating our intent. But more importantly, I believe that there may be ... enemies of mine here on Earth. They are more numerous than Clark, almost as powerful, and much more experienced. Though I would never discount him, he is probably not yet ready to battle them. At the same time, I doubt that they would seek confrontation with him. But should they somehow capture me, and take his true identity from my mind, such knowledge might embolden them to strike against him. And they would have no qualms about using you or Martha to do so. No, it's best for everyone if I have no more contact with Clark."
"But you already know his identity," Jonathan protested. "Not much you can do about that."
"Actually, there is. I can make myself forget."
Jonathan Kent's eyes widened. "Sounds like you can do some things that even Clark can't'"
Mr. Jones nodded slightly. "One or two, perhaps."
Jonathan slowly scratched his forehead. "Seems like a shame though."
"Indeed. It is. I truly cherish Smallville. I shall miss it greatly. The people, the kids, your company."
He smiled. "Yes, especially Martha's pie. Still, however much I regret the deed, it is a necessity."
Jonathan stared off into the darkness and squinted in thought. "So why did you come this last time?"
Mr. Jones tapped his foot while he searched for an answer. "There is ... I suppose ... more than one reason. A final visit was part of the understanding I reached with the Guardians. They respect me, I believe. They are also accustomed, perhaps overly so, to being obeyed. As I am not quite so pliable as their Green Lanterns, I did not wish to simply acquiesce. I told them that since I had been unable to visit Smallville since Clark began his public career as Superboy, I wished to see and judge for myself that leaving him alone was the right course of action. They ... somewhat reluctantly, agreed."
J'onzz paused, and slowly shook his head. "But in reality, I think I knew that Clark was fine. I think ... I think the truth is I just wanted a chance to say goodbye. My visits here have ... well, they have meant more to me than you can know. This place has been ... an occasional home to someone who has none."
A pained look crossed Jonathan's face. "Well, we'll surely miss you. You've been a good friend to all of us. Especially to Clark. You've always had a word for him that helped with whatever was bothering him at the time. Like today. What you said about Lex. He needed to hear someone besides me and Martha tell him that. I want you to know that we appreciate everything you've done." Then Jonathan stood and extended his hand.
Due to his telepathic sensitivities, the Martian typically avoided handshakes whenever socially possible. He accepted without hesitation, however, Jonathan Kent's offered hand. He even allowed a bit of telepathic leakage to occur, just to let Jonathan know how he felt about him and his family. And how much he regretted that this would be his last visit.
Then a voice from the darkness broke the silence. "Not leaving yet, are you?" they heard from behind them. Both turned.
And there was Clark.
"It's still early," he said. "I feel like we've hardly had a chance to talk."
Mr. Jones smiled at Jonathan Kent as they released hands. "Well, it is getting a bit late. But I wasn't going to leave without saying goodbye."
Clark nodded. "I didn't think you would," he said.
"You get Pete his medicine okay?" Pa asked.
"Yep. He seemed to be doing better already, but said he'd hang onto the pills just the same." Clark shrugged slightly. "I guess he didn't think about just stopping by the drugstore. He has a key, you know."
"Well," Mr. Jones said, "I'm sure that Pete appreciated you running down there for him."
"Ah, it was nothing," Clark said. "Pete would have done the same for me."
"I'm sure that he would," Mr. Jones said with a slight smile. "Forgive me for sounding aphoristic for a moment, but I think you'll find that friends like Pete are hard to come by. When you do ... they are to be treasured."
Clark nodded. "I know."
Mr. Jones could see that he did. "But it seems you have no shortage of good friends. Pete, Lana, and ... Superboy, I take it."
Clark shrugged again. "Oh, you know, I see him around some."
"Well, it sounds like you're quite a good friend to him."
"Why, uh, why do you say that?" Clark asked.
Mr. Jones smiled. "You seem to be able to ... see things from his point of view." Clark's eyebrows raised a fraction of an inch. "And the ability, and willingness to do that, is one of the best qualities a friend can have."
Clark nodded. "I guess it is at that."
The three stood there a moment more, then Mr. Jones said, "Well, I suppose I should get going."
"Do you really have to?" Clark asked.
Mr. Jones shrugged. "Well, it is getting late."
"Ah, come on," Clark said. "Stay for ... just a little while. You know, we, uh, don't get to see you much anymore. It'd be really great if you could stick around, for at least a little while longer."
Mr. Jones' initial impulse was to decline, mostly out of a polite respect for the early bedtime he suspected the elder Kents kept. But then he saw the look in the eyes of perhaps the only being on the planet more powerful than he, and remembered that for all that power, he was still a boy.
One who didn't get many visitors from out of town.
"Well," Mr. Jones said, "I suppose I could." He looked at Jonathan Kent. "So long as it's not too late for you folks."
Jonathan shook his head and smiled broadly. "Nah. It's never too late for good friends. Come on in. There's still some pie."
"There is?" both Mr. Jones and Clark said with genuine surprise and pleasure. They smiled and looked at one another. "What do you say, Clark?" Mr. Jones asked.
Clark grinned. "Race you to it."
And for some reason, all three of them laughed at that for a long time.
|STRANGE VISITOR Copyright 2000 Samuel Hawkins.  All rights reserved. This story is neither authorized nor endorsed by DC Comics. Superboy and all related previously established characters are TM DC Comics & © DC Comics, Joanne Siegel, and Laura Siegel Larson.|